Tips for your trips: Coron, Palawan

We’ve always believed Coron was an expensive destination, much the same way as El Nido, also in Palawan. But more than a year of being on the road has taught us to ditch hearsay and do what most of us hate: research.





Thankfully, that’s not too much to ask anymore with Google and with the countless independent travel accounts online that have all made us realize that Coron–or any other destination for that matter–could be as cheap as you would allow it.

So if YOU would allow us, we’re giving you a rough guide on the expenses you’re going to have in a typical three-day two-night stay in this island. One thing’s for sure: it doesn’t matter whether you spend an arm and a leg or go on a budget; Coron is worth your every penny.

coron map two2travel

How to get to Coron

Fly directly to Busuanga; from there, take a van from the airport to downtown Coron. From downtown Coron, spots are reachable by foot, by rented motorcycle, or your friendly neighborhood tricycle. You can fly to Busuanga via Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, or Zest Airways.

1. From Busuanga airport to Coron town proper: P150 per person per way

Travel time: 30 minutes
You may check with your hotel if they can arrange a van pickup for you (as well as return trip on your departure date). If you don’t have reservations yet, there are vans right outside the airport willing to take you in for the same price. The P150 fare is a standard in Coron.

2. Around Coron town proper: zero to P500

Coron’s town proper is where hotels and establishments are, so most probably it’s where you will be based as well, except if you’re staying in one of the nearby islands.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

The town proper rests at the foot of Mt. Tapyas, which explains the hilly terrain which people from Baguio will find familiar and easy to navigate.

You’ll find the town proper very convenient especially for emergency needs. There are at least two banks (BPI and Landbank), courier services, clinics, drugstores, souvenir shops, restaurants, a market, and hotels of every price range.

Tricycle rides go for P10 per person, though drivers would be happy to take just P15 for two people (but, as we always practice when traveling, do what little you can to help the small communities of the place you’re visiting, even if it means giving only the extra P5 for your trike ride).

If you want to have your own pace and go somewhere farther than your feet could take you without sweating it out, hire a motorcycle from one of the numerous rental shops in town. Boyet’s (contact number: 09282929884) is rather well written about, though we found transacting with the owner, who by this time you might have correctly guessed is named Boyet, a tad less straightforward than expected.

To cut the story short, don’t settle for anything less than you expected, whether it’s an automatic ignition or a scooter instead of a semi-automatic unit. Try to haggle with the price as well. We had rented one scooter on our first day for P400, from 4 PM to around 8 PM only. The next day, we rented an XRM unit for P500 from 8 PM to 11 AM the following day. You’ll also be shouldering the gas: one afternoon of touring the town could cost you about 1 liter at P56.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Where to stay in Coron

Travel with Airbnb

Coron has accommodation options for all types of travelers, from the nitpicky to the extreme backpacker. Rates can go as high as P5,000 per night per room and as low as P300 per night per person for a dorm-type accommodation.

Mt. Tapyas Hotel, where we stayed, charges around P1,300 to P1,600 for two occupants in one room.

Most hotels are within the town proper so it’s not difficult to scout should you want to just walk in.

Other hotels and inns:

Rudy’s Place Lodge | KokosNuss | El Rio Y Mar | Divelink | Coron Hilltop View Resort | Coron Village Lodge | Asia Grand View Hotel | Centro Coron Bed and Breakfast | Islands View Inn | Princess of Coron | Coron Gateway Hotel and Suites | Sunz En Coron

What to do in Coron

Coron is an island off the coast of the bigger Busuanga Island in northern Palawan. Busuanga is where you land; Coron town is part of Busuanga island.

Join in daily tours and other groups; book thru your hotel; or do your own island hopping tour.

DSC_1893 copy

1. JOIN OTHER GROUPS

(Our most recommended. The most affordable option too if you’re a small group)

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

We had availed of a day tour island hopping package via Coron Galeri [see: http://www.corongaleri.com.ph], one of several local tour operators in Coron.

