Brief stop in San Carlos, Negros


At the city center of San Carlos City, Negros

theLOOP san carlos map This is the 9th installment of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

“San Carlos is not as progressive. But what I like about it is its old charm.”After three weeks vacation at my home province in Cebu, I was again on the road for the trip back to Makati. I’ve been looking forward to make this trip not only because I will finally be able to visit the provinces beyond Iloilo as well as pass by Mindoro but also to come back, albeit briefly, San Carlos City in Negros.

San Carlos City is just across Toledo in Cebu. I have very vague recollections of this former town when I passed by here over a decade ago during my trips to and from Bacolod. But what I cannot forget, when naively, at a distance during the approach of the roro what I thought were golf courses (!) were in fact sugarcane fields. Ha!


A hawker at the Cebu South Terminal

From Cebu, one can take the bus at the Cebu South Terminal. It is about P65 ($1.5) fare, non aircon, for a 1 and a half hour trip. An alternative is also to take the much crowded but faster van at the Citilink, less than a kilometer from the terminal.

What I like with these kind of terminals is the sheer variety of people going about their lives. Its a watcher’s paradise so to speak: hawkers selling everything, people hurrying or loaded with their dear possessions, dispatchers barking for passengers and tired looking and sleepy guards even if it was already 0900H.


Passengers aboard the fast ferry between Cebu and San Carlos

The fastest trip to San Carlos City from Cebu is the fast ferry that plies between the two cities across the Tañon Strait. Either way, its just less than thirty minutes and you’re at your destination already. But it will set you back P200 (around $5). There are two cheaper but slower alternatives: the roro and a regular passenger boat.


A traysikad driver, one of the main transport within San Carlos

Compared with the cities of Dumaguete or Toledo, San Carlos is not as progressive. But what I like about it is its old charm. With its old buildings and low structures (top photo), it seems, you’re at some earlier decade, a time warp.

Public city transport is still dominated by tricycles and for shorter routes, the traysikad, a manually operated transport whose etymology is a compound word derived from Cebuano traysikol (tricycle) + sikad, to kick.

During travels like these, if available, I always opt for these indigenous transport as, other than helping the driver find a living (and very cheap), I like the unhurried pace, the leisurely ride, the comfort of having the seat all to yourself and its just breezy.


The bus terminal where I took my ride for Bacolod

After having a quick breakfast at Jollibee (of all things!), I proceeded to the city’s, integrated bus and jeepney terminal and opted for a bus that took the coastal, but longer, route, around 4 hours, instead of the one crossing the island via Salvador Benedicto, around 2 hours.

No other reason but to coast along memory lane.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

14 Comments

  1. Sidney
    April 3, 2008 @ 9:51

    With all your heavy equipment I hope you give those traysikad drivers a good tip ! 😉

  2. Ferdz
    April 3, 2008 @ 14:55

    And the loop journey continues. I actually like the 2nd candid pic of the hawker. Mukhang sanay ka na kumuha ng candid people pics and with very good composition at that.

  3. Ann
    May 25, 2008 @ 10:32

    I am a native of San Carlos City and I like what you wrote about my dear City. I also enjoyed the ride with our traysikad and there are good restaurants I can recommend in your next visit. Should you need more infos of my beloved city feel free to email me. I can have a friend be your tour guide should your time permits you. Hope you can come back. Thank you for the good review.

  4. estan
    May 25, 2008 @ 18:17

    thanx ann for the invite. I will contact you when I have more time to stay in your city.

