Briefly in Batangas, then Pangasinan

My paternal relatives have been taking advantage of every opportunity to get together after my paternal grandfather passed away a few months ago. Lolo used to be the reason why the extended family gets together, usually during hospital visits in Manila. Now that he’s gone, any paternal relative’s birthday is a reason for our family to spend the day in upland Cavite or in Batangas. I hope it stays that way.

Last weekend, we went to Nasugbu in Batangas for the birthday of one of my young nieces. We spent the night and the rest of the day-after leisurely at Canyon Cove Resort.

A day after our trip to Batangas, I took a bus to Pangasinan to join my fraternity batchmates from UP Los Banos in a brief leisure outing. After a little more than four hours on the road from Manila, I reached the municipal hall of Bugallon, Pangasinan. I had asked for the bus to drop me off at the landmark where my fraternity brothers were to pick me up. They had arrived hours earlier and had gone sight-seeing ahead of my arrival.

I took the opportunity to go around the plaza taking photos while waiting for my companions. After meeting up with my brods and sisses, we proceeded west of Lingayen to Alaminos, where we spent a few moments at the town’s docks with the famed Hundred Islands in the horizon. Unfortunately since we only had a day and a few hours to stay in Pangasinan, a Hundred Islands trip was out of the itinerary.

Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09) Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09) Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09) Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09) Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09) Pangasinan w/ Frat Batchmates (Oct. 26, 09)
On our way back to Lingayen, we passed by the place of the mayor of Alaminos, who is apparently a fraternity brother also, but we didn’t catch up with him as he was somewhere else. We spent the rest of the afternoon till early in the evening at the wide stretch of beach right behind the provincial capitol in Lingayen. I don’t remember being in a beach that wide-stretching. Like a public park, locals and probably a few tourists were all there just having a good time. The rest of the night was spent at one of our batchmate’s family rest houses in town. We did have to go back to Manila right after midnight since some of us had to attend to our own functions by morning.

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 7)

After having lunch at Binondo, we decided to proceed to Divisoria, which was less than a dozen blocks away. I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything, but I ended up buying a pair of inexpensive short-sleeve barongs, one in white and one in red. After strolling around Divisoria, we went all the way back to Binondo and walked along famed Ongpin Street with all the shops selling Chinese wares and goods. We also dropped by the Estero, a row of eateries beside a creek that crosses Ongpin. After walking the entire length of Ongpin and beyond, we eventually found ourselves in Quiapo.

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.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 5)

From Intramuros, we found ourselves along the banks of the Pasig River again, which has been paved by the city government with clay tiles. The riverbanks park is, however, deserted save for some street dwellers washing their clothes and taking a bath in the river.

Across the river from this side of the Pasig, one can see a handful of old and abandoned buildings in what used to be considered the downtown of Manila, and some other relatively old high-rises in Binondo. One can also see the tall orange cranes of Port Area beyond Tondo.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 4)

From Manila Cathedral, we walked a few blocks to another historic site, the San Agustin Church, still in Intramuros. San Agustin is the oldest stone church in Manila, and is one of four Filipino baroque churches in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Out of several visits to the church, it was the first time I noticed the Chinese stone lions that guard the church’s entrance, which I found peculiar at first. Upon searching through the internet, I found out that these stone lions were gifts from Catholic-converts among the Chinese.

After strolling inside the church and at the courtyard, we crossed the street into Casa Manila, a reconstructed stone house recreating the atmosphere of Spanish colonial Manila through the home of an ilustrado. A fee is asked for those who would want to explore the insides of the home. Instead, we just lounged for a bit at the coffee shop for pasta and coffee before proceeding with our walk.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 3)

After walking along the Pasig River, we decided to cross Jones Bridge and go to Intramuros, where we stopped by the Manila Cathedral and Plaza de Roma. It was a relatively long walk, though there wasn’t much traffic at all since it was a Sunday.

Manila Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila, which, during the Spanish occupation had jurisdiction over the entire archipelago. Fronting the Manila Cathedral is Plaza de Roma with a statue of King Carlos IV of Spain. At the southwest side of Plaza de Roma is Palacio del Gobernador, which used to be the seat of the Spanish Governor General of the Philippines. It now houses several government offices.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 2)

From Plaza Miranda, we walked along Hildalgo snaking through the streets past Avenida Rizal into Plaza Lacson. I noticed what used to be the classic Prudential Bank building has now, well, the Bank of the Philippine Islands brand on its face.

We just kept walking until we almost reached Binondo, but eventually we found ourselves walking along the Pasig River, among old abandoned structures, along streets that have apparently become a favorite location for TV commercials, right across the central Philippine Post Office building.

Around old and downtown Manila (Part 1)

Last week, one of my friends wanted to buy supplies at Divisoria in Manila. Because we had a previously botched road trip, I suggested we take the Divisoria trip as an opportunity to just roam around the streets of old Manila. Quiapo is where we started. Here are some pictures.

There was a time early when I was a freshman in college when I would just board a bus to Quiapo after my day’s classes, instead of going to my organizations’ tambayans in Mass Comm, or instead of simply going home. I would just walk around Plaza Miranda, buy DVDs at the stalls along Hidalgo, and there were times I would even cross Quezon Bridge on foot and take pictures at Lawton with my SLR camera with black-and-white film.