March 31, 2017

When Sky meets Sea

Me at Sumilon Island, Cebu, Philippines

Sometimes, you'll realise, it's better to be alone, than believing that there is someone with you - beside you - but the truth is, you're all by yourself. 

Just as this photo, where you'd easily believe that the sea and the sky is just one with each other; it looks amazingly linked together, but in reality, they are millions of miles apart. But still, doesn't this view gives us hope? Hope that one day, it may not have turned out well with someone, but someday, it will. With somebody else. With someone who's best for us, and will rally to bring out what's best in us.

Never Stop Believing
Steve

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This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

March 28, 2017

Summer Starter (Where to go?)

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Most of us awaits for this sunny season to head to the beach or their favorite summer destinations. Well to be honest, I hate summer. I don't really like the heat that even the artificial cooling from and AC does not compensate to the humidity that this season produces. Make it even worse that I live in the tropics (Nothing against my beautiful country though), where summer is long and yes fierce.

There are actually quick fixes to this heat infested months that we can all enjoy. You can walk along the streets and buy yourself some all-time favorite Halo-Halo, It is a kind of parfait filled with favorite delicious goodies including sweetened banana, tapioca pearls, mung beans, kidney beans, jelly, leche flan, and so much more.

Of course, another treat to beat the heat is ice cream, In the Philippines, you can buy ice cream from your nearest 7-11 or any convenience store. But my favorite is the sorbetes or what we usually call the dirty ice cream (but it's not really dirty okay!) which is usually sold by street hawkers and vendors but Magnolia and Selecta, our primary ice cream manufacturers also produces them. But personally, the ones sold on the streets tastes a lot better. What sets this apart from the usual ice cream is that these are made from coconut milk instead of the usual animal milk and is commonly served with sugar cones, wafer cones, and or bread buns.

For me, the best way to beat the heat is to travel. Tell me any problem that can never be solved by travelling? Personally, anything can be resolved by a plane ticket, a hotel reservation, and days-off from work. Now the question is, where to go? Here are just six of my suggestions on places to see in the Philippines to enjoy the summer season:

1. Baguio City


Burnham Park, Baguio City

Perhaps the best way to counter the high temperature is get somewhere where the air is much cooler and the altitude is much higher. Baguio City boasts of a much cooler temperature all year round which is the main reason why tourists are flocking this mountain-top city all year round. Burnham Park is a popular tourist attraction where you can go boating with the whole family on this man made lagoon.

While in Baguio City: Try their Strawberry Ice Cream. Prepared by the locals, the strawberry sorbetes is very delicious and you can really see big chunks of strawberry fruits with every single bite or lick. Vegetables are also fresh all year round so you can indulge with the fluffiest broccoli and yes, even their bell peppers tastes sweet!

Served like the blizzard - Strawberry Ice Cream at Strawberry Farm

2. Boracay


Station 2, Boracay Island

Named as one of the world's best beaches by several magazines and websites across the globe, Boracay is famous for it's powder fine sand which is white as flour. Imagine yourself soaked in its crystal clear water under the 35 degree summer sunshine (I can't and I won't haha). Also, for those of you who wants to get their tans on, Boracay is perfect for your sun-bathed afternoons at the beach.

Famous Boracay Sunset

While in Boracay: Jonah's Fruit Shake & Snack Bar is famed for it's amazingly creamy fruit shakes. I'm not really sure how much milk they add on it but it's as smooth and silky as a ribbon with every sip. They have several flavors including our staple Mango, Pineapple, Banana, and mixtures of much more fruit combinations. But my favorite, and the one that I usually order is their Avocado Milk Shake.


3. Cebu


Sumilon Sand Bar, Oslob, Cebu

The whole island of Cebu is a paradise in itself. Whether you go up north to Bantayan Island or due south to the Municipality of Oslob, there's just something you can see that will leave you awestruck.  Whether you are a lover of waterfalls or a self-professed Beach Bum, this island just caters to anything you have in mind to enjoy the summertime. Cebu is also a great jump-off point for an inter-island escapade because it is just a ferry ride away to the nearby islands like Bohol, Negros, and Siquijor.

