Nakamise-Dori (Tokyo, Japan)

Nakamise-Dori

After our visit to Senso-ji Temple, we proceeded to the approximately 250 m. (880-ft.) long Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り), the best place in Tokyo to buy souvenirs.  One of Japan’s oldest streets, this shopping street leads, from the gorgeous Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”), to Sensō-ji temple itself.  Items sold here range from outrageously cheesy items to authentic and useful souvenirs.  For centuries, Japanese pilgrims and tourists who visit Sensō-ji every year flock here to shop at its small stores.   This stone-paved pedestrian street, retaining the feeling of old downtown Edo and the cultural florescence of the Meiji era, started during the Genroku and Tempo periods of the Edo era when horse carriage operators were granted the right to set up shops next to the east side of Niomon as compensation for cleaning the temple compound through forced labor.

Shops near the Kaminarimon Gate of Senso-ji Temple

In the early 18th century, Nakamise-dōri (translated as “inside street”) was said to have come about when neighbors of Sensō-ji were granted permission to set up shops on the approach to the temple. However, on May 1885, the government of Tokyo ordered all shop owners to leave but, on December of that same year, the area was reconstructed in Western-style brick. During the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, many of the shops were destroyed.  In 1925, the shops were rebuilt using concrete, only to be destroyed again during the bombings of World War II.

The surrounding area had around 89 small traditional shops, many of them run by the same family for many generations.  I admired the shutters painted with different seasonal vistas. Stores sold traditional Japanese items such as chopsticks, yukatageta, wooden combs, maneki neko cat statuettes (a traditional good luck charm), hair accessories, elegant fans of all colors and sizes; handmade umbrellas; geta (traditional footwear), masks, folding fans, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints); kimono and other robes; samurai swords; and Buddhist scrolls.  You can also shop here for Godzilla toys, t-shirts and mobile phone straps. The shops at both sides of the last stretch near the temple sell official Senso-ji merchandise – omamori amulets, scrolls, incense to burn at the huge burner in front of the temple’s stairs, books about the temple (in Japanese) and o-mikuji fortunes.

 

Nakamise-Dori is a good place for visitors to try tabearuki (“walk-and-eat”) and enjoy Japanese street food such as tempting traditional kibi dango (sweet and soft rice cakes in a stick covered with millet flour), oden, (a winter snack), imo yokan (sweet potato jelly), odango (a sweet snack), kaminari okoshi (sweet puff rice crackers), colorful candies sold in beautiful traditional patterned cases; ningyo yaki (little sponge cakes filled with red bean paste and shaped like dolls, birds and the famous Kaminarimon, Asakusa’s symbolic lantern), deep-fried manju (a bun stuffed with red-bean paste), kibidango (a millet dumpling), freshly toasted sembei crackers, juicy fried meat croquettes, sweet melon pan bread, cooling matcha green tea ice cream and other green tea-flavored treats.

Trying out vanilla ice cream in a melonpan at Asakusa Sakura

Vanilla ice cream in a melonpan bun

There are also eating places that feature traditional dishes (hand-made noodles, sushi, tempura, etc.). For lunch, we dined at Tatsumiya Restaurant. Here, we were seated in a traditional Japanese setting – no shoes and on low tables with mats.

Check out “Restaurant Review: Tatsumiya Asakusa

Dining, Japanese style, at Tatsumiya Restaurant

During the holidays, the arcade is decorated with seasonal trappings – silk plum blossoms and kites during New Year’s Day, bright foliage during fall and cherry blossoms in spring. Running perpendicular to Nakamise-Dori is Shin-Nakamise (“New Nakamise”), a covered shopping arcade lined by various shops and restaurants.

Shin-Nakamise (New Nakamise)

Nakamise-Dori: 1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Open daily, typically from 10 AM to 7 PM but hours depend on the individual shops.

How to Get There: Nakamise-Dori, a 2 minute walk from Asakusa Station, is served by the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Tobu railway lines. It is also a 10-min. walk from Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza Line. Take A3~A5 exit for Nakamise. This shopping street is traditionally approached via the Thunder Gate.

 

Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente (Cebu City, Cebu)

Pungko Pungko sa Fuente

Upon checking in our rooms in Bluewater Maribago Resort and resting a bit, we were scheduled to experience the Old Cebu Walks of Mr.  Balbino “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr., the curator of the Cebu City Museum.  Ka Bino’s tour draws inspiration from the popular Manila tours such as Ivan Man Dy’s Binondo Food Tour and Carlos Celdran’s “Walk This Way” tour of Intramuros. It was raining on the afternoon of our first day so Ka Bino brought us to Fuente area for a unique dining experience called pungko pungko.

Check out “Walk This Way With Carlos Celdran

A tray filled with fried street food

Not your normal, everyday fine-dining experience, this literally is what I call “street food.” Taken from the Cebuano word pungko, which means “to squat” in English, it is a term used to describe a manner of dining or can also refer to small self-service eateries along the road selling these all time-favorite fried foods.

Mr. Balbino Pada “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr.

