Expat Fun Activities in the Philippines

There are many Fun Activities in the Philippines that expats will enjoy. Not all expats enjoy the same activities but I think there is pretty much something for everyone.

For me, Bacolod City, the City of Smiles, indeed brings smiles into my life. Never a boring day for me.

The Dog Racing is really great for me because it is something I enjoyed in Florida for years and now, I can enjoy it in Bacolod. P50 is less than $1 bet and it makes it interesting. No one is going to lose much betting that amount and it is cheap entertainment.

Not so many expats enjoy Karaoke but I think it is because they never participated in real Karaoke. Where I sing Karaoke, not many would try to sing if they could not sing fairly well. Many Filipinos are on the pro level of singers, yet they are common people.

Some expats like beaches and some expats like mountains. Both are here in Negros Occidental, as well as in many locations around the Philippines.

Some expats enjoy Casinos and there are many PAGCOR licensed Casinos around the Philippines. PAGCOR also has Poker Rooms and high stakes Bingo Halls. As long as a person can control their bets, I see nothing wrong with playing Cards, Bingo or Slot Machines. Mahjong, either, for that matter. Whatta bout Dominoes? Checkers? Chess? Wagering P10 or P20 per game makes it interesting, for fun! Nothing high stakes and in moderation.

Bacolod has an annual Jazz Festival at the L’ Fisher Hotel.

There are 3 Golf Country Clubs in the Bacolod Area, 2 in Bacolod and 1 in Victorias City.

The MassKara Festival every October and the Pannad sa Negros Festival every April attract many Filipinos and foreigners to the City of Smiles. The Mud Pack Festival in Murcia at Mambukal Hot Springs and Mountain Resort is also popular, every June.

Two days ago, our son was a little achy from Basketball and Volleyball Practice at his school and he wanted to go sit in Mambukal Japanese Hot Springs. So, off we went, as Murcia is only about a 25 minute drive east of Bacolod. Twenty minutes is about as long as I can tolerate sitting in the Japanese Hot Springs, as they are indeed Hot, Hot, Hot…Springs.

I have been dragged into an Entertainment Bar a couple of times by close Filipino friends but at age 63, I know those Non Stop Erotic Bars are just a Fantasy. Nothing I am into. But for those who like it, there are half a dozen such Bars in Bacolod, with many, many more in Cebu City and in Manila.

On a side note, one All Around Bacolod reader told me he met his future wife at the Silver Dollar Bar in Cebu City. She is now in the USA and apparently, they have a good marriage…so far, so good!

Fishing, Boating, Surfing and Diving are widely available…all around the Philippines.

Zumba Dancing? Yep, I have seen foreigners joining in this group dancing in malls and in parks in Bacolod.

I am into Tai Chi and they have it daily, early morning, at Panaad Park in Bacolod. Tai Chi is great, better than meditation yoga in my book. I have created a number of new Tai Chi movements that I use daily. I do Tai Chi at home, mostly.

Art Lessons are given at several Bacolod Malls in a group setting. Low cost and fun in being creative with mostly Filipinos. I have been into Jackson Pollock style Abstract Art for years, so I do not need lessons but I enjoy sharing this wonderful creative technique with others. It is Free Style, basically and you are only limited by your imagination. Run wild!

Do not forget church services! Many think that the Catholic Church is the only church in the Philippines but that is certainly not the case. There are many denominations of churches in the Philippines. Full Gospel, Apostolic, United Pentecostal, Independent Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Mormon churches are all here and others as well.

Every NFL and MLB Season, I draft a Fantasy Football and Baseball Team on CBS Sports and ESPN, while in the Philippines. I am able to manage the teams all seasons.

The above is my team logo for my El Javelinas Fantasy Baseball Team on CBS Sports.

You see, there are many activities in the Philippines for expats to enjoy.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

Eat Like A Viking: All Day Buffet!

Two days after our son’s birthday, we went to Vikings Buffet, located in SM Mall. Their lunch hours are 11am-230pm and the one price, all you can eat and drink, allows you to stay the entire time, in what they promote as All Day Buffet. The wait staff did not come around until around 2pm to hand out the bills.

Vikings begins taking reservations and handing out Walk In Numbers at 10am and we had W-2, second to be called in at 11am. P588 per adult and P388 for our son, which was based on his not being over 4’6 in height.

Draft San Miguel is included in the price. Red wine is P149 per glass or around P600-P900 per bottle.

