Tabuk, Kalinga is known to be the portal to the ever so famous Buscalan. Many tourists roam around the town, all excited to their soon encounter with the legendary Whang Od or the country’s oldest mambabatok (traditional art of tattooing using bamboo stick and pomelo thorn. Ash is used as ink). Not known to the public, Tabuk has its own charm.
One of Tabuk’s hidden treasure is Ethnic Boutique, located at FF Cruz, Bulanao Centro. My partner and I were looking for places to hang out the afternoon before my cousin’s wedding day when we accidentally stumbled upon the place. We were expecting to have the famed Kalinga Coffee over our usual musings. What we didn’t expect was how beautiful the place is.
Everything was on point. It was Ethnic, alright! In every corner of Ethnic Boutique you will see the customary Igorot tapestry. The lush vegetation enveloping the cafe is a treat to the senses. It made the place an oasis to weary travelers. We arrived just right after lunch and there were no dishes left to prepare probably because of the influx of people dining. We waited for their merienda instead which is all good because the view is stunning.
We stationed at the farthest corner of Ethnic Boutique, closest to the open view of the farmlands. The mountain seemed so near and smelled so near. It was something you would want to hold on to after being in the city for the longest time. The air was the freshest I have ever been exposed to. It was the antithesis to my usual toxicity of Aurora Boulevard.
There were also different variations of native wines displayed. You can opt to buy from them and have it served with your meal. Their specialty wine is the Bugnay Wine or wine made from fermented wild berries. Pineapple wine and Guava wine were also available. We didn’t buy though. There’s a good place near the market that sells them cheaper.
Ethnic Boutique serves unlimited Kalinga Coffee! While waiting for their afternoon serving, we indulged ourselves to the unlikely combination of coffee and cucumber iced tea. I know, I know. We were very hydrated and happy. We also got to meet the dogs and cats in the area. There was even a mama dog with her puppies. All were friendly and tamed.
We ordered their buttered chicken and organic rice. It was so good, in fact, that after finishing our meal, we ordered a round of fries. Our palettes were not disappointed. If it was something about the cool weather that made us extra hungry, or the welcoming scenery, or their meals were just scrumptious to the core, we will never know. All we knew at that time is that Ethnic Boutique made us warm in delight.
Ethnic Boutique is one of the places that gave us the full Tabuk experience. We were fortunate that we’ll always have the comfort of returning since my relatives are from the area. I would suggest that should you visit the cafe when you happen to make Tabuk your stopover or destination, better come on time for lunch. You will be able to choose more from their menu!
Here’s a rough map to Ethnic Boutique. If all else fails, you can ask the townsfolk where Ethnic Boutique is!
Do you ever miss the simple life? Having to eat a gracious, fulfilling meal with nature buzzing around you; strolling after dining, having talks in between about life and whatnot? How about a literal breath of fresh air that we find so rare nowadays? When was the last time you’ve given your respiratories a treat? This is the reason why we searched far and wide to have a meal at Kawayan Farm, Pililia, Rizal.
Hidden in the picturesque roads of Pililia, Rizal is a restaurant that promises to remind you the simple joys of life. From the outside, you will be greeted by an array of bamboo and native installments that looks as though it’s stretching its arms in a frenzy of warm welcome. Once you enter Kawayan Farm, you will also be greeted by their resident Philippine Macaque, Muymuy. It was love at first sight for me. The staff allowed us to give him ripe mangoes. According to them, he loves fruits a lot! As a sign of his gratitude, and perhaps excitement, Muynuy bounced in elation and have us an amazed look. This was a heart-warming moment for me.
We were given a choice to eat inside the restaurant or in one of their kubos (native hut) outdoors. Definitely, we chose the kubo for a full experience. The hut where we dined in can fit 4 people having a meal comfortably. It has an electric fan and a complete dining set. There was also a lingering tegu inside the net that contained the dried cogon roof. While this can be something that can put customers off, I was honestly glad to see one. Goes to show how healthy the environment still is in this side of Rizal. The air was fresh and had a hint of the faint aroma of burning leaves or “siga” which is a treat to my senses because it takes me back to the good old days in the province.
