I CAN'T exactly remember the last time I was in Bacolod City (was it '91 or '92?) but I do recall the last time I was there, I lost big on the Pagcor-operated casino at Goldenfields Hotel. Given what I've seen from my recent overnight stay for the coverage of the just-concluded Bacolod leg of the Convergence 2009 ICT Roadshow, it certainly felt like ages since I've last been here.
For starters, there are certainly more places to stay aside from Goldenfields, the venerable L' Fisher and the Bacolod Convention Center. In fact, I was booked at the four-year old Grand Regal Hotel right in front of Gaisano City Mall where service is not only pretty good but the food also lives up to the city's taste bud expectations.
Yes, there's a reason why Bacolod is called the City of Smiles because people here are incredibly warm and friendly. Of course, with every trip comes the buying of the proverbial pasalubong. which I often refer to as "the downside of travelling." Do I have enough bags? Can i carry everything without breaking my back, not to mention my wallet? Be that as it may, getting pasalubong, for better or for worse, is still something I look forward to as these take-home items are actually what defines a particular place.
Aside from its revered Bacolod Chicken (which still tastes way better than the ones we have in Metro Manila), the pride of Negros is particularly defined by native delicacies such as its very famous piyaya and mango tarts. And two of the best places to shop for these and other related pastries are Bongbong's and Virgie's.
Everything about Bacolod today feels uh, metropolitan (well, mostly metropolitan), from the modern airport at Silay to the fairly new SM, Robinson's and Gaisano malls to the slew of eating options right down to the Metro Manila-like traffic on certain hours to just about everything in between. And I don't know if it's just the weekend but the laid-back ambiance did remind me of the stress-free feeling I get whenever I'm in Singapore.
It's too bad the overnight trip and my coverage itinerary did not allow for more time to roam the city. I would have wanted to check out the supposedly must-see The Ruins in nearby Silay.
Not seeing everything, however, gives me a good incentive to come back to Bacolod City soon. With its famous Masskara festival just around the corner (next month, actually), maybe I just might.
Here's another look at the City Of Smiles: