An Attempt at Acting

I’ve been meaning to get back into acting workshops, but since I have just started work I’m still in the “settling in” phase. The first time I took a class was summer of 2018, and it was quite an interesting experience. I came to appreciate that acting entails a lot of preparation – from knowing your lines and being able to use them in different tones and ways, depending on the direction for that scene, to most importantly being able to establish a connection with the fellow actors. This is done through listening. At first I thought, listening meant being able to catch up on the script and knowing when my lines come in. But my acting mentors called me out on that wrong notion. When I did that, it showed I was waiting, and that I was just saying my lines – the connection wasn’t there at all. I wasn’t in the moment. I realized I had to listen to what, and how, my co-actor was saying, or not saying for that matter. When I listened, the subtle body language and nuances followed naturally.

Another thing that I learned from class was that there was no room for being conscious as to how one would look on camera – I had to, in a sense, let go.

There were times when, after a certain dialogue I’d be emotionally drained – and then we had to repeat that for a couple more times, and I remember I had a migraine after that scene because of the repeated rush of emotions. But no pain, no gain, right? I was glad to have gone through that exercise.

Another perk that I had from my acting workshops was being able to establish friendships with people who I shared the same passion with. It’s cool that the appreciation for this form of art comes from different ages and personality types.

So, my plan for this year is to enroll in theater acting workshops. I bet it’s gonna be a different ball game, but I’m up for the experience and the learnings. And while I wait for the sessions to start, I’ve lined up some plays and shows that I will watch.

First on my list: Potted Potter this March. Watch out for my review of this show!

Korean Art

Minhwa

Late last year I took up an awesome Korean art class called Minhwa. It was a a series of calm, and almost therapeutic, Saturday afternoons when I would go to the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines in Taguig City to work on my ‘masterpiece’: a colorful portrait of peonies.

My work had been completed and it now hangs on the school’s lobby, along with my classmates’ beautiful pieces. It will be on display until the school relocates to their new building.

Picture of Peony, Mo Ran Do, uses peonies which are regarded as symbols of wealth and prosperity. In the oriental society, peonies are known as the king of the flowers. These paintings are usually displayed in wedding ceremonies.Minhwa

Pictures of Lotus, Yoen-hwa-do, shows both the flower and the seed. It is believed that the lotus flower shows the creation of life, and the seed denotes being gifted with many children. Minhwa

Ten symbols of longevity, Sib-jang-sang-do, are believed to protect one from disease and lengthen life. The ten symbols include four unchangeable beings or things – the sun, the moon, mountains and clouds; three animals – crane, deer and turtle; a youngji mushroom that translates to youth; bamboo that symbolizes integrity; and peach, which is a longevity fruit. MinhwaMinhwa

PaintingsIf you’re around BGC, check out these art works on display at the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines. For now they are located at the 2nd floor of Mancor Corporate Center at the 32nd St.

Zomato Gold Review

coffee

Before I discovered and got hooked on WordPress, I started posting reviews in sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Zomato. I used these websites to document my travel and food experience, and I find it fascinating going through my reviews from years ago – sort of like going through a diary and reliving the moments. Needless to say I continue toggling in between these sites to record my thoughts closer to real-time. Although there are no monetary incentives from contributing to these websites, I take pride being awarded reviewer level status – and keep those in my bragging rights pocket.

And then I was intrigued by Zomato’s (insistent) notification offering me Zomato Gold. It’s a membership type of offer – one gets to subscribe for 3 to 6 months to a year, and members can get to avail their food or drinks Buy 1 Get 1 promo at restaurant partners. On their first few text and email notifications, I shrugged it off and at times even found them annoying. Until D and I moved in to our new apartment where we could not cook as much as we would like to. Hence we resorted to regularly eating out. And being the analytic person that I am (I would research restaurants we have not tried yet and read through reviews before making a decision), I came across several raves about Zomato Gold. So I joined the bandwagon and subscribed to an annual membership. I got it when the fee was offered at a lower rate – five hundred pesos (or around US$10) at the time. I think subscription rates vary from time to time because I checked the other day and the annual rates have gone up. I did not get to be a member right away because I think I was 6000+ in the queue of pending subscribers. I’m glad I got my subscription approved a few days after.

As soon as I got my subscription I invited my visiting relatives out for a couple of food dates – we ate at Cafe Garuda (an Indonesian restaurant in Legazpi Village in Makati) for dinner, and at Apartment 1B (located at Henry Hotel in Pasay City) for brunch. We availed of the Buy 1 + Get 1 food promo, and the way it works is the second to the most expensive dish is free. After that I’ve gotten into the habit of checking out restaurants with Zomato Gold option first whenever I go out with D or friends for a meal.

