It’s Fun in Negros

Seaside to Siaton

I really can’t recall why we have chosen Negros Island as our next stop considering there are a lot more on our list. Maybe because it was not too small to be challenging and not too big to be intimidating (though I just recently found out that it was the third largest island in the Philippines- we might have bypassed this for later plans, but on the brighter side of completing this ride- the next adventures will be smaller- much easier than this). Or maybe because it is one of those popular places with cities such as Bacolod and Dumaguete, yet rest of the places are mysterious- though not as mysterious as the likes of Romblon, Masbate or Samar. A convenient inconvenience. Partly developed, partly remote.

But after completing the trip- it was all worth it. So far the best road touring destination I have been to in the country..so far. Before anything else, here are my quick thoughts and learning from the trip:

  • Occidental which is facing Cebu is Cebuano speaking while the other half, Oriental which is facing Iloilo is Ilongo (Hiligaynon) speaking. I guess mountains are more difficult barriers than the high seas.
  • Negros I believe is the place in the country with the most number of cities per province (though cities are technically not part of a province).  I am not sure why this is considering they seem to look lesser than most progressive municipalities in Luzon. And considering that cityhood means higher taxes and lesser IRA allocation (which mean they should earn more than what the National Budget can provide). I tend to ask- is this about pride amongst the politicos and nobilities of the place?

    Me and Talinis

  • Most of “true blue-high society” even in Manila came from places like Negros (i.e. Lopez, Lacson, Lhuiller, Arroyo, Ledesma, Teves, Montenegro and Araneta to name a few).
  • Despite the above mentioned scions, poverty is prevalent so the boundary between the rich and the poor is more evident on such environments. One good thing though is it seems the mountains are no yet encroached by settlements. Place is more ecologically preserved.
  • I believe more than 50% of the land is grown with sugar cane.
  • The circumferential road is relatively flat and more than 90% already paved making it ideal for road touring. This is because the roads are generally located along sea side. But if you want mountainous roads, places like Don Salvador Benedicto offers alternatives.
  • Despite the beauty and idealness of the place for bike riding, on our 5 day ride, we only met around 4 recreational riders. But bikes are a staple mode of transportation. I guess that leaves them no reason from riding the bike for pleasure. Though I believe there are active riders here as even one of the popular Manila bike shop, Dan’s bike shop is from Bacolod with a branch serving the city- maybe most of their rides are on trails and uses cars in between their homes to the trail heads.
  • The place was recently hit by an earthquake. There are still camps at the side of streets and some cracks on the road. Only one bridge collapsed but an alternate is already available. Generally, things seemed to moved on. Not really a hassle for a bike trip.
Negros

Negros Loop

 

For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765 

Here is the story of the 5 day ride:

DAY 1 – February 22, 2012

At Silay Airport

We left Manila at around 5AM and arrived at Silay at around 6AM. We just found out that the airport was no longer in Bacolod so it meant an additional 20 kms for our day 1 mileage. The last year I travelled to Bacolod was circa 2007 and the airport was still in Bacolod. Mang Jun was sent by a friend and co-MMS member and also a mountain biker, Ann Cortez who is from Manapla and who is still in Manila but will be joining us on Friday. Mang Jun was to get our bike bags so that we can ride immediately. So after fixing our bikes, we started to ride our first day leg. A few kilometers after the airport, a dog attempted to give a chase. Is this a bad omen? Based on experience, I tend to believe that dogs on depressed areas are not keen on chasing riders (maybe because they are malnourished or they save on energy due to limited feeding times) so maybe dogs in Negros are better off? Thanks God only two encounters this ride and not a single suicidal chikens crossing the roads- a nighmare in Mindoro.

