|click to enlarge and keep open in another tab. this is THE guide|
Cebu City is my adopted home. Originally though, my root are from Negros Occidental and it is inevitable that people automatically assume I lived in Bacolod City. Furthermore, they also assume that I am an expert in everything Bacolod - never mind that i haven't lived in the city for close to 22 years.
as a favor for my colleagues, friends and strangers that are on the lookout for things to do in bacolod, i've compiled a list of things to do complete with maps and directions. ready?
first of all, book yourself an early flight, a really early flight so you get to do a lot of things when you land in silay, oops... yes, the travel brochures forgot to mention that the new bacolod airport is now in silay city. i know, a bit confusing and a bit scary when you're starting to descend from the skies with a vast field coming right at you and before you know it, the plane is skidding to a halt in a runway that literally cuts across the sugarcane field. if you're lucky, you won't have to see the farmer shooing the carabao off the runway. and if you're really lucky, you won't have to suffer delayed "frights" from cebu pacific and push yourself through an angry mob of striking PAL employees. my suggestion is to take cebupac, better LATE than NEVER.
upon landing in silay city airport, board any waiting van outside the airport (look for nyala tours) that takes you to bacolod for Php 150 per person and literally drops you off right in front of your hotel. keep an eye on your luggage, some travelers love to do luggage shopping when they get off. use an SM bonus plastic bag to pack your clothes to make sure it doesn't get "accidentally" taken. throw in a couple of loosely packed bagoong just to be sure.
(PLACE #1)speaking of hotels, be classy enough to get a room in L'Fisher Chalet - the new wing of L'Fisher Hotel right in the middle of Lacson St. and soon you'll find out, Lacson St. is the center of the Bacolod Universe. affordable rates, clean huge rooms, an infinity pool at the top floor, a gym and breakfast coupon for two is what you get.
if you get too early, you can deposit your luggage and step out of the hotel. i have a strange fascination with people who travel and spend 99.99% of their time inside the hotel room. i find them creepy. in the same way that i find people who look for the nearest SM supermall creepy.
before i continue, let me categorically say that most places can be reached via Lacson St. restaurants, landmarks, malls. all of them line up along the sides of the main road or accessed via one of the numerically numbered streets that intersect lacson st and forms a grid similar to new york city. (un)fortunately, the similarity ends there.
unfortunately, i can't find any documented piece about the city planning design of bacolod and a cursory look at the map would give one the idea that whoever planned the city was part of that "creepy" group or high on some sort of sugarcane drug, or both.
|pala pala - quit staring and go right in!|
(PLACE #2)upon exit from the L'Fisher Chalet, immediately turn to your right and walk down the road parallel to lacson until you reach 18th st. L'Fisher is between the 14th and 15th so it's just two blocks down the road and it gives you enough time to get hungry for a major meal. watch out for Pala Pala - which allegedly translates to the place where the fresh catch of the day are delivered by fishermen and where middlemen buy in bulk only to resell the lot at double or triple the original price.
|diwal from pala pala|
you're welcome to go to banago and buy your own fish at the "original" rate, but if you want seafood and not the smell of seafood clinging to your expensive outfit then head to Pala Pala. The place serves the freshest catch of the day from crabs, blue and white marlin (no, not blue and white at the same time, you are thinking of rhianna after the chris brown incident), gigantor prawns, the fattest oysters, plump scallops, the complete cast of the "little mermaid" and bacolod's pride: diwal (literally means tongue hanging out). steamed and garnished with raw garlic and butter, the meat literally leaves you tongue tied to come up with words to describe the flavor. WOW would be a good start, "Kay Ganda" may not be really appropriate.
the place also serves dishes ala carinderia style, pre-cooked. choose from a variety of delicious dishes, personal favorites would include huge african hito cooked paksiw style but flavored with coconut milk and ginger. salivating already? how about beef diwal? errr, lengua cooked two ways: estofado or mushroom sauce. escargot in gabi leaves ala laing style is something for adventurous eaters. but if you're part of the "creepy" safe crowd, you can always get the freshest grilled seafood or served sizzling.
