This will be a series of posts that will highlight the different places I have been to that I have worked from (or worked from even a little bit). As opposed to other travel blogs that only discuss traditional sites and tourist spots, I thought it might be helpful for like-minded individuals to see what cities have to offer, in terms of which spots are the most freelancer-friendly, what kind of overall atmosphere a place has (so that we, as marketers/freelancers/whatever really, can fully appreciate the people behind a certain city and gain valuable insights from that) and what kind of networking opportunities there are in those cities, if any.
A couple of years ago, I went to Bacolod with my family, twice, I believe, and then once for a shoot for a documentary about farms and rice. I didn't think much of it. It's where my maternal family comes from. With lots of great food and the singsong-iest, friendliest accents ever, Bacolod is a great place to visit, at least I always thought. Anyway, this year, I went to Bacolod (On a whim. Because, yes, I tend to do that). And because I am a freelancer, I was able to get some work done, albeit very little, while I was on vacation. After a few days in the city, I spent some more time on Lakawon Island, which was off the coast from Cadiz Viejo, about an hour away from Bacolod City proper. Just because it isn't summer anymore, doesn't mean I still can't go to the beach, right? So. This post will talk about some of that too.
Lots of people asked me, "Why Bacolod?" I couldn't really give a straight answer. I would say "Because food trip" or "Because Calea or chicken". Partly because going there was pretty random to begin with. But more than that, I felt like I needed to escape from real life but not completely escape so as to be inaccessible to whomever might need me back in Manila. I didn't want to go to completely uncharted terrain. And so, the Bacolod adventure began.
The Overall Atmosphere of Bacolod
As soon as I had landed, everything was green and lush because of all the farmlands and haciendas. I knew that the pace of this place was already different. It was no surprise for me, as I had been there before. But for the benefit of those who have not, it's good to know that if you need a break from the city, Bacolod is a great place to remove yourself from Manila's hardcore traffic and busy busy-ness. I always feel as if I'm transported back to another time when I visit a place like Bacolod, like I was transplanted to the early 90s; a time when buildings weren't as high and people were a bit less cold.
Unlike Hong Kong, Bacolod isn't much of a walking city (like much of Manila or the rest of the Philippines). The landscape is vast and the city is pretty big, in that you do need to hire a car or get a GrabTaxi or GrabCar to get around. Luckily, most of the areas I went to were in a central location, along the main Lacson Street. You'll notice that it is very much a slow and sleepy town, without the high-rise buildings. It has a lax atmosphere that is perfect for reading or writing, by the side of the road, which is pretty much all I did. (Shout out to Cafe Bob's for their outdoor seating patio!)
The Freelancer Friendly Spots of Bacolod
As I tried to look for spots to hang out in the area where I could easily whip my laptop out and get some work done, I quickly realized that Bacolod had numerous spots wherein you could just work quietly and be left to your own thoughts. I stayed in a place called The White Hotel, along Burgos Avenue. What was once an ancestral home-turned-museum became my quiet, little retreat space. The staff was friendly and accommodating and had upgraded my room without my having to do anything. While their operations were still in its infancy stages - "soft opening" - as they had called it, and there were some drainage concerns, there was a common table for peaceful work time and a comfortable couch/lounge area that was, most likely, the living room area of years passed. I stayed here for a bit. Just to settle in. It was cozy, the indirect lighting was pleasant and it was pretty quiet.
Now, I'm not a total introverted spaz/hermit/creature. I didn't just stay in the hotel the whole time. I went to the usual spots (I'm talking about you, Aida's Manokan, twice even, because of course) but there was one night where I wanted to grab a beer and just hang out and just take in the local culture. With ever-reliable Google, I found a place called Tippy's Bistro. It was an eclectic, old house they had transformed into a bar. It was very reminiscent of the college bars near Katipunan that I had once frequented in my not-so distant youth (if it can be considered distant at all... Charot). What surprised me most about this place was the kind of music they had played. It was laid back, chill/trip hoppy music that would've been perfect for a creative night, that I wouldn't mind listening to on my own. I didn't get to bring my laptop to actually work because I was technically on vacation/exploring mode, but if I did... I would've probably accomplished a lot. (HAHA).
Another place I was able to go to (because what would a Bacolod trip be without, really) was Calea. Now, this place is an institution, for obvious reasons. I was able to work here a bit, at least for a while and in between bites of their Espresso Cheesecake. Even if they didn't have wifi and they transferred to a smaller place (beside L'Fisher hotel), there were sockets and strong coffee! I was delighted to be surrounded by various titas, students and other locals, just enjoying the very traditional cakes and pies. It wasn't the most quiet spot to work. But that was totally understandable. The place was abuzz with cake-fueled excitement, something that is to be expected. Because cake.
