Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Negros Occidental: Mapa-uli na ko sa Bacolod

Ang indi makahibalo magbalikid sa iya nga ginhalinan, indi makalab-ot sa iya padulungan. Some refer to it as the national proverb and yet few Filipinos ever put it to heart. That's the Hiligaynon translation. The moment I got off the tricycle in front of our house in Bacolod, I knew I was home.

It was refreshing seeing a familiar place although I've been there only thrice in my life and not in the past ten years. As I opened the gate, I felt a surge of energy. Walking around brought back memories more so as I looked at a photo of myself as a kid on the walls of one of the rooms. My grandparents died a few months apart in September 2002 and February 2003. I never got to attend their wakes since for some reason, I was out of the country when it happened. It's a coincidence that they died a few months apart since they were born just two months apart as well.

Tired from the non-stop travel, I went straight to bed.

I woke up the next day to catch the ferry to Iloilo City. I had wanted to see Iloilo for the longest time and now that I was in Bacolod, this was my chance. But before that, I walked to the Cathedral of Bacolod which was on the same street as our house, to take photos.

Bacolod is called the City of Smiles. Just like the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, Bacolod City is the capital of a rich sugar-producing province, Negros Occidental. It's also a coincidence that both my mom and my dad are from sugar-producing provinces.

According to oral tradition, the Henares clan were weavers from Iloilo. During the middle of the 19th Century, there was an exodus of migrants from Iloilo to the sparsely-populated island of Negros due to a boom in sugar production. Having been orphaned, the siblings led by Mateo, my great-great grandfather, and his brother Esteban, joined the migration to Negros and upon arriving, armed only with the knowledge of the Spanish language, secured a loan that would serve as capital for what would become a plantation in Talisay.

To make the long story short, the venture boomed. Mateo managed the plantation in Talisay while Esteban took care of business in Bacolod. The brothers were able to build their homes in an area along what is now Rizal Street. This area during the early post-war years was fondly referred to as Henares block since everyone in the block was a Henares. As a result of this hardwork, they were able to send their children to the best schools in Manila, among whom were my great-grandfather Pedro G. Henares (UP College of Medicine, 1915; Bacolod's first health officer, 1917 to 1919; and municipal councilor, 1925 to 1928), and his younger brother Hilarion G. Henares, Sr. (UP College of Engineering, 1917; and a government pensionado), the father of journalist and former cabinet secretary Larry Henares. Esteban Henares even became municipal president (mayor) of Bacolod from 1913 to 1916. Well, that's a little bit of family history and I'll stop here lest I bore you. Hehe!

From the cathedral, I took a pedicab to the pier since it was in the reclamation area, quite far for a walk and since no jeeps passed that area. There were a lot of fast ferries available and I picked the one that would bring me there the fastest. Hehe! The student fare on Ocean Jet is PHP221 one-way. Hmmm, I didn't expect it to cost that much for such a short trip. Well, you get what you pay for. The seats were in good condition and they get you there in exactly an hour.
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