Baliwag Lechon and KTV: Perfect at Cafe Havana!

Baliwag is lechon manok. Period. Wrong.

There are three Baliwags in in BF Homes Village in Parañaque City. Two sell lechon manok and the other pata. Three are along Aguirre Avenue. One of these is a Baliwag restaurant where besides serving the best lechon manok ever (!), they also run a full-service restaurant. What’s more, they have a family KTV called Cafe Havana. I bet many of you didn’t know that huh? 🙂

We have been regular customers of the restaurant for about three years now. But we haven’t been to the family KTV until recently when after attending a Friendster rock concert at Festival Supermall in Alabang, the kids and their cousins decided to do some singing themselves. So there we went to Cafe Havana. The place is like your usual family KTV excpet that it’s more cozy and doesn’t smell like a “pugon” due to cigarette smoke. I guess the ventilation was really quite good.

On weekends, you have to come a bit early since many frequent the place on Fridays and Saturdays. You’d think that the lots of cars parked just go to Baliwag Restaurant to eat. But many would move to Cafe Havana (just right beside the resto) and stay till 2am. There were 7 of us. We were charged 50 pesos per head per hour, non-consumable. We spent a total of PhP 1,500 for food, drinks (including a pitcher tequila and 2 beers) and tips for a two-hour session. Not bad eh?

So the next time you’re thinking of doing some videoke in the area of Parañaque, Las Piñas, or Alabang, try visiting Cafe Havana. Go for a cheap fiesta-type of a dinner at the Baliwag resto first, then belt your heart out after. It’s worth the experience.

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Las Pinas’ Manuyo Dos: Bring back the peace, please!

Las Pinas City


That’s what I see brewing in the coming barangay elections this October 25th in barangay Manuyo Dos in Las Pinas City.

It’s between incumbent chairman Gil Galvez and the contender, Abe Castillo who is currently Gatchalian Subdivision’s phase 4 homeowners association president.

SM City Sucat

I have been in Manuyo Dos since 1976. It has always been a peaceful community with almost no flooding except for the low-lying areas of phase 7, 2, and some of phase 5. Today. it’s a different story. It is said that since the establishment of SM Sucat and the C5 extension, flooding has been more widespread.

There are 2 main things that should be addressed in Manuyo Dos: Peace & Order and Flooding. Unfortunately, actions on these 2 things are close to nil in my books. Crime rate is up. The akyat-bahay gangs and street thugs seem to be having a field day. In Gatchalian Subdivision, there are even tragic road mishaps and cellphone snatchers!

C5 Extension

All around the villages, you’ll see flooding during a quick downpour. This has never happened before. With reportedly 15 million pesos in annual budget for the barangay, “where art thou?” Gosh, we don’t even have an ambulance!

There are times when I miss the 1980’s of Kapitan Vid Villegas who acted like Erap in his movies. One time, this guy chased a bunch of akyat-bahay gangmen with his Toyota Starlet and caught them in what is now phase 9 in Gatchalian. After the incident, on the way to his residence, he even accosted a “puto” vendor for not having a vending license. So it was just right that Kapitan Vid won a million pesos in the defunct Far East Bank raffle.

Then there was Inay Alday. She was always at odds with Kapitan Vid when she was a kagawad (councilwoman). Inay, as she’s fondly called, led the barangay to new heights from the time of Mayor Casimiro, till her maximum term eventually ended. Well, there was the forgettable term of now-city councilor Oca Pena. Chairman Bong Nery was good and clean. I liked him for being straight-forward with his “walang masamang tinapay” attitude. However, he seemed to be more destined to be an entrepreneur than a “politician.” He only did one term.

Well, Kapitan Vid has passed away many years ago, Inay and Bong are retired from barangay politics. We need solutions to peace and order and flooding.

I believe that there are only 2 main contenders in Manuyo Dos: the incumbent Gil Galvez and the Phase 4 Homewoners president Abe Castillo. The feisty Abe Castillo is reportedly a former military intelligence man, too. Can either man give us the solutions to what’s bugging our community? Abangan.

To whoever gets elected, please give us back our peace of mind.

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Cafe Boheme: A melting pot in the south metro

Do you speak Korean?

I asked because right here in Cafe Boheme, that’s the “unofficial” langauge. Hey, I’m not in Korea. I’m in the upper middle class village of BF Homes in Paranaque City (the Philippines). Cafe Boheme is the Korean “coffee shop-tambayan.” For some reason, Koreans like the place even though a new Starbucks has sprouted a few blocks away.

