Smiling in the “City of Smiles”: Bacolod
by Danny Tariman
This was my family’s first time to set our feet in the City of Smiles, the nickname given to Bacolod City. We all are pretty excited to explore this new place to discover. This city is about 1 hour and 15 minutes ride by plane, south of Manila. It is located at the western side of Visayas group of islands in the Philippines.
The day before our departure, we were greatly troubled because our flight to Iloilo City (another destination we are going to) was canceled and we were told to re-book our flight. The plan was from Iloilo, we will take a fastcraft boat to Bacolod. We had some difficulty getting booked for the next earliest flight; as we were informed that we can fly at about 12 noon.
But God has the best plan for us because instead of landing in Iloilo, then taking a 1-hour boat ride to Bacolod, we were able to get a flight direct to Bacolod, as no cost to us!
We arrived Bacolod Airport (which is actually in Silay City, part of Metro Bacolod) at abour 5:30 in the morning. We were met by my smiling cousin (true to the name City of Smiles) at the airport. We swiftly drove to the city proper, passing though sugar plantations. It was a relief that after all the problems we encountered in our flight booking, we easily reached the city.
Our first stop, as we usually do when we visit places, is the local church. We visited San Sebastian Cathedral where we offered our thanksgiving and prayers to the Lord who had blessed us with a good trip. This is a centuries-old church which was built in 1882 reportedly from coral stones from the neighboring Guimaras Island. The interior is so beautiful, with arched ceiling. I had noticed that the 2 bells are not hanging at the belfry but are actually hung in a brick structure on the church yard.
St Pope John Paul Tower
This tower was built exactly on the spot where Pope (and now Saint) John Paul celebrated the Mass when he visited the City in 1981. This 7-story tower is located in the reclamation area at the fringes of SM City Bacolod. When we reached the top, we got an good, unobstructed view of the Bacolod seas.
At the ground floor are some of the memorabilia of the saint.
The St John Paul Tower standing on the exact spot where the Pope, and now a Saint, celebrated Mass in 1981
Capitol Ground and Lagoon
The provincial capitol of Negros is becoming a tourist destination. You can see the busyness in infrastructure developments from all sides: malls, and office buildings under construction. The stately capitol building stands as a good backdrop of the well-manicured lawn in front.
Fronting the grounds is a huge lagoon where golden statues of Malakas and Maganda are standing on each side. A good place to take photos!
On the sidewalk of the Capitol area, we bought from a cart vendor, a famous local fruit, not easily available in Manila, called “marang”. This fruit has a strong smell; it is prohibited to be brought inside our hotel room! The external of the fruit is like a jackfruit with finer “skin protrusions”. But the fruit! Oh, so exotic! It tastes very sweet; much different from jackfruit (langka) and durian. Its meat is soft and creamy sweet.
It was good that the museum is open on Saturdays! Haha! Our tour of this place gave us an insight of the historical past of the Negros Island. It showcased murals depicting the pre-colonial life and culture of the island and its people. It had artifacts from various period of its history. It also has toy collection reportedly worth millions of pesos, according to our museum guide.
We were fortunate also the hear and watch at the lobby, a practice of budding classical music performers: a young soprano, and a young tenor who was also playing an old piano.
The Manokan, or in English “place of chicken” is a row of restaurants near the reclamation area fronting a mall. All of these restaurants offer almost the same dish, the Bacolod Inasal – vinegar-marinated chicken, grilled on charcoal, basted with achuete that brings out a yellow-color. The dish is usually served without the usual spoon-and-fork because the guests are expected to eat by hand. This is a must-try for visitors of the city.
We had our first lunch at Aida’s along the Manokan row of restaurants. The place has ‘carinderia’ ambiance. What caught my attention in this place aside from the tasty Bacolod chicken, are the masks on display. The masks are the ones worn during the Maskara festival in the city
We also went to Calea bakeshop. This is a must for a city visitor: very delicious cakes of various recipes, at very affordable price!
In the evening, we had dinner at Aboy’s: an excellent way to cap a day. It offers seafood, and other Filipino food. Good ambiance.
We bought some local goodies from Bong-Bong’s. Various flavors of the famous piaya, barquillos, napoles, butter scotch, and more! You have to taste napoles, a tasty bun topped with sugar icing. Really a treat for people who loves sweets. We bought the items from the factory outlet, rather from the shop at the city central. The good thing about this store is that it can pack your goodies “airport security ready”; really nice packing!
I would like to personally thank my cousin who was our guide in the whole trip and who also provided us the vehicle for our trip. I won’t mention his name; he is a senor officer of a local company owned by a Filipino business tycoon.