Staycation guide: Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Marikina City


Affectionately referred to as the Shoe Capital of the Philippines, Marikina is also quite well-known for being one of the cleanest and creenest cities in the country. Regardless of the misfortunes they continually face during the monsoon season, the people of Marikina continue to smile in the face of tragedies. Unknown to many, Marikina holds quite a few gems in terms of historic destinations and noteworthy dining establishments.

Visiting Marikina on a regular weekend becomes quite a revelation of sights, sounds and tastes.

Marikina is bordered on the west by Quezon City; on the south by Pasig and Cainta; on the east by Antipolo and on the north by San Mateo. To get to Marikina from Quezon City, the major routh is via Aurora Blvd. From Cubao, there are jeepneys going to Marikina plying the SSS Village, Calumpang or Parang route. Jeeps going to Montalban also pass by Marikina. FX AUVs also have various end destinations within Marikina. The LRT Line 2 has a terminal in Santolan which has a walkway to Calumpang and SM Marikina.

2pm. Marikina Hotel and Convention Center is a government-owned hotel nestled within the SSS Village. Their 75 bedrooms may be simple and basic, but spacious. This budget-friendly hotel offers rooms for as low as PHP1,857.00 for a standard twin-sharing room. During promo season, it could go lower. Their in-house restaurant, Café Flora, is also acclaimed for its generous buffet at only PHP165! (Pio Del Pilar St cor Tangerine St, Brgy Concepcion II, Marikina; +63 2 2340540, +63 2 3840867, +63 918 6112736, look for Abie). To get to Marikina Hotel, ride a jeep or FX going to SSS Village. You can drop off at the junction of Molave and Katipunan Streets (also called Bay-Tree for a grocery store which was located at the site of the current Puregold Supermarket). From there, ride a tricycle and direct the driver to take you to the hotel.

Marikina Hotel and Convention Center

3pm. Start off your exploration of Marikina with a very surprising find that is the Marikina Book Museum and Ethnology Museum. Book lovers will definitely find this place a heaven on earth. The Book Museum is home to the personal collection of Atty Dominador Buhain, chairman and president of Rex Publishing House. The collection includes some of the rarest books ever printed and also the smallest! The Ethnology Museum (127 Dao Street, Marikina Heights, Marikina City; +63 2 5704449, ; Tue-Sun 9am-noon, 1-6pm; PHP100 with discounts for groups of 10 and Marikina residents) owns a collection of artifacts from various ethnic groups in the Philippines such as the Ifugao and Maranao. Call because they limit the number of people at any given time to 5-10 persons

6pm. Once you’re tired of browsing through hundreds of books and artifacts, it’s time for dinner at the very famous Pan de Amerikana (92 Ordoñez Street, Concepcion Dos, Marikina; +63 2 4752398). This rustic restaurant just recently became a popular tourist destination in Marikina. From the giant windmill façade, to the rain forest ambiance replete with Greek colonnades and giant chess pieces, visitors are all at once taken aback and captivated. Because of the design aesthetic, Pan de Amerikana is not only a favorite resto but a favorite photo shoot location as well. And there menu doesn’t disappoint either. Aside from their widely famous giant-sized pandesal namesake, other must-try dishes are their takes on uniquely Marikina’s waknatoy (PHP60) and everlasting (PHP160).

8am. To prepare yourself for a day of sightseeing, begin with a leisurely breakfast at Rustic Mornings (11 Isabelo Mendoza St, San Roque, Marikina; +63 2 5106914, +63 2 6812461, +63 917 7005810). Its shabby chic/country kitchen interiors have charmed many but people keep coming back for the food. Well-loved dishes include their omelets served with ciabatta bread, herb butter and jam (PHP150-PHP240), beef tapa served with two eggs cooked to your liking, garlic parsley rice, and tomato wansoy salad (PHP235), and a side order of hash browns (PHP80). For drinks, their Americano coffee (PHP) comes with a free refill, or you can go healthy with their selection of fruit shakes (PHP110-140). Being a new foodies’ favorite, diners come in droves on the weekends so it’s best to reserve a table the day before.

