Cafe Terraza

Over a month ago, during an official trip to Roxas City, we went up to Pueblo de Panay, a newly reinvented/reconstructed business district in the city for dinner. We were recommended to go to Cafe Terraza, which is situated all the way up a hill, which overlooks the city. It was stunning to say the least, especially at night when all the city lights are open. There was an exhilarating feeling right in the center of your chest akin to watching a feel good movie.

The setting was set for a feel-good evening anyhow. There’s nothing better than comfort food coupled with breezy air and magnificent view to cap a working day. It erases your worries and stress for a while. And Cafe Terraza did just that.

However, as it is on top of a hill, you usually have to have your own private car to come and go. But since we’re visitors, we contracted the services of a good old manong and his tricycle.

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KBL or kadios, baboy at langka

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Seafood kare-kare

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Calamares frito

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An assortment of cakes, clockwise from left: blueberry cheesecake, red velvet and dulce de leche.

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Austere Aklan

Working in the city, and living in the suburbs often times drains one. So once in awhile, it’s good to stop and smell (and enjoy!) the flowers in the countryside. As tiring and stressful my work is, I am glad that it has given me the opportunity to travel (whether local or international). And after the official work is done, I am free to go as I please! This has lessened considerably though in the last couple of years because I am always itching to go home to the kids.

Anyway, earlier this month, I was able to go around Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan, and the nearby towns of New Washington and Numancia, when I and some colleagues had time to kill before our flight. We were lucky to have my “seatmate” who hails from the town tour us around. Before Caticlan was fully developed, Kalibo was the gateway to Boracay. Now, the sleepy town is still an option but since it is further away from the famous beach destination, there is less people traffic here. Kalibo, despite the progress, cannot be a city, I was told, because it lacks the minimum land area. Maybe this has contributed to the somehow relaxed ambiance of the town, preserving its old-fashioned ways where people lived simply but happily.

Some of the places we visited:

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

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Monument of New Washington’s well-known son, Jaime Cardinal Sin

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Shrine of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary across Cardinal Sin’s monument

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Aklan’s Pink Sisters Convent

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The Yard Grill and Restaurant, where we didn’t eat. We just wanted to see the place because we were told that this is a jump off point for a newly opened river cruise.

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We also went to the Sampaguita Gardens, which deserves another post. But all in all, I am thankful for this trip. Despite the hot sun on our faces that afternoon, it is always nice to commune with nature, and the good-natured people in the provinces untouched by the craziness of city living. I would always take the chance to pack my bags, ride a tricycle and roam around the countryside in a heartbeat.

Tootsie’s

During our last trip to Tagaytay City, we had a late lunch at Tootsie’s per the recommendation of my aunt. It is one of the restaurants that have sprouted all over Tagaytay in the last few years that made the city one of the go-to places for people who is into food tripping. It sits right on the main highway but really doesn’t have a good vantage point of Taal Lake. The decor was simple and warm, and they serve comfort Filipino food. Specifically, most of its offerings are Southern Tagalog fare, which for a true blood Tagalog like me, is really comfort food. Everything just brought me home since I realized that I miss so much what we serve at my grandma’s home.

Pork with kadios
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Deep fried tawilis
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Sinigang na maliputo (what Ma craved the whole time)
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Tilapia cutlets
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And the best version of Turon halo halo I ever had in my entire life! I will go back for more for this!
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Balay Negrense

Okay, I’ve been wanting to visit the famed ancestral houses that line up the streets of Silay City in the province of Negros Occidental. I find ancestral houses really fascinating if properly maintained. They speak so much of lives well lived, and people like me who are able to go through them are given glimpses of their families’ rich history. It is like reading my favorite novel, only it has come to life.

During my last trip to the province, I only got to visit the Ruins in Talisay City. And on this trip, although I wanted to do the rounds for most of the houses in Silay, I was fortunate to go only to one – the Balay Negrense, or the home of Don Victor Fernandez Gaston.

My photos here are not of top quality as I was only using an iPhone. I had not done justice to the ethereal beauty of the house. It was overcast on the day of our visit, and if anything, the weather made it all…spooky, if you will, and kind of romantic. The Gaston family is one of the pioneers of the sugar industry in Negros, and I think, the Philippines. Their home speaks of their affluence, and one could almost feel the vibrant activity going on when it was full of children, adults, helpers and probably those who are in the business with the patriarch. I could imagine it on full throttle during its heydays.

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Next time, I vow to visit the other houses, even if I have to extend my stay.

