Manila to Batad Banaue

I took the 9PM night bus from Manila to Banaue. The trip took 9 hours with 3 stops. We arrived in Banaue at 7:00AM.  We took the Ohayami bus because they have an online booking system, next time however I will try the newer bus companies.

Manila to Banaue bus companies:
Ohayami  P460
Coda Lines  P460
Dangwa Bus (DeLuxe Bus) P520

Tip: Upon arriving in Banaue, there is a free jeepney shuttle from the terminal to the Tourism Center.

Fix your return tickets when you arrive as the buses tend to fill quickly. If you have no reservations you might get assigned an aisle seat. That would be an ordeal!

batad town3

saddle endThe Banaue Tourism Center arranged our Batad day tour:
Tricycle (for 3 people) to Saddle P1000
Guide (for whole group)  P1200
Tip: Some tricycle drivers can also act as guides so you won’t need to pay double.

From the Saddle, the road down to Batad is already paved.  It cuts trekking time by more than half, but removes that “sense of adventure”. The motor bike can take you down but you need to walk back up the cement road or find a vehicle to get back to the Saddle.  Then it is another 1 to 2 hours trek to the terraces. The trek down to Batad Village and the waterfalls can be a bit more physically challenging.20160206_125212

Where to eat in Batad:   Batad Pension and Restaurant


The hostels allow early check-in because most buses arrive in the morning.

Department of Tourism Accredited Hostels

We stayed at Spring Village Hotel close to the bus station. It doesn’t have the hostel vibe and is a bit pricier. I didn’t mind paying a little extra for a clean room with a private bath and hot shower. If you have a car, they are one of the few establishments with parking.

batad7Places to eat in Banaue town :  Las Vegas, Sanafe, Café Jam, Halway Lodge, Banaue Hotel
Bars: Reggae, Tavern

NOTE: There is a 10 PM curfew in town
Tricycle to get around town P10
Tricycle to Viewpoint P200 (*do not miss for great pictures)


Guihos Hot Spring
Hapao Rice Terraces
Banaue Museum
Market day – Saturdays
Mayoyao Rice Terraces
Tam-an Village
Poitan Village


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How to cook Tikoy

Happy Chinese New Year !

Cooking Class


Kung Hei Fat Choy! My Chinoy friends gave me tikoy as gifts for the Chinese New Year. Nian Gao or tikoy in the Philippines is glutinous rice cake. It is eaten at the start of the lunar year for prosperity. Here’s how to cook tikoy:
1. Slice tikoy into little squares or strips.
2. Dip and coat into a scrambled egg.
3. Pan fry with a little cooking oil. Enjoy!



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El Nido Palawan January Fiesta


Nacpan Calitang Twin Beach

Palawan will always be my happy place. Last year I was in El Nido and had a chance to experience the Santo Niño Festival.  Known as Sinulog (Cebu) or Ati-atihan (Aklan), it is celebrated every third Sunday of January in the southern islands of the Philippines.  The event honors the  charred statue of the infant Jesus. The miraculous image survived a fire in 1521, devotees cover themselves in ashes and offer tribal dances.20150118_120559

The locals at the hostel invited us to celebrate in their “po-ok” or town. The place was called “Happy Valley”.  Seriously!! Happy Valley in English! That really was the town’s name! 🙂  The municipal school had a dance contest. Costumes were made of indigenous material sourced from the environment.  It was really amazing!20150118_105629


20150118_111151In a Philippine fiesta anyone can partake of the food from the neighboring houses.  Everyone is welcome to a family’s home and is treated as a guest. This brand of hospitality still holds true in the provinces. I told my British friends that refusing to eat when invited would be considered an insult.  We were served boiled pork in sour broth in a stranger’s house.blog4

blog8Close to the fiesta is Nacpan Beach located 17.5km  north of  El Nido. The travel is inland and best visited via motorbike.  This area is known for the  Nacpan Calitang Twin Beach. I had to go up the hill to get this shot. Absolutely breathtaking!!

How to get to El Nido town from Puerto Princessa:
I took the 9:00 pm Cherry bus from Puerto Princessa to El Nido. The trip took 5 hours but it was a pleasant one. The bus is more comfortable because there is more leg room.

Where to stay:
I like to stay at Egay’s Castrillo’s homestay (63915-3219162). His hostel has clean rooms with private toilets.  It’s not beachfront but it is away from the shore’s evening party noise.

Where to eat in Puerto Princessa:
Try KaLui restaurant for the freshest seafood!  I’d recommend this to foreigners because of the food quality and presentation. Make a reservation because the place might be full.blog2

Must try:  KaLui Special of the Day Set.

Where  to eat in El Nido:

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Abuela’s Arroz Valenciana Recipe

Arroz Valenciana picLast year I was in a restaurant in Cebu with my family, we ordered paella and my father  suddenly turned nostalgic. He told me this was the kind of paella my grandmother used to make. Seriously Pa???? I have spent a lifetime traveling and collaborating with cooks and chefs in search for the perfect paella. My version and specialty is a very complicated one. Papa loves my paella but it was Lola’s sticky rice “Arroz Valenciana” that brought back memories.

Grandma taught me how to cook Arroz Valenciana when she was alive.  During her time ingredients were not easily accessible. It was hard to get saffron, thus annatto and tomato sauce were substituted for color.  Glutinous rice was mixed with regular rice and cooked in a rice cooker. This easier version is a cross between a jambalaya and paella. I must admit this recipe is still very popular in provincial town fiestas.

My father is old, so this New Year I cooked Abuela’s version of Arroz Valencia. After all, the joy of cooking is making other people happy. A blessed New Year to you all!


