Travel:Naga City, Bicol

sneakerIt was a while ago, when I had the chance to go to Bicol at the invitation of a friend to attend the Our Lady of Penafrancia Pilgrimage.  Our Lady of Penafrancia is the patroness of Naga City in Bicol, a canonized replica of the Our Lady in Penafrancia, said to have been discovered by Simon from an apparition. The largest Marian Pilgrimage in the Philippines, millions of folks come to join in prayer and festivity. I have witnessed how weary travelers come to church and sleep on the floor waiting for the mass and procession.


Part of the celebration is band parade and competition participated by schools in the area, colorful, but it must be tiring for them having to stand erect in full costume under the heat of the sun.

Not my first time, I was sponsor to a wedding of a friend and law school classmate, so many years ago, she probably has grandkids now, he he.., it was an up and back trip that I didn’t have a chance to appreciate the sites and marvel on the Bicol flavors. This time it was different, I wanted to take pictures and just savor everything there is about Bicol.

Bicol is at the end of Southwestern Luzon with several provinces. They have their own language (I was rightfully corrected by my goddaughter, that a dialect can’t be understood by all, it stands on it’s own whereas language, although of different intonations and spellings can be understood by all) Did that make it sound more complicated.

Anyway, Bicol is a tourist destination, with farming and fishing as source of its livelihood. There is a province known for its metal production of knives and cutting implements. It was rather painful to see the rice fields damaged by a recent typhoon and hearing the lamentations of a landowner that they had to borrow money for seedlings and fertilizer only to sustain such a damage. They end up being buried in debt, and we thought that owning properties can sustain one’s existence. NOT.


Pili, a nut with a very hard shell, almost like almond. But the nut has more oil, the single nut is encased in a husk that is also edible.


Bicol can be reached by plane or land transportation, in our case we drove more than 8 hours from Manila. There were patches of heavy traffic, the roads were not that wide and there were trucks plying with supplies from the city. It was not a boring road trip as the scenery along the way is breathtaking. Going through the zigzag of Atimonan, Quezon with a well appointed rest stop.  If you’re going to drive though, note that there are never ending road widening projects in some cities along the way.

This is where the majestic Mayon Volcano is.  The most photographed Cagsawa ruins sit at the foot of the perfect cone volcano. It has erupted quite a number of times, in fact when we were, the volcano was threatening to erupt, spewing smoke. Residents were evacuated to the the next town, a safe distance. Fortunately, after weeks of living in the town hall and schools, leaving behind their means of livelihood, livestock and plants. Image below is from the website bicol website, I wasn’t able to take a good picture because of bad weather.


Anyway, we were told that the church was damaged by the eruptions, however there were articles refuting such a historical fact. Old photos and accounts of residents and historians noted that the damages sustained by the church is caused by the lack of maintenance.  The church was built without combustible materials and the tour guide was saying it was glued egg whites, although I can’t find anything online about it. CAn’t verify the veracity of such claims.   Wow, if that were true there must be an abundance of eggs at the time, I think it was the early 1800s.

Bicol being one of the first areas in the Philippines converted to Catholicism boasts a number of old Catholic churches, I was able to take a few pictures, impressive antique churches that were able to withstand time and the harsh weather of the area. Very impressive, and unlike in Europe where most old churches were just a thing for tourists to admire, these churches are still in use.. it was a wonderful feeling to be able to commune with the Lord in such a quiet environment, no distractions.

We went on a hike wanting to see the famous waterfall on the Mt. Isarog National Park, hah, of course I didn’t make it, they made it but I had to content myself with the beauty below. It was refreshing to see such natural beauty. What’s amazing for me, that is, is there are folks trekking laden with pots of food and other stuff for a picnic. I suppose there is a clearing somewhere near the top where folks can savor food and good company with such such a beauty in the background.

Street foods are a site to feast on too, with colorful rice cakes and other fried items, because of the Feast of Penafrancia, there are more vendors than on a regular day. It is an opportunity because of the influx of visitors.

The famous toasted siopao (more like meat rolls) originated from Bicol, they also have their own version of noodle soup, called “kinalas”. The broth is from boiled roast pork, beef, or chicken. Boiled until the meat has fallen off of its bones. It is topped with meat, boiled egg with a thick brown sauce. A noodle fan myself, I’d say it is not any different from the mami or ramen but the mixture of flavors is something that hits the spot especially on cold days.


