Socially distant staycationing at Casa 1254 in Pansol, Laguna

Nearly two years into the pandemic, we can’t help but feel like we need a break from the stresses and hassles we encounter while quarantined in the city.

We also want to be able to spend time with our extended family after being separated for them for so long.

With quarantine restrictions loosening just a wee bit, we can now enjoy some time with our loved ones through socially distant staycations such as what I had with my in-laws at Casa 1254 in Pansol, Laguna.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254

Casa 1254 was deemed as the most suitable venue for our socially distant staycation-cum-family outing, as it ticked off the requirements that will enable us to keep ourselves safe during our trip:

  • It should be within driving distance. Casa 1254 is less than two hours away from Metro Manila by car. Traveling by car is a lot safer (in terms of social distancing) than traveling by plane or other public transport systems. Also, given the short driving time, we didn’t need to have stopovers in crowded areas for a meal or to rest from the drive.
  • It should be in a private, self-enclosed area. Casa 1254 is a single, detached house enclosed in a perimeter wall with parking slots for up to four cars inside the compound. We had the place all to ourselves, allowing us to minimize contact with anyone outside of our family circle.
  • It should have its own kitchen. We expected dining out options to be quite limited, and, since we didn’t plan on going in and out of the venue often, we brought enough food for the duration our stay which we either cooked or reheated in the kitchen.
  • It should have good internet connectivity. Since we didn’t plan on going out and will spend the entirety of our time within the property, we needed to have fast and reliable internet access for work and entertainment.

With those important considerations addressed, the entire extended family was able to enjoy our stay at Casa 1254 and maximize its amenities for family bonding:

Living Areas. We congregated at the living room and adjoining sitting area for lively conversations and catching up. The kids were also able to set up their mini tents and use their toys in this sprawling space between the two areas for their playtime.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254

Dining Room and Kitchen. Family bonding was made even more enjoyable with good food. We dined in style in the well-appointed dining room on dishes re-heated or cooked in the spacious kitchen which are furnished with a large refrigerator/freezer, a stove with oven, as well as a hot and cold water dispenser.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254

Plates, cutlery, cookware, cleaning items are already provided.

Swimming Pool. The heated pool was the piece de resistance for the kids who had lots of fun splashing around. An outdoor BBQ and patio with a cabana was available for poolside dining.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254

After pooltime, the kids washed up at the 3/4 bath in the ground floor.

Bedrooms. At the end of each fun-filled day, we retreated to our respective bedrooms to rest and recharge. Each air-conditioned room conveniently has an en-suite bathroom, complete with toilet and shower.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254

Bed linens, pillowcases, towels, shampoo, body wash, hand soap and toilet paper were also provided.

View. Upon waking up, we basked in the cool breezes and calming view of the mountainside from the wrap-around balcony of the second floor and the roof deck of the poolside cabana.

Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254
Casa 1254

Our stay was fairly trouble-free as a caretaker who lives in a separate building was available to help us in operating the pool and other concerns during out stay.

Casa 1254

Planning your own socially distant staycation? Book your stay at Casa 1254 via Airbnb where it is rated an average of 4.98 stars.

For the health and safety of its guests, Casa1254 is commited to Airbnb‘s five-step cleaning process.

Casa 1254 is located at Purok 1 Bridge, 1-254 Kaimo, Calamba, 4027 Laguna. Check in is from 3pm to 8pm while checkout is at 12pm.

Basking in Bali: The Ubud Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Bali is going on a tour of the nearby Ubud area.

During our trip in Bali, Indonesia, Hubby and I decided to take a breather from lounging about at the Nusa Dua Beach and strolling around the enclave surrounding Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort where we were staying.

We hired a van to take us on a day trip to the region widely considered to be the cultural capital of Bali.

About Ubud

The town of Ubud is situated in the uplands of Bali. Surrounding it are rain forests and rice paddies, an area lush with greenery and dotted with temples and shrines.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

The place gets its name from the Balinese word ubad which translates to “medicine,” indicative of the area’s first claim to fame as a source of medicinal herbs and plants.

Today, it is the center of Bali’s art and culture scene, being home to a number of museums, artist communities and art markets that we were able to check out during our Ubud Tour.

Barong and Keris Dance

The village of Batubulan has been known for daily performances of the Barong and Keris Dance.

This dance dramatizes the mythical battle between the good spirit Barong and the evil spirit Rangda, and provides a fascinating insight into Balinese culture.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Artists’ Villages

Balinese art takes centerstage in Ubud where local artisans inhabit their own villages where they craft traditional paintings, textiles, jewelry and carvings, many of which are for sale at reasonable prices.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Batuan is also home to awesome temples that feature Balinese architecture and elaborate carvings.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Batuan also prides itself on its traditional paintings which are characterized by detailed designs in sombre colors depicting mythical or religious elements against black or white backgrounds that call to mind the supernatural.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Tohpati, on the other hand, is home to batik, a decorative textile technique involving the use of wax and dyes to create intricate patterns. Aside from clothing, batik is used for a myriad of items including household accessories, furniture fabrics and giftware.

Meanwhile, the silversmiths in Celuk are masters in creating intricate jewelry and luxurious decor.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Lunch at Batur Sari Restaurant

We had our lunch in a restaurant perched on top of the Kintamani. Called the Batur Sari Restaurant, it provides its guests with a traditional Indonesian meal served buffet style meant to be enjoyed while marveling at the view of Mount Batur and its surrounding crater lake.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Unfortunately, the view was covered by a thick fog during our visit. However, the fog did give the effect of dining while surrounded by clouds, which is an experience in itself.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Sebatu Temple

After a long-ish drive from Kintamani, our next stop is the Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple, known locally as Pura Tirta Dawa Gunung Kawi Sebatu.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu who is said to hold dominion over water, it is one of the least visited temple complexes in Bali, but is also one of the most tranquil and picturesque, marked by spectacular water features (including bathing pools for pilgrims), fountains teeming with carp and lush gardens.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

One of its most breathtaking scenery is a sculpture of the Hindu goddess Sarasvati at the center of a large pool.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

A short distance away from the Sebatu Temple is the famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces, a vast expanse of beautifully arranged rice paddies carved from the hillsides by ancient Balinese farmers following the traditional Balinese irrigation system called subak.

It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adding to its “must-visit” appeal.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

From the viewing deck, one can see the cascade of green crops down the slopes while enjoying the cool mountain breeze.

Given my general avoidance of any physical exertion, we declined the opportunity to traipse down the slopes and walk across to the greenery.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

It’s just too bad that I chickened out of having my picture taken at the swing. I guess my acrophobia is stronger than my desire for a good picture!

Coffee and Tea Tasting at Alam Bali Agriculture

Indonesia produces some of the world’s finest coffee and also happens to be fourth largest coffee producer in the world.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Within Tegallalang region is a coffee and tea plantation called Alam Bali Agriculture which houses gardens that grow various kinds of beans, leaves and herbs.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

After a short tour of the grounds, we were treated to a flight of freshly brewed coffee and teas which were grown on site such as Arabica, Coconut, Vanilla and Ginseng coffee, as well as Lemongrass, Ginger and Mangosteen tea.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Sunset Seaside Dinner at Ayu Bali Resto

After such a jam-packed itinerary, our day of sight-seeing culminated at Ayu Bali Resto in Badung.

There, I was finally able to find a swing that doesn’t make my fear of heights go haywire.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

While getting serenaded by live acoustic music accompanied by the sound of waves, we enjoyed a sumptuous seafood dinner by the beach.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

This one-day tour of Ubud gave Hubby and me an interesting glimpse of Balinese life and culture.

And the best part of the day is going back to Nusa Dua to rest in our comfy room at the Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

This award-winning hotel is one of Courtyard by Marriott’s 1360 properties across 65 countries. It caters to business and leisure travelers by providing quality comfort.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Aside from our well-appointed room, we also hung out at the hotel’s poolside and beach club.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Thanks to Luxury Getaways Club, Hubby and I were able to have a wonderful Bali experience with a lovely and luxurious stay in this five-star hotel at 70% off its regular rates.

Read more about my full experience here.

Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort is located at Kawasan Pariwisata Lot SW1, Nusa Dua, Bali 80363 Indonesia.

Disclosure: Our Bali trip happened before the COVID-19 pandemic. Download Indonesia’s protocols for cleanliness, health and safety for its tourism sector here.

6 reasons to bring the fam to Manila Ocean Park

One of the happier news that we received lately is that the metro has moved down its COVID-19 alert level status, resulting to the further loosening of restrictions.

This new alert level has allowed leisure and entertainment businesses such as theaters, theme parks and other tourist attractions to open up and accept visitors once again.

More importantly, this means that after a year and a half of being stuck at home, the kiddos can now venture out and explore a bit of the world outside again.

As parents, you are surely on the lookout for a place to take the kiddos to give them a welcome break from the stress of online classes and the monotony of staying at home, while creating a special moment for the family to spend time together and create special memories outside of home.

Well, here are six reasons why Manila Ocean Park is your best bet for your family outing:

1. The people behind Manila Ocean Park are excited to see you again.

After more than a year of being away from their exhibits, outlets and shows, the staff of country’s first world-class marine theme park and premiere educational entertainment destination are happy to be back doing what they love.

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
MOP VP for Sales and Marketing Mary Joyce Tarroza and Media Relations Manager Reden Ramones join us for a photo opp.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Your friendly neighborhood unnie bloggers getting started on our Manila Ocean Park adventure.

During a chat with me and my fellow bloggers, MOP VP for Sales and Marketing Joyce Tarroza and Media Relations Manager Reden Ramones, relayed how Manila Ocean Park’s personnel have looked forward to the reopening.

“We are incredibly thrilled to finally be able to open Manila Ocean Park to the public again, return team members to work, and welcome guests back to enjoy our amazing and educational attractions,” added Mary Joyce.

2. It has reopened 6 well-loved indoor attractions.

With its return to operations, Manila Ocean Park has reopened six classic and fun-filled indoor attractions that appeal to young and old alike.

Oceanarium, for example, is home to over 270 species of marine creatures. Here, the family can walk through a 25-meter long curved walkway tunnel that gives visitors the feeling of being surrounded by sharks, stingrays, eels and other sea creatures swimming overhead.

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Marveling at marine creatures
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a manta ray!
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Big fish in a big pond… err, aquarium.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Little fishie playing hide ‘n seek
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
🎶Just keep swimming…
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Swimming, swimming… 🎶

The Jellies Exhibit, on the other hand, takes the family away to a wonderland of transparent jellyfishes that gracefully float and glide about accompanied by multimedia effects and music. This fantastic display has earned these creatures the moniker “The Dancing Sea Fairies.”

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Jellybeans in the City with the Jellies.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Dancing sea fairies
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Jellyfishes in the City, yeah, I went there!
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Jellyfish duet

The more adventurous visitors can explore the World of Creepy Crawlies where they can encounter bugs, frogs, spiders and worms and other creatures not for the faint of heart.

The Penguin Exhibit, the first penguin park in the country, lets visitors get up close and personal with Humboldt penguins (also known as Peruvian penguins or Patranca).

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Look at the penguins from Peru!
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
This penguin is showing off for the audience.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Humboldt Penguins are social animals.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
They are curious creatures, too!

At the Christmas Village, the kids and adults can relive the magic and spirit of the holiday season.

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Feeling the holiday vibe.
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Hello, Santa!
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Winter Wonderland
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Winter Wonderland, too!

Lastly, at the Super Toy Collection, kids of all ages can view the most extensive display of toys inspired by Pinoy childhood superheroes.

With these fascinating points of interest in the park, the family will have lots to explore and discover.

3. You can catch the South American sea lions in action.

The fun doesn’t stop indoors, either.

Step out to the Sea Lion Show and catch these large but adorable creatures perform breathtaking tricks.

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Sea lions from South America
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
“Watch my next trick!”
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
“Am I pretty?”
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
“Mwah!”

You might even get a kiss from one!

4. The family can enjoy a gastronomic journey al fresco

All that fun and excitement are sure to work up an appetite so plop down at the dining area near the Sea Lion Show and feast on on the newly refreshed Asian fusion menu from Chef Ranuka Hettiarachchi.

Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Manila Ocean Park Reopening
Manila Ocean Park Reopening

You may also opt to head down to Garden Dining by White Moon Bar where the kids can explore the greenery while the grownups relax with a drink or two.

Manila Ocean Park
Garden Dining by White Moon Bar

Check out my previous experience here.

Can’t get enough of these culinary creations? You can also have these scrumptious dishes delivered to your home. More on that here.

5. Protocols are still in place to keep your family safe

What welcome news it was to hear that kids 17 years old and below, regardless of their vaccination status, are now allowed inside the park, as long as they’re accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.

Your family can rest easy knowing that your continued well-being is a top priority at Manila Ocean Park.

In line with the guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the regulations from Philippine government, the theme park is operating at 30% capacity.

Enhanced health and safety measures are also being implemented in accordance with the Minimum Public Health Standards to promote physical distancing, enhanced cleanliness and reduced contact.

Of course, these measures can only be effective with the cooperation of guests so please keep these in mind during your visit:

  • Secure your Safety Pass by scanning the QR code at the entrance.
  • Submit to health and temperature checks and, for adults, present your vaccination card and ID prior to entering.
  • Wear your face masks and face shields at all times.
  • Keep at least one meter apart. Markers and reminders have been placed in several spots to guide you.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands frequently.

6. You can take advantage of amazing deals

Until November 21, kids below 17 years old accompanied by a fully vaccinated adults are accepted inside the park according to the IATF guidelines.

The city government of Manila also set the age cap for adult visitors at 65 years old.

So now is the best time to bring the whole family to Manila Ocean Park, especially with these amazing limited-time deals exclusively available at the park’s website until December 19, 2021.

  • Ocean Escapade (Php499 – formerly Php2,300) which provides access to the 6 reopened attractions at almost 80% discount from the original ticket price.
  • 2+1 Flash Sale Promo. Buy 2 Ocean Escapade vouchers priced at Php595 and get 1 for free. That’s Php1,190 for 3 tickets already!

So not only can you bring the whole fam in for a lot of fun and adventure, you get to enjoy great savings, too!

Book your tickets now, folks!

Manila Ocean Park is located inside Luneta Park in Manila.

For inquiries, call (+632) 7238-6100 or follow Manila Ocean Park on Facebook and Instagram.

Disclosure: Complimentary tickets and refreshments were provided by the park in exchange for this feature.

Basking in Bali: Our sojourn at Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort

Bali, located between the isles of Java and Lombok in Indonesia is said to be the island of gods. From its towering mountains covered with lush forests that give way to verdant rice paddies and glittering shorelines, Bali is definitely blessed with nature’s wonders.

Bali Trip
Rice paddies
Bali Trip
White sand beach

Its populace is no less unique; while most of Indonesians are Muslims, the Balinese are predominantly Hindu, and are expressive of their spirituality, not just through prayer but also in the form of structures and iconography that provide interest their surroundings as well as through other vibrant works of art.

Bali Trip
Hindu goddess
Bali Trip
Sebatu Temple

Bali’s premier resort area, Nusa Dua, is located in the southern part of the island. Its name translates to two islands which refer to the two headlands found just off the peninsula’s coast.

Within this 350-hectare upscale enclave are twenty-plus resorts catering to tourists and visitors, one of which is Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort.

This award-winning hotel is one of Courtyard by Marriott’s 1360 properties across 65 countries. This upscale brand caters to business and leisure travelers by providing quality comfort.

Bali Trip
Courtyard by Mariott’s Facade
Bali Trip
Hotel entrance

This is where Hubby and I stayed during our trip to Bali to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

A luxurious hotel stay

Everything about Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort speaks of luxury in touch with nature.

Upon entering its driveway, we were welcomed with verdant green grass dotted with statues.

Bali Trip
View from the driveway
Bali Trip
Overlooking the driveway

Its sprawling lobby is cool, airy and surrounded by water, adding to the relaxing atmosphere hat welcomes the resort’s guests.

