The Murcia – Don Salvador Benedicto road is my highway of dreams. It’s one of the best highway experience that I’ve had in the country that kilometer after kilometer, I can’t just help but be in awe at the natural scenery unfolding before me. Stunning mountain ranges, cool weather and the scent of pine trees make this a trip to remember.
The shortest highway connecting the cities of Bacolod and San Carlos on both sides of north Negros Island is via the municipalities of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto. I’ve been wanting to do this route ever since I read in the papers that it was completed probably two years ago and last year, I have finally done it. It’s an alternative to the 4-hour long north Negros coastal road that I took before. If you take the Ceres bus at either cities’s terminals, it will take around 2 to 2.5 hours from end to end. This trip is best experienced with windows down or with a non-aircon bus.
Starting from San Carlos City, the highway climbs a steep incline over gullies and vales that when I looked out the bus window, I can’t help but gasp in wide eyed wonder. Images of the Bontoc – Banaue road flashed, a deja vu moment, but when compared to the one before me, this is just a mini version. As we climbed higher, the temperature starts to cool and it just feels I’m in Tagaytay, that high altitude city with views of Lake Taal.
Just when terraced rice paddies make their appearance, clinging on mountaintops or spread out into the montane landscape, a familiar site comes into view: chocolate hills, just like what can be seen in Bohol but fewer in number. A few minutes later, lo and behold, majestic Mt. Canlaon at the left side of the road looms in the distance. Its lofty summit peeking through thin clouds and, illuminated with the morning sun, its a spectacle!
There are two points in the highway where the road diverges. First at a populous bend which leads to Canlaon City, the next, a route to the municipalities of Sagay and Escalante. Continuing with the route to Bacolod City, stands of pine trees then line one part of the highway. The familiar scent is akin to being in Baguio! Not only that, as one closes in on the beautiful Mandalagan Range, still with thick forests blanketing its slopes, Malatan-og Falls captivate.
This waterfall is a gem. Where two sharp limestone ridge meet is a pool amidst the forest with a steep drop. The best thing? you don’t have to trek for kilometers over boulders, slippery trail and vegetation. Just stop by the highway and look out to the opposite mountain and its there. Best viewed in the morning when the sun hasn’t been to the other side.
At KM 34 in Barangay Pandanon, between Bacolod City and Don Salvador Benedicto, is a point called the Magnetic Hill. While I haven’t experienced this, the bus conductor that I talked to told me that a parked vehicle tends to go up, unmanned. I’m not sure if this is true but it is something worth exploring next time. As the road comes closer to Bacolod City, one is given a spectacular view of the Mandalagan Range in the distance while sprawling sugarcane fields stretch as far as the eye can see.
Traversing the San Carlos – Don Salvador Benedicto – Murcia – Bacolod City highway is really tops. I won’t mind going through this road again and again and even wishes that it is longer. However, is it safe? From time to time, there are news reports of armed encounters between rebels and the military but these are usually situated far from the highway. There are also checkpoints along the route and I don’t think there’s really a security threat.
These photos can’t give justice to what I saw. If I had the chance to go on private vehicle than by bus, then I would have been able to capture stunning images. Next time, I will explore this route better.