There is that one restaurant you somehow grew up with. For me, that’s Panagatan, an open-air seafood place propped along a coastal highway in Opol, a municipality in Southern Philippines.
I am not sure when Panagatan actually opened. But I could still remember that during its first few years of operation, it still had wooden floor planks which creaked under my heavy steps. They also had gaps in some portions that were wide enough for me to see the gentle waves below. These added a rustic charm that its present concrete and tiled floors could never replicate.
Ambiance and music
We come here for at least three things – the ambiance, the music and their spectacular kinilaw. I honestly don’t care much for the first two but I make some concessions from time to time. After all, nothing beats watching the sunset over the Macajalar Bay as you wait for your orders to be served at Panagatan.
During our recent visit, we arrived just in time for dusk. The late afternoon sky was bathed in a mesmerizing shade of blue, before it was slowly swallowed by the darkness of the night. There were no stars that evening but I could make out the faint blur of city lights on the horizon.
I am surprised why we did not request any song from the band that evening though. We probably forgot our routine or maybe because I still had a flight to catch later on.
But if we were not pressed for time, one of us would write our song requests on any available piece of paper. Our musical preferences vary but we often have Here, There and Everywhere, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Country Roads in the mix.
Kinilaw and the usual suspects
My sister and I knew what to order even before we arrived at Panagatan. She wanted the crispy pata (pork knuckles) and it’s the kinilaw (a raw fish dish, almost like a ceviche if you will) for me.
There are many versions of the kinilaw across the Philippines but I am particularly biased with our recipe in Mindanao. We use fresh tubâ (coconut vinegar), biasong (a fragrant local citrus) and the tabon-tabon (Atuna Racemosa) fruit. The extract of the latter removes the langsa (fishy smell) and adds a welcome layer of tartness to this bright dish.
We also ordered two of our ‘usual suspects’ – a crowd-pleaser seafood bilao (platter) and a decent bouillabaisse, which my good friend apparently liked. He tagged along with me in my week-long homecoming trip which culminated in this simple (yet becoming increasingly rare) meal I shared with my folks and my sister.
While Panagatan offers affordable seafood, their service however, has been a hit or miss affair lately. If you are lucky, you will have your food even before the band plays the next set. Otherwise, know that you are not alone.
Maybe the restaurant needs a better expediting system (if there is even one) or more crew to look after a quite sizable dining area. The acoustic band can only entertain so much, but at some point, food should already be flying out of the kitchen.
Our previous unpleasant, albeit very few, experiences here taught us two hacks: place our orders as soon as we are settled in or come earlier to avoid the crowds during peak hours.
While we don’t mind waiting, the three things I mentioned earlier are not negotiable. And maybe I’ll include a fourth one now – family. Who you share the view, the music and the meal with, matters the most in the end.
The rest, in the grand scheme of things, will just be detail.
Panagatan Seafood Restaurant
Opol, Misamis Oriental
Opens daily from 6:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Major credit cards are accepted.
For inquiries and reservations:
+63 8822 754487