Month: September 2016

We are 1 Year Old!!!

As I was posting my last blog entry, I went through our main page and realized that Sarisaristories.wordpress.com is officially a year old!  How fast time flies!

I celebrate not only our blog – a pet project by my Viber group of friends from university – but the endurance of our friendship as well.  I celebrate the advances in technology which has, as abstract as it may seem, really touched my life and made an impact on my relationships.

Who would have thought that the creation of our Viber group would give me an outlet to reconnect with my old friends and share our life’s daily struggles and victories like we never left school?  What’s better this time around though, is that these people have grown to become strong career women, super-moms and dads, smart entrepreneurs, talented writers and artists, and basically much better versions of our 18/19 year old selves.  I can count on these intelligent folk to have something interesting to say about things as mundane as household help or as exciting as Philippine politics!  We don’t think alike but that’s what makes us more interesting!

I consider myself extremely lucky to still have these people in my life.  I am reminded of a TED Talk by Robert Waldinger who is a Director of the longest study on happiness out of Harvard University.  One of the key takeaways of that study is that the people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community, are happier, physically healthier, and live longer.  He concluded that the good life is built with good relationships.

Sharing with you some of moments of our last get-together…Cheers to the Good Life!

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Palawan: Paradise Found

Palawan: Paradise Found

 

I am not proud to say this… but I am a foreigner in my own country.  I am even a foreigner in my own hometown of Cebu.  Most tourists know it better than me!  I am always dreaming of seeing other countries that I sometimes overlook the many beautiful natural wonders this country has to offer.

I mean, I have never denied that the Philippines is beautiful.  But being out there and experiencing it firsthand is something I can definitely do much more of.

But hey, it’s never too late to make changes right?

And so I went on my maiden trip to one of my country’s most loved, most talked-about, and most praised beautiful islands: Palawan.  And what a wonder it truly is!

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Our trip was a toss between 2 popular areas in Palawan: El Nido or Coron.  Both locations are equally beautiful but my sisters and I finally settled on Coron – mainly because we discovered Club Paradise, a resort that offered a huge expanse of rose-gold beachfront and clear turquoise waters only steps away from our cabana.  Now that was hard to beat!

The amenities of Club Paradise leave much to be desired.  It was obvious that the resort was old and in need of renovation (which was actually ongoing when we went there).

But who cares about amenities when you have the perfect beach??? No one!!! Not me!!! The place was perfect!!!  We were really in paradise!!!

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I will let my pictures do all the talking…

The gorgeous beachfront.  The best place to watch time go by.

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The unbelievably crystal clear turquoise waters

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The gorgeous sunset.  Namaste to that!

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For the times we wanted to be active, there was a great hiking trail with gorgeous views of the entire island of Club Paradise.

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Not in photos but definitely a big deal were the snorkeling sites only a few meters away from the beachfront.  It was a surreal experience to be surrounded by a school of silver fish – not once but 4 times in less than 2 hours!

It is true…paradise is real!

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Namaste!

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Airline Review: Qatar Air

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had the impression that Qatar Air was a quality airline. And so, I was pretty excited when I found out that we would be riding Qatar Air from Athens to DOHA, and from DOHA to Dubai. Sadly, after experiencing the service and amenities of Turkish Air, Singapore Air and Thai Airways, I can say that riding Qatar Air was a bit disappointing. They didn’t give vanity kits, they had fewer entertainment options, and the service wasn’t as good either (the toilets were filthy when I used them). The stewardesses looked dowdy in their outfits, and one of them even spent an inordinate amount of time entertaining a male passenger, bordering on unprofessional. The only plus point for me was that they gave a nice kid’s activity kit for my daughter.

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Mommy liked the Monopoly play money sticky notes so much that she kept it for herself =)

But other than that, I don’t think I’d pick Qatar for a future flight. DBX isn’t the best airport either (for shopping nor for other activities). Apart from the stores being open 24 hours a day, there isn’t really anything spectacular about the airport itself. For lack of a better description, it doesn’t have any personality. It could have looked much better if there were more greenery, like the airport in Changi, or if they infused some cultural bits here and there. Qatar Air is not the worst airline, but I know I have much better options out there with the same rate as Qatar, but can provide better service.

Corporate Chic No More

Not that much, anyway.

