Growing Old in Negros

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

(Last of Three Parts)

THE Negrosanons who survived the war found hope when the sugar mills started to operate again. The leaves of time turned so fast that Negrosanons one day realized that President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972.

A new sugar czar was appointed, RSB. He alone could decide the fate of the sugar industry. The ups and downs of sugar industry are recorded in the movie “Pureza” by Director Jay Abello. “Sugar is not that sweet, after all.”


Martial Law days saw a bubbling volcano in Negros. Militant workers, enlightened students, liberated professionals, and the ministers of the churches joined arms to condemn the savagery of the people running the government. Human rights violations, widespread poverty, social inequity, rural stagnation, rising criminality, agrarian unrest (in Luzon), labor unrest, violent student activism, crony capitalism, nepotism, and the unprecedented extent of graft and corruption in the Philippine government gave birth to insurgency.

Those who were denied justice revived communist insurgency in the countryside and inspired violence in urban center. There was “red scare” in Negros. My good friend, Fr. Frank Fernandez, left the pulpit to serve the Gentiles of Negros, “the least of our brethren.” That was the time when many sugar planters could not even get inside their upland haciendas. The New People’s Army offered an ideology for the oppressed. The existence of student councils in colleges was banned. I was a victim of that.

There was the People Power Revolution at EDSA triggered by the death of Senator Ninoy Aquino. It was a bloodless revolution (after the Silay Cinco de Noviembre bloodless revolution). The revolt at EDSA could be a miracle, or a concoction of emotions, or really a will of God, or could also be the intervention of Uncle Sam; or all of those. The Negrosanons patronized the yellow ribbon also, and the group of Bitay Lacson and Millie Kilayko offered us the Star of Hope.

This paved the way for Tita Cory to become president. Tita Cory freed Marcos’s political prisoners and turned to private sector for assistance in revitalizing the Philippine economy. Fidel V. Ramos became president and popularized Philippine 2000 program. He was well remembered because there was the hanging of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore during his time . . . and BROWNOUT. Actor Erap Estrada was elected president. His son JV (now senator) claims to be a Silaynon. Of course, his mother, Mayor Guia Gomez of San Juan was born in Silay.

Susan Roces of Bacolod could have been first Lady if FPJ’s votes were properly counted during the presidential election (as alleged). FPJ lost the election but Negros was able to have the First Gentleman in the person of Mike Arroyo, the Negrosanon husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The PGMA administration gave us the Bacolod-Silay Airport. The political opposition vehemently claimed that her presidency is illegitimate because Erap did not resign from his post. (The legitimacy of her presidency was upheld by the Supreme Court.)

Negros under PNoy still remains a sugar province. The sugar lords and the dependents of the sugar industry fearfully wait what will happen to sugar industry in 2015 when the economies of nations will resemble planetary alignment. Is the economic gravity going to suck sugar industry? Do we have the options? It seems that our LGUs are prepared for the impact. We have diversification, organic farming, tourism, small industries, and we have prepared our people to embrace investors coming from other provinces.

Growing old in Negros makes us realize the change in physical, political and economic landscape. The old rich are no longer the patriarch of the clan. The scion of the old does not consider the hacienda as his empire. The new rich are now in politics and maintain economic alliances with the business astutes of the world. Where do we place ourselves as we grow older? Are we participants in the climate change as we adopt new roles? Or, are we just watching as the scene changes.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 14, 2014.


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