A Taste of Southern Tagalog’s Delicacies and Hospitality

A Taste of Southern Tagalog’s Delicacies and Hospitality

Cesar Cruz Jr.

Business Mirror | July 17, 2017

Philippine Tour Operators Association Caravan

Joining a caravan offered by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) will always have its perks that are hard to top. For this particular caravan, the local delicacies of Southern Tagalog may be the main draw, but there is so much more to it.

Aside from eating or watching how a particular dish is prepared and cooked, this culinary tour was extra special since participants got the rare chance to interact with the town mayors, business owners and the community, and imbibe the rich local history and culture of towns and cities while making the rounds of the numerous attractions along the way.

The Southern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan, which took place from May 31 to June 2, was a convoy of seven vans joined by tour operators, consumers, Department of Tourism personnel, media practitioners and Philtoa officers.


Seven Lakes – San Pablo, Laguna

San Pablo City

The first stop was at the Sampaloc Lake for a magnificent sunrise viewing and was followed by a hearty Seven Lakes Breakfast at Casa San Pablo, a bed and breakfast place. The meal consisted of pinaete (shrimp paste cooked in coconut cream), dried biya from Laguna de Bay, salted egg, longganisang San Pablo, tsokolate and pinipig. A curator of Museo San Pablo talked about the history of San Pablo City, as well as the amazing versatility of the coconut.


In Victoria, regarded as the country’s duck-raising center, we visited farm owners Leo and Josephine Dator, who showed us the different stages of duck farming. Their successful enterprise, Itlog ni Kuya, is known for their organically raised ducks, salted eggs and balut. A cooking demonstration and food tasting of their duck soon followed at their restaurant nearby.




Our group then went straight to the Pila Municipal Hall, where Municipal Mayor Edgardo Ramos welcomed us at his office before we proceeded to visit the town’s tourist attractions.

Pila holds the distinction of being the only town in the country to be recognized as a historical site by both Church and state. Here, we visited the ancestral house of Teodoro Alava that was filled with memorabilia, exuding the aura of a museum of sorts. The parish church of San Antonio de Padua de Pila, the first Antonine parish in the country, is also a must-visit.

This was followed by a cooking demo of local dishes cooked the old-fashioned way: sinukmani, ginataang hipo and puto Pila that successfully whetted our appetites. The main event, to our delight, was a boodle fight. The shared food and laughter while eating with one’s bare hands paved the way for our group to bond.


After the heavy meal, we headed to Nagcarlan’s unique attraction, the Underground Cemetery. The burial site, 15 feet below the ground, was constructed for prominent citizens and Spanish friars while it doubled as a secret meeting place of the Katipunan in 1896.

As for its edible appeal, Nagcarlan brings to the table delicacies such as menudong gulay, bibingka and its famous espasol. The popular shrimp cracker snack Tanyag Kropek is also produced in this town.


The town of Liliw is associated with its slippers and its booming footwear industry. For this reason, we paid a visit to a little factory and we were amazed at the mastery of skills of the workers who churned out footwear with effortless precision. Souvenir shopping at the tsinelas capital of the region soon followed.


In Majayjay we made a beeline for the San Gregorio Magno Parish Church and marveled at its Roman-esque style of architecture. Built in 1649, the Majayjay Church is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the country and has been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The Costales Nature Farm at the foot of Mount Banahaw was the last stop of the day. The farm is a bundle of positive energies teaching visitors about living the healthy lifestyle through its organic produce. Going further, Costales offers various courses related to organic farming.

For dinner, we had to work for our food by participating in the Chef’s Challenge. We had fun sourcing the ingredients of our dish straight from the farm: chasing the free range chicken for our tinola, a demo catching of catfish, lettuce planting in a seedling tray, vegetable picking, cooking the food in a palayok with burning wood as fuel—all contributed to the lively activity.
With our short immersion here, we came to the conclusion that Costales Farm is more than just farming methods; it is a way of life and a philosophy.


Lucban Longganisa 


What is a trip to Lucban without a plateful of its toasted special longganisa and pansit Lucban eaten with a sprinkling of vinegar? Buddy’s is the destination of choice for our breakfast cravings that day.

