A Miraculous Stop

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The best part of a road trip is that you get to pass by some great stopovers along the way. Enroute to Baguio, we stopped at the Candle Gallery of the Manaoag Basilica in Pangasinan where the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag sits. I didn’t know much about it but I’ve heard of its miraculous powers.

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The City of Gentle People | Dumaguete 2015

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Known as “The City of Gentle People”, I’m so proud to call Dumaguete, my hometown. I can’t say that I’ve spent a lot of time here growing up, but in the last couple of years, I’ve really learned to embrace the place as my second home. Aside from visiting family, I just love Dumaguete for being such a great place for sun, sand and blue skies. With an abundance of beach resorts, I never fail to make it a point to spend time under the sun each trip.

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I visited Pura Vida Beach & Dive Resort in Dauin. It’s around a 40 minute drive from Dumaguete’s city center. The resort is very well-maintained, and complete with rest huts, a spa, pool and beach.

The good thing about these beach resorts in Dumaguete are that most accept walk-in customers for the day. They charge an entrance fee that’s usually at PHP200+ and these are usually consumable at the resort for food and/or drinks.

It was nice enjoying time under the sun and to finally get the long overdue tan that I need. August is actually known as the Philippines’ rainy season so lucky for me, the sun came out. But I guess the sun couldn’t take it as after about three hours into our time at Pura Vida, the sun felt it was time to hide beneath the clouds again so we decided to call it a day.

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Next up was Tejero Highland Resort and Adventure Park located in Valencia. With an abundance of spacious pools, a zipline and ATV’s, this resort was definitely worth it for its PHP60 entrance fee which included making use of their swimming pools! Definitely a lot cheaper compared to Pura Vida but quick note, it was not consumable. Which to be honest, I don’t even mind! I heard you could even do your own grilling and bring in your own food. It was about PHP200 to rent a cottage which included a sitting area and table. Overall, Tejero’s was very much worth it! Would definitely come here again over Pura Vida if you ask me.

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Another adventure I went on during my stay in Dumaguete was a trip to Pulangbato Falls, also located in Valencia. It’s about a 40 minute drive from the city. Now your drive to the falls will be an adventure in itself with uncemented roads but as you near the falls, you start seeing clouds of white steam rising from the rocks which turned out to be from sulfur fumes. This then causes the stones around Pulangbato to redden. Hence, Pulangbato Falls – or translated as “Red Stone Falls”.

Getting down to the actual falls is no easy task. There are stairs that lead you down but you’re on your own conquering the flowing water and uneven rocks. Now we couldn’t have gone all this way without taking a dip. Unfortunately, for us, it just so happened that rain was headed our way so the falls were very, very forceful. I repeat, very. I felt like I was going to end up down the stream because of how strong the water flow was! It was also very, very cold so we didn’t even manage to check out the neighbouring falls which flowed in fresh water or the concrete natural pool of the area. Still a unique experience for me because it was actually my first time at a waterfall.

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On one of our more lazy days when we ran out of things to do, we went for an impulsive drive to Agan-an Sibulan Beach. Now it can’t compare to the beaches of Mactan, Cebu but it was a nice place within the city to just getaway for an afternoon. I’d imagine it being even more perfect with a book at hand!

Moments like this really allow me to embrace life. I’d say especially for someone like me who’s so used to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. It’s nice to just stop and appreciate life for all it is and appreciate the natural beauty.

Dumaguete is one of my favourite places to be and I definitely can’t wait for the next time I’ll be back.

All Things Jose Rizal | Dapitan City, Dipolog

Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte, is located in the southernmost island of Mindanao of the Philippines. I was just going along with some relatives who planned the trip so I had no expectations at all. I just knew there’d be a beach and a resort.

As soon as we stepped off the plane into Dipolog Airport, the very accommodating staff of Dakak Park and Beach Resort (where we were staying) assisted us and collected all of our luggage. They also had an airport transfer which brought us to our first stop, lunch at  Inato Lang! where we met the rest of the gang. The Filipino restaurant is located in Dampa, a dining destination along the Liboran River. It’s in a bahay kubo style (native hut) that featured an acoustic singer and guitarist to really create the perfect ambience  while you enjoy your meal.