The younger set populate Cafe Boheme. It’s probably the big lounge chairs and music that attracts them here. Food and coffee are withinnbudget range. Coffee which is the equivalent of a grande in Starbucks is only 65 pesos.

But Sweetie and I love this place, too. It’s quieter than Starbucks, for one. The coffee may be so-so but the pastas and sandwiches are delicious. So what’s a coffee shop without good coffee? Wi-fi is free, buddy! We all know that wi-fi isn’t free in Starbucks (at least in the Philippines!).

For the not-so-young, newspapers are free and up-to-date. There’s Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star and Inquirer.

The Koreans? Well, they’re pretty cool here. They “tambay”just like we do. Sweetie is immersed in her book while I’m hammering away at my netbook. Oh, my netbook’s LG — Korean-made. So I guess I’m an honorary Korean, too, for today. 🙂

If you’re in the BF Paranaque area, Cafe Boheme is across the Tides, and is past the Presentation Church. Drop by the place and come back to this blog to comment if you’re not satisfied.

For now, I’m enjoying my coffee and raisin oatmeal cookie. Chow! (how do you say that in Korean?)

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Viaje de Descanso a la Casa San Pablo

What an excuse to get away.

The Friendster Team went on a team-building activity in Casa San Pablo, San Pablo City in Laguna. Having teen-aged kids, I took my sweetie along for the trip. Well, I needed help in case the kids (the Friendster team, that is) went rowdy and needed a mom…haha.

Living in the south has its privileges. We didn’t need to wake up so early since San Pablo City was only an hour-and-half’s drive from my place. We met the rest of the team at Seattle’s Best in Caltex, just before the Sta. Rosa exit of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

There are actually two ways going to San Pablo City from the Calamba exit. One is through Calauan via Pansol in Los Banos, Laguna. The other, which me Sweetie took, was via Sto. Tomas in Batangas. Coming from Sto. Tomas, Casa San Pablo is at the right side of the street where the main Puregold entrance is located.

Casa San Pablo was formerly called “Kay Inay”(Mother’s). “Inay” was the endearing term for the grandmother of Boots Alcantara, Casa San Pablo’s owner and resident manager. The place is almost unnoticeable from the main street except for its old steel gate with a security guard. Casa San Pablo covers a huge tract of land in the city. The Alcantara family used to own that one-hectare property before selling it to Puregold recently.

Upon entry, the security guard shall guide you to the parking lot. Walking through a path,  the swimming pool is the first refreshing site you see. Crossing a small footbridge over a creek, you’re guided to the main reception area which is like your old grandparents’ lanai where old furniture abound.

The rooms are strategically spread out in almost cabana style. Boots said that the rooms were originally designed by popular potter Ugu Bigyan of Tiaong, Quezon, who’s a an old friend. “That was before Ugu decided to concentrate on doing pottery,” Boots confided with a smile.

Walkway entrance

Trellis entrance

Old iron marks Room 8

Other rooms

Lanai, Lounge area


Casa San Pablo in itself is art. Besides its interiors and furnishings, the paintings and little works of art abound. From the red paper mache horses on the small study table in the living area to the old Lambretta scooter somewhere at the back of the dining hall, everything’s worth a camera shot.The rooms have their own personalities. One was even decorated with Boots’ collection of Matchbox cars. Many paintings and sketches were done by the famous Saturday Club (of artists) who meet Casa San Pablo once-in-awhile for their sessions.

Our Room

Hammock break

The boss is working


There are hammocks tied to pine trees in the garden. At night, candles in small bottles light the place, making it almost surreal.  The big garden leads to the Alcantara’s residence where Mommy Vinya lives. Boots jokingly told us that, “My mom is Casa San Pablo’s official guest relations officer.” Indeed, she is. Mommy Vinya was the first to greet us when we arrived. It’s as if you came home to your Lola’s house.

Ăťummy food!


Just pictures

Dining at Sulyap

Sweetie & I @ Sulyap

Dining area @ Sulyap

Old stairs

What’s Casa San Pablo without the food? Again, the home-made cooking will always remind you of your grandparents in the province — with a touch of San Pablo’s style and taste. And when I meant the food was super “sarap,” this meant all meals. It’s even as if Lipton’s hot tea tasted more delicious there.

During our brief stay, there was a retreat being conducted for the Southridge School. Our host Boots said he even gave a talk. Interestingly, the rooms and dining halls of Casa San Pablo can be arranged to fit small and big groups alike. Our room was even turned into a honeymoon suite!

