Sharing all things about pet-friendly travels and full-time work from home setup

Philippines is One of Top Holiday Destinations in 2011

Despite the travel advisory issued by Australia against Philippines,, an Australian travel website cited our country as one of the top holiday destinations in 2011 based on travel trends and statistics. Reason is "Philippines becoming increasingly popular due to the political unrest in Thailand and its untapped beaches". Brazil and India are also included in a suggested list of destinations, travel tips and airlines for next year. Brazil’s affordable airfares and its rich cultures, interest in India are cited too. USA and New Zealand are also in which were described as “old favorites”.

Also in the report is summarizing the holiday patterns of Australian travelers such us booking their travel 2-3 months early to save, adventure tours & cruises as popular holiday options and average number of days they spend on holidays which in Asia is seven days. Australia is one of the six countries (others are US, UK, Canada, New Zealand & France) that issued a travel advisory against Philippines few months ago citing “high threat of terrorist attack and high level of serious crime”. Australia and France revised and reissued its travel advisory after a month removing the “terrorist attack threat” but the rest of advisory remained as is.

Aside from the famous Boracay, another one rising is the Pamalican Island or known as Amanpulo is named as one of the world’s most romantic travel spots by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Hollywood celebrities Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Samuel Jackson, Mariah Carey, model Claudia Schiffer, illusionist David Copperfield and boxer Erik Morales are a few who visited the place. To get to this place is through a scheduled charter flight which will cause not less than $300 for the flight alone. It offers a complete luxury which an average Filipino or even the above - average can't afford yet.

Source: Top holiday hotspots for 2011 by Kate Schneider

Hollywood Stars in Palawan by Cebu Pac's Smile Magazine May 2010

Vatican’s Nativity Scene features Nine Filipino Statues

During a solemn evening ceremony last Dec. 24th in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, the nativity scene or locally called as ‘belen’ was unveiled and nine statues were ‘Filipinos’ as traditional figures of the Holy Family. Dressed in colorful native attire and playing musical instruments, these portray the joyful spirit of the Philippine Christmas which is known as the “longest and most festive celebration in the world”.

Kublai Ponce-Millan, the Filipino sculptor who designed the statues said these represent the different indigenous groups of the Philippines in a festive celebration of faith, music, food and family on the occasion of the birth of Jesus. Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See, Mercedes A. Tuason who is present during the event thanked the Governorate of the Vatican City State for giving the Philippines a special place in the center of the Roman Catholic Church’s celebration of the birth of Christ this year.

The Philippines is the first country outside Italy to be given a major part in the Vatican nativity scene. This event was attended by ecclesiastical authorities of the Holy See and civil authorities from the City and Province of Rome. At 6pm sharp, Pope Benedict XVI lighted a candle for peace while watching the unveiling ceremony from his apartment window. He blessed the crowd with the light of a single candle amid the darkness. It was in 1982 when this tradition started by then Pope John Paul II.

Source: Vatican’s nativity scene featuring Filipino figures unveiled from CBCP News

Screenshot from  Rome Reports Philippines helps with Vatican Nativity Scene in Youtube

Christmas Trees with Environmental Consciousness in Greenbelt

Christmas trees made by the country's top artists, industrial designers and architects are displayed in Greenbelt 5 until Dec. 31st. These are no ordinary Christmas trees because  these are conceptualized and made with the spirit of environmental consciousness.  USE of PLASTIC things is a BIG NO! Instead these trees are made of recycled, reused or discarded things that still can be made to look good.

Two out of the eight Christmas trees stand out for me: the "James Bound"  tree of Tes Pasola and "Tree Bench" of Daphne Osena-Paez. Why? Not much because of glamour or what but the essence (you're reading it right) and the reusability of it. I had nothing in mind when I went to Greenbelt other than a quick stroll and eat my favorite crepe there so unfortunately I have no camera with me.

Tree Bench by Daphne

This Christmas tree is also a furniture. When the holiday ends, this can be converted into a bench. Now that's a very clever idea! Frame is made of reused mahogany wood & chair back is made of traditional cane sulihiya. Bench upholstery is made of plain jute sack from recycled lining material. This Christmas tree cum bench is perfect for space conscious people.

Daphne reminds us to:

HELP PASIG RIVER by bringing reusable containers and utensils when eating out and taking out the left overs.

James Bound by Tes Pasola

This is a challenge to the limitations set on recycled-paper materials. We are so used getting our Christmas trees in plastic, twirling itu p with energy-consuming lights, leaving paper to nothing than the gift wrappers under. This tree stands as a complete accessory on its own.

Tes reminds us to:

DITCH that PLASTIC BAG! Carry a reusable bag to your next grocery trip.

Daphne is a TV host, businesswoman and a furniture designer. She owns her own furniture line called as "Daphne". Tes is one of Philippine's best known designers. Her favored medium is paper. She has a line called "James Bound" which has won many international awards. There is a silent bidding anyone wants to join to help fund the rehabilitaton of Pasig river.

Photos courtesy of Daphne's blog "Daphne's Diary".

“An Invitation to Malacañan” is 1 of Best Cookbook of the Year in Paris

A coffee table book about Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, its state dinners, bilateral meetings and ceremonies honoring heads of state entitled “An Invitation to Malacañan” which is spelled in Spanish is nominated in Gormand Awards 2010 for Best Cookbook of the Year category. Shortlist from the fifty-seven (57) countries participants will be posted in January, the winner will be announced and his work be exhibited in March 2011.  The glamorous awards night will then be held in Paris, France.

Led by Bettina Araneta Aboitiz, “An Invitation to Malacañan” pages show “the evolution of the state functions, from the engraving of balls in the 19th century, the lavish parties of President Quezon, to the present, visiting dignitaries, samples of invitations, gift exchanges, and an ingénue Macapagal-Arroyo dancing in a Maria Clara outfit in the early ’60s, and recent moments with her grandchildren.”

A very interesting story about this “An Invitation to Malacañan”, the nipa hut, water buffalo and boat-place card holders done in sterling silver were given as presidential gifts to then UK First Lady Cherie Blair in 2002.  After sometime, Ms Blair contacted the Philippine Embassy in London to buy a similar set but unfortunately the company which made it already closed.

Malacañang is the official residence and workplace of the Presidents of the Philippines. It was built in 1750 in Spanish colonial style where Pres. Marcos and his family lived the longest. Pres. Cory Aquino's office was the bedroom of Pres. Marcos at the time her husband, Ninoy died in 1983. Her son, P-noy the country’s current president chose to live in a different place – the Bahay Pangarap residence which is located inside Malacañang Park.

To view more photos, please click's gallery here

Source: Invitation to Malacañang, Marge C. Enriquez of Philippine Daily Inquirer

If Christmas is a Drink, It'll Be a Cup of Hot Tsokolate

Montezuma,  the great Aztec ruler and chocoholic, stored cacao  not gold in his treasury. His court is believed to consume as many as 50 pitchers of hot chocolate a day.  In ancient Aztec, cacao is so valuable that its bean is used as currency, and figured in the exchange of slaves and horses. To the ancient Mayans, chocolate was food for the gods, an indulgence reserved for nobles and warriors.  In the Philippines, it is the Spanish colonizers who brought cacao in 1600's.

If Christmas is a drink, it will be a cup of hot tsokolate... indeed I agree as what Clare Miranda wrote entitled "Cacao Loco" in Cebu Pacific's December in - flight magazine issue. A cup of hot tsokolate is perfect after attending misa de gallo in an early morning and pair it with suman or rice cake. In our hometown, Irosin, the best suman is made of squash combined with glutinous rice, coconut milk, sugar and salt.  Champorado, is another traditional Pinoy breakfast which is a chocolate rice porridge. It is best served hot and  a few tablespoon of milk makes it tastes better.  Or if you're a true  Pinoy at heart,  it will be incomplete if it's not served with a few pieces of tuyo or dried fish.

In our backyard, there is a Cacao tree which stood way before my parents moved in our home twenty five years ago. This cacao tree  along with the other older trees are the most honest witnesses of the joys and sorrows of everyday life our family had. My lola used  to gather cacao leaves  she uses whenever she makes maruya or banana fritters. It is my mom who makes the best tablea (pure cacao in tablet) out of dried cacao seeds and I remember seeing her how she patiently mixes these powder in boiling water to create a thicker tsokolate.  She then would keep jars full of tableas to store a few for the New Year's eve and share to our neighbors and visiting relatives but, these however does not reach the New Year's eve as we alway sneak out and eat it like a black chocolate bar.

 In Davao,  there is a chocolate factory made from cacao beans the Askinosie Chocolate and one of their best-selling is the "77% Davao Dark Chocolate" and is almost out of stock often. They have this Askinosie Chocolate Factory tour which costs $3 only and they have their Chocolate University too which heps kids in their neighborhood.  At Figaro, a 100% Filipino-made coffe shop you can drop by and try their three cocoa-inspired drinks. "Each sip is communion with history, a yielding to a magic spell that is thousands of years in the making." says Clare as I read the ending of her article.

Source:  Clare Miranda of"Cacao Loco" & Image from Lasang Pinoy 21: Champorado at Tuyo

‘Balangay’ Ends their Asian Voyage after 14 Months

Thirty-nine crews including the first Filipinos that climbed Mt Everest in 2006 aboard the three replicas of ‘Balangay’ boats are welcomed as they dock back from where they started a year ago. It took them almost less to than an hour to reach the shore since these boats are using wind power only. Sailing with them are three other boats rowed by our very own World Champion Dragon boat team.  Media, security, dignitaries and a crowd eagerly wait for them while waving colorful flags. 

