Episode 95: A Taste of Filipino Halal Cuisine at Dulang Restaurant

Eid’l Adha is coming up on Monday, September 12, which is why most of us are enjoying a long weekend ahead. For Muslims in the Philippines and all over the world, this day commemorates the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. It also honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to obey Allah.

Learning about Muslim holidays piqued my interest in halal cuisine, food enjoyed by Filipino Muslims. As a refresher, halal cuisine is a type of food that is ritually slaughtered and deemed fit to eat for Muslims.

For a while I thought I would not find a specialty restaurant that serves halal food, much less one that has a Filipino flavor to it. My search eventually led me to Dulang Restaurant, a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Ermita, Manila.
Dulang’s menu consists mostly of Tausug and Malaysian specialties that are delicious, filling, and affordable. Some that I tried so far are the beef korma (spicy beef stew), spicy vegetables in coconut milk, mi goreng (Malaysian noodles), and their version of suman sa latik for dessert, among others. I have yet to try their other Tausug specialties, such as the Tiyula’ Itum (black soup), and kahawa or native coffee.
Traditionally, Muslims go to a mosque on Eid’l Adha for prayers, and sacrifice a live animal (such as a goat, cow, or sheep) for feasting. They share at least a third of the sacrificed meat to the poor. Those who can’t afford a live animal just buy generous portions of meat.
The last time I came across Dulang was during the previous Eid’l Fitr (end of Ramadan). As expected, the place was filled with Muslims and other local patrons who choose to dine in the restaurant. The situation was the same when I visited Dulang recently. Come to think of it, the restaurant is a favorite among job hunters and workers from neighboring offices.
Dulang is not just a place to enjoy halal food, but also to appreciate the cuisine of our brothers and sisters from Mindanao. A trip to Ermita is in order if you want to try out something uniquely Filipino.
Dulang Restaurant
1313 M. Adriatico St. corner Padre Faura
Ermita, Manila

Unlimited Grub Grabs, now on its fifth year!

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

Five quiet years have passed since I started my food blog. I won’t say this has been an eventful year for me, since I’ve been posting less about where I eat out and explore. It’s not because I’m slowing down on my blogging activities; rather, I found more things to do with my writing.

Recently, I started writing a novel – four, to be exact. They’re not like the love stories you read online, or so I hope. It’s a new playing field I want to explore and be good at. I already finished one titled The Feast of the North Star, which is based on an old, undated poem I wrote in college (not Hokuto no Ken, as the title states). I’m in the middle of writing a second one, and there are two more lined up, which I hope to finish by August next year.

(I might as well mention that I’m using pictures of anime characters and such as templates for my characters and book covers since I don’t know how to draw or do digital art.)

Then there’s “Foods Tayo,” our food segment at TV5’s Aksyon sa Tanghali, where I play the role of the anchor’s boyfriend and love interest (long story). I take every opportunity I can during our shootings to study food critiquing, broadcast-style of course, and explore good places to dine around Metro Manila.

Which leads to the main highlight of my year: my now-active Instagram account, where I post pictures of the food establishments and dishes I encounter. All you need to do is search on Instagram for the hashtag #onthenextunlimitedgrubgrabs and you can get a sneak peek of my solo raids and activities with the TV5 crew.

As always, I operate within my own budget, with no sponsors, invitations to events, or back-up (apart from TV5), but that doesn’t mean my resolve to write about food will waver at all. I still aspire to reach an Anthony Bourdain-level of food expertise, you know.

Without further ado, here’s to another year.

To have a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to (and for some hardcore food porn), visit:
My Instagram account @unlimitedgrubgrabs
My Facebook page: https://Unlimited Grub Grabs

Four Years of Unlimited Grub Grabs, and counting

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

I’m celebrating my fourth year as a food blogger very quietly. No food raids, no promos, no special events or contests… nothing. I just got off work, and didn’t feel any urge to eat out.

People ask me if I ever go to food events, store openings, tours, and other foodie-related activities. Nowadays, the answer is “no.” My job no longer allows that luxury. If I am going to a food event, I’d prefer those held at weekend afternoons, which is my only free time. Invite me anytime else and I’ll decline, eve if I wanted to come.

