Nineteenth-century chronicler Licinio Ruiz mentions Amblan, a settlement said to have been named after a superior kind of guava. The town was made a parish independent of Tanjay in 1848, was renamed New Ayuquitan in 1912, became Amlan after WW II.
Amlan is a leisurely 15-minute cruise from Dumaguete City.
Its Church of St Andrew the Apostle, completed in 1853 (and said to have taken 50 yeas to build) is the centerpiece of the town’s tourism picture while providing photo-opportunists with a colonial period backdrop. The ruins of watch-towers against the moro depredations of old can still be seen in Buswang and near the mouth of the Amlan River; and two others near the school building of Ayuquitan and barrio Calo.
Amlan’s unique crowd-drawer is the Budyas Festival which begins on the Tandayag pier with a traditional ritual blessing of fishing implements and the elaborately-decorated fleet which then ferries the patron’s image in a fluvial procession to the chapel in Tandayag North.
For nature attractions, there is the serene Tambojangin River for freshwater swims and the splashy three-tiered Naibid Falls in Jantianon.
Amlan’s economy is anchored on fishing, copra and sugar cane, and its bustling Tandayag wharf, which is the seaport-of-call for Tañon Strait crossers from Cebu. The Province’s fuel and LPG supply is stored in depots nearby. Cottage industries produce mats, baskets, bamboo furniture, and buricraft.
Population – 19,227
Fiesta – St. Andrew the Apostle, November 30
Mayor – HON. BENTHAM P. de la CRUZ
Visitor Facilities – La Boca, Escosa’s, Amlan Paradise Resort
It is said that Ayungon is derived from the name of a deaf man, “Ayung,” who cut down a “dungon” tree. Old municipal profiles refer to Ayungon as Todos los Santos though there are no legends to explain that Hispanic name, just as there are no tales elaborating on the ruins of apparently Hispanic fortifications on the Tampocon II shoreline, perhaps because Ayungon’s colonial past was not entirely its own: for many years it was a mere barrio of Tayasan, until 1924 when Governor General Leonard Wood came to establish Ayungon as a full-fledged municipality.
Although firing up its economic dynamos to catch up with provincial developments, Ayungon retains its rural charm through vast and scenic rice fields, dense coconut groves and expansive plantations of sugar cane, bananas and pineapple.
Of only three virgin forests said to be still remaining on Negros Island, one is located in Banban, Ayungon. Nature lovers will be regaled by sightings in the Karalaon Bird Sanctuary, the subterranean drama of the Mabato Caves, and the postcard-pretty Pagsalsalan Twin Falls.
Ayungon is located on the midriff of Oriental Negros’ northern stretch, approximately two hours from Dumaguete City.
Population – 40,744
Fiesta – San Isidro Labrador, May 15
Mayor – HON. EMARIE P. AGUSTINO
The Province’s first town to the south of the capital may be its smallest, but it has some big things going for it. Its church of San Agustin, for one, has Oriental Negros’ tallest belfry, oldest main altar with gold-leafing and painted friezes, and a pipe organ from Zaragoza, Spain, installed in 1898 shortly before the revolution against Spain broke out in Oriental Negros. The only other pipe organ of similar provenance is found in Bohol. With its reasonably well-preserved complex including churchyard and convent (ca 1850), San Agustin of Bacong is one of the 26 colonial churches all over the country selected for restoration by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Bacong’s historical importance is well-monumented: it is the birthplace of Oriental Negros’ hero and only Katipunero – General Pantaleon Villegas, aka Leon Kilat, who’s birthday is celebrated every July 27.
Barrio Isugan was site of a battle between Filipino and American soldiers.
Points of touristic interest are a string of beaches the length of the Bacong shoreline, sinamay handlooms, and the Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage (NOAH) which produces export quality stonecraft furniture, jewel boxes and fashion accessories.
One of the town’s bigger barangays, San Miguel, marks its local fiesta with a unique Sinulog de San Miguel, where the archangel and his heavenly army are depicted battling the forces of evil.
Population – 23,219
Fiesta – St. Augustine of Hippo, August 28
Mayor – HON. LENIN P. ALVIOLA
Visitor Facilities – Talisay Beach Park, Flight Resort
In 1918 the Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas SA, or Tabacalera, established its first sugar mill in the Philippines in Bais, thus making the area the cradle of Oriental Negros’ sugar industry. The Central Azucarera de Bais still has some old Baldwin hauling trains lounging by its Casa Grande, the historic manor where President Manuel L Quezon, en route to Australia, once stayed with his cabinet.
The sugar cane plantations of Bais sprawl down from mountains to beaches fringed by mangroves and mudflats which nurse a largesse of crustaceans and fish including the popular danggit siganids. Bais is named after a freshwater eel which flourishes in the area.
Bais began as a mere visita under the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Tanjay. Its church has two of the oldest bells in the Province. One is inscribed
1890, the year Oriental Negros became a Province with Baisanon Demetrio Larena as first governor.
Bais became Oriental Negros’ third city in 1968. Bais Bay has one of the biggest concentrations of dolphins and pygmy sperm whales in the region. Take a dolphinwatch tour operated by the City Government. Sightings are not assured but the cruise itself is an exhilirating experience.
