LOOKING back to the historic arrival of the Spanish colonizers from 1521 to 1898, followed by the American colonial period from 1899 to 1946, we recall the Japanese shorter occupation of Negros and the Philippines from 1941 to 1945. The Japanese forces in Negros concentrated their efforts on the exploitation of the natural resources and the Japanese propaganda efforts to win Filipino cooperation. They maintained garrisons in major cities and conducted punitive operations against the guerillas in the mountains.
They were also strongly involved in exploiting the resources of the country especially for the production of alcohol, cotton, minerals and other natural resources. Despite the gravity of the Japanese occupation, the colonizers greatly exploited the wealth of the Philippines.
By the end of 1944, the Japanese had constructed airfields in Negros, specifically in Bacolod, Silay, Saravia, Sagay, Cadiz, La Carlota, Talisay, Victorias, Himamaylan, Tanjay and Dumaguete. The Japanese also opened their own schools for pilot training as well as for ground and naval troops.
Likewise, they doubled their efforts at collecting scrap iron, sugar, palay, alcohol, aviation gasoline and aircraft equipment. All these made the Japanese army recruit thousands of laborers in Negros as well as in other provinces. These exploitations of the resources of Negros and the Philippines became very punitive and strengthened the efforts of Negros and the country to eventually attain liberation which became a stronger motivation for the efforts of the nation by 1945.
After the American attacks in Luzon, the Japanese were realizing that the heroic efforts for liberation by Filipinos led to the retreat of many Japanese forces in the face of the combined strengths of the American forces arrival and the Philippine guerilla forces. With these developments, the American landed in Pulupandan on March 29, 1945 and together with the Negros guerillas which had liberated already much of Negros. While Negrenses rejoiced at the return of the American forces, they also realized the heavy cost of the relatively brief Japanese occupation with the destruction to people’s lives, properties and livelihood. The cost of the war led to the deaths of countless civilians caught in the crossfires together with the Japanese frenzy as they realized their defeat. Apart from the deaths of civilians, countless other Negrenses also died of various diseases. Notably, the relatively short Japanese rule led to a coming together of various sectors in Negros society and the alliance of workers to the elite-led resistance which were for the welfare of civilians, their belief in the American return and the brutality of the Japanese which made Filipinos resist the Japanese occupation. The greatest destruction during the war were the thousands of public buildings and civilian homes. In the end, Negros society as with the rest of the country survived the war. When the American liberation forces landed at the beaches of Pulupandan on March 29, 1945, the Japanese had already started retreating. In fact, as the Americans were moving towards Bacolod and northern Negros, they saw many Negrenses welcoming them and the Negros guerillas which had already liberated many towns along the way as the Americans pursued the retreating Japanese to the mountainous areas of Patag in Silay where they made their last stand until their eventual surrender in1945. The surrender ceremony was held in Barrio Sta. Rosa, Murcia on August 31, 1945. In the end, Negros society as with the rest of the Philippines survived the war and people returned to their towns and resumed their normal lives.