From my old blog.

Blog date : August 9, 2008

A few months ago, over a round of golf, I had this interesting discussion with investment banker, Richard Dalao, who told the story of their family's "reverse migration" from Negros to Manila. It was the mid 1960's and Richard's dad opted to move back to Manila as in Richard's words, "my dad couldn't take the lifestyle in Negros. Being an Ilocano, he found the life too decadent. So back to Manila it was".

The same impression lives on until today. For those who are not familiar with the inner trappings of the sugar culture, the flamboyance displayed is easily misconstrued as outright arrogance.

How did it get to this point? What triggered such behavior? If you still have these lingering questions, allow me to take the first step in breaking apart the mystery.

There is a saying that the people from Davao spend yesterday's money today, the people from Cebu spend today's money today, but the people from Bacolod spend ...well, tomorrow's money today.

Spending versus one's future earnings comes naturally to the Negrense. This was triggered before the turn of the 20th century when sugar as a product was picking up in terms of price in the world market. Demand was beginning to grow among the Commonwealth domains in South East Asia including Australia and New Zealand.

The principal catalyst in this little "Story of Sugar" is a man by the name of Nicholas Loney. He was the son of a British admiral, born in the naval town of Plymouth, and well-educated. He left England at the age of 24 to seek his fortune and travelled to South America, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and finally to the Philippines in 1852. He became a clerk in Manila of the British firm Ker & Co.

In 1856, Loney was assigned to Iloilo and became a vice-consul and eventually opened the firm of Loney & Ker & Co. In those days, British ships came to the Negros and Panay region to be loaded up with sugar for export to Australia and the other states in the region under the British flag. Once docked in the ports of Negros and Iloilo, the ships would be stationed for some time until it was fully loaded with sugar for export. Precious days were lost in this exercise.

To arrest the situation, sugar crops and produce were paid for in advance the year before so as not to hamper the loading of sugar on British vessels. This is where the practice of receiving money against standing crops began in the Philippines. From those days, the crop loan had entrenched its way into Negrense lifestyle. This was further fortified by the sugar quota system under the Jones-Costigan Act of 1934 wherein year on year, the Philippines had a great quota to fill, not only for the British but for the almighty US of A.

Imagine receiving the bumper reward of money months before the crops were to be harvested! Loney even convinced the American financial house of Russel & Sturgis to open a branch in the Negros-Panay region in order give crop loans to planters.

Now with cash on hand to spend long before the harvest has actually come, I guess I need not elaborate how Negrense decadence came about and how the phenomenon has become legendary.

More about Negros soon ;-)