Among the cheap but fairly, gastronomically satisfying Cebuano pungko-pungko favorites are ginabot or chicharon bulaklak (crispy, deep-fried pork innards), lumpiang ngohiong (long or short spring rolls), bola-bola (fried meat balls), hotdogs, hard-boiled eggs, longganisa, taugi (munggo bean sprouts), fried chicken, pork chops, crab meat, fried brains, fried fat, fried spleen, okoy (shrimp cake), buwad nokso (dried fish)  and  chorizo.

Puso (hanging rice)

We sat on small, low benches that can occupy about 2 to 3 people, with a container or several trays containing a wide array of dishes displayed on tables in front of us. According to Ka Bino, for less than PhP50, customers can just pick at least 2 viands they like to eat, a soft drink and 3 to 4 pieces of puso (hanging rice), paired with a to die for vinegar mix with chili and sliced onions, without waiting for the vendors to serve them.

Members of media listening to Ka BIno

In the past, their customers were taxi and jeepney drivers, construction workers and students. Now, they include call center agents in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and bank employees.  They also cater to hospitals and even families. Pungko-pungko vendors mostly depend on their customers to tell them what they ate and some are not honest enough to count their orders correctly.

So, if you want to get a quick meal in Cebu City, you don’t have to go far! Eat the pungko-pungko way! It might not be the healthiest among recommended Cebuano dishes but they are everywhere and they cater to anyone.

The dining area

Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente: 52-A J. Llorente St., Cebu City 6000. Mobile number: (0922) 699-6888

The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show (Austria)

The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show

For our first night in Salzburg, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I proceeded to Sternbrau Restaurant, at the old heart of the city (next to the famous “Getreidegasse” shopping street), to watch the amazing “Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show,” (Check out video here) a daily show & dinner event with 74 seats available.

Sternbrau Restaurant

The most successful dinner show in Salzburg, it has, for 24 consecutive years, been mesmerizing and entertaining Salzburg visitors from all around the world with its harmonic blending of songs from The Sound of Music movie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, operettas and other excerpts of Salzburg’s musical past.

Cheska, Kyle and Grace at the entrance of the restaurant

In 1991, three entrepreneurs – Franz Langer (music director), Martin Uitz (former CEO of Salzburg Land Tourism) and Stefan Herzl (CEO of Panorama Tours) – created the Sound of Music Dinner Show (as it was called back then), a dinner concert with live on-stage performance of The Sound of Music compositions combined with an Austrian dinner. It was staged daily, from May till October, in the big hall of the Salzburger Stieglkeller underneath the famous Hohensalzburg Castle.

In 2000, the dinner concert moved, from the Stieglkeller, to the Sternbräu with Franz Langer updating the program, featuring more compositions of W.A. Mozart and Salzburg‘s operettas, and renaming the daily event to “The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show.”  Even a stepdaughter of Maria von Trapp, also called Maria, used to visit the show several times.

In 2014, Roman Forisch took over from Franz Langer (since 1997 sole owner of the show) as new manager and relocated “The Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show” to the Festungssaal (Fortress Hall) on the first floor of the K+K Restaurants am Waagplatz, a historical landmarked building next to the famous Salzburg Cathedral and right in the middle of the historic district of Salzburg.

Festungssaal (Fortress Hall)

The building, one of the oldest sites in Salzburg, was a brewery in the Middle Ages first mentioned in 1542.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart liked to come here regularly, especially in 1777. At the beginning of 2013, the building was restored, modernized and, after almost two years, re-opened as a restaurant in 2014.

Soup of the Day

Viennese-style Schnitzel with Noodles

The move to this historical building added a final piece to the cultural tourism highlight, providing the makings of a truly wonderful evening with its ideal combination of a splendid, high class culinary experience and a comfortable and atmospheric  Medieval location.

Roast Pork with Dumpling and Cabbage Salad with Bacon

Before the show, a dinner is served at 7.30 PM (Doors open at 7 PM).  We enjoyed a traditional Viennese 3-course meal, in a candlelit setting, prepared by chef de cuisine Michael Pratter and his team.  It featured a starter (Soup of the Day), a choice of white or red meat (Roast Pork with dumpling and cabbage salad with bacon or Vienna-style Schnitzel with Noodles) and their famous homemade Grandma’s Apple Strudel with Whipped Cream for dessert.

Grandma’s Apple Strudel with Whipped Cream

The one-and-a-half-hour show began at 8.30 PM at a stage with an area of about 10 square meters, right in front of the dinner tables. The “Sound of Salzburg Show” features a group of 4 singers (2 female and 2 male), all trained artists from all over the world, and 1 female pianist.

The four performers and the pianist (at right)

On stage, they performed a program which includes the greatest hits of the aforementioned The Sound of Music musical (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein) and  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as Salzburg‘s operettas.   For the Sound of Music, they performed “The Sound of Music (song),” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Do-Re-Mi (Reprise),” “Do-Re-Mi (Fuge),” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Maria,” “My Favorite Things,” “Lonely Goatherd,” “Laendler Tanz,” “Edelweiss” and “So Long, Farewell.”

The two lady performers dressed up as nuns

The Mozart repertoire consisted of “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “Ronda Alla Turca,” “Papageno Arie (Zauberflöte),” “Pa-Pa Duett (Zauberflöte),” “Vedrai Carino Arie (Don Giovanni)” and a “Minuet from Don Giovanni.”

Salzburg operettas featured, with live piano accompaniment, were Ralph Benatzky’s “Regenlied (Im weißen Rößl),” “Im Salzkammergut, da kammer gut (Im weißen Rößl)” and “Im weißen Rößl am Wolfgangsee (Im weißen Rößl); Fred Raymond’s “Saison in Salzburg (Saison in Salzburg)” and  Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (Das Land des Lächelns)” and “Lippen Schweigen (Die lustige Witwe).”  A folk song, Und jetzt gang i ans Petersbruennele, was also featured. 

Cheska dancing with a male performer

The show thus featured 5 different composers who each have their own style and lived in various parts of the musical history.  Thus, the job of the singers (who perform in 15 countries around the world as musical ambassadors for Austria) of the Sound of Salzburg show wasn’t easy as every single song they sang was supposed to be sung in the right way, in the way the composer intended.

They also needed to have a broad understanding of music to perform every one of them, know what the songs were actually about as well as to learn them by heart. In short, they have to live the song.

The real Maria von Trapp

The show also included an 8-minute, really interesting film clip of an interview from the real Maria von Trapp. The video, not the best quality, was from the 1980’s but you can see and hear everything you need to understand the real von Trapp story behind the movie.

Manny, on stage, serenaded by a lady performer

The dinner side of the show was great and the show itself was very entertaining.  The show was in English so we didn’t have to worry about not understanding anything. There were a couple of songs sung in German but we didn’t need to understand German to enjoy the tunes.  The performers also did a little audience participation.  Manny was pulled on stage, seated and serenaded by a lady singer.

Kyle (center) on stage with performers and other members of the audience

The male singers also grabbed a few ladies from the crowd (including my daughter Cheska) and taught them how to dance a traditional Viennese dance. Some kids (including my grandson Kyle) also joined the performers on stage. If you love “The Sound of Music” or simply just love Austrian music and culture, you would have a great night at the “Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show.” I definitely would recommend it. 

Kyle (second from right) with the performers

Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show: Sternbräu Restaurant, Griesgasse 23 5020 Salzburg. Tel: +43 660 5020520 and +43 699 10248666.  E-mail: office@soundofsalzburg.info . Website: www.soundofsalzburg.info. Daily show times (from mid May to mid October): 7 – 10 PM (dinner & show) and 8:30 – 10 PM (show only). Admission: € 39 (adults), € 32 (Salzburg Card & Students), € 20 (children 7-14 years of age) and free for children under the age of 7 (accompanied by an adult). Click here to book tickets online)

Guests can choose between three different 3-course menus (drinks not included) or our deluxe 4-course menu with premier seating (with drinks, the show and a CD). Menu choices for vegetarians and seafood lovers are available on request.  Food and beverages must be paid directly at the restaurant.

Pheasant’s Tears (Sighnaghi, Georgia)

(All photos courtesy of Ms. Riva Galveztan)

The endpoint of our GNTA-sponsored walking tour of Sighnaghi town proper was Pheasant’s Tears where Buddy, Pancho, Riva, Mel and I, together with our Georgian guide Sopho Makashvili, were to have lunch and sample some Georgian wine.  Pheasant’s Tears, a Georgian winery that produces artisanal natural wines according to ancient Georgian traditions, was founded in 2007 by John H. Wurdeman V and Gela Patalishvili.

Pheasant's Tears

Pheasant’s Tears

John, an en plein air painter and the first American graduate of the prestigious Surikov Institute in Moscow, first came to Georgia in 1996 and bought a house in Sighnaghi the following year. In 1998, he relocated to Georgia full time. Gela, a winegrower whose family’s connection with wine goes back 8 generations, met John in 2005 when John was painting in a vineyard near the highway in the Alazani Valley near the village of Tibaani.  They decided to work together and set up Pheasant’s Tears. The name “pheasant’s tears” refers to a Georgian story in which only the very best wines are good enough to make a pheasant cry.  

The restaurant's rustic interior

The restaurant’s rustic interior

An old wine press

An old wine press

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by Mr. Shergil Pirtskhelani, Pheasant’s Tears sommelier (wine steward), who brought us all to the winery’s basement cellar and gave us a brief introduction on ancient Georgian wine making traditions.  All wines are fermented in kvevri, traditional clay amphorae which are lined with organic beeswax and buried into the ground. Kvevri wines seem to age faster than conventional wines.

The wine cellar

The wine cellar

Fermentations using naturally occurring yeast is employed and slightly different techniques are used to make each of the wines. Some have moderate skin contact while others have minimal (3 weeks to 6 months). Stems are included in the wine making process. In 2013, the ancient traditional kvevri wine-making method was inscribed on the UNESCO representative list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Our host Shergil Pirtskhelani

Our host Shergil Pirtskhelani

After this brief introduction, Shergil then toured us around John’s (who was at Tokyo during our visit) studio which houses his books, painting paraphernalia (easels, paint, brushes, etc.) and artwork that reflects John’s overflowing passion and love for Georgia.

