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Laguna is not quite as popular as a road trip destination as Tagaytay or Pampanga, but it should be. Hello: buko pie, kesong puti, espasol, and puto are reasons enough for a food field trip down south of Manila.

But Laguna, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Apart from food are ancestral houses and churches to check ou; basically, stuff that will feed our culturally-hungry minds. Below, we round up four.

1. Corazon Rivera House

Maintained by Corazon’s granddaughter Cora “Tita Cora” Relova, the Corazon Rivera House is one of the 32 preserved and protected heritage houses of Pila, Laguna that was built during the American occupation.

Corazon Rivera House always serve their signature puto Pila, which is a white fluffy rice cake topped with butter and best eaten with the creamy kesong puti of Santa Cruz. The classic coconut pudding with sweet corn kernels or known as maja blanca is also available at the ancestral house.

2. Aurora Filipino Cuisine

Santa Cruz’s famous restaurant, Aurora Filipino Cuisine, is a family-owned restaurant in the ancestral house of the Salonga family. Chef Day Salonga decided to open the restaurant to preserve the beauty of the historical ancestral home, along with business partners Chef Mon Urbano and Gel Salonga in November 2016.

Aurora serves a wide variety of Filipino cuisine, mostly Laguna’s specialty food. They use family recipes and the traditional ways of cooking the food of the province. Their chicken wings adobo, minanok, tinuto and inalamangang baboy are just few of their gastronomical offerings.

For dessert, bibingka cheesecake created by Gel Salonga is the bestseller of Aurora’s. It follows the classic cheesecake recipe but with added ingredients like coconut milk and salted egg for a Pinoy twist. Yum! 1488 Pedro Guevara Ave, Santa Cruz, Laguna. +6349 5239014.

3. Sulyap Gallery Café

If you like that feels of eating good food while having a nice view of artworks and antique furniture, this place is right for you. Located at the city famous for its seven lakes, San Pablo, Sulyap Gallery Café is famous for its restaurant that serves authentic Filipino food, especially its all-day breakfast menu. Their fried bangus and tasty pork tapa are must-tries because of its soft and flaky goodness.

Roy Empalmado had this idea of buying old houses and rebuilding it in one compound. He rebuilt these houses into villas that look like old ancestral houses but equipped with modern facilities and of course, a good restaurant inside. Cocoland Compound, Barangay Del Remedio, San Pablo City, Laguna. 9am-9pm. +6349 5629735

4. Café Lago

Owned by Tony and Mandy Marino, Café Lago is a garden restaurant that serves both local and international cuisine that can be found on the shoreline of Lake Sampaloc. Tony is a former theater actor who decided to open up a restaurant after he retired from his career while his brother Mandy, is a committee member in charge of rehabilitating the lake.

Café Lago’s bestseller butter fried chicken, which is a crispy chicken soaked in margarine and toasted garlic served with Pako salad. Capping off your meal with their special fried halo-halo (halo-halo wrapped in a lumpia wrapper then fried) served with leche plan or vanilla ice cream is always a good choice. Dagatan Boulevard, Barangay V-A, San Pablo City, Laguna. 10am-9pm. +63 922 821 7931.

[Manila Bulletin; Photo by Angelo Garcia]

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