A Concise History Of Silay City

The affluence of sugar industry made Silay and Silaynon rich. Palatial mansions built by affluent families has been a living testament of how Silaynon lived during their heyday. Cultural heritage has been well preserved up to this day, the proof of which are the 29 plus surviving ancestral houses. Silay is acclaimed as the “Paris de Negros.” Also considered as the Seat of Arts, Culture and Ecotourism in Western Visayas and declared as a Museum City.

Silady Old Photo

HISTORY

SPANISH COLONIZATION

The first settlement in Negros is “Carobcob,” founded in 1565. It serves as the landmark and civilization in Silay. It is a village by the sea formerly situated between the present barangay Balaring properand Sitio Bungol. Villagers make a living through scratching for “Tuway” shells which were abundant in the shores. Thus, Spaniards named the place Carobcob because of the occupation of the people. To date nothing is left as it was devastated by the typhoons. On January 25, 1571, Carobcob was grantedas an encomienda to Cristobal Nunez Paroja, one of the 17 soldiers of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. In the second half of the century pirates raids escalated forcing the corregidor of Negros to leave their places. People left their homes and settled in a new place between wo small rivers – Matagoy and Panaogao in 1760. By that time Silay is already an established pueblo. To protect themselves from Moro Pirates they constructed Paloisades (Estacada). The place is known as Sitio Estaca now.

The town of Silay was founded through the letter of Governor Juan Jose de Mijares (1572-1575) mentioning Silay as the leading town in the North. In 1776, bishop of Cebu considered Silay as the center of the Parish. The named Silay were derived from Kansilay, a tree abundantly growing in the area.

Don Alejo Severino of Jaro, Iloilo was named the first Gobernadorcillo of the new settlement in 1780-1781. By that time the seat of Spanish Government of this province was in Himamaylan. By the order of the Military Government of the province, Don Alejo Severino was directed to make frequent trips to the northern town to investigate and look after its condition. After his mission accomplished, he would stay in Silay. His character and goodwill gained sympathy from the inhabitants making him the Gobernadorcillo of Silay. During his time, he was able to construct several structures like the Catholic Church made of wood, bamboo and nipa. The Parish Priest during that time was Spanish Priest Padre Alejo Ignacio de Molinas. Also he constructed the Catholic Cemetery which is about a kilometers away from the town.

In 1873, a new town was founded. It was called Buen Retiro (Guinhalaran) it was 2 kilometers away from Silay. In 1860, it was placed in a definitive union with Silay.

CULTIVATION OF SUGAR INTRODUCED

The fertile land of Silay is very promising. In 1840, Fr. Eusebio Locsin encouraged his families in Iloilo to settle in Silay. Thus, they gave vigor to the town and made rapid progress in commerce and in agriculture.

In 1846, a Frenchman from Normandy, France, Yves Leopold Germaine Gaston who married a Filipina from Batangas installed the first Maquina de Vapor Horno Economico (sugar mill) in Buen Retiro. Yves Leopold Germaine Gaston brought some variety of sugar cane – Habana and Puerto Rico from French Isles of Mauritius and Bourbonne.  He then introduced the cultivation of sugar cane.

Among the owners of the first sugarcane farms were Don Vicente Olaybar, Dona Agustina Olaybar, Don Macario Santillan, Don Vicente Villa and others. During his time only primitive sugar mills known as “de sangre” and powered by carabao were used. Later on, these mills were improved and steam engine were installed. Thus, Sugar Central Hawaiian Philippine Company was constructed in 1920.

Juan Hilado and Simeon Ledesma arrived in Silay and established haciendas at Bagacay in 1860. Later on, other families from Iloilo followed – Locsins, dela Rama and Jalandonis. From 1885-1892 crown lands were purchased by Filipinos Vicente Conlu, Crescenciano Araneta, Severo de la Rama, Santiago Suanico,  Evaristo Yemo, Isidro Hilado, Bernabe Morlidad and Meliton Canas.

Guimbalaon, a 14 kilometers east of Silay where Cornelio Hilado and Melicio Severino, Vito Marifosque and the Gamboas developed agricultural farms. In 1890, Guimbalaon became an independent parish.

A municipal building was constructed in Guimbalon in 1892 and in 1893 a courthouse was erected. On June 5, 1894, the first private college for girls were opened in Guimbalaon by Dolores Aguilar and Manuela Escanillo.

In 1894, the de la Ramas opened the first boat service between Silay and other towns in Negros. On the same year the first telegraph station was inaugurated.
By 1896, the sugar industry made the town prosper. Making Silay the leading sugar producing area because of the Horno Economico.

NEGROS REVOLUTION

When the outbreak of revolution of 1896 the town of Silay stay quite. No hot news and still sugar is the talk of the town but there were already a division between the sugarcane planters of Silay and the clergy. Some planters and clergy supported the rebels while others were against the revolution.

Alejandro Montelibano, a Silaynon from an affluent family was arrested and sentenced guilty of plotting against the crown. He was exiled in Guam later on.

Iloilo Revolutionary Council requested to start hostilities in the sugarland through the help of Gen. Aniceto Lacson of Talisay. Lacson is the Military commander of Northern Negros. He went to Silay in November 3 to meet Nicolas Golez, deputy military commander, Leandro Locsin and Melecio Severino. They set the date of the uprising – November 5, 1898. Messengers were sent out to inform the hacienderos to bring the troops armed with bolos and machete.

Before the uprising began, rebels cut off the telegraphic wires on November 4. Repairman were sent to put back the connection but the residents did not allow it.

In the history of Silay, Cinco de Noviembre play a very significant role. It was 2:00 in the afternoon – November 5, 1898, Silaynon gathered in the street corner now known as Cincode Noviembre street. From there they proceeded to the Spanish garrison near the Catholic Church. It was a bloodless revolution. The garrison were surrounded by the rebels. At first, Spanish civil guards Lt. Maximiano Correa refused o surrender. But later on after the negotiations with the revolutionaries through the help of Juan Viaplana, a local Spanish Businessman, they surrendered. Providing, the agreement letter must mention that the civil guards gave up only after a heroic resistance against overwhelming odds. That was written to save Spanish honor. Later that afternoon the Philippine flag made by Olympia Severino, Eutropia Yorac and Perpetua Sverino was raised for the first time at the plaza. It was indeed a memorable day for every Silaynon. Temporarily, Leandro Locsin was acclaimed president after the signing of terms of surrender. Timoteo Unson together with the group of Silaynons marched to Talisay for the attack to Bacolod.

PRE WAR PERIOD 

Revolution has ended and people gained liberty. December 26, 1898, the province inaugurated its own independent congress under the so called Federal Republic of Negros. Later on, an American sponsored government replaced the short-lived Republic of Negros.

When the Americans invaded Negros, Silaynons fought against them to preserve their newly gained independence. Melecio Severino was arrested for his alleged involvement with anti-American forces but was later released. Jose Luzuriaga was appointed by the Americans to replace Severino and Leandro Locsin was appointed Governor when Luzuriaga appointed to the Phil. Commission.

WORLD WAR II

In May 3, 1942, the elements of the Nagano Detachment assigned the task occupying Negros by the Japanese Imperial Army. Silaynon were already prepared for another war. In the hills of Guimbalaon , strongly organized guerillas were led by under Major Ernesto Mata. When the American 40th Division set foot in Pulupandan on March 29, 1945 all Japanese soldiers in the island made their last stand at Patag in Silay City. Today, the site is marked by a monument to commemorate the efforts which led to the liberation of Negros Island.

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