OTOP National Expo 2011

Bacolod Masskara

International Day for Peace 2011

PeaceTech: Youth as Ambassadors for Peace

Painless Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Now in Koronadal!

2011 Guiness World Record Attempt

Flag Raising at Mt Makiling

A Drive to Unwind

Paradizoo: A Farm and Garden Escape

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Braving the Waves at Catarman, Northern Samar

‘Tis the season when converging wind, referred to as Amihan, pass Northern Samar. It rains 5 out of 7 days. Visitors coming to Catarman at this time of the year are mostly relatives of residents. I guess relatives are more than willing to put up with hours of flight delay due to weather conditions coupled with the holiday rush at the airports.

Setting foot at Catarman, we can’t wait to go to the beach. Catarman’s White Beach isn’t luxurious at all. Perhaps, waking up and walking by the beach every morning is. After all the year’s rushing to beat deadlines and getting school projects done, we’re all looking forward slowing down a bit and indulging in family time. Our family loves the beach and we hope to enjoy it for a long time lest climate change threaten Philippine shores and take away its beauty someday.

White Beach has basic amenities including a pavilion where group gatherings can be held.

It’s been five years since our last Christmas in Catarman. As I reminisce and compare, there’s not much difference. It still rains during holiday season and it has been spoiling our trip to Biri Island since. I have been looking forward to the trip since hubby showed me a photo about ten years ago. Poor me, I’d have to wait until my next return to see if I’d be lucky enough to visit Biri.

Nevertheless, we were able to hit the beach – twice J The waves were rough but my eldest enjoyed playing by the shore. His little brother, however, did not enjoy the beach as much as he did. Tomas was too scared of the waves. Hubby and I had to alternate carrying him. Unlike last March, he did not play with the sand even when I carved him a bulldozer on the sand.

Back at home, we hurry our baths to have a quick and healthy comfort snack as the drizzle starts again. We consider ourselves fortunate when the rain lets up so we can stroll around campus in the afternoon. The boys chase paper airplanes at the field and are getting used to havin’ mud on their feet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Waray Pasko

Celebration of Christmas in the Philippines is as diverse as its islands’ flavors. One of the best (and still most hospitable) tropical countries to spend the holiday season, the Philippines offer warm beaches and picturesque mountains; Thus, the influx of holiday tourists and Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) during December. This year, my sister-in-law flew home to spend time with the family. Together, we spent Christmas in Catarman, Northern Samar.

Whilst past Christmas in Manila were spent endlessly devouring Noche Buena until the wee hours of December 25, we had a quiet dinner in Catarman and capped Christmas Eve early. It was raining and we had postponed attending mass to the next day. It’s a good thing the kids did not know that the stack of gifts was mostly for them or they would’ve pleaded to stay late as they enjoy their opened gifts. They opened Christmas presents after breakfast.

Christmas Day was started with a mass. It was custom that the priest celebrant present the infant Jesus to church goers. After mass, attendants lined up to kiss baby Jesus to welcome him. At home, Cocoy was asked to give candies and lollipops to children who caroled during daytime. It was pretty quiet in our street with a band or two singing Christmas Carols in the neighborhood. It was a rainy weekend – yep, it rained on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

80% of the time, it rains and residents expect more frequent power outages. In University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) Town, there is a weekly 12-hour brownout or power outage schedule. The town proper also has its own schedule. When it rains or when it’s windy, power goes out for 3 to 6 hours. Last week, power went out for more than 12 hours in our block. They said it was due to a blown transformer. Obviously, the local electricity provider cannot supply the power needs of Catarman.

I had noticed the same last March when we visited for summer. It was Graduation Day and it rained so hard guest speaker Rep. Jinggoy Estrada was not able to address the crowd live. I admired the perseverance of the graduating batch because they remained in their places despite the sudden downpour. Celebrations in Catarman were made in candlelight that night. Hopefully, these future leaders have been enlightened to bring hope and progress to their respective towns.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Celebrate Christmas in the Philippines

A few more days and it's kids' (and kids at heart) most awaited time of the year - Christmas Day! I am truly happy this season to be able to celebrate this special day with my family. Earlier this week we've been busy preparing for Christmas parties and holiday walks around Manila. Oh, the kids just love seeing the holiday designs featuring stars, Santa Claus and the Polar Express, to name a few.

My kids pretty much associate Christmas as a time for getting lots of gifts. Even during mid-year, my six-year-old would ask whether he's good enough to get a toy or two from Santa. They turn a good leaf when reminded and, thus, are pretty much looking forward to surprises when Christmas comes. In the end, we have to keep telling them that they have to be good all throughout the year.

We wanted to make it different and more meaningful this year. So, we let them be the little Santa to their friends.  We also joined a couple of charity drives to show them and make them feel the joy of giving.

But to cap it off, we took them to local landmarks that make the holidays extra bright and cheerful. Here are some of our favorite places to visit during the Christmas season. We not only like them for the visual extravagance. They're free for everyone to enjoy, too!

Liwanag Park at Meralco Compound

My last visit to the compound was some years ago before my dad passed away. He worked at Meralco so he made sure to bring us there during the holidays to see the innovative designs they've created using recycled materials.

Policarpio St, Mandaluyong City

I grew up in Mandaluyong way before it became a city. We've gone around its streets and churches for parades and festivities. So I miss going back makes me reminisce of the good ol' times. We came a bit late so some of the lights display were already turned off. The street association has since implemented policies, one of which is to regulate public viewing. So participating households now light up their holiday displays between 7pm until 10pm. At 10, they automatically turn the lights off. Some even  earlier so try to come before 9pm.

