Pajama fun day

Mischa’s school had another fun activity: pajama fun day! See how cute she and her classmates are in their favorite jammies clutching their favorite pillows or toys? Thank God we were able to take a leave of absence (personal milestone leave because of our anniversary the next day) on this day so we could see her off.

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When she got home, she told me stories of how they watched the movie “Frozen”. I am so glad to see how much fun she’s having in school. Now, I really believe that they’re bringing up the kids holistically, not only academically.

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When I first started work at our agency, I was assigned to the Planning, Research and Policy office. Stayed there for a total of nine or ten months before finding my place at the Project Management office. After six years, I was transferred back to policy, then went back to projects after four years. Whew.

You could say that it is my second family here. Although if asked to give one word to describe my stay here, I would definitely say it is “complicated”. lol. But it is true. Although there was no love lost between me and some people here, I do have some fond memories with my colleagues here, and I did form some of my lifetime friendships from here (Hi Rino and Cheng!).

So I’m actually happy to be part of this reunion of staff and friends who were assigned to this unit from way back to almost the present.

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Ihop

I am a big fan of breakfasts! I can eat it at any time of the day. Apart from that, as a true-blooded Filipino, I eat ’em big. On a normal day, we have rice at home, which we partner with any viand (longganisa, tocino, nuggets, daing na bangus, tapa, hotdogs, bacon, are just some of my repertoires). On other days, pancakes, hash browns, waffles, make my day. I’m not really a big fan of breads, though.

Anyway, so happy Ihop now has a branch in my part of the world (south of Manila), yay! So breakfasts in the morning are a thing of the past.

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When I saw down with the menu, it took me so long to decide among the many fares. I wanted them all. But in the end, we settled for these:

To start with, Seasonal Mixed Fruit and Yogurt

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I settled for eggs (I’ll be back for the others). Bacon Temptation Omelette won my heart this time.

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It was y-u-m-m-y with all the bacon and cheeses. But I don’t know, though, if I’m just takaw-tingin, but I kinda lost steam eating it towards the end. Maybe it was a tad too big for me. And the bacon could use more minutes in the pan for that just about right crisp. It was a little soggy.

Thank God it came with two pieces of Ihop’s signature buttermilk pancakes. Pamatid-umay.

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Had fun pouring all the different syrup. But I liked the pecan butter best.

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The husband had this grilled balsamic chicken with house salad on the side. He said my own version tastes better. Haha. Sipsip!

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A little bit expensive but still went home with a happy tummy. And I really promise to return.

Blackboard Restaurant

One word to describe this restaurant in Podium: disappointing. It could have the been the place of a long-awaited reunion among lifelong friends who haven’t gotten together for years. It would have been the backdrop of laughter and stories.

Since two of us in the group work at the Asian Development Bank next door, and have tried almost every restaurant in the mall, we scouted for one they haven’t been to. We chanced upon Blackboard at the fifth floor. The decor was avant garde enough for one to be curious and try the place, however, everything else just seemed to be off.

While it did host our catching up, it was able to do so because of the waiting time for the food, which arrived more than thirty minutes after we ordered. And they taste as pitiful as they look:

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So when the rest of our crew arrived, we just transferred to Shi Lin, where I forgot to take pictures of the food. Just this happy group:

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Gosh, I miss these guys at work. They were my contemporaries, and we have been through a lot of life lessons together – travels, drinking sessions, food trips, boyfriends/girlfriends, shopping, babies, promotions, heartbreaks, even deaths. I wish I could still see and be with them everyday.

Middle East series: Dubai

Our stay in Dubai was the shortest leg in our Middle East sojourn but I gotta say, the most fun-filled and I guess most meaningful because I got to be with important people in my life. Although we did some official duties here, our visit was more personal.

When we arrived last November, I was able to blog right away our desert safari experience because I was so excited about it hehe. You can view it here.

But this is the rest of the story.

From our last visit to one Philippine school, an officer from the Embassy drove us from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The drive took us less than two hours, and as we enter the city, you can immediately feel the vibe that is Dubai.

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That night, we met up with one of my closest friends, Bel and her husband Sherwin, at the Dubai Mall. Being the biggest mall in the city, there was a lot to do here. Since we cannot cover everything in one go, we just had dinner, watched the musical fountain show, took pictures in front of the Dubai Aquarium, and visited the Souk where I bought earrings for Mischa. Afterwards, we drove around the city and saw the Burj Al Arab.

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The following day, we dispensed our official tasks. Met with the The Filipino Channel Middle East office to discuss the regional summit again, then paid a courtesy call on the Consul General.

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Thank goodness, it didn’t take us that long. lol. Had lunch at Ikea where I wanted to but A LOT of stuff (Manila should have an Ikea!) but was able to restrain myself. After resting at the hotel, we flagged a cab and asked to be taken to the public beach so we can see the Burj Al Arab in daytime but the driver stupidly drove us around, and we ended up not being able to go since it got too dark. Tsk tsk.

Met up again with Bel and Sherwin that night. After buying some stuff, they brought us to the Burjuman Mall, to discount stores for pasalubong, then finally to yet another mall, the Mall of the Emirates, where they have the Ski Dubai.

Our hosts

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The next day, before we left for the safari, I was glad to have lunch with a cousin and his family, who I haven’t seen in a long time. It was also my first time to meet my nephew, MC.

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Tiring but fulfilled trip. So glad we ended on a high note.

Tiara Restaurant

My review of the Tiara Restaurant deserves a separate post from the Abu Dhabi post. This was the only fine dining experience we allowed ourselves to have during our Middle East trip. The restaurant was located atop a revolving deck on a 55-storey tower attached to the Marina Mall. You reach it via a dizzying elevator ride, and thank God I was too far from the glass windows to notice.

The restaurant was highly recommended to us by the protocol officer of the Philippine Embassy. And why not, you get to enjoy 360 degree views of the city while sitting down to a proper meal. The deck takes on a leisurely rotation, which takes about an hour and a half.

And guess what, our server is again a Filipina.

Meals start off with bread with several spreads. We didn’t order any more starters aside from that, and went on to order entrees, which we shared with each other. Mine was the steak, which was done to perfection.

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Middle East series: Abu Dhabi

While both are Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are worlds apart. Saudi is steeped in tradition, UAE on the other hand is almost as modern as the West. Being a relatively open country, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, its locals have also somehow adapted to the ways of life of the expats it is trying to beckon albeit still keeping its own norms alive.

My first “home” in the UAE is Abu Dhabi. Being the capital city, one can feel the power that it wields as it hosts most government offices and big businesses. Tall and sleek buildings adorn its wide boulevards, alongside powerful mosques. We landed at night time, and despite the lateness of the hour, the city was throbbing with vibrancy. Also, much like the huge urban places I’ve been to, it is teeming with huge malls that would the shopaholic’s heart skip a beat.

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Of course, as it is the main purpose of our visit to the Middle East, we inspected the Philippine schools here. And again, I will save my boring official report for the office, and stick to blogging the more fun parts of the travel hehe.

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Our office is also co-convening the Regional Summit in the Middle East, a brand of our Global Summit, which we have first introduced in Rome, Italy, where the husband went in 2012, and are now bringing to Abu Dhabi later this year. Since we are in the preparatory stages, we met with Philippine Ambassador Grace Princesa and the Bayanihan Council, an umbrella organization of Filipino associations in the UAE.

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And conducted an ocular inspection of the summit’s venue, the Dusit Thani Hotel.

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We had another meeting with other Filipino groups, this time, at the Ambassador’s residence called Maharlika House. The place was a showcase of abaca, a local plant from which cloth, furniture and other products are produced.

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Was also elated to have been able to hear mass in Filipino. Yay! Due to the large number of Filipinos and Catholics at that, they were given a special time and place to have masses in one of the big churches there. Several times that evening, I lost my head for a while and forgot that I was out of the Philippines. Out of the thousands that attended mass, I think I only saw about a handful of foreigners there. Very cool.

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The hotel we stayed in, though, was quite forgettable. It was so-so. The Embassy booked us there, and while we had a bigger budget, it was not a good idea to ask for a higher star hotel as we were supposed to be prudent since we are part of the government. But still, it would have been nice to have stayed in a newer and a bit swankier joint than the Ramee Apartments. I would have loved to experience more than threadbare sheets and dim lights. I guess I should just be thankful that the place was clean enough, and they had wifi, even if only in the table nearest the door. And that it was just a stone’s throw away from the Al-Wahda Mall, other discount stores for pasalubong, and restaurants.