Sunday Visit at Taal Basilica

Last Sunday, we agreed to have a long drive farther South and attend a mass somewhere in Batangas. Just a whole day escape from the City and to have a glimpse of the greens and seas—Batangas is filled of such sceneries.

We went to Taal Basilica, around 65km far from BF Homes, Paranaque. And yes, it is worth the drive. Truly amazing to see the old-majestic facade of the church with intricate exterior designs. The history and the initiatives to preserve the holy structure is also very interesting to know. The struggles and the will of the Church to stand firm despite many trials is so inspiring. Here are some great historical information worth noting.

·       It takes pride as the oldest church in Asia; it started construction beginning 1575—3 years after the founding of Taal town in its old site near the shores of Taal Lake with Saint Martin of Tours as Patron Saint.

·       The church was rebuilt and improved in 1642 using stronger materials but in 1754, it was destroyed along with the town of Taal in the largest recorded eruption of Taal Volcano. This event led to the transfer of the town and the church 7.5km west away from the volcano to its present site atop an elevated hill facing Balayan Bay. The ruins of the previous church can still be seen in San Nicolas, Batangas.

·       The construction of the new church started in 1755 to 1782 but yet again damaged by a natural calamity by a strong earthquake on September 16, 1852.

·       Construction of the present church began in 1856 and was completely finished in 1878.

·       A small tower on the left side of the facade contained the large church bell, which in 1942, was destroyed by an earthquake.

·       The church was then restored in 1953 and then the following year on December 8, 1954, the church was declared as a Minor Basilica, the third in the country to be given such honor.

·       The church was again restored in 1972 by the Taal Quadricentennial Council for the 400th anniversary of the town’s establishment and on January 16, 1974 was declared a National Shrine.

·       In April 4, 2017, the Basilica was damaged by a 5.5 earthquake that struck Tingloy, Batangas. The Basilica was significantly damaged again caused by twin earthquakes (magnitudes 5.6 and 6.0) that struck the neighboring towns of Mabini and Taysan that occurred on April 8. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines is undertaking some precautionary measures in order to preserve the Basilica.

The Taal Basilica canonically known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Filipino: Basilika ni San Martin ng Tours; Spanish: Basílica Menor de San Martín de Tours) is a Minor Basilica in the town of Taal, Batangas in the Philippines, within the Archdiocese of Lipa. It is also considered to be the largest catholic church in the Philippines and in Asia, standing 88.6 metres (291 ft) long and 48 metres (157 ft) wide. St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of Taal, whose fiesta is celebrated every November 11.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taal_Basilica)

 

Visit their small gallery, light a candle, attend a mass, enjoy the sudden blow of wind at the entrance door, or just simply pray. Coming here is spiritually uplifting.

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7 To-Do’s on a Singapore Weekend Trip

Plan a productive weekend when in Singapore while taking note that it has similar hot weather like in the Philippines (it was also bipolar during our stay as it was so sunny in the morning then a strong rain in the afternoon) but the place is completely clean and the highway traffic is way too bearable even during a Friday night rush hour. Special thanks to my Father-In-Law who treated our entire stay as his birthday gift to my Son! Where to go? Here are some of the places you may consider while on a 3-night vacation with a kid onboard.

  • Sentosa – an island resort off Singapore’s southern coast, connected to the city by road, cable car, pedestrian boardwalk, and monorail. Depends on how many attractions you wish to explore but you can spend a day here to just simply roam around (ride cable car and tour the Sentosa Island via Bus) or visit S.E.A Aquarium (large aquarium featuring 800 species of marine life in a variety of habitats; one-day ticket at SG$34 for adults and SG$24 for kids) and Universal Studios (one-day ticket at SG$76 for adults and SG$56 for kids), among many other activities that you can pick.