Studio of John H. Wurdeman V

Studio of John H. Wurdeman V

It was now time for lunch and we all went down to the private dining room which had a warming fireplace.  The supra (Georgian feast) before us, prepared with fresh ingredients from the local markets by head chef Gia Rokashvili, a local Sighnaghian, was a take on traditional Georgian cuisine with an eye towards wine and food pairings, all designed to accommodate both veggie (Sopho and Riva belonged to this category) and meat lovers.

Kidney beans with wild thyme

Kidney beans with wild thyme

Fresh vegetable salad

Fresh vegetable salad

Stewed veal with vegetables

Stewed veal with vegetables

On the menu was matsoni (strained water buffalo yoghurt with red pepper); curds with black pepper and green onions; fresh vegetable salad, (radish, carrots, arugula, cabbage, onions, olives, tomatoes and cucumber in sunflower seed oil); mushrooms sautéed with garlic; kidney beans with wild thyme; omelet (radish greens, onions, pepper and broccoli); roast potatoes with tkemali (wild plum sauce) and stewed veal with vegetables.

The private dining room

The private dining room

While dining, Shergil poured 3 kinds of Georgian wine in our respective wine glasses for us to taste, helping us understand the roots that these wines came from.  We started with Chinuri 2013, the lightest, crispest white wine in the line-up; followed by Rkatsiteli 2011 which was spicy and exotic on the nose, with warm peachy notes; and Tavkvevri 2013, a vivid, juicy and berryish red wine.  He also assumed the role of tamada (Georgian toastmaster) as we sampled each of these wines.

Chinuri, Rkatsiteli and Tavkvevri wine

Chinuri, Rkatsiteli and Tavkvevri wine

L-R- Mel, Riva, Sopho, the author, Pancho and Buddy

L-R- Mel, Riva, Sopho, the author, Pancho and Buddy

Shergil happened to be a music teacher who teaches folk and sacred songs from Georgia with traditional Georgian stringed instruments. After our magnificent repast, he regaled us by playing the guitar while Ms. Enek Peterson, an American from Boston (Massachusetts), serenaded us with the popular spiritual song “Hallelujah” (written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in 1984) plus a Georgian song. This capped a wonderful afternoon filled with great art, delightful Georgian cuisine and soul-searching music.

Shergil and Enek serenading us with two songs

Shergil and Enek serenading us with two songs

Pheasant’s Tears: 18 Baratashvili St., Sighnaghi, Georgia 4200.  Tel: 0 355 23 15 56.  Mobile number: +(995 599) 53-44-84. E-mail: jwurdeman@pheasantstears.com. Website: ww.pheasantstears.com.

Georgia National Tourism Administration: 4, Sanapiro St, 0105, Tbilisi, Georgia. Tel: +995 32 43 69 99. E-mail: info@gnta.ge. Website: www.georgia.travel; www.gnta.ge.

Qatar Airways has daily flights from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark, Pampanga) to Tbilisi (Republic of Georgia) with stopovers at Hamad International Airport (Doha, Qatar, 15 hrs.) and Heydar Aliyev International Airport (Baku, Azerbaijan, 1 hr.). Website: www.qatarairways.com.

Shoti Making at Badiauri Village (Sagarejo, Georgia)

We were now on our third and final day of our GNTA-sponsored Georgian Countryside Tour and Buddy, Pancho, Melissa, Riva and I, together with our Georgian guide Sopho, were to travel east again on a 112-km./2-hr. drive, via S5, to the town of Sighnaghi. Just about 75 kms. and a little over an hour out of Tblisi, we made a stopover at the village of Badiauri in the town of Sagarejo where we dropped by a bakery.  Here, we observed two elderly Georgian ladies making Georgian bread called puri (pronounced “poo-ree”), the Georgian table staple which is usually served with every meal.

Badiauri Village in Sagarejo

Badiauri Village in Sagarejo

The traditional and very popular puri, especially the long pointed bread called shotis puri, is traditionally baked in a deep, circular, beehive-shaped oven called a tone (pronounced “ton-AY”).  A tone (torne/turne in old Georgian), the Georgian version of the tandoor, is made with a mixture of special quartz sand, which is used in making glass, and a fireproof clay called chamuti.  When it dries, it fuses into a hard, fireproof surface. This mixture is spread on the outside of the tone and wrapped in linen.  The interior, on the other hand, is lined with fire proof bricks.  A tone usually lasts for 7-8 years before it will need to be replaced.

The traditional clay oven called a tone

The traditional clay oven called a tone

Most streets in Georgia have at least one traditional bakery and I have already observed one local bakery before when I was in Borjomi.  In earlier times, all bakers came from Racha Region of Western Georgia and they are generally acknowledged to be the best bakers in Georgia.

The individual balls of dough

The individual balls of dough

It takes time to learn how to make good bread which is made from just flour, water, yeast and salt. It also takes much physical strength to hand mix (25 kgs. at a time) and knead the dough but the two ladies were up to the task, taking lumps of dough, grasping them at two ends and stretching them across a kind of curved paddle covered in cloth.

