Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Travel tips for families

Hi! My name is Yeyette, and I am the wifey of nationalist blogger and young historian Pepe Alas (also the main writer of this blog). I would like to inform you that this is my first time to write a blogpost, naks! I'm very excited, honestly! And to add: I'm not a writer like my hubby Pepe, so please bear with my writing style. I just love writing personal poems, jokes, tweeting inspirational quotes, comments, or whatever I have in mind, and it's just because I want to express myself from time to time. OK, this introduction is pretty long already, hahaha! But of course, I should get to my topic, and that's what I want to share for today: tips for traveling families! :)

At Lían, Batangas.

Our family has been travelling since 2000, the year when I first gave birth to my eldest and only daughter, Krystal. And then three boys followed: Momay (2004), Jefe (2007), and Juanito (2009). Since then, the six of us have been traveling together. What I have experienced in all those years is full of happiness. We don't have a car, but we're OK with commuting, walking the streets, meeting ordinary people to know what they do and discover new things about the places they live in. And that's one of the reasons why our family loves to travel. Because traveling is experience.

OK, I now give you 10 tips for traveling families, particularly to those who commute and have small kids. Hopefully these tips would help you folks whenever you travel with your family. :))

1. Plan ahead on how many days you will be away, if it's just a day tour or overnight, or if it will take several days, etc. Make a list of what you need during your vacation and buy them before you pack your things. Do the packing the day before you leave so that when they're all in your baggage, there's no more need to worry that you might have left something at home. Keep in mind the essentials like sunblock, diapers (if you have toddlers), swimwear, tissue, soap, alcohol, towel, candies (they help keep the kids from getting bored), etc. Make sure that when you have packed your things, you and your spouse have the same bag for your personal stuff, and that your kids have a different baggage for themselves so it would be easy to get things when you arrive on your destination. Be organized.

2. Pack light. The lighter baggage you carry, the easier it is to walk around. Use a backpack or an easy-to-carry handbag. Remember: always bring the basics like toothbrush, soap, shampoo and conditioner, sunblock, tissue, alcohol (disinfectant), towel, and extra shirts. Have a separate bag for your personal accesories (make-up, toiletries, underwear), and important things like camera, cellphone, chargers, wallet, and house keys so that when you need them, you will immediately know where to get them and to put them back into place.

3. Wear sunblock after taking a bath before even leaving the house so that you'll be ready to face the golden sun! Wear clothing and shoes/sandals that are comfortable and casual. I recommend that you match the color of your clothing with the weather/season. Important reminder: don't forget to lock the house, always smile and PRAY before you leave the house so that you and your family will be guided safely.

4. Have a smaller wallet or coin purse with a small amount of money, preferably coins, to use for your fare. Make sure you have approximately calculated how much you would pay for your fare (tricycle, jeep, bus), from your home all the way to your place of destination so that it will not be necessary to get your main wallet which has probably all your credit cards, IDs, discount coupons, and larger denominations. This will prevent any possible loss of larger money and other important items. It's hassle-free when you put your fare in a coin purse. Always place it in an easy-to-reach pocket either in your pants or bag so that when you're inside a bus, for example, you will be as punctual when it comes to payment as the bus conductor is when it comes to charging, LOL!

5. Make sure you eat in small quantities before traveling to avoid vomiting especially those who suffer from travel sickness (our son Jefe has that sometimes). Bring a plastic bag just in case. Also, bring candies or any of your favorite chichiría while you enjoy the scenery during travel time. They can help ward off travel sickness. While inside a bus, for example, open the window curtains, enjoy the scenes from the countryside while munching something, and feel free to dream. Or you might even listen to your favorite music using your iPhone or MP3. Focus on a movie if you're riding a video-on-board bus. Just keep calm and stay relaxed. Before you even feel like vomiting, you'll notice that you've already arrived in your place of destination, LOL!

6. Have something ready to drink like water. It gives you that much needed energy that no other beverage can give especially if the weather is super hot. But do not overdrink because it might make you pee in no time. And, ooops! do not throw away the water bottle because you may still have use for it especially when you have kids who still cannot control their peeing habits while you're on the expressway where the bus is not allowed to stop. Just make sure the other passengers are not seeing your kids do it (cover the deed with a jacket or shawl so that your kids won't feel ashamed). Take note that this is only for emergency purposes. I am not encouraging kids or adults to do it always. Of course it is still better to wait for the bus to stop at a designated station.

