I spent my 2011/2012 Christmas and New Year’s vacation in Manila and Boracay Island in the Philippines. Sarita and I both have this weird emotional connection to Southeast Asia so when we’re there we feel like it’s our second home and spend our final days brainstorming business start-ups to keep us in the country. We haven’t been back in the region since our 2008 visit in Thailand so we were definitely looking forward to it. This was also the first time Rita really immersed me in her “street food foraging” style. Since my Semester at Sea days, I knew I had a stomach of steel and will try anything at least once, so I told her she could drag me around just about anywhere.
Many people say Manila is just the pit stop to your next destination, but we had a blast weaving in and out of the markets, sampling a lit bit of everything along the way from classic chicken adobo to fried fish. We got so caught up in the action we accidentally invited ourselves to a birthday party when we thought they were preparing food for sale – oops! Thankfully, the Filipinos (at least everyone we’ve met while on our trip) are the most pleasant people I’ve ever encountered as a foreigner. I found out later from my friend Julie that the noodles, or pancit, is the traditional dish for birthday celebrations … ahhh, makes more sense to me now. 🙂
We both drew the line when it came to the Filipino street food delicacy, balut – essentially, a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Yeah … we are way too classy for that. Yet somehow adventurous enough to sample some durian. Ya know, the least favorite food of Andrew Zimmern? The man who says he prefers balut over this fruit, and also consumes other stomach-churning fare like fried silk worm larvae and sautéed giraffe beetles.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect when I returned from my trip and while uploading photos I caught an article that mentioned the Philippines just launched a new tourism campaign which was catching fire on the internet, openly inviting people to create their own version of the ads.
It didn’t take more than five seconds for me to figure out what I needed to submit (clearly, I have no shame.)