This Family-Owned Garden Café in Dagupan City is a Homey Getaway

April 11, 2022 Travel

Not everyone is lucky to have green spaces in their homes. After cooping for so long, I craved for greens, spaces, and conversations. 

So when my friend Bong invited me to visit their new place in Dagupan City, I quickly said yes, and I invited other friends to come along.

Opened in June 2021, El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino is a river-side property turned into an al fresco café, which is also an events venue and a bed and breakfast. It is located at Brgy. Tambac, Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

The place has a number of dining settings – an indoor venue that exudes very rustic charm with vintage furniture; a pavilion that is perfect for small receptions; a courtyard where guests can dine under the vines; Paseo de Acacia, which is perfect for wedding ceremonies; and a smaller garden for more intimate settings.

All of these are enhanced with romantic outdoor lighting at night, which gives a dreamy ambiance.

El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino is a family establishment through and through. 

Dining is like being a guest of the family with the doyenne, Mrs. Cynthia Esguerra, Bong’s mom, always making sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying their experience. She shares stories about the family, the property, and some of the known clans or personalities in the province.

Bong with his mom, Cynthia

Exploring the property, you’ll see remnants of the family history.

According to Bong, who is the youngest in the brood of three, his great-grandfather, Sotero Esguerra acquired the 7,500 square meter property in 1926. He imagined it as a trading post where farmers and traders would bring their goods via the tributary river or the barangay road which lines the Tambac property on both sides. When he passed away, his surviving sons Nicolas and Ignacio divided the estate. 

The Tambac side went to Bong’s grandfather, Nicolas. However, it was left unattended for decades as Nicolas settled in Pandacan, Manila after World War II. None of his children wanted to go back to Dagupan except for his father, Fernando.  In 1986, he decided to set roots in Dagupan City. 

According to Bong, “for a time, his parents dabbled in poultry and there were chicken coops; then in construction, so you’ll see equipment lying around; also in automotive servicing, so there are car parts stocked in the property; and in fuel and LPG distribution, so for a while, it was a warehouse.”

“But throughout the changes, there was one thing they did constantly and that was to plant, plant and plant some more. From native tree species to ornamental plants, to pinakbet vegetables for their next meal; they cultivated the property non-stop” he adds.

It was the pandemic that made the family see the opportunity that was in front of them all along.

Most of the furniture here at El Jardin was from trees within the property uprooted by Typhoon Pepeng in 2009 and used construction materials that Bong’s parents stashed over the years. 

The place currently has five rooms available for those who want to stay overnight. From the said rooms, guests can peek into the Tambac River.

Bong’s sister, Carmina, and her husband, Mon Camacho, take care of the food and the power couple gives guests a one-of-kind culinary experience. Their Spanish-inspired Filipino fusion cuisine is something else.


During dinner, they served us Sopa de Mariscos, Gambas, Paella Laing Con Bagnet, Paella Negra, slow-roasted beef belly, Bangus al Jorno, El Jardin Salad, Apple Crumble Cheesecake, Pana Cotta, and chocolate mousse. 

Our dinner table

charcuterie board

I wanted to bottle the oil of this Gambas and use it to fry my rice

Paella Negra

Paella Laing Con Bagnet. This one stole the show

When in Dagupan City. Dagupan City is the Bangus Capital.

All things come to play - amazing food, lovely presentation, and beautiful backdrop. And we dined under the stars!


Bong also had white and red sangrias available, a bar where we can mix our own drinks with gin as a base and a charcuterie board. These kept the conversations going until late at night. 


Not to be outdone also is the breakfast they served to us in the pavilion. I do not usually partake in breakfast but when breakfast is this eye-catching, I do. We had dried fishes, tapa, sausages, eggs, fried rice, and fresh salad. Of course, breakfast is not complete without a good cup of brewed coffee.


Definitely, those two feasts are worth the three-hour trip to Dagupan City. 


It was the fourth time I visited Dagupan City. The first two were for work – for a biking event sponsored by Unilever and for a motorcycle event organized by Suzuki. The third was for a relief operation for the victims of Typhoon Pepeng.


So it was the first time I experienced Dagupan City as a tourist. Glad that Bong also let us experience Dagupan City and its neighboring towns – Calasiao and Urdaneta City.


In Urdaneta, we had lunch in another business establishment owned by Bong’s family, Café Dos by Ciudad Fernandino. 


There, Chefs Mon and Carmina served us roasted ribs served with chicken, burger, and different sides. The meats were smoked for 16-hours using ipil-ipil, santol and mango wood. 

The roast platter. Cooked for 16-hour that is why it is so tender and juicy.

They also served taco salad, fresh lumpia in crispy molo wrapper, and bangus dinakdakan.

Fresh lumpia in crispy wanton wrapper. Love the flavor and texture.

On our way back to Manila, we again dropped by Café Dos and we had roasted chicken, pansitsinigang served on a hot pot, and kaimito shake. That was the first time of me trying a kaimito shake and it was good.


In Calasiao, aside from buying its famous puto, we also visited the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, which is declared a National Cultural Treasure.


In Dagupan City, aside from El Jardin, we had a late afternoon river cruise along Dagupan City’s rivers, including the mangrove-dense Tambac River; the fish-pen-lined river of Calmay River, up to its mouth where the river meets the Lingayen Gulf.


El Jardin can help guests arrange for this river cruise, which is currently being revived by the city’s tourism.


We also watched the sunset at Tondaligan Beach and joined the lively crowd at its newly-established food park. 

And we also visited the ruins of the Dagupan train station, the last stop of the "Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan" line, which begins in Tutuban in Manila.

Charming train station ruins in Dagupan City


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