How a Philippine Province Opened Up A Window For The World To Peek Into Its Unique Culture and Heritage

The Ruins - remains of the ancestral home mansion of the family of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and Maria Braga Lacson.

Neatly tucked in the center of the Philippine archipelago is a sock shaped island known as Negros.  Negros, famous for its vast sugarcane plantations set before scenic mountains as its backdrop is also known as the Sugar Bowl of the Philippines.

Also labelled by some discerning minds as The SWEET SPOT of the Philippines, due to its obvious affinity to sugar, Negros Island and particularly the Province of Negros Occidental, which lies on the western side of the terrain, has a unique blend of heritage and culture.  It is a culture wherein rural simplicity meets a unique blend of sophistication melded from both Eastern and Western hemispheres, brought about by profitable foreign trade of sugar starting in the second half of the 19th century, when it was still under Spanish rule. 

Through the decades, Negros has been known to be a special place in the Philippines where tradition is embedded in its cuisine, its agricultural produce, its art and handicrafts, its unique hybrid of music combined with poetry, and its heritage homes.

Negros Island, the Sweet Spot of the Philippines, is an island with sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see.


Innovation and ingenuity is a trait common to the people of Negros, known to fellow Filipinos as Negrenses.  The fact that the revolution which took place on the 5th of November 1898, was successfully pulled off using bamboo mats painted black to look like cannons to scare the Spanish colonizers into believing that the locals had ample firepower is testament to the Negrenses ingenious devises.  “Rifles” carved of wood and coconut fronds, were created by the revolutionaries to create an illusion that convinced the Spanish governor to surrender.

The November 5 revolt in Negros led by Generals Juan Araneta and Aniceto Lacson.

With all this creativity, ingenuity, and artistry oozing out from the Negrenses, who annually showcase what they produce in what is also known as the "Longest Running Provincial Trade Fair in the Philippines", the Negros Trade Fair, there remained a need to showcase such artistry to the world despite the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic.

As a way to showcase all of the cultural assets and riches of Negros,
the Angelica Berrie Foundation launched a website last Thursday, November 5, the day of the Negros revolution, that hopes to become a global messaging platform to promote Negrense heritage and culture.

Negros has many riches to offer, "We live history every day in our ancestral homes, we taste heritage when we cook. We create memories through our handicrafts, our music and our dance", says Mayee Fabregas, a Negrense who is a descendant of Yves Germaine Gaston, the Frenchman who came to Negros in 1840 to mechanize the production of sugar.

In creating that
global messaging platform which showcases Negrense heritage and culture, the entire program was called The Negros Season of Culture.

The Negros Season of Culture is an extended program to promote the cultural assets of Negrense heritage and traditions, the unique identity of the province of Negros Occidental and the talent of its people.

The program aims to bring the gifts of Negrense creativity, artistry, and culture to the consciousness of the local community and share it with the world. It's a celebration that defines the Negrenses' global reach with the tagline, "Rooted. Taking on the World."  

The Gaston Mansion at Hacienda Sta. Rosalia in Manapla

According to Angelica "Angie" Berrie, whom I had the pleasure of having on my livestream show last night called Pusong Pinoy, the Negros Season of Culture's underlying purpose is "to promote the cultural assets of our heritage and traditions, the unique identity of this province and the talent of its people".

Peque Gallaga, 1943-2020

I watched the launch of the website last Thursday and saw that Negrense artists look up to cultural heroes like the late Peque Gallaga, a Negros native who is considered one of the country's greatest directors recognized internationally. To honor Gallaga, the Negros Season of Culture created a video tribute to show how passionate Gallaga was as an artist, actor, and director, who drove many proteges to be something bigger than themselves, teaching them to express our creativity in big, bold ways that contribute to the story of the place Negrenses call home.  A tribute video on the revered director is now visible on the website.

Another video in the Negros Season of Culture website is a tribute to Alfonso Ossorio, who made it in the international art scene and came back home from the United States to paint the celebrated mural of "The Angry Christ" in the chapel of St. Joseph the Worker in Victorias.

Tats Manahan, who is restoring the piece and is the consultant for the documentary, showed the many facets and stories behind the work that tour guides normally don't talk about. Interviews with people at the sugar mill revealed many secrets, including what the workers really felt about the controversial mural.

The Negros Season of Culture is a whole program and slew of events, both online and on-ground which will highlight the many aspects of Negrense culture.  All activities and stories found on the website or on the ground will weave stories of creativity that dramatizes a regional narrative which local, national and global audiences can discover.

"Aside from the main categories of Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Food, Heritage and People, the website will have soon have a Market Place for the Association of Negros Producers showcasing Negrense products," Alan Gensoli, creative director of the Negros Season of Culture.

There are also plans for live-streaming concerts by early next year, including concerts at the Philippines' longest running jazz festival, the Bacolod Jazz Festival, an event so loved by the fun-loving Negrenses.

"In some ways what we're trying to create is going to be a digital and social media revolution where we have conversations that include people from different milieus and reflect these exchanges in an authentic way to project the evolution of Negros culture," says Angelica Berrie.

Angelica Berrie of the Angelica Berrie Foundation in Pusong Pinoy

Suffice it to say that the launch of the Negros Season of Culture website and the whole Season of Culture program is a revolution of its own.  The Negros Season of Culture was meant to be an extended slew of on-ground events which would highlight the art, food, heritage homes, people, and handicrafts of Negros.
  The pandemic changed all of that as everyone around the world got locked-in by way of quarantine.

The Negros Season of Culture online platform focuses on six main "Stories" of creativity.  These are Negrense Food, Cultural Experience, Art, Handicrafts, Heritage, and People.


The silver lining is found in the fact that as everyone spends more time on the internet, the Negros Season of Culture becomes a window for all the world to discover the beauty and uniqueness of Negrense culture through this online channel found in

All these stories about Negros were aggregated into that website which was launched last Thursday with famous Negrense actor, Joel Torre and his daughter Marela. (WATCH HERE)

Indeed, it is ingenious how this Philippine province has opened up a Window for the world to take a peek into the unique Negrense culture and heritage, without leaving one's place of residence. 

The Negros Season of Culture website is again another stroke of genius from a creative lot.  For all intents and purposes, this undoubtedly is Negros Island's Window for the World.

Follow the Negros Season of Culture on the Negros Season of Culture Facebook Page.

- Malcolm Conlan

Malcolm Conlan is a British writer who writes
about almost anything Filipino.


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