Tag Archive: Family Travel



Boracay this summer?  So, who’s asking?

Many choose to fly straight into  Caticlan airport to take the 15 minute boat trip to the island.  My family has been here many times before, and each time flew to Kalibo, Aklan, rode the bus for 2 hours to Caticlan, and took the same 15 minute boat ride to the island. The extra 2 hours wasted on the drive is our penalty for not being too brave to take the more direct flight on a smaller aircraft.  Call us chicken!
I remember the kids hopping and leaping each time we arrived in Kalibo.  Never mind the sweltering heat and the long queue for the exit gate.  Years before,  we took the boat all the way to the beachfront. Boracay had 3 boat stations then numbered from 1 to 3.  The high-end, quiet side is in Boat Station No. 1.  The boats then would take us all to Boat Station No. 2 and from there, we just walked to our hotel on either side: left to Station 1, right to Station 2. These days,  all boats disembark in the jetty port on the other side of the island.  From here, one either gets picked up by the hotel or guesthouse or pay a pedicab (motorbikes with cabs) to drive them along the road nearest their lodgings.

Villa Simprosa @Station 2

Villa Simprosa in Boat Stn No. 2


Hardly anyone has heard of Villa Simprosa in the action-packed Boat Station No. 2 area. The owner of the guesthouse is a friend of my niece, and we were just too happy to get rooms good for 4 pax, air-conditioned, with a private toilet and bath with hot water at rates way cheaper than the other lodging places.  No fancy stars for this lodging place, but it’s value for money for a beachfront inn right smack where the action is.

The beachfront is shared with the likes of Red Coconut Hotel, Hey Jude Bar, Boracay Regency, and right off the corner, there’s HAPLOS 24-hour SPA.  Just a short walk along the beach and one finds himself at D MALL, an area littered with eating places with the broadest range of prices.  D Mall has spawned many restaurants which have since branched out in the Manila and Makati areas where the same beach afficionados cum urbanites patronized the place, perhaps reminiscing life on the beach there.  There is definitely no shortage of eating places, either in D Mall or along the beach, in and around Villa Simprosa.  Souvenir shops and tattoo shops littered the beachfront too.  Or just take a beach towel and wait by the shore for someone to come up to you offering an hour’s massage for less than US$7.

Memories of “Old” Boracay

I used to prefer the quiet and peace found in the lodgings nearer Boat Station No. 1.  But my nieces are right,  it is more fun to stay where the action is, in and around Boat Station No. 2.   After all, part of Boracay’s charm is its being a party island. And so, with music blaring from some of the pubs and open air bars, we happily strolled many nights along the beachfront and enjoyed our time here every visit we made. Peace and quiet?  You can still get it……if you wake up early enough.  While most others who partied the night before spend all morning sleeping in,  one can quietly sip his espresso by the beach and wait till the newspapers from Manila arrive in the island.

Taho for Breakfast?

Here in Boracay, we found a breakfast place near Villa Simprosa serving Filipino breakfast meals which consists of garlic fried rice, egg, and a choice of our local sausage or pork/beef slices. The breakfast meal includes coffee too, except that I can be quite picky with my coffee.  Plus I really do prefer a glass of “taho” more than anything else! Now that makes for a truly good morn.

Each time we visited, we would always check  new developments around the island….though this is one form of development that I don’t particularly welcome.  Even my nieces lament the fact that we have “lost the old Boracay” where there were just a handful of hotels beyond 2 storeys, no malls,  and no touts!  We look back to those days when we would linger around the grotto area near the place where Waling Waling Hotel now stands, and wait for the fishermen come home with their catch.  I absolutely enjoyed buying their fresh catch and asking some of the local folks to cook them for us.  There was one particular time we bought about 4 kilos of lapu-lapu (a local fish, called garoupa in some other Asian countries like China) and had it cooked four-ways: grilled, fried, sweet-sour, and with soup.  That, with tons of steaming white rice, made out for one of the best meals we ever had in this island!

Much has changed.  But we always head back. The kids frolic in the beach.  The girls enjoy getting their tan.  And I find myself always heading for the spa.  Oh what a way to spend a good hour and a half.   I love this, really really love this.  For only P300 or under US$7, you get an hour’s massage. It was so good I could not get myself up after an hour, and would invariably go for a half hour more of rubbing.  Now, this is the way to really pamper yourself.  It is definitely more comfortable than lying on the beach to get rubbed.  Here inside the “open air” spa, one still gets the breeze from the sea, but without the sand. You also get spared from all those beach touts who are always peddling boat rides, pearls or some other necklaces, ice cream bars, and seashells.

After a good rub, it is pure luxury to simply sit still by the beach and just waste away the hours reading. 

Here in the island,  it is the norm to take mid-afternoon lunch.  We observed that most others do too.  Either they wake up noon time after all that partying the night before, or they wake up early enough and lingered over their breakfasts as we always do, too full to eat lunch at noon.  One trip to Boracay, the kids were getting so confused that one had to ask repeatedly if he was having lunch or snacks.  Such is life in Boracay. Eat.  Swim. Sleep.   Il Dolce Far Niente. The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.

Postscript:  I checked out some old photos in boracay with the family. Had to smile,  those kids have grown……as did our waistlines! 😦


This beats many a collector’s dream.  I am not sure whether to thank the collector,  to envy him, or what.

 

 

We accepted a friend’s invitation to spend the weekend in Pilar, Bataan and prepared ourselves for a somewhat dull weekend visiting the local market, Mt. Samat War Memorial Shrine in Pilar, Bataan,  and enjoying fresh fruits in season. “Ciudad de Acuzar” was not part of our itinerary. Neither have we even heard of this heritage town where the owner’s collections included many historical turn of the century houses, town hall, school and chapel!

 

Just 3 hours north from Manila

 

The drive  northwest of Manila via an expressway and paved roads  took more than 3 hours. Pilar is a sleepy town in Bataan.  Right beside a ricefield with a view of Mt. Samat, our host’s house promised a lot of rest , peace and quiet.  History lessons reminded us of the annual celebration of the “Fall of Bataan” in 1942.  Every April 9,  which was declared a public holiday,  we remember our fallen brothers who gallantly defended our land. The Shrine on Mt. Samat was built in loving memory of these brave Filipino and American soldiers who died  during World War II.  Along with the Fall of Bataan, this province also reminds us of  the famous  Death March from Bagac and  Mariveles, Bataan all the way to Capas, Tarlac. Rich in history,  it was ironic that what we remember most from our Bataan weekend would be the “heritage town” put up by a local land developer in Bagac, Bataan.

 

The “Old Town” Collection

 

Uprooted from various areas within the country were a small chapel, the entire turn of the century school building, and many ancestral houses to form part of the new “old town” representing Mr. Acuzar’s collections. This development inevitably invited many critics to scream foul, asserting that these historical landmarks are best left and preserved wherever they were. So much furor for the transfer of all these heritage structures to satisfy one man’s dream collection!  At the same time, there were also those who hail the transfer of all these ancestral and historical structures to one area with a good promise that the owner/collector will preserve the structures.  Though a private collection and property,  “Ciudad de Acuzar” is bound to attract a lot of attention, and likely curious visitors.

 

 

We saw a lot of activity in this heritage town during our visit, where men worked on cobble-stoned pathways and reassembled doors, windows and posts from some old near-forgotten buildings in some faraway place.  The restoration and reassembly of these old buildings in this single area begs a debate on the propriety of such a collection. Will these structures now be better preserved here , or best left where they were?  I have no answers to that.  I only know that I feel lucky  viewing all these “collections” in a single afternoon.  Ciudad de Acuzar may either be your heritage town or modern day theme park, depending on your take.  As they say,  the Philippines “spent 400 years in a convent, and 50 years in Hollywood”.  (That’s nearly 400 years under the spaniards, another 50 years of American rule)

 

 

By the way,  at the time I visited, the place is not open to the public.  The site is in this 60 hectare property somewhere in Barrio Pag-asa in Bagac town, 150 km from Manila, or a 2½-hr drive through NLEX and SCTEX.  Not sure, but I hear the Museum Foundation runs tours .   The property makes for  a good day trip.  Check out their link here.   

P.S.  The property was featured recently in a major daily. Here is the link.  

More photos can be viewed from my TravelBlog site. 




 

 

My niece Suzette teased me about my blogging only about my foreign travels, never on my local trips.  Gave that a thought, and decided I should have really done some. Not so much for myself, but more for those who may wish to check out some of our local sites.  Frankly,  I enjoyed these trips around our islands just as much as I enjoyed my foreign travels.  Perhaps I only felt compelled to write about my travel adventures when they last longer than 4 nights, never for shorter adventures. But I am changing all that now. So here goes………..

 

From Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol

I actually meant to bring my other niece Mayette for this trip, but she’s busy.  So, Suzette got lucky.  Started our adventure with a mid-morning flight via Philippine Air Lines from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol. An uneventful flight of an hour and a half or so.  The small Tagbilaran airport certainly demands improvement since the province attracted more tourists to check out the Chocolate Hills, tarsiers,  Baclayon Church, a few colonial houses, and the beaches of Panglao.  Small and seemingly chaotic,  we actually did not have any problem retrieving our bags and driving out of the small airport for our next destination – Panglao Island Nature Hotel.

Panglao Island Nature Hotel

Our resort hotel welcomed us with a refreshing juice from squeezed dalandan (local oranges) and a couple of guitar-strumming singers.  As soon as we checked in,  we glimpsed a very beautiful beach beyond the swimming pools surrounding the reception hut/lounge. The infinity pool promised to provide a relaxing afternoon under the sun.  It was exciting to find a small manmade island just beyond the beach area where some dinners are served.  We were told we will enjoy one of our dinners in that tiny island.

From the reception area, we rode a small golf buggy to take us to our cottage where we would spend the next 4 days. The forest cottage is not very far . We could have walked.  Even with our bags.  Nice and roomy.  The first item I check is always, always the bathroom and toilet. I was not disappointed. They could have put another room there. The walk in closet was a pleasant change. There was even a jacuzzi!  The 2 beds promised that Suzette and I will not be breathing and snoring next to each other.  We also found a good sized balcony though there was not a view except passing buggies bound for next door cottages.  The basket of fruits included my favorite mangoes. I was happy with that.

After a walk around the resort,  we headed for one of the 3 restaurants in the resort.  We strongly recommend Bohol’s famous yam soup.  It has the texture of a pumpkin soup, but this local version won’t disappoint. My first time to try it.  They don’t serve this back in Manila.  Yummy yam!  The other dishes served are fairly standard hotel food.  I will not rave about it.  You’d have your standard barbecue, breaded fish, green salad,  etc.  It fills up ,  but won’t sate, if you know what I mean.

Our Riverboat

Bohol Bee Farm, Baclayon Church and Museum, Loboc Museum, River Cruise, Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers

We spent the next day the best way any tourist can.  Started off the day with breakfast in Bohol Bee Farm. We were served organic Chef’s salad, homemade jams and marmalades,  pates and cheese spread, home-baked pumpkin bread and other pastries.  They even have their own coffee made from corn!  Eggs, local sausages called longganizas, meat loaf, various fruits, etc.  After that hearty breakfast,  a guide gave us a short tour cum lecture on how bees make honey,  what plants went to our breakfast salad,  the different flowers and plants around the area.  There was even a small store where one can buy their homemade jams ,  cheese spreads, honey, local biscuits, and native bags. I  got a couple of bags.

From the Bee Farm,  we drove towards Baclayon Church and Museum. I have seen this church some years back when the province has yet to make a mark on the tourism map. There have been some improvements, but my heart tells me the local government can do a lot more.  Tourism in the area has vastly improved. Perhaps ten fold if not more.  It’s easy to guess that.  My niece Suzette is making her first visit and I can tell she is impressed with our colonial history. Having grown up in the city,  she has had not much exposure to vestiges of our Spanish heritage.  The churches she goes to are all of modern architecture, unless she goes to Intramuros or a few other selected churches whenever she’s invited to weddings.  But our everyday church is a modern church.  Baclayon gives us a glimpse of how it was in olden times.  It helped that our guide prepared us by citing the story of the Spanish Expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna’s Blood Compact in the island of Bohol.  Now, let me explain a few things here.  Datu Sikatuna is a local chieftain in Bohol.  The Blood Compact is a ritual where both leaders seal their friendship by shedding a few drops of blood from their arms (i suppose they have to make neat cuts first…) , mix in some wine, and drink them.  Sounds very primitive to me, but that is what history books tell us.  Mind you,  that “friendship” allowed the Spaniards to overstay by a good 400 years.  Must be one effective Treaty of Friendship if you ask me.

Back to Baclayon Church and Museum.  This ancient church claims to be the oldest church in the whole of the Philippines.  Some may argue and say that the oldest church is San Agustin Church in Intramuros.  Well, that is the oldest STONE church in the country.  From the looks of it,  there are still some renovations going on within the church compound. Let us hope the complex will have more improvements by my next visit. My only frustration is hearing the sad news that the church experienced burglaries in the past, and that the Museum is now missing some precious items of antiquity.  My say on this?  There would not be burglars if there are no buyers.

