SAN CARLOS CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
BY CAMILLE F. CABAL
Enchanting and breathtaking, the City of San Carlos may often be outshined by its more famous neighboring towns but it is well worth visiting.
LET SAN CARLOS CITY SURPRISE YOU WITH ITS HOMEY AND SERENDIPITOUS ATTRACTIONS.
As travelers we love exploring new places that most people have not yet visited. And since we are in the "influencers era, we are constantly on the search for new tourist spots to try out. Not so far from the famous cities of Bacolod, Dumaguete, and Iloilo, is San Carlos City, which is sure to enchant you with every experience. Keep reading to discover why San Carlos is worth every peso of your travel budget.
Insikwate is the city's popular place to drink pure hot chocolate, a perfect treat after visiting the breezy Sipaway Island. Insikwate has their own chocolate plantation. This allows them to have enough supply of chocolate for the drinks as well as for their chocolate products like brownies and to-go table (cacao beans). If you happen to visit Insikwate during summer, you may opt for an iced version of their chocolate drink which will be served with milk and sugar so you can customize your drink according to your taste. However, if you are not fond of chocolate, you may enjoy their coffee instead or their Insikwa-tea selections and Insikwate smoothies.
At first glance, Sipaway Island instantly enchants its visitors. Two minutes away from the city proper, Sipaway Island can be reached through pump boats. To be exact, it only took our team 2 minutes and 14 seconds to reach Dapdap Wharf, one of the main entry points to the island. According to San Carlos Tourism officers, it was originally known to locals as Sipaway, and later became "Isla de Refugio" during the Spanish era, which connotes "refuge" as boatmen and sea navigators sought refuge in the island during storms. The Sipaway Island experience is like visiting a private island that was specially rented for you. The mangroves surrounding the island further add to the secluded feel.
ENCHANTED CENTURY-OLD BALETE TREE
Every Balete tree has its own story but San Carlos century-old and enchanted balete tree is not associated with any of the horror stories we grew up with. The tree is actually made up of two trees that grew intertwined with each other. According to accounts of the residents, there are supernatural entities living in this tree. When it was set to be cut down to make room for development, those who were supposed to cut the tree got sick leading people to believe they were hindered by the entities protecting it.
Some residents also claim that they have witnessed the tree transform into some kind of a palace. People here got used to offering food to the tree to ask for valuable things or to appease the entities from casting a curse on them. Because of these accounts, the city decided to not remove the tree from where it stands. Eventually, the tree became a protected treasure of Sipaway Island.
Titing's is a popular coffee shop that opened in the city in 1949.
It is named after the family's grandfather who started the business. This coffee shop is not the usual coffee shop with a modern ambiance and IG-worthy corners. Instead, this is the place where you can enjoy a slow morning while watching the people go on with their day.
Hanging on one corner of the café are coffee mugs that seem like decor but are actually personal mugs left by regular customers for them to use whenever they visit the café. Titing's mains consists of the plain black coffee, Tiawti (or coffee with milk], both for Php25, Kape-gatas (or strong-flavored coffee with milk) for Php30, and Sari-Sari (coffee with chocolate and milk) for Php35.
No need to go province-hopping because San Carlos also has its own version of chocolate hills. San Carlos very own Prosperidad Hills look very much like the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. The rich vegetation of San Carlos gives Prosperidad Hills a more hypnotizing character. Prosperidad Hills can be seen along Negros Translink Highway located in Barangay Prosperidad, which is just 30 minutes away from the city proper.
San Carlos' People's Park is no ordinary park. As you enter its gate, a wall of engravings painted in gold will introduce you to the history of San Carlos. As you roam around, you will see miniature versions of the city's main structures--the old and the current city hall, the city plaza, public terminal, public market, and sugar central, placed according to their actual location in the city. Also noticeable inside the park is a train which has the actual remnants of the old steam locomotive used in transporting sugar cane within the province in years past.
What makes San Carlos Park extra special is its swimming pools, one of which is a majestic infinity pool.
Adults can beat the heat and enjoy swimming in any of the three pools anytime for an entrance fee of only Php50 and only Php10 for children seven years old and below. One pool area can also be rented for private events for as low as Php2,500. Another newly introduced attraction in the park is the Lapus Cave and Alinsyawan Falls Art Gallery which features artworks and products of San Carlos' artists that are not just for display but also for sale.
CODCOD RICE TERRACES
You read it right, aside from the chocolate hills, San Carlos also has their version of the rice terraces and these are located in Barangay Codcod from which the tourist spot got its name. Barangay Codcod is recognized as the Rice Granary and Vegetable Basket of San Carlos City. The beautiful and functional terraces were carved out by rice and vegetable farmers.
The Codcod Rice Terraces can be seen near the foot of Mt. Canlaon which is 50 kilometers away from the city proper, two hours of land travel away
Sipaway Island is rich in mangroves, which are proven to be effective in flood control.
No wonder people find refuge in this place when there is a threat from typhoons. But according to Mayor Renato Gustilo, the growth of the mangroves in the area has become uncontrollable at some point, some of them actually took a lot of space off the shore. But to turn this into something beneficial, the city converted the area into a mangrove ecopark.
A boardwalk was constructed so tourists can take a look, take photos and expore. The tourism office is still working on developing more activities for visitors to enjoy the area.
But for now, visitors may relax in the calming view of the mangrove aisle that is Instagram-worthy with sunlight passing through leaves and branches, resulting in a more dramatic and picture-perfect view.