WEEKENDS IN MANILA ARE ALWAYS THE BEST

I spent last weekend in Manila since we needed to apply for our Marriage License, and it requires the personal appearance of the contracting parties. Good for me, since I will take any reason to hop on a plane and fly home any given day (this applies to promo rates lang ha, hehe).

Aside from the heavy traffic getting from Point A to Point B, which is making Manila infamous nowadays, I did spend some time catching up with friends. 


I met with some of my college friends last Friday and since most of them work around the Bonifacio Global City area, I picked Elias for our dinner get-together.


If you recall in one of Jose Rizal’s famous novels, Noli Me Tangere, Elias is a prominent character. As the restaurant’s name implies, they serve Filipino food -- and me being me, I will never get tired of eating Filipino food.


ELIAS

The restaurant is so pretty!
I later found out that Elias is part of Chef Florabel’s chain of restaurants. One of them is Crisostomo, which I tried years back when it started operation in Resorts World Manila. I remember I liked their food and they hadthese witty menu names.

We reached the restaurant around 5pm, and since it was too early for dinner, we were the first customers. I did liked the ambience of the place. It felt like being transported to one of Manila’s old houses.

Don Rafael
(Classic Crispy Pata – Deep-Fried Pork Leg with Garlic Sauce, Atchara & Soy Vinegar) Php 695

Sinigang Gomez (Sinigang ng Baboy sa Sampalok) Php 395

Tinapa Salted Egg Rice
Php 265

Adobo Rice
Php 265
and Pacita
(Inihaw na Tilapia stuffed with Onions, Tomatoes, Green Peppers & Pandan) Php 375

The food tasted familiar but in a good way; it was like eating at your lola’s house.

The takaw gang!

BUFFALO WILD WINGS

The next day, I met up with, Ate Crese, one of my high school friends who also became my roommate in Singapore. We decided to meet in Uptown Mall BGC and have lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, one of Bistro Group’s restaurants.


SCREAMIN' NACHO BURGER
Chipotle BBQ Seasoned Burger, Tortilla Chips, Pepper Jack Cheese And Southwestern Ranch Dressing. Jalapenos And Pico De Gallo Replace The Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, And Pickle On This Burger.

BUFFALO RANCH CHICKEN WRAP
A Large Flour Tortilla Loaded With Crispy Chicken Buffalo Tenders™ Topped With Our Signature Medium Sauce And Ranch Dressing, Rolled With A Blend Of Cheeses, Lettuce And Tomatoes.

BUFFALO WINGS with
Asian Zing and Sweet BBQ sauces

The wraps are pretty good and serving size is quite big. I suggest ordering more buffalo wings and just sharing a wrap with a friend.

I notice that the restaurant choices in Manila are now beginning to get more variety. 

Does it mean Pinoys are becoming more adventurous when it comes to food?

ELIAS
Bonifacio High Street Central, 

7th avenue corner 30th street, 
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

BUFFALO WILD WINGS
Uptown Place Mall, 
36th Street Corner 9th Avenue, 
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

MY WEDDING PROPOSAL STORY

A lot of people do not know how JM and I met. Nine years ago, we met through a common friend on the social media site Multiply. JM had a Nokia 5310 cellphone back then, and I left a comment asking how it was as a phone. After a few months of being acquaintances, he asked if he can drive me home and it was a constant answer of no from me.

After a few more tries, I thought why not give him a chance, as he sounds friendly naman. 

We became friends for a few more months and had friendly dates from time to time. Then we hit a bump along the friendship road and decided to part ways. During this time that we were apart, we realized that we liked each other. 

So we got back together and as cliché as it was, the rest was history.


JM and I had talked about marriage a few years back but we knew we were not yet ready until we had a place of our own. So after the construction of our home, we knew that the next step was to get married. I was already doing research about weddings but nothing was concrete since JM had not formally asked me to marry him yet! 


On August 15, 2015, a week before my birthday and our house blessing, JM asked me to check out our master's bedroom. I was surprised that there was a bouquet of flowers in the bed. By this time, I was already expecting him to propose! I was so in the moment! 

Naiiyak na ako sa tuwa! 

When I turned around, he handed me a huge paper bag! Imagine my disappointment when I opened the paper bag and saw Judy Ann’s cookbook (which I loved by the way) as his birthday gift!!!! 

I did not show him how disappointed I was and said my thank you. 

Then he said, “Basahin mo naman yung card.” 

So when I read the card it said, “Hope you liked my second gift”

My legs were already turning into jelly and when I turned around, there he was, half-kneeling and asking me to marry him. 

My hair was a mess, I hadn’t showered yet, I was very sleepy since I just arrived that morning from Singapore, but my heart was so full. I was extremely happy. There he was, my best friend, asking me to marry him. Of course I said YES.

TRAVEL DIARY: THE ART OF DOING NOTHING IN BALI INDONESIA

We decided to spend our anniversary with a relaxed trip to Bali Indonesia. We did not intend to do any sightseeing, we just wanted to bask under the sun while lazing in front of the Indian Ocean.

Upon arriving at the Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar), you’ll immediately notice that Balinese feel of the airport. Kudos to the Indonesians for improving their airport.


We booked Ping Hotel Seminyak via Agoda since it's cheaper, which included an airport transfer. As soon as we got out of the airport, the driver was already waiting for us. He was waiting patiently as our flight was rescheduled. 


The roads from the airport to the hotel is very similar to Manila’s provinces, think Laguna or Batangas. It took us roughly 30 minutes to reach the hotel from the airport.


Ping Hotel Seminyak is a charming semi-boutique hotel, it’s not beachfront but it was only a short walk going to the beach so we did not mind. We booked a Superior Room inclusive of breakfast. The size of the room is just right and it has a balcony which gives a direct view of the pool.


Our room had this lovely view of the pool
Very balinese design
The beach is not really for swimming but more for surfing as the waves can get really high. We spent hours basically doing nothing and just enjoying the cool breeze of the ocean.
What a lovely view after a day of doing nothing!
We found one restaurant by the beach, called La Plancha, which serves good food which is why we dined there almost all nights that we were staying in Bali.



It was a short but very relaxing trip. Looking forward to coming back and exploring the other tourist spots Bali has to offer.

PING Hotel Seminyak Bali Indonesia
Jl. Camplung Tanduk No. 28, Seminyak Beach Bali Indonesia
Contact: +62 361 738000
Email : info@pinghotelbali.com

TRAVEL DIARY: A SHORT GETAWAY TO BINTAN INDONESIA

Bintan is a small Indonesian island which is an hour’s ferry ride away from Singapore. Hence, it became a favorite weekend getaway of some Singapore residents.

Superior Room at Nirwana Gardens Resort
We booked our round trip ferry tickets from Bintan Resort Ferries for around SGD 70. We left Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore) at 2PM and arrived at Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal (Bintan) at 1:55PM (Indonesia Time). There is a one-hour time difference between Singapore and Bintan. Hence, after the one hour ferry ride, we arrived at the same time in Indonesia.

There are different resorts in Bintan which you may choose from and we decided to book Nirwana Gardens due to its homey and relaxed look. The resort setting is actually similar to Crimson Mactan but the space is much more expansive.

From the ferry terminal, a shuttle bus brought us to the resort. The resort ground is pretty huge. There is an internal shuttle which can take you around the resort if you want to explore. 

We opt to book our stay at the hotel as it is closer to the pool and breakfast area. The room that we got has a garden view and was very cozy.

The next day, we decided to take the shuttle from the resort to Pasar Oleh Oleh, which is a quaint marketplace. Since it was raining while we were there, we were only able to have lunch and not able to properly walk around the place.

Garlic Chicken

Sweet and Sour Fish
We spent most of the time lounging by the pool as there was nice weather while we were there.


