Veggie Vegz Davao: An All-Vegetarian Cafe with a Must-Try Kilawin

@ Veggie Vegz Davao

My hunt for veg-friendly dining options in Davao continues. Yesterday, my search brought me to Veggie Vegz Davao in Ilustre Extension street. It was about 40 minutes away from my home with light traffic. I heard about the place from some members of the Vegans of Davao group on Facebook who shared photos of the delicious foods they have tried there.

Kilawin and spicy sisig
Spicy tofu and caldereta
Kare-kare served with bagoong

The cafe is located on the second floor of the Esmar Plaza Building. I was there a little before 11:00 am so the place was still quiet. They were still not finished setting up the food but their bestselling kilawin, as well as the sisig, spicy tofu, and calderata, were already available. I asked if they have the oil-free, air-fried lumpia. The owner said they will still have to air-fry it and asked me if I was willing to wait for it. I said yes and added it to my order of kilawin, sisig, rice, and the camote tops juice with calamansi.

My orders of kilawin and sisig (Php50 each)
Oil-free, air-fried lumpia (3pcs = Php50)
photo credit: Veggie Vegz Davao
Talbos ng kamote (camote tops) juice with calamansi

The kilawin was really good. The sauce seems to be a mix of soy sauce, sesame seeds, and some other ingredients that made the dish even more flavorful. The lumpia was crunchy and the camote tops juice was sweet and refreshing. I just had a few bites of the sisig though. It was spicy and delicious but I was already full after eating all the kilawin. So I just had the leftover sisig wrapped to take home with me along with additional orders of the kilawin.

I really enjoyed dining here and would like to visit again to try the kilawin again. I just wish that they have more oil-free options as well. Still, I was happy to get a taste of meatless versions of some of my favorite dishes that I thought I would have to give up for good.


Location: Door 13, Level 2 Esmar Plaza Building, Magallanes and Ilustre Extension Streets, Davao City


Eating Out on a Plant-Based Diet in Apo Andoy’s Filipino Heritage Cuisine Davao

Mai and Arlady in front of Balai Belen Travellers Lodge where Apo Andoy’s Filipino Heritage Cuisine is located

It has been almost seven weeks since I made the transition to a more plant-based diet. In that time, I have not eaten beef and pork, have slowly weaned myself from eating chicken, and now working towards cutting down on the occasional fish or seafood that I still eat. Making the switch was not as hard as I imagined it would be. Although it has its moments like when I have to eat out and struggle with the limited dining options available. This happened to me again recently when I met up with two former workmates — Mai who was visiting from Japan and Arlady who also lives in Davao. It was Arlady who suggested that we have dinner at Apo Andoy’s Filipino Heritage Cuisine which is near where Mai was staying.

It was the first time that I heard about Apo Andoy’s. Not surprising, really, since I do not go out much. I quickly agreed to meet there because I thought it best to have dinner with Mai in a place where she can enjoy Filipino food. But at the back of my mind, I was wondering if there is something oil-free, and plant-based I could eat there. Davao is mostly a meat-centric city, at least from my point of view, with so many grill restaurants. And most vegetable dishes are mixed with beef, pork, chicken, fish, and other seafood or flavored with fish sauce. Still, I was excited to visit the place primarily to see Mai and Arlady again and also to try whatever plant-based dish I can find there.

A Homey Feeling

The first thing I saw when I took the stairs to get to the restaurant

I arrived at Apo Andoy’s around past 6:00 pm. The restaurant is in Balai Belen Travellers Lodge located inside a village in Dacudao. It was still fairly early for dinner so there was only a couple of guests when I came in. The place was quiet but I noticed that a long table has already been reserved. It seemed like it was going to be a busy evening for the restaurant.

The couple left and I waited alone in the empty room enjoying the quiet and homey feeling. A large group came in after a few minutes. There were only two empty tables left (each table seats 4). The restaurant staff quickly connected both remaining tables and approached me to ask if they can get one of the chairs since I told them earlier that there are only three of us. I said yes and the new group was seated and immediately placed their orders. I was still alone at that time so I could not order yet, something that I would regret later in the evening.