We passed by a gas station to add some air to our tires as we were too lazy to use our hand held pumps (tires were deflated during air travel so as to avoid explosion due to changes in air pressure). We need every energy we can reserve. After arriving in Bacolod, the first order of the day was to have some breakfast. But since it was too early, most of the stores were closed. I even attempted to ask some locals on best place to eat but they can’t give a better advise (maybe because I asked a karinderia owner so she was hesitant to point me somewhere else). But we found this Northwest hotel who offers a 200Php buffet breakfast- hotel grade. This was the first realization that food was cheap in this island. After breakfast, we started to pedal away from Bacolod. It was actually a disappointment for me- as the roads were like the usual roads here in Luzon- not much sight, houses and shanties along the road, lots of vehicles passing by. But that was until Kabankalan only. Everything will be redeemed later on after Kabankalan. Our first stop was at Valladolid. It was brief stop only, raiding a gasoline station convenience store for drinks. Then another short stop somewhere at Ponteverde, after seeing this nice old church.

Valladolid Church

It was cloudless skies, and it was already too hot that energy was seems to be eluding us. By the time we reached Hinigaran, we decided to have our lunch break. On the store, there were three dishes that were new to me, Dignay, Kansi and Balatong. Being the adventurous and food explorer- I ordered two of these to try out. After lunch, and still feeling tired, we decided to sleep at the benches outside the store. After about 30 minutes, we continued with our ride. But at Himamaylan, we again decided to stop as the heat was unbearable. I convinced Dindo to go to the back of the Municipall hall which is a sea side promenade to rest and have some air before continuing but since we were not able to get a good spot and after talking to one of the caretakers and telling us more details on our destination at Kabankalan, and advising us to proceed, we decided to finish the last lap to Kabankalan. It was a slow and strenuous leg as we were really hit by the hot sun. But after reaching our hotel for the night, we were very glad the day was over. Our hotel was Zycoland in Kabankalan. It was a nice hotel with nice facilities. After we had some food and few drinks and after washing our clothes, we hit the bar for some beer before returning to our rooms to rest.

DAY 2 – February 23, 2012

Sipalay Junction

Day 2 for us was the second most difficult leg of the entire trip with around 157km of distance; the second longest leg. We were happy though that the environment improved from Kabankalan. More seascape, trees, nature and less vehicles, civilization and people. The seascape itself was refreshing. Since we will also be passing this tourism hotbed, Sipalay, we were expecting more spectacular sceneries. Kabankalan was also a point where you can bypass some town to go directly to Bais but despite that tempting fact, and based on my own personal disappointment in Mindoro wherein we didn’t completed the entire circle, we were more determined to do the long cut despite the suffering it offers. In Cauayan, we encountered our first climb. I think it’s lesser compared to a Sierra Madre or even Antipolo but due to the hot weather and our physical condition, it was a bit difficult for us as we felt like doing a category 6 climb.

Oriental and Occidental Boundary

After reaching Sipalay, the town was 2 kilometers off the route. So it will be an additional of 4 kilometers to our mileage for the day if we go to town. So we decided not to enter the town anymore. The tourist destinations are near the town proper like Sugar Beach which our friends from MMS explored a day later. Since it is more popular in Europe than here in the Philippines, most of the people there in Sugar Beach are Caucasians. We searched for a good place to have our lunch but there was none. We ended up on a small carinderia. I ordered a mixed vegetalble stew with banana flower as the main ingredient, with coconut milk and dried fish. Dindo opted for a safer option- sardines straight from the can. Despite the state of the restaurant, a couple of vehicles came to ate as well as locals buying food so we thought maybe there is really fewer option in Sipalay to eat. After resting for about 30 minutes, we started our ride and was welcomed by the next set of climbs which slowed us down further.  By mid afternoon we had no option but to get our last reserve- we stopped at a store and ordered Sting Energy Drink. A few kilometers from the store was the boundary between Oriental and Occidental. We had a picture on the zero marker but after a few meters, we saw the real markers but we were already on the groove to stop for some pictures. By later afternoon, we were literally crawling our way to our desitnation, a small city- Bayawan. I was’nt able to see Dindo so I overshoot the town and had to go back. After settling in the hotel, we went around town (..er City) to look for a place to hang-out and have some beers but the local establishments advised us that closing time in the city is around 7-9PM. So much for a city- no nightlife, no WiFi, more of a town for us. After the store closed on us while we were still on our third bottle, we decided to call it a night.

