Spontaneous Tagaytay Getaway: The Charm of The Carmelence Lodge, A Toddler’s Sky Ranch Experience

It really was an unplanned trip.

Well, the trip to Manila was totally planned as I needed to report to the company headquarters for my orientation and training for my new role. But the weekend getaway to Tagaytay was spontaneous. It was our last weekend in Manila and since the past days were more of business (as it should), we wanted to go somewhere special for our toddler in tow.

Initially we considered the zoo or the ocean park but since we were all late sleepers and therefore woke up at noon, it was impractical to go to those places for only half the day. So, my sister suggested that we go to Tagaytay! I have to be honest, I was really hoping she’d suggest it but I didn’t want to bring it up because of the bad weather. It was so sweet of her to offer to drive us there even if she did not intend to stay overnight with us.

So before she changed her mind, I instantly went online to book. I ended up booking a quaint cottage-designed inn, The Carmelence Lodge. To save my sister from driving long hours back and forth, my husband volunteered to be behind the wheel instead. He was already enjoying the drive in a new environment anyway.

Because it was already late in the afternoon when we decided to take the trip, we arrived at our destination past dinner time. The lodge did not disappoint. Beneath the dark sky, it still stole my heart. I felt like whoever designed this place had me in mind.

We headed to grab dinner, which was easy since the lodge was located in the town proper.

My rule when in another city is to only eat at places that are not found at home. Hap Chan offered good comfort food amid the windy evening.

Despite the evening’s light rain, the morning that followed was lovely! Blue skies were hovering the now vivid purple structure. Breakfast was served at the patio. The food itself was nothing extraordinary, but the ambiance was perfect. It was extra lovely, thanks to the fact that Continue reading

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Vlog: Road Trip and Food Trip in Southern Cebu

Every year, the family goes on a road trip down south to pay a visit to our dearly departed. The cemetery we go to in Argao, being privately owned by the clan elders, has always been a serene place to spend the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day holidays. It’s refreshing to be away from the city and the crowd for a few hours, and surrounded by loved ones—living and dead at that.

This time was a bit different. I went with a mission to see how many food I could try along the way.

I was asked if I could do a vlog for a page which is  almost my namesake. It was something I’ve never done before so I was naturally hesitant. After a lot of encouragement from a few best friends, I took the plunge and was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Documenting a journey and editing it to come up with a story brings a certain kind excitement, much like writing but different.

So here it is, the foods you can try on a road trip down south for kalag-kalag. Enjoy and check out The Queen City of the South, Cebu City page for more Cebu features!  ♥

30 Things I Realized Learning Upon Turning 30

I’m used to being young.

I grew up being the youngest of five siblings and was always one of the babies during family gatherings. I started working right after graduation, making me one of the youngest members of any teams. Even today, I’m considered to be one of the few “millennials” at work.

I remember looking at female colleagues who were in their late twenties with so much admiration, thinking about how much they must have already known about life, how many times their hearts must have been broken, and how many times they emerged tougher. Heck, I even thought I’d be married by 25, because I thought I’d be mature enough when I reached a quarter of a century.

And then my very own mid-twenties arrived and I found myself still engaging in petty arguments, throwing tantrums when I’m hungry, and hiding chocolates behind my closet because I didn’t want to share them with my older brother.

Now, I’m turning the big three-oh in less than 12 hours and it’s hard to believe how the years easily went by. My lifestyle, my energy, priorities, and beliefs have changed a lot since I turned 18. It’s sad dwelling into the things that I should have done while I was younger, but it’s exciting to think about the bigger things that await me now that I am equipped with three decades worth of roller-coaster experience.

While I do not claim to be as wise as I should be at this point and while I still believe that youth is all in the mind, allow me to share my favorite life lessons learned in the past 29 years as I official make my mark into adulthood. From beauty regimen rues to being betrayed by a best friend, I include here things that I sorely—but not regrettably—learned the hard way.

  1. Sleep as much as you can while you still can. I told my husband that my only birthday wish this year is to be able to sleep the entire day.
  2. Do not ever start shaving your legs or arms or underarm or any body part. If you really must get rid of unwanted hair, go for waxing. It can be painful but worth it.
  3. Give your hair and your nails a breather. Go for the natural look whenever you can.
  4. Arrange your clothes by color, it will make dressing up in the morning a little faster.
  5. Do not buy what you do not need. You’re only wasting money, closet space, and adding to the earth’s rubbish.
  6. Never socialize by talking about your political views.
  7. “Joking” about asking for a gift or pasalubong is never funny.
  8. It’s never too late to develop a new skill. Two years later you’ll look back at the moment when you would have wanted to learn something and realize that the two years would have been enough to make you good at that something.
  9. The most crucial decision you may have to make as a teenager is  Continue reading

Wedding Inspiration: Greggy and Sunshine’s Boho Reggae Wedding

First of all, this is a total throwback.

