Family, TRAVEL

Our Apo Island Adventure (Persistence Pays Off! 2)

After our super fun and satisfying day in Manjuyod, we were scheduled to go to Apo Island the following day. When we woke up, it was raining. Staying at Bethel Guest House, we could usually see the Boulevard and the sea clearly. But because of the rain, the sea seemed foggy and the sky was dark and gloomy. King then asked the dreaded question — is it safe to go?

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View from our room in Bethel Guest House, on a nice sunny day.

I thought for a minute and also asked my mom. But before she answered, I already thought about a few boat rides we’d already experienced that were worse, also due to rough seas. I mean we got through okay. We didnt capsize or fall into the water or lose our things. So King and I both said that yeah, it’s fine. Persist we must, haha. Besides, we were assured by our tour operator that the waters going to Apo Island are more calm than in Manjuyod at this time of year.

We were picked up by our van around 7am and we got to the port maybe an hour later. We passed through a market to get there. It was a Wednesday so it was market day. They sold all kinds of stuff including different kinds of dried fish and even lechon, which of course my mom did not hesitate to buy. It was actually good. We also saw the area where the locals auction off their animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens).

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On our way to our boat. Light rain and loud waves.

We were required to wear life vests as soon as we got off the van, and Gianna had to endure wearing hers haha. It was too big. Our tour guide, who was actually quite nice, told us that it was going to be rough out there but it was normal because of the Amihan (cool northeast wind). My mind immediately went to her words about it being more calm. But no matter. We were excited to see the turtles!

True enough, the boat ride was rough. Our things were secure underneath the boat floor. I was warned about my camera getting wet so I made sure it was safe as well. But it sure was rough enough to make Noelle cry. I had to cross over from where I was seated, to where she and my mom were. On that side, it felt like we were being lifted off our seats. It was like a wet and wild roller coaster ride! But really, it was fine. Thank God all it took was a prayer and mommy holding her. And thank God it took only 30-40 minutes to get to the island. Danae had no issues. Gianna was quiet, covering her face, while King held her.

 

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my view from apo island 

Apo Island is beautiful! Only 14 families, if I recall correctly, live there. There are only a couple of resorts. Power is only via generator. They have worked to protect the beautiful sea turtles, so now it is a conservation area. To watch and swim with the turtles, snorkelers are guided by the locals within a roped area. Like the whale sharks in Oslob, the turtles must not be touched. There are gear for rent and if you don’t have companions to watch your stuff, you can also rent a cottage. I was able to go with King and the girls while Gianna was with my mom and our tour guide, yay! It was actually also Noelle’s first time to snorkel!

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“marine turtle area”
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it’s dude crush!!! the picture does not depict its actual size.
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King and Danae witnessed this turtle swim!!! Noelle and I only saw the other one which was huge!

The guides lead a group of 2-3 to the turtles using a rubber tube, which you can hang on to when you’re tired or are a poor swimmer. There were a lot of sea cucumbers, tiny neon blue fish, and light blue starfish (too bad I have no picture!!!). We would have loved to see more turtles and swim with them, but Noelle and I only saw one, while King and Danae saw two. One of the guides said it was because the tide was low and so the turtles were out in the deeper parts. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences.

When we were done, we proceeded to the other side of the island so we could have lunch. It was nothing like our fresh sea food in Manjuyod, but it was okay. Our table was set in Apo Island Beach Resort, where the kids enjoyed the beach. Just be wary of foreigners who sunbathe in the nude, haha. My girls were baffled as to why some people do that in public.

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beautiful rock formations 🙂
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we went up a short set of stairs, to this….
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….and then, paradise!
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beautiful 🙂 

We left Apo island around 2pm because we didn’t want to risk travelling through stronger and bigger waves. Halfway through the boat ride however, we noticed the boat suddenly slowed down. The boat men said something broke. King thought it was the anchor or something inconsequential, but to me it seemed like they were talking about the rudder. I understand some Visayan, but unfortunately not the Visayan for rudder hehe. Everyone was relaxed, while I was observing the boatmen handle the situation. They dropped the anchor enough to create a drag I suppose. I heard a tiny hint of panic in the boatmen’s voices but they followed the instructions of the boat driver. I didn’t understand a word they said. Too deep for me, I guess. I also saw their interaction with the boatman of another pump boat that passed us. I was thinking that it would be good to have a boat near us just in case something bad happened. But our tour guide said nothing. Our boat driver seemed calm and confident. Noelle fell asleep on me even, no crying.

