Author: anjc815

A Beginner’s Trek to the Sierra Madre

This is how much of a beginner I am: I had to research the difference between hiking and trekking to make sure that my title was correct. Hiking apparently is a more leisurely activity, and the roads you walk on are normally paved or manmade. Trekking (which I am now more certain is the activity that I engaged in) is a more challenging and rigorous activity. My aching bones and muscles the day after could attest to how “rigorous” it was.

What was the objective of my trek? It was to reforest a part of the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines. Why did I think of doing this? Blame Jane Goodall and her campaign on spreading the awareness that reforesting is still the simplest solution towards solving the problem of climate change.

My friend and fellow environment supporter told me that she and a group of students would be going up the mountain on the weekend, and against all physical constraints (I have chronic back pain) and common sense (she said that the trek could take up to six hours), I decided to sign up for it. After all, you never know when you will be given that opportunity again.

It almost didn’t happen because early that morning, it rained steadily, and as I knew that we would be crossing rivers, I was half wishing the event would be cancelled. But I think that Mother Nature sensed we had an urgent mission to get to and so she didn’t hold us back. At about 5 am, about forty of us were on our way, fieldtrip-style, to Rizal. An hour and a half later, upon arriving at Laiban, we rode a rickety jeep for another 45 minutes to travel across dirt roads and about 8 small rivers. Only then did the actual trek begin.

A little over two hours, 3 thigh-high rivers, countless narrow and muddy trails later, we arrived at the planting site. The site was on a slope, and so while I was putting each plant in the hole and covering it up with soil, I was also saying a silent prayer for 2 things: 1. that the plant would survive and 2. that I would survive going down.

Many firsts happened that day. It was the first time for me to ride a jeep that could cross rivers (Who would’ve thought our own local jeeps could rival amphibious vehicles?). It was my first time on the Sierra Madre (It was breathtaking. Definitely one for the books). It was my first time to get acquainted with a limatik, a blood leech that inhabited Philippine forests. I am so glad that I didn’t get to see the actual leech sucking my belly as I might have really freaked out. The only evidence that the leech did bite me was my very bloody shirt, and the fact that it took a while for the wound to clot (blood leeches secrete Hirudin that has anticoagulant properties). All in all, it was a good day for Mother Earth, a good bonding/exercise time with one of my closest friends and my husband, and a very satisfying meal for the leech. Win-win-win.

I hope that I will still have the energy to bring my daughter with me to plant trees. The trek is too dangerous for her right now, but someday, I want her to be able to play her part in helping the world we live in. After all, she will inherit it in whatever form it will be in the future.

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Airline Review: Etihad Airways

I think I’ve done the rounds of most middle eastern airlines because for some reason, they have cheaper flights for trips outside of Asia.

For our trip to Italy/Spain, we went with Etihad Airways. The stopover of our flight was in Abu Dhabi.

Let’s run through my basic requirements.

  1. In-flight entertainment. I can’t complain. They have an awesome selection of movies, and their screens are huge!
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  3. You could monitor the plane from the screen!
  4. 2. Food Selection. Well, one thing’s for sure–you won’t get hungry. They also have very cute meals for the young ones in case you have kids traveling with you.
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  6. The chocolate mousse was yummy, according to the mom who gobbled it up.
  7. 3. Special Features. I particularly liked the windows that had a remote control “shade” or filter. You didn’t actually have physical shades or blinds to pull down. To darken the windows, all you needed to do was press a button. Very fancy.
  8. 4. Stopover. I think this is something that also needs to be included in the consideration. The entire airport of Abu Dhabi was open. All of the shops and restaurants were open. We arrived there in the wee hours of the morning and we could still shop and eat. It really does help that you can do something while waiting for your connecting flight.

5. Restrooms. My batting average is 3 for 3. I was not happy with the restroom conditions of all middle eastern airlines. I think that at this point, it is safe to say that this is not their forte.

Overall, I’d still fly Etihad again, if the price is right.

An Open Letter to Mothers of Boys

Dear Mothers of Boys,

What a unique time for us to be mothers. There is so much opportunity and openness in this world to enable the next generations to improve upon themselves. But, there are still a lot of old biases and preconceived notions which tend to get passed down which is why I felt it necessary to write this letter.