Another place I checked out, upon the recommendation of my cousin Trina, was Trap Door, a speakeasy type of hidden bar thing of a place, in the back of Pizza Republic, along the main Lacson strip of establishments. I met the owner of the place, Jigs, who was a former Flight Attendant for Cebu Pacific, and he told me that his main passions in life were craft beer AND magic tricks, an odd combination, sure. But it worked and was pretty entertaining. It was a great place to sit down, listen to good music and watch the waiters perform magic tricks (because I am a child). I could imagine myself going there on a Friday night, with laptop in tow and a pint of their dark beer. I forget the name but Jigs explained that it was their version of a stout without the heaviness. And true enough, it was. I highly recommend Trap Door. If you ever find yourself in Bacolod, this place is definitely worth a double take.
The Lakawon Island Experience
Now, the real reason for my trip wasn't exactly to get any work done. Accomplishing work was more of a bonus than anything else. I really wanted to go to Bacolod to make the most of the remnants of my summer (even if it was already a bit rainy). After exploring all of the main spots of Bacolod City, I headed to Lakawon Island. I took a GrabCar to the north bus station of Ceres and one hour and forty-five minutes later, found myself in Cadiz Viejo. I took a 20-30 minute trike ride from the terminal to the port and then a 20 minute boat ride and found myself on Lakawon Island.
Now, Lakawon is a working person's dream vacation away from home. There was absolutely no wifi on the island and LTE/4G signal was sparse, if any at all. It was a dream-state inducing place. I felt like I was floating, free from any demands or responsibilities of real life (you know, as opposed to my ultra demanding freelancer life. EYEROLL, I KNOW, I KNOW. I get it, okay). But to be fair, I had been feeling a little toxic in my day to day, back in Manila. So, this was the perfect getaway for me. When I got there, it was a bit rainy, so after having checked in, I decided to get a beer and just stay in one of the kubos by the beach, as it drizzled. It was quiet, it was serene, it was exactly what I had needed.
This isn't to say that it was perfect. The overall operations of the actual resort had a lot to be wanted for. I wasn't expecting like a giant operation that belonged to one family. I was expecting a simpler beach (like a normal public beach with one or two other resorts nearby). This was one whole giant operation, with some lapses. However, the scenery and the lack of human beings on the island was enough for me to forgive most of their shortcomings (I'm not exactly as prissy as I appear to be, anyway). What they lacked for in good food (they could've had a wider selection of Bacolod classics. Just saying.), the friendly Bacolodnon demeanor of the staff, and the beautiful island itself made up for it tenfold. They had cold beer, the beach was clean, there were swings (!!!) and there were pockets of solitude where you could just sit and stare at the water and the moon and not even realize the passage of time. Again, this was exactly what I had wanted, anyway.
I was lucky that for the rest of my trip, it was sunny and I was able to get some sun in (because really, what's the point of going to the beach if your skin doesn't get kissed by the sun). And one of Lakawon's features was the Tawhai Floating Bar. It was basically a giant boat thing with mats, where you could just laze and lie around in (with sockets too!!!). If I was in a friendlier, small-talkier mood (I rarely am, though), I would've gone out of my way to talk with the other guests who were coming and going. To be completely honest, I was in no such mood. I was completely and truly at peace, just staring out into the ocean. The music was a bit on the heavy, loud side (they were going for that party boat thing, I suppose), but it didn't matter so much because it was so peaceful.
Some Reflections, Musings and Ramblings
Again, my main intention for traveling to Bacolod wasn't really to work. I really didn't have much work to do; I tried accomplishing most, if not all, of my tasks before even leaving Manila (yes, go, me!), so I just brought my laptop just in case something came up (luckily and thankfully, nothing of urgency really came up). So I wasn't exactly on the lookout for networking opportunities or anything like that. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how Bacolod, as a city, was booming. It had everything Manila had to offer minus the terrible traffic and always remained overlooked by its noisier, more developed neighbors like Cebu and Iloilo. It's a pretty solid place; it had its own rustic charm and a strong, rich cultural heritage of it's own (that I wish I could've explored more, because like I had mentioned earlier, it's where my maternal family is from), but still. Like, if I had a place I could eventually retire in, Bacolod would definitely be at the top of my list.
Having said that, I also realized that while Bacolod had most of the comforts and things Manila offers (and more because.... CHICKEN AND CAKES AND BEACH OKAY), there really is nothing quite like the feeling of going home. I missed Manila's craziness and its crazy convenience. Maybe, I missed my family too (like I was pretty homesick by the time I went home). I guess, what I'm trying to say is that, while it's great to travel and go people watching, there really is no place like home. (It's entirely possible that I say this because right after I went to Bacolod, I went home for about a day and took an eleven hour bus trip to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. But I guess that experience will be reserved for a different article.) But yes, there is nothing quite like the experience of a new place, without having a set plan or itinerary in mind. But more than that, going home and the feeling of going to a place you call home is so much more gratifying when you've been away.
I suppose, what I'm trying to say, though I know I probably sound like I'm rambling on, is that I figured out my end goal for going to Bacolod in the first place. It was to remove myself from the hectic Manila life, the crazy, chaotic city life and find myself wanting to go back to it. And that is exactly what I did.
So if you plan to take a domestic trip, consider Bacolod! It is quite the experience. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. How about you? Do you have any recommendations or think I missed out on important Bacolod places? Because I'm likely going to go back, because of course, sound off in the comments below for any suggestions! :D I would love to hear from you.