Abe’s Farm Is Like Next To Someone

I know that being next to someone is the ultimate favorite place of everyone.  But if a spot that is about 2.5 hours drive and you no longer cannot count the number of times that you have been there, does this mean that such a place is also one of your favorites?

the compulsory posing! hahaha!

This will be short…

Abe’s Farm, a quiet staycation venue at the foothills of dormant volcano, Mt. Arayat, north of Manila is the place.  For me, Abe’s Farm is one of those perfect getaway places where one can just stay quiet, have a short social media detox, simply breathe and relax.

A perfect add-on to this is the food that they serve.  Situated right in the heart of Pampanga, the culinary capital of the Philippines, Abe’s Farm food offers what one can call an assault to the senses – texture, color, presentation and of course taste.

happy eating! yum!

Yeah. I gave myself some short quiet break.  And just this weekend I am again at Abe’s Farm.  I guess Abe’s Farm though not a “next-to-someone” is one of my favorites.

A Plantito with Black Thumb

I have always recognized that I do not have a green thumb.  Though I love plants and have taken cared quite a number of them in the past, plants don’t love me back.  My relatives can attest that I have purchased countless number of plants in the past, but all chose to breathe their last breath and declined to settle with me in my condo unit.  I sometimes correlate my relations to plants as a form of unrequited love! 

When I and my family would go out of town, I would often suggest to stop at a garden store by a roadside before heading back to Manila for I want to acquire new greens.  “Are you looking for a new victim?” or “You’re just wasting some bucks” are the usual remarks of my relatives when I would suggest my buying new plants.

the recent garden shop where i purchased my succulents… i can hear these greens saying… “no! not me!!!” LOL!

I have always thought that I would make a good gardener because I had an A+ grade in my Botany subjects during my old school days and would even had the time and fortitude of talking to these plants.  But all these photosynthetic members of the Kingdom Plantae refuse to live with me.  My relatives has even tagged me as having the black thumb or even worse the black-kiss-of-death thumb!

Owning and taking care of plants here in Manila is the new craze.  Like me, this has been some of people’s emotional outlet or thing to do and be busy of indoors during this time of quarantining and pandemic. 

This has been evidenced by the steady increase in the number of social media posts of people posing behind, in front or beside their happy and healthy plants!  People call these plant-fanatics and shrub-obsessed folks as Plantitas (for female) and Plantitos (for male) of Manila.

In my recent out of town adventure, I again purchased a new batch of plants to enjoy and take care of.  I hope these creatures are as glad as I am.  I am really hoping that this new batch will live a long life and would finally erase my being a black thumb.

if those trees can run, i’m pretty sure they’ve moved way way farther! hahaha!

my not-so-happy green companions! please don’t die…(my recent purchases)

But if these plants chose to reject me and die instead, I will still care for one and would just have to melodramatically remind myself that old warriors may have to fight a long battle more than once to win it.  And if one zany plant would finally decide to settle it out with me, I will call myself a Plantito who would be smiling while sharing social media pictures with it.

Looking forward to having photos with these new plants!

Rediscovering Asiong’s Restaurant

Fed-up, tired and cloying from staying indoor due to the pandemic, me and 3 of my close colleagues decided to sneak out of the metro.  Despite the continuous spike in coronavirus cases, we agreed to break the monotony of staying in our respective houses and drove up to the scenic city-province of Tagaytay, an hour and a half drive south of Manila just to have lunch. 

We nevertheless took extra precautions prior to leaving the metro.  We were wearing face-masks and face-shields, brought along bottles of alcohol and I even have a huge pack of disinfecting surface wipes!

But only about five minutes away from our destination, we encountered a highway check point.  To make the story short, we were prevented from entering Tagaytay because we do not have the local government’s required travel pass to enter the province.  Yeah, this is how strict it is here in the Philippines due to this ridiculous pandemic.

We made a U turn yet decided to still have lunch someplace else.  And when I turned on Google to check for the nearest highly recommended restaurant, it responded ‘Asiong’s’.

I remember having dined at Asiong’s in the past.  I know that the food is really good but the atmosphere is something I really do not admire especially that moment when it would be the first time after a very long time of not dining out.  I know Asiong’s is not even a casual dining restaurant but some sort of a low-grade canteen or a roadside eatery which in the Philippines is called carinderia.

I nevertheless still suggested to proceed to Asiong’s because of their great food!  But I warned my colleagues that the ambiance is not like the typical snooty restaurants found in Tagaytay.