Three days before fiesta, catch the elaborate floats and costumes of the Hudyaka sa Bais, a spectacular home-grown mardi gras. Fiesta usually brings on an exciting horsefight. During the Christmas season the Bais plaza is ablaze with lighted décor.
Travel time is approximately an hour from Dumaguete City.
Population – 68,115
Fiesta – San Nicolas de Tolentino, September 10
Mayor – HON. HECTOR C. VILLANUEVA
Visitor Facilities – Bahia de Bais, La Planta, Elly’s Place, La Perla Lodge
Upon its separation from Bayawan in 1971, Basay became Oriental Negros’ southernmost town, with Negros Occidental at its rear. Diocesan chronicles reveal that it was already a far-flung outpost in the nineteenth century. It perked up in the 70s when CDCP and INKO arrived to mine its copper and iron magnetite.
Basay is agricultural, with sugar cane, rice, corn and copra as major crops. Fringing its shoreline is the Mindanao Sea, considered the richest fishing waters in the country.
Three major rivers running parallel from north to south traverse the town. Balatong Point, also known as Punta Tambongon, was the landing site of a submarine bearing the biggest shipment of WWII ammunition for the Oriental Negros Oriental. The party was headed by Col Jesus Villamor, acting on the personal direction of Gen Douglas McArthur who was then in Australia.
The coves and shallow caves on the shoreline of Nagbo-alao are said to be enchanted. The Negros cave frog is endemic to Basay. Its Pagatban River is home to the alligator. Bal-os and Cabcaban springs are important sources of potable water as well as sunny picnic sites. Yardahan is a fishing village with fine swimming areas and game-fishing activities.
Basay is approximately a two-hour-and-a-half drive from Dumaguete City.
Population – 21,366
Fiesta – San Nicolas de Tolentino, March 18
Mayor – HON. BEDA L. CAÑAMAQUE
Designated a municipality in 1872, Bayawan was fused with adjacent Tolong (now Santa Catalina) to make Tolong Nuevo in 1903. The two towns were separated in 1945, and Bayawan reclaimed its former name in 1948. Legend has it that the priest was slain by a native at the high point of the Mass, just as he was elevating the host, “bayaw sa ostiya,” thus – Bayawan.
Bayawan was proclaimed as a chartered city, the first in Oriental Negros’ Third District, on December 24, 2000, hence its new renown as the Province’s “Christmas City.”
In terms of land area (69,908 has), Bayawan City is also the largest on Negros Island. This fertile vastness is planted to corn, coconuts and sugar cane, but the traditional crop is palay, which explains the predominance of rice-based delicacies (the Bayawan pasalubong of choice is the baye-baye of glutinous rice mashed with grated coconut and sugar) and the birth in the 80s of the Tawo-Tawo Festival, a throbbing celebration of the scarecrow (tawo-tawo) as the guardian of the crops. The Tawo-Tawo used to prelude the town fiesta of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, but the festivities have moved to December 24, the City Charter Day, and so has the Tawo-Tawo Festival to December 23. This adds pageantry to the huge lighted belens that hem the plaza during the Christmas season.
As Oriental Negros’ premier southern town, with highway connections to the other side of the island, Bayawan developed as a melting pot of tongues and cultures. Cityhood has fast-tracked urbanization, but the vaster picture remains rural, with vast farms adorned by herons and cane fields bristling down to the backsides of posh shops. Skin-and-scuba diving are launched from sandy beaches where the sunsets are spectacular. Major tourism attractions are found in verdant hinterlands, among these the low cascades of Mag-aso and the towering Niludhan Falls. The wide Pagatban River boasts a crocodile or two to enhance its laid-back charm.
Bayawan City is about two hours by public conveyance from Dumaguete City.
Population – 101,391
Fiesta – Santo Tomas de Villanueva, December 24
Mayor – HON. GERMAN P. SARAÑA JR
Visitor Facilities – Bayawan Pension, La Vista del Mar, Casa Rosario, Galsim’s Inn
Oriental Negros’ lone municipality named after a native of distinction , Bindoy started out as barrio Payabon of Manjuyod. In 1949, President Elpidio Quirino separated it as the Municipality of Bindoy. Hermenegildo “Bindoy” Villanueva was, at various times, governor of Oriental Negros, congressman of the First District, Labor Secretary of the Quezon cabinet, and senator of the Republic.
Less than two hours’ drive from Dumaguete City, Bindoy is known as the hub of the First Negros Oriental Electric Cooperative, which energizes the northern towns. It’s principal produce are copra, rice and corn, sugar cane, mangoes; and quantities of bamboo, pandan and romblon, tikog, buri, maguey and abaca to support cottage industries.
Bindoy’s Bulod flatstones are weighty export items, their quarrying makes for an interesting sight. Bindoy’s mangroves salute nature conservationists, as do dainty Mantahaw Falls and limpid Mantahaw Lake.
The annual Libod-Sayaw sa Bindoy, with streetdancing based on folk dances, is a colorful highlight of the town fiesta.
Population – 34,773
Fiesta – San Vicente Ferrer, April 5
Mayor – HON. ROSA Y. PARAS
At over 8,000 feet, Mt Kanlaon is among the highest peaks in the country. On its northeastern slopes Canlaon City nestles, staking Oriental Negros’ claim to a small fraction of the legend-shrouded volcano.
