Sunday, 3 January 2016
Negros Tourism: Silay City's San Diego Pro-Cathedral
I just passed by Silay City yesterday, and seeing their famous landmark of a cathedral reminded me to write a blog when I first visited it a few months back.
Silay City's huge cathedral is along the highway, and anyone passing through the city's main street won't miss it.
One of the biggest cities north of the Negros Occidental's capital, Bacolod City, Silay has been called the Paris of Negros because it was the center of the arts in the province during the early 20th century.
Its famous children included opera singers, architects, and artists, and it has a lot of well-preserved ancestral houses, whose architecture reminds us of how it was in the 1900s. About 30 houses have been declared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as part of the Silay National Historical Landmark, one of which is the famous Balay Negrense.
Going back to the Cathedral.
The San Diego Pro-Cathedral was actually just made of bamboos and local materials when it was built in 1776 when it was still a parish. Today, it is one of a few pro-cathedrals in the Philippines. A pro-cathedral is a parish church that functions as a cathedral.
And from its bamboo and wooden structure, the church got an upgrade. In 1925, a wealthy resident and sugar baron, Don Jose Ledesma, donated funds to built a bigger church worthy of being part of the city rich in heritage.
Don Jose Ledesma hired an Italian architect, Lucio Bernasconi, who took inspiration from the huge cathedrals in Italy. That's why, from afar, anyone can recognize the cathedral because of its copula, its huge dome that's seen from any plane landing or taking off from the Bacolod-Silay International Airport.
But during World War II, the war planes actually didn't recognize the dome. Why? The locals had the cathedral's dome painted black so as to avoid being seen from the air and getting bombed by the Japanese forces.
I was in Alcala de Henares in Spain a few months ago, and I didn't know then that the Cathedral was named after a saint who died in Alcala de Henares.
San Diego de Alcala, also known as St. Didacus from his medieval Spanish name, was a Spanish missionary who was sent to the Canary Islands to spread the faith. He was born in the Kingdom of Seville in the 1400s, and died in Alcala de Henares on November 12, 1463.
And in 2016, I pay tribute to his sainthood and to the Cathedral named after him.
So, if you're visiting Negros Occidental, do make a visit to the city of Silay, its heritage houses and its catheral.
Also make sure you drop by El Ideal Restaurant if you got hungry. :-)