Saturday, May 30, 2009

Burritos at Cocina Juan

Another food find (actually a tip given by our niece, Dang) along Maginhawa St., Teacher's Village, Quezon City is Cocina Juan. Cocina Juan serves Mexican food. Its specialty is the Burrito which is served in various ways - rice, chili con carne, corn and viand (pork, beef, chicken) wrapped in soft flour tortilla or the viand and the wrapper served separately or deep fried burritos called chimichangas. They also serve quesadillia, rice meals, salad and tacos. They deliver (Tel. No. 4343911).

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Night Cap of Coffee Wine

Last night, our UP AISC barkada and family had a night cap of coffee ... not hot coffee but chilled coffee wine. You read it right - COFFEE WINE. The wine was a hit, Arthur who now resides in London continuedly gulped the wine like water. So as Vic, Sammy and the ladies. I pulled out a one-fourth full Novelino sweet wine for them to compare. Ofcourse, they taste differently but they all agree that the coffee wine is delicious, sweet and easy to drink (walang sabit) and better than the more expensive ones. The full bottle of Winers coffee wine was consumed first than the 1/4 full Novelino wine. Since my friends have to drive after our reunion, they were asking if by drinking coffee wine, will they be kept awake while driving at night, or will they feel sleepy or drunk because of the alcohol." Hmmmm ... ????

We brought the coffee wine from Baguio City's Tam-awan Village. The wine has about 7.5% alcohol and one bottle costs P150.00. According to the label, the wine was organically fermented from coffee Arabica and the main ingredients are coffee, water and sugar. It is manufactured by Winers.

Actually, there are other flavors of the Winer's products. At Tam-awan Village, we had a taste of the four flavors - the coffee wine which is sweet, the Yakun which has a strong taste like a combination of gin and brandy, the Bugnay (Wild Berry) which has a similar taste as Novelino sweet wine and the rice wine. You can see in the photo that each flavor has its unique color. Depending on your taste, you will definitely like one of the flavors. I am not sure if these wine products are available in Manila. So I suggest that when you visit Baguio, don't forget to bring home a pasalubong of Winers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Easter Weaving Room

Do you want to see how the fabric used to make this beautiful and colorful outfits were made? Then visit the Easter Weaving Room at Baguio City.

Watch this video and witness for yourself the traditional process of cloth weaving as practiced by the women of Mountain Province. You will see the wide-range of hand-woven products such as tablemats, wall hangings, bed linens, clothings, ethnic and ikat textiles, religious garments, bags, wallets, purses, Christmas articles, footwears, area rugs, hats, etc.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Star City's DINO Island atbp

We visited Star City last May 16, 2009 because Geof was so insistent to see Snow World. We were disappointed, though, because Snow World is just one big freezer with temperature of about 15 degrees C. On display are very pathetic ice carvings - "you can 't appreciate them much because it's too cold inside", Geof remarked. After Geof tried sliding on ice, we left since Julia was almost freezing and Geof continuedly coughed. We were inside for about ten minutes only.

Dino Island, on the otherhand, was an interesting and excting experience. It is a very informative attraction where kids and adults will learn about the prehistoric creatures. On display are dinosaur skeletons, fossils and dinosaurs moving through Japanese robotic technology. As you view the dinosaurs, you can also watch a video to get detailed information about them such as "do you know that a Stegosaurus is the dumbest dinosaur because it's brain is too small, only the size of a walnut," "Dino" is the term for a baby T-Rex," "The T-rex is 40 ft long but its arms are only 3 ft long." At the Dino Island Museum, you will see fossils and dinosaur eggs. For a fee of P160 (P100 Dino Isalnd + P60 Star City), you will experience an amazing adventure as your travel back in time.

Watch the Dino Island video up to the end and you will discover that there are living dinosaurs among us. He he he!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Baguio Souvenirs at Woodcarver's Village

If you want to bring home woodcarving souvenirs from Baguio City, visit the Wood Carver's Village. Along the way going to Asin is a village selling beautiful and intricate handmade woodcarvings, big and small, at very low prices - these items are 3 times expensinve at downtown Baguio City. It is interesting to watch how the woodcarvings are made with patience by the people in the village.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Art and Culture at Tam-Awan Village

When you go to Baguio City, visit Tam-Awan Village and discover the art and culture of the Cordillera people. The village has seven ifugao huts and two Kalinga houses constructed using the original materials and design of traditional Cordillera villages. Each hut or house has a specific purpose - Bugnay hut is for a middle size family, the Fertility hut is where a married couple stays after one year of inability to produce a child, the Binayon is a dwelling for a rich family in Southern Kalinga, the Dap-ay is strictly for men only in the Mt. Province. I think it is possible to stay overnight in these huts or houses. To see these houses, you will follow an eco-trail (it was slippery when we went there because it rained the day before, so better wear rubber shoes). Along the trail, we observed ethnic sculptures and designs representing their culture inlcuding phallic symbols representing fertility.

