Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Third Trimester

I am now on the latter part of my third trimester and I can say that this is the most challenging stage of all. I feel so huge and uncomfy. All those times I tried to reflect a fit and sexy preggo are all down the drain. It's like blocking all those judgemental stares in exchange of a big fat burger, because what the hell, I'm already huge! People who knows me may think I'm overreacting and say other pregnant ladies are bigger but if they really know me, they'll know that I used to be a hundred-pounder and now I'm already 142 lbs. Healthy pregnancy weight gain is just 25-35 lbs, so yeah, do the math. Anyway, rant over.

Still, I can't be thankful enough of this big blessing squirming inside me. Anytime soon, we'll be meeting him. I started doing my morning exercise few days ago. My doctor advised a 2-hr walk routine to help the baby go into position and to boost my endurance too. Imagine having a meager amount of energy and walk for 2 long hours. While at it, imagine carrying an extra 42 lbs of weight while having all sorts of discomfort in the abdomen, back and leg areas. Mix it up with lack of sleep because of you can no longer find a comfortable sleeping position every night. It may sound like I'm complaining but I'm not. It's the opposite even. This is the strongest and the most empowered I've ever felt in my life. I've literally climbed mountains in the past but the strength I have to have each of these morning walks made those mountains negligible. Every time I struggle to take one more step in each lap, I just think of my little boy and then everything's easy again. Ahhh, the life of a mother! 

Me at 36 weeks :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Name Game

Naming a baby is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. It's not like naming a barbie or a puppy where you can just blurt out any random cute name and it would instantly stick. Since early this year, we have kept a small list of names, hoping one would stand out. Still not knowing the baby's gender, we had two sets of names; for a girl and for a boy. I made some categories to help us ponder; we can name them after a celebrity, an old family/relative, a place or Biblical, mythical or cultural names. None of the names under those categories lingered. 

The day we announced to our families that we're having a baby boy, my mother instantly had a lightbulb moment. Why not name it after Pope Francis? The pope was currently in the Philippines during that day. We all know how he inspired millions of people through his humility, charisma and warmheartedness. It was a beautiful idea. 

During the time that me and my husband were still dating, we fantasized of having our future baby. He said we'll name it Louise or Louis. He just likes that name. I agreed. I like classic names anyway. It'll also be after my favorite book character (next to Lestat), from my all time favorite novel, Interview with the Vampire.

After agreeing on the name Francis, he instantly attached the name Louis and it sounded so right. Francis Louis. It's simple, elegant and classic. But of course we'll still twist it into something cute and local nickname in the future. Hmmmm... Kiko would be a cute monicker ;)

Gender Surprise!

In my last blog entry, which was a week before the most awaited gender determination, I wished for a baby girl. Who could blame me? Every people I encounter, every friend and family member somehow assumed it was a girl. They said I looked, ahem... glowing. I fancied it to be true, of course. Besides, I don't have stretch marks, dark patches on skin and even dark neck and underarms, all tell-tale signs of having a boy. 

Aside from that, I don't have the slightest clue of how to raise a boy. I imagined them to be dirty, loud and rowdy. They'll date girls, they'll do dangerous stunts, hell, they'll even watch porn! While girls like princesses and unicorns, boys delight on frogs and trucks. What do I know about all that? So please understand that it's easier for me to believe and expect that I'll be having a girl. So foolishly, I convinced myself that I have that much control over my baby's gender. I've never been so wrong.

Those are his balls on the first frame apparently.
The moment the sonographer placed the apparatus on my belly, she blurted out the baby's gender. It's a boy! It caught me off-guard. I honestly did not expect that, how stupid can I be to forget about the simplest probability ever? It's still a one is to one chance of having either a boy or girl, regardless what I like and regardless what people predicts.

I spent the next few days reprogramming my mind to think about not having to buy tutu dresses and other girly stuff. I read articles to enlighten myself of the joys of having a baby boy. It's not that I'm disappointed... I'm just mere clueless. And now, weeks have past and I have made peace with the fact that I will indeed be raising a cute little boy. I'm still clueless but with the help of my husband, I believe we can raise a good one. And I am, presently, extremely happy to have a healthy baby inside me. He's been kicking me the whole time I'm writing this. Baby, if at some point of your life you'll be reading this, please don't be a grammar Nazi. I love you!

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Second Trimester and Some Other Morsels of Stories

I am now on my 24th week of pregnancy and still within the second trimester. This is my favorite stage so far since everything seems easy now. Let's have a little pregnancy symptoms check:
  • My cravings are over, nausea's gone and sleepiness is also much more manageable now. 
  • I have regained my agility too since my tummy has already shifted upwards, I can now bend more freely. 
  • My emotions are more in check too, hormonal dramas are lesser now. 
  • I had pimples all over my face, chest and back during my first trimester and those are lesser now too, thank goodness! 
  • I now have that "pregnancy glow" which makes almost all people assume I'm having a baby girl (I hope they're right).
  • I don't have stretchmarks yet (fingers crossed they won't ever come).
  • I don't have black patches and dark underarms yet.
  • I don't have swollen nose, hands and feet yet. 
  • I think I am gaining more weight than the necessary, blame the holidays!
  • I have some signs of "pregnancy brain" or momnesia. This weird forgetfulness is said to be due to surging hormones which affects the neurons. Pregnancy also shuffles what gets your attention. IQ doesn't change but priorities do. 
*Other side story, I was able to have a beach get-away early December. Due to my low-lying placenta, I had to take some meds for my baby's safety. Nevertheless, it was a fun escapade with my family. It's our second time in Boracay but this one's very special because we now had 4 additions in our family - my sister-in-law, my nephew, my incoming baby and my incoming niece/nephew.

