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A Food Lovers Guide to Filipino Cuisine – The Visayas and Mindanao

Posted by on Oct 29th, 2009
Filed Under: Food, Mindanao, Visayas, Walkabout Pinas

Tourism Philippines Walkabout Pinas ColumnistHeading south from Luzon, you’ll come to the central and southern regions of the Philippines. These are the islands of the Visayas and Mindanao and they offer up some internationally acclaimed taste sensations.

Philippines Food Lechon Cebu

Lechon Cebu
Photo by 2rokbotoy

Starting off with one of the most famous and one of my personal favourites, in the Visayas on the island of Cebu you’ll find the super succulent Lechon Cebu. Recently Anthony Bourdain of Travel Channel show No Reservations fame commented on his love of Lechon Cebu, “It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.” And I would have to whole heartedly agree with him. Slowly roasted and turned for hours the meat is so succulent and the skin is super crispy. Be warned that the skin is the part favoured by many so be sure you get a piece before it’s all gone.

Heading over from Cebu to the Island of Negros a number of local delicacies await. First of all is the Famous Piaya which can be found at Bongbong’s Pasalubong Center in Bacolod City. It’s made with flakey wheat flour dough and stuffed with muscovado, and is kind of like the ultimate pop-tart. Another favourite which can be found all over the Philippines but originated in Negros is Chicken Inasal. It’s basically chicken marinated in a mix of vinegar, calamansi, garlic and annatto seeds. The chicken is put onto skewers and grilled and the smell that wafts from this delicious grilled chicken dish is amazing.

Philippines Food Ted’s La Paz Batchoy

Ted’s La Paz Batchoy

Still in the Visayas but over in the Island of Panay in the city of Iloilo, make sure you stop by Ted’s La Paz Batchoy. While you can find branches of Ted’s in other locations around the Philippines, but the branch in Iloilo is the original and was started over 60 years ago in the La Paz market, Iloilo by Federico Guillergan, Sr. La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup made with different variations of ingredients including: pork organs, crushed pork cracklings, shrimp, vegetables, chicken stock, chicken breast, beef loin and round noodles. It’s a really great meal for any time of the day and offers some really unique tastes.

Philippines Camiguin Pastel Bread

Pastel Bread
Photo by Dave Ryan

Going south to Mindanao you will come across the island of Camiguin. While Camiguin is more famous for its lanzones fruit (which I didn’t like until I tried Camiguin Lanzones which were delicious), I fell in love with their pastel bread. This sweet bread with a gooey candied milk centre will win over any sweet tooth. Even though I do like my sweets, I could only eat a maximum of three in one sitting before my stomach was overwhelmed by the sugar in Pastel bread. They come in a variety of flavours but the original is a must have for any Camiguin visitor. While you can pick a box from the Benoni port or the Cagayan De Oro airport, you can also go right to the source and get a box in Mambajao, Camiguin.

Philippines Food Fresh Durian

Fresh Durian
Photo by Scott M. Allford

Finally in the province of Lanao Del Norte you can pick up a drink that you’ll never forget. In the city of Iligan you can pick up a delightfully sweet and flavourful Durian Shake from Iliganon. While many people have a hard time getting past the smell of durian (and it really does stink), the fruit itself is really tasty. It also seems that in Mindanao durian tastes better than anywhere else in the Philippines. The Durian shake is so sweet and super thick and Iliganon is a really good place to sit back, relax and enjoy.

Philippines Del Monte Golf Club meal with Pineapple Shake

Del Monte Golf Club meal with Pineapple Shake
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron

For other famous foods in Mindanao you should make a trip into Bukidnon and the Del Monte Pineapple plantation. Here you will find some of the tastiest pineapples on the planet. At the Del Monte Golf Club in Manolo Fortich you can pick up a reasonably priced three course meal with a tasty pineapple shake. Also famous for food in Mindanao is the city of General Santos in the southern province of Sarangani. General Santos is known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines and every September they have a Tuna Festival with a Tuna Culinary Contest where delicious tuna treats can be tasted by all.

