Archive for the 'EVENTS' Category

30
Mar
14

GOZO GARDEN RESTAURANT AT MILLENIUM AIRPORT HOTEL, DUBAI

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When you’re in Dubai either for a brief stopover or a longer stay, you may want to drop by at one of the interesting and delicious hotel food and beverage outlets around – the Gozo Garden located at Millenium Airport Hotel.  I was lucky enough to be invited to experience their BBQ Themed Dinner Buffet followed by a Phil Collins Tribute Show that made one of my first few weekend nights in UAE less ordinary.

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Lobby of Millenium Airport Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Upon the thoughtful recommendation of a fellow Filipino UAE-based blogger, Carla of  My Yellow Bells @ www.myyellowbells.blogspot.ae, whose blog I follow long before I came to Dubai, and with the generous invitation of Mr. Ben Hipolito, the hotel’s  Food and Beverage Administrator,  Gozo Garden  Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel, I’m grateful to be there that Thursday night, savored the food and music, and finally got a chance to meet Carla and another Filipino blogger based in Dubai, Rosell of  Kero’s Celebration @ www.mrspinkihan.com. It was nothing but fun evening that ushered our weekend in UAE!

For someone like me who’s so new to Dubai, finding the location of  Millenium Airport Hotel and getting there were not an issue.  I left my flat in Deira at around half an hour past 6 in the evening ; walked my way to take the ever reliable, Dubai Metro from Abu Bakar Al Siddique Station. After swiftly transferring to Red Line at Union Station, I alighted at GGICO Station and strolled to the venue. It only took me less than 20 minutes to reach the Millenium Airport Hotel from Deira via the Dubai Metro. Of course, getting there through private cars, taxi cabs and buses are also an option. It’s that accessible.

Thankfully, the sky and the stars were cooperative that evening; the seemingly odd downpour in Dubai for two consecutive days prior to that night halted on our favor.
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The view from where we sat.

The simple outdoor set up for that Thursday evening highlighted the impressive space of the hotel. The buffet spread was truly enticing!
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The delicious Gozo Garden BBQ themed dinner buffet outdoor.

Assorted slices of cheese, cold cuts and biscuits, a variety of salads, sushi, seafood, baked goodies and soups, plus a few more hors d’ oeuvres, main entrees that include Salmon wrapped in Banana Leaves, Stir Fried Seafoods, Pan Roasted Vegetables in Pesto, Roasted Rack of Lamb with Moroccan Spices, Grilled Hamour with Citrus Sauce and Basil, Roasted Beef and a lot more!  Desserts spread wasn’t overwhelming but a satisfying selection of sweets and fresh fruit slices.  A choice of beverages from wines and beers to fruit juices, coffee and tea were available too to complement everything that evening.

Let my few captures give you a glimpse of how modest but tasteful the spread was.
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Desserts…

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My plates…

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There were a couple of cover artists who were playing good music during the dinner. Their songs from late 80s to early 90s while we’re indulging were so apt to introduce the main show that night.  A Phil Collins Tribute by Andrew James.

His voice did justice to Phil Collins’ hits and I must state, I caught myself clapping frequently. However, it could’ve been better if his repertoire included the classics,  “Against All Odds” and “Separate Lives.” You know how Filipinos can get so sentimental at any given place and time! ;)
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Upcoming shows at Gozo Garden include, Tom Jones Tribute Show on May 1st, and another Tribute Show featuring hits of Lionel Richie on May 29th. You better mark those dates and troop to Gozo Garden if you’re in Dubai!

As for the gastronomic feasts nightly, Gozo Garden offers Latino Samba on Sundays, Mediterranean on Mondays, Oriental on Tuesdays, Out of Africa-themed night on Wednesdays, BBQ every Thursdays, Seafood Galore on Fridays and Arabian Night on Saturdays.  At AED 195 per person with selected house beverages, and AED 250 every Thursday with Tribute Shows, you’re definitely in for something fun and a delightful night!

It was a pleasure finally meeting my fellow bloggers at UAE, Carla and Rosell! Here’s hoping for more meet ups soon! Until next time!

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Happy to meet fellow Filipino UAE-based bloggers, Carla (middle) and Rosell (seated).

Many thanks to Gozo Garden Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel for inviting us!