Shaping the dough into spindle shapes

Shaping the dough into spindle shapes

For at least 40 minutes, they let the dough stand for it to rise and the yeast to ferment. Then, they cut the mass of dough into individual “balls” of bread (each weighing about 600 gms.), place them in rows, dust them with flour (to prevent their sticking on the surface) and again let them stand for at least another hour.

Slapping the dough to the top side of the tone

Slapping the dough to the top side of the tone

Then, they roll the dough, making them spindle-shaped with a broad center portion and tapering ends. Once the tone reaches the desired heat, determined not by a thermometer but by testing the inside wall with loose flour, they then stick the paddle into the oven and skillfully slap the dough tightly against the inside wall of the tone sitting in the middle of the bakery.

The dough is baked for 10 minsutes

The dough is baked for 10 minsutes

In less than 10 minutes, they were done and they took out the baked bread without dropping it in the fire. The fresh shoti come out looking like canoes.  They were delicious, with crispy edges, a moist white center and a great aroma.

Freshly-baked shotis puri

Freshly-baked shotis puri

Ten 50-kg. bags of flour can make more than 1,400 loaves of bread. Nowadays, modern bread factories use electrically powered mixers for the dough when making traditional bread.

The author with the 2 lady bakers

The author with the 2 lady bakers

Georgia National Tourism Administration: 4, Sanapiro St, 0105, Tbilisi, Georgia. Tel: +995 32 43 69 99. E-mail: info@gnta.ge. Website:www.georgia.travelwww.gnta.ge.

Qatar Airways has daily flights from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark, Pampanga) to Tbilisi (Republic of Georgia) with stopovers at Hamad International Airport (Doha, Qatar, 15 hrs.) and Heydar Aliyev International Airport (Baku, Azerbaijan, 1 hr.). Website: www.qatarairways.com.

Bohol Bee Farm (Dauis, Bohol)

Bohol Bee Farm

Bohol Bee Farm

After breakfast, a dip at the lagoon pool and an ocular inspection, with Rooms Division manager Mr. Leo P. Go,  of the resort’s Honeymoon Villas, it was now time to check out of  Panglao Bluewater Resort.  After thanking our gracious host, Mr. Pete Dacuycuy (who left for Manila ahead of us), we again boarded our airconditioned coach which was to bring us to the next town of Dauis.  Here, we were to have lunch at the homey and relaxing Bohol Bee Farm.

Potted herbs and vegetables

Potted herbs and vegetables

This self-sustaining, nature-themed and eco-friendly resort  is filled with rustic wooden furniture and a unique lush, green environment.  Alugbati vines grow on the trellises while the frontage is filled with small plots of various organic herbs (oregano, dill, fennel, basil, spearmint, pandan, magic rose, thyme, chives, lemon grass, peppermint, parsley, aloe vera, stevia, coriander, rosemary and tarragon) and vegetables (romaine lettuce, celery, eggplant, mustard, etc.), all used as ornamental plants and lining the walkways.

The cliff with the sun deck and swimming area below it

The cliff with the sun deck and swimming area below it

This agricultural haven, situated on top of a cliff that drops dramatically into the sea (the swimming area below it is accessible by a flight of wooden stairs), was once dedicated to bee cultivation but the bees perished and the farm was moved to Inabanga.

The 2wo-tiered swimming pool

The 2-tiered indoor swimming pool

The farm promotes healthy eating and we were here to sample a delicious and unique buffet lunch, which uses organically-grown vegetables, at its restaurant overlooking the sea.  On our way to the restaurant, we passed the resort’s lounge area and two-tiered, indoor swimming pool.

The restaurant

The restaurant

Too bad, resort owner and chef Victoria “Vicky” Wallace-Sandidge, a Bohol-born and New York-based nurse-turned-farmer, wasn’t around to entertain us.  Married to African- American Thomas Edward Wallace, she had two children (Mellanie and Abdul) with him but was widowed in 1988.  In 1991, she bought a 4.8-hectare property and established the Bee Farm two years later. Here, she promotes organic farming which doesn’t use expensive conventional fertilizers and harmful pesticides for the farm’s crops. Vicky sits as an active member of the Bohol Initiatives for Sustainable Agriculture and Development (BIFAD).

Organic garden salad

Organic garden salad. Notice the edible flowers? They say that any flower being sucked by bees is not poisonous and, therefore, is edible

Cabcab with pesto & green tomatoes

Cabcab with pesto & green tomatoes

We started our lunch buffet (reasonably priced at PhP600/pax), amidst the cool sea breeze and stunning ocean view, with glasses of fresh lemongrass juice; a very spicy, colorful and tasty organic garden salad (romaine lettuce, turnips, mustard greens and indigenous flowers topped with honey mustard dressing); an appetizer of light, crisp cabcab (mashed cassava pulp dried and deep fried into thin wafers or crackers) with a dip of pesto & green tomato; and a bowl of seafood soup.

