Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant

DID YOU KNOW that in Vietnam, you can’t eat your food and then leave your chopsticks lying vertically over your bowl (or plate) of rice or noodles when you’re done?

Did you know too, that doing the same in China would contract-in-displeasure the eyebrows of the residents as it is how they position their incense sticks whenever present in ceremonies honoring the dead, or burying them?

Or something like that. I’m not too sure.

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A small bowl of PHO BO at Pho 88. It’s a Vietnamese rice noodle soup with fragrant herb leaves served separately with calamansi, and beef meat. 

Did you know further that if you don’t want to get in trouble with any of your Vietnamese friends (perhaps I should try one day just to make sure), then you must call to mind not to tap your chopsticks on your bowl for it will bring misfortune, and it means you’re convoking the dead?

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I HAVE TO GET ME ONE OF THESE. Tuong Ot Sriracha, or rooster sauce in Vietnam, actually originated from Thailand.  It’s made of “chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar,potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum.

It is really our own eating beliefs and traditions that matter. But of course, it wouldn’t hurt to observe and do as they do, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese people do.

The reason I had to remember what I learned about the eating culture of the people of Vietnam was because I was with some friends in this new restaurant called Pho 88 along J. Rizal Avenue the other day.

Sometimes I have that habit of tapping my chopsticks lightly on the bowl when I’m talking about something passionately. But not always.

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Ha Chi Lhan, the pretty owner of Pho 88. The place does not seek attention where it is located so, one has to be really on the alert.

Pho 88 is Pho 88, according to owner Ha Chi Lhan, because 1988 was the year she started to work in a bank in the coastal city of Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa, on the South Central Coast of Vietnam.

It was her Filipino husband, who brought her to open Pho 88 after residing for a while in Silang, Cavite. The husband was not there to meet with us, but whoever he is, it’s good decision to bring Ha Chi Lhan to move to this city.

Another restaurant that serves real Vietnamese food is good news to me although in Puerto Princesa, there are about two I really love to visit once in a while. One is located in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, the other is in Barangay San Jose — quite far from where I live.

I wanted to order Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup) since its photo on the resto’s simple menu looked steamy and pretty with the chicken meat all lined up on one side, herbs on top of them, and a slice of chili.

But it wasn’t available; the kitchen staff apparently forgot to buy chicken from the market that day.

I don’t know. Tsk!

An old Vietnamese friend, who came to Palawan a few years ago as one of the boat people, told me that you can gauge the goodness of a Pho by the intensity of the flavor that’s rustled up in the stock while maintaining its clarity.

I wanted to prove. Unfortunately…

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This popular Vietnamese dish is not heavy in the belly so, go for it when you’re in Puerto Princesa.

Every time I go to a new Vietnamese place, I like comparing how each cook their Pho. This is the reason why I wanted the Pho Ga. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the Bun Thit Nuong cold noodles upon learning from Ha Chi Lhan that the noodles they used were imported.

Except for the meat and some spices that can easily be bought from the public market, all their ingredients are imported from Vietnam.

The food junkie in me couldn’t help but also order Banh Mi Thit Heo, bread with pork and veggies inside. Bahn Mi is all kinds of bread to the Vietnamese; bahn is bread and mi is wheat. Popular to them is the baguette or French bread.

So, if you’re in an authentic Vietnamese dining place, and you ask to be given Bahn Mi, and the food attendant asks you next what kind you would like to have, then you’ll know they can give it to you with different fillings. Pulled pork, fried or grilled chicken, barbecued pork, beef, and yes, even crazy tuna spread.

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VIETNAMESE ICE COFFEE: On Pho 88’s menu, they come in two blends — Cafe Sua and Cafe Sai Gon.

After our good and light meal, we couldn’t leave as there were still good stories to tell and laugh about. So, one of us decided to try Pho 88’s two ice coffee blends — Cafe Sua that uses the traditional French coffee drip, and Cafe Sai Gon.

Both blends use coarsely ground dark roast coffee, and they’re so good!

So, what sets apart Vietnamese cuisine from the rest of the others in Asia? For me, I think its really the amalgamation of spices, colors, love and passion of cooking, fresh ingredients, and the minimal employment of oil.

Isn’t it that Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest in the planet?

We went to Pho 88 at past 12 noon, and left around 3 p.m. because Wednesday is WOW date for all of us. WOW meaning Women of Wednesday.

I’m going back there for my Sriracha sauce.

Pho 88 is okay with reservation. Call them at 09271521706 and 09279378729.

 

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Mt. Cleopatra’s Needle

Mt. Cleopatra’s Needle is said to be some sort of mystical mountain in Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan. It was so named because of that “obelisk-like” outcrop on its peak that always gets lucky to be kissed by the clouds.

My good friend Jonah Van Beijnen, who has been working for the protection of Mt. Cleopatra’s Needle, was excited to see it from so many thousand feet for the first time with me, Dempto (Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent), JD (radio reporter), and another guy (a photographer too), when we flew over northern Palawan last Holy Thursday.

Members of the Suakwal Mountaineers, who have scaled Mt. Cleopatra’s Needle said its “environment is extensively covered with forests and full of wildlife. At the summit, if the skies are clear, one will be offered a view of Honda Bay and Sulu Sea (East) as well as South China Sea (West); and of course, a panorama of the city proper (SE).”

I want that. Soon!

M/V Superstar Aquarius

Traveling on a cruise ship is on my bucket list, but the opportunity to actually do one has never presented itself to me yet. I honestly don’t know when it’s going to happen, or if it is happening. I live that to God’s will… and a few shoves to myself… eventually.

This is the reason why if there’s a chance to go aboard one docked at the Puerto Princesa City Port, I immediately take it.

