NEGROS Occidental, “the Land of Sweet Surprises,” has a variety of physical and natural attractions. With all these, sugar still remains on top. That could be the reason why we associate many things with sugar.
In our province, we have “matam-is nga yuhom” (sweet smile), “matam-is nga Inday” (sweet lady), “matami-is nga pagtamdanay” (sweet relationship), “matam-is nga kalan-unon” (sweet delicacies), and many more. My hometown Silay is even having this sweet adage, “Life in Silay is sweet and the past is forever.” Silaynon made life sweeter.
Sugar industry gave Negros Occidental its distinctive cultural historical flavor. The “Story of Sugar” is a core theme of its tourism sector, particularly in the Bacolod-Talisay-Silay Tourism Circuit. According to the Mainstreaming Public-Private Economic Initiative Project, the BTS Tourism Circuit capitalizes on the opulent heritage structures, tradition and cuisine.
Traditional sugarcane plantations are evolving into specialty organic farms and leisure estates. Families in the BTS Circuit have used their sugar capital to diversify into tourism-related services and products such as specialty restaurants, high-end crafts, and artisanal food products. We can identify more of what flows from the circuit.
We have four cluster attractions. When we speak of Central Bacolod City, we are referring to the attractions from Bacolod Plaza (Plaza 6 de Noviembre) to the Provincial Capitol and Lagoon. Other attractions in this cluster include the Central Market, Pope John Paul II Tower, Palacio Episcopal, San Sebastian Cathedral, Negros Museum, and the Fountain of Justice.
The Lacson Strip is another attraction to be considered. Lacson Street is one of Bacolod’s major streets where festival and public events are held. The street is also popularly known as Bacolod restaurant strip with historic restaurants serving local families for more than 50 years. In there, we also have trendy establishments opened by a new generation of chefs. (Gen. Aniceto Lacson should go back to his horse and do a tourism gallop.)
Talisay City is an important ingredient of the circuit. Talisaynons stand tall with their heritage sites like the Balay ni Tana Dicang, the Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino, the Old City Hall, and The Ruins. “The Ruins” is what remains of the early 20th century mansion and the most iconic and photographed attraction in Negros.
Ciudad de Silay completes the cluster. The United Nations Habitat planners consider Silay as the fastest-growing city in the Philippines along with Iloilo City (only two in Western Visayas). There are some 30 heritage houses in this cluster. Most are still maintained as private residences, although a few have been converted into museums (Balay ni Ramon, Balay Negrense, Balay ni Jalandoni).
The San Diego Pro-Cathedral and Hawaiian-Philippine Company (producing muscovado, blanco directo, and brown sugar) are notable tourist attractions. When you think of Silay, your mind travels to Patag Mountain Resort, Balaring shoreline restaurants, solar farm, organic gardens, and Adela Folklore Village. Silay is “Banwa sang Dulce”…piaya, lumpia ubod, dulce gatas, buko pie, guapple pie, pili square, lubid-lubid, empanada and more.
These heritage clusters are complemented by nature, adventure farm, and ecotourism sites such as Campuestohan Highland Resort, Melba’s Farm, By the Sea Garden Resort, Buro-Buro Spring, Sulfataragaysen, Pulang Tubig, Dumalabdab Falls, Tinagong Dagat, and more wonder in the North Negros National Park.