Monday, 10 December 2018

Sightseeing in Seoul: The Insta-Popular #Insadong

Yes, Insadong is one of the most popular spots in Seoul for local and international tourists. 

Just like other famous Seoul attractions such as #Hongdae, #Gangnam, #Myeongdong, and #SeoulTower#Insadong is also a popular hashtag mention, and I don't wonder why.

The first time I walked around Insadong more than a decade ago, it felt like a throwback to an old Seoul with its cobblestone walks and traditional artisan shops. Although this place is slowly turning modern with galleries and cosmetic shops, Insadong, in the olden times, was a place for artists and craftsmen given its proximity to Gyeongbukgung Palace.

(A flash mob at Insadong)

Insadong is a must-visit place when you're in Seoul because it's not only a place of traditional artisans and galleries, it's also full of interesting cafés and restaurants. On the main street, you'd find enterprising vendors selling Korean sweets, magicians, and food carts like the one selling my favorite strawberry-banana-Nutella crêpe.

Straight from my photo albums, here are my fun memories of #Insadong.

(Giant inflatables invade Insadong)

Insadong flashmob
This was the most fun day I had at Insadong. Why? I wasn't just a tourist; I was taking part in an 'instant' tourist attraction!

A few years back, during the launch of the Korea In Motion campaign, I got to participate in a flash mob activity by documenting its 'behind-the-scenes' story as a member of the K-Performance Supporters, a group of bloggers whose job was to help promote Korean tourism.

Of course, I didn't even think of volunteering to dance with the pack, lest I wanted to ruin the whole campaign.😄 Insadong was the best place to hold the flash mob as it was always full, although I was thinking, if it were held in Myeongdong, that place would have been too crowded for all the dancers, giant inflatable mascots, and camera crew.

(B-boys join the flash mob)

From their rehearsal in the morning until the flash mob in the afternoon, the day spent in Insadong was worth the excitement and the fulfillment that I was able to help promote Korea In Motion.

(B-boys join the flash mob)

A Jongno weekend
Insadong's location is perfect for tourists with limited time in Seoul. Since it's located in the Jongno District, which has a lot of tourist spots, one can just walk around its neighboring attractions like the Gyeongbuk Palace, Changdeok Palace, Tong-in Market, Bukchon Village, Samcheong-dong, and Jogyesa Temple.

That's why when, as a member of the Global Seoul Mate program, I spent a weekend pretending as a tourist in Seoul as a paid challenge (yes, the Seoul City government paid for my tourist expenses!), I chose to book at an Airbnb next to Insadong. It was not just very convenient and easy, it was also fun! I got to visit a lot of places around the area and savor Korean dishes and snacks like a tourist and got paid for it!

Insadong's mandu restaurant
And if there's one place in Insadong that I would go back to every now and then, it's Koong Mandu, Seoul's best mandu restaurant. Over the years, I brought friends here for lunch or dinner, including my former colleague, Agnes, and her pals when they were in Seoul. The grandma's yummy mandu recipe has been a reason why people keep coming back over the years.

And because Insadong was just five minutes away from Jongno's beer alleys, we simply walked towards the direction of Cheonggyecheon and continued the night with beer, chips, and stories.

               (My friends Fay and Joy about to 
                 enjoy mandu at Koong Mandu)

Although Insadong has restaurants that serve western cuisine, it should be interesting for tourists to enjoy the popular Korean dishes like my favorite mandu!

       (Joy, Loren and Fay at their 'Expressions' exhibit at an Insadong gallery)

Art galleries
Showcasing local painters and artists, Insadong has galleries as well as shops where you can purchase materials for your painting handicraft hobbies.

         (Fay, Loren and Joy at their 'Expressions' exhibit at an Insadong gallery)

When my friends Fay, Loren and Joy had a painting exhibition, they held it at Kyung-In Museum, one of the galleries in Insadong. That gallery, coincidentally, was located just across Koong Mandu, where we had lunch to celebrate their exhibition.

               (My mom and sister at Ssamziegil)

(My mom window shopping at Insadong)

When I toured my mom and sister around Seoul, I made sure they got to see Insadong's interesting galleries, artisan shops, and cafés by walking its cobblestone main alley.

