i was writing about my last trip in Kota Kinabalu with the TV on ASAP in the background when my attention caught the show's launching of "Choose Philippines", ABS-CBN's newest initiative to promote our provinces and the Philippines' tourism via internet. i immediately stopped writing about KK and felt the strong urge to write about my own country first!
traveling abroad is more of a personal experience for me - it's my way of giving myself a treat for working sooo hard in a year and just following and doing my passion of exploring other countries by making my own itinerary. it is a worthwhile experience to learn about other country's transportation system (i am always fascinated how the metro rail/subways are designed and how i can actually experience those!), their history and culture; taste their delicacies and cuisine, and, know their people as well. having traveled to different countries, at least in Asia, i am able to see what those countries are up to and what our country should have as well if only we actually live that unity and love for our own country.
i've been to different provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and now it's time to write about Philippines. i choose Philippines.
first in my list is my own province - Bacolod City.
i was born and raised in Mina, Sipalay located in Southern Island of Negros. i completed my studies in Bacolod City, capital of the province of Negros Occidental. we have a house in Bacolod City and that's what i call my home! whenever i want to get away from the stressful manila, i fly and rejuvenate in Bacolod.
last october 2009, i brought my office colleagues, Anna, Vivian and Joan to Bacolod for them to witness and experience Maskara Festival. it was my first to witness the street dancing because way back in college, i was either in Sipalay on semestral break or was just at home watching the festivities on TV. i didn't realize it was more fun being on the streets!
Maskara Festival street dancing - October 2009
there are a lot to be proud of being a Negrense!
TOP in my personal list under category of food and delicacies are as follows:
Inasal (Bacolod Chicken Inasal) - the famous marinated chicken, charcoal grilled and best with spicy sauce for dip and made of soy sauce, calamansi, sili (chilli) and vinegar (i always put vinegar!). i'd love to eat it with plain or garlic rice poured with chicken oil. the best way to eat it? by bare hands! my favorite part is pechopak (breast/wing chicken part)! i can eat chicken inasal for my breakfast, lunch and dinner! :-)
In Bacolod, if you want to try authentic chicken inasal in an authentic place, i'd recommend Manokan Country. It is located in the Reclamation area, just in front of SM Bacolod. this is a long street with an array of stalls of mouth watering and famous grilled chicken for a cheap price compared to other chicken inasal restos. i always eat in Aida's whenever i go home. However, if you want to try chicken inasal in an airconditioned restos, you may try at Chicken House, El Camino, Chicken Deli House and other restos. Namit gid!
Manokan Country and the Chicken Inasal
Seafoods Delight (Kinilaw, Sinugba and Sinabawan) - eat them grilled, sizzling, steamed, spicy, sour or sweet, buttered or in oyster sauce, deep fried, in soup or purely raw marinated in vinegar and different local spices! i grew up in a place where sea and seashore are just a few minutes drive away from our home and where fishing is the first source of income so i'd never thought that seafood is scarce for other places. i missed it when i started working in manila where seafood is quite expensive. Negros is abundant of seafood. in bacolod, i recommend Pala-pala in 18th Street for a more comfy and little bit pricy, and the old Pala-pala at the back of the provincial office building for a much cheaper price.
Batchoy - is a noodle soup made of chicken stock, pork organs, beef loin, chicken strips, shrimps(for some), round noodles and garnished with crushed pork cracklings and vegetables. some would like to eat it with egg, soy sauce and sprinkled black pepper. if Iloilo has Lapaz batchoy, Bacolod has its own authentic flavor. My fave batchoy houses in bacolod are as follows:
- Bar 21's Batchoy - i can still remember when i was in my junior year in La Salle when i and my classmates saved a portion of our allowance and eat a bowl of batchoy in Bar 21. we then saved the table napkin with printed bar 21 logo and kept it in our accounting books! we're proud to have eaten at that then-expensive-resto-for-us! we cannot splurge just like that!
- Chinky's Batchoy - their batchoy tastes a little bit sweet, just how a Bacolodnon and Negrense are known for. whenever i go back to Manila, i'd bring with me Chinky's Batchoy.
- Ted's and Deco's - though originated in Iloilo, these batchoy houses are also famous in bacolod
Quan - is known for its native delicacies. their main branch is near La Salle and our "tambayan" during college days located just beside Jollibee. my favorites are the chocolate cake squares, fresh lumpia, dinuguan, lasagna, cuchinta and most of all, napoleones. i also go for their mais con yelo and sago't gulaman.
Calea - is famous for their cakes! way back in college, my classmates and i ate there and bought different flavour of cakes. then we took a small bite then share to everyone- that way, we were able to try different cakes! but now we can afford to buy a whole cake! hahaha! many of my office colleagues would ask me to buy for them whenever i go back to Bacolod.
Bongbong's - famous pasalubong center in bacolod. the most famous are piyaya, pinasugbo, cheese tart, barquillos, tarts, butterscotch, etc.
there are other new restos now in bacolod to try. with the development and improvements in infrastructure, public highways and transportation and more jobs with the rise of call center companies and malls, bacolod is more lively and vibrant than ever. i would suggest the following also:
1. Kuppa Coffee Shop - a cozy place to stay by just having coffee and working on your laptop for work or just browsing the net. i just found out that many students hang-out in this place either to study (i dont know how they do that!)