While waiting for our food to be served, my partner and I wandered around the premise. We found a small bamboo chapel complete with an altar, pews, and stations of the cross along the pathway. It looked serene, solemn, and in touch with nature despite its simplicity. The church is still open and is still holding mass as displayed by the entrance.
Kawayan Farm also has a Bamboo forest which we gladly hiked. Just be careful, though, as the trail tends to be slippery when wet. It will also help to apply a mosquito repellent if you are not used to the great outdoors (just for safety measures). While on the trail, please do not bring food and avoid littering at all cost!
Opposite of the trail is the Viewpoint here you can marvel at the mountain-side view of Pililia. We were taken by the site of Laguna de Bay peeking from behind the ridges of Rizal. Although there was an electricity line running across the scenery, it was just too darn beautiful to be spoiled by that.
Along the path, you can find signs introducing you to the “Kawayan” (Bamboo tree) and how we can benefit from it. According to one of their signage, the Kawayan plays a big role against soil erosion, a major effect of deforestation. This is timely since there are some parts of Rizal where logging is prevalent. The signs also mention the many uses of this sturdy tree. You can create furniture from Bamboo, rafts, and even the house itself.
There were also different kinds of Bamboo which surprised me. All the while I thought there was only one class of Bamboo! Among those I saw at Kawayan Farm are the Australian White, the Thailand Bamboo, and the Pole Vault Bamboo, each slightly different from the other.
Chickens were also free roaming. We saw a huge rooster and even joked about him being the inspiration for Foghorn J. Leghorn of Looney Tunes. Yeah, we’re old.
Our food was served as we were returning from our hike. We ordered Kawayan Farm’s specialty, Bulalo (beef shank stew). The serving was generous just as the staff honestly described. It can feed 3 to 5 people and had we ordered more, we would not have been able to finish it. Such a tragic waste!
I can also tell why Bulalo is their specialty. How do I say this without overly patronizing Kawayan Farm Restaurant? Their Bulalo is the tastiest I had in a long time! The soup reminds me so much of a well seasoned corned beef that was manufactured and sealed to goodness! The beef tasted so fresh and succulent and there was no sign of artificial flavoring!
The staff were nice and caring. Their hospitality is gold. They even instructed for us to clap to get their attention if we need anything to which we did not do. We find it degrading on their end.
The meal at Kawayan Farm was hearty, palatable, and abundant. It was well-worth the drive! It wasn’t just a restaurant but an overall experience going back to basics. It serves as a reminder that it is still satisfying to share a meal with Mother Nature once in a while.
Kawayan Restaurant is located here:
If there’s one thing I regret as a writer, it’s not being able to create pieces on time. They say that for your compositions to be effective, it has to be timely. The notorious procrastinator that I am tend to challenge this principle nonsensically. I delay write-ups until they pile up or worse, until such time that it’s too late. This is the situation with Cafe Aquatica.
Cafe Aquatica was then located at Greenhills Promenade. It’s a themed cafe that sets the bar high for other themed cafes in the Metro. By its name you can tell that it has to do with water and probably fishes, but while this is true, Cafe Aquatica isn’t just a cafe that provides Instagrammers the perfect ocean backdrop. It does not even put glittery thingamajigs on your food to make it glow as if underwater. It’s a hobbyist’s sanctuary.
You can tell by look of the aquariums that were meticulously designed from the lights to the aquascaping that Cafe Aquatica was a masterpiece by a hobbyist. It’s not something that was just put up out of need to keep up with the market. The place was elegant in its own right and while others rant about the rather expensive prices of the food, the Cafe gives you the experience that has the tendency to be ignored by regular coffee goers who has probably tunnel-visioned in on the price.
The aquariums were all set up exquisitely, each one having a theme fit for its inhabitants. We were seated on a booth with an aquarium next to it and we can’t help but marvel at the beauty. Of course, something delicate needs to be protected. Each aquarium has a price on it just in case your clumsiness gets the best of you or you were enthralled that you wanted to purchase it out of a whim.
When it comes to credibility, several awards were displayed in one corner of the cafe. This is actually a good strategy and if you share the same interest, you knew that the owner means business when it comes to his avocation.