Gozo Garden | Millenium Airport Road Dubai, Airport Road, Casablanca Street, Al Garhoud, PO Box 13018
Dubai, 13018, United Arab Emirates | Telephone : +971 4 702 8888+971 4 702 8888 Fax : +971 4 282 0627 |
website : www.millenniumhotels.ae/millenniumdubai/dining/gozo-garden

>><<

31
Jan
14

SAN JUAN CITY | PUNLAAN SCHOOL’S FUNDRAISING DINNER

I considered it as a special blessing to be invited to a humble place filled with inspiring and encouraging people. Few days before 25th January 2014, I received the invitation via phone call and email, and despite the short notice, I’m glad I never hesitated and gave it an instant green light. The event was called, Heart For A Cause, A Fundraising Dinner for Punlaan School in San Juan, Metro Manila and its young scholars. The Five-Thousand-Pesos-per-plate invitation to the fine dining dinner spearheaded by Chef Babes Austria, a former Executive chef of Malacanan Palace and Taal Vista Hotel, for the Punlaan School was already enticing, and the fact that my only contribution to the event was not financial but rather small deed by capturing the moments on my amateur photos; the event itself was surprisingly meaningful as it moved me, as well as the rest of the esteemed guests to tears.

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Herb Garden of Punlaan School.

The area of Punlaan School, M. Paterno Street in San Juan, isn’t new to me. I passed that street a countless times but I am not aware that there’s a productive school until I attended their Fundraising Dinner. Established in 1975, Punlaan School is offering a Two-Year-Dual Training Scholarship Program in Food and Beverage Services, that provides valuable training exclusively for young women who come from lower-income-sector. It’s very uplifting to note that a former school for helpers has evolved into a vocational-technical institution and tourism training center accredited by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT).  While it’s not difficult to appreciate that Punlaan School grows not only their very own herb garden that produces important ingredients to every meal they prepare, it is more significant to know that they breed students whose poor lives are transformed gradually as they undergo life-changing studies.

What made the event extraordinary, the scholars of Punlaan School prepared everything from cocktails, main entrees and desserts. The students were all involved from ushering of guests, to serving of meals respectively. And from every inch, they looked and moved professionally!

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Tempura Scallop Mesclun on Sweet Spicy Fresh Mango Sauce.

I was warmly welcomed to the cocktails by Ms. Anne Marie Jacinto, Punlaan School’s Director.

Hors de’oevre with Beringer (yes, my favorite California wines distributed by Happy Living was there to support too!) Sparkling White Zinfandel were served at the cocktails held at the school’s Multi-Purpose Hall. Everything was tasteful.

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Crisp Pawpaw Smoked Fish Cheesy Triangle with Pineapple Moringa Honey Sauce.

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Oven Roasted California Herb Mixed Nuts and Fresh Root Crop Chips with Punlaan Homemade Dip.
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Beringer Sparkling White Zifandel and my plate of bite-sized goodies.

As everyone were ushered in to the dining area at the second floor of the school, I got a chance to sneak inside the school’s chapel to utter some prayers.

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The lobby and the narrow wooden staircase gave me a Malacanan Palace-like vibe enough to heighten my curiosity and fascination with the school, its cause and of course, the dinner itself. The mood was casual, yet I had some hints that there’s a deeper purpose for my attendance.
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Here’s the hallway en route to the classrooms that were transformed to the evening’s dining area.
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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here are the faces of students who need your support and unconditional assistance, for them to pursue their studies in Punlaan School and fulfill their dreams of helping their own families eventually.

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One of the highlights of my experience was getting a chance to witness how our feast is prepared. I was ushered into the kitchen, et voila! It was so nice to see everyone was working in the chef’s Operating Room efficiently.

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Here’s Chef Babes Austria in her best element! I bet it’s a privilege and so motivating to be under her tutelage.
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It’s beautiful to see young chef-in-the-making, painstakingly setting our salad plates…
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Everyone seemed enjoying their work, and there was no trace of fatigue in spite of the fact that their call time to be in school for the event was 12 hours earlier.
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The dinner started officially as they opened the accordion divider to intentionally expose & introduce the kitchen and the people behind it.

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Introductory speeches from the school authorities were delivered and love songs were rendered by Ms. Roxy Abueg from UP Conservatory of Music. Her voice and renditions of popular and classic hits brought everyone in a more positive mood.

Dinner was served by the scholars themselves. My palates and taste buds sensed nothing but delicious!

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Flowers and Greens on a Bed of Home-made Curved Slivered Atlantic Wild Salmon-Gravlax lightly drizzled with Limoncello Vinaigrette.
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Asian Symphony of Flavors. Clear Broth served with puff twisted bread stick.
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Not on the menu but Soft Shell Crab was served too!  Yummy!

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Poached Baked Fresh Bacalao in spiced milk served with asparagus and foamy Dayap French Vanilla white wine sauce.

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Slow-cooked Roast US Pork Belly stuffed with California Walnuts, with Guava Java Mint Sauce.

