Where to go for a Filipino merienda

THESE days when fast food is all over the city, one can have a hard time looking for authentic Cebuano comfort food for his merienda. Golden Prince Hotel and Suites has solved that with a buffet Filipino merienda at its heritage lounge, Kabilin.

The lounge seats about 20 people and is open all day for hotel guests where they can read the day’s newspapers or even read books and magazines that are placed in open shelves. Here they can also entertain their visitors or wait for other guests they may want to meet with. Kabilin can “also hold small functions like poetry readings, book launchings, arts and crafts demos,” says Aaron Que, the hotel’s vice president for communications. Kabilin, he adds, “has already hosted an alibata (the Filipino script) tutorial, history classes,” and was “officially opened with an eskrima exhibit.”

What Kabilin has every day from 3 to 6 p.m. is a Filipino merienda buffet set in one side of the lounge on a “banca” table. Here is where one can “gorge” on all the Filipino merienda fare one might have missed.

A constant in that buffet are coffee and sikwate, binignit (with ubeng tapul from Bohol), biko and banana turon. Other goodies could be linusak, minatamis na saging, tortang Cebuano, bibingka, ensaymada, empanada, siakoy (very hard to come by these days), fried camote slices, puto, maja blanca, kutsinta, arroz caldo, leche flan and maja blanca. The arroz caldo has, at its side, several condiments the guest can choose from to add to his basic broth: tuyo, luy-a (ginger), chicken, spring onions…whatever one adds, it’s bound to be delicious because the basic broth is already that—delicious.

Not all the kakanins mentioned are available every day. Only about 10 of them chosen for the day by Golden Prince executive chef Elmar Patok. Sometimes—perhaps, if there are many foreigners among the hotel guests—Chef Elmar also includes Danish pastries and donuts in the merienda buffet.

An easy favorite is binignit, followed by banana turon and arroz caldo. However, all the merienda fare is good and truly Cebuano.

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