Trips are never complete without having a fill of the flavors of your destination. The sights and the sounds of the place are best complemented by the yummy treats that give you that comforting full tummy. Always remember... mahirap mamasyal ng gutom.
Mindanao is not only a destination worth exploring for its beauty and culture. It is a food haven that gives you a taste of its local cuisines and popular dishes, made even better with their own twist. Our travel did not only amaze us with natural and man-made beauty but it also had our palates enjoying a rice meal that has become a personal favorite, a salad with a mango twist, fresh seafood, and an amazing steak treat.
If Cebu has its popular "puso", Mindanao gets its fill on the "pastil" - a complete meal of rice and adobo chicken flakes wrapped in banana leaves. This "rice meal" is a staple in Mindanao and it goes well with inasal or grilled chicken or boiled egg. You can also add soy sauce for that extra flavor.
I had my first taste of Pastil last year when I took a trip to Mati in Davao and it quickly became a personal favorite. I loved how the salty flavor overwhelms the palate that would make you want more. So when I saw it in one of the stalls of Cotabato City's barbecue stands, I had to satisfy my taste buds.
Cotabato City: Reese Resto
Tucked along Cotabato City's Quezon Avenue, Reese is an unassuming restaurant that will definitely make you say "wala bang hindi masarap dito?"
Reese is a highly recommended restaurant in Cotabato City and, after a great meal, we totally agree! The Mango Shrimp Salad is a must try. The unique flavor of sweet mango puree and toasted sesame seeds on shrimp and lettuce had me at first bite. I enjoyed our shared meal of baked mussel and baby back ribs. We capped off the meal with a great dessert of ice cream cake. Again, everything here is worth trying.
Reese Restaurant really stood out for me during our visit in Cotabato City. It is important to note that the restaurant closes early like most establishments in the city. But it is a great way to cap off a visit in the city of Cotabato.
Lake Sebu: Tabaculde Restaurant
Locals of Lake Sebu claims that the lake produces the tastiest Tilapia in the region so do not be surprised to see a bustling tilapia aquaculture industry in almost every corner of this town. It is a common sight to see small fishponds of live tilapia in most of its restaurants. We asked our guide, Kuya Ronald, to bring us to where we can try the best tasting tilapia cusine in Lake Sebu. And so he brought us at the Tabaculde Restaurant.
Void of the usual flair, this makeshift restaurant along the highway claims to have the best crispy tilapia in town. So we ordered their specialty of crispy tilapia and matched it with Tilapia in curry sauce and they did deliver. I guess, a great meal of freshly caught tilapia is the best way to cap our Lake Sebu adventure.
General Santos City
At this point, let me give General Santos City a thumbs up for being a runaway winner for our foodspotting. This city may not have the usual collection of tourist attractions but it is a goldmine for foodie explorers! The city has a very wide selection of restaurants to choose from at whatever time of the day. You will never go hungry in this city.
Fisherman's Wharf Resort
After an early morning immersion at the GenSan Fish Port, you can enjoy a quiet brunch of fresh seafood at the Fisherman's Wharf Resort. Located on the southern end of the GenSan Fish Port compound, the resort is an oasis after all the rush at the port. You can enjoy a quiet meal of grilled fresh tuna panga matched with mixed seafood in curry.
You can enjoy a laidback late morning rest and enjoy the cool breeze from Saranggani Bay. If you are feeling the rush, you can hop on and enjoy the inflatable island a few meters from its shore. The resort gives you that calm beach vibe complete with nipa huts and sandy shores.
Coffee and art speak of class and that is exactly what Southern Brew is all about. Located along Osmena Avenue, this cute and cozy cafe is a great place to chill and relax after a full day of exploring the city of GenSan. They have local coffee flavors that you get to enjoy while you browse through your photos of the day's action.
What made me fall in love with the place was it also serves as a venue for local artistry with artworks displayed prominently inside the cafe. You get to enjoy a cup of coffee, chill out, and get creativity flowing with the artworks around you. Now, that is perfect! Best part of the whole experience is that you get to support local enterprises.
This unassuming restaurant along Catolico, Sr. Avenue prides itself as a GenSan brand for its steak experience. With a culinary heritage that dates back to the 1960's, Roland became a household name in the city for its burgers and steaks. The heirloom steak recipe easily becane a favorite among locals that it was dubbed as the "Home of the Best Steak in GenSan".
You can still feel the vibe of Roland's humble beginnings when you eat at the restaurant. Its facade, void of the usual fancy, opens up to a simple restaurant with its interior designed to showcase the history. But its best piece to showcase is its steak! It is one of the best that I have tasted. It was oozing with the perfect flavor and tenderness. A definite must-try when you are in GenSan.
Fire and Flavor Pizza
Another unassuming foodspot in GenSan is the Fire and Flavor Pizza, popular for their flaming pizza... literally a pizza on flame. This watering hole is popular for its pizza and pasta. And yes, the pizza and pasta did not disappoint. For an extra hype, you can request to have your pizza on flame for an extra minimal charge.
Again, the pizza parlor is an unassuming restaurant with a facade that is void of any fancy that you would think that it is the usual run of the mill restaurant. But you will get to be amazed by its instagrammable interior and amazing food selection.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
From Cotabato to GenSan, we explored and discovered amazing destinations and enjoyed getting our fill of their own brand of food spots. I enjoyed a satisfying pastil breakfast with locals, admiring art works over coffee, or a heirloom recipe of my favorite meat dish. The region is bursting with a wide selection of food spots for every kind of palate.
Food and adventure are travel companions. Remember that after an exciting and exhausting exploration is a tummy that needs to be filled. It is also safe to say that tourist attractions share a part of the story of a particular destination. Food completes the experience whether it be a story behind a dish or the stories shared with locals over a meal.
Getting There: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air have regular daily flights to General Santos City. You can take a jeep or a cab to SM City General Santos where you can take a van to Glan in Saranggani. Tricycle is the way to go around Glan.
Sample Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Cotabato City / Cotabato City Tour (Click here for details of the trip)
> The Grand Mosque (Habal-Habal Contact: Mohammad Edsa - 0935 9063067)
> People’s Palace
> Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral
> PC Hill and Tantawan Park
> Old Cotabato City Hall
> Cotabato City Plaza
Day 2: Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, Cotabato
(Click here for details of the trip. Contact person for habal-habal arrangements from Midsayap: Jun Camap – 0919 4558958)
Day 3: Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat Road Trip in the morning enroute to Lake Sebu.
> White Mosque (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
> Margues Blue Lagoon (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
> Pink Mosque (Datu Saudi Amapatuan)
> Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol (Isulan)
Lake Sebu Walking Tour (PM)
> Lake S’bu
> T’Boli Museum
> Lake Sebu Town Center
Day 4: Lake Sebu Tour (Click here for details of the trip. Contact person for Lake Sebu Tour: Ronald Maguan – 0997 2482160).
Travel to Glan in the afternoon.
Day 5: Glan Tour (Click here for details of the trip.)
> Lago Beach
> Sta. Catalina de Alexandria Church
> Glan Municipal Hall
> Taban Beach
> Gumasa Beach
Travel to General Santos City in the afternoon
Day 6: General Santos City Tour (Click here for details of the trip.)
> General Santos Fish Port
> Queen Tuna Park
> Pioneer Street
> Plaza Heneral Santos
> Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
> Tiongson Arcade
Day 7: Early morning departure to Manila
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.