Thursday, 1 January 2009

Off to Sugarlandia - Bacolod, Negros

When my sister Chato learned that rocker Kitchie Nadal had a gig in Bacolod, she immediately booked a flight. Kitchie is managed by another sister (Roca) and sometimes lets my 14-year old nephew (Chato's son) play a song or two with the band.
So, for the gig in Bacolod, Chato got the green light to, so to speak, tag along. It's actually a good idea to go and let the kids take the time off their PS2 and PS3s, wii games, war craft etc and explore the provinces. On Dec 29, we - Chato and her three kids, Tita Flor, ninang Gigi and I - flew out of Manila and arrived in the new airport of Negros in Silay, about 15-20 mins from Bacolod City. We managed to book a van a day before we left (c/o Boy Javellana 0928 412-9835). Since we only had three-days, we immediately drove north to Victorias to see the "Church of the Angry Christ" inside the Victoras Milling Corporation (VMC) compound. The mural was painted in 1949 by abstract expressionist Alfonso Osorio, the son of the founder of what was then the largest integrated sugar mill refinery in the world.
Lunch was seafood at Barangay Balaring off the main road in Silay. There were several restaurants to choose from but we opted to go to where there were more people inside and that's Tama Plaza where we enjoyed fresh oysters, squid, marlin, tilapia in gata (coconut sauce), prawns, calamares, pork chop and even sisig!
From the seafood plaza, we headed to see the heritage houses. There are about 31 houses that have been turned into museums and/or pension homes. Balay Negrense was the only one opened (Jalandoni and Hofilena were closed). Built in 1897, the Balay is the restored residence of Victor F. Gaston and is an airy version of the 'balay na bato' architecture.
On the way to Bacolod, we stopped to try the local bibingka (rice cake). It looks more like a star-shaped puto which they serve topped with star margarine and sugar. (Note P5 in Silay vs P24 in Bacolod).
We finally arrived in Bacolod City and checked in the newly rennovated L'fisher Hotel on Lacson St.. The rooms were clean, spacious and fitted with cable TV which the kids enjoyed. Chato and I stepped out to visit black artist Charlie Co's Orange Gallery who had a show "Art of Giving" (contact: Carmela 0920 541-0898). We went up to the bodega and was fascinated by the horse sculpture of Totc Co which was made out of scrap metal. Carmela took us to Charlie's home to see more of his work. We got two of his 2-ft "angels" and later got Jay-r Delleva's painting from the show. We headed back to the hotel to get everyone ready for dinner at Pendy's and dessert at La Calcea (best seller is the white chocolate cheese cake which we brought home and hands-down fav is the chocolate square cake).
The next day was Kitchie's concert at the town of La Castellana, 2-hours drive east from Bacolod. Since the show was at 9pm, we checked out more sites. The first was the ruins in Talisay. The driver took us through a narrow dirt and hence, rough road. It was serendipitous since we witnessed a group of Sacada farmers tilling the land. Iris recently learned about the plight of the Sacada farmers in school. They are mostly transient laborers of about 8-10 who come during harvest season and earn P150-300 per ton. A truckload is about 12-15 tons.
At the end of the 3-km dirt road is the 'ruins'. It is actually a burnt down mansion with the structure still intact. Sugar baron Mariano Ledesma Lacson built the mansion for his Portuguese bride Maria Braga from Macau in the 1920’s. The US Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFE) burned the house down to deter the Japanese from using it as headquarters during World War II. The grand mansion of italian architecture , its sprawling garden with a four-tiered fountain boasts all the opulence of the sugar era.
Lunch was at Bacolod Deli to try the famous chicken inasal (barbeque). Chicken house is another favorite of the locals but we opted to go to Deli, which is located next to the handicraft store so we can shop. A few meters down is Green mart known for its organic piyayas and organic coffee.
After a hearty lunch, we headed to "Bong bong's" piyaya factory (tel # 034 434-2626). There is no set tour. We went inside the store and asked permission to see the factory. They let us in as long as we don't take photos. One of the plant assistant managers, took us around to see where they make piyayas, barquillos, butterscotch, etc.
By 6pm, we drove to La Castellana, a rural town situated at the base of Mt. Kanlaon. There is no hotel in town so Kitchie, Roca and the band were hosted by hacendero and breeder Elik Devino (tel # 034 485-0121). He has an aviary in his home on Gomez St. called Ellinj Aviary which showcases exotic birds about 80 species including the rare black palm cockatoo (right photo), macaus, blue Indian peacocks, golden pheasants, lady Amherst pheasants, silver, reeves, ring neck and melanistic pheasants, Chinese 'silkies' chickens, diamond doves, Nicobar pigeons, eclectus and sunconure parrots, Indian ring neck, plum-headed and red-rumped parakeets, rainbow and chattering lories, cockatiel, African lovebirds, zebra and society finches); turtles (first time to see a long-neck, alligator, pig-nose and white turtle); snakes and the rare spotted deer.
We stepped out to have dinner at the Municipal Hall hosted by Mayor Alberto Nicor, Jr. and his wife (second from left). The town was celebrating its 91st foundation day and annually, they hold a Bailes de Luces parade (before the festival on Jan 5) and "battle of the bands". Kitchie was the culminating number, the show's highlight. The mayor said that the townspeople specifically requested for her. We had to wait until the rain subsided which was around midnight. When we got to the plaza, the townspeople were still there waiting for Kitchie.
The audience was ecstatic as Kitchie sang popular hits Ligaya, telenovela songs Kapalaran (GMA's I Love New York), Majika (GMA), Iniibig kita (ABS-CBN's Rounin), Same Ground, Make a Diifference (song for a DepEd project), Isang Araw (for a Bejing athlete send off used by solar sports), multi-platinum Wag na Wag Mong Sasabihin, Grace and Wide Awake (from Love Letter album), bulong and ended with Isang Mundo (2nd metro pop).
My nephew Clark played' Bulong' and a woman went up to him to take his photo. She said that 'this will inspire my son to play too.' He actually saved Jack since his guitar string snapped. The show ended around 2am and we were back in Bacolod by 3am.
watch video clips:

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