Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bacolod Philipines: Charm and Good Taste

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Bacolod: Sugar, spice and everything nice

"Charming, sweet and refined" is how I would describe the city of Bacolod in Negros Occidental, Philippines. Like a genteel lady, Bacolod unwittingly seduces its visitors with attractions that evoke charm, good taste and generosity. It's no surprise then that it has won the hearts of those who have visited it (including mine).

The Dizon-Ramos Museum at Burgos St.

Pride of Heritage
Foremost among Bacolod's charms is its colorful history and heritage. "The City that Sugar Built" was home to many men and women of privilege - individuals who were generously rewarded by the production and supply of sugar across the Philippine Islands. Well-preserved ancestral homes reflect both opulence and propriety as well as the ostentatiousness and  vanity of the sugar barons and their families. Thus, visitors to Bacolod get to see period style houses that will pique the interest not only of  architecture-savvy travelers but also individuals curious about the  lifestyle and stories of the past. Travelers will find a number of them at Burgos Street, once regarded as the Millionaires' Row,  as well as in  the nearby city of Silay (part of  Metropolitan Bacolod) and in the city of Talisay.  Among the heritage houses one can visit at  Burgos St. are the Don Mariano Ramos Ancestral House  and the nearby  Dizon-Ramos Museum, which is the ancestral home of  Raymundo L. Dizon and Hermelinda V. Ramos. 
The grand living room of Balay ni Tana Dicang.
In Silay, there are around 31 ancestral houses, but not all of them are open to the public. The most frequented are the  Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni ancestral house and the Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House (commonly referred to as Balay Negrense).   Over at Talisay, Balay ni Tana Dicang (at Rizal Street)  and The Ruins (click on the links) are just some of  the houses worth visiting.   Most of these well-preserved houses have a minimal entrance fee (usually less than a $1).

 The Cathedral of Bacolod: San Sebastian Church

Glimpses of Bacolod's past and culture may also be seen in their institutions. Inside the University of St. La Salle is the  Museo Negrense De La Salle which has a collection of religious and cultural artifacts, as well as historical documents. Visitors are welcome to the museum from Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Negros Museum, located at  Gatuslao Street,  features the culture, art and history of Bacolod and the province of Negros Occidental.   It's open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. Meanwhile, a short drive around the city will introduce you to fascinating landmarks. The century-old San Sebastian Cathedral (Cathedral of Bacolod) and Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace) are both located at Rizal Street and symbolize the dominance of the Catholic faith among the locals. 

The Provincial Capitol. 
Exquisite Taste 
Another charm of Bacolod is its cuisine.  The people of Bacolod pride themselves for their exquisite taste and love for good eating.   They have a wide variety of pastries and confections, largely due to the accessibility of sugar. Among these are the Piaya (a thin, unleavened bread filled with raw sugar filling), Napoleones (local version of Mille-feuille), Half Moon (small custard cream cake) and Barquillos (sweet rolled wafers). Then there are the rich and flavorful dishes such as the  Cansi (beef shanks and bone marrow in a soured broth),  Callos (ox stripe stew),  Batchoy (noodle soup with meat ) and Molo (wonton soup).  One should not forget to try  Chicken Inasal, the famous grilled chicken dish which locals claim to be very different from the barbecued chicken in Manila.  This mouth-watering  dish is available all over the city particularly at  Manokan Country, an area in Rizal Street where one can find numerous open-air restaurants and stalls selling it.  

For more on  Bacolod's delightful food , click on the link.  
Some of Bacolod's delightful food

Yet another charm of Bacolod is its festivities. Each year, the people of Bacolod hold the MassKara Festival,  a celebration that had its origin from the people's desire to overcome the gloom and grief brought about by a crisis in the sugar industry and the loss of lives due to the sinking of the inter-island vessel Don Juan. The festival, held every third week of October, is a testament to the resilience of  the Bacoleños. The MassKara Festival draws a lot of local and foreign guests as the streets are filled with people dancing and merry-making while wearing colorful masks. Aside from MassKara, Bacolod is also the venue of  Panaad sa Negros, a celebration with other cities and towns under the province of Negros Occidental. Panaad sa Negros showcases the culture, history, arts and tourism of the Negros Province through dynamic performances and exhibits. 

Collection of masks used during Bacolod's Masskara Festival  

Warmth and Hospitality
Lastly, Bacolod's enduring charm is its people. Many travelers to Bacolod can attest to the hospitality and generosity of the Bacoleños.  With their gentle  manner of speech and melodious accent, the Bacoleños easily endear themselves to the  city's visitors. While they may appear to be easygoing, the people of Bacolod are actually very progressive and  extremely passionate about life and learning. The only complaint you would probably hear is that most Bacolodnons drive like crazy! Yet, Bacolod remains as one of the most livable and peaceful urbanized cities in Visayas and  in the Philippines, thanks to hard work and cooperation among its people. 

The City of Bacolod is just an hour's flight from Manila and 30 minutes if coming from Cebu. See this charming city for yourself and experience its beauty.  As the locals put it, "Kari Kamo sa Bacolod!"

Note:  Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights to Bacolod. You can also get to Bacolod by sea via  Super Ferry or Super Cat. Travelers can also take a Ceres Bus from Manila , Cebu or Dumaguete to get to the City of  Smiles. Bacolod City is also the gateway to Mambucal, which is popular for its hot springs and waterfalls; and  Sipalay, famous for its unspoiled beaches. Sipalay is about 3 to 4 hours away from Bacolod. 

You might also like:  Mambukal Mountain Resort, Negros Occidental

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