Sarubobo Doll

Beer kegs and Hida’s Sarubobo doll

Beer kegs and Hida’s Sarubobo doll

A sarubobo doll is a mascot of Japan’s Hida region. Hida is located at the northern part of the Gifu Prefecture known for its hot springs and serene looking mountains.

Sarubobo literally translates to ‘monkey baby’. It is shaped like a human but with no facial features. Mothers and grandmothers used to make these dolls for children, and is believed to bring blessings and good fortune.

Majority of the sarubobo dolls I saw in Takayama were colored red. I learned that different colors signify different meanings: like red is for marriage and family; gold is for money; blue is for good fortune at work or in school; black wards off evil; pink is for love; green is for peace and health; and purple is for longevity.

In Takayama, sarubobo dolls were everywhere. They were in shops’ entrance doors, and hung as offerings at the Kokubunji Temple. When we reached Hirayu Onsen en route to Kamikochi for a closer look at the Japan alps, we saw what is claimed to be Hida’s largest sarubobo doll at the bus station.

I personally think that while it’s a cute souvenir, what struck me about the sarubobo dolls is how sweet it must have been for children in the past to have received a handmade doll from their moms or grandmothers. It’s the labor of love and the personal touch that the elders put in to bring happiness to their children – it was just precious. We gazed on these dolls I came to remember times my mom would help me with my school projects when I was younger. D recalled the time his mom made a volcano for him when he was a child.

There’s so much simple but thoughtful crafts and activities that I am learning more about in this trip to Japan. I’ll write about these other touches of art soon.

Weekend Market: Street Meet, Makati

Sunday market

Have always been curious about Makati’s Street Meet, a weekend night market at Paseo De Roxas. I kept seeing the teasers posted around Ayala Triangle whenever I walked from and to the hotel during an long staycation a month ago. For some reason the plan on dropping by kept being put on the back burner.

Finally last Sunday D and I were able to check it out. Street Meet Makati was set up right beside the Ayala Triangle park, in front of Paseo Center. A part of the street was closed off to traffic to allow for the different stalls. The mood was quite festive: Christmas songs were being played and the Christmas lights show was happening at the same time at the Ayala Triangle which added to the fun. Luckily most of the crowd was at the lights show. It was just us foodies hopping from one stall to another at the Street Meet.

Sunday market

There were various stalls to choose from, most of them offering free taste or samples. The first food that we bought was the Korean fish cake with soup – reminded me of the street food in Seoul. D got isaw, a local barbecue delicacy made of fish intestines. We also had takoyaki and coconut juice. For takeaway we bought frozen vegetarian gyoza and dimsums, and chili sauce. I wanted to buy bibingka, a local baked rice and coconut milk cake that is abundantly sold during the month of December. I ended up dropping the idea when the seller gave me a tired look and asked me to fall in line (when there was no one else). Oh well, that means I have to be on the hunt for a good platter of bibingka from elsewhere. Will let you know when I find em!

Street Meet items

Cine Europa 2018

Cine Europa

Last Thursday I took a packed MRT and commuted all the way to the heart of Edsa to participate in the Cine Europa 21. A series of European films were lined up for showing at The Red Carpet at Edsa Shangri-La. I intended to go on a Thursday to skip the madness of the weekend crowd.

I got there a little past 4pm and made it to the next show which featured short films from Austria namely “Mathias”, “Fuddy Duddy” and “Wannabe”. Cine Europa

Mathias (2017) is a story of a transgender who was transitioning – to a job and at the same time on relationships.

Fuddy Duddy (2016) ran for around six minutes only. It was more of an abstract film showcasing black and white shapes and effects, using pulsating sounds resembling a plane taking off. It was mesmerizing and at times I had to look around to see how the audience was taking it in because it was quite unique. I felt I was going to dream about it – I was thinking am I being hypnotized?

The last short film was Wannabe (2017) which was about a young woman who was struggling to make it big in YouTube, modeling, and film. It reminded me of the different faces seen in social media, where some people sadly pretend all’s great…

Glad I had the chance to see some films in this year’s Cine Europa. I look forward to seeing more in the years to come.

