Negros Goodies: New Discoveries

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Namit-GidCredits:  Papers:  JCrowley’s beautiful evidence – solid 4, JSprague’s HAFH – Awning Stripe;  Frame:  KPertiet Storyboard Negs 1A

Namit to translate means delicious, yummy, scrumptious and all the other adjectives that you can find in your dictionary that best describes good food!  Food has always and will always be a big part of my trips (and life in general) and what better way to cap the series than to acquaint you with some of the wonderful (recently discovered) delicacies this region has to offer.  Negros is renowned for celebrating in style, their cuisine developed for this eagerness for festivities though much of their cuisine is guarded in family kitchens.  Particularly popular are their sugar based food items and delicacies but not to neglect are some of the best savory treats I’ve ever encountered.

Besides Chicken Inasal, Guapple Pie and the sinfully delicious sweets of Calea featured in my earlier posts, Negros’ pastries and confectionary are particularly popular and Piaya, Barquillos, Pinasugbo, Pastillas de Manga, and Dulce Gatas are ranked among the favorites.  Here are some of my favorites!

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Dulce Gatas:  a chewy caramel like paste made of carabao’s milk.  A different take on pastillas, a milk based pastry and can be made with just milk and sugar.

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Casa Caramel Gourmet Piayitos:  unlike the traditional flatbread stuffed with muscovado filling called Piaya.  This baby brother is a new take – smaller, crispier, slim discs that is absolutely addicting.  And it’s organic too!  I can finish the whole box and more in one sitting.

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Pastillas de Manga:  empanaditas (baby empanadas) with yummy, sweet, chewy mango filling.  Equally addicting.

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Pitaw:  veering away from the sweets that is often the trademark of the Negrenses, Pitaw is wild rice-field birds, a local delicacy cooked adobo style.  Now found in a jar to take home with you.  Best eaten re-fried to crispiness.

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The lechon… waiting to be cut open

chicken-in-lechonthe chicken…

A different kind of Lechon (roast pig):  have you ever heard of a chicken cooked inside a pig?  Seems absurd but I promise… it’s really mouthwatering.  This lechon is a specialty of Enting’s and is our last meal in Bacolod before heading to Sipalay.  Came highly recommended by no other than Chef Bruce Lim, the first thing we did when we arrived was made reservations and ordered their specialty.  Did not disappoint.  Both lechon and chicken superbly flavored although the skin could be crispier but I’m not complaining.

covered-binakolour individual bowl of soup

binakol

Chicken Binakol: Chicken soup cooked in sweet coconut juice.  Although not exactly original to Negros, this Binakol deserves a mention particularly since it was especially prepared by (Arnold, the cook of Nataasan Resort) on our last night there.  Absolutely heavenly and the best I’ve ever had.

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from the aquarium

grilled-diwal-bto the grill… yum!

Diwal:  saving the best for last.  Also called angel wing clams, a sweet and succulent shellfish and a specialty of Negros   So much a favorite that fisher folks harvested volumes of diwal up to the ‘90s, destructing its habitat and is considered somewhat endangered.  Up until a few years ago, harvesting of these clams was totally banned to allow the remaining stocks to replenish its population.  Thank God this conservation measures gave positive effect and we are able to once more enjoy a meal or two of this fabulous shellfish.

Go have a glimpse of other worlds, visit My World here.

Enting’s
Contact No.:  +63918-221-0026

Sipalay: Jewel of the Sugar Island

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If you relish the sand and the sea without the noise and the socials of Boracay, Sipalay is for you.  Touted as the Jewel of the Sugar Island, Sipalay is actually Negros’ best-kept summer destination.

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The people from Western Visayas almost always speak highly of the white sand beaches of this seaside town but when a friend (not from there and a foreigner to boot) raved about it, it was time to go.  To satisfy our curiosity, what better time to explore this much talked about but (except for people from Bacolod and perhaps Dumaguete) hardly explored island?  It was a long holiday, it was at the height of summer and we were all in need of a break from the urban jungle.

After sweating it out at the foothills of Kanlaon (some even got to the top) and after stuffing ourselves with not only the goodies but also of the cultural schtuff, it was time to chill.  The drive to Sipalay took between 3-4 hours, and it builds up to a more scenic drive as the town nears.

