Saturday, January 31, 2009

wanted: a home to call our own

All couples plan of creating a dream home. It's something that we all plan, at the back of our heads, while in the midst of all the daily grind -- working, sending the kids to school, saving up for vacations, etc.

But before creating one's dream home, we need to get away from the cycle of house rentals. Monthly rentals are punitive. Multiply your monthly rents by 12, and it's a huge savings had the money gone straight to the bank.

We are renting for about 4 years already. We're paying 10,500 pesos monthly for a 2-bedroom, 1bath apartment. Despite the high cost, we endure it, because the location is good, very accessible to modes of transportation, and the unit is in a compound, making it safe for the kids to play within its confines.

As much we wanted to have our own home early on, the initial equity for new house and lots, or even a plain lot, or worse, condos are really high.

A year ago, we started planning the constructing of our own home, in an lot we've purchased a long time ago, in an exclusive subdivision. However, the hassles of home construction, the high cost of construction materials, labor costs, and the availability of someone whom you can trust to oversee everything are real challenges. We decided to put-off the attempt for awhile.

Just recently, a real estate agent invited me to look over an old townhouse near our office. It's being sold on a "sacrifice amount" because the owner is desperate for cash. Location has always been the top of our list when we scout for our future home. We believe that no matter how beautiful one's home is, if it takes you 2hours to go home everyday, it's not worth it.

The townhouse is quite dilapited. It's about 14years old. It wasn't properly maintained by the owner. But there is great potential, once it's renovated. It's just 38.5sq m. but with 4stories. It's just enough for our small family. Thus, we decided to take the plunge.

Renovation challenges... next!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ang Alamat ni Mariang Makiling

Everytime we go home to Lukban, Quezon. We pass upon two huge mountains, Mt. Makiling along Los Banos, Laguna and Mt. Banahaw, in Quezon. If the kids get impatient and rowdy, as usual asking the proverbial question, "Are we there yet?" It's time for Mommy to concoct tales from the passenger seats, and entertain her listening public of 3 boys (Baby Ivan, Kuya Hans and Daddy Ted).

One of these stories is the Alamat ni Mariang Makiling (in reference to the beautiful slopes of Bundok ng Susong Dalaga, which we were passing through), of course, I could not talk about the Maiden's Breast to the kids. They're content with the Mariang Makiling legend.

And so it goes,
" Once upon a time, in the mountains of Mt. Makiling, there lived a beautiful fairy called Mariang Makiling. She is kind-hearted lady, a friend of all the birds, animals and people of the land. She's also very generous, and the townsfolks go to her, when they needed to borrow things for their events like weddings, christenings, etc.
But as the years passed by, the people changed. Instead of being thankful for all the kindness of Mariang Makiling. They abused her kindness, by not returning the things they borrow, by hunting the animals in the forest and throwing their trash in the forest.
Because of man's activities, the fairy shied away from the people. She went deeper into the forest, not bothering to associate with the townsfolks again.

Coming from New Year Celebration in my hubby's hometown Lukban, Quezon, we decided to drop by UP Los BaƱos and have a picnic at the Makiling Botanical Garden. I know Makiling Botanical Garden during our courtship days. Ted and I visited it once and we were amazed at the huge old trees still preserved.

We bought lunch at KFC outside UPLB. One pays only 10 Php /person to get inside the park. It was 2 days after New Year, we had the park to ourselves! The scene was quiet and serene. The greenery was refreshing. Like in any picsnics, huge ants want to share your food.

We followed the cemented trails inside the park. We saw huge Narra, Yakal and Molave Trees. We also passed thru a small stream. We could have gone deeper into the forest but we were pressed for time.

Inside the park, we also saw the beautiful flower Medenilla Magnifica. I recall that Myra, my former colleague in ABS-CBN did a segment or something about this flower. I can't recall what makes it special, either it is endemic locally or was developed by a local scientist. I knew we've seen it somewhere in the mountains during our mountain climbing days.

If you want a cheap and fun day getaway. I highly recommend Makiling Botanical Park. The kids can run around, learn a thing or two about nature. You yourself will also get refreshed. Best of all, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Baguio Holiday, day3

On our 3rd day and last day in Baguio, we went to the Baguio Public Market. My mother-in-law wanted to buy Ilocano blankets and brooms for pasalubong to her other children. We wanted to buy fresh vegetables and more strawberries.

While Ted, my mother-in-law and the kids went boat-riding at Burnham Park. My nephew and i went to the public market. As soon as you set foot inside, you will be acosted by well-meaning vendors, kids selling plastic bags or offering to carry your bags. Do not buy immediately from those vendors, sitting in the middle of the market, without any "pwesto." It's cheaper to buy from those who have their own stalls and there are varietry of choices.

