Jandy and I arrived at the Manapla Municipal Hall by 10:30 AM. Here, we met up with town councilor Marcos “Mark” L. Escalante, my nephew and son of town mayor Lourdes Socorro “Uding” L. Escalante, my first cousin, who was at the U.S. at that time. Mark drove us to Hacienda Rosalia, home of the Gaston Mansion and the Chapel of the Cartwheels, two of Manapla’s tourist attractions.
We first stopped over at the Gaston Mansion. Its resident and current owner, the secular priest Msgr. Guillermo “Gigi” Gaston, wasn’t around, being at Bacolod at the time of our visit, but the caretaker allowed us to look around the living and dining areas of the mansion. Incidentally, the mansion was featured in Peque Galalga’s 1982 multi-awarded film Oro Plata Mata, where it was referred to as Hacienda Lorenzo.
This stately and elegant, 2-storey mansion, the ancestral home of Jose Gaston, one of the sons of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, and his wife Consuelo Ascona, was built in the 1930s. They had 8 children. It is set in lush, verdant and gorgeous garden of flowers, shrubs, trees, potted palms and herbs. Within the grounds are a now-disused swimming pool (used as hiding place during World War II), a Victorian fountain, a pond and a time-worn shoe house (which was used before as a playground).
Its second floor dining room, opening into a breezy azotea overlooking the garden, had a wooden floor, a high ceiling and large windows. What truly amazed me was its antique, 24-seater wooden table. All around it are cabinets filled with crystal stemware, antique silverware and fine china. Buffet lunches, served by servants of the Gaston family, are also offered for paying guests.
Gaston Mansion: Hacienda Rosalia, Manapla, Negros Occidental.
How to Get There: Manapla is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) northeast of Bacolod City.