Photo Wanders | Shuttering while Cruising: Scenery, Sunset, Belenismo sa Tarlac

Shuttering while cruising, the thing I love the most whenever on a road trip. Anything that catches my attention, anything lovely to look at -- traffic-free expressway, nature and scenery along the way, beautiful displays on the street, almost anything actually -- I took photos of. 

Last weekend, we've been to another road trip up north. Our destination -- Monasterio de Tarlac. It had been another happy weekend of endless shuttering along the way. So for this week's post, it'll be all photos I took on the road, while plying the route to and from Monasterio de Tarlac.
cruising along traffic-free SCTEX on a clear sunny day, isn't it lovely? ^_^
I wish EDSA will be like this one day (wish upon a star :P)
concrete/cemented road (Lubigan Road) on a countryside, so this is where our taxes go :P
another photo taken while cruising along Lubigan Road
beautiful and relaxing scenery, right? ^_^
when you see a beautiful sunset while driving along a seemingly deserted place, would you stop and take a photo of it?
I did! :P
who wouldn't stop and capture this sunset?
I climbed the bridge's railing to get these sunset photos, am I crazy for doing so?
Passers-by thought so, I guess, 'cause they blew their horn while passing by  ^_^

sunset @ Lubigan bridge in San Jose, Tarlac
when soldiers get creative...
Belenismo sa Tarlac: The AFP Belen
Note: this belen is definitely more beautiful in person, pardon me and my camera phone for this injustice.

Belenismo sa Tarlac is an annual tradition/competition in Tarlac City (the Belen Capital of the Philippines) that promotes the art of making a Belen (nativity scene). Belens are usually made of indigenous/recycled materials showcasing the creativity of the Tarlaqueños. Belenismo sa Tarlac 2015 opened last November 5 while awarding will be held on December 5. Belens, however, would remain on display until early January next year. So what are you waiting for? Go on a road trip and see those beautiful belens!

~ oo00oo ~

“Drive slow and enjoy the scenery -- drive fast and join the scenery.” ~ Doug Horton
23 days before christmas: Maligayang pasko sa lahat! :)

Food Trips | Maginhawa Eat Street: Hits and Misses II

Don Day appetizers: kimbap, kimchi, potato balls, veggie fritters, etc.

A few months ago, I posted here our previous Maginhawa Eat Street experiences, some of which a 'hit', some others a 'miss'. Here's another round of our 'hit' and 'miss' food trips in this famous food trippers' haven in Quezon City. In this post, I'll cover four other restaurants all from or near Maginhawa Street in Teacher's Village that me and my friend have tried in the past two months.

~ oo00oo ~

Don Day Korean BBQ & Buffet Restaurant

First on this list is Don Day, a Korean buffet restaurant located in Malingap, also in Teacher's Village. We've been to Don Day several times for the past 2 months. It is our go-to restaurant whenever we feel like pigging out.

Don Day offers Korean dishes - buffet style, with several options to choose from. They offer two types of buffet, one with pork samgyupsal and the other with beef. For pork samgyupsal, it's 299 Php per person, 399 Php for beef. On weekend dinners however, diners don't have the option to choose; all are required to avail of the 399 Php buffet, drinks not included. A 50 Php will be added to your bill if you opt to have bottomless drinks.

Don Day Korean BBQ and Buffet facade
pork/beef samgyupsal; veggies to add in/spice up your samgyupsal

During weekends, pork and beef samgyupsal are automatically included in the dinner buffet for 399 Php. Two plates each of pork and beef meats are automatically served when you avail of the buffet but of course, you can order for additional pork/beef servings anytime.

regular dish offers: mussel, chapchae, spicy korean pork dish, tangsuyuk, fish fillet (not in photo)

Of the readily available dishes, the spicy Korean pork dish and fish fillet (not in photo) are my favorites. I don't know how the pork dish is called but I love its flavorful and spicy taste, I always have it first whenever we dine in at Don Day.

Don Day desserts: maja blanca, buchi, candies

Don Day's desserts are not that special, though; not even native of Korea, I guess. Candies and mallows are always present, buchi and maja blanca I only saw in one of our visits so I guess they're their "best sellers". However, if you want to have a taste of Korea's ice cream, they have several varieties; but for additional charge, of course.