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Our group availed of a city tour from Fantasyland Travel and Tours that took us to some of the main cultural sites along with a tour guide (useful for taking all your photos! oh and of course, provide us with information haha). One of the stops we made was at the landmark where Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, disembarked off the steamer, ‘Cebu’. Jose Rizal is Dapitan’s pride and joy as back in 1892, it was in Dapitan where he was exiled while under the Spanish rule. He taught, built a school, a hospital and established the city’s water supply system.

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Our next stop was at Rizal’s Mindanao Relief Map. A beautification project for the city and a geographical guide that Rizal built for his students. Grassy forms represented land while blue paint acted as the seas. So interesting to see how teaching was back then while accessing a map can literally be done at the click of a button today. In front of this landmark was the St. James Church of Dapitan. An old church built honouring the Patron Saint of Dapitan, St. James the Greater, back in the late 1800s.

We then headed to Rizal Shrine, Jose Rizal’s estate where he spent his years in exile. It’s located in Barangay Talisay featuring rebuilt houses made of bamboo – in other words, your typical bahay kubo. Different structures made up the estate – Rizal’s main house, his students’ dormitory, health houses (today’s equivalent to medical clinics) and the dam which was part of the water system that Rizal built. During our visit, the Rizaliana Museum was closed down for renovation work so we didn’t get to see it, but know that it features photos, artifacts and other pieces that once belonged to Rizal.

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The following day, we went to Gloria’s Fantasyland in the evening. Dapitan City’s own version of Disneyland haha.  It was…interesting to say the very least. Almost gave an abandoned theme park vibe to it but I made it out alive so maybe looks are just deceiving? Quite a number of rides were closed down too! I’d assume it could be due to the lack of maintenance. And barely anyone was really at the park. Sketchy.

But the park did offer some “fun” parts to it like the Grand Night Parade: Festival of Colors  (haha questionable on the “grand” part though). There was an amazing acrobatic performance to start the show off, followed by a fire show by GMA7’s Bet ng Bayan finalist Jomar Abjelina. One word: wow. Best part of the night show. It was then followed by a Parade of Cultures. Nothing amazing really haha but I guess it’s exciting for the little ones. The show then supposedly ends with a fireworks display. Unfortunately due to rain that evening, it was cancelled.

Our last stop at the park was the Horror House. I was never a fan of haunted houses or anything scary in general. But the group convinced me so I went for it. Despite the disappointing rest of the evening, this definitely topped it off! So much fun. Highly recommend it.

Overall, Fantasyland was…well…no Disneyland. I’d say good enough of a theme park for one in the province but definitely don’t expect too much. If you have kids, go for it. If its an all-adults group, skip it.

The rest of our Dipolog trip was spent at Dakak Park and Beach Resort, where we stayed the three days we were there. Stay tuned for my next post on that!

 

 

Star-studded Weekend Getaway | Manila, Philippines

(Late post, all of this happened exactly a month ago.)

Attend a celebrity wedding, check! It’s not often in your life you’re given such an opportunity so if you need to take a flight to attend that wedding, miss a couple of days of school, it’s a definite go.

We intended to take the first flight out on Friday morning but because flights were so full, we ended up getting bumped off. We did manage to get on the next flight out and made it in time for a lovely lunch at Fely J’s Kitchen in Greenbelt 5. Absolutely loved their food! Or maybe I’m just biased because it was Filipino food. But either way, it was delicious. Some of my favourites was their Tilapia with Sweet Plum Sauce, Lechon Kawali served along with Fely J’s Dilis-cious Rice.

We stayed two nights at five-star luxury hotel, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila and I was very pleased with their service. Very welcoming staff upon entry! I stayed in one of their Superior rooms which was the perfect fit for myself and my mom. It also made great space as our room was used the following day for hair and make up for the wedding. I’m so used to the hustle and bustle of Manila but Sofitel’s swimming pool landscaped by surrounding palm trees facing Manila Bay seems like the perfect getaway or even staycation for those in Manila. It’s said that Manila Bay’s Sunset is one of the must-sees of Sofitel but unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time as the sun was pretty much down by the time I headed to the pool area. But the music and fireworks made up for it thanks to another event going on! Dinner was at Spiral, quoted as the “Best Buffet in Manila”! All I can say is that I was very overwhelmed with Spiral’s range of cuisines – from Japanese to Italian to Filipino, I didn’t know what to eat! It was a lovely buffet with the bride, groom and their adorable daughter. Also appreciated Spiral’s surrounding decors. Overall, their buffet is perfect for family gatherings or date nights with your special someone.

