Sunday, July 27, 2014

Coin Bank - DIY

Look at this A DIYed coin bank! Talk about creativity and resourcefulness of a little kid - a previously-used container wrapped with used paper and there you go, savings in the making! I fully understand that it takes much effort to instill to people the value of saving. Even grown-ups have difficulty applying the 80-20 money saving formula (save 20% of your net income, and then spend the rest for expenses). So I really appreciate kids who have the discipline to save and their parents who patiently teach them how to. But then, the kid is saving for what?

KH is written on the coin bank. What does it stand for? This stands for Kingdom Hall – the place of worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone is invited to freely attend Christian meetings in the nearest KH in the area. The little kid saves money, not for his own personal use, but to donate to the KH to support preaching work, relief activities and construction activities worldwide. How selfless!

A few months ago, I blogged about another kid saving in the same manner using a plastic bottle. These kids give just as what they have resolved in their hearts. These are just simple gestures, but impactful reminders to give and share. When we give, let it be with joy, out of love,  remembering that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” ( Acts 20:35)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Farm Health Good Food at The Urban Farm

With its bright green signage, this restaurant never fails to attract my attention every time we pass by it along President’s Avenue in BF Homes Paranaque. After one fruitful ministry day, we decided to try out some real fruit (and other healthy viands). True to its slogan, ‘Farm Healthy Good Food’ is what it really offers. The food served in this restaurant was created by a US accredited chemist and master herbalist.

Hand-painted murals on the wall reveal uplifting messages with a sense of humor. The interiors are cozy and homey providing a feel that you are in a farm with white fences and gardening tools. Wait for a few minutes and the produce will be shortly served to you – fresh and clean.

We tried the following:
Dijon Half Roast Chicken (Mustard marinated half of chicken with gravy fries)
Salmon & Mash (Grilled salmon fillet with cream sauce and mashed potato)
Beef Steak and Frites (Imported beef fillets with gravy and seasoned fries)
Being regular brown rice consumers, this time we enjoyed black rice served with the Mains.

For drinks I ordered a Healthy Smoothie - Fresh Strawberry Mint Lemonade (with herbs, spices and vegetables).

For the Starters and Mains, serving size is big enough for sharing. Food is fresh, unique and delicious.
The Urban Farm‘s concept is relatively new since they emphasize that they only use organic vegetables and grass fed animals.Truly, out of the many sprouting restaurants in BF area, The Urban Farm is definitely a must-try for the health buffs (and curious foodies) out there.

#4 President's Ave. cor. Adelfa St.
Tahanan Vill., BF Homes Subd.,
Paranaque City

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Loom Love

Just like any other fad, I thought the loom bands craze would just go away one day. But when loving kids gave me a LoomBands 101 session, i realized the value it instills on kids - patience, creativity and thoughtfulness. And so I got my own, loomed with love by Jannah :) I chose the rainbow-inspired set because life is indeed full of colors!

Keep on looming, kids (and kids at heart)!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Abe - Where Good Friends (and Families) Dine

Lately, it seems like the area in and around Parañaque and Alabang has been a hotbed for lots of fresh and trendy food-related developments. But nothing beats a Filipino restaurant that serves true Pinoy food and rivals with other foreign restaurants in terms of value and quality. 

So one late night, we had our family dinner in this place 'where good friends dine' - Abe Restaurant in Alabang Town Center. As part of the LJC group of companies, Abe serves similar dishes like the ones of Cafe Adriatico, Bistro Remedios, etc.

Homey as it appeals, we all got engrossed into talking and bonding, thus I have limited time to take shots. Sharing the top three favorites from our order list.

I am not so much of a Crispy Pata lover but my foodie loved ones wanted to have it in our list.
It was actually the guys who really craved for this, assuring the ladies that it was cheat day.
And so, the Crispy Pata to die for (with double meaning haha) was served on our table.
Abe's Crispy Pata is really good, with the perfect crisp and flavor.

 Oh well, mom's favorite, the all-Filipino Kare-kare!
Abe's version is more of a creamier one and has no artificial coloring - no orange color that stains the plate.

