Taal Volcano Trek & Tagaytay Itinerary

When I started backpacking before moving to Singapore, the hardest part of the trip preparation was “informing” my dad that I’m off to somewhere. After graduating university, he totally changed his rule- “do whatever you want without asking for my permission but inform me. After all, I’ve walked that road before and… I’m your dad.”

I knew he likes traveling and adventures but he was too tied up with responsibilities and stereotypes. I wish I had loads of money when he was still alive, I could’ve brought him to Russia or someplace that he’d fancy. Haha. Anyway, he used to tell me that places will be different depending who you’ll be seeing it with and I tell you, a trek to Taal Volcano might not be as exciting as swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob for most Filipinos, but to me, it was one tough memorable adventure.

Our wedding’s after party last year didn’t need the tenacity to drink and dance till 6am but to be ready to trek Taal Volcano at 8am.

We were with these special bunch who survived thousands of horse poops, heavy rain and a couple of hours trek for a killer view.

Together with JMX Travel and Tours, a very friendly and reliable travel agency owned by one of favourite cousins Kuya Jodel, we’ve put together a short and sweet day trip for our friends and families!

We boarded the boat at Talisay, Batangas early in the morning.

… where our dear Singaporean friend, Wei Yi, enjoyed boating. Haha.

Weather in the Philippines is unpredictable but definitely still rainy in October. Yea, we started our trip sunny.

Oh! I love these bunch!

Seeing skyscrapers everyday is energy-sucking to me so the journey to the crater was a moment of “replenishment and rejuvenation.” 🙂
There are raincoats for sale in case it rains. Just tap your friendly guide for one! But most of us opted for a good rain shower while we faced all the horse poops along the way.
And if you’re a science geek, this trek will be a good one! They said that the volcano island sank from three to ten feet as a result of the eruption years ago. There was light smell of sulfur, which came from the gases that escape from the crater. (Not sure if it was sulphur or horse poop that Wei Yi smelled though).

There’s a small sari-sari store on top in case you need some refreshments (and slippers like us). But try to come prepared and just carry loads of drinks and tidbits cause as expected, goods there are expensive.

The package that we’ve put together for the group was inclusive of the following:

  • van rental min of 12pax (Whole day tour then from Tagaytay to Manila, SM Mall of Asia)
  • boat rental + tour guide to Taal Volcano
  • Tagaytay side trip: Puzzle Mansion, Palace in the Sky, Bag of Beans
  • Lunch

Note: Entrance Fees to side trips are not yet included (Puzzle Mansion and Palace in the Sky) estimated around 200Php each.

Here’s the itinerary for the Tagaytay Day Trip that we planned:

0830  ETA Talisay, Batangas; BRIEFING & Board boat

0915  Start of trek (45-minute walk)

1000  ETA at the main crater’s ridge view deck; photo taking

1030  ETD from the crater’s ridge view deck; trek back (45 minute walk)

1115  Board boat back to Talisay, Batangas.

1145  ETA Talisay, Batangas

1200  Lunch

1400  Go to Puzzle Mansion, maybe Coffee in Bag of Beans, grab some fresh fruits and Palace in the Sky

1700  End of tour; Travel back to Manila (SM Mall of Asia)

Some things that we thought you should bring and wear:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes and clothing
  • Sun cream/ Sun block
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Swim suits (if swimming in Taal Lake)
  • Drinking Water
  • Towel & extra clothes
  • Small back pack
  • Waterproof casing or bag for your cameras

In case you’re looking for other activities in Tagaytay, there are water sports adventures in Balai Isabel & Taal Yacht Club.

 

other-activities

If you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can also check out Alfonso Hotel Farm (Alfonso Hotel’s sister company). It is a resort for large groups, but guests of the hotel are free to enjoy the farm for the day. There is a minimal charge of P100/head (price was last year) for use of the pool at the farm.

On a sunny day, it is a beautiful place to just because its athletic course is enjoyable for both grown-ups and kids and you’ll witness a variety of birds soaring around the fruit trees native to Alfonso. There is also a creek on the property. If you don’t mind the steep stairs, it is absolutely rewarding to cool your feet off in this clean stream called Lilitan River (named after the plant that thrives there).

alfonso-farm

If you want to experience Tagaytay Eye, you can definitely try to check out Sky Ranch Fun Park.

For the foodies, go for the Tagaytay Food Journey by following this infographic done by ourawesomeplanet.com!

