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.









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.

Produce: Atis, sugar apple to you or Annona

Atis or sugar apple is common all over, except North America, at least that’s what wikipedia is saying. The scientific name is annona, but in the Philippines there is a fruit called anonas, the same texture but with smooth skin and the color is pinkish orange. The guyabano is slightly bigger and the skin is thorny which seems to be more related to cheremoya, (a fruit that is widely available in California) than to the aits.


Growing up, we had atis trees in the backyard, so when we purchased this house, we thought we will plant the same trees and have that feel of being reminiscent of the old days. We keep saying, “we’re doing it for mom”, but the truth is we want to remember and at the same time share with Nicos, my nephew, how it was then.


Anyway, the tree finally bore fruit, two in fact, which the resident birds just didn’t miss out on.


Hah!, look at that wasted sweet organic goodness..


Recipe: Red Bean Chili and Flour Tortilla turned Roti

It was our group’s early Christmas party (oh what a relief to call it as it is, instead of calling it a Holiday event without offending anyone, am in the Philippines, which is a Catholic country). Originally, it was going to be a catered event, until they decided to spend for a worthy cause and have a potluck. For my share, I brought Red bean chili and flour tortilla that turned into a roti. To do this:


1 small bag of red beans (of course any kind will do)
1 small bundle of celery
red and green bell pepper
chicken (boiled and shredded)
cumin powder
chili flakes
1 packet taco sauce  (Lawry’s)
grated cheese
sour cream


  1. Wash beans thoroughly, picking through for stray “dead floating beans” and foreign objects (just as you would when preparing beans). In  large bowl or pot put water enough to cover the beans and soak overnight.
  2. In a large heavy bottom pot, saute the diced onion and garlic until it has caramelized. Add the beans, that has been rinsed from soaking overnight.
  3. Add the chicken broth from the boiled chicken, and add more water if necessary, good enough to cover the beans. Let it boil (rolling boil and simmer)
  4. When the beans has reached the doneness that you prefer, mash a portion, this will serve as a thickening agent.
  5. Add cilantro, chili flakes (depending on your spice level desired) and the packet of tack sauce.
  6. Simmer some more, until it is really thick add the celery (the stalks are diced and the leaves ribboned) and the diced pepper. Salt to taste.
  7. Serve top with grated cheese of your choice and sour cream, if desired, and tortilla or tortilla chips on the side.

I initially started making this on my instant pot, sauteing the onion and the garlic on a small amount of oil, once the onions has caramelized, put the beans (rinsed from being soaked)  added enough water to cover the beans then set it on beans/chili. The setting read 30 minutes after boiling, I said okay fine, this is good. However, 30 minutes has passed and still it is hard as rock, so changed the setting to slow cook for 3 hours. So I transferred it to a heavy bottom pot, simmered cooked it to the doneness preferred.

Sorry, am sharing this with you so that you won’t make the same mistake I did. I would normally cook this on a slow cooker,  leaving it on overnight or during the day before I  leave for work.

It didn’t take too long to cook on the stovetop, seasoned it as instructed above, transfer to a serving bowl topped with cheese and sour cream.

Flour Tortillas that turned to Roti

While the beans is simmering, I was preparing the flour tortillas, recipe by Cafe Sucre Farine. I followed everything, but I doubted the consistency, it was close to 5 minutes running on my stand mixer and it was still lumpy, so I added water.

See, I have a friend from Mexico, who invited me for dinner and made us prepare our own tortillas as we are getting ready for dinner. I thought that was cool, she never got around to sending me a copy of her recipe.

The additional water, was a definite error (DON’T), because the batter became so sticky that it was sticking to my tortilla press. I persisted, didn’t start a new batch, instead it was rolled, using a french roller, with that consistency it was hard to create a round tortilla, and I think it was too thin, that it was a little crunchy. Hah! and my original plan was to make oven tried tortilla chips.

It did look like tortillas when heated on a pan with all the bubbles and the browned parts. Oh, another tip, don’t let it stay too or put the stove on high heat, as you will have burnt tortilla and smelly flour dust left on the pan, not good.

I followed the recipe and came up with 16 pieces, though. Still I think this is a good recipe it is my execution that was a little erring. Will try again.

I like my food homemade that way I am sure that all the ingredients what they really are and there are no unnecessary preservatives included. Besides, it is fun to discover what I shouldn’t and should do. And the joy of savoring the result of my work, be it a successful or a failed attempt.

