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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.

Travel

Hann Casino Resort opens

The all-new integrated lifestyle resort features Hann Casino, Clark Marriott, Swissotel Clark, and, in a few years, Mercure Hotel. Hann Casino Resort, the first premium sub-brand under the master brand Hann Resorts, will elevate the Philippines’ gaming, entertainment, leisure, dining, hospitality, and shopping experience.

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The Hann Group (Hann), owner and developer of the Widus Hotel & Casino and the Clark Marriott in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, officially opens Hann Casino Resort — the first fully integrated resort in Clark. It brings to life the idea of a “millionaire’s playground” where discerning guests can “Play Bold. Live Bold.”

The all-new integrated lifestyle resort features Hann Casino, Clark Marriott, Swissotel Clark, and, in a few years, Mercure Hotel. Hann Casino Resort, the first premium sub-brand under the master brand Hann Resorts, will elevate the Philippines’ gaming, entertainment, leisure, dining, hospitality, and shopping experience.

“Despite the undeniable disruption that the pandemic has caused, Hann’s vision of creating the ultimate playground in Clark remains true and the same. We are set to open Clark’s first fully integrated resort, and our guests can expect only the finest in hospitality and entertainment,” said Daesik Han, chairman and CEO, Hann Philippines Inc. (HPI).

Opening in phases

Hann Casino Resort will open in phases, with the December 15 soft opening of Hann Casino and Swissotel Clark soon after, marking the first phase. Hann Casino is triple the size of the previous gaming area in Widus Hotel & Casino, featuring hundreds of table games and over 800 slot machines. 

The second phase will see the grand launch of Hann Casino and the first flagship franchise of Swissotel Clark, a five-star international brand well-renowned for its intelligent design, quality craftsmanship, and mindful approach to sustainability. Swissotel Clark will also usher in top-notch international and local cuisines like no other.

“The soft opening of Hann Casino and Swissotel Clark will help kickstart the country’s economy by providing much-needed jobs to Filipinos. By 2022, Hann Casino Resort is expected to employ more than 1,000 Filipinos,” Han said.

Elevated gaming, dining, and shopping experience

Located across Clark Marriott, Hann Casino offers gamers a high-stakes gaming experience within a luxurious Filipino setting designed by international interior design company Aedas Interiors HK and local interior design company Aidea.

Furthermore, guests can be assured of Hann Casino’s commitment to prioritizing the health and well-being of its guests and employees. Their existing safety protocols were enhanced to adhere to government-mandated measures. The air conditioning in the gaming areas use 

Under Floor Air Distribution (UFAD), which ensures that the air in the casino is continually cleaned of pollutants including tobacco smoke, volatile organic compounds, and critically, airborne pathogens such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. 

Foodies and shoppers with discriminating tastes will surely delight in Hann Casino Resorts’ offerings. Guests can look forward to satisfying their varied food cravings with nine specialty outlets featuring both local and international cuisines. Meanwhile, guests can choose from a curated collection of sought-after brands that cater to the discerning shopper’s taste.

Luxurious stays

Staycations have never been this luxurious as Hann Casino Resort features Clark Marriott, Swissotel Clark, and Mercure Hotel. The latter is expected to open soon.

The Swissotel brand is known worldwide for its luxurious take on the freshness and vitality of Swiss hospitality. Swissotel and Mercure are part of Accor, a world-leading augmented hospitality group offering unique experiences in 5,000 hotels and residences across 110 countries.

Meanwhile, Hann Lux Lifestyle Resort, the second premium sub-brand of Hann Resorts, a luxury brand under HPI, is expected to launch in a few years. Hann Lux promises to offer guests even more luxurious offerings, like three 18-hole championship golf courses, Banyan Tree Hotel, Angsana Hotel, Westin Hotel, and The Luxury Collection by Marriott International.

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Destinations

The Bellevue Resort spearheads trash free seas in Bohol

Things may be different due to the ongoing pandemic, but now that we are getting accustomed to the new norm, we can still make an impact when we work together or even apart to clean up and protect our oceans.

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Two-time ASEAN Green Hotel awardee, The Bellevue Resort – Bohol, forefronts Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup in Bohol for the fourth year in a row. Despite the pandemic, the resort has not lost sight of its underlying commitment to protect the environment. This year, they expanded its participation province-wide with 2-day hybrid activities in partnership with the Department of Tourism and Provincial Government of Bohol through the Provincial Tourism Office.

