Bacolod, beyond the inasal and a most colorful festival

Bacolod, beyond the inasal and a most colorful festival

See the city that will get you your fill of ruins, magnanimous waterfalls, and the biggest floating bar in Asia.

Bacolod City, known as the City of Smiles, is a name bestowed upon the city thanks to its lively MassKara Festival, which came about after the people of Bacolod suffered an economic downturn and the loss of hundreds of lives at sea. It’s a perfectly good reason to visit the city, but that only happens every October.

Another reason why people flock to Bacolod is its contribution to Philippine cuisine: the delicious, mouth-watering chicken inasal, i.e. their unique take on grilled chicken. These are best eaten from the many stalls at the province’s Manokan Country.

A Bacolod itinerary, beyond MassKara or eating chicken inasal, for you:

Visit the “Taj Mahal of Negros”

It’s not that far from Bacolod City, and you get to know more about the city’s history in the process. Photo by Patricia Cordova

The Ruins doesn’t quite look like the Taj Mahal in India, but the reason why it stands is exactly the same: a symbol of love. It’s the remnants of the ancestral home of one Don Mariano Lacson, and he had it made for the love of his life: Maria Braganza. It’s located in the city of Talisay, roughly 15 minutes from Bacolod, right in the middle of a sugar plantation. It’s a sight to behold during the day, but it shines its brightest when the sun goes down.

Pro tip: look for a glass table outside the mansion. Place your camera on top of it, focus on The Ruins, and voila: instant “water” reflection photo. Also, ask for Kuya Roger (or Ate, if you wish) to be your guide. He’s truly a bundle of laughs.

Hang out at Capitol Park and the New Government Center

Parks in provinces aren’t the same as those in Metro Manila. They’re true town centers, much like Capitol Park at Bacolod City.

Located right behind the Provincial Capitol Building, Capitol Park is a vast patch of green smack dab in the middle of the city. People hang out here all day long, and it’s a great place to people watch. You can opt to stay here until sunset (great place for sunset photos!) or swing by the New Government Center not to check in with the mayor, but to enjoy the night without breaking the bank.

Museum hop

If you’re not fond of museums in Bacolod, you can go to this one in Silay: Balay Negrense.

Every city might have a museum or two, but not Bacolod where the city center alone has four museums (Negros Museum, Museo Negrense de La Salle, Vintage Glasses Museum, and the Dizon-Ramos Museum). A quick trip to Silay and you’ll be given access to Balay Negrense, the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum (a.k.a. Pink House), and a whole host more. The City of Silay in itself is a live museum, with heritage houses left and right.

Spend a day (or night) at Lakawon Island

It’s technically not in Bacolod, but Lakawon, an island resort, about 15 minutes off the coast of Cadiz, is a destination in Negros that you should not miss.

Lakawon has white sand beaches, numerous spots for the Gram, good eats, tons of activities, and a floating bar that’s dubbed as the biggest in Asia—hence the spend-a-night suggestion.

Hike to see the Seven Waterfalls of Mambukal

Mambukal’s seven waterfalls are somewhat a favorite of those who visit Bacolod, even though it’s not within city limits. It’s a one-hour drive from Bacolod to the town of Murcia where the government-run Mambukal Resort lies. The drive is well worth taking.

Mambukal Falls No.2
One of seven waterfalls in Mambukal. Photo by Rawen Balmaña

The set of seven cascading falls are a sight to behold, and the seventh welcomes all those who would dare bathe in its cool waters. Make sure you try the canopy walk and other activities at the resort if you are a thrill-seeking adventurer. Either that or you can simply relax at Mambukal’s hot springs.

You can pretty much fit all five of these in a two- to three-night stay in Bacolod, with plenty of time to eat as much inasal as you want.

See the things you don’t see in Manila

See the things you don’t see in Manila

If you think a cemetery tour is macabre, don’t. Ivan Man Dy, who reintroduces Manila’s older districts, explains why, and talks of lotsa interesting things to learn about the city that never sleeps.

