12 April 2008

Tour of Negros Occidental

Minnie grew up in Bacolod city, the capitol of Negros Occidental, and we flew there from Manila Wednesday (April 2) to visit Minnie's parents and meet up with her old friends. I was joking with Minnie on the way there that I should use a stop-watch to check how long it takes from we arrive at her parents place to her mom offers me mango. Guess what? They were ready on the table when we arrived, offered right away :) My mom-in-law is very proud of the mangoes in Bacolod. This is with a good reason, they are sooo sweet :)

We had planned to visit some sites around Bacolod while there, so on Thursday we left for a trip to a town not far from Bacolod called Silay. This city once were the capitol of Negros Occidental, and has a rich history. At the street called Cinco de Noviembre (spanish for 5th of November, after the uprising against the Spanish on this date in 1898) there are a lot of Spanish-style houses. Most of the are in very poor condition because of lack of maintenance, but there are two exceptions, which both are museums.

We visited Balay Negrense first, a big old mansion. Our guide was an old lady, which knew so much and also were really nice. It was a very interesting visit, learning and understanding more of Filipino history. Afterwards we went to home of Ramon Hofileña, a retired swimming trunks model and manic collector of all sorts :) He is a very colorful character, but also a very nice and interesting person.

In addition to it being his residence, his house also serves as a museum. He actually shows you around his private residence, even showing his bedroom. Quite an odd feeling, but this guy has collected so many things over the years, and this is really what visiting his house is all about. The most important part of his collection is paintings. He has a very strong interest and passion for Filipino art, and most of the rooms in his house are full of art pieces. He even had a piece of Lloyd's dad, Larry Tronco, which amazed Minnie. Other things found in his house are copies of the worlds first pocket books (issued to U.S. soldiers in WW2), meteorite stones, the worlds smallest dolls, Ming dynasty jars and much more. A visit to "Mon", as he insisted we call him, is highly recommended :)

On saturday we went to a beach in a town called Sipalay, with a stop on the way in the house of some of Minnie's relatives. The stop was nice for me, making me able to have a very non-touristy experience of a typical Filipino rural household. I even got to pump water from the well :) Arriving at the beach we (finally) got to enjoy the lazy beach life, eating and drinking and watching the sunset. In the morning after we went swimming and sunbathing, the first time this vacation :)

On Wednesday the 9th, we went on another tour. This time my parents-in-law had picked the sites. First we visited Victorias Milling Company, said to be the worlds largest integrated sugar mill and refinery. We were taken on tour through one of the mills, seeing how sugar was made from the sugar canes arriving on trucks (no pictures allowed though). We saw the extracting of juice from the sugar canes, how the juice was purified and crystallized into brown sugar. We got to taste the sugar on the conveyor belt, which tastes just like brown sugar, not surprising :), but still hot from the processing. After the tour we went to see the church on the factory area, famous for it's mural depicting an angry Christ.

Leaving Victorias, we headed to a resort/butterfly house for lunch. This place were really pretty and relaxing, reminding me of the spirit of the Negros people :). After lunch we drove to a site called "The ruins", which is the ruins of an old mansion built in the 1930's. The mansion was burned by the resistance movement in WW2, to prevent it from being used as headquarters by the Japanese. Still, the concrete skeleton of this mansion, which must've been really wonderful in its time, still stands in amazingly good condition. Work is now being done to preserve the ruins, and it has already become a stunning site. Surrounded by a beautiful garden, it's very pretty and romantic. The owner of the place was there and gave us a nice and interesting tour. We all had a great time and were very pleased with the day when we went back :)

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