I guess everyone, including myself, was not prepared to shed tears on a lovely dinner like this. One by one, while all of us were savoring the meal plate by plate, three remarkable alumni of Punlaan School took the podium and microphone and spoke from their hearts. Michelle Pacheco, who’s  a pioneer and still working with Resorts World Manila, Hazel Berbano, who’s working with Intercontinental Hotel Makati, and Rossel Dequito, who’s working with UCC Coffee, proudly shared their heartwarming and humble beginnings with Punlaan School. All their testimonials proved that despite they all came from poorest of the poor families in Metro Manila, their commitment to rise from their marginalized state by going through their studies successfully, to their hardworking efforts employed at their current work now, are all worth-sharing.

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From left to right : Punlaan School’s Alumni – Michelle Pacheco, Hazel Berbano, and Rossel Dequito.

Rossel, the last of the three speaker-alumni from Punlaan School moved everyone to tears. Her words about how she and her family survived and thrived on their house built on stilts by the sea, swaying with the waves and breeze, made us all realize our blessings – big and small.  She and the other girls from Punlaan School are truly inspiring!

Moving on with the dinner… A uniquely tasting sorbet called, California Raisin Lime (not in photo) was served as palate cleanser in between two courses.

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Grilled US Angus Steak.

Second course was a handsome fillet of prime beef with duet of sauce, au jus and quenelle pistachio cream pomerry mustard, served with baked potato, glazed baby carrot and French beans. The incredibly tasteful slab was paired with Beringer Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Tasted like a match truly made in Heaven! :)
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The steak was so gorgeous and delicious, I’m glad I immortalized it on this shot… hehehe! 
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Finally but not the least, decadent dessert!
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Sweet Punlaan Harmony Banana-Carrot Pudding with warm Ganache, Lavander infused Creme Anglaise and fresh fruit.

From cocktails, to entrees and dessert, to the morally-uplifting words of the almuni, I came home not only satiated but was reminded to be more grateful for everything and to everyone, to always count my blessings and to share whatever I can to those in need.
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“Heart for a Cause was sponsored by Beringer Wines courtesy of Happy Living, and Schott Zwiesel Stemware courtesy of Garden Barn,Down To Earth, Villa Ignacio Farms Inc., Mida Food Distributor Inc., Dane International Commodities Inc. and PTC.

Punlaan School is funded by voluntary government donations as well as private institutions and individuals. You can help by donating, accommodating women for training, or recruiting school graduates. For more information, log on to www.punlaan.com or call (63-2) 727-0581/82.”

*Special thanks goes out to Ms. Nana Nadal for the invitation.

>><<

12
Jan
14

ANGONO | HIGANTES FESTIVAL & BALAW BALAW RESTAURANT

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It only took me 20 minutes and twenty-two Philippine pesos on a single public-utility-jeepney ride from our place in Pasig City to reach Angono, Rizal.  Although it sounded quite near and convenient, I did not have any idea where to alight! I only remembered from what I googled, that the Higantes Festival parade would start at 7AM, Sunday, 17 November 2013,  in front of Angono Elementary School. Good thing, luck was on my side because a young family with grandparents were also on their way to the same town fiesta, sat beside me. I got off the jeepney when they did.

Just before 7AM, I found myself standing in front of World War II monument at the junction in Angono. The driver dropped off almost half of his passengers there, as the road going to Angono Elementary School was closed for the event. After few meters of walking, I smiled when I finally saw numerous Higantes, or giant paper mache on queue for the parade. It certainly brought back simple and happy memories of celebrating fiestas during my childhood years.

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Towering at ten to twelve feet, with diameter of about four to five feet, Higantes are made of paper mache for their heads, and bamboos and colorful textiles for their trunks. They usually add fun to almost all fiestas around the Philippines, but it is in Angono where the tradition started. History states that these Higantes originated as a creative means of protest of Filipino farmers and land tillers against their Spanish landlords during the colonial era. That explains why these Higantes have hands placed high up on their waists, they used to be the effigies of arrogant hacienderos before.

An awesome surprise treat for me was to see and photograph little pretty kids that were dressed in costumes of mermaids, fishermen and parehadoras (group of young girls holding paddles and wearing bakya or traditional wooden slippers); they were all in the parade at Higantes Festival as reminders that Angono was once a fishing village and that its town people were blessed with abundance of Laguna Lake.

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And so my Sunday morning was made with infectious kiddie smiles and a lot variations of Higantes from computer-game-inspired, Plants versus Zombies…

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Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal…

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More animated characters…

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Local town’s cosplayers…

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Even the famous Filipino comedian-host, Vice Ganda was made into a Higantes!

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Like almost all fiestas in the country, the parade started with a lively marching bands…

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Fiestas are commonly celebrated in honor of Catholic saints, and in Angono, it’s the feast day of Saint Pope Clement I or locally known as San Clemente. Higantes Festival is held a week before the feast day of San Clemente, that’s usually celebrated every November 22-23.

After I stationed myself to a spot where I watched the parade pass by, I walked my way down to the town’s municipal building.

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The relief-structures of “Si Malakas at Si Maganda” fronting the municipal building of Angono, Rizal.

Since I am not familiar with the place, I asked bystanders and a few policemen of the directions to the San Clemente Church. It’s easy as I was told to stroll down where the parade was going.
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The narrow street en route to the San Clemente Church was lined by concrete walls in parallel, with sculptures and murals depicting local lives and other artistic creations of homegrown artists of Angono. This urban municipality would never been dubbed as Arts Capital of the Philippines for nothing. Angono is home to two National Artists, namely Lucio San Pedro for music and Carlos “Botong” Francisco for the arts. It is also in this humble town where Angono Petroglyphs, the oldest art work identified in the Philippines, can be found (not in photo).
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Finally, I uttered prayers of thanksgiving, asked for forgiveness and blessings inside San Clemente Church.
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Outside, under the heat of the mid-morning sun, the Higantes Festival parade was still on-going. I caught myself with mouth-wide-open, at the sight of local men and women in their geriatric years, taking photos of the parade using modern tablets and smart phones.

I was in awe at the efforts employed by all participants, specially the boys and men who were carrying those Higantes, and of course, all the children and the old ones who were wearing traditional attires and costumes for the parade. Hats off to them who continue to pass this traditional celebration to the next generations.
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Most people who visit Angono, Rizal also drop by the famous Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery.  Of course, I did not let the chance to pass without sampling something from their menu. It only took me 5-minute-tricycle ride to get there.

Apparently, 3 Higantes from the parade were from the restaurant owners. I saw them how they disassemble the Higantes before keeping them inside the gallery. Amazing!

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The facade’s inviting with lush greens…
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Inside, I found the restaurant quaint and fascinating…
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The view where I sat…
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Paper Mache : Local women with children, cooking local rice cakes, bibingka and puto-bumbong.

Balaw-Balaw Restaurant is known for local and exotic dishes from Angono. I forgot to bring my daredevil and adventurous attitude when it comes to food (as if I have one!), thus I only settled to personal favorites – Halo-halo to beat the heat, Balaw-balaw Seafood fried rice -that appealed to me as a meal-in-one, and a fresh mango juice to wash everything down.
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By its huge serving, I had more than half of the Balaw-Balaw Seafood fried rice as my take-away, and shared it immediately for lunch at home. Everything’s OK but certainly not the best compared to what I’ve tasted. To be fair, there’s a lot of Filipino dishes on the menu to choose from and perhaps, a single visit to this restaurant with minimal orders would not be enough to have a fair food review.

The restaurant houses an art gallery too.

Behold.

The craftmanship of Angono…
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A visit to their toilet with a 45 degree turn to the right will give you this view…

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More beautiful sculptures and art works installed at the other room of the art gallery…

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Half day wasn’t enough to understand, enjoy and savor an entire town’s culture, tradition, food and celebration. But I reckon that I had fun nonetheless.

Have you been to Angono, Rizal? How was your experience attending Higantes Festival? Have you tried dining at Balaw-Balaw Restaurant?

>><<

San Clement Church | Baranggay Poblacion Ibaba, Angono, Rizal.

Angono Elementary School | M.L. Quezon Avenue, Barangay San Isidro, Angono, Rizal.

Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery| #16 Doña Justa St., Doña Subd., PH1, Angono, Rizal. (this is not a sponsored post).

>><<

05
Dec
13

INTRAMUROS, MANILA | 2013 GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION

“I love you when you bow in your mosque,

kneel in your temple,

pray in your church.

For you and I are sons of religion,

and it is the spirit.”

~ Khalil Gibran

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Around 3PM, I rode the MRT train from Santolan Station all the way to its last stop in Recto, Manila. Strolled my way to Quiapo, then took a jeepney ride to Pier and alighted near the Department of Immigration building. The road was completely blocked to private and public vehicles and only people were allowed to walk through the historic walled city. Few steps further, I found myself standing in front of the restored Ayuntamiento, among the thick volume of crowd, waiting for the 100 carrozas to float by.  Although I spent countless evenings of Holy Wednesdays, Good Fridays and dawns of Easter Sundays watching Catholic saint-processions with my family in Marikina City and considering I used to be a part of an all-boys-choir in Marikina Catholic School, who used to sing in First Friday Masses, Living Rosary and other religious activities in school during my growing up years,  attending the longest procession devoted to the Blessed Virgin entirely, was something new to me.  It was my first time to attend and witness the Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, Manila that, correct me if I’m wrong, is an annual event held every first Sunday of December.