  5. Prof Luigi
    May 31, 2008 @ 17:04

    Hi, Estan. How could you miss the grandiose San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral, finished with the help of the hacenderos led by Don Julio Ledesma by Padre Manuel S. Gomara, OAR, and inaugurated in November 1935? Or Colegio de Santa Rita that has been producing professionals who are working from Vallehermoso to up to Escalante, and this year 2008 it will celebrate its 75th year? Or the relics or what is now left of the historic “first centrifugal mill in the Philippines” known in recent past as San Carlos Milling Co., Inc. where I spent my high schol years? In the late 1960s, San Carlos was a very progressive city, and the sugar central could produce even over a million piculs of brown sugar in a milling year. You missed visiting the Colegio de Santo Tomas – Recoletos, founded in 1940, Santo Tomas de Villanueva Recoletos Formation House of the Order of Augustinian Recollects now in its 60th year of nurturing young vocations to the religious and priestly life?
    But you can always go back to San Carlos again! And you try passing by the coastal road where you can find more Recollect churches, such as those Silay, Talisay, Calatrava, etc.
    Oops! In San Carlos City, we do not term it “traysikad”, as you Cebuano natives are wont to call it. We natives of San Carlos simply call it “pedicab”! A term for an object or person is important in determining your place of origin! Regards to Father Galende. Too bad, I cannot attend the Urdaneta Lectures which his committee has organied for June 25-26, 2008. They are class days. By the way, I have finished a short research work on the Philippine cathedrals [12 in all] built by OAR priests and bishops, complete with archival and new photos.

  6. estan
    May 31, 2008 @ 17:27

    Prof. Luigi,

    Thank you for that wealth of information. I only had very little time, just less than an hour to spend in San Carlos that I missed the sights you mentioned. Of course, being a church heritage aficionado, I passed by the cathedral and got photos of it.

    Your cathedral research sounds very good to me. Will this be published or will be available publicly? I’m very much interested with it. Also, I just hope that Fr. Galende would pursue the 2nd volume of Philippine Church Facades as we’ve already listed many OAR churches to be included.

  7. NUI
    July 8, 2008 @ 12:23

    have come across your web and it is overwhelming for someone o wrie about our city and take good pictures even in a short time. thank you for travelling across…

  8. Dave Sadler
    September 12, 2008 @ 6:43

    hi estan
    My very first visit to the philipines was spent in san carlos city, visiting a very special girl that i have become attached to over the years through chat.
    As you can imagine me being english it was at first a very strange bewildering place, 3 flights from my home and something like 36 hours total travel time it was to be expected, but after a good nights sleep i was up and out with daisy(the girlfriend) and her family I was so amazed at the simple yet awe inspiring way of life,I fell in love with the place in an instant so much so that i am in the process of a complete career change so that i can emmigrate to the place, the people are so polite and friendly and they work extremly hard for what they possess.
    Alas the changing concepts of our world can only bring change here it is not neccesarily a bad thing that change comes to this city but I think it is essential that the san carlos city authroties and the philipine government encourage development towards tourism in such a beautiful place, but this should be done with out spoiling it. I have been a visitor to an island in the atlantic ocean many times called gran canaria and I have seen the total destruction of parts of this island in the name of tourism. I can only pray that the philipines as a nation heed this warning and develop a tourist basis with out destroying its base of tourism
    eg: dont allow skyscrapers to spoil the views. from what I have seen the philipines is beautiful and its beauty will be in the future it’s asset and the philipines will become the spain of asia, Dont allow foriegn investment to take both the beauty and the potential away from you.lobby your government for a tourist body to be set up now and prevent foriegn investors destroying your jewels prosper as a nation but dictate the levels of development too. I would hate to come back to negros and see it had fallen like Gran canaria.( very rich but very barren) I hope you understand my point, I want to see these people prosper and not lose their identities they deserve only the best that life can bring as they truly are a very unique and friendly nation and for that I thank them one and all.

  9. Cornelia
    April 1, 2009 @ 9:41

    San Carlos is 2 hours and 30 minutes (via Ceres Bus) away from Bacolod City via Don Salvador Benedicto, the backdoor of Negros Occidental route. But is only 1 hour and 30 minutes away via private vehicle. My first time to visit San Carlos City was last February 21, 2009 when I attended the burial of ex-Mayor Lanny Rigor. I was awed by the place, it is clean, peaceful and free from traffic. Now I know why Mr. Rigor love his place so much and won’t trade it to any cities in the province.

  10. elaine
    August 26, 2009 @ 17:31

    ei, been browsing a lot lately on San Carlos City(my birthplace) because i’m going home this september. and i felt more excited when i read your blog. it made me anxious to go home. i just it’s september tomorrow already. haaaaaay…can’t wait to experience san carlos city all over again.

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