Tokyo with Family (Day 4)

April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.

Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.

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Lakbay Norte 2010: Where to stay and eat in Clark and Angeles

January 30-31, 2010. Angeles City and Clark have many establishments that cater to local and foreign visitors, from restaurants that serve local and international cuisine to budget motels to world-class hotels and leisure resorts to shopping malls. During our stay in Clark for the Lakbay Norte 2010 caravan, we were booked at Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn Clark is the only accredited international deluxe hotel in Central Luzon.

Holiday Inn Clark occupies a building that used to be called Chambers Hall, where bachelor officers of the former American airbase and some generals were billeted while on assignment in Clark. In 1996, after renovations, it stood as one of the first landmarks in Clark right after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. It has again just recently been renovated and refurbished in accord to the Holiday Inn chain’s global re-branding campaign. Like other international deluxe hotels, it features modern amenities and furnishings in all of its rooms and villas. Broadband internet access is also available in the rooms. It has three restaurants (Mequeni, Rodizio Rooftop Grill, Copa’s Bar) a swimming pool, a recreation and game area, function halls, a spa and fitness area, and since it is located within the Mimosa Leisure Estate, it also has a 36-hole championship golf course.

If you choose to stay in Angeles City right outside Clark, you may stay at the Oasis Hotel, which has been in operation for more than four decades, and is one of the leading business hotels in Angeles City. Unlike the Holiday Inn, Oasis occupies a sprawling complex of 124 rooms in apartment-like single-floor structures. On our last day in the Lakbay Norte caravan, we had lunch at Oasis Hotel’s Maranao Grill, where we were served with roast lamb and roast beef, together with pasta, baked mussels and roast duck in taco shells. Every Friday, Maranao Grill has an RST Buffet where they serve roast beef, roast lamb, sushi, sahimi and tempura all day.

We arrived in Clark Saturday night, and we had dinner right after checking in at the hotel at Red Crab Seafood and Steaks which is just walking distance from Holiday Inn Clark. We had generous servings of local staple viands and, of course, red crab.

After dinner at Red Crab, we were taken to Camalig Restaurant in downtown Angeles City where we sampled Armando’s Pizza–different kinds of “Kapampangan Pizza,” pizza with all sorts of combinations of local toppings, from salted eggs, to fried crickets. It was a sumptuous after-dinner treat.

Holiday Inn Clark Mimosa Drive, Mimosa Leisure Estate, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga (02) 845 1888, (045) 599 8000 www.holiday-inn.com/clark Oasis Hotel Clarkville Compound, CLark Perimeter Road, Angeles City, Pampanga (045) 893 3301 to 04 www.oasishotel.com.ph

The Big Binondo Food Wok

There’s always something fascinating I find with Binondo. Its being Manila’s Chinatown definitely sets it apart from the city’s other districts, it almost feels like another foreign place, but then it’s just unmistakably very Manila. The Big Binondo Food Wok is one of the “walking tours” of Old Manila Walks conducted by Ivan Mandy. The tour takes guests around the streets of Chinatown and allows them to take in the sights and sounds while enriching one’s mind with bits of history lessons and trivia and while nibbling on unique Binondo treats.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour started off with a brief introductory history lesson at Plaza Calderon dela Barca, which was continued across the street at the historic Binondo Church. Ironically, as Ivan Mandy points out, the baroque Catholic cathedral is Chinatown’s most prominent landmark. It, however, features a bell tower that has pagoda-like characteristics.

The first food stop was Eng Bee Tin‘s second-floor cafe, which is also called the volunteer firemen’s coffee shop. The cafe pays tribute to the volunteer firemen of Chinatown. The earnings of the place are donated to the firemen. There, we had kiampong or salted rice, which didn’t turn out to be that salty, but really tasty nonetheless, eaten together with fishball soup.

