Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Exploring new places and being with someone who dare to go through unexpected adventures are priceless inspiration I will treasure for the rest of my life. This land, air and sea trip have set a great challenge to our pockets and we were in constant time battle, but it made us appreciate the best of what life can offer.
There are countless reasons why I wanted to travel to Negros Island, among which is my long time dream to experience Masskara Festival and step foot at the sandbar of Manjuyod. Finally, this month, my wishes were granted. More than just a weekend haven, we dare to move out of our comfort zone and experience the brimming hospitality of Negrenses.
My wandering feet itch when I saw Zest Air promo last April 2009. I snagged the best deal of P2,512, roundtrip air ticket for two to Bacolod. The problem then was scheduling the trip since the Mister will have to consider his leave timings. Finally before the seat sale ran out, we decided on the date and our awesome schedule is in time for Masskara Festival. Needless to say, I’m excited that I want to pull the months straight to October.
Come September, we decided to cancel our return ticket (Bacolod-Manila), and agreed to go on a road trip down Negros Oriental and sidetrip to Cebu then fly to Manila. Refer to our 6 days Visayan Islands itinerary here.
Both me and the Mister will be travelling for the first time to Negros Islands, so I did all I can to research and make the most out of our itinerary. We left Manila on a sunny, Oct. 17 and board Zest Air to Silay International Airport. The flight took about an hour. Credits to Zest Air for the smooth flight, new plane and excellent service.
We reached Silay Airport early and outside, we are greeted by a bunch of barkers (those who calls out for public transport & private vehicle rentals). The Mister decided that we just take a van to Bacolod City first to drop off our things before heading to Talisay which is our original destination after the airport. Fare is P150 per pax for a 10 seater van and a good 45 minutes ride.
The good thing was that the driver passed through our accommodation in reaching Bacolod. I made a reservation at Star Plus Pension almost two weeks before our departure. I know it was lame judgement knowing that Masskara Festival is a big event and all the nice hotels and budget friendly inns will be fully booked early. I took a shot at delaying on the reservations and lost most of my preferred inns. We were lucky enough that Star Plus Pension have rooms left. Or not. It is an old building with chipped walls & watermarked ceiling and I wouldn’t want to start with the beddings. That will not be much of a problem, but the most unforgivable part is the terrible toilet smell. It’s pretty disgusting and if only there are other rooms available, we would gladly exchange places. Our only consolation is that the staff are friendly and helpful. True to the concept that we are in the City of Smiles.
Upon arriving at Star Plus Pension, we encountered a bit of a delay since our reservation was lost and we had to sleep on another room with shared bathroom for the night. We let it pass as we were already behind our next trip.
By 4 PM, we are on our way to The Ruins. Just in front of our accommodation we took a jeepney that goes to Bangga Rose Lawns in Bgy. Bata. Fare is P10 each.
“If you are coming from the airport, you can take a van or a satellite bus that goes to Bacolod. From Silay, it will pass through Talisay then Bacolod. In Talisay, you will not miss Barangay Bata arc, on the left side of the road. There is a huge Pepsi Cola Plant in the corner. Go down and hail a jeepney or a tryk that goes inside Barangay Bata. Drop off at Bangga Rose Lawns where you will hire a tricycle going to Ruins.”
Thirty minutes later, we got off at Bangga Rose Lawns. We flag down a tricycle to take us to Ruins and the driver charged us P20 each/ one way, which made P80 for both of us including the return trip. Upon reaching The Ruins, our driver asked us on which time he will return to fetch us and he insist that we pay him later. Such gesture I seldom encounter in Manila.
Brushing up on Ilonggo dialect: In Manila, we say “para” if we want the driver to stop and go down. In Negros, they say “sa lugar lang” which connotes the same thing. It’s a bit awkward at first, but we did get used to it.
The entrance fee in The Ruins is P40. It is an old 1900 mansion of sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and his wife Maria Braga. I just loved how the mansion is intricately detailed and how the amazing foundation withstands the torture of World War II. To this day it is still gloriously standing as a picture perfect backdrop of the sugar cane plantation.
We snapped a bunch of photos here and there making a beeline to popular spots. The place is packed with tourists taking chances on the best souvenir photos.
By 6 in the evening, our driver is already waving at us. Too early, when we made a deal that he would pick us up at half past 6, but we already ran out of areas to explore and we were starving. The Ruins serves meal but we wanted to try the authentic Chicken Inasal in Bacolod, so off we go.