As mentioned, we've been to Don Day several times, so obviously, it's a hit for us. Foods taste good; price is very affordable; staff are all nice; restaurant is quite big with enough number of tables to accommodate large groups. If you've never been to Don Day yet, try it and comment below your take on it. ^_^

Don Day Korean BBQ and Buffet
40 Malingap Street, Teacher's Village
Quezon City
Tel. No.: 02-4350528

~ oo00oo ~

Stuff Over Burger Cafe

I eat burgers but I am no burger fan. My friend, on the other hand, is a meat lover so anything with meat, he loves; burgers included. He'd been to Stuff Over once or twice so one time, he asked me to try it too. Stuff Over is located in Magiting Street, very near corner Maginhawa it can't be missed.

Stuff Over Burger Cafe
blue lemonade - regular lemonade served in not-so-common glass jars ;)
Mushy Suzie Burger - 210 Php, fries and drink included
Hungry Daisy Burger - 220 Php, fries and drink included

Unlike the regular burger where you can see the cheese and mushroom or bacon add-ons, here at Stuff Over, these ingredients are mixed-in/included in the patty itself. My friend and I can't tell which is mushy suzie and which is hungry daisy so we sliced them in half and try both. My friend was satisfied with his shares, he ate them all with gusto (he always eat with gusto, by the way). Me? I find them just like the usual burgers, nothing extraordinary that would make me crave for more. My friend may like their burgers but with the price offering, we still find our experience at Stuff Over not quite remarkable. 220 Php for a burger is somehow pricey for us, even with the fries and drink (instant lemonade) included. Another thing that we found off at this burger joint is the place itself. It's so small it only has around 5 serving tables, a table so small it isn't even good enough for 2 persons. We haven't been back there ever since so yeah, I would say it's really a miss for us.

Stuff Over Burger Cafe
51 Magiting Street, Teachers Village
Quezon City
Tel. No.: 02-4341834

~ oo00oo ~

Fariñas Ilocos Empanada

Fariñas Ilocos Empanada

Ordinary dishes like fried fish and veggies appeal to me more than gourmet ones. I love having simple dinner in simple settings, much like having dinner at home. Fariñas Ilocos Empanada in Malingap offers such food and ambiance. I'm craving for Ilocos empanada so one weekend, we tried Fariñas. For our dinner, we ordered pakbet with bagnet, bagnet/longganisa combo, longganisa meal, and dinakdakan (my friend's favorite). I enjoyed everything we ordered, all are good and flavorful, much like the ones I've tried when we were in Ilocos 2 years ago. Final verdict: a hit, of course. ^_^
Fariñas Ilocos Empanada: pakbet - 170 Php, bagnet-longganisa-combo - 140 Php, longganisa-meal - 99 Php, dinakdakan - 130 Php

Ilocos empanada, special - 50 Php
Fariñas Ilocos Empanada
Malingap Street, Teachers Village
Quezon City
Tel. No.: 02-4332584

~ oo00oo ~

Magpie Cafe

Magpie Cafe is located at the famous StrEAT Food Park in Maginhawa, a food hub that offers a smorgasbord of food choices, al fresco style. Magpie though, is different in this aspect as it is glass-enclosed and fully air-conditioned. It offers coffee, pastries and desserts, Korean-style.

Magpie Cafe
chocolate fountain bingsoo - 150 Php

Bingsoo or bingsu - Korean dessert composed of ice shavings with chocolate syrup, ice cream and cherries on top. This is much like our local halo-halo but I would say, ours is better and more flavorful than this one. Except for the ice cream which somehow gives bingsoo some flavor, this Korean dessert is bland and not creamy at all. And the banana waffle below? Well, nothing out of the ordinary; just a waffle with few slices of banana and a scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup. For 150 Php each, I'd rather have halo-halo from Chowking and waffle from Belgian waffle. Pricey and not our kind of desserts so yeah, this food adventure is another miss.

nutty banana waffle - 150 Php
Magpie Cafe
StreEAT Food Park
91 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village
Quezon City

~ oo00oo ~

That's it for our Maginhawa/Teacher's Village food trips part 2. There will be a part 3 to this series so watch out for it. 'Til next time. Blessed Sunday everyone! ^_^

Pangasinan | Lingayen Attractions: A Walking Tour

Pangasinan Provincial Capitol - Lingayen, Pangasinan

Lingayen is a first class municipality in the province of Pangasinan. It is dubbed as "the heart, the soul and the face" of the said province. Being the center of political power and considering its share in its history, I would say the description is just right. Besides these, the town is also known for its bagoong (fermented fish), one of the main produce the province is known for. Lingayen's bagoong (also known as "maniboc", the place of origin of the bagoong), as known to many, is one of the best in the market.

