Monthly Archives

December 2006


A Popit De Leon Experience

I am Popit!

Popit personifies the term Character Chef. He gives life to an exclusive dinner with friends, family or special love ones through his generous tasty dishes and personalized service. How can a theater actor in school plays and self-confessed La Salle bum transforms into a down-to-earth Les Roche-trained Character Chef ? How can a chef be lactose intolerant and still provides a menu full of cheese, milk and cream as ingredients that comes with an offer of free lactaid pill for lactose intolerant guests?

On weekends, Popit cooks for excited guest at his cousin Charley’s place in Lipa. Charley’s is the latest out-of-town restaurant set in Charley Leviste Antonio’s Equestrian farm in Lipa. For 793/head net for a minimum of 10 guests, he will cook you a sumptuous meal with the freshest herbs grown organically from Charley’s garden.

On weeknights, he provides an exclusive pool side dinner to friends and customers at his Crown Tower condo in Makati. It is an exclusive one man show, where Popit plays the master Chef, the waiter, the cashier, and the entertainer. At the end of your dinner, I’m sure your stomach would applause and your wallet would wonder why only pay P750/head (minimum of 10)?

Thanks to Popit for making Makati’s chef-for-hire scene alive. I’ve never seen such passion in a chef who is not concerned about money but concerned about serving other people through memorable dining experiences. He names his catering business World Domination Through Food, and now I understand why.

My P&G Friends (L-R): Romi Garduce, Patrick and Quennie Cua, and Aileen and Paul Albano.

It was definitely a memorable Christmas dinner event for us last Dec. 26. Nothing beats good conversation with friends and a good meal in an exclusive and personalized setting. Overall, the dinner was a building momentum in food approval ratings and culminated with the killer Mahi Mahi dish and to-die-for Tiramisu. The pool side setting was risky due to the possibility that it might rains. Our night was hot and humid on a December evening (what more in summer).

An exclusive dinner in Popit’s Crown Tower condo offers a wider menu choices because he is not limited to cook his dishes with the fresh herbs in Charley’s garden. On the other hand, a meal with fresh rosemary ingredients and other herbs is something worth driving to Charley’s Equestrian farm in Lipa. Dinner can be held in his Condo or your own designated place within Makati for P800/head. If you want it exclusively for two, he prepares a 8-course tasting menu for 1,250/head.

Let me share with you, our unique Popit de Leon experience…

Related Posts:
The Anniversary Dinner… by Jag Garcia
LUNCH AT CHARLEY’S by Mang Mike of Lafang
The Artist Chef Experience, Joan Manalang
Pat Choa, Special Birthday Brunch from a Special Chef 🙂

Read more


Beard Papa vs. Happy Cream Puff

And the winner is still… Happy Cream Puff! At least for us….

First time for me to eat Beard Papa and I was surprised by its size which is a little bigger and its price at P50 just for one vanilla cream puff. The Beard Papa eclairs goes for P55 and what is nice is that they have other cream puff versions with different toppings of chocolate (White choco chips, Black choco chips, Choco fudge and Choco glazed). This reminds me of the doughnuts flavors we have. The Happy Cream Puff sells for P20 and P25 for the eclair. So technically, you can get two for each beard papa.

The cream filling taste almost the same and the difference would be: the Happy Cream Puff has a more egg milky taste versus Beard Papa that has a Vanilla after taste. I was not able to taste the vanilla bean from Happy Cream Puff.

As for the puff, the Beard Papa has a crispy/ fried base and it feels like eating croissant with cream inside. The Happy Cream Puff has a soft pillow type consistency throughout which feels like it was expertly baked. Although, I liked the crispy base of Beard Papa which gives a more crunchier texture into the cream puff experience. My wife did not prefer her cream puff to be crispy.

The chocolate layer on Beard Papa has more interesting taste but it is gone after the first bite while the Happy Cream Puff lingers more in your mouth. It would be interesting to see if there are different chocolate topping variations for Happy Cream Puff in the future and of course, the value for money when you buy more.

Overall, we still personally love our Happy Cream Puff Eclairs! Interestingly, we discovered that it can be served cold and the eclair continues to be soft but firmer and not chewy. I ate a lot of cream puff this Christmas that I should stay away from these goodies for the rest of the year …

Read more


Pagudpud,Ilocos Norte – The Definitive Guide to Pagudpud and Ilocos Norte

Are you going on a road trip to Pagudpud? Download this Infographic Guide before you go…
Infographic: Your Awesome Journey to Pagudpud

Didn’t you wish that there is a one-stop online travel guide that can help you plan your awesome vacation or travel in the Philippines?

