DreamPlay is Fun

Last Saturday, we celebrated my wife’s thirty-fourth birthday at the newest casino complex in Metro Manila, that is, City of Dreams Manila.

After eating dolsot bibimbap for lunch at O Kitchen, we immediately went to DreamPlay, City of Dreams’ Dreamworks-themed indoor playground.

At DreamPlay, we first went to DreamTheater. It was a real treat watching various popular Dreamworks Animation characters come alive in wonderful short 4-D animation movies (that is, 3-D movies with surprise water sprays in synchronization with the movies, which is very similar to Mickey’s PhilharMagic at Hong Kong Disneyland).

Afterwards, my son joined other kids in the Kung Fu Panda Dojo to train to become a kung fu master. There were motion sensors to determine how much they were able to follow Po and Master Monkey of the Furious Five.

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My son then went climbing and sliding in the various dragon-shaped slides in the How to Fly Your Dragon area. The slides are of various sizes and have different twists and turns. He had the greatest time here, and he spent around two hours playing there.

At around seven o’clock in the evening, we went to Gingy’s Kitchen, where my wife and son learned how to make a gingerbread man. An instructor made step-by-step instructions of how to mix cookie dough, cut and mold the gingerbread, and apply icing on the gingerbread man. Gingy, Shrek and Donkey made appearances there too.

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Thereafter, we spotted a life-size Po mascot walking around and took pictures with him.

My son capped the night by playing at the Afro Circus, a Madagascar-themed multilevel play area.

There were also other attractions for bigger kids, such as the Wall of Destiny and Thread of Enlightenment. We also missed DreamTales, a puppet show of the Dreamworks characters, and DreamStudio, among others, because of time constraints.

In any event, we really had a blast! DreamPlay easily trumps all the other indoor playgrounds in the Philippines, such as Kidsville Play and Party Center of The Podium Mall and Kidzoona of Robinsons Galleria.

As for the City of Dreams itself, there are still a lot of unopened stores and the restaurants are very pricey, but the hallways are very spacious and grand. We can’t wait to comeback after all the other stores and restaurants open.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like this space!

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The Beauty and THE BEAST!!!

Last Sunday was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the fourth day of our five day Osaka trip, and, in the past two days, I and my wife had already gone to Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Castle, International Peace Osaka and Kaikuyan. Thus, I and my wife opted for a relaxing day shopping for souvenirs and goods. We also looked at watches at Yodobashi Camera where I found a watch I really liked. My wife then bought me the said watch, a Casio G-Shock Frogman GWF 1000-1,  as a Father’s Day gift. Wowowee!!!

I’ve always wanted a great tool watch and I can honestly say that the Casio G-Shock Frogman GWF 1000-1 is definitely a BEAST of a tool watch!

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Like all other Casio G-Shock Frogman models, the Casio G-Shock Frogman GWF 1000-1 is specifically designed for diving. In fact, the Casio G-Shock Frogman line is ISO 6425-compliant with a 200 meters divers rating, the only G-Shock line with the said specification.

Moreover, not only is it shock resistant, it is one of the toughest watches on the planet. Some even say that it is completely indestructible!

Unlike older Casio G-Shock Frogman models, the GWF 1000-1 has Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping; thus, it receives time calibration radio signals from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Japan, which keep the displayed time accurate.  Simply put, there is no more need to set the time as it is done automatically via time calibration radio signals.

Furthermore, the Casio G-Shock Frogman GWF 1000-1, like most G-Shock models, is solar powered. A solar panel on the face of the watch receives thermal and electrical energy that recharges the watch batteries. The solar panel converts even weak illumination from fluorescent lighting into electric power. Thus, the Casio G-Shock Frogman GWF 1000-1 can last a decade without a battery change.

It is also a multifunctional watch. Its features include Moon Phase Graph (moon age of specific date), Tide Graph (tide level for specific date and time), World Time (31 time zones), Power Saving (display goes blank to save power when the watch is left in the dark), 5 independent daily alarms, electro-luminescent backlight, dive time and surface interval measurement function, stopwatch, countdown timer, hourly time signal, and battery power indicator.

I really like the World Time function and it is really cool that I can check the time from other times zone by a few clicks of its buttons.

The bombproof stainless steel and resin case with a mineral case face and screw lock back is 58.3 x 52.8 x 18 millimeters and its total weight with the resin band is 115 grams.

Together with my Rolex Explorer, they form my new dynamic duo! The beauty and THE BEAST!

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One watch designed to scale the mountains, the other to dive into the the seas. One is analog, the other is digital. One is mechanical, the other is solar-powered. One has a steel bracelet, the other a resin band. One is Swiss, the other Japanese. Both super tough watches!!! Both timeless timepieces!!! And both will hopefully have equal wrist times.

