Booming Baler

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Baler is Baler! It has a unique identity and charm that distinguishes it from the rest of the country. Come for an adventure, learning its history and get along with nature, visit Baler!

Baler is the capital of Aurora Province. It is located on the east coast of Luzon Island, facing the Pacific waves and surrounded by Sierra Madre mountains. The town is relatively remote and has preserved many historical sites, cultural heritage and traditions, which are deeply rooted in its flourishing past.

Buses, trucks and jeeps to Cabanatuan, San Luis, Maria Aurora, Dipaculao, Dinalungan, Casiguran and Dilasag are parked at Baler Central Terminal, while Genesis buses to Manila are near the public market. Baler is also connected by commercial boats to the northern towns of Dipaculao, Dinalungan, Casiguran and Dilasag. There are public boats that depart from its own port known as “Duungan”, but trips are only possible when the sea is calm.

If you’re coming from Manila and have your own car, the drive is roughly 5 to 6 hours depending on traffic. Just take the North Luzon Expressway from Balintawak and take the SCTEX exit in LaPaz, Tarlac. From there, just stay on the highway until you reach Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija. Once there, drive on the Nueva Ecija-Aurora highway until you reach the border (passing Talavera, Rizal, and Pantabangan). You will drive through Maria Aurora and San Luis before finally reaching Baler.

Baler is known for its surfing destinations and offers some of the best waves you can catch in Asia. However, this town does more than just surf. With so many breathtaking attractions, you will never run out of interesting things in Baler.

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Five good things that happened to me this year

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I wished I had more time to write this blog post ahead of time, and not just to write about it today, 31st of December. The last day being on the realm of 2020.

What a year it has been on a positive note!

I’m wanting to focus on the many good things God has blessed me with.

Yes. In spite of how difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for many, it is such a “devastating blow” for the world indeed!

On my cup fillings are things, that reminded me how much good there is in the world, I received through the year 2020. It’s possible that God can bring blessings out of COVID-19 pandemic, so is life’s adversities. And so allow me to share you these good and beautiful things that made me amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  1. Standing in good health. My two sons are my best motivation in staying healthy. As agreed, behind every healthy child is a healthy mother .I regret those times I took a glass or two of sodas in a week or month. But the good thing I have always been reminded of the side effects of drinking sodas. I am thankful my eldest really rarely drink soda. And my bunso, Uri is just tempted to drink because of my little cravings. We had visited the clinic a few times for minor aches or concerns. Thank God for this! That once again we are strong to greet the new year for we have a big God who heals all our diseases, big or small.
  2. Two years anniversary in public school teaching. I can say teaching is my landing job. After more than 20 years in corporate ladder, I finally landed to my childhood dream of becoming a teacher. Don’t ask me how old I am now. Coming into teaching as a mature individual with 20+ years in the corporate sector, I finally achieved my childhood ambition as an English teacher. I left the corporate world to teach and pursue my love of teaching. As a mother of two grown kids, it is important for me to have a work-life balance. I care about those special moments between loved ones and work.
  3. Two sons completed the academic year 2019-2020 with honors. They’ve always been doing good in school. We are not the kind of parents pressuring our kids to get good grades. My eldest got accelerated when he was on Grade 8. He did Grade 10 automatically as he passed the PEPT by DepEd Main Office in Pasig, Manila. He’s been a constant participant to the UP Sandiwa Debate Competition. While my younger son at 7 year old, amused us by bagging High Honors in the academe. He is a cartoon sketcher, a swimmer, and the family’s future kick boxer maybe 🙂 With a good perspective and in moderation, I always encourage my kids to be their best is a good thing.
  4. Homes improvement. My parents are my great inspiration when it comes to spending money wisely. Despite some financial challenges which is normal to every one- me and husband had done quite a few house revisions. Progress never stops. Having the option to work hard as my parents were of which I am thankful to our Creator – is a key to surpass this challenge.
  5. Family (Clan). I am so much blessed I have a family that is so loving in many ways. My family has always been there for me, in good times and not so good times. We support and love, no matter what! Likewise, family goes beyond bloodlines, last names or obligations. The word ‘family’ includes all the people in our lives who commit to love and support us unconditionally.

Weekend Escape : Visiting the Grapes Capital of the Philippines

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(Re-published article)

It was surreal. Parang nasa ibang bansa lang 🙂

I was struck knowing there is a grape plantation in the Philippines. It got me even more excited knowing that the grape farm and grape picking is located in La Union, where at first I’ve known only that La Union – perhaps due to the geographic location – is only best for its surfing culture owing ultimate list of beautiful beaches.

Summer is the best time to harvest grapes in La Union. So if you’re planning a late summer vacation to the beach, you can also stop and pick-your-own grapes. At the farm, the vines are around 6 feet tall, so kung matangkad ka, abot kamay mo lang yung mga grapes, but in this pic, I tried to swallow some of them.

Another blogger told that grapes has long been grown in La Union, but according to her it wasn’t until photos and articles of Bauang, La Union Grape Farms have gone viral in 2016 that this local secret was revealed to the world. Isn’t it awesome?

For many Filipinos, this is surprising since we thought that grapes can only be grown in places with cold weather. It was sunny and warm when we reached Bauang, La Union, that is why it is a good place to plant grapes.

Also, it is believed that La Union’s grape farm started by Avelino Lomboy who owns Lomboy Grape Farm. He started planting in the 70’s as a hobby and since then, it has grown into a large business. He shared his knowledge in viticulture to other families in Bauang and eventually, family-owned grape farms mushroomed in La Union.

However, according to a Facebook post by Gapuz Grape Farm, Alfonso Aromin was one of the first grape growers in La Union, Aromin’s Vineyard reportedly established in 1971.

Among an array of grape vineyards in La Union, we decided to visit th Gapuz Farm with their pick-and-pay scheme, where visitors are allowed to experience first-hand grape picking during in-season months. Gapuz Farms offers free entrance and an opportunity to learn how to cut the stems of the grapes properly. Guests are charged a minimum of Php 300 per kilogram of grapes. In addition, although we were not told by the management that Gapuz offers a boodle fight package for groups of 10, amounting to Php 1,500 inclusive of a farm tour and a generous spread of food and grape bunches.

To get there, hop on a bus bound for La Union, Vigan or Laoag, and get off at Brgy. Urayong. Travel time will take around five to six hours and will cost around Php 350-400. If riding a private vehicle, pass by TPLEX to cut down travel time by half.

Accommodation to Grape Farm tours usually happen on a first-come-first-served basis. Keep in mind to always check both Bauang-based farms’ Facebook pages to be informed of whether or not grapes are in-season.

I found my loves under the vines.
Must-try. Grape picking in LU 🙂
I am more than excited than the little man 🙂

Municipality of Victoria tableau showcases its Lake’s migratory bird, Philippine Pied Fantail at the 4th Kanlahi Festival

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Teachers and students in collaborative efforts, bring out their most innovative ideas to design and execute its float to highlight the Pied Fantail (locally called maria capra), a common garden, and urban bird in the Philippines, as one of the migratory birds at the Canarem Lake.

The Municipality of Victoria offers an excellent opportunity to celebrate craftmanship and ingenuity through the float-design that depicts  cultural diversity of the Province of Tarlac at Kanlahi ‘s grand parade of floats in Tarlac City on March 7, 2020.

To promote art and cultural expression, Victoria Municipality  in collaboration with Balayang High School will showcase a tableau depicting Victoria’s  Canarem Lake as home to migratory and endemic birds, and the town’s livelihood products on its tableau.

While the town, Victoria, plays a significant role in birds migration, its craftsmen and artisans in collaborative efforts, bring out their most innovative ideas to design and execute its float to highlight the Pied Fantail (locally called maria capra), a common garden, and urban bird in the Philippines, as one of the migratory birds at the Canarem Lake.

Bamboos are used to make the scaffolding when building exteriors and interiors of the float, while corn husks are mainly used depicting the Pied Fantail ‘s enormous feathers . Tanubong plants used in broom-making are also consumed in portraying the bird with its tail spread open. Bamboo and corn crafts are characterized as agricultural waste materials that can be used as alternative fibers for the paper making crafts.

What does it mean when Pied Fantails cross your path? They allow you to keep on searching things, and stay curious.  Curiosity is a key to inventions. It urges you to discover, test, experiment and that is the method for making the world a better place. This world needs to keep on evolving and curious people like fantails are needed.

 When this bird presented itself to you, it is asking you not to stop, but keep on enriching your wisdom and capabilities.

IN PHOTOS
A look at the Kanlahi entries at the 2020 Parade of Floats

Photo cre: Jay Mauricio

Levantine cuisine at Al Maeda restaurant

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DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach announced the opening of Al Maeda, its signature Arabic restaurant offering a selection of authentic dishes from Levant and North African regions.

Al Maeda meaning “The Dining Table”, presents a new pairing concept of Arabic cuisine, in a cozy atmosphere. The menu gathered a variety of dishes from places across the Arab world, from the starters with a wide selection of mezze to the main courses and desserts. The menu consists of the most traditional and all-time favorite’s recipes such as Lentil Soup, Harira Soup, Zaatar Salad, Fattoush, Kibbeh, Makanek, a variety of Tangines, Mixed Grills with a selection of koftas, Muhalabia, Kunafa, Moroccan tea in addition to some signature dishes and a taste of fresh local fish.
The must is to enjoy your delectable meal, drink or a shisha of your choice on the first floor terrace with sea views!

DoubleTree by Hilton has a service culture built around the idea of CARE, which stands for ‘Create A Rewarding Experience’ where the ‘little things mean everything’. Freshly brewed Moroccan tea randomly served as the guest came in. I did not get hold of the cup of tea as I was busy prioritizing guests from the media industry.

Special Christmas Turkey takeaway at Emirates Grand Hotel

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Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Turkey! Let Emirates Grand Hotel spoils you with an amazing, home cooked roasted Turkey to grace your table. Take home a beautiful Turkey roasted to perfection by the expert chefs at Emirates Grand Hotel.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Turkey! Let Emirates Grand Hotel spoils you with an amazing, home cooked roasted Turkey to grace your table. Take home a beautiful Turkey roasted to perfection by the expert chefs at Emirates Grand Hotel.

No hassle this year for Christmas dinner. Just take the easy route with this traditional Turkey with all the festive trimmings` including Cranberry Sauce, Turkey Gravy, Beef Sausages wrapped in Beef Bacon, Mashed Peppered Root Vegetables, Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The takeaway option requires pre-order two days in advance.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Turkey! Let Emirates Grand Hotel spoils you with an amazing, home cooked roasted Turkey to grace your table. Take home a beautiful Turkey roasted to perfection by the expert chefs at Emirates Grand Hotel.

No hassle this year for Christmas dinner. Just take the easy route with this traditional Turkey with all the festive trimmings` including Cranberry Sauce, Turkey Gravy, Beef Sausages wrapped in Beef Bacon, Mashed Peppered Root Vegetables, Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The takeaway option requires pre-order two days in advance.

Getting Christmas dinner requires plenty of organisation

Restaurant: Pearl Lounge

Cost: AED 399 (4kg) and AED 499 (5kg)

Phone: +971 4 323 0000

Address:

 Emirates Grand Hotel

 Sheikh Zayed Road

 Trade Centre 2 Dubai

Avail a Gift Voucher

 4kg. Turkey with 45- minute massage package for free,  valid for 3 months – AED 399

 5kg. Turkey with 60- minute massage package for free, valid for 6 months – AED 599

Blog: Our family weekend break at Mount Balungao Adventure Resort in Pangasinan

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One of the many concepts of summer in us, Filipinos, is associated with family get together on a beach or resort, and to enjoy a spread of potluck, and hospitality. As the saying goes, sharing is caring, and nothing spreads a little love like a potluck gathering among family and friends.

So all set and we are ready to unwind and get close to nature at this adventure resort in Balungao, Pangasinan. This place invites you to take a breather away from the hustle and bustle of the city, while still offering you the basic amenities you need. Whether you’re looking for a new adventure, in a new town or a quiet respite from your busy schedule, this relaxing getaway has you covered.

Don’t worry about food, we got you covered, too 🙂

Easy native dish, biko by Auntie Elpa.

Potluck by Auntie Jo

perfect potluck hahaaa

my breakie to start a fun-filled day at Balungao!

Foods proven to make us happy.

On a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles, we started our trip from Guimba,Nueva Ecija down to Balungao, Pangasinan. It came short a trip for it took us half an hour to reach Balungao.

Tucked at the foot of Mt. Balungao in Pangasinan, Adventure Park is situated four kilometers away from the town proper. Mt Balungao is prominent strato-volcano mountain seated on the boundary of provinces Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija. The extreme hilltop adventure boasts a variety of fun adventures such as zipline experience, all-terrain vehicle driving, bungee trampoline, hiking or trail walking, trust fall, mountain biking and paintball target shooting.

The hot springs and pools were the main draw of this resort, before previously named Mt. Balungao Hot and Cold Springs Resort. It was only in 2011 when it was transformed into an adventure park adding a zipline, bungee trampolines, ATVs, bikes and mountain climbing activities.

And because of the presence of hot and cold spring in the area, several pools were built which offer varying temperatures. The hot and warm pools are ideal for visitors to release stress and imbibe refreshing feelings.

The Swimming Pools of Balungao Hilltop

There are five pools to plunge in at Balungao Hilltop –  three kiddie pools and two adult pools. Three swimming pools contain cold water and two pools, hot spring.  One of the adult pools is about 8 feet deep, the other is 6 feet deep. Be careful not to submerge immediately in the hot spring but rather let your body adjust to the temperature.

We spent most of our time in this swimming pool (below image) because it was sort of exclusive. Maybe because there is (another) entrance fee of Php50 per person, the reason why most of the crowd plunged into those pools with no additional fee.  Obviously, the pool’s water here is  much clearer. There is an interesting hill with stairs leading to a “watchtower” where you can have an amazing view of hills surrounding the area.

View from hanging bridge

at the hanging bridge

Accommodations at the resort

 For one thing, Balungao Hilltop Adventure claims to have the longest zipline in the country at 1.4km long. Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve heard of the municipality of Balungao. If not for my relatives, this would remain out of my radar. And guess what? We really have to try their zipline rides and more. Face the fear, hahahaa.

Although rather small compared to other adventure parks, Mt. Balungao Adventure Resort is an effort of the local government to attract tourists and  to preserve nature and instead of focusing on industrialization.The administration continues to exert efforts on providing the best services to guests and tourists alike.

Zipline adventures in Balungao, Pangasinan will surely one of your unforgettable experiences from the rest of your life. You can choose from Zipline-1 which is 620m and Zipline-2 which is 1.4 km. These zipline rides offers you a view of villages, extinct Mt. Balungao, and flowing hot and cold spring.

Rappelling and wall climbing are among the newest activities designed to attract and offer exciting time to adventurous guests. My son and his cousins challenged themselves to experience this activity, and ta-da they learned or discovered something through  rappelling, especially that which is difficult, painful, or unpleasant.  It gave them so much fun though! At least.

Monina, here you go….”kuya!!…kuya!!!….:) 🙂

What we missed

Not to be missed, but we missed hiking to Mt. Balungao, hehe. There is a Php 300 guide’s fee for a 30 minutes hike. Climbers say, this mountain is well-intended for fun climbers who are looking for another leisure activity right after the hike. Relatively short hike varying from 45mins-1.5hrs but despite of its elevation, you will be surprise that 98% of the trail are cardiac which give a higher elevation rise for a short time. Good thing they say there is that all the trail are forested so you are protected against the sunlight except for the 10-15mins upper portion grassland leading to campsite and the summit. The summit offers 360 view, N-NE is Cordillera mountain range eclipsed by Caraballo mountain range, SE -Mt Amurong, Mt Bangcay, S – Mt Cuyapo and Paitan Lake, West – townof Rosales, SM Rosales can also be spotted.

Rates:
Entrance Fee:
Php 50.00 Adult
Php 25.00 Kids (Children 4 feet and below)

Shed:
Php 200.00 (Kubo)
Php 100.00 (Concrete)

Pavilion
Php 800.00 (8 AM to 5 PM)

Function Hall
Php 5,00.00 (6 hours)
*Additional charge of Php 100.00 for every hour of stay beyond 5 PM.
*Additional charge on electricity depending on actual consumption.

Room Rates
Php 1,500/room – Inclusive of free breakfast for two(2) Charge for additional breakfast shall be determined on day to day menu
Php 400 – Per Extra Bed
Php 5,000 – two sections of the function hall
Php 3,000 – One section of the function hall
Php 1,500 – Roof Deck

Adventures Rates:

Zipline1 620m
Php 300.00

Zipline2 1.4 km
Php 600.00

ATV Driving
Php 200.00/15mins

Bungee Trampoline
Php 100.00/15 mins

Adventure Package
Php 850.00 (Zipline No.1 and 2 plus 15 mins. ATV driving)
Php 700.00 (Zipline No.1, and 2)

Suit your palates best at Margherita !

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The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residences where you can find a more relaxed places to dine in, alongside stylish boutiques or plainly leisurely walk along the waterfront, surely there’ plenty of opportunity to satisfy your retails cravings.

Talking about retail cravings, Margherita offers “the best out of bests”  pizza-maker in Dubai, mastered original Neapolitan recipes handed down through generations . Margherita still offers today those same recipes that preserve the authentic flavors of the South of Italy.

