Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Bacolod Masskara Festival - A Celebration of Life!

The annual Masskara Festival held in Bacolod City every October is a celebration which has earned for Bacolod the title “City of Smiles”. The Festival was conceived in 1980 by a group of city officials, Arts Association of Bacolod members and some concerned citizens with full support from the city government and the Department of Tourism Field Office to enliven the usual City Charter Anniversary celebration which, at the time consisted of the routine flag ceremony, employees program and the afternoon civic military parade.

The word “Masskara” was coined by the late AAB president Ely Santiago from the two works “mass” which means “many or a multitude of the people” and the Spanish “kara” meaning “face”. The masks worn by the participants during the parade are always smiling. Masskara thus means a multitude of smiling faces.

Since its inception, the Masskara Festival is held every third weekend of October nearest the Charter Anniversary. It features a Masskara Street Dance competition where people from all walks of life troop to the streets to see colorful masked dancers gyrate to the infectious rhythm of the Latin musical beat in a stunning display of mastery, gaiety, coordination and stamina.

Major activities are the beauty pageant, carnivals, drums and bugle corps competitions, food festivals, sports events, musical concert, agri-trade fair, garden show, to name few.

For a brief history on the Masskara Festival, check this out:

Masskara 2009 Schedule of Activities

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bacolod Tourist Destination: The Ruins

A rather new, but actually very ‘old’, Bacolod tourist site is The Ruins. Situated amongst the farmlands in Talisay City, this heritage site is fast become a very popular Bacolod tourist attraction.

The structure of The Ruins is of Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque columns, having a very close semblance to the façade of Carnegie Hall in New York City. In New England, they often were homes to ship’s captains. A belvedere on the 2nd floor, facing west, affords a beautiful view of the sunset in a glassed-in sunroom with bay windows.

The Belvedere

The view from the Belvedere at twilight

A brief history of the Bacolod Ruins

The mansion was built in the early 1900’s by the sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson (1865-1948) and was home to his unmarried children with his first wife, Maria Braga Lacson (+1911), a Portuguese from Macau. The mansion was the largest residential structure ever built at that time and had in it one of the finest furniture, chinaware, and decorative items, as the father of Maria Braga was a captain of a ship that sailed across Europe and Asia and would cart with him these items. One of their daughters maintained a beautiful garden of lilies in and around the 4-tiered fountain fronting the mansion, all brought in from abroad.

Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson

One of the sons supervised the construction of the mansion making certain that the A-grade mixture of concrete and its pouring was precisely followed. The mansion met its sad fate in the early part of World War II when the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East), then guerilla fighters in the Philippines, burnt the mansion to prevent the Japanese forces from utilizing it as their headquarters. It took days of inferno to bring down the roof and the 2-inch wooden floors.

To this day, the structure still stands tall amidst sugar plantations and continues to awe both local and foreign tourists. Truly, a picture-perfect backdrop and a magnificent sight to see.

How The Ruins became a tourist destination

After literally being in ruins and practically abandoned, the mansion was left to the elements for several years. It wasn’t until last year, when some of the Lacson great grandchildren who inherited the land where The Ruins sits, decided to develop it. They fixed the surroundings and put up a café where they serve tapas, pasta, beef and lamb dishes and more. They also serve ice cold beer and wine.

View of the Garden

Since they opened last year, a lot of tourists and locals visit this tourist site which is so close to Bacolod. It is only about a 15-minute drive from the center of Bacolod City. It also a favorite venue for photo shoots as the remaining structure and its unique architecture and design details serve as a beautiful and magnificent backdrop.

The fountain and garden which has become a venue for events

The Bacolod Ruins, or Talisay Ruins as it is also called by some, has been a popular venue for Bacolod weddings, special events and parties. The most recent addition to this tourist spot is a mini-golf within the grounds of the site. The owners are continuously developing the area and adding new stuff to do so it will remain a top tourist attraction. Even for the Bacolod and Talisay residents and locals, it has become a place for family bonding activities and fun.

