GUARDING the entrance of the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol Lagoon along Lacson Street is a historic monument made of metal that is a combination of modernism’s aesthetic of the distorted figure with an almost classical allegorical approach to Philippine virtues.
The monument is known as “Paghimud-os” (The Struggle), one of the masterpieces of Eduardo “Ed” S. Castrillo. This is a cultural gift to the Negrosanons by the Negros Occidental Park and Cultural Commission and the sculptor Eduardo S. Castrillo. It took the artist three years (1972-75) to finish the “monumento.” This was done when Alfredo Montelibano Jr. was the governor of the province.
“Paghimud-os” is a Higaynon word that means struggle or to make one’s way with difficulty. Life in Negros Occidental is in a constant struggle starting from 1571 when our island (formerly known as Buglas) was awarded as an encomienda (assignment) to Cristobal Nunez Pareja by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, first governor general of the Philippine Islands. The “Buglasanons” who became indios tasted the feudal management of the “encomenderos.”
Another kind of struggle existed when the Moro pirate raiders from Mindanao started to have their incursions in the shoreline villages of Negros from 1760 up to 1829. The pirates looted the property, raped the women, burned the houses, killed some of the villagers, and brought back some captives.
The men were made slaves and the ladies ended in the harem of the datus as comfort women. The piracy came to an end only when the Spanish Navy acquired new steam warships.
And then there was the zarzuela revolution of El Cinco de Noviembre 1898 when the “ilustrados” (learned) from the “buena familias” became disgusted in their friendship with the friars and the Spanish officials.
In coordination with Roque Lopez, president of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Iloilo, Aniceto Lacson consulted the Silay think-tank and harmonized the plan of attack with his north Negros counterpart, Juan Araneta, before giving the signal for simultaneous assault in all “pueblos.”
The “bloodless revolution” with a “moro-moro” ending was victorious. There was the unification of oriental and occidental Negros that paved the way for the birth of the Philippine Federal Republic Canton of Negros Island. The republic did not last long because there was the outbreak of Filipino-American War. The astute hacendero leaders were thinking of sugar business with Americans. Soon, an American-sponsored government replaced the short-lived Republic of Negros.
Melecio Severino of Silay and his followers resisted strongly the Americans but they were defeated in the infamous “Battle of Guintabuan” (an area between Silay and Saravia. Papa Isio and his “Pulahanes” supported by the Emilio Aguinaldo government continued their successful Robin Hood style of warfare in the southern part of Negros against the American constabulary and wicked sugarcane planters. He was the last general standing of Aguinaldo.
The rich landowners of Negros who were leaning with the Americans did not like the banditry and the leadership of the “babaylan” pope that was gaining grounds among the masses. Papa Isio was tricked by some of his hacendero friends to surrender and get his rewards. The struggle for the masses ended when their pope was arrested by the Americans and was sent to the national prison.
Then came peace time! Negros life was sweet and good but nothing lasts forever. On December 8, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. Negros as part of the Philippines was dragged to war. The Japanese Imperial Army under Lt. General Takaishi Kono landed in Negros on May 21, 1942.
Another kind of struggle was again experienced by the Negrosanons. Sugar industry hibernated when the cane fields and sugar mills were abandoned. Life was terror-stricken. The “Battle of Patag” claimed almost 11,000 lives... Japanese, Americans and Filipinos. On Agust 30, 1945, Lt. General Kono officially surrendered to the Americans.
“Paghimud-os” did not stop after the end of World War II. When Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, sugar industry was hit very badly. Not only the industry was bleeding but also the hacenderos, the millers, and especially the hacienda workers. There was the struggle from the oppressed “masa” and the neglected sugarcane workers. The NPA guerillas launched bloody attacks against the abusive military and rude sugarcane planters.
Negros struggle did not end after the Edsa Revolution and the exile of Marcos. Life in the many haciendas is still bad. The “dumaans” and the “sacadas” still live below the poverty level. Many of the third and fourth generation hacenderos do not know how to manage well their haciendas. “Sugar industry in Negros is a sunset industry.”
The toil goes on under the reign of Covid-19. We live in terror and fear. In government, there is a clear manifestation of corruption. Our only hope for survival is our determination to live and a hope for God’s mercy. “Paghimud-os” monument is always there and Ed Castrillo reminds us that the twisted and deformed human parts that we see are us, the Negrosanons.