500 g                     Malagkit, glutinous rice
500 g                     Long grain rice
6 cups                   Water
1 tbsp                    Chicken powder
¼ cup                   Annatto oil (cook seeds under low heat in olive oil for about a minute, strain)
250 g                     Chorizo (Purefoods), sliced
2 tbsp                    Onions, minced
2 tbsp                    Garlic, minced
250 g                     Pork, sliced
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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 89,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Filipino New Year’s Eve Traditions

Reposting this again as we prepare for the New Year…

Cooking Class



In the Philippines New Year’s Eve is fun and crazy. It involves huge family gatherings, tons of food, lots of fireworks and noise, street parties and karaoke until the wee hours of the morning. Here are some traditions I grew up with :

1. Prepare a bountiful and lavish feast with lechon (roast pig), use premium ingredients to start the year with abundance.
2. Avoid chicken on the menu, it represents “isang kahig, isang tuka” or food scarcity.
3. Round food symbolizes luck and money. It is customary to find queso de bola or round Edam cheese, and a basket of round fruits becomes the table centerpiece.
4. From the Spanish, we learned to eat 12 grapes representing each month of the year for luck.
5. Serve sticky food like rice cakes for close family ties and also for luck to stick to you.
6. From the Chinese we learned…

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Din Tai Fung Manila

Michelin Star restaurant Din Tai Fung finally opened in Megamall Manila.  This holiday season the mall schedule closes at midnight, so I came late in the evening just to eat and skip the long lines.

The signature dish is Xiao Long Bao. It is steamed dumplings  filled with broth, enjoyed with vinegar and lots of ginger. When you bite into the dumplings there is a  sudden burst of warm broth in your mouth. 20151210_220640.jpg

Golden Lava is a gastronomic creation of buns filled with an oozing creamy mixture of  salted egg and butter. Yum!!!20151210_222310.jpg

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Your Local

wpid-20151122_111611.jpgIt’s been a month since I returned to the corporate world as a chef at a large food conglomerate.  I have always been an advocate of  the slow food movement and constantly preach about the farm-to-table philosophy.  Today I visited my former students Nico Junio and Mariel Agraan at a hipster restaurant  called Your Local.  I sat by the bar and watched them prepare the orders.  I missed the line! I missed cooking like that! wpid-20151122_113038.jpg         

Torched Salmon Donburi – must try!!

Nico reminded me of my advocacy  to support the farmers and use local ingredients. It has been an internal struggle ever since I left the academe and started corporate work, but I try to focus on the bigger picture of food security by learning about the food manufacturing industry. In my dilemma, I found comfort in the restaurant’s food and was inspired by the very creative menu.  Coffee from Yardstick next door was also excellent! wpid-20151122_113257.jpg

Chorizo burger on a squid ink bun with truffle frieswpid-20151122_120014-1.jpg

Nasi Lemakwpid-20151122_120115-1.jpg
Beef rendang with heirloom rice

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Fresh catch of the day

It was dawn when I woke up to the noises of fishermen. They were drawing-in their net to shore. I ran down from my room to join them. I have always wanted to experience this with the locals. It was a modest catch of anchovies. The lot was equally divided to feed their families. wpid-20151010_072015.jpg

In the islands people may be poor but they are never hungry. They have the sea and the vegetation of the land to feed them. Life is simple but they are happy.
This was my solo travel weekend escape to Puerto Galera. It was  inspired by the book  “The 4-hour Workweek”. I  needed to hit the beach before going back to the corporate world.

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San Francisco Union Square Food Crawl

wpid-20150808_122901.jpgThis trip we skipped the popular Fisherman’s Wharf and decided to thoroughly explore Union Square on foot.  Amy is one of my best friends and host in the bay area. She arranged accommodations at the Hilton Hotel because parking is ridiculously expensive in San Francisco.  Amy and her family love to eat, so I share with you our “heart of the city” Union Square foodie adventures:wpid-20150807_143501.jpg



1.  Cheesecake Factory – this iconic and touristy restaurant is located at the 8th Floor of the Macy’s Building. You need to take an old elevator to get to the top. The patio view is perfect for taking great pictures of Union Square.  Large food portions!

wpid-20150808_130721-1.jpg 2. Café de la Presse – voted as one of the best restaurants in the area. It is located just across the entrance of China Town. This restaurant is reminiscent of a Parisian café with food offerings such as escargot and beef Burgundy. It has a nice cozy ambiance, good food and an extensive wine list. Try the steak frites!

3. China Town – nice to explore the little shops and dim sum restaurants. The list for China Town restaurants is too long but here’s  the link:

4.  Tad’s Steak House – a SFO classic that has been around for decades. The old diner is a place to go to for sentimental reasons. I had the steak sandwich and it was yummy.wpid-20150808_143822.jpg

5. Senior Sisig – is a Filipino- Mexican fusion taco truck. Filipino style minced meat is used in the recipes. Must try sisig taco and sisig burrito! Check the website for their daily location. Mabuhay Philippines!

6. Sushirrito – is another burrito concept using Japanese ingredients. It is a giant sushi roll. It’s a big hit among the millennials.  Must try Geisha’s Kiss  (Yellowfin Tuna (Hand-Line Caught), Tamago, Piquillo Peppers, Lotus Chips, Namasu Cucumber, Green Leaf Lettuce, Ginger Guac, Yuzu Tobiko, Sesame White Soya) !

wpid-20150812_211458.jpgI couldn’t leave San Francisco without having a bowl of clam chowder on sourdough, so I had one at the airport just before leaving.  I am back in Manila as I write this blog. Thank you Amy for a wonderful time!

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