Spicy with coconut milk are basic flavours of Bicol dishes, like pinangat, it has meat or fish wrapped in taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and top with thick coconut sauce. Taro leaves lined to the pot with fish are also cooked in coconut milk and spices for the famous laing. Shrimp paste is compacted in little cubes, ooh it smells but great to season almost any dish.

Being near the ocean, Bicol boasts a lot of seafood and dried fish, what a joy to go around their market and see different varieties.

Just like any big city, Naga City has an array of white linen restaurants, corner street stalls, of course the quick and easy fast foods, fusion, and international cuisines. Can’t complain about where to eat, after all eating is a favorite Filipino activity, we eat when we’re celebrating, we eat when we’re sad, we meet friends to eat, and so on.

We had lunch at Baste’s Garden restaurant, it is simple and inexpensive Filipino fare, the main attraction is that there is a mini zoo in the huge property. Monkeys, alligators, birds, and such. Facilities are simple but clean, service staff are courteous.

There is a row of restaurants on Ceriza along Magsaysay Avenue, we went to Chef Doy’s, a Filipino restaurant, not foofo but the decors is distinctly Filipino, food is good, the spicy ones didn’t appeal to me as I don’t care for them but all the others are absolutely delicious. You know what makes food more appetizing is the presentation, they get plus points for that, it is comfort food an uumph.

Then we went to the Grissini restaurant in the same neighborhood, also good, the decor reminds me of California, it’s not original, but you know with so many restaurants popping up everywhere original decors or flavors are hard to comeby. Almost everything has been tested and tried, the criteria then is whether or not it touches your palate the right way, hit the spot, so to speak.

Grissini did that, their thin crust pizza is good, what my tastebuds are expecting, we shared plates of vongole, red sauce, and alfredo. We had to return the vongole for a retouch. Not sure why, it is always the case with this kind of pasta, the combination of white wine and clam juice. Not sure if the sauce does not match the pasta. All in all though, it was a great experience.

For dessert, aside from the usual rice cakes, the city boasts of good coffee shops, it was a great meal closer, palate cleaner.. yummy

Still so many places to visit, so little time, on your way back, don’t forget to get some delicacies, or try the longanisa from Lucban.

What a wonderful trip it was, a great way to reconnect with a friend and enjoy the sights and flavors of the place. Sorry, this was a long post, there are still places to see.. till next time.








Travel: Davao City

Davao is a highly urbanized city in the south, touted as the safest city in the Philippines, it has gained popularity to tourist and locals alike because of the discipline implemented all throughout the city.

Many years ago when the three of us graduated from college and we promised to see each other at least every 4 years, we lost contact and only found each other on Facebook. We decided to visit Davao City, we didn’t know about Duterte then, he was a mayor alright, but nothing really caught our attention. Her son had a serious motorcycle accident that he is recuperating in Davao being close to the hospital with a good neurosurgeon.

We hastility bought our tickets far off from the scheduled flight for a good discount, voila the President has been elected and installed, and Davao City has been placed in the map of frequently visited by tourist. The President maintaining a residence in Davao also makes the City a destination for dignitaries, politicians, and business people.If they want an audience with the President they have to be where he is.

We were excited, aside from seeing our friend, Shen that we haven’t seen in a long time, it was an experience to behold. So off we went to the Durian land, we arrived late in the evening, one thing that was noticeable was the airport, everything is orderly. There are guards on the exit gate that takes the plate number and passenger name for security and for instances where something is left on the cab. After a quick pick me up at Jollibee, we decided to call it a night, of course after more updates.

The following morning, we went for breakfast at the Marco Polo breakfast buffet, decided to stay in a hotel but the hotel has no rooms available. The spread was quite extensive of different themes and varieties. So we said, “okay let’s go for a city tour first, then find another hotel.

We rented a cab for the whole day, for a city tour, got to see the famous 911 station. We got to visit the neighborhood of the President. You’ll probably wonder, what the come on is all about, when it is but a simple home. It is the home of the President and h e still stays there despite the elegant residence in the Palace in Manila.

