Be charmed by the endearing qualities of Bacolod City
Words Sophie Menor | Photography Suki Salvador and Renee Joy Basa
Additional photos courtesy of Richard Torres
AS SOON AS YOU DISEMBARK FROM THE PLANE AT THE LOCAL AIRPORT, YOU WILL REALIZE WHY BACOLOD IS CALLED THE CITY OF SMILES. Local men, with smiles on their faces, will immediately approach you and offer a ride to Bacolod’s center. And for some strange reason, you will not feel scared or paranoid that the person you are talking to has any ill intentions.
Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Occidental and considered the Sugarbowl of the Philippines. The people’s warmth and hospitality, combined with the city’s delectable cuisines and rich history, will truly charm any visitor.
WHERE TO GO:
Bacolod City is surrounded by places that represent Negros Occidental’s valuable past and natural treasures. Experience them first hand by visiting these places.
Negros Occidental’s opulent story is reflected in these mansions-turned-tourist attractions.
• The Ruins – Located in Talisay City, The Ruins was the home of Don Mariano Lacson that was built in the 1900s after the death of his wife, Maria Braga. The mansion is probably the largest and grandest residence built during those times. During World War II, the house was burned down by the US forces to prevent the Japanese from using it as their headquarters. What is left is a structure that is testament to the grandiose house. Today, The Ruins serves as a café, a tourist attraction and an events venue popular for weddings.
The Ruins is located at Hacienda Sta. Maria, Talisay City, Negros Occidental. Open daily, from 8:30AM to 8PM. Fee is P25 per person. A mini-golf course at the back garden
is available for P50 per game. For more information, call (34)495 2790, (917)832 6003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Balay Negrense – Literally meaning “Negrense House,” this ancestral home of sugar baron Victor Gaston in Silay City was built in 1897, shortly after he was widowed. This bahay na bato is probably one of the biggest colonial homes in Silay, with a basketball court sized living room and 12 bedrooms. Its sprawling gardens were possibly used as a setting for countless festivities. The house was abandoned in the mid- 1970s, but fortunately, it was repaired and furnished with period furniture and fi xtures that guests will feel they were taken back in time. Balay Negrense is located at Cinco de Noviembre St., Silay City, Negros Occidental. Open Tue to Sun, 10AM to 6PM
A few hours away from the city, white sand beaches that are at par with other famous beaches in the country are ready to be explored.
• Punta Bulata White Beach Resort and Spa – Punta Bulata is a tropical haven that echoes the laidback lifestyle of the province’s hacienderos. Aside from the one kilometer stretch of white sand beach, you can also enjoy water sports like kayaking. When you’re there, visit the Danjugan Island Marine and Wildlife Reserve, which is a 10-minute boat ride from the resort. Danjugan is an island surrounded by coral reefs parallel to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. You can also scuba dive and snorkel in the island to experience Mother’s Nature at her fi nest. It is also a bird watcher’s paradise since it houses 72 diff erent bird species. How to get here: From Bacolod City, take Ceres Liner to Hinoban. Buses depart every 30 minutes from 6AM to 7:30PM. The only aircon bus, though, departs at 4PM. Travel time is four hours. Get off at Cartagena and board a tricycle and ask driver to take you to Punta Bulata
• Lakawon Island Resort – This white sand beach is rich in coral reefs and studded with coconut and talisay trees. Its clear water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and other water sports. The resort off ers tourists lodges, tents, shed houses and other facilities. How to get here: From Bacolod City, take a 45-minute bus trip to Kaduha-an, Cadiz City. When you get here, take a tricycle to Cadiz Viejo, which will take 15 minutes. From Cadiz Viejo, ride a motorized boat to Lakawon Island which will take another 15 minutes
WHAT TO DO:
While in Bacolod, enjoy the delicacies and native crafts the city offers. Dine in old favorites or new restaurants and taste what the city represents in just one plate. Or, bring home a part of the city by shopping for local items.
Bacolod is famous for inasal, where chicken parts are marinated in sinamak (native coconut vinegar) and other spices then basted with achuete or annatto oil before charcoal-grilling them to juicy perfection. Although there are inasal restaurants in Manila, nothing beats the original. Visit Chicken House along Lacson Street and experience true-blue chicken inasal. Choose from pa-a (thigh/leg part), pecho (breast), pakpak (wings), leeg (neck), isol (ass) and even chicken innards like atay (liver) and baticolon (gizzard). Whatever you choose, do not forget to eat it with garlic rice, achuete oil and a dipping sauce made of sinamak, soy sauce, calamansi and siling labuyo for a perfect meal.
If you’re into seafood, dine in Bacolod 18th Street Palapala. It is very similar to Dampa in Manila where you can choose from the fresh catches of the day— shrimps, crabs, squid, scallops and fish. Have it cooked the way you want it, either grilled, fried or sizzling. They also have chicken inasal, liempo and chorizo for the meat lovers. Another seafood restaurant you can try is Aboy’s at Golden Field Commercial Complex.
When in Bacolod, taste the authentic batchoy and molo at 21 Restaurant. Starting as a merienda place that offered batchoy in 1984, it is now a full kitchen restaurant that offers not just Bacolod staples but other Pinoy favorites as well, such as crispy pata, alimango (Mud Crab) and baby back ribs.
Since the city is considered the sugar capital of the country, the locals made sure they make the best out of it. Along Lacson Street, a couple of dessert places are located. One that is not to be missed is Calea. The shabby chic place has all the cakes you can possibly think of—White Chocolate Cheesecake, Mocha Sans Rival, Pecan Pie and Chocolate Cake to name a few. Another dessert place you can try is Felicia, also located along Lacson Street. It is famous for its macarons and sans rival.
Bring home local goods from Bacolod by visiting the Negros Showroom which showcases the best products produced by the Negrenses. Items in the showroom include handicrafts, novelty items, houseware, furniture and furnishings, clothes and accessories, and food. Negros Showroom is located at 9th St. cor. Lacson St., Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Open daily from 9:30AM to 7:30PM
For pasalubong, do not forget to drop by various pasalubong shops in the city. Go to Pendy’s, Merci, Roli’s, Bongbong’s and Casa Carmela Kitchen for piayaya, barquillos, boat tarts, napoleons and other sweet delicacies.
Enjoy the City of Smiles even more during the MassKara Festival
Held every third weekend of October, the MassKara Festival is one of the country’s most popular festivities. It started in 1980 when the province experienced a period of crisis—sugar was at an all-time low and a sea tragedy occurred when the Don Juan liner collided with a tanker and claimed 700 lives, including Negrenses from prominent families. The city decided to uphold its name as the City of Smiles by creating a festival to survive the crisis. Now, the MassKara Festival is a true testament to how resilient Filipinos are amidst predicaments. Bacolod City becomes one big party place during the MassKara Festival. The streets are fi lled with people from all walks of life dancing and merry making. The festival is known not just to Filipinos but to foreigners, too.
Where to stay
During your trip, stay in L’Fisher and choose whether to board at the main hotel or the chalet. The L’Fisher Hotel room rate starts at P3500 while rooms at L’Fisher Chalet start at P1195. L’Fisher has facilities that can be enjoyed by its guests—swimming pool, gym and various restaurants.
L’Fisher is located at 14 Lacson St., Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Contact (34)433 3731 to 39 or email or>