Negros Occidental (Hiligaynon: Nakatungdang Negros) is a province of the Philippines located in the region of Western Visayas. Its capital is the city of Bacolod. It occupies the northwestern half of the large island of Negros, and borders Negros Oriental, which comprises the southeastern half. Known as the "Sugarbowl of the Philippines", Negros Occidental produces more than half the nation's sugar output.
Negros Occidental faces the island-province of Guimaras and the province of Iloilo on Panay Island to the northwest across the Panay Gulf and the Guimaras Strait. The primary spoken language is Hiligaynon and the predominant religious denomination is Roman Catholicism. Bacolod City is the capital, seat of government and the most populous city of the province, but is governed independently as a highly urbanized city. With a population of 2,497,261 inhabitants, it is the most populated province in Western Visayas, the second most-populous province in the Visayas after Cebu and the 8th most-populous province of the Philippines.
Negros was originally known to the natives as "Buglas", meaning "cut off" in old Hiligaynon. When the Spaniards arrived in April 1565, they named it "Negros" because of the dark-skinned natives they found. Two of the earliest native settlements were Binalbagan and Ilog which later became towns in 1572 and 1584, respectively. Other settlements were Hinigaran, Bago, Marayo (now Pontevedra), Mamalan (now Himamaylan) and Candaguit (now a sitio of San naEnrique).
Ilog was made the first capital of the province in 1743. This was later transferred to Himamaylan. Bacolod finally became the capital in 1849. The island was divided into Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental in 1890. The two provinces were briefly unified as the independent Cantonal Republic of Negros, with Bacolod as the capital on November 27, 1898. It became a protectorate of the United States until 1901, when the republic was dissolved, with the two provinces annexed back to the Philippines.
During the succeeding decades between 1901 and the 1930s, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental were both under Insular Government of the United States of America as with the rest of the nation and later under the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Economic growth continued especially with Philippine sugar having a part of the US market. The socio-economic lives of the island of Negros, from the 1950s up to the late 1980s, depended as before, mainly on the sugar industry.
During World War II, both Negros provinces were invaded by Imperial Japanese forces, resorting many residents to flee to the inland mountains. Negros Island was liberated by combined Philippine & American troops with the local Negrense guerillas attacking the Japanese on August 6, 1945. The 7th, 73rd, 74th and 75th Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Commonwealth Army were established from January 3, 1942 to June 30, 1946 and the 7th Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary was active from October 28, 1944 to June 30, 1946 at the Military General Headquarters in Negros Occidental. They started the engagements of the Anti-Japanese Imperial Military Operations in Negros from 1942 to 1945 against the Japanese Imperial forces.
Global sugar prices dropped during the 1970s and 1980s, which negatively impacted the production of sugar in the island. Quality of life and sugar production were intertwined, so lower production meant lower quality of life for thousands that relied on the industry for sustenance and financial stability. The province saw a dangerous spike in the percentage of malnourished infants which was as high as 78%. Negros Occidental's problem on malnourished infants gained global prominence among the press in 1985, as they ran covers on both, local and international newspapers. During the 1970s and 1980s, atrocities against peasants were committed, with one such harrowing example being the Escalante Massacre. The Province has a history of problems with mine pollution, one of the worst episodes being the tailings dam failure and spill of 28 million tonnes of copper mine tailings from a mine of the Maricalum company on 8 November 1982 Negros del Norte was created from Negros Occidental on January 3, 1986, but its creation was declared unconstitutional on July 11, 1986, and was immediately abolished on August 18, 1986.
Towards the end of 1987, after the successful overthrow of the Marcos regime, the overall economic situation started to show a positive upturn. The campaign for agricultural diversification had been gaining momentum, paving the way for more landowners to invest in prawn and fish farming, seafood catching, raising of livestock and high-value organic produce such as fruits and vegetables, as well as other cash crops. arnie baluyut Investments' upswing became apparent by 1988. The participation of the industrial sector accelerated the consumer-led economic growth and development manifested with the increase in sales of consumer goods and by-products. Today, Negros Occidental remains one of the most progressive and largely developed Philippine provinces, in large due to the profits from the sugar industry, but also due to economic diversification in other fields.
On 29 May 2015, the Negros Island Region was formed when Negros Occidental and its capital was separated from Western Visayas and transferred to the new region along with Negros Oriental, when President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 183, s. 2015. But it was abolished on August 9, 2017 when President Rodrigo Duterte revoked Executive Order No. 183, s. 2015 through the signage of Executive Order No. 38, citing the reason of the lack of funds to fully establish the NIR according to Benjamin Diokno, the Secretary of Budget and Management, reverting Negros Occidental and its capital back into Western Visayas. However, with the Philippines' current presidential administration promoting federalism, the idea of the twin provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental reunified into one federal state/region is already in the talks of local provincial politicians, with additional support from the native Negrenses. There is also a suggestion, jointly approved by the provincial governors, that Negros Occidental along with Negros Oriental, be renamed with their pre-colonial names as "Buglas Nakatundan" and "Buglas Sidlakan" respectively, with Negros, as a federal state, be named as "Negrosanon Federated Region", due to the negative racial connotation associated with the name "Negros".