When we went to Vikings on Wednesday, no one in our party ate plain white rice or any of the Filipino Cuisine. I had the Louisiana Dirty Rice with Chicken Livers & Gizzards as a side dish. There was a whole pig and diners could ask for Lechon but none in our party wanted any. Everyone wanted the dishes that are not commonly eaten at home or in local Filipino restaurants. Exactly the way it should be.

The Carving Station of the Buffet featured beautifully marbled Roast Beef, Lamb, Chicken and Smoked Sausage. I went with the meat first but I skipped the Chicken. I headed to Mexican Corner on the Buffet and made my own Taco Salad with ground beef chili with beans, lettuce, tomato, onion and sour cream.

The Japanese section of the Buffet has all the good sushi, such as Salmon, Tuna, California Maki and others. The Chinese section of the Buffet only had Egg Foo Young that I was interested in and I did not really look at the rest too much.

I had a small Cucumber Salad, which was hot & spicy as hell and I only took one bite! Too bad. I don’t like it that hot. The only seafood I was interested in was the deep fried crabs and you can eat shell and all. I have developed an allergy with Shrimp and Prawns but I can eat all the other seafood/shellfish.

Several types of ice cream and many types of cakes and pastries are on the Dessert Bar. There are many other drinks other than beer but I wanted the Draft.

Dining Entertainment

Vikings puts on the best Birthday Show I have seen anywhere here. A Reggae version of a Happy Birthday song, other Birthday songs, all their staff come around to sing and dance, including the ladies who keep the CR clean. The photo op includes wearing a Viking helmet with horns. I really enjoyed the show.

I know that Vikings have branches in Bacolod, Manila and in Cebu City.

The bill for 4 of us was P2,300 for the 3 1/2 hour feast and party. A fabulous deal to me!

I think everyone will enjoy Vikings Luxury Buffet. If not, I will wonder about them!

I hope to see you one day, somewhere…all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

She Still Has My Ray Bans On

This post is inspired by a song I heard recently, by JT Hodges, which I can relate to. My wife still has my Ray Ban Sunglasses on after 14 years!

We read posts on LinP3, Living in the Philippines3 Yahoo Group, and on All Around Bacolod about bad relationships, relationships that were good but went south and we read posts about guys who have been married 40 years to their wife, who is from the Philippines.

I think a tribute to our Filipina wives and girlfriends is in order. We often read posts and articles about our opinion and our view as foreigners. It would be nice hearing from the Filipina Point of View!

Dalagang Pilipina

It was in the early 1990s when I met and heard the great Filipino folk singer, Freddie Aguilar, perform at Bodega City in Quezon City. There were only about 30 of us in attendance since it was a spur of the moment performance. “Ang Dalangan Pilipina” is one of my favorite songs by Freddie Aguilar. It is about the Virtues of a Filipina. There are so many!


Some want to portray all Filipinas as Gold Diggers and Scammers but this is just a dark side of some women from all around the world. These women are everywhere. But they are not all women! It does not matter if you are in Atlanta, LA, Paris, London, Berlin, Rio, Boca Chica, San Juan, Kingston or anywhere, there are predators who are women. But not all women are predators. Especially not in the Philippines.

My wife is an Angel sent from on high to me. She is proudly from Negros Occidental and I can never praise our relationship enough. I have several close Filipina friends but we are friends only. My wife and I are not teenagers or newlyweds, we do not have a leash around one another neck. We are not green eyed monsters or crabs! My wife also has Filipino friends. Trust and respect is alive. Neither one of us are concerned about our relationship or about our relationships with friends. Male or female.

I hope to see you one day, somewhere, all around Bacolod.

Your Amigo,

~ Gary ~

May’s Organic Garden: Magnificent Beauty

On the holiday, Ninoy Aquino Day, we went to May’s Organic Garden, which his located south Bacolod City and before Barangay Sum-Ag. We did not go until the afternoon, so the restaurant was about to close up but we were not hungry yet! Next time.

There are a number of bonsai trees near the convention center.

If you are interested, you can rent one of the Swan Boats and take a spin around the lake!

May's Organic Garden
Fabulous landscaping!

Convention Center
A great place to have a wedding reception or for holding a large association meeting in their convention center.

A photo taken from the bridge, the large fountain.

May's Organic Garden
Across the lake.


Pine Tree and Corn
A Pine Tree and Corn.


Lagoon Style Pool
Lagoon Pool

May's Organic Garden
A Bridge Over Untroubled Waters!

