Believe it or not, with only few hours in Bacolod, I opted to visit Henry Sy’s new pilgrimage center, SM City Bacolod, instead. Yeah, I passed by San Sebastian Cathedral, that beautiful old colonial era edifice but didn’t bring with me my camera. Not that I’m a big fan of malls, where I just find the offerings generic and nothing special, I was more intrigued by its architecture. From the shoe box style of which these brand of malls started with, it has been liberated and updated with light, airy and spacious designs.

Trucks loaded with sugarcane is a common sight across the north Negros highway.

theLOOP north negros route This is the 10th installment of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

“The.. highway is indeed one of the scenic arteries that one can travel through in the country”Four hours across the north Negros highway and I was reliving memories of more than a decade ago passing this very artery going back and forth Cebu and Bacolod during vacations at my best friends place. I can vividly remember the ancestral houses of Silay with its imposing 1930s church along the road. Or how I am always captivated with the massive Mt. Mandalagan, a pemament fixture in the Negros landscape, lording it over the land. The same feeling of awe that you experience with the Malindang Range in Misamis Occidental or Mt. Mayon in Legazpi or even the Daguma Range in West Mindanao. One is humbled.

Or how can I forget a midnight trip from Bacolod on a VHire (van for hire) sandwiched between the driver and a passenger, ill seated for the duration of the trip to San Carlos without being able to sleep? It was the first time that I have experienced such inconveniences as a traveler that I swore never to do again.

Continue Reading "Along the north Negros highway"

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

Continue Reading "Brief stop in San Carlos, Negros"

Early morning at Ormoc, the jeep terminal is already alive with commuters.

theLOOP ormoc map This is the 8th installment of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

Ormoc at last! Despite not having made it to the midnight boat for Cebu, I was just glad that I finally reached this city at around 0400H from Tacloban. Its been a year since I’ve last visited this place while I was in transit to Guiuan in Eastern Samar to shoot the church there for the book. But back when I was still based in Cebu, Eastern Visayas was part of my area of responsibility and have constantly been here for work as well as leisure.

Its a small city and the domain of a few rich families who dominate local politics as well as businesses that were offshoots of the sugar industry. It was also here a little more than two decades ago when the tragic Ormoc flood happened and wiped out thousands of its inhabitants. But now, walking through the quiet streets, its a distant memory and no trace can be found of the event unless one visits the memorial near the city center.

Continue Reading "Nearing home, Ormoc at last!"

A crowded van (or vhire) from Allen in Northern Samar to Tacloban City in Leyte.

theLOOP samar - leyte This is the 7th installment of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

See the photo above? That’s me at the extreme left with only my left ear visible still taking this shot. If you noticed, thank you, the row I’m at is already full while I was given the kiddie seat just beside the sliding door of the van. It was small for my 5’10” frame. Really. To give me a semblance of comfort and spare me less of a sore butt, they had these wooden stool, around 4 inches in width propped up beside the kiddie seat that is removed whenever the door is opened as it might fall. I was seated there and used my 5 year old North Face jacket as a cushion. For 8 hours.

Now just think of how the Samar road network looks like. From San Isidro near Allen in Northern Samar to Calbiga in Western Samar, around 5 – 6 hours of countless potholes and craters, probably the worst national road system in the country. It might even be called as the National Sunka* Highway. With apologies to this once popular game.

That’s what you get when you don’t buy your tickets earlier than the usual. When you get to decide, come hell or high waters, you need to be in Ormoc City in time for the last boat bound for Cebu at 0000H that night.

Continue Reading "Across the National Sunka Highway"