Solo Ride to Negros Occidental – The Bacolod and DSB Experience
The second part of my Negros island journey brings me to Negros Occidental.
By this time, I am already tired, not just due to the number of kilometers I have traveled but also because of the unforgiving weather. I could feel the sun and rain alternating, with the sky supposedly having an identity crisis of sorts, seemingly now knowing what kind of weather to give for this trip of mine. Not only will it affect the way I ride, and the length of time needed to cover my route, but it also is taking a toll on my body already. If you have been following my regular column here in Inside Racing Magazine, you would know that I came from Manila, then toured Cebu then took the coastal highway to reach the southernmost tip of Cebu, which is the small town of Santander. From there, I had to board a Roro via Maayo Shipping in order to reach Sibulan, Negros Oriental. Last issue featured my Epic Ride to Dumaguete wherein I toured the place dubbed as “Motorcycle Capital of the Philippines.” Dumaguete is located at the southern part of Negros Island, and as part of my Negros tour, I will now have to travel at least another 200 kilometers or so in order to reach the other province in Negros, this time Negros Occidental.
One of the items in my checklist is to ride and experience the twisties of Don Salvador Benedicto – Western Visayas’ own version of Marilaque. Since it was basically the same distance going to Bacolod, I still chose to stay in Bacolod, for obvious reasons – it’s at the center of all the other popular spots, and it will be easier for me to take care of my accommodation. Also, I wanted to try authentic Chicken Bacolod so for me it was an easy choice anyway.
Welcome to Bacolod
I was welcomed by the group Xplorer Riders Club Philippines – Bacolod Chapter led by senior member Carlo Baroa. It was very flattering for me since the XRCP members were followers of my Pinoy Rider page both in Facebook and in my website. I am very thankful for the hospitality shown by this group as they made me feel that I am part of their family, even if I do not understand their dialect. Thank you also for speaking in Tagalog during my entire stay in Bacolod. Some of the side trips that we went to were either in the city itself or in nearby towns. Our first destination was for a meet and greet in the Bacolod NGC or New Government Center. This is a relatively new building that houses the City of Bacolod’s affairs and politicians. I was met by the other members of XRCP, and in fact, even riders from as far as Binalbagan travelled all the way to Bacolod City to meet me. That is why I am very grateful for the support and camaraderie showed by my fellow riders. Even though some of them are long time followers of The Pinoy Rider page, I do not consider them as fans, but as friends. I do hope that me doing this would help unite riders from all walks of life, regardless of the bike they ride, because in the Filipino riding community, we will only progress if we are as one. Ultimately I hope it would happen and I am hoping for the best.
After the meet and greet, I also had the privilege of visiting Talisay City’s famous The Ruins. The mansion was built in the early 1900’s by the sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and was home to him and his wife, Maria Braga. It is said that this mansion was built out of his love for his wife. It was the largest house at that time in the whole of Negros and The Mansion contained the finest furniture and house decorations available at that time. At the center of the spacious garden is a fountain where it was said that the two owners used to linger every night during their time. Tragedy struck during the Japanese time as this place was burned (hence, The Ruins) by Filipino guerilla fighters during World War II in order to prevent the Japanese soldiers from using it as a fortress. It was only very recently when the great grand children of Don Mariano Lacson put forth their effort in restoring it and making it into the beautiful place that it is now. The place is now not just a popular tourist attraction in Negros but also a favorite when it comes to wedding proposals and weddings. Who knows, I might be back in this place soon, hopefully not just for a visit. Well, It was getting dark already so it was a good thing that Talisay is only 15 minutes away from Bacolod so the trip, although very quick, was worth it due to the historical significance I learned from The Ruins.
For dinner, the group then accompanied me to Chicken Deli – a famous budget joint in Bacolod which serves authentic Bacolod chicken inasal. For only a hundred pesos, everything I ate was value for money, which included the unlimited rice, dessert and drinks. I would probably gain a hundred pounds in a year if I would live in Bacolod. Never mind the calories, at least I would have a hearty meal each and every time.
