Sometimes you just want to sit and enjoy the easy life, never mind the price tag that comes with it.
That was exactly what I thought when we boarded the cab from Danang Airport to Hoi An. Taking the bus will only take 1USD but who knows when the next bus will come our way? Hailing a cab was so much easier, only it comes with a meter.  
And so there we were in the backseat with our eager cabbie pointing to us the beaches of Danang, asking for our itinerary while trying to inject some of the places that he wanted to take us to. Unfortunately for him, we had our eyes set on our destination and we would not be swayed. The cabbie did not get us to pay additional dollars for the sidetrip but he did get us to pay the meter at 23USD!
Tip: If you do not wish to wait for the 1USD-bus, book a private car with a travel agency for 15USD from Danang airport to HoiAn. A couple of dollars saved will go a long way!

And as if the gods of misfortune were looking down on us, rain poured on our way to Hoi An. Because we initially planned to look for a place to stay there, we decided to get off the cab and put a stop on the crazy meter at the first hostel that we saw -- Thien Nga Hotel. If only it was not raining, I would have stepped out and looked for a cheaper hostel (room was priced at 25USD/night) but the rain would not let me. I was fretting for some time, until I saw the room!


The room was cozy, the sheets were clean and soft, and the room had a nice veranda looking out over the street. Plus they had a reliable WiFi, complimentary buffet breakfast, and flat screen TV. The lovely hotel room at 25USD/night shut me up. I could no longer complain.

When the rain finally stopped, we finally had the chance to get some food for brunch. The first stop for the day was Miss Ly Cafeteria 22 at Nguyen Hue. We were the first guests of the day and Miss Ly's American husband warmly greeted us. Every item on the menu teased my taste buds but to make our stay authentic, we decided to get the local dishes. We wanted to try the cao lau (noodles), fried wontons, and white rose so we ordered the Sampling menu which had all three.

Fried wontons
Cao Lau - flat noodles with croutons, bean sprouts, and pork slices. The water used in its preparation comes from the Ba Le Well
White rose - steamed shrimp in rice paper

It was all so good that we came back the next day for dinner! Of the three dishes, I enjoyed white rose the most. And of all cities in Vietnam, I liked the food in Hoi An (actually, the whole of Central Vietnam) the most. It was here where I had the most delectable and succulent food that I have tasted in the entire week. The 3 dishes including drinks cost less than 15USD for 2 persons. That is considered pricey for Vietnam where everything is cheap, but Miss Ly's specialty cooking and her husband's warm welcome more than made up for it. The guy (too bad I forgot his name) even remembered us when we came back the next day.

It was a wet and tiring afternoon as we tried to battle it out with the rain to make the most of our time, but in the end we succumbed to another inviting restaurant at Le Loi. For dinner, we chose Streets. It might be that Miss Ly's was too high of a standard because I found the food at Streets not as spectacular but knowing that you are helping out disadvantaged young kids, it was easier to pay 20USD for dinner.

The only thing remarkable I tasted at Streets: Crispy Spring Rolls

After a considerably extravagant day in Hoi An, we decided to tone it down a bit the next day. We moved out of Thien Nga to a 15USD/night room which meant no complimentary breakfast, no WiFi, CRT TV, and stuffy sheets. And just when we thought we were successful in slumming it and cutting down costs, we ended up giving in to Miss Ly's for dinner the next day! The buns they sell on the street just can't compete with Miss Ly's cooking.


Share some of your guilty splurge stories!

I absolutely enjoyed Singapore's food. Everything suited my palate, from the coffee, kaya toast, and soft-boiled eggs breakfast at Killiney Kopitiam on my first day, up to the sumptuous steak lunch at Marche's on my last. (That's everything except for KFC's hot and spicy chicken, because ours taste better).

KILLINEY KOPITIAM

Breakfast was the first order of the day. A few blocks away from the hotel was Killiney Kopitiam. An unassuming, traditional coffee shop lined up with the other restaurants along Killiney Road. The ambiance reminded us of Bacolod's Kaffe Sadtu
At 9 in the morning, all the tables were occupied by Singaporeans and foreigners alike, all dressed for work. We shared a table with a lady who was poring over the morning's paper.
The usual order was coffee or tea, with 4 slices of kaya (coconut egg jam) toast, and two soft-boiled eggs. I had to figure out how to eat a soft-boiled egg. Apparently, you crack the egg and put it in a bowl, add seasoning, and eat it like porridge.

