Tag Archive: Grandchildren

An Autumn Glow

An Autumn Glow



Just a day short. Waiting to pick up my elves today and then, just one more day. Tired from a week of exams, but giddy with excitement over the summer break. The chapel in school is where I wait for them. A good spot under the trees which by now seem to have an “autumn glow” after a couple of hours of rain. Kids even had fun standing under one tree as it sheds off its tiny orange-y flowers as the wind blows. 


Summer beckons. What’s the plan, the elves ask? Well……






I love my family. We all live in a condominium building where space is gold and where we feel cramped as the kids grow taller and the adults grow wider 😦

Over time, we spilled over 2 more units in the same condo building but share THE SAME SQUARE dining table I bought when I was still living alone. How we fit or take turns at the dining table is a practiced skill!

And so family playcations is a tradition in this family. Summers and Christmas breaks are popular holiday dates for us, but we’re one family who also make good use of long weekends.

We took a vote and came up with this list of top playcations for us. Thought I’d share it with you as suggestions for your next family adventure.




To this day, our 3day, 2 night cruise sailing out of Singapore for Melaka (Malacca, Malaysia) holds truly fond memories for adults and elves. Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas had this $306 per pax, twin-sharing promo rate which we grabbed. All 5 meals and snacks included!


READY TO SAIL! Kids board Royal Carribean's Legend of the Seas



The FIRST family playcation out of the country is of course nothing less than memorable. When the elves were 5 and 2 visiting Disneyland (Los Angeles, USA) for the first time, they were too young to appreciate it. This time around, they knew exactly what they wanted, and how many “teacup spins” they needed!

From HK Disneyland to Macau. What a horrible ferry ride!


We were back the year after. The fireworks at the Avenue of the Stars fronting the lovely HK Harbour is the highlight of the New Year’s Eve revelry, but the dinner prelude was just as exciting. No mercy was our mantra, as we stuffed ourselves with Peking Duck and other Chinese dishes at the Star Cafe. Just as memorable was walking with the thick Chinese crowd in the middle of the road at 2am to reach our hotel.




Shelly and I flying in to Shanghai from a month-long trip in Turkey and Greece.  The rest of fam flying in from Manila.  What a reunion!


The Bund. Shanghai, China



Can’t resist this. It’s the closest we can get to a world tour.  Very educational for the children.  Very satisfying for the adult gluttons. 🙂

World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China



It was a weeklong holiday. A road trip. We booked only for our first 2 nights in Donsol, Sorsogon where I brought the family to experience this awesome animal encounter. After that, we sort of felt our way through looking for places to stay in Legazpi City and Naga.





Yes, 12. My family and my friend’s family. We flew to Laoag, then cramped ourselves into a van, and then a jeepney around Laoag and Vigan. Food Trip to the max.  Gee, now I miss their Pinakbet Pizza


Walking out of Malacanang of the North. And yes, we were 12 in the group!


Not our “usual” Baguio trip. This time around, we explored the lesser-known destinations and relished the surprisingly enjoyable vegetarian joints in this city. Even the elves loved their “kamatis (tomato) pasta” in Oh My Gulay Resto!

Taken at Bencab Museum Garden.


Who’d dare argue against spending New Year’s in the lovely island of Boracay?  We spent all of 5 days here. What a great relaxing way to welcome and start the new year!




Again, we were lured by the promo package offered by this lovely resort along the shores of Taal Lake in Talisay, Batangas. A weekend that’s really value-for-money. The rooms have 2 big-sized beds, the resort has 3 swimming pools, a fish spa, food is good, service is excellent, and THE VIEWS! C’est magnifique!


It took this long for me to think of blogging about one of my favorite places in my own country. Perhaps because I visit it too often, or I took its beauty so much for granted. Tagaytay holds many happy childhood memories for me and myfamily. Both my parents are from Cavite where Tagaytay is. And many weekends were spent here, in a neighboring town called Silang, Cavite where my grandmother used to live, long before it became a favorite tourist destination. From Manila, it would take about an hour and a half traveling south for 60 km to reach Tagaytay to view the “volcano island” inside a lake called Taal Lake, or Lake Taal.

Childhood Memories


As a child, my ears got so used to many old folks’ stories about Taal Volcano where one finds a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano. Yeah, I know, it sounds redundant. Can you imagine me listening to all these stories and this line which has now become an adjective to describe Taal Volcano back when I was still of pre-school age? It appears Taal Volcano made up for its size by always threatening to erupt, as if drawing attention all the time. Records show it is the smallest active volcano in the world. And for good measure, the old folks back in the province recount to this day all their experiences with Taal Volcano’s mini-eruptions in the past until it was no longer news.


The story goes that Tagaytay Ridge where one gets a perfect view of Taal Lake and Volcano was actually part of a bigger volcano until a major eruption hundreds or thousands of years ago. Originally a huge volcano towering 18,000 feet, many people don’t realize that it used to be one of the largest volcanoes in the world. Tagaytay Ridge is the rim of the volcano! Before it was “reduced” to its present size, Tagaytay ridge would have been only about a sixth of the way to the top of the volcano!! This caldera is now fringed with many tourist inns, hotels, restaurants and picnic groves. A major golf course and upscale community (Tagaytay Highlands) and a casino hotel (near Taal Vista Lodge Hotel) can also be found along this ridge. Most tourists make day trips from Manila to this place, missing out on an unhurried day of adventure which may include a boat journey across the lake to reach the volcano island (about 1,500 pesos or US $30 for the entire boat so you can split it among the 3 or 4 of you), a trek to the top of the volcano on a donkey (most recommended, unless you are very very fit but be ready to shed another US$10 per person), as well as trying out the many fine-dining and local restaurants in the area.


