It was in 1751 when the Spanish friars first established their settlement. 116 years later, Tolong Nuevo (Bayawan's former name) had existed as early as 1868 as part of Tolong Viejo (now the Municipality of Sta. Catalina). It was not until 1872 when she was formally organized as a pueblo.
In 1953, the name Tolong Nuevo was changed to Bayawan, by virtue of Republic Act 694 as approved by the 3rd congress of the Philippines, consigning the name "Tolong" into obscurity and deep oblivion soon slowly to be forgotten by the succeeding generations.
From the former name "Tolong", it was changed to Bayawan in a tragic tale that involved a "Bukidnon", the so-called natives of Bayawan and a priest. The town center was previously located in an uphill settlement called 'Omod' now Brgy. Maninihon. A chapel was erected to serve the religious needs of the new converts. One Sunday morning while the priest was celebrating the Holy Eucharist, an enraged "Bukidnon" barged in the middle of the assembly. In the act of consecration, while the priest was elevating the Holy Host, this enraged "Bukidnon" threw a lance to the priest, instantly killing him.
The so-called native of Bayawan, the "Bukidnon" had this ritual called "Mag-ahat-a" ritual practice involving the act of killing. The practice of "Mag-ahat" was to avenge the death of their fellow tribesman to appease the spirit of the deceased.
The tragic event left an indelible mark in the minds of the local folks. Thus, the name "Bayawan" from the Visayan term "Bayaw"– to hoist or elevate.
Bayawan's cityhood is a story in itself and a classic example how an iota of an idea can grow into a full bloom reality if nurtured with proper care coupled with great enthusiasm and perseverance. Hon. German P. Saraña Jr., the then vice-mayor, had nurtured this dream. The path to city hood was an arduous path. Stony would be an understatement if we have to least described it.
After finding out the that Bayawan has met two (income and land area) out of the three (income, land area and population) initial requirements for a municipality to become a city, a letter was sent to the Department of Finance, Bureau of Local Government Finance dated August 3, 1998 "requesting a certification as to the average regular income of the municipality of Bayawan, Negros Oriental for calendar years 1996-1997 based on 1991 constant prices". The reply from the Department of Finance dated October 23, 1998 was enclosed with a certification stating that "the average annual regular income in the amounts to Twenty Seven Million Two Hundred Twenty Nine Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Two and 62/100 Pesos (Php 27,229,752.62) which exceeds the minimum income requirement of P20,000,000.00 provided for the Section 450 of R.A. 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991) for the conversion of a municipality into a component city."
The Hon. German P. Saraña, Jr., as presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan then passed a resolution to the Provincial Council to comment of the petition for the city hood. With the Provincial Board's favorable recommendation, the paper chase began. Documents to support the petition were prepared; Certification by the Department of Finance that the average annual income of the proposed city meets the minimum income requirement and that its creation will not reduce the income based on 1991 constant prices, of the original Local Government Unit or Local Government Unit to less than the prescribed minimum; Certification by the National Statistics Office as to population of the proposed city and that its creation will not reduce the population of the original Local Government Unit to less than the prescribed minimum.
Certification by the Land Management Bureau that the land area of the proposed city meets the minimum land area requirement and that its creation will not reduce the land area of the Original Local Government Unit or Local Government Units, indicating the area to be created into a city. The map shall be prepared by the provincial, city or district engineer as the case may be and shall clearly indicate the road network within the proposed city; Certification by Land management Bureau that disposable and alienable public lands are available in the area to be created into a city sufficient to meet its growing population and the following purposes: Government center site of not less than ten thousand (10,00) square meters which shall include the city hall site and those of other government buildings; market site of not less than ten thousand (10,000) square meters, located out of view of the city hall, schools, plaza, and cemetery and near but not along a provincial road, railroad station, navigable river or sea; Plaza or park of not less than ten thousand (10,000) square meters located preferably in front of the city hall; School site of not less than ten thousand (10,000) square meter, in well-drained location that conforms with the requirements prescribed by public school authorities; and Cemetery site of not less than five thousand (5,000) square meters for every ten thousand (10,000) population which conforms with the requirements prescribed by the health.
In addition, there were documents that contained the number and the nature of existing and commercial establishments in the territory of the proposed city as certified by NSO; Sources of potable water supply for the inhabitants as certified by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) or the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), as the case maybe; Facilities, plans, and site for sewerage, garbage and waste disposals as certified by the Local engineer; and such other information that the petitioners may deem relevant for consideration in the petition.
After all the documents were collated, it was then submitted to the Office of the Congressman Herminio G. Teves of the Third District of the Province of Negros Oriental for the drafting of the proposed bill converting the Municipality of Bayawan into a component city of the Province of Negros Oriental. Thus, House Bill 7004 was born sponsored by Hon. Herminio G. Teves, 3rd Congressional District Representative of Negros Oriental. After the bill passed third reading and was approved, a public hearing was set on June 27, 1999.
