It has been quite a long time since the last time I went around the Philippines. When we had the chance to grab an airline promo fare on a long holiday, I immediately thought of doing the BIG tour. BIG stands for Bacolod, Iloilo and Guimaras. What can you do in these islands for 5 days? Let me tell you through this post covering our itinerary with costs.
Starting the course
You have an option to choose whether you’ll start in Bacolod or Iloilo. Either way would be a good option. For us, since we are from Cebu and we were able to snag a cheap Php 500 Iloilo-Cebu airfare, we started the trip at Bacolod.
Travelling by Bus and Barge to Bacolod
From Cebu South Bus Terminal, board an ordinary bus going to Toledo City. It will pass by the port where the fast crafts/barge that will take you to Negros Island are located. Ride the fast craft/barge to San Carlos City port. From the port, take a tricycle ride to the San Carlos Bus Terminal. Board a bus going to Bacolod via Don Salvador .
From Cebu North Bus Terminal, you can also opt to ride a bus that will take you directly to Bacolod via Tabuelan where you still have to ride a barge/fast craft. Downside to this is there are only a few bus schedules going straight from Cebu to Bacolod.
Since it was a long weekend, we chose the former option because I’m quite sure that the direct bus will be packed. True enough, a friend who went on a separate trip to Bacolod via North Bus Terminal told us that they have to stand for most of the trip.
Day 1 and 2: B for Bacolod
Our travel took 7-8 hours including all the waiting time in between. Naturally, our hungry selves craved for a good meal and when in Bacolod you’ll most definitely should not miss Bacolod Chicken. Their famous place to go is Manokan Country. It’s a place where chicken barbecue restaurants are lined up one after the other. The place is also beside SM Bacolod which makes it easy to find. Prices normally range from 80-90pesos depending on the chicken part ordered.
For our lunch, we tried Nena’s Beth Chicken and everyone of us ordered the same thing – pecho pak with rice.
After eating, we headed to our accomodation at Pleasant Travellers Pension House. We had two rooms that could accommodate 3 and 4 pax. Both rooms had its own private CR, wifi access, cable TV, aircon and toiletries. I personally like that the place is located at the city center, specifically at 13th street which was near Lacson Street where most hotels and restaurants are located.
After another 1.5hours on the road, we finally arrived at Mambukal. Entrance was only Php 50. Though it wasn’t my first time here, I was still excited because I haven’t trekked the Seven Falls. Unfortunately, we arrived a little before 5pm and most facilities were already closed. To add pain to the wound, we learned that the last bus going back to the city would leave around 5.30pm. Face palm.
I guess we learned a lesson here and it’s definitely a reason to go back to the resort soon.
For the readers, I took a picture of the rates for your reference:
After that epic road trip to and from Mambukal, we delighted ourselves with Jollibee for dinner. Yes, Jollibee is life. We then headed back to our pension house to rest and freshen up a bit.
Of course, when in Bacolod, being the sugar capital of the Philippines, one just cannot miss trying out their sweet treats. In this case, we went to Calea for a late night dessert. Fortunately, the dessert house is walking distance from our accommodation and they close late at 11 in the evening.
I wish I remembered the names of what we ordered cause I’d definitely recommend them for you to try out. They were all just so good.
Campuestohan Highlands Resort
Our second day’s first stop was Campuestohan Highlands Resort. It is a mountain resort located an hour away from the city center. To get here, you have a number of options.
- By the resort’s service at Php100 per way
- Rented Van/Taxi
- Private Car
To be honest, commuting here will be quite a hassle due to the distance of the place. In our case, we rented an FX taxi that could fit 7 people (plus bags) from 7am to 2pm (our trip to Iloilo was at 3.30pm). Our taxi picked us up at our accommodation and dropped us off the pier right after. I’m happy to recommend our driver, Kuya JanJan for being kind and for giving us a good deal. You may contact him at 09499887673 if you wish a hassle free daytrip in Bacolod. (P.S I have permission to post his number)
For this certain place, do watch out for my separate post. Stay tuned 🙂
Our stop after Campuestohan is a place you may have always seen in pictures of people coming to Bacolod. The Ruins, located at Talisay, a short distance from the main city, has become a popular attraction in Negros due to its beauty and story. It’s a mansion built by Don Mariano Lacson in memory of her wife who died after giving birth to their 11th child. However, during World War II, the mansion was burned down leaving only its cement foundation. It then had been dubbed as the “Taj Mahal of the Philippines”.
Day 3 and 4: I for Iloilo
To get to Iloilo from Bacolod, we rode a fast craft via Supercat 2go. I must say that it was so convenient cause you will be able to book and pay online in advance. That assured us of a seat in a busy long weekend. The ride took only about an hour.