Bali Trip
Looking down from the Lobby
Bali Trip
Open-Air Lobby

Its lagoon-like swimming pool meanders along the outdoor seats of the resort’s on-site restaurant, Momo Cafe. Here, guests can lounge while enjoying their meals or taking a dip in the pool.

Bali Trip
Lagoon-like Pool
Bali Trip
Squirrels in the Trees
Bali Trip
View of the Pool from Room Balcony
Bali Trip
At the Poolside

Our air-conditioned deluxe room is furnished with a king-size bed topped witu plush pillows and a comfy duvet.

Bali Trip
King-size Bed
Bali Trip
King-size Bed

It is also furnished with a sitting area for resting as well as a desk bureau for working (which, thankfully, were few and far between during our vacay).

Bali Trip
Bureau
Bali Trip
Sitting Area

The marble bathroom is equipped with a shower and toilet, as well as a hairdryer, robe, slippers and Nirvae bath products for our use during our stay.

Bali Trip
Bathroom
Bali Trip
Shower

Our room has a balcony that overlooks the pool area. I found it a perfect spot to read a book or enjoy the Bali evening breeze.

Bali Trip
Balcony
Bali Trip
Reading at the Balcony

The room is also equipped with high-speed wireless internet, a 32-inch LED TV with cable channels, as well as a radio.

Other amenities provided to make our stay nice and comfy include:

  • Alarm clock
  • In-room safe
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Coffee maker and tea service

Should we wish for some work off a few pounds, the hotel’s gym is equipped with treadmills and other exercise machines.

Bali Trip
Treadmill
Bali Trip
Gym equipment

The hotel’s C Spa offers a wide range of Balinese massage and beauty treatments, administered by expert therapists.

Well, Hubby and I didn’t travel all the way to Bali just to stay indoors, right? So off we went to Nusa Dua Beach to enjoy the sand, surf and the sun.

Bali Trip
White sand, azure sky
Bali Trip
All blue and white

Here, the resort operates a Beach Club that provides beverages and snacks to guests.

Bali Trip
Beach Lounge Chairs
Bali Trip
Here we are, lounging
Bali Trip
Coconuts!
Bali Trip
Yeah, coconuts!
Bali Trip
Sunset at the Beach
Bali Trip
Sunset drinks

With these comfortable and luxurious amenities, as well as the excellent service of its staff, our stay Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort helped make our anniversary sojourn of #BaskingInBali one of the books!

Nearby tourist attractions

Being a resort hub, Nusa Dua is filled with sites and establishments that appeal to tourists which are all within a short and easy walking distance from the hotel (or an even shorter and easier ride in the shuttle!)

Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Strolling around is no problem for Hubby and myself, thanks to Nusa Dua’s comfortable walkways lined with lush greenery and tastefully graced with Balinese architectural structures and mythic sculptures.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip

We also got a little dose of retail therapy at the Bali Collection. It is a commercial hub enveloped with touches of nature, housing an extensive collection of outlet stores and local merchants that offer great finds and exciting deals.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip

We were also pretty lucky that our stay coincided with the Nusa Dua Light Festival.

Organized by the Indonesia Tourism Coincil, it is the biggest lantern festival in Bali, featuring a spectacle of lights and lanterns to be enjoyed by tourists and residents alike.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip

Good eats in the vicinity

Nusa Dua is also home to great restaurants so epicureans will be able to go on a gastronomic adventure without having to venture far from the hotel.

Momo Cafe

Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort’s on-site restaurant’s offers convenient all-day dining with indoor and al fresco seating.

For the duration of our stay, Hubby and I started our day with a scrumptious fusion continental and local cuisines through our complimentary breakfast buffet.

Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip
Bali Trip

On our last night, we treated ourselves to a Babi Guling buffet dinner, highlighting Bali’s version of the suckling roast pig, the Babi Guling.

Other Balinese delicacies that we were able to try include the Ayam Betutu (Balinese Spice Chicken), Tambusan Be Pasih (Baked Snapper in Base Genep), Be Sampi Menyayat (Slow Simmer Balinese Spiced Beef), Sate Lilit (Balinese Minced Seafood Sate), Lawar Kacang (Green Bean Salad) and Jujut Urab (Balinese Cold Tossed Vegetables with Coconut Dressing).

While eating, we were also serenaded with live acoustic music.

Bali Trip
Babi Guling
Bali Trip
Ayam Betutu
Bali Trip
Be Sampi Menyayat
Bali Trip
Poolside Serenade

Spicy Geg Indonesian Kitchen

Hubby and I found a restaurant in a commercial hub just outside the hotel that serves light Indonesian fare.

The tropical feel of Nusa Dua was brought indoors, thanks to the wood and rattan furniture and the vibrant palm print walls and lush hanging plants with a bit of contrast from the restaurant’s marble bar and gold fixtures.

Bali Trip
Interiors
Bali Trip
Interiors

At Spicy Geg, we continued our exploration of local cuisines with our delicious orders of Nasi Goreng Rendang (Beef Rendang with Rice), Ikan Tuna Bakar (Tuna dish from North Sulawesi) and Sate Rembige Lombok (Beef and Chicken Skewers).

Bali Trip
Nasi Goreng Rendang
Bali Trip
Sate Rembige Lombok
Bali Trip
Ikan Tuna Bakar
Bali Trip
Lunching with Hubby

Kagura Authentic Japanese Cuisine

Hubby and I also discovered a piece of Tokyo right in the heart of Nusa Dua.

We took a breather from our explorations ny having lunch at the trendy yet cozy Kagura Authentic Japanese Cuisine.

Bali Trip
Outdoor Dining
Bali Trip
Interiors

We wasted no time ordering our Japanese food faves such as Tuna Sashimi, Salmon Maki, Katsudon and Ebi Tempura.

Bali Trip
Tuna Sashimi
Bali Trip
Salmon Maki
Bali Trip
Katsudon
Bali Trip
Ebi Tempura

Easily go on an Ubud Tour

We took advantage of Nusa Dua’s proximity to many well-known tourist spots by hiring a van to take us on a tour around the Ubud region.

Highlights of this tour include watching the Barong and Keris Dance, a visit to enclaves of batik and jewelry artists in Batuan, lunch overlooking a cliff at Batur Sari Resto, coffee and tea tasting at Alam Bali Agriculture, exploring the Sebatu Temple, viewing the Tegalallang Rice Terraces and, finally, a seaside dinner at Ayu Bali Resto.

Bali Trip
Barong and Keris Dance
Bali Trip
Batik
Bali Trip
Batur Sari Restaurant
Bali Trip
Sebatu Temple
Bali Trip
Alam Bati
Bali Trip
Ayu Bati Resto

More deets on our jam-packed day trip to Ubud here.

5-star accommodations at super discounted rates

With such a jam-packed Bali itinerary, coupled with a stay in a five-star resort hotel, how did we ever get to afford this trip?

Simple: through Luxury Getaways Club!

While I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a few months ago, I came across Luxury Getaways’ videos of a vacation in Bali with accommodations at a five-star luxury hotel at 70% off. With such a compelling hook, these videos drove me to check out Luxury Getaways website.

There, I answered a few questions (would I be interested in a discounted hotel stay, who would I travel with and which country would I like to visit), then I filled in my name and contact details.

The next day I received a call from Luxury Getaways with this irresistible offer: my husband and I get an astronomically discounted four-day/three-night stay at Courtyard by Marriott Nusa Dua in Bali which includes airport transfers and breakfast for two during our stay.

After weighing the pros (discounted hotel stay, the chance to celebrate our anniversary in grand style, exploring a new location) and cons (sitting through an hour-long presentation), we decided to go for it.

This is how we were able to have this wonderful Bali experience with a lovely and luxurious stay in a five-star hotel.

Want to have a similar adventure of #BaskingInBali?

Check out Luxury Getaways Club today!

Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort is located at Kawasan Pariwisata Lot SW1, Nusa Dua, Bali 80363 Indonesia.

Disclosure: Our Bali trip happened before the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to know more about what to expect at Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua Resort.

