There are a number of good reasons for the tourist to find their way to the lesser visited Negros Occidental. While it may be overlooked by all the divers coming to the Philippines, it scores highly for historic interest and boasts some excellent places of natural beauty. Travel Authentic Philippines offers a variety of Negros tours.

Bacolod is the provincial capital, a pleasant city with good transport links by air, or ferry to Iloilo on Panay (en-route to Boracay). From here you are well placed to visit the main areas of interest on the island, all within day trips.

Just north are the twin areas of Silay City and Manapla. It is here that the sugar industry is best witnessed for its legacy of wealth on the island. Sugar barons in the Nineteenth century established themselves here and left behind grand old mansions that stand today as a place of cultural colonial interest in Silay.

Surrounding the city is Talisay, and Manapla, where you can see ruins befitting English country estates, and visit revived sugar factories to understand the process. Also local is the lovely Patag National park, which puts on display some of the best natural scenery Negros has to offer.

Inland at Canlaon Mountain park is a fine volcanic landscape to discover if you are fit and keen on hiking, along with waterfalls and hotsprings.

Those who prefer the beach should head to the southern reaches of the province, where there are some fantastic beaches at Sipalay City. While diving is less well stated here, there are some good offshore islands that are marine reserves.

Finally, if you time your visit for October you will get to witness the most colourful and lively of the Philippine festivals, the famous Masskara event that takes place in Bacolod.

What to see
The chief attraction to point your camera at when on the Occidental side of Negros island is the twin historic centres of Silay and Manapla. Located just north of the provincial capital of Bacolod, these two offer some of the best examples of ancient colonial architecture on the whole archipelago.

Strolling around Silay – the Paris of Negros’ as it is known, admiring old wooden mansions that are a legacy of the sugar plantation wealth, is interesting. There are a number of churches and cathedrals dating back some 200 years.

Talisay is local district noted for ruins amid countryside locations. Don Mariano Lacson’s mansion has an eerie feel to it – reminiscent of an abandoned tumbledown Scottish castle, and is a favourite inspiration for artists.

In Manapla, further North, is the remnants of plantations, with some preserved for visitors to tour and get a sense of the sugar harvesting that dominated the island and brought immense wealth to some.

Patag National park is best covered in the ‘what to do’ section, since it’s loaded with natural beauty worth trekking to, including waterfalls, hotsprings and volcanic lakes.

The inland parks, particular surrounding Mount Canlaon, offer areas of natural beauty, characterised by lush tropical vegetation in highlands, where waterfalls, hotsprings, and of course mountain peaks, abound. If you’re not particularly energetic, there are resorts among the vegetation with prime locations to enjoy the views.

South of the province, there are some excellent beaches that attract visitors. At Sipalay City you will find the gorgeous white sands of Punta Ballo Beach, Sugar Beach Campomanes Bay.

What to do
Hiking up to Mount Canlaon, inland on the border with Negros Oriental, is a exhausting but worthwhile volcanic experience as you ascent to the bald-topped stark landscape to gaze down on the dormant caldera and admire the views.

If you’re not too fit, there are several lovely waterfalls and scenic areas that can be trekked to, starting in San Carlos City, where you are unlikely to run into tourist crowds. These include the Alinsayawan Falls, Choco Hills and Codcod rice terraces. Closer to Bacolod you can also easily seek out the Bagacay, Kipot and Asaw Asaw falls.

Sipalay, which is a couple of hours south of Bacolod is a good place for those seeking a combination of beach relaxing on lovely white sands with comfortable facilities, snorkeling and boating.

Historic tours of Silay are recommended, since it’s one of the best preserved of the colonial towns, and biking around the genteel suburbs in search of new photo opportunities is a user-friendly, easy activity.

Spending a day or morning on one of the old sugar plantations, now open to the public as historic estates, is an interesting means to get a sense of the agri-industry that dominated the island for so long. Several options are arranged from Bacolod.

Also in the area is the Patag National Park, an area of outstanding beauty, where you can go on foot or bike to discover waterfalls, volcanic lakes and hotsprings.

