“Can we go see places that are not in a mall? Can we eat real Filipino food that is not from an international restaurant chain?” my sons begged whenever I brought them with me to the Philippines. I was proud of them. They wanted to go back to their real roots, to what the Philippines was really like. I was even prouder they knew the real Philippines was not to be found in air conditioned malls or designer label brand names. My sons who had been raised in America, were my true compass. They taught me how to find my way home.
The plane landed past 9pm at Manila’s NAIA Airport. Soon as we walked out of the tube, towards the arrival area, the air was hot, sultry and my clothes clung to my back. There was noise and chatter everywhere. Though I knew no one, the atmosphere was warm, welcoming through the smiling faces around me. I was home and it felt good.
Travel to Asia is always part of my life’s itinerary. A trip to Manila and to my home province is a must. We have family back home. The house where I grew up is always my home base. And I am constantly surrounded by family and friends. There is never ever a minute where I am alone. A visit to the Philippines is a colorful prism of warm weather, places to see, gatherings with family and friends, shopping, sightseeing and lots of good, fantastic food .
Last May, we flew 17 hours from the east coast to enjoy a brief 2-week visit to my home roots. Given the brief time I had for a gazillion activities and friends, I planned my itinerary even before I stepped off the plane. Thanks to the internet, contacting friends in the Philippines is now a breeze way before a trip anywhere.
( Photo of salt beds in Cavite; The first photo above is the historic Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite).
So I took some shortcuts to bliss. To make the most of my brief Philippine stay, I decided to just travel around Luzon this time. The potential for fun in the Philippines is all around you. Just take a look. There is an abundance of sights, a lot of it undiscovered. One of the best ways to enjoy a locale is to combine food with travel. It is also important to have reliable transportation. It is affordable and easy to arrange a good car and driver who knows his way around the city and the provinces. Ask relatives and friends. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the concierge. We divided our trip in 2 parts. The first half was spent in my home province, Tarlac (north of Manila), visiting family. The second half we stayed in Makati, the financial district, which was accessible to many exciting sights and an unlimited world of gastronomic delights.
But back to the my culinary day trips. If you land in Manila, make it your starting point to do provincial tours, so you can get hold of good transportation, and easy ways to contact your provincial tour guides.
Would you believe I did 3 provinces in just 3 days, in addition to my own home province? This time, I felt the need to do something different. The malls are fabulous, sophisticated and can give international retail stores a run for their money. But I wanted something more unique, I wanted shopping finds and travel spots I couldn’t have here in the USA. I wanted to find the undiscovered artisan, the unheard of eatery, the restaurant that’s been there for years and that people just forgot about in the milieu of modern day malls. Just take a look at some of these photos and see what I unearthed.
If you want a complete tell-all of the places I went to, cities and provinces I visited, food I ate and ‘pasalubongs’ (souvenirs and gifts for friends) I got, check out my article “Day Trips to Culinary Heaven” on PositivelyFilipino.com, an online magazine of the Filipino diaspora. It was home, and I was in heaven!
Robinson’s Tamales from Cavite are one of the most amazing I’ve had in my life!
Pampanga Culinary Heritage Tours are one of the best ways to immerse in local culture.
The St. James Church in Betis, Pampanga is filled with centuries-old handpainted artwork.
La Moderna Bakery satisfied my cravings for old favorites like ‘Inipit’, Taisan loaf cakes, gorgorias, ensaimadas, all from heritage Capampangan recipes.
How would you like to be pampered with a private dinner by Chef Dennis Lim in Pampanga?
A day trip to Manaoag, Pangasinan is a must, to buy guavas, mangoes, bucayo , tupig, fresh coconut juice, which I have longed for, for ages!
And before I headed back to the USA, I made sure to buy ‘pasalubongs’ (gifts from travels) handcrafted by Pampanga artisans.
All photographs taken in Cavite, Pampanga and Pangasinan are by Elizabeth Ann Quirino and are copyright protected. Please do NOT plagiarize, lift, scrape or download without permission.
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