As for me, my usual Tagaytay day trip consists of a good coffee at Bag of Beans, a good meal at Alfonso’s, Il Gallenero Inn or Sonya’s Garden, a great massage at Nurture Spa and a long shopping for some daing, tawilis and much more at Mahogany Market.

For your personalised travel itinerary, please feel free to contact JMX Travel and Tours.

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Who doesn’t love Open-Air Cinema?

I’m a sucker for outdoor- parks and beaches especially. Plus, I love films. So you can imagine how much I love open-air cinemas.

Ever since I ticked it off from “my list,” I can’t stop researching and waiting for the next open-air cinema schedule. And it just got better when Singapore had the first Sunset Cinema in May!

Fresh air, sand, a good film (I watched Lion that time!), good booze and food, and a good company under the stars is one of the best feelings on earth for me. 🙂 

There are plenty of food for you to choose from, top it up with some wine or beer and the night is perfect!

Instead of arriving right before the film starts, Sunset Cinema encouraged the film-goers to arrive early (gates open at 5pm) to catch up with friends while enjoying the pre-film ambience with a drink in one hand and a bite to eat in the other. As the sun sets, there were also a DJ and instrumentalists that spread the summer love from 5pm-7:30pm before the feature film begins at dusk (7:30pm).

The DJ played over the normal speakers but for the feature film itself, the audio was broadcasted via a state of the art wireless headphones which every film-goer was issued upon entry. Those noise cancelling headphones enabled us to immerse ourselves in the film wherever we were in the area (queueing for food, seats, toilet) and allowed us to control our own volume. We didn’t miss a part at all or got annoyed with a talkative seatmate during the film!

I just heard the news that the Films At The Fort will be back in August! Presented by Casillero del Diablo, it will be in the same spot as last year!

Films At The Fort is celebrating its 5th anniversary in the beautiful natural amphitheatre of Fort Canning Park from 3rd – 20th August. Truly, Singapore at its best – the perfect place to unwind with friends over a glass of wine, good food and an award winning film on a balmy night.

You can bring your own food, but you cannot bring your own alcohol and all bags will be checked for alcohol at the entrance. Our friends baked cookies and brought some chips last year (I miss you, Vee! Come back here!).

There are also inflatable cushions (sit upright or layback) for sale at $14 and can be re-used after the event at the beach or park. Alternatively, you can bring your own cushions, blankets and rugs but out of respect for others, you are not permitted to bring folding chairs.

This year’s film programme spans three weeks and includes a curated collection of new releases, premieres, cult classics and documentaries. One of my all-time favourite movies, “Lifes is Beautiful” will be shown and I can’t wait to watch it since the last time I’ve seen it was during my Cinematography class in college.

So if you’re visiting Singapore this August (just like my very loved Ate/Ninang Zarah), check out their website and chill with the good wine and movie!

You might find this FAQ useful, too!

#MartinCyraGiveThanks: The Rustic Garden Wedding

I’ve been receiving messages from friends and strangers asking about our wedding suppliers and some tips on how to pull off a rustic garden-themed wedding in the Philippines so I thought of writing about it.

As you know, we’re both based overseas but it was never difficult for us to plan for our wedding with all the information readily available online. Plus, Email or Facebook as the quickest and easiest way of communication with our suppliers. They’re angels! Our hearts are still full and we hope your hearts will be, too.

Church: Calaruega

If you’re eyeing this tranquil chapel to be the special place to manifest your long-life commitment and you think your family and friends will enjoy the long drive, listen to what everybody’s saying, book in advance, esp if you’re like us, which the dates are non-negotiable (our wedding date is in-between our birthdays). Advance means a year ahead if possible. 🙂


Reception Venue: The Forest Barn

This is the perfect venue for us- rustic with a huge dance floor. Our families love singing and dancing so we made sure that there’ll be a huge space for everybody to exploit. Haha. The venue has nice drapings and can fit 400pax. Their management and staff are the best- very friendly and considerate to us. Special thanks to Ms. Maricres, Ms. Dimple and Ms. Laden.  They are more than just an event place, they’re like angels who’ll make the moment extra special- they have helped us with our catering, florist, band, lights and sounds and they strongly believe and work hard in making their clients happy.

If you’re considering this venue, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ms. Laden or Ms. Dimple at theforestbarn@gmail.com.

We thought our guests might need these (below screenshots) to keep them longer on the dance floor so we DIY them! Special thanks to the woman whom I trusted my entire wedding (haha), Dianne.


Catering & Styling: Passion Cooks Catering

The Passion Cooks Team has magical powers (shout out to Koni and Nariz!). They saved us from all sorts of stress and hassle. We reserved another caterer initially (had the payment forfeited also!) and we worried non-stop. After our “final food tasting” with the caterer we reserved, me and my husband decided to just change our caterer because of their bad service and bad food (my husband’s palate is hard to please).  So we rush to talk to Passion Cooks since they’re our first choice (we tried about 5 caterers!) and it was one of the best decisions we had. After talking to them, all worries went away and it was kinda of sad that I only needed to talk to them on the wedding day because they’ve prepared everything perfectly for us. Haha. We opted for basic styling and they delivered beyond our expectations.

The event managers are experts, respond promptly, very customer-oriented and I can attest that they know what they’re doing. Don’t settle for less. Food is one of the things that your guests will remember the most (Trust me, my foreign friends changed how they look at Filipino food after the wedding and kept talking about how everything was perfect).


Photo & Video: Ailette&Pierre Photography

Our brief was to never miss a beautiful moment and they captured everything perfectly. I felt like I’ve seen everyone’s emotions and they’re all perfectly stored on my hard drive. They were our first and only choice and there’s no doubt why. Even though the weather was quite bad that day, they still tried to take some aerial shots so that they won’t miss anything. Hands down to “AP boys,” really. Thanks to one of best friends, Ailette, who did our SDE though she just gave birth. Haha. Talk about dedication. 🙂

HMUA: Katchie Mejias

You might have seen her in fashion magazines. Oh, or you might have passed by her beauty supplies shop at Robinson’s or maybe you remember her in Mega Fashion Crew’s episode!

Katch is one of the most genuine and true talents that I’ve met in my life. She transforms everyone into a princess in an instant. Want an avant-garde look for your wedding? Just whisper it to her, everything’s possible with her makeup skills! 🙂

Oh, when she’s in the mood, she might even serenade you with her beautiful voice (ask her if she can bring Wolfy, her dog, along to sing something romantic on your wedding. Haha)


Flowers: By Joel Faller

Joel gave me a perfect rustic bouquet though I requested for his service last minute (because the florist that we reserved was not responding after giving the downpayment) and didn’t even meet him ’til now. Haha. I just sent him my brief for the flowers for the entire entourage, flowers in the church, car and my bouquet via Facebook and he delivered everything exactly how I envisioned them to be. Hope to meet you soon, Joel!

Invitation (Design): Sheila

She’s a part of me, probably that was why our wedding invitation was perfect. She’s not just a hot bridesmaid, she does websites too. Check out her portfolio by clicking her name above.


Bridal Gown and Groom’s Suit: Leslie’s Bridal

Leslie’s Bridal was heaven-sent to us. A friend of mine promised to do my wedding dress and I entrusted everything to her. 9 days before the wedding, and there was still no update from her. So I requested for a photo of my dress and it was not up to our expectations. 😦

Diane looked for a ready-made dress for me and suit for Martin the next day and Leslie’s Bridal team just came to rescue me, my husband and the rest of my entourage. In just a week, they realised my dream dress and I was really speechless. We’ll always be grateful that they saved our day!

Band (Ceremony & Reception): Appetite Music by Ryan Fortaleza

Whenever I think about our wedding party, Ryan and Appetite Music come to my mind. Martin was in charge of the band, and he said it was very convenient for him because Ryan just presented a long list of song choices for him to choose from. We opted for a violin for the wedding march in Church and it was so romantic. Martin couldn’t help but notice how meticulous they were to start singing at the right time as they look at my steps when I was walking down the aisle.

As you see from the video below, our wedding party was a blast because our family and friends couldn’t get their feet off the dance floor. Martin sang with them too!

Lights & Sounds: Stohnenky Pro Sounds and Lights (“bright lights, clear music”)

Didn’t have any problem with them and Sir Sonny was very prompt in his responses. They know Forest Barn well and that made everything so easy for us.

Cake: Entremet Boulangerie Patisserie + Cafe (Thanks Zha!)

It wasn’t just pretty, it tastes so good! They have nice bacon sticky bun that’s really awesome i their cafe in Oritgas, by the way!

Bridal Shoes: Vivian Westwood (Thanks Zha!)

Bridal Car: Pepay

Wedding Favours: Mom (if you want flowers as wedding favours, Amy’s Garden can help you, please feel free to reach us anytime)

Prep Venue: Discovery Suites Tagaytay

I love that all their rooms are suites and their team was very helpful. They have an additional fee of 5,000Php for wedding preps so don’t forget to factor that in your budget.


Overall styling & Coordination: Dianne Marie Combalicer (together with the best Maid of Honour in the world, Charmaine)

Everything was perfect because of Diane. 🙂 From my “foreign guests relations team” to all my props and coordination on the day.

I think the key to wedding planning and coordination is to assure the couple that everything will be alright so they can focus on what matters. Diane helped me in all the nitty-gritty DIY stuff that I wanted to do like the Kid’s table, signages, insect repellants, slippers, etc. She went to Divisoria when I was away and even stayed late at my house 2 days before my wedding just to do the checklist and assure me that I can sleep well.

On the day Coordination: Istudyo Juan

My college friends, Aiza & Juan, made sure that everything was perfect during our wedding and that we were well taken cared off.

Host/Emcee: Krist Atienza

For a perfect rustic wedding, hire an emcee as stylish as Kris. 🙂 Our friendship has come a very long way after that meeting at the airport on the way to Siem Reap, roughly 5 years ago. Kris is not just a hottie, without him, our guests might probably have fallen asleep. Thanks love!

More photos from our thanksgiving. 🙂

 


 

Happy wedding planning!

 

Friday Night-out: Donating Blood in Singapore

About 4 years ago, many good souls touched my heart when our family’s heart was broken. Dad was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and we were told that his case was terminal with only less than 6 months to live.

The agony was unbearable knowing that you only have 6 short months or less to show how grateful you are to one of the two people who sacrificed so much for you.  I wish I could bring him to all the places he’d like to see before everything’s over. I wish I could give a part of me so he would live longer. We’d see Dad happy and active one moment, and the next moment, he’d throw up blood. His haemoglobin would drop to an average of 4g/decilitre (normal haemoglobin level for a male is 13.5 to 17.5 grams per decilitre) and we will all be out looking for 2-4 bags of blood for his blood transfusion. It was a tough routine.

I wished, I could give a part of me so he would live longer, but I couldn’t.

I was heartbroken but healthy and with a weight less than 100lbs. I was rejected as a blood donour for Daddy. The struggle to find blood in the Philippines was real and we needed 2-4 bags every month. From then on, donating blood became part of my long bucket list.

Note to self: I will take care of my body and be healthy so that a part of me can help save lives and heal families’ broken hearts.

The inspiration: Two good souls (Enzo & Carina) will always be a part of me because they gave their blood to Dad, a total stranger to them whom they knew the situation via twitter, without asking for anything in return. Together with one of my best bosses and friend, Kaoru, who courageously donated her blood though she knows that Philippines is not as advanced as Japan; our family friends and lastly, to the couple with a big heart, Ellese & Jhong, for almost sharing with us a platoon of army donours when we needed them the most. 🙂

The push-factors: Great neighbours with big hearts turned into friends here in Singapore, Anna & Belinda, who’s happily donating blood regularly to help save lives (Shh..they already receive medals for it. LOL). Plus, the fact that:

  • every blood donation burns approximately 650 calories based on studies
  • you may have a lesser risk of cancer as new blood cells are regenerated
  • free medical examination as they screen your blood and looks out for transmitted infections such as Malaria, Hepa-B and Hepa-C, HIV and Syphilis
  • Blood donours are given priority when there’s an urgent need for blood (this is true especially in the Philippines. But hey, if there’s no enough supply for emergency use, how will all these matters?)

The process: We went to one of the blood banks at Dhoby Ghaut as walk-in donours on Friday night. The process is thorough but as easy as 1,2,3…

I’ve never had a chance to donate in the Philippines but my husband and sister say that they give”zesto” and water (sometimes instant noodle!) for refreshments but in Singapore, they pamper a donour like crazy making sure that you’ll feel like the hero that you are (they even put a bandage on your arm!).  For first-timers, aside from treating you extra careful, you’ll feel like you just passed a frat’s hazing when they give you your “welcome kit.”

There are 5 blood banks in Singapore at the moment and HSA’s website has a very comprehensive information if you’re ready to save lives.

For more information about donating blood in the Philippines, please visit here or talk to my sister who’s a regular blood donour. 🙂

Mascute, Mascots.

My husband used to work as the “mascot guy”- basically, the guy behind the Jelly Belly mascot. I love mascots.

It was always Sunday when we talk about having our own businesses and dreaming how wonderful it would be if we can provide for our families the life they dream to have. Mhen was usually washing her clothes while I enjoy a cup of coffee at this “home” that we used to share here in Singapore.

As we all know, Singapore offers a lot of opportunities, being a hub in the region but it’s no secret that life here is very unpredictable for foreign talents like us because of work passes- one moment you have a stable job, the next moment, it’s gone. And that fact makes most of us very determined to grasp everything that we could learn to equip ourselves when this “surprising” moment happens.