A Meat-Lover’s Paradise

I would have probably enjoyed the food at Apo Andoy’s if I had not gone plant-based. Mai and Arlady ordered the beef tapa (which was purportedly President Duterte’s favorite food to eat there), lengua which was served with mashed potatoes, and the Vigan longganisa. Sadly, most of the dishes were meat-based and cooked in oil. There was only one salad option for me — and even that had salted egg and dilis (anchovies).

The Long Wait

It took almost an hour before our orders got served. I think this was because the first big group to arrive immediately placed theirs as soon as they were seated. And the largest group that made the reservation already started trickling in by the time we started ordering. So we waited a long time for our food. My salad came last — right after all of Mai and Arlady’s orders were served. And it was nothing like I expected it would be. It consisted mostly of cucumbers, small cubes of salted egg whites (where was the yolk?), lots of anchovies, and very small amount of one type of lettuce which I hardly noticed. It was really salty. To be fair, the rest of the food on the table looked scrumptious. And both of my friends seemed to have enjoyed them. Mai said the lengua was really good.

Great time with friends

I was still hungry by the time I finished what for me has been a disappointing meal. But I did not have much expectation going in because I knew from the getgo that it was not a veg-friendly restaurant in the first place. The goal was to let Mai enjoy some Filipino dishes for dinner. And the food looked delicious even if I did not get to taste them except for that salad that I swear I will not eat again.

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Lifestyle – A Work in Progress

When I made this promise in the first week of January —> “a carnivore’s challenge to self 2018: less meat, more plants”, I did not imagine that I would jump right into it as much as I had in the past month. It took a trip to a hospital emergency room one night two weeks after I said it for me to finally realize that it was time to make some big changes in my diet. I only spent about less than four hours at the ER and was able to go home that night. But the experience was enough motivation for me to commit to a more plant-based lifestyle. 

I have been thinking of eating less meat for a long time. But I love eating meat so I could not imagine myself becoming a vegetarian. I thought eating more plant-based foods would be extremely difficult for me.

It has been six weeks since I started eating low-fat and plant-based foods. And surprisingly, it was not as hard as I thought it would be.

Making the transition

Some of the changes I made to my diet include:

  • Giving up fatty foods like meat (beef and pork)
  • Eating very small servings of chicken (skinless and breast part only) and seafood (fish and shrimps) twice a week at most while also preparing myself to give them up completely at some point
  • Eating oil-free meals or dishes cooked with a little olive oil
  • Cooking my own meals
  • Eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins
  • Choosing low- or non-fat dairy and plant-based milk
  • Giving up my favorite sweets and desserts like chocolates, cakes, pastries, other sugary treats, and more. I do not plan on giving up dark chocolates for good. But I want to avoid them for now. I was able to give up chocolates for six months in the past before a competition when I was still actively training as an athlete so I know can do it if I want to.

The things I learned switching to a more plant-based lifestyle

For me, it is more than just a diet. It is a lifestyle. Something that I choose to do and would require a lot of changes in my food choices and how I do things. It is a work in progress and so far here are a few things I have learned along the way:

  1. Going plant-based is more aligned with my beliefs and values. The change is not only good for my health but also for the environment. And as I learn more about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, I become more motivated to fully commit to it.
  2. Eating out can be a challenge. I now find it hard to find restaurants that serve oil-free, low-fat vegetarian or vegan dishes. There are less than ten veg-friendly dining options in the city (that I know of) and most of them are located far from home.
  3. I started to cook my own meals again and trying out more plant-based recipes.
  4. I now spend more time in supermarket aisles that I rarely frequent before.
  5. It was not a difficult and depressing transition that I imagined it would be. It may not be easy most of the time, but I find it doable.

Dining options

I have not been eating out much since I started my plant-based journey. But here are some of the places where I enjoyed some veg-friendly meals:

1. Noonsaram Korean Cafe
Location: SM Lanang Food Hall, Davao City


My list of Korean foods I love to eat got shorter by a lot since I started with my low-fat, plant-based diet. But there are still some dishes I can eat if I choose carefully. The first time I dined at Noonsaram at the food hall in SM Lanang, I ordered the kimchi-jjigae and asked if they could cook it without the meat and put only a little of the sesame oil that they use for it. I like how easy they made it for customers like me to make that request. On my next visit, I had the bibimbap and made a special request not to include the beef that usually goes with it. It still had an egg in it since I still have not given up eggs yet. I wish they will have some purely plant-based dishes on their menu though. But for now, I am happy with the ones I have tried there.

2. The Green Bounty Kitchen
Location: G/F SM Lanang, Davao City

Dabawenyo Salad and Cucumber Calamansi juice

A salad is a safe and easy option for a struggling plant-based eater like me. So during the first week of my new diet, I found myself at The Green Bounty Kitchen at the mall. I was initially concerned about how much oil the Asian vinaigrette would have. So I did not put much on the Dabawenyo Salad (lettuce, turnips, pomelo, and shrimps) that I ordered. I love the Cucumber Calamansi Cucumber drink that I had with it.

2. The Vegan Dinosaur
Location: Door A, Values School Building, Ruby Street, Marfori Heights, Davao City

Quinoa & Tofu BBQ (Turmeric quinoa, grilled tofu with BBQ sauce, spirulina gomashio, sprouts, ranch dressing)
Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls (cashews, dates, cacao powder, cacao nibs)

I finally got to visit the only all-vegan restaurant that I know of here in Davao. I have been planning to eat there for weeks now but was not keen on making the long trip from home. So when I had to go somewhere near the area, I made sure to make a detour to check out the place. I like the restaurant’s ambiance and enjoyed reading the menu and seeing so many choices — including oil-free options! I had the Quinoa and Tofu BBQ and the Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls for dessert. I was initially hesitant to order the bliss balls because it has chocolate in it (cacao powder and cacao nibs) and was not sure how my stomach would react if I eat it. But I wanted to find out if I can eat them and not experience any side effects. So I went and ordered them. The bliss balls were the first dessert I had in six weeks that are not the crackers, fruits, or the honey Grahams that I have been eating to satisfy my sweet cravings. I was happy to discover that they were not only delicious but that I can actually eat them without experiencing any side effects.

@ The Vegan Dinosaur

I may not have gone fully plant-based yet. But I am easing into the transition much easier than I thought I would. And I am already enjoying a lot of things about it despite the challenges I find along the way.

Finding a New Happy Place at The Vegan Dinosaur

I learned about The Vegan Dinosaur when I was looking for veg-friendly dining options in Davao on HappyCow. This was soon after I made the transition to a more plant-based diet. I have been thinking of visiting the place for some time now. But it was far from where I live and I do not frequent the area where it was located. So it took me a while to visit it. Yesterday’s errand was relatively near the cafe, which gave me a chance to finally check it out.

It has an intimate, cozy, and welcoming feel to it. For a first visit, the place felt curiously familiar and welcoming. I was there around 11:00 am so it was still pretty quiet. There was only one customer at the counter who looked like a regular to me. I picked the table beside the glass wall at the left side of the cafe and enjoyed reading the menu. There were so many options including oil-free dishes and treats that I could not wait to try.

