Tuesday, February 28, 2012

C' Italian Dining Experience

I have read a lot of raves about this Italian restaurant near Clark. Their famous for their pizza-looking-but-even-better creation, the Panizza. Chris, their chef, revolutionized this masterpiece and the result is heavenly! People from Manila and neighboring provinces goes to the Angeles City just to dine in this resto. I am dying of curiosity. I must try it.

You see, I'm not an expensive eater. I take joy in discovering cheap finds and food is no exemption. With that, I had to find the right time to give in to my curiosity (I heard it's not very cheap to eat here so a normal day isn't just practical). Finally, thank heavens for the valentine's day, I can justify treating my husband a fancy dinner. 

C' Italia is just a few minutes drive from SM Clark. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by their staff and seated on the air-conditioned area. We found out that you can have an option of eating indoors or al-fresco. The place has this classy and rustic feel. I wanted to kick myself for not bringing an actual camera so we have to make do of these phone shots, okay? I hope they can give enough justice to the place.

You will be greeted with their lobby's wall full of signed plates which were made by their satisfied customers.

Another section houses their wine selection, which can be ordered as well. 
The stone wall certainly adds up to the Italian ambience.

Another arched door leads to this homey little lounge.
I wanted to try three of their famous dishes, a panizza, pasta and risotto. They have a wide range of selection when it comes to their panizzas. They even vary them from time to time whenever the chef discovers a new masterpiece. It was so hard deciding but we ended up ordering Panizza Kristina. Generally, their panizzas are all made from fine crisp dough with a blend of five different cheese and herbs, then the toppings makes all the difference. Kristina has bacon, ham, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. It comes with arugula and alfalfa sprouts. 

Complimentary baguettes with pesto and cheese dip, while waiting for our orders. 

Panizza Kristina. Ugggh, my mouth waters just by seeing this again!
It comes with arugula leaves and alfalfa sprouts. Salad and a pizza combined! These are refillable btw :)
Rolled panizza. I know, the photo looks blehh, but trust me, this is really really good!
Arugula, surprisingly, doesn't taste leafy at all. It's not bitter but has this very very delicate spice and nuttiness. The alfalfa, however, has this subtle earthy and grassy taste all by itself. But when all of them combined, they really compliment each other. 

Our next dish was the risotto. It was my first time eating this dish. I knew the authentic risottos are made of fish broth. I was never a fan of fishes. Maybe I can try that when I'm actually in Italy. I ended up ordering its nearest cousin, the prawn. It's called Risotto Antonio. It's a dish made of rice cooked slowly in broth (it has this lugaw consistency). Do you know the feeling when you're eating something delicious, you always save the best parts for last? Well, it didn't happen here. This dish has unbelievably generous amount of prawns that every time you scoop up, a prawn will always end up on your spoon. It also has some tomato concase, fresh basil, cottage and parmesan cheese. It's very creamy and has no over-powering seafood taste. In short... yummy! The serving is hefty too.

You're really heavenly!
Our last order was the pasta. We chose the Spagetti Con Frutti Di Mare. It is a blend of fresh salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, prawns, imported mussels with light virgin olive oil and pomodoro sauce. Talk about seafood hardcore! I can't believe I'm gonna say this twice in a single entry, but I am not a fan of fishes. I ate the mussels but I was not generally happy with this one. It was a personal preference. I took it home to my mom and it was a sure hit! 

Huge chunks of salmons, mahi mahi and groupers.
Now the verdict.

Taste: 10/10 
No question about that, it deserves every rave it gets. Their panizzas are must-try. I think I would go back every pay day just to try all their varieties.

Service: 10/10
Their staff are very attentive and well-trained. They know the menu so well that they even suggest an order if they saw you having a hard time choosing.

Ambiance/ Location: 7/10. 
The ambiance is perfect. The location, however, is not that strategic. If your commuting, you may have to take two rides to reach it (from Angeles proper). They also have limited parking spaces if you have your own car. 

Price: 9/10. 
Our total bill was 2800+ Php for three dishes and 2 drinks. Generally, each order averages around 800 Php. Is it expensive? Not really, considering the huge servings and the quality of ingredients they offer. 

Must-try? Definitely.
Will I try it again? Definitely!

