Negros is a large island-region that is part of the Visayas, the island group comprising the central division of the Philippines. The Visayas are roughly the central third of the Philippines, so this region, along with the neighbouring Central Visayas, is approximately in the center of the whole country. Other regions of the Visayas is Western Visayas to the west of this region, and to the east are Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas.
The island-region is known for being the main producer of sugar and organic products in the nation, and is home to many beaches and some nature reserves, as well as the tallest peak of the Visayas, the semi-active Kanlaon Volcano. In some cities and towns, especially in Bacolod and to the cities north of it, are several historic landmarks, such as ancestral houses once owned by prominent native families. In the south of the island is Dumaguete, which is famous for being a hip university city that attracts both locals and foreigners alike. Negros is also famous for its several native cultural events, the most popular being the MassKara Festival, which is annually celebrated every October. Negros is also known as one of the top culinary destinations of the Philippines because of its regional cuisine, which is famous for delectable desserts and delicacies and various other dishes.
Unlike the other Visayan regions which are all subgroups of islands and islets, Negros is unique for it is only composed of a large single island with a few surrounding islets. Negros is split into two provinces, each of which occupies a part of the island and some nearby islets:
- Negros Occidental - the northwestern part, with Bacolod as the provincial capital.
- Negros Oriental - the southeastern part, with Dumaguete as the provincial capital.
In the Philippine government's administrative divisions of the nation, the Negros provinces were designated in two different regions, with Negros Occidental in Western Visayas (Region VI) and Negros Oriental in Central Visayas (Region VII). In mid-2015, the two Negros provinces were designated under one region as the Negros Island Region (abbreviated as NIR, unofficially Region XVIII). But by late 2017, the two provinces were reassigned back to their former regions. Here in Wikivoyage, we treat Negros as a separate region since everything is on one island with good transport links all over it.
In terms of languages, the two provinces are still strongly connected to their former regions. Negros Occidental speaks Hiligaynon/Ilonggo like Western Visayas, while Negros Oriental speaks Cebuano like Central Visayas. However, the natives of this island are known as "Negrenses" and are sometimes perceived as neither Ilonggo nor Cebuano.
- Bacolod - The most populous city of Negros, known as "The City of Smiles" because of the world-renowned MassKara Festival annually celebrated on October. Also famous for its sweet delicacies and the delicious chicken inasal.
- Dumaguete - A hip university city in the island's southeastern tip, known as "The City of Gentle People", largely because of its gentle and welcoming inhabitants.
- Silay - Are old mansions your thing? Highly interested in history? This city north of Bacolod has a lot to offer for history buffs. Also home to the main airport of the region.
- Bais - A coastal city that serves as a drop-off for whale and dolphin watching in the nearby Tañon Strait.
- Sipalay - The Negros equivalent to Western Visayas' Boracay, it offers one of the region's best beaches and nice summer resorts. In other words, a Negrense paradise for beach bums.
- Manjuyod - A quaint town on the mid-southeastern coast with a nice sandbar surrounded by turquoise waters also frequently enjoyed by beach-loving travellers.
Negros is the fourth-largest island in the Philippines and the second-largest in the Visayas at 13,309.60 km2 (5,138.87 sq mi). Both Luzon (main island of the north) and Mindanao (main island of the south) are much larger in both area and population. In terms of area, Negros is about the same size as Samar (the 3rd-largest) or Palawan (the 5th-largest), but it has a larger population than either, with 4.4 million inhabitants as of the 2015 regional census, versus 1.9 million for Samar and 1.1 million for Palawan.
Among the cities, Bacolod is the most-populous with 562,000 in the city itself and 790,000 in its respective metropolitan area. Dumaguete is second at 131,377 plus suburbs. Both serve as capitals of their respective provinces.
Magellan was the original leader of the first expedition to circle the Earth, but he was killed in battle in what is now Cebu City in Central Visayas, leaving Elcano as the one who commands the rest of the way. The leaders had been promised an island each, and Elcano's heirs were given the hereditary title Margues de Buglas; "Buglas" is an obsolete name for the island. They later gave the island its present name "Negros", which is Spanish for "blacks", after seeing the island's dark-skinned native inhabitants. The name Buglas however, managed to survive into the modern era; the current Margues lives in Silay.
For centuries, Negros has been an important center of sugar production and one of the country's most prosperous regions, hence its nickname the "Sugarbowl of the Philippines". Under colonial American administration, it was the only region where local government was fully run by the native Filipinos, rather than by colonial authorities. That government was dominated by a few wealthy Negrense families — mostly owners of sugarcane plantations, many with Spanish and/or Chinese ancestral ties. Those families are still influential today in different fields.
Negros is also actively and progressively pursuing the goal of becoming the "Organic Food Bowl of Asia", thanks to its lush, fertile volcanic soil suitable for organic multi-crop agriculture.
The vivid yellow Ceres buses (both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned) go to all of the cities and most towns on the island, and in some areas, jeepneys are also used between cities and towns of close proximities.
Transport options within the cities and towns vary; jeepneys and taxis are common in Bacolod, but in Dumaguete, as well as many of the smaller places throughout Negros, it is all three-wheelers. See the city articles for more details.
Cebu lies to the east and its central urban area, Metro Cebu, is easily reached by ferry or by plane, or on a bus which will be carried by a Ro-Ro (roll-on roll-off) ferry part of the way. There are frequent bus departures from either Dumaguete and/or Bacolod, and some from some smaller cities and towns as well. A bit further east is the equally popular tourist destination of Bohol, reachable by ferry from Dumaguete.
Panay is to the west, best reached by ferry from Bacolod to Iloilo. The highly developed tourist island of Boracay is just off the north coast of Panay, reachable via Kalibo. From there, one might continue north to Romblon.
Small island provinces nearby are Guimaras, which is closer to Iloilo City in Panay and is separated from Negros by a wide strait, and Siquijor, off the southeastern tip of Negros. Both can be reached with short ferry rides, Guimaras from Bacolod and Siquijor from Dumaguete.