In the evening of September 10, 2008, members of the Alunan-Lizares clan gathered at their ancestral home, affectionately called the Balay ni Tana Dicang, and formally opened it as a museum and cultural center for Talisay City and all of Negros Occidental. The evening was a celebration of the achievements of their ancestors, Efigenio Lizares and Enrica Alunan, whose pioneering efforts during the late 1800s mirrored the development of the province and the rise of the sugar industry. The couple’s story embodies the traditional sterling qualities not only of the Negrense but of the Filipino at his entrepreneurial best.
Our purpose really is to share our history, to open our house to new ideas, and make it have a renewed vitality of its own.
Efigenio Lizares and Enrica Alunan were married in 1872. By 1875, they were engaged in the production of sugar in the land they had inherited. Their first home was a casa hacienda at Matab-ang, a bahaynabato of modest size. Hacienda Matab-ang, as the land came to be called, was planted to sugar and an adjoining hacienda to rice. On the ground floor of the house, Enrica set up a general store which sold rice, salt, sugar, garlic, onions and other quotidian essentials to her employees, thus forming a small economy within the hacienda.
A larger-than-life, lime-washed stone angel
A view of the living room with its cluster of sitting areas.
Every hacienda on the island had a “muscovado” or mill, usually constructed of bricks or piedra china, where raw sugarcane was processed. The juice was extracted, cooked laboriously in vats, formed into pilloncillos, and shipped by lorchas or marine vessels across the Guimaras Strait to Iloilo. Since there were no banks in Negros until the turn of the 20th century, it was these lorchas that transported the sugar from Bacolod to Iloilo where the traders and banks were. Hacenderos like Efigenio and Enrica Lizares owned warehouses and dockyards along the rivers for the shipment of their sugar.
Enrica had a santol orchard whose fruit, though of the smaller native variety, became famous throughout Negros for its exceptional sweetness. She classified her fruit trees using numbers: “0” meant that the fruit was definitely sweet and hence more expensive; “00” meant it was very sweet and only for the consumption of the family. Her santol preserve also became famous.
Tana Dicang with President Manuel Quezon and then Vice-President Sergio Osmeña taken at Balay Dakô on October 19, 1938.
Enrica raised and maintained herds of carabao. The milk from the hacienda’s cows was fed to her children, and she used it as well to make various confections which she sold. She also hired several wet nurses around the countryside to feed her children with their milk.
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The Lizareses’ Balay Dakô (meaning “big house”) was built around 1880 as a classic bahaynabato on 6,000 square meters of land in Talisay town. It had a skirt, or base, of rare coral stone and bricks covered with lime plaster which concealed the structural posts of hardwood. The upper portion was made entirely of hardwood custom-cut to size, i.e. the floor planks stretched from one point to the other in one piece—tindalo/balayong in the reception rooms and narra in the bedrooms. Corrugated iron sheets, which were new at the time, served as roofing. The house was painted entirely in various shades of blue and white with lime-based paint.
It is said that a huge Amorsolo painting once hung on the wall above the main staircase with an ornate carved balustrade.
According to Filipiniana scholars Martin Tinio Jr. and Fernando Zialcita, the Balay Dakô was designed in the floral style of the late 19th-century Filipino bahaynabato: the interior spaces were more fluid and there was more applied ornamentation than in the geometric style of the early 19th century.
Intricately carved vents allow for the free flow of cool air from room to room, and potted ornamental bamboo and ferns are typical decors of the period.
Because the Balay Dakô shared several details with the famed 1880s mansion of Aniceto Ledesma Lacson, it is believed that the same team of builders and craftsmen worked on both houses. According to the Lizares family’s oral tradition, the team was from Batangas and its members were actually politicized individuals who had come to Negros island to surreptitiously spread the ideas of social and political change which would culminate in the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
As she had done at Matab-ang, the enterprising Enrica maintained on the ground floor of her new home a thriving store which sold basic needs. She was known to measure the rice herself, keeping count of every grain. Nothing was allowed to be wasted with her around, lest one incur her ire. In her Talisay store, she even set up a printing press equipped with the latest imported machines.
The Lizareses had seventeen children: Vicente, Maria, Dolores, Adela, Simplicio, Maria Encarnacion, Nicolas, Emiliano, Maria, Celsa, Encarnacion, Felisa, Antonio, Enrique, Remedios Gregorica, Efigenia and Remedios. The family lived simply, almost austerely. They were not known for frivolity, but they did at times indulge themselves, hosting an occasional ball and hiring orchestras to provide music for days on end.
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The family lived austerely though tastefully.
Capitana “Tana” Dicang, as Enrica came to be known, was the central character of the family’s life. Austere, firm and exceedingly industrious, she took life seriously and extolled the virtues of hard work and diligence. To her sons and daughters, her word was law. Everything—family, business, social and political activities—passed through her and revolved around her. That was the way she maintained the unity of her family throughout her long lifetime. She decided on family matters and stood firm on her decisions, especially those concerning her children’s prospective spouses. But she was also known to be fair; she divided things equally even when parties were absent.
She and her husband believed in the value of education and sent their children to Manila for schooling, but she scorned the pursuit of refined intellect and favored a day out in the fields rather than sitting and reading a book. To her, bedrooms were only for sleeping and a child was not to stay in bed in the daytime unless he or she was sick. She had a strong, bellowing voice which she raised when the situation warranted it, and a bell to summon her children home at mealtime. The family enjoyed hearty and delicious dishes made from fresh produce from the haciendas and the nearby markets. Enrica herself had simple tastes in food: she liked her abo fish fried to a crisp and dipped in vinegar.
