Back in Bacolod, the City of Smiles

Masskara festival in Bacolod

My asawa and I were back in Bacolod, the “City of Smiles,on a mini-vacation in the Philippines. Regular readers of Philippines Plus know that I excel in doing nothing but my spouse works from sunrise and sunset and deserved a break. I’m always on a perpetual one of course.

After dropping off our Ford Ranger XLT at our usual parking lot near Jordan Wharf in Guimaras, we boarded a banca boat to nearby Iloilo City. We hoped to catch the 10:30am Super Cat Ferry but when we arrived at the Iloilo Port Authority around 9:30, we spied a Weesam Express vessel that was leaving in 20 minutes.

It only costs us 35 pesos a day, 74¢, to rent the lot space and 50 pesos, about a buck, if we park it overnight. We always take our key with us and trust the lot owners to always take care of us.

We quickly purchased two round trip tickets and soon boarded the Weesam Express. The waters were rough that day. In the first time in over six years of living in the Philippines and riding banca boats and ferries, I felt my myself becoming seasick about 45 minutes into the 90-minute trip.weesam express

I had a small container of Tiger Balm in my man purse. My wife rubbed the temples of my fat head with the smelly stuff and I closed my eyes per her instructions. I managed not to spew vomit projectiles all over the ferry but felt extremely nauseous until we reached Bacolod.

A taxi driver at the port took us to our destination, The Check Inn Pension Arcade. We knew we were getting scammed at 150 pesos, three bucks, off meter, for the short trip and my asawa questioned the driver in the native Ilonggo language.

We had used a taxi service before on our first trip to the City of Smiles and knew the rate should only be about 50 pesos, one dollar.

The driver gave my wife some excuse about people complaining about not having enough taxis at the port so since the drivers had to wait for fares, they gouged any passengers they could. Regular readers of Philippines Plus and those that have met me in person, know this ripping off of the foreigner, the “skin tax,” is one of my pet peeves.

While some foreigners might write about expats like me that complain about being ripped off and wonder why we are even complaining, I personally do not let to be stolen from wherever I live.

The driver got no tip from my wife and we checked in to the Check Inn.check in pension arcade in bacolod

Now the Check Inn Pension Arcade in the heart of downtown is no five-star hotel. It only costs 1,000 pesos, about 21 U.S. Dollars,  for a standard business room for two people.

But the place is clean, the staff personable, and the air con is good. Plus, the fact that it is only a five minute walk from SM City is another selling point. I saw one TripAdvisor review that complained that the establishment didn’t have a flat screen TV. Do you really check into a hotel to watch a flat screen TV?

We arrived at noon, two hours before the 2 pm check-in time, but the front desk clerk didn’t charge us any extra. I took a quick pee and we headed over to SM City for some lunch.

The Philippines Expat Advisor and Essential Expat Handbook Sale - Back in Bacolod, the City of Smiles

We stopped outside the Vikings Buffet first. There was a huge crowd dining inside but after learning the cost per person for the all-you-can-eat buffet was 633 pesos, I walked away, embarrassing my wife.

But it’s not the first time I’ve embarrassed my wife in public and it certainly will not be the buffet bacolod

(I later learned that during your birthday month you can eat for free as long as an adult paying the full price accompanies you. We’ll be heading over to the new Viking Buffet at SM City in Iloilo during my birthday month.)

Instead, we stepped into a joint called Hukad which featured Filipino cuisine. I usually don’t patronize that many eateries at the SM Malls that carry the traditional menu and opt for a more Western-style fast food joint like KFC’s or McDonald’s but I opted to break with tradition that lovely asawaThere’s my lovely asawa getting ready to dive into her curry dish. I ordered an appetizer, lumpia, which was absolutely delicious. The pork rolls were enormous. I also tried a Chicken Pandan dish which was another home run. The only foul ball was my wife’s curry dish which had some chewy mystery meat. But SM City in Iloilo also has a Hukad’s and we definitely will be checking that one out.