Lingayen may not be a typical tourist destination but for those who happen to wander its lot, there are several attractions worth checking out, most of which within walking distance from each other. Here are some of the attractions yours truly was able to check out during our short visit to my birth province's capital last 2014 (quite late for a post, sensya naman :P).

Pangasinan Provincial Capitol

When I was still working in the government sector, I was able to visit several provincial capitol buildings. Of those I've visited, I've never seen a capitol as open to the public as the Pangasinan provincial capitol. Here, anyone can come and go without any restrictions, even at night (at least that's how it was when we visited Lingayen). I even went to the rooftop of the capitol, took some photos from there, with no one following us. No one questioned me/us, ever. Amazing for a government building, right?

Pangasinan Provincial Capitol @ night

Provincial Capitol grounds and the nearby park @ night, from the capitol's rooftop

Urduja Mansion

Urduja Mansion is the official residence of the incumbent governor of Pangasinan. It is named after Urduja, a legendary warrior princess, believed to have lived in the province. We checked it out late in the evening, after our visit to the capitol building, so we didn't try asking permission to get inside though I've read some online accounts showing that visitors were allowed inside.

Urduja Mansion @ night
Urduja Mansion

Lingayen Beach

Lingayen beach is just walking distance from the capitol building. It is known for its share in the history of our country as it served as the landing place of Gen. MacArthur during the second World War. The beach is a 2 kilometers stretch of grayish sand but it's clean and powdery, you can walk on it barefoot. It was early morning then but we still noticed some tourists preparing for an early swim. We also noticed some fishermen pulling on their fishing net, a typical sight I suppose, on a coastal town such as Lingayen.

Lingayen beach
fishermen pulling on their net; tourist crowding a vendor - a typical morning sight I suppose in coastal cities/towns like this

Veterans Memorial Park

Located at the back of the capitol building, Veterans Memorial Park showcases the heroism of Filipinos and the allied forces during World War II. It also showcases some WW II memorabilia like an old tanker and an aircraft. Also in this site is the Lingayen Gulf Landing Shrine, built to commemorate the Lingayen Gulf landing and the Filipino freedom fighters including the allied forces, which houses photos taken during the said event.

Veterans Memorial Park
remnants of the World War II @ the Veterans Memorial Park

Lingayen Cathedral

As much as possible, whenever we visited a new place, we try to visit the church, too. We weren't able to attend mass here in Lingayen but we still make it a point to at least pay a visit; to say a prayer of thanksgiving and to ask for guidance during our trip. Afterward, I tried taking a photo of the facade but it's only the belfry I was able to capture. We're on a rush and we've no time to move around and find the best spot so I just took this one (photo below).

Lingayen Cathedral
the altar @ the Lingayen Cathedral

That's it for this week's post. Happy and blessed Sunday everyone. 'Til next time... :)

~ oo00oo ~

Attractions nearby Pangasinan Provincial Capitol
Lingayen, Pangasinan
Date of Visit: November 29 - 30, 2014

Budget Hotel | Overnight Stay at The President Hotel (A Review)

The President Hotel - Lingayen, Pangasinan

The President Hotel is a no-frills hotel in Lingayen, Pangasinan. It offers affordable accommodation without stripping off basic conveniences like air-conditioning, hot and cold shower and basic toiletries. It is conveniently located along Maramba Boulevard; very near the provincial capitol and walking distance to some other Lingayen's tourist attractions like the Agbayani Park, Cultural Memorial Park and the Lingayen beach.

Trivia: The President Hotel is named as such because in its location once stood the ancestral home of the twelfth president of the Republic of the Philippines, then President Fidel V. Ramos, the most prominent political figure from Pangasinan.
From the marker found at the entrance of the hotel: On this site has stood for years the house of the couple Narciso Ramos - lawyer, journalist, statesman and diplomat and Angela Valdez, one time English supervisor of the Pangasinan Vocational High School. In this house were born and raised their children: Leticia Ramos Shahani, ambassador and senator; Fidel, AFP Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Department of National Defense and eight(???) president of the Republic of the Philippines; and Gloria Ramos-Rodda.
I've read a lot of positive reviews of this hotel so for our Pangasinan side trip (we went to La Union first), this is where me and my friend stayed overnight.

