Monday, April 30, 2012

Hyksos Tulahan at Bacolod's Old Pala-Pala

Unfortunately, Dampa-style dining is already something common for us who live here in Manila. And though something has to be said for seafood caught just hours before being cooked, all in all, it was not really a new dining experience for us.

Anyway, we bought some fish and had it cooked tinula-style (basically a fish-based soured soup)... which tasted like a cross between the Tagalog sinigang and tinola. Fish cooked this way usually doesn't have any vegetables (that we usually look for in broth-based fish viands) but had a myriad of things that add a delicate flavor to the broth (this tamarind-looking something, lemongrass, etc). Oh, it's just really so good and a must-try for everyone.

Since we're used to dining Dampa-style, we weren't anymore really wowed by the stalls and stalls of fresh seafood at the wet market. So, we kept our order to a minimum and just really tried the weird-looking crab they called curacha (but it's not the same as the curacha crabs in Zamboanga that are big and meaty). I'm not even sure if it's really a crab or more related to lobsters and crayfish.

there are many tulahan restaurants along this area at the old Pala-Pala but Hyksos seems to be the favorite of both locals and travellers... it's the only one that got packed with customers  

the wet market and original Pala-pala in Bacolod City

banana prawns :)  they have a really mild flavor...

as big a fish you want, you can get

weirdly enough, though we were there before the supper crowd, we still had to wait a really long time for our food

we asked them to include some of the shrimps we bought in the tula... something which might have confused the cook since this took the longest time to be served

the cooked curacha

... had very little meat, we were able to finish a kilo without filling stuffed

We also had calamares and spent around P1,300 for our meal (including the purchase of the seafood, the rice and softdrinks and cooking charge). We deeply regretted not ordering the scallops because we saw all the other tables feasting on these buttered scallops. If it was that popular, then it must really be good.

So, if ever you're in Bacolod and eager for some fresh seafood... just head out to Old Pala-Pala (or the new Pala-pala restaurant, but they say the old one is still better) and dine at Hyksos. It's obviously a  tried and tested restaurant... they even have this book filled with clippings and printouts of articles and reviews.

Shades Are Summer Must-Haves

During this time when ripples of heat can obscure your vision through your car or bike's national cycle windshields, it is really important to be wearing sunglasses while driving or when you're out. You don't need to get those really dark ones that may also affect your reflexes as you drive, but at least wear tinted ones (preferably those purposely made to protect from the glare of the sun) .

Our eyes are actually very sensitive to light. Squinting also invites wrinkles. Spending some time in the bright light outside then going indoors will also tax our eyes all the more as they try to adjust to the difference in lighting. This has even resulted in some people feeling queasy. But ultimately, we must do all we can to take care of our eyes... if they alredy get strained from all the screen time we get, the least we could do is not subject them to harsh light.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saltimboca: Bacolod Budget Inn with Great Location

It was really great that I was thorough in my research when looking for a place to stay in Bacolod. I first considered Circle Inn but found that it was not located in the main streets of Bacolod, so going to and fro would pose more fare expense. Then I considered L'Fisher but still found them too expensive. Good thing I was able to find Saltimboca's correct cntact info and manged to get a reservation. They did require 50% deposit though.

At P1,400 (discounted rate, I think), their family room was  the least nice we stayed in on this trip (comparing to P1,045/night at One Lourdes Dormitel in Iloilo and P2,200/night at Raymen Beach Resort in Guimaras). It looked and felt and smelled like an unused room in someone's house, hehe. The aircon worked well, and the musty smell in the room did disappear after the aircon was turned on. We had four single beds, two of which we just pushed together to accommodate our kids.

the sign at 15th street, along Lacson

the lobby, restaurant part

our family room had a garden view, and the garden had 2-3 such gazebos where people stayed a lot for the WiFi (which they turn off at midnight)

we never did get to try their pool since it started raining the minute we got there... and it didn't stop till we left for Manila

three of the beds in the family room; smallest TV we had to deal with too, but their housekeeping changed our sheets and towels everyday aside from cleaning the room

this was weird... a long, narrow hallway to the separate toilet and shower area (and you can easily hear your neighbors from here)... but we got used to it

Despite Saltimboca having a not-so-appealing room (I dare not call it ugly, but I also didnt expect it in a city like Bacolod and it was still very comfortable, in fairness), it is the only place that had free breakfast (for two) inclusive of the rates... and the location can't be beat, which makes it highly recommended still in my book.