Sometimes, I myself, is frustrated with the low quality of online information we have for most of our awesome Philippines destinations. By far, the most comprehensive travel guide of the Philippines is the Lonely Planet and they are written by foreigners.

Lastly, most people ask me about tips on places in the Philippines and I thought wouldn’t it be nice if I can share these tips with more Filipinos.

As a Christmas Gift to everyone, I was inspired to create online travel guides that can help you plan your next awesome vacation in the Philippines! One of the most frequently asked question from me, recently, is how to plan the Northern Trip to Pagudpud or Ilocos Norte. I’ve written an extensive and comprehensive travel guide that is short, complete, and full of pictures.

Introducing… Awesome Philippines Travel Guide on Pagudpud

The Definitive Online Travel Guide to Pagudpud

Favor. Can you check it out? Please place some comments in the articles and additional suggestions if you have been to Pagudpud and Ilocos Norte. Spread the word… Traveling in the Philippines should be easy and awesome!

P.S. This might be late already for people traveling this Christmas Season 2006. Sorry for that…

Technorati Tags: ,


Fort Ilocandia

Are you going on a road trip to Pagudpud? Download this Infographic Guide before you go…
Infographic: Your Awesome Journey to Pagudpud

Fort Ilocandia ( is the only rated hotel in the Ilocos Norte Region. This was originally constructed by the Marcos Family for their daughter Irene’s wedding reception. This spanish inspired resort mainly attracts taiwanese gamblers but it still never fails to charm the first-time Filipino tourist. It is best suited for hosting conferences and events but it could be quite expensive to stay here for your family’s vacation or use it just as a stopover. If you decide to stay here, might as well maximize the facilities and even walk to the famous Sand Dunes of Suba.

Virtual Tour of Fort Ilocandia

This warrior of Fort Ilocandia welcomes you in front of this 2 storey high reception area.

A red carpet with matching chandelier greets you as you enter Fort Ilocandia.

You can feel that this is pretty much, Marcos territory and you can find these interesting photos in the 2nd floor of the reception building.

There is a huge impressive fountain in the center of Fort Ilocandia. I was fortunate to see the fountain operational only during events and wedding reception.

The red brick facade and interiors are simply amazing and gives a cozy warm ambiance to the entire place. This is the hallway that leads to the hotel rooms.

The rooms are spacious and well maintained with a veranda that has a view of the sea. Surprisingly, the restrooms are well maintained with bath tub. This is what you will expect from a rated hotel in this northern part of the Philippines. The usual complaint is that there is a lot of chinese channels in the cable TV.

There is a mini-zoo with interesting animals that could amaze your children.

Amazingly, there is an olympic size swimming pool in this resort! You should never miss taking a dip in the swimming pool 🙂

The gardens are well maintained and you can play with your kids or have awesome portraits.

The Suba Beach is directly in front of the resort but due to dark grey sand and rough waves, most people don’t even attempt to take a dip in the beach…

Suba Beach Evaluation

Sand quality and color- The sand is dark grey when dry but almost black when wet. The sand particles are large enough that it would hurt when the strong beach wind carries it.

Water quality – Dark and cloudy. You cannot see anything underneath.

Pollutants– The beach in front of Fort Ilocandia are well maintained. No locals or guests not booked in Fort Ilocandia are allowed to use the beach.

Gradient Waves– The beach gradually slopes down as it meets the waves. Then you don’t want to know what’s beyond that.

Currents- Strong current and definitely not advisable for kids.

Underwater obstructions/ Marine Life– Beware of Jelly Fish.

Sunset– The sun sets in front of the resort but most of the time it is cloudy where you can’t see the sunset fully.

How to get there:
Once you see the welcome to Laoag arch and before you enter the bridge leading to Laoag, you NEED to turn left. There is no clear signs in this intersection so don’t miss this turn. From here, there are already road signs pointing you to the direction of Fort Ilocandia.

Links and Resources
a Fort Ilocandia Affair by Our Awesome Planet
The Youngest Quester @ Microsoft CIO 5th Quest by Our Awesome Planet



Patapat Viaduct

Are you going on a road trip to Pagudpud? Download this Infographic Guide before you go…
Infographic: Your Awesome Journey to Pagudpud

Patapat Viaduct is an elevated concrete highway constructed along winding mountainside in the northernmost section of Ilocos Norte. This viaduct was constructed to solve the problem of landslides in the area which have caused so many vehicular accidents in the past. Footed on the rocky seashore just several meters from the mountain side it gives motorists a spectacular view of Pasaleng Bay.

It is practically deserted except for occasional photo taking from Tourist (like me from years ago). You should take this leisure drive along Patapat and be mesmerized by its awesome beauty…

How to Get there:
The Patapat viaduct is about 16+ kilometers from Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (about an hour away). This is farther north from Blue Lagoon. From Pagudpud, simply head northeast towards Cagayan. This will take you through winding mountain roads that have lush vegetation on both sides and occasional views of the sea until you reach the patapat viaduct.



Paoay Church

The San Augustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte is One out of the Four Baroque Churches of the Philippines and designated as a World Heritage Site. The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is the official designation to a collection of four Spanish-era churches in the Philippines, upon its inscription to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993.

The collection is composed of the following:
San Agustin Church in Manila
Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur
San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo

These churches have a unique architectural style known as Earthquake Baroque which called for the emphasis on the buttresses and foundations of these churches to survive earthquakes. The most imposing of these buttresses could be found in Paoay Church, while the true testament of this architecture could be seen in San Agustin Church, Manila, the only structure in Intramuros to survive World War II. (Read More… Wikipedia on Baroque Churches of the Philippines…)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a specific site (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that has been nominated and confirmed for inclusion on the list maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.The programme aims to catalogue, name, and conserve sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humankind. (Read More: Wikipedia on World Heritage Site)

You should never miss this and I made that mistake a couple of times already because I was not informed about the historical significance of this place. You should read this article by Heritage Conservation Society:

“The church was started by the Augustinian Fr. Antonio Estavillo in 1694. It was completed in 1710 and rededicated in 1896, just three years before the expulsion of Spanish rule in the country. The style of the church has been dubbed “Earthquake Baroque” by Alicia Coseteng, one of the early authorities on colonial church architecture. Because the buttresses extend out considerably from the exterior walls, the entire visual experience becomes three-dimensional, unlike most of the churches in the country where the inherent beauty of the church is limited only at the facade.” (Read More: Heritage Conservation Society: on Earthquake Baroque: Paoay Church in the Ilocos)

Links and Resources Wikipedia Heritage Conservation Society in the Philippines



Sand Dunes of Ilocos

This is only place in the Philippines where you can find a desert in the seemingly endless coastal sand dunes of Suba. It is about an hour’s walk along the beach from Fort Ilocandia. It is quite an exercise and walking in these sand dunes feels like meditating. The sky feels a little bit closer. It is a an awesome place for reflection. I suggest that you walk during early morning and ensure that it won’t rain.

The Sand Dunes of Ilocos by Our Awesome Planet



Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

This is the fantastic facade of the Caoe Bojeador also known as Burgos Lighthouse. This is a perfect portrait place and I must admit that for heritage places, we need to turn to the experts at Heritage Conservation Society to accurately describe its beauty.

Faro de Cabo Bojeador is set majestically on top of a hill overlooking the South China Sea. Located approximately 35 kilometres north of the City of Laoag, the lighthouse is the most accessible of all lighthouses in the north of the Island of Luzon. Situated 160 metres on top of a hill named Vigia de Nagparitan, the lighthouse of Cape Bojeador serves as a station point for ships veering towards the Pacific Coast heading towards the Babuyan Channel. Similarly, it as well assists ships heading towards the ports of Salomangue in Ilocos Sur which is 87 kilometres south from the lighthouse, and Curmimao, which is 60 kilometres away in Ilocos Norte. In addition, beyond to the port of Manila. Completed on the 30th of March, 1892, the design and construction of the Lighthouse of Cape Bojeador was initially undertaken by the Engineer Magin Pers y Pers but was subsequently reconfigured and finished by the Engineer Guillermo Brockman. …” ( >> Read More: Heritage Conservation Society – Cape Bojeador Lighthouse )

You must be wondering what is the big deal with this lighthouse? This magnificent view of the jagged coastline facing the South China sea awaits anymore who patiently waits their turn to go up the lighthouse. You can also opt to go here to view the magnificent sunset in Ilocos Norte!

This is a close up picture of this magnificent spanish lighthouse.