Canlaon began as sitio Mabigo of Vallehermoso, the settlement carved from the northern wilderness by Diego de la Viña, before he led the Negros Oriental revolution against Spain in 1898. In 1946, President Manuel Roxas created Mabigo and its surrounding sitios as the town of Canlaon. The following year, more barrios of Vallehermoso were annexed to it. In 1967, Canlaon was inaugurated as Oriental Negros’ second city.
Canlaon’s bounty includes sugar cane, rice, and vegetables. The Pasayaw Festival is staged each March in thanksgiving for the harvest.
The City’s irregular terrain, averaging 3,000 feet above sea level, keeps it at an altitude that ensures year-round coolness. The City encompasses an ecotourist’s paradise. The volcano itself is a classic mountaineer’s challenge, replete with surprises. Since the 19th century, thousands have trekked to its crater, some of them to observe impending or ongoing eruptions. Of Mt Kanlaon’s numerous waterfalls on the Oriental jurisdiction, the most fascinating are Inihawan, Sandugan; and the Padudusan Falls which features natural waterslides for thrill-seekers.
The OISCA Model Farm, directed by Japanese technicians, introduced terraced rice fields to the Province, along with crop diversification. An immense tree with a massive trunk is reputed to be the oldest in the country.
Population – 46,548
Fiesta – St. Joseph, March 19
Mayor – HON. JUDITH B. CARDENAS
Visitor Facilities – Canlaon City Pension House, Midway Lodge
Origin of Name: There are three versions, the first two being interrelated; first, there was a majestic tree that towered over all trees that the Spaniards asked for its name, which was Calawin. Second, the natives believed that the Calawin was the home of the supernatural beings, called “Dawinde”, who gave help to those in need but could be seen only in such situations. The third, natives used to cultivate the lands into banana plantations. The bananas were sold not by bunch or by fingers but by hands, which were locally called “Lawing”.
An association of Japanese divers once named Apo Island of Dauin town one of the ten best divesites in the world. The 72-hectare volcanic outcrop on Oriental Negros’ eastern horizon has placed Dauin in the world tourism map. It is an international favorite, attracting large numbers of scuba-and-snorkel enthusiasts to its magnificent underwater gardens and colorful marine life.
While the island barangay is Dauin’s principal tourism lure, the town’s beaches are the locus of some of the most popular resorts in the Province, from the upscale to the budget-friendly, all catering to the foreign market, all gazing at Apo Island. Occasional sorties to Dauin’s marine reserves can also be arranged.
The town’s largely unspoiled hinterlands loll up into the Mt Talinis Geothermal Reserve, where fumarolic activity can be observed on Mag-Aso and the Malungcay Hot Springs.
Dauin’s colonial Church of San Nicolas is regarded as the Province’s oldest. In front of the church and along the beach are the ruins of two dome-shaped watchtowers said to have been used to warn against pirates.
Population – 21,077
Fiesta – San Nicolas de Tolentino, September 10
Mayor – HON. RODRIGO A. ALANANO
Visitor Facilities – Apo Island Resort and Liberty’s Guesthouse, Apo Island; Atlantis Dive Resort, El Dorado, Puerto Cita, VIP Resort Private Residence
A map dated 1572, attributed to Diego Lope Povedano, a member of the Legaspi expedition of that same year, identifies a large area as “Dananguet.” Murillo Velarde is credited with first using the name “Dumaguete” in 1734. There are stories of moro marauders who regularly plundered the town, taking away captives, thus, “daguit” and “dumaguit,” the act of snatching away.
Early Dumaguete was administered from Tanjay. It was established as an independent parish in 1620. The landmark belfry of the Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria was completed about 1811 as both belltower and look-out for moro pirates.
Other landmark institutions are Silliman University, the first Protestant University in the country, founded 1901; and St Paul College Dumaguete, the first St Paul de Chartres institution in the Philippines, founded 1904. A number of other academic institutions bolster Dumaguete’s repute as a “university town.” Its more popular epithet is “City of Gentle People.”
Quezon Park is the green heart of downtown, Rizal Boulevard is the city’s favorite promenade and site of its premier visitor accommodations and night life.
Dumaguete has been Oriental Negros’ capital since 1890, when the Province was created. As the Province’s gateway and service center, Dumaguete’s metropolitan sprawl reaches north, south and west to adjacent towns, affording visitors a close encounter with some of the finest nature attractions of Oriental Negros.
Dumaguete’s Santacruzan Festival in May is a unique event involving movie stars and local beauties, and colorful streetdancing. The Sandurot Festival highlighting the city fiesta begins on the beachfront with a ritual welcoming the various cultural strains that came to enrich the city’s character, followed by moving pageantry.
Population – 102,265
Fiesta – St. Catherine of Alexandria, November 25.
Mayor – HON. AGUSTIN R. PERDICES
Accommodations (minimum 20 rooms) – Bethel Guest House, Dumaguete Pension House, El Oriente Beach Resort, Plaza Maria Luisa Suites Inn, Sta Monica Beach Resort, Worldview Pension Plaza, Vintage Inn, La Residencia Al Mar, OK Pensionne, Harold’s Mansion
A recent photographic expedition to Guihulngan brought back some remarkable shots of numerous geologic formations in Hinakpan that resemble the Chocolate Hills of a neighboring island. Also documented were the fascinating Kinayan Caves and Falls, and the Ampulangan and Mantahao Lakes, ample evidence of Guihulngan’s abundant tourism assets other than the already popular Hilaitan Tree House and McKinley Beach. There are more unexplored and intact caves in Calupaan, Bulado and Tacpao barangays.