The Cine Europa runs from December 6 to 16, 2018. Entrance is free on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Hay Stacks

Hay stacks

I haven’t seen these in a long time!Hay stacks

When I saw them again en route to Sagada and back, I am reminded of how I used to wonder about them when I was a child: what were they for? Are they the same stuff used to build the house of straw of one little piggy (in the story Three Little Pigs)?

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Field

Bomod-Ok Falls, Sagada

Bomod-Ok

This is my second trip to Sagada – I like it so much that I hope to do it a regular trip. Thing is, it’s just so far away. I was so happy when D finally agreed to drive with me during the Thanksgiving weekend. We booked 2 nights to make the most of our time in Sagada.

During my first trip to Sagada with my brother, we were so pressed for time and we didn’t have the energy anymore to trek to the waterfalls. It was an overnighter anyway, and we covered a lot of things in 24 hours: the market, the highly rated restaurants by TripAdvisor, Echo Valley Hanging Coffins, Sagada Underground river entrance. We skipped the Sumaging Cave (short course caving) and swapped it with the market and the restos.

I’d skip Day 1 and will write about it more in detail in a separate blog. In this trip, Day 2 was the highlight.

After breakfast, D and I went to the Municipal Information Center to register and book a tour to the Bomod-Ok waterfalls. I was told it was the highest falls in Sagada, and it would be a 3-hour hike (back and forth) from Banga-an, which was 5 kilometers away from the Information Center.Wayfarers

We hopped on rented van and our driver, Jong, drove us from Aguid to Banga-an where we paid the guide fee. We were welcomed by Fritz who would be our guide for the trek. Fritz provided D and me each a wooden walking stick. She advised us to wear our caps as it might be hot. D and I left our caps at the hotel, and luckily it was a cloudy day so it was not scorching hot. Plus the air was cool and it was windy – I had my hoodie ready. Fritz gave reminders on bringing our trash with us (I assured her we won’t have any) and to have our water bottles ready. Guide

Off we went begin our downward trek. We were to walk downhill for 2 kilometers until we reach the falls.

The view from the top was breathtaking. We feasted our eyes on a lush of green. There were mountains, rice terraces, and some clusters of homes to see. We had to stop every once in a while to take photos. Topscene

Fritz was very engaging and she shared a lot of information about the lifestyle, culture and traditions in Sagada. She said that the main livelihood of the people (herself included) is agriculture. Some days she would be planting vegetables like chayote in the fields. While tourism is also a source of income, planting crops is still what she enjoys doing. The terraces used to be filled with rice, but now they have diverse plantations of vegetable crops. Arabica was also widely grown by the locals, and alongside the coffee shrubs they plant a certain type of tree (I failed to note it down, but it had small pines as non-edible fruit), which grows faster and provides the shade for the coffee trees, and the leaves that fall on the ground provide the nitrogen that will benefit the coffee trees. Fruit-bearing trees that are widely planted are the persimons, oranges, mulberries, and blueberries. Coffee

I asked Fritz why it was so quiet even as we passed through the Barangay Fidelisan where we paid the barangay fee. She said the children were at school, and most of the people were tending to the fields. Come lunch time the community will be livelier when the folks from the fields go home for a meal.

At the community, Fritz showed us a hut where the elders hold their meetings. This is called ‘dap-ay’. Adjacent to it is a house where teenage men reside in as they are trained to become future elders. In their community, the elders facilitate wedding ceremonies first before the newly-weds hold the church weddings.Dap-ay

As we passed through the rice terraces I was amazed by the irrigation system that the people built. The water comes from a natural spring (it does not dry out) and flows down to the bottom of the valley. From that spring people could also get water to drink. Near the terraces are rice granaries (wooden houses used to store grains) called ‘agamang’ by the locals. But these are now seldomly filled. That’s because rice is not as widely grown anymore and there are also field mice to look out for. Rice terraces

At last we were able to reach the Bomod-Ok falls. It was a spectacular sight to behold! D went close to it and took a lot of pictures. I dipped my feet in the cold water (and envied a couple of visitors swimming in the shallow pool). Fritz showed me where she replenished her water bottle with mineral water. We spent about 30 minutes walking through the rocks. Falls

Bridge

Going back we took a different route going to Pide where Jong would be waiting for us. I felt exhaustion kicking in halfway through and begged for several rest stops. D and I finished our big water bottle. Needless to say, going back was quieter as I opted to stay mum and catch my breath. Thoughts of where we would have our big lunch occupied my mind. I was so happy to see Jong’s van (Jong fell asleep waiting for us LOL).