Mhen is a gem, an authentic talent. I’m always fascinated on how she can turn creative ideas into masterpieces. Her deep thoughts, practical thinking and genuine and sincere point of views make her works exceptional.

I can still remember how she made my niece’s “little mermaid” birthday costume very beautiful, yet comfortable that my niece can run around and enjoy the games during her birthday. Mhen’s creativity doesn’t sacrifice comfort. (If you look closely in Rei’s photo below, you’ll see that under her beautiful tail, she’s wearing comfortably her slippers.) For mascots, Mhen always thinks about the comfort of the person wearing them.

Mhen doesn’t give up until she solves the puzzle. She’s persistent and delivers what she thinks is ought to be delivered to her clients. When she was working on the costumes for Singapore’s National Day Parade and several other events, I’ve seen her in the kitchen during the wee hours playing with her clays (she uses clays for mock-ups), figuring out how the mascots or costumes should be designed.

Enough of my reminiscing- she’s back in the Philippines and now realising her dream as an artist and entrepreneur which she says she feels “alive.” She’s producing and renting out mascots for parties and events. Sabi nga nya, “today’s special moments, are tomorrow’s memories so complete every moment with a mas kamukhang mascot.” 

Below are their very affordable packages for your reference. Feel free to reach me anytime if you want me to connect you with Mhen.

 

 

 

 

Stories are everywhere but those translated into songs are my favourite.

A conversation with my niece, Rei, over the weekend inspired me to write about #PublicRecord by Us the Duo. She was telling me how much she likes storytelling and how stories are everywhere and are presented in different forms. I fully agree with her cause I love stories.

Stories are in movies, books, essays, photos, social media posts and of course, songs. A story is powerful- it motivates, it serves as a warning sometimes, it uplifts, it shows the beauty of us and being human.

Storytellers are amazing people. I can talk about how amazing my friends in Viddsee are for telling various stories across Asia through short films (will write more about these amazing people one of these days) or how brilliant my cousin Joee is for launching an album with all her amazing stories turned into songs (My favourite is the “Song for Mati”) for hours. But what’s more remarkable to me is when these storytellers collaborate with others to tell more interesting stories and this is what the #PublicRecord project is all about.

Us the Duo asked their fans to submit their stories and they’ll write songs about them. Five fan stories were chosen and they were incredibly written.

I’m me” is my favourite.

Saudade, a Portuguese word that talks about the feeling of profound longing, nostalgia or missing someone or something, is another favourite mainly because it captures my feeling towards Dad. Saudade is a good feeling, he never leaves.

If you know me, you’ll know that Us the Duo is one of my favourites ever since I heard their song/wedding vows which eventually became Book of Life’s OST.

Hope you don’t stop sharing stories wherever you are. They make life more interesting. Rei will agree for sure.

POKKA rules in a different level

If you’re based in Singapore, chances are you know “POKKA.” A good friend of mine who used to work in this city said that its Green Tea was her usual company when she was working over time.

When I was based in the Philippines, I only know about their Carrot Juice whenever I visit the nearest Japanese grocery store. Rarely, you’ll see you a POKKA drink in the market or hear someone talk about it. Probably because Philippines is a big market for Coca Cola and Nestle and the only tea that’s top of mind aside from Lipton is C2.

But in Singapore, POKKA is everywhere.

In a country where being “healthy” matters, POKKA surely goes ahead of its competitors with all it’s “healthier recipes” and “real” ingredients.

Earlier this week, the brand rolled out its campaign for POKKA COFFEE, the number 1 RTD Coffee in Singapore. Surprised? Well, who wasn’t? I think most of us have Nescafe on top of our heads as the number 1 but surprisingly, the newbie RTD Coffee in the market just got the crown according to Nielsen Report.

Will they stay on top? We never know. But I think, POKKA just elevated their brand into another level, level that is way higher than where Nescafe is standing for years. Not just because POKKA COFFEE is “brewed from real coffee” but because the brand has been portrayed smarter, more authentic and empowered that clearly resonates with its consumers no matter where they are in life. (Since, I’m a big fan, it’s like Harvey Specter with a heart! LOL)

So no matter where the market share will take them to in the years to come, I bet they’ll stay that way and they’ll never go down another level. It was a great start and a grand entrance. 

pokka coffee man transparent

Oh, I’m quite sure I saw a man in this video that resembles someone who drinks Nescafe.