If you’re on your way to Tagaytay, or on your way back to Manila while traversing the Sta. Rosa – Tagaytay Road, you will most likely pass by Nuvali Park.
This expansive area is designed to be an integrated self-sustaining eco-city, where various residential communities, commercial and hospitality establishments, as well as schools can be conveniently situated while also highlighting the beauty and importance of nature.
The highlight of Nuvali Park is a four-hectare multi-functional lake. This man-made water feature not on beautifies the park but it also serves as a catch basin for rainwater and a water reservoir. It also functions as a fire reserve and as a means for alternative transport within the park.
In this sprawling green space, motorists can take a break from their journey to rest and and find some fun activities to occupy their time while allowing nature’s healing touch to rejuvenate them.
Take a stroll. With all the lush greenery and tree-lined designated walking trails around the park, it would be a shame not to put on your comfy shoes and go for a leisurely ramble. It would be an enjoyable way to achieve your 10,000 steps, wouldn’t it?
Work up a sweat. If a more strenuous type of activity is more to your liking, you can always go for a a bike ride around the park (bring your own or rent one at the Lake Evozone for Php60/hour. More adventurous bikers can take a crack at the 50-kilometer mountain bike trails which may provide scenic views of Mount Makiling, Laguna de Bay and Tagaytay Ridge. The post-workout buzz will surely be worth the exertion. Be sure to bring your own safety gear (helmets and pads) as well wear closed shoes. Register at the Evo-living Center concierge with a valid ID.
Go bird-watching. Nestled within the park is a 17-kilometer buffer zone and open area where migratory birds and other creatures make their home. It’s best to time your bird-watching activity between 6am to 9am or 4pm to 6pm when these creatures are most active and the sun is not so hot. Bring your binoculars so you can watch the birds up close without disturbing them.
Take a boat ride. Take advantage of the awesome views afforded by a scenic boat ride on the lake for Php100 per person.
Dine al fresco. Here, you can savor a delightful meal while in the great outdoors to refuel you for the rest of your journey. You can have a lakeside meal at one of the restaurants at Nuvali’s Solenad 1, or nibble as you browse through the food stalls every weekend during the Nuvali Mercato Centrale weekend food market.
Feed the fish. The lake is also home to a pod of koi fish who will gamely rise to the water surface for your entertainment when you drop some fish food their way.
Clearly, a stopover at Nuvali will give you a respite from the stresses of your travel and provide you with happy memories that you can take with you when you move on to your next destination.
I wish you safe travels, dear reader!
Nuvali is located along the Sta. Rosa – Tagaytay Road, Bgy. Sto. Domingo, Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. For updates on its events and activities, visit its website or follow Nuvali on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
With the sweltering heat of the summer permeating the drab and grey streets of metro, it would be nice to go somewhere cool, fresh and green.
Well, wouldn’t you know it! Right in the heart of Quezon City is a place where you can escape to enjoy a bit of nature: the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center.
This 22.7 hectare area located in Diliman, Quezon City is a zoological and botanical garden, named after Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. It is one of the ninety-four legislated Protected Areas in the Philippines under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018.
It is also dubbed as the “Nature Park in the City’s Heart” being the home of various species of flora and fauna while still situated in a busy metropolis.
Here, park visitors can go exploring on pathways that weave through the park’s trees and open grassy areas, perfect places to jog or stroll while enjoying the peace and quiet.
With over 3,000 species of trees, some of which are endemic to the country, the park is also one of Metro Manila’s last remaining green spaces, which serve to mitigate urban air pollution and help counter the emergence of Urban Heat Islands (UHIs), metropolitan areas that are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to the daily activities of urban populations concentrated in a small area.
Aside from enjoying the lush greenery, park visitors can view animals as well. As a wildlife rescue and research center, it serves as a quarantine area and rehabilitation center for wild animals captured while lingering in residential areas, or undomesticated animals confiscated from people involved in the illegal wildlife trade or exotic pet owners who are abusive to their animals.