GOLDILOCKS AT USS

Our first lunch was in Goldilocks, one of the food joints at Universal Studios. Thanks to MasterCard, we had SGD12 coupon for food. Who knew that even the normal food joint served great fried chicken? The chicken tasted like it was drenched in herbs before frying.
My Mama Bear order - 2-pc chicken with mashed potatoes and Aaron's chicken burger and crisscross fries
Photo from here

AH-TAI CHICKEN RICE

The timing was great because we were able to luckily witness interesting turn of events in Singapore's chicken rice industry. The top chicken rice in Maxwell Food Center, Tian Tian Chicken Rice, lost its chef due to a falling out with the owner.  Just recently, the chef opened his own chicken rice business, named Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice, just two stalls away from his previous employer. See newspaper article here.

It was fun watching the lunch time queue grow longer in front of both stalls. I usually don't like chicken unless it's fried crisp and golden plus the hainanese chicken I've tried here in Manila were not too enjoyable for my taste buds. However, Singapore's authentic chicken rice looked too good to pass up. It was hard choosing where to get my first chicken rice but since the queue was longer in front of Ah-Tai, we joined the crowd and fell in line.

 Tian-Tian chicken rice located two stalls away- Ah-Tai even had a different take on the white and blue combination
Displaying their triumph in front of the stall - Ah-Tai still wins!

The chicken had a special sauce poured on top and the rice was fragrant and delicious, I think it could actually be eaten on its own. Now, the chicken. The chicken strips were tender, boneless, and tasty up to the last bite. Aaron said that it was better than the one he tried near his hotel. Could it be that I just tasted the best chicken rice in the whole of Singapore? Up to now, the chicken rice war continues.

An order of chicken rice and veggies plus a mug of soya drink = filling lunch!

LAO BAN SOYA BEANCURD

Walking around Maxwell Food Center, we found another long queue in front of Lao Ban Soya Beancurd. Full as we were, we still had some room for what looked like dessert. We had doubts if we still wanted to line up, but seeing locals buy 10 containers each of beancurd, we were sold.

It was a cold soy pudding with the sweetness just enough to make you want to eat more.  That explains why the locals were buying in bulk.

LAU PA SAT

Another must-visit place is Lau Pa Sat, the hawker center along Raffles Quay. We had char kway teo, pulled noodles with chicken strips, and sticks of chicken and mutton satay for lunch. Lau Pa Sat had a variety of food stalls to choose from, so we based our selections from newspaper clippings posted on their stalls and who was named best in their category (based from our Ah-Tai experience!). If you suddenly find yourself craving for Filipino food (which I did not), you can find familiar Pinoy dining experience at Baliwag, Tapa King, and other Pinoy food stalls.

NO SIGNBOARD SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

For dinner, we went all the way to Singapore's red light district, Geylang. Not too see where the red light is though, but to dine at No Signboard Seafood Restaurant. We had no other thing in mind but to order their version of chili crab. 

Yang chow fried rice with crispy shrimp bits on top
Chili crab = King crab swimming in curry! I know it looks small in the photo, but the serving is for  4 people
We seriously doubted our ability to finish the whole thing. When someone asked if we wanted to get fried buns, we said no. Who eats rice and crab with fried buns? Well, that was the biggest mistake of the night!! Do not make the same mistake. We have been told that the best part of eating chili crab is dipping the fried buns in the curry sauce. Too bad we did not know.
Nevertheless, we finished everything more than an hour later. I love seafood and No Signboard's chili crab was the best crab dish I ever had.  It was better than Red Crab and Seaside and all the seafood paluto joints combined. I have to say thank you to Aaron for taking me here and letting me indulge in cracking and poking and sucking every bit of crab flesh.

MAKANSUTRA

On Saturday night, we met friends Veng and Caloy, and had dinner at the buzzing Makansutra, near Marina Bay Sands. We were told that it was difficult to get a table especially on a Saturday night, but we must have been lucky (or just really quick to dodge and grab a table) because we got ours in less than a few minutes. It was a big dinner of crispy prawns, mussels, chicken, and a huge plate of fried rice.  We were all damp and sweaty, but who cares when you're eating good greasy food? Haha.

