Back to Hong Kong (Part 2)

Kristine and I went to UA Cinemas at Times Square so we could watch Black Panther. I was excited to watch this since the trailer looked very promising. I got more excited though because it was my first time to see a movie in Hong Kong. I wondered how much different their cinemas were from ours.

To go to Times Square, we rode a tram. It was my first time to try it and I had a great time! It was cheaper than taking a bus but still quick enough for my liking. Of course, the bus would have been more comfortable but I did not mind.

We saw a lot of pretty stuff being sold in the streets on our way to Times Square. One of them were beautifully and intricately made greeting cards that I wanted to buy but was thinking of the practicality of doing so.

Kristine, on the other hand, could not figure out why she was so drawn to the old man beside the card seller. He was selling what looked like king’s beard treats. Those were her favorite! Because I saw how much she wanted them, I told her to go ahead. The seller had a gentle smiling face so no wonder my sister was drawn to him. We bought two packs for HKD 20 each, with six pieces per pack.

To our surprise, granny said something in Korean and my sister’s face lit up to ask if he was Korean. He nodded then proceeded to say something in Chinese. Maybe he was one of those Koreans who grew up in Hong Kong already. My sister jokingly said maybe she could smell the Korean in him that’s why she was drawn to him. Must be because of her Korean boyfriend’s influence.

In Times Square, Kristine and I struggled with the self-service machine that was meant to scan the QR code from her online ticket purchase. Apparently, we were holding her phone too close to the scanner. A staff of the cinema was very kind and helped us with it, even though he had to wait a few minutes because my sister accidentally deleted the e-mail when he approached.

img_4844After securing our tickets, we bought popcorn and drinks, opting to go for the large popcorn and two mega drinks combo, plus a hotdog sandwich to share. I prayed that the hotdog sandwich did not come with lots and lots of onions like it looked in the picture.

The drinks were way too huge for the amount of popcorn. I also wondered why they only had sweet and salty flavors for the popcorn (I want white cheddar!) but we bought the sweet one. It was something like a caramel coated popcorn with a bit of salt to taste. It was also very yummy though I still prefer salty ones when watching movies.

While waiting to be allowed inside the movie house, my sister went to the wash room. As I waited for her to get out, I saw a lady struggling with the self-service machine like we did. To pay the staff’s kindness to us forward, I assisted the lady with getting her ticket. She was very appreciative and looked genuinely relieved that someone helped her.

The cinema itself was really good. We had to sit at the third row from the front but the way the chairs were positioned were still okay to not make our necks hurt from looking up too much. The seats were also better and would not fold up when no one is sitting on them unlike in the Philippines. Here, it’s a struggle to hold on to your bag and popcorn while pushing the seat down before you can sit on it without spilling anything.

What I did not like though was that we had to fall in line and enter only five minutes before the film. In the Philippines, we have around fifteen to twenty minutes to go in before the movie starts. That meant more movie trailers to enjoy too.

Black Panther was awesome! I loved how the sound volume in the cinema was balanced, without any part sounding too soft and another like it was going to blow your eardrums apart. Total experience from buying tickets to the end of the movie is 4.9/5 stars. I only did not like the long queue to go inside the movie house.

We were looking for a place to eat but almost all of the restaurants were closed due to the New Year celebrations. Some were open though and were trying to entice customers to visit their place like Yum Cha. Ooooh, it’s hard to earn money. At least a guy/gal looked cute in his/her costume of a custard bun.

img_4849Kristine and I walked and walked to find a place where we could eat. Our walking led us to Meokbang Korean Bbq & Bar in Kyoto Plaza, Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay. I was excited to see how much different their Korean barbecue was to that in the Philippines. Thankfully, we did not have any trouble finding seats.

The first thing I noticed was that the prices were way more expensive compared here in the Philippines. We spent more than HKD 200 for the two of us (around Php 1,200). While there were lots of delicious side dishes (I loved the corn with melting cheese and the salad!), we only got two plates of meat. One was thinly sliced, bacon-looking kind and one with really thick cut, sort of like a pork belly.

In the Philippines, we pay from Php 399 to around Php 699 (depending on the place), for unlimited meat. Yup! You read that right. UNLI-FREAKING-LIMITED! We also get side dishes too. Lots of them!

But since only my sister and I were going to eat, what we ordered and everything else they served along were already very satisfying. Plus, we still had leftover drinks from the massive paper cup (though I personally think it would not qualify for just a cup anymore) we bought at the cinema.

On our way back  home, we were trying to see if the grandpa selling the king’s beard treat was still around since my sister and I loved it so much. We were sad that we did not see him where we found him that afternoon. We just thought that hopefully he had sold all of his goods by that time. A few more steps later though, we found him again! He just transferred locations.

We immediately approached him and when he saw me and Kristine, he smiled and recognized us. We bought two more and told him to keep the small change left from our payment. He seemed surprise and I think he asked us if we were sure so we made gestures to say it was for him already as our Chinese New Year gift. The way he smiled touched my heart. It was a genuine smile that seemed like while he was happy to keep the change, he was more happy that someone extended him the privilege to.