I intend to wear the Rolex Explorer for days when I need to dress up, such as in formal events and when I am meeting clients. Otherwise, I will be wearing the Casio G-Shock Frogman, especially when I go outdoors or to the beach.

Thank you for reading and I hope you had a great time!

Oishii Osaka! Kawaii Osaka!

A few days ago, my wife and I went to Osaka, Japan. It is our second time in Japan, but our first time to really explore Osaka.

We stayed at the Hilton Osaka Hotel, which was very clean and pleasant.

After settling in the hotel, we went to one of Osaka’s major city centers around the Namba Station. We got to see Osaka’s neon lights, including the Glico Running Man. We also saw the Kani Doraku crab sign and other grand mechanized signs at Dotonburi, a popular food destination in Japan, where we also had our first taste of authentic Takoyaki or octopus fritters.

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On our second day, we went to Osaka Castle after eating breakfast. The Osaka Castle, while still appearing to retain its original exterior, is a completely modern museum in the inside. It features various multimedia exhibits about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the general who completed Osaka Castle. The castle is surrounded by impressive stone walls and scenic moats. The stone walls and moat are in turn surrounded by a huge park. The view at the top is kawaii because of the large green space surrounding the castle.

Thereafter, we went to the International Osaka Peace Center. The museum documents the horrors of World War II, including the Osaka air raids which destroyed much of the city toward the end of World War II. We then ate at McDonald’s on our way to Kaiyukan.

Kaikuyan or the Osaka Aquarium is one of Japan’s most spectacular aquariums. It is located in the Tempozan harbor and it houses various forms of life inhabiting the Pacific rim, including a whale shark and various manta rays and hammerhead sharks. It is like the Manila Ocean Park on steroids. My wife even got to pet one of the manta rays towards the exit. We then went to the Tempozan Marketplace to look for Astroboy toys for our son but we did not find any.

Afterwards, we went to the Animate Nihombashi at the Den Den Town. There weren’t any Astro Boy toys also in it, but we were lucky to find some second-hand Astro Boy toys in nearby stores in the area. We also ate Katsu Curry in a small curry restaurant, which, surprisingly, was one of our best meals in the trip.

On our third day, we went to Universal Studios Japan after eating breakfast at Hilton Osaka Hotel. The theme park is very impressive, especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section. We got to experience various rides and shows attractions. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is truly breathtaking! We also got to experience or see the following:

1. Amazing Adventures of Spiderman – The Ride 4K3D;

2. Back to the Future – The Ride;

3. Terminator 2: 3-D;

4. Magical Starlight Parade; and

5. the nearly fifty feet tall Attack on Titan statues.

We drank Butterbeer while walking and then ate ribs, chicken, potatoes and corn at at The Three Broomsticks for lunch. The meal was so-so and was very expensive. I certainly do not recommend.

Afterwards, we went to Ippudo Ramen, which was walking distance from our hotel. We ate ramen for dinner and it was oishi!!!

On our fourth day, we went to mass at Sacra Familia. After the mass, since it was Father’s Day, the community gave the various fathers a small token. I received a cute pair of socks. We then went to Umeda Sky Building, where we hand a wonderful view of Osaka at its Floating Garden Observatory at its 39th Floor. We then went shopping at Yodobashi, where we also had tempura for lunch. We went to also various department stores near Hilton Osaka Hotel and at the Dotonburi, where we had Okonamiyaki and Takoyaki for dinner. Okonamikayi is a Japanese savoury pancake packed with various ingredients. This, and Takoyaki, are truly oishii!!!

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We basically just packed on our fifth day and went to the airport after eating breakfast at the Hilton Osaka Hotel. All in all, the trip was a truly wonderful experience, especially the days and nights we spent in Universal Studios Japan and Dotonburi.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like this space!

Pico de Loro: Seaside Sanctuary

Last month, I celebrated my 35th birthday with a three day stay at the Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club, a premier seaside sanctuary developed by the SM Group. It is located in Pico de Loro Cove, which is at the center of Hamilo Coast, Nasugbu, Batangas.

It is our second time here and it is one of our favorite places in the Philippines. The beach in Pico de Loro Cove is one of the best beaches near Metro Manila. It is named after a nearby mountain, Mt. Pico de Loro, which in turn was first named by Spanish seafarers as its summit resembled a beak of a parrot. (“Pico de Loro” is Spanish for “Parrot’s Beak”.)