So is Zomato Gold worth it? The short answer is YES. In less than three weeks, I have already recovered my investment, and more importantly, my savings over the last two weeks is already triple the amount I’ve paid as annual subscription fee. I’m so excited to use this – and discover new places for my weekly dinner date with D. If you have Zomato Gold in your city and are keen to try it out, feel free to use my promo code MARI2980 to get 20% off on your subscription amount.

I am writing this review voluntarily and I paid for my own Zomato Gold subscription. This review is not sponsored by Zomato Gold.

 

 

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.

A Week in Bantayan

Sta Fe Bantayan

I’m not really a beach person, and I’d prefer to go to the mountains at any given time. However, this year, I had my fair share of the beach life: from learning how to surf in Baler, Quezon; to biking and discovering hidden beaches in El Nido, Palawan.

I was blessed with an opportunity to volunteer for a week in Bantayan, an island known for its white sand and crystal blue waters north of Cebu City. I was to support the preparation for the reopening of the SEACAMP.

So I packed light and flew from Manila to Cebu on a Monday morning. From Cebu, I commuted almost three hours by bus to Hagnaya port, passing along seaside towns and letting my mind wander and imagine how it would have felt like waking up each morning to the sound of waves and seagulls. The three hour ride almost felt like forever – I got off one town away from Hagnaya port because I shouldn’t have drank too much water before embarking a long ride (I realized that too late). I  took a tricycle to get to the port and hopped on a ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan. I got to the white house where I was to stay for a week at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Yes, I spent my first day commuting.

LTE signal was weak, so I braced myself for a week without internet – I took it as a sign that I should just be one with nature. After dinner, we would have a short quiet stroll at the beach, and later on I would get to sleep early because it would be lights out at around 9 o’clock. For the first two days it was daunting but I eventually got the hang of it.

Before I get carried away with my memories, do you know what this shell is? My friend, Nadine and I saw heaps of this while we were walking along the shore. They have a star shape embossed on them, and they’re pretty delicate, really. They easily break, like eggshells. I think they’re so pretty.

Delicate little shell
Very delicate thin coated shell

What I loved about Bantayan are: the white sand, the singing and gliding birds, halo-halo, fresh air, clear waters, and the colorful picturesque sunsets.

hammock view
View from the hammock, Bantayan, Cebu

One night, just after sundown, we went to the beach to see the ‘dancing fish’. One of our hosts lit his flashlight and let the skim over the water. Lo and behold, hundreds of fish jumped up towards the light as the beam passed them – they looked like they were dancing indeed! Our host told us that it was a way the fish communicates back to them, as the stretch of sea in front of the SEACAMP is a marine-protected area. The fish were dancing to say thank you for protecting our home. While I watched that phenomenon, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Who would have thought something so simple could be so powerful as to touch my stoic heart.

At the SEACAMP, I was able to learn and practice composting, which I later on applied at home. We planted malunggay trees, experienced fetching water from a well, fed fish in the kois, and prepared the newly built school. We also recycled plastic waste by grinding them. Later on they would be mixed with cement and be converted into what would become fish homes (I forget what they’re called). We saw the marine protected area up close when we got on a glass-bottomed boat. I am truly inspired by SEACAMP’s efforts to protect the environment.

I got to know some of the locals and my heart leaps knowing that they love Bantayan so much and would do all that they can to preserve it.

Church in Bantayan
Catholic church in Bantayan – Took me about 40 minutes (and 30 pesos) to get to the town by commute. The church is right smack in the middle of the plaza of Bantayan. 

Green Fair 2018

Scenic

I dream of a world where every living being is respected, valued, protected, and live in peace. My wish for Mother Earth is for its beauty and cleanliness to be restored, so generations yet to come can live to see and appreciate it. 

Because of this dream and wish, I support efforts and endeavors that promote sustainability.

Last Saturday I came upon a friend’s post in Facebook about The Green Fair. It was a collaboration of eco-friendly merchants with the aim of increasing awareness on actions we, buyers, could take to make a positive impact to the environment. It was happening the same day I read about it, and so right after my Minhwa class at BGC, I headed to the O2 Space at the RCI Building at Rada Street in Makati to check out the stores that participated in The Green Fair.

