Only a one hour ferry ride from Iloilo, 250p each way, as opposed to the 4-5 hour bus ride from Dumaguete. If you are late to catch the fastcraft back to Iloilo, there is another slow ferry to Dumangas, but then you’ll need to catch a tricycle taxi from there to get you the rest of the way.
It is then about 30 minutes to get to The Ruins, but our guide can help you see several other good places for an action packed day (suggested in the booking process).
The cost of our guide is 1000p for the day, plus his transport costs and entrance fees, plus a $20 advance payment processing fee. You can combine with other tours, as will be explained in the booking process.
About The Ruins, Taj Mahal of Negros
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Also known as the Taj Mahal of Talisay or the Taj Mahal of the Philippines, because the love story behind it is similar to that of the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh in India: two rich men who built a fancy mansion out of love for their wives who died during childbirth.
It is located in Talisay City, about 30min from Bacolod. The farmland on which it was built was owned by a sugarcane baron by the name of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, who also loved to travel. On one of his frequent journeys to Hong Kong, he met a Portuguese woman by the name of Maria Braga, from Macau. Mariano fell instantly in love and it was not long before he approached her father for her hand in marriage, who consented as he thought they were a perfect match!
The couple moved to the farmstead and got quickly busy building a family of ten lovely children. Unfortunately, during her eleventh pregnancy, Maria slipped in the bathroom and started bleeding profusely. The physician resided in the next town (where the present airport is located), but back then horse-drawn carriages were the mode of transport and the journey would require a full two days! However, Maria was in too much of a fragile condition to survive the journey, so he ordered his servants to quickly fetch the physician while he tended to her. Four days had passed, but by the time the physician arrived, it was too late and the two had already passed away.
So heartsick was Mariano that he decided to build a glorious mansion in her honour, and also to help alleviate his pain. He proposed the idea to his father-in-law, who even supported him with some funding. Since he was a ship captain, he also helped provide him with quality material from around the world, such as machuca tiles, chandeliers, china wares, construction workers from China, and a design based on Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque columns closely resembling the facade of the Carnegie Hall in New York City. He even set his son to look over construction in order to achieve the greatest perfection.
The structure was magnificent, where you can see their initials, M&M, engraved on every post. He instructed his children that they could live in it as long as they remain unmarried. The girls took the second floor while the boys the ground floor, which made it more unlikely that their sisters would marry because any courter would first need to cross them! In fact, it is said that three of the daughters never married.
Tragedy was to befall them again, this time in the form of World War II. The family fled elsewhere to safety, leaving the mansion intact with all its grandiose furnishings. But the Americans, fearing that the Japanese might turn this mighty fortress into a garrison, ordered the local guerrillas they had under hire to burn it completely to the ground.
But the structure was of such magnificent quality, 3 years in the making during the early part of the 1900s, using A-grade concrete and oversized twisted bars contributed much to the strength of the skeletal structure. The finishing touches on the walls and posts were a mixture of pure concrete with egg whites, resulting in a marble-like finish which can be seen and felt even to this day.
The masterpiece burned ablaze for three solid days, consuming all of its roof, ceiling, floors, doors and windows – all of which were made of hard wood like tindalo, narra, and kamagong. By the time the flames reduced to embers, the mansion’s pillars, the grand staircase and parts of the two-inch wooden floors on the second story were all that remained.
It is now in the private ownership of the great-grandchildren of Mariano. Raymund Javellana, one of them, resolved to pay tribute to this great love and his great-grandfather by refurbishing the structure and opening it to the public for a modest fee (100p/adult, 50p for students and 20p for children). He also wanted it to serve as a reminder of the province’s glorious past.
It has a beautifully refurbished exterior, housing a restaurant on the ground floor serving Mediterranean and authentic Negros dishes. It has a well-maintained, landscaped garden of lilies, a four-tiered fountain and collections of the finest furniture, chinaware and decorative items from the owner’s travels across Europe and Asia. It even has an 18-hole mini golf course!
The Ruins, as it is now called, with 800 visitors a day, has become one of the top tourist destinations in Negros Occidental. It is one of the most famous heritage landmarks in the country, ranked 12th place among the world’s fascinating ruins and listed in www.oddee.com, a website featuring odd, strange and bizarre things of the world.
This historical landmark has become one of the favorite venues for photo shoots, special events, weddings, conferences and parties, not to mention a popular valentines destination. Perhaps the best time to visit is around 4 PM, before the sunset when it’s no longer too hot and the light is just right for taking photos.
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