Sweetie with Mommy Vinya

Alcantara residence

A pose with Boots

A Lambretta scooter

Besides retreats and seminars, there are many other activities that can be done in Casa San Pablo: videoke, frisbee, stargazing, billiards, and in-room or group massage. For those wanting to catch up with the outside world, there’s free wi-fi. (Yey!)

Scenic Sampaloc Lake

Sampaloc Lake & Mt. Banahaw

The Boatman @ Sampaloc Lake

Since Casa San Pablo is part of the Viaje Del Sol chain of suggested tourist places to go in the south, there are a number of spots to visit, and use Casa San Pablo as your home for a few days. Nearby is Sampaloc Lake, Sulyap Restaurant and Ugu Bigyan’s House.

In all, Casa San Pablo was worth the trip. We went there to re-charge. And re-charge we did.

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Day Trip to Tagaytay Highlands


That’s how I’d describe the exclusive enclave of Tagaytay Highlands Golf and Country Club. It’s a for-members-only paradise disguised as a golf and country club. But thanks to Henry Sy, Sr.’s major investment in the venture, his executives get to sample the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Tagaytay Highlands is easily accessible via the Sta. Rosa exit of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Once you get to the top of the main highway overlooking Taal Lake, turn left towards Picnic Grove. You will pass Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), part of which has been converted into a Bed & Breakfast inn. I suggest you drop by Maryridge Good Shepherd Convent, just after DAP, on the right side of the road. There’s a sign telling you what you’ll buy: Ube Jam. Besides the super-hit ube jam, sample their halo-halo, lumpiang ubod, and chicken empanada. Don’t forget to take home Tawilis sardines, atchara (papaya and veggie varieties), and the to-die-for sweet-and-spicy dulong! 

Now, off to Tagaytay Highlands, which is about 3 minutes away from the Good Shepherd Convent.

My good ole-buddy Tito and his gracious wife Mina were our hosts. They made sure we toured the place, sampled the delicious and affordable food, and relaxed in the club’s jacuzzi and pool.

As guests, we first went to the administration office to fill out a form and get our day pass. There’s a consumable amount of PhP1,800 plus a one-time entrance fee of PhP200 for the whole party. The office is located at the main club where the main dining area is also situated. I believe this is where the golf tee-off is also located.

By car, we went to the where the cable cars were. This is where the fishing area and pool facilities are also located. We first rode the cable cars which could accomodate four adults and one child for each car, which comes in threes. The cable car will take you across the the hill where below is a forrested ravine dotted with banana trees that seem to be untouched. The cable ride ends at the main building where the administration office is. Take some pictures. Frameables are: the view of the golf course, the mountain ranges, exclusive cottages and  of course — the Taal Lake and it’s little active volcano.

After a lot of picture-taking, we headed back to the pool area via the cable cars.

You will need to sign-in and get your own lockers. Since the male and female locker reception areas are connected, you can just register in either and get your towels, soap and shampoo. Each person will be charged about PhP250 for use of the pool, jacuzzi and its facilities. Food can be ordered at the pool area where a cool covered space serves as dining-ala-cabana area. There’s always a waiter to serve you in the pool area, so go ahead and indulge. The kids enjoyed the food and the cool water in the pool where a man-made waterfall fit perfectly into the scenery. As for me and my buddy Tito, we squeezed in a 30-minute meeting in the pool area while our wives chit-chatted and the kids explored the place. 

Going on a weekend, especially on a Sunday, means going home at about 5:00 p.m. to catch the 5:30 p.m. mass at the Catholic church near Picnic Grove. Tito’s family saw this as more convenient than hurrying home to Las Pinas City and catch the late night mass. As for Sweetie and I, since we already heared mass on Saturday evening, we took time to but fresh flowers along the road towards Sta. Rosa. It’s been relocated from along the main Tagaytay highway to the place where there’s a long billboard at the corner of the Silang-Sta. Rosa highway. Oh, and we bought three dozens of pink Carnations for only PhP350. In Manila, that would have cost PhP450! 

Places to stop-over for snacks and quick-buys would be the fruit stands along the road (towards Sta. Rosa), Rowena’s for buko (coconut) and mango pies, mango and ube tarts, and those yummy cream pies, and Mr. Moo for cow, carabao and goat milk products and cheeses.

We usually make a stop-over at Nuvali’s Solenad place for dinner at either Pig-Out, Yellow Cab Pizza, David’s Tea House, or Brother’s Burger. In our many trips to Tagaytay. Have coffee after at — where else? Starbucks.

Back on SLEX, it was a fast and easy ride. You can have a quick- stop for gas or rest at a Shell or Caltex  station, where in many of our Tagaytay trips, we’d dine at either Pancake House or Jollibee (at Shell) or KFC (at Caltex).