May's Organic Garden

We had a fun-filled afternoon at May’s Organic Gardens! Admission was P100 for adults and no charge for children. If you plan availing the swimming pool, it is P100 for adults and P50 for children. We did not need a cottage rental for the day, so we did not ask the price. There were plenty of shaded places to sit because there were not many people there in the late afternoon. There is a hotel on site and we were told it was P1,500 per night. Since we live in Bacolod, we didn’t need a hotel room! The restaurant closes at 2pm, so if you want to eat, go early. The restaurant is located at the entrance of May’s Organic Garden. A friend told me they have great fruit shakes!

There is organic fertilizer, vermicast, and we were told that organic fruit and vegetables are also sold, when available. We saw a lemongrass distillery for making lemongrass oil. One use for lemongrass oil is mosquito repellent.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of nature, I recommend putting May’s Organic Garden on your must see list.

Burning Down The House

Burning down the house is exactly what happened to this beautiful mansion during the early days of World War II to prevent the Japanese Imperial Army from making it their Headquarters when they invaded Negros Occidental. It is reported that it took days for the inferno to burn down the roof and the thick wooden floors. Today, this mansion and beautiful grounds on the border of Bacolod City and Talisay City still has the original 4 tier imported fountain and the gardens are lovelier than ever! This is The Ruins, a famous tourist attraction with daily visitors from all over the entire Philippines. Former President Gloria Arroyo visited Bacolod when she was still in office and she visited The Ruins. This mansion was originally built by a rich local sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, for his new bride, Maria Braga, who was Portuguese from Macau.

Picking Up The Pieces

The Ruins was actually in ruins for many years after World War II. It remains surrounded by sugar cane fields, however, when several great grandchildren inherited The Ruins, they decided to develop it and I am very happy they did! So are so many others who have visited The Ruins, some even many times, such my family and I! Whenever we have family and friends visit us from abroad, we always take them to The Ruins. A trip to Bacolod City would never be complete without seeing the Ruins and taking photos of its majestic presence.

The Ruins is much more than just a photo op and seeing the luscious gardens. Children always have fun at The Ruins, as do adults who enjoy games. There is a mini golf course, which we refer to as put- put golf in the States, there is a large as life chess set to enjoy a few games and there is plenty of space to run around the grounds and play.

There is a cafe at The Ruins, which is also a pizzaria. The menu is not limited to pizza, as there are also a number of other dishes on the menu. Their shredded beef dish is awesome! Among several ice cold beers served is Bogsbrew, which is an organic craft beer brewed in Bacolod City.

The Ruins is a popular venue for weddings. I can see why! The Ruins is a step back in time but it also is in step with today. Music concerts are held at The Ruins from time to time.

Once you get to Bacolod City, every taxi driver knows where The Ruins is located! It is not difficult to find, as it is in the area of Bacolod City known as Bata.

In my opinion, The Ruins is a great place to spend the day or an entire evening. To us, The Ruins is more than only a tourist attraction, as it is also a good place to hang out with friends and family.

Philbilly Cornbread

fried cornbread3
Being a Southern guy from the USA, I grew up with cornbread being one of my family’s meal time staples. Both my parents were born and raised in Alabama but my dad was a career US Navy officer, so we lived in several states in America when I was growing up. California, Rhode Island, Florida and South Carolina were all places we called home for 2-4 years, depending on my dad’s tour of duty. Yep, I had a Southern accent, no matter where we lived. We all know that classmates can be cruel, so I heard all the snide remarks, referring to me as a hillbilly, a redneck, a country hick, a rebel, and on and on. It didn’t really bother me much, as I was proud of my Southern Heritage and I am still proud of it!

Since I now live in the Philippines, I would like to share one of my favorite dishes right here in the Bacolod Area. Fried Cornbread, which I have named “Philbilly Cornbread.” By the way, I never had one Filipino refer to me as a hillbilly, a redneck or a country hick in my 27 years connection with the Philippines. I have received some compliments about my Southern accent in the Philippines from Filipinos and more than once they commented that they enjoy hearing me talk! One Filipino friend commented that I talked like Nicholas Cage in his movie, “Con Air!”

Fried cornbread can be easily made here in the Bacolod area, as all the ingredients are available. Fried cornbread is great with fried fish, beans, chili con carne and just about anything imaginable. You can add sliced green onions to your cornbread mix before frying or you can make crackling cornbread by adding pieces of chicharon to your cornbread mix. I will just touch on the simplified recipe and you can kick it up a few notches the way you like. Adding  diced jalapeno peppers or diced green chili peppers will give you a version of Mexican cornbread! I never, never put actual corn kernels in my cornbread mix but some like to.

fried cornbread4
The above is fried cornbread with green peppers and green onions.