He seemed like a very nice grandpa. It kind of makes me wish I had more loving and sweet memories with my own grandfathers. From my dad’s side, Grandpa Jose died when I was around three to five years old. From my mom’s side, Abuelito Lorenzo passed away when I was eight. I don’t remember much of the rare visits we had with them growing up. I never got to meet my grandma from mom’s side either.

I wish I had a pic taken with the granny in Hong Kong.

We went home soon after but we rode the bus this time instead of the tram. We were so full from dinner and wanted to continue watching the Korean drama shows we had lined up.

A black tram passed by while we were waiting for the bus. It got me thinking that while we did not have so many activities for that Friday, I surely experienced a lot more than I expected to.

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How did you celebrate Chinese New Year last February 16? Were you in Hong Kong too? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.

If you want to read my other experiences in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year, click on the following:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

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DIY Jasmine Lavender Clear Soap

“Jasmine is just the most delicate and beautiful scent.” -Natalie Portman

When I was a little girl, my Mom had a jasmine-scented perfume that I loved. I think it was a Jasmin Ulric perfume although I cannot be very sure. I do remember the black and gold box and the most beautiful scent I have ever smelled!

Mom used to tell me that jasmine was the favorite scent of angels. For that reason, I wanted to spray on her perfume to see if angels will appear. At one point, I took a chair and used it so I climb the countertop and reach the cupboard where she hid her perfume. I managed to get it but I slipped on my way down and slammed onto the floor. Surprisingly, I did not have any scratch, bruise or fracture despite the height of my fall. Maybe an angel caught me and made sure I was safe.

After successfully making a lavender and rosemary soap recently, I was bent on making more soaps. Today, I saw a post on making jasmine lavender soap from Bulk Apothecary. I had all the ingredients on hand so I proceeded to make it though I halved the recipe.

I got my clear glycerine melt-and-pour soap base from PurpleButterflyCraft for Php 115 for 500 grams. I used about 4/5 of the block to reach 1 and 1/2 cups of soap.

I still used the full 1 tsp of lavender buds that the recipe called for. The lavender buds were from my previous purchase when I made the lavender and rosemary soap.

For vitamin e, I bought Myra capsules from the pharmacy. They were not very expensive but were not cheap either. I had to pierce the capsules to get the vitamin e oil out which took some time to do since I had to squeeze out 1/2 tbsp worth of the oil. I will try to find vitamin e in a bottle with a dropper next time.

My white jasmine essential oil was from another online shop that I lost the details of. It came with a dropper which made it easier to use the right amount (1/2 tsp for my soap). I believe it was repackaged from a larger, more expensive bottle.

I chopped the soap base into small cubes for easier melting. I popped it in the microwave and heated it for 2 minutes at 30-second intervals. Then, I poured the vitamin e, lavender buds and the white jasmine essential oil. I mixed them only a little bit to avoid air bubbles before pouring them into a mold.

Yes, I have proper soap molds this time (yay!!!) after buying from Raw Essentials. I got this mold for only Php 171. The shop has other shapes and sizes of soap molds that I am planning to get in the future.

There was a little left over that I poured into a rectangle soap bar mold but it only filled half of one cavity.

After about an hour, the soaps were already set!

Because the glycerin soap base I used was not a suspension-type pf base, most of the buds settled in one place rather than getting suspended in the middle as I would have wanted. It does not matter much to me though.

I wrapped them in clear plastic because glycerin soaps have a tendency to “sweat” and form unsightly beads around them. I think they would make cute gifts!

It lathered up though not as much as the previous soap I made. The scent was not too strong but did leave some trace of the scent on my hands. It left my skin feeling squeaky clean but not too tight and dry. I love it!

Do you have melt-and-pour soap recipes that I should try? What combinations of essential oils would be amazing? Please do let me know in the comments. I would really appreciate it.

Lessons Learned from Ormoc

Our audit in Ormoc was my fourth assignment as a team leader which took place on the fourth month of the year 2017. However, it was my first time in Leyte, my first out-of-town assignment as team leader, my first attempt in trying out the newly rolled out audit procedures, and my first experience handling the post-audit conference without the unit head present. With me on this assignment were Chimie and Venette.

We chose David’s Inn for our accommodations since from there, we only needed to walk to our auditee’s place. The inn was very simple but the staff were very helpful and friendly. They made sure we had everything that we needed.

When we were starting our audit, it was near the BIR deadline for tax filing–April 15. As such, the branch was heavily packed with people who were going to pay their taxes. The line extended outside the branch were people had to wait under the heat of the summer sun. This meant that our work had to be done quickly since the branch personnel could only accommodate us only for very short periods of time or only after 5 PM, by which time there were no more transactions being processed.

We did not venture out anymore to find local restaurants to eat in. We just relied on the messenger, Kuya Peter, to buy our lunches from nearby fast-food restaurants. He always took the initiative to ask us what we wanted to eat since he saw how busy we were and did not have time to go out for lunch. He also always made sure to give us our receipt so we knew how much change we had.

17814612_439541963051649_2954561204187889958_oOver the weekends, Chimie and Venette visited their relatives who lived near Ormoc. I stayed behind to catch up on my sleep. When night came, I ventured out to the plaza to chill.