Its bestselling tour–the same one we had–costs P650 each plus a P100-rental of snorkel gear, which is optional. The P650 per person fee already includes boat rental, your lunch, all entrance fees to the islands, and the services of a tour assistant. The tour we availed of took us to the following spots: Kayangan Lake, the Twin Peaks Reef, Atwayan Beach (where we had our lunch), a snorkeling spot that was off an unknown island that had the richest underwater environment we had seen all day; the CYC Beach, and the Twin Lagoon.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Going this way is the best for travelers who come in pairs (like us) because we were grouped with others (who, like us, also came in pairs. We even had a male solo traveler in our group). There are other packages to choose from as well, including tours to Culion Island and Calauit. Click this link for a full list of their tours. Be sure to reserve a day in advance if you’re availing of their daily tours (their office is at the town proper and is fairly easy to find. Just ask for Coron Galeri or Mae Linsangan). Island hopping starts at about 8 AM and ends at about 4 PM.

2. BOOK A TOUR WITH YOUR HOTEL

(Most expensive; itinerary and food are set; but most convenient especially for the very busy among us)

Hotels offer package tours along with board and lodging, and while this isn’t exactly more expensive, it does tend to limit your options especially when it comes to food (imagine yourself having to eat something you don’t quite like for the next three days only because you’ve already paid for it).
Coron Village Lodge, for instance, charges more than P5,000 per person for a 3-day 2 night stay, including meals.

Most 3D2N packages also come with town tours at P500 per person, which we think is too expensive for a place that’s so close-knit you can practically walk from one spot to another and rent a trike to other far-off spots like Maquinit Hot Springs. In our case, we were really too tired from climbing Mt. Tapyas so we decided not to go to Maquinit Hotsprings afterward. If you availed of a town tour, though, you will have to go there after your climb (all packages follow this sequence). Though we thought taking a dip in the hot water could be nice after a long day, we thought we could do with pizza and beer instead. :)

3. DO YOUR OWN TOUR

(Recommended for big groups, but you will have to put together everything including your lunch)

Here is the breakdown of costs:
*Standard rate of boat rental: P1,500 for a whole day, good for up to 10 people
*Entrance fees to the islands (per person):
Kayangan Lake: P200
Twin Lagoon: P100
Atwayan Beach: P100
Siete Pecados: P100
Malcapuya Island: P150
Banana Island: P200*
Barracuda Lake: P100
Twin Peaks Reef: Free
CYC Island: Free

UPDATE (As of October 13, 2012)

Coron has reportedly come up with a one-time entrance fee of P250 for every tourist going on island hopping instead of the old system indicated above. Payments will be collected at the municipal treasury office with the appropriate receipt.

Aside from this, Coron has also decided to close some spots: Tangingi Beach, Twin Lagoons, Smith Point Beach, Kaliwantay Beach, Banol Beach 1 & 2, Atwayan Beach, Malwawoy Beach, & Skeleton Wreck. The areas covered by the P250 fee system are: Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoons,  Beaches,  Caves (both above and underwater), Ship Wrecks, and  Coral Reefs. [See: Source 1 & Source 2]

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Since you’re doing your tour on your own, you will have to prepare your packed lunch as well. There are restaurants around town (though finding one that opens before 8 AM is another matter) and the market is nearby should you want to cook your own meal, but thinking about all that effort you would have to put on defeats the purpose of being on holiday, doesn’t it?

If you’re staying more than three days in Coron, spread out your island hopping destinations since a whole day is good for around five spots only. Islands located farther off, like Banana and Malcapuya, are 2 hours away from town. Other spots, such as Kayangan Lake, Atwayan Beach, CYC Beach, Twin Peaks Reef, Twin Lagoon, and Siete Pecados belong to the Coron Island Loop and are a short distance from one another. The first spot is usually within 15 to 30 minutes from downtown.

*You may opt to stay the night at Banana Island at around P1,000 per person per night (contact the owners at 09292082363). It’s 2 hours by boat from downtown Coron, and though we weren’t able to see the island firsthand, we’ve read about superlative accounts of its white sand beach and snorkeling spots. Electricity is scheduled though (can’t have too much of a good thing, eh?).

