Friday, May 30, 2014

What's in a (Business) Name? Treinta

I hope the servings are dino-sized, too.
Spotted in SM City Bacolod by Fred of The Exaggerated Zeal. Thank you!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Filipino Food Favorites at Kuya J Restaurant

Do you know Kuya J? He used to live somewhere near Capitol. He did so well that he moved to a nicer place near Ayala, acquired two new homes in SM (SM Cebu and SM Consolacion), and will soon be adding another home somewhere in Manila.

Kuya J in SM Cebu

Kuya J's not–so–secret secret? Good food. Affordable prices. We all love that, don't we? I bet one or two or three of these are on your favorite Filipino food list:

Three are on mine: ginataang monggo, crispy pata (crisp skin and tender meat!), and baked scallops. I usually don't care for kare–kare, but Kuya J's very peanuty (I love peanuts) kare–kare earns a spot on my list.

Menu. Click to enlarge.

Not on the menu, but is currently available, is the lumpia presko/fresh lumpia: stuffed in a malunggay infused wrapper (thus, the green color) are bamboo shoots and crab meat. I like to eat this topped with fresh garlic and crushed peanuts and smothered with sweet garlic sauce. My list of Kuya J favorites has now grown one item longer.

And that list will soon become a little longer, with their new dishes, drink, and desserts to be launched this June: tokwa't baboy—deep fried pork belly and tofu with tuba (coconut wine) soy sauce; chorizo dinamitas—jalapeño peppers stuffed with Cebu chorizo and cheddar cheese; chicken tagudtod—deep fried chicken wings with sweet sesame sauce; dalandan (flavored) beer; tablea flan with coffee syrup; banoffee saba; and fried halo–halo ala mode.

I already have a meal plan (one that any doctor would put a big red X mark on) for my next visit: ginataang monggo, crispy pata, baked scallops, kare–kare, lumpia presko, chorizo dinamitas, and three desserts: leche flan, tablea flan with coffee syrup, and banoffee saba!  But I can't finish all these by myself, so who wants to eat these with me? Know that I am a sweet lover (not the driver kind, but a person who likes desserts); I will share everything, except for the desserts.

PS Thank you, Kuya J, for letting me be one of the first few to try your new creations. I want to shake your hand, or maybe your chef's hand, for being bold and coming up with interesting new dishes, desserts, and drink. Kudos!

Kuya J Restaurant
Upper Ground Floor (by the entrance facing Radisson Blu), SM City Cebu
(032) 266 8600
Daily 10AM–10PM

Escario cor. Tojong Sts. Kamputhaw, Cebu City
(032) 260 2991
Lunch 11AM–3PM daily
Dinner 6PM–10PM daily

SM City Consolacion
(032) 266 8188
Daily 10AM–9PM

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge 2014

Dear Gawad Kalinga,

If I were a teacher and you were my student, I'd give you a D. A double D.

D for Delight.

It was a delight to find out you'll be having another Bayani Challenge this year. This time it would run for two months and in different locations in many provinces. The activities would include house building, school refurbishing, mangrove planting, coastal cleanup, health mission, and paraisong pambata.

I eagerly signed up—two months ahead of the schedule I had chosen. In the two months of anticipation, I received very few updates and too few details. I was only informed of where to go two days before the date I was scheduled to jump on the bus. With only that information in mind (go to the Municipal Hall) and no other instructions, I went.

D for Dismay.

I arrived at the municipal hall, spotted a Gawad Kalinga tarpaulin, but not a Gawad Kalinga person in sight. First question in my head: where do I volunteer? Good thing a friend (who went a day ahead) thought of telling another volunteer who was still at the municipal hall to be on the look out for me. I asked her what the activities were for the day and that's how I got myself to the elementary school where people were painting the facade pink.

While painting, I was told that the facade had already been painted the day before—in another color. They (I am not sure who "they" is) decided that that color was too drab and needed to be painted in a brighter color—pink. Hmmm...wasn't that "wrong" (color) decision a waste of time and a waste of gallons of paint?

 Volunteers paint the facade twice

During lunch break, my friend, who volunteered at the beach, told me they really didn't do anything there. And that the day before, there were dozens of volunteers ready for the mangrove planting...which did not happen at the last minute. Again, a waste of people's time.

The morning of my second day, I went back to the same elementary school to paint the interior walls, which we had started painting yellow the day before. Ah, but the paint that was prepared was a shade too light and we were all asked to stop til they got the mixture right. But, lo and behold, there was no tinting color to be found, and somebody had to hunt down the right color at the two hardware stores in town (color not available) and at the hardware stores some distance away from town. While that somebody was busy looking for the right color, more volunteers arrived, armed with paintbrushes, but with nothing to do. A whole morning gone to waste (painting—with the right color—resumed after lunch).