Some also ask me if I earn off my blog. My answer is “no.” Or to be blunt, I’ve never figured out how. Sure, I have Google Adsense in my Blogger account, but I never figured out how to maximize its use. That, or maybe I couldn’t find the time to study it. For some time I hoped I could ask someone to manage the business aspect of my blog, but I never got around it.

Call me lazy, because partly I am. But my circumstances don’t allow me to spend so much time on blogging.

I am still watching my health, despite all of the stuff I’ve feasted on this past year. I have a bigger reason to do so now. But that doesn’t stop me from eating out and writing about it.

If there’s one thing I figured out this past year, it’s working on my content. I’ve always had a high regard for the type of stories I want to make. You see, food blogging is basically “I ate (name of dish) at (name of restaurant). I was with (name/s of companions). We (name of personal event). The food was good. I’ll come back and dine again.” But that’s not how I wanted my stories to roll.

I remember saying that food always has a deeper meaning. Food is rooted to culture, society, insight, and other aspects of worldly (or in the case of my Lenten posts, otherworldly) wisdom. A story that answers such questions is what I want to write. Also, I want to emulate Anthony Bourdain’s storytelling style. I’m still working hard to achieve that.

I still don’t have a lot of readers, but I don’t mind. I continue writing what I can write about, and that’s enough for me. Those who need my stories will find them, and knowing that they do satisfies me. As for monetizing the blog, I’ll need a lot of help.

In the meantime, I’m hoping for more experiences, more food to eat, more places to see, and more stuff to do to perfect my food blogging skills. I hope you continue to join me in my upcoming adventures.

Until then.

Three Years of Unlimited Grub Grabs

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

Today I’m celebrating the third anniversary of Unlimited Grub Grabs. It will be a quiet celebration: no grand restaurant raid, no contests, no special stories (apart from my Vietnam trip). Sorry if I couldn’t give away freebies just like what the other blogs do. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t. Boring, isn’t it?

To be frank, I’ve been thinking about how I got myself into the food writing business. I’ve always said I love food, and I want to learn how it relates to life and society and all those philosophical stuff. Now that I think about it, I’ve been exploring and writing about food quietly since Day 1. I pop out at events here and there, eating and picking up as much knowledge and tastes as I could.

Up until now I can’t function properly as a food writer. I can’t go to restaurants every week, post pictures and join trips and tasting sessions. That’s because I have to make do with the little that I have to make a food raid. I have a full-time job too, among others. (Not to mention that I’m sick.) They look like trifling reasons, but if you knew the limitations of one who doesn’t have the luxury of time, budget, and opportunity to nurture his interests, you’ll understand.
Yes, I am whining. Part of me is. Sometimes I whine to myself about how pathetic I feel as a food writer. I even get demoralized, falling into deep slumps and losing my appetite. I get envious of blogs that get endorsements and sponsors, who can sponsor and give away stuff the way those in the food industry do. Negative thoughts like that get to me.
But part of me says it’s okay, I don’t have to whine, I’m fine as I am, I’m doing a great job. I still manage to make something good, after all. I still get to share my story, my thoughts on the food I eat and the places I visit. Besides, I started this blog as a foodie diary, and I like it like this. At least I can visit and review restaurants subtly, like a ninja in the shadows.

I do want to make it big. I want to go places. I wanted to get paid to eat and write. I want to be a popular blogger. I still want to until now. I know I’m supposed to work hard, write uniquely, and get my blog recognized, so I can make a name for myself.

I’m thankful for the hundreds of people who read my posts, joined and supported me in my adventures. There are a lot of new places to discover, and more delicious stuff to eat and drink. I hope to be there and tell you all about them.Here’s to another year!
By the way, I’ve started writing a book. It’s gonna be a part memoir, part behind-the-scenes-look of my life as a food writer, an amateur one at least. I’m saying this so that people will remind/motivate/bug me into finishing it. Let’s hope I can finish it soon, or at least before my 4th anniversary.

Unlimited Grub Grabs, Year 2~

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

Happy second anniversary, yay!
Seriously, much has happened since I started my adventures as a food writer. It’s good to be able to eat so much, travel much, and write about them. This year was quite different.
I’ve visited so many places throughout the year that I couldn’t write about all of them so quickly. At the same time, I’ve continued researching on more places to visit, including those that are already well known, and those interesting finds that more people should know about.
Recently, I’ve become more confident when it comes to food raids. A long time ago, I was afraid that I’d run out of money while dining, eat a bad dish or something I don’t understand. Not so much nowadays. Dining out has become more pleasurable and educational. Being prepared is a good thing.
On the other hand, certain food raids can get difficult. Many of the places I’ve been to are too expensive. Some were just too far away to come back to, and others I could not visit because of more pressing matters (such as work or family). I have to admit, there was also a point when I felt too lazy to work on my blog.  Maybe it’s because I got too busy and I couldn’t go anywhere. My health condition is another story.
The biggest milestone for me was that I’ve started working out again. Now having a regular exercise routine and eating out may be counterproductive to each other, but I’ve found a way to reconcile those two. All I had to do was eat just what I need, burn more calories, and choose what would nourish me. Bonus points for having a program to follow while working out. Also, less rice and/or potatoes, or more of one than the other. I’ll tackle this in a later post. (By the way, I also started attending yoga classes. You can really work up a sweat with yoga.)
Buddha Power

Just several weeks ago, I joined the Sooo Pinoy Ultimate Blogger contest. The winner will have the chance to go on a food tour around the country for 30 days. More pigging out, and all to promote the Philippines and Filipino cuisine. It’s rather farfetched, given by blogging situation, but I hope I win.

I’m looking forward to visiting more food places (and writing more), trying out new dishes, losing more weight, and becoming a healthier, happier food blogger. It’s rather farfetched but I’ll get there.
Here’s to another year of Unlimited Grub Grabs!

Ramen, anyone?”

Episode 20: Memories of Baguio (Part 5) – When a cub reporter goes hungry

Some of my better memories of Baguio came from my stint as a newspaper reporter. Right after college, I started work with a local newspaper, the first step towards the realization of my dream to become a journalist, or something close to being one.

Adjusting to the job was difficult (especially for me who doesn’t know how to speak in Kankanaey or Ibaloi), and finding our way around and honing the craft proved to be a tedious task.  Despite the chaos that characterizes the life of a cub reporter, there are things that keep me alive after coverages and interviews – such as coffee, a heavy meal, and lots of beer…and something exotic along the way.

There’s this part of the city called “Slaughterhouse Compound” along Magsaysay Avenue. Never mind the name, or the hygiene-related questions you may have. Eateries here serve many kinds of meat dishes, such as pinapaitan, kilawen, dinuguan, and bulalo. Also, it’s just a few minute’s walk from my office (before it moved to La Trinidad).

One eatery serves what it called “Flea Market Rice,” a plateful of fried chicken, lechon , sunny-side up egg, chopsuey, and a big cup of rice.

I consider “Flea Market Rice” as comfort food, especially when I get out from work or during weekends. Just like Jack’s Rice, this is complete, rich, and always served hot. Bonus points for the free soup that goes with it, piping hot meat broth. The sad part is that it’s sometimes closed.

Speaking of meat, I did succumb to the temptation of seeking out pinikpikan and dog meat in Baguio. Pinikpikan is a chicken stew prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick. Barbaric as it sounds, as explained here, it’s actually an important part of Cordilleran cuisine (and by extension, culture).

The way I see it, pinikpikan is an alcoholic’s best friend. It’s nice to sup on a bloody, tasty piece of chicken along with your liquor, and its gingery broth to wash down the drunkenness. Take note that the chicken’s coagulated blood (the result of beating the chicken) is the reason pinikpikan is tasty.

Dog meat? I found certain eateries at the market that serve those. The dish itself… well, the skin’s tough, it’s fatty, there’s too many bones and not much meat. It mostly tastes like adobo, too. Your mileage may vary (By the way, selling dog meat is banned under the Animal Welfare Act. Eating it is not banned, though, because dogs can be butchered for indigenous practices.)

Luisa’s Café is a favorite watering hole of the Baguio media. This is where most journalists meet for snacks, coffee, or alcohol. Younger reporters would come here and solicit advice from their elders, or finish their reports. The old ones would just be there, drinking and conversing about anything under the sun.

