Saturday, July 30, 2011

I just got home from a fun evening with my brother Ming, his girlfriend Seryl, Jenny, Ming's high school friend who eventually became one of closest girlfriends. Of course, she and Noy have become good friends, too.

It was spur of the moment, but Ming happens to be a very big fan of Periperi chicken, he can't wait for Seryl to try it. Seryl is a nurse who's leaving for Saudi in a few days, that's why Ming is in town, too. Jenny hasn't tried Periperi until tonight, and she liked it, too.

The mandatory after-dinner coffee took us to Caffe Firenzo after realizing the more popular places are just packed on a rainy Saturday night. I was instantly attracted to the serious ambience inside. It wasn't packed, but it wasn't empty either. There was an empty spacious "booth" lined with soft leatherette-covered couches that are neither too firm nor too comfortable. It was perfect for us.

I tried their Iced Latte and was happy with the robust Lavazza flavor. My companions are not big coffee drinkers but found themselves half-wishing they could drink more. The star of the evening was their Mocha Green Tea cake - it was so good we forgot to take a picture of it! It was light with the just the right amount of creamy mocha between slices of superb chiffon covered with friendliest luscious green tea crumbs. (I say friendly because I was never a fan of green tea except of its liquid form. Oh, and green tea latte just tastes like grass.)

Finally - a discreet, cozy and comfortable place that serves good coffee without the noise and hoopla. I'm happy I discovered it with people I just love.

I hope your weekend was delightful, too!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Soothing Sunday: Movie Date at Home

This afternoon, Noy set the TV and his laptop up so we could watch Sherlock Holmes more comfortably together. We haven't had this much time together in a long time, so we decided to whip up a few simple dishes to munch on while we watched. He cooked kung pao pasta while I made corned beef pandesal.

Okay, I bought the salad because I was too lazy to prepare all the ingredients (not to mention expensive) - peaches, grapes, mandarin oranges, kiwi, and almonds. See the large chunks of onion on the corned beef? I was just too lazy. Buying the ready-made salad turned out to be a good idea anyway because Noy almost didn't leave any for me - he loved the strawberry vinaigrette very much! He can't stop telling me how much he loved it.

As for the movie, it wasn't the best we've seen, sadly. I actually fell asleep for a few minutes, what with the comfortable, cool, and cozy bed and weather! But the best part is I got to spend a few stress-free hours with the husband. I guess that's what Sundays are for, really.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Soothing Sunday: My Payag

Good Sunday afternoon, everyone! It's a bright sunny day, just about the right time to start having a regular blog feature - the Soothing Sunday. I'm all about relaxing and just taking it slow on a Sunday (read: hospital duty barred forever!), so sharing anything relaxing on a Sunday is one great way for me to relax on a Sunday! This is so exciting for me, so I hope you'd all take some time to check my blog out.

There's no better way to start this feature than showing off one of my treasured things in this world - my payag. Payag is Visayan for "small hut". I asked my parents to build one in Mama's garden as a place for us to sleep in the afternoons. It started as a very small sitting room until we had enough funds to build a two-storey structure with a bedroom and a balcony. From then on, we stayed there more often that inside the house. We have breakfast there sometimes. The fact that the payag is surrounded on three sides by fruit-bearing trees and flowers and a rice field on one side is a real treat - the wind that breezes through is always fresh-smelling and definitely sleep-inducing.

Every time I come home to my parent's house in Aklan I always looked forward to having an entire day spent in my payag - reading my favorite book, pouring through old family photos, having merienda of kumbo (Aklanon for maruya, banana fritter) and fresh buko juice (just picked from one of our coconut trees), chatting with Mama, and of course, sleeping!

With that I'm off for some cheap airfare hunting - I wanna come home soon.

Have a soothing Sunday,

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In the Heart of Coron

I'm blogging about Ralph's Pension House in the town of Coron, Busuanga Island, Palawan, not because the owner requested me to, but out of sheer satisfaction that I feel is worth sharing to anyone who reads this.

Despite the fact that we're celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary by going on this trip, Noy and I decided to stay practical. The search for a suitable place to stay ended when I stumbled upon Ralph's website. I was convinced by the testimonies at trip advisor, and attempted to make reservations five months prior to our trip. Here's downside #1 - their boxbe thingie can be a big headache. I cannot download and read their messages because of boxbe. Two weeks to the trip Noy made a call to Mr Oscar Gutierrez - Mang Jun - the owner, and our account was settled in two days. If you'd like to avoid downside #1 then, just call - it makes everything clear - fast.