These ‘Balangay’ replicas were built using no steel just bamboo, wood and fiber almost the same as how the originals were made way back in the year 320 AD. Led by Art Valdez, he said this voyage aims to retrace the trading routes of the sea gypsies or would have been the first Philippine inhabitants who used these boats while roaming in the Pacific or migrating to this country. The ‘Balangay’ voyage started September 2009 and was able to reach 6 Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore.

Valdez added that these ‘Balangay‘ boats suffered damages due to higher sea waves almost as high as a 2-storey building caused by climate change. These boats followed ancient navigation methods like using only the positions of the sun, stars, winds and clouds. He said this voyage rekindled the maritime consciousness of the youth, not to mention that the Philippines own half of the world’s manpower in maritime business. 

Balangay’, is the oldest know pre-Hispanic watercraft found in the Philippines in 1976 and was first mentioned in the 16th Century in the Chronicles of Pigafetta.  The  ‘Balangay’ crew ate mostly rice, dried fish and banana (saging na saba) for their meals.  Valdez assured everyone that, aside from the cheering of crowd and warm welcome they always get in every port they stop, what matters most is all the 39 crews returned home safely.

Manila is Ranked 9th Out of 30 Most Dynamic Cities in the World

Remittances from far-flung Filipino workers, healthy tourism and demand for IT products are the reasons cited for putting Manila as the 9th out of 30 Dynamic Cities in the World 2010 by Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Manila is one out of the thirty metropolises graded by the growth of income and employment produced. Manila was able to get in the top 10 for the first time and it was emphasized that “the Philippines depends so heavily on [OFW] remittances that a 7% boost in mailed cash this year dramatically improved the country's economic projections for 2010.”

While Ex. US Pres. Bill Clinton urges to "get more people to come home" during his November trip to the Philippines this year, it is a sad reality that more Filipinos find abroad still the best resort to improve the quality of their lives. When one speaks of Philippine tourism, it refers to Boracay’s beaches, Palawan’s underground river or Bohol’s Chocolate hills but surprisingly, Manila’s tourism outshone them. The demand for IT products was not explained enough but thinking Manila is the central hub in the Philippines where most of the BPO’s (business processing outsources) are, it is really possible that there really is a demand.

Manila is home to 10 million people, plus one million for those living in the streets, under bridges or vagabonds at all. Manila Galleons during the Manila – Acapulco Trade are the largest ships ever built at that time during 1800’s – 1900’s earning the title “Pearl of the Orient”. The first airline in Asia, the oldest existing university in Asia even older than Harvard – University of Sto Tomas and  the only all steel church in Asia - Basilica Minore de San Sebastian ... these are all in Manila. Seen in The Atlantic, is the picture of the latter

Source:  30 Most Dynamic Cities in the World by Derek Thompson

Pinay Sisters’ Love for Local Design & Craftsmanship


Tired of media and shopping malls’ far depiction of what Christmas is in the Philippines? These Pinay sisters got a heart that promotes Filipino designs and craftsmanship. Instead of snow and fireplaces in a usual Christmas card, their designs are icons that best describe Philippines like jeepneys and the tsinelas (slippers). Joy card, is a personalized greeting card business owned by Jane Beate and Abie Buena that showcases Filipino arts most especially to tourists as their target market.

The prices range from P20 – P80 which is very affordable and are made from recyclable materials. Their designs show that Pinays are very artistic even in the simplest designs that it may have a little resemblance to a gradeschooler’s coloring book but they cleared that these are unique and hard to duplicate.

Beate, who is an arts teacher at the Carewell Community Foundation (for cancer-stricken children) said that crafting personalized greeting cards are considered therapeutic by most of her students. She also adds “that a person does not have to be an artist or go to an exclusive art school to know that art can be used to affect people in a good way. “ So next time you want to buy a greeting card, keep in mind people like these Pinay sisters’ humble but patriotic works.

InformationSource:  Sisters Craft Truly Pinoy Greeting Cards by KC Santos, Dec. 3, 2010 

Picture from:

The Alcove’s Photography Challenge and Holiday Gift Ideas


Explore the Makati Commercial Business District (MCBD) on foot and capture arresting images under time pressure! This is what the Alcove’s Photography Challenge is all about. Interested?  A shoot list will be given to participating photographers during the orientation and subjects must be covered during the time allotted and in the area specified. Open to all amateur photographers, the winning photographs will be displayed in The Alcove’s online gallery. Freebies such as photography magazines and gift packs will also be given to all confirmed participants. Mark this day in your calendar next year, Jan. 22, 2011.

This photography challenge is thru the efforts of Filipinas Heritage Library, a  division of the Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI), a one-stop electronic research center on the Philippines.

          To download the mechanics, registration/waiver form please click here




All images and information are from Filipinas Heritage Library website.