My Short and Bittersweet (Five-Day) Trip To The Philippines

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Some people thought I was crazy to go back home to the Philippines for only five days. However, my sole purpose in going home was to actually see my parents and my family whom I have not seen in five years. It was not a leisurely travel, it was more of a self-vindication if I may call it that. 

With the quarantine rules still in place at that time, I spent majority of my time in a hotel room and at home to complete the isolation process. Therefore, the time I spent outside of this was all in between important appointments or when my parents were sleeping (in a total of five days). My mother does not sleep well at night, hence she was asleep most of the day. My father also took naps in the afternoon, so I took this opportunity to spend some time to explore.

Thinking about it, despite the short five days that I spent back home, juggling between caring for my parents and running errands, I managed to visit a few beautiful places in my home town of Zambales and the capital. Luckily, I didn't have to travel far and to spend loads of money to see beautiful things. My town has evolved really rapidly in the last few years that people will no longer run out of places to go to. Unfortunately, five days was obviously not enough to visit all of them either. Regardless though, I am still grateful that I managed to see a few of the places that often get mentioned by my niece and nephew during family video calls.

1. Venice Grand Canal- McKinley Hill, Taguig 
- Having been to Venice in Italy twice, I appreciated the idea of the Venice Grand Canal in McKinley Hill. It gives you the essence of one of the most romantic places in the world. The canal, the gondolas and the makeshift of Rialto Bridge gave me a little bit of the Venice vibes. It's actually a good opportunity for some people who may not be able to travel, to at least experience how it's like to be in Venice. Well, sort of.

As much as I enjoyed walking along the canal, I was not impressed with the choice of restaurants- probably because I had other restaurants in mind that were unfortunately not within the area. We opted for a Chinese restaurant which was okay-ish. 

2. Bonifacio High Street -  Bonifacio Global City Fort, Taguig
- After Venice Canal, we headed to Bonifacio High Street for a short stroll. It's always an advantage to have a bestfriend who lives in the capital and knows the ins and outs, because we were able to optimise our time. I loved the tree-lined Bonifacio High Street because of its lively vibes and the good selection of cafes and restaurants. In fact, we regretted not eating here, but there is always a next time. But at least I was able to buy my Baked Purple Chizu from FRNK Milk Bar - one of the things I wanted to try whilst in the country. The kids however, preferred Starbucks.

3. Casa San Miguel- San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales
- Since Keith passed, every vacation to the Philippines is no longer complete without visiting Casa San Miguel. This is the place where Keith and his Adings spent most of their weekends when Keith started painting and learned to play the violin. This time though, my visit to Casa San Miguel was extra special because I was able to visit with Keith's friends. It was really heartwarming to see them all grown up and working towards starting their professional careers. I was very happy listening to them exchange stories, reminiscing their time in Casa. They would say things like, "this was where we used to play". A lot of things have changed since my last visit, but it is still a beautiful and special place. They now have the Cafe Virtuosi and also Bed and Breakfast. So, if you are reading this and looking for a place to visit and stay in Zambales, I would recommend Casa.

4. Subic Bay Yacht Club-  Rizal Highway, Subic Bay, Zambales
- On the day of my pre-departure COVID swab, I took the opportunity to explore Subic Bay a little bit more. So, after my swab, we headed to the Subic Bay Yacht Club for lunch. Actually, this was our second choice because the other restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. To be fair, the view was beautiful and refreshing, but our experience at the restaurant was unforgettable for the wrong reasons. The service was unbelievably slow. We opted for the à la carte menu instead of the buffet, which perhaps was a mistake. Our food came after an hour only to be informed that they actually didn't have the salmon that my nephew ordered. So, we had to wait for another 30 minutes for his food to arrive. Although the restaurant experience was not that good, at least we got to enjoy the view.

5.  Linasin Trapsi Resort - Linasin, San Felipe, Zambales
- I am going to say this not because the family who owns the resort is our relatives, but because it is true. Linasin Trapsi Resort is a must visit in San Felipe, Zambales. This was the first time I actually visited the resort and I was very impressed by how beautiful it was. They were still doing some improvements when we went, but I saw new photos of the resort recently and it is now even more beautiful. At Linasin Trapsi resort, you get everything you need to relax in one place, especially if you love the water- they have a pool, the river and the sea. I will definitely go back and perhaps stay the night next time. It would also be nice to bond with my father's side of the family- one thing that we have not done in decades. At least this time, I was able to see my Uncle and Auntie, and two of my cousins. So, if you are now planning for your summer escapades, think of Linasin Trapsi Resort. You will not regret it.

