Back to the Philippines after 10 years – Part 1

While the Czech Republic was knee-deep in snow, we went for a short trip to my motherland, the Philippines.  It was the first trip for my family to this land of eternal sunshine, and we all enjoyed it immensely.

Our first few days were spent in Manila, where I was able to meet and spend time with my long-time friends.  We stayed at a hotel in the Makati business district.  I specifically chose this location because it was not too far from the airport and close to one of the popular malls in the city.  Prior to our trip, I’ve read news about the worsening traffic in the metro, so I decided to have us stay in a place where meetups will be convenient and a trip to the airport will not melt the snow folks who are travelling with me.

It was great bonding with my friends again and I was happy that my family instantly became comfortable with them.

After 3 days, we flew out to Bohol, where we spent the most time in.  Everyday there was something in the itinerary.  A few of the places we visited were….

SONY DSC  The exotic animal park in Loay, where my son and my husband fearlessly petted a snake.

The idea seemed cool, but it was not to my liking.  I would rather watch them at a distance.  On this trip, I was also able to show my kids where the rice comes from.

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If you have ever met a Filipino, you would know that we love rice.   It is such an important element in our culture.  I have yet to meet a Filipino who doesn’t like rice.

Another famous attraction that we visited is the Loboc floating restaurant.

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I have been to this restaurant several times during my younger years, and I was quite happy to go back there.  I have noticed a few improvements from the last 10 years.  The port is now well-built and those boats themselves had a little face lift.

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But what amused me though were the air-conditioned bathrooms.   Finally someone figured out that a restroom should live up to its name — a place to rest.  Those restrooms provided visitors a much-needed respite from the tropical heat.

On this same journey, we also hit another major spot, the Chocolate hills.

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The hills were not very “chocolatey” on this visit because it was just the end of the monsoon season.  Every day it had its daily dose of rain.

On the way there, we also dropped by the Bilar man-made tropical forest, where we paid a visit to the all-knowing Tarsiers of Bohol at a conservation park nearby.

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Before heading out for home, we decided to drop by a butterfly sanctuary where there was much fun to be had.

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We had a very funny guide who told us that he used to work with a Czech volunteer.  It was interesting to know that like Filipinos, Czechs are also everywhere.

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Like this Czech butterfly for instance.

Stay tuned for the next part of this butterfly’s Philippine adventure.

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Helloween, your typical halloween with a Czech twist

A month ago, I got a flier from our mailbox regarding a “helloween” celebration in our community.  I was excited and curious at the same time, since it sounded like a typical western halloween celebration, save for the fact that it wasn’t going to be celebrated on Oct 31, but a couple of days earlier.  Whatever the reason for calling it so and picking out the date, it was one event that I was glad my family participated in.

As I have mentioned in previous entries, we live in a small community just outside of the city and close to the woods.   Aside from its idyllic location, what I love most about this place is the atmosphere and the friendliness of our neighbors.  We are the only multi-cultural household in this area, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in how we are treated by our neighbors.

Now back to the “helloween” celebration.

The event was held in one of the unoccupied vacant lots.  Everyone brought their own food to share.  I managed to whip up some chocolate cupcakes sans the halloween design.  But who cares, it’s edible, right.

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There was also hot red wine for those who were chilly.  This is a typical autumn and winter drink here in Czech.  I remember when we used to go skiing in California, my ex-boyfriend (now husband) is always left with the task of making this drink  for the group.

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And of course, halloween-themed treats …  In my opinion, this is the best of them all.

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The event started with pumpkin-carving where kids eagerly carved their own pumpkins with the help of their parents.

IMG_8402And of course, some parents were all game and came in costumes.

Then there were games for everyone to participate in.  My Michaela was way too young to participate in any of these, but she was all happy watching it.

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When darkness crept in, we lighted the pumpkins and displayed them in a single line on the side of the street.

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Here is my son proudly posing with the pumpkin that him and his father carved.

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We were blessed with perfect weather that day.  It was not too hot nor was it too cold.  And there was no rain!

The event was culminated with a short walk in the woods with the young kids.  That means us because both our children fall into the young and gullible category.  It was like going into a haunted house except that it was open-air.  The organizers prepared a short trail where the older kids and some parents dressed up as ghosts, monsters, and whatever “i-will-scare-your-wits-off ” costume you can think of and tried to scare the younger ones.  At the very end, a pumpkin full of candies awaited the braver ones.  Fortunately, none of our kids got scared.  But it was a very interesting walk for them — and for us.

There was no “trick or treat.”  But I didn’t miss it that much.  Because  I’ve never really been to a “trick or treat.”  I was already way too old for it when I moved to the States.   Back in the Philippines where I grew up, the practice was not customary.   It is the same over here in the Czech Republic.  Even though adults and children love to dress up and scare each other during halloween, they haven’t gotten around the practice of doing a “trick or treat.”  Albeit, there is a street in Prague where the “trick or treat” is being practiced.  But it is where most American expats live, and they have managed to keep the tradition alive.

Anyhow, my little community’s helloween celebration was enough for me.  I’m glad that my children got to experience this western tradition with a Czech twist.

So how was your halloween?

Dreaming of Spain

As the days become better and brighter, I cannot help but dream about vacation destinations.   After living in the center of Europe for almost 2 years now, I really miss the sea.

                             Photo courtesy of gospain.about.com

As I was searching for European beach destinations, Spain has piqued my interest.  But it isn’t only because of its beaches.  A lot of it has to do with my home country’s history.    For three hundred years, the Philippines was under Spanish colonial rule and a lot of what we have now came from the Spaniards.  Shown below is a picture of a street in Vigan, Northern Philippines, which somehow gives you an idea of what the Spaniards have left behind.

Not only did they leave us with historical buildings, but our language in itself is interlaced with a lot of Spanish words.  I would love to see and experience the country that gave us all these.

                                               Source: images.nationalgeographic.com via Elaine on Pinterest

 

As of this time, I still don’t know when we will be able to go, but it is definitely on my bucket list.  Luckily, I found this great site    that offers good deals on hotels, flights, and everything that has to do with travel.  So perhaps one day I will get there.  But for now, I’ll just keep on dreaming.