7. When the trip is only a day tour, make sure to enjoy everything that the place can offer, walk the whole day, talk to people, meet new friends, eat their delicacies, and discover their culture and customs. After your trip, it's not your tiredness you will remember but the satisfaction of your day tour that will matter. That will surely put a smile of happiness on your face when you get home. If you have extra money, don't forget to buy a souvenir that the place is known for so you have a remembrance of it.

8. If you will go on an overnight stay in any hotel or inn, make sure that you have everything finalized with the receptionist. Try to settle everything first before going to your room. Make sure that the vacation/room package you chose is what is really included on your hotel/inn stay. I also recommend that you get a larger bed. It will be cheaper to stay in one room. But the bed should be big enough so that all of you can relax when it's time for you to sleep. And when all of your things are secured in your room, don't forget to bring a small bag when you will start exploring outside your hotel room. Important things to bring are your wallet, camera, charger (just in case you overuse your camera), cellphone, and extra shirts. Then start exploring and enjoying your chosen destination and you will discover more and more the excitement it will give you, every moment that makes you filled with wonder, and that you will find more of it the next day you start visiting another exciting place. Make sure to have extra money to buy souvenirs so that you have a remembrance of the place. You might not know if you will ever get back there. Because you're a traveler and you love to visit a lot of other places, right?

9. Bring a notebook and pen so that you can jot down whatever it is that is interesting or catches your attention. You can list down your favorite scenes or tourist spots of that place so that in case you get back there, it will be easier the next time.If you are a writer, you could even write poems when you have something that inspires you, or copy recipes of delicacies, phone numbers of new friends you've met there, or other things you can write on your notebook that interests you. Record everything for memory's sake. Your children might have use for them in the future.

10. Reflect, relax, and enjoy all the places that you visit with your family. It's the perfect bonding time. Make the most out of it because, as mentioned earlier, you might not get to visit those places again. After your vacation, it's back to the usual stuff that you do: busy days at the office, school projects, household chores, and other daily routines. Always be happy, enjoy every minute of your travel with your loved ones so that when you get back home, a new "refreshed" you will meet your other family members, neighbors, friends, classmates, and officemates. It will inspire you (and them) to plan and look forward to another travel experience.

Port of Batangas. We still had a yaya with us when this photo was taken.

I do hope that these humble tips will give all of you much more interest in traveling with your family!!! Happiness and love to all! ¡Besos! =)



TRIVIA! Mommy Yeyette is super OC! It's virtually impossible for her to travel without a bottle of isopropyl alcohol for disinfecting purposes. Actually, she's always like that, even at home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

United as one: let us all help the victims of super typhoon Yolanda

In solidarity with, and out of respect for, all the victims of super typhoon Yolanda, La Familia Viajera decided to postpone its traveling for November (including the one planned for San Pedro, La Laguna). Traveling will resume next month.

Super typhoon Yolanda is arguably the strongest tempest on record to have ever made landfall. And in its wake, thousands upon thousands perished, most especially those in the Visayas group of islands and its surrounding areas. Millions more were affected, their homes totally destroyed. Businesses too were totally laid to waste. Tourist attractions such as the island resort of Corón, Palauan and the Spanish-era Church of the Immaculate Conception in Guiuan, Sámar Oriental now lie in ruins. This could really be our country's most terrible natural disasters in recent memory.

It is heartening, though, to see that the whole world, and not just our country, has united to help our fallen brothers and sisters in the Visayas. Still, the devastation wrought by Yolanda is so huge it seems not enough to donate only once. So we implore you to please continue finding ways of assisting those who were affected by this super typhoon. And may we never cease to pray because, contrary to unpopular belief, it REALLY helps.

Yolanda never won at all. Because our country is strong, united as one.

Please CLICK HERE on how you can help. Thank you so much!

Remember: we are all in this together. Yolanda may have hurt us, but she never really won. Dahil nacatindíg pa din tayo.


TRIVIA: If you look closely on the above photo featuring our little Juanito, there is a greenish little book right behind his right shoulder. It is a copy of "LINEYTE-SAMARNON POEMS: A Collection" which was compiled by Raymond T. Quetchenbach with a prefatory note by renowned writer and professor, the late Edilberto K. Tiempo. The book was published by the Divine Word University Publications in Tacloban City, Leyte 39 years ago.

