Back to the Philippines after 10 years – Part 2

It’s taking me forever to write the second installment of our recent vacation to the Philippines.  But here it goes….

One of the main reasons for taking the trip at that time of the year was to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday.  It was one of those rare occasions where we were all present, so it was just about right to have a family pictorial.  My sister did all the arrangements and I think she did a pretty good job.

These photos were taken at my aunt and uncle’s residence in Valencia, Bohol.   The place where the new house now sits used to be my grandparents’ ancestral home.  Those who know my aunt and uncle are aware that they are an amazing team.  Both smart and artistic, they did an amazing job in renovating and landscaping their place.  I was blown away with how they turned this once sleepy beach-side property into a tropical paradise.

Here are a few of my favorite pics.

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Our family multiplied!

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My son with my nephew
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My daughter with my niece

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My beautiful mom rocking 70 with my loving dad!

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All of us together.  The kids cooperated somehow.

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On that same day, we also celebrated mom’s birthday in one of the best resorts in Panglao,  Bohol:  The Bohol Shores.

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It was a small celebration with our direct relatives.

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GRV_1179Love these people.  Can you see the resemblance?

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The pillars of our family.

And of course, a Filipino party is not complete without lechon (roasted pig).

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The night ended well.  Save for a few hiccups, everything went as planned.  My brother and sister takes all the credit.  They both planned and organized it while I was communicating and approving from afar.

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To cap off the night, here’s one wacky pose by the pool.

 

 

 

 

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Memories of summer

Summer came and went.  And what an eventful summer it was.  So eventful that I couldn’t even begin to sum up everything in words.  Not only were there a lot of outings and bonding activities with friends, we also got to travel longer than 9 hours…. in car.

Since our kids are grown and without diapers, we felt that it was high time to do long journeys.  And off we did.  Our main destination:  Croatia.

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It was my kids’ first time to be out in the sea and boy, did they enjoy it.  All those seven days that we were there, we were out in the sea twice a day.  It was very refreshing and inviting.  Travelling with friends made it more fun too!

And guess what?  I even made an unplanned side trip to Venice by boat.

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It was beautiful.  I’m glad I went.  Despite the expected mob of tourists, Venice is Venice.  Its beauty is unparalleled.

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But the adventure didn’t end there.  On the way home, we dropped by Slovenia.  Since all this travelling was done during the day, our main goal was to get the kids tired so they will sleep the entire way home.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Slovenia.  It’s one of those little quaint states that has everything — sea, mountains and panoramic landscapes.

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We only got to see Ljubljana this time, but I’m sure this will be a destination that we will visit again.  I especially love the fact that the city is very bike-friendly and everything is walking distance.

we also got to sample some Slovenian seafood goodies.  It reminded me so much of the Philippines.

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After spending a few hours in Slovenia, we headed for home with tummies full of goodies and hearts full of memories.

Moms’ Night Out

If you had been wondering what I’ve been up to lately, suffice it to say that I have been working.  Working on myself, that is.   Finally my children are at an age where they are not too dependent on me and I can actually go out.  I have recently started a diet and exercise program (updates later), and I have also started to go out with friends without having to tag my kids along.

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This past weekend, I decided to take a night out  in Prague with a few friends.  We went to Kstar  Karaoke bar, the only Karaoke bar in Prague specializing in private room karaoke, where guests can have a room to themselves and sing in front of people they know.  The concept of this type of bar is nothing new.  It is an Asian concept, and I was told that the owner of the bar got this idea from Japan after living there for several years.

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Those who know Filipinos and have spent time in Filipino communities will know that we love karaoke.  Hence, it was no surprise that we completely enjoyed the experience.  The room was spacious enough for all of us, and food was allowed to be brought in. (Probably one of the biggest pros about this place.)   The bar was well-stocked with a good selection of drinks and the song selection was also a good mix of old and new pop hits.

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Most of their customers are foreigners, and they also cater corporate events for some companies and organizations who are interested in this type of entertainment.   Although karaoke is not a popular Czech past-time, I was told that more and more Czechs are starting to take interest in this form of entertainment.

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Perhaps the only downside for this place is that it didn’t have a parking space, which is quite common for establishments in the city center.  I also found the microphone wires bothersome.  But Marek, the manager told me that plans are underway to change that.  They are planning to do a system upgrade where everything will be touch screen.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience.  It is good to know that a place like this is already starting to gain popularity here in Prague.  I think I’ve just found a new hangout.

 

 

 

 

Got Whipped?

I did.  It was Easter this past weekend.

In keeping up with Easter tradition here in Czech, the females in my family were whipped by the males.  It doesn’t matter what age, gender is all that matters.

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Here, my sister-in-law got whipped by her own son.

Even my very young daughter got her share of whipping too.

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Luckily, her Tata kept a watchful eye and held her close for comfort.

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And yes, it may sound way too weird, but the rationale behind the whipping actually makes a lot of sense.

It is done to ward off bad spirits and ensure good health all throughout the year, for the person whipped .   More about this practice can be found in my previous post here.

Meanwhile, when we got home, it was time to eat the choco Easter bunny that Jakub got from our Swiss friends.

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At first, he was a bit hesitant to eat it as he had been attached to it after waiting too long for this moment.

Here he is giving it one last kiss.

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But in the end, his love for chocolate still prevailed.

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Crunch!  Off went the bunny’s tail.

And of course, he wasn’t the only one devouring this tasty treat.  His chocoholic mama “helped him out.”

No wonder somebody escaped from her play gym.

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Anyhow, I hope you had a great Easter weekend!

Babies Bonding

These past few weeks, I consider myself lucky to  have been visited by good friends.  On my last entry, I mentioned about the Swiss family that visited us.  This past week, our good friends from Innsbruck came by for a visit.

My friend Melba, with her daughter Nat, came and stayed with us for a couple of days.  Nat and Michaela were born a few months apart.  It was the first time they met.

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It was fun seeing the girls bonding with Jakub.

It was also interesting to see them talking to each other in their own little world.

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We got them identical bows, and placed them together in a mat for a photo shoot.

But it was a little bit difficult to get them to stay still and look at the camera.  Something else is always more interesting.

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Until finally….

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…Bam!  We eventually managed to get the coveted shot.

But more than anything else, the visit was more valuable for the mommies.  It was very therapeutic for Melba and I to talk about our experiences in raising kids in a multicultural household, adjusting to life in a foreign land, and most especially about adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom.

We never got the chance to visit a lot of places due to the weather and to the children’s moods, but I had a great time just chatting with Melba and seeing our kids playing together.

At the end of their visit, Nat’s dad and her grandma picked them up.  Obviously, they have been missed.

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Luckily, we managed to get a group shot before they left.

I wish we were closer so a visit like this can be done more often.  But I can’t complain.  At least we get to see each other almost every year.

 

A Swiss-Filipino Family Came to Town

I didn’t realize that it’s almost been a month since my last post.  Life has been going at full speed and I hardly have time to pen down my thoughts.

Anyhow, we had some guests from Switzerland last week.  It was my friend Mayette, her Swiss husband Thomas, and their very cute daughter, Thomara.

I’ve known Mayette since my university days, and we recently reconnected after knowing that both of us are married to Europeans.

After a long trip to and from Sweden, they decided to swing by Czech Republic.  Jakub had a blast when he got an early Easter bunny, with nothing but the best chocolate – Lindt.

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Their daughter Thomara is only a month older than Michaela, so they are technically batchmates.    It was funny getting the two babies to meet.

Looking eye to eye, they look like they couldn’t believe there’s actually another person the same size as them.

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We finally got them to look at the camera, but were unable to goad them in eliciting a smile.

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There was a little bit of movement, as they got curious about the other.

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But after putting them in the car, they both went down easily.

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My little boy on the other hand, acted like an older brother.

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He was happy to look after the girls while their parents were busy taking pictures.

And here he is happily posing for a photo with our guests.

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We brought them to Kutna Hora and to Prague, but three days was not enough to see everything.

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They did say they were going to come back and we are really looking forward to that.  Otherwise, we will have to visit them in Switzerland.

 

 

M’s first Visit to Grandparents

Last weekend, we visited my in-laws in Moravia.  It was Michaela’s first visit to her grandparents.  The trip took us 2.5 hours one way and  it was her longest car trip yet.  Both her and her brother behaved so well.  She was sleeping most of the time which made it a very smooth one.

When we got there, she immediately warmed up to her grandparents.  Here she is playing with grandpa….

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…and posing for a shot with grandma.

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It was also my father-in-law’s birthday celebration, so the following day most of our family came by.

She was quite apprehensive with Aunt Romana and Grandma Marta (mom-in-law’s sister).

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But she comfortably fell asleep in Aunt Hanka’s arms.

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The boys didn’t care much about the new baby.  They were busy doing their thing — running around.

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This is the usual scene.  The usual suspects in action.  Where am I?  Doing what I like best —taking pictures!

And of course the day is never complete until somebody cries.

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But all in all, the visit went very well.   Our little princess was happy for the most part.

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I hope your weekend was great as well.

A Walk in the Woods

The weather has been slowly getting better in our side of the world, so I took my kids out yesterday for a walk in the woods.  Why the woods?  Well, you might as well say that I am slowly becoming Czech.  The malls are not as appealing as the woods anymore.

Anyway, here are a few pictures I was able to snap.

My little boy is growing so fast, and he really enjoys his new role of being a “big” brother.  While I was busy looking for things to photograph, he took over and pushed the stroller of his baby sister.

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Tired of doing it the regular way, he is experimenting with other ways on how to move it.

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At this point, I took over for fear that he may accidentally flip the stroller with his sister inside.  Instead, I asked him to lead the way.

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He obliged and even told me:  “Don’t worry, mom.  I will protect you and Michaela.”

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The end of the trail is the entrance to the city center through this bridge.

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There was nobody during that time.  It is still winter, afterall.

But we did see a fisherman on the river.   He was fishing while Jakub was feeding the ducks and swans.

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A new set of exercise bars were also built in a little space by the river.  I think they finished it last year, but I didn’t see it because I was too lazy to walk towards this side of town when I was still pregnant with my daughter.

When the temperatures finally go up, I think I would like to use one of these bars for fitness.

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But for now, I’ll just enjoy short walks with my kids.

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Despite the cold, it was a very nice walk.  Definitely another day well spent.

How are you coping up with winter in your side of the world?

My Pretty Girl is Pretty Fat

Perhaps the biggest advantage of being a stay-at-home mom is that you get the see your children grow up.  I am experiencing it now.

My little girl is growing up fast.  At 3 months, she is now 6+ kg.   They say that breastfed babies are less heavier than their formula-fed counterparts, but this one is quite the contrary.  She is heavier than her brother when they were both at the same age.  Just for comparison, here are photos of them in the same outfit.

This was Jakub at 3 months.

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And now this is Michaela.

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Being a second child, she gets to inherit her brother’s hand-me-downs.  I hate throwing away such good stuff, so I am making her wear Jakub’s old outfits.  Although, I bought a couple of headbands to give it a little feminine touch.

Even though she is heavier, she is still within the ideal range, so I’m not so worried about setting her up for obesity.  I’m pretty sure that when she is able to run, she will be as active as her brother and will easily lose all those baby fats.

Jakub was pretty chubby when he was a baby too.  But now he is very lean because he’s getting taller.  I actually wanted him to gain a little bit more weight, but can’t really complain because he is very healthy.

Here’s both of them now.

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Anyhow, I am happy to have this chance to stay home with them.  I will never trade it for anything else in the world.

Back from Hibernation

After a very long absence, I am now back from hibernation. Not a lot of exciting adventures lately, as we have been confined at home. I’ve had my own share of motherhood challenges, but everything is ok now. Things are slowly getting back to normal. My new “normal,” that is.

Winter is relatively mild on this side of the globe compared to what the people in the US East Coast is now experiencing. Temperatures are sub zero during night time but has been consistently positive during the day. We’ve had a little snow but it is now slowly melting.

So what’s new? Well, for one. My daughter is now 3 months old and at a stage where her schedule is more predictable. She is getting more and more curious about the world around her and somehow seems to communicate through babbling.

Here is a quick photo I snapped of both my kids.

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I am also starting to standardize our daily routine.  It is very difficult to manage a household with two very young children.  Although I am very happy that my eldest is at a stage where he is completely independent and even helps me out.  He is the  one opening doors for me when all three of us are out and about for our daily walk in our neighborhood.  I haven’t been in contact with the general public since winter set in.  It is pretty tough.

I couldn’t just go to a Starbucks shop and get a good cup of coffee these days.  Well, there is no Starbucks in this town.

Anyhow, we managed to bring Starbucks home — coffee beans straight from the Starbucks shop in Prague.

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It is the perfect pair for these shortbread cookies which we got as a gift from a friend.

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We also managed to get a taste of California through this bottle of Chardonnay from Tesco.

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There is nothing special about this wine, but it is the perfect pair for fish or pasta on these cold winter nights.  Reminiscing our life in California gives me a warm feeling inside.

If the forecast is right, it should get warmer towards the end of this month.  Once it does, we will be on travelling mode again.  I am anxiously awaiting the new adventures that lie ahead.

Happy New Year to all of you!