I swam with the gentle whale sharks at Oslob

While in Cebu: For the adventurous at heart, sign your group up to Canyoneering in Badian. It's an adrenaline pumping activity that will let you swim, leap, glide, and jump off cliffs and waterfalls until you reach the beautiful Kawasan Falls. The view is just amazing and the water is as blue as the shade of the Gatorade variant. This is truly unforgettable especially if you do it with your friends. When we got there, unfortunately, the activity is suspended and is off for another month so we just decided to visit the multi-level waterfalls, one of which is Kawasan.

Me and my Barkada (Circle of Friends) at Badian, Cebu

4. Camiguin


Clouds above the beautiful Camiguin Island (Photo Credits to R-Jay Miranda)

Another island located at the heart of the country, Camiguin is an island province that is located in the Northern Mindanao region. It is an island formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, of Mount Hibok-Hibok which is one of the country's active volcanoes. The White Island is a sandbar just off the island's coast is a popular attraction where you have to ride a short 10 minute boat ride to reach it, perfect at the break of dawn. One of the tallest waterfalls I've ever seen is also located at the heart of this island, Katibawasan Falls.

Me and my Barkada by the Katibawasan Falls (Photo Credits to R-Jay Miranda)

While in Camiguin: Ardent Hot Spring is nestled through the forests of Mount Hibok-Hibok. It's beautiful natural pools can invigorate the muscular tissues leaving your body with a calm, relaxed feeling. There are levels of pools that have different temperatures and depths that you can choose from based on your own liking. We spent three long hours here just relaxing by the pool and having a great time chatting with my friends.

Adrent Hot Spring at early evening (Photo Credits to R-Jay Miranda)

5. Sagada


Trekking through the Rice Terraces of Aguid - Sagada

If you're not the beach going kind, and you wish to escape the sunny breeze of the seashore, Sagada is the place for you. This alpine town atop the mountains of the Cordilleras is known for it's cool climate, rugged terrain, and mystical towering limestone formations makes it one of a kind in the country. You can try spelunking inside the Sumaguing Cave which is a little extreme for me (my friends tried it though) or trekking along the Aguid Rice Terraces going all the way down to the Bomod-Ok Falls. This city can get a little too crowded though so better book ahead of time not just for accommodation but for tour packages. Probably one of the best sunrises I have seen (aside from the Angkor Wat Sunrise) is the once we saw in Kiltepan Peak, which is also in Sagada. 

Me at the Sea of Clouds - Kiltepan Peak, Sagada

While in Sagada: It is best to try their own take on the Yogurt for these are made into delicious desserts that everyone liked. Their sweet and sour homemade yogurt was topped with delicious honey and sweet strawberry jam is just heaven in a cup. Cafes and restaurants around Sagada serves this happy treat but my favorite is the ones I had in Strawberry Cafe.

6. El Nido, Palawan


El Nido Town Proper

Probably the most talked about Philippine destination when it comes to foreigners, El Nido is a land of its own. At the northern tip of the island of Palawan, El Nido gives us an amazing view of limestones towering over the sea. This part of the country is where I can say that there are more foreign tourists than local ones and I have no questions as to why. Paradise is an understatement for this place.

When in El Nido: Never miss the Island Hopping Adventure tours. For a whole day, you will visit five destinations, different from every tour group/package. You'll get to swim on the sea, lunch is served by the beach where you will feast on grilled meat, fish, veggies, and fresh fruits! I availed of the Tour A Package which included the following attractions: Seven Commandos Beach, Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and Shimitzu Island. Yes, it was amazing! There are three more tour packages - B, C, and D, though my time there was limited; More things to visit the next time right?


The last stop of our Island Hoping Tour - Big Lagoon

***

Never Stop Summer
Steve

March 24, 2017

Weaknesses

Baler, Aurora - December 2015

Whether we admit it or not, exposing our weaknesses is something that is hard for us to do. It's not really because of pride or self-judgement but the act of acknowledging where we are bad at, really is mind draining. It's not that we think too highly of ourselves but I guess it has something to do with us, being so used to thinking positively about our personalities - strengths, virtues, and just things that other people usually commend us or recognize in us.

Personally, one of my weaknesses is being too passionate. I know that is something positive but too much of something, of anything is not really a good thing. I am very passionate about friends, relationships, hobbies to name a few. I am someone who gives more than a hundred percent to things that I really like, to people who matter so much to me. In the end, I get so drawn, so involved without realizing I'm giving too much of myself to it. In the end, I blame myself; not for the things I should not have done, but for the things I did too much.

Another weakness, and probably quite a big one for me is not knowing when to stop at something. Being a very emotional person, whenever I feel happy about something or someone, I feel really happy! And I do mean really really happy! I focus myself on it just like embracing it all as if it is the sunshine that I need to make me feel alive. But the downfall of anything so good, so high, is that we fall so hard by the time this happiness fades. There is no 'slow fall' with me, it's always a big fall. There then rolls another weakness; I never learn, not easily from these big falls.

At school I can say that I am a fast learner. I can get by acing a test or an exam without really reviewing at home because whenever a teacher delivers his/her lectures, I make sure that I am a very dry sponge ready to absorb every word that the teacher would deliver. And that's all I need for any upcoming evaluation, together with a fast scan on some of my friends' notes minutes before the papers are handed to us to build up on. But if it's life giving me lectures, it's something that I feel so dumb with. I don't really learn that fast.

I eat a little of this and it makes me a million pounds heavier. But still, when that food is handed over, I'd still indulge myself with it even if it's something I can easily avoid. I already know that if I skip washing my hair with nizoral shampoo once every month, my dandruff will suddenly gives a surprise appearance that bugs me out easily, I'd still feel sluggish maintaining it. And yes, the person I gave up all my heart to, who I fell over and over again even after hurt after hurt; I just never learn. Even after realizing just why, I still find myself going towards it again no matter how hard my fall was. Talk about being stupid?

But the biggest weakness that I really need to work on is my anxiety. I do overthink quite so much. I overwork my mind especially whenever I have idle times and have nothing to do, my mind gets clouded so easily by thoughts that aren't really needed at that very moment. This one, is one of those weaknesses that is negative by nature and should be minimized, if not totally removed. Time, efforts, thoughts are wasted. Too much anticipation could kill you, really!

The list just goes on and on but just as I have said, I recognize that I have a lot of weaknesses but it's tad hard to iterate every single one of it in detail. Though one thing I've known through these 26 years, is that these weaknesses are there to make us whole. These may be something negative in each of us but we cannot just take it off because it's part of who we are, it's part of what make us ourselves.

There's nothing wrong with making efforts to take these weaknesses away from our totality, besides, we are here on earth to live and work towards a better version of what we are than yesterday's. But as these weaknesses somehow finds home in us, without plans of leaving anytime soon, we should learn how to embrace it. Yes! Concede with these traits, attitudes and feelings and use them to make other weaknesses turn into strengths, use them to a better person. Not just a better son, a better mother, a better classmate, or a better friend - but a better person for yourself!

***
Never Stop Improving!
Steve

This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

March 14, 2017

Secret Haven Cafe

They Are Open

Nestled in the middle of Jordan Subdivision in Noveleta is the hippest place you'd ever see in town. Located inside a residential area, truly this 'Secret Haven' is greatly kept away from the highway hustle and bustle. But what makes this place a must visit is not just its tasty food and yummy drinks, it's the place that is magically stunning!