The center also serves as a training ground for practitioners and students or veterinary medicine, zoology, botany, biology and natural science.
For park visitors who want to do a bit of sight-seeing or picture-taking, the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center also contains a manmade lagoon which houses various fishes. Within its vicinity is a picturesque Fishing Village which consist of five houses on stilts along the edge of the lagoon. These structures are patterned after fishing villages in Mindanao.
The park also houses other attractions which may be rented out:
A Tea House that may serve as a venue for workshops, meetings and other small parties
A 250-seater Amphitheater for larger gatherings
Picnic sheds to shelter people during their visit
For plantitos and plantitas, the Bernie Dizon Botanic Fruit and Techno-Demo Center is also located within the park. Owned and managed by the country’s leading pomologist the garden offers high-quality cuttings and seedlings that will grow into fruit trees for home gardens or farmlands.
So if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you won’t have to travel far. Simply visit the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center to enjoy that precious bit of nature.
The Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center is located along Elliptical Road and North Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, open daily from 7am to 5pm.
The following entrance fees apply:
Senior citizens, PWDs and children below seven years old: FREE
For inquiries, call +63 2 89246031 local 236. For more details, visit its website or follow Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center on Facebook.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Batuan is also home to awesome temples that feature Balinese architecture and elaborate carvings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of its most breathtaking scenery is a sculpture of the Hindu goddess Sarasvati at the center of a large pool.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While getting serenaded by live acoustic music accompanied by the sound of waves, we enjoyed a sumptuous seafood dinner by the beach.
This one-day tour of Ubud gave Hubby and me an interesting glimpse of Balinese life and culture.
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.
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’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.
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.
Its sprawling lobby is cool, airy and surrounded by water, adding to the relaxing atmosphere hat welcomes the resort’s guests.
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.
Our air-conditioned deluxe room is furnished with a king-size bed topped witu plush pillows and a comfy duvet.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Here, the resort operates a Beach Club that provides beverages and snacks to guests.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
We wasted no time ordering our Japanese food faves such as Tuna Sashimi, Salmon Maki, Katsudon and 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.
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?
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?
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.
If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, a visit to Angkor Wat is sure to be part of your itinerary.
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.
Its construction consumed five million tons of sandstone quarried from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen located over fifty kilometers away from the site.
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 aHindu 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.
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.
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 amongKhmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented tothe 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.
Adding strength to this inference is the counter-clockwise directionof the bas–reliefs 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.
For many years, silk cotton, thitpok and strangler fig trees have grown over, under, around andeven through the sandstone structures. This sets various breathtaking sceneries in the complex wherein nature is seen to have overtakenthe 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.
Excited to tour Angkor Wat yet? Click here for more info on visiting Angkor Wat and Cambodia.
Disclosure: Photos featured here were taken during a 2012 trip to Angkor Wat sponsored by A&E Networks.
Tarlac offers an awesome neighborhood in Northern Luzon. Pangasinenses, Ilocanos, Kapampangans, Bulakenyos, and even Tagalogs flock to the province to enjoy a time for adventures and leisure.
If you’re looking to explore the neighborhood in Tarlac, here are some of the best spots that you need to visit.
Capas National Shrine
If you want to learn about the stories of the war, then Capas National Shrine is the best place to visit in Tarlac. This was built to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Bataan Death March. It’s an even more meaningful place as the site used to be a concentration camp, even reminding us today about the repercussions of war.
Looking for an awesome place with great food? Then, Isdaan Village is the place to go. It’s a floating restaurant that offers a variety of Filipino and other Asian cuisine. Dining in at Isdaan is also an experience with singing cooks and overlooking picturesque views. The place is perfect eating with your family or a large group.
Aquino Ancestral House
If you want to appreciate the democracy of the Philippines more, then you should head on over to Aquino Ancestral House. This is the house where the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino lived before he entered into local and national politics.
