Over Fields of Dreams

When sifting through the rich history of Negros Occidental, the municipality of Binalbagan is often recognized as a principal starting point. As the oldest recorded town in Negros, it has become the foundation of the culture that Negrenses have nurtured throughout history. From the Bornean datus who brought in their knowledge of ancient architecture and agriculture, to the Spaniards who introduced us to the Christian faith, all the way to the Americans who gave us better access to education, Binalbagan has always served as the gateway to the island for these transitional milestones.

The original Art Deco arched entry porch with decorative trellis accented by the Neo-Classical Corinthian columns.

Though the township has taken great strides towards modernization, remnants of its illustrious past can still be seen in a few remaining structures whose architecture speaks of more plentiful times. Among these hidden gems is what is locally known as the Binalbagan Mansion, a palatial ancestral home once owned by Sabas Locsin and his wife Carmen Yulo. Today, it is the heart of Binalbagan Catholic College and the centerpiece of the BCC campus.

Constructed and designed between 1930-1935 by Sabas and Carmen’s eldest son, Civil Engineer Angel Y. Locsin, the captivating baronial facade bears an uncanny resemblance to the town’s San Isidro Labrador Parish Church, which he also built.

Octagonal watch tower on the left side of the house.

Some of the notable features of the mansion are the octagonal watchtower that offered a sweeping view of their family’s hacienda, the hanging room opposite it that served as their prayer room, and the elegant gazebo with crenelated roof in the middle of the courtyard, which hosted many parties during its time.

Upon closer appreciation of the mansion’s architectural design, neoclassical themes immediately stand out. Majestic Corinthian pillars adorned by sublime arches greet you at the entrance and continue towards the interior, where asymmetrical openings partition the different areas of the ground floor.

Corinthian columns adorn several corners of the house.

As you move along inside, Art Deco elements, which suffused all aspects of life in the 1930s, are seen elegantly infused into the details. Decorative wall claddings and intricate geometric patterns are all over, while the vintage terrazzo flooring in the sala, embellished with Baroque designs, is a sight to behold all its own. Access to the higher levels is through a grandiose staircase whose hardwood balusters are placed on quite an obtuse angle which, back then, would have been very challenging to install.

Standing three stories high, the entire structural frame was constructed using a method called “basyada”, a local term that referred to a meticulous application of layers of pure concrete without the use of hollow blocks, most likely the main factor for its longevity. This style of construction also made it easier to execute special design elements, like the octagons that are seen in the watchtower and the hanging room.

The patterns of the terrazzo floor embodying the 1930s Art Deco still provide an air of elegance inside the building.

Unfortunately, a few years after its construction both Carmen and Sabas Locsin passed away, leaving the house in the care of their children. During the Second World War, Japanese troops infiltrated Binalbagan and the mansion was seized and used as one of their headquarters, while most of the Locsin family took refuge with relatives in neighboring Hinigaran. After the war, Angel and his wife Luming returned to the house where four of their six children were born.

In 1960, the Locsin family donated a hectare of their hacienda to the Columban Fathers, to be used as site for the Binalbagan Catholic College (BCC). The following year saw the transfer of ownership and administration of the school to the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who made it a priority to acquire the surrounding lots as the campus grew. They were finally able to purchase the land on which the Binalbagan Mansion stood in 1999 and began restorations the following year. Sister Aquila Sy, who was the first Presentation Sister appointed as Directress back in 1978, remembers quite clearly how their congregation urged her to preserve the architecture as it showcased the intertwining heritage of the school, the family, and the town.

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

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft