Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bacolod: The Secrets of My Home

***'The Secrets of My Home' was written as my first ever featured article in a young and upcoming magazine dedicated to the youth of Bacolod City called Hubin Magazine. It was published in their Second Volume on April 11, 2014. My article can be found on page 158 of the magazine.

You can check out the entire Hubin Magazine and download it for free here:


Photo by Miguel Sy

Where is home?

Home can be many places, can mean many things and is called by many names. It is ambiguous and fluid, shaping itself to fit the definition of the person who calls it by its name. To most, home may be a nice tidy house tucked away in a quiet subdivision. To many, home is a lofty condominium over-looking the vast city sky line. To me, home is the fields.

Home is the sugarcane, and dazzling yellow sunsets, and mountains and rivers, and farmers with their beasts of burden in tow. Home is a lush green landscape filled with a patchwork of brown and green fields as seen from above. Home is a city of smiles, a festival of masks, a place where everyone knows everyone and a land where life is sweet. Home is Negros. Home is Bacolod. Home is where my heart is.

Can a Home Have a Secret?

Every home has a secret, something they keep away from prying eyes. Something hidden under cupboards, or stacked away in trunks tightly locked. Though some of these secrets may be dark and horrid, most are simply treasures. Treasures that the owners would steal away from humanity, hiding them from eyes and hands that may seek to besmirch the saintliness of the thing.

My home has many of these secrets… but it is not selfish. It does not care to hide these secrets, rather it shares them on one condition. You must seek; only then you shall find.

Bacolod is beautiful. Negros is divine. We are lucky spirits to have been so readily summoned into paradise. Though many may contest this statement, it is true. We need only stray from the beaten path to find the gems that our home has hidden from us. Like a newborn fresh from the womb, we must open our eyes and allow our feet to take us where they will for it is not the destination, but the journey that is our reward.

The Secrets

Our home holds many secrets, and I honestly believe that these were meant to be shared rather than kept. Although I know that I have only scratched the surface of this treasure trove, let me share with you a few of what I know.

We begin close to home, with what we most commonly over-look. 

BREDCO Port, Bacolod City

Ships come and go as sunset envelopes the BREDCO port.”
       Who would have thought that this bustling port by day could transform into a playground for the daring come twilight and evening? Aside from playing host to beautiful sunsets and serene boat watchers, the BREDCO Port in Bacolod offers explorers the right mix of adventure and seclusion. With a lot of deserted places to scamper off to, one can easily get lost in his own little world whether it be having a few drinks from the back of a pick-up truck with some friends to spending a moment alone with a few people. Be warned though, you can get your adrenaline pumping at a moment’s notice with the number of reported muggers or vandals that roam the shadowy parts of the port. 

The Fields of Talisay

“Farmers and their carabaos form a tidy line as they plow the fields of Talisay City.”
       Another sight we tend to simply give a quick pass-over are the fields of Talisay. The landscapes just five minutes from the north of Bacolod are mostly over-looked as simple ‘fields beside the highway’. Although many of us may not spare a second glance at these green pastures, at times all it takes is for someone to stop and open their eyes to the beauty that surrounds them.

The Ruins at Night, Talisay

The famous Ruins in Talisay City take on a different glow at night”.
       Though many of us have visited this majestic structure by day, I truly believe that people have to see this beauty at night. During the evening hours, this ‘Taj Mahal of Negros’ literraly glows with golden light. With sweet classical music playing in the background and people strolling about hand in hand, this sugar baron’s mansion truly makes for a romantic setting under the cover of the night.

The Shoreline of Talisay

Fishermen in Talisay take in a fresh catch of shrimp which they will use for dinner as the sun sets behind them.”
       Contrary to what most people believe, Talisay does have a beautiful coastline that’s filled with mangroves and fish pens. The only problem is gaining access to it. One secret I’ve learned here is to ask, and you shall receive. As I was driving by the road next to the shore, I was constantly on the look out for an unfenced portion of the land where I could get a clear view of the shore. I chanced upon the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) Retreat House in Miramar Subdivision. Knowing it was private land, but seeing that it had an unimpeeded view of the shore, I quickly dashed into the retreat house’s administration office and asked them if I could take a picture from their beautiful garden facing the sea. They happily agreed and I was able to experience a sunset without obstructions.

The Old Port of Silay

“Children play by the shore and enjoy a lazy summer sunset among the ruins of the Old Port of Silay.”
       Probably one of Silay’s best kept secrets, the Old Port of Silay or pantalan in the local dialect was once the longest wharf in Asia. This grand structure can be seen stretching out into the horizon from a little known barangay called Mambulac which is a five minute drive from the city center. The old port was once the gateway for international commerce into Negros Occidental. Its 1.7 kilometer wharf allowing large galleons to dock off of the so called 'Paris of Negros' and bring in foreign performers & imported goods to Silay which was considered to be the hub of art and culture in Negros at that time.

       Now, the ruins of the old port stand as an eternal reminder of a blissful yet by-gone era. Luckily, these local kids still make use of the old port as a place for them to play, fly kites and fish during the idle summer months. A little warning though, the streets leading to the beachfront of the old port are a bit narrow, muddy and sometimes filled with trash. But aside from that, the locals are very friendly and are used to local adventurers who want to spend a moment in awe in front of this landmark.

Bago River

“The mighty inlets of the Bago River rush and swirl past hardy adventurers who strike a pose for the camera.”
       Yes, we may have all seen the Bago River from a passing car, or from atop an over looking bridge, but have we actually tried diving into it to experience its true power? The Bago River starts a little ways down south of Bacolod and flows into many inlets and streams which find their way all over Negros. Some of these inlets (like the one pictured here) are hidden away in quiet stretches of land where a picnic by the cool river-side and hopping from rock to rock will keep many an explorer entertained for an afternoon.

Valladolid Sunset

A dazzling sunset ends the day over the municipality of Valladolid where sea shore scenes such as these are bountiful especially when overlooking the Guimaras Strait.”
       A nice secret located a little bit down south is in the municipality of Valladolid. Valladolid is a quiet sea side town fronting the Guimaras Strait. Aside from being the 'rice granary' of Negros with the majority of lands dedicated to rice production, this little town offers some of the best views of the sunset for those willing to take a short 40 minute drive from Bacolod to their tidy little boulevard aptly called 'Sunset Boulevard'.

The Beaches of Sipalay

“Sun sets over paradise in Sipalay, Negros Occidental.”
       One of the secrets that almost everybody in Bacolod knows about are the pristine white sand beaches of Sipalay City in Negros Occidental. These beaches are a far cry from the overly commercialized ‘sandbars’ that other provinces tout. The key here is preservation and conservation which the government of Sipalay and neighboring municipalities seem so apt to uphold. Throw in the many staunch defenders of marine conservation like the good people over at the Danjugan Island Sanctuary, and you’ve got yourself a paradise protected by angels.

       In this picture, you can see the little bumps of Turtle Island in the right hand side of the background which is another untouched little island to explore. At a 4 hour ride from Bacolod City, the beaches of Sipalay are a lengthy yet worthwile adventure to undertake. 

The Foothills of Alangilan & Granada

The moon rises over the sugarcane fields of Alangilan in Negros Occidental.”
       At a 20 minute drive east from Bacolod City, the foothills and fields of Alangilan and Granada offer explorers a cooler climate to tread in. Popular with mountain bikers for its off road trails, these barangays in the foothills of Negros also play host to horse ranches and farm resorts and most recently the newly opened Campuestohan Highland Resort. 

       But aside from these activities, I personally enjoy chasing sun sets and moon rises from these hills with the Mt. Mandalagan mountain range as my back drop. 

“As if in salute of a hard day's work, the sun sends one last fiery shaft of light towards the fields of Granada before disappearing under the horizon.”

Don Salvador Benedicto

“Late afternoon sunlight transforms a field of sugarcane into a golden carpet as the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto stand tall in the background.”
       Probably one of my favorite secrets are the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto. On many an afternoon, I find myself on a winding road up to the ‘Little Baguio’ of Negros in search of rolling landscapes and sunsets over the mountains.

       I find it quite satisfying that our home literally has a mountain in its backyard. At 45 minutes from the east of Bacolod, the road to DSB (as many people like to call it) is sparesely traversed by commercial vehicles and is more acquainted with mountain bikers, long boarders (heading downhill of course) and family cars all seeking to escape the heat of the lowlands.

“Numerous ridges and valleys add beautiful contours to the land in Don Salvador Benedicto.”
       Slowly but surely, the mystique of DSB is being unravelled. Recently, there has been a feverish rush to occupy the remaning residential land on this mountain. Huge vacation houses and recreational facilities have seemingly sprouted up from the ground and now dot the mountainside. Although developing, there is still much to be disovered on this verdant mountain. It is my only hope that we remember that with much development must also come much conservation.

“The Malatan-og Falls of Don Salvador Benedicto spew a continuous stream of water downward to a tucked away pool. These falls can be reached via a steep 45 minute hike from the side of the mountain.”
       It is my greatest joy to end my days among the wonders of the land. There is a different kind of satisfaction you receive when you lose yourself to adventure & exploration. Sometimes, the thrill really is in the fact that there is no road, except for the one that you make yourself.

Another beautiful sunset over a sugar plantation way up in the highlands of Don Salvador Benedicto. 

       Unfortunately enough, my secrets must come to an end for now. There are many more riddles of the land to solve and much more mysteries to unearth. If this writing has hopefully inspired one of you out there to seek the thrill of the chase, I beseech you to embrace it with all your heart. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you see, you must remember that the most important thing to do is get going.

       Get out there are create your own secrets… just remember to share them with me

“Mystery shrouds the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto at twilight.”