~Original article from my travel blog available here.~
A plateful of art with a dash of exotic—at Balaw Balaw Restaurant alone in Angono, Rizal, it’s easy to understand why this little town is called the Art Capital of the Philippines.
It was a busy day—a Sunday—and a festival was underway in Angono. Like its streets we passed by earlier, the restaurant was also full to the brim with weekend tourists, most of whom probably coming from Metro Manila, which is a quick hour’s drive away.
We were at Balaw Balaw to eat, but the place didn’t look like the regular drab cafe nor the swanky chandelier-laden restaurant with the gold cutlery.
Instead, it had a mishmash of wooden sculptures, paintings, and other adornments, some three inches while others way past the average human height.
There were knicknacks hanging on neat rows from the ceiling—lots of them. The dining area surrounds an open space with even more sculptures, and underneath was a manmade pond. The restaurant struck us as an organized chaos of art.
But the real showcase is located a floor above the main dining hall. The second floor housed a gallery of even more wooden sculptures with religious and vernacular themes.
The fine craftsmanship that went into these elaborate pieces was nothing short of fascinating. And to find them all in one roof—hundreds of beautiful works from different artists all these years and across many generations—affirms Angono’s place in our country’s art scene. After all, it did produce two National Artists—Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco for Visual Arts and Maestro Lucio San Pedro for Music.
Butts, Balls, and Soup No. 5
It turns out we would be dining at a private dining hall on the second floor—not easy to find considering how crowded the area was. This room was as lavishly decked with paintings as the whole property, and it had a long wooden table and a verandah with a staircase leading—we assumed—to the kitchen downstairs since that was where our waiter emerged carrying our food.
And speaking of food, Balaw Balaw serves well-loved Pinoy staples, but it’s well known for its exotic menu.
Between Sizzling Butt and Balls (P235) and Soup No. 5 (P250), could anything be more exotic? By the way, these two go right into the top of their Exotic Dishes list.
For fans of balot, you can have your serving of this uniquely Pinoy food two ways: Sinabawan (P220) or Sizzling (cooked as adobo, P235).
Hold your horses—we’re not finished yet. Here are other, er, mouthwatering choices:
Cricket? It was too small to make an impact on the taste. Nothing gooey spurting in your mouth as your teeth cuts through the fried flesh. No nothing. It tastes fried, that’s all.
|Good thing there’s paella.|
Soup No. 5? We didn’t try. We each assumed the other one tried so we each did not.
Nilasing na palaka—this isn’t something new. And we don’t really consider it exotic. But for those who haven’t tasted, it tastes like chicken.
Then again, everything tastes like chicken.