A Couple of Must-Do’s in the Philippines: Advice from a Local
I was meant to write a review for sharing the experience I had at last weekend’s trip to Bale Dutung. Obviously you expect a lot from a meal that requires you to travel two hours to get to it. Was the food good? Yes. Was I entertained? Yes to that, too. In fact, at the end of the day when I was asked to sign the guest book, I said something along the lines of it being an awesome experience.
But, and I know this is probably an unusual occurrence for a blogger, I just didn’t feel that it was my place to give details away in a blow-by-blow account. So instead, I’m going to talk about misconceptions about the Philippines and things I recommend you do to get over them.
#1 Misconception: We don’t have good food.
There’s a Filipino restaurant making waves in New York City that says different. And as a Filipino who needs no convincing that we’ve got great food here, it’s a great feeling to finally see Philippine cuisine get the recognition it deserves.
Many of us struggle with how to explain Filipino food to others, but that’s probably because it’s so varied—definitely a lot more than just adobo and balut that usually comes to mind at the outset. Husband and wife team, Claude and Maryanne Tayag, do a pretty good job of it at Bale Dutung. The goal is to give everyone a new perspective on our much-maligned cuisine and they’ve been doing so for years now through opening up their home in Pampanga to serve Filipino dishes with a dash of history and interesting anecdotes to fill you up in more ways than one.
That’s all I’m saying about it but I WILL leave you with photos. (Hover over the pictures to find out what each dish is called.) Big thanks to Alvin, not just for taking them, but also for traveling all the way from Malaysia to do this with me. Here he is pictured with Mrs. Tayag over lunch at Bale Dutung.
Incidentally, the couple has released a book called Linamnam that traces regional specialties all across the Philippines. A neat thing to have in planning those future food trips!
#2 Misconception: Skip Manila. There’s nothing to do there.
I know you can’t wait to get to the beaches. But having lived here all my life, I can assure you that Manila’s a pretty fun place to live. I mean, of course there’s a reason why people uproot themselves to move here!
Sometime last year, some foreign guy blasted the Philippine capital for being backwards and went on to advise people to spend as little time in Manila as possible. It honestly made me think that the poor guy had no friends here to show him a good time! We have a lot going for us including great shopping, a number of cool markets, and God knows we put on really great shows! And if that isn’t your thing, then you may as well learn something while you’re here.
I took Carlos Celdran’s Intramuros tour in February and felt the same need to keep mum about the experience. Now I know it’s because I didn’t just want people to take my word for it. Foreign visitors should take it so they can come home with some kind of understanding about Manila beyond malls and traffic, and fellow Manileños need it for the little reminder it gives about appreciating your hometown more.
No spoilers! Just some photos from the February tour I took with Italian family friend, Elisa, who really enjoyed learning about Philippine history.
Sometimes I think that only the most adventurous spirits can appreciate my country with all its imperfections. But at the end of the day, I trust that genuine travelers are smart enough to know that getting a complete picture of the Philippines is only possible by looking beyond the rundown terminal airport it’s become infamous for. This is just me helping other people find it