Guihulngan began as a mere mision. It was only in 1856 that the Recollects established it as a parish. The town underwent a turbulent history of conflagrations and moro depradations. After each sacking, the moros beheaded some of the natives and threw their bodies into the sea, thus, “guinhulugan,” the place where something was dropped. As headquarters of the East Negros Sector of the Seventh Military Division, it was the scene of fierce battles that reduced it to a wasteland at the conclusion of WWII. Today it has the third largest population in the Province and some of the most progressive developments in the Negros Oriental, including its opening up as the northern gateway with a major seaport welcoming traffic from Cebu.
The town produces copra, sugar cane, rice and corn, tobacco, and soybeans. It is also the major supplier of pandan and abaca basketry to domestic and out-of-town markets.
Population – 83,448
Fiesta – Nuestra Señora de Buensuceso, May 25
Mayor – HON. ERNESTO A. REYES
Visitor Facilities – Midtown Beach Resort, Jing Paras Beach Resort, Serion Beach Resort, in McKinley; Talisay Beach Resort, Ganahan Beach Resort in Brgy T-Beach; Dive Negros, J&I Beach Resort in Hilaitan; Sunrise View Beach Resort in Poblacion; Barba Beach Resort, Paras Beach Resort in Malusay.
Boundless sugar cane fields, typical of the northern landscape, green Jimalalud most months of the year. It has reported rich deposits of coal, copper, iron and related compounds of magnetite, pyrites and marcasite, but the lodes remain untouched.
A Spanish soldier was said to have asked a native the name of the place, indicating the area. The native thought he was referring to a tree, and so informed the soldier that the tree was called a “hambabalud.”
In the late 1800s the Recollects built here a convent of hardwoods, an imposing structure that was reputed to be the biggest convent in the Province for over a quarter of a century. The Revolution against Spain compelled the friars to leave and the convent fell into disrepair. Jimalalud was made a town independent of Tayasan in 1910. In 1944 WWII guerillas burned down the entire town, leaving Jimalalud without a historical landmark standing. Barrio Bankal was the seat of the 7th District Government during World War II.
The pageantry of its revived Sinulog keeps Jimalalud’s religious and cultural heritage alive in a colorful way. Fiesta time and other special occasions usually bring on the town’s stallions for the exciting, if brutal, spectacle of the Paaway sa Kabayo.
Most times, Jimalalud is serene and green, and the plaza is the picturesque public space for imbibing the town’s pastoral ambience.
Population – 26,756
Fiesta – Santo Niño, January 15
Mayor – HON. REYNALDO V. TUANDA
The early settlement was called Hinoba-an, a barrio of Jimalalud. One story has it renamed as La Libertad to mark the residents’ successful repulse of the marauding brigands that regularly plundered the north at that time. Another has a prominent citizen pressing for the renaming to immortalize his liberation, by Hinoba-an natives, from the hands of tulisanes. The name La Libertad is also said to celebrate the local guerillas’ victorious resistance efforts during WWII. La Libertad attained the status of municipality in 1919. It was created a parish in 1935.
Although typically rural, with expanses of sugar cane fields and farms producing corn, copra, peanuts, soybeans and copra, La Libertad has areas of uncommon drama such as the Daras-an Range and Pacuan Valley, the plateaus of Bagtic and Eli, and Hinoba-an River. Among its recently discovered tourism assets are Mambulotan Springs and the caves of Pacuan, Danao and the so-called Marble Cave named after its unusual striated sculptural folds.
La Libertad’s Francisco Absin Memorial Park was the top awardee in the 1952 National Community Beautification Contest.
Population – 35,122
Fiesta – San Sebastian, April 28
Mayor – HON. LAWRENCE D. LIMKAICHONG
Visitor Facility – Opada’s Beach Resort
Folklore has it that the beautiful Binay fell in love with the son of her father’s rival chieftain. Her father ended the affair by having her lover killed. Binay grieved. Mother Nature took the weeping maiden into her bosom. Where Binay was laid to rest, a spring broke forth. She weeps to this day, feeding Mabinay Spring, one of the town’s many alluring attractions.
A more intimate visit to Mabinay will indeed take you to her bosom. This is spelunker’s heaven: over 100 known caves, including the popular Pandalihan, Panligawan and Gasidlak, each one with its own distinctive features ranging from fascinating to awesome. A team of Belgian and Dutch cavers determined Odloman Cave to be the second longest in the Philippines.
Mabinay was carved from barrios of Bais and created a municipality in 1960. In 1966 more barrios of Bais and Manjuyod were annexed to enlarge it. Mabinay produces rice and corn, copra, soybeans and peanuts. Its principal crop, sugar cane, makes it an important member of the north’s sugar district. It is a border town: the Provincial Highway runs through it and links Negros Oriental with its sister province.
A rolling terrain makes exploration of this interior town a ruggedly charming experience. Travel from Dumaguete City is about two hours.