We tried several offers on the menu. From the pasta, to the sandwich, to pastries, and definitely, their coffee. We also tried their Blue Butterfly Pea Drink which changes color from purple to blue when infused with lemon. It’s a type of tea that is charged with antioxidants that promises to give you healthier hair, better eyesight, and strengthens your immune system. Interesting? Not as intriguing as it looks! It’s mesmerizing how the hue changes!
The staff were nice and attentive. They gave us sensible answers to our questions and satisfied our curiosity about the aquariums and the Blue Butterfly Pea Drink. My family and I had a good merienda and went home satisfied. Yes, we got our money’s worth. We had a great, quality time.
This is the reason why I regret not having to write about Cafe Aquatica sooner. You might think this write-up is already useless but I pray it’s not too late to give them this. I hate to call this an elegy because my memory of the cafe is still fresh and pleasant. Also, based on my Internet wanderings, they still have their Binondo branch open. I sincerely hope I can visit soon and I promise that I’ll update immediately this time around!
We’ve been loyal to Yakimix Trinoma ever since it opened.It has become our go-to place when it comes to quality (and quantity) eating. When it opened, smokeless grill buffets were just making its way to Philippine food culture. The crowd welcomed it warmly that it even came to a point that we had to fall in line just to have our dinner!
Just last March, I celebrated my birthday at Yakimix Trinoma with my family. It was quite some time when we last visited then. When we headed to Trinoma, all we knew is that we were going to find the buffet at its usual spot. We panicked when we discovered it wasn’t there! Thank goodness to the guards who showed us where it’s now located. Otherwise, we would have all been brokenhearted.
Yakimix Trinoma became better and busier. The number of people during dinner rush was uncanny! We were grateful to have booked in advance or else we would have waited forever. Not that their place is cramped but, really, you need to secure yourself a spot especially during Fridays and Saturdays around 8 in the evening (probably their busiest hour). Here’s a tip: we usually send someone to come in earlier than the rest of us as early as 5 PM (their opening hour for dinner) if we’re not able to book in advance. Don’t worry, they won’t time your stay there. They’re amazing that way!
Unlike other buffet restaurants, Yakimix cuts their meat in thin, precise pieces. This is actually good since you don’t want to feel horribly sated on thick meat slabs. There are also enough options to choose from such as spicy bacon, korean beef, among others. You can tell from the quality of the meat once you’ve grilled them that they were marinated for a long time since the taste is strong and lasting.
They have a good line of kamaboko and surimi choices. They have crabsticks, oden, narutomaki, and the like. You can choose to grill them or include them in your sukiyaki and I must tell you, Yakimix’s sukiyaki soup has always been palatable from the beginning.
One thing that maintains people’s loyalty to Yakimix (not just in Trinoma) is their sushi and sashimi offerings. I am honestly impressed with their choices. It sort of reminds me of the early Saisaki restaurant chains. From the traditional tamago sushi and kani sushi, to the less common like tako sushi (octopus!). They also come in all shapes in sizes! They have the maki (rice and filling wrapped in seaweed), uramaki (the opposite: rice is on the outside wrapping the filling and seaweed), nigiri (topping on sushi rice), temaki (cone-shaped), and my ever-loved, sashimi (fish or shellfish served alone and without rice).
Yakimix Trinoma also has an array of desserts! They have cakes and different kinds of mousses. They also have ice cream that I just couldn’t get enough of! Getting sleepy and sluggish? Have coffee! They serve that too, through a Nescafe vending machine (it’s part of the buffet, don’t worry).
Of course, since it’s my birthday, they sang good cheers to our table. This always lights up my mood no matter how cheesy it may be. Part of Yakimix’s appeal is these mini-performances that somehow makes you feel important.
The Yakimix Trinoma experience never grows old for us. I associate the place to adventurous lunches, mini celebrations, and important events. As wide as the range of food they present is the number of occasions we use an excuse to pig out there!
