Good Morning Timberland!

It's been 6 months since I first learned how to bike. It's funny, weird even, but there really are people like me out there.  And no, my childhood wasn't traumatic or boring either. It's just that I never knew how to bike until my 26th. Check this previous post to know how it finally dawned on me that it's really a needed skill.

My 6-month stint with Foldie (my folding bike) and Aaron's MTB led me to my recent endeavor: riding on a trail.
Great overlooking view

There's a group in the office who regularly rides on weekends. So one Saturday morning, I went ahead and gave it a try. Thanks to my boss who had an extra mountain bike. Foldie would have folded on the trail, in all literal and figurative meanings of the word.

Timberland Heights is located in the heart of San Mateo, Rizal, 30 minutes away from Eastwood. The mostly uphill drive is a pretty good preview of how the trail is.  I should have decided to stay at the parking lot at that point, but I didn't because I know I'll surely hate myself if I backed out.

At 7AM we rode out of Timberland Sports and Nature Club parking lot. The first few minutes was a leisure, until we got to the rough parts. We took the scenic Roxas Loop and made occasional stops to take photos. The trail was tricky enough for me. Half of the time I was cursing, the other half I was cheering myself on.

Cliff by the side of the trail - all first timers need to have their photos here!

After an hour or so, we finally got to The Breakfast Club at the Pesta├▒o Farm, our stop for a much needed filling meal. All the tables were full with groups of riders all eager to grab a bite.

We took the Beginner's Trail on the ride back to the parking lot and true to its name, it was relatively easier and shorter than the first.

Bruises here and there

It was 3hours and 15 kilometers of cursing, free-wheeling, cheering, walking, and panting. I dragged my bike through most of the uphill climb when I could no longer catch my breath and took my lovely time whenever I was faced with a steep downhill trail. I realized that I need to lose the fear of falling face-first.  Only then will I be able to take in more of the view and enjoy most of the ride. Thanks to the very supportive group who patiently waited for me.

I'm up for another ride as soon as all my bruises are healed. 

My bike trainer is offering lessons for adults. Here's the ad. Let me know if you need one!

Hawaiian-Philippine Company: Iron Dinosaurs in Silay City

The roads of Negros are paved with acres of sugarcane fields. They used steam locomotives to transport sugarcane all over the province, and these trains are now aptly called Iron Dinosaurs. If you want to get a glimpse of the remaining Iron Dinosaurs, take a bus going to Victorias City at the Bus Terminal in Bata and hop-off at the Hawaiian Philippine Company (HPC). The trains at HPC are one of the last few left in action, the rest are now replaced with trucks seen all over Negros.

Stealth mode ON

We talked with a tricycle driver here and asked him to take us around the sugar plantation. For only
P200, we were able to sneak into see the perimeters of the plantation, with photos to prove. And by sneak I mean going around as innocently-looking as you could. A tour of the plantation needs to be approved by the company first, but if you take the route towards the planters village, the trains can be seen in plain sight and the only thing that separates you from them is a barbed wire fence. Take a super zoom camera and this isn't a problem anymore. ­čÖé The driver said that if you're lucky, one could also catch the trains coming from the fields.

This is how it might have looked during the olden times.

And here's the mighty Iron Dinosaur in color:

All parts and by-products of a sugarcane is useful, much like a coconut. Once a sugarcane is pressed for its juices, the stalks are crushed and these left-over fiber is known as the bagasse. The bagasse is used as fuel to generate steam, and in this case, the bagasse is used to power the trains. Aside from this, this by-product can also be used to make paper.

We went here on a Saturday and we saw several planters on the field, smiling and posing for the camera. Our tour was cut short when a guard approached us and asked us if we were taking photos. Of course we said we weren't. That 30-min trip to the HPC sugar mill made me realize that working in a sugar plantation is more than an 8-5 job. It's a way of life.

No Sweat Hangover

Win over hangover!

