The province is headed by an elected governor, and the cities by a local mayor. Cities and municipalities are subdivided into barangays (smallest political units). According to the province's official website, www.negros-occ.gov.ph, some powerful clans are prominent in politics.
Political conflicts exist in some areas. Farmers groups have sought the Church's help in seeking full implementation of the agrarian reform law and in calling for a stop to reported harassments of landowners against farmers and farmer leaders. Bishop Buzon together with other bishops in Negros Island, parish priests and members of Basic Ecclesial Communities have called for peace and just distribution of land, and have also spoken against destructive mining on the island.
The area mainly relies on road transportation. Air and water transportation are available in the nearby dioceses.
The Diocese of Kabankalan is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Jaro. Kabankalan diocese extends from Cabacungan in La Castellana town to Culipapa in Hinobaan town in the southern part of Negros Occidental, Philippines, occupying a total land area of 3,924 square kilometers. The terrain is mountainous but mostly accessible. This young diocese has 23 parishes, six chaplaincies, 19 parochial schools and a newly-built college seminary. It is grouped into five vicariate districts which encompass three cities -- Kabankalan, Himamaylan and Sipalay -- and eight municipalities -- La Castellana, Moises Padilla, Isabela, Binalbagan, Ilog, Cauyan, Candoni and Hinobaan. Kabankalan diocese's titular patron is Saint Francis Xavier whose feast is celebrated Dec. 3.
The Catholic populace has now reached about 646,640 which is about 85 percent of the total population of 760,753. Historically, people migrated from the nearby Panay Island during the rise of the sugar industries in the early years of the 19th century. Residents of Negros are called Negrense. Though indigenous peoples were identified to be existing, formal information is yet to be established. Since Panay Island had the major influence in the life of the people, Ilongo-Hiligaynon is the major Visayan Filipino dialect in the area characteristic of those belonging to Western Visayas, the sixth region of the Philippines. Some people on the Negros Island's east coast can speak the Cebuano dialect because of interaction with Cebu. The average residents can also speak the Tagalog dialect and the English language.
Most of the faithful have an average or below average income level and their main source of income is from employment, farming and fishing. Characteristically agricultural, the sugarcane farming dominates the major agricultural produce of the area. The provincial website reports that Negros Occidental produces more than half of the country's sugar through 15 sugar centrals throughout the province. The sugar industry is the major source of living for the working people, but the surplus value of these industries is enjoyed in a disproportionate way by the vast landowners or hacienderos. Other agricultural products include rice, corn, root crops, vegetables and fruits. Locals' small-scale fishing industries support the bigger-scale businesses of those in the center of the two provinces in Negros Island -- Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. The provincial website notes that Himamaylan City is a rich source of oysters, fish, and wooden poles for electric posts, while Sipalay City is the location of one of the country's largest copper mines.
There are local television and radio broadcasting station in the area but none are owned and run by the diocese. Landline, cellular phone and Internet services are provided by the Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications and its subsidiaries, Smart Communications and Globelines.
The official literacy rate of Negros Occidental province according to the 2000 Census of the National Statistics Office is 91.21 percent.
According to www.negros-occ.gov.ph, Negros Island is known for its tasty cuisine. Inasal -- barbequed chicken marinated in coconut vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and other spices is a famous dish. Pastries and confectioneries like piaya, a flatbread made from flour, eggs, lard, and sesame seeds filled with muscovado (brown powdered sugar) syrup, pastel de manga or wafer with mango filling, panyo-panyo, a pastry delicately folded like a lady's handkerchief, and "guapple pie" made from the guava-apple hybrid.
Historical landmarks in Kabankalan City include the old church in Linao, Hacienda Bearin, and the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. Every third Sunday of January, dancers painted in black soot dance in the Sinulog festival. The pre-Sinulog presentation of the history, culture and development of the festival is done through songs, dances and drama and is called Udyakan sa Kabankalan.
Other helpful information about the diocese
The entire island of Negros in the Philippines once belonged to the Diocese of Bacolod, which was created in 1933, separating Negros from the jurisdiction of Cebu and Jaro. In 1987, Bacolod diocese was divided into three, with San Carlos in the north, Kabankalan in the south, and Bacolod in the center.
The Religious had been the pioneers of evangelization in Kabankalan. The Recollects, Jesuits and Mill Hill Fathers had contributed to the spread of the Catholic faith. In 1950, then bishop of Bacolod, Bishop Manuel Yap invited the Columbans to the area which now constitutes Kabankalan diocese.
The Filipino clergy started to integrate in the diocese in the 1970s with the advent of the Kristyanong Katilingban or KK (Basic Christian Communities). The local church suffered tremendous harassment and persecution especially during martial law.
The compound of what is now the Kabankalan Cathedral was gutted by a fire in 1986. Kabankalan was proclaimed a diocese on March 30, 1987, and Bishop Vicente Navarra was installed on February 11, 1988 as the first bishop of Kabankalan.
During his term that spanned 13 years, Bishop Navarra facilitated the two synods for the renewal of the local church. The modified tithing system was adopted, in accordance with the spirit of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines. The Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Diocesan Pastoral Team were formed for lay empowerment and animation of the Kristyanong Katilingban, which remains the pastoral thrust of the diocese.
The diocese's preferential option for the less fortunate was typified by the establishment of the deaf-mute apostolate which was initiated by Bishop Navarra and is presently supervised by the Anawim Foundation. The synchronized reshuffling of the diocesan clergy was undertaken shortly before bishop Navarra was transferred to Bacolod diocese in July 2001. Prior to his transfer, he had led the construction of the Little Way College Seminary, now in its fifth year of operation.
For almost two years, the diocese was entrusted to the care of the diocesan administrator, Monsignor Rogelio Cruz, VG, until the second bishop of Kabankalan was chosen by the late Pope John Paul II. Father Patricio Buzon, SDB, was ordained bishop in Cebu City by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal on Feb. 19, 2003.
On March 19, 2003, Bishop Buzon was installed as the second shepherd of the diocese. The new bishop who belonged to a religious order found some difficulties with the diocesan culture, but dutifully studied and contemplated the decrees of Diocesan Synod of Kabankalan (DSK) I and the resolutions of Diocesan Pastoral Assembly (DPA) II. The bishop proposed to conduct a diocesan-wide strategic planning exercise.
As an initial step, the clergy convened together with selected BEC leaders in May 2004 to look closely into the economic, political, socio-cultural and ecclesial situation of the local Church. This meeting gradually led to the revision of the vision-mission statement of the diocese.
It was then agreed during the two-day convention to conduct parish-based assessments to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the diocese in terms of the human, communitarian and spiritual aspects. These assessments were conducted and attended by more than 2,100 Basic Ecclesial Community leaders for five months in the later part of 2004. DPA II was called by Bishop Buzon in February 2005 to finally present the collated result of the diocesan-wide assessment and make corresponding actions needed to resolve any ambiguities. Through this undertaking, the diocese has finally identified its top seven priorities to be addressed in three to six years' time in accordance with the updated vision-mission of the diocese. This was also the time when organizational setups, structures and systems were formally established.
At the moment (March 2007), the diocese is at the implementation period of the plans and programs mandated by DPA II.