6. Coastal Road- Sto Nino, San Felipe, Zambales
- Perhaps one of the best things that happened in my hometown in the recent years is the development of the Coastal Road. I really enjoyed running there and watching the sunrise. I know I am biased, but we have (some of) the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I have some photos to prove it. 😉

7. Seoul Sky 100 Revolving Restaurant - Eastwood Ave, Quezon City
- I love the fact that my niece and nephew also love food just like I do, and they love Korean food. So, on the day of my flight back to London, we dropped by Seoul Sky 100 for lunch. I have not dined in a revolving restaurant before so this was a new experience for me, and it was a very good one indeed. The view from the restaurant is to die for. We booked the perfect time as we were able to watch the beautiful sunset. The food was great as well as the service. Actually, the owner of the restaurant was very gracious that he went to every table and asked if everything was okay and if the food was good- a gesture I always appreciate.

Five days indeed was very short but to be honest, it was one of the best five days I've ever spent back home. I guess the essence of this short trip was knowing my purpose and sticking to it, prioritising things and spending time wisely. 

I am very grateful for this answered prayer and I feel better that I have seen my parents, although I would have loved to spend more time with them. God-willing, I will be able to go back again this year.


My London Afternoon Tea Experiences in 2021

Sunday, 20 February 2022

By now, those who consistently and patiently follow my blog know that I love Afternoon Tea. Trust me when I say that I actually spend more on Afternoon Tea these days than on shoes, clothes or bags. And if you were to make me choose between shopping and Afternoon Tea, I would choose the latter without any doubt. There is something about having an Afternoon Tea that really makes me happy. First of all, it's the company. I don't go to an Afternoon Tea with just anyone. I make sure that when I go to an Afternoon Tea, it is with people who can inspire me and motivate me to become a better person. It must be with people who genuinely make me happy. An Afternoon Tea experience is such special that I only want to share it with people who are equally special to me. Life is too short to be spending one of the best experiences you can ever have with people who can not positively influence your life. Charaught. 😀

Secondly, it's the food. I am not a sandwich fan, but when I go to an Afternoon Tea, I often ask for a second serving on sandwiches. That's how good sandwiches are in an Afternoon Tea, and most often than not, you get the same sandwich spread anywhere you go. Of course, the quality will always be different. My favourites are the egg, smoked salmon and coronation chicken.

Apart from the sandwiches, I am not very much into savouries nor sweets. Unless I am very hungry, I often leave a few sweets. Or sometimes for the sake of completing the whole Afternoon Tea experience, I take a small bite of each of the sweets. Otherwise, we take them home. Yes, you are allowed to do this, so don't be embarrassed to ask if you can take your leftovers home.

In 2021, I was very lucky to have experienced Afternoon Tea in some of the best places in London amidst pandemic, with some of the most special people in my life.  

1. The Dorchester - 53 Park Lane
- If I were to rate my Afternoon Tea experiences, The Dorchester comes second to The Ritz. Served at The Promenade of The Dorchester Hotel, this experience is definitely one for the books. I came here to celebrate my birthday with my dear friend Pearl as part of our yearly tradition. The Promenade oozed with luxury and elegance, I felt really special just being there. A lady from the reception ushered us to our table as soon as we arrived, and it didn't take long until a rather exuberant staff greeted us with a big smile. His attention to detail was admirable. He recognised our language and instantly spoke to us in Filipino. No, he wasn't from our country but he has met a lot of Filipinos who taught him a few words, he said. His service all throughout was flawless. The food as you would expect was exemplary. The selection of teas varied from traditional to specialities to rare and limited. A must try is their Dalreoch Tea which earned top honours in the Salon de Thé awards in Paris. Current Afternoon Tea price is from £60pp. Dress code is smart casual.

2.  Aqua Shard- 31 St Thomas Street
- Another Afternoon Tea where my companions mattered the most. It was my post birthday celebration with my Ate Elvie and Ethan. As Ethan was coming with us, we chose the Peter Pan themed Afternoon Tea in Aqua Shard. I wasn't impressed with the ambience nor the service. It was quite loud and very busy, not ideal if you are looking for a peaceful Afternoon Tea time with your companions. The service was quick, but haphazard. The food was just okay, but it was quite unique. The food was served in a small ship that resembled that of Captain Hook's ship. The scones were served in a wooden treasure chest. Then there were Hook's Perish Cake (a Victoria sponge), Tick-tock the crocodile (a gummy) and Tinker Bell (pastry biscuit with icing). For £68pp (with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne), I guess it's worth it for the panoramic view of London. Dress code according to their website is smart casual.