The place serves Chinese dishes (the most famous of which is their siopao), Filipino rice meals and other dishes. And then there’s Sam Lok – native or Chinese style stir-fried meat. I regret never grabbing the chance to taste that.

Luisa’s is known for its strong, flavorful coffee. Also I mentioned some time ago how important coffee is for most Baguio folk, especially that it help people bond with each other. This is what makes Luisa’s a special place for local journalists and those in the know to meet.

Friday nights are spent at the newsroom. Since our newspaper comes out weekly, most of Friday is spent laying out the pages, editing reports and photos, and writing whatever can make it to the deadline. While everyone is busy and neck-deep in paperwork, we do get to unwind a bit over dinner.

It’s during mealtime that the staff get to talk about things inside and outside of work, like trivia about themselves, experiences in the field, new things we’ve noticed, and even stuff that makes us wax poetic or philosophical.

Dinner usually consists of buttered chicken, chopsuey, pancit, pork sinigang, or some other viand plus lots of rice, courtesy of Good Taste Restaurant. Good Taste is a 24-hour establishment frequented by locals and tourists alike. The place serves a fusion of Filipino and Chinese home cooked dishes. The food here is also surprisingly cheap but served hot.

When all work is done for the night (except Fridays), Rumours is the place to unwind. I once heard that Rumours was named such because this is where patrons talk about “rumours” on people and events around Baguio. Anyway, this bar, probably one of the most popular in the city, is a small, mellow place frequented by tourists, expats, and (according to some residents) gays and writers.

Rumours is a great place to spend the night quietly with your thoughts, or loudly with good companions. They play eighties music, their liquor and food are inexpensive, and the staff are nice and accommodating. Also,
they now serve ice cream, most especially rose ice cream (made with rose petals) and chili ice cream (yeah).


At this point, let me share to you something very quickly: I’ve been having a hard time writing for this series. Writing about my food-related memories in Baguio has been a strenuous task for me. That’s because it seems that things from my past are starting to grow dim. No, I’m not being forgetful, though I might as well say I am. Why?

It’s nice to remember things about your past, and realize how much you’ve learned about yourself and others along the way. But writing about your memories not only means remembering good things from the past. It also involves having to revisit those that lead to sad and painful ones, the ones you try to forget to move on…


Up next… An old hang-out, and certain memories that go with it.

Episode 18: Pilipinas, Say WHAT?!

There’s this raging debate over the Department of Tourism’s new slogan for the Philippines, “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” (which means “Philippines, so beautiful” or something to that effect). This is the branding that replaced the “WOW Philippines” slogan, which we’ve been using for eight years now.

“Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” works wth the concept that the country is best loved for its beautiful scenery and the warmth of its people.

The slogan shows a smiling coconut tree, a tarsier, the sun, and waves. The word “Pilipinas” represents our pride for the country. The logo shows our joyful character and the country’s tropical beauty. The phrase ‘Kay Ganda!’ is our way of showing appreciation.

Despite the elaborate symbolism, “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” received a lot of flak when it was released to the public. The furor by critics is that it’s bland, dishonest, half-baked, and doesn’t attract attention. Many say it sounds like a title of a TV show. Others just aren’t happy we’re representing the Philippines with such a slogan. Some only have this to say:


It doesn’t help that the website for this is one letter away from directing users to a porn site. (Just so you’d know, that site has nothing to do with our women, but given the way some a-holes market our women over the Internet, well, you get the drift.)

(EDIT: Just a few hours after this article was posted, I learned that the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” logo came under fire again, this time for bearing similarities with the “Polska” logo from Poland’s own tourism campaign.)

Even some of our country’s tourism pundits have a lot to say about the new slogan. Ivan Henares wrote on his tourism blog, Ivan About Town: “I can’t understand why (we) want to get rid of a brand our country has worked so hard to build and invested so much money on.” Tourist guide Carlos Celdran meanwhile said the government could have done better with “Mabuhay (Long Live the) Philippines.”

DOT Secretary Alberto Lim justified the slogan change, saying it’s no longer as catchy as before (partly because the Arroyo administration doesn’t use it much). He also says “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” can warrant a second look (for foreigners at least) since it’s in Filipino. It also reflects the Filipino’s hope and optimism to be known all over the world.

