The best parts of a road trip are those that are not contained in a plan.
Traveling along Tarlac at past noon, the most natural thing to do was find a place to eat before we hit SCTEX, because the only choices that would be available by then would be fastfood restaurants lined along NLEX, which is not bad really. But if you have eaten in one McDo or Chowking anywhere in the Philippines, you wouldn't experience anything new eating in another, except perhaps giving you the lame claim that you have ordered this and this, in so-and-so branch of so-and-so fastfood restaurant.
When we reached the sleepy town of Gerona, to our right was a sprawling compound with enormous water-spouting fish statues that seemed to be beaconing us to stop and drop by. So we did. The place was called, appropriately enough, Isdaan.
|Have a warm Erap welcome|
What first strikes a newcomer about Isdaan is that it is a visual feast; everywhere you look is a point of interest. Not far from the entrance, you would be welcomed by a dummy of a seated life-size Erap Estrada wearing a genuine pair of Erap Estrada shoes (he donated it).
We were ushered to our own floating kubo that gently sways to the movement of water underneath us. We ordered a bilao of assorted fried seafood to go with kare-kare minus the meat. The waiter offered to throw in sabaw ng bulalo to our meal.
While waiting for our order, we were serenaded by a trio of musicians armed with ukelele, singing Bruno Mars' the Lazy Song. Great, I thought, we are being prepared to scratch our tummy and put our feet up on the table.
Though Isdaan is primarily a restaurant, it is also a theme park and entertainment district in one. Everywhere you look are enormous replicas of fishes, pagodas, dinosaurs and an assortment of creatures you'll only see in movies. Aside from the roving serenaders, there are also performers such as acrobats and cultural dancers.
When we dropped by there was a troupe performing the Fandango sa Ilaw which required great skills and agility, which the dancers at first unfortunately lacked, forcing one off the edge of the stage and into the awaiting water. When the dancer reemerged soaking wet, the group was all smiles and had renewed zeal and energy in their performance. There's nothing like a good dousing to lift up the spirit, I say.
We see kids, mostly Caucasians, wearing orange life vests. Isdaan offers guests, at least those with excellent balance and utter disregard for poise, with a chance to win a kilo of fish if they are able to cross a slim bridge across a certain distance without falling into the water. I however did not bother to see if anyone was successful.
When the food arrived, we immediately dug into business. There really is nothing special about the seafood bilao except that it has great variety; a little tilapia here and a little bangus there, a heap of tahong on the side and several halves of alimasag on the other, there is dalag and a handful of tawilis, then you have hipon, danggit and pusit surrounding toyo and vinegar sawsawan, atchara and enchaladang mangga - perfect companions for steamed rice.
|Are ang Kare-kare!|
The kare-kare, with perfectly sauteed alamang, was superb though. I had my lunch with fresh buko off the shell.
I was full. I don't know which was worse - leaving food on the table or eating too much. We did not leave anything on the table but had it placed in a brown paper bag for the microwave. But it was difficult to move about because of my heavy tummy.
I made one last stop at the comfort room before heading back to the car. On my way out, I passed by a Tacsyapo wall with a lady customer. My she's one stressed and angst-laden lady as she smashed one plate after another at the wall, with matching scream and grunt not unlike Maria Sharapova smashing a serve. She pauses, and asks for her running total, "P240 po," says the girl at the booth.
Sharapova made a quick computation and assessed that she still has serious issues left to be dealt with. So she asks for more plates.
The girl at the booth, asks me, "Sir, kayo din po?"
Oh no, not me. I'm full. I'm with loved ones and I'm driving them home to Lipa. I got no issues.
I'd love to hear what you think of this post. Please leave a comment or a reaction. Thanks!