Negros Occidental-Iloilo Budget Getaway: Hitting Two Gems In One Go

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s inevitable for frequent travelers to feel sad or frustrated especially when the old norm was to leave and arrive at a destination. From the past few months, I can relate to stories of rebooked hotels, refunded flights, or canceled tickets that I already lost count of. 

To cope with the situation and to brush off these anxieties, I thought of planning for my first getaway after the travel restrictions are lifted. It’s not bad to daydream for now!

To inspire you to plan as well and spread the excitement (not the virus!), I’m sharing my plans on visiting not just one, but two local travel destinations! I’ve decided to tick Negros Occidental and Iloilo off my bucket list this year when life permits us to explore safely again. It’s going to be a quite long post but I’m sure it will also bring the excitement in your heart! 

These two beautiful neighboring provinces in Western Visayas, which is at least an hour away from each other via ferry boat, definitely don’t deserve being slept on. The best part? Budget travel is possible. 

Negros Occidental Must-Visit Spots

Assuming I have the whole week or less for this trip, I can begin by flying to Silay International Airport in Bacolod via any chosen airline and exit at Iloilo International Airport, Iloilo. Alternatively, you can do it vice versa. Here are the spots that I am planning to visit when I get there:

  • Cafes in Don Salvador Benedicto
Jomax Peak
Jomax Peak

I’ve been to Don Salvador Benedicto a handful of times already, but I am planning to go back because of its breathtaking beauty and the tranquility it offers. Tagged as the “Little Baguio” of the province because of its chilly weather and scenic landscapes, this is a 4th-class municipality in Negros Occidental. My favorite part? It’s a lesser-known destination and uncrowded, that’s why it’s really worth visiting. 

Stonepeak Cafe
Stonepeak Cafe

You’ll reach this place after about a 45-minute to 1-hour drive from New Bacolod/Silay International Airport. To make the most of your visit, drop by some of the popular cafes in the area to unwind such as the Stonepeak Cafe and Jomax Peak. With a small amount of entrance fee, you can enjoy 360 degrees of stunning and lush sights of the mountains while sipping hot and freshly-brewed coffee.

  • Bacolod City Food Trip

It’s always a yes to gastronomic adventures in Bacolod City. It’s one of the best places that first come to my mind when speaking of delicious and unforgettable local cuisine. 

I’d love to try and taste as many local favorites as I can, but I am putting at least three dishes/delicacies on the top of my list. These are the Chicken Inasal, Kansi, and Napoleones. 

Chicken Inasal
Chicken Inasal

For a wide range of Chicken Inasal’s (grilled chicken) best choices, I will go to Manokan Country. This is located on Father M. Ferrero Street and it’s just a few steps away from SM City Bacolod. Sit inside any of these stalls and enjoy a sumptuous meal using your hands for eating. My favorite part is plunging the delicious chicken meat into the tangy toyomansi dip with lots of red chilies. Finger-licking goodness!

Kansi
Kansi

Another dish not to miss is Kansi/Cansi, a beef soup that hailed from Western Visayas. Whenever I try this specialty, I remember and compare it to Bulalo except that Kansi is soured and has a distinct orange color. Just thinking about it makes my taste buds flinch! When in Bacolod, it’s best to try it in Sharyn’s Cansi House, situated in C-58 Capitol Shopping Center, Narra Ave, Brgy. Villamonte. I bet I’m going to have 2 cups of rice or more!

Napoleones
Napoleones

Desserts shouldn’t be skipped on in Bacolod. It’s a land filled with sugar canes, after all! And with that, I’d always go for Napoleones. This yummy pastry is composed of thin flaky layers filled with sweet custard, a perfect pair for coffee at any time of the day. Napoleones is a really popular food in the area and it’s not hard to find it on the menu of most bakeshops in the city. But, I’d go for the highly-recommended Roli’s Bakeshop. 

  • The Ruins

Of course, I’d also drop by The Ruins, one of the most talked-about spots here in Negros Occidental located in Talisay. It was once an ancestral mansion of a prominent and wealthy family and was burned to lure the Japanese away from using it during World War II. 

Photo taken from commons.wikimedia.org

Today, it stands as a symbol of love, family, and elegance because of its beauty even though all that was left are these ruins. It’s popular for photoshoots among couples and families. I won’t dare to miss this picturesque place!

