Trip Report: Bacolod and Silay, Negros Occidental, Philippines

Share the joy
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Expats looking for a pretty smaller Philippine city with a wealth of amenities should definitely give Bacolod City a close look. We did so in 2008. Here are our impressions. We have been living in Iloilo City for nearly two years. Our Iloilo stay was supposed to only be for a month and then we were to go on to Bacolod City. We liked Iloilo so well we just stayed, but after this visit to Bacolod we can see that it’s an excellent choice for those seeking a mid-size Philippine city. Iloilo City’s expansion sprang from the core of an old Spanish settlement. Bacolod is newer and has a more modern plan with some wide roads and a more spacious layout. It also seems more prosperous than Iloilo City, its civic buildings and museums better maintained. It has also planted and maintained trees which grace its streets. I don’t know if Bacolod can match Iloilo’s medical care or educational facilities, but it’s certainly worth a long look. This account is of a May 2008 visit to Bacolod and environs.

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

BACOLOD CITY RESTAURANT TIP >>>:  We had lunch at the Cafe Uma, 15th & Lacson Streets, just across 15th Street from the L’Fisher Hotel. (34) 709-9966.  A very pleasant place to dine.  The food was as good as we’ve had in the West Visayas region.  We wish (for our sake) the Cafe Uma was located in Iloilo City!

We take the Weesam Express fast ferry from Iloilo City to Bacolod

We take the Weesam Express fast ferry from Iloilo City to Bacolod

We took the Weesam Express fast ferry from Iloilo City to Bacolod. Roundtrip economy fare is P210. It can be rough, take your Dramamine!

Our rented van

We are met by a rented van. Van service arranged through the Mambukal Resort 034-709-0990 or 034-433-8516

A brief stopover at the posh Ayala North subdivision

A brief stopover at the posh Ayala North subdivision is an extremely upscale subdivision. I have not seen anything like it in Iloilo City.

We’re told that income disparities are especially wide in Negros Occidental. We were taken aback by the number of people begging in Bacolod and Silay. I recall that there were also many beggars in Dumaguete, on the other side of Negros Island. I am rarely approached by beggars in Iloilo City. There are certainly many poor persons in Iloilo but perhaps most are too mayabang (proud) to ask for help.

Silay's Church of San Diego, Golden Shower Tree Designed by Italian architect Verasconi and built in 1925.

Silay's Church of San Diego, designed by Italian architect Verasconi and built in 1925. Also shown: Golden Shower Tree

Silay Church interior

Silay Church interior

Silay Plaza

Silay Plaza. Silay is a pretty place. The tree-lined boulevard from Bacolod City to Silay is a pleasure. Silay is not only filled with historic ancestral homes, several of which are open as museums, but it also is very leafy-green. Big old trees are everywhere and they add so much to the pleasure of being in Silay.

Wonderful Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay

Wonderful Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay

Since I worked in the field of historic preservation, I have visited dozens of historic house museums. This one is definitely worth a visit. The building sits on extensive grounds. The house itself and the furnishings epitomize how to live graciously and comfortably in the tropics without air conditioning. What a contrast with the concrete boxes being built in so many Philippine subdivisions, concrete houses surrounded by high concrete walls, houses which were designed with little regard for the Philippine climate.

Plaque: Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay

Plaque: Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay

Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay. High ceilings, open windows, trees proving shade make this an inviting place on a hot afternoon.

Parlor - Balay Negrenese Museum (Gaston Ancestral Home), Silay. High ceilings, open windows, trees proving shade make this an inviting place on a hot afternoon.

Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay - 2nd floor

Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay - 2nd floor

Leaking roof drips onto floor to die for - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Leaking roof drips onto floor to die for - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Kitchen - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Kitchen - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Bedroom - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Bedroom - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Bedroom - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Bedroom - Balay Negrenese Museum, Gaston Ancestral Home, Silay

Our next stop was “The Ruins”.  The concept of “stabilized ruins” is common in the United Kingdom as a way of preserving and interpreting crumbling hulks of old buildings, especially country churches and abbeys. Enough restoration of the ruin is done to help prevent further deterioration but without the expense of trying to rebuild, restore and maintain the building. This concept has been wonderfully implemented here. The building was a lavish early 20th century concrete fantasy of a residence built by a local sugar baron. The Ruins are on extensive and beautifully landscaped and maintained grounds.The road in is VERY rough but on the way out our driver found a much easier route through a residential subdivision. The location is actually in Talisay City, not Bacolod.