Meet Ivan. He’s the guy that “turned” Manila’s old districts (Intramuros, Binondo, and the area around Malacañang) into a big, open-air museum. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

I worked in a museum in Intramuros for 10 years. I basically took the experience of being in a museum and turned it into a tour of Manila. I’m born, raised, and still live in Manila, and have enjoyed the city’s history ever since. I’ve also done volunteer cultural heritage work since forever.

We created different thematic tours that told the history of the city. There are city tours for Manila, but they’re a bit generic. All they do is they tell you “this is the place, here’s when it was built, and here’s who built it.” None of them explored the different facets of Manila’s history.

They’ve also done this: disguised a wedding proposal… as a tour of Binondo.

Manila is more than just Intramuros. There’s Binondo, which is very close to my heart (because I grew up there) and Quiapo na hindi nadi-discuss (never talked about). For me, Old Manila Walks is a way of explaining the significance of these neighborhoods and its buildings to the public. We wanted to tell the narratives behind these districts so people would understand their value and the reason why we want to preserve their structures.

We’re in old Manila, hence the name. We do tours in Intramuros and Chinatown, and “walks” are lakad lang. We’re not telling the history of the Philippines; we’re focusing on the history of the City of Manila itself. You’ll notice in our tours that we do not talk about Dr. Jose Rizal or Andrew Bonifacio. My hope is that when they (people who join our tours) leave, they understand a bit more of the history of the city.

Binondo Trip
A typical day in Binondo. Photo by Krista Garcia

Manila’s old districts are similar yet they are different. Take Binondo. It has marks of Spanish colonial history, but there are Chinese elements to the district. That story is part of Manila’s history—one that’s not taught in school. It’s why people are not aware of the history and heritage of these districts. For us, it’s [the thematic tours] one way of telling the narrative of these places based on the communities that live there.

One of the more unique places that Ivan Man Dy takes people to: the Manila Chinese Cemetery. Photo by Wayne Grazio from flickr.

I like doing all the tours. The Chinese Cemetery tour is more of a quiet tour that tells history through architecture. I love architecture. The Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino) element in the tour is basically immigrant history.

Ivan leads a group of Chinese tourists through a tour of The Walled City. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Our Intramuros tour is a primer of sorts, because if you come to Manila, this is your first stop. It’s like a general history of Manila. Binondo is different because it has a mix of Chinese immigrant history. Our San Miguel – Malacañang Tour, on the other hand, talks more about political history.

I like the old neighborhoods. If I want peace and quiet, I go to the walls of Intramuros. Fort Santiago has been renovated and now looks good at night. I like the modern stuff, too.

Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.

– Ivan Man Dy on the city of Manila

Santa Ana district is quite interesting, even if no one has done a tour of it. They have a church and several old houses. Quiapo is another place that people should consider visiting. There’s already a tour for Quiapo that includes the San Sebastian Church, the only church in the country made of steel. Quiapo has a different flavor compared to other districts. It has a mix of religion because of the Black Nazarene, the traditional Tagalog culture, and a touch of Mindanao from the Muslim Quarter.

I’ve been to a lot of provinces in the country, and I like these places in particular: Bacolod. I have friends there and I like the city’s architecture; Dumaguete, and Laguna, especially the towns that look like quaint villages. I like cold place like Tagaytay and Baguio. I’m also very familiar with the Ilocos Region because I’ve been there many times for work.

I like walking in big cities around the world. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Georgetown in Penang, and Kuala Lumpur pique my interest. I like European cities like Vienna. I think people like them because they’re walkable, have their culture intact, and have a rich heritage that’s better preserved compared to ours. Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.

