Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hotel and Inn Review: Alapo's View Inn & Cafe (Sagada, Mountain Province)

Date of Stay: March 28-30, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ****
Condition and Cleanliness: ****
Staff Performance: ****
Room Comfort: ****
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: ***
Value for Money: *****

Alapo's View Inn & Cafe
A spartan room
The 2-storey Alapo's View Inn & Cafe is located about 300 m. from the municipal road, along the now concreted road leading to the next town of Besao.  Like most inns in Sagada, Alapo's is also a no-frills place to stay.  

Their simple, spartan room has 2 beds, a table, a monobloc chair and a small wall-hung mirror.  Evening lighting was provided by a dim, low-wattage energy-saving light bulb.  Truly, no place for the luxury-minded tourist.  

The coffee shop
However, unlike many inns in Banaue, it had a power outlet where we could charge our electronic gadgets.  Bathrooms are shared and showers have no water heaters. Bring a portable water heater.  

The inn has a coffee shop, where you could watch cable TV, and a grocery where we could buy some of your basic necessities.  Their balcony which has great views of the town and the surrounding pine-clad mountains.   These views, plus its central location, made it ideal as a base for exploring Sagada's natural and man-made wonders.  
View of the town from the balcony
Alapo's View Inn & Cafe: Ato, Patay, Sagada, Mountain Province.  Mobile number (Ms. Juliet B. Medina): (0921) 327-9055 and (0918) 332-3331.

Restaurant Review: Sagada Lemon Pie House (Mountain Province)

Sagada Lemon Pie House

The Japanese-style dining set-up
Sagada Lemon Pie House, first opened on March 21, 2008), is home of the delicious lemon meringue pie.  

The restaurant is quite a long way down the South Road, past the iconic Yoghurt House, but you do get to burn some calories along the way and work up an appetite for what's ahead. 
Upon entry, you are first enthralled by its cozy, Bohemian-inspired ambiance.  On the right are low wooden tables with woven mats and throw pillows for seats, a set-up that reminded me of the Japanese dining style.  They also have regular tables and chairs.
We, however, preferred the regular tables and seats

The must try lemon pie
Their prices are quite reasonable - lemon pie and egg pies go for PhP30/slice, same with a cup of Sagada's famous brewed Arabica coffee (PhP30/cup).  
You can also placed an order for a whole lemon pie (PhP200) which you can pick up before you return to Manila.  
The super fluffy lemon pie, though you could distinctly taste the mild sourness and tanginess of the lemon curd, was somehow sweetened by the meringue on top.  
For those who don't like strong, sour tastes, the soft and light-flavored egg pie would be more to your liking.  They also serve the seasonal, not-too-sweet blueberry pie (available in early summer).
Sagada Lemon Pie House: South Rd., Atey, Daoangan, Sagada, Mountain Province.  Mobile number: (0907) 782-0360 (Mr. Joseph Daoas). Website:

Restaurant Review: Cafe St. Joe (Sagada, Mountain Province)

Cafe St. Joe

Sweet and sour pork
The 2-storey Cafe St. Joe, just within the compound of the Episcopalian-owned St. Joseph Resthouse, the largest guesthouse in scenic Sagada (it has 27 rooms and cottages), is a popular hangout for both local and foreign tourists and is a short walk from the jeepney terminal. 
Probably one of the biggest restaurants in the town, the place is usually packed with tourists.  Open all day, the cafe is set within a beautiful garden and, being located on a hill, also has great views of the town.  It also has a lovely second floor verandah, and outdoor seating.  Their extensive menu features generally good Filipino dishes with generous servings of fresh vegetables.  Their delicious, sweet and savory bread, baked by the local French chef, can be bought by the loaf. 

Lemon Chicken

Cafe St. Joe: St. Joseph Resthouse, Sagada, Mountain Province.  Mobile number: (0928) 951-7156 (Ms. Julia Abad).

Restaurant Review: Tchayapan Restaurant (Bontoc, Mountain Province)

Tchayapan Inn & Restaurant
Tchayapan Restaurant near the Bontoc municipal hall, is said to be the town's biggest and best restaurant.  

The restaurant's signature best seller is Tchayapan Rice, Bontoc's version of lechon kawali
It is served with buttered fresh and crunchy vegetables on the side. The Tchayapan Beef Rice also has the same sidings.  Both cost PhP80.   
For the same price, they also offer beef ampalaya rice, chicken rice, sweet and sour pork rice, sweet and sour pork/fish, pinapaitan, beef/pork steak, cheese burgers, pancit canton/bihon and chopsuey. Chopsuey rice costs PhP70.  
They also offer chicken spaghetti (PhP100), spaghetti (PhP40), sandwiches (ham and egg, ham and cheese, tuna, PhP35; cheese, egg, PhP30)
Tchayapan Rice
Tchayapan Beef Rice

Another of their local delicacies is the pinikpikan. Here, the chicken is bloodlessly killed by slowly pummeling its body with a stick or reed so that the blood remains inside. 

After the feathers are singed off in an open fire, the chicken is then chopped and boiled with dried salted pork called etag and simmered with vegetables.  
Tchayapan also offers budget travelers 7 single/double rooms (PhP150/head)with common bath (2 male and 2 female) and 4 double bedrooms with private bath and TV (PhP300-800). 
Tchayapan Inn & Restaurant: Bontoc, Ifugao.  Mobile number: (0929) 683-9607 (Ms. Florence N. Taguiba).  Restaurant open daily, 8 AM-8 PM.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

"Walk This Way" with Carlos Celdran

Carlos Celdran: "The Pied Piper of Manila"

Our tour begins .......
In 2002, Carlos Celdran founded "Walk This Way," a one-man, multi-venue costumed performance that leads  patrons through the walled city of Manila, with Celdran,  the producer and director, also  alternately acting and narrating along the way.  

To explain Philippine history (from the Spanish and American eras up to the Japanese Occupation) in an interesting way, Carlos infused this fascinating performance with a fine-tuned script and theatrical elements as well as comedy, costumes and music, placing special emphasis on issues surrounding Philippine arts, culture, and international geopolitics in order to place Philippine history within a global context. This tour received a thumbs-up feature in a 2005 issue of Time magazine.
The gate of Fort Santiago
The inner walls of the fort

An infusion of comedy
It just so happened that Mr. Celdran, seemingly in a good mood, offered his half-day, weekend Intramuros Barter Tours wherein we just paid a discounted rate of PhP400 (which covers the cost of museum admission, kalesa or pedicab ride, snacks, etc) instead of the normal PhP1,100 (Php600 for students) per person.  However, we also had to trade in something creative and from the heart.  In my case, I traded in a new, autographed copy of my fifth book, A Tourist Guide to NotablePhilippine Museums” (New Day Publishers, 2012). 
Jandy joined us and Cheska brought along Kyle, my grandson, who needed to be breastfed every now and then.  We arrived at Fort Santiago, the assembly area, at a few minutes past the 4 PM scheduled start of the tour, having been delayed by traffic due to road repairs along the way.  Mr. Celdran arrived even later, also caught up in our same predicament.   The weather was rather perfect, not too hot and the sky was clear.

Talking about our National Hero beside the Rizal Shrine
Carlos arrived wearing the Spanish-colonial garb of an illustrado plus his signature bowler hat (he was to do a number of costume changes according to the era) on his shaved head. Our rather huge tour group consisted of 25 – 30 individuals and I was surprised to see that almost half of the group were Filipinos. We all gathered around "The Pied Pipier of Manila" who began his performance with the singing of the National Anthem. I kind of loved the American wartime tunes that came out of an old stereo cassette player which he played while we walked from one area to the next.

Carlos talks about the bombing of Manila
Carlos then took us back in history with his witty remarks and theatrical storytelling. There was never a dull moment as our legendary tour guide gave us a brief yet comprehensive account, from a totally different point of view, of the beginnings of Manila and the dynamic development of Intramuros.  

Carlos then took us back in history with his witty remarks and theatrical storytelling. There was never a dull moment as our legendary tour guide gave us a brief yet comprehensive account, from a totally different point of view, of the beginnings of Manila and the dynamic development of Intramuros.  

Why don’t we have those amazing wonders from our neighboring Asian countries (Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobodur Temple in Indonesia, or Ayutthaya in Thailand)? Well, according to Carlos, we simply didn’t have the raw materials - all we had was highly-flammable bamboo and indigenous volcanic rock and ash. Every now and then, Carlos was shelling out the very iconic, uniquely Filipino ChocNut bars (a childhood favorite of mine) for everybody to sample.
Bulwagan ng Panunulat (Chamber of Texts)
Silid ng Nalalabi (Reliquary Room)

Kyle's first kalesa ride
Inside a tunnel turned airconditioned audio-visual room, Carlos gave us a compelling and unforgettable description of a bombed-out Manila at the end of World War II.   Did you know that it wasn’t the Japanese who destroyed the heart of Manila? 

It was the Americans who bombed, under orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur himself, Intramuros into rubble, killing Japanese soldiers as well as 100,000 Filipino civilians who were treated as collateral damage.  After Warsaw (Poland), Manila was the second most devastated city in the world during World War II. 

From Fort Santiago, Carlos asked us to choose, as mode of transportation to Intramuros, between pedicabs  or the kalesa (a Filipino version of a horse-drawn carriage), paid beforehand by Carlos for us to ride (providing these operators with additional income). 

We chose the more interesting latter, a first time experience for Kyle and a second for the rest of us.  With these modes of transport, we passed by the ruins of the former St. Ignatius Church and the former Ateneo de Manila before reaching our destination - San Agustin Church (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).  There was wedding in progress when we arrived.
San Agustin Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Enjoying our halo-halo as Carlos continues his talk

Presenting Carlos with an autographed copy of my book
Mr. Celdran pointed out the 4 lion sculptures (fu dogs) by the doorway (donated by Chinese who converted to Catholicism), a quirky mix of foreign influence within the designs of the church which include an Italian-inspired painted ceiling, Greek-inspired pilasters on the facade (that doesn’t support anything) and the ornate carvings of the images of St. Augustine and St. Monica on the wooden door. 

We all then crossed over to Casa Manila where, to the delight of the crowd, Carlos capped the tour off with glasses of refreshing halo-halo (translated as “mix-mix”), another traditionally Filipino dessert made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, assorted fruits, gulaman, and sweet, red mungo beans. While we were enjoying this, he incorporated this final sweet treat in his talk, telling us that Filipinos and their culture has become a conglomeration of various cultural (Spanish, American, Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc.) influences. Remove these influences and we just might not be the culture-filled and multilingual people, with such colorful backgrounds, that we are today.  Mr. Celdran ended the 3-hour walking tour with photo ops with guests.
Photo-ops with Mr. Celdran

Walk This Way Tours: Tel: (632) 484-4945.  Mobile number: (0920) 909-2021.  E-mail: Website: