It has become a tradition for us to go on Visita Iglesia during Holy Week. We usually observe it in the churches of Laguna and Batangas since we are based in the South. Last year, however, we thought of holding it somewhere farther just for a change and to squeeze in some leisure travel as well. Our destination of choice was Negros Occidental, another province that forms part of the land we cannot say “no” to—the VisaYES. 😛
Our main agenda was to visit seven churches as we travel our way to Sipalay, a laid-back city in the southern part of the province, to spend the remaining days of our Holy Week vacation. The said city can be reached in four to five hours via private vehicle from Bacolod, the province’s capital. Given the long travel we had to endure to arrive at the place and our early flight back to Manila, we were faced with a challenge to explore Bacolod and other nearby municipalities in six hours or less.
That dilemma wasn’t something to be sad about though, because we were able to drop by seven tourist attractions within Negros Occidental’s central district—not bad for a first “date” with the City of Smiles, right?
So if you also find yourself in a Bacolod rush, pay these places a visit, too. You can actually add some more to the list if you have damn good time management skills. 😛
Bacolod in Less Than 6 Hours: 7 Tourist Spots to Visit
1. San Sebastian Cathedral
In the middle of the constantly modernizing Bacolod lies an ancient structure that will surely make you stop and stare—the San Sebastian Cathedral. This religious institution, whose origins date back to the 1800s, was officially declared as a cathedral in 1933. Its classic baroque facade and features are greatly attributed to the coral stones quarried from neighboring Guimaras Island which serve as the shrine’s predominant building material.
Moreover, standing a few feet away from the main church itself is the Centennial Belfry, which was constructed by the Sugarlandia Lions Club of Bacolod and inaugurated in 1976 in commemoration of the Cathedral’s centennial year. This campanile houses two bells—a large one that weighs 1,543.5 kilos and a small one that weighs 761 kilos. These bells were originally mounted on the church’s towers, but had to be brought down due to the site’s reconstruction in 1969.
We were not able to fully see the Cathedral’s interiors as the altar and other displays were covered in cloth in observance of the Holy Week. Nevertheless, we were still thankful that we got to start our Visita Iglesia in this historical and stunning church.
2. Pope John Paul II Tower
Another landmark that mirrors the Catholic faith of the Negrenses is the Pope John Paul II Tower. The tower was constructed as a way of honoring and remembering the late Pope John Paul II who officiated a holy mass in Bacolod before almost a million people on February 20, 1981. That eucharistic celebration was held in a reclaimed BREDCO (Bacolod Real Estate Development Corporation) area—the exact location where the tower stands. We will surely revisit this to check out each floor of the tower which exhibits memorabilia and other souvenir items related to the Pope.
3. Manokan Country
Do you know the reason why lots of men flock to the Manokan Country? Kasi doon, maraming chicks. 😛
The Manokan Country is a food complex comprising a long stretch of different eateries all claiming to be serving the best Bacolod chicken inasal. If you want to taste this affordable and authentic Bacolod signature dish, make this gastronomic hub a part of your itinerary. Just make sure to arrive early as the place gets crowded especially during peak lunch hours.
We chose to eat at Nena’s Rose II since it was recommended by our guide/driver. Our verdict? It didn’t disappoint! Although the ambiance is very simple given the place’s carinderia set-up, our orders were served on time, and most importantly, the chicken inasal were marinated and grilled to perfection. Move over, Mang Inasal! I don’t need your unli rice. 😛
4. Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol
The Provincial Capitol of Negros Occidental is an architectural wonder. This serves as the official seat of the province’s Governor. Designed by Architech Juan Arellano, it was declared as a National Historical Landmark in 2004. The Capitol is also surrounded by a park and fronted by a big man-made lagoon. Capturing these altogether makes the whole area look like a classical painting.
We only had five minutes to see the place, and since colonnades fascinate me, we maximized our stay at the Capitol’s facade, posing beside those huge pillars. 😉
5. Calea Pastries & Coffee
From chicken inasal to Calea’s cakes. So what’s so special about this pastry house that continuously lures tourists and locals alike? Well, it’s said that the sugar being used to bake the restaurant’s sweet treats are grown in the plantations of Negros Occidental itself. That makes a lot of sense because the province wouldn’t be called the Sugar Capital of the Philippines for nothing, right? Perhaps, that’s also the reason why their cakes and pastries are inexpensive. Unlike the coffee shops here in Manila, Calea lets you devour a big cake slice of your choice for less than 100 pesos. Sweet tooth cravings (and budget) truly satisfied!
However, we only bought some chocolate muffins for take-out. I didn’t bother tasting their cakes (which I regret) because I hated anything “sweet” during that time. Bitter ako noon, guys. Charot. But I’ll write a comprehensive review of Calea when I come back—bitter or not! 😛
6. The Ruins
Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud was playing in the background as we walked our way to The Ruins—a bitter and sweet, romantic yet tragic sight tucked away in the fields of Talisay, a city that is a few kilometers away from Bacolod.
Here’s a tale as old as time: Spanish-Filipino sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson built The Ruins in memory of his Portuguese wife, Maria Braga. It pretty much sounds like the story behind the Taj Mahal in India, but this one’s got a twist. During the World War II, the American and Filipino soldiers had to burn down the grand mansion to prevent the Japanese forces from using it as their headquarters. But since Don Mariano used A-grade building materials, the mansion was not completely destroyed. Instead, the fire—which lasted for three days—gave birth to this skeletal yet magnificent structure worthy of being one of the most beautiful ruins in the world. Patunay lang na gumaganda ang mga sinaktan! 😛
To have a picture-perfect souvenir of The Ruins, visit it at dusk and make the most of the small glass table standing a few meters across its facade. The said furniture does magic by giving a dramatic mirror effect that will make one think that The Ruins is situated beside a pond or something. 😉
7. Bacolod City Hall
On our way back from Sipalay, we had a quick photo op at this white city hall where the Mayor holds office. Then off we went to the airport to catch our flight back to
Manila reality. 😛
Clearly, six hours and even a day is not enough to explore this gem in the Western Visayas. I’ll see to it that Bacolod will be a priority the next time I visit. I still had to witness a lot, after all—the Masskara Festival, the old houses of Silay, and many more! Aaaaah, can’t wait to achieve that “Bacolod overload”. 🙂
BANAT NG BIYAHE
BACKolod calls for a comeBACK. Parang ‘yung ex mong gustong makipagbalikan. Chos.
Have you been to Bacolod? Were you able to stay long enough to explore its tourist attractions? 🙂