Why Rizal is the perfect setting for your dream home

If you’re tired of the constant traffic, heat and pollution of the metro, but still want to have the option to venture into its cities every once in a while, then investing in your own house and lot in Rizal may be your best option.

Removed from the chaos of the metro but still highly accessible

Being located just outside Metro Manila, the province of Rizal offers you an alternative way of life compared to the busier conditions of living in the metro.

However, with new developing infrastructure such as the Metro Manila Expressway, as well as established public transport systems between Metro Manila and Rizal, you’re only a short ride away from where you want to go.

The site for sights, culture and leisure

With its location at the foot of Sierra Madre, with Laguna de Bay to the south, the province of Rizal also affords easy access to incredible sights. These include the awesome views from atop limestone formations at the Masungi Georeserve, waterfalls surrounded by lush forests such as Daranak Falls and Batlag Falls, and the dramatic sight of giant windmills against the azure sky at the Pililla Wind Farm.

Pililla Wind Farm 1
Pililla Wind Farm, Pililla
Pililla Wind Farm 2
Pililla Wind Farm, Pililla

Known as “The Cradle of Philippine Art,” Rizal houses notable museums such as Pinto Art Museum, which showcases contemporary artworks, and Casa Santa, which houses what is considered to be the most extensive private collection of Santa Claus items in the world.

Pinto Art Museum 2
Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo
Pinto Art Museum 1
Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo
casa santa 1
Casa Santa, Antipolo
casa santa 2
Casa Santa, Antipolo

Many leisure resorts capitalize on Rizal’s relaxing atmosphere. Aside from scenic vistas and refreshing swimming pools, resorts like Bahay Bakasyunan also provide adventure-themed activities that make the most of its natural surroundings such as ziplining, wall-climbing, ATV rides and more.

bahay bakasyunan 1
Bahay Bakasyunan, Tanay
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Bahay Bakasyunan, Tanay

Gastronomic pleasures in beautiful surroundings

Taking advantage of the province’s rich culinary heritage, abundance of fresh ingredients and naturally stunning environments, restaurateurs are setting up their destination eateries in Rizal.

Sammy’s in Cainta serves Indonesian-inspired food in a cozy and intimate setting, while the Burrow Cafe in Taytay features a seasonal menu made with locally sourced ingredients in a underground cafe surrounded by a verdant forest. Tahanan Bistro in Antipolo, on the other hand, showcases Filipino food served against a breathtaking view of Metro Manila cityscape.

Sammy’s, Cainta
Sammy’s Cainta
Sammy’s, Cainta
Sammy’s, Cainta
Burrow Cafe, Taytay
The Burrow Cafe, Taytay
Burrow Cafe, Taytay
The Burrow Cafe, Taytay
Tahanan Bistro, Antipolo
Tahanan Bistro, Antipolo
Tahanan Bistro, Antipolo
Tahanan Bistro, Antipolo

A progressive province

Being so near Metro Manila, Rizal is among the most progressive provinces in the country.

In an April 2013 study, the National Statistics Coordination Board (NCSB) reported that Rizal is the third least poor province in poverty incidence after Cavite and Laguna, indicating its thriving economy that makes it a desirable place to live.

Affordable housing within easy reach

The province also offers affordable house options, particularly in Lumina Baras.

Located in Brgy. Concepcion in Baras, Rizal this newest housing development is just three minutes away from the National Road. Its location affords its residents with easy access to these establishments:

  • Marketplaces and Malls: Baras New Market, Savemore Tanay, Puregold Tanay
  • School, Colleges & Universities: Baras Elementary School, URS Morong, STI College
  • Hospitals and Clinic: Rizal Provincial Hospital System Tanay Annex, Ospital ng Baras, Tanay General Hospital
  • Places of Worship: St. Joseph Parish Church, Inglesia Ni Cristo Baras, St. Jerome Parish Church

Lumina Baras has an array of house models to suit the different needs of homeowners.

Anna Rowhouse. A single-storey dwelling with a 24 square meter floor area and a 36 square meter lot area. Its features include a living area, dining and kitchen with provisions for one bedroom, a service area and toilet and bath, quite suitable as a starter home. Price starts at Php583,000.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

Angelique Duplex. A two-storey duplex home with a 35 square meter floor area and a 54 square meter lot area. Its features include a living area, dining and kitchen with provisions for two bedrooms, a service area, toilet and bath, and a carport. It’s quite well-suited for a small family. Price starts at Php1,450,000.

Lumina Homes Angelique Duplex
Lumina Homes Angelique Duplex
Lumina Homes Angelique Duplex
Lumina Homes Angelique Duplex

Angeli Single Firewall. A two-storey single firewall home with a 42 square meter floor area and a 54 square meter lot area. Its features include a living area, dining and kitchen with provisions for three bedrooms, a service area, toilet and bath, and a carport, perfect for a growing household. Price starts at Php1,704,000.

angeli single firewall 1
angeli single firewall 2
angeli single firewall gf
angeli single firewall 2f

Armina Single Firewall. A two-storey home with a 42 square meter floor area and a 54 square meter lot area. Its features include a living area, dining and kitchen with provisions for three bedrooms, a service area, toilet and bath, and a carport. It also comes with additional features such as a free ceiling and tiles on the ground floor. Price starts at Php1,900,000.

armina single firewall 1
armina single firewall 2
armina single firewall gf
armina single firewall 2f

Athena Single Firewall. A two-storey single firewall home with a 53 square meter floor area and a 63 square meter lot area. It comes complete with one living area, one dining and kitchen, one toilet and bath, three bedrooms, one family area, a service area and a parking space. It will appeal to families who already want a complete home upon move-in. Price starts at Php2,000,000.

athena-single-firewall-image-2
athena-single-firewall-image-1
athena-single-firewall-ground-floor
athena-single-firewall-second-floor

These Lumina homes are well-built, made from high-quality materials and designed with modern conveniences in mind.

Within these walls, you and your family can rest and recharge, spend time with each other and pursue your various passions from from art, to cooking and more, even setting-up a home gym!

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

A lot of fun and adventure also await when you venture outside your home into your master-planned Lumina Baras community. You will find a basketball court and a play area where young and old alike can enjoy physical activity, as well as a multi-purpose hall and a gazebo where neighbors can gather for events and celebrations.

Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario
Lumina Polomolok

Investing in your own Lumina house and lot is made even easier, thanks to various financing options, such as:

  • Pag-Ibig Financing: offers the lowest possible interest rate with a 14-month downpayment term and a 30-year maximum loan term
  • Bank Financing: has faster loan processing with a 16-month downpayment term and a 20-year maximum loan term
  • Deferred Financing: involves straight payment of total contract price over 24 month at 0% interest
  • Spot Cash: involves full payment of total contract price applying a 6% discount if made within 30 days from payment of reservation fee, 8% if made within the reservation month, and 10% if made within 10 days of reservation date

So explore the possibilities of living so close to Metro Manila but removed from much of its hustle and bustle by residing in Baras, Rizal. Contact Lumina Baras by calling +63 956 6252026 or +63 916 5641903.

For its latest updates, visit the Lumina Homes website, or follow it on Facebook.

Find your dream home in the Land of Dreamweavers: Lumina Polomolok in South Cotabato

Admittedly, I haven’t had the chance to venture too far from Metro Manila when it comes to my domestic travels.

Aside from short stays in the provinces surrounding the metro, and the intermittent tours in the northern part of Luzon during Holy Week breaks together with the family, my jobs have allowed me to visit just some parts of Visayas such as Bohol and Cebu.

However, I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore Mindanao, which is quite a shame, really. After all, the country’s second largest island actually has a lot to offer when it comes to amazing views, captivating culture, appetizing delicacies and more.

Take Polomolok in South Cotabato, for example. This municipality does not just boast of a rich and vibrant culture and scenic vistas, it is also possesses a thriving economy.

The Land of Dreamweavers and Dreamy Sights

Polomolok is home to various indigenous groups whose rich heritage brings a lot of color and interest to the area. One of these groups – the T’boli – are renowned for the T’nalak, a special fabric woven by the women of their community from their dreams.

Various unique and colorful iterations of this fabric come into full display as during local celebrations. The Flomlok Festival held during the Foundation Anniversary of Polomolok in September showcases costumes made with T’nalak worn by the locals for the street dance competitions and other festivities.

Aside from the festivities, its nearby attractions which showcase nature at its best are sure to catch your eye. These include the crater lake of pristine waters surrounded by verdant forests Lake Holon; the woodland and wildlife sanctuary Lake Sebu; the colorful and rustic Strawberry Guyabano Farm; and one of South Cotabato’s most sacred sites, the Our Lady of Mt. Matutum Trappistine Monastery.

These vibrant and colorful aspects of life in Polomolok earned it the moniker Little Brazil of the Philippines.

A Thriving Way of Life

While the festivities and local sights would attract visitors, the high quality of life amidst the relaxed atmosphere will surely draw in people looking to build a life and raise their family somewhere new.

With a thriving local economy driven by agriculture and aquaculture, Polomolok is among the wealthiest municipalities in Mindanao. Despite this, Polomolok also boasts of a lower cost of living. Here, the cost of goods and services are much cheaper than in Metro Manila and most of the other areas in the country.

Lumina Polomolok

Polomolok also offers affordable housing options through Lumina Polomolok.

Find your dream home here

On the lookout for a house and lot for sale in Polomolok that won’t break the bank?

At this newest project of affordable house and lot developer Lumina Homes located in an 11.4 hectare area in Brgy. Cannery Site, Polomolok, South Cotabato, you can choose from over 1,400 well-designed and constructed house models for one that will suit your needs.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

Looking for something fuss-free and low maintenance for your starter home? The Anna Rowhouse should be right up your alley. It is a single-storey dwelling with a 24 square meter floor area and a 37 square meter lot area, built with living and dining areas with provisions for one to two bedrooms, a service area and toilet and bath. Price starts at Php552,000.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

If you have a small family, you would find your perfect fit with the Angeli Townhouse. It is a two-storey home with a 42 square meter floor area and a 36 square meter lot area, built with living and dining areas with provision for three bedrooms , a service area, toilet and bath and carport. Price starts at Php1,109,000.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

If you’re looking for a little more space, you will surely gravitate towards the Armina Single Firewall Home which is a single detached two-storey home with a 42 square meter floor area and a 54 square meter lot area, built with living and dining areas with provision for three bedrooms , a service area, toilet and bath and carport. Price starts at Php1,527,000.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

Aside from having an affordable yet comfortable abode, living in a Lumina Homes community also affords you with amenities that make for great times spent out of doors!

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

These include a basketball court, children’s playground, function hall, and mini gardens enclosed in a perimeter fence with 24/7 security, plus free shuttle service to and from town.

Lumina Polomolok
Lumina Polomolok

Living in Lumina Polomolok also lets you stay close to the action with these establishments within easy reach:

  • Marketplaces and Malls: Gaisano Mall, Friendly Mart, TLG Shoppers Mart and Price Mart Super Store
  • School, Colleges & Universities: Christian School of Polomolok, B.E.S.T College of Polomolok Inc., General Santos Academy, Polomolok National High School, SDA Dolefil Elementary School, and Notre Dame-Siena College of Polomolok
  • Hospitals and Clinic: Polomolok Municipal Hospital Inc., Bontuyan Medical Hospital Inc., Heramil Hospital, and JGR Medical Clinic and Services
  • Places of Worship: Our Lady Of Lourdes Parish, Central Polomolok Baptist Church and Southern Baptist Church

Getting your own Lumina dream home is made even easier, thanks to various financing options, such as:

  • Pag-Ibig Financing which offers the lowest possible interest rate with a 14-month downpayment term and a 30-year maximum loan term
  • Bank Financing which has faster loan processing with a 16-month downpayment term and a 20-year maximum loan term
  • Deferred Financing which involves straight payment of total contract price over 24 month at 0% interest
  • Spot Cash which involves full payment of total contract price applying a 6% discount if made within 30 days from payment of reservation fee, 8% if made within the reservation month, and 10% if made within 10 days of reservation date

So open yourself and your family up to fresh possibilities that living in Polomolok, South Cotabato has to offer! Contact Lumina Polomolok by calling +63 917 6296523, or drop by its sales office at Unit 4, 2F RCMIR Building, National Highways, Polomolok South Cotabato.

For its latest updates, visit the Lumina Homes website, or follow it on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Polomolok Field Photo by Julienne M on Unsplash

Have fun in the great outdoors with your Lumina Rosario community

While we do spend most of our leisure time, safe and cozy, inside our home, it is the community just outside its doors that make it the ideal abode.

When we take our family on a sojourn beyond the walls of our house and explore our immediate vicinity, we are able to take part in the local scene. Our interactions with our neighbors and local merchants during our time out of doors help shape our total experience in our particular locale.

Lumina Rosario

Take living in Lumina Rosario, for example.

This newest project of mass housing community developer Lumina Homes is located in a 46-hectare property in Barangay Quilib in Rosario, Batangas.

Lumina Rosario House Models

In this location, would-be homeowners on the lookout for a house and lot for sale in Batangas, can find their dream home among the Lumina Homes’ well-designed and constructed house models, regardless of their stage in life.

The Anna Rowhouse, for instance, is a bungalow type dwelling with a 24 square meter floor area and a 36 square meter minimum lot area, perfect for those who want a starter home. Already built with living and dining areas, kitchen, toilet and bath, as well as a provision for one bedroom and service area, it is ideal for those who want something low-maintenance for their first abode.

On the other hand, home buyers with small families would gravitate towards the Adriana Townhouse. A two-storey home with a 44 square meter floor area and a 36 square meter minimum lot area, it is built with living and dining areas, kitchen, toilet and bath, provision for two bedrooms, service area and a garage.

Lastly, home buyers with larger families would find either the Angeli Duplex or the Angeli Single Firewall well-suited to their needs. Both feature a floor area of 53 square meters and a minimum lot area of 63 square meters, and are built with living and dining areas, kitchen, toilet and bath, 3 bedrooms with partitions, family area and garage. The difference between the two models is that the duplex is one of two adjacent units while the single firewall is detached from other units by a space of approximately 3 meters. These house models definitely provide families with more room to grow!

These housing options are made even more accessible to would-be home buyers thanks to various financing options, such as:

  • Pag-Ibig Financing which has an interest rate of just 6.5% over a payment period ranging from 5 to 30 years
  • Bank Financing which has faster loan processing payable between 5 to 20 years
  • Deferred Financing which involves straight payment of total contract price over 24 month at 0% interest
  • Spot Cash Total Contract Price which involves full payment of total contract price within 30 days after reservation applying a 6% discount.

The Amenities.

Aside from a wonderful structure that they can furnish according to their taste and mold into a home for their family, Lumina homeowners also get to enjoy a sprawling outdoor area where they can hold fun activities together with their neighbors and establish their own community.

Kids can have fun playtime with their friends at the parks and playground area while the more sports-minded residents can make full use of the covered basketball court for sports and fitness activities.

Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario

Public events and private functions may also be held at the shared commercial area to help foster a community spirit.

The friendly guards at the guard house help to ensure the safety and security of the community while the shuttle service enables residents to easily venture out and enjoy more of what the locale has to offer by way of culture and entertainment.

Lumina Rosario
Lumina Rosario

The Local Flavors.

Rosario, Batangas is the home of the Sinukmani Festival, a feast held every year on the 9th day of June since 2005. It celebrates the local delicacy Sinukmani, more widely known as Biko, which is made with the area’s top local produce: rice, coconut and sugar cane.

Other must-try gustatory delights in the area include the Goto Batangas which is a soup made with tripe, intestines, liver, and beef shank in a broth flavored with onions, ginger, and annato powder and served with steamed rice, as well as the Lomi Batangas, a Chinese-inspired noodle soup made even heartier by the Batanguenos with the addition of pork meat, tripe, crispy skin and other sundry ingredients.

Places to Visit and Enjoy.

Residing in Lumina Rosario makes the region’s breathtaking tourist attractions all the more accessible to those with a little bit of wanderlust.

Villa Crisanta Garden Resort, for instance, is a perfect destination to escape the metro’s hustle and bustle with its verdant gardens and leisure spa facilities.

