Family, TRAVEL

Persistence pays off!

We just came home from our family vacation in the Visayas. We went to celebrate Noelle’s 8th birthday! I chose Dumaguete because I wanted to see the Manjuyod sandbar again with my family. I’d been there with my parents before, like more than a decade ago. The sandbar wasn’t visible anymore at the time we went, but we were able to swim. We also went dolphin watching and the dolphins gave us a show! I only had a regular, non-digital camera then, so I wasn’t able to capture much.

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A day before she turned 8, in Sans Rival. 🙂

 

My mom was the one planning the whole thing (haha, yes I chose the city and dates, but she planned almost everything), and she got our contacts through my cousin. She was told by one tour operator that it was not safe to go to Manjuyod in January because of the Amihan, or the cool northeast wind. My mom says it’s my hardheadedness (I call it my persistence and faith), but I just did not want to believe that we were going to Dumaguete and not be able to enjoy the Maldives of the Philippines. I needed to hear it from the tour guide/driver/boatman myself that it was not safe, before I was going to concede. We kept it in our itinerary.

Thankfully, our other contact assured us that the coastguard would advise the boat operators whether it’s safe to go to sea or not, and that they in turn would advise us. And it was a go! It was definitely safer than our boatride to and from Apo Island (our 3rd day), which we were told would be more calm haha. It was a little windy, but the twenty minute boat ride to the sandbar was uneventful. And the sandbar — massive and beautiful!

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On the boat, with the sandbar in sight. The sandbar is 7km long.

 

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With my mom, Gianna’s first boat ride ever. 🙂 

 

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King and I took a walk on the sand, but didn’t even get to any other end. It was huge! And we had to go back to our kids haha. Gianna didn’t want to leave the shore.

 

We got there at the right time. Good thing I researched and read a blog that said low tide was between 6am and 9am, and that by 10am the sandbar would be submerged already. You could still swim of course, but you would miss the sandbar. So we made sure that our van picked us up around 6am, and we got to Bais by 7am or so.

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the birthday girl happily playing with her little sister 🙂

 

When we got to the Bais port/pier, the boat owner’s wife asked us what we wanted for lunch because the boatmen were going to cook our food for us on the boat! She bought the ingredients for us in the nearby wet market, and in about twenty minutes, we were off to the sandbar. The water was so blue and just beautiful! The kids immediately got off the boat. The boatmen told us that we should just get our picture taken first with the sandbar and go dolphin and whale watching, then come back for lunch and swimming. But then Gianna was so happy on the beach, not even changing into her swimsuit, that we decided to just enjoy the sandbar. We’d gone dolphin watching in Bohol and swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob a few years ago already anyway.

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Gianna dumping sand on the patient starfish haha. Don’t worry, it was not harmed. 🙂 *No starfish was harmed by us on our vacation. We were gentle in handling them and putting them back in the ocean.

 

And our lunch! Grilled pork, sinigang na hipon, grilled okra, huge wild scallops, seaweed, coconut juice in their shell. Soooo good! We ate with our hands so I couldn’t take photos haha. The bonus was those wild oysters in vinegar that we bought from a couple of boatmen. They were selling the whole container for only 300 pesos. We opted to just buy 10 pieces for 100 pesos, because we had too much food already. And it was the highlight of our lunch! Unforgettably yummy!

The best part? Noelle kept saying “best birthday ever!”

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It’s alive!

 

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A tiny starfish family under a shell! I found them when I picked up the shell, but put it back right away. 

 

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Gianna wasn’t afraid to touch, but she was gentle as well. 🙂

 

 

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Beautiful spongy starfish 🙂

 

 

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Our boatman caught a couple of sea dragons and showed us. We tried to take a video in the water but they swam away way too fast! They literally zipped away as soon as manong released them to supposedly let Danae hold them. So he caught another and placed him in a container so we could take a good look. One of the coolest sea creatures ever, with a tail and dragon wings (fins). We put him back of course. 🙂

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Our boatman/diver/cook/boat owner. He found a crab to show the kids. Super cool!

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The tide was coming in at 930am.

 

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I think this was around 1030 to 11am. The sandbar was submerged in water already.

 

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Beautiful Philippines 🙂 

 

If I readily accepted what we were told from the beginning, we would not have been able to experience the beauty of Manjuyod! Persistence with prayer pays off! Faith with wisdom pays off! Thank you Lord for allowing us to enjoy and be captivated by the beauty of your creation. For surrounding us with your angels so we can safely travel on foot and by land, air, and sea. For giving us the opportunity to celebrate and build wonderful memories with our family. We are so grateful.