Population – 64,451
Fiesta – Santo Niño, January 25
Mayor – HON. ENOZARIO T. BALDOZA
Visitor Facility – Tirambulo Highland Resort
An Augustinian Recollect, Fr Antonio Moreno, is credited with creating Manjuyod: he spearheaded construction of its town hall, laid out the plaza and municipal streets. When he inaugurated the church and convent in 1850, Manjuyod was considered born. Fr Moreno opened more roads to the north, paving the way for the creation of sitios like Payabon and Ayungon. As Manjuyod grew, its most progressive barrio was separated in 1872 as the town of Bais.
Old stories are told of the brave residents who repulsed moro invaders, some of whom were killed and their bodies displayed in a state of rigor mortis, “na-nuy-od.”
Manjuyod is best known for the salty (the salt beds of the SyCip Plantation and the White Sand Bar that vanishes at high tide) and the sweet (its succulent mangoes and the URSUMCO millsite which makes Manjuyod the hub of the northernmost sugar district).
Sugar cane is a major crop, supplemented by copra and simple fishing, bangus and prawns and, of course, what it claims to be the plumpest, sweetest mangoes on this side of the island.
The White Sand Bar is a popular site for swimming and picnics. The Kauswagan Bridge is a tall span with bungee possibilities, while the Himampangon Caves have anthropological secrets waiting to be revealed.
Manjuyod’s crunchy biscocho de caña is a must pasalubong item.
Population – 37,863
Fiesta – St Francis of Assisi, October 4
Mayor – HON. AMOR A. BALDADO
Visitor Facilities – Carmela Beach, Aroma Beach Resort
Barrio Tampa of Tanjay reminded the parish priest of his Pamplona hometown in Spain: Tampa spilled about the foot of Cambunyao mountain just as Pamplona sprawls at the foot of the Pyrenees. And so, they say, he renamed the place Pamplona. Historians recount that in 1898, as the forces of Gen de la Viña marched from Vallehermoso, the barrio revolutionaries seized the convent, subdued the Spanish civil guards, and thus eased the passage of the main force.
“Sherwood Forest” in barrio Mamburao was the site of the guerilla headquarters of the Tanjay-Amlan-Bais sector.
Pamplona attained the status of municipality in 1950.
One of the three Negros Oriental towns without a shoreline to its name, Pamplona has numerous assets in its hinterlands including the placid Pamplona River and the fan-shaped Palaypay Falls. The Pamplona Plantation Golf and Tourism Estate combines putting greens and residential spaces in an elevated sprawl with lots of sky, meadows, and a bruited 100,000 coconut trees. Pamplona’s fertile croplands are planted extensively to sugar cane, rice, and corn.
Pamplona’s Kasulad Festival gives thanks to the farm tools and implements that ensure its abundant harvests.
Population – 32,790
Fiesta – Our Lady of the Pillar
Mayor – HON. APOLINARIO P. ARNAIZ JR.
Visitor Facilities – Pamplona Plantation Golf and Country Club
Just next door to the capital, Sibulan is the site of important institutions and operations. You will find here the Province’s air terminal, the headquarters of the PNP, the Convento de la Virgen de las Maravillas y San Jose, the Diocesan St Joseph Seminary College, the Diocesan radio station DYWC, Orient Foods which processes dried fruit for export, the upscale San Antonio Village, the Province’s pioneer golf course, and Dream Park resort. Sibulan’s Camp Lily Gamo was the venue of the 37th National GSP Encampment in 1988. Every 13th of the month pilgrims from everywhere flock to the Church of St Anthony of Padua, whose June 13 feastday is celebrated with an extravagant fluvial procession.
Sibulan’s Agan-an and Cangmating beaches are popular picnic sites and the locus of skimboarding and the annual Sandcastle Building competitions. The town plaza, a model for beautification of public spaces, sways to the rhythm of ballroom dancing Friday nights. The jewel in Sibulan’s tourism crown is, of course, the Twin Lakes Balinsasayao and Danao, 18 kilometers west and 1,000 meters above sea level. Its rich biodiversity continues to reward researchers, mountaineers, and nature-lovers, even as its placid waters feed the geothermal reserves that energize Oriental Negros. Discovery of the Twin Lakes is attributed to Don Miguel Patero, and the date given is 1885. The densely forested area was the meeting place to unite the Province’s guerilla forces of WWII.
Barangay Lo-oc was the site of the first Fil-Jap encounter in Oriental Negros, which took place on October 11, 1942. Lo-oc Beach was where the American Liberation Forces, under the command of Col W V Mahoney, landed on April 26, 1945.
The town has two festivals: the municipal Gapnod, and the Yag-Yag Festival of barangay Cangmating.
The Sibulan visit is a mere ten-minute cruise from Dumaguete City.
Population – 37,523
Fiesta – San Antonio de Padua, June 13
Mayor – HON. ANTONIO D. RENACIA
Often referred to as the rice bowl of the Province, Siaton’s terrain is more than flat paddies. The town has one of the largest areas in the south, sweeping dramatically down from distant mountains through the rolling Bonbonon range into the lengthy shoreline where the Mindanao Sea has carved such ruggedly beautiful white beaches in Tambubo, Antulang and the Si-it Cove which is both fishing village and berthing haven to international seafarers.
Tucked into its interiors are the enchanting Giligaon and Balangawan Falls, and the figure 8-shaped Balanan Lake.
