Travelling on foot is still the best way to explore and move around a place, with the added benefit of toning your leg muscles while you're at it. It can be a guided tour, one with specific stops in mind, or just wandering aimlessly and seeing where your feet will take you.
When PTB came up with the Blog Carnival topic for this month, I thought of the best walking tours I had this year. Of course the Walk this Way Tour of Intramuros with Carlos Celdran was a contender but the Paris of Negros, again, won the battle.
You see, I'm a sucker for all things quaint.
Silay is a small, walkable city in Negros Occidental known for its ancestral houses and good food. Before heading off, I luckily found this convenient map on the internet. Thanks to Project 7107, planning for a walking tour in Silay was a breeze. 
Photo from Project7107

Here are the essentials for an enjoyable walking tour: An umbrella to protect you from the scorching sun or sudden rain, Google Maps for directionally challenged individuals like me, some loose change for buying drinks, and a satisfied tummy.

Since we were spending the night in Silay, our first stop was Hotel Baldevia, right in the heart of the town.

First Stop: Hotel Baldevia in Rizal cor. Burgos Sts. 

Staying in an old building like this never fails to liven up my imagination. The ghost stories safely tucked in the back of my mind slowly came out to the surface. The great thing about Hotel Baldevia though is that the place was clean and properly oiled, thus, there were no creaking stairs and doors. It's so easy to imagine things when I hear creaking noises.

Photo from Backpackboy
Right across Hotel Baldevia
It was after lunch when we reached Silay and in order to prepare ourselves for an afternoon stroll in the town, we headed off to El Ideal to stuff ourselves with some guapple pie goodness. On our way to Ledesma St., I noticed how every little nook in Silay exudes the vibe of the olden days. Surprisingly, the buildings are still fully functional.
An old-fashioned coffee shop and salon

Second Stop: El Ideal along Rizal St.

Perfect stop for a late lunch. I have read so many things about this bakery that has been serving good food since 1920s. Other things in the menu were forgettable but the guapple pie surely lived up to my expectations.

Ditch everything else but the guapple pie!
With full tummies, we slowly made our way to the Hofileña Ancestral House and saw some lovely old houses along Ledesma street. The houses, just like the old functional buildings in Rizal St., are all inhabited.

Third Stop: Ramon Hofileña Ancestral House along Cinco de Noviembre St. 

We rang the doorbell and met the most interesting man in Silay who graciously let us into his house, entertained us with glorious stories of the past, and gave  us a visual feast with the wide array of his painting collections. It was great to know that he was convincing other homeowners to open up their houses for a cultural tour of Silay.

We stayed for a couple of hours with Ramon and by the time we went back to the streets, it was late afternoon. We decided to visit one last ancestral home before we headed for some snacks.

Hofileña Ancestral House is located in 14 Cinco de Noviembre, Silay City.  Call (034) 495 4651 to set an appointment before visiting the house.   

Fourth Stop: Balay Negrense along Cinco de Noviembre St. 

Comparing Balay Negrense and Ramon's ancestral house, one can clearly see the difference between a house lovingly maintained by the owner and one managed by the government. Balay Negrense is almost bare save for some key pieces which were strategically positioned to make the place actually feel like a home. We should have heeded Ramon's advice and chose Jalandoni Ancestral House along Rizal St. instead.

The hot afternoon sun and the hours we spent walking around the town was enough for us to crave for cold drinks.

Last Stop: Cafe 1925 along Ledesma St.

Cafe 1925 maybe small but its colorful, funky interior made it a perfect place for winding down.

We finished the day's Silay City tour with an order of chocolate shake, mango sans rival, and a brownie ala mode.

In traveling, walking around is the best way to immerse yourself in the newness in front of you. Friedrich Nietzsche hit it spot on when he said: "All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking."

This is my entry for the PTB Blog Carnival for the month of October 2012, 
dubbed as "Memorable Walking Tour", 
hosted by Glenn Martinez of Traveler on Foot.

To view all the previous Carnival posts,click on the logo below.

It's unmistakable. Bacolod is the most laid-back the word 'laid-back' could get.  I like Bacolod City. Try googling Bacolod and you'll find out that it once ranked Number 1 as the Most Competitive Mid-Sized City in 2005 and was named as the Best Place to Live in the Philippines last 2008 by Moneysense magazine, with Makati as second and Manila down at 11.

