I finally got the courage to travel again and am writing this from beautiful Cebu, where the 2nd National Mission Congress and the closing mass for the celebrations of 500 Years of Christianity — with Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown; Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; and Archbishop Jose Palma of the Archdiocese of Cebu — are taking place.
I am happy to share that it looks like we really can start doing food trips again and now is the time, while fares are down. We flew via Cebu Pacific and a round-trip ticket was just P3,000 (without the add-ons)! Your health is your own lookout, though, as the crowds are back as well, so just make sure you wear the proper mask and that it is sealed correctly around your nose and mouth. Also make sure you are fully vaccinated so that even if the COVID-19 virus hits you, it will just be like the flu.
Here are few new foodie finds on this trip:
Maribago Bluewater’s ‘Sinudlan na Manok ‘
Maribago Bluewater is paradise. The 7-hectare beachfront property with gorgeous Balete trees is perfect for a relaxing getaway. It is just one hour from the city center so it’s also an ideal location if you have to meet friends in the city. I say paradise because it really is, especially if you get a bungalow—literally a two-bedroom, one story “house”—right on the beach.
It’s also safer for meals because the setup is al fresco. Even if you will not sleep over, have a meal at Allegro restaurant. They have a really delicious chicken stuffed with chorizo called Sinudlan na Manok. It does not come as a whole chicken but like a roll, similar to morcon, and sliced beautifully on the plate. The chorizo used is Cebuano chorizo hubad. Another unique dish is their ube sinigang. The fish in itself is sumptuous, a pan-seared snapper. But what makes the dish unique is that it’s purple, even the broth! In place of rice, the fish is laid atop a chunk of sweet potato, taro and halaya. Make sure to squeeze the lemon onto the mash as this does wonders in bringing the flavors together; otherwise it’s like an odd combination of fish and ube jam. But with the lemon, it’s like they are wed in holy matrimony and becomes really enjoyable!
Of course, the best option is to sleep over and have fresh oysters with champagne by the beach! Live the life!
‘Bibingka de Mandaue’
Every town has its version of kakanin. Mandaue in Cebu also has its own version of bibingka and Bishop Midyphil “Dodong” Billones, auxiliary bishop of Cebu and rector of the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue, says that Bibingka de Mandaue is the best. Count on a bishop to choose something that is very austere but spirit-filled! This rice cake is plain and almost looks like pita bread but its beauty is inside! No salted duck egg, no cheese on top but it is very flavorful!
Another must-try in Mandaue is Didang’s masa real. This is a bar of finely-ground boiled peanuts and coconut syrup. It’s a great pasalubong, too!
Part’ebelle Seafood Restaurant
This is a “karinderya “that I am sure Anthony Bourdain would have loved for a true taste of local flavors. The specialty of this al fresco resto is a seafood soup called Tinolang Isda (or tinowa) that has a clear broth. They use blue marlin and I learned from a local culinary expert to ask for fish roe instead of just plain fish meat for a first class treat in a casual atmosphere.
Another specialty here is the sinugba or grilled fish. There is a huge grillery just outside the restaurant where they cook the liempo and blue marlin. It is very tasty and fresh! Served with a huge mound of rice per person, even if you just get your utensils from a communal container with hot water (don’t be maarte!), this is one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip!
For a great hole-in-the-wall experience, Enrico Monsanto of Bluewater in Maribago highly recommends Matias BBQ in Mandaue. This is on A.S. Fortuna Street in Mandaue. The must-trys are the pork barbecue, chorizo and balbacua.
For chicharon, the place to visit is Carcar. While you are there, make a trip to the Shrine of Archbishop Teofilo Camomot, former Archbishop of Cebu and now Servant of God. On May 3, the Vatican will determine if he qualifies to be called Venerable, which is the next step to sainthood. So please pray for Archbishop Camomot and hopefully, we will have another Filipino saint!
Also make sure to try Tagaktak. In Cebuano, this means “to drop.” It looks like fried noodles presented in the shape of a triangle and is enjoyed as a snack. It earned its name from the process by which it is cooked: rice batter is poured into a perforated coconut shell and the batter then falls through the holes while the one cooking sways the shell to force the batter to fall “taktak” into boiling oil. You can find this from vendors just outside the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.
World travel and tourism
Back in Manila, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat just opened the 21st Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council. She said: “A new age of travel and tourism is upon us, and it is up to us to drive the change towards a better and more hopeful future.”
This is so true. I confess I only agreed to fly to Cebu because Fr. Mhar Balili, chair of the 500 Years of Christianity celebrations in Cebu, promised that I would be hosting the 2nd National Mission Congress right in front of the original image of the Sto. Niño that was given by Ferdinand Magellan to Reyna Juan 500 years ago—a promise he fulfilled. But now that I have traveled, I would love to encourage everyone to welcome this new normal and fly!
Incidentally, Catholics call this day Divine Mercy Sunday and we are truly so grateful for this mercy. Now we can really get out of our caves and live life to the fullest again! Hallelujah!
First Class by Margaux Salcedo | Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 24, 2022 Sunday