Vacationing in Negros
by Rey Gulmatico-Agudana

The island of Negros have a lot to offer to weekend bakasyunistas,
travelers, and mountaineering buffs alike. It is a misnomer to regard the
island as one that is filled with rows and rows of fields of sugarcane as far
as eyes can see. It is true that sugar is the backbone of the island’s
economy and had been the source of the glory and tears of rich sugar barons
and despondent sacadas. But in the hinterland and its coastal areas,
there’s a lot of places in Negros that is yet to be discovered by the average
man, the common tao. Visited and appeciated.

Come, let us go and visit these places ...
Patag, Silay
-- swim in the Pulang Tubig, hike around the area, trek to the
Tinagong Dagat and Sulfatara, appreciate being back to nature.
Patag is 2 hours away from Bacolod City. To get there, one may take a
jeepney from bacolod City to Silay City. Ask the driver to drop you off at
the paradahan (terminal) of Patag. Take a jeepney to Patag that will take
you straight to Patag hospital. You may sleep at the hospital grounds or
pitch tent around the vicinity. Meet and register with the persons in charge
of the hospital for rules while relaxing in Patag. You may contact the
office of the mayor in Silay City for proper inquiries, guidance and
requirements in going to Patag. In Patag, guides are readily available to
extend any assistance possible.

Patag hospital (which actually is an old, abandoned Japanese hospital used
in WW2) has rooms where you can sleep. There are no beds, just a wide floor
to humlad (latag) your banig, sleeping bag, or folding bed. There are
toilets. Don’t expect anything elegant other than a shower, a faucet, sink
and a toilet bowl, including the roof above. Power of fluorescent light in
the evening may be requested upon arrival in the day for a minimum fee of
P150 per group of 10. Price is negotiable for those travelling less than 10.
Lights are turned off at 10 PM. The nearest sari-sari store is about a
half kilometer away in the nearby barangay.

Rate for the guides is a minimum P150 a day. No tours are allowed within
the area without a guide for reason of safety. Children may tag along when
swimming in the Pulang Tubig falls provided there is an adult closely
supervising. The hike to the falls is not strenuous although it takes more
or less an hour to reach your destination. Patag is ideal for butterfly
and bird watching, too. It is home to several endangered species (flora and
fauna) indigenous only to Negros (specifically Mount Silay wher Patag and its
glory lies). These are the bleeding heart pigeon, the Visayan warty pig, the
Negros pine and the Visayan spotted deer.

The jeepneys to and from Patag hospital are scheduled. Better coordinate
with the drivers regarding your time of departure from each venue. Also,
when bringing private vehicles, remind your driver especially those who are
not familiar with the road to Patag to take extra precaution. Cliffs are
exteremely dangerous for high speed driving. Fare from Bacolod to Silay is
P5 and Silay to Patag is P15.

Tinagong Dagat -- located up the mountains of Mount Mandalagan. Jump off
point is in the Patag hospital. Trekking to Tinagong Dagat is extremely
strenuous. Prior physical preparations are required. If your kid is
climbing alone, take into consideration that the trek is 8-10 hours under
low temperature and high altitude. Proper mountaineering equipment is needed.
Tinagong Dagat is covered by moss like grass during dry months but is
virtually turned into a swampy lake during the rainy season. Local
mountaineers prefer to climb during the rainy season to really see,
photograph and experience for themselves what is “Tinagong Dagat”. If one is
lucky, one might see the elusive and endangered Visayan Spotted Deer. If
not, then just be contented to see, photograph, and measure the imprints of
its hooves in the soft ground.

Taking a guide is necessary, and endorsed by local mountaineers. Trail
signs are poor and not adequately marked.

Sulfatara -- deviates from the Tinagong Dagat trail by the fork in the Negros
Pine. Sulfatara derived its name from two words -- Sulfa (sulphur) and Tara
(tara, diwata, friendly sprite). The trail going to Sulfatara is poorly
marked and requires 10-12 hours of strenuous trekking and climbing. A guide
again is necessary and is a must. Minimum fee is P150 a day. Proper
mountaineering equipment prior physical preparations is required.
On the way back, don’t miss to ride the skyline. The skyline is really
a thick piece of steel cable across 2 steep ridges, once used to haul logs
across. This is not for the weak of heart as what only brings the climber
across is a trusted pulley and carabao ropes serving as a harnesses. Hey,
this is not a Swiss cable ride! Usually manned by Tatay Boni, he can
bring 3-4 climbers across each trip, backpacks and all. Take note not to
look down to the gulley below as the drop is a good 20-30 storeys high.

Mambucal Summer Resort -- originally built by the colonizing Americans in
the 1920’s. A place for R and R, akin to what they built in Baguio.
Mambucal is about 1 hour drive away from the City of Bacolod. It’s been in
a state of disarray and neglect in the early 1990’s but is now being rebuilt
under new management. It boasts of 3 pools for swimming and a therapeutic
pool fronting the 15 room hotel. You can rent one hotel room or one of the
surrounding cottages for a fee. Mountaineers prefer to pitch tent around the
Greek styled bath houses. There are sulphur spring emissions, as well as
friendly carinderias that sell foods, and is a tambayan for guides.
You can choose to hike to the falls. For first timers, it is good to hire
a guide. The first falls is approximately 15-20 minutes hike away. Diving
is not encouraged and it is outlawed. One can also choose to continue
trekking the rocky river uphill for about 1 hour, past a number of peasant
houses, to reach the seventh falls.

To go to Mambucal, ride a jeepney in Libertad Public market. The fare is
P20. It stops over the town of Murcia, the Barangays Minoyan and San
Miguel. Entrance fee in the gate is P5 per person and P10 for one vehicle.
In the back of the hotel is a road going to the Don Bosco Retreat House
originally built by Father Uras. This is primarily a Retreat House but
visitors can stop by and marvel at the place. The Retreat House can not be
used as a board and lodging house. If one considers of going back to nature
and God under the guise of a retreat, then, a 2 day retreat for personal
reflection is encouraged. One can contact the office of the Agustinian
Fathers in the Colegio de San Agustin - Bacolod
(CSA-B) in North drive, Bacolod City.

Buenos Aires -- is a new resort in the slopes of Mount Kanlaon. Owned by
Edward Matti, former Negros Occidental Board member, it’s a 1 and ½ hour
drive from the City of Bacolod. There is no round trip going to and from
the resort so it is preferabble to bring your own jeep or rent one. The road
is well paved. If you choose to still, try the Public Utility vehicle, catch
a jeepney ride in Libertad Public Market, to Barrio Maao. The fare is P20.
In Barrio Maao, commander a tricycle to bring you to Baranggay Buenos Aires
where the resort is located.

There is a hotel, cottages and sheds. Overnight stay is pegged at P500 a
night. There is also an eatery/restaurant serving Filipino foods. The
resort also boasts of 3 pools (kiddie pool included) and a shallow river
where one can wade and feel its soothing current. The Kipot twin falls is
also located nearby.

Guintubdan -- is about 10 kilometers from Buenos Aires. In the past,
barangay Guintubdan is the jump off point for local mountaineers on their
way to the crater of Mount Kanlaon using the Guintubdan trail. Recently, the
place was developed and was named Rafael Salas Park (named after the former
Negros Statesman). It is not yet established on how the place looks but
there are 1-2 falls surrounding the area.
There are 2 ways to go to Guintubdan. One is by using the road from Buenos
Aires (Ma-ao way), and the other is using the road from La Carlota City. La
Carlota is about 40 kilometers from Bacolod City. In all, the whole trip
from Bacolod City to Guintubdan is about 1 and ½ to 2 hours using the La
Carlota and Ara-al Road.

For serious climbers who want to climb Mount Kanlaon via the Guintubdan
trail, you can hire local guides and porters from Barangay Guintubdan. The
trek is moderately strenuous compared to the Mambucal Trail which requires
2-3 days before reaching the Pagatpat clearing. The Guintubdan trail will
require 8-10 hours of continuous climbing and trekking, past Camps 1, 2 and
3. Water source is scarce.

There is Margaja Valley or the old Kanlaon Crater, that is usually dry
but some portions can be filled with water after a really heavy rain.
Temperatures drop deep in the night and proper physical condition as well as
proper mountainering equipments are needed. You can ascend the new crater
either by using the Eastern or Western saddle. The eastern saddle is usually
used by those who use the Masulog trail that leds to Kanlaon City in Negros
Oriental. The ascent is steep and slippery, so it is suggested to leave
your packs in the valley or in Pagatpat.
The crater is filled with herbolarios and surhanos during the Holy Week
as they believe that it is the time to renew their spiritual self. Often,
they make animal sacrifices of chicken and goat. There is also a common
belief not to disturb the restless spirits/guardians of Kanlaon (called
SUTAs), by not throwing any stones or debris in the crater, or simply by not
creating a lot of noise and boisterous laughter. Doing so are thought to
cause the volcano to behave strangely and at times, erupt.
Fatalities (mountaineers who died in Mount Kanlaon) is high. This
includes Allison Villaruel of CPU-Ilo-Ilo, in 1992, and the Belgian and
English climbers who were in the craters mouth when it spewed ash in 1996.

Calibago -- is a parch of dry land in the banks of Bago River. It can be
reached by car or tricycle, about 30 minutess from the town of Murcia. There
is a rough road that branch off from the highway leading to Mambucal.
Calibago was newly developed . Bago River is a good place to bathe and to
hold a weekend excursion. Bringing your own mode of transportation is
needed. The climate can be extremely hot in the riverbank, so do not forget
those wide umbrellas and sun screens you have at home. Bring your own food
is encouraged

Bago River is also a good place to raft and kayak. The current is strong,
and there are small rapids, for beginners and novice rafters. Bring your own
raft, paddles and safety equipment. Bringing your kids is frowned upon for
safety reasons. Do not raft, kayak or visit Calibago during the rainy season
as Bago River is unpredictable and can swell up in a matter of minutes.
Lacawon is an island beach resort in the tip of Northern Negros. One can
drive from Bacolod to Cadiz City for an approximate 1 hour (64 km.). You can
catch a bus going to Cadiz City in the North Terminal in Lopez Jaena Street,
Bacolod City. Instruct the conductor to drop you off Caduhaan and catch a
tricycle plying to and from the sea shore. In there, catch a 30 minute ride
to the Lacawon using a pump boat. A number of sheds are built around the
island. Over-all, the trip can cost the traveler a ceiling high of P500.
Bring your own food and beverage. Swimming, tanning and snorkeling in the
island is recommended but jet skis are frowned upon as this disrespects the
serenity of the place.

Balicao-cao Mountain Resort -- is owned by the City of Kabankalan. It is in
the slopes of Mount Balicao-cao and lies in a watershed area. In the past,
this spring was the source of water for the town of Kabankalan. The
bakasyunista can go to the City Hall of Kabankalan and ask for directions and
guidelines. It is a must to bring your own mode of transportation. It is a
rough 20 minute ride past Barangay Orong. Balicao-cao is still under
construction but already boasts of one clean pool and the balmy serenity of
the place. Entrance fee is P10 and P20 for each vehicle. One can swim in
the pool for P10 per person. Sheds can be rented for P100 a day while
Cottages are pegged at P500-P600 for an overnight stay. The resort is
minimally powered by fluorescent lamps at night, its power from the stored
solar energy taken during the day. One also need to bring his/her own food
and beverage. It can be extremely warm and balmy in Balicao-cao.
The resort was developed by the City of Kabankalan with help from the
Provincial government and one Japanese organization.
Bacolod City, being the portal city and jump off point to reach the
aforementioned resorts and island, must not be forgotten. The province of
Negros saw the heydays, boom and decline of the sugar industry up to the
present. It is not rare for the visitor to be basked with Ilonggo style

Numerous hotels and pension houses are abound as Bacolod City vie as a
premier Convention City of the Philippines. Respected hotels cater to
travelers, bakasyunistas and businessmen alike. Theres L’Fisher Hotel,
Convention Plaza, Sugarland Hotel, Sea Breeze and Garden Hotel. Numerous
pension houses also vie for attention. Pearl Manor Pension House in BS
Aquino drive (near the Riverside Medical Center) is recommended.
Ilonggo and Visayan Cuisine is also at its best in the City of Smiles.
The following eateries are highly recommended -- Aboy’s Kamayan, Etcetera and
Hut Foods in Goldenfields Commercial Complex, The Filipino Grill beside the Pearl Manor Pension House, Patio in 11th street, Remings and Sons in front of the Bacolod public plaza.
Try the following delicacies: pangat, sisig, broiled blue marlin and alimusan and an
array of different fish tinolas. For that delectable taste of chicken, the
Chicken House in Lacson Street and the Manokan Country in the Reclamation
area where “inasal na manok” is at its best. For those who fancy Cansi or
Bulalo, Sharyn’s Cansi House in Narra Street is recommended. Late night sea
food afficionados find delight in the Pala-Pala stretch beside the
Provincial Capitol Building. Fresh fish and sea foods are being hauled by
“banyeras”, direct from the “mansuryahans” that ply the Visayan Sea.
Before leaving Bacolod City, do not forget to drop by The Negros Museum in
the former Provincial Capitol Building where one can be filled with the
glorious history of Negros. A showcase of Negros products can also be seen
and bought in the Negros Showroom in Lacson and 10th street.
In all, enjoy and be engulfed in the beauty that the culture and outdoor
of Negros, offers.