Grilled fish

Grilled marlin

Honey-glazed chicken

Honey-glazed chicken

Spare ribs

Spare ribs

The main dishes consisted of grilled marlin, honey-glazed chicken and spare ribs plus seafood lasagna, organic red rice with camote, and squash bread with homemade spreads. Dessert was healthy and very delicious, homemade ube and malunggay (moringa) ice cream.

Seafood lasagna

Seafood lasagna

Squash bread with homemade spreads

Squash bread with homemade spreads

After lunch, we proceeded to the Buzz Shop, their gift and souvenir shop up front which sells all sorts of organic products.  On sale are various vegetable breads and muffins (squash muffins, carrot muffins, camote bread, honeyed muffins, etc.); fruit and vegetable chips (cassava, banana, etc.); spreads (honey, mango, pesto, choco, etc.); a variety of teas, both in leaf and powdered form (including the very  popular honeyed ginger tea); black berry wine; native vinegar; kape mais (coffee made from roasted corn and wild berries); and dried cabcab.

An array of food products

An array of food products

They also sell wild honey from the farm; bee propolis, pure honeybee pollen, honeyed tableya, honeyed garlic; honeyed mustard salad dressing and honeyed hot sauce.   You can also buy soap (milk, papaya, lemongrass, etc.); buri and raffia woven products; beewax lip balm; virgin coconut oil; and honey or pollen-based shampoos and lotions.

Souvenir shop

Souvenir shop

We have already sampled the homemade ube and malunggay ice cream but we still visited the small Buzzz ice cream shop to check out their other very exotic offerings (PhP40 for 1 scoop and PhP80 for 2 scoops) – chocolate, durian, avocado, pandan, tomato, mango, guyabano, spicy ginger and buko (young coconut). Their ice cream is the star of their very unique and interesting halo-halo.

Buzzz Ice Cream

Buzzz Ice Cream

After our pasalubong shopping and prior to leaving, Mr. Ariel B. Logrono, a staff member of the farm took us on a 30-min. guided tour. He first gave us a lecture on different organic farming methods.  The resort practices vermiculture, mostly using their waste products mixed with animal manure for vermicompost.   After 6 months, it is then used as fertilizer.

Listening to Ariel's lecture on organic farming

Listening to Ariel’s lecture on organic farming

They  also practice the concept of companion planting, a form of polyculture wherein different crops are planted in close proximity to each other.  The theory is that these plants assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary for increasing crop productivity.

Companion planting.

Companion planting at work. Grasshoppers feeding on their favorite leaves but leaving the nearby herbs intact

We were also given a highly educational tour of the Crafts and Livelihood section of the resort, our guide demonstrating and giving inputs on the process involved in each activity. Here, the Bohol Bee Farm staff are encouraged to do livelihood activities such as raffia making, basket making and sewing,  enabling them to give a little back to the community.

Crafts and Livelihood Section

Crafts and Livelihood Section

Seasonal basket and raffia decors

Seasonal basket and raffia decors

At the center, we observed members of the cooperative operating looms and sewing machines as they turned raffia and buri palm leaves into fabric sheets, bags, place mats, purses, slippers, curtains, seasonal decors, table runners, tissue holders, hats and other merchandise.  The loom weavers made it look so easy, their shuttles zipping back and forth without hardly any effort. A 10-foot long sheet of raffia fabric usually takes 3 to 4 days to complete.

Observing loom weaving

Observing loom weaving

Bohol Bee Farm: Brgy. Dao, Dauis, Panglao Island, 6339 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 502 2288 and (038) 510-1821 to 22. Mobile number: (0917) 710-1062, (0939) 904-6796 and (0917) 304-1491.  E-mail: vickywallace@boholbeefarm.com.   Website: www.boholbeefarm.com.

Manga Public Market and Lic Lic Fastfood & Sutukil (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Manga Public Market

Manga Public Market

After viewing the sunset (and the tectonic uplift along its coast) at the Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc, we all head over to Tagbilaran City where we were to experience dampa-style dining by first buying fresh seafood at the Manga Public Market (below the old city hall along the road to Cortes) and then have it cooked any way we want it (called paluto or “have it cooked”), for a minimal fee, at a nearby eatery for our dinner. Just after 4 PM, fishermen who have returned, deposit their daily seafood catch at the market.

Parrotfish

Parrotfish

Upon arrival, we wandered the aisles of the market, checking out what’s on offer. We found tables piled high with fresh seafood delicacies such as lapu-lapu (grouper), baby sea eels, kitang/samaral (rabbit fish), sea cucumbers, bottles of fresh sea urchin roe, five kinds of seashells,  squid, crabs, octopus, etc.. Josue picked out lapu-lapu, squid, some kinason shellfish and fish.  While he was doing so, we bought some crispy, ready-to-eat chicharon (PhP50 per 100 grams) as pasalubong for our loved ones back home.

Octopus

Octopus

After Josue paid for the seafood, we all headed, across the street, to the Lic Lic Fastfood & Sutukil (sugba, tuwa, kilaw) which is about 20 m. down the road, towards Tagbilaran City.  In the kitchen, at the back of the restaurant, Josue clearly and precisely explained to the cook how we liked your meal prepared.

