Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Heritage Month escapades!

This summer, we went to three beaches in three days. For Heritage Month, we also went to three heritage sites! So take a glimpse of our heritage month escapades!

1. ILUSTRADO (Intramuros, Manila)

Ilustrado is not just a restaurant but can be considered as a historic site as well because the Capuchin friars' church of Our Lady of Lourdes used to stand there (come to think of it, I should have worn a more conservative attire and brought our veils). The church suffered massive damage during World War II, and the ruins was totally demolished years later. The only remains of that church was one of its wooden doors and some carved wooden faces of cherubims.

It was Señor Gómez who invited us for lunch at Ilustrado on Mother's Day, May 14 (a day after his godson Mómay's 13th birthday). We came in early, so while waiting for him, we just roamed around the site and entered the restaurant premises to explore its vintage look. Two lady staff members were not quite nice. The one who manages the entrance at the lobby and another lady there kept eyeing on us even though my children were well behaved. I noticed that other staff members were preparing some big event at the second floor. But instead on focusing on that, these two ladies were focused on my family who were just marveling at the restaurant's "bahay na bató" architecture as well as its numerous vintage sketches hanging on its walls. I can understand that they are concerned with naughty children running around the place, but my kids aren't like that. They were well-disciplined, especially with my hubby around. We've been to this restaurant many times in the past, but this is the first time we've experienced such unfriendliness.

I was sitting on a wooden bench at the lobby while the rest of the family were enjoying the interiors of the restaurant. But I noticed that the lady on the lobby didn't like this. And instead of being frank about this, she simply told me that people are not allowed to loiter on the lobby. So why did they bother putting a bench there in the first place? She told me instead to get inside the café, but I told her that we are still waiting for our friend. To avoid any further confrontation, I just got up and called my family for us to stay in the garden. It was just my third time in Ilustrados. The first two times that I've been there, all staff members were courteous and friendly. But on this third visit, the only friendly stafff members were the waiter who assisted us and the security guard.

When Señor Gómez arrived, all's well that ends well. We started ordering our food. There were many customers during that time because of Mother's Day. Because the food was great, I forgot how unfriendly those two staff members of Ilustrado were. We most especially loved their callos, among others in the menu.

After Ilustrado, Señor treated us for merienda in Cioccolata at The Bayleaf Intramuros. It was superb fun, all the staff are nice, the food was great. I really enjoyed my time there as well as our kiddos and even senor too! Kudos to all the staff of Ciocollata! Before we went home, Señor drove us around the Walled City of Intramuros. It is our favorite place in Manila because this is where everything that is Filipino started. As my hubby always say, Intramuros is the heart and soul of Filipinas. No wonder why nationalist writers like the late Nick Joaquín (RIP) love this place. It is no wonder too why Señor Gómez as well as my hubby Pepe and our friend Arnaldo (who is now based in Singapore) keep coming back here. All Filipino writers, especially those who love their country very much, are encouraged to visit Intramuros because our history and our national identity began inside its walls.

Thank you Señor Gómez for your Intramuros treat for my family! Thank you for that wonderful Ilustrado lunch and your Mother's Day treat for me at Cioccolata. Thank you most especially to my family who greeted me too and spending time with me the whole day. And to all my family and friends who greeted me that day, thank you! I am so touched!

Oh, and a friendly advise: whenever you visit Ilustrado Restaurant, make it a point to utter a short prayer. Or at least make a sign of the cross. Because the place is still holy ground.

Top left photo is at Baluarte de San Andrés near Calle Real del Palacio. The rest of the photos were taken where the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes used to stand. The site is now occupied by Ilustrado Restaurant and Silahis Arts and Crafts.


¡Callos! Pepe told us that this is one of Nick Joaquín's favorite dishes.

Left: Some ruins of Lourdes Church included was the old door where Junífera Clarita is headed. Right: Daddy Pepe examines the carved wooden cherub faces which once adorned the now extinct Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Merienda time at Cioccolata!


