Balay ni Tana Dicang

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The Negrense Planter: Sinner or Saint, Hero or Rogue

Posted by Andrea Lizares Si on September 27, 2010 at 3:51 AM Comments comments (8)


Collect a list of adjectives to describe Negrense Planters as they are often featured and "decadent" would have top-billing. Decadent - marked by or providing unrestrained gratification; self-indulgent; characterized by decay or decline, as in being self-indulgent or morally corrupt. The April 2009 issue of the Rogue magazine is titled "Blood, Sugar, Sex, and Magic." The issue that claims to reveal the untold story of Negros tells of swashbuckling, gun-toting cowboys with their own private islands, flamboyant socialites who made Europe their playground, "family trees that lurched with savage wildness" because they were all "interconnected by sex and sugar and they were all disturbingly rich," a province that was the essence of the wild, wild west. I feel a little guilty about the fact that many of the "fruits, wild flowers, and bad apples" who cross the magazine's pages are cousins or first name friends and not one, but several of the mansions pictured are Lizares mansions. The guilt of being part of so much ostentation and self-indulgence notwithstanding, I bought a copy of the magazine, like the other characters whose quirks are described in juicy detail, enjoying the outlandish portraits that we paint of ourselves.

Simplicio Lizares Mansion, Luci Lizares (granddaughter  of Simplicio), athletes in front of the Talisay-Silay Sugar Mill when it was Lizares owned. Screen shot of the April 2009 Issue of Rogue, photos by Dac Rivera, sugar mill photo from Lizares family files


Top: Governor Antonio A. Lizares in his Talisay residence together with mayors of the province (photo from Lizares family files);Bottom: Adjie Lizares, greatgrandson of Enrica Alunan Lizares besideone of the Rose Windows in the Balay ni Tana Dicang (Photo by MarkNicdao). Screenshot of the April 09 Rogue Issue



When the Sugar issue of the Rogue came out in April of 2009, sugar prices ex-mill were below P900 per 50 kilo bag, a losing proposition especially if one has to pay rent. So badly did the industry flounder from 2006-2009 that in Negros, two sugar mills were sold for scrap and the Rogue Magazine quotes leading Negrenses as saying that sugar was dead, that Negrenses had lost Negros. Given this background, the apparent joie de vivre which the pages of "Blood, Sugar, Sex, and Magic" exude is more a wistful longing for the days of legend rather than the reality of April 2009. In fact, the old planters who owned thousands of hectares are no more, in their places, new names of those who benefited from political connections and corruption. Vast plantations have been lost because of the Negrense love for gambling and our well known propensity for spending and borrowing beyond our means. And even among the elegantly conservative and low-key (like the Lizareses), if land reform has not taken its toll, plantations have had to be divided by heirs of heirs of heirs, a thousand hectares divided by 13 or 17 and then by 9 and then by 10 and so on, leaving the great-great grandchildren with gold plated names that are worthless when they work as companions in the United States. I cherish the craziness of it all at the same time that I must write about another side of the rich Negrense land-owner, the untold story that the Rogue Magazine authors mentioned but only in passing. Hacienderos may have been lords of their castles and undisputed rulers of their fiefdoms but unlike Pampanga (Luzon) where sugar was produced through an oppressive feudalistic system, in Negros, the canefields have always been worked by laborers who earn wages in a very regular employer-employee relationship. Much has been made of emaciated sacadas who bear the burden of the planters' wealth, but sacadas are seasonal workers who come for the harvest because life is even more desperate in the provinces from whence they come. Negrense canefields were and continue to be worked by Duma-ans, the regular farmhands whose family histories are so firmly bound to the land (duma-an refers to a person who have been in a place for a long time) that when properties are divided, owners also have to make provisions for the division of the duma-ans (This seems to be treating people as chattel, but when big businesses are divided, don't employees also have to go with one or the other part?).