Boracay never ceases to be beautiful.

Baby Bump at 18 weeks
*Days before Christmas, my husband was diagnosed with, guess what - German Measles. It's one of the most dreaded illness one can have around pregnant people. It sucked for we had to celebrate Christmas apart. He spent 6 days quarantined in his office barracks. Right after he got his clearance to go home, he decided to have a whole week of vacation just in time for the New Year and our annual family reunion. 
Baby Bump at 23 weeks. 
*Me and my husband celebrated our third year anniversary. Instead of planning some out-of-town getaway, we decided to celebrate it differently this time. Last year, I was able to try out archery with my college friends. It was fun but my weakling body can't stand it. My ever-curious husband wanted to try it too so I thought of treating him a session. He is a natural! His stance is good and he aims good. After that, we just had a hearty dinner with hearty conversations - life's simple pleasures. 
Pigging out: French onion soup, Mexican burger, Beef fajitas and a Brownie.
*Last week, I was able to attend a wedding as a matron of honor. It was my bff's wedding so leaving me out of the picture is never an option despite of my bulky figure. I was just quite concerned of wearing a flowy gown with high heels for I'm a true-blue klutz and falling or tripping over is a big disaster for my baby. Thankfully, everything went smoothly. It was a beautiful wedding and it's nice to be dolled-up every once in a while.

It was a lovely wedding!
*In few days, we will be learning our baby's gender! We want a healthy and complete baby above all, but I'm sure it's not wrong to hope for a particular gender too, right? We are hoping for a baby girl. It may sound shallow but I think they're sweeter and cuter. But baby boy wouldn't disappoint me either, of course. 

Those are the stories about me and my little family! I'm nearing the third trimester now and so excited to tackle this yet another new phase. Bring it on!

Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm Starting to Fell Like Mommy Now

High Frequency band ranges from 3 - 30 Mega Hertz. I've only known this fact for so long through school and some of its familiar application like the citizens' band and RFID among others. 

It's funny how a simple 6.7 MHz high frequency wave can make such a difference in my life though. Who knew it could trigger one thing that has been in deep slumber for some years now - my maternal instinct. I am referring to the earliest form of confirming the baby's presence and condition, a TVS ultrasound.

It was October 14, it's my 12th week pregnancy mark - finally, we can have our very first meet and greet session with our little fetus through that ultrasound. The feeling of seeing it and hearing its heartbeat was surreal! Here's the photo of our tiny one: 

So cute and so tiny!
During my 13th week, baby felt a little triskaidekaphobic and made me shed some few blood. It scared the hell out of me that I started crying. It panicked our whole household that they wanted to rush me to the nearest ER but I tried to keep it together so that I won't startle my baby. We waited for a clinic to open instead.The doctor said it could be due to one of many things such as lifting of heavy objects, stress and the scariest one, maternal or fetal abnormalities. I was advised to take a week-long bed rest and was given a set of medicines. It sucked but the couch potato in me somehow liked it, what choice do I have anyway? I tried to enjoy the mandatory vacation and indulged in some good US tv series like Arrow, The Flash and Gotham. Bleeding lasted for 3 days and after only 6 days of rest, I went back to my doctor for another ultrasound just to check. The baby made a little show for us. It started to move around actively as if trying to tell us that everything's fine. It was so active that the doctor had a hard time measuring its heart size. But by the looks of it, the doctor said it looks pretty normal-sized. Heartbeat's strong too. There's just one thing though, I have a low-lying placenta, which triggered the previous bleeding. It's still on an early stage though and it still can, hopefully, fix itself through time. I try not to worry too much about it since there's nothing I can't do about it anyway and negative emotion is a big no-no. I am just so happy we're both fine now.

Those are my recent ups and downs. That scary week made me and my husband a lot more attentive to our baby. We sing and talk to it more frequently now and we read it stories every night.  I'm on my second semester now, how time flies! I hope there would be no nerve-wracking episodes anymore and everything will just flow happily and smoothly!

***Sorry I had to address the baby as "it" for the meantime since it's still too early to tell its gender. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My First Trimester

I'm into my 12th week now and I can say I'm adjusting well to this new phase of my life. The first few weeks were nothing but weird though. Let me just share my random thoughts and experiences in my early stage of pregnancy.

* My first thought was not so mommy-ish, I was like "Omg, I'm breeding a growing human being inside me, isn't that a bit alien-like?"

* One of the things I was looking forward whenever I was thinking about pregnancy is being spared from monthly periods. Wrong. The mild nausea and cramps felt like I was about to have a bad period all day, every day for the first month. 

*The crying spells... UGH! I suddenly became the biggest drama queen in the world. There was this one time when I was watching Mean Girls on the television when I found myself welling in tears just because Cady confessed to Ms. Norbery that she wrote the burn book all by herself. Pathetic.

*I am blessed with a peaceful "paglilihi". There were no crazy craving requests, no morning throw-ups, no food aversions and any deranged habits. Food is my salvation, it makes my forget any incoming symptoms, plus it makes me happy. My husband made sure I am stuffed with everything I need. He's the greatest!

