The last time I was in Bacolod, we just did a drive by of some of the heritage houses in Silay since we didn't have enough time. This trip, our guide Bambi Borromeo said that we had to go to the one of the most important houses in town and the only heritage house in Negros that was still occupied by its owner.
The son of the original owners still lives here -- he is a true raconteur, a bon vivant, an art collector non pareil, rightfully called the "Prince of Heritage Conservation" -- we were very fortunate to have Ramon Hofilena take us on a personal guided tour of the treasures inside the Hofilena Heritage House.
The house was built in the 1920s, in the grand and genteel style of that time. While a sign does proclaim its heritage status, the familiar images of the twin hearts of Jesus and Mary, show that it is not just a museum, somebody does live here.
Ramon Hofilena has a biting wit and peppered his tour with lots of interesting and lively anecdotes from decades past. After showing us the living room and the dining room still filled with original furniture his family has owned since the house was built, his library filled with books in shelves from floor to ceiling (my kind of guy!), he took us upstairs to see his huge collection of artwork from the most noted and famous Philippine masters and artists.
There was an Amorsolo, many Manansalas (and personally inscribed by the artist to "Mon"), a Hernando Ocampo, a De la Rosa, Hidalgo, a Juan Luna and so many more by artists I had only read about in books but the one that completely floored me was the pencil drawing signed "Jose Rizal". There it is in the photo above, on the second row, second from the left. Mr. Hofilena said that in Ateneo de Municipal during Rizal's time, the students were required to draw something everyday in their high school art class and this drawing was from that time. It was a simple drawing of different ordinary objects but you could see Rizal's firm and artistic hand.
Both walls of the second story are filled with framed paintings, drawings from Philippine artists.
Ramon Hofilena's collection would rival that of any local museum!
The other wall is dedicated to Conrado Judit, a local painter, unlearned and unschooled in any form of art education, who passed away many years ago, impoverished and unknown until Mr. Hofilena found all his paintings and gave them and the artist their proper due.
These paintings are filled with pathos and pain -- they show the hardship of life of the poor in Negros and are peopled by hacienda workers, laborers, common folk -- much like Mr. Judit who sadly did not see anything come from his art during his lifetime.
I could have stayed at this wall for hours, more than a gallery of his paintings, it is a tribute to Mr. Judit's greatness and native talent.
Thanks to the "Prince of Heritage Conservation" of Silay -- everyone can now see what immense talent sprung from the roots of this town.