C'Italian Dining is located at 1210 Don Juico Avenue (Friendship Road), Clark, Angeles, Philippines
Accepts cash, Visa, American Express and Master Card payments.
Opens at 11:00am to 11:00pm every day except Mondays (5:00pm-11:00pm)

I have a copy of their menu if someone gets curious. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 3: a 6 - hour Cebu sidetrip!

Ughh, it took me days to finally do this post. Blame my brain-dead brain and crazy schedule (feeling busy playing Wii). 

Day 1 - Panglao Island (the only day when we felt like actual tourists)
Day 2 - Bohol City Tour (time to get dirty, literally, by driving around Bohol in a tricycle)

We had a little discussion on what to do on our day 3. Remember, everything's unplanned. So it was a choice between Bohol Bee Farm (and Suislide) or a Cebu side trip. Cebu won! So Cebu it was. We quickly planned our route and itinerary that night and woke up early to catch the 8am ferry. We slept late with sore bodies, praying we'll be able to wake up that early.

8:15am, we were still buying our tickets. Obviously, we missed our target schedule. Oh well, we bought the next one which was 9:30 am with Ocean Jet Ferries. The last cruise will be at 5:30pm. Travel time is 2 hours. With that, you can conclude that we only have 6 hours of exploring eastern part of Cebu. 

It was our first time to ride a ferry. Expectation: Titanic -looking ships with plenty of outdoor room for ocean viewing. Reality: It kinda looks like a floating bus with at least 3x4 feet smoking area. 

It's not bad at all, I'm just so naive to expect more.
In all fairness to Ocean Jet, the ferry was clean and was on-time. We enjoyed sea watching and spent most of the 2 hours travel time outside, soaking all the sun's glory without any sunscreen. We ended up looking like moisted (from the sea moist and not to mention, sweat) chocolate cakes (sunburn!).

Totally worth it!

We arrived Cebu around 11:30am, it was lunch time already. We skipped it as we saw Fort San Pedro right outside the pier. Cebu was never short of rich history and this fort was one of them. It was built by the Spanish Government (in which one of them was Miguel Lopez de Legazpi), as a military fortress. 

We just figured using sephia tone will produce some Spanish feel. Or not?
An old Spanish Flag
The Founding of Cebu - in photos.
Good thing about Cebu Mactan Pier is that it's near to 3 tourist spots. First was the Fort San Pedro, the other one is the Basilica de Sto. Nino and Magellan's Cross. Three birds in one stone. One down, then we headed to the next one.

Getting ready for the Sinulog Festival. Too bad we didn't witnessed the actual festival.

Basilica's Facade

The amazing altar.
After stepping out of the Basilica, we immediately asked for Magellan's Cross directions to a kind-looking security guard. To our surprise, it was just outside. After few steps, a small kiosk housing the cross itself greeted us. It was said that the Portuguese and Spaniards planted this cross on this same spot, as commanded by Magellan himself as they landed in Cebu. Well, of course, this is not the actual cross, but relics were said to be inside this chapel.

The closest I can get to Magellan.
It was a hot humid day and we were walking around, asking for directions and commuting around Cebu. It was both tiring and fun! We managed to get to our last stop - the Regency Hotel. Nope, not to check in, but to get high - literally! I dreamed for so long to try their Sky Experience Adventure. Upon reaching the hotel, we immediately checked their schedule. They open up at 2pm, so we had our lunch first. Luckily, Regency Hotel is located right next to Robinson's Mall. I had to say, their food court's prices are crazy affordable. For only 49 pesos, the meal included rice, a deep fried crab, achara, soup and an iced tea. What a complete meal! And they're generous with the serving too! Yeah obviously, cheap foods excite me.

At last! It's time to test our marriage, lol. You see, my dear husband is afraid of heights. Not really acrophobia, but it's somehow close to that, hahah. I had to pull of my sad face just to make him agree of just one ride. That's good enough for me. I signed up for 3 rides (2 skyrides + 1 extreme) and he signed up for the roller coaster ride. His was 550 pesos (entrance of 250 plus 300 for the roller coaster ride). Mine was 1000 (they were on a promo, i think). 

