Our Naga Vacation

From Legazpi City, we travelled to Naga City by van. Riding the bus would take longer, since there would be numerous stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. These days, there are the UV Express vans which transport passengers to all parts of the country. We took one of those vans from Legazpi to Naga. It was a pleasant drive, although we got stuck in traffic in one area of the highway.

Upon our arrival in Naga, we checked into Naga Land Hotel. It was the one assigned to us by the convention organizers. We were not too happy with our stay there and I will write about that in another post. Meanwhile, we had some time to go around Naga.

One thing nice about our hotel, though, was its location. It was located in Naga Centro, just a few steps away from a mall, Plaza Quince Martires, the San Francisco Church and numerous eating places. On our first night, we had dinner in Bigg’s Diner. Bigg’s Diner serves typical American diner-type food alongside Filipino rice meals. The decor invokes nostalgia, with mementos and photos of icons past.

042415-112_Fotor

The following day, we went to the mall to catch the first screening of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. I know there was more of Naga to explore, but we wouldn’t have a chance to watch the movie once we got back to Manila. And we really couldn’t miss this movie.

We had lunch in the mall foodcourt. I wanted to try a local food outlet – Geewan. The lechon kawali looked promising and I saw that most of their customers ordered it. Many restaurants and food outlets serve lechon kawali but many disappoint. Geewan, however, was a revelation! Their lechon kawali is one of the best I’ve had. The meat is soft and tender, the skin is crispy and crunchy. Good choice, I must say.

Another great foodie find was a cupcake stall in SM Naga – Cake My Day. They had different flavored cupcakes displayed and all of them looked so tempting. We ordered the Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes (P50), Dulce de Leche Cheesecake (P55), and the Fudgy Brownies (P50). They were absolutely divine! I fell in love with the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. It was light and sweet, the texture was creamy and everything tasted perfect! If only they kept longer, I would have packed my bags with these yummy creations. Too bad they only had one outlet. These cupcakes could easily compete with those found in Manila.

042515-1_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

In the afternoon, we went around to see the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral (or more formally called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist).  This is the seat of the Archdiocese of Caceres. I think this is the biggest church in the Bicol area. They were preparing for a wedding when we were there so we couldn’t stay long.

042515-9_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

Right next to the cathedral is the Holy Rosary Seminary (or the Seminario del Santissimo Rosario).  It is said to be the “oldest Christian higher educational institute for the clergy in the Philippines”. Formerly the Casa de Clerigos established by Bishop Andres Gonzales, OP in the 1700s, the seminary was built in 1785 and finished in 1845. It was declared a historical landmark for having produced patriots and heroes, including nine of the fifteen Bicolano martyrs.

042515-17_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

In front of the cathedral is the Porta Mariae. This is a triumphal arch which was put up to commemorate the tercentenary of the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The arch measures 18 meters wide, 4 meters deep and 11 meters high. On top of it is a 10 feet tall brass image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and two angels on each side. It is truly a grand structure.

042515-20_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

We went to the San Francisco Church later that day to hear Mass. On the way there from the hotel, we passed by the Plaza Quince Martires. A monument honoring 15 Bicolano martyrs of the Philippine Revolution stands in the middle of the plaza.

042515-29_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

According to the marker outside the church, the San Francisco Church is the first church in Naga and one of the oldest in the Bicol region. It was established in 1578.

042515-29_Fotor_Collage b_Fotor

Our trip to Naga was memorable because of good food and interesting places. I’m glad we were finally able to visit this part of the Philippines.

Advertisements

Stopover in Legazpi City

After our overnight stay in Misibis Bay, we had to go back to Naga for the convention. But we wanted to go to Cagsawa Ruins first to get a better view of Mayon Volcano. On the way to Legazpi from Misibis, the top of Mayon was covered with clouds. But as we got nearer, the clouds cleared and we had a clear view of the glory of Mayon Volcano!

The Cagsawa Church was built by the Franciscan friars after 1724. In 1814, the strongest eruption of Mayon Volcano buried Cagsawa and other nearby areas. Only the bell tower and some parts of the church complex remain.

Cagsawa Ruins

Mayon Volcano is really majestic. Despite its numerous eruptions, it has retained its perfect cone. Hard to imagine that this thing of beauty causes much destruction with every eruption.

042415-37_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

After enjoying the view of Mayon Volcano, we went back to Legazpi City for a late lunch before heading back to Naga City. We decided to go to Small Talk Cafe after reading good reviews about it. The jeepney driver didn’t know where Small Talk Cafe was, but I searched for it on Waze and found a nearby Jollibee. Now THAT was a landmark the driver knew.

Small Talk Cafe is a quaint restaurant a few meters from the main road. There were many diners even if it was late for lunch by the time we got there. There were lots of interesting choices on their menu and prices were affordable.

042415-86_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

It was a very short visit to Legazpi City but we enjoyed every minute of it.

