Friday, 19 September 2014

Sights: The Gentle Sea Turtles of APO ISLAND, NEGROS ORIENTAL

Apo Island, an island frequented by divers because of the rich marine life. But I'm no diver yet. Though the water is crystal clear there's not much of sand and the shore has sharp rocks that it's painful to go barefoot. Electricity comes and goes throughout the day and there's no flushing toilet. Why come here? Pawikan or Sea Turtles!!!


Journey starts with a flight to Negros Oriental, from the airport take a cab to the Ceres Bus terminal. Take a bus that is bound for Bayawan and asked the conductor to drop you off at Malatapay Market. Walk the whole stretch of the market until you reached the end.

Boat Pier at end of Malatapay Market

You have to hire a bangka or motorized boat to reach the island.

Boats for Hire

Boat Rates

The boat ride takes around 30 minutes and if the waves are strong, you'll surely get drenched with sea water. As we were just about a few meters away from shore, the boatman pointed to a turtle peeking out of the water, it felt like the turtle was welcoming us into the island.

Almost there...

As soon as we docked, we led to a small office and we paid 100php fee for the conservation of the island and the rebuilding of the marine sanctuary. We were also told about the do's and dont's of interacting with the pawikan. Look but No Touching! Feeding them is also Prohibited!

Apo Island

Apo Island Office

The huge rock boulders on the side of the island caught my attention.

Rock Boulders

We settled and had lunch at Liberty Lodge. While eating we enjoyed staring out of the open sea and taking in the fresh cool breeze.

Enjoying the view at Liberty Lodge

After lunch, we spotted a group of people who were already snorkeling. We could hear them shouting ecstatically, we followed suit and made our way to the waters. As I mentioned above, there isn't much of sand and the shore was filled with crushed corals and sharp rocks. I would suggest people to wear booties or sandals while walking around the shore and when taking a dip in the waters.

Rocky Shore of Apo Island

As soon as I dove down. I spotted two turtles near me and there were at least five turtles we saw on our first swim. I swam towards them and they kind of sleepily looked at me and just continued minding their own business which was eating. As we've been told the turtles liked to swim around the island because it is filled with sea grass, algae and seaweed, this is basically what the sea turtles eat.

Swimming Beside A Turtle

This Turtle was HUGE! The biggest among the bale.

It was amazing swimming with them, they even won't mind if you go near them.  They look so calm and gentle that it instilled a feeling of peace and calmness to me.

From a distance, I was trying to watch how they swim. They would flap their flippers and go up for air and as soon as they do, they would nose dive back down to the bottom of the ocean. This reminded me of big predatory birds who are hunting for food.

Flapping Flippers

Don't they look like Birds Flying?

After watching the turtles, I tried to look around for fish. There weren't much but I spotted a few, I even saw a sea snake that we stayed clear off.

After swimming, we walked towards the marine sanctuary, it was on the other side of the island. As we were told, the sanctuary was once filled with colorful corals and reef fish but sadly after the island was hit by typhoon on 2011 and 2012. All the corals were destroyed and all that was left was a pile of rubble. The Marine Sanctuary is now temporary closed as they are now trying to revive it to the way it was before.

We headed for the lighthouse and along the way we were greeted by the warm smiles and hellos of the local kids. It started to get dark so we just decided to view the sunset from afar.

Sunset at Apo Island

Before leaving for the island, we didn't waste the opportunity to swim with the turtles again. Here's is a short video clip of the experience.


I've heard stories of divers spotting turtles in the deep ocean, more often than not they would see one or two at the most. Moreover, they usually would spot them from afar and seldom times that they are able to go near them. I felt so lucky to be able to see, watch, swim and go near the gentle sea turtles. The experience is something that I'll cherish and never forget.

We got to talk with foreign divers on vacation and when asked how the marine life was below. They would smile from ear to ear and reply that it's one of the most amazing places they've seen. I'm no diver yet but once I learn and get the certification, Apo Island is part of my must 'go-back' list.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Spices: Shifu Master's Kitchen

We were looking for a place to dine and since we we dining with our parents, its almost always have to be Chinese food. They have their favorites but since me and my brothers wanted to try something new, we stumbled upon Shifu Master's Kitchen. The resto is relatively small and from how it looks, you can mistake it for one of the eateries in Ongpin Street.