The first stunt was fun! We got to ride to an actual roller with its tracks right on the edge of the building. We could even tilt the seats to have the 'falling' feeling. After that, I checked his pulse hands and they were cold. I commended him for the going all though that in the name of fun. The next stunt was the Sky Walk. I was on my own this time. I admit, it looked boring. I was strapped on a harness, and got to walk on a platform placed around the building's edges. Some of the platforms are transparent, so I got to see the height I were on. Then I was asked to stand on the edge with one foot raised (their signature pose) while having my photo taken. Hmmm.. strange. I felt my knees slightly turning to jellies. It was surprisingly scary. Anyway, I had a bird's eye view of Cebu. The person assisting me, showed some interesting landmarks like the dancing inmates' prison, Mactan Island and the on-going construction of yet another SM (he said it'll be bigger than MOA, let's see).
Taking photos is prohibited, souvenir photos cost 250Php each. Expensive? But they're too awesome to pass up?
My final stunt was interesting. From the package I got, this would be the 'extreme' one. I would be ziplining from one building to another. It was on the 40th? floor. I would then be returned to the original location by a Sky Lift. I had tried ziplining in Subic before, but this one feels different. It was said to be the first urban zip line in the world. Cool, but I was thinking of some worse case scenarios. If I fell from a superman ride in Subic, I will be landing on tress. Plus the trees below hid the actual height of the ride so it was less scary. While this one is pure height! You'll see cars and concrete below. I almost backed out. But wth, I paid for it, and surely, I will definitely regret not doing it. Plus I read they're into double redundancy safety, whatever that is, it sounded good. I went for it. Imagine being thrown away to another building 250m away, 473m above the ground. It was exhilarating! 
This is me, being brought back to Regency Hotel's 40th? floor, ganyan talaga akong pumanhik ng building, because elevators are too mainstream, bwahahah.
We barely noticed but it was already 4:30 and we were still in this hotel. We needed to catch our ferry for our hotel in Bohol was already paid for and getting another hotel here just because we were late is plain stupid. We rode the jeepney good thing Cebu's jeepney drivers were as aggressive as Manila's. It was rush hour and the traffic was bad. We got down on a familiar spot and just walked our way to the pier. It was still a long walk though. When we reached Port San Pedro, we saw some joggers there so we jogged along, hahah. After all the rushing and running, we reached our destination and had some more minutes to spare. That concluded our little Cebu side trip. 

Oh, and I got to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes while aboard. Nice movie. I wish I could just throw some ALZ 113 to some people (even to myself during these times when my brain is malfunctioning). 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bohol City Tour

Check out day 1 here

I forgot to mention that when we hired the tricycle driver to take us from the airport to Panglao, we also got his number. Since we were clueless about trusted tour guides and rates, we still got Kuya Lito to drive us around the next day for our city tour. Yes, we will be touring around inside a tricycle. It's just 1,500Php for the whole day. So what if it's mainit and maalikabok. Us being tourists ended on day 1, we were just plain backpackers at this moment and we liked it this way. It was funny, though, when we found out that hiring a an air-conditioned car for the same distance was just 500 peso more expensive. Lol, it was still a good save, so no regrets on that.

Our tour started around 8:30am. We knew it would be a long day so we packed a bag full of survival essentials (i.e Boy Bawang, extra shirt for my husband and few bottles of water). Speaking of water, did you know that in Bohol, exists an innovation I've never seen anywhere in Luzon? They were these water vendo. For just 1 peso, you can have a glassful of water dispensed for you. A 5-gallon water container is encased inside. You can catch your cold water using the small plastic bags provided near the machine. Well in our case, we used our own very chic containers (empty Gatorade bottle and Angry Birds rollable plastic containers). These vendos should be awarded invention of the century! They're very useful for students on a budget, tricycle drivers and wise frugal kuripot travelers like us!

Whoever invented deserves a Nobel Prize!
I never thought Bohol would be that big. Seriously. If it weren't a spontaneous trip, I would have obsessed for a month or two planning it, making sure I covered every inch of it. So sorry for me, everything is unexpected. My control freak self is on a roller coaster ride of pure spontaneity. I was surprised when Kuya Lito told us we should be arriving on the Chocolate Hills after approximately 2 hours. Huwaaat?? That long? Inside a tricycle? Oh well, the view was not boring anyway and the air was fresh. So moving on... we had our first stop on the famous man-made forest. This forest had mahogany trees planted on a very orderly manner in such density for them to be a forest. Upon entering the stretch of this forest, we noticed a very sudden change of temperature. It's like reaching Baguio all of a sudden, well, no not really. But the air was noticeably cooler and fresher.  

