Tastes of Asahikawa

One unusual thing that I and my colleagues did in our most recent trip to Japan is that we decided to stay in a minimally advertised destination in Hokkaido.  Instead of staying in a more popular Sapporo or Furano, we decided to stay for 2 nights in a remote place called Asahikawa. 

And since there are limited tourist spots to go to (aside from going to a mall and a zoo), I and my colleagues decided to explore Asahikawa through its food.  Our first destination was the ramen house our hotel has recommended, the Ichikura Raman. 

with the asahikawa gang just outside ichikura raman (edwin, malou, gie and dominic) 
surprisingly clear to the palate yet with a distinct flavor of a ramen

 Since Isahikawa seem to be popular with shoyu-based ramen (shoyu: Japanese soy sauce), I settled and ordered the Okhotsk Shoyu Ramen.  This ramen according to the menu is composed with unique Hokkaido ingredients like Namuro dried salmon flakes, Esashi dried herring and Rishiri kelp from Oumu.  I was really happy that Ichikura Raman was the ramen place our hotel has recommended.  And aside from their ramen, one surprising dish in this joint was their Gyoza.  It was one of the best gyozas that I have tasted!

A lot of people say that it would be a sin for a tourist in Hokkaido if he/she failed or refuse to try the Hokkaido ice cream.  This soft frozen dairy is one plain ice cream that is simply made of milk.  It has no fancy flavor, no fancy add-ons and no fancy flairs for an ice cream.  For me, its plainness makes Hokkaido ice cream remarkably exquisite and amazingly elegant. 

happy crew handing me my creamy ice cream 
savoring every moment of yummy-ness!

Then, one of the highlights of our Asahikawa stay was the dinner at Jingisukan Daikokuya.  This restaurant is the top rated local-cuisine restaurant in Asahikawa as per Tripadvisor.  It is so popular people would have to wait and queue outside before they be given a table.  Specialty of the house was Hokkaido’s grill icon called Genghis Khan (also termed Jingisukan).

Like their sophisticated ice cream, Jingisukan is a must try in Hokkaido.  It is a unique style of yakiniku in which mutton and lamb are grilled on a convex skillet shaped like an upside-down bowl.  Since the meat are grilled over charcoal, we were surprised to see and experience the amount of smoke inside the popular restaurant.  We nevertheless did not complain because the smoke actually added up to the character and atmosphere of the establishment. 

outside the resto, waiting for our turn

 

an asahikawa highlight

I personally prefer beef over lamb, but the marinated flavor and the stunning taste of the meat served to us gave me some second thought if I really do prefer beef over lamb. Genghis Khan was strikingly delicious!

Asahikawa may not be of the same level as that of Osaka, Tokyo or Sapporo where there are tons to see and marvel at.  Asahikawa nevertheless has loads of gustatory surprises that tourists can taste and talk about.

Para maiba naman!

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Tessa & Scott Makes Me Wanna Be Canadian

There seem to be no good news in the Philippines for the past 2 years.  Everything on the news concerning the situations in my country were either so bad or gone worse.  Like any other ordinary citizen living in the Philippines, I long for some good news!

Because of the present economic, political and social circumstances of my country, I’m jealous and envious towards the citizens of progressive Canada. These feelings of envy was further reinforced when I saw a YouTube video of the winning dance skating performances of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the recently concluded Winter Olympics. 

Though the Philippines now send delegates, I don’t normally watch the Winter Olympics held every after four years.  Maybe it is because my country does not have a winter season that is why winter sports are so foreign and unfamiliar.

But when I clicked on a recommendation by YouTube about a couple of weeks ago while I was searching for good news about the Philippines in the net, I suddenly wanted to become Canadian while watching Tessa and Scott’s performances. 

My foolish admiration towards Tessa and Scott further intensified when I learned (also from Youtube) that they have been partners in the sports of ice dancing since their cute childhood days.  This made me further admire and fell in love with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. 

They seem so pleasant and amiable that is so typical of a Canadian. I totally admired them to the point that after the day this tandem won their Olympic gold medals, I Facebook-messaged a friend and former colleague (Chef Onille Pitogo) who is now based in Canada, I told her to say hi to both Tessa and Scott if she happens to bump unto this lovely couple. 

I thought that my wanting to become a Canadian would eventually wear off.  But this was again revived and revitalized when I saw a homecoming video of this ice dancing legends when they arrived back in their home country.

Can some nice Canadian adopt me until the next Philippine presidential election? Hahaha!  I badly need some damn awesome news about my country.  And while I await for such moment, my heart continues to melt towards this lovely Canadian couple.

Inggit much grabe! Ay wana be Kaneydiyan!

And Dalawang Mrs. Reyes is Siksik, Liglig at Umaapaw

Siksik, liglig at umaapaw is an old and frequently used Filipino phrase that is often linked and associated with worldly blessings or material wealth.  These are sets of adjectives which means jam-packed, brimful and overflowing.

Siksik, liglig at umaapaw is how I would describe Jun Lana’s the movie entitled Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (translation: The Two Mrs. Reyes), the first Filipino movie I’ve seen this year.  Prior to watching with colleagues, I knew that this is somewhat a comedy movie with gay inclinations, thus, I expected that it shall be a typical Filipino comedy movie that will be nothing but a lampoon, slapstick and mockery of Filipino gayness.  I am glad that I was wrong. 

photo obviously is not mine… got it from abs-cbn star cinema’s promo write-up

The movie is light yet full of heart.  Kids won’t enjoy it but adults will truly have fun for it tackles snippets of the wide spectrum of handling adult relationship and sexuality.  The movie is siksik, liglig at umaapaw with virtues associated to maturity like braveness on accepting and outing the inner confines of one’s true gender or from having vengeful emotions to understanding humanoid character or from being a disgraced spouse to acceptance on the falsehood of humanity.

Actually, the movie is siksik liglig at umaapaw with the intricate and imperfect nature of love.  And since love is imperfect the director was able to cleverly and effectively narrate such imperfections through humor, fun entertainment and laughter yet such narrations are siksik, liglig and umaapaw with good human values and virtues.

movie day with jb, mj and willie

Kaaliw!

Minalungao: A Kept Secret of Nueva Ecija

Prior to leaving for a fifteen-day Turkey adventure, there is one Philippine travel destination that I and some colleagues have been to which I failed to feature and write about.  Three reasons for my failure of writing about this Nueva Ecija place is because (a) I was too pre-occupied about my upcoming Turkey journey; (b) I was too lazy; and, (c) I’ve gone selfish and don’t want to share the beauty and splendor of Minalungao National Park.

I had the least expectations about my going to Minalungao.  It is because I’ve never heard about this place in the first place.  And since it is not a popular Philippine destination, the site must be some mediocre place located in Nueva Ecija.  I was also not expecting much because the scale of planning compared to the amount of planning I have to do with my out-of-the-country planning was way way different.  Lastly, I had the least anticipations because I know quite a number of friends and colleagues who hailed from Nueva Ecija yet none of them seem to recommend visiting Minalungao. 

But as soon as we reached this national park and I alighted from our rented van, my jaw dropped!  I was so surprised to find out that Minalungao was such a Philippine hidden gem.  Also, what is so distinct about the place is that only locals of Nueva Ecija province seem to be around.  There seem to be very few tourists from Manila or even from abroad.

Minalungao is a protected national park considered to be one of the very few remaining natural environments that is close to Manila.  This ecotourist destination offers breath-taking scenery, easy hiking trails, green pristine river, inimitable rock formations and explorable natural caves.

Let my photos speak for Minalungao… 

After exploring what Minalungao and while we were heading to a cheap hotel in Nueva Ecija city center to stay overnight, it was the time I realized why people of Nueva Ecija seem to not recommend it.  Maybe it is because it is so beautiful, Nueva Ecija-ns want Minalungao to be a secret and be a well-kept natural environment.  People of Nueva Ecija wants to keep it for themselves because they don’t want this beautiful nature and physical world phenomena to be spoiled, be blemished and be destroyed by unmindful, insensible and ill-mannered tourists.

