Explore the ruins of the palatial home of a sugar baron circa 1900s in the southern Philippines and discover the grandeur of an era gone by through its structural remains and perfectly manicured gardens, which were all lovingly restored, and further developed by its heirs. A popular spot for pre-nuptial photos and wedding celebrations, the lomographer fell in love with its haunting beauty…and all the more with the country.
A few minutes away from the laid back Bacolod City (in the southern part of the Philippines) is the even more laid back, city of Talisay. Just off the main thoroughfare, hidden in its rough roads, amidst the crush of towering sugar canes, lie the majestic remains of The Ruins.
In its glory days, sometime in the 1900s, the Ruins was…well…not yet in ruins. Rather, it was the palatial home of a sugar baron – Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. It was the largest residential structure in that area at that time. And, certainly one of the grandest. (Sugar barons were the Donald Trumps back in those days!). Nothing but grade-A concrete was used for this mansion. And it was filled with all the delightful bric-a-bracs found in the homes of the rich and famous – furniture, china, and other decorative items sourced from Europe and Asia (his wife’s father was a ship captain). Fronting the mansion is a lily garden and right in the middle of it, the piece-de-resistance, a four-tiered fountain brought in from abroad.
However, it was razed to the ground during World War II by Filipino guerrillas to prevent Japanese forces from claiming this palatial structure and transforming it into their war room.
Fast forward to the present and what remains of the mansion is but its lovely shell (thanks to the grade-A concrete!)…and the beautiful gardens and fountain, which has all been restored to its past grandeur by the great grandchildren of Don Lacson. Aside from admiring the architecture (and taking numerous photo ops!), the Ruins also house a cafe where one can sip coffee or beer and partake in some light snacks. It also boasts of a mini-golf course for those who want to indulge in some whimsical play.
As Abe Florendo (a writer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer) eloquently and poetically puts it, “Then at the end of the road, like a sudden apparition, something out of a half-forgotten dream looms The RUINS. It takes your breath away.”
It’s nice to know that hidden behind the urban monstrosity of a soda bottling plant, a car showroom, and the concrete jungle of a middle-class housing development, tucked in the stretch of the lush greenery of the sugar canes, a beautiful piece of history remains. Discovering little socio-historical gems such as The Ruins has made my Philippines all the more rich, textured, and compelling. And, has made me love her all the more.