Museo Pambata

The second stop on the kids’ field trip was Museo Pambata, which is near Quirino Grandstand and the United States Embassy in Manila. This part of the activity was, I must say, very educational, and apt for kids of all ages (the field trip was participated in by all levels of the school from Nursery to sixth grade). There were many hands-on activities they can do that surely made them use their imagination a lot. Truly pambata or “for kids”. Some of the photos here are blurred but it’s because they keep on moving because the kids were plain excited and couldn’t keep still.

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There were times during this leg that Mischa would have fits if I didn’t give in to her demands, like buying all sorts of stuff on the street being peddled or junk food. But otherwise, she had fun with her classmates, whom she would see only at the venues because we were not riding in one bus.

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Crocodile Park

Last week, we accompanied Mischa on her first ever class field trip. She wasn’t able to join one in her previous school since the hubby has just gotten out of the hospital that time. She was so excited this time that she didn’t mind that we woke her up at the break of dawn. She was also glad that she had at least one classmate on the bus with her (it was kind of free sitting depending on the order you paid at the school cashier). It would have been better if they were all together in one bus so they could enjoy the trip more. Oh well.

The areas that we visited that the school chose are all around the Metro Manila. Our first stop was Crocodile Park in Pasay City. Although I braced myself for seeing reptiles only, I was surprised that the park offers a lot more.

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The first attraction was the bird show. Kids had fun as the creatures being featured came flying from all sides of the tent we were in.

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Then we visited the crocodiles in their pens. They all seem so docile but who wants to go near them?

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And we watched them at feeding time.

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There was also a tightrope walking and balancing act where the performer did his tricks with the dozens of hungry crocodiles waiting for him to make a mistake so they can have their lunch.

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Mischa had a chance to hold a baby crocodile.

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Aside from the birds and crocs, as I said there were other animals on for show, such as monkeys, orangutans, tigers, ostriches, etc.

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The park also has an indoor crocoseum, which really didn’t show much. It was not really for pre-schoolers as they really couldn’t read that much yet.

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Sonya’s Garden

So the last part of our anniversary celebration in January ended up at lunch at Sonya’s Garden. I haven’t been back here since I became bridesmaid to one of my closest friends at work back in 2008. That’s quite a long time. I am very impressed that it hasn’t changed at all, and has remained a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city. Two thumbs up for fresh air, fresh food, fresh everything. The little girl had fun snapping photos of flowers, plants and insects.

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We partook of unlimited fresh garden salad with toppings of fruits, herbs, nuts, pasta with two kinds of sauces, bread with different dippings and spreads, ratatouille, and mushrooms. The meal goes with unlimited servings of freshly-squeezed refreshing dalandan juice. And to cap your meal, a slice of chocolate cake and hot tarragon tea are the key.

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Happy tummies!

If we had more time, I’d probably get complete spa treatments the establishment is also known for. It also boasts of a panaderia, where they serve fresh baked bread everyday, a souvenir shop that sells organically produced beauty and treatment products, as well as a nursery for plants grown in its own garden.

Out of town anniversary

Hooray for another family milestone! We’re officially six years and counting, five of them official. And to celebrate, we decided to go out of town this time. Since we do not have a big budget to consume, the logical choice is Tagaytay City because it is just a little more than an hour’s drive from our place. Also, it gives you a sense of being away “from it all” because it has a totally relaxed, cool vibe as opposed to Manila. It has a year-round cool climate making it the quick getaway place, especially for those who do not have a lot of time to spare but want to escape the city.

We got ourselves a room at the Taal Vista Hotel, one of the oldest and classiest hotels in the city. There are a lot of new boutique hotels that have sprouted in the famous hangout in the last few years. They all seem inviting but I still found it best to have full service that hotels offer. Our room was a bit old but furnishings are still okay. Baby immediately found her place in the king-sized bed.

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Since we just drove around lunchtime in time for check in at 2:00 p.m., we had lunch first at Leslie’s at the Sky Ranch. By the way, we just walked from the hotel as the complex was just next door. We feasted on inihaw na tawilis, hubby’s favorite, and bulalo.

