Thursday, May 15, 2014

Backpacking in Bacolod City (Part 1)




It had been in the back of my mind a long time ago. But I never thought it would happen this summer—a back-to-back sojourn to the two capital cities of Negros Island, Bacolod and Dumaguete—with just a backpack and a camera in tow!  It sounded farfetched at first but, to my delight, things began to fall into place.

Fate seemed to be beckoning me towards Negros this summer. I’d been trying to book a trip to one of the tiny islands off Cebu’s coast but to no avail. When that sojourn finally went kaput, I found myself making a detour to Dumaguete instead. Then, after a brief lull, I was off to Bacolod for a long-delayed return!

San Sebastian Cathedral
Two capital cities. Two provinces in one big island. Two sojourns. Two weeks apart. Geez, it was one of the most exhilarating journeys ever cooked up by this incorrigible gadabout who draped himself like a recluse during his first sortie to the City of Gentle People and then donned the mask of a reveller in the City of Smiles!



Bacolod City Government Center



Coming close on the heels of my Holy Week escapade in Dumaguete, the Bacolod sojourn had long been in the back burner. On several occasions, I’ve been prodded by some friends there to come over. But something always got in the way, leaving me no choice but to keep on postponing the trip.

This May, however, I vowed to make it to Bacolod at all cost. Truth be told, I’d been surfing for cheap fares since late last year! Patience paid off when I finally got myself a promo rate. So, with my backpack and Nikon in tow, I went on to catch the early morning direct flight to Bacolod one long weekend. 

I’ve been looking forward to stage a comeback to the city  and some nearby places of Negros Occidental. Let’s just say I yearned for a comeback because of F4 and then some more: the FOOD I’ve savored, the FRIENDSHIPS I’ve made, the  FEASTS I’ve been treated to, the FUN I’ve had, plus a host of other reasons.

This recent sojourn is most memorable to me because I had the privilege of being hosted once again by one sweet Bacolodnon who’s the epitome of the “smiling people”  the city is associated with—mi amiga Minnie! The lady is the consummate tour organizer, travel guide, host and entertainer—all rolled into one!

Just like my previous sojourn to Bacolod, Minnie and hubby, Jim, and the rest of my Bacolod-based friends (Bobby and wife, Betty and, of course, Mia, who was vicariously   with us even though she’s in nearby Iloilo) left no stone unturned to make our recent invasion of the City of Smiles so unforgettable.


Inside the Church of the Angry Christ




After fetching me, travel buddy Letty and her daughter, Abby, at the airport, Jim and Minnie took us to Victorias City where we had the privilege of stepping into the rarified confines of the hacienda where Victorias Milling Company operates. VMC is said to be the “world’s largest fully integrated sugar refinery.”  

The highlight of the VMC tour was our first peek at the one-of-a-kind mural of The Angry Christ by Pinoy artist Alfonso Ossorio. Geez, we had a lot of selfies with the vintage steam train used to haul sugarcane from the fields, the carabao sundial and the chimneys inside the sugar refinery, among others.


Gaston Mansion






Later, the gracious couple also joined us as we embarked on a heritage walk in the ancestral homes of Silay City; discovered the unique and exotic in the quaint town of Manapla; frolicked at Campuestohan Highland Resort in nearby Talisay City and later dined with us and our other pals up in the hills of Murcia!

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As what I’m accustomed to do, I tried figuring out the origin of the city’s name. From what I’ve read on a brochure at the hotel where I was billeted, “Bacolod” came from the Hiligaynon word, buklod, or stone hill. The old settlement that grew into the highly urbanized city, was originally located on a stone hill!

Campuestohan Highland Resort
After it was pillaged by the Moros, the settlers moved to the lowland near the shore, which eventually became the current location of the city. Facing Guimaras Strait, Bacolod serves as the gateway to Negros Occidental as well as the center of its governance, trade, finance, commerce and education. 

Bacolod, I believe, had me by the tongue twice. First, when I learned my first words of Hiligaynon, the mother tongue of Pinoys living in Western Visayas. Arguably, it’s my familiarity with the language spoken with such mellifluousness by my kins in Iloilo and Antique that have helped me blend well in the City of Smiles. 

Felicia's Cakes: A taste of Bacolod's sweet temptations


Having been born and raised in Mindanao, I, however, have trouble speaking the lingua franca with fluency. But I can understand it—well, enough not be taken for a ride by loonies. Modesty aside, I’ve got this confidence that I could get away with anything in the city by just flashing a sweet smile! LOL!

Bacolod had me by the tongue once again when I tasted my first piyaya many years ago, even if I grew up gobbling durian candies, tarts, jam and all. It was such a sweet, mouth-watering experience that left in me a craving to have more of the delicacy, which leaves a lasting sugary aftertaste in the mouth. 
Arguably, the sweetness of the City of Smiles seems to have been blended into the irresistible delights awaiting the sweet tooth at these three wonderful discoveries: Calea, Felicia’s and Virgie’s. Their delectable offerings are simply mind-blowing! I should know—I’ve made it to all three! 

 
An escapade in Bacolod isn’t complete unless one has gone to Calea and Felicia’s. Both establishments offer a wide array of choices of cakes and pastries of all sorts—a haven for the foodies visiting Sugarland! Calea’s sans rival is truly without equal while Felicia’s mint cake is absolutely food for the gods!

Virgie’s, on the other hand, offers pasalubong treats like napoleones, butterscotch, caramel tart, meringue, and much, much more.




(to be continued)

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