The Five-0 Dream comes true, Part 5: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

(YES this is a super late post. WHOOO. My Hawaii trip actually happened in June 2016! If you missed my previous posts, I talked about presenting my research at the International Coral Reef Symposium, exploring Diamond Head, the Waikiki Aquarium, and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, eating my way around Hawai’i, and my souvenirs from the trip. And don’t mind the numbering of the posts. There WILL be a part 4 that covers an entire day going around Honolulu, but I managed to write this one first so I decided to post this first.)

We took Hawaiian Airlines’ 5:00 am flight to Hilo because it was the only one I could book using my Delta Skymiles. Used to NAIA’s rule of being at the airport two hours before a domestic flight, we were at the airport by 3:00 am. Too bad Honolulu International Airport and the check-in counters only open at 4:00 am so we had to wait outside on the concrete steps.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea were our non-negotiables for this island. Pro tip: prepare for cold weather. We think Hawai’i is all endless sunshine and humidity but it does get cold, rainy, and windy, especially as you go up the volcanoes. Wear layers and a woolly hat and bring a rain jacket. Also wear comfortable hiking shoes (no to flip-flops and sandals!) as you’ll be scrambling over areas of uneven terrain in the parks.

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Brewing my best food writing at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Food writing is definitely NOT one of my strengths. I love to eat good food of course, but eating and casually recommending restaurants to anyone who asks is miles away from actually writing about it. So when The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf teamed up with Writer’s Block Philippines to offer a food writing workshop featuring, of course, the pretty impressive menu of the 26th St. Bistro by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, I knew I had to go. I’d already attended WBP’s travel writing workshop and I was sure that I was going to have a lot of fun with the food writing workshop, even if it meant being in BGC at 9am on a Saturday.

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CBTL offered ten free slots to to those who submitted the best new articles for the Brew Your Best Year website. The articles had to be about career and finance, fulfillment, health and wellness, and discovery. Because work meant that I didn’t have much time to write, I submitted a modified version of this blog post on the non-academic things I learned in grad school. So happy it still got chosen <3

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Lenten treats at the 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Giving up coffee for Lent doesn’t mean that you stop going to the 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. After all, there’s more to the 26th St. Bistro than just their Original Ice Blended coffee. Can you really stay away from the Bistro’s high ceilings, warm lights, comfy chairs and tables (with power outlets!), and most importantly, OMG-that-looks-so-good-I’ll-order-that food offerings? This season is the perfect time to trawl through the 26th St. Bistro’s seafood selection!

If you want lighter fare, my favorite 26th St. Bistro-exclusive seafood fish is the herb-crusted salmon with lemon risotto and hollandaise sauce. The pan-seared Norwegian salmon is juicy yet flaky, easily separating into thin strips. It rests on a bed of saffron lemon risotto, with the lemon giving the fish an extra zing as you chew them together. The slight saltiness of the salmon’s crumbly herb crust also lightens the hollandaise sauce. While the plating is excellent, be sure to take pictures quickly as the fish is best eaten hot.

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If you want something heavier, the seafood marinara is going to fill your tummy right up. I love a good tomato-based sauce and CBTL’s passes muster. The tomato tang is very evident but not overwhelming. The cheese shavings also counter the tang with some saltiness. They were also pretty generous with the seafood, with seared scallops, squid rings, white fish, and prawns with every fork twirl.

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Aside from these exclusive menu items, the 26th St. Bistro also serves fare from the regular CBTL menu. The smoked salmon and dill cream cheese bagel is here – similar to the classic breakfast set but served with fries instead of coffee. There’s also the sardine and garlic linguine, which has shredded, salty, Spanish-style sardines and crispy roasted garlic. With seafood fare like these, who needs meat?

 

The 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is located at the Net Lima building, Bonifacio Global City and at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Ortigas.

*This post was written as the culminating exercise of the Brew Your Best Food Feature – a food writing workshop that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf held in partnership with Writer’s Block Philippines. A separate post on the workshop coming soon!

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Curious and caffeinated at the Coffee Science Center

I love coffee. Let me say that louder for those in the back: I LOVE COFFEE. Coffee is so essential to my daily existence that I have trouble functioning without it (I blame grad school for starting this habit BTW). But despite me loving coffee so much, I actually don’t know that much about it. My greatest coffee-related achievements so far are having my very own French press (thanks again Danes and Mikey!) and blade grinder (yay I can buy whole beans instead of ground!), and knowing that I should let the coffee brew for only 4-5 minutes. So you can imagine my joy when I found out about the Coffee Science Center (coffee and science! My two favorite things!) offered the Coffee Sensory Workshop for beginners.

The Coffee Science Center (CSC)is the result of SGD Coffee’s Coffee Heritage Project – a private initiative they started in 2009 to get Philippine coffee on the map as one of the best coffees in the world. True to its name, the CSC is a place of learning. Students get an in-depth look at coffee from plant to cup, with stops in between to discuss the importance (or not?) of origin, how to tell if a bean is good, how to grind the beans, and other fun stuff nerdy java junkies will love. It’s the kind of information that you can normally only get through years of experience as a coffee buyer, barista, cafe owner, and/or coffee roaster.

