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BINONDO: REVISITING 3 FAVORITE QUICK TREATS

We arrived around 8 in the morning yesterday in Binondo, a destination my husband and I have not gone to for more than 2 decades so this short trip was surely a sentimental one. Click a related post – BINONDO: A QUICK VISIT.

For the benefit of foreigners, Binondo* is considered the Chinatown of the Philippines, considered the oldest in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. It is a district in Manila, Philippines, and a hub of Chinese commerce.

We finally found a parking space and made our way to Ling Nam Noodle House at 616 T. Alonzo Street. Even this early, the restaurant was almost full.

Z-2-wall menuwall menu – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Ling Nam still has a limited, yet time-tested, menu consisting of: noodles (asado, beef, chicken, wanton, or combinations of 2 or 3 thereof), lugao (congee or hot rice porridge, with the following variants: bola-bola, chicken, fish, fish-bola, halo-halo, liver, kidney, or plain), siopao (steamed bun, in the following variants: asado, bola-bola, lotus, mongo and taipao – the 4-inch or largest meatball-chorizo siopao) and siomai (steamed Chinese dumpling, with or without soup).

Unfortunately, only siopao, siomai and different kinds of lugao (congee) were available that early (noodles are only available starting 9:30 am). So, we settled for CHICKEN LUGAO (175 pesos), HALO-HALO LUGAO (165 pesos), SIOMAI (2 pieces for 80 pesos) and ASADO SIOPAO (75 pesos).

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Complimentary Hot Tea – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Complimentary hot tea was served first, followed by our orders.

BeFunky CollageChicken Lugao and Halo Halo Lugao – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Both lugaos were served hot, accompanied by fresh calamansi (small, round citrus fruit also known as Calamondin). We squeezed the juice from the calamansi directly to the bowl and seasoned the lugao with patis (fish sauce) and a bit of pepper. This dish hit the spot and is definitely a comfort food for us.

 

Z-3-siomai-siopao2 pieces of siomai and asado siopao – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Siomai and siopao were then served. Toyo (soy sauce) and freshly squeezed calamansi juice were mixed as dipping sauce for the two pieces of siomai (per order) to be enjoyed in between spoonfuls of lugao. The siopao did not need any sauce because the tasty filling, along with the soft dough, was just right.

We asked for the bill and gave our senior citizen cards. An employee simply looked at our empty plates on the table and orally enumerated the quantity of the exact items we ate to the cashier who prepared the bill. Now I call that going paperless! So amusing!

Z-4-shanghai fried siopaoShanghai Fried Siopao – Binondo, Manila

We shopped for a while and found ourselves in the corner of Ongpin Street and Bahama Street, the location of (80 year old) Shanghai Fried Siopao. We ordered PORK ASADO fried siopaos, each costing 20 pesos. This hole-in-the-wall stall only has a simple store sign “Shanghai Fried Siopao” and offers takeout dumplings, kikiam (or quekiam, a steamed-deep-fried pork/seafood Chinese delicacy wrapped in bean curd skin), machang (the Filipino version of the pyramid-shaped Chinese steamed sticky rice-meat dish called “zongzi”), siomai and other cooked-food items, displayed on a small counter along the street.

Z-5-fried siopaoFried Siopao – Shanghai Fried Siopao, Binondo, Manila

The fried siopao displayed on the counter were not kept warm but you can observe that they were easily gone through the purchases of loyal and curious customers and the stock needed to be replenished regularly. The buns were still hot when it was handed to me. Amazing!

Z-6-fryer (2)Fryers used to make Fried Siopao – Shanghai Fried Siopao, Binondo, Manila

Just to be clear, we ordered FRIED SIOPAO which is steamed then pan-fried so that it has a toasted crispy bottom but still looks like a steamed siopao on top. It is definitely different from Toasted Siopao which is a baked “monay-looking” Bicolano specialty variation of siopao.

Z-7-manosaWe walked a bit more and could not resist to go to (30 year old) Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant.

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We ordered yummy maki (a Chinese soup with a brown, thick, starchy broth, and chunks of tender pork) which was served in a large bowl and can be shared by two seniors. We were still full so we did not order side dishes like kikiam and siomai.

Z-9-manosa-3Maki – Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant, Binondo, Manila

The maki was served hot and its thick, starchy and tasty broth was so satisfying, along with the tender chunks of pork.

Z-10-siopao-bitepoor fried siopao after I have eaten it halfway

We needed to leave Binondo, anticipating traffic going to our next destination. Sure enough, we were caught in traffic and decided to eat the Pork Asado siopaos we got from Shanghai Fried Siopao. They were no longer hot but we still ate them. When I bit into the siopao, I got a bit of a crunchy texture from the bottom, along with the usual soft siopao dough and tasty filling (of pork and leeks, among other ingredients; no need for sauce). We enjoyed the siopaos and I am sure that these would have been more satisfying when eaten hot. Anyway, we didn’t get stressed with the traffic! LOL

Next time, we need to stay longer and eat lunch or dinner in the famous restaurants in Binondo. Dear Seniors, do you have any recommendations?

Did you find this post informative? Do you also go to these places for a quick treat? Do you have your other favorite places to dine in Chinatown for a quick bite?  I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Don’t forgollow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*“Binondo,” accessed December 12, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binondo.

 

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JASMINE: IRRESISTIBLE CHINESE FOOD

Location: Level 2, New World Makati Hotel, Esperanza Street corner Makati Avenue, Ayala Center, Makati City, Philippines

My group of five were in the Greenbelt area and I was craving for Chinese food and salted egg so off we went to New World Makati Hotel’s Jasmine, its dining outlet at Level 2. Jasmine is open for lunch (11:30 am – 2:30 pm) and dinner (6 pm – 10:30 pm).

Z-1-Jasmine-facadeThe entrance to the main dining room was so inviting. We arrived at a little past noon and most of the tables were occupied.

Z-1-Jasmine-interiorThe Chinese Art Deco interior was cozy and simply elegant. It is my second visit to this Chinese restaurant and this will definitely be a “cheat meal”! LOL

Jasmine offers authentic Chinese dishes created by renowned Hong Kong chef Wong Kam On: a wide variety of Cantonese baked, fried, steamed and vegetarian dim sum; chicken, fish and pork century egg congees; rice rolls (served only for lunch); Peking Duck; seafood specialties; barbecued appetizers; soups; live fish and seafood (with your choice of cooking method); poultry and meat dishes; bean curd, noodle, rice, vegetable and vegetarian dishes; desserts; and different kinds of tea (along with Jasmine Tea and Jasmine Chrysanthemum). Set menus, priced per table of ten persons, are also offered.

Z-1-Jasmine-menuOn our round table was a menu for unlimited  yum cha (traditional Cantonese brunch consisting of dim sum and Chinese tea), for 988 pesos per person. It was so tempting but we settled for a la carte orders for the group so we could savor the salted egg dishes which I have been craving for.

Z-2-JasmineWe ordered 4 kinds of dimsum. The BARBECUED PORK PASTRY was a welcome treat because the pastry was so flaky and the pork filling was delicious. The generously-sized PORK XIAO LONG BAO looked so enticing: steaming hot with its delicate folds and thin, white casing. Its yummy mild broth was just right for the well-seasoned pork filling.

Z-2-Jasmine-hargaoThe HAR GAO was served hot, the dough shell was soft and delicate, and the seasoned shrimp filling was tasty and juicy.

Z-3-JasmineThe PORK PASTRY SPRING ROLL was a delightful appetizer as well.

We enjoyed sipping the hot JASMINE TEA while we savored the various dim sum as well as succeeding courses.

SPINACH SOUP was requested by our 5-year old picky-eater-grandson and he finished it all so that says a lot about this soup! This healthy soup was served at the right temperature and was pleasantly seasoned so the kid enjoyed it till the last drop.

Z-4-JasmineWe ordered five main courses. Finally, I will satisfy my salted egg craving! The SOLE OF FISH SALTED EGG YOLK hit the spot! I definitely rave about this dish and, dear Seniors, this is definitely a MUST TRY! The tender fish was fried with just the right amount of yummy salted egg.

Z-5-JasmineThe crispy DEEP FRIED PRAWNS SALTED EGG YOLK was likewise delicious, accentuated by the salted egg coating.

The CHINESE STYLE PAN-FRIED BEEF TENDERLOIN was topped with Chef Wong’s special sauce. The beef was so tender. The flavor and texture of the sauce enhanced the enjoyment of this dish.

Z-6-JasmineOur picky-eater requested BROCCOLI WITH OYSTER SAUCE. The broccoli was cooked just right and the sauce was tasty, but not salty.

Z-7-JasmineThe EGG WHITE SEAFOOD FRIED RICE with conpoy (a type of pungent Cantonese dried scallop) and pine nuts, with its subtle, yet flavorful blend of ingredients and seasonings, aptly complemented our a la carte orders.

Z-8-JasmineMango Pudding, Jasmine, New World Makati Hotel

Finally, we ordered two kinds of desserts: Mango Pudding and Mango Cream-Sago.

Z-9-JasmineMango Cream-Sago, Jasmine, New World Makati Hotel

Both desserts were a refreshing treat after all the dimsum and main courses we enjoyed.

The staff were so accommodating and gave personalized service. They changed the plates as needed, replenished our tea and water, and asked if we enjoyed the meal and what else we needed.

We will definitely come back for more, what with their December promo called “Feast on Festive Treats”: (1) a Yum Cha Buffet Lunch consisting of baked, fried and steamed dumplings, buns, rolls and noodles, at 1,388 pesos per person; and, (2) a choice among three 10-course set menus for December 24, 25, 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018, featuring Chef Wong’s signature dishes like Suckling Pig, Braised Abalone with Black Mushrooms, Pan-fried Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce, Pan-fried Scallop with Egg White and Black Truffle Sauce, at 9,888 pesos for a group of 6 persons.

Private dining rooms are also available for your intimate get-togethers, dear Senior Citizens. You can inquire/book at (02) 811-6888. Visit their website: www.manila.newworldhotels.com. You can view their complete menu at www.zomato.com, just type Jasmine – New World Makati Hotel Menu.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in Jasmine? If so, what were your favorite dim sum and ala carte dishes? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

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BINONDO: A QUICK VISIT

Location: Binondo, District of Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines

My husband and I were already in Metro Manila and decided to go to Binondo early for a quick and early visit since we haven’t been there for more than two decades.

For the benefit of foreigners, Binondo* is the Chinatown of the Philippines, considered the oldest in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. It is a district in Manila and a hub of Chinese commerce.

Z-13-BinondoI saw the familiar Welcome Arch and prayed we could get a parking slot.

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Binondo still looks so busy especially during this time of the year.

Z-12-BinondoMemories of our past visits with loved ones and friends crossed my mind while we passed through the last arch.

Parking was full but we were able to find one accessible to the places we wanted to go to. We first ate breakfast in Ling Nam Noodle House. We then went to shop a bit then ordered a couple of  fried siopaos (steamed then fried meatball-chorizo buns) at Shanghai Fried Siopao for takeout. Before we left for lunch elsewhere, we didn’t miss the chance to eat maki (a Chinese soup with a brown, thick, starchy broth, and chunks of tender pork) at Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant. Click a related post – BINONDO: REVISITING 3 FAVORITE QUICK TREATS.

Z-14-BinondoFinally, we wouldn’t leave this place without buying yummy, freshly roasted castañas    (chestnuts). Then off we went for an important errand.

Did you find this post informative? Do you often go to Binondo? Do you also crave for castañas come the holiday season?  I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*“Binondo,” accessed December 12, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binondo.

 

 

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GREEN PASTURES: FROM FARM TO TABLE

Location: G/F, Net Park, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

I had a scheduled meeting with someone in the Net Park area and arrived an hour before the designated time so I invited my companion to have a quick but not-so-sinful snack and we chose a casual dining and organic restaurant called Green Pastures, owned by Chef Robby Goco of Cyma, Charlie’s Grind and Grill, and Tequila Joe’s fame. It is located at the ground floor of Net Park and is open from 8 am till 10 pm.

Z-3-GP

For this restaurant, Chef Robbie offers healthy American and European homemade dishes which are made from fresh, organic, gluten-free and probiotic ingredients. Green Pastures also has 2 other branches: Eastwood Mall (in Bagumbayan, Quezon City) and (Level 4, East Wing) Shangri-la Plaza Mall (in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City).

We opted for outdoor dining despite the modern farm house interiors, ordered their Homemade Burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream), served with toasted bread, and requested it to be served fast so we need not hurry eating it and I won’t be late for my meeting. It came as promised by the waitress and it had a simple yet appealing presentation.

Z-1-GP

The texture of the bread complemented the softness and freshness of the cheese, served with Mt. Atok (in the province of Benguet) organic strawberries, cherry tomatoes and basil oil. It was priced at 430 pesos and was worth it! The cold refreshing drinks, Organic Dalandan Juice (juice of the tangy, Filipino variety of a citrus fruit) and Iced Tea with Organic Honey (small, 120 pesos each), were a welcome treat too!

I paid for this snack and all the comments are based on my dining experience. I will definitely go back to try the other items in the menu!

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining at Green Pastures in any of its branches? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

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A SENTIMENTAL PINOY MERIENDA AT VIA MARE

Location: G/F, Greenbelt 1, Greenbelt Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines

My husband and I were accompanied by three relatives when we were in the Greenbelt area for early Christmas shopping. It was the middle of the afternoon when we all became hungry and they agreed to join me in a sentimental Pinoy merienda (snack) at Via Mare in Greenbelt 1 which was one of my favorite casual dining Filipino restaurants when I was single.

Z-1-VMfacade – Via Mare, Greenbelt 1, Makati City

Now, dearest Senior Citizens (SCs), you might ask, why there, Tita S? There is one at Greenbelt 3 and it is newer. I know that, SCs, but this Greenbelt 1 branch is so memorable for me before I got married. Anyway, indulge me, please, ok?

This outlet is open from 8 am till 9:30 pm (M-F), 9 am till 9:30 pm (Sat.-Sun.), and 10 am till 10 pm (during holidays). It is located at the ground floor of Greenbelt 1, opposite National Book Store, my favorite bookstore. Via Mare’s facade and interiors still looked the same and the diners were mostly families or seniors, alone or with a companion.

I can’t help but think that the other seniors also eat there not only for the yummy dishes but recall delightful memories of dining there for years/decades as well. For me, it was way back 1990s.

This outlet offers breakfast, a wide selection of Filipino merienda treats and kakanin (native Filipino rice cakes served mostly for snacks), as well as different soups, main dishes, oyster specialties, vegetables and rice for lunch/dinner.

I was feeling nostalgic when I got hold of the menu and I wanted to order lots of native merienda (snack) treats but stopped myself because of eating out too much when I go to Metro Manila.

Z-Via Mare-2We ordered only four kinds of merienda items First was BIBINGKA VSP (175 pesos), meaning this traditional Filipino rice cake was very special because it had all the toppings possible. It was served warm and soft and its flavor was enhanced by the yummy toppings (butter, cheese and salted egg), accompanied by freshly grated coconut and sugar.

Z-Via-Mare-3PUTO BUMBONG, with two pieces per order, served with muscavado sugar (partially refined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor), quezo de bola (Edam cheese) and freshly grated coconut (106 pesos), was also ordered. It looked so delicious and we even ordered additional queso de bola for a more delightful combination.

Z-Via-Mare-4The PALITAW (a traditional, sweet, sticky Filipino rice cake), with three pieces per (55 peso) order and a generous topping of freshly grated coconut, sugar and linga (sesame seeds), was served next. It is definitely a MUST TRY, dearest Seniors! This boiled, flattened, small, rectangular, Filipino rice cake was so delicately soft, contrasted by the texture of the freshly grated coconut mixed with sugar and linga. We had to ask for an additional order because we couldn’t have enough of this native delicacy.

Z-Via-Mare-5DINUGUAN AT PUTO (205 pesos), another Filipino favorite, was a satisfying, thick, savory pork-blood stew with pork offals and meat, complemented by the small white putos (traditional, round, soft, Filipino steamed rice cakes).

Bottomline, we enjoyed all our orders but rave about the palitaw! My younger companions learned to appreciate these Filipino treats while I reminisced good times in this restaurant with every bite I took. Happy tummies! Happy memories! Happy meee! Happy weee! We will surely go back for more, perhaps for lunch or dinner!

Prices stated were based on charges when we dined in this outlet; they may change. Visit its official website: www.viamare.com.ph for outlets, catering services, updates, etc. You can also call (02) 815-1918. For a quick look at the menu of this outlet: (1) simply type “via mare greenbelt 1 menu” and click on the www.munchpunch.com option, or (2) type www.zomato.com and type café via mare greenbelt 1. View the menu at the bottom of the page.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in this restaurant or in any of its other branches? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

 

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EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

Location: Province of Palawan1, MIMAROPA2 Region, Philippines

In our fourth day in the picturesque town of El Nido3 in the province of Palawan, my husband and I felt that we gained weight after three days here especially with Sea Cocoon’s yummy buffet breakfast, Hello El Nido’s finger-licking grilled buffet lunch during our island hopping, and the seafood dinners we had along the beach! This is paradise, but is not-so-good for our waistlines! But what can I say! When on vacation, NO DIET! Or, we have a SEE-FOOD DIET, i.e., when we see food, we eat! Right?!

Did you see my posts of our first two tours of El Nido? If not, click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 1 and click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 2.

