February 28, 2011

DINING: Cafe Mesa, Clark

Café Mesa is a charming little restaurant with a view of Stotsenberg Parade Ground at Clark Freeport Zone. It occupies one of the oldest barns in the area which was a military base camp back in the days, restored to a sunlight filled joint where the smell of freshly brewed coffee is prevalent in the air and the internet is zippy fast and free!


Café Mesa with its rustic ambiance offers a variety of well priced savory international menu.

Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Salmon with Rice and Spinach
Tuna Sashimi

Brownie ala Mode 

Also, Café Mesa serves coffee using a special brewing technique, making use of a Siphon apparatus (vacuum pot brewer imported from Japan) to make sure that all the flavors of the coffee goes straight into your cup.

Siphon Brewer 
(a mad scientists’ coffee machine)

Cuisine: International, Coffee
Price Range: php190-above
Address: Bldg 2078, Cardinal Santos Avenue, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Philippines
Tel. No.: (045) 499-0684

written by kim

February 24, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Harbor Square, Manila

Ask any photography enthusiast in Manila where is the best place to catch a sunset or for practicing your night photography skills and 8 out of ten will say “Manila Harbor Square."

You’d be surprised that as early as 4pm, a line of tripod goes as far as your eyes can see. We missed out on the sunset this time though because of the traffic our dear Manila is also famous for but if I may say so myself, we still got pretty good shots.

And if you get hungry anytime during the shoot or you wanna reward yourself after getting perfect exposure, there are also loads of restaurants and coffee shops in the area. Below is the list for some of them. 

Dencio’s Bar and Grill
Food: Filipino, Seafood, Grill
Price Range: php150-500 

Food: Snacks, Ice Cream, Desserts
Price Range: php50-200 

Food: Filipino fast food, Snacks
Price Range: php35-150 

Food: American fast food, Snacks, mostly chicken
Price Range: php35-600 

Mang Inasal
Food: Filipino, mostly chicken
Price Range: php50-200 

Mocha Blends
Food: Gourmet Sandwiches, Coffee
Price Range: php 50-above 

Pancake House
Food: Snacks, pancakes, fusion, American, pasta
Price Range: php100-700 

Food: Gourmet sandwiches, cakes, snacks, coffee
Price Range: php200-above 

Reyes Barbecue
Food: Grilled
Price Range: php50-300 

Teriyaki Boy
Food: Japanese
Price Range: php200-above 

HOW TO GET THERE: Harbor Square is in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City near the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).  The easiest although not necessarily fastest way to get there is by a cab, most drivers know where it is.  you can also take the LRT line 1 and get off at Vito Cruz Station, from there just ask around for jeepneys going to CCP.

February 23, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Manila American Cemetery & Memorial

If you want an off the beaten track destination when in Manila this could be the one for you.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig is the biggest war memorial in the Pacific for Americans and a few Filipino military men killed during World War II. Most of them  lost their lives on New Guinea and the Philippines.

It has the largest number of graves, a total of roughly 17,202 headstones that are aligned to form a circular pattern.

The chapel which stands almost at the center of the cemetery is made of a tall white stone. Beside the chapel are two large hemicycles with large rectangular limestone’s where missing war causalities are honored. It also has 25 large mosaics maps recalling the achievements of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Pacific.

HOW TO GET THERE:  from anywhere in Manila, take a cab and tell the driver to take you to the Manila American Cemetery at the Global City in Taguig near Mckinley Hill. Make sure that the meter is on.

February 22, 2011

DINING: Larsian, Cebu

I've been meaning to check out Larsian whenever I'm in Cebu but I'd always end up eating somewhere else. But on our last trip there on the tail end of tropical typhoon Amang, I've convinced K to check out Larsian for a second dinner. Our first one was just 3 hours ago at Fridays. (*Insert sheepish smile*)

So from Ayala Mall, we hopped on a cab and headed on to Rodriguez St. near Fuente Osmena Park and Chonh Hua Hospital for Php40 (USD 0.92)

Larsian is similar to that of an open air fast food hall except that it only sells barbecues of all kinds (which totally explains the need for an open air).