Ssamziegil, right in the middle of Insadong, is the most popular place to visit. This square is actually a 'street' because it's called 'gil', the hangeul name for 'street'. The building's design enables one to ascend to higher floors without taking the stairs.

Insadong welcomes Patricia 
And the latest guest Insadong welcomed?  Patricia

My niece, Patricia, recently came to Korea to work and I just had to introduce her to Insadong just as I did my family and friends. Patricia got to know Insadong by strolling around its corners and alleys after our lunch at the Philippine market in Hyehwa-dong  along Daehangno in the Jongno District.

                 (Patricia on top of Ssamziegil)

From our heavy lunch of Filipino dishes, we just had to walk off the few calories we gained that day, and climbing all the way up to the rooftop of Ssamziegil helped. 

(Patricia ordering her crêpe)

But since we didn't have our dessert yet, I brought Patricia to my favorite crepe stall at the end of Insadong. 

For KRW3,000, the ajussi prepared the yummiest strawberry-banana-Nutella crêpe right in front of Patricia. To pay, Patricia simply dropped the KRW3,000 at a small box on the table. For sanitary reasons, the ajussi doesn't touch the cash; he simply lets his customers drop their payment and get their change, if any, from the box.

(Patricia enjoying her 
strawberry-banana-Nutella crepe!)

Since she now knows the interesting shops, cafés, and galleries of Insadong, Patricia can also bring her family and friends visiting her to this place as well.

Just like other tourist attractions in Seoul, Insadong has its special vibe and character not found in any other place in the city. It is unique on its own and you have to visit it to feel it.

So, have you also visited the Insta-popular Insadong lately?  

By the way, here's the video of our #Insadong flash mob:

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Victorias City, Negros Occidental, Philippines: School Zone or Ukay-Ukay Zone?

The Mission of the Department of Interior and Local Government of the Philippines:

The Department shall promote peace and order, ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY, strengthen capability of local government units through active people participation and a professionalized corps of civil servants.

                           *   *   *   *   *

I first posted this photo on the 'Victoriahanon Kami' Facebook page taken from the southern end of a crowded Yap Quiña St. in Victorias City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. 

School Zone or Ukay-Ukay Zone?
The photo I posted shows Yap Quiña St. where the entrance gates of the Victorias Elementary School 1 (or VES1 as parents and teachers call it) are located. (Years ago, the Victorias Elementary School was divided into VES 1 and VES 2 because the student population was so large that it couldn't be managed by one school principal alone. This street is used by VES 1).

'Ukay-ukay' is a Filipino term for a flea market selling used clothes and other items. The term came from the word 'halukay' that means to rummage.

                     (Not Instagram-worthy
                  but worth raising the issue for)

The only thing wrong about the photograph was that, on the right side of the photo, UKAY-UKAY stalls that stretched from one end of the street (at Victorias Commercial Center side) up to the end other (bordering Montinola Street) have eaten up the sidewalk and part of the street on that side where the schools' gates are!

(A part of the map of Victorias City showing 
Yap Quiña St. littered with red spots representing ukay-ukay stalls in front of VES1)

The scene caught my attention because the school children and their parents were being squeezed between the stalls and the passing tricycles and other vehicles. Anyone of them could be sideswiped! 😓And this happens in the morning when the kids go to school, at noon when they are fetched and brought back to school again, and in the afternoon when they leave for home.

Here is an actual video of the scene taken on November 26, 2018, at 7AM when kids and parents (and a few lolas!) arrive at school. The entrance gate to the school is hidden behind the ORANGE tarpaulin tents of the ukay-ukay stalls.

After I posted, a lot of commenters agreed about the risk faced by the children, their parents, and teachers as they go to school, and other pedestrians that also pass through this street.

Of course, a few commenters bashed me for complaining on behalf of the kids and their parents. I simply shrugged off narrow-minded creatures. They're not worth my keystrokes. Ha-ha-ha!😆

But I wondered, like the rest of the Victorias citizens, WHY the Barangay 4 officials and the Victorias City government gave business permits to these ukay-ukay stalls. In my post, I asked for them for any reaction or response, but there was none.😞

                                (Tarpaulin ukay-ukay tents being 
                 set up on November 20, 2018)

The stalls were set up on November 20, 2018, a Tuesday, when there were no classes due to Typhoon Samuel's Signal No. 1.

