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Clean, content and well-to-do Bacolod remains one of the most liveable and happy cities in the Philippines. Set on the coastal edge of the Western Visayas, the town’s centre has the distinct feel of a place straddling the line between industrial mechanisation and modern provincial capital. In the downtown, the lingering remnants of a sugar cane boom lurk between shiny new malls and cinemas, while in the appropriately-named Singcang district, Hispanic beats are washed down with multi-coloured shots of lambanog liqueur; elsewhere in Mandalagan soaring high-rises struggle to reign supreme and suited business folk weave between the pathways.
There is an enthralling patchwork of post-colonial treasures and nationalistic monuments to uncover here, like the statues and palaces that pepper the charming Bacolod Public Plaza, or the crumbling remnants of old Spanish sugar plantations in Talisay City just to the north. And there are charming European-style churches ten to the peso, along with a museum dedicated to the history of Negros and 1950s lifestyle to boot. Travellers planning a visit should definitely aim for October, when the MassKara Festival sees dancers in masks and brightly coloured costumes livening up the streets. What’s more, for those eager for a dose of the wild Visayas, Bacolod tour guides offer excursions to the soaring reaches of the Kanlaon Volcano and its concomitant national park, to bubbling hot springs and sweeping vistas of verdant rice paddies and jungle.