Chicken, seafood, chorizo (sausages), hotdogs, pork and other weird looking but rather tasty pig parts best paired with puso or steamed rice wrapped in coconut leaves along with bottled drinks of all sorts. Looking around, beer seems to be the favored choice of drink around here.

 pork & chorizo barbecue 

isaw (pork intestine) and 
betamax (pigs coagulated blood) 

puso or hanging rice (steamed rice wrapped in young coconut leaves)

The barbecues here is at rock bottom prices but I can’t say that it’s the best bbq I’ve had in Cebu.  It was just a little too much on the sweet side for me, although admittedly I dint get to try every stall. So I guess I just have to go back and try the other stalls for a more comprehensive and unbiased review. I’m not also a beer drinker so that might make a difference.


Larsian is not only famous to the locals, evident in some stalls with menus translated in Korean and Japanese and I also spotted a few visiting Europeans downing bottles of San Miguel pale pilsen.

Eating at Larsian for me is more for the experience than the actual culinary fare. If you want a no fuss really affordable dining, these could be the place for you.

Pork bbq – P5.00 (USD 0.12)
Pork belly – P12.00 (USD 0.28)
Chicken liver – P12 (USD 0.28)
Chorizo – P15 (USD 0.35)
Chicken – P45 (USD 1.04)
Puso – P3 (USD 0.07)

written by kim & mj

February 21, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: Costa Marina Beach Resort, Samal

Costa Marina Beach Resort is just a few minutes away from Davao City.

Located in Babak, Samal, it can be reached by a 15 minute boat ride from the Sasa Dock Area or better know to the Dabawenyos as the “Paradise Island Dock.” (It shares the area with Paradise Resorts dock, that's why.) There’s also an option to bring your own car and board the ferry for a higher cost.

TIP:  if you’re only staying at Costa Marina and don’t intend to go resort hopping, I suggest you take the boat, it’ll actually save you time and money.  Chartered boats are available from 10am to 5pm every day.

Costa Marina charges P100/head entrance fee and is perfect for a lazy day on the beach just lounging on the shore with a glass of cocktail or reading a good book. The shoreline is dotted with tree and offers ample shade.  The resort also offers a number of aquatic activities like jet skiing, kayaking and snorkeling, and paddle boats. For land activities, there is volleyball.

You can bring your own food and drink for a minimal corkage, but they have a restaurant that serves surprisingly good food and serving is for sharing. On our recent trip there, we had grilled boneless bangus (P160), seafood bihon guisado (P160), and buttered chicken (P220) for lunch. The tasty noodle dish and chicken was a lot that it lasted us until merienda. Their bar is also relatively well stocked and a bottle of San Mig light is priced at P49.50.

The resort also has cottages for overnight stays, rates starts at 2500 per room.

For reservations call : 63-82-2331209

written by kim

February 20, 2011

MY PHILIPPINES: How to Get to Samal Island

If you’re living in Davao consider yourself lucky because going to the beach doesn’t require full production planning compared to when you're residing at other metros (i.e. Manila). Beaching, as a friend puts it can be done with “isang kembot lang” effort (one booty shake).

You can hop on a car get and get on a roll on-roll off (RORO) ferry at kilometer 11 wharf in Sasa and in just 10 minutes you’re already in Kinawitnon wharf in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) well known for its pristine beaches and beautiful resorts. The fee is 270php, in excess of a driver and 1 passenger you pay 10php per head. The ferry leaves the port in a 15 minute interval.

February 19, 2011


I know I said I like traveling light and I do.  I try to pack as little clothing and travel essentials as possible, but when it comes to my camera and it's accessories, it’s pretty much no holds barred.

What’s inside my camera bag:
2 ND filters
1 GND filter
Square Filter adapter and holder
Circular Polarizer
Flash Trigger
Shutter Remote
8 AA Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries
2 SD cards
Nikon sb600
Nikon d60 with battery grip and an 18-135mm lens
Nikon 35mm lens
Portable Hard Drive
sometimes a 15.7 inch laptop

It’s not really a long list but try carrying it all in one pack while traveling and you’re bound to break that back of yours.  

For someone who has a bad back like I do (don’t get any ideas, it’s not because of old age) searching for the right camera bag is quite challenging.

With all the brands available in the market, picking the perfect one is no walk in the park, and it doesn’t help that they cost more than my Cebu pacific roundtrip plane tickets either.

