6 Facts about Bacolod That Will Make You Want to See the City of Smiles

Bacolod City is one of the most well-known places in the Visayas. The capital of Negros Occidental, this city has also been lauded because of its fast-growing economy. It’s also considered one of the most livable cities in the Philippines, thanks in part to the naturally sweet temperament of its people. Couple the welcoming locals with the extra-festive Masskara Festival and absolutely delicious food, and you have a solid combination for a tourist hotspot.

Need more convincing to get that Bacolod tour package for the first or the nth time? Here are a few interesting tidbits about the City of Smiles.

It Used to Be on a Hill, Not by the Beach

Bacolod is located on flat lands, with a slight slope as you approach the coast. However, this isn’t the city’s original location. It actually used to sit on a hill, which is where the city’s name came from (“bakolod” or “buklod” is an old Hiligaynon word for “stone hill” or “hilly terrain”). It was only when the Moros raided the area that the locals transferred to the shoreline. Some of the townsfolk resettled in the old area and called it Granada, which then got dissolved and incorporated into the new Bacolod in 1902. If you want to see the location of the original town, you can go to Daan-Banwa or “Old Town.”

The Masskara Festival is NOT a Festival of Masks

Despite its name, the Masskara Festival is not about colorful masks. It’s actually a portmanteau of “mass” or “masa” and “cara,” which literally translate into “many faces.” This is because, before the festival began, the city was experiencing a huge crisis. Their main industry of sugarcane and sugar production was threatened by substitutes like high-fructose corn syrup. This caused the price of sugar to plummet, affecting the livelihood of many Bacolodnons. The city was also still reeling from the Don Juan Tragedy incident, during which the eponymous cruise ship collided with an oil tanker and resulted in hundreds of deaths. 

This was when the local government, with the help of civil groups, decided to bring a smile back to the people’s faces. Thus, the Masskara Festival was born. The masks were added to represent the many faces of the people. Over the years, the festival has transformed into a celebration of the city itself and its history and culture. 

The Mother of Festivals

Masskara may be the most popular, grandest festival in the city, but it isn’t the “Mother of Festivals.” It’s the Panaad Festival, held every April in Bacolod City and participated in by all the towns and cities of Negros Occidental. The name stems from the Hiligaynon word “panaad,” which means vow or promise. As such, Panaad Festival is a commemoration of the people’s vow of faith in exchange for blessings. It’s also a festival to thank Divine Providence. Panaad Festival is a wonderful showcase of products and crafts not just of Bacolod City but of the entire province.

There’s an “Inasal Street”

Do you love chicken inasal? Are you a foodie at heart? Do you want a “legit” chicken inasal experience? Then you absolutely must visit Manokan Country in Bacolod City. It’s located at Fr. M. Ferrero Street, and it’s home to the best chicken inasal you will ever taste. For the full experience, make sure to have some sinamak for dipping. Some of the most well-known restaurants here include Aida’s and Nena’s Rose. The concept of Manokan Country is said to have begun as a series of stalls along Cuadra Street, which was then called “Chicken Alley.” The Velez siblings, led by Eliza and Nena, were noted to be the “founders” of the alley.

It’s Also the Home of Sweets

Bacolodnons, and Negrenses in general, are said to be some of the sweetest people in the Philippines. Maybe this is due to sugar being the main industry in the province, which may also be the reason why Bacolod is considered “Sugarlandia.” Your sweet tooth will surely be satisfied, with plenty of bakeries and patisseries serving delectable treats like chocolate cakes, piaya, barquillos, biscocho, napoleones, and more. The most popular is arguably Calea, but you should also definitely try out Bob’s, Bongbong’s, Felicia’s, Kuppa, Merzci, and Quan. You should also definitely visit El Ideal in neighboring Silay City.

You Can See the Taj Mahal of Negros

The Ruins is not actually in Bacolod but in nearby Talisay City. Still, a quintessential Bacolod tour includes a visit to “The Taj Mahal of Negros.” The Italianate mansion was built by sugar baron Don Mariano Ledsma Lacson in memory of his first wife, Maria Braga. The grandiose structure was burned down by US soldiers and Filipino guerillas, however, because they didn’t want the Japanese to turn it into a base. Thus, The Ruins were “made.” Today, The Ruins is one of the must-visit destinations when touring Bacolod and Talisay and also a coveted events place. Pinoys also love visiting The Ruins since it offers plenty of Instagrammable opportunities, day or night.

Welcoming people, great food, colorful history and heritage. What more can you ask for in a tourist destination, right? So go ahead and book that trip to Bacolod!

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