It’s been three weeks since I got back from the Philippines. Getting adjusted to the time difference took longer. I felt sluggish and sleepy often, perhaps due to not getting sleep at the right times. And maybe because my 5-week travel followed a very hectic schedule.
The week and a half prior to my return to California was just as eventful as the rest of my vacation. After our Baguio stint, we opted for a relaxed hotel stay at Mella in Las Piñas, Manila. The purpose was to catch up on rest, a respite from the rigors of road travels. The hotel amenities were outstanding, particularly the heavy breakfast that offered a rich variety from arroz caldo (flavored soupy rice), samporado (chocolate flavored porridge cooked in coconut milk), tocino (marinated and grilled pork), to sinigang (garlic fried rice), daing (fried dried fish, longanisa (pork sausage), omelets, fresh fruits, and several other items that I did not have the chance to get to. If anyone asks me why I want to go back to Mella – easily, I’d say, the breakfasts.
The hearty meal before my flight back to California – at Melodee’s home (Photo by Melodee Isaguirre)
My favorite activity after breakfast was the simple walk back and forth on the veranda patio facing the long turquoise pool down below. After a very heavy meal, nothing could be more soothing than a walk, especially where the walkway was lined with attractive tropical plants.
Binging on food didn’t stop at breakfast. The night before we left, we enjoyed a “full-blown” dinner of eight entres with my brother’s daughter and her family. The parade of main dishes didn’t seem to stop, and when it did, there practically was no room left on the big round table for desserts. My favorite appetizer was simple, and it seemed to be the kids’ and teenager’s favorite, too – fat and cheesy French fries. Young fingers crowded me out of the fries, that we just had to order another heap – gone in a jiffy.
The two days before my flight back to CA were spent at my niece Karen’s home at BF Resort in Manila, lovely, well-appointed and comfortable. Again, there were special bonding moments with family and relatives – and you guessed right – over food! Karen, Chief Operating Officer of Tapa King Chain in the Philippines and abroad, remembered my request to eat at Tapa King. She hosted a late lunch for us that surpassed our expectations. For a fast food restaurant, it did much more. Located at a prime location at Asia Mall, not only was the place welcoming with an efficient layout and a friendly staff, we were impressed to find that Tapa King offers hard-to-resist Filipino cuisine, like the exotic kare-kare (ox tail and vegetables cooked in peanut butter sauce), mongo (small beans) soup, fish sinigang (bouillabaisse), beef soup or grilled bangus (milkfish) belly. Of course, tops were the traditional “-silog” combinations with tapa (pieces of grilled beef), longanisa (pork sausage), tocino (marinated and grilled pork), or grilled or fried bangus (milkfish).
Notwithstanding how full we were, we were treated by Hazel and husband Larry at an Italian restaurant at SM Mall for dinner same day. Needless to say, I couldn’t do regular dining – so I opted for Caesar salad accented with sweet mango bits, and it was so refreshing and delicious. In fact, I finished it all.
The day of my flight back was a flurry of packing, two pieces of large suitcases and an overnight hand carry. I was concerned that all the pasalubongs (gifts) from family and relatives wouldn’t fit, or that my luggage would be overweight. I was pleasantly surprised. My niece Hazel did an outstanding job of efficiently arranging stuff and distributing items between suitcases to make everything fit. No, there was no overweight, much to my relief when I checked in at the airport. A tinge of regret – there was some room in the luggage to spare – like Lapid’s chicharron (pork rinds).
Well, the partying wasn’t over yet. Right before I boarded the car for the trip to the airport, Karen offered a hearty meal that had many of my favorites – laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut oil), one of the best pancit bihon I had ever eaten, fried chicken, beef ribs, and my favorite dessert, Ginataan (mix of taro, banana, small glutinous mounds all cooked in rich, thick sweetened coconut milk).
When I reached the Manila international airport, I realized that all of my 5-week vacation was dominated with parties held purposely for bonding with family, relatives and friends. Food came next, and then sightseeing — with frequent travels on the road. If I had to plan my next vacation trip, very likely it would be the same – hectic, but a lot of fun. Crazy, I know.
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