Merchandise
Merchandise at the Green Fair

You Dirty Dog

Of course, this is the first stall that I checked out (I have been out for five days having gone to Sagada a few days before, and I was terribly missing my fur babes at home). First order of business is to get something for the boys. I refilled a bottle for the chemical-free, biodegradable dog shampoo in Oats scent. Other than dog shampoo they sell hemp chew toys which were 100% natural.

Tracy, the owner of You Dirty Dog came up with the business because of the needs of her 2 dogs, Ringo and Mo. Ringo has sensitive skin and is allergic to the dog shampoos out in the market, so they researched and formulated a natural shampoo that was suitable for his skin. Mo, on the other hand, would ingest plastic from the sturdiest of chew toys. So they used hemp to create chew toys as a safer alternative.

Refill and Beyond

Next stall that I checked out was Millie and Kris’ Refill and Beyond. They sell (by refills) liquid bath soap, fabric conditioner, laundry soap, and hand soap.

What I learned from Millie is that globally, millions of bars of soap are discarded every day. These are partially used soaps – some even used just once. What a huge waste! This, along with the fact that they themselves needed better ingredients on their personal soaps for their families, inspired them to create their brand.

They worked with a relative who is a chemist in coming up with a sulfate-free soap that yielded a good scent. Their fabric conditioner (which I bought through refilling my bottle) uses lavender scent, and the body wash uses olive scent (it reminds me of the Body Shop liquid soap that I have at home).

Greenpeace

Greenpeace was there to provide informational talks. What I learned from my discussion with them is sadly, the Philippines’ Pasig River is now the second most polluted river in the world, and the Philippines is now also the third biggest ocean polluter following China and Indonesia. Heartbreaking information, and nothing to be proud of.

I’ve joined coastal cleanups last year and early this year. Every single time, I’m overwhelmed and frustrated by the plastic pollution on the coasts, and no matter how long I spend in picking them up, they just cannot be cleared. I know too, that even though we were able to clear up the beach, by the next day it’ll be overflowing with trash again. Greenpeace would do a brand audit on the top polluters from the coastal cleanup, and they would send their data to the big companies. Some of the big companies have responded that they would be researching for a better way to address the use of single plastic packaging, which is hopefully a good sign. I asked Greenpeace what they do to the trash that were audited, and I was told they return it to the companies and follow through on how these are being disposed or recycled.

Bini Natural Living

Bini sells organic products like essential oil soaps, jelly soaps, foot scrub, natural deodorant (paraben and aluminum free). They also have roll-on oils using essential oil. I was so curious about the jelly soap, it looked so colorful and soft I wanted to squish it. I bought a bag of pink himalayan salt for my DIY gifts.

Eco-products from other stores

I wish I had a bigger budget to use for the fair. I bought wooden spoon and fork from my friend who was manning a booth. They also sell wooden knives, pickles, reusable beeswax wraps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and organic soaps.

Next to her stall is Kooky Koleksyon’s handmade accessories, some even using recycled materials.

There were also booths that sold bamboo toothbrushes, reusable straws and eco-bags.

Shopped items
Items I bought

I hope we have more of these sustainable products and brands coming together so they are more readily available in the malls and weekend markets (for those who opt to do the traditional style of shopping). Otherwise, there’s always online shopping to be able to reach stores like these.

 

 

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

VegFest 2018

Vegan

Yesterday was my first time to go to the Veg Fest held at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City. A couple of years ago I skipped this. I remember seeing the booths when I used to work in Eastwood in Quezon City, and I was just so busy I couldn’t spend time checking it out. This year, after volunteering at PETA I had the chance of not only being able to go to the 3rd annual Veg Fest, but also taking part and manning the PETA kiosk for a few hours. I started at 8AM and helped distribute the Vegan starter magazine, some stickers and flyers; talked to people dropping by inquiring about the animal adoptables, and the different animal campaigns; and putting on temporary tattooes. PETA

I’ve cut off all kinds of red meat from my diet since 2011, after watching the movie Contagion (there was a short scene there that pulled my heartstrings – big time). Lately, I’ve transitioned to a more plant-based diet and it’s getting kind of boring because I keep making the same food over and over again. One of the challenges I have is the distance I had to go to be able to get some of my ingredients. They are not readily available at our neighborhood supermarket or at the nearby convenience stores. If I opt to skip cooking and just buy my meals, I’d also have to go far because not all restaurants nearby offer plant-based food. Sometimes I would daydream about the vegan burgers I’ve eaten in my travels abroad. We don’t have that many options here in the Philippines. Yet. So I was so happy when some people at the Veg Fest approached me asking me to sign a petition to include plant based options in Philippine fastfood chains and restaurants. I signed the petition of course, no questions asked.

