We ate in a place called Vanilla Cupcake Bakery. Its charming facade enticed this mom to go inside and check on the food. The interiors all the more pushed me to choose a spot among the many empty chairs and ask for the menu. We spent about an hour and a half eating, exchanging a few jokes, and picture taking. The place is just too pretty not to be captured on my camera phone.
Anecdotes from tots is a compilation of those fun musings and statements of my three boys.
ANECDOTES FROM TOTS ON NO WORK, NO PAY
October 21, 2010, bedtime
Momi: Time to sleep. now. Enough of that. Pray first, ok? Pray that you will get 100% on tomorrow’s exam. If you scored 100%, I will buy you a new toy.
Second son: How come? You do not work. You do not have money.
I am a mother and a happy one. I’ve got four boys and had missed abortion three years ago. In each pregnancy, I’ve experienced difficulty and for the first trimester was under bed rest. I gave birth to my boys through normal delivery and should I’ve known the natural way of birthing, I might have opted for that.
Despite the pregnancy hardship, I consider my motherhood journey a happy one. Not because life has always been too generous and kind. Perhaps it’s because I am surrounded by mommies who are more than willing to lend a listening ear, share a bit of wisdom, and even laugh at my flaws and antics. They comfort me and make me understand that motherhood is both exciting and challenging, or it may be heartbreaking but heartwarming as well. And most especially, they remind me that motherhood is inspiring and fulfilling.
My underpaid writer friend — this is how she describes her occupation — says it right. Tarlac is known for being the bailiwick of the Aquinos and the Cojuangcos. And unknown to many, this province has many churches worthy of your visit. I, together with this friend, toured Tarlac for a day, chronicled each trip to Tarlac’s select places of worship, and took a few interesting shots.
Two of husband’s friends, Maui and Arvin, made our Visita Iglesia more exciting, fun, and easier. Though equipped with a travel map, still, without the two boys, I am very certain we might have been lost along our way.
Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 1st stop: Santo Nino Parish, Bamban
Ain’t no mountain high enough
I first heard of the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from the movie “The Sound of Music.” Wikipedia says it is an inspirational piece to push an individual to take every step towards attaining his dreams.
In the movie, the Mother Abbess sang “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” to encourage Maria to face her fear. Maria ended up marrying the captain, the life she was meant to live.
My boys – then at the tender ages of eight, seven, and five – literally climbed a mountain on a Holy Wednesday. More than fear, it was curiosity that enveloped their minds. Their confidence was even hyped knowing their parents were behind. They hiked up Mt. Maculot and discovered that: (1) there is a store on top of the mountain; (2) there is a yellow bug living on top of the mountain; (3) there is no snow on top of the mountain.
October 17 is my birthday. With an initial plan to file for a vacation leave, I picture myself fetching my kids at school and eating at our favorite diner. An assignment to do white water kayaking at San Jose in Tarlac surfaced that I need to forgo my plans. After all, I haven’t experienced the sports yet and why not try it on my birthday.
As my travel buddy described it, “white water kayaking involves paddling and maneuvering a kayak across river currents. The intensity of rapids may range from easy with no serious obstacles, to extremely difficult and violent depending on the weather and water level.” Seemed easy, so off we went.
Sitting for too long can make your body feel so sore. After a 12-hour butt-numbing journey on a provincial bus to Tuguegarao, I was more than thankful to see Kuya Nato. He was our shuttle driver who brought us to Hotel Josefina, a quaint inn that sits at the heart of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. Geographically, Cagayan is situated in the northeastern part of Luzon, thus explains the long drive.
For our almost three days stay at Cagayan, we opted for Hotel Josefina. Significantly impressive, the hotel has a homey feel. Its decorative accessories are stylishly romantic as well. At once, I felt at home.
Finding our way to our room, we passed by a narrow hallway. Narrow hallways can be dull, but with decors hanging on its walls and the brightness of direct sunlight passing through the other side, I have a rather reassuring walk toward our temporary abode.
We got a twin deluxe room, just spacious enough for two people who do not have much luggage but have a lot of chips to munch. An overnight stay was P1,100.00.
Aside from its 24-hour front desk service, Hotel Josefina had free WIFI, electronic key card door, and an individual smoking area.