Negros Occidental is located in the western side of Negros Island, the fourth largest island in the Philippines, with a total land area of 7,802.54 square kilometres (3,012.58 sq mi). If Bacolod City is included for geographical purposes, the province has an area of 7,965.21 square kilometres (3,075.38 sq mi). The province is approximately 375 kilometres (233 mi) long from north to south. It is bounded by the Visayan Sea in the north, Panay Gulf on the west, Negros Oriental province and Tañon Strait on the east and Sulu Sea on the south. Negros is basically volcanic, making its soil ideal for agriculture. Eighty percent of all arable land in the island region is cultivated.
The north and western parts of the province are largely composed of plains and gentle slopes. A mountain range lines the eastern part of the province, forming the basis of the border with Negros Oriental. Kanlaon Volcano, which is partially located in Negros Oriental, rises to a height of 2,465 m (8,087 ft) and is the highest peak in the Visayas.
The population of Negros Occidental in the 2015 census was 2,497,261 people, with a density of 320 inhabitants per square kilometre or 830 inhabitants per square mile. If Bacolod City is included for geographical and statistical purposes, the total population is 3,059,136 people, with a density of 384/km2 (995/sq mi).
Residents of Negros are called "Negrenses" (and less often "Negrosanons") and many are of either pure/mixed Austronesian heritage, with foreign ancestry (i.e. Chinese and/or Spanish) as minorities. Negros Occidental is predominantly a Hiligaynon-speaking province by 84%, because of its linguistic ties with Iloilo. Cebuano is spoken by the remaining 16%, especially in the cities and towns facing the Tañon Strait, due to their proximity to the island-province of Cebu. Sagay City and surrounding places, which both face Iloilo and Cebu, speaks a hybrid language composed of Hiligaynon and Cebuano. English, though seldom used, is widely spoken and used on both sides of the island for educational, literary and official purposes.
Negros Occidental is the second most-populous province in the Visayas after Cebu, having the second largest number of congressional districts and the 7th most-populous (4th if highly urbanized cities and independent component cities are included in the population of corresponding provinces) in the Philippines based on the 2015 Census. As of 2010, the population of registered voters are 1,478,260
Catholicism is the predominant religion, with over 2 million adherents. Negros Occidental falls under the jurisdictions of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Bacolod, San Carlos & Kabankalan. Other major Christian denominations include Baptist churches, Aglipayan Church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Evangelicalism. Islam is adhered by a sizeable minority, with 1,842 claiming it as their religion.
Known as the "Sugarbowl of the Philippines", the sugar industry is the lifeblood of the economy of Negros Occidental, producing more than half of the country's sugar. There are 15 sugar centrals located throughout the lowland areas the north and west of the island, stretching from northwest along the coasts of the Visayan Sea and Guimaras Strait. Among the larger mills are in San Carlos, La Carlota, Bago, Binalbagan, Kabankalan, Sagay, Silay, Murcia and Victorias. Victorias Mill in Victorias City is the largest sugar mill in the country, and the world's largest integrated sugar mill and refinery. Sugar is transported from plantations to refineries by large trucks that use the national highway.
A fishing industry is found in Cadiz City, and other fishponds that dot the province. One of the country's largest copper mines is located in Sipalay City. There also exists a cottage industry which produced handicrafts made from indigenous materials.
The province is rich in mineral deposits. Minerals that abound in the province are primary copper with estimated reserve of 591 million metric tons and gold ore with estimated reserve of 25 million tons. Silver and molybdenum deposits are also abundant, as well as non-metallic minerals suitable for agricultural and industrial uses. Notwithstanding its great potential, the mining industry in Negros Occidental has remained virtually dormant since the biggest copper mine in Sipalay suspended its operation in the year 2000.
Bacolod City is the center of commerce and finance in Negros Occidental. It has oil companies, factories, bottling plants, allied industrial businesses, steel fabrication, power generation, agri-businesses, prawn culture and other aqua-culture ventures.
It is also the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) hub of the Negros Island Region of the Philippines. Bacolod has an estimated 35,000 workforce in the IT-BPO industry working in 20 major companies. Among the notable BPO companies operating in the city are Convergys, Teleperformance, TTEC, Focus Direct International, Inc. – Bacolod, Panasiatic Solutions, Ubiquity Global Services, Transcom Asia and iQor. As of 2019, Negros Occidental has a total of thirteen (13) operating PEZA registered IT Parks and Centers.
In 2012, a two-hectare portion of the four-hectare Paglaum Sports Complex was partitioned for the construction of the provincial government-owned Negros First CyberCentre (NFCC) as an IT-BPO Outsourcing Hub with a budget of P674-million. It is located at Lacson corner Hernaez Streets in Bacolod City and offers up to 22,000 square meters of mixed IT-BPO and commercial spaces. Its facilities are divided into three sections — Information Technology, Commercial Support Facilities, and Common IT Facilities. It was inaugurated in April 2015 in rites led by President Benigno S. Aquino III. The area was initially a residential zone and has been reclassified as a commercial zone as approved by the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
By 2014, Negros Occidental is the province with the highest income in all of the Philippines, earning an average of P3.332 billion.
