The Negrenses are a blend of different people from various parts of the country. They are descendants of rich Spanish families and people who migrated during the fortune-seeking decades of the late Spanish and US colonial eras and are now settled in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Siquijor.
Regarded as affectionate, generous, fun-loving, and having the proclivity for the finer things in life, Negrenses number around 3.9 million in the Visayan region. Sugar manufacturing is central to their culture.
Due to being a blend of different people from many parts of the country, the Negrense people comprise speakers of different languages, with Cebuano as the predominant language. In particular, the people of the northwestern half (Negros Occidental) are majorly Hiligaynon-speaking, while the southeastern half (Negros Oriental) are majorly Cebuano-speaking. As for other Negrenses, Magahat and Ati descendants who have interacted and made intermarriages with colonial-era migrants from Iloilo and Antique are speakers of the Magahat language, a language highly influenced by Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a. Other Negrenses are the Panayan highlanders’ descendants who speak the Sulod language, and the indigenous Carolan descendants in Kabankalan who continue to speak the Carolan language.
Sugar plantations used to be the main industry in Negros. This is why the rich Spanish families there became even wealthier as they made their fortune from this industry.
Aside from producing sugar, Negrenses are also known as weavers of wonderful hablons. This Visayan native fabric is fashioned into tube-like multi-purpose garments called patadyong, as well as into shawls, scarves, and bags. These traditional goods were mainly woven in Central Tabao, which has always been the focal point of hand-loomed fabrics in Negros Occidental.
Accordingly, the Negrense labor force is described as highly motivated, skilled, educated, trainable, and entrepreneurial.
The Affectionate, Fun-Loving, and Affluent Negrenses
The Negrenses were heavily influenced by Spanish and American occupations in the past. During these times, when most of Negros and Siquijor were welcoming immigrants from different regions of the country, the sugar industry took root in Negros, thus placing sugar as the central theme of the evolution of Negrense culture. It brought affluence and prosperity to the province, nourishing charming, gentle, and sometimes lavish Negrenses (this last trait setting them apart from their Ilonggo kinsman).
In connection with this, the present Negrense society has been, from its inception, heavily stratified with the seasonal sacada laborers, the settled dumaan farmhands, the millers, and the landowning hacienderos. The mid-1970s implosion of the export-dependent sugar industry gradually blurred these distinctions, although they were not completely erased.
Furthermore, with the sugar industry central to Negrense identity, it is of no surprise that their pastries and confectioneries are equally celebrated in the country. Examples of these are their piaya, barquillos, butong-butong, dulce gatas, guapple pie, panyo-panyo, pastel de mangga, and pinasugbo; all sweets that are favorites not only in Negros but of the general populace. Their pastilles de durian and pili nuts can also give Davao and Bacolod Regions a run for their money.
Apart from the sweet food, Negrenses also boast of their famous chicken inasal, which is the highlight of their celebrations. They are also widely popular for cooking mouth-watering cuisines bachoy, binakol, cansi, and kadyos. These delectable dishes go well with their alcoholic beverages lumboy wine from Siquijor and rum from Negros.
Speaking of celebrations, the fun-loving Negrenses manifest their joie de vivre through their well-known local festivals MassKara Festival of Bacolod, Pasalamat Festival of La Carlota, Bailes de Luces of La Castellana, and Pintaflores Festival of San Carlos, to name a few. These festivals showcase the Christian side of Negrenses, as Christianity is the predominant religion in the region, particularly Roman Catholicism.
The wealth and affluence of Negrense families are exhibited through their famous constructions such as the popular landmarks Palacio Episcopal (built in 1930), San Sebastian Cathedral (built in 1876), and the Capitol Building (built in 1931). Together with various churches, these sophisticated structures can all be found in Negros Occidental. Not only that, but one of Negros Occidental’s cities, Silay, has fine examples of sugar barons’ palatial homes, with the most famous being the first established museum Balay Negrense. Steam engine enthusiasts from all over the world also get to fawn over their steam locomotives that were used to cart sugarcane from the fields to refineries.
Betsy Negrense. The Spirit of Hablon Weaves on
Wikipedia. Balay Negrense
Negros Occidental. People, Culture and Arts
USA Today. Customs & Traditions in Negros Occidental, Philippines