“Taj Mahal” of Negros: Feel the love

Have you been to the “Taj Mahal” of Negros?

I am referring to Bacolod’s “The Ruins”. This Philippine heritage landmark is famous for a love story that is both romantic and tragic. The remains of a once magnificent 2-storey mansion stood the test of time and has been named one of the 12 most fascinating ruins of the world (https://www.oddee.com/item_96671.aspx).

I had a chance to visit Bacolod’s Monument of Love last July. I have long heard about this place but I never knew that the backstory was a romantic one.

It was built by a sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, as a loving tribute to his wife, Maria Braga who succumbed to her death following a freak accident while carrying their eleventh child.

Let me share to you the mansion’s beautiful history as told in their website (https://theruins.com.ph/our-story/)

An area inside the mansion where visitors gather to hear the love story behind The Ruins.
Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson was living a sweet life, the youngest child of 8. He was the young, dashing and bachelor baron of a 440-hectare plantation in Spanish colonial-era Talisay City. As much as he worked hard, he was enjoying his young life to the hilt. One of his passions was seeing the world, and he often did so in the company of an equally wealthy friend.
In one of his meanderings abroad, Mariano caught sight of Maria Braga – a beautiful, young Portuguese lady from Macau – in old Hong Kong. It was love at first sight. He did not hesitate meeting her and her father, a captain of his own ship. He thought, “Mariano and Maria – a match made in heaven!” He offered her marriage and brought her back home and raised a family in Talisay.

Mariano and Maria’s married life was blissful. They were blessed with ten children – Victoria, Rafael, Mercedes (who later married a Javellana), Natividad, Sofia, Felipe, Consolacion, Angelina, Ramon and Eduardo. But it was not fashionable to have a small family in those times. The number of children a couple had also formed part of a family’s wealth. Maria became laden with an 11th child.

Suddenly… the cruel hand of fate dealt a tragic blow. In some nasty twist of events, the pregnant Maria slipped in the bathroom and began to bleed. Her condition was so precarious that she wouldn’t even be able to take the rigors of travel to the nearest available full-fledged physician in the next town, now Silay City (site of today’s international airport). So Mariano had no choice; he frantically summoned his horseman to take what at the time was the fastest mode of transportation, a horse-drawn carriage, for fetching the physician who can attend to Maria.

At the time, a horse-drawn carriage took two days to reach Silay. So Mariano had to suffer the four-day wait for the arrival of the carriage as he tended his wife. Sadly, both Maria and the baby passed on even before the doctor arrived. Mariano was devastated and heartbroken – the love of his life gone, taken by a freak accident. No mortal would have been able to fathom the depths of his grief.

But he had to move on for the sake of his children. In one of those healing moments, he thought of a way to immortalize Maria in his memory for the rest of his life: build a mansion adjacent to his ancestral home. He wanted to dedicate it to Maria’s love, especially to their 10 children. He touched base with Maria’s father and told him of his plan to erect a grand palace in honor of Maria, where he and the kids would live as well as desert the scene of Maria’s tragic mishap. Mariano’s intentions was well-received by his father-in-law, who not only provided some finances but might also have given Mariano the design of his very own mansion.

Construction of the Don Mariano Lacson Mansion went in earnest. Mariano entrusted the design and building specifications to a local engineer, Luis Puentevella, and asked one of his sons to supervise the construction and make certain that the A-grade mixture of concrete was precisely poured. It was finished to perfection, upon which the Don told his children the mansion was theirs to live in for as long as they are unmarried. The family cherished in the new mansion the loving memory of Maria. And life went on beautifully for them all from then on…

The two-story mansion was of Italianate architecture as evidenced by its neo-Romanesque columns all around. Since the engineer was a Filipino, it is believed the design came from that of Maria’s ancestral mansion which was given by her father to Mariano as sample. The imprimatur of Maria’s father, a ship captain, is now clear from the shell-inspired décor all around the top edges of the mansion – the same ones that identified the homes of ship captains in New England at the time.
Neo-Romanesque columns.
Tell-tale signs of Mariano’s adoration for Maria abound. There’s the two “M” letters molded in reclined positions onto each and every post around the mansion’s exterior – symbols that stand for Mariano and Maria. The final touches to the concrete walls and posts were made with egg whites mixed into the cement for a fine, marble-like touch, representing Maria’s alabaster skin characteristic of Mediterranean women. And the load-bearing pillars were reinforced, not with ordinary metal rods, but with the thick, dense metal columns used to build railways for long-lasting ability – an edifice for Maria that can last “forever.”