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

"The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

Muscavado sugar vat - "The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

Muscavado sugar vat - "The Ruins" Talisay, Bacolod

Our next stop was the Negros Museum, a very fine regional museum

Our next stop was back in Bacolod City proper: the Negros Museum, a very fine regional museum

Association of Negros Producers Store, Bacolod City.  This shop displays and sells the products of local artists and artisans.

Final stop, the Association of Negros Producers Store, Bacolod City. This shop displays and sells the products of local artists and artisans.

 

Comments (16) Write a comment

  1. Can anyone suggest a nice neighborhood near Bacolod were I could rent an affordable home, near the ocean would be nice?

    Thanks guys!

    Reply

  2. Hi Bob. Thanks for your beautiful photos in vivid color. These make your blog interesting to see again and again. There are many other big ancestral homes in Silay and Talisay Cities. If you and Carol plan to visit there again, perhaps you’d like to add new photos of old houses at Cinco De Noviembre St., Silay City. And the Balay ni Tana Dicang, Talisay City. i’ve referred some of my friends to to your blog. i thank God for your photojournalism and other gifts you’re showing here.

    Reply

  3. Pingback: Trip Report: Bacolod and Silay, Negros Occidental, Philippines | Philippines or Bust

  4. Enjoyed your blog and the photos of your visit to Negros Occidental (even enjoyed reading the comments). Really good pictures of the San Diego Pro-Cathedral, the Gaston house, and the Ruins. Thanks for promoting my home province. I hope you’ll find time in the future to visit the Balay ni Tana Dicang in Talisay (and take some beautiful photographs there). The Lizares ancestral home is about 20 years older than the Balay Negrense and it is the province’s best example of the traditional Filipino-Spanish Bahay na Bato. The house was lived in til the 1990s and since it continues to be maintained with funds from two haciendas, it’s interior is almost the way it was when Lola Dicang ruled the house. Drop me a line when you have time to come. My 2nd cousin Adrian Lizares is museum curator of the Balay which is open 7 days a week.

    Reply

  5. As to your doubt re: “I don’t know if Bacolod can match Iloilo’s medical care or educational facilities”, the answer is that Bacolod can not only match Iloilo’s medical care or education facilities, but can even surpassed. it.

    Bacolod’s Riverside Medical Center, for example, is rated the best hospital in Western Visayas. While the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod, a CHED autonomous center for higher learning, is considered the top university in Western Visayas and one of the Philippines’ Top 25 universities.

    Reply

  6. Mike,

    To follow-up on your water storage tank. Would your option supply water to a second floor during and extended power outage? My assumption is that a small pressure tank could only work for very brief power outages. Here in Tigbauan, Iloilo we have lots of outages, some of which are pretty long. I was assuming that we’d have to have a good sized tank on a tower to have water upstairs during long outages.

    Thanks also for all the other great Bacolod info. I too love Indian food. There’s quite a good Pakistani restaurant in Boracay plus in Iloilo we have a Sikh Temple which serves free meals and a couple of Indian grocery stores. One of them sells
    fresh, hot samosas! See http:///indian-iloilo/

    Bob

    Reply

  7. Hi bob And Carol,

    Though I’m a Scot invading what seems to be a North American blog I’d like to answer some of the questions that others have posted and you some of my views albeit from my experience in Bacolod.
    I was able to install a 100 litre stainless steel tank without a tower but with a small ancillary tank and pump which topped up the primary one. The total fitted cost was only 23500 P and it was installed in only a few hours. The advantage with that kind of set up is that you do not waste water and have no need for an unsightly tower. I had no problems with water pressure after that type of system was installed.
    Like one of your respondents I also like good wine and indeed did find a knowledgable wine merchant, however apart from chocolate for me a good cheese goes well with a red wine. Alas I couldn’t get decent cheese for any price. I once bought imported Swiss cheese and quite frankly it was like rubber so I ended up giving it to the chickens that were less fussy than me. Having spent most of my life in England my only real disappointment in The Philippines is the blandness of the food for spices seem to be frowned upon. When I got back to London after 4 months I told my partner who is a Filipino that I could murder a curry. She has lived in London for 8 years and her palate has morphed into mine.
    With regards to healthcare I do not find it a problem for certainly in Bacolod, which has a population of only around 350,000 there are at least half a dozen excellent hospitals and no waiting list to see any consultant. For westerners the cost is very low. To give you an example I went to see an orthodontist at one of the top teaching hospitals in Bacolod for I had badly chipped my two upper front teeth by eating very hard nuts before I arrived in The Philippines. Anyway the dentist I saw was what we call Harley Street quality in London for he is also on The World Council Of Orthodontists so could really name his price, however in spite of spending 75 minutes rebuilding my teeth, he did a beautiful job, all it cost was the equivalent of $50.00. I am not kidding.
    I even went to see a plastic surgeon and his consultation fee was only 500 P.
    I hope that my little contribution helps other bloggers
    Mike

