Philippines in 3 Weeks (Part 4 of 5)


My first Philippine meal – wiped out!

This time, I want to share the first week we were back home.  This was the whirlwind portion of our trip because we hopped on 3 islands in just a week.  But first, on the night that we arrived, my brother took us to North Park Kopi Tiam near where we live. My first night in Manila and everything just feels so right already. I remember Kopi Tiam. The fam had dined there a couple of times the last time we were home. Having mami, siopao and noodles, with fresh coconut juice and everything else ordered by the brother was my first taste of heaven in the Philippines! Our neighborhood, every pick and parcel of our place, I will never exchange for anything. I slept like a baby that night. I was home.

The morning after, we headed back to NAIA to meet up with our friends to fly to Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. From there, someone from the wedding party met up with us to bring us to Surigao City (in Surigao del Norte) where the wedding of Jay-R and Kring will be happening. You’d think it would be a short drive, but it actually took us 2 and a half hours by car to get there. So what else would a car ride with youngsters and oldies together be like? Joke and story telling time, of course. The van was a tight fit and a little uncomfortable, but we still managed to have a good time.

Our impressive hotel

We stayed at the beautiful and iconic Hotel Tavern Surigao. The hotel was very impressive – it was immaculately clean, the lobby was inviting, the staff was always courteous and the rooms were very comfortable. I have to admit, this place far exceeded even some of the so-called “hotels” we have here in the US. But then again, this was the Philippines. Tourism has always been a big income-generator in the country. So places like Hotel Tavern Surigao, I would assume, always aimed to please. And it did – exceptionally even. Hubbie and I also had lunch at their Melange Restaurant. Since Philipppine cuisine would always be the first thing you’d miss when you’re out of the country, we had to have their Crispy Pata and Grilled Tuna Panga. Yes, judge me for the appetite, but I’m on vacation and I dreamed of these foods so much and Melange didn’t disappoint at all! The tuna was fresh and the crispy pata was true to its name.

The wedding of Kring and Jay-R was very personal and heart-warming. I bet it was an emotional time for our friends, Bong and Gigi, to walk their son, JR, towards the altar. It became more moving when Kring started marching down the aisle with her mom and dad. Hubbie and I were made godparents in weddings past, but this was actually the first time we did get to attend one as “Ninong” and “Ninang”. It was a beautiful ceremony. And the reception after? Alive and upbeat! I guess, Filipinos back home are not fully aware that line dancing exists – not to Macarena or Achy-breaky-heart but to all sorts of music, both new and old. And as long as Dr. Ortega (Ate Myrna) was with us, I will never miss a beat dancing! It was fun when the locals danced with us, paying attention to Ate Myrna’s steps. I love weddings!

Booze, dancing, live band. What else can you ask for?

Not to mention, for two nights, we patronized EJ’s Garden by the Bay and Resto Bar which is owned and managed by Kring’s parents. The place was a hoot – the live band, the dancing, the drinks and the appetizer-galore. We really have to go back to Surigao City. And soon! Nothing beats the Philippine night life, ever!

The altar of the Virgen dela Regla (Our Lady of the Rule) in Mactan, Cebu

The morning after the wedding we headed back to Butuan City Airport for our next leg – Bacolod with a layover in Cebu. Luckily one of the godparents, who was travelling back to Cebu with us, was considerate and gracious enough to lend us his van on our short stopover. We were able to hear mass at Virgen dela Regla (Our Lady of the Rule) in Mactan. The image of the Nuestra Señora Virgen dela Regla is said to be miraculous. I feel so blessed we were able to hear mass in that church.

Of course, we couldn’t leave Cebu without having the famous Lechon Cebu! So asking our companion and driver where the best lechon cebu is, he took us to Rico’s Lechon. The best cebu lechon, ever! Once I had a taste of this delicacy, every other lechon pales in comparison. The. Best. Lechon. Ever!

We had a little more time to spare so our companion/driver took us to Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts. Now, this hotel surely is “first class”! The layout was amazing – very European (well, as far as my internet travels show me) and surely top-rated tell-the-whole-world-we-have-one-of-these kind of hotel. We strolled into Ibiza, the men checked out the ladies in swimsuits. And we, we enjoyed the view.

Our final destination: Cauayan, Ngeros Occidental

And just like that we had to head back to the airport for our last leg to Bacolod where our gracious welcomers, Ate Agnes and Kuya Boy Aurelio were waiting for us. They took us to The Ruins and the Bacolod City Hall and then we had a hearty meal of Bacolod batchoy. (Of course!)  We only stayed a few hours at the hotel to get some shut-eye and then at the break of dawn, we drove out for 3 hours to Cauayan, Negros Occidental for the medical mission.

Despite the wonderful week, I had one misgiving – the domestic airports and our luggages. Here’s a tip:  when flying to the islands, don’t bring a suitcase!  You know, those dependable suitcases with wheels you cannot travel without?  Well, this time, travel without it!  The luggage limit of the airlines back home are too restrictive that you’d end up with an almost empty baggage.  And there was even an airport, I forgot which one, where they weighed both our luggage and carryon together and we ended up almost bringing all our stuff in our handcarry and purses.  Not to mention, on our trip to Bacolod they weighed all of our luggages altogether (not just mine and hubbie’s but with Kuya Ric, Ate Myrna and Anna’s too), explaining that was because we travelled as a group. Did you get that???

The stress of unloading your luggage, stuffing them all inside your carry on and then weighing them over and over to get it right? Horrendous! In fact, initially, going to Butuan, the checker didn’t even want me and hubbie to put our unloaded things into our handcarries, which made me cry out, “So, palagay nyo, saan ko pala ilalagay lahat ito?” (“So where do you think I should dump all of these in?”).  I couldn’t really understand what the point of it all was. To remedy that, once we got back to Bacolod after the medical mission, we decided to send our stuff thru LBC back to Manila plus sending our luggage thru the airline porter/cargo. Those were expenses I totally didn’t want to make, but just to minimize the agony of going thru those airport weighing scales, I had to surrender to it.

So on your trip, bring a duffle bag.  It’s lighter, more convenient and less hassle.   Our experience at the airport was the only thing that stressed me out.  Thank goodness, the whole sojourn was still worth all of it.

Didn’t I say the first week was a whirlwind? It definitely is! I caught a glimpse here and there of the beautiful Philippines and maybe next time we’re back home, we’d be able to stay longer and enjoy these places again.  Yes, in duffle bags.

And, of course, a video of the whole week. Enjoy.

Philippines, The First Week from gigi refugia on Vimeo.

The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers.  She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.

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2 thoughts on “Philippines in 3 Weeks (Part 4 of 5)”

  • Excellent writing Gigi. You can submit this to Filipinos magazine on the net. Love the memories. We need to do another medical mission soon.

    • Thank you, Kuya Ric! I think I need to do a bit more practice in writing, Kuya. I’ve gotten out of the blog scene for so long, I am still trying to pick up my bearings.

      Thank you for the pictures you took. My Philippine posts wouldn’t be complete without your photos.

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