10am. After filling up, it’s time to start the big tour of Marikina’s sights. Just a few meters from Rustic Mornings is the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church (JP Rizal cor V Gomez Sts, Brgy Sta Elena, Marikina) better known as OLA. It is the second oldest parish in the country, built in the late 1600s by the Augustinian friars and originally called Nuestra Sra. Delos Desamparados. Here you will find the miraculous image of the Our Lady of the Abandoned, Marikina’s patroness.

Right across the street is the Marikina Shoe Museum (JP Rizal St, Brgy Sta Elena, Marikina; Mon-Sun 8am-5pm. PHP50), the one place in Marikina that you should not fail to visit, for what is Marikina without shoes? See some 749 pairs of the much talked-about shoe collection of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. But not to be outshone by a First Lady, each president of the country also has a pair of shoes on exhibit.

Kapitan Moy
Kapitan Moy

Cross the street again to Kapitan Moy (JP Rizal Street, Sta Elena, Marikina), former home of Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara, father of the shoe industry of Marikina. It was in this home that the first pair of Marikina-made shoes was developed. Now it is the center for culture and arts of the city and it also contains a doll museum and a historical and cultural diorama of Marikina’s main events.

Grab lunch at the Café Kapitan and Piano Bar which specializes in Spanish cuisine with authentic Spanish style interiors. If you wish to try their special paella (PHP575-PHP775), you need to call in your order an hour in advance. Other dishes to try are lengua con cetas (PHP179+), crispy fried chicken (PHP189+) and pancit canton (PHP135+).

2pm. After seeing Marikina’s city center, take a leisurely stroll towards the Marikina River Park in Brgy Sta Elena, where you can while the afternoon away by biking, skating or just sitting around. Rent a bike for PHP50. You can also opt to just see the sights such as the Roman Garden, and Chinese Pagoda.

Of course, the weekend won’t be complete without any shopping. Visit the EDA Bag Factory (JP Rizal St, Brgy Sta Elena) located behind the Chinese Pagoda for quality bags at really good prices. Then start walking back along J.P. Rizal Street to Patio del Zapatero where you will find a wide array of Marikina-made shoes renowned for their quality and value for money.

6pm. Hungry after all the biking and shopping? Tuck into exceptionally authentic Thai cuisine at Krung Thai, located in the Marikina Public Market. Open until 9pm, Krung Thai dishes out popular Thai food such as tom yam (PHP299 good for 5), pad thai (PHP199), bagoong fried rice (PHP298 good for 3-4), green mango salad. Of course, you just have to fill yourself up with a refreshing glass of Thai iced tea.

Cap off the evening with a few drinks and some live acoustic music at one of the many bars/clubs in the Marikina Entertainment District along A. Tuazon Avenue.

Marikina Riverbanks
Marikina Riverbanks

10am. Don’t leave Marikina without taking home some of Mylene’s Ensaymada and Banana Cake (51 Ipil St, Marikina Heights, Marikina or Ruby’s Building, 36 Lilac St, Marikina; +63 2 9409604, +63 2 9662303). Choose among their many flavors of ensaymada: classic (PHP30/piece or PHP300/box of 12), ube, chocolate, yema, blueberry, Bavarian, and dulce de leche (PHP40/piece or PHP420/box of 12).

Mama Chit's Coffee House
Mama Chit’s Coffee House

If you haven’t had enough of the Marikina River, head on over to The Riverbanks Center for more R&R, aka shopping.

Before heading for home, have some lunch at Café Lidia (64 Calderon Street, Calumpang, Marikina; +63 2 6477606) for their popular buffalo wings (PHP170), thin crust pizza (PHP210-PHP255) and unforgettable cakes or at Mama Chit’s Coffee House (234 JP Rizal St, San Roque, Marikina) for their famous burgers (PHP99 single, PHP600 good for 6).

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The gift of “turon”


Something to get us teary-eyed other than the arrest of Janet Napoles.

Catherine Olivares, the turon (banana spring rolls) vendor who donated 70 pieces of her wares to the Alagang Kapatid foundation during their relief operations for typhoon Maring victims, has proven that no good deed remains unrewarded. Days after she made her contribution, she was called in to the Smart Communications office to receive a special gift for her generosity.