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Ayuntamiento

01 December 2013, Sunday, Intramuros, Manila. It was drizzling when I arrived within the vicinity of Manila Cathedral but the mild downpour miraculously stopped around 5PM, so timely for the start of the Grand Marian Procession for this year. Armed with my long black umbrella, I took a few shots of the first few carrozas on queue. Most of them came from nearby parishes in Metro Manila, to as far as Northern, Central and Southern Luzon, with few that came from provinces in the South.
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La Familia De La Virgen Maria.

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The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth.

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Angel Gabriel on the Annunciation tableu.

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Annunciation

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Nuestra Senora De La O from Our Lady’s Nativity Parish, Pangil, Laguna.

I saw groups of people with gadgets that could take photos swarming around one of the carrozas that was literally filled with colorful and attractive flowers; mostly Ecuadorean roses in various hues. Not long after, I joined the bystanders and faithfuls who were in awe at San Jose and his float. It was the grandest I’ve seen!
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Roses in various colors & other blooms, mirrors, faux trees & crystals adorned San Jose’s carroza.

Within 4 hours of watching the procession, at times I whispered prayers to the Lord and to His Blessed Mother, whose many images passed me by, I was totally amazed and proud of the Filipino faith. Each Marian icon was accompanied and ushered by parish priest/s, sacristans, some with nuns, marching bands, a few came with Boy scouts, folk dancers and young and old ones who were dressed in their Sunday’s best and traditional Filipino attires, volume of parishioners and Marian devotees from the town or city the image came from.

Every expression of Filipino devotion to the Virgin Mary was unique. Some paraded in solemnity, complete with recitation of the Holy Rosary; some were barefooted, others attended in uniform shirts; while some devotees were amazingly cheerful, vocal and loud in professing their love to the Virgin Mary, with singing, waving of handkerchiefs, dancing, particularly the people from Pakil, Laguna who ushered Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba, people from Candaba, Pampanga who brought Nuestra Senora de la Merced and the people from San Mateo, Rizal who accompanied Nuestra Senora de Aranzazu.

Of all the Marian images I saw, I was moved and grounded as a Filipino when the carroza of Ina Poon Bato from Zambales passed by and I saw it was accompanied by Aetas, our indigenous brothers and sisters.

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San Roque.

Image of St. Andrew or locally known as San Andres was brought in from Catanduanes, Bicol.

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St. Andrew.

Then that incredibly beautiful carroza of St. Joseph or San Jose passed by.
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St. Joseph.

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La Familia De La Virgen Maria.

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Annunciation.

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Mary and Joseph.

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Nuestra Senora De Navidad.

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From Cainta, Rizal, Mahal Na Ina Ng Kaliwanagan or the Our Lady of Light.

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Other than flowers, the parishioners from Cainta used suman, or rice cakes in the carroza.Wow!

People from all ages and walks of life participated. We were all prayerful under one sky.
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Mary, Help of Christians.

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Our Lady of Penafrancia, Naga, Bicol.

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La Angustia De Maria La Santisima Nazarena.

Something new to me was the image of Mother Mary as Our Lady of Providence/Our Lady of China for the Chinese Catholic community. It was my first time to see such gracious image.

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Our Lady of Providence/Our Lady of China.
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Nuestra Senora La Desatadora De Nundos. Our Lady Untier of Knots.

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Roses and annato/achiote or locally called in the Philippines as atsuete adorned the carroza.

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Rosa Mistica. One of the few images that was carried via wooden poles on shoulders.

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Women who ushered their image in traditional Filipino attire.

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La Pieta…

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La Pieta.

As mentioned, one of the images of the Blessed Mother that paraded with numerous devotees and parishioners was the Nuestra Senora De Aranzazu from San Mateo, Rizal. The energy of the people clapping, singing, waving their flags and hankerchiefs, cheering for the Blessed Mother was beyond inspiring!

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Nuestra Senora De Aranzazu from San Mateo, Rizal.

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Nuestra Senora De La Santisima Trinidad.

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Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba from Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish, Pakil, Laguna.

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Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Our Lady of Montserrat.
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Our Lady of Czestochowa, The Black Madonna.
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Mary, The Lady of All Nations.
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Our Lady of Banneux.

