Season 2 of quarantine birthdays and my eldest turned 17. Away from the usual Shakey’s, we went on a day trip out of town to relax and chill.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
Season 2 of quarantine birthdays and my eldest turned 17. Away from the usual Shakey’s, we went on a day trip out of town to relax and chill.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
Photo set | Northern Island, New Zealand
I stopped celebrating my birthdays when I turned 20 for silly reasons most people wouldn’t really understand. Not that interesting so don’t be curious.
Every year, on my birthday, I leave and go on an adventure and for the last leg of this quarter life crisis, I went to Middle Earth. 12 days full of missed flights, stairs, bottles of wine, herds of cow, flocks of sheep, steak, steep trails, fish and chips, broken luggage, sorting baggage, magnificent views and loads of fun!
Flew Qantas. Flight from Manila was delayed so I missed my connecting flight and was stranded in Sydney airport for a few hours. Booked the next available flight to Auckland. Fortunately, my Wellington flight got moved to a later schedule so I did not miss it. Good thing there was also free booze on board, good enough compensation to the exhausting sprint I had to make to my connection only to arrive to a closed gate.
After 13 hours of flying…
Northern Island winter road trip
The places we went to on our 10-day road trip from Wellington to Auckland.
My cousin and her husband cooking me up a feast at their new home and what a coincidence that a friend of mine from way back also lives in the same suburb as them! She saw my Instagram stories arriving in Wellington and messaged me. Chance meet up of course and she also brought me 3 bottles of wine haha!
Road to Cape Palliser, such picturesque views outside my window!
We passed by some wild seals too! Stopped by the side of the road and took some pictures of these cuties. Careful enough not to get too close as some curious pups were growling at me haha.
Mount Victoria lookout
360-degree scenic views of Wellington. Always chasing sunsets.
Te Papa Museum
Did not finish exploring and will need to go back!
When you love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you just have to visit this place. Home of the talented people behind these amazing conceptual designs and visual effects.
Martinborough – Poppies
Passed through this town going to Castlepoint. The town features over 20 wineries, most within cycling and walking distance of the village square.
We stopped here for late lunch and some wine tasting. I am not a wine person but this place is definitely a must go to. Wine and food, superb.
This small beach-side town on the Wairarapa coast is just beautiful.
Road crossing to Ruapehu district. Landscape of the Northern Island is so diverse. Majority of the road trip, all I see is lush green forests and cattle and sheep ranches. Then we come to this. Both sides covered with low scrublands and snow capped Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe as backgrounds.
It was snowing when we arrived and first snow fall experience for these kids in the 7 years they’ve been living in New Zealand haha! Pretty winter wonderland.
Parked our car by the hotel. We took a bus up to Mount Ruapehu as the road was very slippery and we did not bring chains.
The Huka falls—largest falls in the Waikato river. The flow rate from the water drop of the falls could fill up 8 olympic size pools in roughly a minute. Amazeballs.
Relaxed in the silica enriched thermal pools as we were dead tired from all the walking and hiking. There is also a walk where you get to experience a recreated Maori settlement, said to have settled some 1,000 years ago, drawn by the thermal activity and the abundance of food. They believed that the hot pools contained healing powers and therapeutic benefits. Amazingly, the houses are so small and considering that most Moari are largely built people.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu (Māori for sacred waters) is an active geothermal area by the Taupo volcanic zone, some 27 kilometers south of Rotorua.
Whakarewarewa Forest – The Redwoods
Magnificent stands of towering native and exotic trees in this beautiful forest.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Lake Tikitapu is also known as “Blue Lake” because of its gorgeous sapphire waters.
This magnificent structure used to be an elegant spa retreat called the Bath House in 1908 and was later on converted into a museum and art gallery. Sadly, this beauty closed in 2016 for seismic strengthening and remains closed til now.
August 6th, BIRTHDAY!
Matamata – Hobbiton
Where else to celebrate the last leg of my quarter life crisis but at the lush pastures of the Shire in Middle Earth?
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
I swear we went. They just did not allow us to take photos. According to our Maori guide, the glowworms are sensitive to light and sound which is why they prohibited use of cellphones and cameras and also, said gadgets are expensive and they do not want to be spelunking the caves just to retrieve these.