Ensure you’re in Bacolod for the annual Masskara festival, perhaps the Philippines’ most colourful and photogenic festival. Every October the city stops, as the extraordinary masks and costumes are donned for this religious inspired pageant.

Island hopping is also suggested. Across the Guimaras Strait are many lovely small, private, islands. Danjugan Marine reserve is an outstanding underwater landscape off this small island, which isn’t that easy to get to, being in the far south of the province.

Caving is another activity for those interested in exploring the numerous limestone honeycombed chambers dotted about the island.

Local culture
The contemporary culture of Negros is defined by sugar and in this regard this extends to the plantations, and the heritage of fine buildings left behind in Silay City as a result of the wealth generated for the lucky few. You can get a sense of this by exploring the town.

The Masskara festival in Bacolod is actually a relatively recent construct, started in 1980 to raise spirits of the city following a tragic maritime disaster locally. Though it does take it’s name from a portmanteau of mask and ‘many people’, derived from the local lingo for maks, and Spanish word for crowd.

Every year enormous effort goes into the costumes, and theatrical masks that aren’t dissimilar to that of masqued Venetian balls, crossed with the Rio Carnival. There are parades and beauty pageants, dance competitions and plenty of latin-inspired music, it all goes on for days and is a very photogenic event.

Overview

Situated on the eastern side of the island of Negros, Canlaon is the main gateway to Kanlaon Volcano, or Mount Kanlaon. This active volcano is a popular spot for mountain climbing and trekking and is the city’s main attraction. Visitors to Canlaon will also be impressed with its agriculture and indigenous community.

Sitting at 2,465 meters above sea level, Mount Kanlaon is the most active volcano in the Philippines. It is quite imposing and can be seen from any point in Canlaon. Still, it is not the only reason to visit the city, which also offers great cultural expeditions.

There are transportation links to and from Canlaon to Dumaguete, the island’s capital city. This is also where the Sibulan Airport can be found, which is accessible by taxi and local bus. Another alternative is to fly to Mactan-Cebu International airport and take a ferry arcos the Tañon Strait to nearby Guihulngan, catching a jeepney from there to Canlaon.

Unfortunately, in 1996 24 mountain climbers were on the summit of Mount Kanlaon when it unexpectedly erupted, taking the life of three people. The volcano has erupted three times in the past 10 years. Though each time there was fair warning.

Due to its location, Canlaon is quite a wet city, with April being the driest month and July being the wettest. January to April is when visitors will feel the most comfortable, while July to October has the most disappointing climate and should be avoided if possible.

What to see and do

Canlaon is a small city that has a total land area of just 99.85 square miles. All accommodations are either on or within a couple of blocks of the National Highway and the Canlaon City Bus and Jeepney Terminal. It is nearly impossible to get lost in the city, as all streets are links to the National Highway or Benigno Aquino Street, which runs perpendicular.

Canlaon’s gigantic banyan tree is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. The 1,328 year old tree is located at the OISCA Model Farm and is said to be the oldest tree in the country. At Christmas time, the fireflies illuminate it and create a natural Christmas tree, which is something spectacular.

Signature experiences

Climbing Mount Kanlaon

The most impressive attraction both within the city and on the entire island of Negros is by far Mount Kanlaon. Trekking and mountain climbing are of course the most popular ways to explore the famous volcano, though climbing should only be attempted by serious climbers.

Within the volcano range also lie the Sudlon waterfalls and Margaha Valley, which is the former crater of the volcano and site below the current active crater. Both the previous and current craters can be seen from Makawiliwili Ridge, which sits between two peaks at 8,000 feet above sea level.

Meet the indigenous people of the highlands of Negros

The Ati, who inhabit the mountain areas of Negros, are also called Negrito, Ituman, and Negros. They are the indigenous people of Negros.

They still live near the volcano. With their kinky hair and dark features they look very different from other Filipinos.

Overview

Sitting on the northwestern part of the island of Negros. Manapla and Silay are beautiful cities known for their magnificent colonial architecture, many of which have been declared national landmarks.

