November 1, 2012

One Does Not Simply Fly Into Mordor

Thursday, November 01, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , 1 comment

Ever since I saw the movies and then read the books, I have loved The Lord of the Rings. In fact, maybe love is not even a strong enough term. I am obsessed with it. I love everything about it. It makes me happy. I've read the books, seen the movies... I even play the online game! I want to visit New Zealand even more, because, well... it's Middle Earth!

And how do you fly to Middle Earth? On Air New Zealand, course! Check out this safety video they just came out with for the new The Hobbit movie (prequel to the LoTR trilogy) coming out next month. It is absolutely brilliant, imho. This is how safety videos should be. I can't get over it, really.

October 9, 2012

A Taste of Opulence at the Heritage Hotel

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , 1 comment
I've wanted to stay at the Heritage Hotel during my visits to Metro Manila, just to see what it's like. The place seems to be an icon, after all. During a quick trip last month, I was finally able to do so.

It was perfect timing. I'd known only two days prior that I had to make the trip, and upon perusing Agoda, found out that the Heritage Hotel was having a last minute sale. I jumped at the opportunity, especially because my destination was the Japanese Embassy, just two buildings away from the Heritage. It was still more expensive than average, but it was 25% less than their regular rate.

My first impression of the hotel was that it's old. The hotel makes me think of a book with frayed edges. I was assigned a twin room, and although it had all the little things I needed (toiletries, slippers, robes, a well-stocked mini bar, etc.), the room was just okay, and my TV was old... it was a CRT! I've definitely been to better and cheaper hotel rooms.

My disappointment did not end there. The hotel does not have a lot of items on their room service menu. Is it because they have a casino, and they'd rather people went there than hang out in their rooms? Food in general at the hotel was okay, but was nothing special. What I found incredulous was the P300 per hour internet connectivity. In this day and age, that just feels to me like an abomination, even in a 5-star hotel!

The one good thing about Heritage Hotel: it's location. Other than that, there's really nothing special about it at all. No wonder it's not that highly rated on Agoda. If you want that real taste of opulence, you might want to look somewhere else.

October 8, 2012

New Puter

Monday, October 08, 2012 Posted by Mary , No comments
The last time I owned a desktop computer was in 2006. It's been so long! Ever since then, it's been laptops and netbooks for me, but not that I prefer them! It's good to own one to bring around, but really, your computer at home should be a desktop. They're easier on the eyes, wrists, and even on the budget! So I'm very happy today because I have a new computer. I got tired of peering into my uber tiny netbook. I couldn't handle it anymore! My Android phone and iPod Touch do not help in the size department either.

My new puter isn't exactly high-end, but it's the best I've laid hands on in years. If you can peer into the screenie below, you might be able to make out the specs.

September 30, 2012

Custom Cakes and Cupcakes

Sunday, September 30, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , , No comments
It was the birthday of one of my closest friends, Daphnie, the other day. I decided to order cupcakes for her (which Lyn also helped me pay) from another friend of ours, Bernice. Bernice makes custom cakes and cupcakes that look absolutely amazing! I've waited forever for an occasion where I could order from her, and I finally had the excuse!

September 19, 2012

A Pilgrimage to Simala

After being stagnant for months, I'm finally able to cross out another item on my bucket list: go on a religious pilgrimage.

The Monastery of the Holy Eucharist in sitio Lindogon, barangay Simala, in the town of Sibonga, Cebu was our destination. It is there that the Virgin Mary has been performing miracles since 1998. Over the years, the Birhen sa Simala (Virgin of Simala) has either shed blood or tears, with most of the miracles taking place during her birthday, September 8, which is also the feast day of Simala. Once, while her statue was on procession, the forehead hit an electric wire, which resulted to its bleeding. Because of these miracles, people have started going to Simala in droves, and what started as a small chapel run by the Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration, has veritably become a castle that is starting to look like popular pilgrimage sites in Europe.

It was my first time to go to Simala. My mom and I went with the Diocesan Dumaguete Pilgrims, whom a number of family friends are members. The pilgrims of Dumaguete have been going to Simala for 12 years, and recently, the group has become a very important part of Mama Mary's birthday celebration. The group is now in-charge of feeding 500-1000 police personnel and security guards who maintain peace and order during the three days leading and up to September 8. It is a difficult task, but the group is able to do it through donations.

We were in Simala from September 6 to 9. We attended a lot of masses, a couple of them celebrated by Cardinal Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, and Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop emeritus. We were also able to witness a miracle. Yes, Mama Mary cried again during her birthday. It happened during the coronation mass in the afternoon of September 8. I was in front of the church, literally just a couple of feet from her statue when it took place. If you can see from this video I took, the monk has to keep on wiping her tears, and people were crying and sobbing in the background.

Simala has truly become a wondrous miracle site. The hills of Lindogon, once barren and desolate, is now lush and beautiful. Being there gives you a sense of serenity, and the presence of the Virgin Mary makes you feel that you are in heaven. Devotees go there to ask for favors, and of course to give thanksgiving, as evident in the seemingly thousands of testimonials sent by people.

On September 9, the Dumaguete pilgrims were given the chance to get close to the statue of the Virgin that shed tears the day before. Below is her picture. She was no longer crying openly then, but as you can see from the image, her eyes were watery. We were not allowed to touch her face because the monks were still waiting for a bishop to verify the recent miracle. It was a very humbling and touching experience.

Simala is approximately one and a half hours by bus from the city of Cebu, 
and a 20-minute ferry and 2-hour bus ride from the city of Dumaguete (via the port of Sibulan). 

September 4, 2012

One Year After the Whirlwind Civil Wedding

Tuesday, September 04, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , 2 comments
I can't believe it's been a year... but it really has been! One year ago today, my husband and I had our civil wedding ceremony--my original big day It was a whirlwind wedding, and it was going to be a proper church wedding, too. But we didn't want to take the risk.

Because of work, my husband can only be in the Philippines for 3 weeks at a time. And based on what people from the local civil registrar and the Catholic church told me, I realized that it was virtually impossible to come up with both government and church wedding requirements in that amount of time. So we decided on a civil wedding first, to be followed by a church wedding later, because the former, traditionally in the Philippines, always entails less effort and resources, and is much easier to do. (And there had to be a church wedding because... well, I live in the Philippines, and, I don't think I would have been happy without one--not to mention my parents!)

My husband arrived in the Philippines on August 21. I met him in Manila because his flight was delayed and he had to stay there overnight. We were scheduled for a seminar on the 23rd at the local civil registrar in Dumaguete, and an appearance at the Canadian consulate in Cebu to acquire his Legal capacity to marry on the 24th. We arrived in Dumaguete on the 22nd, and found out that the seminar was moved to the 24th! Thankfully, we were able to change our appointment at the consulate to the 23rd, so we immediately went to Cebu the next day, retrieved the needed document, and returned to Dumaguete for the seminar. Only after the seminar did we get all the needed requirements to apply for a marriage license, so apply we did on that day, and we were asked to wait 10 days for the mandatory listing of banns.

We finally got our marriage license on the 5th of September. We immediately went to the Hall of Justice in the city to find out if a judge could marry us on our desired wedding date, September 8. But we found out that there needed to be a "raffle" to choose the judge who would marry us, and that said raffle was only going to take place on the 8th. We didn't have time, because we were scheduled to leave for Hong Kong on the 9th on a honeymoon that we'd already planned beforehand.

The staff at the Hall of Justice told us to check the adjacent towns of Sibulan and Bacong and see if we could find a judge there, because no raffle was needed in their single sala courts. So we went to Sibulan, and found a judge... only he was busy the succeeding days, and said: "Why don't I just marry you now? I'll give you one hour to prepare."