We had our quick hot shower and without much delay, headed to Jomar’s Panciteria for our late breakfast. Jomar’s Panciteria, a famous eatery in Tuguegarao, was full that day, mostly of tricycle drivers having their pancit matched with ice-cold beer. Outside the main kitchen area, rows of nipa huts were erected where anyone could smoke and chit-chat comfortably. A serving of Jomar’s super special was at P70.00.
Going around Tuguegarao, it would be ideal to have a local guide with you. Good thing Kuya Nato had some friends he could ask to drive us around the city. For a whole day tour, most van owners would ask for P2,500 as rental fee plus P1,000 for the gasoline. We opted for a tricycle service and hired a driver for P1,000 for four destinations that day.
With our tummies filled with Tuguegarao’s most famous pansit batil patung, we were ready for our first destination — Callao Cave.
Manong driver recommended that we visit Callao Cave first as it may take us about an hour to reach Penablanca. We readily agreed since my friend was so eager to visit the place before dark to take some real nice photos inside the cavern.
We paid P40 for the entrance. Though no defined fee for the tour guide, the registrar encouraged us to give any amount to Jaylord, the kid who acted as our guide within the place. The tour guiding job is the primary source of income of most youngsters in Penablanca and is very much supported by the local government.
Very knowledgeable and bubbly, Jaylord talked with excessive pride about Callao Cave. He also narrated how he had met Korina Sanchez and her Balitang K crew. He mentioned as well that he was given a scholarship as Korina’s token of gratitude for touring them around.
Every tourist wanting to take a glimpse of the famous Callao Cave need to painstakingly climb 187 steps. And from there, he will be welcomed by the cave’s main archway.
Halfway up the stairs, one could enjoy a spectacular panorama of the Pinacanauan River. It has clear waters and beautiful natural setting which all the more makes it fit as one of the tourist attractions of Cagayan Province.
Flawlessly sculpted by time, Callao Cave — according to Jaylord — was named after a kalaw bird which richly inhabits the place. That was before, though, as these kalaw birds are swiftly diminishing because of the rude hunting activities of others who apparently do not appreciate nature’s wonder.
The cave was naturally accentuated with stalactites believed to be present for centuries now. The cave was a sight to behold, especially the stylish drapers and other cave formations. By the entrance, there was a path leading to a chapel where pews and makeshift altar were arranged. Jaylord confirmed that masses are heard there every first Sunday of the month.
Though I have been to a number of caves in the Philippines, Callao is definitely important to me. It has such impressive features which, I guess, I will never dare forget for the rest of my life. It is where I find peace, a moment I could pray and commune with God and feel His presence. It is cold inside but does not give negative chills.
After Callao Cave, we headed to Iguig to see the famous Calvary Hills. Very popular with devotees especially during the holy week, Calvary Hills is located within the grounds of San Antonio de Galicia Church in Iguig, Cagayan. And within the 11 hectares of rolling hills are life-size concrete statues of the stations of the cross. Its elevation provides stunning views of the Cagayan River and the valley.
Aside from being called the “smiling land of beauty,” often, Tuguegarao is also known as the land that sizzles as it has recorded the hottest temperature in the country. Likewise, the city’s average temperature during summer months is 38 degree Celsius, one of the highest in the Philippines. This scorching weather of the city is but an ordinary occurrence thus, after our Calvary tour, we all the more felt the need to refresh and quench our thirst. In all honestly, Tuguegarao City is the melting pot of the Philippines– both figuratively and literally.
We went back to the city and looked for a decent restaurant to 1) put something inside our growling stomach, 2) drink and replenish our body’s water and electrolyte levels after dehydration caused by the extreme heat, and 3) visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao. Also known as Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, this biggest Spanish-built church is included in our must visit places in Tuguegarao.
My travel buddy used her internet connection to research; and relayed that one of Tuguegarao’s must-see diners is Lorie’s restaurant. Though somehow difficult to find, Lorie’s never failed our high hopes for a decent and filling lunch. We had a genuinely good eating experience there!
Together with their highly recommended chicken barbecue and pork liempo, we had frozen chocolate beverages and cakes for dessert. These were some of my friend’s great shots of our food.