2. Cafe Bobs - i find this more family friendly coffee shop where you can bring kids in their pajamas and have ice cream, milk or coffee before going to bed. this is my favorite hang-out with college friends where we catch-up with each other's life stories till 1AM. =)
3. Bob's Restaurant - main branch is located at the front of Riverside Hospital. i go for their rib steak, black sambos and batchoy also. good thing they have branches now in makati.
more than the food trip, there's more in bacolod and nearby cities and towns in Negros where you can appreciate that such places can only be found in the Philippines!
Sipalay and nearby beaches - Sipalay is my hometown and Mina to be exact where i spent most of childhood to teenage years! when i was a kid, my father would usually bring us to the nearby public beach (Calat-an in Cartagena) every Sunday after attending the first mass. when we say public beach before, it was more than the private and pricy beach of today. now, there are more developed and commercialized beach resorts owned by private individuals (sad to say many are foreigners) which i find very expensive though. i think this is because they more cater to foreign tourists than locals.
Mambukal Resort - is a mountain resort located in Murcia, Negros Occ. Only 30-mins drive from Bacolod City. Mambukal serves as a gateway to the Mt Kanlaon Volcano, which is the highest mountain peak in Visayas. I can say that Mambukal is a combination of artistic work of man and nature. It is a haven to family for a weekend picnic, friends who love extreme adventure or for some couples and individuals who would love to have a nature get-away. In Mambukal, you can hike the 7-water falls (but not all are open for swimming), do canopy walk, dip in a hot spring of sulfuric water, a bath house with spa, swimming pool and a lot more.
Hiking the 7-falls in Mambuca; Hot Spring Pool and one of the falls.
Panaad Park and Stadium- this is my park! why?? because the park is just at the back of our house where i can jog in the morning, swim in the mid-afternoon in their olympic size pool and brisk-walk at dusk! surrounded by eucalyptus trees and of other kinds, this is nature for me in the middle of a developing city. It is a multi-purpose stadium and host to a lot of events like the most-talked about Azkals football game. this is also the home of Negros festival, "Panaad sa Negros", a week-long celebration usually held during summer. The park also features the replicas of the famous landmarks of the thirteen cities and municipalities of Negros. Strolling around Panaad Park is like being able to see the whole of Negros.
Panaad Park and replicas of Negros key cities and municipalities taken in October 2009
The Ruins - is the newest attraction in Bacolod located between the boundary of talisay and bata, bacolod city. i was able to visit it for the first time when i went home last october 2009. this is used to be a mansion owned by don mariano ledesma lacson for his wife, maria braga, a portuguese from macau which the family intentionally burned during WWII so that the japanese soldiers won't be able to use as their headquarters.
with Joan and Vivian take last October 2009
Balay Negrense - is an ancestral house located in Silay. it's architectural design depicts the lifestyle of early residents in Silay during the American regime in the Philippines.
Balay Negrense during our vacation last October 2009
Lakawon Island - is a banana-shaped island off the coast of Cadiz City which is an hour and a half drive from bacolod city. it is a family-run resort that offers more privy, more relaxing and feels like having your own island sort of vacation.
there are a lot of nearby resorts within the vicinity of bacolod city and among them are the following:
1. Grand Water Forest Park Resort - newly developed resort located at the heart of Brgy. Taculing in Bacolod City. i love this resort because it's just a tricycle-ride away from my house.
2. Nature's Village Resort - located in Talisay City and been there only once when i was in college during our Acquaintance Day for BS Accountancy.
3. Palmas del Mar - located near SM Bacolod and used to be our venue during one of JPIA Nights back in college.
4. Sta. Fe Resort - this is i think the most oldest and most visited during my college years in Bacolod where we had our swimming classes.
5. Carribean Water Park - found inside the Goldenfield Commercial Complex, the first water slide and currently the biggest water slide in the whole of Negros Occidental.
Also, there are a lot of historical sites and newly establish infrastructures in Bacolod. Among them are the Provincial Capitol Lagoon, the newly-built New Government Center, old City Hall, San Sebastian Cathedral, the Centennial Bells, St. Jude Thaddeus Church, Sacred Heart Seminary and Church, and the famous Pope John Paul II Monument built to honor the Pope's visit in 1981.
San Sebastian Cathedral and the Man and Carabao in Provincial Lagoon taken last October 2009 Maskara Festival
Of course, how can i forget my other way of de-stressing! You can also find a lot spa and massage salons after a day of touring Bacolod and Negros where prices are much cheaper than Metro Manila's. I usually go to Live Well Spa which is located along Lacson St and recommended by my college classmate because they have exclusive discounts for La Sallians. So we usually have our girl-bonding moments there! =)
This coming November 2011, i am very excited to tour in Negros and Bacolod some of my office colleagues who came from different provinces. :-)
..next on my list will be the other places around the Philippines that I had gone to and explored since Year 2006.