Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pasalubong Options: Tagaytay, Cagayan de Oro, and Dipolog

Back in college, I love bringing as pasalubong (homecoming gifts) to my Manila-based friends the best that my province has to offer--puto, cassava cake, fish bagoong, and locally-grown vegetables that make up for flavor what they lack in bulk. Not only do I promote goodwill, I also get a kick promoting Pangasinan's best. Now that I travel for a living, I get to share parts of the places I go to with my Manila-bound colleagues.

This is the first of a series of pasalubong recommendations. For this post, I'll zero in on options from a favorite get-away place two hours from Manila, as well as two from cities down south in Mindanao.

1. Amira's Sylvannas

Sylvannas, sometimes silvanas, is a frozen cookie, usually rounded, made of buttercream sandwiched by cashew-meringue wafers. I prefer their buco tarts. These were a hit when I brought a box to the office after a visit to Tagaytay. For more of Amira's and the latter, go here.

2. Slers Longganisa and Bacon

Any of these two is a good bet for pasalubong from Cagayan de Oro City. The meats are lean and flavorful.

3. Montano Spanish Sardines

The common thread from this post, aside from these being pasalubog best bets, is that of promoting local manufacturers. I fell in love with this brand of Spanish sardines from Dipolog. It helps that I have a liking for this product. This is one of my comfort foods--Spanish sardines and mound sof warm rice is always a treat.

Watch out for the next post. There will be more in the coming weeks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Talisay City's The Ruins--Night and Day

The Ruins, located at Talisay City, is formerly a mansion built early last century by sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. The construction was supervised meticulously, using quality materials. This helped the structure survive the razing by guerrilla fighters to prevent the Japanese from using the mansion as headquarters. 

I first visited The Ruins in 2008. It was night time and the whole structure was dramatically lit--it was gothic and appeared a tad eerie, as if ghouls were prowling just behind the shadows. I used my old camera phone to take the following pictures, and the graininess added further to the structure's mystique. 

Fast forward to last month. Mid-day highlighted another facet of the structure--a venue for weddings and dates. I felt like a character from a Henry James novel while walking through the compound.

Open everyday, from 8:30 am to 8 pm. The restaurant is open from 11 am to 8 pm.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dakak Park and Beach Resort

Nope, I have not traveled to Mainland China.
This is the Taipei House, one of the function rooms of the Dakak Park and Beach Resort.

This is just one of the draws of the resort. I have to admit, although I was excited, I tempered my expectations when I heard that the venue of my next work. But when I got there, I was blown away. The place looks better than some of the foreign places I visited. I wish more of us realize this, because I get disheartened when some of us turn up their noses on local tourism. Hey, give the country a chance. 

But I choose to be optimistic. Through my travels both here and abroad, I re-affirm my belief that the Philippines is indeed a beautiful country, and that it can compete with the rest. Yes, a lot has to be done. There's the infrastructure--overhauling the airport, improving the road networks--and the mindset--instilling not only pride but a sense of history and respect for heritage. But enough ranting. You're here for my photo essay, so here it is. 

From the Dipolog City Airport, it took us an hour by bus to reach the resort. The resort offers regular airport transfers, which passes through historic Dapitan City (yes, this is where the national hero spent time in exile). The ride was quite pleasant--paved roads, scenes of rural life, splashes of green. 

Upon reaching the resort, we were greeted by live music by the entrance of the main hall. 

There was slight mix-up in the registration, so I had to wait for an hour to get my room. The wait was worth it, because the inside of my cottage reminded me of visits to a countryside neighborhood. The room was  what a dolled-up nipa hut would look like--wicker and rattan furniture, Yakan prints, Narda's weaves. Truth to tell it was bordering on gauche, but I love it. It felt like coming home.  

My cottage was perched on a hill, quite a walk from our function hall at Taipei House. But with a view like this,  I really can't complain. 

My friends took a dip in the swimming pool. I'm not a fan of the latter, but I love to be near water.

This is the Italian restaurant where I reconsidered my aversion to spaghetti meatballs. For more highlights of what I ate in the resort, read here

What I liked best was the beach. It wasn't crawling with people, and was kept pristine. I could spend hours along this stretch. 

hidden behind the trees is where we had breakfast, with the beach as our view

Other considerations before booking a stay: there is free wifi at the main hall, but none at the the rooms. Limited cable channels. No complimentary bottled water. Vans are available to transport you from the cottage to the function rooms, restaurants, and swimming areas. Since the resort is quite secluded  this is for guests expecting to get away. If quiet time scares you, there's a bar, a souvenir shop, and one can rock-climb, ride the zip-line, jet-ski or play beach volleyball. A theme park is also 30 minutes away.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend Markets--Salcedo, Legazpi, Mercato Centrale, and Il Mercanti Food Bazaar--What is not to Love?

