It is sugar which distinguishes Negros Occidental from other provinces, therefore no visit to Negros is complete without exposure to the lifestyle and culture that evolved because of the sugar industry. This makes a visit to at least one ancestral house a "must do" and of the houses that have opened their doors to the public, there is none as well preserved and evocative of the early years of the sugar industry as the Balay ni Tana Dicang in Talisay.
Efigenio Treyes Lizares and Enrica Labayen Alunan were married in 1872. By 1875, the couple was already engaged in the production of sugar and like other planters, they lived in a farm house in the hacienda. The size and grandeur of the interiors of their second home, now known as the Balay ni Tana Dicang, indicates that by 1883, when the house was built, the family was already very well established.
Balay ni Tana Dicang stands on a 6,000 square meter lot along Rizal St. in Talisay and it is built in the quintessential style of Spanish-Filipino domestic Architecture, the "bahay na bato," literally, "house of stone."
Like the traditional bahay na bato, the Balay is a structure with wooden legs and a stone skirt. Large wooden posts sunk into the ground carry the roof but are independent of both stone wall below and wooden walls above. The stone wall is a meter thick and is embellished on the exterior by brick and coquina (building material of crushed shells and corals) which is also carved into moldings and beveled panels. Two large double doors that are practically entrance gates through the massive stone skirts of the ground floor lead to the zaguan or entrance hall. As in the traditional bahay na bato in other parts of the Philippines, the zaguan in Tana Dicang's house was used to for parking the family carriage, the carosa for holy week processions, and eventually, the family's automobiles. Because of Enrica's many children, the bedrooms of the male children were in the ground floor (the main living quarters of the traditional bahay na bato are in the second level). An interior stairway goes up to the upper level from the zaguan.
On the left side of the caida or formal receiving room in the upper level is the sala or living room. This is flanked with bedrooms just like the comedor or formal dining room on the right side of the caida. Wide double-doors join adjacent rooms (including bedrooms) to each other, so that the Balay is one big hall when all the doors are open. Fretwork above the partitions allow free circulation of air within the house.
Running along the front and sides of the exterior of the house is the overhanging roof which protects the rooms from the heat of the sun. Below this, broad, window sills hold sliding wooden louvers and capiz shell shutters. Ventanilla, or openings with sliding wooden shutters and wooden balustrades, run from below the window sill to the floor and provide light and air even when the upper windows are closed for the night or during bad weather.
The pierced wood-work balusters of the grand staircase and the four rose windows in the caida show that much attention was given to detail. Surfaces of the exterior and interior are embellished with classical motifs, moldings, cornices, medallions, and pilasters.The use of Philippine hardwoods, materiales fuertes like as narra, balayong (tindalo inTagalog), and molave for structural and design components convey status.
Tana Dicang's furniture remain practically where they were when she was still the mistress of the house. According to Adjie Lizares, curator of the museum and one of the great grandchildren, she buried her silver, porcelain, crystal, and other precious belongings to keep them safe during the war. Among the treasures that were unearthed were dining utensils made from melted coins and bearing the initials of the house residents. “There is a ledger of Tana Dicang from 1903 to 1909 that we keep like a piece of treasure,” Adjie is quoted as saying. These are now on display together with other documents, photographs, draperies, bed linens, bath-fixtures, lighting, and religious paraphernalia. The house is also still surrounded by the original wrought iron fence and window gratings.
The original original casein paint (an organic paint made of animal protein derived from milk and color pigments) is now evident on the zaguan (ground floor). In the second floor, so far only the walls of Tana Dicang's master bedroom has been stripped of later layers of paint, revealing the original aqua color of the room.
After the house was constructed in 1883, no major renovation was done except for the 1950 modification when Lola Mayang (Maria) and Lola Meding (Remedios) removed the balcony outside the dining room (comedor) and in its place, had a larger room with modern glass jalousies windows built. Adjie says it is fortunate that the Lolas " did not throw anything and we still do have the carved balusters and hand rails of the original balcon, which we intend to restore given time and resources.”
Adjie plans to remove some of the modern indoor plumbing and bathrooms to restore the original feel of the Balay.The photograph at left is of a part of the ground floor service area that Adjie hopes to convert into a restaurant that opens into a garden. "We can have parties and wedding receptions here, he says."In her final will and testament, Enrica bequeathed the Balay to six of her eight daughters, specifying that 10 percent of the income of her two haciendas be used for the upkeep of the house. Several years ago, the Balay was formally opened to the public as a lifestyle museum with an art gallery, giving the public access to this priceless legacy left to us by an indomitable woman.
For more on the Balay , Manila Bulletin article by By CARLOMAR A. DAOANA August 11, 2009
The author, Andrea Lizares Si is the granddaughter of Dr. Antonio A. Lizares. She enjoys writing and creating websites.
The Balay ni Tana Dicang Museum is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. e-mail address [email protected]
Telephone numbers: 6334-4952104, 6334-7126800