Bascon (now Java Pension House): A symbol of halcyon days long gone

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BACOLOD CITY – Valentine “Nonoy” Jamelo danced the night away during their prom night at Bascon II Hotel (now Java Pension House) when it had just transferred to Gonzaga-Locsin Streets.

Before, it was known as Bascon I, tucked away in a corner, past the bridge on Gatuslao Street, Bacolod City.

It was the 1960s and Bascon I was the favorite haunt of the hacendados who would wine and dine in swanky places and it was the swankiest those days after the University Club (in what is now the road that slopes down to SM City from Rizal St.) started to wane.

When Nonoy started waiting on tables at the Sugarland Hotel, Bascon had already moved to what are now the gutted remains of Java Pension House. “It was actually called Bascon II already,” he recalls.

In those days, before Seda, L’ Fisher and other less-swanky hotels here, the rich and famous go to Sugarland or Bascon to see or be seen.

“They were the only hotels competing for the same market,” Nonoy says.

Its owner, Oscar “Dodong” Bascon, a bodybuilder, was a known fixture in the city because of his hotel and for his active involvement in sports.

President Gloria Arroyo even appointed him as a sports official during her term.

Local reporters recall with fondness the bar inside Bascon where many inebriation sessions were held or meetings, illicit or otherwise, took place between reporter and politicos.

But mostly these were libations, at the least or inebriations, at worse that took place.

Every now and then, Dodong, broad-chested, with a naughty smile would announce in his deep baritone voice that he is picking up the tab.

Before it ceased operations, Bascon tried to keep up with the growing fast food chains by opening Dodong’s Fastbreak, a casual dining eatery that served rice toppings.

Again, many reporters sat, and ate there while waiting for politicos who hold news conferences at the behest of Dodong.

It is November, the end of a long tiempo muerto when planters are supposed to be wining and dining in plush hotels

Instead, they are fighting what some say is a losing battle against sugar imports.

Yesterday, as the fires smoldered inside what is now (or was) Java Pension House and as six corpses started to cool inside, Dodong Bascon sat on a wheelchair, out on Gonzaga Street facing what used to be his hotel.

Dodong Bascon, owner of Bascon Hotel (now known as Java Pension House) weeps as he sees the former hotel is consumed by flames. | Photo by Richard D. Meriveles
Dodong Bascon, owner of Bascon Hotel (now known as Java Pension House) weeps as he sees the former hotel is consumed by flames. | Photo by Richard D. Meriveles

He is no longer broad shouldered, his baritone gone, his hair white.

He spoke to reporters, mostly young ones who didn’t know him during his tab-picking days.

Then his voice faltered.

And Dodong Bascon bowed his head and cried.

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