That was my mantra when I woke up today with a nasty hangover. The only thing that never fails in getting me through these times is Pocari Sweat!

No sweat with Pocari Sweat
A couple of years ago a friend introduced me to Pocari Sweat. I was cured of my hangover halfway through the bottle. Never mind the taste. Pocari Sweat works like magic.  The sweet and sour taste was not appealing on my first few sips but it has the kind of weird flavor that grows on you. I have recommended this to friends and family and they all agree that this is the best and fastest remedy for hangover. So if you see me chugging a bottle of PS, you know what I'm going through.

Another surefire way to tone down the dreaded 'morning-after' feeling is to drink a glass of water before hitting the bed. That is if you still have some stream of consciousness left in you. Unfortunately for me, my memory stopped functioning way before I decided to finally call it a night. 
But of course, still the most effective way to curing hangover is to not drink your way to death. ­čÖé

Negros Occidental: How to Gain A Couple of Pounds in 3 Days

I admit not having well discerning taste buds, but the food in Negros is too delish to go unnoticed even by a dull foodie like me. Restaurants are lined up along Lacson St. in Bacolod City, with cuisines ranging from local Negrense to Korean and Japanese restaurants.  Being the Sugar Bowl of the country, there are also a lot of good pastries shops here, and most are found right along the same street.

There is also something about the Negrense's way of eating that makes it more tempting for the guests: they eat their food with much gusto! Lucky are those people who were gifted with that delightful way of eating.  The food is one big reason why Bacolod is a city I want to go back to.

Here's a rundown of the places we ate at for 3 days. I would have wanted to squeeze more in but my stomach was beyond full!

Note: Lengthy post ahead. I'd like you to read all the way to the end but if you wish to skim through, click on the links below.

Aida's at Manokan Country
Kaffe Sadtu
Enting's House of Sagay
El Ideal
Cafe 1925
The Ruins Restaurant

Chicken Pecho at Aida's

We were relieved to see that most establishments were still open at 11PM.  The Manokan Country is a strip of chicken inasal joints (read: carinderias), offering a dish  for every imaginable chicken part. Think chicken ass, chicken feet, chicken gizzard, and chicken liver.  It's a chicken version of Manila's seafood dampa.

Our stop for the night was Aida's which was recommended in Anton Diaz' blog. Aida's bright interiors outshone the rest, with colorful masks on display that served as a visual treat for us who have never been to a Masskara Festival.

As for the food, frankly, I couldn't tell if it was better than most inasal but for someone as hungry as I was, the chicken pecho tasted good enough.

The chicken pecho with rice and Coke cost P100.

How to get here:
Manokan Country - Ride a jeepeney going to Mandalagan and get down when you see SM City Bacolod. Manokan is along Fr. M. Ferrero St., right across SM.

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In the search for the elusive La Corona Cafe, we ended up in an unassuming shop called Kaffe Sadtu.  Apparently, La Corona Cafe closed down last year when the owner got sick and nobody took over the business. It's a good thing Kaffe Sadtu opened and enticed the taste of La Corona's patrons.

Kaffe Sadtu offers locally grown and freshly brewed coffee straight up and without frills, just like how coffee used to be served.  The place looked like it used to be a hardware store, with some construction materials still on the shelves, but this detail just makes the shop more interesting.  The tables were nothing fancy, and there were no coffee table books lying around, but you could bring a newspaper, use their WiFi, or better yet, talk with the other customers.  The old-fashioned ambiance felt perfect for exchanging stories.
Coffee was served at P15 a cup and truly, the price is never an indication of how good a thing is. Their native coffee tasted better than the usual 100peso-with-whipped-cream coffees.  I ordered the homemade corned beef with toast and omelet for only P35.

Regulars can leave their own cups in the shop and the server keeps it for them. Customer service deluxe indeed!

How to get here:
Kaffe Sadtu - Ride a jeepney going to Shopping or Homesite. Kaffe Sadtu is along Hilado Street, near Burgos and Hilado intersection.  The landmark is the public market along Burgos.