I love weekend markets. It's one delicious reason to wake up early in the morning. There are designated self-service eating areas should you choose to have your meal there. Aside from food both local and international, there are fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, potted plants, and cut flowers, home-ware  handicrafts, and organic products galore. Be early, not only to get first dibs on the merchandise, as popular items are usually sold out in the first few hours, but also to avoid the crowd. And wear comfortable clothes--it could get hot as midday approaches. It wouldn't hurt to bring an umbrella given the erratic weather lately. The bohemian, open-air atmosphere comes at a price, and so I limit my purchases to food.  

The first weekend market I went to is Salcedo Market, which is open Saturday mornings. It is an an oasis of merchandise surrounded by towering buildings. The rest of the week, the market transforms back to its original incarnation as a park. The first thing that greeted me as we approached was the smell of barbecue, always a good portent of things to come. 

There were many food stalls to choose from. My friend Teeny bought osso buco at
 Tita Ope. I gravitated towards Margarita's Paella. Above is the seafood paella
The black paella's the bestseller. I wanted to try both. Margarita's Paella uses
high-grade rice, many kinds of broth, authentic saffron, and the freshest seafood.
Couldn't resist the japanese mini-pancakes in different flavors.
 Teeny had cheese, I picked peanut butter.
Nope, I don't sell  organic, all-natural yogurt.
The mango yogurt was quite tart and wholesome, just the way I like it.
Green oranges.
These decorative gourds are said to last six months. Cucumbers and melons
 are also gourds.
This caught my eye at the crafts stall.
Must visit stall: Everybody's Cafe for Kapampangan food.

Salcedo Weekend Market
L. P. Leviste Street, Jaime Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati City 
Open Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Another popular haunt in Makati is Legazpi Sunday Market, which is smaller than the Legazpi market. It started out as an organic market but soon expanded to offer the usual suspects. The first and last time I was there I fell in love with the stall selling pure cocoa butter cream. I could still remember how silky my skin felt  with just a tiny dab, and it smelled so buttery. 

It was raining when we got there, but I was excited, nonetheless. They had
more arts and crafts stalls compared to Salcedo. 

Warung-warung's ayam goreng--spicy fried chicken was good.
Cabanatuan longganiza from Cooking Papas. Salty and garlicky, just the way I like it.

Legazpi Sunday Market
Corners of Rufino and Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati 
Open Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Aside from the usual open-air stalls, Mercato Centrale has ones in an air-conditioned tents. 

I was in tummy heaven. Choosing what to eat proved difficult, but I was happy with my selection.
Offbeat's doughnut burger. Yes, you read it right. It was quite good actually.
Krispy Kreme instead of the usual bun, Canadian bacon, burger patty, cheese,
and sunny-side up fried egg. It's a curious combination, but it works. 
Teeny had breaded squid. Can't remember  how it tasted but it sure looks good. 
One of my favorite stalls is artisinal ice cream purveyor Merry Moo.
Home-made strawberry basil paired with another flavor I can't recall. Delicious!

A double scoop of heaven--sea-salt caramel and earl grey tea. 

For my next visit, I'm looking forward to sampling the offerings of Calude Tayag's Bale Dutung.

Mercato Centrale
34th Street and 8th Avenue (beside MC Home Depot), Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Open Saturdays and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

Talk about serendipity--during a Thursday night out with friends we decided to drop in at Metrowalk Ortigas. We then discovered the Il Mercanti Food Bazaar by the parking area. For night owls, this is for you. All stalls are under high ceiling tents. 

We were spoilt for choice. I told myself I'll return.

Feeling nostalgic, I opted for shawarma.
Shawarma stalls were all over the place way back when I was in university. I ate my first shawarma from a stand in Philcoa. For those who can relate, you now know how old we are. ;-)
Spicy shawarma. It was just okay.
Il Mercanti Food Bazaar
Open Thursdays to Saturdays, 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Watch out for my next post on weekend markets and food bazaars. In the meantime, go out and explore!