Old folks say Siaton was founded on the shore between Canaway and Siaton Rivers by one of the ten datus who migrated from Borneo with Puti and Sumakwel. The name is said to derive from a certain native called Aton who was believed to possess mysterious powers.
The Siaton Parish itself was instituted only in 1848, under the patronage of St Nicholas de Bari. Surprisingly, the fiesta highlight is a ritual of pagan provenance, the Inagta, featuring dark-painted performers imitating the movements of certain wildlife, starting at the portals of the church just after the fiesta Mass and wending its way along well-paved municipal streets to private residences.
The Bonbonon range, which has undergone massive greening, supplements Siaton’s economy with vast sugar cane plantations and agro-forestry.
Barrio Casala-an was the seat of the 6th District Civil Government during World War II. In Bonbonon Point, also referred to by the natives as Pirate’s Cove, the PC Coastal Patrol suffered its first calamity on February 7,1942, when their boat was shelled and sunk by a Japanese destroyer.
Siaton is an hour from Dumaguete City.
Population – 64,258
Fiesta – San Nicolas de Bari, December 6
Mayor – HON. VINCENT EMIL T. ARBOLADO
Visitor Facility – Antulang Beach Resort
Miguel de Loarca, a member of the 1572 Legaspi expedition, was said to have encountered in the southern coast of Negros Island three warring settlements called Lunsod, Secopan and Cawitan. The colonists imposed peace, addressing the fractious chiefs as Kamo tolon, “You three,” eventually corrupted into Tolong, the old name of the town that was fused with next door Bayawan in 1849 by the Augustinians to facilitate administration, and then separated and established as an independent municipality in 1948.
Santa Catalina is predominantly fishing and the vastest sugarlands in the south, where the lone sugar central, HTCI, straddles the town’s border with Bayawan City. Santa Catalina is also the site of Camp Placido Ausejo, headquarters of the 337th PC Company. The concrete span over Sicopong River is considered the longest in the Province’s south.
In Barangay Milagrosa, the Stations of the Cross, in life-size stone, is deployed on a hilltop. The two-hour trek to this astonishing tableaux is grueling, but the faithful pilgrim will find it rewarding.
Santa Catalina’s Sakobhan Festival, the fiesta highlight, depicts the importance of the sugar industry to the lives of its people.
Population – 67,197
Fiesta – Santa Catalina de Alejandria, April 25
Mayor – HON. RUBEN P. MELODIA
Seven kilometers of attractive shoreline along Tañon Strait give San Jose two of the Province’s shortest take-off points to Cebu – Tampi and Jilocon, where seaports brisk with ferries and barges keep interisland trade and travel busy, bolstering an economy based mainly on sugar cane and rice, copra and cottage crafts. Variety is supplied by farms in Basak where the elevated terrain is planted to fruits.
In terms of population, San Jose is Negros Oriental’s smallest town. It was called Ayuquitan by the Spanish colonizers. They inquired what the place was called. The natives, thinking the strangers were pointing at the pile of husks and chaff, the leftovers of fruits and grains after birds had picked their fill, informed them these were “inokitan.”
The town was a mere visita administered from Amlan since 1850. When the Americans came they fused Ayuquitan with Amlan for administrative expediency. In 1955 it finally gained the status of independent municipality and was renamed San Jose.
Upon its construction in 1952 the parish church – the third in the town’s history – was remarkable for its sleek, contemporary lines, a total departure from massive Hispanic architecture. The Lourdes Shrine in Cambaloctot is a popular pilgrimage site.
San Jose’s beaches are sought even by out-of-towners. The southern coastal approach to the town is an attractive stretch of highway, as is the storied Lalaan Drive.
The town fiesta is ushered in by the Ayuquitan Festival, streetdancing and field presentations retelling the origin’s of the town’s old place name.
About 20 minutes from Dumaguete City, San Jose was a major winner in the Beautification Contest leading to the Provincial Centennial of Negros Oriental.
Population – 15,665
Fiesta – St Joseph, May 10
Mayor – HON. NELSON S. RUIZ
Visitor Facility – Wuthering Heights Resort
Early Tayasan comprised a much larger area including the barrios of Ayung, Himbabalud and Hinoba-an, which eventually grew into the towns of Ayungon, Jimalalud and La Libertad, respectively. Named after a now-extinct ornamental, the ti-as, Tayasan marked the Bicentennial Year of its founding in 1990.
Tayasan is proudly agricultural: 96 % of its total land area is maintained as croplands planted to rice and corn, sugar cane, coconuts, bananas, and secondary crops such as cassava, peanuts, beans and soybeans. Fishing occupies the coastal villages. Tayasan’s baskets, bags, hats and mats woven of pandan and tikog have been in the Province’s markets since the mid-19th century. A regular Friday tabo of farm produce and livestock in sitio Nabilog draws traders and buyers even from Negros Occidental.
The adventurous can trek into the Tayasan hinterlands for some natural delights such as Soquib and Guincalaban Falls, Cabulotan Springs and Tambulan Lake.
The Tayasan plaza provides shady relief. Tayasan’s free-range fried chicken has become a destination in itself.