A Quick Retreat to Misibis Bay Resort

Bong’s midyear convention was going to be held in Naga City. We had not been to that region before so we thought we would make it our summer destination for 2015. We booked our plane tickets early, during one of the seat sales of Cebu Pacific. Later on, we realized that there wasn’t much to do around Naga City. We had heard of Misibis Bay Resort, which was an hour away from Legazpi City. Legazpi City was still a two-hour van ride away from Naga City, but we thought we might as well go now since we were in the general area already.

From the time we were picked up in Legazpi City airport, we were given excellent service by the staff of Misibis Bay Resort. We checked into a Junior Suite Deluxe. It was a very spacious room, with two double beds and a daybed. The addition of an extra bed did not make the room cramped. The room was tastefully decorated. They provided us with a native woven bag, which was perfect for carrying some of the small stuff we didn’t want to leave in the room. Hand-made slippers were also provided. What they didn’t have was an in-room safe, which I would have thought was expected in a resort of this stature. Wi-Fi in the room was pretty good too.042315-3_Fotor Trixi's corner

042315-7_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

The bathroom was roomy too, with a bath tub and separate shower stall. Toiletries were from L’Occitane.

042315-8_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

Our room was on the second floor, facing the pool. We did not want a unit on the ground floor because we thought it would be noisy when people are swimming. The pools in Misibis Bay Resort are clean and well-maintained. They wind around the villas, with bridges and islands of greenery.

042315-15_Fotor

The beach is small and the sand is quite coarse in some areas. It is quiet and peaceful, though, and for me, that’s more important. Attendants are always around, ready with some beach towels or a glass of ice-cold water.

042415-2_Fotor

There are other activities to do around the resort, but since we had limited time, we stuck to swimming and playing some frisbee.

Dining in the resort was hit and miss. Our dinner choices were so-so, not bad, but nothing great. Breakfast was much better. I liked their omelette station, tocino and champorado.

We had a great time in Misibis Bay Resort. It is quite far from Manila and published rates are quite high. But the amenities and service make it a very enjoyable vacation. We would really like to come back and stay longer next time.

Dining in Balesin Island Club

I had written previously about our short stay in Balesin Island Club. I felt that the dining experience merits its own post. Like I said in the other post, guests in Balesin Island Club are free to use the facilities and restaurants of the seven different villages, regardless of where they are staying. The kids and I tried to sample as many of the restaurants as we could in our short visit. Bong took most of his meals with his faculty workshop group.

Our first restaurant was Le Creperie in the St. Tropez village. It was supposed to be the best place for breakfast. We all had the ham and cheese omelette. The omelette was pretty good – lots of mozzarella cheese and very tasty ham.

Le Creperie Menu

For lunch, the kids wanted to have pizza and pasta, so off we went to La Meridiana in Toscana, the Italian-themed village.

Toscana Menu

We had the Prosciutto Rucola e Parmigiano and the Spaghetti Bolognese. Both were excellent choices. You can tell that they do not scrimp on ingredients. The bread that was served with the pasta was also good. I think they make their own bread in all the restaurants.

Lunch in Toscana

Dinner was in Casa Grande in Costa del Sol. We were so hungry we forgot to take photos of our food. We had the Beef Salpicado and Callos. The Beef Salpicado was very good – the meat was tender and juicy, cooked just right. The callos, though, was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t bad, but we’ve had better.

For dessert, we headed back to the Mykonos village restaurant, the Thanassis Taverna, for their “award-winning” Chocolate Mousse.

Thanassis Taverna Chocolate Mousse

This was another winner! The mousse was rich and creamy, with just the right amount of sweetness. Unlike the other things we ordered so far, the serving size was on the small side for this one. I’m sure my son could have finished more than one if we let him.

The following day, we had Filipino breakfast at the Balesin Village restaurant, Sala. We had a wonderful view of the beach from our table. We had the Garlic Longganisa, Beef Tapa and Daing na Bangus. All were served with garlic rice and eggs done the way you want them. I liked the beef tapa best – a little sweet, soft and very tasty. We were given a bread basket even if the meals came with rice. The bread was too good to pass up.

Breakfast at Balesin Village

Our flight back home was scheduled at 1:30 pm so we opted to have an early lunch at the Clubhouse. Nothing fancy, just burgers, since we didn’t want to get stuffed just before flying. The burgers were very good, all meat, no extenders, very juicy.

All in all, I would say that Balesin Island Club offers a variety of dining experiences. The food in the different restaurants are very good. Their bread selection, in particular, is excellent. The cost is on the high side, just like in any luxury resort. If you find yourself in Balesin Island Club, make sure to try out the different restaurants in the island. It’s like travelling to different parts of the world in one resort.

Paradise Found: Balesin Island Club

This year’s Faculty Summer Workshop was scheduled to be held in Balesin Island Club. In the past, the kids and I didn’t join Bong for these workshops – he would go and we would stay home. However, when we found out that it was going to be there, we figured this might be the only chance we have to visit that resort. After all, Balesin Island Club is a members-only resort. So even if it was just for an overnight stay, we grabbed the opportunity.

The resort is just a short 20-minute plane ride away from Manila. We left Manila early morning and we were still able to join Bong for breakfast.

