A place that holds a lot of fun childhood memories...
For a while they closed down this resort because it had been run down and it no longer was the same peaceful retreat it once was.
Finally though, Negros Occidental's provincial government stepped up and went all out in putting Mambucal back together and on May 1st, 2003 they will again officially open the resort to the public.
April 14 was the first day they allowed people back in for a soft opening. The new cottages are not finished yet and there is a lot of construction going on but I was so excited and pleased to see all their efforts shaping up.
I can't wait until the whole complex is finished. Right now, the two pools are open, the boating lagoon, and the canopy walk. There's a wall for rock climbing and a dipping pool right next to the hanging bridge but those aren't open yet.
The best thing about Mambucal is that everywhere around you it's green and there are a lot of butterflies hovering over flowers. There are small pools like these fed by the springs. It looks like a pond but it's not...that's running water and it's not man-made.
The Victorias Milling Corporation compound is about a 50-min. drive from Bacolod City. As you drive through the guardhouse, you won't miss the Iron Dinosaur on your right but also, you will start to smell the strong scent of molasses in the air.
Sugar had been a major export of Negros Island for decades but in the last 20 something years, many farmers have started to diversify to other crops due to the drop of the price of sugar in the world market.
In the bygone days, they say the sugar barons and baronesses (what they used to call the landed rich), would spoon in sugar into their tea and coffee but not stir it because there was just too much sugar in Negros.
Escalante is a 2hr drive from Bacolod and Bonista Beach Resort is another 30 mins through rough roads. The beach itself isn't that great but the pools were inviting and the rooms had big beds and really clean bathrooms.
If you're a sunset chaser, this isn't the place to go but if you wake up at 5am and walk down a path towards the cliff, you'll be able to catch the sun as it rises.
An easy 15-min. drive north of Bacolod is the city of Silay. Known for its good native delicacies and homes with spanish influence in their architecture.
Balay Negrense was built in 1898 and was home to generations of the Gaston family whose ancestors hailed from France and started the cultivation of sugarcane in the province of Negros Occidental.
For many years, this beautiful old house was abandoned and I remember driving out to Silay with friends on Saturday nights looking to get scared by visiting "haunted" houses.
It was in 1994, I think that the Gastons donated their ancestral home to be preserved and made into the museum that it is now.
Walking through the main door you can actually imagine what it was like living in such a grand house which I believe was the center of a lot of social activities judging by the open concept of the living rooms and the staircase.
It has been many years since I've been inside the compound of the Victorias Milling Company and I've never had any reason to go but today I decided to take the 40min. drive north of the city to take pictures of an altar painting that has made this church controversial...
The mural is called "The Angry Christ".
If you have a fascination for trains, this steam locomotive weighs 18 tons and was commissioned in 1925 and manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, USA. It was used to trek the dangerous 16km Tison-Amparo and Amanda lines passing Barangay Florencia. This iron dinosaur, powered by bagasse, ceased operating in the late 1960's and was ceremonially presented for public viewing on the 55th anniversary of the company.
Note: Description lifted from a sign right next to the train upon entering the VMC compound.
Getting to the Church of the Cartwheels can be hard.
IF YOU HAVE CAR:
If you have a car, it's in Manapla, around one and a half hours away. In Manapla, there's a really tiny sign along the highway pointing left to a farm road, saying "Church of the Cartwheels". Make a left and follow that sign, then just drive all the way straight until you reach an intersection and a private resident house. Make a left in that intersection and just go straight and wala! You've found the Gaston Ancestral House! The shoe house is hidden inside it. Keep going straight and wala again! You've found the Church of the Carthwheels!
If you feel lost, don't be scared and just ask directions from the locals around here. You'll be surprised to find out a lot know this place here!
Oh, and if you entered the town of Manapla, it's wrong. You don't enter the town of Manapla to go here.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE A CAR:
If you don't have a car, then getting to the Church of the Cartwheels can be pretty tough.
If you're going to ride a jeepney, you will have to prepare lots of patience, adventure to get here! Watch carefully at the names of the jeepneys: You will need to ride a jeepney that goes to Cadiz or Escalante. Take note that Manapla is between Cadiz and Victorias. It's something like this:
THE JEEPNEY MAP OF NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
O - Escalante (Around 3 hours)
O - Cadiz (Around 2 hours)
O - MANAPLA (Around 1 hour and 30 Minutes)
O - Victorias (Around 1 hour)
O - Silay (Around 45 Minutes)
O - Talisay (Around 30 Minutes)
O - Bacolod (Starting Point)
As you can see, Manapla is between Cadiz and Victorias. Take note too that it's an easy town to miss. So if you're not sure, don' t fall asleep in the jeepney!
So for example, let's make our Starting Point Bacolod. To get to Manapla, you will need to take the jeep that goes to Cadiz or Escalante or if there's one, to Manapla.
DON'T get off in any of them! It's like taking a subway: Escalante is the last station and Manapla is 2nd to the last. If you're impatient and you think you can't find a jeepney to Manapla, Cadiz or Escalante, you may take jeepneys to Victorias or Silay but you will eventually have to catch another jeepney again to Cadiz. Patience is the key!