Anyway, our third tour called TOUR B – WHITE SAND GALORE: ISLANDS AND CAVES, costs 1,300 per person. Just like the first 2 trips, I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.

3-El Nido-Snake Island-Gani
Snake Island, El Nido, Palawan – Photo by: Gani

The first stop was SNAKE ISLAND. I enjoyed this unique island because it had a natural S-shaped sandbar visible during low tide. And guess what, it was low tide today, lucky us! My husband and I walked the whole sandbar and we wished we had a drone to video our walk. We finally reached the end of the sandbar which was a mangrove. We stopped a bit and headed back to the starting point where we were ushered to head up and hike to a small gazebo with a spectacular view of the sandbar and the clear water! The bottled water came in handy to hydrate us going up and down this trail. Take your time, dearest Seniors, it is worth the effort!

Next was ENTALULA BEACH, reputed to be the best beach in Bacuit Bay. It can also be reserved for an intimate lunch/dinner.

The CUDUGNON CAVE was the next stop and cash was handy to enjoy fresh buko juice/cold soft drinks. This site was believed to be the burial site during the Neolithic period4 (10,200 – 2000 BC).

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A brief stop at the CATHEDRAL CAVE followed but we did not stay long because the water was a bit rough. However, each passenger was given a chance to have pictures taken with the cave as backdrop.

4-El-Nido-Pinagbuyutan Island-Gani
Pinagbuyutan Island Photo by Gani

The PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND was the last stop. It is a powdered white sand island ideal for snorkeling, laying at the beach, or swimming with loved ones.

This last packaged tour is good but not as good as the first two … anyway, the sandbar was more than enough to make this a memorable trip! Thanks again, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

My final words re El Nido: This town is indeed a paradise and a precious treasure for all Filipinos and foreign visitors to visit and experience for generations to come! I pray it will not suffer the same fate as Boracay if they just continue to consistently and strictly implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)5.  I hope the local government will be able to continue to plan and successfully implement programs against the threats of high human activities and the booming tourism industry in the these towns such as: pollution from waste and sewage disposal; beach erosion; damage to coral reefs due to snorkeling, diving and illegal collection; and, disturbance of bird nesting and marine sites.

I would love to hear from you, dear Seniors! Did you find this post informative? Have you gone to El Nido? Did you also experience this package tour? What are your observations of the tourism impact to the environment? Just scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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1Palawan, according to the Wikipedia page, “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, s a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier. SOURCE: “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

2MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

3El Nido, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

4“Neolithic,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic.

5El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) is the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, It covers 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

 

 

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LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR: A HERITAGE TREAT

Location: Barangay Pag-asa, town of Bagac, province of Bataan, Central Luzon Region, island of Luzon, Philippines

6-Las Casas

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is an 18th-century heritage park and open-air museum located along Umagol River, in the town of Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. It was created in 2003 by Jose “Gerry” Acuzar, owner of New San Jose Builders, and opened it to the public in 2010. It is managed by Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corporation.

1-Las Casas

It presents a 400-hectare sprawling settlement of 27 Spanish colonial-heritage houses from various cities and provinces of the Philippines (e.g., Biñan, Bulacan, Cagayan, Ilocos, La Union, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Quezon City). Each house or “casa” was dismantled in situ (in its original place), brick by brick, numbered, transported to this site, where they were reassembled and restored. The houses are often made with a stone foundation on the ground level and made of wood on the upper floor. If parts are missing, bricks and woodwork were replaced to resemble the original structure.

19-Las Casas-layout

If you have arthritis, no worries, dear Seniors, the property offers the following transportation facilities to take you around:

  • Bicycle – reserve, for a fee, per hour;

9-Las Casas-jeepney-MarissaDG

  • Jeepney – pick-up starts in front of Casa Mexico and drops off at Casa New Manila;

 

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  • Kalesa – a horse-drawn carriage; reserve at the Concierge and meet Makisig, the horse, used for this traditional mode of transportation good for 2 to 4 persons;

 

10-Las Casas-A-golf cart-MarissaDG

  • Golf Cart – reserve at Casa Mexico for a fee per hour, whether self-driven (maximum 4 persons) or tour guide-driven (maximum 3 persons); and,

 

7-Las Casas-tram-MarissaDG

  • Tram – a vehicle which goes around the property along a metal railway or track.

 

For Seniors who can afford and who have an architectural, cultural and/or historical interest, this place is for you! You will also have lots of “muni-muni” (reflection) time while strolling from one house to another along the brick pavements or cobblestone streets, or while riding any of the above vehicles and feeling the gentle to strong (depending on the weather/season) wind from the Beach Area, direct from the West Philippine Sea. If you love taking selfies or unique Spanish architecture, more reason to go, just apply lots of sunscreen! If you enjoy spending time walking/strolling with family or “balikbayan friends”, enjoying freshly-baked pandesal from La Panaderia or native delicacies for “merienda” (snacks) at La Parilla/Pica Pica, indulging in local fruity-flavored “sorbetes” (ice cream) peddled by a roving “sorbetero” (ice cream vendor) wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, swimming, sunbathing and appreciating the beautiful sunset while sipping beer/cocktails by the beach, and without the “noisy” nightlife of the city even for just one night, then check this destination out!

4-Las Casas

Stay at least overnight to enjoy this unique resort and savor its beauty on a leisurely pace, preferably on a weekend, to witness traditional native activities (listed below). I visited this nostalgic property on February 2017, along with my high school buddies as part of our 45th jubilee. There are 217 rooms to choose from; check-in is 2 pm and check-out is 12 noon.

12-Las Casas-Casa-New-Manila-QCWe checked-in at the first “casa” or house upon entering the compound, the Casa de New Manila Quezon City.

3-Las Casas

I stayed with my husband in a Deluxe Room with a “retro ambiance” yet still enjoyed the comforts of air-conditioning, a queen-sized bed, television with cable, an in-room safety deposit box, a bathroom with hot and cold water and a separate bathtub and shower, and breakfast was also included.

Other types of rooms are the:

  1. Executive Suite – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza and gazebo; for 6 adults; with 3 queen beds with 2 extra beds;
  2. Family Suite – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view) or beach front, for 6 adults, with 3 queen beds and 2 extra beds;
  3. Large Superior Deluxe – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view, beach front, or plaza); for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds; and, the
  4. Studio with Loft – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza; for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds.

Visit its website for prices/availability/more information: www.lascasasfilipinas.com

16-Las Casas

The following tours are offered (but note that schedules/prices may be changed, so inquire beforehand):

  • A WALKING HERITAGE TOUR held about 7 times daily (9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 4:30 pm), subject to weather conditions, for 1,500 pesos. A trained and eloquent tour guide gives the history of each house. Experience this special one-hour tour with your “amigos/amigas” or family.

Here are some tips for you to maximize this tour: choose comfortable footwear that is easy to remove and wear (since you will be required to leave it at the door of each house before entry; wear socks for hygiene, if desired; wear comfortable and light clothes; during summer or hot days, apply sunblock, wear a cap or hat and even bring an umbrella; and, bring water for hydration. If it is windy, bring a shawl or something to keep you warm and, for ladies, apply a lip balm to protect your lips.

Since my husband and I stayed overnight, we availed of this tour and learned to appreciate more of our country’s rich history, architecture and culture. The tour guides were fluent in both English and Tagalog.

  • An ALL-DAY TOUR for a minimum of 5 persons, with 2,000 pesos nett per person, paid in advance, and cannot be combined with other promotions. There are several schedules daily, subject to weather conditions.
  • A RIVER/BALSA TOUR for a minimum of 4 persons per ride, on an “intimate and romantic” cruise around the property using a “balsa” (raft) for 500 pesos each. You can leisurely float along the Umangol River and the glide along surrounding balconies, brick walls, verandas and arched bridges.
  • A HOTEL DE ORIENTE TOUR is a tour of the faithful replica of the first luxury hotel in Binondo during the Spanish colonial era of our country, for 200 pesos. It is the property’s “premier 3-floor convention center” which can accommodate functions for at least 10 persons to banquets of up to 600 persons. Its lobby boasts of wooden sculptures crafted by Betis and Paete carvers, both well-known for wood-carving.
  • A WORKSHOP TOUR is an in-house workshop where woodcarvings and bricks are traditionally made. The tour starts at Casa Mexico and is held Tuesday to Thursday (9 am/3 pm) and Friday to Sunday (9 am/11 am/3 pm).
  • BATAAN TOUR PACKAGE – Please inquire at 09178329361 (Monday-Saturday, 8:30 am – 5:P30 pm) or visit their website mentioned above.
  • An ART TOUR is coming soon.

Dining outlets include: (1) The Beach Bar; (2) Café del Rio – a tapas1 bar at Casa Sta. Rita; (3) Café Marivent at Casa New Manila – a Filipino-Spanish restaurant at the 2nd floor of the said casa; (4) Cusina ni Nanay Maria – a Filipino restaurant located at Casa Unisan;  (5) La Bella Teodora at Basa Biñan – an Italian restaurant located at Casa Biñan; and, (6) La Parilla and Pica Pica – an open Filipino “street food and beverage” outlet located at Plaza de Castro. I enjoyed their turon (fried, sweet banana spring roll), bibingka (Filipino rice cake), puto bumbong (steamed, rectangular, purple rice cake) and salabat (hot ginger tea).

Other activities are (but schedules/prices/venue may be changed, so inquire beforehand):

  1. Carabao Parade and Race – A colorful parade which starts at 4 pm at Gate 2 and extends to the Beach Area every Saturday and Sunday. A carabao (Filipino swamp-type water buffalo) race and a “palosebo2” are also held at the Beach Area.
  2. Center of Filipino Arts and Culture – An exhibit at Casa Candaba, open daily from 9 am till 5 pm.
  3. Cockfighting – A famous Filipino pastime held every Sunday at 10am at the back of Casa Tondo.
  4. Cultural Show/Mini Fiesta – A show of traditional Filipino dances (maglalatik3, singkil4 and tinikling5) held every Saturday at Casa Hagonoy/Paseo de Escolta at 6 pm (sundown).
  5. Entertainment and Game Room – A room located at Casa Lubao, just a few steps away from Tulay ni Lola Basyang which offers billiards, darts and other board games free of charge, open daily, from 7 am till 7 pm. Contact a Game Coordinator for Filipino games like: patintero6, piko7, sipa8 or sungka9. Casa Lubao also offers fish feeding for 50 pesos.
  6. Fotografia de la Escolta – A professional in-house photography studio where you can schedule a photoshoot wearing the traditional baro’t saya10 or barong11.
  7. Music Shop – A guitar and ukulele shop located at Paseo de Escolta (beside Fotografia de la Escolta).
  8. Napiya Spa – The in-house spa and wellness center located at Paseo de Escolta (Room 212) which offers the traditional Filipino massages like “bentosa12”, “dagdagay13” and “hilot14”. It is open from 10 am till 9 pm.
  9. Pocket Performance – A performance held at the Tanghalang Tasulok every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 am/11:30 am/2:30 pm/4:30 pm.
  10. Sunday Mass – A Catholic mass held at the church called Santuario de San Jose every Sunday at 10:30 am.
  11. Swimming Pool and Beach Area – A “batis15”-inspired swimming pool open daily from 7 am till 9 pm; the Beach Area is open from 6 am till 6 pm daily.
  12. Water Activities – Activities such as banana boat, boat ride, island hopping, jet ski, kayaking and wakeboarding16, subject to weather and current conditions. Make it to Yasa Point for a zip line ride, ATV17 ride, mountain biking and wall climbing for the younger members of your family.

 

18-Las Casas-MarissaDG

This property is part of Historic Hotels Worldwide and part of the Conde Nast Jahansens Luxury Global Collection and Peninsula Hotel’s Pencities Luxe Guide. It is also the 2017 Asia Awards of Excellence winner.

17-Las Casas - Copy

Here are three “casas” and their stories:

11-A- Las Casas-Casa-ByzantinaCasa Byzantina, a 3-storey, intricately designed “floral” stone house from Binonda, Manila, built in 1890 by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, using Neo-Byzantine19 and Neo-Mudéjar20 influences with elaborate and delicate embellishments. It was demolished in 2009 and transferred to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

5-Las Casas-Casa Luna

Casa Luna, built in 1850 and owned by Primitivo Novicio, the uncle of the famous Luna brothers: General Antonio Luna (the first Filipino general who fought in the Philippine-American War) and Juan Luna (the renowned Filipino painter, sculptor and political activist). It was originally located in the municipality of Namacpacan (now Luna, in the province of La Union, named after the brothers). The house is symmetrically constructed and reflects the typical Ilocano18 stone house, with a “cochera” (a garage for carriages and “carrozas” as well as a storeroom for farm produce) at the ground floor, an “entresuelo” (a mezzanine for the servants), the main second floor for bedrooms, toilet and bath, the grand living room, kitchen, and an “azotea” (a flat roof/platform on the top of the house) at the back.

 

13-Las Casas-Casa Mexico-Pampanga

Casa Mexico-Pampanga, a stone house from the municipality of Mexico, in the province of Pampanga, salvaged from a junk shop and reconstructed based on an old photograph.

Overall and personally, this cultural escapade was memorable for me and my high school buddies. We had enough quality time to bond with each other amidst our leisurely strolls as well as “kalesa”/tram/jeepney rides. We had so many beautiful pictures to look back to in the years to come!

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced going to this destination site, either just for the day or overnight? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Thank you!

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1Tapas are small, savory Spanish dishes.

2Palosebo is a traditional Filipino game for boys during a town fiesta or on special occasions in the provinces using a long, straight, polished and greasy bamboo pole with a small bag or flag tied to the top as a reward to whoever could successfully climb, reach it, and retrieve the bag/flag.

3Maglalatik is a male folk dance from the Philippines where coconut shell halves are secured onto the dancers’ hands and on vests upon which are hung 4 or six more coconut shell halves. The dancers perform the dance by hitting one coconut shell with the other, alternately on the hands, on the shoulders and body, to the beat of a fast drumbeat. NOTE: The dance means “latik-maker”, from “latik”, a syrupy, caramelized coconut cream used as a dessert sauce or garnish, used in Filipino cookery.

4Singkil is a popular folk dance of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao (in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao),  performed during celebrations and other festive occasions, based on the epic legend, Darangen, the pre-Islamic Maranao interpretation of the ancient Hindu Indian epic, the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic poem which narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama to rescue his wife, Sita, from the demon king Rayana. This dance was popularized by the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, the oldest dance company in the Philippines, founded in 1957 by Helena Z. Benitez and debuted at Expo ’58 on May 27, 1958, upon the request of President Ramon Magsaysay. Originally, only royal women danced the singkil, as a conscious or unconscious way of attracting potential suitors. A kulintang (an ancient musical instrument composed of a row of small, horizontally laid metal gong kettles, upon a rack, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums, played by striking the bosses of the gongs with 2 wooden beaters) and agung (an ensemble composed of large hanging, suspended or held, knobbed gongs which act as drones) ensemble always accompanies this dance. The female lead dancer gracefully steps in and out of closing bamboo poles arranged in either parallel, rectangular, or criss-cross fashion, while skillfully manipulating either a fan, scarf or by just artistically waving ones bare hands. NOTE: The name of the dance means “to entangle the feet with disturbing objects such as vines or anything in ones path.”

5Tinikling is a Filipino folk dance which involves 2 people beating, tapping, and sliding 2 or 4 parallel pairs of bamboo poles on the ground (or on 2 raised pieces of wood) held by 2 or more sitting or kneeling “clappers” or “clickers” as a percussion instrument, and against each other in coordination with two or more female dancers, wearing embroidered baro’t saya19, and male dancers wearing barong20, who step over and in between the poles, weave through the rapidly moving bamboo poles with bare feet and ankles, traditionally danced to rondalla music, an ensemble of stringed instruments (e.g., bandurrias, guitars, laúdes, octavinas or ukuleles). Traditionally, the poles are tapped twice on the ground on the first 2 beats then brought together on the 3rd beat, with the tempo progressing faster and faster. The dancers need to be skillful and agile not only to follow the rhythm but also not to get their ankles/feet caught between the poles as they are snapped closed. The barefoot dancers start with their hands at their hips or clasped behind their backs, but when the tempo becomes faster, they hold hands, then end by letting go of each other’s hands and stepping out of the moving bamboo poles. NOTE: Tinikling means “to perform like a ‘tikling’, a local bird” which walk gracefully and speedily between grass stems and run over tree branches.

6Patintero is a popular, traditional Filipino street game, using 2 teams, an attack and a defense team, with 5 players each. The attack team must try to run along the perpendicular lines from the home base to the back end, and return without being tagged by the defense players, called “it”. The latter must stand on water/fire lines with both feet each time they try to tag attacking players. The player at the center line is called “patotot”. The perpendicular line at the center allows the “it” designated on that line to intersect the lines occupied by the “it” that the parallel line intersects, thus increasing the chances of the runners to be trapped, even only one member of a group is tagged, the whole group will be the “it”.

7Piko is the Filipino version of hopscotch where players stand behind the edge of a rectangular box, and each should throw their “pamato” (cue ball or flat stone). The first to play is determined on the players’ agreement on the placement of the “pamatos” on a designated line/location and whoever throws the “pamato” nearest the agreed place, will play first. The next nearest is second, etc.