Man, I was overwhelmed by the food options at the Veg Fest. They were so many, how was I to choose, knowing I get so full easily? I had to walk around two times to be able to decide – every time I go to a new stall I see something that beats the one/s I initially thought I’d get for my lunch. After much deliberation I ended up getting laing (dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk) and veggie barbeques. I also got a bottle of Diwa Kombucha (strawberry flavor this time), some veggie chips and a scoop of dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream. For my takeaway, I bought frozen pizza so I can pop them in the oven before binging on Netflix. Stalls

In the Veg Fest there were also some stalls by animal welfare groups just like PETA. I was able to go to the CARA booth; and the ARF (Animal Rescue Family) Manila. There were also activities like talks and yoga.

I’m so glad to being part of the Veg Fest and look forward to more of these. This motivated me to check out the Mandala Park which is done Sundays at Mandaluyong – I was told there’s a lot of food options there too. What I saw from the Veg Fest also inspired me to learn more recipes so I can add more variety to my homecooked meals.

Random Thoughts: The Edge

Odaiba

My random thoughts in response to Aroused’s Friday Foto Fun question on what The Edge looks like to me. I liked the blog because it got me thinking…and here’s what I think:

img_5517
Me on the Edge of a view deck at Sagada, overlooking the Echo Valley.

When I think of the word EDGE, the first thing that comes to my mind is END. But as I delve on the word more, I remember it can also mean a point of something new: a new territory, a new beginning. Sort of like The Beatles’ song “Hello, Goodbye”.

“I say high, you say low. You say why, I say I don’t know…You say goodbye and I say hello”

You see, I’ve come to a point a couple of years ago where I had a 180 degree shift in priorities and started to see life in a different light. Maybe it’s midlife crisis, or maybe it’s a result of a harrowing experience. Anyway, ‘the edge’ for me did not happen overnight – it took weeks of contemplating and assessing the pros and cons of decisions I would make. I asked what my purpose was and what really makes me happy. I figured I didn’t need all the riches in the world and what I have is enough. I prayed for guidance and for me to have the courage to take that first step to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.

And so here I am now, treating each day as a new opportunity to appreciate, to learn, to explore, to one way or another touch someone else’s life or make a difference to someone, somewhere. Hopefully.

Five Faves in South Melbourne Market

Padre Coffee

When I was in Melbourne, Saturday mornings are usually spent on grocery shopping at the South Melbourne Market. This place is quite accessible both by car and by tram. I like the market’s vibe, and there are many shops to choose from. On my last visit, I was quite pleased to find that most of us shoppers have our own eco-bags in tow.

Here are my top five favorite shops at the South Melbourne Market:

Padre Coffee

I mentioned in a previous blog that Melbourne is famous for its fantastic coffee. If you ask me what the best cafe is, I’d probably have to think twice – there are too many good ones! Padre Coffee is one of the most popular ones. For the longest time, my brother-in-law likes Padre Coffee and he was the one that introduced this to me. The place is usually very busy on weekend mornings and getting seats can be quite a challenge. Their latte is quite good.

One thing I like about most Melbourne cafes is that they support and encourage people bringing in their own cups. I used a KeepCup on my last visit to Padre Coffee.

 

Agathe Patisserie

Now what’s a good coffee without a matching yummy pastry? I was told the bread here was really good so I lined up one weekend morning to get a croissant and a chocolate muffin. Boy, was it so good I lined up yet again to buy more croissants to go. I didn’t mind the long (but fast moving) queue because I was distracted by the sight of the tempting pastries and the smell of freshly-baked bread.

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Pastries heaven at Agathe Patisserie

 

Koenji Vintage

Koenji Vintage is a thrift shop that sells cool, quirky contemporary Japanese apparel and accessories. My sister is a regular here, and she bought several dresses at affordable prices. Koenji Vintage’s friendly owners, Wil and Jane, opened their shop mid 2016. To date, this continues to be a go-to by sustainable shoppers and fashionistas alike.

For more details about Koenji Vintage, check out their website here.

5ed5fe55-5365-4fc5-a593-9f4099cac756-1
Koenji Vintage thrift shop

Happy Place By Lola Berry

This is my sister’s personal favorite. If they feel like getting a healthy breakfast, Happy Place by Lola Berry is the place to go. They have a wide array of options to choose from. My sister likes trying out the different slushies with her usual smashed avocado.

Azalea

A Saturday trip to the market won’t be complete without getting a bunch of fresh flowers for the house. Azalea provides beautiful local blooms that we just couldn’t get enough of. A visit to this shop always brightens the day and lifts up the mood.