The Lizares Rodriguez Mansion now owned by Mercedes McKenzieand Margarita Jimenez, two daughters of Antonio and Carmen Lizares.Screenshot of the April 09 Rogue magazine photo by Mark Nicdao


Duma-ans cultivating the fields in Hacienda Santa Teresita inTalisay, Photo by

Pons Lizares


Balay niTana Dicang with the Viernes Santo Procession. The Lizareses farmhouse in Minuluan was said to be of similar design. Photo by Pons Lizares


While there may be Negrense planters whose dogs and prize stallions receive better treatment than their laborers, this callousness toward duma-ans may be more exception than rule. The imposing houses that the old planters built for themselves in their haciendas speak of land owners who were not so much feudal lords but pätrons, noble or wealthy persons who granted favor and protection to persons in exchange for certain services. Duma-ans had farmlots and farmhouses that were built and maintained as an expense of sugar production. Land and money were donated so that schools and churches could be constructed for the development of minds and the purification of souls. Until the end of the 1980s, it was common for children of laborers in many farms to go to college, their tuition paid in full or heavily subsidized by sugar proceeds. Planters used their connections to help children of duma-ans obtain jobs and opportunities that would otherwise not have been possible. And while others worried about the uncertainty of life, in haciendas, cash advances were readily available for every exigency and even spouses and children were entitled to free hospitalization and medicines at half price if not for free. In a sense, all the duma-ans in the farm were members of the planter's household, dependents like children of his own blood. This is why, even when a laborer's cash advances are so much more than he can ever pay, should a member of his family be hospitalized or should there be an emergency in the family, the planter will not have the heart to turn the laborer away empty handed. And even if he does, the planter's wife will help, even from her own funds. So it is not surprising that while outsiders may have known the hacienderos as "Senor" or "Don," titles reserved for our version of aristocracy, the duma-ans called my grandfather Antonio, "Norito," a fond diminutive of Senor and they called my father "Toto Baby," "Toto" being a pet-name that doting parents call their sons.


Lola Dicang in her living room with President Manuel L. Quezonand President Sergio Osmena. The Lizareses have dominated the politicallandscape in Talisay for several generations. Photo from Lizares family files.


Advocates of transformative politics look askance at haciendas that are almost impossible to penetrate, so strong is the planter's sway. In some cases, there may be coercion, "vote or gabut" (vote or be pulled out of the land), people say. But with labor organizations and leftist groups that are especially active in Negros, one must concede that it is not fear or ignorance that keep laborers in line. For generations, haciendas have provided better social security than government or individual politicians are capable of giving. For every crisis, every emergency from womb to tomb, it is to his Amo, his employer, that the duma-an runs for help. Even with the younger planters and their much reduced hectarages and lower profits, the pätron's responsibility to the duma-an and his family remains. And since the duma-an's welfare, his family's fortune, rises and falls with his planter's, how can a duma-an even think of voting for a politician who is not his Amo's choice? The old haciendero families had a sense of noblesse oblige, literally, “nobility obliges.” Privilege entails responsibility. Planters gave generously of their lands for the construction of municipal halls, markets, schools, hospitals, and other government structures, as well as for churches, seminaries, and cemeteries. According to the Rogue, planters "espoused some of the most advanced political and social reforms of their time - like injecting the social justice provision in the 1935 Constitution when the rest of the world. . . thought that was Communism." When the economy of Negros was crippled by the sugar crisis of the 80s, planter women put together their artistic skills and entrepreneurial flair to organize the House of Negros Foundation, contributing extensively toward alleviating the plight of more than 150,000 displaced workers at a time when 60 percent of Negrense children were malnourished. Planter associations and individuals mobilized from north to south to organize farm communities for feeding programs, human development and leadership trainings, and cooperatives. By the time the Local Government Code was passed in 1991, the partnership between government, Civil Society and the NGO sector was so well established and so dynamic that Negros Occidental was a shining example of how the public and private sectors can work together for the good of the community.