Too bad, we missed the other houses as we came after 930pm. Expect the street to be filled with visitors taking photos and cars parked on both sides of Policarpio Street. By commute, one can take the train to EDSA-Boni and then walk a bit to Boni Avenue. At Boni Avenue, take the jeepney to Stop N Shop. Ask the driver to drop you off at Policarpio Street as there are two possible routes. Via Shaw Blvd, one must take two jeepney rides from Starmall going to JRU-Kalentong and then another to Boni Ave.


This year, SM features a fun-filled display of Santa's magic.

Will post more photos and update this post later.  But lest you want to know more about SM City's North Pole theme, I can only tell you that we've gone back and forth to have photos of the kids in Santa's Mail Room, Toy Shop, and the Raindeer's Stable. And then we also checked out what Mrs Claus was cooking :) The kids had fun and took their time looking around when we returned in less busy mall hours - that'd be between 10am to 2pm. Oh, but don't take my word for it. The North Pole display will last until January 10, 2012.

Ayala Triangle Garden

This holiday attraction features an awesome lights and sound show.

Photo taken from Yahoo News
In the meantime, it has been a tragic weekend especially for people in Southern Philippines (Cagayan De Oro and Iligan). We've kept in touch with friends who would be able to send the little help we can offer. Aside from friends, we found a lot of channels to tap so it wasn't difficult to reach out and be a light for a fellow Filipino's Christmas. May we all unite to support and give a hand to those who have lost so much.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Healthy Kiddie Party Treats

Busy November is finally over. 

Grateful to have my son's 6th birthday - even with hubby away, again. It was his birthmonth, too. And he was out-of-town for business even on that special day. It can be a pain but, yeah, work can get in the way sometimes. Nevertheless, I am thankful and proud seeing my son understand that we had to simplify our celebration. I appreciate hubby buying his gift and getting Mernel's in time to greet our son before he left.
greetings before school
Simple but fun! He helped me pick-up the ice cream and while the kids were taking a nap, I double-timed to get these goodies set up.  

Birthday boy loves strawberries but since they're off season he was pretty much content with pears and Soyami Soya Chips. I regret not getting those bread sticks I saw at Soyami's booth during MHC 2011 fun run. The chips go wild with goat cheese, too, but better serve them for adult guests. In place of choco fondue, I used a bittersweet choco bar combined with butter and cream for the choco dip.

I would've loved to make my own ice cream but had limited time so we got these at the neighborhood ice cream store. They have coconut milk-based ice cream. While some flavors are not even premium ice cream, with Soyami Chips they get extra texture and flavor :) Di daw masarap pero ubos!

Oh, the wine is for the working mom :) kiddos got orange juice! Toasted bread was sold out earlier so we used soya chips to go with Carbonara for dinner.

Game prizes? Since I bought trial packs from Soyami, I decided to share them here. Had been contemplating whether to make chocolate lollipops and buy some toys. Instead, I put together a couple of teaser sweets,  a healthy snack idea, Treehugger pencils, crayons and animal stuffed keychains. I do hope the kids enjoyed them because I'm thinking of getting something similar for the Christmas Party kiddie loot. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grab a Healthy Deal with Soyami and Fitness First

Last year, I had been wishing that it would be possible to give the gift of health. Health deals were nowhere to be found. But this Christmas is certainly filled with healthy gift ideas!

Soyami Soya Chips is your healthier choice to snacking! It is made with Real Soya, No MSG, High in Protein and Calcium and O% transfatSoyami Soya Chips, those healthy-goodness snacks that appear like nacho chips come in Original, White Cheddar and Pizza flavors, are now available in leading supermarkets and groceries and in convenience stores throughout Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Start 2012 with healthy snack options and physical fitness regimen with this deal. That's Php1800 value for only Php130. While Soyami is available in leading supermarkets, I recommend you get the trial pack because with the pack the chips are not crushed into bits unlike stocks at the supermarket. 

Got a couple of packs we used in our kiddie party (posting it by Saturday) and grown-up get-together and so happy that our new friends liked them. 

Check out another healthy deal with Soyami and Fitness First and save Php3210. It's an ideal Christmas gift so catch it while it lasts (ending really soon)! 

Visit www.amsoyami.com for more information about Soyami products. 
Follow Soyami on Twitter http://twitter.com/healthysoyami
Be a Fan on Facebook at http://facebook.com/healthysoyami

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Be Moved by Reefs and Rainforests

The Philippines, now declared a biodiversity hotspot, cradles so many new species that rocked scientists from California Academy of Science. It feels so different knowing that our country is bestowed with more natural treasures than we ever imagined. Here are more reasons to protect and conserve Philippine biodiversity:

How does it feel to be part of something so important?

This video documentary inspires me to further support local conservation efforts. Now that we know, let’s do something about it. Simple acts compounded matter a lot. Let change start from within. I hope to meet you someday in one of my volunteer gigs. 

We’re so happy with the discoveries and the newfound friendships. Proud of the Philippine Team! Sorry hon, took me some time to look at the big picture and realize why you had to go and miss most of family time. Kudos to the rest who assisted the marine exploration team.

Have a glorious and eco-friendly day ahead!

Video courtesy of California Academy of Science as featured in ABC 7 News


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