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Local fresh blooms from Azalea

So there you have it, my five favorite shops in South Melbourne Market. There are other shops for me to discover and explore, but I’d definitely go back all the time to these favorite shops whenever I visit the market.

For more information, check out South Melbourne Market’s website here.

 

Five Fave Things to Do In and Around Baler, Aurora

Baler

This is a late post, so pardon me for reminiscing…

I’ve always wanted to go to Baler. I’ve heard a lot of raves about it but it just seemed so far from Metro Manila. I finally had the motivation to go, when early this year I won a free trip to the Tribes & Treks Tour by Mad Travel. So we booked a 2 night stay in Baler, packed our bags and went to an adventure to the north.

It was indeed a long drive from Manila. We left early Friday morning to beat the weekend traffic, and arrived after 6 hours of driving (stopovers for breakfast and snacks included). We were able to see a Tourist Information office along the way and everyone was more than willing to help give us directions to our hotel.

Baler Town
Baler Town Proper

Our hotel was about 200 meters from the Sabang Beach. We could see the huge waves from our room, and I instantly fell in love.

First things first: Surf.

I’ve been fascinated with surfers and how they could balance themselves and glide through the waves with such grace and ease. I was told it was not as easy as it looks but it was tons of fun. The competitiveness in me kicked in such that as soon as we checked in to the hotel I asked where I could learn surfing. Surfing lesson and board rental cost P300 per hour. My instructor, Kuya Gerry, was kind enough to encourage me saying he would even waive my lesson fee if I do not make it to ride the waves successfully within an hour. I gleefully agreed and began my lesson. It was the most surreal experience ever – and I was able to ride the waves three times in 35 minutes! I would never forget how exhilarating surfing felt.

Surf Lessons
Learning to surf was tiring and fun!

Rent a motorbike and explore.

To get around in Baler, we left our car in the hotel and rented a motorbike near Costa Pacifica. The rent was P500 per day, and we had the gas tank filled. We were able to go to the town, Museum de Baler, and the Baler Hanging Bridge  which was about ten minutes away from Sabang Beach. The bridge is made of wood and it was a bit of an adventure walking across it. We got there at sunset and it was beautiful.

Baler Hanging Bridge
Walking along the swaying Baler hanging bridge

Vegan Resto: Charlie Does

I was pleasantly surprised to find this resto. It was a few meters away from the beach, right behind Costa Pacifica Hotel. The place looked very cozy – you wouldn’t miss the garden with its couches. They were pet-friendly too as I saw a cute labrador and beagle ‘parked’ next to one of the couches in the garden.

The vibe in Charlie Does is relaxing and homey. Their wait staff were also very warm and friendly. We got ourselves a banana shake and an all green shake, hummus and pita for our afternoon snack which was filling and refreshing.

Food at Charlie Does
Vegan snacks from Charlie Does

River and Falls Trek

On Day 2 I woke up early for the trip with Mad Travel to Diteki, San Luis. It was about 30 minutes’ ride by tricycle from Circle Hostel. We trekked through the Diyaboboo River and came to the our swimming area where there was a falls and the water was so clear. We had the place all to ourselves – well, along with hawks flying above us. Yes, there were hawks! It was so magical to see them, and for a few minutes I was just basking in the fresh air and the peaceful unspoiled place. I really wish that this piece of heaven on earth will be preserved for many more generations to come.

When we headed back to Diteki, we feasted on the local food prepared by our hosts, the Altas. The Altas are the indigenous tribe in Aurora, and they shared not only good food but also their stories and a bit of overview of the medicinal herbs they’ve used through the years.

Diteki Falls
Clear waters of Diyaboboo

RV Cacao Farm

Before heading back to Baler, Mad Travel also brought us to RV Cacao Farm. We were welcomed by JM, who manages the farm. He gave us a quick tour and showed us how to harvest the cacao fruit. We also were able to have a taste of one of their best sellers – chocolate ice cream. Their products are all organic and preservative-free. JM shared how he developed the farm and grew the business. I was inspired by JM’s story and I became more appreciative of homegrown enterprises.

RV Cacao Farm
RV Cacao Farm

I am honored to have been given a chance by Mad Travel to participate in the Tribes and Treks tour. Their advocacy on supporting the tribes and local livelihood through tourism is very inspiring, and tours like this make a difference to these communities.

When I have friends or family coming over and asking where best to go to within Luzon, I’d say Baler in a heartbeat. The surfing and the good food were all fun and memorable, and the Tribes and Treks tour was the icing on the cake.