Picture of the Week | Sweetest Escape

Ahh, its midweek and I caught myself staring at my favorite place on earth, the Malampaya Sound. Dreaming between sipping my Christmas Blend coffee I'm officially become my grandma 😄😄😄Sad that I only seen it in an image today. I hope I'd be able to come back home anytime soon and reconnect with nature in my Palawan homeland. Re-sharing this photo to you to join me in my dreams of coming home and take a glimpse at cultural and enchanted mountain. This image was captured using my old buddy Canon EOS 550D and enhanced on PicMonkey.

I was raised in New Guinlo, Taytay, Palawan. By the bay of Malampaya Sound, I learned how to swim in the brackish water along with my peers. One of the best treasures of my hometown in Palawan is the majestic Mount Capoas. There are many strange and enchanted stories from the elders of our community. Old folks said that there are giant golden crabs guarding the mountain. Some said that Limahong's treasures are buried somewhere there, let's go and find 'em hahaha.

With a peak of about 1,030 meters above sea level, Mount Capoas ranks as the third highest mountain in northern Palawan. It is located along the Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape. If you are planning to hunt Limahong's treasure, forget it, per my research, climbing the peak is prohibited for safety reasons. The mountain is reserved for research and tribal residency. 

Reflection to Life: Home. It is where our heart is. Think of home when things have been a 'lil rough.  Look-up, close your eyes, and let your sadness fades into the clouds. Happy Hump day!

Rome Review | Syudad by Barrio Fiesta

When the pressure is on, turning to a sugary treat or a delicious fat-laden mouthful can feel like an easy way to get a little relief, isn't it? and what else is more comfortable than indulge in our classic Filipino favorite dishes such as Kuhol sa Gata (Snails in Coconut Milk) and Litson Kawali ( Crispy Pork Belly) with steaming hot rice on the side.

Kuhol sa Gata (Snails in Coconut Milk), Php 295

We've finally tried to dine-in at the Filipino inspired restaurant - Syudad by Barrio Fiesta located at the newly built Caloocan City Hall Complex. I was with my constant foodie buddy, Gladys who also live near Syudad's new outlet. We always do stress-eating when we're both needing some time to release all tensions from a week work and talk about our personal issues over delectable bites. 

Syudad by Barrio Fiesta has a spacious Pinoy-inspired charm and classic Filipino interior; wooden tables and chairs offers a rustic appeal. Customers like us, #ninangsofmanila who are tired and wanted to lean on a comfortable chair have an option to be seated nicely at the booth with cushion and backrest.

It was around 3 PM when we arrived and they were catering their Merienda buffet but were pleased when they accommodated us for ala carte late lunch. Syudad by Barrio Fiesta's Merienda-all-you-can costs Php 185 per person from 3 PM to 6 PM serving Pinoy Favorite Merienda  (snack) in case you are interested.  

We started with Kuhol Sa Gata (Snails in Coconut Milk) as appetizer. A smoother-than-velvet Filipino-style dish with an orchestra of flavors and can be doubled as meal with rice. Highly recommended if you are searching for the best dish serve in this restaurant. The coconut milk sauce was thick, I doubt if there's an artificial flavor. I tasted shrimp paste that blends perfectly to the sweetness of the coconut milk. My "joy" hormone lifted up from the first bite 😊

Kare-Kare Solo Meal, Php 195

Extensive Filipino dish from Solo Meals list are constant favorite among their clientele, Solo Meals are served with rice and instant iced tea. Out of curiosity, we selected Kare-Kare from the list. Kare-Kare is one of the restaurant's specialty and best seller but nothing spectacular to me. The sauce was thick but loaded with artificial flavor and color. I was expecting real peanut sauce but little bit disappointed, it was boring. Tender slices of beef and accompanying shrimp paste plus the large portion (can be shared by two) redeemed my respect.

Litson Kawali, Php 425

Syudad had got a buzz from foodies of Manila for their superstar dish, Crispy Pata - but we refused to try considering we already ordered too many just for the two of us. We agreed to settle for Litson Kawali to satisfy our greasy, fatty appetite. Surprise! surprise! it was the very best Litson Kawali I've tasted in my whole life! It's kinda pricey at Php 425 but I think its just proportional to its quality. Succulent pieces of crispy and crunchy pork belly served its price. To me, its another Syudad's superstar dish waiting to be discovered and worth another try.

