I spent the last week in Bacolod for the Masskara Festival, as you may have read in my previous post. The festival itself was a mixed bag, but definitely worth checking out at least once. The town of Bacolod itself I enjoyed much more. We did many things over the course of the 6 days, some of wish I’m not going to bother with. But here’s the highlights for you to read about and live vicariously!
- Libertad Market – Pretty much the first thing I remember seeing in my post-flight induced haze was the Libertad Market right down the street from my pension. Why that? Well I had boarded a shuttle from the airport into town and had no idea at all where to get off. The driver didn’t really know where either (though I was too lazy to ask him until well into the ride). Quite thoroughly convinced by the driver and the niggling little voices of doubt in my brain that I was utterly and hopelessly lost, I got off right after Libertad Market because I figured: ‘Hey, at least I can get some food, right?’ Turns out, after checking my location via a handy nearby Wi-Fi hotspot, I was three blocks away from my pension. Three blocks! Out of the entire city, I just so happened to get off at the closest point in the shuttle’s route to my pension. Awesome.
Anyways, the market is packed into the derelict shell of some old building, and consists of tons of little vendor stalls packed next to each other like sardines in a can. Surprisingly, there was order to the chaos. There was a fruit section, a veggies section, and what I hope was a spice section… It was really fun to stroll through and try all the new and familiar fruits. Mangoes, rambutan, lanzones, bananas, etc. So many and all so tasty. Also: cheap.
The market seemed to be more than just a place for commerce, as you passed people sleeping on covered benches deep in the recesses of the maze. It seemed to be a market, a dining hall, a meeting hall, and a place to sleep all rolled into one chaotic, bustling turmoil that still managed to be enjoyable.
- 21 Restaurant – Yes, yes, I know… another food one. Really, you shouldn’t even be surprised by now. It’s not even going to be the last food thing on the list; though I’ll be merciful and save the third one for last! The 21 Restaurant was a heckuva lot nicer than other places we’d been to in Bacolod (cafes and street tents). It was the type of place you might actually take someone to to impress them, but the dishes still were very reasonably priced.We went there to try a Bacolod/21 specialty called batchoy. It’s a soup made from a chicken broth and including noodles, veggies, and…. uh… pork chunks? It came highly recommended by the owner of our pension, Bob. To our great dismay (okay, maybe mostly mine) they were entirely out of batchoy due to the insane amounts of patrons brought in by the surrounding festival activities. Darn. Never fear! We contented ourself with a huge quantity of dishes involving pork, chicken, milkfish, prawns, beef, and catfish. Mmmmm. So delicious! It was a great blend of flavors and I was quite content with all the dishes. I’d definitely recommend it to try some tasty, classy Filipino fare!
- The Ruins – This was something that kind of fell into our laps. Remember my pension owner Bob that I mentioned a paragraph ago? No? Stop skimming and go back =P Anyways, he owns the Mainstreet Pension House (our place) and is also heavily involved in the tourism industry in Bacolod. He knows the town history, he knows about the sugar trade (Bacolod’s main export), and he knows the places to check out. On top of all that, he’s just a really, REALLY nice guy. We’d expressed interest in checking out the ruins and, when he decided to go himself, he gave us all a ride out there in his car. Awesome guy, right?Along the way, he talked to us of the family that had owned what are now called ‘the Ruins’. It was owned by a sugar baron named Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. The property was once a massive plot of land, with an impressive mansion the Don erected in memory of his late wife. Over time, the land was sub-divided multiple times among the Don’s descendants. Some pieces stayed in the family, others were sold. Some were used for sugar, others turned into real estate ventures. The man who ended up with the mansion was assumed to have gotten the short straw. The mansion was a shell of its former self, since it had been razed by retreating American and Filipino forces in World War II to prevent the Japanese from securing a potential base of operations in the region. In the present day, Raymond – the owner, pondered what to do with this piece of land with the husk of a historical building on it. His solution? Make it a historical tourist attraction.He did just that and, today, the Ruins are one of the big tourist draws in Bacolod City. The building looks really cool, since all the wood was burned away in the fire. It’s pretty much just the walls and supports that are still intact. The best time to go is at dusk when the setting sun lights up the building in hues of soft gold.
We got to meet Raymond and talk with him a little about the place thanks to Bob (turns out they’re good friends). He has more plans to keep developing the place, but in the meantime it’s still a great, relaxing way to spend an evening.
My awesome travel companions. Also, check out those crazy pants!!
- Mambukal Resort – Another cool outdoor place a little further outside the city was Mambukal Resort. We went there with our friends Willy, Luke, and Richard; as well as some members of Willy’s family whom he was visiting during the festival. We all chipped in for a van, some lechon (roasted pig), and made the drive out to the mountain resort. Now, when you hear resort, you think of somewhere nice and expensive, right? Half right, in this case. It was nice. It was not expensive.
The entrance fee was only 50 pesos, which is just over $1. Once inside, there were different ‘stations’ with things you could do. There was the Slide of Life (zipline), climbing wall, boat lagoon, dipping pool, nicer dipping pool, etc. These were all between $0 and $2.
There was also a free hike up the side of Mount Kanlaon which goes past a total of 7 waterfalls with varying degrees of awesomeness. Pretty much from ‘meh’ to ‘sweet!’ on the wow-o-meter. No, ‘holy moly, Poseidon is peeing!’ waterfalls =(
The hike was by far my favorite. Myself, Courtney, and Willy’s awesome nephew Jason were the only ones who made the entire ascent. The last bit was by far the best, trekking through rice terraces and the jungle to the final waterfall; where we all jumped in and had a much needed cool down session. The only problem was that we had to get back down.
The whole crew
Mom, stop reading or promise not to berate me for this one.
Rather than hike aaaaaaaaalll the way back down, we enlisted the help of two motorcycle drivers to take all four of us (myself, Courtney, Jason, and our guide) down to the bottom via a ‘road’. Haha. Road. Riiiight.
Fifteen minutes of kegel-inducing terror later, we made it to the bottom. Think I’m overreacting? In the words of Inigo Montoya: “Let me sum up.” Torrential downpour. Road resembling a rock slide. Three people per motorcycle. No helmets. Wheeeeee.
Our stupidity aside, it all worked out and we had a very enjoyable day at the resort. It’s worth checking out if only for the hike up to the waterfalls. Definitely worth it. My only advice? Bring a freakin’ helmet.
Our ‘I’m terrified’ faces
- Calea – Okay. I said it would happen, right? The final food entry. And let me tell ya, if you don’t start drooling after looking at these pictures, you have no soul. I read about the cake/pie/tasty goodness shop, Calea, on this travel blog. Seriously, I want to find this girl and give her a hug. After a relatively sweetless year in the land of squid snacks and kimchi, I opened the doors of Calea to a veritable paradise of gooey chocolate, oozing caramel, and sinfully sexy frosting.Just… enjoy… with me…
My Oreo cheesecake.