Wow, Handuraw!

We were trying to give justice to the 12 inches of cheese before us one Saturday afternoon after having a field day around Cebu, but apparently Elizabeth Gilbert had better words:

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

[…] before I left Rome he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting
prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is
from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer . . . I’m almost too superstitious to say it… the best pizza in the world? […]

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered—one for each of us—are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?”

Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one nonstop oven. […] There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here—regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! 

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it. ~ Eat Pray Love

Unfortunately we weren’t in Naples (or in any other country for that matter). We were somewhere along Gorordo Avenue in Cebu City in what looks like an old house outfitted to be a pizzeria, with really cozy interiors as well as an al fresco dining area. 

It considers itself having the best thin crust pizza in Cebu, and though we were unable to compare it with any other local pizzeria, it did go down in our books as one of the best we’ve had so far.

Handuraw Pizza, Cebu City, Philippines

Another reason to troop to Gorordo for your high-calorie fix: Handuraw is also known for its below-zero beer. Pair that up with their best-selling pizza and that’s just about as good as any Neapolitan pizza experience you could get. Handuraw, after all, is Cebuano for the power to imagine.

Now we know you’re hungry.

HANDURAW PIZZA

Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City (near UP Cebu)
10 minutes by cab or jeepney

Other branches

Pueblo Verde, Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan, Cebu
Corner J. Camus St., Quirino Ave., Davao City
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Unit 3 #3270 Armstrong Ave., Pasay City

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Wanna know more about our Cebu food picks? Click here!

Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo

We saw this for the first time in 2011 during the Dinagyang: flocks of men standing in front of stacks of speakers, staring as if in a trance, and doing absolutely nothing else. You couldn’t help but notice since the speakers were giving off such loud sounds you just had to cover your ears, but these men–with some just an inch away from these black boxes–were unblinkingly staring at them.

Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo

Continue reading “Snapshot: The giant speakers of Iloilo”

A look into Sinulog’s pious side: Cebu’s Sto. Niño procession

This year, crowd estimates of the Sinulog 2012 festivities reached 3.5 million–a consistent high in festival attendance in the entire country. It’s no wonder Cebu draws so many people during the second weekend of January for the Sinulog–if there’s one place in the Philippines that knows how to play host to a big event, it’s gotta be Cebu.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

There are mainly two sides to the celebrations: the merrymaking part which Sinulog has become very known for, and the religious side, through which the festival traces its roots.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We spent three of the six days we were in Cebu walking along the city streets during festival weekend. And once again we were reminded why we love going to local festivals–everyone’s in a merry mood, everyone’s extra generous and kind, and all the best the place has to offer is laid down before you in heavy abundance. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

But Sinulog’s other side amazed us just as much–the devotion of the people to the Sto. Niño, the festival’s central figure. The number of people who joined the procession reminded us of the Black Nazarene crowd in Manila, although not as, uh, aggressive.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

During the procession, which happens on the Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend, people bring along their Sto. Niño statues and hoist them up. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Elsewhere in the city, particularly around the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, thick crowds gather for the hourly masses (the crowd had been too big we were able to pass through the church gates on our last day after two earlier attempts). We were not even able to enter the church itself because there were just too many people.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We managed to enter the church gates on our second attempt, two days after our first one.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Second and fourth photos from top left, clockwise show people praying around Magellan’s Cross, believed to be where the Portuguese explorer placed a cross, a Catholic symbol, to mark the Christianization of the locals. The place was boarded up when we went there so people threw coins and unlit candles through the gate voids instead.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Balloon vendors add color to the crowds at the basilica. There were more balloon vendors here than anywhere else we ever saw.

If you’re planning to join the next Sinulog Festival and would want to check out its religious part, remember the following: 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

1. The Sto. Nino procession takes place every Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend.

2. Osmena Boulevard is the most recommended place to take photos as it’s the widest area and may be less prone to overcrowding.

3. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino is accessible via the Sto. Nino jeepneys. You can drop off in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful whitewashed structure, before walking three minutes to the Basilica. Magellan’s Cross is beside the Basilica too.

Sto Nino Procession, Cebu | Two2Travel
Sto. Nino Procession Photo Gallery

UPDATED! Sugarland Rush: Exploring Bacolod City overnight

TWO2TRAVEL | Bacolod

Bacolod is home to many delightful pieces of the Filipino puzzle. A plethora of sights—some souvenirs of its past and others a colorful parade of its present—welcomes every visitor to this Western Visayan city. Though 24 hours is arguably short for any trip, it was many times more so in Bacolod—just as we had experienced during its busiest weekend of the year, during the MassKara Festival.

But an overnight stay should be enough to get a taste of Bacolod’s famed wonders, from history to the arts to food to the beguiling warmth of its people’s smiles. Head to Bacolod any day of the year, and get ready to fall in love—overnight.

SIGHTS TO SEE:

The Ruins, Talisay City | Negros Museum | Manokan Country | Pope John Paul II Tower | Calea or Felicia’s | Negros Showroom | Negros Capitol | San Sebastian Church | Bong-bong’s

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2TravelIn Bacolod, you can dine amidst Spanish-era ruins (left) or in simple carinderias (right)

DAY 1
8 AM | Visit The Ruins in Talisay City and be amazed

The so-called Taj Mahal of the Philippines is an early 20th century Italianate ancestral house owned by a sugar baron, who built it as a profession of undying love for his wife, who had died in an accident.

This is easily the most photogenic building we’ve seen. The colossal gray skeleton, survivor of a fire at the end of World War II, looks cheery against the bright blue sky and the deep green lawn, well kept and beautifully landscaped with a four-tiered fountain at the center. Built around vast sugar plantations, it is said to be even more beautiful at night as it is bathed in different dazzling lights. The sunset can also be viewed from its belvedere on the second level.

During the day, you can try sipping coffee where the original dining room was at the house’s first level. In place of the usual long table are wrought-iron tables and chairs, with piped-in piano music, shafts of sunlight streaming into the windows, and a magnificent view of the century-old fountain farther off.

*The Ruins is around 20 minutes from the Bacolod city proper. Take a jeepney (Bata route) and ask to be dropped off at the Bangga Rose Lawns Memorial Park, then hire a tricycle to The Ruins for P10 per head (22 cents ). A P60-entrance fee (USD 1.36) will also be collected. The Ruins is open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM.

10 AM | Experience storytelling the Negrense way

Right smack in the middle of the main gallery is a life-sized replica of a batil, a cargo boat about four times the size of a regular fishing boat used to transfer goods to and from Negros. The painstaking effort it took to put together this piece—everything else in the museum, in fact—is admirable: on the boat are mock-up baskets of fruits, several crates, as well as barrels of Tanduay (a local rum brand which operates a distilling plant in Bacolod. Sugar cane, it must be noted, is the main ingredient in rum production).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Chinese terra cotta figures

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Negros Museum

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

A steam engine, also called an Iron Dinosaur, is also on display along with the batil. A staple in the Negros landscape before, these trains were used to transport harvested sugar cane from the fields to the milling centers.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

“The Negros Museum is the first in the Philippines curatorially conceived without focus on precious artifacts, but instead on the complex stories and people whose lives make up the stories,” the museum describes itself in its website.

It’s storytelling through art, something that’s very much alive in Bacolod and the whole province, and it’s something that the Negros Museum has lavishly, lovingly put together.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Museum Cafe at Negros Museum

You can walk through larger-than-life murals of myths, rituals, and early life in the island along the first level’s cavernous halls. All these, plus oil-on-canvas paintings, terra cotta sculptures, and bas relief paintings depicting the local life, were created by Bacolod’s homegrown artists—a source of pride for the province and living proof of its vibrant art scene.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Kids and adults will also love the Jose Garcia Montelibano Gallery of International Folk Art and Toys, a 3,000-piece collection from 60 countries gathered for 25 years. From Russian and Japanese dolls to wooden animal figures, some very intricate, others fascinatingly simple, it’s an interesting walk back our very own childhood.

Now, eating al fresco while surrounded by all that history and art is another experience altogether. The Museum Cafe, which flows naturally from the children’s gallery, serves up homemade bread, cheese, and pastries. It’s a refreshing cap to what would certainly be a tiring yet interesting walk through history.

The Museum Cafe serves up freshly baked, homemade pastries and cheeses, among others.

*The Negros Museum is located at the Former Agricultural Building (old Capitol Building) along Gatuslao Street. It’s a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol, otherwise pedicabs (foot-pedaled tricycles) can easily take you there. It opens 10 AM, Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is P50 (USD 1).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The Negros Occidental Capitol in Bacolod City

12 NN | Taste the other side of Sugarland in Manokan Country

You can’t have been to Bacolod and not have eaten its chicken inasal (roast chicken)—aside from its sweet treats, of course. Head to Manokan Country for affordable meals and satisfactory serving sizes (Aida’s is a favorite, but we dined at Lion’s Park, which was the preference of our Iloilo-based companions).

Taste the authentic Chicken Inasal from Manokan Country, right across SM City Bacolod.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Bacolod’s signature chicken inasal at Manokan Country. Pretty obvious for a name, eh?

A pecho (chicken breast) with a serving of rice costs Php90 (USD 2). Don’t be surprised if they don’t serve you with spoon and fork though—tastes better when dipped in calamansi and soy sauce, chicken inasal is usually eaten sans fork and spoon, but these are still provided upon request. Finish off your meal with ice cold soda and you’re ready to see more of the sights around.

