WITH the impending rise of two major government-funded projects in Bacolod City, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said they envision the Negros Occidental capital city to become a center for culture and health in the country.

The Negrense senator, along with Mayor Evelio Leonardia and other local officials, led the groundbreaking of the P260-million museum-auditorium project dubbed, for the meantime, as Bacolod Museum/Auditorium in Barangay Alijis in the city on Saturday, December 12, 2020.

Zubiri, who funded the project, said the structure will put Bacolod City and Negros Occidental on the map of the cultural world of the Philippines.

"This is dedicated to all the people of Bacolod City and Negros Occidental," he said, adding that this will pay tribute to Negrenses -- their artistry -- who have world-class talents in the field of arts.

The official said the museum-auditorium will host various stage performances like dancing, singing and other events. Also, a permanent venue for the masskara (masks) display and artworks of local artists.

"This will become a tourism stop for the region and a cultural magnet for many shows and conventions," he added.

Leonardia, in a statement, said he is so overwhelmed and excited that the project is happening.

"To say that this is historic is, perhaps, an understatement, but definitely, this is historic," he said. "I am thankful to our 'guardian angel' benefactor and provider, Senator Migz, who is making this possible."

Bacolod City, the mayor said, deserves a museum because people here are "sophisticated."

"A museum like this will show that Bacolodnons are really a special kind of people," Leonardia added.


A perspective of the Bacolod Museum/Auditorium was presented in a press conference held at the L'Fisher Chalet after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Architect Leonilo Ramon Lichauco said the museum design is inspired by nature. It will have metal panels at the exterior that will be curved with a sugarcane pattern.

Lichauco said it is not a common museum because, in order to get to the other levels, it will have a wide ramp where people can see all the artworks and display.

"So it's a PWD- (person with disability-) friendly all the way up," he said, adding they have also maximized the natural lights and ventilation.

The auditorium has a seating capacity of 540 people. It will also have function rooms for other events like weddings and conventions.

Zubiri said the concept is "first of its kind" in the Philippines, as it is designed like the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany.

The leaf-shaped roofs will symbolize Negros Occidental as an environment-friendly local government, Zubiri said.

"It shows that we want to protect the greenery around us," he added.


The target completion for the multi-million-peso project that will be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is 2022.

DPWH-Western Visayas Regional Director Engineer Lea Delfinado, who was also at the press conference, said the land preparation will start this month.

Delfinado said there is already a notice to proceed for the contractor, who has yet to complete the detailed architectural and engineering design in two to three months.

"The target actual construction is in February or March 2021, while the contract duration is 385 calendar days or more than a year," she added.

Economic stimulus

The mayor has expressed optimism that the project will enhance the economic recovery of the city despite the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Leonardia said it will create a demand for construction materials and create jobs for carpenters, welders, masons, painters, electricians, interior decorators, furniture makers, landscapers and gardeners, among others.

The Bacolod Museum/Auditorium has long been dreamed of for its expected contribution to the education, cultural, and tourism goals of the city, he said.

The mayor said the construction of the project is one of the conditions included in the contract of donation for the lot.

The two-story building will rise on an 8.8-hectare property along the Circumferential Road, donated to the city by the family of Ricardo and Olivia Yanson.

Zubiri lauded the "heroic act" of the Yanson Family for donating the property, which may cost over P800 million if based only on P10,000 per square meter price.

"I salute the Yanson family. The value of the property will increase for the people of Bacolod City," he said, adding that the location where the museum-auditorium stands will surely be a new growth area.

The senator said he leaves it to the city government to come up with the official name of the structure.

Leonardia, in response, said they have yet to decide on the matter, but they plan to name the portion of the area in honor of the donor as Ricardo Yanson Sports and Cultural Complex.

Representing the Yanson Family at the groundbreaking ceremony were Leo Rey Yanson, president and chief operating officer of Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI), Ginette Yanson-Dumancas and Charles Dumancas.

The Yanson Family owns VTI that operates the Ceres Liner Bus, considered the biggest fleet in Southeast Asia.


Meanwhile, Zubiri has made a commitment to the construction of a hospital, which is another major project for Bacolod City.

The senator said there have been many issues raised on why build a cultural center instead of a hospital.

Zubiri said he already asked the DPWH for the program of works and will make sure that it will be included in the 2022 General Appropriations Act.

"Bacolod needs a city hospital, especially with what happened during this pandemic. We saw that we need it in times of emergencies and even natural calamities," he said, adding that "the hospital will become a reality just like the cultural center."

It can be recalled that the Senate Committee on Health and Demography chaired by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go already approved House Bill 6731 authored by Lone District of Bacolod Representative Greg Gasataya, along with Senate Bill 1647, which was filed by Zubiri last July, establishing the Bacolod City General Hospital in October this year.

Zubiri said they are just waiting for the committee report from the office of Go so the bill can be passed as a law.

"If he [Go] can provide us with the committee report, I commit that within three weeks, I will pass and approve it as a republic act," he said, adding that they will then allocate the budget for the hospital development.

"I just need to know the budget, whether it's P300 million or P400 million, we will put it immediately in the 2022 budget and then the start of the construction follows," Zubiri said.

The senator added they were not able to allocate fund for the establishment of a city hospital for Bacolod in the 2021 national budget because the bill has yet to be passed into law.

He, however, expressed confidence that by January 2021, the bill will already hurdle the Congress and will be up for signing by the President.

"Before the elections in 2022, it will already have an allocation so 'hindi na ito madiskaril,'" Zubiri said.

"We will make that project happen, we will make the hospital for Bacolod City a reality," he said, stressing that he will make sure that this will be a legacy project funded by the national government to free up the city's fund that can be used for other programs like social services.

The city government's main counterpart for the project is the land or area where the hospital will be built.

Leonardia said it has yet to pass through a "nitty-gritty" process before the actual implementation.

"The idea is to maximize the funding from national government," he added.

Gasayata, for his part, thanked Zubiri for his leadership and assistance to the city.

"This leader is a Bacolodnon and a Negrosanon. When we had crisis in the sugar industry, he was there to help us. No ifs and buts, he is always there to help us whenever we have problems," he said in a statement.

The lawmaker recalled that following the committee approval of his bill, Zubiri then committed to help in getting the bill approved into law and funded by the national government.

"His outlook is not just on the cultural aspect and infrastructure but more so in the need of people in terms of health," Gasataya added.