My husband and son are vegetarian and most of the tourist friendly locations have decent options for vegetarians. So Philippines should ideally be an easy destination for vegetarians or vegans. However, that is not the case. Filipinos love their meat and especially Lechon; which is the Portuguese word for the pork dish that is very popular in Philippines. So much of pork consumption has resulted in severe health issues for the population there, but you will still find Lechon displayed in every other shop in Philippines. If you are on my blog post; you are surely looking for veg options and I will not post picture of the revolting dish here!
I will list out the options in Cebu, Loboc and Panglao; the 3 places we visited in Philippines. It is usually easy to find veg food in the main cities like Cebu and Manila; but with careful planning & research; you should be able to have a good time in all these places even if you are a vegetarian.
Tips for vegetarian / vegan food in Philippines:
On the flights: If you are on a domestic flight in the country; book your meal in advance. While most of the airlines have “some” veg food in their menu (like cup noodles); they may not have it in stock during the flight. We learnt it the hard way during our early travel days and do not take chances now! Book your meal when you book the tickets or when you do web-checkin.
Get help from hotel staff: People in Philippines speak good English; especially the ones in tourism industry. However, vegetarian food for them usually means dishes that contain vegetables (along with some meat maybe 😛 ). It is therefore good to get in writing from the reception staff at your hotel that you do not eat pork,chicken, meat, fish, egg, fish and oyster sauce. Most of the reception staff are more familiar with such requests and can put it in writing in Filippino. Carry this along and show it it restaurants when you are placing the order.
Know the lingo: Unfortunately, there is no word for “pure vegetarian” in Filippino in the sense we understand it. However, you can look out for descriptions to see if there are any ingredients you may want to avoid. Look out for the following:
|Oyster Sauce||ang sauce ng oyster|
You may also want to look out for a local sauce called Magic Sarap; which has meat ingredients. Fish sauce and Magic sarap are especially common in Filipino dishes.
Even if the menu does not have vegetarian options, you can ask for it. Most restaurants are happy to prepare veg versions of their dishes.
If you are a vegan; you have be extra careful about cheese and butter; because they are also commonly used ingredients.
Get help from your travel agent: We do not plan our travels with travel agents; but many do. In case you have booked from a travel agent; ask the for vegan friendly accommodations. They should also be able to help you with information on vegetarian options in the area you are headed to.
Use Google translate: If you do not understand some ingredient in the description; use Google translate 🙂
Be open to new dishes – There are many restaurants with western cuisine in Philippines; especially Portugese and Italian. It is easy to find Pizza and pasta. But if you are looking for something else; be ready to explore. We could not find any Indian dine-in restaurant in Loboc or Panglao. There was one in Panglao that delivered (http://www.littleindia.com.ph/ ); but we were comfortable with non-Indian cuisine and did not order.
Do your research on veg street food: Philippines has many street food options; though very few in vegetarian. We didn’t try any street food because they were almost always sold alongside non-vegetarian food and didn’t look very appealing to us. We have however tried street food in other countries; and if you are not particular about whats lying next to your dish; you can try some of these:
Puto Bumbong: Sticky rice served as traditional Christmas food in Philippines.
Puto: Filipino rice cake
One of the many desserts like Halo Halo, Taho, Turon, Banana Q
Take advantage of seasonal fruits: Fruits are available everywhere in Philippines. Our favourite was Mango, but there are many more 🙂 Even near attractions that did not have veg food; we could always see some fruit vendors or juice shops.
Book accommodation with kitchenette: If you are open to do little cooking; book a stay with kitchen. Check out Airbnbs or service apartments. You can then buy the local produce and cook it yourself. Get some rice from restaurants and you are good to go. We booked Unk’s house in Panglao which had a kitchen; though we didn’t use it for cooking.
Also, try to book accommodations that have breakfast included in the booking. There will definitely be some vegetarian options during breakfast; and that is one less meal to worry about!