I am coming from the point of view of a mother blessed with a daughter. And while I see that many of my peers make a deliberate effort to educate themselves on what the responsibilities of parents are, there are still some who tend to let culture and traditions take over the parenting and the decision-making.

I’ve recently read Chimamanda Adichie’s fifteen suggestions in raising a feminist girl, and while I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, I felt that mothers of boys need just as much help and guidance. I don’t consider myself an expert on raising boys or on feminism, but I do see a pattern of how some mothers treat their sons which need to be addressed.

So here are my five unsolicited suggestions on how to raise boys (not in order of importance).

  1. Let your boys be responsible for their actions. Do not excuse rowdy behavior or rude language by saying that “boys will be boys.” When your boys break things, teach them to apologize for what they did. Give them consequences for their actions. By giving them permission to behave badly, you set up a pattern of behavior that they will carry as they grow older. Ever wonder why some men get away with thinking that they could do no wrong? It’s probably because their mothers always had a ready excuse for their behavior. I had a twenty-something male employee who had his mother complain to us on his behalf. He literally brought his mother to our office to tell us that we shouldn’t impose sanctions on him.
  2. Let your boys do a variety of chores. Many will affirm that assigning chores to your children help teach skills that they will eventually need to survive in this world. But to push the concept further, I suggest that you challenge your boys to do chores that are not necessarily “manly”. Instead of just letting him help wash daddy’s car, let him do the dishes with mommy. Or better yet, assign a day for daddy and son to be the ones to cook dinner. Having a strong male role model will definitely leave a positive impression on your son.
  3. Train your boys to commit to something. When they start a project, make sure they see it through, preferably with very little assistance from you. I don’t know how many times my mother asked me to finish my brother’s school projects. I kept on telling her that if I had finished the project, the credit should go to me. But at that time, my mother did not trust my brother enough to allow him to make his own mistakes. He still finds it hard to decide on his own.
  4. Teach your boys the words to identify their feelings. Don’t tell your boys not to cry when they are hurt or for them to just “suck it up”. These words stick to them and make them think that feelings are not valid. They grow up perceiving that women are too emotional or overly sensitive. They become adults who are uncomfortable when they encounter people who cry or who know how to express their feelings. When your son is mad or frustrated, teach him to explain to you what made him feel that way. Studies show that kids who are unable to express their feelings tend to become more aggressive.
  5. Teach your boys to be patient. Boys tend to prefer to be in motion all the time. They like to run, jump and kick things. But, it is important for them to also know how to cool down. Teach him how to read books, to solve puzzles, to wait for things to come. Sometimes, we feel that we need to keep them actively entertained all the time. This leaves us exhausted and out of energy. By teaching them activities that take time to do, they will develop patience. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’ve seen some parents succeed with this through consistency of action.

Raising today’s generation is tricky, to say the least. But there is also a lot of good that has come out of our learnings from our experiences. May you find the strategy that works best for you and your child.

Smart Travels: Madrid

I’m doing a thread of smart travels to help those who are planning their future trips make the most out of their journeys.

Madrid, as I’ve learned, is a city that comes alive in the afternoon. Breakfasts at our normal Filipino times (7 to 8 am) is practically unheard of. When you go to the mall at 10 (yes, the mall does open early), don’t expect the dining places to be open earlier than 12 or 12:30.

TIP #1: Breakfast

If your hotel does not serve breakfast, make sure you go to the grocery and buy easy breakfast food that you can prepare, like fruits, cheese and bread. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids. They will get fussy and no one wants that. Now, if you’re really not keen on making preparations, or stocking food, look for the San Gines Churreria which is open 24 hours. Churros dipped in hot chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for Spaniards.

TIP #2: Free Walking Tours

Now, if you’re ever wanting to learn about Madrid’s rich history and their leaders (eg. Isabel II), you might want to take advantage of some companies that give free walking tours. All you need to do is sign up online and you’re set for a walk around the city. Cost? Just tip your guide! You’ll also most likely have a coffee break at another Churreria 😊

TIP #3: Free Museum Entrance

Just like Milan, Spain’s museums offer free entrance an hour before closing time. By the time you finish your walking tour, have a coffee break and take a very late lunch (around 3-ish), you’ll most likely be just in time to take advantage of this freebie.

TIP #4: Flamenco!

Wondering what to do with the money you’ve saved taking advantage of all the freebies? Why splurge on a Flamenco night of course! Yes, it’s bit pricey (about €40), but it comes with a free drink and an hour long of feverish dancing! Cap your night off with some paella from the nearby mercato and you’re set!

Smart Travels: Milan

Milan is quite an expensive place to visit, with museums costing on average € 15, and simple meals at € 10. However, if you’re smart, you can still save a few euros without depriving yourself of a good time.

TIP 1: Transport Cards

There are 2 types of transpo tickets that can get you around the city. One is a €1.50 card that expires within 90 minutes after use. There’s another that’s €4.50, that can be used for the entire day. Now, you might think that the obvious choice is the €4.50 one since it’s for the whole day. But here’s the thing—sometimes, you will really only need to use it twice (going to one place, and then going back to the hotel). That means you’ll actually be better off with the one-time use card. Remember, Milan is a walking city. If you’re going to the center where all the museums and shops are, you just might opt for walking.

*Note: kids 10 and below ride free.

TIP 2: Museums

How many museums can you possibly go through in a day? Now that really depends on the museum and your patience in walking. Some, like the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, are all in Italian. While there are important pieces there from Da Vinci, like some paintings and his codex, there are hardly any English translations. You will need an audioguide to survive this. A complete walkthrough might take you about 2 hours. So, assuming you do a museum in the morning, take a leisurely lunch, a walk/in the park/shopping in the afternoon, you should just be on time to avail of the ‘free’ museum pass—around 4 or 5 pm, an hour before the museum closes. I suggest to research about the museum and go directly to its most important pieces to save on time. A beautiful place to visit in the afternoon is the Castellos Sforzesco. You can buy food-to-go and then eat it at the park.

TIP 3: Food

There aren’t really any “cheap” food in Milan, unless you prefer to eat standing up. But there are some good deals. We tried the Trattoria de Pino and it serves 3-course meals for only €16! It also comes with either mineral water or a glass of wine. You can also order ala carte for the young ones. Ask for the Filipino waiter so that he can explain the menu in English.

TIP 4: Souvenir Shopping

I really didn’t do souvenir research in any of my previous travels, until a recent one in Korea. Because there were so many products, I thought it would be best to search the net for recommended ones. I did the same for Italy and got some really good deals!

Unique stuff to buy:

Marvis Toothpaste: Yes, who would’ve thunk it would be a good idea to bring home toothpaste? Well, for one thing, it’s an Italian brand. It has a cult following that swears by it. And it comes in very quirky flavors and great packaging. Buy them in pharmaceuticals or select groceries.

Soaps: Italy is home to scents so don’t forget to grab a couple. I didn’t put here any brand in particular because they had so many suggestions.

Door Knobs: I swear I’ve never seen so many different knobs in my life! Sold in hardware stores

Happy travels!

Comfort Food @Nono’s

In Manila, good restaurants are never far away. On one of my “Wednesday Date Days” with hubby, we stepped into Nono’s, a recently opened restaurant located in the newly renovated Podium. For those who haven’t been to Podium recently, you will be pleasantly surprised to see its fresh look complimented with a ton of new restaurants! We’ve tried a couple already and so far, I’ve been happy with our choices.

Now, back to Nono’s. Stepping into its calming vintage green interior and loads of fresh greenery definitely takes me back to the sixties.

As they touted their comfort food, I, of course, ordered fried chicken (my definition of comfort food). We also ordered cheese wontons and a plate of pasta for sharing.

The cheese wontons were yummy, with a drizzling of honey and nuts. With the way it looks, I assume the wontons were torched.  It was just enough to satisfy my cravings for cheese, without ruining my appetite.

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Cheesy wontons drizzled with honey and nuts

The plate of pasta was too much for a party of two, but it would be a great order for bigger groups. I loved the freshness of the cherry tomatoes and had I not stopped myself, I could’ve easily gorged on the flavorful garlic bread.

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Carb fest!

Now on to the pièce de résistance—the fried chicken to  be dipped in gravy and honey! It came with a side of potatoes and corn (no diet here folks!) Among the three orders though, I’m afraid this was my least favorite. Not that the chicken tasted bad. I just didn’t like the gravy, which was too peppery for my taste. Hubby, on the other hand, enjoyed it. When the staff asked me if I was enjoying the meal, I said that I was, except for the gravy. And you know what? She was kind enough to make me a fresh batch. That’s service!

Nono’s is located at the second level of The Podium Mall.
12 ADB ave. Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.
(02) 637 5147
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Leave the diet at home.

3 Reasons Why Color Manila Runs are Not for Kids

Last February 24, daughter and I went for our third fun run. This time, we wanted to try something different and when I saw the ad for the Color Manila Black Light event, I signed us up immediately. Husband was not very happy with my decision, asking me if it was safe for me to bring our daughter. The run was slated to start way into the night (9:20 pm to be exact) and he feared that the venue (McKinley Hill) would be too dark. But I was insistent, saying that our daughter was up for it and we’d be extra careful. Plus, the kit was supposed to come with headlights so I was thinking that we were well-prepared for the dark.

Unfortunately (and I hate it when this happens), hubby was right, but not for the reasons that he gave.

Here are my top 3 reasons why I would not repeat a run with Color Manila if I had to tag a kid along:

  1. It was waaaaay too crowded. I don’t know if they oversold the fun run, but you couldn’t safely run in that kind of crowd. Because the roads were too narrow, my daughter got hit on the face by a runner who was going the opposite way. I think the organizers picked the wrong venue for this. If repeated, they should put a cap on how many people can fit on the road.
  2. As most of the participants were young-ish (mostly in their early 20’s), they were quite playful. One of them initiated a tag game with her friend, and they would weave through the crowd as they tried to “tag” each other–very unsafe. The others would stop midwalk to take a selfie or to literally swim in the powdered coloring. I’m not a serious runner, but I do jog. If somebody suddenly stops in front of me,  I could actually hit them.
  3. There are certain areas in McKinley, particularly the white lanes that are uncharacteristically slippery. In the 5k run, we had to go through it around three times, and in all those three times, I had to walk very very slowly just to make sure we didn’t fall.

While the pictures may look like we had loads of fun, in my mind, I was extremely conscious that I could be endangering my child by exposing her to a place as crowded as this. Mommies, there are many family-friendly fun runs out there. Not Color Run Manila, please.

Dining at Foo’d

Many of my friends turned forty this year. And it’s been a lot of fun seeing how they decided to celebrate their personal milestones. A college friend of mine had her very own pictorial with her besties, while another one decided to treat us to a 5-course dinner. Since it’s a rare occurrence for me to be treated to such a fancy meal, I decided to write about it.

The dinner was held at Foo’d by Davide Oldani, a relatively new resto in Shangri-la BGC. When you receive their menu, they will give you their standard signature dish. However, they’ll also give you many other options in case you don’t like one (or more) of the items. So, you have a lot of room to customize your menu. I chose their signature 5-course meal which consisted of Cipollo Caramellata, Truffle Cacio e Pepe, Salmon D’o, Pork Ribs and Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert (fancy names I will explain later).

As the orders come in, the chef will approach you to explain what he is serving. It was a bit hard to listen to him because I was hungry and wanted to eat the moment the food arrived. Hahaha.

Ok, now to evaluate each plate. By the way, they also served appetizers, such as super flaky breadsticks and complimentary bread. However, I suggest you go easy on these because a five-course meal is very filling, even if the servings look tiny.

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Complimentary bread

The first plate was the cipollo caramellata. It was white onion on a very flaky pie crust. The edges of the crust and the onion had a caramel coat on top, making this a very sweet appetizer. I love white onions and if you’ve ever had one, it really is already sweet on its own. I loved this first dish, but I was also very conscious that I still have four more plates to go.

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Cipollo Caramellata- caramelized onions, 24 months aged grana palano gelato, grana Padano hot cream

The second dish was truffle cacio e pepe–spaghetti with lemon and truffle oil. I loved this dish and hope that someday, I can replicate it. The truffle oil wasn’t overpowering so you only had a hint of mushroom. But the lemon in the pasta was so refreshing. I could eat this on its own and be very satisfied with it.

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Spaghetti, lemon, pecorino romano, black pepper, truffle oil

On the third plate, we were given the option of seabass or salmon. I’ve always enjoyed salmon so I opted for this one. The salmon skin was crispy, but in my humble opinion, the salmon itself was a little overcooked. So, out of the five dishes, this was my least favorite. However, my friend who ordered the seabass said that it was melts-in-your-mouth delicious.

