First-time in Panaad sa Negros Festival Part I
“Panaad” or in local language (Hiligaynon), it is about a vow and fulfilling it.
For 19 years, the province of Negros Occidental has been fulfilling its vow of celebrating its spirit of jubilation and friendship through the Panaad sa Negros Festival, highlighting the various products, attractions, history and culture of its 32 cities and municipalities.
When the world-class Panaad Park and Stadium was built in 1998 at the southern part of Bacolod City, it also provided space and permanent structures for each of the 32 local government units (LGUs) where they can exhibit their goods and tourism details. The Panaad Sports Complex was the venue of international and local meets and featured events like the football game between the Philippine Azkals and Mongolia.
This time, the complex is alive once again for the yearly Panaad sa Negros Festival held for one week during the month of April. It is dubbed as the “Festival of All Festivals” in the province. During this time, the week is opened with a parade of floats representing every town of Negros Occidental, festival dance competition, and some fireworks display. Celebrities and artists also come to Bacolod for concerts to entertain the Negrenses.
The entire week is filled with activities such as exhibits, sports competitions, talent shows and contests, and other performances. The Panaad Park and Stadium become one big party venue for local residents and visitors alike.
The province forms the western part of the sock-shaped Negros Island. Located in the Visayas region at the central part of the country, Negros Occidental is rich in natural resources and home to friendly locals. Its location is strategic being set between the islands of Panay and Cebu.
It is known as the sugar bowl of the Philippines with sugar as its main produce. Almost every LGU in this part of the region has a sugar factory. Given that this is the main source of livelihood for many Negrenses, sugar cane plantations abound, most of which are under the Spanish hacienda system. To this day, there are still landlords and landowners who control many lands in Negros Occidental.
During the heydays of Negros, when the sugar industry was at its peak, it has established the Republic of Negros in May 1899. But it didn’t last long. Negrenses are also known for its victorious revolt against the Spanish under the leadership of Gen. Lacson and Gen. Araneta.
Despite the economic decline of the sugar industry, Negros Occidental still thrives. Now, it is the province outside of Metro Manila with the most cities – 13 cities under its wing. Fishing and agriculture are among the many industries in Negros Occidental. Since most of its local government units have coastlines and mountain areas, many towns and cities promote ecotourism through its beaches and mountain resorts.
Yet, notwithstanding its colorful past, Negros Occidental is now home to many old mansions, beach resorts, natural attractions, and festivals. I, myself, was amazed when I visited each booth. It was like being a tourist in my own province having spent the most part of me in Manila. I wandered from one town to another with a fresh outlook of my native province while feeling totally at home with the familiarity they bring.
This is my hometown, the city of my birth. As the capital of the province, Bacolod is also home to the neo-classical structure of the Provincial Capitol Building along with the man-made Lagoon. Its booth is the replica of the New Government Center and the City Plaza. Other landmarks of the city are the old San Sebastian Cathedral, Negros Museum, as well as several museums and ancestral homes.
Being the City of Smiles, Bacolod is alive especially during the Masskara Festival in October. Aside from the sweet people, visitors also love to go back to this Visayan city because of its delicacies and sumptuous chicken barbecue.
With the provincial capital as our focal point, let us visit the cities and towns located north of Bacolod.
Talisay is where we hosted over 300 volunteers to build with us at Habitat for Humanity Philippines. But even before that, we frequent this city when I was small when we accompany our aunt in her devotion to San Nicolas. Then we would go to the Talisay market to buy several cheap goods.
Talisay also stands for the tree that grew abundantly at the Matab-ang River. It is the home of General Aniceto Lacson who, alongside Gen. Araneta in the south, revolted and won over the Spanish rule without bloodshed. It has been called Cinco de Noviembre.
Also home to many old families in Negros, Talisay has several ancestral homes and the most visited nowadays is the Ruins of the family Lacson’s home. Garden resorts and farms are also aplenty, like the Natures Village Resort. With this, Talisay’s booth resembles that of old Spanish homes. The two-story structure is elegantly decorated.
It is in Silay where the state-of-the-art new Bacolod-Silay Airport is located. This modernism juxtaposes with the old houses and buildings preserved in Silay. In fact, this city is considered as the Paris of Negros. The Gaston family’s Balay Negrense is one of the 31 ancestral homes in this city.
Ergo, it is but fitting to make the Silay booth like a miniature ancestral house, complete with dining table arrangement similar to those found in old homes. Apart from its rich heritage, Silay also boasts of its eco parks. Patag is one of the favorite trekking destinations of adventurers and mountaineers.