Quinoa & Tofu BBQ

I initially wanted to try the Quinoa & Tofu BBQ (nut-free and gluten-free). The description on the menu listed turmeric quinoa, grilled tofu with BBQ sauce, spirulina gomashio, sprouts, and ranch dressing as ingredients. But I do not like BBQ sauce that much so I just ordered it for take-out for my dad. I ordered the Tofu Buddha Bowl (oil-free, nut-free, and gluten-free) instead made with grilled tofu with teriyaki sauce, greens, carrots, red cabbage, sprouts, corn, cucumber, and tomato. But when one of the servers asked me a few minutes later if it was okay for them to substitute the BBQ sauce with teriyaki sauce for the Quinoa & Tofu BBQ because the original sauce was not available, I decided to cancel my Buddha bowl and ordered the Quinoa & Tofu for myself as well. I have developed a fondness for turmeric in the past weeks so I was eager to try the turmeric quinoa.

Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls
Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls

But what excited me most about dining at The Vegan Dinosaur were the treats and desserts available. I have a sweet tooth. Giving up sugary, creamy, and dairy-laden sweets and treats is probably the hardest part of switching to a low-fat and plant-based diet for me. Snacks, desserts, and treats for the past weeks consisted mainly of fruits, Graham crackers, and Mentos candies. I was happy to see some oil-free and dairy-free options on the menu. I ordered the Cashew Caramel Bliss Balls (oil-free, gluten-free, and soy-free) made with ingredients that include cashews, dates, and desiccated coconut. But the server said it as not available so I ordered the Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls (also OF GF SF) made with cashews, dates, cacao powder, and cacao nibs. It was the first time that I had anything that has chocolate in it in a long while. And it was so delicious.

Some items for sale at the cafe

The Vegan Dinosaur has become one of my happy places where I can be sure to find all-vegan meals and treats that would satisfy me.


Location:  Door A, Values School Building, Ruby Street, Marfori Heights, Davao City

A Satisfying Lunch at Osaka Takoyaki Davao

Osaka Takoyaki Davao

Breaking away from my default mode of eating at my favorite go-to restaurants, I decided to have lunch at Osaka Takoyaki’s Davao branch located in SM Lanang. I was at the mall to do something I completely forgot to do yesterday while I was there. I wanted to reward myself for what felt like a tedious chore so I thought I’d better check out the new Japanese restaurant and have a bowl of ramen.

I learned about the restaurant opening a branch here in Davao when my former Japanese Kendo teacher posted two photos of the menu on his Facebook timeline last November.

I’m not really a takoyaki fan. The ones I’ve tasted here in Davao, and I had many, were mostly hit-and-miss affairs. I also hate crowded places so I tend to avoid newly-opened restaurants since they always seem to get packed with people eager to try something new. But since it has already been almost two months since it opened, I figured I could finally give it a try.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor of SM Lanang near the fountain area. So I headed to the exit near the supermarket, saw the fountain right across, turned right, walked a few steps, and saw the Osaka Takoyaki.

Osaka Takoyaki Davao
My favorite time in restos — the pre-lunch/dinner rush when it’s still quiet
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Simple and pretty
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
The menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
OkonomiYaki, YakiSoba, and YakiUdon
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Takoyaki and a la carte options
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Desserts and Special Menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Set Lunch Menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao

The interior was more spacious than I imagined. And my timing was perfect since it was still past 10:00 am. Too early for lunch so I was the only other customer apart from a couple who came before me. I picked a spot right next to the wall at the back. A server approached soon after I sat down and gave me a glass of water. He left and quickly came back with the menu. Since I already know what I want for my super early lunch, I told him I’ll have the Tonkotsu ramen. He asked if I want to have it as a set lunch and explained the options I have, which turned out to be a better one for me. So I said I’ll have it and picked the takoyaki and the orange soda to complete the set meal.

Osaka Takoyaki Davao
I had breakfast so I’m not calling this brunch. It’s more like a super early lunch^^
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Tonkotsu ramen
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
The takoyaki with toppings of dancing Japanese fish flakes (Katsuobushi)

My Tonkotsu ramen was served after only a few minutes quickly followed by the takoyaki with toppings of dancing Japanese fish flakes (Katsuobushi) that was just so delightful to watch. It was almost too pretty to eat…almost. It tasted so good my tongue got burned as I kept stuffing it in my mouth.

The Tonkotsu ramen was flavorful, but it was the takoyaki that turned out to be the best find for me on this visit. It’s like finding something to finally fall in love with in a food that you have been having countless times but didn’t exactly like enough to keep craving for.

I was hoping to try the dessert but the green tea ice cream I set my heart on was not available. The server said the only desserts they have at that time were the kakigouris. I was tempted to get the Green Tea Milk Beans kakigouri but decided to skip dessert for my next visit.

Overall, it was a scrumptious and satisfying lunch. I love the interior, the details, and the service. I’m not sure how different the vibe will be during peak hours. But I particularly like the peace and quiet of the store’s pre-lunch rush.

Coffee & Serendipity Photo Journal #4: Habi at Kape, Davao City

It has been a while since I posted about coffee and serendipity here, here, and here. And there have been quite a few memorable coffee shops since the last post. The latest of which I visited for the first time last December 31. Located on the 3rd floor of the Abreeza Corporate Center, Habi at Kape is a quaint cafe tucked away from my usual haunts in the adjacent mall which is why it slipped under my radar.

I only found out about it while looking for a coffee shop where I could meet my sorority sister who visited Davao last December 29 to January 1.  I was thinking of taking them to Bankerohan public market to try the sikwate (hot chocolate made from tablea)/tsokolate batirol and puto maya like I did with my two other friends who visited the city separately a few months back. But since it was already the 31st I was worried that the market will be even more crowded with last-minute shoppers. So I looked for a cafe serving local dishes and drinks, especially the sikwate or tsokolate batirol which I always recommend to friends when visiting Davao.

My online search led me to some articles about Habi at Kape and its Facebook page. Someone posted photos of the menu and saw that they not only serve sikwate but also coffees from Davao and Bukidnon. They also have a merienda buffet for Php200/person every Friday to Sunday from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

I quickly arranged to meet with them on December 31st and called Habi at Kape to make a reservation for the merienda buffet. But I got a message early morning on the 31st informing me that the merienda buffet was canceled and that they will be open until 5:00 pm only. I was a bit disappointed about missing out on the buffet. But I figured there must be very few reservations as most people are already busy with the New Year’s Eve preparations. I told the staff it was okay and that we are still going.

I found the cafe more quickly than I expected. While I did not see the store’s sign, the decor and shelves displaying local food products from the Davao Region were hard to miss.

My sis and her friends arrived soon after I got there. And her friends were immediately drawn to the wide array of items on the shelves that include different brands of tableas, chocolates, preserves, and more as well as the shops beside it that sell traditional items and souvenirs.

Habi at Kape
At Habi at Kape
Habi at Kape menu
Habi at Kape menu
Habi at Kape menu
sikwate and suman
Sikwate (Tsokolate Batirol) and Nilimbiran Suman at Tsokolate
Done with our delicious and filling merienda
My sorority sister (in blue) with her friends/travel buddies

All of us ordered the Sikwate (Php70), Nilimbiran Suman at Tsokolate (Php80) and initially, two orders of HABI Pancit Luglug each serving of which is already good for two (Php170). My sis and her friends are all from Pampanga — a place that has rightly earned its reputation as a foodie haven and home to delicious Kapampangan cuisine. I have spent a lot of time in another sorority sister’s home in Angeles City during weekends and school breaks while we were studying in UP in Diliman. The Kapampangans love good food. I was not sure if they will like the food. But I was hoping they will like Davao’s sikwate. So I was surprised and happy when they all said they love not just the sikwate but also the suman and pancit luglug. One of them even ordered another serving of the pancit luglug.

I loved how quiet it was while we were there. But I read that the place is quite busy most days. I can’t wait to try their merienda buffet next time.

