Bacolod, the City of (sweet) Smiles, is a short 30-minute plane ride west of Cebu. The city is famous for its MassKara Festival as well as its smorgasbord of savoury dishes and mouthwatering sweets. We flew to Bacolod for a short business trip and food lovers that we are we didn’t pass up on the opportunity to explore its culinary heritage. We chanced on visiting some of their tourist spots as well.

A giant mask for the MassKara festival.
The MassKara Festival in Bacolod City is a festival of smiles.

Getting There Wasn't All that Stress-Free

Our flight to Bacolod was in the wee hours of the morning. When we arrived at Bacolod-Silay Airport we went directly to the metered taxi queue but had to go through several negotiations with a few taxi drivers because they all demanded for a fixed fare saying the city centre is quite far. We eventually agreed for a reasonable rate.

Finding the Perfect Place to Stay

We stayed at one of the most popular hotels in Bacolod, the L’Fisher Hotel. Our room wasn’t as fancy as we expected but the hotel had a rooftop pool with a nice view of the city so it was worth the buck. It is also conveniently located along the city’s famed tourism and food strip, Lacson Street.

Places to See in Bacolod City

San Sebastian Cathedral

It was Sunday when we got there so our first order of the day was to hear mass. We asked our taxi driver to take us to San Sebastian Cathedral which is located in Rizal Street. The cathedral is made out of coral stones and has centuries-old church bells. The church is fronting the plaza, you can get a fresh bibingka from one of the stalls.

New Government Center

The New Government Center in Bacolod
The facade of the New Government Center is quite impressive.

We also visited another well-known attraction in the region – the New Government Center located in the Circumferential Road. The structure boasts an architecture of western style which resembles government buildings in Europe. It has a huge fountain in front of it which makes a wonderful display of lights at night with the building made to reflect on its waters. As one of the newest landmarks in the city, locals frequent the place to hangout, jog, or walk their pets.

Variety of drinks in the New Government Center
A refreshing drink after all the walking and sight-seeing.
Fish-feeding time new government center
Fish feeding time!

Stalls nearby have varied things to sell. Street food and refreshments, toys, kites and balloons, even fish food.

Huge water fountain in the New Government Center
The fountain is perfect for a family portrait.

The Ruins of Talisay City - Defo Picture Perfect

The Ruins behind the fountain
Beauties augmented by the Ruins of Talisay City.

The first place we visited is one, if not the most, recognized tourist attractions of Negros – The Ruins of Talisay CityIt is located in the border between Bacolod and Talisay City. This two-story edifice is a stone skeleton of what used to be an imposing mansion in the Spanish-era sugar plantation. Its concrete walls and posts were made with egg whites mixed into the cement for a fine, marble-like touch. During the early part of World War II, the mansion was razed to the ground, under American command, before Japanese forces could seize it. The surrounding grounds have beautiful flower beds which might give you a feeling that you’re somewhere in the countryside of Europe. We wanted to see Roger, the tour guide, who went viral in social media because of his comedic delivery of facts, however, he was unavailable and probably already busy with his rising popularity.

The Ruins of Talisay City
Pose anywhere in the Ruins, no bad angle here.
Antique in the Ruins
We had to queue to have a photo in this antique calesa or horse-drawn carriage.

Interesting Fact
It took three days for the fire to bring down the roof and thick wooden floors.
They were never rebuilt and the mansion’s framework remains intact to this day. ​

Bacolod City Pleases the Food Lover Within Us

Calea - Prolly the Best Cake in Bacolod

Across our hotel is one of the famous images of Bacolod, the pastries and coffee haven Calea. This is actually the main reason why going to Bacolod got us all excited. You can satiate your sweet tooth with slices of Calea’s delectable cakes most especially their main star, ice cream cake. What was quite surprising for us though was how a slice costs so much lesser than it costs in Cebu but then we realized Bacolod wouldn’t be called the Sugar Bowl Capital of the Philippines for nothing.

Merci Pasalubong - Take-Away Sweet Shop

A short walk from the hotel is Merci Pasalubong. If you want to bring home to your loved ones some of the tastes of Bacolod, this is the place to go to. Merci Pasalubong’s specialties are piaya, biscocho and napoleones. 

  • Piaya is a sweet thin biscuit with caramel or ube (purple yam) filling. 
  • Biscocho is Biscotti, Filipino-style. It is a baked bread with butter and sugar on top, crunchy and sweet, and pairs perfectly with tea or coffee.
  • Napoleones originated from France where it is known as Mille-feuille. The French had brought the custard filled pastry to the island and taught the people how to make it. Aside from chicken inasal, Bacolod is also popular for its Napoleones.

Aida's Chicken - Our Favorite Chicken Inasal

It would be unheard of to visit Bacolod and not have a good meal of its notorious (in a good way) Chicken Inasal. We went to Aida’s chicken inasal in Manokan Country for our own fill. Manokan Country is a row of stalls and restaurants. This is the home of the Chicken Inasal and the best place to eat at an affordable price (PHP50-200). Inasal, by the way, means to cook over fire. It is the local version of barbecue. The meat, usually pork or chicken, is cooked with red achuete or annatto seeds, which gives it its reddish color and brushed with oil and then cooked over the fire. Chicken inasal is served with rice and best enjoyed with your hands. The Cebuano in me could have enjoyed it even more if there was puso instead of plain rice on a plate.

Aid'a Chicken Inasal at Manokan Country
While queueing at Aida's Chicken Inasal.

Tom N Toms Coffee

A colleague of mine who hails from Bacolod suggested to try Tom n Toms Coffee which he said is like South Korea’s version of Starbucks. We decided to have breakfast there as it was just a few blocks away from our hotel. At that time they didn’t have a branch in Cebu yet so we were curious to check them out.

Negros Museum Cafe

Dining out in the garden cafe
Dining out in the garden cafe
Simple food but great presentation
Simple food but great presentation

On our last day in Bacolod, we dropped by the Negros Museum Cafe in Gatuslao Street. We particularly loved the al fresco dining and how enticing each dish was served. We opt out of the tour of the museum though due to time constraints. This food we had for lunch in Negros Museum Cafe is simple yet very appealing and delicious – presentation does matter.

​ The Panaad Festival held annually in Bacolod City is another fun-filled celebration that Negros is famous for. Panaad is the local dialect Hiligaynon term for “vow” or “promise”. The festival is a vow of thanksgiving for good life. Sadly, we missed the festival which was held the weekend after we were there. Thus, it is our “panaad” to visit Bacolod again and experience its festivities.