July 17, 2018

Lobo Filipino Tavern Poblacion

When my inner wolf is hungry, I know just the right place to go: Poblacion.
Lobo is the brainchild of former Pinoy Big Borther star turned restaurateur Kian Kazemi. And it is a nice addition to the lovely and hipster neighborhood of Poblacion. 

Named after a wolf, the tavern looks like a traditional ancestral house with impressive native design and remarkable local artworks. It even has an open air balcony. It’s not just an ordinary watering hole.  They serve delish progressive Filipino dishes (the stand-out is the Signature kare-kare).

Chicken sisig pasta

Signature kare-kare

Lechon kawali

Mango shake

Lobo pays homage to Kian’s Filipino and Ilonggo roots (given that his other restaurants showcase Persian and Mediterranean food – because he’s got Iranian bloodline too).
Though, the place welcomes loners, better bring along the wolfpack: friends or family.

Lobo Filipino Tavern
#4898 Durban cor. Polaris St.
Poblacion, Makati City
Tel. No.: 856-0851, 0917-8898531

July 12, 2018

Banaue Chalet

“They didn’t leave me. I removed them from my life.”

One of my housemates (at Banaue Chalet) said she lives by those words especially if she’s hurting inside and feels she deserves to be treated better. It must be either Mia or Jen. More serious (and sometimes funny) conversation about love and life ensued over wine and cheese toasted bread with the poignant background music of Anne Murray. The night was still young, and the four walls of the chalet stood witness to everything said and done.

Banaue Chalet was our vacation home in Banaue, Ifugao for three days during the last Eidul Fitr long weekend. It is a two-storey white and green modern house perched on a slope, overlooking a valley of rice terraces, hills and mountains. Coming from Manila, it is located two kilometres before reaching the busy town centre. It is owned by a foreigner and if I’m not mistaken, Ian Castanares is the one managing and who oversaw the renovation of the house. I’ve stayed before in the other AirBnb properties of Ian in Tagaytay and Silang, and they are all pretty charming and captivating.    
It was our short but sweet escape from the city that has been wet and floody due to the incessant rain for 7 straight days. Mia was also crowned the 2018 Miss CFO just few hours before our trip so this was sort of her first “tour of duty” as the reigning office beauty queen.    

No bold and conspicuous signage bearing the name of the house, just a simple green gate… eventually leading to the “ninth wonder of the world”.

But first, we took almost a hundred steps down. Getting down was great, getting up on the other hand, was a heart-pounding exercise.

And the moment we saw the house, warmly welcomed by the caretakers, and crawled under the comforter as soft as the clouds from heaven, we knew the 10-hour long journey, cutting trips, waiting, and the ire of passengers we had to endure (that’s another story to tell), were all worth it.

The house by the way is divided into two – the upper and the lower part. The upstairs level, which we occupied, has one bedroom with queen-size bed and a mezzanine level with two extra mattresses, that can sleep up to maximum of 6 guests. It has its own dining area and well-functioning kitchen (they have everything from refrigerator, dining utensils, stove, pots, pans and cooking wares, blender, coffeemaker to toaster, microwave and outdoor barbeque grill), and a spacious private bathroom with heated towel rack and hot shower. Interior of the place is beyond spectacular, elegant, and mainly showcases the rich culture and tradition of the Igorots. Yup lots of bululs here, there and everywhere (and right beside my bed). And only if I didn’t watch that Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween Special last year, featuring Cory Quirino and her husband’s bulul collection, you bet I would have fully enjoyed sleeping alone in the downstairs room. But bravely, I still did.

There’s no TV but there’s a free but not so fast wi-fi, bluetooth speaker, coffee table books and hard bounds (make sure to look for Tribe: Photographs by Hibiki Kobayashi), cards and board games, and sungka that kept us entertained during our stay. Thank God too that I have baon of Riverdale and American Gods series.

The best part of the upper house is the balcony. It offers a sweeping vista that isn’t EDSA traffic or the crammed Paco Market. When the weather is fine, the caretakers set up the picnic umbrella and lounge chairs.  

The downstairs level on the other hand, has one bedroom with a queen-size bed and two extra single beds convertible to sofas, which can accommodate maximum of 4 guests. It also has the same amenities as the upper house, but with ample natural lighting and a kitchen that has an open space and much nicer and panoramic view of the surroundings.

It also has a nice customized native chess set made of bululs and traditional Ifugao houses.

Guests of the lower house also have access to the garden upfront and terrace that also has a promising view of the valley. Some plants on the hillside around the house are lemon tree, bougainvillea, bamboo, pitcher plant, flowering vines, lemon grass, tarragon, mint, rosemary and other herbs that guests can pick freely and use for cooking.

Since Jen is a closeted chef, she had her own live cooking show at the chalet - prepared delectable sinangag, gourmet Spanish sardine pasta, and salmon with thyme. She cooks with passion and love. We also enjoyed the complimentary aromatic French-press barako coffee. We usually dine inside, have breakfast on the balcony, and celebrate wine night before we retreat to our own sanctuary.

After having a good night sleep, we are always treated the next day with an amazing view of the lush and picturesque environment. The neighbourhood is serene, extremely quiet, and very green come rainy season. The air is fresh, crisp and cool. The scene before us isn’t as commercialized and congested compared to downtown. The only people we saw are the farmers, harvesting rice or tilling their land.

When it’s cold and raining, we simply enjoy the warm comfort of the house. But when the fog descends and blankets the surrounding mountains or when the sun slowly rises, we take advantage of the moment to have that IG-worthy portrait with a seemingly mystical and alluring backdrop.

Banaue Chalet is by far, the classiest place in Banaue to stay. The best time to visit is during the harvest season or a few months right after the planting season, when the rice terraces are still refreshing green or golden yellow. Or when feeling sad and at the crossroad of life, and already starting to believe that “Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If you are still the same person before and after you love, that means you really haven’t loved enough.”
From Manila, take Banaue-bound bus (Ohayami in Sampaloc or Coda Line in Cubao), and get off at Banaue town proper. Take a tricycle from Banaue up to chalet in Sitio Pugo (could be searched by Google Maps or Waze). If taking jeepney or minibus  from Solano or Balabag, you could get right off at the entrance of the chalet.
Banaue Chalet
Sitio Pugo, Nueva Vizcaya-Ifugao Rd.
Banaue, Ifugao
(Strictly by reservation)