The ‘Taj Mahal’ of the Philippines

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Ruminations at the Ruins

By Sheila Mariano

BACOLOD CITY – There are some negative memories that you wish could be totally wiped from the recesses of your mind. Then there are those flashbulb memories that you want to cherish as it tends to warm you up from the inside. The latter was the case for me when I first laid eyes on The Ruins, situated in Talisay, Negros Occidental. The mesmerizing ambience of this majestic ruin just left me breathless.

The reactions of other visitors to this national treasure are much the same:
“The skeletal remains are an alliance between past and present.”
“We have lost the vessel but not the memories.”
“The glory of the beautiful structure is enhanced by the lights and reflected on the waters.”
“Everything in this compound is so picture perfect.”
“It is without doubt one of the most talked about, photographed and written about monuments.”
“It is the Taj Mahal of the Philippines.”

Quick history:
‘The Ruins is the remains of the ancestral home mansion of the wealthy sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. He built it in memory of his wife Maria Braga Lacson, who died in a freak accident while carrying their 11th child.

‘Constructed in the early 1900s, it was inspired by Italian architecture.

‘It was burned down by the American colonial masters during World War II to prevent its use as a military office by invading Japanese forces.

‘It burnt for 3 days down to its current empty shell.
Source: wikipedia.org

If old houses were signs of life are interrupted and frozen in time, or paranormal phenomena, creep you out, set your mind at rest. The only chilling experience you get here is – chilling out.

Just like the Taj Mahal, The Ruins evokes a love story and the proud passions of a consort. Love is in the air.

My first visit to this outstanding monument was on a Sunday morning – a good time to see the beauty of the landscape. My first impression of the treasured home of the Lacsons was: “It still showcases what is left of an opulent era.”

Surprisingly, the grounds of The Ruins were already bustling with activity. The set-up for a wedding was in full progress – detracting from the vibe and the serenity of the place, not to mention cluttering the background of my photos. (This is a popular venue for weddings, special events and parties.)

I met a group of students who were doing a school project about ‘Noli Me Tangere’ (a novel written by Jose Rizal during the colonization of the country by Spain). They were dressed for the part – wearing period costumes. I asked why they decided to pick this location? They said: “It’s fit for the purpose.”

Inside The Ruins there is a small souvenir shop. A must-have treat is refreshing sugarcane and calamansi juice at a small kiosk just outside the building. And if you want a bite to eat, the Gazebo restaurant in the grounds serves Filipino food throughout the day.

I had the opportunity to return to The Ruins the following day at around 6pm. There was a romantic feel to the place with all the enchanting lights blazing and it was heightened by a saxophonist playing mood music.

A group of tourists were being herded around by a lively tourist guide. Friends, families and tourists had the run of the place as the setting was perfect for photo opportunities. A lovely photo of The Ruins taken by a photojournalist in our group was featured on the front page of the Philippine Inquirer the next day.

Over the years many Filipino movies and television series were filmed here. Movies like ‘Everyday I Love You’, starring Enrique Gil, Liza Soberano and Gerald Anderson. ‘Ikaw Lamang’, starring Coco Martin, Kim Chiu, Julia Montes and Jake Cuenca as well as others.

By the way, The Ruins was awarded ‘Best Destination for Heritage Site’ by Choose Philippines Awards on December 2016.

How to get there?
The location is in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, just a 15-minute drive from Bacolod City. You can get there by public transport or go by jeepney, take a tricycle ride or hire a taxi.
The venue is open daily from 8am to 8pm.

Balikbayans can catch a flight from Manila to Bacolod via Philippine Airlines. The flight time is only an hour and 15 minutes. PAL also flies to this city from Cebu and Clark Airport.

The Ruins is a must visit and should be included in your bucket list of places to visit in the Philippines.