Hail to Ina Poon Bato from Zambales! Accompanied by our indigenous brothers and sisters, the Aetas.
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Ina Poon Bato from Zambales. 

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Mary, Mirror of Justice from Comembo, Makati City.
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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

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Birhen ng Lujan.

*There were 100 carrozas in this Grand Marian Procession and please forgive me if this blog post only features less than half of them, a few without names of Our Lady.  I’m so sorry as I tried my best to capture the signages from each carroza, however, I only did as much for 4 hours (5PM-9PM) of standing and taking amateur photos for me to share on this site.  I’ll appreciate if readers could identify those Marian images on this post without labels.  Also, some of the photos turned out to be blurred that I chose not to post. The other Marian images were :

  • Our Lady of Caysasay, Taal, Batangas,
  • Nuestra Senora de la Merced, Candaba, Pampanga,
  • Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City,
  • Nuestra Senora de Barangay,
  • Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario de Malabon,
  • Our Lady of Piat,
  • La Naval de Manila,
  • Our Lady of Orani,
  • Nuestra Senora de la Soledad de Nueva Ecija,
  • Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Cebu,
  • and many more that I failed to list down and capture. Again, my apologies.

For four hours, my focus from challenges of daily living was deviated to something more meaningful; something peaceful. This religious activity truly defined what Filipino Marian devotion is to me.

On December 8, Happy Feast Day of the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception!

Please pray for us.

>><<

15
Nov
13

A WEEK AFTER THE STORM

After being home for 3 weeks from Penang, one of my former Malaysian students sent me a private message on facebook, and asked of our condition in the Philippines. He mentioned, they learned from CNN that our country was ravaged by the recent typhoon. Another Malaysian student expressed her concern about me and our family regarding the same matter. I felt blessed and thankful.

A week after Typhoon Haiyan (locally known in The Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda) struck our country and left most Filipinos in devastated state, I felt the urge to bring my feet back to the heart of Manila. I found myself with knees bent, inside the Catholic church dedicated to the patron saint of the hopeless and despaired.

Novena was uttered by the faithfuls; gospel was read and a brief homily was delivered by the priest. It almost moved me to tears, as I am grateful that my family and I, despite having difficulties, are still alive, safe, and healthy. I fervently asked for forgiveness, blessings and mercy, neither for my own sake, nor for my family alone, but more so, for those Filipinos who have been suffering from losses, physical and emotional traumas caused by the terrifying storm.

I lit 3 candles, said my prayers again and strolled my way out of the Malacanang vicinity. Barely an hour with surprisingly less traffic, I reached Malate Church via 2 jeepney rides. I went inside and talked to my Creator once more. Imagine a prodigal sinner coming home to His father.  Seriously, like a battery-with-full-bars, I felt extremely recharged! So with my spirit up and hopes high, I went out of the church. And everything became lighter.

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Manila Bay, Philippines. 11/14/2013, Thursday, 5:29PM.

While I am one with the many who so appreciate the incredible financial contributions and generous humanitarian assistance being rendered by other nations to the Filipino people, I’m also grateful for the efforts exerted and donations given by our own countrymen.

Positive things must not end.  There must be no room for negative words at this time and beyond, as it would not offer any solution but add further insult to the injuries.

Life’s challenges taught me so well to be more faithful rather than lose hope. Better to put two palms together in prayer rather than to point fingers and blame others.

“The Lord is a refuge of the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” – Psalm 9:9

>><<

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Aug
13

SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI

salam aidilfitri

With just a week to go to celebrate Hari Raya or Eid,

Wishing all our Muslim students, colleagues, friends, and readers of this blog, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!

Have a very meaningful celebration of Eid! :)

 

13
Jul
13

MEETING FELLOW FILIPINO BLOGGERS IN MALAYSIA, HONG KONG & SINGAPORE

Like a surgeon with his list of procedures done on the operating table. Like an architect with his volume of blueprints drawn for the structures he built. Like a lawyer with his number of  legal cases won for his clients. I’m very proud that blogging has been my passion for the past 6 years and counting. Apparently, it has been occupying the biggest fraction on the pie graph of my limited social life.

Documenting our family’s fun adventures from our dining table to wherever our feet lead us, so that I (and hopefully Gabby) will have something online to look back, particularly when we’re all old and gray, has been surprisingly beneficial! But over and beyond freebies and loot bags, sponsorships, invites, and yes, some recognition, the most engaging part of being a blogger, in my opinion is having the opportunity to meet people who share the same passion. Certainly a big plus when bloggers go to events, travel here and there, eat and do things they love to do together, then eventually share the experiences to their readers. Engaging. Informative. Entertaining. Interesting. Fascinating. Never boring.