My niece Abrielle at the beautiful green gates

As you walk through the green wooden gates, a beautiful garden filled with a lot of cacti and succulents will welcome you warmly and make you feel so much at home. Just like you stepped in through the pages of a beautiful fairy tale. And yes, this place is simply picture worthy, my cousins prove this fact so well.

Their garden where you can dine and relax.

Behind the Green Gates

My Cousin Caren adores their Whitewash walls

We walked inside the 'house' where there were available seats for us. It was quite a sunny and warm day so we opted to be seated inside for the air-conditioning. It's a small and cute place so our group of six already occupied half of the place. The interior is hipster chic with whitewashed wooden wall panels, hanging light bulbs and memorabilia from the owner's travels.

Mama Vicky waiting for her Club Sandwich

Three Generations of the Que Family

The menu features pasta, burgers, milkshakes and smoothies. We had a really hard time choosing what we'll be having because everything sounds so good! We tried their smoothies. I got myself a Lasagna, so as my brother, my niece Abrielle, and my cousin Caren while Ate Carmeline got herself her bacon and mushroom burger named after a famous waterfall from Iceland. My Aunt, Mama Vicky chose her favorite Club Sandwich.

Gullfoss - Secret Haven's Bacon and Mushroom Cheeseburger

It was good! Really good, as for me of course! The Lasagna is so beefy and perfectly seasoned to release the flavor of the beef. And the cheese, yes, real cheddar! Ate Carmeline's Burger on the other hand is a little spicy on the patty but still good.

Secret Haven's Beefy Lasagna

We also ordered their Mojo Potato Slices. Unlike the usual once we have from Shakey's, this one is breaded and not battered. Spiced as well, my niece did not like it that much but I think it was okay mainly because of the dip that it was served with.

Secret Haven's Mojo Potatoes
  
Their drinks were another story, they were really good! We tried three of their Milkshakes, the Love Statue, Croatia, and their Caramel Frappe. Love Statue is made with Lotus Biscoff Crunchy Biscuit Spread and Lotus Caramelized Biscuits. Croatia on the other hand, which I ordered, has Maltesers Chocolate Malted Milk Balls.

Yes, I had to take a photo before I finish this meal

We stayed there for more than an hour and then we visited the plant shop next door where we bought ourselves some cute little cactus plants and some succulents. They also have this cute little airplants. Of course, I got myself some cacti, four of them to be exact.

Four Little Cactus for Me!

This dinner was a treat from my brother Wilson to our one and only Mama Vicky, the best Aunt in the Whole Wide World! She's leaving this Thursday for California and we will surely miss her! Love You So Much Mama Vicky!

I would definitely go back to Secret Haven and bring my friends. It's more than just the food or the pretty place, but it's about this over all experience that you'll share with this 'secret haven'. Actually, me and my cousins are planning our next visit here very soon, you should too!

Kuya Wilson, Caren, Mama Vicky, Ate Carmeline, Abrielle, and Me.

Secret Haven is located inside Jordan Subdivision and can be reached through EPZA Diversion Road. Here is a map for your reference:


***


Never Stop Looking for Secrets!
Steve

March 1, 2017

Food Trippin' Asia

For most of us, our travel lists are made up of sightseeing, souvenir shopping, and even trying out extreme sports. But one thing we all have in common on our lists is Food. Whether it's tasting the most exotic delicacies on the city streets, to sit down dinners at Michelin star fine dine restaurants, food really mirrors not just the county's taste but also it gives our taste buds a glimpse of the story of a nation's culture.

Across Asia, here are a few of my favorite and truly remarkable dishes that I have tried on my Asian expeditions. Let me share you some of them here.

1. Pad Thai (Thailand)


Street hawker at Bangkok

Probably the most famous dish of Siam, Pad Thai is something you can enjoy anytime of the day. We tried this delicious noodle dish on the streets of Nighttime Bangkok. Stir Fried on flat iron griddle, Pad Thai is best enjoyed hot off the grill. It has a variety of ingredients including eggs, shrimp, pork, chicken, lime juice, sugar, and a special rice noodle or as they call it lo mein noodles.


