My 7,107 | Camotes and Cebu City

It’s my second time visiting Camotes Island in Cebu. The last time was just about a year ago. I never really had the time to explore Cebu city itself back then, so I made sure to stay in the city and have myself familiarized with it before heading to Camotes, this time around. There are still lots of places to go to but in the limited time I had, at least I was able to go to the more popular destinations such as the malls (SM and Ayala Center) and the area near and around Fuente Osmeña Circle, where I had my room booked in one of its pension houses.

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At the Fuente Osmeña Circle

I had a taste of what it feels like backpacking. I even went to the Tabo-an market on my own where I thought I could find the type of galletas that my boss wanted. Alas, I didn’t find it there. Tabo-an, according to one reference I read, is one of the best places, if not the best, to buy danggit and other seafood as, I believe it is the first drop-off point of the catch from all over the province to the city. It is quite off-the-beaten-track though. One thing I was not able to do was to ride the jeepney because I don’t really know how the routes work, plus the language barrier. I was afraid I might get lost and not be understood where to go or find my way back 😛

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View to the east from The Terraces, Ayala Center, Cebu
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View to the west from The Terraces, Ayala Center, Cebu
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Water fountain at the Ayala Center, Cebu

Cebu is like Manila in so many ways, minus the pollution and rude cab drivers. Despite being a major economic hub in the Visayas, with the proliferation of malls and other modern amenities you will find in any developed city, you still get a small-town vibe, which makes easy for anyone to warm up to. The people are friendly and the food is great.

Now to my main destination – Camotes.

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My RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off) ride to Camotes
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Camotes beachfront during low tide (as seen from the San Isidro side)
Saint Joseph Parish fronting the San Francisco (SanFran) municipal hall
Saint Joseph Parish fronting the San Francisco (SanFran) municipal hall

I was here primarily to attend the fiesta in the town of San Isidro where my relatives are. To be honest though, I didn’t have any itinerary planned out, so it’s a “go-with-the-flow” kind of stuff. I leave it all to my “ig-agaw’s” or “agaw’s” (cousins) to decide where to go in the island. They decide that we should go to the Busay Falls in the municipality of Tudela on Poro Island, and some of the sights in Poro itself such as the beachfront.

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Busay Falls in Tudela, Poro Island, Camotes
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The Port of Poro

It was my first time attending a true, blue barrio fiesta. The things I hear about guests being welcomed inside different homes and offered lots of food still hold true. And since this is Cebu, the star of every buffet is the lechon (roasted pig on spits). I never had a lechon this good for a long time actually. I conclude, nothing beats a lechon that’s been traditionally cooked and prepared – not even CnT or Ayer’s (some of the famous lechon sold commercially in the city that I have tried) come close. In the barrio during fiesta, it’s lechon all day long, fulfilling every person’s porcine fantasy with its savory, melt-in-your-mouth meat (and fat), and crispy, golden brown skin. I’ve been living my dream well until dinner and on into the following day, where leftovers become “lechon paksiw”. Hmm, just thinking of it makes me drool.

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The famous Cebu lechon

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It’s been part of the tradition to hold dance parties, or what is still commonly called here as “diskuhan” (disco/discotheque) every night, programs, games, bazaar, etc. In the town plaza before dusk, my cousin and I visited the church to pay respects to San Isidro Labrador – the town’s patron saint, the patron saint of farmers, and to check out the bazaar. In the town plaza we found a hundred-year old tree still standing. It is quite amazing if you think of it actually.

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San Isidro’s hundred-year-old tree
Moonlight over the San Isidro beachfront

It was a fun-filled week, indeed. An ideal R&R. I certainly would be coming back next year. In fact, this might be habit forming, a yearly affair. I thank my family and friends for their hospitality. This wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I just want to share how in this journey I was treated with the sight of these lovely creatures both going and coming back from the island. Dolphins! It’s a childhood dream. I hope I could see them up close and maybe even touch them.

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This, plus a spectacular sunset over Danao port gives this vacation a nice ending.

