Only a few minutes have passed since the tour operator Betsy Gazo, journalist for the Sunstar of Bacolod met us when we left the ferry.
We noticed, in many others, the love Betsy had for that land full of history and incredible adventures, colonial but not only. “You know I have a Portuguese friend. I'm really excited for you to meet him!" Your words intrigue us. “A Portuguese friend”? On the faraway island of Negros?
The truth is that we had already met compatriots or descendants in the four corners of the world, including in the surroundings of Apia, the capital of Samoa. If confirmed, it would be another case of the vast Luso-diaspora.
Betsy cannot contain her anxiety to tell us and show us her homeland. Here and there, enthusiasm leads her to spice up reality. It didn't take long to see that the friend was not exactly Portuguese, but that his family's secular past would be worth much more to us than that.
The Announced Visit to the Talisay Ruins
The day comes for us to visit him. the van leaves Bacolod towards Talisay, a town on the outskirts. We entered a new area covered with sugar cane, culture because the island of Negros is notorious in the Philippines.
A gate stops us. Betsy meets the employee at the hatch. Unlock us entry at a glance. A few dozen additional steps and we come to the heart and reason for the property's fame. “I'm going to see if I can find Raymundo. I'll be right back. Investigate at will!"
We scrutinized the surrounding scenery. From it stands out the framework of an abode that was once splendid, today, mysterious.
The sun in those tropical latitudes was on its way to the zenith. He grilled us without clamor. When Raymundo Javellana appears, he welcomes us and tries to provide us with a shade by the four-story water fountain that refreshed the garden. Armed with several emails, he confirmed the Portuguese blood that ran in his veins.
He describes how he got it, as well as his relationship with the famous ruins that lay ahead. He also asks us for help in the mission that encouraged him to identify the exact point of origin of the Lusitanian ancestors. “Not in a hurry, are they? The story is a little long…”, he says with a tender and youthful smile.”
A Filipino-Macanese Love
As he tells us, Raymundo was the great-grandson of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and Maria Lacson. Mariano Lacson, in turn, was a sugar baron from Negros, in the last days of the Hispanic colonial era of Philippines, the youngest of eight children of the Lacson family, heir to the nickname and a 440-hectare plantation just outside Talisay City.
Wealthy, with his future assured, Mariano took advantage of several periods of less work on the plantation to travel. He was unraveling Hong Kong when a young woman from Macao caught his attention and, shortly thereafter, his passion.
Raymundo hands us a genealogical scheme that has its roots in Tancos in 1630 and focuses, in the last decades of the XNUMXth century, on Macau. By that time, Manuel Vicente Rosa was beginning to prosper in the maritime trade between mainland Portugal and the Asian colony.
Contingencies in his life and business led him, in 1738, to find himself free of finances and one of the most influential figures in Macau. Still, no heir. called for Portugal his nephew Simão Vicente Rosa, in his twenties, with the intention of marrying him and bequeathing his fortune.
The nephew had no way to resist the proposal. He arrived in Macau on October 3, 1738. Sixteen days later, he married Maria de Araújo Barros, a bride pre-selected by his uncle. The latter died the following year. Simão Vicente became even richer than Manuel Vicente Rosa and at least as influential.
The Rosas Commercial Triumph in Macau
It reinforced its prosperity through strategic loans to the Jesuits, with whom it would come into conflict when it claimed a so-called Ilha Verde as compensation for non-payments. His fourth son, Simão d'Araújo Rosa, succeeded him in business.
Simão d'Araujo Rosa concentrated the navigation and commercial activity that he had inherited between Bangkok e Goa but, in its lifetime, the family's wealth withered, victim of competition from the increasingly profitable opium route between Macao and Calcutta, in which it had failed to meddle.
In Macau and, later, Hong Kong, Simão d'Araújo Rosa's successors used in a combined and alternate way the father and mother's surnames: Rosa, Rosa Pereira and Rosa Braga. Finally, they adopted only Braga, who, over time, had gained a strong distinction in Goa. Maria, the attractive young woman who had caught the attention of Filipino tourist Mariano Ledesma Lacson was one of the descendants of this then Braga family.