The two Ms are seen on both sides of the entrance.
In this magnificent mansion, three of Mariano’s daughters lived to the max and never married. On Mariano’s arrangements, the daughters stayed on the upper floor while the sons occupied the ground level. Victoria, Consolacion and Angelina stayed single and enjoyed every moment in the mansion. It is surmised that, because the females stayed on the upper floor, their suitors were not lucky or brave enough to get past the brothers on the lower level, thus failing to court their lady loves and win them over to married life.

But all good things must come to an end. During the early part of World War II, the guerilla forces under American command were constrained to raze the mansion to the ground so as to keep the occupying Japanese forces from using it as headquarters. The resulting 3-day inferno brought down the roof and the two-inch wooden floors, but the entire skeletal frame remains intact to this day.

Now, the remains of the burnt mansion is a majestic sight to behold. Its huge, ornately designed fountain reminiscent of those in piazzas around Italy stands proud by the front entrance of the mansion, back-dropped by the Simborio – the smokestack outside where the ancestral home used to be, which actually was the vent used for milling fine mascovado sugar at the plantation.

Entrance Fee:
Adults: 100 pesos
Senior Citizens: 70 pesos
Students: 60 pesos
Children (below 8): 20 pesos

P1,000 for the first 5 persons, crew included. In excess of 5 persons, each will just pay the corresponding entrance fees.

How to get there:
From the airport, take a shuttle to Bacolod and tell the driver to drop you off at The RUINS. It is along the way to Bacolod City from the airport.

By private car or taxi, from the airport, take the access road to the airport going south to Bacolod City. Turn right to Don Mariano L. Lacson Highway (5th intersection) and in about 900 meters you will arrive at The RUINS.
From Bacolod City, take a jeepney ride to BATA and get off at Robinson’s Mall. Walk to GO Hotel and take a shuttle from there to The RUINS.

By private car or taxi, take Lacson Street going north to Talisay City. After the flyover at the CERES North Terminal and PEPSI bottling plant, turn right towards the mountains on Don Mariano L. Lacson Highway and in about 2.3 kms. you will arrive at The RUINS.


The Gazebo Restaurant is located within the property to cater tourists and visitors of The Ruins.

Contact details for queries and reservations:
Landline: +63 (34) 4764334
+63 (917) 8326003
+63 (905) 5133347
+63 (939) 2985657

So when you are in Bacolod and you feel a little romantic, “The Ruins” is the place to visit.

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A fun day at Holy Carabao Farm

Have an amazing farming experience for only 300 pesos!

Welcome to Holy Carabao Holistic Farm!
About an hour away from Manila, this serene place is located near Acacia Waldorf School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Holy Carabao Farm, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

Founded more than a decade ago by two moms, Melanie Go and Hindy Weber, the farm continues to live up to its mission. It aims to grow and provide healthy and whole foods for Filipino families. The farm also conducts different lectures and workshops to spread awareness on proper farming techniques, nature conservation and overall wellness.

I heard about this place through my sister. She planned the farm visit together with the family so that her two-year old toddler can have first-hand experience on farm life and of course to see real farm animals (her favorite!)

When we arrived at the farm, we proceeded first to the Farm Shed Café and ordered some food and drinks.

The café also serves as the meeting place for those who want to do the farm tour. Here, you can read books, play board games or have your kids draw and color to pass some time.

The Farm Shed Café

Here are some of the things to do during your visit (P300/person):

Breathe in the fresh air

Feed and interact with the farm animals

Learn about organic farming and its benefits

Chill and dine the healthy way at The Farm Shed Café

Buy organically grown products:

~ Chemical-free Veggies & Fruits
~ Grass-fed Beef & Pork
~ Pasture-raised Poultry & Eggs
~ Non-GMO Rice & Grains
~ Cold-pressed Juices & Elixirs
~ Hormone-free Milk
~ Wild Honey & Raw Sugar
~ Gluten-free Bread & Cookies
~ Artisanal Ice Cream
~ Artisanal Cheese & Chocolate
~ Culinary & Medicinal Herbs
~ Fermented Foods, Drinks & Condiments
~ Toxin-free Household Products
~ Paleo & Vegan Options
~ Veggie Box Sets

Unlimited rides on a swing zipline (my favorite part of the tour!)