Upon arrival, we headed straight to our accommodation at Regatta Hotel. We booked two rooms, same as our Bacolod accommodation. The room was spacious and so was the CR. However, I think the place needed more lighting and our room was a bit old. I can count a number of things that I think could still improve. It was not the same case as the other group though since their room was fairly new and had better furnitures. But if you are on a budget, you may still want to consider this as an option.
Upon the recommendation of the hotel staff, we ate at JD’s Bakeshop. From the outside, their place looked so elegant that we were a bit hesitant to go in. But since it was the nearest restaurant, I was sick at the moment and that I don’t want to walk anywhere further, we decided to give it a go.
You might wonder what we will find here since it’s a bakeshop. Surprisingly, they offer more than just pastries. They had rice meals, pasta, soup, sandwiches and more at prices less than one hundred pesos. Wow. I ordered Pancit Molo and Chicken Cordon Bleu and paid less than 110pesos. Service was fast and food was great. We then bought bread for our breakfast next day.
Gigantes Group of Islands
Our main purpose of going to Iloilo was really to explore the Gigantes Group of Islands. It’s located far north of Iloilo at the town of Carles which is a 3-4 hour ride from the main city. To get here, you have these options:
- By Public Bus/Van – Ride going to Tagbak Terminal at Jaro Iloilo. Ride a bus/van going to Carles or Bancal Fish Port. By bus, it would take 4-5 hours. If by van, 3-4 hours. Fare is roughly Php 200.
- By Private Car/Van – We took this option as an addition to the package deal we had. Luckily, the tour operators and drivers pool their customers to have a private van going to the port for Php 250 per way. The best part about this is they pick you up at your hotel and I think it could save you time, effort, and even money compared to going to Tagbak Terminal which is a bit far from the city.
On a separate post, I’ll share to you more of our Gigantes Islands experience. For now, check out some of the pics we took during the 2D1N stay at Gigantes.
Ted’s Batchoy and Ramboy’s Chicken
After a long three-hour drive going back to Iloilo, we knew we just couldn’t leave Iloilo without trying what Iloilo is famous for- the Batchoy. The hotel staff recommended us Ted’s Batchoy which was the nearest one opened at that time. All of us ordered their Super Special Batchoy which was fairly priced at Php 95. For a big bowl of hot and flavorful Batchoy, it was truly worth it.
Aside from the Batchoy, we paired our soup with Ramboy’s Chicken. (Thankful that Ted’s doesn’t have a corkage fee) We found this chicken place by accident after craving for lechon manok. One of their posters said that this is one of Drew Arellano’s favorites in Iloilo during his Biyahe Ni Drew shows. That sparked my curiosity even more. So me and a friend bought one chicken and I’m happy to have tried this out. I loved the chicken. Every bit of it had so much flavor that you don’t need any sauce anymore.
Urban Inn Hotel
Our last accomodation during this travel was at Urban Inn Hotel. The saying “save the best for last” was true. It was our favorite hotel out of all hotels we stayed. We had a family room that had 3 bunk beds plus one extra bed. The room was new, clean and very spacious. They had cabinets, cable tv, aircon, toiletries, towels, heater for your coffee and glasses. The best part? Each person would have their own power sockets and fast WIFI. The staff were also very accommodating to our requests and we were happy that they allowed us to leave our bags while we tour Guimaras the next day.
Day 5: G for Guimaras
On to our last destination to complete the BIG Tour, Guimaras. To get here, simply go to Ortiz Wharf and ride the boat going to the island. It is a mere 10-15 minute ride that costs only 14pesos.
Upon arrival, town officials immediately recognized us as tourists and we were directed to register before starting our tour. I was quite amazed at how organized they were. After registering, the tourist officer can answer your questions like where to go, how to go around the island, and where to eat. They already have a standard rate for the destinations you want to visit which is a good initiative to avoid tourist traps. They also have designated people to call on the accredited (I assume) drivers.
To give you an idea how much a day tour can cost, their SUV (7-8 pax) is at Php 3,000, Multicab (10pax) at Php 2,000 and Tricycle (3-4) at Php 1500-1800. Prices are not fixed. At least in our case, we told the dispatcher who then negotiated with the driver, that we’ll take the multicab at Php 1,500 only since we need to end the tour at 2pm cause we have a flight to catch. Gladly, the driver was kind enough to agree.
This once held a Guinness record for being the smallest plaza in the world. It was so small that you can go around it in less than a minute.