It used to be named as Saravia. But even when the town has changed its name to E.B. Magalona, there are still locals who stick by the name of Saravia. Rice terraces, mangrove plantations, and falls and bat sanctuary are among the natural attractions in the municipality. E.B. Magalona is known for its blue crabs and cauldrons, which are featured in its booth.
One of the main attractions in Victorias City is the “Angry Christ” mural at the St. Joseph the Worker church. But what comes to mind when Victorias is mentioned is the Victorias Milling Company, one of the most popular sugar factory in the province. The Victorias compound has schools and subdivisions, making it a bustling community in itself.
Outside of Victorias Milling Company, other attractions are the Victorias Public Plaza, the Gawahon Eco- Park and the city’s Sports and Amusement Center. Victorias also has fishing as one of its industries. My aunt used to transfer the operations of her fishing boats in this city and we used to visit them when they temporarily called this their home.
Victorias’ booth was a simple structure. The other side is somewhat of historical design with its columns while the other side, fronting the street is a modern façade.
Famous for its Manapla puto (rice cake), we purchased the native delicacy at the Manapla booth, which consisted with an open-air structure and another two-story building next to it.
Manapla is home to the island’s aborigines, the Negritoes. Later on, settlers from nearby islands as well as foreigners drove the original inhabitants to the mountains. Manapla also thrives on sugar milling. But apart from this industry, the town also hosts several beach resorts in the northern part of the province.
When we arrived at Cadiz’ area, it was like a small town in itself, with a dried fish market and park displays reminiscent of its Dinagsa Festival, which is similar to Ati-Atihan, and its Children’s Playground.
The booth displays the image of the Holy Child and a large Lapu-Lapu fish. This is because Cadiz City is rich in agro-fishery resources. Among its beaches, I am more familiar with Lakawon Island Resort which I have heard from friends before.
Sagay City has one of the most beautiful structures at the Panaad Park. It even has an aquarium and children acting as tour guides. One of the kiddie guides advocates for the protection of marine life, which is one of the programs of the city. Sagay has its own children’s museum that is interactive.
Sagay is named after the small shell called sigay found along its beaches. I remember traveling to Cebu wherein our bus was loaded in a barge docked at Sagay’s port.
I frequented Escalante City when the organization I was working with had a housing project in this city. Coming from a bloody event that made headlines, Escalante has slowly erased this image through its various industrial developments.
It also ventures in tourism with its Jomabo Island Resort, the Bonista Beach Resort, Api Cave, and other destinations. Its booth has a small boat inside, mirroring its coastal industry. Escalante also has a port that ferries people from Negros to Cebu. This is why locals are already speaking Cebuano instead of Hiligaynon. Negros Occidental is a province that speaks Hiligaynon and Visaya.
Toboso’s booth is a two-story building with a giant fish in front of it. The municipality’s places of interest are Kevin’s Reef and other bodies of water, like the Dalisun Falls and the Mainit Hot Spring. There are also caves found in this town, such as the Trangkalan Cave and the Campanoy Cave.
By the look of Calatrava’s booth, one can already identify that caves and monkeys are among the basic features of the town. There was even water cascading from the top of its cave-like booth.
True enough, Calatrava offers attractions like the Wild Monkey Sanctuary; beach resorts, such as Palau and Loly; caves, namely Pinocutan, Bagacay and Tigbon; and the Lat-ason Falls. Pandan is also abundant in this municipality.
Don Salvador Benedicto
Don Salvador Benedicto’s booth is a hexagon-shaped structure with colorful drapes. Cut flowers and pineapples were also showcased in its booth. The town was created by consolidated remote barangays of Murcia, Calatrava and San Carlos City. The town has rice terraces, winding roads, and waterfalls.
San Carlos City
This is the last city of the province in its northern part. This is also home to my father’s ancestors. When I visited my mother’s hometown in the south, we went for a joy ride to Kanlaon City and stopped at an overlooking point where San Carlos City could be viewed.
Its port ferries the public from Negros to Toledo, Cebu. San Carlos’ location is strategic because of its proximity to Bacolod City, Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, and Cebu City. Sugar milling is one of its industries, with many of my relatives working there.
San Carlos City also has the fabulous Sipaway Island and other nature destinations like the Prosperidad Hills, La Fortuna Nature and Wildlife Lagoon, and Alinsayawan Falls, to name a few.
With so many towns and cities to visit in Negros Occidental, I decided to divide my blog post into two. I’m featuring those towns and cities south of Bacolod in my other post.
Read about the upcoming Panaad sa Negros Festival in this post.