Rain was pouring and I had not brought an umbrella. I was too much of a cheapskate to fork out Php 120 for an umbrella being sold at a sidewalk store near the gas station on the main thoroughfare. After all that dust on the day trip to Songco, the rain was refreshing, not that Malaybalay was hot in the evenings. It can get really chilly and I was glad I just took the cheap fan room at the lodge.
Malaybalay had been quite a disappointment to me and being stuck in a smelly ukay-ukay store pretending to rummage around while waiting for the rain to stop seemed to just amplify that disappointment. I had expected too much from this place. The cool hills and outstanding vistas were more than a a couple of hour’s ride away and there really was nothing to do here except eat. Fortunately, a friend I had met pointed out to me a couple of restaurants he claimed served good food. I had eaten at Mindy’s the previous night and was disappointed. The adobo of baboy damo and its accompanying cup of rice was the most unpalatable dish I ever had. The adobo must have been cooked on the Pangasinan salt beds as it was downright salty your tongue could be pickled while chewing on it. I wished I had eaten at Jollibee instead. Maybe I just ordered the wrong dish as the people there seemed generally satisfied with what they were having— bowls of bulalo. I was still keen to give the local restaurants a try. After all, happiness in the form of Chicken Joy was just a few minutes walk should I be disappointed again.
The rain had ceased a bit and I skeddadled out of the ukay-ukay and trying to keep myself dry while walking briskly under the leaking foyer of shops selling sundries and finally scooped in at tiny Le Village. This hole in the wall is more cafe than restaurant with its colorful walls and wooden chairs and tables that could sit around twenty people at most. The bar stools at the window had nice viewing opportunities though. Diego’s text that I try the Fish in Lemon Butter Sauce came too late. I had ordered a spaghetti with pesto and though it wasn’t bad it wasn’t really good either. There was not enough pesto and more than enough cream. The garlic bread had sugar in it and tasted no different from the commercial sugared toasties you can buy off the shelf in a grocery.
This called for Plan B.
The rain had stopped by the time I was through with my meal. Crossed the plaza and headed to a block down from the lodge and into the cozy interiors of Isabell’s Cafe. Any restaurant with comfortable booth or sofa seating get plus points from me. A good meal can only be complemented by comfortable seating. Isabelle’s 3-pc chicken which I was a bit hesitant to order as it was placed under “Barkada Feast” (whaaaaaaatttttt?!!!!) was nothing to really write home about. It was crispy though and came with a side order of potato wedges. It was good value at Php 120 considering it was almost the same price as the pasta I had earlier.
All praises for the Fried Ice Cream which came in two large balls. Strangely, garnishing was a red bell pepper flayed out to look like a flower—the same garnishing on the chicken. Bell pepper must be cheap. The coating was thin and very very crisp. The clashing textures created by hot and cold temperatures trying to outdo each other in your mouth and tongue is unmatchable. Sweet vanilla ice-cream melted as the crisp breaded crunched under my teeth. It was an “aaaaaaaahhhhh” moment.
Malaybalay was saved.