standard room - 950 Php/night

We didn't place a reservation at this hotel beforehand but since it was not peak season then, we were still able to get a room the night we arrived. The room is on the second floor of the main building, facing Maramba boulevard. The room is quite spacious for a standard room, and as I said above, it is air-conditioned and is equipped with a TV with cable programming and telephone/intercom. (I read from their FB page that they also have free Wi-Fi, I didn't try it though so I've no idea about the connection speed.) The room is clean; bed is comfy; bed sheet smells fresh and clean. It has it's own bathroom/CR with hot and cold shower and comes with complimentary toiletries. For an overnight stay, the room is priced at 950 Php; good enough, considering the spacious room and the extras.

complimentary toiletries: shampoo/conditioner, bath soap, toothbrush, toothpaste

What I didn't like in this hotel though, is that I felt a bit unsafe there. Although I would say, based on the open-door policy of the capitol, that this city (Lingayen) is fairly safe, I still can't help but feel otherwise. The room doesn't have a secured double lock. It only has a basic/ordinary door knob that can easily be picked and opened from outside. Nothing untoward happened to us there, but still, I think it is better if the room has a double lock system. The room will be more secured that way and guests will feel safer; at least, that's how I'm going to feel being one of the guests. Despite this little inconvenience though, we still had a good and restful sleep. :)

The next morning, we ordered for a simple breakfast; tocilog (tocino, fried rice, fried egg) for my friend, bangsilog (fried bangus, fried rice, fried egg) for me, instant hot chocolate to wash down the meal. The meals are the usual Pinoy breakfast, nothing out of the ordinary so I won't go into details that much. And since it was almost a year after our stay, I now can't remember the price. But for those planning to go there and working on their budget, I think it's around 100-150 Php, per meal.


Overall, I would say we still had a nice stay at The President Hotel. It isn't the type of hotel one would want to have a staycation at but it's good enough to spend the night and rest, after a day's journey. And best of all, it's easy on the budget. It's very affordable; affordability that doesn't mean sacrificing some basic conveniences.

~ oo00oo ~

Before we left Lingayen, we headed to the the capitol and the city's nearby attractions. Although we've explored the capitol and the park the previous night, we still checked it out the following morning, for the daylight feel of the city. I'll post about the city tour and Lingayen's tourist attractions next time. 'Til then...

~ oo00oo ~

The President's Hotel
Maramba Boulevard
Lingayen, Pangasinan
Date of Visit: November 29, 2014

Bataan | Las Casas Filipinas: History, Traditions, Tragedies

Las Casas Filipinas, Bagac, Bataan
"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity." ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

A showcase of the Filipino history through old mansions and houses of notable Filipinos, this is what Las Casas Filipinas Heritage Resort offers to its guest. Las Casas built and/or reconstructed (some using the parts and pieces of the original) these old mansions and houses, which came from different parts of our country. These houses are generally built in the 1800s and are included in the resort's list of accommodations. Through these houses and the resort's setting, Las Casas guests get the chance to experience how it is living in the past. They also get to follow or observe some old traditions including that of leaving your footwear at the foot of the stairs or outside the doors as it is still being observed there.

We could have experienced living in one of those old houses, too, but we didn't. First, I may be interested in the history of the houses built/reconstructed there but I'm a coward. I'm afraid of old houses and all the "unseens" that may be lurking in there (haha, it's just me thinking of the "unseens", didn't feel anything of sort actually). Second and most importantly, we don't have the budget. These accommodations cost a fortune (accommodations get as high as 150,000 Php, per night), at least for us, and we don't have it so it's just a day-tour for us.

Casa Mexico - serves as the resort's reception area
Casa Mexico from another angle, at night :P

We went to Las Casas last April, after our visit to the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Mt. Samat. It was already 4PM when we got there. We stopped at the reception area, registered ourselves and paid the required fees (685 Php, per person, entrance only). No separate parking fee was charged so I guess it's part of the entrance fee. From their website, "entrance only" option (the one we availed) does not mention guided tour as inclusion but the receptionist told us to hurry so we can join the last scheduled tour of the day so I guess, guided tour is always part of it, regardless of the option the guest chose.

