30 December 2010


BEST MEMORIES of 2010 (in random order):
  1. J and I experienced all four seasons this year (see the gift tag I made above). A first for us! Yey! But still no snow (Maybe by 2011?).
  2. Welcomed 2010 in HongKong!
  3. Attended a wedding in Singapore one week before the Chinese New Year.
  4. Shanghai Spring! I was like a giddy little girl when I saw cherry blossoms for the first time.
  5. Celebrated my birthday "on top of the world," at the Taipei 101, Taiwan.
  6. Trekked one of the Wonders of the World – The Great Wall of China!
  7. Treated my parents and sister to a Palawan vacation! One more item off my Bucket List. Next goal: To treat the whole family to a vacation outside of the country.
  8. Started running (Loving it!). It has helped me lose weight. Today, I'm one pound away from my original weight goal. I'm considering pushing myself some more.
  9. Back in the boxing ring. Whew!
  10. Started Blog #2: My Little Black Book of Style
  11. My sister P continued to excel in class. She actually scores perfect in her exams!
  12. My niece S started school. I tried to be present in all the major school events -- for her, for my parents (I document the events for them).
  13. Another year of us being blessed with good health, safe travels, stable careers, lots of love and laughter.

Some of the things I’m looking forward to in 2011 (also in random order)...
  1. [Accomplished. School started 012911.] Student life. Part of my Year-End Bonus went to my tuition. So excited!
  2. My family coming home. I want my parents to enjoy the fruits of their labor and the company of their beloved granddaughter (they miss her too much!).
  3. I’m praying for a BIG LEAP I’m planning to take. (So help me, God.)
  4. [Accomplished 010211.] New hair color.
  5. Going back to yoga.
  6. Back to 110 lbs.
  7. More travels.
  8. More discoveries.
  9. More life lessons.
  10. The successful launch of the new channel.
  11. My dear sister P’s grade school graduation. And her move to high school (Oooh, I’m getting very sentimental. Ang bilis ng panahon.).
  12. More of the good stuff: good health, safe travels, fulfilling and rewarding careers, lots of love and laughter for all of us.

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."-- Oprah Winfrey


We do not celebrate Christmas. You read that right. The non-celebration is due to our religious belief. But I’m not getting into discussions of Faith here. I just want to share a different December point-of-view.

I grew up in a household with no parols, no Christmas trees, no belens. If you greet me “Merry Christmas,” I’ll most likely respond with “Happy Holidays!” I can’t relate to the Pinoy idiom “Ano’ng hinihintay mo, Pasko?!” Literal translation: “What are you waiting for – Christmas?!" (What it means: “Move it...now!”)

In our religion, December is more about Thanksgiving. Maybe that helped shape my ever-thankful character (remember my Gratitude Journal?).

All my life, the Holiday Season has been more about family and friends’ reunions. I look forward to the change of weather. Manila gets a little bit cooler in the evenings as soon as December sets in. I get excited over gift-shopping (My lists are on Excel worksheets, O.C.D.). We do exchange gifts during the reunions. I appreciate the Christmas-themed mall decors and street lights. I enjoy listening to Christmas carols (someone gave me the Glee Christmas Album this year, yey!). I have zero EQ when it comes to gifts – I open them as soon as they’re handed to me (one of the perks of not having to wait for December 24th). And I go gaga over post-Christmas sales! Some of my most favorite films are set against the Holiday Season – “Love Actually,” “Serendipity,” “The Holiday,” and yeah, even “Home Alone.”

I hope I’m proof that “no Christmas” does not make one a Scrooge. Because if Christmas really is about loving and giving and sharing – well, I’m into that all year round. *wink*

11 December 2010


Remember my Auntie Brigade entry? Well, one of my favorite Auntie / Tita moments this year was skipping work (morning lang naman) to attend my niece's school party. Yes, I'm that kind of Tita, I make time for milestones. Family over work. *wink*

Above: The classroom window.
Love the artwork!

