Life Lessons From Mom and Dad

My folks

“As your kids grow they may forget what you said, but won’t forget how you made them feel.” — Kevin Heath

Back in the 80s, I grew up in a simple household – we were not well off but we were comfortable, close-knit and happy. Though our hard-working parents would have a long commute to work everyday, they made sure that everyone was together for dinner at night. It was during those family meals and weekends spent together that I would learn some of the lessons that I still practice to this day.

Respect and Gratitude

We started every meal with a prayer of thanks. Then we passed the food around and made sure everyone on the table was able to get their share. I was taught to show respect by getting only enough food that I could finish eating. I was reminded of the people who had nothing to eat, so I should not waste the blessings given to me.

After meals, my siblings and I would take turns clearing the table and washing dishes. Dad would always remind us to turn off the faucet while we were scrubbing the plates so the water won’t continuously be flowing. Dad would always say that we have to play our part as water is not an infinite resource.

Whenever we meet older relatives or family friends, we would do the “mano”, a Filipino gesture of respect where the younger person bows and takes the older person’s hand and puts it on their forehead – a sign of seeking for one’s blessing. Also, when we speak to people older than us we would use the words “opo”, which means “yes, with respect”, and “po” in every sentence as we talk to them. ‘Po’is a term for respect.

Building Relationships

At a young age, our folks brought us to their fellowship communities. There we attended Catechism with other kids, and because kids are easy to make friends, we were able to build friendships from this group. We would look forward to seeing our friends on weekends for fun and games. We also learned to share with the children in the community – from harvested fruits to books for school.

Be Resourceful

Mom and Dad did not spoil us. There were times we wanted some toys so bad but we either had to wait for Christmas for Santa to give them (that means being good throughout the year); save up for it; or make our own.

I had a childhood friend and we loved playing doctor. I created my own ‘medical supplies’ with a stick thermometer, a plastic bag filled with water and tied with a string as a pretend dextrose, and a headmirror made of paper.

Or when my brother and I played we would make our own memory cards; or make small towns on the garden using popsicle sticks and lego. I remember being extra careful so that the miniature town would be perfect in case some smurfs pass by – so they can make themselves comfortable.

For one of my birthdays mom gave me a big piggy bank. At the time, I put in only 2 peso coins there. When it was full, mom and I excitedly counted all the 2 peso coins I saved and I got a total of a little over 500 pesos back then. Afterwards, mom brought me to the bank where I opened my first savings account.

Use My Imagination

This was my favorite way of spending idle time. My parents equipped us with informational books – about the universe, birds, countries – and I remember my brother and I would go through all the books and play a game reciting as much as we can later on. When we play the badminton we would name a bird or a country with every strike on the shuttercock – no repeaters or else one loses the game.

We would look at the clouds and describe what we see. One night while playing hide and seek I looked up to the moon and saw a shadow of a witch on a broomstick. I panicked and called out to my playmates to quit the game and go home, or else the witch would get us. I must have looked silly back then but mom indulged me and said I was right, and it was a good idea indeed to call it a day.

What were the best things you learned from your younger years?

One’s formative years is usually during early childhood – up until 8 years old. This is a critical period where a person develops body, mind, emotions and social skills.

Looking back, I remember I did not understand some of the things my folks taught me to do, and at times I wondered what the fuss was all about. As I got older I began to appreciate those little things that molded me to the person I am now.

My Lola

Lola

In celebration of International Women’s Day today, I remember my grandmother, Lola Cion – whom I had always looked up to from as far back as I could remember.

Lola, the Filipino word for grandma, had been my role model on independence, confidence, and perseverance. Though she was born into a wealthy family, at the time, women were treated secondary to men, and education after high school was not a priority. Lola and her sisters were some of the few who pursued their college degrees, and it was this time when she met my lolo, whom she would marry at the age of 19 against the wishes of her parents.

When lolo died at a young age, Lola strived to be able to provide for her children. My aunt and mom would tell me stories of how they never saw my Lola break down at lolo’s funeral. She would always wear the strong facade when she was with her young children, and there was only one time when my aunt saw Lola sobbing silently in the middle of the night. Through the years, Lola would raise her children the best way that she could, and she did this with integtity and grace.

I, too, saw this strong composed front, when I was growing up. I hardly saw Lola cry, save for a few times (since family drama is inevitable) when she would hastily dab away tears. Lola was the one who brought the clan together, and I savor the memories of then regularly getting together with cousins, nephews and niece.

Lola was my constant supporter. I fondly remember waking up to the classic Happy Birthday music she would loudly play on the mornings of my and my brother’s birthdays. I miss the way she smiled as she played on the piano. She encouraged me to mingle during parties, cheered for me at school when I danced, clapped for me when I would sing karaoke with my uncle during family gatherings. She was there when I was sick; gave some sense of wisdom to me when I had rifts with a family member; supported me through tough times at the university (thesis days); and she was one who was most proud of all my successes.

My lola is now in heaven. And I tear up as I write this as I miss her so much. I am grateful for having her in my life, and I know she is watching over me every day.

Just Love Dogs

dogs

dogs

This one’s a photo of me and our 3 boys. Behind me is Rex, on my right is Theon, and the frontmost one is Pedro. Rex and Pedro are senior dogs. We do not bring them out for walks anymore because of their hip dysplasia. This doesn’t stop them from playfully roaming around in the yard. I hear the three of them (well mostly just Rex and Theon) running about. Pedro tags along for only a few seconds and then he will be dozing off shortly after.

When I didn’t know better, we bought Rex from a petstore ten years ago. I remember how I felt for the older dogs who were waiting to be bought, and I wanted to give them all a good home. We realized years later that we should adopt and not shop, as buying dogs from petstores supports puppy mills which often operate just for profit, mostly neglecting the wellbeing and health of the dogs. Adopting dogs from sanctuaries and shelters give these wonderful creatures another chance at life, and allows for room for other dogs to be saved by the sanctuaries. We have many neglected and unloved dogs in Metro Manila – both strays and in their homes. Sadly, the unfair treatments like keeping dogs chained or locked in cages 24/7 are still widely practiced by a lot of dog parents, starting with my own neighbors.

We consider Rex as ‘our eldest’. We spent hours training him as a pup, had our share of chewed (and destroyed) furniture, lunches and dinners with family friends who also have furbabies. Rex loves to swim and is a gentle soul who loves sleeping next to my feet whenever I watch TV. His favorite spot in the house is the kitchen. When his legs were stronger we would move all edible food higher up where he wouldn’t reach them. Rex is so clingy and scared of thunder. We ordered Thundershirts for our boys because Rex’s fear of thunders seemed to have rubbed off on Theon.

Speaking of Theon, we named him after Theon Greyjoy. He is our second – though he’s the youngest of the three. My dad gave him to us when their dog gave birth, and Theon was the only one in the litter that survived. Theon is the smartest of the three, and the most alert. He looks up to Rex and follows him around all the time. I like to think he’s Rex’s shadow.

Lastly is Pedro, an English Bulldog that we recently adopted. Pedro is a sweet cheeky little boy that loves barking when it’s about time for their breakfast and dinner. He barks to announce he is awake and when there is no one next to him when he opens his eyes from sleep. Not that he throws a tantrum. It’s more of like a ‘hey, what’s up, I’m awake. Where’s everybody?’. He gets cold easily so he opts to step out when he feels cold from the airconditioning. Pedro is the kindest of the three. Before Pedro, Rex and Theon would chase our hens. When Pedro started ‘owning’ the backyard where the hens are, the hens warmed up to him quickly. Eventually Rex and Theon stopped chasing them too. It’s funny when the three are lined up for their treats, the hens would line up next to them hoping for a treat of their own. Pedro is a survivor. Before we adopted him he was not given his yearly shots for some time, and he got sick with canine distemper. After a few weeks of vet home visits and medication, he was in the clear. He is a fighter, and I am proud of how brave and strong our little boy is. He’s celebrated his 10th birthday a couple of days ago. Bulldog

We love our dogs. Whenever we reach home, nothing beats the warm, genuine welcome that the boys give us (except for Pedro who most of the time cannot be bothered if he is asleep). I love how they lovingly look up to me whatever mood I am in, how they curl up calmly next to me when I paint or read a book. They do not judge, they just long to be next to us. They’re mostly happy when we are at the yard for a barbecue with guests. I love the random kisses when I give them a bath. I love how happy they are when it’s time for breakfast or dinner – reminding me to live simply as they do, and be grateful for everyday blessings.

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!

Five Faves from a blissful weekend in Sagada

backyard

Sagada – the beautiful place on top of the mountains that’s so far away – 456 kilometers from where I live to be exact. About 9 hours’ nonstop drive – that is, if there would be no traffic jams. And light traffic is quite rare when going through the streets of Metro Manila. My only challenges in going is that one, D wouldn’t drive that far (not with the traffic), and two, I’ve seen discouraging news about landslides and road accidents affecting folks going to or back from Sagada.

Yet, Sagada constantly beckons. Its lush mountains, caves, clear streams, organic food, picturesque surroundings are just too hard to resist.  So, having checked the weather forecast, I looked for tour packages from Manila, and booked a trip for my brother and me. We got a 3 days/2 nights tour package on a good deal. We left by van at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, and woke up in the far north of Luzon on Saturday morning. We were supposed to have breakfast at Banaue Rice Terraces, at the Ifugao Province, but we got stuck in a traffic jam en route to Banaue that morning. Wikipedia describes Banaue Rice Terraces as “occassionally called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World‘”. It’s majestic views were even used in the Avengers: Infinity War movie ending, where *spoiler alert!!!* Thanos was enjoying the view from his hut one fine day after he wiped out half the universe’s population. Remember that scene? That background was the Banaue Rice Terraces.

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Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao

Oops, I digress. Anyway, our van reached Sagada at around 2PM that Saturday. So much for the 9 hours’ drive. We were relieved and excited – we were finally there! Our first stop was at a restaurant. Our late lunch included veggies and brown/red rice that Sagada is known for. At the backyard of that resto was old Igorot hut. It was awesome!

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old Igorot hut

After lunch, we checked in to our hostel. The rest of the folks in our tour opted to go to the spelunking activity. My brother and I stayed behind and explored the town instead. We reviewed must go to places in Sagada town and checked them out.

These are the places in Sagada that are my favorites, and I highly recommend them all.

Sagada Lemon Pie House

I loved the concept of the restaurant. Guests can choose between sitting on the floor or on short stools. We were surprised to see that they sell their lemon pie and tea for cheap price. A slice of lemon pie costs 30 pesos (around 60 US cents); and a cup of tea costs 20 pesos (around 40 US cents). The lemon tea was sweet, and the mountain tea had a gingery taste to it. I preferred the mountain tea over the lemon tea. As for the lemon pie – it was simply delicious! I guess that’s why the resto was named after this specialty, right? I saw a sign at the counter saying it’s best to order the pies in advance as they sometimes run out of stock. I’m not surprised.

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Sagada Lemon Pie and tea

Yoghurt House

We read good reviews about this place. We had a bit of a wait when we got there as there was a queue. I’m not really into yogurt (I like kombucha more), so I’m relaying what my brother thought about it. He liked his yogurt, and the price was also affordable. For a healthy daily dose of probiotics, this place is worth checking out.

Strawberry Cafe

I did see strawberries grown in their garden, but for some reason I did not see any strawberry cake in their menu. I asked the owner and they did have it – it just wasn’t listed. My brother and I shared one huge slice which we bought for only 80 pesos (around US $1.60). Wow the cake was so good! It was not too sweet and the strawberries were fresh. If I had not just eaten late lunch and a slice of lemon pie I would have loved to have another slice of the strawberry cake. I’ve looked far and wide for this taste, and Sagada is where I found it.

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Home grown strawberries at the Strawberry Cafe, Sagada

Sagada Market

Just like what I did when I was in Baguio, I brought eco-bags during the trip to Sagada because I anticipated some marketing to be done. I was going to the vegetable capital after all, so why not make the most out of it. I was delirious with the low prices of the merchandise in the market that I ended up asking my brother to carry some of the items in his bag for me. I bought persimmons, mountain tea, sweet potato, broccoli, and other vegetables. I wanted to get more but I remembered my commute back in Manila when I get home. So I bought only what I (and my brother) could carry. Oh, if we only drove in our car!

Sagada Brew

Went here the next day for a quick breakfast. Their service was impeccable, and they offered a wide variety of food choices at reasonable prices. Of course, being named Sagada Brew, I expected their coffee to be good. It surely did not disappoint. Interesting what came with my wheat bread toast was something that looked like kimchi but tasted like jam. I think it’s their homemade strawberry preserve. It was so yum!

Echo Valley and The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

Just walking distance to the main road of the Sagada town center is the entrance to the cemetery. An interesting trivia about the cemetery is during All Souls Day (which is today, 2 November), people remembering their dead light up acorns instead of candles.

We walked past the cemetery to get to the Echo valley.  Echo valley is a beautiful place – cool weather, fresh air, nice scenery. The only downside when we went here with a tour group on a Sunday was that there were so many other tour groups that came with us. We could not take a decent photo because people were lined up and taking their time to get their selfies and different poses taken.

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overlooking view of the Echo valley

After the Echo valley we took a short trek going to the hanging coffins. On the first landing I saw 18 hanging coffins. Our guide told us that anyone who has reached at least 100 years old can be buried through the hanging coffins. The most recent one was placed there in 2010. Some of the coffins were small because these were for bodies who were ‘buried’ in fetal pose – there is a belief that since they were born in the fetal pose, then that is the way they will leave the world. Along the short coffins were chairs which are called death chairs (hope I remember it right). This is where the bodies were prepared prior to ‘burying’. The longer coffins are for the ones who have been Christianized.
On burial day, the coffins are hang first, before the bodies are put in.

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The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

After the first landing, we went further down to see other coffins placed way up higher.  My brother and I were just amazed at how our ancestors were able to apply this practice and maintain the tradition throughout the ages.

We took a different way back where we passed through a clear stream and a cave. It was quite fun walking through the cool waters of the stream (and trying hard to maintain balance). img_5537

There you have it, my five favorite places in Sagada. People who might have already visited Sagada would probably ask why I did not include Kiltepan. This is where people go to very early in the morning to get a view of the beautiful sunrise (just like the Sunrise Tour that I did in Borobudur). When we went, the sun failed to show up as it was masked by clouds. I was a bit disheartened at Kiltepan because it was packed with hundreds of people and I saw a lot of tourists littering.

Overall, Sagada is one of my favorite travel destinations in Luzon. I would love to go back, so I will persuade D to schedule a tour so we can drive there – on a sunny weekday so we can get away from the crowd. I really hope that Sagada will not be commercialized and that its beauty, simplicity, serenity and cleanliness can be preserved. It truly is spectacular as it is now.

 

 

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.

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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.

 

My First Ever Paint Party

friends and family

I was ecstatic when my cousin Juvy hosted what would be my first ever paint and wine party with the family during my recent trip to Chicago. Any chance for me to paint on a canvas is gold. More importantly, I suppose there’s something about doing art together that makes a gathering more intimate.

That Friday night, we headed to the Bottle & Bottega studio in Park Ridge, IL.  The venue was nice and spacious, and I loved the different paintings displayed. It was BYOB and BYOF so my relatives brought wine and assorted platters of delicious finger food which we enjoyed while our work space was being set up.

Our project for the night was a landscape showing a river running through a valley, and the medium that we used was acrylic. Our instructor Sonny demonstrated each step. At first I thought the landscape was going to be complicated and I surprised myself for being able to finish it within the three hours. I’m quite impressed by my cousins’ finished work. They said they were beginners, but their paintings were so good!

My cousin said she noticed I got pretty quiet when we all started painting. I think I always do, when I start holding on to a paint brush. I tend to be too focused in the moment; it’s like a form of meditation for me.

I am so happy we did this, and I’m thankful to Juvy because it’s one of the most enjoyable things I did during my US trip. I would love to do this again; perhaps I’d arrange one in Manila when my sister and brother-in-law come over to visit. It’ll be fun!

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Sonny, our art teacher