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. 🙂