It was 6 of us who first planned this trip to witness the Masskara Festival of Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. But due to unforeseen circumstances, the last one cancelled at the last minute and left me thinking if I have to pursue or not. But the sense of thrill and challenge got a better hold of me so I decided to pack up my things by noon and took the last trip at 10 pm Friday.
Since there is an event in my destination, terminals were jam packed and that resulted of me standing all the way from Cebu. Good thing that my backpack is a bit bulky so I can’t put it in the overhead cabin, I placed it on the bus isle and sat on it until we reached Tabuelan port where we have to take a barge going to Escalante, Negros Occidental.
I was able to grab a comfortable seat when we reached Manapla, Negros Occidental. The guy standing before me was kind enough to reserve a seat for me when one of the passengers got off the bus. And alas! I touched down Bacolod City at 5:15 in the morning.
I did a little researched and it was said that Bacolod’s Masskara Festival derived its name from mass means many and kara means faces. Began in 1980’s, the city’s admin held a Smiling Festival when the city experienced a sharp drop in global price of sugar (Bacolod’s key crop) followed by loss of close to 1000 people in an accident at sea. The reason for the festival is to gather the locals and to remind them to smile despite the negativity.
Because of the festival, I wasn’t able to book a hostel in Bacolod. And just like her name means, Ate Angel who’s a previous teammate in the office, was sent from above and offered her humble abode as a shelter for the night. I met her at the bus terminal and we took a jeepney going to Mansilingan, southern part of Bacolod. But before that, we bought some kakanin. Bacolod is known for its yummy delicacies and street food, you might not want to miss it!
Imagine standing in the bus for 6 hours, dang! I took a rest first to gain some energy before running again in the afternoon. It was around 3 pm when we went out. To my surprise, we saw people dancing on the streets! Why, some cities do not have street dancing a day before the festival. So I grabbed my camera and started running after the street dancers for a better view while snapping some photos.
We explored Bacolod, ate street food, visited their government offices and cathedrals, went to the parks, and of course, your trip won’t be complete if you haven’t been to NGC.
I have never been to Iloilo City though my grandparents were from there. So after lunch on Sunday, instead of waiting for the grand finale of the festival, I thanked Ate Angel and found myself at the port of Bacolod.
Decided to explore Iloilo City, I rode a fast craft and reached its port after an hour and 45 minutes.
I think I’ll pass as Miss Congeniality because I have friends anywhere in the country. Tada! Another friend picked me up at the port to show me around his hometown. And while he was driving, I was also busy crossing out some places off my bucket list.
First stop for food is Nothing But Desserts in Smallville. Second stop is Madge Cafe in Atria.
After filling our tummies, we decided to drive around a little. While on our way, we passed the Molo Mansion and whoa! Ilonggos were really rich, weren’t they? Mansions are everywhere! There’s also Sanson Y Montinola Antillan Mansion in one of the corners of Iloilo.
In front of the Molo Mansion is the Parish of St. Anne’s and the Goddesses’ Pavilion found in Plaza Molo. Now, this one is really interesting that I have to look it up the internet. And guess what?
Iloilo, aside from being known as the City of Love because of the locals’ accent, it is also a cradle of history. This is evident in their churches and infrastructures. For example is the St. Anne’s Parish Church found in Molo that was built in 1831, the only Gothic Church outside Manila which is known as a Feminist Church due to its 16 statues of female saints found inside. Its architecture can be compared to those churches in Europe. I would have loved to get inside but too bad, I was wearing shorts. Thus, I contented myself in watching from the outside. And why all female saints? No one knows. There’s also the pavilion that houses 6 Greek goddesses. Pretty interesting, right?
After exploring the city’s River Esplanade, and checking out what Atria has to offer, I decided to stay at another friend’s home to take some rest. Actually, she is a sister of a housemate back in college. See how people can be blessings in disguise? hehe… And oh! They live in Sta. Barbara where you can find the biggest flag in the Philippines which was said to be permanently hoisted 24/7 throughout the year and illuminated at night as mandated by Republic Act 8491.
It’s another day!
I woke up at 5am, got ready by 7 and went to SM Mall by 8am where my friend’s gonna pick us up. I made friends in Iloilo and I invited them to join us in our day tour. With these crazy pipz, I was again ready to explore the south of Panay Island, which means going out of the city. Yehey!