Exiting Filinvest, it is unusually traffic so we instead take the main Alabang exit where the snag is usually below the flyover where vehicle and pedestrian traffic converge near the wet market.

Nearing our home, the kids are still snoozing and probably dreaming about our day trip to the exclusive paradise enclave that is Tagaytay Highlands.

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Mixed up “Mixed” SLEX Toll Booths

I just want to rant about the newly constructed “Mixed” toll booths on SLEX at the Filinvest entry and exit points and so as those at Sta. Rosa entry-exit points.

I can’t understand why they haven’t put any signs explaining what’s in store as there’s some confusion especially among E-Pass holders. You’re made to pass 2 toll booths. Going south from Filinvest, you would first be made to pass through the tunnel and onto the E-Pass lane, then exit through another toll booth tagged as “Mixed.” Exiting Sta. Rosa, there are again 2 types of toll booths. This happens again when you exit ta. Rosa and enter Filinvest again. I am not sure if it’s happening elsewhere. It’s just so confusing to go through 2 E-Pass toll booths.

The SLEX "Mixed" lane

What’s more confusing is that they have changed the E-Pass lanes from extreme right to extreme left. That’s without any warning signs way ahead. So when you’re caught in Sunday traffic going to the toll booths, it’s going to be a bitb late before you realize the change in lanes. Thus, you’ll need to make a swerve from rightmost lane to leftmost lane once nearing the toll booths. Beware, southerners!

Calling SLEX traffic enforcers and regulators…please tell us what’s going on?!?

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Text Scam: Anna Marie Velasco

“An angel crying for help.”

Wow, what a tag line! This SMS scammer should have been a copywriter for the advertising industry. It pinches the heart, doesn’t it? Then again, beware!

I received this text (in Fiipino) through my Globe number last January 25, 2010:

“Pued po b akong humingi ng 2long sa inyo? I’m marie, 21yo fresh grad po from Bacolod City. Gagawin ko po ang lahat ng kapalit na gusto nio, ma2lungan nio lng po akong makapunta sa mynila.My job hiring n asana po kc ako jan sa san mig-ortigas, syang po kc kung madissolve lng..Im willing to take the risks ng kpalit na hhngin nio. Un nlng tlga pgasa ko na mkluwas kgd pra mhbol deadline ko po. My pic & supporting docs po ako sa – marie”

In my terms, it was “tagos sa puso.” I worked for San Miguel before and was sure this was indeed a great opportunity for new grads. If you had the money to give for fare for the sake of charity, why not? Forget the part “she’ll do anything in exchange” as it is so un-Christian. So I checked her site and read it. I researched on the web and alarm bells already sounded. It was a scam.

A few days later, this is the text I got:

Name: Marie Velasco
Age: 21
Birthdate: Feb 21, 1987
Height: 5’7″
Complexion: Fair
Vital Stats: 35-25-36
Hair: Long and straight
Other: joined some provincial pageants for allowance
Course: BS Information Management (Computer and Accountancy)
School: DOST Scholar in University of St. La Salle – Bacolod
Parents: Anna and Mario Velasco (both deceased)

So I just played along and texted back and asked how I could help and this was “her” initial reply:

“My deadline na po sana kasi ako dis coming Feb 1 po.. 9am sa San Miguel ITServices department pos a ortigas. Junior IT Specialist po ung position na inaapplayan ko.. Sayang po tlga kc dhl related sa course ko.. Final briefing nlang po sana..”

Then I asked how much money was needed for fare, “her” reply was:

“Depende po kung saan nio ko pasasakayin.. Barko o eroplano po? Ung boat fare sa superferry is 2,350 po with 4 trips per week. Monday, wed, fri and Sunday po. While ung plane po is 3,268 with 3 flights EVERYDAY po”

By this time, it was obvious that this scammer has cut-and-paste answers. The actual fares were really cheap. The deadline was supposedly February 1 so the option of taking the boat was out of the question as it will take 2-3 days to get to Manila from Bacolod City. Besides, the fact that it takes the texter between 12 to 24 hours to respond means that “she” is not really that desperate and changes SIM cards, the one being used to scam not a permanent one.

Here are the websites the scammer built for a tinge of legitimacy:

This text scam dates back to June 2008 from the first time a blog about it was posted and many other earlier posts on the subject. It has been active the whole of 2009 till this year as per my personal account.

Be careful out there my good-hearted friends. Wolves abound.

Some links to other posts on the Anna Marie Velasco Text Scam:

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