I’m so glad I trekked to the falls with D. It was a good long walk (and climb) and we were fortunate to have a good guide. If you are in Sagada and up for a cardio adventure, the Bomod-Ok falls is highly recommended.

In total, we paid P1,170 (about US$23) plus tip for our trip to Bomod-Ok falls. Here’s a breakdown of the cost:

Guide Fee: P500 (approx. US$10) for 1-7 visitors

Barangay Fee: P10 (approx. US$2) per visitor

Transportation Fee: P650 (approx. US$13) two way vehicle hire from the Information Center

Two Days in San Diego

sunset

My first week during my 1-month visit to the United States was spent with my mom at my Aunt Noellie’s home in San Fernando Valley, California. I got to explore Los Angeles and Malibu, and we drove for about 3 hours to visit San Diego.

Because we were pressed for time, we booked somewhere near the Marina and the Balboa Park so we could be near these two destinations. We checked in at the Hyatt beside the Seaport Village and I was fascinated by the view from our hotel room – we just had to stop for a cup of tea, while taking in the beautiful midday view. viewview

After checking in our stuff at the hotel, off we drove to the Balboa Park. It was a big interactive park with lots of things to do and to discover. It was a busy Saturday too, and there were lots of people having a picnic, playing at the park, or walking around exploring like us.

From where we parked we walked past the San Diego Air and Space Museum (couldn’t miss the jet displayed at the museum’s front); had a peek at the Starlight Bowl theatre; and walked into some countries’ houses in the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Here I read through the different countries’ information and browsed the items on exhibit. Germany

Germany Cottage

Afterwards, we had lunch at The Prado. We waited to be seated for about 5 minutes which wasn’t so bad given how busy that afternoon was. I was immediately impressed by the restaurant’s interiors. I liked my sandwich and greek salad. Lunch wouldnt’t be complete without a glass of their sangria which was a bit strong (but good!) for me. The Prado was located in The House of Hospitality – one of the most honored structures in Balboa Park which was built in 1915, using Spanish Baroque style. A few meters away from the resto is the lovely Japanese Friendship Garden. Balboa

The House of Hospitality

Sangria

Sangria and lunch at The Prado
Japanese Garden

When we headed back to the hotel after lunch, my mom, aunt and uncle opted to rest and have their afternoon nap. I, on the other hand, needed to complete my ten thousand steps for that day so I walked to the Seaport Village. I liked the quaint little shops, cafes and restaurants in the Seaport Village. I kept walking and eventually reached the U.S.S. San Diego Memorial sculpture by Eugene Daub and Louis Quaintance. It was an artwork in commemoration of the U.S.S. San Diego and her crew who played a big role using courage and selflessness during the World War II. Seaport VillageSeaport Village

A few hundred meters more, I reached the bronze monument dedicated to Clifton A.F. Sprague; and then the kissing statue called Unconditional Surrender. When I was a child I saw a photo of a this in my dad’s coffee table book. Clifton A.F Sprague memorialkissing statue

Close by is the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military – a cluster of sculptures with a recording of Bob Hope’s speech being continiously played. It was almost dusk when I got to this place and the view of the sunset was spectacular.Navy Pier

The next day I woke up early and had a bit of a walk to go to Little Italy. I went to attend service at a nice little church called Our Lady of the Rosary. It had beautifully painted ceilings.church

When we checked out of the hotel I brought the folks to the Unconditional Surrender, and we drove off to have lunch at National City where there were several Filipino restaurants clustered together.