CHIJMES

For drinks and my dose of music, we found our way to Chijmes. We walked from Marina Bay Sands, used the GPS, and literally found our way to Chijmes. I felt weird entering a huge convent, and what's even weirder, is drinking a beer beneath a huge cross! Thanks to Veng and Caloy for dragging us to Chijmes! After 2 buckets of beer, we ended the night, again finding our way but this time to the hotel. It is a walkable city, and I just love doing long walks.

MARCHé

On my last day, we met another good friend Sha for her birthday lunch. Thanks to Sha for taking us to Marché at 313Somerset along Orchard Road. Entering Marché was like entering a playground, where your eyes glimmer at the sight of fresh food ingredients and you just don't know where to start.  We went around a couple of times before finally deciding what to get. It is so very easy to fall prey to the habit of getting more than what you can actually eat.

I finally decided to get a Swiss Cervelat sausage, Aaron had a sirloin steak, and we also ordered a couple of bread varieties while Sha had her usual Swiss Rosti. Do come in early if you plan to have lunch here since the line tends to get quite long. The lunch at Marché was a break from all the Asian dishes I had from the previous days.

And that ends my lengthy 4-day food journal.  Looking at the photos makes my mouth water again. I think I gained a couple of pounds (again!) when I got back.

Believe the weatherman when he says that the temperature is highest in Tuguegarao.  

We woke up early morning in the island of Palaui and after a quick breakfast, we proceeded to see the falls. The falls is easily reachable by a short 30-minute trek from the Bayanihan Hall.  
A few photos here and there then we made it back to San Vicente port. We decided to eat lunch at the carinderia near the van terminal. It is interesting how there is a pancitan (noodle shop) in every corner. Cagayan is one of those places where there is a widespread love for a particular food, much like Iloilo, where I marveled at how manukan/inasal (grilled chicken) businesses prosper with each of them sitting side-by-side in every nook.

We were eating Pancit Batil Patung when a family came in. When it was time to order, all the 4 kids screamed "Pancit! Pancit!". Cagayan really is a Pancit Country!

Pancit Batil Patong


I am sure pancit lovers would enjoy both Pancit Batil Patong and Pancit Cabagan, but for someone like me who loves nothing but a good, old, moist Pancit Bihon, a huge plate is more than enough. My companion likes Pancit Canton so let's just say that our first taste of the Batil Patong made us yearn for our usual favorite pancit variety.

The first trip from Sta.Ana to Tuguegarao is at 3AM, with a van leaving every 30mins. Last trip is at 1PM. We were just in time for the last van to the city. Unfortunately, the van's AC was not working. It was filled up to its capacity of 14 persons, so imagine how hot and humid it was inside. I tried to sleep the 3-hr ride away but I kept waking up in sweat. 
Finally, we made it to Tuguegarao! We checked-in at the first hostel we saw. We asked to view the rooms first but the man-in-charge said "Ok naman ung mga rooms." We should have taken that as a sign! In an attempt to quickly take shelter from the scorching hot sun, we said yes. This hostel was not the spookiest I've ever stayed at (the one in Surigao tops my list) but it was definitely creepy. I have no qualms in basking under the sun or sleeping in a non-AC room but it was unusually hot in Tuguegarao and all I wanted was to lie down and turn the AC on, full blast.
The next day we decided to check-in at Pensione Joselina. It was cheaper than the first hostel we stayed  at plus it did not have a haunted house appeal to it. After watching American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? marathons, it was time to finally brave the hot, hot weather.
First Agenda: Give the Pancit Batil Patung and Pancit Cabagan a second chance.
There were 2 suggestions for the best panciteria in town. We first went to Gretchen's but too bad it was closed on a Black Saturday. Next stop: Budyok's. Luckily, it was open for business.

                                Welcome to Budyok's!                                                         Very affordable!

       
We had a huge lunch of Super Special Pancit Cabagan, Super Pancit Batil Patong, halo-halo, and longsilog. 

