Fonso’s pares and pigar-pigar


Pares is not new to me. It’s ubiquitous on the side streets of Metro Manila, but I actually discovered its makeup in Laoag (here). Pares is a Filipino word for paring or combo, so it consists of beef stew, fried rice and soup. Whoever invented it, pares has come a long way. If you are not yet acquainted with its bold flavors, you should give it a try. There’s this new carinderia, Fonso’s, situated on Paoay Road in the Northwestern University neighborhood, which serves beef pares and pares mami. Their version is very Asian, what with the distinctive star anise element and dusting of sesame seeds, giving it a bit of teriyaki-like savor. You get a good deal for just 60 pesos (pares mami is only 40 pesos).

You will also find Ilocano favorites such as hi-bol and paksiw, as well as budget meals, perfect for students and sales reps living in the vicinity. But they’ve also introduced another street food phenomenon, the pigar-pigar, a Pangasinenses dish made with carabeef, cabbage  and thick slices of onions. For those with an aversion to carabeef like me, Fonso’s uses only beef. Pigar-pigar may look simple, but it’s packed with relatable audacious flavors ideal for rice. There’s always a first time for everything. Ate everything in the photos and ended the carinderia meal with a bottle of Sparkle.


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Filling up at The Gas(tro) Station

The Gastro Station

Just how one new food spot in Laoag could awaken memories of home in the last 12 months. At the zenith of rice bowls, I find it wonderful that LA celebrity chef Roi Choi has Filipino chicken adobo alongside kimchi spam bowl on his Chego menu, while Laoag’s prominent son, Jeff Fariñas (refreshing to know he set aside his political career to jack up a love for food and cooking), cooks Korean bibimbap along with pares and his other favorite comfort food at The Gas(tro) Station, which replaces their old gas station on busy General Luna corner Villanueva Streets.

the gastro station bibimbappepper rice

Chanced upon owners Jeff and Charisma who made me try the gastro wraps, inspired by a dish by David Chang of Momofuku fame. Well, found it an affordable rendition of Red 8’s Peking duck skin rolls. Jeff used pork to match the same hoisin sauce, and added a kick of sriracha. My baby Alexandra liked it and she loved her pepper rice and she is so finicky with food.

The big rice eater might not be gratified with just one bowl of bibimbap. It’s an intention to present it as a healthy option. To date bibimbap is their bestseller.

Charisma says it was Jeff who developed all the dishes and keeps on whipping up more like cheesesteak  sandwich while she takes care of the business side.

gastro wrap

I like the easy feel of the place. With upcycled interiors and pretenseless furniture, the food stands out. I think it’s a current global trend — commissaries, counter-service, communal seating, eclecticism and modern food.

If gassing up means this good, then make mine full tank again and again.

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Crispy miki up close and personal


All the food I haven’t had in a year are real, waiting to be devoured. I had Rara’s longaniza on my first night, pinakbet with chicharon on my second night, omg, Dawang’s crispy dinardaraan one morning, and empanada in my own home (my talented cook has already perfected that orange thing, and I already know how to make it. Hahah, hello, skill!). I also had miki, but in a newer form.

Crispy miki was the star of a conversation among locals and visitors at an event I attended in Laoag. The blogger in me went to find “sea shells” amid rains and floods. Found it on day two of the hunt.

Okay, it is Seachelles. They were right — take Mormons road to the east until Barangay 28. They didn’t tell me I should tilt my head a little and focus on the left side.

The tiny place was spilling to the porch of the other house, the crowd a fascinating mix of office workers, uniformed sales associates and casually dressed teens. Also noticed one patron going in while clasping his own takeout bowl.  You order and pay at the counter, or was it just a division between the main area and the kitchen? But anyway, give your order to one of the hairnetted staff and it gets on a waitlist. I wanted to order two variants — the crispy miki and the de luxe with chicken lollipop. Only crispy miki was available. I think I waited 30 minutes.


A beautiful bowl arrives. So camera-ready that I regret not taking my humongous D90, yes, it is still alive!

The verdict: the new treatment gets a perfect score in my book. It looks good, crispy and not mushy nor limp til the last bite, the soup has that ramen broth-like quality, and yet still tastes like traditional miki. I love the overall presentation, really something new in Ilocos worth trying!

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More than words


{playsuit from Lala Dudley (The Arts District Co-op, Downtown Los Angeles), Aranaz clutch/sling (a birthday gift from a friend), Topshop slip-ons}


Photographed by @braaatdon on Instagram

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