If you liked what I’ve written on this post, check my other trips in North America: Montreal, Chicago, and Turkey Run State Park.

Two Weeks in Chicago

Cloud Gate

I usually write about my Top 5 favorites in places that I go to, and I’ve always wanted to write about my fun-filled two weeks in Chicago when I kicked off blogging. The reason I’ve procrastinated is because I struggle to choose just 5 favorites about The Windy City.

To give a bit of a background: the first time I got see Chicago was 13 years ago, when I went to Illinois for a short business trip. Back then, I squeezed in what I could for only about 3 days, on weekends. Despite the short trip, I was already mesmerized by the vibrant city. It was also my first visit to the United States, and at the time it was autumn. Coming from a tropical country with only 2 seasons (dry and wet) and mostly hot and humid all year round, I quickly fell in love with autumn – the cool temperature, and the beautiful colors of the changing leaves. Subsequently, almost all holidays I had with D fell around the autumn months.

Except for the second time I went to Chicago, this time a sort of longer trip. It was winter of 2008 and we spent time with relatives. Winter is an interesting season for D and me – but we decided we’d stick to our autumn holidays.

So this year, first time after 10 years, I visited Chicago once again. It was almost summer when I went, so I had a share of the changing temperatures from cool to warm. I went to Chicago after my solo travel to Montreal. I stayed with my aunts for two weeks and was able to spend more time with relatives during this trip. I’m very thankful to my aunts Jane, Salud, Bel and Zeny; uncle Oscar; cousins May, Juvy and Mike: they warmly welcomed me to their homes, showed me the beauty of their city and allowed me to get to know Chicago more up close and personal.img_9659

Chicago’s Art Scene

I first visited the Art Institute of Chicago when my cousin Juvy and I did the Big Bus Hop-On and Hop-off tour. Prior to going, I read that this museum was rated one of the best museums by TripAdvisor for some years now so it definitely was a must to visit. The grand entrance was beautiful, with its lion statues. There were friendly staff and maps located everywhere in the museum which really helped as the museum was big and one could easily get lost. My favorite exhibits were the Impressionist, New Contemporary, Medieval and Renaissance art galleries. We only spent a couple of hours in the museum and I would love to go back. I think I’d need at least a full day to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorites works of art were The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, and the portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol.

I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) which my niece recommended. She said I wouldn’t miss the steps to the entrance of the building. She was right – and I just had to take a photo. I got to visit the MCA during their free museum day. I find contemporary art interesting and this was a good place to start exploring.

MCA
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

The next museum where I had free entrance to was the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). I had to do a bit of research before finding this museum and including it in my To Go To – I understand it was not as well known as the first 2 museums I went to. It’s in the Loyola University at N Michigan Ave, near the Old Water Tower. This is my second favorite museum, next to the Art Institute of Chicago. Their gallery was small, but I really liked their exhibits. At the time, there was an exhibit by Gregory Beals called They Arrived Last Night; and a photography exhibit by Tonika Lewis Johnson called Everyday Englewood. I was looking at the photos by Gregory Beals and there were moments I teared up. The photos were very captivating, and they incited a lot of emotions from me as a viewer. The permanent displays at the third floor had a lot of religious relics. Photos were not allowed inside the museum.

Another way that I appreciated art in Chicago was whenever I stumbled upon street art. Here are some of the delightful street art finds while walking the streets near Wicker Park:

Walking in the parks

Top of mind when it comes to Chicago parks is the Millennium Park. Been here four times (I went twice during this last visit, bringing my friend Paolo with me) – and I never get tired of it. It’s a nice place to stroll, or take in the surrounding buildings’ architecture. In every visit, I watch the water being squirted by the different faces displayed at the Crowd Fountain; and take selfies at the Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean).

Walking distance to the Millennium Park is the Grant Park where Paolo and I gazed at the Buckingham Fountain.

The Lincoln Park is somewhere I had to commute to from my aunts’ place at Wicker Park. I took the bus with a ventra card to get there and it was worth the trip. The park was big, and I did have a good long lovely walk. I got to the Lincoln Zoo – I try to avoid zoos as much as I can but this was the last stop of the walk along Lincoln Park. In this zoo, I saw the lions sleeping and I wondered if they could really have a peaceful sleep as the kids around me were shouting at them – this was the part that broke my heart.

Wicker Park was walking distance from my aunts’. It’s a small park close to a lot of good restaurants (like Stan’s Donuts where I got my bagels from; Goddess and Grocer where I got a healthy salad snack; and cafes). I’ve been curious about this because I remember a movie starring Josh Hartnett entitled Wicker Park. I liked that movie.

A few minutes’ walk from the wicker park is the 606 trail. It is an elevated trail for bikers and runners and I also saw an art sculpture along the way.

Last on my list is – and I’m not sure if this falls under the parks category – the Garfield Observatory. It showcased different plants and flowers – I was quite overwhelmed by the pretty blooms from different seasons!

observatory
a view of the interiors of Garfield Observatory

Diverse Architecture and the Chicago Skyline

A good way to see the most of Chicago’s architecture is through the hop on and hop off bus tour, and the Chicago Architectural River Cruise. The river cruise gives a good vantage point and the guides gave detailed information about the buildings’ histories.  One of my favorites is the historic Old Water Tower.riverriver

For the Chicago skyline views, the best place in my opinion is to view it from the museum campus, next to the Adler Planetarium. I go here every single time I am in Chicago and like the Millennium Park, it never gets old. Other places for the skyline view are the Navy Pier and Lincoln Park.skyline

Lincoln Park

Paolo and I also did the Riverwalk. We stopped several times to appreciate the buildings along the river, and also to enjoy the sunset next to the City Winery. I also met a cute dog being walked along the City Winery – he’s sooo adorable!

U2 Concert!

This was a super awesome surprise welcome gift to me by Mike and Juvy – I was ecstatic!! I’ve always wanted to watch a U2 concert so I was pumped when Juvy showed me the tickets. I literally cried tears of joy. We watched it at the United Center. The concert’s production was high tech and spectacular. Left me humming to Beautiful Day every morning during the rest of my trip. I’m actually listening to a U2 playlist in Spotify as I am typing this blog now.

Chicago Cubs

First baseball game I’ve ever watched live. I remember how I used to like playing baseball in high school. It was fun (and surreal) going to the Cubs vs Giants game – there were stores selling shirts, caps and other items around the area; beer and hot dogs were overflowing; and the fans were dressed up to their teams. Some of the fans were seated on the rooftops of the nearby buildings – hats off to them because it was so hot that day yet there they all throughout . There’s a park outside with a huge screen playing the game.

Two weeks isn’t enough as there are just too many things to do and explore in Chicago. Still, I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to visit this city once again and spend time with relatives and friends. Next time I would love to watch some theater plays or shows and spend more time in the museums (visit more of them too).

Hancock
This is a magnificent view from the John Hancock Tower where my aunts’ family friend lives

I’m sure next time I go to Chicago, I’d come across more spectacular finds (just like the giant pretzel from a bar I went to with my cousin – I was just speechless in awe!)

pretzel
a gigantic pretzel!

Day Walks at the Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria

Wilsons Prom

Recently I went with my sister and brother-in-law for an out of town weekend trip to Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria, or as it is more commonly called Wilsons Prom. We drove 230 kilometers from Melbourne (around 3 and a half hours) to the southernmost tip of Australia’s main island.

Our first stop was at the Whisky Bay, where we walked up a trail of about 500 meters to get to the viewing deck. It was windy and cold at the time, but I was just astounded by the beautiful view of the beach and the gigantic waves. There was only a handful of people in the area which allowed me to contemplate more during that walk.

Whisky Bay
Whisky Bay at Wilson’s Prom

Next we went to the Visitor Centre to get a map of the different trails. I read through a lot of information about Wilsons Prom in the Visitor Centre. There is also a souvenir shop and a convenience store next to it. The highlight of that short stopover at the Visitor Centre was the flock of colorful birds lounging around, like the Crimson Rosellas and Laughing Kookaburras. There was this especially playful juvenile Crimson Rosella that instantly felt close to me – that he literally perched on my shoulder and my head! It was so funny, and at the moment I missed my doggies at home. Animals are so awesome (and charmingly cheeky at times)!