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Seabass or salmon, lettuce, caviar d’o

The fourth plate was my meat dish. I had a lot of choices, from wagyu to conchinillo, but I picked this for health reasons. Hahahaha! Under it was a flavorful gravy, which hubby likened to Mang Tomas, but of course, it wasn’t. The pork was very soft and easy to chew. This would be perfect for those on a keto diet because it wasn’t paired with any rice.

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Pork Ribs (I actually forgot to write down the correct name of this dish)

And the finale was a dark chocolate mousse. I’ve got to say, I think the bit of rock salt sprinkled on the chocolate and the freeze-dried raspberries really made the flavors pop. Too bad I had taken coffee before going to Foo’d. Otherwise, it would have made a perfect partner, and a great way to end to this five-course meal.

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Cacao crumble, framboise, dark chocolate gelato

Beauty Review: Etude House Bebe Foot Mask

I’ve always used cosmetics by Etude House, but this was my first time to try its Bebe Foot Mask. On a recent trip to Korea, I purchased a box for myself because I wanted to have softer and more evenly-colored skin on my feet.

At the back of the package, it says that the mask can remove dead skin cells and can lessen foot odor.

The Etude House Bebe Foot Mask box is light green, with an illustration of a pair of feet. I’ve had to clarify with the sales woman that this was in fact a peeling foot mask, and not one that just moisturizes the feet.

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The foot sheets were quite big on me, which is why it was helpful that the sheets came with a tie that you could wrap around your ankles. I carefully poured the liquid inside each foot sheet and tied it. Note to those who would want to try this: Make sure that before you do this, you’ve done everything that you need to do (eg. go to the bathroom, get some snacks, set up a movie to watch, etc.) because it is quite a long wait before you can take the sheets off, and it can get cumbersome (and possibly unsafe) to walk around with wet and slippery sheets on your feet. After the hour and a half is up, I removed the sheets, washed the excess solution from my feet and wiped it dry. Except for my feet feeling cold, I didn’t notice anything different the whole time I was wearing the sheets. I thought that maybe the procedure didn’t work.

But lo and behold! Exactly 4 days after wearing the sheets, the skin on my feet began to peel in big chunks, revealing pinkish skin underneath my grayish-yellow dead skin. I’m grateful because a couple of days ago, my feet were soaking wet from the rain, and I was really doubtingl that the solution could still work. But it has. Already, my sole is looking a lot better. Plus, even the top of my foot is starting to peel, which means my discolored skin can even out.

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Graphic content! Avert your eyes if peeling skin gross you out =P

Beauty Review: MBD White Lily Brightening Essence Mask

The My Beauty Diary brand was first introduced to me by my niece who went to Taiwan and bought a pack for herself. She said that MBD was a well-known brand for sheet masks. And so naturally, when I went to Taiwan, I searched for it and found it on sale at a Cosmed store (something like our Watsons here in the Ph).

On the front of the packaging, this mask claims that it is for brightening and freshening. The essences from olive leaf extracts and the sodium ascorbyl phosphate is supposed to brighten skin complexion.

The My Beauty Diary White Lily Brightening Essence Mask comes in a shiny light green box with seven masks in it. It is very attractively packaged, with drawings of white lilies sprinkled on the box and on the mask sleeve.

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When I opened the package, I was a bit surprised that the under the mask was a foil-like backing. I was hesitant at first to throw it away, but I realized that it might have been placed there to allow for easier opening of the mask.

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When I placed the mask on my face, I noticed the light floral scent of the mask, which was relaxing to me since I can be easily nauseated with strong scents. The mask came a little bit short on my forehead, but long on my chin, which was to be expected since I have a small face.

I set a timer for the product to stay on my face for 20 minutes. About 10 minutes in, I could feel a bit of tingling on my skin, which might be the acids working. By twenty minutes, I could already feel the mask beginning to dry out, which in my opinion, is a good sign since I feel like my face is absorbing the product well enough. I’ve tried masks before that never seem to dry out, and the whole time, you are left feeling sticky and gooey. This was not like that, and once I removed the mask, I could feel tightness around my face. In a few minutes, the liquid was completely absorbed by my skin, leaving no sticky residue. However, I didn’t notice the brightening effect, most likely since I always apply my masks in the evening, when I’m about to sleep.

Conclusion: I plan to repurchase the My Beauty Diary White Lily Brightening Essence Mask since I like how it made my skin feel firmer and smoother. It is also quite reasonably priced.