A couple of months before the d-day, the municipality was in a hub of activities. Several meetings were conducted to ensure that everything would turn out to be perfect to give the visiting guests the impression that the Bayawanons were not only willing but also ready to become city residents.
Invitations to attend the Public Hearing were sent out to practically all sectors. Representatives of every stratum of the society were given a rare chance to vent their opinions regarding the proposed city hood. Local officials led by Mayor Ernesto T. Tijing, Vice-Mayor German P. Saraña Jr., the members of the Sanguniang Bayan, Hon. Rene Gaudiel, Hon. Lito Bito-on, Hon. Peter Paul Renacia, Hon. Rowena Cabanban, Hon. Guillermo Diao, Hon. Antonio Villamil, Hon. Eustaquia Elnar, Hon. Samuel Quindo, Hon. Fred Ian Trayvilla, and Hon. Hearty Soldevilla came in full force and ushered the solons who came all the way from Manila, the Visayas and those from the Province of Negros Oriental. Among those were Hon. Cong. Romeo Candazo, Hon. Cong. Roy Padilla, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Hon. Cong. Mar Roxas. Hon. Cong. Makarambung, Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo and Vice-Mayor Woodrow Maquiling, Bais City Mayor Francisco Villanueva, Municipality of Zamboanguita Mayor Marcelo Adanza, Provincial Governor George P. Arnaiz and Provincial Vice-Governor Edgar Y. Teves. Hon. Cong. Herminio Teves, the Provincial Board Members and people from the media coming from Manila and from Dumaguete City also came to give full media coverage of the proceedings.
The result was overwhelming. The constituents' voices were heard and everybody gave a resounding positive response to make Bayawan a component city of Negros Oriental.
It took more than a year when city hood crept back in the consciousness of the Bayawanons.
Back in Manila, House Bill 7004 (the Congressional Bill that will convert Bayawan into a component city of the Province of Negros Oriental) was revised and became house Bill 8191. Finally, the House of Representatives passed it on November 20, 2000.
Sergio Osmeña II sponsored Senate Bill 2197, which the senate finally passed on Nov. 15, 2000.
When Gov. "Chavit" Singson came out of the open to expose the "Jueting Scandal" involving ousted president Joseph Ejercito Estrada, a cloud of uncertainty hovered over the city hood of Bayawan. It was as if the sword of Damocles hanged over... it was as if a life support system was snuffed off from a patient to die peacefully.
While the whole country were glued to their television sets, following the bore some exchanges of judicial arguments regarding "subpoena duces tecum or subpoena ad testificandum"' everyone in the Local Government Unit was asking the same question which none of us could give a categorically correct answer. For two occasions, there were notices sent from the office of Cong. Teves in Manila asking the local officials and department heads to pack their things and hie off to Manila only to be told later that the trip was postponed to an undisclosed future date.
It was as if the wait is taking forever. On December 5, 2000 in the midst of all the chaos, the slamming of the judge's gavel in the Impeachment Trial, Mayor Ernesto T. Tijing slipped to Manila to witness the signing of the city charter by then embattled president, Joseph Ejercito Estrada. It was a most fateful day for all the Bayawanons. The signing became the denouement of an exciting story that we had religiously been following. Mayor Tijing then, called the Local Government Unit to prepare the necessary papers especially that the COMELEC had set the plebiscite to December 23, 2000.
With only two weeks to prepare, everybody in the unit did their thing to the campaign soiree. The LGU bought airtime over the radio to disseminate information especially those in the hinter barangays why we should embark on a city hood status. Line ads on cable television were placed to further drum into the consciousness of the constituents this important milestone that will entirely change the face of Bayawan.
Streamers and banners endorsing the "Vote Yes for City hood" hanged in all corners of the town. And on December 23, 2000 the Plebiscite was staged.
During the 104th Commemoration of Dr. Jose Rizal's Martyrdom in Bagumbayan, December 30, 2000, in a simple yet memorable ceremony, the incumbent Municipal Officials were sworn into office by Judge Rogaciano Rivera as the set of Bayawan City Officials.
Bayawan now looks forward to the challenge of the future with greater determination and zest. With its new status, she opens her door to welcome investors that will boost her economic growth. The opening of communication system like the Philippine Long Distance Telephone, Inc., Cruz Telephone Company, Smart Cell Phone, the internet provided access to Bayawan to be inter-connected with the rest of the world. The installation of two Cable Television Sub-stations and the Manila Broadcasting's DYSJ-FM radio made Bayawan abreast and well-informed with the latest and current news and issues affecting the daily grind of the Filipino's life not only on the national and local front but also internationally. Bayawan now joins the race of the rest of the modern and the modernized city of the country. Predictably, Bayawan now becomes the gateway of commerce and will eventually become the seat of business hub in the south. The city hood status she achieved will entirely change the bucolic scenario of the growing and developing municipality into a bustling metropolis in the years to come.