Kart City Tarlac
Do you enjoy the adrenaline rush? You should check out Kart City Tarlac! The place is perfect for kids at heart with their F1 carts available for driving! If you’re bringing your children, you won’t need to worry as there’s a designated place specially designed for them.
As the province borders Mount Pinatubo, this means more adventure for you! You can enjoy a nice ride by 4×4 trucks going uphill and a hike by foot going to the summit. What’s even more wonderful is meeting friendly Aeta locals along the way.
Tarlac has indeed an awesome neighborhood that makes for a perfect getaway spot in Luzon. More than visiting from time to time, the great thing is that you can also easily secure a home in the province!
If you want to purchase a home in Tarlac, there are affordable houses that BellaVita offers. Settling a home in the province means that you’re one skip away to these amazing destinations – which is a great benefit for you.
It has been more than three months since the pandemic has essentially turned our worlds upside down.
As we waited for quarantines to be lifted and restrictions to be loosened, many of us found ourselves willing time to hurry up so things can get back to normal.
But we can’t really go back to the way things used to be, right? Not when the threat of COVID-19 or any future communicable health risk still looms.
Hence, the emergence of The New Normal. While businesses re-open and people are more frequently moving about, the following principles still apply:
Increased importance of personal hygiene
Practice of physical distancing
Focus of all activities in the home
Transition of most interactions to digital
To help ease the way towards The New Normal, several Filipino bloggers have taken it upon themselves to broach topics relevant to the transition. They create content to guide, inspire or entertain as we all grapple with the changes to our way of life.
Keepin’ Fit and Healthy
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of one’s health. We have seen how this viral infections has wreaked havoc, not only on one’s physical well-being, but also on one’s finances and social interactions. Also, keeping fit has become challenging for many with exercising outside the home and in the gym no longer among the options available. It is no wonder, then, that bloggers have chosen to dwell on how to maintain one’s health and fitness during this time.
Prevention is better than cure so it’s good that we continue monitoring ourselves if we develop symptoms, but at the moment, there’s just so much strain on medical workers and doing a self-check is the least that we can do to help. – Manila Millennial
Dale Palisoc of The Little Binger, on the other hand, shares a list of free apps and websites on home workouts that can help his bingers to keep on track with their health goals.
We spent every single day at home because we are restricted and it is not safe… But you know what it is not healthy to stay stagnant. We still have to keep on moving. The big question, however, is how to do it? Especially now that gyms are closed and it is terrifying to jog outside… – The Little Binger
Home is the place to be… stuck in?
The home emerged as the safest place to be in, but, as most of us discovered, it is not always the most comfortable or the most entertaining. People who are used to going out and having a social life now find themselves isolated. Families who used to just see each other at dinnertime or on weekends now spend the whole day in each other’s company. The problem that arose from these scenarios is how to while away the time while “stuck” at home? These bloggers may have just the answer.
Community quarantine may be a disorientating experience, especially for those of us who are used to spending most of our time outside the house. But, it’s also essential to look on the bright side, while channeling our energy into some productive activities. – Living Beyond Style
Beyond my motherhood duties to my two sons, I have come to appreciate the time I have: to do things I have always wanted to do but never got to, because I have always put them aside. – Wendyflor.com
Don’t forget to smile and be positive regardless of what situation you are in. One creative hobby helps us a lot to be more productive and manage our mental health to lessen the stress level. Despite the current situation, it always good to remember you got the passion to do things right and be the right person to deliver results to continue your undeniably creative hobby. – Youthsoloartsy
How can we get our hands on those food!
Anybody who knows me also knows that the enjoyment of good food is central to my happiness. When the community quarantine was implemented, my foodie friends and I worried about our favorite restos, and rightfully so. The restaurant industry was among the most badly hit by the pandemic and the resulting lockdown with the reduced clientele, lack of manpower and rising overhead costs putting a huge strain on their finances.
Those who were able to pivot their operations to be viable by making their food available for pickup or delivery stand a chance at surviving in The New Normal.