As the town of Lucban is famous for its Pahiyas Festival, we satisfied our curiosity as to how the edible leaf-shaped wafer known as as kiping is made. We were lucky to have Lucban native Milada Dealo accommodate us at her bed and breakfast place, Sulyap sa Pahiyas, and teach us the art of making kiping. Our gracious host had us taste the fried kiping with a little sugar. She is an authority on the subject, having penned the book The Cuisine of Quezon. Pansit habhab and a moist chocolate cake were also served at our pleasure.

We burned our calories from all the eating by taking a lot of photos at the pilgrimage destination Kamay ni Jesus Shrine and Healing Center. Our group picture was also taken at Malagonlong Bridge, known to be one of the oldest and longest built bridges during the Spanish Era.


We visited the factory of Rodillas’ Yema Cake in Tayabas and saw how the popular dessert was baked that made our mouths water. We smiled with joy when we got to bring home cakes after our factory tour ended.




The town of Sariaya welcomed our caravan with an invitation to down a shot of their lambanog as a part of their local custom—to which we gamely obliged. To our surprise, the women in our party were the ones who drank the coconut wine without any hesitation. At the municipal hall, we joined the mock Agawan Festival. It was every man and woman for him/herself as we grabbed every fruit, vegetable and straw product we could lay our hands on. It was such an adrenaline rush for everybody!

Just a stone’s throw away is the Gala-Rodriquez Heritage House, where we ventured excitedly to discover its history. More than its grand size and expensive furnishings, the most striking feature of the house was the presence of a hidden cellar, where visitors could enter and get a feel of the place for themselves. The house, referred to as malaking bahay (big house), was declared by the National Historic Institute as part of our national heritage.
After a late lunch, we went to see how Lambanog was made using a simple contraption. Nevertheless, even without the high-tech laboratory equipment, it gets the job done like a high-school science project.

San Juan

As night fell, we moved toward La Luz Beach Resort in San Juan, Batangas. Municipal Mayor Rodolfo Manalo welcomed our group at the private cove of the resort. Intercontinental food was served at the buffet station as live music entertained us as we ate dinner. Certificates of participation were awarded as each member of the caravan was called and recognized on stage. A black clay pot was given as a souvenir.

The next day, everyone had a relaxing time at the resort before heading back to Manila around lunch time.

The well-thought-of itinerary was made possible through the partnership of the DOT and the local government units.

The Southern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan is just one of the seven caravans that have been offered at the annual Philippine Travel Mart from September 1 to3 at the SMX Convention Center under the theme “50 Shades of Fun at Visit Asean @50”. The other caravan programs consist of the Cordillera Heritage Caravan, The Visayan Charms, The Caraga Eco Trail, Rediscover Batanes, Northern Palawan (Coron) Eco Adventure Caravan, and Bicol Express. PHILTOA is copresenting the 28th Philippine Travel with the Tourism Promotions Board.

Cesar Cruz Jr.

Author Profile

Cesar studied communication arts at the University of Santo Tomas. He writes articles in the Lifestyle Section of Business Mirror as a lifestyle writer. He manages Pancit Malabon, his own restaurant at Banawe St.

Exploring a World of Hamburgers

Exploring a World of Hamburgers

Reggie Rullan and Gabrielle Borromeo

Published in Daily Tribune Life | May 21, 2011

Oakwood Premier Joy – Nostalg Center Manila’s World of Burgers

Our culinary tour of Oakwood Premier Joy – Nostalg Center Manila’s World of Burgers promotion, which ran in April, was ushered in with a platter of chopped house salad with tangy ranch dressing. There were only a few components on this salad plate, and each ingredient was awakened by clusters of bleu cheese. As we loved bleu cheese and ate it regularly at home, it was a knockout of a starter for both of us. Even the shallots’ piquant tang was conquered by the creamy bleu cheese. A balance of zesty and rich tastes completed the salad experience. The ranch dressing fastened the savory croutons to the lettuce and melded the flavors of the cheese and shallots in a dish you could finish in one fell swoop.