I am not sure if others saw what I saw, but I observed that the school needed more than a fresh coat of paint (by the way, for the exterior walls, only the front was given a fresh coat of paint). The ceiling was sagging. The floorboards were bending underfoot. Would it have been better to repair the school building first?

I am not writing this to discourage people to volunteer, but I am writing this in the hopes that you, Gawad Kalinga, would plan better next time so as not to waste materials and everyone's time. I know your intentions and goals are all good.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Big Tom's Charbroiled Burgers

111 Juana Osmeña St. Cebu City
(032) 239 8101
Daily 11AM–9PM

Who is Tom? Tom, short for Thomas, is the owner.

Is Tom big? I haven't met him, but, for you, I got into spy mode and googled him. He is bigger than me.

Is the restaurant big? The restaurant can seat about 30 and has a very tiny parking space (good for two cars only).

What's "charbroiled"? Charcoal + broil = charbroil(ed). In other words, grilled over charcoal.

How many burgers does Big Tom have? Enough to serve customers from lunch til dinner every day. For a list of Big Tom's burger creations, check out The Exaggerated Zeal's blogpost.

How many big burgers can a person eat? It depends on their appetite. Most of Big Tom's burgers come in two sizes: 4 ounces (that's a quarter of a pound) and 6 ounces (0.375 lbs). The Mash Burger is the smallest at 2 ounces (0.125 lbs). The biggest is the double decker cheeseburger—a choice of 8 ounces (half a pound) or 12 ounces (3/4 of a pound).

How many burgers can Mustachio and two friends eat? Three. One burger each (each burger comes with a small portion of fries): 6 oz. Portobello blue cheese burger (Php 335 for 6 oz. / Php 295 for 4 oz., not on the menu, occasionally offered), 4 oz. deluxe bacon cheeseburger (Php 175), and grilled chicken vinaigrette (Php 180).

Can one easily bite into Big Tom's burgers? Open really wide and you can plug your mouth, if you're having a Portobello blue cheese burger, with a 5–inch burger bun loaded with a 6–ounce patty, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, crumbled blue cheese, and oozing with mozzarella cheese and blue cheese sauce. It's going to make a delicious mess.

Once you've bitten into your burger...would you like to share it? "Share," came the reluctant reply of Portobello blue cheese burger eater as he slowly sliced small portions for his two companions...all the while thinking "Noooo!! Mine! All mine!"

Now that you've had a bite...Big Tom's or Big Daddy? Deluxe bacon cheeseburger friend liked her burger but still preferred Big Daddy over Big Tom.

Mustachio, chicken or beef? Half of the answer was between his fingers—grilled chicken vinaigrette. The other half of the answer was in his mouth—tender and tasty grilled chicken vinaigrette.

Three people, three wallets, three burgers, and three opinions.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

El Nido Tours B and D

To make the most of our two short days in El Nido, our leader was able to arrange for combo tours (on top of arranging transfers and accommodations! Super woman!): A+B and C+D. I will not bore you with Tour A and Tour C since I have already bored you with it a year ago. This time, allow me to show you the Tour B and Tour D spots we visited.

Tour B
What comes after Tour A? Tour B! Two islands and two caves.

Snake Island
When we reached Snake Island, two groups had just had their lunch and were wrapping up. We, on the other hand, still had empty stomachs. It was already 130PM. While our boatmen prepared lunch, we went up to the viewdeck to look for snakes. We found a long, white one—a sandbar connecting Snake Island to the island of Palawan.
The sandbar

The view to the east

Cudugnon Cave
After lunch and two hours of swimming and lazing in Snake Island, we sailed south to Cudugnon Cave. To enter the cave, we had to go through a small hole one by one. Openings in the high cave ceiling let sunlight in and there was no need for flashlights. Our boatmen didn't really say anything about the cave's history. Had we had more time, I would have stayed inside longer to eavesdrop on another group's guide.
Left (photo by L Salas): That hole on the bottom? That's the entrance. Right: Inside the cave.

Outside the cave is a small beach with a open cottages

Cathedral Cave
Southeast of Cudugnon Cave is the small island of Pinasil where Cathedral Cave is. Once you see it, you'll know why it's called Cathedral Cave. We could have gone inside and explored the cave if we had a kayak. But, no, we didn't have one and we were left to imagine what was inside the cave.