Davao Food Finds: Malunggay Pesto and Strawberry Preserve

I have this thing with homegrown foods lately, especially the everything Davao cacao products. I love tablea (pure chocolate made from cacao beans) since I was a kid. And I even know how to make one from tree to table. My grandmother used to make them straight from the cacao trees in her backyard. I used to help her in preparing, drying, roasting, and grinding the seeds and in molding the thick, gooey substance that comes out of the grinder. I spent countless hours enjoying tsokolate batirol and champorado. So I am really happy to see how Davao’s cacao industry is gaining more attention over the years.

The mall is not exactly the best place to find a lot of artisanal food products not just from Davao but from other areas in Mindanao and across the country. But I find that the Kultura store in SM Lanang is a good place to discover some food items I have not seen or tried before. I usually make time to visit and see what new treats I can find.

strawberry preserve and malunggay pesto

So I made a detour to the store on my way to the supermarket the other day. I immediately noticed several unfamiliar items including a wide array of preserves (strawberry, macapuno, mango calamansi, etc), chocolates and chocolate-covered fruits like durian and dried mangoes to name a few.

I picked a bottle of the Island Gem strawberry preserve. While I am not really a fan of strawberries, I am forever in love with the strawberry preserves from Baguio. I am not sure where exactly in the Philippines this particular bottle was made. But I wanted to give it a try. I also picked a bottle of the malunggay (moringa) pesto thinking I can use it to cook some pasta.

I finally used the pesto last night to make my homecooked spinach fettuccini with malunggay pesto. I totally loved it! I can’t wait to try the other items I was tempted to buy that day.

spinach fetuccini malunggay pesto

What’s in My Bag 2017

whats in my bag 2017

It’s rare for me to leave home without my blue tote bag, that I sometimes switch with my backpack, which I use to haul just about everything I think I need with me all the time. I’ve been using it for years. Frankly, I’m surprised that it lasted this long given all the heavier items that I put in it more times than I could count.

The I-Can’t-Leave-Home-Without-This Stuff
  1. Folding umbrella
  2. Small pouch that contains 2 lip balms, 2 lipsticks, 1 small container of liquid hand soap, 1 hand sanitizer, 1 dental floss, and a small round mirror
  3. Wallet
  4. My Totoro coin purse
  5. Reusable water bottle
  6. Reusable chopsticks
  7. Spoon and fork
  8. Foldable reusable shopping bag
  9. Handkerchief
The I-Want-To-Bring-Just-in-Case-I-Need-It Stuff
  1. Book
  2. Tenugui
The It’s-That-Kind-of-Weather Stuff
  1. Water-resistant jacket with hood
The Overnight/Weekend Stuff
  1. Clothes
  2. Toiletries
  3. Slipper
Thinking Out Loud

Just recently, my friend gave me two reusable straws with their own cleaning brushes. She knew I’ve stopped using straws this year. One was a regular-sized straw while the other one I can use for drinks like the milk teas with sinkers at Serenitea which I really like.

Making the choice to limit my use of plastic has its share of cringe-worthy moments and challenges since I started doing it in 2002. I thought I’d be used to the different reactions by now when I tell the cashiers or the salespersons not to put the items in plastic bags. I prefer to put whatever item I buy in my bag or use the foldable reusable bag I carry with me. But in the past months, I’ve had some strange encounters with cashiers. One of them adamantly refused and told me that it’s against their store’s policy. She then added that I could just remove the item from the plastic after I leave the store — totally missing out the point.

I also find that most stores and restaurants don’t make it easy for people who want to reduce their trash. And that it’s really easier and extremely more convenient to just use whatever’s handed to you. It gets tempting sometimes to just go back to old habits, especially when you’re dealing with salespeople who think you’re just being “difficult”. Still, I think it’s worth doing. And that’s that.

Here’s me looking forward to more adventures with my bag(s) — and everything in it.

Experiencing Davao

Spending time with friends who are visiting Davao, either for work or leisure, is a great time for me not just to touch base but also see the city with fresh eyes. The lure of reconnecting with friends I have not seen for some time overcomes my usual desire to avoid going out and being caught in the city’s increasingly worsening traffic problem.

