Oro, Plata, Mata: Stairs of Heritage


Ensconced in a large plot of land that sharply juts out into the surrounding sugarcane field, Hacienda Maria del Rosario’s fabled mansion, Casa Grande, is hidden by a clump of trees if viewed from the highway of Talisay City, Negros Occidental. The residence of Don Aniceto Ledesma Lacson is hidden like a polished gem that is best appreciated in the light of history, and with an architectural background. One who is armed with history will know that the 1880’s residence was where the president of the Cantonal Republic of Negros lived with his family. This makes the house the presidential mansion, and was the venue of many a political meeting.

The bigwigs of the Philippine political scene were guests of Don Aniceto. However, he was the sort of gentleman who comfortably crossed social classes. The mansion not only welcomed presidents and 19th-20th century movers and shakers, but also members of the Katipunan. (Gen. Aniceto Lacson was the only Negrense katipunero and had a secret blood compact with El Supremo Andres Bonifacio.)

The plaque outside the General Aniceto Lacson Ancestral House.

If the walls of the mansion can talk! The Gen. Aniceto Lacson Mansion was declared a National Historical landmark through Resolution No. 2, S.202 on March 13, 2002 that reads:




“Itinayo bilang bahagi ng asyenda Matab-ang ni Aniceto L. Lacson, General ng hukbong rebolusyonaryo sa Negros, luklukan ng pamahalaang Republica Cantonal de Negros na kung saan naging pangulo si Lacson, 1898, Punong himpilan ng puwersang Hapon, 1942-1945, at ng U.S. Army 40th Division, ang hukbong mapagpalaya ng mga Amerikano, 1945. Ipinahayag bilang pambansang palantandaang pangkasaysayan, 13 Marso 2002.”

Chinese granite or piedra china floor.

The whole ground floor is lined with Chinese granite or piedra china. The flooring starts with a few rows just in front of the massive front doors and extends all the way to where the former stables are, past the chapel. That’s a lot of ground to cover, really. At the far end of the stables is a narrow wooden stairway with a wrought iron baluster that leads straight up to the second floor kitchen. This is for the servants’ use.

The dragon motif of the balusters is the indelible stamp left behind by the Chinese artisans who were brought in from China.

The slanted “8” pattern of the balusters is just too pretty to hide in the darkness of the stables, yet, this just reveals the refinement of that era. Let us lead you now to the main feature of the house.

As one walks through front doors, one sees the chapel to the left, the open space farther across the entrance, and the beautifully carved calado (wooden fretwork) arches punctuating the 6.10-meter-high ceiling that is actually the 2nd story’s wooden floor. To the right is the grand staircase that starts with two sets of nine-step staircases converging at the descanso (landing), which represents the 10th step, thus allowing this leg of the flight to end in “oro”, or gold, before proceeding to the second stairwell leading to the upper floor.

The moment one enters the grand staircase framed by the calado arches, one feels a certain awe and reverence for the countless feet that treaded these very steps. Anyone who climbs the staircase is literally following the footsteps of Emilio Aguinaldo, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, General Antonio Luna, Manuel Quezon, Sergio Osmena, Claro M. Recto, and, oh, so many who were guests of Don Aniceto. Don’t forget the katipuneros whom Don Aniceto invited to move to Negros.

Everything about the house is grandiose and imposing – from the solidness of the stone flooring below, to the house’s own chapel, to the meticulously designed carvings on balusters and arches, to the wrap-around wrought iron balcony with two-inch thick wooden ledges – using only the best materials of those times including narra and kamagong wood. One’s jaw drops at all this grandness. This impression had caused President Manuel Quezon to exclaim, “Don Aniceto, your staircase is grander than mine in Malacanang.” This is the house of a powerful man, and the house is a reflection of his power.

Text by: Betsy Gazo

Photos by: Bem Cortez

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