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I had no expectations really but Nataasan Resort was pretty charming.  It was the only one perched up on a cliff without any beach to boast.  To get to the beach, one must climb down these stairs

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but the view, the view makes going up and down a non issue.

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My brother’s family, on the other hand, stayed at Artistic Diving so we can use their dive facilities and where there’s a pool for the kids.

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With a lot of dive resorts scattered around the island, we figured that diving must be a big thing here and it was… in a macro kind a way.  There were no pelagics but with a good dive master (to spot), there were some never seen before stuff and without a camera, you’ll just have to take my word for it.  There was one really huge cuttlefish, some seahorses, and some really strange but fascinating stuff down there.  And the corals were just amazing, sadly though we saw huge amounts of Crown Of Thorns (COTS).   😦

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Snorkeling, I heard was a bit disappointing for the discriminating.  Some enjoyed it though, especially the kids.  There are 2 stretches of beach, Sugar (or Langub in their native tougue) Beach, known for its sugary fine beach and Punta Ballo (where we stayed) has at least a kilometer of stretched white sandy (also fine) beach, both supposedly boasts of good snorkeling.

The 3 days that we were there got us to explore some attractions such as Tinagong Dagat, a hidden sea sprinkled with a dozen islets covered with lush vegetation.

tinagong-dagat

They said it was near Sugar Beach but the banca (boat) we took was not big enough (or so we thought and felt) to fight the swells of the ocean.  It was one scary ride and coming from some of us who had experienced a lot of scary stuff, it was scary!  I guess, it was scarier because we had 2 kids, ages 4 and 8 with us.  And so it was the longest short ride we ever had!   😯

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Quite disappointing was Campomanes Bay especially after a nice memory of it some 7 years ago when we visited from Danjugan Island.  It was noted to be an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving but again from the discriminating bunch, it was middle of the road.

The best of this piece of heaven, in my opinion, are the incredible sunsets (and the sunrise caught one early morning before our dive).

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The sunset for me made the whole Sipalay trip worthwhile.

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Many including this set of foreigners took pleasure in just enjoying the sunset.

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And during this time in Punta Ballo, the beach was brimming with activities… mostly of children playing.

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Sunsets and children playing make for beautiful shots.

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As I said, if you are looking for a place to party, Sipalay is not for you.  It’s a remote seaside town surrounded by spectacular white sand beaches, secluded coves, scattered islets, dive reefs and waters teeming with unique marine life.  A perfect place to unwind and recharge.

For a glimpse of other spectacular worlds, click here.


Nataasan Beach Resort
Brgy. 4 Sitio Punta Ballo
Sipalay City
email:  divetludie@aol.com
http://www.nataasan.com
Artistic Diving
Punta Ballo White Beach
6113 Sipalay City
email:  info@artisticdiving.com
Cell:  0063919-409-5594
http://www.artisticdiving.com

Negros Heritage (Part 3)

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Last of 3 parts, part 1 is here and part 2 here.

 

Hofileña Ancestral House

hofilenaCredits:  Template – KL365 template 02-000001;  Papers – Khakisack Scraps Think Pink blackgraph and pink solid papers;  Elements – LivE S4S- Spring String, LivE S4S Tag Sky, Oscraps Moonrise – R1CRAC2 – dyoung

By the 1930’s, the age of dazzling plantation houses began to come to an end.  Houses became more compact and practical, built in more central locations.  The house that Manuel Hofileña (one of the original Sialy sugar baron) built in 1934 on Cinco de Noviembre Street is the first inhabited heritage house to be declared a National Historical landmark in Silay, as declared proudly by his son Ramon.

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The Hofileña house has a big art collection, mostly paintings from Filipino masters.  Precious family heirlooms such as the 200-year old Rachall piano that belonged to his great grandmother sits comfortably in the cozy living room.

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Ramon Hofileña who now owns the house is one man who knows a lot about Silay, in fact, the city owes a lot to this man.  In 1977, there was a plan to widen Rizal St. as part of the many road projects under a World Bank program.  The highway would have encroached on treasured properties. Hofileña submitted a petition to the National government to have the decision reversed.  With the help of the city tourism, he organized the homeowners to rally behind the cause, which caught the attention of the Governor who then mediated over the matter.  Suffice to say that Silay has become one city with a great deal of well-maintained ancestral houses opened to the public either as a museum or a gallery of sorts.

hofilena-in-action

Today, the Hofileña house is still functional and inhabited (by Ramon) and was the first house to be opened to the public.  By appointment, Ramon conduct tours of the house complete with tales of Silay, his lineage and the artist he so cares about.  All told with so much passion and gusto.  His enthusiasm so infectious, you leave the house with a sense of pride for the Filipino people, especially the artists that had found a place in his wall.  These are collections by Juan Luna, sketches by Dr. Jose Rizal to name a few.