How to get to the farm:
Holy Carabao Farm and The Farm Shed Café are located in the area of Acacia Waldorf School, an exclusive private school. The most convenient way to reach the farm is by using a private vehicle. If you are using waze, set the destination to The Farm Shed Café/Acacia Waldorf School. Take SLEX, then ETON exit. Follow the road towards Sta. Rosa, making your way towards Nuvali. Before you get to Nuvali Solenad, there is a huge Sta. Elena City sign on the left (right across Jollibee). Turn left at the sign and proceed towards Georgia Club / Promenade / Belle Reve. Go straight until you see a blue guard house. Inform the guard on duty that you are going to Acacia Waldorf School. Make a right at the rotunda then go straight for about 2 kilometers. The farm will be on the left side of the road, right beside the school. There are parking spaces available inside the school parking lot.

To learn more about Holy Carabao Farm, visit:

Website: www.holycarabao.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/holycarabao

Instagram page: @holycarabaofarm

Contact: 0977-813-4659

Operating hours:
8:30AM to 5:30PM on weekdays
9:00AM to 5:00PM on Saturdays

Here are more activities and workshops offered by Holy Carabao Holistic Farm. Check them out!

HAPPY FARMING EVERYONE! Feel free to share this good news!


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What makes ILOCOS travel-worthy?

The main reason why I love to travel is to learn. I love that I can go to a place and discover its people, history, culture, food and way of life. Last May, Bridges Travel and Tours paved a way for me to explore two of the four provinces of Ilocos Region. For four days, my eyes and palate were exposed to the rich heritage, beautiful sights and delectable food as I wander around Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Sunset view at the Bangui Wind Farm, Ilocos Norte

What is so special about Ilocos?

The first time I have been to Ilocos was in 2015. A friend invited me and my sister to go visit her hometown in Ilocos Sur over the Holy Week. She was able to show us around and it was then that I initially learned about their rich heritage, interesting history, great leaders and culture. I really enjoyed that trip and vowed to come back to enrich my knowledge even more. And so, I did.

Here’s a list of reasons why Ilocanos are proud of Ilocos:

ILOCOS was awarded three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Paoay Church, Santa Maria Church, Vigan)

Paoay Church. It is also known as Saint Augustine Church. It has a unique Earthquake Baroque Architecture and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

This is the picture-perfect façade of Paoay Church with walls made of corals and bricks.

Santa Maria Church. It is also known as The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. It was built on top of a hill not only as a religious center during spanish colonization but also as a lookout and citadel. Together with Paoay Church, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

The famous Calle Crisologo of the historical City of Vigan. UNESCO awarded it as a World Heritage Site in 1999 and named it as the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. 

ILOCOS is the home of three Philippine presidents and other great Filipino leaders (Elpidio Quirino, Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel Ramos, Diego Silang, Juan and Antonio Luna, Jose Burgos, Gregorio Aglipay)

The town of Batac is called the Home of Great Leaders. For one, former President Ferdinand Marcos is from this town. Gregorio Aglipay, founder of the Aglipayan Church, is from here. General Artemio Ricarte, the Father of the Philippine Army, is also from this town.
Luna Shrine is dedicated to preserve the memories of brothers Juan Luna and Antonio Luna.

ILOCOS is famous for having beautiful beaches, magnificent windmills, historical churches and structures that stood the test of time


Beautiful beachfront of Kingfisher Resort in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Bangui Windmills lined up in Ilocos Norte. Did you know that these were the very first windmills built in SouthEast Asia? There are currently 26 Bangui windmills scattered in this area. Amazing, right?

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos Lighthouse). This lighthouse was first lit over 100 years ago and is still functioning to serve ships entering the Philippine Archipelago from the north.

Santa Monica Parish Church (Sarrat Church) is the largest church in the whole Ilocos Norte province.

Did you know that Sarrat Church was declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines? It was also the setting for the grand wedding of Gregorio Araneta and Irene Marcos, daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos. This church is so huge and  also so instagrammable as you can see (haha!).

Saint Augustine Parish Church (Bantay Church) in Ilocos Sur is one of the oldest in the Ilocos Region.

Bantay Tower is the old historic belfry of Bantay Church and served as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish colonial era. “Bantay” means to “watch out”.

Patapat Viaduct.  This is an elevated road (over 30 meters above sea level) located in the municipality of Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte. It is known to be the fifth longest bridge in the Philippines. 

