Places

NAGA CITY IN SEPTEMBER

Whenever the month of September comes, also marks the onset of the busiest time in Naga City as preparations for the Penafrancia Festival can immediately be felt. You can feel the energy as the usual pulse of the city suddenly gets a little bit quicker as the excitement for the festivities builds up.

Naga in September is like a crazy mass of crowd. People are everywhere, mostly dressed their best, lining along the roads to watch the Civic Parade and Float Competition, the Penafrancia Voyadores Festival Street Dance Competition and the Bicol Region Military Parade, among other activities. Also, there are concerts going on almost every night sponsored by the malls like SM, Robinson’s Mall and LCC. Across the street from SM City Naga in Barangay Triangulo, a carnival was also set up wherein the air is always wafting with the smell of newly cooked hot cakes and popcorn to the delight of the kids, with rides like the ferris wheel, caterpillar ride, horror train and the carousel. Peddlers and vendors are everywhere calling out to the crowd offering their wares.DSC08308

Nothing says fiesta more than the Banderitas hanging everywhere in the city. It’s great to see them blowing in the wind, you know it wouldn’t be fiesta without them.

 

By the way, you know what would be the best and most meaningful thing to do when in Naga? Let’s go do a Visita Iglesia! (visit the churches). Ok, did eyes just go rolling for a split second there? Nobody thinks this is fun? Well, I hope more and more people are willing to go along with this because you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate a tour of our beautiful churches. You have to visit these churches to understand why they are a major part of the city’s identity and the life of its people.

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Basilica Church in Balatas, Naga City

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Naga City is not known as a pilgrim city for nothing. Its churches are its main attractions and the city welcomes thousands of devotees of “Ina” come September of every year. So, maybe you won’t find beautiful beaches here like in Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes, but Naga City is spiritual as it is a happening city.

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Naga City Metropolitan Cathedral

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San Francisco Church at night
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Partial View of San Francisco Church

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Sadly, the influx of tourists and devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia does not help the crime situation any as thieves also get busier during this time of the year. So I would advise everyone in Naga to please ever be so mindful of your valuables just like you do when in Manila. Wear those sling bags that can be worn across the body with the bag placed right infront of you. If carrying a backpack, wear it on reverse (as in infront of you). Of course, you can’t do this with those really big backpacks so just for the small sized ones then. And please, please avoid brandishing your high-end cellphones about, as tempting as it can be, or as nice as the rose gold color of your iPhone 7 matches your pretty peach outfit, please stop yourself from doing this. I have seen some people do this and all I could think about was “there goes another victim in the making.” The augmented police force is everywhere, in every corner, in every nook and crook, but they can only do so much. They can’t watch every single person in the crowd all the time. So better watch out for yourselves. Be smart, be careful, and don’t be a victim.

Happy Fiesta Naga!

 

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Resorts

HACIENDAS DE NAGA (NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR)

It’s September once again and it’s the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Festival here in Naga City. I feel the festive mood as more people flock to the city that seems to have gotten even busier. The sights, sounds and activities are exciting indeed. However, I will have to put you on hold for now with the festival as I plan to write about it on my next post.

As of now, I can tell that many tourists and folks from nearby towns have arrived as I hear different languages and dialects being spoken in the crowds. And really, it has become more crowded at Centro, CBS terminal, at the churches and malls like SM. September is always a vibrant and happy time to be in Naga. However, sometimes all that roaming around and chasing after what events to watch and what things to do next can definitely take its toll on anyone. Sometimes, you just need to relax and really have fun for the sake of having fun!

