Welcome to Bais the signage reads. I paid Php55.00 to the konduktor mindless of my notes on ancestral houses dotting the landscape and written inside my head.
It's half past three in the afternoon. The dust in the road seems never to settle. For the most part, truck after truck loaded with newly cut sugarcane occupies one lane of the road headed to Central Azucarera de Bais (est. 1918) and Universal Robina Sugar Mills where the sugarcane is processed.
The idyllic countryside of Bais and Tanjay is cut straight from an Amorsolo painting sans the women garbed in traditional Filipino clothing. But don't let the pictures fool you. Bais and Tanjay are emerging cities in Oriental Negros. The bulk of the two cities income are from sugarcane being two of the largest sugarcane producing cities in the province.
During the sugarcane boom in the 1930s, big homes in the hacienda played hosts to lavish parties. At present, bungalows designed in graceful colonial flare grace block after block in Poblacion, Bais. In my previous visit, I've seen the remnants of the cities' rich past through the photos that adorned the walls of La Planta Hotel cafe.
looneyplanet.net brings you 5 things to do in Bais and Tanjay:
two |2 SEE the old dinosaurs across the Azucarera gates. Not the Jurassic kind but the old Baldwin locomotives known as the dean of workhorses during the hacienda heydays. The area needs a major clean-up and renovation though. No entrance fees.
three | 3 EAT budbud Tanjay. Budbud is sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and layered with a swirl of native chocolate. Easily available at the right wing of Tanjay Public Market at Php5.00/piece. Goes well with a slice of mango. Yum!
four | 4 HOMESTAY at Hacienda San Julio in Tanjay. The plantation, owned by the Mapa Family, has a small village where the plantation workers live. What a better way to get to know the locals and learn their way of life by staying up close and yes, personal with a local, farming family. International students from Japan, Denmark and Korea are the programs' guests year after year. Two public schools are nearby (an elementary and high school) and there's a Gawad Kalinga (GK) Village as well for those who want to do the extra mile. You may contact Mr. Cidni Mapa: email@example.com
five | 5 SEE and SWIM, that is, see the DOLPHINS and swim near the SANDBAR. As early as 6:00am, my group was already in Capinahan wharf where the chartered boat which will take us to Tanon Strait was waiting. The sea that morning was as flat as glass. The sky was spotless. Half an hour later, I was awaken by the commotion in the boat. Everyone got giddy as dolphins began swimming beside the boat! Hanep! contact Bais City Tourism Office at (035) 541.5161 and (035) 541.5001 for boat bookings and rates.
By 9:00 am, the boat headed out to the sand bar in Manjuyod. It's a sliver of white sand with four cottages dotting the strip. It's a little version of Maldives sans the five star facility. The boat man dropped anchor, the cook started the barbeque and everyone jumped into the warm, inviting water of Tanon Strait! It's kantilado and the current is strong, so be careful.