Friday, January 27, 2012

Buddha & Tilapia - only in the Philippines!

If you had enough of Manila environs and you want to try something new, the best thing is to drive out of the city and check out the latest happenings in the provinces that are in close proximity. You can drive out in the morning, be there by lunchtime, and drive back to Manila before sundown.

One of the quaintest places we discovered on our way back from Quezon Province to Manila, was Isdaan, a huge roadside restaurant along Caluan, Laguna.  We were surprised because we encountered a similar establishment some years ago in Gerona, Tarlac.  This branch here in Calauan just opened october 2011.


The ambience is native, pastoral.  The beautiful Mt. Makiling serves a fitting backdrop. Dining table are on little huts, set on floating balsa. No. they don't raise the Tilapia on the water, to be served later for lunch. :)  Rather, colorful Koi fishes dot the ponds and can be feed by the kids.

I cannot quite place the exact theme of the place.  The designer went over-the-top (to say the least!) with variety of iconic images from Buddhism, Philippine History to Disney and Pixar.  But the effect is an interesting  larger than life tableau, that are feast to the eyes. 

For awhile, I felt like I was some place in Thailand, perhaps Chiang Mai.  But then again, they had a a replica of Cory Aquino, Joseph Estrada, and even the Obamas got their place in one of the nooks.

For the kids who might not be so familiar with Buddha and politics, they will  surely feel affinity with these....

Isdaan is owned by the Ongpaoco's of Barrio Fiesta / The Botique Hotel in Tagaytay/ Singing Cooks and Waiters fame.  If it's still blank to you,  Heart Evangelista's family. There! Ring a bell?

Another nice thing about the place that I really, really appreciate,  they have these "little extras"  for the enjoyment of everyone, especially the kids, and they're free!  (unlike some establishments in Manila, every galaw, Vendo, Drop a Coin...may bayad!)

There's a free kiddie party, every weekends and holidays.  Magic Show, Face paintings and even the kiddie diners get free balloons and lootbags! There are plenty of  Little Tykes Toys, Bicycles,  Rocking Horses and even a free boat ride along the pond, to keep the kids busy while waiting for the food.

In the middle of the property, they have a floating stage where local talents perform Folk Dances and perform pang "Karnabal" entertainment.  Very Pinoy!

Taksiyapo, a fun portion that can be a great therapy for anger management.  It literally allows you to smash plates, glasses, even a whole television set, to release your anger against your Mother-in-Law, your boss, the haters in your life...etc. etc  You can smash a plate on the wall for 10 pesos!  Ted tried it once, probably because he can't smash my Corelle at home.  Try mo kaya!  :))


Now, let's talk about the food!  They cook openly in the outdoor kitchens, located in different parts of the place.  So, it's not nakaka-sulasok, especially the grilling part.

The Menu was a collection of well-loved local dishes, but also includes rarely heard-of Philippine folk dishes, cooked in interesting ways like Ginataang Manok sa Buho (chicken with coconut milk cooked in Bamboo poles), Sinampalukang Palaka (frogs cooked in tamarind soup) etc.  Food cost is not pricey, just reasonable.  Around 250-350 Php per dish, depends how complicated one's order, really.

The kids had been eating in the car throughout our journey, so we decided to go easy on our orders, lest we don't finish.  We got Golden Kuhol (Esgarot) saute'd in tomatoes,  Fish sisig,  Lumpiang Sariwa and the Chicken cooked in bamboo... (unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a pic while the waiter was cutting the bamboo,  I was out watching the folk dancers.)

While we were dining, two singing gentlemen serenaded us with Pinoy pop music.  When asked for requests, my husband's usual favorite Faithfully by Journey, almost always had the singers biting their lips in worry and apologies that they might not hit the high notes.

Before leaving, be sure to grab a few of the yummy pasalubongs to take home ~ my favorites are Pili Tarts & Mazapan, Pastillas, Uraro,  Lady Fingers or Broas, Peanut Brittle, Lengua de Gato and adobo peanuts with lots of toasted garlic.  The extra cost is worth it, the quality of the items is good, rather those those bought from roadside bus stops or street vendors.

