The Walks of Kulot


MASSKARA FESTIVAL
March 10, 2013, 4:38 pm
Filed under: WOK in VISAYAS | Tags: , , , ,

As part of my bucket list of the places to visit and things to do in the Philippines is the chance to attend a festival. I have been to Bacolod twice but I never had the chance to attend the Masskara festival, so last year I made it a point to go back and join the festivity.

The Masskara Festival

The Masskara festival is  a monthlong celebration but the most-awaited street dance parade is usually held during the weekend of the third week of October. The festival which originated almost three decades ago is a commemoration of Bacolod’s triumph after experiencing economic devastation during its early years. From then on, the Masskara festival is celebrated annually as it has evolved into a grand festivity of sort – bursting in colors and smiles – a reminder of the city’s resilience and optimism. True to the theme of the Masskara festival last year, Life is definitely good in Bacolod.

It rained so hard during the first day of the street dance competition (Schools category) but that didn’t dampen the spirit of the students and participants. True to the spirit of the Masskara festival, the show must go on as students danced their way with much enthusiasm wearing their big smiles.

Street parties + Streetdance parade

During the festival, Bacolod becomes a bustling city as parties are literally held on every street. The city’s main thoroughfare, Lacson Street, transforms into a long party avenue as giant speakers are set-up in every block beside makeshift stages offering all night entertainment to party goers. Restaurants along Lacson are almost booked with guests enjoying the company of family and friends over dinner or bottles of beer. You can really feel the vibrant and party atmosphere everywhere. As an added attraction, every night an Electric Masskara parade passes by Lacson street which is a spectacle not to be missed.

But the highlight of the festival is the Masskara streetdance parade, which is divided into two categories: the Schools and Barangay category. Street dancers prep up at the end of Libertad Araneta street as they make their way through the main avenue going to the Bacolod Public Plaza for their main performance. The Masskara festival is characterized by colorful and flamboyant costumes as street dancers gyrate to the beat of the main theme song of the festival. But what makes the festival unique are the big smiling masks worn by the dancers.

Here are some shots during the parade.

A Masskara souvenir being sold in the streets during the festival.

Masskara souvenirs.

A smile within a smile.

One of the colorful ensembles who performed during the festival.

This group is from the barangay category.

Tired but still smiling.

The blue and white group.

Life’s definitely good in Bacolod.

Mother and child.

Spot the smiling face.

All geared up with their props and giant smiles.

Jesters on the loose.

Can’t help but smile too.



I WOK’d (actually ATE) in BACOLOD.

* I WOK’d ATE in Bacolod is part of the author’s 3-day travel journal from his first mini solo backpacking trip in Negros Occidental.

To cap off my first-ever solo backpacking trip in Negros Occidental, I made a quick stop in Bacolod City – a town famous for its annual Masskara festival where dancers wearing colorful smiling masks parade the streets of Bacolod in a festive mood. But I was a few weeks late for the festival, so I just decided to go on a food trip. Afterall, Bacolod City is also known as a gourmet’s paradise because of the wide variety of food choices one can try when you’re in the city – from the original Bacolod Chicken Inasal to sweet and delectable desserts in Calea. So let me take you on a Bacolod food trip, as I revisit some of the restaurants I tried out during my visit in Bacolod. I am getting hungry writing this.

Chicken Inasal at Manokan Country ready to be cooked.

(L) Chicken Inasal and rice with chicken oil (R) Tinae or Isaw (chicken intestines)

Aida's Manukan chicken mascot

1. Manokan Country is a stretch of carinderia-type restaurants in front of SM Bacolod that mainly serves chicken inasal. But aside from chicken inasal, most restaurants also serve grilled foods like barbecue, isaw, betamax and seafood like talaba (oyster). At Manokan Country there’s no need for utensils, because chicken inasal is best eaten using your bare hands! You’ll surely ask for another round of rice.

Which restaurant to try? Check-out Aida’s Manukan, according to my friend Zyla (who is from Bacolod) they serve the best chicken inasal in Manokan Country. Don’t forget to try tinae, sounds unappetizing but if you’re a fan of isaw then you’ll surely love these chicken intestines in skewers.

* An order of chicken inasal (paa) with rice would cost around P80.00. Tinae is around P20-30 per stick. Manokan Country is easy to find because it’s just across SM Bacolod.

