Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Saccharine Smile Over the Face: Bacolod City and the Rest of Negros Occidental


            Negros Island is originally known as “Buglas” to the natives which means to cut-off because it is believed that it was once part of a greater mass of land but was cut-off either by what geologists call a continental drift or by rising waters during the so-called glacial age. However, when the Spaniards arrived in April 1565 they renamed it into Negros Island because of its earliest inhabitants who were dark-skinned natives belonging to the Negrito ethnic group.


          In 1890, the island was divided into two provinces – Negros Oriental (Eastern side) and Negros Occidental (Western side). Negros Occidental is known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines” because it produces more than half the nation’s sugar output and knowing it is the third (3rd) largest island in the Philippines.

Photo credits to: Karla Mae Alba

   Residents of Negros are called “Negrense”. Negros Occidental is predominantly a Hiligaynon-speaking province. With 19 municipalities and 13 cities, Negros Occidental has the most chartered cities among all the provinces in the Philippines.

   On the other hand, the capital city of the province of Negros Occidental – Bacolod is known for being a relatively friendly city. It bears the nickname “City of Smiles”. In fact, in 2008 it ranked number 1 in a survey by MoneySense Magazine as the “Best Place to live in the Philippines.”

SITES TO EXPLORE/DINE:


Photo credits to: Dr. Ramon Berjamin Jr.

Masskara Festival

            Masskara Festival started in the early 1980’s, when world prices for sugar plummeted; and Bacolod City, the country’s sugar capital, was hit by a major crisis. Held every third weekend of October or on the closest weekend to October 19, it dramatizes the steadfast character of the Negrenses and symbolizes what the people of the City of Smiles do best: putting on a happy face when confronted with challenges.

Photo credits to: Dr. Ramon Berjamin Jr.

            The word “Masskara” is a portmanteau, coined by the late artist Ely Santiago from mass (a multitude of people) and the Spanish word cara (face), thus forming MassKara (a multitude of faces). The word is also a pun on mascara, Filipino for “mask” (itself from Spanish máscara), since a prominent feature of the festival are the masks worn by participants, which are always adorned with smiling face.


Bacolod City Government Center and Lagoon

The Lagoon is part of the South Korea – Philippines development cooperation. It is a large body of water with live tilapia fish swimming inside. Surrounding the lagoon is a pathway where locals jog or walk, especially during early mornings. It is also the home of several Bacolod attractions because of its great location (along the tourism strip of Lacson St.). Hence, it’s easy to find and spend a little bit of down time after a meal across the street.


The Ruins

            The mansion was built in the 1900s by Spanish-Filipino sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson for his Portugese wife, Maria Braga. It was the biggest and most elegant residential structure in the province at that time. With a 4-tiered fountain brought in from abroad fronting the mansion and lavish furnishings from Europe and Asia filling the lavish home.


            It met its ill fate in the early part of World War II when Don Mariano asked Filipino guerilla fighters to burn the mansion down to prevent the Japanese from using it as their headquarters. Due to the mansions’ use of Grade A concrete and sturdy construction, it took days for the fire to bring down the mansion’s roof, walls and floors.

            To this day, the 903 square meter structure still stands tall amidst sugar plantation and continues to awe both local and foreign tourists. Truly, a picture-perfect backdrop and a magnificent site to see.



Campuestohan Highland Resort

  Not very far from the city lies a 5 hectare resort owned and managed by Ralph Richard Tan which offers bustling scenic view, fun activities and relaxation spots. With its Baguio-like climate, Campuestohan Highland Resort is located in Sitio Campuestohan, Brgy. Cabatangan, Talisay, Negros Occidental. With its uniqueness and world-class facilities, it is considered the crown jewel of tourist destination in Negros Occidental.

Activities:

Zipline

Swimming

Sky Bicycle

Photo credits to: PK Prints, Photokings Inc.
Cable Hamster Wheel

Rope Course

Overnight Stay

Photo credits to: Campuestohan Highland Resort
Horseback Riding














Interact with blockbuster statues and human-sized figures, etc.

Photo credits to: www.myphilippinelife.com

Mambukal Resort

Spread over 23.6 hectares, Mambukal Resort is bless with exceptionally beautiful natural features. It is located on the eastern side of Negros Occidental and about 45 minutes travel from Bacolod City.

It lies 1, 200 feet above sea level and serves as a gateway to Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park. Originally developed by a Japanese architect name Kokichi Paul Ishiwata in 1927, the resirt started started as a bathhouse and picnic garden and has provided cool haven for Negrenses and their guests.

Photo credits to: Karla Mae Alba

Activities:

Boating Trip
Slide for Life Zipline
Sulfur Spring (For viewing only)
Hanging Bridge and Seven Falls
Dipping Pools
Swimming Pools


Aida's Chicken

You've never truly been to Bacolod if you have not eaten an authentic Bacolod chicken inasal. Aida's Manokan is one of the few chicken inasal restaurants in Bacolod but what makes it different from the others? Well, it may look cheap because of its carinderia-like ambiance but they have the best chicken inasal in town. In fact, it has already received some awards because of its juiciness and tenderness, and bursting flavor.



Calea Pastries and Coffee

One of the most popular places where we can find the best tasting cakes and pastries is Calea Pastries and Coffee in Bacolod. With their array of cakes and pastries that astounds me wherein a wonderland for pastries and cake lovers.



However, what is more even surprising; is its reasonable price. You really get what you pay for. Indeed, it is one of Bacolod City's food gems that everyone should give a try whenever in Bacolod.

HOW TO GET THERE:

        There are direct flights to Bacolod-Silay Airport from Manila, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro. You can also travel to Bacolod via RoRO from Dumangas, Iloilo or ferry boat from Iloilo City. But if you're coming from Dumaguete, which is on the other side of Negros, you can also take a six-hour bus ride to Bacolod via Ceres Bus Line.

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