Friday, July 27, 2012

Philippinized Pizza

I"m not really a fan of Pizza, but who could resist this Philippine Regional take on this Italian classic.
Please share your local versions!
Laing Pizza from Smalltalk Cafe in Legazpi

Pinakbet and Longganisa Pizza from Herenciacafe in Ilocos

Dinuguan and Bagnet Pizza also from Herenciacafe of Ilocos

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dumaguete-Syquijor, So Many Things to do So Little Time

I started using the foursquare application as soon I had my first Iphone more than two years ago.  What's good about it is that you can look back at your travels based on your check-ins.  It gives me the opportunity to blog about places we have been to in the past, even before this blog was created.

We are always in the look out for promo fares, and this round trip ticket to Dumaguete February of last year costs us 700php for 2 persons.  Since promo fares don't usually include weekends, we scheduled our trip on a Thursday leaving Dumaguete on a Saturday.

We were at NAIA 3 around 3AM and in less than 3 hours we were at Dumaguete Airport.  We always travel light, and have no need to check-in baggage.  It’s more convenient since you literally just walk in and out of the airport.  Just make sure your familiar with the airport regulations on hand carry items.  I remember the time when we have to empty out a can of body spray to ourselves since the bottle has a mark that says flammable.   You can actually smell us from a distance, but it’s better than letting it go to waste.  We were the best smelling passengers on the plane.

Upon arrival, we were on the look out for a place to stay.  Regional airport usually has a tourism desk that has brochures of accommodations that fits your budget.  We chose Coco Grande Hotel for their reasonable rate and the convenience of their transport service waiting outside.  If you don’t have an advance booking, just approach the sign bearers waiting for guests outside the airport.  When we arrived at the hotel, we still have to wait for their checkout time, since we didn’t have reservations.  While waiting at the reception, I saw the picture of Coco Grove behind the counter.  Little did I know that they were the same owner of this Syquijor Resort.

So, instead of waiting for another 3 hours for a free room, why not use the time to visit the island.  Since it was a weekday, we were fortunate that a free room was available at the resort.  The front desk arranged our transfer to the port and the overnight booking.  By 10AM, we were at the port of Dumaguete en-route to the Mystic Island of Syquijor.

We arrive at the port of Syquijor just before lunch.  A Tourist Jeepney and a Man in Hawaiian shirt holding a sign that bears our name picked us up.  We had lunch while waiting for the check-in time.  We also took the opportunity to explore the resort facilities.  The resort is fronting a white sand beach with hammocks and cabanas the entire stretch.  What was memorable was the staff.  They were the most accommodating and call you by your first name.  They even remember small details like, how do you like your drink and your usual condiments.  

We spent the entire afternoon taking advantage of the resort amenities like the swimming pools and bar. We lazed at the hammock while sipping on glass of Pina Colada.  

We were the only local guests that time.  Our foreigner counterpart would dress up for dinner while we were in shorts and tank tops.  After dinner we went to bar and played a few rounds of table hockey.  We retired early so we can still explore the island the next morning.

After breakfast, we rented a motorbike and ride around the coastal road around town.  Since my GPS was not working, we went the opposite direction instead of passing the town of Lazi where the church and monastery is located.  Nevertheless, the sights on the opposite route did not disappoint us.  We rode the motorbike until our butts and legs hurt forcing us to return for checkout.  Our return boat ride ticket was pre-arranged at the front desk the day before as well as our transport service to the port.  At 4PM, we were back in Dumaguete.

Since we spent a great deal of our vacation money in Syquijor, we went to look for a cheaper accommodation on the bayside of Dumaguete.  The most reasonable we found was Honeycomb Tourist Inn.  We chose this place since its walking distance to the center of Town and the Plaza. 

CafĂ© Antonio is a must visit for late snacks of Pizza and Pasta.  The Restaurant/Cafe is old ancestral house converted into a restaurant.  Their menu is a mix of Filipino, Mexican and Jamaican fusion.

Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves of a massage at Buddy and Sole a few corners away.  We cannot resist the 2-hour treatment package for less than 500 pesos.  After the massage, we went back to the inn to prepare on exploring the nightlife of the city.  The trending place in foursquare is Hayahay Treehouse and Viewdeck.   We tried to walk our way but the roads were getting darker as we passed the port area so we flagged a tricycle to take us to the place.  It was a Friday night and the place was packed with tourist and locales.  Getting a seat was so difficult that we transferred to the bar beside it, El Camino Blanco.  The place is less rowdy and more relaxed at the porch. It has a dance floor inside that we did not get to see.  After a few rounds of beer, we headed back to the Inn.  Just before retiring for the night, we had a bowl of Lugaw, at Hoy Lugaw.  It’s a popular after party place.  I find the inverted pots as seats interesting. 