Population – 30,477
Fiesta – San Antonio de Padua, June 13
Mayor – HON. ANTHONY ISIDRO B. BAYAWA III
Visitor Facility – Hanseatic Beach Resort
The Legazpi-commissioned expedition of 1565 discovered Tanjay as the most important settlement on the southeastern coast of Negros Island. It is said to have been named after a Chinese trader and from a tall tree, Tan Hai. In 1580 it was designated as the first Catholic parish of Negros Oriental. In 2001 it became the Province’s 5th and newest city. Outside its urban sprawl little has changed: its sugar cane plantations go back more than a century, as do its shimmering bangus ponds.
Tanjay City is reputed to have the highest concentration of professionals among its population, as well as for having produced the most number of musical talents for the Province. It is best known, moreover, for two other proud-makers: the portable feast budbud sa Tanjay, which has birthed a Budbud Festival due to the popularity of its glutinous delicacy; and the Sinulog de Tanjay, a festival with an 1814 ancestry revived in the 80s to enliven the fiesta (along with the traditional horsefight).
Tanjay’s Friday nights ballroom dancing at the plaza draws aficionados from as far as Dumaguete (only 30 minutes away).
The small but postcard pretty Mojon Church is a landmark, as is the Casa Grande of the Central Azucarera de Bais. Farther inland a trek takes one to Luparan Falls and wooded elevations where bird-watching can be rewarding.
Population – 70,169
Fiesta – St. James the Greater, July 25
Mayor – HON. LAWRENCE S. TEVES
Visitor Facilities – La Residencia Tanjay, LaHacienda
Nestled on the slopes of Mt Talinis, it used to be called Ermita (Spanish for a place of refuge, because this was where the natives retreated to during moro raids), Nueva Valencia (by a priest who was reminded of his Valencia hometown in Spain), and Luzurriaga (after a prominent local politician). In 1948 it became Valencia, one of Negros Oriental’s three interior towns cooled by altitude and dense forests.
Two prominent structures commemorate its Hispanic past: the Church of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, and in its sunken plaza a fountain fed by water from the mountain.
Camp Lookout offers panoramic views of Dumaguete, the neighboring towns, and islands to the east. On the Sagbang promontory the tri-sidal Filipino-American-Japanese Amity Shrine rises 30 feet on the site of the last – and
fiercest – encounter of WWII in Negros Oriental. Relics from that battle can be found in the privately-owned Cataal Memorabilia Museum in the poblacion.
Valencia has a surfeit of nature attractions. Casaroro and Pulangbato Falls are the most popular, being the most accessible. Mountaineers from various parts of the country regularly trek to Mt Talinis to be regaled by the Lakes Nailig,Yagumyum, Malingin and Halawig; the Kaipuhan Sulphur Springs; the tantalizing heave of the Belendepaldo Range.
Valencia sits on a rich geothermal reserve from which the PNOC generates power for Negros Oriental and neighboring islands. The town supplies the Dumaguete markets with cutflowers and ornamentals. Its lanzones and rambutan gardens have now come of age, and are gaining ground as pasalubong items in their season.
Population – 24,365
Fiesta – Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, October 12
Mayor – HON. RODOLFO V. GONZALEZ JR.
Visitor Facilities – The Forest Camp, Banica Picnic Park
No other town or city in the Province is as inextricably wed to its founder as Vallehermoso is to Diego de la Viña who, in 1881, carved what would become Negros Oriental’s northernmost town out of a valley called Bagawines, wilderness shunned for over three centuries as the habitat of unfriendly bukidnons. Undaunted, de la Viña sought out the tribal chieftain and struck a bargain. He got his land, cleared it, built his residence, a chapel and casa tribunal, and in less than five years transformed the valley into an hacienda of sugar cane, tobacco, coconut, rice and corn. He called it the “beautiful valley,” Vallehermoso.
In the succeeding years, de la Viña bought, bartered and did everything else possible to enlarge his landholdings until it stretched in all directions. He also opened a road along the slopes of Canlaon Volcano to shorten travel to Negros Occidental, thus paving the way for linkages with revolutionaries from Bacolod as he prepared to lead the march to liberate the capital. In 1895 Vallehermoso received its first misionero. In 1913, it was formally separated from Guihulngan and granted municipal status.
The de la Viña clan produced Ines Serion, who assumed office in 1937 as the country’s first lady mayor.
In 1946 Vallehermoso’s most prosperous barrio of Mabigo was separated as the municipality of Canlaon.
Vallehermoso remains a beautiful valley, with peaks like Lover’s View affording breathtaking pastorals including Tañon Strait and western Cebu’s coastline. There are mysterious caves waiting to be explored, and vast meadows to delight the visitor. The Sinulog de Bagauines has been recovered from old lore to enhance the Vallehermoso cultural soul.
Population – 33,914
Fiesta – San Isidro Labrador, May 15
Mayor – HON. PERLA V. FERNANDEZ
Every Wednesday a bustle of city folks, expats and guests of the Province drive into a Zamboanguita seaside to take in authentic rural scenes, feast on authentic native cuisine, and experience an authentic – if nontypical touristic – phenomenon called Malatapay., where livestock auctions, flea markets and al fresco seafood lunches compete for attention.
Zamboanguita has other attractions including the pioneering resort Salawaki Beach. Conservationist Fr Eleuterio Tropa established in his hometown the Province’s only zoo, a showcase of marine life, and a viewing area for contemplating Mt Talinis. Farther inland is a recently discovered natural bridge.
