Beyond Masskara: 7 things to do in Bacolod 2
Capitol Park and lagoon

Beyond Masskara: 7 things to do in Bacolod

The City of Smiles has so much going on that will not only satisfy the tummy, but one's mind and soul as well.
Jeeves de Veyra | Oct 22 2023

BACOLOD CITY -- If you're in Bacolod for the Masskara and you have set aside a couple of days to feast on inasal or kansi, the city and the surrounding areas have so much more to offer. The City of Smiles has so much going on that will not only satisfy the tummy, but one's mind and soul as well.

Here are some things to do and sights to see that are in Bacolod and beyond:

Walk around the Capitol Park and lagoon

A tour guide leads some travelers through Capitol Park
A tour guide leads some travelers through Capitol Park

A good place to start discovering Bacolod is the lagoon and park in the middle of the city. Stop by and say hello to the Department of Tourism officers on one corner of the park. They occasionally give out a passport that’s really a walking tour around the park that includes checkpoints that lead you to sculptures of interest, the Provincial Capitol, a forest park, and the Negros Museum.

Since you’re in the area, stop by the ANP (Association of Negros Producers) Showroom and check out the different products from member businesses.

2. Explore the Art District

Orange Project and Safe House
Orange Project and Safe House

Negros is home to many artists, and Bacolod has a bustling art district. Walk around to check out the workshops where the artists in residence are hard at work on their latest creations.

The main attractions of the complex are the Orange Project, a two-storey modern art gallery with an outdoor area for bigger pieces; and Safe Space, a theater where films from the province's independent filmmakers are occasionally shown.

3: Take a trip into Negros' past.

A house in Silay 
A house in Silay 

For history and architecture buffs, you can ask if any of the DOT tour guides are free to bring you around Bacolod and SIlay. These guides absolutely know their stuff making history come alive, pointing out ancestral homes from yesterday and weaving familiar names that have become today’s titans of industry.

About half an hour north of Bacolod is Silay. It’s best if you just reserve an entire day as there are so many sights to see, photos to take and post, as well as stories from the safe to the NSFW that make history go way beyond dates and names. Several houses in Silay like Balay Negrense, the Hofileña Ancestral House, and Bernardino- Jalandoni Museum are open for visitors to carefully look around very preserved rooms and furniture.

4. Chill out at Punong Gary’s

The tranquil ambiance of Punong Gary's
The tranquil ambiance of Punong Gary's

Punong Gary’s is an unexpected restaurant that just takes one’s breath away. Located a couple of minutes north of Silay, one turns into a dirt road where the field of sugar canes slowly transforms into a grove of trees.

After parking, walk a bit and the landscape transforms once more into a Javanese-style complex of small buildings in what seems to be a forest.

But do walk around as there are so many Instagrammable nooks and crannies. From the overhead catwalks, to the brutalist cabins that one can rent to stay in, to the stunning hut in the middle of a lake.

5. Cool off up in the Negros highlands

Patag is reminiscent of Baguio
Patag is reminiscent of Baguio

Bacolod is blessed with three nearby highland destinations that’s just an hour’s drive from the main city. Manila folk weary of the nightmare traffic of Tagaytay need not worry as the roads are wide and the drive up is an absolute joy.

To the northwest past Silay Airport is Patag which reminded me of Baguio with the roads shrouded in pine trees. This is still a developing area with new high-end places to visit like the Ilaya Mountain Resort that has modern comforts like cabins and glamping. It was raining heavily when we went up to Patag so the view was composed of mountains peeking out from a sea of clouds, But as the sky cleared up, the view transformed into one overlooking the Silay Airport runway, the Bacolod plains, all the way across Guimaras Strait to Panay Island.

Going southeast from Bacolod is the small town of Don Salvador Benedicto, more popularly called DSB by the locals, with its own hidden cafes and hostels. Not to be missed is Kusinata, a charming restaurant run by the local Ata tribesmen where one can just get lost gazing at the spectacular mountain vista while trying out rural Negrense cuisine.

Mambukal Mountain Resort
Mambukal Mountain Resort

Taking a different branch of the road to DSB is Murcia, home of the Mambukal Mountain Resort. The first thing you’ll notice is the smell of rotten eggs from the area’s sulfuric hot springs when you get out of the car. Get past the smell and take a dip into the medicinal pools to soothe those aching muscles and joints.

Visit the spa after a dip in the hot springs. A massage with just the sound of nearby white water crashing through the rocks with the wafting aroma of the surrounding forest is a whole other level of relaxation

The resort is operated by the local government with a hotel and cottages for rent should you wish to stay the night.

6. Learn about the sweet heritage of Negros

An old train at a sugar mill
An old train at a sugar mill

Negros will always be known as the island that sugar built. While the sugar industry is not where it used to be, one can't help but be entranced by kilometer upon kilometer of sugar canes while on the roads, with the well maintained trucks from the 1940s loaded to the brim with sugarcanes.

Sugar mill tours can be arranged where one can see the transformation from cane to sugar. Part of the experience is seeing how it was with a carabao and a mill before the Americans came to bring their industrial might to Negros.

The Hawaiian-Philippine Company has an added attraction for visitors where they can give you a ride on one of the last operating steam locomotives in Negros into the mill. This harkens back to a time where rail was king and criss-crossed the entire island bringing the harvested cane from the fields to the mills.

7. Visit Hacienda Santa Rosalia

Gaston Mansion
Gaston Mansion

Just what does it mean to be a haciendero? Why not visit a real-life hacienda to find out.

There are several haciendas that are open to the public, Hacienda Rosalia in Manapla being one of the most prominent.

Start off at the Chapel of the Cartwheels that was one of the first places of Catholic worship outside of the city and learn about its history and rich symbology behind its architecture and design.

FIlm buffs should check out places like the landing and the living room where key scenes of the masterpiece "Oro, Plata, Mata" were shot.

Then walk on over to the Gaston Mansion to marvel at the grounds and a peek into how the other half lived back in the day. They will have guides available to share stories about the rooms, the furniture, and the residents that have been passed down from generation to generation shared over lunch or merienda prepared by the hacienda’s staff.

Tours can be arranged at the Hacienda Santa Rosalia Facebook page .

With so many things to do, what do you do first? A good place to start is the Bacolod City Tourism Office Facebook page, where you can find information about the places and activities above. They can also connect and arrange more specialized activities like the Hawaiian-Philippine Company visit and train ride, and the customized Bacolod and Silay history tour.

Photos by Jeeves de Veyra