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We were eyeing Cafe Bob's for lunch, but Andrew told us that Cafe Bob's was mostly a hangout for students. He took us then to the original Bob's restaurant, along the same street of Cafe Bob's.

The best seller on the menu was Sate Babe, a pork barbecue dish drenched with creamy peanut sauce paired with java rice. Bob's Fruit Punch is also an interesting concoction of different fruits like coconut, watermelon, and pineapple, and spiked with a hint of rum.  The food is relatively cheaper compared to the prices in Manila for a similar grade of good food. An order of Sate Babe meal plus Fruit Punch costs P187.

How to get here:
Bob's - Along B.S. Aquino Drive, in front of the Riverside Medical Center. 

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Calea is probably the most famous pastries and coffee shop in Lacson St.  Though they are best known for their blueberry cheesecake, the other cakes can't be dismissed. For our meryenda, we bought 4 slices: blueberry cheesecake, mixed berry cheesecake, imported chocolate, and double chocolate cakes.

Each cake had its own distinct and scrumptious taste, but of all the 4, I enjoyed the mixed berry cheesecake best while my friend finished all of the double chocolate cake.

There's no need to worry about choking on all those sugar as the crew here were very attentive, they made sure our glasses of water were always filled to the brim.

Most cakes cost P85 per slice.

How to get here:
Calea - Ground floor, Balay Quince building. You can take a jeep bound to Bata, but a better way to explore restaurants here is to walk along Lacson St.

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Andrew's suggestion was to order Kansi, and so we did!  Kansi is an Ilonggo recipe that looked like bulalo (beef bone marrow) but tasted sour like sinigang. It was a good soup to warm up a starving stomach. The place had a typical inuman feel to it, complete with  cottages for big groups. Enting's also had several kilawin specialties I also had their fried chicken which reminded me of BBQ Chicken & Beer's Original Chicken set. And to top it all off, I finished mine with a beer.

How to get here:
Enting's - Located at 16th cor. Lacson St. 

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El Ideal translates to Guapple Pie. That was what we learned when we had lunch there. The pork chop meal was nothing special and I'm pretty sure I've tasted better halo-halo than what they served.  The guapple pie though, is the gleaming silver lining in their menu.  It's an explosion of sweet guava and crunchy apple in a flaky pie with a hint of a cinnamon.

How to get here:
El Ideal - The sign is huge enough so you won't miss it. The bakery sits along Rizal St., Silay City. Take a bus to Victorias and alight at the bus stop nearest El Ideal.

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Just behind El Ideal sits Cafe 1925. A small coffee shop whose lunch menu (baby back ribs and the likes) was recommended by Ramon Hofile├▒a. Unfortunately for us, it was already late in the afternoon when we went. Our merienda was a chocolate shake, mango sans rival, and a brownie ala mode.

The cakes at Calea tasted better but the artsy and cozy atmosphere at Cafe 1925 made up for it. The cafe can fit up to 20 persons comfortably inside.

How to get here:
Cafe 1925 - Located at the street beside El Ideal, J.Pitong Ledesma Street. Right behind BPI.

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Dinner at The Ruins

The last stop for our trip was The Ruins in Talisay City, and last stop often means splurging. And boy did we splurge on this dinner! Italian food is served at The Ruins Restaurant. Oven-baked Hawaiian pizza, pesto, and carbonara pasta was our choice. Both pasta dishes were flavorful but the pizza could do better.

We chose the outdoor tables right across The Ruins but guests also have an option to eat inside. Everyone goes here to catch the sunset, but when the moon rises, most people pack their things and go. That leaves behind a serene and nicely lit-up architecture that's a perfect setting for dinner.

At P260 per person, it was quite expensive compared to the previous days' finds. But that's because we probably had to pay a premium to sit there and have dinner while gazing at the majestic ruins, with classical music to match the mood.