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The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 3: the North Shore

(YES this is a super late post. WHOOO. My Hawaii trip actually happened in June. If you missed my previous posts, I talked about presenting my research at the International Coral Reef Symposium, exploring Diamond Head, the Waikiki Aquarium, and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, eating my way around Hawai’i, and my souvenirs from the trip.)

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While most of our labmates and bosses were going home two days after ICRS, some of my friends and I decided to extend our stay in Hawaii for another week to make the most of our trip. We spent two more days in Oahu before flying to the Big Island.

Our major lesson learned: touring the North Shore is more fun and much easier with a car. We considered renting a car for just the one day but weren’t sure if that was possible, and my companions didn’t want to join a tour group because of the added expense. We ended up taking TheBus, which meant that the trip from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove took 3 buses and almost 3 hours, while Waimea Valley back to the Ilikai took 2 hours. This doesn’t include the time we spent walking from Sharks Cove to Waimea Valley, as the #55 bus only comes every 30 to 45 minutes.

The bus route we took from the Ilikai to Sharks Cove consists of three buses:

1. the County Express Bus to Ewa Center, get off at the Alapai Transit Center
2. the #52 Wahiawa-Haleiwa bus, get off at Haleiwa
3. the #55 Honolulu-Ala Moana Center bus, get off at Sharks Cove

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The Islander Girl goes to Travel Spread

I had a lot of fun (and learned a lot too) at Explore PhilippinesTravel Spread event last week 😀 The anniversary party was on November 24, while the event itself was on November 25-26, 2016.

Both the party and the event were in the events hall of Century City Mall in Makati. I was also lucky enough to attend both events with friends – yay less awkwardness at being at an event where you don’t know anyone @_@

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I have two main memories of the anniversary party: eating dragonfruit ice cream from Johann’s Cuisine and fried pizza from Chill Out Cooks, and seeing Rhian Ramos in person.

Johann’s Cuisine‘s dragonfruit ice cream is amazeballs. I’m not really a fan of dragonfruit – it’s okay, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to eat – but the ice cream is love. Johann’s Cuisine uses coconut milk for the ice cream, not cow’s milk. So not only does it taste delicious, it’s vegan too 😀 Yes, I only found out after I forgot that I’m not supposed to eat dairy for a week (doctor’s orders) and ate a cup, so WHEW, crisis averted.

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I have no photo of Chill Out Cooks‘ fried pizza because I was so hungry that I forgot to take a photo before I devoured it. But here’s a photo from their page to show it in all it’s glory:

Mary Ann and I wondered how you could fry a pizza. Is it deep-fried as is? Do they coat the slice in batter then deep-fry? Do they put two slices together like a sandwich then deep-fry? As it turns out, it’s just the pizza dough that’s deep-fried THEN they put the toppings. They can also stuff the dough with the toppings then deep-fry. Their regular stall is in Greenfield District in Mandaluyong (Friday-Saturday, 5pm-12mn) and since I’ll be there anyway on Friday for Geekfight, I’m grabbing another slice of their fried goodness.

The other highlight was seeing Rhian Ramos, the cover girl for Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue (Nov 2016-Jan 2017). She’s so pretty, she’s unreal. Are all celebrities like this?

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France Pinzon (the editor-in-chief of Explore Philippines) is friends with the creators of Saving Sally, an independent animated movie that Rhian starred in when she was 19 (she’s 26 now!) that is FINALLY getting released this December at the Metro Manila Film Festival, so she brought it up during Rhian’s interview and gave her the opportunity to promote it. Trivia: Rhian is actually the second Sally – she only came onboard after the original Sally was unavailable for reshoots. WATCH THE MOVIE GUYS!!!

Another bit of trivia: I sent in an audition video for Sally. Obviously I didn’t get it 😛

As for Travel Spread itself, I was only able to attend the second day because I wasn’t feeling well on the first day. While that’s unfortunate, I’m still happy because I was able to catch my friend Paul Catiang‘s talk on travel and food writing! 😀 The talk itself focused on his experiences of eating while traveling, including an eight-month stay in India with his father, where the food was so rich (Paul says it’s like having a Bollywood dance number in your mouth) that he ended up craving for the simple things like plain steamed rice. Paul says that food needs to be understood in three contexts: survival, curiosity, and comfort. We eat to survive (none of that fancy stuff), but we’re also curious about other things. But at the end of it all, we come back to the food that comforts us and makes us happy. It was a great talk 🙂 The Q&A section had people asking him about how he got started in food writing for Explore (he’s known France for a while and she tapped him to write) and how he deals with restaurants where the food isn’t that good (apparently, there are lots of ways to avoid answering the question “Masarap ba?” [“Is it delicious?”]).

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The afternoon had a panel session by the Explore Philippines staff on what it takes to put out a great magazine.