If one believed in signs, a flight delayed for 7 hours might have been the end of it. Good thing I don't. Instead, I made good use of the time we've camped out at the airport to catch up on my reading. Thanks to Airphil Express, we had  to scratch everything on the itinerary and worked it out from there.

Where to Stay:

We finally arrived at the Bacolod-Silay Airport at 10PM. We saw flyers of Pension Bacolod, which according to the flyer, has been awarded 5 times as the Best Pension House in Bacolod. Their aircon room is priced at P395.  The AC rooms were all rented out so we took the double non-AC room priced at P315. The room was close to the restaurant which had free Wi-Fi. Pension Bacolod is perfect for those who need a cheap place to crash in at night. If you want to stay at something more luxurious, check out L'Fisher Hotel or Saltimboca Tourist Inn. Pension Bacolod is located at #27 11th Street, a short walk from Lacson St.

The pension house looks like a small castle with flags displayed outside. It's indeed 'international' since we saw mostly foreign guests. Contact them at (034) 433-33-77.

Our flight back to Manila was set at 5AM so we opted to stay near the airport on our last night.  We chose the Baldevia Pension House, located in the heart of Silay. Their non-AC double room is priced at P450. Contact them at (034) 496-51-40.

We were able to adjust and fit most into our shortened schedule, but we had to take Danjugan Island off the list. Danjugan Island is a marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary found off the coast of Sipalay, south of Bacolod. That's another reason (aside from food) why I have to go back!


Day 1:
10:30PM -  Provincial Capitol Park and Lagoon - Can easily be found along Lacson St. Best seen at    
11:00PM -  Dinner at Aida's in Manokan Country

Provincial Capitol

Day 2:
06:00AM -  Cathedral of Bacolod - Located at Rizal St., near SM City Bacolod. I forgot which jeep
                         route we took but most jeeps pass by this area. 
07:00AM -  Breakfast at Kaffe Sadtu

08:00AM -  Luzuriaga Family private cemetery which is apparently listed in the Guinness Book of
                          World Records as the the only cemetery in the world at the intersection of two highways
                           -- That was exactly what we saw and nothing more. The cemetery can be found at
                           Lopez Jaena corner Burgos St.
09:00AM -  New City Hall with the majestic Mt. Kanlaon as background - Located at the 
                          Circumferential Road. 
10:00AM -  Endangered species at the Negros Biodiversity Conservation Center
11:00AM -  Negros Museum 
12:00PM -  Negros Showroom for some pasalubong
01:00PM -  Lunch at Bob's
02:30PM -  Cake Time at Calea
03:00PM -  Balay ni Tana Dicang at Talisay -So far this is the best ancestral house in the region.
05:00PM -  Pope John Paul II Tower - near SM Bacolod
06:00PM -  Rest, rest, and freshen up!

Note: The Negros Museum, Negros Biodiversity Conservation Center and Negros Showroom are all located near the Provincial Capitol along Lacson St. It's best to do a walking tour of Lacson St. The whole length of this street is closed for the annual street party during the Masskara Festival.

Bacolod City Hall
Bacolod Cathedral (San Sebastian)
                     Pope John Paul II Tower                                       Flying Fox at the Conservation Center
Bacolod's version of M Cafe
Sugar Laboratory Display

06:00AM -  Rode the bus bound to Victorias City
07:30AM -  Breakfast at Andrew's house
08:00AM -  Penalosa Farm
09:00AM -  Church of the Angry Christ - Located inside the VMC Compound
10:00AM -  Hawaiian-Philippine Company
11:00AM -  Rest, rest, and freshen up!
12:00PM -  Lunch at El Ideal
01:00PM -  Hofilena Ancestral House
03:00PM -  Balay Negrense - Here's a tip: Visit the Bernardino Jalandoni Ancestral House instead.
03:30PM -  Cake Time at Cafe 1925
04:30PM -  En route to The Ruins
05:00PM -  The Ruins - Located at Bata. Ride a jeep bound to Bata from Bacolod City. There is a
                         terminal where you can hire a tricycle to take you to The Ruins.
07:00PM -  Dinner at The Ruins

The Lovely Ruins - Photo by Aaron Manila
Here's my expense notes for the Negros Occidental Trip (all in PhP):

Jeepney fares not included.