“The tower, which constitutes the highest level, is situated in the rear, five metres higher than the pavilion below. Built of locally made brick, the octagonal shaper tower has an inner dimension of two metres and an exterior dimension of three and half metres. The lower one fourth of the tower is truncated whereas the remaining body of the shaft is straight. The top of the tower supports an overhanging balcony, which is surrounded and supported by decorative grill works. The attic where the cupola and lantern rests is cylindrical. What is notable about the Bojeador Lighthouse is that is still has intact the original cupola and lantern.” ( >> Read More: Heritage Conservation Society – Cape Bojeador Lighthouse )

The rustic walls of the pavilion is perfect for portrait shots like this…

This is the door that leads to the staircase going up to the actual lighthouse. You have to wait for your turn since only a few people at a time can go up because it is narrow. Also, this lighthouse is the most visited lighthouse in Ilocos Norte so going up could take some time.

To save you the trouble, here is a photo of the actual lantern in the light house for those of you who are curious about this.

” The cupola, made of bronze is surrounded with glass panes. The dome on the other hand supports a ball shaped flue, which exhausts smoke from the flame of the original gaslight. The lantern on the other hand is fitted with a first order Fresnel Lens that is partially intact. “During my very first visit to this lighthouse way back in the 70’s, the original lens and mechanism was still operational. Sadly due to the intense earthquake that shook the region in 1990, parts of the lens collapsed and the alignment of the mechanism was displaced.” Nevertheless, the Coast Guards has retained the original mechanism for historic purposes and only retrofitted the lighting mechanism for its daily operations. ” ( >> Read More: Heritage Conservation Society – Cape Bojeador Lighthouse )

How to get here: Located approximately 35 kilometres north of the City of Laoag, there is a large sign along the national highway which serves as the landmark for Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.

Links and Resources:
Heritage Conservation Society – Cape Bojeador Lighthouse



Saud Beach, Pagudpud

Are you going on a road trip to Pagudpud? Download this Infographic Guide before you go…
Infographic: Your Awesome Journey to Pagudpud

When people say Pagudpud beach, it usually refers to the popular Saud Beach. “Pagudpud actually consists of three vast beaches, strung along Luzon’s northern edge and hemmed in by huge points jutting out into the ocean. Coconut palm-backed Saud Beach is where the resorts are. Maira-ira, also known as Blue Lagoon, is a few points east. Deserted Pansian beach is still further on, near the bother of Cagayan Province. “*

It should be called the “anti-Boracay of the North” since it boast of beautiful white beach backed by rows of coconut palms minus the noise and nightlife of Boracay. In fact you can call it either serene or boring depends on how you want to look at it. If you are standing in the middle of Pagudpud, Saud beach the photo above is the scene that you would see on your left side with the shores transforming into a rocky coastline. Behind it, you can already see the Bangui windmills.

On your right side, you would see the photo above of endless shoreline cove vanishing into the forest mountains. It is great to walk in the morning from one end to another. After seeing Blue Lagoon, I was much less impressed with the quality of sand in Saud. But still its warm cove embrace never fails to welcome you and impress you after driving for more than 14 hours from Manila…

Saud Beach Evaluation

Sand quality and color– White when dry and midday. Beige when wet in the morning or late afternoon. I took the pictures above early in the morning, that is why it is beige in color. When you see a photo of Saud Beach that is white, I’m sure it was taken in at noon time. The sand quality is good but looks disorganized when wet.

Water quality– Clean and inviting.

Pollutants– Well Maintained. Most of the resort owners makes it a point to clean their own surroundings.

Gradient Waves– The beach is a gradient slope which is very good for a swimming beach but at some point, there is a sudden drop off. For kids, make sure that they have a life vest instead of just floaters.

A view of Bangui Bay

Currents– Be careful not to go far from the shore.

Underwater obstructions– there is none near the shore that is why this is ideal as a swimming beach.

Marine life– Be careful of the Jelly fish.
How to Get There

There are a lot of signs already once you reach Pagudpud via the National Higway. Just make sure that you arrive when there is still light because there are no street lamps. This is a famous Saud Shell landmark near the different resorts which means you already arrive in Saud Beach.

Links and Resources
* Lonely Planet 9th Edition


Looking for a new place to eat?
Or a guide for your next destination?

Looking for a new place to eat?

Or a guide for your next destination?

Our travel tips and restaurant reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Join our mailing list to receive the latest food reviews and travel guides from Team Our Awesome Planet.

You have Successfully Subscribed!