But when we followed and let the GPS navigation app point us to our destination, the road we were taking was totally different.  It seem no longer the same road I took when I last dined at Asiong’s eight long years ago.  (Click HERE regarding my 2012 blog post about Asiong’s)

pose first (the obligatory photo taking session)

a collage of photos i took (with jb, willy and mj)

The location of Asiong’s now is a totally different spot in Cavite!  And the establishment is totally dissimilar from the way it was!  The concept and its aesthetics has impressively been improved.  Their alfresco dining is no longer by the dusty road side but a cool garden dining set-up.  We actually settled alfresco for we did not want to be confined in a closed area during this time of pandemic.

The only akin and parallel to how Asiong’s was in the past was the marvelous food!  The awesome gastronomic experience was still the same.

asado de ignacio (braised meat and innards) an authentic savage caviteño dish

adobong pula (pork adobo in annatto sauce)… a must in asiong’s

pancit pusit (rice vermicelli noodles cooked in squid ink)… a house specialty

crispy tawilis (a fresh water sardine exclusively found in the philippines)… this dish is gone in 3 minutes!

a filipino meal will not be complete without the rice. this one is “binagoongang rice” (fried rice in shrimp paste)

Thanks to the valiant military men manning the highway check point. Hahaha!  If not for their being so rigorous in implementing the pandemic rules and protocols of the province, I would have not rediscovered the fineness of the present Asiong’s restaurant.

The Church of Multiplication

Raise your hands if you badly miss going out for a travel and be excited on an adventure!  I for one badly miss travelling.  No thanks to covid19 and this insane pandemic! A lot of us are stuck in the confines of our home and are left to settle not for a vacation or staycation but a “safe-cation”.

To ease and satisfy my cravings for an escapade, I was left with no choice but to checkout and revisit my previous exploits thru my stocked photos.  And while ogling onto some photos, I realized that (aside from my bad taste in fashion) there are lots of places that I have been to yet I failed to chronicle and write about. 

Since I am stuck in my house, let me take the opportunity to revisit these places and recall the adventure.  Here’s one awesome site in Israel…

expecting some fish sandwich!

The Church of Multiplication

No it is not a place of worship where you would have to master the multiplication table before you can enter.  It is actually a holy biblical place where Jesus performed an awesome miracle by feeding a crowd of 5,000 by sharing the meager two fish and five loaves between all these people. 

This charmed place where the miraculous treat for fish and bread occurred is also known as the Tabgha Church of the Loaves and Fish.

with my dear sister…

highlight is on the floor! those mosaic!

happy travel

Though it is a rather humble and simple looking place of prayer, I can clearly recall during me and my sister’s tour that the place was too quiet and that not all places are accessible.  According to the guide, it was because the place was just bomb a year before our visit.  The guide relayed that young Israeli Jewish extremists burned a portion of the site making it sadly inaccessible and were under repair.

While gawking at my photos, how I wish that in the present situation, it is fish and bread that is spreading throughout the planet instead of the sickening pandemic.  One can truly say that at present, we badly need Jesus for some meaty fish and delicious piece of bread.

Nengkoy’s Preferred Sea Salt

I have always believed that not all salts are equal.  Varieties of this important yet often neglected flavoring abound.  Popular ones are the ordinary iodized salt and sea salt while the chic, hip and pricier array would be Kosher, Himalayan, Fleur De Sel and Celtic salt varieties.

But Nengkoy (my mom) prefers a different variety of salt.  Afraid to run out of stock, it is the seasoning that we never miss to buy and bring back to Manila every time we are in Alaminos, Pangasinan, a province north of Manila, tagged as the sea salt capital of the Philippines.

a gorgeous morning site of sea salt beds in Pangasinan

And unlike the strong, robust and concentrated variety, Alaminos Sea Salt seem subtle, calm and pleasant to the palate.  I don’t know why but this salt never overpowers and would seem to simply let the flavors and taste of the food standout.  It has some strange way of accenting the flavors of the food. 

Alaminos Sea Salt variety is really good.  In fact, the extra one sack that Nengkoy has in her house was actually purchased by a Korean guy who makes and sells home-made Kimchi.  Upon learning that Nengkoy got an extra high-grade sack, the Korean dude never hesitated on offering a good amount so as to buy my mom’s reserve/stock.