Can carry 2 dslr bodies, 3-4 lenses, flash and accessories, can hold laptops up t0 15.4”, fully adjustable dividers, has front and side filter pockets.  While the pack is well padded the straps weren’t, I always feel like they were about to tear away from the pack itself.  For a backpack that carries so much weight, the straps should have a little more thickness to them and a padded waist support too.  This bag can accommodate a lot but the lack of pads in the strap just didn’t do the job for me.

image from top1trader.multiply.com
Fancier Type 2 Pro DSLR/Laptop Backpack php 2,300
available at top1trader.multiply.com

Side entry compartment provides easy access to the camera even while walking, all you have to do is slide the pack 180 degrees to your side, you don’t even have to put it down in the ground, open the zipper, pull the camera out and shoot away.  Outer pockets for external accessory storage, thick cushioning for better protection of your gear, adjustable dividers, water resistant, can fit 15.7” laptops and a side mesh pocket for water bottles and other accessories.   Straps are well padded and have waist support, perfect bag especially if I need to carry my laptop with me.  

google images
  Lowepro Fastpack 250 php4,500

Minimalist design with adjustable shoulder straps, there’s a loop on the back for attaching waist belts. Not enough storage space, although you can store basic accessories like memory cards and USB cables and a spare battery..  Fits most cameras with an 18-55mm or 55-200mm lens without a battery grip.  So forget walking around with another lens and a flashgun, although you can always carry your filters in your cargo pants side pockets.

google images
Case Logic TBC 306 Camera Holster php1,000

The brand that has fancy names and has fancy colors too.  Water repellent and has a rip-stop lining, fully padded adjustable dividers, external pocket enough for spare batteries, cables and cleaning materials, internal mesh zip pocket perfect for filter storage, side gear loops for attaching lens and other accessory pouches.  Great bag, carries all my camera needs.

google images
Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home php5,000

Out of the four camera bags I’ve mentioned, only two has really served its purpose, the Lowepro Fastpack 250 and Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home.  The Fastpack is perfect for travels that requires the services of my laptop, but for days where I can do without it, I just take my Six Mil with me, it’s easier to carry, gives me more maneuverability than carrying a huge pack on my back, and it looks more fancy!

And although I’m quite satisfied with the two bags, it still hurts my back.  So the search is far from over because a camera bag can make or break your vacation, i mean your back.

written by kim


February 11, 2011

DINING: Suman at Tsokolate at Club Serena Resort, Moalboal, Cebu

Moalboal is known to be one of the best dive destinations in the Philippines and because of its proximity to Cebu City, Cebuanos are starting to frequent Moalboal’s beaches for its crystal waters and well, its fine white sand.

A trip to the beach in the middle of a storm wasn’t so bad after all. Yes I wasn’t able to get that poster perfect tan but boy did I have an awesome time.

While it was impossible to enjoy the beach given the bad weather it’s never impossible under any circumstances to have a good time especially when there’s food around.

It’s a good thing that Club Serena, the resort right beside where we were staying had its own restaurant because ours didn’t.

The resorts menu offered quite a variety of international food. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t find Danggit on the menu, I mean, since I was in Cebu I was kinda expecting to see it on any menu. But the following quite made up for that minor disappointment.

 Grilled Squid php202

Pork BBQ php162

Shrimp with Cashew Nuts php 241

 Mango Cheesecake php95

The only signature Pinoy food they offered was Turon and Suman at Tsokolate. We didn’t get to try the Turon since the guests from California had a field day with all the bananas and bought it wholesale but I had the Suman at Tsokolate twice and I had it in the space of less than 24 hours.

  Suman at Tsokolate with Ripe Mango php174

Club Serena's Suman at native Tsokolate with ripe mangoes on the side was so good i had to have it as a midnight snack and for breakfast the next day.  The native hot chocolate in an espresso cup had a perfect blend of sweetness and bitternes and the serving size was just right, perfect foil to the chilly weather. I expected to hate biting into small slices of ginger but the subtle herby taste refreshed the palate and balanced all the sweetness. Biting into it turned out  to be quite a pleasant surprise!

The best part is this - a well stocked bar.

bottle of Gato Negro php350

Club Serena Resort also has its own Dive Shop.  For rates and reservations visit their website: http://www.clubserenaresort.com/

CUISINE: International
PRICE RANGE: php100-500
LOCATION: Club Serena Resort, Brgy. Saavedra, Basdaku, Moalboal, Cebu
TEL. NO.: (032) 474-0050

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