5 great day trips from Metro Manila (WayToGo)

Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake is a sight to behold

(This feature was published in WayToGo last February 14, 2016)

Escape the hustle and bustle of the Metro by heading out to one of these fascinating destinations in Luzon

Mount Pinatubo

Best for: Adventure seekers

The buzz: Lace up your hiking shoes and head to Mount Pinatubo for a taste of adventure. Standing tall at 1,486m, this active volcano is a popular tourist attraction, with a beautiful crater lake that formed after its last eruption in 1991. Sign up for a day tour, which will provide transport from Manila and take you on a thrilling 4×4 jeep ride across rocky rivers and ash fields. You’ll then have to hike for two hours to reach the crater lake — the going will be tough, but the picture-perfect views at the top will be worth your every effort.

Getting there: Three hours from Metro Manila by car

Tip: There are numerous group tours available, but make sure to sign up with a Department of Tourism-accredited travel agency. Rates are cheaper for big groups.

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More of Cebu: Oslob’s whale sharks and Carcar’s lechon (GMA News Online)

See whale sharks skim the surface of the ocean

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 13, 2016)

Swim with the whale sharks – check! Eat lechon and chicharon in Carcar – check!

It feels good to tick items off my bucket list, and my most recent trip to Cebu made it possible to do so.

My travel buddies and I allotted one whole day to head 120 kilometers south of Cebu City to rural Oslob, where swimming with the whale sharks has become the main attraction. It takes approximately four hours to drive from the city center to the seaside, which you have to reach from 6 a.m. to 12 noon so you can sign up to swim with the gentle giants of the sea.

Road trip to the south 

Travelers may commute by bus, but our tour operator provided a private van with driver and limited its passengers for maximum comfort. We left past six in the morning, just after sunrise, and I made sure to wear my swimsuit underneath my casual beachwear for utmost convenience.

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Champagne buffet, tapas, and other good eats at Alfred (GMA News Online)

Raclette and champagne will please your palates

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 9, 2016)

All-you-can-eat restaurants have become a trend these past couple of years. It’s now a dime a dozen—you’d see them in high-end hotels and in commercial malls, too.

But not all buffet spreads are created equal. Some have mundane munchies that would fill your belly but not necessarily make for a happy tummy. Others would surpass your gastronomic expectations with its gourmet offerings.

One such place where I would happily not count calories is Alfred, the 24-hour restaurant of Makati Diamond Residences.

Champagne every day, why not?

I immediately liked the simple yet sophisticated vibe of the restaurant when I walked in for lunch the first time I went there. It felt open and spacious because of its high ceiling. It had floor to ceiling neutral drapes with natural sunlight coming in from one side. There were U-shaped upholstered seats for the round tables, stylish lighting fixtures, and an elegant orchid centerpiece in the middle.

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Touring Cebu City in style (GMA News Online)

Devotees hear mass at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu

This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 2, 2016)

Whenever I travel to a place I’ve never set foot in before, I try to sneak in a quick city or day tour in my itinerary. I believe it’s the best way of getting to know a destination, and I find it especially convenient when I only have limited time in that particular place.

I admit that I’ve been to Cebu a couple of times already. But I’ve never had the chance to do a city tour until my recent trip, and I’d never felt so welcome. The moment I stepped outside the airport, the Best of the Best Travel and Tours tour guide, Keane, greeted us—not just with a big smile, but with goodies as well.

It’s typical to see shuttle services in the driveway, but ours stood out because it came with treats like dried mangoes, otap, cold mineral water, and even cool face towels for freshening up. I felt pampered already and looked forward to my latest Cebu experience.

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Greenbelt bistro Roux offers fine French food sans the fancy frills (GMA News Online)

A spice lover? Try the black pepper tuna steak with couscous, olives, yogurt and harissa

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last January 4, 2016)

t’s not unusual for most people to think of fine dining at the mere mention of French cuisine. My recent restaurant discovery, though, allowed me to experience fine French food sans the fancy frills.

Roux (pronounced “roo”) pleasantly surprised me. Don’t let its fancy name fool you. It may seem intimidating—to pronounce, at least—but its interiors are warm and welcoming with its minimalist but still chic décor.

