Sugar Shock

Silay City / Bacolod City, the Philippines

January, April, and October, 2011

What do you expect from the sugar capital of the Philippines? I’ve been in my home province, Negros Occidental, three times this year and every time felt like a trip to a candy shop. I blame my sweet tooth on growing up next door to a sugar mill. I still remember waking up to the sweet aroma of molasses that pervaded the house in the morning during milling season. My sweet dreams carried on after I had awakened – on to adulthood.

El Ideal Bakery in Silay City

Mom and Sister Endorsing Guapple Pie @ El Ideal Bakery, Silay

And so when in Negros, do as the Negrense do – indulge your sweet tooth. These are some of the sweet stops on my dessert trail:

A fitting starting point was an institution in Silay City: El Ideal Bakery, one of the oldest restaurants in the province. At 80-plus years old, it was still the place to be. The specialty was the guapple pie, made from oversized guavas, not a hybrid of apple and guava as the name suggested. One serving was quite filling for me. The slightly crunchy guapple slices complemented the crumbly pie crust, which I washed down with small bottles of Pepsi. Their creamy egg pie was also a must-try.

El Ideal Bakery @ Silay City
My cousin, Zen, biting his lip at the sight of a Guapple Pie!

A newer player in the sweets business, Kuppa Coffee & Tea could be an alternative to Starbucks. Actually, I wondered why anyone would go to Starbucks at all when Bacolod had several local cafes that could give globalization a run for their coffee. They served pasta and other dishes, but we came for sweets. Their chocolate cake was finger-lickin’ moist and the peanut butter pie frost was to-die-for. But don’t quote me; anything peanut butter automatically would drive me nuts.

Kuppa Coffee & Tea and Me
Kuppa’s Peanut Butter Pie Frost
Cousin Flor Working the Ancient Coffee Machine @ Kuppa Coffee & Tea

They just had to work on their service. The second time we were there, it was almost 10pm (already an unholy hour in Bacolod on a weeknight, we realized), their closing time. The crew started cleaning up before we could finish our dessert. A major pet peeve: sweeping the floor when there was still food on the table. Not being fussy, but who would want their food sprinkled with dust? It may be invisible, but it did not mean it was not floating around.

His and Hers: Bar 21’s Chocolate Cake, His
His and Hers: Kuppa’s Chocolate Cake, Hers

Not to be outdone, Bar 21 Restaurant also served moist chocolate cake. It was so viscous; it didn’t even slide off when my brother-in-law precariously tilted the plate. He played with my late night snack because he didn’t get his. Although the restaurant was known for batchoy, they had none at 10pm. Tip: Don’t expect anything at 10pm in Bacolod.

And of course, there was Calea Pastries & Coffee, the mother lode of dessert places in the city. We attempted to give it a try twice, but there were SRO crowds both times. Finally one lazy aftie, we found an available table. I had a dessert dilemma in this cake central; I couldn’t commit to one cake. I wanted them all. My sister and her friends at one time ordered an array of cakes, lined them up on the table, and sampled each one. That may be too hardcore even for a cake junkie like me.

Come on in to Calea Pastries & Coffee
Mom in Calea: Let ’em eat cake!

Since the cake shop was such a people magnet, it was also a great place to go people watching. Or listening. It was fun eavesdropping on the conversations of Bacoleños in Ilonggo. I realized how much I missed the lilting intonation of my native tongue – sweet music to my ears.

But Felicia’s Pastry Cafe had the last word on ensaymada, a Spanish pastry topped with grated cheese and sugar. I would usually dip ensaymada into my coffee, but this one could stand on its own. It just melted in my mouth.

Mother and Daughter Bonding over Felicia’s Ensaymada
Creamy Felicia’s Ensaymada

Our dessert trail ended back where it started, El Ideal. The restaurant was conveniently located on the way to the airport, a perfect last-minute stop for take-away. I had my sugar fix in Negros and more. In fact, I tweeted: “If I had one more dessert, I’d go into shock.” So I went back to basics; I opted for sinambag, a biscuit shaped like sambag (sampalok in Tagalog, tamarind in English) that stored well. Sinambag was unsweetened but gave a potent dessert kick; and with its cylindrical shape, it was perfect for dipping into coffee. I bought more to bring home as a not-so-sweet souvenir from the sugar capital.

Sinambag @ El Ideal Bakery
El Ideal Bakery Fangirls

47 thoughts on “Sugar Shock

  1. Sweets, sweets, sweets… your hometown sounds such a dream world for all lovers of sweets. I wish I could order at least a piece of guapple pie online… and would love to challenge to taste every single cake and pie in the shops! 🙂

  2. We didn’t eat at the El Ideal but we did manage to find another local coffee shop with the most amazing pastries!
    Admittedly, I went to Calea twice on my trip to Bacolod – we took several slices of whatever and did a 1-2-3-pass on the table. My favorite pa din was my pick — apple caramel cheesecake — and i still describe it as i did the first time i tried it — it’s like an apple pie and a cheesecake made sweet, slow love and that was their lovechild. yum!

    1. I can totally imagine you savoring the cheesecake. 🙂 I had chocolate cake, of course. Can’t resist it every time. Pero tikim din sa orders ng iba. Sige next time I’ll go apple caramel in your honor.

  3. Sweets plus sweet, equals diabetes….:-). Nice to be here again reading your blog AJ. Dito ko natutunan ang “Pera sa Bacolod ti, Gina-piko, gina-pala”.–Tapos may extension pa, “Utang na man ginabuldos. I’ve been in Polopandan yata yon?

    1. Diabetes alert…tomoh. 🙂 Only when I’m in BCD lang naman. Pagbigyan mo na. And yes, that’s the motto of Negrenses when sugar is up; it’s wishful thinking when it’s down. 😀 Pulupandan is a town down south.

