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!

Itinerary:

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

Provincial Capitol
Lagoon



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

Day3:
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. 

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
Bob's
Calea
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.
All the while we thought that The Ruins was all there was in Talisay City. Thanks to an old friend from college days, Andrew Peñalosa, who took us to a hidden gem in Talisay. Incidentally, Andrew's college thesis was on the old ancestral houses in Negros Occidental and he's probably the best resource person I know on this topic. (Though I could not remember as to what exactly the thesis was about. Sorry Andrew!)

As it turned out, Balay ni Tana Dicang was the only one that stood out, presumably because it is the most well-preserved ancestral house we've seen in the region. Situated on a 6000 sqm. property along Rizal St. in Talisay City, the classical bahay-na-bato house will take one to a journey back in time.

Balay ni Tana Dicang is open from 10AM-5PM

The house is named after Enrica Alunan, the wife of Capitan Efigenio Lizares.  At age 47, Dicang was
widowed and she took over her late husband's position, thus the name Capitana Dicang. She held this position for 40 years until she died during the war in 1942. 

Based from the guide, Ricky, Tana Dicang was a hands-on woman who successfully managed the family businesses (haciendas, cigar manufacturing) as well as the lives of her children.  We even had the impression that Tana Dicang, during her time, was a control freak.  She ensured that most of her children marry those within their social circle and assigned one of them to remain single and take care of her. But if you base it on how her 16 children fared in life, Tana Dicang did more than enough to ensure that her clan lived a good, even lavish, life ahead. Her descendants include Remedios Lizares, wife of Manila Mayor and Quezon Province Governor Leon Guinto. Remedios Circle in Malate was named after her. 
The expenses of maintaining the house is nonetheless funded by a percentage from the income of her haciendas, as stated in her will.  You have got to give it to Tana Dicang for thinking of everyone's future, including the house.
There is an unmistakable feeling of power once you enter Tana Dicang's house.  A photo with Manuel L. Quezon seated beside Tana Dicang is hung on the wall in front of the grand staircase. We went up to the second floor and found out that Tana had a bedroom built for him.  Every single detail of the house, even the room partitions, had a significant meaning to Tana.  She also had peepholes built on the wooden floor so she could check on the workers downstairs.  The first floor used to be the bedrooms of the male members of the family but it is now aptly turned into an art gallery.

The whole house is in perfect condition, the silvers and porcelains gleaming and stored in a glass cabinet, the wooden furnitures shiny, and the floor bright.  Tana Dicang's descendants have indeed kept the memory of the woman and the glorious era alive in the confines of the house.

The first floor receiving area
The infinity design of the partitions signify abundant wealth
The grand staircase leading to the 2nd floor
The huge sala at the second floor
Not every guest gets to sit in the second floor receiving area
The formal dining room
Altar at Tana Dicang's bedroom

The cocina

The bedroom turned into an art gallery
Time-tested indeed
Photos by Aaron Manila.

For more information, visit this blog for an account of the life of the Lizares' of Talisay.

Balay ni Tana Dicang is located in 36 Rizal St., Talisay City, Negros Occidental.  The museum is open from 10AM-5PM, but if you want to hear the intriguing tales of the house, schedule your visit from 10:30AM-3PM for the guided tours.


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