Crispy chicharon

Crispy chicharon

The fish was charcoal grilled, the lapu-lapu was prepared in sweet and sour sauce, the shellfish in some soup with loads of ginger while the squid was stewed in its own ink (which intensifies its seafood flavor).  We also requested for some pinakbet and steamed rice.

Our paluto

Our paluto

As this is a very basic restaurant, we didn’t expect silverware, crystal wine glasses, exceptional service or amazing ambiance. This place is all about the deliciously prepared food we partook of after our Abatan River Firefly Tour.  We weren’t disappointed and we returned to our resort with our tummies full. Truly, a must-do, one-of-a-kind dining experience in Bohol.

Feasting on seafood at Lic Lic Fastfood

Feasting on seafood at Lic Lic Fastfood

Manga Public Market: Carlos P. Garcia Ave. North, Manga District, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol

Lic Lic Fastfood & Sutukil: Carlos P. Garcia Ave. Northa District, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Mobile numbers: (0929) 394-6803 and (0910) 301-2139.

Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong (Lucban, Quezon)

From the church, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I walked towards Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong, situated just behind the church where, we were told, we could buy the best Lucban longganisa.  It was raining heavily, so we brought our umbrellas with us. Established in 1958 (incidentally the year I was born), Eker & Ely is one of 10 longganisa makers in town.

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Their Lucban Longanisa is sold by the dozen –  P150 for big longanisa and  P55 for small.  I bought two dozen packs of the former while the others bought packs of the latter.  It’s a good thing we arrived here in the morning as their longganisa is usually sold out by afternoon.

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Longganisa hung on poles for buyers to see

Aside from their bestseller longganisa, the store also sells different delicacies made in Lucban and other parts of the country.  The list includes macaroons, coco jam, broas (the local version of ladyfingers), uraro, miki lucban, piaya, pastillas, mazapan, galletas (egg cracklets) espasol, achara, espasol, coco vinegar, peanut brittle, peanuts, cashews, etc.

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Lanny, Violet and Maricar deciding on what to buy for pasalubong

Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong: 114 A. Racelis Ave., Lucban, Quezon. Tel: (042) 540-3304.  Mobile number (0920) 237-9056.

How To Get There: Lucban is located 160.36 km. from Manila and 23.7 kms. north of Lucena City. From Manila, it can be accessed via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX, exit at Turbna) and the Manila East Road.

 

 

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant (Pagbilao, Quezon)

Our final stop on our Appsline Travel-sponsored Lucena City/Pagbilao tour was the Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant where we were to have dinner.  From Pagbilao Wharf, we followed Lurhen as we drove to this popular destination and quiet retreat which is a 25-min. drive from Lucena City.  From the Maharlika Highway, we turned right and drove 6.5 kms. inland before reaching the resort.  It was just about dusk when we arrived and we were welcomed by general  manager Ms. Mary Ann Padilla who asked us to proceed to its floating restaurant.

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant

We descended down a series of paved walkways with dining cottages, nestled along the edge of cliffs, on either side.  At the base of the cliff, we next had  to cross a long footbridge with a sturdy  foundation of concrete stilts, passing two other dining cottages, before reaching the larger, boat-shaped restaurant at its end which overlooks Tayabas Bay, Pagbilao Grande Island and Patayan Island.

The footbridge and floating restaurant

The footbridge and floating restaurant

Ms. Padilla soon joined us at the table and we proceeded to interview her, at length, about the resort. The resort first opened in 2003 with just one seaside cottage. As the years went by it slowly grew into a cozy park with a  main restaurant (a very nice place to view the sunrise and feel the cool sea breeze while dining); bamboo dining cottages, function hall; a mini-zoo and a children’s playground.

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The resort also has a bed and breakfast, on top of a cliff and overlooking the sea, with affordable room rates: PhP2,500 (good for 2-4 persons with free breakfast for 2), Php4,000 ( good for 8 persons with free breakfast for 4) and PhP5,000 (good for 8-10 persons).  Each spacious, clean airconditioned cottage has a TV and a private bath with hot and cold shower.  They also offer boat trips or kayaking to Patayan Island Puting Buhangin Beach and Kwebang Lampas.

Interior of restaurant

Interior of restaurant

The place also had its share of misfortunes, being almost reduced to rubble by the wrath of typhoons, notably Milenyo. From the ruins, it slowly rebuilt, replacing the bamboo and thatch main restaurant and the bamboo bridge with sturdy concrete.  It also closed down a not so successful second branch at SM City Lucena.  Even with the same cooks preparing the same food at both branches, the SM branch simply could never relicate the ambiance of the original.

L-R: Lurhen, Mary Ann, Mel, the author and Rannie

L-R: Lurhen, Mary Ann, Mel, the author and Rannie

Even as we were interviewing her, our cooked food slowly arrived, delivered to the restaurant from the main kitchen/grilling area on the mainland via a helicopter-shaped dumbwaiter running along a steel cable, truly an attraction by itself. The restaurant serves very affordable and great tasting Filipino and Chinese seafood dishes and we got to sample a number of their signature dishes.