In a large bowl, add one cup of corn meal, 1/2 cup of flour and dilute with 1/2 cup of milk, which makes the cornbread mix loose like pancake batter. Add one egg and stir the cornbread mix very well. Add 1/2-1 stick of real butter in a skillet, frying pan or wok and allow it to melt until it sizzles, over medium heat. Drop the cornmeal mix, about the size of a Tablespoon, into the skillet/cooking utensil and make it about the size of a pancake. When the cornbread browns on one side, turn it over on the other side, mashing it down with a spatula and let the flip side brown.

Wow! Fried cornbread is awesome! I hope you enjoy it.

Hot Dog, Hot Diggity Dog!

hot dogs
After taking some time off from eating hot dogs, I recently decided to add it back to my menu, at least once a week! The two Johnsonville American style hot dog stands in Bacolod, that I was aware of, are no longer in business and those were the only two that came close but not exactly. They did have Johnsonville franks and sausages. They did have hot dog buns and they did have mustard, chopped onions and relish. However, they did not have sauerkraut, chili, good cheese, celery salt or sliced tomatoes. Hero Sausages in the SM Mall Food Court was another decent hot dog stand but they had less to put on a hot dog than Johnsonville. So, I remedied the hot dog stand problem by starting my own private hot dog stand, right in our home kitchen!

When you shop at a supermarket in the Philippines, you will notice all the many different brands and styles of hot dogs! Most every Filipino I know really enjoys a good hot dog, only they don’t particularly like what they refer to as a “hot dog sandwich.” Hot dogs for breakfast with an over EZ egg and rice is common in many local households. Buying a grilled hot dog on a skewer is a very popular street food snack. My personal favorite is Pure Foods Tender Juicy Hot Dogs!

There are a number of brands of different hot dog buns available in Bacolod and one of my favorites are the ones that SM Supermarket makes and are for sale in their bakery, located up front of the store. P40 per package and they are large hot dog and sausage buns that will not normally fall apart when you load them with your favorite additions to your hot dog.

Build Your Own Hot Dog

You will find most of the excellent toppings for building your own hot dogs in Cafe Bob’s Deli and in Lopues Mandalagan Supermarket. Both have many different kinds of mustard! Horseradish Mustard, Nathan’s Coney Island Mustard, Honey Mustard, Stone Ground Deli Mustard, Dijon Mustard, French’s Classic Yellow Mustard and a number of others.

No Ketchup! No thank you! I never put ketchup on my hot dog but I know some who do. More power to them. This is the great thing about building your own hot dogs. You can put whatever you like on them. One of the stranger hot dogs I have heard of is the canned tuna hot dog, which is topped with, yep, tuna fish from a can. With that noted, I recall last year when Century Tuna put a hot dog on the market that was actually made of tuna instead of pork, beef, chicken or a combination of the three.

Other than different styles of mustard, there are a number of other ingredients I enjoy using when topping my hot dog. Sometimes, I go for the Chicago style hot dog which is, adding to the hot dog bun the actual hot dog, yellow mustard, sweet green pickle relish, chopped onion, tomato wedges, pickle spear, peppers and celery salt.

chicago hot dog
An authentic Chicago style hot dog! Looks great, doesn’t it?

Sauerkraut is another one of my favorite toppings when I am building a hot dog. When I want to add some bite, I add sliced jalapeno peppers. One of my all time favorites is the chili dog! I make my own chili when building a chili dog, however, one can buy canned chili at Cafe Bob’s Deli. Shredded cheddar cheese is always a great addition to a personally built hot dog.

I am ready to eat my hot dogs now, as it is time to enjoy one. I wish you could join me!

SM Supermarket Beer Haus


During the past month or so, SM Supermarket has largely expanded their beer section with a good variety of imported beers. In this article cover photo, I have included some of the beers I recently purchased and enjoyed from SM Supermarket. Of the 7 samplers I bought, my favorite is the Belgian Beer, Stella Artois. It is beer that literally danced on my tongue with such a marvelous taste! I also liked Victoria Bitters from Australia but a distant second from Stella Artois.