Chicken Inasal @ Chicken Deli

2. Chicken Deli is a restaurant in Bacolod also famous for its chicken inasal and most orders come with unlimited rice. An order of chicken inasal (paa) with unlimited rice costs P79.00.

* Chicken Deli is beside the Negros Showroom along Lacson Street.

Muffins at Bob's Pastry Shop

French Apple Pie with vanilla ice cream

3.  Bob’s Pastry Shop and Restaurant. If Manila has Aristocrat, then Bacolod has Bob’s. Bob’s was started by Dr. Homero Sicangco in the year 1965. The restaurant offers American dishes like baby back ribs, triple-decker burger, and barbeque. But today their menu also includes Filipino and Negrense dishes. Their Batchoy is the best in Bacolod. But if you’re in for some dessert, check out their pastry shop which offers cakes, brownies, muffins, silvanas and pies at an affordable price.

Dessert I tried at Bob’s Pastry Shop: French Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream (P70.00)

* Bob’s Pastry Shop and Restaurant is in front of Dr. Pablo O. Torre Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City. To know more about Bob’s Restaurant, please click on this link.

Calea's mouth-watering ice cream cakes

Choco chip ice cream cake - chocolate and coffee ice cream sandwiched between two moist chocolate chip cookies topped with caramel sauce

4.  Calea. They say you haven’t been to Bacolod if you haven’t tried any dessert at Calea. So during my visit in Bacolod, I really made it a point to visit this dessert haven. Their mouth-watering list of desserts includes pies, ice cream cakes, imported chocolate cakes, mousse and cheesecakes. Honestly, I really had a hard time choosing which dessert to order. Good thing, my friend Zyla suggested that I try their Choco Chip Ice Cream cake with caramel sauce. It was the best dessert I tasted ever! For sure I will visit Calea again when I get back to Bacolod.

Dessert I tried at Calea: Choco Chip Ice cream cake with caramel sauce (P90.00)

* Calea is beside L’Fisher Hotel along Lacson Street in Bacolod City. They also have a branch in SM Bacolod.

Namit Gid! ‘Till our next food trip!



I WOK’d in LAKAWON ISLAND.

* I WOK’d in Lakawon Island is part of the author’s 3-day travel journal from his first mini solo backpacking trip in Negros Occidental.

Negros Occidental is known for its vast sugar cane plantations, local cuisines, sweet delicacies and pre-colonial ancestral houses. Reason why I was surprised to know that there is a white-sand beach near Bacolod I can visit. Since I know many of my blog’s readers consider visiting the beach during their trips, I decided to visit this not-so-secret-anymore beach destination near Bacolod which you might also want to include in your itinerary during your upcoming trips to Bacolod or Negros.

Going to Lakawon

From the Ceres Liner north terminal in Bacolod City, it was an hour and a half bus ride going to Cadiz City (6th town north from Bacolod City). I was dropped at the Martesan bus and tricycle terminal where I rode a tricycle going to Barangay Cadiz Viejo. Going to the Lakawon Island Beach Resort, I rode a motor-driven bangka which took me around 20-minutes to reach the island.

The Martesan bus and tricycle terminal in Cadiz.

Tricycle ride going to Brgy. Cadiz Vejio.

Lakawon Rates and Fees table

The walkway leading to the sea where the boats are parked.

*Bus fare to Cadiz City (non-stop): P 80.00. Tricycle fare to Barangay Cadiz Viejo: P 20.00/person. Boat rental going to Lakawon: P 600.00/group of four. Resort entrance fee: P 100.00/person.

Lakawon Island Beach Resort

The private owned island boasts of white-sand beach and shallow waters where visitors can laze and hang-out under nipa-hut or swim into the sea. The name Lakawon was from the cebuano word “lakaw” which means “to walk” because one can actually walk on shallow waters during low-tide. The island resor is popular among local tourists because of its proximity to Bacolod but not as popular compared to other beaches in the country. Nipa huts and cottages can be rented for an overnight stay. Other activities in the island include kayaking, banana boat ride and beach volleyball.

Lakawon Island

A part of an old boat with the name Lakawon written on it.

The nipa huts on the island.

Under the shade.

One of the shades near the sea where you can laze around without being sunburned.