continental breakfast

chopped chorizo breakfast, which was good

area where you can eat, just off the garden; we dined here with takeout food which the inn charged corkage for (it was very minimal per head, I just forgot how much)

Just outside Saltimboca is the Balay Quince where shops and a Calea branch can be found. Across is L'Fisher Hotel, L'Cs bakeshop and L'Sea chinese restaurant. It's walking distance to Cafe Bob's, Starbucks, Casa Carmela, spas, other restaurants and bakeshops (Merci), laundromat, money changer, etc. It's a ride away from the cathedral and SM. Again, Saltimboca's location can't be beat. The savings we got from the affordable room were duly spent on cakes and other sweet things instead (but the 24/7 stores there sure charge more per item than 7-11!)

Saltimboca Tourist Inn and Restaurant's latest tariff rates:

To contact them, just e-mail or text them at 0932-8779488 or 0910-4903377 (I was given the discounted rate for the family room via text, so either they've just increased their rates, or they charge less when you reserve beforehand)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Water, Sunscreen and Headphones: Summer Essentials for People on the Go

If your job is more field work, your idea of fun involves the outdoors and you travel for long periods of time, the summer heat may get to you... and even turn an otherwise regular day into a bad day. What's more, if you're not properly equipped to handle the heat, you may get sick.

Here are some summer essentials you might want to keep on your person all the time.
1) Hydration system - the best, of course, is just plain water. But for some, it helps to have an icy concoction of calamansi juice (or anything citrusy) and honey. It is both refreshing and energizing without all the extra empty calories.

2) Skin protection - think Vitamin E, lots of sleep, moisturizers and sunscreen. The summer sun can be quite cruel to our skin and we have to remember that it is our first defense from germs. Plus, wrinkles never really did anything for one's vanity.

3) Entertainment - don't think you have to have multiple options always readily available to you, though with smart phones, it's quite easy. Just have your beyerdynamic headphones for your phone or media player for soothing music, awakening music or just so you can tune out the conversations of the people commuting with you. Traffic may also be the perfect time to just listen to that self-help e-book. For those who don't like straining their eye with gadgets, you can also just have a footsack to use as stress ball or practice juggling with (there is a study that shows juggling has improved the cases of Alzheimer's patients).

Don't get bored, dizzy, groggy, sick or upset... the summer heat is here to stay, so might as well be forearmed. Anyway, it does also mean no floods and beach season.

Outdoor Fun in Guimaras by Camp Alfredo

As I was researching things to do in Guimaras, I came across Camp Alfredo. A family-, nature- adventure destination,  Camp Alfredo turned out to be near (on the way to) our resort (Raymen Beach Resort) so it should definitely be part of the inland tour if you're staying there too. You also only spend around 30 minutes to an hour there, depending on how fast you can go through the hanging bridges, so it's easy to squeeze in on your way to the resort or back to the wharf.

Their rates include zipline, hanging bridge and rapelling and they were a stickler for safety. I was a mountaineer once so I have a pretty good idea of really cautious men who have respect for... well, in this case, heights.

you register at that building down there

then trek back up for this 330-meter zipline

we had few pictures here because we were busy keeping our balance

Current charges are:
PhP 425 1 zip ride
PhP 625 2 zip rides
PhP 825 unlimited zip ride

+ PhP 200 high rope obstacle course/hanging bridge

For those wanting to stay there (say, team building purposes), you may contact BingBing at 09192768259 or 09172505816 for rates and reservations. You may also e-mail them at

Per Camp Alfredos Facebook page, their current facilities include:
- 330 meter zip line
- high rope obstacle course (vine walk, mciro log burma log, burma bridge)
... - hanging bridge
- restaurant and bar
- camping grounds
- cabins
- rapelling
- "mini" zip line
- tree house
- uphill and downhill trail
Future amenities will include the following:
- infinity pool (this was already being excavated when we were there)
- prayer deck at the highest point of the camp
- stations of the cross
- airsoft ground
- football area


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Original La Paz Batchoy by Deco's

Since a Deco's branch is available at Robinson's Iloilo that is walking distance from our hotel (One Lourdes Dormitel), we decided to eat there before we go to the pier and head on to Bacolod. It would be almost sacrilegious not to try la paz batchoy in its most original form, after all.

the sign inviting us to partake of food that is part of Ilonggo history

the inviting interior of the Deco's branch at Robinson's

their menu is pretty limited, but I guess that's part of the appeal

The batchoy was really good... weirdly enough, I thought it tasted just like the one we had at that JM Carinderia outside of Raymen in Guimaras. My husband said that it tasted many miles better, but at least we agree that it was really delicious.