While Raymundo unfolded the story, the number of visitors to his Ruins had increased visibly. They investigated the interior of the structure and all the corners of the surrounding garden, indulging in countless and inevitable selfies and group photos.
Or romantic flirtations on the balconies and staircases of the building. The life together of Mariano and Maria Lacson had also remained harmonious, full of love. Until disgrace knocks at their door.
From Stable and Numerous Family to Drama
Mariano and Maria got married and moved to Talisay. At that time, a couple was expected to have a prolific family. Mariano and Maria were blessed with ten children: Victoria, Rafael, Mercedes (who later married a Javellana, nicknamed Raymundo), Natividad, Sofia, Felipe, Consolación, Angelina, Ramon and Eduardo.
They would have been arrested with an 11th shoot but Maria Lacson slipped in the bathroom and began to bleed profusely. The damage proved so serious that instead of trying to transport her to a hospital in Talisay, Mariano hurried to prepare a carriage to fetch a doctor to the city to help his wife.
At the time, the trip to Talisay took two days. Mariano took four to go and back. Mary and the child died before he arrived. Mariano lost the love of his life. He suffered very well to recover from the grief.
But Don Mariano Lacson had ten children to raise and an obvious obligation to get on with life. As an expression of posthumous love and clairvoyance, he decided to build a mansion in memory of his wife near the house where they had lived.
He planned a house where he and his children could live freely and at the same time alleviate the painful memory of the place where Maria had perished. The idea received the agreement of the father-in-law. He contributed financially and, it is believed, that with the Italian neo-Romanesque architectural plans for the mansion.
Don Mariano entrusted the work to a local engineer: Luís Puentevella. One of the Lacson sons supervised her.
Mariano Lacson's Homage to Maria Braga
In the image of the background, Maria's father was a ship captain. The two-story house was thus endowed with his brand, with repeated shell-shaped ornaments in the upper corners, the same ones that identified, then, in New England, the homes of boat captains.
Additional details testified to Mariano's love for Maria: the two “Ms” in each pillar around the exterior of the mansion, egg whites added to the cement used in the construction to give it a refined marble look and feel. the alabaster skin of Mary characteristic of Mediterranean women.
The mansion became the largest residential structure in Negros, endowed with the best furniture, crockery and other decorative elements. It was something favored by Maria Braga's father to be able to navigate around the world and ensure her transport, as assured by Chinese workers.
Three of Mariano's daughters – Victoria, Consolación and Angelina – never married. Accordingly, they lived upstairs in that splendid mansion, while the male brothers resided downstairs.
The bad tongues say that this distribution of the children in the house determined by Don Mariano prevented a dignified approximation of the suitors to the maidens, who thus enjoyed it for much longer. Until another tragedy robbed them of their privilege.
The Relentless Unwind of World War II
The Asian stage of World War II was set. The Japanese invasion of Philippines he was eminent and Mariano Lacson and his children were forced to leave the island of Negros.
The rumor that the Japanese would turn the mansion into their headquarters caused the Filipino guerrillas under US command USAFFE to be forced to burn it down.
The mansion burned for three days in which the fire consumed the roof, floors and the 5 cm thick doors, all made of fine woods such as tindalo, rosewood, kamagong and others. The iron and cement structure, however, resisted. It remains intact and fascinates anyone visiting the Ruins today.
The Worshiped Memorial of the Talisay Ruins
Don Mariano Lacson (1865-1948) died three years after the end of World War II. Raymundo Javellana, our host and interlocutor was the grandson of Mercedes, one of Mariano and Maria's three daughters who got married.
Raymundo also became the unreconciled and creative owner of the farm and what was left of his great-grandparents' mansion. It was his idea to transform the ruins of his nest into a worthy memorial.
We return to visit them at the end of the day, attentive to how the sunset and dusk shaped the atmosphere of the place. By that time, dozens of visitors lined up to photograph the structure reflected on a small semi-mirrored garden table.
Others acted for different photos, surrendered to the emotional meaning of the place, however nicknamed “Taj Mahal de Negros”. a band of Bacolod he soon opened his nightly performance and contributed a vigorous soundtrack to that intriguing celebration of life and death.