Located on the Visayan island of Negros and serving as the capital of the province of Negros Occidental, the city of Bacolod was once one of the centers of the Philippines’ sugarcane and processed sugar industry. When the market began to dwindle, the city was in danger of being reduced to a mere hub of transportation between major cities and scenic spots of the country. But it was quick to get back on its feet during the advent of a new industry: business process outsourcing and information technology. The benefits gained from it new offshoring infrastructure has helped Bacolod improve its scenic spots and tourist facilities. Now aside from its trademark local festival, the city has more choices for the discerning traveler to explore.
This would very be primary “face"of Bacolod to the Philippines and the world. First celebrated in 1980 during a time of uncertainty and bad tidings like the collapse of the local sugarcane industry and a sea tragedy that killed a number of Bacolod residents and other Negrenses, the city government along with artists and civic groups of the time decided to take their hometown’s nickname as “City of Smiles” to an entirely new level, and thus a new major Philippine festival was born. Every third week of October you can expect Bacolod to be a sea of revelers and merrymakers and colorful parades of dancers wearing Carnival-style masks with perpetually smiling faces. You can certainly enjoy the annual ad-hoc food festivals, music concerts, sporting events, parade competitions, garden shows and the “Masskara Queen” beauty pageant. There’s a multitude of faces to greet you with a smile when you come to the Masskara Festival.
Panaad sa Negros at the Panaad Park and Stadium
The Panaad Stadium is a multi-purpose sports venue used for major events such as the 2005 Southeast Asian Games (football) and the 2007 ASEAN Football Cup. Currently it is the home field of the Ceres FC for the 2016 AFC Cup and an adopted home of the “Azkals” National Football Team. It is also the regular home venue of the annual Panaad sa Negros festival on April, showcasing the culture of Negros Occidental with plenty of tourist attractions.
Negros Forest & Ecological Foundation
Even in the middle of the city you can experience a piece of the natural world. This special zoo is dedicated to preserve and hopefully repopulate the endangered animals that are endemic to Negros Island. This includes a menagerie of birds like the critical-status hornbill, but also mammals like flying foxes and native pygmy deer.
San Sebastian Cathedral
This 19 th Century church was named after the patron saint of the original Christianized settlement that was the precursor to the modern city of Bacolod. It was itself built to replace the original wooden church that served the residents of the area after they relocated to escape from attacks of Moro raiders. The primary construction material for the church was coral stone from the island of Guimaras, and the structure was erected by prison labor. Two bell towers used during the cathedral’s early history are now mounted on a special low belfry on the churchyard ever since its centennial celebration in 1976. Other places of interest in the church are the columbarium keeping the ashes of the first and second bishops of the Bacolod Diocese and the parish rectory which is also the bishop’s residence.
Capitol Park & Lagoon
A provincial park attached to the Negros Occidental provincial capitol ground, it is considered one of Bacolod City’s central gathering places and picnic spots, guaranteed to be full of people during the weekends. The central feature is a lagoon teeming with tilapia, decorated on its north and south shores by two matching sculptures of water buffalo accompanied by a man (north) and a woman (south). Jogging, aerobics, martial arts practice and school program rehearsals are favorite activities here, and semi-regular concert performances are held in the nearby open air auditorium. This was the original venue of the Panaad sa Negros Festival until moving to its own namesake stadium.
Bacolod and Negros as a whole has a share in the wider history of the Philippines in the age of colonization. This history can be revisited in the city’s selection of museums. The Negros museum not only recounts the sugar baron days of the province but also the Spanish colonial days, such as the fake native cannons with coconut cannonballs used to psych out Spanish attackers. The Dizon Ramos Museum on the other hand is a motley collection of knickknacks from the Ramos family’s wide travels ranging from Holy Land artifacts to ceramic sculptures to old vinyl records.
Even before the advent of the Masskara Festival, Bacolod has long been known as the City of Smiles. Today that nickname is truer than ever, not just in the feast of smiling masks, but in the new sights and wonders the city offers in its new breath of life. Head on over to Bacolod City soon, and see these reasons to smile for yourself.
Photo Credit to buymebuddy.com