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"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

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Spectacular Sunsets and disappointing food in the Philippines

I knew next to zero about Filipino food before I went there. The Philippines wasn’t on my itinerary until my friend Libby came to meet me in Vietnam and we discovered that all the places we were planning to go for our beach holiday were going to be grey and wet. Libs is a sunworshipper and I had promised her a summer holiday, so we flew to the Philippines on a whim.

We didn’t really do much research, even on the weather front, as it turned out that all the top beach destinations there were also going to be rainy and stormy. We'd only looked at the forecast for Manila, so we ended up having a rather bizarre holiday travelling around Luzon, the island Manila is on. I don’t think many tourists get beyond the capital.

We got the sense that the locals hadn't met many Westerners. In some ways this was fun and exciting – we had a brilliant night on a beach in the middle of nowhere singing karaoke with a group of drunk Filipino men.

But the downside was there was absolutely no nightlife and it was impossible to get a decent drink. I can only drink so many beers in the sun and the only other option in most places was Filipino brandy. And on the delicious food front - it was a desert.

Filipinos seem to eat a lot of fast food and love their sugar – all the bread was really sweet. So sweet that we avoided any sandwiches and I swapped my toast for hash browns with every hotel breakfast. I made the mistake of ordering a ham and cheese pasty at a bus station and there was so much sugar in it that it tasted like a dessert. 

They also coat everything in margarine so it tastes like the buttered popcorn you get at the cinema. I love popcorn, but I don’t want my fish, my steak, my veg, my mac and cheese, my anything and everything to taste of it.

I did enjoy the kinilaw which I tried in Pundakit. It’s like a Filipino ceviche or escabeche or a cross between the two. They use vinegar rather than lime juice, which would be easy to over do, but the balance was just right and the fish was really fresh and tender. Loads of fresh ginger and a touch of chilli gave it an Asian twist. Very refreshing on a scorching hot day.

Filipino BBQ is supposed to be a big deal so we tried a range of meats - beef, chicken and pork - in Candelaria. It wasn't anything to write home about, so I won't.

In the end the best food we had was, sadly, Western food: an amazing burger on the beach in Candelaria, decent pizza and pasta in Puerto Galera and a stand out Thai meal in Manila.

What the Philippines lacked in food and drink though, it made up for in spectacular sunrises and sunsets, so I thought I’d share my photos of those instead:


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