The Wife and I began our 2-week trip to the Philippines with a 4-day stay on beautiful Boracay Island. Prior to this trip, I had visited the Philippines twice but had never been to Boracay, and my wife had never been to the Philippines at all. So I figured a few days of sun and sand at a beach resort would be a great start to our vacation.
With its powdery white sand and warm blue waters, Boracay is as close to paradise as it gets. But aside from the main beachfront drag known as, what else, White Beach, there are plenty other activities to keep one occupied on Boracay: sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, island hopping, girl ogling people watching, shopping, drinking, eating, eating, and eating.
Luckily for the wife and I, two of my cousins stayed at a nearby resort and accompanied us for our first two days in Boracay. I say luckily because we enjoyed the company of my cousins (of course), but also because my cousins were quite adept in the fine art of haggling with the many hawkers and vendors roaming the white sands of Boracay. If it weren't for my lovely cousins, I think I would have paid a jillion pesos and my yet-to-exist first-born child in exchange for a souvenir Boracay T-shirt. But thanks to the bargaining prowess of my cousins, I only had to pay 150 pesos for the shirt (whew!).
After a quick dip in the ocean upon our arrival in the morning, we made our way to the Boracay marketplace known as D*talipapa. D*talipapa is sort of like an outdoor bazaar that consists of many different vendor stalls and small cafes and restaurants.
As we were meandering through D*talipapa, one of my cousins asked if I'd like to try something called Taho. I'd never had Taho before, or had even heard of it, but of course I wanted to try it. I was assuming it would be something delicious and refreshing for the hot day on the beach. I was only half right.
The vendor selling the Taho was a dude carrying a long wooden pole across his shoulders. At each end of this pole was a metal bucket. The Taho vendor set his pole and buckets down and opened one of the metal containers to reveal two compartments--one holding sago pearls (similar to tapioca) and the other holding a sweet brown sugar syrup. The vendor ladled a bit of the sago and syrup into some cups for us.
Then the taho vendor opened his second bucket to reveal a glistening white mass of bean curd, or tofu. He then took a small metal blade and scooped up some of the tofu into our cups.
The vendor then alternated a few more layers of sago and syrup, and then some more tofu before handing the full cups to us.
The chewiness of the sago balls and the silkiness of the tofu made for a nice difference in texture, and the sweet bronze-colored syrup made the taho a wonderful morning-time treat. But, as I found out, taho is usually served warm, so it wasn't cool and refreshing like I thought it would be. Even though it made me want to jump back into the ocean to cool off again, the taho was very delicious.
Many of the restaurants in D*talipapa also offered cooking services for anything purchased at the wet market. The wet market at D*talipapa was awesome. Sadly, I don't have any pictures from the wet market, but believe me, there was such a vast selection of local and fresh seafood that had been out of the ocean for only a few hours. So for lunch, we purchased some crab, prawns, and blue marlin--all of which my cousins were able to negotiate a good price for of course.
We then brought our seafood bounty to one of the small restaurants in D*talipapa and had our fresh catch cooked for us.
Chili crab: A bit sweet, a tad spicy, and full of crab eggs and fat and other delicious crabby bits.
Grilled blue marlin steak: very meaty and smoky, and terrific when dipped into a sauce of kalamansi, soy, and chilies.
Prawns cooked in butter (probably margarine though) and garlic: the prawns were a bit overcooked, but still tasty.
In addition to D*talipapa, Boracay had another area dedicated to shopping and eating called D*mall. Yes, D*talipapa and D*mall. D*lightful, that. If D*talipapa is an outdoor bazaar, then D*mall is an outdoor, well, mall with more upscale shops and eateries.
One such eatery at D*mall was Halowich--a place that specialized in cool treats like ice cream and halo-halo. My wife, my cousins, and I all shared a giant bowl of halo-halo after we had gone parasailing (hanging in the air is quite tiresome you know).
Our halo-halo consisted of shaved ice, bananas, corn flakes, mangoes, sweet beans, strawberry ice cream, chocolate syrup, and probably a whole mess of other things that I'm now forgetting. Now this was the cool and refreshing treat that I needed!
On my cousins' last night in Boracay, we enjoyed dinner at a beachside restaurant called Barrio Inasal.
Even though Barrio Inasal specialized in Chicken Inasal, I wanted to try something I've never had before. So I ordered Sisig: a sizzling plate of chopped up pork ears, snout, cheeks, and perhaps more pig parts that I didn't need to know about.
Despite the crappiness of the above picture, the sisig turned out to be one of my favorite dishes throughout our entire trip. It was smoky and spicy and porky and utterly fantastic with a squeeze of kalmansi juice over the top.
After dinner, we all headed to a bar/nightclub called MO2 Wave just outside the Boracay Regency where my wife and I stayed. I have no idea what MO2 means, but at night this club had a pretty sweet setup outside on the beach where they laid out beanbags and small tables to lounge at while there was a stage up front for a live band.
We enjoyed quite a few beers and cocktails at MO2 that night, and the band that was performing was actually pretty decent.
Or maybe the band wasn't that great and I was too drunk to tell. Either way, we all had a great time and I even got off my ass to dance for a little bit. And by dance I mean act like a sweaty drunken fool.
Come to think of it, I was fairly sweaty and drunken throughout our stay in Boracay. I think the Sun and San Miguel brewery were conspiring against me in hopes that I'd pass out face first into Boracay's white sands while my back would slowly burn to a searing shade of bright red. As it were, after a morning of snorkeling and lazing about the beach, my wife and I sought refuge at our hotel pool.
The Boracay Regency has a few pools to choose from, but its main pool with a swim-up bar was our goto option for cooling off and enjoying a few beers and cocktails.
The pool was awesome at the Regency. You could just swim up to the fully stocked bar, sit on an underwater stool, and put in your order. Aside from a few cocktails and some Red Horses, we also put in an order for Kinilaw. For those that don't know, Kinilaw is a Filipino dish of raw fish soaked in vinegar--pretty similar to ceviche. I wouldn't normally order raw fish at a pool-side bar, but I figured "what the hell" and ordered some anyway, thinking that there was already enough alcohol in my belly to fight off any cooties that may be present in badly-prepped fish.
In spite of my paranoia, the Kinilaw was excellent. I'm not sure how "authentic" it was or if it had been toned down at all for tourists, but it tasted wonderfully fresh and was studded with chopped chillies, garlic, and ginger. It was a pretty big plate of Kinilaw, but my wife and I were able to polish it all off--I think even the bartender was surprised we finished it.
The bar at the pool also had an array of fresh fruit at its disposal for making smoothies. There were various smoothie vendors all over the island (Boracay is actually known for its fruit smoothies), but we had our first smoothies at our hotel swimming pool. I'm not sure if that's grounds for revoking my "International Gourmand and Foodie Wannabe" card, but convenience and laziness go hand-in-hand during vacations don't they?
The wife and I tried the Ripe Mango shake and the Green Mango shake. We both preferred the ripe mango as it was sweeter (naturally) than the more sour green mango. But both shakes were pretty good.
Besides the bar at our hotel pool, another watering hole the wife and I frequented in Boracay went by the rather peculiar name of Nigi Nigi Nu Noos e Nu Nu Noos. I'm not making that up. That's actually the name of this place.
We stopped by Nigi for late afternoon drinks and a snack. I have no idea what that name means, but it was a pretty cool bar with a laid-back and relaxed vibe about it. Even the lizards were noticeably relaxed here.
I named him Mango.
One strange thing about Nigi though was that they served "All You Can Eat Eggs" for breakfast. All you can eat eggs? Really? Who eats more than a few eggs in one sitting anyways? The offer of endless eggs was not enough for us to try breakfast at Nigi Nigi Nu Noos. Besides, breakfast every morning was included in our hotel stay.
Breakfast at the Regency was pretty good actually and had enough variety that we didn't mind eating there more than once. There was the standard breakfast fare that you'd find at most hotels such as an egg station where you could have eggs to order, there were pancakes and french toast, coffee and juice, etc. But there was also a wide variety of Filipino food on offer for breakfast as well.
This might look like someone's lunch, but it's actually my breakfast of fried rice, arroz caldo, beef tapa, and longanisa. I would also make sure to have an omellette as well as some pandesal with orange marmalade every morning. I weigh 300 pounds.
In hopes of regaining my credibility in the smoothie department, we did finally make our way to a legitimate smoothie shop on Boracay. Thanks to some tips from a couple of readers and fellow food bloggers, I knew where to find the best fruit smoothies on the entire island: Jonah's Fruitshakes.
On the left is my wife's banana-mango smoothie and on the right is my mango-rum smoothie. I didn't particularly like the banana-mango because I only tasted banana an no mango. My mango-rum smoothie was delicious though. Compared to the smoothies we had at the hotel pool, Jonah's smoothies were indeed better as they were creamier and less icy than the Regency's smoothies.
On another night, the wife and I stopped into a Japanese/Chinese/Korean restaurant whose name I do not know because the sign out front was written in Japanese/Chinese/Korean. Whatever it was called, it had some great food.
The wife had an assortment of sushi.
And I opted for the hotpot of assorted seafood and beef.
For our last dinner in Boracay, the wife and I decided we'd try an Italian restaurant called Aria right outside D*mall. Since we spent most of this particular day drinking and snacking, we didn't have too big a meal at Aria--opting for only a couple of simple dishes.
At Aria, I had the seafood stew, and my wife had the penne with sausage and mushrooms. These dishes weren't terrible, but they also weren't stellar either. My seafood stew consisted mostly of squid and maybe had one shrimp in it. Everything tasted pretty good, just not what we expected from what was supposed to be one of the better Italian restaurants on the island. Or perhaps we are just spoiled by the Italian restaurants here in SoCal.
For dessert, we had the mango cheesecake and some coffee at Cafe del Sol right next door to Aria (both restaurants are actually owned by the same people). The cheesecake did not disappoint though, as it featured a fluffy texture studded with bits of fresh mango.
That's about it folks. No matter your preferences, there is quite the selection of cuisines to satisfy whatever you're craving on Boracay. There are even Mexican restaurants, Indian restaurants, pizza and hamburger joints, and even a restaurant called the Hobbit House that employed "little people" as servers (I'm not making that up).
There was much more food that we sampled in Boracay, but I think I've bored you enough. This turned out to be quite a long post, so thanks to those that actually read everything, although I'd be happy if you just scrolled through the pictures too. I'll try to make my next post shorter, but it's tough getting back into the swing of things after spending a few days in paradise.
Next stop in the Philippines: Ilocos Norte.