Bacolod’s nickname “City of Smiles” isn’t unfounded; you’ll quickly make sense of it upon stepping foot in the city. The sugar capital of the Philippines has a rich history that has influenced the jovial culture of its people. We guarantee that your smiles won’t fade once you get to know this lovely city in Western Visayas through the best Bacolod tourist spots.
Things to do in Bacolod tourist spots for history and culture
1. Take breathtaking photos inside The Ruins
One of the most famous landmarks in Bacolod is The Ruins. Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson had the mansion, then known as Nutsberry Garden, built during the 1900s to express his love for a woman named Maria Braga.
Unfortunately, during World War II, Japanese forces figured that the mansion held a strategic advantage and wanted to make it their headquarters. To thwart their plans, Filipino guerilla soldiers burned the mansion to the ground. What remains today are its pillars and frames, a shell of what once was an extravagant symbol of love.
It may not have been what it once was, but The Ruins continues to awe visitors and tourists. It’s certainly atmospheric, especially when the lights turn on during the night.
2. Go through a tour of the Negros Museum
You can learn so many things about Bacolod by visiting the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol Complex. Mostly an administrative centre for the province, the complex is also home to a beautiful lagoon which is open for locals and tourists to enjoy. The old Agricultural Building in the complex now holds the Negros Museum as well.
The Negros Museum houses a decent collection of artwork and artefacts that showcase Negrense culture. The privately-owned museum also has a sizable collection of toys from around the world to interest the young and young-at-heart; its diverse collection includes Russian matryoshka dolls, Japanese bunraku puppets, and everything in between. Be sure to keep an eye out for works about Negros being the Philippines’ sugar capital, as the museum has some of the most compelling stories behind the industry’s history.
3. Explore and unwind in Mambukal Mountain Resort
One of the best Bacolod tourist spots that you can visit without spending too much is the Mambukal Mountain Resort. The resort, managed and subsidised by the provincial government, establishes itself as a place where Negrense and tourists can enjoy Bacolod’s inherent natural beauty.
Walking through this mountain resort is like stepping into a dream world. Trek one of the seven waterfalls — or even all of them if you’re feeling adventurous. You can then eat lunch amid these waterfalls, with cool, fresh, water running through your feet. If you want a rejuvenating experience, head over to the Mambukal Hot Spring, a sulphuric pool with therapeutic minerals. Meanwhile, you can also relax in a traditional Japanese bath; the Ishiwata Bath House sits in this resort, too.
4. Learn about the Philippine sugar industry in Balay Negrense
Silay City is just north of Bacolod and is famous for its pre-colonial houses owned by sugar barons of old. One of the houses turned into a museum known as Balay Negrense.
Also known as the Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House, Balay Negrense was constructed during the peak of the sugar industry in 1897. The house was turned into a museum in 1990 and was deemed a heritage house in 1994. Today, spacious gardens filled with flowers of every colour surround the house, while big antique furniture adorn the mansion’s interiors. A tour of Balay Negrense gives a glimpse of the life of a sugar baron in Negros Occidental.
5. Reflect inside the beautiful San Sebastian Cathedral
Having a huge part of its history as a Spanish colony, the Philippines has an abundance of cathedrals dedicated to the Roman Catholic faith. Most of these cathedrals are old, and, of course, majestic. Catholic Negrense are fortunate to have such a strong place of worship like San Sebastian Cathedral. It has been a sanctuary for the locals since the cathedral’s construction during the 1800s.
Aside from being a place of worship, the cathedral also protected locals from Moro attacks during the Spanish colonial era. Its strong materials — a combination of coral stones from Guimaras and hardwood from Palawan — along with its safe position on high ground, ensure its resilience for generations to come. So if you ever find a lack of strength, maybe looking towards the twin bell towers that overlook the city can provide you with some comfort.
Delicious Negrense cuisine to try in Bacolod tourist spots
6. Try the iconic cansi in Sharyn’s Cansi House
There are many choices when it comes to the best food to eat in Western Visayas, and Bacolod happens to have some of the most sophisticated dishes found under that gastronomic umbrella.