Carry some ready to eats: Carry some non-perishable items as you can; which are quick to make. Some of them need light cooking; so check before you buy. A possible list could be:
Breakfast: Oats, MTR Upma, Chocos, Museli. Cornflakes, Choco spread sachets, Jam sachets. Ready to eat pongal and bisi bele bath are also available from MTR.
Lunch/ Dinner: Ready to eat dal and curries. You can carry ready to eat rice too, but its easily available in restaurants (though they have sticky rice). There are many brands available now a days, we prefer Gits, Kitchens of India and MTR. You can also carry Chef’s Delight Pasta which is pretty good and filling. You can carry some cup noodles too!
Restaurant recommendations for vegetarians in Philippines:
Venia’s Kitchen @ Loboc River resort – We stayed at Loboc river resort and their restaurant was very accommodating to vegetarian cooking. While their vegetarian section had many dishes that had meat or pork; they always had some exclusive veg dishes or were ready to customize one for us. You can read my review of Loboc River resort which also has their menu uploaded. If your accommodation does not include breakfast, you can try their breakfast too!
Foods and Fables @ Fox and firefly cottages: This was one of our best dining experiences at Loboc. They had wonderful food; comfortable seating and few board games for time-pass to top it up. Both their veg and chicken dishes were delicious.
Sagbayan peak: They have a small cafe which serves simple yet tasty food. They also have a play area attached to the restaurant which makes it very easy for parents with small kids. The only vegetarian dish they had was chopsuey; but it was very good. Their desserts were also fresh. And the pricing was very reasonable.
Chocolate Hills complex: The cafe at chocolate hills complex has lovely view of the hills. The only veg dish they had was Chopsuey (and juices / desserts). We did not stop here for meal but had a look at the menu.
CHAP: Chocolate hills adventure park has NO VEG FOOD OPTIONS closeby. So plan to have your meal at Chocolate hills complex before or after your visit to CHAP. There is a shack outside which serves local non-veg food. They also have a cafe inside; but there is no guarantee it will be open. We went on Sunday and it was closed!
Bohol Bee Farm: Bohol bee farm is located away from most of the common attractions; but it has branches in Alona beach, Tagbilaran and Cebu too. However, if you are looking for meal with a view of the ocean; head for the bee farm. The food is expensive than the usual Loboc restaurants, but the quality is good.
You can also combine it with a bee farm tour.
Shaka: Shaka is at a walking distance from Alona beach and has many vegan choices. The portions are large and the presentation is good. We had only one dinner there and the service was fast too.
Luna Rossa Vegetarian Italian Restaurant: This place is very close to Alona Beach / Unk’s house where we stayed. Our host James recommended this to us. Though we didn’t get a chance to eat there, we did look at their menu.
Veg food in Balicasag Island: There are NO VEG FOOD options in Balicasag Island or virgin island. All the shacks have standard pork/ seafood and chicken options. You can either carry your own food or carry some raw vegetables and have them cooked at the island at a price. There are some shops that sell snacks and coconuts.
Cebu is a big city and there should not be much issue finding veg food. We tried 2 restaurants and can recommend both –
Wellness cafe at Wellness Health Institute: This place is tucked in a small lane, but its worth the effort of finding it. Follow the Google maps and you will land at the right place. It closes by 9 pm so be early. The food was delectable and the place had a very soothing effect. The prices were very reasonable too.
Wellness cafe website: http://www.wellnessland-ph.com/wellnesslandvegetariancafe/ (Scroll down the page to see their menu)
Persian Palate, Ayala Center, Cebu: They claim to have Indian food (which is why we went there); but I won’t recommend ordering typical Indian food. Except for the lassis and Indian desserts; the Indian menu was tasteless. Instead try their vegetarian adobo or mediterranian food. They also have a vegetarian dinner buffet on Thursday, Friday and Saturday priced at 273 PHP.
Veg Food in Kawasan Falls: There is only one cafe at the falls that has veg chopsuey & french fries in their veg menu. The serving size was large and one dish could easily be shared between 2 people. The food was decent too. You can also carry your own cup noodles because they keep hot water in a kettle and were generous enough to share it with us.