Around the Philippines in 10 dishes

Published April 16, 2021, 4:00 PM

by Jules Vivas

Once vaccination is in full swing, we can finally have a taste of our 7,640-flavored country again, but keep pandemic protocols in place until further notice

The health crisis has robbed us of everything we love, from the mere act of breathing to our very livelihoods, even the freedom to live full lives and explore the great outdoors.

We miss travel. Although one could reason out that there are alternatives, no book or game or film can substitute for the deeply enriching and satisfying experience of physical excursions. It’s one thing to read about a destination, but the feeling of being on a journey is something else entirely. Some use their imagination, turning to food to get a sense of being elsewhere, but the mind can only go so far. The dream is to once again indulge in authentic meals prepared just the way it is intended be made. Alas, our wings are still clipped. Traveling, unless absolutely necessary, is still out of the question.

While we can’t go out for trips, we could at least plan for it. We start by making a list of some of the food we’ll be having once the situation gets better.


Pateros was derived from the word “pato (duck)” for crying out loud. The best three-week-old, boiled duck egg is found in Pateros. Remember to wash the shell carefully before cracking it open. Apply a pinch of salt, maybe a little vinegar, and slurp away the warm soup. Consume barehanded and scarf it down whole, except of course the “bato (stone)” at the bottom. We can’t wait to have our balut vendors roaming the streets freely once again, and to hear the calls of “baluuuuut!” at night. They still do apparently, but you can’t hear them if you live in a condominium like many of us now do.


In Ilocos Norte, one must try the empanada. In Ilocos Sur, on the other hand, the longanisa reigns supreme. These pork sausages infused with garlic and local seasonings make for a one-of-a-kind breakfast staple or snack that packs a sourly-salty punch.

Pancit Cabagan—Isabela

One of the most popular dishes in the province of Isabela, this pancit from the town of Cabagan is similar to Cagayan’s Batil Patung, only saucier, more savory. The miki noodles topped with cooked igado, crispy lechon, and quail eggs are so flavorful you can pair them with rice. It is definitely worth the three-hour flight or the 12-hour drive to Isabela from Manila.

Food trip please!

Tinolang Tugac—Pampanga

When the pandemic subsides, you owe it to yourself to be a little more adventurous. Try this ginger-based soup in Pampanga. Chicken meat is replaced with frog.


Photo by Yvette Tan

Visiting Tagaytay, one of the homiest and most “chill” places in the country, only gets better with a warm bowl of beef shank and bone marrow soup. Imagine drowning in the marvelous, flavorful broth of the bulalo. Plus, the road trip.

La Paz Batchoy—Iloilo

Photo by the author

The Ilonggo specialty is widely available now in Manila. But of course, nothing can beat the taste of the hearty soup made of pork offal, crushed chicharron (pork cracklings), chicken stock, beef loin, and round noodles, from the source. Besides, the ambiance of La Paz Central Market adds to the experience. Deco’s, Popoy’s, Ted’s, Inggo’s, Netong’s, any batchoy in Iloilo is good batchoy.


Photo by the author

This is chicken cooked in coconut water with grated coconut, often served in a coconut husk. There’s green papaya, too, as well as leafy vegetables like chili leaves and spinach, garlic, onion, lemongrass, and patis. Might as well call it tinola right? Wrong. Tinola has ginger, absent in binakol. The latter is also sweeter because of the coconut juice.

Danggit Lamayo—Coron

Similar to daing na bangus, this popular breakfast item in Coron, Palawan is sundried fish marinated in vinegar, crushed garlic, and crushed peppercorns. Best served with sinangag and coffee.

Hanging rice/Puso—Cebu

Rice balls is to Japan is what hanging rice or puso is to Cebu. The Cebuano street food is rice wrapped and boiled in octahedral woven coconut leaves giving it the shape of a heart. It is basically steamed rice on-the-go with a little leafy flavor. The packets are picturesquely hung in branches. It is usually eaten alongside savory fares. Like lechon? Don’t mind if we do.

Tiyula Itum—Sulu

While I have never personally tried the Tausug dish before, it is highly recommended by Manila Bulletin lifestyle columnist Sol Vanzi. The soup-stew originates from Sulu (Jolo), Mindanao. It is made from either beef or goat and has a black and greenish broth due to one of its main ingredients, the burnt coconut. Tiyula Itum may appear unappetizing, but it tastes otherwise.