There was some sort of a singing contest or some show going on so the plaza was so alive with music and laughter. There was a colorful fountain that the children flocked to to enjoy feeling the cool water on their hands.

17807392_439503739722138_4860888637538702037_oI decided to go to Lorenzo’s Cafe because our branch personnel said it was a good place to have good food and refreshing drinks. I ordered a white mocha drink but was requesting that decaffeinated coffee be used instead since I was still recovering from months of daily migraine attacks then. However, they were puzzled as to why I though their white mocha had coffee and told me it was coffee-free. It was my turn then to be puzzled how mocha could not have coffee. Ha-ha! At least the drink was good and the squid rings I ordered tasted yummy.

Chimie and Venette returned on Sunday night and we went to Seoul Jeong Restaurant to satisfy our cravings for Korean food.

The first thing we noticed in the restaurant was the wall with beautiful paintings of wings. Naughty or nice? Pick your pair of wings then take flight (or actually, just pose for a photo). Chimie surely had a good time posing with her wings.

17879897_440566706282508_8428883398008789163_oThe food serving was enough to satisfy our hunger and they tasted pretty okay. The servers were nice too. There were only the three of us eating that time so we had their whole, undivided attention to ourselves.

Before we left for our afternoon flight back to Manila, the branch personnel convinced us to at least visit Lake Danao. They asked Kuya Peter to accompany us going there.

17807448_441674236171755_6445029257211875447_oAt just eighteen kilometers away from Ormoc City, we got there pretty quickly. The sun was beautifully shining and there was no indication that it will rain later on.

Our first stop was the viewing deck for which I actually  had high expectations. Apparently, it looked very simple which made it adorable.

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The beautiful body of water is protected by the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act of 1992. They also told us that Lake Danao has a guitar-like shape.

I do not know whether the viewing deck was not high enough or if I was just really short, but I did not see the guitar-shape they were talking about. Despite that, I must admit that the lake was really spectacular and a refreshing sight to behold. Maybe I should have invested in a drone with camera.

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We paid to ride a floating cottage at Php 150 per hour plus some environmental fees. Kuya Peter did all the maneuvering of the cottage for us which required a lot of pulling of a rope. He was very quiet, probably inwardly laughing at us and our antics.

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Top to bottom: Me, Chimie and Venette. Standing at the back is Kuya Peter. He didn’t know he was included in the frame.

17807529_441526279519884_5683157985349994784_oWe dipped our feet in the water that was very cool to the touch. Chimie initially didn’t want to, joking that the tilapia might eat her feet.

There was not much to do on the cottage since we did not bring any food and we weren’t going to stay long. We spent our time there enjoying the beauty of the lake and taking photos; lots of them! I even managed to capture a picture of Chimie trying to get inside the loop of the hanging rope and bring it to her waist. Unfortunately, it looked like she wanted to hang herself.

We joked about how she was not supposed to give up despite our very, very, very stressful job and that she was still going to be a team leader soon. Looking back, I wished we didn’t joke about wanting to die to escape the burden of our job, no matter how innocent of a joke it was.

We left Ormoc on a Tuesday. Four days later, Saturday, Kuya Peter passed away. They could not say whether it was a cardiac arrest or a stroke. He still had very young children whose mother was no longer with them.

But life’s like that. It can go on even if you no longer want it to or it can stop even when you would have wanted to remain. We do not know how much time we have with the people we deal with every single day. That’s why it pays to always be kind and to always come from a place of compassion even if people can be overbearing at times.

If we had known, maybe we could have spent more time talking to him despite his being shy. Maybe we could have been even more nicer towards him. It was too late for that now though. My only consolation is that at least, we once got Kuya Peter to smile and the camera captured that moment.

Back to Hong Kong (Part 1)

Chinese New Year, February 16, happened to be a Friday. As one of the non-working holidays in the Philippines, it meant having a long weekend to enjoy. My sister invited me to spend it with her in Hong Kong.

UntitledI booked my flight a little less than a month before. By this time, however, flights were already very expensive considering that I wanted to leave on the day of the holiday. Fortunately, I had 8,416 GetGo points from all of my out-of-town audit assignments in my previous job that I accumulated from flying with Cebu Pacific Air most of the time. So, instead of paying around Php 30,000 for a round trip ticket, I paid only Php 9,329.17 with 15kg baggage allowance for both flights! Not only that, I did not have to pay to move my seats because for both flights, I was assigned window seats. Yay!

On the day of my flight, I opted to pay my travel tax (Php 1,620) first before dropping my check-in baggage at the counters. During my previous flight to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, we checked in our bags first before paying the travel tax so we had to go back for our boarding passes afterwards.

IMG_4778One of the perks of an early morning flight (before 6 am) is that the queue for every thing you have to fall in line for is still very short. Total time spent from travel tax payment queue to bag drop was only 30 minutes, 20 of which was because of the number of bags for checking in at the bag drop counters. Thankfully,  I already checked in online since Cebu Pacific allows it seven days before the flight for international flights.