I was dead tired after dinner so after checking in at Santimboca, a local hotel for 700 pesos, I rested my weary self as there will be some more riding the next day since I will be taking the Bacolod – San Carlos City route in order to get back to Cebu. The guys were supposed to pick me up for an early morning ride at around 6 am in Bacolod. Carlo was the only one there by that time so that is why we just proceeded with the San Carlos City trip because I cannot miss the RoRo schedule otherwise I would be set back by at least another day.
Don Salvador Benedicto Highway
Don Salvador Benedicto, also known as Salvador Benedicto, is a municipality in the province of Negros Occidental. The town is named after the late Vice Governor Salvador Benedicto who took a vital part in the creation of the Revolutionary Government during World War II Japanese Occupation in Negros Island . The municipality is also dubbed as “The Summer Capital of Negros Occidental” due to its climate, which is similar to Baguio or Tagaytay City. In 1983, the town was created by merging all the secluded barangays of San Carlos City and the towns of Calatrava and Murcia that were said to be ignored because of its distance and inaccessibility.
Riding to San Carlos is a breeze. On a long stretch of road just outside Bacolod City, one can have a good view of Mt. Kanlaon – The country’s largest active volcano and Visayas’ highest mountain. The volcano is a favorite spot for mountain climbers and is the centerpiece of Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park, a national park originally established in 1934. I particularly enjoyed the famous Don Salvador Benedicto Highway (DSB) – Western Visayas’ own version of our MaRiLaQue. The winding roads would really test your riding skills as it seemed to be an endless race track which only consisted of tight twists and turns, and barely any straights. Good thing I had new tires to use. Negros Translink Highway is probably one of the best maintained road networks in the country today and I hope this will be consistently maintained. We then stopped for a quick photo op at the famous Lion’s Head of Negros – which actually is like the famous one in Kennon Road going to Baguio, albeit a miniature version. The place is actually called Lion’s Park as it is for the Lion’s Club International.
It almost seemed like a perfect ride but then I heard some clacking sounds somewhere under the bike. Now, I was pretty sure this bike’s engine was in tip top shape before going to Negros so I was quite puzzled why I was hearing things hitting each other at the bottom of the bike. I and my friend Carlo tried to figure it out but we weren’t sure so good thing there was a local mechanic who was just nearby. It was only a small incident as we found out that the Rouser’s chain just needed some lubrication.
For my brunch, we proceeded to the Mountain View Cafe, a favorite spot for Bacolod riders. I had an order of their native chicken, although it tasted good, I had a difficult time chewing it. I also had the opportunity to try out the local Budbud Pilit, a delicious Filipino food usually eaten during breakfast and snacks served with hot chocolate or mangoes. Anyway, their hot coffee helped me in dealing with the uncomfortably cold temperature as we were already high up in the mountains. Some other DSB attractions include two miniature versions of a couple of top Philippine tourist spots – the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao and Chocolate Hills in Bohol. It looks like this small town has a thing for miniature versions (remember the mini lion). On the other hand, it seems that Don Salvador Benedicto has a little of everything in the country. I was amazed to see a lot of trees and forests which remain untouched in DSB. The cool breeze and open roads made me realize how blessed I am to be here. Beautiful pine trees which are lined up nicely at the side of the road are also a common sight in DSB Highway. Monkeys hanging freely on trees by the roadside is also a common sight – basically stressing that this place is not just a biker’s haven, but also nature’s sanctuary. This town is endowed by natural beauty so I hope it will stay the same for many more years to come.
Coming from a city full of heat and unavoidable stress, a trip to Don Salvador Benedicto is never a waste of time. Destinations like this help me de-stress and enjoy nature in its purest form, while at the same time doing what I love to do – motorcycling. Not everyone gets to experience that both at the same time so there should be no way for me not to be contented. This is the reason I am always thankful and why I feel so blessed.
So I made in on time to San Carlos City and I was on my way back to Toledo City in Cebu. My Negros adventure gave me a lot of memories for sure, but the most important thing that I took home were the new friends that I made and the now deeper appreciation I have for the beautiful places our country has to offer.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider