MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

Lord, help us!

So many sad, scary, maddening, unbelievable things happening in the world lately. I just saw a video of what happened in Charlottesville and I am appalled. The hate. The anger. The mob. The exhilaration, the adrenalin of them coming together as a group. The unbelievably strong conviction they have that what they’re doing is right. The self-righteousness. The pride. Armed and ready to kill, yet according to one of them, they “showed incredible restraint.” Except for one who ran over some people with his car and killed one person, which they believe was a justifiable act. I just couldn’t believe it.

And here in my own country! The killing of a 17-year old boy. Does it matter if he was guilty of using and/or selling drugs? Innocent until proven guilty. And then when proven guilty, let the judge give him a sentence. He shouldn’t have been killed based on suspicion! He shouldn’t be killed even if found guilty! I know so many things are messed up in our justice system, corruption in the prison facilities and all. But I’d rather hope for restoration, reformation, rehabilitation, than believe that people are hopeless. Who are we to judge that they will never change? The Lord can change even the hardest of hearts. And this kid may have been innocent! Too many “Nanlaban” (resisted) stories in the news for me to think that it was not as witnesses said. Staged to look like a “justified killing.” It’s so scary to think that this could happen to any of us. I’ve watched enough (or too many) crime shows that depict real life to know that corrupt police officers can indeed plant evidence, twist facts, manipulate the system. Abusive of their power. Corrupted by greed. Empowered by their leader/s. Not all police, thank God, but some really are unworthy of trust.

And then about two weeks ago, my husband and I “survived” a shooting. We were two restaurants away from where the crime was committed. We did not see anything outside, but we heard gunshots, followed by screaming, then we saw people running inside and then towards us. At that time we had no clue what exactly was happening. But we immediately stood up and started moving. I grabbed my friend by the arm and pulled him. In my mind, I was panicking, wondering if it was a bomber or some guy going on a shooting spree, in which case I could get shot from behind. The danger was real. The fear was real. But I thank God for His grace and protection. First, my kids and my mom were not with me when I met with our friend. Second, King followed, so I felt safer that he was around. Third, King came 30 minutes before it happened (he came into the mall passing through the area of the crime scene). Fourth, I parked where I don’t normally park — on the other side. Fifth, we were able to walk away quickly, exit the building, and get home unharmed.

Call me sheltered, but this was the first time something like this happened so near me. I cannot believe that somebody was shot in quite literally our backyard! It was apparently a hit, an assassination. How easy it is for some people to take a life is beyond me. Some say justice was served because the man was a corrupt government official. I’m not so sure I agree that murder is justice. And I can’t believe that the perpetrators did it in such a public place! A wholesome, peaceful, public place! My kids, and many other kids, hang out by the fountain to play. Imagine the horror of parents who were actually there at that time. Traumatic and terrifying, I’m sure. I mean, it was traumatic for those who saw none of it, but were locked up inside a restaurant or caught in the stampede of people running out. My kids or any of us could have been caught in the crossfire, since reports said the guy’s bodyguards fired back. Too real. Too scary. Too crazy. Thank God no one else got killed, or was severely injured.

 

Lord, help us! We want to live in safety and in peace. We do not understand everything that is going on or why, but we trust in Your goodness and love for us. We hold on to your word that You go with us, that You will never leave us or forsake us. We trust that through trouble, we can draw strength from You, we can take refuge in You, and You will protect and save us. Help us do our part, not only in keeping our families safe, but by example, teaching our children to be God-fearing, law-abiding, Philippines-loving citizens. To be accepting and respectful of others, yet unafraid to use our influence to share the Gospel, to bring glory and honor to You. To fight, not with arms, but with our hands clasped and our knees bent. We declare You Lord of the Philippines, and we claim that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Psalm 91

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

 

 

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.

Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

My Thoughts on the Elections

Do not become the very person you despise. I was writing a Facebook status but realized that my thoughts couldn’t be contained in one line. But don’t worry, this won’t be very long either.

The 2016 elections have certainly brought out our values and our character as individuals. I appreciate our freedom to speak, share our opinion, express ourselves. What I do not appreciate is how careless some people have been in how they’ve used that freedom.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the passion displayed by many Filipinos in the past months. I am grateful for the education. I have quietly read articles that have been shared by friends who are passionate about the elections. I have quietly read comments and discussions. I even liked some posts when I felt like I could relate to what they were trying to say. I love my country and I have been conflicted about who to vote for for the past few months as well. I read, I watch, I pray, I talk to people and seek their opinions, I listen, I learn, and I am forming my own opinion.

I understand that many are angry and are discontent with our current government. I understand that many are appalled by certain presidentiables. I also understand that people will believe what they want to believe, and those strong in their beliefs want to convince others that their beliefs are right. But do we really need to be rude? Do we really need to insult or look down on other people because they think differently from us?

I don’t know about you, but my ears tend to ring and my mind tends to close when I feel judged or am called names. Maybe other people engage and try to defend themselves, but I usually get annoyed and then check out. Either way, if we want people to listen and see our point of view, being aggressive may not be the way. It may catch a person’s attention, but to what, really? That our candidate is better? Or that we’re acting like jerks? That we’re encouraging people to think? Or that we’re being arrogant and feeling superior? Don’t get me started on the words I’ve seen used and the attitudes displayed in the comments section. They seriously shock me.

Like I said, I appreciate most posts because they educate me. They make me think. They give me perspective. I myself do not feel offended because I do not believe I am one of those some die-hard supporters of a couple of presidentiables are targeting, but others will feel offended. By all means, share your opinions and beliefs, but could we please keep the peace and respect one another? Could we care about people and our relationships more than pushing our opinion? Could we bring back the H in IMHO?

Let’s agree to disagree. We may not all have the same presidential bets, but I believe most of us love the Philippines and want what’s best for our people. Not one of us knows that for sure anyway. Let’s put our trust in the One who does know. Let’s cast our cares on Him. I know it doesn’t help with making the decision of who to vote for, but for those who believe in God’s sovereignty, power and goodness, it’s a good reminder to stay calm and just continue to pray for our country.

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picture grabbed from a friend’s social media post. I do not own the picture, nor do I know who the original owner is. But I agree with its message.

Use your right to vote. Make sure you are at peace with your choice. God bless you. God bless the Philippines. 🙂

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. Psalm 33:12

Uncategorized

Summer Fun at Villa Escudero

The other tourist spot we went to this summer was Villa Escudero in Quezon. My cousin and I went there together, with my family, when we were young. This time, it was our kids’ turn. We hired a van to accommodate us all and it took us about 3 hours, with a couple of stops, to get there. It’s still a beautiful place, with better facilities. I honestly just wanted the kids to experience eating lunch by the waterfall like we did as kids haha. Although we failed to check out the museum and watch the cultural show, I’m happy that our kids got to enjoy the place.

The pink building behind the plane is the museum. We decided to go straight to the waterfall when we arrived and visit the museum in the afternoon, but then it closed at 5pm. We were too late.  Tip: visit the museum first!
The pink building behind the plane is the museum. We decided to go straight to the waterfall when we arrived and visit the museum later in the afternoon, but then it closed at 5pm. We were too late.
Tip: Visit the museum first!
You pay Php1,250 per head on weekdays, Php 1,400 on weekends and holidays. Only children below 4 feet are charged half, while babies like Gianna are free. That's inclusive of the carabao ride, entrance to the museum, use of the pool and rafts, all you can eat lunch at the waterfall. :)
Php1,250 per head on weekdays, Php 1,400 on weekends and holidays. Only children below 4 feet are charged half, while babies like Gianna are free. That’s inclusive of the carabao ride, entrance to the museum, use of the pool and bamboo rafts, all you can eat lunch at the waterfall. You can bring chips in, but not much else. 🙂
 Luningning was our carabao. We were amazed at her strength. She carried us, our stuff, and the musicians who played nice Filipino music for us. :)

Luningning was our carabao. We were amazed at her strength. She carried us, our stuff, and the musicians who played nice Filipino music for us. 🙂
A field we passed during our carabao ride. :)
A field we passed during our carabao ride. 🙂
Not sure if this is still in use.  A visit to the museum would have been helpful, haha. :)
Not sure if this is still in use. A visit to the museum would have been helpful, haha. 🙂
the waterfall! :)
The waterfall! 🙂
the waterfall from where we ate :)
The waterfall 🙂
lunch by the waterfall! :)
All you can eat lunch by the waterfall! They have water dispensers but other drinks aren’t part of the entrance fee. I ordered buko juice in its shell for Php40. Grilled pork, grilled tilapia, pancit and other Filipino dishes. On a banana leaf, with your bare hands. Yum. 🙂
the water was cold! the kids enjoyed wading and getting wet! :)
The water was cold! The kids enjoyed wading and getting wet! 🙂 Tip: Be there by 11AM because the place got surprisingly packed by 12PM.
i don't have a wide shot of the pools but they have 3 that look pretty well-maintained. :)
I don’t have a wide shot of the pools but they have 3 that look pretty well-maintained. 🙂
i don't have shots of the swimming pools, but they now have 3 that look pretty well maintained. swimming in the lake is prohibited, but the kids enjoyed fishing (for which they had nothing to show haha) and rafting. :)
Swimming in the lake is prohibited, but the kids enjoyed fishing (for which they had nothing to show haha) and rafting. 🙂
danae insisted on going rafting and my cousin's hubby accommodated her. thank you tito vincent! :)
Danae insisted on going rafting but King was not with us, so my cousin’s hubby accommodated her. Thank you tito Vincent! 🙂
the kids were fishing here, and the structure they are in is where they held the cultural show. i think it's also a restaurant. the show was quite lengthy and my cousin said it was great. i of course had to stay with my kids who were sometimes in 3 different places at the same time haha. :)
The kids were fishing here (Php100 for the rod, and I think you can keep or have whatever you catch cooked), and the structure they are in is where they hold the cultural show. It’s also a restaurant. The show was quite lengthy and my cousin said it was great. I of course had to stay with my kids who were sometimes in 3 different places at the same time haha. 🙂

The kids enjoyed swimming so much that we got out of the pool area late! We missed the carabao ride back. It would have been a tiring ten minute walk back to the front, if not for the electric shuttle. That’s also when we were told that the museum closes at 5PM. They have accommodations as well, but we only opted for a day trip. Click here for more information.

It was another memorable time for my kids. Even though they don’t see their cousins often, they will have these awesome memories to always go back to. I thank the Lord for opportunities like these. 🙂

FEATURED, Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

I Am Torn

Honestly, I am torn. I have been frustrated with the slow deployment of necessary help for our countrymen that our government is supposed to provide. I know that there were huge amounts of relief goods sent to Tacloban and they were not getting to the Haiyan/Yolanda victims as quickly as everyone hoped. There was (not sure if there still is) a hold up somewhere. I understand that logistics is a nightmare. It is not that easy to get goods and people in, and to get victims out. The devastation is massive. Manpower is low. But friends from other nations have come, with their own aircrafts, equipment, and people. So I really could not understand what was taking so long. I hate that politics is the apparent reason for some of it! I all the more do not understand how they can refuse to help certain victims because of political affiliation. I do not understand how they can push their political agenda at the expense of so many lives. It’s infuriating.

On the other hand, I also wonder why other cities were able to evacuate their people, knowing that a super typhoon was coming, while Tacloban did not. I believe they prepared, but they probably underestimated the power of the typhoon. The local government did their part, but obviously it was not enough. The local government became the victims themselves. I am inclined to have more compassion for them, rather than frustration, because they have lost so many lives already. They can learn from this tragedy, but they don’t need to be blamed. They need to be helped.

I appreciate the honesty of news reports, but I didn’t appreciate the negative angle that it was coming from. At times, especially with initial reports, it felt like there was no hope. It was chaos, and there was no hope. I understand why people lauded the honesty, but I wondered why news crews focused only on a few cities in their reports. There were many others who needed the attention and aide. Because of the negativity, however, so much help came in internationally.

I understand why people are angry, why people criticize. I am sometimes one of them. I also understand why people stay quiet and choose to just appreciate what is already being done.

Like I said, I am torn and many times confused. And I could rant all I want, since I have the freedom to speak. But will it do any good? So many others have already written and expressed their distaste of what has happened or what is happening. Will my chiming in help others? And I really have no authority on the matter anyway. I cannot judge anything from where I am sitting, and I cannot judge anyone based only on what I see on TV or read on the net. If my intelligent ranting/writing could give facts, important and helpful information, I would do it. But since I am not an authority on disaster prevention, disaster management, or government policies and such, I should not. I will leave that to those who know better than me.

I will, however, continue to read, watch, and be informed. I will direct my efforts to sharing valuable information to people on how they can help. I choose to focus on actually HELPING. We can raise funds for the victims. We can give to efficient, reputable organizations. We can collect goods within our neighbourhood or community. There are so many relief operations that we can lend a few hours of our time to and shed a few drops of sweat for. Whether we have money to share or not, we can help with carrying, packing and distributing. We can also cook and give food to the evacuees in Villamor Airbase, or drive them to their families in Manila. Let’s be part of the solution! I don’t know how long this will go on, but enough talk. Let’s just do what we can. PRAY. DONATE. VOLUNTEER.

Register to be a volunteer in Villamor Airbase here.

Donate unlimited water to typhoon victims via Green Focus, Inc here.

 

Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

Let’s Keep Going! For Yolanda/Haiyan Victims!

Super typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan, internationally) hit us hard last Friday. The pictures and the reports about Tacloban and other parts of Leyte were just unbelievable. I have never seen or experienced winds like that my entire life. I had never heard of storm surges till that day. I expected the floods to be bad and for weak houses to be damaged, but I never expected concrete houses AND buildings to be knocked down. I cannot imagine being there with my family, especially with my two girls. I wonder if our house could withstand such weather. I wonder if I am equipped physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually to survive such an ordeal.

Relief operations began on Monday at our church in Alabang. King and the girls were there, while I was attending a training. On Tuesday, we were all there in the morning because King and I had to get our blood drawn for the annual physical exam. It was incredibly busy in the office that day, as the staff had deadlines to meet and relief operations to take care of. Seeing videos and reading articles, waves of helplessness and sadness would come to me. I wanted to go to Tacloban to help, but aside from my husband’s own disapproval, I questioned whether I would be an asset there or a liability. God sees our hearts, but we always have to move with wisdom. Prayer is our greatest weapon at a time like this.

Instead of feeding my own feelings of helplessness, listening to reports and waiting, I invited the girls to help in packing goods. It was such a joy to see them and our senior pastor’s daughters (I’m sorry I have no pictures) jump at the chance. And it was such a pleasure to be one in heart and arms with the volunteers, young and old alike! I must say that I was so tired when we got home late that night (haha, it might be my age), but it was completely worth it. Our labor will never compare to what the victims have had to endure the past few days and have to go through for the next months or even years.

I thought I was going to be able to stay home and focus on homeschooling yesterday, but reading blogs and news articles made me really antsy again. More cities were being reported to have been affected by Yolanda. I couldn’t stay home. I had to do something, even though I had no power to make things happen there in the affected cities. I have my own frustrations and sentiments, but I figured I could just do my part. I brought the girls with me and participated in the relief ops again. There were more volunteers and so much more goods!

I appreciate what Christopher de Bono of UNICEF said on an interview on BBC, when asked what he would say if he had the ear of a government official. He said that it is EASY TO CRITICIZE but he would say GOOD JOB and KEEP GOING. I agree that it is very easy to criticize when we are outside looking in. I agree that the officials who are victims themselves are doing a good job coping AND helping others, considering their plight. The officials who are sincerely helping, not politicking, are doing a good job. And I agree that we ought to just keep going, and do what we can where we are. PRAY. GIVE. VOLUNTEER.

I love the heart of the Filipino — always willing to give out of his own pocket and of himself. And not just in our church or our own country, but world-wide! Filipinos everywhere are raising funds and packing goods to send to the Philippines. Other countries are sending aid to us as well. The love, generosity and compassion are overwhelming. THANK YOU SO MUCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. God bless you! God bless the Filipino people!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Click here if you want to donate to Yolanda victims via Victory Christian Fellowship.

Click here if you want to donate to Yolanda victims in Tacloban via Tindog Tacloban.

Click here if you want to donate to Yolanda victims in Coron, Palawan via Hilbert Enriquez.

FEATURED, Just My Thoughts, My Kids, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY, Parenting, Spiritual Family, THE BRAINY BUNCH, YOUTH MINISTRY

On Typhoons, Disasters, and Kind Hearts

In the last 6 years, there have been typhoons that caused major disasters in our country. 3 stick out in my mind.

>;Milenyo in 2006. Danae, 11 months old, was in the hospital for Pneumonia when it hit.

>;Ondoy in 2009. It was Noelle’s baby dedication the week it hit, and we went to Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin for my cousin’s wedding.

>;Sendong in 2011 was the one that hit Cagayan de Oro hard.

Oh, now Gener, which hit last July, sticks to mind because we endured almost 20 hours of no power. There were floods all around the city too.

But this week, there was no typhoon, no strong winds. Just strong rains due to the southwest monsoon. The floods that have hit our country are terrible. Dams and rivers have overflowed. So many properties, homes, cars and lives destroyed. They have declared no classes for the entire week for some schools. There are so many evacuees who need food, medicines, and toiletries.

Through all this however, it warms my heart to see Filipinos rallying to help those in need. There are relief efforts just about everywhere. The 12,000 inmates of Muntinlupa City Jail gave up their meals to help the evacuees in Muntinlupa, who are already over a thousand in number. I’ve seen pictures and heard stories of kindness on Facebook and on the news — from a banana vendor giving away his bananas to feed those who were stranded, truck drivers giving rides to people so they could get home, policemen carrying the elderly in their arms, soldiers creating a human bridge for people to pass over the flood, to ordinary people braving the floods to rescue strangers. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a Filipino. Everybody is pitching in, doing their part. I concur, WHERE I’M FROM, EVERYONE’S A HERO.

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/ItsMoreFunInPhilippines
photo credit: Ana del Castillo
Helping me with “the fish” 🙂

Even my daughters helped with the relief operations in Victory Alabang on the first day. Danae was so eager to help with bagging goods. People were telling me that she kept working, even when she was already tired. Noelle helped too, by helping me load canned goods into the shopping cart. Ever since they’ve also heard and seen the news, they include “the people in the flood” in their prayers. I am so proud to be the mom of these two.

Putting water bottles in bags 🙂
“the fish”
Busy busy busy!
In formal wear haha 🙂
Rice!
Canned goods!

Yesterday, the youth were there all day to help out. Today, some Alabang homeschoolers did volunteer work. These opportunities to teach our kids GENEROSITY, to VOLUNTEER, to SERVE, to THINK BEYOND THEMSELVES, to help and PRAY for others, to work with a team, to SEE AND BE PART OF LOVE & KINDNESS IN ACTION, are priceless.

Photo credit: Michelle Remulla
Photo credit: Michelle Remulla

Biscuits & other snacks![/caption

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. 🙂

Just My Thoughts, Parenting

DAYUHAN KA BA SA IYONG SARILING BAYAN?

This was how I felt when the Luceros decided to visit Luneta Park after a children’s party last night. I was pretty excited because the last time I was there was around 10 years ago when I attended the Jesus Revolution. The last time I was in front of our national hero Jose Rizal’s monument was probably when I was in grade school. Aside from an opportunity to spend time with the family, little did I know that it was an opportunity to be “re-educated.”

I did not realize that many people still really hang out in Luneta. They, lovers, families and barkadas alike, were having picnics, complete with mats, food, drinks, and games. I think I rarely did that with my family when I was very young, and I’m sure I never did that with my friends growing up. The fact that Luneta is actually where Rizal was executed, never made an impact on me until yesterday. It’s such a historical place and event that we ought to take pride in it and teach our kids about it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover, too, that they regularly show the reenactment of Rizal’s execution. We must catch that one of these days. The fee is only 50 pesos.

We saw the dancing fountain, with all its lights and music. It was no Belaggio, but pretty nonetheless. It was my first time. I was surprised to see Concert at the Park there too! I felt like a total ignoramos, I tell you. I’d seen it broadcast on tv before, but I had no clue that “the Park” was Luneta. We were able to sit and watch a performance by the Magsaysay High School Chorale. They were awesome! Anyone can catch the fountain and the concerts for free. You get an important piece of history, some entertainment, and a dose of Philippine culture and good old Filipino fun.

So why did I miss all this? Am I that citified? Sadly, yes. Though I’m not the type who can’t rough it out in a 1-star hotel, motel or resort, that’s just it. Staying in such places is already roughing it out?? Not that anything’s wrong with that, since I know people who really prefer to visit and stay in high end spots. And don’t get me wrong, I love being able to enjoy such luxuries, even if we’re just “riding along.” But I believe it has somewhat hindered my sense of adventure to discover and experience the beauty of our own country, the beauty of our own people and culture. It may have kept me trapped in my comfort zone, thinking that it’s not worth my time or effort. Sure, I understand that going to public parks can be a hassle, especially with kids in tow — running into too many people and all kinds of people, seeing a lot of trash left all over by undisciplined people, having no decent nearby bathroom to use, the possibility of getting pick pocketed — but it shouldn’t stop us from educating our kids about their country, their history as Filipinos, by exposing them to such places.

Even though visiting Luneta didn’t really make a historical impact on them yet, my kids enjoyed the trip, especially because all their cousins were there. If we visit such parks often enough, I’m sure they’ll pick up the history and a love for their own country, not to mention learn so many other things — from throwing trash properly and having a sense of ownership, to not looking down on others who are less fortunate and being thankful for what they have. I don’t want my children to be ignorant. I don’t want them to be foreigners in their own land.