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Northern (gustatory) pride…

How “original” can an offering be the moment you take them from the very contexts that made them thrive to begin with?

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Every region (if not every town) in the Philippines has their own gustatory offerings that sort of define them – e.g. Bicol Express in, obviously, Bicol; bagnet in Ilocos; guapple pie of Negros; and so on…

This is why – when one is just in Metro Manila – when seeing all those “original such-and-such” offerings of various restos, supposedly with their preparations learned from the regions these offerings originated from, one can only really… frown. Because how “original” can an offering be the moment you take them from the very contexts that made them thrive to begin with?

This is the thought that stays in the mind when thinking of Ilocos’ empanada and okoy, particularly after one has tried those offered in Vigan City’s Nanang Sion.





WHAT’S THERE

There are actually two branches of Nanang Sion (as per the apo or grandchild of Nanang Sion herself) – one is by the plaza/near the church in downtown Vigan City (this is the “main” branch), and another one in one of the streets parallel to Crisologo (that tourist trap portion of the city, where just about every tourist has his/her pic taken). The former is a more “formal” resto; but the latter – if I may say so – has more character, with the apo’s collections of everything old (vintage, if you must).

There are wooden tables, and chairs and benches scattered on two floors, and adding to that “being in an old place” vibe/feel.

But – more apparent – are the owner’s collections of… just about everything, from rebulto (statues of holy people or saints) to scooters to bikes to kalesa (horse carriage) wheels, and so on. And while many are placed on pedestals, there are some that are made to be – literally – parts of the place, e.g. the bicycles that were cemented on the walls.

If it’s “character” you want, then this one’s worth a check, indeed.

WHY GO THERE

But – recognizing that ambiance is but part of the attraction – if there’s one thing that will make you come here, this can be summed in one word: FOOD.

Must try are:

  1. Empanada (super special, P65) – I’ve traveled to various parts of northern Philippines a lot of times, and while there, many always tell me to try the local empanada. But – considering the number of people who recommends empanada – I can’t fathom the fuss about it. In my mind (and from what I tasted) it’s nothing really special, just a combo of longganisa/chorizo with either scraped green papaya or thinly chopped cabbage, plus egg thrown in, and then wrapped in dough before being fried.
    And then I tried Nanang Sion’s empanada, and I now sorta get the hype. I’d say this: if done really well, empanada is really tasty. And this one (so far) has been the tastiest empanada from somewhere north of the Philippines for me.
  2. Okoy (with egg and longganisa, P55) – This one is also a surprise because okoy, as we know it, is nothing but fried: shrimps with veggies (some use carrots or kamote), and then coated in flour. Now be honest, how many times have you eaten okoy and actually complain with that hair-like strands from the shrimp heads? With Nanang Sion, though, the okoy is actually… succulent, with the shrimp juicy and (thanks to the longganisa) tasty.

The servings are big, BTW. So if you end up unable to finish what was given you because you’re too full already, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you…

If hungrier and in search of “real” meals (not merienda or snacks), there are “silogs” – e.g. bagnet (P150) and longganisa (P120), and the “common” corned beef (P90), siomai (P90), hotdog (P90), et cetera.

If it’s just me, though, I’d say stick to the food that has been helping define Ilocos. That way, you avoid getting disappointed…

And so, yes, empanada and okoy are good starts…

WHY AVOID IT

To start, heading to Vigan isn’t in everybody’s list of to-do. And truth be told, even when driving (instead of commuting), going there takes a while. So for those who have… aversion to long trips, then this isn’t for you.

If- I suppose – you’re a local and already have had enough empanada and okoy to last you a lifetime, then…

IN THE END…

But – let me say this – the next time someone mentions “original such-and-such” to you, and you’re having that offering outside its original context, it’s always better to have them where they (first and originally really) made them. That way, you’d be able to tell how “real” or “fake” the offering has become.

And as far as some of the best northern gustatory delights are concerned, I’d say head to Vigan City. And give Nanang Sion a try while there; for less than P100, you’d understand why “eating local” continues to be the best way to appreciate delicacies…

Nanang Sion is at Plaridel St, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. Vigan City isn’t THAT big of a place. Ask around NOT just for the location of Nanang Sion, but also where else you can grab what’s good there. I’ve encountered shy Ilocanos who demur when speaking with us outsiders; but almost always, they try as much as they can to help out and lead you where you wanna go or – for that matter – where they think you ought to head to best enjoy being there…



Believing that knowing on its own is not good enough, "you have to share what you know, too", Mikee dela Cruz gladly shares through his writing. A (BA) Communication Studies graduate, he had stints with UNAIDS, UNICEF and Ford Foundation, among others, writing "just about everything". Read on as he does some sharing through Zest Magazine.

Destinations

Airbnb’s Siargao Superhosts will ply you with tips and tricks on how to live like a local

Once an undiscovered hideaway for surfing enthusiasts, Siargao is now a growing tourist destination that has retained its quintessential island charm. The unique community fostered between locals, business owners, and tourists is what makes the Siargao experience so appealing — its one-of-a-kind energy draws guests back time and time again.