Tam-awan Village is also a venue for art exhibits. There were exhibits of solar drawings - these are pictures where a magnifying glass was used to burn pattern from the rays of the sun. The drawings are awesome, very detailed - a product of patience and creativity. The cost of the pictures ranges from P5,000 to PP25,000 depending on the size.

There is also portrait sketching for the visitors. You pay P100.00 and the artists (not only one but about five) will draw your portrait. Geof and Julia had a portrait sketching session - two artists drew Julia while three artists drew Geof's portrait. We got four sketches - one for each. Some of the sketches, though, did not resemble our kids. But "art is not reality" as they say - so artists interpret reality differently.

We tried also the wine produced from different ingredients like rice, coffee, bugnay and yakun. A separate blog will be written about this.
By the way, another venue for learning about the life and culture of the people of Mt. Province and Baguio is the Baguio - Mt. Province Museum located near Burnham Park.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Choco-Late' de Batirol at iba pa

We had breakfast at Choco-Late' de Batirol at Camp John Hay, Baguio City. The resto is owned by my high school classmate, Jojo Castro. According to him, they just moved to this new place at Igorot Garden two weeks ago. "The moment you enter our rainforest you are hooked, and you will keep coming back to savor the aphrodisiac goodness of our concoction..", he told me and that's what his website also states. Choco-Late' de Batirol, according to him, revives the tradition of preparing the hot choco made of cacao beans. Our breakfast of tocinong baboy, kalabaw and boneless bangus was served with the popular hot chocolate. Hmmm Yummy. Dining at Choco-Late' de Batirol is very relaxing and refreshing - you commune with the sorrounding trees and flowers.
Aside from running the resto, Jojo Castro also advocates the preservation of the environment through his Adopt-A-Seedling project in cooperation with the DENR. We visited the project's site and he showed us the seedlings and the vegetables that they have grown. He told my son, Geof, "I am just a caretaker of this property." He invites schools, private compannies, NGOs and green loving citizens to plant a tree. They have pine seedlings, cacao seedlings and many other plant species available and ready for planting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dining in Baguio

What can we say about dining in Baguio City? Most of the restaurants and cafe we've visited were along Session Road (Baguio City's most popular road) except for O' Mai Khan. Here is a summary and assesment of our dining experience in Baguio City. (Over-all Rating for food, ambience, price and service: **** Excellent and Definitely worth visitng again, *** Good, ** Satisfactory, * Poor and forget about it)

Pizza Volante

Sizzling Plate

Zola Cafe

Jack's ****: We ordered chicken and chopsuey. The servings were big - a half chicken was more than enough for us. The vegetables of the chop suey were fresh. The taste was good and the price reasonable.
Pizza Volante **: We ordered Minestrone, Pasta and Pizza. The pasta was soggy and we didn't like it at all (although the sauce is ok, but the pasta was really ... bleeh). The minestrone and pizza taste ok too, although not to die for. The price is a little high considering the quality and taste of food.
Zola Cafe **: The taal rice was new to us so we ordered it - it was basically adobo rice with tinapa and salty egg. The serving was generous and tastes actually nice. The porkchop with gravy was delicious, but the chicken cordon bleu was disappointing. The breading was toooooo thick that you hardly taste the chicken (actually, we couldn't find the chicken!!) We also had pancake - it was cheap, really (P50 for 2 big, round pancakes), but taste exactly that - cheap. It taste like flour mixed with egg, sugar, and water. There's no creaminess that one gets only when butter or milk is added. The run-by-the-mill pancakes of McDo or even Jollibee are way better.