On our drive to the next trail, we had to slow down because of some animals crossing. In this photo there was a couple of emus crossing the road as we were about to park for our next trail: the Wildlife Walk.

Wilson1
Emu crossing

The Wildlife Walk was a trail that took about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Here, we saw several kangaroos eating their afternoon snack. We were really hoping to get a glimpse of wombats, but since they are nocturnal and shy animals, we didn’t see any (even when my sister and brother-in-law went back to the trail the next day). The closest that we could see to a wombat was the entrance to their burrows and their poop.

Although overnight camping can be done at Wilsons Prom (so as long as a permit is secured at the Visitor Centre), we opted to drive to the nearby town of Foster and stayed at the Prom Country Lodge. The owners of the lodge also run a cafe called Cafe Max, named after their lovable labrador retriever named Max. Being the good host that he was, Max the labrador greeted me when I asked the cafe owners what time dinner was to be served.

The next morning, we drove to our next trail: Miller’s Landing. Kangaroos were having breakfast as we parked the car. Miller’s Landing trail was an easy 2 kilometers walk where we passed through lush greens and trees to get to the Corner Inlet Conservation Reserve. We ended at the beach to watch birds and look at the mangroves. It was a lovely morning walk for our healthy dose of sunshine. Again, no walk was complete without us attempting to see a wombat – which as usual ended with us only seeing the entrance to their burrows.

Going back to the city we had lunch at one of the towns at a quaint restaurant called The Rusty Windmill. I enjoyed a latte, scones, and my mixed vegetable curry with apple chutney and yogurt.

Some things that we kept in mind during our visit to Wilsons Prom: to do an overnight hiking a permit needed to be secured; no dogs, cats and other animals allowed; no feeding or interfering with the wild; respecting the surroundings and the creatures at all times. Wilsons Prom is also surrounded by marine protected areas.

Five Faves in Baguio

Camp John Hay

Back in the day, Baguio was considered a summer destination. Because it is located at a higher elevation, it is cooler there than in Metro Manila. But then, a trip to Baguio took a longer time of planning and preparation – because the drive was about 8 hours. Now, thanks to the new highways connecting Manila to the northern part of Luzon, driving to Baguio takes normally just about a little over 4 hours.

D was always hesitant to go because he had been hearing horror stories about the bad traffic and the pollution. After months of convincing he finally agreed to drive with me to Baguio provided we go on a Sunday (with the hopes that tourists coming up for a weekend getaway would be going home to Manila by then) and I have to book a hotel away from the city center. I reserved our rooms right away before he could even change his mind.

So very early Sunday morning we drove northbound, enjoyed the views of rice paddies, took a couple of stops for breakfast and took photos of Mt. Arayat and some bridges.

We checked in at Forest House Bed and Breakfast, which was a close drive to Camp John Hay. Our room was cozy with an overlooking view of their backyard garden.

Bencab Museum

This was our first stop, because I cannot get enough of museums. And pretty much because it was also the farthest from the city so we drove there first. Bencab Musuem exhibits the works and collections of Ben Cabrera, a National Artist, renowned for his Philippine contemporary art. If not for D, I would have spent a whole day admiring the different paintings and artwork. We also spent time appreciating the view of their garden and koi, and the adjacent hills.

The Bell House

Walking inside Camp John Hay was reminiscent of what I saw Baguio as when I was a child. Though there are new establishments, it was not crowded and I am glad the place is still filled with hundreds of pine trees.

Inside Camp John Hay is The Bell House. My understanding is that it used to be a residence when the Philippines was still a colony of the USA. Nowadays it stands as a museum. It has an amphitheater next to it, which was beautifully lined with flowering plants. I had fun taking photos of the amphitheater.

The Bell House is big and the atmosphere inside was light and airy. D and I began exploring the house going separate ways. I was amazed at how the furniture was maintained and preserved. As I walked out the patio I pretended I was living in the 50s and wondered how I could have made each day productive without my gadgets back then.

There was also a secret garden next to The Bell House. I can’t recall if it was called ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’. We were just told by the museum staff to check it out so we did. It felt almost magical as I walked through the garden, with trees and mist enveloping us.

Baguio Market

A visit to Baguio will not be complete without going to the market at the city center. Sure, it was crowded, but it wasn’t as crowded as, say, Mall of Asia or Megamall on a payday weekend sale. We could still walk comfortably around, though we had to be careful of our belongings because we had to, as signs around the market would say, Beware of Pickpockets.

We bought vegetables and fruit, which sell much cheaper in Baguio compared to Manila. I was able to get all my salad ingredients here. For fruit we got strawberries and native berries. We also bought jam and ube (purple yam). We took a Grabcar on our way from and back to the b&b because this is one part of the trip that D would not have the patience driving to. Traffic wasn’t bad but parking would have been.

Diplomat Hotel

Now going here entailed use of our car. Atop Dominican Hill is the old and abandoned Diplomat Hotel. The spooky facade and the mist surrounding the place makes it a popular go to by tourists seeking some ‘scary’ thrills. Its history is narrated next to the entrance. It was built by the Dominicans as a vacation house on 1913. It was then converted to a school and named Colegio Del Santissimo Rosario from 1915-1918. During WWII it served as a refuge for families and Dominican priests from 1942-1945. In 1945, the Japanese used it as their last stand until it was bombed by the Americans. After reconstruction, it became the Diplomat Hotel which operated from 1973-1987.

Laperal White House

Since we were in the mood for scares we also went to the Laperal Guest House. We passed this anyway as we headed to the Pink Sisters’ Convent and Chapel. One wouldn’t miss this mysterious-looking old white house. I heard ghost stories about this place, even saw some documentaries about it many Halloweens ago. Unfortunately they were closed at that time so we weren’t able to get in. Pink Sisters’ Convent

So those are my five favorite spots in Baguio. I’d say it was worth driving to, and though it wasn’t as secluded and pristine it was decades ago, I was still able to enjoy the sights, the food and the cool temperature with my D.

Five Faves from My Weekend in Adelaide

museum

I quite enjoyed my recent vacation in Australia. All my prior trips were business-related, and with this one I got to spend more quality time with my sister. Also, for the first time, I got to go to South Australia to visit my brother-in-law’s family.

We drove Friday night all the way from Melbourne and arrived on the wee hours of Saturday morning.  The drive was comfortable as we had several stops along the way. Because we were only staying for two days, we rested for just a couple of hours before heading out to explore the beautiful city of Adelaide.

First Stop: Glenelg Beach

Glenelg has a nice beach. It is only a few minutes’ drive from the city centre and is accessible via tram. My brother-in-law said that when he was a teenager, he and his friends would always hang out at the Glenelg Beach.

Glenelg Beach
Glenelg Beach

There are several cafes and restaurants, and we had brunch at the PURE Boutique Coffee Bar which was near the Glenelg Town Hall.

Overall I liked the chill, relaxed vibe of this place, and I liked watching people run with their dogs on the beach.

Shopping at Adelaide Central Market

With our eco-bags in tow, we headed off to do a bit of grocery shopping at the Adelaide Central Market. Though it was quite busy on that Saturday morning, I enjoyed exploring the place.

We first went to one of my sister’s go-to shops: Little Tokyo, which sells Japanese groceries and homeware. This is where she regularly gets her Japanese spices, snacks, hibachi and nattou from.  She was so pleased when she found the rice crackers she loved in Tokyo here.

Next, she brought me to a popup bookshop which sells vintage books. It was a delight browsing through their shelves – lots of interesting books of different genres. I could spend hours there.

Lastly we went to the Goodies and Grains shop. I liked how they stacked their different products in jars and bottles and customers could refill their own-brought containers (lesser plastic use, yay!). They have a wide variety of items from honey, oil, coffee, nuts and so much more. This is where I found my new favorite flavored kombucha drink.

