BACOLOD, which is the capital city of the province of Negros Occidental, bears the nickname “The City of Smiles”. It is also known as the “Land of Sweet People” because of its culinary heritage, which boasts of such gastronomic delights.
It’s no surprise that Bacoleños love desserts. It is home to many pastry shops offering a wide variety of affordable and generous mouthwatering cakes, including Bacolod’s Napoleones, piyaya, biscocho, barquillos and puto pao—a must try experience when visiting Bacolod.
Bacolod as a foodie haven
The most famous dish associated with Bacolod is the chicken inasal. The marinated pieces of chicken are basted with achuete or annatto oil that creates its yellowish color. The marinade includes garlic, ginger, brown sugar, sinamak (native coconut vinegar), calamansi, tanglad (lemon grass), julienne salt, coarsely ground pepper—and charcoal-grilled to juicy perfection.
Another Bacolod dish is the Cansi Negrense, a version of the bulalo (Filipino bone marrow Soup) and sinigang (Filipino sour soup). True Cansi is made with beef shank that is boiled tender in a bone broth, which is soured by the Batwan Fruit, a fruit that is indigenous to the Negros.
KBL (kadios, baboy, langka) is another favorite local dish composed of pigeon peas, pork and green jackfruit. The pork is boiled until tender and the broth has a distinct sour taste from the fruit batwan and kadios.
Batchoy originated in La Paz, Iloilo, a neighboring city from Bacolod is also a hot seller dish. It is made not only by what was available but what was left in the market, such as pork intestines, pork skin and liver. The broth is simmered for hours that gave the soup such rich aroma and taste. Batchoy is served with thin wheat noodles and crushed pork crackling.
Another hit is the Pritchon (fried lechon). Some are served inside a pancake with hoisin sauce, which is the Filipino version of the traditional Chinese Peking duck pancake.
Places to visit
One of the most-visited places is The Ruins, which is called the Taj Mahal of the Philippines. It is considered as one of the 12 most fascinating ruins in the world. The mansion was built in the early-1900s and was the largest residential structure ever built at that time. It also had the finest furniture, chinaware, decorative items and a beautiful garden of lilies around the four-tiered fountain. The mansion met its sad fate during the early part of World War II when the guerilla fighters burnt the mansion to prevent the Japanese forces from utilizing it as their headquarters. It took days for a raging inferno to bring down the roof and the 2-inch wooden floors. To this day, the structure continues to awe both local and foreign tourists, and also serves as a truly picture-perfect backdrop for anyone visiting Bacolod.
The Negros Museum, which is a provincial museum situated in the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol Complex in Bacolod, was built in 1925 as the Provincial Agriculture Building. The museum is the first in its kind to not house precious archaeological artifacts, but rather to display Negrense lifestyle and society, which includes old furnishings, art exhibits and loaned items from ancestral houses.
The Capitol Park and Lagoon is a provincial park in Bacolod. The park features sculptures depicting a woman standing alongside a water buffalo and that of a man pulling another water buffalo. Locals go to the park and hold their activities, such as jogging, aerobics, school dance rehearsals and promenading, as well as Arnis and martial arts practice and feeding the tilapias of the lagoon.
Another one to visit is The Balay Negrense Museum. The house is of the type called bahay na bato, literally “house of stone”, which was built during the American colonial era. The foundation posts and floorboards are made out of the trunks of the balayong tree, a local hardwood. The house’s upper story is constructed of wood topped with a roof of galvanized iron instead of tile. The house has a 4-meter-high ceiling and large windows with ventanillas, smaller windows beneath the large windows with sliding panels that can be opened to admit the wind.
Bacolod is also known for its Masskara Festival, a Mardi Gras-like event filled with a lively theatrical mix of dance, music and colorful costumes. The annual festival is celebrated every third week of October. If you missed the famous festival, you can still have a glimpse of it by visiting Jojo Vito Designs Gallery, which is along Alunan Avenue. Inside the gallery is a wide array of assorted masks—ranging from the smallest magnet up to the giant mask. Some of the masks were used by Masskara Queens and Miss Earth Candidates.
The Bacolod Public Plaza, which is the city’s version of New York’s Central Park, is another must-see. The plaza is located in downtown Bacolod. It is a trapezoidal park with four circular fountains and a gazebo near city hall, San Sebastian Cathedral, Central Market and malls.
The park was donated to Bacolod in 1927 as a place where people can hold cultural, spiritual and recreational events. Today, the area is used as a gathering place for students, workers, and families during all times of the year. On Sundays a church service is held at the park.
All the churches in Bacolod have historical, spiritual and religious meaning to Bacoleños including the most popular such as the made-from-coral San Sebastian Cathedral. The cathedral is a late 19th-century church and it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod.
Furthermore, if you love nature, another place to visit is the Mambukal Mountain Resort, which is in Barangay Minoyan, Murcia, a 35-minute drive from Bacolod. The place offers nature, warm sulfur dipping pool that has claims for its health benefits. You can also do a short trekking to enjoy its seven waterfalls.
One should not leave the city without dropping by The Negros Showroom, which is the crown jewel of the Association of Negros Producers. It is a one-stop shop for local handicraft and organic products, including MassKara masks, native jewelries, garments, gifts, decors, housewares, furniture, etc.
New gem to rise
In this famed city renowned for its exquisite culture and taste, where residents enjoy a transcending yet relaxed lifestyle, Bacoleños will soon have something to treasure and be proud of. Real-estate giant Megaworld—the leader and pioneer in developing integrated urban townships in the Philippines, is investing a 53-hectare Northill Gateway in Negros capital. Soon to rise in the Bacolod side along the new Bacolod Airport Access Road, Northill Gateway will develop Forbes Hill, which is the “first” and only upper-class village that has a Live-Work-Play township lifestyle in Negros Occidental. It is also the “first” residential community in the province that offers a grand entrance featuring a giant fountain garden. The 15-hectare community is master planned for only about 200 available lots, with sizes incredibly lavish—ranging from 449 square meters to 861 sq m Like in the most ambitious and iconic villages in the country, the future homeowners will also have a free hand to design their next new real estate masterpiece however they want.
Forbes Hill has an underground cabling system, which will give residents an unobstructed view of the skyline. It will have 5 hectares allotted for parks, greens and open spaces. The main road of the village will be 20 meters wide and the secondary roads will be about 16 meters to 12 meters wide. Half a hectare of the land will be dedicated for its indoor and outdoor amenities. The property’s clubhouse complex houses a multifunction hall, a fitness center, a game room, an audiovisual room, an outdoor lap pool, a children’s pool, a gazebo and a basketball court, among others.
“Finally, Megaworld is rolling out a premiere residential offering for Bacolod. This is the company’s first venture for a luxury village outside of Metro Manila because we recognize the sophisticated market in this wonderful province,” said Rachelle Peñaflorida, vice president for sales and marketing of Megaworld Bacolod.
For those moving up in the world but would like to continue living close to the old ways with its history, culture and heritage, the City of Smiles is the place to be.