Abundant Place in Silang

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Located on the Diversion Road in Silang, where all the gardens are, is Abundant Place,  a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I used to pass this way when I go to Tagaytay via Daang Hari and on to Imus and Dasmarinas. When one gets to Silang and bypasses the road to the town center, one is greeted with flowers and other ornamental plants left and right, throughout what seems like a 2-kilometer stretch. In fact this place is a weekend destination for gardening enthusiasts. Coming from Imus and Dasmarinas, Abundant Place is on the right, and quite difficult to miss because of its prominent signage.

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My very first encounter with Abundant Place happened many many years ago when I chanced upon their display of interesting foot stools made of “banig” material along the Sta Rosa – Tagaytay Road. Then I bought 2 foot stools and ordered mosquito nets (not the nylon variety) with sea shells for accent for my Alabang home bedroom. Thus when I saw the Abundant Place signage in Silang, and saw “breakfast” I stopped to check.

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At the entrance to the store is a blackboard with the day’s menu. I opted for pork tapa, 2 orders for myself and my driver. Plus cafe barako.

My bill for 2 breakfast orders with coffee, including the 10% service charge, was P330.00

My bill for 2 breakfast orders with coffee, including the 10% service charge, was P330.00

 

The cafe was done in a very creative way, using concrete, stones, bamboo, nipa, shells, beach sands, white screens, and many interesting accent pieces. I was so impressed with the cafe’s  design. I couldn’t believe it that the owner, who also did the place, is actually a pastor.

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STORE

While waiting for my breakfast to be served, I went inside the store and browsed at the items for sale. I wanted to buy so many items and the only thing that stopped me was the thought that I needed to first create some structure in my Tagaytay weekender to replicate the look of the cafe. I actually bought one item, a tiffany lamp for P500.00

my find, for P500.00

my find, for P500.00

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I so loved the place I thought I’d take photos and include in my blog. When in the area, make sure you stop and you will not regret the visit.

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GLAMPING, anyone?

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Glamping as defined in Oxford Dictionaries:

NOUN

[MASS NOUN] British informal

A form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping:glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries
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My friends and I who regularly go camping, pitching tents near the beach or in mountains and riversides decided to glamp, for a change. All photos appearing on this glamping posts were taken by friends from #FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group, my fellow glampers: Papa Jet, Mai Sotto, Jun Bucao, Bob Gan Ferrer, Jon Michael, Nikki Lim, Connie Talactac, Annette Tamayo, Mommy B, Cherry Rose Dematera, Senyorita Lakwatsera, Rhyan Manago, and Gerry de Leon, Bobby and Amy Taron, Henry Completo, and Monina Cabanada.
Venue was a private vacation place in Tagaytay. Early Saturday morning, glampers started to pitch tents and, unlike in previous camping experiences where earth pads were rolled, each tent had proper mattresses and beddings and pillows with crisp, white, starched pillowcases.
pitching tents

pitching tents

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our "model tent"

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our “model tent”

all tents set up

all tents set up

Amenities included a swimming pool with waterfalls, a restful veranda with huge couches, a billiard table, darts, toilets with hot & cold showers, an outdoor kitchen with complete cooking facilities, and a bar with tables and chairs used as our dining area and videoke hall. There was also a huge “kawa” hot bath, and an authentic Ifugao native house as points of interest for the glampers.
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A group of 4 went to the nearby Tagaytay City Public Market and later on prepared a boodle fight lunch. Never imagined camping to have as much food on the table, including shrimps and crabs, fruits and wine, and many other dishes.
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Dinner was by candlelight. For photography we turned some ceiling lights on. After dinner drinks consisted of flowing brewed coffee, beer, Johnny Walker Double Black, and a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Oh yes, we also had Absolut Vodka with Sprite, lemon and cherries.

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There was singing til the early hours of the morning, with some glampers taking a dip in the pool even at 4am.

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We broke camp the next day. After breakfast, and while preparing to leave for home, the group decided to go on an unplanned lunch to a restaurant in Calauan, Laguna. And to shoot some old homes and the old church in nearby Pila. But that is another story.

We will most likely do a second glamping experience – – more to accommodate friends who weren’t able to join us the first time.
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ISKARGU Restaurant in Calauan, Laguna

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Many people think the restaurant has escargot as the main attraction. I thought the way the restaurant was named is very clever, and has very high recall – – – even for those who will hear it for the first time. ISKARGU is a play on the main dishes – – – ISda, KARne, and GUlay.  The owner must have been inspired with the popularity of a genre of restaurants in Cebu called SUTUKIL which stood for the three ways of cooking fish. ISKARGU is more clever, because it can be mistaken, in a fun way, with the popular delicacy in France  – – escargot, kuhol to us Pinoys.