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Me and my forever travel buddy  ❤

 

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Me and my little sisters hehehe ❤ 

 

Family, FEATURED

Cherished Traditions 2016

A week after Pasko at Pamilya, our Alabang church had its own Christmas traditions event which we call Cherished Traditions. It was a busy day for me as I had to prepare for my DIY corner, do last minute shopping for some candles and Danae’s hoodie, and get some lab test results. Of course when you have 3 kids, things don’t always go the way you would hope. To make the long story short, I was late for call time and I came with a gloomy disposition. I had to ask my DIY partner, Belle, to pray for me. Thank God things started looking up from then on.

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photo credit: Capella Manalang

I was happy with my table for the DIY advent wreath. People got to see and try out different ways to make an advent wreath. I got to share what we do as a family when we light the advent wreath candles every Sunday for 4 Sundays before Christmas day and on Christmas day itself. The other DIY corner for the advent calendar was also super nice! Eden was in charge of that, with her partner Liza. We also do the advent calendar with our kids every Christmas season. Our senior pastor’s wife Shirley Marquez created a beautiful dessert table. She’s always spot on with her creations. We wives learn so much from and are inspired by her. She decorates our center every year too! I did one tablescape in Sta Rosa, but for Alabang Ms Gigi Escosar generously set up 3 tablescapes! They were all beautifully Christmassy!

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Shirley’s dessert table

After our guests were free to go to our DIY corners, check out the tablescapes, have their pictures taken in many picture-worthy areas, and enjoy their Krispy Kreme donut and hot choco, our cool father-daughter hosts Ptr Chico and Nina opened the program with the raffle! The raffle table was full of prizes! We had about 40 winners if I remember correctly. We also had a fun icebreaker, after which our kids gave us the most awesome dance number. Haha. Yes, I love my own. It was a joy and a privilege to teach our kids, the pastors’ kids, to dance. Thanks to the ever talented Luchie, for the song. She was the one who found Mandisa’s Joy Unspeakable. I’m so proud of our kids. They did really well despite the lack of practice, and they gave it their best. Each one of them wanted to make God smile as they danced, and I believe they did. 🙂

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Ptr Chico and Nina Peña (photo credit: Nina). Nina also wrote about the event here. 🙂
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Julio Peña, Noelle Lucero, Bianca Gidor, Ana Marquez, Andrea Marquez, Lovely Ramirez, Danae Lucero, Benj Gidor, Coleen Huang photo credit: Capella Manalang

Ptr Ariel and Ptr Janssen & his family were our speakers. Ptr Ariel delivered such a moving testimony. Truly, he and Shirley lived their message that Christmas is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. When Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, they went through the toughest time of their lives when their son Jerome fell ill and passed away 13 Christmases ago. Despite the painful memories, they still choose to celebrate every Christmas because it is Jesus they celebrate. Jesus is the point of every Christmas tradition. Ptr Ariel shared the why of Christmas traditions. The Morados family shared the how, the message they also shared in Pasko at Pamilya. 

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Ptr Ariel Marquez (photo credit: Nina Peña)
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Ptr Janssen, Ging and Andee Morados

The whole Huang family rendered us a lovely song. It was their first time to perform together, and we all went AWWWWW when we heard their youngest Coleen’s beautiful voice. I made sure our dance crew was there to support their fellow dancer. Christmas is love. Jesus is love. It was like magic. Sigh. From the parents to each of their children, they are just gifted. ❤

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The Huangs

Somewhere in between, they also showed our kids’ video, where they share about their favorite traditions and what impact it makes on them. To end the event, we gave each guest a really nice giveaway and they called back the dancers. It was supposed to be a celebration with everybody dancing, but I guess they enjoyed just watching the kids haha.