We stopped at the crocodile farm, but didn’t go in after all we’ve been to the one in Florida or is it New Orleans?


As we were heading out, we saw Baste Duterte, the youngest son of the President of course, the girls would like to take pix, I opted out, the gramma is tired. He was very pleasant and agreed to have his picture taken.

Pictures are not that great, we were interested in talking than being a tourist, I guess. There is this place called Jack’s ridge, with a coffee shop on top of the hill, great place to relax.

One thing I noticed though, they don’t take too kindly to smokers, no smoking allowed in the area, to do so, one needs to go to outside the gates and smoke their lungs away.

Then it’s to find our hotel, we ended up staying at the Waterfront Hotel, pretty nice. We were told it’s going to be a room with a view, only to find out that one has to be positioned at a certain spot in the balcony, otherwise the view is the walkway roof.


But all in all the property is quite impressive, it is sitting on a beachfront and quite massive with a place to walk around. I’m glad we ended up staying here instead of a one building hotel.

Look at the smoking area, it is sitting so far off from the property with signs that can really deter smoking he he..

This is the smoking pen, no food or drinks allowed.

While having breakfast at the hotel, we chatted with the folks from the next table, that’s the fun part of travelling, one gets to talk to folks that we wouldn’t otherwise do. Anyway, he is Col Carlos Sol, Jr. retired military man and is heading the ceasefire secretariat. It was a wonderful chat, he agreed that the history needs to be corrected about the death of the 40 military man, which wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the greed of those in the know to get the reward money offered by the US. He was with his daughter who just graduated college.


Some of the sights from the hotel.

Davao is know for durian, a thorny husked fruit with pulpy flesh that emits foul, almost offensive odor, because of the smell it is not allowed in hotel rooms. There are stalls in the city with tables and chairs where folks can partake. Armed with plastic gloves they can partake with gusto. Not me though, I can enjoy the candy but not the fruit.

All in all, our trip was a good one, the next time we do visit Davao, we will be armed with an itinerary of places to visit and local eating places to try.


Recipe: Puttanesca Linguine paired with Kalamata Olive Bread

Because we’re such small eaters, we have to wait for company to be able to cook with gusto.

Especially since I found a source for kalamata olives here in the Philippines,, located in Antipolo, am pretty happy about that. Speaking of kalamata olives, I like the its saltiness, so good with cooking and as an appetizer.

So, so we decided to make puttanesca pasta, did you know that it got the name because that was prepared by the ladies of the night in Italy for when the come in from their gig. The would just put together whatever is in the fridge. Sharing here:

Barilla is my favorite brand, it is not very pricey too, we use to be able to get it on sale for less than a dollar.


bacon strips cut to size (would have been nice if there are thicker slices here in the Philippines)
olive oil for the pasta and for sauteing
Kalamata olives
black olives (just because)
anchovy paste (i used our fish paste bagoong)
fresh or canned whole tomatoes
smoked salmon (optional or you can use canned tuna)
fresh or dried basil
onions and garlic
we don’t have parmesan cheese, so we added left over brie in the sauce
we have lovely dried cherry tomatoes from japan, threw it in too



Cook pasta according to package instruction, save pasta water for the sauce.

Cook bacon until fat has been rendered, add olives, tomatoes, add the rest of the ingredients, letting it simmer until thick, oh add the pasta water gradually. Mix in the pasta, voila it’s done. Serve immediately.


A friend brought kalamata bread from Boudin bakery in SFO, a month or so ago, it was sitting in the freezer, it was a good accompaniment, dip in vinegar and oil


I’m finding that I enjoy spaghetti more than any other type, maybe it’s the texture but the flavor seems to be absorrbed more by the spaghetti.


What we forgot is the wine, not sure if would have paired well but we have an opened bottle of chocolate wine, a gift. Haven;t tried it yet, my mom did, she said it was different.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried making puttanesca pasta, hope you will.

It is fun to make and so enjoyable, the melding of flavors makes up for the clean up after he he.

Cheers —





The Presidentiables (a very late post)

My main interest at the time was the numerous presidential candidates vying for the main post of the land. I didn’t really understand why such interest exists. I mean all the presidents of the US during my stay all came to the white house with full head of hair but left with grey hair and slouchy posture, proof that indeed it is a high stress position.

