More than just a book

 

 

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Last October’s UNICEF Auction for Action included these signed books donated by National Book Store.

 

So much has happened in the last quarter of 2013 that I had forgotten to give the final update of UNICEF’s 3rd Auction for Action. We were able to raise over 2.9 million pesos during that 7-day online auction. Thank you to all the artists who donated their work. Thank you to everyone who placed bids and supported this fundraising drive. The proceeds of Auction for Action 3 went to the rehabilitation of safe places for children affected by conflict in Zamboanga. UNICEF works non-stop to protect children in all areas that experienced emergencies – like Zamboanga, Bohol and of course, Yolanda-stricken areas.

When the new year started, I got a message from Rica Dimayuga of Roxas City, Capiz. She won the bid for one of the books — The Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. The book was more than a prize or a way of supporting UNICEF, it also gave her hope and inspiration during the most trying times when Yolanda struck their city. I have permission to repost parts of her email below.

 

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“I won this book from the UNICEF auction. I was able to get hold of it day before YOLANDA hit Roxas City, Capiz where I am residing. For almost one month of no electricity, this book was my companion every night before going to bed, reading with my flashlight. With all the devastation around (damaged homes) this book transported me to somewhere I can relax, plan and get excited again in baking… Thank you so much! We will forever support UNICEF.” — Rica Dimayuga

 

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Rica’s husband took this photo in Roxas City on December 18. “The Unicef flag is flying up high in our city plaza. Together with flags of Japan and Canada… They all came here and helped the province of Capiz after the typhoon. The province won’t be able to cope faster without the help of others.”

 

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“Days after electricity was restored, I made this… NOUGAT! Recipe from BOUCHON BAKERY cookbook. One week before the auction, i listed 3 items, 2 paintings and this book. We were in Phuket that time and signal was bad. Won the book 20 seconds before the auction closed. After reading the book, I always wrap it in a plastic bag and place it in a safe place. Our roof was damaged and some of our glass windows were broken, I was worried that in case it rains and water will go inside the house… My book might get wet.” — Rica Dimayuga.

 

Thank you Rica for sharing your story. I am so touched and inspired by your act of generosity. And thank you National Book Store for your gift of this book. Not only did it provide inspiring recipes for the kitchen, but in Rica’s case it gave her a recipe for getting their lives back after Haiyan.

 

 

 

Singapore Diaries 3: All in a day

 

 

I have a few more stories about our family’s vacation in Singapore last month. As guests of Singapore Tourism Board, we were given the chance to experience the latest attractions suitable for small children and families. You can see the earlier Singapore Diaries here and here. I also listed our itinerary to help you plan your next Singapore trip.

The third was a particularly interesting day and the one the kids looked forward to the most. We visited the S.E.A. Aquarium and Universal Studios. Both were located at Resorts World Sentosa. We saw and did everything. Plus we even had a long fancy lunch at Putien. There is enough time.

Here are some photos taken by STB photographer Andrew Chua. There are other photos I took using my Samsung S4 and Galaxy Cam as well.

 

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Before entering the S.E.A. Aquarium, we walked through the The Maritime Experiential Museum™ — the first and only museum to showcase the maritime history of Asia.

 

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It was a nice and quick history lesson for the kids. Though Stella couldn’t keep still. She wanted to see the sharks right away. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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But Mama had to see all the displays. Haha. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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S.E.A. Aquarium is the world’s largest aquarium accredited by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™. The kids felt transported to the world of oceans. There were more than 800 species of marine animals. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Enormous fish tanks

 

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This cuttlefish was huge. It was mesmerized by its patterns.

 

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Another huge crab. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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I am hoping one day my daughters take up scuba diving, the same way I did in the 90’s. The underwater world is beautiful. I loved the silence, the beauty, the connection with God and nature. Ok, I’m getting carried away again. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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And this was just like in a concert. There’s a rockstar in that tank.

