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Bacolod: More Than Just The Ruins

White rice, mollusks, stuffed bangus (milkfish), hipon (shrimp), lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), stuffed torta (Filipino eggplant), BBQ pork and chicken, crab legs, watermelon, young coconut drink, and plenty of dipping sauces all sitting atop banana tree leaves.

Bacolod City is situated in the northwestern part of the island of Negros Occidental. It is home to 600,000 locals and is lovingly called the City of Smiles. The Ruins in Negros Occidental is a sight to behold. Known as the Taj Mahal of the Philippines, the Ruins Mansion was once the centerpiece of a 440-hectare sugar plantation. The residence was built in the Italianate style by Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson as a tribute to his late wife. In the throes of World War II, it was burned down by Filipino guerillas to prevent Japanese forces from claiming it as their headquarters. The fire raged for three days, and the remaining cement frame is what we see when we visit the Ruins today.  While technically situated in Talisay City on the outskirts of Bacolod, the Ruins has become synonymous with Bacolod itself. However, there is much more to see in the City of Smiles. Below, we list five of the best things to do in Bacolod other than a tour through the Ruins.


1. Have Your Fill of Inasal

If Bacolod is known for one thing other than the Ruins, it would be chicken inasal. Chicken inasal is the Visayas region’s take on grilled chicken. It derives its distinctive yellow color and citrusy flavor from a marinade of vinegar, calamansi juice, lemongrass, and achuete oil.

Manokan Country is an open-air complex with over a dozen stalls selling this ubiquitous dish. While Aida’s Chicken might be the most famous among the lot, we highly suggest coming back to Manokan Country over the course of your vacation to sample as many stalls as you can. Each one prides itself on its family recipe for chicken inasal, and you’ll never know which one your taste buds take a fancy to. Pro tip: Ask for extra chicken oil, and drizzle it over your rice.

2. Feast on other local delicacies

Filipinos have a notorious sweet tooth. Try a piaya – an unleavened flat bread filled with muscovado sugar or ube – from the local market. The napoleones from Leones Napoleones is a must; they even airfreight boxes of these flaky, sugar-glazed goodies to Manila. And no trip to Bacolod would be complete if you’re not hand-carrying one of Calea’s chocolate cakes on your lap on your flight home.

3. Go On A Pilgrimage

The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia, and San Sebastian Church in Bacolod is one of the many seats of the Roman Catholic Diocese in the country.  The original structure was built in 1825, but the stone church in its current design was constructed almost 50 years later. In 1973 and 2011, respectively, San Sebastian Church was crowned as a National Historical Landmark and National Cultural Treasure. It is the only steel building church in the Philippines.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II visited Bacolod and celebrated the Holy Mass in front of one million people. The Pope John Paul II Tower was erected on the same site two decades later. The top floor of the seven-story glass building offers an excellent view of Bacolod’s skyline. The tower is also stunning at night.

4. Take a Dip in Lakawon Island

Boracay might be the top-of-mind Philippine beach destination for most travelers, but Lakawon Island is quickly becoming a strong contender. Located 48-kilometers from Bacolod, Lakawon Island boasts 16-hectares of white sand beaches. In 2013, the island was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda. It was restored as a resort in the year that followed. Today, the island is best known for Tawhai, the largest floating bar in Asia. Boats to Lakawon Island depart every two hours from Cadiz Viejo Port in Bacolod, and numerous private speed boats take guests from Lakawon Island to Tawhai.

5. Book A Day Trip (Or Two)

Located in Murica City 31-km east of Bacolod, Mambukal Mountain Resort is a 23.6-hectare piece of heaven. The government-protected area has seven waterfalls, dozens of volcanic hot springs, and options to zipline, kayak, and boat to your heart’s content.

Silay City feels like a snapshot of Negros Occidental during the Spanish era. Known as the Paris of Negros, Silay City is home to about 30 well-preserved colonial homes. The city also happens to be the top sugar producer in the country. The Hawaiian-Philippine Company (HPCo) sugar mills are the oldest in the region and one of the few remaining muscovado sugar producers in the world.

Carbin Reef is a 200-hectare marine sanctuary off the coast of Sagay City. A 2—3-hour boat-ride away from Lakawon Island, Carbin Reef is home to thriving coral formations and various schools of fish. If you’re lucky, you might even see sea turtles swimming by.

Bacolod – Come And Experience

As a bonus, if you happen to be in Bacolod in October, you can’t miss the Masskara Festival. Held to honor the capsizing of M/S Don Juan, the Festival is a week-long celebration of dancing, live music, and local entertainment. Festival masks – reminiscent of the ones in Venice – also happen to make great souvenirs.

Book a seat on one of the daily flights chartered by Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific, and come experience the best that Bacolod has to offer for yourself.