When in Bacolod

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Sunday, March 9, 2014


THE City of Smiles is now within easy reach of the Dabawenyos anytime of the year, with the launching of Cebu Pacific's Davao-Bacolod route in January, this year.

Last January 25 to 27, I had the chance to enjoy the city with the Davao media in a three-day trip to Bacolod led by the regional office of the Department of Tourism West Visayas.

From what I had learned, Bacolod is more than Masskara Festival, it is not a very big city but there are a lot of places to go and is brimming with history.

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I recommend that you visit Bacolod this summer with your family, friends, or special someone. Those who enjoy walking back in time will surely enjoy the historical value of this place.

Once you land at the Bacolod-Silay International Airport, take a cab to get you to the city and check in at GoHotels Bacolod. Their rates are as low as P388 if you do a prior booking online. Their rooms have the basic amenities like LCD Cable TV, Wi-Fi, in-room safe, toiletries.

The hotel is also located beside Robinsons Bacolod which makes shopping for pasalubong nearer from the hotel.

After checking in, take a rest and prepare for lunch at 21 Restaurant on corner Lacson Street.

Get a taste of fine Iloggo dishes at this restaurant. Some of its mouth-watering dishes include Pata al Ajillo, Crispy Pata, Squid with Lemon Grass, 21's Original Batchoy, Pizza 21, and Porkchop ala Bicol Express. If you are in a group, you guys can opt for their buffet packages.

When we went to Bacolod, Raymond Alunan, tourist information officer of the Province of Negros Occidental, gave us a tour around the city.

We first visited the Capitol Park and Lagoon, which is famous for the matching sculptures of a woman standing alongside a water buffalo and that of a man pulling another water buffalo.

The sculptures were done by Francesco Riccardo Monti, an Italian sculptor, who is also famous for doing the sculptures of the Metropolitan Manila Theater and the University of the Philippines - Visayas Iloilo campus.

You can do a lot of things in this three-hectare park like picnics, jogging, dance rehearsals, martial arts practice, and feeding the tilapias in the lagoon.

Surrounding the park are also the Provincial capitol and other government offices.

After the, provincial park we went to San Sebastian Cathedral, a late 19th century Baroque church. The church had its groundbreaking on April 27, 1876 and was completed on January 20, 1882. I was amused to learn that the this edifice, built during the last years of the Spanish colonization, is still standing strong until today. Just by looking at the building you can think of how influential the Catholic church was during those times.

Just near the cathedral is where the Bacolod City Public Plaza is. This is where the famous Masskara is being held every year. The two-hectare public park has a solitary gazebo standing at the center.

Raymond said the area used to be surrounded by houses and in the good old days, bands would perform classical music at the gazebo.

We then went to the seven-storey Pope John Paul II Tower. The tower was built to commemorate the Pope's visit to Bacolod on February 20, 1981. At the foot of the tower, there lies a coffee shop that also sells souvenir items and amazing art pieces.

After the tower, off we went to the Bacolod New Government Center. So far, this is the biggest government center I have seen.

We also visited the Pana-ad Park and Stadium. Aside from having sports facilities like rubberized track oval, main stadium, and open bleachers, Pana-ad also features replicas of landmarks of the thirteen cities and municipalities of Negros Occidental.

It is also where the seven-day run of the Panaad sa Negros Festival is being held, participated in by all cities and municipalities in the province during summer.

One thing I remember at the Pana-ad Park and Stadium is the old steam train. I am sure you will enjoy taking selfies here.

Finally, we went to the Dizon-Ramos Museum. The musem is the ancestral home of Raymundo L. Dizon and Hermelinda V. Ramos. It features large collections of keychains, dolls, christmas ornaments, toys, Christmas houses, glass wares, Santa Claus figurines, and religious souvenirs, to name a few.

Though, I was crept out by the porcelain dolls and the toy room, the good old childhood memories went back as I entered the room full of Elmo items. A room with lots and lots of Elmo was like a childhood dream come true.

Another thing I enjoyed about the museum was the old gramophone turntable, which probably dates back to mid or late 20th century. Up until now, it can still play those vinyl records.

After the tour, you can go back to Go Hotel to freshen up for dinner. Now, I have two suggestions for you, you can either go to Aboy's or Fresh Start Organic Restaurant, which are both good.

Aboy's is one of Bacolod's top restaurants. It is named as one of Asia's top 500 finest restaurants by the Miele Guide. Their chicken inasal and pork chops are really yummy.

If you want a light and healthy dinner, head on to Fresh Start Organic Restaurant in Robinsons Bacolod. Its restaurant serves organic food and it is really delicious. What I loved the best was its ice cream.

After a sumptuous meal, end the day at Calea. One of the best cake houses I have been to. They have a wide variety of cakes ranging from cheescakes to mousse cakes. I forgot what we ordered because I was more concerned on tasting every flavor on the table rather than remembering each name, though I remembered ordering a S'mores Cheescake which I loved.
Bacolod has a lot to offer, from history to food.

Cebu Pacific has a thrice weekly Davao-Bacolod flights utilizing an Airbus A320 aircraft. For bookings and inquiries, guests can go to www.cebupacificair.com, or call the reservation hotlines (02)7020-888 or (032)230-8888. The latest seat sales can also be found on CEB's official Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) and Facebook pages.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 10, 2014.

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