That’s not Ivan, but it is one of the things he likes doing everywhere he goes—even in Batanes. Photo by Ferdz Decena

Batanes is beautiful. I’ve been there four times and I like going back for its serenity and the beauty of the place. When I was in Batanes, I liked our stay at Fundacion Pacita. I guess you can say I also like rustic landscapes because when I go abroad, I often join tours that go to the countryside. I’m not much of a beach person; I prefer mountain scenery, freshwater, and cold places.

That said, I loved it when we stayed at Club Paradise in Coron. I’ve also stayed at Sulyap Gallery Café, Boutique Hotels, and Restaurant in San Pablo, Laguna.

These five things never leave my travel case:

  • Contact lenses and glasses
  • Mobile phone
  • Wallet
  • Small umbrella. I use them rain or shine, and I don’t like wearing hats.
  • Snacks like small packs of peanuts. I’m the type of person who might skip a meal because I’m absorbed in seeing the city.

Who is Ivan Man Dy?

A true blue Manilan, Ivan is the man behind Old Manila Walks and has over two decades of experience working in the cultural field, which includes being a heritage activist, museum docent, school instructor, features writer, television personality, researcher, expert speaker, tour operator and book author. He has a master’s degree from the University of Santo Tomas, and has received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the municipal government of Manila.

Art scoop: The Sabtang, Batanes seawall mural

Art scoop: The Sabtang, Batanes seawall mural

SkyJet Airlines partners with Batanes’ local mayor to make an 80m artwall on Sabtang, the first of its kind on the island

Artist’s render of the Sabtang Seawall mural by Awee Abelardo.

SkyJet Airlines, in partnership with the Municipality of Sabtang, one of three main islands that make up the Philippines’ northernmost province, Batanes, has an ambitious art project—they’re looking at painting on a big chunk of Sabtang’s seawall.

Here are a few things you should know about the upcoming Sabtang seawall mural:

It’s the perfect Sabtang teaser

Sabtang Mayor Maxilindo Emilio Babalo (left) shakes hands with SkyJet Airlines commercial head Joseph Edward Alvarico.

The seawall mural will be the first thing people will see when they visit Sabtang. “It is meant to excite tourists to the places and experiences they have been looking forward to seeing and doing in Sabtang,” says SkyJet Airlines commercial head Joseph Alvarico.

Which parts? These ones, to be specific, if you ask Sabtang mayor Maxilindo Babalo, are the old Ivatan houses, Sabtang’s famous spots, and the Vakul-Kanayi Festival. “It doesn’t even have to be the actual festival. If it shows Ivatan men wearing kanayi and Ivatan women wearing the vakul, we will be happy.”

It’s a 60m to 80m art-on-wall

The mural will make up about 60m to 80m of the Sabtang wall, or about 85% of the inner side of the seawall, according to Awee Abelador, lead artist for the project. Eight artists will work on the wall, all comprised of Creative Hub’s art group, the Hangtay Artist.

Work on the mural is set to begin on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 and will likely be completed in about 11 days. Follow the entire process of creating the mural on Creative Hub’s YouTube channel, Creative Hub TV.

Sabtang’s history and culture, on display

“The Mural project of SkyJet, in collaboration with Sabtang’s local government unit, will emphasize Sabtang’s historic and cultural perspective making them unique as a tourist destination,” says Joseph. To be depicted are iconic landmarks of each of Sabtang’s villages like the Ivatan Houses of Savidug and the viewpoint in Chamantad-Tinyan, Morong Beach.

An Ivatan woman wearing a vakul. Photo by Ferdz Decena

The mural will also highlight signature pieces of Sabtang like the vakul, the kanayi (cogon vest for Ivatan men), the panikal (a way of splitting flying fish), and their cogon-roofed tricycles, among others.

It’s a work of art by Ivatans for Ivatans

SkyJet Airlines and the municipality of Sabtang are not alone in showcasing Sabtang to its locals and visitors. The parties have commissioned the Hangtay Artist group under Creative Hub, Batanes’ new breed of artists. It will be the biggest mural project, to date, of said Ivatan artists as a group.

