The Philippines is a meat-loving country. Our dinner tables are always full of Chicken Adobo, Sinigang na Baboy sa Sampaloc (Pork in Tamarind Stew) and Beef Caldereta. And if Filipinos are having are party, then there’s always the presence of a big fat lechon (roasted pig).
Being plant-based in such meat-loving country is definitely a challenge. Whenever I tell other Filipinos I’m vegan, they look at me as if I came from an alien planet and assume I eat fish. Whenever I explain to them what I eat as a vegan, they immediately offer me the meat as a joke. I’ve since learned to go along with their jokes.
But there are places in the Philippines where being a vegan is not so alien.
Life in Batanes is simple and affordable. You are surrounded by so much nature where animals roam free. The airport is 15 minutes to the city center by walking. People are so friendly and ready to help you. It’s the perfect place to get away and disconnect yourself from the real world.
Every house has a small garden, where they grow their own vegetables. Meat is something they mostly remember to serve the out-of-towners. But if they had a choice, they’d mostly eat vegetables and fish, which they get so fresh. Ivatans (Batanes locals) are farmers and fishermen by heart.
One of my favorite local Ivatan dishes I had there was called amay. It’s sweet potato and taro root boiled together and then mashed. You can serve it with the boiled water and serve it as a creamy soup or drain and mash it and serve it mashed. It’s so creamy and sweet and just lovely to eat on its own.
It’s expensive going there (around $400 for airfare alone) but it’s worth being surrounded by the basics of life.
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa is the perfect place to visit if you want to get away but still stay connected. It’s commercialized but down-to-earth. It’s city life but still rural.
And there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables everywhere. The local city market is at the city center, which you can get to via tricycle. Fresh produce is being sold in sidewalk shops. Restaurants all offer vegetable dishes, even vegetarian and vegan dishes.
And the best part, there are two vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants as well as a wellness center located in Puerto Princesa.
Ima’s Gulay Bar and Namaskar Vegetarian Restaurant are located in the city, not far from the Provincial Capitol Building. They both serve vegetarian dishes but can be made vegan. My favorite is the Chao Long at Namaskar Vegetarian Restaurant. Vietnam had a huge influence in Puerto Princesa because of the huge influx of Vietnamese refugees decades ago. Among their influences to the local people is their national dish, their pho, which locals call Chao Long.
If you’re vegan and in the Philippines, as a resident or a visitor, try to visit these two places. If you’ve been there, schedule a return visit. It’s always great to visit a place, admire its magnificence and not have to worry about harming animals through your food at the same time.