Inihaw na Talong, php 95

We also ordered Inihaw na Talong for the sake of having vegetable on the table and to show compassion to our upset hearts, lol😋! A very familiar dish, and a perfect complement to any fried or Inihaw dishes. Delish specially when dip into signature Barrio Fiesta Bagoong (shrimp paste).

Green Mango Shake, Php 130

I had Green Mango Shake which I liked, which by the way, perfect anti-umay! 

Thinking that she had a large belly space like mine, Gladys ordered Mais Con Heilo she barely touched. It was okay, she said, when asked how it tasted like.

Mais Con Heilo, Php 115

Overall, it’s a fun place to get together with friends, day or night. They have Beer Belly promo every Friday at Php 299. And if you’re not in the mood for venturing out they even do takeaway and delivery just dial (02) 7016572 or 09560680189 from your mobile.

Syudad by Barrio Fiesta
Address: C-Cube building, 9th Ave.,
1400 Caloocan

When People are the Tourist Attraction | Bantayan Islanders

Let us fill this Monday up with happy memories and happy pictures from smiling happy faces of islanders from Bantayan Island in Cebu, Philippines. These three little girls, despite economic and social challenges are some of the most hospitable and friendliest people I have come across Bantayan Island couple of summers ago. They were patiently waiting on the Kota shore waving at us and all smiles as we arrived from whole day of swimming at the nearby Virgin Island,  hoping for a chance to sell some of their seashell garlands. "Maayong Hapon!" gleefully greeting us Good Afternoon in Cebuano Dialect. Armed with my old Canon EOS 550D I took several shots while my companions were browsing and shopping through their goods.

It's more amazing to be at that exact time than just looking at the pictures of locals surrounded by paradise living such simple, uncomplicated way of life far from the 'traditional' life in the Metro I now called normal and been trying to survive or perhaps at that moment, escape.

Back to this fast-paced everyday life overwhelmed by combination of correctness, inclusion, and too many people who simply don't care. I was thinking, do they know how lucky they are... I doubt if they would swap it for mine.

Although their lives are very different from my city life, I sensed full and genuine happiness through their eyes that speak invaluable contentment. I asked myself, When was the last time you smiled that channeled through your eyes?

People are not that different after all. Generally speaking comparing their world to mine, we are all striving for same thing, no matter how rich or poor, regardless of social and economic situation. Majority of us are motivated to have a better life to provide for our families and love ones.  Let us choose to be happy in finding the niche of our lives. Happy Monday, Cheers!

Picture of the Week | Unspeakably Mundane

Hi everyone! How's your day? Did you do anything fun? or just another plain, boring, workday?

The stillness of this day made me think to share another photo taken at Aloha Beach in Panglao, Bohol - A shot I took several years ago when we were just sitting on the beach, people watching while waiting for our dinner to be served at the nearby seafood restaurant.

We were appreciating the pale sun slowly setting on the horizon, admiring the last touch of spectacular golden sun rays around us on a gloaming twilight when this rare and beautiful moment happened ...when the sea seems so silent for few seconds and everything around us were slowly turning from golden to kinda sad shades of blue and gray. The moment I knew was short and it will be dark anytime soon so I took some few snaps from my old Canon EOS 550D. With minor enhancement from PicMonkey, I’m pleased to share you the best one from more than 50 shots.

Reflection to Life: The world is changing at a great rate everyday and no matter how we try to cope-up, we always know less. There are someone who will always be ahead of us in terms of career, business, knowledge, money, relationships or anything you would consider as basis for a competition. 

If you feel you failed at something in your life or maybe disappointed towards something, there's no harm in taking time to stop for a moment. Try to do nothing for one day because sometimes, according to the movie I watched last weekend, Christopher Robin, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

Maybe it does, I’ll try to do this sometime but if this didn’t work, I’ll take another break to reconsider another option,  re-calibrate strategy, have a chance to regroup and figure-out my next steps. 

Five Ways Technology Transformed Our Travel Experience

It’s been twenty years since the world joined the internet bandwagon. Ever since, it has started transforming our personal and professional lives in almost every aspect possible. But one sector that has seen a dramatic change as a result of changes brought about by the technology is the travel sector. The world has become a global village and more and more people are traveling around the world. The barriers are almost abolished. Travel sites, blogs, language apps, and location tracking app have made travel easier for us.