Margherita in Gemmayze, Beirut is the first branch to open its doors in July 2008.The concept of its pizzeria was to become that of the neighborhood, a place where neighbors, families and friends to gather around a traditional and authentic Neapolitan wooden-oven-baked pizza. Throughout the years, Margherita blended into the different atmospheres that the trendy street of Gemmayze lives: a business and family meeting point during the day and at night, a gathering for friends, couples and more.

Margherita Gemmayze’s cozy and familiar atmosphere has lead to the great success of this concept and has become a thriving chain in Lebanon and the Gulf.

In Gulf, the Margherita as an Italian brand, continues its operations, serving authentic recipes for a truly Neapolitan experience. In the UAE, Margherita has two branches in Sheikh Zayed road and JBR. “Margherita pizzeria del quartiere dal 1959” delivers the authentic taste of Naples with simplicity and elegance.

I had the pleasure seeing making the pizzas in real time—kneading the dough, adding the toppings and all by international celebrity Pizzaiolos at Margherita JBR. Franco Pepe,  known for his special classic style, and Simone Padoan for his special gastronomic style created special menus for customers during a Special Pizza Night organized by Margherita.

Your main stay at Margherita in JBR

There′s nothing like the Italian pizza big thumb up from Franco Pepe, a celebrity Pizzaiolo, known for his Special Classic style! Check out his best moments in these witty pics!

Franco Pepe, a celebrity Pizzaiolo, known for his Special Classic style!

Chef Simone Padoan, on the other hand, known for his special gastronomic style created gourmet offerings that included Terra & Mare, with red prawns, fennel, orange, burrata and pestachio cream; Tonno Alla Cedroni, with fresh tuna, aromatic herbs, Grana Padano and mozzarella; and L’orto, with smoked scamorza, blonde onions, pumpkin, puntarella asparagus and mozzarella.
Behind-the-scenes pizza-making during a Special Pizza Night at Margherita in The Walk at JBR
I had two of its kind pizzas created by two celebrity chefs, perfect ending two the night !
ci vediamo ! 😉

Reviews

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Experiencing world-class service at Hilton Sharjah

Review: Where to stay in Ajman

Iftar preview at Millennium Plaza Hotel Dubai

Iftar preview at Arabian Courtyard Hotel

First-time riders at Dreamland Aqua Park: Review

Bodega Streetfood at Port Saeed, Deira

Margherita UAE offers a gastronomic indulgence with an endless Neapolitan cuisine

Levantine cuisine at Al Maeda restaurant

Good bet for lunch in JLT – Aappa Kadai

Taste of International Cuisine at Panorama Restaurant

Barjeel Al Arab Restaurant: Iftar Preview

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Ramadan in the Gulf region will start tomorrow and I had the pleasure to attend an Iftar preview at the award-winning  Barjeel Al Arab Restaurant  within the Barjeel Guest House located at the Heritage Village by the scenic Dubai Creek.

The Iftar concept at Barjeel Al Arab was a majlis style where guests are laid back on a bespoke  Bedouin-style cushions, a very traditional Bedouin style seating arrangement where cushions are covered in a colorful tribal print and are paired with beautiful Persian carpets. Finally, a hearty meal was presented at the center for everyone to share.

My wonderful experience to Emirati hospitality started off with hearty bowls of shredded chicken soup, a colorful array of veggies, special hommos to dip a variety of traditional Arabic breads in and an obligatory platter of dried fruit to indulge on. The highlight of the meal was the very delicious Chicken Pilaf.

If you want to experience a traditional Emirati hospitality, dine in at Barjeel Al Arab restaurant where a range of Middle Eastern and Emirati delicacies are served at only AED 99 per person.

The gorgeous Chicken Pilaf
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Guests would instantly fall in love with its dramatic location offering panoramic views of Shandaga overlooking the Dubai Creek and adjacent to Al Ghubaiba Metro Station. Barjeel Heritage Guest House is a stone throw away from the Heritage Village & Diving Zone, Historical Sheikh Saeed’s House, Old Souk, Abra Station (water taxi) and Meena Bazar. And only 100 meters away from the Ministry of Finance (Financial district of Old Dubai). It is situated very close to the Tourists bargain market where you can find exotic produce, souvenirs and handmade trinkets to treasure.

Located in downtown Bur Dubai, the Barjeel Al Arab is located near Al Ghubaiba Metro Station and represents the true warm hospitality of the Arabian feel.

For reservations and group bookings, please call +971 4 351 9111 or send an email to fbd@arabiancourtyard.net.