Calle Muralla.


HOCUS is on focus this year.

We Visited “HOCUS: The Hofileña & Custodio Paintings” last May 23 upon the invitation of our dear friend (and Junífera Clarita's fairy godmother), 1964 Miss International and culture heroine Gemma Cruz de Araneta. Gemma is the guest curator of the National Museum of the Philippines' "National Museum of Fine Arts". The HOCUS exhibit began last April and will run through October of this year.

There was actually a lecture on that date at the museum's Roxas Hall which was hosted by Gemma. We arrived an hour late because of the traffic, but we still got to listen to the speaker, Atty. Saúl Hofileña, Jr, as he explains the secrets of the HOCUS paintings. Aside from being a lawyer, Mr. Hofileña is also a writer and an avid historian. He conveyed his thoughts on Filipino History through painter and art restoration specialist Guy Custodio. HOCUS, therefore, is a portmanteau of their last names. He explained each of the paintings on the screen and Since my kids, especially Jefe and Juanito, are into art, I told them to listen carefully to the speaker because they might learn something from him.

Junífera Clarita's famous madrina (ninang) giving a talk at the background.

After the lecture, Gemma invited us to check out the HOCUS paintings on the third floor of the building. The National Museum of Fine Arts is known for its collection of precious paintings. Even the building's structure is historical. It is one of our favorite heritage sites not only because of its precious paintings and its beautiful architecture but within its walls lies the legendary painting of Juan Luna: the Spoliarium. Both Jefe and Juanito (who love to scribble and paint on our walls and floors) are in the opinion that it is more superior compared to Félix Resurrección Hidalgo's "El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y Su Hijo" (The Assassination of Governor-General Bustamante and His Son) which lies across Luna's famous work.

With Juan Luna's masterpiece behind us.

¡Muchas gracias por la invitación, comadre Gemma! =)

3. VILLA ESCUDERO (San Pablo, La Laguna / Tiáong, Tayabas)

It was our second time here (and my hubby's third; his first was when he was still a kid). Our first visit was when Gemma brought us there in late 2015. It was super unforgettable for us because Krystal learned how to ride a bike here plus the fact that the place is so beautiful, filled with Filipino culture everywhere, and the people who work there are incredibly nice and courteous. Gemma even introduced us to one of the owners, Rosalie Escudero-Blume, who is a dear friend of hers. Rosalie herself is so nice and genuinely friendly despite her status. Daddy Pepe, who is an AlDub fan, was delighted to find out that Rosalie too is a fellow fan, haha!

We arrived a few minutes before nine in the morning. The atmosphere was already festive!

Gemma brought us there again last Sunday for us to experience the Feast Of The Ascencion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We didn't know that such a fiesta there existed. And it existed only within the premises of the 800-hectare hacienda-resort. Daddy Pepe also asked Gemma if she knew other place in the country that celebrates this feast day, but she couldn't recall knowing any. My husband learned from another friend of his who was at the event that the Escudero family has been celebrating this one-of-a-kind fiesta for fifteen years already. It's a hybrid thing, remarked my husband, but it's something that all Filipinos fiestas should be in the first place. Today, all fiestas have been modernized beyond recognition. That's why we are so happy to have experienced this kind of fiesta that we now only read in books and hear from our elders.

The event began with a High Mass at the hacienda's Chapel of the Ascension which was celebrated by the Most Reverend Buenaventura Famadico, Bishop of the Diocese of San Pablo. Heavenly live music was provided by the University of Santo Tomás Symphony Orchestra and Singers. All in attendance were in Filipiniana attire (we noticed that many of them are from the country's high society). After the Mass was the procession towards the river. A fluvial procession will then begin from there. The image of the Risen Christ, the focal point of the procession, was proudly adorned with native flowers. The dirt roads were adorned with banderitas and colorful flags. There was also a marching band. There were even Gigantes (paper-mâché giants) which were popularized in the lake shore town of Añgono in Rizal Province. And fireworks filled the air. This fiesta is indeed the most Filipino-themed fiesta we have ever attended!

