Monday, December 29, 2008

China Town Binondo

While in Manila after booking ourselves for our Corregidor boat trip, Ma'am Cinch and I hanged out in Chinatown in Binondo, Manila. I always like visiting the place, it's colorful.

We first visited Binondo Church also known as Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz. Where our Patron Saint San Lorenzo Ruiz came from. 

 We went to the known Estero to eat lunch. It's tucked along Ongpin Street just a few meters away from the church. It's called Estero because it lies in a small alley beside a smelly creek. But has that authentic Binondo feel. Joff, my friend from college met with us at the restaurant. We ordered Yang Chow fried rice, fish in Tausi and of course frog legs.  It was our first time to eat fried frog legs. It's just like mini size chicken drum sticks. He said we should try the Oyster Cake.  It is chewy and filling, and it was something new to my palette. It is made out of cassava flour with bits of oyster and fried which made it look like torta or a pancake with everything in it.  

Oyster Cake
 The side streets are filled with vendors selling lucky charms and fruits for the New Year. They even sell crystal balls, who knows what future might bring. Even though they have charms, most Chinese I know of are Christians.


Year of the Ox

We stopped by a Chinese drugstore. We hunted for the great "balm".  Ma'am Cinch needed the "hottest". They have several roots, herbs and powders.

 After which we raided the Salazar Bake Shop, I love pastries so we had to go there. We bought some Tikoy and cakes. 
  The pineapple is meant to be hung at entry doors in New Year.

We also passed by Eng Bee Tin, for their famous Hopia. I love the red mongo. 

 Binondo is also known for their volunteer fire fighters. Who said fire trucks should be red? The fire trucks was donated by the owner of Eng Bee Tin hence the color.

 In the heart of Manila, horse drawn carriages are still used, also known as Carretela All you need is a horse and you'll save on gas. But one drawback is, when you smell horse manure are sometimes found on the streets. They should do something about it like what they do in Vigan, they have a sack to collect them.

 We also went to Juan Luna Street, window shopped a bit. Juan Luna is the a passage to Divisoria. Divisoria is known for cheap priced goods mostly made in China I guess.
The streets are jam-packed with vendors due to the holiday. We saw cute puppies. I almost bought one. Actually I wanted to buy them all. 

After our street roaming galore, we snacked at Eng Bee Tin, tried there Siopao with Ube(purple yum) bun and the fried wantons. In my own opinion it didn't taste good.  I like the ordinary Siopao.

We were planning to go to Intramuros, the Spanish Walled City but we lack the time so our Manila roaming ended there. I'm planning to go back and have a real food exploration.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Taal Town

On our second day, We went to Taal, the Town. The town is far from the Volcano itself. We had a stop over at Mahogany Market. There are lots of fruits and veggies. That's why it is nice to live up there, with the nice climate and the fresh harvest. We bought some fruits like Chesa and Guyabano(soursop). And when we but kakanin, there would always be free-taste. Sweet!!!

Then we drove off to Lemery then past the bridge to Taal Town. It is where the rich and the political people lived during the Spanish Era. We first visited Taal Basilica, the largest church in Asia. The original was was built in 1575 in another location and was destroyed in one of the eruptions in 1754, rebuilt in the actual location in 1755. Every time the volcano erupts, towns are relocated/reshuffled, so towns are not on their original locations. The dome still has the original painting.

At lunch time, we ate at Taal Bistro Restaurant. We enjoyed their native food, Tapang Taal(fried pork marinated in soy sauce) and Enseladang Talong(Eggplant salad with red egg,onions, tomato and green mango). The chicken is also delicious.

After which we roamed around the town itself. We first visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. They say it's miraculous. Legend says a fisherman found the image floating at sea. The image was protected by two Caysaysay birds, hence the name. We took 100  steps down to reach the church. We also visited the Sta. Lucia wells, with miraculous waters. It is part of a sunken church.

We roamed the streets again, saw the ancestral houses, but too our dismay, they were closed because they say its a holiday. I told them. The heritage town Vigan is too far from the Manila, but tourists go there, and they don't close it. Unlike Taal, which is accessible from Manila, but few people knew that there is a heritage town there. It's lack effort on their tourism.

Taal is known for Piña clothe embroideries. Marcela Agoncillo, the one who embroidered the first Philippine flag lived there. People travel to buy Barong and Balisong(Iron butterfly) there. When I asked the lady how long it takes to finish one design, she said it took her 6 months. wow! There are also lots of shops selling gowns, for weddings, Sagalas, and what have you. Some are classy and some are whimsical as if it came out of a story book. We went to the market bought some authentic pasalubong like, Tablea(pure chocolate for hot choco), ube(purple yam), Tapang Taal, and suman( sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with sugar which is wrapped in banana leaf).

We returned to Tagaytay on our way back to Manila. There are mounds of pineapples at the side of the road. We bought some, they are in different sizes. And we passed by Mahogany Market again to buy more fruits, like jackfruit, Señorita bananas, and Ube. At dinner time we ate Bulalo(beef bone marrow soup). On the Sta. Rosa route, we bought some Collette's Buko Pie for pasalubong.

All in all, our short trip was fun, full of adventure and we love cultural/historical discovery of the past. Batangas is such a rich province, there are lots to see and experience. And it is also fun to travel with different people who treats you as family. It is a refreshing experience.