Bangkok Style Pad Thai

Just on the street, we chose this hawker stall that sells Pad Thai during our second night in the city. I observed how it's being prepared and cooked and the chef's hands are just so fast I literally can't catch up with the small ingredients at that very moment.But what I love about Pad Thai is how you season it with condiments. I put a lot of chili and crushed peanuts on top of mine. It was good! I can still remember myself telling my cousin that Pad Thai is a good reason to go back to Thailand.

2. Lemon Breaded Pork (China)


Lemon Breaded Pork

This perfect fusion of sweet, sour, and tangy tastes left a remarkable mark to our Beijing experience. The pork was completely covered with crispy batter and then deep fried to its perfect consistensy while maintaining its tenderness inside its coat. 

It was winter when we traveled around the majestic city and instead of water for drinks, hot soya milk were given for free to dine-in customers. We never missed their take on tomato soup where fresh tomatoes are mashed and pureed to make a hot soup. Served in flamed warmers, the soup is warm throughout your meal under the freezing cold of the outside chill.

My dad and our Hot Tomato Soup - Beijing Style

Dining in the heart of Beijing was sort of a challenge for us to be honest. There were no Menus written in English. Good thing the owner of the restaurant near Red Lantern House, where we stayed were very nice and accommodating to us. We cannot speak in Mandarin and he cannot speak in English so we relied on sign language and animal sounds to distinguish the kind of meat these dishes are made of.

3. Hainanese Chicken Rice (Singapore)


Singapore's Famous Chicken Rice

Originally from the Chinese island of Hainan, the Chicken Rice is a dish made up of two main parts, the chicken and the rice. HAHAHA But as funny as how literal its name is, this dish is so tasty! The secret to this is exfoliating the chicken with coarse salt which then creates this silky and smooth skin once it has been cooked, while keeping the meat tender and tasty.

Bugis Hainanese Chicken Rice

Although the sign reads "Bugis Hainanese Chicken Rice" this very store I enjoyed this dish is located at the bottom of the Singapore Flyer, South East Asia's largest Ferris wheel attraction. Just for 5 Singapore Dollars (Php 180.00) you can enjoy this delectable dish. As simple as it sounds and looks like, pairing it with its special peanut sauce (My Favorite) is just an adventure at your table.

4. Yakitori (Japan)


One of Japan's most famous street food is the Yakitori (Japanese for grilled chicken). Grilled over hot charcoal on little skewers called kushi, these are usually seasoned with salt or sometimes their special sauces.

Plain Salted Chicken Yakitori

Before, I thought Yakitori is just made up of thigh fillet pieces but there did I knew that Yakitori can be prepared using boned chicken, chicken intestines, and even ground chicken to name a few.

Me in front of Toritake, Tokyo

My cousin Carmina took me to this famous Yakitori place just a block away from the iconic Shibuya Junction. The place is small and cute but patrons line up just to be seated inside the cozy area. We were lucky enough to go straight right away since we were just a party of two and it was a weekday when we visited. Aside from Yakitori, Ate Carmina also ordered a tofu dish, an onigiri dish with salmon roe, and two bottles of sake. It was amazing!

5. Beef Lok Lak


Cambodia's Beef Lok Lak

Prepared with a sauce usually made up of lime juice, salt, and pepper, Beef Lok Lak is a stir fried beef dish famous in Cambodia. It is usually served with rice and this one (from Golden Coconut at Siem Reap) with fried egg on top. 

It is a mixture of salty, savory, sweet, sour, and spicy! What else can you look for in a dish. As crazy as it sounds, the fusion of all these tastes gives it a perfect combination that will leave you wanting a second serving at your table. 

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Never Stop Eating Dreaming!
Steve

Osu Shopping District, Nagoya, Japan