So that's what we did! The dress that I was supposed to wear was still at the modiste, and my husband's wedding pants were still wet from the laundry because of Church from the day before... but we got married. I wore an old dress, and my husband wore blue jeans (like a true Albertan?), but we got hitched, with my parents, my husband's mom, a close friend, and the staff at the Sibulan Municipal Trial Court as witnesses. Three days later, on the date we originally wanted for our wedding, September 8, we had a reception with around 50 people in attendance. My husband and I were finally able to wear the wedding clothes we'd prepared.


Now, it's been a year... and although my husband and I are still not physically together (darn that visa that's taking so long to arrive), I'm extremely grateful to God for my husband and the beautiful year we've had together. I pray for more beautiful years to come.

August 24, 2012

The Pork Chop and the Staple Wire

Friday, August 24, 2012 Posted by Mary , , No comments
My close friends and I always go out for dinner every week. It started out as a "Thursday habit" that was then moved to Friday and subsequently became "TGIF." This week, my friend Lyn, who is the executive secretary of Silliman University's Founder's Week Committee (the festivities are ongoing, by the way) said that Friday night would be too busy for her. So we decided on a Thursday dinner again. Last night, basically. We chose to dine at Cafe Antonio.

The process of choosing a restaurant for our weekly gastronomic excursion is actually quite serious. The gang and I have a Facebook group, and it's there that we have a weekly poll on where we are to eat. There are always three choices of restaurants that we have not visited recently, and then we take our pick. 

I start the poll, because I have become the "bored" one who has all the time in the world to put up polls on Facebook. This week, the choices were Cafe Antonio, Gabby's Bistro and Hayahay Treehouse Bar and View Deck. Cafe Antonio came out as the unanimous winner, I guess because we have never been there together. 

Cafe Antonio is known for good food, great coffee, and awesome live music. When we got there, however, it was really warm (only one air conditioner was on). The tables were small, and the chairs too big. But we got past that. We are not divas after all. We are fairly easy to please, and we tip well--but that is beside the point. We settled in and started eating only after a short while, because in fairness, the food arrived very quickly.

We were almost done. I was chewing daintily on my food when all of a sudden I felt something hard between my teeth. I tried chewing again, trying to feel it, and when I was finally able to spit it out, it was a staple wire! A freakin' staple wire in my sizzling pork chop! I was horrified. I didn't even want to dwell on what might have happened if I had swallowed the thing. Thank God I didn't. Thank God!

We told the waiters what happened and they said they would replace the food. But I didn't want to eat anymore. I was really quite shook up. I no longer had to pay for the pork chop, but heck, that did not erase the fact that there was a staple wire my food! The experience was really quite distressing. We hightailed it out of there, and needless to say, this gang will never be going back to that place again.

Now friends, there is a moral lesson to this: always chew your food properly. Especially when you're at a restaurant! After all, you don't know what unwanted things lurk in that plate of seemingly tantalizing food.

The culprit.

August 22, 2012

Wedding Invitations

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 Posted by Mary , No comments
Coming up with the perfect invitation for your wedding can be quite stressful. Since it's the first thing your guests will see, it has to make an impact. It needs to have personality! So when my wedding planner told me that no one does embossed printing and there were limitations on what could be done in my hometown of Dumaguete, I immediately went online to check my options.

Fortunately, there are a number of print shops in Manila that allow you to order invitations online. Upon perusing their websites, I decided on Cardprints because they had this design that I just kept going back to. What made me decide? The uncommon, long, vertical layout and the unique lock!

I ordered a sample of their work and then customized the design to fit our colors of light pink and matte gold. After payment (which can be done through credit card or bank transfer), I told them about the layout I wanted and sent all the details that needed to be on the invites. All of our communication was done through email. After a production period of two weeks, the result was something that I was truly happy with!

Aside from Cardprints, here are other print shops that specialize in amazing invitations for your big day:

So to all future brides out there, don't fret! There are a lot of great print shops online, and your perfect invitation is just an email away!

August 20, 2012

Like Books? Go Kindle!

Monday, August 20, 2012 Posted by Mary , , No comments
Ever since the Amazon Kindle came out, I've always wanted it. This was before the time of smartphones and tablets. But since it's basically just an e-reader, I never really made an effort to get one. Until a few weeks ago, when a friend of mine offered to sell his fairly-new Kindle Touch to me.

I love the device! Before I got my hands on this Kindle Touch, I'd already downloaded the Kindle app for my Android phone and my iPod Touch. And it was all great! The Kindle Store offers a wide array of books, and even if you do not wish to purchase anything, you do not have to worry. A lot of books can be downloaded for free.

While Kindle is great as an app on tablets and smartphones, you have to consider the battery life. These devices do not last very long, and most of the time, you won't be able to finish a book before your battery runs out. This is where the real Kindle device really comes in handy. After reading for days on end, the battery life will not disappoint. And although you cannot read in the dark because it doesn't have a back light, the advantage is, it doesn't hurt your eyes so much. Kindle's e-ink technology assures you that reading from it will feel like reading from an actual book--only better, because you can increase the font size!

If you are an avid reader, a Kindle is the way to go in this day and age. I can no longer imagine having heaps of books collecting dust around me in my house. I have my Kindle, and all my books are easily accessible with just the tap of a finger.

July 31, 2012


Tuesday, July 31, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , , No comments
After church every Sunday afternoon, my mother and I grab dinner at one of the restaurants in the city before we go grocery shopping. It's like a bonding ritual for us, and I'm always looking forward to it, as I love checking out restaurants... and of course, j'adore grocery shopping.

Last Friday, a new restaurant opened at Robinsons Place Dumaguete--a new branch of Cebu's famous Hukad sa Golden Cowrie. They specialize in Filipino dishes, and even though I'm not a very big fan of Filipino cuisine (except lechon!), I immediately wanted to try the place out.

As expected on its opening weekend, the place was packed. Even if we arrived early for dinner, all tables were already occupied. We had no choice but to look elsewhere. Enter Kalikaf.

Kalikaf, short for Kalikasan Cafe, is just two doors from Hukad. It's also a fairly new restaurant at Robinsons. In fact, they're still in the "soft opening" phase. They specialize in healthy cuisine using all-natural ingredients. I've eaten there with friends and family before. My first experience there was superb, but my second one was a bit blah, I think due to a different chef. This time, they did not disappoint.

Every Sunday they have a 199-peso lunch and dinner buffet. It was my first time to avail of this offer, and it was well worth the money! We started out with Kalikaf Soup, and it was just heavenly. One of the best-tasting soups I've had, I can say. They also had Garden Salad, Fish Teriyaki, which was really good, too, and Orange Blossom Chicken, along with Spaghetti Bolonnaise. Not bad for less than 200 pesos, especially with the added treat of homemade ice cream for dessert! My mom had the Turmeric flavor, and I had Buko-Pandan. Hers was amazing!

Kalikaf tries to pattern itself after Bohol Bee Farm, which is great because I've always wished they would come to Dumaguete. Now the next best thing is here. Soon, Kalikaf will also be offering one of Bohol Bee Farm's specialties: the Flower Salad. The restaurant even already offers another Bee Farm trademark: Malunggay ice cream.

To make the long story short, I love the concept of Kalikaf. I'm already excited to try out something really interesting in their menu the next time I go there: Veggie Cheesecake! Vegetables and cheese--yum! Tell me, how can you go wrong?

July 19, 2012

The Church Wedding

Thursday, July 19, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , No comments
Last year, I made an entry about getting hitched in a civil wedding ceremony. I also mentioned the need for a church wedding to appease my parents and conform to society. On June 30, 2012, it finally happened. After almost one year of preparation and stressing out, the day finally came.

The theme of the wedding was rustic. The colors were light pink and matte gold with touches of chocolate brown. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

May 13, 2012

Back to SPUD

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by Mary No comments

Last March, I was asked to give an inspirational message to the high school honor students of my alma mater of 12 years (kindergarten to high school), St. Paul University Dumaguete, during their Recognition Day. I was honored by the request, and going back was such a homecoming. It was surprisingly also a very humbling experience.

