Faith, Family, Food

A generous display of white parols (star lanterns) welcome the Christmas season.

It’s quite obvious why Silay City is dubbed the “Paris of Negros”. Aside from her significant contributions to Negrense culture and the arts, colonial homes welcome you at the city’s border with their elegant vintage architecture, making one feel as if they’ve stepped into a time machine. To date, 31 of these heritage houses have been recognized by the National Historic Institute and the National Commission for Culture and Arts as such. One of them is the house of the late renowned pianist Jose “Pitong” Ledesma.

The original Machuca tiles that are still in mint condition greet visitors as they step foot on the front balcony.

Constructed in 1917 during the American period, Pitong and his wife Anita, herself coming from the equally prominent Locsin clan, had the house built in anticipation of their first child. Made with materials meant to outlast them, it has been passed along through generations. A granddaughter, Maggie Ledesma Jalandoni, welcomed Negros Season of Culture into this ancestral house.

The façade with its double staircase distinguishes this masterpiece from other heritage homes. Upon entry, the refined smell of aged hardwood greets you with immediate feelings of comfort. Typical of this period design are the windows that come in two parts. There’s the main window with two or three sliding panels, Capiz shells to diffuse light, louvers to allow air and light but block rain, and glass to let light in but not rain and wind. And the “ventanilla”, which is the opening below the main window usually defined by decorative wrought iron grills, engineered to further encourage air flow and circulation.

Selected furniture and furnishings soften the hardwood floors and walls along hallways.

The intricate woodwork throughout the house also showcases the level of craftsmanship during a time when everything was rigorously done by hand. Aside from the intricacy, “maestro de obras” put in great effort to ensure every masterpiece design would stand the test of time, treating the houses as works of art rather than quick construction projects.

“It’s actually basically the same,” Maggie shares when asked if there were any major architectural changes made since her childhood. She recalls minor modifications done while her aunt was living there, mostly in an attempt to modernize the look and functionality of the house. When her aunt passed away, the family noticed signs of deterioration on the ceiling and the walls. They were committed to restoring the mansion to its former glory, so when the offer for a long-term lease from acclaimed restaurateur Chef Tony Boy Escalante was made, they did not hesitate to embark on the project.

The living room has been painted white and an eclectic collection of modern furniture and art pieces gives it a modern homey feel.

The restoration was undertaken by Architect Tony Boy Legaspi who was familiar with the house, having grown up in Silay. Given freehand privileges throughout the restoration process but with a stiff timeline, Architect Legaspi assumed the worst given the age of his canvas. He dealt with removing the decaying areas as his first order of business, which ended up being an unexpectedly welcome surprise.

“They thought they had to take out everything that was deteriorating like the plywood, only to find out that it was part of a construction work back then. When they opened the plywood, they found the original hardwood of the house. So actually, the beauty of the house came out when we decided to restore it,” recalls Maggie. Architect Legaspi himself was impressed with the condition of the foundational fixtures, seeing no termite infestations and little-to-no sign of wear and tear. He credits the durability to the thorough selection of materials back then and techniques that have now taken a back seat to modern equipment and tools. The stilts on which the house was built, the Narra sliding doors that partitioned the house, the double-staircase, and the Machuca tiles on the porch, were all over a hundred years old yet in pristine condition.

Wide windows with ventanillas underneath and polished hardwood floors complement the modern dining set.

With the original aesthetics setting the tone for the rest of the restoration, Architect Legaspi continued on to the functional aspects of the project to enhance its livability for Chef Tony Boy Escalante. Naturally, the kitchen was widened and remodeled giving it a modern industrial feel. The electrical wirings that were meticulously embedded within wooden moldings were also upgraded to handle the additional high-powered appliances. Most of the original cast iron plumbing pipes had to be replaced as a reservoir tank and pressure pumps were installed. The whole house was then repainted white as requested by the new resident.

In a span of only three months, Architect Legaspi was able to complete the restoration to everyone’s satisfaction. Maggie in particular, after seeing the finished product, was brought back to her childhood where she remembers it as a “house filled with food, faith, love, music, and family.” All of which she wishes upon Chef Tony Boy, and all the future generations who would have the privilege of walking up that double-staircase.

Text By: Mayumi Espina
Photos and Video By: Unit A Creatives

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft