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.

Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure

Gabrielle R. Borromeo

Published in Daily Tribune |November 30, 2018

A Culinary Adventure

Having been born and raised in Baguio City, I thought I knew all there was to know about the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

A culinary adventure recently, organized by the Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEx) and San Miguel Corp. (SMC), proved me wrong.

Tony Reyes, the marketing manager of TPLEx, emphasized, “It’s not about the road, it’s about the destinations. We want to promote tourism in places never before seen here.”

True enough, the Daily Tribune and other media guests experienced North Luzon in a whole different light. We visited landmarks from Nueva Ecija to Binalonan, all the way to Baguio that deserves more spotlight than it has ever been given.

Holy Veil at Nampicuan

The adventure began at TPLEx, on the way up to Baguio, where we first stopped by The Sanctuary of the Holy Face of Jesus Immaculate Conception Parish. This Nueva Ecija church used to be visited only by the people in the community.

Recently, however, visitors have been growing in numbers to view the Holy Veil and visit the church itself.

The Holy Veil at Nampicuan is an exact replica of the original one in the Basilica di Volto Santo in Manoppello, Italy. What makes it an official replica is that it is claimed by the Church to be the only burial cloth that touched the actual cloth that touched Jesus Christ.

It was gifted to Nampicuan by the Rector of the Basilica and Guardian of the Relic, Capuchin Friar Carmine Cuchinelli, in 2014 after its Philippine tour. Since then, this humble church has been declared a Shrine by the Catholic Church.

It has made a name for itself, and today, a signage along TPLEx, draws more people to visit. It also has two jampacked services on Sunday and a large crowd on celebrated Christian occasions like Holy Week.

Chef Aldwin Soriano demonstrated how to make Binalonan’s longganisa.

Ylang-Ylang Processing Plant

This leg of the trip reminded me of my childhood days where field trips consisted of visiting factories and plants, and seeing for oneself how a product comes to be.

Here, we were shown how the ylang -ylang flower was made into essential oils, perfumes and other sprays. We were each given an ylang-ylang reed diffuser to try for ourselves.

The local bloom grows profusely in the northern provinces of Tarlac and La Union.

Ylang-Ylang flowers are made into essential oils, perfumes and other sprays at this processing plant.

Ruperto’s Inland Resort

Showcasing Binalonan’s famous longganisa, our brunch was enjoyed in this resort. Binalonan’s local sausage contains lean meat, with hardly any fat in it. A cooking demonstration on how to make the longganisa was held by SMC using their products.

Farmer’s Daughter

The trip to Baguio took a few hours, so we were ready for our late lunch at Farmer’s Daughter when we arrived at the highlands. This got me excited because of where the restaurant was situated, somewhere far from the city proper.

Farmer’s Daughter had a homey, provincial feel to it, not to mention it was a bit chilly already. I was surrounded by wood, including the walls, tables and benches.

What was served was Pak-Pako Salad, a river fern salad with tomato and cucumber mixed vinaigrette; Pinikpikan, an Igorot chicken dish (Cordilleran version of tinola) with Etag (salted meat); Kinuday Jen Baboy, stir-fried smoked pork; Kinuday Jen Baka, steamed smoked meat; and Dinakdakan, a charred pork ear, tongue and snout dressed in pig’s brain and other spices.

I highly enjoyed the Pinikpikan and Pak-Pako Salad, but the rest were all too new for me, and a little too overwhelming to eat. Nonetheless, they are definitely dishes everyone must try for the experience.

DINAKDAKAN, a Cordilleran specialty of charred pig’s face served at Farmer’s Daughter.

Mama’s Table

The highlight of this trip was the extravagant and lavish dinner at Mama’s Table by Chef Vicky Tinio-Clemente. It was special because no one can just walk in as they please to dine here — one must reserve a table and come with a minimum of six diners. During special occasions, reservations can be a challenge as this home is always fully booked.

When we entered the premises, we all felt as if we were transported to a scene from a movie — a cozy home with wooden accents, similar to a cabin but more modern. The house was huge, with walls that were all colored in a rusty red hue. Dim yellow lights set the mood.

What surprised all of us were Mama’s Tables, literally two huge, long tables that were beautifully prepared as if the Queen of England were joining us.

Candles lit the table, with wooden ornaments as centerpieces. These brought beauty to the table, not to mention the lovely yellow and white flowers in bloom. The charger plate was gold, making us all feel like royalty. It was truly a forest fairytale, and we were all guests of honor.

