It is almost Holy Week, the time when Manila becomes a ghost town and our provinces are packed with visitors as they take advantage of their week-long offs. Perhaps some of you booked for Bacolod with barely any idea of what one can do in the capital of Negros Occidental. Or maybe more like what else can one do in a favorite Philippine provincial destination. So here I am telling you some of the new things we tried when we last went in February.
When I saw this I knew it was going to be a different trip altogether!
Aside from the usual Batsoy and Calea chocolate cake, I went around to try new restaurants up in the area. Felicia’s had amazing Quatro Formaggi pizza- which can be quite a treat to a tourist who also wants to try the good old Bacolod chocolate cake. Italia Restaurant recently moved to a new location and this local favorite is also now a favorite for their excellent Italian food and tasteful interiors! (You are actually surrounded by art works and spaces separated by arcs- how Roman!) Delicioso also has great deli and Italian food (never new Bacolod was so into the cuisine), while 18th St. Palapala Seafood Grill and Restaurant has that Pinoy ihaw-ihaw specialty to boast about. (This is where I also tried the famous local gelatin dessert called Black Sambo!)
For coffee, do try TomNToms which is a Korean café now finding itself in the Philippines. Honeybreads are a must and their fun concoctions of coffee with everything – like ginseng!
About 75 minutes away from Bacolod city are the hills of Don Salvador Benedicto where sits Rapha Valley. Rapha Valley is an organic farm with an organic café with a vegetarian menu, bed and breakfast with a beautiful view of Mt.Kanlaon.
Did you know that Rapha in Hebrew is actually a verb that means “to heal”? This is why many call God as Jehovah Rapha, as in God the Healer. The place is actually named as such because of Doc Albert’s testimony about his own health challenges 15 years ago that is now completely cured because of a changed lifestyle. Mainly, his philosophy is that the Lord had given us healing agents in all that He had provided – like plants and flowers and fruits, for our food!
What makes it worth the road trip for me are 1) the evident naturalness of everything- from the environment, to the food, everything just felt clean and fresh, 2) the new things to learn that come with the conversations one will have with the owners of the place; they talk about the reasons behind the whole project, the correlated factors in our food and health problems today, and alternatives that we can breed in our own backyards.
Owner and Founder Doc Albert is also a frustrated chef so he married that hang-up with his own journey to wellness and came up with nutritious, even healing, but STILL delicious food!
Because I am a vegetarian, it was such a feast to go through all of these without even having to think twice or thrice because none of them had any meat or even meat stock or seafood-laden condiments!
Top of mind, some things I learned:
1) Eat the seeds- they have the energy of the plant or fruit.
2) Flowers are meant to be eaten. This the salad with petals on it.
3) Cucumber is a great wake-me-up-drink.
4) Doc Albert’s Vegetarian Adobo won in a contest that involves all of Negros! (So order that when you are there!!!)
More to learn, If you really are trying to look for something new, as well as so now, Rapha Valley is the place to be.
The destination is Bacolod but all of us land in Silay. And here is where many of the Negros household names, from their famous sugar baron forefathers, are still well-kept in the people’s memory as streets are named after them and their actual ancestral houses are maintained and preserved.
Balai Negrense Exterior
More than the personal history of the place I enjoyed my short tour of few of the houses because of how they tell me about how people loved back then and let me tell you what I learned through my photos the best way I can!
On the left is what we call a BUTACA- a seat I have seen in many houses growing up, but never knew to be a birthing chair! (Think I am getting this crazy idea to buy one and use it for my next birth!)
On the right is a GALLINERA, a seat for waiting SACADAS or employees of sugar barons, who usually had chickens with them. That space underneath is actually a cage for the live poultry. Again, I’ve seen these chairs forever but never knew their original purpose!
Have you ever noticed how old Spanish houses had landings? Though it adds to the grandiose design, it really was made for a natural stop for guests who might need to take a short rest- like the elderly who have to be on canes (some even have cane holders), and for women wearing dresses with long trains.
That window below the window is actually for ventilation purposes, as do many parts of an olden Spanish house (remember that there wasn’t AC yet back then, electricity was scarce, so they had to rely on natural air and designing homes that maximize the wind outside), as well as an opening for small little children to view processions (remember Flores de Mayo?). Here’s another trivia for you: back then, ICE was shipped all the way from Europe and because there still wasn’t any freezing technology, they put it in a wooden cooler where they preserved it as long as they could. It was so expensive, as it had to travel that far before it gets to us and so only the rich could have afforded a simple cold drink!
The last time I was in Bacolod, I got to see The Ruins, as well, which would be great to visit if you’ve never been there before. Make sure to bring your camera, as it is picture perfect! Also, for a quick rundown of Negros exquisite finds, go over the small Negros showroom they have over at the Robinson’s. Many of those that I saw at the Negros Trade Fair here in Manila, were present in the showroom.
The Pink House is called so because of its Pink Paint for its exterior.
Asked my friends from Bacolod why I don’t seem to see a Calea franchise or Felicia, when they are so loved even by the Manilenos. Answer? Bacolod locals are so proud of their own that they’d rather you go out to see them than they branch out to meet you. In short, there is no other way to taste and experience Bacolod and its neighboring towns unless you go and visit yourself. And that’s not a bad idea if you ask me. Happy Monday to you all!