Bais City credits much of its progress to the Central Azucarera de Bais, the largest producer of raw sugar in the province of Negros Oriental. Established by the Tabacalera of Spain in the early 1900’s, it is also one of the pioneers in the sugar industry in the Philippines. This industry reached its peak in the 1930’s bringing affluence to the Negrenses and enabling them to build stately homes and to acquire properties all over the province.
Driving through the city’s main national highway, sugar plantations can immediately be seen on both sides of the road. These areas are characterized by expansive lowlands that stretch as far as the eyes can see and are ideal for sugar planting because of the city’s naturally fertile soil. It is no wonder why 73% of the city’s total land area is devoted primarily to agriculture.
The Central Azucarera itself is an old foreboding structure of metal and hard wood. The offices may have seen better days, the dank smell of nostalgia hang heavy in the air, but are still functional. Nearby is the Casa Grande, an equally old residential compound surrounded by tall acacia trees, which was built for the use of the employees of the Azucarera. The two storey wooden houses are greatly influenced by old Spanish design and architecture. Much of the houses have undergone restoration and continue to be used as homes.
Further on are the stately plantation houses owned by sugar planters, mostly standing on one of the lots in the family hacienda. Inside the haciendas are chapels whose altar and icons date back to the early 1917’s. Educational visits to these places may be arranged at the Bais City Tourism Office. What is most interesting is you get to tour via the old railroad trams used by the milling companies to hasten sugarcane transport.
Bais City is located 45 kilometers north of Dumaguete City. It takes approximately 40 minutes to an hour at regular speed to get there. A rental car or van may be taken for a one way fee of P1,300. Another option would be to board a jeepney plying the Dumaguete – Bais route which costs a mere 10 pesos. Once in the city, another trike ride can bring you to the Central Azucarera. In such case, renting a vehicle would be more convenient since it can also take you around the city to view the other sites, not only the sugar mills.