Category Archives: food

A Taste of Binondo

“Nibbling our way through Chinatown: Four hundred years of history and up to four hours of decadence!” says the promotional material for Ivan Man Dy’s “Binondo Food Wok.” Indeed, Binondo has such a long and rich history that its story is inextricably tied with that of the country.

Binondo, according to Nick Joaquin in his book Manila, My Manila, was “a process to absorb the Chinese into Philippine culture.” It was formally established in the mid-1650’s through a land grant given to the Christianized Chinese. Before Binondo, Manila’s Chinese community was confined to ghettoes locally known as the “Parian.” The Parian was vital because it supplied the city with silks, porcelains, lacquered furniture, food products, as well as every kind of artist or craftsman. The Chinese, however, were persecuted at various points of history, as authorities get alarmed over their swelling numbers. With the creation of Binondo, a new Chinese community arose – the Chinese mestizaje – that was distinct from the Parian, with its residents increasingly identifying themselves with the native indios.

Or, as Ivan put it, Binondo was where they put the Chinese who were “well-behaved.” Still, Ivan continued, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Binondo was established just across the river from the walled city of Intramuros, “just within range of the city’s cannons.”

With such tongue-in-cheek quips Ivan peppered his spiels as we wove through the streets of Binondo. He made history sound as palatable as the Chinese dishes that the walk featured. Arrayed in a Chinese red silk blouse and traditional Chinese hat, he also carried a small Philippine flag that he used to wave at passing traffic to get us across the streets. He looked the very picture of the Chinese-Filipino integration that is Binondo.

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exhaustingly satisfying… i want more!

We’re inundated with projects left and right, I haven’t had more than 4 hours’ worth of sleep at a time in more than a week, my allergies are acting up because of the stress, my eyes are turning red for no particular reason, I just received what arguably was my worst tongue-lashing at work yesterday which I haven’t really gotten over yet – all these are going on, and yet I just have to stop for a few minutes and write about the humongous food trip that was my Bacolod weekend.

One of my priorities was to go back to the Pala-Pala Restaurant in 18th St., and come dinnertime I dragged Mika and Nini over there to partake of a delightful – and, admittedly, excessive – feast. There were three of us, and we ordered sinigang, calamares, sisig, and grilled tanigue (at least I think it was tanigue. Can’t remember. It was a heady time). The sinigang came in this humongous bowl one can practically swim in – and while I preferred the sinigang I had the first time I came there (different kind of fish maybe. Plus I didn’t do the ordering that time), it was still marvelous. My favorite was the grilled fish. And oh, we had gallons of the bottomless iced tea, served diligently by the ever-attentive waiters who kept filling up our glasses, until Nini finally said, in an almost tearful voice, “Tama na po,” to the waiter who asked us if we wanted some more.


Having had our fill of the dinner, we headed out to the next destination in the agenda: Calea, located just around the corner from the Pala-pala. We knew we were too full from the dinner, and realized we should have paced ourselves, but we just couldn’t miss going to the city’s most famous dessert place (thanks again for the directions, jules!). And oh. my. god. When we got to the place we spent like ten minutes just gushing over the display at the counter, going back and forth from the main counter to the refrigerator display, just exclaiming “wow!” “gosh!” “pretty!” and more of such inanities. You’d think we’ve never seen cakes in Manila. Of course we have. It was just, I don’t know, special. The giddines was just slightly marred when the waitress stopped us from taking photos of the counter display. My mouth, which was already opened and gaping from all the gushing, fell open a bit more as I was struck speechless for a moment. Bawal daw. Okay, then, what about when the cake’s already at my table? Surely we can take pictures then, right? I think I would have stood there and argued about my constitutionally guaranteed right to take pictures of my own cake till kingdom come, but thankfully I didn’t have to because the woman immediately said that we could take pictures at our table. We finally settled on these beauties: Continue reading

my first food entry, mmm

this is a rather belated entry, but for the record, here are the food items i brought back from my five-day-three-city Visayan work trip last week:

  • from Cebu: dried mangoes
  • from Bacolod: butter scotch, pastillas de manga, tuna chicharon, cream meringue, napoleones, macapuno candy, jar of spicy herrings in olive oil and capers
  • from Dumaguete: silvanas

Okay, I know you think that I’m a complete glutton who totally deserves her weight, but let me clarify that the stuff’s mostly pasalubong, and not for me at all. I did not keep even a single package for myself, except for the macapuno candy which I forgot about and is now kind of moldy and – well, not edible. What I did was give them to other people and then eat a piece or two after they’ve opened the packages, he he. Simple and efficient. It satisfied my urge to taste everything and my duty to give pasalubong, while still avoiding the onset of diabetes due to sheer gluttony.

So that’s as far as the stuff I brought from Visayas goes. These, obviously, did not even manage to leave the island where they were baked:

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