Philippines

Ilocos: Tourist Spots, Where to Eat, What to Buy

It was 9:00 pm and I was still a bit sleepy from my 2-hour bus ride from Laoag City to Vigan. I waited anxiously at the Partas bus terminal amidst the flurry of passengers and conductors. I had arrived earlier this morning from Manila and the idea that I am finally in Ilocos was still simmering.

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For years I have planned to go to Vigan as many people have been urging me to visit this heritage town once inhabited by the affluent Chinese-Ilocano mestizos. A town that is unparalleled in its preservation of Spanish colonial towns. After meeting Edmar Guquib (blogger and author of Explore Ilocos) during a previous fam trip in Puerto Princesa, my resolve to visit was stronger and we finally made time to plan a visit on April.

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The hidden beauty of Burias Island, Masbate

What constitutes an ideal beach trip? For me it’s being able sink my toes into fine, powdery white sand, basking in the sun whilst enjoying the cool breeze (and napping thereafter), swimming in the clearest azure waters, and enjoying simple amenities on a far-flung island with literally no data or mobile reception. Yes, Burias Island was this and more!

When I booked my trip, I had only one simple desire: to relax by the beach away from the big, bad city. I had researched previously and I knew the beaches here were exquisite, but had no idea they were this beautiful. The trip made me more grateful and proud to live in such a beautiful country. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s explore Burias Island together, shall we?

HOW TO GET TO BURIAS ISLAND

Burias Island is one of the three major islands of Masbate frequented by adventurers and backpackers. The other two are Ticao Island and Masbate Island.

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The jump off point to Burias Island is Pasacao Port in Naga City. From Manila, you can choose to drive (8 hours) to Naga City or fly. Not surprisingly, I chose the fastest and more convenient route:

  • fly to Naga City via Philippine Airlines (50 minutes)
  • take the jeepney to the terminal, take the padyak trike to Pasacao Port (approx. 1 hour ++)
  • take the public passenger boat to San Pascual, Burias Island (2 hours)

*If you’re coming from Masbate City, travel time to San Pascual is extended to 6 hours via boat. 

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Love, Z Bakery & Patisserie

Being a creature of habit, I usually stay true to my tried and tested food places. But once in a while when I’m feeling adventurous (ha!) I go out of my way and try new things. In this case, a new patisserie. Venture a little bit north and you’ll find the lovely Love, Z Bakery & Patisserie outside Filinvest Gate 1, stop number 2 on our Manila Food Trip 2017.

Love, Z is the brainchild of a group of friends brought together by their love for food and good conversation. Having spent so much time in restaurants, cafes, and other establishments, they eventually decided to create a place of their own and thus Love, Z bakery was born.

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We welcomed their freshly baked pastries, cakes, breads, and our beverage of choice (I had coffee, of course). Having had our fill of rice and heavy servings of chicken from the previous food crawl, it was nice to just sit down, chill for a bit, and catch up. I was seated with Rocky and Gellie, fellow coffee lovers and dessert aficionados.

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Poultry Stack

I am a homegrown Quezon City girl so it’s pretty obvious that our default for easy eats would be the Banawe, Tomas Morato or the Scout area. Just when I thought I’ve seen and tried all the places within the vicinity, another quirky restaurant opens up and it’s called Poultry Stack.

This was the first stop of the day of the Manila Food Trip 2017 event organized by Ms. Aileen Octaviano of the Pampanga Bloggers’ Society where I was invited by my fellow beauty blogger and Kapampangan, Gellie Abogado. This was also the first food crawl I participated in.

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Early birds: With Rocky Gonzales discussing food, travel, and politics

Poultry Stack is a hip restaurant developed by renowned chefs Chef Gene and Chef Gino Gonzalez, serving distinct local and international cuisines revolving around its main ingredient: chicken.

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A yummy Pinoy treat called Balikutsa

My childhood summers involved regular weekend beach trips, biking from afternoon ’til night with 10 of my cousins and friends, good food (lots of Lechon!), and chewing on balikutsa. I had totally forgotten about it, save for some cravings here and there, but truth be told I haven’t really eaten balikutsa (coconut toffee) since high school. Come to think of it, I haven’t eaten a stick in 20+ years!

What is Balikutsa?

It’s coconut toffee, basically. It’s a sweet snack/dessert that is always handmade with a recipe that is passed on from generation to generation. I first tasted this delicious snack in Cabadbaran City, my hometown in Agusan del Norte, where I used to spend my two months of summer vacation like clockwork. I understand (after doing some light research on Google) that other provinces have their own versions of this very addicting dessert.

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Here’s a quick background story: While in Cabadbaran City visiting my Dad, I woke up one day looking for Mart (Dad’s helper) and found him over the stove frantically cooking something. I was a little bit annoyed because he was ignoring me, until I went over to him and asked: “What are you doing ba?!” He said he’s cooking balikutsa for me. In true Kira fashion, I didn’t believe him (I am naturally dubious of poeple, haha) until I looked over his shoulder and saw the warm sticky toffee! He said he wanted to surprise us — and thank you, Cathy, for arranging all of this. Oh my god, I wanted to cry! Read More

Our Medical & Dental Mission in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City

As the propeller plane approached Naga City, I was half relieved and half disappointed: relieved to finally be landing after a tremendously bumpy ride (a storm was brewing), and disappointed because obviously it was very gloomy. So much for trying to get some sun, I thought to myself.

Still, I was thankful to be here. Naga City has been on the news as it was devastated last Christmas by tropical cyclone Nina (internationally called Nock-ten). Images of destroyed houses, trees and concrete blocks flung to the grounds, displaced locals flooded the news. When my friend, artist Pepe Gaka, said he was invited by Missionaries of the Poor for a commissioned project and a Medical and Dental mission was in the works, I said I would be more than happy to tag along. This was a good a time as any to come visit, see the damage myself, and help if needed. Given different circumstances, I would never have finally decided to visit Naga.

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The Medical and Dental Mission is a yearly event spearheaded by the Missionaries of the Poor in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City in partnership with Maronites on Mission of Australia (MOM), a Christian voluntary organization that helps marginalized sectors of society.

This year, they have 18 volunteers from different industries and professions. They flew all the way to Naga from Australia, sourced all the medical sponsors for the event, and did all the leg work. Most arrived on January 9th to help full-time while I arrived on January 11. The mission was an 11-day event which involved numerous charity works including medical and dental support, house building, and food relief. The medical and dental mission was slated for January 14 in San Rafael, Bgy. Cararayan and was the major event I helped out in.

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