Closer to the poblacion, a monument on the banks of the Guinsoan River marks the spot where the Japanese Imperial Forces under Commander Oyei surrendered to the 503rd US Airborne Division on September 19, 1945.
Founded in 1866, the town is said to have been named after the coguita, or octopus, an abundance of which used to be hung out in the sun to dry. Others say it is named to be the little Zamboanga, located just across the sea.
Local economy is based on corn, copra, fishing and livestock.
Population – 23,338
Fiesta – San Isidro Labrador, May 15
Mayor – HON. KIT MARC B. ADANZA
Visitor Facilities – Malatapay Cottages, Talattha Resort
ORIGINS OF PLACE NAMES
Amlan started as a settlement before the turn of the 19th century. In 1840, the place was cleared for a community and at that time, guavas of superior quality called “alman” abounded in the area. This is where the name of the place was derived from. Amlan gained independence from its mother parish of Tanjay in 1848 and was renamed New Ayuquitan in 1912. If regained its older name after World War II.
Festival: BUDYAS, after a kind of palihi ritual for the seacraft, fishing implements and fishermen to invoke an abundant harvest. Held on November 30 during the feast of the patron Saints Peter and Paul, whose images are transferred to elaborately-decorated boats for a fluvial procession between the two chapels of Tandayag. Status: established.
According to historians, it was originally called Todos los Santos, but there’s no story to back this up. The popular version is that a deaf native called Ayung was cutting up a “dungon” tree when Spaniards came by and asked him the name of the place. Thinking they wanted his name and that of the tree, Ayung told them both.
Ayungon was a barrio of Tayasan for over 23 years. In 1924, General Leonard Wood established it as an independent municipality.
Special product: Dalupapâ (squid)
Festival: DALUPAPÂ, celebrating the bounty of the sea that enhances the livelihood of residents of this coastal town. Status: intermittent.
The Province’s smallest municipality is noted for the bravery of its old inhabitants which was demonstrated during the 18th century, when moro pirates regularly raided the island. They lay in ambush, and when the pirates came, the battle cry was sounded: Bakon! Bakon! (Arise, get up!) A Spanish Journal dated 1801 lists an El Barangay de Bacong. It is the hometown of Pantaleon Villegas, better known as Leon Kilat, the only revolutionary from Oriental Negros who joined the Katipunan.
Special products: sinamay, stonecraft
Festival: BAKON, after the legendary acts of ambuscade to repulse the pirates. Held as highlight of the feast of patron St Agustine of Hippo on August 28. Status: irregular.
In the 19th century Basay was a mere barrio of Bayawan town. In 1971 it was separated and became the southernmost municipality of Oriental Negros. The name is said to derive from “busay,” the vernacular for “spring,” which were found to abound in the area.
Special product: fish, processed fish
Festival: KAPAW, the local term for the glut of fish that occurs periodically, which leads to a surge of economic prosperity. Held to mark the feast of patron St. Nicolas of Tolentino on March 18. Status: intermittent.
Colonization and conversion to Christianity was not welcomed by all natives. One Sunday Mass a native who disliked the Spaniards barged into the church during the consecration of the host, or the “pagbayaw sa Ostia,” and killed the priest with a spear, a shame commemorated by the name, Bayáwan.
Special product: baye-baye
Festival: TAWO-TAWO, named after the scarecrows which protect the crops of this rural area and ensures the continued prosperity of the residents. Anthopologists believe that the indigenes regarded the scarecrow as representative of the spirits of the fields. First held to highlight the fiesta celebration of patron St. Thomas of Villanova in February, then moved to December 22, the eve of the City’s Charter Anniversary. Status: established.
Cradle of the sugar industry of Oriental Negros, Bais was named after the freshwater eels (bais) that were said to have abounded in the place. Bais is the site of the first sugar mill of the Tabacalera in the Philippines. It is also widely-known for the large population of cetaceans like dolphins and pygmy sperm whales in its bay, which also teems with siganids (danggit).
Special product: dried danggit (hayub)
Festival: SIPONG, the local term for a major tabô, or community gathering for commerce and fellowship, which involves feasting and dancing and other forms of merrymaking. Formerly Hudyaka, the Sipong is staged as highlight of the September 10 feast of patron St, James the Greater, whose white horse is a focal point of the festival. Status: established.
Formerly called Payabon, a barrio of Manjuyod, created a town by President Elpidio Quirino on June 1949. In 1953, it was renamed after a beloved son, Hermenigildo Villanueva, nicknamed Bindoy, twice provincial governor, congressman, Labor Secretary and senator. The only municipality in the Province named after a real person.
Special product: mango jam, mango chutney, mango preserve
Festival: LIBOD SAYAW. Libod means “to move around,” sayaw is vernacular for “dance.” Highlight of the April 5 fiesta of San Vicente Ferrer. Status: established.
One version tells of a majestic tree that towered over all trees. The Spanish were informed it was called the calawin. Another speaks of the calawin as inhabited by supernatural beings called dawinde. A third origin is the banana, which was cultivated extensively and sold not by bunches or by fingers but by hands, locally referred to as lawing.
Special product: beach resorts
Festival: KINAIYAHAN, a celebration of the town’s abundant gifts in nature, held September 10 as thanksgiving to patron St. Nicholas of Tolentino.