This post is a long overdue piece because the idea for writing it came about late last year when an article appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, delving into how the lifestyles of Negrenses (inhabitants of Negros Island) were supposedly laid bare through the architecture and the ancestral homes seen across the island.

I checked the article online today and saw that it had been shared 5,504 times.  That's a lot of 'shares' for an article which I feel needs to be rectified on certain points.  When it first came out online, I shared the link on my Facebook with this commentary: 

"Through the years, the fascination of the public for the lifestyle of Negrenses has remained. This is another article from the outside-looking-in. Most often, the decadent lifestyle is highlighted possibly because writers who are non-islanders are enchanted with the quasi-fairytale stories which straddle in the realm between fantasy and reality.

I believe that it is now time to share stories of noblesse oblige which is hardly talked about. Beyond decadence lies a heart of compassion which makes the regular Filipino hospitality and "aruga" pale in comparison. I say this because the sweetness of Negros island is not just in its sugar, it's intrinsic sweetness is found in the heart of every Negros islander.

The hacienda house or ancestral home is not only an icon of a lavish lifestyle, it also serves as a symbolof refuge not just for the family members but also for those who are not blood relations but considered to be part of the "extended family".

Some people will take years, if not a lifetime to understand that."

Allow me to rectify a few things for a better understanding of that said article.  This is not to say that I do not agree with the article.  The article was good.  Only a few things needed to be pointed out and clarified in order for everyone to appreciate not just the article itself but the lives of Negrenses, who were the main subject of the discourse.

At the onset, the article began with, "The Ilonggos’ perceived boastful nature is encapsulated in that statement “Ang kwarta sa amon gina-piko, gina-pala” (In our place, money is handled with pickaxe and spade)."

More and more, people are beginning to discover that not all people who speak Hiligaynon, the tongue of Ilonggos, are in fact Ilonggos.  We are still at the stage wherein people are realizing that what we have been saying all these years like, "Do you speak Ilonggo?", is an errant statement.  Ilonggo refers to a person from Iloilo, and a person from Negros would be a Negrense (or Negrosanon).  Both may speak the Hiligaynon language, which most people often thought of as 'the Ilonggo dialect'.

Then again we have to be careful with the statement that Negrenses speak Hiligaynon because there are Negrenses/Negrosanons from the Oriental side of the island who are not speakers of the Hiligaynon language.  They are rather speakers of Cebuano - given their proximity and geographical position facing the island of Cebu.

As such, the Inquirer article should have started with, "The NEGRENSES' (or Negrosanons') perceived boastful nature is encapsulated in that statement “Ang kwarta sa amon gina-piko, gina-pala” (In our place, money is handled with pickaxe and spade)."

Personally, I prefer the term Negrosanon over Negrense.  Negrense just sounds too aristocratic. 

Negrosanon being more down to earth and devoid of any social distinction brought about by public misconceptions.

In which case, when people ask me, "Do you speak Ilonggo?", I playfully reply, "No, I speak Negrosanon".  With that answer I usually get a quizzical look from the other party.  Then it's my cue to talk about Ilonggos, Negrosanons, and the Hiligaynon language.

(to be continued)

Negros Island.  The SWEET Spot of the Philippines.

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