Cheers —





Travel: Dona Jovita Garden Resort, Calamba Laguna

It was a year ago when we first visited this garden resort, along the highway, it was a quick access.  One thing that I don’t like about traveling is so much walking. Between my aging mom and myself, we can be a pain for the group.

It is a sprawling property overlooking Mt. Makiling, tho  on our first visit I can tell that it has seen its glory. Although, clean, it is obvious that it needs maintenance.

There’s a small pool, originally a Jacuzzi right next to our preferred cottage. There are I think 4 or five other pools and of overnight guests there are individual  Jacuzzi pools. For the kids, there is a petty zoo, albeit small, slides and such, there are also a host of Disney figures.

There is a pool table, basketball court, foot ball field, horseback riding, and a beautiful garden for special events.

When we came back, there were evident efforts of upgrade. found out that another group is now managing the property. A zipline is also in the works.

The main draw for us is, the hot spring water, good for aching bones. There are antique figures around the property.  It is relaxing, what with the huge fruit bearing trees, and flowering plants a feast for the eyes.

There are barbecue pits for rent, we brought our own grill for hygienic reasons, he he.  There is a trick to igniting the charcoal easily, that is to put the charcoal on top of the grill,, burn newspaper under it,  then transfer when it is already burning. The resort’s close proximity to the market allowed us to buy fresh fish and eggplants for grilling, fruits and rice cakes are also available. We only brought marinated pork

Los Banos and Caalamba being a traveler’s destination, different kinds of cheeses, yema cake, sans rival (which beats even the best cakeshops in Manila), the famous buko pie, and fruits.


Recipe: Sinaing n Tulingan (Sour Tuna)

Tulingan is a Filipino staple, a poor man’s meal actually, but almost everybody loves it.  Tuligan, I guess is from the family of tuna or mackerel, when not cooked properly can be deadly.

This dish is prepared with the following ingredients (the portions are what we prepared but you can certainly change according to volume):

Tulingan 2 kls (about 5)
pork belly sliced thinly
kamias (fresh) dried kamias can be used sliced horizontally 4-ways

After cleaning the fish, gut and gills removed and washed thoroughly so that no traces of blood can be seen. The innards, fat, intestines are cleaned separately and included on top. Pat dry with paper towel.

Once dry, slice horizontally in the middle, without going through the bones though. Put enough salt on the opening and press down gently (my brother was not allowed to do it, as my mom said, “he’s too strong, it’s going to break the fish).

We have a pot for this kind of fish preparation, just our idiosyncrasy, the pot is a coated pot, that way no fish smell gets stuck to it.  Your bottom pot should have the pork belly, hopefully will cover the whole bottom of the pot, the pork belly renders the fat that sort of protects it from burning. Then the kamias, which is the souring agent (some folks use vinegar or dried kamias.

Kamias, by the way is also called blimbi,  I think it is from the star fruit family. This fruit being a tropical fruit is widely grown in Asia, in fact we have a tree in our backyard.  Here’s a picture of the kamias fruit.


Once everything is potted, add enough water, maybe halfway to the pot,  no need to salt, as the fish has been salted quite generously.  Simmer for at least 3 hours. A word of caution though, the kitchen is going to smell,  only while cooking, even with the exhaust fan on. It is best to light  a candle to mask the smell if not totally eliminate. My mom doesn’t refrigerate and continues to simmer on the second day.  Because the cooking process is a bit uberly, she tends to freeze it in small packages  (heck we can’t have it everyday. no matter how good it is :)). The finished product.  Notice that the sauce has turned brown, that signals that it is cook. A prudent blogger will probably towel off the sides for a cleaner picture, but I am not the type, I wanted to show you how it really looks (translation, a little laziness).


Some folks add this to veggies cooked in coconut milk or fry it for breakfast. I enjoy it as is with grilled eggplant.

Care to try?


Recipe: Meringue – a Success

Got you there. huh! you’re probably thinking that it is such a foolproof process that anyone can do it.

You may have guessed, my relationship with the oven is one that is non committal, if the result turns out good that I am with it.  My failed bread attempt notwithstanding, I have been wanting to try to make meringue. You’ll probably laugh at me, being it is such a simple process. Not to a pre-beginner baker like me. I used this recipe from BBC, it was quite good, my mom already wanted to make custard with the egg yolks that I will discard.

I used 2 desert spoons instead of a batter pipe, not wanting the mixture to change its consistency.

Hopefully, I will be able to make sans rival after this he he..Sans rival is a filipino dessert, translated without a rival, didn’t bother to check if it is french or italian or non of the above) It consists of a layer of meringue and butter cream topped with cashew nuts.  A favorite of mine.