If I were to rate Lakawon compared to other beaches I’ve visited in the country I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5 rating. I am disappointed that aside from the entrance fee, guests have to rent for nipa huts where they can leave their belongings. They also charge a corkage fee if you bring your own food and drinks to the island. Some of the resort’s facilities are not maintained and looks worn-out. I think the island resort has a lot of potential of becoming a famous destination in Negros Oriental if only they will do a little clean-up of the island and improve its facilities. But nevertheless, if you’re in Bacolod and you’re up for a beach bumming trip, Lakawon Island is a destination you may want to consider.

View from the elevated hut on the island.

Lakawon Island has a lot of potential of becoming a famous destination in Negros Occidental, it needs a little clean-up though.



I WOK’d in TALISAY.
November 24, 2010, 9:34 am
Filed under: WOK in VISAYAS | Tags: , , ,

* I WOK’d in Talisay is part of the author’s 3-day travel journal from his first mini solo backpacking trip in Negros Occidental.

A Remnant of the past

After my ancestral house hopping and visiting the sugar cane plantation in Silay, I rode the yellow Ceres Liner Bus to visit The Ruins also known as the Taj Majal of Negros – a famous landmark in Talisay . On the way to The Ruins, we passed by a subdivision and I thought where could the historical place be in the middle of residential houses? Not until I’ve noticed an old structure in the middle of sugar cane fields.

The archway leading to the lawn where the four-tiered fountain is situated.

When I entered the gates of the mansion, I started to marvel at the sight of the Ruins. Standing proudly in the middle of a lush and landscaped garden is a whitewashed architecture in its skeletal form. With its aged structure and nearly dilapidated walls it still exudes elegance and grace – a testament to its glorious past. Known to be the ancestral house of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, the mansion was built in the 1900s. It was burned by guerilla fighters during World War II to avoid Japanese soldiers from occupying it as headquarters. The Ruins’ walls and renaissance-style columns were made from A-grade concrete reason why it strongly stands up to now.

The Ruins' architecture is Italianate inspired.

A lot of Bougainvillea in pots can be seen around the mansion.

The smooth marble-like balustrades made from A-grade cement.

The renaissance-style columns of the Ruins.

Today, the mansion houses a restaurant and café.

At sunset, the mansion suddenly transforms to a new life. Its Italianate architecture illuminates with a golden-yellow hue. It becomes a different person as it dispels a myriad of emotions to its amazed spectators. That moment I knew The Ruins was in its finest. “It’s worth the wait” I told myself.

The grand transformation of The Ruins.

The grand transformation of The Ruins at sunset.

The ornate Italian architecture of the building. Notice the shell details on top of the mansion? They say house designs like these were typical to owners who are ship captains.

Vintage. The Ruins+Cadillac

How to get to the Ruins: (from Talisay via commute) Ride a tricycle from the PEPSI bottling plant in Bata Subdivision towards the mountains. Enter the narrow road leading to Rose Lawn Memorial Garden, then, turn right and navigate the main road of Gold Crest and Octagon Villages. This will lead you all the way to the Ruins. For inquiries, text or call: (0917-8326003/(34) 476-4334) Entrance fee of P50.00.

Tip: It’s best to visit the Ruins during sunset. The Ruins also houses a café and restaurant. For other activities, try out their 18-hole mini-golf course for P50.00 (Children and adults)



I WOK’d in SILAY.

* I WOK’d in Silay is part of the author’s 3-day travel journal from his first mini solo backpacking trip to Negros Occidental.

No turning back.

I arrived at the Silay-Bacolod airport at around 5:30 am just before sunrise. I was quite nervous with my spontaneity as I have not prepared a detailed itinerary for my first ever mini-solo-backpacking trip – just some notes on must-visit historical places and contact numbers of pension houses and hotels in Bacolod. I felt like a soldier geared up for battle without any ammunition. “Oh well, there’s no turning back this time.” I told myself. As they say, having no plans and making spur-of-the-moment decisions make the experience more exciting. After being all psyched up, I went out of the airport gates and rode a tricycle going to the Silay town proper.

El Ideal Bakery in Silay City.

The tricycle driver dropped me in front of an old house quintessential of Silay’s old-world architecture.  A red sign hanging below the house ventanillas says El Ideal – which I later found out to be a famous bakery in Silay selling pastries and bread since the 1920s. Suddenly, I felt I was transported into a different world which reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows as a kid – Bayani — where the two kids in the show are sent to the past on a mission to discover and learn about the lives of Philippine heroes. That moment I felt I was on a quest to discover more of the city.

