Honest Notes VOL. 1: I found happiness in the South

HN 1Honest Notes are a collection of random pieces that I write on moments that overwhelms my heart. This is the first part of this series which I wrote during my recent trip with my family in the province of Batangas (hence, South). The past few months have been a difficult struggle of trying to keep my mental health in check which is why the said trip was important to me. Before leaving home, I was actually hoping to find some peace of mind and a bit of happiness along the way and I’m truly grateful for stumbling upon it on this humble trip.

(P.S. All the photos below are taken by me except for the two photos of myself which was taken by my sister) 

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Tomato Cannon: Braving Uncharted Recipes

Walking around the various streets of Malolos in search of new restaurants to explore and share with your family and friends might be a little too exhausting and time-consuming especially because of the increasing number of restaurants and cafes surrounding the area. Plus, there is always a tendency to find restaurants covered in fancy décor but offers bland and soulless food or places with only half-hearted attempts in following food trends causing huge dismay to their customers.

Luckily, we found a place that suits most of the categories needed for a good restaurant. Using a name which brought confusion in our 4th-grade selves and maybe up until now (Is it a vegetable or a fruit?!)–Tomato Cannon is a cozy café situated across Centro Escolar University Malolos Campus and South Supermarket which caters to all the hungry and picky tummies out there.

Exploration #1: “I came, I saw, I conquered” – Preparing for the trip

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Wall of all things good. Taken by Jean Pagtalunan (10-23-16)

Tomato Cannon started as a fun project way back in the month of May between Vince Nuguid (owner), his family and friends. But after only two months in their soft opening, they received different types of positive feedbacks from the people and from then on, Vince decided to make plans for the café’s future expansion.

In spite of the relatively small space, they were able to maximize it using six medium-sized tables which can accommodate roughly 36 people. Once inside, you will be welcomed by cheerful waiters; immediately eliciting a smile out of your tired and hungry soul. If it is not enough to lighten up your mood, there are several feel good quotes scattered around the café. As a whole, the place succeeded in giving off a relaxing mood with the help of warm, yellow-orange lights paired with the tasteful music turned in just the right volume.

Exploration #2: “No stop signs, no speed limit. Nobody’s gonna slow me down” – Reaching Highway to Heaven

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Thirst Quenchers. Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)

As its name promised, Tomato Cannon’s menu consists of different dishes using tomato as a staple ingredient. They offer basic tomato dishes from pasta to pizza and even bravely mixing tomato with other fruits for their signature drinks.

Aside from the unusual dishes that will give you more than enough reason to visit the café like Longganisa Mac and Cheese, Salted Egg Walnut pasta, Cheesy Volcano Ribs, Spicy Strawberry shake and the famous Ultimate Cannon Pizza, Tomato Cannon’s gem also lies within the reasonable prices of their food.

After deciding amongst ourselves, we ended up trying the store’s bestsellers in order to determine if they are really as good as what we heard. (Spoiler Alert: All of it is good!)

We ordered the Garlic Tomato Basil pasta (85php), Creamy Three Cheese pasta (125php) and paired it with the intriguing Tomato Lemonade (59php) and Brazilian Milkshake (59php). Finally, we ordered their Cheesy Bacon pizza (295php) which is said to be handmade and prepared using fresh ingredients.

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Delish. Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)

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Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)

First off, the Garlic Tomato Basil pasta. I normally don’t like tomato pasta since I prefer my pasta to be sweet and salty rather than sour but surprisingly, I love this dish. Unlike the typical tomato pasta that I’ve eaten before, this pasta’s flavors are well-balanced and the cook somehow perfected the art of picking tomatoes since it is not too sour nor too sweet which is the best and preferably the only way to eat it. On the other hand, the Creamy Three Cheese pasta is all the things that one can ask for in a pasta dish. It’s both cheesy and creamy at the same time and even though it has too many flavors and might appear to be a little too salty to some, we both extremely enjoyed it.

Second in the list are Tomato Lemonade and Brazilian Milkshake. We both admire the defiant combination of tomato and lemon in order to create a perfect shake to beat the constant heat in the Philippines. The surprising thing about this lemonade is that it tastes like bittersweet green mangoes which is totally unexpected but nevertheless, good. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Milkshake which is obviously a mix of milk and lemonade has a kind of addicting taste to it. My partner swore that when we eat at Tomato Cannon again, it will definitely be in her order.

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Round Shaped Heaven. Taken by Jean Pagtalunan (10-23-16)

Finally, we savored the delicious thin-crust pizza with cheese and bacon toppings. I did not especially find anything new to it since I’ve never been a real fan of the said combination however, I must say that I adore their pizza crust. It’s not as thin as what the popular pizza parlors in our country offers which is good since super thin crust pizzas are kind of a little too much in my opinion. We were also in awe of the minimal amount of oil there is in the pizza which somehow makes it less sinful.

All in all, we tremendously enjoyed the food that we ordered and we’re both happy that we don’t need to travel far in order to eat quality pizza and pasta.

Exploration #3: “Not all those who wander are lost” – Marking the Territory

In our opinion, the only problematic thing about Tomato Cannon is its lack of parking space. Since it is located along the highway, there is a very little option in parking one’s car. Although according to Vince Nuguid, owner of the café, there is a huge possibility that they will transfer the store someplace else but since that will be a long process, we just have to bear with it for now.

With that said, we highly recommend Tomato Cannon to people who are tired of the same old dishes found in fast food chains or fancy restaurants. It is for the people whose philosophy when it comes to food is, every bite should be an experience. And what a great experience this has been! From the homey interior, the friendly staff, and owner, to the mouth-watering foods they serve–Tomato Cannon have aced them all.

So, what are you waiting for? Drop by at the café and mark your own territories as you spoon your way to every single piece of good food they offer!

Ratings: 8.5 stars

Rizal: A sun-filled province

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After a stressful week at school, I can’t help but to be excited with the fact that I’ll be surrounded with the sun, cool mountain air, and honestly just anything alive and doesn’t scream “Study!” or “Deadlines!” to me.

Thankfully, my family decided that it’s about time to go on a road trip again!

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Taken at Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia, Tanay, Rizal (09-10-16)

Since my family loves to visit pilgrimage sites, our first destination was Tanay, Rizal wherein the famous Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia is located. The said site is managed by Dominican sisters of Regina Rosarii and as stated above, they are the home of Contemplative prayer.

The place has strict house rules and before the visitors can enter the different worship sites, they must undergo a quick orientation. It’s mainly about the vision and mission of the place and the dress codes implemented.

TIP: If you want to visit, wear a semi-formal attire. For the girls, wear longer skirts or jeans because you need to borrow a shawl to cover the lower part of your body if you’re wearing clothes cut above the knee.

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Taken at the picnic grounds on Regina Rosarii, Tanay, Rizal (09-10-16)

Once inside you will be welcomed by horses and sheep, colorful peacocks, and bright flowers. Lots and lots of them!!!

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I apologize for taking so many pictures but they are absolutely gorgeous and I keep on wanting to show them off! Haha. 

After the 11:00 am mass, we immediately left Tanay and went on to Pililia to see the wind mill farm.

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Taken at Pililia Wind Farm, Rizal (09-10-16)

There were a several number of people in the wind farm considering that we arrived there around 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon.

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The place, as promised, is surrounded by huge wind mills and strong winds. Due to the strong afternoon wind, I did not mind the heat so much. Although I’m certain that I got a bit of a tan from taking photos without any protection from the sun. Still, I have no regrets!

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TIP: Bring a cap or an umbrella if you want to visit this place. Trust me, it’s very much needed.

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We stopped over on a couple of old churches along the way home too, but due to lack of sleep, I wasn’t able to take good photos of those places. (I sleep whenever we get in the car. Lol)

The trip however, was a really fun one-scorching heat and all. I was glad that I did something other than study and finish my tasks in our organization. I had fun and I definitely want to go back to Rizal another time. Mainly because we weren’t able to eat their special treats. I do not call it touring if I wasn’t able to eat the place’s specialty. Haha!

Anyways, the long weekend is about to leave and I fear that a major reality check is going to haunt me really soon. Lol. See you, again!

 

 

Travel Diary #1: Road Trip to Laguna and Quezon (Part 1)

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Last week, our family decided to go on a road trip in Laguna and Quezon which were provinces from Region 4, both located in the Philippines. We do not have an itinerary because my father wants to go to so many places but unfortunately, his day off is only for two days. Nevertheless, the trip was a good one.

Since my parents absolutely love vintage churches, our first destination was the parish church of Majayjay, Laguna. It was built in 1576, during the Spanish colonization in the Philippines. I love the exterior look of the church especially the vines which freely crept to the bell tower.

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The interior look, is also beautiful. It was adorned with beautiful chandeliers and golden ornaments. 
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Shortly after that, we arrived in Lucban, Quezon wherein we stayed for the whole day. We also visited their church and we were all mesmerized by the beauty (and oldness) of it.

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I took so many pictures because the whole place is just breathtaking. Plus, the people who work in the church are absolutely kind. There was this lady who was in charge of the donation box by the comfort room who helped us in finding a cheap but comfortable place to stay in. She was so cheerful as she gave us directions to different hotels and inns.

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When we finished touring the whole church, we decided to walk around the town and to get something to eat. My father picked a restaurant just steps away from the church.

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Inside Buddy’s, you’ll find wooden furniture with cute sunflower designs everywhere! The place radiates with calmness and good food. Their own version of Lucban’s famous “Pansit Habhab” is sooooo tasty! (And of course the Lucban longganisa tastes wonderfully, too!)

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I love that they designed their ceiling with colorful “Kiping.” Kiping are rice wafers that are used to create an “arangya”. These are actually what the natives hung on their houses during the Pahiyas Festival.

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Our next stop was Kamay ni Hesus shrine located also in Lucban, Quezon. The shrine houses huge statues of Jesus Christ and a very real (and big) version of Noah’s Ark and Garden of Eden.

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Look at those stairs!

Meanwhile, the church itself is marvelous. I have this thing with chandeliers and the Kamay ni Hesus church have tons of vintage ones. Ah, they are so pretty!

There is also a grand piano just below the altar and it’s not an old one. It’s shiny and black and new. (The middle aged guy who played it have such a nice voice.)

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THE Noah’s Ark. It’s pretty impossible to take a picture of all of it because well, it’s massive.

By the time we arrived at the traveler’s inn that we are staying at–we were all equally tired. But that didn’t stop us from taking one last, late night stroll.

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The church of Lucban looked even prettier at night.

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My family minus my brother who took this picture.

Our first day in Laguna and Quezon was indeed well spent. I was glad of all the vintage places that we visited and even more glad to meet nice people. 🙂