To schedule a visit to the Manuel Hofileña Ancestral House, call Mon at (034) 495-4561.

To get more glimpses of our awesome world, click here.

Negros Heritage (Part 2)

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Part 1 here

The Ruins

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On an extensive and beautifully landscaped grounds lies this once lavish early 20th century concrete that showcases what is left of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson’s ancestral home also in Talisay City.  This mansion has a lovely story and this sign tells it best.

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shell-inspiredNotice the shell-inspired design at the top of the structure

It was said that out of depression and a broken heart, this mansion was built after the death of Don Mariano’s his first wife, Maria Braga, a Portuguese from Macau and became his residence with his unmarried children.  It had in it one of the finest furniture, chinaware, and decorative items as the father of Maria Braga was a captain of a ship that sailed across Europe and Asia.  He would bring with him these items.

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The massive and indestructible stonework almost stood against the inferno that engulfed the house in 1942.  The guerillas first ignited three drums of gasoline, which failed to even burn the 3-inch wooden floors.  On their second try, they had to mix three drums of used oil and a drum of gasoline which subsequently destroyed all the woodwork and brought down the roof as it burned for 3 days.

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The mansion was built beside the sugar farm and at the background is a simborio.  It’s the local name for smoke stock or chimney.  It was a vent used for the muscovado mill.

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Fast forward to present day, Pacita Lopez Heredia won the 3.6-hectare farmland, which included this structure in a lottery held by the heirs when the vast plantation was partitioned among them.  The cost of rebuilding was so unfathomable, even the priests refused it when it was offered to them as a donation.

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That being the case, her son Raymond Heredia Javellana started rehabilitating the ruins in 2006 turning his family inheritance into a tourist attraction and café.  A dream come true for Javellana.

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Even when reduced to skeletal frame, the 2-storey mansion is breathtaking especially when bathed in the golden glow of sunset.

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Best enjoyed during dusk and if you stay a little longer, this is what you’ll see.

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The Ruins opens daily from 8:30am to 8:00pm.  Fee is P25 per head.  It has a café and a mini gold course at the back garden.  For more information:  (034) 4952790.

grassy-ruins

Can you see that blurry image?   😯

To enjoy more worlds, click here

WS# 13: Having My Cake(s) and Eating It Too!

Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.  

— Ernestine Ulmer

 calea-sweet-indulgenceCredits:  Papers – jcrowley beautiful evidence papers pp4 and pp9;  Elements – Oscraps Moonrise flower gsass1, jcrowley beautiful eveidence label 13;  Alphas – Oscraps Moonrise Alpha

I need my sugar fix and yes, I sometimes eat dessert first or simply just dessert.  Heck life is short!  So imagine me in Calea, the most popular dessert place in Bacolod.  Like a kid in a candy store… my eyes go up and down, left to right, how do I pick one out of the 20 something choices?  I simply can’t.  So we were there 4 days out of the 5 that we spent in the Bacolod/Silay area.   😀

 calea

Not only is it town favorite, it has become the top pick of neighboring provinces and those in the know in Manila as well.  Blue polka dots boxes of Calea goodness, to bring home as “pasalubong” (gift), are normal sights at the airport.

 calea-choc-cake

Their best seller, the famous (moist) Chocolate Cake is special.  The icing so thick, it’s practically chewy!  Never had anything like it before. 

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My personal favorite however, is their White Lemon Pie.   Loving anything citrusy and tart… Key Lime Pie, Lemon Merengue, Lemon Torte… this came as no surprise.  This pie has just the right blend of sweet and sour, the lemon filling and whipped cream makes perfect partners.

When you find yourself in Bacolod, please do not miss Calea.

