In the Isle of the Giants

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I had the chance to revisit this wonderful piece of heaven in Carles, Iloilo. The last time I was here was about two months after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the place, and much have already changed! Bancal port is now bustling with passenger boats ferrying people to and from Isla Gigantes. The “tangke” is cleaner and safer and the climb to the “view deck” in Cabugao Gamay is a lot more safer with the ladders and railings. Scallops and wasay-wasay are still in abundance and the crabs get yummier and yummier!

IMPORTANT: Tourists, especially those arriving via tour boats from Estancia, are now required to register at the Carles Tourism Office, where they will be given “access pass” to the Tangke hidden lagoon after payment of P70 per pax environmental fee.

How to get there:

There are several entry points to Isla de Gigantes, but I would rather you take the route that will lead you to Bancal Port in the town of Carles; Isla Gigantes being a part of Carles.

From Iloilo City airport
  • Make use of the airport shuttles/vans/FX stationed just outside the departure area to take you to SM City Iloilo. From there, take a cab to the Ceres Grand Terminal (Ceres buses now have their own terminal), if you prefer taking the bus or to Tagbak Central Terminal, if you’re taking the van. Just make sure you are on the Carles-bound trip, which will take you directly to Bancal Port. [I’m not sure about the schedule of vans in Tagbak, but Ceres buses leave as early as 3AM]. Alternatively, you can just ask the locals what passenger jeep will take you to the Ceres Grand Terminal or Tagbak Central Terminal (Leganes-bound and Jaro-CPU jeeps are some options).
  • Once in Bancal Port, make sure you register at the Tourism Office before you board any of the passenger boats that will take you to Isla Gigantes.

Where to stay:

Several accommodation options are available. We stayed at Dela Vega Cottages (see photos for their contact details) for P350/pax/night in an A/C room for 6. The resort also offers meal packages (starts at P200 per pax) that will surely satisfy your cravings for seafood.

Durian: The “King of Fruits”

The "King of Fruits"

When in Rome…

A typical Ivatan meal

Tamidok salad

Tamidok Salad

A typical Ivatan meal comes usually in Pinungusan sa vuhong nu kabaya (wrapped in breadfruit leaves):

  • Turmeric rice
  • Viand
    • pork luñiz — deep-fried lightly salted pork
    • uved balls — meatballs with grated banana pith
    • lightly fried fish
    • bistek Tagalog
  • Beef nilaga

Appetizer:

  • Tamidok salad — fresh young fern with vinaigrette, topped with lightly sauteed tomatoes and shallots

Ivatan camote cueDessert

  • Inazucaran na wakay — glazed sweet potatoes, very much like, or actually,
    cue

A glass of palek, the local beer, would’ve been a good digestif.

When eating ‘poqui’ is as wholesome as munching ‘veggie balls’…

I have no idea where the name came from! Poqui-poqui or poki-poki is grilled eggplant sautéed in onion, garlic, tomatoes and egg white. It is usually a breakfast dish famous in the Ilocos region, however, there are many incarnations of the dish, depending on the mood of one’s palate, or how much time you have to prepare it.

The version served us by the chef at Kusina Felicitas at Grandpa’s Innin Vigan was very much similar to Japan’s takoyaki, albeit, with a crunchy crust. It was served sitting on two sauces — tomato and curry. For the more adventurous, a piece of red chili was provided to “spice” up the experience. A must try!

… and by the way, we also had a sumptuous feast (yeah, ’twas a feast!) of bagnet with KBL (kamatis, bagoong and lasona, a native Ilocano shallot), sinanglaw and deep-fried crispy frogs!

Kusina Felicitas, Grandpa’s Inn
# 1 Bonifacio Street cor. Quirino Blvd.,
Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Pleasure DOES come in twos

One of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~ Luciano Pavarotti

A trip to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan will never be complete without sampling the locale’s famous duo of stir-fry noodles — Batil Patung (some spell it as “patong”) and pancit Cabagan. For a gastronome like me, a pancit food trip is definitely in my itinerary.

The panciteria is to Tuguegarao, as Starbucks is to Metro Manila. The ubiquitous panciterias dot almost every street corner of this quaint city, with Felicia’s, Gretchen’s and Natan’s being the more popular ones. Having no idea which of these front runners is THE best, I turned to the ever-reliable Mamang Traysi — the friendly tricycle drivers that ply the city’s every nook and cranny. Of the five tricycle drivers I asked, all of them agree that while the top three panciterias are well known, their popularity is hinged on their ambiance. Oh, they’re quick to qualify their answer that the three do serve delicious batil-patong and pansit cabagan, however, they ‘highly recommend’ Lamud for batil patong and Gumiran’s for pancit cabagan. Lamud is located in Brgy. Cataggaman, a few clicks from St. Louis University, while Gumiran’s is within Centro and a short walk from San Jacinto de Ermita Church.

And boy! They were right!

Batil patong (sounds Malaccan or Indon, right?) is made from freshly prepared local pancit miki topped with sauteed carabeef, shredded cabbage and semi-poached egg. It is served with ‘sopa de huevos’ or egg soup, and goes well with a sauce concocted from calamansi, soy sauce, vinegar and a generous heap of chopped onions.

Pancit cabagan, on the other hand, is originally from the town of Cabagan in Isabela. It is made from cabagan miki, which is thinner than the noodles used in batil patong. The main ingredients are lechon de carajay, quail eggs and mixed vegetables. It’s distinct characteristic is a dark thick sauce or broth, typical of cooked cabagan noodles. It goes well with the similar sauce for batil patong: calamansi, soy sauce, vinegar and lots of chopped onions.

Craving 2

 

Actually, this is already a deviation from the ”original’ objective of my Project 365 — to come up with one unique and theme-driven photo a day… but, what the heck! Photoshop is such an ‘addicting’ photo manipulation tool that I cannot stop… not yet, anyway.

And, these mangoes are soooooooooo mouth-watering that my craving for them are awakened.

A stack of ripe mangoes at the Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro public market

A stack of ripe mangoes at the Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro public market

Craving

Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea) or Spanish Plum

Sineguelas (Spondias purpurea) or Spanish Plum

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