Isdaan sa Caluan, Laguna is a fun place to visit, especially if you have friends from abroad, and you're cracking your brains for new places to show them.   I definitely will go back!

'til next adventure!!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

December Breeze

Could a month go by so fast?  I went home over the holidays to assuage my homesickness, finish some errands and spend quality time with friends and relatives.  I can't believe December can go by, just like that...a Breeze. Suddenly, it's gone. Only the lingering scent of who / what happened remain... in this case, the scent was Dior Ma Cherie. :)

To immortalize the fun and acknowledge all the nice people who made my December break a blast -- this entry is for you!!

While my kids are busy catching up with their neighborhood friends, I was also doing my social rounds of my old friends. Definitely, old does not connote age but the length of time our friendship has stand the test of time.

First on the list, are my dear friends from Nu Skin.  You know you part in good terms with your old employer, when you are still included in their Christmas Party Guest List!  It felt like old times, except that I was not part of the raffles & bonus.  But it's ok, I'm still in their Gift List! And up until my departure date, I've been receiving indispensable supply of anti-aging products from my ever-generous friends.     Clearly, they don't want me to look Losyang in my domesticated life!

My Nu Skin Posse  - Aissa, Jolie, Mau, Melanie and Meann
Rommel, Artist Extraordinaire
Paolo, account manager and photographer

my former bosses from distributor success, Arlene and Carme
Rose, Marketing & Communications Manager

my Bff Jolie and our HR Manager, Carol

Not to be missed are my friends from ABS-CBN.  It's been awhile since my stint at abs-cbn, and I'm lucky to still maintain these relations. I often say, Real Friendship go beyond work.   Usually, we make friends at work because circumstances have forced us.  You will  know your real friends, when even after work.. you STILL want to be with them.  In my case, even after 10 years.

My friends from ABS-CBN.  Vina, now Chief of Staff of the
 Congressional Spouses Foundation.
 Lani, still edits those talkative reporters for TV Patrol

Vina treated me to full-body scrub and massage from
 the University of the Philippines Hotel

Lorenz, another colleague from ABS-CBN, now running his PR business
 and the "almost mayor" of Talisay, Batangas  :)

Bernard Peralta, former colleague from Magandang Gabi ... Bayan, now a businessman.  
He treated me and Vina for heavy lunch at the renowned Heat Buffet of Edsa Shangrila Hotel.

I also joined for a Thanksgiving Christmas Lunch of the scholars of Kabayan Noli De Castro Foundation.  Not a public knowledge, the former Vice-President supports students from far-flung provinces to study in Manila.  He has about 100 scholars, most of them in UP, Ateneo and PLM.  It was a roomful of intelligent people, most of them taking double degrees and are Summa & Magna cum laudes.

Meeting friends also means show and tell. While my latest updates are about my growing kids and my boring domestic life in Singapore.  My former boss  showed his latest "German Girlfriend."  

What is it with men and cars, to be specific Porches?

I love the full leather interior in Flaming Red!

So, Magkano ito? Wag mo ng itanong, iha.

It is no surprise that I gained weight last December.  Almost all my get togethers involve food!  Lunch. Dinner. Coffee.  I get a ribbing from my friends, that I am so Madaya.  I usually suggest to meet at Shangrila and Megamall.  It's the nearest to our house! They all come from all over, Paranaque, QC, Pasay, Taguig, Manila. But I say, Shangrila is half-way, since with MRT,  very accessible, too!  I  bet next time, they will make bawi. 

My Ilokano crowd  --- former dormmates from Ilang-Ilang Residence Hall in UP Diliman. Leni is a corporate lawyer,  Rochelle works for Bangko Sentral and Edilyn is manager for a Japanese cement company.  Leni and Rochelle are still single, we had fun dreaming up the Perfect Guy for these successful corporate ladies.