*I may be spared with morning sicknesses but my body still has some physical reactions to all the changes it is experiencing. For one, I am all of a sudden acidic. I hate it for I love eating spicy and fatty foods! Oh thank heavens for ginger tea for being the only remedy that works wonders.

*My hormones are raging. Everything I feel is heightened. Good thing I'm happy most of the time. I get annoyed quicker too. My tolerance for bullshit fell from low into dangerously low. Ugh, how could stupid people act like they know it all and think they could get away with it?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A New Adventure Awaits!

Years ago, people our age started getting pregnant. It didn't bother me, rather, I even felt proud of my choice of staying baby-free until I'm 100% sure I can handle it. Not that I'm weak or anything, I just wanted to be physically, emotionally and financially stable... you know the drill. 

Me and my partner wanted to achieve several milestones before even talking about having a baby. Our wedding is our first pride and joy. It was our blood, sweat and tears. It was beautiful. We did it for ourselves and not just because we wanted to start a family right away. It was just a beautiful union. 

We then explored places, ate fancy foods, invested, purchased both useful and useless stuff and basically just acted like a young couple. We're both carefree with nothing to worry about but ourselves. 

Bit by bit, people around us started to worry for us. 2 years have passed since our wedding and we've heard weird judgement toward us. Why aren't we having babies? Are we reproductively-challenged? Do we hate babies? Don't I want to ruin my slim figure?Are we that poor? Are we selfish bastards who rather circle the globe rather than fulfill our written destinies, a.k.a. breeding? It drove me nuts but we did not flinch. We will have it when we want it. 

Until the mid this year, we started feeling some new found affection for these small wriggly creatures. Suddenly, they're not that annoying anymore. The thought of having one is not a scary thought after all. Maybe our body clocks kicked us because after all, our deadline is my husband's 30th birthday. We should be contemplating about a baby by that time or there really is something wrong with us. First try is a fail. Then came second, then third then fourth. I was so close to giving up and just shelving the idea but the fifth try is a charm. I believe it was made in my birthday (Sorry, T.M.I.!).

It was the first of September when we officially found out. I was happy and overwhelmed at the same time. It was a new and bittersweet feeling. There was a feeling of a having a huge responsibility slammed onto my shoulders (or shall I say slammed into my belly? lol). There was also a feeling of privilege to be able to house another human being, literally inside me. 

So this blog has been my personal, wedding, travel journal and now it has a new identity - a mommy diary. I will try to document all my significant developments, insights and experiences. Good thing this baby is nothing but a good one to me. No morning sickness and all. We're getting along real fine as early as now, cool baby!

*Now just for the record, let me answer all those weird judgments that were thrown upon us:

Are we reproductively-challenged? - I feared the same thing but we don't wanna risk an unplanned pregnancy just to disprove this.
Do we hate babies? - No, just the poorly-bred bratty ones.
Don't I want to ruin my slim figure? - I guess that's every woman's goal but that didn't stop almost everyone from reproducing.
Are we that poor? - We are not rich but that's never the reason. I always believe God will provide so poverty is not an excuse in attaining our desires.
Are we selfish bastards who rather circle the globe rather than fulfill our written destinies, a.k.a. breeding? - That's an illogical argument. We can do both without having to sacrifice one. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Pale Blue Dot

Due to my favorite series' season break, I started watching The Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It's a science-oriented documentary series, discussing the universe seen as an ordered whole and the people related in its research. It is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose major life works concentrates on astrophysics and physical cosmology.

Taking a technical course of electronics engineering, I love to think that I am a person of science. Seeing familiar names in this series like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, William Herschel, James Clerk Maxwell and of course, Albert Einstein, made me feel a little bit relevant. On the other hand, learning how they viewed the world like a vast and endless cosmos, made me feel small and insignificant.

The 13th and final episode of this series concluded with Carl Sagan's narration. He was the original host and brain of this series' prequel. This narration was about his thought when they sent out the Voyager 1 into the space. Voyager 1 was on a one-way ticket when sent into space in 1977. It has 2 missions - one is to collect outer space data and the other is to contain earthling data in case other intelligent beings were able to find it. It will just float away in space unless other force acts upon it. Before exiting our solar system (border of Neptune), Carl Sagan suggested it should take a souvenir "family" portrait of our solar system. From that distance, our planet would only look like a pale blue dot. Carl's thoughts about this moved me: 

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our Quick Subic Getaway

Sharing this noobish video that I edited. I just quickly stitched them together using the Go Pro Studio software. We went to Camayan Beach Resort in Subic Bay last May at a spur of the moment. We just wanted to try if our cute little car is able to drive this far and luckily, it did! 

*Best viewed in 720p HD.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bicol Escapade

Luxury of time - that's what we have on this 4-day journey. Us, being the always on-the-go type of travelers, can manage to squeeze in several stops in one day. With that, I managed to draft an itinerary where we get to explore the whole morning and slack the rest of the afternoon off. Here's what it looks like:

Day 1 - a whole day dedicated to relaxing, eating and just walking around the surroundings of the sea port. We tried the famous Bigg's Diner that night and I hate to say that we might have chanced upon their unsatisfactory night. It looked like they were understaffed. My husband already felt a little bit cranky because he had to follow up several times for a simple spaghetti to reach our table. We were told it would take around 10-15 mins for the pasta to cook up, but hey, it was almost an hour already. Oh my gosh, I'm ranting, sorry didn't mean to.