From the Church,  we had a short drive to the Loboc Museum which sits right by the Loboc River, exactly where the terminal is for the  Loboc River Cruise.  The wide wide seaworthy vessel looks more like a big nipa hut with bamboo flooring floating down this green river.  Lunch was served while cruising Loboc River, complete with a singing duo who would gladly oblige guests with their favorite songs.  Again, I did not find the food all that impressive but I like the idea of having lunch while river cruising.  Along the river, one gets a glimpse of provincial life.  Native huts, children playing and swimming by the river edge, wooden outposts that serve as hangouts for idle men and women enjoying a good chat.  The whole concept is just so relaxing.  At river’s end,  there was even a band of  young girls singing kundimans (local songs of old) to the delight of foreign tourists.  Their songs brought cheer to our hearts.

Having enjoyed a relaxing cruise down the river , we then proceeded to check out the tarsiers.  Big eyed mini-monkeys with eyes bigger than their brains.  The smallest monkey in the world is an attraction here in Bohol.  Many foreign and local tourists took snapshots of these cuties who must have been stressed out with all those flash photography (despite the signage) and noisy crowd.  Suzette had a couple of shots to show off to her son and daughter.  From here,  we then trooped to the Chocolate Hills. We were told that there are better views of the hills in a farther town in Carmen, Bohol.  Tired that we were, we settled for the nearest viewpoint.  This view though can be had only after climbing a hundred steps .  But the vista did not disappoint.  Rolling down the landscape were the Chocolate Hills, now not so chocolate-ty but more greenish.  I recall having climbed the same steps the last time I visited Bohol.  Was it age creeping up on me, or did they actually add more steps to the stairs?  Kidding aside,  it was not a steep and long climb.  Very manageable, really.

Coming back to the hotel,  we hit the showers right away to drain away the sweat from the sweltering heat,  and all that dust and grime from a whole day of touring.  We also had our perfect dinner in that tiny manmade island which was made up by the hotel for a luau dinner.  They set up torches to light up our dinner , and they had tiny boats ready to ferry us from shore to the island.  I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner of crabs, prawns, grilled pork bellies and chicken,  seagrapes salad called lato,  green mango with bagoong (shrimp paste), various fruits.  Wine flowed. And the singing began.  It was a natural consequence, one may observe.  And it was also our cue to stand up and leave.  Better back in the room, than feel obliged to sing. The night was magical  and we decided to walk back from shore to our forest cottage.  The resort is really not big.  I may say it is a good size.  There was a good breeze and I was happy to walk back to our cottage. It was also just the perfect time to try out the hotel’s famous spa.  Suzette had her body massage at exactly 11 in the evening.  Don’t ask me how she found her way back to our cottage by midnight after that treatment.  What I know is that I’m pretty sure she drooled in her sleep.

The following morning could have been another adventure but the weather did not cooperate.  Our dolphin watching boat adventure was cancelled at the last minute because of stormy weather.  Balicasag island promised a lot, but I guess we can’t have it all.  We spent the whole day in the resort.  My niece checked out some of the caves around with newfound friends.  By nightfall,  we had a simple dinner before deciding to seek adventure.  This time,  we ventured out for yet another boat ride along Loboc river to check out the fireflies!   We were along the river for a good hour, no fireflies.  Just mosquitoes, and so much darkness.  We almost gave up by the time the fireflies decided to make an appearance.  So beautiful.  One tree looked like a lighted Christmas tree in mid-summer.  How magical! And that’s the second time I used that word here.

The following day is the day we take our flight back to Manila.  There was enough time to hear mass at the nearby Dauis Church, another ancient church.  After mass,  we had a chance to check out the plaza behind the church.  Then back to Panglao Island Nature Resort to pack our bags and get ready for our flight.  It was a weekend well spent.

Read also my Bohol blog in my TravelBlog site. More photos there.    

A Weekend in Subic


It was a weekend well-spent in Subic. 🙂

 

We planned this weekend with the kids and made sure there’s a day to enjoy swimming and just bumming around,  a day with the dolphins at Ocean Adventure , and a day at the Zoobic Safari to check out the tigers and other animals in the zoo.

 

On Our Way to Subic

Early morning, and we were ready for our 3 hour journey to Subic, the former American military camp which has been transformed into a Freeport Zone as well as a major playground .  It actually took less than 3 hours as we drove through the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX), past the San Fernando Exit, then into the new Subic-Clark-Tarlac express way or SCTex.  This relatively new expressway connects Subic Bay to the Clark area, just a half hour ride away.  Subic is also another gateway into the Philippines with an International Airport  now serving a number of budget airlines.  One can also choose to take the bus (Victory Liner)  from Manila to Subic.

Ocean Adventure

 

Legenda Hotel is not everyone’s favorite in Subic, but if one is searching for a good family room, this is the place.  We got ours complete with its own living area and a very roomy bedroom and a walk-in closet!  Easily, the walk-in closet was a hit with the kids.  Remember how we all enjoyed hiding in closets when we were kids?  Well, this one is really more like a small room with a boudoir.  And the kids loved it.  Soon after we arrived, my young swimmers checked out the pool and worked up an appetite for lunch.  I can’t recall the name of the restaurant near Legenda Hotel, but let me just say we ate there quite a number of times.  The resto opens up to the beach, and is just a short walk from the hotel.  Here, one chooses his seafood dish as the fish, shrimp, crabs, prawns, clams , squid and other wet creatures vie for your attention while they are all lined up on the tiled tables.  After making your choices,  you now decide how you want your seafood cooked.  We did not mind having to wait a while while our lunch or dinner is getting cooked.  There was always that chance to venture out into the sandy shores and feel the breeze from the bay.  Every meal time was preceded by the kids needing to wash off the sand stuck between their fingers. Never mind that sand also found their way through their toes.

 

Subic Bay Yacht Club

Off to Ocean Adventure

That same afternoon,  we went to the Ocean Adventure at the Camayan Wharf.  This marine park can easily take a whole day, with those lectures and various shows with those wonderful mammals.  The Dive with the Dolphins and Whales was the highlight, but we sadly learned that this requires an additional fee of nearly US$80.  No way, Jose.  But looking at my 2 little elves broke my heart.   So I did the next best thing.  I explained to the little ones that the fees are just too much but there is a chance the park attendants and ushers may ask for volunteers during the dolphin show.  Now, those eyes brightened up instantly and you bet they eagerly waited for those magic words.  Finally, when the show emcee asked for a volunteer, my 10 year old grandniece didn’t leave anything to chance and proudly stood up and walked towards the emcee, thus pre-empting any other would-be volunteers.  Woo hoo!  That saved me US$80!  The photos will show how she enjoyed this portion of the show where she fed the dolphins, danced with them, and allowed them to “squirt” water on her.  For all that, she even was rewarded with a bag of goodies! Er, not bad…….

