Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mansions, Missions and Mangoes: A tropical trip to Bacolod, Iloilo, and Guimaras

Summer has begun in the Philippines. For many, it is the best season to take a vacation, head out and soak up some sun on a beautiful sunny beach. But unlike many others, I decided to take a different kind of adventure -- a trip that introduced me to some of the historical mansions, churches, and ruins of Bacolod and Iloilo. Not only that, I was able to savor the sweetest tropical treat of Guimaras. This particular trip to these historical places made me realize how the Filipino culture got molded to where it is today.


My Philippine summer adventure started when I reached my first destination – Bacolod. Unassuming and simple, Bacolod is a place where the comforting feeling of home is felt strongly because of the local’s contagious warmth and hospitality. I really enjoyed every second of my stay there. I was surprised by how diverse this destination is with its assortment of activities and attractions  one can do and visit.

Trip Destinations

San Sebastian Cathedral  is one of the century old churches found in Negros Occidental.  It has already celebrated its 100th year anniversary and has a historical marker placed by the Philippine Historical Committee. Their Sunday masses run every hour from 6 am till 8 pm.

The Ruins  is a popular tourist spot found not far from the city area. It is all that remains of a mansion built by the Sugar baron for his wife, who had died while carrying their 11th child. In the morning, it is a majestic stone structure that looms in the horizon while in the evening, it is a beautiful glowing mansion against the dark evening sky.

You should come and experience this place to find out for yourself how the wealthy Filipinos lived during their time. Their palatial homes could be synonymous to the famous estates of Europe. This particular place reminded me of the famous Powerscourt Estate in Ireland where you can see a historic house, beautifully manicured gardens complete with a dancing fountain.

Balay Negrense is a house museum which is open to the public. It showcases numerous paintings of famous Philippine artists. Here you will also see antique wooden furniture, fancy silverware and chandeliers which were common to a rich household in the past. 

This particular house is occupied by the present owner and gives pride in entertaining events. There is a tour guide that will explain the beauty and treasures you can find in this house.

Bacolod Public Plaza  is located in downtown Bacolod. It is a trapezoid shaped park with four different, circular fountains and a modest gazebo in the middle of it all.


After experiencing a full amount of delight and satisfaction from my trip in Bacolod, my adventure didn’t stop and went on in Iloilo. Often referred to as the heart of the Philippines, Iloilo is one of the top tourist destinations of the country because of its rich culture and religious heritage. This destination is famous for its historical churches, festivals, delectable cuisine, and captivating natural landscapes. The warm hospitality of the locals, known as the Ilonggos, is also something to look forward to when you visit this small and humble city.

Trip Destinations

Miag-oa Church is also known as the Saint Thomas Villanova Church. It is famously known for the artistic relief’s carved into its facade. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

St. Anne Church is a parish in Molo that is also known to have the nickname “the feminist church” because the statues there are all female. The plaza in front of the Church is quite beautiful and has an apparent European vibe to it.

Balay nga Bato is an old heritage home built in 1865. It also doubles as a historical restaurant that serves delicious meals in a vintage decor setting. Here included with this tour is a special treat of their real TSOKOLATE drink that is home made complete with their local biscocho. Make sure to reserve a day in advance so that they can prepare food for the exact number of people.

The other unique thing you find here which is common now to every Filipino households are the Antique actifacts that are religious in nature.

Netong's Original Special batchoy serves up Iloilo’s signature dish: a noodle soup with different ingredients mixed to create a delicious meal. This particular store is found in the La Paz Public Market, a popular shopping market with many different local products for sale. There are numerous branches of Netong's but nothing beats the original shop located right in the heart of Iloilo Public Market.

Casa Mariquit is the former home of Don Fernando Lopez, who once became the Vice President of the Philippines. Here you can find Don Fernando's  numerous achievements, awards, plaques, and certificates. This historic house also has a secret that's so interesting, you have to go there to find out.


In the Philippines, when you hear about Guimaras, the thought of sweet yellow mangoes comes into mind immediately. Thankfully, that thought became a reality when I traveled there on a motorized boat from Iloilo. Juicy and has just the right amount of sweetness and sourness, the Guimaras mangoes are the perfect treat for tropical fruit lovers like myself. It’s one of a kind that’s why tourists from all over the country and the world are enamored of it.

Trip Destinations

Holy Family Hills is a quiet property where figures of the holy family and the 14 stations of the cross are found. It's a great place to meditate and just relax in tranquility.

Trappist Monastery is a peaceful enclave run by an order of monks. The monks make a living for themselves by selling products like jellies, jams, and other treats in a  small store within the grounds. This place was donated by a rich Hacendero to retired monks so they will have a place to stay. The monks made the most out of it by selling products inside the compound.

Southern Orchard Mango Plantation is the second biggest source of the ripe, juicy and sweet golden fruits that the island is known for.  Mangoes here are grafted from the seed up until they are ready to be planted. It is a crucial process to guarantee the quality and the sweetness of the fruit.

Overall, I was overwhelmed by the many historical facts I learned and heritage sites I visited in Bacolod, Iloilo and Guimaras. They are truly a must-see not only for every Filipino but also for other tourists who find beauty in the history of the past.

Until next time, I am your friendly global traveler Johnny, inviting you to taste the sweetness of travel.

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