Technology is the sole reason why tourism is one of the leading industries and passion in the world. Here are five ways technology has fundamentally transformed the travel pattern.

1. Technology has made traveling eco-friendly 

Though many of you may not agree to this but if you look at the smaller details around you, you would realize how eco-friendlier has the travel become. Do you see any printed tickets in your hands anymore? Do you hold your boarding pass in your hands or keep your hotel reservation with you? The answer is no because technology has made it possible for anyone to book their ticket online. Websites offer online tickets and major airlines have e-ticket booths at every airport. Similarly, hotel reservations are also made online and services like Airbnb have made it cheaper to travel. All this has not only saved our time but saved us a good amount of paper that would otherwise require a number of trees to be chopped down. Now you don’t need to keep those travel documents with you and save the hassle of staying in the line for hours.

2. Travel tracking in real time

What used to happen in the past was that if someone was travelling, they could only write letters to their loved ones. Then came the landline and travelers made calls to their loved ones when they reached their destinations. But with the arrival of location tracking apps like Xnspy, people can now track their loved ones without worrying about them. A location tracking app uses the GPS of the user’s smartphone to record its locations and makes a log of these locations. Let’s say your daughter on some Island for a vacation and you want to know about her whereabouts, you can simply install Xnspy location tracking app which will keep you apprised about all the location she visits. What’s good about the app is that even if there is no internet connectivity, it will keep recording the location information and upload it to your account once the phone is connected to the internet. 

3. Language is no more a barrier

Imagine how would it feel if you have to carry a phrasebook with you on your foreign tour? Every time you have to talk to a local you have to bring that book out and look for the words to convey your message. Thanks to smartphones, you can download language apps that can translate everything for you in real time. Google Pixel has its Google Assistant that can translate in more than 40 international languages. Another app iTranslate can translate in more than 60 international languages. Now you don’t need to learn the language for interacting with the locals. Google’s assistant is loaded with artificial intelligence that it can even translate signs with the help of a smartphone camera. Duolingo is an app that has interactive language lessons which can be used to learn or improve a new language. And remember you are doing all this without spending a dime in most cases!

4. Keeping the data secure 

When you use a smartphone, the most important or precious thing on your phone is the data. The only fear during the travel is that you don’t lose it. Even if you keep a backup of your data, your luggage can be misplaced and you can lose your important photos. Another concern would be that since smartphones are also our wallets that store our personal and financial information, a thief can make a lot of our device if he gets his hands onto them. In such cases, a location tracking app can also help to locate your phone. Though the phones also have built-in apps like “Find My iPhone” and “Find My Phone,” they cannot be useful at times if the thief knows how to deal with them. In such cases, Xnspy location tracking app can remotely lock your device to keep your data safe. Similarly, it can keep a record of your phone in its cloud account so that you do not miss out on your important data. And if there is a fear that you don’t want the burglar to access your data, then the phone can be wiped using Xnspy. 

5. Crowdsourcing travel tips

With bloggers putting up their travel experiences online, it saves a lot of avid travelers the time and money when they visit a new place. Video bloggers make short videos and upload them on their Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram account right away to educate hundreds of other travelers.

Similarly, you can avoid bad situations with the help of hundreds of reviews available on the internet. TripAdvisor is a site that has hundreds of reviews about the places so that you don’t need to rely on a brochure. The internet has leveled the playing field and people do not rely on individual recommendations anymore. 

The Ayala Triangle Project - Restaurant Reviews of Non-professional Critique

Re-launching and mixing all my blogs together has brought too many memories of more than 10 years. The best memories were my restaurant reviews around Ayala Triangle Gardens when I first moved to IBM nearly 8 years ago. Our office location was in Makati back then and Ayala Triangle was very convenient outlet to de-stress offering many food choices from Filipino to Western cuisines. 

"The Ayala Triangle Project"  I thought was completed after 2 years and put closure to it but some restaurants were closed already and I found out that four new restaurants that I've never reviewed at the time I was working in Makati City had opened. Its kinda enticing to try one of these days. Hmm.