A few months ago, my friends urged me to write about the latest big decision I have made of late – quitting my corporate job. And i promised them I would. So here I am, trying to articulate the roller coaster ride of an experience I had during the last 18 months of my 10 years, 7 months and 18 days of working in a multinational company.

ME
I resigned. Why did I do it? I simply felt that I had enough. I could manage the work-related stress even if the demands of my job drained me to the core, but not the politics that went with it. Yes, maybe I was just sensitive, even a weakling, but the only thing that mattered to me was for me to get out of that black hole that was sucking all the positive energy from me. I couldn’t let that continue or else, I would be consumed.

THE HUSBAND
Making the decision myself, for myself was easy. But getting my husband to support what I wanted was, well, let’s just say, a different story…
My husband is a very practical man and with 3 young kids, our household expenses is really on the high side so I understand all his fears. I would not go into details anymore but when he saw how unhappy I was already, he gave me his go signal saying that he wanted me to be happy. Sweet 🙂

THE KIDS
My husband and I both worked (he still does) in multinational companies. We both had good positions and pay and benefits were good. And with those, we are able to live a more than comfortable lifestyle. So with the BIG change that was bound to happen, I had to make sure that the kids understood, somehow, that there might be changes.

Fortunately, my daughters are still in the age when I am still the love of their life. So more than anything else, they were super happy. They couldn’t wait! I was teary-eyed when one of my daughters thanked the Lord for my decision during one of her bedtime prayers. Then after, they would do a countdown to my last day at work. For that alone, I knew that I made the decision.

THE PREPARATION
I jumped but I did not JUST jump. I prayed and prepared for it. After my husband agreed, I had to make a more concrete plan, not for anything else but because I wanted to have more confidence in my decision.

First thing I did was to figure out when I should resign. To give myself more time to plan for my next career move, I gave myself 4 months. I pressured myself with a timeline to make sure that I am working on what needed to be worked on: emotional, mental, and financial preparedness, and as I have mentioned, my next moves. It was also a good gauge if my decision was what I really want and not just a spur of the moment thing. None from my office knew of it.

I looked for a possible business venture and found one. I started working on it until an unexpected offer came.

THe BIG MAN UP THERE

He truly is amazing. Right after I made up my mind, everything fell into place – first, the business opportunity, then I was offered by a very good friend of mine to be an AGM/partner in his small but growing pharma trading company with flexi-time. And though the pay was lower, I wholeheartedly agreed because of the limitless possibilities that we can do together. He has big dreams and I am inspired by him and I am excited to be a part of the team when his dreams get fulfilled.

Needless to say, I am now happier.

Allow me to impart some learnings.

1. When I quit and started exploring the “outside world,” I realized that there really is a lot of opportunites waiting for us to discover and grab. I had meetings with people 10 years younger than me who are very successful and they motivate me and show me how exciting the future is.
2. When people found out I resigned, they had mixed emotions. Some agreed but there were also those who perceived my decision as giving up. But when I decided to resign, i also made sure that I can stand by my decision. I told myself that I won’t let people’s opinion matter because only I know what I was going through.
3. Lastly, you don’t have to know exactly what you want now. As long as you know to whom your goals are for, then, I believe, that’s good enough to start a new journey.
4. Ultimately, your responsibility is first to yourself, then to your loved ones, lastly to the company you are working for.
5. Most importantly, pray. And you will never go wrong.

El Torito Restaurant 

A friend suggested we have Mexican food the other weekend. I haven’t had mexican food in years and been dreaming of eating carnitas!! So off we went to El Torito in Shinjuku.

There wasn’t a line during lunch time which was perfect. But there were no carnitas!!

But there was this: Buffalo wings by five or ten. Quite spicy but the blue cheese dip compliments the wings superbly.

And these:Mexican Potatoes (foreground) and Nachos. They basically have the same chili sauce except for the extra jalapenos on the nachos. The nacho chips were extra crispy and oily!

We had these three appetizers while waiting for people. A lot? Not really cause the dishes are small and we were famished. 

We decided to share a jumbo fajitas set (🐷🐷🐷) Looks so colorful and tasted wonderful! Grilled  chicken, beef, and shrimp and enough trimmings to go into the tortilla wraps. 

The server was a bit snooty and obviously unhappy that day –quite rare in Japan but it happens…you get used to super great service which makes her definitely stick out like a sore thumb. But nevertheless, a good place to have mexican food.

Lunch set available on weekdays.

Website here

Airline Review: Singapore Air

On our trip to Rome, we flew via Singapore Air. The flight was from Manila to Singapore and then, Singapore to Rome. Upon entering the aircraft, you were greeted with smiling and svelte stewardesses (yes, that’s the correct plural form of it, according to Wiki =), wearing the traditional Sarong Kebaya. Before the flight even began, we were each handed a hot towel, which I thought was quite relaxing. Leg room was adequate, the entertainment was good (better on the newer planes) and the staff provided a basic vanity kit (socks, toothbrush and toothpaste). Plus points for Singapore Air is that the stopover is always at Changi, which is probably one of the best airports in the world. If you have enough time in between layovers, I seriously suggest you take advantage and go around. From now until some time in 2017, Singapore Air is also giving passengers 20 SGD shopping money at Changi, which is enough to buy quite a lot of chocolates, as I found out. It’s also a perfect stopover for kids because the airport had indoor playgrounds. And if you love shopping, Changi is a good place to buy branded items at a discount.

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Kid’s packs included Zootopia kits

Now, going back to the airline, another thing I liked is their activity packs and meals for kids. My daughter always seemed to eat what they served. I liked the meals as well (on 2 occasions, they served ice cream for dessert, which I think my husband enjoyed thoroughly). For long flights (6 hours and upward), I would definitely recommend an airline of this calibre.

Spotting Authentic Italian Cuisine

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The peppers and pointy tomatoes hanging in this local Napoli restaurant are for realz, y’all! You can’t get more authentic than that!

I was going to do a restaurant review of one of the many great places we ate at in our brief stay in Rome and Naples, but in my excitement to eat, I failed to take down where we actually ate. So, instead of doing that, I thought of just writing about the things I observed in the Italian way of preparing two of our favorite meals: pizza and pasta.
According to our guide, a pizzeria is the equivalent of Italian fastfood. Everywhere you look, especially when you’re in a major tourist spot, you will find a pizzeria. So, how do you know if it’s a good quality pizzeria? You observe who eats in it. If you find the people in it are mostly locals, then better step inside because you’re in for a treat.

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Messy, but so worth it!

Pizza

The crust of authentic Italian pizza is always thin. So the thick ones we see in Pizza Hut and Shakey’s are probably the American version. Its sides are crispy because it is a little bit burnt, and it is always sloppy, with the cheese literally falling off it when you carry it to your mouth. Italian pizza is never served sliced. I failed to ask my guide why it wasn’t served sliced since they never give you a sharp enough knife to slice it, but methinks its meant to be torn, and not sliced. But don’t trust my word for it.

When you order pizza, the server will tell you that is meant for one person only, but they will give you an entire wheel of pizza, and not a slice. Although the crust is really thin, I still think that it is a little bit hard to finish on my own.

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Pomodoro, with the pointy tomatoes Naples is famous for

Pasta

There are many lovely pasta dishes in Italy. What we see in most of the Italian restaurants we go to everywhere in the world are pretty standard in Italy. However, what I did notice that in all the restaurants that we went to, the noodles are consistently al dente. I don’t know if its because they make better pasta, but it is really cooked perfectly. Another thing I’ve observed is that their pasta is always bursting with flavor. And I think it has something to do with the many different spices they put in it, not to mention the copious amount of tomatoes. My daughter ordered a Pomodoro in Naples and it was filled with many small and pointy tomatoes that burst with flavor in every bite. And of course, let’s not forget about the cheese they put on the pasta. I think the ones we ate in all served freshly grated parmesan, which really does improve the taste. I don’t think I can eat pasta again without comparing it to the ones I had in Italy.

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This is where my selfish self came out as I almost didn’t want to share my gelato!

Dessert

Yeah, I didn’t tell you I was going to mention this, but who would want to skip dessert? Like the Japanese swirly ice cream, you must not skip Italian gelatto. It is a mountain of heaven piled on a cone or a cup. It doesn’t hurt my throat, I don’t know why because I am notoriously weak in eating regular ice cream. I think all adults should try a limoncello as well. It is an alcoholic beverage that is made from lemons. I thought it was a perfect after meal drink to balance all the flavors of the meal.

Yeah, if that didn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will!