AFTER a half day trip to Dipolog City passing through Ozamiz and Oroquieta cities, I am finally back to the “City of Orchids” again. This time, I was invited by the dean of Shrim (School of Hotel and Restaurant Institution Management), the energetic, smart and beautiful Atty. Diana Concha, to take part in their first ever grand celebration of Shrim Days.

On my way, I just have to stop by Ozamiz City to visit and give my pasalubong of “Tikoy” to my cousin and his wife, Jun and Jing. I also have to spend some time and give my “pasalubong” to my co-worker and good friend, Mae Gallardo’s mom in Oroquieta whom I haven’t seen for quite some time.

Having been in Dipolog so many times in the last few years, I always look forward to my trips there. Not only because I love the Spanish sardines and Spanish Chorizo of Montano and Urquiaga, the fresh catch from the seas (you should try their “labtingaw,” not too salty dried fish), fresh fruits (especially Marang) and the beautiful sceneries (it is so near Dapitan, the place of exile of Dr. Jose Rizal and Dakak) but most of all, the beautiful, hospitable and wonderful people of Dipolog.

I got to see my friends also in Dipolog like Rudy Uy of Dipolog Classic Bakery, Chef Meka, her aunt and her grandma from the US who is here for a brief vacation, Ranie Carreon, and my cousins, Lydia Tiu and hubby Val, Merlyn Uy , Domingo Dy Jr. and of course, the Montanos.

Arriving late Monday night, we had a lovely dinner at the cozy Big Joe’s Diner (you should try their oh so crunchy “Crispy Pata”, juicy and succulent Baby Back Ribs!), courtesy of Dr. Gerald Concha, AVP for Academic Affairs of Dipolog Medical Center, who’s in-laws owns this cozy and comfy place.

Being their initial celebration, a motorcade around the city with the staff and students kicked of the affair early in the morning of the first day. Because of the presence of a senatorial candidate, the venue was used which kind of delayed the activities for the day. However, right after the campaign, “Star of the Bar,” an electrifying and thrilling non-alcoholic flair tending competition commenced. It was joined by several 1st year students and ultimately won by Hannah Florence Nasala with Mark Jim Ochitorena as the runner up. It truly made a mark in the day’s festivities with the audience screaming and clapping for their bets. The judges include Nikki Cuevas, Mr. Oscar Perey of Tesda and Mr. Jose Miguel Daymiel.

In the afternoon, “Iron Chef,” a different and unique version of a mold, dropped and bar cookie competition was held, with me as the chair of the judges. With me were Ms. Cuevas and Mr. Jaffy Lim. Having a sweet tooth, it didn’t bother me at all ingesting all those appetizing and scrumptious desserts! I guess I just have to skip some sweets in the next few days! The winners eventually went to Team 2, “d’ Amazing Chefs,” and is composed of Lyndon Recera, Nikko Arancon, Erly Iren Patagoc and Rhoderick Asentista with their Banana Chocolate Chips Softies, Double-dipped Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies and Choco Cheesecake Squares. Both activities were ably emceed by Ms. Katrina Jane Tulang and Mr. Robert Michael Buchholz.

Other activities include seminars and workshops. I did two sessions of “Basic Cake Decorating” classes on the 2nd day of the festivities to the students and a couple of “outsiders” (not students of DMC) using Peotraco Cake Ingredients and D’Chef’s Cake Decorating products. The participants were very enthusiastic and were having the time of their lives learning and decorating their “first” cakes! It was truly amazing to see all of them creating their own designs using their newly-acquired skills!

We had coffee and cakes (again!) at Cafe Isabelle, a very classy and elegant coffee shop owned by Cathy Montano-Lim. It serves mouth-watering pastas, yummy sandwiches, delectable cakes and pastries and of course, gourmet coffees and shakes. Recently, they added more meal selections like Fried chicken, Letchon Kawali, Callos, Pork Barbeque, Crispy Sisig and more! In fact, they also added an adjacent dining area to better serve their ever-growing clientele.

Two days was just not enough to explore the other wonderful places of Dipolog, but having met and seen my relatives and friends was enough for my brief stay. It was truly quality time spent. In fact, I had a nice and wonderful dinner with Val, Lydia and Domingo Jr. at Valdia Gardens, a multi-function party venue located a few minutes away from the city owned and operated by Lydia and Val. The Fried Chicken and Crispy Pata were extremely flavourful and crunchy. I also had my share of “labtingaw’! Wonderful night, indeed!

But one thing for sure, I brought with me several bottles of Montano Sardines, Bangus, and Bagoong, Spanish Chorizos to last me till I get back to Dipolog.

I would like to thank Nadelle Gaylan, assistant of Atty. Diane, and Jean Mangubat, executive secretary to the President of DMC, for facilitating and making my stay at Dipolog really memorable and unforgettable. And of course, to the all the DMC family and Staff. I shall return....soon! (Email: www.potsnpans1976@yahoo.com, website: www.potsnpans1976.multiply)