The Philippine Travel Agencies Association, on the other hand, thinks “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” will still work; all we have to do is just give it some time to make it work (or sink in).

Understandably, “WOW Philippines” is old; sure it’s catchy, simple but effective, but it is admittedly old. To side a bit on this slogan, though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On the other hand, the new slogan DOES warrant a second look, given the symbolism that can pique the interest of anyone about the country.

The main reason for the change in branding is to give the Philippines a fresh image. And how, given the flak we got for the Quirino Grandstand Hostage Crisis, the Maguindanao Massacre, and all the problems in the country right now, which we are asking the Aquino administration to make an insta-cure for, but I digress.

I’m sure the DOT meant well when “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda” was launched. It is, after all, an attempt to show the world how beautiful the Philippines is, how wonderful our tourist destinations are, and how cheerful and warm and optimistic Filipinos can be despite all their troubles. How they presented this, unfortunately, didn’t turn out as planned.

Should we go back to “WOW Philippines”? Like I said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I think it’s clear, though, that we will need to change our branding sooner or later to reflect the changing times. Should we keep “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda”? At this point, I think not.

“Think you can do better than that?” you may ask me. My answer: No. For now, at least. In any case, whatever ideas for a new slogan are being formed out there, I hope these can capture the true essesnce of the Philippines and being a Filipino.

Which leads to my own question: “What exactly do we want the Philippines to be known for?” To answer this, A LOT:


Vigan, Ilocos Sur

The Bohol Tarsier
El Nido, Palawan
Tubbataha Reefs, Sulu
Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte
Oh, and have I mentioned “FOOD”?
A few years ago “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” did an episode on Philippine cuisine. Throughout the episode (and amidst bites of sisig, salad, and lechon), Anthony repeatedly raised the question, “Who are the Filipinos?” He admits Philippine cuisine is so diverse, intensely regional even; despite this he tries to establish the relationship between Filipino identity and food, and why the Philippines is so hard to define.
Take note, this is only Filipino cuisine we’re talking about, and Tony’s racking his brains over it. (Just a side note: I think Filipino cuisine is so underrated because we have it so often at home, it already feels ordinary. Also, balut.)

This leads me back to my question: “What exactly do we want the Philippines to be known for?” What’s there for the Philippines to offer beyond lechon Cebu, sisig, medical tourism, surfing and hiking destinations, night life spots, or even the prowess of the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Charice?

I had this crazy idea that’s been on my mind since last night. It all started when I mentioned to twitmate Iya Santos (who earlier remarked that museums bore her to tears) the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum in Japan, and that we don’t have such a thing here. All she said was that somebody should make one.

Which led me thinking: Tony (and Andrew Zimmern, who chowed down on balut and frogs while in the Philippines) raved about the country’s food, so why didn’t we capitalize on that hype? I think there was this plan to make the country a food safety hub, what happened to this? How about asking our experts in Filipino cuisine for help in promoting the country? The Singing Cooks and Waiters were popular back in the early ’90s, what happened to them?

We could develop certain aspects of the Philippines and use these as a hook to arouse interest in other things about the country. We’ve done this with our natural wonders (think Palawan, Davao, the Banaue Rice Terraces), so how about other things… like food?

My point: We have Benguet as the “Salad Bowl of the Philippines”, Central Luzon as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines”, Mindanao as a potential “Food Basket” (Iloilo owns up to the “Rice Granary” and “Food Basket” title), Pampanga as the “Culinary Capital,” General Santos City as the “Tuna Capital”… This country holds so many food treasures, which I believe can put us in the world map of culinary discoveries.

For starters, we can probably have a museum just like the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum. Such a museum can promote the country’s food production sector, the various local cooking techniques staples and ingredients, the typical Filipino diet of “almusal, tanghalian, hapunan, merienda, pulutan etc.” Wishful thinking, but it could work, yes? There are definitely other, even better ways to promote Filipino cuisine, and by extension, the Philippines.

There is one setback to promoting the Philippines’ food culture: How can we promote the Philippines as a great place to dine, when three million Filipinos or 15.9% of the population experience involuntary hunger (as of September 2010)?

I guess for now we could just settle with thinking of a new slogan other than “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda.” Man, promoting the Philippines is tough!