Though it now stands quiet, the home must have surely bustled with the sounds of seventeen Lizares children in the early 1900s.
After her husband’s passing in 1902 at the young age of fifty-five, soon after the birth of their seventeenth child, Tana Dicang undertook the management of the haciendas of Matab-ang, Minuluan, Cabi-ayan, del Monte, Cabanbanan and Pait. She acquired more haciendas and invested staggering amounts in establishing and managing the great sugar centrals of Talisay—the Silay Milling Company and the Bacolod-Murcia Milling Company—and the smaller Central Danao Development Corporation.
She proved to be an expert farm manager and big financier. She personally managed not only her own haciendas but also those of her offspring. Like the matriarchs of the other great Filipino hacendero families, she had a natural affinity for the earth and was a hard worker, as her husband had been. She ventured fearlessly to the distant haciendas, carried either in a hammock or in an orimon, a sedan-like chair with handlebars, while shielded from the sun by a woven mat. At that time, there were hammocks that could take as many as three people and it was not unusual for infants and young children and infants to be brought around the sugar plantations in them.
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A bust of Tana Dicang in cast bronze.
Sometimes Tana Dicang made her inspection trips on horseback. These lasted more than half a day and she would return to Talisay three or four days later. She personally supervised her workers and the care of the hundreds of fruit trees in her orchards. She knew all the goings-on at the various haciendas, constantly advising her children about their efficient management.
An extremely enterprising woman, she was, apart from being a great hacendera and financier, also an innovative grocer, cigar manufacturer and famous confectioner. She engaged in many kinds of businesses apart from sugar because, as she herself said, “I have nothing to do.”
The contents of a matching pair of antique cabinets shed light on the sophisticated lifestyle the influential Talisay families led.
True to her intrepid nature, she was a Rizalista, a cult admirer of Jose Rizal. At one point she was expelled from the Catholic Church because she sympathized with the Philippine Independent Church—the Aglipayans—and joined its ranks. She was reinstalled in the Catholic community a few years later.
She did not hesitate to exert her influence when necessary and enjoyed the power that accompanied her exalted stature, including the collective influence of her family in Talisay, Negros Occidental and the country as a whole. Her forays into local and national politics brought success to her sons: Antonio became the governor of Negros Occidental during his mother’s lifetime; Simplicio was a representative of the district during the 1937 Philippine Congress; others became mayors of Talisay town.
A garden planted with ornamentals and fruit trees share a good portion of the land with Balay Dakô.
The family produced legendary hacenderos and capitalists. The Alunan-Lizares children maintained close ties and moved in harmony with one another. They communicated often about business matters and loaned one another substantial funding for farm operations as there were no banks in Negros in their time. The sons managed the farms, which supported them in their accustomed style. The daughters, who liked fashion, set up a business specializing in elegant ternos. The same closeness and harmony that their generation enjoyed have been carried over to the grandchildren and even to the great-grandchildren.
Tana Dicang died during the evacuation of Talisay in the Second World War and was temporarily interred in the Jayme family’s mausoleum until she could be given a proper burial. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to her favorite son, Nicolas (Colay), at the Lizares burial ground.
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Because she had set such high standards for her family, her children, especially her sons, felt they had to make their own individual points by building grand houses of their own. Simplicio built a splendid Art Deco villa designed by the architect Juan Nakpil very near the Balay Dakô. Emiliano commissioned the Paris-trained architect Andres Luna de San Pedro to design for him a magnificent Beaux Arts-style villa in Jaro, Iloilo. Antonio built a large villa in postwar Bacolod. The other brothers and sisters had their own elegant residences and sprawling casas haciendas, among them Nicolas’ Spanish Mediterranean-style casain Granada, Bacolod City, but these were burned by guerrillas during the war.
In her last will and testament, Tana Dicang bequeathed the Balay Dakô to six of her daughters: Adela, Maria, Encarnacion, Felisa, Efigenia and Remedios. She specified that the maintenance of the family home should be supported by ten percent of the income from two sugar haciendas.
In her will, Tana Dicang specified that the maintenance of Balay Dakô will be provided for by income from two sugar haciendas.
As her family prepared for the opening of the Balay ni Tana Dicang, Adrian VillasorLizares, who now heads Enrica Alunan Vda. de Lizares Inc., said: “Our purpose really is to share our history, to open our house to new ideas, and make it have a renewed vitality of its own, to release it from the clutches of being delegated to a relic, to make it help in its own maintenance. Ours is really a lifestyle museum. And as I write this, we are setting up a foundation under the name of the old couple, Efigenio and Enrica Lizares Foundation. This will provide the solution to the future concerns of the Balay when all is said and done. There are plans to improve the property, as well as the conditions of the Balay’s structure. The house and its history are the focus of the work we set out before us. Preservation and conservation of our ways are also one of the underlying tasks for all the things we do. Our family has taken the impetus to move together in this regard, and to see our family getting closer together with the house as raison d’etre will surely make our ancestors happy.”
With the revitalization of the Balay ni Tana Dicang and of the ideals of Enrica Alunan-Lizares, the family renews its visceral spirit of leadership and entrepreneurship, the very qualities that have made it a Negrense legend.