Pacete: The Chinese in Negros

THE recently-held Bacolaodiat Festival is now a major festival in Bacolod City that signifies the Chinese New Year 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. For the Chinese, the dog could mean the “guardian of fortune.” When it barks, it drives the bad spirits away. When it bites, bring the victim to the hospital!

When Silay was the “Paris of Negros” at the turn of the century (1900), the Chinese were there as efficient workers in the “molino de sangre” helping the “hacendados” as “sacadas” to produce the best “muscovado” sugar. They also helped the “maestros de obra” in the construction of the “edificios” (buildings) for the sugar barons.

Some started with “buy and sell business” (empty bottles and scrap iron). The good cooks opened their “panciteria.” Others worked as delivery boys, maids, gardeners, and retailers of household items. Some became big businessmen and sugarcane planters because of hard work. Silaynons still remember names like Bo Ga, Ti Nga, Ong Pue, Bom Pit, Su Moy, Tan Kit, Go Chanco, So Ya, among others.

When economic boom shifted to Bacolod because of the siltation at Silay Port (the longest seaport in Asia… 1.70 km.), some Silay Chinese gradually started business in Bacolod. A strong Chinese community was established in Bacolod that even up to now, they have dominated Bacolod economy… department stores, auto supply, restaurants, rice and corn business, lumber yards, and importation of goods because of their Manila and China connection.

The “buena familias” from Iloilo who popularized the “hacienda” system in Negros even claim that many of them have Chinese ancestry and their business acumen came from their ancestors. The Locsins and the Lacsons have dominant Chinese blood (Sin Lok and Son Lak).

I could still remember in the ‘60s that my Auntie Paquing would buy kitchen wares from Lopue’s Department Store because some Silaynon employees from Barrio Lantad would help her select the best items. The Lopue’s have treated their customers well and have considered their employees as extended members of the family. The Lopue’s are also into scholarship program, housing projects, medical mission, sports program, and other civic concerns.

They have spread their investments in Bacolod and outside Bacolod. They are Chinese who are very comfortable in their adopted city and province. Some Chinese families who are now “very Negrosanon” have married the real Negrosanons and many of them have now Negrosanon family names. They are still active in business, in their chosen professions, and even in politics.

The Negrosanons have learned to patronize the good business of “our Chinese” here. My Tatay Nicolas would always buy tetoron textile for my school uniform from Snow White Department Store for one reason only. The wife of the Chinese owner was his former girlfriend. That could be his “best moment” to make his “best bargain” for the “best thing” that happened in the past.

Cano Tan with his family is doing fine with Campuestohan Mountain Resort. It attracts tourists from all walks of life. He and his wife started only with that “panciteria” that sells the best “pancit guisado.” Soon, Campuestohan will have additional swimming pool, and fifteen dinosaurs are coming from China. King Kong has enemies now!

The “Negros Chinese” have lived up to their culture not only in business but even in the education of their children and grandchildren. They have put up at least two Chinese schools in Bacolod that would prepare their descendants to face realities in life after the preparatory and secondary schools. College education will provide them with degrees but their “Chinese endowment” will remain in their hearts.

When we celebrate BacoLaodiat, let us not just think of the Chinese food and the horrible traffic congestion, but let us also remember that the Negros Chinese Community is also a part of our Big Negros Community. The lion and the dragon dances will make us realize that luck comes only to those who work hard and remain honest in their calling.

Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!


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