“Talisay” is the name of a type of tree, and is also a pretty common place-name in the Philippines. As far as i know, there are 2 cities and 2 municipalities that are known by this name in Negros Occidental, Cebu, Batangas and Camarines Norte, respectively. What sets apart the Talisay of Negros Occidental is undoubtedly the remains of the building formerly known as the Mariano Ledesma Lacson Mansion, now referred to as “The Ruins”. Talisay is adjacent to both Silay and Bacolod and I planned to spend the afternoon viewing The Ruins.
DETOUR TO BACOLOD
But before that, I had to make a detour to Bacolod City to do 2 things: (1) Check in at Saltimboca Inn so that I could finally put my backpack in one place and not have to lug it around for the rest of the day; and (2) to meet up my friend Clawy to have lunch.
As I indicated in the previous post, Clawy is an online friend and I’ve never met her before. I got to know her through an online forum when I was researching about Bacolod a few days prior to this trip. She has graciously agreed to tour me around the city for a bit that afternoon. I met her at Starbucks, which is just walking distance from the inn. Apparently, there were already 2 other tourists, Gem and Marianne, whom she was touring around the previous days, and they would be joining us for lunch.
Lord Byron’s Back Ribs
I actually had a list of all the interesting restaurants and dining places that I’ve heard about in Bacolod, and since I was again hungry because of my morning tour in Silay, I was craving for something heavy. I asked Clawy if she could take us to Lord Byron’s Back Ribs. I’ve come across really good reviews about it and I was eager to find out if their baby back ribs were as good as their reputation suggests. The first thing Clawy did was to actually call the restaurant to inquire and reserve some ribs for us so that we can be assured that there’s something waiting for us when we get there. That’s how much in-demand their food is, we had to compete for their limited supply
Anyway, 2 jeepney rides later, we found ourselves in a quiet residential area of Bacolod where the restaurant was located. Even though it was isolated from the commercial district of the city, they had many customers. Indeed, people from other parts of the city actually go out of their way to get here. By the way, when I first heard of this place and its name, I initially thought it was a proper English-style restaurant, so it was a bit of a surprise to find out that it has a very spartan tropical motif and is actually a budget-friendly dining place. It turns out that the proprietor’s name is “Lord Byron”. That’s all there is to it. The dining area was open-air and the ribs were being roasted across the street, where their grills were located.
Honestly, the dining area wasn’t very inviting. It took them a while to clean and prepare our table, and at that noontime hour, the heat was a lot harder to bear. But I was pleased to discover that the baby back ribs were deserving of its reputation and certainly made up for any discomfort we were experiencing back then. The meat was so soft and tender and cooked perfectly with the barbecue sauce. The last time I tasted baby back ribs this good was 2 years back, at Cafe Antonio in Dumaguete.
The best part of it all? It was Clawy’s treat! It was truly a well-appreciated “Welcome to Bacolod” gift for me.
After a very filling lunch, we were in the mood for dessert, and the best place for it was the famous Calea, which incidentally was right beside Saltimboca Inn. The girls have been here a few times the previous days, so they gave me tips as to which cakes were the best tasting among the rest.
The place was a pleasant change from the sparsely decorated Lord Byron’s. Here, it was air-conditioned, seats were cushioned, and everything was squeaky-clean. It was conducive for light afternoon chats (like what we were doing), reading, or even just people watching during idle time.
Gem and Marianne were leaving Bacolod the next day so I asked some tips from them on how to go to Mambukal Resort, which I intended to go to the following day. Clawy also offered to take me to The Ruins that afternoon, which was a very welcome gesture as I had originally planned to just commute going there. The instructions I got in the other blogs was a bit confusing so having a local with me would really make things easier.
FREE RIDE TO THE RUINS
Actually, Clawy wasn’t done being generous yet. What she had in mind was to have her brother drop me off at The Ruins using their car. So that afternoon, her brother picked us up, and a cousin of theirs, and we made our way to the place. We had a bit of an accident when the car’s underside struck a rock at an odd angle when we were already very near, which resulted in a loud thud that we had to stop the car. So I had to awkwardly walk some 20 meters to the entrance feeling that it was my fault that it happened. I felt sorry that their detour possibly damaged their car. But Clawy assured me that it was fine and there wasn’t any real damage.
So anyway, The Ruins. As I mentioned, it was once a grand mansion. According to its history, it was built by Mariano Lacson, a Spanish mestizo sugar baron, in memory of his deceased Portuguese wife, Maria Braga. During World War II, fearing the impending arrival of the superior Japanese forces, the mansion was burned, so that it could not be used as headquarters by the enemy. This was only partly successful because the concrete used for the construction was A-grade, making it impervious to heat damage. Speaking of heat damage, the thick hardwood floors within the mansion took days to burn out. But still the mansion stood, albeit in a skeletal state. Much later, its potential as a tourist destination was realized and the grounds have been cleaned up and re-purposed with that in mind.
So I walked to the entrance gate and paid the P60 entrance fee. There were already many people roaming around. Entire families, even. No surprises there as it was a Sunday afternoon after all. I began snapping photos of The Ruins in different angles. After I thought I’ve snapped enough, I looked for a park bench to just relax and wait for the daylight to dim, before I begin shooting again.
I had mostly disappointing shots in the light of the sunset, which was far too fleeting for my purposes. I must have snapped only around 10 photos when, just like that, the sunlight was gone and it was already nighttime. I just made the most of my remaining time there so I tried to look for different angles to shoot at. One area of the mansion was converted into a cafe/restaurant, so I took photos of that too.
Oh, and I shot a video too from the bench.
I have mixed feelings about The Ruins. On one hand, it’s indeed a charming place to spend an afternoon in. On the other hand, as its name suggests, you sort of expect to see a lot more ruins than just the mansion, and you find out that that’s really all there is to it. Nice to see, but nothing to really rave about.
[One thing I hate is the way people refer to this as the “Taj Mahal of the Philippines”. Ugh. Seriously, people, don’t you think our tourist spots can stand on their own without making use of contrived and blatantly unoriginal monikers? (If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’d see that this is a constant pet peeve of mine.) There’s got to be more to our places of interest than just being a Pinoy version of this or that tourist spot abroad. And in this case, “Taj Mahal” is too grand a term to apply to this small skeleton of a mansion. And I don’t even care about the love story behind it. If you tell others we have a Taj Mahal in the Philippines, then they will expect a fucking Taj Mahal.]
Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest.
As the last wisps of daylight disappeared from the horizon, it also began to drizzle. I took that as my cue to find my way to the exit and board the only remaining tricycle parked there to take me to the highway. From there, I took a jeep back to Bacolod. I had a rather productive first day. Really looking forward to the following day’s adventure.
NEXT: Mambukal Resort