I slept for few minutes during the ride because of the winding road made me dizzy and hungry at the same time. I woke up to another stopover. This time it was a new tourist spot in town called the Shiphaus. It was a retired captain's house renovated to look like a, guess what, ship! Cute eh? Ay-ay Captain! There was an entrance fee of 20 Php per head which was not bad at all (considering I got to use their clean restroom too). The Shiphaus contains some of the captains ship stuffs like captain's hats, flags, miniature ships, globes, steering wheel and uniforms. It was a very informative experience and their staffs were so friendly. 

Their staff will tour you around and take take your pictures at the same time.
After that quick tour, we proceeded to our journey to the Chocolate Hills. It took us another hour I think before we reached Carmen, where the viewing deck was. It was worth it! We quickly climbed the stairs going to the peak after paying an entrance fee of 50Php each. The view was breathtaking, nature never fails to amaze me!

A very nice foreign tourist took this photo. Ang galing ng shot nya! I also took his photo using his camera. Result? Silhouette lang naman. I felt I needed to run away after that.
This was my favorite hill. He sits beside the famous 'most photographed' hill and yet I think he's prettier. Maybe I have a thing for underdogs. 
We took some moments to catch our breath after climbing the peak. I was reminded by my husband to savor the moment rather than take 1000 photos and miss it personally. I always make that mistake before. I used to prioritize photo ops more than appreciating and feeling the experience firsthand. It was a beautiful experience. Sitting down under a shade, resting, drinking, eating and exchanging random stories with my husband. 

Time move on once again. It was lunch time and we still have to head on to 2 more locations before actually eating. Off we rode our trusted service and went to see Bohol's most famous asset: the tarsiers! There's a whole 134 Hectares of land all dedicated to these little fellas, entrance fee was 50Php per head. They're so cute and adorable even when they're sleeping. They are nocturnal beings and the guide asked us to avoid disturbing them for they will hurt themselves and go suicidal when woken up. Heheh, tantrums to the highest level! 

This tarsier didn't mind staying awake for the cameras.
After buying some Peanut Kisses for pasalubong, we, again headed to our next destination. Next stop: the hanging bridge. It's a bridge over a part of Loboc River, made of woven bamboos. But still this one I do not get. So, we went there, paid 20Php each, crossed the first bridge, bought some souvenirs, saw Buko King (formerly famous on Eat Bulaga) selling bukos, crossed the other bridge and left. Was it made a tourist spot to lure tourists into buying souvenirs? Or to see Buko King? Sorry, sarcasm. In my honest opinion, it's just a bridge. If you're afraid of heights - it's not that high. If you're afraid of danger - it's relatively safe. I'm pretty sure there's a history behind these bridges why they're considered important and tourist spot. Maybe it should be shown somewhere so people can appreciate them more.

Sorry bridge if I'm not that impressed.
 It was 1 pm when we reached the Loboc River Cruise. This time we were really really starving. We had to wait for another 30 mins for the boats to arrive. We had to pay 300Php each for the buffet lunch and 100Php each for the entrance fee. As we rode the floating restaurant, we waited for another 30 mins for the food to arrive. It was worth the wait though. The food consisted of pansit, suman, breads, fruits, rice, crabs, shrimps, pork bbq, fried chicken fillets, steamed fish and vegetables. A choice of softdrink or beer also came with the package. Totally worth the price! We cruised along the river while eating while a two-man band sang in the background. There were also a small break during the cruise where the boat had to dock on a makeshift floating stage for us to watch the locals perform. They were group of talented women age ranging from teens to seniors who sang, danced and played small guitars. 

Hagardness! Look how scorching it is!

Colorful lanters above the food table.

Finally! Nom nom nom nom

Aside from beautiful nature, Loboc takes pride from their talented people. Ever heard of Loboc's Children Choir? They're not them, lol. But they're never short of talent either.
We had few more stops after this. Let the photos do the talking, this post is getting longer and longer already, heheh. 

