Christmas 2014

How was your Christmas? I wrote about my plans for Christmas in this blog post and here’s how I actually celebrated it.

We had a simple noche buena. We had ham, spaghetti, grapes, coke and mango float. What we lacked in the food department, we made up for it in the presentation. What we wanted was a leftover-free Christmas preparation.  Preparing just enough is the key. And oh, after 3.5 months, I drank coke. It is my reward for this season. I’ll abstain again on January 2.



I also got to spend time with my nephew. We braved the crowded mall for arcade games and Jollibee.


I partied with friends.


I also explored a nearby resort with my travel friends.


Right now, we are under signal number 1 as tropical depression Seniang tries to make a landfall tomorrow in Tandag which is 180 kms from us. I am in my bed indulging this aircon weather. This is the kind of ‘me time’ I wanted to reward myself.  However, as much as I enjoy this cold weather, I hope the heavy rains will do no harm so we can celebrate the rest of the holiday season meaningfully.

A Weekend in Lanuza

My friend invited me to a trip to Lanuza. It was a free trip. I would be with my good friends and I have not traveled with them before so this would be a new experience. How can I say no to that offer? I sent prayers to high heavens that I do not have to work that weekend. God answered my prayers so off we went to Lanuza one November weekend.

It was the annual surfing festival in Lanuza. Lanuza is a surfing town in Surigao del Sur. Their surfing season starts in November. My friend works for a company that is a major sponsor of the festival.

We arrived at noon. The awarding of prizes for the champion surfers was scheduled in the evening so we had the afternoon to spare. Lanuza is a charming surfing town. You’ll meet kids slathered in sunblock carrying surfboards in the streets.


Our first stop is the white house.


This is a century-old mansion.



A descendant of the original owners showed us around. We were treated to a rich cup of chocolate.


Look at the dish dryer!
We were all happy to see this plate. All of us had this plate at home when we were growing up.

Our next stop is the Marine Sanctuary.


We walked to a Bantay Dagat outpost.


This is the view from the outpost.


Our host took us to the next town in Cortez. He showed us photos of what we expect to see. We were convinced.  By the time we reached the site, we were blown away by the sight. It was an AWESOME place.  I have not seen anything like it before.

Friends, this is Laswitan in Cortez, Surigao del Sur!


It looks like one but that is not a waterfalls.

It is actually a rock formation. Waves from the sea crash against those rocks.


The waves overflow.


When water drips down, it looked like this.


You can actually swim in the lagoon. The unsafe area is cordoned off.


We left at 5PM.  It is a beautiful place.


It was so beautiful that my friend went back two weeks after. She told me that the waves did not crash against the rocks and the friends she brought there missed the experience we had.  I guess we were lucky to experience this phenomenon.

In the evening, we attended the award ceremonies.


We went to Lanuza during the anniversary of Supertyphoon Yolanda. As part of the program, sky lanterns were released.


We left Lanuza the next day but not before doing some activities in the morning. We were scheduled to do more sightseeing so we were not sure if we could try surfing. We spent some time on the beach to observe surfers.  Kids as young as this one already knew how to surf.


We went spelunking in the morning inside the Campamento Caves. We spent almost an hour inside the cave.  There were lots of interesting formations inside. Can you see the bat?


My friend took a dip at the Hubason River.


We still had time to spare in the afternoon. So my friends took a short surfing lesson. Look at them!

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I was not able to try it because I got that monthly thingamajig.  🙁 So I just posed for a photo.

Thanks to my friend, Ernelyn, for inviting me to this trip.  It was one memorable weekend.

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5 Things I Will Do to Have a Meaningful and Memorable #MerrySMChristmas

♫♪♫♪♪ It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ♫♪♫♪♪

Whenever I hear that song being played, I am filled with Christmas cheer. My heart smiles. My eyes twinkle. I become that giddy child waiting for Christmas day.  As a child, although we did not have the grandest of feasts, for as long as my family was together, Christmas was merrier.

Five years ago, Christmas took a different meaning for me. It was the year I did not make a fuss about Christmas.  My father was bed-ridden for 5 months. I saw his frail body being eaten by cancer day after day. I was numb to the Christmas spirit around me.  There was little I could do for Papa. I just hugged him everyday. Hugging meant pressing my face to his face as he could no longer wrap me in his embrace.  On Christmas day, I greeted him with a loud cheer. He smiled back acknowledging my greeting. And that was more than I could ask  for. My father died the day after Christmas. It was his way of giving me my Christmas back.

Since then, I was able celebrate Christmas with my family like that giddy child again. Being an only child, single and an orphan, family means my aunts, uncles and my cousins. Christmas becomes more meaningful. Here are ways I make my Christmas meaningful and memorable:

1. Feel the spirit of Christmas. I do this by putting up my tree.  Having a tree changes the mood of the house. This is a special tree because my mama and I bought this together with my own money.  It has been 14 years since we bought the tree. My mother had long gone and the tree still looks good. You do not have to buy a tree to feel the spirit of Christmas. Sometimes, listening to Christmas Carols will already fill the home with holiday joy.  You can also spend time at a park where twinkling lights make the season more festive. Malls have stepped up their game.  There areas for families to enjoy the Christmas season.


2. Share your blessings. You might be surprised that it takes little to make another person happy. It does not have to be a grand gesture. You may share your blessings with your loved ones.  However, they say the best way to share your blessings is doing something for someone who cannot repay you in kind. You get repaid with their prayers and well-wishes. I am not really the kindest person around. I can be selfish but I have to admit that the selfish me can also see the wonders of being able to share my blessings to others.

3. Spend time with family and friends. My nephew is already 3 and I plan to spend some time with him this Christmas. My aunt and uncle will be spending their Christmas in Cebu but they will be back in the afternoon of December 25 so we still have a chance to celebrate Christmas together. I am compiling easy-to-make recipes so that I can still have a wonderful time with my family without slaving in the kitchen. I have tested one of such recipe. You only need cubed gulaman, cream, condensed milk and cubed mangoes. Layer the ingredients. Put them in a nice glass and voila! These ingredients are readily available in the supermarket.


This year, a number of my friends will be home so there will be a lot of catching up do. For sure, there will be lots of laughter till our bellies ache.

4. Reward myself. Although I looked like I have not worked hard this year, I did. The best reward I can give myself is rest. I am dreaming on resting my head on a soft pillow while curled up reading a book. Maybe I’ll get a tub of ice cream and have a movie marathon. This is just me. You can reward yourself with that jacket you have been eyeing for a long time, that gadget to get in touch with family  or that massage chair  to ease those back pains for working hard.  It is okay to treat yourself to something you greatly deserve.

5. Remember the reason for the season. JESUS. Christmas is the season of advent.  Advent means coming. We prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  As Christians, it is a time to reflect on our lives and make changes in order to be ready for Jesus Christ. We do this by emulating how Jesus lives while He was here on earth (i.e. a humble  and obedient servant) and by following His commandments. We should really do this not only during Christmas but every day of our lives.  This is a part of my life where I need to improve on. God never faltered on me yet the sinner that I am easily forgets God’s greatness. 


Each of us may have different ways in celebrating this wonderful time of the year. SM Supermalls have their way of celebrating this merry season. Drenched in the spirit of love, family, sharing and giving, SM Supermalls show us how #MerrySMChristmas begins. Adorable Cheska and Kendra Kramer and the delightful Elevator girl, Cheridel Alejandrino star in this short video.

If you want to make someone happy this Christmas and you do not know how, why not give an SM Cares’ Bear of Joy?

SM Supermalls have a lot in store for you this season. Visit for more details on their various #MerrySMChristmas events.

I wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

**This blog post is an entry to Nuffnang's blogger contest.


Lovely Palaui

My friend, Barbara, and I had been toying the idea of visiting Palaui ever since she showed me a similar photo as this one.


When we finally got the chance to go there in August, we wasted no time. From the airport, we proceeded to the bus terminal in Cubao for buses bound for Tuguegarao. Yes, it was a night bus. We arrived Tuguegarao the following morning.

We had this for breakfast: Pansit Batil Patong! This is supposed to be one serving but I was not able to finish this one.

To reach Palaui, we need to go to the town of Santa Ana, which is three hours north of Tuguegarao. We still have time to go other tourist spots since our Palaui trip was scheduled the following day.

Off we visited Callao Caves. We climbed 183 steps to reach the mouth of the cave.

There is a church inside. Remember that Bea Alonzo movie? There was a scene that was filmed here.

The cave has seven chambers. This is just one of them.

It is not difficult to navigate the cave. Look at my friends. They looked like they were strolling in a park.

We visited churches on our way to Santa Ana.



One church had large stations of the cross in its compound.
Since we are already going north, we visited Aparri. This is the doppler radar of PAGASA.

And this is where the Cagayan River, the Philippines’ longest river,  meets the Babuyan Sea.


This gorgeous sunset greeted us when we reached Santa Ana.


We called  it a day.

Off we went to Palaui the next day. Palaui is an island an hour away from the Santa Ana Port.We hired this motorboat.


We climbed up a hill to reach the lighthouse. We took photos on the way up.



This is the lighthouse.



At the back of the lighthouse, we went down to a grassy area where we had the best view of the islands.



Because of the large open flat space, we tried this camera trick.


This is the view we loved.

We went to Anguib beach after. Anguib is where Survivor Cagayan was shot.  The boat ride from Palaui to Anguib was one of the scariest I have experienced. It was raining. We can only see a dark horizon and an unending sea on the left side and uninhabited island on the right. We see no other boats around that my friend really asked, “Where are the others?”  Fortunately, we arrived Anguib safely and we spent some time swimming.

We dropped by Crocodile island when we headed back to the port.  It was called crocodile island because of the shape of the rock formation. Can you imagine the crocodile head in this photo?


We returned to the resort we were staying, had dinner and slept tight.

The day after  was travel time for us. We took a van bound for Tuguegarao where we would ride another night trip to Manila. It was a long trip. We slept through the night filled with thoughts of this memorable trip.

30 Things I am Grateful for in November 2014

It’s almost 2015! Having spent the past 11 months with a grateful spirit, my heart is full. I thank God for making His presence felt in my life. My life has its own share of challenges but whenever I am down, something or someone cheers me up.