Here’s how you find Yakimix Trinoma:
Lubang Island for me is a trove of beautiful memories. I could clearly recall those summer afternoons I spent biking around town, trying to imprint every landmark in my young mind: the church, my great grandfather’s house in the corner of E. Quirino and L. Abeleda, the backyard with a pugon stove, and the school where my mother used to go to.
I would always associate the island with April showers which would seem to rain on me at times my cousin and I hung out at the Plaza. Its yellow petals that have fallen from the trees were like sand burying my toes. Lubang Island was part of my childhood. It was part of my mother’s childhood. Lubang Island was a part of my late grandmother’s childhood.
It’s a wonder to me, though, why the world has not raved about the island yet. At this day and age of aggressive local tourism, why hasn’t Lubang Island been found? Should I blame the island’s mysticism?
Mama (my grandmother) would fondly tell me stories about Lubang while the 90’s prevalent blackout plagued us in Kamuning. She once talked about how a number of Japanese fleets during World War II tried docking on its pristine shores. Since their intentions were vile, the shore seemed to turn to soap, giving them a laborious time disembarking until they were spooked to their wits and called it a day.
The beaches of Lubang Island, were anything but soap but everything that is clear and uncorrupted. It serves as a testimony that you need not spend more to witness the beauty of Bali or the Bahamas. I only spent 1,500 Php to get to and from the island comfortably. My heart raced upon the sight of the vast oceans that had taken the extreme end of Teal in the color wheel. I am not even exaggerating! My mother recounted stories of how she collected shells in Tumibo when she was young and I have validated those stories myself when I caught a glimpse of that beach for the first time. Imagine a shore covered with seashells, ruined by the waves but still elegantly alluring…and the mangroves! It was so new to me at that time that I am conflicted between swimming or just looking at the beautiful scenery!
My grandfather (Papa, as we fondly called him), narrated to us once about a story of a giant who set foot on one of the beaches in Lubang. In the process, he left his footprint and this has then made one beach famous. Binacas was the name given by the townsfolk to this place and up until today, you can see the footprint in the ocean, I kid you not!
However, Binacas is more than just a tall tale (excuse my pun). The local government developed it to a park/public resort, providing chairs and tables among the beautiful trees so that visitors can dine and lounge about. Binacas beach is entrancing because of its headlands trapping the ocean. It is as if you have been transported to Hawaii, only better.
The residents of Cabra Island, Lubang has stories to tell too. As Filipinos, religion plays an integral part among the people that is why when Mary, the mother of Jesus, chose to manifest herself to the people of Cabra, a whiff of devout service was instilled among the people. According to local accounts, our Lady of Cabra wanted them to build a church, 30 meters wide to aid people away from sin. My mother was present during one of the apparitions but she was too young to understand then. My great grandmother, Lola Bertha Sanchez-Valbuena saw how the cross danced wildly as prayers of the people swelled.
From the supernatural and divine, miracles through will also happened in the island. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda will never be forgotten by history and will be remembered by the people of Lubang as the Japanese soldier who went in hiding in the mountain forest and caves of Mount Puting Bato. He was so resourceful that he utilized nature during those toilsome decades to survive while entertaining himself (he has a music room) and even preserve his food using the river. He refused to lose himself to the long years and has emerged a hero by his country for surviving the war. He was reunited with the island in his later years and put up a school and means of livelihood for the locals. What’s left of his tale are the caves you can visit along the trail.
There are countless other chronicles that I, and the people who lives (and have lived) in Lubang Island, can tell. Lubang has a rich history and a vivid culture. Had you witnessed how they celebrate Holy Week and Flores de Mayo, I will bet that you’ll return annually and be part of it until it grows as your personal tradition.
Having written all these, I am again at a loss as to why Lubang, Island isn’t as famous as it deserves…but after hearing all these stories, I am comforted with a resolution: the island will bloom at its own time. Like a flower, it is reserving and nurturing itself until such moment that it is ready to bloom. It will astound tourists soon and I trust that the time is at hand. After all, Lubang Island isn’t just a sight for the eyes but a whole legend that will enchant the other senses.
For more information about the island, you can visit their FACEBOOK PAGE.
