Revisiting Balay Negrense
It wasn’t my first time visiting Balay Negrense. Having been here for several times in the past, I’m no stranger to this pre-war edifice in the middle of the genteel city of Silay, Negros Occidental. A landmark of Negrense heritage, the ancestral home of familia Gaston was converted into a museum.
Balay Negrense was built in the late 19th century—the twilight years of Spanish colonial era in the Philippines. It was the home of Don Victor Gaston, one of the sons of the sugarcane plantation pioneer Yves Leopold Gaston. The balay was used by his family until his death in 1920s. Later it was abandoned—now, you try thinking of one of Mother Lily’s horror movies huh?
It was almost story of tragedy for a neglected heritage site when the Negros Cultural Foundation acquired the house from the Gastons. With the help from the government, it was repaired, renovated and brought into full glory and became a museum in 1990. It is said to be the first museum in the province of Negros Occidental. The ancestral home of the pioneer sugar planters was given a name Balay Negrense or Negrense’s house.
True to its bahay-na-bato architecture, the house is a mirror of a landed Negrense home. This is what you expect at a 19th century-early 20th century haciendero home. From the living quarters, the piano, the library and the garage at the ground floor, to the second living room, dining room, bedrooms and even a grand staircase that segregates men from women!
Al Gore would surely love this house! Air conditioning is all but natural. Large windows and ventanillas dominate the upper section of the house. With high ceilings, looks like our ancestors have way better architects for tropical living than it is now? Deviating also from the common bahay na bato, the ground floor walls are not made of stone, but concrete! Sosyal di ba?
View Balay Negrense Museum in a larger map
Balay Negrense is located along Cinco de Noviembre Street, just a few meters away from the City Hall and plaza complex. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays; around 9AM to 5PM. Entrance fee for adults is PhP40. Students and kids, most likely half of it.