We were welcomed with unlimited wine and softdrinks. For the SMC French-inspired eight-course degustation at Mama’s Table, the first to be served was the spreads and dips. This included the Bagna Cauda (anchovy garlic dip) with vegetable crudites like chopped cucumber, carrots and broccoli; Smoked Bangus Mousse served with R. Lapid’s chicharon that chef gets fresh; the Chili Con Carne that everyone was raving about served with hint of lime tostitos; and the Artichoke Parmesan and Mozzarella Spread served with assorted breads and crackers.

The Amuse Bouche was adorably presented — a brown eggshell sitting pretty on a white throne with one finger toast brushed with anchovy butter. Inside the shell was a quiche, almost like an omelette, with caramelized onions, sautéed locally-grown tasty mushrooms, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses in strong and delicious truffle oil custard, all baked together.

Third was the Squash Soup with a twist. This was the best I’ve tried so far. It wasn’t thick, but runny with a little touch of graininess. It was cooked with just the right saltiness of smoked bacon, grated apples, thyme and port garnished with julienned crunchy apples, crispy bacon bits and roasted pine nuts that came as a surprise to the mouth.

Intermezzo 1 was next, which was a baked herbed feta in puff pastry topped with smoked salmon, acidulated fennel, tobiko roe and capers.

A WARM and cozy dinner at Mama’s Table as Chef Vicky Tinio-Clemente (inset) prepares an eight-course French degustation for her guests.

For the seafood course, a baked pinkish-orange Norwegian salmon that melted in my mouth was served. It was one of the highlights of the night, if not my favorite. I’ve eaten salmon so many different ways but this made me fall in love. It was so soft that it vanished too quickly from my mouth, which was the only disappointment because I could eat this everyday. It was served with thin zucchini slices, topped with peas and pepper like stars in the sky, with a hint of tarragon, orange supremes and citrus buerre blanc.

The Intermezzo 2 was a sweet and salty cheese two-ways. One way was the crunchy and fulfilling buttered bread cup in the shape of a boat with mouthwatering aged Manchego cheese topped with Hill Station’s Guava Jam. They complimented each other with the perfect amount of contrasting tastes. The other way was the triangle slice of Truffle Noire Aged Gouda drizzled with truffle honey. I love honey I would have loved more of it in the cheese.
Who knew cheese and honey made such a great team?

For the meat course, what was served was tender roasted chicken breast topped with honey cured bacon in Saltimbocca style. I found this dish a little too strong for my palate, but great for people who love salty food. It was stuffed with sage, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano cheeses. On the side was the red wine reduction mushroom jus and risoni in mushroom cream sauce with French beans, asparagus and snowpeas.

For the digestive, we were served an easy-to-eat salad that was like a taco. The Romaine lettuce was drizzled with house-made Caesar Salad dressing using local Benguet lemons, grated Parmesan cheese, crunchy bacon bits and baked croutons.

Contrary to modern belief that salads should be eaten before the main course, the French originally served it at the end of the meal. It was just served at the right time because it cleansed the palate before dessert.

This came as a duo of Toblerone chocolate and Essenso Microground Coffee mousse with whipped cream, diced fresh mango; and Creme Brulee in a mini saucer served with whipped cream and diced mangoes, sprinkled with Swiss chocolate and Essenso coffee.
The great ambiance, soulful music, splendid food and amazing company completed the four-hour meal.

The soulful music was performed by Paul Columna, vocalist from Camel Hump, a local band from Baguio. He sang folk indie songs with his trusted acoustic guitar. It was music perfect for the chilly weather.

Baguio Country Club

We rested our heads that night in this Baguio classic, the views splendid for our city-weary eyes.

The next day, we had the morning to ourselves, with the option to go to the Trading Post early to purchase extremely affordable vegetables or sleep in and enjoy the sweater weather of Baguio.

Museo Kordilyera

The first adventure for the second day was at the UP Baguio Museo Cordillera (The Museo Kordilyera). As I mentioned, I was born and raised in this city, yet I had never ventured into this museum. I’m sure plenty of locals and tourists alike walk past this museum, not taking the advantage to immerse themselves in their own cultural heritage.

At The Museo Kordilyera, there was so much to learn and the museum was actually very engaging. There were lifesize figurines of the natives and their actual house as well. It was a three-level structure with the reception level visible on the surface and a few historical artifacts to see.