So, if you travelled to Naga for the fiesta, but some R&R is very much in the order of your business, Haciendas de Naga might just be the right place for you. This resort, located in Brgy. Carolina, has a massive land area where you can do all sorts of activities like horseback riding, pili nut picking, wall climbing, and of course, swimming. Its major attraction is their massive wave pool and water slides.haciendas-de-naga-8haciendas-de-naga

By the way, the deepest part of their pool only reaches up to about 4.5 feet so it’s safe even for those who are not very good swimmers. Just make sure to stay in the shallows if you happen to be shorter than 4.5 feet LOL, especially when the waves are on so you won’t swallow the pool water or drown. No worries, they also have a very spacious kiddie pool so the kids can swim safely.haciendas-de-naga-10 haciendas-de-naga-2

If you like water jets, Haciendas has something sort of like that too to massage aching backs, just sit inside of this round elevated pool with the fountains (look for the mermaid). haciendas-de-naga-3

You can also lie on your stomach on the concrete ground and let the water being spouted by the “dolphins” to massage your whole body. It is a pretty relaxing experience.haciendas-de-naga-13

You can also explore the grounds and see the massive fish aquarium but sadly, it is so very poorly maintained and the water is stagnant and blurry that I highly doubt a single fish would survive thereat. I don’t have a picture as I decided against taking any. Hopefully, it is all improved by now.haciendas-de-naga-9haciendas-de-naga-1

The thing about this resort is that it is kinda far from the Centro of Naga, but the upside is that they offer free transportation if your group is composed of seven (7) or more persons. They will have their van fetch you infront of Nagaland Hotel which is in a very accessible location in Centro. However, if your group is small or if going solo, you can take a jeepney infront of San Francisco Church in Centro going to Brgy Carolina and ask the driver to take you to Haciendas de Naga wherein he will pull over on the tricycle stop that you will then take to bring you to the resort. Waiting for the jeepney to Carolina can take such a long time though as jeepneys going there are few and pass by far in between. The more attractive alternative is to rent a tricycle or one of those E-trikes that are plenty here in Naga to take you directly to the resort. The price will depend on how good you haggle with the driver. Mine was P300 for one way trip only as I had to go solo to join family members who went ahead earlier.

Anyway, the entrance+swimming fee at their Wave Pool is P300 for adults and P250 for kids. Prices can go up and down depending on the season and sometimes they have off-season promos so watch out for those. Better yet, you may contact their office at (054) 228-0375 or 0937-371-2451 and don’t be shy to ask for a discount or for promos especially if you are with a big group during off peak season.

For complete information on their rates and fees, please visit Rates and Fees.

Resorts

Dos Montes Natural Hillside Spring Resort (Malilipot, Albay)

There are a lot of good resorts to visit in Albay for families and friends looking to have fun in the water. One of them  is located very near along the National Highway in Barangay 1 Poblacion in the town of Malilipot. It is called Dos Montes Natural Hillside Spring Resort. As the name suggests, you can expect to find free flowing mineral-rich spring water which guarantees that the water is always fresh and cool. The resort has swimming pools both for adults and for kids as well as water slides for guests to enjoy.294945_449622468387997_2014583293_n526266_449620331721544_413612671_n536502_449622551721322_302164530_n

Some of their cottages are situated on the elevated reinforced hillside to give a great relaxing view of the whole resort as well as of the lush greens surrounding it. Just prepare your ears for the possible onslaught of videoke machines though, apparently we can’t have fun anymore without them. Lol.576563_449625481721029_1435118569_n546141_449622361721341_1862355388_n156591_3180686844913_1008543855_n

Their charges and fees are very affordable for P90.00 entrance fee for day swimming both for kids and adults and P100.00 for night swimming. For complete information on fees and the rates of their cottages click Fees and Cottage Rates.

Food

Edgardo’s Sinangag Plaza (Con. Pequena, Naga City)

Hello everyone! So, I’m back again with my discoveries of what’s new and what’s good value for money in the land of sili and gata, Bicol. You’ll notice that I haven’t really gotten farther than Naga City lately since, as always, I’ve been tied to work. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I will get to explore more of Bicol so I will have more exciting stuff to share with you guys.