The next food stop was Dong Bei Dumplings, the now acclaimed hole-in-the-wall restaurant of a couple from Northern China which serves authentic Chinese cuisine distinct from the Canton-type of Chinese food most of us are familiar with. Guests will be served, well, dumplings. I’ve been to the place twice before, so I knew what was coming. Nonetheless, Dong Bei dumplings are always a unique treat.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

Walking a few blocks from Dong Bei, guests will be treated to tea eggs from a stall along Salazar Street. It’s the first time I tried these eggs out. Tea eggs are made by boiling the eggs in a mixture of special tea leaves and soy sauce for at least two days.

Another block from the stall selling tea eggs, we were treated to siopao with a fried bottom at another stall. The siopao had a filling of ground pork and chives, which tasted similar to the dumplings we had in Dong Bei, instead of the usual asado or bola-bola.

A few meters from the stall, we were treated to hopia from Ho-Land Bakery. (I’m not that much of a fan of hopia so I stepped out and just took street pictures).

The last stop was an eatery inside an art-deco building along Quintin Paredes, where we were treated to a different kind of fresh lumpia. By that time, I was already quite full, as would perhaps any other guest after indulging in the previous treats. Anyway, the lumpia filling was made up of finely chopped carrots, and other vegetables, and oddly enough, sugar.

Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09) Big Binondo Food Wok (Aug. 15, '09)

The tour appears to be largely catered to foreign tourists (or perhaps because the tour group I was with was composed mostly of foreigners), and Filipinos who are unfamiliar with Binondo and Chinese food. For those who have been to Binondo a couple of times before, and are expecting to see and taste things they haven’t tried before, the hopia, lumpia or siopao might not be that exciting. I was personally expecting something more daring and unfamiliar. Notwithstanding that, the rest of the tour is highly enjoyable and informative. One of the best things, for me, is that you can have second servings of the food. You may contact Old Manila Walks through their contact page.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 8)

Once we found ourselves back in Quiapo, we decided to have mami and siopao at the old and infamous Ma Mon Luk restaurant along Quezon Boulevard. The place has been un-airconditioned since time immemorial because, according to a magazine clipping posted on Ma Mon Luk’s wall, airconditioning affects the noodle soup’s taste. For a decent price, the bowl of noodles was quite filling. Though, as to taste, I don’t think there was anything extraordinarily special about the soup. Perhaps it’s all about the nostalgia of having a bowl full of the ‘original’ mami of Manila. The siopao was meaty and quite filling too.

After having merienda, I parted ways with my friends and walked across Quezon Boulevard, took some last snapshot of Quiapo, and boarded an FX back to Quezon City. That was a pretty tiring but satisfying spontaneous walking tour.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 6)

From Intramuros, we crossed Jones Bridge another time on foot, this time proceeding to Binondo, where pedestrians will be greeted by the Filipino-Chinese friendship arch at the starting end of Quintin Paredes St. Upon descending form the Bridge from the Intramuros side of the Pasig, one shall be at Plaza Moraga, which according to this website, was the site of the first ice cream parlor in the Philippines (useless information, sorry). To your right, you will see Escolta, which as many of us might know, was once upon a time the premiere shopping and business center in Manila. That day, the entire place was just deserted.

We passed through the arch and walked along Quintin Paredes till we reached the end where a small plaza and a statue of Roman Ongpin can be found, and of course, where Binondo Church stands. There was a mass baptism going on at the church when we were there.

After taking random photos at Plaza San Lorenzo, we proceeded to this hole-in-the-wall, almost run-down restaurant in one of the back streets of Binondo, Dong Bei, which served authentic and fresh Chinese dumplings. The place is run by an immigrant couple from northern China, and their menu card claim that since many of the Chinese in the Philippines come from southern China, our concept of Chinese food is largely limited to Cantonese cooking, so one should try them out because they are different.

We had a plateful of their staple, steamed dumplings, I forget what they are called exactly, but they’re stuffed with ground pork and some green vegetables. These dumplings are prepared right within the servers’ own table at the dining area. We also ordered xinjiang chicken, which are cubes of chicken deep-fried and specially-flavored with, what, some northern Chinese spices and sesame seeds? It was good. It was my second time at the place, the first one was more than two years ago during an impromptu walking tour withIvan Mandy and a brod, Ivan Henares.

