Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Konnichiwa from Japan!

Ever since I saw the beauty of Japan, I've been praying that I can come back and bring the family with me. Prayers were answered last year when we scored cheap airline tickets. However, I almost couldn't join them when we learned we were pregnant early this year. But with proper care and obedience to doctor's orders, I was able to get clearance to travel and so off we went middle of June.

It was the culmination of sorts for a lot of milestones that came and went the past months in our family - my 'early' retirement (May 2018), my 40th birthday (July 2018), our 10th year anniversary (October 2017). Japan was just the perfect place to celebrate them all in.

I started planning for this trip around January. We were to go with our friends and I was sort of the designated planner for the trip (yes, despite the excitement I still hate trip planning). Thankfully, there's a lot of resources now to make this task easier. I turned to travel groups in Facebook like the Japan for Dummies PH group for tips and help with our itinerary. The primary issue we ran into during the planning process was getting our accommodations finalized. We tried booking via Airbnb but we ended up getting last minute cancellations (twice actually and the last one was just 2 weeks prior to our trip, imagine the stress!) so we decided to go the safer route and booked a licensed apartment via instead. No regrets because the apartment turned out really great - clean, with complete amenities and very near Dotonbori and other tourist sites in Osaka.

View from our apartment in Namba
The only (but most memorable) bump on this trip was the earthquake on our 4th day. From that day on, our itinerary was messed up. But all was good. At least we were safe. And we still were able to push through with almost half of our planned itinerary.

If you want to check out what we had planned for our 7-day trip, here's the link. In summary, this was how it went:

Day 1: Osaka Aquarium, Tempozan Market and Ferris Wheel, Lego Discovery Center, Dotonbori
Day 2: Kyoto
Day 3: Nara
Day 4: Earthquake! - Stayed only in the apartment in the morning, Kuromon Ichiba Market and Shinsaibashi area
Day 5: USJ
Day 6: Shopping Day - Tokyu Hands, Shinsaibashi, Don Quijote Dotonbori, Walk around Tanimachi
Day 7: Last day! - Endo Sushi at the Central Market, Tennoji Zoo and Park

Due to my pregnancy (23 weeks when we went on this trip), we had to make a lot of adjustments to our itinerary. Most of the temple visits we had to push aside because I couldn't climb a lot and I walk slow and needed to take a lot of sitting breaks. If you are pregnant like me and was cleared to travel, there's no reason to worry because Japan is a very pregnant friendly place - clean restrooms, lots of areas to rest and efficient & commuter friendly transport system. Just don't forget to get a signed clearance from your OB to make sure you don't get held up at the check in counter. You also need to fill out a waiver (tried doing this ahead but the airport staff still made me fill out a new one during check in). Other than that, nothing to worry about.

M and I will try to do a detailed post for each day of our trip. But sharing here highlights of the trip (mostly our fave photos). Given another chance, we'll definitely keep coming back to Japan. Its efficiency, cleanliness, polite air and general warmth was just too inviting for us to easily forget. Hopefully before it disappears from our memory again, we can come back during spring time where flowers are in full bloom. Or maybe in autumn when trees exude a different warmth in them.

mural at Osaka Aquarium (kaiyukan)

Shoppers in Dotonbori

crossing the bridge from the Central Market to Awaza Station

resting before we board the train back to our hotel from Awaza Station

Hogwarts at USJ

Viewing the sharkies at Kaiyukan

Jellyfish at Kaiyukan

Flower shop in Kuromon Ichiba Market

Kenninji Shrine in Gion Corner



Nara Deer Park - Feeding the deer some crackers
Japan at its finest. Noticed the details even on manhole covers

view of Osaka City from Lucua (Umeda)

rainy day in Shinsaibashi

Tennoji Zoo


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Curious and Curiouser

Today is one of those days we wish we had more of.

We had a good night's sleep (read: 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, hallelujah!). Maia and I cooked breakfast together and we ate it out in the garden (it's been sooooo long since we did that). I organized our art stuff and spent about an hour watching Maia's baby and toddler videos.

I guess all that reminiscing struck a chord on our little miss because she started asking a lot of questions. Questions which led to more questions and then later to her saying -- "Maybe in a billion years Mommy, someone will have answers to all my questions, no?" -- all that said in a rather broken voice and which eventually brought out tears and some meaningful insights from her.

You see she started her rally of questions with - "I wonder, Mommy, who decided that water should be called water. Or named the sun, "Sun"? and who thought of the dinosaurs? and asked if they ever existed?'

Who named this place Tagaytay?
It was a loooooot of questions thrown at me in about a minute. I had to catch my breath before I answer. Well...I needed to sit down actually. And stand up again to take out some books to back my answers out. And in case I ran out of things to say, I can just hand the books over to her to read.

So I attempted to answer. I think I did pretty well considering the situation. Then she started asking about careers and professions. What these and that do. How important are they in this world. Some questions were just technical for me and I just wasn't equipped yet. Should expose her to more "community" helpers, I guess.

But I'm thankful for that publishing house with the "S" logo for helping me out on situations that would've have been difficult for me to get out of.

For now, we leave our little miss with some homework to do during this one week break from school.

My takeaway from this day is that being intentional has no boundaries. and I guess, the husband and I realizing early on how much our words and actions is impacting our kid kind of paid of right now. Hearing my daughter's thoughts about what path she'd like to take when she grows up and asking herself what taking that career would do to save the world is a little fascinating at this point. I forced myself to remember how I was back to when I was 9 and I don't think I was this conscious about my choices yet.