When we got to the port, they “parked” in the area that was a bit far from the shore. The tide had risen and the waves were strong, so it was difficult to get down. When our tour guide asked if we could move, they said they couldn’t because the rudder broke. I knew it!!!    Thank God our boatmen did not just say, “Um the boat is broken. Sorry. We’re basically sitting ducks here until help arrives.” Imagine the horror! But they kept going. They persisted. And they got us to safety. They got skillz, haha. Whoo! What an adventure!

Indeed, persistence pays off! Especially when it’s a matter of life and death. And indeed, the Lord is good. He protects and He saves. 🙂

 

TIPS:

Wear aqua shoes. The “sand” is rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. They have those for rent on the island as you pay for the sanctuary fees, but it’s always better to bring your own. We as well will invest on our own, especially the kids’, life vests.

Bring some cash. Some manangs (ladies) sell magnets, shirts, sarongs, and dresses in the island.

Go on a Wednesday, so you can experience Market Day before you board your boat to Apo Island. They end at 2pm so you’ll miss it if you wait ’til after.

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, TRAVEL

Last Hurrah Before School Started!

With so many things going on during the summer, I had to make time to plan ahead for homeschooling year 2014-2015, especially since I’d be giving birth in August. I had to consider not only Danae’s subjects and lessons, but also Noelle’s. Danae was incoming grade 3, and Noelle was officially enrolled in Prep/Kinder 2, her first serious year of homeschooling. I would be having two homeschoolers at different levels, and then a newborn. And since we wouldn’t be able to go on vacation for a while, I thought a last hurrah was in order before school started.

I asked King to book us an overnight stay in one of the resorts in Laiya, Batangas. We ended up staying in Blue Coral Resort. King took a leave, and we didn’t tell the girls where we were going. We just let them sleep early, and I packed while they were asleep. They were mostly asleep in the car too, but at one point Danae woke up and saw Blue Coral’s signage on the road. So of course, there was no fooling her. She knew where we were going, as she has heard us talk about the resort before. They were both excited when we arrived.

It was a nice family trip to have before homeschool began, especially as I realized that it was our first family beach trip by ourselves. All our trips, whether locally or internationally, have always been with other people. We usually travel with my mom, and we’ve travelled with her and my brother’s family. We’ve travelled with friends too. It was a first for us to be just us four. It was a good time to bond as a family.

Breakfast at McDo. :)
Breakfast at McDo. 🙂

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Playing in the sand near our cottage, while the  sun is still too hot. :)
Playing in the sand near our cottage, while the sun was still too hot. 🙂
Our bodyguard. :)
Our bodyguard. 🙂
I was able to enjoy the water as well. :)
I was able to enjoy the water as well. 7 mos preggo. 🙂
The water was great, but we had to vacate as soon as we saw some jelly fish. It was interesting for the kids (well, us too) because we thought it would feel jelly-like, but it was more like a hard gel.
The water was great, but we had to vacate as soon as we saw some jelly fish. It was interesting for the kids (well, us too) because we thought it would feel soft and jelly-like, but it was more like a hard gel.
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King and the girls enjoyed the pool. 🙂
Noelle was scared to slide down by herself but she eventually got the hang of it. It was her first time to conquer the water slide! :)
Noelle was scared to slide down by herself but she eventually got the hang of it. It was her first time to conquer the (small) water slide! 🙂
Me and my girls, after dinner. :)
Me and my girls, after dinner. 🙂
Playtime in the sand before going to bed. Had a couple of funny boo-boos -- one of em picked up something gross while thinking it was a coral or rock; the other picked up something that she thought was a rock but she literally freaked out & cried when it moved. Haha. :)
Playtime in the sand before going to bed. Had a couple of funny boo-boos — one of em picked up something gross while thinking it was a coral or rock; the other tried to pick up something that she thought was a rock but she literally freaked out & cried when it moved. Haha. 🙂
They found a hermit crab. :)
They found a hermit crab. 🙂
It was Danae's first time to kayak! :) I did some kayaking too, and almost tipped the kayak over with King in it, as I got down, hahaha. Heavy at 7 mos. :)
It was Danae’s first time to kayak! 🙂 I did some kayaking too, and almost tipped the kayak over with King in it, as I got down, hahaha. Heavy at 7 mos. No picture though, sorry. 🙂
She did it on her own too, but I was in the water so I have no picture. Hopefully she has one in her dad's cam. :)
Danae did it on her own too, but I was in the water so I have no picture. Hopefully she has one in her dad’s cam. 🙂
Last chance dip in the ocean. :)
Last dip in the ocean, after a couple of hours in the pool. 🙂

It was a short trip but we gathered a good bunch of memories out of it. The next time we travel, there will already be 5 of us. 🙂

Family, FEATURED, TRAVEL

My Bohol Birthday Bash

I didn’t have many birthday parties as a child and I think from my teenage years to young adulthood, I wanted to be surrounded by people during my birthday. I would have parties that lasted till the next morning because I didn’t want anyone to leave. It made me feel loved and more secure having them around, though I only realized that hindsight of course. When I became a Christian, I guess it naturally eventually followed that I didn’t need too many people to greet me or make a big deal about my birthday anymore. I guess it became less about me and more about being grateful. I can’t say though that having a husband who gives importance to my birthday and a mom who invites us on trips yearly doesn’t help. 😀

It was my Mom who made me realize that this is the third getaway we’ve had celebrating my birthday! One was in Coron, Palawan when I turned 33. Another was in Cebu when I turned 35. And then Bohol this year for my 36th birthday! I am incredibly blessed. 🙂

I’m sharing my highlights through my photos. Enjoy! 🙂

Learned some interesting stuff about Bohol.
Day 1: Learned some pretty interesting stuff about Bohol.
Both men and women subjected themselves to this skull deforming procedure, to make themselves beautiful.
Both men and women subjected themselves to this skull deforming procedure, to make themselves “beautiful.”
Deformed Boholano skulls
Deformed Boholano skulls
Though it was in a mall, the Prawn Farm had yummy food!
Though it was in a mall, the Prawn Farm had yummy food!
We ordered two kinds of tiger prawns, scallops, bagoong rice and liempo! Burp.
We ordered two kinds of tiger prawns, scallops, bagoong (shrimp paste) rice and liempo (grilled pork)! Burp.
We went dolphin watching in Panglao, the other side of Bohol!
Day 2: We went dolphin watching in Panglao, the other side of Bohol!
So many dolphins! We wish we could've swum with them.
So many dolphins! We wish we could’ve swum with them.
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We were blown away by their number! They were going in different directions too! Our boat just followed them around, wherever they would pop up.
This was probably my best shot, considering it was a bumpy ride. :)
This was probably my best shot, considering it was a bumpy ride. I captured one of the dolphins’ face above water. 🙂
We docked at Balikasag (inverted crab) Island for a dip and a little snorkelling.
We docked at Balikasag (inverted crab) Island afterwards, for a dip and a little snorkelling.
Noelle feeding the fish.
Noelle feeding the fish.
There were some garbage in the water. The OCD in me could not let it go floating around. Or lying around for the tide wash it back in. We collected what we could in our area, and wrapped it up in a bag. Kept reminding our boatmen to throw the bag properly.
There was some garbage in the water. The OCD in me could not let it go floating around. Or lying around for the tide to wash it back in. We collected what we could in our area, and wrapped it up in a bag. Kept reminding our boatmen to throw the bag properly.
Danae helped out too -- a great way to teach our kids to take care of our environment. It was pretty disappointing to see no one clean the shores over there, which is why I had to get a plastic bag and bring the trash with us. :)
Danae helped out too — a great way to teach our kids to take care of our environment. It was pretty disappointing to see no one clean the shores over there, which is why I had to get a plastic bag and bring the trash with us. 🙂
Alona Beach is I guess the Boracay of Bohol. We didn't see the night life, but what used to be a peaceful, wide stretch of beach is now covered with establishments. We just ate lunch there and moved to another beach.
Alona Beach is I guess the Boracay of Bohol. We didn’t see the night life, but what used to be a peaceful, wide stretch of beach is now covered with establishments. We just ate lunch there and moved to another beach.
Dumaluan Beach. This was really nice and clean. No pump boats on the shore. We had to go into a resort but it was pretty cheap, even for a mere hour-long stay.
Dumaluan Beach. This was really nice and clean. No pump boats on the shore. We had to go into a resort but it was pretty cheap, even for a mere hour-long stay.
These mangoes were just delicious! Philippine mangoes generally are, but these ones from Bohol were perfect. They had the right sweet and the right sour, and they had yummy spicy sweet shrimp paste with it. sluuuurp.
These mangoes were just delicious! Philippine mangoes generally are, but these ones from Bohol were perfect. They had just the right sweet taste and the right sour, and they had yummy spicy sweet shrimp paste with it. sluuuurp.
Tarsier. They used to have just a small place, with a tree where they put the tarsiers. They even let people hold them. Now they're really serious about preserving these special creatures. They have a much bigger preservation site, and they do not allow people to disturb them, except to quietly take photos.
Day 3: Tarsier! They used to have just a small place on the side of the road, where they had a tree showcasing the tarsiers. They even let people hold them.                                     Now they’re really serious about preserving these special creatures. They have a much bigger preservation site, and they do not allow people to disturb them, except to quietly take photos.
I wonder if Golum (LOTR) was inspired by the tarsier. They really look alike.
I wonder if Golum (LOTR) was inspired by the tarsier.   They really look alike.
Chocolate Hills! Danae was hoping they'd be dry and brown but they weren't. Beautiful nonetheless.
Chocolate Hills! Danae was hoping they’d be dry and brown but they weren’t. Beautiful nonetheless.
Manmade forest full of Mahogany trees. Just had to take a shot from the middle of the road.
Manmade forest full of Mahogany trees. Just had to take a shot from the middle of the road.
Hanging bridge over the Loboc river.
Hanging bridge over the Loboc river.
Loboc river cruise! We had lunch on one of these rafts, while cruising along the beautiful Loboc river.
Loboc river cruise! We had lunch on one of these rafts, while cruising along the beautiful, clean Loboc river.
There was music on the raft, and a cultural show on one of the stops. Breeze was refreshing too.
There was music on the raft, and a cultural show on one of the stops. Breeze was refreshing too.
Caterpillars! Danae was brave enough to hold them, of course. Our tour guide in the butterfly farm was pretty cool. The girls had a good learning experience, for sure.
Caterpillars! Danae was brave enough to hold them, of course. Our tour guide in the butterfly farm was pretty cool. The girls had a good learning experience, for sure.
The girls really learned a lot from this trip, with all the creatures we saw.
Just one of the pretty butterflies there.
Butterflies still in their pupa! Cocoons are for moths, by the way.
Butterflies still in their pupa! Cocoons are for moths, fyi.
Prony the python! He was full and asleep when we were there. Sadly, he recently died. We don't know why.
Prony the python! I think when he grew really big, the owner built a mini-zoo so people could get to see his pet and the other animals. Only my mom, Danae and I were willing to touch him. He was full and asleep when we were there. They said that he gets fed a pig or two goats monthly. Sadly, he recently died. We don’t know why.
Lunch at the Bohol Bee Farm. Beautiful view. We had the best table in the house.
Day 4: Lunch at Bohol Bee Farm. Beautiful view. We had the best table in the house.
Yummy bread, chips, and salad!
Yummy bread, chips, and salad! All organic. Flowers and greens grown there. Breads and sauces made there. Honey, of course, harvested there.
Crabs in coconut milk
Crabs in coconut milk!
Seafood platter
Seafood platter!
Beautiful Bellevue Hotel
Beautiful Bellevue Hotel — got my wish to stay there for one night!
bohol bellevue beach
beach front
Loved our room and our access to the pool!
Loved our room and our access to the pool!
Noelle was actually swimming on her own! Danae has always been the natural swimmer, but Noelle's catching up, getting more and more unafraid. Both still need lessons, but they're definitely water babies. So proud of them!
King and the girls got a head start on swimming. Noelle was actually swimming on her own! Danae has always been the natural swimmer, but Noelle’s catching up, getting more and more unafraid. Both still need lessons, but they’re definitely water babies. So proud of them!
The beach in the afternoon -- low tide. Too bad we weren't able to swim in the ocean.
The beach in the afternoon — low tide. Too bad we weren’t able to swim in the ocean.
We got to discover hermit crabs that turned themselves over when they were on their backs, little crabs that burrowed into the sand, and star fishes that crawled on our palms with their sticky little "feet." It was pretty awesome. Didn't have my cam with me though as I was expecting to be in the water. :)
We got to discover hermit crabs that turned themselves over when they were on their backs, little crabs that burrowed into the sand, and star fishes that crawled on our palms with their sticky little “feet.” It was pretty awesome. Didn’t have my cam with me though as I was expecting to be in the water. This was King’s cam. 🙂
Our only family picture! We got to enjoy the pool till it closed at 10pm. It was the first time we did that. The girls enjoyed the fact that I was swimming with them too. Haven't done that in a long while. It was just a cool. relaxing day -- a very happy birthday indeed.
Our only family picture! We got to enjoy the pool till it closed at 10pm. It was the first time we did that. The girls enjoyed the fact that I was swimming with them too. Haven’t done that in a long while. It was just a cool, relaxing day — a very happy birthday indeed.
FEATURED, TRAVEL

The Talented Mr. Cobonpue

Talented is an understatement! Kenneth Cobonpue is a true Filipino artist. In my humble opinion, that is.

I first knew of him from one of the episodes of Project Runway Philippines. I was impressed by his work and his client list, which included Hollywood stars. His name being unique too, I never forgot him. But I totally forgot that he is from Cebu until my cousin Dencee told me that she had inquired if we could visit his factory. I was so excited to see his creations!!!!

She was told that it was by appointment, but I assumed that they would allow visits to the showroom. So we still tried. The showroom manager was kind enough to accommodate us when we showed up, though she did tell us that it is by appointment only and later on she told us that she was surprised that the guard even let our van in. Thank God our risk paid off!

All I can tell you is that if I didn’t feel like we intruded and if I had the time, I could stay there all afternoon just to take it all in and take tighter shots of each beautiful detail of his work. I’m not into trends, but I do know how to appreciate beautiful things. I was impressed that he doesn’t just create unique Filipino furniture, he also co-creates light fixtures and accessories. Plus, just recently he designed the medal for IronMan Philippines! His God-given mind for creativity and innovation just amazes me. Do enjoy the pictures! Just click and view! 🙂

 

FEATURED, TRAVEL

Eating Our Way Through Cebu

I know, I know. The last few posts have been all about Cebu. I can’t help it. There’s much to tell, and I can guarantee you at least another one after this haha. At least I didn’t put them all together in one post, else it would be way too long.

My birthday dinner was at Zubu Chon, famous for their lechon. They even have a sign boasting that Anthony Bourdain said that theirs or perhaps Cebu City’s is “the best pig ever.” The place was nice. I liked their food and my Camias shake, but I kinda got disappointed with their lechon. It was just okay for me. The skin was crunchy, but it almost looked like chicharon (cracklings), and not typically smooth like I like it. I probably would have enjoyed it more if they served it with liver sauce or gravy, since I like my lechon that way.

 

 

One of only 5 pictures I have of myself on my 35th b-day. 🙂

My Cebu-based friend Krishna joined us for dinner and shared to us wonderful news about her, so it was all good. I’m glad we also got to hang out at Starbucks, which was right by our hotel lobby, after finding out that Crown Regency’s Skywalk was shut down due to the rain. It was short and sweet, but at least I got pictures of myself! I finally remembered to ask someone to take a picture with me in it.

 

Our last meal in Cebu, the next day, was at STK or Sutukil. Its name is a play on the words Shoot To Kill. I’m not sure what they stand for, but i think SU is for SUgba, which is Cebuano for grill. TU might be TUhog? It means to pierce with a stick. Or TUslob, which means to dip. KIL is for KILawin, or ceviche (had to look the spelling up haha).

 

After all the lechon and McDonald’s breakfasts, and not getting my seafood craving satisfied at Oslob, I was set on getting some at Sutukil. I got my wish — shrimps, scallops, stuffed crab! We were in a hurry so I really couldn’t order steamed crabs, which I need at least an hour to eat. Too bad they didn’t have oysters at that time. I was a bit shocked to see pink Bagoong (shrimp paste) rice, but it was delicious! And fresh young coconut is always good — its water as a drink and its meat as dessert. Oh and my mom ordered sizzling Lengua (ox tongue), my all-time favorite food. I left Cebu with a happy tummy!

 

So if you’re going to eat your way through the city too, you might also want to try:

> Hukad sa Golden Cowrie or the Golden Cowrie for their Filipino food, especially their chicharon bulaklak (deep fried pork mesentery – researched this one).

> CnT Lechon for their lechon (suckling pig) and other Filipino food. 

> Abuhan for their Pochero, or Bulalo (beef and bone marrow in hot soup) to us Manila folk.

Shoes from Carcar
Our shoe finds from Carcar!

> Yeyon’s Chicharon, and basically any chicharon (pork cracklings) from the town of Carcar is good. Check out their locally made shoes too.

what does noelle love?

> Rosquillos and Otap, which I grew up with and aren’t new to me, but you might want to try, are available at any souvenir shop there. We also got cool  personalized shirts for about 300 or less a piece at the Islands Souvenir shop near Magellan’s cross.

> Dried fish and longganiza (small sausages) are at the Tabu-an Market.

> Dried green mangoes, I’ve been told, are good. I bought some in the airport but have not tried them yet. The usual dried (yellow) mangoes are available there and anywhere.

 

Cebu is definitely a place we’d visit again! Actually, it’s a city I can imagine myself living in. It’s pretty much like Manila, except they speak Cebuano, which I also speak and understand. I feel quite at home there. 🙂

Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY, TRAVEL

Swimming with the Gentle Giants

I was pretty excited to see the whale sharks on my birthday. I knew I would be amazed to be swimming so close to the gentle giants, but I also anticipated that I would be scared. It reminded me of an old blog about things that are worth risking, no matter how terrifying. My experience was a mixture of emotions, really.

 

 

I was amazed, watching the shark eat. It just kept opening its mouth, waiting for its food, and swallowing gallons of water each time. Well, each time water entered its mouth, the water came right out of its huge gills. I made sure I was holding on to the boat’s balancer so that I wouldn’t get too near the shark. It felt pretty close. The warning to not touch them and not get too close as I could get hurt by their fin, hung in my mind the whole time.

 

whale sharks in Oslob
Captured from our video, taken by our boatman. Amazing! 🙂

I was just watching this one shark when another huge one came from the left and approached the one in front of me. I was curious as to what he was gonna do, but he left right after he gently laid his head on (or maybe smelled? haha) the other one’s back. Come to think of it, I wonder what I would have done if a fight ensued between the two sharks. Come to think of it, I have very little knowledge of their behavior. Can they actually get violent? They are after all SHARKS. Yikes!

 

There were a couple of times that I freaked out because one passed right under us, and from the video caught by our boatman, its tail almost hit my cousin! I realize I shouldn’t have swum away, since the whale shark could’ve thought I was going to feed him and so follow me. To them, we were told, bubbles means they are going to be fed. It happened to my cousin’s husband that day haha. He made too many bubbles as he swam, and one of the sharks followed him!

 

Honestly, I couldn’t move away from our boat until I saw that there was only one shark left, and it was the one who never left his boatman’s side. I think that was either Seemo or Lucas. I couldn’t handle being surprised by two or more moving sharks around me haha. But it was awesome seeing them move like that.

 

My experience was actually bittersweet. It was indeed a privilege to swim with the gentle giants, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for them. It’s completely unnatural for whale sharks to stay in one place, but they have trained those in Oslob to stay and come around the hours of 6 in the morning till 12 noon for food, everyday. I don’t know the implication it may have on nature or on the animals themselves, but a couple of them already seemed like zombies to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the experience and for Seemo or Lucas who didn’t move much, but it was just unnatural for him to just hang there. He should be like his other friends, who freaked me out yes, but who seemed more active and free. I am not against it being a tourist attraction because it is a wonderful opportunity for us, but I wish their natural migratory behaviors or instincts were respected. I don’t know if a win-win for tourism AND the gentle giants is even possible. Wishful thinking.

 

One huge thing that I can commend the people of Tan-awan, Oslob for though, is their work in keeping the place clean. I did not notice any trash on the shorelines nor on the water. Thank God they were taught to take care of this opportunity by organizing the system and by being responsible for their town and their ocean’s cleanliness. Great job!

 

All in all, my 35th birthday was a blast. It was an awesome way to celebrate, with my precious family, what could be the half-mark of my entire lifetime! Thank you Lord for giving me 35 years, the last decade of which has belonged to You. I look forward to the rest of my years with You. Thank You for my life. It’s been some kind of wonderful. 🙂

*Ironically, I have no picture of myself in Oslob! Haha that’s what happens when I’m the photographer. I don’t mind. The memories are alive in my shots and King’s. 🙂

Family, FEATURED, THE BRAINY BUNCH, TRAVEL

Oslob! (Cebu part 2)

So on the 12th, my actual birthday, we left the hotel early to drive 3 hours to Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob. We got there, prepared our gear, and got on a small bangka (canoe-like boat with balancers on the sides) to go to the next resort to pay and attend the short briefing.

>We were told that touching of whale sharks is not allowed. There is a fine of 2,500 pesos if sharks are touched.

>Sun block poisons them, so we were told to rinse off if we had already applied some, which Danae did. Noelle was sure that she wasn’t swimming so she didn’t have to rinse.

>Splashing should be avoided because whale sharks tend to follow bubbles, thinking it means food, which one of them did because my cousin-in-law made too many bubbles while swimming. Haha that was scary.

>Boatmen are there to assist us in anything we need, which they did, even taking underwater videos for us.

>They only allot 30 minutes with the whale sharks, time beginning as soon as one is in view. They took us back to our resort afterwards. There are 4 or more resorts you can choose from as your take-off point. We chose the least glamorous one haha.

We paid 500 pesos per head for those swimming. Noelle was free. If you don’t swim with the sharks, you only need to pay 300 pesos. Life vests are included in the fee, except for the girls’ which were really nice and snug. Those were 30 pesos each. Other gear including underwater cams are available for rent as well, but we brought our own. They also provided us an umbrella as the bangkas don’t have any shade.

It was a good day to go because there weren’t many people. I think there were only about 3 other boats there. We were there at the right time, around 9AM. We were told that feeding of the sharks was only till 12PM. The sun wasn’t too hot, or at least we didn’t really burn even without sunblock.

We had food grilled in our resort, which we came back to eat after a trip to Tumalog Falls. The girls swam in the murky water for a bit. That gave me some anxiety haha, thinking of what bacteria they might catch — I think I’ve turned into a bit of a germaphobe in the last few years. But I enjoyed seeing their happy faces and taking pictures. The kids got a kick out of riding a motorcycle back to the top. Walking down was so tough, we agreed to pay 30 pesos each to ride the habalhabal (motorcycle)! Only King and my cousin Dencee hiked all the way up, back to the van.

We headed back to Cebu City after lunch, but not before passing by Carcar for some chicharon and locally made shoes, and Tabu-an market for dried fish and longganiza (sausages).

Click here for our awesome underwater video.

Click here to read about our first two days.

Family, FEATURED, THE BRAINY BUNCH, TRAVEL

Cebu, the Second Time Around

So we went to Cebu for my birthday! It was my second time to go.

My first time, in the summer of 2003, pre-King, was pretty memorable. We first went to Dumaguete to visit relatives at Silliman University. We also went to Bais to see dolphins and swim at this really nice white sand beach that disappears at high tide. We took the ferry from Dumaguete to Bohol to join family friends next, see the sights, and go island hopping and snorkeling. We then proceeded to Cebu so we could take the boat from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro, but due to some mishap, we had to stay overnight and take the plane instead. I only remember visiting Magellan’s Cross and the Taoist Temple, and my brother and I had fun hitting some balls at the nearby driving range with our dad. We even took a tricycle to and from the Waterfront hotel. In Cagayan de Oro, I went river tubing, jumped off a 20-foot (or more) bridge, hiked up a mountain and walked the canopy of some rainforest there. We went to Duka Beach Resort in Misamis Oriental for more snorkeling and canoeing sometime then. That was a packed vacation- definitely one of our many fun family memories!

This time, I went with King, the girls, and my mom. We stayed 3 nights in Crown Regency Hotel, so we could do their Skywalk and tower-to-tower Zipline, which turned out to be a complete bust because it rained the night we wanted to do it. They apparently close it down when it rains. We found out the next morning that they didn’t open till 2PM, and our flight was at 3:50PM. Bummer.

Anyway, we arrived the night of the 10th, checked in, and ate at my mom’s favorite restaurant, The Golden Cowrie. The one we went to, however, was the more “civilized” one since it was a new branch in the Ayala mall. They call it Hukad sa Golden Cowrie. Their food was good! Kare-kare, Blue Marlin, Sinigang na Hipon. Noelle and I especially liked their Chicharon Bulaklak haha!

The next day, we visited the Mactan Shrine and saw the Alegre guitar factory in Lapu-Lapu City. I found it pretty cool to be standing where our people fought with the Spaniards, where Lapu-lapu killed Magellan. I love that my girls learned some history.


The guitars at Alegre were beautiful! They use different kinds of wood to make their guitars, the most expensive of which is Maple wood. The ukelele I liked because of its dark wood, not that I play haha, costs 7,500 pesos. I guess it costs so much because it’s worth so much. My mom bought a junior guitar which cost 2,300 pesos. Danae is again inspired to learn to play. She wanted to buy her own, and Noelle wanted to buy the pink one just ’cause. They’re both okay with borrowing my mom’s for now.

We had lunch at CnT to try some of their famous lechon. Their food was almost wiped out by the time it was our turn to order. Their lechon was soft, tasty, and believe it or not, not fatty! The skin was crunchy with no layer of fat underneath it. It was good with just their soy sauce mix. Puso (rice wrapped in banana leaves) is popular in Cebu.


The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, except for our visit to Kenneth Cobonpue’s showroom and our purchase of some cool shirts at a souvenir shop. We did go to Magellan’s cross, Colon street, and the entrance of Fort San Pedro. We were tired and it started to rain hard, so we went back to the hotel without entering the Fort. The kids were excited to swim anyway.

Dinner was at Abuhan Restaurant. Their Pochero, which is Cebuano for Bulalo, was delicious! Super soft beef and yummy bone marrow! Even their Beef with Cauliflower and Pancit Canton were yummy. We decided to sleep early because the 12th, my birthday, was Oslob day!

More pictures here and here. 🙂

Family, Marriage, Parenting, THE BRAINY BUNCH, TRAVEL

Fun Family Memories

I was looking at old family pictures this morning  and I had a good time seeing myself as a child, remembering all the trips we had as a family. I am so grateful to my parents for taking us to different places!

We went on more than one trip every single year — usually Batangas or Baguio on either of my parent’s birthdays, holy week, or on the All Saint’s Day weekend. We would go with many other relatives too, which made it so much more fun. It was usually either Iloilo or Cagayan de Oro for the summer, and my parents would put me in a ship with my nanny to get there! On few other summers, my parents would take us around the U.S. to visit relatives and popular tourist spots. Nothing like family trips to build wonderful childhood (and beyond) memories.

I was so excited to show the girls my pictures and share with them my experiences. They were equally excited and interested. It really inspired them, especially Danae, to want to visit the places I’ve been to. We prayed that God would take us to Disney World and Sea World! And for some reason, my girls have a thing for New York, which I’ve always loved as well. Wait till they see my Hawaii pictures! Oh, if only money were not an issue. We would have traveled the world by now!

 

We had a kick out of seeing how Danae looked a lot like I did, even in crying and pouting hahaha. She even commented “You’re brown like me!”

I am so thankful that we grew up with fun family traveling experiences. Even though I didn’t always appreciate them then, mainly during my long season of teenage (and early adulthood) angst, my brother and I carry in our own families this culture of traveling that my parents began. Being exposed to different places, people and experiences was truly a gift.

So to my late Dad & to my Mom, THANK YOU! Thank you for prioritizing traveling over the latest trends, toys or clothes when we were growing up. Thank you for making sure we stayed connected with cousins and relatives. And Mom, thank you for still being at it — for inviting us to go on trips with you and for encouraging us to take time to travel with family.

And so babe, to echo our daughters’ common question, where are we going next? 🙂