Going out to Visayas for the first time, I have realized, feels like going out of the country. I don’t know what makes it that way; could be the travel time, or the distance, or the language, or the culture altogether, yet somehow, I felt a certain inkling of a home here. A Tagalog-born who had lived on Luzon all throughout her life wouldn’t wouldn’t mind settling here in the future. It’s a different world that feels like home
And what could be a better place to settle in than Bacolod?
It’s not hard to fall in love with a city like Bacolod. It may be the laidback city life or the good food or the people who welcome you as their own. Its quaintness and charm would endear you like those of a child, you hope, that wouldn’t grow up.
My brief summer tryst in Bacolod is one I won’t be able to forget. Aside that it’s my first destination outside Luzon, I was able to experience the famous Visayan hospitality and those delicious snacks Bacolod is famous for except from its grilled chickens. If you’re looking out for a starting point to kick off your Visayan adventure, Bacolod is one of the good places to start. The hardest thing though, is leaving the city behind.
One thing about Bacolod is that it can’t seem to decide between a thriving metropolis or a lazy town who just wanted to be left alone in peace. In the end, it settled as both. You can go around the congested downtown area and emerge into a rustic farm for a second. You would see hubs of gimikan and cool hang-outs like those in Thomas Morato in QC and drive upon a peaceful plaza after a few turns. Far from the bustling urgency in Metro Manila, people walking along the streets of Bacolod seem to be taking up their time getting from one place to the next.
The first thing you would see when you arrive at port is the Mt. Kanlaon, Bacolod’s answer to Albay’s Mayon. Far from a perfect cone shape Mayon is known for, Kanlaon is bulkier and seems more intimidating at first sight. While Mayon is the epitome of grace and serenity, Kanlaon is a bulwark of restrained strength and power. I’m sure many people of Bacolod, foreign tourists as well, revere the mountain for that reason.
We stopped by the St. John Paul II Shrine building where you can catch a panoramic view of the city.
The SM Bacolod is one of the largest I’ve seen so far outside NCR. SM is one of the major indicators that Bacolod is no simple city in the South. In fact, it has been nominated many times in New seven rising cities for the past years and has consistently topped the list of most competitive cities across the Philippines.
Bacolod downtown is one of the busiest places in the city. Since it’s sunday, as expected, the Cathedral is packed with people so we aren’t able to go inside. When I told to my Bacolod-born cousins how this giant TEAM PATAY, TEAM BUHAY post caused so much controversy in Manila, they just shrugged it off. They don’t think it’s wrong if the Church could post something like this. Freedom of expression applies to everybody, they said. I asked my aunt, a devout Catholic, if she voted for that line-up the Cathedral endorsed. Her votes, more or less, veered towards the Team Patay side.
Afterwards, we shop for pasalubongs near the plaza center. The plaza is where they perform the famous Maskara Festival. But aside from the colorful festival, Bacolod is also famous for one thing – food! There, I’ve got a real taste of the legendary Piaya, Biscocho and of course, the famous Napoleones. You can look for it for Bongbong’s or Merci, although I’m warning you, those Napoleones sell like pancakes so you should hurry to wrap up your pasalubongs.
To work up an appetite, we explored the city some more. Our cousins brought us to a town plaza, as my aunt tells me, ‘the Luneta Park of Bacolod minus Rizal’. When we got there, we saw some kids around our age doing neat exhibitions skills in skateboard and skates. A big playground is also located by the side of the plaza along the spacious fountain where people can feed some fishes with small nuggets for only about P10.00
We had dinner at the Chicken Deli, said to be the home of the original Chicken Inasal. The chicken there tastes like it has been soaked in some kind of Italian sauce which is incredibly tasty.
For desert, Bacolod also has this cool milk tea shops and Korean convenience stores. Just for a late midnight snack, my cousins drove us to a cozy Korean shop not far away from the place we’re staying. There we had a real taste of the Fish-shaped Korean ice cream which I’ve never ever tasted before. To think that I will taste it for the first time here in Bacolod instead in Manila 😀
Even though we only ordered the ice cream, the crew is nice enough to let us stay. They even cut the ice cream and served it to us as if it’s some kind of a fancy desert, which is in a way, it probably is.
And for one last destination, we head straight to the Bacolod Capitol Building. It has a nice fountain in front and the whole lawn can stand as another plaza for hang-outs and class practices. Did you notice how many plazas Bacolod has? I guess it goes to show that you don’t need any fancy buildings or landmarks to know that a city is growing. Sometimes, less ‘modernity’ is a good thing and I hope Bacolod would be able to sustain its environment-friendly and laidback atmosphere when I return here again.
Sadly because of our limited time, we were unable to go outside the city to explore Kanlaon National Park or the Talisay Ruins.I just took it as a good thing. These unexplored destinations will add only to my long list of things to look forward to when I visit Bacolod for the next time.
I will never know why such a Tagalog girl like me could feel so home at here. I never understand what the people say, but their smiles are enough. I didn’t grow up here but I didn’t know why I want to have my place here and start my life here, fresh from college. Is Manila draining me that much? Is it just the adventurer in me speaking? Or could it be Bacolod’s inner charm? I would never know. What thing I know is I have to leave the city to find out.
And by the time I discover what I really want, I know Bacolod will be there, waiting.