Pancit Cabagan
Pancit Batil Patong
So what's the difference between the two? Sadly, I do not have taste buds made to dissect food. I liked the itlog pugo, chicharon, and lechon. Batil Patong uses miki noodles while Cabagan is made of canton noodles. Naturally, Aaron liked the Pancit Cabagan while I stayed fiercely loyal to my beloved pancit bihon. I gobbled up all the toppings though. The Vigan longganisa was terrific. It made me wish I could take a kilo of longganisa goodness home.
Budyok's Halo-Halo is reminiscent of that of Razon's. There were only a few toppings (mango slices, corn, leche flan, and 2 Pandan Stick-Os) but the dessert was refreshing and perfect for getting through the summer heat.
It took us a while to finish our lunch. The servings were huge. Our stomachs were full until the end of the day.
By 1PM, we went off to complete the day's second agenda: visit the famed Callao Cave.
Budyok's Panciteria is located at  corner Legaspi and College Avenue Extension, Centro 8, Tuguegarao City. Ride a traysi from any point in the city. Fare is P10 per person.
Seeing the balloons gave us a natural high, but by 8AM, it all dwindled down. We've looked up several activities to go with watching the balloons fly. We even thought of visiting Corregidor but the boat rental at Bataan is too pricey for a group of 5, plus given our sleepy and sluggish condition, all we could do was eat.

Breakfast

Several blog posts recommended dining at AC Rumpa, a restaurant located just outside Clark. It seemed to be the perfect spot to get an energy-boosting breakfast. We thought we were going to eat in a restaurant in the midst of the red district in broad daylight,  but thank goodness for GPS, we found our way to AC Rumpa.

How to get there: From the Omni Aviation Complex inside Clark Freeport Zone, take the Manuel Roxas Highway (main road) to exit the gates. Turn right once you reach the Manila North Road/McArthur Highway. Turn right at Surla St.  AC Rumpa is just near the corner, on the right side of the street.

AC Rumpa stands for Angeles City Retired US Military Personnel Association

Several items were on the menu, and I've read that their tacos and BBQ Spareribs are really good, but it was breakfast time so we all ordered the classic Pinoy breakfast of tapsilog, tocilog, and an omelette and French toast. Only Joahna had the appetite for some tasty baby back ribs. The tapsilog was good but I regretted ordering it the moment I saw the ribs!

The servings are huge and all are reasonably priced.
You'd think that a restaurant with a small, unassuming sign wouldn't attract that much customers, but AC Rumpa was packed for breakfast. That's the power of the word of mouth.
We were energized, yes, but the food made us a lot sleepier. 🙂  We stayed for almost 2 hours, eating and dozing off on the table. Thanks to AC Rumpa for not throwing us out!  

We were thinking of the next stop for the day and Shiela found the star of our elementary field trips, Nayong Pilipino. Off to the next stop!

Nayong Pilipino

We took out our GPS and looked up the park's location, and after almost 20mins of driving, we found no park. Some prankster marked someone else's house as Nayong Pilipino in Google Maps. Clever! When using GPS, look for the Nayong Pilipino inside Clark Expo. Entrance fee is P30 for adults.

