It was my first time going to Manaoag, Pangasinan and I was so excited when my close friend , Arpee Lazaro invited me to join his family to visit the famed miraculous church to pray for peace and enlightenment. From the entrance stands the statue of the Our Lady of Manaoag I've heard so much about with flowing water on the bottom and candle stands all over the area.
Since elementary, I've heard the elders and my mom's friends testify how miracles happened with the blessed virgin. It took long hours to get to the area past Urdaneta City but the arresting view of the church eventually erased all the stress and the exhaustion. From where the statues were placed and the candle stores posted warnings of pickpockets and snatchers seemed quite typical of a Filipino church scenario. The pathways that led to the side entrance filled pilgrims who lined up to get a chance to touch the blessed virgin's feet at the back of the altar.
We heard mass and went in front for the blessing which almost all church-goers anticipated. It was quite a healing experience standing beside a mentally-challenged child who grabbed my friend's aunt's dress after the blessing. I've seen many raised their healing oils, statues and rosaries during the sprinkling of the holy water after the mass. I was wrong thinking the faith of most Filipinos slowly deteriorated with the dawn of internet and social networking sites. At least the priest did not complain of late church-goers like I was used to. The Homily made me reflect on how mercy should merit those who humble themselves. I prayed for mercy for the victims of the recent earthquake and for my own intentions after I've prayed for my family and my friends.
Outside the church, vendors sell Filipino delicacies famous in Pangasinan, puto (steamed rice cake) and tupig (smoke-grilled coconut rice cake wrapped in banana leaves). I bought a few bags and felt hungry again so we headed to Matutina's.
Matutina's Seafood Restaurant specializes in seafood and the aroma of the fish and crabs made my stomach grumble even more. My friend and his family ordered Bangus (Milkfish) dishes like Sizzling Bangus Sisig (P150), Boneless Bangus Inihaw (P130), Sinigang na Bangus (P150) Adobong Pusit (P190) with cups of rice while we savored their cups of free soup.
It took a few minutes and before I've finished sipping the free soup, the array of Bangus dishes were served.
I was happy with the condiments available like their Boneless Bagoong Pangasinan with the regular "sawsawan" of Pinoys, calamansi, chili peppers and vinegar. I was so hungry I ate half of the order not realizing the hefty servings of more dishes to come.
Adobong Pusit was delicious and a bit spicy with green chili peppers. Sweet, salty and a bit sour classic Adobong Pusit reminded me of my mom's home cooking when I was young.
Their Sizzling Bangus Sisig was as crunchy as those with pork meat while their most popular and well known Sinigang na Bangus was so surprising. I've always cooked sinigang but the perfect combination of sour and saltiness in the dish was quite difficult to perfect and Matutina's Sinigang na Bangus I believe made the best concoction.
Matutina's Bottomless Iced Tea was so cheap at P50.
It was such a delightful and unforgettable dining experience at Matutina's with a close friend and family. I can't wait for another spiritual retreat with gastronomic adventures again next week.