Get there. SkyJet ( flies direct from Manila to Batanes daily. Sabtang is a 30-minute boat ride from Ivana port in the southern part of Batan Island.

It’s going to be a hot March!

It’s going to be a hot March!

Coffee, balloons, and the return of an early 2000’s icon: Events in March 2020.

How is 2020 going so fast? Two months down and it feels like a lot has already happened! Of course, that won’t stop these must-see events from happening:.

Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

March 6 – 8

It started as nothing more than a passion project after the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption. This year, the annual Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, dubbed as the “Weekend of Everything That Almost Flies” is headed South, instead of the usual North. Drive to the San Lorenzo Leisure in Carmona, Cavite on March 6-8, 2020 for the longest-running sports aviation event in Asia. See air shows and races from top aviation companies in the Philippines, first-person-view (FPV) drone races, and much more!

San Lorenzo Leisure Park, Carmona, Cavite|

Manila Coffee Festival

March 13 – 15

Celebrate all things coffee—from bean to cup—at the 2nd Manila Coffee Festival, happening from March 13-15, 2020 at Manila Hotel’s Tent City. The Manila counterpart to similar festivals in New York, London, and, more recently, Amsterdam. See how things like food, art, music, local tourism, and entertainment can come together under one roof to talk about one thing—coffee!

Tent City, Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila |

Art in the Park 2020

March 15

Exploring your love for art doesn’t end just because National Arts Month (i.e. February) is over. The same folks who bring you the largest art fair in the country year in and year out, Art Fair Philippines, will once again hold the annual Art in the Park, happening on March 15, 2020 at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Makati City. Swing by and see your next art inspo, or just enjoy being at this quiet Salcedo Park with other people who love art as much as you do.

Jaime Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati City |

Sandugo Road to Trail Challenge

March 22

Fun runs are fun and all, but there are those that prefer something that’s even more fun. If you’re one of those ardent runners, then sign up for this year’s Sandugo Road to Trail Challenge happening on March 22, 2020 at the Eastridge Sandugo Trail in Binangonan, Rizal. Challenge yourself and join in this one-of-a-kind fun run where you go through roads, trails, and forests—all in one race course.

Eastridge Estates, Binangonan, Rizal |

Did we miss any events this March? Let us know in the comments so we can add them to our list!

Secret island in the North, found

Secret island in the North, found

There may be some debate on whether Immuki is actually an island or not, but one thing’s for sure: it’s paradise.

You can really only get this shot in low tide (morning).

Immuki Island has a three-part lagoon that forms part of Paraoir Beach in the town of Balaoan in La Union province. It has crystal clear water that perfectly reflects the clear blue sky, and that’s about at the right temperature for swimming, and pockets of sand that allow you to set up a small picnic mat.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet these kids on your way to Immuki Island!

Apart from the scenic blue water and the ocean surf, it’s the name that should draw you towards this tiny island in Balaoan. Immuki comes from the Ilocano word for a woman’s genitals (uki), though it also refers to sea slugs or babao. Bao, in case you’re wondering, also refers to the same body part.

Playful locals then named the other two lagoons Bimmuto (male genitals) and Immubet (anus). Quite cheeky, if you ask us.

Things to do

You can freely swim in any of the three lagoons, though diving isn’t allowed. Go in feet-first and make sure you wear slippers because the dead corals (paringit) could hurt. You can also board a raft for Php250 (holds three to four people at most) and have a meal while you go to the island.

Get there. Ride a Partas bus bound for Vigan, Laoag, or Abra and asked to be dropped off at Balaoan. Ride a tricycle to Paraior and asked to be dropped off at the baranggay hall. From there, you’ll have to pay Php20 per person (environmental fee) before you can get to Immuki Island, a five-minute walk from the baranggay hall at low tide (10 if it’s high tide, and you have to wade through waist-deep water).

Photos: Andrew Del Rosario

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