Standout Bicol Food and Drinks in Madrid Fusion Manila 2017

Bicol’s third-year participation in Madrid Fusion Manila was so far the most productive.

DOT Representatives
National and regional DOT representatives with Renato Jao

Renato Jao, Albay’s ambassador for culinary, said this year people already knew what to expect [from the region]. “The optics also shifted to B2B as they showed interests in the products we showcased,” he added.

This MFM 2017 the region placed the spotlight on Daraga, Albay, as three sister cafes and restaurants – Tyler’s + Boulangerie and Cafe, 528 Ilawod and Balay Cena Una – joined the event. Each showcased specialty food and drinks specially made for MFM.

Roasted Coconut Creme Brulee


Tyler’s smoky dessert is tinutungan-inspired as it used roasted coconut instead of the traditional cream. As you bite, the smoky feels hovered around your mouth then settled in your tongue. Masiram! (Delicious)

Bunguran Banana Bread with Pili Nuts

Bunguran Banana Bread

It was moist, not too sweet and didn’t have a bitter aftertaste, perfect for the mocha chili 528 Ilawod was serving. Adrian Ocampo, a part-time videographer based in Manila, said it looked like an ordinary bread until you tasted it. “Fresh, fruity flavors erupts in your mouth.”

The Mainstays 


The Oriental Hotel showcased bicol express and pinangat, two most popular dishes of the region. It also introduced kinunot, kalo-ko and rice cake with Guinobatan longaniza.

Kalo-ko is a dessert made from taro shell filled with sweetened taro flesh.

A reporter that visited the booth said his ultimate favorite was pinangat, while another visitor wanted kalo-ko to be sweeter.

students who tried Bicol's Best products
The students enjoyed Bicol’s Best products, especially the Bicol express tinapa.

The tinapa bicol express from Bicol’s Best was also a crowd  favorite, from students to young professionals to working moms. The pure pinagat pleased those who liked it not spicy.

Puto with longganisa
Rice cake with Guinobatan Longaniza.

The table next to it displayed bite-sized Guinobatan longaniza. Made of chopped pork meat and lots of garlic, but brown sugar toned it down. Every bite was packed with flavor, thanks to one of its secret ingredients – gin?

Varieties of pili candies completed Bicol’s showcased products, from starters to meals to desserts and drinks.

On the second day, the display box for the bestseller Mazapan (pili nut bar) was empty. “Visitors couldn’t help but get a handful,” said the owner’s sister-in-law.

The choices for spicy drinks and refreshment were Choose Philippines best dessert, the sili ice cream; Da Vinci’s chili garden, and Ilawod’s new cocktail, hablom

Brewing Machine
528 Ilawod’s beautiful corner

Incidentally, we met Rachel from Goldilocks. She ranked Bicol as one of her top picks, along with Nestle and Philippine Airlines.

“Why,  was it because the person you’re talking with is from Bicol?” I teased.

“It was filling and familiar (being also a Bicolana)  and the delicacies are to die for, especially the creme brulee,  Guinobatan longaniza and Bicol express tinapa.

Catch these authentic and specialty Bicol cuisines and more when you visit the region. In the meantime, enjoy these beautiful creations from ShelMed.

Until the next Madrid Fusion Manila! 🙂

Photos courtesy of Adrian Ocampo


What’s New at Ayala Malls Legazpi? It’s the Sweet-To-The-Bone Southern Ribs of Bigg’s Diner

Baby back ribs, mashed potatoes, steak fries, cole slaw and a side of barbecue sauce. If you visit Bigg’s Diner at Ayala Mall in Legazpi, can you tell what’s  new?  Yeah, besides it being the newest branch. 😉

Perhaps this photo in the invitation for Bloggers  Lunch held last Wednesday can give you a clue?


You’re right, dear! Bigg’s Diner has a new baby named Southern ribs. Its meat is a little loose, and shreds more easily, yet juicy.