In the Philippines, they left with mansions, fat bank accounts and maybe a case for corruption or embezzlement or involvement in illegal activies, like jueteng, contract manipulation, etc.


But this election is not as hilarious as the US, where a what can I call him, buffoon like Donald Trump is gaining a lead.

Going back to the Philippine election, we had:

  1. Grace Poe, a Senator, a US citizen, whose claim to fame is being an adoptive daughter of a deceased major action star. It was funny, because her detractors kept claiming that it can’t be assured that she is indeed a natural born citizen, a requirement for the top post. I don’t understand really, because a DNA test can be done to prove ethnicity, but no they’d rather just talk, talk, and talk. Oh, to top it all the senator’s husband was an intelligence office in the US military, clearly a disqualification, but nothing happened of the sort. It was also rumored that she was being sponsored by the bank owner and a relative of the former president.
  2. Then there is Mayor Duterte, a mayor of Davao, a fastest growing city in the Philippines, he has been known to instill discipline among the residents and was successful in the quick turn around of the City.
  3. Miriam Defensor, the brightest of the lot, more so because of her outspokenness about the law and her readiness to put things straight. But she is stricken with cancer.
  4. Jejomar Binay, a known corrupt, former Vice President, who had every member of his family in government positions. He has amassed millions if not billions of government funds. He had a farm in Batangas, allegedly even the pig sty is air conditioned so that it won’t smell. He converted the municipality of Makati into a high end building with hotel-level conveniences using government funds, of course.
  5.  Mar Roxas, a member of a political family, educated in UPenn, i think. His publicist made it look like he completed graduate studies there, but later on admitted that it was Bachelor’s degree.

You may have read or Not, that Duterte won and gained the support of majority of the Filipino people, mine included. So no amount of cheating dislodged him from being number one. I have heard first hand reports that Binay was spending so much money to ensure that he had the support of the people, that he was into massive vote buying. His emissary however, pocketed the allocation and bought a properties for himself, so it is Judas vs. Judas he he.

Then Roxas was giving away PHP300.00 roughly U$6.00 to secure a vote, folks were saying if they were not checking the ballot receipt they would have voted for Duterte. Also, the overseas ballots from the Middle East were said to have been sent with pre-selected name of Roxas, same goes for the remote villages of the Philippines. What’s strange is these people were always calling on God and praying and yet they are openly cheating and collaborating towards the downfall of others. But thank you Lordy, that you listened to them and installed the rightful one.

During the campaign the City folks were mesmerized by the display of propaganda especially when the children of the candidates were presenting themselves with their knowledge of foreign languages and their Ivy League education. Little to they know, that ceteris paribus, anybody can do that. I was more impressed by those folks who struggled to get their education and has displayed their intelligence sans arrogance.

The media folks didn’t miss the show too, there were allegations that they were paid by the candidates and therefore getting more media mileage. What a comedy that was.

Clearly, they believed that the previous administration was all so successful in creating a better Philippines, but it was all window dressing. ayyayyy..



The Philippines and the New President

The new keyboard is paying off, the mind and the fingers are now in sync, sorry, now you are going to be inundated with posts.

Less than a month into his election, without even being installed, the President was already citing orders of what he wants to see in the Philippines.


He already declared war against illegal drugs. A problem that we wouldn’t know the extent had he not shared this information to the public. People are really excited and hopeful about the new President, why you may ask, he is a cussing President, doesn’t use diplomacy in his dealings, be it a diplomat or the media.

The city folks, especially the media, who may be receiving payola from the yellow camp, were flabbergasted. Who is this provincial guy, who speaks with heavy Visayan accent, who lives so simply, that everybody is noticing. Even the business men welcomed him with open arms equally hopeful that the country will show signs of improvement, less corruption, therefore will result in economic growth.

It makes me wonder, if he were not elected, how would the country fare, being that the previous administrations have blinders to the problems of the country.  Technocrats who have no idea how the marginalized are existing without any inkling of how to improve their lives. Their main concern it seems is further self enrichment and would toot their own horn for every little accomplishment that they had, it’s their job mind you.

Therefore, the common tao would of course support someone, who even speaks and dresses like they do, understands their  predicament and promises to help them.