DAY3 – March 24, 2012

At Siaton

We woke up early and had our breakfast on the rooftop of our C&L hotel, an 899 per day with breakfast hotel. From the rooftop, trees were more prevalent than buildings so I guess this is one of the most backward city I have ever seen. We started to ride at around 7AM but a few kilometers after leaving Bayawan, both of us encountered some problems. Not sure if it’s good that we had the problem at the same time rather than on separate occasions. Dindo got a flat while I noticed I can’t remove my clipless shoes from the pedal. I had to remove the shoes while it was still at the pedal and had to manually force it out. I found out that one of the bolts of the cleat was missing while the other one was loose. I was very concerned that it may end my trip right there but after tightening the one remaining bolt, it was able to hold on for the rest of the trip. A lesson though is to include the cleats bolts on the emergency kit during multi-day tours.

We had an early (as in 10AM) lunch at Siaton. We were already overheating as the skies were clear with no clouds. Both of us ordered a good for 3 person food which we thought was too many but which we eventually finished off. I ordered for a fish and was recommended a Tarugho fish (Tarugo is a Tagalog slang for Penis). I clarified with the waitress, but she anticipated where I am going so she just smiled and blushed. After a lunch and a few minutes rest, we started to ride again despite no change in weather and our physical state.

Enjoying the Night at Dumaguete with Ann Cortez

Today was a short ride to Dumaguete, 100 km total. But again due to the hot weather it was again a tiring day.  We circled around Mt. Talinis (Cuernos de Negros) on a pleasant hilly plantation. We were a few kilometers to Dumaguete but we stopped a couple of times to drink and I was already bloated with softdrinks. Finally we entered Dumaguete. We checked in our hotel and then met Anne Cortes. We went to a seafood restaurant by the bay- Lab-As and had some hearty dinner and a small celebration. After that we walked by the Boardwalk and decided to go for some more drinks in a restaurant where there is currently a gathering of big bikers. They have a charity ride the next day. Most of the riders are Caucasians having their Harleys with them and a Filipina partner. It was our fun topic of the night- that if one buys a Harley, it comes with a Filipina. Most of the riders were also of senior age; next beside our table was the former Secretary Gary Teves, and Dindo is about to get his big bike this year so we also teased Dindo the entire night. After that we went to the next restaurant for some good food. We then went around the park and the Dumaguete Tower. We then went back to the hotel but since by shoulder was already aching, I found this 300 pesos massage shop near the hotel (real massage not some hanky panky hole) which I enjoyed before going back to the hotel to sleep.

DAY 4 – February 25, 2012

Seascape near Bais

Day 4 was the dreaded day. Though I have already ridden 190kms+ routes before, this is the first one that is more than 150 kilometers (total of today ride is 157 kilometers), on a multi day ride (on our 4th day) with packs. So today was sort of a test for us. I was already anticipating the agony but to calm myself down, I just thought about it as one town at a time and setting a worst scenario of arriving late in the evening.  At the same time, today was also full of uncertainties. We will be passing by the earthquake hit towns of Negros which we considered skipping earlier on. But again, due to our experience with Mindoro, this time we would really wanted to complete the circle. So as long as there will be a way, then we will proceed. But another concern though was the mindset of the victims along the way which we are unsure of- this is a happy trip and we don’t want to have emotional stresses along the way.