Tiger Attack @Zoobic Safari

Adventures in Zoobic Safari

Over dinner,  we talked non-stop about their adventures as we also filled them in for the next day’s adventures.   How they can wake up the next day with so much energy after a late night just playing around the big family room,  is beyond me.  After a hearty buffet breakfast at the Legenda Hotel, we again took off  this time for Zoobic Safari.  The entrance to the zoo is about US$10 for adults , and about US$7 for the kids. Again , there was a show before the stroll around the zoo.  Still smarting from yesterday’s spirit of volunteerism,  our young girl again volunteered to bottle-feed the tiger cub.  She did not stop there.  Patricia also volunteered to play with this tiny snake which twirled around her tiny arms while we all sat watching .  Her brother Martin was not as adventurous, but he enjoyed the whole show, and was just as eager to check out the rest of the zoo.  It was a very humid day, but we survived it.  We also survived our next adventure, where we all piled inside a jeepney with window bars.  The bars were there to keep away the tigers.  What happened was as soon as we piled in,  the jeepney took off and entered an enclosed park where tigers roamed free.  Someone from the park threw a chicken dinner for the tigers to feast on.  What happened next got Martin screaming at the top of his lungs.  The tigers jumped on the roof of the jeepney as they savored their chicken dinner.  Other tigers , not as quick, walked side by side our jeepney…….and they all looked hungry.  Martin laughed and screamed, laughed and screamed.  The other passengers in the jeepney did the same.

Zoobic Safari

Our last day in Subic should have been a day in the forest with the monkeys, but we instead opted to spend it at the Subic Yacht Club for another day of swimming.  All that humidity can easily warp your brains and change your mind.   So, no monkeys, no canopy walks and ziplines for us today. But it was again another day well spent.   Just 4 days and 3 nights here in Subic……all in leisure.  By the time we drove out of the Subic Freeport Zone,  the kids were ready to hit the sack.  All energy gone.  It was a longer drive back to Manila.  Perhaps because all excitement has been exhausted and we were not exactly looking forward to another week of school and work.

Subic Bay Yacht Club

More photos in my TravelBlog site. 

Country Life @Villa Escudero


It is a long weekend and we took the chance to visit Villa Escudero where a vast coconut plantation estate has been converted into a tourist destination south of Manila. Left Manila 6:30am and reached this hacienda well before 9am. A welcome drink of “gulaman” , a local drink made of diced gelatine and sugared water was most refreshing.

 

Day Tour Inclusions

 

Country life, then and now, is what Villa Escudero is all about.  Our kids, aged 12 and 9, accustomed to urban living, would do well to have this ‘introduction’ to provincial life.  The adults? Well, we can all do with this break.  And country air is definitely something of a luxury these days, despite the heat. The day tour costs 1,250 pesos or nearly US$30.  Included in this package is a Museum tour of the owner Ado Escudero’s antique collections housed in a church which has now been converted into a Museum. Nearby, another museum is under construction.  Guess that means that Mr. Escudero must have accummulated more collections to warrant another structure.  That gives us a good reason to return to this place.   Also included in the package are:  buffet lunch, carabao-driven cart rides, swimming, rafting in the lake, and a cultural show.  Not bad. The elder child, aged 12 turning 13 soon,  said she thought it would be some laid-back plantation visit with not much to do.  She and her 9 year old brother were pleasantly surprised with the set up in this “real FARMVILLE” . (For those of you who play Farmville on Facebook , you know what I mean. )  Both kids and adults tried everything.

 

Museum Tour

 

No photos inside.  But this church turned Museum has quite a collection of “floats” used in religious processions, and many many religious statues.  The antique altar,  sculpture of the Last Supper,  collectors’ items such as Philippine currency/money,  local costumes,  Spanish-inspired furniture, paintings, handwritten letters of the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal,  paintings,  stuffed animals from the Philippines and other places like Africa and neighboring Asian countries,  butterfly collections, etc.  Tells us that this Escudero family is most surely a family of collectors.   And they have the money to indulge in this passion! I pointed out to the kids the local alphabet —-  which is non-existent, if not “not known at all” to many Filipinos.  Oh yes Virginia, we had our own alphabet way before the Spaniards came to rule our country for nearly 400 years.  We have to thank the Escuderos for this, as well as the other collections for many like our kids to appreciate.

 

Estate Park and a “Private Property”

 

The Museum has a plaza where one finds a sculpture of the Escudero ancestors, another Museum under construction,  and various World War II mementos like cannons , tanks, etc.  All around, there were also sculptures of typical Filipino scenes.  I like these, as i found it easier to explain to the kids how country life was in the olden days.  Like those sculptures of a man “courting” this lady.  No eye contact, while the man tries to offer a gift to his lady love.  The lady, in turn, acts coyly as women then were expected to behave. Then there was this scene of a little boy riding a carabao,  a person “picking trees” with this long pole,  a little boy feeding piglets. The premier spot in this plaza belongs to the Mansion where the Escuderos presumably lived then, perhaps till now.  The pink Mansion sits in this prime spot fronting the plaza , with Mount Cristobal in the background. On a clear day, it is a beautiful sight……matched only by the serenity of the estate lake trimmed by cottages and trees.

 

Lunch and A Cultural Show

 

In between swimming, we succeeded in dragging our 9year old back to an area where lunch is served. The place has a man-made waterfalls with water flowing underneath several tables and benches. We took our lunch while our feet enjoyed the cool waters. I even caught sight of small black fish in the 6 inch waters while enjoying my lunch. Lunch was a typical Filipino and Fil-Spanish cuisine. Oh , and some Chinoy or Fil-Chinese additions too like the vegetable rolls. I had a lot of these rolls , in between bites of diced pork chops (over-grilled though, if you ask me) and grilled tilapia fish. The peanut sauce was good for some of the freshly sliced cucumber and other veggies. The pumpkin sauce , the beef caldereta , and desserts like banana cue and tapioca balls complete the lunch. 

 

After lunch, we trooped back to the Coconut Pavilion and waited for the 2pm cultural show. There were dances from Northern , Central and Southern Philippines. As with many dance performances, the finale is the “singkil” dance from Southern Philippines. The costumes, the colors, the graceful dancers, and the sequence of tribal and national dance numbers made up for a good show. 

 

Time for Some Rowing

 

I made the good decision not to join the group who took turns rafting.  The lake is not so big nor wide.  But my arms would do me in, for sure,  and so I opted out.  Watching them row out, then back,  I could tell their arms tired out rowing .  Of course, one end of the lake is the waterfalls where we earlier enjoyed our lunch. If Martin wins hands down enjoying all the pools and playing in the waterfalls area,   Anna Patricia gets a trophy for rafting.   She rowed well in between laughter as her aunts alternated to be her partner rower in the same raft.  I didn’t think I’d have the energy to row back to safety.  A pair of tourists probably felt the same way AFTER one of them dropped into the lake as she tried to disembark from the raft.  She was all ready with one of her legs out to step off the raft into waiting hands .  But the raft MOVED.  So she goes straight into the lake.  Oh oh.

 

The Carabao-Driven Cart

 

We left the plantation (yes, it still is a working coconut plantation) nearly 5pm, and took the same carabao-driven cart back to the parking area. Can’t end this blog without mentioning these: 1.   When taking this ride, be sure NEVER EVER TOUCHING THE ROPE tied to the carabao. One of us did,  and the carabao took that to mean we were ready to go. 2.   If you have kids with you,  don’t try singing along with the kundiman singers riding the cart.  (Kundiman is local songs sang way way back by our forefathers.  Not unless you don’t care if you are embarassing them or not.  In our case, I think I embarassed our kids enough. So there,  we spent a good holiday in Villa Escudero.  Just 2 1/2 hours south of Manila.  If driving, take the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and exit at 50 (Lucena, Legazpi and Batangas exit).  Turn left at the Sto. Tomas junction and left again at Tanauan-Sto. Tomas junction.  Head straight down, bypassing towns like Alaminos and San Pablo City Proper.  Slow down upon seeing Quezon arch and turn left immediately. Villa Escudero is at the boundary of San Pablo City and Quezon province.

 

More photos in my TravelBlog site.   

Silay’s Heritage Houses


 

Specter of Affluence From Bygone Era

Silay City, is less than an hour away from Bacolod City. Just a 30 minute drive. It is in the Philippines’ Western Visayas region and the flight took less than an hour from Manila. Because it counted many famous artists during its heyday, it was then dubbed the “Paris of Negros”. A number of heritage houses , mostly built at the turn of the 19th century, still exist, some remarkably well preserved, to this day.

It should be mentioned that Negros is the seat of the country’s sugarcane industry. Many sugarcane plantations flourished and brought wealth to a number of families here. In our country, they were called hacienderos, taken from the word “hacienda” which means a big plantation or farm. Hacienderos refer to their owners or the families who owned them. These days, whenever we meet landed gentry, rich elitist families, we are tempted to call them “hacienderos”.

 

The Heritage Houses of Silay City

Silay City enjoyed its Golden Age with the boom of the sugar trading industry. This is the period from 1880 to 1930. Many of our parents and grandparents were born during this period. The city oozed with wealth and enviable affluence. Children of many sugar barons enjoyed their fortunes which manifested in the number of beautiful ancestral homes in the city. Interestingly, this period was also marked by the country’s bid for independence from Spain. More interestingly, many of our national heroes and artists actually came from prominent families such as the barons from this part of the country. For a while, Silay City and its neighboring Bacolod City served as the hub for European artists and musicians. This atmosphere must have spawned the emergence, and prominence of many of our local artists and musicians in this part of the country.

Victorias Milling Company is about an hour away from Silay City. You’d better believe this, but it used to be the world’s biggest mill from 1960′s -70′s. No wonder then, right? After all, these hacienderos observed a regular schedule of work limited to just 6 months (planting season), and another 6 months of harvesting and spending their fortunes. Those 6 “idle” months must have invariably spelled “party season” for the rich and famous Ilonggo families. Naturally, the ancestral houses one finds here have big lawns and gardens, as well as grand receiving rooms complete with chandeliers and grand pianos . Imagine the parties they threw here when the scions of wealthy families must have grown tired counting their fortunes!

There are several ancestral houses just off the San Diego Pro-Cathedral along Rizal Street. One may opt to start a walking tour from here or from El Ideal Bakery, also along Rizal Street. Since we had an appointment for a guided tour at the Hofilena Heritage Home, we started our tour here. Hofileña Ancestral House is the repository of the private art collection of Ramon H. Hofileña. The exhibit includes the work of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal , and a number of top artists in the country like Juan Luna, Hidalgo, H. R. Ocampo, Manansala, Joya, etc. We had the good fortune to have Mon Hofilena himself give us the guided tour of this lovely heritage house. Mon shared many historical trivia with us, peppered with some of his own personal history. There were many portraits of Mon in the second storey of the house, painted by some of his friends like Hechanova whom Mon thinks should have been given more recognition as a Filipino artist of note. The photos of the Hofilena ancestors and children were also all over the house, along with newspaper and magazine clippings featuring the accomplishments of the Hofilena children. Mon didn’t forget to also mention how he was the first Filipino male bikini model (he is now 77 years old) and showed us some of his nude paintings with “strategically located” post-its in case there are children in the tour group. *Wink Wink*

Not far from the Hofilenia House but not open to the public is this private home formerly owned by the family of Teodora Morada. The Dimacalis who bought this property restored, maintained and preserved the grandeur of this charming white colonial house. As with the Hofilenia residence, there was also the grand staircase where one imagines the debutante daughters of the former owners of this mansion walking down , resplendent in their designer gowns. Teeming with prosperity, many daughters from these wealthy families enjoyed this “introduction to society” (debut) by way of lavish parties celebrating their 18th birthday.

Balay Negrense is the ancestral mansion of the Gaston Family which has since been converted into a museum showcasing how sugar planters lived at the beginning of the century. The property has a huge front lawn , and a just as huge living room, and an even bigger second floor receiving room. Up on the second floor are the rooms, where canopied beds, antique Filipiniana costumes and other memorabilia are on display. You would even find collections of old dolls and other toys in what could have been a children’s room. (Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday at 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Cinco de Noviembre Street Tel. No. 4954916.)

Bernardino Jalandoni House , now also a Museum, was built in 1908. This house showcases the affluence of Negros at the turn of the 19th century. All items on display are authentic period pieces. Interestingly, a grandson of Don Bernardino is a high-ranking leader of the country’s Communist Party. His name is Luis Jalandoni who is now exiled in the Netherlands. (It is located at Rizal Street with Tel. No. 4955093. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.). Strolling along this same Rizal Street, one finds many more heritage gems which have since been converted into banks, eating establishments or other business offices. The entire Silay City is definitely one heritage town!