Originally known as the New City Cafe or the Kapehan Sang Silay is also the ancestral home of Kapitan Marciano Montelibano Lacson.

Vendors at the Silay Public Market selling native kakanin to americanized hambugers and footlong sandwiches.

It was only 6:00 am when I reached the public plaza. The streets were quiet with only a few trucks carrying loads of sugarcane passing by and only the swoosh-y sound of street sweepers can be heard.  At the nearby Silay public market, vendors line up the corridor properly arranging their merchandise in makeshift tables. The variety of their goods was a bit strange – from rice cakes and native kakanin to hamburgers with soggy buns and spaghetti inside ballooned plastic bags, which actually looked like fighting fish inside oxygenated bags.

The San Diego Pro-Cathedral

San Diego Pro-Cathedral

A block away across the Silay Public Market is the Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala also known as the San Diego Pro-Cathedral. Built in the 1920s by architect Lucio Bernasconi, the cathedral’s dome resembles the one in St. Peter’s Basilica. I was just in time for the morning mass when I entered the church. I was listening intently to the priest when I realized the mass was said in Illongo. Though I couldn’t understand and I was just taking my cue to reply, kneel and bow from other parishioners I finished the mass. Afterwards, I offered my silent prayers asking for His guidance as I go on with my trip.

Maria Golez Ancestral House (RCBC Bank)

Meeting a kind-hearted stranger and my tour guide for the day

After hearing mass, I decided to go to the city hall to ask where I can grab a map so I can do a walking tour by myself. I asked a street sweeper in front of the city hall where the tourism office is but she just glanced at me looking perplexed without any word to say. I figured out she was deaf-mute. Just before I left, she made a hand gesture asking me to wait for a while. After a few minutes, she emerged from the back of the building together with a man whom I believed was in his 40s because of his receding hairline. The man approached me with a fatherly smile. “Saan punta mo?” he asked me, maybe he knew I was on a trip with my huge backpack on. I told him I was looking for the tourism office and he pointed across to the civic center. I thanked him as I went ahead. “Ingatan mo gamit mo, baka masalisihan ka” were his last cautious words of advice.

Unfortunately, the tourism office was still closed and will open after an hour. I have no choice but to wait outside their office not until the man with the receding hairline approached me again. “Mag-isa ka lang ba?” he asked. “Gusto mo ako nalang mag-tour sayo, mag-rent nalang tayo ng padyak. Tapos na rin naman duty ko.” I was quite apprehensive at first but after knowing that he was a night shift security guard at the Silay city hall, I agreed with his offer. I found out his name was Kuya Rene. I felt his intentions were pure and I realized that it’s best to tour the town with someone who’s familiar with the streets at the same time gain local insights from him.

The pedicab/padyak I rented to get around Silay. Kuya Rene is the one wearing a cap.

Silay’s Ancestral Houses

Silay City is known for its well-preserved and century-old ancestral houses. It is also known to be a museum city next to Vigan in Illocos Sur because you can actually walk its streets and experience being brought back in time during the affluence of hacienderos or sugar barons centuries ago. Riding the padyak, which Kuya Rene rented, was indeed a sight-seeing trip as we passed by different ancestral houses – most of which still remain intact and some have already gone major repairs to keep it standing. According to Kuya Rene, Silay has around 31 ancestral houses and he brought me to the oldest house owned by Antonio De La Rama Locsin; the ancestral home of national artist for architecture, Leandro Locsin which is estimated to be 150 years old. Most ancestral houses in Silay were named after their owners, but some are more famous because of the house’s unique characteristic and colors – like the white house, the green house, the pink house and twin house.

(TOP) The Manuel Severino Hofileña Ancestral House. Entrance by appointment.

The Red House and the White House.

The Green house (Angel Araneta Ledesma Ancestral House) which also houses Silay City's Culture and Arts office. For more information about the Green House, please read the comment of Ms. Maritel Ledesma in the comments below.

Jose B. Gamboa ancestral house

Alejandro Amechazura ancestral house

The colorful facade of Silay's fire department.

Another landmark in Silay - the Cinco de Noviembre marker.

Jose Ledesma ancestral house built in 1917.

