Probably, it’s the best boutique hotel in Naga City.
I’ve been frequenting Naga City for the past several years either for visits due to travel blogging invites or just for the love of being in this place. But one of the things that got me excited ever since I found out about it last year while as speaker at the Bicol Tourism Summit was the opening of probably the best boutique hotel in Naga City. Of course, I’ve stayed in several accommodations here from budget to high end ones but nothing beats the experience I had of The Carmen Hotel.
It’s an old structure along Penafrancia Avenue in Downtown Naga City, just a few meters from Quince Martires and the Naga Cathedral. Refurbished and opened September 2016 as a modern boutique hotel with international standard amenities. It’s interesting brise soleil for its facade gives it a very contemporary look. Once you go in, be prepared to be wowed by its minimalist approach. Floor to ceiling windows provide for a bright lobby, the clean lines, muted color palette lends an understated elegance.
There are 45 rooms in three different types: Suite (35-44 sqm), Deluxe (26-33 sqm) and Superior (25 sqm). Depending on how big you want for your room, I do love these spaces because these are comfortably homey. I love the wooden flooring, the minimalist style and muted color tones. Nothing welcomes you better than a plush bed and pillows after a day’s tour or food tripping around the city. Although I don’t watch cable TV, there’s a respectable fast internet, comfortable table and chair where I can work on my blogs or photos that I took for a magazine.
Compared to the ones that I’ve been to in other hotels in Naga City, one thing that you can readily notice is how spacious it is. I was impressed staying at the Deluxe room with a pool view (at the back of the hotel). Either I turn on the lights or just open the curtains for natural light to come in. Its not stuffy and there isn’t a lot of little distractions. If I get to have my own space, I want it to be like The Carmen’s rooms.
Baba Social Dining
In the entire Bicol, Naga City has the most vibrant and varied dining scene. It’s a foodie haven that caters to different tastes. From authentic vegetarian, old panciterias and kinalasans to the interesting ones along Magsaysay Ave. Baba Social Dining adds to Naga City’s foodie landscape. Derived from the Bicol term of endearment, baba, it offers a delicious take on Bicolano and Filipino cuisine, adding some interesting twists into its dishes. It also showcases local dishes and ingredients.
The breakfast buffet is modest but two things stand out for me: the kinalas section and the dried fish section. The rest of the dishes are delicious and filling in their own way but these two are important. Different regions in the Philippines have their own noodle dishes: the batchoy of Iloilo, the pansit batil patung of Cagayan among others. In Naga City, kinalas is it! And The Carmen’s breakfast buffet includes this humble local dish. Although the original used meat and parts of the head, the hotel’s version uses pork knuckles but still has a killer broth.
Of course, when you get to Cebu, the danggit is never far behind. It’s called the danggit Bicol, a paler version, but oh so crispy, probably thinner than those in Cebu and I love that it is not as salty. Dip it in the accompanying vinegar soaked with garlic, onions and chilies and you have the perfect breakfast fare! I loved it so much that I had a second and a third helping.
But Baba is not just good breakfast buffet. Their menu has a respectable selection of food for lunch and dinner. Two interesting dishes that I tried is the roasted pork Bicol Express and the kare kare crispy pata. The former is rich, the meat is tender but the skin is so deliciously crispy. Add the taste of gata and small shrimps and you’ve got a winner. This is meticulously plated with the assembled chopped roasted pork on a bed of breaded eggplant strips with the crispy pork rind a befitting topping.
The kare kare crispy pata on the other hand is the deconstructed kind. Chopped crispy pata that is not greasy sided with the different steamed vegetables with the peanut sauce and sauteed alamang at the sides. I love the semi sweetness of the peanut sauce, the saltiness of the alamang as well as the different textures of the different ingredients coming together.
One last thing. This can’t be found in the menu but, darn, one of the best humble mongo soup is here! Sorry Ms. Tess, but I have to spill the beans! Hahaha. But you should also check them out for their Saturday buffet offerings as well as checking out the Sky Lounge, an open air bar area that has great views of downtown Naga especially at sunset and dusk.
The e-trike and the Penafrancia processions
Okay, Naga City is inextricably considered as Ina country, abode of the well beloved Lady of Penafrancia which is one of the major marian devotions in the Philippines. And this is also one of the best reasons why you should be at The Carmen. Because of its downtown location, it is fortunately at the center of both the traslacion, when the Marian image of our Lady is transported from the Basilica to the Cathedral that passes at the front of the hotel. One week later, the fluvial festival, when the Ina goes back to the Basilica via the river in a stunning display of devotion, passes at the back of The Carmen. This year, they offered bleachers and buffet meals for the traslacion that gives you a closer experience of the passing image and set meals during the fluvial procession at the back.
The Carmen Hotel also has an e-trike that serves guests around the city. It is also used for those who avail of the half day pilgrim city tour that goes around the main points of marian devotion: the Cathedral, the Penafrancia Shrine and the Basilica Minore. For business travelers, it has a big parking lot at the back. It is also the only hotel with a swimming pool in downtown Naga and locals and families even get to have special rates to enjoy.
I was glad that I stayed here at the Carmen. It was a beautiful experience, comfortable and nice design. Delicious food. Homey. And just at Downtown, not too far from the many restaurants around Quince Martires or Rizal Park but not too secluded to enjoy a quite evening. And if you’re just commuting around the city, tricycles, e-trikes and jeepneys are just outside the hotel. These are the reasons why this is the best boutique hotel in Naga City. You should try it too.
Thanx to The Carmen Hotel for the staycation.
The Carmen Hotel
4400 Naga City
+63 54 472 5888
www.thecarmenhotel.com.ph | Facebook