How to get here:
The Ruins Restaurant - Ride a jeep bound to Bata and take a tricycle to The Ruins.

Photos by Aaron Manila.

Ramon Hofile├▒a – Silay’s Prime Arts Advocate

I have long wanted to see a city in the country where arts and culture is strongly supported. This longing was satisfied when I visited Silay City in Negros Occidental earlier this year. Silay in itself is a lovely gem but the highlight of the experience was spending an afternoon with a Silaynon and his rich and engaging stories.

The fact that we had to call ahead to set an appointment to view an ancestral house was enough to rouse my curiosity and raise my expectations.  The Manuel Severino Hofile├▒a ancestral house did not disappoint, and the unconventional and highly entertaining host, Ramon Hofile├▒a, was beyond expectations.

The house from the outside
The house is located in the quaint city of Silay in Negros Occidental, known as the Paris of Negros, not for its appearance but for the city's appreciation and knowledge for arts and culture.  Over the years, Ramon has obtained a diverse collection of artworks, sculpture, and prints from Manansala, Luna, Hidalgo, Ben Cab, Hechanova, and a local artist from Silay, Conrado Judith.  Some pieces were also from well-known printmakers from Japan (whose names I couldn't remember).  His collection even includes a doodle by Jose Rizal during his days in Ateneo.  Shelves on the first floor of the house are bursting with pocketbooks from the time of the war, memorabilia from his trips (including a pair of painted dolls smaller than a grain of rice), newspaper clippings of his siblings' and nephews' accomplishments, and tektites!

Living room downstairs

Showing off his printmaking skills
The curator is as interesting as his pieces.  Ramon, who is now 78 years old, worked in a travel and employment agency in New York during his prime. A model in  his youth, he once donned a swimming trunk for a swimwear brand and landed him a page on a newspaper.  He left the country when he was still 13 years old and only went back for vacations.  I could tell very well from his amusing stories that he led a colorful life in NY. 

Somewhere in the conversation he mentioned he had 200 photos of himself in the nude. He's the second person to impart this piece of wisdom: take a photo of your nude self while you're still young because years from now, you'll be very glad you did!

On a serious note, the man shared his views on the country's future on the arts because, admittedly, hardly anyone gets noticed here.  He cited Lamberto Hechanova, who won several art contests abroad but is seldom written about and recognized in his own country.  He commented on how our education program lacks essential elements to make our youth well-rounded individuals.  Hearing him air his opinion might make one think that the man's point of view of this country is highly cynical but if you think about it, he already spent a good chunk of his years promoting arts and culture in the country (and is still doing it now).  His ancestral house was the first house in Silay to open its doors to the public. Since then, 2 more ancestral houses have opened for viewing.  He said he might be able to convince some more families to do the same. He holds the Annual Cultural Tour of Negros Occidental (ACTNO), the longest running cultural tour in the country (on its 40th year), every Saturday of December. Now if all cynics were like him, we'll be out of the rut we're in in a few years time.

When we finally sat and settled at the receiving area upstairs, we realized that 2 hours have passed since we set foot in the house. The man is someone I could listen to for several hours without losing my interest.  He even offered us to spend the night in his house, but unfortunately, we still had a sunset to catch at The Ruins.  It would have been lovely to be a guest in the house of a man of passion and have an authentic Negrense dinner with him in the long antique dining table.
Ramon's parents

All photos by Aaron Manila.

Hofile├▒a Ancestral House is located in 14 Cinco de Noviembre, Silay City.  Call (034) 495 4651 to set an appointment before visiting the house.  

This post is a part of The Negros Occidental Chronicles.

This is my entry for the PTB Blog Carnival for the month of September 2012, dubbed as "The Visayan Roundup",  hosted by Ding of Pinoy Explorer. Click on the logo below to read the entry.

The Pinoy Explorer - The Visayas Roundup

To view all the previous Carnival posts,click on the logo below.

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