TV5 Chairman Manny Pangilinan and Smart have decided to give Cathy and her six children their very own loading business. They package came with brand new cellphones, prepaid cards, jackets, t shirts, and other items. Cathy’s donation of 70 pieces of turon could have made her PHP400 – barely enough for the needs of her six children. However, during interview, she said all she could think about was what if it was her family that needed help. Should that ever happen, she said she hopes there would be people who would also help them – and so she gave her whole day’s income to TV5’s Alagang Kapatid foundation.

The Smart Communications representative also teared up as he turned over the loading business items. He said the Olivares family may not be well off, but they were sincere in helping others, practically giving all they had to help those in need.

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SM’s elevator girl gets recognition


Remember the viral video of the week post?

SM Olongapo’s bubbly elevator operator, Ms. Cheridel Alejandrino, is becoming more and more popular and will even be featured in this Sunday’s episode of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho on GMA 7.

Additionally, the management at SM has finally recognized her dedication to her job. The photo shows Ms. Cherry holding her certificate of recognition from SM.  As a casual employee, she works 8 to 12 hours a day. Her dedication to her job and her positive attitude has earned her a spot in every Pinoy’s heart.


Photo from The Ultimate Fan

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Coup de Greasy: Zark’s Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Burger Hits Close to the Heart


COCONUTS HOT SPOT — I’m sure you will agree that there are some days when our inner carnivore takes over and we want nothing more than to eat tons and tons of greasy, chewy, sinful meat.

And when it comes to meat, nothing satisfies cravings like a big healthy—or unhealthy—chunk of bacon. Spend even justa  few minutes a day on the Internet and you’ll know that almost everyone online has an almost borderline obsession with cats and bacon.

Leaving aside the furry feline, bacon is one of the things that people would wage an online flame war for. Say something bad about bacon and you’ll probably be condemned for life.

It is with that thought in mind that I found a hole in the wall in BF homes known as Zark’s Burgers. It wasn’t the most notable of places: It’s on the 2nd floor of a small building and is quite easy to miss.

I entered a small room that could easily have been mistaken for a school cafeteria from the outside. In fact, one table had six teenage boys in their uniforms—likely high school students judging from their rowdiness. I had to go out and check that I was at the right place.

Zark’s Burger is known for their outlandish burgers and over-the-top servings. The serving sizes are huge and the prices range from the affordable to the gourmet. However, if you are really looking for the ultimate burger experience, then you’d be hard pressed to find another burger place that offers the type of burgers that they have.

The quaint appearance of their shop made me wonder whether this place can actually placate the primal carnivore raging within me. However, looking at the menu, my worries were blown away. On that simple menu was probably enough meat to feed several bear-sized men (or actual bears).

They offer different kinds of burgers ranging from the traditional Cheeseburger with Lettuce and Tomato to the outlandish half-pound-patty burger with an egg on top.

It Just Might Kill You

What shocked me, however, were the last two entries in their menu and they’re probably two of the three things that people really come here for. The first one is called the Jawbreaker. All the other burgers look normal when compared to this one.

It’s a whopping triple patty cheeseburger with Spam, bacon, and melted cheese. It costs PHP250 along with fries and drinks but the startling thing about this is its five-minute challenge. Eat the entire thing in five minutes and your meal is free.

This is a tough feat even among those that are used to challenges like these.

However, the real coup de grace is the last entry in the menu. It’s as ominous as its name implies and as dangerous as the warning label says.

Aptly named the Tombstone, it is a monstrous five-pound cheeseburger slathered with cheese. All in all, it is a two-pound meat buffet that might literally kill you if you attempt to eat it on your own.

While finishing the burger is a feat in itself, the real challenge is to finish everything—burger and fries—in ten minutes to forever have your name and face immortalized in the Wall of Fame (Or Shame, if you are on a diet and it is not your cheat day).

It costs a whopping PHP500 but is worth it if you consider the fact that you are chomping down on two pounds of pure meaty goodness.

It Stays in your Arteries Forever

Being the real meat-lover that I am, I decided to crank it up to eleven and go overboard. I decided to order that one meal that isn’t even on the menu and costs P230 with fires and drinks. The Deep- Fried Bacon Wrapped Burger.