The glass of South African Nederburg Pinotage was an intense dark ruby red cinnamon rich wine, which stood up to the rich strong flavors of the bleu cheese and the shallots. The Pinotage had a full mouth feel with musky spiciness lingering long after each sip.

When the trilogy of so-called mini burgers was set before us, we literally gasped at the sight of the whoppers, towering at three inches with patties and buns four inches in diameter. Despite its daunting appearance, we decided to take the challenge and eat at least a bite of each.

Italian Mini-Burger

The first thing that came into mind after biting into the Italian Burger was Bolognese pasta sauce. The rich, crushed tomato sauce with the burgers was like eating Bolognese pasta sans the noodle. The aragula leaf tucked under the burger gave brightness to the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It was very Italian to have a sharp tasting vegetable set off the richness of the cheese and the inch-thick, all-beef patty encased in a very Italian ciabatta bun.

Caribbean Mini-Burger

With the thinly sliced grilled pineapple, the beef burger tasted like a sausage patty and it reeked of island goodness with the mango relish. The jerk-flavored patty accounted for the island taste in a sesame crusted bun. This was a burger we had several bites of as we marveled at how well the mango married with the beef.

Mediterranean Mini-Burger

Kalamata olive accents on the bun marked the minted burger as unmistakably Mediterranean. With a thick slice of feta cheese cushioning the ground lamb burger, this was reminiscent of a Greek sandwich in a bun instead of a pita. The salty dense feta cheese added to the earthiness of the all-beef patty, a stark contrast to the mildly sweet Caribbean burger and the homey goodness of the tomato rich Italian burger.

Country French Fries

The palate cleaner alongside the bright tasting accent of the 2009 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot was the side of French Fries with its thick cuts, skin on and crisp-fried with pillows of fluffy potato inside. We went back to each burger in between nibbles of the hearty fries. Finishing off the fries seemed no mean task as it disappeared from our platters faster than we thought, as did several rounds of the 2009 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, a wine we could not seem to stop sipping in between bites of our Trilogy of Burgers. It flowed down our palates with seeming ease as we savored the complex notes of the blend of merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Super Brownie Sundae

An avalanche of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream covered the chunky chewy brownies that ended the burger bonanza. The frostiness of the vanilla ice cream surrounded the cocoa rich moist chocolate cookie bars. We reveled in the Super Brownie with chocolate sauce and a cherry on top like kids on a Sunday treat.

Other selections for this burger fest includes: Mexican grilled beef patty, melted cheddar, jalapenos, sour cream and chili in flour tortilla accompanied by nacho chips, salsa and avocado mayonnaise; Classic Double Double with two grilled beef patties, Canadian bacon, crisp smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, onion rings on a sesame bun; Korean beef patty glazed with sweet soy and rice wine, roasted sesame seeds and kimchi on crisp rice disk; French pan-fried, cognac-flamed beef patty with foie gras, Perigourdine sauce on a crusty bun served with truffles and fried potatoes; South Asian vegetarian pan-seared bean patty, light curry gravy, katchumber on grilled naan bread served open faced; South Beach grilled lean beef patty, 500 Islands dressings (low fat version of the original) between two hearts of iceberg lettuce; Argentinean beef patty, chimichurri sauce, Manchego cheese topped with an egg; and Scandinavian grilled salmon fillet, shredded lettuce, lime mayo topped with chopped shrimp salad on a toasted rye soft bun.

Gabrielle Borromeo

Author Profile

Gabe organizes what she sees around her and loves to put it into words. She has been contributing her articles for the Daily Tribune newspaper, Tinig ng Marino (maritime) newspaper, Cook magazine, Appetite magazine and F&B World magazine.

You can contact Gabrielle at: gabrielle_borromeo@write-experts.com

Reggie Borromeo

Author Profile

Reggie is co-founder of Write Concepts Company, the publisher of www.write-experts.com. She manages a network of professional writers and artists in the Philippine publishing world to form a pool of experts and talents that can deliver optimum communications services.

You can contact Reggie at: reggie_rullan@write-experts.com