Bacolod City, the Philippines
April 17, 2011
There was a time when stereo systems and television sets were furniture pieces and telephones were household fixtures. But with each new innovation in technology, we disposed of our obsolete gadgets. Not so with one family in my hometown who had preserved their appliances, among other things, reflecting the lifestyle of Negrense bourgeois in the last century.
The Dizon-Ramos Museum, formerly a house beside the mansion of Raymundo L. Dizon and Hermelinda V. Ramos, transported me, not only to the tantalizing world behind its perennially closed gates, but also to the bygone era of my childhood in the 70s.
The second floor of the house was a veritable museum of vintage gadgets.
- Hi-Fi Stereo System
The first thing that jumped at me was this dinosaur of music players composed of a turntable and twin woofer speakers, which were the rage in the 70s. Size had always mattered in technology, then (the bigger, the better) and now (the smaller, the sleeker). Music was neither portable nor personal. Unless it was from the radio, we could listen to music only in the living room and for everyone to hear. Records were usually played for visitors and family members. Listening to music was communal; we enjoyed it together, arguably (our parents probably didn’t relish the blaring disco ditties!).
- Vinyl Records
A collection of LPs (long-playing records) was stacked on a shelf to complete the vintage 70s vibe. Vinyl records were vulnerable to wear and tear. The more they were played, the scratchier they became. Your favorite records would then sound the worst. I could still sing my favorite 70s songs from memory but skipping words where the needle had jumped on the disc. That made each record a unique listening experience. No two records had scratches on the same part of a song.
- Gramophones and Transistor Radios
These were already old school in the 70s, conjuring up sepia scenes from period films ringing with their tinny music, truly a “primal sound” (to borrow Rainer Maria Rilke’s term) compared to today’s crisp audio. Obviously, this family had a trans-generational love for music and social gatherings. These halls must have regularly heard laughter and music. And the clicking sound of mahjong tiles. The “ladies who lunch” had sisters here, the “ladies who play mahjong.”
Actually, their ancestors: the odd (candlestick phone) and the unwieldy (rotary dial phone). They sat in place on different tables. It took patience to dial numbers, especially 8, 9, and 0. And their urgent jangle demanded indoor running. It’s almost unimaginable now that calls could only be taken at home or in the office; the moment you stepped out, you were incommunicado.
- Personal Computer
A cream-colored Macintosh PC stood out, not only on the bureau it adorned, but in the entire house of old machines cluttered with knobs and dials. iPaused to ponder this granddaddy of all iProducts that Steve Jobs would eventually invent. It apparently ushered a new era in technology. Though still a clunky contraption by today’s standards, this nascent PC already had that Apple streamlined look – smooth and simple – a foreshadowing of things to come, iPosit.
But it was not all about living the life. The family has produced one city mayor, Raymundo Dizon, Jr., and a Lasallian brother and educator, Rolando Dizon. The former was the Bacolod mayor in the late 70s when my brother was chosen as boy mayor for a week when he was in high school; the latter was a founding member of a volunteer organization for free elections. In that capacity, Bro. Rolly took an active role in ousting then Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. The dictator wrote him a letter, now laminated on Bro. Rolly’s study desk, seeking his support during the time of political turmoil that led to the People Power Revolution in 1986.
The ground floor had been converted into an art gallery. Various collections of the Ramos-Dizon siblings filled their own rooms.
- Bro. Rolly’s Holy Land gallery crammed with religious art and objects from Israel where he lived for a time.
- His crystal collection, notable for the glass sculptures of renowned Filipino artist Ramon Orlina, as well as Murano glass art.
- Rudy Dizon’s horse collection.
- The Puentebella-Alunan doll collection.
- Various art pieces and installations, such as Ian Valladarez’s wire sculptures.
- And more collections elsewhere in the house, such as the angel collection of Bella Galang, my mother’s friend and music teacher, on the second floor…
- …and elaborate masks from the annual Masskara Festival of Bacolod at the gatehouse.
Other parts of the house – the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining hall – were done up to look as they did back in the day, preserving the way of life of the Negrense upper class. However, other than the art, it was the appliances-turned-artifacts that left a lasting impression on me. I may not have shared this family’s station in life, but we shared an era.