1:30 PM | Get a bird’s eye-view of the city from Pope John Paul II Tower

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Pope John Paul II Tower. The building sits on the spot where the late pontiff first touched Negros ground, so say the locals.

Eight stories high, this whitewashed building was built in 2010 to commemorate the late Catholic Pope John Paul II’s 1981 visit to Bacolod City (a life-size bronze statue of the late leader was also built in front).

The John Paul II tower features a life-size bronze statue of the late Pontiff, a tribute to his visit to the province.

Seven floors contain the Pope’s memorabilia as well as oil on canvas paintings of the Stations of the Cross done by Bacolod artists. Climb all the way to the viewdeck and see bustling Bacolod on one side and the Guimaras Strait on the other.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The glass-walled tower, which we didn’t find impressive, contained memorabilia of the pope, including the clothes he wore during his visit. The view from the top was great though.

*The Pope John Paul II Tower is open daily and entrance fee costs P20 (45 cents) per person. It is located across SM City Bacolod.

2 PM | Taste the sweetest of Sugarland

Bacolod is the country’s sugar granary, so we regret not having been able to squeeze in time for a quick sugar fix in the city’s well-known sugar haunts. Calea and Felicia’s Pastry Cafe are two of the most popular—having been recommended by the locals we had asked for tips and directions.

*Calea is along Lacson St., beside L’Fisher Chalet, while Felicia’s is at 6th St.

3 PM | Buy local crafts at the Negros Showroom

Locally made products—from native handicrafts to sweets to furniture—are for sale at the Negros Showroom, established to give entrepreneurs an avenue to showcase their products.
*The Negros Showroom is a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol or the Negros Museum.

The whitewashed Negros Occidental Capitol near the Negros Museum

4 PM | Spot picture-worthy sights along the street

Stop for quick snaps when you pass by these noteworthy sights. All are easily accessible via pedicab.

San Sebastian Church is Bacolod’s oldest church, and is an architectural wonder for its façade’s coral stones from Guimaras Island.

*San Sebastian Church is at Rizal St., in front of the Bacolod City Public Plaza.

5 PM | Buy pastries from Bong-bong’s

Like Iloilo’s Biscocho Haus, Bacolod’s Bong-Bong’s is where you get your pasalubong—a wide array of affordable pastries, including biscocho, ube piaya (a must-try!), fruit tarts, etc. You can find a store at SM City Bacolod and at Gaisano Mall.

DAY 2
10 AM | See Silay

Silay is a tourist attraction on its own. Comparable to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Luzon, Silay’s bahay-na-bato (stone houses) are picturesque historical remnants that are sure to be worth an afternoon trip, as is a stop at El Ideal, a circa-1920s bakery that’s still up and running. Also drop by nearby Balay Negrense, a stone-house-turned-museum.
*Silay is 30 minutes from Bacolod City, but since it’s en route the airport, you can take this sidetrip right after arriving or just before leaving.

When visiting in October, catch the MassKara

The MassKara Festival is one of the country’s most visited fiestas, and the two-day parades on the weekend nearest October 19, Bacolod’s charter anniversary, are the biggest crowd-drawer. Bacolod literally lights up in a dizzying array of colors as masks—some donned by dancers, others hanging on trees as lanterns or being sold as souvenirs—fill the streets, all smiling back at you. The parades (one on a Saturday and another on a Sunday) start in the afternoon so you can spend your morning going around the city.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

*Access to the festival is free for all, but if you want to take photos up close, you’d need a festival photo contest ID, which the local government provides with the Camera Club of Negros. Details in securing IDs are posted at www.themasskarafestival.com.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

See you in Sugarlandia!

GOING TO & AROUND

Go around via foot-pedaled tricycles, called sikads or pedicabs, at P10 per person.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

UPDATE: Alternate routes to Bacolod City (October 11, 2012)

If you have not yet booked your ticket to Bacolod, you can try these alternative routes:

• By air to Iloilo, by sea to Bacolod
◦ From Iloilo airport, take a shuttle (P100-P150 each) to the city center. Drop off at SM Jaro (not SM City Iloilo, which is located farther)
◦ Take a quick cab ride to the port in Jaro where you could board fastcraft ferries to Bacolod (1.5 hours, around P350 round trip). See OceanJet, SuperCat, and Weesam for fares and schedules.
• By air to Dumaguete, by land to Bacolod
◦ From the Dumaguete airport, head to the South Bus Terminal where you can find Bacolod-bound Ceres buses (travel time is 5 hours)

Know more about how it’s like to photograph the Philippines’ festivals. Click here.