As the name implies, it’s a burger wrapped in bacon and then deep fried. It went beyond the ridiculous and went round back into awesome territory.

I noticed some of the students looking my way and asking the server what it was having and how much was it. I felt a bit special at this point as it was something that not everyone knows about as it is on the secret menu.

Perhaps it’s that special, or they kept it off the menu to keep the body count down. It was served with fries and what looked like BBQ sauce.

Being the type of person who dips their fries into almost anything—ranging from gravy to ice cream—I first tried the fries in the runny BBQ sauce. It wasn’t anything special, actually it didn’t really match. I started to worry whether this thing was only good to look at.

However, I decided to push through and thought about dousing the burger with it. However, if I did that, then I’d have to use the knife and fork to eat it and that would be sacrilege. Like eating pizza with a fork or using a spoon for sushi, its an insult to the food.

Not finding any way around it, I gave in and prayed to the burger Gods for forgiveness. I slathered the bacon-wrapped burger with the BBQ sauce, cut it in half, cut off a small portion, and took a bite.

I was at a loss for words and simply thought that I had gone to heaven. It was one of those meals that make you shout Hallelujah since 1) it’s so delicious and 2) you might be meeting your maker soon because of it.

It was one of the best things to ever enter my mouth. The crunchy bacon, smoky sweet BBQ sauce, and thick burger patty all melded together in one great ensemble that made it seem like rainbow spewing unicorns were dancing around on my tongue.

It was literally that good.

Not for the Faint of Heart

All in all, Zark’s burger is one of those food places that will make you hesitate to return to but you end up going back anyway. Perhaps it really isn’t one of the healthiest meals anywhere, but it’s bound to be one of the most memorable.

Also, despite how the place initially looked to me, by the time I finished my meal, the place was already full of people looking for meat.

The grease and fat that you ingest will probably stay in your arteries for as long as you live—or for what’s left of your life, anyway. However, it’s probably all worth it.

According to one online comic, there are 6 reasons why bacon is better than true love and one of them is: “Love is fleeting, but bacon stays in your arteries for all eternity.

Zark’s Burgers has branches in BF, along Taft Avenue, and on Katipunan Avenue.

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Richard Marx offers record deal to Pinoy YouTube sensation


Aldrich Lloyd Talonding first made waves online with his heart-wrenching rendition of “Dance With My Father”.  The YouTube video with his cousin playing the guitar appeared in mid April and has since been picked up by Hollywood talkshow host Ellen Degeneres. After viewing Talonding’s YouTube clip, Ellen extended an open invitation to the talented duo to guest in her show. She said she was impressed by the “soul” in the boy’s singing.

Fast forward to July. Talonding and his cousin James Bucong already have their passports and are just waiting for their US visas to be issued so they could go to Hollywood. Not only will they perform on the Ellen show, but they have also been offered a record deal by Grammy award winner singer and composer Richard Marx.

According to News 5, Marx sent a message to Talonding’s elder sister and offered to record and produce Aldrich and James’ cover of “Dance With My Father”.  It is interesting to note that Marx himself was one of the composers of the Luther Vandross hit. Marx will reportedly fix his schedule to coincide with the pair’s arrival in the US.

While this appears to open the doors to stardom for the young boy from General Santos, he says success is bittersweet. Aldrich lost his father in early June this year, and this allows him to sing “Dance With My Father” with so much more depth and emotion.  Besides the said song, their cover of the David Guetta hit “Titanium” is also becoming popular online.

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Sugar high at Vanilla Cupcake Bakery


COCONUTS HOT SPOT — Cupcakes are becoming more and more popular all over the world. In fact, there are TV shows dedicated to finding the best cupcake bakers, the most original, and, of course, the best tasting cupcakes.

These usually tiny and fancy treats are fast becoming a food group in themselves especially now that there is a new cupcake shop creating a buzz in the metro  – Vanilla Cupcake Bakery.

Country Meets High Tea

Anybody who has already visited the shop would admit that the first thing that caught their interest is how the place looks. It’s total eye candy! The moment you step inside, you will feel like a little girl transported into one of her storybooks.

