Hotelier Oscar “Dodong” Bascon said it was very painful to watch the site of the hotel he ran for 45 years go up in flames yesterday.
The building that was destroyed in a dawn fire was built by former Negros Occidental Gov. Valeriano Gatuslao in 1964 at the corner of Gonzaga and Locsin streets in Bacolod City and was home to Bascon Hotel until 2010, after which it became the Java Pension House, he said.
Bascon, 86, and his friend Alfonso Tan, who owns the building beside the pension house watched from across the street as firefighters worked to retrieve the six who died in the building.
Guests at the pension house, some of whom were foreigners, escaped through windows and from dark billowing smoke from the roof of the five-storey building to waiting firefighters’ ladders in dramatic rescue operations.
Bacolod Councilor Cindy Rojas whose father, Alfonso Tan, owns the building next to the pension house, said one of the guests jumped from the roof of the pension house to their building and sustained some injuries.
In a dramatic rescue, seven occupants of the pension house emerged on the roof at the rear of building through billowing dark smoke.
Firefighters at the next building put up a ladder and seven persons slowly climbed down to safety in the nick of time amid clapping from onlookers and shouts of “Thank God”. As the last person descended, raging flames from the spot where they had emerged at the top of the building could be seen.
Bascon said it was heartbreaking to see the building that was home to many fun and grand occasions during the Bascon Hotel time, destroyed. The five-storey hotel with 40 rooms had a grand ballroom at the top floor, he said.
He said Bascon Hotel opened in January 1965 a year after it was built. It played host to many parties, concerts and important events of the day, and was where top officials from a vice president, senators, ambassadors and many other famous people stayed.
Bascon said he and his wife, former Himamaylan Mayor Carminia Bascon, gave up running the hotel after 45 years because it lacked parking space, having been built at a time when there were few cars in the city.
His son, Board Member Ernesto Agustin “Tinto” Bascon, said he and his siblings spent some of the happiest days of their life at Bascon Hotel.
His parents gave up running the hotel in 2010.
Ann Abello, the niece of Carminia, who owns the building now, leased it to Don Bagatsing who then subleased it to the Javas, Oscar Bascon said.
Abello is the daughter of Florinda Gatuslao Alunan, the sister of Carminia Bascon. Florinda, her husband Batchoy, and their four children died when the MV Don Juan sank off Tablas Strait in Mindoro on its way to Negros on April 22, 1980 leaving Ann, who was in the United States on vacation at the time, as the lone survivor of the family, he said.*
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