Bacolod and the Scribbles of a Hesitant Cebuana Traveler

I had been visiting Negros for a couple of times since I began writing and traveling. The first experience I had was way back Grade 5 when I was one of the school representatives for the Regional Schools' Press Conference. However, I was still 11 years old and all I did was to follow my teachers wherever they went. I could remember that I had gone to Dumaguete City and stayed in Silliman University's dorm. My teachers and I also had a short trip to Bais City for lansones. Basically, when I reached high school, I revisited Negros because of a Press Conference again and that time, I was in Bais City.Those I could recall during my earlier trips. I only knew Negros Oriental but not the Occidental. 

When I began mountaineering, that was the time I had learned that Mt. Kanlaon serves as the boundary between Negros Occidental and Oriental. So on November, 2012, I had my first major climb in Mt. Kanlaon and that was the first time I had the chance to step in San Carlos City going to Canlaon City. After that travel, I never had the chance to tour Negros again. 

September 11, 2016 - Sunday

I was really planning to visit Sipalay. Personally, I invited a friend to join me but the invitation was declined.I became reluctant after. Should I give it a shot or should I just stay in Cebu? My last solo travel was last April, 2015, a 10-day excursion to Northern Luzon down to the Eastern Visayas. After that, I no longer travel alone. I became hesitant after I had my accident last year. But the urge of traveling was stronger than my doubts. I reminded myself of the many escapades I had made for the last four years so fundamentally, I could make it.

As early as 5:00 in the morning, I picked up my backpack and began my journey. I knew where I was going - Sipalay. I had an itinerary in my mind. First, to meet Mai in Bacolod and we could go together to Sipalay and meet another friend, Jarlou who was stationed in Sipalay. That easy. That simple. 

I had been communicating with both of them all throughout my land trip. When I arrived in the South Bus Terminal at 6:30 in the morning, I asked a passenger where I could take a ride for Toledo to catch a ferry for San Carlos City, Negros Occidental. Good thing he was nice to me and he directed me where I could take the bus. I was tempted to buy something a bit expensive for breakfast but my superego told me that delicious food awaits me in the city of smiles; so, I did not give in with my cravings instead I only bought 3 siomai and 3 hanging rice. Of course, with a liter of water. That could suffice my hunger. 

At 7:00 A.M., I was already seated in the bus bound for Toledo/Balamban. I told the fare collector to drop me off to the port area. I had a great bus trip. The moment that the scenery started to change to something mountainous and when I felt my ears popped because of the altitude change, my heart felt so excited. My senses were alive exuberantly.

I heard the fare collector telling everyone that we were already in Toledo. I asked him if it was somewhere in the wharf but before he had the chance to answer, there were men getting inside the bus offering for baggage help going to the wharf. I didn't ask the collector again. It was a given fact.

Walking for at least 10 minutes going to Toledo Passenger Terminal, I had the chance to sneak a piece of Toledo City. There were food kiosks nearby, their mode of transportation was also different, and the surrounding was in order and clean. That was something I missed to appreciate last 2012. 
At 9:30 A.M., I was comfortably sitting in an aircon room inside a fast ferry. The one and a half ferry ride was exciting. There were sea bumps. Along with it, I saw some passengers asking for a plastic bag. Presumably, the waves weren't so friendly to them. In my case, I didn't mind at all; on the contrary, I enjoyed it. 

The fast craft docked in San Carlos Wharf at 11:00 A.M. The atmosphere became uncommon. I was hearing strange and wavy dialects. I cringed. I was amazed. I was excited. It was a potpourri of mixed emotions. Relatively, I hurried my feet from San Carlos Wharf going to the bus terminal heading to Bacolod City via Don Salvador/Benedicto.

It was already 11:30 in the morning when Mai called. She was giving instructions and hinting me that she prepared some "talaba" for lunch. My little voracious side replied that she needed to set some oysters for me. I was already hungry. I ate my meal in the fast craft and a few more hours of traveling meant that I wouldn't have any for lunch.

The bus took 2 hours to reach Bacolod City but I was never bored. As it slowly ascended to the highland, I was reminded how wonderful traveling could be. From the ocean to the mountain, the very first thing I could utter was, "Wow! It felt so good to be alive!" 
The mighty mountains, awesome landscapes, pine trees and some other huge trees I couldn't name, the cold and cool weather and the sugarcane lining up along the roadside were totally exquisite views. I was not even half of the trip and I already felt so contented. The excitement of seeing another part of the Philippines boosted my confidence even more. I wouldn't mind the hairpin curves and sometimes, the bumpy ride; they were all part of the trip.
 Finally, the bus stopped at the South Terminal, Bacolod City. Mai, together with her sister-in-law, Ate Charry and her adorable kids fetched me. We headed to Mai's house and there, I could utterly conclude that I was in Bacolod. People were talking in Ilonggo and even Mai was talking in her native tongue. I just love the accent. (Nami gid!)