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Our comms team is super talented. They made our shoots easy and enjoyable, the photos and videos so beautiful! I got so kilig seeing my creation on our invitaion and tickets heehee. I didn’t know about it. We also shot DIY videos that were shown on screens beside our DIY table. 🙂
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Got to share some loved recipes at home in 2014. Got to get creative with plating too. 🙂

Cherished Traditions is always something we wives look forward to and work together to bring to others. Thanks to our leader Shirley who has imparted so much to us about the love of God, His love for people, about generosity, about love for family, being deliberate in making memories with our family, discipling our children and passing on our values and traditions to our children. Thanks to her leadership and Maryanne’s, and to each wife’s valuable contribution on the scene and behind, it was another fruitful event. I am just so grateful that I get to be a part of it. Things I never imagined I would be doing, they’ve given me the opportunity to. Plus it’s always a joy! It never feels like work. The motivation is always the desire to honor God, to serve and be generous. Because each one has that mindset, everyone works well together. I’m so thankful that that is the spirit I am surrounded by. Unity. Love. Servant leadership. Thank you, my sisters. It truly is an honor serving the Lord with you. ❤

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South Hub Pastors’ Wives ❤ Top row, from left to right: Eden Ramirez, She Ramirez, Aileen Gidor, Maryanne Peña,  Shirley Marquez, Malou Oaman, Phoebe Lucero, Ging Morados, Liza Divierte, Thine Canda ❤ Bottom row, from left to right: Belle Villanueva, Gigi Escosar, Luchie Huang, Lea Santos. Photot credit: Nina Peña 
Family, My Kids, Parenting

We Can’t Afford It

Before the school year ended, our family was faced with a dilemma. Do we go back to homeschooling for both girls or do we put them both in regular school? Or should we keep one in regular school and keep the other in homeschool?

Our original plan was actually to put both girls in Danae’s school, but we were suddenly apprehensive about the cost due to certain changes that the school made. I told the girls that we may not be able to afford it. But Danae really wanted to stay in her school. She said if she had no choice then she would agree to homeschooling again. Noelle said she was fine with continuing homeschooling. Perhaps I was not convinced of that plan, that I would constantly check the girls about what they thought about it. I would go back and forth, thinking and asking God what would be best for our girls.

I was leaning towards homeschooling them both again (with the help of a teacher), but no matter how hard I tried to convince Danae, she would not budge. Even when she would recall hurtful situations that happened in school and cry while telling me, she still insisted that she wanted to stay. She believes that she learns better there. Noelle started out excited about homeschooling again, but then slowly seemed indifferent. One morning, she quietly told me how she really felt — she wanted to go to Danae’s school! She was willing to homeschool only because we could not afford to put her in regular school.

That broke my heart. I really cried to God and to King. I did not want to put the burden on my daughter about what we can or cannot afford. She should not have to sacrifice for us. That is our job as her parents, to make sacrifices in order to give her and her sisters the best that we can possibly give. That pushed us to rethink and reorganize.

As I was talking to one of my mentors about this, she told me that they never tell their kids that they can’t afford something. That’s where I realized my mistake. Even though I want my children to be aware of the reality of expenses and I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled, I should never say the words “we can’t afford.” I realized that telling them we can’t afford something tells them that it is useless to dream, that some things are just not possible for them. Telling them that sends the message that we are relying on our own capacity and looking at ourselves as the source. Instead, like what my husband always does, I should encourage them to pray and ask God. I should help them believe that God is able, that God owns all, that God is good, that God knows and gives best to His children.

Though it may be true that we cannot afford all things, I do not have to burden my children with that fact. I must encourage them with the truth that with God, all things are possible. We do our part as parents, and we wait on God and watch Him prove Himself faithful.

This school year, they are both going to The Sycamore woohooo! Not because we can afford it, but because we believe that God will provide. However, they also know that we take it a year at a time. Next year may be different, not because we can’t afford it, but because their needs may be different. We have been pleased with the regular school set up of The Sycamore (formerly 360 Studio) because basically it is homeschool away from home and we have been happy with the character building and the disciplines Danae has learned, but we do not close our doors on homeschooling yet. The Lord knows best and we will submit to His will for our children. 🙂

 

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

 

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:24-26

 
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10

Family, My Kids, Parenting

Me and My Dad Camp 2016

Last April 1, three-fifths of my family went to Bangkong Kahoy, Quezon for Me and My Dad Camp. It was the fifth time for Danae and third for Noelle. It is a yearly event that King and our girls look forward to — a great bonding time for father and daughters, “roughing it” in tents, participating in water gun wars, cooking and eating all the junk food that they don’t get to eat much of at home! Noelle is looking forward to have her turn alone with King in camp when Danae is too old to join, and to have Gianna with her and King when her little sister is old enough to join them.

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Our Kids Church team led by Ptr Carlo always devotes a session for only the fathers to encourage and empower them to be the dads that God has called them to be, to be worthy of the respect and adoration their children give them. The team never fails to teach the kids to love, appreciate and honor their fathers. This year’s theme was My Dad, My Treasure. The kids were taught to see their fathers as their precious treasure.