Steak for Lunch, a treat from second cousin from Almonte clan in Aroroy, Masbate.  Donald, works as a private nurse for a prominent Pasig political family.  The perks of a private nurse is so much better.  He lives in the upscale Valle Verde, he travels all over the country for free, and stays in first class resorts, and his patient is stress-free, just as long as render the medicine on time. ;)

Together with my friend Mitch, we had little project with the kids at the House of Refuge Foundation in Quezon City. It was a fun jollibee party for the 30 orphans.  Mitch is also based in Singapore, and we thought of this party, not only to the orphans but also for our children.  It a nice opportunity for our kids to see the situation of other kids their age live, and to cultivate the value of giving.

I missed a house warming mid-october, so I went a-visiting the new crib of my former account and good friend, Venus.  They live in the newest ultra-chic residential  development in Alabang ... Portofino.   A beautiful product of her hardwork and determination.  Thanks Venus and friends for the mega-fun party, we were all tipsy.

By, Mid-December, I was missing my husband dearly, especially on my birthday.  :(   I spent the day with the kids (which merits another story).  In the evening, I had quiet Italian dinner at Baldacci,  with my friends Jolie and Mau in Serendra, Fort Bonifacio.  Funny because, the next table at the restaurant has someone celebrating a birthday, too.  A older lady but no less a charmer.  She was telling my friends and her friends --- Look, how pretty December celebrants are!!

Someone I never ever miss visiting whenever I go home is my good friend and stylist, Leo Magallanes.  He owns this small salon in Mendiola and no matter how far it is from Pasig, and how early he sets me an appointment.  I dutifully pay tribute.  He's the only one who has so far managed my unruly hair.  And he's not the type who talks about shallow showbiz news like our fellows of the 3rd sex.  Leo is an intellectual whom you can discuss business, health, life, dreams and everything glamorous in between!  Thank you, Leo!!

I also had a chance to catch-up with chums from my old school, ASJMS, in Aroroy, Masbate.  My cousin Ruby, works as a pharmacist for Asian Hospital.  My classmate Alan Lim Yu, is a dentist, who sweetly whitened my teeth when i dropped by his clinic.  JunJun Alinsug, is cebu-based, and was a business trip for Habagat, an outdoor gear shop, where he works as an IT consultant. John,  a  schoolmate, recently graduated as a patry chefs.   

schoolmates from my high school and elementary days

My nu skin posse won't let me back to Singapore,   without getting me drunk in one way or another.  So, off to Chef and Brewer's along Ortigas, Avenue.  The funniest thing was, we didn't bother checking-out the band playing that night.  We were laughing our head off, when out came a bunch of senior daddies,  playing songs of the 50s and 60s.  Oh my, it was unforgettable because the other guests looks like circa RJ Jacinto!  Hello, aunties,  nice seeing you here!

Far from being Aunties ... my Nu Skin girls

Finally, a gathering which took awhile organizing, is with my old gang from UP Mass Comm.  We are rarely in the country together and whenever we are, we usually have our respective errands, family events, etc.  But this is a lucky year for us, after many, many years, we meet again as a group... the Decibelles.   We were so named Decibelles, (by the old college sweetheart of one of the girls) because each of us are not only articulate, but we all talk loudly.  Decibel is the measurement of sound.

Ok. Bragging Rights.. back in our UP days, we were all Magna and Cum Laude's.  :)  Now, all married and settled-down but no less quirky and noisy!  Cheche, spent several years in Amsterdam,  Sam and I are domestic Divas in Singapore; Grace is a regional training manager for Avon.  Mitch, used to be a domestic diva  in Singapore, too.  Her kids has grown up, and she has accepted a new position for global marketing in Uniliver.  I miss these girls so much.

Funny, how noisy and loud girls, have the same tastes in men.  All our husbands are quiet, tolerant and downright agreeable to us.

The Decibelles ... 17 years running....

Hay ....  ambilis ng araw! Times flies when you're having fun.  Note that these are just meet-ups with my friends.  I try to make it a point to renew friendships each time.  For me,  real friends SHOULD make time for one other.  Like any other relationships, friendship needs nurturing.  I don't believe in being  so busy.. that you cannot  Meet, Call or Text.      If we value our friends..... we will give them the most valuable gift of all ........ our TIME.

'til next adventure!!