The family toured me around the city. They even took us to "The Ruins" which for me was a bit unexpected. It never occurred to me to visit it, not yet. But the good thing about this travel, I did not expect too much from it. I was just simply trying to unwind and to spend my holiday somewhere else.
From Bacolod City, Ate Cha was driving us to Talisay City where the infamous "Ruins" is located. I saw a lot of photos in the internet about it. Mai even told me the story how it gotten its name. Even though the information about the "Ruins" was interesting, it slipped my mind. 
When we arrived, Mai and I went inside together with Abby (Ate Cha's child). The rest of the group didn't because they had gone to the place for several times in the past. The family considered me as a tourist. They were really warm and welcoming. I was so glad that I met Mai and her family. They were so hospitable. 
Going back to the attraction, the lush beautiful garden caught me. I instantly fell in love with the place. History had it that it was owned by Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson (Ledesma's and Lacson's are prominent people of Negros Occidental) for his deceased wife, Maria Braga sometime on 1911. The structure was that of an Italian architecture and had withstand for 31 years. Remarkably, it was a symbol of enduring love of a husband to his wife just like the famous Taj Mahal in India. However, in the verge of World War II on 1942, the mansion was burned down by the guerillas to prevent the Japanese troops taking over and turning it as their bastion. Left with only the mansion's frame, the "Ruins" continually attracts tourists because of its elegant architecture, lush and beautiful garden, and now a perfect pre-nup and reception area. 
After minutes of satiating my eyes with the Ruins, Mai, Abby and I and the rest of the group headed to Bacolod City Hall. Honestly, I couldn't contain my disbelief. Here I was thinking that Bacolod is a laid-back city without traffic lights. But then, I was totally wrong! Standing in the city is their City Hall of Bacolod, a neo-classical inspired architechture with Corinthian orders. It was a stunning view, I concluded. I first appreciated a certain structure when I was in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. The Capitol turned magical in the evening illuminated with different lights. It was the same appreciation which I felt when I saw this building in Bacolod. My city's city hall was way too far for comparison.
Just across the city hall is a water fountain (more like a lagoon). I was a bit curious with what people are doing near the fountain. They seemed to be putting some crumbs which later on I found out that they were feeding fish (a tilapia - cichlid in English). The place was totally a vibrant color - health enthusiasts jogging around the place, skater boys and girls practicing for their stunts, parents together with their children and of course, teenagers hanging out with friends. It was so bustling and an enjoyable sight!
I had fun with my first day in Bacolod City. I was able to submerge in a culture far different from my rooted-Cebuana blood. Though at first I was hesitant to travel alone, Mai and her family never made me regret my stay in Bacolod. Nami gid na experience! (Beautiful experience!)

By the way, I reached Bacolod City from Cebu for a fare less than P400.00. How cool is that!

Here is how:
1. From the South Bus Terminal take a bus going to Toledo/Balamban. Tell the bus driver or the fare collector to drop you off near the Toledo Wharf. Take a trip early in the morning so you can take a fast craft going to San Carlos City, Negros Occidental. South Bus Terminal to Toledo bus fare is P60.00. (South Bus Terminal to Poblacion, Toledo travel time is approximately 2 hours.) 
2. The bus usually stops at the corner of Gaisano Mall, Toledo. From there, you can opt to ride a "pedicab" for P10.00 or you can walk to the seaport. It will only take 10-15 minutes by foot. 
3. Get a ticket in Toledo Passenger Terminal. Since I arrived at 9:30A.M., I was able to take the fast ferry for only P180.00. (Travel time is 1 and 1/2 hour.)
4. From San Carlos Wharf, take a tricycle going to San Carlos Terminal for a fare of P8.00.
5. From San Carlos Terminal take a bus liner with a signboard: Don Salvador/Benedicto. It is the shortest ride to Bacolod City. Fare is at P118.00 pesos and travel time is approximately 2 hours. 

Day 2 - Campuestohan and that Little Mishap
Day 3 - Silay City: A Gateway to the Past
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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