I was not shocked really, I liked the guy, heck I can sometimes spew out expletives when I am not happy with something, I tend to speak my mind sometimes without filters. But he is not a “gangster”, he is a lawyer, with superb management skills, a former prosecutor and a wide reader. I said he knows how to manage, because he can delegate and trusts the person he is delegating to. He can also think in a macro level, as what a president should do and connect all the issues and provide solutions. He has the humility to accept the recommendations of others without being a pushover.  I would say, he is a much needed influence for the country.

For example, over the last few months of the administration, there was a series of “baggage bullet drop”, wherein bullets were found in luggage of the travelers, victimizing innocent travelers, local and tourist with the intent of extortion. Of course, the travelers would readily agree to avoid the inconvenience of delay. The previous administration didn’t do anything about it, no investigation was heard of, the President, declared that if a bullet is found, just get their names and destination and send them on to their merry way. No extortion can  happen with that.

He wanted curfew at 10:00 as he wants children to be home doing their homework and safe instead of on the streets. Problem is there were overenthusiastic implementors who grabbed a toddler even if he was with his parents. Funny.

He paid attention to the needs of the Juan dela Cruz, such that the income of Pagcor and NCSO will be for health benefits. He managed to raise the moral of the military and the police.

We are not blind however, that with the corruption sitting deeply rooted in some employees, they would definitely oppose this changes, after all it will mark the end of their good times.

He encourages everyone especially the government employees to live simply, he himself would sometimes travel on commercial flights to go back to Davao where he maintains his old residence.

The war on drugs coupled with the problem in the South is really distressing, to the outside world, it looks like the country has been reduced to a killing field. Accusation of extrajudicial killing were being thrown by no less that the US, who can’t even handle their own drug problems and racially motivated killings by the police and civilians alike. But get this, the police or the military are not totally clean of corrupt practices, so they would  willingly kill to protect their sources or information about them. The competing suppliers and drug lords will do the same too to protect their interests, so why blame it on the PNP.

I also have observed that Juan dela Cruz has been volunteering information about drug dens, pushers, and users in their area, for the sake of peace in their neighborhood.

What is so disconcerting are deaths caused by the drug addicts, rape and stabbing seems to be a side effect of this poor man’s drug. So many children, young adults, recent graduates raring to start a new life with hopes of helping their families, killed so early in their lives, sometimes by family members, all because of drugs.

The OFWs for instance, the previous administration was saying that the economy was boosted by the OFW income, it must be good to say that there is economic growth, add that to the increasing BPOs in the Philippines, and we can say that our main resource is our people. But why is that we hear so much abuse on our OFWs, they are ignored except for the money that’s coming in. The recent events in Saudi Arabia where thousands of OFWs were stranded because of cancelled contracts with no reprieve in sight. The ambassador and the labor attache of the Philippines to the country is of no help, they were even treated poorly. Hah, I’m not sure if this is pure arrogance or just idiocy that they don’t know how to take care of their own. Abuse wouldn’t have been present, if the POEA made sure that there are no illegal recruiters or that the contracts provide protection to our people.

Packages that are being sent home are opened and taken by the customs staff. These people are also the abusers, stripping the OFWs of their dignity. It’s bad enough that they sometimes had to take jobs less that what they have trained for, just to be able to earn money, abused by their employers, talked down to, oh the list is endless.

No less than the former Pope Benedict cited that overseas work destroys the very fiber of family life because of the sacrifice of separation that the parties have to endure just to provide for their family.

And now they Abu Sayaff had the guile to bomb the night market in Davao to further their criminal activities. Much as my belief is purely Catholic, such senseless regard for life, I wouldn’t mind, dropping a bomb on their enclave. They don’t seem to have any advocacy but to criminalize the area, kidnappings, bombings, who’s funding these activities, I wonder.

Oh, gee I am out of breath by these monologue. Even in my introductory statement, I used to not care, I grew up under martial law and I was not affected, but these occurences, can be avoided, if only..

So, let us support the President, let’s not pay attention to his detractors, if there is something that doesn’t sit well with you, call or write to his office, am sure somebody will read it.

