I have fond memories of Bacolod City which they call the City of Smiles because of the charming, smiling and hospitable Bacoleños or Bacolodnons hence, the colorful celebration of the world-renowned Maskara Festival. The city offers tours within and outside it being an entry point to Negros Occidental, a province in Negros, the third largest island in the Philippines.
In the city alone, you may take a look at places of interests such as Fountain of Justice, the New Government Center, Pope John Paul II Tower, Museo Negrense de La Salle, Dizon-Ramos Museum, AID Foundation Techno Park, Bells of San Sebastian, Bandstand and Gazebo, Yulo’s Park and the Negros Occidental High School Alumni Promenade.
Bring your feet down the aisle of San Sebastian Cathedral, Barangay Sang Virgen Chapel, San Antonio Abad Church and embrace the soothing breeze at Rizal Centennial Park Negros Occidental Gold and Country Club, Negros Forest Ecological Foundation and Biodiversity Center, Bacolod Western Visayas Clonal Nursery, the ANP Showroom, Recuerdos de Bacolod, Panaad Park and Stadium, Fort San Juan, Provincial Building, Paghimud-os Provincial Capitol Park and Provincial Park and Lagoon.
Outside of the city, you may try the tours in what they call the Negros Sugarland and in the Victorias Milling Company (VMC), war memorial and steam engine. Just 45 minutes south of Bacolod is the sugar-producing La Carlota where you can visit the 1929 ancestral house, and the hacienda which is home to one of the country’s muscovado mill. The VMC, the world’s biggest integrated sugar mill and refinery, is located at the 7,000-hectare self-contained agro-industrial complex.
With the war memorial tours, you will have the chance to take rounds of the monument of Theodore Vinther, a young American soldier who foiled the attempt of the Japanese soldiers to destroy Bago Bridge; the monument to the Unknown Soldier at the Bacolod City Plaza, the Patag War Memorial in the uplands of Silay City where the remaining Japanese soldiers in the island retreated, and Green Beach in Pulupandan where the liberating American forces landed and in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia, where the Japanese soldiers surrendered to the Americans.
The milling season from October to April is the perfect time to view old steam engines operated by Hawaiian Philippines Company in Silay City, Central Azucarera de la Carlota in La Carlota City, Victorias Milling Company or VICMICO in Victorias City.
The website of the city government of Bacolod suggests that a city tour may be made preferably for half a day. You may start by having a walking tour around the city plaza. The central market near the plaza and downtown area provides a wide array of native souvenirs and best buys from Bacolod like “uga” or dried fish and boneless “dangit”, dried squid, fish tocino and a host of other dried items and food stuff.
Then, you may proceed to BREDCO port to watch various sea transports. From this point, pass by the Bacolod City Hall, the seat of government of the city; then to the Golden Fields Commercial Complex, which is actually best visited at night, being the center of the city’s night life. If you like to experience how piaya, a Negrense mouth-watering sweet delicacy is made, proceed to a piaya making factory. Then, be inspired by the magnificence of the 25-hectare PANA-AD Park and Sports Complex comes end.
From the sports complex, have a photo shoot along the outer circumferential road with the breath-taking view of the 8,000 feet Kanlaon volcano in the background. Proceed to Burgos-Lopez Jaena extension for a glimpse of a record-breaking and unique site, a private family cemetery that has been listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the only cemetery found at the intersection of two highways.
The Capitol Lagoon in front of the Provincial Capitol should be your next stop then find time to drop by the Negros Museum and be enthralled by its unique exhibit called “Sugar and Other Negros Tales” that tells the history of Negrense life before, during and after the arrival of the Spaniards. For the nature lovers and environmentalists, tour operators require a visit to the Negros Forest Ecological Foundation Breeding and Bio-diversity Center (NFEFBBC) which is just a stone’s throw from the Negros Museum. Depending on how much time you have, a visit to the shell mural and art deco of the Barangay sang Virgin or Sta. Clara Chapel will unlikely be memorable.
Before you bid goodbye, see the finest of the arts and crafts produced by Ilonggo ingenuity and artistic skill at the showroom of the Association of Negros Producers (ANP).
For accommodation, choices range from first class hotels to pension houses and inns. On top of the list are Bacolod Convention Plaza Hotel, the Casino Filipino Hotel and L ’Fisher Hotel. Standard hotels include Hotel PAGCOR, Luxur Place, Planta Centro Bacolod Hotel & Residences, Bacolod Pavillion Hotel, Business Inn, Circle Inn, Eastview Hotel, Grand Regal Hotel, Goldenfields Kundutel, MO2 Westtown Downtown, MO2 Westown Hotel, Sugarland Hotel and Sylvia Manor.
I got the chance to spend a good night sleep at the posh L’ Fisher Hotel rated as first class by the Department of Tourism only to be told later that this place right in the city is “usually for businessman and dignitaries.” Mine indeed was an unforgettable experience. Well, if you want to enjoy the beauty of Bacolod, call your tour agent and book your flight now. It will be an exciting week ahead for you and your special someone.
Getting there. Bacolod City is just a 45-minute flight from Manila via Cebu Pacific Airlines and Philippine Airlines.