An hour’s ride away from Lumina Rosario would get the traveller to popular beach destination Laiya in San Juan, Batangas.

Laiya, Batangas

Those seeking serenity can enjoy the sun, sand and sea of beachfront resort Playa Laiya while those seeking thrills can enjoy the adrenaline-pumping activities at Laiya Adventure Park such as a 630-meter zipline, wall climbing, rapelling, freefall, aerial walk and downhill tubing.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy out-of-doors if you reside at Lumina Rosario. And the best part is that after all your outdoor fun, you can always come home to your vibrant community and your comfortable Lumina Homes abode.

So inquire now for a Lumina Rosario house and lot for sale in Batangas by calling +63 919 0812972 or +63 917 8342349 or by visiting the sales office at Lumina Lipa Site in Brgy. Tibig, Lipa City, Batangas and be on your way towards becoming a #CertifiedKabarangayLumina.

Other #LuminaHomes projects in the province are located in Lipa, Bauan, Tanauan and Sto. Tomas.

For more details, follow Lumina Rosario on Facebook or visit the Lumina Homes webpage.

6 Interesting Facts about Ankor Wat

Ankor Wat, located north of Siem Reap in Cambodia, is one of the country’s most visited tourist spots as well as its most iconic symbols. In fact, being a source of pride for the country, it has appeared on Cambodian national flags since the 1860s, and is the reason for more than fifty percent of international tourist visits to Cambodia each year.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, a visit to Angkor Wat is sure to be part of your itinerary.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

It is located five kilometers from Siem Reap, which affords tourists with various options for accommodations and transportation to and from the site.

Why don’t you wow your traveling friends when you tour the area armed with these interesting tidbits about this famous tourist attraction?

1. It is the world’s largest religious monument.

Sprawling across 1.6 square kilometers (162 hectares or 402 acres), it is considered to be the largest religious monument in the world by land area covered.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Its construction consumed five million tons of sandstone quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen located over fifty kilometers away from the site.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

2. It is a holy place to two major Asian religions.

Although originally built in the twelfth century by the Khmer King Suyavarman II as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, Angkor Wat was converted to a Buddhist temple twenty-seven after his death by a devout Buddhist king Jayavarman VII.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

3. It was originally called by another name.

The temple was originally named Vrah Visnuloka or Parama Visnuloka, which means the “sacred dwelling of Vishnu” in Sanskrit.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Its current name, on the other hand, translates to “city of temples” in Khmer, from Angkor which means “city” and Wat which means “temple grounds.”

4. It may have been intended as a funerary temple.

Deviating from the norm among Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. A western orientation normally relates to death in Hinduism leading archeologists and scholars to conclude that Suyavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Adding strength to this inference is the counter-clockwise direction of the basreliefs as rituals occur in reverse order in Brahmanic funerary services.

5. Here, nature and human architecture make for picturesque views.

In the centuries after it was built, Angkor Wat suffered neglect. During this time, the surrounding forest has swallowed many parts of the complex until the site was rediscovered by French naturalist and explore Henri Mouhot in 1860.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

For many years, silk cotton, thitpok and strangler fig trees have grown over, under, around and even through the sandstone structures. This sets various breathtaking sceneries in the complex wherein nature is seen to have overtaken the man-made structures.

6. Various countries are working to preserve it.

Given its historical and cultural significance, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, which encouraged international efforts to save it. Countries such as China, France, Germany and Japan are involved in various conservation projects to repair and preserve various parts of the complex.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Excited to tour Angkor Wat yet? Click here for more info on visiting Angkor Wat and Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Disclosure: Photos featured here were taken during a 2012 trip to Angkor Wat sponsored by A&E Networks.

Hotel Sogo innovates New Normal hotel features

Experts say it will take longer before the world completely heals from the effect of COVID19. As the country prepares to ease up after the almost three months of Enhance Community Quarantine, Hotel Sogo steps up for their version of the hotel industry’s ‘new normal’.

Hotel Sogo is doing various ways to ensure the safety and security of its guests and employees against the spread of Covid19 virus, once they go back to regular operations. Top on its list will be the use of ultraviolet (UV) lights in disinfecting around its facilities and intensified the process from checking-in to ordering of food to make sure their facilities as So Clean. The ultraviolet (UV) lights are highly effective at disinfection, as its rays are capable of killing bacteria, germs, and viruses.

To prepare its employees in servicing its guests, Hotel Sogo makes sure to protect their employees from the virus by giving them vitamins to boost their immunity and provided personalized PPEs. Hotel Sogo employees have their medical check-ups and Covid19 testing to make sure that their personnel is free from the virus to make sure that the employees and not just the facilities are So Good and ready for their regular operations.

Guests need not worry during their stay Hotel Sogo ensures that operations and preparations are So Safe, as mandatory temperature checks, passage through disinfecting tent, and use of disinfecting foot tray are in place. The availability of hand sanitizers in common areas, are strictly observed, as well as social distancing from the receiving process to elevator use going to their rooms. Facilities are also redesigned and modified to protect the guests and employees, like placing the glass panel divider on top of the front desk.

All of this information can be found in Hotel Sogo’s ‘new normal’ video playbook. The video is shared with relevant government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT), in the hope that the video could serve as a benchmark of other similar establishments prior to their reopening.

Watch Hotel Sogo’s ‘new normal’ playbook video to know more.

Video and details provided by Hotel Sogo in a recent press release.

Z Hostel and Makati’s Tourism Office offer a different kind of walking tour to the public

The late artist, tour guide and cultural activist Carlos Celdran described Manila as “can be chaotic and spiritual, dirty and divine, gritty and gorgeous all at once.”

The same can be said about the area in Makati known as Poblacion.

Long saddled with the reputation of being the red-light district hiding in the shade of the soaring skyscrapers of Makati’s Central Business District, Poblacion has slowly but surely been shedding its seedier veneer to reveal a place with its own character. It may be crowded and wornout in some places, but it has its own vibrance and local flavor.

Z Hostel, known as “one of the hippest hostels in Makati,” itself stands on what used to be the site of a brothel. Today, it is the place where young travelers and backpackers stay for a few days of comfort and relative luxury.

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Z Hostel recently partnered with Makati City’s International Relations Department in offering its Poblacion Walking Tour, not just to the hostel’s guests but also to locals who want to see another side of Poblacion, all for free.

Together with my daughter #ExhibitA, I took part in the tour to check out Poblacion’s happenin’ places.

An alternative to the usual walking tours wherein museums and heritage sites are the destinations of choice, this is essentially a pub crawl which takes its guests around the immediate radius of the hostel to check out some of the establishments they can hang out in (and have a drink or two) during their stay.

Tour guide Jian Miranda, himself a Makati resident for twenty-one years, shared his knowledge and love of the place by picking out spots worthy of note (such as the former drug den turned events venue, where to get the best barbecue in Poblacion and the names – and ingredients – of the streetfood being hawked on street corners) and the stories behind the various joints featured in the tour.

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

The first stop in the walking tour was Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen. With the branches of an old Balete tree serving as the shelves of the bar, Agimat serves up magic and mystery with every drink. Prior to presenting you with your concoction of choice inspired by the four elements apoy (fire), lupa (earth), tubig (water), hangin (air) and buhay (life), the crew would perform a ritual complete with ethnic masks, drums and chants. Being a foraging kitchen and bar, Agimat takes ingredients and culinary influences from various parts of the country to come up with unique and memorable dishes and drinks. It’s definitely worth a second visit.

The second stop of our walking tour was Julyan Coffee Spot, a newly opened coffee shop that also showcases artwork by the owners’ son, Julyan. More than a quiet place to sit and relax while enjoying artisanal coffee, Julyan Coffee Spot is also a social enterprise: it provides training and employment to persons with disability (PWDs). In fact the baristas serving coffee are deaf and communicate by sign language. I’d love to spend more time here with just my laptop and my cuppa joe, to work on my blog, or maybe get around to writing the Next Great Filipino Novel (yeah, I can dream, right?).

