Oro, Plata, Mata: Stairs of Heritage


Balay ni Tana Dicang façade in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

It’s a woman’s world in there you will find out as you get past the formidable coral stone walls of the Balay ni Tana Dicang. Enrica Alunan Lizares was a woman ahead of her time and was a master multi-tasker managing farms, enterprises, and her brood of 17 children.

The thorny pattern of the balusters blend well with the Neo-Gothic motif of the house.

Although the house was built in 1872, the staircase was remodeled to its current look around 1888/1889. The handrails and balusters are of narra while balayong (ironwood) was used for the steps and the madre (stair stringer). The thorny pattern of the balusters blend well with the Neo-Gothic motif of the house. The matriarch of the clan believed that as one climbs the staircase, any misfortune one carries on his person will get caught among the “thorns”.

A spacious landing for guests when entering from the side street.

The landing is spacious for it is necessary to accommodate guests ascending from the lower staircase, and also family members who would get off from their caruajes (carriages) from the side street (now closed off). Concrete steps from the side street enabled them to go directly to the second floor. It is also at the descanso (landing) that the famous photograph of Tana Dicang with Pres. Manuel Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña hangs.

Rods in the middle of the underside of the steps are used to keep down the long blue carpet that run the length of the staircase.

This trapdoor reveals yet another staircase leading to a secret room under the bedroom.

When Tana Dicang had guests that she didn’t feel like entertaining, she would disappear into a cuartito (small room) below her bedroom via a small trapdoor underneath her bed. A staircase aided the Great Escape into that room where she would sew away at her manual sewing machine to keep her occupied.

Text by: Betsy Gazo

Photos by: Bem Cortez

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