Heartless despots or God-fearing "pätrons?" Decadent or highly conscienticized spirits who believe in noblesse oblige and care about social justice? What about everything that has been written about planters paying very much less than the minimum wage, denying legal benefits to their laborers, using child labor in the fields? How about hacienderos who kick and curse laborers and common folk, planters who are so rude that they treat everyone who is not wealthy as a serf with no right to respect or consideration? Here I must admit that as with any other group of people, there are the best of us and the worst of us. But where legal benefits and compliance with law is concerned, the reader must know that while the previous paragraphs and the Rogue articles mentioned earlier are about the old planter families that owned at least several hundred hectares, 2005-2006 figures of the Sugar Regulatory Commission show that of the 13,590 sugar farms in Negros Occidental, 10,297 farms have plantable areas of ten hectares or less and there are only 246 farms that are bigger than a hundred hectares. Farms of twenty five hectares or less can not in any sense add to the great divide between rich and poor but it is most likely in this large segment of the population of "planters" that most of the violations of the minimum wage law, the child labor law, the SSS and Philhealth law, and other laws occur. grandmother, Enrica Alunan Lizares"][/caption] I have a dear friend who is a member of an organization of the radical left. I have known her and loved her as a teacher and friend since I was 14 and I have helped her through many financial straits. Because of our shared history I think she is being ridiculous when she tells me that as a Lizares, I am a class enemy. But she is serious, making me wonder if the wealthy planter families are indeed guilty of more abuse and more exploitation than I know. Perhaps there really are many heartless despots who treat their laborers as being of a different grade of humanity. My heart bleeds for all those whose families suffered because their Amo did not know what it means to be the pätron. Being a Lizares has always been a blessing to me and as far as I know, the Lizareses and many, many other old planter families do what they can to return this blessing to our people and our communities. And yet for my friend, I remain her class enemy so I cannot say for certain that I am right. At least I have had the chance to tell a story that goes deeper than the craziness, the incest, and the decadence that make big planter families so easy for class enemies to hate. Having presented the planters' side, I rest my case and leave the issues for the reader to judge.


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The author, Andrea Lizares Si, is the granddaughter of Enrica Alunan Lizares. She is a sugar planter, lawyer, feminist, theologian, former City Administrator of Bacolod City, and candidate for mayor of Bacolod during the May 2010 elections.



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The Lizareses of Negros

Posted by Site Owner on August 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM Comments comments (22)

The Lizareses are a laid-back clan but the family's modesty (at least by Negrense standards) is by no means an indication of how the family's wealth compares to others. The Lizareses just seem to have been bred to like their meat and most everything else, sliced in thin, bite-sized slices while the Lacsons, our well known hometown political rivals, are more profligate in their ways and for their meat, are said to have a preference for thick slabs of steak. My guess is that the family's style is because our grand matriarch, Enrica Alunan Lizares, was widowed about two years after she gave birth to her 17th child. Whatever her wealth might have been at the time of her loss, only an indefatigable, no-nonsense,God-fearing woman could have singlehandedly raised such a big brood while managing family properties and making investments grow.


A history of the sugar industry mentions the Lizareses as being among the first to establish mechanized sugar mills in the island. So successful was Lola Dicang as a planter and investor that in time, her family had controlling interests in three sugar centrals, Talisay-Silay, Bacolod Murcia, and Danao. Although these three mills are now defunct, heirs ofEnrica Alunan Lizares were also among the incorporators and officers of the First Farmers Milling and Marketing Cooperative which was built on property purchased from Enrica's son Antonio.

 

The writer does not have figures as to the number of Talisaynons who are somehow dependent on Lizareses for a living. It is however known that the first Barangay High Schools in the Philippines were built  through the efforts of Mayor Mario "Batoy" Lizares (grandson ofEnrica).Lizareses either own more farms or are more generous than other landowners in Talisay (or both) but of the 24 Barangay High-Schools in the family's hometown, 21 schools are built on property donated by Lizares heirs. It was also during the term of Batoy's brother Amelo "Meling" Lizares that Talisay became a chartered city. Not surprisingly, the family's generosity and record of public service in Talisay have helped Lizareses win election after election against Lacson rivals.


Lizareses are a presence in their hometown, and not just because of the 21 schools, the Lizares haciendas, the Lizares streets, and what remains of the Talisay-Silay Sugar Mill. "Balay ni Tana Dicang," Lola Dicang's 2 story house built in the traditional Filipino "Bahay na Bato" style, was constructed sometime in the 1880s and it is for good reason, reputed to be the best preserved ancestral home in the province. Unlike other heritage houses which havebeen through abandonment and decay, the Balay was lived-in until the1990s and it remains the favorite venue for important family occasions, the town fiesta, and Good Friday gatherings. Now a lifestyle museum that's open to the public, the house was bequeathed by Enrica to her 6 daughters together with a provision in the will that part of the income from two specific farms should be used to maintain the Balay.

 

Several Lizareses have been mayor of Talisay and Enrica is known as Tana Dicang (short for Capitana Dicang), because her husband Efigenio was at onetime, the Cabeza Mayor, the town Mayor. Several of Enrica's sons, grandsons, and a great-grandson also held the mayor's post. Of her descendants, it is Lola Dicang's son Simplicio who began Talisay's most enduring line of Lizares mayors. Don Simplicio's mansion overlooks the town square and the old municipal hall as if it is the mansion that  is the center of the town and its seat of power.

 


Don Simplicio Lizares' Mansion. With balconies overlooking the town square and the Municipio, it is no wonder that this grand old mansion produced three generations of Talisay mayors. (photo from Rogue Magazine)


Facing Don Simplicio's mansion on the other side of the town square is the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church and beside it, the Talisay Campus of the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos High-School and Grade-school.UNO-R was founded before the war by Dr. Antonio A. Lizares(one of Enrica's sons) and Dr. Francisco Lizares Kilayko (a grandson of Enrica). The school was known as the Occidental Negros Institute and it did not begin offering college courses until after the war, when it re-opened but this time in the capital city of Bacolod. When ONI became the University of Negros Occidental in 1956, it was already established in its present site beside Dr. Antonio's Lizares Compound on Lizares Avenue, Bacolod City.


 

After World War II, My grandfather, Dr. Antonio A. Lizares and his wife, Carmen Rodriguez, established their Bacolod residence in a sprawling Spanish style mansion with a tower, balconies, sweeping staircases, a grand ballroom,and expansive terraces and courtyards that made the mansion something like a fairy tale castle. Antonio served as governor of the province and mayor of Talisay. He was known as a centralista (family owned 3 sugarcentrals) and because he was enterprising and generous to Church and community, he left many a landmark, including the Sacred Heart Seminary, the San Antonio Abad Parish Church, the Bacolod Police Headquarters,and St. Vincent's Home for the Aged. 

Antonio and Carmen Lizares with their 9 children and Carmen's parents, Jovita and Domingo Rodriguez


The families of Enrique Lizares, Asuncion Lizares Panlilio, and Nicolas Lizares tookover Lola Dicang's extensive landholding in Granada, in the northeastern part of Bacolod. There they left Lizares footprints in the formof public schools, the Bacolod Boys' Home,and the Salesian retreat house. Rodolfo, son of Simplicio, built a mansion to compare with his uncles.' He and his father Simplicio were also among the founders of the Cebu Institute of Technology, well known producer of Cebu's first engineers. Enrica's son Emiliano built himself an extravagant mansionin Jaro. My great aunt, Asuncion married a Panlilio, one of the governors of Pampanga while her youngest sister Remedios became the second wife of the statesman, Leon Guinto.Their sister Adela became the matriarch of a line that produced bankersand industry leaders like Placido Mapa Sr. and Placido Jr,. and Fr.Bernard Ybiernas, provincial of the Carmelite monks in the Philippines. Dolores, another daughter of Enrica, became the mother of Ramon Nolan, Philippine ambassador of the sugar industry for many many years.



Mansion of Emiliano Alunan Lizares in Jaro, Iloilo City. The Mansion is now an Exclusive School

 

As low-key a lifestyle as the Lizareses enjoy (at least when compared to the other big clans of Negros), the family does have several hectares set aside for a private family cemetery with lots assigned to each branch of Enrica's family and the families of Efigenio's siblings. During the feast of All Saints (November 1), Lizareses, Granadas, de Ocas, and Labayens wander from one mausoleum to the next in this exclusive little domain, visiting the living and paying their respects to the dead, remembering the exploits of General Simon Lizares who was one of the Cinco de Noviembre generals, wondering at how there could have been two Antonio A. Lizareses both married to Carmens, admiring the ornate chapel wherein lie the remains of Emiliano Lizares, owner of the mansion in Jaro. asking about relations, strengthening ties, and enjoying the different treats that families prepare for this not-to-be-missed annual family reunion. Perks of the rich of Negros.

 

A tenth of a ninth of a fourteenth (est. of my share of Lola Dicang's fortune) of even the greatest fortune does not really amount to much, so even as some members of the family remain planters and centralistas, others are developing and managing subdivisions, apartments, or commercial buildings. Many Lizareses have sought and made their fortunes abroad. Meanwhile, the new generation has discovered a fascination for culinary arts, hotel and restaurant management, fashion and design, and architecture and landscaping. Needless to say, there are also heirs who have made it their grand business to continue as caretakers of St.Vincent's Village and in otherways, to feed and clothe the poor, defend the oppressed, and serve the community of God. And because the Lizareses have remained true to thelegacy of Enrica (who ironically,was an Alunan and not a Lizares), thef amily line will continue because Lizareses are peaceful and fair in their dealings, modest in their ways, and God-fearing in their actions. So it was, so it shall be.