Pool area
Beach front
It was one relaxing trip indeed!

Helpful Tip: No need to change your Singaporean Dollars to Indonesian Rupiah as most of the hotels/restaurants in Bintan accepts Singapore Dollars.

Nirwana Gardens
Jalan Panglima Pantar, Lagoi 29155
Bintan Resorts, Indonesia
Telephone: (65) 6323 6636
Fax: (65) 6323 7717
Email: reservation@nirwanagardens.com


TRAVEL DIARY: A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE AT LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR

Last summer, my family and I went on a weekend getaway to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.

Las Casas showcases a collection of heritage houses, mostly from Luzon, which are carefully dismantled and reconstructed, brick by brick and plank by plank. This idea was conceptualized by Mr Jerry Acuzar, who is a businessman and developer. 
 
Path to the old Manila

It became controversial as there were some heritage advocates who were against dismantling the heritage houses and moving them to a different location. They said it will not be the same if they are moved from their original locations.

We left Manila around 5:00 am and were already in Bataan by 9:00 am. Since they only allow check-in at 2pm, we decided to take the 10:30 am Heritage Tour. The tour is available every hour; you may want to check out the schedule on their website. For an additional charge, they also offer private tours, which you can book if you are in a larger group, or want to roam the place at your own pace.

Even if you know your history well, being able to step into the houses which became silent witnesses of our history, and taking a peek down memory lane, is very nostalgic. The large capiz windows, wide wooden floor boards, and elegant cornisas (cornices) will surely transport you to the old Philippines that our ancestors lived in.

I won’t go much into details of the heritage tour or the chistory (chismis-history), as it will spoil what they have prepared for you.







 
We booked a Family Room for an overnight stay. There are three king-sized beds, which can accommodate 6 persons. We added two more extra beds as there were eight of us.

The room, as well as the bathroom, is massive and it was very beautifully decorated. It felt like checking in to a five-star hotel back in 1920s.



After resting, we decided to take a dip in the sea and it was a breath of fresh air.
Overall, it was one summer we will truly cherish.

Batis inspired pool
Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar
Brgy. Ibaba, Bagac, Bataan
2107, Philippines
Landline numbers: +63 2 332 5338, +63 2 332 5286, +63 2 877 4501, +63 2 877 4502
Mobile number: +63 917 872 9361
E-mail: reserve@lascasasfilipinas.com or marketing@lascasasfilipinas.com

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF HONG KONG EXPERIENCE

Located in eastern Asia, Hong Kong is a country frequently visited by Filipinos due its visa-free entry and close proximity to Manila. It is a magical place where both kids and adults will surely have a great time, and it’s only a two-hour flight away.

view from the tram on the way to The Peak
Be ready to pack your bags and check out this suggested Do-It-Yourself Hong Kong guide.

HOW TO GET THERE

It is recommended to take an early flight to Hong Kong to maximize your stay.
There are at least 15 flights per day with MNL – HKG routes which you may choose from.
You may check out fights from Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, and Cebu Pacific.

Watch out for those airline sales, as a Manila-Hong Kong round-trip ticket can cost as low as PhP2,000.


ACCOMMODATION

Hong Kong is well-known for being a country where space is a luxury.

As always, there are a few options you may choose from to get the best out of your budget.

AirBnb
AirBnbs are booming alternative to hotels. From HKD800 (PhP5,000++) a night, you’ll get an entire apartment to yourself where you can cook and do laundry. This is recommended for those traveling in groups to save on your accommodation.

Guesthouse
Golden Crown Guesthouse – located in one of Hong Kong’s busiest streets, Nathan Road, Golden Crown is one of the popular guest houses in Hong Kong. An overnight stay for a family room (accommodates 4 to 5) will cost you HKD600 (PhP3,600++) while a room for two is around HKD420 (PhP2,500++).

Boutique Hotels/Hotels
If you have more budget for accommodation, you may opt to book your stay in a hotel.
Check out Butterfly on Prat in Agoda to score the best deals for this hotel.

