Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015
A scenic river runs through the city
The laid-back Sugar Beach



Set your sights beyond the tourist-favorite Bacolod City when visiting Negros Occidental. Like a sheltered middle child or a vintage jewelry, Sipalay City takes time to warm up to anything new. To be exact, three hours aboard a chartered cab and twice that long aboard a Ceres Bus from the provincial capitol. The burgeoning coastal city between the towns of Cauayan and Hinoba-An boasts a serene shoreline where relaxation is pure tropical bliss and devoid of tourism's excesses. Its attractive gloss comes from its reputation as the sugar island's jewel. So, why haven't you gone there yet?

Sipalay City is blessed with striking natural landscapes, but its four decade-long mining operations made it go unnoticed by local tourists. Residents might have benefited from the post-war mineral mining boom, but the surroundings bore the brunt of such extractive progress. As a result, marine life at the coast and its rice and corn farming at the lowlands suffered for a few years. It took awhile after the new millennium when the city realised that striking a balance was necessary to secure a sustainable future for everyone, including foreign tourists who have fallen in love with its laid-back vibe. They have regularly been returning from different parts of Europe. Some have actually called the place their home, eventually operating beach resorts mostly at the kilometer-stretch of Sugar Beach. 

Viewing Poblacion Beach from my booked La Veranda Suite of Sipalay Suites
The city hall of Sipalay
Farming plains of the city
Inside the city hall

Getting There and Staying At Sipalay Suites

When visiting this city south of Negros Island, it's essential that you book yourself a base for a tour. Sipalay Suites at the Poblacion Beach is a stylish beachfront resort that I recommend as I've tested staying at its La Veranda Suite where the view of the sea was spectacular straight from the bed. Besides, it's right next to the terminal of Faith Taxi that visitors are bound to board back for Bacolod after the vacation. 

To reach the city, I opted to ride the Faith Taxi that's normally parked across the Ceres Bus terminal in Bacolod. Leaving as early as 9:00am was enough for me to make it to my scheduled check-in at the resort since the commute usually lasts 3 hours compared to a bus ride that lasts twice as long.

Read more about Sipalay Suites here.

Relaxing at the swimming pool of Sipalay Suites
At the roof deck of the city hall
The farming plains of the city

Gazing At The Farming Plains From The City Hall Roof Deck

After check-in, I made sure to set foot at Sipalay's city hall which I learned received a commendation for Good Housekeeping from the Department of the Interior and Local Government under the late Jesse Robredo in 2011. It's impossible for any visitor to miss it since it sticks out in all its white-washed glory from the farming plains of the city's terrain along the Negros South Road. From its roof deck, I was able to gaze at the expansive view of the surrounding farming plains which was a stark contrast to the sugarcane plantation views that I had back in Silay City after arriving at the airport. 

Visiting The City's Distinct Beaches

There are popular diving sites at the city's coast because of the presence of shipwrecks and numerous islets. For those like me who fancy less adventurous places, beach bumming at Sugar Beach and Poblacion Beach can be great alternatives. Making a side trip to the hamlet of Matlag where Lat-asan Cove's Tinagong Dagat is can even reward you of a charming sunset view. 

Read more about Sipalay City beaches here.

Lat-asan Cove
Sugar Beach
Tinagong Dagat of Lat-asan
Cansibit Pit of Maricalum Mines

Touring The Maricalum Mines

The whole island of Negros is known to be rich in minerals and Sipalay is where most of them are in large concentration. As a result, the place has several mining claims from different operators since the late '50s. This is why an abandoned mining site called the Maricalum Mines has become an attractive side trip for learning about the city's recent past. There is a viewing spot for the public, but gaining access inside the site will need the necessary coordination with the city's tourism office. As an annual reminder of this aspect of the city, the festival called Pasaway is held every last week of March. 

Read more about the Maricalum Mines here.

Maricalum Mines

The tour bus of Sipalay Suites

There are a lot more to discover in Sipalay City. Lingering for a week is not a bad idea to really have a full grasp of the serenity that's been veiled by bad publicity about NPA rebel attacks. From what I've learned in my Philippine travels, the more locals become interested with neighboring towns and cities, the less ferocity there is in the landscape. So, go ahead and see what's beyond Bacolod.

Check out my other Negros Occidental blog posts:

+ Melba's Farm in Talisay City

Hiking In The Woods of Talisay City's Cabatangan

More Photos Below:

Sipalay Suites at night
Poblacion Beach 
Sunset-gazing at the Poblacion Beach


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