Free Exhibits at The Art Gallery of South Australia

After lunch we had time to check out the free exhibitions at The Art Gallery of South Australia. The museum has a beautiful building, and I was amazed by The Life of Stars – a stainless steel sculpture which is a permanent display at the main entrance. I like how it reflected the city.

At the time the Diane Arbus – American Portraits, and Tracey Moffatt: Body Remembers, were both on exhibit (from 14 July – 1 October 2018).Museum

The museum’s facade

Photography

My favorite display

A Relaxing Stroll at Himeji Gardens

My sister has researched about the Himeji Gardens and insisted from the start that it should be included in our weekend agenda. We had to use Google Maps to locate the place. It turned out to be worth looking for because it was a picturesque garden – felt like being in a Zen oasis in the middle of the city. The Himeji Gardens celebrates the Sister City relationship between the Japanese ancient city of Himeji and Adelaide.

As per the sign at the entrance of the garden, two classic Japanese styles are combined here – the ‘senzui ‘ (a lake and mountain garden), and the ‘kare senzui’ (a dry garden).

Entrance was free, and we spent about thirty minutes walking through the garden, listening to the sound of the birds and the water.  I imagine if could spend a longer time there, it would be a good place to meditate, or sit and read a book.

Skyline View at Mt Lofty Summit

On Sunday, before heading out to Hahndorf, we stopped by the Mt Lofty Summit. Initially we planned on doing the trail, but it was closed at the time due to restoration work.

At the summit, we were able to see the panoramic view of the Adelaide skyline. There was a Visitor Information Centre and a gift shop, and I was able to purchase some souvenirs there.  There was also a restaurant with a view at the summit.

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Mt Lofty Summit panoramic skyline view

So that was the highlight of my short visit to Adelaide. I’m so happy my sister and brother-in-law brought me there. I would like to get to know the city more, and perhaps spend a longer time there when I go back to Australia. Overall, I think the city was very charming, and I liked being able to go to different places like the beach, museum, market, parks which are all just within a few kilometers’ driving distance from each other.

I Found Art In A Coffee Place

September 29 was National Coffee Day, and my husband and I were blessed  with an opportunity to participate in an activity hosted by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Alabang. This was in line with their #HappyCoffeeBeanMonth celebration.

I admit I love my daily caffeine fix, but you won’t get an intelligent answer from me if you ask me to describe the aroma or acidity, and what’s the difference between Arabica and Robusta. Thankfully, the first hour of yesterday’s event was focused on talking about that: the history and basics of coffee. We also did a hands on activity on coffee cupping, which allowed us to taste and describe different coffee products of CBTL.

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During the coffee cupping we were able to taste and describe three different coffee blends of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

The next part of the activity focused on coffee painting. This was what caught my attention to begin with when I signed up for our slots, as I’ve recently been honing in on art. I have not seen coffee art before, so I was pumped for this workshop.

Rev Cruz facilitated the coffee painting activity. He is a children’s book illustrator and had been using coffee for his art for almost five years now. It all started when he was on an all-nighter wrapping up on work when he accidentally spilled coffee on his nearly finished watercolor painting. The coffee spill turned out to add a beautiful effect on his art, and since then he has been using coffee stain as one of his mediums of painting.

For the coffee painting workshop we were provided with a paintbrush, pieces of watercolor paper, paper plate, and a sketch. Rev first made us practice making our own shades of coffee stains. He then shared tips on blotting and correcting, and drying the layers before adding on a different coat of paint. We used two practice sheets of watercolor paper before working on ‘the real’ project for the day, where we had to come up with our own artistic interpretation of the sketch that was given to us. Afterwards, all paintings were displayed for everyone to see, and Rev chose three winners based on the practical usage of the tips he shared during the workshop.

Overall, I’d say this was the best event by CBTL that I’ve joined so far. We went over time but I was having too much fun that I didn’t notice the time. Yesterday’s event gave me a deeper appreciation of coffee, connected me with the participants, and allowed me to discover a different medium for art. I can’t wait to practice more on my coffee painting!

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Creating different shades of coffee and practicing painting tips