Negros Occidental is one of the six provinces comprising the Western Visayas Region (Region VI) in the Philippines. It is located in the northwestern half of Negros Island while Negros Oriental is at the southwestern half and forms part of Central Visayas or Region VII because of its proximity to Cebu.
Negros Occidental has 13 cities and 19 municipalities and its capital is Bacolod City. It is bounded on the north by the Visayan Sea, and on the south by the Sulu Sea. It is southeast of Panay Island from which is separated by the Guimaras Strait. On the east are the Tañon Strait and Negros Oriental.
People and Culture
Earliest inhabitants of Negros Island were dark-skinned natives belonging to the Negrito ethnic group. When the Spaniards came to the island in April 1565, they named the island “Negros” after the natives. The latter half of the 19th century saw a rapid economic growth due to the boom in the sugar industry and the opening of commercial ports. This period saw the influx of immigrants form neighboring island of Panay and Cebu. The language spoken in Negros Occidental is predominantly Hiligaynon. However, a few cities and towns in the Northern part of the province facing Cebu, Cebuano is widely spoken.
Negros Occidental has become synonymous with sugar and has earned the title “Sugar Capital of the Philippines” since it produces almost 60% of the total sugar output of the country. Sugar has indeed played an important role in the dynamic culture of the Negrense. It has been the major lifeblood of the province’s economy since the 19th century. The affluence brought by the sugar industry has greatly influenced the Negrense lifestyle. Negrenses are known to be generous, fun loving people who enjoy the finer things in life. This is evident in the products they produce which speak of an elegant taste and the delectable cuisine developed through the many celebrations and festivities.
Negrense cuisine is one of the best that the Philippines has to offer. From upscale restaurants to wayside carinderias, one can surely find a sumptuous meal to satisfy a discriminating taste. The province is most famous for sugar-based delicacies, with piaya, barquillos, pinasugbo, pastel de mangga, dulce gatas, guapple pie, and napoleons among the favorites.
Perhaps Negros Occidental’s most famous dish is chicken inasal. For the uninitiated, it is barbecued chicken marinated in coconut vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and spices and then basted with achuete oil to give it a reddish color.
Business and Investment
The sugar crisis of the 1980’s has brought out the best in the Negrenses. It was during this challenging period that 15 entrepreneurial Negrense women organized the House of Negros Foundation which is what we know today as the Association of Negros Producers (ANP). Through the women entrepreneurs’ initiative, thousands of displaced sugarcane workers found jobs in handicraft and food processing small businesses. What started as backyard businesses had become major producers of world class products, a true testament of the determination and creativity of the Negrenses. Small and Medium Enterprises in the province are major sources of employment.
Recent developments in the province are making Negros Occidental as a major investment destination in the Philippines. Bacolod City is fast becoming the Business Process Outsourcing hub in Western Visayas with the entry of major contact centers such as Teleperformance, Teletech, and Convergys. With the operation of the new Silay-Bacolod Airport of International Standard, developments are expected to move north of the province.
Agribusiness remain the lifeblood of Negros Occidental economy with sugarcane as the major crop making it the Sugar Capital of the Philippines with 8 sugar mills and three of which have refineries. Soon, Negros Occidental may become the Bioethanol Capital of the Philippines. The availability of sugarcane makes Negros Occidental a good location for bio-ethanol which uses sugarcane as raw material. The first bioethanol plant in the Philippines located in San Carlos City started operation in 2009 and there are several bioethanol plants still in the pipeline.
The national governments thrust to lessen dependence on petroleum lead to the development of emerging agri based industries for alternative energy. Jathropa, cassava, and sweet sorghum as biofuel feedstock are being pushed for cultivation in the province.
Furthermore, the Provincial Government of Negros Occiental, together with the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental, is pushing for Negros Island to be the “Organic Food Island of Asia”. This initiative has spurred interest and investment in sustainable agriculture in the two provinces.
Negros Occidental is earning its mark as the destination of choice of both local and foreign tourists. The province has a lot to offer – heritage, culture and nature destinations – all very accessible from the capital city of Bacolod and definitely within your budget.
Thirty minutes from Bacolod City lies Mambukal Mountain Resort located at the foot of Mount Kanlaon. It is being managed by the Province of Negros Occidental and boasts of several hot sulfur spring and seven waterfalls.
Traveling north, visitors should not miss the chance to stop by Silay City, known as the “Paris of Negros” during the Spanish period and now earned the title as the “Seat of Arts, Culture, and Ecotourism in Western Visayas”. Silay has the most number of ancestral houses well-preserved and are recognized by the National Historical Institute in the Philippines. Three of them were converted into museums, the Balay Negrense, Hofilena Ancestral House and the Jalandoni Ancestral House.
The Patag Mountain Resort in Silay City has 3 major waterfalls (Pulang Tubig, Dumalabdab, and the Dam) and is home to the Visayan Spotted Deer. Silay City is also where the Silay-Bacolod Airport of International Standard is located.
Victorias City is home the world famous mural painting of the “Angry Christ” and it also boasts of the Gawahon Mountain Resort. Victorias Milling Corporation is also located in Victorias City.
Farther up north, Lakawon Island Resort in Cadiz City and Jomabo Island Resort in Escalante are famous tourist destinations. Carbin Reef and Maca Reef in Sagay City are favorite divers’ destination in Negros Occidental. Sipaway Island in San Carlos City also offers tourists white sand beaches and diving sites for the adventurous.
Bago City, which is 30 minutes south of Bacolod, has several waterfalls and mountain resorts which are very accessible from the city proper. Most famous of which are Guintubdan and Kipot Falls.
Going farther down south, a visitor will be greeted with white sand beaches of Cauayan. Most famous is the Punta Bulata with its pristine beaches and diving activities. Nearby Danjugan island is a marine and wildlife sanctuary. There, you can explore lagoons, watch different species of migratory birds and bats, go snorkeling and diving. The island is a nesting ground of the endangered white-breasted sea eagle.
Neighboring Sipalay City is fast becoming a major tourist destination in Western Visayas. The city boasts of white sand beaches, caves and diving sites. There are 42 dive sites identified including three wrecks – SS Panay, MS Jojo and Julien’s Wreck.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Negros Occidental, the province has the amenities and destinations that will enable you to mix business and pleasure. A beautiful province naturally blessed, a rich culture, charming people and delectable cuisine – are just some of what Negros Occidental has to offer that are best when experienced. Explore the nooks and crannies of Negros Occidental. Discover the distinct charm of this southern paradise. Experience the sweet life!