Zola is also a wifi zone. But the big let-down is the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke. The whole resto is actually a smoking zone so one will really feast with second-hand smoke while inside. For those looking for lung cancer, this is the place to go. I had a terrible head ache after eating there. Hence, despite the tastiness of its food and reasonableness of their price, I'm not setting foot there again unless they do something with the smoke!
Mandarin *: This is the biggest dissapointment. Andy was actually feeling nostalgic, saying that he remembers eating good food at Mandarin. So we scheduled a visit there. The place looks way too old-fashioned, but we were there for the food so it doesn't matter. The wanton noodles came first - it taste good and the service was generous. So we were anticipating to be awed some more. And then our food came ... First was the camaron - the shrimps were too small and too few, they look pitiful to eat. Then the mixed veggies. My goodness, eating them made me feel I'm back in ... the college cafeteria! The veggies were old, over-cooked, and the taste matches the looks of the place - depressingly bad. And the bigger catch? The price is not commensurate with the taste of the food we had (well, maybe except for the noodles).
Sizzling Plate ***: I told Andy that Sizzling Plate is among my favorites in Baguio. It's a good thing that the resto didn't dissappoint. The beef slices they used for their steaks were juicy and were marinated just right. Geof who was then craving for arrozcaldo and siomai ordered just that. And that's one major lesson he learned that day - if you're in a steak house, never, never order siomai or arrozcaldo or anything that the cooks are not experts on. The arrozcaldo was waayyy too yellow, it looks like it contracted hepatitis. And the siomai? Let's put it this way - Geof is gaga over siomai, but this is the first time he didn't finish an order. The dumpling was falling all over the place when you bite them. But that notwithstanding, the steaks were more than enough to compensate for the arrozcaldo-siomai debacle and we look forward eating there again.
O'Mai Khan ***: We had a mongolian plate, hot pot, shrimp tempura, and ice cream. The veggies were fresh! Yes!! It was our last night and we were still craving for more fresh veggies. O'Mai Khan offered just that. The taste of the soup was good and the ingredients were abundant. The shrimp tempura, on the other hand taste more like a camaron rebusado (it even looks like a stick shaped camaron) . It's nowhere near the Japanese tempura. But then again, maybe this is the Mongolian version of tempura....?
For the mongolian grill - well, mongolian meal is known to be a do-it-yourself mixing of ingredients and sauces, and the resto will just do the cooking. In other words, depending on how savvy you are with this style, you'll end up with either a bowlful of yummy treat, or a bowlful of something that even a streetdog would pass. It was a good thing I am familiar with this style, but it would have been better for the resto if they post a 'recipe' as regards the right amount of sauces to mix (e.g. for szechuan style, mix 1 scoop of chili water, 1 scoop of soy sauce ... etc; for sweet and spicy, mix 1 scoop of sugar, 1 scoop of garlic water .... etc)

We also had meals/ snacks and/or coffee in other restos but they are not memorable to even occupy a space here -- except the resto where we had halo-halo with crushed ice as hard as a rock. I called the waiter to show him how impossible it was to eat the halo-halo with Mt Everest blocking the spoon. He was good natured enough to crush the ice for us (and realized how hard it really was when he tried to pick the ice). If only restos offering halo-halo would get a shaving device that would produce shaved ice like that in Razon's.... For myself, I ordered coffee, thinking that maybe it would redeem the resto if they offer good coffee. Alas, the brewed coffee was too mild (malabnaw) that a 3-in-1 instant coffee actually taste better. Not going back in that resto again.
Solibao ****: For brunch on our last day, we ordered crispy hito fillet, adobo, and fried egg. While Solibao looks unassuming outside, their food really taste good. The hito was crispy and the adobo was really delicious. And the fresh tomatoes - wow - they were wonderfully big, fresh, and plump, my mouth waters just thinking about them. The price was good, too.
Since Baguio is abound with fresh vegetables and fruits, we were expecting the restaurants to emphasize their greens - salads, vegetable dishes and soups, etc. Thus far, however, in almost all eating places we've visited (except Jack's) , the fresh vegetables seem to be a luxury. Most restos offer sizzlings or grilled meat. This is a pity considering that Baguio is awashed with veggies coming from the farmlands of Benguet. Local and foreign tourists, I'm sure, will patronize "green" or vegetarian dishes. In Tagaytay (e.g. Sonia's Garden), they promote vegetarian food.