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
Also called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is the seat of the archdiocese of the city and considered the biggest Spanish-built church in the entire region. Named after two of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the cathedral has a beautiful five-level bell tower.
Before we retired for the day, we went to Buntun Bridge, the longest river-spanning bridge in the country which connects Tuguegarao and Solana. Also known as the second longest bridge in the Philippines — after the San Juanico Bridge– Buntun bridge is constructed for travelers to cross the Cagayan River. Yes, under it is the Cagayan River, the largest river basin the country.
If sunsets over Manila Bay are among the most beautiful and colorful views that almost all condominiums along Roxas Boulevard in Manila advertise, the sunset along Buntun Bridge is also worth experiencing.
As we waited for the sky to turn into some red and orange, we were startled by the radiating glows of the sun as it set. The steady and reliable steel bars against the dimming light all the more made the scene very dramatic.
The view from below was just as impressive. We couldn’t even hear any rushing sound of the water nor the vast carpets of green left no eerie feeling. Everything seemed quiet and steady. So gold and … steady.
The sunset scenes made our evening calm and relaxed. After our dinner of bulalo and papaitan at Felicita’s, we went straight to bed to have a good night sleep. Because the following day, we have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the bus plying to Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
Palaui Island and Anguib Beach
We arrived at the bus station at five in the morning that following day. The lone bus bound for Sta. Ana, Cagayan left already, giving us with no other option than to catch by chance a UV express van that would bring us to the port and eventually reach Palaui Island and Anguib Beach. Luck must have been on our side as we were able to get our seats. Fare was P180.00 each.
Excited to see the location shoot of the US reality TV series Survivor season 27, we endured the butt-numbing ride. We were very optimistic that seeing the pristine Palaui Island and the enchanting Anguib Beach would help us forget all the discomfort of traveling for three hours in a passenger van.
We arrived at the port at around 8:30 in the morning. Signages that say “27th and 28th seasons of ‘Survivor’ USA were filmed on Palaui Island” were around the area. The boatman relayed to us that the Survivor shoot further put the town, which has been a once-obscure fishing village, in the world’s tourism map.
Going to Palaui Island took us about 45 minutes. The ride was not a bore as we were constantly entertained by the clear waters– bright enough to see the seabed in the deepest sections. Everything was a perfect harmony of green, brown and blue with the mountains on the side and the clear blue skies above us.
This impressively beautiful view greeted us as we step our feet at the Palaui Islands —
The view was simply like a canvass with the strong sun rays splayed at the horizon as background to the lush green hills and the serene blue waters. The calmness of the sky, mountains, and sea invited me to take my late morning stroll and simply enjoy the damp sand and the tiny sea shells that somehow pricked my feet.
As we explored the island, our feet brought us to a vast grassland leading us to the famous Cape Engano Lighthouse. There was a trail up; one needs to go through over 200 steps and a shorter hike inclined at about 45 degrees. From time to time, I stopped not to rest and catch my breath but more on to savor and capture everything.
All our efforts to reach the summit was rewarded with a stunning view of the bluest of blue skies… of the lush green hills and grasslands… of the sparkling blue waters and its waves pounding at the nearest gigantic rocks… and of the serene cove with the deepest blues.
Aside from the picturesque landscape of the island, the lighthouse came in second as my favorite Palaui attraction. Our kind tour guide said that this Spanish-designed structure is still functioning using solar-powered light. The lighthouse also has open windows to let one see the natural landscape and welcome in natural air.
We must have enjoyed the view from above that it almost took us an hour before we decide to go down. It was easier to go down the hill, perhaps we were somehow familiar with the trail already. But as we went down, I kept on rewinding the view I had at the top. I would want to bring my boys there. I would want them to experience what I have experienced. Perhaps it is the lack of disturbance that drove me to want to visit the lighthouse again. Even the wind was somehow cooperative that day. Though I felt its blow, i did not feel its hard slap on my face.
After the Cape Engano Lighthouse, manong tour guide invited us to visit one of many waterfalls in Palaui — a place that can be reached after a 10-minute walk through a forested area. There, fresh water from the mountains falls to a natural pool where one could douse off that summer heat.
