Sunday, December 28, 2008

Red Mango

When I was in Central World in Bangkok, I was halted by the sight of a red sign that looked very familiar. It was Red Mango, a popular international frozen yogurt franchise. I was headed for Starbucks for coffee, but instead queued up for a green tea fro-yo.

The topping selection wasn't extensive, and so I opted for one of my favorite, red beans.

That's probably the best I could pair with green tea. It was heaven for me, silky smooth texture, not too sweet, not too sour.

I was shopping in Megamall just yesterday and saw the sign of Red Mango beside the newly located Bread Talk in Bldg. A near Powerbooks. I haven't been around so I don't know if there is already Red Mango in the country. Nevertheless, I'm waiting for the opening of the Megamall store for the ultimate green tea froyo. I'm glad we now have it.

Sentro 1850: Cagayan de Oro

Let me take you all the way from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro City, the city of Golden Friendship (what a weird description). One of the more popular restaurants in the city is Sentro 1850. Now, I don't know if this place is connected with the Cheateu group in Manila. Does anyone have any information?

Sentro 1850 is located at the heart of CDO, the bustling Divisoria area. Yes, they have Divisoria too, but call it their nightspot. There are several restaurants and bars in the area amidst a busy night market that keeps the city alive. Bands play on the plaza, and you can see a lot of tourists around. Sentro 1850 is in front of Bo's Coffee, I forgot what street, but it is in one of those perpendicular to the night market.

The place was packed when we arrived for dinner, so I was expecting good and comfort food. The menu had a lot of choices, but some of them weren't available. We started with calamares and bread with a spinach dip.

I am in search of the best calamares in the country, and this was just normal. I still consider the Calamares of Paradise Resort in Samal to be the best (crunchy outside yet perfectly soft and tender inside).

The spinach and cheese dip was dry and lacked flavor. The bread served with it was also a bit hard, since it was toasted and let out for a while.

First dish up was the Fish and Chips. Again, typical, but at least comforting. It tasted like any other dory encrusted in bread crumbs. The best still goes to Fish and Co.'s Best Fish and Chips.

Next up is another favorite of mine, Roast Beef. I can't seem to find the perfect roast beef. This was actually good. It wasn't too flaky, and the gravy was satisfying. I had to ask for more of it after.

The Grilled Porkchops are considered a best seller here. You get two big chops, and both were tender. That's the only quality I seek in pork chops. They must be easy to chew.

The highlight dish was the Grilled Squid in Peanut Sauce. Think a more sophisticated kare-kare sauce smothering a huge piece of succulent squid. This was the best dish for me amongst all that we ordered. It was unique and refreshing as well, a kind of fusion dish you can find in Thai restaurants.

The last dish served was a steamed fish dish with cream sauce. I forgot the name, but it had the best presentation. It was tasty as well, with fried potato strings topping it off.

To end the meal, we had this great chocolate cake, rich and very sinful. The chocolate slates were addicting. This was definitely a good choice for a dessert. They have a lot of other cakes, so we're glad we asked for this one (the last piece). All in all, Sentro 1850 is indeed comfort food, and if you're sick of Filipino food while touring CDO and its environs, try to visit this place. At least, you're guaranteed a satisfying meal.

Warren's Resort, Bogo City, Cebu

On our way back from Bantayan, we stayed at Warren's Beach Resort in Bogo City. Our local hosts arranged everything, so we were surprised that we would be staying in a seaside resort.

The resort was on a bend, so there were again great views of the sea. We stayed in a 2 storey building with eight rooms. The rooms were basic, and sadly, not that clean. We had irritating insects scampering around. There was a restaurant that looked charming with the rustic appeal it had.

There is also a swimming pool on one side of the resort. It doesn't look that inviting though.

What I liked about the resort is the shoreline, which had imposing rocks great for images. It was a bumpy beach, but were were pockets of sand. I also liked the grassy area, where you can have a picnic of sorts. We had a drinking session there at night.

This was just a stop over before heading back to Cebu City. I guess this would be my recommendation when you're stuck in Bogo, or waiting for the boat to Bantayan.

Ogtong Cave Beach Resort, Bantayan

Yup, this is Bantayan now. I started off with the picture to inspire you.

Welcome to Ogtong Cave Beach Resort, just beside the Sta. Fe Beach Club in Sta. Fe, Bantayan. Now, when I was here 7 years ago, the island had smaller and mid-class resorts. Now, of course, developments have been imposed on the island, and I think this was a good move. You see, my stand on tourism development is not going against structures and resort building. I am more of responsible development, thus, resorts that adhere to environmental standards, and those that do not destroy the natural beauty and sight of the area. I hate it more when locals try to cash in on increasing tourist arrivals, by making the beach look like a marketplace. Again, the local government is the one to blame. Responsible development is the key.

