Monday, May 23, 2016


Wala naman talagang nakakatindig balahibong maiaalok ang Tagaytay.

Maliban siguro sa dito mapipintahang mabuti ang Taal Lake, at ang sangkatutak na mga restoran na nag-aalok ng iba't-ibang lasa at karanasan katulad ng Mekong Cuisine Restaurant.  

Kung pagkain ang pagbabatayan, madaming siga sa Tagaytay katulad ng Sonya's Garden, Antonio's, at Josephine's.

Pero kung lumang simbahan ang pag-uusapan, suyot ang Tagaytay sa ga-Europang Basilica de San Martin de Tours ng maliit ngunit astig na bayan ng Taal, pinakamalaking simbahang kolonyal ng Pilipinas, at maaaring gan'un din sa buong Asya.

At 'yan ay patikim pa lamang dahil pagbaba mula sa Basilika, paglampas ng Escuela Pia sa may Calle Gliceria Marella, ay isang hilera ng mga antigong bahay na naghahamon ng mano-mano sa mga katulad na bahay ng Calle Crisologo sa Vigan.

Astig ang Casa Villavicencio at ang kuwento ng may-ari nitong si Aling Eriang, tinaguriang "Lola [at Tagatustos] ng Rebolusyon", ang katabi nitong Casa Regalo de Boda na inihandog [bilang dote o bigay-kaya?] sa kanyang kasal, na isinaayos ni Martin Tinio, Jr. mula sa lahing tiga Nueva Ecija, ang kapitbahay nilang Casa Goco na nagluwal ng isang embahador, at ang pulang bahay ng mga Apacible sa may Palico-Balayan-Batangas Road na pagmamay-ari ng nakakatandang kapatid ni Kuya Canoy, ang unang pangulo ng La Solidaridad, pundador ng Nationalista Party, at unang kalihim ng ngayo'y Department of Agriculture.   

Sa bandang ibaba ng mga Apacible ay kung saan nanirahan ang pamosong si Marcela Agoncillo na siyang tumahi sa kaunaunahang opisyal na bandila ng Pilipinas, kabiyak ng kaunaunahang diplomat ng bansa, at ina ng limang anak na pawang tumandang mga dalaga.

Sa bandang ibaba pa ng bahay ng mga Agoncillo sa may Calle Vicente Noble ay ang dambana ng maliit ngunit tanyag na Nuestra Senora de Caysasay na inumpisahang itayo noong 1639 sa lugar kung saan siya nabingwit.

Lahat ng iyan sa kalsada ng mga siga ng Taal, mula sa dambana ng aleng nabingwit hanggang sa marilag na basilika sa ibabaw ng burol... ang Batangas Lomi na natalisod habang naghahanap sa mga tindahan ng empanada, tapa, at longganisa... ang huling kuwadro ng makisig na maninimbahan bago siya pinatiklop ng isang matinding bigwas mula sa namamagang apdo.

Monday, May 16, 2016


It was the pansit-kanin breakfast we had in Munoz... 

...that led to the center of the pansit universe, at least in the Philippines, although I did not come for the pansit but for Ivan Dy Man's "Old Binondo Wok".

But since Ivan's tour starts at 9 AM and I was already there by 8 AM, I walked around via Our Awesome Plate's map, stumbled into Cafe Mezzanine where I was offered Gokong Soup and Kiampong Rice, allegedly its most ordered dish, and immediately rued that I should have opted for the endorsed lechon kawali because the soup was too gamey for me, the pork and chicken bits more like boiled meatless carcasses, plus I am not really into chicken gizzard and innards although I find the deboned chicken feet interesting, while the Kiampong Rice is alright but too filling and should be avoided on a multiple food tasting journey, the Hopia Ube desert from the nearby Eng Bee Tin shop just too sweet and should have opted for the mahu instead, and the soya milk okay but too common compared to the white fungi drink that was earlier suggested.      

Nearby is Ho-land Hopia and Bakery where I bought a pack of Hopia Monggo, once its sole and original product, to justify taking some photos inside the shop, which I had for dinner later, which again is too sweet for me, so much that I vowed to try their Hopia Baboy next time while walking back to the Binondo Church for Ivan, introduced myself to him, and then decided that I am too full for his Old Binondo Wok. 