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The Philippines is home to more than 7,000 islands and it’s no surprise that some of the world’s most beautiful beach destinations can be found in the archipelago. While Boracay, Palawan and Cebu are well known amongst beach lovers and island hoppers, Siargao has been quietly making a name for itself. This year, Time Magazine hailed the surfing paradise as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2021, alongside 99 other extraordinary destinations to explore.

Once an undiscovered hideaway for surfing enthusiasts, Siargao is now a growing tourist destination that has retained its quintessential island charm. The unique community fostered between locals, business owners, and tourists is what makes the Siargao experience so appealing — its one-of-a-kind energy draws guests back time and time again.

First-time visitors may be overwhelmed by the wide variety of activities to explore, restaurants to try and breathtaking scenery to capture. But fret not! Siargao is home to amazing Airbnb Hosts who go the extra mile to provide you with tips and tricks on how to live like a local, whether you’re planning to stay for the weekend or for a couple of months.

Tarzan’s Treehouse hosted by Julio and Cyd

Tarzan’s Treehouse is a passion-driven eco-friendly project by Hosts Julio and Clyd. Built mainly with natural materials including wood, bamboo and nipa, the treehouse offers floor-to-ceiling windows providing breathtaking views of the sea and lush palm trees all around. From the cosy hammock to attic bedroom and outdoor patio, guests will truly enjoy exploring every nook and cranny. What’s more, Julio and Clyd have jotted down a list of  their favourite local suggestions including top restaurants, motor bike rentals and airport transfers in a small notebook awaiting you in the treehouse.

Modern Tropical Home hosted by Cecile and Mark

Nestled halfway between General Luna and Cloud 9, this beautiful two-storey  residence hosted by Hosts Cecile and Mark is both comfortable and stylish, and comes furnished with a lounge, fully-equipped kitchen and dining room, and a gallery style loft bedroom with a spacious work desk on the second floor.  Cecile and Mark live just next door, and are quick to attend to any guest requests and provide you with freshly picked coconuts daily. On top of it all, the stay comes with two of the friendliest dogs  — Mowgli and Baloo — who can accompany you on long walks along the beach!

Native Beachfront Cabana hosted by Grace

Surrounded by palm trees and beautiful scenery, this rustic cabana is the perfect spot for family get-togethers. Enjoy private access to a secluded beach away from the hustle and bustle of Siargao, and gorgeous sea views at dawn and dusk. Host Grace and her family cook delicious local meals for their guests too, leaving you with a unique experience you’ll never forget.

Triangle Palms Native Villa hosted by Edward

Designed to resemble a traditional Filipino home, Triangle Palms’ villas will provide guests with a memorable experience filled with lush greens and birds chirping, and leave the place feeling rejuvenated. Host Edward will also provide you with a list of the best restaurants and attractions around the island, and arrange personalized island tours for a truly unforgettable island experience!

Mao Mao Surf hosted by Marco & Chara

Mao Mao Surf’s eco-friendly jungle huts come equipped with modern tropical interiors and surfboards for beach-loving guests. Situated just five minutes away from popular surf spots and restaurants but still far enough from the noise, guests can enjoy a cozy bonfire under the stars. Hosts Marco and Chara will serve up delicious breakfast every morning, and hook you up with awesome surf trainers for some serious wave lessons!

Airbnb hosts like Julio and Cyd, Cecil and Mark, Grace, Edward and Marco and Chara are sharing their places, stories and love for Siargao with the world through hosting. These Siargao Hosts, together with Airbnb’s community of passionate Hosts, are dedicated to creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere, providing healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable.

These Hosts have also all committed to Airbnb’s 5-step Enhanced Clean process, a set of standards developed in partnership with experts to ensure safety and peace of mind for guests.

For anyone interested in hosting with Airbnb and opening their homes to the world, Airbnb’s new platform upgrades have made it easier for anyone who wants to host. To explore more about hosting with Airbnb, get started at http://www.airbnb.com/host.

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Travel

The perfect road trip seating plan based on zodiac signs

These personality types can be most apparent when many individuals with different star signs are placed in a small space together for a length of time, like a road trip.

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Photo by Matthew Henry from Unsplash.com

If you are heading on a road trip this summer, have a Virgo behind the wheel, a Libra in charge of music and make sure there isn’t an Aries in sight.

Experts at LeaseElectricCar are offering advice on how to use astrology to navigate a road trip car seating plan to ensure the smoothest journey for all.

There are 12 zodiac signs in astrology which are divided into the 12 months of the year. Each star sign belongs to one of four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. According to astrologers, each element reflects a quality of human nature and contributes to our personality make up.

These personality types can be most apparent when many individuals with different star signs are placed in a small space together for a length of time, like a road trip. 

Driving and star signs are linked through the origins of astrology. The planet Mercury, which rules Virgo and Gemini, is named after the Greek God of communication and swiftness. 

This Greek connection has been linked by astrologers to a heightened ability to navigate by those with a Virgo or Gemini placement.