So it was welcome news when a longtime friend told me she will be in Davao for two days to do some research work. She arrived just before midnight on the 30th of November and left early evening on the 2nd of December. It was her third visit, but she spent most of her time in her previous visits outside the city exploring Samal Island and climbing Mount Apo. The short visit was a good time to stay at the heart of the city and experience it. It also allowed me to see what has changed, what remained the same, and what I call the in-betweens — the subtle things that are easy to miss out when you are too busy looking and paying attention.

The Traffic Problem

What used to be a roughly 20-minute trip from home to Abreeza or Gaisano Mall on a weekday now stretches to at least 45 minutes. Weekends can be just as bad except early in the morning when it is much lighter. And it is even worse when I try to venture farther to Ecoland or Matina. I thought I have escaped the nightmarish traffic woes of Manila when I decided to go back home to Davao in 2009. I may have enjoyed a few years respite from it. But those restful days are over and I have to deal with living with heavy traffic again. This makes walking a much better option. But Davao City is not really what I would call a “walkable” city. It may be safer to walk here than in Manila. But walking here can be a far from pleasant experience when it is too hot or raining heavily.

Bankerohan Public Market

The perpetually busy and crowded Bankerohan Public Market can be overwhelming. And it has evolved into a tourist attraction in its own right. Known for its overabundance of cheap produce from across the Davao Region, it is a great place to find a wide array of fruits and food products. A lot of tourists go there to buy pasalubongs and/or try its famous tsokolate de batirol (sikwate) and puto maya.

Looking for Durian

I was honestly surprised by some of the videos I have seen showing people’s reaction when they try to eat durian. I did not realize a lot of people hate it so much. The smell can be nasty but I thought that they would learn to appreciate it once they get to taste the fruit. I was wrong. I felt bad thinking about the people who received durian candies from me as pasalubong and promised to avoid doing that unless I am sure the recipient eats durian.

My friend’s visit sparked a question in my mind about how the city’s famous fruits seem to be in short supply lately. I  know it is not in season, but I find it unusual not to see a lot of them out there. Even during the last Kadayawan, durians were unusually expensive. The many small trucks and makeshift stalls selling them at roadsides that were familiar sights during the Kadayawan month were also conspicuously absent.

As my friend and I explored the fruit market in Bankerohan, we only saw a handful of stalls selling unripe ones. The famous durian restaurant just across the Fruitasan do not have them either. I was used to eating fresh durian all-year round and this was the first time I had trouble finding one. So my friend and I settled for the frozen D101 variety that one of the vendors in the fruit market was selling.

Trying out the beer and frozen D101 durian combo

My friend told me that eating durian in the hotel room is not allowed so we have to finish it off before she turns in for the night. We tried asking the hotel staff at the restaurant if we can it eat there but were told we have to take it outside the premises. Who would have thought that finding a place to eat [frozen] durian in a city famous for it can be so troublesome? Thankfully, there was a 7-11 nearby with an outside seating. I grabbed a beer and settled in to enjoy my first taste of the D101 variety which tasted amazing.

Davao’s Cacao in the Spotlight

Davao has long been known as one of the countries best places to find abundant and different varieties of durians. Not to mention the best and cheapest mangosteens when in season. It is also home to top quality bananas and mangoes. And in recent years, a new addition to the list has been stealing the spotlight — the region’s cacao which produces the finest tableas that a growing number of Dabawenyos are beginning to enjoy.

I was actually surprised that it took this long for it to get noticed. Cacao and tableas are part of my childhood. I remember learning how to make pure and rich tableas from the seeds of cacao fruits harvested from the trees in my grandparents’ backyard at their home in Davao del Norte. My grandmother makes enough to last for months and even send some for us living in the city and to my uncle who was based in Manila.

