Going Beyond Local
The Philippines has always been such a great destination for its rich and diverse food. With 7,107 islands and each having its own food culture and specialties, you can never run out of new dishes to try. The archipelago country has also become a melting pot of different cuisines colliding to create a unique food. In my 3 month vacation and fellowship with Kaya Collaborative, I traveled to various parts of the country and discovered places that goes above and beyond. I not only wanted to go to places that serve Filipino classics but also curate innovative food. The following are 5 unique places in 5 difference cities to eat and are worth capturing.
1. Hole In The Wall | Makati City
Location: Level 4, Century City Mall, 1210, Kalayaan Ave, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
Located inside the brand-new Century City Mall, Hole in the Wall is an urban food park located on the 4th floor. It’s a bit upscale in comparison to a typical food park in Manila as it is indoors and in a mall. But its carefully crafted specialty dishes within the stalls makes it worth it. This is a perfect location for those once in a while treat yourself moments. Whether you are with barkada or family, this is a great spot as there is something for everyone’s cravings. Most of the food served is unique in that location such as Scout’s Honor shown above. It is a specialty cookie shop that serves sweet treats such as the campfire cookie to flavored milk.
2. Lost Bread HQ | Quezon City
Location: Unit B, 80 Maginhawa, Diliman, Lungsod Quezon, Kalakhang Maynila, Philippines
Deemed as one of the most insta-worthy restaurant in the Philippines, Lost Bread HQ is a win for sweet treats and dreams. Known for over the top shakes (spiked included) and soft serve, this is the place for millennials and millennials at heart. With locations at different food parks and malls, the HQ location at Maginhawa is a full-service restaurant. The menu includes dishes like grilled cheese with tomato soup and Siracha fried chicken. Be sure to save your phone or camera battery, because you will sure want to show off your drinks to your social media audience.
3. Container Turf | Parañaque City
Location: Aguirre Ave, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Recently opened this year at BF homes, Container Turf is a brand new open-air food park. With 3 stories of seating, it provides a wide range of food stalls that feature internationally inspired drinks, dishes, and desserts. Come at night and you will be immersed in a modern food night market escape. Being new and only open in the afternoon you can expect crowded nights especially during weekends. Parking could also be a challenge with only 5 parking spots in the location. However, there is additional parking at a designated garage with complementary shuttles. While it could be challenge getting there and finding a seat, it’s all part of the food adventure.
4. Cafe by the Ruins Dua | Baguio City
Location: 225 Upper Session Rd, Baguio, 2600 Benguet, Philippines
Craving for a fresh Filipino breakfast and a good cup of tea or coffee, Café by the Ruins Dua is a perfect stop at Bagiuo City. This popular breakfast location is an extension of the original establishment in front of Baguio City Mall. In this restaurant, you can find Filipino classic breakfast dishes such as longanisa, bangus, and champorado. What makes the food here special is that they strive to locally source their ingredients and create the dishes as fresh as possible. In the bottom floor bread can be seen being made. In addition, the restaurant also pays homage to art by surrounding guests with original art pieces by local artists around the walls. Dinning here for a breakfast, you can expect a taste of the local culture and warm hospitality.
5. House of Lechon | Cebu City
Location: Acacia St, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines
Presenting one of the best of Filipino cuisine, the House of Lechon, is a true must-have when in Cebu. Sticking true to its name, the Lechon here is the best that I have ever tried. It was so good that I even forgot to take a picture of the food. But trust me, it is as good, or even better as is the décor and the service. They also serve other dishes such as pancit and sisigig. With no sauce needed, and lechon roasted daily, nothing else can be said than satisfying any lechon craving.
A New Form of Tourism
Location: Tanay, Rizal
When I stay in the Philippines, I always have one goal in mind. That goal is to explore the country as much as I can and discover new places. While Boracay may sound like a great choice, it is a choice most people make. What I want is a place away from other tourists, away from the sounds of buses and jeepneys. I wanted to escape. While the Philippines is known for its beaches, its beauty has more to offer.
Through searching online, I saw many bloggers posting breathtaking pictures of Masungi Georeserve. It has recently gained traction and popularity, especially to millennials, with its unique rock formations and trails. But what I found special was how they treated the area, the employees, and the guests. In this age, I believe tourism is beginning to lose its form, changing places, away from its pure landscape. Instead of portraying the true nature of an environment it becomes embellished with buildings, roads, and people. More prominently, markings and tracks.
