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Bacolod City - Negros
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Robert J. Fry
Date: 2011-04-17
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines -- They call it the ‘city of smiles,’ and with good reason too. Wherever you wander in town, you’re sure to be greeted with a grin. Market vendors and taxi drivers alike will engage you in conversation, no idle chit-chat either, with topics involving anything from the crisis in Libya to your marital status.

The city itself is laid out much in the manner of those in Latin America, with a town plaza and public parks galore. The streets are full of Spanish-era buildings, and some of the churches date back as far as the 1800s. Many visitors opt to soak up the atmosphere inside, which you’re more than welcome to do at mass time. I decided I would put my agnosticism aside and have a peek. I had barely taken a step into San Sebastian Cathedral, when I heard the preacher condemning contraceptives, labeling them as part of a ‘cycle of death.’

Shaking off an argument I don’t quite agree with, I decided it was time for a beer. Preferably San Miguel. Lacson Street is home to the largest amount of bars and restaurants in the city, with Korean and Japanese being the most sought-after cuisine. Golden Fields is the entertainment district, with karaoke bars and acoustic bands galore, not to mention more than a few go-go bars.

Bacolod City is a highly urbanized one, and HQ of the sugar bowl (Negros) with 500,000 residents. Visits can be arranged to nearby sugar mills, where you can witness the process of transforming sugar cane into the granulated form used daily around the world.

“It’s the Filipino equivalent of the deep south in the USA,” says Imelda, local resident. “It’s very laid-back, church and family play the biggest roles in our daily lives.” The relaxed atmosphere makes for a perfect escape from the stresses of Manila. The Provincial Lagoon is the Bacolod equivalent of NYC’s central park, with a man-made lake, statues and green growth abundant. It acts as a mecca for jogging and fitness enthusiasts in the early hours of the morning, with musical groups practicing in the afternoon.

The Ruins are as the name suggests, the remnants of a Spanish-era mansion. About 10 kms outside of town, it appears on the horizon out of absolutely nowhere. The building was torched by Filipino guerrilla fighters during WW2, to avoid the Japanese using it as their headquarters. The surrounding farmland of sugar cane plantations has been unchanged for centuries.What’s left of a once great mansion, now plays host to a charming restaurant, with a mini-golf course to keep the kids entertained.

Where to Stay

Splurge - L’Fisher Hotel is the perfect place to lap up a little luxury, with 180 rooms and right in the middle of Lacson street. Go on, opt for the royal treatment. All rooms come with air-con and a private bathroom, and the hotel is home to not one, but three separate restaurants. Try the wood-fired pizzas from Chalet Rooftop Bar, they’re the best in Bacolod! Room rates start at 3,500 PHP, while the Royal Suite will set you back a whopping 12,200 PHP.

Budget - Sea Breeze Hotel (San Juan Street) has to be one of the nicest budget hotels I have come across in the whole country. Room rates start at 850 PHP, and all come equipped with air-con, cable television and a private bathroom. The hotel is said to be one of the oldest in the entire city, and the building itself is very grand and a throwback to the Spanish era.

[ Bacolod City Wiki ]

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