It’s More Fun in Boracay!

Last month, my wife and I went to Boracay and spent five days there to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary and to attend to a friend’s wedding. It’s my second time there and I can say that it is truly one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

We flew via Cebu Pacific from Manila at 6 a.m. and an hour later we arrived at Caticlan, Aklan. From there, we rode via speedboat to our hotel, Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa. The speedboat ride care of Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa was smooth and allowed beautiful sight-seeing.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we had breakfast at Vintana Cafe, a fine-dining restaurant typical of five-star hotels here and abroad. Afterwards, we rested and slept at our spacious and luxurious room. The comfort room was elegant and the balcony was equally spacious. The wifi internet was also very fast.

In the afternoon, we attended my friend’s wedding. The wedding was at a garden in the resort and the reception was at the Punta Bunga Beach.  It was a truly beautiful wedding with acoustic music, fire dancers, good food and over-flowing drinks.

The next day, we had breakfast again at Vintana Cafe. I then went snorkeling while my wife lounged at the Banyungan Beach. There was not much to see underwater, and so I just went swimming instead. Since the Banyungan Beach was exclusive to the guests of Sangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa, we almost had the beach to ourselves. We then ate pizza at Alon and lounged at the beach. In the afternoon, we attended an assisted stretching class (a blend of yoga and thai massage), went sailing via Hobie Cat, and attended a tai chi class. Sailing via Hobie Cat was truly a remarkable experience. It was exhilarating, relaxing and scary all at the same time.

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In the evening, we transferred to Nigi Nigi Too Beach Resort, at Station 1. It was definitely not as luxurious as Sangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa and the wifi internet was practically non-existent, but I liked the place more. It had soul.

For dinner, we ate at True Food, a beachfront restaurant which served mostly Indian cuisine. We ate chicken tikala masala, chapati, paneer, among others, and the food was excellent.

The following day, we ate brunch at Nigi Nigi Too Beach Resort. We had a nice view of the beach while we ate. The other guests, mostly Russians, were also in front of us sun-bathing. Food was just ok.

We then went parasailing and helmet diving. These were truly memorable experiences for me and my wife. We flew like birds while parasailing (and suffered motion-sickness because of the strong winds). Afterwards, we walked with fishes while helmet diving. I am not a good swimmer so helmet diving was really an adventure for me.

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After an adventurous and tiring afternoon, we had dinner Mamita’s Grill. Since I conquered a lot fears that afternoon, I decided to add one more, and sang in front of the public for the first time in many years with the band. The grilled liempo we ate for dinner was also one of the best meals during the whole trip.

The following day, we had breakfast at Nigi Nigi Too Beach Resort and ate liempo again. We then went to Station 1 to enjoy the beach. The sand was perfect!!!! It was soft, white, and powdery. It is truly remarkable that a perfect beach like that could be so close to so many establishments. This is probably one of the reasons why Boracay is one of the most islands in the world.

I also did a little bit of paddle boating and then I went swimming with my wife. Paddle boating was not as easy as I thought and I had a hard time staying on the paddle boat. Swimming in Boracay however was a lot of fun. The shore descended very gradually and consistently and the sea was like a big swimming pool with its clear water.

For lunch, we ate at Real Coffee & Tea Cafe. We ate sandwiches, a cookie, and a calamansi muffin. The food was ok but I felt the place was over-hyped and expensive. During the afternoon, we lounged at Station 1 and read books. We then had dinner at Red Coconut  Beach Hotel. Aside from excellent food and drinks, we enjoyed wonderful performances from fire dancers and acoustic singers. This was truly one of best nights as we had fine dining under the stars by the beach with performers to entertain us.

On our last day, we went strolling around the beach and had breakfast and lunch at Nigi Nigi Too Beach Resort and Mamita’s Grill, respectively. We also went back Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa to play a little of bit of ping pong and to chill, while we wait for our speedboat road back to Caticlan, Aklan.

Indeed, I can truly say that it’s more fun in Boracay!

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

 

 

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The Magic of Solaire Resort & Casino

A couple of months ago, my wife and I watched music conductor Gerard Salonga and ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra in the show titled “The Magic of John Williams” at The Theater at Solaire Resort and Casino in Paranaque City.

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We totally enjoyed the show as we listened to wonderful musical scores by American composer John Williams from blockbuster movies such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Superman, and Jaws. The acoustics of the Theater was excellent and comparable to those in The West End of London.

The performance of the orchestra was superb. My personal favorites were the haunting melodies of Schindler’s List and the themes from Superman and Star Wars.  Music conductor Gerard Salonga at various times provided some comic relief in between performances. All in all, the show was excellent and wonderful!!!

Afterwards, we had fine Italian cuisine for dinner at Finestra. The ambiance there is truly amazing and their complimentary breads are definitely one of the best in the country. Our main courses of Carbonara Cremosa and Risotto were not as impressive, but were delicious nonetheless.

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As an added bonus, we got to view various paintings along the hallway with the Mona Lisa Project.  The Mona Lisa Project is a collection of works which integrates Leonardo da Vinci’s famous icon, The Mona Lisa. It is curated by artist Soler Santos.

This is definitely one of our most memorable evenings in 2015.

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

The Most Beautiful Place in the World

In the past three years, I have been to various places in more than a dozen countries, including global cities such as London, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. And I can truly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that the most beautiful place for me is Coron in the province of Palawan in the Philippines.

It has pristine white sand beaches, clear lakes and lagoons, and stunning rock formations. Coron is truly breathtakingly beautiful!

Last week, my wife and I spent six days in Coron to celebrate our fifth year wedding anniversary.

On our first day, after landing at the Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga Island, we immediately went to the hotel and ate lunch and rested. Thereafter, we made a tour of Coron Town, the highlight of which, was a relaxing hot bath at Maquinit Hotpsrings.We also went to Lualhati Park and Coron Harvest (Cashew Factory), and basically rode throughout the town. We ended the night with a scrumptious dinner at Lobster King Resto & Bar where we ate, you guessed it, lobsters.

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On our second day, we went snorkling at Twin Lagoon and Kayangan Lake. The rock formations were truly stunning. The experience was like a scene from a movie. Afterwards, we went back to our hotel, Coron Westown Resort, to attend Bo Sanchez Turly Rich Club Superconference 2015. The message of the seminar is indeed very powerful: How to Enjoy the Lifestyle of a Billionaire (Without Being One Yet). While there were probably no billionaire speakers in the seminar, the speakers, all in all, were very inspiring. We then had dinner at Balinsasayaw Restaurant where we were also treated to a fire dance and live percussion performance.

On our third day, we continued with our seminar. Ronnie Siasoyco’s talk on ASEAN Integration was very informative. Some of the other speakers were also very funny and entertaining. After the seminar, we ate dinner at Coron Westown Resort and we were treated to a wonderful musical performance by Al Linsangan and the other  members of the cultural group, Tribu Calamianen. One of the highlights of the trip!

On our fourth day, we attended the final part of the seminar. Bo Sanchez’s interview of Larry Gamboa was truly inspiring, and was the highlight of the whole conference. After eating lunch at Coron Westown Resort, we went for a hike at Mt. Tapyas and its 724 steps. The view of the sunset at the top was very beautiful. For dinner, we ate chicken barbecue and drank buko juice at Kawayan Grill, and then we had cocktails at Coron Westown Resort while listening to the hotel band.

On our fifth day, we went snorkling in Green Lagoon and CYC Coral Garden. Snorkling at CYC Coral Garden is truly a one of a kind experience! The water was very shallow and the corals were very beautiful.  We also lounged at the white sand beaches of CYC Beach and Sunset Beach, where we ate lunch. Afterwards, we went snorkling again at Kayangan Lake, Coron’s most scenic tourist attraction. We then had shrimps and German Brotzeit for dinner at Winnie’s Restaurant, my favorite meal of the whole trip!

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The following day, we basically relaxed and just packed in the hotel. We had a delicious chorizo for brunch.

Truly, Coron is a very wonderful place, and I will surely come back.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like this space

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!

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.

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