Sunday, March 31, 2013

She's 17!

I can't believe my first born is 17 years old today. When parents ask "where did the time go?", we really are serious about it. It's like we look away for a bit and when we look again, our kids are all grown up and no longer clingy, needy toddlers. 

Several times during Anissa's growing up years, I felt that lump in my throat, because I always thought she was growing up way too fast. I felt this way when she started going to pre-school, when I shifted her to big school, when she had her First Holy Communion, when she graduated grade school, on her first day as a high school student, when she attended her first soiree and most recently, when she had her Junior Prom and was invited to the La Salle Greenhills Junior Prom. 

I'm feeling that lump again as I create this entry in observance of her birthday. 

She's 17!

One year away from becoming an adult
One year away from college
Heck, maybe one year or less away from having her first boyfriend! 

I think she was about 2 years old in this photo. Sigh. 

When you're a parent (or a sometimes overly-emotional mother like I am), you tend to really go sentimental when your kids' birthdays come around. Every year is an important milestone worth celebrating in whatever way. My Anissa was an only child and only grandchild for the first 10 years of her life. Hence, she was always everyone's center of attention. She was the apple of my parents' eyes, especially my late Dad's. She's also the youngest grandchild on her Daddy's side, easily that side of the family's baby as well. 

My Dearest Baby Girl ... my talented, driven, sometimes obsessive, creative, artistic girl ... the one who doesn't like to be fussed over, the one who hates noise (or is it just noisy people?), the argumentative one who just won't stop until she gets an answer or a proper explanation, the one who dances like there's no tomorrow (like me? admit it na!), the one who is also so talented in singing but loves to dance more, the girl who always wants things to be okay, the one who never wants anyone to be mad or upset with her, the one who is bothered when people don't get along, the kind of friend who likes to do things for her friends, temperamental and sensitive, my daughter who is my opposite in many ways ...

you give me many reasons to be proud of you. I look at you today and I have to pinch myself because I can hardly believe I have to stop treating you like a child. You are all grown up, capable of making decisions, choosing your friends, going for the things that you want --- while relying on Mommy to guide you still. I appreciate that you take the time to share stories and ask for my advice. I cherish these moments because they reassure me that I'm still needed, even if I know most of the time you'd rather not have me or your Dad around. I apologize for the times I give in to my weaknesses and allow you to see my not-so-good side and I thank you for understanding me when this happens. More importantly, thank you for stepping up and being strong ever since I told you about my breast cancer diagnosis, for praying for me and being there for your little sister. I cannot thank you enough for this. 

As you slowly continue to break away from Mommy's hold and try to discover what the world has to offer you, I pray for the Lord's constant protection and guidance. I pray for you to be surrounded by friends who genuinely care for you and won't influence you to do things your heart is against but will share your interests, understand your passion and encourage you to always be the best that you can be in anything you undertake. I'm really happy that your high school friends are the kind you can be proud of and that at this age, you know who your real friends are. At the same time, I'm also thankful that your circle continues to grow as you get exposed to new people and experience new things.

The world is your oyster. It is anyone's. But while you're given freedom to do the things you enjoy and want, don't be distracted by it and always remember that your parents trust you enough to allow you to experience the world. But with trust, comes a responsibility to know your limits and to put your foot down on things you were taught to stay away from or avoid. I love that you express yourself beautifully and intelligently always, I love that your logic is way more mature than a 17 year old's that I'm sometimes ashamed to admit that you make more sense than I do. I love that bad grammar bothers you like it does me hahaha!

Seriously though ... never ever be remiss in counting your blessings (big or small), for it is this exercise that will keep you grounded and in touch with reality always.

You are at that age where you feel you don't need your parents much. I can understand that and accept the (slightly painful) truth, so long as you remember that I'm always just waiting in the wings, never too far away to answer a question, listen to a story --- good or bad, hear about how your day went, wipe away your tears, hear you rant. Whatever. 