We hopped on a jeepney going back to the city and went down near SM Bacolod. Heavy traffic was already building due to re-routing and street parties. We decided to go by foot and explore the night festivities. Finally, the true gem of them all, and the one that made our tummy backflip, Manokan Country.
Manokan Country is indeed a chicken haven. Restaurants lined up on this street offering Bacolod’s Best Chicken Inasal and cheap seafood dishes. I am starving that time that I forgot which restaurant we pick. But we order their specialty and fresh oysters. Mind you, I was surprised the meal didn’t come with spoon and fork. Not that I am complaining, but I seldom eat dinner with my bare hands, since I get all messed up. This is one of the many firsts I encountered on this trip and did I mention, the food tastes really good and fits our budget too. Happiness in our tummy.
We stroll a bit inside SM Bacolod before heading back to our accommodation.
Day 2 – Visita Iglesia in Negros Occidental
Oct. 18 – We rise up at 5:30 am to prepare for our long itinerary. We are blessed with sunny Sunday that made it perfect for our church visit.
We get on a jeepney going to Ceres North Terminal. We were able to grab a quick breakfast at the bus terminal before our ride going to Manapla leaves. The fare is P30 for a non-AC bus and took almost 1.5 hours ride.
BUS ROUTE OF NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
x Bacolod (Starting Point)
x Talisay (Approximately 30 Minutes)
x Silay (Approximately 45 Minutes)
x Victorias (Approximately 1 hour)
X MANAPLA (Approximately 1.5 hours)
x Cadiz (Approximately 2 hours)
x Escalante (Approximately 3 hours)
Our original plan is to drop off at the town proper of Manapla and take a tricycle from there to take us to where the Chapel of the Cartwheels is located. By chance, I’m seated on the left part of the bus and I saw the signage where directions for the chapel is located. We went down to the next stop and waited for a bus to take us back to our missed spot.
Finally, going down, I realized the place is Hda. Rosalia, Manapla. We hired a tryk going to the chapel. Its P7 each/one way. The Chapel of the Cartwheels upon my research is designed by Monsignor Gigi Gaston. A picturesque worship area made of local materials and surprisingly, cartwheels. There were no caretakers to answer our queries so we just took a few photos and left.
We were on the road again, this time getting off at Victorias town proper. We made a mistake of going down at the crossing and hailed a tricycle there, a little far from our destination. We’re supposed to go down where the junction and a huge signage going to Central Victoria is located, left side of the road. Hiring tricycles from there would be cheaper.
Anyways, from Victorias Crossing, we instructed the tryk driver to take us to St. Joseph The Worker Chapel, also known as Chapel of the Angry Christ. It is located inside Victorias Milling Company where drivers have to leave an ID before entering.
Not long enough, we were already admiring the unique paintings of the chapel. We weren’t able to catch the early mass, there are noone available to ask permission to take photos in the area. The mural is definitely strong and vibrant, non-corforming to what we, Christians used to see in churches for many years, thus many referred to it as “Angry Christ”.
There were flaming heart, skulls, birds and Jesus’ arms stretched out as backdrop of the altar. More interesting is the baptism masterpiece for it was uniquely made out of broken soda bottles.
A keen eyes would notice that the images were all brown skinned, which depicts the Filipino race. No wonder it stirred much controversies ever since it opened to the public.
There are more to see outside the chapel, a pond and a Carabao Sundial built in December 1975.
We hailed a tricycle again which brought us to the junction. This time, we’re going to Silay City.
We were able to catch the Sunday Mass at San Diego Pro Cathedral just before it ended. The marvelous structure of this 20th century Church designed by Lucio Bernasconi, includes a cupola or dome.
After hearing a mass and taking few photos with us, we walk going towards Bernardino Jalandoni Ancestral House & Museum. True to its name, Paris of Negros, we discovered this street a wonderful display of old Spanish Style structures.
The entrance to the museum is P40 per pax and we were ushered through the family’s history, doll collection, old photographs and furniture which tell their own story.
We enjoyed the tour, as much as we learned more about our culture and heritage. Did you know that way back the old times, a sala set in the receiving area has built in cabinets below the seat where visitors usually keep their presents (live chickens) to the host while waiting to be accommodated? Quite interesting, huh?