WEATHER

Hong Kong is classified as a sub-tropical climate, which means that it has a warm to hot summer and cool to mild winter. It has a high tourist volume all year, but if you want to enjoy cooler months, it is best to travel between mid-September to the end of February.


Make sure to check out the weather forecast at least a week before your trip.

The last time I went to Hong Kong was around February which was still very cold and windy. The jacket I was wearing was simply not enough. I needed to wear two jackets as soon as we landed at the airport.

GETTING AROUND

Before heading out to the city, be sure to buy your Octopus Card at the airport.
This card is used as a contactless way of payment for most transportation around Hong Kong as well as for other establishments.

Got our Octopus Cards at the Airport

The Octopus Card comes with a refundable HKD50 (PhP300) deposit. 

For a five-day trip, I suggest you get an initial top-up of HKD100 + 50 deposit (Php900++), and just top up when necessary. 

You may top up your Octopus cards at MTR stations, 7-Eleven and other partner establishments

Public transportation is relatively efficient and there are a lot of ways to enjoy the city.

Airport Express – The fastest way to reach the city from the Chek Lap Kok Airport is the Airport Express.

To give a rough estimate, a one way ticket from Airport to Kowloon is around HKD90 (PhP540++).

Taxi – the most convenient way of transportation if you are travelling in a group. However, be mindful also that Hong Kong taxis do not come cheap. The flag-down rate for red taxis, operating throughout most of Hong Kong, is HKD22 (PhP133++)

Bus – Buses run on a specific routes and are guided by Bus Numbers. Make sure to plan ahead the bus numbers that you will need for your destination.

MTR – The Mass Transit Railway is the most popular method of commute in Hong Kong especially for tourists due to its efficiency. Check out explorehk.com to plan out your routes and estimated travel time.

Ferry – For experience you may try to take the Star Ferry between Central to Kowloon. You may check out detailed fare table here.

Tram – Hop on and take the upper deck for a lovely view of Hong Kong Island with a flat rate of HKD2.3 (Php13).

Tip: Having been a British colony for 99 years, Hong Kong is a right hand drive country.
Be sure to look from right to left when crossing the street.

SUGGESTED 4-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1
Early fly in to Hong Kong
Make sure to get your Octopus Card at the Airport
Check in to Hotel
Stroll around TST 1881 Heritage, Harbour City Shopping
Avenue of the Stars, Old Clock Tower, Symphony of Lights

Day 2
Ngong Pin Village (Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car + Giant Buddha + Po Lin Monastery)
Citygate at Tung Chung station              
Disneyland

Day 3
Ocean Park
The Peak / Madame Tassaud's Wax Museum 

Day 4
Last Minute Shopping 
Flyout

You can add one more day for a side trip to Macau.

For a more relaxed itinerary, you may opt to stay for at least 7 days in HK to fully enjoy this beautiful country.

Bonus Tip: When packing for your trip, be sure to leave space on your luggage as there are a lot of discount sales in Hong Kong. I’m sure you are in for one-of-a-kind shopping experience while there.

Be sure to check out my other Hong Kong DIY Series:

Hong Kong DIY Trip Part 1 - Welcome to HK and Avenue of the Stars
Hong Kong DIY Trip Part 3 - The Peak and Star Ferry
Hong Kong DIY Trip Part 4 - Ocean Park
Hong Kong DIY Trip Part 5 - Disneyland

**Exchange rate used is 1 HKD = 6.01055 PHP as of May 15, 2016

FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS WHEN TRAVELING TO BOHOL

Bohol is one of my favorite provinces in the Philippines.

Located in the Central Visayas region, it is one of its largest islands. I’ve been to Bohol twice, and both visits were truly blissful and memorable. Both the people and the food were truly wonderful and heart-warming.

Here are my top five picks for places you should not miss when you visit this province in the Visayas.