I hunted for the New Po-Heng Lumpia House instead which I found along Quentin Paredes Street through a small door that leads into an alley that empties into a courtyard where the lumpia is served, fat like a burrito, enough for a full meal, bursting with the usual vegetables and ground peanuts with hints of cilantro, perfect with the house lumpia sauce, and just too much so I took away the uneaten half which, with the Hopia Ube remants, I had for lunch later, and made my way for a famous fried chicken. 

And that is the Sincerity Fried Chicken, sincerely sliced into bite-size pieces, bathed in a secret oriental marinade, fried crisp, but too heavy for a solo diner and was sincerely relieved that two pieces in a bento box is available although served with a mound of Kiampong Rice that I have to set aside to make way for a few slices of the original kikiam --- steamed and deep-fried ground pork and vegetables in a bean curd wrap --- that almost eclipsed the fried chicken, sincerely speaking.  

I was really sincerely full afterwards but intent on sampling a few dumplings more so I tried smoking down and walking out all that has been consumed but almost got tempted in trying some of the pickled fruits on display at James' Grocery along Carvajal Street...  

...and glad that I did not because the kuchay and pork dumpling of Dong Bei is served in a batch of 14 pieces per order, kneaded and filled and steamed while I wait, the chinese vinegar dip tempering the strong kuchay flavor, one dumpling consumed every two minutes until my bursting stomach can't take it no more.    

And that was it.

The pastry offerings at the Salazar Bakery, the machang of the Ongpin Manosa Restaurant, the stir-fried beef noodles of the Kim Hiong Food Garden and the mami at Masuki, the chicken pie at Dao Eng Chay, the vegetarian sisig of Quan Yin Chay, and the chami of Delicious Restaurant will have to wait another day.

I say God bless Binondo for its culinary gems, and Ivn Dy Man for concocting the Old Binondo Wok, and Our Awesome Plate too for the references, and I toast "Gan bei!" to all of them with the ice cold squeezed sugarcane juice that helped quenched a hot and sweaty Saturday morning.

God must have loved Binondo and its food so much that he had three churches built in the area.

Monday, May 09, 2016


Long live the Queen!

So exalted the stranded travellers as the royal Amaranthine convoy got trapped in an 8-hour diabolical traffic jam through the Caraballo mountain range, No. 55 jerseys proudly announcing that they have in fact the Queen, former queens, and future queens on board as tempers and kidneys got tested in the mad rush of unbridled counterflows, the road as congested and crooked as the "Tuwid na Daan" and inept traffic enforcers can be, and St. Christopher and Santa Francesca Romana abandoning those they patronize at the mercy of a cold lunch in the middle of an immense downpour while pigs and a cow were being roasted for the banquet in honor of those who once sat at the High Throne. 

God save the Queen!

And us too, from the daily fare of lechon that was once our gastronomic heaven until the doctors unleashed hell upon our diets, when the RMs (Royal Matrons) were not as big as those seated below and the RPs' (Royal Porter/Photographer) blood pressure and sugar levels were not as high as Mt. Everest, and burned pork fat slathered in a pool of bagoong and calamansi mix was the next best thing after pinapaitan.   

Hail to the Chief!

So I do, at Her Majesty's beck and call as the Royal Photographer, documenting every change of royal regalia from pink to green to blue to white, at the commoner's abode in Balai Gloria or at the regal Highlander Hotel and Resort, during official functions or whenever Her Highness wishes so, and in between rounds of free herbal tea and involuntary power naps as pomp and ceremony unfolded.  

I am the Royal Porter too, keeper of the Royal Crown when it's not on display, guardian of the crown bag which is in fact my Scottish cap case, on high alert for any possible photo opportunity or any bidding which I must obey with utmost haste, and sometimes becoming part of the photograph too when the presence of a consort is required.

And so it was that on the last day of the Grand Conclave, the Royal Convoy took off for the remnants of an old Spanish church in Bagabag to appease St. Christopher and Santa Francesca Romana with an offering of pansit cabagan, which continued to a pilgrimage to the fortress church of St. Vincent Ferrer in Dupax del Sur and that of St. Catherine of Sienna in Bambang, camera bag slung but the crown case thankfully left behind, as we prayed for a miracle that will part the traffic in Dalton Pass and allow us a hassle-free passage back to our kingdom in Nueva Ecija. 

The Queen is happy, I have served her well, and was rewarded with a time off my duties as Royal Photographer/Porter to shake off a two-week lay off from the dirt roads...