As we all know, both Leyte and Sámar Oriental were the hardest hit provinces during Yolanda's shocking onslaught. As such, we deemed it fit to share to all of you a poem about hope that was culled from that book:

Nicolás C. Camintoy

Mapait labaw hin apdo
Kinabuhi nga naangkon ko;
Haros maruba an dughan,
Han pag laum hapit tigasan.

Ay kapait hit' ak' kinabuhi,
Hit' kablas sugad ha akon;
Waray sangkay nga nalingi,
Waray gud nadadaraon.

Ha butnga hit' ak' kapakyasan,
Kalag ko dayuday nag daghum;
Dinamgo ko nga kagawasan —
Daw natundag — nahilum!

Bagyo han kinabuhi haros gon-ubon an dughan,
it' Diyos nga maloloy-on asay linalauman;
It' kahoy nga rubasan.......
Hit' hangin diri mabari, ug bagyo diri mapukan.

Please click here for the English translation.

Monday, November 11, 2013

¡Bienvenido al primer y único blog de viajes familiares en Filipinas!

Intramuros, Manila
La Familia Alas en una calesa en Intramuros, Manila.

¡Hola amigos!

Soy Pepe Alas, dueño de esta página web La Familia Viajera, el primer y único blog de viajes familiares en Filipinas. Junto con mi familia, hemos lanzado oficialmente este blog el mes pasado. En realidad, este blogpost/artículo ya es el quinto desde su inicio.

El motivo de este blog fue, inicialmente, personal. Hace unos meses, estaba contemplando tristemente sobre la conveniencia de modificar o no el tema de mi otro blog ALAS FILIPINAS. Es que sentí que ese blog de siete años no ha estado logrando nada significativo, por eso pensé en cambiar en un blog de viajes con el fin de obtener una audiencia mucho más amplia porque los blogs de viajes son más populares, al menos en mi país.

Pero ALAS FILIPINAS (y mi otro blog en inglés, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES) ocupa sobre todo de la Identidad Nacional Filipina, sobre todo en la defensa de la lengua española en Filipinas. Sería una injusticia por sus seguidores —aun si hay sólo unos pocos de ellos— y para yo mismo si yo cambie su tema. Me encontraba realmente en un dilema.

Pensé en la creación de un nuevo blog, esta vez sobre viajes. Pero, ¿qué diferencia habría que hago cuando ya hay un montón de blogueros de viaje en Filipinas? Y muchos de ellos ya son famosos.

Después de mucha deliberación, por fin he pensado en una idea brillante: ¿por qué no crear un blog de viajes de la familia? Hice algunas averiguaciones y descubrí que todavía no hay blogs de viajes sobre familias en Filipinas. Hice una revisión de nuestros álbumes de fotos en Facebook y me di cuenta de que mi familia ha estado en tantos lugares ya. Además, nos encanta viajar mucho, o cada vez que hay una oportunidad.

Ahora les presento a ustedes algunas de nuestras fotos a través de los años...

En la pintoresca Playa Tayamaan en Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental. Krystal, nuestra única hija, tenía sólo unos meses de edad cuando esta foto fue tomada.

En el río frío del sitio Tagbóng en Población, Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental con Krystal y Momay. Krystal fue nacido en 20 de julio de 2000; Momay en 13 de mayo de 2004, durante la Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Fátima.

¡Sí, estábamos en la primera edición del Philippine Blog Awards en 2007 (RCBC Plaza, Ciudad de Macati)! Krystal tenía siete años en esta foto. Yo era un bloguero para

En Greenbelt, Ciudad de Macati. Jefe ya tenía un año en esta foto. Nació el 13 de enero de 2007.

En Bacoor, Cavite con la familia de Yeyette: su madre, hermana, y sobrinos).

Juanito y Yeyette en la costa rocosa de la Bahía de Manila detrás de SM Mall of Asia (Ciudad de Pásay). Juanito vino a nuestras vidas el 1 de abril de 2009. Al igual que sus hermanos, Juanito ya está viajando a una edad temprana. Él sólo tenía ocho meses cuando fue tomada esta foto.

Krystal y Momay esperan por nuestro viaje en lancha en el  Puerto de Batangas (Ciudad de Batangas) que nos llevará al Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental.

Picnic en la Playa Blanca, Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental.

En el penthouse (ático) de Manila Executive Regency, Ermita, Manila.

Yeyette y nuestros niños (sin Juanito) con el resto del Clan Alas en Unisan, Tayabas (hoy Quezon) durante el Santacruzan de 2011. Unisan es la ciudad natal de mi clan.

Mi hijo Jefe en Exotik Restaurant en Loñgos (Kalayaan), La Laguna. Aquí sirven platos inusuales tales como jabalíes, pitones, y demás. El restaurante se encuentra en la cima de una colina ajardinada con una vista espectacular de la Laguna de Bay.

Momay y Juanito subiendo hacia el balcón del coro en la bonita Iglesia de San Jerónimo Emiliani y Santa Susana en Barrio Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà. ¡Nos encanta explorar iglesias!

En la municipalidad de Santa Cruz, La Laguna durante el anual Festival de La Laguna de este año.

En frente de la iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol durante el Domingo de Ramos de este año. Yeyette y yo nos casamos en la misma iglesia hace dos meses.

En una sucursal de Jollibee en SM Southmall (Ciudad de Las Piñas), la comida rápida más popular en el país. Sí, comemos con sencillez... a veces, ¡jejeje!

Krystal y Yeyette en la Aduana/Intendencia de Intramuros en Manila.

Vamos a viajar más a menudo para visitar lugares que no son visitados habitualmente por los turistas y los blogueros de viaje.

Este blog se escribe principalmente en inglés porque estoy más acostumbrado a escribir en ese idioma. Pero de vez en cuando también voy a escribir en español (y tal vez en tagalo) porque, como un verdadero filipino, es mi deber de pensar y escribir en este idioma, sea lo que sea.

¡Únanse a nosotros en nuestro intento ambicioso de viajar el entero archipiélago de Filipinas como una familia!

Santa Rosa, La Laguna

El mundo es un libro y quienes no viajan leen sólo una página.
—San Agustín de Hipona—


¡TRIVIALIDAD! La Familia Alas no tienen criadas ni tienen su propio auto para viajar.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Start camping while young!

Krystal, Momay, Jefe, y Juanito en la bonita Playa Burot, Calatagán, Batangas.

Why start camping only when one has already grown up? Why experience the beautiful outdoors for the first time only with one's barcada or classmates? How about experiencing it while you're still at your youngest... and with your parents and siblings! That makes more difference than anything else. Because family is everything. And the family that travels together stays together... and is AWESOME!


¡TRIVIA! Burot Beach, considered as one of Batangas Province's finest and most pristine-looking beaches, was already bought a few years ago by mall and realty tycoon Henry Sy and is up for development anytime soon. The good news is that while there is still no action from Sy's company, the beach is still open to the public. Well, that's the last time we heard about it when we were there last April. The place still has no electricity and no resort at all, thus adding to the Robinson-Crusoe feeling. You will have to pay only ₱60 per head to SM security stationed there, or just ₱120 if you wish to stay overnight. However, since there is no resort in Burot, you will either have to bring your own tent, or you could rent one from the only sari-sari store in the area (ranging from ₱300 to ₱500, depending on the size). You can also rent torches and buy wood for campfires. The sari-sari store doesn't sell any viand, just the usual junkfood, cup noodles, and coffee. Therefore, you will have to bring your own báon for grilling. The place is well secured, so it's a perfect campsite experience for backpacking families.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Alas Family traveling through the years

El mundo es un libro y quienes no viajan leen sólo una página.
—San Agustín de Hipona—

Traveling is not something that we initially planned to do for the rest of our lives. It simply has been happening ever since our family was established in 1999 (parang corporación lang, ¡hehehe!). We've been moving to a lot of places ever since, even without our own accord. We do not claim nor boast to have traveled to a gazillion of tourist spots all over Filipinas. Heck, the farthest our family has traveled up north was in Súbic Bay, and down south was in Tayabas province (sorry, but I simply refuse to call it Quezon... long story). As a couple, me and Yeyette are the most traveled. We've been outside of Luzón three years ago when we toured the famed island of Borácay and the eastern coast of Aclán. Recently, I was able to go to Mindanáo, but on my lonesome. As a family, we have yet to tour a much larger Philippine space.

