Image by Tel Wanders (Calea's Chocolate Moist Cake)
I know I kept going on and on about Iloilo's gustatory delights; it won't be fair if we fail to cite Bacolod's equally delightful fare.
As far as I know, Bacolod has always been trendy. Connoisseurs of fine tastes and experiences, Bacolod is at the forefront of bringing the things we only see in foreign shores to Western Visayas. Thus, it is no wonder that Iloilo's first Mediterranean restaurant is actually owned by a Bacolodnon family of entrepreneurs, and neither is it a wonder that Bacolod is the site where gourmet pastries and desserts first made waves in the region.
True, Tinapayan was there way before Calea. But Tinapayan did not position itself as a gourmet an specialty pastry shop. Though it surely gave us great treats like the Danish Blueberry and the brownies we mentioned, it wasn't until Calea set the trend in cakes you'll travel for that they sharpened their baking game.
Calea, in my opinion, got the ball rolling when it made waves across the country for its sweets that people sought after and traveled to Bacolod, just to see if the hype was true. Most of those who have traveled to Bacolod, tasted and brought home a Calea cake are soon sworn into the unofficial Calea Fans Club. Many a blogger has raved about the finer points of a Calea Cake and unwittingly caused other tourists to make a pilgrimage to Bacolod just for that. I, on the other hand, became a Calea "believer" not by the hype, but by the taste.
I first tasted a slice of a Calea mocha/praline creation in a small coffee shop beside Central Philippine University, my Alma Mater, in 2006. After realizing that that was one extraordinary cake, I promptly went back and asked if they baked it themselves. They let me know it was from Calea. I bubbled about it to my mother, who also loves pastries, and soon, the desire to bring her a Calea cake was born.
That coffee shop has since closed. And it was only in 2010 that I finally got my mom to taste Calea's Chocolate Moist Cake. It was my first time to taste that cake variant too, and it was not awesome. It was divine.
Since then, my mom has gone to Bacolod and tried other Calea cakes. And while her verdict is that some Dulgies cakes are executed better than Calea's, there is no doubt that that Chocolate Moist Cake was, and is, a winner.
Another famous sweet treat that Bacolod no doubt does better than Iloilo is the Piaya. While Bong-Bong's made it famous, I had a bite of Bailon's crispy Piaya and I was taken on a Piaya trance as soon as the crispy flakes and the sweet filling dissolved on my tongue. Since then, I've been begging my Bacolodnon friends to bring me home Bailon's Piaya, but they keep forgetting. Until I visit Bacolod's shores, then.
The last, but not the least, sweet treat that I would want tourists to try in Bacolod is Bong-Bong's Yemas. Sure you must be jaded about the unassuming Yema by now. Yema, not unlike the Filipino version of a toffee or a type of caramel candy, is traditionally sweet, with a bit of a burnt taste, for some recipes. Bong-Bong's Yemas are different. They are, to regress into slang, Glee-inspired expressions, amazeballs.
Bong-Bong's Yemas melt as soon as they touch your tongue. Well, that's a little exaggerated, but not too far from the truth. The Yema balls are so soft and milky and melty and delectable... Let me stop and let you get a tub from your nearest SM or Robinson's Mall's Pasalubong Center. Posts like these make you grateful that SM and Robinson's Malls have thoughtfully decided to bring these delicacies to where you are. Saves you the impromptu trip to Bacolod, that's for sure.
Even though Bong-Bong's Pasalubongs are readily available wherever Pasalubong Centers are found, in any region in the Philippines, a trip to Bacolod won't be complete without a pilgrimage to Calea or Bailon's. These two other delicacies are hard to find elsewhere, and they are worth the trouble of lugging a box with you on your trip home.
Indeed, Western Visayas will not only take you back in time with remnants of its Spanish-influenced past still alive and vibrant; it will also take you on an experience your tastebuds will dream of returning to over and over and over. Book a ticket from Cebu Pacific and plan your next vacation in either Bacolod or Iloilo today. ;)