To make things much easier, any jeepney you board, just ask if it's going to Manapla and tell them you want to go to the Church of the Cartwheels. If you're shy, just write it on a piece of paper and show it on board and they'll tell you.
Take note that the jeepney doesn't work like a robotic public bus that just stops in a sign saying 'Bus Stop' or a subway! You can just get off anywhere you feel like even if it's in the middle of no where! (Just knock on the ceiling of the jeepney!)
Remember too that the Church of the Cartwheels isn't in the town of Manapla but rather on the highway. Watch carefully for the sign and get off the jeepney when you see it. After you do that, you should be on a highway in the middle of sugar canes. Do you see a farm road with a really tiny sign saying 'Church of the Cartwheels?' If you do, good. You can walk that farm road but warning! It can take 30 minutes. (And in the hot sun, this can be torture!) There should be tricycles around and they should be willing to take you all the way to the Church.
If you were able to do this all this way, wow! Congratulations! You've learned to ride a jeepney. Now, wasn't that an adventure?
Go ahead and try it this way, it's really a fun way to get here!
FOOD: Take note that there's NO restaurant here! Either you will have to eat a heavy breakfast or a late lunch, or bring some food here! Oh well, you were warned it was off-beaten.
COSTS: It'll be wise to prepare 150 pesos for all this including the jeepney rides and the tricyles rides. (There's to fee to the Church of the Cartwheels as of 2008) But make sure it's all in small bills or coins so it'll be much easier to get change.
BEST TIMES TO GO:
7 AM to 12 PM- It isn't too hot in the morning. Eat a heavy breakfast first. If you leave 7 AM by jeepney, you will probably arrive this place around 9 AM. 2 hours here is more than enough to savor the whole place. If you leave by 11:00 AM, you'll probably be back in a mall in Bacolod by 1:00 PM. Perfect timing for a wonderful lunch!
3 PM to 6 PM- Although this looks tempting because this is the time when the sun sets, this is best done by car or taxi so that you won't have to worry when it'll get dark.
WEATHER: ALWAYS BRING AN UMBRELLA. You'll never know when it'll rain. A super hot sunny morning can turn into a strong, rainy day in the Afternoon. Don't do this when it's raining hard, it'll be pure torture.
BEST ADVICE: Just ask, ask and ask and you'll make it! It isn't that hard as long as you ask.
There's still one more exciting thing to see in this Ancestral house and that's the shoe house. that's right! A house that's literally a shoe! It was probably a playground or a siesta place. Though it's falling apart already, it's a still a good place for the mom or the dad to take refuge and hide in peace if your kids are driving you bananas!
And finally, there's the house. This pretty, mestizo (It has a lot of European influence) house sits proudly like an oasis in the middle of the sugar cane fields of Manapla. Here, you can really see the glorious past of Bacolod when the sugar industry was really booming and making a hit worldwide!
Take note that the Church of the Cartwheels, the Shoe House are all part of the Gaston Ancestral House in Manapla, 1 and a half hours away from Bacolod.
What visitors usually miss when visiting Bacolod? Manapla's Sights! They're unique and it's in Negros!
Church of the Cartwheels- Manapla
What's this? A church literally made out of cartwheels? Wow! Who could have thought of that? The person who made this must have really love kalesas! (Horse carriages) To make things even more exciting, it's hidden in a beautiful farm and that just makes things mofe off-beaten and adventurous. (You'll have to go inside the sugar canes!) Isn't that exciting?
If you are in for a new adventure, go climb Mt. Canlaon. Mt. Canlaon is the most active volcano in Central Philippines. It has a peak elevation of 2,435 m (7,989 ft) with a base diameter of 30 km (19 mi) and is dotted with pyroclastic cones and craters.
Bacolod serves as the gateway to Mt. Canlaon if you're flying from other provinces.
There are a few trails to choose from when climbing Mt. Canlaon. For beginners, the advisable one is the Guintubdan entry-exit trail which takes around 6-8hours of trekking going to the saddle, another 30 minutes going up to the Summit and almost 7hours of trekking down to Guintubdan.
The climb is tough and exhausting. It requires someone to be really physically fit. A permit needs to be secured first and a waiver to be signed.
Balay (House) Negrense is a traditional haciendero house and was said to be owned by French sugar baron Victor Gaston.
Note that the rooms are connected to each other by side doors (Filipino families love to congregate) and the intricate air passages above each wall panel. Hacienderos (land owners) entertain their guests through the piano recitals held in the sala.
Take a jeep from the Robinson's Mall bound for Silay and get off at the church. It's a trip (45 min-1 hour) along sugarcane plantations. If you go further than Silay, you would reach Victorias (the largest sugar milling in Asia).
Click on the picture and read the sign which describes the 12 bedroom layout of the house. It describes how the family used their home as a place to welcome and entertain guests...clearly representing Negrense hospitality.
I woke up at 5am and took a stool to the edge of the cliff so I could wait for the sun to start peeking through the horizon. Sunsets are beautiful but if you can catch the sunrise...and watch the sky light up...unforgettable!
52 San Sebastian Street, ex. Bacolod Executive Inn, Bacolod, 6100, Philippines
Good for: Families
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