 

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This is the biggest indoor aquarium in the world. Our cameras couldn’t capture the enormity of that tank.

 

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So we just went up close and sat there for a few minutes watching mantas, puffer fish and barracudas go by. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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I made up stories about the marine life characters. And here’s the lone barracuda — the one who ate Nemo’s mom and siblings. Haha. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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This was awesome. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Like I said, it was difficult to capture the size of this tank. It was laid out like a theatre.

 

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Then we walked through the Shark Seas tunnel. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Here, there are many shark species that you will see for the very first time together with endangered species such as the scalloped hammerhead shark, the powerful and aggressive silvertip shark, and the sandbar shark – one of the largest coastal sharks in the world.

 

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After our lunch, we went “next door” to Universal Studios Singapore. The kids were wearing coordinated out fits from Gingersnaps’ latest collection.

 

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We mapped out our plan for the day and went straight to the young kids’ worlds – Shrek, Madagascar and Sesame Street. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Lily doesn’t like riding the carousel animals. So she and I usually pick the comfortable seats. One of my favourite worlds was Madagascar because of A Crate Adventure, an indoor boat ride featuring Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria. Don’t miss that one. All three kids loved it. They rode it three times.  Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Early December was great. It wasn’t as hot as I know Singapore can be. There were rain showers in the afternoon and early evenings but nothing torrential or debilitating.

 

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So, I have daughters and this was purely a photo op for their boy cousins in Canada. We skipped the boys’  rides. But Patrick and Sophia rode  3D Transformers Ride. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Sci Fi City.

 

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So here’s the famous Battlestar Galactica Human vs Cylon ride.  It is the world’s tallest dueling coaster 42.5 metres (139 ft). One of the coasters is an inverted roller coaster track in blue, and the other half is a traditional seated roller coaster in red. It was under repair during our visit. I’d be too scared for this, haha. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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With a member of the Army of Anubis at Ancient Egypt. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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Soph really wanted to ride the Rapids Adventure at Jurassic Park but we were guaranteed to get soaked. And we didn’t bring extra clothes. So we had to skip it. If you wish to ride this, bring extra clothing. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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So instead we rode Dino-Soarin. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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We also met some of the dinosaurs at The Lost World. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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At the Kingdom Far Far Away, the girls’ favorite spot! We enjoyed Shrek’s 4-D Adventure, Donkey Live and the Magic Potion Spin.

 

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We met Fairy God Mother. I also met some UZ viewers in this spot. Hello Urbanistas!

 

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Thank you so much, Singapore Tourism Board, for this wonderful treat for my family.

 

 

To plan your next Singapore trip, please visit yoursingapore.com

For more information on S.E.A. Aquarium, click here.

For information on Universal Studios Singapore® click here.

 

 

Anthro Finds

 

 

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Spent the afternoon looking through the Anthropologie site. I love this dress. Pravara Dress, lightly beaded, made in India. Gorgeous. $248

 

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01  Denim Culottes from Japanese cult denim house Kapital. This reflects the early ’20s, these ultra wide-leg high-rise culottes are crafted from weighty, durable denim and finished with pintuck seams. $268.

02  Illustrious Frog Ring oversized sculptural fairy tale frog in filigree (so many F’s). Sterling silver, 24k gold vermeil. $318

03  Floral Turban, by milliner and CFDA award-winner Eugenia Kim. $148.

04  Eddie Buckle Wedges. These look really comfortable. $128

05  Illustre Bracelet. Pearl-lined roller chain bracelet by Milan-based designer Ellen Conde. $328

06  Rosemary Satchel made of laser cut leather and suede by Orla Kiely, the Queen of Prints. $398

 

Singapore Diaries 2: Gardens By The Bay

 

 

For the second part of my Singapore Diaries, I am featuring only one place, a spectacular one that needs its own post — Gardens by the Bay. It is a 101 hectare park of reclaimed land facing the reservoir. It has gardens, water parks, conservatories. The entire concept is a triumph for sustainable architecture, landscape architecture, conservation efforts and a new type of amusement for visitors of all ages.

I could have spent all day here. I would be so inspired to sketch and take photos all day. We were just there for over two hours. But our experience was so well-planned that we saw all the main attractions. There are suggested trails on the website link I posted above. I suggest you plan your trip in advance. We saw the two domed structures – the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. The Supertree Grove, the iconic landmark of the gardens, is visible from all angles. It is spectacular at night, I hear. This is a reason for us to go back.

 

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At the visitor’s centre near the entrance to the two conservatories, you see three sculptural Supetrees. This gives you a preview of what it’s like at the Supertree Grove, which includes a Skywalk and a restaurant on top of one of the biggest Supertree. You can also opt to tour the outdoor gardens using this audio-guided tram. Because of time constraints we skipped the Supertree Grove. I hope to visit again — at night next time. Photo by Andrew Chua STB.

 

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Smile! Singapore sunshine! I packed the kids’ sunglasses. But they forgot to bring them from the hotel. Yikes.

 

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We started at the Flower Dome with its incredible design and architecture. The entire space is air-conditioned, cooled by chilled water pipes in underground slabs, while warm air goes out in vents on top. The entire space replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and parts of Spain and Italy. Photo by Andrew Chua STB.

 

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The entire dome has no columns. It is the world’s largest columnless greenhouse. The Conservatories’ glass sits on a steel grid that acts like an eggshell.

 

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They change the flower displays in this Flower Field to reflect seasons, occasions and themes. This was taken on December 1st, hence Christmas.

 

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Amazing.

 

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My favorite tree – the baobab. It doesn’t have a good meaning in The Little Prince but in reality these are Africa’s trees of life. That one nearest my face is shaped like a heart. I am so fascinated by them. This is what they look like in Madagascar.

 

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A little Lily #OOTD. She takes pride in “styling” herself. She wore a Gingersnaps neon-sleeved T-shirt with the cutest giraffe graphic and matched it with light purple lace shorts also from Gingersnaps. Athletic shoes and that crazy headband from Cotton-On. Oh Lily!

 

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The gardens are completely accessible to anyone. There are elevators but we opted to use the stairs.

 

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Just a little Stella update. She, being my youngest, is sooo attached to me. Now more than ever. We are going through some separation anxiety even if its a short trip to the grocery or when I pick up the two sisters from school. I am relishing these days that she seems to be hanging on to her toddler phase which has actually passed last year. A real “bunso” (youngest child aka “baby”). Oh her cute little Tshirt was a gift from @mimssac of Instagram. You can order personalized Tshirts and other items from her. A few people have asked about my sneakers. I got them at Cath Kidston online.

 

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The Cloud Forest is spectacular. It has a 35-metre tall mountain covered with a wall of lush vegetation. It has the  world’s tallest indoor waterfall with plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000-metres above sea level.

 

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A rare photo of the two of us at the Cloud Forest, not because we are elusive but because we don’t have anyone to take decent photos of us. I’m always the one shooting. This time, with STB’s professional photographer Andrew Chua documenting our visit, we have a lot of photos of the family – complete and just us as a couple. Yay!

 

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My nature-loving daughter Sophia was in heaven. Photo by Andrew Chua STB

 

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My little Fifi. I wish for her to always feel this free and adventurous. She can’t wait to see the rest of the world.

 

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They loved identifying plants. I couldn’t believe Soph knew a lot of them already. This is the “pitcher plant”. Sophia tells me it’s eats insects, and it really does. OMG. There was a little pond up top of the mountain with a pod full of carnivorous plants including the Venus Fly Trap. How fascinating. Photo by Andrew Chua STB.

 

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It was incredible seeing a really tall lush vertical garden. There was an amazing mixture of orchids, ferns, colourful bromeliads, begonias and carnivorous pitcher plants, all the way up.