One of the distinct features of Masungi is that it diverges from the conventional tourism. While it is atypical from lounging and relaxing at spas or lavish hotels it brings excitement and an adventure with its ropes courses and trails. It is able to stay true to the spirit of tourism, which is showcasing a place to those who might have not otherwise discovered it themselves.
Right at the moment you see the front entrance of the Georeserve, you begin to notice the mission of Masungi. The only sign or marking for the entrance was their logo and nothing else. The sign was so well hidden and discrete that we passed it and had to ask locals for directions. The staff said it was to prevent visitors from doing walk-ins tours as it had to be reserved 1-2 weeks ahead. They also wanted to keep the number of people to a minimum to create a serene experience for guests.
Once you arrive and check in, you receive an orientation of the tour, backpacks, and helmets, for crawling under rocks. In tour, there will be a park ranger to accompany the group in the trail. They not only seek to ensure the safety of guests but also the maintenance of the georeserve. These tours usually last 2-3 hours depending on how fast and how long the group wish to take. The trek navigates through the whole park with highlight points through bridges, mountains, caves, and rope courses. Each of these stops vary from another and provides that perfect insta worth shot.
Despite the views on mountain peaks, what fascinated me was the commitment to the equal treatment of guests and the cleanliness of the environment. From the beginning to the end of the tour, they reminded guests to not tip the guides to ensure that everyone gets the same experience. This was a rare site for me, especially in country that depends heavily on tourism and where tips are the norm. Similarly, the design of the trail was made to embrace the surroundings and adapt to the environment. The whole trail is lined with rocks and concrete block to not only ease the trek, but to minimize the markings made. Most of the structures used in Masungi are artistically designed from natural materials other than the safety wires and rails.
Silayan Dinning Room
After the trek, Masungi offers an exclusive fresh and gourmet dinning experience at Silayan. This restaurant is within the property and about 5-10 minutes away from the reserve entrance. As with the trail, they also strive and continue to be conservative and self-conscious. Most of the food served here are made to order and sourced from local producers around Masungi. With a new curated menu each season and a 360 view of the Laguna de Bay, the Susong Dalaga Mountains, and the City you can guarantee a unforgettable meal. Although this experience is an additional charge and requires reservation, the intimate setting for trail guests and its remoteness from the cityscape makes all the worth.
To those experienced thrill seekers to the novice tourists, Masungi Georeserve gives the best of both worlds. From its towering rope courses to the picturesque views on the peaks, the trail also provides the perfect harmony for locals and foreigners to experience. While visitors are not on sand nor near the ocean, they are surrounded by limestone formations, spectacular views, and closer to nature. It may not exactly be a road less traveled for regular mountaineers or hikers, it is a road that should be traveled by. More tourist destinations should follow the operation and commitment of places like Masungi when feasible. Places that not only showcase the natural beauty of the Philippines, but also display how to love and keep these wonders. All 7107 islands is filled with hidden gems like Masungi, and they only last with true care for nature, staff, and visitors eager to discover them.
I did not realize the importance in the concept of layering till I came to Washington D.C. I knew I had to wear thick jackets to protect myself from the subzero gusts, but I did not realize that later on those days it would turn into a sunny, dry, and windless afternoon. Likewise, the concept of paying to pick apples was just a foreign idea in my mind. Nevertheless, as a temporary resident of the East Coast and had to enjoy what it had to offer.
For Columbus Day weekend, I went to a bonding trip at an apple orchard in Germantown, MD. In the morning of the trip the glacial winds were so strong that it could’ve probably lifted a small animal off the ground. Going apple picking felt so nostalgic as the last time I went was with my family when I was 9 and still living in New York City. But now as an “adult” I can enjoy the surprisingly vast variety of apples from Jonagold to Pink Lady. It was one of the simplest, but relaxing experiences as it takes you out from the busy and hectic life in the city. Sometimes we all get caught up with the hustle and bustle of life and never take the time to go out, breathe the fresh (sometimes cold) air and witness the beauty of the changing of seasons.
For this afternoon excursion, I decided to go with the fall essential, the flannel. This is one of my favorite shirts as it gives you an effortless casual look. In addition, it could be worn multiples ways, you can dress it up by tucking it in with neutral colored chinos and a belt. If you want to go for a casual and effortless look, you can dress it down by wearing it unbuttoned with a white shirt and a hat. Since I knew the weather in D.C. can be unpredictable I decided to layer my flannel with ah hybrid denim jacket. By doing this I am able to just remove my jacket when it gets too hot. For shoes I wore my palladium boots to complete the casual rugged look.