  4. a-ha ha ha ha ha ha adddiiiiik 🙂 i’m scheduled to fly back to bacolod to get some sugah shock! what made this post really nice for me is your family. ka mga dungol dungol guid! he he he can’t help chuckling at the antics of your family members he he he

  5. for a glass of Kuppa’s Peanut Butter Pie Frost (yummy yummy yummy!!) …. let me count the ways….este …. let me count how much to pay.. round trip air fare, hotel accomodation, complete meal for the entire day….and of course that dessert hmmmmmm nyakers! hindi ba sila magtatayo ng branch dito sa Manila?

    1. Ms. Santos, you can very well afford all that. You can get the piso flight to lessen costs. 🙂 No Manila branch as far as I know.

  6. Nooooooooooo…I’m on a diet I’m on a diettt pls don’t show me all this 😦 *wink wink* I’m not a sugar fan but you know that feeling when you’re not supposed to eat something and all you want is JUST THAT!! Hehehe…cheers!

    1. Good choice for pasalubong shopping. Most of the stuff there are really what I ate in my childhood. You tasted a bit of my history there. Now go and work on your backlog! 😀

    1. Not as big as houses, but still big!

      Been sick and haven’t eaten any decent food in 4 days. Right now I’m giving dirty looks at a pack of ChocNut. 😀

    2. Intestinal flu. Got it from Singapore. Just ironic. I’m from a dirty Third World country and I get infected in the OC-ly clean Singapore.

    3. You’re the second person to tell me that. I should try it then. My tummy’s pretty much settled down now but still making embarrassing noises sometimes. 😀

  7. Noted on the 10pm tip.
    Doi introduced me to Calea and the Oreo Cheesecake already drove me nuts. But a reader mentioned that Felicia’s is better? Haven’t been there though.
    Ah, Bacolod and sweet food trips!

    1. Everything from Bacolod is sweet. 😉 Only had ensaymada in Felicia’s, and I recommend it.

      Again, congrats sa nom. I’m conspiring with the universe that you win. 🙂

    1. Any trip to Bacolod easily turns into a food trip. Then just fit museum visits in between binges. Other than food and museums, what else is in BCD?

  8. Felicia and El Ideal was on my list nung pumunta kami. Kaya lang, sa laki ng bilbil kong to, aba akalain mong naubusan pa rin ng compartment. Sayang. Kung hindi lang ako shongak, sana last stop ko ang bacolod before we flew back to manila. Makapagpa-LBC nga ng mga pagkain na yan sa Bacolod branch namin. hahaha!

    you’re very lucky at Bacolod ang home town mo. nakaka-inggit lang, and yes, my mom resembles you’re mom.parehong hayok sa picture. lol! na-aliw ako sa snow flakes sa blog mo. nagulat ako at may humuhulog na kung ano.hihhi!

    1. Hahaha honga snowflakes yan, di yan dandruff. Winter na sa WP.

      Laki daw ng bilbil, di ko naman makita sa sexy pic mo. Salamat sa photoshop ba? 😀 But how could you skip El Ideal? Institution yun. Para kang pumunta ng Binondo at di kumain sa estero.

      Yup, our moms are camwhores. Buti pa tayo, low profile lang. Hehehe

    1. My province is known for sweets. In fact, people from there are also sweet. 🙂 Try the guapple pie when you find yourself in Negros. This resto is near the airport so you can make this your first stop.

    1. Pang foreigner ba? Eh Xian Lim ang template ko jan…hehe feeling. Yup idol, you should go Bacolod. Perfect place for you, lagi kang Tom Jones eh, hihihihi.

  9. Can’t wait to touch down Silay-Bacolod-Talisay cities this coming July! Done booked our tickets, reserved pension house and itinerary. Of course we won’t go home without going and eating in El Ideal. Your blog and pics makes us so so so so so crazy of excitement. Cheers!

    1. I’m greeeeeeeen with envy! I wanna go back home and have a fill of all my comfort food! 😀 I suggest you try all these sweets on top of local delicacies like piyaya and napoleones. Better go on a crash diet now to make room for all the calories you’ll be devouring. 🙂

  10. Hi AJ! Just happened to read your blog. And of all things to read, ‘eto pa. Reminded me of my mom since she’s from Silay and you writing about it makes me want to go there tuloy. Naalala ko ang mom when she talks to her best friend who’s also from Negros…gustong-gusto ko silang pakinggan kasi nga di ba may tono yung pagsasalita nila. It’s sad though that we didn’t get to go there when she was still alive. Di bale, pag nanalo ako ng lotto (wishful thinking), promise, pupuntahan ko talaga sya…and all these places that you featured =)

    1. The universe conspired that you read this particular post! 🙂 Yes, I think it’s about time to discover your mom’s hometown. It’s a charming little city in the middle of sugarcane plantations. Lots of heritage houses and little cafes. This post is not really about Silay, so I just mentioned El Ideal, but there are more. There’s even a row of seafood restaurants by the sea like Dampa in Manila, but the seafood is fresher.

      Oh, and you need not win the lotto to go there. Mura lang naman. It’s worth it, I tell ya. And you get to hear our malambing Ilonggo intonation again. 🙂

  11. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. It was the talk about sugar and the way you started the write up that got me hooked on! You have a nice way of writing.

    I liked it so much, I have added a link to it on my own Heritage Silay blog.

    (See the “further reading” page.)

    Do drop into my blog,
    saunter around, read a paragraph or two,
    see the photos
    and if you like, you can write a comment too.

    Hope to visit Silay again, and see some more houses that you have described in your blog.


    1. Thanks David. I’ve just recently discovered the heritage treasures of Silay, despite growing up in Negros. Checking out your blog in a bit.

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