Some of the goodies at the Cacao de Davao stall at the ground floor of the SM Lanang Premier


More Cacao de Davao products
Cacao de Davao Tablea

I love cacao so it is great to see so many good quality products now being sold in stalls and supermarkets in malls here. I brought my friend to Cacao City which opened last month. I first heard of the store from my sister who gave me the deliciously divine Wit’s Sweets and Savouries’ Durian Granola which she bought from there.

Cacao City at Palma Gil

The everything-Davao cacao products store is located beside the Pasalubong Center at Palma Gil just beside People’s Park. It showcases local brands like Malagos Chocolate, Cacao de Davao, Cacao Culture Farms, Rosario’s Delicacies, Wit’s Sweets and Savouries, and more.

An Exhausting Trip to Singapore

My travel misadventures this year seem to share a common woe — airport pickup fails. The first one was in July at the Kaunas airport where a mix of a flight delay, miscommunication, and whatever fateful reason left me stranded there alone waiting for the transportation that unbeknownst to me has already left with the Greek team that was on the same flight as me. I had no idea that I was supposed to leave with them. I must have missed seeing the person holding the sign in the midst of all the noise and excitement from the crowd waiting at the airport for the Lithuanian gold medal-winning team coming home straight from a successful stint at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics.

After almost an hour of waiting, I finally managed to locate the volunteer tasked to pick up delegates from the airport. She told me I was not on her list of arrival schedules so she thought she got everyone on board the bus that already left. She made some calls and later told me to take the bus plying the Kaunas airport-Vilnius route then just take a cab to the hotel from where it will make its final stop.

Solo trips are not new to me. But there is something about being unprepared that unsettles me. I berated myself for not thinking of a contingency plan trusting that all arrangements have already been taken cared of. Thankfully, the over one hour trip to Vilnius and the few minutes taxi ride to the hotel went smoothly.

Little did I know that two months after I would find myself in the same predicament. What happened in Kaunas was still fresh in my mind so I made sure to confirm the arrangements with the event organizers in Singapore at least twice.

The October 9 Davao to Singapore flight was scheduled to depart at 7:20 pm but got delayed for almost 30 minutes. To quote the pilot who told us the reason when we were finally on board, “A bird was ingested by the engine” (I assumed during landing on arrival from SG) and they had to make the necessary safety checks. It is one of those things that are guaranteed to stress out a nervous flyer like me. It was far from a relaxing flight with several instances of turbulence throughout. We were scheduled to arrive a little over 11:00 pm. But the arrival was further delayed by thunderstorms over Singapore. The aircraft spent over 20 minutes just circling around unable to land.

The plane touched down past midnight and it was almost 1:00 am when I finally came out of the arrival hall to look for the person who was supposed to pick me up. I had this bad feeling that no one will be there so I was not really surprised when I could not find anyone there to meet me. I did not get any response to my messages to my contact so I had to make my own arrangements. I looked for an ATM to withdraw money for cab fare. Because there was no way I am going to wait there for hours when we have an early start the same morning. I was so tired and needed a few hours of sleep before our work there start.

The only good thing I remembered thinking while I was dealing with all of it was that I was in Singapore so I felt safe with the idea of leaving the airport at past 1:00 am to go to the hotel on my own. Finding a taxi was easy because Changi has an excellent airport transportation service.

The taxi rates are not cheap though. But they at least have options so passengers can take the least expensive ones. I found out that taxi rates are higher past midnight. The elderly driver was nice but he could not speak much English.

A few minutes out of the airport, the rain poured heavily. I could not see anything in front of us and I figured the driver must be having a hard time as well despite the windshield wiper doing a good job of clearing the waters cascading down the glass. The trip took over thirty minutes and as we reached the deserted roads going to the hotel, the driver asked me why I chose to stay somewhere so far and without access to public transportation. He told me that the I will have to take a taxi every time I have to leave if I want to go sightseeing. I told him that I have no choice since the organizers booked me and my colleagues from other countries there.

Frankly, at that moment when the taxi stopped in front of the hotel entrance, I was just happy to finally arrive, get my key from the front desk, and get some much-needed sleep.