WHILE most people celebrate the MassKara Festival through partying and watching the street dance competition, there are some who make the festival an excuse to explore Bacolod City and the rest of Negros Occidental.
Who would not want to grab the opportunity to marvel at the province’s “sweetness”?
Negros Occidental, as they say, is a land of sweet surprises. It truly is. With its beautiful greenery, natural charms and world-class seascapes, the province is a must-visit beauty.
If you want to celebrate MassKara away from the revelries, here are some places in the vicinity we suggest you head to.
The Ruins is probably the popular tourist destination in Negros Occidental nearest to Bacolod City.
Located in Talisay City, The Ruins is what remains of the ancestral home of the family of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and Maria Braga Lacson.
But there is more to the house – built in the 1990s and inspired by Italian architecture – than just the ruins.
Many people from all walks of life visit the place because of its history.
Considered the “Taj Mahal of Negros,” The Ruins speaks of Don Mariano’s undying love for his wife, Maria.
Maria died while carrying their 11th child, and this left her husband devastated.
Don Lacson decided to build the mansion in remembrance of Maria.
The house stands in the middle of a 440-hectare sugarcane plantation.
BEACHES AND DIVING SITES
The four-hour drive from Bacolod City does not stop people from exploring Sipalay City. The place boasts of white-sand beaches, caves, waterfalls, and rich marine life.
If you are the adventurous type, you can go snorkeling and diving at the Campomanes Bay to marvel at the corals and – gasp! – shipwrecks. You can also chill at the Tinagong Dagat and the Sugar Beach if you just want to relax.
Sagay City is famous for upholding sustainable tourism. One of its most popular tourist destinations is the Sagay Marine Reserve. It is perfect for nature-lovers.
Covering around 32,000 hectares, the Sagay Marine Reserve comprises the Carbin, Panal and Macahulom reefs.
The Carbin Reef, which makes up 200 hectares of the marine reserve, is famous for its tongue-shaped sandbar. It is most ideal for snorkeling and other water activities.
Panal and Macahulom, on the other hand, boast of marine life and migratory birds.
For a more memorable side trip, you may also visit the Museo sang Bata sa Negros and the Legendary Siete (Train No. 7).
The former is an interactive museum that houses folk crafts and toys. With children as guides, the museum also hopes to spread awareness on marine conservation.
The latter, on the other hand, is considered the “world’s most incredible steam survivor.”
An article on the Sagay City website said it was “the main workhorse carrying logs and lumber during the heydays of the Insular Lumber Company” in the 1900s.
Do you love history? Do you love to explore or even just look at old houses and structures? You should give Silay City a go.
It has more than 30 heritage structures that are considered national treasures. And it is only 15 to 30 minutes away from Bacolod City.
It is where you can find Balay Negrense, an ancestral mansion that was converted into a museum.
You can also check out the Bernardino-Jalandoni House and the Hofileña Ancestral House.
The former was built in 1908 and shows the affluence of the Negrenses during the late 19th century.
The Hofileña Ancestral House, meanwhile, was built in 1934. It has an art collection that any art enthusiast would envy, including masterpieces of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, among others.
Bago City should also be part of your list.
It is a recommended stopover for those looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. It is home to some of Negros Occidental’s must-visit private resorts.
If you are into history, you can visit Balay ni Tan Juan. Now a museum, it displays some artifacts of the city.
The Old Bago Bridge is also an attraction. Stretching over Bago River, connecting the poblacion and Barangay Ma-ao, the bridge served as a route for Americans who went to Bacolod from Pulupandan town during World War II./PN