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Not Your Ordinary Katsu

Probably the best katsu I have ever tasted. What the “melts in your mouth” catchphrase to M&M’s is, to Yabu its jewel – the kurobuta pork tonkatsu. And it has that nice crunch at the outset.

With a P500 price tag, this better deliver – and it did. It also comes with unlimited servings of sidings – miso soup, rice, thinly sliced cabbage, fruits (this time it’s watermelon, not sure if it changes with the season), and probably including pickled veggies, which I didn’t get to eat much due to being so full already. You get to create your own sauce as well, with a number of condiments at your disposal. You can make it sweet, spicy, mild, some bitter note, what have you. Whatever floats your boat, really.

The "kurobuta" pork tonkatsu - the crown jewel in Yabu's menu. A nice crunch on the outside and soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat inside.
The “kurobuta” pork tonkatsu – the crown jewel in Yabu’s menu. A nice crunch on the outside and soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat on the inside.

This food is so decadent and luxurious, it’s definitely not something an ordinary drone worker like me would eat on a daily basis (unless, of course, you are the type who happen to have the cash to burn). However, I feel like it’s something worth spending or saving up for during special occasions, especially for big groups, family gatherings, and the like.

It was a spur of the moment idea my friends came up with. And of course, when it comes to food, I didn’t think twice joining. One does not have to do much imposing, you know? I am easy to get just like that, haha!

The KitKat Project

Since I missed the opportunity going to the Land of the Rising Sun, I decided my friends should pitch in completing or at least contributing to my KitKat Project.

You see in Japan, they have so many kitkat flavours it blows the mind. “Kitto Katsu”, as how the Japanese call it, are the most popular confectionery treat in Japan. Literally translated as ‘surely win’, “kitto katsu” is an expression of good luck.

Some of the weird and wacky flavors of kitkat (from upper left, clockwise): dark chocolate, blueberry cheesecake, green tea, wasabi, strawberry, purple yam, rum & raisin, and regular

Although completing all the flavours is a work in progress, what I have collected so far seems like I had come full circle, especially after the last batch has arrived. Suffice it to say, although kitkats are the highlight of this whole project, it is interesting to note that not only kitkats but also all other brands of chocolates and sweet treats were flown in, which equally deserves much appreciation.

And just to show how much ‘sweet’, generous and thoughtful my friends have been, I am posting a photo of some of the treats they brought. And I say some because there’s actually more than what you see here that unfortunately could no longer fit the frame. I feel like I could actually open my own candy store with all these stuff.

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Food Adventures: Macarons

It’s my first time eating macarons and the novelty of the experience deserves some space in my blog. I may not be going to Paris anytime soon, so I decide why not let Paris come to me instead. And what better way to do that than to have a taste of something iconically French such as the macaron. It is interesting to note however, that while the macaron has evolved to become something quintesentially French, people debate on its exact origins. Anyhow, we thank the French for putting it on the map.

The ones I ordered are from the regular “de Paris” line of macarons, as opposed to the Premium ones, from a relatively new bakery that sprang up in town, imported from Korea. There. I think by now it’s a dead giveaway, right? I’ve been hankering for something different from what I used to with this other bakery or bread shop I frequent. I guess it’s true what they say, your taste buds could also experience some kind of fatigue by eating the same stuff over and over.

The regular “de Paris” line are made up of strawberry, green tea, vanilla, chocolate and mango. Unfortunately, the mango was a bit dry, but the rest of the flavors are good. The merengue is soft and chewy and the filling ensconced in between is rich but not overpowering. It is just the right balance. One reference says the filling could either be a ganache, buttermilk or jam. Well, I am not a connoisseur, so I couldn’t really tell for sure what’s inside, but it was good.

IMG_20140316_063638_wmThe Premium line consists of Korean cherry, Korean maple, blueberry, green apple and grape flavors. These I will try next time. Someone even told me the bubble gum flavor is her favorite. I guess I have to scout other bakeries and bread shops for that.