Collapsed Bridge at Jimalalud

We woke up early and disturbed Ann on her sleep by asking her to bring some of our stuff like used clothes with her to lighten up our packs. Dindo went to McDonalds so our breakfast today was a “Manila” breakfast.  We started our route by going through the Boardwalk for some pictures. Then we set-off for the big day. The towns after Dumaguete going to San Carlos were pretty much developed.  Though it was surprising that this side has more rough roads compared to the Oriental side, it is still pretty much manageable with less than 10% of the route unpaved. We targeted Bais as our first stop over. The entire route going to San Carlos goes beside the sea shore so it has good views. Bais has these old big wood houses that reminds us of its colonial past. Sun was still hot so we had an earlier lunch at Ayungon. We stopped by a carinderia and had our meal there. People there were watching the NBA all star games and were talking about Jeremy Lin. What a small world cable TV creates. Nowadays, even the most remote location in the country are not only aware of what’s happening, but on the negative side are also exposed to the bad things of modern life. There is no more innocence in the boondocks.

Signs of the earthquake started to appear as we enter Jimalalud. Cracks on the road, some houses on the side of the streets collapsed and the only bridge which collapsed are all in Jimalalud. We can also see from afar some mountain slopes that have eroded. On the collapsed bridge, an alternative road was temporarily built but for bikes, you can use the temporary stairs for pedestrians for a shorter route.  There were also some tent houses along the road and some tent cities. My personal comment though is that it seems some of those at the side of the road asking for help are not real victims. They are just riding the freebies that are constantly being poured out by various NGOs. Most of the people there seems to have moved on but some seems to take their time while donations were still pouring in. Same situation in La Libertad and Guihulngan. From Vallehermoso, things were back to normal. It was a bit difficult to look for restaurants on these towns. We spent some time locating one and was able to find one in the outskirts of Guinulngan.

We were already tired when we reached the outskirts of San Carlos City. The views to San Carlos were also amazing as it lies near the foot of Kanlaon (Kanlaon City and Enrique Benedicto- the mountainous route in Negros). Sugar Cane fields were also vast as far as the eyes can see. About 10 kilometers in and out of San Carlos was this asphalted bumpy road which seems worst than an unpaved off road. Our butts suffered further on our route to San Carlos. Once we saw the Jolibee sign, we were revitalized. Al long last, past 6PM, we arrived at San Carlos. We decided to have our dinner at Jolibee which closes at around 8PM. Then we looked for a place to drink and ended up to what it seems is the only watering hole in San Carlos where the local businessmen cap their day off.

DAY 5 – February 26, 2012

Endless Sugar Cane Plantation at San Carlos

This was another short ride for us- around 102 Kilometers. But we were already tired so it will still be a challenging day. We have also decided to just go to Manapla, Ann’s hometown to meet the rest of the guys there and celebrate the trip and not to pursue the former last day plan from Manapla to Silay as it is only around 40 kilometers (passing 3 towns.cities).  It will be inconvenient for us as its better to  pack our stuff at Manapla.

We were surprised that this leg was more mountainous and upon going back to the seaside roads, it was still hilly, sort of an interval ride for us. There were also more unpaved segments. We reached Escalante a little before lunch time but we already decided to have our lunch here. We interviewed the restaurant owner what Escalante Massacre was all about out of our curiosity. But then again our minds were also fixated to finishing the ride. We were no longer of the same speed so there were times when Dindo was far ahead or sometime I was far ahead. This was also the first time we met some recreational mountain bikers, two of them most probably from Cadiz. We got excited when we reach the outskirts of Manapla. We entered the town and was thinking of asking the people there where “Hacienda de Azucarera de Cortes” is located. Their place was on a short uphill so it was sort of a last teaser for us. After meeting Ann’s mom, we had our shower to be human again, then some foods before were went to their beach resort. A few hours later, Ann, Deo, Oyie, Jerome, Cary and Cathy came in and we started the videoke party up to the wee hours of the morning.

DAY 6 – Fenruary 27, 2012

Enjoying Bacolod with the Gang.