A Mountain Resort? A Summer Retreat? Religious Retreat Center? A Garden Restaurant?


Many years back when Tagaytay only had picnic huts available for rent to locals bringing in their own picnic baskets, the place was famous for its many retreat houses and prayer centers. The cool climate and the now-lost “rustic innocence” of the place made for a very meaningful weekend of prayers and meditation. The retreat houses are still there. And many retreat weekends are still held there. The popularity of the place has also resulted in many foreigners deciding to stay permanently and setting up their own restaurants and shops there. These days, one can make trips to Tagaytay to try out this new Vietnamese restaurant (Bawai), or this Austrian-German bistro called Chateau Hestia, a greek taverna, or a lovely garden restaurant called Moon Garden run by a Belgian. Taal Vista Lodge Hotel is a newly renovated hotel complex , Josephine’s Restaurant with its seafood delicacies still stands attracting both local and foreign patrons, the Discovery chain of serviced apartments runs Country Suites and I must say, serves the best lamb chops, and of course there is Sonya’s Garden and Antonio’s – 2 of the fine dining establishments in the area. My personal favorite is Antonio’s though that will set you back a good US$30 to $50 per pax. For local food, one can try Josephine’s (their buffet is a steal at only US$7) and Leslie’s (try their “bulalo” which is beef stew). As for the kids, there is Residence Inn and Zoo where you can spend an entire afternoon with small children. Lunch is also served in this place, a good way to spend an hour or two after checking out the zoo. Restless kids can go to a nearby playground while the adults enjoy their coffee after lunch, or simply wait out for the sunset while viewing the volcano.


There is always something to do in Tagaytay other than just taking in the view. The more adventurous go for the boat ride and donkey trek. The prayerful spend their retreat weekends there and head back to Manila with emptied minds, restful spirits and re-energized bodies. The hedonists spend time in their favorite spas while their husbands play a round of golf in Tagaytay Highlands. The foodies try out the many food establishments, where the variety caters to every pocket range. The kids can check out the tigers, crocs, gorillas, etc in the zoo. Or simply rent out bikes or go horseback riding in the park.



I live in Makati, the financial center of Manila. This urban jungle has its advantages and disadvantages. Thank God for Tagaytay. In under 2 hours, we can enjoy its breeze and open spaces. There is just no way we will ever grow tired of Tagaytay!

This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival hosted by Mhe-Anne Ojeda

on the theme My Hometown.

Read also my blog on same subject in TravelBlog.

Summer Camp 2011

Martin chose to take badminton lessons.  No way he’d play soccer again.  I’m a bit surprised he wasn’t interested in taekwando.  But badminton is fine.  As for Patricia,  I knew even before I asked that she’d want to do the pool once more.  She almost divorced herself from the school’s swimming team during the exam weeks and all those graduation rehearsals, and I can tell her muscles are aching to flex in the pool.

And I thought school’s over.  Not a single break.  From Friday graduation, to Summer Camp the following Monday.  No mercy.  Summer camp starts at 8 am sharp.  And my little ones hate being late for their sessions with Coach Akiko Thomson and Coaches Weena and EG.  While Martin sweats in the badminton court and Patricia slices the pool,  dear Mamu does her rounds at the oval. No, not jogging. That’s bad for my knees.  Just brisk walking, passing the badminton court, the swimming pool area, the tennis court, and the Taekwondo gym where I can’t help smiling watching them little ones flex their muscles, while their doting parents watch and take snapshots.

And so…….I do my share of exercise while chaperoning the kids to Summer Camp. Plus I do get a fair amount of amusement too.   I love watching these young ones ; and I so adore their coaches.   Coach Akiko Thomson and her husband Coach Chips are such a lovely couple and they are so wonderful with the kids.   One can tell they sooo love what they do.  I have seen them pick up kids, personally train them and more than that,  I am amazed how these kids give them 100% attention.  Now, I never got that!   😉

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.   

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and I stare brain dead
How that form now spans nearly the length of the bed
Have I missed any of those precious years …….or
Simply ignored how these “babies” grew inches more?

Memories flood my mind like a tsunami
Years nearly forgotten, joy overflowing
Yesterday’s past morphing into my present
Those little ones have grown !

They ask more pointed questions now
My bedtime stories no longer hits
I’ve long stopped humming lullabies
IPods plugged in their tiny ears.

I fetch them from school but wait in the car
I hear their laughter before I see them come
Bags too heavy, hands too dirty
And more than ready to be home in a jiffy.

These are my little travel buddies
And my prayer warriors too
Over scoops of yoghurt and mallows
We live each day with no sorrows.

We thank God for this blessing
Hugs and kisses never ending
For it’s a gift not just to have them
But to have the heart to enjoy them.

More photos here.