8Sipa is a traditional Filipino game where players kick or toss a washer covered with colorful threads using a foot. A player is thrown upwards and the player starts to toss the washer and counts the number of times s/he does it successfully without the washer touching the ground. The player who has the most kicks wins the game. Sipa literally means “kick”.

9Sungka is the Filipino mancala game played in a wooden board and cowrie shells or stones called “sigays”. A boatlike sungka board has 2 rows of 7 small pits called “bahay” (houses), initially with 7 “sigays”, with an additional bigger hole at both end of the board for each player, called an “ulo” (head) or “inay” (mother) or storehouse, for the captured seashells or stones, owned by a player to his/her left. A player empties one of his/her small pits and distributes its contents in a clockwise direction, one by one, into the following pits including his/her own storehouse but passing the opponent’s storehouse. If the last stone falls into a non-empty small pit, its contents are lifted and distributed in another lap. If the last stone falls into the player’s onw store, the player gets a bonus move. However, if the last stone falls into an empty pit, the move ends and the player is “patay” (dead). If the move ends by dropping the last stone into one of your own small pits, you capture the stones in the opponent’s pit directly across the board and your own stone. The captured shells are “subi” (deposited) in your storehouse. However, if the opponent’s pit is empty, nothing is captured. The first move is plated simultaneously, after which the players take turns alternately. The game ends when no stones are left in the small pits. The player who captures the most shells wins the game.

10Baro’t saya is the national dress of the Philippines traditionally made of piña (pineapple fiber); the feminine equivalent of the barong20. This conservative attire is composed of a blouse is called “baro”, with butterfly sleeves, and the skirt is called “saya”, generally fashioned out of opaque plaid or striped cotton and sinamay varieties. An “alampay” is a square kerchief usually made of the same fabric as the saya, worn over the “baro” to cover the breasts which also doubles as a veil, later called the “panuelo”. An overskirt made of a darker and thicker material called a “tapis” is wrapped around the lower half of the woman’s body and tied at the waist or below the breasts. It is the pre-colonial clothing of the Tagalogs and Visayans made of silk in matching colors, exclusively worn by women from the upper class; those belonging to the lower caste wore a “baro” made from pounded white bark fiber.

 

11Barong is the short term for barong Tagalog, the traditional, lightweight, long-sleeved, embroidered, formal shirt for Filipino males. It is worn untucked over an undershirt. It is considered the national dress of the Philippines.

12Bentosa is an ancient Chinese method used to remove aches and pains and improve the circulation by cupping. It is also spelled “ventosa”. It has 2 types: fire cupping and dry cupping. Fire cupping uses a cup or glass to suction the cold parts at the back of the body which lack blood circulation and have blockages so that they will have normal energy flow. It is executed with a glass cup, candle and oil. Massage oil is applied on the back to create a better seal on the cups, then a candle is lighted with a cotton candle ball on the top. Once the candle is lighted, the cup is placed over the candle so the oxygen is removed and the suction will appear when the skin bloats or puffs. The red marks that will appear after the cupping will disappear after 1-2 days. Dry cupping uses a glass/plastic cup on the skin using a pump so the air is removed by suction.

13Dagdagay is a traditional Filipino acupressure treatment for the legs and feet, originally from the Mountain Province of the Philippines, a way of accessing the body’s entire immune system through the soles of the feet. It begins with a soothing foot soak on healing herbs in a huge clay vessel and capped with a relaxing herbal foot wrap and massage. The therapist uses 2 bamboo or rattan sticks, in pack of finger pressure, to stimulate the soles and cleanse/purify the feet.

14Hilot is the ancient Filipino art of healing in rural areas where, originally, a “manghihilot” uses chiropractic manipulation and massage techniques to treat musculoskeletal ailments, to reset dislocated and sprained joints (ankle, fingers, knee and metacarpal bones). Modern spas use this technique to relieve stress and promote rejuvenation and balance the harmony of the body, emotion and mind, using warm strips of (naturally ionized) banana leaves laved with virgin coconut oil applied on the body before and after a session. The therapist identifies areas of energy imbalance in the body through touch diagnosis. A full body massage involves a combination of slow moving fingers and hand pressure over various pressure points throughout the back and legs, and relaxing the tension in the head and neck.

15A batis is the Tagalog term for a small stream, river or brook.

16Wakeboarding is a surface water sport which involves riding a wakeboard21 over the surface of a body of water. It is a combination of snowboarding, surfing and water skiing. The wakeboard is usually towed behind a motorboat or personal water craft at a speed of 30-40 km/hr, depending on the board size, weight, and type of tricks.

17ATV, or All-Terrain Vehicle, is a vehicle that is designed to handle a wide variety of terrain and travels on 3-4 low-pressure tires with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. The rider sits and operates it like a motorcycle and is stable at slower speeds. It is used in some destinations for a thrilling ride.

18Ilocano is a term which refers to the ethnolinguistic people who live, or come from, the Ilocos Region in the northwestern part of the island of Luzon7, in the Philippines.

19Neo-Byzantine is an architectural revival movement in the 1840s in Western Europe, prevalent among public and religious buildings, especially in Germany and Russia. It combines the Byzantine style with Eastern and Orthodox Christian architecture from the 5th till 11th centuries.

20Neo-Mudéjar is a type of Moorish Revival architecture which started in Madrid, Spain, in the late 19th century, and spread to the rest of that country. It is characterized by abstract-shaped brick ornaments for facades, arabesque tiles and horseshoe arches.

21A wakeboard is a small, mostly rectangular, buoyant and thin board with the core usually made of foam, honeycomb or wood, mixed with resin and coated with fiberglass. It has very little displacement and shoe-like bindings are mounted to it. Metal screws are inserted to attach bindings and fins.

 

 

 

Featured

EL NIDO: Heaven on Earth – Part 1

Location: Province of Palawan, MIMAROPA1 Region, Philippines

My husband and I visited Puerto Princesa2, Palawan3 years ago. The former is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. Palawan is a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier.

We were invited by my high school buddies and their families to El Nido (a first-class municipality in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan), from February 19 to 22, 2017. It was our first time to visit this wonderful destination known for its awesome coral reefs, white-sand beaches, unique lagoons and limestone cliffs.

We were likewise curious how tourism can thrive amidst the so-called El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)4, the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, covering 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor.

We heard so much about El Nido’s beauty so we did not hesitate to join the group to discover this new destination which was part of our bucket list.

21-El-Nido

Everything was pre-arranged by my very dependable and travel-savvy friend from the US so my husband and I just paid for our share. Here is the first part of our unforgettable adventure!

Our group arrived at the Puerto Princesa Airport and two vans were waiting for us provided by Daytripper Palawan. The mini-packs of banana chips, bottled water and, of course, the professional driving skills of our drivers were very much appreciated. It was about a 6-hour trip from the airport to El Nido, and we stopped a couple of times for the “call of nature”, to stretch a bit, as well as have our lunch. Some of us appreciated the view while some slept along the way.

We finally arrived at Sea Cocoon, our hotel, and we all checked-in. We used the remaining time to explore the town, its market and retail stalls, the beach, and savored its local and fresh seafood for dinner along a seaside restaurant. We slept early the previous night because this will be the first of our 3 day-tour that will take us around this awesome destination.

We had a good night’s rest after a hot shower and slept soundly on a comfortable bed in our air-conditioned room. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was so good!

I am also lucky to have a well-organized friend who even provided durable hard-plastic beach bags where I could place all my (and my husband’s) needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water for hydration, comb, towels, sunglasses, well-protected cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. Photos were taken after breakfast, all met at the lobby, trooped to the beach (which was just about 3 minute-walk from our hotel) and before we knew it, we were all aboard our big banca (boat) for the day.

My friend contracted Hello El Nido for the 3 packaged tours and may I say that my husband and I were very satisfied with the services of the management and all the boatmen/crew. Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

It also seemed that the local government has standardized the packaged tours of El Nido which is beneficial for us, first-time tourists. Our tour that day is marketed as TOUR C – SECRET ISLANDS AND BEACHES, costing 1,400 pesos each person.

We wore our safety vests and enjoyed the natural beauty – 360 degrees! Worried that you cannot swim? Don’t be! You can stay in the banca but I do not recommend that and I am so sure you will not because of the beauty of all the stops. All destinations are safe for all ages and all stops are worth the trip! So, listen up, it’s our first packaged tour of El Nido and I know you will be excited with me as I recall our tour.

The first stop was SECRET BEACH which can only be accessed by swimming and going through a small crevice in a rock wall. No worries, dearest seniors, I gained weight and still fitted LOL! Besides, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist you: seniors, kids, and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will be awed by this pristine beach and its beauty and thus, a secret no more!

Next was HIDDEN BEACH, surrounded by fantastic limestone rock formations. You can just float with your life vest or swim, just be careful not to be near sharp corals.

The STAR OF TALISAY BEACH was the next stop. It is a snorkeling site and was also our lunch stop. Now, I am sure you are curious to know about the buffet lunch. Let me tell you that all such meals for our 3 package tours were soooo good, thanks to Hello El Nido! The freshly cooked “inihaw” (grilled) pork and seafood (shrimps/fish/squids), along with fresh vegetables/seaweed salad, hot steamed rice, and fresh fruits were always a welcome feast for our group! Burp! Drinking water was also provided. Happy tummies always! My best advice is for you to bring cash for fresh buko (young coconut) or cold softdrinks sold in island stops.

1-El-Nido- lunch buffet

The MATINLOC SHRINE or the SHRINE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, is located in an island maintained by the descendants of the original owner. Be prepared for a 100 peso-entrance fee. The shrine is serene and satisfies the religious among us seniors. The big old house seemed abandoned but you can imagine its splendor when it was new and operational. Our group went up a cemented area with steps leading to the peak where we had an unforgettable view for miles and miles!

Last was HELICOPTER ISLAND, a helicopter-shaped island when viewed from afar, ideal for snorkeling and diving.

This first packaged tour was indeed wonderful! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of http://www.helloelnido.com! Your kind boatmen returned us to our shores early so we can enjoy the majestic sunset in this picturesque island! We felt so lucky to have another dinner along the shore for us to breathe in all the good vibes while we savored the fresh seafood treats we ordered!

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Just scroll to the bottom of this post and type your comment in the designated box. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you.

Watch out for my next post and discover the other beautiful islands of El Nido!

Do visit my El Nido posts:

EL NIDO: Blue Lagoons – Part 2

and

EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

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1MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

2“Puerto Princesa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto Princesa.

3“Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

 4“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El Nido,_Palawan.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

TAO YUAN RESTAURANT: YUMMY CHINESE-SINGAPOREAN TREATS

Location: 2/F Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, Philippines

A niece of ours brought us to Resorts World Manila (an integrated resort*) in Pasay City and since it was almost lunch time and we were already hungry, she suggested we try this Chinese-Singaporean seafood restaurant at the second floor of Newport Mall. We said we were willing to try it and here is our dining experience for four.

The dining area was spacious, the air conditioning gave a comfortable ambiance and the head receptionist was very accommodating who led us to a table and graciously took our orders. I appreciated coming early for lunch because I heard that this place is popular and crowded during lunch and dinner.

1-Tao Yuan
Singaporean Fried Fish Skin

Our appetizer was Singaporean Fried Fish Skin and this is to die for!  The salted egg taste along with the crispy fish skin was so yummy so I told myself, this is definitely a Cheat Day for me due its generous portion and this was just for starters! It was worth 328 peso. We were not able to finish it so we asked this to be wrapped and we continued to enjoy it at home after being heated in the microwave, and was still so yummy!

2-Tao Yuan
Scallops with Minced Vegetable Soup

We just had a small order of Scallops with Minced Vegetable Soup and it was served at the right temperature, subtle yet delicious. The texture and delicate taste made this dish a delectable treat at 498 pesos.

3-Tao Yuan
Hainanese Chicken

We had half an order of their Singaporean Boneless Hainanese Chicken, a favorite among its customers. Now I know why! It is so tender and its delicate taste, along with the accompanying dips, makes you want to dig in for more. The 750 price was worth it.

4-Tao Yuan
Salted Fish and Diced Chicken

The Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Diced Chicken was tasty yet complemented the dishes we ordered so I enjoyed them all together or even just the fried rice alone! A small order costs 398 pesos.

5-Tao Yuan
Roasted Crispy Pork Belly

The Roasted Crispy Pork Belly was a winner! The crispy skin yet tender meat with its dip was just right for meat lovers. It costs 428 pesos.

6-Tao Yuan
Scallops with Broccoli Flowers

Scallops with Broccoli Flowers was ordered for someone craving for vegetables. Even the kid with us enjoyed this dish. The contrasting texture of the broccoli along with the smooth and the pleasantly-flavored scallops was a great combination. A small order costs 980 pesos.

We were given a complimentary dessert of almond lychee and it was refreshing with just the right sweetness, after all the dishes we enjoyed!

I just want to say that I paid for our meal and these are my personal comments based on the orders we made. It is a bit pricey but we had value for money and we were very satisfied! Happy tummies!

We will definitely come back to this restaurant and try their other dishes. I was told that dimsum is served in their other branch and would like to try it too.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in this restaurant or in any of its other branches? Do you know other Chinese restaurants you want me to feature? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*An integrated resort is a type of resort which features lodging, gaming, convention failities, entertainment shows, fine dining outlets, high-end retail outlets, and theme parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARABELA: Awesome Coffee Shop at the Foot of Mount Banahaw

Location: 503 Rizal Street (the street parallel to Gat Tayaw Street with all the footwear shops), Liliw, Laguna, Philippines

I have been a frequent diner of this coffeeshop-restaurant for about a decade. I remember sneaking out with my graduate school buddies in between classes when I was taking my Doctorate degree in Education in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, just to savor its various treats and then to return, obviously late, for our afternoon classes.

BeFunky Collage-1                                 Arabela, 503 Rizal Street, Liliw, Laguna, Philippines

Arabela (Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop) is a cozy, casual restaurant located in the small highland town of Liliw1, at the foot of Mount Banahaw2. Liliw is known as the Flip-flops Capital of the Philippines, with one long main street full of footwear shops.

Arabela offers delightful dishes, sweets and drinks, all of which make me feel like I am dining in Metro Manila, even if I am about 100 kilometers away. The food selection is good for kids too. Happy tummies for all!

It is located at the lower portion of a renovated 20th century house. It has a low-ceiling since it was originally intended as a storeroom. So, tall persons need to stoop a bit while walking to a designated table – a small inconvenience for an enjoyable dining experience. The long cue of wannabe-diners patiently waiting, or opting to just dine on tables set up on the side street outside the restaurant, attests to its popularity.

It opened on 2002, with two tables used to sell cakes and pastries within the neighborhood. It is owned by Bobby and Antonette “Tonet” Camello who named the restaurant after their two daughters – Ara and Bela. They started with cakes and brownies, and then re-launched on October 23, 2003 as a coffeeshop-restaurant with five tables. Eventually, they maximized their seating capacity to 50, and offered an Italian menu that included appetizers through desserts, along with hot and cold beverages, and now, even wines.

First time diners will definitely feel good knowing that after hours of walking along the main street of the town buying different footwear and pasalubongs, they have a place to finally rest from shopping and to satisfy their palates with the food and drinks offered by Arabela.

 

The interior is a mixture of cool and refreshing yellow painted walls filled with paintings and photos. The air-conditioning provides a comfortable dining temperature even during sizzling summer days, and the staff skillfully escorts you to an available and appropriate table. Tables are cramped, yet diners do not mind this layout at all because of the quality of the menu selection.

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Once you enter, you will immediately realize the low ceiling. Up ahead from the entrance is a tempting, refrigerated display of different cheesecakes and pastries to make you crave for a sweet ending to your meal.

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Various wines are also displayed on a small table to the right, suggesting the appropriate libation companion for your orders, before you turn left for more tables.

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Straight ahead, thereafter,are the hand-washing area and restrooms — with an even lower ceiling — but these are well-maintained, and are much appreciated features in such a simple town.

The finishing touches of the dishes/desserts as well as the beverage preparation are seen by diners since the pantry area is open, along with the cashier’s section, the latter surrounded by inviting “pasalubongs3” of different chocolate, assorted nuts, and local goodies.