Above: Happy 4th Birthday to our dearest S!
Her classmates sang the birthday song in Chinese! Cute!
They had their Chinese class that day kasi.

Above: Tita A & Tito J's gift --
Toy Story cupcakes for every one!

Above: I'm a fan of super cute cupcakes!
I'm loyal to Kiddie-party.com, love their creations.

Below: Last year's Strawberry Shortcake set.

Below: Their Hannah Montana creation for my dear sister.

05 December 2010


Above: Our condo's lobby tree
The sinamay (fabric made from banana plant fibers) makes it very Filipino.
I appreciate that especially since the building's tenants are multi-cultural.
Ibida ang Pinoy touch!

Above: Our neighborhood mall's tree of toys!
Shangri-la Plaza

Above: The Shangri-la Mall hanged their stockings!
Have you done the same?

Giant stockings could only mean lots of gifts!

Above: Our office is dressed as a Gift Box for the Holidays!
GMA Network, EDSA side

The Network's annex pedestrian gate

How are things looking at your side of the world? =)

29 November 2010


Triangle Treat #1
We're fans of Singapore's Chicken Rice. So upon hearing that Wee Nam Kee's opening a branch in Manila, we had to try it!

We arrived earlier than the usual dinner hour. We had our names listed around 5:30pm, we were 9th in line. To kill time, we went around the garden. We came back around 6:15pm; and were finally seated by 6:30pm. Yes, one hour waiting time. The resto's still on soft opening. If you really want your chicken rice, patience must be on your menu.

Above: Roasted Chickens

Above: Bird Cage lamps

Dips: Hoisin Sauce, Ginger & Chili Sauce

We loved their very tender & flavorful
Medium (Half) Steamed Chicken!

Above: Chicken Rice
(Kanin pa lang, ulam na!)
If not for my weight-loss program, I would have ordered extra rice!
It was sooo good!

Drinks: Lime Juice
(Water na lang, dear.)

Triangle Treat #2
After dinner, we were off to the Lights & Sounds Show, still in the Garden. It's a 10-minute spectacle every 30 minutes, from 6-8pm, daily. Free!
The added aliw factor for me: watching with the super excited kids. They were ooh-ing, aah-ing, wow-ing and clapping all at the same time. Cute! Around 200 families were gathered in the garden when we watched the show. I wonder if this will turn out to be the 21st century's Pinoy Holiday tradition (remember C.O.D.'s Christmas shows in the '80s)?

Triangle Treat #3
Golden Spoon's frozen yogurt. Plain. No toppings. We shared a cup. The best option for those on a "diet."


I'm designing several gift tags for the Holidays.

Below is the version I call "Seasons of Love" featuring photos from some of our 2010 trips -- Winter in HongKong (Jan 2010), Spring in Shanghai (Apr 2010), Summer in Singapore (Feb 2010), Autumn in Beijing (Sept 2010). We got to experience all four seasons this year! Yey!
2010's Four Seasons

The theme of the first batch of Holiday Gifts: Travels. This weekend, we gave travel toiletry kits and (very Pinoy) bag tags to...

...my travel-loving friends from college.
UP-CMC Supremes' Year-End Reunion
28 Nov 2010
YakiMix, Tomas Morato

YakiMix's buffet: Php580 per head
Worth every peso!

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. --Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

28 November 2010


Things have really turned ugly for the Department of Tourism's "Pilipinas Kay Ganda!" campaign (see related stories, "Not So Pretty," "Gets More Flak").

I also think it's blah. But I won't stop at criticizing the campaign. As a proud Filipino, I'm doing my share of promoting the country's 7,107 islands by blogging about my Top Three Pinoy Picks. I know there are more than three must-sees in our country. But for now, allow me to talk about my Top Three.

#1 Palawan

I've been to Palawan thrice. First with college friends right after graduation, then with J to celebrate our First Wedding Anniversary, then with my family months ago. I've only seen parts of Puerto Princesa, Sabang and Port Barton. I know there's so much more to explore. My impression: If you love the beach, minus the parties, this is where you should go. One of my life dreams is to have a family vacation home in Palawan. But the more immediate goal is to see Coron soon.