For Php 9,800, Noy and I got:

  • to & from airport transfers
  • 3d/2n accommodations
  • meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner where applicable)
  • guided tour on days 1 & 2.
Airport Transfers and Other Transport Means

Ralph's hired a freelance driver to pick us up and other guests (staying in a different hotel) from the airport. We didn't mind the company at all - it was nice to travel with other people. The van was relatively old but it was clean and the airconditioning was sufficient.

For the afternoon tour on Day 1, we were brought to Mt Tapyas & Maquinit Hot Springs by a large, clean and colorful tricycle. For Day 2 tour, it was a banca that felt large because Noy and I were the only passengers. The bangkero, who brought his 8 year old son, also cooked our lunch on tour.

The van that brought us back to the airport was newer with more comfortable seats, but it was packed. It picked up a lot of people around town so it took almost an hour before we actually headed for the airport. I would have worried about the gates closing had I not known that the van driver worked for the airline company we booked our flight with.

Best thing #1 - Absolutely no ripoffs! Not a single driver asked for a fee.

The Pension House

The place is first and foremost...a house. We kept this in mind so we won't expect inappropriately - like room service and luxurious amenities. But the girls at Ralph's do try to be of service, and we appreciate it.

It used to be a house, it sits right in the middle of town near EVERYTHING (best thing #2), and it was obvious they have just recently expanded to accommodate more guests. We booked Kristian's room. It was on the third floor with a balcony offering the best view of Coron Bay in the entire house.

It was quite small and meant to provide just the basics - a large comfortable bed, cable TV, airconditioning & fan, and an appropriately sized bathroom. Water flow was less than adequate, but the water was clean. Here's downside #2 - not enough storage space. Our bags were on the floor and there was no place to hang our dry clothes. Hooks on the wall would have been okay just so our stuff won't get wet.

The entire house was clean. Hot and cold water was available 24/7 and anyone can make coffee anytime. Internet was okay - we had no problems. There was an hour-long power shutdown on our second night - the temperature was bearable but the mosquitoes were crazy! That's downside #3.

Mang Jun was a very hands-on business guy. He welcomed us, chatted a lot at meals, made us comfortable, asked a little about our lives in an attempt to practically know all of his guests. He's a guy who can and will talk about a lot of different things, which other people may find annoying. We didn't get that impression though. For us, he's simply doing what he can to satisfy his guests. That's best thing #3. Specifically, he personally brought us to his seafood suki so Noy & I could buy huge crabs for our families back home.

At the house, Roma and Angel happily volunteered to buy ice and pack our crabs for us. How's that for service?

Meals, Glorious Meals

I don't think I really need to expound on this. I've got pictures that will get you salivating in a bit -

However, here is downside #4: there was not enough rice on our first breakfast, so Noy had to buy some from the restaurant across the street. Other than that, we always had a little feast in the large and airy dining area.

The Tour

Best thing #4 would be Jordan - a freelance tour guide Mang Jun had booked for us. At 24, he's had quite an experience. He was very serious at first, but I guess no one ever resists our warm antics - he was like a friend in a matter of hours. He's very quick to offer a hand and take our pictures - he knew the best angles to take. He's a gentleman, and was very kind to just pull me by my life vest whenever I got tired of swimming. He insisted on setting the table for lunch even when told we won't really mind if he just placed the stack of food containers there.

On Day 2, we went to Siete Pecados, Twin Peaks, Kayangan Lake, Atyawan Beach, and Twin Lagoon. That's about the basics for first time travelers to Coron. We were done before 4 pm, so we stopped at another spot where there were a lot of fish to feed, so that was an extra 15 minutes or so of sheer thrill. Best thing #5: they make sure you enjoy!

We had a good time. There are a lot of other places to see, such as the shipwrecks and the other tiny islands, but that really depends on how long one intends to stay, not on the hotel or tour guide you'll be booking with. Will I come back to Coron? Definitely, hopefully with our families. Would I be staying in Ralph's still? Yes, because it's practical, comfortable, convenient, and I don't want to limit our families to commercial hotel food in "standard" portions. Will I recommend Ralph's to friends? Yes, but only to those who understand the differences between a hotel and a lodging house, and those who'd appreciate simple people and the simple things in life.

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