The Ruins. That’s how they call this former mansion built by Don Mariano in memory of his departed wife Maria Braga who died while giving birth to their youngest child in 1911. Sounds similar to the Taj Mahal of India? The Mansion pales in comparison to the Taj Majal, but its timeless elegance resonates of an era when sugar barons ruled the land. What is amazing about this place is that it was built right in the middle of the sugar plantation. With its many huge windows, the sugar barons of those days must have enjoyed a 360 degree view of their sugar plantation as the “sacadas” (paid farm hands) tilled the soil. This place is best visited at dusk. Pray there is no school group or big tour groups when you visit!

And then there are the eating places in Silay. El Ideal Bakery and Restaurant on Rizal Street, Silay City is one of the oldest restaurants in Silay or in Negros Occidental famous for guapple (guava and apple) pies, buko (coconut meat) pies and assorted delicacies. I have not stopped eating since I arrived here in Silay City, but I certainly made sure I had room for the guapple pie, lumpia ubod which are rolls with heart of palm fillings, batchoy (a very Ilonggo soup dish). El Ideal also has a “pasalubong center” (gift center) and some take outs include ibos (made from corn, wrapped in banana leaf like a suman), puto lanson (a kind of rice cake made from coconut meat), piayaya, and many more. Surely, a trip to Silay City is never complete without trying out these native delicacies! If your pockets are lined with wads of pesos, try the Showroom. Here is a place where souvenir items are put in a different class worth every cent of their price tags. The capiz serving trays, bags made from indigenous materials, hand-crafted and intricately-designed neck and ear pieces, as well as sugary and baked foodstuff make for a shopping sidetrip to remember or …. avoid.

Go check out this link too. More photos. 


Who says cruising can break the bank?  My family and I have been planning our own mini-cruise but had to wait till this great deal came along.  It was a dream come true for my family.  And it suited our budget too.

Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas is going to Malacca, Malaysia for the very first time! Just for the weekend. A very short cruise from Singapore to Melaka.   Of the 1,800++ passengers,  about 1,000 are Singaporeans who could have taken the road but opted to enjoy the pleasures a cruise ship offers.   When we checked out of our Singapore hotel before noon,  we called for 2 cabs to take us to the cruise terminal.   Just a 10-15 minute ride.  We planned on taking our brunch somewhere in the Terminal as we have not had our breakfast yet, having slept through most of the morning.  But the Royal Carribean crew welcomed us in , processed our papers seamlessly, and invited us to instead enjoy our lunch on board.   We dropped our bags in our 4 cabins (twin sharing for the 8 of us) and proceeded straight to the Windjammer’s Buffet for a sumptuous lunch.   My,  we weren’t shy at all as we enjoyed our first meal on the boat.  We ate the equivalent of a big breakfast, a big lunch and a big snack. Not content with that,  the kids asked for their Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (this one at an extra cost of US$4 each) on top of their desserts from the buffet spread.  Hmmmm.

 

To Swim, To Sleep or To Eat?

 

We enjoyed our tea and coffee on the deck, while the kids had more ice cream (the free ones this time, not Ben & Jerry’s) and prepared to cool in the pool.  There was an outdoor pool, and a Solarium.  The younger ones swam in the outer pool,  momentarily surprised that the swimming pool water is saltwater.  The older ones donned their suits , took a dip, and then slept in their wet bathing suits on the deck chairs.  Does that surprise you? I’ve seen that many times before.  Lol.

 

Library/Reading Room

 

Before long,  the Food and Beverage crew are grilling away some burgers and hotdogs. Pizzas from the oven.  Fries from the frying pans. The aroma is so inviting.  Dear God.   If one loses all control and discipline,  he or she would be rolled out, literally, off the ship.  Even if he/she actually swims laps in the pool!  We had to remind ourselves that our fine-dining reservation is for early dinner so we can enjoy our champagne at the Captain’s Welcome Night after the dinner,  and then a show at 8:30 pm.   We weren’t sure how long the kids (or the adults) would last.   But energy was at an all time high.   The first-time cruising experience for most members of my family must be like an adrenaline shot that kept those energy levels up despite the late nights, all-afternoon walking the day before,  swimming, and what-nots.

 

Monkey Towel??

The Atrium

Elephants On My Bed, Monkeys Hanging On The Wall

 

Having skipped the  sausages and burgers grilling away at the Top Deck,  we checked out the other facilities of the ship.    Martin putted away in the mini-putting link at the Sun Deck,  Patricia checked out the Library/Reading Room.   There was also a Spa and Parlor, which looked inviting especially for those who can really afford it.  (Not us . We trooped back to our cabins and were pleasantly surprised to find  the towels arranged like monkeys or elephants or dogs.   I had the same pleasant surprise when I tried other cruises,  but remember this is a first for the little ones.   I attempted to check how it was done, then later decided I’d never remember.  Cute-sy.  We managed a bath in the just as cute-sy showers and toilets.  (Tip:  Be sure to turn around a full 360 degrees while taking a shower. No sidesteps, no backsteps. Just turn around while the shower is on)

 

And they were singing O Sole Mio !

Fine Dining and Some Entertainment

 

For our first dinner,  Martin asked for freshly-squeezed orange juice.   We let him sign up for it too.  That was when we realized that this little boy does have a “signature”.  Not just your run-of-the-mill writing of his name.  He actually knew how to sign.   He must have practiced that signature several times before now.  I reminded myself  to refrain from telling him that he can actually shop on the boat and just sign for it.

 

How can u diet while cruising?????

 

Having enjoyed our first dinner on board,  we proceeded to the Captain’s Welcome Night  to  errr,   meet the Captain.   Wine for the adults,  Punch for the little ones.   From cocktails, we went straight on to the Show scheduled that night.    Not content with that,  dear Patricia asked me to accompany her watch a movie in the theater lounge.    I had to will myself from sleeping ,  and snoring during the movie.

 

Melaka for the Day,  Then Back to the Boat

 

There were tenders the following morning to take us to Melaka’s jetty port.   I earlier blogged on this already and you can go check it out on what the family did for the day.  The boat departed from Melaka at 6 pm sharp but we got onboard way earlier than that.   Need I tell you?  The kids were eager to get back on the ship knowing fully well that it would be their last night onboard as we head back to Singapore.

 

We enjoyed another 5 star fine-dining, complete with a parade of chefs and restaurant staff singing “O Sole Mio”.  Amazing.  Not one of them is even Italian.   The staff assigned to our Table #11 at the Romeo and Juliet Lounge (yes, that is how it is called) is Chinese who really attended to us very well, especially to Patricia and Martin.  We so loved their Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Lamb Shanks,  Grilled Prawn , Alaskan Cod,  Five Spice Noodles,  Baby Shrimp Salad, Sherbet,  Sugar-free Mint Chocolate Cake, Pecan Pie, and so much more!  Get the idea now?  I know , I know.  So much food, and at so short intervals!