I also really loved the fact that they employ deaf people. That will always appeal to my heartsrings.

the Super batchoy (right) is only really slightly bigger than the regular (special), and I think any person can finish the Super-sized serving of batchoy easily; No need to get into a meidfast diet program even if you're eating at Deco's regularly

we also tried their callos on rice combo... for about P90, I think, it's a fair price... the callos was good but my hubby's family grew up eating callos so their standards are pretty high (even the one served at Casa Armas doesn't hold a candle to what MIL cooks)

and because people in forums raved about it, we also ordered the Manapla puto being offered at Deco's... either we got an old batch, or it's really not the real thing. Per hubs' and MIL's feedback: "Eh, Goldilocks' puto tastes better... and we don't even buy that!" It was really rather tasteless, I didn't know what to make of it (also note, I grew up eating puto from Batangas!)

Now, here's an incident that I didn't like.

I ordered a boiled egg and assummed they would put it in one of the batchoys. So, I specifically asked them to put it in a separate container  (because my son might not eat a wet egg). Our orders came and I saw one with an egg in it, so I had to ask if that was part of the serving or if it was our extra order. I got annoyed by the short, impolite reply that they always put the extra order of egg in with the batchoy. So, I reminded her that I had specifically asked for the egg to be served another way... and could I just have an extra bowl for it.

That cashier did not even apologize. I talked to them in English and unless she also cannot understand that, then she couldn't plead language barrier. And again, she did not apologize. Instead, she rattled off in Ilonggo to another staff.

Also, despite the restaurant not being full, none of the staff promptly reacted to our requests of extra forks, water, napkins, etc. I kept having to get up and get them from the counter myself. And again, no one apologized that we were not being served (it's not like we were shouting our requests).

Honestly, I almost threw a hissy fit for what I felt was poor service. So, yeah, even though the batchoy there was great... I don;t think I would be recommending that branch.

Breakthrough Restaurant - Iloilo

Look up must-dine places in Iloilo and you will often come across the recommendation to dine at Breakthrough Restaurant. Since we're coming from Camiña Balay nga Bato in the same Arevalo District, we decided to make Breakthrough our first official supper in Iloilo City.

We boarded a trisikad (tricycle with seats at the back too) from the church though because we weren't sure where it was exactly. I think we paid P40 for that.

Breakthrough Restaurant is situated right on Villa Arevalo beach, so the crashing waves added to the open air ambiance of the place. The restaurant itself is huge and the tanks containing the live seafood are located at one end of the restaurant.

I think it's best to sit in this area at night because it's mighty dim at the other end

positively loved their chandeliers and light decor

there are more tables to the left, and then it's the beach already

there are so many abalone tanks (most probably supplied by SEAFDEC) there, you'd think they serve it to everyone

the pool of live crabs is sure to fascinate young kids

non-finicky guests can just order already-cooked seafood

and viands

Breakthrough is supposedly famous for its lechon, so we had to try some... it turned out to be good, but nothing to rave about

We ordered that plate of lechon (1/4 kilo, I believe), two chopsueys, 1 mangga with bagoong, 1 sinigang na bangus and a plate of crispy, sizzling crab meat (which, with the lechon, was expensive) and paid P800 for that dinner.

If ever we're back in iloilo, we may eat there again just to try their other dishes, but if we don't.... we also won't be really missing much. It's convenient for those staying at One Lourdes Dormitel though because we just had to take a short jeepney ride home (P7.50 then). Service was good, ventilation not so much (maybe they should have had higher ceilings for the sea air to really circulate inside the restaurant), decor was really nice. All in all, it turned out really affordable too.

Maid's Uniform

If you're like me who is wondering what to make your helper wear so that they'd look decent when they go out with you in public (because nannies and cleavage don't mix!) but don't want them wearing medical scrubs eventhough that's the trend now (even for caregivers, masseusse, etc), then just really have some maid's uniform made... or buy one in your local grocery.

Confused about how it looks like? No, definitely not the black French maid smock with the white apron. I firmly believe that domestic chores are easier done when a person is wearing pants. So, think of glorified pajamas instead... uniforms are made from the same fabric as scrubs but are a pant and polo set (usually, the collar and panels are piped, and no cartoon characters!). Maybe you can also invest in a set of polo shirts or just buy fabric in bulk and have them made into a comfortable blouse/top. Then, insist that your helper wear their uniform, especially if they are nannies tagging along with you. Not only is it easier for you to spot them, they will also need not worry anymore on what to wear.

Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath Cares for Mommy’s Skin Too

Last March 12, Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath invited mommies to have a rare chance to chat with Mrs. Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo on Facebook . Aside from mommy tips and advice that were swapped, the celebrity mom also reminded all the other moms about taking care of oneself and how easily it can be incorporated in activities we do with our kids. We often do forget about us, don’t we?

It was very timely really since summer heat often means more bath times for little ones as they tend to sweat more and are usually engaged in outdoor activities this time of the year. One big question from a mom of boys with sensitive skin though is this: how do you keep giving them baths without running their skin dry? And how do you also keep having fun with them while also keeping your skin moisturized?

Happily enough, the answer is Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath, which give the best gentle care by nourishing the skin with the goodness of milk and Vitamins A & E.

It is really a common activity in our home, me putting my boys in their respective tubs to cool them down during the day for their afternoon nap, and as part of our bedtime routine. The downside of that usually means getting wet myself, or really sweaty, so I almost always end up showering too. A practical approach to this is to use a product that is gentle enough for my sons’ skin but can also provide all the moisturizing I need. And since it’s not a hygienic habit to share soap, Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath as a communal liquid soap makes sense. Thus, when I was approached for this sponsored post, I didn’t even have to think twice about saying YES.

Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath thanked some of those who joined the live chat by sending token gift packs. I actually gave mine to a cousin who just gave birth (along with other newborn necessities), figuring that it’s something she will super appreciate since she has two other kids she can share the products with. For those who weren’t able to take part in that first live chat, videos at the Johnson's Baby Philippines Facebook Page are posted of Judy Ann’s personalized answers to some questions raised during the live chat, as well as more tips and tricks to having great skin. Do like and share! Spread the word that aside from water play, Johnson’s Baby Milk Bath is another thing that mommies and babies can also share.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo

I found Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo on Facebook and was quite intrigued by the exclusivity of their second floor and the chocolate experience, which you have to pay P150/each for (they didn't charge us for the kids though). They were our first Iloilo 'dining' experience, even if it was only mamon tostado and tsokolate e. And can I just say, what an ambiance for such an afternoon snack!

Camiña Balay nga Bato is located in the area of Villa Arevalo, along the road going to Mohon/Oton

you are greeted with a loom at the first floor where the souvenir shop and offices are, as an homage to their past when women used to weave while their men were working at the sugarcane plantations

the most expensive thing on sale at Lola Rufina's curio shop is this P1M Steinway

you can purchase your own  TSOKOLATE EXPERIENCE SET - tablea, batirol and tsokolatera (big jug costs P1,300)

or just buy their tablea (P150/ea)

the oratorio (prayer room) at the second floor

with images like that, no wonder they were a prayerful lot back then

the escalera

one good thing about Camiña is that all the things there were things used by the family, unlike the ones at Balay Negrense and Jalandoni House

such embossed steel ceilings were a status symbol during olden times

this sure brought back memories of olden days when we used such lamps... and how ornate is that woodwork, huh?

my most favorite antique in the house

serving tables chopped from massive trunks and fancy china to serve food in

yes, the teacups are real tiny, but you can ask for seconds so don't worry :)

you have the option to sprinkle some pinipig (crisped rice) on your tsokolate e

it was really such a dreamy experience... and though I delighted in sharing it with my sons, I think adults would appreciate it more because of the ambiance

just lovely

Camiña Balay nga Bato was opened to the sick by a priest in the family in Spanish times (I am sorry I have quite forgotten the story of this Avanceña ancestral house. Weavers in the Arevalo district also used to work here. I have some complaint though... since the house is still being used as a house by the family when they visit (most are already based abroad), there were things that ruined the mood of the heritage pieces at the second floor: Like a mighty big flat screen TV in the middle of all those antiques. And maybe because the house has become the family's repository for their heirloom pieces, it was too crowded in the showcase area, in the sense that the items were competing for attention, rather than just highlighting the glory of that time. I think they should revisit the flow and organization of those well-loved trinkets from 1865 onwards.

They require a minimum of 5 visitors for the tsokolate experience and advance notice, of course, as they only have two dining tables.

Going to Camiña Balay nga Bato is easy from One Lourdes Dormitel because you can just ride a "Villa" jeep and get off at the Junction and walk towards the house. You can also ride a taxi (which we did, paid P70 I think). So, if you're looking for what to do in iloilo or where to go, just call them to reserve your tour at  033-3363858 033-3365075.

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