Plus, for those who are not used to cooking their own food, having tasty and easily accessible food options will make the quarantine restrictions seem not as harsh.
Practice social distancing as much as you can. When exploring city centers and parks, take cycling tours instead of walking tours or bus tours. Cycling presents the least risk of coming into close contact with other tourists. Plus, cycling is great for your health at any time! – Ivan + Khris’ Travels
#30DayNewNormalChallenge aims to help citizens face this New Normal phenomenon. This will allow us to just live day-by-day unaware that we have adapted positively with this universal change. – Wandering Good Vibes
Karla Obispo of Travel with Karla, on the other hand, provides a playbook on how to be a decent person in the time of COVD-19 which I think still applies into The New Normal.
There are many ways on how to be a good citizen in the time of COVID-19. I hope you choose to be one. – Travel with Karla
Navigating the way into a new set of circumstances, norms and environments as a result of COVID-19 may seem daunting, but be assured, your blogger friends are with you ready to share what we can to guide, inspire or entertain you into The New Normal.
Many thanks to my fellow bloggers for contributing to this post!
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.
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.
Did you know that aside from guiding mariners by night or during storms, lighthouses also serve as daymarks – landmarks that are visible from the sea during daylight hours. To serve as a day mark, the light tower should be brightly painted, and feature distinctive colors and patterns.
One such light tower in the Mukilteo Lighthouse which the fam explored during our trip to the Pacific Northwest. Designed by renowned architect Carl W. Leick, this Victorian-style lighthouse, which stands 38 feet high (one of the shortest in the United States), has been operating since March 1, 1906. By 2001, the US Coast Guard has transferred the Mukilteo Light Station property to the City of Mukilteo, although it still maintains the light and the foghorn as working aids to navigation.
When it was originally built, the lighthouse was equipped with an oil lamp and a rotating lens; the oil lamp had to be refilled and the rotating lens had to be rewound every three hours.
Currently, its light is made possible by a fourth order Fresnel lens built in Paris, France in 1852 and brought to Mukilteo when the lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1927. With a flash pattern of two seconds on / three seconds off which is unique to Mukilteo, the lighthouse is now fully automated and on 24/7.
Atop the light tower is a breathtaking view of the Possession Sound, named by George Vancouver in 1792 when he claimed possession of the land of “New Georgia” for Great Britain. Possession Sound connects the main Puget Sound basin to the south with Saratoga Passage and Port Susan to the north.
Beside the lighthouse is a structure known as the Assistant Keeper’s House which was also designed by Architect Leick as part of the light station. Today, it serves as a venue for historical exhibits and as a gift shop for visitors.
Encompassing the light station compound, the sandy beach and shoreline walkway is the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park. This has one of the most easily accessible shorelines in the Snohomish County, especially among those needing ADA access. It also displays sculptures by Tulalip tribal carvers and artworks by Joe Grobin and James Madison.
The fam spent a long while here just enjoying the view, skipping rocks along the beach and cooling off with some ice cream at the nearby Diamond Knot outlet.
The Mukilteo Lighthouse Park is a thirty to forty-minute car ride from Seattle. It is located at 609 Front St, Mukilteo, WA 98275, open 4am to 10pm from May 1 to September 30, and 6am to 10pm from October 1 to April 30. For inquiries or more information, call (425) 263.8180 or visit its website.
Check out the attractions the fam and I visited during our US trip:
Seattle, WA is the birthplace of Starbucks. My love affair with this coffee brand is well-known among my nears-and-dears (and well-documented on this blog, too!)
Well, on my second visit to the Evergreen State, this time with my family in tow, I made sure to drop by the mecca for coffee lovers right here in Seattle: the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.
Located just nine blocks from Starbucks’ original store near the Pike Place Market, it is one of the largest Starbucks outlets in the world, occupying 15,000 square feet of space, all dedicated to the company’s pursuit of coffee innovations.