    Reply

  8. Mike,

    Thanks for your comments. Carol and I were planning on staying in Bacolod for several months as part of our exploration of Philippine retirement locations. We went from Cebu City (several months) Dumaguete to Iloilo City. Our next stop was to be Bacolod but we never made it. We found such a nice rental in Iloilo City that we just had no motivation to to leave. We stayed in the same apartment for more than two years.

    While living in Iloilo City, we did visit Bacolod for a short time. We were quite impressed. Bacolod is a newer city with good public spaces (plaza and parks), wide roads good museums. It seemed to have subdivisions that were high enough to avoid flooding. It has some restaurants better than anything in Iloilo. Finally, Negros Island itself seemed to have many natural attractions and places to explore.

    We appreciate your comments. It’s easy for the grass to seem greener elsewhere. Iloilo has good health care, colleges and exceptionally decent honest, hard working people. It does not have the extreme socioeconomic divide that Bacolod has. Anyway, Iloilo and Bacolod are two places that should be on any retirees short list of medium sized cities to consider.

    Bob and Carol

    Reply

  9. Posted by mike doyle on 10.31.09 4:40 am

    I have spent the last 4 months living in Bacolod, Negros Occidental having only recently returned.
    Whilst Bacolod is extremely friendly for it is not called the City Of Smiles for nothing, I have decided that I would rather retire in Iloilo or Davao further south.
    Bacolod also has the famous MassKara Festival in October which is not to be missed.
    For me the big let down with Bacolod is the state of the roads for they are certainly of Third World standard due to the destruction by overloaded sugar lorries.
    I am now looking to retire in The Philippines for three reasons. The climate, friendliness and the cost of living.
    Does anyone have any idea how much it would cost to rent a nice property of no more than 3 bedrooms with a nice garden?

    (This comment moved from main page to Bacolod page as it comments on Bacolod – Bob)

    Reply

  10. I’ll be visiting this place next week tagging along my photographer and travel buddy…Been to Negros many times but never had a chance to check this impressive landmark!

    Reply

  11. Khaiben,

    Sure you an easily fly from Manila to Bacolod, Negros Occidental. I believe that the new Bacolod airport is in Silay. There’s many quiet resorts on Negros island. I heard good things about the Sipalay area but have not been there myself. If you want a more developed resort area, you can fly directly from Manila to Boracay.

    Bob

    Reply

  12. is there any flight from manila to silay,negros…
    then any tourist spot like resorts in your place

    Reply

  13. This is an interesting comment on Bacolod posted on the http://www.pbase.com/hammerslag by websiteanzuhalten kaltehitze@hotmail.com 12-May-2008 08:08
    yup, there’s indeed a very wide income disparity in bacolod. The poor there are poorer than the poor of Iloilo while there is a bigger population of the rich as compared to iloilo. The bacolod elite are far more wealthier than the the regular rich person in iloilo. The bacolod middle class on the other hand is just a small population. The reason is that majority of the really poor people in Bacolod/negro are those who are farm workers employed by the wealthy. The lower class are so numerous and so poor because they live in an unending cycle of debt and servitude to their masters/landowners. These landowners on the other hand are so rich from their global trade with their sugar. Due to the small number of banks, medical facilities and universities as compared to iloilo, Bacolod has a small population of middle class. Majority of people in iloilo belong to the middle class while a small number belong to the lower class and and even smaller number of that belongs to the upper class. The iloilo upper class are usually businessmen who engage in trade and industry while the Bacolod upper class are heirs and descendants of sugar barons. It is well known in the banking industry that Iloilo city has more depositors than Bacolod city albeit in small amounts like 50k, 100k, or 750k – that is the usual amount of deposits in the many banks of iloilo city because these are usually life savings of the middle class. In contrast, there are only a few depositors in Bacolod city but they are usually in millions. One family can have a deposit of 200 million pesos (and that is only one bank branch) for example due to the sugar trade in its heyday. So, if you can observe closely, Bacolod has far more luxury vehicles, more modern vehicles more palatial residences and the city has a generally far more pompous appearance and feel than iloilo city. And yet, these cities are kin, only 50 minutes away by fast ferry and almost the same in development.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.