Cansi is the Visayas’ version of the Luzon bulalo, having the same characteristics: an almost gelatinous broth, tender beef sliding off its bones, and a creamy bone marrow. The difference is that cansi makes use of rich herbs and ingredients, such as lemon grass, tomatoes, and the batuan fruit, which yields a citrus flavour. The interesting fusion of these ingredients gives the broth an exciting aromatic and acidic kick. The beef stew is a Negrense speciality that visitors should try out since it is rare to find outside Bacolod.
A good place to try out this delicacy is in Sharyn’s Cansi House, where they also deep-fry the meat of the shank to be served as rice toppings. They retain the signature tinge and beefy richness that cansi is known for, but the frizzled meat adds a bit more crunch to the dish. Be careful with your portions, though; they can be quite deadly in excess!
7. Enjoy the best seafood in Pala-Pala Market
Western Visayas being close to different seas means that seafood lovers will find Bacolod heavenly. Pala-Pala Market, in particular, thrives off the seafood industry with not just the freshest catch of the day. Most of the merchants here also happen to be fine cooks who have mastered the craft of bringing out the inherent flavours of fish, clams, shrimps, and everything edible found in Western Visayas’ deep blue seas. From the simple kinilaw na tangigue to the delicate buttered scallops, the food in Pala-Pala Market will not disappoint.
8. Find a new love for chicken in Manokan Country
Possibly the most famous contribution that the Visayas made to Philippine cuisine, in general, is the chicken inasal. This Visayan staple has made a name for itself in the Philippines for its robust flavour; surprisingly, it uses very simple ingredients that happen to work very well with roast chicken. Its marinade usually consists of vinegar, calamansi, annatto oil, and soy sauce. Easy, right?
In Bacolod, an entire street known as Manokan Country has restaurants that stretch the limits of chicken inasal’s recipe. Some apply different ingredient compositions; they add and subtract ingredients like it’s basic arithmetic. Others apply the traditional marinade, but integrate them into parts of the chicken that aren’t typical, like chicken gizzard and hearts. But of course, more reserved diners can always pick the traditional recipe with the best chicken parts like the breast or thighs. Manokan Country gives you countless options to enjoy this delicacy.
9. Taste the Negrense style on a familiar dish in Lord Byron’s
Maybe you’re looking for a bit of familiarity with your food in Bacolod. For these cases of cravings, Lord Byron’s baby back ribs are the perfect comfort food. It’s pretty amazing to see that despite the familiarity of these pieces of delicious pork, Lord Byron’s makes it distinctly their own. What started out as a one-branch restaurant in Bacolod spawned many restaurants in just over a decade — a testament to its taste.
Their ribs introduce themselves right away by being effortless to eat. Its smoky and light flavour is just enough to accent the tenderness of its meat while keeping a crisp and sweet crust outside. Ultimately, the ribs give a performance of different textures and flavours; most likely, you’ll want to order a second round.
10. Indulge in the sugar capital’s sweets
Of course, we can’t leave out desserts when in the sugar capital of the Philippines! You’ll see a lot of locals going to cafes during the afternoon to snack on these treats. Everywhere you go in Bacolod, you will find great choices for confections. Cakes, macaroons, pastries, and even kakanin — any sweet tooth would go wild in the city. But if there’s one thing you can’t miss, it has to be the napoleones.
Napoleones are stacked pastry flakes stuffed with custard and glazed with sugar on top. Sounds simple, but take our word for it: They are sinfully good. Try these delicious bite-sized snacks in cafes like Pendy’s or Bob’s. They pair great with morning tea or coffee, but you can also have them for dessert after a nice dinner.
There is nothing quite like the experience of learning Negrense culture through Bacolod tourist spots. So whenever you swing by Western Visayas, make sure to stop by this city that gives everyone something to smile about.
Featured image credit: JohnKimwellLaluma | Wikimedia Commons