Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trip to the Mother Land - Philippines 2012

You've probably noticed that I've been incognito for the past month. Two weeks of that was spent packing and preparing for our recent trip to my homeland, the Philippines. The last two weeks was the vacation itself. And since I haven't posted in a while, this is a fair warning that this post will be a little long.

When I was single, trips to the Philippines was a yearly thing with my family. The last time I went back home was in 2005, when I brought the new hubby to our homeland. His first visit to the Philippines. Ever. Actually, he went there when he was 3 months old, but he said it didn't count since he didn't remember anything. Since then, we've had our ups and downs, then our daughter was born, and then we decided to put everything on hold until hubby finished school and found a job. My relatives have been asking and wondering when they would finally be able to meet our daughter. We wanted to take her to the Philippines before she started Kindergarten, which will be next year. So I figured now would be a good time to take her. Along with my parents and siblings, we headed back home.

We arrived in Manila at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on a very early Sunday morning. We were then taken on a 2-hour drive to our house in the province of Nueva Ecija, north of the big city of Manila, where we were welcomed by many relatives. I was then told that one of my aunts will be hosting a Welcome Party for our daughter the following day. So we rested up to prepare for the festivities the following day.

The food was being catered. So there wasn't much preparation on our end, except to shower and get dolled up. We were able to watch the set-up of all the delicious foods. Especially the set up of the Roast Pig. No Filipino feast is ever complete without the the Roast Pig, or Lechon. Its similar to the Hawaiian Kalua Pig, except the skin is this yummy, crunchy goodness that is deliciously dangerous to eat. Can you just hear the arteries clogging up?

My brother and sister decided to purchase some cakes for the festivities, since it was also my parents' anniversary, and it didn't look like we had any desserts on the table.

My daughter's cake was this yummy Dulce De Leche cake, with its cake so soft and airy, I couldn't stop eating it.

The next day, we had to wake up really early to drive back to Manila and spend the night at the Marriott in the Resort World Manila because we had an early flight heading to the island of Boracay.

And yes, that is the bathroom on the other side of that see-thru wall.

Prior to our trip, I had been reading up on what restaurants to visit at the Resort World and the Red Crab Alimango House caught my eye.

Specializing in, what else, crabs, I ordered the Crab Maritess which was a huge crab, sauteed in lots of garlic. Messy but delicious.

Of course, I had to order something for our daughter, and she loves nothing more than pasta. So we ordered their seafood pasta.

My meal is never complete without the rice. So I also ordered the Crab and Shrimp Fried rice, which was also delicious.

We turned in early after dinner and got ready for our early flight to Boracay the next day. I didn't realize how long of a journey it would take to finally get to Boracay: a 45 minute plane ride from Manila to the Kalibo airport, then a 2-hour drive to the jetty port, a 15-minute boat ride to the docks of Boracay, and finally a 10-minute cab ride to our hotel. By the end of it all, we were exhausted and hungry and it was lunch time.

After checking into our room and exploring the hotel, we decided to walk down the beach path, crowded with tourists/foreigners, vendors advertising their business of a beach activity (island hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, ATV, Zip Line, etc.), and lots of restaurants. We decided to have a quick lunch and headed to Don Vitto's, an Italian restaurant at the Boracay Mandarin Island Resort.

When entering the restaurant, I was a little confused. I thought we had entered a Chinese restaurant with its Chinese decor. I soon realized that it was decorated as such because of the theme of the hotel. Looking beyond the decor, we decided to order our lunch.

Everyone knows how much I love spaghetti, and so its what I ordered.

We also ordered a Meat Lover's pizza, which didn't look too meaty. But we were hungry and we were in a rush to finish lunch because hubby and I had a spa appointment. So we basically engulfed the pizza.

After our quick lunch, hubby and I headed to our couples massage. So relaxing. However, later in the evening, I soon regretted ordering my plate of spaghetti because I had a serious case of food poisoning that lasted 24 hours. It ruined my trip as I stayed in the hotel room the next day. With no energy and an empty stomach, I managed to get out of the room and took a stroll on the beach to view this Boracay sunset:

This was probably the best part of my island trip.

The following day, we had a breakfast buffet. Everyone ate breakfast while I ate dry bread, for fear that my stomach problems would return. We walked around the beach some more before we packed it up for another long journey back to Manila: 10 minute cab ride to the jetty port, 15 minute boat ride, a 2 hour drive back to the Kalibo airport, then the 45 minute plane ride. And to finally get back to our house in Nueva Ecija, we took another 2 hour drive home. I don't know if the trip to Boracay was worth all this. But at least I can say that I've been to Boracay.

We spent a couple of days at our house before heading further North to my mom's province of Pangasinan. Every visit to Pangasinan always begins with a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag to say a prayer of thanks for the many blessings we have received. Once finished at the church, we visited one of our aunts and stayed for the night.

Back to Nueva Ecija we went and spent a couple of nights before heading back to Manila to prepare for our return to the states. During those 2 days, we managed to take hubby on a quick tour to historical sites such Intramuros, which housed Fort Santiago where the Filipino National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned. We also managed to do some shopping in the many, many malls that the city had.

We stayed at Crown Plaza Galleria which was connected to the Robinson's Galleria Mall. Before entering the hotel, I saw the sign for Bonchon Chicken, said to be the best chicken in America. A Korean Fried Chicken. I actually did see them being featured on one of the shows on either the Food Network or Cooking Channel TV. Unfortunately, there isn't a branch near us here in Southern California. So I was really excited to try them out.

However, I was very disappointed, in fact quite upset, with their service because they were very slow. Aside from their famous chicken, we also ordered the Bulgogi beef plate, which we were warned would take 15 minutes. We had no problem with that. But it took almost 45 minutes to get our order. Keep in mind that we ordered before the lunch rush. When the lunch rush came, our order kept being pushed back and I observed patrons who came after us being served with their food.

In all fairness, their chicken was delicious. Its a fried chicken drenched in a sweet and sour sauce. Even with the sauce, the chicken remained crunchy. It might actually have been worth the wait. At another branch.


Ever since we arrived in Manila, we always saw signs and billboards advertising Mang Inasal Restaurants. And so my brother and I had been dying to try an Chicken Inasal. However, because we were down to our last days in the Philippines, we settled for another restaurant in the mall that featured Chicken Inasal, Bacolod Inasal Chicken.

I ordered a Pork BBQ stick.


And shared my daughter's plate of Chicken Inasal. Dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and the local lemon/lime fruit, Calamansi, the chicken was delicious. The BBQ stick wasn't bad either.

We had visited a few other restaurants such as Max's Restaurant, which we have here in the states, and The Aristocrat Restaurant which my dad and I always love to go to for their Pancit Canton. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera during those visits. And we ordered a lot of food from them.

Overall, I had a wonderful culinary experience, as always. I always love eating foods that are not served here in the states. So I often miss real, authentic Filipino meals. I especially miss meals prepared by aunts and uncles at home. Those are always the best. Aside from delicious foods, its always great seeing family we haven't seen in a while. So my goal for the next few months is to try to re-create some of the meals I've had during our trip. We'll see how they compare.

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