With several pristine beaches strewn along its shores, Western Visayas does not disappoint tourists looking for diving spots or an active beachfront party scene.
Western Visayas has also done a great job in preserving colonial houses, giving visitors a glimpse of Filipinos' simple yet elegant lives during a bygone era.
However, beyond its beaches and old houses, Western Visayas takes pride in its rich culinary heritage characterized by traditional cooking and indigenous ingredients. When merged, all these will result in an unforgettable trip that can gratify event the most hard-to-please palate.
Known for its annual Masskara festival, Bacolod was dubbed the City of Smiles. Its vast sugarcane plantation is one of the key sources of sugar and molasses in the country.
This history can be seen in various old houses in the city plaza. Some of the houses have been transformed into living museums, filled with artifacts from generations past.
But more than that, Bacolod has a vibrant food scene, bursting with flavors and traditions.
1. Aida's Chicken
Not far from Bacolod's business district is a streak of local restaurants serving the city's most popular dish, the chicken inasal, or roast marinated chicken.
Dubbed Manokan Country, this foodie hotspot is the home of Aida's Chicken, which serves chicken inasal, barbecue, and other grilled dishes that are best dipped in sinamak, a spicy vinegar local to the area, and chicken oil.
2. Sandok Comfort Food
This restaurant may be a new addition to Bacolod's vibrant food scene, but it's quickly making a name for itself by serving the region's most popular dishes in Korean clay pots.
Most of the main dishes here are served while sizzling, just like the KBL (kadyos, baboy, at langka), manok sa uban, and pochero. All of these are cooked using native ingredients from the local market, guaranteeing the freshness of every dish.
They also sell bottled ginamos, a local version of alamang or fermented fish that is best paired with green mangoes and kare-kare.
3. Sharyn's Cansi House
Apart from the well-loved chicken inasal, Bacolod is also known for kansi, a version of bulalo or beef soup that features a sour, fruity flavor brought by its main ingredient, the batwan fruit.
One of the most popular kansi hotspots in Bacolod is Sharyn's Cansi House, which is located at the city's business district. Sharyn's serves two types of kansi--classic, and deep fried, which the restaurant's owner said was her very own "discovery".
Sharyn's also serves other native delicacies, such as kinilaw sa gata or raw fish in vinegar, their own version of bistek or Filipino-style beef steak, and a local soup dish that is made of different vegetables and shrimp.
Those who want to experience a heady sugar rush, can drop by Calea, Bacolod's most popular cake and pastry shop.
Those who have a sweet tooth can choose from Calea's wide selection of specialty cakes, which are available in different varieties of colors and flavors.
5. Felicia's Pastry Shop
Just a stone's throw away from Calea lies another cake and pastry shop called Felicia's.
Felicia's might not have as many cakes to choose from as Calea, but they serve a heavenly sans rival, which has earned the nods of both locals and tourists alike. One must also try their ensaymada served with a freshly prepared chocolate drink made of tablea or a mixture of pure cocoa and muscovado sugar.
6. Bacolod 18th Street Palapala Seafood Grill & Restaurant
Visitors would not want to miss the flavor of Bacolod's famous seafood. One great place to visit is Palapala, their local version of a dampa or "wet market restaurant".
One of the most recommended seafood place in the city is Bacolod 18th Street Palapala Seafood Grill & Restaurant, where you can order fresh fish, squid, shrimp, scallops, and many more. All diners have to do is to choose from the raw seafood on display at the counter, and have it cooked the way they want. They also serve local and imported beer.
7. Trapdoor Tasting Room
Trapdoor Tasting Room is just a few steps away from Palapala. Any true-blue Potterheads, and even those who are not, are sure to love Trapdoor's books, and butter beer, and its servers' magic tricks.
Owned by former flight attendants, this pub will fly you back to your childhood dreams, where magic reigned. Apart from its mystical interior design, Trapdoor is also known for their butter beer, a non-alcoholic drink inspired by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
The pub also serves various local brews that go well with free entertainment from the bartenders, who also do magic tricks come night fall.
8. El Ideal
After a full gastronomic journey in the City of Smiles, you wouldn't want to miss the chance to buy pasalubong for your loved ones. The perfect place to do this is in El Ideal in Silay City, which is just a few minutes away from Bacolod.
They have everything unique in Bacolod, such as pastillas de leche, turron de mani, piaya, dulce gatas, and local coffee beans. Apart from that, they also serve different snacks like batchoy and their very own apple guava pie.
Just like Bacolod, Iloilo is also a province with a rich history, and is home to some of the most majestic architectural structures like the Jaro Cathedral and St. Anne Parish Church.
Although remnants of the past continue to stand tall in this province, it, too, isn't immune to the effects of modernity. Iloilo City is equipped with an international airport and a vast business district, which provides livelihood to locals.
Despite that, the culinary heritage of this province continues to thrive. Here are some of the noteworthy food places you can check out:
1. Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods
Tatoy's Manokan is, perhaps, the most popular seafood restaurant in Iloilo City. They are known for their grilled dishes, fresh oysters, and seaweed salad which share the area's fresh flavors with diners.
Another specialty dish of Tatoy's is their native chicken inasal, which is best dipped in chili, calamansi, and soy sauce. They also have function rooms and pools that can be rented during special events.
2. Leah's Tinu-om
Speaking of native chicken, one should never miss a chance to try Leah's Tinu-om in Cabatuan, a few minutes' drive from the airport.
Tinu-om is a traditional cooking style where they wrap the chicken along with lemon grass, tomato, and other spices, in banana leaves. The whole wrap is then boiled together, producing a fruity soup packed with native flavors.
3. Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Fans of eat-all-you-can buffets and museums must drop by Camiña Balay Nga Bato, an antique house that they turned into a heritage museum where tourists can buy souvenir items and other pasalubong--from shawls to native black rice.
On its second floor, Balay Nga Bato features a buffet of different traditional Ilonggo dishes made of local ingredients. But perhaps the highlight of the buffet is the tableya shot, which they offer to cap off the meal.
4. Original Biscocho Haus
Before leaving the city, tourists can't miss the chance to buy the province's sweetest delicacies at the Original Biscocho Haus.
Here, visitors can buy everything biscocho, as well as butterscotch and other pastries. For the holidays, they offer special packages that contain a little bit of everything Iloilo has to offer.
With its natural beauty, cultural heritage, and vibrant food scene, Western Visayas is a one-stop destination for everyone. That's why it is not surprising that tourism is one of the major sources of business and livelihood in the region.
Countless local and international tourists visit the islands year by year. Thanks to direct flights by budget carriers such as Cebu Pacific, these destinations are within everyone's reach.
Time to go on a food trip, and taste the best of Western Visayas!
Fly to Iloilo on Cebu Pacific's trademark lowest fares from Manila, Cebu, Davao and General Santos. Cebu Pacific also flies to Bacolod from Manila, Cebu, Davao or Cagayan de Oro. Visit the Cebu Pacific website now, subscribe to the mailing list, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter for the latest seat sales!
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