The upholstered benches and wooden seats are simply casual, the brick walls look rustic, while the dark flooring is sleek. I like how the walls are peppered with colorful paintings and black-and-white photographs; plus, the embossed mirrors and blackboard menus add character. I felt like I was in somebody’s loft and not in a formal French restaurant.

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‘Chorizig’ and more at the reinvented Relik (GMA News Online)

Chorizo + sisig = chorizig

This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 8, 2015)

I confess, I’m no partygoer. I prefer chill nights out where I can lounge in a decent bar with my friends, preferably with good food and drinks.

One place that comes to mind is Relik Restaurant and Bar, an establishment at The Fort that used to be an “it” tapas bar and lounge. It has evolved into a more wholesome establishment: its once bare cement floor now has wooden flooring that evokes a homier and warmer vibe, and its newly re-upholstered seats make the place more comfy. It’s definitely a nice place to dine and unwind.

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Planning your DIY Taipei vacation (Rappler)

Go shopping and food tripping in Ximending night market

(This feature was published in Rappler last November 1, 2015)

Taipei, Taiwan is a haven for foodies. Its themed restaurants and street food offerings are enough reasons to fly to this nearby food destination. But Taipei will not just please your palate; it will fascinate you with its charming cityscapes and alluring activities.

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Incredible food trip in Taipei, Taiwan (Rappler)

Dishes are served in mini-toilet bowls at Modern Toilet

(This feature was published in Rappler last October 31, 2015)

If Taipei were a theme park ride, it would be like a rollercoaster that would take your taste buds up and down on a thrilling adventure. In this city, there are countless of food innovations you would find in the streets, dine-in restaurants, and also in themed establishments.

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8 ways to enjoy new buffet place The Pantry (GMA News Online)

Sinfully sweet treats at the dessert station

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last October 5, 2015)

Buffets offer diverse food options ranging from hearty meat dishes to healthy greens. The Pantry at Dusit Thani is the newest one I have visited, and it is not your run-of-the-mill buffet.

I confess, I sometimes feel overwhelmed at buffets simply because of the abundance of food. I feel paralyzed and don’t know where to start. So if you’re like me, it’s best to have a game plan to have a good buffet experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind to enjoy The Pantry.

1. Bring a big appetite

Skip breakfast if you know you’re going to have buffet for lunch. Maybe have some coffee and toast, but make sure to leave space for the delicious food you’ll soon have in your belly.

The Pantry has nine global stations: the Chinese bao bar, the Indian Tandoor oven, the brick oven pizza area, the salad station, the seafood station, the carving station, the dessert station, the beverage studio, and a takeaway counter called Grab & Go.

The Pantry observes three to four cycle changes in its menu. “That means, if you come for lunch today, tomorrow and the next day, it would be a different lunch every day,” said Chef Nicolas Issel. “What people really love, obviously we’re going to keep. We’re going to interchange and switch up as I feel is necessary. I always like to change up the technique or the presentation. The change will be a natural progression as we go along.” – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/539610/lifestyle/food/8-ways-to-enjoy-new-buffet-place-the-pantry#sthash.C6hOYg1G.dpuf

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Chicken, pizza and ‘third wave’ coffee at Frank & Dean (GMA News Online)

This third wave coffee shop has a hip and young vibe

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 19, 2015)

As a freelance writer, I’m used to lugging around my laptop and looking for a coffee shop to settle down to work—preferably one with the aromatic smell of freshly brewed coffee. Plenty of chain establishments are readily available, but I like the vibe that third-wave coffee shops exude.

Frank & Dean Café x Kitchen is the only “third wave” coffee place—that is, a place that buys coffee based on its origins and its method of production—in the Bonifacio Global City area. Its interiors have an industrial yet homey feel, with steel-backed upholstered chairs, lighting fixtures with metal frames, wood wall panels and brick accents. The big blackboard menu complements the trendy atmosphere. I spied a big group of corporate folks having a meeting during my visit. It seems like a good place to do meet-ups or simply hang out with your cup of joe.

See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/533549/lifestyle/food/chicken-pizza-and-third-wave-coffee-at-frank-amp-dean#sthash.w2S0AIoD.dpuf