March 2, 2012

Prayer to St. Jude

Friday, March 02, 2012 Posted by Mary No comments

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, who am so miserable.

Make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to mine assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity.

I promise thee, O blessed Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour thee as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to thee. Amen.

February 12, 2012

Farewell, Whitney

Sunday, February 12, 2012 Posted by Mary , No comments
Today (February 11 in the United States), one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston, died. My heart is aching. I grew up listening to her music and I loved her songs very much. She had the most wonderful voice and she made the most beautiful songs. She truly was my idol.

But she didn't find happiness in this life, despite her beautiful voice that made so many people happy. With her passing, heaven has gained another angel and her soul can now finally be happy.

Rest in peace, Whitney. You will always be remembered.

February 7, 2012

After the Quake

Tuesday, February 07, 2012 Posted by Mary , , No comments
It feels like the island of Negros is being re-shaped. We've been having aftershock after aftershock since the earthquake the other day, which was apparently caused by a blind fault--a fault that no one knew existed. As of 6:00 pm yesterday, there have already been over 1,500 aftershocks. They've gotten even worse today: stronger and more frequent.

My mom is devastated because the hardest-hit area is the area of her hometown, some two hours from Dumaguete. La Libertad is where she grew up and it has been battered, along with the town where she spent her high school, Guihulngan, which has been hit the worst. Our relatives in La Libertad are left without access to food, electricity, and fuel. The house that my parents built for my grandparents is partially damaged, with the comfort room having collapsed. We've sent my uncle to bring them food, and thank goodness there's a spring near where they live that they can get water from.

Pictures have now surfaced and the damage is just unbelievable! Roads have cracked, buildings have crumbled, and bridges have been broken. They're images we've only seen on TV before, as news from faraway places and even scenes from fictional doomsday movies. I can't believe they're happening here, on my beautiful sock-shaped island, and just a few hours away from me. It makes me realize that when nature exposes its wrath, there is truly very little we can actually do to help ourselves.

A road in Guihulngan. How will this ever be fixed?
© Florence Baesa

February 6, 2012


Monday, February 06, 2012 Posted by Mary , , , No comments
Today, at 11:49 am, Dumaguete experienced an Intensity 7 earthquake. I was at work at the time, and the quake was really strong! After the tremors subsided, we thought all was okay, but suddenly, some of our students mentioned receiving text messages of receding waters in the shorelines of the towns nearby. I immediately came home and told my mom to get ready in case we needed to evacuate. The husband of our housekeeper came, and he started telling us that we needed to get to higher ground. I don't know where he got the information, but we gathered our important belongings and documents and decided to head up to the adjacent town of Valencia in the mountains.

While we were on the road, they starting broadcasting on the radio that a level 2 tsunami alert was being raised in our province. Good thing we had an early start, because around 30 minutes after we started moving, people in our city apparently started to panic and were making a mad dash for the hills. The roads leading up to the mountains were full of cars and people! By this time, my mom and I were already safely tucked away in my uncle's house in an elevated part of Valencia.

Thankfully, there was no tsunami. Frankly, it's probably not likely that we will have a huge tsunami in this area because we are in between islands, but at that time, I don't think we were thinking. Fortunately, there was no major damage in Dumaguete. The earthquake, with an epicenter off the shores of the town of Tayasan, some 72 km north of Dumaguete, was still considered "inland". Although the center was in the sea, it was still close to land, so there was no tsunami. It was devastating in some towns north of the city though. Thirteen people have been declared dead in the province, with over 20 more missing.

The earthquake certainly shook us up, and now, less than 12 hours after it happened, there has apparently been over 150 aftershocks. We felt a handful of them, and we're all a teeny bit paranoid. We're hoping and praying, though, that there will be no more tremors.

Here are some photos from all over Negros Oriental, taken from Facebook, on this extremely stressful day.

Debris at Robinsons Place Dumaguete
Starting to panic, at the city center
In Guihulngan, the worst-hit town
In Tayasan, near the epicenter