Day 6 was a “touristy” day for us and a preparation for our return trip to Manila. After breakfast, we had our early morning cap (yes few more beers for breakfast). Then we had our lunch and we returned to Ann’s house for final preparations for our trip back. Then we had our lunch at Bacolod at Manukan for some real “Chicken Bacolod”- Ann told us there is no such thing as Chicken  Bacolod. We then proceeded to some tourist spot which Bacolod doesn’t have plenty of. We just passed by the Provincial Capitol and then proceeded to the Ruins- a popular tourist destination in Bacolod (maybe due to the lack of it as mentioned), though the place claims itself as in the same caliber of old places such as Taj Mahal. We then expanded the fact for fun’s sake comparing it to places such as the Mayan, the Ankor Vat or even the Great Wall of China. During our trip to the ruins, we were dictated upon by the tour guide so we ended up with lots of pictures. He was a funny guy and as we rode along his jokes, we dared not questioned his dictatorial ways of picture taking.

Dindo and I, true to our calling, explored the place further and found out that the café serves beer so we all gathered again for our version of “one for the road.” Ann’s mom kept calling and was worried we are running late from our flight so we hurriedly went to the airport. We checked in our bags and then decided to have some food at 1925, a famous restaurant about a kilometer from the airport. Yup were indeed in the province as we can go around without fears of being stuck on traffic. We were divided into two groups, the PhilAir group and the Cebu Pacific group. Since the PhilAir group’s flight was earlier than ours, they went out to get some pasalubongs before returning to the restaurant. Then we hurried back to the airport for our flight back to Manila.

640 Kilometers over 38 towns and cities in 5 days. Same as with our other rides, we often question the wisdom of doing it while suffering on the road but the moment we complete the trip, the sense of accomplishment, the fun, the experience, the views, the people, the simple life,… makes us want for more. 2013 will be for Panay Island.

Here are the pictures of the Trip:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/longhenson/sets/72157629109721470/

Here are the milage chart:

FROM TO DISTANCE SUB TOTAL TOTAL
Bacolod Bago 22 22 22
Bago Pulupandan-Valladolid 6 28 28
Valladolid San Enrique 5 33 33
San Enrique Pontevedra-Hinigaran 12 45 45
Hinigaran Binalbagan-Himamaylan 11 56 56
Himamaylan Kabankalan 13 69 69
Kabankalan Cauayan 23 23 92
Cauayan Sipalay 58 81 150
Sipalay Hinobaan (Asia) 21 102 171
Hinobaan (Asia) Basay 46 148 217
Basay Bayawan (Tulong) 21 21 238
Bayawan (Tulong) Santa Catalina 8 29 246
Santa Catalina Siaton 59 88 305
Siaton Zamboanguita 18 106 323
Zamboanguita Dauin 12 118 335
Dauin Bacong 10 128 345
Bacong Dumaguete 6 134 351
Dumaguete Sibulan 7 7 358
Sibulan San Jose 9 16 367
San Jose Amlan (Ayuquitan) 7 23 374
Amlan (Ayuquitan) Tanjay 10 33 384
Tanjay Bais 14 47 398
Bais Manjuyod 11 58 409
Manjuyod Bindoy (Payabon) 12 70 421
Bindoy (Payabon) Ayungon 12 82 433
Ayungon Tayasan 9 91 442
Tayasan Jimalalud 7 98 449
Jimalalud La Libertad 7 105 456
La Libertad Guihulngan 11 116 467
Guihulngan Vallehermoso 28 144 495
Vallehermoso San Carlos 22 166 517
San Carlos Calatrava 14 14 531
Calatrava Toboso 19 33 550
Toboso Escalante 15 48 565
Escalante Sagay 12 60 577
Sagay Cadiz 21 81 598
Cadiz Manapla 19 100 617
Manapla Victorias 8 8 625
Victorias Enrique Magalona (Saravia) 11 19 636
Enrique Magalona (Saravia) Silay 9 28 645
Silay Talisay 7 35 652
Talisay Bacolod 9 44 661
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