The texture is similar to a traditional barbecue with a pleasant, crisp bark on the outside and tender inside. But of course, these come with a nice pink ring around the edges.

southern ribs
Unappetizing? Don’t be fooled. As per the words of the franchise owner: “Hindi ko ito pinansin kasi akala ko hindi masarap. Pero nang matikman ko, ang sarap pala.” Photo credit to Jethro  Calag.

Was it sweet to the bone? I have to try it again to be sure, and I don’t mind because I liked it. We sampled it after our rice meals with crispy chicken and kebab for me. Both were smoky, juicy and tasty on their own, and kebab was especially sweet.

That made me wonder if they would consider serving the Southern ribs an appetizer. (I don’t know about you, but I like eating meat without rice). Its tender, sligtly fall-off-the-bone meat would melt in your mouth. Yum!

As a meal, the java rice and the sauce were just perfect for it. You would like that the sauce is not that savory since the rice is already salty, and how they blend with its moist, sweet meat.

Lunchtime with these bestsellers.

The bloggers meet the franchise owner and the staff. Photo courtesy of BJ Medina.

Thank you, Bigg’s Diner Ayala Malls Legazpi Branch!


PS Do tell us when you try it. Bon Appetit!

Featured photo (Southern Ribs) courtesy of Dionn Borja.

5 New Specialty Cafes in Albay

Take your pick: From Daraga’s neighborhood specialty cafe to Korean-style and Italian to uber sweet and love-themed.


Photo: Ivy Gamit/IG @herescape_


528 Ilawod

Daraga has this little secret: A specialty coffee shop found in the historical street of Lotivio. Its name is also its address.

Yes, you’ve got it dear!

528 Ilawod serves espresso-based drinks and single origin Arabica beans, which you can pair with yummy pastries (matcha especially),  pasta (tried spicy chicken fajita and I’m craving now) and meals (must try: rum chicken). Chili mocha is also on its menu.


Add the quiet neighborhood and the value-for-money menu to the reasons that make the short commute to Ilawod worth it.

Grabbed this from my sister's FB post hehe

Anthosia Cafe

Photo from the web.

Its love-themed food is a catch, and so is the bestseller heart-shaped Pan De Oriang. This, you can pair with hot and cold drinks: tsa’a ng pag-ibig, pagkamoot, kape anthosia, supremo, bolero and more.

The cafe encourages not just the ‘kilig’ part of love, but also the expression of heartaches. If you can share the pizza with your love, you can also slice it in two. (Imagine it’s your ex’s heart. Just kidding). It has three flavors: Dayaday (white sauce), Padaba (red sauce) and Salawahan (combination of two).

At times, it holds art exhibits, open mic sessions for spoken word poetry and acoustic sessions with local indie musicians for free.

Erin’s Cafe

Wonton Cups with Mango-Cucumber-Crabstick Salad
Wonton Cups with Mango-Cucumber-Crabstick Salad

Italian menu cooked by the chef-owner, anyone? She shares her schooled cooking skills through their delicious menu, and her love for art by holding exhibits. Their bestsellers are baby back ribs, grilled cheese sandwich, vanilla bread pudding and pasta selections. Try the garden salad too.

 Vanilla bread pudding served with ice cream and choco-caramel sauce

Vanilla bread pudding served with ice cream and choco-caramel sauce

It’s cozy interiors, with books and peaceful ambiance, add to the quality experience that diners consider as important as the food they go after.

Kaz Korean Dessert Cafe


A coffee shop where Bing Su, Korean-style halo-halo, is the bestseller. The mango cheese and berry cheese flavors are a crowd favorite too.


While the famous DJC halo-halo holds a distinct Bicol taste, these new flavors are refreshing. Would you believe its owner use ingredients from Seoul?

You better try it out.

The Patio by Greenleaf

Cupcake desserts and ice cream and cold coffee and beverages make its menu uber sweet. There are pasta and bread selections too. The interiors are whimsical and girly.

The cafe’s instgrammable food presentation and bigger-than-you expect servings complement its good, yet generic taste.

Because at Bigg’s Diner, there is a “Happy Ending”


There’s a dining spot at Bigg’s Diner in Albay that I consider a favorite. That four-seater table sits next to a wall where two posters hang overhead. The one on the right always brightens my mood.

It says, “I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares.”

The Visit

The table was occupied when we went there. So we grabbed the table nearest to us, which was facing the food counter. Once settled, something caught my attention. Oh, cakes!

From top: premium cakes, carrot cakes and psychochoco

One, two, three…I tried counting what seemed to be chocolate-flavored desserts from where I was seated. We learned later that those were the newest offerings of Bigg’s.

But first, lunch with these bestsellers.

And some catching up with Ms. Iris, the marketing head in Legazpi, and whom I first met at one of Bigg’s events for bloggers in Naga.

“Will appetizers be coming soon too,” I asked?

“That’s likely…” she answered and excitedly went on by telling us that it will soon have a branch in Manila. Not only one but two!

Happy Ending”

Next came Bigg’s “Happy Ending” coffee-dessert combos, which were selections of nespresso coffee and premium cakes.

Take your pick: berries cheesecake, apple crumble and cappuccino cheesecake and pair with brewed coffee, cappuccino, decaf, cafe latte or americano.

Our catching up felt like a get together over coffee and decadent cakes as we talk about work, marketing, travel and the now open Bigg’s Diner at Ayala Malls Legazpi.

[Above photo: Bloggers Lunch at Ayala Malls Legazpi. Photo via Flored Medina.]

And some pics with the staff before we parted.



Happy ending, indeed!

Photo credits to Laurie Gucilatar.

Sili Ice Cream is Bicol’s Sweet yet Fiery Iconic Dessert

Bicol bagged this year’s best dessert and best mountain awards in the first Choose Philippines Awards held early this month. The region’s ubiquitous volcano, Mt. Mayon,  and the “hot” sili ice cream of 1st Colonial Grill represent how unique a tourist destination Bicol is.

Originally made to suit Bicolanos fondness for spicy food, this sweet yet fiery bubble gum pink ice cream also has become a hit with foreigners.

During the Madrid Fusion Manila 2016, the ice cream was a blockbuster.  “Ang sili ice cream talaga ang binabalik-balikan,” said Chef Andhie of The Oriental Hotel which was also a participant together with HML Food Corporations-Daraga.


The US Navy personnel that visited Albay last June for a humanitarian work responded the same. Nag-order ulit sila kahit pulang-pula na ang mukha nila at pinagpapawisan na, Mrs. Aspe told us during our visit to its branch at The Ayala Malls in Legazpi. They had takeouts, too, for their fellow personnel on board the USNS Mercy.

Laurie, a first-timer in Bicol, with Mr. Renato “Bicolano Man” Jao.

There is more to its unique flavor, though, that makes it worthy of the recognition.

Tinutungan na manok


The sili ice cream has three levels, so you can eat what is comfortable for you. It is less fatty, too.


The ice cream is first of its kind in Bicol and in the country.


It anchors the menu on the region’s culinary heritage and turns them into signature dishes. The attention to local flavor and homegrown meals is notable, and so is the continuous effort to make each meal globally appealing. This approach is worth considering especially for local brands with goals of expanding beyond, or simply attracting non-locals.

Flavors: tinutong, sili, sweet potato topped with fried garlic
Flavors: tinutong na bigas, sili, sweet potato topped with fried garlic

It keeps on reinventing, too, for its growing brand, that it has now varieties for ice cream flavors. Such as tinutong (burned rice), camote (sweet potato), pili, malunggay, kalamansi and more.


The newest branch in Tagaytay City is the first franchise out of Bicol, affirming the demand for the now iconic dessert and equally delicious Bicol meals like tinapa rice, laing, kandingga, and tinutungan na manok. Try also their kare-kare and tahong.


Another worth watching out for is the restaurant’s tinigsik meals by Aida Cirujales, dubbed as Bicol’s tigsik queen. Tigsik can be likened to Haiku but does not follow the 5, 7, 5 pattern.

This is to help make today’s generation aware of this form of Bikol literature and support local creatives.

Congratulations 1st Colonial Grill!