After a few hours of sleep, we woke up early to avail of the complimentary breakfast since our flight was at 8:30AM.  We literally opened their restaurant.  While waiting I took early morning pictures of the boulevard.  At 7:30AM we were back at the Dumaguete airport, and arrived in Manila by 10AM.  Don't forget to bring home their famous Sans Rival and Sylvanas.

Just when we thought our vacation was over, we went to a Thai Restaurant in Rockwell for Lunch, watched Zsa Zsa Zaturnah at CCP and had a late dinner at Igmaan Paluto Restaurant in Seaside, Macapagal.  It was one memorable weekend.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maggi Curry Pork Noodles

Since were stuck at home the entire weekend due to heavy rains, we were forced to forage on what was left in the refrigerator and the pantry.  This was what we came up with.

Curry Pork Noodles
2 Pack Maggi Curry from Zamboanga
1/4 Left-over Chicharon (Pork Cracklings from Baliuag, Bulacan)
1 order of Giniling (Ground Meat) with boiled egg from the eatery across the street.

Cook the noodles according to package instruction with 1 cup less water than prescribed.  Stir in the pre-cooked giniling and set aside the boiled egg for topping.
Once the noodles are cooked, divide into two bowls, top it with the boiled egg and chicharon.

The irony of this dish is that the Maggi Curry is manufactured in Malaysia where pork is not really popular.  We've turned the instant noodles into a full meal perfect for the rainy weather.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wensha Spa Antipolo, Rising Above the Competition or Lost in Translation

View of Manila by Night
Unfortunately, I still need to report for work on a Sunday.  Once a month, we take turns on inspecting our branches, and this Sunday was my turn.  

In spite of that, I would not let the weekend pass without a new discovery whether a destination or a place to eat.  This time, I was looking for a place close to the city, since I can only leave at 6PM and only have the rest of the night to explore and save our energy for the workweek ahead.

Since we are already in Pasig, I thought of going to Antipolo to try the establishments that offers a nighttime view of the city.  As I was searching for a specific place, I stumbled upon the Antipolo branch of Wensha Spa.  We are regulars at their branch in Roxas Blvd. and thought this is worth a try.  It's dinnertime anyway, and their treatments comes with an eat all you can buffet.

Smoking Area - Bar Side
From Pasig, we took the C5 Road passing by Eastwood and took the route leading to Marikina.  We took the flyover that takes us to Marcos Highway and turned right at the intersection to Antipolo via Sumulong Highway.  Looking at the map from my phone, we thought its a complicated route but surprisingly, it took us less than 30 minutes to get there.

The spa is located on the same building that houses Cape Lupe, which I visited before.  You wouldn't miss the spa entrance at the ground floor with their hotel like reception.  It is more organized here than the Pasay Branch.  They have bollards to divide the incoming and outgoing guest and the slippers are issued on a counter unlike in Pasay where it’s all laid on the floor.  I'm not sure if they have the same rate since my last visit in Roxas Blvd., the Foot Massage costs Php680 while here, it’s Php780.  The difference is that, we were issued a stub for a beer all you can which you can claim after your treatment.

Dining Area - Bar Side
After paying and changing into slippers, we went to the lockers to change to our robes.  Their lockers looked clean and brighter than their Pasay counterpart.  Also the design is better, with the modern oriental details and graphics on walls.  After changing into robes, we went upstairs to their dining area.  The buffet is located on the common hallway surrounded by 3 dining halls.  The first is the smoking balcony that unfortunately is facing the parking and the second, is the usual dining area with the same character as the one in Pasay.  The third is more of a club, with dim lights, laser, loud music and a full bar.  We decided to take our meal at the club since the lounge chairs are more comfortable and the glass window offers an aerial view of Manila at night.  

Dinner Buffet (Standard)
Shabu-shabu Buffet
After a few rounds on the buffet we had a serving of the soft ice cream dessert.  We then went back to the lockers to shower and try the wet area.  The wet area has two hot pools, a sauna, and steam room with the usual shower cubicles.  We tried the steam room but cannot stand the heat, so we changed to our robes again and went down the basement to the treatment areas.  My partner is having a body massage while I was ushered to the foot massage area.   Unlike in Pasay where the reclining seats have an individual television with earphones, here large screen TV's are strategically located for sharing.  This was my turn off since; you cannot really immerse yourself with the treatment with the noise coming from the television across.  Its either they provide earphones or take them out totally until they do. Also, since I was seated on the nearest end, some of the other therapist would talk with each other from one end of the room to the other.  I was so disappointed that I immediately left the treatment room right after the massage.  In Pasay, I would snooze for a few minutes to savor the feeling.  The only thing consistent was the massage.