Day 2 - morning would be for Lignon Hill, Daraga Church and Cagsawa Ruins. Afternoon would be for a trip going to Donsol, Sorsogon and the rest of the day would just be for resting and walking around.

We arrived very early to catch the peak of Mayon. They say the peak is very elusive, I say there's a trick. Right after sunrise until around 9am, the peak is very generous in showing itself. From our inn, we rode a tricycle towards the hill's drop off point, fare is 70 Pesos. There's an entrance fee of 20 Pesos each but since we arrived before it even opened up, we were spared. We hiked the hill's peak together with local joggers. Mt. Mayon was not visible until you reach the other side of the hill. The moment I saw it, I was in awe. It was beautiful.

The view from Lignon Hill's peak.
After a quick rest, we descended and checked out another attraction inside the hill. Yes, inside. During the Japanese occupation, they dug holes on this very hill to make an intricate tunnel system. They used it to hide themselves in and to store ammunition. For a very minimal fee of 20 Pesos each, a guide toured us inside the tunnels. It was a bit creepy I guess.

We crawled inside that tiny opening.
Lignon Hill offered other activities too like zipline, hanging bridge and ATV ride. Ziplines, unless very unique, don't amuse me that much anymore.

It was still early in the morning when we hopped to our next destination. Legazpi's public transport is very efficient and people are very helpful that we were able to commute easily.

Daraga Churgh - the famous white-washed church

Cagsawa Ruins - a very post card kind of view :)
That concluded our morning. We then ate our lunch and packed our bags because we'll be on the move once again. We walked our way towards the terminal and rode a van going to Donsol, Sorsogon. Trip was around 2 hours and I can't remember how much the fare was (it's less than 100 Pesos, I'm sure).

We arrived at Donsol around 4pm. There aren't big hotels in Donsol, most accommodations are home-stays and dormitories. I specifically chose Aguluz Homestay because of its great reviews. We walked around town and observed the locals. They live a very simple life. We killed most of our time just sitting on one of the municipal hall's bench, watching some kids playing.

Day 3 - It was time for our most awaited Whaleshark interaction. Boat rental plus spotter fee costs 3500 Php for a maximum of 7 persons. We shared our boat with other tourists to cut the cost. We paid a separate 100 Php fee is for individual registration fees. *Random observation - I just noticed that ALL tourists were foreigners.* The tour was good for a 3-hour boat ride in which the boat will sweep the sea while the spotter finds any nearby whalesharks. Our hopes were up since it was a good season to find them. We searched and searched until our 3 hours passed by. I was in disbelief.. that was it? It was an awful expensive boat ride for nothing. I wasn't in a very good mood when we went back to the homestay. The owner, who is a charming old lady greeted us back and consoled our lowly spirits. She said she'll cook us a good lunch. She prepared a local specialty - pinangat na pagi (sting ray in coconut milk). It was a great food. We were about to leave after lunch when she asked us a favor. She wanted to give us a short seminar about some networking opportunity. Perfect! *sarcasm*. If there's one thing I loath more than an awkward human interaction is some forced awkward networking seminar. It burned an hour of our lives with something I couldn't care less. I politely smiled, gave her the ultimate rejection line of "We'll think about it" and left. It was 2 pm and the vans' last trip going to Legazpi City was also 2 pm. We were literally running when a very kind man gave us a ride on the back of his motorcycle. He was just a stranger who wanted to help and asked nothing in return. Thankfully because of him we were able to catch the last trip. Because of him, I still have a fond memory of Donsol even though we didn't see what we came to see. Because of him, my faith in humanity was restored. Suddenly, I wasn't in a very bad mood after all.

Day 4 - It was do or die. This day would decide if the whole trip was either a blast or just so-so. The whaleshark should have been the highlight of the whole trip but they were a no show so it all depended on this last activity - the ATV ride. Thankfully, it was intense!

We rode on rough terrains, drove up and downwards on 45 degree inclinations and even drove on shallow waters. It was bad ass and the reckless freak in me enjoyed every bit of it!

Right after our ATV ride, we ate and went right home. Luckily, Mayon volcano had a little treat for us - it's glorious peak showed as we ascended on to our flight. Awesome, just awesome!

To conclude, our Bicol escapade wasn't bad after all. Sure, we have other more memorable trips, but this one has its own charm. We were able to relax, meet some good people and eat our hearts out with new food finds. Mayon Volcano, with its mighty size and perfect cone, is a real charmer too. Next time, we'll be conquering the northern leg of Bicol region - Camarines Norte.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bicol Escapade - Prologue

Flashback to March 2012, exactly 2 years ago, me and my husband were rushing to the airport to catch our Manila to Naga flight. Due to some random unfortunate events, we ended up being late and to make the story short, our little Bicol escapade did not push through. 

March 2014, we found ourselves lining up to a ticket terminal in Araneta Bus Station. Call it trauma or whatever but I decided to take the bus going to Legazpi instead. Why not, we haven't tried that yet! And besides, the one we took was super comfy. I specifically chose Cagsawa Travel and Tour's Royal Elite bus due to its good reputation. Sure there are some with a more affordable price but having Tado's bus accident still fresh on the news, made me a little bit more careful and choosy. 