Here, visitors can look forward to a unique and immersive combination of coffee experiences, such as witnessing the on-site brewing of rare Starbucks Reserve coffees, tasting an ever-evolving beverage menu, watching, tasting and learning eight distinct coffee preparation methods, perusing an expansive library of coffee-related tomes, and chatting with a staff of Certified Starbucks Coffee Masters who simply love talking about their craft.
The experience starts in the Main Bar where you can order your cup of choice or allow the Coffee Masters to recommend a perfect handcrafted drink for you, made with the store’s freshly roasted, rare coffee beans.
Here, the kids and I enjoyed 12oz glasses of Cold Brew Malt, a treat from my bro. This drink is a thick malted milkshake made with Starbucks’ cold brew coffee spindle-blended with Mora’s vanilla ice cream and chocolate bitters.
Bro-in-law, on the other hand, a Matcha Teavana Tea Latte, one of the store’s non-coffee drinks.
Next, at the Scooping Bar, a Coffee Master can advise you on which Starbucks Reserve coffee best suits your taste and you can take home a freshly scooped bag.
At the Handpicked at the Roastery, your inner Starbucks fan can truly come out and play. With a plethora of carefully curated merchandise from Starbucks’ artisan partners, from coffee-brewing equipment from all over the world, coffeeware ranging from quaint-kitschy to posh and wearables that proudly announce your love for coffee, you can take a piece of Starbucks home with you.
At the Mixology Bar, get a shot or two of signature cocktails and spirit-free drinks inspired by Starbucks Reserve coffee and Teavana teas. I’ll probably return here – sans the little one – for a more spirited coffee experience.
Starbucks partnered with Rocco Princi to bring a taste of the Spirito di Milano to its customers. At Princi, you can treat yourself to artisan breads, freshly baked pastries and pizzas, as well as delectable desserts which are best enjoyed with your cup of Starbucks Reserve coffee.
Want to get lost in your own coffee story? Head on to the Experience Bar where you can go on themed coffee tasting flights, guided tours by Starbucks’ Coffee Masters where exploratory brew methods and immersive storytelling will only deepen your love for your favorite brews.
For a bookworm like me, the Coffee Library is a destination in itself. Climb up the steps so you can pore over 200-plus books dedicated to coffee. It also offers a great view of the entire roasting operation.
A trip to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is always a worthwhile activity for coffee lovers who find themselves in Seattle. I plan to return before my trip ends to have a more leisurely journey across the bars and stations.
This Starbucks Reserve Roastery is located at 1124 Pike Street, Seattle, WA, 98101, open daily from 7am to 11pm. For more details, call (206)624-0173 or visit www.starbucksreserve.com.
San Fernando, Pampanga was founded in 1754, carved out of neighboring towns Mexico and Bacolor during the reign of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon. Since then, the city has been both a witness and setting for many of the region’s significant historical events.
In a recent trip to the city sponsored by its tourism office, I was able to get a peek into San Fernando’s past together with fellow bloggers through – of all things – a calesa ride!
There’s something about the feeling the balmy morning hangin amihan on my skin and hearing the clip-clop of hooves against the pavement as we circled around San Fernando’s Heritage District in an old-timey horse-drawn carriage. The calesa drivers are friendly and have been trained by the city’s tourism office to serve as tour guides.
Our tour started at the Heroes Hall, which showcases the statues of eight local and national heroes, including those of Ninoy Aquino, Dr. Jose Rizal, Don Tiburcio Hilario, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and of Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio who, in March 1899, led a group of Kapampangan women to prevent a violent altercation between Generals Antonio Luna and Tomas Mascardo. (Yey for girl power!)
The hall, which used to be the municipal office, now functions as a government office and conference hall.
The park in front of the hall is decorated with life-size lanterns depicting people celebrating a Kapampangan holiday. The pieces were provided by the award-winning RolRen’s Lanterns which also supplies the parols used during the Metro Manila Filmfest and in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
In the Heritage District, we passed by the houses of some of Pampanga’s notable historical denizens such as the Lazatin Residence, the Tabacalera House, the Hizon-Singian House and more. I would have loved to spend more time gossiping about the descendants of the historical figures who lived there but, alas, our time was limited.