Grabbed some pictures from Google Images (maybe back when it was still allowed to take photos, I dunno).
The only photos we were able to take — exit of the cave and the entrance to the souvenir shop.
What an awesome day! Ate truffle burgers and truffle fries for dinner, lazed at our Airbnb by the lake and downed 2 bottles of wine. Happy birthday to me!
These familiar scene out of Narnia. Shorter way by boat, Longer way by hike. We took the latter. Even found a few blooms of Sakura. View was worth it.
Hot Water Beach
An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at this beach, thus it’s name. Visitors can dig large holes and soak in the thermal water.
Disney on Ice
Because we are never too old.
Last stop for this trip. Met up with friends who are based here and was so happy they celebrated my birthday with Korean food and ramen!
SEA Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium
Killed time and went to the aquarium while waiting for our Korean dinner.
Thank you for indulging my Korean obsession!
It was really nice that the guy by the escalator going up the tower told us to check the skies first before deciding to pay more than $20 and just be disappointed. It was raining nonstop and was really cloudy. We did not go up. We went shopping instead lol.
Last day (huhuhu)
Breakfast at Kreem
Arrived around 10pm in Manila, stayed at my best friend’s place, was so exhausted fell asleep the moment I went to bed and was snoring. Went to church the next day (thank you LORD for my awesome vacation), had lunch at Soru (always) and flew home to Bacolod in the afternoon.
And I feel like I’m still hungover.
Thank you to Krissy and Alvin for my room (haha) and for going on this trip with me, Micmic for seeing me in Wellington and bringing vino, Aubrey for meeting me in Auckland, Ching and Patrick for letting us stay at your ginormous place and Ilaine and Bambi for coming out for ramen and dessert. 12 days is tooooo short! I wish I was on vacation 24/7.
Krissy & Alvin of Knotting Wong Photography
My DJI Osmo Action camera (yes I switched from GoPro)
I was having my afternoon coffee when my eldest kid arrived from school, yanked open the kitchen door too hard (because we Filipinos don’t normally use the front door), threw his backpack on the library floor and slammed the door shut to his room.
I was ready to rage like what the f*ck was that when his brother followed inside after him, laughing. I asked what was funny and he said that his brother got turned down by a girl on Valentine’s day.
I’m raising teenagers aged 14 and 15. I’m 34.
I remember back in high school, every Valentine’s day, a number of girls would be called to the Student Affairs office to receive flowers from their boyfriends or admirers. Almost everyone would wait by the hallway to see the enormous bouquets and gush and giggle. (I went to an all-girls school by the way.) My name was never called, I never had the shameless opportunity to claim a dozen roses because as far as I could recall, I did not waste my time tearing over some ridiculous crush when I was this age, I was busy sneaking out to drink and play pool (not something I’m really proud of). Boys were the least of my concerns.
So I found my kid’s situation kind of amusing. I’m not a bad mother.
I knocked on the door to his room before letting myself in, it was pitch black. I turn the lights on and found him crying on his bed. I sat beside him and stroked his back, asked what was wrong. For a while, he was just silent, trying his best not to cry. He finally said to leave him alone. I’m not doing that, no kid is demanding me to do anything I do not want to do, so I remained where I was, told him that he could talk to me, that he could tell me what happened at school, that he could tell me why he was so triggered. I guess he realized I wasn’t going anywhere until he spills, so with a heavy sigh, he said that his heart was broken. I seriously tried not to laugh. I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER. But honestly, I don’t know how to deal with this. Motherhood, especially parenting teenagers, did not come with a manual. I asked how his heart was broken. Apparently, since it’s Valentine’s day, he gave gifts to this crush, but she turned away and he felt humiliated. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I mean here is my baby boy, all grown up, having his heart broken by some ugly piece of shit. Sorry.
I did not know what to say. I told him it’s going to be okay even if I know it’s going to hurt really bad at the moment. I told him there are still so many other girls he will eventually meet and fall in love with even if I know his heart longs for a certain someone. Not the best choice of words.
But I also told him, assured him, that even if we don’t agree on most things, Mama will never turn away from him. Mama will always happily accept even paper roses and half eaten Kit Kats. I’ve collected all those V-day cards he and his brothers gave me since they started to learn how to make one. When everyone leaves, Mama will stay, Mama will always be here. Mama will never stop loving you.
A broken heart, heavily laden with dramatic weight and sadness.
Many years ago, I too suffered from a broken heart. Lots of uncontrollable sobbing and tantrums involved. If I had a dollar for every heartbreak and disappointment I’ve ever experienced, I’d just well be able to quit work and travel the world. But I’ve long mustered forgetting and blocking out the pain, the hurt. We cannot just continue to keep reliving our misery. I’ve come to terms with what has been and have totally moved on.
There is no socially established mourning method for broken hearts. It’s just plain sad. But if we try to see it as an experience to learn about ourselves, the process of moving on opens up an opportunity of self-betterment instead.
He wouldn’t be able to understand this for now, it’s a lot to take in for a fragile 15-year old, so I just let him be sad and cry it all out.
Before I left the room, I asked my kid, curious, if his crush even accepted the gifts he gave before she turned away and he said yes (that b*tch). I told him to give it time, that maybe she was just shy (while rolling my eyes). I am not a bad mother. I asked him what he gave her, he told me he gave a single red rose and some chocolates. Hearing chocolates, I asked what kind he gave, he told me he got some of the chocolates I keep in the fridge. We had a good laugh.
I did not dream of having kids. It was never part of the plan.
I wanted to write and live in different places, experience this diverse, expansive earth everyone keeps talking about.
At some point, I even wanted to go to outer space, discover aliens, leave footprints on the moon, trek Mars, name stars.
But you see, life has a sick sense of humor and who would have imagined I’d end up birthing 3 boys instead.
I wasn’t ready.
Stuck in the mundane.
I think I’ll never be ready.
Fine, joke’s on me.
But I kept on, even when my mind was in total chaos. I still keep on.
I had the choice to get away, to run away as I always do, but I stayed.
And trying to be a mother, keeping up a facade of this supposedly strong person and parenting alone while my heart shattered into infinite pieces, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.
But oh, the laughter of children, the sweetest songs, such beautiful music to my ears, I could listen to for a lifetime.
The course of our lives sometimes do not play out like how we pictured it in our heads but somehow, we always end up where we should be.
And most times, much happier.
There’s so much to see in our province honestly. Day trip bonding sesh with my cousins the few days they were home.
Photo set | Murcia & DSB
Lunched at Mambukal Resort, one of the popular mountain resorts in Negros Occidental located in Murcia and rests at 1,200 meters above sea level. It’s been the go to if you want a feel of the mountains since I was a kid. Can go hiking up to the seventh falls, kayaking in the lagoon, camping, watch the gigantic fruit bats or go dipping in the sulfur pool.
Passed by the viewing deck going to DSB overlooking a wide stretch of terrains and plantation.
Coffee at La Guada cafe. It’s a cafe resto with a marvelous view and guests can also stay overnight. They have a variety of rooms that could accommodate just you, a couple or family or you can opt to bring a tent, set up camp, make a bonfire and grill some barbecue. Can also go river trekking with their local guides.
Capped off our day at this pine tree haven in DSB.
Best times always with family.
It’s an inside joke, you won’t get it.
Long overdue bonding sesh with my cousins, finally got the chance to do an out of town trip after 3 years!
Photo set | Bohol
Left Bacolod for Dumaguete at 3:00am to catch the 9:50am trip for Tagbilaran.
If you bring a car, travel time from Bacolod to Dumaguete is 4 hours (with coffee in between). We took the fast craft to Tagbilaran ~ Oceanjet takes almost 2 hours from Dumaguete and fees are P700 for tourist class and P1,020 for business class. Trips are 9:50am and 2:30pm daily.
Arrived Bohol just in time for lunch. Soooo hungry.
Since we still had half of the day to kill, we went to a couple of tourist spots in Panglao before heading back to my aunt’s place in Maribojoc.
Passed by this old church (forgot the name) that has a well inside, Mama Mary’s well they call it, where they get holy water. I think this was built in the 1920s, I’d have to verify with my cousin since she was the one who got a brochure of the place lol. Very pretty interior AND the ceiling was hand painted by someone.
Just ate ice cream here actually. They moved their colonies to a different place since they opened up accommodations and kept one for demo purposes. Bought honey to bring home.
Amazing how this is so well maintained! And the water is so so so clear.