So far, so good. Even though these macarons are but a fusion – Asian flavors incorporating French technique, it is something interesting to the palate, and probably some of the closest to its French cousins you could find in this country. More importantly, this food adventure has served its purpose in having a taste of Paris from the comfort of our local cafe/bakery. I’m definitely looking forward to more exciting gastronomic adventures.

My City | In Transitio

I’ve been looking to join the Manila Transitio for years now but couldn’t seem to find the time, for some reason. Anyone of you who is interested, this year it happens on the 21st of February. Just follow the link to find details on the event and where you can make reservations.

This is an event started by the famous tour guide Carlos Celdran, to commemorate the Battle of Manila. To quote Carlos’ words from his blog: “A combination of history, art, and culture, this event hopes to become an annual commemoration/memorial where… Manileños may reflect upon the passing of this event in… history. A way…  to remind future generations that there once was a beautiful Manila and there’s a beautiful Manila that can be redeemed again”.

It is important the we do not forget this dark chapter of our city’s history and the lessons it teaches. The younger generations, even our leaders, can become oblivious of this fact, this event, that has forever transformed this city we once call the Pearl of the Orient.

Getting Healthy in 5 Minutes – A Repost Video from The Fat Kid Inside

Erwan has summed it up quite well. Very valuable information to those would want to live healthy but doesn’t know how to. I love eating and am notorious for breaking resolutions, promises and what not, so this is definitely going to be a challenge for me. I’m telling you as early as now, I would not be able to stick to this plan to a tee, but I will try. And that’s the qualifying term, TRY.

Discovering My City | Rizal Park

I have a dream of traveling the world. And if money is no object, I would have easily done it. But, as it is, I’m just your lowly, everyday drone worker who doesn’t have the cash to burn for such luxuries.

So I guess I just have to make do with what’s readily available and economical. And what better way to do that than to discover my own city, Manila.

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So today I decide to go to the Rizal Park, one of the well-known places here which has long been a center of the city’s social life. It is however, better known as the place where the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was executed. And so in honor of his martyrdom, the park was named after him. The other names used alternatively for the park are Luneta and Bagumbayan. There’s also a statue of Rizal built in the middle of the park.

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There is a sound-and-light show depicting events in his life leading up to his execution. There is even a replication of the firing squad complete with flashing heat, smoke and the sound of gunshot emanating from the bronze rifles of the statues. It was quite ingenious, actually, how they were made.

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If you want some peace and quiet and just want to experience some tranquil surroundings, you might want to try the Chinese gardens for only P20. Just to have this in the middle of a crowded city makes you appreciate its existence although a lot can be done to improve it, especially the pond. I think it would be nice if they transform it into a koi pond. I just wish people are more disciplined and not litter the place.

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“Soul Wave”

I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of art installations put up everywhere, just like this stainless sculpture that was given as a gift from Korea, known as Soul Wave. As the marker says, it represents “all souls of humanity united in their cause for freedom”. It symbolizes Korea and Philippines’ “sacred shores” which both countries “protect against all forms of oppression”, and whose “common sacred shores are its love for freedom”.

The Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom
The Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom

There’s also a gigantic statue of another Filipino hero who hails from Cebu, called Lapu-Lapu. It’s called the Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom. The plaque on its marker says: “Ne’er shall invaders trample thy sacred shores”. Lapu-Lapu was the one who killed Magellan in a battle for the islands. Magellan is the famous Portuguese explorer who led the expedition that circumnavigated the world. Unfortunately for him, he did not live to see that day because of his untimely death in the hands of Lapu-Lapu.

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By nightfall, the park comes alive with the dancing fountain whose movements synchronize with the background music and whose colors change from time to time, giving much pleasure to the eyes. It is such a hit among the crowd especially during holidays.

The musical fountain caps a fun-filled day at the park. I wish more people would appreciate this little pocket of green in a congested city and I hope whoever is in charge of its maintenance and development is able to really up the ante. I believe exciting things are happening to the park and is on its way to becoming world-class. I couldn’t wait for that day to arrive.