Paradise found…and it is definitely not Boracay!

palawan (9) It was dawn on a Wednesday when i was kidnapped. As everyone slept, I tiptoed out of the door into the waiting van, knowing nothing of my destination. The driver appeared groggy from interrupted sleep, struggling to stretch out the last few milligrams of coffee in his system he had the day before. The only thing reliable about McDonald’s these days is their breakfast menu, so a quick detour for some hot fluffy pancakes and bitter coffee was in order. Half an hour was spent discussing rumors and and gossip while slathering maple syrup and rich butter. The driver, too, did not know where I was going. He was just a driver.

Minutes have passed, and eventually closed on my time of departure. As I was dropped off at the airport, I was instructed to deliver two boxes. Knowing security is tight nowadays, even for domestic travel as I soon found out, I unceremoniously stuffed the boxes into my check-in luggage. resulting in being three kilos overweight. No problem.

After going through the numerous security procedures, I found myself buckling my belt back on in a small coffee shop just a few meters away from the departure gate, waiting for the plane to arrive. Flight was on time, according to the board, so it afforded me to enjoy the Manila sun for a few minutes and mooch off the wifi. Why is it that when one travels we find solitude in a good strong cup of coffee?

My fellow passengers were all dressed in their summer’s best. Colorful shorts, ridiculous shirts. Most sporting that dreaded iPad, not doing anything useful. A few backpacking foreigners were just whiling away the time reading pocket books and rolling their joints. As we boarded, the excitement mounted, because we were all going somewhere unknown, at least for most of us. Because the lure of an island beach paradise south of Manila seemed more inviting than staying in hot and humid Manila this time of year. We took off at exactly 7:20, the city growing smaller each meter we go higher.

I find myself seated next to two German backpacking tourists, looking out the window. Their conversations was interesting, as my rusty grasp of the Deutsch caught their plans once they deplane. They were headed to a resort just a few minutes away from Puerto Princessa, our destination. Half an hour into the flight, they fell silent as I have, just watching clouds roll by.

We arrive at Puerto Princessa just over an hour later. palawan (41) It was drizzling, no ounce of sunshine. But it didn’t matter. I had work to do. After stowing the luggage in a Fortuner, we took off for a long drive to the town of San Vicente. The laptop proved useful here, as I was able to catch two movies while going through rough jungle roads.Twice i thought we have arrived, for the gleaming Palawan coastline can be visible. After lunch we were at a private cove, a resort called Capari.

“Located in the final frontier of the Philippine archipelago of Palawan, is the spectacular tropical setting of San Vicente. Capari Resort is a modest boutique resort of 15 rooms situated in a private cove, offering serenity, privacy and non intrusive service with the warm Filipino hospitality.
A place where you can reconnect with nature, unwind and relax. Conveniently located in the centre of the emerald islands of San Vicente and near the Philippines’ longest 14.7 km white sand beach cove called, “Long Beach”. Deserted beaches, waterfalls and captivating viewpoints that will surely take your breath away.
Tropical beaches are plentiful and an abundance of marine life provide many activities to enjoy. Snorkeling, beach games, swimming, scuba diving, island hopping, mountain biking, hiking or running trails. After all these activities, a rejuvenating spa experience is at your service.
We provide tasteful accommodations, good food, new world and old world wine and activities for all. Capari Resort San Vicente is a secret waiting to be enjoyed.
We pride ourselves with eco-consciousness, being sustainable, helping local farmers, fisherman and employing the local community. Minimalizing our carbon footprint and working hard to keep San Vicente… Clean, Green and Pristine.”

palawan (10) 

palawan (2) The light rain added to the mystery of wilderness, as flaura and fauna were more pronounced. The resort had an elevated boardwalk, flanked by small cabins leading up the beach. And it was a sight to see. Tall palm trees, the water, the sand. At that moment I cursed the rain gods. I spotted a couple of cabanas along the beach front. Nice place to relax. After checking into my room, I went to the rustic kitchen to meat the crew. They fed me fried fish, egg and garlic rice for lunch. And after half a day of travel, it felt like the most delicious plate of seafood I have ever had.