It took us around four hours to get there from Mandaluyong City via the SLEX-Santa Rosa-Tagaytay-Nasugbu Route. After the long drive, we immediately checked in at Pico Sands Hotel and went to the beach. My wife and I first played on the sand with our son. Thereafter, my wife and I went paddled on a sea kayak, while my son went swimming with his yaya. We did not paddled too far and just primarily marveled at the view of the endless South China Sea.

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Afterwards, I wanted to try something new, thus my wife and I then went paddling on a stand-up paddle board as well. We didn’t have much success on the paddle board, as we had difficulty balancing on the paddle board while paddling.

It was a tiring first day which we capped off with a scrumptious Italian dinner at Pico Restaurant and Bar.

The following day, our son went horseback-riding while my wife and I hiked with him on the nearby forest trails. The weather was hot, so we did this for just an hour. Thereafter, we went to the Country Club and went swimming in the various swimming pools, which include a big adult pool, several kiddie pools, a wading pool, and a pool with a slide. The tranquil man-made lagoon in front of the pools and the surrounding mountains were very scenic. We tried all the pools and we had a lot of fun.

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After lunch, my wife and I lounged on the beach, while our son slept. We had barbecue for merienda at the Reef Bar, a seaside bar near the Pico Beach Club.

When my son woke, we played with him in the indoor playground.

We again capped of the day with another scrumptious Italian dinner at the Pico Restaurant and Bar.

We spent the last day mainly lounging and chilling in the pools at the Country Club.

Going home we tried the Nasugbu-Ternate-Cavitex route and it took us only two hours to get home.

It was a really wonderful and relaxing vacation and and a very pleasant contrast to our action-packed vacation in Pico de Loro in 2013, wherein I  ran and hiked five kilometers of punishing mountain trails in the Salomon XTrail Race, in addition to swimming, biking and sea kayaking with my wife.

In any event, whether you are looking for a relaxed or action-packed vacation, Pico de Loro is the place to a wonderful place to be.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like this space!

Baguio: Mountain City Paradise

One of our most memorable trips this year was our trip to Baguio City during the Papal visit last January. It took us around nine hours to get there by car, primarily because of the heavy traffic caused by the bottlenecks at the toll booths. Nevertheless, the trip was sure worth it.

We stayed near the eerie Diplomat Hotel on top of Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park. On the first day, we basically just rested and recharged from the long drive, while enjoying the cool climate. My son and I played a little basketball in a basketball court nearby. We also enjoyed a little sightseeing from Heritage Hill, which we were told is the highest point in Baguio.

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The next day, we went to Burnham Park, a multiple hectare park at the heart of Baguio City. We spent the whole day there, playing in the playground in the morning, and biking in the afternoon. The park was teeming with people: old men playing chess outdoors, lovers in tandem bikes, friends on rowboats in the man-made lake, and families having picnics. Burnham Park reminded me a lot of of the Summer Palace in Beijing; both very busy and full of life and activity.

On our third day, we went to BenCab Museum, which is probably the best museum I have visited in the Philippines. It houses national artist Ben Cabrera’s art collection, which includes his masterpieces and other artworks by other artists. It is a four level building with a very good view of the mountain beside it. It also has a garden which is nicely landscaped with duck ponds and pathways. At the ground floor stands the famous Café Sabel but we were not able to eat there because the place was full at that time.

After the museum visit and siesta with the toddler, we went malling at SM City Baguio, an enclosed shopping near Burnham Park with al fresco sections.  It is packed with restaurants and shops like the malls in Metro Manila.

On our fourth day, we went to mass at Baguio Cathedral, a historic building which has stood there since 1936. Thereafter, we went shopping the Good Sheperd Convent at Mines View Barangay, which is famous for their strawberry jams and peanut brittles.

Afterwards, we went horseback riding at Wright Park. My son and wife explored the nearby hills on horseback and we were told that the famous La Presa was five hours away by horse. This is the first time my son has ridden a horse and it was surely the highlight of the trip for us.

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We left very early the following morning and returned to Manila in around four hours.

On on all our nights, we enjoyed the cool mountain breeze and relaxing warmth of bonfires. We also had our fair share of strawberries which we enjoyed eating with Nutella.

The current hot weather now really makes me dream back of going to that mountain city paradise.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like this space!

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar: A Beautiful Filipino Place

My family spent the last two days in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Heritage Resort in Bagac, Bataan. It differentiates itself from other beach resorts in the Philippines with its heritage houses, that is, old houses uprooted and transferred to the resort, with matching cobblestones for pathways.