 

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We made our way up the top of the Lost World Trail. The highest point replicates the cloud forest vegetation at around 2,000m above sea level.

 

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Here we are on that trail. It’s very safe. We even brought Stella’s rental stroller. Photo by Andrew Chua STB.

 

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It was very high. My knees were shaking. It weaved in and out of the mountain. I’m so proud that Lily got over her fear of heights.

 

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To give you an idea of how high it was, here’s a 360 view.

 

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So the Paezis made it to the top of The Lost World. Haha. It wasn’t anything like real trekking, so none of us suffered. We didn’t even break a sweat. The entire place is air-conditioned and very well-maintained. There are elevators and escalators too. Photo by Andrew Chua STB.

 

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I have to say, Gardens By The Bay was one of … if not, THE highlight of our trip. It was a very unique experience seeing modern architecture with the world’s most exotic plants and trees. We learned a lot about the environment and the danger we face with the changing habitats that put plants and animals in danger.

 

For a complete list of our four-day itinerary in Singapore, click here. And to plan your trip to Singapore, check out www.yoursingapore.com

More of our Singapore travel diary coming up in a few days.

 

 

Happy New Year

 

 

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Thank you 2013.

 

How is it January 5th already? I haven’t written anything yet. Where did my first four days of 2014 go? All I’ve done so far was edit out the kids’ toys and clothes. I’ve also been cleaning up my computer and files that are backed up on hard drives, cloud, Flickr, Google, iPhoto, etc. It’s crazy. I miss my analog life. I have yet to write my little 2013 retrospective. Perhaps when the kids go back to school tomorrow.

We spent the days leading up to New Year’s Eve at the same Batangas beach we go to almost every year. We are so fortunate that my brother-in-law’s good friend lends us their beautiful rustic beach house. This has become one of my favourite places in the Philippines because it is so pristine. And no domestic flying involved.

 

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Early morning low tide. Beautiful.

 

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Starfish love.

 

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Stella.

 

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Beautiful patterns. By afternoon, this is covered by the tide.

 

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At sunset the tide comes in.

 

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Sophia, the one who really loves the outdoors, clings to every moment she can being free in this wide open space. She loves standing on that breakwater.

 

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I love this shot. Taken just before dusk. The water is so still. And my baby girl who loves the sea just couldn’t help but explore.

 

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Stella’s.

 

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Stella’s sea shells by the sea shore.

 

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Every year the children in the community give my kids sea critters. My kids keep them for a little while then release them back to sea.

 

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Sophia saw this huge snail with a beautiful shell.

 

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Lily

 

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Sand castles.

 

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Patrick and Stella

 

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My brother in law celebrated Holy Mass at sunset on December 31st.

 

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We visited the site where we got married over a decade ago. The mountains of Batulao was the view at our reception.

 

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This is the little chapel of our wedding in Don Bosco Batulao.

 

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I love that my children still indulge me with smiles even though the sun gets in their eyes.

 

We are family. Happy 2014.
With our only sibling and family in this part of the world.

 

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2013 was full of extremes. Like many, I am glad it’s gone. But then I started worrying about 2014 and the next storms coming our way. I remembered the message at new year’s eve Mass. No matter how much we plan everything, we are not in the control. We should live through both joy and challenges with gratitude for all that it brings. It may be hard to do. But I sure will try it.

 

I spent last night creating this Flipagram of my 2013 year. Despite all the troubles in our country, all I could remember were the fun times with my family.

I don’t know how to post Flipagram on this website. I want to share it with you for a short while. It is the most I’ve revealed of my world — the perfectly imperfect one. The link to the video is here. It is also posted on my Facebook page.

I’m hoping for the best for all my friends, relatives, you my readers and the thousands of people who suffered through 2013. I pray that you find the strength to face your challenges with grace and gratitude. I won’t stop at prayer either. I hope I can do stuff to make things better.

More to come…