IN OUR continuing studies on heritage research, particularly on historic development foundations in Negros Occidental, we have stressed on the more notable aspects of the early historic roots, and the various aspects of the geographic settings.
We have highlighted the initial onset of the Spanish colonial arrival and the many interesting descriptions of the various pre-Spanish cultural traits of the Negrenses, which were generally similar to the early inhabitants of other Philippine provinces.
Today, we will share the more notable aspects not only of the typical Spanish colonizer but also the interesting background of the early Spanish arrivals starting in 1572 with the arrival of the initial Spanish navigators led by the head of the Spanish colonizers and the Spanish missionaries tasked by the Hispanic government as agents of the sociocultural, spiritual and economic changes among the early Filipinos.
Interestingly, the first areas in Negros visited by the Spanish colonizers were in the south west coast of the island and was shortly made the first Spanish mission under the Augustinian priests in what is now the areas of Binalbagan and Ilog. In the following years, more missions were established to attract the Datus and other prominent people in the local barangays due to their influence on the population, the fear of pirate raids, the superior arm of the Spanish, and the expectations of other concerns.
In this early report by the Spanish writer Miguel de Loarca, Negros was described as already engaging in 1582 in tradings of various agricultural and economic products with nearby Panay Island and even in further places as far as Manila and other places to the north and south of Negros Island including the few initial Chinese merchants already trading in the Philippines.
Socio-economic activities in Negros were moving slowly because of the small population which had not yet attracted more settlers and in fact also disappointed other natives and the visitors from other provinces with the sporadic disease outbreaks, continued pirate raids and interestingly at this period the several eruptions of the Mount Kanlaon Volcano.
By 1622, the initial Recollect missionaries were replaced by the Agustinians in serving the Binalbagan and Ilog areas but which assignments were also taken over shortly by the Jesuits with the settlements increasing faster in Kabankalan, Ilog, Himamaylan, Cauayan, Sipalay and other nearby areas.
When the Jesuits unfortunately were expelled in 1767 due to church conflicts, the Dominicans took over the missions in Negros which they gradually turned over to the Seculars or native priests. It is notable that the native seculars gave much support in encouraging agriculture especially with the growing cultivation of the sugar industry in Negros.
At this time, Bishop Romualdo Gimeno of the Cebu Diocese sent back the Recoletos to Negros on June 20, 1848. Ten years earlier, the Negros population was 35, 622 but by 1848 it had increased to71,722 and the population increase led to the creation of more missions with more parishioners needing spiritual and socio-economic services.
Notably, basic public facilities were limited and because of these problems the newly returned Recollect missionaries tried to serve the government and the natives in bringing about more spiritual and also social and economic improvements. These efforts were particularly led by the well-loved missionary, Fr. Fernando Cuenca, in the establishment of the many sociocultural, technical and economic and health services for the native populations.
In our various earlier columns, we have also highlighted essential information useful to various researchers involved in the different aspects of the history, culture and the arts of the local and even some foreign visitors.
Thus, we have highlighted the basic roles of historical heritage in the various cultural activities in the country and even emphasized the participation of the citizenry in these important concerns.
For these reasons, our column wishes to particularly appreciate the writings of various authors in different organizations who were helping with the research and publications on Philippine heritage at this time in history. We will continue with these developments in our coming columns.