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Seniors, get your fill from the following:

StartersFresh Salads (Caesar, House, Insalata Mare, Pecan Crusted Chicken, Sicilian Chicken, and Walnut – PHP 300-320), Salads (Macaroni, and Potato – PHP 100/120), Appetizers (Chicken Fingers, French Fries, Mojos, and Onion Rings – PHP 70-110), Soups (Asparagus, Chicken, Mushroom, and Squash – PHP 100-120), and Bread (Garlic, and Stuffed Pizza – PHP 10/40)

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Pizzas – Bacon-Chicken-Mushroom Melt, BBQ Chicken, De Luxe, Garden Veggie, Four Cheese, Hawaiian, Kesong Puti3, Margherita, Meat Supreme, Mediterranean, Pepperoni, Prosciutto – Large (PHP320), XL (PHP360) and Thick (PHP420-430)

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PastaBaked (Baked Macaroni, Baked Ziti4, and Beef Lasagna – PHP120-130); Pasta in White Sauce (Alfredo, Carbonara, and Fettuccine – PHP 120-130); Pasta in Red Sauce (Eggplant, Italian Style, Marinara, Pinoy Style, Pomodoro, and Puttanesca – PHP120-140); House SpecialtiesOlive Oil (Fish in White Wine; Fortulana; Fusili; Pancetta Magreta; Spaghettini with Aglio de Olio; Spaghettini with Anchovies, Black Olives and Tomato; Spaghettini with Italian Sausage, and Vongole – PHP 270-300); Pesto (Plain, Grilled Chicken Pesto, Penne in Creamy Pesto Sauce, Salmon in Creamy Pesto, Seafood in Creamy Pesto Sauce, Seafood Pesto, and Shrimp Pesto – PHP280-320); Tomato-Based (Chicken Parmigiano, Eggplant Parmigiano, Grilled Chicken in Marinara Sauce, Mediterranean Grilled Fish, Penne Arrabiata, Pescatora, Ratatouille, Seafood in Marinara Sauce, Seafood Puttanesca, Shrimp Pomodoro – PHP 270-320); Creamy Tomato (Baked Penne Florentine, Penne Al Telepono, Pink Salmon Pasta – PHP280-300); and Cream-Based (Grilled Chicken in Alfredo Sauce, Fettucine in Alfredo Sauce with Prosciutto, Seafood in Alfredo Sauce, Sirloin Fettucine, Veneziana – PHP290-300)

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Seafood – Blue Marlin, Boneless Bangus4 Belly, Cartoccio, Grilled Fish in Caponata Sauce, Mixed Seafoods, Pan Grilled John Dory, Parmesan Crusted Fish, Pink Salmon, Sinaing na Bangus4, Tanigue5, and Tortilla Wrapped Fish – PHP240-320, mostly with vegetables/salad and rice/mashed potato

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Pork – Grilled (Country Style Pork, Korean Pork BBQ, Pork BBQ on Stick, Pork Chop – PHP 160-240) and Baby Back Ribs (Baby Back Beef -2 pieces, ¼ slab, PHP250/300); Baby Back Pork ¼ slab – PHP250

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Desserts – Bread Pudding, Brownies (Plain, Fudge Walnut Brownie, Ghirardelli6 – PHP17-60) and Cheesecakes (Affogato7, Black Velvet, Blueberry, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Chips, Choco Lava, Choco Mousse, Dulce de Leche, Oreo, Red Velvet, Strawberry & Mango, Tiramisu – PHP120-145)

Waffles – Plain, Blueberry, Cheese, Chocolate, Mango, Nutella and Strawberry – with cream (PHP70-90) or ala mode (PHP85-110)

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Coffee– Café Americano, Café Latte, Café Mocha, Cappuccino, Crème Brulee Latte, Espresso, Hazelnut Cream, Irish Cream, Long Coffee, Macchiato, Mocha Chocomint, Peppermint Mocha, Turtle Latte, White Choco Peppermint Mocha, White Mint Cappuccino (PHP80-130)

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Specialty DrinksHot (Café Mocha, Cinnamon Mocha, Hot Chocolate Float, Real Hot Chocolate, White Heat – PHP120), Ice Coffee (Cappuccino, Dark Arabica, Latte Arabica, Mocha Arabica – PHP100), and Other Cold Drinks (Chocolate & Almond Float, Cold Chocolate Drink, Frappuccino, Green Tea Matcha, Irish Mocha, Milky Way, Mocha Cream, Mocha Float, Strawberry Frappe, White Rabbit – PHP 130-140)

Other DrinksItalian Soda (Blue Mojito, Green Apple, Green Apple Mint, Green Soda, Green Soda Mint, Kiwi, Kiwi Mint – PHP120), Juices (Apple Nectar, Grape Nectar, Lemon, Mango, Orange Nectar, Peach Nectar, Pineapple – PHP85), Fresh Fruits Shakes (Avocado, Celery, Green Mango, Lemon, Mango-Grape-Strawberry, Ripe Mango, Strawberry, Watermelon, and Watermelon-Mango-Grape – PHP130-140), Sodas (Coke, Coke Light, Coke Zero, Mountain Dew, Mug, Sprite, 7Up), and Lemon Iced Tea (PHP70)

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So, when you get tired walking from one footwear stall to another in Liliw, Laguna, do visit Arabela. Be aware that it has a limited capacity (for 50 people only) and easily gets packed, but is totally worth the eventual wait.

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This restaurant opens daily at 11:15 AM, after the team prays together, and closes at 7 PM. Yes, you read it right, 7 PM, so come early for dinner since last orders are taken at 6:45 PM!

I have witnessed and honestly appreciate improvements in this restaurant through the years yet somehow yearn for the early days when portions and ingredients were quite generous. Nonetheless, current presentations and portions are just fine with me.

Here are my favorites, over the years: Walnut Salad, Seafood Puttanesca, Seafood in Alfredo Sauce, Baby Back Ribs, assorted cheesecakes, and Watermelon Shake.

Arabela-food-3                                                            Walnut Salad, yum!

 

Arabela-food-12                                     Assorted cheesecakes for my sweet tooth!

Some consider the prices of menu items as high but I consider the food/drinks worth it and still go to this restaurant to-date, entertaining visiting family and friends.

The staff are efficient, attentive and friendly. Service is relatively fast, even during peak hours.

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for all my visits in this restaurant.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Do leave a comment, either on the upper right corner of this post by clicking “Leave a comment”, or type/enter your comment on the “Leave a Reply” box. Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab, and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

Contact information: Telephone: (049) 5632495; Mobile Numbers: 0917-2041447 and 0927-3860639; Facebook: Arabela

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1Liliw is a small highland town in Laguna, located at District 4. It is bounded on the northwest by the town of Sta. Cruz, west by Nagcarlan, northeast by Magdalena, east by Majayjay, and on the south by Dolores, Quezon. The One Town One Product (OTOP8) of this fourth class municipality9 is footwear which is like Marikina City10, in Metro Manila. It is also known for its cold-water spring resorts, native homemade sweets, and its Baroque11-style parish church, all to be featured in future posts. Information derived from Wikipedia page “Liliw”.12

2Mount Banahaw is an active, three-peaked volcano located between the provinces of Laguna and Quezon, in the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. It is the tallest mountain in the CALABARZON13 region, with an elevation of 2,170 meters, so it is a favorite among mountain climbers. It is also considered a “sacred mountain” and pilgrims visit its sacred springs, caves, streams and boulders. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Mount Banahaw”.14

3Kesong Puti, literally “white cheese” in Tagalog, is a soft, unaged, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao’s milk, rennet15 (or vinegar) and salt. It is similar to cottage cheese, with its soft texture and slightly salty taste. It is a popular breakfast item, eaten with pan de sal16 in the Philippines. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Kesong puti”.17

4Bangus, or milkfish, is the local term for the (unofficial yet commonly considered) national fish of the Philippines. This elongated fish is the sole living species in the family of Chanidae, with the binomial name of ChanosChanos. It usually measures no more than 1 meter (39 inches) in length, but can grow to 1.80 meters (5 ft. 11 inches) in length. It has an almost compressed body, with a generally symmetrical and streamlined appearance, one dorsal fin, falcate pectoral fins and a sizeable forked caudal fin. Its body is colored olive green, with silvery flanks and dark bordered fins. Its mouth is small and toothless. It feeds on algae, cyanobacteria and small invertebrates. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Milkfish”.18

5Tanigue, or tangigue, refers to the following fishes in the Philippines: Indo-Pacific king mackerel (Scomberomorusguttatus), narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomoruscommerson), striped bonito (Sardaorientalis), Wahoo (Acanthocybiumsolandri), Scomberaustraliscus, Scomber japonicus, Scomberomorusqueensladicus, and Scomberomorus semifasciatus.19 It is commonly cut crosswise into thick “steaks” and then fried or grilled, dipped in soy sauce with calamansi, and served with steamed rice in the Philippines.

6Ghirardelli refers to the chocolate product line of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, the United States division of Swiss confectioner Lindt &Sprüngli. It was founded by, and named after, Italian chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli who settled in California, according to Wikipedia page “Ghirardelli Chocolate Company”.20

7Affogato is an Italian coffee-based dessert, usually consisting of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream, topped with a shot of hot espresso. Amaretto, Bicerin, or other liqueurs may be used instead of espresso, according to Wikipidea page “Affogato”.21

8OTOP stands for One Town, One Product, a promotional program of the Philippine government that aims to promote the best goods and products of Filipino towns, cities, and regions, and provides funding for micro, small and medium-scale businesses. Said program is administered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and was launched in 2004. It covers tangible products and skills-based services: agri-based products, arts and crafts (e.g., bamboo, coco coir, paper artistry, weaves, and wood), home and fashion/creative artisanal (e.g., décor, fabrics, furniture, garments, houseware, gifts, souvenir items, textiles and toys), processed food, and skills-based services (e.g., hilot, sculpting, personal care and wellness products).22

9A fourth-class municipality is the fourth income classification (out of six) of a municipality or town in the Philippines, and has an annual income of PHP25,000,000-34,999.999 during the previous four calendar years. NOTE: The highest level is a first-class municipality with at least PHP55 million, followed by, in descending order, a second-class municipality with PHP45 million-54,999,999, a third-class municipality with PHP35 million-44,999,999, a fifth-class municipality with15 million-24,999,999, and the lowest level is a sixth-class municipality with at most PHP15 million. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.23

10Marikina City is a highly urbanized city in Metro Manila known as the Shoe Capital of the Philippines, producing almost 70% of the shoes manufactured in the country, according to Wikipedia page “Marikina”.24

11Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, art and music that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the late 18th century, following the Renaissance style, and preceding the Neoclassical style. Baroque churches were designed with a large central space where the churchgoers could be close to the altar with a dome or cupola overhead, allowing light to illuminate the church below. A Baroque-style church also features, among others, the quadrature with lavish paintings of saints and angels on the ceiling, connected by architectural details with the balustrades and consoles, giving an impression of real figures as if one looks up to heaven, according to Wikipedia page “Baroque”.25

12Liliw”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liliw.

13The CALABARZON region, Southern Tagalog Mainland, or Region IV-A, is an administrative region in the Philippines, named after the acronym of its five provinces: Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

14“Mount Banahaw”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Banahaw.

15Rennet is a complex of enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals such as cattle, antelope, deer, goats, kangaroo, sheep and yaks26, which acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions.27

16Pan de sal is the popular and common bread served for breakfast in the Philippines made of flour, eggs, salt, sugar, and yeast. It literally means “salt bread” in Spanish.

17“Kesong puti”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesong_puti.

18“Milkfish”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milkfish.

19www.aboutfilipinofood.com

20“Ghirradelli Chocolate Company”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Chocolate_Company.

21”Affogato”,accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/affogato.

22www.dti.gov.ph

23“Municipalities of the Philippines”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.

24“Marikina”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marikina.

25“Baroque”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroque.

26“Rennet”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rennet.

27“Ruminant”, accessed June 1, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruminant.

HANA: HAPPY TUMMY ALL THE TIME!

Location: National Highway, Barangay Sampalocan, Pagsanjan, Laguna, Philippines

Konnichiwa (“Hello”) from Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant, or simply HANA, my family’s third place1! You have to try this restaurant when you go to, or pass by, the town of Pagsanjan!

I was told by Eileen Christina Nishino, the wife of the current owner, that “shin” means “first” and “hana” means “flower”.

Hana, the favorite Japanese restaurant in Pagsanjan of my family, was established in 2004 by Masami Nishino. It had an original total seating capacity of 35. When he passed away, his son, Masami Nishino, Jr., took over and, in 2014, had it renovated to its current state.

You cannot miss this restaurant which is located along the national highway in Pagsanjan. Coming from Sta. Cruz, Laguna and driving towards Pagsanjan’s famous arch, it is easy to spot Hana to the right of the Iglesia ni Cristo church.

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It has parking good for only 5 vehicles so come early, or double park, but you may be requested to move your vehicle when needed.

It has a casual, but cozy, dining area, and business hours are daily from 11 am till 10 pm.1-Hana-interior-left

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The sushi bar and pantry are open so you can see how orders are made. During busy hours, the owner himself prepares orders like maki2, sashimi3 and sushi4.

Hana offers different kinds of: maki2, sashimi3, sushi4, soups, salads, agemono5, onigiri6, donburi7, bento8, teppanyaki9, yakkimono10, nabemono11, ramen12, soba13, udon14,angus beef15 selections, desserts and drinks.

You are warmly greeted by a female waitstaff once you pass through the sliding entrance door.  She escorts you to an available, and appropriate, table for your party/group. Menu cards are distributed and orders are taken.

Complimentary tazukuri16 is served while orders are prepared. Disposable wooden chopsticks are provided. You may request for their complimentary house rice tea, and fork/spoon, if you so desire.

1-Food-Rice tea        a welcome treat: complimentary house rice tea, Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant

Dearest Seniors, do not hesitate to inquire about their bestsellers and what the Japanese terms are, if you are not familiar with certain Japanese dishes. The cheerful and efficient waitresses are very helpful and will patiently explain menu items to customers. I hope my footnotes in this post will somehow help you too.

Hana offers the following maki2: California Maki, Crab Maki, Futomaki, Kappa Maki, Oshinko Maki, Salmon Maki, Tamago Maki, Teka Maki, and Unagi Maki.1-Hana-Menu-maki

1-Food-Maki collage    Marvelous Maki (l-r): CALIFORNIA MAKI, FUTO MAKI, KEPPA MAKI and TEKA MAKI                    (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

There are seven kinds of sashimi3: crab, salmon, sashimimoriwase, shimesaba, squid, tamagoyaki, and tuna.1-Hana-Menu-sashimi

1-Food-Sashimi Moriawase-fr Hana                                                           SASHIMI MORIAWASE                                                                                (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

Eight variations of sushi4 are available: crab, ebiko, salmon, shimesaba, squid, tamago, tuna, and unagi.1-Hana-Menu-sushi

1-Food-Sushi collage                        Sushi delights – KANI SUSHI and MAGURO SUSHI (limited period)                                  (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

Two soups (Miso Soup and Tamago Soup) and four salads (California Salad, Crab Salad, Grilled Chicken Salad, and Potato Salad) are offered as well.1-Hana-Menu-soup-salad

Different kinds of agemono5 are available: Agedashi Tofu, Atsuage Tofu, Chicken Karaage, Chicken Katsu, Ebi Fry, Kisu Fry, Korokke, Crab/Fish/Shrimp/Vegetable/Mixed Tempura, and Tonkatsu.1-Hana-Menu-agemono

1-Food-Agemono collage                  Savoring shrimps at Hana – EBI TEMPURA and SHRIMP TEMPURA                                     (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

1-Food-Chicken Karaage-fr Hana                                                            CHICKEN KARAAGE                                                                              (photo taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

Hana also offers the following variations of onigiri6: Gohan, Hiya Yako, Kimchee, Ochazuke, Okaka, Oshinko, Plum, Salmon, Wakame Kyurisunomono, and Yaki Meshi.1-Hana-Menu-onigiri

There are nine kinds of donburi7: Chicken/Pork Katsudon, Chicken Teriyakidon, Gyudon, Kakiagedon, Kimchidon, Oyakodon, Tendon, Unadon, and Yakiniku Don.1-Hana-Menu-donburi

1-Food-Donburi collage              Yummy Donburi: CHICKEN TERIYAKIDON, GYUDON and KATSUDON                                (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

Different versions of bento8 are on the menu: Chicken Teriyaki, Hana, Korroke, Salmon Teriyaki, Tempura, Tonkatsu, Torikatsu, and Beef/Pork Yakiniku.1-Hana-Menu-bento

1-Food-Beef Yakiniku Bento              BEEF YAKINIKU BENTO, served with Miso Soup, Sashimi, Potato Salad                              Plain Rice and Dessert, at Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant, Pagsanjan, Laguna

1-Food-Chicken Teriyaki Bento-ok          CHICKEN TERIYAKI BENTO, served with Miso Soup, Sashimi, Potato Salad,                         Plain Rice and Dessert, at Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant, Pagsanjan, Laguna

1-Food-Hana Bento               HANA BENTO, served with Miso Soup, Sashimi, Shrimp Tempura,                                                          Beef Yakiniku, Potato Salad, Plain Rice and Dessert,                                                                   at Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant, Pagsanjan, Laguna

Hana offers the following teppanyaki9 dishes: Chicken, Gyoza, Salmon/Tofu Steak, and Yasaiitame.1-Hana-Menu-Tepanyaki

1-Food-Tepanyaki collage                           Tempting Tepanyaki: BEEF TEPANYAKI and SALMON STEAK                                         (photos taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

There are eleven different kinds of yakkimono10: Beef/Chicken/Salmon Teriyaki, Saba/Salmon/SanmaSioyaki,Shougayaki, Unagi Kabayaki, Beef/Pork Yakiniku, Yakitori.1-Hana-Menu-yakimono

1-Food-Beef Yakiniku-fr Hana                                                                   BEEF YAKINIKU                                                                                        (photo taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

1-Food-Chicken Teriyaki and Plain Rice-OK                                  CHICKEN TERIYAKI, served with Potato Salad,                                                                           Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant, Pagsanjan, Laguna

Hana also serves: two nabemono11– Shabu-Shabu and Sukiyaki; four ramen12– hiyashi, miso, shoyu, and yakiniku; seven soba13– kitsune, niku, tanuki, tori, ten zaru, yaki, and zaru; and five udon14– kitsune, niku, tanuki, tori, and yaki.1-Hana-Menu-nabemono

1-Hana-Menu-ramen

1-Hana-Menu-soba

1-Hana-Menu-Udon

1-Food-Curry-Udon-Hana                                                    CURRY UDON (limited period;                                                                          photo taken from the Facebook account: Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant)

Angus beef15 selections are offered: Beef Teriyaki/Usuyaki/Yakiniku; Gyudon; Hana Bento; Kimchi Don; Niku/Soba/Udon; Shabu-shabu; Sukiyaki; Yakiniku Bento8/Don7/Ramen121-Hana-Menu-angus-beef

Hana also offes desserts and assorted drinks.1-Hana-Menu-desserts-drinks

1-Food-Shira Tama-OK                                       SHIRA TAMA, Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant

We recommend our favorites: Miso Soup, Salmon Sashimi3, Grilled Chicken Salad, Sukiyaki, Japanese Fried Rice, Shrimp Tempura, Chicken Teriyakidon and Tempura Ice Cream. I consider the price mid-range, although some people find it high.