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Sky Ranch is another relatively new project of SM holdings. The theme park is quite new, and is home to the tallest ferris wheel in the Philippines. the Sky Eye. It has a variety of rides for kids and adults alike, a sizable area for horseback riding, restaurants, and other food stalls.

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The little has been insisting to ride a real horse even before we left the house. So happy she got her wish.

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And played and rode to her heart’s desires.

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Here she is while waiting for me to get dinner, which we had at our room. By the way, the Kenny Rogers restaurant there sucks big time. Took us more than thirty minutes to get our food.

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Winding down after an afternoon of fun.

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The hotel also boasts a sumptuous breakfast buffet ranging from healthy choices to tasty but cholesterol-full food. Guess who chose which. harhar.

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Mama and Lolo also followed and spent some time with us. We all wanted to go to church together but it was early for the three of us (hubby, Mischa and I) so we settled for mass held in the hotel premises (good thing they have these!).

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She happily ran around the wide expanse of grass. A good respite from always sitting around the house or in school. The only thing she wasn’t able to do was swim in the hotel pool. Unfortunately, it was brrrr-ery cold during our stay. We promised her we’ll come back a second time.

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After checking out, we drove a little further still to Sonya’s Garden in Alfonso for lunch. Will tell you more about it in my next post.

I wish we could always do this, steal time and hide from the world. So good to be with just family and nature. Thank you Lord God for giving us another year together, and looking forward to the next big things You will give our way.

My Negros adventure

Official duties brought me to the provinces of Negros Occidental and Iloilo last week to turn over classroom donations and look into livelihood possibilities for survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda. It’s been a while since I did these things because in the last couple of years, I had to delegate this to my staff because I was relegated to more “desk work”, but am very happy to this now.

During this trip, I choose to arrive in the evening of the day before our activities than arrive looking haggard very early in the morning. Call time as requested by our partner non-government organization was supposed to be 6:00 a.m., meaning if I took a flight arriving in Bacolod before 6:00 a.m., I had to leave Manila by 5:00 a.m., have to be in the airport by 3:30 a.m., meaning I have to be up at 2:00 a.m.

Anyhow, we got to Bacolod early evening, which gave us ample time to rest as the travel the following day would have us traversing the northern to the central part of Negros along bumpy, mountainous roads.

We stayed in downtown Bacolod at the Circle Inn and Suites. Truth be told, having tried and tested several provincial lodgings around the country, I don’t expect much from hotels/inns/pension houses. But this one was surprisingly nice, clean and modern. For Php1,400 a night for a twin sharing room, it ain’t bad at all. Beddings, sheets all seem new. The only downer is their box-type television, which you would have thought have been phased out in this land where even informal settlers have flat screen TVs. But oh well. Apart from that, I give 4 stars.

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Everything in the hotel seem up to date. They even have function rooms, business area, pool, room service, and they serve buffet breakfast albeit with very few selection.

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If I ever come back here again, I would book the rooms with direct pool access.

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For our dinner, we went to have an authentic chicken inasal. So off we went to Manokan where an array of restaurants serve the famous delicacy. From the choices, we sat down at Aida’s.

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The next day, we were picked up and accompanied by our NGO friend to turn over the donated classrooms. We covered four towns – Sagay, E.B. Magallona, Murcia and Binalbagan. The car rides in between feels like we’ve been on the road forever. We passed through what seems to be endless sugarcane fields, a crop Negros is famous for.

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On our way to one of the schools, we got to taste real Manapla puto. Very good!

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Despite the exhausting travel, I was glad to have seen the look of happiness on the faces of the teachers and kids as the classrooms donated become officially theirs. I thank them for reminding me that my work is relevant.

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And of course, no trip would be complete without pasalubong for your loved ones. Thank goodness, there was a Bongbong’s, another famous Bacolod icon right outside the pier. Bought some piaya, biscocho, butterscotch and napoleones before we crossed over to Iloilo.

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Of course, we did our best to see The Ruins in Talisay.

Next time, I’ll be sure to drop by the ancestral houses in Silay City, and have more food trips. For now, that’s it for the City of Smiles.

Kids’ camp

While I was away last week for a 3-day business trip, a notice from Mischa’s school came informing parents of an upcoming activity that would pose so much worry and wrinkles on us but would definitely improve kids’ independence — kids’ camp.

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As I was a hundred miles away, I really was so torn in deciding since I would not want to deprive her of such an opportunity, but I couldn’t shake of my anxiousness. After all, how independent can a 4-year old be? And while I do not presume that her pre-school teacher could take care of the personal needs of a child (teaching is very different, of course!), I was afraid of the trouble that 16 4- and 5-year olds can create. How would it be if two or more of them would want to pee/poop at the same? How can she put to sleep 16 high-energy kids? Me, a mother of a pre-schooler, finds it a challenge 95% of the time to put my own child to bed. How do you do it to roomful of them? Will they all have enough to eat? They were asked to bring their own packed dinner, but knowing my own kid, if she is so distracted, she would not have the inclination to eat.

And the best questions swirling around my head: what if there was a fire? what if there was a bomb? what if there are armed robbers whose planned heist just happened on this very day? Crazy, huh?

Anyway, after much hawing, the dad took it upon himself, after getting feedback from the grandmas and mommies who bring their kids to school, to let the baby go. Hays. Anyway, also got reassurances from her teacher through text. The list of activities seem interesting and apt enough. So ok.

Next, I was worried about the things she will bring and use (clothes, toiletries, bedding, etc.). But I think daddy put enough things.

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Thank God I was dead tired from my trip that Friday when she was at school, or else I would not have been able to take a wink. It was also great that I read a text message from teacher, which she sent just past midnight that the kids were asleep, and that everything was fine. I love teacher.

As the kids were supposed to go out at 9:00 the next morning, we were there first thing, along with the other anxious folks and guardians. I think many of us suffered from stiffness as we continuously craned our necks in what probably are the longest minutes of our lives. lol.

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Anyway, Mischa seemed to have fun, although she looked tired when I picked her up. The only thing was that she went home wearing somebody else’s underwear.

The Ruins

One word: Grandiose

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The Ruins in Talisay City, Negros Occidental is a testament of eternal love and a good life. I love my family beyond words but I sometimes dream of being descended from an old, rich family hehehe. Aside from being more comfortable, it would be great to read up on your family’s history (successes, failures, scandals, lol), and look at old family albums. It would have been wonderful to be a real haciendera, and see the lives of your forebears immortalized forever.

But alas, I could only trace up to my great-grandmother on my mother’s side, and only up to my grandfather on my father’s. And both are ordinary, hardworking families. And to date, I haven’t been able to dig up stories juicy enough to be passed on to my descendants. Haha. This must be the effect of reading too much historical novels.

So different from the offspring of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson and the Portuguese, Maria Braga, for whom the sugar baron built the mansion.

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Some say that the place is better visited at dusk for one to appreciate it in all its splendor and glory. However, we had very limited time as we only snuck in an hour from our official travel (I was with a staff), and that early morning was our only free time. Although we could have taken several jeepney rides from Bacolod City where we were billeted, we hailed the services of a cab for Php400 (two-way). As I said we were pressed for time. The good thing though is, we almost had the whole place to ourselves! It was really quiet, and the only sounds came from the chirping of birds, sprinkling of water, the snips of garden scissors, and the occasional banter of the caretakers.

Apart from the main structure, of interest is the four-tiered fountain in the well-manicured garden.

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If you close your eyes hard enough, you can almost conjure the family entertaining in that wide expanse of lawn.

As with the outside, the inside of the house is a view to behold. Only high-grade materials, as claimed in all related literature, could withstand the destruction set to the house by the US Armed Forces during World War II. All of its structure has remained intact.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you can do do your muni-muni or have your siesta here every afternoon with the sun and breeze enveloping you in a calm cocoon?

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They’ve put in a cafe inside what I could surmise was once the den or living room where they received visitors or where the children ran around and played.

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I also like this grandfather clock but which I think is out of place where it is located now. It is almost as if it was put there by accident.

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The Ruins is a true must-see for tourists and even locals. While it is a family home, it is full of history representing the city of Talisay.

I wonder if ghosts frequent this place.