By now, I must have made it clear how much I love weddings! And when friends ask me for tips on wedding planning, I always find myself having them watch a wedding video of a vibrant, do-it-yourself wedding that I know of.

It’s the wedding of my dear friend, Shine. I met her at work, where we were together in the same team, with another good friend who did my engagement shoot. It took me weeks before realizing that she was the Sunshine of a song I know from years back. The song, which was her namesake, was released by Bambu Spliff, where she played vocals alongside her husband, Gregory. If you’re a true blue Cebuano, you pretty much know this reggae band. Needless to say, music played an important role in Greggy and Shine’s love story.

Fast forward to 2012, the free-spirited sweethearts said their vows in a rustic, bohemian-reggae inspired wedding.

Upon learning of my engagement, Shine was quick to provide tips and share her own experience of the whole planning. She gave me the brilliant idea of having my own dress tailored at a lower price by buying my own fabric, as she did in her own wedding.

She was an avid DIY bride herself, doing her own make-up, making centerpieces through old wine bottles, and even creating her own floral arrangement! The bonbonnières were jars of jam with a whimsical tag, “Spread the Love. Thank you for JAMming with us!” See what they did there? One couldn’t really tell how much DIY or how budget-friendly the wedding was just by looking at it because it simply looked so fun and fascinating.

Official photos were taken by Erickson Herrera while the video was done by Tiano Evangelista, who’s bassist for Junior Kilat, also a prominent Cebu band. Both were good friends of the couple. It really was a celebration filled with loved ones, as Shine would recall.

And oh, the bride and groom sing an original composition in the video!

Now enjoy, get inspired as I did, and eat your heart out at how unforgettable the musical entertainment must have been on that magical night! ♥

10 Things I’ve Learned On My 10th Month of Marriage

Few weeks ago marked our 10th wedding monthsary. We did not celebrate it as DM and I are never the monthly kind of celebrators. The last wedding-related celebration we had was for our .5 anniversary months ago, when we had a lovely intimate dinner. Now we are hoping to finally have some alone time for our first anniversary come July.

Unlike a monthly tally, we both believe that years are worth celebrating. And as we celebrate a milestone in our young marriage, I look back at the times I exuberantly told my friends how well things are going whenever they ask about life after the wedding. At the same time, I realize how I tell the same people how exhausted I am with having to deal with another human being for the rest of eternity!

All smiles, but what’s life after the wedding? Photo by Airballoon Project.

It’s true what our wise elders say, marriage really is not a walk in the park. While there are a lot more experienced people whom you should listen to when it comes to golden words on how to strengthen a union, allow me to share my two cents on what marriage means for someone who’s new at it.

1. Marriage means learning to cook or at least attempting to. As young girls, we are taught that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and thus we are encouraged to be handy around the kitchen. But modern society has also empowered us not to be stereotyped. True and true. I agree with both but here’s my honest opinion: At the beginning of the relationship, your man must know you enough to realize if you do not cook and he must accept it. That’s the type of relationship I have with my husband. I know he understands. But at the same time, if this is the case, this also makes your effort of trying to cook for your better half even more appreciated. You see, boys (and girls) are raised by mothers who always cooked for them. So home-cooked meals will always be synonymous to comfort and love. DM is a food enthusiast who loves to cook but he always expresses gratitude whenever I try to prepare something for him, even the most basic fried meal!


2. Marriage means learning to be a good listener. Among other things you need to learn in marriage is being a good listener. I often find myself going on and on on just about anything, from my friend’s engagement to my work complaints while my husband patiently listens. But when it’s his turn to talk about how he’s feeling so stressed and exhausted lately, I shake him off by saying he’s only overthinking. I realized one day (only because he told me straight up) that this can turn into bottled up emotions which will eventually be toxic in your relationship. Let him talk. If he wants to talk about the Cavs and Warriors, then so be it. You’ll have your turn to talk about Riverdale later.

3. Marriage means giving your partner time for his/her hobbies. While we’re in the topic of NBA, always be reminded that boys will always be boys. My husband likes cars, video games, sports, the whole big boy package. I’m actually grateful that he has his interests and hobbies because I understand how men need some release just like how some women resort to pampering and shopping. Plus, I’d really rather have him stay at home playing PS4 all day than having  to wonder what time he’d be home after a beer night with friends. A happy wife is a happy life. But you know what can make a happy wife? A happy husband that wants to reciprocate his wife’s tolerance!