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It was rise and shine at around eight in the morning the following day as we were to get started with hair and make up by nine. Thanks so much to my wonderful make-up artist, Elly and hair stylist, Page, for making me look and feel so beautiful!

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The wedding was held at The Blue Leaf Filipinas which was a generally convenient location with a lovely exterior – and interior thanks to their event decorator! Some celebrity sightings were most of the Two Wives cast, Jodi Sta. Maria, Zanjoe Marudo, Bernard and Mico Palanca, Doug and Cheska Kramer, Antoinette and Tom Taus and Gretchen Fullido. And the guest performer, Charice! I knew quite a bit of the wedding details prior to the event but I had no idea about Charice! All I can say is that you might think she sounds great in recordings but she sounds even better live! Her voice is just so clean – she has been blessed with such a beautiful voice! It was a lovely wedding – I’d say pretty simple for a celebrity wedding but still so perfect.

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The following day, we headed to the seaside Dampa located along Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard which was also conveniently located by Sofitel. I’m no fan of seafood but I enjoyed the lovely food and having a meal with family friends I rarely ever see. By this point, I think my body was ready to give up because I wasn’t feeling so great but it was a nice end to my trip!

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the weekend. Who knew hanging out with my mom’s best friends could be just as fun as being around your own friends!? Definitely a weekend worth remembering. And best of all, here’s wishing to the lovely couple that your love will stay true forever and that through each day, you bring each other and Chelsea (and future babies!) happiness and love.

Fely J’s Kitchen: 2/F, Greenbelt 5, Greenbelt Dr, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila: CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Manila, 1300, Philippines

Spiral: Pasay Plaza Level, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Roxas Boulevard, CCP Complex, Pasay City, Philippines

The Blue Leaf Filipinas: Belle Avenue, Aseana, Paranaque City, Pasay City, Philippines

Manila Trip – Part 2!

Now for the more “eventful” part of my trip where I got to spend time with more family, as well as the little ones from my Garcia side. 

Day 6: Family time

This was dad’s only full day in his very, very short trip to MNL. His two other siblings and my Lola were all complete for lunch at Sumo Sam in The Block, SM North Edsa. To be honest, I am not a fan of Japanese food – perhaps because I’m not into sushi but their Ebi Tempura was not bad at all. We also ordered Kisu Tempura which if I remember correctly, was fish tempura. Their Miso Soup was really good too! Well I’ve never really been disappointed with any Miso soup. We also enjoyed Beef Teppan which was medium rare – the meat was quite hard I’d have to say but good flavours. Also headed over to Gigi’s Custaroonery stall near the Cinemas of SM North Edsa which was what we gave away to our HK family back home.

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Day 7: Manila traffic and delicious food!

Dad was set to leave today but before heading off to the airport, I accompanied him with some final errands. We went to visit my Lolo. It does make me sad that I never got to meet him and I know so little about him… Soon after, dad decided to make a spontaneous trip to Estrel’s Caramel Cakes Bakery in Diliman to bring a cake back to HK. It then started to pour so we headed home for a quick lunch and decided to head to the airport early, anticipating traffic. And boyyyy were we right! We were on the road for maybe three hours? Crazy. After we got to the airport my Titas, cousin and I headed to Powerplant Mall where we did some window shopping! Then had a lovely dinner at Via Mare to treat ourselves from that drive! I honestly really enjoyed the food at Via Mare. It’s a Filipino restaurant (yes! Filipino again!) and pretty affordable I’d say. We ordered: Tuyo Fried Rice (dried fish flakes and scrambled eggs) – real good!, Oysters Rockefeller (spinach, bacon and 3-cheese!) – pretty good but to be honest, not a big fan of oysters., Pinalutong na Tilapia (Crispy Tilapia (fish)) – loved it! and Crispy tapa (beef sirloin) – also good! Later that evening I treated the boys to a late night Starbucks session at Tomas Morato (credits to my Tita who acted as our chauffeur haha). Got to try their Toffee Nut Latte Frappuccino (not the best to be honest) but was nice spending time with the boys.

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Day 8: Drama and the largest milkshake ever!