The kids had an activity where they were to choose among many words on the board, one word that would best describe their dad. Words like courageous, bald, TV, workaholic, handy man, cigarettes, smart, funny, brave, busy, and more. Lo and behold, both our girls chose the same word for King without the other’s knowledge!

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How amusing and how wonderful to know that King and the girls are consistent. Last year, their activity was to write one word to describe their dad on a paper cup. Both girls also wrote the same word — FUNNY. Haha. I guess among all other descriptions, it’s their dad’s playfulness that resonates with them.

Thank you King for being the best dad to our girls! Thank you for making sure that they know that you love and prioritize them. Thank you for making family, whether on ordinary or extraordinary days, fun! We pray that your joy, your sense of humor, and your childlikeness will remain as we all grow older. May you influence us to always look at life with enthusiasm and to live life with much faith and grace, loving and honoring God. You are the father that you are because of how our Heavenly Father fathers you. We love you. 🙂

 

P.S. Thank you Kids Church for thinking about our children and helping us be better parents! We still have the booklets you guys had the kids answer last year to discover their love language. They are precious to us because they help us understand our girls better. They help us love our girls better. Thank you.

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matt 13:44-45

Family, FEATURED

My Yaya Flora

My Yaya Flora came to work for our family before I was born. I’m the youngest of two, so she first took care of my brother. It was merely a year and 8 months before my brother was upstaged by the new star in the family hahaha. Yaya took care of us. She couldn’t stop our countless fights, but she would be there to comfort me. Because my parents both worked, she was my constant companion. Come to think of it, I don’t know how she juggled her time and energy between me and my brother. She was in her 50s when she became our nanny. All I know is when I needed her, she was there.

I didn’t like taking the plane when I was a kid, so my parents would let me ride the boat (Negros Navigation) instead. Summers were spent either in Cagayan de Oro or Iloilo, and sometimes without the rents. My brother would fly with one or both parents, or alone. I would take the boat with my dad but mostly just with Yaya. I remember even staying in the  economy section, sleeping on yellow hammock-like beds with hundreds of other people, no air-conditioning, no privacy. It used to take 24 hours to get to Iloilo and 48 to Cagayan de Oro. We would have numerous bags with us (no wheels in our luggage — that’s how Yaya rolled), and we would bring adobo for our food. Other times we stayed in a room with 6 other strangers, with air-conditioning, and we had food stubs. There was some privacy, but bathrooms were for common use outside our quarters. I had pretty cool adventures as a kid. And I had a pretty cool and strong yaya.

I remember she would always set aside mangoes for me. She knew they were my favorite. She would tap my butt so I could fall sleep when I was little. She would sleep with me in my room. She would feed me. She would take me to school with the tricycle service. She interviewed the little boy who said he loved me, asked him if he was ready to marry me, hahaha. She would tell me stories about the children she took care of before us. I would ask her about her husband and if she had any kids, and she would always be coy about it. I never knew the real story. She would even buy clothes for me in the palengke, bring me pasalubong from the province. She did everything to help my parents take care of us while my parents pursued their careers. And I was not the easiest child (or teenager haha) to take care of! She was so patient. She loved me even through my outbursts and tantrums. She stayed with us for over 20 years.

I remember she broke her arm in my cousin’s house because she slipped on wet cement. That probably happened because she was protecting me. I might have been around 7 or 8 then, she was 65 or 66. Her body never fully recovered from that. She would complain to me about it as she/we got older. I may have asked for one massage too many hehehe (I liked massages even as a kid — my dad always massaged us too).  I remember when she would heave deep breaths and would lay down to rest. I was in my teens then, her in her 70s. Maybe I was afraid that she would die soon. I remember asking her if she wanted to go to heaven when she died. She told me of course she did. I asked her if she believed in Jesus. She told me she did. I remember leading her in prayer to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. I was not a practicing Christian then (I only became one at 24). Maybe I was on one of my highs after a retreat or something. Thank God she didn’t judge me and my rebelliousness, but accepted my words. The seeds of the Gospel that was sown in my heart since I was a child were at work somehow.

I remember when she got sick. I was the one taking her to the doctor to figure out what was wrong. She was in pain and I distinctly remember two doctors. One was a christian doctor who did not charge us for the consultation. The other was too rough handling her. My poor yaya yelped in pain, but I was not able to help her. I still remember that doctor’s face and his built, but not his name. I guess Yaya also couldn’t explain what she was feeling. She was already around 80 then. I don’t think there was any diagnosis. I don’t remember anymore. But I know that we decided it was better for her to go home to San Carlos, Negros Occidental, where her sister and daughter could take care of her and where she would not feel obliged to work. We felt that even though we told her to stop working, she would still do chores at our house.