High Mass at Villa Escudero. Since this was our first time to attend this fiesta, Gemma informed us beforehand that during the Consecration, the national anthem was always played by a marching band outside the church. It has been a tradition in that fiesta. According to her, Don Conrado "Adò" Escudero (the owner) had the intention of offering our country to God.

It's a very festive procession! All Filipino fiestas should remain this way!

The star of this fiesta. This image of the Risen Christ has been with the Escudero family since the Spanish times.

Clockwise from top left: the "Grand Dame of Filipino Fashion" Patís Tesoro, Junífera Clarita, Mommy Yeyette, Daddy Pepe, Gemma Cruz de Araneta, and Antonio Aquino, director of the Council for the Restoration of Filipino Values.

Don Adò thanks everyone in attendance. Seated to his left is Jaime Laya (former Minister of Education, Culture, and Sports, Central Bank Governor, and head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts).

After the reception held at the Wedding Center, my family got to enjoy the resort's newly renovated swimming pools. We spent the whole afternoon swimming!

Summer's not yet over!

Thank you so much for bringing us back to Villa Escudero, comadre Gemma!

Exposing our kids to arts and heritage sites is one of the best educational gifts that we as parents could give to them. We believe that this will make them appreciate our heritage, both tangible and intangible, all the more. Me and Daddy Pepe are hoping that we would be able to bring them to more heritage sites and expose them to more heritage events in the country. When our children know more about our country's past and existing heritage, they would appreciate more their national identity. We cannot go on to our future without appreciating our past.

Please don't forget to LIKE US on Facebook! And click on the headings/subtitles above to view all of our photos of our Heritage Month adventure.

Happy National Heritage Month 2017! 😀


Monday, May 15, 2017

Three beaches in three days!

Summer time is here again, and doing nothing about it should not be an excuse! Whether you're on a budget, there are still simple ways of enjoying the summer heat. After paying some of our bills, I have set aside money for some vacation fun, I had my family go on a brief vacation to Unisan, the hometown of my husband Pepe's parents (he refuses to call the province Quezon for historical reasons). Unisan is located in Bondoc Peninsula were there are still a lot of unspoiled beaches. Not only were we able to save a lot, we were also able to enjoy those beaches.

The road to the beach has a great view of the countryside. Before going to Unisan, we decided to take a short dip in one of Agdañgán's beach resorts. We always pass by Agdañgán whenever we go to Unisan, but we've never tried its beaches. We got there a few minutes past four in the afternoon. The locals there recommended Monte Carlo Beach Resort, a few minutes from the población, so off we went. Anyway, the sun was still up and the day was still bright, that is why we were able to enjoy the beach until 5:15 P.M. Actually, we contracted a tricycle driver to pick us up at that time. When he fetched us, it suddenly rained hard even before the sun had fully set. The amazing thing during the drive to the town proper was that it was raining hard complete with loud thunderstorms and lightning. Daddy Pepe and Mómay were at the back ride and they were soaking wet because of the rain and the puddles of rainwater along the road. But it was a refreshing rain, and the waters on the puddles were clean because we were at the countryside. At least, our kids got to experience heavy rain on a summer day. The tricycle driver told us that it had not rained for weeks, and that sudden downpour was weird.

Day 2: Soliyao Beach, Pitogo (April 30)

We didn't know that the travel time from Unisan's town proper to Pitogo is quite far but adventurous. The paved road towards the municipality is smooth and the environs surrounding it are refreshing, but the route towards the beach is a dirt road, and it took us a lot longer to traverse it because we were only riding a tricycle that is owned and driven by my hubby Pepe's second cousin, Cuya Cocò. The dirt road going to Soliyao Beach would have be an easy drive for 4x4 vehicles, but not for tricycles. Good thing the build of Cuya Coco's tricycle was strong, and he seemed so relaxed while driving it. Thanks again, Cuya Coco! =) 

Soliyao is a hidden beach for me, still undiscovered by many. When you enter the beach premises, you will immediately notice the huge Talisay tree to the right. That tree is the biggest and tallest Talisay tree we have ever seen so far. We do hope that it will remain as it is for a long, long time, and may the people there will not cut it down. Its fruits are a sight to see, and its weird-looking pink-white flowers look like straws from broomstick!

