So, I’ve been to and fro Cagayan de Oro five times this year. And it’s not yet even half of 2012. All these trips are business-related and not one was for leisure. The most leisurely thing I’ve done in this southern city in the Philippines is a hair cut in one of the beauty salons and dining out. Good thing that the food, the company, and the dining experience compensate with the hours spent in our build sites (and my unfulfilled hunger to go white-water rafting).
Cagayan de Oro has been hit by tremendous flooding caused by typhoon Sendong (Washi) on December 2011. Not a good way to spend Christmas and New Year for the families there. Throughout my trips, which was done almost every month, the city is gradually rising up to the challenge and is bringing the vibrance back to life. Night markets, food stalls, street massage, and such is the scene I found one Friday night at Cagayan de Oro’s downtown area, known as Divisoria. I’d love to try the street food but I was content with the food I’ve tasted in the various restaurants in the city.
I’ve stayed at the Prawn House Suites and Restauarant, a quaint inn at the back of SM Mall, a couple of times. Not only is the place a walking distance from the mall, it also serves affordable and delectable prawn dishes. If you are into crabs and prawns, the Prawn House is a good try.
Right at the heart of the city, along 50 Apolinar Velez St., Sentro 1850, serves a variety of food, from meat to seafood, from steak to pasta, and from Philippine to International cuisines. The food is a bit pricey for a local, although it is almost the same price range as other fine dining restaurants in the contry. The pastries and cakes seem delicious, though I never got to try them. Sentro 1850 is accessible and ideal for meetings.
My last visit had me stay at the Stonestown Suites, just along the highway and a few minutes from the airport. It’s even a walking distance from SM Mall. Free breakfast was served at the building’s Aroma Restaurant. The beef steak was delicious. Plus, the small coffee shop and restauarant is a cozy place where one can just pass the day undisturbed.
Buffalo Resto Grill
It was like a banquet when we held our evaluation dinner in this restaurant. We had a private room for 50 people where we spent the rest of the evening belting it out over the karaoke machine. The food was sumptuous and the place is very affordable. Just expect to find meat dishes on your table though. It is just across the Provincial Hall and close to Divisoria. This is a good place to celebrate special occasions.
My colleagues who are based in Cagayan de Oro (and slowly becoming a local expert themselves) brought us to Kagay-anon Restaurant, said to be one of the most popular dining places in the city. Public officials, as well as visiting personalities, frequent this restaurant. And for the the first time, I tasted Ostrich meat. To my surprise, it was sumptuous! I must say that I had the best dinner ever here in CDO. The kinilaw, the shrimp, the ostrich, and the fresh coconut juice made my night. Definitely, it’s worth coming back to CDO and to Kagay-anon with such delicious food.
Birthday party with Roasted Pig
I had another one unforgettable dinner in CDO. And it was not held in a restaurant. A birthday party of a young man was celebrated in his own abode, which was devastated by the flood, evidenced by the hardened mud on their ceiling. I didn’t know the celebrant personally but I went with the whole gang to his dinner party. In the province, such occurence is not surprising as they usually open their doors to visitors and guests. That is the Filipino hospitality to the hilt. So there I was, seated in this man’s living room, with a roomful of children.
Though they are a humble family, they prepared roasted pig, along with spaghetti and other home-made Filipino dishes. Roasted pigs are usually served during momentous occasions, in this case, a birthday celebration. Unabashed, I cut a crisp offering of the roasted pig skin and placed on my plate. Before we knew it, the pig was opened in half, with little meat and all bones left. It was a filling meal and a great way to experience family birthday dinners as locals do.
These dining experiences made my visits to Cagayan de Oro heartwarming. The food sates my appetite. The laughter over meals fill my heart. And the positive energy of the people is the rainbow that brings color and hope to CDO.