Dexter, a very lively tour guide, choose him as your tour guide when you visit Las Casas,
he'll make the tour alive and very interesting with the houses' tales of love and tragedies ;)
Casa Luna
Casa Luna is the the first stop of the tour. The house was originally owned by the Novicio/Santoromana family, a prominent family and a relative of the famous Luna brothers (Antonio and Juan Luna). It was originally located in Namacpacan (now Luna, in honor of the Luna brothers) in La Union. Casa Luna housed several mementos (didn't hear the tour guide so I don't know if the items really came from the original house) including an old wooden ironing board and a rolling pin (didn't get a nice photo of it, though) which I saw in several other blogs.

dining room, inside Casa Luna
Casa Jaen - the house of the first mayor of Jaen in Nueva Ecija
Casa Lubao

Casa Lubao, originally situated in Lubao town proper directly in front of Lubao Municipal Hall, was owned by the Arastia/Vitug family and was built in the 1920s. A somewhat interesting tidbit relative to this house (as told by the tour guide) is that there was this boy who usually pass by this house in going to school whom the owner took pity of. The owner, having a good heart, supported the schooling of the said boy. Wanna know who that boy was? Well, he's none other than our former President Diosdado Macapagal, the fifth president of the Republic of the Philippines.

living room, inside Casa Lubao
view from Casa Lubao veranda
Casa Bizantina

Casa Bizantina, a stone house originally located in Binondo Manila, is the most expensive accommodation in Las Casas Filipinas. The published rate of this house accommodation is 150,000 Php per night, a fortune for most of us Filipinos. But maybe it's this house's history and grandeur that made this accommodation so expensive. Imagine living in a mansion that used to have pure gold trimmings.  According to the tour guide, the gold trimmings, or rather, the mansion's original architectural floral designs are made of 24-karat gold. If it's true, then wow! Amazing, right? Unfortunately though, these floral designs were destroyed when the house was occupied by some 50 squatter families, putting the mansion in a state of disarray. This until before Las Casas bought and re-built it here in its present location.

the gold (-plated) trimmings, inside Casa Bizantina
master's bedroom, inside Casa Bizantina

Random Photos

Plaza Mayor de Tobias
batis-inspired swimming pool in Las Casas Filipinas
replica of Hotel de Oriente, Las Casas Filipinas
beach area in Las Casas, with fine sand though a bit grayish
Sunset in Las Casas

Food Trip

Casa Unisan, originally owned by the family of Don Antonio Maxino, is said to be the first stone house in Unisan, Quezon. The house bears a tragic story though, as the entire family, except the youngest daughter Carmen, where massacred here by the bandits. According to the tour guide, Carmen survived because a helper hid her in a "bayong", a storage bin usually used for dirty laundry during those times.

Anyway, Casa Unisan in Las Casas now houses one of its restaurants, the Cafe Marivent. This is where the resort's guests are served their free breakfast. And here we had our dinner too, before we left for Manila that day. We had, for our dinner, kare-kare, kilawin (tanigue), rice and fresh buko juice and watermelon shake for our drinks. Kilawin is superb; kare-kare is just right (am not fond of beef innards, by the way), buko juice is really fresh. The catch? Dining here is expensive! For this dinner alone, we spent 1,359 Php, exclusive of the tip. This amount is almost enough for a buffet dinner for two (2) at Sambo Kojin. Oh well, never mind; at least we got to try and experience dining here. :)

kare-kare, 665 Php per order
kilawin (tanigue, if I remembered it right), 410 Php per order

~ oo00oo ~

Every casas in Las Casas Filipinas has its own story to tell. Some stories are good and inspiring; some others revolve around the love-lust tales of the owners; and there are those that involve tragedy. Yes, these casas are witnesses to our past, our traditions, our stories as Filipinos. And I guess, they will continue to be witnesses of our nation's story, now that they are being taken cared of and maintained properly (I suppose? hehe...).

Before I went here, I have read several accounts of those who are against demolishing and transporting these heritage houses to Las Casas Filipinas. But having been there, seeing those casas in their full glory, as if they were built in the past, made me think that maybe, it's just better that they're brought there. For me, seeing those heritage houses and structures in their new location is better than leaving them where they originally are; abandoned and forgotten, misused, abused and disrespected.

Anyway, this is it for our Araw ng Kagitingan road-cum-food trip in Bataan and Pampanga. 'Til next time...

Note: For queries on  rates and directions to get there, kindly visit their website (link below) and contact them directly.

~ oo00oo ~

Bo. Pag-asa, Bagac, Bataan
Date of Visit: April 9, 2015