1-Food-Miso soupTHE MISO SOUP is served hot and I enjoy this as a low-calorie/fat appetizer. It is not salty and the portion is just right.

1-Food-Grilled Chicken Salad           The GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD is perfect for the diet-conscious guest                                                            or the guest  who wants to eat light. Try it!

1-Food-Sukuyaki SUKIYAKI (with egg) is served hot and good for sharing, dear Seniors! Just ask for smaller bowls. The broth is savory. The combination of all the ingredients results in the richness of this satisfying dish.

Food-Ebi-Tempura-fr Hana-okWhen I crave for fried food, I order SHRIMP TEMPURA. This delicious dish is served hot with a crispy coating of reasonably-sized shrimps. The dip is fine but I request for more grated horseradish.

1-Food-Tempura Ice CreamI order the TEMPURA ICE CREAM beforehand, and request that it be served when I have finished my main dish since it takes time to prepare and I want to enjoy it just right after preparation. Delightfully cold vanilla ice cream is covered with  a crispy tempura batter with the right amount of chocolate syrup, drizzled on top, prior to serving. It is the best way to finish a full meal at Hana! Seniors without diabetes, this is also for sharing.

Cash and credit card payments are accepted. Seniors, do not forget to present your Senior Citizen card for a discount.

The common rest room is decent, clean, and well-supplied. The sink for washing one’s hands is located immediately outside the rest room. Liquid soap, folded paper napkins are available and easily thrown in a garbage can.1-Hana-interior-3

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for all my visits in this restaurant.

Contact details: Cell phone Number – 09178752165; Facebook – Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant; Email: shinhanajapanese@gmail.com

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Do leave a comment, either by clicking “Leave a comment” on the upper right corner of this post, or type/enter your comment on the “Leave a Reply” box. Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab, and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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For those not familiar with Japanese or certain terms used in this post, I hope these footnotes will be helpful:

1A third place is a social venue for socializing. It could be a neighborhood restaurant, café, bar/pub, church, clubhouse, park, etc., as long as it accessible, welcoming/comfortable, free/inexpensive, involves regular/habitual congregation, and facilitates/fosters interaction among people. NOTE: The first place is one’s home; the second place is one’s workplace (for those working) or school (for those studying). Information is according to Wikipedia page “Third place”.17

2Maki, short for makizushi, is rolled sushi4 formed into a cylindrical piece using a bamboo mat called a makisu. It is generally wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) then cut into 6 or 8 pieces, for a single roll order. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Sushi”.18

3Sashimi is a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced, fresh, raw fish or meat, often served as the first course in a formal Japanese meal but may also be served as the main course. It is garnished with long thin strands of daikon (white radish) or single leaves of the shiso herb (perilla). It is served with soy sauce as a dipping sauce, along with condiments – wasabi paste (the hot Japanese green paste made from the wasabi rhizome), grated fresh ginger, and ponzu (Japanese dipping sauce made from fish flake broth — simmered from a mixture of fish flakes, mirin, rice vinegar and kombu, then cooled and strained — plus lime juice and soy sauce). Information is according to Wikipedia page “Sashimi”.19

4Sushi is a Japanese dish made of specially prepared vinegared medium grain white rice or brown rice combined with a variety of ingredients (e.g., raw/cooked seafood, vegetables, tropical fruits). Sushi can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish. Fillings, toppings, condiments (shoyu or soy sauce, wasabi, Japanese-style mayonnaise) and preparation vary widely. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Sushi”.18

5Agemono is the Japanese term for deep-fried dishes.

6Onigiri are Japanese rice balls made from white rice formed into balls, squares, cylinders, triangles or any novelty shape, filled and/or topped with desired ingredients. Onigiri are often wrapped in nori.

7Donburi is a Japanese rice bowl dish consisting of fish, meat, vegetables, and other ingredients simmered together and served over rice. It is sometimes shortened to “don”. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Donburi”.20

8Bento is a single portion Japanese meal, usually served in a square compartmentalized lacquerware, called a bento box, in Japanese restaurants. It generally consists of rice, fish/shrimp or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. It can be a home-packed meal or a take-out meal. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Bento”.21 In Hana, bento orders also come with miso soup and dessert.

9Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food.

10Yakkimono is a Japanese dish, often served as an appetizer, made of pieces of marinated, skewered and grilled meat.

11Nabemono refers to Japanese hot pot dishes.

12Ramen is the Japanese term for a noodle soup consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles, a meat/fish-based broth (often flavored with soy sauce or miso) with various toppings (e.g., chashu or sliced pork, menma or lactate-fermented bamboo shoots, negi or green onions, and nori or dried seaweed). Information is according to Wikipedia page “Ramen”.22

13Soba is the Japanese term for buckwheat. It usually refers to thin noodles made from buckwheat flour, or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours. They contrast to thick wheat noodles, called udon14. Information is according to Wikipedia page “Soba”.23

14Udon is a type of Japanese thick wheat flour noodles, often served hot as a noodle soup, according to Wikipedia page “Udon”.24

15Angus beef is meat that comes from the Aberdeen Angus, originally a Scottish breed of small beef cattle, according to Wikipedia page “Angus cattle”.25 The meat is well marbled, more tender and flavorful than regular beef.

16Tazukuri refers to the crispy, candied anchovies or baby sardines, combined with sesame seeds and coated in a sweet honey soy sauce-sake glaze, usually served as a complimentary appetizer in Japanese restaurants, while waiting for one’s orders.

17“Third place”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place.

18“Sushi”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sushi.

19“Sashimi”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sashimi.

20“Donburi”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donburi.

21“Bento”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento.

22“Ramen”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen.

23“Soba”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soba.

24“Udon”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udon.

25“Angus cattle”, accessed July 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angus_cattle.

Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE THE NEW (2018) PHILIPPINE COINS?

I have a Balikbayan friend who arrived recently and asked me if she can still use the Philippine old coins she kept from her recent visit.

IMG_6016                   Old Philippine coins (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

Well, dearest Balikbayan friend, Seniors, and other tourists who might not know about the new (2018) Philippine coins, here’s a summary:

The Central Bank of the Philippines (Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Filipino, abbreviated as BSP) released the complete newly designed New Generation Currency (NGC) Coin Series on March 26, 2018. The series was formally launched in July 2018, to coincide with the BSP’s 24th anniversary.

IMG_6015 - Copy                                        Summary of Designs, 2018 Philippine coins                                                                                  (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

 

The old coins will remain in circulation, to coexist with the new coins, and can still be used for day-to-day business transactions until the BSP calls for their demonetization.

The NGC Series was produced using the latest technology in minting coins, and features enhanced aesthetics and security to deter counterfeiting as well as to improve wear and corrosion resistance capabilities.The BSP announced that the metallic composition of these coins similarly discourages the illegal practice of hoarding copious quantities of coins for the extraction of their metal content in overseas smelting entities.

NGC features modern designs for the 1-centavo, 5-centavo, 25-centavo, 1-peso, 5-peso, and 10-peso coins. Take note, dearest Seniors, there is no NGC 10-centavo coin. Thus, the old ten-centavo coin remains in place. Can you recall what it looks like, Foreign Senior? See the picture above.

The BSP announced that all the NGC coins have “a metallic silver appearance”, and are “made from durable nickel-plated steel that possesses very good wear and corrosion resistance”. The new coin series also addresses concerns on discoloration predominantly observed for copper-based metals.

The new coins feature the BSP logo, national heroes, and endemic flora, complementing the design of the NGC Banknote Series launched in 2010 which shows Philippine flora. These designs, features, and other specifications were the result of an extensive and in-depth study by two expert committees of the BSP – the Numismatic Committee, and the Currency Management Committee. Their proposals were reviewed by the Monetary Board and then recommended for final approval of the President of the Philippines.

flora-2018 coins-ok                               Summary of Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine coins                                                                            (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

The centavo-coins of the NGC (2018) Coin Series have common features: all are silver with the obverse side (or face) featuring the stylized 3-stars-and-a-sun motif from the Philippine flag, a smooth background, and the words “Republika ng Pilipinas” on top, all covering two-thirds of the coin from the left. Occupying the remaining one-third of the face to the right are: a vertically-written year mark that appears on top; an “X sentimo” indication (depending on the denomination, 1-sentimo, 5-sentimo and 25-sentimo); and, a very small mint mark at the bottom.The smooth reverse side features an indigenous plant (distinct for each coin denomination) on the left, with the logo of the BSP on the right.

The centavo coins differ in size, type of edge, weight, and featured endemic flora:

The 1-centavo coin is a 15-mm silver coin with a plain 1.54-mm edge, weighs 1.9 grams, and features the Mangkono1 plant on the reverse side.

NGCCoinsPoster - 1-centavo

2018 Philippine NGC 1-Centavo Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

1-cent-2                              Mangkono, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 1-centavo coin                                                                   (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

The 5-centavo coin is a 16-mm silver coin with a 1.6-mm reeded-edge, weighs 2.20 grams, and features the Kapal-kapal Bagingplant on the reverse side.

NGCCoinsPoster - 5-centavo-ok

2018 Philippine NGC 5-Centavo Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

5-cents-2-ok                Kapal-Kapal Baging, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 5-centavo coin                                                             (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

The 25-centavo coin is a 20-mm silver coin with a 1.65-mm plain edge, weighs 3.60 grams, and features the Katmon3 plant on the reverse side.

NGCCoinsPoster - 25-centavo-ok

2018 Philippine NGC 25-Centavo Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

25-cents-2-ok                          Katmon, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 25-centavo coin                                                                       (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

The peso-coins of the NGC (2018) Coin Series have common features: all are silver and feature a national hero in the obverse (or face) side, with the words “Republika ng Pilipinas” on top. The right side of the face, occupying about one-third of the coin, has a vertically-written year mark, an “X piso” indication (depending on the denomination, 1 piso, 5 piso, and 10 piso), and a very small mint mark at the bottom. The reverse side features a unique endemic flora (but with different backgrounds – plain/smooth or with microprint) on the left, with the logo of the BSP centered (over different backgrounds – plain/smooth or with microprint) on the right.

The peso-coins differ in size, type of edge, weight, and featured national hero on the obverse side and endemic flora on the reverse side:

The 1-peso coin is a 23-mm silver coin with a 2.05-mm intermittent reed-edge, and weighs 6.0 grams. It features Jose Rizal4 on its smooth obverse side, and the Waling-Waling5 on its smooth reverse side.

NGCCoinsPoster - 1peso-ok

 

2018 Philippine NGC 1-Peso Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

1-peso-2                   Waling-Waling, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 1-peso coin                                                                 (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

The 5-peso coin is a 25-mm silver coin with a 2.20-mmsmooth/plain edge, and weighs 7.40 grams. It features Andres Bonifacio6 on the smooth two-thirds of the left side of its obverse, and, on the right, “5 piso” is indicated over a microprint background of “Republika ng Pilipinas”. On the reverse side, it features the Tayabakplant on the left two-thirds, and the remaining one-third has a microprint of “Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas”.

NGCCoinsPoster - 5peso-ok

2018 Philippine NGC 5-Peso Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

5-peso-2                          Tayabak, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 5-peso coin                                                                          (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

This new 5-peso coin, weighing in at 7.4 grams, is way heavier than the 6.1-gram old 1-peso coin. It is also thicker (2.2 mm vs. 1.8 mm) and slightly larger (25 mm vs. 24 mm). It has a smooth edge while the old 1-peso coin has ridges. So, with just 1-mm difference, be careful when giving out new coins. I personally find it difficult to differentiate these two coins and henceforth, I check on the face of the coin before I hand over a 1- or 5-peso coin. For the visually-impaired, it would be wise to feel the edge to differentiate the said coins.

The new 5-peso coin was released as early as December 2017 to mark the 154th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio (on November 30) and to meet the greater demand for coins during the Christmas season. This coin, along with the 10-peso coin, has “micro-printed details using laser-engraving technology” so it would be difficult to be duplicated using traditional coin counterfeiting methods.

The old 5-peso of the BSP Coin Series features the former BSP logo and Emilio Aguinaldo8. Aguinaldo was replaced by Bonifacio in the BGC coin, and the former is instead featured on the obverse side of the 200-peso NGC banknote as part of the image of the Declaration of Philippine Independence.

The 10-peso coin is a 27-mm silver coin, has a 2.05-mm milled edge with the lettering “Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas”, and weighs 8.0 grams. The obverse side is like the 5-peso coin but features Apolinario Mabinion the left side, and the “10 piso” indication over a microprint of “Republika ng Pilipinas” on the right.  The reverse side is also designed like the 5-peso coin, but features the Kapa-Kapa10 plant with microdots.

NGCCoinsPoster - 10peso-ok

2018 Philippine NGC 10-Peso Coin Features (from NGC Coins Poster, with permission)

10-peso-2                          Kapa-Kapa, Featured Flora, 2018 Philippine 10-peso coin                                                                   (from NGC Coins Brochure, with permission)

Bottomline, dearest Seniors, the differentiation between the old BSP Coin Series and the new (2018) NGC collection is achieved through visual and tactile familiarization.

The original coin picture/slide, which I cropped, were officially obtained through the BSP Currency Communications Staff and the Currency Issue and Integrity Office. The description per coin is my own, based on the information I received.

For more information, contact: Currency Issue and Integrity Office – Telephone Numbers: (02)988-4834 or (02) 352-1495; Email: ciiohelpdesk@bsp.gov.ph; BSP Corporate Affairs Office – Telephone Numbers: (02)708-7140 and (02) 708-7701 local 2876; Fax Number: (02) 708-7138; Email: corao@bsp.gov.ph; bspmail@bsp.gov.ph; Website: www.bsp.gov.ph

You can also visit – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BangkoSentralngPilipinas; Twitter: @BangkoSentral;   Instagram: @bangkosentral; YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BSPCORAO

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1The Mangkono (Xanthostemonverdugonianus) is a rare and endangered species of plant in the Myrtaceae family, endemic to the Philippines, and known to be the hardest Philippine hardwood species. Its inherent hardness and density have earned it the tag “Philippine Ironwood”. It is threatened by habitat loss due to human activity and urbanization. It can take two to four days to cut a 70-cm thick Mangkono tree with an axe compared to the average three hours for other trees with the same diameter. For this reason, diamond-point saws, together with a great volume of water (to counter overheating), have been used exclusively. It is known to have a very limited habitat, indigenous only within the “Mangkono Triangle” area (consisting of the Dinagat Island in Surigao, the Homonhon Island in Samar, and Babatngon, Leyte), and in Palawan. Information sourced from the Wikipedia page, “Xanthostemonverdugonianus” where the tree is referred to as “Magkono”.11

2The Kapal-Kapal Baging plant (Calotropis gigantea; Crown Flower) is a medium-sized (2 to 4-meter-high) shrub, with a pale bark, obovate or oblong (10-20 cm long, 3-8 cm wide, cottony beneath, heart-shaped at the base with pointed tip) light green leaves with a milky stem, that is cultivated for its long-lasting flowers. It is native to the Philippines, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and tropical Africa. The clustered, waxy flowers are either white or lavender. Each flower consists of five pointed petals and a small “crown” which holds the stamens. It is said to be the host plant of Hawaii’s monarch butterflies (recall their black-orange-white patterned four-inch wings). It is known as a Philippine medicinal plant: antibacterial; anti-diarrheal; antihyperglycemic (lowers glucose levels in the blood for diabetics); anti-inflammatory; antimicrobial; antipyretic (prevents or reduces fever); cytotoxic (able to kill cells for cancer treatment), hepatoprotective (prevents liver damage), insecticidal (destroys/controls insects); vasodilatory (widens blood vessels thereby promoting increasedblood flow); with wound healing properties; and, free radical scavenging activity.12 It seems this is a great plant with so many medicinal uses!

3The Katmon plant (Philippine Catmon) is a (6-15 meter-high) evergreen tree with leathery, shining, ovate, elliptic, or oblong-ovate 12-25 cm leaves, closely toothed at the margins, according to the Wikipedia page, “Dillenia philippinensis”.13 The large, white 6-15 cm (in diameter) flower is soft, with large fleshy sepals tightly enclosing the true fruit, and with reddish pistils and stamens. It is endemic to the Philippines and only found in forests, at low and medium altitudes. Its round, edible, 6-8 cm fruit can be cooked as a vegetable, used to flavor fish, or made into jams and sauces. It is also used in the Philippines as an alternative medicine: analgesic (pain reliever), antibacterial, antihyperglycemic (lowers glucose levels in the blood for diabetics), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and hypoglycemic (lowers blood sugar).12 Another great plant, our very own, but sadly, it is considered a vulnerable, threatened species!