But this doesn't mean that we have had a limited travel experience. As the years went by, I noticed that we have had our family photos taken from various points of Luzón (thanks to my photo-addict wife). And I was delighted when I noticed that we have been taking our kids to unusual places, not the type of weekend families who are content of bringing their kids to malls, or to beaches only during summer. Looking back at these photos, both old and new, makes me and Yeyette feel so proud because we've been touring our kids not only to the usual places that parents bring their kids to. Of course we've been to malls and beaches. But how many parents today are even thrilled of bringing their kids to historical places, of introducing them to heritage structures, of having them enjoy natural spring waters and rivers and waterfalls, of making them climb grassy hills and play at little-known town plazas. Do parents today even bother to bring their kids to museums and enjoy old town fiestas? Would they mind if their kids get their hands soiled, or if they see them lying on the grass?

Humble as the following photos may seem, I still proudly present to you our family photos taken from various points in time and space (hover over the photos to view the dates when each of them was taken)...

The least-known but pristine waterfalls of Apiás in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. Krystal was our only child back then. She was born on 20 July 2000, two days after my 21st birthday. Apiás is peculiar because it's just right beside the beach!

In a photo studio inside Festival Supermall in Barrio Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà. Momay was born on the feast day of Our Lady of Fátima in 2004. Krystal and Momay were our only children when this photo was taken.

In the forest hills of Sitio Tagbong in Población, Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental.

Krystal and Momay enjoying the icy waters of Río Matabang, more popularly known as Tagbóng, in Población, Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental.

At Tagbong River in Población, Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental.

At the open-air area of Greenbelt in Macati City. Because of its ultramodern look mixed with environment-friendly designs, Greenbelt has become one of the country's most awarded shopping malls and is a virtual urban oasis. Our caboodle grew to three with Jefe who is already a year old here. He was born on 13 January 2007.

At New World Renaissance in Macati City during a cousin's birthday.

At the Manila Ocean Park in Ermita (along the shores of Manila Bay) during Krystal's eighth birthday. The place was just four months old when we first visited it.

Dirt roads for us are romantic and thrilling! Our hearts go "bumpety-bump" whenever our ride passes by such roads. This photo was taken in some secluded sitio in the well-known barrio of Laíya in San Juan, Batangas on our way to the beach. So popular is Laíya's name due to its white-sand beaches that people tend to forget its only a barrio of San Juan!

Mommy mode in Laíya (Moonlight Beach Resort). That's little Juanito, just barely two months old (he arrived on 1 April 2009). So don't wonder why he's already used to traveling!

Inside the then second largest shopping mall in Filipinas: SM Mall of Asia. It is now the third largest mall (SM City North EDSA in Quezon City became the largest when it was modernized in 2008, followed by SM Megamall in Mandaluyong).

Enjoying the cool Christmas afternoon breeze of Bahía de Manila at the jampacked SM by the Bay right beside Seaside Boulevard and behind SM Mall of Asia.

Alabang Town CenterMuntinlupà City.

Momay, Yeyette, Krystal, and Jefe (behind his ate) at the controverial Alberto Mansion, the ancestral bahay na bató of José Rizal's mother in Biñán, La Laguna. This historic house, which once had Sir John Bowring as one of its distinguished guests, is now in shambles. Photo taken during Jefe's third birthday.

The smooth and scenic Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (informally referred to as STAR Tollway or CALABARZON Expressway) somewhere in Balagtás, Batangas. We were on our way to the Port of Batangas.

A relaxing bus ride. We're already used to this kind of traveling. Besides, it saves us the headache of having to contend with rising oil prices, not to mention road rage, haha! And I think it's much more comfortable having other people drive for us. Just saying.

At the Port of Batangas in Batangas City on our way to Puerto Galera. Little Juanito is the only one who's not looking at the camera, hahaha!

White Beach, Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental.

An idyllic sunset at Puerto Galera's White Beach.

That's me, parasailing over the waters of Puerto Galera.

Juanito, Krystal, and Momay enjoying a golden sunset at Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupà City. Simple joys in life. =)

Foggy and cold up at the People's Park in the Sky in tourist-haven Tagaytay City, Cavite.

Krystal and Jefe along United Nations Avenue in Ermita, Manila. This street was formerly known as Calle Isaac Peral. Peral was a Spanish engineer who launched the Peral Submarine in 1888. It was the world's first electric battery powered submarine. They shouldn't have changed the name.