Hubby's pick - Bicol Express.
He loves the spicy sting put into every Bicol Express meal. 
Instead of having more meat, Abe makes their Bicol Express more of a 
vegetable serving with less meat and more greens. Truly healthy!

And oh, what (or who) is Abe, by the way? Abe (ah-beh) is a noun which means either of the two:
1. Capampangan word for friend, companion, and getting together.
2. Nickname of a beloved son of Pampanga, Emilio Aguilar Cruz (1915-1991), writer, editor, painter, connoisseur, bon vivant and legendary eater outer.

We can add another meaning, though. Abe = great restaurant. :)
So, if you are looking for a place with a cozy ambiance, great quality of food, value for money and friendly service; visit:

Abe Alabang Town Center
Lifestyle Strip, Alabang Town Center, Commerce Avenue, Muntinlupa City

Phone: 623 0899 / 804 2148-49 / 917 550 6033
Business Hours: Monday – Sunday / 11 am – 11 pm
Seating capacity: 140

Also, if you have foreigner friends (or balikbayans) who are craving for Filipino food, Abe is one great option. Certainly, Abe is not just a place 'where good friends dine', but is also a setting for families to reconnect and delight in each other's company.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fine Dining at Home

Wife: “I prepare the food in less than an hour. You finish it in a few minutes. Even so, I will never get tired of cooking for you.”

Husband: “The food you serve is far more delicious than any meal a fine-dining restaurant can offer.”

These were our lines when I cooked for hubby a day after our 1st year anniversary. We both said it jokingly but it was a treasured moment worth remembering. Nothing beats a home-made meal cooked and prepared with TLC. And so, let me share the menu for that night: 

Grilled Norwegian salmon 
Crunchy Breaded-Shrimp
Maki-inspired Salad

For ladies out there who want to reinvent something new or spark up a fine-dining experience at home, try cooking instead of dining out. I am no expert chef, but getting ready for more posts re: cooking milestones in this blog.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ad Summit PH 2014

The Age of Enlightenment.  This was the theme of this year’s Ad Summit, where marketing teams and advertising enthusiasts soaked in inspiration, validation and energized motivation from the rock stars of the ad industry. Let me share with you a glimpse of our enlightened journey.

Day one started on a high note with crowd favorite Chot Reyes linking basketball and advertising.  The five-time PBA Coach of the Year and Sports5 head likened the advertising industry to a basketball game, saying
that scoring advertising three-pointers takes trust, effort, accountability and motivation (TEAM). Coach Chot made me see basketball in a different light and yes, our world of advertising has so much to learn from the
wonderful world of basketball.

Following Reyes was Y&R Asia Pacific regional executive creative director Marcus Rebeschini, who talked about taking on the Impossible. "Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done," He explained that when things become difficult, many people think that what they set out to do is impossible. “You can either say it's impossible, or you can do the impossible."

From aspiration to inspiration, Sandipan Roy of Isobar, talks about how the transparency brought by the Internet has made brands more accountable to the consumer.  He discussed how the internet has changed things.  Because of technology, the four Ps of marketing no longer exist in silo of each other. With the advent of social media, Sandipan notes that purchase is no longer an isolated experience. Our social media friends provide a hyper-speed-word-of-mouth influence.

After an inspiring first day, Day two of the Ad Summit was packed with amazing case studies that provoked brands to challenge norms to truly make a difference.  Shu chang of Omnicom started the day by sharing 10
narratives that challenger brands use to overthrow competition. Chiu chang spoke about how challenger brands  can threaten big players.  Chiang said that "Digital and social media allows challenger brands with low budgets to reach consumers". Chiang also said that it's important for brands to remain true to their identity. "What's really important is to take a stance and stick by it.”  he said.

