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.


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. 🙂


Another Season of Firsts

The past few months have been another season of firsts for our family.

Last April 20-21, King and Danae participated in their very first Me and My Dad Camp. It was held on a mountain in Quezon, with just dads and little kids aged 6 to maybe 10. It was also King’s first time to spend a night alone with Danae. They would go out on dates alone, for about a couple of hours. I have also left both Danae and Noelle at home with him for half the day, but they’ve never been out alone together overnight! It’s easy when they’re at home, but at a camp site, in a tent, without the comfort of their own bathroom? I admit, I was a bit concerned, especially since there would be no heaters in the bathroom. I really warned Danae that she can’t freak out there haha. King was confident and Danae is pretty low-maintenance, so it went well. The memories they built between father and daughter — priceless. I wonder how it would be when he has both girls at the camp 3 years from now haha.

As I blogged a while back, last May 17-19 was Noelle’s first time to attend Vacation Bible Camp. It was a breakthrough for her to stay in a room virtually full of strangers (since her sister and friends were scattered depending on age), for about 3 hours for 3 consecutive days. Great memories were also built at “Pandamaniar.”

During summer last year, Danae had her first try at cheerleading and ballet. She got to perform her cheerleading routine in front of many at Our Lady of Pilar Montessori’s summer recital. That was a first too. We wanted to continue her ballet with TEAM Dance Studio, but our schedules and sleeping habits (haha) did not permit. This year, my mom sponsored her to take piano lessons at Music for Little Mozarts in SM Southmall. It was her first time to take formal lessons, and to be just sitting in one place for one full hour each session! She had 12 sessions between May 2 and May 28, and she got to join the summer recital last June 8. It was her first time to perform, playing the piano, in front of people she didn’t know. She did exceptionally well! She was nervous but she pulled through without a hitch. She is continuing her lessons this month.

Last June 20 was Noelle’s first day of school as a Nursery student in Kidvantage Learning Center. It was another breakthrough as she did not cry nor cling to me! Danae and I were inside school premises, but she did not have any problems staying in her class. On her second day, I was already able to leave her in school without any drama! We are so proud of her! Every time we pick her up to go home, she always says she had fun in school!

The very first MAPE class for school year 2012-2013 was held last June 22. It was Danae’s first time as a homeschool student and it was my first time to teach their class. I actually just read them a story, asked them questions to ensure comprehension, and included some simple vocabulary from the story. It was fun! I love that my daughter gets to learn music & dance from Tita Bianca, arts & crafts from the Battung sisters, and science experiments from Tita May as well.

1st day of homsechool; Bible time with daddy
Bible Time with Daddy

We officially started homeschool on June 26! A little late, I know, but that’s one of the perks of homeschooling. We didn’t mean for it to start that late, but I believe it all fell into place. The homeschool room was ready by then. The materials took a while, but the ones I needed to begin arrived the weekend before. I was also emotionally prepared, since I was able to take my time with the preparations. It went considerably well, it being our first time to do homeschool ever and it being our first day.

The Lord is good. The Lord is faithful. His grace is sufficient indeed. Looking forward to more wonderful firsts this year and in the years to come! 🙂

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? 🙂

My Kids, Parenting, THE BRAINY BUNCH

Raising Grateful Kids

In our home, we eat left-overs. One early afternoon, many months ago when we had no helper, I heard Danae complain about the food saying “AGAIN?!” I would remind her to be thankful that we have food to eat because many don’t. I tend to be real or maybe even over dramatic about these things, so I remind her about kids we see in the streets that have to beg or work, so they could have money to buy food. This happened a few times. She would eat the food but not before complaining. I really hate that kind of attitude and so I made a new rule. I sternly told her that if I hear her complain about the food, she is not going to eat any of it. She would have to wait for the next meal.

It worked! I do not hear her complaints or ungrateful comments anymore. She would ask me if it’s the same food again, but in a very different tone. If I do see a complaint coming, I’m quick to remind her and she changes her attitude.

My kids are pretty good eaters, even of vegetables thank God, and I don’t force them to eat anything that they normally don’t. I don’t serve them bad food. I don’t always serve them left-overs either. It’s not about that. It’s about the ATTITUDE. I want my kids to be grateful for what they have, whether it’s fried chicken from KFC or home-made vegetable soup, or steak and ribs from Racks or home-made vegetable spring rolls. I want them to always appreciate what they are given and be thankful most especially for the people who give it to them.

Family, TRAVEL


The first time I went to Hongkong was the day I found out I was pregnant with Danae, sometime February 2005. King and I were married only 3 months then, our first time to be out of the country together. It was pretty memorable, especially that my Dad was still with us, that a random guy bumped me hard in the MTR station (I didn’t look pregnant at all, but I was pretty shaken), that we stayed in this hotel with tiny rooms, and that I started my “morning” sickness there, which included feeling nauseous around Chinese food hahaha. Weather was pretty cold. We went on the local tour, which included the awesome Victoria Peak. We went to Ocean Park too. I realized just the other day that maybe the reason why Danae is so fearless is that she was in my tummy while I was on that very high cable car.

The second time we went, we stayed at Shamrock Hotel in Kowloon for a night and then enjoyed Disneyland for 2 days, spending 2 nights in Disney Hollywood Hotel. That and the park itself were memorable enough! Many of you may not know that I used to love love love Mickey. I collected Mickey stuff. I even have Mickey’s hands, which I got from McDonald’s happy meals while I was single and they are now being enjoyed by the girls. That trip rekindled my love for Mickey haha. I was so giddy with excitement, not only for myself but for Danae who was 4 and Noelle who was 11 months old. That was December 2009. Weather was a bit cold too. My Dad wasn’t with us anymore, but my mom was with us (of course), including my brother, his wife and 23-month-old son. I was bummed then that we weren’t able to take a picture with Mickey, but we were able to get a nice family shot in front of Cinderella’s castle for our annual Christmas card.

Last week was our third time! Us, my mom, my brother, his wife and now 4-year-old son Gabby. Danae is 6, Noelle 3. We hit Disneyland first, and stayed in the same wonderful hotel for 2 nights. I was equipped with my awesome camera so I took a lot of shots. King’s parents, brother, nieces and nephew came on our second day.  We got to spend the afternoon with them in Disneyland. We’ve all never been out of the country together. The girls surely enjoyed their cousins being there. And we finally have a picture with Mickey, yes!!!!

It was cold, showering a lot and I was prepared! I brought Danae’s princess raincoat and I brought my 17-year-old Mickey raincoat for Noelle! My cousin gave me that raincoat when I was in college. I kept it all these years, and I’m glad I am able to pass it on to one of my kids.

The day my brother and his family went home, we proceeded to Kowloon and stayed in Shamrock again. We once again enjoyed street food and the night market on Temple Street. It was colder in Kowloon, and much much colder in Victoria Peak when we went up. We were supposed to go to Ocean park but we decided against it seeing that it was really cold and the girls were already developing cough and colds.

Like I said before, even though the stress is inevitable, it’s always worth it to travel with the kids. We would do it again and again and again. Danae & Noelle actually love it so much. Noelle even cried on the plane as she learned that we were going home. She said to me “I thought we’re going to Singapore!” She also thought Manila was not home hahaha.

We hope that we are building with our kids a culture of loving to learn & explore, not being afraid of new things, people & places. One day, they may end up becoming artists who tour the world, or being business or IT or fashion consultants for different countries. Or they may end up as missionaries. Now is the perfect time to prepare them for their future. 🙂


The Luge

On our last night in Singapore, after King and the girls swam, we decided to catch The Skyline Luge Sentosa before it closed at 9:30PM and just have dinner afterwards. We got there at the perfect time. No lines, no crowds, in the coolness of the night. We knew we wouldn’t be able to ride the cable car anymore, so I thought riding the Skyride (like a ski-lift) would be the next best thing. We needed to ride that to get to the top of the hill, and ride the go-cart going back down. King availed of the family package for us and the kids, meaning 2 rides up the Skyride and 2 rides down on the go-cart. Sounded like great fun!

We were all excited till we realized what we got ourselves into. It was nice and cool, but it was dark. There were no crowds, therefore it was quiet. Too quiet. It was like riding a cable car, except in a cable car, you’re inside. On the Skyride, you feel the wind and your legs are hanging. Well, at least ours were. Noelle’s legs reached right onto the not-so-protective “protective” bar!

Instead of appreciating the Singapore skyline for its beauty, we appreciated it for the distraction it gave us and the kids from our own fears. We were pretty high up and we had no idea how long the ride was! We haven’t even gone halfway when King and I were already backing out of the 2nd ride. King even forgot to take pictures haha! WE WERE SCARED. Danae was expressive of her fear but she wasn’t frozen much by it. We kept telling her not to move abruptly and not to look down. Noelle was quietly groaning and saying that it was scary. She stayed absolutely put, but actually said at one point “yay, this is fun!” I was so scared that she would freak out and get up to hang on to me! There was nothing keeping her legs or her whole body for that matter, from doing that. I was barely able to keep from freaking out myself! I’m so proud of her for handling it like a champ!

We were so glad that shortly after, the ride was done. I was so happy to be touching ground! We got our helmets and hopped onto our go-carts. Noelle was with me, Danae was with King. It was soooooo much fun! It was just us on the trail down, and the lights were really nice. That was enough to get us to abandon our initial plan and get us excited for the next trip on the Skyride. As King was saying that we would leave the kids with my mom, who was waiting for us by the ticketing booth, Danae protested. She still wanted to come! Noelle, of course, had enough and opted to stay with Wowa. She’s only 2, after all.

Our 2nd trip on the Skyride wasn’t as scary anymore. Only Danae was with us, whom I was pretty confident about. We also knew what to expect and we knew we already survived it once. I had a revelation right then. The unknown makes us afraid, but faith makes us hold on and break through. (We were literally praying on the Skyride. Even Danae was!) As we see that we are actually able to endure the challenge, we can face the next one with more boldness. And in the end, stepping out in faith, or in our case grabbing on to faith because we didn’t even think twice when we got on the Skyride (no faith required or so we thought haha), is all worth it. We would definitely do it again!

The Luge experience was unbelievable. We couldn’t get over it haha. It was really scary, but really fun too! And I’m so proud of my girls! They displayed great courage! Fear was present, but they remained strong in the midst of it. My kids are amazing. 🙂

My Kids, Parenting

Danae’s Read-A-Thon

Danae’s school recently concluded their book month, wherein they, aside from other activities, promoted the Read-A-Thon in all levels. As the kids read books at home, the parents or guardians were asked to time them and record the title of book, time started, time ended and date on a sheet of paper. The teachers scheduled a certain period during class hours where the kids were to drop everything that they were doing, and read. The teachers timed them and listed their readings too. Whoever would spend the most (accumulated) time reading, would win a prize. The goal was to get the kids to appreciate and have a love for reading.

I enjoyed this particular exercise because reading and comprehension come easy to Danae (her school has recognized her skill in reading for 2 years now), and it was an opportunity to practice and make it an everyday thing. She almost always obliged when I’d encourage her to read a few books, because it was sort of like homework, which she enjoys doing. I didn’t even tell her that there’s a prize involved because I didn’t want it to be about getting the prize and I didn’t want her to get disappointed if she didn’t get any.

Because we would read at least 2 books daily, sometimes even  up to 6 to 8 short stories, it became somewhat of a habit. We would read to her everyday, especially her Bible story before going to bed, but during the Read-A-Thon, she started wanting to read it herself! Only exceptions were the few nights when she was already super sleepy. I mean, Danae would read by herself, sure, but it wasn’t a regular thing that I pushed. She’s more into grabbing a notebook, doodling or writing or drawing. Now, it’s EASIER to tell her that it’s time to read, and when we tell her it’s Bible time, she automatically reads it herself. We just ask questions later on, to make sure she understood it. But of course we still enjoy reading to her, especially her children’s Bible called the Jesus Story Book Bible. Even I get refreshed reading it. It’s just so wonderful.

So who won in the Read-A-Thon? I kept thinking that Danae surely would, because she read A LOT. We filled up about 3 pages (bond paper), listing the stories she read. She did the work! But I have no idea. There has been no announcement yet. And it doesn’t even matter. I got greater news from her teacher yesterday. Danae’s going to be part of the Fast Readers program in her school! I’m so proud of her and I love that the school encourages them and gives them an avenue to develop their strengths. Like I said before, our kids are already TEN TIMES BETTER than we are. King and I were never natural readers and we didn’t have a love for reading as kids, but our kids seem to. We are extremely grateful for that. 🙂