Oh, there is this issue of the Marcos family wanting to bury Ferdinand in the Heroes Cemetery, WTF, after raping the country of its resources and killing its people, he is a hero. Hah, I don’t mind, let’s do that, but there has to be a tombstone that says, “here lies FM, self declared hero, medals were fake, dictator, murderer, may he be accepted in heaver and be forgiven for his sins”

Then there is the former Department of Justice Secretary and now a Senator, who is a protector of the drug lords, they are truly making a  mockery of the system. One thing I am theorizing though, is that there has to be someone who has her back too.

Okay, I better stop. This country needs your support and prayers..








Travel: Olutayan Island in Roxas City, Capiz

It was not planned, or maybe I wasn’t part of the planning, he he.. as most of the time I have opted to stay in rather than trek a long trail, with a long drive and a not so calm boat ride.


We were hosted by the Vice Mayor of Capiz, Erwin Sicad and Ging Bayoneta. We had to be early to catch the ferry or is it a boat ride to the island, a good 45 minutes ride, although chartered, we still had to maintain schedule. We went to the estuary near the market, for our ride.

VM Erwin and Ging
Vice Mayor of Roxas City, Capiz Erwin Sicad and Ging Bayoneta

The estuary in itself was a treat, houses on the water, the water was murky but without that stale water smell, where even Lake Merritt in Oakland would emit such a smell. It is an art on its own, folks despite evident need just exudes contentment, such a pastoral, quiet scene. I enjoyed watching an old man in his small boat casting a net to catch small fish for consumption or sale.

So after a few minutes wait, we boarded a ferry that will take us to the island, it was indeed a ride that is well worth it. It was a very smooth sail and a great view.

We were told that the forces collide in bad weather claiming lives where the river ends and the ocean opens.

The beach is immaculate, since it is not a commercial resort, the island is clean, there are signs that smoking is not allowed in the beach area. There are about 700-900 residents of the island, mostly children. Surprisingly, there is cellphone signal, however electricity is rationed, if I remember it right, lights are turned off by 9:00 pm. Erwin jokingly said that it is the reason why there are many children in this community. Water comes from the mainland, via the ferry. I suggested a filtration system, but may not be that feasible considering the cost and the number of folks benefiting from it.

The children go to school in the mainland, fishing is the main source of livelihood of the area.

It was a bit rocky but with a lot of sea creatures, it was truly a place to visit. What was appealing to the place is its unadulterated, pure, and simple display of beauty of nature as God has intended.

Seafood were sold at good prices, they purchased fish and squid for maybe PHP300.oo, a lot, as we were able to bring home some. This is a version of the urchin found on the island, we returned it as we don’t want to partake or kill it, environmental responsibility is a good practice.

Sea Urchin

We didn’t stay too long, as it was a bit too hot, wish there is a hotel or a simple b&b in the area for a longer stay.

Thanks Erwin and Ging for the experience, it was indeed a wonderful one.


Gee, it’s been so long, so many breads ago..

Yeah, it’s been a while, not that there’s nothing going on in my world. My latest foray in baking was an herb loaf using a bread machine. Paired with pasta, it was wonderful.

So, I still have smoked salmon in oil from Costco, it was the first time I had it, I always use the smoked a little too hard smoked blob of salmon. Unused portion can be used for omelet, spread, or added to salad

For the pasta, I used Barilla spaghetti, love the al dente-ness without it being too  hard. Follow instructions on the box, make sure you save pasta water for cooking.


Check your fridge, practically you can throw in anything, after all pasta is just a medium for the flavors that you want.

sun dried tomato (just because we have it)
fresh or dried basil
olives (black or kalamata)
olive oil
smoked salmon or tuna (flaked)


Prepared the ingredients, slicing/cutting according to your desired method. I like to have mine in almost mince state so that it becomes really part of the sauce and easier to navigate.

Saute garlic and onions until caramelized, add the rest of the ingredients. Add a little pasta water, then the cream and the milk. I like to add grated cheese to the mix so that the flavors will all be mixed in. When it has reached the desired consistency, season to taste with salt and pepper, chili flakes if desired, then add the pasta mix well. Serve immediately.

Here’s the bread recipe from the oster bread machine manual.

garlic herb recipe

Best paired with a smooth red. I know, those in the know will probably say it is best with white, but I never enjoyed white wine, so there.