Combined in these two cities, are all-round destinations that are home to beaches, historical sites and stunning nature. Patag National Park actually lies within Silay’s city limits, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves with nature and visit beautiful waterfalls and snap photos of various flora and fauna.

Transportation link to Silay are excellent, with the Bacolod–Silay International Airport sitting, just a mere 10-minutes drive from the city center. There are also tricycles outside the airport going into the city. Private taxis provide access from the airport to Manapla, while jeepneys connect the two cities.

In June 2003 Silay held a referendum to approve the city’s annual budget and was the first city in the Philippines to do this. Since then the ‘Little Paris of Negros’ has been listed as one of the top 25 tourist destinations in the country.

Manapla and Silay have a tropical climate with a significant amount of rain throughout the entire year. The weather is best in February, March, and April when it is less wet and hot, while October, November, and December offer the most disappointing weather.

What to see

Most visitors to these cities stay in the Silay City Heritage Zone, making a day trip to Manapla. Silay is the island’s center of arts, culture, and eco-tourism, while Manapla offers a glimpse of a sugarcane plantation established in the late 1800’s, of which the island is famed for, and considered as the major sugar producer in the country. Manapla also has a lovely and very quiet stretch of seaview with a backdrop of greenery.

The most noted attractions in Silay are of course, the 30+ the stunning colonial houses, with Balay Negrense, being at the top of the list. The picturesque house was built by the son of a French resident Yves Leopold Germain Gaston and in 1992 was restored by the Philippine Tourism Authority. When it opened its doors it became the first museum in Negros Occidental.

Known as the ‘Pink House’ because of its pink façade, the Bernardino-Ysabel Jalandoni Ancestral House is another stunning example of Silay’s European architecture. The 20th century house is now a museum that houses a rare collection of expensive dolls and antique objects.

The only pro-Cathedral church outside of Manila, San Diego Pro-Cathedral was built in the 1700’s out of nipa-palm, bamboo and grass. It was then converted to stone and wood in the 1800’s, and in the 1900’s Italian architect Lucio Bernasconi built the 20th Century concrete-dome church that it is today.

Manapla’s Chapel of Cartwheels was constructed completely out of farm implements, such as plows, cartwheels, margaha sand, mortar and pestle, and broken glass. It is an extremely unique chapel built and designed using the principles of VATICAN II.

As far as eco-tourism is concerned, the Patag National Park is as good as they come. Home to waterfalls, hot springs and lakes, the national park sits at the foothills of Mount Mandalagan and Mount Marapara, and is popular among nature buffs.

Our signature experiences

Silay Sugarland History Tour

Taking a Sugarland History Tour is by far the most popular activity in Silay, which consists of visiting the European houses that were built during this thriving era.

By local tricycle or bicycles, we will show you the most interesting heritage houses of this lovely town.

Cycling tours

The sugarcane fields that are scattered on the side of the roads around Manapla are truly breathtaking and cycling tours are a great way to explore these farms. Visitors can visit the farms and tours often include homestays.

Trekking and waterfalls at Patag

There are numerous places to go trekking in the Patag National Park, taking visitors to the waterfalls, hot springs, and volcanic lakes. The park also offers ziplining around 120-metres above ground at 120-metres, offering spectacular views.

Farm stay and organic farming at Patag

With its cool climate year round Patag is ideal for growing vegetables. Our farm stay allows you to experience the life of an organic farmer on the slopes of Patag. You can help harvesting or assist in any other agricultural activity.

Gaston Hacienda

Enjoy an exclusive lunch or dinner at the Gaston hacienda ancestral home and explore the grounds of the plantation. Schoolchildren will perform traditional music and you will get a guided tour of this unique heritage house and the grounds surrounding it.

Sugarcane farm tour

Tour the Gaston sugarcane plantations by bicycle or tricycle, and sample your own seafood. A visit to Hacienda Crafts factory showcases how natural materials are gathered and woven into contemporary home furnishings. Included in the tour is the Hawaian-Philippine Company Sugar Central, where you can admire the old steam-locomotive trains and learn about the process of making muscovado sugar.

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