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5 Reasons To Live in Negros

Here's proof that bucolic Negros Occidental is more than just sugar and the MassKara Festival

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Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Pictorial Direction: Gwyn Guanzon

Writing an article about my hometown made me realize that I had quite a unique childhood. After all, how many city dwellers can say they used to spend summer afternoons playing tug-of-war with big, scruffy goats, or have fresh tubo for an afternoon snack? What makes it even stranger is that I did not grow up on a farm. 

I was born and raised in Bacolod City, the bustling capital of Negros Occidental.  I lived there for a decade, from grade school to high school. I miss being in the City of Smiles because of its relaxed pace. This city is so unlike the harried existence I have in Metro Manila. Bacolod is for anyone who wants to "stop and smell the roses," or in this case, the inasal.

The food is so delicious.

Being matakaw, one thing I miss about my hometown is the food. Nothing compares to the chicken inasal and lechon manok that made Negros famous. I never liked the roasted chicken sold in Manila because, unlike the authentic Bacolod lechon manok, it lacks some punch. The secret of Bacolod's chicken is in the herbs used as stuffing-the tanglad (or lemongrass stalk) adds an exotic flavor to this dish.

Growing up in Bacolod was such a treat for a kid with a sweet tooth. After all, Negros is the sugar bowl of the Philippines. One of my favorite memories was how my brother and I would eat fresh tubo, even if we didn't live on a farm as the vacant lots in our village were planted with sugarcane. And we were never out of sweet snacks at home, since my mom would always bring home piaya, pinasugbo, and meringue from the grocery store (these can also be bought at the decades-old El Ideal Bakery).

There is never a loss for adventures.

No childhood would be complete without its share of escapades. Our family had a small farm in one of the remote mountains of Negros Occidental. Since it was too far to visit regularly, my dad brought down some of the goats from the farm and had them transported to our house. So every afternoon, my brother and I would help pull the goats in by the end of the day, but some of them were so stubborn and heavy that it took two of us to get one of them to move-it was our regular afternoon tug-of-war.

There are so many ancestral homes.

Silay City, touted as the "Paris of Negros" because of its old houses and museums, is a 30-minute drive from Bacolod. If you want to get a glimpse of old hacienda living in Negros, the Gaston ancestral home located along Cinco de Noviembre Street in Silay is worth visiting. This typical example of a sugar baron's mansion was built in 1897 for the eldest son of Yves Germaine Leopold Gaston, the Frenchman who developed the sugar industry in northern Negros. It is known today as the Balay Negrense, now a popular tourist destination. Unlike typical bahay na bato, which are rather heavy in form, this house has some European influences, such as the grand entrance with curving staircase, and dainty arched windows on the second floor.

Another great touristy destination to go to is The Ruins, which is a few kilometers off the main highway. Formerly the Mariano Lacson House, the early-1900s mansion in the middle of cane fields burned down in World War, and it now sprouts out of the landscape like a ghostly skeleton of a Victorian home.

The design and heritage architecture are amazing.

For lovers of architecture and design, visit the provincial capitol building, with its Romanesque neoclassical design by Juan Arellano—the same architect of the National Museum—is one sight to check out. Now the official seat of government of the province of Negros Occidental, it was once the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

One design hub in Negros is The Association of Negros Producers or ANP, which sells beautiful décor, furniture, and fashion accessories made by Negros manufacturers and designers. If you can’t go to Negros, the association holds an exhibit and bazaar in Makati City every September.

It's an urbanized "probinsya."

It's been many years since I relocated to Metro Manila. I used to always cringe every time people call Bacolod "probinsiya." But now I have come to realize that I would give an arm and a leg just to keep Negros the probinsiya that it was ten years ago. Like any other place in the country, Negros Occidental has geared up for urbanization—it now has malls and condo developments, like Hi Residences in Bacolod City and Amaia Scapes in Talisay.

It's clear to me now that what "probinsiya" really means is a place with clean air, no traffic, and fresh food, and where nature is at its best-just like the place I grew up in. I hope Negros will still live up to that name. I hope Negrense children will get to have a childhood as colorful as mine.

Read the original article ("The Sweet Life") in the October 2006 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details.

More on Realliving.com.ph

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