Historical Attractions - Dumaguete City

The history of Negros Oriental is one of the richest and longest running in the all of the Philippines. European influence in the Philippines started with the Spanish Search and their search for a Western Route to Asia.

Spanish Expeditions Searching for new Route to the Spice Islands

Dating back to Spanish sponsored expeditions of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan between 1519-1522 that were mostly funded by Spain's King Charles V. You see the Spanish had been searching for a westward route to Asia ever since the expeditions of Christopher Columbus. Why? Spain urgently needed to find a new commercial route to Asia because back in 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas reserved for Portugal the eastern route that went around Africa. After the Junta de Toro conference in 1505, the Spanish Crown had been commissioning expeditions to discover such a route.

Then in October of 1517 Magellan and partner Faleiro presented their project to the Spanish king. If successful Magellan's project would realize Christopher Columbus' plan of a spice route to Asia by sailing west without compromising relations with the Portuguese. On March 22nd, 1518 King Charles named Magellan and Faleiro captains so that they could head out in search of such a passage. The fleet provided by King Charles V included five vessels and around 270 men. Finally, on August 10, 1519 the five ships under Magellan's command left Seville. 

Magellan landed his fleet on the neighboring island of Cebu. It was not long after that the island of Negros was 'discovered' by one of the ships in Magellan's fleet. When they made it to shore they encountered the dark-skinned inhabitants of the island whom they called the Negritos, after whom the island was named: Negros. Magellan never made it out of the Philippines as he was killed around his 40th birthday in the battle of Mactan. His expedition continued (albeit with too few men to sail the three remaining ships so his leaders paired down to two ships) westward to Palawan then on to the Maluku Islands (aka the Spice Islands). This is where his crew traded goods with the Sultan of Tidore, a rival of the Sultan of Ternate, who was the ally of the Portuguese.

Laden with valuable spices the ships tried to return to Spain by continuing to sail westward. One of the ships the Trinidad began to take on water and after many failed attempts to repair the leak the two ships split up. The smaller ship the Victoria continued to sail west for Spain and finally on September 6, 1522 they arrived home almost exactly three years after the fleet of five ships had departed. Although Magellan had not intended to circumnavigate the world, his crew captained by Elcano had done just that completing the first known voyage around the entire planet.

Negros Oriental WWII Stronghold

The island of Negros was invaded by Japanese forces and many residents were forced to flee to the mountains to escape. Negros Island was liberated by combined Filipino & American troops with the local Negrenese guerillas attacking the Japanese on August 6, 1945 during the Battle of the Visayas. Balatong Point (also called Punta Tambungon by the locals) located near the town of Basay, with it's rocks and large corals was used as a navigational landmark. The largest shipment of WWII ammunition for the Negros guerilla movement was unloaded here which is why this site is now the favored dive spot of many scuba enthusiasts.

About a week into the Panay and northwestern Negros operations, Operation VICTOR II, the seizure of Cebu, Bohol, and southeastern Negros, was underway. The Americal Division under Maj. Gen. William Howard Arnold was tasked by Gen. Eichelberger for the operation. 14,500 Japanese troops held Cebu at the time. The capture of Bohol and southeastern Negros was in full effect long before the fighting in Cebu subsided when a battalion of the 164th Infantry landed on Tagbilaran City on Bohol's western coast. With the assistance of local guerrilla forces they pushed inland and defeated the Japanese losing only seven men.

On 26 April the 164th went ashore at Sibulan just five miles (8 km) north of Dumaguete City to meet with a Reconnaissance Troop of the 40th Division. Two days later they attacked the 1,300 strong Japanese force entrenched in hillsides surrounding Dumaguete. Major combat operations continued for two days until 28 May 1945 when the Japanese positions fell and Filipino guerrillas assumed responsibility. The 164th Infantry suffered just thirty five fatalities and 180 wounded in southeastern Negros, while the Japanese lost some 350 soldiers while fifteen were captured.


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