Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roaming around “The Ruins” of Talisay City

There lies in one of Negros Occidental’s newly formed cities the remains of a rundown mansion owned by the heirs of one of its sugar barons, which is fast turning into a spectacular tourist magnet known as “The Ruins”. 

Built by Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson sometime in the early 1900s in memory of Maria Braga, his Portuguese wife, the century-old house—or what’s left of it—is considered by some to be the Philippines’ little version of India’s Taj Majal, which is a testament of one man’s undying love for his departed wife. 

Word has it that the mansion used to be the largest residential structure ever built at that time. It was also embellished with the finest furniture, chinaware, paintings and other works of art. Also, one of Lacson’s daughters maintained a lovely garden with a four-tiered fountain fronting the house.

All its grandeur, however, was reduced to ruins when guerilla fighters during World War II burned the mansion so that the Japanese forces could not use it as their headquarters. For three days, the fire ravaged the whole house, gutting its roof, floors and woodwork.

Even so, the structure has withstood the test of time primarily because of the huge steel bars and the A-grade mixture of concrete used when the house was built. One of Lacson’s sons was said to have supervised the construction, seeing to it that everything was done in accordance to the family’s specifications, including the A-grade concrete mixture and its pouring.

In recent years, the present owners of the estate must have realized the tourism potentials of this ancestral house in Talisay. Thus, they restored and opened it to the public, eventually transforming yesterday’s fabulous abode into today’s favorite venue for weddings, pictorials, debuts, picnics, reunions and other gatherings.

Having heard so much about this tourist attraction, my friends and I explored the renowned rubble during our recent visit to Bacolod. From Silay City, we traveled southward to the neighboring city of Talisay where the ruins are located.

A sucarcane plantation in Talisay

There are two routes that tourists can take to reach the place. One is thru a potholed macadam road passing through a sugarcane plantation in Talisay and another via a middle-class subdivision somewhere in Bacolod.

Our hosts were not very familiar with the streets in Talisay so we ended up taking the rough road (that’s less traveled, I supposed) all the way to the mansion. It was a bumpy drive but we enjoyed that helluva joyride just the same. 

On the way to our destination, we chanced upon a group of sugarcane plantation workers known as sakadas who were busy harvesting in the field. We stopped to ask one of them for directions to the ruined mansion. After giving us the route, the fellow and his colleagues willingly obliged when we requested them to pose for us. Wasting no time, we took advantage of that rare countryside scenery and kept on clicking our shutter buttons.

When the plantation photo op was over, we drove some more before we finally saw what we came for. From a distance, the ruins of Lacson’s mansion looked like the scaffolding of an unfinished house. At close range, however, it seemed like the refurbished ground zero of some demolished structure.

After paying the entrance fees, we began exploring the place. On the remaining walls, I noticed several photographs and other memorabilia, explaining the Lacson family as well as the house’s rich history. Inside, a number of tourists were busy milling around the old mansion that reeked of nostalgia, mystery and intrigue.  

Outside, we noticed the sprawling garden with a large fountain to boot and headed towards it. I wondered if this was an original structure or just a replica. Many people were around that time, taking snaps of themselves with the garden and fountain as background so we patiently waited for all of them to leave before we started taking our shots.

It is said that the magnificence of the ruins come into full view during late afternoons when the rays of the sun hit the hollow frames of the structure, turning its pale hues into golden yellow. Taking our refreshments, we patiently played the waiting game just to capture the seared spectacle at its best. And when the shooting began, we really had a blast.

Whether one is a tyro or a pro, the ruins of the Lacson mansion are undoubtedly a photographer’s delight. I just wished we had more time to snap at the structure at different times of the day, perhaps from sunup to sundown. Oh, well, I guess a second coming’s in the offing.  :D

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