With its rugged mountain interior, unspoilt beaches, underwater coral gardens, distinctive indigenous traditions and urban groove, the sheer overwhelming diversity of Negros is impossible to sum up in a single gesture. Despite this, Negros has somehow managed to fly under the tourist radar, and only now is it starting to get the recognition it deserves.
More people are stopping to absorb the good-time vibe of Dumaguete, the funky college town in the southeast, and enjoy its surrounding dive sites that rival anywhere else in the country for marine splendour. Up north, the stunning beach havens around Sipalay, or the forested hill stations of Mt Kanlaon, the ‘living museums’ of Silay and great food at Bacolod, reaffirm its reputation as a rising star of the Philippines.
For more than a century Negros was famed as the country’s ‘sugar bowl’. From the 1850s, the majority of arable land was turned over to sugar-cane plantations. In both the cities and the smaller towns, many historic buildings still stand testament to the fortunes made by the sugar barons. The ‘Sugarlandia’ phenomenon is still very evident in the north of the country, where convoys of trucks loaded with cane rumble endlessly down the highway, through a sea of silver-green cane fields.
The island is divided into two provinces lying either side of a central mountain range: Negros Oriental (whose capital is Dumaguete) is to the east, and Negros Occidental (capital Bacolod) is to the west.