Krystal by the ancient wooden door of the San Agustín Church. This door has a carving of Santa Mónica (the mother of San Agustín) surrounded by rocaille ornaments. The lower half of this door was sawed away by Japanese soldiers during World War II to give way for their machine guns hidden behind sandbags. Although the door was reconstructed, one can still see the scar that was made by the Japs. Look closely.

At the entrance to the chapel of the now 111-year-old San Vicente Ferrer during his feast day in San Vicente, San Pedro, La Laguna, our home since 13 May 2004.

Swimming time at my mom's place at the Manila Executive Regency's penthouse pool in Ermita, Manila.

Manila Executive Regency, Ermita, Manila.

Manila Executive Regency, Ermita, Manila.

Yeyette and Krystal (with my sisters Jessica and Jennifer partly hidden among the crowd and palm fronds) during Easter Sunday 2011 inside Manila's famous Malate, Church.

Krystal, Jessica, Yeyette, and Jennifer at the door of Malate Church, officially known as the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies). So now you know why the street on the right side of the church is named as such. =)

Little Juanito in Playa de Malatandang, Tayabas Bay, Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) during a clan reunion.

Jefe and Yeyette at Camayan Beach Resort during a rainy summer two years ago. This beautiful resort is located in Mórong, Bataán at the Súbic Bay Freeport Zone, the former site of the much despised U.S. Naval Base Súbic Bay. Unbeknownst to many, the now tax- and duty-free zone encompasses three municipalities and one city, namely: Súbic and Olóngapo City in Zambales province, and; Hermosa and Mórong in Bataán province.

My daugher Krystal with —GASP!— Freemasons during the 150th birth anniversary of Rizal in his replica ancestral house in Calambâ, La Laguna. You know, throughout our country's history, these Freemasons have been conspi... ooops! I almost forgot: this is a family-oriented blog. I'm supposed to sound tame here, hahaha! :D

Pretty Praetorian Guards: Yeyette and Krystal on either side of the welcome arch which leads visitors to the Chabacano-speaking town of Ternate in Cavite province. The Chabacano inscription on the arch says "We welcome all of you wholeheartedly".

Travesía de Isla Verde, commonly known as Isla Verde Passage, divides Batangas and the island of Mindoro. Behind us is the Batangueño island of Maricabán where the municipality of Tingloy is located. A question: if the Spanish name Travesía de Isla Verde has already been translated to English, then why is it still called "Isla Verde Passage" instead of "Green Island Passage"? Filipinos: THINK. =)

Juanito and Yeyette enjoy a relaxing moment at the Casino Español de Manila, Ermita, Manila. The casino, founded on 31 October 1844, was a social club meant only for Manila's Spanish community. However, this historic place was constructed only in 1913 (during the U.S. occupation) and was inaugurated four years later. The edifice was destroyed during the Battle of Manila. It was reconstructed in 1951.

My family with our friends Valerie Isabel Devulder and Javier Wrana at the Casino Español de Manila. Fil-French beauty Valerie is the daugher of former commercial model Maridel Coching and the granddaughter of Francisco Coching, the "Dean of Philippine Comics". She is also a painter and one of Señor Guillermo Gómez's flamenco dancers. Javier is the president of the Asociación Cultural Galeón de Manila.

Madrigal Business Park, Alabang, Muntinlupà City. Nápadaan lang, ¡hehe!

ASEAN Garden at the CCP Complex in Pásay City just beside Roxas Boulevard (and near the border of Manila).

Harbor Square at the CCP Complex. Behind us is the wharf of the Manila Yacht Club.

My best rendition of a soccer player with Jefe and Momay at historic Freedom Park in UP Los Baños. The famous Fertility Tree and the Carillón tower at the background. Seems like a happy place, no? But on 23 February 1945, this site was a battlefield where nearly a hundred soldiers were killed. Historians now refer to that battle as the "Raid at Los Baños" wherein Allied forces (both U.S. Army Airborne and Filipino guerrilleros) attacked the Imperial Japanese Army to rescue POWs there. The rescue mission was a great success and is even regarded as one of the most successful rescue operations in modern military history.

Jefe checking out his invisible binoculars at Exotik Restaurant's beautifully landscaped garden in Loñgos (Kalayaan), La Laguna. If you are not gustatorily adventurous, then don't even dare ask what's on this restaurant's menu, LOL!

Getting ready for an exhilirating river tubing at the Panguil River Eco Park within the Sierra Madre rainforest of Páñguil, La Laguna. Krystal, Yeyette, Juanito, and Jefe are all set while Momay waits for his turn to be carried in front of the water ride.

Inside the moist forest air of the Panguil River Eco Park.

At the picturesque Manila East Road, Páñguil, La Laguna, where the air is healthy. Behind Yeyette is the way to Sinilóan town.

A vast rice field between us and Laguna de Bay behind. Still at Páñguil, La Laguna.

Yeyette (with Krystal far behind her) in front of the breathtaking façade of the 329-year-old baroque beauty San Pedro de Alcántara Church in Páquil, La Laguna.

Momay and Krystal watches young sculptor Franco Cagáyat looking for new images to sculpt. Franco is the son of the owners of this shop, JAC jr. WOODCARVERS located in Paeté, the Woodcarving Capital of Filipinas. This kid is famous for sculpting car models out of wood despite suffering from Asperger's syndrome (a mild form of autism). Among his clients are Honda and Mitsubishi.

Boat riding/water taxi ride at Nuvali's four-hectare multifunctional man-made lake (Santa Rosa, La Laguna). This was during Juanito's third birthday.

Jefe, Yeyette, and Juanito with Eldar in front of Santa Rosa, La Laguna's Enchanted Kingdom, the country's answer to Disneyland.

Jefe, Momay, Juanito, and Krystal, one fine evening at the town plaza of Luisiana, a cool and rustic mountain town in La Laguna province. This is our kids' favorite Lagunense town. It is also the hometown of the late poetess Amelita Cuala de Málig, author of Heart Anatomy. She was the one who inspired me to write poetry and formally introduced me to acclaimed historian and writer Señor Guillermo Gómez. I always remember Mrs. Málig whenever we visit Luisiana.

Behind me and Krystal is the Spanish-era church of Lucbán, Tayabas province. The church's titular saint is French: San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

Buying pancít habháb, a delicacy of both Lucbán and nearby Luisiana.

Krystal by the altar of the Church of Pagbiláo in Tayabas province. This Spanish-era church is dedicated to Santa Catalina de Alejandría.

Momay and Krystal at the tranquil garden of Agdañgán's mysterious Luminous Cross of Grace Sanctuary located within the grounds of the Church of San Isidro Labrador in Tayabas province.

At the entrance to the Fuerte de Santiago, more popularly known in English as Fort Santiago. Serving as the premier defense fortress of the government during Spanish times, this massive stone fort was named after Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor-slayer, one of the disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ), Spain's martial patron saint. It was constructed for three years, from 1590 to 1593. The stones used to construct Fort Santiago were made of volcanic tuff quarried from Guadalupe (now known as Guadalupe Viejo in Macati). Notice the bas-relief on top of us which depicts Saint James battling the Moors, the ancient enemy of Christendom.

My handsome boy Momay in front of the equally handsome church of San Jerónimo Emiliani y Santa Susana in Alabang, Muntinlupà City. Yeyette and Juanito are partly hidden by a stack of chairs to the right.

At the National Art Gallery of the National Museum in Ermita, Manila. Behind us is the huge Spoliarium of painter-patriot Juan Luna. The National Art Gallery is housed in the Old Congress Building. It was the home of the Commonwealth Congress until 1945 when it was bombed during the Battle of Manila.

Our three boys beside a historical marker in front of the red-brick wonder that is the church of Lilio (now spelled as Liliw), La Laguna whose titular saint is San Juan Bautista. This was during Jefe's sixth birthday (just this year).

    At our adoptive province's capitolio grounds in Santa Cruz during this year's La Laguna Festival.

    La Laguna Festival 2013, Santa Cruz, La Laguna. You might notice that we have been traveling to La Laguna quite a lot. Naturally, because we live there, hahaha! =)

Krystal with... I dunno. Probably one of King Midas's victims. This was taken in Lucky Chinatown Mall in Binondo, Manila. It has the biggest concentration of Fil-Chinese shoppers we've ever seen.

Burot Beach in Calatagán, Batangas. We call it the "Borácay of Batangas" because of its whitish beach. Well, its sands of course are no match for Borácay's powdery sands, but its serenity and silence which Borácay once had is something to experience. This is our favorite beach so far. Sadly, this little paradise is on its way to "development" because Uncle Henry Sy already bought it. The last time we visited it (this past summer), it was still open to the public. Sana puede pa din itóng visitahin. We already miss this place!

