Tagbilaran and Dauis, Bohol, the Philippines

April 1 – 4, 2011

The quickest way to a traveler’s heart was through his tummy. The province of Bohol, home of the Chocolate Hills, was not known for its food though. However, this cookie-shaped island and the adjacent Panglao Island, which looked like a crumb on the map, got me at first bite.

Mom, the Food Critic, in Dauis, Bohol

I was not much of a foodie. My gastronomic standards scraped the bottom of the food chain. I was with my mom and sister on this trip so at least I was assured of decent food, not my usual sustenance of street food when I was on the road. So I let my mom (the real foodie in the family) reveal her inner food critic.

Payag Restaurant

Payag Restaurant, Tagbilaran, Bohol

After a no-meal flight, lunch topped our agenda. Upon dumping our luggage at the hotel, we hopped on a tricycle to Payag Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Tagbilaran, according to Cebu-Pacific Air’s in-flight magazine. I expected a bamboo hut with a thatched roof, as what payag meant. The restaurant, it turned out, was a cross between a bahay na bato (stone house) and a log cabin. At least, it offered a partial view of Tagbilaran Bay (actually a strait) and Panglao Island on the second floor.

The magazine highly recommended chicken inasal (roasted chicken), their specialty. The place was outfitted with happy chicken carvings and figurines lest you miss this point. Nice to know that my lunch was happy to be slaughtered and skewered.

Eating is Serious Business: Mom and Chicken Inato

I was not a big fan of roasted things, but Payag’s chicken inato (translation: our chicken) was a revelation. I found it to be more delectable than the chicken inasal that my hometown was known for. (Oh dear, I could get exiled for saying this!) The secret must be in the marinade, but mom believed it was in free range poultry, as opposed to cooped ones. That could explain the happy chicken. I never thought you could tell the difference; oh well, mother knew best! The dish came with pickled papaya, a neutralizing antidote to all that meat.

Mom’s verdict: “Flavorful!”

Café  Lawis

Cafe Lawis, Dauis Church Complex, Dauis, Bohol

Another tricycle ride, this time an island-hopping one (thanks to a causeway linking Bohol with Panglao Island), took us to Dauis, one of two towns in Panglao. We got off at the Byzantine-inspired Dauis Church. Tucked behind the stone church was a convent-turned-café called Café Lawis, a nod to the former name of Dauis.

The convent complex also housed the fancy Handumanan souvenir shop and an art gallery, infused with Ayala money, and it showed. We settled at the alfresco dining area under the canopy of ancient acacia trees by the bay. Perfect for Panglao’s provincial ambiance, which was as dreamy as the café’s specialty: tsokolate-eh soufflé.

Mom enjoying the creamy Chocolate Soufflé of dreamy Café Lawis
Al Fresco Cafe Lawis, Dauis Church Complex, Dauis, Bohol

Ice cream soufflé was the ultimate dessert indulgence: you could have your cake and have ice cream with it too! The fresh-off-the-oven heat of the soufflé drenched in rich cocoa syrup (tsokolate-eh) clashed with the cold vanilla ice cream – a bipolar delight. Mom claimed she never had it this good in Manila.

Soon it was dusk. Lanterns hanging on the acacia trees were lighted, giving a golden glow to our last sinful scoop of soufflé. The scene was so cinematic I could almost see the credits roll.

Mom’s verdict: “Exceptional!”

Bohol Bee Farm (BBF)

Bohol Bee Farm, Dauis, Bohol

*****

A side note: Just as I started writing this part, a small bee (a baby bee?) flew in the window and settled on my computer desk. Maybe it wanted to see what the buzz was about. 🙂

*****

The next day we had dinner at the Bohol Bee Farm. Good thing we were not deterred by the unpaved country road. This bed-and-breakfast was worth the rocky ride. The moment we arrived, my sister made a beeline for the souvenir shop that sold local products and organic food.

Bags-full of shopping later, we retreated to the BBF restaurant sitting on a cliff rising over Bohol Sea. The waters were calm, ruffled only by two small boats. In Bohol, good food came with scenic cinematography.

Bohol Bee Farm Overlooking Bohol Sea
Spare me some ribs….
Mom and Sister Demolishing the BBF Buffet

Organic was the order of the day. The buffet opener was organic garden salad (with honey mustard dressing) strewn with flowers. The honey-glazed chicken was juicy and the seafood lasagna was just as tasty. The standout for me was the extra-tender spare ribs. Even the sauces had honey, produced by the resident bees. To cap our dinner, we had corn coffee, also homegrown in BBF’s organic farm (look ma, no preservatives!).

Dinner was delish overall. The only thing that didn’t go down well with me was the red organic rice. I always found this variety too dry. I still preferred the softness of white rice. And mom? All she could muster to say during dinner was “wow” because she was too busy eating and could not be disturbed.

Mom’s verdict: “Outstanding!”

Tagbilaran Tricycles

To redeem us from all that food porn, Tagbilaran also offered food for the soul. On our way to the airport, my sister noted that tricycles in the city had Bible verses painted on their sidecars. It wasn’t random, but a registration requirement. Blessings to whoever thought of this brilliantly biblical idea. This interesting bit totally went over my head. It paid to have a deaconess for a sister.

Of course, I needed to take a photo of it for proof. Uncannily, the tricycle that took us to Dauis on our first day was the same one our van trailed to the airport. You just have to take my word that the rest had Bible verses too. Tagbilaran was really just a small town, after all.

Tricycle 0556 in Dauis
Tagbilaran Tricycles with Bible Verses: Tricycle 0556 at the Airport

The driver waved goodbye, and left us with this verse imprinted at the back of his sidecar:

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:3

For not sacrificing our appetite, amen.

Mom’s verdict: “Unique!”