Down to my last weekend in the Philippines, I convinced my sister to take me out, even for an early night, as I had to be awake by 6am the following day. With only a few hours to kill, we went to Poblacion.
Stop 1: Dinner at Cosmic
To preface, I do not subscribe to the vegan lifestyle. (If you are considering becoming vegan just to slim down a notch, there are other types of diets you might want to look into, but don’t ask me about keto either. If, however, you have had some life-changing realization and want to go vegan, by all means, go ahead—just don’t shame us non-believers. Same goes for keto.) So when someone tells me that a restaurant serves amazing vegan Filipino food, my curiosity is peaked. Vegan? Really? OK, let’s try it.
It turned out that Cosmic serves a variety of cuisines, but I came there for Filipino food, and two people can only eat so much. We ordered: sisig, kare-kare, and enoki mushroom tempura. But let me talk about the sisig and the kare-kare.
Sisig is a sizzling dish traditionally made from pig’s ears and cheeks—Filipinos do not like putting anything to waste, hence, the use of unconventional pig parts. It’s nice and crunchy and salty and is a versatile dish: sisig with egg becomes breakfast, sisig served early becomes an appetizer, and sisig with beer makes a good pulutan. On the other hand, kare-kare is always served as a main dish. It’s a peanut-based stew with ox tail and/or tripe and a bunch of vegetables: eggplant, bok choy, green beans, and banana blossoms (but I prefer to call is puso ng saging). It is typically eaten with bagoong or shrimp paste, which is served on the side.
The verdict: it exceeded expectations, not that I knew what to expect, but it was that good. The flavor of the sisig was spot on. It was also a lot easier to appreciate, given that there are already non-pork alternatives to sisig. The kare-kare, however, was another story. If you do not subscribe to the vegan lifestyle, you know for a fact that you can get better tasting kare-kare elsewhere. Considering, however, the effort these people took to make vegan meat and vegan bagoong, which, by the way, tasted good, I was a happy camper. I also liked that it was affordable, which is not typically characteristic of vegan food.
Stop 2: Drinks at Agimat
Filipino culture is so intertwined with the spirits and with magic that there are some words that you hear despite living in an urban setup. Some of these words refer to creatures, like duwende or kapre, and, if you listened to Bamboo way back when, you’ll have heard of agimat, which refers to talismans or amulets, of magic and power. (For context, here’s the music video of Noypi, in which song Bamboo sings: Hoy, Pinoy ako! Buo aking loob, may agimat ang dugo ko.)
And now here we are at Agimat, a bar with an expansive cocktail menu—all drinks named appropriately. The drinks were good, and we had the pleasure of sitting at the bar, where we watched the baristas create magic inspired drinks. My favorite part about Agimat is its showcase of Filipino myths and beliefs, especially located in a city that is undoubtedly becoming westernized. It’s a nice reminder of history and culture that the urbanization and progress seems to be leaving behind.
Note: At the time of our visit, there was a 2+2 drinks promo for Zomato Gold, so if you or your friends have Zomato Gold, it’s your time to shine! If the promo has since passed, a visit is still worthwhile.
Stop 3: (More) Drinks at Annex House
Millennial life is such a production. We jam pack our schedules and have multiple social media accounts and give off the idea that we are always busy as if there’s something wrong with not being busy. But I’m over it. I don’t need to always be doing something.
We chanced upon ANNEX HOUSE en route to Agimat and decided to come back after. It was literally a house in Poblacion, transformed into a social club of sorts. Downstairs was The workshop. which showcased local crafts/businesses, and upstairs was where the bar was located. The bar had a small menu of locally inspired cocktails: mango rum, gin buko, and calamansi fizz. Also upstairs: a living room with party lights and music and a smaller room with a wide window.
I fell in love with the vibe. We stationed ourselves in the room with the wide window, and it felt like I was in a house in the province. You know, when you’re visiting your lolo and lola and all you have are the stars in the night sky, the sound of crickets chirping, and the company of your love ones.
Stop 4: Comfort Food at ABKD
We were ready to end the night (again, some of us needed to wake up by 6am), but we were hungry, so we went to ABKD to order food and one last round of drinks. We ordered comfort food: rice bowls and Filipino breakfast, because doesn’t a nice warm plate of chorizo and tapa and egg and rice just taste so satisfying after a long night? To me, it does. And the food didn’t disappoint.
I think I was pretty hungry at that point because I didn’t take pictures of the food. Oops. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it (or look them up online or something). Also, I found out that there was a bar upstairs, but I’ll just have to go there another time because 6am was getting closer and closer, and we had to go.