Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cucina Rusticana: A Taste of Rustic Italian Homecooking in Makati

It was payday Friday for us two days ago, and to celebrate, we wanted to try out new restaurants but don’t want to travel far.  Fortunately, our neighboring village of San Antonio boasts of interesting places to eat.

I always pass Kamagong St. everyday on my way to work and was excited to see this new restaurant with a huge sign that says Cucina Rusticana.  Compared to the other restaurants that we frequent in San Antonio, this one looks intimidating from the outside.  Usually, when we are looking for a place to eat, we just drive around in shorts and slippers and were having second thoughts on entering this one.  Actually, we tried to go to another restaurant near Sacred Heart, but its already closed so we went back, and to our advantage, we were the only guests.
Contrary to my impression, the interior is very homey. I like the brick wainscoting and the rustic Mediterranean yellow painted walls.  It’s nice that the walls are filled with art, although I would have chosen a more consistent subject to compliment the Italian vibe, but I commend the management for supporting local artist.

The waiting staff was very accommodating and made us feel at ease.  We browsed thru the menu and ordered ourselves 2 different pasta dishes.  We tried the Spaghetti Puttanesca and the Cream Sauce with Chicken.  The food was great. The cream sauce was light and savory, and the Puttanesca was rich and fresh. I later found out that they make their own pasta by hand or import direct from Italy.  It reminded us of the food programs hosted by great Italian chefs in Lifestyle Channel and the Asian Food Network.  

Our favorites would be the dessert.  The Chocolate Rum Panna Cotta is too good to share.  The Tiramisu is just as sinful!

Those are just a few of what the restaurant is offering.  We will definitely be back to try more.
Cucina Rusticana is located at
9531 Akle St. Cor. Kamagong St. San Antonio Village, 1203 Makati, Philippines 
with tel. no. 4783493
You can check out their facebook page for updates.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Road Trip to Villa Escudero with San Pablo's Sulyap Gallery Sidetrip

Our day started early.  We left the house around 6:30 am for Villa Escudero.  From SLEX, we took the Batangas/Lucena exit and drove past the town of Sto. Tomas towards the direction of San Pablo City, Laguna.

Right after the Thank You arch at the border of San Pablo and Quezon was the 1km access road to Villa Escudero.

The day tour rate is 1400 pesos.  It comes with the Museum Tour, Carabao Ride, Lunch Buffet, Bamboo Raft Rides and the use of the swimming pool.

We were welcomed with a drink of Sago't Gulaman and were ushered to the covered walkway leading to the Museum.  We walk past the Pink Villa before and were asked to surrender our things for the Museum Tour.

The Museum is housed in a small church.  It’s filled with huge antique religious icons and church vestments, as well a collection of historical artifacts, traditional costumes and clothes. They do not allow picture taking inside the museum.

Around the property are life size dioramas depicting a Filipino rural life.  Before our carabao ride, we were able to catch the fiesta parade, with a marching band, paper mache giants and dancers.  

After the parade, we took the carabao ride to the grand pavilion.  Riding with the group is a singer and guitarist rendering classic Filipino love songs as we navigate through coconut plantation. We want to be early for lunch, which starts serving at 11:00 am to get a good seat in front of the waterfalls.  The recreation center is right across the entrance to the falls.  Should you arrive early, you can have a game of pool, dart or just sing at the café’s videoke.

The highlight of the visit was lunch.  We were able to get a table on a shady corner right in front of the falls.  The buffet consists of local Filipino dishes such as pansit, roasted chicken, liempo, blanched vegetables, and chicken tinola for the soup.  Dessert was a pile of pineapples and banana cue. What makes the experience special is that you eat while your feet is submerged in ankle deep cool water from the falls of the hydroelectric dam.

After the meal, we went to check the pool area and the boardwalk to the bamboo rafts.  After a few minute rests, we were in line to give it a try.  It was surprisingly stable and we were asked to wear life jackets for safety.  Maneuvering the raft was a bit tricky but it will not take long until you get the hang of it.  After rafting in the afternoon sun, we treated ourselves with Halo-Halo at the Café along the Lagoon.

We finished the Halo-Halo just in time for the start of the Cultural Show at 2:00pm in their grand pavilion.  Local performers as well as other cultural groups performed traditional Filipino Dances and introduced the different cultural groups of the country.

Right after the show, we went swimming in the pool.  The resort has lockers to store your valuables for a minimal fee of 50 pesos.  After freshening up, we took the carabao ride back to the entrance for some last minute picture taking.
Before heading back to Manila, we decided to have dinner in Sulyap Gallery and Cafe in San Pablo City.  It is located at the old Cocoland Compound near the Poblacion, and you can ask any tricycle driver for directions.

I have written about this place during my last visit:
Ginataang Pusit

Kilawong Puso ng saging

Tortang Talong

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Oriental Experience: Why do I need a Bicol Weekend Getaway?