The staff at the Bacolod outlet was extremely helpful and friendly, making our overall dining experience there a positive one. Prices were moderate. Aside from the dishes mentioned, we had a Sprite and a Pineapple fruit shake along with a tapioca dessert and our bill came to 720 pesos, 15 dollars.

hukad at sm city bacolod

We didn’t leave the Bacolod SM City until 8:30 pm, 30 minutes before closing, as we made a stop at Diva’s Beauty Lounge and Day Spa where my wife, featured in the next photo,  was pampered with a manicure, pedicure and foot spa. I sat in the lobby reading the news via SM City’s free wi-fi on my Samsung Tablet.

We didn’t take a cab. Like I mentioned earlier, it was only a five minute walk back to our hotel. I noticed that someone on TripAdvisor who had also stayed at The Check Inn had taken a cab at night, for 65 pesos, but we didn’t feel the need to do so. It was safe walking back to the hotel. You can call me “cheap.” I like to think of myself as “frugal.”


diva's beauty lounge and day spa in bacolod sm city

FC 728 90 - Back in Bacolod, the City of Smiles

I flipped the air con back on, tuned to the History Channel on the ancient television set, and settled in for the night. It was a good start to our return trip to Bacolod, “The City of Smiles.”

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

14 thoughts on “Back in Bacolod, the City of Smiles

  1. We thrive on our mini vacations Dave, great way to recharge the batteries for our normal lazing around the house, (the stress of that is a killer ;)) Like you and your lovely spouse, my Asawa does most of the work, translation and coordination with the locals and THAT can be stressful for her, so we make runs to Tagayatay where she can be waited on hand and foot.

    But I am very sorry I have to call out my mentor and senior expat Dave. Since I have read your book, seen your movie and if you had a t shirt I would have gotten that also, I feel I can say this lolol.

    Boy you blew it by not going to Viking. When I really feel the need for some stick to the ribs food, that’s where we go. Roast Beef, mashed potatos, some really good Kano food. Sushi, tempura, sashimi for our wives, plus lots of other stuff. I highly recommend next time your near one “GO”. Oh here in Manila the price is 900 pesos or so.

    1. Well, you’re a smart man, Scott h, to let the esteemed Asawa handle all the duties that you mentioned. She surely deserves those mini vacations as my own spouse does.

      T-shirt? I did offer one years ago one from an Amazon mini-store I had but discontinued. I have to check into it again, I believe there was an issue with taxes and the State of Illinois from where I hale from. I appreciate your support and wonder why anyone would want my mug on a t-shirt or a mug, but I’m not above trying to make an extra peso or so. (Maybe a Philippines Plus logo with a big lizard would be a better seller.) 🙂

      After your ringing endorsement of the Vikings Buffet, I stand corrected and will dig deep into my wallet (or my wife’s purse to be exact) and visit the local Vikings in Iloilo. We’re going to an all-you-can eat function on the island tonight and the price, 200 pesos, is right up my alley. But I’m willing to fork over some cash for some good roast beef and mashed potatoes.

  2. Dave,

    Though it is pricey, i’ve heard good things about Viking from other people. We were in Angeles last week and we took Anne’s family out for lunch. They wanted to go to a buffet restaurant. So we took them to one that was 300p per person, cannot remember the name of it though. Was turned off by the long wait to be seated, even though it wasn’t overly busy. Than seeing a lady twice picking up food from the buffet with her hands, lack of food choices and a dirty dish we went to Mang Inasal instead.

    1. Whew, Papa Duck. The lady picking up food from the buffet with her hands would be a definite turn-off for me, along with the long lines. Mang Inasal was a good choice. Actually, we went to a Max’s chicken in Bacolod, also. Melinda loves their chicken. It’s good but I’m still a big fan of Colonel Sanders.

  3. Dave,

    How closely related are Visaya and Ilonggo language. I was just in Dumaguete and loved it. At least we loved the province in Zambo much more than the city. We are looking for a place to retire and you make Guimares sound like a place I need to check out. My wife speaks a mix of English and Visaya but after 3 weeks she was almost back to her old self. Amazing to watch the transformation. Thanks for all your posts. I find them informative as well as humorous.

    1. Dumaguete is ranked as the 9th best place in the world to retire in by U.S. News & World Report, Mike. We would love to visit there some time and hope to do so in the near future.