          (The ukay-ukay tents eat up the SIDEWALK 
      and part of the street adjacent to the school)

Since the suspension of classes for two days was announced the day before, the ukay-ukay vendors probably decided that it was the best time to put their stalls up and surprise everyone - the students, their parents, the principal and teachers - on Thursday, the next school day.

       (The ukay-ukay tents eat up the SIDEWALK 
        and part of the street adjacent to the school)

On a sad note, however, a few mothers messaged me that they worry every day as their own kids face this risk of having an accident. One mother told me that she works away in Manila and that she's worried that she's not around to watch her kid go to school every day.

    That's the school's name hidden by the stalls. 
                 The new name should be: 
Mababang Paaralan (at Presyo) ng Ukay-Ukay

One grandmother, Lola Belen, told me personally that she and her apo (grandkid) have to be careful about the danger on that street and that the authorities even closed the gate where they usually enter.

Another grandma, Lola Lydia, also told me personally that whenever she brings her grandkid who goes to VES2, they avoid this street. She also told me that they should relocate those stalls for the simple reason that people who want to buy from the ukay-ukay stalls will go wherever they are located. See? You don't need a grandma to disprove the local government's logic of putting them there. 

 (Ukay-ukay stalls compete for space vs 
 students, tricycles and other vehicles)

      (Is it a SCHOOL zone or an UKAY-UKAY zone?)

According to the Mission of the Philippine Department of Interior and Local Government, they should ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY.

But in this case, it seems in Victorias City, the mission is impossible.😢

Have a walk with the students through the ukay-ukay, er, school zone and decide for yourself:

PS. This blog is dedicated to the mothers who messaged me about their concern for the safety of their children every day. 😭

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Gaston Mansion: A Heritage Treasure Hidden in A Philippine Hacienda

I would have designated this mansion a national treasure a long time ago; this very rare gem of a home is so beautiful you wouldn't believe you're not in a movie set. But ironically, it's been turned into a movie set! A lot of times!

On this side of the Negros island, particularly in Silay City in the north, 19th and early 20th-century ancestral homes have been diligently preserved by landed families, turning their homes into a showcase of the city's history and heritage.

While the neighboring Talisay City boasts of its most famous historical landmark, The Ruins, a 1920s mansion that was deliberately torched during WWII and whose silhouette and history were turned into a tourist attraction, Silay City, on the other hand, has Balay Negrense, a well-preserved mansion completed in 1901 that, other than being an attraction itself, hosts a celebration of the city's culinary heritage 'Kaon Ta!', my mom's favorite. 

But closer to my hometown is another beautiful mansion. This one's even more special. Why? It's a real home!
(This dirt road belies what treasure lies ahead)

The Gaston Mansion in the middle of Hacienda Santa Rosalia in Manapla on the northern part of the Negros island in the Philippines was built in 1935, and it's very well-preserved and still postcard-perfect that it has been featured in many period movies like Oro, Plata, Mata; Sonata; and Everyday I Love you. 

And since the mansion is just close by, on one weekend, we visited Monsignor Guillermo 'Gigi' Gaston, whom we personally know, in his mansion. Yes, that's why I called this mansion a real home because he still lives there. It has five rooms on the second floor and four rooms on the ground floor.

Monsignor Gigi is a Catholic priest and one of the eight children of Don Jose Gaston and his wife, Doña Consuelo Azcona-Gaston. Don Jose, coincidentally, has appeared in two of my previous blogs: the first was about a 1940 photograph at Don Felix Montinola's home in Victorias, and another was about a 1961 photograph while having lunch with President Diosdado Macapagal.

According to Monsignor Gigi, the land on which the Gaston Mansion now stands was originally owned by his grandmother's family (Doña Rosalia Policar who later married an Azcona) as his father's family's (the Gastons) hacienda was situated in Victorias, the next town to the south. Monsignor Gigi's mother was Doña Consuelo Azcona-Gaston, a daughter of Doña Rosalia Policar-Azcona. In those days, the tradition of naming the hacienda was by using the name of a saint who was a namesake of the hacendádo, or haciéndero.