We bought carrots, cauliflowers, red/ green peppers, potatos, cherry potatoes, native garlic & onions, and of course, more strawberries. Walk a little farther to get to the Maharlika Building, it's connected to the market, to find the nice Ilocos Blankets and beautiful Igorot weaves. I wish I did my Christmas shopping there. A set of 6 colorful placemats costs only 150 Pesos! Table runners costs the same.

A visit to Baguio will not be complete without dropping by the numerous Ukay-ukay stores. I can get myself lost in these shops for a whole day! There are so many great finds. Unfortunately, when you're travelling with the whole family, there's really no time.

I sneak into 5 shops while waiting for Ted to fetch us in our agreed meeting place, Petron Gas Station. There's this place that sells vintage Louie Vittons, Gucci, Coach bags. Oh my! I was salivating! I was looking for funky shoes. Something that I can wear leggings with. I can't find any my size. But, I chance upon a Miumiu black loafers that's my size. I couldn't pass it up. costs only 300 bucks :)

We went back to the hotel to check-out. Ivan is well-known with the staff, albeit, being the subject of their reports, due to the table banging incident the day before.

Going down, we passed by the Philippine Military Academy. It's quite a walk from the parking to the main campus. If you have old folks along with you, they can browse the museum. But for those who have the energy, go for the long walk inside the campus. The weather is cool, and there are nice photo-ops areas along the way.

If you see a cadet or two, you can ask them to pose for photos with you. They are generally accomodating, except some seniors, who always seem to have a perpetually grim expression.

Going back enroute home, we passed by Kennon View Deck. It offers a perfect view of the winding road going to Baguio. There's a small museum about how Kennon Road was established by Americans using Japanese prisoners of war.

Be sure to plan where to eat or prepare some baon. There are few restaurants from Baguio to Dagupan. You'll probably end up eating at bus drivers' joints, should you get hungry on the long drive home... which is what exactly happened to us. :(

In Dagupan, there are a lot of road vendors selling crabs and huge prawns. We bought prawns for the New Year celebration. Needless to say, we were duped because their weighing scale is faulty. Well, it's Christmas, afterall, and my husband Ted, advised me to let it pass.

Till Next Trip...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baguio Holiday

The last time Ted and I went to Baguio was about 6 years ago. We were newly-weds. It was December and the weather was nippy. We didn't have a car yet, we took a bus and we just commute around the city.
Last Christmas Day, we packed our small SUV with the 2 kids, my nephew johnrick and my mother-in-law Nanay Luming and joined the thousands of city slickers making the trek to the city of pines.

I was a bit apprehensive on the journey. I know how treacherous the roads are, and the danger of landslides. But my apprehensions were unnecessary. My husband is a confident driver. He reminded me that we've driven the longest route to Pagudpud last summer 2008. He's also has not a stranger to zigzags. The road to his hometown, Quezon has steep rounding climbs also.

The journey up was long and beautiful, especially the going up. We took the Kennon Road. I'm sure this route is not safe during rainy season. There were plenty of erosion prone areas. The steep climb only took about 45minutes.

We stayed at The Manor at Camp John Hay (CJH). I think it's one of the best hotels in Baguio. The city itself is very crowded. I don't want to make the same mistake of getting a hotel, like last time, right smack in the city. If you're in Baguio and want to experience the beautiful pine trees, the grass and of course, the cool weather. You have to book yourself inside the Camp John Hay or the nearby Teachers' Camp. That's where you can still feel the Baguio of long ago.

The Manor is beautiful, theme is country. However, unfortunate incident happened when Ivan ran after me going to our room. He bumped his head / eye into a table, which was haphazardly strewed about, being fixed for evening diners. Good thing, Ivan had the strength to use both his arms to prevent his head from bumping on the floor. I was so shocked, and we brought him to the clinic. Thanks God, it was just a small cut, but his eye area was swollen.

Our room is a two-bedroom number at the ground floor with a simple veranda, that overlooks the beautifully-manicured garden. The cool weather doesn't call for air-conditioning. We only have a lovely ceiling fan, dispersing the cold air.

Across Camp John Hay is a strip of restaurants and retails shops called Mile Long. We were looking for a place to eat, but the place is too crowded with people. So, we decided to go out to the city and go to Cafe by the Ruins, a friend recommended the place. However, it was either closed for the holiday or has folded-up.

We decided to go back to CJH. There was a shakey's and figaro inside near the arts center. While eating our manager's pizza and some capuccino. We listen to the bonggo players jamming it out near a bonfire.

On our first day, we had a yummy breakfast at Country Waffles. A breakfast plate of Baguio Longganisa, 2 eggs and Rice cost about 250 Php and there's no coffee with it. The flapjacks are huge. One serving is two pieces, served with sausages. No kid will be able to finish. Order to share.

