The Ruins is an iconic structure found on the island of Negros Occidental in the southern region of The Philippines, The Visayas. Aesthetically the building – or whats left of it – is not only unique to the island but The Philippines as a whole.
The unique Italian styling of The Ruins creates an air of romance; this has helped secure it as one of the prominent tourist attractions in the region. The building received the appellation of “Taj Mahal of Negros Occidental” which hints at the rich history of The Ruins.
The Ruins as they were
The Ruins origins date back to the early 20th century. Sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson built the ten bedroom Italianate mansion on his sugar plantation in memory of his wife Maria Braga, who had died during the pregnancy of their 11th child. The building became the residence of Don Mariano and his unmarried children.
As his father-in-law was a captain of his own ship, he had accumulated many possessions during his travels across Europe and China. These included Machucag from machuca tiles, chandeliers, and china wares. These possessions were carted to Talisay, where the structure was built. He even brought some construction workers from China to help build the mansion.
After 3 long years of construction, work on the mansion was finally complete.
The relationship of Don Mariano and Maria Braga
As a young man Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, would frequent Hong Kong with his friend. During his travels to Hong Kong, he caught sight of a beautiful Portuguese lady from Macau – Maria Braga. He was immediately love struck by the beauty of Maria.
He began to court Maria which eventually lead to the marriage of the pair.
The pair went on to have a large family consisting of 10 children; two of whom which later became government officials.
While Maria was pregnant with her 11th child, she slipped in the bathroom and started to bleed. Back in 1911, it would take two days to travel with the horse-drawn carriage from Talisay to the town of Silay (Location of the new airport servicing Bacolod today), where a doctor lived.
By the time the doctor arrived – on the fourth day – Maria and her baby were gone. Her death brought Don Mariano to depression; to get him out of it, he embarked on building a house for his unmarried children.
Features of Don Mariano’s mansion
The original structure of The Ruins was built at the centre of the 440-hectare farm. The two-story structure had a floor area of 903 square meters with 10 bedrooms and a belvedere where the family would gather in the evenings.
The finishing touches on the walls and posts were a mixture of pure concrete with egg whites. This resulted in a marble-like finish which surprisingly can still be seen and felt to this day.
The Ruins is of Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque twin columns; these posts have been designed with the couple’s initials MM, which were moulded into the posts.
The top edges of the mansion also feature a shell-inspired decor, which in New England indicates that the home is owned by a ship captain. This particular design is in honour of Maria Braga’s father, who was a ship’s captain.
During its prime, the fountain outside the mansion was surrounded by a beautiful lily garden. This was maintained by a Japanese gardener, who mysteriously disappeared during events surrounding the mansion at the outbreak of world war II.
World War II enters The Philippines
Throughout the years The Ruins have stood through countless earthquakes, storms and other calamities. It has also survived many wars and revolutions. This includes the time of Japanese invasion during World War II.
When the war broke out, Don Mariano and his unmarried children left the mansion, leaving everything behind. Filipino guerrillas employed by the US Armed forces intentionally set the building on fire in order to prevent invading Japanese forces from being able to use the building as a headquarters.
It took 3 days of burning to consume all of its roof, ceiling, floors, doors and windows; all of which were made of hard wood like tindalo, narra, and kamagong. The fire eventually made it through most of the 2-inch thick wooden floors but the foundations remained standing, thanks to its oversized steelbars and the meticulous way of pouring the A-grade mixture of concrete.
When the flames finally died down, only the following could withstand the fire: the pillars of the mansion, the grand staircase, as well as parts of the two-inch wooden floors on the second story.
The Ruins, a popular attraction to visitors of Bacolod
The Ruins remains a popular attraction for those visiting Bacolod. The grounds have been restored, and the structure has been opened to the general public. Though the mansion still remains without windows, a roof, interior walls, and much of the floor that once divided the first and second stories.
The Ruins is open to the public from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm daily. The Ruins may also be used for special events such as weddings, family reunions, etc. There are also camping and picnic grounds, bath houses and a pavilion. The Ruins now features a semi-fine dining restaurant offering Mediterranean cuisine and a mini-bar.
There are also modern additions to The Ruins: the 18-hole mini golf course and newly built toilets that still use the mansion’s original septic tank.
Also outside the mansion is the ‘Simborio,’ the chimney for the muscovado sugar mill of the family’s sugar farm. It is in the mill where the juice of the sugarcane is extracted before transferring them in large vats where the juice is heated and then cooled to produce the sugar crystals.
An entrance fee is required to visit The Ruins. The rate is currently – P95 – adults, P40 – students/sr.ctzns and P20 – children below 8 yrs. old.