 

There were 2 shows in the theatre — one is called Acro-Magic, some acrobatic show combined with magic.  And there was a Musical starring a pianist by the name of Linda Gentille.  The shows were good but as you may have guessed,  the little ones were yearning to get back on deck and wait for their pizza, burgers and fries!  There was a full midnight buffet on deck and I was floored that some went on to enjoy their congees and fried rice dishes at that hour.   I have yet to digest my dinner and there is this buffet spread.   Surely,  most people who go on cruises must have gained at least 2 pounds .  And ours is just a short cruise!

 

Spa, anyone?

No, It Won’t Break the Bank

 

So now,  how much did it cost us to join this cruise?

 

This Singapore-Melaka-back to Singapore cruise for the weekend meant 3 days and 2 nights on the boat.  We got the interior stateroom which is the cheapest .  At twin sharing, it cost us US$306 each inclusive of port taxes and gratuities.    Remember that this all-in price tag includes 2 nights accommodations, 3 shows,  2 movies, 2 breakfast buffets, 2 lunch buffets, 2 fine dinners,  cocktails (@Captain’s Welcome Night), 2 midnight buffets,  endless snacks or in-between meals, unlimited coffee, tea and ice cream.  Plus the use of the swimming pools, Solarium, Library,  Rock climbing and putting on deck.  The cruising experience for big families like mine is truly a dream come true.  If you want some luxury, this is one way of doing it.  And without really burning a hole in your pocket.

 

Since we also got our Manila-Singapore-Manila airfare online,  it cost us US$270 each.  There are cheaper fares, like Jet Air which flies out of Clark north of Manila.  Or there could be better deals for Manila-Singapore round trips as low as US$100 depending on the Season or how lucky you are to snag a deal.  The single hotel night in Singapore was another US$75 triple sharing, so that’s only US$25 each.  Plus we took taxis from the airport to the hotel, then to the cruise terminal, as well as taxis in Melaka. Of course, you can save more if you walked in Melaka or if you took the subways in Singapore.

 

That sums it all up at US$610 as follows:

US$306 cruise (Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas. Interior Stateroom. Twin sharing)
270 airfare (Cebu Pacific. Leaving just past 6 am)
25 hotel night (Lloyd’s Inn. Budget Hotel 3 blocks from Orchard)
9 taxi/transpo (Metered taxis from/to the airport in Singapore. Cabs in Melaka fr port)
=US$610 per person for this 4 day, 3 night adventure.

With cheaper airfares (my niece just booked her friend on a manila-singapore return trip at less than US$100!), you can bring this down further.

 Oh, not to forget,  we had to pay for our Universal Studios tickets too, but that is entirely optional on your part.  Some of you may rather shop , or tour the sites in Singapore.  Or do the Zoo or Night Safari. Maybe visit Sentosa Island.  We’ve done all these before, so we chose to spend what’s left of the day when we arrived at the Universal Studios Singapore.   Just think US$610 per person (or lower) for a short cruise, a trip to Malacca,  and a night in Singapore.   You bet my family will be saving up for our next trip or next cruise.

More photos can be viewed in my TravelBlog site. Just click here. 

As for me,  I am only too happy for this reunion.



 

Malacca.   It is old Malaysia.   Not the ultra-modern Kuala Lumpur, the capital.   But Malacca or Melaka,  with vestiges of its Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and British influences.  The place is so ethnically diverse — the stuff that makes it legendary.

 

 

And speaking of legends,  Hang Tuah is one legendary warrior/hero who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. Touted as the greatest of all the warriors or “laksamana” , Hang Tuah was known to be a ferocious fighter. Judging by the many shops, streets, restaurants and buildings named after him, Hang Tuah is obviously held in the highest regard  in present-day Malaysian Malay culture.  Since I found him to be  the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature, I thought I should start my history lessons for my own little cruising warriors on Melaka’s famous hero.  But I am getting ahead of my story.

 

Off the Cruise Ship, On to Melaka


We took a tender from the big boat to reach the Melaka Jetty Port.  Credits go to the crew of Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas for a seamless disembarkation and distribution of tender tickets.   Our family chose not to join any of the offshore excursions and to simply do the sightseeing on our own.  After all , we had plenty of time.  The ship docked at 7am, by which time we were nicely seated at the Windjammer’s Cafe for our buffet breakfast.  The ship departs by 6pm , so there’s plenty of time. By 8:30 am, we were riding the tender to shore.   All of 10 minutes or so, and we reached the no-frills jetty port.  By that, I seriously mean “no frills”.  One simply gets off the tender, helped along by strong muscled Malaysian jetty hands, onto a wooden boardwalk, and out in the streets.

 

It was refreshing that there were unbelievably no touts around the jetty port to harass us.  Sure, there were rickshaw or tricycle and taxi drivers offering to take us to the city center or to give us a tour of the city, but they were not pushy at all.   Without a single ringgit in our pockets, we negotiated with two taxi drivers to take us with our Singapore dollars.  We knew the rates they quoted were padded,  but we caved in.  Very easily, I must say.   There was a 9am Sunday mass at the St. Francis Xavier Church that we didn’t want to miss, even if the service was in Tamil.   And there was only 10 minutes to spare.  But it was a very short ride to the Church and we made it with a minute to go.

Stadthuys, ChristChurch, Bukit St. Paul, Porta de Santiago


After the service,  we walked along Jalan Kota , alongside the river, towards the red-bricked Stadthuys (in Dutch, this means Town Hall) and ChristChurch. It was tempting to linger and shop among the many stalls.   But no ringgit, remember?   So we walked towards Bukit St. Paul and climbed up the steps towards St. Paul ruins.   My buffet-fed family took the stairways  painstakingly slow,  and I didn’t know whether to worry or to laugh.

 

A little bit of history here.  The ruins of St. Paul’s Church was built by a Portuguese sea captain in 1521. This is meaningful to many of us Filipinos. I mean the year 1521.   It was in 1521 that the Portuguese Magellan, working for the Spanish monarchy,  discovered the Philippines.  This means that at the time our islands were discovered,  this Church was already standing on top of this hill overlooking the Straits of Malacca! The ruins included tombstones and some nice brickwork.   It is not huge,  but it was good to be reminded too that this was the last church St. Francis Xavier ministered before his death.