 

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More than the name, I consider this native restaurant the best stop on this side of Laguna. Excellent food turo-turo style, inexpensive, and a very unpretentious setting with wide windows that open to rice fields. Not unlike the more popular place that has huge fish images made of cement, huge this and huge that. But with very slow service I could die of hunger before my order is served. At ISKARGU, I pick mouth-watering dishes and I am served immediately. Rice is served on banana leaves. Ordering halo halo completes my experience.

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Just yesterday, I had a group of 12 for lunch. We had 2 orders each of 6 different dishes including fish eggs (not caviar?), pinaputok na isda, kinilaw, etcetera etcetera. Our bill came up to only P200 each. And there was a singer to entertain us with old familiar music while enjoying our lunch.

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Everyone from  #FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group that joined the unplanned food trip showed happy faces – – – busog sa masarap at murang lunch. Our friend Bobby Taron took this group photo:

#FUNtasticPhilippines Fun Group

#FUNtasticPhilippines Fun Group

 

A quick edit to share how one in our group reacted upon seeing my blog on ISKARGU, only because he also loved the place. Here is Papa Jet of #FUNtasticPhilippines, in his own words:

” First time I ate here, and I just have to say that it’s definitely worth adding it to your travel itinerary to Laguna area — 22.6 km after Rizal Shrine in Calamba… on the way to Cavinti (Pagsanjan Falls), Lake Caliraya, Majayjay, Lucban, Mauban, Tayabas… definitely even worth it, just to go to IsKarGu just simply to have good food that you can be proud of, even with your foreigner visitors!!! You might even be mentioned by the real good singer, if she knows you’re from FUNtastic Philippines… ;)”

For visitors who want to bring something home, their counter features many interesting “take home” items – – – pastillas, native wine including lambanog, apple cider vinagar, turmeric, pinakurat vinegar, bottled guyabano end items I don’t see in pasalubong centers.

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When I left the place, I saw a poster inviting regulars (and their guests, I think) to a buffet for P299 featuring 30 different dishes. I do not think anyone can get a better deal than that.

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I just checked their social media page, and I am sharing the link in case readers want to discover ISKARGU and get to know the place even more prior to a visit.

https://web.facebook.com/pages/Iskargu-Restaurant-Dayap-Hi-Way-Calauan-Laguna/233278473452270?_rdr

It is worth the travel. In fact, we did not have to go anywhere around there. My friends and I just thought we wanted a good lunch out of town, and so we went. Maybe it is time for wanderlusts and foodies to just go, not having to find any reason or excuse. The foof trip is reason enough.

By the way, at the wall outside were photos of many personalities who have enjoyed ISKARGU. Government officials, movie and television personalities, some prominent businessmen. I figure this is the best endorsement they can ever get – –  celebrity diners who opted for best value.

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Bobby Taron who took our photo, completing the frame. What a beautiful ambience for lunch.

Crowne Plaza Ortigas

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Until I was invited by a good friend to attend his son’s birthday at Crown Plaza in Ortigas one weekend, I never imagined that one can enjoy luxurious accommodations in a top hotel’s presidential suite for a  rate one would pay for a regular room in Singapore.

And part of the benefits is breakfast at the club lounge, plus afternoon tea and cocktails in the same exclusive lounge.

The presidential suite is right beside the club lounge. The room is spacious, with a king bed, and all the amenities one would expect. The bathroom is adjacent, and is the size of another hotel room.

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The living room and dining is welcoming. There is a huge TV on the wall facing the sofa. The dining table sits 6. A bottle of wine and a selection of fruits and pastries welcomed me into the suite.

 

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Well I guess if the distinguished guest wants to prepare some food, there is a kitchen adjoining the dining room.

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I love the thoughtfulness. And the fact that there is a varied selection of beverages, including my favorite teas.

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The view may not be spectacular when you look down from your window, as the roofs of the nearby establishments are just at the bottom. But looking farther away makes one feel the magnificence of being on the top floor of this hotel, and in a presidential suite at that.

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As the hotel is quite popular and is easy to find, I am not doing a “How to get There” and not publishing their rates.

And by the way, the Seven Corners Restaurant is one of the top attractions of this hotel. Sadly, I was not able to take a photo as we were all busy partaking of the varied dishes around the many buffet tables.

I give this hotel a Perfect 10 for Value.

 

 

 

 

Degustacion and Tertulia

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The heritage town of Taal, Batangas, celebrated Philippine Independence Day with a weekend Art, Food and Fashion Festival.

The old homes were decorated with Philippine flags and the atmosphere was festive.

Villa Tortuga

Villa Tortuga

 

An art exhibit was nearby, with artists from UST on a reunion.

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Meanwhile, preparations for a fashion show were were being done at Paradores, the town’s premier hotel. A degustacion at Casa Feliza appealed to me the most so I went, having booked well ahead as there were limited seats.

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Why was it a must-go?

The menu is a mouthwatering version of dishes served during the Malolos Convention, prepared by Chef Giney Villar.

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

 

The event host was Elizabeth Angsioco, resplendent in a gown re-created from old gowns.