Last Monday, Star Cruises’ M/V Superstar Aquarius made its maiden voyage to my city with over 500 travelers from all over Asia. The cruise ship is huge at 623 feet with all amenities to make any traveler’s stay comfortable and memorable, including a playroom for children.

13-storey and all, it’s easy to get lost inside the cruise ship. Our guide, who is from Davao, told us that when it was his first time aboard, he lost his way back to his cabin. It’s “bawal” (not allowed) for them to be on the decks where tourists stay, and it was in one where he could not find his way back.

I believe this because for while on tour, my colleague and I lost our way too. We went below Deck 3 when everyone’s on Deck 7 checking out the salon, the spa, and the duty free shops. I had to make a cell call to find our group and be with them again 🙂

“If the carpet is maroon, that means you’re in front of the ship. Green in the middle, and blue at the back,” our guide informed us.

Ah, hmmmm… 

Here are photos I managed to get.

Baragatan sa Palawan 2014

My province recently celebrated its 112th Civil Government Anniversary through the annual convergence event “BARAGATAN.” In our local dialect, Baragatan means “convergence.”

Every year during the month of June, all 23 local government units (LGUs) journey to the capital Puerto Princesa City to participate in the festivities: the LGU Trade Fair for their “One Town, One Product” (OTOP); culture and arts presentation, such as the Saraotan sa Dalan (street dancing in the Cuyunon dialect), and many others to mention.

Among all activities, my favorite is the Saraotan sa Dalan or street dancing competition because participants wear colorful costumes and head gears, and the beat of the drums is just fantastic — totally different from the usual music we hear all the time.

Too bad I wasn’t able to get a photo of Wak-wak. Weird sounding name — it’s a sand worm — harvested by the locals, dried under the sun, and cooked (fried or ceviche) as food. I swear it’s good!

Here are some photos from the street dancing competition. Love the colors!

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Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa

For more photos (you may also like the page): https://www.facebook.com/PalawenyaTravelerbyTengRFormoso/

Princesa Garden Islands Resort & Spa in Palawan redefines luxury living

Are you looking for a place where you can completely escape the city life that lacks excitement and variety?

Princesa Garden Island Resort & Spa, this city’s newest hotel resort, might just have the all-embracing period of recreation you’re looking for.

Located in Barangay Bancao-Bancao, right in the heart of Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa City, the only five star island hotel resort and spa offers you and ardent holidaymakers a “slice of paradise” and an extraordinary break from the monotony of work in the country’s “Last Frontier.”

Marketing Communications Associate Kareen Gonzales said as “the only five star resort in this city,” Princesa Garden Island offers potential clients “a wide array of amenities and services that are guaranteed to make anyone’s stay unforgettable.”

“Our place is Asian-themed. You can see in the details how we built the hotel resort following the contemporary Balinese style which is a well-liked Asian tropical architecture, by combining it with natural materials and craftsmanship of the local people that can be found in abundance here in Puerto Princesa,” she said.

Princesa Garden Island offers 78 luxurious rooms that include an exclusive stand-alone assemblage of water cabanas overlooking the picturesque city bay and the grandiosity of the coastal scenery.

Gonzales said the water cabanas are a first of its kind in Puerto Princesa that feature spacious wooden decks with daybeds that have canopies for sunbathing, separate outdoor jet pools, exclusive in-ocean reception areas, and a cloistered lounge where guests can take it easy with light snacks and cool thirst quenchers.

Other room accommodations are located at the three-storey main hotel called the Harbor Wing. Here, each has a wide veranda, or roofed platform that offers a breathtaking view of the infinity pool and turquoise ocean. Several high-end room accommodations also have open-air Jacuzzis on the sundeck.

Guests who wish to stay on the ground floor rooms, on the other hand, have direct access to Princesa Garden Island’s six opulent infinity pools.

For those looking for outdoor activities, the resort will eventually offer a mangrove tour on a kayak, snorkeling and other water sport activities. The sand and sky glisten in the area, and anyone wishing to just commune quietly with nature can do so.

They can also indulge on international cuisines served at three restaurants in the resort: the Golden Elephant Seafood Village that serves Asian food, the Tomato and Basil near the pools for gastronomic Italian dishes, and the Rice Restaurant that serves popular Oriental dishes and various International carte du jour.

When the hotel resort finally and fully opens before the end of the year, it will also have a Floating Bar near a sandbar, where guests can unwind and enjoy as the day unwinds with a glorious sunset over the bay.

Travelers, who can’t do away with their relaxing reflexologies and rubdowns, will be pampered by Princesa Garden Island’s Hilot Spa Village, managed by its friendly masseuse.

With the opening of this new hotel resort in Puerto Princesa, it now has the capacity to offer tourists and guests the opportunity to escape completely, and collect wonderful memories.

Sabang’s Rich Landscape

When it comes to beautiful landscapes, Puerto Princesa is a dime a dozen, and I didn’t say that to be negative. Everywhere you look in this city, the landscapes are great — wide-ranging, sweeping, overwhelming, and they’re as alive as the people, who live near them.

The Puerto Princesa City Subterranean River National Park (PPCSRNP) in Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, for instance, does not only have the underground river to be proud of. It also has an amazing landscape.

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Earth Hour Celebration in Puerto Princesa

Imagine my disappointment after turning on the television, it’s one of those depressing Filipino films… and the high temperature is killing me.

March 29 was unforgettable. These photos were taken from my city’s commemoration of the Earth Hour at the People’s Amphitheater in Mendoza Park. At exactly 8:30 p.m., power in my city was turned off because of the celebration, and these fire dancers took over the darkness beautifully.

From nearly a hundred long exposure shots, I succeeded with only over 20 good ones. The rest of the photos, sigh… waste of effort. But I’m happy with what I have.

Sharing the shots! Good night 🙂