When your little sister is in her teens and you start complaining about her, I'll gladly share stories of how I dealt with you as a teenager hee hee! I can't wait for that day because many other mothers have told me, "... they may act like they don't give a sh*t about you for a few years but they always find their way back."

Loads and loads of love always and forever from your #1 fan,


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Week Reflection

I'm somehow thankful that we're home for Holy Week this year. Home meaning, in Manila and not in our 2nd home up North where the past so many Holy Weeks were spent with family. I've had the chance to reflect more this time, compared to the past years because we were always on vacation mode then. There was hardly any time to do some serious thinking. I am truly sorry for all those years I neglected to do what's proper on Holy Week. 

Today is Black Saturday. Jesus remains dead after suffering much both emotionally and then finally, physically, when he was nailed on the cross. Every time I recall this scene, the person I relate to the most is our Blessed Mother Mary, who had to watch her child suffer so much. As a mother, I can't even begin to imagine the agony she felt all throughout this ordeal. As far as Jesus is concerned, all I can say is ... how does anyone deal with his own Father (seemingly) abandoning him and choosing for him to die this way to save humanity? It is an act that is difficult to fathom, especially for someone like me who has children of her own. And as someone's child myself, it is also quite difficult to understand how a parent can forsake his child. 

But the ways of the Lord are such. We are unable to understand them a lot of times. The same way we are unable to understand why certain things happen to us in our lifetime ... things that cause us so much pain, trials that challenge our faith, difficulties that take away all of our strength. 

In my 44 years, I've never experienced as much heartache as I have in the past 10 months. If you read my blog regularly, you know what I'm talking about. But for the benefit of those who are here for the first time ... I'm referring to the sudden passing of my Dad in May and my breast cancer diagnosis in August, both of which happened last year. Almost a year later today, I'm still missing my Dad terribly and wishing I could've spent more time with him before he passed, but I'm much better at handling my grief. Almost 8 months since my breast cancer diagnosis, I am also a lot better physically, having graduated from chemotherapy treatments in February and now looking forward to resuming my life and going back to normal activities (with precautions on the side, of course). 

It's really been one h*ll of a roller coaster ride for myself and for my loved ones but I'm so glad to be able to look back, not with sadness or regret, but with so much thanksgiving. The Lord was with us the whole time, despite all these challenges He threw our way. He never left us, He made his presence felt in the darkest moments. I have never felt Him more in my life before. 

Now more than ever, I appreciate everything that the Lord has done for us. I am truly grateful that Jesus  sacrificed his life to pay for our sins and to save us. It is the most selfless act, something I can't even remotely think of doing myself. 

What I've gone through in the past year is something I would never wish even on my worst enemy, and I won't lie, I wouldn't want to go through anything so difficult again, if I had a choice. But the experience has enriched me in so many ways I can't begin to describe. I'm not the same person. Not to say that I'm better than I used to be. Only a 3rd person can say that about me. But I just know that these challenges have changed me somehow. I am far from perfect and I know it, but I'm grateful to have been given this nudge, a reminder from up there that life is indeed short and we need to make the most of it by always making a conscious effort to do things right. Nope, I don't want to be preachy. Whatever I've said here so far is really so personal. I can only hope to influence any of you indirectly. 

I hope you all have had the time to reflect on things, too. It feels good to be in thinking mode, for a change, to take stock of things. 

Thanks for indulging me, dear readers. I've just been so overwhelmed with all the recent happenings in my previously boring life. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Are we all prepared to welcome Christ? 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ongpin on Maundy Thursday

Our drive to downtown Manila was by no means an accident. I wanted us to go to the churches in the area for Visita Iglesia and then have some kind of nostalgic dinner in one of the popular eating places there. I first thought of going to Wai Ying because the dimsum choices there are really good, but I worried about how small the place is. We really didn't have much of a choice because when we got there, the place was chaotic! Traffic was horrible and parking was a problem. We found one of those empty lots and parked the van there. Mama's knee problem kept us from walking too far from where the van was, so we chose the nearest place. Not bad, not bad at all.