The queue at the immigration counters took around 10 minutes since there were not much officers yet at that time. I was asked where I worked and had my company ID ready in case it will be required from me.

I was all set 2 hours before my flight. The plane was already parked and waiting so I was not worried anymore about changes in boarding gates. Thankfully, the flight was not delayed.

It was my first time to fly just close to sunrise so I was able to see its beauty from high up in the sky. It was more beautiful than I imagined it to be! This is why I love window seats. No matter how much I have flown from one place to another over the years, I have not gotten sick of the sky, the clouds, and every thing else that I could see from up high.

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You know it’s HK when elevators are steep!

There was no turbulence at all during this flight (thank God!) and at some point, I did fall asleep. I arrived in Hong Kong and was able to get out of the aircraft at around 7:55 am. Since I made sure to fill out the information card that tourists are required to present at the immigration counter during the flight, I could go straight to the immigration before the queue became longer!

For some reason, the immigration people were not as uptight as I remembered them during my past two trips to Hong Kong. I heard them say hello and reply “you’re welcome” after we thanked them. I never heard them speak in the past. Maybe it was because of the new year. Still, thank you Hong Kong immigration peeps!

I hurried to the baggage reclaim carousel because I was afraid that someone else will get my suitcase by mistake. Upon getting there though, bags were delayed. At least, they had a sign telling you when your baggage is arriving already.

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I met my sister at Arrival Hall A and we took a taxi to get to her apartment in Wan Chai. Afterwards, we went to Jollibee near her place to have our breakfast. Typical Pinoy. Ha-ha!

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After breakfast, we both slept in her apartment. My work starts at 3PM and ends at 12AM. From work, I just went home to freshen up and check my stuff again before making sure to get to the airport by 2:30AM. I have not slept since 10 AM of the previous day so I was feeling very sleepy already. We slept until around 2PM before deciding to just watch Black Panther at Times Square. My sister bought the tickets online.

I was very glad to be back in Hong Kong because I missed my sister very much already. The trip was not one that has been planned for a long time but it was a nice birthday gift to myself (my birthday was last February 11). While it was not my first time to fly alone, it was my first time to fly outside the Philippines by myself and it was such a fun experience.

Thank you, Cebu Pacific for the safe, very smooth, and timely flight!

Read the rest of my adventures in Hong Kong:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Parting Time

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.” -Carol Saline

Going back home in an hour. I’m going to miss my sister again.

I remember the first time I left Hong Kong alone, leaving my sister behind because she was going to be working here already. I told myself I was not going to cry and even put on eye makeup so that I will feel bad about ruining it. A few minutes before we left her hotel, I was crying and refused to go out because I felt so sad. I had gotten used to being with her all the time and could not imagine what the house will be like without laughing, fighting and bickering with her.

More than a year later, I still feel sad every time we have to part. Every time I leave Hong Kong, it feels like I’m leaving a limb behind.

Maybe I’ll get completely used to the distance one day. Maybe I won’t. Maybe we’ll get to live near each other one day, whether it be in or out of the Philippines. Maybe we won’t.

Wherever life may take us, I hope we both will always be happy.

Occidental-ly in Awe

In June of 2017, I was able to go for the first time to Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. We were six, split up into two groups to audit two large branches in the area. Karen and Clare were in my team while Claud and Yassi were in Joan’s.

Known as the city of smiles, the locals were very hospitable and approachable. One cannot help but think the locals have so many things to be happy about. Sometimes I wonder if all the sugar that are massively available in the area cause them to have so much energy to keep those smiles on their faces all day. I liked the people of Bacolod.

We stayed at O Hotel for the entire duration of our stay and found the place to be clean and cozy. We got connecting rooms which made our stay at the hotel more fun because we could just leave the connecting doors open and act as if we had one huge room to ourselves. The only issue we had was with the elevator because it would close very quickly before all of us could get in. Make sure someone goes in first to press the “Open” button on the control panel.

When you are in Bacolod, you MUST try their chicken! On our first day of audit, we ate at Chicken House in the Shopping area. I was expecting Mang Inasal-like chicken but my order turned out different. Still, the chicken was delicious and so unlike the usual fast-food chain chicken we are more used to. And because we could not get enough of their chicken, we went to Manokan County on a separate occasion. I forgot which specific food house we went to but I think every place offer delicious food anyway.

There are a lot of food choices in Bacolod. We once ate at Bob’s Restaurant and while I cannot remember any particular food that we tried there, I remember having a pleasant food experience. Although, serving time took a little longer than expected. It is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and are always packed with diners.

IMG_1349Lory Byron’s Baby Back Ribs offered the most delicious baby back ribs I have ever had! The serving was huge despite its very affordable price. Plain rice is already good enough to eat with it already since the ribs are really tasty, juicy and tender. It’s the melt-in-your-mouth kind that will leave you asking for more. No one will stop you from getting the Java rice though.

When we wanted to pretend to be healthy eaters, we went to Kuppa Coffee & Tea for their Soup and Salad Bar where you can have as much as you like. I do not remember the exact price but I am pretty sure it is less than Php 300. They do offer sweets to indulge in after you have had your fill of leaves and liquid. Their French macarons were a hit to me.

Negros Occidental is very progressive because of the sugar industry. Expect there to be A LOT of sweets that are very delicious but also very, very affordable. BongBong’s is the best place to get piyaya! They also offer really good barquillos and caramel tarts. On the other hand, I really loved the napoleones from Merzci.

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Our cake slices from Calea

If you’re feeling a little indulgent, try the cakes in the city! Believe me, they are abundant in the area. We went to Calea to satisfy our sugar cravings but it took us a while to eat because the cakes looked so good that we simply HAD to take photos first.

The cake flavors at Calea were not your usual chocolate, mocha or black forest flavors. It would be fun to eat here with friends so each of you can order a slice. Share you cake slices among yourselves while enjoying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I loved their coffee crumble the mud pie flavors the best.

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Cakes at Café Bob’s

Other places to get good cakes from are Café Bob’s and Felicia’s Pastry Shop.

Despite how good the food is in Bacolod, one cannot simply spend every day eating and eating. Negros Occidental also has tourist spots that one can easily reach from Bacolod.

Our first trip was to Silay City where one can see beautiful old houses that have become heritage sites. The city is just a Ceres bus away from Bacolod and is perfect for people who love learning about history and culture of places they visit. Silay’s heritage houses are just as beautiful as the heritage spots in Vigan.

For our first stop, we went to Balay Negrense, the ancestral house of Don Victor F. Gaston, where he lived with his twelve children after his wife died. There was a beautiful garden that led to actual house and grounds that probably served as playing area for the children before.IMG_0025

The first things that caught my attention inside the house were the beautiful white dresses. Thankfully, I did not see them suddenly floating as if someone invisible was wearing them and walking around.

I loved how they were able to preserve a lot of the family’s possessions like the vintage wheelchair that I saw. I wonder how my sister would have fared if the wheelchair she had after her knee surgery was like the vintage one I saw. Then again, MPFL reconstruction surgeries were not yet a thing in those times.

The entrance fee for this house ranges from Php 30 to Php 60. We did not have anyone to tour us around and were pretty much left to our own devices.

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I wanted to take a picture of the house but I was going to get run over by cars if I tried.

The next house we visited was the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum that was owned by Don Bernardino and Doña Ysabel Jalandoni. For this house, we had a tour guide with us to show us around and give us a background on the things that we could find inside.

This house was not much more modern compared to Balay Negrense that was constructed ten years before the completion of this house.  This was much smaller too but still looked very cozy.

IMG_0225I found a harp in the living room and I wondered who among their children knew how to play it. It was my first time to see an actual harp which I have always been curious how one could play without being confused with all the strings.

Unlike Balay Negrense that is situated in a quieter location, the streets outside the Bernardo Jalandoni Museum were busy and buzzing with vehicles. There were also a lot of people around, probably running some errands.

Not very far from the museum was the Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House which is currently housing the Silay branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation.  I am not sure how the bank was able to put up this branch in an ancestral house but I heard that it was also preserving the vintage feel inside the branch.

Unfortunately, the bank was closed so we could not catch a glimpse inside. However, we took advantage of the ATMs available because our next stop was to buy pasalubong from El Ideal Bakery which was established way back in the 1920’s!

The bakery is not merely one of your usual establishments. It has been part of Silay’s rich culture because of its recipes. For pasalubong, make sure to get their señorita pastries. They are truly yummy!

After enjoying our trip in Silay, we took a jeepney to The Ruins. We paid a premium because we did not know how to get there from Silay but the driver and his companion offered to bring us there at Php 50 per head, I think? It took less than an hour to get to The Ruins in Talisay.

If you are looking for a great love story in Negros, you will find it here. Be warned though that the story was not one with a happy ending and that it began with a tragedy. The story I am about to share was what I picked up from the tour guide who was speaking to guests at that time.

img_03121.jpgDon Mariano Ledesma Lacson fell in love with Maria Braga, a Portuguese woman he met in Macau. It did not take long for them to get married and to settle in Silay. Already blessed with ten children, Maria became pregnant with their eleventh child. But, that child was not meant to see the world. A bathroom accident had Maria and her unborn child bidding goodbye to their family.

IMG_0313Heartbroken, Don Mariano wanted to find a way to immortalize his wife’s memory. He built a mansion adjacent to their ancestral house and dedicated it to Maria. The mansion was beautiful and grand, eventually earning the title of the “Taj Mahal of Negros.” It reminded me of the Temple of Leah, dubbed as the “Taj Mahal of Cebu.” Both were gestures of love of the husbands to their spouses.

Unfortunately, the mansion was burned down during the Japanese occupation in the efforts to keep it from being used by the Japanese as their headquarters. Despite the tragedy, the skeletal frame of the house remains intact, as if refusing to bow down to any attempts to erase this testament of love.

The following day, we decided to visit Lakawon in Cadiz Viejo. It’s like the Boracay of Negros Occidental because of its white sand. We took another Ceres bus to get to the boat terminal to reach Lakawon. The fees you have to pay can be pretty hefty. Terminal fee is at Php 20, entrance fee is Php 100, boat fee is at Php 150 (roundtrip), and the smaller huts that are good for six people are at Php 600. The food at the restaurant is also a little pricey because ingredients still have to be transported by boat to reach the island.

IMG_1088The verdict? I have been to better resorts but I cannot deny that the place was very, very beautiful! The water was so blue and contrasted prettily against the white sand. The huts were very cute too! Fortunately, because it is not yet as popular as Boracay, there were not much people around to make it feel too jam packed for comfort.

I did not join the swimming because of girly reasons so I just took their pictures and watched over our stuff in the huts. For someone who did not swim, I tanned the most among us.

You know what happens when you go to beautiful places like this? Photo shoots!!! IMG_1199

IMG_1324Soon after, we went back to the terminal where we entered. That was when we discovered black jellyfishes that looked so cute but we dared not go anywhere near. Not to worry because these were not anywhere near the resort.

We waited a few minutes for a Ceres bus that was going back to Bacolod. I thought it was going to be our last adventure in Negros Occidental but I was wrong.

June 26, 2017 was declared as a holiday because of Eid’l FitrI. This meant one more day to go looking for adventures before we went home to Manila. The girls were bent on visiting the Campuestohan Highland Resort in Talisay City and so we prayed for good weather because it was a little too cloudy for comfort that morning. We were lucky to find a guy who offered car rental services to bring us there because we did not know how to get to Campuestohan from Bacolod.

The resort had many attractions like the zipline, rope course, sky bicycle, hamster wheel, horseback riding and anchors away. Because I was getting cramps that day (it’s tough being a girl), I volunteered to take their pictures while they hopped on the rides.

The first thing they did was the hamster wheel. Clare was so cute during the course because she started walking later compared to Claud. But, she was so scared that she walked very fast and caught up with Claud just after a few moments. Just look at her go!

They said it was not totally scary because they had all the safety gears on. The whole ordeal was tiring though and that was going to prevent you from making the wheel roll forward as easily as when you started. Glad to say that the girls conquered the ride without any mishap!

IMG_0461There was also a gigantic King Kong made of stone that was great for taking pictures. Unfortunately, some people had no notion of waiting for their turn to get their pictures taken so I only had very few shots of just my friends without strangers in the background. Before you get any closer, please make sure that you are not the jumpy kind of person and are not easily scared by loud, roaring sounds (insert naughty smile here).

If you are a fan of Kung Fu Panda, you will find him and the squad here too! Choose your favorite and strike a pose with these amazing heroes.IMG_0487

After striking poses with these cool dudes, the girls went on to hop on the zipline. It was not very high so I doubt it was as thrilling as those in South Cotabato and in Bukidnon. But, it was a good starter for those who want to get into the groove of ziplining.

We tried the anchor’s away ride next and I regret every single moment of it not because it sucked, but because I terribly hated the feeling it gave me like my heart was going to drop several feet high. There were several instances too that I thought my heart was going to stop. I am never going on a similar ride ever again! But if you have a strong set of heart and lungs and is not afraid of it, go ahead. I am sure you will enjoy the ride.

IMG_0589The place is filled with cute attractions that are perfect for taking pictures. Feel like living in a cottage? Take a picture in front of Raphaella Mill! A restaurant is just nearby in case you want to grab a bite first.

If you want to be shouting “Knight to H-3!” like Ron Weasley, check out the Ryan Rupent Chess Garden. The cute house has an adorable chess garden that you can play in!IMG_0604

I think you can also pick up the chess pieces to playfully hit your friends with. But, no matter what happens, never resort to violence even if your friends are trying to photobomb your attempts at taking a picture with the giant chess piece.

The resort also has its own set of mascots that children will love. We were invited by one of the place’s official photographers to take a picture with two of their mascots—a rabbit and a bear.

Both looked very cute and we had fun taking pictures with them…

…until the bear decided he liked our bags too much and seemed to have developed a crush on Yassi.

That bear had one hell of a grip! Luckily, we managed to go home with our bags and Yassi too.

Our assignment in Negros Occidental was not without its challenges. Still, we managed to make the most of our free time and got to explore places outside Bacolod. I am pretty sure there are still a lot of places we have not seen and I look forward to seeing them again when I get the chance to go back.

Riddles Over Steamed Cakes

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

After moving into my new job, I have to admit that I do miss my teammates from where I used to work. Before I left, I made them promise never to forget me and that we will always make it a point to find time to bond.

Two and a half years ago, Jana and I were hired as internal auditors of a bank. She was hired two weeks ahead of me though. We were together for our first and second assignments and relied on each other greatly as we learned the ropes of our job. You could say that we have formed quite a bond after everything we have been through at work.

IMG_4326Last month, I got to visit my old workplace and asked Jana to have lunch with me. By that time, we have not seen each other for almost a month and I terribly missed her so. Our feet led us to XO 46 Heritage Bistro in Makati.

Having an English name, I did not expect the restaurant’s atmosphere and ambiance to be heavily Filipino. The servers wore barong Tagalog and Filipiniana gowns. They also had huge smiles on their faces as they curtsied to the customers and greeted them in straight, deep Filipino. 18699308_464711953867983_3013890903851372601_oThe menu made use of the Filipino names of the food they served although the descriptions were in English, probably to help the foreigners have an idea of what the food was made of.

It felt good to catch up with my friend. I terribly missed going home with her. Since her home was in the street next to my place, we shared Uber rides going home every time we were both at the head office. When we worked on weekends, she sometimes brought her car and would pick me up so we can go to the office together. IMG_4329We had lots of plans about stuff to do and restaurants to try but our busy schedules sometime prevented those plans from materializing.

We were served these cute little steamed cakes called puto along with plain and garlic butter. With these appetizers was a rolled piece of paper containing a bugtong (riddle). In the olden times, Filipinos bonded by guessing what the riddles referred to.

For our actual lunch, we ordered Crispy Binagoongan (crispy fried pork tossed in shrimp paste) and Tokwa’t Baboy XO Style (tofu and pork). I am realizing only now how unhealthy our choice of combination was. At least the tofu and pork were accompanied by lots of veggies. Ha-ha!

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Crispy Binagoongan (left) and Tokwa’t Baboy XO Style (right).

Theirs was the best binagoongan I have ever tried.The shrimp paste where the crispy fried pork was tossed was not overly fishy. The amount of shrimp paste used was also just right to give the meat a light coating so it was not overwhelmingly salty.

The pork and tofu dish was also delicious. Normally, I only eat the sizzling tofu from Max’s Restaurant (my absolute favorite tofu dish!) and avoid all other fried tofu dishes because I am picky when it comes to that food. This one though, I absolutely liked (although the sizzling tofu is still more delicious in my opinion).

We had a good time talking about new assignments, new challenges and new activities we plan to take together with our other good friends. Conversations do get better when accompanied with really good food.

The food served by the restaurant are truly a bit on the pricey side. I don’t think a regular employee would drop by every day for lunch here because that will really damage one’s budget. From time to time though, one may wish to treat himself/herself to really delicious food. This place looks promising and judging by how packed it was when we went there to eat, I guess it’s worth the price.

My only disappointment though was that the servers tended to look down or focus solely on whatever task they had in mind. For that reason, they would sometimes fail to notice when a customer is trying to get their attention. I believe I spent a good five minutes calling out or waving at the servers to get our bill before somebody approached us. That is something that can be worked on though.

Have you tried eating in XO 46 Heritage Bistro or any other Filipino restaurant? What were your favorite dishes?

Bows and Arrows

“It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want.”

-Aristotle

I am no athlete but I have tried my hand at a few sports like dance, volleyball, badminton, and tennis. While I greatly enjoyed those sports, I have been longing to try archery because of the books I’ve read and the movies I watched (I had a huge crush on Orlando Bloom’s character, Legolas Greenleaf).

While browsing through vouchers for leisure activities at MetroDeal, I finally found one for an introductory lesson to archery. I immediately bought two vouchers and reserved a slot at 2:00 PM on a Sunday.

The lesson was given by The Archery Academy in Greenhills, San Juan. It was founded by a group of archers who are very passionate about the sport. They want to get more people exposed to archery and so they offer lessons for beginners and returning archers.

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I arrived 30 minutes early and since I was the only one  who was booked for the slot, I got to start early too. Coach Che Che first helped me wear the arm guard before giving me the quiver with three arrows initially. She then proceeded to teach me about the waiting and shooting lines, the parts of the bow, how to place my arrow and finally, how to shoot.

I admit I initially thought I was going to see through some device, kind of like where you look when shooting a sniper. I also thought I had to keep one eye closed to estimate if I was on target already. I was so wrong. This was traditional archery where you use your instincts to hit your target.

IMG_0004There were black and white targets that they give you for free. If you want the colored target, it was available for Php 50 only. For my first attempt, I opted to select a smiley face with an apple on its head. Predictable, I know. There were seven other free designs available.

My initial reaction was to be worried I might embarrass myself by not hitting anything and failing to shoot the arrow properly. Coupled with the fact that I had no “sight” to guide me where I’ll hit, I was skeptical about my first shot. Thankfully, Coach Che Che was there to guide me and from time to time, tell me when to release my arrow.

In my line of work as an auditor, I have to be very keen to details. However, I have never used my focus as much as I have used it today. Every little move I made, every single shake of my hand, and every second I took before shooting greatly affected the result of my shots. Coach Gio, who was around during my lesson, also gave me tips on how to shoot better.

Also, I can be an impulsive person (especially when shopping) and have difficulty distinguishing instinct for impulse. This activity was a good exercise for trusting my instincts and being patient.

Soon, I was shooting arrows and having a good time.

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Missed the apple by a couple of centimeters. Gave the smiley a “thermometer” though.

I realized I tended to hit either too high or mostly to the left. Whether that meant anything about my vision, I do not know. I was just so happy that at least, I was hitting within the backstop.

Half-way through my lesson there were others who arrived. I think they were scheduled for 3PM but arrived early. Coached Gio attended to them and so a few minutes later, there were others with me on the shooting line.

Coach Gio and Coach Che Che made sure to attend to everyone taking the lesson. I highly appreciated that they did not pressure you into hitting a bull’s eye. Still, they gave encouragement when they know you did well on a shot.

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I did manage to hit a little close to the middle point of my target. I noticed that when I relax and waited longer before shooting, the nearer to my main target I hit.

Fifteen minutes before my time was up, Coach Che Che placed a balloon in the middle of my target. The balloon was bigger than the smallest circle on my target but it was still very challenging to hit.

My first attempts were close but not enough to pop the balloon.

A few more shots later…

Yay!!! I popped it! Here, watch:

I greatly enjoyed the one-hour lesson I had and hope to attend more sessions in the future.

I got to bring home my targets. Maybe I’ll do a comparison of all the targets I will have as I learn more about archery to see if I am improving at all. Ha-ha!

Have you tried archery before? Any tips for beginners like me?

10 Things I Love About Hong Kong (Aside from Disneyland)

I accompanied my sister, Kristine, to Hong Kong in August of 2016 to help her move for her new job there. It was my first trip outside the country and so I was excited to get my first stamp on my passport.

The second time I went there was to celebrate the last days of 2017 and to welcome 2018. This time, I traveled with Mom so we can visit my sister and meet her boyfriend for the first time.

On both occasions, I flew to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. I love this airline especially when I get to select seats with so much leg space! The crew (both ground and air) were very pleasant people. The snacks they served were also very yummy. Sorry, Philippine Airlines. I still love the asado bun though.

Here are the things I loved about Hong Kong in random order:

1. Banking is convenient.

When my sister opened her payroll account, she just gave her ID and everything else was taken care of for her. Account opening did not take very long even if terms and conditions were discussed with her (something that is not normally done here but is now being required for consumer protection).

Also, I noticed that one bank had machines other than your ATM for cash withdrawal purposes. They had machines for cash deposit (BPI and BDO have those already, thankfully), cheque deposit, and even passbook update! These lessen the volume of transactions inside the actual branch because you do most of your banking transactions yourself! Even on weekends!

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As a former bank auditor, how I wished these were widely available in the Philippines too. It would greatly lessen the workload of the branch personnel.

IMG_45302. They promote the use of reusable bags for shopping.

They sell a lot of shopping bags in big sizes and cheaper prices compared to how much SM Malls (especially the groceries) charged for theirs. They charge you extra for every piece of plastic bag you will need for the things you bought.

Also, shopping trolleys are a thing! I did not have to worry about my sister carrying heavy shopping bags (again, worried about the knees) after I bought her a shopping trolley. It also felt like we were becoming one with the locals since a lot of them used trolleys for shopping.

3. The trains and buses were very, very clean!

While the trains can be packed with people, I did not have any problem about being grossed out by their public transport because they were clean. There were no candy wrappers stuck between seats or stains on the floor from spilled drinks.

The airport is also accessible via train or bus so you do not have to spend on Uber. Do not worry about your luggage. They have special places for them in the buses and the trains.

Depending on where you sit, you may find a charging station inside the train from the airport.

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4. Senior citizens are still employable.

I saw senior citizen employees in fast food restaurants and in the train stations. They were very diligent and dedicated to their work. The security personnel in my sister’s place is also an old man, but still quick-witted and agile.

5. Whatever you need, you can get anywhere!

Because rent is very expensive and spaces are small, business establishments often put up several branches instead of renting one very big space. That’s why pharmacies, groceries, fast-food joints, and cosmetic stores are everywhere, making them very accessible wherever you are!

I loved going to their groceries and pharmacies to compare goods that they had over there that were not available here.

6. Food is delicious!

Eating out, albeit a little expensive, is a fun way to enjoy Hong Kong with your friends because they have a lot of restaurants (not talking about fast-food here).

My favorite place for meals is Tai Hing Roast, although I did not like at all that mandarin orange drink they had. The serving was good enough for the price they charged and the food tasted really delicious too!

The funny thing was, when we asked a waiter for utensils, he suddenly reached for the side of our table. We were surprised that it actually had a drawer filled with all the utensils we needed and so much more! The branch we ate in was in Nathan Road, Mong Kok.

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For desserts, I loved the mango treats from Hui Lau Shan in Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. Look at how cute their mango treats are! You may read the adorable story of how the business started here.

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This dessert set is called Mango Romance.

14079606_1046337968820023_6708017745767522034_n7. Public WiFi. Enough said.

Thanks to that, I got to play Pokemon Go (very popular back in 2016) while in a bus.

8. Road and street signs are written in English alphabet!

You will not have to worry about getting lost because you cannot read Chinese characters. Most street and road names are also in English, making them easy to remember. That should not stop anyone from learning Chinese though because it is always fun to learn a new language.

9. They always remind you to take care.

Every time we went to the train station, we always had to take the very long and steep escalators. A recorded reminder was repeatedly played, reminding people to “please hold the handrail” all the time. When we got to the waiting area for the trains, another reminder was played saying to “mind the gap.” They mean the gap between the train and platform.

10. The airport is world-class.

I have no words for how amazing their airport is. NAIA, what happened to you? (T_T)

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I am going back to Hong Kong very soon and hope to find more things to love about the place. Any suggestions?