Above, Clockwise:
Fallen tree by the beach;
Off to the Monkey Trail
(Most people go to the Underground River via a 20-minute boat ride.
We chose to take the 2-hour trek);
Me, floating on water (haha);
Us on a duyan (a cradle);
rock formation in Port Barton;
baby crocs at the Crocodile Farm;
hard hats as anti-bat pee/poo gear;
exiting the Underground River;
Bulol swimming at the Star Fish Island.

A bit from our date: I remember us taking a 2-hour jeepney ride from our overnight stay in Port Barton back to Puerto Princesa. I was seated inside the jeep, together with most of the commuters while J was on the vehicle's roof (yes, top ride!), together with three squealing pigs and a couple of other locals. My husband's fearless. Sometimes, his adventurous spirit could give me a heart attack! Needless to say, I was frantic the entire trip (couldn't sit still, was worried sick about him, especially on the zigzag roads!). Why did I allow him to take the top ride? He's a pro. As a mountaineer, he's done it a gazillion times. And I didn't want to be a kill-joy so I agreed. Thank God we got to our destination safe and sound.

LONELY PLANET: "Palawan is one of the real treasures of the Philippines...Due in equal parts to its rugged topography, its small population and its distance from other islands in the archipelago, Palawan has managed to stay largely pristine.

Palawan's world-class diving, snorkelling and jungle trekking make it a must-see destination for nature lovers and adventure-sports fans. The fantastic seascapes of the Bacuit Archipelago, the wrecks around Coron Town and the magical lakes of Coron Island should rank high on any visitor's list. You could spend a lifetime discovering new islands, beaches and reefs, particularly around northern Palawan and Busuanga Island.

With convenient and quick plane and ferry connections from Luzon, Palawan is easy to get to. With few paved roads, however, it can be time consuming to travel overland around Palawan. But the views along the way are usually worth the time and effort. Of course, in the wet season, which usually runs here from June to September, road travel can be difficult in the days following a heavy rain. But, it is possible to travel in Palawan during the wet season, and many people enjoy the brilliant sunsets that come with the clouds.
All told, we consider Palawan to be one of the most rewarding outdoor-sports destinations not just in the Philippines, but in all of Southeast Asia."

#2 Sagada

I'm proud to have survived the adventures of Sagada! It was J's nth visit, my first. We were there to celebrate our Second Wedding Anniversary. Considering my limited outdoors experience and skills, it was my roughest but most rewarding travel experience so far! As for J, walang-wala sa kanya (it was peanuts), haha.

Above, Clockwise:
The rickety mini bus we rode from Baguio to Sagada
(Glad the hell ride was worth it!);
Bulol by the Sagada Bell;
Echo Mountain;
Take a peek inside the Sagada Church;
Bulol by the Pine Trees;
J hanging off the cliff! (Told you he's fearless.);
Locals dancing in the dap-ayan;
gorgeous rock formations;
hanging coffins;
Bulol by the lamp, inside the Sumaging Cave;
we went trekking;
a cow guarding one of the tomb stones at the local cemetery;
Center: That's us inside the adventure-filled Sumaging Cave
(expect to trek, rapel, walk through ice-cold, neck-deep water,
crawl through holes)

I'm a Sagada Survivor!

A bit from our date: My favorite moment was napping one afternoon in the Sagada park (near the Church), engulfed by the scent of pine trees, with the locals singing and dancing one-hundred feet away, while J watched over me. It remains to be one of the most relaxing moments of my life.

LONELY PLANET: "The absence of noise and pollution are probably the first things you'll appreciate about Sagada, a tranquil mountaintop town where you can walk down the middle of the road and only occasionally be disturbed by a passing vehicle. Backpackers have been flocking here for years to enjoy the incredible mountain scenery, cheap dope and companionship of like-minded travellers.

