Showing friends it’s more fun in Negros

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

MIKE Suarez came home after more than 10 years since he migrated to Toronto. While his better half, Rica, did come for a short visit some few years ago, this time around they wanted to savor more of home and made this a longer holiday.

A staunch daughter convert of Negros, Rica (she is from Manila) decided to share her pride of the beauty and charm of Negros with her UP sorority friends.

So after much planning, the ladies finally came for a 4 day visit and they were whisked to the fabulous places that have become tourist destinations. There was no time wasted for idle lazing around. That could be done while being transported in between sites.


On their first day, they were treated to a vegan experience in Rapha Valley in Salvador Benedicto. Capping the experience was a side trip to the Balinese home of Chi Flores where you can experience nature at its simplest best and be enthralled by it!

Day 2 was a taste of culture and history with Artie Lacson, tour guide par excellence, who started their journey with a prayer and a taste of shells exquisitely crafted at the Sta Clara Chapel. A running tour of the city gave them a glimpse of our city as stories unfolded from the Capitol Building, the Cathedral, the art deco row of homes in Burgos, and many more that evolved Bacolod into a a highly urbanized city it is today.

Then lunch was tendered by Lyn Gamboa, Ms. Museum herself, at the Balay Negrense in Silay. No trip is complete in the Paris of the South without being amazed by the narrations and the home of Rene Hofilleña, a historian and an icon in arts and crafts. The Ruins was a definite must see and although missing its glowing grandeur at sunset, the ladies were enraptured by its beguiling beauty and mystery.

To be in sync with the day’s theme, a turn-of-the-century dinner had to be the finale. At the Balay Ni Tana Dicang in Talisay, Bebet Benitez McCleland, Isa Alfonso, Lila Sarda Lee, Toots Garcia, Bobbi Jo Domingo and Jojie Garcia came all garbed in stylized Filipiniana from modern to vintage.

Local friends of Rica and Mike, Sally Ledesma, Cookie Lamata with Yongyong Cuenca, Ang Sanson, Lyn Gamboa, Sonia and Edgar Sarrosa, Lanibelle Javelosa, Nena Rosello, Baby Bonnin came to entertain the guests. Our two first ladies, Marilyn Marañon of the province of Negros Occidental and Elsa Leonardia of the City of Bacolod graced the intimate dinner and were equally awed as the visiting guests of the life of this matriarch as wife, mother, widow, and citizen of the community. It was also their first time to visit the ancestral house. We also need to be tourists in our own home ground.

Boy Guanzon, likewise home from New York, joined the group as well as Inma Ortoll and Carlo Villo who came with another visiting lady Emma Gomez.

The night was light and conversation was pleasant with these ladies. They were Rica’s “barkada’ in the UP Corp of Sponsors as well as the UP Student Catholic Action. They had interesting stories to tell as well. Bebet is related to Cong Albee Benitez and lives part time in the United States but flies home when the winter gets punishing. Isa spent years in New York and London and was happy to be home after so many years away. I also discovered that she was my sister’s classmate in Assumption. Lila’s son is the owner of Hey Jude in Bora. So for all the beachcombers and mermaids, Hey Jude is a familiar name. Toots Garcia is the daughter of famed vintage screen idol Fred Montilla. I wished I had more time to converse with Bobbi Jo and Jojie but we were on opposite tables.

Home for this holiday was Nature’s Village Resort Hotel whose ambience and home crafted décor intrigued these highly global, entrepreneurial women.

Final day for the grand tour was spent with a Sunday Mass in Fr. Gigi’s Cartwheel Chapel and a hacienda breakfast in his Manapla plantation.

Having immersed in Negrense lifestyle, once again, the gifts of our bountiful sceneries and sites and most especially the hospitality of the Negrenses, have proven that indeed it is more fun in Negros!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 31, 2013.


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