  • Gardens by the Bay – nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. In the afternoon, you can take a look at the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and Heritage Gardens. Comes night, stand in awe of the amazing SuperTree Grove uniquely designed vertical gardens of 25 to 50-metres tall with a light display (7.45pm and 8.45pm daily). Bring a thin blanket or a long shawl to spread on the floor so you can lie down and watch the effects for free.
Gardens by the Bay Light Show

SuperTree Grove Feels like in Avatar World

  • Marina Bay Sands – walk at the huge and intricately-designed mall;  enjoy your coffee at the DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe. Well, nothing really spectacular about their latte but a Superman-designed mug and a cookie shape Batman is fun to try. The kids would surely fancy DC-character ice cream stick! Then go up to the paid viewing deck of the boat-shaped top floor soaring 57 level; observation deck entrance fee is SG$23 for adults and SG$17 for children.
DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe

Superman Latte and Batman Americano, please!

 

What’s on the high boat?

From Marina Bay, you can just walk to the ferris wheel and stroll at the Merlion Park.

  • Singapore Flyer – the Flyer has an overall height of 541 feet and takes about 30 minutes cycle. (Only second to the highest ferris wheel in the world, first being High Roller at Las Vegas at 550 feet.) The ride offers a nice 360 panoramic view of Singapore. The ticket is priced at SG$33 for adults and SG$21 for children.

Singapore Flyer from the Marina Bay POV

  • Merlion Park – you’ve probably seen images of Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. She is the Mama Merlion and the body symbolizes Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’ in Old Javanese. Her head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay.
Mama Merlion

Side view of Mama Merlion (The Daddy is on Sentosa Island)

  • Orchard Road – a 2.2 kilometer-long boulevard and Singapore’s retail heart with discount outlets, department stores, and upscale boutiques, alongside luxury hotels. Duration here is based on your shopping appetite, you can spend a whole day at Orchard to (window) shop and eat. As for us, we eyed on the eating part and found a really good ramen place at OrchardGateway! if you are Japanese noodle lover, have a slurp of shoyu or the black garlic at Kanshokuramen.
Ramen!

Ramen!

 

Starwars at Orchard

Starwars Product Launch at Orchard

  • Clark Quay – historical riverside quay (a structure built parallel to the bank of a waterway for use as a landing place) in Singapore, located within the Singapore River Planning Area. Drop by late afternoon or evening then jump to a dinner treat as there are a lot of mouth-licious food spots! If you are a seafood lover, get a reservation at Jumbo along the RiverWalk and make sure to order their crabs and shrimps! Or if you like cook-your-own steak done on a small-square stone grill, check Hot Stones. The extreme-adrenaline seekers might want to try  G-Max Reverse Bungy (I did NOT even think of riding it)!

The walk at Clark Quay

 

WriteNowNa in Singapore

Ready to crack the crabs!

These are just some of what you can do in SG and are guaranteed to leave memories! Have an amazing trip!

Summer Somewhere in Batangas

And so the summer of 2017 is finally here! It did not come as early as usual (mid-March) but we are now feeling its fire. Are you ready for the heat? Planning to sneak an escape from the humid temperature? Dreaming of playing with a snowman?  For some yes, with their tickets ready and set to travel out of the country or to a top island destination (oh, Palawan). What about diving into the cold swimming pool and strolling in the beach without flying? That too, is possible without leaving the Philippines. No need to even travel long hours if you are coming from Metro Manila; just go down south and drive for about 2.5 to 3 hours all the way to Nasugbu, Batangas. It is going to be an amazing trip.

Punta Fuego

Punta Fuego Pool 1

Random thoughts at the Double Infinity Pool

Punta Fuego swimming pool 2

Pool at the Lower Beach Club

Coming here is like morphing to a different place and transporting yourself somewhere with the spectacular sunset view right outside your casita at the beach front or get caught-up at any of their lovely pool. Other than swimming,  make sure to include a time to bike or drive around and see the architecture of the houses built on the island—Spanish-Mediterranean style residential resort that masterfully combines natural beauty and modern luxury.

Pico de Loro

Swimming at pico de loro

His Me-Time at the pool

Boat ride at Pico de Loro

Boat Ride at the Cove

You will equally get a fair-share of beautiful sights while at Pico. The place is like engulfed by the lush mountains as it seems to cover the area;  the swimming pool gives a feel of the serene nature.  We love the walk around the man-made lagoon surrounded by the privately owned-condominiums. But just be careful when you submerge into the beach as there are occasional jellyfish that can really sting. You may still enjoy other activities like the cove tour, pony ride, and eco trail.

These two are clubs and exclusive for members but the hotels/casitas are open to the public. You can book your stay directly through their websites (check availability at Punta Fuego or Pico Sands) or via Agoda and other online booking sites.

Finding the New Coffee Spot in and around BF Homes (Part 3)

Excited to share the third batch of a good coffee spot around BF Homes. Coming from my first two lists, some café shops are still around, some moved to a new location while some are now close. It just shows how tough it is to maintain the operation in the midst of so many coffee stores (from foreign to local to niche artisan competition).

To my disappointment, some of my previous lists fail to brew consistency. During the time of writing them, they were good but we have a couple of visits since then with a frustrating cup. One day, coffee is great; the next, bland. But this new line-up seems to remain consistent so far with the three stores opening last 2016 and the other back in 2014. Taste is espresso-strong with a fair hint of milky-richness. Venue is also ideal for an intimate meet-up with friends, polish a work deck, or just study and get a corner for reading.

Here’s the new pick with flat white (an espresso based coffee beverage prepared by pouring microfoam, a steamed milk consisting of small fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency, over a shot of espresso. It is somewhat similar to the traditional 140 ml cappuccino or latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk—allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour*) as the common order for the first three and hot latte for the last two.

Address: #29 Presidents Ave, BF Homes, Sucat, Parañaque

Bowen 24 Cafe at Presisent Avenue - BF Homes

Address: #196 J. Elizalde Ave. BF Homes, Sucat, Paranaque (beside Scooter Depot)

Lusine Cafe at Elizalde St BF Homes

Address: Molito Commercial Complex, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

Exchange Alley Coffee House Molito Alabang

Address: 273 Aguirre Ave, Parañaque, 1720 Metro Manila

It took a while before I get to drink my latte, coffee art is just way too adorable.

I should have included this on my earlier list but we haven’t really decided to try and go up to their second-floor store until just recently when we’ve learned that they supply the same dessert at Toby’s Estate. Apparently the brownie which is “not a brownie” has their own coffee shop and it’s good!

Address: Mezzanine Level, JJACC Building, 169 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque

Not a brownie dessert at Toby's Estate

 

Update as of August 2017 – Bucky’s corner already closed.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_white

Photo Source: Images via the FB page of each Coffee Store except Farmer's Orchard.

A Walk in the South Park

If work load is just too much and people around are just becoming dementors, what calms you? Shopping? A Sneak at the movie house? Dining out with a good friend? Doing a teleserye marathon? Finding a corner to meditate? Drafting stories to write? Taking a visit at the nearby chapel? Or a walk in the park?

Park stroll at Molito AlabangIt is a Yes to most of these possible escapes for me but drinking coffee while walking in the park is my favorite kind of de-stresser. It clears the mind, taking out unnecessary worries and rush; helps to see the bright side of dark scenarios.

Take a quick look at the four parks worth the walk around Alabang. They are near each other so you can drive from one place to the next and if you get hungry, various food choices are available too.

 

1. Molito – Quoting from my old blog post: “What draws us to come here regularly is the casual, calming ambiance. There is enough space for children to run around as they play with the colorful floor fountains and vacant seats for people to just lounge amidst the night breeze.”

..or just take that afternoon solo moment to relieve stress.

Molito Alabang

Location: Madrigal corner Commerce Avenues, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

2. West Gate – The now park was formerly a road/car parking at the center of  West Gate. It was a good idea to restructure the place so more people enjoy it with an open-air retail concept that challenges the confines of the mall setting, creating a main-street ambiance conducive to relaxation and recreation.

West Gate Alabang

Location: Entrance via Commerce Avenue, Filinvest Avenue, or Alabang-Zapote Road, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

3. Spectrum Center

This spot takes just a few stride from Filinvest Tent and Acacia Hotel with floor fountains and scattered round benches. It can be windy here in some afternoons, making the walk more relaxing.

Spectrum Center

Location: Commerce Ave corner Spectrum Midway, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

4. River Park, Festival Mall

Festival Mall continues to expand and this part of the development is very refreshing with the sound of gushing water, charming bridge, nice theater, and green scenery in a neat al fresco setting.

River Park, Festival Mall

Location:  Civic Drive, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

Images c/o the Parks’ Facebook pages.

Tagaytay Restaurants to Try (Part 2)

The trip going to Tagaytay is becoming more exciting with the promise of seeing breath-taking views and the anticipation of experiencing so many gastro-adventures up ahead. There are just a lot of fascinating restos to try! Last year, I have listed our family’s top choices and this time adding more on the line-up. We simply love the food and the ambiance as we repeatedly come over to taste the moment.

Balay Dako

WriteNowNa at Balay Dako

Filipino Restaurant

Location: Along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Tagaytay (beside Max’s)

Balay Dako which also means “Big House” will make your tummy huge with all the delicious Pinoy food on their menu list. The feel is like going to a well-maintained old house from the province (beginning from the arc at the entrance to the large banquet area with a nice glimpse of Taal). Ideal meal to offer to balikbayan relatives and friends. It is managed by Antonio’s BUT totally different from the kind of service that you may have experienced say from Breakfast at Antonio’s.

Beware of the very poor service! Either you get a frown or you will be ignored by servers when you request anything. There are chances too that the food will come so late you have already paid the bill before it arrives. It is a consistent disappointment so lower your expectations, drop the idea of getting a  warm and friendly accommodation especially when the hall is crowded, you will definitely not get it but… just enjoy the food. We had no choice but to go back the last time  (even if we prefer otherwise) because our son is a fan of their lechon kawali and it was requested during his birthday, how can we say no!

Favorites: Kare-Kare, Lechon Kawali, Fresh Lumpia

Marcia Adams

WriteNowNa at Marcia Adams Tagaytay

Mediterranean Restaurant

Location: Border of Tagaytay and Alfonso; close to Residence Inn Zoo and only 150m from Aguinaldo Highway.

The serving size is humongous; that slab of porkchop was perhaps one of the largest portions we’ve  seen for its kind and the taste is superb, delicately cook to the inside. The place is neatly designed as if you are transported to Tuscany, Italy. Such an ideal venue for a quick escape from the Metro.

Favorites: Porkchop, Chicken Kebab, Aegean Salad, Fried Bananas with Chocolate Dip

Buon Giorno! Caffe & Bistro

WriteNowNa at Buon Giorno!

Italian Restaurant/Filipino Breakfast

Location: Twin Lakes, Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway

Another resto to visit is Buon Giorno! at Twin Lakes (now one of the landmarks of Tagaytay). Yes, they also have a lovely branch at Cliffhouse (also along the same highway) but this new site is more spacious and more immersed in nature given their town and country theme. Quality of food remains outstanding and any pick from their array of pasta and pizza is surely mouth-watering.

Favorites: Veggie Pizza, Puttanesca

Whether you are dining out to escape the busy Manila traffic or wishing to relax with a lovely view, going up to Tagaytay and exploring different restos would always guarantee a terrific adventure. Enjoy every moment!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Is it a Good Read?

(There is no spoiler here)

Harry Potter novel series reminds me of younger years—closing the door, secluding myself for a day, diving into the story while completely detached to everything and enchanted on my own corner. I had never been deeply engaged with other books since the end of Deathly Hallows which was released back in 2007.

My fascination continues, even introducing the wizarding world to my son.

harry-potter-writenowna4

The public distribution of the Cursed Child last July 31, 2016 seems to bring back the excitement a bit. “A bit” only because I have already put an end to the Harry Potter adventure along Book 7. Hearing that there would be a stage play of Harry Potter 19 years later of his life did not make me frantic. At first, it was announced that there would be no printed version but apparently, they have it now.

harry-potter-cursed-child-writenowna

Hubby understanding my Potter passion surprised me with a copy simultaneous to the international selling.

