Philippines Food & Travel Diary, Part 1 – Cebu City

Earlier this year while I was in China, I made an impromptu decision to join Nick in the Philippines and meet his family there. Coming from the bone-chilling cold in China, the heat and humidity of the Philippines hit me like a brick. I had just one outfit with me suitable for the 85+ degree heat (initially packed for a long layover in LA), which I wore every single day and hand-scrubbed at night. Despite this, I had an incredible time experiencing a new culture, and am happy the two pieces I brought turned out to be rather appropriate for the vibrant, colorful country.

 Tasting mangosteen from street-side fruit stands:


Colorful vehicles; free-spirited children who shouted loud, friendly greetings to the “foreigners”:


Feasting on lechon (crispy-skinned roast pork) at Zubuchon, proclaimed by Anthony Bourdain as the “best pig ever”: PI4
Continue reading for more photos…

Buying streetside bbq’d skewers for dinner, grilled on the spot then paired with mangoes, sticky rice, and salted fish. PI1
While flying Philippine Airlines, I got hooked on their Happy brand chicken adobo-flavored peanuts. Unfortunately, each package contains about 5 peanuts so I had to restock early on. When asked how much, the lady at this shop replied “one twenty five.” Aghast that she was trying to charge me a hundred and twenty-five pesos (~ $3 USD) for five little peanuts, I huffily went off, looking for another vendor. Turns out this flavor is more popular than I thought, and I ended up right back at this vendor 30 minutes later, faint from the heat and still peanut-less. I forked over the money and found out that she had meant 1.25 pesos (~ 3 cents USD) per package.

Left: Nick’s parents had gone to the “special” foot spa before we arrived and insisted we try it as well. Right: Local woman selling yams from her head.


Jeepneys – the most popular means of public transit. Riders sit knees-to-knees, packed to capacity and extra passengers hang off the back.

We first stayed at Casa Escano, a bed & breakfast run by a young UC Davis graduate. It was fun to wake up every day and try a new breakfast out on the terrace. Below top: chicken arroz caldo, a Spanish-influenced rice porridge served with egg, scallions, peppers and fish sauce. As a Chinese congee lover, I couldn’t resist trying this despite the heat and humidity. Below bottom: A variation of loco moco, a Hawaiian-influenced breakfast involving a hamburger patty, a fried egg, plus gravy.
We had dinner once at AA BBQ at the recommendation of our hotel owner. Thank goodness growing up in China trained me to not be skeevy about food safety : ) We got in line to pick our “catch” and skewers of meat from open displays, then handed them over to be cooked in whatever way we pleased. The open-air restaurant was quite bustling with many families enjoying a meal together.

Above: the “before,” including conch, bangus, squid, and giant prawns. Below: the “after” – feast of seafood grilled, fried, seared, and even made into stew

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my Philippines travel diary. This post was comprised mostly of snapshots from Cebu city, before we made our way to Nick’s aunt’s remote beach hut. The second part of the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I can’t wait to share photos from that next.

Readers – I’d love to hear any local must-dos or must-eats for a future trip!
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  1. Wow Philippines. I am enjoying reading your post here. Take care

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  2. How awesome to read about my hometown from you blog! though i'm not from cebu, i love that place. i remember spending numerous weekends there with my family growing up. I love how Cebu has that big city (but not crazy like manila) vibe but at the same time, in a couple of minutes drive, you are transported to paradise. Amazing food and amazing beaches!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  3. Kat wrote:

    Sounds like an awesome time was had. I wanted to visit Phillipines while I was in HK last October but we just didn't have time. 🙁

    What would you say was your favorite part of the trip?


    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  4. Love your post. You really captured the essence of the Philippines and how simple yet beautiful the people are. There are lots of beautiful places including Laguna, Palawan and of course Boracay.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  5. AUBS* wrote:

    oh my wonderful. i'd wanna keep that beautiful conch shell after eating it!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Great post. The food looked amazing. And that foot spa… hehe (your picture is worth a thousand words), but how did it feel to have those little fishes eat away at the dead skin cells?

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  7. I've never been to the Philippines though I have plenty of friends who came from there. Sounds like you had one amazing feast after another. I had no idea you were originally from China.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  8. love the philippines – lived there for three months and it has a special place in my heart. on the don't miss list: tagaytay (a lake inside a volcano which is in a lake inside of a volcano), pancit noodles, scuba diving off of mindoro (try rick's scuba), competitive karaoke with machines that assign you a score, and somewhere where you can see barong shirts being made (traditional men's shirt). oh and halo-halo for dessert!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  9. Joy wrote:

    Never been, but the food looks delicious and I think the spa pic looks cute!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  10. I love your outfit! I've had that foot massage and it tickled!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  11. So cute! I'm loving that yellow skirt!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  12. Love this post and can't wait for another one…wish I could be there,it looks interesting and I'm glade you're having great time 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  13. Jean! I heard about those foot spas LOL! You are BRAVE!!! And while I'm pretty open to most foods being born and raised in Canada and never having even visited Asia I think I would be squirming like crazy hahahaha! Great pictures and what a nice vacation!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  14. Hi! I was wondering if you can provide quickie advice – for your middle 2 photos, the ones where you are doing the fish pedicure, how did you get the two photos to fit side by side on your blog like that? Was it some re-sizing trick?
    (and I love this entry by the way! It has so much zest!)

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  15. Tisha wrote:

    Your peanut story was hilarious!!! Woulda been fun to meet up with you while you were in the country. And yeah, the heat's pretty bad, even for us tropical folks!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  16. All of the food looks amazing! How was the foot spa?! 🙂

    xo, Yi-chia

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  17. Stephie wrote:

    Wow, it looks like so much fun! I especially loved the foot spa picture 🙂 It looks like y'all had a great time and now I'm craving Pinoy food! Haha thanks for sharing!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  18. Caeyo wrote:

    you should hit the beaches! 🙂 aww… i want to meet you in person. 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  19. Nelah wrote:

    Wow what an experience you had there with food and local outings. I find it rather difficult to have ana authentic experience as locals if you do not have family or friends that actually live there to guide you on where to go or what to do but in your case lucky you that a bf's family lives over there. Mangosteen must be my buzband's most favorite exotic fruit of all. He gobbled down everyday when we were in Thailand this year. Looking forward to part 2.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  20. hes wrote:

    Your trip looked so much fun, making me more impatient to go back home this April! I'm glad you liked the Philippines!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  21. Cee wrote:

    Jean, I'm so envious of your ironclad stomach! Eating all the local (and street!) foods without getting sick is impressive. Did you try any of their mango desserts? I think it's one of their national fruits. Candy, drinks, etc. are all really good.

    Did the water for your special foot spa turn black afterwards? I remembered walking by one and they were showing a video of how the process worked. I chickened out after I saw the water turn color, hahaha.

    Thank you for sharing your adventure and photos! Looking forward to the next segment. Now I'm off to find myself a second breakfast.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  22. Tang wrote:

    I did the foot spa while in Korea! Ticklish, but interesting. 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  23. uniqlos wrote:

    Yay I was waiting for this! Glad you had fun. I haven't tried adobo flavored nuts but I love Ding Dongs and Boy Bawang haha.

    I went on a field trip a few weeks ago and we rode the tops of the jeepneys. So fun! Next time you must try pancit palabok, as it's my favorite meal. And sisig (no egg!) and halo-halo, if you haven't already.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  24. Unknown wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  25. Bela Anzu wrote:

    From your photos, the Philippines does look like a very colourful city. My favourite photo is the one of Nick and you at the fish foot spa!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  26. kim acosta wrote:

    omg. 🙂 you're here! *excitement. 🙂
    i'm a local of Makati City. and i just want to say you're awesome!!!
    i agree with jen's comment above.
    i would just like to add if you're going to Baguio try finding some UKAY UKAY stores. 🙂 its like a second hand shop (just in case you like to check)
    they sell authentic LV, Chanel, etc bags for like 5000pesos (above and below) it really depends on the condition of the bag.
    and clothes ukay stores are full of them. very cheap ones too. 🙂

    well..i hope i helped. i've been in ukay ukay stores since i was in college and it saved my piggy banks. (i'm just starting a blog for it hehehe)

    enjoy your stay!!! 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  27. jen wrote:

    Btw, all those that I've mentioned except Boracay, Coron, Tagaytay & Baguio are easily found in Manila/Metro Manila..

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  28. jen wrote:

    Boracay, Aklan.. Coron, Palawan.. Best beaches in the Philippines!
    Tagaytay or Baguio for an escape from the scorching heat..
    Trinoma, SM Mall of Asia, Robinson's Galleria.. Must go-to malls for shopping!
    Sizing are really perfect for you because Filipinos have small-average frames..
    Greenhills Tiangge for cheap fashion finds (and other stuffs as well)
    Street foods are always a hit for foreigners here because it's cheap, popular & tastes good (atleast for me) and also bagoong.. 😀
    Try also the halo-halo from Razon's(a restaurant) or buko shakes & dried mangoes(especially the ones from Cebu)..
    And oh! There's also place called Chinatown here in the Philippines!
    I hope you a good time here in the Philippines!
    p.s. The Happy chicken adobo-flavored peanut is my favorite too! 😀

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Woah you're brave, trying the exotic food! Looks like you had a blast. How could you not, huh? Next time go to Boracay or Palawan. The beaches there are pristine :))

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  30. Megan wrote:

    I love this! I especially love how you wore just one outfit, which was quite stylish by the way. 🙂 Being half-Filipino, I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I'm looking forward to the next one 🙂 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  31. Suzie Q wrote:

    Looked like a wonderful trip. So much delicious food! That's the best part of traveling to new countries =) Can't wait for your continuation post!