      The Hiligaynon people, often referred to as Ilonggo, are a subgroup of the Visayan people whose primary language is the Hiligaynon language, an Austronesian language native to the large eastern coastal plain of Panay, home to Iloilo province, near us. Most people in Iloilo speak Ilonggo, or Hiligaynon, as they do in Guimaras.

      Bisaya is the main language in most of the Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao while Tagalog is the main language further north, though other languages also exist in all those regions. Lots of variations of bisaya exist, like Cebuano which is spoken on Cebu Island as well as many other surrounding islands.

      Well, I hope you do check out, Guimaras, Mike. We love it here and it has a lot to offer. Keep me posted if you do decide to check it out and take care.

  4. Hi Dave,just been on a mini vacation with my better half to the Bicol region about
    11 hours drive from Manila, it’s a long drive but worth it we stopped in naga city
    Which is very nice and the people are very friendly I was a bit tired after driving
    For 9 hours but had a couple of beers in the hotel before exploring the city next day
    Then we drove to tiwi albay Bicol to visit her cousins another 2 hours drive, it’s a
    Fantastic place Bicol full of great beaches, volcanoes and great food and very cheap
    Feeling a bit tired after just getting back home but well worth the drive,
    Derek in pasig.

    1. Sounds like an excellent road trip, Derek. Never have been to the Bicol region yet but sounds very promising. I would be tired, also, after such a long drive. I’m beat driving 45 minutes on Guimaras to our pottery vendor. But that’s about all the time it takes to reach one side of our island province from our location.

  5. Sounds like you had a great time Dave. I like your comment about being frugal and not cheap. There certainly is a difference. Frugal is fine…cheap is…well cheap.

    As far as paying 900 pesos for a meal in the Philippines. Not going to happen with me. I have a simple rule…I will not pay more for a meal in the Philippines than it would cost in America. I can go to many buffet style places in America for 500 pesos and have a heckuva good meal.

    To pay 900 pesos for a meal in the Philippines…that meal better be really really really really good.

    I forget the name of the place a number of my filipino friends and I have gone to a few times in Taguig, Manila at Market Market Mall. I think the cost was 200 pesos per person and the food was excellent. I think it is some sort of buffet food chain in the Philippines. I will try to get the name.

    1. We paid 200 pesos for an all-you-can-eat buffet in Nuevea Valencia that I mentioned in my previous comment, Todd. I do think of myself as frugal, thanks for pointing out the distinction between frugal and cheap.

      Yep, when we go to Vikings during my birthday month it should only cost around 600 pesos for both my wife and I. I can handle that but will be sure to get my money’s worth.

  6. You should have shouted when you are here in Bacolod would love to meet you and your lovely wife. My husband walks away from Vikings too he said it’s a riff off but paid 1200/per person for a new year’s eve dinner at L Fisher best roast beef and turkey he said go figure. Maybe next time when you’re here again. Take care.

    Ps: when you’re in Vikings read the small print you get to eat free on your birthday and gets 20% off on your birthmonth with 4 people eating just check if I get this right.

    1. Gezel, I am sorry we missed you and your husband on our recent trip to the “City of Smiles.” Next time we go out that way, I’ll give a shout out. We made it back in time. The Coast Guard has canceled all fast craft trips from Iloilo to Bacolod due to high winds and the northern monsoon.

      We are planning a visit to Cebu City the first week of February. I would love to meet some readers that I may have out there.

      1200 pesos at L Fisher’s? Hmmmm. I will check out the fine print at Vikings. Thanks for the tip and take care.

  7. Glad you had a good time in Bacolod Dave.
    And a shout out to Derek for his recent visit to Bicol. Glad you enjoyed your visit. Did you get a chance to visit Mayon volcano?
    As Dave knows we have are house in sorsogon city and just love it there. We will be getting back over there on the 10th of February for 5 weeks and plan on being moved there permanently some time early next year.

    1. Sounds like everything is falling into place, Roger. February is a good time to visit. That’s the last cool month before summer hits in March, April and May. Hope the next year flies by for you. Good luck.

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