4Jose Rizal (1861-1896) is widely considered as the national hero of the Philippines. He was a Filipino patriot and a distinguished reform advocate during the end of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines. He was also a polymath, i.e., a person with a wide-ranging knowledge/learning – he was an ophthalmologist, painter, educator, sculptor, playwright, poet, linguist and novelist. He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion, inspired in part by his writings, according to the Wikipedia page “Jose Rizal”.14 Remember, dearest Seniors, that our country has no official national hero to-date since there has been no law or proclamation for such a Philippine national symbol.

5The Waling-Waling is a flower of the orchid family, endemic to Mindanao in the provinces of Cotabato, Davao, and Zamboanga, and considered the “Queen of Philippine flowers”, according to Wikipedia page “Waling-waling”. It comes in two colors – pink and white.15

6Andres Bonifacio (1863-1897) was a Filipino revolutionary leader and the President of the Tagalog Republic, the revolutionary government involved in the Philippine revolution against Spain, from 1896-1897. He is also considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines, according to Wikipedia page “Andres Bonifacio”.16 He is often called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution”. He co-founded the Katipunan and later became “Supremo” (Supreme Leader).

7Tayabak (Strongylodonmacrobotrys) is the local term for emerald vine, jade vine, or turquoise vine. It is an endemic woody vine in Philippine tropical damp forests. Its stems can reach up to 18 meters in length. The claw-shaped, turquoise, blue-green to mint-green flowers are carried in pendent trusses, or pseudoracemes, of 75 or more flowers and can reach as much as three meters long, according to Wikipedia page “Strongylodon macrobotrys”.17 I first saw this flowering plant in Nagcarlan, Laguna, and I just loved the awesome long flowers!

8Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) was the first and youngest president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was a Filipino revolutionary, politician, and military leader. He led the Philippine forces first against Spain in the latter part of the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898), and then in the Spanish-American War (1898), and finally against the United States during the Philippine-American War (1899-1901), according to Wikipedia page “Emilio Aguinaldo”.18

9Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) was a Filipino revolutionary leader, educator, lawyer, and statesman who served first as a legal and constitutional adviser to the Revolutionary Government, and then as the first Prime Minister of the Philippines upon the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. He is known as the “Brain of the Revolution” despite having lost the use of both his legs to polio in 1896, according to Wikipedia page “Apolinario Mabini”.19

10Kapa-Kapa (Medinilla magnifica), also called showy medinilla or rose grape, is a species of flowering plant in the family of Melastomataceae, native to the Philippines, and commonly called the Philippine orchid. The flowers grow in panicles (multi-branched bunches of flowers arranged on a stem) up to 50 cm long, with ovoid pink bracts (specialized leaf with the flower). The individual flowers can measure up to 25 mm in size, and are pink, red or violet, according to Wikipedia page, “Medinilla magnifica”.20

11”Xanthostemonverdugonianus”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthostemon_verdugonianus.

12www.stuartxchange.org

13“Dillenia philippinensis”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dillena philippinensis.

14“Jose Rizal”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Rizal.

15“Waling-waling”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waling-waling.

16“Andres Bonifacio”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andres_Bonifacio.

17“Strongylodon macrobotrys”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strongylodon_macrobotrys.

18“Emilio Aguinaldo”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Aguinaldo.

19“Apolinario Mabini”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolinario_ Mabini.

20“Medinilla magnifica”, accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medinilla_magnifica.

Say, Say, Say: VERY OLD TREES ALONG THE MAIN STREET OF STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA

Hey, dearest Seniors, did you recite the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer when you were small like me in the 1960s? Let’s see if you remember the words: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree; a tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray; a tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair; upon whose bosom snow has lain, who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Every time I pass by the main street of Sta, Cruz, Laguna, I appreciate the very old trees planted in front of the Laguna Capitol Compound all the way to Pedro Guevarra Memorial High School.

Recently, the sidewalk was improved and cemented. I am not a tree doctor nor an agriculturist, but when I look at each old tree, most of them seem to be sick or dying, or at least at high-risk from street “beautification” and people. Two of the old trees are hollow and one is even stuffed with garbage. So sad! I am sure that if Joyce Kilmer were still alive, he would certainly share my sadness when he sees these trees.

Tree-1

Tree-2

Tree-3

Tree-4

Tree-5

Tree-6

Tree-7

Tree-8

Tree-9

I do not know how old the trees are but I was also able to take the pictures above to call the attention of the following authorities:

  1. the foresters of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region IV-A;
  2. retired forest pathologist Dr. Ernesto Militante, from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños,who applied a solution to heal the girdled trees along the Manila North Road in Binalonan, Pangasinan1;
  3. retired forester and silviculturist2 Roger de Guzman, also from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños;
  4. Mutya Manalo, a professor at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources. University of the Philippines, Los Baños;
  5. the local government of the town of Sta. Cruz (in the province of Laguna) to take care of the old trees amidst “beautification” projects, upon consultation with tree experts; and,
  6. organizations like the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concerns (PFEC)3 and the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE)4.

Please come soon and visit these roadside trees and assess their status – healthy, diseased or defective. Do you have a diagnostic tool to determine the state of health of the trees? I pray you have a radar imaging system, or even more advanced diagnostic tools, to get a high resolution, non-invasive image of the internal structure of the trees and its root mass, in order to assess the health and structural integrity of the trees.

I hope the trees can still be brought to a healthier state, or heal, if they are sick, diseased, or need tree surgery. Perhaps proper pruning could be done at the start of this rainy season, so they will not pose any danger to pedestrians and motorists.

Seniors, do you remember our elementary science lessons about trees? They give us shade and fruits, absorb carbon dioxide, and release the oxygen which we breathe, and even stabilize the soil, among others. A good website post is www.treepeople.org’s 22 benefits of trees.

A busy town like Sta. Cruz, the capital of the province of Laguna, must treasure trees since they: improve the air quality; absorb the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, remove and store the carbon and release oxygen back into the air; clean the air when they absorb odors and pollutant gases and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and barks; cool the streets by up to 10°F, thereby breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves; lower stress; boost happiness; reduce flood risks; shield children from UV-B exposure; cut air-conditioning needs of nearby buildings by 30%; heal (patients heal faster seeing trees from their windows; children with ADHD show fewer symptoms) and reduce mental fatigue; reduce violence and fear; provide urban homes for birds and bees; muffle the sound from the streets; are eye-soothing; and, absorb dust and wind, and reduce glare.5

By the way, this blog post is written in honor of World Environment Day (June 5) which aims to raise awareness of the importance of respecting and protecting the environment.

I am not a die-hard environmentalist (I do not even belong to any organization), I am not a poet (who can write poems for trees), I am not God (who is the only One who can make a tree). I am a Senior Citizen who is no fool and who wants to save very old trees through her blog! Healthy trees for a healthier town! Achieve!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1www.pangasinan.gov.ph

2A silviculturist is a person who studied forestry and is involved in the cultivation of trees.

3The Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern (PFEC) is a network of concerned individuals, non-government organizations and people-organizations concerned with environmental issues, established in 1979. It promotes and develops environmental consciousness among Filipinos; unites and coordinates with local communities in their efforts for environmental protection and natural resources management; and, joins in national and worldwide environmental action. Visit the Facebook account: Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern.

4The Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), founded in 1992, is an organization which helps mitigate the destruction of the natural resources of the Philippines. It leads actions in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development towards healthy ecosystems and resilient communities. It is committed to build constituencies and capacities for the environment, promote responsive policies and actions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Visit the website: www.fpe.ph

5www.treepeople.org

Capricious Indulgence: CASA ITALIA Gelato Café

Location: Shop 5, Burgos Park Building, Forbestown Center Fort Bonifacio, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines

Casa-1Facade, Casa Italia Forbestown

I was walking with three members of my family along Forbestown Road in BGC and was craving for a good place to have coffee and dessert, when we chanced upon CASA ITALIA GELATO CAFÉ and decided to try their gelato1 and coffee.

The original owners are Italian, but this is now a franchise of Gelateria Italia, Singapore’s successful gelato chain established in 2010. Recipes were developed by Chef Donato Mazzola.2

Casa Italia Forbestown opened on December 2015, and is a modern-casual, two-storey, gelateria- café, with a seating capacity good for about 100 people. Kristoffer Kevin Pantaleon is the Business Development Executive.

Casa-1JGround Floor Dining Area, Casa Italia Forbestown

It has a cozy, homey, Italian interior ambiance, great for quiet dining with family/friends or just being alone, enjoying free wi-fi with a gelato or an Italian treat.

Casa-1BIt also offers al fresco dining for about 22 people.

It is open from 9AM – 12AM (Sunday-Thursday) and 9AM – 1AM (Friday-Saturday). I was told that there is paid parking in the basement of the building.

It is also kid-friendly since the gelato is produced using only fresh milk and natural sugar from the ingredients, according to the Forbestown Branch Supervisor, Mhark Daren Gavis Mata. Kids can also enjoy babyccino, Casa Italia’s own version of steamed milk with a dark chocolate powder garnish.

Casa-2-gelati-display-okGelati Display, Casa Italia Forbestown

Upon entering the door, to your left are two big glass display cabinets packed with a wide selection of gelati. My eyes feasted on all the yummy flavors and I could not decide on what to order. It was good that the server was willing to give us free samples of different flavors, so we kept on pointing to a lot LOL! However, all tasted so good that in the end, I still could not decide!

Casa-1EGelati Selection, Top (l-r): Mama’s Cookies, Hazelnut, Brente Pistachio, Formaggi, Japanese Matcha; Bottom (l-r): Mama’s Cookies (almost gone), Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream, Whiskey

Casa-1F

Gelati Selection, Top (l-r): Formaggi (yellow color), Japanese Matcha, Earl Grey Tea, Red Velvet, Apple Pie; Bottom (l-r): Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, Tiramisu, Strawberry Cheesecake, After 8 (Mint)

Casa-1G

Gelati Selection, Top (l-r): Nutella, Dark Truffle, Banana Split, Snickers, Oreo Choco Berry; Bottom (l-r): Guanaja Chocolate, Dark Truffle (almost gone), Crunchy Mocha, Cappuccino

Casa-1H

Gelati Selection, Top (l-r): Snickers, Oreo Choco Berry, Forest Berries Yogurt, Raspberry, Forest Berries Sherbet; Bottom (l-r): Coconut, Melon, Philippine Mango, Strawberry

Casa-1ZTheir premium, handcrafted gelato comes in 5 sizes: Piccolo (1 scoop, PHP130), Medio (2 scoops, PHP195), Grande (3 scoops, PHP260), ½ Vaschetta (200 grams, PHP600), and Vaschetta (400 grams, PHP1,150).

Casa-1IOne can also enjoy Liquorato – gelato with a kick, i.e., with one or two shot/s of liqueur/liquor (Bailey’s Irish Crème or Black Label Whiskey) for PHP 160/190.

Casa-1MNon-alcoholic Beverages, Casa Italia Forbestown

Casa-1LAlcoholic Beverages, Casa Italia Forbestown

Casa-1DThe Charming Barista, Casa Italia Forbestown

Beverages offered range from non-alcoholic: sodas, sparkling water, home-blend teas, juices, bottled water, teas, hot or iced specialty coffee/chocolate/babyccino in three sizes (piccolo, medio and grande); to alcoholic: local and imported beer (PHP90-130) and red and white wines, by the glass (PHP225-275) or by the bottle (PHP700-1500).

Casa-1CTempting cakes and pastries, best enjoyed with coffee or tea, are also on the menu.

Casa-1YWall Menu, Casa Italia Forbestown

And for bigger appetites, Casa Italia serves Italian cuisine: appetizers (PHP125-380), panino (Beef Steak Baguette, PHP335), pasta (PHP220-275), pizza (PHP250-355), and main dishes (PHP305-995).

Casa-1S

Casa-1Q

Casa-1R

Casa-1O

Casa-1N

Casa-1P

Casa-1VA weeknight (Monday-Friday, 6PM till closing time) promo is a local beer bucket (6 bottles) with a Nacho Italiano or Quattro Formaggi Pizza for only PHP580, to “wine and dine the night away”.

We already ate in a nearby restaurant, so we just wanted gelato and coffee during this visit. I was craving for something not so “sinful” and I finally opted to order just one scoop of Forest Berries Sherbet. It was so refreshing, not sweet at all, and berry-licious!

Casa-1TForest Berries Sherbet, Casa Italia Forbestown

Casa-1UPartially consumed Philippine Mango Gelato, Casa Italia Forbestown

My companions ordered a scoop each of Philippine Mango, and Dark Truffle, and one ordered a brewed decaf coffee. I was able to taste all orders. The Philippine Mango gelato was so yummy and the Dark Truffle one was like eating genuine, rich chocolate in cold form. All gelati ordered were just right in terms of sweetness. The brewed decaf coffee was also delightful.

Service was prompt. The staff were so accommodating and cheerful.

Casa-1XCasa Italia Forbestown’s Branch Supervisor, Mhark Daren Gavis Mata

Truth be told, I returned alone the next day for the same order!

I paid for all orders and all comments are personal.

Next time, we will try other gelato flavors (like Pistachio, Salted Caramel, Crunchy Mocha, Coconut, and Mango-After 8 combination) as well as their Italian treats.

Contact details: telephone number: (02) 753-6263, 813-8138; website: http://www.casaitalia.com.ph/; Facebook: CasaItalia PH; Instagram: @casaitaliaph

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1Gelato is a dense, rich, Italian-style ice cream made from milk, cream, sugar, and flavored with fruit and nut purees and other flavorings. It is generally lower in fat than other ice creams, and typically contains less air and more flavoring than other frozen desserts.

2www.news.abs-cbn.com

Short and Simple: OFFICIAL LOCAL MUSLIM HOLIDAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES

Ramadan 2018 began in the evening of May 16. I featured this special Muslim date in a related post: March – December 2018 Long Weekends … “Byahe Na”! (Travel Now!)

Anyway, dearest Seniors, do you have plans to visit any of these ten provinces – Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur – or these five cities – Cotabato, Iligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Zamboanga?

If you answered “yes”, my next questions are: “Will you go there for business? Do you plan to have any bank transaction, or visit a government/private office, during such a visit?

Well, if you answered “yes” again, and just to be on the safe side when you plan such a visit, bear in mind that there are five (5) legal local Muslim holidays1 officially observed ONLY2 in these provinces and cities, according to Article 169 under Book Five, Miscellaneous and Transitory Provisions, Title I (Muslim Holidays) of Presidential Decree 10833.

For those who do not know, here they are to guide you in your travels to these destinations.   Please be aware that banks and offices are closed during these dates:

OFFICIAL MUSLIM HOLIDAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES

WHEN OBSERVED

2018 DATES4

Lailatul Istra Wal Mi’raj (Nocturnal Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad)

the 27th day of the 7th lunar month of Rajab April 13

‘Id-ul-Fitr

(Hari Raya Pausa)

the 1st day of the 10th lunar month of Shawwal, commemorating the end of the fasting season

June 16

‘Id-ul-Adha

(Hari Raja Haji)

the 10th day of the 12th lunar month of Dhu al-Hijja

August 21

‘Amun Jadid

(Islamic New Year)

the 1st day of the first lunar month of Muharram7

September 12

Maulid-un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) the 12th day of the 3rd lunar month of Rabi-ul-Awwal

November 21

On April 27, 2018, Nisfu Sha’ban8 (April 30, 2018) was declared in ARMM9 as a special non-working holiday, through April 27 Memorandum Order No. 255.10

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1www.pcw.gov.ph

2Article 170 of PD 1083 states that these Muslim holidays may also be officially observed in other provinces and cities. Please note this provision for your travels in the Mindanao area.

3www.lawphil.net

4www.timeanddate.com

5Id-ul-Fitr is also called Eid-al-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Eid ul-Fitr, Id Ul-Fitr, or simply Eid. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting and prayer. Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to khutba (sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during this day.3

6‘Id-ul-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, is a four-day Islamic festival that commemorates the willingness of Ibraham, a prophet and messenger in Islam, to sacrifice his son.3

7Muharram is the first month in the lunar Islamic calendar known as the month of remembrance or mourning, believed to be the most sacred month. Muslims are not allowed to fight during Muharram.3

8Nisfu Sha’ban is a holiday observed on the night between 14 and 15 Sha’ban11. According to the Wikipedia page “Mid-Sha’ban”, it is regarded as a night when the fortunes of men for the coming year are decided and when God may forgive sinners. In some regions, this is also a night when prayers are arranged for forgiveness from God for one’s deceased ancestors. 12

9ARMM stands for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, a Philippine region located in the island group of Mindanao, with Cotabato City as its regional center. It has 5 local government units (LGUs): Basilan (excluding Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Visit www.armm.gov.ph

10www.mindanao.politics.com.ph

11Shaban is one of the blessed months. It is the 8th month of the Islamic calendar and the last lunar month before Ramadan, according to the Wikipedia page “Sha’ban”.13

12”Mid-Sha’ban,” accessed April 28, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Sha’ban.

13”Sha’ban,” accessed April 28, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sha’ban.