First stop was Miag-ao. Too bad, we weren’t able to visit the University of the Philippines Miag-ao Campus. But hey, their church in Miag-ao is beautiful! Checking this church’s history, it was said to be built in 1731. Its thick walls were designed to serve as a protection from Moro invaders called tacas, and its unequal bell towers were actually watch towers. The style was after a Baroque Romanesque architecture and the facade was interesting as the designs were carved! Like really!
The town of Miag-ao is in my bucket list but my friend suggested to go as far as San Joaquin to visit the Pilgrimage of Garin Farm. Check this out!
At the top of the Stairway To Heaven, is a cross painted in white. Before entering the gate, you have to go through a dark tunnel that represents our wrong doings in the world. Upon reaching its end, there is a presentation of Christ where you can sit down and pray. Then, you can go out to the light. (Tip: Wear sunglasses) You will see angels everywhere while you are seeing a vast of clouds if you will look beyond. The owner is like showing us what heaven looks like which is indeed a must try during Lenten Season.
And one word – Amazing!
It was like 11am and I can feel the scorching heat of the sun. Unfortunately, the canteen was still under renovation thus, we need to go back down to their restaurant to buy some bottled water. However though, I spotted a particular drink which only Garin Farm offers. They sell Coconut Nectar Drink that is good for cancer. So let’s try…
Since it was already noon, we hurriedly drove back to the city for lunch. We dropped by the Guimbal Church because I was stunned by its yellow wall.
And would you believe that this chruch was built in 1774? It was made of yellow sandstone called igang and corals quarried from Guimaras Island.
We took some snaps and had lunch at Tatoy’s Manokan. We tried their native chicken and baked oyster with cheese and milk. Affordable price, people!
After lunch, we went to Biscocho House to buy some pasalubong. Pasalubong is a Filipino tradition of travelers bringing gifts from where they’ve been to to the people back home.
My friend had a shift later that night and had to rest so I asked him to drop us off in Jaro where I can see its heritage church with a classic beauty.
After roaming around Jaro Cathedral, and wondered why the belltower was across the street, we checked the University of Iloilo and bought some keychains. Then, called it a night…
Fifth day, and it will be a sad day for me because I have to go back home. And because I didn’t book a flight back to Cebu, I had to travel by land – again. Traveled back to Cebu, I took a different route going to San Carlos Port and hey, look! Whatta scene!
It rained while I’m on my way to Don Salvador which added sadness to my weary heart. And then, there’s a rainbow reminding us that life may be difficult but there’s a lot of reasons to be grateful for. Yes, Lord! I am so grateful for this trip!
Ilonggos are sweet and timid. I can attest to that because I am an Ilongga myself. Going back to my grandparents’ province somehow made me regained my sweetness which I believed I lost as time passed by. You know, heartbreaks! haha!
Thank you, Iloilo! I will be back. Now, I am ready to work my ass off and I am looking forward to pack my things for another backpacking journey.
Home – North Bus Terminal = P7
Pasalubong = P160
Water = P15
North Bus Terminal – Bacolod – P420
Terminal Fee = P5
Barge = P130
Ibos Kakanin = P30
Tricycle – Grandville Mansilingan = P30
Mask Necklace = P120
Mask = P55
Streetfood = P24
Drinks = P20
Ice cream = P10
Homestay = P200
Homestay – Downtown = P21
Lunch = P355
Bacolod Keychain = P60
Sikad to Port = P20
Bacolod – Iloilo = P150
Nothing but Desserts = P110
Madge Cafe = P180
Fairville Homestay – SM = P45
Miag-ao = P10
Garin Farm Entrance = P150
Coconut Nectar Drink = P25
Pasalubong = P50
Buko Pie = P135
Lunch at Tatoy’s = P980
Iloilo Keychain = P30
Biscocho House = P175
UI – Sta Barbara = P20
Fairville Homestay – UI = P45
UI – Port = P60
Iloilo-Bacolod = P200
Terminal Fee = P30
Snacks = P65
Port – Terminal = P95
Bacolod-Cebu = P530
North Bus Terminal – Home (taxi) = P120