Baker’s Hill

While I have been to Palawan numerous times before, this is my first visit to Baker’s Hill, one of the must-see places at these times. I must say, it is new concept in a theme park that combines a bakery, an aviary, restaurants, gardens, playgrounds and pasalubong center. The center of it is the bakery, which is what started it all. We didn’t get to eat in any of their featured restaurants, and I didn’t sample their products but we roamed freely in the gardens and the aviary. Recommended for those partaking of the city tour of Puerto Princesa, although I wouldn’t go back on a really hot summer day (like we did!). But it was a cool feast for the eyes.

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Paradise Island Davao

After our official trip to Davao City (I was with one of my staff, Yumi), we went on a side trip to nearby Samal Island. I booked us at Paradise Island Resort, which I chose from among the hotels and resorts on Agoda. And I was glad I did. No regrets here.

I was surprised that it took us only 5 minutes to cross from the private pier of Paradise Island to Samal. And from the get-go, I was truly satisfied by the way the resort’s personnel took care of its guests. If I had ten thumbs, all would be up in approval for service.

Since we arrived around noon, we had lunch first in their open air restaurant right by the beach, while they were cleaning and preparing the rooms. The only teeny, tiny disappointment during our overnight stay was it took more than 30 minutes for them to give us our bill. And we were raring to go to the beach by then.

Otherwise, everything was A-okay!

The de luxe rooms were in separate airconditioned cottages, which have their own porch and garden. We had to walk a bit from the beach but it turned out to be a good thing because the areas where the cottages are are quiet, and the noise from the beachgoers were muted. The room where we stayed was large and comfortable enough. Of course, we didn’t get to sulit the room because we practically stayed at the beach the whole afternoon until evening during our first day. On the second day, we just had breakfast then we had to catch our flight to Manila before noon.

They also had a spa where I availed of a massage. It was good enough for the price of Php450 (with discount). I badly needed that. It seems like I haven’t had one in ages. When you have two needy kids below five years old, you tend to put yourself last in your list of priorities. So this was a good break for me. I was definitely recharged.

The beach was clean although they built the restaurant too close to it. It decreased the swimming and lounging area by a large margin, and it was short enough to be begin with. But a beach is a beach is a beach. And I love it. Period.

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I was a little miffed that it was cloudy on our first day there but I still had fun, of course. Next day, when we were about to leave, Mr. Sun shone in all his glory. Didn’t get to enjoy the beach by then but the summer-ness of it all lifted my spirits anyhow.

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The Ruins

One word: Grandiose

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The Ruins in Talisay City, Negros Occidental is a testament of eternal love and a good life. I love my family beyond words but I sometimes dream of being descended from an old, rich family hehehe. Aside from being more comfortable, it would be great to read up on your family’s history (successes, failures, scandals, lol), and look at old family albums. It would have been wonderful to be a real haciendera, and see the lives of your forebears immortalized forever.

But alas, I could only trace up to my great-grandmother on my mother’s side, and only up to my grandfather on my father’s. And both are ordinary, hardworking families. And to date, I haven’t been able to dig up stories juicy enough to be passed on to my descendants. Haha. This must be the effect of reading too much historical novels.

So different from the offspring of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and the Portuguese, Maria Braga, for whom the sugar baron built the mansion.

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Some say that the place is better visited at dusk for one to appreciate it in all its splendor and glory. However, we had very limited time as we only snuck in an hour from our official travel (I was with a staff), and that early morning was our only free time. Although we could have taken several jeepney rides from Bacolod City where we were billeted, we hailed the services of a cab for Php400 (two-way). As I said we were pressed for time. The good thing though is, we almost had the whole place to ourselves! It was really quiet, and the only sounds came from the chirping of birds, sprinkling of water, the snips of garden scissors, and the occasional banter of the caretakers.

Apart from the main structure, of interest is the four-tiered fountain in the well-manicured garden.

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If you close your eyes hard enough, you can almost conjure the family entertaining in that wide expanse of lawn.

As with the outside, the inside of the house is a view to behold. Only high-grade materials, as claimed in all related literature, could withstand the destruction set to the house by the US Armed Forces during World War II. All of its structure has remained intact.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you can do do your muni-muni or have your siesta here every afternoon with the sun and breeze enveloping you in a calm cocoon?

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They’ve put in a cafe inside what I could surmise was once the den or living room where they received visitors or where the children ran around and played.

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I also like this grandfather clock but which I think is out of place where it is located now. It is almost as if it was put there by accident.

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The Ruins is a true must-see for tourists and even locals. While it is a family home, it is full of history representing the city of Talisay.

I wonder if ghosts frequent this place.