    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  32. Lauren wrote:

    I LOVE that you wore and re-wore one outfit during your trip. That goes a long way towards showing that you don't need to have a million clothes in your closet to look stylish…something I can do well to remember!

    Lovely photos, all.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  33. eloisevbm wrote:

    I've been following your blog a while and didn't know you had a Philippine connection. Filipinos are style-conscious so I hope you get to post your observations as well (I'd like to know your comment about our local fashion brands – Bayo, Kamiseta, Plains and Prints). Don't pass up on the Sky Walk at the Crown Regency. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  34. I just came back from Cebu/Borocay/Leyte about a month ago! Definitely go to Ayala and go hunting through the boutiques. You'll also find a good alterations place there where it cost about $3 for urgent (done in 3 hrs)hems and things.
    For Filipino food in Ayala there is a lovely restaurant on the lower level called Cafe Laguna where they serve amazing Filipino cuisine and the best watermelon drinks. And Hukad along The Terraces.

    For pampering go to The Spa of Cebu!! Have fun 🙂

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  35. yummmmm…

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  36. Katherine wrote:

    Wow everything looks so delicious! Love the photo of the foot spa – I did one of those too in Phuket, lol. Can't wait to see the next segment – I've heard amazing things about the beaches in the Philippines so really looking forward to hearing about it!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  37. Danielle H. wrote:

    Totes using your advice on tucking a cardigan into your pencil skirt today! Thank you for the tip, makes the working day more bearable with something new in my usually-just-normal work outfits.

    Also, so delighted to see my home country featured in your blog. Yes, definitely brought your style tips and advices to an office in the heart of Manila.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  38. Jean, the picture of you with your hands covering your face during your fish foot spa is priceless.=) Your trip about going from a cold weathered place to another one that is hot reminds me of the time I went from the heat scorching 106 degrees weather of Sacramento to the cool and wind swept 65 degrees weather in San Francisco. Thank you sharing your travel with us. I love seeing pictures of people travels to different country.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  39. Nandar wrote:

    Lovely pictures 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  40. Food, food, food – I love good food! I want to hear more about your impressions of the different experiences (um, food ones especially) 🙂 Looking forward to hearing about the beach hut – sounds like paradise!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  41. marnieb wrote:

    I'm from Cebu,though I haven't gone back the last 10 yrs. I truly miss the food,beaches and the sights. Thanks for sharing pics of your visit,made me nostalgic of what I enjoyed back home.Hope you savor the food and our culture even with all the heat(summer).

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  42. Anonymous wrote:

    I was pleasantly surprised to read about your visit to the Philippines. I'm also from the Philippines and what I miss most living here in US is the Filipino food. Did you get to shop the malls, too? During my last visit, there was a newly built Mall of Asia fronting Manila Bay. If you did, you were probably in shopping heaven as the clothes there are Asian sizes, so no need to alter:)I wear XS or OP here and back home, i had to go with Small!

    Posted 6.7.12 Reply
  43. newpetite wrote:

    Love the pic of you in the fish foot spa 🙂 Love your travel logs!

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  44. Lily wrote:

    These photos are gorgeous! I especially love the first one of the marketplace.

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  45. Thank you Jean for posting this pictures. I am from the Philippines originally. I hope you had a good time over there. We always does every time we visit.

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  46. Mary Ann wrote:

    Ha! That picture of you with your feet in the fishy foot spa may be my favorite I've ever seen on your blog, Jean!! 😉 ;-P

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  47. Kat wrote:

    Wow! Happy to see my Philippines on this blog. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  48. Jane wrote:

    very pretty outfit!! I'm very curious to what kind of shoes you wore – I'm about to go on a trip that'll involve lots and LOTS of walking, yet I want to stay away from sneakers and look pretty in pictures. Any tips!?

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  49. elleandish wrote:

    Yay Cebu! 😀 I went there when I was a 'tween' so I don't remember too much.. but I remember the beaches very well 🙂

    And lechon.. mm. I love it! Its hard to find good lechon around here.

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply
  50. I went to the Phillipines years ago with my family – one of the best trips of my life. Enjoy your time!

    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

    Posted 6.6.12 Reply

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