I visited Negros Occidental for the first time over the weekend and got a good eyeful and mouthful of the Bacolod-Talisay experience. Per recommendation of locals and friends who’ve visited before, these are the places we went to eat, and what we had.
Aida’s Chicken, Manokan Country
Beside SM City Bacolod is a long row of eateries known as Manokan Country. As you might have guessed, the must-try dish is chicken inasal. In particular, Aida’s Chicken came highly recommended, and sure enough, when we got there around lunchtime, it was packed.
They were catering to so many customers that they had run fresh out of pecho and pechopak pieces, so we ordered pakpak instead. Aside from the rich flavor, what sets their inasal aside from that served at restaurants in Manila is that it’s moist all the way through. Aida’s Chicken is also a budget-friendly restaurant, with two servings of pakpak, two cups of rice, and two drinks totaling less than Php300.
Aida’s Chicken is open every day from 9:00am to 12:00nn. Got the craving but can’t fly all the way to Bacolod? Check out their Makati branch at the Makati Cinema Square.
Calea Pastries & Coffee
Another establishment popular among locals and tourists alike, Calea offers a huge selection of cakes and pastries. We stopped in for dessert after lunch and ordered a slice of chocolate mud pie (Php120), brewed coffee (Php85), and a vanilla milkshake (Php95). The mud pie is mostly made of ice cream, supported by a thick cookie crust. It’s a sinful treat, and the kind you don’t want to take your time eating – the ice cream melts quickly, but honestly, even melted, it still tastes really good.
Calea Pastries & Coffee can be found along Lacson Street and welcomes diners from 9:00am to 11:00pm. If you’re visiting late at night, keep in mind that the last call for orders is at 10:00pm.
Gazebo at The Ruins
Off of the Bacolod Airport Access Road is a partly-concrete, partly-dirt path leading to The Ruins. It’s a historical site that was once home to the sugar magnate Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. His wife, Maria Braga Lacson, died giving birth to their 11th child, and the mansion was built in memory of her. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as the Taj Mahal of Negros or the Taj Mahal of the Philippines. When Japan colonized the Philippines, they wanted to take over the house and use it as a military office. Lacson got wind of this and had it burned down so that they wouldn’t be able to. At some point, the mansion burned for three straight days, and while most of it was destroyed, the foundation remained. Centuries later, it would be restored and preserved by the local government and opened to the public as a tourist spot and events venue.
The Gazebo is situated on the same compound as the mansion. They have a small menu of Italian fare, light snacks, and drinks. Since we had already had lunch, we just ordered cheese sticks and lemonade, setting us back around Php300 – nothing spectacular, but a nice snack to enjoy while chatting and people watching. We got a table outside and saw The Ruins transform as the sun went down.
The Ruins is open from 8:00am to 8:00pm. Entrance fee is Php100 per head, with discounted rates for students, PWDs, and senior citizens. If you happen upon a guided tour, you can join it at no extra cost and learn more about the history of the Ledesma-Lacson family and the compound.
I can never pass up the opportunity for fresh seafood, so Diotay’s was the perfect place to have our last meal in Bacolod before flying out. To order, you line up outside and pick out the fish, shellfish, or squid that you want, then tell the staff how much (usually by the kilo) and how you want it cooked, paluto style – similar to Dampa. You will be asked how many people are in your party so that they can also make suggestions.
We tried the butter garlic shrimp and a cut of tuna. The shrimp tasted rich and savory. The cooks at Diotay’s definitely do not skimp on the butter. Since only two of us were dining, we had the smallest available cut of tuna, which was still huge. The tuna was grilled and smothered with crunchy garlic. The two dishes plus rice and drinks cost around Php700. It was a little steep, but not nearly as much as the same set would cost at a fancy restaurant.
Despite the enormous crowd, the food was served hot and surprisingly fast. Diotay’s has a tested and true system for taking orders and delivering them to hungry customers. We left full and happy.
Diotay’s Eatery can be found along Gatuslao Street in Barangay 6. They are open from 11:00am to 2:00pm, and again from 4:00pm to 10:00pm.
Merzci has been serving pastries and other pasalubong since 1995. We stopped by their airport branch before leaving to get a few boxes of napoleones. The many flaky layers of dough hold a dollop of custard in the middle. A box of six goes for Php90, and you might want to get several. You’ll need a lot of self-restraint not to wipe out the whole thing in one sitting.
There are various branches of Merzci in Negros Occidental. Find the most convenient one on their website.