For 950 Pesos, this ride is not so bad at all. Look how wide their seats are. Leg room is also superb, I even reclined mine in a sleeping position without fearing that the person behind me will kick the back of my seat in annoyance. Each seat has arm and leg rests. And of course, the bus is equipped with WiFi. Manila to Legazpi is a supposed 12-hour ride. We left at 8pm and arrived at 7am. I slept peacefully until sunrise. 

Upon arrival, we walked around to find a good spot to eat breakfast. We found a nice eatery near the sea wall which served authentic local dishes. I am a fan of gata and spicy food so I had a feeling Bicolano dishes and I will get along. I was not wrong. I loved it!

After breakfast, we immediately walked towards RJM Apartelle. It's where we'll stay for 2 nights. It's a very decent yet affordable place which accepts check-ins at any random time of the day. Their 24-hour rate is just 650 Pesos, which is crazy, considering its convenient location and complete amenities. 

We both came with cough and colds and my husband's even feverish. We spent our first day resting, exploring around, eating, watching television and just mustering our strength. 

We observed and talked to locals that day and Bicolanos captured my heart. I think they're my second favorite people in the Philippines now (next to the Kankanaeys). They are very nice and humble people. Kids don't bug tourists around. In fact, we even seemed invisible to them. They're very disciplined too! Did you know that the whole Legazpi City is a smoking-free zone (and spit-free too)? They don't even have a little piece of smoking area somewhere near building exits. Tanods even roam around subdivisions to catch violators. Pretty amazing!

Our next three days were jam-packed with crazy commutes, misadventures and activities. Let me try to squeeze them in the next post! For now I'll leave you with my very first Mayon Volcano sighting whilst still inside the bus. I literally gasped with this one, it was just surreal!

A perfect mountain and a farm - doesn't this remind you of one of your childhood drawings?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ilocos Norte Day 2

Arghh, I've been putting off this entry for so long already, 2 months to be exact. That's the thing with packaged tours, you don't have much stories to tell. The travel company is great that's why everything's so convenient. I just want an exact concoction of comfort and adventure, that's why I love personalizing my own trip. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong, I loved the whole trip, most especially the time I spent bonding with my parents and husband. I just don't think it's bloggable enough, if that's even a word. 

Having that said, let me just give you a photo journ of our days 2 and 3. Please don't get tired of my face.
The beautiful view in front of Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
Kapurpuruwan Rock Formations - of course, I wouldn't miss a silly/dangerous shot.
Bangui Windmills
30-minute easy trek going to the Kabigan Falls.
Blue Lagoon Beach - very pretty and wavy, uggh tempting!!
You see, we had a very jam-packed itinerary on that second day. I especially loved the rock formations since it was my first time seeing such. We spent the night on Saud Beach rather than the Blue Lagoon but no biggie, it was so cold anyway. I only got to swim for 30 minutes, what a rare event!

We left Pagudpud early in the morning to have an ample time for pasalubong-shopping. We stopped over a store somewhere in Laoag City so we bought loads of bagnet, sukang iloco and longganisa. We then had our luch in Vigan City before finally heading back home. We arrived in Pampanga around 9pm, oh what a long journey. I'm glad I'm done with that very long leg of North Luzon, I may have to take a plane if I needed to go back there :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Year-End Special

I've always been an advocate of DIY trips. I love love love researching, planning and booking. I handle my own itineraries up to the last bit of detail on transportation, accommodation and ticket. Reading the map, carefully following the researched routes and even getting lost are all part of my adventure. It what makes my travels more memorable. I love doing it for other people too.

My last trip was the test of it. I'll be travelling with my husband plus my parents. I really really wanted to scour the internet for some tips on how to manage an Ilocos Norte and Sur trip the most convenient way possible since there'll be the four of us. That northern leg of Luzon is a bit challenging since there are a lot of tourist spots that are miles and miles apart. I am about to enjoy the headaches of planning it when my father told me to just book a packaged tour. My heart sank upon hearing that. I felt restless not having to arrange anything. Then I realized, our target date is a long weekend which is just a few days away, the mere search for a legit and affordable package is a challenge itself. Challenge accepted!

True enough, I had a hard time finding an agency that still has 4 slots left. Then I found this agency called Byaheng-Pinas which offers various tours around Luzon. Luckily, Ms. Jane, their contact person, arranged something for us on the last minute. Transaction was very smooth. It was a 3 days and 2 nights tour.

Day 0 was a crazy busy day. I still had to wake up at 5am to work. At 10am, I logged out early to prepare for a friend's wedding. The wedding concluded at around 7pm. I had a quick nap before preparing again to leave by 9:30pm. We met our driver at 10pm at Dau bus terminal. It was a convenient arrangement. We're supposed to go to Manila to meet him but he agreed to pick us up instead. Having been awake since 5am, I slept like a baby all through out the 7-hour travel going to Vigan.

Day 1 began at 5am. We arrived at Vigan while it was still dark. We were given some free time to roam around Vigan Heritage Village. It was an interesting place. I specifically admired Calle Crisologos' beautiful cobblestones. This street's old feel is nicely preserved and/or restored. Sadly, my digicam was forced to a very high ISO due to darkness hence, poor quality photo. Oh well.

Well of course, I wouldn't miss having a photo on this famous seat.
At the Vigan Church
Bantay Bell Tower
We then proceeded to our next stop, Chavit Singson's Baluarte. I wasn't exactly hyped up to visit Chavit's property, after all, I am not a fan. All I know is that he's insanely rich and has some tigers and snakes in captivity. Maybe it's the animal-lover in me, but I genuinely enjoyed it upon seeing small horses, deer and my most favorite animal in the world, the llamas! Plus in all fairness to him, there were no payments required to any area and donations were even prohibited. I now think it's very generous of him to open up his place for the public's amusement.

Well hello there cutie Llama :)
That concluded our Ilocos Sur leg. It was still early in the morning when we left Vigan City to proceed to Paoay. I was particularly excited at this point, I knew Marcos' Museum is next. I am a fan of Marcos, I think he's a genius. If only his regime continued (well of course if he hadn't got sick), we're a first world country now. That's just what I think, I'm no expert so don't start a debate on me. So there we saw his actual preserved remains. Photography is prohibited, bummer. Near his mausoleum is a museum of his photos, features and memorabilia. It was very interesting.

After a quick lunch at a local eatery, we proceeded to the famous Paoay Church. Old churches are very interesting and photogenic. That drives tourists to rather have a photo shoot than to actually pray. I'm sometimes guilty too, of course.

Beautiful Baroque Architecture
After this quick stop, we found ourselves agreeing to join the optional 4x4 ride going to the sand dunes. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Fee is not included in the tour. It costs 2500 Php, sand boarding equipment included. That will be further split up into 5, which is the capacity of the 4x4 vehicle. My father, having been used to sand dunes all his life in Saudi Arabia, decided not to go. Two of the friends we've met during the tour decided to split the fee with us. Cool, it's a go then!

Okay, this is hard, I wish I could give justice to the whole experience in a form of writing. It was a one hell of an experience! We road the 4x4, not knowing what to expect. All I knew was it'll be used to navigate the sand dunes going to the sand boarding area. Wrong! It was used as a roller coaster! We rolled down on dunes that were as high as a house on a very high speed. We were standing, clinging on to the bars, without harnesses or anything. Our lives depended on our grip. The danger is real. One wrong slip and the momentum could easily throw me out like a piece of rock. We were laughing and screaming all through out. It was totally the highlight of this trip!

Very strong vehicle indeed!
Genuinely happy!

Feeling nervous that my clumsy body will fail on me.

Sliding gracefully down this very long path. Success!
Sand boarding was a very cool experience. I never knew I had that balance within me. After some rounds, we rode our trusted 4x4 and had the second round of adventure! We had a quick stop at a nearby beach by the way. What an all-in-one experience!

After this adrenaline-pumping experience, we proceeded to a more laid-back stop, The Malacanang of the North. It was where Marcos lived during his regime whenever he's in Ilocos Norte, very interesting and educational indeed. It was a lovely place too, the balcony overlooks the Paoay Lake. I guess with that serene view, ruling an entire country will be a little less difficult.

There we also ate the famous empanada. It was okay, especially the sukang Iloko. Okay, honestly, I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe some places had better versions?

With our sore bodies from a seemingly endless road trip and adventures, we moved even further up north to rest on a decent hotel in Laoag City. I took a bath, had dinner then slept at 8pm. I think that's the earliest sleep I ever had, as in ever!

Day 2 will follow soon.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Humor me and tell me I look 28.
Forgive the narcissism, it's my birthday, okay? Plus I really don't feel like 28, as I always say, age is just a number. I actually feel ageless. There are times when I act all grown up on things and most of the times, I just let my spirit run wild and free with vigorous youth. 

This year, my birthday is no different from any of my other birthdays. Common factor? The rain! I've always wanted to celebrate my birthday in a secluded place, maybe on an island or a mountain and just let it pass solemnly. I guess I either have to move my birth date or move the rainy season.

Anyway, spending it at home does not make it any less special. That morning, my mother cooked me an old-school birthday favorite - pansit! My husband and my brother filed their work leaves to be my slaves for the day. Yes, what a valuable gift. My husband worked his bun off all morning buying, preparing and cooking my requested lunch, kare-kare. He cooks the best kare-kare in the whole world, I'm telling you. I forgot what we ate for mirienda though. Dinner was our date time then. Me and my husband went out to a nearby coffee shop and ate pasta and panizza. It was a lovely dinner. By 9pm, we found ourselves watching a very cool reggae band in a sports bar. We ate, drank and just enjoyed music like crazy teenagers. Except that we weren't teenagers anymore because by midnight, we felt sleepy and exhausted. Lol, is that what they call 'signs of aging'?

The weekend, 2 days after my birthday, is an extension of my birthday since all, including my father plus a very close cousin, were at home. I rushed to the nearest Korean town in our place to buy some stuff for our Korean-themed dinner at home. We had samgyeopsal, cadol, ramyeon, fried egg with carrots and spring onion and of course, kimchi. It was fun, I gotta high-five my husband for the efforts of preparing it with me.

My birthday didn't end just yet until the following weekend. It was actually raining hard that Saturday but it was a lame excuse not to push through this very beautiful event that my husband planned for me. It was Bamboo and Yeng's concert. God how could I even start how I adore both of them. My fascination with Bamboo started almost 2 decades ago, right at the start of the Rivermaya. They are the first band that I ever watched live in concert. The next time I saw him, he was in his new band. It was in some university foundation concert which was not even my school. Yeng, on the other hand, got me impressed with her song writing skills and her great live performances. I saw her potential as early as her Pinoy Dream Academy days. I have such great respect for her artistry, which is very rare on local artists nowadays.