I was to help prepare the food for the mayors of Bukidon, Iloilo and Palawan who were arriving the next day. With a four day menu in my hand, we set about organizing the kitchen. Fresh seafood as I have never before seen in any seafood market in Manila. So fresh they had rigor mortis, gleaming eyes, the scent of sea salt. We gutted Tanguigue, red snappers, milk fish, squid, Talakitok. Crabs. Spider crabs. That first night i slept under the stars. The cabins were small but comfortable. The twin bed was a welcome treat after a long day. No TVs, or internet, it was a world away from everything. So quiet was the place at night you could hear your watch tick.

The next four days when by in a blur. A line cook by the name of Jimmy was a fisherman by trade, and he really knew his fish. How many kitchen cooks have you seen that can cleanly fillet a meter long marlin under 5 minutes? He took me spear fishing one morning 5 minutes off shore. Snorkeling isn’t what I’m good at, but my struggles were rewarded with a vast coral world just beneath the surface, swarmed with every fish of every color and size. The corals formed avenues that were a delight to swim through. We caught a few fish, and after an hour we headed back. Before we beached, a lone snapper jumped out of the water and into our outrigger. That night we feasted. And Another Fisherman would go out at night to do the same, with a lamp attached to the front of the boat to attract the fish.

Each night after a 14 hour day, I would go to bed, listening to the drunken guests belt out in karaoke at the adjacent pavilion. It was amusing, the warbling lulling me to sleep, for each morning I had to get up before dawn for the breakfast service.

On my last night, tired as we are, the Capari staff and I built a bonfire and just lay down in the sand. The guests have departed, and I was just gaining strength for my flight back home. Next morning, the trip to the airport seemed a lot shorter. After checking in and purchasing some gifts, I boarded the flight, filled with sunburned tourists who were uncomfortable in their seats. An hour later we landed in Manila in the middle of a storm. Ironic. That’s ok. I have a whole gallon of wild honey to show for my trip.

If you want to move away from over crowded and over commercialized Boracay, book a few nights at Capari, an Island cove in the Northwestern town of San Vicente, Palawan. It is worth the trip.


Summer cooler: Refreshing Lemon Sorbet

So we have a function that required a palate cleanser. Naturally, lemon sorbet came to mind. Try as we might, for convenience sake, we scoured most of the supermarkets and gourmet shops, and nobody seems to have it on stock. So with a little research and some testing, a recipe was developed for the crisp taste of semi frozen sorbet. great for in between courses, the sorbet can also be a great way to cool down during the hot summer months.
The following recipe was quite simple. Only we had to do it without an ice cream machine. With a little effort and a whole lot of love, it can produce one of the lightest most refreshing sorbet anyone can make at home.
It is important that you use fresh lemons. Try and find lemons that are uneven as they guarantee they are not the waxy type. Roll it whole with the base of the palm to loosen the pulp before juicing. I recommend a Microplane to get the zest. The tool can neatly get fine shavings of the peel without getting the bitter rind, as that would be bad news for what you are about to create.

Bohemian Lemon Sorbet

Serves 6

Grated zest of one whole lemon
235 ml water
100 g sugar
120 ml lemon juice
1 egg white
120 ml carbonated mineral water
Candied lemon for garnish

  1. In a sauce pan, stir together lemon zest, water and sugar
  2. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer 5 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and let cool completely
  4. Whisk egg white until stiff
  5. Incorporate into lemon syrup
  6. Stir in lemon juice and carbonated water
  7. Place in a tall canister and place in freezer for about 90 minutes
  8. With a stiff wire whisk, break up ice crystals and beat to distribute evenly. Place it back in the freezer
  9. Break up ice crystals every two hours. The more the sorbet is beaten, the lighter and fluffier it gets

A stiff wire whisk makes breaking ice crystals easy. So get one that does not flex so easily. I used a mayonnaise plastic jar as a canister as it is easier to store and cover. Aluminum canisters tend to react with the lemon’s acid giving it a very faint grey tinge.
As compared to a granita, which is a frozen dessert, sorbets have egg whites to give it a softer texture. And since the beating incorporates air, the volume increases the velvet smoothness.
Let me know how yours turns out. Any suggestions to improve the recipe are welcome. Just post it up in the comments section.