Pinagbuyutan Island
Our last stop for the Tour B loop was Pinagbuyutan Island. On one end of the beach is fine white sand, on the other are broken corals. The beach is dotted with trees that provide much needed shade when the sun is high.
The fine sandy portion (Photo by R Abastas)

The other end of the beach is covered with coral sand

Tour D
Tour D includes five spots but we chose—actually, our boatmen did—just these three spots since it was getting late (we visited all spots included in Tour C before proceeding to Tour D). The two beaches we missed were Natnat Beach and Paradise Beach.

Cadlao Lagoon
The quiet Cadlao Lagoon is a good area for stand up paddling. If only we had thought of that idea prior to getting on the boat, we could have rented stand up paddles in town. For a few minutes we just gazed in envy at the other visitors on their stand up paddles...then forgot about it and enjoyed swimming in the clear waters of the lagoon. It felt like we were in a huge aquamarine pool surrounded by karst walls covered in green and yellow leaves.

Pasandigan Beach
We were the only visitors in Pasandigan Beach. Unfortunately, we were only given ten minutes to enjoy the serenity and soft sand. It was already 430PM and we had one more beach to visit.

Bukal Island
Nearing 5PM, we reached Bukal Island in shadow—the sun was already behind Cadlao Island, the island facing the small Bukal beach. Photos and last minute dips were in order.
 Photo by L Salas

Each place has its charm, but my favorite of the above would have to be Snake Island...when all the other groups had left. Since I could not put into words the feeling while floating near the sandbar, the main island of Palawan behind me, Snake Island to my left, another island to the right of my frame of vision, some karst mountains in the distance in front of me, and nothing but the sound of the sea, I just drew as best I could the picture that is still etched in my mind.

India has snake charmers. In the Philippines, I found a snake that charms people.

El Nido, A Year After (2014)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

El Nido Island Hopping Tours

There are four island hopping tours in El Nido to choose from. In 2013, tours cost between Php 700 to Php 900. In 2014, you get to be Php 1200 to Php 1400 poorer, depending on which tour you choose. (That's a whopping Php 500 increase for each tour!) In addition to the tour fee, an environment fee of Php 200 per person is collected (valid for 10 days).

The four El Nido island hopping tours are:

Tour A (Php 1200) : Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Simizu Island, Seven Commandos Beach

Tour B (Php 1300) : Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island

Tour C (Php 1400) : Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Talisay Beach, Hidden Beach, Secret Beach

Tour D (Php 1200) : Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Beach, Bukal Beach, Natnat Beach, Paradise Beach

All tours include lunch. It is best to bring a waterproof camera on these tours (if you don't have one, you can rent one in town).

Tours can be booked through any of the tour agencies scattered in town or through your inn/guesthouse/hotel (most inns/guesthouses/hotels in El Nido can arrange island hopping tours). Rates are standard. If you're one big group, you might be able to haggle and request for combo tours. Like we did.

We did tours C and D on day one, and A and B the next. The disadvantage of doing combo tours is that you will not get to visit all spots...unless you speed through each spot.

El Nido, A Year After (2014)
Trattoria Altrov'e
El Nido Island Hopping Tours (you're here!)

El Nido, A Year Before (2013):
Welcome to El Nido
Telesfora Beach Cottage in Corong-corong
Tour A: A Perfect Day for Lagoon Hopping
Tour C: A Perfect Day for Beach Hopping
Palawan on the Pocket

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Trattoria Altrov'e

Why did my friends and I find ourselves eating pizza and pasta while in El Nido? Put the blame on the restaurant and its strategy... Trattoria Altrov'e smartly placed its pizza making area where it can be seen by everyone walking Calle Hamma, the street parallel to the beach in the town of El Nido. It was the man making pizza that we saw through a plastic cover and the smell of pizza emanating from a brick oven that made us stop in our tracks and stare at the pizza dough smothered with tomato sauce and getting emblazoned with meats, greens, mushrooms, olives.

Here's why. Looking thru the plastic cover and smelling the pizza. (Photo by R Abastas)

One second we were glued in front of this mesmerizing sight, the next second we were walking barefoot (slippers have magically been left on the shelf by the entrance of Trattoria Altrov'e) on the wooden floor of the second level of the restaurant. It was dinner time and the restaurant was packed but we luckily got a round table and some pillows for our butt at the far end of the restaurant.

Calle Hamma, El Nido, Palawan
0927 741 8016
Daily 5PM–11PM

 Photo from Trattoria Altrov'e's facebook page

I left the task of choosing the food to my three friends and they decided on two pizzas and two pasta dishes. That's like one for each person. Big appetites? Or big wallets?