Food and agriculture
Negros Occidental's output of more than 1 million metric tons for crop year 2002–2003 accounts for nearly half of the country's sugar production in an industry that generates an estimated annual revenue of more than ₱18 billion. There are 12 sugar mills in the province, of which only 10 are presently operational. Victorias Milling Company has the highest rated capacity with 15,000 tonnes cane per day.
However, the volatility of the sugar industry forced the province to shift, albeit slowly, to other high-value crops and alternative industries. The diversification has proven to be highly successful. Production of rice, the basic commodity for food security, has been increasing. By 2003, annual output of 437 thousand metric tons of palay was 33% better than two years ago. This allowed the province to significantly raise its sufficiency level from 65% to more than 84%. The improvement could be attributed to the introduction and promotion of hybrid rice, which increased rice yields to 3.8 metric tons per hectare. Because of the success of the program, area planted to hybrid rice has increased nearly fivefold. The highest hybrid yield was recorded at 10.3 tons per hectare.
Corn also registered increasing gains. Production for 2003 of 42 thousand metric tons outperformed 2001 output by 18%. Average yield per hectare has also grown by 18%. Other fruit and vegetable crops, except for banana and cassava, likewise improved their harvest. Harvested coconut was placed at 139 million nuts, while production of banana; fruit and vegetable crops totaled 110 million kilograms. Livestock and poultry are industries where Negros Occidental has strongly diversified.
With the province successfully quarantined from the foot and mouth disease and bird flu, as well as with other endemic diseases under control, total production of livestock and poultry in 2003 of 49 thousand metric tons exceeded estimated local demand by 18%. Fishing is likewise an industry where the province has remained focused. After all, 9 of its cities and 16 of its municipalities are located along the coastline and a great portion of the population depends on fishing for their livelihood.
The area for exploitation by this industry is huge, covering most of the coastal areas and the rich fishing grounds of the Visayan Sea on the north, Sulu Sea on the south, Tañon Strait on the east and Guimaras Strait and Panay Gulf at the west. These rich coastal areas and fishing grounds continue to be generous to the people of Negros Occidental. In 2003, products from deep-sea fishing, municipal marine and inland waters, and aquaculture reached 87 thousand metric tons, 30% better than 2001 production.
Culture and arts
Silay City, to the north of the capital of Bacolod City, nicknamed the "Paris of Negros", is the cultural and artistic center of Negros Island Region. It has 30 heritage houses declared by the national historical institute, most notable of which is Balay Negrense; it is also the hometown of National Artist of the Philippines for Architecture Leandro Locsin and international mezzo-soprano Conchita Gaston.
This blossoming in art was due to the economical importance of the area during the Spanish era, Negros became probably the most hispanized and pro-Spanish area, due to the enormous investments of Spain in the sugar business.
Another famous treasure of Negrense art heritage can be found in Victorias City, within the confines of the Victorias Milling Company in its chapel is the world-famous mural of the Angry Christ, painted by artist Alfonso Ossorio, a scion of the Ossorio family who owned the mill.
The Negrenses' joie de vivre is manifest in the various festivals all over the province, foremost being the famous MassKara Festival of Bacolod, Pasalamat Festival of La Carlota, Bailes de Luces of La Castellana and Pintaflores Festival of San Carlos. These and other local festivals are featured during the Pana-ad sa Negros Festival staged every April at the 25-hectare tree-lined Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. Dubbed as the "Festival of Festivals", Pana-ad brings together the 13 cities and 19 towns in a showcase of history, arts and culture, tourism, trade, commerce and industry, beauty and talent as well as games and sports.
Negros Occidental is rich in structures and buildings that are remnants of a once affluent lifestyle. The Palacio Episcopal (1930), San Sebastian Cathedral (1876), and the Capitol Building (1931) are popular landmarks. In most towns, steam locomotives that used to cart sugarcane from the fields to refineries attract steam-engine enthusiasts from all over the world. There are also impressive churches all over the province, both built recently and during the Spanish era.
Panaad sa Negros Festival
The Panaad sa Negros Festival, also called simply as the Panaad Festival (sometimes spelled as Pana-ad), is a festival held annually during the month of April in Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental province in the Philippines. Panaad is the Hiligaynon word for "vow" or "promise"; the festival is a form of thanksgiving to Divine Providence and commemoration of a vow in exchange for a good life. The celebration is held at the Panaad Park, which also houses the Panaad Stadium, and is participated in by the 13 cities and 19 towns of the province. For this reason, the province dubs it the "mother" of all its festivals.
The first Panaad sa Negros Festival was held at Capitol Park and Lagoon in a three-day affair in 1993 that started April 30. The festival was held at the lagoon fronting the Provincial Capitol for the first four years. As the festival grew each year, it became necessary to locate a more spacious venue. In 1997, the festival was held at the reclaimed area near where the Bredco Port is located today. The construction of the Panaad Stadium and sports complex paved the way for the establishment of the Panaad Park as the permanent home of the festival.