I hadn’t had a King of Beers, Budweiser, since I moved to the Philippines, so that is why I bought one Bud. It seemed to taste better here than it ever did in the USA or in China, where I lived for 9 years! In mainland China, Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the most popular imported American beers among Chinese. Believe it..or not! It is true and it is even served on China Southern Airlines. I can’t say it is among my favorite beers.

I’ve found most of the Japanese Beers to be pretty good and Sapporo Beer is no exception. When I eat at Cafe Bob’s Deli, I usually have a Kirin or Asahi Beer, both of which are Japanese Brews.

Some of the best beer in the world comes from Germany and while Beck’s is not top of the line, it is better than many local domestic beers. Yeah, I enjoyed the ice cold Beck’s from SM.

Dos Equis XX was popular where I lived in south Florida, with the large Hispanic population. It is a Mexican Beer and it is much better than Corona in my opinion! Corona is available at SM but I did not buy one. Had it many times and is much like San Miguel Light in taste.

I had never heard of Bear Beer before! It hails from Denmark but I think Carlsberg is better and it is also available in the Philippines.

I don’t drink beer to get drunk or to raise hell but I enjoy sampling beers made from around the world! Being a Beer Connoisseur is a personal hobby of mine. I have my own favorite in the Philippines and it is Beer na Beer Pale Pilsen, brewed by Asia Brewery. I also drink San Miguel Pale Pilsen when I am out and about since Beer na Beer is not common in most establishments.

If you enjoy a different taste every now and then with your beer, check out SM Supermarket’s new imported beer section. They should have something you like when you are ready to go for the gusto!

Retiring to the Philippines

If you are a music lover, you can check out my new article and read about the music that is alive and kicking in the Philippines!


Without a doubt, Music is a very important part of the Philippines Culture! I enjoy listening to music and I enjoy singing every chance I get.

I hope to see you soon, somewhere…all around Bacolod!

Mambukal Mudpack Festival 2013

The annual Mambukal Mudpack Festival is enjoyed by people of all ages! This little guy was one of the better contestants in the body painting competition.

Just one more look!

I believe I can fly!

Somebody’s watching you!

Another good contestant with his form.

Squid Man!

Tattooed and Painted!

Lunch time! Grace’s Sliders. We brought these mini burgers with us to the Mudpack Festival. There is a Food Court at Mambukal but we came prepared. I can recommend Ikea of Kabankalan at the Mambukal Food Court but we did not want to waste time in the Food Court, as we came to see the Mudpack Competition this trip.

The swimming pool at Mambukal is stocked from cold mountain spring water. Yes, it is cold!

The Mudpack Festival crowd was a little down compared to years past but we still had a great time, as always. The theme of the Festival is always Harmony of Man and Nature and there is no better place I know to hold this type festival than at Mambukal. The Festival is also a showcase for Negrense artisans to exhibit their artistic creativeness in ethnic song, dance and crafts.

Retiring to the Philippines

A big thank you to all the regular followers of All Around Bacolod, who also read Retiring to the Philippines, the online expat magazine. Thank you for your comments, as we welcome them all.

Here is a link to my latest article:


I write 2-3 new articles on Retiring to the Philippines every week for those who are still learning about the Philippines and who are considering the Pearl of the Orient as their retirement home.

I hope to see you one day soon, somewhere.. all around Bacolod!

Who’s Got The Look?

We have the look! A new look on All Around Bacolod. After 16 months, I thought it was time for a change. A makeover, if you will. I hope you like our new look.

Please do not forget about the Mudpack Festival this weekend at Mambukal Hot Springs and Mountain Resort. If you have never been, you are in for a treat! I have a post here on All Around Bacolod from the Mudpack Festival 2012. I will be there again this year, this weekend..hopefully.. unless I personally get rained out due to the weather. A lot of rain here lately in Bacolod. If all goes according to plan, I will have a new post on All Around Bacolod about the Mambukal Mudpack Festival 2013.

Do not be alarmed if you have water thrown on your vehicle when going and returning from Mambukal! The Mudpack Festival is always the same time as the Feast of St John de Baptist and people delight in dousing vehicles with water. It is funny, really funny, especially if you are riding in a jeepney or on a trike! It is all in fun and nothing malicious at all.

An American friend is visiting this week in Bacolod. He wanted to know the best pizza in town. I know this is highly opinionated but Rio Bella Pizzaria has the best pizza in town.

Retiring to the Philippines

I have a couple of new articles on Retiring to the Philippines that I think you will enjoy. My latest one is, “New Philippine Tiger Has Wings.” Check it out here:


I hope to see you soon, somewhere …. all around Bacolod!