Online Sea Salt sold by Winner Joe’s

Good thing though, Alaminos Sea Salt can now be ordered and available online through Winner Joe’s Facebook page.  Thanks to Winner Joe’s, Nengkoy nor my family need not travel to Alaminos, Pangasinan anymore so as get hold of this exquisite seasoning.

Now, watch the beauty and magic in the creation of this pleasing flavoring.

Try this sea salt variety.  I am so sure your taste buds will do a standing ovation and definitely thank you for it.

Stepping on a Fine Piece of Art

For the past 10 years I have been stepping on a fine piece of art.  Though I tread, walk and step on it, it is one treasure that I value so much that I am the one who would personally shake, remove dust and debris so as to clean it up. I would be the one to have it left lying under the happy sun for a day and retrieve it back.  And only last week did I decided to have it professionally cleaned.

I am talking about my much-appreciated Moroccan area rug. I value It so much because it is one of those heavy and bulky items that I decided to hand carry on my way back home after a long yet enriching trip from Morocco ten long years ago.

stepping on a fine piece of art…

My memory is still very clear in recalling how I and travel-buddy Joesel got to purchase it from a merchant inside the medina in Fes.  I can still reminisce how the seller showed us various intricate and colorful designs of various rugs for sale and was even invited by the owner of the shop to climb up to their roof deck for us to be shown on how lady-artisans do the intricate knotting of the wool so as to create a great piece of art. 

I can also remember how anxious I was when the rug I paid for a hefty price was delayed in having it delivered to our hotel. Delivery was so behind in time, I thought I was duped by the merchant yet sighed with a huge relief when the hotel’s front desk called me to inform that I have a package in their office for me to claim.

comment down below on what those symbols may mean… thank you.

proof of authenticity at the back! it says “extra superieuere”. whatever that is.

a closer look! it takes an awesome artisanal skills to do those!

I however can no longer recall the representations of the designs of the rug I chose as described during that time by the merchant.  What I remember is that I simply followed my heart on which to choose from among the beautiful Moroccan rugs presented to us.

Though it is ten years old, I know that it will take another 10 long years before my Moroccan rug can be considered vintage.  But the memory of this piece of art that I step on regularly will remain in me may it be considered vintage, collectible or antique already.

Was So At Home Inside The Syquia Mansion

The highlight of travelling and exploring the City of Vigan is not just its iconic Calle Crisologo.  This is because a stone throw away from this emblematic street is the Syquia Mansion.

social climber!

mirror mirror on the wall! who’s the richest of them all?

fresh air!

Well-preserved Syquia Mansion will give you an interesting glimpse of the lifestyle of a wealthy family during the Spanish colonial times.  The majestic furniture will provide you hints on how prominent people in the past would conduct their lives. 

They have an ante-living-room and a main living room! You would wonder how many living rooms do rich people need to live a full life.  It is also amazing to know that affluent human beings in the past actually have a prayer room where they gather to pray the Angelus.

Paintings and sculptures scattered around the mansion were no doubt masterpieces!  Skillful craftsmen were obviously commissioned to build the comfy beds, dressers and sofas!

bed inside the principal bedroom

hagdan (stairs)

Also, monied folks during those times though prayerful and have lavish chambers for prayers actually have slaves (known as Aliping Saguiguilid).  And these slave-servants – who cannot marry without their master’s consent – only has limited access in the house which usually is the narrow hallway borders of the building!

so at home… one of the massive bedrooms…

at the dining hall

Contents of the super house no doubt is indeed for the rich! And while breathing and walking within the confines of the house, the social climber in me whispers that I am so at home inside the Syquia Mansion!

Hotel Luna’s Sapsapuriket

Kicking modesty aside and based on my sense of taste’s practical background of experience, I think I have reason enough to say that I have the authority to judge if a Dinuguan is excellent, atrocious or just passable. Dinuguan is a savage Filipino dish known as pork blood stew!

I am saying this because I know what an excellent Dinuguan tastes like.  I just happen to be the son of the best Dinuguan maker on the planet.  Nengkoy’s Dinuguan is so delicious, this ferocious-looking dish would often be one of the most requested part of our family’s handa (food served during special occasions).

sapsapuriket

looks scary… yum!

My recent visit to the City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur exposed me however to a different variety of a Dinuguan.  Locals call it Sapsapuriket!  It is a blood stew variety in which the meat is not pork but the tasty cage-free native chicken. And the blood used to make the stew was not pig’s blood but from the fowl’s fluid that runs through its veins and arteries (Hahaha!).