(Workers in Hacienda Santa Rosalia 
on their way to work)

During our visit, I had to ask Monsignor Gigi about their family name, Gaston. I studied French and the name Gaston was a given name (and not a family name) that was always used in our French textbooks as an example, and my hunch was right! 

Their family name was actually Germain, a French surname. Why did it become Gaston? During the Spanish period, when the Spaniards were registering Yves Leopold (Monsignor Gigi's great-grandfather), the Spaniards mistook Gaston as his family name, instead of Germain. His full name was Yves Leopold Gaston Germain, and the Spanish registrars thought Gaston was the apellido paterno (father's surname) and Germain the apellido materno (mother's surname) because that was the way they wrote their names in Spain (given name, father's surname, and mother's surname).

And so Gaston became his and his descendants' last name. Yves Leopold, by the way, was from Lisieux in the Normandy Region of France and is credited for bringing to the Negros island, in the 19th century, the sugar technology that changed the province's landscape (literally!) and fortunes forever.

(The Germain, er, Gaston family genealogy 
starting with Yves Leopold and wife Prudencia is 
divided into three main branches, representing 
their three children, using France's 
colors: white, blue and red. 
Monsignor Gigi belongs to the blue branch.)

When the mansion was being built, the construction was slow as it was meticulously supervised by Don Jose himself. The furniture in the mansion was all made within the grounds and everything is still kept in the mansion until today as the family has decided to keep everything as it was since the early 20th century.

The mansion's architecture is Victorian and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, fruit-bearing trees, and sugarcane fields all over. It's less than 800 meters from the main national highway from where you wouldn't be able to tell that there's a gem of a home somewhere down the road.

(While Talisay City's The Ruins is the most Instagrammable silhouette, this mansion is the most popular mansion for film and photo-shoots.)

(If only these steps could talk, it would 
enumerate the who's-whos who visited 
the mansion from 1935 until the present.)

At the back of the mansion, Monsignor Gigi built a place of worship, The Chapel of the Cartwheels, in 1966 after he came back from Rome, Italy, where he completed his theological studies.

Using the old, discarded cartwheels kept by his father, Don Jose, Monsignor Gigi turned these as symbols of a Christian faith: the center represents God; the spokes represent Jesus as they point and connect to God at the center with Jesus being 'the Way to the Father'; and the Holy Spirit, represented by the ring of the wheel, keeps everyone from being lost. 

(An enchanted garden in front of the mansion, a fountain, and two statues created in the likeness of two of Don Jose's daughters, and a visitor😃. The statue in the background is the Virgin Mary.)

The cartwheel is the Holy Trinity and is the everyday symbol and reminder for the sugarcane workers in the hacienda. Although the cartwheels fell into disuse due to technology when they were replaced by rubber tires, they have been elevated into a holy symbol of the hacienda's chapel.  

(The Chapel of the Cartwheels is Monsignor 
Gigi's thanksgiving for all the blessings 
bestowed on his family)

With the help of Monsignor Gigi's brother-in-law, Gerry Ascalon, an architect, the Chapel of the Cartwheels was completed, where the first Holy Mass in Hiligaynon was celebrated by then Bacolod Diocese's Bishop Antonio Fortich on May 5, 1967. Monsignor Gigi made the first ever translation of the Liturgy from Latin to Hiligaynon and had choir hymns in the local language prepared for that Mass. They had to ask permission from the Catholic Church in order to have the Mass celebrated in Hiligaynon, and not Latin.

(The cartwheel's center, spokes, and ring 
represent the Holy Trinity)

The Chapel of the Cartwheels was built on the former site of Monsignor Gig's grandparents and it's his thanksgiving to all the blessings showered on his family.

But do you know their mansion could not have survived World War II if not for a miracle?

(The Chapel's cross against the blue skies)

During the last days of World War II, one terror-filled morning, at about 4AM when it was still dark, the Gaston family was awakened by a big fire at the main town of Manapla, about three kilometers northeast of the hacienda. The fire, visible from the mansion's rooftop, was caused by the retreating Japanese soldiers coming from the north and who were setting big structures, including mansions in the haciendas, on fire along their way.