The next time I saw Yaya was when we visited San Carlos in 2007, around 5 years later. I was married and Danae turned 2 then. Yaya was 88 and doing well! I made sure I got some clothes for her and that she met King and Danae. She was after all a huge part of my childhood. It was such a happy reunion. Amazing that she got to hold Danae in her arms, the way she held me in hers! Funny that I think every year before that, she would call the house and remind us of her birthday hahaha. She had the same birthday as Jose Rizal, June 19. It would be so hard to talk to her because she couldn’t hear well, but we assured her that her birthday cash (c/o my brother and mom) would be given to her. My parents honored their promise to take care of her financially in her old age as she had honored her promise to stay with us and take care of us kids.

The next time I saw her was in 2009. King was not with us, but I had Danae and Noelle with me, along with my mom. Noelle never met Yaya because Yaya was sick in the hospital. I did not want to bring my kids there. I went alone with my cousin. It was heart breaking. She could barely open her eyes. I don’t know what was wrong then. All I know is it was hard for me to see her like that. I just caressed her hip, said hi. I didn’t want to add to her pain. I don’t even remember if I prayed for her. I hope I did.

I thought that was the last year Yaya would be alive. But to my amazement, it wasn’t! God extended her life a few more years. We haven’t been able to visit San Carlos again and so that was the year I last saw and talked to her. She passed away last Friday, peacefully in her sleep, at age 96. She was buried yesterday. Her sister and daughter were there. I wish she could have met all my girls. I wish she could have met my brothers’ boys. She would have been thrilled. I wish I was able to hug her and say goodbye. I am sad that she is gone but I am happy that she is finally able to rest, to truly rest.

Thank you Lord for my Yaya. Thank you for the sacrifices she made for us. Thank you for the opportunity you gave us to love her back and appreciate her, though words and financial support I know are not enough. Thank you Lord because you are the one who loves her perfectly and completely. Thank you that her service was worth it. She had a hand at how my brother and I turned out. She was one of the channels of Your love and care. Thank you because she is now at peace with You.

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Yaya and her sister Angheling 🙂
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2007, right before Danae’s 2nd birthday. She was 88! I love you Yaya! 🙂

 

Family, FEATURED, My Kids, Parenting

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I’m a Disney baby, but of all the Disney princesses, Snow White is my least favorite. Well, her and Pocahontas. I don’t like Snow White because she has an annoying singing voice, Pocahontas because she seems a little too flirtatious for my taste. I thought twice when my Fully Housewifed friend May asked me if I was interested to watch the play. If it were just me, I’d say no. But it’s never just me these days (or years :P). I asked my daughters and Danae was very interested. So we decided to watch it as a family. May helped me with my queries, connected me to her friend who is the mom of the child playing Fred the dwarf (and in charge of the blocked screening), and we were allowed to upgrade our tickets to Orchestra. The tickets were affordable too — early bird rate of 560Php per head (no charge for Gianna because she didn’t occupy a seat)!

It was quite easy to get to the venue. We found a nice parking spot in Greenbelt 1 near the Cinemas, walked less than a minute to On Stage, claimed our tickets at the front of the house, lined up. We were there at 3pm. They opened doors at 4pm for the 4:30pm show.
  
  

We had to finish some of our snacks while waiting in line because food and drinks are prohibited inside, and we had to leave our bag of other snacks with the lady/guard (which we claimed later on of course). We waited an hour to get in but it was worth it. Center seats, 7th row, great view of the stage. And I got the aisle seat I needed in case I had to head out and attend to Gianna’s needs.

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Show is until Dec 10! 🙂

It was a great show! The talent is undeniable — the singing and the acting, from Snow White, to the Queen, the mirror (the voice), the woodsman/prince (same actor), and the dwarfs. I was hoping to see Bituin Escalante as the Queen, but Christine Flores did not disappoint. I loved her! Becca Coates, who my kids say is 17 years old and was apparently part of The Sound of Music (Danae and Noelle’s first play), played a lovely and believable Snow White. My favorite dwarf was Flubber, while my girls liked (Noelle wanted to be) Fred. I like how they did the story — light, funny, sweet, not creepy at all, and they did not go heavy on the love story. It did have the typical and ridiculous damsel-in-distress saved by the prince fairy tale ending, but that part was not at all the message. The most valuable lessons were kindness, true beauty, and even friendship.

But those aren’t the best parts. The best parts are my children!

Danae was a little bummed that she had to miss her classmate’s sparty, but she enjoyed the play so much that she has no regrets. She’s inspired to become an actress, not on film or tv, but in theater. She seriously asked me how she can become one. Acting workshops, here we come! Soon!

Noelle got to yodel with Snow White on stage! (No picture because phones/cams weren’t allowed during the play ugh!) She raised her hand so fast that Snow White immediately noticed her and called her. She made no hesitations heading to the stage and yodelling in front of many people. Snow White even complimented her outfit and taught her to curtsy. Noelle’s confidence was impressive! We’re proud of her for asserting herself. It was the first time she did something like that.

And Gianna was the best baby. She had no problems with the dark. She responded to the characters with sounds and kept waving at them. She wasn’t afraid of anything. She didn’t cry at all. She watched, breastfed, and watched! It was her first play, at 1 year and 2 months. Amazing. 🙂

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They announced that their next production is The Secret Garden. The girls have asked us if we can watch it. We haven’t said yes yet, but we did tell them that these are the kinds of experiences that we want them exposed to and that we are willing to save up for and spend on. I’m grateful for Repertory Philippines for making quality theater affordable and accesible. I enjoyed watching plays with my parents when I was young (Joy Virata was frequently the lead actor then, and now she’s the director/producer). I’m glad we can continue the tradition with my own children. They will love and appreciate theater, now as spectators and maybe in the future as the story tellers. 🙂

Flubber might be the dwarf on the left most, and Fred (Sophie Atienza) is the one on the right most. 🙂
Danae was excited to get an autograph from Snow White and Noelle was happy saying that Snow White waved to her and knows her haha. 🙂
Family, FEATURED

Pizza! Pizza! 

We went grocery shopping two weeks ago when I saw this….

pizza seasoning! :)
pizza seasoning! 🙂
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just herbs. no salt. 🙂

….and got inspired to make pizza with the girls. I wanted to make our own pizza sauce, so that it’s not full of sodium and preservatives. IMG_5039 We used fresh tomatoes. I instructed Noelle to peel them with her fingers but that proved to be difficult and too time-consuming. I just took out the centers with a small knife, and she helped me slice the tomatoes. IMG_5042   I asked Danae to crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle. We sautéd the garlic in butter until translucent, then added the tomatoes and olive oil. :) We sautéd the garlic in butter until translucent, then added the tomatoes and olive oil. I added fresh basil! And pizza seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. The pot was nearly full of tomatoes, therefore it took a longer time to boil them all into a sauce — maybe 2 hours. IMG_5044 You can also opt to add mozzarella cheese into the pot. We used store-bought pizza dough (one day I'll make my own), spread the pizza sauce which was on the stove for around 2 hours until it became saucy, put mozzarella cheese and more basil. You can add whatever ingredient you want. My kids like cheese and they're okay with basil. so we kept it simple. :) We used store-bought pizza dough (one day I’ll make my own), spread the pizza sauce, put mozzarella cheese and more basil. You can add whatever ingredient you want. My kids like cheese pizza and they’re okay with basil, so we kept it simple. I wasn't able to take a picture of the new batch of cooked pizzas, so this is the one we made the first time. I tore up the basil leaves then and didn't put enough on the pizza. :) I wasn’t able to take a picture of the new batch of cooked pizzas, so this is the one we made the first time. I tore up the basil leaves then and didn’t put enough on the pizza.

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There was so much sauce left over after making two whole pizzas! I would probably add more basil and take out as many seeds from the tomatoes as I can next time, but otherwise, I can’t wait to use it for pasta or just plain bread. 🙂

Family, FEATURED

Summer Fun at Manila Ocean Park

It was a busy time in our household last month because we hosted my cousin and her family. It was my nephews’ and niece’s first time in Manila ever, as they reside in Cebu and San Carlos city, Negros Occidental. So about two months ago, their mom and I planned some activities for them to make it a memorable visit. One of the places we decided on was Manila Ocean Park (we were hoping to drop by Manila Zoo and Luneta Park too but failed to). IMG_0065 The Park

My family and I have been to Manila Ocean Park before when Danae’s pre-school had their field trip there, but that was more than  five years ago I believe. I did enjoy the oceanarium and the jellies, Danae kicked and giggled at the fish spa, and the only other thing I remember about the place was their mermaid show (because I found it very funny hahaha…sorry). Well, that and the facts that you pay for every attraction you want to enter and that one ticket equals one entry only. You choose which attractions you want and pay accordingly at the ticket counter. You enter each attraction, you exit, and there’s no going back unless you have another ticket. I find that odd because usually, you pay an entrance fee and are free to go in and out of whatever area you want to check out. Anyway, I was up for new, fun memories that my kids would make with their cousins. We searched online and discovered the summer promo! We went for the 13 attractions, which is really 11 because Trails to Antarctica has 2 parts and the other so-called attraction is a souvenir (go figure). Instead of it costing 4,350 Philippine pesos per head, it was Php990 per head. And when we got there, there was a promo on top of that! If you’re a group of 7, you could get the Php990-deal for Php890 per head. So we paid Php890 for 7 of us and then Php990 for the rest, except of course the baby. She, and anyone under 2 feet, is free.

Promo was until may 31 (I'm so sorry I was not able to post this sooner), but I'm sure there are other promos. I saw one on metro deal. :)
Promo was until may 31 (I’m so sorry I was not able to post this sooner), but I’m sure there are other promos. I saw one on metro deal. 🙂

The Attractions

The twins, my two other nieces, met us there. We arrived right before noon, and we were able to visit the Birds of Prey Kingdom first, and then catch the Bird Show at 1:15. There weren’t many people yet, and two of my nieces were chosen as volunteers for the show! Danae volunteered but kids were not allowed. That was a fun experience haha. IMG_0035

No pictures of my nieces volunteering. We were busy taking videos and laughing. :)
No pictures of my nieces volunteering. We were busy taking videos and laughing. 🙂

We saw a shark and touched a huge sting ray at the Sharks and Rays Dry Encounter (we forgot to buy our photo — cameras not allowed in this area) before we had our late lunch at North Park (there are restaurants inside, even a lunch buffet). We caught the 3pm Sea Lion Show (there was also a 5pm), in the same stadium as the bird show. We noticed a lot more people filling up the seats. We went straight to Trails to Antarctica. There was a snow village, which according to them was so tiny, it was literally just for a photo op. I did not go in because Gianna was not allowed due to the extreme cold I guess. I did get the kids to feed the penguins! It was Php300 for 2 people, but you could add Php100 for an extra person. That was my favorite part — that they not only got to see them, they got to be in the enclosure with them and feed them (touching was not allowed). They had a nice hallway with interactive stuff about Antarctica, which led to the fish spa and the Back of the House. 11304064_1072657429430928_86560067_n 11350013_1072657382764266_2144795017_n They all went into the spa to have a relaxing (and ticklish) 30 minutes with little fish eating the dead skin off their feet. And then right by it was the the Back of the House, where you could see what they do at the back of the house. Near the spa was also the Aquanaut and Glass Bottom Boat Ride, but we did not avail of those.

Back of the house. This is how they clean Manila Bay's water and use it. They also have a breeding room for jellies and small fish.
Back of the house. This is how they clean and use Manila Bay’s water. They also have a breeding room for jellies and small fish.

We got to the Penguin Talk Show right in time, around 530pm, where there is this funny penguin (cartoon and voice) talking to the audience. It was a treat for us since he singled out my girls and one of their cousins. My girls enjoyed that greatly. The Jellies Exhibit was nearby and it was our last chance at 6:15pm to visit it before it closed, so we went thru it quickly so we could make it in time for the Symphonies Show.

jellies! :)
jellies! 🙂

The stadium was packed! I didn’t expect much from the fountain show, but I enjoyed that a lot. It wasn’t hot anymore and I was comfortably (though my chair was broken) seated. There was music, fire, water. At the climax of a couple of songs, the water shot up extremely high and sprayed practically everybody as it came down. Everyone got a kick out of that one. There were fireworks at the end too. IMG_0167 We did the Oceanarium last since we could still catch the last entry time at 7:15pm. We were excited about all the fish! We were literally the last ones there. My phone died right about that time, and as much as I wanted to take more photos, I no longer could. IMG_0279 IMG_0281 IMG_0307

Was it worth it?

It was tiring and many times uncomfortable because of the heat, but it was worth it. I’ve seen better bird shows and sea lion shows, but it was worth it. Our kids learned and they made memories. They will look back at these times fondly as they grow up having good relationships with their cousins. I love my cousins and I love that my girls love their cousins too. 🙂

Family, Just My Thoughts, Marriage

How blessed am I?

How blessed am I? I’m married to a man who loves Jesus… a man who honors his father and mother… a man who loves, leads, and provides for his family… a man who loves his children through his time, words, and actions… a man who honors and serves his mother-in-law… a man who has answered God’s call to love, lead, serve, disciple and pastor God’s people… a man who enjoys working with a team and does not mind doing the dirty work… a man who has great creativity, foresight and has a gift for pioneering… a man who is loyal, faithful, reliable… a man who is patient and forgiving… a man who makes people laugh… a man who is simple and down to earth… a man who loves to cook… a man who enjoys traveling… a man who is active and fun-loving… a man who can move, groove and make it look good… a man who truly enjoys life…

Yes, I am very blessed! But not only for the reasons you think.

I am blessed because my husband is NOT perfect.

Because he is not perfect, I have less reason to put him on a pedestal and make him my idol, and I have more reason to depend on, seek, trust, and surrender to God. Because he is not perfect, I get to learn, adjust, exercise my faith, and grow in character. Because he is not perfect, I “get a pass” on my own bloopers and blunders and get encouraged to do better next time. Because he is not perfect, I learn to be grateful and love him even more for his wonderful qualities. Because he is not perfect, I get to watch him grow and learn from him. Because he is not perfect, I have a front row seat to God’s glorious work in and through his life. Because he is not perfect and I am not perfect, I learn unconditional love — to give it, to receive it, and to be completely amazed at God’s ability to lavish it on His children.

Because he is not perfect, I am incredibly blessed.

Happy birthday babe! I love you. I see how much you love me with all you do for me and our family. Thank you and may the Lord richly bless you with the desires of your heart! 🙂IMG_8703.JPG

Family, Just My Thoughts, My Kids, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY, Parenting

Music and Our Kids

My girls like music. They like singing and dancing. Of course they hear different songs everywhere and of course they tend to like the catchy but not-so-wholesome songs these days. One time, Danae saw a choir competition on tv, and of all the songs she could have recalled, “spaghetti pababa” was the one that stuck! They catch some of the lyrics right away without thinking about what they’re actually singing. Danae also knows the “clean” versions of some songs, which means she is aware of the dirty ones. King and I don’t approve, but as much as we would want to control what they listen to, obviously we can’t.

Case in point, last week. We were all in the car, driving out of Festival mall. The radio was on. King quickly changed the station to one we thought was the “safest,” where they play cool, smooth, wholesome music. Just as he said the words “this is the safest,” the lyrics “I want sexual healing” softly and smoothly came out of the speakers. Hahaha. Thank God it wasn’t catchy enough that the girls missed it. I for one am not yet prepared to explain what sexual healing means.

It just proves that there is no such thing as safe. We can sometimes request the music to be changed (I’ve done that at a resort before — music had very foul language), but we can’t always protect our children from bad influences – yes, songs are not just songs; they can alter our mood, influence the way we feel, our values, the language we use, and how we act. We can only teach our children to be wise about choosing what songs to listen to.

What we try to do is check the lyrics with them and explain what they mean as much as we can. We always remind them that though the beat is nice, some songs do not teach them good things, and many of them do not teach girls to respect themselves. We tell them that these artists are definitely talented, but we don’t agree with some of their life choices and with the messages they share in their music. We teach our children to think first before adopting a certain artist’s views or a certain song’s message. King and I are never shy to tell them when there is a song we don’t approve of. Our girls usually listen, especially when they themselves realize what the song is teaching them. Otherwise, they tell us that they only like and sing certain parts of the song, and we somehow find middle ground.

It’s tricky because we don’t want to be legalistic and restrict them from listening to music, but we can’t also just let them listen to whatever they want. Tricky because it’s hard to separate the music from the words, the artist from the message. Tricky because there are some topics that they will not and should not understand yet. Tricky because we can’t brainwash them to only like classical or Christian music. I myself enjoy grunge, alternative music and I just love Pearl Jam. Well maybe they won’t have much (or any — here’s hoping!) angst to be attracted to it, but I guess it’s fine if they learn to like it too. I certainly prefer it over cheesy, shallow, boy bandy songs which my girls gravitate to. But then again, I’m 37 and they’re 9 and 6. Their preferences will change and their taste in music will perhaps mature. They will grow and gain the wisdom they need to choose what and who they will allow themselves to be influenced by.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

What do you do with music and your kids? I’d love to gain perspective from other parents regarding this matter. Looking forward to reading your replies. 🙂