The "City of Smiles"
Prior to the coming of the Spaniards in Negros in 1565, there existed a small village near the mouth of the Magsungay river. It was a small settlement inhabited by Malayans who belonged to the “Taga-ilog” group.
When the neighboring settlement of Bogo (now Bago City) was elevated into the status of a small town in 1575, it had several religious dependencies, one of which was the village of Magsungay.
The early missionaries place the village of Magsungay under the care and protection of St. Sebastian sometime in the middle of the 1700s. A “corrigidor” by the name of Luis Fernando de Luna (1777-1779), donated a relic of St. Sebastian for a growing mission, and since then, the village came to be known as “San Sebastian de Magsungay”.
In 1770, the small village of Magsungay was firmly established under the leadership of the first “governadorcillo” or “Capitan Municipal” by the name of Bernardo de los Santos.
With the cloud of insecurity hanging over them due to the rampant attacked of the Moro pirates, the people of Magsungay decided to move a few kilometers inland where upon on a hilly terrain, which they called “Buklod”, the people established a new settlement. There, on this hilly terrain, Magsungay became the settlement of Bacolod
In 1806, Fr. Leon Pedro, having appointed as “propitario” of Bacolod, became the first parish priest. From there, a young priest from Barcelona, envisioned the construction of San Sebastian Cathedral, in the name of Fr. Gonzaga. Gradually, the people left the hilly terrain where they had started to progress, and eventually the place became known as “Camingawan” which means the place of loneliness.
In 1846, upon the request of Msgr. Romualdo Jimeno, Bishop of Cebu and Negros at the time, Governor-General Narciso claveria sent to Negros a team of Recollect missionaries headed by Fr. Fernando Cuenca. The following year, 1849, Gov. Valdevieso y Morquecho declared Bacolod as the capital of the whole island of Negros.
In 1938, under the administration of President Manuel L. Quezon, a bill was passed and approved making Bacolod a Chartered City, and was inaugurated as the 5th Chartered City under the Commonwealth period on October 19, 1938. The late Don Alfredo L. Montelibano, Sr. was appointed as its Chief Executive.
After nearly a couple of centuries from its founding as small settlement, Bacolod is now a bustling modern metropolis in the Western Visayas region and it is also the “Gateway to the Sugarland” because Bacolod is highly accessible to air or sea from its neighboring region.
Bacolod’s most popular fiesta, is celebrated on the third weekend of October closest to October 19, the city’s charter day anniversary. Festivities kick off with food fairs, mask-making contests, brass band competitions, beauty and talent pageants, a windsurfing regatta, drinking and eating contests, trade fairs and exhibits. The climax is a mardi-gras parade where revellers don elaborate mask and costumes and dance to Latin rhythms Rio de Janiero style.
Pasalamat, held every Sunday nearest the first of May or Labor Day, is a harvest thanksgiving celebration by the people of La Carlota City. The festival is based on an age-old practice of offering thanksgiving to the god of agricutlure living inside Kanlaon Volcano. The celebration features an Ecumenical Thanksgiving mass, games, sportsfests, agro-industrial fair, and streetdancing competition with “tribes” dressed in indigenous materials and swaying to the beat of Sambita. The celebration is capped with the selection of Ginoong Pasalamat and Pasalamat Queen. La Carlota City is 42 kilometers southeast of Bacolod. City.
Ati-Atihan in Cadiz City is held annually on the week of January nearest the 20th highlighted by a street parade in honor of their patron saint, Señor Santo Niño. Garbed in Ati costumes, various tribes dance to the beat of their drums while carrying the image of the Santo Niño. Devotees believe it was the Holy Infant who saved the village from the attack of pirates in the past through His intercessions.
Pintaflores of San Carlos City highlights the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, its patron saint, celebrated on July 1st. It features street dancing by “tribes” dressed in colorful ethnic-inspired costumes, their bodies painted with flower designs reminiscent of the tattooed Visayans of pre-Spanish Negros. People who have witnessed this spectacular revelry will surely attest that the colorful ethnic-inspired costumes and synchronized steppings keep the spectators on their feet as they dance with the contingents to the snappy beat of the drums and nusic along the main artiries of the city.
Sinulog sa Kabankalan City is held on the third weekend of January as a thanksgiving celebration to mark the feast of the Santo Niño. Its highlight is a street dance contest with sooted, costumed “tribes” gyrating to the beat of drums.
Kali-Kalihan, an annual February celebration of cultural and traditional activities in the mountainous town of Don Salvador Benedicto. It is highlighted by the seach for the “Diwata sang Kali” and the Kali dance parade competition wherein performers, garbed in indigenous costumes, thump to ethnic music using Kali sticks in graceful movements. The dance culminates with an offering of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. An interesting feature of the festival is prayer worship by the natives highlighted by a firewalking ritual.
Kansilay is Silay City’s festival about a folktale showing the bravery of beautiful Pricess Kansilay who offered her life for justice and freedom. The dance-drama is the highlight of the week-long city fiesta that ends on November 13.
Sinigayan, the emerging festival of Sagay City, showcases street dancers attired in costumes made of seashells called Sigay, from where its name originated. It is week-long city fiesta that ends on March 19.
CINCO DE NOVIEMBRE
Cinco de Noviembre is a historical festival that commemorates the victory of the Negrenses’ bloodless revolt against the Spaniards in 1898. The Spanish authorities in Bacolod then capitulated after seeing advancing troops armed with rifles and cannons which turned out to be made only of nipa stalks and rolled sawali painted black. November 5 has been declared as a special holiday in Negros Occidental.
Babaylan Festival of Bago City is a unique festival that explores the babaylan folktale, rediscover music, dances, rituals and other artistic endeavor of the early Bagonhons. It is held during the city’s charter anniversary celebration on February 19.
Mudpack Festival in Mambukal, Murcia is a symbolic celebration of man’s return to primitive times when he was closer to nature. It seeks to instill in people the awareness and care of environment and the use of natural materials in arts and craft. The highlight of this emerging festival which fall on the 22nd of June is a merry-making with dancers’ faces covered with mudpack and bodies painted with Mambukal clay.
PANAAD SA NEGROS
Panaad sa Negros is the “Festival of festivals”, a week-long summer event every 3rd week of April that brings together the 10 cities and 22 towns in one showcase of trade, tourism, commerce and industry, arts and culture, beauty and talent, as well as games and sports. It features the individual festivals in a colorful and jubilant street dance around the Panaad Park and Stadium in Brgy. Mansilingan, Bacolod City.