It is in a script format so JK Rowling’s detailed description of what’s really going on is not happening here. Important to note also that she has not entirely written the story as she worked in collaboration with other playwright Jack Thorne.

Finishing the script would only require a couple of hours of devoted reading; the flow is still intriguing but not as compelling as the original novels nailed it. So, lessen the expectations.

The plot lacks the depth, the twist is utterly forced to occur, and the ending has none of that lingering effect we got used to. There are still bits of exciting and interesting portions though (as strong friendship of unlikely characters tends to bloom).

Is it worth the read? Yes. It won’t hurt to know what happened to Harry Potter and his gang whether we agree with it or not as Potterheads surely have their own conclusions post-Voldemort. And who knows, the West End stage might reach the Philippines? Then that would have been another experience worth anticipating for a fan of many years.

7 Tips for Parents Traveling with Younger Kids

Hubby and I personally find it gratifying to travel with our son; we always make sure to bring him on our trips. Traveling opens his mind to various cultures and enhances how he deals with different kinds of people. While it is totally fulfilling to see the world with our children, there are also a lot of challenges too. We have listed some ideas that you can consider on your next trip to lessen the drawbacks.

1.Always bring a medicine kit – Aside from his daily vitamins, try to bring a small bottle of Paracetamol or Ibuprofen,  bring anti-histamine in case of an allergy attack, and even small undissolved antibiotics for that “just in case” scenario. Yes, you would be able to find a similar medicine in other countries but when a fever strikes, it is definitely handy to have it available ASAP without stressing out where to find a pharmacy.

Last week we were fortunate to get a free trip to Taiwan together with relatives, thanks to my Father-in-Law! But my son caught a fever on the eve of the departure due to tonsillitis. He was quarantined at the arrival and we were told to go the hospital in Taipei to get a certificate that his fever is not because of dengue or other easy to spread ailment. We immediately went to the Emergency Room, got the certification, and were given tons of medicines. We have consulted our Pedia via Viber and she refused to use most of the prescriptions. She told us to stick with what she is giving him. Good thing we have brought the “usual” drug as he became fever-free over night.

2. Expect detours – Sure we have already scheduled spending a whole day in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island but then there was a heavy downpour and a 3-hour queuing line to get our turn at the cable car. So, No. What’s next? Make sure to orchestrate an advance plan B. (To my delight, we just decided to explore the nearby Citygate Outlets).

3. Charge his gadgets – Ipad had served as well especially while waiting at the airport and on the plane during his early trips. Now, we are starting put a distance with his use of gadgets as we introduce him to read books or appreciate the idea of simply observing around.

4. You cannot really shop your heart out UNLESS you take turns – One to stay with the kid at the hotel room or nearby play area while the other sneak for a quick shopping.

5. Bring his favorite snacks – My son loves the fried chicken of McDonald’s and got sad when he learned that there was no McDo Fried Chicken in the US. So while we were convincing him that Popeye’s Chicken is a good alternative, we let him munch his local snacks and slowly encourage him to try a new brand.

6. Let go of your whims – While at Osaka, we had sudden plan to go to Nagoya because Hubby wanted to visit the Toyota Museum. We haven’t been there and not familiar with the place so we hoped to rely on impulse—it would have been a real adventure if it just me and him but we got a kid now; doing research is important to make sure we won’t tire our son with long walks or unfed tummy for hours.

7. Again, conduct a research – It does not need to be an intensive study but just get acquainted with where you are going. Take a glimpse of what the weather will be like, the best way to commute with kids, identify kid-friendly landmarks, and be familiar with nearby places around the hotel.

