A taste for travel

5 dreamy destinations with delectable dishes

Images: N.S. Villaflor

It’s travel season once again and guess what the biggest problem that hounds Cebuano travelers these days? Where to go exactly. You see, the island of Cebu alone has numerous attractions that are worth the trip, and choosing among these local destinations is enough to give the itinerary planner a few headaches. Now for those who desire to explore further, how much more when it comes to picking among dozens of Philippine destinations? SunStar Weekend has rounded up five local dream destinations to help you narrow down your choices, plus what local dish goes best with your trip and help satiate your wanderlust.

Mayon Volcano

Laing, classic Bicolano dish of gabi leaves and coconut milk

 

Kinalas, pork or meat stew topped with cracklings

Looming omnipresent in the middle of eight towns and cities in the province of Albay, Mount Mayon is one of the country’s most magnificent natural wonders, a humbling sight to behold. The lives of Bicolanos revolve around the volcano, which has shaped, often violently, its environs, a fertile landscape with abundant produce. No wonder Bicol boasts of a culinary culture that’s uniquely rich and spicy. Must-try dishes are — the way the Bicolanos prepare them — the Bicol express, laing and the not-so-known kinalas, a satisfying stew of succulent pork and beef.

Sabang Beach in Puerto Princesa

Pork stew noodles from Bona’s Chaolong

Puerto Princesa’s Sabang Beach always falls under the radar when it comes to dream destinations in Palawan, which holds natural attractions far too many to count. But underrated Sabang, an entry point to the world-famous Underground River, holds treasures of its own. The long-stretch of fine sand beach leads you along mesmerizing rock formations and a hidden mangrove forest at the base of St. the Paul mountain range. After a getaway in Sabang Beach, a must try in the heart of Puerto Princesa City is the chaolong, a Vietnamese-inspired noodle dish with pork or beef broth, bean sprouts and mint, and goes perfectly with local French bread. Look for Bona’s Chaolong near the airport.

Islas de Gigantes

Fresh scallops in Gigantes Norte

Located off the town of Carles in Iloilo Province, Panay, the island chain of Islas de Gigantes is a dream destination for lovers of sun, sea and karst islands. Consisting of 10 main islands, Islas de Gigantes offers stunning scenery such as twin beaches, a hidden lagoon, sandbars and awe-inspiring karst formations. Given its remote location, Islas de Gigantes offers mainly seafood, and its top food product? Scallops, literally mountains of it, for lunch, dinner, and, yes, breakfast. So, if you have a craving for scallops, Islas de Gigantes will whet your shellfish desires.

Batanes Islands

Fresh catch from Batan

Who doesn’t dream of going to Batanes? Even those who have been there vow a return trip or two. With three main islands — Batan, Sabtang and the more remote Itbayat — there’s so much to explore in beautiful Batanes. The Ivatan people, their culture and architecture offer priceless insights to the city traveler, while the northern islands’ hills, mountains and coastlines are sights to behold and cherish. Seafood in Batanes is guaranteed fresh, and, therefore, definitely delicious. But if you ever set foot there, though, do the Batanes folk a favor and don’t eat any Cocunut Crab dish as this species of hermit crab is now in the endangered list. Still, there are traditional dishes that should satisfy your traveler’s appetite, like the Pako or fern salad.

Malalison Island

Bihon Batchoy at Batchoyan Sa Plaza in Guimbal, Iloilo
Malalison’s shaved ice dessert

Panay Island offers yet another surprising gem, tiny Malalison Island off Culasi, Antique. Home to a rare type of pitcher plant, the 55-hectare island is perfect for a day trek through grassy hills, a cove, a fisherman’s village and sandbar. It’s a mere two hours from Boracay but unlike its touristy neighbor, Malalison largely remains unspoilt. Tourism activities on the island is community-based, and a serving of its refreshing shaved ice dessert will give you a taste of the island’s laid-back charms. For a heavier snack, one can enjoy some surprisingly good Antique-style batchoy in Culasi’s town center just near the wharf.

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