Would've wanted to go to President Grand Palace but the walk would've been longer. President Tea House is an old reliable, so we were all okay with it. Besides, the kids were hungry.

The thing I like about this place is the fact that they still have a dimsum cart. Shallow? Maybe haha. But I like the fact that dimsum is readily-available and doesn't have to be ordered. We got our usual orders of Siomai and Har Gao to tide us over until our orders arrived.

Appetizer : Century Egg and Jelly Fish
Just the way I like it! I don't enjoy the spicy ones so much. Seems most Chinese restos serve jelly fish (or seaweed) this way nowadays. President still makes it semi-sweet, which is the way I remember it from my childhood. 

Seafood Hotpot --- a no brainer for my family. This is always a go-to dish for us.

Mama wanted this. Beancurd with 3 kinds of Mushrooms. Double yum!

Shrimp Balls! Anything shrimp is welcome at our table! Hahaha. 

And for dessert ... another favorite

It's their version of Mango Sago. Taste wise, I can't complain. I just wish they would serve it the traditional way, in a bowl with a spoon. Sipping it gave me major bouts with brain freeze LOL!

After dinner, we braved the traffic and crowded streets to get out of Binondo because we still had 4 churches to cover. Despite the slight hassle, I'm glad we thought of going. It's been a while since we ate  or did anything in the area. Going there made me miss my Dad. He would've enjoyed all the food we had.

Hope everyone's having a really quiet Good Friday. 

Our First Time at Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant

I really should use Mr. Google more! If it weren't for a comment made by fellow Mom blogger Rone, I wouldn't have known such a place existed in San Pablo City. Upon her recommendation, I found myself dragging the family to SULYAP GALLERY CAFE, after we checked out of Casa San Pablo. 

I'm just so happy we went!

Sulyap Gallery Cafe gives you "a taste of the past", like what it says in their website. Is there any place like it in Manila? I highly doubt. If there is, it probably doesn't have as much character. 

On our way there, we really didn't know what to expect --- except maybe good food and to see pretty things. We didn't know that this was actually part of an even bigger complex which includes a bed and breakfast place called Casa de Obando, which makes them a competitor of Casa San Pablo. Interesting! I should've done an ocular of their rooms but we wanted to make it back to Manila in time for N's after-dinner appointment, and I still wanted to take the kids to Nuvali after lunch. 

They certainly don't make houses like this anymore. Just look at the low window. This is just one of many that were on the ground floor. Nowadays, low windows are a hazard, sad to say. 

Here's a cozy table for 2, right behind ours on the ground floor. 

The second floor looks like this and is not too big

Now let's move on to the main event --- the delicious food!

Appetizer : Deep Fried Cheese Rolls served with garlic dip, P190.00

Salad : Ensaladang Pako, P150 --- a huge serving!

This is N's eternal favorite, which I can never learn to eat hee hee.  Looks good in the bowl though and he said it really was.

The succeeding photos were taken using my iPhone 5, hence, the difference in quality.

This family LOVES shrimp and can eat it everyday. The Sinigang na Sugpo was a natural choice for our soup. This generous serving costs P460.00.

The Beef Tapa intrigued me because in the menu it says, "original recipe". The strips are fried in olive oil and garlic, P350.00.

This shot is blurry because I think I was in too much of a hurry to take it, wanting to try this dish out pronto! This is called Kulawong Talong (Eggplant). Described as "an original dish from San Pablo City, served with your choice of Eggplant or Banana Heart (Puso ng Saging), in smoked flavor coconut milk, topped with grilled pork, P310.00. This was my favorite among all the dishes we ordered! Heavenly!!! But beware ... you simply cannot eat this without the extra rice factor!

