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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

Sunny summertime safety

Tips for enjoying the great outdoors.

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A bright, sunny day offers opportunities for warm-weather fun. To make the most of your summer, you’ll need to take a few steps to enhance the experience and ensure you’re ready for whatever the day may bring.

When it’s time to head outside, consider these tips from the experts at CURAD to protect your body (and skin) from the elements this summer:

Protect Skin from UV Rays

Any time you’ll be outdoors for more than 15 minutes, you should wear protective sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even if it’s partly cloudy or overcast. One mistake many people make is applying sunscreen before they leave the house then not reapplying throughout the day. To help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating.

Also be sure to cover all exposed areas, including often overlooked spots like the tops of your ears, neck and tops of your feet, if they’re exposed by sandals or other open shoes.

Stay Hydrated

One of the most important ways to protect your health when you’re spending the day outdoors is staying hydrated, especially on warm days when you’re losing your body’s water reserves to sweat. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day can help replenish what you lose so you don’t get dehydrated, and you’ll also have an easier time regulating your body’s temperature.

Be Prepared for Cuts and Scrapes

Summer cuts and scrapes are to be expected, but the faster you can take care of them, the faster you can get back to having fun. An option like CURAD Kendra Dandy Adhesive Bandages can help you heal in style with a four-sided seal that keeps dirt and germs out and a nonstick pad that’s extra absorbent. Designed by Dandy, a renowned artist and illustrator, these fashion-forward bandages are made with a comfortable, stretchy material that conforms to your body for maximum protection. Available in a 30-count standard-sized strip and a 50-count variety pack, these eye-catching bandages feature trendy, one-of-a-kind pineapple, papaya, banana and dragon fruit designs that can add a little fun and flair to your summer wardrobe.

“We created our Kendra Dandy designer bandage line to add a splash of fun, color and flair to our classic adhesive bandages, offering consumers thought-provoking styles that add a great feeling to empowered healing,” said Kim Washington, Medline vice president of marketing.

Repel Bugs

Aggressive insects can put a damper on outdoor fun. Bug spray or roll-on products should go on top of your sunscreen, but never under your clothes. Apply a sparing coat to all exposed skin and clothing, paying special attention to your waistband, pant and sleeve cuffs, collar and socks. Rather than applying spray directly to your face, spray the palms of your hands then rub the repellant onto your face. Be sure to wash your hands afterward to avoid accidentally transferring spray to your mouth or eyes.

If you have sensitive skin or prefer not to use spray or roll-on for other reasons, products like repellant fans or wearable repellant bracelets may be good alternatives. Some essential oils are also natural bug repellants.

Don’t Forget Your Lips

While faces, necks, arms and legs are often top of mind to protect from the sun’s rays, lips can be easy to forget. However, using a lip balm that is rich in oils, beeswax and petroleum can help seal in moisture. Similar to sunscreen, lip balms featuring SPF should be reapplied every two hours when outdoors and often offer added moisturizing benefits. Available in a variety of flavors, some even taste good enough to leave you wanting to apply them over and over again regardless of if you’re venturing outside or not.

Wear Light Clothing

When it’s hot outside and you’re engaged in physical activity, you’re at a greater risk of overheating. Dressing for the climate, while also protecting yourself from the elements, should be a top priority. If the temperature will vary throughout the day, consider layering so you can warm up or cool down as needed. Lighter clothes that don’t add weight are a good idea, and it’s important to be conscious of the fit. Ideally, clothes should be loose enough to allow for easy, comfortable movement, but not so baggy they get in the way or pose a snagging or tripping hazard. Don’t forget accessories like a hat and sunglasses, which can protect your head and eyes.

Support Summertime Injuries

Twisted ankles are one of the more common summertime injuries, especially for hikers or runners who may stumble over rocks or curbs, and even weekend warriors playing pick-up basketball or softball games. Keeping an ankle support on-hand can help stabilize a sprain or provide extra support during recovery. If you do experience a mild injury, it’s important to choose a high-quality product, like CURAD Performance Series IRONMAN ankle supports and braces. With options available to support both mild and moderate ankle injuries, they offer a rugged yet comfortable design to wear on the field, in the gym, at work or out on the town.

Find more tips and resources to take care of your body this summer and beyond at CURAD.com.

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Travel

Top 10 boating safety tips

Get ready for the summer boating season by refreshing yourself and your passengers on safe boating practices. While we draw attention to safety this week, following these guidelines will protect you all year long.

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Photo by Drew Dau from Unsplash.com

This week is National Safe Boating Week (May 21-27, 2022), and BoatTests101.com would like to encourage public awareness of boating safety. One way to start is for people to take a boating safety course and get their boating license, known as the Boater Education Certificate.