Sagada fills up quickly in the March-to-May high season. But despite its popularity it manages to stave off changes that would detract from its appeal as an 'ecotourism' destination - there are no massive hotels or blaring discos, and videoke is conspicuously absent. For many Sagadans, the traditional way of life remains intact. During harvest celebrations, women wear tapis while older men don G-strings and gather in the dap-ay; chickens are sacrificed, gongs are played and general merriment ensues.

Sagadans are of Applai (Northern Kankanay) ancestry and their native language is Kankanay although, as in the rest of the Cordilleras, Ilocano and English are widely spoken.
It can get chilly at night, especially from December to February, when temperatures can drop as low as 4°C. From March to May, temperatures rise as high as 30°C during the day. The rest of the year is the wet season, when the normal pattern is a sunny, pleasant morning followed by a heavy, long afternoon shower."

#3 Batanes (though we've never been here)

"Taming the wind and the waters in the northernmost Philippine frontier, the relatively isolated islands of the Batanes, the home of the resilient and welcoming Ivatans, with its rolling hills, subtropical climate, ancient cultures, windswept traditional stone houses and breathtaking landscapes and seascapes which perhaps make it one of the prettiest corners of the world." -- http://tourism-philippines.com/batanes/

Photo: philecotourism.wordpress.com

If J and I could see only one more Pinas Spot, we'd both choose Batanes. I always hear about travelers being taken back in time, as if they're transported to a totally different world.

Just how untouched is Batanes? Read about the Honesty Cafe. I wonder if there's something like it anywhere else in the world. Only in the Philippines!

27 November 2010


Spotted at the Rustan's Supermarket while we were doing the grocery.
We appreciate the staff's creativity but we still didn't buy pork, hehe.
We're currently on a 'white meat' diet (fish and chicken only).

21 November 2010


Our Sunday was about forests and gardens.

At 6am, we ran for the restoration of the country's rain forests via Haribon's Million-Hectare Challenge. I joined J in the 5K race (nag-level up na ko!).

Above: Our bibs & shirts

Above: After the Race
The 7am sky at The Piazza Venice, McKinley Hill, Taguig.
(Proud of this shot, taken with my lowly Nokia E63 pero maayos.)

After the Run, we headed to Sonya's Garden, Tagaytay for our well-deserved massages and super healthy lunch! Last time we were here, we were still boyfriend-girlfriend, and the place had no bed & breakfast, no spas yet. It's great to know that even with the expansion, it has kept its charm.

Above: This way to paradise!

Above: Not-so-Secret Garden

Above: lotus pond

Above: one of the many charming garden nooks

Above: Welcome to the Spa Area

Above: My massage bed

Above: Our massage room's window.
Super presko!
Hearing the tree leaves dance with the wind
made our massages even more relaxing!

Above: My view, face down.

Above: Dalandan-based Tea,
served after our massages.

Room's motif: traditional Pinoy bahay-kubo.
Capiz walls separated the massage rooms.

After our very soothing back and feet massages (Php560 each plus Php100 for the Couple's Room), it was time for our deliciously healthy eat-all-you-can lunch (Php610 per person).

Above: Create your own salad of freshly harvested lettuce and arugula
topped with mango, broad beans, eggs, cucumber, jackfruit, pineapple,
edible flowers in season, drizzled with Sonya’s Secret Dressing.

Above: Bottomless freshly squeezed
dalandan juice (green mandarin).

Above: Pasta Fest
Two kinds of sauces and toppings: sun dried tomato and chicken cream with mango.
Topped with ratatouille, salmon belly, shitake mushrooms, black olives,
capers and grated parmesan cheese, pepperoncini.

Above: Fresh baked whole wheat sesame bread
with an array of homemade dips and toppings:
basil pesto, white cheese, anchovies,
bruschetta tomato toppings, and mushroom pate.

My lovely embroidered table napkin.

Above: Dessert
Homemade chocolate cake from the Sonya's Garden Panaderia
(good but Uno's is still our favorite),
banana rolls with sesame & jackfruit (sarap!),
glazed sweet potato (best eaten with mint leaves).

We're trying their Bed & Breakfast soon!