How to get to The Ruins

Option 1: Take the turn at Honda Cars in Talisay City towards the mountains. It’s a 2.4km stretch of farm road from the national highway. (You’ll need an off-road or SUV because the roads are rather rough and unpaved)

Option 2: Take the turn at 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 Goldcrest and Octagon Villages. This will lead you all the way to The Ruins. (Follow the signs going to The Ruins starting from the road you turn into at the Pepsi plant corner)

Bacolod Ruins - One of the World's 12 Most Fascinating Ruins

Talisay City, the next city beside Bacolod and a mere 15-minute drive from the center of Bacolod, features a mansion built by a sugar magnate at the turn of the last century that not once, but twice, was destroyed in the 2nd World War in order to prevent Japanese forces from using it.

Read more about the 12 of the World's Most Fascinating Ruins at this link:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Resort Review: Punta Bulata Resort and Spa

Just 2 ½ hours from Bacolod City is a tranquil resort with white sand beaches and clear calm waters. This is Punta Bulata Resort and Spa.

White sand beach

I went there last year for the first time with my boyfriend and we had such a great time.

The trip south of Negros is beautiful. On the way there you pass endless sugar cane fields and lots of greenery. At some point along the zigzag road in Cauayan approaching the resort is a series of hills and cliffs with a fantastic view overlooking the sea and a few islands nearby.

Upon arriving at the resort, we were greeted by a warm and friendly staff. They made us feel at home right away!
Clear and clean waters

We arrived mid-day and after a delicious lunch, we took an afternoon nap or ‘siesta’. The place is so relaxing and beautiful that it calms and soothes you. I felt like all my cares and concerns were so far away and I only had this idyllic beach resort to enjoy.

Later in the afternoon, we took a dip in the resort’s swimming pool and enjoyed our snack and cocktails while watching the beautiful sunset.

The resort swimming pool

The beautiful sunset

In the evening, I tried their resort spa services. I had a 1-hour body massage which was a combination of traditional Filipino hilot therapy and Swedish massage with a few stretching. The spa also has a sauna and hot tub.

That was a great way to end the day and I slept soundly in our cottage. Punta Bulata has hotel rooms that are well designed with an asian inspired theme. Their cottages and villages have native and Filipino themes.

The hotel rooms

The next day we went to the nearby Danjugan island where we went snorkeling. We also visited the marine sanctuary where there were a multitude of reef fishes and corals. We had good visibility. The area is also great for diving. Danjugan island is a marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary. It is surrounded by coral reefs and has 5 lagoons.

One of the blue lagoons

Danjugan Island

If you plan to visit this beautiful resort and beach destination, spend at least 2 nights and 3 days at Punta Bulata White Beach Resort and Spa. Any less would just be too short.

How to get there:

By Private Car

Punta Bulata is located in Barangay Elihan, Cauayan Municipality, Negros Occidental, Philippines, bordering Sipalay City. It is 158 km. south of Bacolod City. Getting to the resort by car takes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. There are several road signs by the highway that will guide you there. From the city center (Provincial Capitol Building) of Bacolod, travel southwards, taking the national highway. A few meters after the 154 km. marker by the road, make a right turn into a side road. Travel 4 km. down this road until you reach Punta Bulata Resort.

(please note that the 4km side road is unpaved. Small cars are capable of taking this road but it is still recommended that you take an AUV, van, or SUV for a more comfortable ride.)

By Public Bus
Ceres Liner has several trips throughout the day that may take you southbound towards Punta Bulata. Take the bus headed to Hinobaan or Bayawan. Busses depart every 30 minutes from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm from the Ceres Lines Bus Terminal in Bacolod City. There is only one air-conditioned bus which departs at 4:00 pm. You must get off at Barangay Road., Cartagena since the bus cannot take you directly to the resort. Board a tricycle and ask the tricycle driver to take you to Punta Bulata Resort.

From Manila or Cebu
There are 3 major airlines that have multiple daily flights from Manila or Cebu to Bacolod City. Click to access their respective websites:

Philippine Airlines
Cebu Pacific
Air Philippines

For more info, visit Punta Bulata's website, click here.