A balikbayan is a Filipino term for Filipinos who have been out of the Philippines for quite some time. These Filipinos can be working elsewhere yet retain their Filipino citizenship, or they can be naturalized in another country but still maintain close ties to the Philippines.
If you know a Filipino here in the U.S. or anywhere else outside of the Philippines, then by default, they are balikbayans when they visit the Philippines. The word balikbayan‘s literal translation is “returning to the country”. I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen, but I’m considered a balikbayan when I go to the Philippines.
When a balikbayan returns home, it’s all around good times with plenty of yummy eats and tasty drinks. It’s a chance to cure the homesickness that constantly plagues those who leave their home country. Last year, I spent a good amount of time in the Philippines and discovered restaurants that I’m certain will charm the socks off fellow balikbayans. After I returned here in the U.S., some U.S.-based Filipino friends have asked me for recommendations where to go. This list is made up of restaurants that serve pretty great Filipino food because that’s one of the things we balikbayans miss. Nothing triggers homesickness like seeing pictures of Filipino food.
Here’s a list of can’t-miss restaurants the next time you visit the country!
1. Balay Dako | Tagaytay City, Cavite
It took us almost two hours to get there from Quezon City. Worth it.
2. Breakfast at Antonio’s | Tagaytay City, Cavite
If you’re going to Balay Dako, then make Breakfast at Antonio’s your first stop. It’s also in Tagaytay City.
3. Abe’s Farm | Magalang, Pampanga
I went here twice in my desire to eat kamaru (rice field crickets) and betute (stuffed frog). The first visit was a fail in the sense that both dishes weren’t available. My second visit was more successful – I got to eat kamaru.
4. Paseo Rizal | Tanay, Rizal
Paseo Rizal has that old style Philippine charm that juxtaposes art, cuisine and music, and does it well.
5. Provenciano | Quezon City, Metro Manila
Traditional Filipino food in a Filipiniana-themed restaurant. What’s not to like?
6. Pamana | Quezon City, Metro Manila
Classic Filipino food? Check! Their menu showcased recipes from family and friends (for example, “Sinuglaw na Maliputo – Lolo Gerry De Leon’s pride”), as well as representative dishes from all over the country.
7. Cafe Juanita | Kapitolyo, Pasig City
Café Juanita doesn’t serve Filipino cuisine exclusively, but a variety of dishes from Southeast Asia and even the Mediterranean. It’s one heck of a colorful restaurant with its bohemian chic vibe.
8. Locavore | Kapitolyo, Pasig City
If you’re looking to try Filipino food that’s a far cry from the usual, then Locavore’s the place for you.
The life of the migrant isn’t the easiest, but I know personally how much fun it is when you go home. Balikbayans have such a limited time to spend with loved ones, so we want to make the most of our visit when it happens. For those who are from Visayas and Mindanao, regretfully, I have no suggestions at this point since I haven’t been there yet (except Western Visayas twenty years ago). I’ve seen more of the U.S.A. than the Philippines, but I do plan to see more of the Philippines and discover good eats. It’ll happen. There will be a sequel to this post.
If your favorite isn’t on this list, leave a comment. I’d love to check it out in the future!