A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

I have always known myself to be a nomad by heart. Going places will always be part of my psyche — why, for a Mindanaoan, like me, to have settled down in the Visayas is a no-brainer. Traveling across the country has become a dream I have been wanting to chase ever since, and to start in places close to where I found love, my second home.

With Cebu and Bohol already ticked off the list, it is high time for my third Visayan destination. And what better place to go than Bacolod City. My year already overflowing with a roster of firsts, this trip to the City of Smiles is going to be a great addition to that never-ending list.


Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Occidental, which occupies the northwestern half of the large island of Negros, and borders Negros Oriental, which comprises the southeastern half. Known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines”, Negros Occidental produces more than half the nation’s sugar output. No wonder the Bacolodnons are known for their sweet charm.

Getting there

What is good about Cebu and Negros being neighbors? It is the accessibility to different modes of transport other than the plane. With budget constraints in mind, it seemed inevitable for me and my officemates to choose the cheapest way to go — on land. A gruesome 9-hour bus-to-ferry ride (via the ports of Tabuelan and Escalante City), that is. We left Cebu at around 6:00 PM and arrived in Bacolod at 3:00 AM the following day.

Here are the updated bus, barge and terminal fees (as of October 26, 2018):

A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

Day 1

A glimpse of smiles

Since we arrived in the wee hours of the morning, we had to let time pass, lounged and freshened up in a room-for-rent near the terminal until daybreak. It was around 6:00 AM when we headed downtown to find something to eat. On our way, we were greeted by several locals who got their cardio grooves on, and this view of the capitol that gave me the D.C. feels just like in the movies.

A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

We found our way to Manukan Country, where you will see an exhibit of freshly grilled chicken, or manok inasal, that Bacolod is famous for.

Manukan Country

Two servings of rice later, we were on to our next stop — the Two Pans restaurant — to attend the photography workshop organized by ASUS and ZenTalk Philippines.

PixelMaster Class

I heard so much about the PixelMaster Class when they had one done in Cebu, but wasn’t able to join. Imagine the thrill the moment I found out they were going to Bacolod the same weekend I was. It was as if all my stars aligned, I knew I shouldn’t miss the opportunity this time around.

PixelMaster Master Class

The Bacolod leg of the PixelMaster Class was hosted by Ricky Ladia, one of the most-coveted photographers in the country. In his workshop, he gave out secrets of the trade with some I haven’t heard of before. He also shared his expertise on how to capture eye-catching photographs that shall be put to test in the MassKara Festival streetdance event later that afternoon.

After the lecture, the photowalk began. Participants were encouraged to apply what was learned that day. First off, we visited two of Bacolod’s crown jewels, the Balay Negrense and The Ruins.

The Balay Negrense (Negrense House) is a Spanish-inspired ancestral home of Victor Fernandez Gaston, a notable Negrense sugar baron in the 19th century. It is Negros Province’s very first museum and is located in Silay City.

The Ruins is an artifact of a mansion owned by another prominent sugar baron in Negros named Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. It was built in memory of his late wife who died of giving birth to their 11th child.

PixelMaster Master Cllass

We regrouped back in the venue where everyone was asked to submit our best shots taken in every location. Sir Ricky shared with us his thoughts regarding some photos we took and insights on how to do them differently.

PixelMaster Master Cllass

After a long day’s work, it was time to settle in our room for the night at VarcaTelle that I booked through Expedia. This apartelle is in Helvetia Heights, which is about 10 minutes away from downtown Bacolod. The best thing about this place is its peaceful locale in a good neighborhood. You can have all the rest time that you need.


Day 2

Waking up from a sound sleep, we packed our things and readied our gears for the MassKara Grand Parade in the afternoon. After breakfast, we got a room at the Royal Am Rei Hotel. The hotel’s location was conveniently within arm’s reach the meeting place for the workshop’s second day.

MassKara Grand Parade

Joining the MassKara Festival‘s Grand Parade was part of the workshop. ASUS being a major event partner, each of us were granted full access on site that provided us with a better vantage point in capturing every inch of the festival.

A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

After battling the scorching heat and cruising through the Negrense crowd, the group gathered and proceeded to Maria Kucina for the final activity. Sir Ricky furnished us with his critiques on each of our. photos, and later selected his top picks from the bunch. Thanks to the sumptuous meal provided during the event, I was prepared for whatever was left of this trip.

A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

Here are some photos I took during the MassKara Festival Grand Parade:

Day 3

Royal Am Rei, just like VarcaTelle, is amidst a very quiet neighborhood. Although situated in the busy Lacson Street, we still managed to get the peaceful sleep we badly needed. We ate breakfast, checked out early and prepared ourselves for Campuestohan Highland Resort. This was the highlight of our Bacolod itinerary so, rain or shine, nothing could have ever stopped us.

Campuestohan is a themed amusement park and resort located in Sitio Campuestohan found between two cities, Bacolod and Talisay. The 5-hectare property offers amenities and a facade like no other. Imagine living in a hobbit house for a day with two remnants of the past to greet you every morning, you see my point? A wonderland in the highlands, indeed!

How to get there (recommended)

One way to commute is via taxi or van rental. Usual rates range between P800 and P1,000, depending on your haggling skills. Travel time may take 30-45 minutes. But better to take the resort’s shuttle service parked everyday at the iMart-Caltex Station right across Lopue’s East Center in Burgos Street. The shuttle’s fare to the resort is only P60 with an hourly travel interval.

Please see shuttle service schedule below:

Bacolod (iMart) to Resort
7:00 AM 1:00 PM 8:00 AM 2:00 PM 9:00 AM 3:00 PM 10:00 AM 11:00 AM

Resort to Bacolod (iMart)
7:00 AM 1:00 PM 8:00 AM 2:00 PM 9:00 AM 3:00 PM 10:00 AM 4:00 PM 11:00 AM 5:00 PM

By noon time, the skies turned gloomy and rain was imminent, so we decided to call it a day. We ate at an eatery outside the resort before taking the shuttle back to the city. Dropped by the city plaza to buy some souvenir items. We bought Napoleones as pasalubong, and I was dying for my kids to try them out. I got 2 boxes of Bongbong’s and one of Merzci’s. Would have wanted to try Pendy’s, too, but they ran out.

Which brand has got the best Napoleones? Share your thoughts in the comments box.

A Weekend of Smiles: MassKara Festival

Bacolod is a place that I found so easy to love, one that is certainly worth your while. The three days that I spent here was barely enough to see it in all of its richness and vibrance, so I will surely be back with my family.

Until then!

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