Peperoni has...pepperoni (Php 390) and Quattro Stagioni has mushrooms, artichokes, ham, and olives (Php 445)

Gamberi e olio d'oliva has shrimps and sun-dried tomatoes (Php 310) and All'arrabiata has bacon, garlic, paprika, and parmesan cheese (Php 230)

More like big wallets with nothing inside. But, it's proven, we have big appetites. We finished everything. It was that good. Or we were very hungry. No, I think it was just really good, and we could not let anything go to waste.

El Nido, A Year After (2014)
We Got Dumped in El Nido
Trattoria Altrov'e (you're here!)
El Nido Island Hopping Tours
El Nido Tours B and D

El Nido, A Year Before (2013):

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We Got Dumped in El Nido

What did we get by booking four rooms (for three nights) in Anang Balay Turista four months in advance and making a downpayment of Php11400 (50% of the total)? We got Jhanna's Inn.

How did this happen? After we have been duped and dumped, we were told that this happens often with Anang Balay Turista. Sounds like the owner of Anang Balay Turista is a bit of a sigurista (hey, that rhymes!) and overbooks her place. When everyone who has booked rooms shows up, the owner of Anang Balay Turista asks Jhanna's Inn (a stone's throw from Anang Balay Turista; both are on the south end of the beach) to take some of her guests. Lucky for Jhanna's Inn.

Serena St., Brgy. Buena Suerte, El Nido, Palawan
+63 947 452 4842

And lucky for us, too—Jhanna's Inn is newer and more comfortable than Anang Balay Turista. Before we were led into Jhanna's Inn, the caretaker of Anang Balay Turista took us to the second floor of Anang Balay Turista to show us one of the rooms...which turned out to be occupied. The alley and the staircase leading up to the second floor was narrow and steep; the child we were with slipped. The hallway between rooms in Anang Balay Turista was narrow, making the place rather cramped. Yup, we were lucky to be dumped in Jhanna's Inn, where the rooms were bigger (though only three: Quad Php 2500 / Triple Php 2000 / Twin Php 1500), and there was no staircase (narrow or not) to worry about.

 Jhanna's Inn has three rooms only.
The common area has a couch, some chairs, and a dining area (not pictured).

On the downside, Jhanna's Inn does not provide free breakfast, whereas Anang Balay Turista does (one of the reasons we chose Anang Balay Turista in the first place, so we didn't have to worry about breakfast). Thanks to the angry powers of one of my companions, she got Anang Balay Turista to provide free breakfast (rice, egg, ham/hotdog, coffee/bottled water).

We arrived in El Nido around 10PM and it took angry companion an hour and several phone calls to the owner of Anang Balay Turista (who wasn't around) to get everything settled. After all the furor and confusion, each one of us went into our assigned cold (AC was on) room in Jhanna's Inn, freshened up in the clean bathroom (each room had its own bathroom), and jumped in bed to sleep for the next six hours.

 Triple (left) and Quad (right) rooms. The quad sharing room is spacious (though the photo doesn't show so) that it can accommodate one more single bed. Each room has an air conditioning unit, a flat screen TV, and its own toilet and bath. Towels, toilet paper, soap, and shampoo are provided.

How we reached El Nido from Puerto Princesa:

We rented a van through Northern Hope Tours. They charge Php 6000 per way, but angry companion (who wasn't angry at the time she booked the van) was able to haggle and we paid Php 11000 roundtrip (50% downpayment required). Their van can accommodate 12 passengers. We were dropped off at the inn in El Nido and picked up at the appointed date and time.

The year before, we rented a van through Trip@Palawan Travel and Tours ( / 0908 376 4933). They charged Php 11000 roundtrip (van waited in El Nido and we were able to use it to/from town since we were staying in Corong-Corong) plus Php 1500 for the sidetrip that we requested to Sabang for the underground river. Their van can accommodate 12 passengers.

Just this year, groups that rent a van have to pay Php 100 (per van) upon entering El Nido town. Those who take the bus or shuttle van are dropped off outside of town and have to take a tricycle to go to their hotel/resort/inn.

Jhanna's Inn can also arrange van transfers to and from Puerto Princesa and island hopping and inland tours in El Nido. Had we known Jhanna's Inn existed, we could have booked with them and not gone through all that hassle with Anang Balay Turista. Next time we shall dump ourselves directly to Jhanna's Inn.