Seafood Cream Soup

Seafood Cream Soup

Beef with Broccoli

Beef with Broccoli

First up was the filling seafood cream soup (PhP340 for medium and PhP500 for large) followed by the green mango encelada, beef with broccoli, calamares and crab szechuan (PhP100/100 gms.). The ostrich with mushroom sauce (PhP415 for medium and PhP615 for large), its meat sourced all the way from Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, was really tender and tasted like beef.  The piece de resistance was the grilled oysters .  These oysters are first steamed, then grilled and flavored with garlic and butter.  For dessert, we had the not so sweet but still great tasting buchi plus brewed coffee.

Camaron Rebosado

Calamares

Ostrich with Mushroom Sauce

Ostrich with Mushroom Sauce

It was now late in the evening when we finished dinner and, as we had a long 3.5-hour drive back to Manila, we said our thanks and goodbye to our gracious host Mary Ann as well as Ms. Lurhen.  With me at the wheel of the car, traffic was almost non-existent but we were sometimes traveling at a snail’s pace because of slow-moving trucks.  We arrived in Manila past midnight.

Grilled Oysters

Grilled Oysters

Silangang Nayon Park and RestaurantBrgy. Bantigue, Pagbilao 4302, Quezon. Tel: (042) 716-0077 and (042) 622-2173. Mobile no.: (0922) 886-7677, (0920) 813-2324 and (0919) 442-0042. Contact Person: Ms. Mary Ann Padilla.  Email:  silangang_nayon@yahoo.com.ph

Appsline Travel Services and Consultancy: Phase 2, Krisanta Village, Brgy. Bukal, Maharlika Village, Pagbilao, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 716-0067.  Mobile number: (0922) 633-0363 (Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes). E-mail: yvette_24@yahoo.com and appsline0305@gmail.com.

Cortijo de Palsabangon Farm Park and Restaurant (Pagbilao, Quezon)

From Ouan’s The Farm Resort in Lucena City, we proceeded to the next destination in Appsline Travel-sponsored tour, this time traveling to the next town of Pagbilao where we were to have lunch at the 5.1-hectare Cortijo de Palsabangon Farm Park and Restaurant.  As we neared the restaurant, we passed by its organic farm planted to fruit trees and pesticide-free vegetables.

The native-style restaurant

The native-style restaurant

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by owner Ms. Ayrin Llorin at the native-style restaurant. The place looked very relaxing, with its lush greenery and backdrop of mountain scenery. Built with bamboo, hardwood and sawali, the restaurant is furnished with tables and chairs made with bamboo or hardwood and accented with large and small cart wheels.  Within is a billiard table and a bar stocked with regular wines and spirits.

The dining area

The dining area

Cart wheels provide a nice touch

Cart wheels provide a nice touch

The well-stocked bar

The well-stocked bar

Ms. Ayrin prepared for us Filipino dishes that included  pork sisig and baked tahong (mussels baked with cheese), both popular appetizers, and seafood kare-kare (using shrimp instead of stewed beef or pork and cooked with some of their organically grown vegetables), all served with steamed rice, plus pancit canton.

Shrimp kare-kare

Shrimp kare-kare

Pancit canton

Pancit canton

Pork sisig and baked tahong

Pork sisig and baked tahong

After this very filling and delicious meal, we also tried out the local, coconut-based lambanog (the Philippine version of vodka) spiked with liputi, a local wild blackberry which adds a slightly sweet, tangy taste. Lambanog’s other flavors include grapefruit, bubble gum, pineapple, prunes among others. Though fiery tasting, it is said not to produce a hangover.

Trying out the local liputi lambanog

Trying out the local liputi lambanog

Near the restaurant are 3 native-style bamboo cottages named after vegetables – singkamas (jicama root), sigarilyas (winged bean) and talong (eggplant).  They each have their own dining and sleeping area and is rented out for PhP500 for an overnight stay. Aside from the restaurant, customers can dine al fresco or in a picnic cottage.Come Friday evening, a local band provides a night life party. Cold nights are warmed with a bonfire.

L-R: Melissa, Lurhen, Ayrin, Rannie and the author

L-R: Melissa, Lurhen, Ayrin, Rannie and the author

Diners here can also play billiards or sing their hearts out with their videoke.   The place is ideal for camping; team building; agricultural and organic farming tours (you pick and pay for the fresh fruits and vegetables which they cook); and horse and pony riding.  Come November to January, a rainbow usually appears during the day.

Cottages for overnight stays

Cottages for overnight stays

Cortijo de Palsabangon Farm Park and Restaurant: Brgy. Ibabang Palsabangon, Pagbilao, Quezon. Mobile number: (0999) 513-4730 (Ms. Ayrin Llorin), (0923) 517-7001 (Ms. Ayrin Llorin) and (0917) 719-5184 (Ms. Noriko Usui).  E-mail:cortijodepalsabangon@yahoo.com.ph.

Appsline Travel Services and Consultancy: Phase 2, Krisanta Village, Brgy. Bukal, Maharlika Village, Pagbilao, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 716-0067.  Mobile number: (0922) 633-0363 (Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes). E-mail: yvette_24@yahoo.com andappsline0305@gmail.com.