With this scorching heat, it’s a sin not to crave for the beach…and when you say “beach”, it’s hard not to associate it immediately with the waves of La Union! Elyu, as the “now” crowd refers to it, is the core of everything that makes us a tropical island. The beach is stunning, the sand–although not immaculately white–compliments the clear blue sky of the province, the locals are friendly (and ripped! Have you seen their bodies?!), and the waves are the most versatile I’ve seen.
San Juan, La Union is easily identified as the Surfing Capital of the North. Crowds flock Barangay Urbiztondo, equipped with their colorful surfing gears and radiating enthusiasm. But don’t you just wish for a quieter place sometimes, where you can enjoy the real essence of being out of town? Or probably a lesser crowd to judge you based on your wipe-outs?
Lucky for us, we have Urbiztondo’s chaste sister, Barangay Taboc. It is a refuge for those who still seek the provincial feel of La Union without totally abandoning it’s touristy charm. Personally, I find this version of San Juan better.
The place has a sort of boardwalk (a road behind the main road) street where people would stroll in the morning and late afternoons amidst the salt-laced air, while the others would bike from one end to another with the beach as their backdrop. Such a perfect set-up for those who crave for the simple life.
Accommodation in this part of San Juan, La Union is affordable, yet, of good quality. You can be a backpacker but sometimes, you long for privacy and at times like such, it’s a comfort knowing there are places like these two that you can rely on:
- Mang Juan Place
Contact Number: (0918) 2410694
This is my homestay of choice. The best thing about this is that the rooms are clean, private, and cozy. For 2000 Php, you get a room that can fit 5 people (500 Php in excess of 3) comfortably. They also provide you an extra mattress that is thick enough to send you to slumberland in the most pleasant way.
Here, you don’t have to worry about sharing a bathroom. You’ll have the privacy of your own which is rare for homestays this affordable. You also get a television in your own room and the air condition is working really well.
The place also has a store at the back just in case you have forgotten your essentials or you suddenly have a munchie attack in the middle of the night. Their common area is equipped with speakers and a television, as well. They also have a kitchen that you are free to use should you need to cook anything.
The owner’s father was very pleasant. Upon our arrival he toured us around the place which was why I was able to see the rooms that are vacant. Probably the best part of the house for me is the balcony where I get to have a full view of the sunset! The next time that I will be visiting, I hope I get to have the room next to the balcony!
If you are also concerned about safety, Mang Juan values this by locking the gates at night.
In the morning, they also provide you free coffee which is a big deal for me!
2. NorMi2’s Beach Front Resort
Probably one of the pioneers in the area, NorMi2’s Beach Front Resort has all types of rooms that you can choose from. They have a dorm-type room, kubos, family rooms, and standard rooms. You can also choose whether or not to rent an air conditioned one or a fan room. The rooms are pretty much spacey but it was a sad lot, though, that the sink in my family’s shower is clogged.
If you are the type to get tired of the beach easily, Normi2’s has a pool where you can lounge on. This is a big hit with the kids! The resort also has an in-house surf school if you are just starting to learn.
The resort also has a place for you to do your barbecues. We had fun grilling, drinking beer, and shucking fresh oysters here. Dinner was good because of the place.
Too lazy to cook? They have a restaurant that can serve you too! They can even prepare a boodle feast for you. Just remember to inform them beforehand.
Being in Barangay Taboc is a pleasant treat. Just secure yourself a surfing instructor in case you haven’t tried surfing yet! Although the waves here are tamer (and the beach side has lesser rocks, thank you Lord), if you’re a beginner, you need guidance. Ate Maribel is a great instructor! She’s very patient and she’ll make sure you get to stand up on your board! Contact her at (0915) 8347689 and say hi for me!
Going around San Juan, La Union is easier on this side too! Ask the owners of the place you will be staying in and they will be more than glad to give you instructions.
Rest and relaxation is ideal here in Barangay Taboc. If you wish to still party in Urbiztondo, don’t fret! It’s just a stone’s throw away! It cannot get any better than this. If you need that much deserved R&R, you can hear the place calling onto you. All you need to do is answer. See you there!
How to go to Taboc, La Union:
**Access is at Atijera St. from main road 🙂