After the entertaining chitchat with the curator, we headed towards the plaza where we look for our final stop before heading back to Bacolod. On our way, we saw El Ideal Bakery where I told Ferdie to try their most coveted specialty, Guapple Pie.
I read about it everywhere, and its time to make judgment. Guapple Pie is made of a variety of huge guava. We paired it off with soup and I understand instantly why there’s so much crave for this special dessert. It is undoubtedly a must-try when you visit Silay City.
Off we go to Balay Negrense, which is just a few blocks away. It is the 19th Century ancestral house of a sugar baron, Victor Gaston. This property has been acquired by Negros Cultural Foundation through donation by Gaston’s heirs. There are many interesting pieces in the house which will give you a nostalgia of the past. Just like Bernardino Jalandoni Ancestral House & Museum, Balay Negrese boasts large, airy windows, which I learned uses heavy, sliding panels – glass, capiz and wood.
We got info overload that we decided not to join the group led by the curator. We made a quick tour of the house and snap some photos.
By past 11, we decided to head back to our accommodation and freshen up.
We hurried to catch the 2 PM Masskara Festival Street Dancing Competition.
In Bacolod, we were able to rest for a while before hitting the road again.
We squeezed ourselves with the crowd waiting for the parade to start. What kept me busy is trying out the headdress I borrowed from a vendor, and Ferdie did a few shots.
Our waiting has come to an end, and the street dancers did put an awesome show for us. It is a world-class festivity and I adore how much effort they put through on producing fabulous outfits, headdresses and props.
The street dancing was shorter than I expected. Almost all people who watched it are tailing the dancers to the plaza for the big competition. We were exhausted to follow them and decided to just grabbed a light meal at McDonald’s.
Kudos to McDonald’s staff for being warm and friendly. The place was packed but they were able to find us a seat.
After a refreshing Coke Float and fries, we decided to look for ANP Showroom. I am eager to grab some souvenirs home, but our trip turned out to be a long search. The ANP showroom we are looking for is on the far end of the road and there are no vehicles allowed to pass through because of the street party.
We brave the road on foot after the jeepney driver missed our stop. Finally, we reached our destination. I managed to buy some masks while Ferdie grabbed an Island Shirt. They showcase lots of lovely souvenir, too bad though, we’re on a limited budget.
After spending several minutes at the shop, we headed back to our accommodation.
I still have plans for the night, we even haven’t witnessed Electric Masskara or ate at Calea and join the street party along Lacson St., but we had a petty fight that lead to calling it a night.
Day 3 – Mambukal Resort and Crossing the borders to Negros Oriental
My body clock is fast adopting with our activities. I am a night person, thus for the longest time, six o’clock in the morning seem vague to me.
Today we woke up at 5:30 in the morning to prepare to leave for Mambukal Resort, in the town of Murcia. As always, the staff from our accommodation were able to help us with directions on commuting.
Exploring the town by foot or by public transport isn’t a problem to both of us, since we find it economical & a pleasure to our backpacking adventure.
We took a mini-bus going to Mambukal Resort near Bacolod Public Market. It is almost an hour ride going there, passing through sugarcane fields. It’s almost too good to be true to breathe fresh air for two days in a row. Mambukal Resort is the last stop. And boy, we were surprised how huge the resort is with its location serves as a gateway to Mt. Kanlaon volcano. The pictures will not do justice to the beauty of this paradise.
We paid a P30 entrance fee per person. A modest price to relax and enjoy nature. They offer cottages for overnight stay, a wise move if you are off to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
There is a Dipping Pool which they claim very therapeutic for an aching body. I dared to test the waters and paid P50 for the use. The temperature made me uneasy for a while, its hotter than what is normally used in spa and in the hotsprings of Laguna. A portion of its waters is from the Sulfur Spring we were able to see. I spent less than 30 minutes as I don’t want to pass out on a sunny noon.
Under the bridge from the canteen we discovered hundreds of bird’s nests, apparently by tiny black birds’ or swiftlets saliva. All I can do is stare and be amazed and thought that 1 kilogram of those nests fetch 1,000 USD. Bird’s Nest soup or Nido soup are chinese delicacy rich in health benefits. Mambukal Resort served as a protected area, thus harvesting of the nests is strictly prohibited.
The huge flying foxes hanging by the trees amused us more. Too bad we can’t stay until sunset where we can witness hundreds or maybe thousands of them flying and engulfing the forests in dark.