While this is only a small sample of all the different foods you will encounter while travelling around the Philippines, they’re my favourites. I’m sure that on my future travels around these regions, new taste sensations which will truly delight the senses await. But in the end a great thing about the Philippines is that at the end of a long days travel, it’s really good to know that you can sit down to a truly delicious meal which is familiar yet exotic at the same time.

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Scott M. Allford has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has travelled extensively throughout Asia- Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country. Learn more about me [+]

Tourism Philippines thrives on the knowledge of the community. Got a tip, photo or even a guide on a place you been to in Philippines? We will love to hear from you!

8 Responses to “A Food Lovers Guide to Filipino Cuisine – The Visayas and Mindanao”

  1. Excellent article but may I have the liberty to add my two cents worth of comments. In Iloilo, besides La Paz Batchoy, there is Pancit Molo and Lumpia Jaro. In Marinduque, there is adobo na manok sa gata, ulang-ulang and kare-kare.

    • Ryan says:

      Hmm… I am not familiar with Lumpia Jaro even if I actually lived there for several years… Pancit Molo isn’t a favorite though…Do you do your kare kare in Marinduque differently? I think kare-kare was originally created in Pampanga…

  2. Hi Ryan, the Kare-kare in Marinduque is slightly different than the one in Pampanga. It is more spicy and drier in Marinduque. Lumpia Jaro was very popular when I was growing up in Iloilo. It is made with ubod ( coconut heart), shrimps and pork decorated with lettuce. So, when are you planning to visit Marinduque? Macrine and I will be there from mid December up to mid-April, 2010 for our annual snow bird sojourn.

    • Ryan says:

      That’s interesting, because Kare-kare is a big favorite of mine. But yeah, I haven’t seen nor heard a single Lumpia Jaro whilst I was in Iloilo for 5 years (and my Dad is actually from Iloilo too). We will try to squeeze in Marinduque next year – reckon you can post a suggested itinerary here maybe for 3d 2n or an overnight trip from Manila? Would be great to check out your resort.


  3. So your Dad is a fellow Ilonggo! I was born and raised in Iloilo until I was 25 years old then immigrated to US. I will be delighted to give you a 20 percent discount in the beach house and I will volunteer to be your personal guide and driver if you wish. Speaking of FOOD, I heard there is a new restaurant in Quezon City called Romulo Cafe. It is owned by the granddaughter of Carlos P Romulo. There are other two owners and the other one is my wife’s first cousin, Yong Nieva. Check it out, it is not that expensive, and I heard the food is heavenly. The ambience is perfect from the pictures, I received in Face Book.

    • Ryan says:

      Yep! I am also fluent in Ilonggo as well as Aklanon too. Sige, we rarely venture out to QC because it is a hell lot of drive but it would be pretty interesting to meet one of the greatest Filipino diplomat’s daughter. As you know, I have worked with different diplomats before as well and I have maintained good friendships with many of them as well. Yeah, we will make sure we visit Marinduque whilst you are here. Right now, we have these trips coming up – Bataan, Batanes, Puerto Princesa/Sabang (Palawan), Aklan, Romblon, Sorsogon, Albay, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Samar, Leyte, Davao Oriental, and Sarangani. As a writer, I can’t write about a place that I haven’t been to. Coming up on our featured provinces here would be Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon.


  4. I don’t understand why many people can’t stand the smell of Durian. For me, it smells great and I love the taste minus the calories^^.. I guess it needs getting used to. I grew up in Davao City so the smell isn’t an issue to me.

    Nice article by the way!

  5. Rebecca Aroña says:

    I like this post. I am from Bukidnon , grew up in the Del Monte pineapple plantation. Yes, the pineapple is incomparable.The durian in Davao made me love it despite the smell.

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