There are cheaper alternatives to this. 
* We arrived at 10PM and had no choice but to take the van. A cheaper way is to ride a tricycle just outside the airport to Silay (P10 each if you're sharing the ride with other passengers). From Silay, you can take the bus bound to Bacolod at P15. At the Bata Terminal, cross the street and ride the Bata-Libertad route. The jeep will pass through Lacson St., where most hotels/pension houses are located.
** Ride a jeepeney going to Mandalagan and get down when you see SM City Bacolod. Manokan is along Fr. M. Ferrero St., right across SM.

Commuting is easy in Bacolod. There's a jeepney route in almost every place we visited. The minimum jeepney fare as of Feb.5 is P7.50.

I shelled out a total of P3904 for this trip, including pasalubongs and groceries. That's really cheap for a province that has lots to offer. 

The roads of Negros are paved with acres of sugarcane fields. They used steam locomotives to transport sugarcane all over the province, and these trains are now aptly called Iron Dinosaurs. If you want to get a glimpse of the remaining Iron Dinosaurs, take a bus going to Victorias City at the Bus Terminal in Bata and hop-off at the Hawaiian Philippine Company (HPC). The trains at HPC are one of the last few left in action, the rest are now replaced with trucks seen all over Negros.

Stealth mode ON

We talked with a tricycle driver here and asked him to take us around the sugar plantation. For only
P200, we were able to sneak into see the perimeters of the plantation, with photos to prove. And by sneak I mean going around as innocently-looking as you could. A tour of the plantation needs to be approved by the company first, but if you take the route towards the planters village, the trains can be seen in plain sight and the only thing that separates you from them is a barbed wire fence. Take a super zoom camera and this isn't a problem anymore. 🙂 The driver said that if you're lucky, one could also catch the trains coming from the fields.

This is how it might have looked during the olden times.

And here's the mighty Iron Dinosaur in color:

All parts and by-products of a sugarcane is useful, much like a coconut. Once a sugarcane is pressed for its juices, the stalks are crushed and these left-over fiber is known as the bagasse. The bagasse is used as fuel to generate steam, and in this case, the bagasse is used to power the trains. Aside from this, this by-product can also be used to make paper.

We went here on a Saturday and we saw several planters on the field, smiling and posing for the camera. Our tour was cut short when a guard approached us and asked us if we were taking photos. Of course we said we weren't. That 30-min trip to the HPC sugar mill made me realize that working in a sugar plantation is more than an 8-5 job. It's a way of life.
I admit not having well discerning taste buds, but the food in Negros is too delish to go unnoticed even by a dull foodie like me. Restaurants are lined up along Lacson St. in Bacolod City, with cuisines ranging from local Negrense to Korean and Japanese restaurants.  Being the Sugar Bowl of the country, there are also a lot of good pastries shops here, and most are found right along the same street.

There is also something about the Negrense's way of eating that makes it more tempting for the guests: they eat their food with much gusto! Lucky are those people who were gifted with that delightful way of eating.  The food is one big reason why Bacolod is a city I want to go back to.

Here's a rundown of the places we ate at for 3 days. I would have wanted to squeeze more in but my stomach was beyond full!

Note: Lengthy post ahead. I'd like you to read all the way to the end but if you wish to skim through, click on the links below.

Aida's at Manokan Country
Kaffe Sadtu
Enting's House of Sagay
El Ideal
Cafe 1925
The Ruins Restaurant

Chicken Pecho at Aida's

We were relieved to see that most establishments were still open at 11PM.  The Manokan Country is a strip of chicken inasal joints (read: carinderias), offering a dish  for every imaginable chicken part. Think chicken ass, chicken feet, chicken gizzard, and chicken liver.  It's a chicken version of Manila's seafood dampa.

Our stop for the night was Aida's which was recommended in Anton Diaz' blog. Aida's bright interiors outshone the rest, with colorful masks on display that served as a visual treat for us who have never been to a Masskara Festival.

As for the food, frankly, I couldn't tell if it was better than most inasal but for someone as hungry as I was, the chicken pecho tasted good enough.

The chicken pecho with rice and Coke cost P100.

How to get here:
Manokan Country - Ride a jeepeney going to Mandalagan and get down when you see SM City Bacolod. Manokan is along Fr. M. Ferrero St., right across SM.

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In the search for the elusive La Corona Cafe, we ended up in an unassuming shop called Kaffe Sadtu.  Apparently, La Corona Cafe closed down last year when the owner got sick and nobody took over the business. It's a good thing Kaffe Sadtu opened and enticed the taste of La Corona's patrons.