Beth with media person Howie Severino

Beth with media person Howie Severino

The town’s historian Dindo regaled the visitors with stories from the past, how Taal was also nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list, about the festivals in Taal, all in his interesting Batangueno accent.

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To highlist history and the link to the Malolos Convention, a delegation from that Bulacan town was present, headed by their vice mayor.

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The guests included actors playing guardia civil, General Luna, and then president General Emilio Aguinaldo.

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Casa Feliza was home to Feliza Diokno, then the secretary of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Today, it is open as a taverna at the ground floor, and B&B at the second floor. For the degustacion, the table setting was nothing less than impressive.

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I was lost in the bliss of this culinary experience that I forgot to take photos of the dishes. So I instead took a photo of the dessert corner.

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Towards the end, a friend of the hosts recited a poem in Spanish. His original composition in English that he translated to Filipino and Spanish.

An event to look forward to in 2017.

Rodeo Festival 2016 Masbate, Philippines

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I have written about the Masbate Rodeo extensively for three years. For the 2016 rodeo, I will let photos tell the story. Like you were just there.

BARN DANCE: from the streets to the arena:

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MY FAVORITE CATTLE EVENTS

Bull Riding

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Carambola

 

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Wrestling from Horseback

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WATCH OUT FOR  MASBATE RODEO 2017. APRIL 18- 22, 2017

 

LAKWATSA

The 2016 Festival Logo The 2016 Festival Logo

The most exciting National Rodeo Finals is ongoing at the Masbate Grand Arena, with Awards night on the 16th.

I have been attending the festival for three years in a row, and I have booked my flight and my hotel for this year, too. Some friends are saying they will be in Masbate for up to 3 weeks, finding the rodeo week a rather short period to truly enjoy Masbate. Yes, Masbate is the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, and hosts the biggest rodeo event in the Philippines. maybe even the biggest in all of Asia.  And on top of the rodeo, visitors will find side-trips to be so rewarding, seeing waterfalls, white sand beaches, centuries-old lighthouses, and many more attractions.

First of all, the Rodeo.

Masbate has the only proper rodeo arena in the country. Whereas all the rodeos I have visited make do with…

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Vigan Rodeo at Kannawidan

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Vigan celebrated a week-long fiesta highlighted by an invitational rodeo February 5-6, 2016.

the audience gallery

the audience gallery

 

the improvised rodeo arena

the improvised rodeo arena

Since this is an amateur rodeo competition with students from agri, animal science, and vet med schools from around Vigan were invited to compete. The organizers invited the country’s premier rodeo organization, the Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate, known as VROoM, the technical group of the Rodeo Masbateno, Inc. For perspective, Masbate hosts the biggest rodeo event in the country, in the National Rodeo Finals held for one week in April every year. VROoM handled the Vigan rodeo as guest officers, practically running the event – – from briefing the participants on the rules, to managing the stockyard, to managing the scoring, to managing the sequence of events and competing teams, to performing functions as timers, and to actual officiating and judging on all the events.

Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (VROoM)

Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (VROoM)

The event started with a parade around the city, starting from the provincial capitol, and ending at the makeshift rodeo arena right beside the capitol. Opening ceremonies were held, with the singing of the national anthem, the oath of sportsmanship, the introduction of the participating schools, and the talk by the rodeo organizers. An intermission number ensued, courtesy of the office of the governor.

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cowboys and cowgirls dancing on the arena

Intermission: cowboys and cowgirls dancing on the arena

The Events

The rodeo events consisted of carambola (2-men, 2-women, 4-men, 4-women) wherein competing teams run to take possession of a cattle – – – the team to get a hold of a cattle’s neck “owns” it and so the other team will just have to chase the other cattle. They will then wrestle with the cattle and bring it to the ground and tie up the cattle’s feet. A good play is when the cattle is unable to get up from the ground in 10 seconds.

There is also casting down where players use a lasso to catch the cattle, and pulling the cattle until it falls, and finally tie down its feet.

There are also lassoing events where players need to be able to successfully lasso a cattle within a maximum of three throws.

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There were exhibition events of things normally done on the farm, like bull whipping, load carrying,  and log cutting. Plus fun games like egg carrying, and the Miss Rodeo competition where the team’s muses were scored on beauty and personality, talent, and intelligence.

Egg Throw/Catch

Egg Throw/Catch

The event ended with a big party on the second night, complete with catered dinner and entertainment. Overall champion was the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) Rodeo team, the same team that was champion last year.

Overall, the rodeo event was a success and, if Vigan continues to run the rodeo as professionally as Masbate’s VROoM officiated, they could well be on their way to becoming the Amateur Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, an expressed wish of the organizers.

VROoM Rodeo Director briefing the competing teams before an event

VROoM Rodeo Director briefing the competing teams before an event

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VROoM to the rescue when a cow jumped out of the arena and could cause great damage to people and property around the arena

VROoM to the rescue when a cow jumped out of the arena and could cause great damage to people and property around the arena

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