Tried the Loboc river cruise, early lunch for us so to avoid the crowds. We had a good boat, it had a deck and was sat with a good view, great for taking photos haha.
Wildlife and Nature Park
This opened 5 months ago, fairly new, just a few meters away from the tarsier conservation and they house around 25 exotic animals. Will definitely be back with the kids next time.
Another must see when in Bohol, was once declared as one of the seven wonders of the world. More than 1,268 cone-shaped hills spread over an area of 50 square kilometers or more and vary in size from 30 meters to 120 meters in height.
After going around these “mandatory” spots, we headed to Henann Resort to check-in and just in time for sunset and happy hour.
Happy hour by the beach, unlimited steak buffet at Amorita Resort and night swimming at the hotel.
Dinner buffet at Amorita Resort is P1,100 net, inclusive of taxes.
Woke up to breakfast and ate until the buffet closed haha.
Was supposed to go dolphin watching and island hopping this day but we decided to just savor the hotel amenities and laze by the beach.
Already planning to go back in December with the kids. We fell in love with the place for sure.
We left late afternoon to go back to my aunt’s place and to this feast! Everything was soooo fresh and soooo yummy, I couldn’t stop eating!
Day 4 | Homebound
Took the 7:30am trip from Tagbilaran to Dumaguete, bought silvanas to bring home and lunched at Royal Suites for some bulalo steak.
Same rates apply to Oceanjet trips from Tagbilaran to Dumaguete. Schedule is 7:30am and 12:30pm daily.
So good to have spent the weekend with family, major sepanx already.
Let’s plan where we go next!
Family time during the holy week down Southern Negros.
Photo Set | Nabulao Beach and Dive Resort
Day 1 | Good Friday
On our way to Hinoba-an, we passed by Campomanes bay at the Amity training camp. Thinking of letting our kids join the second batch some time in May, training on basic survival skills.
Juancho also got to take a picture with his favorite fire truck and ambulance!
Included with the camp is this view.
Arrived at Nabulao Beach and Dive Resort just in time for lunch. We booked the Master Suite, very roomy with 2 queen beds, a sofa bed, clean bathroom and a terrace with a view. I could just live here lol. Rate is P5,000 per night (peak season), room could accommodate 6 people.
Time for a swim!
The resort has 2 swimming pools, one where they have their diving lessons and one where kids could swim. They also have a mini bar by the pool, billiards and foosball. Other activities include water sports such as jet skis, banana boat, paraw sailing and island hopping.
Lazed by the shore to wait for the sunset.
Kids writing names on the sand, playing volleyball and building sand castles.
It was a Good Friday indeed.
Day 2 | Black Saturday
Went Island hopping and the kids enjoyed! You could rent boats from the resort — big boat that could accommodate 25 people is P3,500 for 2 hours and small boat that could accommodate 10 people is P1,500 for 2 hours.
The little kids were not scared, I swear (hahaha!).
First stop was Obong caves.
There are many entrances to the Obong caves, 2 of which are dry entrances, the caves where we took the kids to and one that is only accessible by boat or by swimming as the entrance is from the sea. That cave we did not get to see because it was crowded.
Arrived to people cooking lunch by the shore (lol). Sad that the cave walls are full of vandals and some leave their trash behind.
Went inside the caves with the use of our cellphone flashlights and was greeted with stalagmite formations.
The caves played a role during World War II, when the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese. The American Forces landed near Hinoba-an and used the town as their island headquarters. So glad to have the kids explore a little bit of Negrense history.
So there was a little bit of confusion with our boat booking that we ended up joining our friends on the big boat. All good.
Next stop was to a friend’s private beach where we were able to just relax and sip on some fresh buko. The place was awesome child friendly as the beach has shallow and very clear water.
Kids were paddle boarding, riding jet skis and building sand castles while we adults were all talking about random stuff like young living oils and gallstones (hahaha).
Went back to the resort to have late lunch, napped for a bit and waited for sunset but it started to rain really hard. View was still beautiful.
Can’t diet in this place. Food is really good and sold at a very reasonable price. Overall experience at Nabulao is great! Very courteous and accommodating staff, very clean rooms and facilities, good value for money.
Day 3 | Easter Sunday
Beautiful sunrise to cap the holy week.
To old ends and new beginnings.
Grateful to have spent the long weekend with the most important people in my life.
So what to do on a Sunday?
When you want to escape the noise of the city for a bit, the mountains is always a good idea.
Almost 30 minutes from Bacolod City, Duyan Cafe is located in Sitio Lantawan, Brgy. Guimbalaon, Silay City. Approximately 21 kilometers from the Silay Airport, route is well paved and cafe is visibly on the side of the road, you can’t miss it!
Unwind and chill.
They serve sandwiches, coffee, tea and astonishing views. No entrance fee! The perfect weekend getaway. Even the kids love it!
Duyan Cafe is open Wednesdays – Sundays from 7:00 am to 6:30 pm.
One last beach trip with my boys before school starts and summer is officially over.
Photo set | Punta Ballo, Sipalay
Punta Ballo is (I believe) an unspoiled beach paradise located south of Sipalay, approximately 4 hours from Bacolod City. A stretch of white sand, spectacular scenery, calm waters, clear skies — what an awesome weekend.
Some suggested accommodations in Punta Ballo:
I’ve read somewhere that family vacations are “happiness anchors” for kids until they grow up, banking on treasured memories and bonding moments. Instead of spending so much on gadgets and expensive toys and since March was a month of so many celebrations (Joaquin’s birthday, his and Miguel’s transition to 7th grade and Juancho’s moving up from toddler class), we decided to take the kids out for a treat. So Oceanpark and Disneyland it is.
Day 1 | Take off
Early flight to Manila and the kids were very much behaved, thank you. Got our Rame Nagi fix and free donuts because the light was on.
Left Manila for HK around 5ish in the afternoon (flight was delayed), took the A21 bus to Mongkok, met with the AirBnb person and had late dinner nearby.
Touchdown! Kids seem happy (lol).
Day 2 | Ocean Park
Early start and noodle breakfast.
There’s a train line going directly to Ocean Park and Disneyland, how convenient.
Curious little kids.
My little adventurero 🙂
Kids’ new friends.
Transferring to watch the Dolphin and Seal show, picturesque view from the cable car.
And the big kids off to go on the big kids’ rides.
This view to cap off the whole day event. It was overwhelming to see the kids have so much fun.
We headed to Victoria Peak after to catch the sunset and well, was in for a surprise.
No we did not take the tram because the line was like 10 years long. We took a taxi instead and it was much cheaper, $49HKD vs. $88HKD and more than an hour of waiting to board the tram.
Entrance to the Sky tower costs $32HKD, kids half the price. Can’t really remember (haha).
It was a case of expectation vs. reality. The place was overly crowded.
On the way down the sky tower, there was an area where you could take 3D photos. This was not the Trick Eye Museum, the museum was on the other side and had a $100HKD entrance. This one was for free.
Day 3 | Disneyland
Off to the happiest place on earth!
Pretty flowers all around!
Choochoo train that takes you on a tour around Disneyland.
Everything is exaggeratedly overpriced in Disneyland (rice costs $18HKD!) but when Juancho passed by a souvenir shop with the entrance displaying Tsum Tsum toys and was like super excited when he saw it, well, I just couldn’t break his heart.
And his reaction? Well, there are just some things money couldn’t buy.
I find that Disneyland is more for small kids, the rides and attractions in general, although the older kids (including us) did enjoy the experience.
Day 4 | Free day
Roamed around Tsim sha tsui, shopped a bit and lunched on some Canton Dim Sum Expert chicken and pork buns. The siomai was also good but no photos because it was gone in an instant.
Caught up with my friend Reg and treated us to some Korean dinner. Thanks Reggie! My treat in June (haha).
The place where we were staying was right where Ladies Market is and just around the corner was sneaker street. So, off we went to hunt for some cheap shoes and buy some pasalubongs before they close. Some stores close round 11pm.
Street food…street food…street food!
Day 5 | Homebound
Flying all day, tiring week but with the wide smiles on the kids’ faces and the endless laughter makes it all worth it.
Goodbye Hong Kong!
and hello Bacolod! Home finally!
Starting a new family tradition. Til the next summer trip!
Oh, by the way, we got our Disney and Ocean Park tickets on Klook. They sell much cheaper than the tickets sold on the official sites and when you get to the park, you don’t have to wait in line.