Kaffe Sadtu offers locally grown and freshly brewed coffee straight up and without frills, just like how coffee used to be served.  The place looked like it used to be a hardware store, with some construction materials still on the shelves, but this detail just makes the shop more interesting.  The tables were nothing fancy, and there were no coffee table books lying around, but you could bring a newspaper, use their WiFi, or better yet, talk with the other customers.  The old-fashioned ambiance felt perfect for exchanging stories.
Coffee was served at P15 a cup and truly, the price is never an indication of how good a thing is. Their native coffee tasted better than the usual 100peso-with-whipped-cream coffees.  I ordered the homemade corned beef with toast and omelet for only P35.

Regulars can leave their own cups in the shop and the server keeps it for them. Customer service deluxe indeed!

How to get here:
Kaffe Sadtu - Ride a jeepney going to Shopping or Homesite. Kaffe Sadtu is along Hilado Street, near Burgos and Hilado intersection.  The landmark is the public market along Burgos.

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We were eyeing Cafe Bob's for lunch, but Andrew told us that Cafe Bob's was mostly a hangout for students. He took us then to the original Bob's restaurant, along the same street of Cafe Bob's.

The best seller on the menu was Sate Babe, a pork barbecue dish drenched with creamy peanut sauce paired with java rice. Bob's Fruit Punch is also an interesting concoction of different fruits like coconut, watermelon, and pineapple, and spiked with a hint of rum.  The food is relatively cheaper compared to the prices in Manila for a similar grade of good food. An order of Sate Babe meal plus Fruit Punch costs P187.

How to get here:
Bob's - Along B.S. Aquino Drive, in front of the Riverside Medical Center. 

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Calea is probably the most famous pastries and coffee shop in Lacson St.  Though they are best known for their blueberry cheesecake, the other cakes can't be dismissed. For our meryenda, we bought 4 slices: blueberry cheesecake, mixed berry cheesecake, imported chocolate, and double chocolate cakes.

Each cake had its own distinct and scrumptious taste, but of all the 4, I enjoyed the mixed berry cheesecake best while my friend finished all of the double chocolate cake.

There's no need to worry about choking on all those sugar as the crew here were very attentive, they made sure our glasses of water were always filled to the brim.

Most cakes cost P85 per slice.

How to get here:
Calea - Ground floor, Balay Quince building. You can take a jeep bound to Bata, but a better way to explore restaurants here is to walk along Lacson St.

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Andrew's suggestion was to order Kansi, and so we did!  Kansi is an Ilonggo recipe that looked like bulalo (beef bone marrow) but tasted sour like sinigang. It was a good soup to warm up a starving stomach. The place had a typical inuman feel to it, complete with  cottages for big groups. Enting's also had several kilawin specialties I also had their fried chicken which reminded me of BBQ Chicken & Beer's Original Chicken set. And to top it all off, I finished mine with a beer.

How to get here:
Enting's - Located at 16th cor. Lacson St. 

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El Ideal translates to Guapple Pie. That was what we learned when we had lunch there. The pork chop meal was nothing special and I'm pretty sure I've tasted better halo-halo than what they served.  The guapple pie though, is the gleaming silver lining in their menu.  It's an explosion of sweet guava and crunchy apple in a flaky pie with a hint of a cinnamon.

How to get here:
El Ideal - The sign is huge enough so you won't miss it. The bakery sits along Rizal St., Silay City. Take a bus to Victorias and alight at the bus stop nearest El Ideal.

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Just behind El Ideal sits Cafe 1925. A small coffee shop whose lunch menu (baby back ribs and the likes) was recommended by Ramon Hofileña. Unfortunately for us, it was already late in the afternoon when we went. Our merienda was a chocolate shake, mango sans rival, and a brownie ala mode.

The cakes at Calea tasted better but the artsy and cozy atmosphere at Cafe 1925 made up for it. The cafe can fit up to 20 persons comfortably inside.

How to get here:
Cafe 1925 - Located at the street beside El Ideal, J.Pitong Ledesma Street. Right behind BPI.

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Dinner at The Ruins

The last stop for our trip was The Ruins in Talisay City, and last stop often means splurging. And boy did we splurge on this dinner! Italian food is served at The Ruins Restaurant. Oven-baked Hawaiian pizza, pesto, and carbonara pasta was our choice. Both pasta dishes were flavorful but the pizza could do better.