It's as if the universe knew my admiration for both artists that it decided to combine them in a one major concert. Of all people, it's them! Of all dates, it's a week after my birthday! How could I let that pass up. I bought our concert tickets online plus and a couple of vouchers for our Manila Ocean Park sidetrip. 

We braved the rain and commuted all the way from Pampanga to Cubao. Easy-peasy, I've been to worse anyway. We arrived 2 hours earlier since my desired position (lower box) was already sold out so we settled for upper box, which had no reserved seating, hence, we had to line up for good seats.

We had our dinner while lining up. What's the best standing-up dinner? Burritos. What's known as one of the best food chain offering burritos? Taco Bell. It was half-pounder but I devoured it all plus some nachos on the side. Oh, food food food, how I adore thee. 

Before lining up

The Big Dome was sold out!
We got great seats. They were right in front of the stage and the view is just perfect. The concert started an hour late so we were waiting for some good 3 hours. I was just about to go crazy with the ads looping on the big screen when they stopped them and got replaced by a countdown. I knew it was the cue that the show was about to start. The lights were turned off and then there was smoke. Then a choir appeared and sang Hawak Kamay solemnly with just spotlights on them. Energy in the dome was building up, then suddenly, the lights went crazy, the big background LCD screen lit up and there he was, Bamboo, elevating on a platform from under the stage. Classic entrance. Then he gave this iconic pose, a signature pose only Michael Jackson or Tony Stark can only pull off, and gave justice to it. The dome trembled with shrieking fans. He sang Hallelujah then midway, Yeng appeared and mashed up Hawak Kamay with it. The production was awesome! It was a beautiful combination of the two artists, giant screen's animations, smoke, pyrotechnics, dancers, the band and the choir. 
BY Request
I just learned while watching that the concert's name: BY Request is not just taken from their initials (B and Y) but that there was some sort of a theme on it. It was called BY Request since the song lineup came from the most requested songs of fans gathered on the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With this, they performed mostly cover songs from the artists today like Rihanna, Adele, Bruno Mars and the likes. It was a cool idea, especially for young fans who loves these songs. But I have to admit, I was somehow a teeny-weeny bit disappointed. I guess I was mislead by my expectation to hear classics like 20 Million, Hilo, Kisapmata, Panahon Nanaman, Hinahanap-hanap Kita, and the list goes on and on. Yes he sang 214 and Ulan but I wanted more of those instead of hearing 2 Bruno Mars songs. Yeng, too, sang some of her hits but in a mash-up kind of way and sang "today's hits" more. Oh well, overall, it was still very entertaining. My respect for their artistry just got upped a notch higher. 

We spent the night on a very decent accommodation that my husband reserved in advance. It was a cozy night. That morning, we proceeded to our next stop, the Manila Ocean Park. I scored ourselves online a couple of vouchers with the Pacific Sky Wonder 9 package. It includes nine different attractions namely, Oceanarium, Sea Lion Show, Marine Life Habitat, Fish Spa, Jellies Exhibit, All Star Bird Show, Birds of Prey Kingdom, Penguin Talk Show and Trails to Antarctica.

I have an unreasonable fear of fishes. As we explored the Oceanarium, I just thought of one thing... Good Lord, don't make me have nightmare of these. We saw different kinds of fishes, there were those who blends with the sea bed texture, those who looked like snakes, those who looked like they're upside down when they're not, those who emitted neon lights and a whole lot of weirdness. It was fun and educational though. 

We, then, proceeded to see the Jellies, dubbed as the dancing sea fairies. They were entertaining. They really looked like they were dancing as their movements were synced with the music and lights. Watching them was therapeutic. After that, we proceeded to the Trails of Antartica. This was my most anticipated attraction, finally, I will get to see penguins! Upon entering the gate, we were instructed to take the giant ice slide first. I saw the penguins from afar so, to hell with the slide, I ran towards the penguins. I have such strange fondness of them. I squealed like how a 4-year old kid would squeal upon seeing Jollibee or something. They were sooo cute and funny too. One would just stand still like a statue for minutes without ever moving a muscle then the other one would swim in circles nonstop. 

Oh hello there cutie!
After marveling over the penguins, we finally went for the giant slide. It was fun! True enough, the slide is covered with real ice. It then led us to the next door, the snowy room. Jackets were given upon entering as the room mimicked an actual snowy environment. The temperature was freezing and floors and decors were all covered in real ice. It was a very nice experience. I wanted to do a snow angel but I would look stupid so I'll just save that for the real deal some other time. After exiting this attraction, we walked the actual Trails of Antarctica. It was a hallway full of trivia about Antarctica. While at it, I was convinced that I wanted to experience Antarctica someday. It's a big leap but I'm setting my goal to that.  

It is the home of the Aurora Australis - the southern lights - Must. See. Those. Someday.
We've set the birds and sea lion shows last since they were the least to our priority. We've seen such shows anyway at Ocean Adventure in Subic. We checked out the fish spa instead. I tricked my husband that I wanted to finally try it to get over my fear of fishes. Truth is, I just didn't want to waste our tickets and I knew he wanted to try it anyway. I've seen fish spas on some outlets in SM but these fishies were gigantic! They were big and black and looking not anywhere near friendly. Well, believe me, I tried. I soaked the tip of my foot but when one comes near I quickly lifted it. Call me chicken but I just can't, period. 