Where to eat in Coron

Island = cheap food. Don’t expect fine dining in Coron, otherwise you’d be disappointed.What it does have, however, is this.

Bistro Coron is rather popular for its Bistro Pizza, shown below, which has onions, tomatoes, mushroom, garlic, ground beef, and cheese. Their smallest–10 inches–costs P299, while bigger sizes cost P399 and P599. Bistro Coron is a bit on the steep side, with dishes amounting to an average of P300, but their menu is  very extensive. You can have lobster, cocktails, prawns, pasta, etcetera.

Bistro Coron, Coron, Palawan, Philippines
Looking for more pictures? We’ve prepared an e-book especially for that. We’ve included some essential details as well. You may download Part 2 of our Life’s a Beach Series featuring Coron here:

TWO2TRAVEL’S LIFE’S A BEACH SERIES
Coron
Bantayan

Life’s a Beach Part 2: Coron

To experience all the goodness of Coron, you have to get wet, because all the action happens underneath.

An island north of mainland Palawan, Coron is a known shipwreck diving site. Diving enthusiasts rave over the World War II shipwrecks underneath its waters, but its rich marine life—one of the most diverse in the Philippines—gives inexperienced swimmers a chance at a blockbuster underwater experience all the same.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines | Two2Travel.com

Continue reading “Life’s a Beach Part 2: Coron”

Sinulog sa Sugbu 2012

The carousel parade of the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City was the LONGEST we’ve had to take photos of: 10 grueling hours, more than half of which under the scorching heat of the sun!

Sinulog Festival, Cebu, Philippines

It also didn’t help that, although we had IDs, we were clueless about the best spots to position ourselves!
Continue reading “Sinulog sa Sugbu 2012”

Wow, Handuraw!

We were trying to give justice to the 12 inches of cheese before us one Saturday afternoon after having a field day around Cebu, but apparently Elizabeth Gilbert had better words:

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

[…] before I left Rome he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting
prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is
from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer . . . I’m almost too superstitious to say it… the best pizza in the world? […]

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered—one for each of us—are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?”

Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one nonstop oven. […] There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here—regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! 

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it. ~ Eat Pray Love

Unfortunately we weren’t in Naples (or in any other country for that matter). We were somewhere along Gorordo Avenue in Cebu City in what looks like an old house outfitted to be a pizzeria, with really cozy interiors as well as an al fresco dining area. 

It considers itself having the best thin crust pizza in Cebu, and though we were unable to compare it with any other local pizzeria, it did go down in our books as one of the best we’ve had so far.

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

Another reason to troop to Gorordo for your high-calorie fix: Handuraw is also known for its below-zero beer. Pair that up with their best-selling pizza and that’s just about as good as any Neapolitan pizza experience you could get. Handuraw, after all, is Cebuano for the power to imagine.

Now we know you’re hungry.

HANDURAW PIZZA

Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City (near UP Cebu)
10 minutes by cab or jeepney

Other branches

Pueblo Verde, Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan, Cebu
Corner J. Camus St., Quirino Ave., Davao City
2F Lexington Condominium, Xavierville Ave., Quezon City
3F Eastwood Cyber&Fashion Mall, Eastwood City, Quezon City
Unit 3 #3270 Armstrong Ave., Pasay City

This is not a sponsored post.

Wanna know more about our Cebu food picks? Click here!

Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo

We saw this for the first time in 2011 during the Dinagyang: flocks of men standing in front of stacks of speakers, staring as if in a trance, and doing absolutely nothing else. You couldn’t help but notice since the speakers were giving off such loud sounds you just had to cover your ears, but these men–with some just an inch away from these black boxes–were unblinkingly staring at them.

Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo

Continue reading “Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo”

A look into Sinulog’s pious side: Cebu’s Sto. Niño procession

This year, crowd estimates of the Sinulog 2012 festivities reached 3.5 million–a consistent high in festival attendance in the entire country. It’s no wonder Cebu draws so many people during the second weekend of January for the Sinulog–if there’s one place in the Philippines that knows how to play host to a big event, it’s gotta be Cebu.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

There are mainly two sides to the celebrations: the merrymaking part which Sinulog has become very known for, and the religious side, through which the festival traces its roots.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We spent three of the six days we were in Cebu walking along the city streets during festival weekend. And once again we were reminded why we love going to local festivals–everyone’s in a merry mood, everyone’s extra generous and kind, and all the best the place has to offer is laid down before you in heavy abundance. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

But Sinulog’s other side amazed us just as much–the devotion of the people to the Sto. Niño, the festival’s central figure. The number of people who joined the procession reminded us of the Black Nazarene crowd in Manila, although not as, uh, aggressive.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

During the procession, which happens on the Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend, people bring along their Sto. Niño statues and hoist them up. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Elsewhere in the city, particularly around the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, thick crowds gather for the hourly masses (the crowd had been too big we were able to pass through the church gates on our last day after two earlier attempts). We were not even able to enter the church itself because there were just too many people.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We managed to enter the church gates on our second attempt, two days after our first one.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Second and fourth photos from top left, clockwise show people praying around Magellan’s Cross, believed to be where the Portuguese explorer placed a cross, a Catholic symbol, to mark the Christianization of the locals. The place was boarded up when we went there so people threw coins and unlit candles through the gate voids instead.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Balloon vendors add color to the crowds at the basilica. There were more balloon vendors here than anywhere else we ever saw.

If you’re planning to join the next Sinulog Festival and would want to check out its religious part, remember the following: 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

1. The Sto. Nino procession takes place every Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend.

2. Osmena Boulevard is the most recommended place to take photos as it’s the widest area and may be less prone to overcrowding.

3. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino is accessible via the Sto. Nino jeepneys. You can drop off in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful whitewashed structure, before walking three minutes to the Basilica. Magellan’s Cross is beside the Basilica too.

Sto Nino Procession, Cebu | Two2Travel
Sto. Nino Procession Photo Gallery

UPDATED! Sugarland Rush: Exploring Bacolod City overnight

TWO2TRAVEL | Bacolod

Bacolod is home to many delightful pieces of the Filipino puzzle. A plethora of sights—some souvenirs of its past and others a colorful parade of its present—welcomes every visitor to this Western Visayan city. Though 24 hours is arguably short for any trip, it was many times more so in Bacolod—just as we had experienced during its busiest weekend of the year, during the MassKara Festival.

But an overnight stay should be enough to get a taste of Bacolod’s famed wonders, from history to the arts to food to the beguiling warmth of its people’s smiles. Head to Bacolod any day of the year, and get ready to fall in love—overnight.

SIGHTS TO SEE:

The Ruins, Talisay City | Negros Museum | Manokan Country | Pope John Paul II Tower | Calea or Felicia’s | Negros Showroom | Negros Capitol | San Sebastian Church | Bong-bong’s

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2TravelIn Bacolod, you can dine amidst Spanish-era ruins (left) or in simple carinderias (right)

DAY 1
8 AM | Visit The Ruins in Talisay City and be amazed

The so-called Taj Mahal of the Philippines is an early 20th century Italianate ancestral house owned by a sugar baron, who built it as a profession of undying love for his wife, who had died in an accident.

This is easily the most photogenic building we’ve seen. The colossal gray skeleton, survivor of a fire at the end of World War II, looks cheery against the bright blue sky and the deep green lawn, well kept and beautifully landscaped with a four-tiered fountain at the center. Built around vast sugar plantations, it is said to be even more beautiful at night as it is bathed in different dazzling lights. The sunset can also be viewed from its belvedere on the second level.

During the day, you can try sipping coffee where the original dining room was at the house’s first level. In place of the usual long table are wrought-iron tables and chairs, with piped-in piano music, shafts of sunlight streaming into the windows, and a magnificent view of the century-old fountain farther off.

