Negros Occidental (Filipino: Kanlurang Negros; Hiligaynon: Katundang Negros) is a province of the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region. Its capital is Bacolod City and it occupies the northwestern half of Negros Island; Negros Oriental is at the southeastern half. Across the Panay Gulf and the Guimaras Strait to the northwest is the island-province of Guimaras and the province of Iloilo on Panay island. Known as the "Sugarbowl of the Philippines", Negros Occidental produces more than half the nation's sugar output.
The population of the province is 2,907,859 if Bacolod City is included. Making it the most populated Province in Western Visayas.
Negros Island was originally known to the natives as "Buglas". When the Spaniards arrived in April 1565, they named it "Negros" because of the dark-skinned natives they found. Two of the earliest native settlements were Binalbagan and Ilog which later became towns in 1572 and 1584, respectively. Other settlements were Hinigaran, Negros Occidental, Bago, Marayo (now Pontevedra), Mamalan (now Himamaylan) and Candaguit (a sitio in San Enrique).
Ilog was made the first capital of the province in 1743. This was later transferred to Himamaylan. Bacolod became the capital in 1849.
The island was divided into Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental in 1890. The two provinces were briefly united as an independentRepublic of Negros with Bacolod as the capital on November 27, 1898. It became a protectorate of the United States until 1901, when the republic was dissolved, with the two provinces annexed to the Philippines.
During the succeeding decades between 1901 to the 1930s, Negros Occidental was under Insular Government of the United States of America as with the rest of the country and later under the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Economic growth continued especially with Philippine sugar having a part of the US market. The socio-economic life of Negros Occidental from the 1950s up to the 1980s depended as before mainly on the sugar industry. Negros del Norte was created from Negros Occidental on January 3, 1986. Its creation was declared unconstitutional on July 11, 1986, and was abolished on August 18, 1986.
Towards the end of 1987, the rays of hope started to shine when the over-all economic situation showed a positive upturn. The campaign for agricultural diversification had been gaining momentum, paving the way for more landowners to invest in prawn farming and high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables, livestock and other cash crops. Investments upswing became apparent by 1988. The participation of the industrial sector accelerated the consumer-led economic growth and development manifested by the increase in sales of consumer goods and by-products. Today Negros Occidental remains one of the most progressive and largely developed Philippine province, in large due to the profits from the sugar industry but also due to diversification to other fields.
Negros Occidental is located in the western side of Negros Island, the third largest island in the Philippines with a total land area of 972,607 hectares or 9,726.06 km2. The province is approximately 375 kilometers long from north to south. It is bounded by the Visayan Sea in the north, Panay Gulf on the west, Tañon Strait and Negros Oriental province on the east and Sulu Sea on the south. Negros is basically volcanic, making its soil ideal for agriculture. Eighty percent of all arable land is cultivated.
The north and western parts of the province are largely composed of plains and gentle slopes. A mountain range lines the eastern part of the province, forming the basis of the border with Negros Oriental. Mount Kanlaon, which is partially located in Negros Oriental, rises to a height of 2,465 m (8,087 ft) and is the highest peak in the Visayas.
Most residents are of Austronesian heritage. Residents of Negros are called "Negrense". Negros Occidental is predominantly a Hiligaynon-speaking province, because of ties with Iloilo. However, the cities and towns facing the Tañon Strait are Cebuano-speaking due to their proximity to the island-province of Cebu. Sagay City, which is facing both Iloilo and Cebu, speaks a hybrid language composed of Hiligaynonand Cebuano. Tagalog/Filipino and English are widely spoken on both sides of the island. Negros Occidental is the second-largest province in terms of population after Cebu, with the second largest number of congressional districts.
Christianity in the form of Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in the province followed by 85%-90% of the population. The remaining faiths are usually divided by various protestant faiths such as Baptist, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Methodist, Church of Christ of Latter Day saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses and other Evangelical Christians.