In 1565, Silay was first called as “Carobcob”, which means “to scratch” in Kinaray-a. That was because the people were relying on harvesting tuway clams which involved “scratching” (or raking) the sands for the mullocks at low tide, as a means of livelihood.
Carobcob was granted as an encomienda to Cristobal Nuñez Paroja, one of the 17 soldiers of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi on January 25, 1571. Even though already established encomienda, the settlement was not still safe for the attacks of the native oppressors. In the second half of the century, Moro slave raiders escalated their incursions on the island, forcing the Corregidor of Negros to adopt the policy of flight rather than resistance. People left their homes sometime in 1760 and settled in a new location between two small rivers Matagoy and Panaogao. A paloisades or estacada (Spanish for “fortification”) was constructed to protect the populace from Moro raiders. The place is now known as Sitio Estaca, its name derived from the Spanish word estacada.
In 1760 Silay was recognized as a town being referred to in a letter from Governor Juan Jose de Mijares (1772–1775) mentioning Silay as a leading town in the north. In 1776, the bishop of Cebu considered Silay as the center of the parish. In 1760, it became a pueblo or town. By 1896, it had become a leading sugar-producing area because of the Horno Economico (sugar mill) built in 1846 by a Frenchman who became a permanent resident of Silay, Yves Leopold Germain Gaston.
Population/ Language/ Area
As of 2010, Silay City recorded a total population of 120,999. These people are consist of Hiligaynon, Cebuano and Tagalog speaking natives. There are also some foreigners who live within the city boundary.
Silay City’s land area reaches up to 214.80 km2 (82.93 sq mi). This component city and fishing port forms a broad plain that extends 25 km from the coastline to the base of rugged hills and mountain ranges.
- Cinco de Nobiembre Marker – marks the site of the first exchange of shots between the Filipino and Spanish forces on Novvember 5, 1898. It was also the location where the northern forces of Gen. Lacson assembled and raised the Philippine flag.
- Ramon Hofilena Museum – located at No. 14 Cinco de Noviember Street, is a typical turn of the century Philippine ancestral home built in 1934. Now a museum, it displays more than 1,000 works of Goya and Picasso, works of Dr. Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, imported Chinese pottery, silver picture frames, antiques and a collection of small dolls (said to be the smallest in the world, you need a magnifying glass to appreciate them). It also houses the oldest printmaking workshop outside Manila, Silay Printmaking, founded on 1970.
- Balay Negrense – is one of the largest ancestral house in Silay City. It was built in a Neo-Renaissance style (1898 to 1912) by Frenchman Yves Leopold Germain Gaston of Lisieux. Gaston, the first sugar baron in the 19th century, generated wide-scale interest in cultivating sugar on a commercial scale. His horno econonmico is the precursor of today’s sugar mills. The house built was said said to have been occupied by Japanese military officers in World War II. It was a venue for a ballet school run by one of the descendants until the early 1970s and was abandoned shortly thereafter. It was later restored and was opened in 1987 by the Negros Cultural Foundation as a lifestyle museum showcasing Negrense art and culture. It boasts of 12 bedrooms, a grand W-shaped stairway, calado or carved panels that served as ventilators between rooms, antique furniture, Gaston memorabilia, etched window glass, fancy-grilled ventanillas and sprawling gardens. Open Tuesdays-Sundays, 10am-6pm.
Festivals and Celebrations
- Kansilay Festival – this festival is celebrated every 12th of June. The festival runs with a story of a Princess named Kansilay who defended the settlement from the invading pirates. She fought for her people. They were successful in driving out the pirates but the princess died in the battle.
- Adobo Festival – locals as well as foreign visitors flock into Balay Negrense along 5 de Noviembre Street, Silay City, to taste many kinds of adobo cooked by the locals.