(PLACE #3)once you're done with brunch, head up 18th st until you reach lacson. if you're craving for familiar things, a starbucks is right at the corner (my definition of a city = must have starbucks). on the other hand, if you want to go native, turn left and walk a couple of blocks until you reach the intersection of 21st st. and lacson. that corner has three places worth noting for gastronomic adventures: bob's cafe (read: affordable coffee, great paninis, really affordable italian gelatto), 21st Restaurant (curious mix of eastern and western dishes) and Inaka restaurant (decent enough Japanese restaurant). if you're too lazy to walk you can also head back to lacson st. from pala pala or l'fisher chalet then take a jeep, one ride, two minutes.
|the classic bob's gets an upgrade|
(PLACE #4)if you're thinking of dessert, cafe bobs serve decent pieces though you're filling in your tummy with unnecessary baggage. instead, head to calea where every peso spent, every calorie counted, and every pound of weight gained is all worth it. where is calea? right beside L'fisher hotel. order the belgian chocolate cake or the frozen mudslide, in fact, order everything and ignore the looks of judgment from the regular patrons. if you're thin, give them back a look that says, "i'm thin and i can afford to eat this". if you're not so thin, be ready with a flashcard that says "i have a thyroid problem like sharon cuneta".
|frozen mudslide from calea, your whole day's serving of calories|
|the best seller, belgian chocolate cake. belgian - should i say more?|
by this time you have consumed about 5,000 calories and need to unload some "baggage". check your luggage in the hotel, head to the bathroom (a MUST), dress in comfortable walking gear, whip out the camera and head back to... where else? lacson st.
|the tallest(?) building in Bacolod, PNB|
(PLACE #5)from the main entrance of L'Fisher hotel fronting lacson, turn right and head down the road passing through 13th, 12th, 11th. you will see to your right the tallest building (as of 2010) in the city, the Philippine National Bank - a box that remains a testament to the amount of money rolling through negros occidental in a time when everything sugar, spice and everything nice made lots of moneys for sugar barons.
|naked guards of the lagoon|
(PLACE #6)right beside the structure is the lagoon fronting the capitol building. fortunately, where national parks have become places where not so legal activities abound, the park is still family friendly and the lagoon is easily 500 - 600 meters in circumference. perfect for the "creepy" folks who have taken up the "running" sport.
the perimeter of the lagoon feature imposing sculptures of Guillermo Tolentino, the malakas and mahinhin (strong and graceful) pair of a man and woman on opposite ends of the lagoon have carabaos as props. gilded in gold paint, many wonder why the man is naked whereas the woman is fully clothed in a terno.
the lagoon itself is home to naive and stupid tilapia and gourami fish that come towards anyone who stand beside the fence. apparently, when night comes, people come to the park with baskets of stale bread and feed the fish. some cruel people thrown in bits and pieces of sandwiches, tuna sandwiches.
|the classic capitol building|
(PLACE #7)the grand imposing structure of the provincial capitol building is done in the grand Beaux Art Style and built in 1924 to 1935 in a design that is a throwback to the Grecian ideal. the structure is built like an E with the central section leading to the entrance fronted by three ionic pillars topped by corinthian capitals. if you are having nose bleed at this point then let's move on.
|dumbledore, the warty warthog|
(PLACE #8)standing in front of the capitol, turn to your left and you will see a marker for the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation Inc. (NFEFI) very few people know of this place (and hopefully a few more will know through this blog) that is literally a hidden gem in the city. endangered animals indigent to negros bred in captivity. unlike your ordinary run down zoos with underfed animals in other parts of the country, this place have animals that are bordering on obese. blame it on a brilliant marketing move that have international organizations sponsoring cages and animals. take time to visit the warty warthogs (i was tempted to name one as dumbledore, a very old friendly warthog that came close to the fence when visitors come) and a family of very rare spotted deer. take time to meet the avian members of the place, not to worry, no case of avian flu has been reported in bacolod.
