Destinations,  Philippines

Bacolod: My Own Version of ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go?’

I started traveling as a way to mend my broken heart. Little did I know that I would fall in love again, this time with the journey.

I wanted to begin my first blog post about the city that started my love for travel, that is Bacolod. It is known as the City of Smiles because of the MassKara Festival. The people were friendly and hospitable much like everywhere else in the country. I have visited places long before my Bacolod trip, but this one was special. It was the trip that started my passion for travel.

In the summer of 2015, my best friend Hanna and I went to Bacolod City for a 3-day backpacking trip right after I obtained my college degree. It was the first time I went to another city with her. Packed three days of our lives in a bag. No itinerary, just destinations in mind. We were on our own exploring places because we have no friends or relatives living in Bacolod. We only had our guts and intuition to survive. At the time, I was also going through the most painful experience in my life when my 4-year relationship with someone ended.

I was traveling with a heart so heavy that it seemed impossible to fake a smile. Happiness was like a distant friend I could never reach. The relationship became toxic. Letting go was the best option to avoid ourselves from further pain. It was the only way for us to grow and to be happy again, separately. I guess, no matter how much you love a person or how much effort you give to make the relationship work, it will never last if you are meant to say goodbye.

Because of the local movie “That Thing Called Tadhana”, Sagada became the go-to place by broken-hearted people to scream their pain and anger in a mountain peak with a sea of clouds. I have always wanted to do that, plus throw something out at an invisible person, but I never got the chance. My pocket could not afford Sagada, so I brought my broken heart to Bacolod instead. Although there were no mountains with a sea of clouds, it was a life-changing experience.

 

The Trip Going To Bacolod

On the first day of our backpacking trip, we went straight to Cebu North Bus Terminal to take a bus bound for Bacolod. I rarely sleep during long drives, especially if they involve passing rural areas. I have a fear of missing out the views of green fields and the blue sea. Lost in thought, I hardly noticed that we had already arrived at the port of Toledo City. It took a while to load the bus into the vessel so we had a quick chance to roam around the area.

Then, we started sailing. We used this time to rest. Two hours later, we arrived in San Carlos City and our land trip resumed. I was awestruck by the scenic view of the mountains that nature generously gave us while we were on our way to Bacolod through the Don Salvador Benedicto route. You have no idea how many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ went flying out of my mouth. I barely slept but never bothered because I did not want to miss the surprises in every turn on the road. The whole trip was a feast for the eye but it was also exhausting. It took us half a day.

When we arrived in Bacolod’s terminal, many tricycle drivers offered to take us to our hostel. We politely refused but they insisted, so we ended with a deal with one of them. We were charged 100 pesos for a ride that was supposed to be short. That amount was already huge for people like us who were traveling on a shoestring. He drove around narrow streets and took every turn to make our destination look far. As if the ordeal wasn’t enough, the universe blessed us with another misfortune! The hostel where we planned to stay did not accept us because their rooms were designed to accommodate ‘groups’, not for two people. I suppose it’s not an adventure until something goes wrong. Luckily, I did prior research and we ended up staying at Ong Bun Hotel, it’s located right across the Central Market. We rented a cheap room with one single bed decent enough to fit two petite women.

 

The Taj Majal of Negros

Once we were settled, we rushed immediately to visit the Taj Mahal of Negros, no other than The Ruins. Yes, we were too excited that we didn’t bother about our exhausted bodies. It was an impressively beautiful mansion. I even wondered how beautiful it must have been during its prime years. By just looking at the architecture and facade, surely it was grand.

bacolod

bacolod

The mansion was built in the early 1900s in loving memory of a sugar baron’s wife. However, it was burned down to prevent Japanese forces from utilizing it as their headquarter during the World War II.

We noticed that our empty stomachs were already knocking on us. So we rode a jeepney going to the Manokan Country across SM Bacolod. While we were on our way, I was captivated by the locals soft and gentle tone of voice while conversing in Hiligaynon, or referred commonly as Ilonggo. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and just listen to their conversation that almost sounded like a lullaby.

 

Experiencing Mambukal Resort

On our second day, we went to Mambukal Resort in Murcia. During the bus ride, we caught a glimpse of Mt.Kanlaon, the highest point in Visayas. I dream of climbing that mountain when I am physically ready and when the volcano activity ceases.

Mambukal Resort offers plenty of activities. The first thing we did was boating. If someone was watching us, he would probably be laughing non-stop because Hannah and I looked like actors filming a comedy movie. We have zero knowledge in paddling, so instead of trying to move the boat forward, we ended up moving backward and vice versa. It took a grueling 30 minutes to finally control the paddle.

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The next thing we did was visit the Butterfly Garden. It’s both a butterfly sanctuary and a mini-museum. They have various framed dead butterflies and bugs. Don’t worry they are long dead before they were framed. These species have a short lifespan. Also, the staffs don’t throw the dead butterflies in the sanctuary, instead, they make a resin necklace of it. I even got one for myself.

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Then we explored the Seven Waterfalls of Mambukal. We hired a guide because it was mandatory and the route was slippery and dangerous. The guide assigned to us was an old man, more like a grandfather to us. He was around 60 years old yet his knees were still strong. I was amazed. I even wondered if I will ever have the same strength when I reach that age. We were able to pass three waterfalls, and it did not disappoint at all. Our guide decided not to continue with the trek because it was risky and we were only wearing slippers.

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The second waterfall.

To end our trip in Mambukal Resort, we took a dip in their sulfuric pool. It was relaxing after a day of exploring the place. Hannah and I tried to go near the water source, and boy, it was freakingly hot! You could boil an egg within five seconds. How crazy were we to do that?

We drove back to Bacolod and arrived in time for dinner. If you have a huge love for seafood, a visit to their Pala-Pala Market is a must. We personally selected Ading’s Pala-Pala Place. Gracious goodness! Their food was really tasty and delicious that it took me to the seventh level of heaven. No jest! They have great interiors, too. Taking pictures of the food was out of our concern. As soon as they were served, we immediately devoured them.

 

Exploring Bacolod City

On our third and last day, we opted for a stroll at their Capitol. They have a lagoon park in front of it where locals would often do jogging. I could only wish that Cebu has this kind of place where people could enjoy the company of nature without going for a long drive.

They say if you are in Bacolod, trying the desserts in Calea is a must. So we headed there. For the slice of cake I ate, the price was fair enough. But don’t expect me to comment anything technical about the dessert because my food vocabulary is only limited to words such as “ok”, “delicious”, “tastes good”.

I never expected that in those three days, I would forget the pain I was carrying. It changed me in so many ways I never imagined I would be. If not for that trip, I would be nowhere close to who and where I am today. I am happy that the Universe used my broken heart as an instrument to know myself better and to understand the world in a meaningful way. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from the whole experience it’s this: there’s more to life than a failed relationship. Sure, losing someone who you thought would be your lifetime partner is emotionally shattering and awfully painful, but it’s not the end of life. The weather within you may be gloomy or rainy, but it won’t stay like that for the rest of your days. Behind the thick, dark cloud lies the sun. And it will surely shine again. It’s possible to be genuinely happy again even if you don’t have a partner. Learn to love yourself first. Overused, right? But it’s true. You can never love someone fully if you don’t have it. Give yourself the love that you never received, or the love you give so freely to others. Don’t expect someone to give it to you because no one else can give it but YOU.