Spanish colonial period
San Sebastian Cathedral at night.
Historical church accounts provide a glimpse of the early years of Bacolod as a mere small settlement by the riverbank known as Magsungay. When the neighboring settlement of Bago was elevated into the status of a small town in 1575, it had several religious dependencies and one of which was the village of Magsungay. The early missionaries placed the village under the care and protection of Saint Sebastian sometime in the middle of the 18th century. A corregidor by the name of Luis Fernando de Luna, donated a relic of the saint for the growing mission, and since then, the village came to be known as San Sebastián de Magsung̃ay.
Bacolod was not established as a town until 1755 or 1756, after the inhabitants of the coastal settlement of San Sebastián de Magsung̃ay, were attacked by forces under Datu Bantílan of Sulu on July 14, 1755 and the villagers transferred from the coast to a hilly area called Bacólod (which is now the barangay of Granada). Bernardino de los Santos became the first gobernadorcillo . The town of Bacolod was constituted as a parroquia in 1788 under the secular clergy, but did not have a resident priest until 1802, as the town was served by the priest from Bago, and later Binalbagan. By 1790, slave raids on Bacolod by Moro pirates had ceased.
On 11 February 1802, Fr. Eusebio Laurencio became acting parish priest of Bacolod. In September 1806, Fr. León Pedro was appointed interim parish priest and the following year became the first regular parish priest. In September 1817, Fray Julián Gonzaga from Barcelona was appointed as the parish priest. He encouraged the people to settle once again near the sea. He also encouraged migration to Bacolod and the opening of lands to agriculture and industry.
In 1846, upon the request of Romualdo Jimeno, bishop of Cebu and Negros at that time, Governor-General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa sent to Negros a team of Recollect missionaries headed by priest Fernando Cuenca. A decree of 20 June 1848 by Gobernador General Clavería ordered the restructuring of Negros politically and religiously. The following year (1849), Negros Island Gobernadorcillo Manuel Valdevieso y Morquecho transferred the capital of the Province of Negros from Himamaylan to Bacolod and the Augustinian Recollects were asked to assume spiritual administration of Negros, which they did that same year. Transfer of Bacolod to the Recollects, however, took place only in 1871. Fray Mauricio Ferrero became the first Augustinian Recollect parish priest of Bacolod and successor to the secular priest, Fr. Mariano Ávila. In 1863, a compulsory primary public school system was set up.
In 1889, Bacolod became the capital of Occidental Negros when the Province of Negros was politically divided into the separate provinces of Occidental Negros (Spanish: Negros Occidental) and Oriental Negros (Spanish: Negros Oriental).
Fountain of Justice and downtown Bacolod
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The success of the uprising in Bacolod was attributed to the low morale of the local Spanish detachment, due to its defeat in Panay and Luzon and to the psychological warfare waged by Generals Aniceto Lacson and Juan Araneta. In 1897, a battle in Bacolod was fought at Matab-ang River. A year later, on November 5, 1898, the Negrense Revolucionarios armed with knives, bolos, spears, and rifle-like nipa palm stems, and pieces of sawali or amakan mounted on carts, captured the convent, presently Palacio Episcopal , where Colonel Isidro de Castro y Cisneros, well-armed cazadores and platoons of Guardias Civiles , surrendered.
Cantonal Republic of Negros
On 7 November 1898, most of the revolutionary army gathered together to establish a provisional junta and to confirm the elections of Aniceto Lacson as president, Juan Araneta as war-delegate, as well as the other officials. For a brief moment, the provinces of Occidental Negros and Oriental Negros were reunited under the cantonal government of the Negrense Revolucionarios, from 6 November 1898 to the end of February 1899, making Bacolod the capital. In March 1899, the American forces led by Colonel James G. Smith occupied Bacolod, the revolutionary capital of República Cantonal de Negros .
American colonial period
Bacolod Public Plaza during bicycle races in 1901.
The Cantonal Republic of Negros became a U.S. territory on April 30, 1901. This separated Negros Island once again, reverting Bacolod to its status as the capital of Occidental Negros.
The public school of Instituto Rizal opened its doors to students on 1 July 1902. Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación , the first private institution in the province of Negros Occidental, was established in Bacolod by the Augustinian sisters on March 11, 1919 and opened in July 1919.
A historic event took place in 1938 when Municipality of Bacolod was elevated into a city through Commonwealth Act No. 326 passed by the 1st National Assembly of the Philippines creating the City of Bacolod. Assemblyman Pedro C. Hernáez of the second district of Negros Occidental sponsored the bill. The law was passed on June 18, 1938. Bacolod was formally inaugurated as a chartered city on October 19, 1938 by virtue of Commonwealth Act No. 404, highlighted by the visit of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon. President Quezon appointed Alfredo Montelíbano, Sr. as the first city mayor of Bacolod.
Japanese occupation and allied liberation
Ancestral home of then Don Generoso Villanueva
In World War II, Bacolod was occupied by the Japanese forces on May 21, 1942. Lieutenant General Kawano "Kono" Takeshi, the Japanese commanding officer of the 77th Infantry Brigade, 102nd Division, seized the homes of Don Generoso Villanueva, a prominent sugar planter—whose home, the Daku Balay served as the "seat of power" (occupational headquarters for the Japanese Forces in Negros and all of the Central Visayan region of the Philippines) and being the tallest building of Bacolod it served as the city's watchtower—and the home of his brother-in-law, Don Mariano Ramos, the first appointed Municipal President of Bacolod. The home of Don Generoso was lived in by Lt. General Takeshi throughout the duration of the war and also served as his office and the home of Don Mariano was occupied by a Japanese Colonel serving under the command of Lt. General Takeshi. The city was liberated by joint Philippine and American forces on May 29, 1945. It took time to rebuild the city after liberation. However, upon the orders of Lt. General Takeshi, both the homes of Villanueva and Ramos were saved from destruction by the retreating Japanese forces.
In March 1945, upon the invasion of the American and Philippine Commonwealth forces, the withdrawal of the Japanese army into the mountains and the temporary occupation of Bacolod by the combined U.S. and Philippine Commonwealth armed forces, the house of Villanueva was then occupied by Major General Rapp Brush, commander of the 40th Infantry Division, known as the "Sun Burst" Division, for approximately five months. The local Philippine military built and established the general headquarters and camp bases of the Philippine Commonwealth Army which was active from January 3, 1942 to June 30, 1946. The 7th Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary was also active from October 28, 1944 to June 30, 1946 and was stationed in Bacolod during and after World War II.
Statue of Pope John Paul II, built on the site where he delivered a message on February 20, 1981.
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When the country finally gained complete independence from the United States, the city's public markets and slaughterhouses were rebuilt during the administration of then Mayor Vicente Remitió from 1947 to 1949. In 1948, a fire razed a portion of the records section of the old city hall that consumed the rear end of the building and with it, numerous priceless documents of the city. When Batas Pambansa Blg. 51 was approved on December 22, 1979 and came into effect in 1980, the chartered City of Bacolod was converted into a highly urbanized city. The political relations with Negros Occidental were severed and the residents effectively lost their eligibility to vote for provincial officials because of this new status. In January 1985, the original hardwood and coral structure of Palacio Episcopal was almost entirely destroyed by a fire. Among the damage of the raging fire were items of significant historical value. The reconstruction of Palacio which took more than two years, was completed in 1990.