The best place to hang out, meet friends, eat and drink, and party in the Philippines city of Bacolod is….the government center? Not a nightclub, not a mall, not an entertainment district…but the city’s government center?
Yup! Welcome to Bacolod, which is one of the nicest – but least touristy and vastly underappreciated – cities in the Philippines. It’s also got a unique history that still brings it uncharacteristic wealth and influence these days, as Bacolod was the center of the lucrative sugar cane industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries under Spanish colonial rule, and still to this day.
Sugar cane was (and still is) BIG business. So, in the city of Bacolod and surrounding areas, the streets are just a little bigger, the homes a little more upper class than the average Filipino house, and there are more signs of wealth trickling down, like more cars and trucks, high-end restaurants and cake shops, etc. It’s also the capital city of the island of Negros, which is the 6 th largest in the Philippines and likewise holds some financial chops thanks to the sugar cane trade.
But, despite all of that relative opulence, it’s not a modern or western city. Up until recently (thanks to Lakawon Island and an action park in the mountains nearby), there was little for tourists to see. Visiting the city, most tourists are left scratching their heads when it comes to find one area with the city’s bars, clubs, or nightlife.
The solution is simple – head to the government center, as I mentioned.
In fact, the The New Government Center (NGC) was finished only a few years ago and is a vast, dazzlingly white, architectural masterpiece. Paid for with city funds on a site donated by the affluent local Gonzaga Family, the NGC came with a 400,000,000 Pesos price tag. It was built in the neo-Classical Renassaince style, which is to stay it is reminiscent of another notable all-white structure you’ll find at 1 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.!
In front of the sprawling grounds, completely covered with red tiles, is an immense pool and fountain. It features 213 individual jets, shooting water in synchronicity at night with red, green, and blow lights trained through the water, all along to piano music.
The NGC also has achieved something important for the city – it’s not only the civic center but, now, the cultural center. Without a lovely waterfront area or other scenic park or one downtown district, the endless grounds of the this center serve as a meeting place for families, visitors, friends, young couples, and children playing. Each and every evening as the sun goes down, people start to spill into the complex, hanging out, playing sports, talking, listening to music, eating well (of course) and otherwise just enjoying connecting with their fellow citizens.
It’s also the home to just about every big event, concert, festival, fair and symposium in Bacolod. And the best part? Walk around the back of the government center, and you’ll find a big complex of bars and restaurants – we’ve finally found nightlife in Bacolod!