We are continuously learning and exploring! Every travel leads to gaining knowledge and creating beautiful memories as a family! Where are you going next?

writenowna-blog-tips-traveling-with-kids

Moving from Small to Big School (Preschool to Grade 1)

Last week, I was invited by the school of my son to talk in front of the new set of parents on how to ease the transition from small to big school. Not that our family has mastered it but moving to grade one is a milestone and should be made memorable for our kids. Here are six quick tips:

  • Help him prepare emotionally.

Weeks before the start of class, enthusiastically talk to your child about his big new school.  Excite him about the fun of having long walks at the corridor, chances of meeting new people, seeing a huge field every day, and learning with a lot of other kids (from 12 to about 40 students per classroom)!

  • Listen more.

Expect to hear new characters and events from his stories—nice (and naughty) classmates, reason of unfinished snacks, race mates from the classroom to the drop-off gate. His tone of narration would signal if he is coping well or not; do not resist to keep in touch with the adviser if there are persistent stressful signs.

  • Initiate his independence.

Most small schools would allow parents to be inside the classroom and would let them take a peek of their child while studying even if this means weeks or months of “guarding and staring” at the doorstep. Well, this is a huge no-no in the big school; we can’t even drop by to check if our child is okay during recess! Believe that he can do it with the support of his teachers.

“Hard to let go” – Picture was taken back in 2013 during the first day of pre-school

  • Learn to trust.

Give him the assurance that his teachers are going to be like his Daddy and Mama while in school. But really, the most terrifying part comes from the fact that we will leave our child from people we don’t know (yet) and they will be in charge of our kids daily! Try to soothe your worries and have a peace of mind that our children would be in caring hands.

  • Enjoy the process.

There will be days that it feels like a roller coaster ride—from resisting to follow his new routine to giving brilliant reasons not to study. But just keep it going and have fun at the moment; he won’t be grade one forever.

  • Know that he can.

Because you made him ready for this. There are a lot of options to do home school or perhaps continue with his small school curriculum but here you are, taking the step and preparing for that special day.

  • And last, don’t forget to take his picture on the first day of school!
Ready?

Ready?

SkidKart Circuit At The Village and Nuvali

SkidKart Circuit is a fun drift activity that can be experienced this summer at the South of the Metro for kids and anyone feeling like a kid. No need to envy younger children riding a moving kart at the park, you can now play and ride with them too!

Freshly conceived last December 2015, SkidKart is roaming the city to bring unique adventure for people of all ages. Feel like checking them out? The team is now skidding at the following venues:

The Village Sports Club –  Tropical Avenue, BF Homes, Las Piñas

  • Racing Dates: All summer of 2016
  • Circuit Time: 10 am to 8 pm every weekend and will be daily beginning March 25 to end of summer
  • Track Length: – 120ft/250sqm

skidkart-circuit-the-village-bf-homes

Solenad 3 – Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna (near National Bookstore and Kenny Rogers)

  • Racing Dates: March 3 to April 2, 2016
  • Circuit Time: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Track Length: 150sqm

skidkart-circuit-solenad3-nuvali-sta-rosa

Some would just prefer to have a try while many are persistent repeaters who simply love the feel of the drive, pick your race:

  • P100 for 3mins
  • P180 for 6mins
  • P300 for 10mins

Safety is also part of the commitment. The organizers assure that all riders are provided with helmets, well briefed by marshals, big carts are equipped with seat-belts and brakes, stoppers are installed in every kart accelerator to reduce the speed. Marshals are also well-trained to ensure safety within the circuit. Barricades that are wrapped with foam are installed around the track to absorb the impact of the karts. And regardless of the weather, there are tents installed to protect the racers from the bright sun or heavy rain.

It is fun to see how everyone found their new ride and became an enthusiast of skidding!

skidkart-circuit-for-all-ages2

Kids skidding around

 

skidkart-circuit-for-all-ages

92-year old skidder!

Our family will surely ride this again, and again, and maybe a lot more wherever they are! Try it and let me know if you had fun, too!

Photo credits c/o SkidKart Circuit FB Page

For inquiries, email skidkartcircuit@gmail.com