The decorations, furniture, and over-all set up appear like something straight from a Strawberry Shortcake and Friends movie set. It’s a treat for the eyes and the tummy.

If you are feeling stressed and are looking for a comfort food that will make you feel warm and fuzzy again, Vanilla Cupcake Bakery will not disappoint you.

The place is truly relaxing and will give you the illusion that you have entered a magical realm where troubles and problems are left behind. Savor their red velvet, vanilla, as well as salted caramel cupcakes.

And, if these flavors do not suit your taste, you don’t have to worry since you have over fifty more flavors to choose from.

More Branches to Check Out

The place is perfect for mother-and-daughter bonding, relaxing and chilling with friends, and even reuniting with long-lost acquaintances as the ambiance and various cupcake flavors available for tasting will definitely bring everyone to their “happy place”.

Vanilla Cupcake Bakery has several branches in the metropolis, Glorietta 3, Greenbelt, Trinoma, Alabang Town Center. What is unique about this place is their decor and theme.

It is really whimsical, colorful and downright pretty! It’s probably where Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter would choose to have afternoon tea.

For coffee and beverage lovers, it is interesting to note that their drinks are served in mason jars with handles and oversized porcelain mugs.

As for their prices, they’re still pretty affordable. Cupcake prices average at PHP70 each.

The portions can be shared if you and your friends want to have a cupcake-tasting session. With close to 50 kinds of cupcakes, you might have to.

Be ready to experience a special kind of sugar rush when you go to a Vanilla Cupcake Bakery branch.

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Spring is here!


COCONUTS HOT SPOT — Growing up in a family that frequented Binondo has trained my palate to crave the taste of real Chinese food wherever I am.

Fastfood Chinese does not cut it for me. I look for the flavors of Estero in Ongpin and raise my eyebrows when the food served does not measure up.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for upscale Chinese food. What I want is the hawker-type street food that is tasty and yummy and makes your mouth water at first sight.

I was doubtful that I would ever find a (Peking) duck rice meal to match the experience I had at one of Singapore’s hawker places many, many years ago.

Duck Rice Craving Satisfied

Imagine my surprise when we came upon this hole-in-the-wall in Legaspi Village, Makati. Spring by Ha Yuan is at the ground floor of the BSA Mansion building and looks like it could seat maybe 25 to 30 people at most. It was small, unpretentious, and smelled of street hawker classics.

I nearly cried when I saw a whole Peking duck hanging in the kitchen. Without thinking twice, I ordered duck rice and hubby got the Maki mi – a thick, gooey soup with plenty of noodles and mushrooms. I, on the other hand, was very very happy with my duck.

Lumpia Land

La-Lah Lumpia Bowl

That was not our first visit to Spring. That week alone, we must have gone there three times and we’ve been back often. My duck craving satisfied, we proceeded to try out the other items on the menu. The place is almost always packed with diners looking for filling yet very affordable meals.

One of Spring’s specialties are the lumpias. This is lumpiang sariwa with sweet soy-garlic sauce and crunchy peanuts. If you go to Binondo to get lumpia, you have a pretty good  idea of what I’m talking about.

Spring serves different kinds (vegetarian,  seafood, meat, and even light versions) of their lumpias. You can even get in a  bowl instead of a wrap. Siomais and dumplings are also great to try. The price range is a very affordable PHP70 to PHP90 for the lumpia and dumplings. And did I  say that the portions were generous too?

Spring’s Mushroom and Chive Dumplings

For the health conscious, the restaurant offers healthy options like an all veggie Monk’s bowl or platter. Their kua paos also come in whole wheat buns instead of the regular white variant. The service staff are very attentive and courteous too.

If you’re on a tight budget but want to survive working in Makati by eating healthy and nutritious food, you should pay Spring a visit. They’ll give you complimentary house tea and free soup if you ask nicely. They start serving at lunch time until about 9 in the evening.

The only disadvantage about this place is that sometimes, they run out of my favorite items and they don’t restock immediately.

Spring by Ha Yuan is at the G/F BSA Mansion Legaspi Village, Makati

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