3. The Berkeley - Wilton Pl
- Sometimes the universe brings you the right person to be with at the right time in the right place. I have been planning to visit The Berkley and experience their Prêt-à-Portea Afternoon Tea for a long time, however I didn't seem to get round to it. But when my good friend Arcel visited from Dublin, I managed to book a table for two in a very short notice. Perhaps, I was meant to share this experience with Arcel and nobody else. We sure did have a wonderful time catching up on each other's lives since we last saw each other in Dublin over 3 years ago. The Afternoon Tea theme at The Berkeley is Fashion, therefore we ate a collection of cakes and other sweets inspired by the 2021 Spring- Summer collection. Their menu changes every six months to reflect the current fashion season. So, if you love fashion, The Berkeley Afternoon Tea is perfect for you. Current price for their seasonal Prê-à-Portea is £79pp. Dress code is smart causal.

4. Fortnum and Mason - 181 Piccadilly
- Our experience at The Diamond Jubilee Tea salon in Fortnum and Mason was unforgettable for the wrong reasons. I  regrettably booked the earliest available slot which I don't normally do. At 1130, the restaurant was still almost empty. People didn't start to arrive in a wave until about 45 minutes later. An hour into our Afternoon Tea experience, the server informed us that we only had about 30 minutes to finish our food, including a slice of cake that was about to come. I was taken aback as I have not been hurried to eat my food at an Afternoon Tea ever. My friend V and I looked at each other in dismay as we were also in the middle of a very important conversation. And when the slice of matcha cake came, we were reminded that we only had 15 minutes left. The rush was evident on the matcha cake as it was served as if it was just dumped on the plate. After one and a half hours, we left the restaurant quite disappointed with the whole experience. Let's not talk about the indigestion that I had later This doesn't mean though that I won't go back again. I am actually planning to go in the afternoon and see whether my experience would be different. Current price is £70pp. Fortnum and Mason doesn't impose on dress codes, however you would want to dress up in smart- casual when you visit.

5. Saint Aymes- 59 Connaught St, St George's Fields
- Saint Aymes in Connaught St is one of those cafes that I avoided for a long time because of its popularity amongst social media influencers, because it is the prettiest cafe in London after all. I've only been there once for a take-away coffee before our Afternoon Tea, but I could imagine how busy it can be because this cafe is every influencer's dream. The floral facade changes every season and chairs and tables are girly pink- perfect for your instagram moment. The interior walls are covered with mostly white and pink flowers- peonies being my favourite. It was my third Afternoon Tea experience with my friend V and this one was quite magical. To my surprise, we entered an empty Saint Aymes cafe one Autumn afternoon. Perhaps these times are the best times to go because it gets dark early, so maybe it's not the best time to take photos- that is if you are there for the food and not photo ops. We booked their Unicorn Afternoon Tea which was a delight. We sure enjoyed being on our own in the restaurant. The staff were attentive and friendly and they let us stay until closing. The pink and blue lattes came with cotton candy which really made me happy, because I've not had cotton candy in a very long time. The hot waffles were so delicious that I forgot all about my cholesterol level. Their scones were imperfectly baked, but it was just the way I wanted it. Their cupcakes looked too beautiful to eat and tasted equally beautiful. And for just £33 for two, it was an Afternoon Tea experience that I will never forget. Their current Unicorn Afternoon Tea price is £22.50 per person. They have no dress code as far as I am concerned, but bear in mind that you will be surrounded by all dressed up social media influencers.😉

6. Viola's Cafe- 38 Tavistock St
- When I first visited Viola's Cafe, I was alone and going through some emotional battles. Their banana bread french toast cheered me up instantly on that day, and since then I have been back to the cafe four times. I brought my friend V there last year for another Afternoon Tea before we went to watch Wicked. It was really nice to be recognised by one of the staff who served me the first time I went. Sadly, it was her last shift that day. Anyway, their afternoon tea is very savoury to say the least but everything was delicious. I was very pleased to know that my favourite Banana Bread French Toast  was included in their Afternoon Tea. Everything was presented beautifully including the yoghurt bowl on the side. What I really loved about this cafe is its laid back atmosphere. Every now and again, they a promotional price for their Afternoon Tea which is £40 for two. Otherwise normal price is £30pp. There is no dress code as far as I know.

7. The Royal Horseguards Hotel- 2 Whitehall Ct
- Afternoon Tea at this 5-star hotel near Trafalgar Square is served in The Lounge. This Afternoon Tea experience was a celebration of a new friendship with one of the kindest people I've met and worked with. Ate Nonia and I enjoyed an almost 4 hours of deep conversation and at times, non-stop laughter. We chatted and laughed over a simple but otherwise delicious food, bespoke Strawberries and Cream tea and a glass of champagne each. Not to mention that we were surrounded by fiery red, somewhat dated furniture. Service was cool and distant, but I didn't mind on this occasion because Ate and I had so much catching up to do and I really didn't want to be interrupted. Once our food was served and our photos were taken, we never saw the staff again until we asked for the bill. Sometimes, this is all you need really. For this Afternoon Tea, we only paid £59 for two because I purchased it via groupon. Otherwise, it's normally from £39pp. There is no dress code specified.