Within the past 3 years of living in Penang as an Overseas Filipino Worker, it’s been a pleasure to meet fellow Filipino Bloggers beyond Philippine shores.  This post randomly enumerates our casual meetings with them in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

MALACCA, MALAYSIA

Before we checked out from our 3D2N sponsored accomodation at Quayside Hotel and Halia Inc. Restaurant & Coffee Bar on our second visit to Melaka last June 2013, Jun Baris of GalangPusa.Wordpress.Com with his charming wife, Cynthia came over to meet us for few minutes before we head back to Penang.  They were even thoughtful in bringing Gabby two packs of ChocNut as pasalubong! Thank you Jun & Cynthia!

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Read Jun’s blog posts on his Malaysian adventures and more HERE!

PENANG, MALAYSIA

The youngest and the very first bloggers from the Philippines that we met in George Town, Penang were Lloyd of  TheLostBoyLloyd.Com and Dan of HappyWanderer.Com. I toured them for more than 6 hours within George Town to Gurney Drive during the 2012 George Town Festival. We went to Pinang Peranakan Mansion where we even witnessed a prenuptial photoshoot, strolled to Muslim’s Mosques, Taoist, Buddhist and Hindu Temples which are all harmoniously existing within a few meters away. Diversity in this side of Asia isn’t only observed in religions but gastronomic delights as well. With all the rich cultures intertwined in Malaysia, it’s always a feast in almost all corners of Penang being the country’s food capital! We savored local restaurant and hawker foods to our delight! My only regret was not photographing the two for this blog. Nonetheless, I’m happy to be their half-day-tour guide in the island!

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Glad to introduce my ultimate favorite Malaysian dish to them : Char Koay Teow!
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Lloyd, Dan and I also sampled Penang’s famous desserts…
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Ais Kachang, Cendol and Bubur Chacha! Sarap! Sedap!

They also spotted Lithuanian Artist, Ernest Zacharevic while working on his commissioned murals for George Town!
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Dan and Lloyd, Maraming salamat sa pasalubong! Our favorite!!!
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The visit of Lloyd and Dan to George Town blog post HERE! Read also Lloyd’s own take on their Penang experience HERE! I also suggest you visit Dan’s Happy Wanderer Blog HERE! 

Few months after, the blogger from Angono, Rizal, Anton Carranza Jr. revisited Malaysia and conquered Penang on foot in few days with his lovely wife, Teresa. They literally roamed around George Town on their own the day after I met them for dinner. I brought them to hawkers in Gurney Drive too but I thought, since they already tasted offerings from hawker stalls in Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur, it would be better if they try steamboat buffet in Seoul Garden inside Plaza Gurney Mall.

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*Photo courtesy of Anton from his blog, PusangKalye.Net. Read his blog series on their Penang trip via his blog HERE!

Ivan Man Dy, the well-traveled Filipino Heritage Expert cum Tour Guide Extraordinaire and many other hats to his name has been to Penang several times even before I came to this Malaysian state to work in 2010.  We met Ivan several times in Manila but our first meeting with him in Penang was over Chicken Tandoori and Garlic Cheese Naan savored with barehands at Restoran Kapitan in Little India, George Town; blogged  HERE!

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We met Ivan initially in Penang when I was a few pounds lighter and Tina hasn’t started her diet and physical regimen yet. She’ll kill me for this, hehehe!

Ivan decided to pay George Town, Penang another visit but this year, his trip was so timely on the city’s anniversary of incription as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. From our favorite local Indian-Malaysian restaurant last year, we brought Ivan to a sponsored and sumptuous Wine and Dine Dinner Buffet at no less than Sarkies at E&O Hotel; blog post HERE! 

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After that Sarkies dinner, Ivan, Tina, Gabby and I went to Khoo Kongsi to watch the few moments of GTF2013. We were amazed and amused at the Taiwanese Puppet Show at the courtyard of one of the grandest clan houses in the island. We also got a chance to meet some local performers, who were all in their traditional attires.

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Here are Ivan Man Dy’s pasalubong to us. Maraming salamat!

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Visit Ivan Man Dy’s OldManilaWalks.Com and reserved a walking tour with him HERE!

Joey and Krissy of BoundForTwo.Com are Filipino bloggers currently based in Kuala Lumpur. We first met late last year when I visited Malaysia’s capital to renew my passport at the Philippine Embassy. We had some sushi and sashimi at a Japanese restaurant in Pavilion Mall.  Their blog post HERE!