Word reached the hacienda that the Japanese soldiers had already torched the nearest mansion, the Gamboa Mansion, located near the main road just outside Manapla. The man, who was probably a hacienda worker sent to find out what was going on at the outskirts of the hacienda, came back with the bad news and told Don Jose the scariest words he heard that day, "Daw kamo na guid ang dason", or "It looks like you really are the next" in English

Monsignor Gigi was just 14 then, and I would have been very scared myself had I lived to experience that tragic morning. But Don Jose, who was a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, prayed with his family for safety and surrendered everything to God's will.

Two trucks carrying the Japanese soldiers were already making their way through the dirt road going into the hacienda and were probably itching to, not only to set the big house on fire, but also to bayonet and kill anyone they would see or offer resistance at the hacienda grounds. (During their years of occupation, the Japanese military had mapped these areas and knew exactly where those mansions were located).

Although Don Jose, his family, and his servants and their own families were able to immediately flee to safety away from the mansion and towards the direction of the coast, Don Jose thought his family's home would suffer the same fate as the others. But suddenly, out of the nowhere, from the dark skies above that was beginning to see morning light, an American Northrop P61 plane appeared and strafed the Japanese and their trucks.

The Northrop P61 was nicknamed by the American military as 'Black Widow' and was specifically made to be a night-fighter plane. It only carried three crews: the pilot, the radar operator, and the gunner. So even in the dark, the radar operator must have seen the Japanese trucks heading towards what looked like a big house in the middle of a plantation. Immediately, the crew decided to fly low and strafed the enemy from the sky. The strafing must have caused some casualties because the Japanese immediately turned around and left Hacienda Santa Rosalia alone.

Indeed, Don Jose's prayers were answered by a miracle from above, figuratively and literally.

(Fresh breezes, fruit-bearing trees, and 
birds singing greet anyone standing on 
the mansion's northeast balcony)

Just like Iloilo City's Camiña Balay nga Bato whose original furnishings and furniture were also preserved by the family, I also admire and commend the Gaston family for preserving their home and sharing their family heritage with the mansion's visitors and admirers, including moi

So, merci beaucoup à Monsieur Yves Leopold and his descendants for giving us the Germain, er, Gaston Mansion.😉

To Monsignor Gigi, we'll visit again soon. Au revoir!😊

Friday, 16 November 2018

Philippine History: Don Felix Montinola and The Victorias Municipal Hall

Juan and Ysidra from Spain

Felix Montinola y Lozada was the fifth child of Benito Vasquez Montinola and Quintina Villa Lozada. Benito Vasquez Montinola, born in 1827, was the grandson of Juan Montinola and Maria Ysidra de Fuentevilla. Juan was said to have been a captain of the Spanish soldiers assigned to Iloilo at that time, while Maria Ysidra was a lady from Spain. 

Juan and Ysidra were probably betrothed to each other when Juan left Spain and sailed to the colony in the Pacific. Juan must have had invited Ysidra to join him when he finally settled in Iloilo, a charming city in one of the beautiful islands in Las Islas Filipinas, where she could hit the beach and enjoy fresh seafood any day of the week! Their first of five children, Manuela de los Dolores, was born in Jaro, Iloilo, in 1781.

From Iloilo with love

Born on February 16, 1864, also in Jaro, the young Felix Lozada Montinola crossed the Iloilo Strait and settled in the old town of Saravia (now the Municipality of E.B. Magalona) in the northern part of Negros Occidental in the Philippines.

In Saravia, he met and married the mayor's daughter (no less!) in 1897. Dorotea Gopulco Magalona was a daughter of Don Carlos Ledesma Magalona and Doña Agapita Gopulco Magalona. Doña Dorotea had seven siblings; she was also a cousin of Enrique B. Magalona. When Don Felix married, he was 33, while she was 24. (Enrique B. Magalona later became the town mayor of Saravia and a senator of the Republic of the Philippines. He was the grandfather of the late rapper, Francis M.).