So yes, the wondrous Afternoon Tea experience will never get old for me. I enjoy writing about my experience because it allows me to reminisce the good times I spent with my friends, although not every Afternoon Tea experience is good.  However, it will always be the company and the conversations that matter. 


10 Years Of Remembering The Child Who Changed My Life Forever

Friday, 28 January 2022

It's really hard to believe how fast time flies. Today is Keith's 10th year anniversary in heaven, but it seems like we only lost him yesterday. You would think that by now, there will be no more tears, but no. There are still times when I think of Keith and the "would have beens" if he was not taken away from us, and I can't help but get emotional. Twice a year, on his birthday and death anniversary, I try my best to remember only the good times we've had with him , however I fail each time. As soon as I light a candle and start listening to his favourite song "Lighters", tears start flowing and there I go again. But I guess this is how it is. As they say, the pain never really goes away, you just learn how to live with it. 

In the last ten years, I have been consistently doing a few things to remember Keith on his angelversary. In the morning when I wake up, I visit his corner in our flat. In this corner is my favourite photo of him- a photo that I took when he was about 3 or 4 years old. On top of the photo frame hangs his favourite toy, Meowmeow. And beside the photo frame are a candle and a vase of flowers. It has become my tradition to light a candle, say a little prayer and play his favourite song. This morning was of course no different. 

Just like what I have done twice a year in the last five years or so, I headed to the West End Donor Centre to donate blood for the 11th time. Forgetting the time of my appointment, I attended thirty minutes early. Unfortunately, I was asked to go back due to COVID-19 restrictions. I waited at a nearby cafe until about five minutes before my appointment. I realised later that maybe this was a sign. Anyway, when I arrived, I was asked to fill in the blood donation checklist as usual. Then I was called for my iron check which was fine, so the lady asked me to proceed to the trolley where I would then give blood. The sister came to speak to me and asked how much I weighed. I was surprised because I have not been asked about my weight before and I've already donated 10 times. I told the sister I was 49.8kgs. She said unfortunately, although I was only .2kgs below the accepted weight of 50kgs, I couldn't give blood for my safety. I completely understood this because when I was in New Zealand, I also wasn't allowed to donate blood because I was less than 50kgs at that time. So,I said don't worry and left disappointed, but at the same time relieved because with my last two donations, I actually felt really dizzy afterwards. Perhaps, I was also underweight then. 

So instead, I went to the National Gallery to see Claude Monet's paintings. Why specifically Claude Monet, you may ask. When Keith started painting, I asked him who his inspiration was. He told me it was Claude Monet. I felt very proud that at such a young age, he knew who Monet was. So when Keith passed, I tried my very best to learn more about Monet and his paintings. I even went to Monet's Garden in Giverny, France with Meowmeow in his memory. 

At the National Gallery, I went straight to Room 41 where Monet's Water-Lilies painting is kept. I remember asking Keith to paint the waterlilies. And as classic Keith, he painted his own version of it and only painted a waterlily. This is what I loved about Keith when it came to his art. 

In the evening, I had dinner with my friend, Claudia. This was actually the first time I told her about Keith. I told her that I was wearing blue because it was Keith's favourite colour. She didn't ask why I was wearing blue of course, but I just felt like I needed to tell her about this. Then I told her that today is actually his 10th year death anniversary. And then our dessert came with a lighted candle on it. I was very surprised because it was neither our birthday. I later checked my reservation because I thought I mistakenly requested for it, but I didn't. On our way to a cafe after dinner, I carried on with my story about Keith. I then checked my phone and saw a missed call from the Philippines. I called the number but apparently, it was an incorrect number. I even googled the number, however it doesn't exist. Instead, it came up as a mathematical formula of some sort.

In times like this, more so today, I would like to believe that the candle on my dessert and the missed call were signs from the other side. Somehow I believe that during the times when we need it the most, the universe sends us signs to reassure us and to somehow make us feel better. Some people might say this is silly, but I do believe in signs. 

Keith may have been gone for 10 years now, but this little boy's legacy will remain in us, his family and in those whom he inspired at a young age. Keith in his 11 years on earth has accomplished more things and succeeded in most if not all of them, than most 11 year olds I know. I will always be proud of him and proud to have been his Mommy for 11 years.

I miss him terribly but I know he is in a better place now where he can paint and play the violin freely with all the angels in heaven. 

This boy will forever be loved by his family and friends and by those whose lives he touched unknowingly, with his faultless innocence, talent and pure heart.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...