And Ogtong Cave Resort adhered to this principle of mine. They have brought in luxury to even enhance the natural beauty. They have maintained the highlight of the resort, the Ogtong Cave, where one can dip into the cool and clear waters.

The cottages in the resort are built well which made it looked so inviting and relaxing. One can just sit in the terrace and read a book while facing the sea.

And what a beautiful view of the sea. The white, blue and green hues from Ogtong would just make your heart melt. Imagine, this was taken at noontime, the worst time to take a picture. But the results were still dazzling and mesmerizing.

All in all, the Ogtong Cave Beach Resort is a place I would recommend families and friends to spend a night or two when in Bantayan. Rates are not that expensive (you could get a room for P2,000 a night!) With a swimming pool, a cave, a great shoreline and impeccable service, this is already a steal.

So, what more can I say. I am all thumbs up for this resort. There are several other resorts around Sta. Fe, and all share the same natural beauty of Bantayan. I stayed before at Marlim's nipa huts, which was also charming. I am leaving you again with a panorama of a beach that I hope won't lose its splendor amidst the rapid development.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back in Bantayan

Continuing on catching up with my travel journals for this year. This entry takes me back to one of first island destinations ever since I was bitten by the travel bug - Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu. Getting here is easy. Take a bus from Cebu City to Hagnaya port in Bogo. The ride is around 3 to 4 hours long.

From Hagnaya, there are scheduled ferry services almost every hour to Bantayan Island. Take the first class fast craft, which brings you to Bantayan in only 30 minutes, compared to the 1 to 1.5 hours on a regular ferry.

We arrive in Bantayan filled with excitement, as I was with first time visitors. The sight of the white sand beaches on the port area made me quite sentimental. After all, this island was my first adventure experience. Way back in 2002, I was in Cebu, headed for Bantayan without any plan. Now, almost 7 years later, I was eager to know what changed.

Since we were there for "work", we had to visit the public market first. We were surprised to see that it was one of the cleanest markets we have been to. The stalls were organized and I was in a shooting frenzy with all the dried seafood being sold.

I'll end this post here, since I want to start another on the resort where we had lunch. See you!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Picobello: Davao City

Davao is known as the manukan country, there's just chicken everywhere. Fried, inasal, BBQ and the list of chicken variations go on. I was already sick of grilled food, so we searched for an Italian restaurant. After calling a few friends, we ended up in the 5th level of the Gaisano Mall near Rizal, where Picobello was located. Picobello turns out to be a well established Italian resto in an inihaw dominated city. The place looks like an authentic pizzeria, and I was so excited as it is tucked away inside the rundown mall.

We started with their freshly baked pizzas. The crust was not thin, but it was soft and hot. We ordered two variants, a Four Cheese, and a Chicken and Olive one. Both were satisfying, though the Four Cheese could be better.

The Calzone was huge as you can see. Slicing through it was a pleasure as the aroma of the cheese and flavors burst out.

The pasta dishes were nothing special compared to the best Italian restaurants in the country. But what the heck? We were sick of Filipino food and inihaw, so this was an oasis meal for us. This spaghetti marinara dish lacked flavor, but the tomato was fresh. That saved the dish.

The Lasagna was juicy and the layers were generous.

The Gorgonzola Penne was too salty for me. All the servings for the pasta dishes are good enough for 2 to 3 people I think, great for sharing.

I still had to satisfy my taste buds, so I ordered one last dish, an Italian sausage. And this sealed my lunch. It was spicy, juicy, tender, meaty and had great flavors. Everyone dug in, so I was left with only 3 bites. I wanted to order more and chop it into pieces for me to take out to the hotel.

So when in Davao, head for the old Gaisano Mall. I passed by another Italian restaurant in downtown Davao (I think it was La Tegola of Cebu), but I wasn't able to try it. Picobello has a cozy atmosphere perfect for a sumptuous Italian escape in manukan country.


Catching up on some old pictures like the ones I took of the new NAIA Terminal 3. I usually fly PAL, so I've only been in NAIA 3 twice. The airport holds a lot of promise, but as it is not yet fully operational, it was still bare.

Good thing there was Delifrance already. In T2, Delifrance always served as my hangout. There's also Go Nuts Donuts so I can have my fix of Strawberry Donuts before jetting off.

The new airport is more spacious and modern looking, but I am weary of its development, given it's been open for almost a year now. I hope it doesn't become neglected, and that improvements continue. I really hope the government sees that this landmark airport can spark the tourism growth that has long been overdue.


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