I've seen the old Nayong Pilipino at Pasay probably 15 years ago and I remember being awed by the miniature Banaue Rice Terraces, Mt.Mayon and the Cagsawa Ruins, and Chocolate Hills.  Sadly, these are not in the new park.  The park's theme is centered on pre-Colonial (the Ifugao, Kalinga, and Aetas villages) and Colonial era (plaza, Barasoain Church, Rizal's house).  
We saw a group celebrating a birthday at some part of the park and I suddenly felt like I was in a resort. I wouldn't have been surprised if I saw a pool. I thought the idea of Nayong Pilipino was to experience the country's culture and see the country's best spots in one afternoon, but it just felt like walking in a random assortment of themes. We saw several ongoing constructions in the park so the management might still be  in the process of developing it. I really do hope they improve the park and include more interesting miniature displays.
An announcement for the 11AM cultural dance presentation saved the day. We trooped to the plaza and let the Nayong Pilipino Dance Troupe entertain us for almost an hour of engaging folk dances (singkil, kapamalong-malong, pandanggo sa ilaw,etc). The dancers are all commendable for their performances. 
After the much enjoyable dance presentation, we decided it was time for the next meal of the day.
Lunch
Since Pampanga is known for it's Sisig, we flocked to Aling Lucing's in Angeles. And now I'm never going back.
No restaurant should ever make their customers wait for an hour for the food to be served, even if the food's the most wonderful experience to ever happen to taste buds. In the case of Aling Lucing's, it was not the best sisig I've ever tasted and to wait an hour at a poorly ventilated carinderia for something like that was just too much. If they just served our food a little earlier, I'm sure the food would have tasted better. The longer the customers wait, the more anxious they become, and the higher the expectation gets.
We wolfed down our meal and thought of something more fun to forget the unfortunate lunch and end the day with a happy note.
Halo-Halo
Good thing there was Kabigting's at the nearby Robinson's Mall.
The great thing about halo halos from Pampanga is that they don't have many ingredients. Think of Razon's Halo Halo without the usual mumbo jumbo of ingredients, just saba, macapuno, and leche flan.  Kabigting's use sweet beans, pastillas, and corn.  I'm not a fan of corn but I enjoyed Kabigting's delightful dessert.
We did not want to get stuck in heavy traffic so at 3PM, we finally called it a day and headed back to Manila, with full tummies and satisfied cravings. 
This is a continuation of  the hot air balloon post.
I admit not having well discerning taste buds, but the food in Negros is too delish to go unnoticed even by a dull foodie like me. Restaurants are lined up along Lacson St. in Bacolod City, with cuisines ranging from local Negrense to Korean and Japanese restaurants.  Being the Sugar Bowl of the country, there are also a lot of good pastries shops here, and most are found right along the same street.

There is also something about the Negrense's way of eating that makes it more tempting for the guests: they eat their food with much gusto! Lucky are those people who were gifted with that delightful way of eating.  The food is one big reason why Bacolod is a city I want to go back to.

Here's a rundown of the places we ate at for 3 days. I would have wanted to squeeze more in but my stomach was beyond full!

Note: Lengthy post ahead. I'd like you to read all the way to the end but if you wish to skim through, click on the links below.


Aida's at Manokan Country
Kaffe Sadtu
Bob's
Calea
Enting's House of Sagay
El Ideal
Cafe 1925
The Ruins Restaurant

Chicken Pecho at Aida's

We were relieved to see that most establishments were still open at 11PM.  The Manokan Country is a strip of chicken inasal joints (read: carinderias), offering a dish  for every imaginable chicken part. Think chicken ass, chicken feet, chicken gizzard, and chicken liver.  It's a chicken version of Manila's seafood dampa.

Our stop for the night was Aida's which was recommended in Anton Diaz' blog. Aida's bright interiors outshone the rest, with colorful masks on display that served as a visual treat for us who have never been to a Masskara Festival.

As for the food, frankly, I couldn't tell if it was better than most inasal but for someone as hungry as I was, the chicken pecho tasted good enough.

The chicken pecho with rice and Coke cost P100.

How to get here:
Manokan Country - Ride a jeepeney going to Mandalagan and get down when you see SM City Bacolod. Manokan is along Fr. M. Ferrero St., right across SM.

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In the search for the elusive La Corona Cafe, we ended up in an unassuming shop called Kaffe Sadtu.  Apparently, La Corona Cafe closed down last year when the owner got sick and nobody took over the business. It's a good thing Kaffe Sadtu opened and enticed the taste of La Corona's patrons.

Kaffe Sadtu offers locally grown and freshly brewed coffee straight up and without frills, just like how coffee used to be served.  The place looked like it used to be a hardware store, with some construction materials still on the shelves, but this detail just makes the shop more interesting.  The tables were nothing fancy, and there were no coffee table books lying around, but you could bring a newspaper, use their WiFi, or better yet, talk with the other customers.  The old-fashioned ambiance felt perfect for exchanging stories.
 
Coffee was served at P15 a cup and truly, the price is never an indication of how good a thing is. Their native coffee tasted better than the usual 100peso-with-whipped-cream coffees.  I ordered the homemade corned beef with toast and omelet for only P35.

Regulars can leave their own cups in the shop and the server keeps it for them. Customer service deluxe indeed!