And speaking of crossing from the Iloilo Province and into the Negros Island, migrating from Panay was not uncommon at that time. Even a number of Ilonggo soldiers made the same trip and joined Elias Magbanua in Sitio Guintabu-an in the old Saravia on August 17, 1898, to successfully revolt against Spain. Some of the soldiers, after their successful excursion to Negros, must have stayed behind and settled in the old Saravia.

When he moved to Saravia, Don Felix brought along two of his unmarried sisters, Encarnacion and Priscila

Don Felix and Doña Dorotea (Lola Teang to her grandkids) had eight children, who were all born in the old Saravia. But when the kids were grown and in order to be closer to his haciéndas situated at the north, the family decided to move to Victorias, then a growing, small town.

                    (Don Felix in his favorite pose)

Alcalde de Victorias

Don Felix was a quiet, dignified gentleman, always with his hands at the back when standing or walking about. On his free days, he'd visit his friend Sebastian Gonzaga, who had a home along the southbound side of the main highway in Victorias. Señor Gonzaga's house had a pharmacy in front and a small courtyard at the back (this spot is now occupied by a bank). The two friends would pass the morning playing chess and talk about the current events in their young town and province in Spanish.

When Don Felix became the ninth town leader of Victorias in 1937, he immediately started working on constructing the municipal hall, an idea he originally envisioned even before he became mayor - to build a municipal hall of Victorias that was worthy of its status.

Don Felix and President Quezon

When he became the municipal mayor, as part of his efforts to raise funds to build the municipal hall, Don Felix traveled to Baguio City to join President Manuel L. Quezon and other mayors. There, at a mountain resort caressed by fresh pine breezes, Don Felix asked the President's help to realize his dream for the town. 

His project must have cost at least 50,000 pesos, a huge amount in the late 1930s. But with the help of President Quezon, local haciénderos and businessmen, as well as the people of Victorias at that time, Don Felix's dream, became a reality. (So, if you're a descendant of a Victoriahanon who lived here in the 1930s, your lolo or lola must have contributed to the construction of the município.).

(Mayor Felix Montinola, center and with hands at the back, posing with other mayors;
President Quezon stands to his immediate right.)

In the 1930s, traveling wasn't exactly as comfortable and speedy. It took him about three days to reach Baguio City: a boat ride from Bacolod to Manila, and a long car ride up the Mountain Province. With the roads that would eventually become the national highways not as wide, paved, and efficiently routed as they are now, sitting in a car that would pass through the Luzon countryside with pre-WWII roads was more of a sacrifice than a journey, especially if you were 73 years old! Yes, the things Don Felix at his age had to do just to make his vision for Victorias a reality!

Palacio municipal de Victorias: a statement and a tribute to Spain

In 1933, when the Provincial Capitol of Negros Occidental was completed in Bacolod City on the land previously owned by the Gonzaga family, its scale, grandeur, and beaux-arts architecture, not before seen on the island at that time, impressed those who had seen it up close, including Don Felix

Being the richest province in the Philippines in the early 20th century, Negros Occidental could afford to build its Provincial Capitol, which was more of a statement rather than just a huge office for public servants. 

This was where Don Felix got his vision: to build a 'palacio municipal' or municipal hall for Victorias, an edifice whose scale and architecture would serve as a statement for the young town, a message for all its visitors, and a source of pride for all Victoriahanon

Don Felix was proud of owning how the municipal hall would look like. Inspired by the Palacio Reál de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid) in Spain where his ancestors came from, he envisioned a stone building with an imposing facade and appearance that would awe and impress anyone standing before it. Following a few characteristics of the royal palace was Don Felix's way of paying tribute and homage to Spain.

Madrid's Palacio Reál also lent Don Felix the idea of placing a coat of arms that rests at the center of the building that is slightly elevated than the rest of the body. The municipal building's ground floor does not touch the ground because, being the preeminent public structure of the town, it had to be elevated above the earth by a few steps. Just like royalty, it is above everyone else.

And 80 years ago, after it was completed, the municipal building of Victorias became more than just a building that housed public service offices; it was one Victoriahanon's statement about his young town's place in the political and economic landscape, not just in the province, but in the whole country as well. 