We also passed by the San Fernando Metropolitan Cathedral, a stone church founded by the Augustinians in the late 18th century. It was burned, along with its convent, by the Philippine Revolutionary Army on the order of General Antonio Luna in 1899 buy was restored by Kapampangan architect Fernando Hizon Ocampo in 1948.
Other historically notable structures we passed by include the City Hall Building built in 1917, the Pampanga Capitol Building which is currently the seat of the provincial government and the Presidio or the Pampanga Provincial Jail which was originally designed in 1907 as the Court of First Instance.
The final stop of our calesa tour is the ruins of the San Fernando Train Station. Opened in 1892 as part of the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan Railway System, it marked the start of the region’s economic growth due to massive growth in the Pampanga’s sugar industry.
In mid-1892, national hero Dr. Jose Rizal made a stopover in San Fernando to recruit members for the La Liga Filipina. Ironically, the train station was designed by Engineer Charles Henry Kipping who ended up marrying Jose Rizal’s childhood love, Leonor Rivera. His visit is commemorated by a statue of the national hero seated on a bench seemingly awaiting his friends or the Kapampangan woman he was rumored to be courting at the time, Rosario Joven.
In 1941, the Japanese Army bombed an ammunition train said to be parked in front of the station, causing significant fire damage to some portions of the building, which are still evident from the black stains on the structure’s walls.
In 1942, train station served as the last stop of the Bataan Death March, wherein thousands of tired, hungry and ill Filipino and American POWs, after walking 102 kilometers from Bataan, were stuffed like sardines into box carts and transported to Capas, Tarlac. The horrendous event is commemorated by a diorama of life-size statues depicting soldiers consoling fellow prisoners and gearing up for more hardships that they are to face.
The calesa tour is a memorable way to take a step into the past, revisit some of the events and areas of interest in the city’s history and appreciate how far we’ve come since then.
For inquiries on the calesa tour, call the San Fernando City Tourism Office at +63 045 9615684 or email email@example.com.
Disclosure: Together with other bloggers, I participated in a tour and food crawl sponsored by the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga. The experiences provided and food served were not paid for by the attendees including myself.
San Fernando, the provincial capitol of Pampanga, is a bustling city that houses the provincial presence of some of the country’s largest retail outlets, financial firms, restaurant chains, manufacturing companies and more. The city also plans to further expand the modernization of its infrastructure and services.
Despite its drive towards modernization, the city also stays true to its roots as the home of Christmas Lanterns, as manifested by its support to its handcrafted parol industry. San Fernando Pampanga’s parol makers are known for their grandiose creations: colorful and ornately patterned lanterns which light up and blink in cheery rhythms. Largely because of this, San Fernando, Pampanga has been hailed by CNN as “Asia’s Christmas capital.”
The Kapampangan tradition of handcrafting lanterns can be dated back to the 16th century when the Augustinian friars started the practice of holding processions honoring the town’s patron saints leading to the cathedral. This practice coincides with the Misa de Gallo, or dawn masses held for nine days leading to Christmas. The processions would later evolve and become locally known as Lubenas.
During these processions, the candles held by the devout would sometimes get blown out by the hanging amihan (cool northeast wind). The enterprising Kapampangans took to covering their candles to protect the flames from the breeze, thus making them lanterns. And since Kapampangans are also characterized by their appreciation for beauty, joy, grandiosity and pomp, the lanterns grew in size and complexity of design as the years went by. They evolved from being made of simple bamboo and other indigenous materials to incorporating dancing lights as well as the use of colored plastics and fiberglass in the design.
This interesting origin story of the parol was retold by Rolando Quiambao, the lantern maker/designer behind RolRen’s Lanterns and General Merchandise. The parols of this home-grown business have enjoyed not only national, but also worldwide acclaim. If you chanced upon the bombastic parols used during the Metro Manila Filmfest or those gracing the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), chances are, these were supplied by RolRen’s.
