How does it feel to celebrate your birthday in a wrong day? This question might have occurred in your mind but I cannot imagine how it would feel. How would it be if you have celebrated it on a wrong day in 72 consecutive years! Weeks earlier, Negros Historian Modesto P. Sa-onoy have argued in his column “Tight Rope” that this is what the City of Bacolod has been doing for the past 72 years! It might be due in fact to the prevailing political atmosphere that was brewing in the time of Bacolod’s cityhood. As a child, I have been accustomed to not having classes every October 19 when I was still studying in Bacolod City which was marked as the Charter Day Celebrations. No one ever thought of this error, especially not its sweet smiling humble citizens.
In the online forum Skyscrapercity.com, a forum-mate of mine posted the picture of the historic signing of the Commonwealth Act 326 or the Special Charter of the City of Bacolod in Malacañang Palace…
This document and historic event awarded cityhood status to the once Municipality of Bacolod. Some historians commented that this was to woo the powerful Negrénse hacienderos and politicians to support him. Indeed at that time, Spanish and French-blooded Negrénse aristocrats in their palatial mansions on wide Negros haciendas or Forbes Park commanded power over Manila with their multi-million financial backbone from the rich profit of sugar trade. Whatever the purpose as to why President Manuel L. Quezon awarded cityhood status to Bacolod City, it was not a waste of effort. Bacolod City’s rapid rise was a feat earned through sweat, blood and tears especially with the series of disasters that befall the city in the 1980’s like the Sugar Crisis at the fall of Global Sugar Prices coupled with the sinking of Negros Navigation’s Bacolod-bound MV Don Juan that took the lives of numerous crème de la crème in Negrénse Society. Today, Bacolod City is one of the Premiere Highly-Urbanized Cities in the Philippines with the exponential pace of development and now belongs to the Billionaire’s Club of Cities. As a Billionaire City, Bacolod City deserves to celebrate its birthday in the real date of its inception, June 18, the day President Quezon signed the historic document in the year 1938.
Historian Sa-onoy’s pleading did not go in vain. Yesterday, June 9, 2011, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia signed Executive Order 15-A series of 2011 that shifted the Charter Day Celebrations from October 19 to June 18 as reported in Sun Star Bacolod. The change of date gives the city more dignity in its current gargantuan status. This lengthens the Independence Day Celebrations that starts from June 12 going towards Charter Day on June 18 ending with the celebration of Dr. Jose Rizal’s 150th Birthday on June 19. The City may have realized the potential of spreading historic celebrations at different times a year as a means of attracting more tourist in the city. Indeed, tourism is at its highest in the city in the midst of a special day not to mention that my own aunt was born on this day. Bacoleños love festivities and this adds to the many days and reasons why we Bacoleños love parties and have fun.
What will happen to October 19 then? This day will still be special since it marks the end of Masskara Festival, the city’s crowd drawer that symbolizes the Bacoleño and Negrénse ingenuity even on the tough times. The great Negrénse statesman, Alfredo Montelibano, Sr. was inaugurated as the duly-appointed City Mayor by President Manuel Quezon. His installation was a day of festivities and was capped by a tree-planting ceremony at the City Plaza. This tree still stands there, a reminder of the day we gained our cityhood. Alfredo Montelibano, Sr. went on to lead even the island in the toughest of times being the American-designated Governor of Negros and Siquijor Islands during the Japanese Occupation in World War II. October 19 will still remain a day to look forward to for the city but no mistakes shall go on uncorrected especially if it is your own birthday.