Arrival in Balesin

The resort is made up of seven villages with different themes, all patterned after famous international resorts – Balesin (the Philippine village), Bali, Phuket, Mykonos, St. Tropez, Costa del Sol and Toscana. In each village, the architecture, design, and food reflect the resort that it is named after. In all of these villages, the villas have a king-sized bed, 2 daybeds and a jacuzzi. You are also free to use the facilities of any village, regardless of where you are staying. There are numerous golf carts and customized jeepneys to bring the guests around. While we were billeted at the Mykonos villas, we went around the other villages for swimming and eating.

Our first stop was St. Tropez, the village which was designed after the French Riviera. If I am not mistaken, this is the only village where the lodgings are hotel rooms, instead of villas.

St. Tropez

After breakfast, we went to the beach of the Balesin village. The beach there was the best among all the villages. They have a long stretch of white sands and pristine waters. Paradise indeed!

Balesin Village Beach

I could not believe we had this beautiful beach all to ourselves. Everything was just perfect – the sun was out, the water was cool and clear, the sand was soft!

Pretty soon, it was time for lunch. The kids and I went to the Toscana village to have pizza and pasta for lunch.

Lunch at La Meridiana

Toscana

After lunch, we were finally able to go to our room at the Mykonos village.The room was very spacious and could fit four people comfortably.

Our Mykonos villa

 

Room amenities included an LCD TV, an iPod dock, alarm clock, safe and slippers. There was also a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Nespresso machine – perfect for coffee lovers!

CBTL Machine

The bathroom was just as roomy. Toiletries were of good quality too. 

Mykonos Villa Bathroom

We thought the inside of the room was great. When we stepped outside to the back, we realized that the back of the villa was just as great! We had our own jacuzzi, a lounge area, a small dining area, access to the beach and the pools just a few steps away.

At the back of our Mykonos Villa

How I wish we could stay here for days! After lounging a bit in the jacuzzi, we decided to explore the swimming pools in the clubhouse Poseidon. On both sides of the main pool were two jacuzzis, both with hot water – perfect to soothe aching bodies.

Ours was a very short stay. We had to return to Manila the following day because of previous engagements. Nobody wanted to leave and we were seriously thinking of extending our stay. Balesin Island Club is truly paradise on earth. The beach is lovely, the water is cool and clear, the sand is soft and fine and there are not too many people around. I would really love to come back and stay longer –  that is, if I can find someone to invite us.

 

The RRCG Pink Bus

RRCG Pink Bus

Commuting, as it is, is hard enough on anyone. Students, office workers, employees – everyone is in a rush to get a ride early in the morning and after work. When the buses are full, with every possible inch already taken up by someone, it feels like you are being pressed upon on all sides. But if you don’t want to be late for your class or work, you ride anyway.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I saw this earlier today. RRCG is one of the two bus companies plying the Ortigas Ave. Extension route. They started a service for ladies, ladies with children, senior citizens, minors below 18 years old and persons with disability.  From 4:00 am to 10:00 am and from 4;00 pm to 10:00 pm, this pink bus will only accept passengers that belong to these groups. I do not know how many of these buses there are, but this is certainly a welcome development. Kudos to RRCG for taking the initiative on this very important matter.

Not Living Up To The Hype

I hadn’t heard of Marufuku Japanese Restaurant until my brother suggested it for one family dinner. I quickly looked it up on the Internet and came upon some favorable reviews. The consensus was that it was pricey, but the food was worth it. So, I was quite excited to try it out.

The restaurant is tucked away in the side streets around University of Asia and the Pacific. We weren’t sure how parking there would be so we decided to walk there from SM Megamall. It was a pleasant walk, about a little less than a kilometer each way.

It is a small restaurant with an open kitchen. The tables are placed very closely together, with very little space between them  for people to pass. It was also quite noisy, making it difficult to carry on a conversation with someone across your table.

Almost all the reviews I read made special mention of the Kaki Motoyaki, lightly grilled Hiroshima oysters with mayonnaise and miso-based sauce, served on Chinese spoons on a bed of salt. So I made sure we ordered that. We also ordered the Ebi Tempura, Chicken Teriyaki and Katsu Jyu.

Kaki Motoyaki

The Kaki Motoyaki deserves all the praises it’s been receiving. It is truly delicious! The oysters were plump and juicy and the flavors come together very nicely. The dish is quite expensive, though, like most of the items on the menu.

Ebi Tempura

The Ebi Tempura has been described as being “huge” in some reviews. I thought it was just like the Ebi Tempura in other Japanese restaurants. Yes, it was crispy alright, but it didn’t look or taste any different from others we’ve had.

Chicken Teriyaki

The Chicken Teriyaki was good – crispy, not too sweet. This dish was okay for me. Good, but nothing great. The same goes for the Mixed Rice. The Katsu Jyu was okay too, but not as good as in other restaurants that serve Katsu.

Service was poor. Our server was not friendly and she was not knowledgeable about the items on their menu. The food took a very long time to be served. High price for so-so food, poor service, noisy place – I don’t think we’ll be back here on our own. The oysters weren’t enough to save the night.