The Bangus Belly was strongly recommended by our waiter to go with the Kulawong Talong. He was so right! This was really meaty and juicy, P340.00

All I can say is ... I wish I could be transported back to Sulyap right now. I got hungry just by putting this entry together. 

Oh and before I forget!

Our waiter said this order of Iced Tea is good for 2 people, but 4 of us shared it. Really sulit for just P95.00. It's also not your commercial-tasting Iced Tea. It's lemon-based. So refreshing.

Last but not the least ... after seeing their coffee maker, I knew I had to have a cup

This place should be on anyone's itinerary when in San Pablo City. I can't say much about the kind of accommodations they offer but the food is certainly going to be worth the trip. 

Across the street from the resto (within the compound), is a museum where you'll find all sorts of interesting things. We killed time here while our orders were being prepared in the kitchen. 

Our baby girl slightly freaked at the sight of the deer head on the wall. Hahaha!

She was so amused by this wooden rocking horse, though. 

Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant is located in Bgy. Del Remedio, Cocoland Compound, San Pablo City Laguna. Visit their website at to know more about this beautiful place. 

Family Time : Casa San Pablo - The Surroundings

When I told a friend that we were going to Casa San Pablo, she said that her photographer friends love going there. I now know why. Here are just some of the many, many photos I took during our stay. Please don't judge me because I never studied photography hee hee!

A quaint corner on the veranda, where I hung out all the time

Don't you just love red doors? I do. This door leads to the dining area.

If you like to star gaze, these hammocks are perfect.
The place is surrounded by greens! Lots and lots of them. One of the maintenance people told me that they sell seedlings. Guests can buy these to bring home if they wish.
Bicycles parked outside the dining area.

A real vintage electric fan!

I don't know why but I just really loved looking at this chair.

I wish I could share all of the photos I took while we were there. I could have spent half a day just going around and taking photos. So many pretty things, it was hard not to bring out the SLR, even if I really don't enjoy using that bulky thing. 

Don't forget to bring a camera when you decide to visit this place. You'll regret it if you don't!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

SM BABIES : The Launch

This is a super duper mega late post because all the photos I took during the event are in my hard drive, which recently decided to take an unannounced break. In other words, I couldn't get it to work for some reason. Thank God, it's back in business!

Just how late is this late post? The event happened in January! Anyway, I won't cry over spilled milk. This event made me wish I was still in the child-bearing age. Technically, people might say I can still have maybe one more child, because I already have 2. But nah ... I don't think my energy level at this age will allow me to keep up with a 3rd child. But the things I saw at the launch really made me miss having a baby at home.

Just look at all the pretty stuff SM has for all the babies out there (and there are a lot, I know). Who wouldn't want to have a baby after seeing all these?

At the event, 14 lovely Moms were also introduced by SM via a photo exhibit called "Special Moments". Photos of these Moms and their babies taken by Pilar Tuason were all over The Conservatory of the Peninsula Hotel Manila, where the launch was held. I arrived late due to an unforeseen thing I had to deal with at home, so I don't have any photos of these to show. Sigh.

Three of the 14 Moms were called onstage to answer some questions posted to them by host Issa Litton.

They were Lexi Schulze, Amanda Griffin-Jacob and Andi Eigenmann.

The rest of the Moms were then called on stage after to take a bow.

Most, if not all of them, are probably atleast 10 years younger than I am. This is one of the best times as far as motherhood is concerned, when you're just starting out and learning so much about being a Mom. I remember how much fun it was for me. SM makes it more fun by making so much cutesy stuff available for shopping loving Moms like me (or like most?). 

After this part of the programme, we were treated to a number by Christian Bautista.

I love how the place was dressed up for the occasion (I just have to include this part)!

Spring colors, what a pretty choice.

So honored to have been invited to this event, alongside other (more famous, really chica) Mom bloggers. Can you name them? I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for all the new things SM plans to do this year.