* In the confusion upon our arrival, I forgot to take photos. All photos above are from Jhanna's Inn's facebook page. *

El Nido, A Year After (2014)
We Got Dumped in El Nido (you're here!)
Trattoria Altrov'e
El Nido Island Hopping Tours
El Nido Tours B and D

El Nido, A Year Before (2013):

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Three Little Pigs Went to...

One Sunday, the three little pigs—Babe for Food, Baktin, and Pigstachio—got on a jeep and went to...

They alighted near 138 Mall in Colon Street. They went in the mall, not to go shopping, but to make a shortcut to the parallel street called...

V Gullas Street
...where "Cebu's Original Best Pancit Canton" is said to be found: in Visayan Restaurant. It was already past noon and the restaurant was empty save for two other customers—one was just finishing up his lunch and the other was waiting for her take out. The one who was just finishing up, the pigs were told, was Visayan Restaurant's most loyal customer, a gentleman in his 70s, twenty years older than the current owner (the son of the founder, I am guessing) of Visayan Restaurant.

Visayan Restaurant
V Gullas Street (behind Colonnade), Cebu City
(032) 253 8631
Monday to Saturday 9AM to 8PM
Sunday 9AM to 1PM

Click to enlarge menu

Hams down, special pancit canton (Php 110) for lunch—this is what the pigs came to Visayan Restaurant for. Further study of the menu led to the decision to carbo load: fried Shanghai rice (Php 110). And because rice, the pigs reasoned, should go with meat, they added lemon chicken (Php 155). And, at the last minute, added some vegetables (chou pat chin, Php 155).

As soon as the food was served and photographed, the pigs dug in and offered their opinions. Except for Pigstachio who is no food expert and could only say "mmm..." After tasting "Cebu's Original Best Pancit Canton", Pig #1 wanted to cross out the restaurant's sign...she would still pick Mingnan's pancit over Visayan's. All three pigs, though, agreed that the fried Shanghai rice and the lemon chicken were delicious, though they thought the lemon chicken's sauce was too runny. These three pigs are carnivorous, and the chou pat chin, was there, well, not to wow their taste buds, but to erase the guilt of not having the lowermost part of the food pyramid.

Will the pigs eat there again? Warning: Pig #1 found a short strand of hair on the, uhh, Pig #1? Pig #2 said he'd order some take out next time. Pig #3, the most thrifty of the bunch, thought Visayan Restaurant has good Chinese food for a very affordable price. 

Pigs will be pigs. And hair does not and will never make them lose their appetite. It was a hot Sunday and the blazing summer sun prompted Pig #1 to suggest halo-halo for dessert. "Let's have Melton's Halo-halo in Talisay!" Pig #1 said half jokingly (Talisay's about 13 km from the pigs' current location). Pig #2 and Pig #3, always up for food, took the other half of the suggestion—the not joking half—and off they went with nary a clear idea where this Melton's Halo-Halo was (Pig #1 just said she saw it on the side of the road somewhere in Talisay). Out of Visayan Restaurant they marched, looking for a jeepney going south. As luck would have it, the first jeepney driver the pigs approached knew where Melton's was and it was on his route:

The jeepney driver dropped the three little pigs off at Kingsmen, just before the Pardo church, and pointed them to the yellow sign down the road:

52 I Tabura St, Poblacion, Pardo, Cebu City
 Daily 12NN to 12MN

A few minutes after the pigs arrived, the 30 seats of Melton quickly got taken. And inside, it got warmer—Melton's has no airconditioning. No AC? Ah, so customers can appreciate the cold of their specialty: halo-halo.

Each of the pigs ordered a super special halo-halo (Php 60)—super special has two small scoops of ice cream, while special has no ice cream at all. What's in Melton's halo-halo? Coconut, banana, jackfruit, cornflakes, kaong (sugar palm), no beans (to the delight of Pig #2), no leche flan (to the dismay of Pig #1), and peanuts (to the surprise of Pig #3).

Halo-halo is a perfect dessert for summer. The pigs were satisfied, but dreaded going out in the sun again, where they and their halo-halo-filled bellies will melt. Being a long way from home, the pigs might need another dose of halo-halo when they get home. Hmm... Halo-halo for take out, perhaps?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wisdom from the Road #15

On saving
Save a water bottle.
Save money.

Bring a water bottle. Some airports might not allow more than 100 ml of liquid so you might have to chug all the water or dump the water, but make sure to keep your water bottle. Refill when there are free water dispensers—some airports, accommodations, museums, and restaurants have free water dispensers. It can save you at least 25 Philippine pesos per half a liter.

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.