National Mango Research and Development Center
Any Guimaras tour won’t be complete without going to mango plantations. I was quite amazed at the number of mango trees in the island. Guimaras dubbed as Mango Capital of the Philippines is really true. You can pass by a lot of mango plantations while going to the different attractions within the island.
My friends also told me that the movie”Forevermore” by Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa was shot in the island. If you’re a 90s kid like me, you’ll get much kilig just remembering this movie.
Capitol Grounds – Guimaras Sign
There is nothing much to see here other than the Guimaras Sign. What better way to really show you’re in Guimaras than taking a picture of the sign, right?
The Monastery is the only Trappist and Men’s Monastery in the country founded in 1972. The monastery belongs to the Cisterian Order of strict observance that follows St. Benedict’s rule. They are known to be the monks with the best discipline. When we went, it was November 1, so no one was around. The place is a place of solitude and peace. It is a good place to do some reflecting.
The place also has a gift shop. Here, you can buy Guimaras goodies, magnets, and keychains. Unfortunately, since it was a holiday, the shop was closed. However, Trappist products can also be found in other pasalubong stores within the island so you can always grab one on the way.
The most recommended restaurant in Guimaras would be the Pitstop restaurant. They are home to the famous Mango Pizza. Although they already have a franchise here in Cebu, I made sure that I would only try the Mango Pizza when in Guimaras. Without hesitations, we tried the talked about mango pizza and also ordered other dishes like their ribs. The pizza was surprisingly good and ingredients complemented each other. It had both sweet taste from the mango and enough saltiness from the cheese. The best part is that they didn’t scrimp on the mango toppings. yey!
Although it wasn’t my first time to see windmills as I have been in Ilocos years ago, the windmill farm was still a sight to behold. The viewing point was on top of a hill giving such an awesome view of the windmills, sea and mountains of Guimaras. It may not have as much windmills compared to Ilocos, still if this is your first time, do include this in your tour. Being near a windmill is such a surreal experience.
|Day 1||Breakfast (Mcdo + water + bread)||91|
|Cebu South Bus to Toledo||60|
|Toledo Port to San Carlos Port: Lite Shipping||100|
|Tricycle to San Carlos Bus Station||10|
|Bus to Bacolod
Ceres Bus to Bacolod via Don Salvador
|Ride to Manokan Country – Tricycle (Nena’s Beth)||20|
|Ride to Pension House – Grab (68/4)||17|
|Accomodation (pleasant travellers pension house)||398|
|Ride to Libertad Market – Tricycle||10|
|Mini Bus to Mambukal||35|
|Mambukal Entrance Fee||50|
|Mini Bus from Mambukal||35|
|Ride to Pension House from Libertad Market- Tricycle||20|
|Calea (4 cakes at Php 371/7)||53|
|Day 2||Call Time/Prep|
|Private Taxi (1800/7)||257|
|Campuestohan Entrance Fee||150|
|The Ruins Entrance Free||100|
|Bacolod to Iloilo via Supercat||220|
|Travel to Regatta Hotel – Taxi (68/3)||23|
|Accomodation (regatta hotel -1 triple, 1 deluxe)||356|
|Dinner (JD’s Bakeshop – Lomi + Cordon Bleu Meal)||104|
|Day 3||Van from Hotel to Bancal Port||250|
|Breakfast (Meat Roll + Ensaymada at JDs)||37|
|Isla de Gigantes Tour (Accomodation , Tour and 4 meals included)||1399|
|Day 4||Van from Bancal port to hotel||250|
|Accomodation (urban inn iloilo – family room)||330|
|Taxi to Teds Batchoy (68/4)||17|
|Dinner at Teds Batchoy + Ramboys Chicken||195|
|Taxi to Hotel (68/4)||17|
|Day 5||Travel to Ortiz Wharf – Taxi (64/4)||16|
|Fare to Guimaras||14|
|Guimaras Tour (hire a jeep/tricycle) – estimate only||215|
|Brunch at Pitstop (mango pizza + baby back ribs)||207|
|Fare from Guimaras to Iloilo||14|
|Travel to Hotel and Airport (400/4)||100|
|Airport Terminal Fee||200|
|Promo Airfare (Iloilo to Cebu)||499|
I always have take aways after every travel. For this trip, let me share with you one important lesson I’ve been reminded of. I realized that we all need to have those moments in life where we are off the grid. We experienced this when we were in the Gigantes Islands where there was little to no network connection. It means no facebook, instagram or twitter to update. Only nature, fresh seafood and good friends to distract you. Being off the grid can be precious and meaningful. It was in those moments where real conversations happen. It is where connection with nature can be truly appreciated. I loved that moment and I wish to have those off the grid moments often.
The BIG islands is now off the bucketlist. Till the next trip 🙂