Calea
Lourdes C Bldg.,
Lacson St., Bacolod City
Negros Occidental
(034)4338664

 

Negros Heritage (Part 1)

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Back in the days when sugar barons own large pieces of land that makes a hacienda, Negros was the biggest sugar producer in the country.  The wealth of the island of Negros is from its volcanic soil, which is ideal for agriculture.  The collapse of the textile industry in the 19th century attracted Spaniards from Spain and Manila, the French and people from neighboring provinces, which started the sugar industry.   But what are known as the Negrense Hacienderos (sugar barons) are from its neighbor Ilo-ilo in origin and ancestry.

The expansion of the sugar industry in the 1850’s and the opening of the Suez canal flooded Bacolod with European fineries and artworks.  Baroque churches and sprawling mansions rose across the Negros landscape and Spanish culture blossomed in the tropics.

churchSilay’s most famous landmark is the Church of San Diego.

The Negrenses lived the good life in those days.  The golden years of the sugar magnate, however came to an end in the 1980’s and the sugar industry swiftly declined leaving many tycoons landless.

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Many however held on to their ancestral homes, turning them to galleries or museums.  Some actually still live in it like that of our hosts’ residence, where we stayed during our stay.  The house was once used as a set for Oro Plata, Mata, a well-acclaimed film of period setting.

Silay and its neighboring towns such as Talisay abound in well-preserved ancestral homes and aside from staying in one, we dropped in on some.  Come, let’s explore some of these houses together.

Balay ni Tana Dicang

One house that is in perhaps the best state of preservation is the stately 1880 “bahay-na-bato” (literally house of stone) of Don Efigenio Lizares y Tyeres and Doña Enrica “Dicang” Alunan y Labayon built in coral stone and various hardwood.  Engaged in the production of sugar and owning several haciendas, they built their 1st house of modest size, it however was burned down by the guerillas during World War I.  What is standing today is their 2nd house built in 1880 in Talisay, larger than the first hence the name Balay Dako (big house). The couple had seventeen children, Efigenio died in 1902, leaving his widow to raise fifteen children (2 died early) on her own for the next 4 decades.  Kapitana Dicang as she was popularly known (which was later shortened to just Tana Dicang) assumed the management of the haciendas and continued to acquire more.  She was an extremely enterprising lady, apart from being a great haciendera, she was a grocer, cigar manufacturer and a famous confectionery as well.  How she raised her children was one that was instilled in stern discipline in the family and her sons and daughters took her word as law.

tana-dicangThe bust of Don Efigenio and Tana Dicang

boyencyclopediaThat’s a set of encyclopedia.

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capizWindows were made of capiz shells

This recently opened balay, although not as famous as Balay Negrense, echoes the lifestyle of past splendor down to the chinas, furnitures and other accessories.

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The ground floor houses K (for Kapitana) gallery and the stairway leads to the entrance hall on the 2nd floor.  The floors are from “balayong” wood custom cut – meaning the floor planks stretched from one point to the other in one piece.

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Balay ni Tana Dicang
36 Rizal St., Talisay City
Negros Occidental
For details call:  (34)4952104

 

More houses to come…  For a glimpse of other worlds, click here.

WS# 12: Inasal Nga Manok

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That’s grilled chicken in Ilonggo and the pride of Bacolod.  Marinated with a reddish, sometimes yellowish hue from achuete (annatto seeds), this Bacolod delicacy is a hit not only in the south but has conquered the palates of Luzon as well, evident in the sprouting of several Bacolod Chicken Inasal food chains in Metro Manila.  Nothing is as authentic though as having it right where it originated.  And so we trekked to Chicken House and Chicken Deli (on different days, of course), the former slightly better than the latter but they say that the best would be the ones you find in Manukan Village.  Here, one gets the whole experience down to the “not so clean” eateries and al fresco dining sans ambience.  We however, never found our way there this time but not without trying, we simply ran out of days and time.  Another reason to return.

inasal-isol

Served by the parts in barbeque sticks, pecho (thigh), paa (leg) but the best (at least for me) is got to be the isol (ass).  Yes chicken ass!  Chicken House has the best, I was told and true enough, it perhaps was the best ass I’ve ever had.  Crunchy on the outside and tender and juice just how it should be on the inside.

This grilled chicken with a little bit of sinamak (Vinegar the ilonggo way- vinegar, garlic, ginger and chilies), soy sauce, calamansi (our local lime) and fresh sili labuyo (chili)= YUM!