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Kartel Roofdeck Bar, the next stop in the tour, offers a scenic view of the Makati skyline from the towering buildings in the CBD to the hotels and night spots in the surrounding the area. Here, we were given free shots to help us loosen our reserve and get to know our fellow tourists. I wouldn’t mind a return visit where I can leisurely enjoy a light mocktail along with the cool evening breeze.

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

The final stop in the walking tour is Kondwi. Set in a big, black, boxy type of building, it actually houses a vibrant cocktail lounge at the ground floor and an exhibit space for artwork on the second floor. The last time I was here was when the upper floor was occupied by the Johnnie Walker Highball Arcade earlier this month. I’d love to see the next exhibits, take part in the salsa dance lessons, as well as taste more of Kondwi’s artistic takes on food and drink.

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

Poblacion Walking Tour (Z Hostel and MakaTurismo)

After the tour, the group was treated to cocktails at the Z Roofdeck. Too bad I wasn’t able to join as #ExhibitA and I had the rush home for our dinner date. Oh well…

The walking tour is primarily geared towards tourists looking for places where they can tipple, but it can also be the springboard for a local foodie’s rediscovery of the gritty and gorgeous Poblacion area.

The Poblacion Walking Tour is offered to Z Hotel guests and, recently, to locals as well every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday T 4pm with Z Hostel as the meeting point. Want to take part in the next Poblacion Walking Tour? Sign up here.

Here are the locations of the places we visited today:

  • Z Hostel: 5660 Don Pedro St. Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 8898531 or +63 2 88560851)
  • Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen: Second Floor, 5972 Alfonso Corner Fermina Street, Poblacion, Makati City. (Tel: +63 917 8904039)
  • Julyan Coffee Spot: 5936 Gloria Street, Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 6860895)
  • Kartel Rooftop Bar: 5921 Algier Street, Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 5638811)
  • Kondwi: 6109 Albert Street,Poblacion, Makati City(Tel: +63 917 7771633)

New TLC series TRAVEL FOR LOVE premieres on Valentine’s Day

TRAVEL FOR LOVE is a new unscripted series that reinvents the genre of travel shows, with the added element of new relationships in foreign lands. In this series, 5 micro influencers set off on a trip of a lifetime to experience all the magic of new adventures, and the anticipation of meeting potential romantic interests, for the first time.

Travel for Love is a social experiment presenting all the thrills of travel, with a refreshing take on the beginnings of new relationships. This ten-part series takes place in 5 different cities in Asia –Kuching, Yogyakarta, Dalat, Kuala Lumpur and Bohol. Throughout the series, the influencers will experience amazing local flavors, discover stunning destinations and delve into the unique cultures of their host cities, all whilst challenging their comfort zones, by going on three blind dates. After meeting 3 romantic hopefuls, each influencer will need to choose just 1 person, to go on a second date with. Will sparks fly, or will things smoulder and perhaps ignite new,intangible connections?

Premieres Friday, 14 February 2020 at 9.25pm TLC (SKYcable ch 243 HD | 62 SD in Metro Manila).

Ep 1: Mariska Date 1

Fiercely different, Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha journey to 5 different cities seeking adventure and love. In the rainforest of Sarawak, musician Mariska from Jakarta meets first date Kevin.

Ep 2: Honey & Samantha Date 1

In KL, Filipina Samantha goes to new heights with first date Alvin. While Penangite Honey meets first date Shane in Bohol exploring romance underwater before taking the plunge into a bizarre situation.

Ep 3: Tahanee & Tony Date 1

New Yorker Tony’s first date Queenie in Dalat involves dancing and it’s an awkward start right out of his comfort zone. Malaysian Tahanee wonders if worldly first date Levi in Jogja is too much for her.

Ep 4: Mariska & Honey Date 2

Mariska meets second date, Dan in Sarawak and is forced to confront her biggest fear; worms. Meanwhile, in Bohol, Honey surprises herself by letting second date Philippe in on a dark secret from her past.

Ep 5: Samantha & Tahanee Date 2

Tahanee meets charming second date Daymasand shares intimate memories of her late mother. In KL Samantha is impressed by handsome second date Dharrshen but things take an unexpected turn.

Ep 6: Mariska Date 3 & Tony Date 2

City slicker Sean, treats Mariska to a trip of a lifetime in Kuching! Tony’s second date Jessie from Dalat loves flowers and sunsets, so she is sure to get his mother’s approval, but can she get his?

Ep 7: Honey & Tahanee Date 3

Thetwo Malaysians, meet their final date. Honey, feeling vulnerable, wears her heart on her sleeve with Marco in Bohol, whilst Tahanee goes on an adventurous date at Gua Pindul in Yogyakarta with Pajay.

Ep 8: Samantha & Tony Date 3

Flirtatious sparks fly when Tony meets Lyn in Dalat. But can they overcome the language barrier? Samantha’s thirddate Ilai in KL has left her wondering if he is the real deal.

Ep 9: THE SECOND DATE_Part 1

It is the ultimate dilemma for Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha. Who will they choose for a second date? They reminisce about their journeys and theirdates as they try to make the right choice.

Ep 10: THE SECOND DATE_Part 2

Mariska, Tony, Tahanee, Honey and Samantha meet their chosen second dates. Will they pursue romance or just stay friends? Mariska’s original song Aeroplane debuts in the final moments of this episode.

Show details and images provided by TLC.

Disclosure: I work for SKY and part of my job is promoting its products and services, especially the content it provides to its subscribers. I consider being able to share my love for TV shows and movies and the experience of watching and talking about them with like-minded people some of the biggest perks of my job.

SKY to raffle off Hokkaido, Japan trip for two

Enjoy a fun getaway in the “Land of the Rising Sun” to start the year right with SKY’s “Go Hokkaido Flyaway Promo” where a subscriber and a travel companion will win an all-expense paid 5D/4N trip to Hokkaido, Japan.

This exciting flyaway is made possible with Hotel 101, which put together a fun-filled itinerary for the lucky SKY subscriber.

The winner will have the chance to go on fabulous escapades, including a trip to Sapporo’s famous Odori Park, Sapporo Clock Tower, the Sapporo Old Government Building, the festive Shiroi Koibito Park, Tanuki Koji/ Susukino shopping street, North Snowland in Chitose, Lake Shikotsu, Mt. Moiwa, Sapporo Beer Garden, Otaru Canal City, Music Box Museum, Kitachi Glass Factory, Mitsui Outlet Park, and get to dine at the Gyuya Edohachi.

Subscribers just need to log on to mysky.com.ph/myaccounts, register their SKY account number, or update their mobile numbers and/or email addresses from January 25 to February 25, 2020 to qualify for the raffle promo.

The promo is available to all SKY Fiber, SKYcable and SKYdirect Postpaid subscribers. The winner and his travel companion must have valid passports for six months from the travel period and must have a Japan VISA. The deadline for registration is February 25, 2020.

Travel promo period is from March 23 to 27, 2020. For more details, visit mysky.com.ph/gohokkaido.

Bayview Hotel GM Eugene T. Yap: Leading with compassion

A good leader possesses not one but a combination of many good qualities. For Bayview Park Hotel Manila’s General Manager Eugene T. Yap, his best assets stem from his innate compassion for people and the desire to always provide service that only gets better over time.

Mr. Yap took his seat as the hotel’s General Manager in 2002, but he has been with Bayview Hotel Development Corp., the company that owns and operates the hotel, since it acquired the property in the late 1980s. At that time, he was serving from the company’s head office in Makati as part of the legal team that handled the property acquisition. Later, he was tasked to look over the structure’s renovations and repairs.

Bayview Park Hotel

It may seem like a stretch for a corporate lawyer to work in the operations and management side of a hotel. After getting a business degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1985, Atty. Yap pursued a legal career and went straight to law school at Manuel L. Quezon University, before passing the bar exams in 1990. But as he recalls, “You know how children usually dream what they always see? When we were younger, whenever we go to restaurants or hotels and service is given to us superbly and we feel happy about it, you tend to feel like you want to work in those types of service. At that time there wasn’t really much of a ‘hospitality industry’ to be spoken of so I wouldn’t call this my childhood dream. But when our company acquired Bayview, I simply began to love the property.”

