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Friday August 17, 2018

Pacete: Sugar, culture and politics in Negros

NEGROS is "Sugar and More" in the "Land of Sweet Surprises". Investors are here in our province because business is good. Tourists come here because of our attractions and favorable peace and order climate. Our political leaders "seem united".

Investors and visitors coming to Negros should be "au courant" (abreast of) of our past, dominant culture, status of our industry, pervading politics, and the future of the Negrosanons. Some "buena familias" may claim of their semi-feudal origin as confirmed by their Spanish-speaking grandparents.

The Spaniards started with the "encomienda" system, thousands of hectares of land granted by the Royal Crown to loyal soldiers (1632-1755). "Buena familias" from Iloilo started to arrive in our province (1840) to start the "haciendas", large property devoted to sugarcane plantation. The plantation owners started calling themselves "hacendados" (big-time sugarcane planters) or "hacenderos" (not-so-big sugar cane planters).

The landowners called their workers "jornaleros", overseers as "encargados", foremen as "cabos", watchmen as "rondas", transient workers as "sacadas", bookeeper as "tenidores de libro", and the household helpers as "muchachos, muchachas". The regular workers have their nipa-bamboo houses while the "sacadas" were compacted like sardines in a can in their quarters (kwartel).

Harvest may start in the first or second week of October. Activities include cane cutting (tapas), cane point slashing (pamatdan), cane hauling (carga) using "caro" drawn by carabaos to be loaded at the train station, or the cargo trucks will bring the canes direct to the mill.

Activities after the harvest may include clearing of the field (burning and harrowing), plowing for cane point planting, applying of fertilizer, pulling out of weeds (hoe and trowel), repair of canals, and the closing of the field until harvest. No work months are known as "tigkiriwi", especially August ("Tiempo Muerto" or "Time of the Dead").

Those who have been to Political Science class understand that politics is the art and science of "good" government of a state. Many say that politics in Negros is not just festive but also follows a semi-feudal pattern and has become "unique politics". It is a common knowledge that all candidates are spending. Those who win are "more generous" than the others.

All governors (past and present) of Negros Occidental are "hacendados" or "hacenderos". Our towns and cities are surrounded by haciendas. Winning the local elections is "also" determined by the hacienda connection of the candidates. Hacienda workers with social problems do not go direct to the mayor...but to the owner of the hacienda who talks to the mayor.

To understand Negros better, one should visit the haciendas, visit the heritage houses, eat the "hacendero" and the "jornalero" food. It is good to discover that the son of the "hacendero" marries the daughter of another "hacendero". In the "hacienda", the son of the "jornalero" marries the daughter of another "jornalero". The "hacendero-jornalero" marriage is just a comic story from the wild imagination of a desperate writer. The process has not been reversed yet.*


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