  • Lakawon Island 

I’ve been planning to experience Lakawon Island in person after seeing countless IG-worthy photos of it. Most people would always leave Negros Occidental behind if they’re up to white-sand beach adventures until they learn about this island. Based on my research, this gorgeous white beach destination in Cadiz is slowly gaining its popularity. Most tourists flock in Taw Hai Floating Bar, which is labeled as the largest bar in Asia. 

Photo taken from philnews.ph

Aside from being merrier by having more companions, it’s an advantage to bring friends because you’ll be able to divide the expenses. I am already dreaming of the many activities that I can do on the island. I’m going to make the most of a day to snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, ride a banana boat, swim, or just relax and bathe under the bask of the sun which I truly missed after a long while. 

Iloilo Must-Visit Spots

After a few days in Negros Occidental, it’s time to hop on the ferryboat and travel to the next destination – Iloilo. It won’t be my first time in this province if ever, but I wish to revisit some spots and discover new ones.

  • Iloilo City for a Throwback Tour

First off, I will roam around the city for a tour around its oldest buildings which are being preserved and truly depicts the local culture back in its glory days. It’s going to be a real retro tour! There’s Calle Real and Plaza Libertad to begin with. The best part? This tour is easy to do that I can do it by myself without spending any money! 

  • Islas de Gigantes 

I really wish to visit this island as my relatives in Bacolod won’t stop speaking about it. This lovely and promising island in Carles features a white-sand beach which many considers as paradise. If one stalks the place on Instagram by clicking the geo-tag, he/she can find mesmerizing rock formations in the Tangke Lagoon, a hidden lagoon on the island. 

Photo taken from guidetothephilippines.ph

Tourists can take the ferry ride from Carles to Gigantes Norte with about an hour and a half travel time. When I get there, I’ll find myself enjoying the beautiful beach and the refreshingly cool waters of the lagoon for a day or two. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been so thirsty for the sea for a long time now!

  • Jaro Cathedral

For some quiet time, I want to go back to Jaro Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City. Not so long ago, I witnessed a miracle after praying in this church. My heart yearns for a cure for all these diseases that the world suffers right now and perhaps saying a short prayer here can do a great help. 

Photo Taken from en.wikipedia.org

Built in 1864, this cathedral is a witness to the rich history and progress to the modernization of this highly-urbanized city. 

  • Garin Farm Pilgrimage Resort

With its alluring and sparkling white facade, anyone who sees the photos of Garin Farm Pilgrimage Resort will definitely plan a visit here. It is located in San Joaquin and highlights a wow-inducing white trail with Bible themes, leading to a hilltop where there are farm animals. It’s one of the best places in the country for retreats and meditation. 

Photo taken from news.abs-cbn.com

To get there, tourists can take a van to San Joaquin and drop at the road leading to the farm.

Where to Stay in Negros Occidental and Iloilo

Because we’re all after saving as much money as we can after this pandemic, we are pushing for budget travel. Our accommodations will play a major role to do this. 

I have done some research and found out that there are many budget hotels in both provinces which are ideal for both solo travelers or group of backpacking friends. One of these is RedDoorz. The good news is that RedDoorz hotels are operating in our chosen destinations!

We have tried one in Ramos, Lacson Street in Bacolod City during one of our family trips and I will definitely get that as our accommodation again. Aside from its proximity and easy access to most spots that we want to visit on this trip, they offer clean air-conditioned rooms with basic necessities and Wi-Fi (very important) for only less than a thousand pesos per night. Check their website to know more branches. 

In Iloilo, you can also find a couple of RedDoorz hotels such as in Ledesco Avenue, Plaza Jaro, Mandurriao, and more. By booking stays with minimal cost, I can save money or use the extra to buy souvenirs or tip the locals I will interact with.

Tip: RedDoorz is currently on sale where you can book a night for as low as Php 799. Perfect if you’re planning a trip ahead of time! You may visit details here: RedDoorz’s 799 Sale

Last But Not Least, Here Are Some Tips

Traveling filled with enjoyment and unforgettable memories even on a tight budget is not impossible after all of these situations we’re in right now. To do this, you have to plan your destinations so you can make the most of your time and money. Pack a few non-perishable food items such as crackers and noodles but of course, don’t skimp on experiencing the places’ food culture just right. Encourage your friends to join you so you can divide some expenses among yourselves. Lastly, as this pandemic has affected the travel industry bigtime, prevent yourself from excessive haggling when purchasing from the local businesses and instead, hand them some tip if you can. 

May all our travel goals come true, someday! #RedDoorzPH, #LetsTravelAgainSoon