Bacolod is on the island of Negros in the Visayas region (south of Manila). It is known as the City of Smiles because of the accommodating and friendly nature of its people. It is also an apt description of how people look once they’ve tasted native Bacolod cuisine.
Bacolod was once known for its vast sugar industry which created many rich families with sprawling plantation and Haciendas, today the sugar industry has decreased substantially but has already left its mark in the development of the City as a domestic and international trading center in Visayas.
Why Visit Bacolod
The title of “City of Smiles” is not one given lightly in a country known for its hospitality. Bacolod has certainly earned this reputation not only because of its resident’s innate hospitality or the local dialect’s tone and inflections but also because of its reputation in satisfying one’s sweet tooth. Going to Bacolod isn’t merely about seeing the sights and sounds but also tasting the variety of cakes and sweet delicacies which the city is known for. The Maskara Festival is also an excellent reason to visit the city. The Maskara Festival gives residents and visitors a perfect excuse to eat and drink to their heart’s content for the duration of the festivities ensuring that you’ll leave the city of smiles with a smile of your own
How to Get to Bacolod
Getting to Bacolod is easy as there are a number of daily flights from Manila to the City of Smiles. Just remember that during The Maskara Festival in October, most flights going to the City are full. You can choose from the two carriers, Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific Airlines.
Philippine Airlines has five flights to Bacolod, starting from 4AM until 6PM, and fares range from roughly P3,000 for Economy Class and P6,000 for Business Class one way. So a roundtrip ticket costs anywhere between P6,000 to P12,000. If you’re taking PAL, you’d have to go the NAIA Terminal 3. The fares can vary according to the seasons.
Cebu Pacific also has a number of flights to Bacolod daily also uses Terminal 3 and their airfares are about P2,500 for one way and about P5,000 for a roundtrip ticket. But just to be sure you can check the latest rates, promos and up-to-date schedules on their website.
Where to Stay in Bacolod
There are a number of really good hotels in Bacolod, but I’ll just name three which are most recommended.
The O-Hotel in Bacolod is one reputed to be one of the best in the City, the service and staff are excellent and quickly cater to the needs of the guests. O-Hotel has 53 rooms and you can choose from the Superior Room (P1,400), the Executive Rooms (P1,600), and the Suites (P3,500/P4,000//P5,000). The Best Suite in the hotel, the Natalia Suite has a Jacuzzi, just in case you’d want to unwind after a long day of walking around and eating. The rooms are all air conditioned and have hot and cold showers, cable TV, a safety deposit box, a refrigerator and come with one free breakfast buffet.
The Business Inn is another recommended place for travelers to stay. It has all the modern amenities of a hotel including Wireless Internet. The rooms are also reasonably priced, with room ranging from regular rooms (P1,200), Jr. and Sr. Executive rooms (P1,350/P1,550), corporate rooms to share for 3 people (P1,950.00) and the suite rooms (P3,800).
Probably one of the most famous hotels in Bacolod City is the L’Fisher Hotel, its stylish exterior and its restaurants and cafes are the haunts of the Bacolod’s elite. L’Fisher Hotel has two buildings, the rooms at the hotel proper or Tower I are a bit pricey compared to the other hotels in Bacolod with De Luxe Rooms at P3,500, Matrimonial Rooms at P5,000 and Suites at P12,200. The rooms are all well apportioned with all the amenities of a modern hotel and include a buffet breakfast. The L’Fisher Chalet has more affordable rooms, the budget room is P995, and the grand superior rooms are P5,000. The rooms at the Chalet include a plated breakfast.
What to Eat in Bacolod
One of the first things you should do when you get to the Bacolod City is try local cuisine. Not only is it exceptionally good but also unbelievably affordable. Bacolod’s sugar industry has made it a haven for people with a sweet tooth so you’ll find amazing cakes, pastries, and snacks almost around every corner.
There is also the famous Chicken Inasal, one of Bacolod’s most famous and tasty exports. The formula is basically marinating chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi (a local version of lemon) and ginger for hours. Then once the marinade has sunk in, the chicken is cooked over hot coals while more of the marinade is applied to make sure that the outside and the inside are moist and soft. A trip to Bacolod would not be complete if you didn’t taste the Chicken Inasal, and once you try it I’m sure you’ll come back for more.
If you’re looking for good places to dine in the people I’ve met highly recommend Imelda’s Cuisine, Aboy’s Restaurant, L’Fisher, and Mei Wei Seafood Restaurant. Imelda’s is known for its American and European cuisine such as fillet mignon, buffalo wings, and southern fried shrimp while still offering a number tasty local delicacies.
Meanwhile Aboy’s restaurant focuses exclusively on Filipino cuisine from appetizers to main course to dessert such as lechon, Bicol express (a truly spicy dish, be prepared), inasal, puto bumbong and yema. Aboy’s Restaurant also has a website if you’d want to see what else they have to offer.
If you’re craving for Chinese food then you’ll find a number of Chinese restaurants in the city, one of the most famous is Mei Wei seafood restaurant, with its traditional Chinese delicacies such as dimsum, noodles, asado pork, century eggs, and extensive seafood options cooked in a dozen ways.
L’Fisher is another notable restaurant which features local and foreign cuisine including a swiss cheese fondue as an appetizer and local Filipino favorites such as kare-kare, lechon kawali, boneless bangus just to name a few.
Walking Around Bacolod
Well eating is one of the best things to do in the City but it isn’t the only thing, there are Spanish colonial houses, churches and cathedrals which you can visit. There are also smaller stalls and markets around the city which sell local handicrafts and souvenirs. If you tire of the city, then go to the countryside and visit Mount Kanlaon, an active volcano, and take a stroll around the national park. The park features hot springs and waterfall of sulfur so be careful where you choose to dive.
The Maskara Festival
Every October, Bacolod City celebrates the Maskara Festival, one of the biggest festivities in the Visayas. The festival lasts for nine days and features a myriad of events such as costumed parades, sports competitions, concerts, cultural performances, and most especially cheap food and drink. Yes you read correctly, food and drinks. A glass of beer during the festival can cost only P5.00, and you can pretty much get it around every corner. The merry making and drinking usually start when the sun goes down and often last till just before sunrise.
The popularity of the Maskara Festival has been growing in recent years as more and more local and foreign visitors are visitng Bacolod to both see the colorful masks and participate in the street parties.
Bacolod’s sights and sounds are guaranteed to give you a lasting memory but I think the food and the welcoming attitude of the people will be the primary reasons for you to come back. I guarantee that after a few hours of eating and walking around the city, you’ll also be wearing a smile of your own.