Spanish Colonial Period
Kabilin, a book on provincial history, mentions what seemed to be the first known documentary reference of the island of Negros in the atlas drawn in 1545 by renowned Spanish cartographer Alonso de Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz's map bears the legend "y de Negros," probably derived from the reports of the presence of small black people (negritos) on the island. Thus, years before the Legaspi Expidition, there is evidence that the Spaniards already knew the island of Negros by this name.
In 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, while anchored in Bohol, espied this impressively large land mass and dispatched an expedition to reconnoiter it. A strong current carried the frigate for several days around the island that its inhabitants called Buglas.
In 1571 Legazpi assigned encomiendas on Negros Island to 13 of his men. The encomenderos, however, preferred to live in Panay or Cebu. The following year, Augustinian friars began Christianization of the island.
For almost 400 years the island of Negros was administered as one province by Spain, Travel was by horseback or on foot. It was difficult and took days, with rivers and mountains and jungles to be traversed to reach the major poblaciones or towns that were located at great distances from each other.
On June 11, 1580, Tanjay was constituted as the first parish on the southeastern coast. Spiritual and military administrative seats remained in Panay for western Negros, and Cebu for the eastern settlements.
In 1734 Negros was made a corregimento (roughly translated into "town") with the capital in Ilog, on the western side.
In 1795 the island became an alcaldia (mayoralty) with Himamaylan as capital also on the western section.
In 1851, sugarcane began to transform Negros into the most productive island in the archipelago. The Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas SA, or Tabacalera, venturing into the sugar industry, chose Negros Oriental as the site of its sugar mill in the Philippines, the Central Azucarera de Bais, built in Bais City in 1918.
In 1856 the island of Negros became a politico-military province with Don Emilio Saravia y Nuñez as first Gobernador Politico-Militar, and Bacolod, still on the western side, as the capital.
On January 1, 1890, barely eight years before the outbreak of the Philippine revolution against Spain, governor General Valeriano Weyler, acting on a royal decree, created the Provinces of Negros Occidental on the northwest of the island, and of Negros Oriental on ths southeast. Siquijor Island was attached to Negros Oriental, Dumaguete was designated as the capital.
Philippine Revolution / American Occupation
During the Philippines revolution, in the last quarter of 1898, Don Diego de la Viña of Vallehermoso stirred Negros Oriental into action. With a band of insufficiently-armed farmhands, he marched towards Dumaguete to liberate the capital, also liberating the northern towns along the way. The De la Viña forces arrived in Dumaguete just as the Spanish forces abandoned it.
On November 25, 1898, the Provincial Revolutionary Government of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was established in Dumaguete, the capital town, with Don Demetrio Larena as Presidente.
In Luzon the Spanish and American fleets staged the Battle of Manila Bay, which resulted in the former ceding the Philippines over to the United States of America.
On April 9, 1901, the Second Philippine Commission under the Chairmanship of William H. Taft, arrived in Dumaguete. On May 1, 1901, the civil government under American rule was established with Don Demetrio Larena as Governor.
The establishment of schools has contributed largely to the growth of the province. On August 28, of the same year Dr. David S. Hibbard founded Silliman Institute now Silliman University. It would become the first Protestant university in the Philippines. In 1904 seven Belgian nuns arrived to open St. Paul’s Academy, which would be the first St. Paul de Chartres institution in the country.
Tabacalera established in 1918 its first sugar central in the country in Bais, the Central Azucarera de Bais, thus stimulating the growth of the province’s sugar industry. Oriental Negros also cultivated grains and abaca, and was a good producer of copra.
WWII / Japanese Occupation
On May 26, 1942, the Japanese landed in Dumaguete City. A combined effort of American and Filipino forces defeated the occupying powers on August 6, 1945. At the Sagbang hilltop in Valencia, a few kilometers from Dumaguete City, a three-sided pillar rises as a shrine commemorating the last and fiercest encounter where Filipino and American forces clashed with the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII.
In the 1970’s, when the Philippines was clustered into political regions under the regime of Martial Law President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Negros Occidental became part of Region VI, or Western Visayas, with Iloilo as its regional center while Negros Oriental was assigned to Region VII, or Central Visayas, with Cebu City as its regional center.
Today, Negros Oriental is divided into 5 cities and 20 municipalities, and was recently named as one of the best places in the world to live in.