Shifu Master's Kitchen

We each ordered something that we wanted, one of the usual things my dad orders is the Hot and Sour Soup. Shifu's version was really good, it was sour and had the right amount of spiciness. The soup was thick filled with strips of tofu, mushroom and pork bits.

Hot and Sour Soup - Php215

My mom wanted the Lohanchay, an all veggie dish that is stir fried with soy based seasoning. This was cooked well as all the vegetables still had a nice crunch.

Lohanchay - Php185

Jim ordered the Salted Fish Fried Rice.  There were small clumps of white rice that wasn't mixed well but  it didn't really bother us since Shifu's fried rice wasn't as oily compared to other more expensive version in other Chinese restaurants.

Salted Fish Fried Rice - 165

Shoti had a craving for Lechon Macau. I'm used to seeing a big slab of pork belly served when having this, Shifu's only had two chopped up slices of pork belly. The skin was bubbly, a great indication of crunchiness and it indeed was. Though small, it was worth its price.

Lechon Macau - Php205

I wanted steamed fish and the server suggested the Fish with Garlic. Steamed dory in a light soy sauce topped with chopped garlic and spring onions. Tasted how it should be but I kind of wish that there are more garlic on top.

Fish with Garlic - Php225

We also ordered other dishes. The Steamed Wanton didn't look pretty but it was stuffed with so much meat plus it sure did taste good.

Steamed Wanton - Php180 / 10pcs

If there is a dish to try out, it's the store's bestseller, the Pata Bihon. The noodle dish didn't look pretty, bihon looks pale and a big chunk of pata or pork knuckle was sloppily place on top. It didn't looked appetizing plus I'm not much a fan of the bihon noodle, I prefer the canton variety.

Pata Bihon - Php215

I mixed everything up and found all the sauce at the bottom and upon trying it out, it caught me off guard that it was so delicious. The bihon noodles had a nice bite to it, the sauce that came from the pata tim was on the sweet side and it had that malinamnam flavor to it. I also enjoyed nibbling on the little meat and cartilage of the pata as it was tender and flavorful.

Pata Bihon

Everyone enjoyed dinner, happy with the meal and stuffed to the brink. Flavor wise, I really won't consider it as 'pure' Chinese food, to me it was more like Chinese food with a twist of Filipino flavors. Nothing fancy here, just great tasting 'home-cooked' dishes. The best part of eating here is the price, for the quality and serving size, everything is so affordable. Unbelievably affordable! This is one resto that's worth going back to over and over again.

Shifu Master's Kitchen
Address: 58 Granada Street, Quezon City
Tel No: 726 1135

Monday, 11 August 2014

Spices: Kettle

We were initially planning to eat at another resto but since that resto was packed with so much people, we ended up eating here.


I asked the server their bestseller and he pointed the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. I was kind of hesitant to order it at first since it seems too expensive for a two piece chicken but the server assured us that it was good. The chicken was supposed to be served with cornbread but they ran out so we had the sweet potato fries as substitute. The fried chicken has an incredibly crunchy breading and the meat inside was super moist and tender. How I wish they added more seasoning and spices on the breading and this would have blown me away, a cajun spice mix would have been perfect. I got to try the cornbread on a separate occasion and it was really good. It was super moist and it just had the right amount of sweetness.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Php519

We also ordered the U.S. Angus Short Ribs that was braised in cervesa negra and chipotle barbecue sauce, served with garlic mashed potoatoes and coleslaw. What I like about this dish was the beef was so tender, we didn't even need a knife to cut it. The sauce was on the sweet side and I barely tasted the smoky flavor of chipotle. Overall, the dish was pretty good, the flavors on this dish made up for the bland pasta we had.

U.S. Angus Short Ribs - Php469

On paper the Truffle Gorgonzola looks so promising,  spaghetti, truffle cream, fried basil and parmesan. I was looking forward to having this but I got so disappointed when I tasted it. It didn't smell of truffle and it didn't taste of Gorgonzola, it was terribly bland.

Truffle Gorgonzola Pasta - Php289

I asked for salt and the server proudly presented us with a pink himalyan salt, it still wasn't enough to save the dish.

Pink Himalayan Salt

If asked if the resto is worth a 2nd visit, I'd say yes. Simple and excellent food quality. Walk around the east wing and you'd know that this is one of the favorite restos inside the mall.

Address: 5th Floor, East Wing, Shangri la Plaza Mall
Tel No: 654 7077