November was a good month. I was able to travel, do some meaningful work, spend time with family, take care of things, party with friends, exercise and a lot more. I am now looking forward to December!

Here are the 30 things I am thankful for November:

1. Love of family. I miss my parents but it makes missing them bearable when I realize they are in a better place. I know how much they love me when they were still alive. I carry that love in my heart.

1 nov

2. Honesty. My friends and I had a get-together. I realized how straightforward my friends are. There are things I keep to myself which they can say  out loud without fear. What a revelation!

2 nov

3. Window shopping. I wanted to check out things I wanted to buy before actually buying them.

4. Time for laundry. Or should I say I am thankful I was not lazy to do laundry. Oftentimes, the motivation to do laundry is stronger when I no longer have house clothes to wear. Haha!

5. Private message. I have no opinion on the Facebook messaging app. The app is only good if there is someone you keep in touch with. Otherwise, there is no use of installing it. I am glad to keep in touch with friends near and far. Life is never lonely with friends around.

6.  Plans for a weekend trip. A friend invited us to a weekend trip and we were finalizing plans.

7. Getting things done. Because we had a trip coming up, I had to finish any pending tasks for the week. I usually work during the weekends to get things done. Since I would be traveling, I had to double the effort during the week.

8. Laswitan. My friend invited us to a trip to Lanuza, a surfing town in Surigao del Sur.  We took a side trip to Cortez as recommended by our host. We were in awe at this natural wonder. I will write a story of this trip on a separate blog post.

8 nov

9. Witnessing how they surf. The main purpose of going to Lanuza is to experience surfing. I was not able to try due to some unforeseen monthly event. Hehhe I make up for it by posing for photo in the right attire ( Will show in separate blog post.)

9 nov

10. Beauty of nature. I spent the day editing my Lanuza photos. It took me a while to finish because I found myself daydreaming about our wonderful weekend. Every photo brought back memories.

10 Nov

11. Adriane. I got visit from my nephew, Adriane.  He is a big boy now and he likes doing what his father does. Here he is massaging my aunt’s arms.

11 nov

12.  Quick visit. My cousin came for a quick visit.  She requested sapin-sapin for snacks.

12 nov

13. Mother’s love. I found this photo of me and my mama. I was 2. She was 35. I was amazed that I am currently older than her now compared to her age in this photo. Yet, she was way wiser then than I am today.

13 nov

14.  Piso fare.  We were able to buy cheap tickets for that annual trip with friends.

15.  Lamp alternative.  I found an alternative to the lamp I wanted for my room.

16.  Morning ritual. Because I was finally done redecorating (and, most importantly, cleaning) the room, I made the effort in keeping it that way. I allot 15 minutes of my time each day to fix the bed and sweep the floors in my room. (I am a slave of my room. Hehehe) I am trying to make this a habit so it won’t feel like too much of an effort.

16 nov

17.  Work. It was the start of the workshop I am documenting.  I am blessed. I did not just get paid to do the job, I learned something, too.  Plus, there was free food!

18. Blessings.

19. Get-together. My aunt and cousins from Luzon came for a visit.  It has been a while since they last came to Butuan. We had a simple dinner at home .

19 nov

20.  Motivation to workout. My friend, Grace,  is really disciplined when it comes to fitness. She is taking charge of her health. I am inspired by her determination.

21. Visit to the wet market. It had been awhile since we last went to the city market. This meant we had a good lunch.

22.   Easy dessert. We made a simple dessert (cubed gelatin, cream, condensed milk and cubed mangoes) and we made it look fancier by using wine goblet instead of regular glass.  Add some decors and voila!

22 nov

23. The spirit of Christmas. My tree is up! I am feeling the Christmas spirit in my home.

23 nov

24. Truth. I incorrectly sent a private message to a group chat instead of sending it to another friend. It was not something incriminating but it sounded gossip-y.  I was able to delete it but not before someone was able to read it. The best way to correct my mistake is to apologize that I made a mistake in sending the message. And we moved on.  What a relief!

25.  Teram’s birthday. My friend, Teram, is one sweet woman. She never fails to encourage me at whatever I try to do- photography, painting and even when I post a selfie. And when you get praises from one woman who effortlessly juggles being a wife, mother, public servant and business woman ( just a few of her many roles), you are left inspired to do your best .  We often call her Nanay. Her motherly care for us, her friends, left a mark in our hearts.  I thank God she is my friend. Who would have thought this is a mother of three?

25 nov

26.  Time to write. I had to finish reports expected this week.

27. Exciting ideas.  I have plans for the coming year. I am still studying my options though.

28. Teram’s party. It was a fun night with friends. It has been awhile since we last had a get-together.

28 nov

29.  Persuasiveness. I convinced a friend about doing something which she obliged. She is super shy but I am glad she was persuaded to do it  anyway.

30.  Family gathering. We had a simple lunch with family to celebrate my cousin’s birthday.  We only had liempo, lechon manok and cake. We made the celebration a bit fancier with vintage china.

30 Nov

How was your November?

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