Category: The Philippines

Filipino Street Food: Balut (Fertilized Duck Eggs)

The bus rolled with a jerky unease, escalating my debilitating cravings for food. The smoky green fields ceased their race towards the volcanoes as they met the concrete jungle.

Manila has a nasty reputation as a city clouded by the darker aspects of humanity, but traveling’s taught me that colorful cultures tend to create the most exciting and savory dishes.

My host has the pudgy, effeminate features Filipinas are known for. She’s a master caterer and a confident guide on my zealous quest for local delicacies.

She knows the place, and the market seems to fit the bill: barbeque carts, stray dogs, and warm, billowing smoke carrying the rapturing smells of authentic grub. My stomach’s reaching the peak of a howling crescendo, but she assures me we’ve found the remedy.

We’ve come to the right place. The municipality of Pateros is famous for producing balut, a fertilized duck embryo that found its place on Filipino tables after Chinese traders brought it from the north.

After 15 days of gestation, the fertilized eggs are ready to sell. They’ve just popped up from the buckets of sand that conceal their warmth, and I’m shocked.

Through my lens, a fetal duck seems oddly out of place against a backdrop of hot sauce and vinegar, but she consoles my queasiness with the reminder that “it’s more fun in the Philippines!” The locals are ever-happy to see a foreigner try their food, and a small crowd forms to watch.

Now retreat’s as likely as it is for the frontline warrior, so the hatch opens up and finds a surprising medly. The texture’s from an atrociously different world, but the infusion of tastes collaborate to charm my former hunger problem. The congregation’s pleased with my reaction and return to their business.

I’ve tried everything from scorpions to chicken brains during my year in China, but I missed the chance to sample the original Chinese version of fertilized eggs. Now I’ll have at least one clear goal for my next trip to the Middle Kingdom.

To see the search for & battle with balut, click here & watch between 0:22 & 3:44.

Travel to Philippines (Video)

Every country shows a different side of its unique beauty with each visit, but my time in the Philippines stood out above the rest. Take a look and find out why:

Highlights From the Video: Eating balut (duck fetus), island hopping and snorkelling in Busuanga, cliff jumping, waterfall swimming, biking, SCUBA wreck diving, transport on top of busses and inside dump trucks

Places Seen in the Video
Manila, Busuanga Island (Busuanga): Concepcion, Salvacion, and nearby islands

Important Notes for Philippine Travel
Manila is a mostly horrid city, but don’t be dismayed because the world’s best islands are only so far away.
Some areas like Manila and Cebu have crazed locals who see foreigners as walking ATM machines. Know where you’re going in these areas and BE AWARE of your surroundings.
English is spoken by nearly everyone, so it’s quite easy to find your way around the country.
Some of the world’s best wreck diving can be found near Busuanga, Palawan.

Best Time to Travel to the Philippines
The best time to travel always depends on what you’re looking for in your trip (do you want to see lots of people or none, for instance). The dry season for most of the Philippines starts in November and ends around April. Since I don’t like constant rains and prefer to see less tourists, the best time for me is in late November/early December when the rains have stopped but the massive crowds of the high season haven’t quite shown up yet.

Manila has a modern train system that’s easy to use, but you’ll have to be careful of your belongings here as thieves are on the prowl. Generally speaking, travel on land isn’t a problem.

Jeepneys and tricycles are always ready for hire.

When it comes to traveling between islands, boats are a little sporadic, oftentimes around one per week. Flights are fairly cheap (only a little more than most boats) and tend to leave about every day.

Most of my time was spent in Busuanga, so I can only recommend two places that I thought were top-notch. Ann & Mike’s in Concepcion is a cheap stay (600 pesos low season/700 pesos high for double capacity). Ann is Filipina and Mike is her Dutch husband. Mike is a very talkative, friendly guy who rearranged his life at 50 years old. He quit the grind, or the mice wheel as he likes to say, and chose to live the Good Life with the business he’s now running. Both Ann and Mike are a delight to stay with.

I have to give my highest recommendation for Al Faro Resort, across from Puerto del Sol, which is 3 km from Concepcion on the way to Coron. Their list price is 3700 pesos for a room, which is well out of the realm of backpacking prices, but you can do much better if you find some roommates and negotiate the price. The atmosphere, food, swimming pool, view and company of Al Faro are incredible.

View from the legendary tower of Al Faro at night.

Eats & Drinks
Like most east Asian destinations, you can spend a lot of money in the Philippines if you want to, or you can spend a little. Fortunately food is fairly cheap here. Street food comes in around 30 to 50 pesos and food is restaurants are in the 80 to 500 peso range. Drinks can be damn cheap if you buy them on the street (~50 pesos for a liter of coke and 80 pesos for a liter of rum), but if you buy in a bar or restaurant they’re going to be much more expensive. Local specialties are balut, adobo and seafood!

Welcome to the Philippines

I expected to see some Spanish influence in the Philippines, but only found a trace amount. 300 years of Spanish colonial rule should’ve been enough to leave more than a small percentage of vocabulary in the local language, Tagalog, but Catholicism sure left an impact, as did 50 years of being ruled as an American commonwealth.

With more than 7,100 islands that look like this, you can’t go wrong.

Some areas like Manila and Cebu are prone to nasty violence against foreigners, but Filipino hospitality shines through as some of the best in the world. Getting around and making friends is a breeze since everyone speaks English. What can you do here? For starters, you can go trekking through mountains and rice paddies, hike volcanoes, SCUBA dive (especially wreck diving), snorkeling, surfing, mountain biking, clubbing, island-hopping and relaxing on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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