For more to see at the second and third floor, one must avail of an entrance ticket. This ticket leads one to view most of Museo Kordilyera’s essential facilities which include a permanent collection and curatorial space for ethnographic materials; a temporary exhibition space for loaned exhibitions and collateral activities by students, faculty and alumni; a visitor’s room for museum orientation purposes; an audio-visual room; and a museum shop and café.

The Museo Kordilyera is part of an infrastructure development plan initiated by UP Baguio Chancellor Raymundo D. Rovillos. This development plan had been approved and funded by the UP system under the administration of university President Alfredo A. Pascual. This museum, as Vice-Chancellor for Administration Prof. Jessica K. Cariño said, will focus “on the collection, preservation and display of objects associated with the unique societies and cultures of the Cordillera region.”

Carved wooden sculptures at the Museo Kordilyera.

BZA Home Style Crafts

For dessert, we all had this sweet and delicious Strawberry Shortcake topped with Magnolia’s Vanilla Ice Cream at BZA Home Style Crafts.

BZA is a three-year-old arts and crafts shop in Baguio City where one can paint, create rhinestone art and more. It was born out of the passion of Donna Marie Navarrete. It was her love for the arts and crafts that brought her and her eldest son, Brandon, to manage this business together.

This dedicated single mother of three named BZA after her three sons Brandon, Ziggy and Andrei.

Donna said she saw the need for art in the area, so she started with cross-stitch and crochet then ventured into DIY 5D Rhinestone Art in the late 2014. Rhinestone art is a jeweled art. It begins with a sheet of paper with numbers or colors, and all one has to do is glue the rhinestones to the designated number or colors until it is filled up to complete the jeweled image. BZA also offers customized rhinestone art for anyone interested using their desired image.

BZA, located at 1st Road, Quezon Hill, Baguio City, is part of Donna’s beautiful home. “This house has history. This used to be former President Manuel L. Quezon’s vacation house back in the 1930s or the 1940s, so when I got it, it was still spooky. What’s great about it is the space, which is why my son, Brandon, truly believed in its potential. Yes, it’s all my son’s idea. He’s my pride. This was how he came in. His vision turned this into a full blown restó cafe. People now even host events here.”

Aside from an art cafe, Donna also manages a furniture shop and an indoor golf course. “Yes, I also have a furniture shop and everything here in this art cafe is for sale, meaning we have stocks if anyone is interested. As for our indoor golf course, well, my family and I are sporty and since it rains a lot in Baguio, we made an indoor golf using a golf simulator. This way, there is no need to protect oneself from the sun! Also here in our indoor golf course, basically anyone can play a whole round of golf. We even have different courses.”

BZA Home Style Crafts has branches in Taguig City and Binondo in Metro Manila; Angeles City, Pampanga; Imus, Cavite; San Jose and Baliuag in Bulacan.

PLATES of BZA’s Strawberry Shortcake.

Lemon and Olives Greek Taverna

Lunch was at a quaint, wooden cottage-themed old house turned into a restaurant along Outlook Drive South, Baguio City.

This restaurant has a beautiful view of Baguio’s greenery, especially their al fresco area. This spot is where tables are perched on a little veranda where guests can enjoy the landscape.
Also, every nook and cranny of Lemon and Olives is decorated from exterior to interior. On the outside, plants dangle from the entrance; while inside, the finest details can be seen on the painted walls, chairs, tables and decorations.

This new establishment celebrated its first anniversary last June.

We enjoyed their homemade pita, Greek dips, chicken and salad. Their servings are big and are good for sharing.

Homemade pita, Greek dips, chicken and salad can be enjoyed at the cottage-themed Lemon and Olives Greek Taverna.

House of Yogurt

Our final stopover was at the House of Yogurt. Their home blend yogurt was thick and fully satisfying. Their yogurt is a must-try during one’s trip to Baguio.

They also have a pasalubong (souvenirs) area right at the entrance, showcasing the “Best of the Highlands.” All the best products from the provinces within Cordillera can be found at this one-stop shop.

House of Yogurt’s healthy yet delicious yogurt parfait and their very own must-try special turon.

They also have a pasalubong (souvenirs) area right at the entrance, showcasing the “Best of the Highlands.” All the best products from the provinces within Cordillera can be found at this one-stop shop.

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