4. Marriage means never losing the intimacy. We’ve heard about this and it’s very true. There will be days that, with all the things that go through your mind while you’re busy #adulting, you will forget about your spouse. Don’t. Don’t forget to Continue reading

Mood Board: Living The Dream Living Room

I have always enjoyed visualizing my dream house. As a little girl I made my own doll house out of used boxes and old magazines. I’d cut out pictures of beds, sofas, and others and stick them on a cardboard so they would be sturdy enough for my dolls. Then one day my brother introduced me to The Sims and life became even more wonderful! It was quite a personal accomplishment to come up with furniture pieces and wallpapers that bring life not only to the rooms but to the people who dwell in it as well. Literally, because good home items boost your Sims’ moods. *wink

My dream living room has got to have a fantastic view, like this favorite nook of mine in my brother’s home in London.

For a long time I’ve had these themes and palettes in mind that speak of my personality and carefree lifestyle. But ever since I became a wife and mother, details of my dream home also  evolved. I often look around our house and think of the many ways it can be improved. And because dreaming is, as you know, free, I revel in making my dream home immaculate, most especially the living room! After all, the living room is where you can bond with the whole family on weeknights and entertain your guests on weekends.

A must-have for me is a huge but cozy couch where my husband and I could cuddle with our two-year-old son. Ideally low and cushioned on all sides for our little one to safely use, and big enough for a few guests.

Arhaus.com

The couch has to be white so it’ll always look clean and tidy. Photo from arhaus.com.

Pop of colors! I’m crazy about throw pillows and these patterned ones will look perfect against the white sofa. The elephant is for my son who loves pointing at pictures of elephants. Photo from arhaus.com.

My family will be watching some Disney or Marvel movie on a simple yet functional media stand that matches the color of the couch, like this one from Scandinavian Designs.

Must look great even without the entertainment itself.

A round coffee table will take center stage between the couch and media stand. I especially like this one from Arhaus because Continue reading

The Thrifty Bride: 8 Ways to Save on Your Wedding Expenses

It’s just the third month into the new year but I already know at least seven couples who have been engaged! With my own wedding just less than a year ago, it’s a welcome treat that friends come to me for queries on processes, supplier referrals, and even tips. It makes me feel useful as I know how confusing planning a wedding can be.

Throughout the process of sharing Pinterest boards, Google spreadsheets, article links, and retelling the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of wedding planning, I came up with a list of the different ways you can cut your wedding cost. I had to be un-influenced so I made sure not to search online for other tips and to only rely on my experience. This way, it’s honest and more relatable to brides-to-be, especially in Cebu.

So here goes:

Look for a White Dress, Not a Wedding Dress
This was one of the things I was really overwhelmed with. When you start looking for a wedding dress, you’ll realize the huge discrepancy of bridal dresses vs. regular bridesmaid dresses or any dress for that matter. I actually tried an experiment wherein I asked for a quote for a white party dress and then later asked for a quote for a bridal gown. Aesthetically they didn’t differ much but labeling it as a bridal dress really made a big difference. If you find a regular dress that you feel like walking down the aisle in, grab it! Remember Kitchie Nadal’s 800-peso wedding dress? It’s all about feeling confident in it.  Another trick you can try is to purchase your own fabric and then have your dress sewn by an expert seamstress. Nothing says personalized more than that!

Get an On-the-Day Coordinator Instead of a Full Planner
First of all, don’t get me wrong, you can very well ask assistance from your most reliable girl friends or family members. I did and it went well. But as many a movies have taught us, it’s not always ideal to have a friend do the entire wedding planning for you, unless if that friend does events planning professionally. Aside from the fact that it will only create superfluous drama between the two of you, individuals who are not used to this kind of responsibility can get lost in all the commotion and may not be as comfortable with dealing with the suppliers as a professional coordinator would. I have truly learned that the best gift you can give to yourself on your wedding day is a coordinator. Like really! I heard of brides who had to deal with last-minute calls from caterers or other vendors while in the middle of being made up because some things did not go as planned. Now you wouldn’t want that, do you? No BS but I honestly did not feel any disarray on my wedding day because I had a coordinator who dealt with them. To save cost, hire an on-the-day coordinator to oversee the flow of the entire day instead of getting a full planner. Your on-the-day coordinator will most likely be hands-on even days before the actual day. You won’t really be needing any professional help with bookings or meetings months before the wedding. You only need one day to be a stress-free bride.  

DIY Whatever You Can
Do-it-yourself weddings have become a trend not only because it’s a great way to express your creativity but also because it’s an excellent means to save cash. I applied as much DIY as my prowess and time would allow me on my wedding and it remains to be one of the smartest things I’ve done in my life! There are lot of items that you can DIY. Buy some Continue reading