One thing I love about Soliyao beach is its turquoise-colored waters. But beware because there are small sea creatures that will bite your skin, not to mention jellyfishes. My hubby Pepe actually got stung on his right wrist. Good thing he was able to immediately remove the slimy toxin from the jellyfish, and I brought calamansì with us. But he was still hurt (up to now, his left wrist still bears the scar of that jellyfish sting). Tayabas Bay of which Soliyao Beach is a part of has many jellyfishes which the locals call salabay. But if you are the adventurous type and you really love the sea like me, then take the risk. Just take extra care. Wear goggles most of the time, and don't forget to bring vinegar or calamansì, in case you got stung.

Day 3: Malatandang Beach, Unisan (May 1)

Since my husband's parents are from Unisan, Malatandang Beach has become very familiar to us. We've been here many times already (it's Daddy Pepe and Krystal's first beach while they were still babies). Its golden-like sands are what I love the most in this beach plus the clarity of its waters. It is always exciting to go back here and I do hope they will continue to maintain its beauty and cleanliness, I noticed a few black patches on some parts of the beach, and I hope it is not what I thought it was, that these are oil spills from boat owners who change fuel while on the shore. If this continues, this will put ruin the beauty of the Malatandang. I hope this will not be the case. I keep on telling my husband that Malatandang is on my top three list of the best beaches I've ever visited. =)


How were we able to afford three beaches in three days? Because the beaches here in Bondoc Peninsula are not expensive despite of their beauty. Actually, the most expensive that we have visited during those three days was Monte Carlo Beach Resort. They charged us for ₱100 each. Since we were seven, it would have cost us ₱700. But I bargained since we only stayed there for about two hours, and we didn't rent any cottage. We just laid our baggages on the sand. In the end, they gave us a discount and I paid them only ₱300.

In Soliyao Beach, a cottage is worth ₱350 pesos, but we opted to stay on the sands of the beach. Anyway, we love picnicking on the sands using just a malong to place our stuff. Renting nipa cottages for me is just a waste of money especially if we would stay on a beach for only a few hours. We placed our stuff underneath the huge Talisay tree. We were charged for only ₱5.00 per person! Perhaps the most expensive part of going to Soliyao is the commute. If you have your own vehicle, then you're lucky (but still, you will have to pay for the high cost of fuel).

In Unisan, we still did the same. We did not rent any cottage. It is still more fun and practical to picnic on the sands. And we were not charged anything at all because we did not use cottages.

For a large group, or those who are not accustomed to staying on the sands, then you may of course go ahead and rent cottages. But for my family of seven who love staying most of the time on the sands and in the water, my malong is enough. =) =)

And lastly, we brought our own food. While there are small stores in all three beaches we visited, it is still best if you bring your own báon so that you'd just spend on transportation. That is what we did.

Tanned skin and jellyfish sting, we didn't mind them all because we really enjoyed our summer! Till next time!!!

Our 3 Beaches In 3 Days, summer photos are already available in our Facebook fan page!!! Please click the link below: =)

Don't forget to LIKE US on Facebook! ¡Gracias! =)

Have a happy Summer 2017, everyone!!!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

¡Feliz 13º cumpleaños, Mómay! (100° aniversario de Fátima)

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Fátima.

Tan especial es tu cumpleaños porque es el centenario de nuestra Señora de Fátima. Ella es su
patrona. Deja que Ella sea tu guía durante tu estancia aquí en la tierra. ¡Feliz 13º cumpleaños,Mómay! ¡Te amamos mucho, Diamond Fist!

Shakey's Pacita.