1. SEE THE MAJESTIC CHOCOLATE HILLS

A visit to Bohol is not complete if you don’t experience the view of the Chocolate Hills. Even from the plane, you’ll see these wonderful creations that God has entrusted us. These hills are covered in green grass, which turn into brown like chocolate kisses during the summer or dry season.


2. HOP ON A RIVER CRUISE

Cruising the Loboc River while a band serenades you over lunch is one of the romantic experiences you’ll get while in Bohol.





3. RACE WITH THE DOLPHINS

Waking up early in the morning to race with the dolphins is totally worth it. You’ll get to see them in their natural habitat swimming and playing.


4. STAND ON THE SAND BAR AT VIRGIN ISLAND

A bar of white powdery sand in between two bodies of water is a sight to behold. It’s a little scary at first, as the water goes up depending on the time of the day, but it is one place in Bohol that you would not want to miss.




5. VISIT THE TARSIER SANCTUARY

Did you know that tarsiers can turn their heads up to 180 degrees?! 

Aside from the Chocolate Hills, the tarsiers are probably the most visited attraction in Bohol. Sad to say, tarsiers are now endangered animals. Be sure to follow the sanctuary rules when visiting these little friends of ours. 



Have you recently visited Bohol? Let me know what your memorable experiences are in this wonderful province.

COMMON MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID

After graduating from college, all I could think about was how happy I was that school was finally over. Little did I know that learning does not stop on the day that you receive your diploma.

Every day is an opportunity to learn and correct mistakes.

After working for almost nine years now, I’ve had my share of money mistakes, and would like to share how to correct them.

                                                      Photo by Tax Credits / CC


1. Working without a goal


Waking up at 6am in the morning to prepare for work can be very tiring, especially if you do not have any goals in mind.

Short-term goals are usually the things that we want to achieve within the next couple years. These may be saving up for car down payment, going on a once-a-year vacation, building up that emergency fund, etc. 

Long-term goals are the big-ticket purchases, and will need more time and money to achieve. Examples are buying your first home, saving up a baby fund, and saving up for retirement.

We work because we want to achieve something. Whether for material things or for self-fulfillment, it is always better to keep a goal in mind. These keep our focus on track.

2. Unable to differentiate wants vs. needs

There is no harm in giving in to your wants once in a while. However, the problem starts when we do not know how to differentiate between the things that we want and the things that we need.

Here’s a classic example. We often hear girls say: “I’ve got nothing to wear… Again!” But open her closet and you will see five dresses of the same style, or five shirts of the same style but in different colors.

I am guilty of this, as I am very hard to please when it comes to shopping. So when I find something that I like, I will buy it in the same style, in three different colors.

Before making that purchase, ask yourself three times “Do I really need this, or is it something that can still wait?”

3. Not setting a budget

Keeping a budget in mind is good. Writing it down is even better.

Unless you have a visual record of where your money is going, it is a challenge to keep track of your spending.

Once you start to list your expenses down, and allot a monthly budget for savings and expenses, it will be easier to trim down on your spending.

Track your budget and spending and keep it to a level where you are comfortable. Make use of spreadsheets and apps readily available for download to see where your hard-earned cash is going.

4. Overusing your credit card

Credit cards are not the enemy. Greed is.

Credit card companies usually give you a credit limit of twice your monthly salary, sometimes even higher. Hence, this is "excess money" that you can spend, but you don’t actually have.

Before handing over that plastic card to the cashier, make sure that you have allotted a budget to pay for that purchase when the bill comes. Spend only the money that you have.

5. Not saving for the rainy days

Rainy days are sure to come; we just don’t know when.

Build up an emergency fund enough to cover at least six months’ worth of household expenses. This will serve as a buffer when an unexpected expense arises.

6. Not preparing for retirement

There is no better day to prepare for tomorrow than today.

Retirement may be twenty or thirty years away, but it is good to set aside a portion of your earnings to prepare for that day. Ika nga, daig ng maagap ang masipag.

Compute the amount of money you will need when your retirement comes. It will be shocking, but at least you will have an idea, and will think twice next time you buy that expensive cup of coffee.

7. Not learning How to Invest and Grow Your Money

You are responsible for your own money. Be equipped and read up on how you can grow it.

Don’t go blaming other people when the going gets tough.

I think it is best to start with unit investment trust funds (UITFs) and mutual funds, as these are handled by financial managers who study the market and know what they are doing. Don’t go directly into the stock market if you do not know what you are doing.

Test the waters first before diving into the pool.

I strongly suggest that you build your savings and emergency funds first, before exploring the world of the stock market. It will help you to sleep better at night, especially when the market is down.

8. All work, no play

After all the nagging I did for points 1 to 7, I want you to remember that “All work and no play will make life boring”. Who wants that anyway?

Learn to reward yourself for a job well done – but remember not to go overboard.

Be it as small as sipping a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop, or a quick getaway to Cebu, you must learn to reward yourself once in a while. 

Is this article helpful? Let me know on the comment box if you have other money mistakes that you would like to share =).

TRAVEL DIARY: CRIMSON RESORT AND SPA MACTAN

Early this year, JM and I had a quick trip to Cebu, also known as Queen City of the South. It is an hour and half away from Manila by plane. Thanks to Cebu Pacific’s piso fare, we got our round-trip tickets for the very cheap price of PhP2,500 for two persons.

Since our airfare was so cheap, and this short trip was mainly for relaxation, we decided to book an overnight stay at Crimson Mactan – and it did not disappoint.

Three-tiered infinity pool
Upon arriving at the airport, the hotel driver was already waiting for us, and helped with our luggage. Check-in was a breeze, although we arrived a little earlier than the usual check-in time and our room was not yet ready. While waiting, we decided to have lunch at Saffron Café, where the buffet breakfast is also served. 

After lunch, we check out the nearby sports bar and played a few games of darts and pool. Half an hour later, the receptionist informed us that our room was ready and a buggy was already waiting to bring us to our room.

For a little over PhP9,000 a night (including taxes), we got a “Deluxe Garden King,” which is a 44 sqm room complete with a spacious bathroom with a garden view.

Deluxe Garden King Room

Spacious bathroom

Warm Welcome from the Cebuanos

There was no shortage of warm smiles and beautiful greetings from the Cebuano resort crew as soon as you stepped inside the resort. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with their sweet smiles, and should you need anything, they are ready and willing to assist.

Relaxing Ambiance and Beach Front

The cool wind and sound of the ocean almost brought me to a slumber while I was reading a book and lounging by the beach front. Crimson is also proud of their three-tiered infinity pool, which is picture-perfect, by the way. Pool water was warm, but at a uniform four feet, it’s on the shallow side for those who want to swim some laps.





Superb Furniture and Extensive Resort Space

As soon as you reach the hotel, you will immediately notice the façade and furniture used. It is not your average hotel building with a pool and a view of the ocean. The rooms are on a villa-type setting and is quite relaxing to the eyes. Most of the furniture used is made in Cebu. How amazing is that?

We walked around the property before dinner, and the place was massive. There are a lot of facilities and activities to be enjoyed by the whole family. They have a fitness center, a spa, and a play area for kids. They also offer water activities such as kayaking, snorkelling, island hopping, and the like. There’s something to do for everyone.

Good Food

We mostly ate at Saffron Café. Their food is good, especially the pizza and pasta that we had for dinner. However, as expected from hotels, menu prices are a little on the steep side.

Crispy Pata Php700

Prosciutto E Rucola Pizza Php550
Though our stay was short, we did enjoy the getaway to Crimson and I would love to be back one day.

Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, Cebu
Seascapes Resort Town, Mactan Island, Lapu Lapu City, Cebu 6015, Philippines
Tel. No.: (+63 32) 401 9999 / 239 3900 * 
Email: info.mactan@crimsonhotel.com
Website: www.crimsonhotel.com