There’s something about being surrounded with nature that rejuvenates the urban soul, especially for an avid traveler whose goal in life is to see all that the world can offer. The best thing about living in the Philippines is you’ll never run out of places to escape to. Nestled in the mountains of Negros Occidental is a developing gem worth visiting – Don Salvador Benedicto, or DSB as it is becoming more popularly known. Not many include this in their itinerary when visiting Bacolod and here I am encouraging all to do so. The last time I was in Bacolod in 2012, I was only able to visit the popular places such as Mambukal Resort and The Ruins. I was there for the Masskara festival so most of my time was spent enjoying the festivities. That’s a story for another time. This time, I had a couple of weeks to spend in Bacolod for work and only a weekend for leisure so I asked a new friend for the little-known areas worth visiting within the vicinity. I was excited when she told me about DSB.
We went on a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon. The drive was worth the trip in itself. We left the city after lunch and it takes about an hour from Bacolod by private car*. That’s a whole hour of winding roads giving one the perfect view between the mountains and kilometers of open road allowing your eyes to feast on the green plains and sugar cane plantations. At some sections of the winding roads, you may even catch a few local friendly daredevils longboarding downhill. As a longboard enthusiast, it took all my strength not to get off the car and join in. (Plus, I was wearing a dress!)
There is also a stretch of road flanked by pine trees – lots and lots of pine trees. That’s not a common sight in a tropical country so you’ll know that you are already on higher altitude by this area.
*DSB can also be reached by bus. Just take a Ceres bus from the city heading to San Carlos.
On Top of the World
Our first stop was the Lion’s Club marker. This is the ideal opening to a trip in DSB where you can marvel at the neighboring mountains and the blue of the sky. One will be presented with 180 degrees of visual therapy. You can even see rice terraces.
Beside the marker is The Padre Pio Gardens. Here, the devout can pray at the Stations of the Cross and the Chapel. As I was wearing a dress and not conditioned mentally to take a hike and climb 200 steps up and down, I had to beg off on the experience. We also had limited time on the trip.
Mountain View Bar and Restaurant
A few meters forth, there is Mountain View Bar and Restaurant. Being vain little girls who just want to take a thousand selfies at fascinating places, this was our main destination. The menu offers a good selection of Filipino food including local Ilonggo dishes. The meals are on the pricey side but do keep in mind that it is the ambience and view that you are really paying for. The chocolate banana shake is served in a 1-foot tall glass which is more a treat to the eyes than the taste buds. Nothing special, regretfully so. Our bellies were just ready for a snack so we ordered the most affordable item on the menu – the Pancit Guisado, which is a local Filipino stir-fried noodle dish. For Php 250, it is good for sharing for 3 persons. Loaded with veggies and variations of meats and sausages, I actually enjoyed it.
We strolled around the vicinity of the restaurant and the view indeed was breathtaking. The fresh air is such a welcome change from the pollution of the city and the rays of the sun is balanced by the cool winds. We spent the better part of our stay there taking pictures, spanning from the peak of the brightness of the sun to when the clouds started giving shade. I was pleased that the place wasn’t crowded as is most tourist spots on weekends.
Into the Woods
On the drive back, we passed by an enclosed pine tree plantation. You’ll have to pay close attention to the fence so as not to miss the narrow entry way. Don’t worry, the property is open to the public. From the open space of the mountain, you will now be surrounded by a forest of tall trees, reminiscent of outdoor adventure films. When we went, there was a photo shoot ongoing of a couple about to be wed. It was a fantastic setting for such.
By dusk, we were driving back to Bacolod but the trip was not over yet. In the neighboring town of Murcia, there is another unique experience not to be missed – Hilltop restaurant. The story is that the owners simply started opening their home for visitors to experience home-cooked meals al fresco at their expansive yard. Before long, the place had garnered so much attention and recognition that they had to have an actual restaurant built within the yard. The owners still live in the house on the lot.
You will see their roadside signage and it will lead into the driveway. The sun had almost completely set when we got there and we were greeted by the intimate light set-up. Aside from the main dining area in the restaurant, there were dining tables all over the lawn. The tables are strategically placed beside the garden lights so you need not worry about enjoying your meal in the dark. There are also covered tables should you choose to dine outside for lunch or when it’s raining.
Their menu is interesting but we planned on having dinner back in Bacolod so we just tried the homemade ice cream. It comes in three flavors – pistachio, coffee crumble, and cookies and cream. It is served in a cocktail glass and topped with barquillos which is a crispy rolled pastry. It was delightful to the palette and definitely a must-try. They’re open on Tuesdays to Thursdays from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM, and Friday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM.
The day left me satisfied with what I had experienced and yearning for what more DSB can still offer. I have been told that there are other mountain resorts and activities such as taking a zip line from one mountain to another. I am definitely going back and maybe taking you with me.