ALTHOUGH Bacolod is not Western Visayas’s regional capital (Iloilo City in neighboring Panay Island holds that distinction), it is by no means second fiddle to Iloilo’s capital. Bacolod is the region’s most populous city. It is second only to Cebu among the Visayan cities in terms of population size, while its economy, which historically has been largely dependent on sugar production, is diversifying.
New industries are emerging and thriving, according to Roberto Montelibano, chairman of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among which is real estate, whose presence in the city is best observed in the burgeoning Capitol Central, a mixed-use, master-planned project by Ayala Land situated in Negros Occidental’s capitol complex right in the heart of Bacolod. Boasting residential, office, retail and hotel components, Capitol Central is now one of Bacolod’s “it” addresses. Standing proudly within this address is the swanky, 154-room Seda Capitol Central—Ayala-owned hotel brand’s seventh property in the Philippines.
A game-changer in Bacolod’s hospitality industry is what Seda Capitol Central General Manager Rhett Villaruz describes this property. Considered the first hotel of its caliber in the city—and indeed in the entire Negros Island—the hotel “will raise the bar in the hospitality industry as it opens to city-wide conventions and other corporate events.”
While Seda Capitol Central’s target market is composed of businessmen mostly from the city’s burgeoning business-process outsourcing industry, word has gone out of the hotel’s opening and it is now getting bookings for conventions and other MICE activities. Seda, according to Villaruz, will not only its guests a seamless hotel experience, it will also portray a well-developed Bacolod—something that’s a bit overdue.
The City of Smiles has a lot of reasons to smile
There’s no better way to illustrate Bacolod’s resurgence than the annual MassKara Festival. Held every October, this colorful fiesta, unlike the Sinulog and the Dinagyang, is quite a young celebration. It was first held in the 1980s as a way to lift the spirits of the city’s residents in the aftermath of an economic crisis—in short, to put the smile back to the faces of the friendly Bacolodnons. The city never looked back since then.
Touted as one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines, no less than the National Competitiveness Council has named Bacolod as one of the most competitive cities in the country. Even global real-estate platform Lamudi has recognized the city as one of the country’s fastest growing in terms of search volume—a feat it shares with popular real-estate hot spots like Makati and Quezon City.
“I’m confident that Bacolod will continue to prosper,” said Villaruz. “Along with its evident and impactful economic growth is a lifestyle that is reflective of the city’s progress.” He added that the Bacolodnons will continually look for ways to raise the standards of their businesses and livelihood—and this is where [Seda] comes in the picture perfectly.”
Bacolod is one of the most visited cities in the Visayas, said Villaruz. This is impressive given the fact the city does not boast a popular white-sand beach, unlike Boracay, Cebu,or Bohol. The city has a distinct characteristic that’s quite unlike of its neighbors. Some of its beloved attractions are its heritage houses, which this writer had the privilege of visiting. In fact, one just needs to make a quick stroll along Lacson Street to get floored by the presence of decades-old structures—living testament to Bacolod’s storied past. But to get a glimpse of the city’s rich history, one has to venture a bit farther.
One of these structures is the rather quirky Daku Balay. Translated to Big House, it is the ancestral home of Don Generoso Villanueva, a prominent sugar planter during his time. Built in the 1930s, it was the first art deco structure in Bacolod and for a time the city’s tallest structure. In fact, it was used during World War II as the headquarters of the Japanese forces in Negros and as a watchtower due to its height.
A much-older structure, this time in neighboring Talisay, is also worth a visit. Built in 1872, Balay Tana Dicang is the ancestral home Don Efigenio Lizares and his wife Doña Enrica Alunan. Widowed at a relatively young age of 42, Enrica Alunan was left to care for 17 children, a sprawling mansion, and an hacienda—not to mention that she also inherited her husband’s role as Kapitan (hence the honorific Tana)—a job that obviously she managed to do so well. Judging by how the property is so well-organized and preserved, one gets the sense that its mistress was a no-nonsense lady. So respected was Tana Dicang that her abode’s guests included no less than Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña.
A trip to Bacolod will not be complete without a visit to much-loved—and photographed—The Ruins. The ancestral home of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and Maria Braga Lacson, this particular property has graced millions of Instragram posts, and the one structure that most people will associate Bacolod to (although technically it is situated in neighboring Talisay). This Italianate-inspired mansion is also known as the “Taj Mahal of Negros,” it sits amid hectares upon hectares of operational farmlands, making it a sight to behold.
Good fortune smiles in Bacolod
Heritage houses and haciendas may be some of Bacolod’s biggest attractions now, but one cannot deny that the city’s prospects are quite promising. It is soon to become the home of at least two massive real-estate developments, in addition to Ayala’s Capitol Central. Aside from the Seda hotel, the company has already turned over its first residential project in the development, while the 70,000-square meter Ayala Malls Capitol Central will open in October, just in time for the annual MassKara Festival. And to complete its mixed-use name tag, more projects, including civic spaces and commercial buildings, are in the pipeline.
Asked if he is confident of Seda’s prospects, Villaruz said he definitely believes so. “Bacolod has its own taste—it is loved by many because, though the city is urbanized, it is not as fast paced.”
The city’s culinary scene is also undoubtedly highly sought-after—something that was quite flawlessly integrated into Seda Capitol Central’s food offerings. Its 96-seat all-day dining facility called Misto serves the best chicken inasal this writer has tasted, in addition to its own take on beloved Filipino fares. The hotel also has a roof-top bar on its eighth floor aptly named Straight Up, which is now a popular hangout place for business travelers, tourists and local residents.
Bacolod’s Seda Capitol Central is already the hotel brand’s seventh property in the Philippines (and second in the Visayas); its opening increased the brand’s total number of rooms to 1,400 nationwide.
“Our goal is to be the preferred hospitality brand in the country catering to both local and global travelers,” said its senior group general manager Andrea Mastellone. “By offering our guests superior accommodations in strategic locations, Seda has succeeded in attracting a loyal following and the friendly Bacolodnons are definitely one of them.”