The City That Sugar Made (Part II)-A A +A
As I See It
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
WHILE the battle for Philippine Independence raged in Luzon with Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo at the helm, Silaynons were discreetly discussing the possibility of a revolution in Negros in the guise of a planter association meeting. Local sugarcane planters committees were converted to local revolutionary committees. “Fight for the survival of the sugar industry!”
Revolution in Negros was a fight for independence, not an outpouring of sympathy for Aguinaldo leadership. Aguinaldo is an “a fuera.”
The Lacson-Araneta tandem made November 5, 1898 a part of Negros history. Silay was the first town in Negros where the Spaniards officially surrendered to the Silaynon. This was backed up with documents.
In Luzon, the Spaniards did not surrender to Aguinaldo. After the surrender of the Spaniards in Negros, a new set up was made. There was the Federal Republic Canton of Negros Island with Anecito Lacson as president.
The Federal Republic was short-lived. When the Americans came to Negros, our leaders made a sweet deal with them for the survival of the sugar industry. The American-sponsored government replaced the Federal Republic. When Col. Jonas Smith of the US army arrived in Silay, Lt. Luis Ginete, the Silay Chief of Police, refused to acknowledge American sovereignty.
A new force was organized in August 1898 under the leadership of Melecio Severino and his nephews, Miguel and Luis Ginete. Their troops fought the Americans in the Silay-Saravia border. This comes to be known as the Infamous Battle of Guintabuan. The Silaynon and Saravia fighters suffered heavy losses. Melecio and Miguel Severino surrendered and were granted amnesty. Luis Ginete disappeared and was thought to be dead.
Melecio Severino was elected governor of Negros in 1900. He sustained his anti-American sentiments, so he was removed from office by Gen. E.W. Miner. Silaynons were so angry, and it was rumored that they were preparing an anti-American recipe. To appease the Silaynons of Melecio Severino’s removal as governor, Leandro Locsin (another Silaynon leader of the November 5 revolution) was appointed Governor of Negros to calm down 23, 328 Silaynons. During that time Bacolod had only a population of 19,424.
Severino was elected representative to the National Assembly. He fought hard for the right of women to vote during elections but he strongly opposed the imposition of English as a medium of instruction in schools. World War I started in 1914. Panama Canal was closed and the Philippines was considered by the Americans as their safe and stable source of sugar.
In 1916, the price of sugar leapt three times compared to 1912 ushering a Golden Era to Silay, as it was sitting on top of the mountain of sugar. In 1920, Hawaiian-Philippine Company was established in Silay featuring a small American community in its compound.
The new and expensive Church of San Diego de Alcala was inaugurated. It was a 200,000-peso work of art designed by Lucio Bernasconi, an Italian architect. The main benefactor was Jose Ledesma who was conferred the Knighthood of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Pius XI.
In 1935, the sugar block of Negros sent two Silaynons to represent Negros Occidental in the Constitutional Convention, Dr. Jose C. Locsin and Juan L. Ledesma. With these two statesmen, the sugar industry and the sentiments of the Negrosanons were well embodied in the Constitution of 1935.
Silay was not spared the horns of World War II. Alfredo Montelibano brought Negros Government to the mountains. Silaynons who joined the resistance movement enlisted the guerilla forces operating in the outskirts of Silay. Lolo Jovito Pacete was a guerilla hitman. He neutralized Manuel Intay, a Silaynon Japanese informer who caused the death of many Silaynons killed by the Japanese soldiers at Luguay Bridge. Patag in Silay was the last stand of the Japanese Imperial Army in Negros Island. Around eleven thousand died in the killing field—Filipinos, American, mostly Japanese. War in Negros ended when Lt. General Takaishi Kono officially surrendered.
The tears and fears of World War II made Silay stronger. Jose C. Locsin was elected senator in 1958 and he worked hard with Pres. Carlo P. Garcia that Silay would become a city. He was helped by Rep. Jose Puey, Rep. Carlos Hilado, and Mayor Romulo Golez. Sugar is still the banner of Silay and the sugar plantation provides a bountiful backdrop for the survival of this city made by sugar.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 01, 2012.