Pacete: The Negros sugar story tour

TOURISM is the “in-course” in our colleges and universities. Many young Negrosanons want to be in the frontline of tourism industry. Probably, we have over emphasized our tourism program in towns and cities… or we are simply good at it. This tourism thing is at its peak.

Our college students are now aware that tourism is the “only way” to sell our province to foreign tourists and non-Negrosanons. That could be the reasons why Cebu and Iloilo students are stretching their necks in curiosity to know what we are concocting in Negros. Thanks to the best effort of Tintin Mansinares and her staff at the Provincial Tourism Office.

We are proud that many Negros-based tour operators are giving priority to the “Negros Sugar Story Tour.” We want to project that Negros is the “Land of Sweet Surprises.” What could be surprising in Negros other than “Sugar and More”? The “Negros Sugar Story Tour” will quench the curiosity of the visitors. If you are from Negros, you should know very well your “Negros Sugar Story” first.

Part of what you don’t understand will be answered by our Negros Museum. If you are a Negrosanon and you don’t know yet the history or simply the story of your province, take time to explore what’s inside the Negros Museum. (It is now under repair.) “Sugar Story” and more will inspire you to love your being a Negrosanon. Listen attentively to the museum guide and ask questions for clarification.

In “Negros Sugar Story Tour,” there is the legend of sugarcane. The cane is “saccharumofficinarum.” When the galleon trade ended in 1815, those who were formerly engaged in it began investing in large sugarcane plantations in the provinces. Negros became the country’s principal main sugar producer, and the Negrosanon planters were the wealthiest among the regional elite.

Sugar production increased steadily from then on (according to my source), interrupted only by the Philippine Revolution that did considerable damage to the industry. So, in our term, the tour guide could always say that the “Cinco de Noviembre” event in 1898 was a sweetener to the primitive system of the industry.

By the first decade of the 20th century and the start of the American colonial rule, the sugar industry had recovered and, in fact, had started modernizing. Foreign and domestic investors started constructing modern centrifugal sugar mills in response to a guaranteed U.S. market for Philippine sugar after successful lobbying.

The tour guide should emphasize that when the Philippines was granted commonwealth status in 1934, sugar exports became subject to limited quota instead of unlimited free trade. The quota was later extended under the Laurel-Langley Agreement to last beyond the date of Philippine independence in 1946, and to expire in 1974.

The agreement provided for a progressive reduction in the Philippine duty-free quota, and a gradual shift of sugar exports to the competitive world market. World events in the 1960s, however, shook the sugar market. The rest that would follow in the sugar story could be more exciting. That could be the reason why we need tour guides especially if our visitors are businessmen, media people or researchers.

College and university professors handling tourism classes should focus on this for the additional knowledge of students attending their classes. We have to remember that Negros is a sugar province and we cannot afford that our students will be naive about the industry that builds Negros. Things about the industry are not hard to learn.

Why? Our governor is a sugarcane planter. Our vice governor is a sugarcane planter. Most of the mayors in towns and cities are sugarcane planters. They could be the best source of wisdom about the industry.

Negros tourism has more surprises to give. Negros tourism is sugar tourism. The “Legend of Sugar” is a tragic love triangle story. The “lin-ay” who was the object of two lovers had to die just to become sugarcane. That could be the reason why sugar may not be sweet all the time.

In the tour, we have to consider the participation of hacienda workers in their semi-feudal habitat, the role of the “hacenderos” in land ownership and “hacienda” management, the desire of the millers to produce the best sugar (and good income), the participation of the local and the world market on this “sunset” industry, and the suffering of the consumers (like us).

You see, our “Negros Sugar Story Tour” is a tour about life in Negros… our birth, our growth, our suffering, our death, and our resurrection. Enjoy the tour!
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