I was fortunate that my first time eating of the savage Sapsapuriket was in Comedor, the restaurant outlet of the well-esteemed Hotel Luna in Vigan.  One would know that Hotel Luna’s Sapsapuriket is special, for it is served with potato cracklings instead of the usual rice. The hotel’s style of pairing the dish with potato chips was actually a success.  Texture on the palate plus tangy flavor of the pair was something to praise about!

comedor… dining at hotel luna

loved my short stay in vigan (inside a souvenir shop)

I am writing about Sapsapuriket, the Dinuguan of the north, so I guess, this dish served by Hotel Luna’s Comedor is something to praise and look forward to when in Vigan.

Queendom Called Vigan

The ongoing world-wide corona virus scare and outbreak made me defer any plans of going out of the country.  No way would I want to be quarantined for 14 long days!  This virulent virus however can not stop me from my being a wanderlust.

Instead of trooping out of the country, I settled domestic!  I went 9-hours by a sleeper-bus away from Manila and went to the Ilocos part of the Philippines and roam the queendom of Vigan.

travel back in time at calle crisologo

i heart vigan

Believe it or not, it was my first time in this rustic UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This queen city of the north of Philippines is actually one of the very few old colonial towns left in the country.  And what is so amazing is that the residents, though with struggle, were able to preserve the Spanish colonial era structures of the town.

While traversing the iconic Calle Crisologo at the heart of the city, I cannot seem to stop imagining that at any moment I would bump unto a European price, a Portuguese Duke or the Spanish Royal Guard who have gone for some leisurely vacay in the Philippines!

love this shot

antique finds!!!

so at home at casa syquia

rustic evening!

find me! hahaha!

Though some of the structures within the city were evidently abandoned, neglected and left to decay, the small impressive city obviously displays the cultural elements of Europe, China and the Philippines!  In fact some of the abandoned and decaying structures adds up to the charm and pleasing character of the area.

Because of the uniqueness of its character, I think I love Vigan!  And aside from taking tons of photos of the cityscape, my travel to Vigan took me the opportunity to taste and enjoy the Ilocano-cuisine, which I will feature in my future and upcoming posts.

Ten Year Anniversary of My Morocco Adventure

Ten years ago I clearly remember we were all praying and wishing to own the coolest Blackberry phone.  It was the time when lifestyle magazine editors were the arbiters of taste telling readers what to see, shop and do.  Now our lives are ruled by the social media influencers!

me 10 long years ago inside our budget hotel in casablanca

Ten years ago, Alexa, Bixby and Siri may just be the names of your neighbor’s pets.  Now they are your reliable artificial intelligence who can help you with your missions and commissions.  It was also the time when watches were simply used to tell time and you have to manually count the number of steps you had for the day and need to go to the doctor to monitor your calorie intake.  Now these 3 aspects are just minor features of your smart watch!  

In fact this blog, ten years ago was still being powered under Friendster Blogging site prior to my switching to WordPress!  I switched/transferred Nengkoy blog to WordPress in 2011.

Ten years ago was my first long haul adventure out of the country.  Ten years ago was my Morocco adventure!  Though I spent my Morocco exploits with Australian friends, this was my first solo airplane long haul experience!  This I guess gave birth to my loving going solo on travels abroad.

me with joesel, the travel-savant

sahara dessert adventure!

inside a tannery in fes

And can you just imagine how backward technology was during that time?  So solo travel then was more difficult and more challenging.  Internet info then was a bit limited. I can still remember the countless times I personally called Qatar Airways to inquire and ensure that there is no transit visa needed during my lay over in Doha.

I have no idea about the existence of mobile wifi then!  Though internet was existing already, I clearly remember that me, Joesel and Charles had to go the nearest internet shop inside a medina so as to connect online and message love ones from other parts of the world. 

My cellphone was okay then but the camera I was using then was the compact digital camera type! Chinese has not invented selfie sticks and gorilla pods during that time so can you just imagine how we take turns in taking our photos and smiling on camera multiple times so as to get the best selfie angle?

a rest day at merzouga

casablanca mosque

Ten years ago, my Morocco experience was the start of the expansion of my viewpoints of the world.  My learnings of the world were no longer just sourced from the pages of the book I read.  It was the time when my comfort zone was ultimately tested.  It was the adventure that made me realize that I can actually do and accomplish things I never imagine I could do.  It was the start of my different way of growing. 

Wow! It was actually ten years ago and no way will I forget my Morocco adventure!