(PLACE #9)annexed to the place is another classic grecian structure that is partly hidden from the heavy foliage of the numerous trees inside the NFEFI. The Negros Occidental Museum is a must visit if only to have a quick trip down history lane and see glimpses of the opulent negrense lifestyle. make sure to ask for a guided tour and give some money to hear a manually operated phonograph play some music, really old music.
|the negros museum used to be another government office - sorry no pictures allowed inside|
by this time you should have consumed a good part of your day. if you happen to be a speed walker you would have finished all of this by around 2PM. head back to lacson st., take a jeep that will take you to robinson's mall (just ask the people what jeep to ride) and don't panic when someone says "manong, bangga mo lang!" it simply means, stop at the corner.
(PLACE #10)resist the urge to go inside robinson's and take the jeep that goes to silay city. since this is not part of bacolod city, ask for directions on how to get to silay and have yourself dropped off by the plaza and look for the bernardino-jalandoni museum. the old ancestral home of the jalandoni family that has been restored and opened to the public as a museum. fortunately, you can take pictures inside the museum. check your photos for unwanted characters (aka ghosts of christmas past, present and future). from the museum, head to el ideal (circa 1920s), a must visit bakery cum bistro that serve delicious pastries and local snacks. order the fresh lumpia. ideal (pun intended) for vegans but meat lovers would love it just as well. if you can, take some dulce gatas. just do it.
|the jalandoni-bernardino ancestral house converted into a museum|
(PLACE #11) heading back to bacolod city, you can either go straight back to the hotel or ask to be dropped off baranggay Bata near the corner of the Pepsi Plant. from there, take a taxi to head to The Ruins. the old ancestral house of the lacson (again?!?) family that was gutted in the second world war by the japanese to make sure that it won't be used by the american and pinoy rebels as a base. the place was built well using sturdy cement that the structure remain standing. well manicured lawns, a fountain and a restaurant make this place a beautiful place for pre-nuptial pictorials, weddings, debuts etc etc. if you're feeling extravagant, you can rent the whole place and have an exclusive dinner served to you and your date. a mini golf area is set at the back portion of the lot, doesn't really make sense but it's there.
a reminder, head off to the ruins around 4PM and wait for sunset. The facade of the building magically transforms with the golden hues of the setting sun. and another reminder, when negotiating for the taxi fare, offer to double the rate to account for the cost of going in and out of the place that's set literally in the middle of a sugarcane field. you may also want to get the number of the taxi driver to pick you up when you're ready to head back to the city. offer to pay double the rate. alternately, you can take your chances and grab any taxi that comes in when they drop their passengers.
|ravioli in uma|
(PLACE #12) start your evening with dinner in trattoria uma that's in the building next to l'fisher. if the guard refuses you entry, you probably forgot to head back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes. wear something chic or at least stylish enough to match the glorious italian food whipped up by chef juan miguel gaston. if the name doesn't sound impressive enough, try adding an A.O.S. degree in Culinary Arts at the CIA. not central intelligence agency dummy, the Culinary Institute of America. order the Ravioli All'Uma. and if you're like me who has a certain distaste for small portions set in gigantor plates then trattoria won't disappoint: huge servings, huge taste that will have you wiping your finger off the plate for every last bit of sauce. hmmmmm...
|for a smoky experience|
(PLACE #13) if italian disagrees with your palate then you may want to head off to pendy's, chicken bacolod, the other restaurants mentioned above, bob's or head off to manokan country. for an authentic outdoor chicken barbecue experience, tell the taxi to bring you to the manokan country (near SM mall) where a row of barbecue stalls literally serve every part of the chicken imaginable. order grilled or blanched talaba (oysters) dipped in sinamak (spiced vinegar) to get your blood boiling for action. what sort of action depends on your "trip".
|and the freshest talaba in town!|
(PLACE#14) if you plan to do some after dinner drinks then i suggest you stay far away from smoky manokan country and head off to any of the restaurants mentioned above. after dinner, head off to sugartown bacolod that's on 13th st for drinks and wind down a hectic day.
i am sure at this point you'd be ready to crash in your hotel filled with the sweet smell of sugar, the warm touch of the sun, visions of lovely sights and the lingering taste and smell of oh-so-delicious food. what a trip!
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