That is why after reading this, keep it to yourself. You can visit Minalungao (of course) but never tell anyone about it. Keep it at its status, that is, a secret natural environmental gem.

Kaya kapag nabasa mo ‘to, hwag mo ipag-sabi.

A Last-Minute Villa Escudero Visit

According to Kurt Vonnegut, “bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God”.

villa escudero.

This is exactly what I, JB and MJ underwent.  We initially planned and agreed to go hiking on a mountain and a nature reserve east of Metro Manila.  But when all plans has been ironed out and only a couple of days left prior to leaving, we suddenly changed our mind.  We simply agreed to scratch the plan and instead proceed at the heavenly Villa Escudero, some 2 hours travel south of Metro Manila.

And unlike the previous 2-hour travel adventures that we had in the past in which we would either rent a private van or drive our own car, we used the public transport.  We simply commuted from Manila to Quezon via passenger bus and the ever reliable tricycle.  One bizarre mode of travel for us yet surprisingly comfortable!

I am glad to have changed our plans.  Villa Escudero has remained an amazing Filipino destination!  In summary, this is how fun we had in this beautiful place…

you can never go wrong with this beautiful philippine destination

Kapag biglaan talaga… Natutuloy!!

Self Indulgence at Market Cafe

Some go on travel, some sleep all day, others go on shopping spree. Some would have a make-over, some would spend the whole day at a theme park, others would have a relaxing massage. These are various ways on how people would treat and pamper themselves.

There was no celebration and there was nothing to commemorate, yet I and some of my colleagues decided to indulge in a sumptuous lunch buffet! Aiko, the gentle bloke among all of us happen to own a BDO credit card that provides 50% discount promo at New World Hotel Manila’s Market Café. And since we believe that we deserve for some little treat, we all agreed to avail of the promo!

pig out gang!
yum!
happy tummy! sulit!

All of us deviated from our respective regular breakfast so as to ready our respective bellies to the epicurean event!

We were all happy and pleased by this gastronomic indulgence. The price of the buffet though half-priced is not cheap that is why we truly made sure that it was all worth every penny that we paid for. In fact, we were actually the last group to leave the restaurant! It was so funny because almost all of us turned nauseous because of being so full.

On my way home, this episode made me realize that little pleasures like this get simple people like us get through the everyday grind. Simple people like us, definitely deserve to lead a full and happy life!
Busog!

Sinagtala Farm & Resort: A Place to Visit

If you have been a tourist in the Philippines for a couple of times already and you believe that there is no longer a reason to be back in this tropical country, well, you must reconsider this country again.  Or if you think that you have limited time to spend here in the Philippines and think that getting to popular tourist destinations like Cebu, Palawan, Boracay and Bohol will entail too much of time and money, then you can simply consider going to Sinagtala Farm and Resort.

I and my colleague were just there a week ago.  Sinagtala is located in Orani, Bataan.  It is only two hours easy driving north of Manila.  Why am I recommending Sinagtala as a place to go?  It is because I simply had an awesome experience in this resort.

The food was unexpectedly delicious!  Don’t miss the native Pinakbet and the surprisingly delicious Taro Ice Cream for dessert.

pinakbet

The huge infinity swimming pool is cool!  I usually don’t dip in a public pool, but upon seeing how clean and inviting the pool was, I never had second though of splashing in it.

splash!

The green natural sights are just spectacular!  Fresh air, cool breeze, spectacular flora were something to behold.

nature!

The adventure rides were all so fun!  I love the zipline!!!

that’s jorge my sinagtala adventure ride buddy!

That’s me at the right and Jorge Buenaflor at the left side…

At only 750 pesos (US$15) you can try all their adventure rides and facilities – zipline, sky bike, hanging bridge and giant sky swing.  I am living in the Philippines, I have been to Sinagtala yet I consider coming back in this beautiful place.  I had so much fun in this place I was enthused to create a simple music video of me and colleagues enjoyment in Sinagtala.

Ang sarap! Ang saya!