This year, they also decided to explore Penang during George Town Festival. They stayed in the island over the weekend and Gabby and I (because Tina chose to do a ton of household chores) accompanied them to Kafe Heng Huat in Lorong Selamat where the most delicious Char Koay Teow that I’ve tasted with the most plump prawns and bowls of Ais Kachang among others are served. We also went to Thai and Burmese Buddhist Temples in Pulau Tikus, G Hotel and the famous hawkers and Plaza Gurney Mall in Gurney Drive. Like Anton and Teresa, they also toured the island by themselves before and after we met them. Thanks for the visit, Joey and Krissy!

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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

During the 2013 Blog Awards held by Ministry of Tourism where this site was awarded for two consecutive years as Best Expat Blog Award Winner, three topnotch Filipino Bloggers were flown in from the Philippines to participate as speakers in the conference held for the event. We met Tonyo Cruz, Vince Golangco and Blogie Robillo during the awarding ceremony that same night. Blog post HERE! 

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On this photo with the Honorable Tourism Malaysia Minister Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen (center wearing yellow gown) are Filipino bloggers Vince Golangco (standing second from right) of www.wheninmanila.com  , Blogie Robillo (standing second from left) of www.robilloblog.com and Tonyo Cruz (standing third from right) of tonyocruz.com.

HONG KONG

Tina, Gabby and I were invited by Hong Kong Disneyland for 3D2N sponsored trip and accomodation with full meals, together with Filipino celebrity bloggers.

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Lesley (third from left on the photo above) of ShootFirstEatLater.Com, Gael Hilotin (eighth from left) of ThePinaySoloBackpacker.Com, Pastor Dennis Sy (next to Gael) of ActLikeAMan.Org, (next to Pastor Dennis on the photo above is his lovely wife, Thammie Sy of ThammieSy.Com and celebrity-fashion bloggers, Kryz Uy (third from right) of ThirstyThoughtByKryzUy , Robbie Becroft (behind Kryz) of RobbieOffDuty.Com and Laureen Uy (second from right) of BreakMyStyle.Com.

SINGAPORE

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While in Singapore and over Sufi Restaurant’s Babaganoush, Kebab on a Sword and other Mediterranean goodies, I’ve met the Nuffnang’s Asia-Pacific Award Winning Travel Blogger, Nina Fuentes of JustWandering.Org  on July 19, 2012 in Arab Street. I first met Nina on an invitational blogger’s event for Singapore Tourism Board few months prior my work in Penang started. Our Singapore casual yet tasteful dinner, blogged HERE!

And just a day after the dinner with Nina, I met a few more Filipino Bloggers in the Lion City as we were all invited to grace the 2012 Singapore Blog Awards; blog post HERE!

We were hosted by omy.sg and designated to various hotels of Far East Hospitality. I was luckily assigned to Oasia. It was fun when we attended the welcome dinner, the awarding ceremonies the following day where Noks wore that Joker costume and won over other contestatnts in superhero attires; we rode the Singapore Flyer together, and eat, laugh, eat, laugh in that happy cycle! Of  course, it was fun to meet fellow bloggers from other Southeast Asian countries; we gained friends after the event! :)

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If this was the Blogging Olympics, here’s the contingent from the Philippines! (From left to right on the photo above) Brenna Bustamante of PhilippineTravelogue.Com, KC Canlas of SpreadSomeAwesome.Com, the Joker who won the Best Costume Award in SBA2012 -Noks Sosa of SiningFactory.Com (and his other blogs), and certainly not the least, Aleah of SolitaryWanderer.Com

June 2013, we met Paul Ang of the blog, MadDawgWorld.Wordpress.Com  and his cheerful and loving wife, Fran of the blog, FrannyWanny.Com who both are currently Singapore-based.

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Paul Ang (in acid blue shirt) and his better half, Fran (in pink shirt). We were invited by an inspiring Filipino achiever in Singapore and across Northeast and Southeast Asia, Dennis to a delightful Japanese Dinner in Hakumai Sushi and Omakase and French Desserts at Antoinette; blog post HERE! Dennis will kill me for posting this! Sorry, Dennis but again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for that wonderful dinner!

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Why did I painstakingly blog this?  

To tell the entire Universe that we, Filipino Bloggers are conquering the world and we chose to begin with our own continent. Kidding!

If you’re visiting us while we’re still here in Penang, we charge for MEET & GREET SESSION and we highly welcome pasalubong from the Philippines, JOKE!!! :P

Seriously, to all those mentioned in this long but humble post, thank you so much for taking the efforts and spending your precious time with us! Hope to see you again soon!

PS : If in any case I missed someone, kindly identify yourself, state where and when we met outside the Philippines and I’ll gladly edit this post.  Maraming salamat po!  :)




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