Here's a compilation of my restaurant reviews with excerpts from the original posts while I'm trying to squeeze my time to try the new restos. I have scorecards of our experiences so just click the links and  find out more stories behind. The project's criteria are; Food Quality, Ambiance, Service, and Cost/Prices, where  Five (5)   indicates "Exceptional Experience", Four (4)  indicates a place "worth a comeback", three (3)  means "a casual place to eat", two (2)   means "acceptable", and one (1))   means "poor".

Address: Paseo De Roxas St Cor Makati Ave, Cor Ayala Ave, Makati, 1209 Metro Manila. Mostly, restaurants here occupy the best location in the park. From al fresco area and also inside, diners have a very good view of the lush garden; manicured green grass and towering trees. The atmosphere here is relaxed and young, with people catching up with old friends and its the Makati yuppie’s place for a casual post-work thirst-quencher.

Disclaimer: Please note that we are non-professional critiques and we are just doing this for fun. The views expressed and images used on every blog posts are all mine. Let's start with my utmost favorite, Poco Deli.

It was after my extended night shift on a Saturday morning when I came in alone because my officemates doesn't felt like having breakfast and wanted to go home instead. The approachable little store, Poco Deli  who make Artisinal sausages from fresh and all-natural prime meats appealed to my taste buds to give it a try. ..and I'm glad I did! I can't contain my drooling over the bacon's fat that glisten against the light while I was taking photo snaps. And when I had my first bite, I tasted heaven... and the seventh heaven on the last, lol! Restaurant Review, Click Here.

The connotation of Japanese food, for me, was looking good but tasting bad. That was before I tried to dine-in at Omakase in Ayala Triangle Gardens last month. There was a scary moment on my way to the restaurant as I compose myself to taste raw food. Honestly, I am not a fan of raw Japanese food but they say that the better way to appreciate food is eating it raw. I admire Japanese food presentation though. I've tried to eat sushi multiple times when I was working in Hotel Fleuris in Palawan where we have a Japanese restaurant (We Be Sushi) but I really didn't like it. Maybe today it would be different.Restaurant Review, Click Here.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf which by the way, one of the restaurants in the park that opens as early as 7 AM was our choice for quick breakfast and caffeine fix. The restaurant occupies the best location in the park. From al fresco area and also inside, diners have a very good view of the lush garden; manicured green grass and towering trees. The atmosphere here is relaxed and young, with people catching up with old friends and its the Makati yuppie’s place for a casual post-work thirst-quencher. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

Dinning in Amici is like living la dolce vita where good food has that power. Mama Mia! Amici was sooo Italian. We felt like we were on Italian holiday when me and my two good old friends, Lady and Jim, dined here. And this is as good as it gets with our beautiful desserts from the dessert and Italian gelato extension of Amici, Caramia Gelateria. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

The corps d'elite of IBM Global Process Services, "The Canadians", went to the Ayala Triangle Gardens for our traditional Saturday brunch. Highly anticipated since Wednesday last week, we agreed to review a friendly bakery cafe that serves freshly-baked pies, cheesecakes and desserts, as well as delectable food and coffee, Banapple. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

It wasn't just an ordinary comeback because it was also my birthday treat with The Canadians at the Filipino inspired restaurant - Kanin Club. Its eclectic mix of Philippine interiors are inspired by intricate wood carvings complete with translucent shell capiz windows. We gathered around a long wooden table in the corner, and get acquainted with the rough wooden seats, which thankfully are more comfortable than they look. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

Real foodies or even health conscious people think of a plate of greasy goodness twice a week. This statement isn't a fact to everyone but to me. And for me, it means a plate of Roasted Pork, Crispy Pata, or sometimes, Wee Nam Kee's steamed or roasted Hainanese Chicken served with chicken rice - cooked in chicken broth, rich with chicken flavor and glistening with chicken fat. Yes, it's a simple dish, done well, and reaches heavenly heights. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

BonChon Chicken is a contemporary Asian/Korean-American QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) cuisine that highlights the Korean–style crispy fried chicken claimed to be super crispy yet light and not greasy, with hot moist juicy meat, sauced with its classic soy garlic or spicy glazes. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

Although expensive, procuring nothing more sinister than healthy frozen yoghurt is something that I never do everyday unless there are odds to beat and inner demons to whipped. For me, froyo is one of my stress relievers. Restaurant Review, Click Here.

The ambiance was great, we dine al fresco, surrounded by the most prestigious office towers in the Philippines. Restaurant Review, Click Here.