To clear my mind off that embarrassing fish spa failure, we decided to try out the Penguin Talk Show. I expected an educational discussion and a live penguin interaction. I guess I expected too much, lol. I'm very sorry for those who made it but we stayed for just a couple of minutes. I think it was somehow educational but in a weird kind of way. The host was a poorly animated penguin shown on a big screen which was controlled back room. He was like a stand-up comedian, talking in Tagalog, making silly jokes about some audience in the room. Not my thing, I'm sorry. Too bad it was the our last attraction. We left the Ocean Park after that and went to MOA to grab some mirenda

There were some restos inside the park by the way, but I was craving for something else. It was a rainy afternoon so all I ever thought of was sipping a hot phở. I satisfied my craving at Pho Hoa restaurant together with fresh spring rolls, their special brew of iced tea and a hot jasmine tea. Oh what a hearty meal! 

Rain started to pour harder so we decided to head home already. Overall, my birthday this year spells awesome! I'm just so lucky to have a wonderful family and an exceptional husband who know exactly what I want and what I need... and actually provide for it.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Island called Potipot

Welcome to the small, secluded and beautiful island of Potipot. Located in front of Candelaria, Zambales coastline, this little wonder has been a quick fix for those who wanted to enjoy pure love affair with nature. There's no electricity and only scarce cellphone signal. While some people choose to sleep on resorts on the mainland in front of the island, we decided to go all-the-way and camped overnight on it.

It may look all jungle but nope, believe it or not, there are huts between those trees.
I'll be honest, I haven't had any interest in going to this island until the day before we went. The real plan was the mainstream Anawangin Cove. I planned this trip as our summer getaway with the whole family and few close cousins. There were 8 of us. The weather did not quite cooperate with this plan since waves got so huge the day before our trip. My contact person warned us that a 30-minute boat ride going to the  cove is just not feasible. A sudden change of plan was decided. We're going to Potipot Island instead. I did some research and yes, it was way safer. Waves in this part of the sea are calmer and it will just be a quick 5-minute boat ride. Downside? Drop off point is 2-hr farther than the original. That means we have to go extra early to reach the 8am boatman appointment. 

We left at around 5am with a lot of necessities in tow. As I've mentioned, we wanted to camp overnight and that means we should be bringing our own food, water and toiletries. For a group of 8 people, that's a lot! Good thing we brought our own transportation as the "park and sail" was also covered by our boatman. The trip took 4 hours give or take, including a breakfast stop.

As I saw a glimpse of the island, I was stunned. I was somehow glad we did not push through our Anawangin Cove plan. Yes it may  not have pine trees and a creek, but the beach made up for it. See why:

Clear turquoise waters.
Long and clean shoreline.
Decent fine yellowish white sand. Not the Boracay kind of fine but it's finer than Puerto Galera, Bolinao and Camiguin's sand bar (as far as I can recall).
What more can I ask for? The water even has some slightly strong waves, just the way I like it! The whole day was burned doing old school beach activities, swimming, having weird contests, laughing, teasing and just plain o'l chatting. And it was fun!

Few things worth mentioning though, typical resort water activities here are non-existent. Don't expect some banana boat rides, jet skis and the like, there are none, zero, zilch, nada. The point here is to beach bum, that's it. The island is so small you can walk its circumference in just 20 minutes or less. There are also no luxurious accommodations, just tents and huts. Also, the beach is as natural as it can get - there are some sharp corals on some point, water elevations are a bit dangerous too as they get real deep on a very close range, there are also insects and rodents at night, the far end of the island smells like fish and bathwater comes from a pump. That may sound intolerable for some, but it rings adventure for me. 

Then came night time. After playing some cards and eating dinner, we decided to call it a night. Of course, my trips aren't quite complete without some horror stories of misadventures. My parents decided to rent a hut to sleep in. It's a very basic hut, it had a small stair leading to the second floor which is a whole sleeping area then the lower portion is the dining area. It's quite huge actually as they say it can fit 20 people. Great deal, except that I wanted to sleep inside a tent. We had two tents anyway so what the hell, might as well use one to serve its purpose. I am more comfortable sleeping inside a tent, feeling the sand beneath it, rather than on a plain wooden floor. Me and my husband were already sound asleep when we were awakened by my mother's shout - she was asking us to go inside the hut as it's already drizzling. I quickly grabbed my things and noticed the floor was already wet and the tent's window was dripping with rainwater. Not again! This is Mt. Pulag's horror story all over again. As we ran towards the hut, the rain went ballistic and soaked me even more. Trying to sleep with wet hair and clothes was no fun at all but wanna know the worst part of that? I checked the time and it was only 9:30pm! Talk about long night!

A great sunrise matched with a sumptuous breakfast erased my rain trauma. 
Right after breakfast, I quickly changed into my swimsuit and plunged again. My desire to swim will always be insatiable. We enjoyed the whole morning in the water, doing more random stuff. Too bad we were almost running out of food and water so we had to come back to the mainland by noon.

Where they dock the boats. Not really a swimmable spot. The sand here is coarser and the look how close the deep water is.
It was a nice bonding with the family after all. It was again proved that a change of plan doesn't always equal to disaster. I know it was not the perfect getaway for my parents as they needed convenience the most at their age, but they were game all through out. I must say I got my bold travel spirit from them.