Fiesta Fusion: A Culinary and Cultural Odyssey in Western Visayas with The Philippine Experience Program

December 23, 2023 Travel

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to embark on an exhilarating journey with The Philippine Experience Program in Western Visayas.

For three days pulsating with infectious energy, we immersed ourselves in the region's dynamic cultural extravaganza, celebrating the vibrant offerings of Western Visayas in food, heritage, and arts. This immersive tour, a lively segment of the Philippine Experience Program by the Department of Tourism, is a joyous tribute to cultural tourism, heritage preservation, and the nurturing of pride among Filipinos.

Our festive journey kicked off with a Slow Food immersion and Sugar Heritage Trail Tour in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

At Casa A. Gamboa, the Slow Food Community of Negros treated us to a lavish breakfast banquet, featuring Kesong Puti Pandesal, Binatwanan Nga Chicken, Pork Adobo Pandesal, and the delightful Blue Crab Bun. We also indulged in Panera, Puto Lanson, Piaya, and Binandoy—a vivid showcase of the region's culinary richness.

Next, our adventure took us to the Hawaiian-Philippine Company, where we rode one of the last few remaining 'iron dinosaurs'—steam locomotives in the country. It was the highlight of the entire three-day experience for me.

Also at the Hawaiian-Philippine Company, we savored Negros' finest pastries and confectionaries, including Señorita, Sundol, Paño-Paño, and Lubid-Lubid.

After relishing Negros' finest pastries at the Hawaiian-Philippine Company, our fiesta journey seamlessly continued in Bacolod City, where lively Masskara dancers welcomed us at Bantug Lake Ranch, setting the stage for a joyous lunch highlighting Chicken Inasal and a profusion of local delights.

Our vibrant caravan unfolded across Bacolod City's cultural gems, including the Orange Project and Art District, adorned with murals, art installations, and captivating performances.

Babaylan Rituals at Art District

As the day crescendoed into an opulent ball at the Negros Occidental Capitol Social Hall, we glimpsed the extravagant lifestyle of hacienderos, complete with a red carpet welcome, orchestral serenades, a lavish buffet, and a breathtaking fireworks display.

On our second day, we sailed from Negros Island to Panay Island, embarking on a spirited pilgrimage and wellness exploration in Southern Iloilo.

Garin Farm, with its heavenly landscape, and historic churches like San Joaquin and Miagao Church, provided a spiritual and cultural immersion, replete with festive fervor.

Heavenly Harmony: A Chorale Group Singing Praises at the Gates of Heaven, Twice the Divine Feels

Festive Welcome at Miagao Church

Our journey continued to Tigbauan, where we first explored Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center or SEAFDEC's FishWorld Museum-Aquarium. We also had a preview of Tigbauan's Saludan Festival.

Then, we soaked in the town fiesta ambiance at Sol Y Mar Eco-Farm. Every corner of our visit was adorned with lively folk dances, local meryenda, artistry, and enchanting rondalla performances.

The day concluded with a dinner at The National Museum of the Philippines – Iloilo, featuring the Dinagyang parade of light dancers and a feast celebrating the UNESCO creative city of gastronomy.

Our final day unfolded with a spirited rolling tour of Iloilo City, exploring its iconic Esplanade, the Molo Mansion, UP Visayas Museum of Art and Cultural Heritage, and Camiña Balay Nga Bato for a heartfelt farewell lunch.

Each stop was a festive showcase of Ilonggo culture through vibrant dance and music.

At the UP Visayas Museum of Art and Cultural Heritage, we explored its seven galleries, featuring the vibrant arts and culture of Iloilo.

The UP Visayas chorale filling the halls with their beautiful voices

At the Molo Mansion, we reveled in Molo Soup and Batchoy, with a surprising twist of Batchoy Ice Cream.

Our farewell lunch at Camiña Balay Nga Bato featured a grand spread of local delicacies, including bino-ug nga baboy, ratotoy, and Embotido de Arevalo, accompanied by a delightful assortment of pancit, fried milkfish, shrimps, molo soup, vegetable roll, empanada, and fruits, all complemented by a comforting cup of tsokolate.

Both the Molo Mansion and Camiña Balay Nga Bato stood as vibrant testaments to the region's architectural and cultural heritage.

The Philippine Experience Program in Western Visayas is a jubilant celebration of the diverse and rich culture that defines our nation. Heartfelt gratitude to the organizers for providing an unforgettable and immersive experience, a joyous tapestry forever etched in our memories.

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