*The Ruins is around 20 minutes from the Bacolod city proper. Take a jeepney (Bata route) and ask to be dropped off at the Bangga Rose Lawns Memorial Park, then hire a tricycle to The Ruins for P10 per head (22 cents ). A P60-entrance fee (USD 1.36) will also be collected. The Ruins is open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM.

10 AM | Experience storytelling the Negrense way

Right smack in the middle of the main gallery is a life-sized replica of a batil, a cargo boat about four times the size of a regular fishing boat used to transfer goods to and from Negros. The painstaking effort it took to put together this piece—everything else in the museum, in fact—is admirable: on the boat are mock-up baskets of fruits, several crates, as well as barrels of Tanduay (a local rum brand which operates a distilling plant in Bacolod. Sugar cane, it must be noted, is the main ingredient in rum production).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Chinese terra cotta figures

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Negros Museum

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

A steam engine, also called an Iron Dinosaur, is also on display along with the batil. A staple in the Negros landscape before, these trains were used to transport harvested sugar cane from the fields to the milling centers.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

“The Negros Museum is the first in the Philippines curatorially conceived without focus on precious artifacts, but instead on the complex stories and people whose lives make up the stories,” the museum describes itself in its website.

It’s storytelling through art, something that’s very much alive in Bacolod and the whole province, and it’s something that the Negros Museum has lavishly, lovingly put together.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Museum Cafe at Negros Museum

You can walk through larger-than-life murals of myths, rituals, and early life in the island along the first level’s cavernous halls. All these, plus oil-on-canvas paintings, terra cotta sculptures, and bas relief paintings depicting the local life, were created by Bacolod’s homegrown artists—a source of pride for the province and living proof of its vibrant art scene.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Kids and adults will also love the Jose Garcia Montelibano Gallery of International Folk Art and Toys, a 3,000-piece collection from 60 countries gathered for 25 years. From Russian and Japanese dolls to wooden animal figures, some very intricate, others fascinatingly simple, it’s an interesting walk back our very own childhood.

Now, eating al fresco while surrounded by all that history and art is another experience altogether. The Museum Cafe, which flows naturally from the children’s gallery, serves up homemade bread, cheese, and pastries. It’s a refreshing cap to what would certainly be a tiring yet interesting walk through history.

The Museum Cafe serves up freshly baked, homemade pastries and cheeses, among others.

*The Negros Museum is located at the Former Agricultural Building (old Capitol Building) along Gatuslao Street. It’s a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol, otherwise pedicabs (foot-pedaled tricycles) can easily take you there. It opens 10 AM, Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is P50 (USD 1).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The Negros Occidental Capitol in Bacolod City

12 NN | Taste the other side of Sugarland in Manokan Country

You can’t have been to Bacolod and not have eaten its chicken inasal (roast chicken)—aside from its sweet treats, of course. Head to Manokan Country for affordable meals and satisfactory serving sizes (Aida’s is a favorite, but we dined at Lion’s Park, which was the preference of our Iloilo-based companions).

Taste the authentic Chicken Inasal from Manokan Country, right across SM City Bacolod.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Bacolod’s signature chicken inasal at Manokan Country. Pretty obvious for a name, eh?

A pecho (chicken breast) with a serving of rice costs Php90 (USD 2). Don’t be surprised if they don’t serve you with spoon and fork though—tastes better when dipped in calamansi and soy sauce, chicken inasal is usually eaten sans fork and spoon, but these are still provided upon request. Finish off your meal with ice cold soda and you’re ready to see more of the sights around.

1:30 PM | Get a bird’s eye-view of the city from Pope John Paul II Tower

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Pope John Paul II Tower. The building sits on the spot where the late pontiff first touched Negros ground, so say the locals.

Eight stories high, this whitewashed building was built in 2010 to commemorate the late Catholic Pope John Paul II’s 1981 visit to Bacolod City (a life-size bronze statue of the late leader was also built in front).

The John Paul II tower features a life-size bronze statue of the late Pontiff, a tribute to his visit to the province.