Block lunch at Tagaytay

Some of my blockmates and I wanted to make most out of the last few days of the sembreak before the second semester starts so we decided to plan a trip to Enchanted Kingdom in Sta. Rosa, Laguna yesterday, November 4.

Unfortunately, we did not foresee that the theme park was closed from Mondays to Wednesdays. We did not allow it to defeat our objective for the day, however. We spontaneously decided to drive to Tagaytay and then back to Manila to spend the rest of the night at Star City. It turned out to be a great spontaneous plan, definitely satisfying.

We left Diliman just before noon and arrived at Tagaytay around half-past one. On the way to Tagaytay, just to complete our frustration with Enchanted Kingdom, we had to pass by the place to really see for ourselves that it was indeed closed for the day. Anyway, when we got to Tagaytay, some of my blockmates were looking for bulalo, so for lunch we settled at this bulalo restaurant along the highway with a great view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.

We had a very satisfying lunch of bulalo, lutong macao (chopsuey of sorts with lots of meat and seafood) and sizzling chicken. We were so full on the way back to Manila. Despite that, we stopped by Rowena’s along the highway to Sta. Rosa to buy some pastries and other pasalubong. Before anything else, many thanks to Rex, from block A, who we tagged along and went with us. It was his van that we rode all throughout.

I shall write about our Star City adventure in another blog entry. My block is unbelievable sometimes, I’m off to a swimming party and lunch with my blockmates, again. Talagang nilulubos ang liwaliw bago ang buwan-buwang pag-aaral na magsisimula bukas. I don’t remember having this much wholesome fun in months.

Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (III)

December 15, 2007. I think this is probably the highlight of the entire tour. After visiting churches and ancestral houses, the tour masters Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, Anton Diaz and Spanky Enriquez took us to the Bale Dutung home of Claude and Maryann Tayag in Angeles, Pampanga for their famed exclusive lunch experience. Oh boy. Who would’ve thought a slow delightfully satisfying lunch for four hours is possible. It’s not the type of lunching where you devour your food because it’s just so good, rather, it’s the type where you just keep eating and eating at your own delightfully slow pace in such a cozy ambience and a cool environment. The crispy pritson was my favorite. Aside from that there was also pako salad, binulong na manok soup, pritong hito, kare-kareng dagat, sisig puso and pata mole. There were of course, the excellent sauces that come with everything. The taba ng talangka was my favorite. Our rice, on the other hand, came in cone shaped wrapped banana leaves.

IMG_7183.JPG Bale Dutung Pako Salad at Bale Dutung Pritson at Bale Dutung sauces at Bale Dutung Talong Boat at Bale Dutung
Bale Dutung Sisig Puso at Bale Dutung Pata Mole at Bale Dutung Smoked Tilapia at Bale Dutung Fried Hito at Bale Dutung Seafood Kare-Kare at Bale Dutung

In between servings, I had to leave my seat and walk around the house to make room for more servings, which was equally delightful, with the warm and peaceful ambience and all the wooden art pieces and other such furniture. I also found myself being engaged in conversations by Maryann and Claude, who were very hospitable, accomodating and generous hosts.

Also present for lunch with us was Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio.

Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off Tour (I)

December 15, 2007. Last December 15, Saturday, I joined the Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off tour of Anton Diaz, Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, and Spanky Enriquez. I only got home earlier (or morning) at almost three in the morning from another all-nighter frat party and my brod Ivan H., asked me to be at 6750 in Makati by seven in the morning a few hours after to meet with everyone else with the tour. With an hour of sleep, I was able to make it on time from QC. Anyway, we left Makati shortly after half past seven and arrived in Pampanga just before nine in the morning.

Bacolor Church, Pampanga

Our first stop was the town of Bacolor, Pampanga. The town, over much of the 90’s, was almost completely buried under more than a dozen meters of lahar from the Mount Pinatubo eruption of 1991. After having deserted the town for years, people have been coming back to rebuild their communities. The town church, or the upper half of what’s left, is now being restored and renovated. Inside the church, there is a small section that serves as a museum, with photographs of the parish and the town during its better days. In fact, things were so much better before, Bacolor served as the temporary capital of the Spanish colonial government during the short British occupation of the archipelago.

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