"EXPERIENCE the Philippines. Discover Negros Occidental.” We are thanking Greg Flores of Filipiniana Tours-Bacolod for bringing Hawaii-based tour operators in our “Land of Sweet Surprises… Negros Occidental” through his friend Lorelie “Loubelle” Mercado, Manila-based tour operator who has connections with international tour operators.
This familiarization tour for Hawaii-based operators on October 23 to 25 will be participated by Teresita Noble, Janalyn Pidong, Shirley Tolentino, Agnes Torino, Bernie Sistoza, Tante Urban, Araceli Urban, Jesse Valledor, Ryan Cayabyab, Madelyn Taroma, Leilani Taroma, and Lorelie Mercado as tour escort. Greg has chosen Christopher Ferrer to be his Negros tour guide.
After their welcome reception at the airport in Silay, they will be billeted at Nature’s Resort in Talisay. Nature’s Restaurant is noted for its palatable village and organic food. Late lunch will be hosted by the Provincial Government and the Provincial Tourism Office staff members will give them the best “Malipayon nga Pag-abot” welcome with Tourism Officer Tintin Mansinares, who will be there on behalf of Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr.
Filipiniana Tours-Bacolod has coordinated with Mayor Mark Golez and Tourism Officer Gerle Sulmaca of Silay; Mayor Neil Lizares III and Tourism Officer Renea Ferrer; and Mayor Bing Leonardia and Tourism Officer Butch Gerasmo. The three mayors with their tourism officers are the pillars in the just institutionalized Bacolod-Talisay-Silay (BTS) Tourism Circuit under the supervision of the Provincial Government and Local Government Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP LED).
The first day afternoon visit in Bacolod is “MassKara Revelry and Organic Farm Tour.” Downtown Bacolod will be featured as an economically bustling city... the center of trade and commerce where the Bacolodnons display “everlasting smiles” with or without the mask. They will roam around the shopping areas where the malls are. Special focus will be given to the historic “6 de Noviembre 1898” plaza, San Sebastian Cathedral, the (poor) Bishop’s House, and Pope John Paul II Tower.
Our beautiful Capitol Building, the seat of the Provincial Government; the Negros Museum; and the New Government Center, where the Bacolod mayor held office, will be pictured colorfully by the tour guide. Visitors will be informed that some roads are not available because of MassKara Festival. Tourists are given the chance to go around Bacolod on foot so that they will have a close up view of what we do to celebrate, especially at night in our tourism strips.
May’s Garden will showcase the wonders of organic farming. Our model organic farm has the physiognomy of farm animals that are raised organically. Varieties of plants and trees are planted to complement each other. There are vegetations that attract insects for pollination and there are those that repel garden foes to protect crops intended for human consumption. Farm machinery and other gadgets for organic farming will be shown to visitors, and a demonstration in the use of technology will be facilitated. Organic snacks will be served after the garden tour. Dinner will be at Aboy’s Restaurant. The tour operators will taste Philippine food with Negros flavor.
Day two tour in Silay and Talisay is “Culture, Heritage and Investment.” A house tour at Tana Dikang’s ancestral house in Talisay will give prominence on how a matriarch rules and how the house is preserved by the heirs. Greg has requested me to handle hacienda tour at Hacienda Adela Folklore Village where the tour operators will be given the opportunity to have cultural interaction with the “dumaans” and “sacadas.” They will taste the “comida pobre’’ (poor man’s food). They will have “caro-carabao” ride to the “tinapsan” (cane field).
The sugar story from the “hacienda” will proceed to Hawaiian-Philippine Company (sugar mill) where the operators will be shown how sugar is made. They will be introduced to HPCo’s brown sugar, blanco directo, and the popular (best seller) muscovado. They will have the chance to meet the “iron dinosaur” (steam locomotive). How about a ride? Possible lunch could be at the heritage house of the “hacendero,” the late German Unson mansion. The house has been restored to its “turn-of-the-century” look for bed and breakfast accommodation.
The guests may opt to have lunch in Balaring shoreline restaurant and feast on “see” and “sea food” with the romantic mangrove backdrop and fisherfolk rowing their “bancas” loaded with a good catch from Guimaras Strait. Ancestral house hopping in Silay follows: Balay Negrense Museum, Hofileña Museum, Jalandoni Museum… a brief stop at San Diego Pro-Cathedral, and later to break guapple pie or buko pie at El Ideal bakery. Pancit molo here is best when eaten hot. Dinner will be hosted by Talisay.
Day three (the last day) is “Food Trip and Handicraft Tour.” They may be challenged to climb the stairs of Emma Lacson for lumpia ubod, empanada, pili square, and banana tart. They would be made living witnesses in piaya making, or see artisans at work in the workshop of Millie Kilayco… and later be brought to Negros Showroom to see fine crafts designed by Negrosanons. Again, lunch at the nostalgic, fascinating and amorous “The Ruins” will be hosted by Talisay Government.
Before their 2:10 p.m. flight, there will be long goodbyes… and we hope to see visitors coming from Hawaii to visit our province where “more sweet surprises” await.
Thank you Filipiniana Tours-Bacolod! Thank you tour operators from Hawaii.
May your Negros experience lure more Hawaiians to come to the “Land of Sweet Surprises.”
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on October 21, 2017.
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