Perhaps one of the most engaging talks during the summit came from Merlee Jayme of DM9JaymeSyfu who shared various campaigns that changed the lives of people.  “Liking isn’t Helping” seeks to point out that tangible actions such as donations or volunteering are much more useful to help victims of war or natural disaster. The “Burry the Past” project has helped thousands of Filipino women whose lives have been affected by online scandals. And the Smart Text Books campaign has allowed millions of underprivileged kids access to textbooks in the form of a simcard. It was emphasized that the creative mind can do good, but the creative heart can do wonders.

On the final day of Ad Summit Pilipinas, advertising legends inspired delegates with a single message:   that brands can influence social change.

Other than the heavy rains of prizes, interactive gatherings from sponsors and star-studded activities, insights from this year’s ad summit surely created a big impact to how advertisers and the media people think and
implement things. Enlightenment it is.

Looking forward to the next Ad Summit. #adsummitph

Credits: Ad Summit Speakers, BPI Delegates

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Vikings – A Feast From the Sea

It is graduation season once again and as always, parents beam at the proud moment of seeing their son/daughter climb up the stage to reap the fruits of hard work. Our tita is one of those proud parents, who decided to treat us all to a graduation feast.

Feast it is, as we found ourselves in Vikings SM Marikina. Uncover the taste of luxury – this is Vikings’ striking statement to its customers as they promote the services they offered. However, one doesn’t have to be intimated because true to its tagline, it’s the luxury buffet for every Juan! And being the Juan and Juanas to celebrate our cousin’s triumph, we started the ‘feast from the sea’.

Like the Vikings who were great warriors and once ruled out the seven seas, we became warriors of a different type – food lovers ready to celebrate. We explored the area and found out that there are various food stations.  I was surprised by the extensiveness of the buffet spread. From outside, you'd think this was a small branch but I was wrong. Some favorites include the following:

Salad and appetizer station
Bread station – sourdough!
Cold cuts and cheese
Carving station – US Roast Beef and Lamb Chops are must-tries
Barbecue station
Korean food station – bulgogi and well, kimchi
Chinese – dumplings and siomai
Japanese – sushi and sashimi overload
Dessert Station -yogurt ice cream, chocolate fountain, raspberry crepe and crème brulee
Drinks Station – Twinings tea, cold juices and shakes, coffee, tea, milo shake and even San Mig beer

Plate no. 1 – The healthy plate served as appetizer. I enjoyed the pomelo salad but added a touch of cheese.
The Oyster Rockefeller also topped my list.

Plate no. 2 – A Japanese food lover at heart! After making our own chirashidon, 
we shared a plate of sushi overload.

Plate no. 3 – Time for some protein – lamb chops and mint sauce salsa.

Plate no. 4 – East meets west on my plate. 
A mixture of Korean Bulgogi and Western food (such as pizza and barbecue)

Plate 5 – Shabu-shabu – spicy broth for us.

Plate 6 – Chinese cuisine (siomai and chicken feet) – almost full this time. Haha

Plate 7 – Satisfying the sweet tooth with half order of raspberry crepe, 
fruits, yogurt and ice cream (avocado and bubble gum flavors)

As the food adventure ended, we realized that life really gives us a lot of reasons to celebrate. These gatherings do not have to be as grandiose as the way the Vikings celebrated (not stopping until their every want and need was satisfied) but what is important is to gather loved ones, share success and happiness, and be grateful for all the blessings received.

For your own food adventure, visit Vikings SM Marikina:
SM Marikina, Marcos Highway,
Calumpang, Marikina City
Tel No.: 570-3888; 570-4888; 570-5888
Mobile No.: 0917-8766888

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Have You Shared Your “Plastic Bottle”?

Last Sunday I noticed something unusual in the Kingdom Hall’s donation box. Usually, bills and coins are voluntarily (and discreetly) placed into the donation box as a testament of heartfelt contribution and support to the worldwide work. However, this time it was different. A little girl donated a plastic bottle. Filled with curiosity, I walked over and tried to take a closer look.

Surprisingly, it was not purely a plastic bottle. It was a container used by the girl for saving money in! The little girl explained that she set aside a portion of her little allowance to save and donate the money because of love. “I wanted to help others. It was my allowance savings but I’ll give it.”, she said while beaming at me.