 

Atop this hill,  we had a view not only of the Malacca Strait but also of our cruise ship!  At the foot of the hill is Porta de Santiago, or what’s left of it,  which served as the gateway.  One can only imagine this fortress with a clear view atop the hill of any invading enemy ships. The Portuguese colonized Melaka by dividing and conquering Melaka’s sultan rulers.   And so the saying “Divide and Rule” truly rings true, ei?  A Mosque once stood here, was torn down, and replaced with a fort called “A Famosa”. The sole surviving relic of this fort is the Porta de Santiago. A silent reminder of what it was once.

 

 

The Sultanate Palace and the Story of Hang Tuah

Right on the left of the Porta de Santiago is the Sultanate Palace.  This houses a massive wooden replica of a sultan’s palace.   As it was high noon,  it was refreshing to get into this Palace Museum .  The airconditioning re-energized our sweaty bodies.

 

And this is where I bring you back to the legend of Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah is famous for quoting the words “Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia” which literally means “Malays will never vanish from the face of the earth” or “Never shall the Malay race vanish from the face of the earth”. The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism.

 

 

Hang Tuah, you may say, is the Sultan’s favorite.  He acted as general, advisor, ambassador. As such, he stirred jealousy within the ranks.  One story tells of how a rumor was spread of Hang Tuah’s illicit love affair with one of the sultan’s stewardesses. The Sultan thus sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial.  Another romantic tale tells of how this injustice prompted Hang Tuah’s childhood friend Hang Jebat to avenge his best friend’s unjust punishment and death. How? By wreaking havoc on the royal court and inciting rebellion.

 

There are many versions of this legend.  One version tells that Hang Tuah lived to a ripe old age because his executioner did not carry out his sentence. This version goes further to say that Hang Tuah was “recalled” to stop and kill his friend Hang Jebat when the latter rebelled against the Sultanate to avenge his friend’s “death”.   To this day, it is said that the many versions of the legend is a constant subject of discussion among scholars and students.  Loyalty and Justice.   You bet there are varying opinions on this legend.

 

As for Martin’s version? Hang Tuah is that soldier who was killed because of a gossip.   So what do you think, guys?  That was an epic fail in story-telling, huh?  Or maybe adults embellish stories so much so that many versions come off the same story.  Ten-year olds like Martin have no patience for long-winding stories.  The poor guy was gossiped about, and was killed. End of discussion.

More photos can be viewed in my TravelBlog site. Just click  here.  


 

We took an early morning flight from Manila to Singapore, and by early I mean a 6 am flight. That meant we are up and ready to go by 3 am.  All 6 of us. Plus the 2 kids.  And so that makes 8.  Good thing we breezed through Singapore immigration, arriving at our hotel just before lunch.  After checking in and freshening up a bit,  the Zombies were ready.  Soon after, we found ourselves at the gates of Universal Studios Singapore.

 

We did the “mandatory” visit of the famous theme park for the kids, or so we thought.   Nothing beats being there WITH THE KIDS.  Who cares if some of us got only 4 hours of sleep? Or none at all?  I was smarter than most …..  got the kids sleeping by 8pm and joined them shortly after popping a pill.  (Cheat) The kids were good .  They slept well, undisturbed, and woke up well for the early morning flight.   They also slept almost all throughout the 3 1/2 hour flight from Manila to Singapore.   I was seated right smack in the middle of the 2 sleeping “cretins” (forgive the french, they don’t mind being teased as such), so I should know.  Leg cramps for me, if you are asking.

 

Universal Studios Singapore


The Park lacks many of its American counterpart’s features but the size is manageable for a 7 hour visit.  Yes, 7 hours. From 12 noon to 7pm when the Park closed.  First order of the day was a quick lunch of burgers, salads and fries.  Then off to Waterworld.  Some of us sat in the Splash Zone, hoping to get wet.  Some water splashing would have given more excitement, but it was not to be.  There was a long line for theCanopy Flier ,  so my niece Mayette and I missed that one ride.  And no one in my family was keen to do the Jurassic Park ride.  Instead,we headed straight for the Far, Far Away Land and visit the Castle to watch Shrek and the Donkey in 4D.  I remember,  the first time the kids watched this was in Los Angeles, USA when they were aged 2 and 5.  They are now aged 10 and 13, and the younger one has been to this Park in Singapore only last September.  But as I said,  nothing beats being together to visit the Park and watch the shows altogether as a family.  Even I,  zombie-ish at that precise moment,  laughed and excitedly screamed along with the others, kids and adults.  No matter how many times you have watched this,  it would always be a thrill to hear the kids’ laughter and screams. I’m telling ya.

 

 

 

We also watched Monsters Rock, a musical showcasing the talents of some of the more famous beast characters like Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Mummy, She-Wolf and Wolfman. Quite frankly, it didn’t rock for me.  But the kids liked it.  So that’s the more important vote. Who cares what I think?

 

Too much Carbs In Their Diet?


From here,  we strolled towards Hollywood to watch Steven Spielberg’s Technical Effects.   The hurricane production set is new to me, but I’ve got to say it did not excite me that much. Nor it did the others in my company.  What I found more exciting was meeting Beetlejuice,  Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin,  Betty Boop and Fat and Thin (what do you call them again? Oliver and Hardy?) as well as the dancing Rockafellas and singing Daddy-O’s.  I love this present-day plump-ish Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop.  Even Charlie Chaplin is not as lean-looking.   It must be all those laksa noodles , roti or fried rice they are eating.

 

 

The “production set” can be seen without riding a tram.  Unlike the LA Park,  one need only to stroll around to see all of these.  The New York cabs,  the Town Hall, etc. They even have this huge Christmas tree in front of this fake baobab tree.  The animal characters were all around.  Hard to tell what their nationalities are.  We just know that many of the dancing Rockafellas are from the Philippines.  Though Malaysians, Thai, Indonesians and Filipinos look so alike,  we can tell these dancers are Filipinos as soon as they spot us and start calling us Tita (auntie) or Ate (older sister).  My niece told me one of the singing Daddy-O’s is also Filipino.

 

 

By the time the Park closed at 7 pm, we felt we had seen just enough. And we were all ready for dinner too.  Martin has not forgotten the meals he had in Bakerzin the last time he went to Singapore with his dad and aunt.  And Patricia is obviously a pizza and pasta girl.  And so it was Bakerzin at Vivo City.  We enjoyed our mushroom pasta, pizza margharita and chops and lingered over our dinner.  Loved their macarons too.  Of course, the kids ruled in this department.  If they had their way,  we would have gone back to Bakerzin for lunch on the day of our departure too!

 

 

It was nearly 10 pm when we reached our hotel.  And nearly midnight when we hit the sack.  The Zombies survived their first day.

More photos in my TravelBlog site. Just click here.