The Oriental Legazpi has an on-going facebook promotion.  It is now on its third phase, with a 3D/2N stay with breatfast plus a Legazpi City Tour as its grand prize. The contest is until June 22, 2012.

Please check out their website for complete mechanics:
The Oriental Legazpi
and like their facebook page:

This is my entry on why I need a Legazpi Weekend Getaway

As a child, when airfares were so expensive, I remember Legazpi as one of our stopover on the 26-hour bus ride to Borongan, Eastern Samar.  I remember looking out of the bus window to see the imposing Mayon Volcano at the distance.  I was so amazed on how the shape doesn’t change even though we are navigating around it.

A few decades later, in September of 2010, I had the opportunity to explore the city with friends.  It brought back that childhood memory as I gazed at the imposing volcano across the Albay Gulf.

That time, I was able to tour the sights, and sample the delicious food that Bicol has to offer.  It’s so easy to fall in love with Legaspi.  I said to myself, should I find my special someone, I would definitely bring him to the city.

By 2011, I already found that special someone, and Legaspi was part of our weekend getaway for the year.  We took advantage of the promo fares and booked for March.
On our first day, we went directly to Embarcadero for lunch and to enjoy the view of Mayon as our backdrop.  The lunch was great, but the volcano was covered in clouds that only a little portion of the base was visible.  We went to Lignon Hill and Cagsawa the next day, but still the mountain was not visible.  Rains poured on the third day so we just stayed indoors and explored the mall.
Taken on the same spot as my first photo, what's missing?
At Lignon Hill, what's missing?
At Cagsawa, again, what's missing?

Our return flight was cancelled due to bad weather, so we thought that since we have another day to spare, maybe the mountain would show her majesty to us. But even that didn’t happen.  We left the city without seeing the famous Mt. Mayon.  Although the food and sights were great, we felt that our experience was incomplete and now, looking for an opportunity to go back.
To the Oriental Hotels and Resorts, please help us in making this dream to reality.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Historical Taal, Batangas


The first time I’ve heard about the Taal Heritage Village was when I was doing my thesis in college.  We need to come up with our thesis proposal, and since I love traveling, we decided to focus our project on tourism development and have chosen Batangas as our project site due to its proximity in Manila.
We came across Taal Heritage village as one of the major attraction of Batangas.  On our first visit in 1997, we were immediately drawn to the Ancestral houses as an architecture student.  The imposing Church at the center of town is a Landmark in itself being the widest Catholic Church in Asia.
We did not pursue a tourism complex in area; instead our thesis took on the much challenging Taal Volcano Island as our site.  In 2011, I was once again reminded of the charm of the area.  Coming from Puerto Galera, we were meeting friends in Tagaytay, and took the coastal route from Batangas City, passing the towns of Taal and Lemery.  That was such a short encounter that prompted my visit again this year.
I carefully planned my route using the navigator on my Iphone.  From STAR Toll way, I took the Lipa exit and follow the route passing Cuenca and Alitagtag.  Road signs pointing the direction of the Taal Heritage Town is visible from the highway after Santa Teresita.
We are tempted to make stops on the Ancestral houses along the road but the streets are so narrow that it would cause traffic.  We finally found a parking spot in front of the Municipal Building just across the church.  

Since it’s a Sunday, we came to visit the church first admiring the imposing façade.  The interior recreation of fresco paintings is good, making it a recent version of the San Agustin Church Interior in Intramuros.
Next, we went on a walking tour to appreciate the ancestral houses.  Had we arrived the day before, we could have visited all the houses that are open to the public for free.

Since we are already in Batangas, we are in search of the local favorites.  A cup of Barako and Lomi were the things that came to mind.  I searched foursquare for trending places in the area.  Casa Conchita appeared on the search list under the Café category.  We asked for directions from the tricycle drivers and pointed us to a small gate along the road very near the church.  The place is still new, with no signs except for a streamer against the wall along the road.  According to one of the owners, this used to be the ancestral house of Ogie Alcasid.

The place was very charming with dining areas on the balcony and the ground floor area.  The house shows influences from different periods.  The Gallery is reminiscent of the ground floor bahay na bato.  The 2nd floor Bed and Breakfast  is an American Period Improvement of the Spanish Sala and Bedrooms.  Although now made smaller to accommodate guests.  If you really want to immerse yourself in living in an ancestral house, you can sleep here for 600 php that comes with breakfast.

They did not have our cravings, but instead, was treated to something different.  We tried their Kamias and Malunggay Shake.  The Kamias Shake is a balance of Sweet and Sour similar to a green mango shake.  The Malunggay is refreshing with a bitter sweet after taste.

 On weekends, the small street connecting the town hall turns into a night market serving street food.





Day 5: Tito's Roadtrip Travel Guide to Bicol

Our last day in Bicol is dedicated to our long drive back home. We decided to leave early around 3AM in order to reach Manila late in the ...