We chose the outdoor tables right across The Ruins but guests also have an option to eat inside. Everyone goes here to catch the sunset, but when the moon rises, most people pack their things and go. That leaves behind a serene and nicely lit-up architecture that's a perfect setting for dinner.

At P260 per person, it was quite expensive compared to the previous days' finds. But that's because we probably had to pay a premium to sit there and have dinner while gazing at the majestic ruins, with classical music to match the mood.

How to get here:
The Ruins Restaurant - Ride a jeep bound to Bata and take a tricycle to The Ruins.

Photos by Aaron Manila.
I have long wanted to see a city in the country where arts and culture is strongly supported. This longing was satisfied when I visited Silay City in Negros Occidental earlier this year. Silay in itself is a lovely gem but the highlight of the experience was spending an afternoon with a Silaynon and his rich and engaging stories.

The fact that we had to call ahead to set an appointment to view an ancestral house was enough to rouse my curiosity and raise my expectations.  The Manuel Severino Hofileña ancestral house did not disappoint, and the unconventional and highly entertaining host, Ramon Hofileña, was beyond expectations.

The house from the outside
The house is located in the quaint city of Silay in Negros Occidental, known as the Paris of Negros, not for its appearance but for the city's appreciation and knowledge for arts and culture.  Over the years, Ramon has obtained a diverse collection of artworks, sculpture, and prints from Manansala, Luna, Hidalgo, Ben Cab, Hechanova, and a local artist from Silay, Conrado Judith.  Some pieces were also from well-known printmakers from Japan (whose names I couldn't remember).  His collection even includes a doodle by Jose Rizal during his days in Ateneo.  Shelves on the first floor of the house are bursting with pocketbooks from the time of the war, memorabilia from his trips (including a pair of painted dolls smaller than a grain of rice), newspaper clippings of his siblings' and nephews' accomplishments, and tektites!

Living room downstairs

Showing off his printmaking skills
The curator is as interesting as his pieces.  Ramon, who is now 78 years old, worked in a travel and employment agency in New York during his prime. A model in  his youth, he once donned a swimming trunk for a swimwear brand and landed him a page on a newspaper.  He left the country when he was still 13 years old and only went back for vacations.  I could tell very well from his amusing stories that he led a colorful life in NY. 

Somewhere in the conversation he mentioned he had 200 photos of himself in the nude. He's the second person to impart this piece of wisdom: take a photo of your nude self while you're still young because years from now, you'll be very glad you did!

On a serious note, the man shared his views on the country's future on the arts because, admittedly, hardly anyone gets noticed here.  He cited Lamberto Hechanova, who won several art contests abroad but is seldom written about and recognized in his own country.  He commented on how our education program lacks essential elements to make our youth well-rounded individuals.  Hearing him air his opinion might make one think that the man's point of view of this country is highly cynical but if you think about it, he already spent a good chunk of his years promoting arts and culture in the country (and is still doing it now).  His ancestral house was the first house in Silay to open its doors to the public. Since then, 2 more ancestral houses have opened for viewing.  He said he might be able to convince some more families to do the same. He holds the Annual Cultural Tour of Negros Occidental (ACTNO), the longest running cultural tour in the country (on its 40th year), every Saturday of December. Now if all cynics were like him, we'll be out of the rut we're in in a few years time.

When we finally sat and settled at the receiving area upstairs, we realized that 2 hours have passed since we set foot in the house. The man is someone I could listen to for several hours without losing my interest.  He even offered us to spend the night in his house, but unfortunately, we still had a sunset to catch at The Ruins.  It would have been lovely to be a guest in the house of a man of passion and have an authentic Negrense dinner with him in the long antique dining table.
Ramon's parents

All photos by Aaron Manila.

Hofileña Ancestral House is located in 14 Cinco de Noviembre, Silay City.  Call (034) 495 4651 to set an appointment before visiting the house.  

This post is a part of The Negros Occidental Chronicles.

This is my entry for the PTB Blog Carnival for the month of September 2012, dubbed as "The Visayan Roundup",  hosted by Ding of Pinoy Explorer. Click on the logo below to read the entry.

The Pinoy Explorer - The Visayas Roundup

To view all the previous Carnival posts,click on the logo below.

Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival