Paradise Island Davao

After our official trip to Davao City (I was with one of my staff, Yumi), we went on a side trip to nearby Samal Island. I booked us at Paradise Island Resort, which I chose from among the hotels and resorts on Agoda. And I was glad I did. No regrets here.

I was surprised that it took us only 5 minutes to cross from the private pier of Paradise Island to Samal. And from the get-go, I was truly satisfied by the way the resort’s personnel took care of its guests. If I had ten thumbs, all would be up in approval for service.

Since we arrived around noon, we had lunch first in their open air restaurant right by the beach, while they were cleaning and preparing the rooms. The only teeny, tiny disappointment during our overnight stay was it took more than 30 minutes for them to give us our bill. And we were raring to go to the beach by then.

Otherwise, everything was A-okay!

The de luxe rooms were in separate airconditioned cottages, which have their own porch and garden. We had to walk a bit from the beach but it turned out to be a good thing because the areas where the cottages are are quiet, and the noise from the beachgoers were muted. The room where we stayed was large and comfortable enough. Of course, we didn’t get to sulit the room because we practically stayed at the beach the whole afternoon until evening during our first day. On the second day, we just had breakfast then we had to catch our flight to Manila before noon.

They also had a spa where I availed of a massage. It was good enough for the price of Php450 (with discount). I badly needed that. It seems like I haven’t had one in ages. When you have two needy kids below five years old, you tend to put yourself last in your list of priorities. So this was a good break for me. I was definitely recharged.

The beach was clean although they built the restaurant too close to it. It decreased the swimming and lounging area by a large margin, and it was short enough to be begin with. But a beach is a beach is a beach. And I love it. Period.

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I was a little miffed that it was cloudy on our first day there but I still had fun, of course. Next day, when we were about to leave, Mr. Sun shone in all his glory. Didn’t get to enjoy the beach by then but the summer-ness of it all lifted my spirits anyhow.

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Education Cooperation meeting

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I was privileged to have represented our office, and the Philippine government in general, in the first meeting on educational cooperation between the Philippines and Malaysia. And while the bulk of the talks revolved around education exchange between the countries, our special concern was for stateless kids (because they are undocumented right from birth) in Sabah whose roots came from the Philippines, to gain access to education. Our office started to get onboard on this project in 2012, where I first joined an assessment team to look into the situation of the kids. We are happy that there are informal learning centers established by Filipino communities so that they learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic. But they still need all the help they can get. Since then, we have had several interventions to help them little by little, including soliciting funds and materials for their use, talking to other agencies for birth registrations and upgrading qualifications of teachers, and others.

We are hoping that through this dialogue that the Malaysian government will recognize their rights, and with it, the learning centers, so that they have no fear of being shut down. All they want to do is learn. We still have a long way to go.

Cintai, Corito’s Garden

We held our annual teambuilding about two weeks ago at this place called Cintai, Corito’s Garden, a Balinese-inspired resort in the town of Balete in the province of Batangas. They said that this used to be a family rest house built for its matriarch who was then recovering from an illness. When she passed away, the family maintained (and I would assume expanded) the place and opened it up for paying guests. I liked it that we had the whole place to ourselves during our visit, and enjoy to our heart’s content (sometimes our group could be rowdy to say the least).

The whole place was one humongous garden. For the nature lover, it would be pure heaven. All sorts of shrubs, trees, flowering plants abound. Plus it was secluded from the town, hence, very serene and a perfect place for those who want to meditate or just plain relax. There was a zen-ness to it that would pacific the most active emotions. Tamed animals also roam the place. During our stay, I came face to face with a donkey and a handsome peacock.

The resort has well-appointed villas filled with antiques or the most tasteful wood decorations. Outside, comfortable couches are provided for that quiet afternoon date with a book or a cup of coffee.

The major downside of it all – the numerous pebbled stairs you have to pass through to get from area to area. Only the fittest and health-conscious would enjoy this. Say if you’ve just eaten, by the time you get to your room, you’ll start to feel the pangs of hunger. I think I lost five pounds over that weekend. lol.

The food was a little so-so, and the assisted buffet was not enough to satisfy our cravings. They were a little skimpy on the servings. But being a true-blue Batanguena, I enjoyed their offerings during our stay. Special mention the Lomi Batangas, crispy tawilis and Pork Binagoongan with fried eggplants.

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I would recommend this for honeymooners, stressed dudes, or anybody who just wants to get away from it all. Not ideal for kids or senior citizens.

Eating time!

Our baby just celebrated her half year birthday last Saturday. I arrived just in time from a business trip.

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And what better way to celebrate than having her eat solids for the first time! Yay! We noticed that she has been eyeing us curiously during meal times, and she would follow our movements as we lift our spoons and forks to our mouths. Now she can finally join us at the dining table.

Ate Mischa did the honor of giving her her first bites.

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Lenten beach trip

As seen in my previous couple of posts, our family went on a summer getaway in Nasugbu, Batangas. The before and after (read: packing and unpacking) of the trip was tiring, but we had much fun so it was well worth it. This was also Maxine’s first outing, and while she would not remember any of it, I would be glad to show her photos, tell her stories, and let her read this blog in the future.

We stayed at Canyon Cove Hotel and Spa in the beach coast of Batangas. And I gotta tell you that the beach here is way better than those on other sides of Batangas, such as Laiya. What makes for a great beach? Fine, white sand and clear waters – Canyon Cove has it all. Unlike in Laiya where the sand is coarser and strewn with so much pebbles and small rocks, and the water is a little muddy.

The hotel itself is grand (with a price tag, too). We got discounts courtesy of an aunt but our stay was worth every centavo. It was a little uncomfortable at first upon our arrival for it was a holiday and I guess there were just so many guests checking in. It took us a while to get our rooms and we were made to wait in the lobby for a while. I wished they had welcome drinks so we can stave off our thirst whilst waiting. But all’s well that ends well.

I made Mischa wait for a bit after we freshened up a bit in our room. She was just darn excited to jump into the water the minute she saw the beach area and pool. But the hot was striking hard at 4:00 in the afternoon and I didn’t want her to get burned. But after that, we let her play to her heart’s content for the next two days. I was a little surprised with her, though, that she was afraid of going to the deep end of the water when she had swimming lessons last year. I think she must continue with those.

We divided our time between the large swimming pool and the beach for the next two days. The husband and I actually preferred to stay on the beach because the water was cleaner but the kid wanted to be in the pool all the time so we settled on a compromise.

We also had our meals in the hotel’s lone restaurant, which was served by the famous Max’s Restaurant. I hope they have more concessionaires in the future so guests could have more choices. They also have a bar, but with two kids in tow, we didn’t have the luxury, and personally, the inclination to visit and have drinks. Me, I was just too conked out at the end of the day.

The rooms were clean and huge. The one we stayed in had two double-sized beds and a daybed on the side. It was just perfect for our family including my parents who roomed in with us since the hotel had limited available rooms. The husband and I slept alternately with each kid. Mischa had a minor issue when I slept with her sister on the second night. At almost 6, she still prefers Mommy beside her. And I gently explained to her, and was firm (even though it broke my heart that she cried over it) that Maxine needs Mommy, too.

We went with my brother, my aunt’s family and some friends, and the whole trip was a lot fun. If only money was not issue, I would have always planned for family outings and bonding like these.

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Kainan sa Dalampasigan

Our family outing in Nasugbu, Batangas started and ended with wonderful meals at the Kainan sa Dalampasigan. Located at the heart of the town, a few meters away from the public beach, Kainan welcomes the traveler into its warm folds like a mother or a favorite aunt. Its homey feel and traditional food attracts more of families and barkadas rather than couples looking for a romantic sojourn. Set in the middle of a large garden, it boasts of natural flora with plants hanging from the high ceilings, and various species of shrubs and trees all around. Breeze also flows freely through the tall, open windows making the whole place presko, and if one is not careful, would be induced in a lazy stupor.

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This is our family with some of my brother’s friends who have also become ours. We came with some relatives though but were not able to take photos.

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And this are what we ordered on our way back to Manila (no photos too of our welcome lunch).

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I especially loved the crispy pata. They have a special timpla for the sauce, it’s a bit on the sweet and spicy side, and it was perfect for the crispy, juicy pork (okay now I’m salivating with the memory). Fish and seafood were a little hard to come as it was Black Saturday, and maybe they ran out of stock last Good Friday. The husband, being the health conscious one, was of course a little disappointed. But the food all in all was very, very good! Nothing pretentious, just good old home-cooked goodness.

The place was full of vacationers as it was the Holy Week when we went there. Harried waiters buzzed through the aisles and served big groups. It was no wonder food took a little time to be served but they were all worth our time. Good thing we were in good company so the wait was not so bad, and no one was wont to complain.

We will definitely go back.

Short hometown visit

After our family outing in Nasugbu, Batangas over the Lenten break, we decided to make a short trip to our house in Cuenca, Batangas, which is several towns away from Nasugbu. I have not been here in over a year, if I am not mistaken. And I am happy to bring home Maxine to the home I grew up in. I wrote about my childhood several years back, and as always, all my happy memories always come back, but weirdly enough, they also make me sad because I miss my grandparents so much.

But as a harried mother, this time, I did not have the opportunity to “sulk”. We literally flew into town, chatted with our beloved housekeeper, had my favorite suman and kapeng barako, walked around the house (and said hello to my lolo and lola) and left.

I vow to stay longer next time.

Maxine and daddy with the great Mt. Maculot as backdrop
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My girls in their ancestral house
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The view from my mother’s room
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My grandparents’ room where I used to sleep
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The local fare (perfect pair!)
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Maxine with Tita Ana
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