Seven floors contain the Pope’s memorabilia as well as oil on canvas paintings of the Stations of the Cross done by Bacolod artists. Climb all the way to the viewdeck and see bustling Bacolod on one side and the Guimaras Strait on the other.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The glass-walled tower, which we didn’t find impressive, contained memorabilia of the pope, including the clothes he wore during his visit. The view from the top was great though.

*The Pope John Paul II Tower is open daily and entrance fee costs P20 (45 cents) per person. It is located across SM City Bacolod.

2 PM | Taste the sweetest of Sugarland

Bacolod is the country’s sugar granary, so we regret not having been able to squeeze in time for a quick sugar fix in the city’s well-known sugar haunts. Calea and Felicia’s Pastry Cafe are two of the most popular—having been recommended by the locals we had asked for tips and directions.

*Calea is along Lacson St., beside L’Fisher Chalet, while Felicia’s is at 6th St.

3 PM | Buy local crafts at the Negros Showroom

Locally made products—from native handicrafts to sweets to furniture—are for sale at the Negros Showroom, established to give entrepreneurs an avenue to showcase their products.
*The Negros Showroom is a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol or the Negros Museum.

The whitewashed Negros Occidental Capitol near the Negros Museum

4 PM | Spot picture-worthy sights along the street

Stop for quick snaps when you pass by these noteworthy sights. All are easily accessible via pedicab.

San Sebastian Church is Bacolod’s oldest church, and is an architectural wonder for its façade’s coral stones from Guimaras Island.

*San Sebastian Church is at Rizal St., in front of the Bacolod City Public Plaza.

5 PM | Buy pastries from Bong-bong’s

Like Iloilo’s Biscocho Haus, Bacolod’s Bong-Bong’s is where you get your pasalubong—a wide array of affordable pastries, including biscocho, ube piaya (a must-try!), fruit tarts, etc. You can find a store at SM City Bacolod and at Gaisano Mall.

DAY 2
10 AM | See Silay

Silay is a tourist attraction on its own. Comparable to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Luzon, Silay’s bahay-na-bato (stone houses) are picturesque historical remnants that are sure to be worth an afternoon trip, as is a stop at El Ideal, a circa-1920s bakery that’s still up and running. Also drop by nearby Balay Negrense, a stone-house-turned-museum.
*Silay is 30 minutes from Bacolod City, but since it’s en route the airport, you can take this sidetrip right after arriving or just before leaving.

When visiting in October, catch the MassKara

The MassKara Festival is one of the country’s most visited fiestas, and the two-day parades on the weekend nearest October 19, Bacolod’s charter anniversary, are the biggest crowd-drawer. Bacolod literally lights up in a dizzying array of colors as masks—some donned by dancers, others hanging on trees as lanterns or being sold as souvenirs—fill the streets, all smiling back at you. The parades (one on a Saturday and another on a Sunday) start in the afternoon so you can spend your morning going around the city.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

*Access to the festival is free for all, but if you want to take photos up close, you’d need a festival photo contest ID, which the local government provides with the Camera Club of Negros. Details in securing IDs are posted at www.themasskarafestival.com.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

See you in Sugarlandia!

GOING TO & AROUND

Go around via foot-pedaled tricycles, called sikads or pedicabs, at P10 per person.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

UPDATE: Alternate routes to Bacolod City (October 11, 2012)

If you have not yet booked your ticket to Bacolod, you can try these alternative routes:

• By air to Iloilo, by sea to Bacolod
◦ From Iloilo airport, take a shuttle (P100-P150 each) to the city center. Drop off at SM Jaro (not SM City Iloilo, which is located farther)
◦ Take a quick cab ride to the port in Jaro where you could board fastcraft ferries to Bacolod (1.5 hours, around P350 round trip). See OceanJet, SuperCat, and Weesam for fares and schedules.
• By air to Dumaguete, by land to Bacolod
◦ From the Dumaguete airport, head to the South Bus Terminal where you can find Bacolod-bound Ceres buses (travel time is 5 hours)

Know more about how it’s like to photograph the Philippines’ festivals. Click here.