Outside Loboc Church
Blood Compact Shrine. I have yet to research the history of this one.
Baclayon Church Interior. Look how grand it is! It is the second oldest church in our country. It has an equally interesting museum but too bad taking photos was not allowed there.
Baclayon Church exterior. Look how old it is, very very interesting.
That concludes our day tour. It was fun and really tiring. That night, we found ourselves inside a computer shop searching ways on how to go to Cebu. Our hotel had Wifi but searching on an actual desktop is faster than using a phone. And since I didn't bring any data cable for my phone, this is my way of saving data:

Yep, I took a photo of the monitor. Some says this is a blonde's way of printing or saving. Don't judge, this is easier.
With just an hour, we managed to create an itinerary for our Cebu trip. Will it work? Day 3 will be the next entry.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Spontaneous Honeymoon

Getting married involves loads and loads of planning, preparing and executing. It's worse when me and my husband had to work our regular jobs until the 28th of December (where in wedding date was December 30). With that, something got sacrificed.

  • Church details? Check. 
  • Reception details? Check.
  • Outfits? Check.
  • Honeymoon? [insert any panic curse word here]

I booked our honeymoon ticket a month before the wedding. It was after I innocently asked my boyfriend where would he want to go if given a chance. He would answer Batanes at any given moment, but this time, he said it would be between the Chocolate Hills or Mayon Volcano. Great! Because I still couldn't afford Batanes tickets at that time. The next morning, I searched the internet for the best deal of tickets. January 2 would be the perfect day since we'll be spending the New Year's day with my relatives. That day would also be the craziest peak since people would be travelling back to wherever right after the holidays. So yeah, I got expensive tickets but what the heck, they are totally worth it. They would be my wedding surprise for my husband-to-be. Imagine on our wedding reception, the emcee would give me the mic to announce "Baby, I got us 2 tickets and we're going on a honeymoon!" Well at least that's the plan.

I booked the tickets that same morning. The moment I saw him in the afternoon, my big mouth blurted my own surprise. He was still very happy about it and still applauded me for keeping a secret for few hours. That's the story behind the tickets. Everything ended there. We almost forgot about them due to hectic schedules and crazy crazy planning.

Fast forward to January 1, I found myself printing anything Bohol - related. Yes, printing, as in using actual papers. I am old fashioned like that. My husband was laughing at me for not using my phone in saving such data. After we got the essential, which was how to go to NAIA Terminal 4, we packed our bags and slept.

We arrived at Tagbilaran Airport at 9am in the morning. I instantly got my print outs which totally gave away that we were tourists, err, worse, honeymooners. We were flocked by tour guides, drivers and people working for some hotels. We walked straight ahead, trying our best to ignore them and caught our breath on a small carinderia. After a cigarette and a 2 soft drinks, we braved to hire someone who gave us the cheapest price. Off we went to Panglao Island Nature Resort, and that started our day 1.

I specifically chose this place to jumpstart our vacation because I wanted us to feel like tourists on day 1. The wedding was really wonderful yet very very stressful at the same time. But it's not something a beach and good food wouldn't cure. This resort takes pride on their infinity pools and a white sand beach. It is also famous for its man-made island. Though their beach was kinda average (too much sea weeds, didn't swim), their food made it up for it, it was an experience all by itself. The entrance for the day tour in this resort was 350Php each. 100Php from it was consumable on their resto.
Reasonably priced foods on a very classy in house resto.

One of the two infinity pools and jacuzzi. Aren't they pretty?
Angel Locsin ang peg!
Too bad me and my husband didn't have a decent couple shot since we're too lazy to set up the tripod.

While having our miryenda, we abused the free wifi to scour for affordable hotels. Panglao Island Nature Resort had their famous forest cottages overlooking the beach, but for 8,500 Php per night, so, no thanks. We will be spending most of our time outside the next day anyway so why spend that much, right? Right?

We ended up booking Traver's Pension House in Tagbilaran. I read so many good reviews about it plus it's very affordable considering the number of amenities they offer. What I loved about it was it has a chapel right next to our room. After throwing our stuffs inside the room, we went out again to have dinner and explore the city. That pretty much summarized our day 1. Day 2 will follow next entry.