Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ode to Vigan

Villa Fernandina- this is what the Spaniards christened this beautiful and quaint city up north, the capital of Ilocos Sur.
An island gifted by a rich Spanish colonial past,  magical cobblestone streets,  ancestral homes and a UN World Heritage site (Heritage Village) - Vigan.

My father's parents are based in Vigan. He used to have this beautiful street as a playground.  But for a person who wants to find a greener pasture, my father in his teens, boarded a bus to Manila, studied in Manila, established his life there, met a Batanguena woman and got married in Manila.  And now, my family considers Manila as our home at present.

So yes, this trip was doubly special because it was a "coming home" of my father who hasn't been back to his hometown Vigan after a number of years. And personally, this is my coming home too since I've only been in Vigan thrice since I became an adult.

Enchanted Cobblestone Streets 
Stepping into the Vigan Heritage Village is an out of this world experience. The streets, albeit old and ancient, are full of people and alive.

In the morning, the whole street becomes a bazaar showcasing impressive Ilocano handiwork and craftsmanship in every product. Bags, handicrafts, souvenirs, can be seen here. To shoppers, there will be endless rows of goodies to be bought all in reasonable prices.

At night, the beautiful streets in the Heritage Village are illuminated by glowing lights from old-fashioned lamp posts and the soft light transforms the street into an even quainter, lovelier version of itself.

Vigan Foodtripping
For foodie travelers, Vigan is heaven! You can even create an itinerary for food tripping alone!  Yes commercial establishments like Mcdonald's and KFC abound, but along the gracefully aging streets you will find a native delicacy that you'd definitely like to sample or even take home!

Vigan Longganisa
A kind of longganisa (sausage) that has a yummy yet strong flavor, savory, sour and garlicky! The perfect breakfast meal would be Vigan longganisa, fried rice, egg and a cup of strong coffee! I brought home packs of these. And yes, this will always remind me of Vigan.

Vigan Bibingka
Compared to the "Simbang Gabi" bibingka (fluffy,soft and mild),  Vigan bibingka is more dense, and has a stickier texture. I think I can compare Vigan bibingka to tikoy than with the bibingka we have in the metro.To eat, you can reheat it in the microwave or you can also coat it with raw egg and then fry it.

Vigan Chicacorn 
This is a Vigan delicacy - salty and more delectable than the sari-sari store cornik we munch on.

Vigan Empanada
I've discussed this yummy deli with detail in this entry -  Food: The Empanada Battle. Yes, the empanadas up north are worth a separate discussion altogether!

This is a delicacy that is sinful to the core!!! This is basically your slab of pork which was boiled and then deep fried to the height of its crispiness.  
Apart from these delicacies, there are a number of dishes that originated in Vigan (and the whole of Ilocos) which found their way to national cuisine. There are: Pinakbet, Diningding, and the recent dish that's being appreciated by non natives: Poqui Poqui ( grilled eggplant which is minced and mixed with egg). 
Hike it up in Vigan for the weekend and you will surely end up in foodie heaven. 


The Ilocano People 
The Ilocano's, are a gentle people. Physically, they are often dark-skinned or moreno, have round deepset eyes and round face.

They are known to be kuripot or really stingy. I myself is a first hand witness to this - my father is the epitome of stinginess! However, this trait is not as bad as others perceive it.  Ilocanos believe that there are things in life that really matter apart from being too proud and being wasteful of one's money.

They are not a proud people. They may look simple and down to earth to the point of looking downright impoverished, but you would be surprised to learn that they actually own rolling fields and expanses of wide land.

And the owners themselves till these land themselves. The Ilocanos are real hardworkers. As long as they are capable no matter what age they may be, they will continue to work hard for their family.

In the end, stepping on the cobblestone streets of Vigan,  I felt like joining my people.
The feeling that you are a part of an entire group of people who share the same thing that you have is powerful. A homecoming of some sort,  and that felt good. And coming from this part of town, (albeit only by virtue of blood relations), makes me proud.

some photos from here, here, here

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Burrrp in Baguio

Went recently to Baguio for work. It has been years since I last went to this mountain town, and yes, big, big changes have been made. There was SM Baguio for one and Session road was not as packed as it used to be. The Chinese population seemed to balloon into big proportions-- they were everywhere. But the cold, yes, the cold, lovely weather is still there to stay. Brrr.