In an era when some are quick to label people as self-centered, many young ones—including the little girl above—are proving to be just the opposite. Instead of buying her favorite toy or spending purely on recreational stuffs, she managed to voluntarily donate. We too may use our time, energy, and resources to serve others. We can learn the truth of this statement - “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” – Acts 20:35.

I learned that the total cost of the coins in the plastic bottle was around P200. This struck me. The little girl saves and donates on a monthly basis. How about us? Do we use our resources (money, time and energy) to serve and assist others? In times of calamities, loss of possessions or even death of loved ones, are we quick enough to ‘keep an eye on the personal interests of others’?  Of course there are other ways to help and serve, but we too can discover the joy of giving. How about you? Have you started sharing your “plastic bottle”?

Pag-ibig (LOVE)

Language is never a barrier to express love. This was what we experienced when we met a sister from Atlanta, USA as we welcome them to the Philippines. Age may have hindered her from learning a new language but if her tongue did not allow her to express it, her action made an even louder expression of love.

Tired from more than twenty hours of flight, she handed out a card bearing her name and a special word written with much effort.

Pag-ibig! Yes, that’s the Tagalog word for LOVE. She smiled and said feebly, “Pardon my handwriting but that’s the best I could do.” This warmed our hearts and true enough, love was felt in a universal way. A week was spent with them and it was not just the unlimited hugs, Kingdom smiles and inspiring stories that bonded us together but the ‘Agape’ love we know we’ll share from time indefinite.

Love is a quality that identifies every genuine Christian. As we grow spiritually, we ought to express it more fully. Along with deeds that reflect a self-sacrificing spirit, it is also important to have a genuinely warm feeling toward our fellow. What if problems arise or cultures don’t blend? Let us not keep account of the injury but try our best to forgive and forget.

Instead, let us always keep account in mind:
By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” - John 13:35

Now, the sister who handed out the card to us may be mountains and oceans away, but we still keep in touch. Together we share the spirit of ‘not looking for our own interests’ but have intense love for our international brothers and contribute to peace and unity.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Café Lydia – The Pride of Marikina

Along the street of Calderon in Calumpang Marikina City lies a little secret. Word of mouth made this little secret now a pride of the city. Café Lydia, now thrives as one of the best restaurants in the area. Featured for several times in national television and is continuously trending in blog reviews, Café Lydia never fails to satisfy its customers. 

Owned by an entrepreneur who formerly ran a shoe business, Café Lydia opened its doors to the public on September 2009. Despite struggles such as the typhoon Ondoy on its opening month, this restaurant continues to thrive and is now a destination restaurant for food lovers both from the North and South. Serving the cravings of families and friends who get together for a common purpose, Café Lydia provides a cozy ambience which is also reflected in the warm smiles of its servers. 

All set to eat!

 Pasta ala lidia (P155) is their house special. It has anchovies, olives, capers, tuna, and fresh tomatoes in olive oil. Quite a large serving of 200 grams.

Chicken Kiev (Chicken Cordon BLeu - P205) is also a must try- rolled chicken fillet with ham, cheese and herbed butter with bechamel sauce, served with mashed potato and mesclun salad. 

Yummy Back Ribs (P310) is served with java rice and mixed vegetables.

House Special Pizza (P240) with pepperoni, ham, bacon, mushroom, onion, bell pepper, pineapple is perfect for a group of pizza-lovers!

 Grilled Blue Marlin (P305), grilled in brown butter garlic sauce, sundried tomato, 
mushroom served with mashed potato and mixed vegetables, is also a great choice for fish lovers.

Who can resist the classic banana split (P125)? Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla ice cream scoops with frozen strawberry, and crushed pineapple caught between two banana halves 
and topped with chopped peanuts 

With Marikina as my hometown, Cafe Lidia is a restaurant close to my heart. Their coffees and cakes are served with the biggest smiles. Aside from a wide variety of menu, they also give speedy services by their very friendly staffs. The interior is quite cozy and comfortable, with warm lighting. There's also free wifi for internet lovers. A visit to Marikina is all worth it, especially if a stop is Café Lydia. Done sharing this little secret with you, it’s your turn to try and be proud.

