JP Anglo may be introducing the Internet generation to Negrense cuisine, but behind the food scene’s favorite new chef is none other than his ate: Tracie Anglo Dizon. Tracie, who maneouvers Manila’s new favourites Kafé Batwan and Sarsa with a loving iron fist inherent only to older sisters, has returned after years abroad, and she brings with her an interesting pasalubong: global thinking in a local setting.
While she still enjoys a siesta– and merienda-only itinerary in her native Bacolod, Tracie, who is also a director at Asia2Africa Safaris, possesses the compelling insight of both local and outsider. For one: Airbnb the province’s beautiful historical homes. “I saw that first in Africa 10 years ago, and I called the tourism board in Bacolod,” she exclaims. “You gotta make them into BNBs! It’s a tourism industry waiting to happen.”
Tracie won’t deny that the legendary pride of the Bacolod is still very much intact, which in the past have turned off the less moneyed or understanding. But if anything is for sure, the Bacolod know how to live, and they know how to do it well.
“Everytime I go to Bacolod, I eat sate babe at Bob’s. It’s java rice with pork barbeque. It’s their most famous food and it reminds me of my childohood so I always go there. Bob’s is probably the oldest restaurant in Negros. Around 50 years old? It’s the same age as Singapore! It’s just part of everyone’s childhood, or high school life. Everyone eats there.”
“With a friend. There are more hotels being built now, but part of the charm of Negros is knowing the people there. Stay with them on the farms, get into the hacienda lifestyle.”
“I think Bacolod has many sights but personally, I love Ramon Hofileña. The first thing I always do is make people go on a tour with Ramon. He’s a little old now, but he used to do these ‘city safari’ trips where you go on a bus and he just takes you around, to the Victorias Milling Company and the Church of the Angry Christ, which has paintings by Negrense artist Alfonso Ossorio, who was a good friend of Jackson Pollock’s. Ramon lives in a heritage house, he has amazing art, and he tells you about the history of Bacolod. To me that’s important, because it sets the tone. I made my husband do that. When he first went to Bacolod, I told him, you know, I’m not gonna take you anywhere. Let’s just hop on this bus.”
A TRIP WITHIN A TRIP
“There’s this place called Don Salvador Bendicto. I think it’s amazing. How Tagaytay is to Manila, that’s how it is to Negros. It’s up in the mountains, and it’s an unforgettable place in Bacolod. We call it Salben. You go up via Murcia, you pass by fields and fields of sugarcane, and there’s this point where the mountain’s magnetic field is so strong that you can stop your car and it will move. Just turn your engine off at the KM34 marker, and the magnetic field will pull your car through. When my kids are in Bacolod, I always ask my dad when we can go to ‘the part with the magnets’ because they just love it. Have lunch at Rapha Valley—it’s an organic farm there by Dr. Albert Jo.”
“She’s private, but Ina Gaston, the owner of Hacienda Crafts. She does collaborations with people like Wataru Sakuma. Her husband is from one of the oldest families in Bacolod. She herself is from Cebu, but she knows the place well. And then Lyn Gamboa is kind of like the doyenne of Bacolod. She’s very forward thinking.”
“We party like crazy in Bacolod. There’s Mu Shu, which is my brother JP’s place. There also a tapas place in the art district that’s really good—it’s called Txacho. David Lopez, who owns the place, is from San Sebastian and he worked at some Michelin-starred restaurants there.”
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
“I stock up at Virgie’s. She makes mango tarts, she makes pastries, she makes piyaya. It’s like a little Bacolod sweet pastry shop.”