A trip to Ilocos Norte

By Carmela Villegas

While living abroad and on my own, what I missed the most was my family living here in the Philippines. The one thing that helped me cope with my being home sick is Filipino Food.

We Filipinos are proud of our local dishes, tropical fruits and native desserts “Kakanin” probably even more so than the French. Family gatherings are nothing without a table full of different, colourful and opulent dishes from all over the countries various regions.

As we celebrate the Philippines this week on the blog, I’ll be writing about the various desserts I tried during my recent family food trip to Ilocos Norte.

All regions in the Philippines have each their own special “Kakanin” which is a sweet delicacy made out of either rice or root vegetables cooked with coconut milk, coconut sugar and wrapped in pandan or coconut leaves. Here are the some of the rice cakes that you can find in Ilocos.

Tinubong : sticky rice sweetened with sugar then cooked and stored in a bamboo stick.

While visiting the Heritage Village of Vigan, we found this man selling Tinubong inside one of the famous Vigan Empanada stalls.


Tupig: sweet sticky rice mixed with slivers of coconut wrapped in banana leaf. This type of suman is grilled which brings out the smoky flavor of the banana leaves in the cake.

This delicacy is my favorite from Ilocos and is found in Batac.


Bibingka: Cooked rice cakes in banana leaf. The distinctive difference of this bibinkga from other regions is the sweet and salty taste. The topping is made of a mixture of peanuts and desiccated coconut. I appreciate desserts that have a complex textures and flavor combinations, which makes this bibingka a must try. I enjoyed the crunchy and salty topping and the sweet soft texture of the rice cake. This bibingka is from Batac.


Dragon Fruit: In the past years, Ilocos Norte has been trying to become the capital of Dragon Fruit plantations. They developed a way to grow these fruits every day of the year. They’ve also come up with different ways to cook with this fruit. They make them into cookies, ice cream, tea and even lumpia.


We tried different products made with dragon fruit. The round one is a savory biscuit with an onion-dragon fruit filling similar to an empanada. The biscuit shaped as a flower is similar to Uraro (a Filipino biscuit usually made with arrowroot).


Cakes from La Preciosa: This renowned restaurant in Laoag serves cakes, that I unfortunately have not been able to take pictures of. The best chocolate fudge cake I’ve had in a long time came from there. It had the perfect balance of a dulce de leche center and some chocolate icing. This reminded me of my childhood birthday cakes. We also tried their carrot cake which was very moist and the Crazy Monkey their version of the Banoffee Pie.

From the Fat Kid, How to Make Homemade Bibingka:


– 1 lb of rice flour

– ½ cup of salted butter

– 2 ½ cup of brown sugar

– 2 tsp baking powder

– 1 cup of evaporated milk

– 2 cups of whole fresh milk

– 5 large farm eggs

– 1 tsp. vanilla

– 1 tsp. pandan falvouring (or concentrate)

– 1 cup of desiccated coconut

Mix all ingredients together. Butter your shallow ramekins, place in some banana leaves, butter the leaf, and pour in the batter 3/4s of the way. Bake for 1 hour at 350 Fahrenheit. It’s ready when an inserted knife comes out clean.

for the topping, i usually like to put some desiccated coconut, peanuts, almonds and powder sugar in a food processor. Blast it, place it on the cake and pour on some melted butter on top. Damn.





    1. Deus Plete August 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Hi! I am Deus Plete 17y/o from Vigan City, Ilocos Sur and I would like to correct that Tinubong is a product of Ilocos SUR not Norte. Please edit your article as soon as possible to avoid any confusion. That would be all! Thank you for featuring Ilocos! :)

      1. Carmela August 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        Hi Deus!
        Sorry about that. There’s actually a few phrases missing in my article because I specified where I tried it.

        “While visiting the Heritage Village of Vigan, we found this man selling Tinubong inside one of the famous Vigan Empanada stalls.”

        The title: A Trip to Ilocos Norte is because I stayed mainly in Ilocos Norte and did a day trip to Vigan only.

        Thank you for reading the article! I really enjoyed my stay in Ilocos. Hope to visit again soon!


    1. Bianca September 1, 2013 at 9:43 am

      The bibingka on the photo looks different from the usual! But thanks for the recipe!

  1. Pingback: Previous Posts on The Fat Kid Inside | Carmela's Journal




I gained weight because of a sedentary lifestyle and overly indulging in foods I knew were bad for me, eating out too often, taking the easy route (microwavable dishes) and not caring what went in my body, before I knew it reached 240 lbs. I lost weight through pure dedication, tireless hours of hard work and yes, food. I cooked my way to fitness, making sure to only feed myself tasty well prepared dishes with all the right stuff, the perfect fuel, taking me down to 150lbs. Of course I indulge from time to time, as the fat kid still lurks inside of me; here you will find a little bit of everything for the sole purpose of sharing my passion for food and life.





Search for a Specific Recipe


The Fat Kid Inside
Market Master Erwan
Download the App now!


  • Badge
  • Seabiscuit Films
  • Manila Pop up
  • Esquire Magazine