Besides getting your license, here are our Top 10 Boating Safety Tips:

  1. Wear a Life Jacket – Even if you are a strong swimmer with quick reflexes, it’s a great idea always to wear your life jacket when on your boat. Choose one that fits properly and is designed for your activity. A PFD that flips you on your back and keeps your head above water is ideal.
  2. Don’t Boat Under the Influence – Any substance that impairs your ability to focus on boating should be avoided, including alcohol, prescription drugs, or other drugs (legal or illegal). Boaters under the influence cause one-third of all boating fatalities.
  3. Carry Proper Safety Equipment – Fire extinguishers, lights, flares, bailers, sound signals, navigation aids, and flags are essential for keeping you safe in an emergency. Check equipment conditions and expiration dates before you head out. If your boat is equipped with an engine cut-off device or switch, you must use it.
  4. Don’t Overload Your Boat – Your vessel’s capacity plate will advise the recommended weight of passengers and gear. Make sure you load it evenly to keep the boat stable and prevent capsizing.
  5. File a Float Plan – Let someone know your boating plans and when you will return. Have a plan to check in if your route changes and when they should call for assistance. Know how to use VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones to call for help. 
  6. Check the Weather – Before and during your trip, keep track of storms that may head into the area. Head toward shore or shelter if the skies start to turn ominous. Take an extra set of clothes in case you get wet. Bring rain gear and sun protection.
  7. Stay Focused – Conditions on the water can change in an instant. Stay alert and pay attention to your actions and the actions of other boaters, anglers, and divers.
  8. Slower is Safer – Follow posted speed signs, and slow down when it’s congested, near wildlife areas, where people are fishing or diving, and when docking.
  9. Know Navigation Rules – The BoatTests101.com course will teach you the “Rules of the Road,” including how to signal or pass other vessels.  Don’t assume the other vessels will follow the rules and be prepared to compensate.
  10. Obey the Laws – BoatTests101.com course will go over boating laws in various circumstances, but head to your state’s website to see the latest rules and regulations. Pay attention and follow any law enforcement instructions.

Get ready for the summer boating season by refreshing yourself and your passengers on safe boating practices. While we draw attention to safety this week, following these guidelines will protect you all year long.

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Destinations

Airbnb launches ultimate designer getaway in Phuket’s iconic heritage mansion

The sprawling white and mustard heritage home is located in the historic heart of Old Phuket Town, and has been exquisitely restored to preserve its original fixtures, including richly patterned tiles and teakwood floors. Its first floor is now home to the Blue Elephant Restaurant – a Michelin Plate awardee and long-running stalwart of Thailand’s culinary industry.

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Filipinos planning their first overseas trip in two years after borders reopen on April 1 can now snag themselves the perfect holiday, as Airbnb launches the ultimate designer stay in Phuket’s palatial Governor’s Mansion – the island’s largest icon of Sino-Portuguese baroque architecture.

As the country gears up for its biggest cultural festival, Songkran, one group of four lucky guests will get to soak up the vibrant festivities with an island getaway of a lifetime, only on Airbnb. The majestic Governor’s Mansion will be bookable on airbnb.com/governorsmansion for only Php2,500* for a two night stay from 15-17 April 2022, welcoming overnight guests for the first time in more than 50 years. Bookings open at 9AM PHT on April 5, 2022. Travelers from Thailand or any of the countries that currently allow international travel to and from Thailand can apply — the Philippines included.

Guests will be hosted by popular Phuket-born model-actress Patricia Tanchanok Good who rose to fame in one of Netflix’s most popular Thai dramas last year, Girl From Nowhere 2, and national ambassador for royal Thai cuisine and Blue Elephant founder, master chef Nooror Somany Steppe. Programming for this special stay is supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The 119-year-old Governor’s Mansion welcomed many out-of-town dignitaries and remains one of several neoclassical heritage mansions on Phuket today. The sprawling white and mustard heritage home is located in the historic heart of Old Phuket Town, and has been exquisitely restored to preserve its original fixtures, including richly patterned tiles and teakwood floors. Its first floor is now home to the Blue Elephant Restaurant – a Michelin Plate awardee and long-running stalwart of Thailand’s culinary industry.

On the second floor, renowned Thai designer Saran Yen Panya has created a memorable, visually stunning space that pays homage to Thailand’s rich heritage and buzzing contemporary design scene. The stay features statement pieces by Yothaka – widely revered as Thailand’s master of design – in addition to bespoke handcrafted items by up-and-coming designers Kitt Ta Khon, Masaya, Sumphat Gallery, Thaniya and Mo Jirachaisakul, paired with Phuketian antiques from some of the island’s most distinguished homes and museums.

Guests will be immersed in a quintessentially Phuketian experience, including:

  • A personal welcome at check-in by Thai superstar Patricia ‘Good’ Tanchanok, who will share her favourite hidden gems in Phuket and tips for exploring the island
  • Exclusive access to a two-bedroom suite on the Mansion’s expansive second floor, including a private reception lounge and living room
  • A bespoke, multi-course ‘Songkran’ tasting menu prepared and hosted by master Chef Nooror Somany Steppe
  • A scuba diving and snorkeling adventure around the sparkling reefs and islands that dot the Andaman Sea
  • A gibbon rehabilitation social impact experience in Phuket’s last rainforest

“Thailand is an extraordinary country with unparalleled warmth and hospitality, and some of the most beautiful destinations. As more of us begin to travel further from home and for longer durations, we are working with our Host community to welcome the world back to Thailand safely. We are delighted to add the majestic Governor’s Mansion to our collection of unique stays throughout the Kingdom,” said Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb General Manager for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Songkran is a special moment for all Thais, as we give thanks and celebrate the dawn of a new year. As Thailand reopens, we are incredibly thrilled to partner with Airbnb to warmly welcome the world back to our country. We invite travellers from around the world to experience the “Amazing New Chapters” of Thailand under ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022’, with this iconic stay that shines a light on some of our finest Thai designers; as well as Phuket’s natural wonders, unique heritage and architecture, and delicious local cuisine,” shared Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

For more reasons to book that flight to the Land of Smiles, check out Airbnb’s first-ever Travel Guide to Thailand — spotlighting the hottest and most underrated destinations across the country, delicious gastronomic specialties and the most extraordinary Airbnb Stays for an incredible overseas getaway.

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