Rough start to the day with family drama but I’d rather not elaborate on that! Original plan for the day was to have lunch at Casa Verde and head to the mall afterwards with my aunt for some shopping but because lkahsg disrupted our plans for the day, we only went with lunch plans. We headed to UP Town Center – particularly liked the vibe here and tons of dining outlets to choose from! Lacking on the retail outlets but thats fine by me! There was Cotton On – where we spent over an hour while waiting for our table at Casa Verde. And I also managed to snatch a knock off version of Toms in cream lace! Casa Verde I’d assume would be a Filipino restaurant but to my surprise was a very American-Westernized place! With “The Milky Way” – the largest chocolate milkshake ever! Which by the way was VERY good – unexpected considering its size! “The Mighty Ton”, a 12-inch, 1 kilo, bacon mushroom cheeseburger looked too much it almost looked a bit sickening to me! I mean I am no burger fan to begin with so that might be why. “Brian’s Ribs” was a set of ribs and fries for just PHP250! Really cheap for what it was – and it wasn’t bad at all! Overall a very good meal despite the looooooong waiting time.

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Day 9: Cronuts and Little Ones

Got up bright and early as I headed over to stay with my cousin and her family in Greenhills for a couple of days before heading back to Hong Kong. We headed to The Podium, more of an upscale mall in Mandaluyong – basically the business district of Manila. Had lunch at Wildflour Cafe + Bakery where I FINALLY(!) got a taste of cronuts. It’s been a while since this was a craze in the Manila but I never got to try it. I particularly liked the Maple Bacon Cronut (yuuuuuuum). Also tried the Dulce de Leche Cronut but wasn’t a huge fan. For lunch, my cousin and I split a lasagna – not too bad as well but the cafe was on the pricey side. Also visited Greenhills later that afternoon and did a teeny bit of shopping and got to see my pamangkins (niece and nephew in English in case you were wondering!). Had dinner at Kimpura, a midscale Japanese restaurant. Again, not the biggest fan of Japanese food but not bad. Also got to see the annual Christmas story at Greenhills where a display was set up of the nativity story directly in front of a Christmas bazaar with lots of street food as well.

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Day 10: Shopping and pamper afternoon

Began the day with some shopping at Greenhills – take two! Shopped a little more today but practically circled the same area three times! Clearly not the best at directions!! What I like best about Greenhills is I can shop cheap and no one back home in HK would even know how affordable I got that top for hehehe. Had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen then it was pamper afternoon! Finally got that haircut and hot oil I was longing for. Went a little shorter this time and am honestly quite happy with it. Decided to go ahead and get a manicure too because why the heck not, it’s not like I get my nails done in HK! We later had dinner at Barrio Fiesta, a Filipino restaurant (yup! again).

Day 11: Crepes, Politics, Traffic and Departure

Last day in Manila! Scheduled my flight to be later in the afternoon so I could still enjoy a little of the day. We headed back to The Podium for lunch to pick up the cronuts I was bringing back home and had lunch at Cafe Breton, a quaint little cafe but does great with their crepes! I had their Galette Rustique (okay fine it was a Galette not a Crepe – potato, potatoh! same thing). It was a “galette” with smoked bacon, tomato provencal, mozarella and sunny side up egg – really, really good! Too bad I didn’t get to snap a photo of it. After that, we faced the traffic and headed to the airport – honestly, our trip was not as bad as when I had gone to the airport to drop dad off a couple of days before but was still not an easy breezy drive – typical Manila. I was at the airport a lot earlier than my scheduled flight – better early than late! Decided to get an iced coffee as I was beginning to feel a little under the weather. Look at my effort to become a coffee drinker. Still haven’t conquered hot coffees though! #2015goal The journey back to HKG was a little tough with heavy delays on ground and a little delay on air but was finally back at home by 10PM that evening.

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Overall my Manila trip was very worthwhile especially after not having been back for over a year. What was important was that I got to see my relatives and that’s all that matters. Really hoping I can make more of an effort to visit my family in Manila.

So sorry this post has been so delayed! So so SO delayed that my Christmas post overlapped but I had some trouble uploading the photos into the post but I’m on my laptop right now and told myself I needed to get this up before 2014 ends! I honestly haven’t been feeling the best since I’ve gotten back from my trip which was almost two weeks back. Been suffering from what I assume is a nasal allergy attack but woke up yesterday feeling a thousand times better (or it could be Sinutab working its magic) so I hope this keeps up.

I had originally intended for one more post to go up before the year comes to a close but I have an early start tomorrow with work and then NYE Party preparations all afternoon so we’ll see. If not, it could just be a look back at my 2014 once 2015 hits. Till next time xxx