How to get here:
Kaffe Sadtu - Ride a jeepney going to Shopping or Homesite. Kaffe Sadtu is along Hilado Street, near Burgos and Hilado intersection.  The landmark is the public market along Burgos.

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We were eyeing Cafe Bob's for lunch, but Andrew told us that Cafe Bob's was mostly a hangout for students. He took us then to the original Bob's restaurant, along the same street of Cafe Bob's.

The best seller on the menu was Sate Babe, a pork barbecue dish drenched with creamy peanut sauce paired with java rice. Bob's Fruit Punch is also an interesting concoction of different fruits like coconut, watermelon, and pineapple, and spiked with a hint of rum.  The food is relatively cheaper compared to the prices in Manila for a similar grade of good food. An order of Sate Babe meal plus Fruit Punch costs P187.

How to get here:
Bob's - Along B.S. Aquino Drive, in front of the Riverside Medical Center. 

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Calea is probably the most famous pastries and coffee shop in Lacson St.  Though they are best known for their blueberry cheesecake, the other cakes can't be dismissed. For our meryenda, we bought 4 slices: blueberry cheesecake, mixed berry cheesecake, imported chocolate, and double chocolate cakes.

Each cake had its own distinct and scrumptious taste, but of all the 4, I enjoyed the mixed berry cheesecake best while my friend finished all of the double chocolate cake.

There's no need to worry about choking on all those sugar as the crew here were very attentive, they made sure our glasses of water were always filled to the brim.

Most cakes cost P85 per slice.

How to get here:
Calea - Ground floor, Balay Quince building. You can take a jeep bound to Bata, but a better way to explore restaurants here is to walk along Lacson St.

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Andrew's suggestion was to order Kansi, and so we did!  Kansi is an Ilonggo recipe that looked like bulalo (beef bone marrow) but tasted sour like sinigang. It was a good soup to warm up a starving stomach. The place had a typical inuman feel to it, complete with  cottages for big groups. Enting's also had several kilawin specialties I also had their fried chicken which reminded me of BBQ Chicken & Beer's Original Chicken set. And to top it all off, I finished mine with a beer.

How to get here:
Enting's - Located at 16th cor. Lacson St. 

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El Ideal translates to Guapple Pie. That was what we learned when we had lunch there. The pork chop meal was nothing special and I'm pretty sure I've tasted better halo-halo than what they served.  The guapple pie though, is the gleaming silver lining in their menu.  It's an explosion of sweet guava and crunchy apple in a flaky pie with a hint of a cinnamon.

How to get here:
El Ideal - The sign is huge enough so you won't miss it. The bakery sits along Rizal St., Silay City. Take a bus to Victorias and alight at the bus stop nearest El Ideal.

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Just behind El Ideal sits Cafe 1925. A small coffee shop whose lunch menu (baby back ribs and the likes) was recommended by Ramon Hofileña. Unfortunately for us, it was already late in the afternoon when we went. Our merienda was a chocolate shake, mango sans rival, and a brownie ala mode.

The cakes at Calea tasted better but the artsy and cozy atmosphere at Cafe 1925 made up for it. The cafe can fit up to 20 persons comfortably inside.

How to get here:
Cafe 1925 - Located at the street beside El Ideal, J.Pitong Ledesma Street. Right behind BPI.

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Dinner at The Ruins

The last stop for our trip was The Ruins in Talisay City, and last stop often means splurging. And boy did we splurge on this dinner! Italian food is served at The Ruins Restaurant. Oven-baked Hawaiian pizza, pesto, and carbonara pasta was our choice. Both pasta dishes were flavorful but the pizza could do better.

We chose the outdoor tables right across The Ruins but guests also have an option to eat inside. Everyone goes here to catch the sunset, but when the moon rises, most people pack their things and go. That leaves behind a serene and nicely lit-up architecture that's a perfect setting for dinner.

At P260 per person, it was quite expensive compared to the previous days' finds. But that's because we probably had to pay a premium to sit there and have dinner while gazing at the majestic ruins, with classical music to match the mood.

How to get here:
The Ruins Restaurant - Ride a jeep bound to Bata and take a tricycle to The Ruins.

Photos by Aaron Manila.