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When (almost) all the travel information you need is online and available for free (mostly), why would a reader want to buy Explore Philippines? France (she’s bottom row, middle, covered by the mike stand) says that they produce Explore as a well-edited collector’s item – something you keep even after reading. “We want the magazine to stand the test of time”, she says. They attract readers using the quality of the visuals and stories, as well as featuring lesser-known destinations. Publisher Christina Po (bottom row, left-most) added “We feel like reading articles in a magazine is a different experience from reading something online.” This doesn’t mean that they’re skipping online content. Their website http://www.livetoexplore.ph has the same quality writing but in much shorter and specific articles, as befits an online audience. The gorgeous photos are there too. The website does NOT have the magazine’s content, so you still have to buy the magazine if you want the long-form stories.

The revamped Explore Philippines now comes out quarterly instead of bi-monthly, which France says gives them more leeway in logistics for shoots and more time to make sure that stuff is well-edited. “It’s actually more work, not less work [to publish quarterly]!”, she says.

France also says that they’re coming up with more travel events next year. I’m definitely looking forward to those 🙂

Explore Philippines Magazine is turning 2!

Explore Philippines, the official inflight magazine of SkyJet Airlines, is turning two years old! To celebrate, Explore Philippines is hosting the fantastic Travel Spread: Traveling the Philippines One Page at a Time – a super fun free event for travelers interested in learning more about travel and food writing, promoting conservation through art, and bringing local communities and travelers together. It will be on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor, Century City Mall, Makati City 😀

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I was lucky enough to be part of the media launch at The Mango Tree in BGC, where we got to meet the editorial team (EIC France Pinzon and Managing Editor Alyssa Lapid), and publishing team (publisher Christina Po), as well as some of the speakers for Travel Spread.

According to France, Explore Philippines differentiates itself from other magazines by being the “premiere lifestyle and travel magazine that’s pro-Philippines”. France also credits part of the magazine’s success to featuring celebrities (as guest Explorers) who really do travel and have their own travel personalities. They match celebrities with their locations, like surfer gal Rhian Ramos with Siargao (the 2nd anniversary issue cover girl!) and adventurers Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez with rugged Albay. Christina also takes pride in featuring sustainable tourism in the magazine, as she sees it as a “great way to break barriers”. “How and why we travel has a great impact”, says Christina.

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The editorial sections of the revamped Explore Philippines include Main Course (OMG food), Now Boarding (what’s happening now), Checklist (the best and the brighest in local tourism), Pulse (all about travel trends), Disruptor (focuses on life on the move), Jetsetter (Pinoy tourist share their secrets), Pilot (movers and shakers in the tourism industry), Roots (a new section dedicated to “the faces and places that helped build a community’s identity”), Recreation (sports and the outdoors!), and Detour (traveling with a purpose). I get the feeling that Detour and Main Course are going to be my favorite sections.

The speaker lineup for Travel Spread also got me hyped up to attend (yes, you can be hyped about attending talks. It’s a thing.). I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from these people:

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Raffy Dionisio of Circle Hostel is going to talk about Tribes and Treks, a new activity offered by in their Zambales hostel where guests can interact and live with the local Aeta community. They launched the activity a few months ago to help their guests connect with the Aetas and for the Aetas to further benefit from tourism. Tribes and Treks is also featured in Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue 😀

April Cuenca of Tripkada will be talking about tripkada.com, an Airbnb-style app where travelers looking to save money can join trips put together by independent trip organizers. While Tripkada is officially registered as a travel agency, April considers Tripkada to be more of a “travel tech” company than a traditional travel agency. The trip organizers benefit by reaching out to a wider client base and organizing their own schedules, while travelers benefit by not having to organize everything themselves and getting lower prices. My friends and I have been talking about organizing our own environmental education tours for the longest time and Tripkada sounds like the perfect platform for it.

Paul Catiang of Puzzled Owl (YASSSSS!!! WHOOOO!!!) will be talking about some of my favorite things: food, travel, traveling through food, and writing about food and travel. Paul is a regular contributor to Explore Philippines and yes, he gets paid to eat lots and lots and lots of food 😛 Yoga keeps him trim though. Part of his talk will involve his eight-week trip to India to meet his father for the first time. In his words, eating Indian cuisine is like “having a Bollywood dance number on your tongue”.

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Travel Spread’s sponsors also got to talk about what they’re bringing to the event: Merrell will help you find the right trekking shoes, Oculus Academy will teach you how to throw shuriken (whaatt???), Chill Out Cooks will feed you fried carbonara, fried pizza, and fried Oreos (sign me up!), and Ozamiz City‘s tourism department will feed you dragonfruit ice cream and laya fish

The Mango Tree kept this writer from starving by feeding us authentic Thai dishes: vegetarian spring rolls, fish cakes, pad thai, chicken skewers, and mango cake. I think I visited the buffet three times *ducks*

 

I’d like to thank Explore Philippines for the opportunity to be part of the media launch and the Mango Tree group for the GCs to Cocina Peruvia that I won in the raffle draw 🙂

Remember: Travel Spread happens on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor Century City Mall, Makati. See you there!