Our Cagayan travel was truly a tiring one. But all the energy we put into this adventure was rewarded with:
- the new learnings and awareness about the place, its culture, and its people’s beliefs;
- first time experiences which I could now strike off my bucket list;
- conquering my fears of the unknown and knowing that I could do it;
- helping me slow down and giving myself a break from the hustle and bustle of the big loud city; and
- the realization to appreciate my work, my family, and myself.
After another 16-hour butt-numbing experience inside the Victory Liner bus which brought us home, I realized that indeed, life is worth living. You just need to appreciate everything surrounding you, may it be the scorching sun or the long trails or even the dried falling leaves.
* I was able to see the beauty of Cagayan Valley about two years ago, and would want to once again experience its natural beauty – the fiery sun included – with my boys.
I had a discovery last Saturday. Aside from mom friends, my boys read pala my blog.
My Big Bunso asked so much about The Nook Cafe. When I questioned him where he learned about the place, he told me he read about it in my blog post. My first visit to the cafe was last October with my best buddy Smash.
My Big Bunso was so curious he kept on asking about the food and the Harry Potter paraphernalia I have seen and touched. He even asked how the butterbeer tasted and if there were chocolate frogs available.
By 6 pm, after the three boys had mentioned they were done with school works, I told them to dress up. We will have our dinner somewhere. On our way to Maginhawa St., the boys kept on asking us where are we heading. I told them in an a matter-of-fact tone that we will be trying The Nook Cafe. And once more, their seemingly endless amount of energy filled the car.
We reached the place at 7:15 pm. As usual, the cafe was jam-packed, and we waited for about 20 minutes to get seats. Once inside, they could not conceal their excitement from my prying eyes. They fitted some of the Hogwarts robes, read some HP books, chanted some spells, and recalled the movie scene of Hermione with her Time Turner. They were just so thrilled about almost everything inside. They talked animatedly. They ate enthusiastically. Their eyes were all enlivened with everything Harry Potter around them.
I, too, was happy.
We tried all the food. As for the drinks, my three boys all wanted to have a taste of their first butterbeer.
While the boys were all too busy chatting, playing, and eating all at the same time, their mama was preoccupied with the little munchkin.
And after a few singing and dancing in between bites, thank God the handsome prince finally decided to sleep.
If only I could drive, I would love to stay a little longer. The boys were enjoying everything — too hard to break their heart in telling we need to leave in 20 minutes. Queen Mother (how I address my mother without her knowing it) has some difficulty driving at night, so we need to exit the place by 9:00 pm.
On our way home, the boys requested that we return at The Nook anytime soon. I reassured them that we will visit Maginhawa Street some time again, but will look for a new restaurant to try. I explained that dining out is more exciting if spent with loved ones AND IN NEW PLACES. Then I ended our conversation with a nice quote I once read —
Try new things, do new things, find new ways of doing things… It’s a beautiful way of learning.
Perhaps, aside from birthdays, children appreciate Christmas the most. They get to receive gifts, and the food is just overflowing.
Christmas is also the time for reunions and meetups. Visiting friends and relatives not only gives us the time to catch up but gives the boys — much to their delight– the opportunity to receive gifts either in cash or in kind. My boys received mostly cash from these visits.
Usually, I let them spend their Christmas money, but still under my supervision. Last December though, husband and I encouraged them to open a bank account and start saving. Part of the money they deposited were their own savings from their school allowance. To encourage them all the more, husband promised the boys he will double the money they invested in the bank.
I have three almost grown-up boys. Grown-up because they act, talk, and eat like grown-ups. And they love board games.
When big Bunso turned 10 years old last November, we planned to have our dinner at Van Gogh is Bipolar. But because it was already dark (around 8:00 pm), we cannot locate this abode-slash-restaurant thus ended up at the end of the Maginhawa Street. Then saw and read Snacks and Ladder to my right.
As I have said, my three grown-up boys love board games. Perfect!
The boys were still inside the car, and I could not stop their excitement. They were jumping up and down! And when we finally alighted, they rushed inside the diner.
The place was jam-packed. Not with my mom’s and my age but full of teens and twenty-something peeps. And they were all busy playing — board games.