Bacolod Millionaire's Row - FESTIVALS IN THE PHILIPPINES


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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Bacolod Millionaire's Row

Visitors to the "City by the Bay", San Francisco, often try to make it a point to stop by the famous Painted Ladies (of San Francisco), a row of colorful Victorian houses located at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park due to its Instagramable quaintness and ceaseless charm.  Built between 1892 and 1896, these Victorian-style houses are one of the thousands built in San Francisco during its booming growth at the end of the nineteenth century.

Likewise, halfway around the globe, right here in the Philippines, there is a row of houses in the heart of Bacolod City, the country's sugar capital, which epitomizes the booming growth at the turn of the 20th century wrought by the industry of sugarcane, grown in the fertile island of Negros.

This October of 2018, tourists from Metro Manila and all over the country will visit Negros Island, to join the Masskara Festival and the 80th year of Bacolod City's charter, thereby gaining a glimpse of Bacolod's well known glory days.  This is due to the revitalization of that small strip of houses known back in the 1930s as "Millionaire's Row".

For those who arrive in Bacolod City and follow what is usually written on travel books and blogs, the usual stops are the Negros Museum, the Provincial Capitol of Negros Occidental, the Ruins (Mariano Lacson Mansion), and the heritage houses in Silay (26 kilometers north of Bacolod).


What is often missed though in Bacolod is a street which was once known as Millionaire's Row.  This street is hardly publicized because most online references can only reach back to Bacolod's glory days of the 1960s and the 1970s.  The importance of this street and the row of houses thereon goes back to the pre-war decade of the 1930s.

Most visible among them are the Daku Balay art deco house.  It was back in the 1930s when Generoso M. Villanueva, a prominent sugar planter, and his wife Paz, built the first art deco  structure in Bacolod City. Designed solely by the owner, the three-story, poured-concrete steel reinforced building with graceful curved balconies, parapets, and porthole steel-cased windows looks like the Titanic on land. It was known among the locals as the Boat House. Among family, though, it was simply called Daku Balay (the big house).On the same street, another similar daku balay (big house) also shows the glorious past of Negros and Bacolod City.  This is the house of Don Mariano Ramos.

Mariano Ramos was among the first Presidente Municipals appointed in Bacolod City.  At that time, Bacolod was not yet chartered as a city and thus did not have any mayor yet.  Mariano Ramos was a former classmate of Manuel L. Quezon in Letran and the late president did stop by this house often during his many trips to Negros Island.

Between the two mansions mentioned are other houses which are resplendent of Bacolod's decadent pre-war past.  It is of little wonder then that during the Japanese occupation in World War 2, the head of the Japanese Imperial Army, headed by General Takeshi Kono, took over the houses in Millionaire's Row as these two houses had the tallest miradors (viewing towers) to observe the city from all directions.

The Japanese Imperial Army commanded all forces occupying Negros from the houses in Millionaire's Row until the surrender in August 1945.

The street known as Millionaire's Row is commonly known today as Burgos Street.  In the same manner that one visits Steiner Street in San Francisco for the Painted Ladies, or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, or Las Ramblas in Barcelona, one should not miss Burgos Street when in Bacolod City.

All mansions can be viewed from the street as these are all still closed to the public, except one which is the currently run as a boutique hotel, The White Hotel.

The White Hotel is the former residence of Hermelinda Ramos-Dizon and Raymundo Dizon, Sr.  Hermelinda was the daughter of Don Mariano Ramos.  Only an Art Deco wrought iron fence separates the White Hotel and the Don Mariano Ramos House.  The White Hotel at 42 Burgos Street, and the Don Mariano Ramos House at 44 Burgos Street.

Offhand, the White Hotel is one of the best choices for accommodation if one seeks the charm of the Old Bacolod lifestyle.

Something Artsy to Watch Out For

There is no doubt that Bacolod is once again bustling with activity and dynamic business growth.  More real estate developers are also making their way into the city, erecting condominiums which Bacolod locals seem to be adapting to.  What this writer noticed though is that within Millionaires' Row is also condominium development which has as its foreground, the Daku Balay Art Deco house.  For those with an eye for what ought to be a cut above the rest and, for those who live with panache, the Belle Arte condominium shows a lot of promise in terms of allowing one to fully experience the Old Bacolod lifestyle while adapting to contemporary living.

Check out Bacolod Millionaires' Row in your next visit to Negros.  Its environs will surely charm you.

Photo credits to Voltaire Siacor (Villanueva Art Deco House), Lloyd Tronco (Mariano Ramos House), Belle Arte Facebook page.

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