Our cheerful-looking sandals in Burot Beach.

A golden sunset at Burot Beach in Calatagán, Batangas. The most awe-inspiring sunset we have seen so far.

Spending a relaxing afternoon at Iskargu, an avant-garde Filipino restaurant in Calauan, La Laguna, a day after Momay's ninth birthday. Iskargu is a portmanteau of isdâ (fish), karne (meat), and gulay (vegetables). Outside our window is a serene view of a sleepy rice field that connects to the mountains of Atimla and Calisuñgan.
And yes, we do not have any intention of stopping! We will travel TOGETHER as much as we can. Because there is more to life than doing the usual routine of going home after work or school, or spending time in malls or just staying at home. There is so much to discover and learn about this beautiful country of ours especially since much of its history is, sad to say, laced with inaccuracies, if not lies.

Another thing that alarms me is the surge of disrespect and apathy that is besetting our heritage, both tangible and intangible. Much of our glorious past's imprints are fast disappearing. Each year, we hear of ancestral houses or other antiquated structures in danger of being demolished, or simply left to rot. Then there's also the never-ending battle between the environment and the capitalist wolves. Who would forget how, in 1996, the once pristine Maculapnit-Boac River in Marinduque was totally ruined all in the name of profit? Certainly, not I. And if Man has nothing to do with these disasters and disappearances, then nature sometimes takes its puzzling course, just like what happened recently in Bojol and Cebú wherein many age-old heritage churches were either damaged or totally destroyed. It pains me with the thought that me and my family will never see them anymore.

This recent development made me decide all the more to let my children see the beauty of their country before it disappear forever. Because it's rather odd for me to see them content themselves looking at postcards or old photographs of our country's beautiful parts which no longer exist. Might as well enjoy firsthand them while they're still here, and take photos of them for posterity.

Another thing is our living space, our neighborhood to be exact. We do not live in a spacious gated community. Instead, we live in a cramped apartment, right beside a noisy road. There is no place nearby for our kids to play. The nearest river is semi-polluted, and the creeks dead. And it saddens me that they are not able to experience the childhood joys that me and Yeyette had when we were kids: she in Abra de Ilog and me in Unisan during summer vacations. Yeyette and her playmates have beautiful memories of their childhood, swimming in crystal clear rivers and uninhabited beaches, climbing fruit trees, and exploring the nearby woods and waterfalls. The same thing with me. Yes, I grew up in an urban setting: in various gated communities in both Parañaque and Las Piñas. But during summer vacations, or whenever possible, I was able to experience Unisan's nature-tinged sceneries (my dad's hometown was a very beautiful and clean place back then, and much of its heritage houses well taken care of). Besides, I still witnessed the rural side of Parañaque. During my formative years, it still had many rice fields. It even had a salt farm which is now the site of SM Hypermarket.

Most of these happy scenes exist only in photographs. At least, me and Yeyette were able to experience them. But what about our kids? What happy memories of their environment can they share to future generations? That is why we decided to travel with them. A lot. Show them what's out there, not what's on TV or on the web. It is best that they pick the flowers themselves, dip their feet on spring waters, enjoy the afternoon sun, to feel God themselves through His creation, which is nature.

Difficult as it may seem, because we do not even have our own car (and contrary to popular belief, Pepe Alas is not made of money), we intend to travel the whole country, God willing. For us, it's more thrilling to tour Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo than to visit Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, or even Europe. Before, it was my impossible dream: to travel the whole country before I reach the age of 40. I now think that it is selfish. What about my family? Why not include them in this mad-happy dream of mine? So yeah, I made it even more impossible, haha: I wish for my family to travel the whole archipelago. Because Filipinas is our home. It is God's gift to us. Loving one's country is one way of showing our love for God.

So be it. =)

Always remember: the family that travels together... is AWESOME!!!!!!


TRIVIA! The Alas Family's favorite seat inside a bus? The backseat, so that we won't be seated beside strangers. We can do anything we want there without disturbing our busmates (our boys are very malicót; they keep on moving about). Also, the backseat of a bus is usually elevated. We have a fine view of the road ahead of us without having to beg our kids to have ourselves seated beside the window for a good view of the trip. Simple traveling joys!