Say Say Say: IMPORTANT DATES DEDICATED TO SENIORS FOR MORE FAMILY BONDING TIME

“After a lifetime of working, raising families, and contributing to the success of this nation in countless other ways, senior citizens deserve to retire with dignity.” – Charlie Gonzalez

Medical technology has advanced and we, the seniors of today, are given a longer chance of staying on this planet to reach a ripe old age. Just imagine us living in the Late Middle Ages, life expectancy then was only 30 years old! Oh my, I got married at that age and was enjoying my teaching career! In the 1950s, the average expectancy was 48 years old worldwide, and in 2014, it extended to 71.5 years, more than double than that of our medieval counterparts!1

I believe that Senior Citizens must be “showered” (not only given) all the love and care by the younger generations. In turn, Seniors will share their wisdom, stories, and experience. One can never honor the elderly enough!

So, younger generations, listen up! Here are several important days of the year, depending on your country, that celebrate the lives of your beloved Seniors. I arranged it chronologically by month. Log them in your calendars and plan how you can show the elders in your family that you care. Show your appreciation for them while you still can. You never know when God will need them back. Sad but true.

You can plan a short vacation or at least an overnight stay somewhere new to them or somewhere special to them, eat out with the whole family in their favorite restaurants, take them shopping, find time to spend the day with them and make them feel important and loved, or if you are so far away and cannot join them, call them, video chat, text them, email them, or be old school and send them a card by snail mail. Always remember, tomorrow is not promised and today is short. Here are special senior days worldwide, and I bet that you do not know all of them:

1. OLDER AMERICANS MONTH (OAM) – This is celebrated every month of May in the USA to honor (65-yo) adults and their contributions, especially those who defended the country. This was declared by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The 2018 theme is: Engage at Every Age to emphasize that one is never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as celebrate the many ways in which older adults make a difference in their communities. Visit the website of the Administration for Community Living (ACL): oam.acl.gov.

2. MOTHER’S DAY – This annual celebration honors the mother/s of the family, observed worldwide, most commonly on the months of March and May. Most countries celebrate it every second Sunday of May, so it will be held on: May 13, 2018, May 12, 2019, and May 10, 2020. It was founded by Anna Jarvis of West Virginia, as a memorial for her mother, and first celebrated in 1908.

Actually, dearest Filipinos, Mother’s Day was officially proclaimed to be held every first Monday of December, together with Father’s Day, as proclaimed by President Joseph Estrada in 1998, but this date is not considered a public holiday. However, due to our strong American influence, we celebrate it as stated above. Regardless of the date of observance worldwide, it is said to be too commercialized, but what the heck, children, at least pamper your mothers once a year!

Before I leave this special occasion, I know what some inquisitive-but-still-active Senior-minds are asking: “Tita S, really? Why was it proclaimed to be held on the first Monday of December?” Well, dearest Seniors, Governor-General Charles Yeater made the original declaration in 1921, as per clamor of the Ilocos Norte Federation of Women’s Clubs for Mother’s Day to be held on the first Monday of December. President Manuel Quezon then renamed it as Parent’s Day to honor fathers as well, and President Estrada returned the dates during his term, after President Corazon Aquino separated Mother’s and Father’s Day and changed the dates to those observed by the Americans. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Mother’s Day”.2

Question: Why do our presidents keep on changing the dates and the titles of these special occasions? Gosh, dear Seniors, in our lifetime, these occasions were changed three times, so how do they expect us to remember which is when? Hay!

3. NATIONAL SENIOR HEALTH & FITNESS DAY – This is celebrated every last Wednesday of May so that the elderly can participate in various health and fitness activities, usually held in US hospitals, senior centers, parks and recreational sites. Organized as a private-public partnership by the Mature Market Resource Center, a national information clearinghouse for the older adult market, it will be held on May 30, 2018, marking its special 25th anniversary celebration.3

4. JUNE 1 –GLOBAL DAY OF PARENTS/PARENTS’ DAY – This annual celebration was declared by the United Nations “to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship”.

It is held the same day as International Children’s Day so why not celebrate this day as a family – parents, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren!

It was officially proclaimed to be observed every first Monday of December in the Philippines. (Please refer to item #2 – Mothers Day).  It is held every fourth Sunday of July in the USA (per Congressional Resolution signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton) and will be held on July 22, 2018. It has a fixed date, on May 8, in South Korea. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Parents’ Day”.4

5. FATHER’S DAY – This annual celebration honoring fathers and fatherhood is observed worldwide, but dates vary per country. It started, and was celebrated, in Catholic Europe during the Middle Ages during the feast of Saint Joseph, on March 19. In the USA, it was first held on July 5, 1908, by the Central United Methodist Church in West Virginia. Most countries, like the Philippines, celebrate it every third Sunday of June, so it will be celebrated on: June 17, 2018, June 16, 2019, and June 21, 2020. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Father’s Day”.5

Take note, Filipinos, Father’s Day is officially recognized every first Monday of December, together with Mother’s Day, but due to our strong American influence, we celebrate it as stated above.

6. JULY 23 – NATIONAL GORGEOUS GRANDMA DAY – Now, Senior Grannies, this is amusing indeed! This is the upgraded version of Grandparents’ Day. Younger generations, tell and remind your Grandma, Nana, Granny, Lola, Mamita, or whatever term of endearment you call her, that she is precious, special, and beautiful in your eyes! Do it daily and see how her eyes light up right after you tell her so. People use the hashtag #GorgeousGrandma on this day, along with pictures dining out, or in a special destination, together with their gorgeous grandmas.6

7. JULY 30 – FATHER-IN-LAW DAY6 – Well, if there is a Mother-in-law Day, we certainly must have this special day! Celebrate this day based on his passion, hobbies, favorite restaurant, etc. Ladies, if you are happily married, this is a way to show your gratitude that he raised a good son like your husband. If not, proceed to #8! LOL

8. AUGUST 21 – SENIOR CITIZENS DAY – This was declared by US President Ronald Reagan through Proclamation 5847 in 1988, to raise awareness of, and honor the contributions of, American Senior Citizens (SCs). It is not a public holiday but it is observed throughout the USA through social gatherings and activities, recognizing the achievements of SCs.6

So, American Keepers of Wisdom, why don’t you plan a trip to the Philippines while you are still in better health? You do not need a visa if you will stay for a maximum of 30 days. Read a related post: (I will place here the link for – Foreign Seniors Ask: re Philippine Visa)

9. NATIONAL GRANDPARENTS DAY – This is an international, annual, secular holiday celebrated in various countries. It was first celebrated in the USA in 1978, founded by Marian McQuade of Oak Hill, West Virginia, to encourage families to visit their elders. It then spread to other countries but is celebrated on various dates (Google dates per country). In the USA, it is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day, in September, so, it will be celebrated on: September 9, 2018; September 8, 2019, and September 13, 2020. All these are according to the Wikipedia page, “National Grandparents Day”.7

10. RESPECT FOR THE AGED DAY– This is a national Japanese public holiday, held every third Monday of September, to honor elderly citizens, so it will be celebrated on: September 17, 2018, September 16, 2019, and September 21, 2020. Tracing its origins to 1947, it was first held on September 15, 1966, when Nomadani-mura of the Hyogo Prefecture proclaimed September 15 as Old Folks’ Day (Toshiyori no Hi). Nowadays, media highlights the oldest people in the country, according to the Wikipedia page, “Respect for the Aged Day”.8

 11. OCTOBER 1 – INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS – This occasion was first observed on October 1, 1991 by all United Nations member states to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly as well as to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society, according to the Wikipedia page, “International Day of Older Persons”.9

So, mark October 1 yearly in your calendars. Seniors can also plan to bond among themselves on this day to be thankful for, and to honor, old age, for this is not a gift given to everyone. Shouldn’t old age be considered an asset and not a liability?

12. OCTOBER 1-7: ELDERLY FILIPINO WEEK (LINGGO NG NAKATATANDANG FILIPINO) – A week-long celebration in the Philippines, as per Presidential Proclamation No. 470, to emphasize the important role of older people in nation building, as well as to raise awareness, and to address issues concerning this sector. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), PhilHealth, local government units (LGUs), senior citizen associations and other government agencies organize activities for the elderly.10

13. MOTHER-IN-LAW DAY – There are countless jokes about mothers-in-law but come to think of it, it is not easy to be one. Regardless of your relationship with your mother-in-law, would it not be awesome to remember her at least once a year for her role in your life? Think about it, she raised the man you married (and I hope you are still happily married to him)! Anyway, it was first celebrated on March 5, 1934 in Amarillo, Texas, USA, by the editor of the local Amarillo newspaper. Oh, well, based on my personal experience, this day is not as popular as Mother’s Day because I am sure a lot of the female readers of this post do not even know or celebrate this day, right? Well, it is never too late, surprise your mother-in-law on October 28, 2018, and every fourth Sunday of October thereafter! Do not forget to take a group picture and post with the hashtag #MotherinLawDay!6

I also featured a post in this blog about the long weekend holidays in the Philippines: March – December 2018 Long Weekends … “Byahe Na”! (Travel Now!)

Calling the younger generations in the Philippines: please include the elders in your plans for such holidays too! I am not that religious but let us recall James 4:14 – “You know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”

As I always tell the younger generation, “Tatanda rin kayo!” (You will also get old!) It’s your turn to show the elders of this generation your love and concern; time will come when it will be your turn to be the next older-generation.  Do your best now, ok?

In the blink of an eye, everything can change, so love with all your heart. You may not have that chance again. Show your elders how much you love them, preferably everyday would be nice.

Did you find this post informative? Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. I would like to hear from you too. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1 http://www.daysof theyear.com

2“Mother’s Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Mother’s_Day.

3www.fitnessday.com –ok na

4”Parents’ Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Parents’_Day.

5“Father’s Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Father’s_Day.

6www.daysoftheyear.com

7“National Grandparents Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/National_Grandparents_Day.

8“Respect for the Aged Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Respect_for_the-Aged-Day.

9”International Day of Older Persons,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Day_of_Older_Persons.

10 www.ptvnews.ph

GERRY’S RESTAURANT & BAR: Gratifying Grilled Gustation

Location: Ground Floor, Butterfly Garden, Resort Drive, Newport City, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines

When we crave for “inihaw1”, one place that definitely comes to mind is Gerry’s Grill!

Its first restaurant opened on February 14, 1997 at Tomas Morato in Quezon City. After 21 years, it currently has 95 branches nationwide: 2 in Cagayan Valley, 12 in CALABARZON2, 15 in Central Luzon, 5 in Central Visayas, 3 in Eastern Visayas, 11 in Mindanao, 37 in NCR, 5 in North Luzon, 2 in South Luzon, and 3 in Western Visayas. It also has 6 branches overseas (3 in the USA, 2 in Singapore and 1 in Qatar).3

2-Gerry

This family-casual dining restaurant offers a wide array of Filipino dishes: appetizers, soups, char-grilled items, sizzling selections, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, rice, vegetables, kinilaw4, merienda5 treats, desserts, shakes, juices, soft drinks, hot drinks, cold drinks, and alcoholic drinks.

It has been decades since we last ate at the original Tomas Morato branch but we were recently in the Newport area and opted to have lunch there.

This Newport City branch is open daily, from 10AM till 12 midnight. It offers airconditioned dining as well as outdoor seating. The latter would be ideal for unwinding after work with cocktails or other alcoholic drinks, accompanied by appetizers or char-grilled orders.

We arrived half past noon. It was very hot outdoors, so the place was packed; but we found a table at one corner indoors. Parking was a problem, though.

I liked the large menu card which really entices customers to order since the colored pictures are so good to look at! Here are the pictures:

3-GerrySoups and Kilaw, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

4-GerryAppetizers, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

5-GerryOther Appetizers, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

6-Gerry.jpgVegetables, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

7-GerryPork and Beef Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

8-Gerry.jpgChicken Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

9-Gerry.jpgOther Chicken Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

10-Gerry.jpgChar-Grilled Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

11-Gerry.jpgSizzling Treats, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

12-Gerry.jpgSizzling Selections, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

13-Gerry.jpgOther Sizzling Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

14-Gerry.jpgSeafood and Rice, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

15-Gerry.jpgSeafood and Rice Dishes, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

16-Gerry.jpgMerienda Selection, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

17-Gerry.jpgDesserts, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

18-Gerry.jpgNon-Alcoholic Drinks, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

19-Gerry.jpgAlcoholic Drinks, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

20-Gerry.jpgFresh Fruit Drinks, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

21-Gerry.jpgSummer Treats 2018, Gerry’s Restaurant & Bar, Newport City

 

After a weekend stay in a resort with buffet meals, we decided to stay away from pork dishes. We finally agreed and ordered the following:

24-Gerry.jpgThe Sinigang na Boneless Bangus6 was served hot but was not sour enough. However, this was good for the kid with us.

The Sizzling Kangkong7 a la Pobre was served on a sizzling plate but was not sizzling at all. We were disappointed because it was watery, lacked the expected garlic taste, and was mostly stalks, instead of leaves.

26-Gerry.jpgThe Inihaw na Pusit8 was the winner for this visit! It was grilled just right and one order could be shared.

27-Gerry.jpgThe Inihaw na Manok is a half-chicken order that is char-grilled and could be shared as well. However, it was too dry and lacked the anticipated marinated taste.

25-Gerry.jpgThe Special Binagoongang Rice9 was good and perfect with the grilled items we ordered.

 

22-Gerry.jpgThe watermelon shake was refreshing and not too sweet.

23-Gerry.jpgThe fresh buko10 juice was served chilled, with a straw, and still in the buko shell. (Note to balikbayans who miss this drink: one could not get it any fresher!) We requested the bukos to be opened after sipping the juice. The buko meat was thin and easily scooped with a spoon.

Waiting time for orders was about 20-25 minutes. Service was slow, the waitstaff was not attentive, and getting the bill and change took some time too. My observation: It was almost 2PM but the restaurant was still full. Business is good! Unfortunately, service suffers.

Contact details: (02) 332-1111. Visit its official website –www.gerrysgrill.com, Facebook account – gerrysgrill.com.ph, and Instagram – @gerrysrestaurant

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I hope these footnotes will be appreciated by foreign viewers of this blog who are not familiar with local terms:

1Inihaw is the Filipino term for grilled, roasted, barbecued, or broiled.

2CALABARZON, or Region IV-A, is a Philippine region located in the island group of Luzon, with Calamba as its regional center. CALABARZON is an acronym for this region’s five provinces: CAvite, LAguna, BAtangas, Rizal, QueZON.

3www.gerrysgrill.com

4Kinilaw is the Filipino term for a raw native Filipino dish, similar to ceviche. It literally means “eaten raw”. The fresh cubed fish/seafood, or lightly grilled and chopped meat, is mixed primarily with vinegar, plus a souring agent (usually calamansi or dayap), and flavored with salt and black pepper, ginger, onions, and chilis.

5Merienda is the Filipino term for morning or afternoon snack.

6Bangus, or milkfish, is the national fish of the Philippines. Filipinos usually prefer it prepared “boneless” because its numerous pin bones would otherwise make eating it a bit difficult.

7Kangkong is a semiaquatic, tropical vegetable-plant, grown for its leaves and tender shoots, according to the Wikipedia page, “Ipomoea aquatica”.10 It is also known as swamp cabbage, Chinese convolvulus/spinach/watercress, water morning glory, and river/water spinach. It is a popular vegetable in Filipino cuisine, used in a variety of dishes like sinigang and adobo.

8Pusit is the Filipino term for squid, usually cooked as adobo or grilled.

9Binagoongang Rice is a Filipino version of fried rice made with sautéed shrimp paste (called bagoong) and thin slices of raw-ripe mangoes.

10Buko is the Filipino term for young coconut harvested for its sweet and refreshing juice/water and thin, easy to scoop, meat.

10Ipomoeaaquatica,” accessed April 20, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipomoea_aquatica

 

THAI BBQ ORIGINAL RESTAURANT: Tasty Thai Treats

Location: Ground Floor (beside Glorietta 4 mall entrance), Glorietta 4, Ayala Malls, Ayala Center, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

2-ThaiSawatdeeKah! Hello from THAI BBQ ORIGINAL RESTAURANT, Glorietta 4!

This casual dining, family-style, Thai restaurant, originally from Los Angeles, USA, was established by Pat and Tammy Ngamari in 1978. In the website www.thaibbqla.com, they claim that their family has been perfecting recipes and styles of Thai cooking for three generations, spanning over 50 years. This restaurant was awarded Thai Select* for authentic Thai Cuisine by the Ministry of Commerce, Thailand.

3-ThaiGround Floor Entrance and stairs to 2nd Floor, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

However, I was not in LA last April, dearest Seniors, I was in Makati City! Thanks to No Limits Food Inc. – a food and beverage company based in 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City – which obtained the franchise, we can all enjoy another Thai restaurant in the metro! Yes, it is the same local company behind KPub BBQ, Modern China, Modern Sichuan, Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant, Oppa Chicken, and Tony Roma’s. Visit its Facebook account – No Limits Food Inc.

4-ThaiSecond Floor Dining Area, right next to the stairs

This is the fourth branch (see the three others below) in Metro Manila. It had a soft opening on December 17, 2017 and is operated by Roasted Meat Concepts Corporation. It is open daily, from 11AM – 10PM.

13-Thai

14-ThaiMenu Card, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

The menu is extensive: appetizers (PHP280-420); soup entrees (PHP320-380); salads (PHP280-380); beef entrees (PHP380-640); chicken entrees (PHP340-640); pork entrees (PHP380-640); seafood entrees (PHP420-900); noodles (PHP320-420); rice (PHP70-420); vegetables (PHP280-380); desserts (PHP180-420); and, beverages – iced teas, beers, shakes, mineral water (PHP90-140).