By the way, we also had breakfast at Camp John Hay's Choco-late de Batirol. It's one of the saving grace of our Baguio trip - but Batirol deserves a separate blog entry all to itself.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Baguio's Old & Rustic Burnham Hotel

During our trip to Baguio City, we stayed at Burnham Hotelalong Calderon St. The main reason why we booked in this hotel is because of the location - it's a stone's throw away from Burnham Park and Session Road.
The hotel is more than 20 years old - it has a rustic ambience, the carpets are old and desperately need to be replaced, the bedside lamp looks fragile due to old age, and the dim room lights don't contribute a bit in making the place a little more appealing. The cielings are old but newly painted. The old electrical wire connections and flourescent lamps, however, appear to be fire hazards.
Despite the seemingly deteriorated appearance, the hotel is clean and the service (room cleaning, change of towels, hot water available) is satisfactory. It's location was really convenient - the restaurants including McDo and Jollibee along Session Road are nearby, the ukay-ukay malls are just opposite the hotel building and the night ukay-ukay are sprawled along the roads near the hotel. In general, our stay at the hotel was comfortable. And we have no complaints.

Staying in Burnham Hotel is like going back to history as you view the old photos of Baguio City and the antique equipment displayed in the hotel (which maybe one of its attractions especailly to foreigners - yes we noticed foreigners booked at the hotel). Furthermore, the ethnic decorations add a little "arrive" (a.k.a. character) to the hotel. Still, the building needs a general renovation if it wants to compete with the other nearby hotels. We noticed hotels nearby such as Baden Powell Inn, Microtel Suites, Hotel Veniz and Prime Hotel - but we don't really know about the service and facilities of these hotels. Choosing a comfortable hotel which is strategically located near restos, parks, markets and other attractions is the key to enjoying your stay in Baguio City.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Deluxe Buses and City Travel in Baguio City

Travelling from Manila to Baguio City used to be very uncomfortable and tiring - imagine sitting inside a bus or a car for about seven hours while going through traffic and the winding roads. However, when we tried Victory Liner's De Luxe Buses, I realized going to Baguio City and back to Manila is now very convenient. A Deluxe Bus has a comfort room (CR) and a bus stewardess. There is free water and cake and video showing. Travel time is about five hours since the buses pass the SCTEX and there is no stop-over. The fare is P700.00. There is another type of Deluxe bus but with no CR - it has one stop-over and travel time is also about five hours and the fare is P650.00. The regular aircon bus has a fare which is less than P500.00 but it takes about seven hours travel time because of the many stop-overs. Riding a De Luxe Bus is more expensive than the regular aircon bus but it is more comfortable (the seats are wider and there is ample space between passengers and you can even raise and stretch your legs) and travel time is less. Actually, it is also more comfortable than driving your own car - imagine the stress in going through the traffic for more than five hours. The only stressful experience is the long queue in buying the ticket at the Cubao Station. I hope Victory Liner has an online reservation for De Luxe Buses.

When you are in Baguio City, going around using public transport especially the taxi is cheap and convenient. The taxi drivers are honest - they return the exact change. Driving your own car in Baguio City, if you are not familair with the roads, is not advisable - I am sure you will get lost.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baguio City: Revisited

After about ten years, we visited Baguio City again this time with our two kids, Geof and Julia last May 3-6, 2009. We want to share this photo diary of our short vacation at Baguio City. We will feature our Baguio experience regarding travel, lodging, food and attractions in future blogs. Watch-out for them in the coming days.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hooked on the The 39 CLUES

After reading The 39 Clues (Book 1) The Maze of Bones - read the review of Book 1 in this blogsite - Geof, Daddy and I got hooked on the adventure book. Photo: Father and son may not agree on the team to cheer during the UAAP Basketball games between Ateneo and La Salle, but they agree that The 39 Clues is an engaging and exciting book to read.

In these books, Amy and Dan Cahill, and their au pair, Nellie and the other teams (all related to the Cahill's) are in search of 39 clues to become the "richest, most important people in history." The 39 Clues (Book 2) - One False Note brings the readers to Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy to unravel a clue related to a music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In The 39 Clues (Book 3) - The Sword Thief , the Cahills track the life of one of the world's most fearsome warriors in Tokyo, Japan and were led to Korea to find the 3rd clue.

The 39 Clues is so popular that they are out of stock in local bookstores. We had to ask our friends to buy a copy of Book 3 in Malaysia during their tour there (and the copy they bought was the last copy in the bookstore in Malaysia - The 39 clues is really popular everywhere).