After my treatment, I went back to the buffet area to meet my partner.  Since were still full from last round of eating, we settled on the soup and noodles, and ordered our first bottle of Antonov Apple as an alternative to beers.  We stayed at the club area listening to music from Christopher Cross to Shakira.  After 2 bottles were done for the night.

If I were asked if I would recommend people to come here, I would say yes.  It’s a real value for money.  Where else can you get a buffet a massage and all the booze you can drink, at least before 1:30, the cut-off time for beers.  You just have to be more open-minded and expect that Wensha Antipolo is more of a Resto Bar that offers Spa Treatment than a Spa that offers food and drinks!  My suggestion to the management is too keep the treatment area/rooms relaxing and quiet free from conversation and television volumes, at least for as long as Spa is connected to the establishment’s name.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Batad Rice Terraces: A Trek to Remember

Tired, but the view was worth it!

Before facebook, there was, and still is multiply.  Finally I was able to recover my account and stumbled upon my first attempt at blogging.

After the 10 Hour Bus Ride to Benquet!
This was actually my first climb.

May 24 was a very special day for us. Some didn't even bother to sleep to make it to the 4 o clock call time to go on a 10-hour bus ride to Benquet. All 40 of us including fellow Victorians namely Dara of PID, Rene of purchasing, Renz of quality and Carsel of engineering, came for a very special purpose, to donate books and school supplies to Cambulo Elementary school in Batad, Benquet.

Cambulo Elementary School
The bus ride was only a start of an amazing journey. We arrived in Benguet at 3pm, had a courtesy call after, and then started a 4-hour trek to the town of Cambulo. The trail was exciting offering different views of the rice terraces and the mountain province. The trek became even more challenging as rain and nighttime approaches. Armed with flashlights, we braved the narrowing trail until we reached our destination around 9 pm. We were able to get ourselves acquainted with the principal and teachers while resting our tired muscles as we wait for dinner. There's nothing much to see in the area since there's no electricity. Amidst the darkness, you can see the welcoming smiles of the children and teachers who are anxious to see us. We stayed at the local inn, with no less than Diether Ocampo, head of the KIDS Foundation, the group responsible for the outreach as our lodging mate. We retired for the night around 11pm.

Spectacular view of the Batad Rice Terraces

The next day started early! With 25 tenants and only 2 bathrooms, we need to get ahead and woke up at 4 am. Looking out from the balcony from our lodging house, we were all surprised to find out that the rice terraces are just out of our window. Getting up early had its advantages! We were able to help prepare breakfast, which was served around 8am. A short program followed with cultural performance from the host community, and then the distribution of school supplies. We were able to give more than a hundred sets of school items to the elementary students of Cambulo. The smiles of the very appreciative children made the trip meaningful and were enough to soothe the now very tired muscles.
View right outside our window

The Children of Cambulo Elementary School

Tappia Falls
Around 1030am, we started another 5-hour trek to our next destination, which is Tappia falls. We literally walked on the edge of the terraces wide enough to fit your feet, with a cliff on one side, and rice paddies on the other. The falls was a spectacular sight, because of its size and soaking on its cold water rejuvenated us. After going down the steep steps to the falls, we would have to climb our way back to the town of Batad for lunch. The climb up took its toll on my legs, 100 meters before the last stop; I had cramps literally blocking the trail. Fortunately, there were climbers kind enough who took my load and helped my muscle relax, and around 3pm we reached the town of Batad. We only had 30 minutes to rest and eat before going on the last leg of the trek to Saddle Point where the jeepneys that would take us to Banaue awaits us. Fresh from the cramp, I took two walking poles to shift my weight off of my legs. It was still a very challenging trail, and after an hour of a few stops, we were able to reach saddle point.

Before boarding the jeepneys, we can’t help but talk about the exciting experience we encountered in this 2-day adventure. We took photos of the entire group who were brave enough to overcome these challenges for a very special purpose, to help the children of Cambulo, and to promote education even in remote places.

I took a very special seat on the jeep, the top! It was another hour of travel, but at least, we were not walking. The view from the top was amazing, until it rained. We were soaked in rain when we reach Benguet, so we stop on a local hotel to bathe for 50 pesos. At 6pm we were back at the bus station for our ten-hour bus ride to manila.
With Rica Peralejo
With Diether Ocampo
More than the outreach, we learned a lot of lesson from the trek. We learned how to persevere in spite of challenges. We learned the value of teamwork. We exceeded our expectations, especially for us first timers. Most importantly, we learned that if you focus on a certain goal or destination, you would get there.

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 ...