But we continue to pray - for wisdom and for mindfulness to always be present to me and my husband -- so that no matter what our little girl chooses later on, she would always take with her all the values we're teaching now.

Dearest Maia,

I told you today - if you ever choose to be a writer, or pursue being a fashion designer, or maybe take an entirely different path later on -- just remember that as long as you as joyful with your choice everything else will follow. The struggles won't be as hard to take on if you LOVE what you're doing. Choose that. 

I've taken a looong break from filling up this place but our conversation today inspired me to write again. I want to put my memory of how this day went here because as you know, Mommy is very forgetful already. 

You were very concerned that if you "just" become a writer or a fashion designer it might not help the world at all. That they are NOT as important as the work of a scientist. or a doctor. or that person that dug up and discovered the dinosaurs. 

But you what, the lives of this people, or their discoveries might not reach others. They will need writers to tell their stories and share their discoveries. Fashion designers can be vital to saving the environment too. You can come up with clothes that upcycle so not a lot of stuff end up in dumpsites. 
Opportunities are limitless. Keep your heart pure and your intentions good. Stay compassionate.

Love you to the universe and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Celebrating Valentine's Day

Dearest Maia,

Unlike most families in our circle, we are NOT big on celebrating valentine's day. In fact, your dad refuses to acknowledge that this day exist. He absolutely abhors the horrendous traffic that goes with it. And how commercialized it has become.

In our household, this year was the same as any other valentine's day in the past. It was as normal as any given day. Except that you made us a card. That as again melted our hearts. Thank you for reminding us how love should be celebrated. Not just on valentine's day. But EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

You are growing up like the fine lady that we expect you to be, Maia. One of these days, the inevitable will come. Someone will ask you out for a date. My fervent prayer is that...may you always remember how your special dates with your dad was like. May they serve as your guide.

You daddy treated you like a real princess, little girl. (I was the queen so you have to settle with that title for now). May you find someone someday who would treat you the same way, or even better, as we continue to pray always.


Daddy and Mommy

Cafe Voila. Post-valentine's date c. 2017

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Milestone: First Holy Communion

If you are a Catholic, do you still remember your first holy communion experience?

I received my first holy communion as a Catholic when I was already 29 years old. I received 3 sacraments all in one day - baptism, holy communion and confirmation. It was a prerequisite for the next important sacrament that I was to receive - Matrimony.

Was it a memorable one? Well even if I was an adult, I don't think I have really accepted Jesus into my life then so it wasn't that memorable for me. I vividly remember getting free breakfast at McDonald's Tagaytay from my Tinong Jess right after the ceremony but that was all that was left of that day.

As much as I would want my little girl to chart her own experiences, for this particular one, I wished and prayed for it to be a lot more memorable for her than it was for me or her dad (who also barely remembered anything from his own FHC).

But how to make it memorable? Always, always a challenge.

Good thing, as I am not much of a planner, I had plenty of friends whose kids are also going to have their FHC. My good friend, Maqui, thought of getting letters from her son's godparents (with them sharing their FHC experiences). I love letters! I think what really spawned my love for writing was my love for letter writing.  And Maia also love reading letters. So it was perfect!

Next challenge, how to convince godparents to write. With such short notice. By short notice I mean 2 days prior to the FHC event.

But guess what, everyone was just so nice. They immediately sent it letters. All of the godparents I asked sent it a letter for Maia. Here are samples:

From Ninang Ching:

From Ninong Nono:

From Ninang Kleng, Ninang Manet, Ninong Ronald and Ninong Ren:

Ain't she lucky to have these wonderful people as her godparents?

Congratulations again for this milestone, Maia! We're really proud of how far you've come and how you are growing to be such an amazing child of God.

Keep the faith. Keep the spirit. Let God be your guide always.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Maia Recommends: Kite Flying In Luneta Park

One of our household's biggest struggle after a very sedentary summer was finding outdoor activities that the little miss can genuinely enjoy.

Weekend food trips to the city usually end up with her tugging us relentlessly to go home. 

"This is boring, Mommy." (translated to: I need to get hold of my gadgets before school starts on Monday)

Today, we braved the city traffic once again to try a new activity - kite-making. The NCCA has been holding several activities (all weekends of June) in Luneta Park and this weekend was the last leg of their Arts in Public Places in Luneta series. 

We left home at a little after 1pm hoping to get ahead of the traffic congestion but ended up getting stuck anyway. We arrived in Luneta a few minutes after 3. We searched for Burnham Green but after being dropped off right in front of Jose Rizal's monument, we couldn't find the venue of the event. I approached a park guard and we were pointed towards a cluster of tents across the road. 

Sadly, the event was not publicized well. At 3:30, we were the first to register. We waited a few more minutes before we started making the kites. Nevertheless, when we started flying the kites, people started noticing the activity and a few more kites joined ours in the air.

I do hope the NCCA will continue to organize events like this which parents like me highly appreciate. We get to pry our technology, gadget-loving kids away from the couch and remind them that spending time outdoors is still so much fun. 

Watch video!

I myself didn't realize how relaxing and delightful kite-flying was until I got hold of the string and started maneuvering the kite to stay up in the air. 

"It's fun to steer, Mommy!"

We will come back soon. Luneta Park as night is yet another thing that we are looking forward to experience.

The larong pinoy and kite-making event still runs until July 17th. Do drop by and join! Click here for the event page: Larong Pinoy & Kite-Making. Like the National Commission for Culture and the Arts page as well to get updates of other government sponsored art activities around the metro.
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