So, like two weeks ago, Rovi and I checked out this newly opened tapsilogan near our office. By the way, a tapsilogan is a Filipino term for eatery or resto wherein the menu is basically composed of Tapa (cured meat), Sinangag (fried rice) and fried Itlog (egg). If one does not prefer tapa, they also offer fried chicken, pritong bangus (fried milk fish), tocino, hotdogs, lumpiang Shanghai  (Shanghai rolls) and porkchop. Every order is always paired with fried rice and one fried egg. Even better, each order only costs P80!19840190_10209538802969967_1570245568_o

As with the ambience, it was very clean and newly renovated. We actually only wanted to have lunch when we went there but upon seeing the improvements of the place, we just had to take pictures. From the outside, it didn’t seem like much but once we entered, I silently thanked the heavens that there was finally a decent place to eat at near our work place. By the way, I said improvements because the said establishment was previously occupied by this restaurant called Global Kitchen which didn’t do too well and eventually closed down. The previous resto looked gloomy and sounded expensive while this new Edgardo’s Sinangag Plaza seemed more warm, welcoming and humble or what we call masa (for the majority of people) in these parts. The interiors though are pretty sassy compared to a usual tapsilogan.20107857_10209538803969992_1599876243_o20108090_10209538820210398_926941283_o(1)

As with the food, Rovi ordered Porksilog (fried porkchop) and was surprised she was given two pieces instead of just one. She said they tasted good. I remember she mentioned there were tough parts of the pork chops, I believe it was the pork rind. 20132969_10209538809010118_1289813539_o

My order was bangus (fried milk fish) but thing is, I didn’t know I had to say I wanted the head part. Turns out you either get the tail part or head part of the fish. I wasn’t asked. So, they served me this (below) – the end tail of a very big milkfish! I mean, it must have been a very big fish that there was only a smidgen of bangus belly left in the part they served me (the most delicious part). I wanted to send it back and ask for the head part instead but I got shy and thought that they’ve already fried the tail, so I had the tail. Being the opposite of assertive definitely has its drawbacks as you cannot believe how many sneaky fish bones I had to deal with. So, the next time I’m eating there I’m telling them my specs before they fry my food!20107321_10209538807690085_187295409_o

That was basically my experience. After a few days, my co-workers have ordered take-out food and so far, we were all impressed with the portions. For instance with Lumpiang Shanghai, there were a heaping ten pieces of rolls and the serving of the fried chicken was not to be underestimated as well. However, this is not for everyday eating or for those who have an aversion for fried food because in this eatery, everything they have on offer is fried.

Food

JAPAN-JAPAN (NAGA CITY)

This afternoon, Irene and Jael asked me to go out with them to eat at this joint called Japan-Japan at Balatas, Naga City. I said yes, as I was really tired and head was throbbing from all the work I had to do for the day. And I have learned to eat whenever I’m stressed out, either that or drink wine. The former I had to learn consciously to avoid further losing weight as I tend to lose my appetite whenever I’m burned out, while the latter was easy. Enough said.

Anyway, the place was very simple and unassuming. It’s one of those hidden gems you only know about if somebody actually tells you about it or if you live near the area. In my case, they let me in on it. And I’m glad they did. By the looks of the place being very basic and simple, it can be described as more of a joint than a resto. The food though is another story because the things we tried tasted great! And by food presentation, it was almost hard to believe that that kind of food was being served in that place. Uhm, that was meant to be a compliment. I meant like, “do not judge a book by its cover” because there’s more to it than meets the eye.DSC07879

What we ordered were Takoyaki (P45), Ramen (P100), California Maki (P130) and Yakisoba (P90). It’s a relief I still remember all the names and prices of the food as general anaesthesia messed up my short term memory.

So, the Takoyaki came out first as they already had a few cooking when we got there. Each order is 5 pieces but they got excited and ate one of each from our two orders before I was able to take a picture (lol!). It tasted delicious and creamy, the usual veggies are inside like cabbage and carrots, and the octopus was very soft. What made it a cut above the usual Takoyaki being sold in the malls was the sauce. I can’t stop raving about how good the sauce was because I usually find Takoyaki bland and I usually just eat one before I’m tired of it (umay factor), but with Japan-Japan’s sauce I can maybe eat all five.

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Takoyaki (P45)

Then, there was the California Maki (my favorite) which was like party in my mouth! All the ingredients like the rice, crab meat, mango, apple, mayo and the dipping sauce with wasabi all together made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I popped one in and knew that was what I came for. There were eight pieces of heavenly bites on that plate.

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California Maki (P130)

The Yakisoba was also good and they didn’t scrimp on the bonito flakes (those thin shaves of savory translucent stuff that looked like plastic). The noodles were well cooked and savory as well.

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Yakisoba (P90)

Finally, the Ramen, which did not taste like how I expected it. I thought it would taste like Korean Ramyeon but it didn’t. I love Ramyeon and my taste buds have gotten used to eating the instant Jjampong noodles (which tasted like Ramyeon from MannA Korean Resto). But I guess the Ramen, like every authentic dish, has a different character faithful to its origin or the region where it came from. I must say, it was worth a try and a great addition to our meal.

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Ramen (P100)

By the way, the place is not hard to find although not many people know about it. If coming from Centro of Naga, just ride a jeepney going to Magsaysay Avenue and ask the driver to pull over infront of West Park building or simply say Philhealth (located in that building). There is a line of pedicabs or padyak that you can ask to take you to Japan-Japan.

Over-all verdict:  Great value for money!

Food

Lipote Red Wine with Sea Salt (Naga City)

This weekend, we chanced upon this business month exhibit going on at SM Naga City, today is the last day actually and we were just lucky to catch it. There were a couple of nice stuff we did see. Some booths showcased a lot of local products like furniture, delicacies, candied local fruits and wine. They were selling unique items from nipa vinegar to skin peeling products promising to make one’s skin fair and young looking.wine 1

Actually, as I am writing this, I feel a little tipsy as I have just again sampled the Lipote Red Wine that I am blogging about. That is why I think it took me a really long time than necessary to write my first paragraph. By the way, this Lipote Wine that I am featuring was made by Yulaik Wine Products located along Universal Road in Triangulo, Naga City.lipote wine 2

I have sampled three of their wines – the Lipote Red Wine, Lipote Red Wine with Sea Salt and Guyabano White Wine. Among the three, my least favourite was the Guyabano wine. I found it has a bit of an unpleasant after taste which resembled bitter medicine or unripe fruit. The Lipote Red Wine, however, was pleasantly tangy and sweet. It reminded me of the baligang fruit which I know so well, being a fruit of my childhood. Now, when I tasted Lipote Red Wine with Sea Salt, I thought it tasted the best among the three. The salt really did make a difference, as subtle as can be, but still a noteworthy difference.lipote wine 3

Now for those of you who are not Filipino, Lipote is a fruit that is found only in the Philippines and locally known in Bicol as baligang. It looks like blueberries but with a deeper color and a lot more tangy in taste. One bite of the fruit and the blood like juices just burst. The popular way to eat this is by first vigorously shaking the fruits inside a container along with salt and sugar. You allow the fruits to soak in its own natural juices, which resembles blood more than red wine really. Then you eat the delectable flesh which is sweet, salty and tangy all at the same time. And if you’re like me who likes these kinds of stuff, you will take a swig of the juice as well. Now this juice is so potent that it always did cause me to have red blotches all over my neck and face and I would always feel a little tipsy like I just drank liquor. And that was not even fermented yet, so you can imagine how potent the wine can be (or maybe I just get drunk easily lol).

Lipote fruits
photo credits: fruitipedia.com

I am no wine connoisseur, but drinking red wine is one of the few pleasures that I allow myself to have. There are just times when the thought of the red wine chilling in the fridge is the very thing that gets me through all those stressful Mondays. Just half a glass each time (I’m not yet an alcoholic, people).  My opinion on wine may be biased as well since I really prefer red, sweet red to be exact. My all-time favourite is Carlo Rossi Sweet Red wine, it’s just so subtle and the effect on me is a good night’s sleep each time. I buy Doña Elena sweet red wine as well. I find that it has a stronger alcohol content, less sweet, but it’s cheaper and comes in a bigger bottle.wine 2

Yulaik products also include dried fruits, jams and condiments all packaged very nicely. They will make good gifts during special occasions like weddings and anniversaries or will be great souvenirs for those who are looking to get an authentic taste of what Bicol has to offer.

Places

Daraga Church (Daraga, Albay)

Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church, really more known simply as Daraga Church, is a Roman Catholic Church in the municipality of Daraga, Albay, Philippines. The church was built by the Franciscans in 1772 under the patronage of the Our Lady of the Gate.

For the locals, Daraga Church is the go-to place of worship every Sunday wherein the breathtaking overlooking view of Mayon Vulcano has become but a normal sight. In fact, it only ever draws the usual ohhhs and ahhhs of amazement from visitors, being that it has always been there and the locals have gotten used to it by now, like an ever present, father figure watching over his brood.

However, on a particularly good day when the sun, the light, the clouds and the bluest sky have all conspired with each other to give you just a glimpse of that magical view, it honestly does have the power to make you catch your breath.daraga church 2view from daraga church

I remember years ago, there was much discussion on the radio as well as between everyone who cared to have an opinion that they were totally against the move of applying white paint over the facade of the church. Everyone thought the church looked regal and classic enough on its natural state, just gray and no paint on the outside. Some even said that the unpainted church showed so much character, that it was all the better showing off its age than pretending to be contemporary. However, it still ended up being painted on with white and people were outraged for a while. It took a few days (maybe weeks) but people got over it eventually.582513_447627698587474_1157023064_n

To this day, Daraga Church remains to be one of the must-see places when visiting the Bicol Region, especially the province of Albay. It has also been featured in some local films, one of the most recent was She’s Dating the Gangster wherein Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo (Filipino actors) had a scene shot inside the church.

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Food

MannA Korean Restaurant (San Felipe, Naga City)

Hello everyone! Today, we had lunch at this restaurant that serves authentic Korean food. The name is MannA Korean Restaurant located at Parkview Executive Village in San Felipe, Naga City- about 10 minutes drive from Magsaysay Avenue. It was my second time to eat there so I know the food is delicious and authentic as the owner is a Korean couple who barely speak any Tagalog. And lo and behold! Who did I happen to sit next to? It’s Soong Jong Ki from Descendants of the Sun, so naturally, I was beyond thrilled to say the least. I am so  convinced that DOTS is the best. drama. ever. (Insert girly giggles here).19449251_10209330774929396_459787038_o

So after waiting for what seemed like 20 minutes and we were so hungry because we got there at 12:30 PM (that is already late lunch for us), we got served first with the Korean Seafood Pancakes. My favorite. It was as expected – a soft, moist, hot plate of deliciousness. The slightly spicy, sweet dipping sauce makes all the difference.

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Korean Seafood Pancake (P 150)

Then one by one they came out fresh from the kitchen. The half soy chicken, half seasoned chicken, 2 bibimbap, 1 beef bulgogi, 2 bowls of ramyeon, and 2 pitchers of iced tea. We ordered The Family Pack (good for 6-10 persons) for P1,200.00 only and everything was delicious! The kimbap was not part of the promo, but was an additional order of a co-worker.

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Half Seasoned Chicken (P 250)
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Bibimbap x 2 (P 200)
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Beef Bulgogi (P 200)
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Half Soy Chicken (P 250)
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Ramyeon x 2 (P 200)
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Kimbap (P 100)- not part of the promo

DSC0758619402345_10209330774969397_2129701268_oI noticed that the interiors haven’t changed much, just a few more tarps with pictures of their food and prices were installed. But I guess that is the charm of the place – it is simple to the eyes but explosive to the palate.19397906_10209331015455409_618644918_n

It was a very satisfying meal and I’ll gladly recommend this restaurant to the Naguenos who are tired of the usual fare and want to try something new and to the tourists who are visiting Naga City. Although it is a bit on the outskirts of the busy city streets, as it is located in the rural area in San Felipe, every bite makes the trip all worth it. So, I guess my love for Korean drama might only be possibly outdone by my love for Korean food.

By the way, thanks so much Rovi for the treat! =)

Places

Magayon Art Gallery (Albay Provincial Capitol)

When in Albay, make sure to visit the Magayon Art Gallery, located at the lobby of Albay Provincial Capitol Building, which serves as the avenue for local artists to show off their visual creations. It is especially fun to go there during Magayon Festival because of the many activities like the parade of huge folklore characters made of paper mache, parade featuring the different  festivals of the different towns, pageants, trade fairs and beer plaza. However, since the festival was just held last month (May 2017), I think it will be something to look forward to next year.

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Magayon Art GAllery

 

549421_447606805256230_1172652317_n575242_447606835256227_1981817209_n579723_447606928589551_2068803416_n So, I was being dorky and found some ways to make this painting more interesting I think using just the format tools (effects) of MS PowerPoint:normal

Glow Edgesglow edges

Plastic Wrapplastic wrap

Cut Outcut out

I have been to the GSIS Museo ng Sining in Pasay City and have seen paintings of Fernando Amorsolo and Juan Luna’s “Parisian Life” up close, but I found myself just as impressed by the works of our local artists in Bicol. So, if ever you’re in the area, I recommend you give the Magayon Art Gallery a visit. Thanks for stopping by!

Food

GINATAANG LANGKA (Young Jackfruit Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Hello everyone! It is Saturday and I am so relieved to be at home instead of slaving away in front of the computer at the office. I was so looking forward to this long weekend (Monday is Independence Day here in the Phil!). Yesterday, as I ever so melodramatically declared to my friend and equally “slave driven” co-worker Rovi, I swore I would try to fatten up like it’s some kind of a life mission. So I will make an extra effort to pig out more and think less of work this weekend. (BTW, you can check out her blog at Rovi Diaries).

Anyway, I’m no cook so it’s Yoy who really cooked this one Bicolano dish that we usually have every other weekends. It is called Ginataang Langka which means young jackfruit strips cooked in coconut milk (gata). If there is one thing the Bicolanos love as much as sili (chili peppers), it would have to be dishes cooked in gata (coconut milk).

The ingredients are the following: 3 cloves garlic, half of a medium sized ginger, 1 small onion, 1 small tomato, 2 cups coconut milk, half kilo young jackfruit strips (available in the Philippine/Asian markets), half kilo freshwater shrimps (you can also use half kilo small sized crabs instead), 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and ground black pepper to taste. DSC07496DSC07497DSC07501DSC07498DSC07505

Basically, the first thing is to chop your onions, garlic, tomato and ginger. Then bring the coconut milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Yoy likes to use our medium sized wok for this, although you may also use a pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, salt and the young jackfruit strips. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until the jackfruit strips are cooked (should be soft). DSC07508

Then add the shrimps and cook for another 5 minutes or until shrimps have turned bright orange. Add more salt, a little sugar, ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with green and red peppers and simmer for 2 more minutes. And you’re done!DSC07511

Enjoy it with a steaming bowl of rice and fried fish with soy sauce and calamansi (local lime) as dipping sauce for those truly satisfying Bicolano flavors. For me, it tastes of home. Nothing says Welcome to Bicol better than an incredibly spicy chili-based dish like the Bicol Express or the creamy, coco-nutty flavors of the local dishes such as Laing and Ginataang Langka.