Since the trip was for work, I wasn't able to roam around because I was, well, working. But after being cooped up in the mansion on the cliff  working and writing and eating instant food for three days,   it was time to nourish ourselves with some of the best eats in the city of Pines.

Oh My Gulay
This is a resto located in the third floor of one of those small buildings in Session Road. I love the atmosphere - it was artsy, shabby chic, forest-y and native all in one. Upon entering, you can feast your eyes with artworks and paintings on the wall.
One caveat for my fellow carnivores  -the fare in Oh My Gulay is strictly vegetarian.
Try the puttanesca, the house salad and pear crepe they call Super Sosy.
Of course, it is a violation not to try the yummy brewed coffee! And in my opinion, drinking brewed coffee in Baguio is the life.

House Salad


Pear Crepe

Cafe by The Ruins
If eating at Oh My Gulay is all about veggies (and healthy!), Cafe by the ruins has a huge selection of specialties.
They say that if Tagaytay has Sonya's Garden and Bohol has Bohol Bee farm, then Baguio has Cafe by The Ruins. Maybe because of the general feel of the place plus, Cafe by the Ruins also has specialty breads and spreads. Their camote bread (75 pesos) is a must try.  I also brought home a couple of jars of strawberry preserves (180 pesos).

Camote Bread

Since it was raining at that time, I opted to lunch on a hot soupy dish called Pinikpikan. It is a Cordillera specialty which is known for the manner on how the chicken is prepared. The native chicken is being slightly beaten so that coagulated blood may rise to the surface of the meat. Locally the manner is called "pikpik" hence the name of the dish. Well, it sounds harsh and even barbaric, but for what its worth, it tasted good. So dear poor chicken, your sacrifice and pain was worth it.


Here are some of the dishes I and my companions have tried: the Chicken with Bamboo shoots (this was good, the shoots are still crisp and the chicken, tender). I forgot the exact name of the dish though. 
Of course there was Adobo  Flakes, a Purple soup (Purple Passion was the name, I reckon), some iced tea with fancy presentation, and hot chocolate. 

Chicken with Bamboo Shoots 

Adobo Flakes

Purple Soup

Iced Tea


Despite the changes, Baguio is still Baguio, where you can revel at the lovely weather and the local eats.  Indeed Baguio still has its charms. Can't wait to explore more local happenings and eating places in Baguio when I return.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Eating around Bantayan and Cebu city

How to go to Kota Beach?

During the recent travel to Cebu, I was able to travel to Bantayan Island and Cebu City! And of course the fun in traveling also includes tasting the local food! Where did I satisfy my palate in Bantayan Island and Cebu city? Read below!

Bantayan Island Eats
After explorinng Kota Beach in Bantayan,  we headed inland for some refreshments! We rode the ubiquitous pedicabs to go to some happening restos in the town proper that can fill the gaping hole in our stomachs.

Marisquera O Portuguese
Dinner is the first order of the night after the loooong journey. We asked some local pedicab drivers and they pointed this little Portuguese joint. The atmosphere is very relaxed and very local but the food fare is fusion and has influences of international cuisine.
What's more is apart from dining, the resto features good ole karaoke where we sung our hearts out, sober or otherwise. 
We got no photos of the food since we were too famished to even think of capturing food in their undisturbed state. 

CouCou Restaurant
After much needed splash in the waters, we headed to have brunch in this joint. It was good and affordable! This was where I ate much-wanted seafood fare for an adorable price. Each meal costs around a hundred pesos with drinks.

Cebu City Chows
Upon leaving Bantayan Island, we headed to Cebu City (Ayala) to eat some really really craved for fastfood and coffee.

Coffee Bean Tea Leaf Ayala
Hardly a local eat, but hanging out at a coffeeshop in Cebu is another way to get and feel the local vibe of the city. I was very surprised and amazed at how commercialized and cosmopolitan Cebu City is! Hanging out here feels so much like home. Well-dressed denizens, night owls and yuppies all hanging out, working and drinking their coffee fix is what you can see here.

After coffee, and going to Casino Filipino Cebu, we headed to a down and dirty smokey yet absolutely tasty eating expedition at Larsian. Larsian is like a big compound with lots and lots of barbecued meats and seafood. The food is good yet so so cheap! Each barbecues pork costs only 15 pesos. All in all I spent only arounmd 60 pesos including all barbecued meat I can imagine with softdrinks and rice!


Will be posting stories on some yummy Baguio City restos soon!
More travel stories, cheers!