A trek to the forest will offer a great view of the 7 cascading waterfalls. There are guides provided from the registration area. We were able to see only the 1st falls as we were already running out of time.
Ferdie wanted to try the slide for life and I want the canopy walk. Both weren’t available at the moment. Boating would be nice and romantic on sunset too, as well as a dip on the many swimming pools.
By 10:30 AM, we were already out to catch the bus going back to Bacolod. Just in time to check out before 12 noon from Star Plus Pension.
We headed to Bong Bong’s for some native delicacies & pasalubong like special piaya and butterscotch. I had to grab muscovado sugar too as it is cheaper there.
Off we go to Ceres South Bound Terminal. We only have a few minutes to spare to eat lunch before braving the road for a 5 hours ride going to Dumaguete.
The bus available is non-AC with P190 each fare for Bacolod to Tanjay route. It passes through Mabinay Road going to Dumaguete, which is claimed to be the fastest way. We will be going down in Tanjay to meet my husband’s friend, Ging.
It was a smooth & rough 5 hours ride going to Tanjay alone, a little late, as I’m expecting we would reached there around 5:30 PM. The road after Mabinay is still under construction and it stretches to Dumaguete. The backdrop kept us fascinated, I lost count on how many bridges and scenic rivers we crossed. How much sugar canes I’ve eaten in my dreams. The playful children walking home from school were a pleasant sight to behold.
At half past 6 in the evening, we meet Ging’s husband, Bang waiting for us on the road and invited us to their house to meet the whole family. They welcomed us warmthly. We were overwhelmed with the couple’s hospitality as we only met them personally that day.
They offered to take us to Dumaguete so we can decide on the road where to stay for the night. The road is quite bad with one-way signs. There are no alternative routes though, so it can be worst when there’s no traffic enforcer around.
The couple treated us to dinner at Jo’s Chicken Inato by the sea in Sibulan. The unique ambience looksed inviting with colorful old bancas (small wooden boats) converted into tables. The lightings looked like fishing baskets and there is a play area for kids. Beyond the sea, we could see dancing lights on the nearby island, which I learned is Cebu.
Jo’s Chicken Inato has much to offer further than their charbroiled chicken specialty, there’s Pancit Macao, Spicy Shrimps, Tinola served in a young coconut and more.
We were full and we can’t even finished all the dishes served. We thanked the couple’s generosity for a sumptuous meal.
Off we go to Dumaguete. We were told that the city is celebrating Buglasan Festival. It is an annual celebration that converges 13 cities and municipalities of Negros Oriental in one location, Lamberto Macias Sports Complex. Each contingents assigned a personalized booth to showcase a cultural presentation of their tourist spots, products and services.
Upon reaching Dumaguete, I felt I was transported in a different country. Indeed, Dumaguete is the Motorcycle Capital of the Philippines and a University Town as well. Hundreds or thousands of motorcycles lined up the street near the complex where the concert for Buglasan Festival is located. I noticed a number of foreigners present in the city, majority maybe because of schooling. We also learned that the crime rate in Dumaguete is among the lowest in the Country.
We went inside the complex and visited Tanjay booth first. They sampled us a local delicacy named budbod, dipped in a hot chocolate made of tableya. Mouthwatering, I’m so full from our dinner but I can’t seem to pass this oh so yummy treat.
Next stop, we inquired at Manjuyod Town were we planned to go on a sandbar trip the next day. They quoted as a rate but we learned then that they cannot accommodate us for the next day.
Bais City booth is unmanned. I wonder why?
The event is packed mostly by students watching a live concert, wall climbing and partying on the streets.
Our cool tourist guide, Ging & Bang gave us a quick tour around the small city of Dumaguete. They pointed us to the Bell Tower, Silliman University, some hang-out places and more.
We decided that we’ll just spend the night in Tanjay so Ging can drive us to Bais the next day for our Beach Activity. The bad road condition made my eyes heavy. We reached our destination at 1 in the morning.
We were ushered to Nelia’s Place, a tourist inn with a friendly price. Their AC Room is large enough to accommodate 10 pax. We got a discounted room rate of P400/room because of the quick stay or probably because they are friends with our hosts. It normally costs P500 for an AC Room with bath for 2 pax at 7PM-7AM stay.
I couldn’t even remember if I had taken a quick shower before drowning into my dreamland. I was dead tired and all I could think off is that we only have a few hours to steal a nap.
To follow, our journey in Negros Oriental.