RonRel’s also produces lanterns for Saipan, Korea, Guam, Taiwan, Palau and more. While its products geared towards the international market retain the Kapampangan parol at their core, the execution of these lanterns reflect the culture of the country they are going to. Palau-bound lanterns, for instance, depict the nipa huts and boats used in local culture.
Recently, RolRen’s supplied San Fernando’s Heroes Hall with colorful life-size depictions of the Paskong Kapampangan (Christmas in Pampanga).
RonRel’s has also incorporated innovations in parol into its parol design. Its designers worked with computer programmers to facilitate choreographed blinking of the parol’s various lights via rotors, for example. Previously, these lights were manipulated using on/off switches.
Mr. Quiambao shares other interesting snippets of trivia as well. Did you know that what sets the Kapampangan parol apart from other Christmas lanterns are its component parts which are steeped in tradition? These are:
The middle portion called the tambol (base drum) so named because its round shape resembles that of the drum
The star-shaped portion after the tambol is the pito-siko, named after the way the star’s corners resemble bent elbows
Surrounding the star is the palimbon from the Kapampangan word for procession that circles the town on the way to the cathedral
The outer layer is called the ponteta, from the Kapampangan word punta, which refers to it being the final component of the parol.
The artisans of RolRen’s don’t have a monopoly of Kapampangan parol-enthusiasm either.
With the approach of the holiday season, amateur lantern makers from various barangays in the city are gearing up for this year’s Giant Lantern Festival. Already on its 110th year, the festival displays the artistry and passion the Kapampangans have for their parols as representatives from participating barangays contruct lanterns up to 20 feet tall to compete with those from other barangays.
Barangay San Jose, in particular, is represented by the Ambrosio family, the only team that has a female lantern-maker, Mary Anne Torres. (The lantern makers of the other contest entries this year are all male.)
This year’s entry from San Jose will reach up to 19.8 feet and will requires 10,000 lightbulbs.
Barangay San Jose’s last win in the Giant Lantern Festival was in 1991. Their winning piece was later displayed during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The Giant Lantern Festival Competition will be held at the Robinsons Starmills on December 15, 6pm at the Robinsons Starmills. Participating barangays include Calulut, Del Carmen, Del Pilar, San Jose, San Juan, San Nicolas, San Pedro, Sindalan, Sta. Lucia, Sto. Nino and Telabastagan.
Want to take part in this fun and light-filled event as well as check out the local delights that San Fernando, Pampanga has to offer? Check out these packages centered around the competition night from tour operators accredited by the city government:
M.A.G. Travel & Tours
Tour Highlights: Giant Lantern Grand Competition Night, visit and learn how to make giant lanterns, Kapampangan cookery and food crawl, learning indigenous ways of preparing and cooking meals, a visit to the Sunken Church of San Guillermo Parish, a visit to the San Fernando Train Station
Rate (with overnight stay ay Imerex Hotel): Php5,650 (single)/Php4,280 (twin)
Tour Highlights: Early Buffet Dinner of heirloom Kapampangan recipes; lantern-making workshop and factory tour; Giant Lantern Festival Show
Rate: Php2,000 pax
Contact Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tour Highlights: Early Buffet Dinner of heirloom Kapampangan recipes; lantern-making workshop and factory tour; Giant Lantern Festival Show
Rates: Php3,000 (discounts will apply for multi-person booking, students and children age 12 and below)
Contact Details: +63 917 7146737 (Osep Reyes)
Package Inclusions: round trip transportation (pick up from Clark or Angeles); entrance to Clark Museum and VIP Seat at the Giant Lantern Exhibition; Lunch and Dinner; Souvenir T-Shirt and Licensed Tour Guide
Rate: Php3,000 (discounts will apply for multi-person booking)
Disclosure: Together with other bloggers, I participated in a tour and food crawl sponsored by the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga. The experiences and food served were not paid for by the attendees including myself.