After breakfast, we drove to the Mansion, the official summer residence of philippines presidents. We would have wanted to go horseback riding, but there were so many people. Fortunately, across the Mansion there was a guy who made his horse available for photo-taking & quick ride. The kids enjoyed the short experience.

We didn't want to go to the usual Baguio hotspots because of the crowd. So, we forego The Minesview Park. The last time we went there, we were not impressed because it was so commercialized. The view deck was so narrow, and numerous presistent vendors obstructed the view.

We, instead went to the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad. It's about 20minutes drive away from the city, but the traffic is horrible. As soon as you're there, go directly to the fields. There are 'bantays' whom you can talk to directly, if you want to pick the berries yourselves. A kilo of strawberries that you've picked yourself cost 300 Php. If you buy them ready, it's 150Php. If you want to pick fresh lettuce, it's about 20Php a kilo. There are also cabbages and leeks.

Another unfortunate incident, when my son Ivan saw the juicy, red, berries. He couldn't contain himself, picked some and it went straight to his mouth! Then, someone told us, not to pick berries on that part, because it was just recently sprayed with pesticides!! Oh my! I was so scared. I was told that if one swallowed poison, you need sugar as first aid. So, we bought Strawberry Taho and made Ivan finish a whole cup. Well, he's ok. No after-effects :)

My husband wanted to see the Rice Terraces. We asked around how long it usually takes to get to Banaue. It looks near on the map, but actually it's another 6 hours drive! It's like going to Baguio from Manila, again! But still, we were insistent, we drove and drove for an hour or so, hoping to catch a glimpse of some rice terraces near the city. We did get some great views. The roads up to Benguet, are all hugging the mountainsides. We gave up our quest, when it seems the roads are endless. We went back to the city.

We killed time enjoying our hotel. Hans, wanted to have a picnic. He envies the group of friends, families having picnic in the grassy parks inside camp john hay. Ted wants to stay in the hotel and bum. I want to go to Mile Long strip and scout the shops.

We ended up strolling at the Bell Amphitheater, where the Bell House is also located. (I understand Bell, was the American who established Camp John Hay). We also went to The Lost Cemetery. It's a place where an American staff long ago, thought of symbolically burying negative emotions. I think it was a great idea. What a catharsis for him!

The Bell house is huge. It's like a mansion. It must have been really, really awesome during its heydays. We went around the nooks and crannies.

Ted and Nanay didn't want to have dinner. They went back to the hotel. So, the kids, Johnrick and I went to window shop at Mile Long. It used to be the concessionaire for the Americans. Now, it's just a row of shops and restos. They have Havainas, Crocs, Dencios and local restos. The souvenir shops are a bit pricey, not that we're interested to buy. We had dinner at the Diner something. Nice set-up ala 70s bistro, with a jukebox and all. But the food is so-so. We ordered steaks and some homestyle fried chicken. We should have stuck to club house sandwiches, which the other diners did.

1st Medal - Kumon

Hans received his first medal. This came from his Kumon class, which he started earlier than his playschool. He received a bronze medal, which means he's one level above his level in a regular Math class.
When I was still studying at Andres Soriano Junior Memorial School, I often receive medals during Recognition Day. Modesty aside, it's pretty common occurance that i find it "no big deal" even if my parents do not attend the Recognition Day. Usually, it's my favorite teacher who pins the ribbon or award the medal to me.
Now, that I'm a parent, it's a different matter. I feel so proud to be one of the parents who kids have an award. Also, it feels satisfying to know that my son is learning something, that all the hardwork is worth it.

Hans was the first one called. I didn't know that I had to be the one to pin the medal on him. So, I just stood aside with Ivan while and my hubby Ted, took photos. It was the teacher who awarded him the medal.
Since I started it that way, all the next awardees' parents did the same. They just let the teacher award the medal. Then, I recall, the practice should be, the teacher give the medal to me, then I should award the medal to my son. Sayang.
Anyway, I'm sure this will not be the last :) But the first one will always be memorable.
Hans, being a prep is the smalles who was given the medal in Bronze.

Enrolling him in Kumon is really worth the monthly 1,880 Php tuition fee. Kumon gives daily homework, which instill discipline. We rarely have difficulty getting him to open his books. Except after a long vacation, even if there are kumon homework that he needs to do daily, it's really difficult to get him to do them. Iba ang focus.
He started Kumon reading subjects. But i'm not so "bilib" with kumon's reading style. It's all so based on pictures. The pictures becomes more of a crutch, rather than a tool to help them read.
So, we decided to really concentrate on Math. I think mabilis lang naman matuto magbasa, once you know the basics. I want him to develop the love for math... something which I failed to have growing up.