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S2JT01525352956Beverage Menu, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

It also offers the following House Specials served with Shrimp Fried Rice, and – except for those items marked with an * — with Cucumber Salad and Peanut Sauce: BBQ Spare Ribs Dinner* (PHP680), Beef/Chicken/Pork Sate Dinner (PHP580-740), Sate Combination (PHP580-720), Gaiyang (BBQ ½ Chicken) Dinner* (PHP620). Just in case you want to order Cucumber Salad along with the marked specials*, add PHP120.

5-ThaiSecond Floor Dining Room, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

My group of five arrived early for lunch. We opted to dine at the second floor and were warmly greeted by a waitstaff in Thai attire. The tables are good for four or more, and the chairs are comfortable to sit on. Menu/Drink cards were immediately given to us.

Orders were served promptly and efficiently by the attentive waitstaff. The house specials have generous portions that seem to be intended for sharing. So, dear Seniors, it would be best to bring your family or friends along.

10-ThaiSpring Rolls, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

The SPRING ROLLS (PHP280) were served hot. They were crisp, flavorful, and best enjoyed with the accompanying vinegar dip.

8-ThaiThe COMBINATION SOUP (PHP320) was served hot and was tasty.

9-ThaiPomelo Salad and Lemon Grass Iced Tea, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

The POMELO SALAD (PHP380), with its dressing, offered a combination of texture, and sweet-sour taste, as well as a bit of aromatic kick from the cilantro. I had to ask for additional cilantro! Personally, this was the ideal dish to eat before the House Specials were served.

11-ThaiGaiyang, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

The GAIYANG (PHP620) is a Thai mild-spiced, tender, barbecued chicken, that was well complemented by the honey sauce. It was served with a generous portion of Shrimp Fried Rice.

12-ThaiSate Combination, Thai BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4

The SATE COMBINATION (PHP720) is an excellent choice for sate lovers since this savory order offers three kinds of tender and flavorful sates – beef, chicken and pork. The accompanying Shrimp Fried Rice, peanut sauce and cucumber salad were good counterpoints for this dish. The marinated and grilled meats were cooked just right and were flavorful and mildly spicy – perfect for seniors and kids.

I enjoyed sipping the refreshing LEMON GRASS ICED TEA (PHP120) in between courses. It had a good balance of sweetness and lemon grass taste.

Overall, I would recommend this restaurant to satisfy your Thai food cravings. The food is good, and the prices are reasonable since servings are generous enough for sharing.

Prices quoted were as of April 2018, VAT inclusive and subject to 10% service charge. I paid personally for our meal and all comments are personal.

Cash and credit cards are accepted. Table booking is recommended. Contact details: (02) 751-9008/2903/2371; 09171112121; Facebook – THAI BBQ Original Restaurant Glorietta 4; IG – #thaibbq.manila

There are three other branches in Metro Manila: (1) Ground Floor, The Fort Entertainment Complex, 5th Avenue corner 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City – M-Su: 11 am-3pm; 5:30-11pm – (02) 846-0000, 09178950000; (2) 2/F, Ayala Malls Vertis North, Triangle Exchange, North Avenue, Quezon City – M-Su: 11am-10pm – (02) 364-0068; (3) Level 5, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Main Wing, Shaw Boulevard corner EDSA, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City – M-Th: 11am-9pm; F: 11am-10pm; Sa: 10am-10pm; Su: 10am-9pm – (02) 246-9069 ext. 886.

I will return to taste their Fried Calamari, Yum PlaDook Foo (Catfish Salad), Pad Thai (Fried Noodles), Tom Yum Goong (Thai sour shrimp/prawn soup), Crispy/Honey Duck Dinner, BBQ Spare Ribs Dinner, Panang Beef Curry, Pineapple and Bagoong Fried Rice, and Thai Milk Iced Tea. So many reasons to return, definitely another cheat meal for sure!

Did you find this post informative? I have not been to the original LA outlet of Thai BBQ Original Restaurant. Why don’t you tell me if the quality and taste are the same as in Metro Manila? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the top right part of this post and click “Leave a comment.” Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

You might also like to read about a Greenbelt Thai restaurant which I posted – SIMPLY THAI: Simply Delightful!

KhobKhunKah (Thank you)!

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*Thai Select is a program of the Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, the Royal Thai Government, that certifies and promotes authentic Thai cuisine worldwide, as well as the appropriate hospitality and ambiance. Good for three years and renewable, it is a seal of approval granted to Thai restaurants outside of Thailand that serve authentic Thai food, and to companies that produce Thai food products. It aims to increase the recognition of quality Thai restaurants and processed Thai food products, as well as to encourage Thai restaurateurs and food producers to raise their quality and authenticity. www.thaiselect.com

THROWBACK – A THRILL OF A LIFETIME: SWIMMING WITH THE GENTLE GIANT – THE BUTANDING

Location: Barangay Dancalan, Town of Donsol, Province of Sorsogon, Region V – Bicol Region, Philippines

 At this stage in our lives, my husband and I look forward to ticking off our bucket list. I’m sure you do too, dear Seniors! A unique local excitement in our list is to see the butanding in Donsol, and we finally got our chance when a family member invited us to Sorsogon for Holy Week 2017.

Now, you might ask, how do I get to Donsol? Good question!

You can ride a Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines’ plane, just an hour’s flight from Manila to Legazpi City, in the province of Albay. Private vans can be hired from the airport to Donsol, costing PHP2,500-3,000.

You can also use a public tricycle, at PHP50, from the airport to the Legazpi Central Terminal, a centralized public transport terminal for all buses, jeepneys and vans to/from Legazpi and other Bicol areas located in the parking area at the back of Savemore Supermarket in the city proper. Tell the driver to bring you to the Donsol section.

You can then opt to take a PUV (van, 12-16 pax) from the Legazpi Central Terminal to Donsol for PHP98 (per person), but the van has to be filled up before departure.

You can also take a 12-hour airconditioned bus ride from Manila to Legaspi (costing PHP850) or a 13-hour bus ride from Manila to Donsol (PHP650 – non-airconditioned bus; PHP900 – airconditioned bus). For the former, refer to the previous paragraph how to get to Donsol from the Legazpi Central Terminal. Just surf the bus companies that can bring you to these destinations.

Of course, you can use a private vehicle and enjoy the road trip with your companions. You can use the Waze app to guide you all the way to Sorsogon. That is what we did: a relative of ours was kind enough to use his vehicle to drive/join us from Manila to Sorsogon. It was a great time to bond, and, boy, did we have endless conversations and lots of laughs for 11 hours! We also made several stops along the way to refresh ourselves, and to eat.

If you do not have relatives or friends in Sorsogon where you can stay, do not fear. There are resorts, inns, pension houses, and homestays, just surf or inquire from the Donsol Municipal Tourism office (cell phone number 0927-4023814). I suggest that if you will go with a big group, reserve accommodations ahead of time especially during the peak season (April and May). It is also advisable to arrive the day before your butanding adventure, to ensure an early morning boat ride – the best time for this activity.

Now, for foreigners, what is a butanding? It is the local term for whale shark.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, whale shark (Rhincodon typus)BUTANDING: The Gentle Giant (Photo by WWF)

For more than a century, these gentle giants have been visiting Donsol’s waters between November and June, peaking between February and May. The residents initially feared these enormous creatures. It took a group of scuba divers in December 1997 to prove that the fish was docile, and their videos were spread till Donsol became an exciting destination. Thus, on March 1998, whale shark watching became an official attraction of Donsol, regulated both by the local DOT office and the observance of WWFguidelines.(see Wikipedia page, “Donsol”.2)

For the readers who have a biology background, bear with me but I need to describe it somehow. As explained in the Wikipedia page, “Whale shark”.The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is 4 to 12 meters long, grey fish (with unique pale yellow spots and stripes), a white belly, 3 prominent ridges along its sides and 5 large pairs of gills. It can weigh up to 21 tons, has a wide and flat head with two small eyes at the front, has a very large (1.5 m or almost 5 feet wide) mouth (with 300-350 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which it uses to filter feed). Amazingly, this gentle giant only filter-feeds on the nutrient-rich plankton that flow into the sea from the Donsol River, among others, during the months I mentioned above.

The butanding has a lifespan of 70-100 years and only reaches sexual maturity at 30 years2 (oh, my dearest butanding, so sorry you have to wait that long!?). It is the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, the largest known extant fish species, the largest non-cetacean animal in the world, the sole member of the genus Rhincodon, and the only extant member of the family Rhincodontodae. It has a pair of dorsal fins and pectoral fins and its spiracles are just behind its eyes. Juveniles’ tails have a larger upper fin than lower fin while the adult tail becomes semilunate.2 A juvenile butanding can eat more than 20 kg of plankton a day and they migrate to feed. Donsol is so blessed for it is strategically located in waters teeming with natural planktons that seem like a smorgasbord for these creatures. And we, Filipinos, are so lucky to have this phenomenon in Donsol!

Wait, my dear Seniors, at this point I know what is going on in your senior-minds … Are you scared of the water and these huge butandings? Don’t be! They are huge, yes! But they are so gentle and would not even bite nor hurt you! Remember, we are the ones visiting them in their feeding grounds in Donsol, or wherever you go to see them. Just imagine being about 3-4 meters away from a giant creature which is peacefully swimming along and happily eating unlimited plankton!

In addition, you can request your guide to be right beside you when you jump in the water in time to marvel at the sight of this wonderful creature, just like slightly scared but so excited “me”. Your snorkel or diving mask will enable you can stay as long as possible under water, or at least put your head in the water, just to witness the butanding peacefully feeding and swimming quietly before your eyes. Your safety vest will automatically make you float. You will not regret doing this adventure of a lifetime! Promise!

Anyway, if your group is less than six, either pay the whole amount for a “banca” (boat) or be prepared to share the banca with other tourists. If you want to just walk in, come early, around 7:30 am, at the Butanding Visitors Center.

We arrived in Sorsogon on April 11. Let me say that the roads in Sorsogon are so well paved, clean and well-maintained. I enjoyed my early jogging and bonding with my husband and appreciated the well-paved sidewalk, constructed for safety and convenience for all who need to walk around the province.

1-Butanding Visitors Center                                                            The Butanding Visitors Center                                                          (Photo courtesy of Desiree Abitria, Donsol Municipal Tourism Office)

The day for our great Butanding Adventure started with a full breakfast. We, Seniors, did all our morning “rituals”, joined the rest of the group, rode a van, and got to the Butanding Visitors Center early, around 8am, so eager to participate in this magical experience!

Now, Seniors, you might ask, what do we bring, Tita S? For the ladies, bring a sturdy and waterproof beach bag where you can keep the following: towel, cellphone, power bank, waterproof GoPro to video your butanding encounter (or you can rent an underwater camera on site), snacks, bottled water, medicine/s, sunblock, aloe vera gel (just in case you get sunburned), etc. If you have your own diving mask/snorkel set and fins, bring them too! If not, no worries, these can be rented on site as well. For the gentlemen, a waterproof bag (my husband uses a 20-kg Ocean Pack) with more or less the same contents and whatever personal things you need for almost half a day.

We paid the required fees and filled up the appropriate forms. Please check if the following rates still apply: (1) the boat rental package for about 3 hours, including the services of a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO)/spotter/boatmen is 3,500 pesos per boat, strictly for a maximum of 6 persons (adult/child); (2) an environmental/registration fee of 100 pesos per Filipino visitor and 300 pesos per foreign visitor (This is indeed a good indication that the local government is overseeing and regulating this tourist activity so as not to exploit the gentle butanding!); and, (3) the rental for a diving mask/snorkel set and fins, if you did not bring any, is 300 pesos per set. As an option, you can rent an underwater camera to take pictures of this wonderful experience.

We were then ushered to a viewing room for the must-see instructional video presentation-orientation for whale watching. The safety regulations were (as far as my senior memory can recall): a maximum of 6 swimmers per whale shark; to stay 3 meters away from the head/body and 4 meters away from the tail; not to get in direct contact with the shark (touch or ride it) or restrict its movement; a maximum of 10 minute-swim per whale shark; and, flash photography is not allowed.

We were then given our snorkel with diving mask set, flippers, and life vest, after paying the rental fee. We did not forget to apply sunblock at least 15 minutes before we boarded the banca.

CjEkR1525191893Bancas waiting for your Butanding Adventure

Tips, dearest Seniors: 1. Be sure the rented swimming gears fit you so you will be comfortable in the water which is a bit dark and not so clear because of the rich plankton, the yummy food sought by the butanding; and, 2. If you have not used a snorkel for some time, try practicing how to place the diving mask tightly so the water will not enter when you plunge in the water. Place the snorkel in your mouth while in the boat and practice breathing with your mouth so you can stay longer to marvel at the butanding.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) giving a briefing before whale shark interactionThe Butanding Interaction Officer’s briefing (Photo by WWF)

We were assigned to, and briefed by, a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) who was responsible for the safety of the persons in the boat. He also signaled us, with great accuracy/timing, to jump into the water to swim/snorkel alongside the butanding. We were also assigned a banca with a competent whale spotter (the man who stands on the boat beam to locate the majestic butanding) and two boatmen. Once in the banca, we all secured our life vests and were all excited.

9d1lo1525192073Our spotter and two boatmen

Note that the number of sightings depends on the season and since it was April– what can I say – it’s Butanding’s Peak Season. So I said: “Dearest Gentle Giants, don’t be shy, here we come!”

When a butanding is spotted, the boat would sail in its direction. We were excited, as we sat at the side of the banca with our snorkels and fins on. The BIO then signaled us to jump into the water and oh, what an awesome sight to see it peacefully feeding/swimming alongside while you marvel at its size and beauty!

NCegalerba-JSzwemberg_Donsol__91I7264Photo by WWF

For seniors, if you are “sigurista” (prudent) like me, I suggest you jump with the BOI, or with your trusted partner (husband, friend) so you will experience it together! You get to see the butanding for a short while as it swims alongside your spot, but I tell you, it’s like time stood still every time I snorkeled to see it. Then off you go, back to the banca, eagerly awaiting the next jump.

I must confess that I easily get scared and excited but since this is one major activity in my bucket list, I went for it! I tell you, the first time you see the butanding, you would be overwhelmed, thrilled, and amazed at just how big it is, and be awed by its majestic beauty. It’s like being in another planet! I was able to see its monstrous mouth open, with its huge gills moving, and just gently gliding and passing by in front of me! Such a fantastic feeling of exhilaration every time I saw it! I saw two butandings and I will always talk about this experience for years to come.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, boats waiting for whale sharkSnorkeling to see the Gentle Giant @ Donsol (Photo by WWF)

I even mentally apologized for disturbing their eating time: “Walang personalan. Ang layo ng pinanggalingan ko. Silip lang ako while you eat, ok?” (“Nothing personal. I came from far away. Allow me to only watch you eat, ok?”) “I will just watch you as near as I am allowed.”

I assure you, dear Seniors, after the first encounter with this creature, you will be more comfortable using the diving mask and snorkel and can stay longer in the water, so you can appreciate it even better. You will keep on asking the BOI/spotter to be more vigilant in locating this fish so you can again and again plunge into the water and enjoy the whole morning!

We sailed for about 3 hours, sighted about 5 butandings, and finally returned to the Center in time for lunch. A kind boatman used a hose to remove the sand from our feet before we entered the cemented area of the Center.

Seniors, better be sure that all swimming gears rented are returned, and acknowledged as complete. I recommend that you give a tip to the boat crew: the BIO, spotters, and boatmen; they all work so hard for a living and this is just a sign of your gratitude for such an incredible and fantastic experience!

Then, we took a bath and off we went to a sumptuous seafood buffet lunch! Life is good, thank you, Lord! One big check off my bucket list!

Dear Seniors, if I can do it, you can do it too! Add this unforgettable, awesome and ultimate underwater experience in your bucket list and go to Donsol this May! To make it more memorable, make it a family experience; we did and so can you! Achieve!

Next time, and God willing, I will try Donsol’s two night tours: the firefly tour and the shrimp-catching tour, as well as other tourist attractions in Donsol, Sorsogon City, and other parts of Sorsogon. These would all be exciting too! Just call beforehand to confirm if such tours are offered when you plan to visit Donsol.

Please note that there is no guarantee of seeing a butanding and no refund is given if this happens. So be sure to go in the morning and during peak season (April and May).

We were told that Oslob, Cebu, also offers butanding watching. Its waters are shallower and clearer so one can get clearer pictures of this beautiful creature. However, the boatmen feed the butanding. The choice is up to you! A lot of tourists go to both Donsol and Oslob.

Special thanks to the Escudero family for their warm hospitality. Thanks to MS. DESIREE AVITRIA of the Donsol Municipal Tourism Office for the WWF pictures and directions how to get to Donsol. Dearest Seniors, if you have any inquiries, you can call the said office: 09274023814.

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced whale shark watching in Donsol, Oslob, other parts of the country, or abroad? I would love to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Thank you. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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 1WWF stands for World Wide Fund for Nature, the world’s largest conservation organization. It is an international non-governmental organization for wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment, according to the Wikipedia page, “World Wildlife Fund for Nature”. It was formerly called the World Wildlife Fund but the term is still used in North America.

2”Donsol,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donsol.

3”Whale shark,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark.

4“World Wide Fund for Nature,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Fund_for_Nature.