The 150 year-old Antonio dela Rama Locsin ancestral house. Known to be the oldest ancestral house in Silay. Its original balustrades and metal window grills are still intact.

The Twin house.

*Tip: Get a map from the Silay tourism office (Culture and Civic Center) in front of the City hall with a list of ancestral houses to visit. It is a numbered map, so it will be easy to get around. Hire a pedicab/padyak for P100/half day to tour you around the city’s ancestral houses.

The facade of Balay Negrense

Balay Negrense

I asked Kuya Rene if I could actually enter those houses we passed by. He said we have to ask permission from the owners but he told me that I could visit the Balay Negrense and the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House which is open to the public with an entrance fee of P40.00. Our first stop was the Balay Negrense also known as the Victor Gaston house, one of the largest colonial houses in Silay and according to Kuya Rene is a favorite setting for horror films. I shouldn’t have heard that comment in the first place but the giant balete tree beside the brown house was already giving me the creeps. Kuya Rene decided to be left outside the house so he could look over my belongings as I take pictures inside the house. The caretaker told me that I could take photos inside except for the second floor where it is prohibited because a tourist once made his photos into postcards and sold it. (But since I was alone, I sneaked some shots for my blog with no intentions of selling the photos just to promote Balay Negrense to my blog’s readers.) Though the balay have undergone a major renovation and was finished in the year 1990, its form and structure was preserved from the original house. The house is furnished with different pieces of period furniture and accentuated with old artifacts donated by families from Silay.

The cozy and breezy reception area inside the house.

Notice the piaya? Piaya is a famouse Negrense delicacy made from muscuvado sugar.

A vintage electric fan in one of the rooms inside Balay Negrense.

The grand staircase to the second floor.

*Balay Negrense is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Entrance Fee: P40.00 (Adults)

The Paris of Negros and the Jalandoni House

After Balay Negrense, I visited the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House (Pink House) along the national road where I met Mr. Jorge Po, the museum’s curator. I felt I was on a field trip listening to Mr. Po as he toured me around as he gave insights and facts about the town and the Jalandoni house. According to him Silay is also known as the Paris of Negros, because during the Spanish colonial era Silay was the seat of culture and arts in Negros Occidental. The reason for this was the construction of the biggest and longest port in Silay where cultural exchange was made possible.  As for the Jalandoni house, Mr. Po said that it is one of the biggest ancestral houses in Silay next to Balay Negrense. It follows the form of a typical nipa hut and almost 80% of the house’s materials are not replaced from the original. Today, the Jalandoni House is under the preservation of the Silay Heritage Foundation.

The sala on the second floor.

(L) This bed is made by a famouse chinese carver named Ah-Tay, hence the name Ah-Tay bed. (R) A ventanilla, a structural device used for air ventillation.

Since the rooms doesn't have its own comfort room, an arinola is used instead.

The old port of Silay. Known to be the longest and biggest in Asia before.

*The  Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9:00am – 5:00pm. Sundays from 9:00am – 4:00pm. Entrance Fee: P40.00 (Adults), P30.00 (Senior Citizens), P25.00 (Children)

In the middle of a sugar cane plantation

Just in time for lunch, I treated Kuya Rene as gratitude for being kind enough to accompany me around town. I checked my notes where I am headed next so I could ask him for quick directions. I told him I was going to the Hawaiian Philippine Company where vintage locomotives can be found in the middle of sugar plantations. Luck must be really on my side since he told me he was also going there to visit a friend. After having lunch, we hitched a tricycle going to the place and afterwards we found ourselves plying with huge trucks carrying loads of sugar cane in the middle of a dirt road sandwiched by tall sugar cane plants. The sugar plantation in Silay was extremely vast; no wonder Negros Occidental is called the Sugarbowl of the Philippines. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see locomotives but I am glad to experience a road trip in an authentic Negrense way.

Tall sugar cane grass

Trucks carrying loads of sugar cane harvested in Silay.

Sugar canes delivered at the Hawaiian Philippines sugar plantation.

A sugarcane farmer with his son getting ready to harvest.

That was my last stop in Silay. I bid farewell to Kuya Rene but he was persistent to accompany me to Talisay because he was concerned that I might get lost, but I told him I will be fine. Having met a total stranger who offered me kindness, I was confident to go on with my trip and see more of Negros Occidental. I know I was off to a good start.