The five-star resort kicked off the worldwide campaign by hosting a webinar entitled “Connect and Collect: Trash Free Seas Start at Home” with 128 virtual attendees with speakers – Miss Universe PH ‘20 – 3rd Runner Up and Ambassador for Tourism, Ms. Pauline Amelinckx, Bb. Pilipinas International 2021, Ms. Hannah Arnold, and Coastal Resource Division Head of Bohol Environment Management Office, Ms. Villa Pelindingue, who shared their insights and talked about interesting waste management methods and possible solutions starting at home. 

On September 18, 2021, a total of 772 volunteers all over Bohol joined the socially distant cleanup drive with 22 LGUs in their respective communities with small-scale groups, including organizations and private sectors, who all formed special bubble groups to ensure everyone’s safety while following health protocols. Among the volunteers were 63 licensed divers for underwater cleanup at Doljo Seas, Panglao Island.  

Volunteers were able to remove a total of 2,159 kilos of non-biodegradable trash from coastline and underwater – successfully collected and segregated. While following strict safety protocols, this year’s ICC would have not been possible without the support of its dedicated volunteers and partners namely, the Department of Tourism, Provincial Government of Bohol led by Governor Art Yap, Municipality of Panglao, Globe Telecom, Club Aquasports, Clean Code, Sea & Land, Blue Freedom Apnea, Plastic Free Bohol, and Mister Bohol Organization.

Things may be different due to the ongoing pandemic, but now that we are getting accustomed to the new norm, we can still make an impact when we work together or even apart to clean up and protect our oceans.

Since its opening in 2013, the luxurious and eco-friendly resort has been consistently spearheading meaningful initiatives – leading responsible tourism in Bohol, in its efforts to highlight the importance of playing an active role in promoting sustainability and helping the community.

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Travel

68% of all new Filipino hosts in H1 2021 are Gen Zs and millennials aged 18-40

Despite hosting during small windows of opportunities due to the start-stop order of travel restrictions between January to June, new Filipino Hosts have collectively earned over PHP 21 million welcoming guests on Airbnb. Metro Manila, Tagaytay, and Metro Cebu also emerged as the top cities where new Airbnb Hosts are hosting.

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As the Philippines begins to relax domestic travel restrictions, Airbnb continues to steadily navigate the Covid-19 pandemic with hundreds of new local Hosts joining the platform in the first six months of 2021.

The company announced today that Filipino Gen Zs and millennials are the driving force behind Airbnb’s growing community of Hosts in the Philippines, with over 68% of new Airbnb Hosts in H1 2021 comprising Gen Zs and millennials aged between 18 and 40.

Despite hosting during small windows of opportunities due to the start-stop order of travel restrictions between January to June, new Filipino Hosts have collectively earned over PHP 21 million welcoming guests on Airbnb. Metro Manila, Tagaytay, and Metro Cebu also emerged as the top cities where new Airbnb Hosts are hosting.

Tourism is a significant contributor to the Philippine economy and employment. In 2019, research from Oxford Economics revealed that Filipino Airbnb Hosts contributed USD 1 billion to the country’s GDP and supported over 160,000 jobs. Guests on Airbnb spent over USD 930 million, representing 1.2% of the country’s total tourism spending in the same year.

Through the pandemic, hosting has emerged as an important economic lifeline for many Filipinos to make ends meet and support their families. A Q1 2021 survey by Airbnb reveals that 57% of Filipino Hosts polled said the income they’ve earned through hosting has helped them to stay in their homes, and over half said they want to find more ways to host with Airbnb. Over a third of Filipino Hosts also said they share recommendations with guests on their favourite local restaurants and businesses within their community.

“This year’s World Tourism Day calls for more inclusive growth that advances prosperity for more communities and drives more sustainable development. It’s a call for our tourism industry to reset and rebuild tourism in a way that benefits more people and communities than ever before. As more Filipinos turn to hosting with Airbnb to support themselves and their families during this time of need, we remain fully committed to empowering our Hosts to provide unique, family-friendly, and clean, responsible travel,” shares Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Earlier this year, Airbnb introduced more than 100 upgrades across its platform, including a new simplified 10-step process for anyone to become a Host. It also launched seven Host clubs this year across the Philippines to empower Hosts to connect, collaborate and support each other as well as their local communities, by sharing advice and best practices on hosting. During the pandemic, Airbnb launched its Airbnb Enhanced Clean protocol, an industry-first set of cleaning and sanitisation standards designed with guidance from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  to ensure peace of mind for the community.

The company continues to support and strengthen the communities its Hosts call home, amidst the unprecedented changes brought about by the pandemic. In June, Mercy in Action, Childhope Philippines Foundation, Inc., Haligi ng Bata, Inc. and Reach Out and Feed Philippines were amongst the first 150 grant recipients of the inaugural Airbnb Community Fund, which will distribute US$100 million over 10 years to organizations around the world.

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