The houses in the resort are mostly Spanish era architecture (the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish conquistadors from 1521 to 1898) and its plaza actually has the same vibe as Brussel’s Grote Markt.  The plaza is a big open space of cobble stones surrounded by old houses which are truly beautiful at night when lit up. There is also a beautiful bridge crossing a man-made river towards the beach. Several statues and fountains can also be found all over the resort.

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The resort is a perfect place for the family, as the kids can learn a little about Philippine history and culture. The kids can even ride a calesa. The staff also wear Spanish era costumes.

Kids can also swim in the various swimming pools or play on the various grass lawns.

But of course, the main attraction of the resort is the beach.

It took us around fours by car from Quezon City to reach the resort. Upon arrival, we were treated to a cold glass of sago’t gulaman. We then had lunch of traditional Filipino cuisine with lechon as one of the main dishes.

Afterwards, we checked in and went to the beach. On our way to the beach, we marveled at the old Filipino houses and various sculptures, such as statues depicting Filipino pastimes of past generations, such as kids playing sipa, palosebo and luksong baka. It felt very nostalgic, as I did play luksong baka when I was younger. Traditional Filipino folk songs were also being played all over the resort.

The sand of the beach, although not white, was very fine. The waves were also strong and  we had fun swimming and wading the whole afternoon. There were very few tourists and I think we were only around ten on the beach at that time. Jet skis and ocean kayaks were also available for rent, but we didn’t avail of them, since we had a toddler in tow.

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After swimming and wading, we again had traditional Filipino cuisine for dinner, this time with lechon baka and pork sisig as the main dishes. We were also treated to a show of Filipino folk dances, which although it failed to awe us, provided good ambiance while we ate.

The following day, we mainly relaxed and spent quality time inside the room. The interiors of the room were equipped with Spanish era furniture and interior design, but it also had modern amenities such as cable TV, hot shower and air conditioning. In some of the buildings, the walls and ceilings are decorated with large Spanish era style paintings.

With this experience in Bagac, Bataan, I can truly say it’s really more fun in the Philippines.

Please leave your comments and thank you for reading this space!

The Perfect Beater Watch

To complete the trifecta of the ultimate three watch collection, composed of a daily wearer, a dress watch, and a go-to tool watch, with an earth, sky, and sea theme, a tool/diver watch is necessary to complement the daily wearer Rolex Explorer and the pilot dress watch Cartier Santos-Dumont.

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In this connection, few watches can claim to be as more iconic as the Seiko Sports Dive Watch H558-5009, more popularly known as the Seiko Arnie. It is the first dive watch to feature a digital alarm chronograph with analog display. It is also a favorite watch of Arnold Schwarzenneger (hence, the nickname). He wore the Seiko Sports Dive Watch H558-5009 in the movies Commando and Predator, among other movies.

Like most dive watches, it has a unidirectional bezel and a pre-select marker to mark a specific minute marking. It is also massive with a diameter of 46 millimeters and is rugged enough to withstand almost everything.

It was also used on adventures to the North and South Poles as well as by an international team of explorers that climbed Everest in 1988. It also has other features such as three time zones, chronograph, alarm and backlight, thus, making it an ideal tool watch also. Truly iconic!

Moreover, it has a rubber strap, a quartz movement, and a Japanese brand, making it very different from the Rolex Explorer and the Cartier Santos-Dumont.

Going back to reality, however, the earth, sky, and sea collection appears to be impractical for myself. First, I don’t dive, so getting a dive watch feels artificial. Second, and more importantly, I already have a beater watch, the Polar FS2C Heart Rate Monitor. It was a gift from my wife, when we were still boyfriend and girlfriend, and the watch has been with me for more than a decade already.

It is a robust running watch with a basic heart rate monitor and a stop watch, which can measure total exercise time, average heart rate, and maximum heart rate. It is great for running, as the heart rate monitor help determines if the intensity or exertion level of the running is enough. It features extra-large digits for easy readability, and one-button functionality making it easy to use. There is also a visual and audible alarm when the target heart rate zones are reached.

I have used in several races already and is still perfectly working up to this day. It also has a convenient backlight and is water resistant to a depth of 50 meters. It is really an awesome tool watch.

As I really do run and the features of the watch are really usable, it is really appropriate for me. Together with my Rolex Explorer, they compose my current collection.

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As a complement to my Rolex Explorer, it is also very ideal. It has a quartz movement, while the Rolex Explorer has a mechanical movement. Its strap is rubber, while the Rolex Explorer’s strap is steel. It has a digital display, while the Rolex Explorer has an analog display. I use the Rolex Explorer as a daily wearer and in formal occasions, while I use Polar FS2C Heart Rate Monitor when running and when I need a beater watch. They truly male a well-balanced pair. 

Thank you for reading and I hope you had a great time!