Experts at LeaseElectricCar said “Everyone enjoys a road trip, whether that is exploring new places, travelling with friends or a family get together but there is nothing worse than an incompatible group all sitting in the same car together for hours. 

“To prevent personality clashes, backseat driving and unhappy passengers, we have figured out the best seating plan for a smooth journey based on the zodiac signs.”

This is LeaseElectricCar’s seating plan for the smoothest road trip based on Zodiac signs alone. 

Driver’s seat: Virgo

Ruled by mercury and attributed to being one of the most grounded signs with a practical and systematic approach to life, it can only be right that Virgo’s are given the front spot. This earth sign will thrive in the responsibility of getting the group to the destination by following the safest and most logical route.

Virgo’s are perfectionists and are led strongly by their compulsive need to follow all rules. Their low tolerance for rule breaking makes them the perfect candidate for back seat driver which could ultimately end in conflict when pointing out the mistakes of other signs.

Avoid having an Aries in the driving seat.The ruling planet of Aries is Mars, the god of war, which is very telling when it comes to many of the signs’ attributes. Although gifted with undeniable confidence and the ability to attack a long road trip with the utmost energy, Aries can be hot-headed and impulsive which may end in never-ending road rage.

Passenger’s seat: Libra

There is one important job for the zodiac in the passenger seat…music! When it comes to deciding who gets DJ duty on the road trip, pick a Libra.

Libras are arguably one of the most generous signs and they avoid conflict at all costs, meaning they will often go out of their way to appease the needs of the group surrounding them. Knowing Libra’s, they will have pre-planned the road trip playlist ahead of time and made sure to include favourites from everyone in the car just to please them all! They will feel a great sense of pride in keeping everyone happy. 

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Middle row: Cancer, Taurus and Pisces.

Best friend placements water sign Cancer and earth sign Taurus are being assigned middle row spots in this car plan. Astrologers often encourage friendships between these two signs due to their perfect balance of similarities and differences. Both Cancer and Taurus like to take part in projects rather than lead them, making them the perfect non-conflict driven passengers for sitting behind the driver.

Whilst most compatible with each other, both signs have a friendly nature that allows them to get on with a wide range of signs which will allow them to talk to everyone and make everyone feel included in the car chats. 

Sat next to Taurus and behind the driver should be a Pisces. Compatible with both Cancer and Taurus, this is the perfect sign to complete the middle row. Regarded for being among the most sympathetic of the zodiac’s, Pisces are sure to be understanding and conscious of the driver’s needs whilst also having the perfect time to bond on the car journey with their compatible counterparts Cancer and Taurus. 

Back row: Leo and Sagittarius

On the back row, a fiery, exciting yet compatible duo is required. This is where Leo and Sagittarius come in! Leo and Sagittarius are fire signs and when placed together their energy radiates off the other. Their fiery nature means they might not be most compatible for the middle seat however they will truly thrive away from the driver’s seat and in the back where they can be free of the responsibilities that come with sitting at the front.

Leo’s entertaining nature is sure to impress, with plenty of jokes, anecdotes and stories coming from the back seat to keep the whole car entertained! 

Sagittarians are the most sociable out of the pairing and should therefore be sat behind Cancer. The Sun sign will bring out the often reserved water sign Cancer and will encourage conversation within the middle row to ensure a bonding road trip experience. 

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Destinations

Tips to steer clear of animal-borne diseases this summer

After you’re done with the fun, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you didn’t touch an animal directly. Keep an eye on children to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly.

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It’s state fair season across the country. In addition to the food and games local fairs have to offer, livestock shows and petting zoos are always popular attractions. According to veterinarians, it’s important for people to know that some animal-borne diseases can be transmitted from farm animals to people and pets. Those attending state fairs and petting zoos should be aware of the health risks, and preventive measures you can take to be safe when petting and feeding animals at these and other fun venues.

Dr. Douglas Kratt, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says, “It’s always good to take precautions when you’re in close proximity with animals because they and their environments can transfer germs that can make you or someone in your family ill.”

Examples of zoonotic diseases—those that spread from animals to people–include Salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and rabies. Just like with colds and flu, if germs get on your hands and you inadvertently put your hands in your mouth or nose, you could get sick. The most common symptoms one could experience are vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and cramps. And, while most people recover without a visit to the doctor, some may need a doctor’s visit or hospitalization.

Dr. Kratt offers these tips to help you, your family and your four-legged friends stay safe when you’ve been around zoo or farm animals:

  1. Don’t eat or drink near areas that house animals.
  2. Park strollers outside animal barns and pens, so as not to transfer germs to the wheels and take them home with you.
  3. Use hand sanitizer when you can, which should be readily available these days, especially if there’s no soap and hot water accessible.
  4. After you’re done with the fun, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you didn’t touch an animal directly. Keep an eye on children to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly.
  5. While there is little evidence that animals can spread COVID-19 to people, in some situations it can spread from people to animals. People suspected or confirmed positive should avoid contact with pets, livestock, and wildlife.

For more valuable information about pets and pet care visit www.avma.org.

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