Oh yes, the Paoay Sand Dunes.  A vast 88-hectare spread of sand filled with awesome adventure. It is classified as a non-disposable public land and is a protected area. The sand dunes found in Ilocos are the only ones in the Philippines and SouthEast Asia. Go for wild 4×4 ATV rides and experience sand boarding here and don’t forget to just have fun! 

ILOCOS is known for their well-curated museums and shrines where Filipino culture and history are preserved and displayed

Behind me are magnificent fiber glass masterpieces displayed inside Taoid Museum, Ilocos Norte. Visit this museum and learn more about the rich history and culture of the Ilocanos.

Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center (Marcos Museum) houses a large collection of Marcos memorabilia. One of its most frequently visited section was a mausoleum where the remains of the late former President Marcos were displayed before he was transferred to Libingan ng mga Bayani.

ILOCOS is admired for having a wide variety of food delicacies (bagnet, longganisa, poqui-poqui, dinardaraan or crispy dinuguan, pinakbet, empanada, tinubong, bischocho, chichacorn)

Empanada is a signature snack/merienda in Ilocos. It is mainly composed of bean sprouts, ground pork, sometimes longganisa, shredded carrots, cabbage and egg wrapped in a crispy crust made of rice flour. Ilocos Norte empanada is a bit different from its Ilocos Sur counterpart. I recommend you try both. 

Marsha’s Delicacies is a great place for buying pasalubong. Must-tries: Royal Bibingka, bagnet, longganisa, pudding, brownies, pichi-pichi, chichacorn, camote and banana chips.

ILOCOS is a provider of export-quality products (tobacco, garlic, onions, mangoes, salt, wine) and handicrafts (abel weaving, burnay pottery)

Ilocos is still one of the top tobacco-producing provinces in the country.

ILOCOS currently has the largest Dragonfruit Farm in the Philippines

A vendor selling Dragonfruit ice cream. Aside from the health benefits of the fruit itself, dragonfruit can also be made into jam, wine, vinegar, tea, cookies, pastries and even soap bars.

Ilocos History 101

Allow me to share with you a snippet of information about Ilocos in the Philippine History.

The Ilocos Region (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan) is located in the northwestern part of the Philippines. The area was originally inhabited by aboriginal Negritos but were overpowered by Malayo-Polynesian immigrants. When the Spaniards came, one conquistador named Juan de Salcedo landed in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in 1572 and proceeded to some towns in Badoc and Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He and his men noticed a lot of coves and caves or “looc” along the shoreline, thus named the region “Ylocos”. During this time, Ilocos was still one province. It was not until February 2, 1818 that a Spanish decree divided Ilocos Norte from Ilocos Sur. It has been said that reasons for the division was the increase in population, excessive monopolies and forced labor which led to constant rebellion by the North against the Spaniards, challenging their administrative powers thus forcing the separation.

How to get TO Ilocos

By Air:
To Ilocos Norte: Laoag International Airport accepts tourists from Manila and other Asian countries like Taiwan, Hongkong and China
To Ilocos Sur: Mindoro (Vigan) Airport is an airport serving the capital of Ilocos Sur. However, it serves only chartered flights. The nearest airport with regular commercial flights is in Laoag. Manila to Laoag takes about an hour travel time. Land trip to Vigan takes about two hours.

By Land:
To Ilocos Norte: Bus Terminals in Cubao, Pasay and Sampaloc have regular trips going to Laoag (I recommend Partas Bus Liner, Farinas Transit and Rabbit Bus Lines). Partas Bus Liner also have Baguio to Laoag schedule.
To Ilocos Sur: Bus Terminals with direct route from Manila to Vigan are served by Partas Bus Liner, Dominion Bus and Viron Transit.

How to get AROUND Ilocos

Various modes of transportation are available in Ilocos. Tricycle is the common one but I still recommend you to try and experience riding a “Calesa” (a horse-drawn carriage). Price for Calesa rides may vary but the usual rate is P150.00/hour per carriage. For those going to farther places and neighboring towns, jeepneys, vans and buses are advised.

But of course, a vacation would be even more fun if everything (tickets, accommodations, food and tour schedules) are organized. For a hassle-free trip to Ilocos, book via Bridges Travel and Tours and get the best deals and travel itineraries. For tour inquiries, please call (02)-7503372/75 or email at tryus@bridgestravel.com. You may also log on to their website: www.bridgestravel.com | www.govisitphilippines.com

Have you guys been to Ilocos? What did you enjoy the most during your stay? For those who haven’t been there, share this post to your friends and plan your trip now!


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