Cafe Lidia 
Address: 64 Calderon St., Calumpang , Marikina City
Contact Detail: 647-7606
Business Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.(Monday-Saturday); 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Sunday)
Price Range per Person: Php 201 - Php 500
Payment Method: Cash/Credit Card
Accepts Reservation: Yes

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Trek to Remember

Twenty two years ago, a six-year old girl wondered why thick layers of ashes were scattered on the streets of Manila. Clueless and big-eyed, she  looked at the haze in the air and kept on inquiring about what happened. The answer was finally told - these were the effects of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

That was the only memory I had of Mount Pinatubo. Little did I know that I’d be exploring its grandeur (as one of the biggest volcanoes in the Philippines) and that I’d be building memories with it, this time not of eruption/destruction but of a different kind.

And so we decided to pursue the adventure and conquer Mount Pinatubo. Carrying our backpacks and wearing proper attires including study shoes which will survive boulders, heights, streams and ashes; we travelled all the way to Capas Tarlac.

For travellers who'd like to explore Mount Pinatubo, here’s a brief summary of a whole day itinerary.
   1.   Travel from Manila to Capas, Tarlac. – 2 hours
   2.   Sign the waiver form and attend a brief orientation before the adventure starts.
   3.   Ride a 4x4 transport for 40 minutes. Take note: It’s going to be a rough ride crossing streams and boulders with continuous sprinkles of ashes all over your body. Exciting!
   4.   Trek for 2-3 hours (depending on your capability) crossing ashes, boulders, low lying streams and some stairs to reach the crater.
   5.   Enjoy the crater from a viewing point. This is also the time to have lunch, recharge and take a lot of pictures celebrating your success. (Enjoy the fruits of your labor!)
   6.   Go back - do steps 4,3,2, and 1.

The wonderful crater of Mount Pinatubo beholds a beauty to marvel at.
It amazed me how a volcano as destructive as this can also be an attraction pleasing the eyes of onlookers. 
Oh the power of God's creation!

Sharing a video made by Jaresa Felipe of Thirty Six-O Media which features a 3-minute documentation of how our team conquered Mount Pinatubo. Click on the picture to view the video.

Click here to watch video.

Our package was pre-availed from Pinaykeypoint and for a list of the requirements and all necessary data, their site proved to be very helpful. The site also provides a detailed itinerary so if you’re planning to go on this adventure, we highly recommend that you transact with them.

The sturdy 4x4 transport which lets you experience "lahar powder" on your face as you go on a bumpy ride.

Crossing streams make you realize that roller coasters are not scary after all.

The almost three-hour trek is a challenge for the adventurers. 8 kms to go!

Boulders, together with lahar and streams, make the trek mode challenging.
Thanks to tour guides who lead us to easier trails. 

After more than 6 kilometers, you see this sign, motivating you to see which range you belong to.

When you see this rest station, you are near the crater (almost!).

 Trail foods are always helpful, so go for energy bite-sized foods.

There's a free water refill near the rest area. 


Visiting Mt. Pinatubo was an opportunity to meet the kin of the very first inhabitants of the Philippines. 
Aetas are all over the place. Greet them and share some goodies with the kids.

The precious drinks being sold near the crater - P100 each!

Once you reach the top, enjoy a hearty snack while camping and enjoy the beauty of the crater.

Camp around the crater, but don't swim.

I was used to the laidback vacation where one can relax and enjoy nature, but the Mount Pinatubo adventure is something different travel bugs should try. One has to be physically and emotionally ready for this kind of trip. And yes, no matter how arduous and tiring the adventure was, it really was the upbuilding memories to reach the top and the persons we trekked with that matter.

Twenty two years after that eruption, my mind now rarely recalls Mount Pinatubo’s destructive aftermath. Whenever the name of that giant mountain will be mentioned, it is that amazing trek that I will always remember.