The passion to serve people became Yap’s main drivers at work. “In the hospitality industry, we serve our guests and we take care of our employees. In the legal practice, we also take care of our clients and our staff. So, in this aspect, they are really not much different,” he says. He believes that good service can only be provided to hotel guests when the people working behind the scenes are also being valued by their leader, so he strives to give them a good working environment and has even adopted a program called the Managers’ Initiative. Through this program, employees are encouraged to pitch in their suggestions on how they can improve the hotel’s services, amenities, and even marketing efforts, and gives them the platform to explore their ideas. He also puts value in having a work-life balance among his employees and even with himself. “I always set a time limit for work because when you are enjoying the work, you tend to lose track of time and you should never lose time for your family. It is also important for me and my staff to recharge once in a while so we can provide better service to our guests when we return to work.”

Bayview Park Hotel

When asked to describe his leadership style, “You can say relaxed but still professional. I believe in accountability where each one is responsible for their own actions, but I also believe in learning from others. I am forever a student of the hospitality industry so I try my best to learn from all people.” He constantly keeps a listening ear open for comments and suggestions from every person who walks into the hotel because he believes that “Guests are your best teachers.” He says, “How do I know when I’m doing a good job? When I see guests smiling. When they are satisfied with your service, that guest will keep coming back and keep asking for you. When the guest starts needing you, that means you’re doing something right.”

Not only at Bayview Park Hotel does Mr. Yap apply his mantras of good leadership. He also takes pride in being the president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP). As leader to the organization, he aims to leave a mark in the industry through his “leadership by accommodation,” which is founded on understanding, being approachable, and being reasonable. “Just keep on giving the best available service to your guests and don’t forget to give your employees the pat on the back that they deserve. When you start receiving compliments from your guests and loyalty from staff, that’s where success comes in.”

Details and images provided in a recent press release,

UKEAS to Partner with British Embassy Manila for Study World UK Education Fair

UKEAS Philippines is proud to announce a joint partnership with British Embassy Manila for the upcoming Study World UK Education Fair on 18 January, 2020, at Shangri-La Hotel Makati. The Study World UK Education Fair will provide students with the chance to explore opportunities to complete their post-graduate studies at the top universities in the United Kingdom.

“The British Embassy is really pleased to once again be working with UKEAS. The UK has a world-class education offering, and our higher education institutions are amongst the most renowned and prestigious in the world. For 2020, the British Embassy Manila, UKEAS, and the British Council are partnering together to bring this message across to students in the Philippines,” shares Richard Colley, the United Kingdom’s Director of Trade & Investment. “UKEAS’ Study World makes studying in the UK accessible to many Filipinos who aspire to broaden their horizons through learning at our prestigious universities. As education becomes more globalised, we want to make sure that everybody hears about educational opportunities in the UK. To do so, we choose to work with partners who exemplify British values.”

What is the Study World UK Education Fair?

This January’s up-coming Study World UK Education Fair will bring representatives from the leading universities in the United Kingdom to Manila. The event will allow students to gain all the necessary information needed to pursue an education in the UK, while giving them access to seminars and keynote speeches.

UKEAS4

“Students and universities in the Philippines will be able to see the spectrum of UK education in a series of events that the Embassy is organising in partnership with UKEAS and the British Council. As well as the Study World UK Education Fair, we will also host a UK-PH University Partnership Conference and a series of networking events for academic institutions,” says Richard Colley. “We believe by establishing UK-PH partnerships, we will create more opportunities to unlock joint research projects, broadening of curricula and access to new resource materials and exchanges for both students and faculty members.”

Participating universities include:

  • Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin (NEW)
  • Birmingham City University (NEW)
  • Coventry University (NEW)
  • University of Sunderland (NEW)
  • QA Higher Education (NEW)
    • Northumbria University London
    • Solent University
    • Ulster University London
    • University of Roehampton
  • Navitas
  • INTO – City University
  • INTO – University of Liverpool
  • University of Leeds
  • Hult International Business School – London
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • University of South Wales

“The UK is serious in its commitment to make education accessible and relevant. This also supports Philippine industries and their workforces for the future,” adds Richard Colley. “Study World UK Education Fair will give prospective students, whether undergraduates or professionals seeking to top-up their qualifications, access to special sessions on university applications, essay writing, visa applications, and living in the UK. There will also be a helpdesk, to give advice and information on student funding opportunities including self-paid and part or full scholarships.”

Attain World Class Education at Study World UK 2020

“We are committed to championing the breadth and diversity of UK education. As a destination of choice for students from around the globe, we are committed to supporting our global partners in their educational objectives, and to sharing UK knowledge and expertise,” says Richard Colley.

Get one step closer to your dream of studying overseas with UKEAS and British Embassy Manila at the Study World UK Education Fair on 18 January, 2020, at Shangri-La Hotel Makati.

“We are proud of the UK’s outstanding reputation for education. Four UK universities are in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings. University degree qualifications from the UK are among the best and desirable in the world and highly valued by employers globally,” says Richard Colley. “UK education programmes are delivered in many innovative ways. As well as classroom-based learning, there are opportunities for online, community-based and immersive study. Degree courses can also be studied at a Philippine university but with 6-12 months of the course being completed in the UK.”

Education is great! Register here to begin your journey to study overseas.

“Education is Great” and #YouCanWithUKEAS

Program information and images provided in a recent press release.

Lucky SKY subscriber to win a trip to Bali, Singapore or Taiwan with AXN’s Chillout/Thrillout flyaway promo

AXN treats SKY subscribers this October as it brings back viewers’ favourite action-packed shows that will inspire them to chill-out or thrill-out with the newest seasons of hit U.S. series, “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Blacklist” and “Supernatural” – with an adventure trip promo.

AXN COTO Keyart

“Hawaii Five-O,” a police procedural drama series, returned to the small screen last September 28 for its tenth season. Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams, played by Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan respectively, are on a mission to tackle more crimes, but with serious consequences like terrorism and organized crime. New episodes air every Saturday at 9:45 PM, within 12 hours of its U.S. telecast.

“Blacklist” is still going strong and will debut its seventh season this month. The show picks up from the cliffhanger of season six when Red (James Spader) was stabbed by Katarina (Lotte Verbeek) with a syringe and his unconscious body was thrown into a van. Catch Liz (Megan Boone) as she attempts to save Red from her mother, and discover the other mysteries she needs to solve. “Blacklist” premieres on October 5, and airs every Saturday at 10:40PM, within 12 hours of its U.S. telecast.

“Supernatural” will return with its final season. In their fourteen years on TV, Dean (Jared Padalecki) and Sam (Jensen Ackles) have already defeated countless monsters. But in the 14th season finale, the brothers faced off with the most powerful villain yet: God. In the upcoming season, the show’s executive producer said in the last Comic Con that not only will the brothers be dealing with the end of the world, but they will also be grappling with the very idea of free will. “Supernatural” premieres on October 14, and airs every Monday at 10:40 PM, within the same week of its U.S. Telecast.

With these new episodes come AXN’s ‘Chill Out or Thrill Out’ promo, where a lucky SKY subscriber will get to choose between a chill-out vacation in Bali or Taiwan, or a thrilling one in Singapore. The lucky subscriber will get to bring his or her companion on a 4D/3N trip to one of the three destinations.

Simply visit mysky.com.ph/axnchillout, fill out the form, and answer which of the three shows above do you like the most! AXN’s ‘Chill Out or Thrill Out’ flyaway promo is open to all subscribers of SKY Fiber Unli Broadband + HD Cable, SKYcable and SKYdirect nationwide.

AXN is on SKYcable Ch49 (SD) & Ch247 (HD) in Mega Manila, Ch604 (SD) & Ch737 (HD) in Regional, and SKYdirect Ch34 (HD).

To subscribe to SKYcable, fill up this form.

Show and promo details provided by SKY in a recent press release.

Disclosure: I work for SKY and part of my job is promoting its products and services, especially the content it provides to its subscribers. I consider being able to share my love for TV shows and movies and the experience of watching and talking about them with like-minded people some of the biggest perks of my job.