That time, when the surrounding spaces in the young town were grassland, wooden homes, and trees, a huge structure made of stone, standing with exaggerated proportions in all of its dimensions made everyone stop in awe.

Before it was horribly painted forest-green and white (a shade that reminds me of a laundry powder), the ivory color of the municipal building reflected the red-orange hues of a setting sun as it faces northwest. Today, with those cheap-looking colors, there's no more semblance of the 'old world' character this historic building used to display.😂 

Who paints Roman columns green?! Or who paints royal palaces super-white?

Kabukî guid tulokon sang hitsura sang city hall naton.😡 

(They might as well throw in red paint 
to make it Christmas-sy.😒)

And they painted the coat of arms green?! It is the freakin' symbol of the town for crying out loud! Instead, they made it look like a Christmas decor. SMH.😖 And while they're at it, why didn't they just put Christmas lights around it so we could put wrapped gifts under?😕

(This old photo of the municipal hall shows its original classy and classic look with the prominence of the town's coat of arms and the twin Roman-Tuscan columns in stucco-ivory color that attracted one's attention. Now that the columns and coat of arms are horribly painted green, they are hardly noticeable as the dark color subdued their appearance. Sigh.😢)

Columns: a message in Roman architecture

Aside from its height, one character of the municipal hall that catches one's attention is the twin columns that followed the Roman Tuscan design.

During the Roman times, those meters-high, round, solid columns were not put there right in front of a building as decoration or a structural support; they were statements. As they were carved from huge stones and sourced from the far reaches of the Roman empire, they were costly and very difficult to transport to Rome where they eventually became part of an emperor's capricious building or another rich Roman's villa, using hundreds, or thousands, of workers and slaves in the process. The erected Roman columns' message: We are powerful and have vast imperial resources; so, we can afford these! 

Although I'm sure no slave worked on the columns of Victorias, nor was a solitary solid rock used for one, the engineers and workers still had a tough time perfecting the twin columns that greeted visitors to the building. 

One story I heard about the columns is this: The column on the left before it was painted over, bore two dents from bullets, the rustic remains of which left two brown trails that flowed downwards like tears of a tragic past, tragic because these holes were made during World War II. 

How I wished they should have left the bullet holes untouched as they were genuine trails of history and should have been worn by the municipal hall as a badge and a part of the Victoriahanon history that should be told.

Don Tuting Jereza and the two municípios

The late Don Agustin M. Jereza executed Don Felix's plans. He was a graduate of civil engineering at the University of Iowa and a nephew of Don Felix, being a son of Don Felix's older sister, Valentina. 

Agustin 'Tuting' Jereza was the man behind the actual construction. He was also the one who constructed the município of Saravia. That's why the municipal hall of E.B. Magalona looks like a miniature version of Victorias's. With Saravia's town mayor a cousin of Dona Dorotea at that time, a ready architectural design was already on hand; they just had to reduce the scale.

Don Agustin's contribution to Victorias also included his help in the development of the town's educational system. A few years after Don Felix's death, he helped the Montinola family found the Don Felix Montinola Memorial Institute in 1952 by lending the curricula, experience, and expertise as well as the teachers of the University of Southern Philippines, a university Don Agustin founded in 1927.

Born an Ilonggo mestizo, died a Victoriahanon

Don Felix died peacefully at the Montinola family's ancestral home in Victorias City, surrounded by his family on September 25, 1949. He lay in state for days on the second floor of the município he built before being finally laid to rest at the Montinola family's mausoleum in E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental, Philippines. 

During the wake at the second floor of his município, his beloved Victoriahonans came to view his remains, while officials and politicians from the province and neighboring towns as well as ordinary citizens joined his family at the requiem mass and funeral.

(Victoriahanons paid their respects to the late municipal mayor when he lay in state on the second floor of the municipal hall he built for them)

Although he was born in Jaro, Iloilo, it was in Victorias where Don Felix left his legacy. He was born as an Ilonggo mestizo, but he died as a real Victoriahanon.

(Tio and Lola Teang were buried next
to each other in Saravia where he settled
in when he first arrived in Negros island.)