Our different Christmas



It’s January 11. Where did the holidays go? With all the Christmas trimmings packed away, it’s hard to remember we were all in that zone. It just came and went.

Before we all get fully back into the thick of things, please allow me to share with you our little Christmas. We decided to do it differently this year. No Noche Buena, no big gifts, no tinsel, no Christmas trees. Well, we had all those bells and whistles in Manila. But a few weeks before Christmas Eve, we all decided to spend the actual Christmas in a quiet and secluded beach house — the same one we go to every year in Batangas. I am forever grateful to the owners of the house for being so generous in lending us their home.

It was hard to come to the decision — skipping Noche Buena with my relatives, Santa not visiting the beach house (but he did drop his gifts for the kids in our house), not being home on Christmas Eve, and actually packing up our entire household – a few gifts, menu and all. But I figured it would be such a nice treat to celebrate Christmas in a very silent and basic way, with my precious brother-in-law’s full attention on our three kids. After all, he is really all the family we’ve got here in the Philippines.

So we redefined Christmas our way. And it turned out to be the most wonderful and most memorable Christmas ever.


No filter, no tripod. Just the magic hour when we arrived. (And my Olympus OMD).


Sophia couldn’t help it, she jumped in.


This post has a gazillion photos. Click “More” if you’d like to see our family vacation.





I hope everyone is safe. I hope this flooding subsides now. It has been a big heart break watching things unfold. It was like a bad nightmare movie in slow motion. As early as last week, we knew this could be bad (based on the CNN weather satelite). And like you I really wish that the worst is over. I don’t know what else can be said.

If you wish to help and donate, please do so through UNICEF. A monthly donation of P700 a month can help provide 17 families with water containers, water purification tablets, and buckets for a month’s supply of safe, drinking water.


P.S. May I suggest to PAGASA DOST to please amend this new flood warning system. The colours just don’t make sense. In my mind, and the minds of many, GREEN is good and go. I think it would make better sense to just do Yellow, Orange and Red. Green is totally misleading. And that’s saying it mildly.


Pagasa flood warning


Be safe everyone.


P.P.S. As of 3:30 this afternoon, we got word from Malacanang. From the Undersecretary of Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.






Stella is 3



With my baby Stella.
Happy 3rd birthday Stella Margarita.


If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’d know that I’m the biggest birthday party procrastinator. This year wasn’t different. I hosted a simple joint birthday party for Lily and Stella over the weekend. Lily turned 6 on Sunday. I owe her a birthday story.

Today is Stella’s 3rd birthday. And before I get totally buried under all the delayed posts, here’s my little birthday post for the youngest one.

I wrote this when Stella turned one year old.

My friends ask me what it’s like to have three children. I never know how to answer. Yes it’s harder in the sense that you have to be in three places at one time. It’s hard to imagine if you only have one kid. But it’s true that the heart just grows bigger and bigger; and there’s more than enough love to go around.

I thought life was already perfect when we had two daughters. We renovated our house. Gave them their dream bedroom with two single beds with perfect canopies. Everything was set for the next ten years, at least, in terms of growing up in the house. Til one heartbeat rocked our world.

Stella, my petite and gentle rabbit, born a Leo. You are the great equalizer of this home. Because of you, we all have a place and purpose in this family. You are awesome in everything you do. My only kid with eight teeth before turning one. And the earliest one to walk. I don’t even want you to wear shoes yet, and you’re trying to walk. Baby rabbit, like I always tell your Ates, please do not grow up too fast. This family has a lot of adventures. But we also like to take things slow. I smell your toes every night. I inhale your breath every morning. I know one day they will smell differently. You’re my gentle rabbit. And to say I love you is an understatement.


by Real Kids Photography


Life was already perfect. And then it got even more perfect. The best gift came. Another daughter… whose name also had to be a flower but also a star. The love overflowed. And she fit right into our home and our hearts.


by Real Kids Photography
Stella Margarita was born just two days after Lily’s birthday. I was already having contractions on then, but Stella hung on and chose her own special day.


Me and Stella
Stella and I in Batangas when she was 5 months old.


Stella, I can’t believe you are now three years old. This morning you proudly showed me your age in three fingers. But the fourth finger kept popping up so you used your other hand to hold it down. You have this unique position in the family of being everybody’s baby. We, your parents and Ates, are responsible for taking care of you for the rest of your life. It’s funny that though you’re the smallest, you seem to be the one who has the loudest voice, literally and figuratively.

I want you to know that since the day you were born, you have been addicted to mommy’s skin – particularly the crack in my elbow/arm which you fondly call “kili-kili”. Haha. I know this is your way of finding comfort and security. Know that I want to always be with you to be your protector and source of comfort. I love seeing you dance and play with your big sisters every night before bed. I’m sorry that we skipped nursery rhymes and kiddie songs. But you seem to have done a great job mastering Call Me Maybe, Dancing Queen, Edge of Glory and your first favourite Single Ladies. You are my daily reminder of what is truly important, most especially when you look at me and say, “Mommy, play with me.”

Stelly Belly, my ube monster, don’t grow up too fast. Allow me savour every single day of your preschool life – your tight hugs, your crazy curls, your dominant teeth and the many striped dimples across your cheeks when you smile.

Happy third birthday, Stella.  



Sophia’s travel bucket list



My post on Sophia’s Toy Stories got a lot of feedback from you. I think it struck a chord in many  of us. Thanks for sharing your stories in the comment section.

Here’s something from the same child who said, “It’s my childhood. Don’t give it away.” A major travel bucket list. Places to go before she’s married. Because… does no one travel after they’re married? Haha.


Sophia's travel bucket list
I shared this on Instagram before but it only showed the top half then.


My kids are fascinated with maps & the globe
Even as a toddler she’s always been fascinated by the world around her. It started with monuments, then maps, then she learned how to read. And it became unlimited. Here, she was 7 years old, telling little Lily about the world.


She not only wants to travel. She plans to save the world.


Spinning the globe
The globe was one of her favourite toys.


Be still, mother earth. #Prayersforjapan
And when the Japan earthquake happened, she did this.


Niagara Falls
She has seen a teeny part of the world. Here’s a picture from one of our trips to Niagara Falls.


Peterborough Lift Lock
She’s the appreciator of wide open spaces. Whether in Canada…


Or just an hour away from our house.


I love Ontario's sky
I recently had to give a list of my Perfect 10 destinations. I had some trouble filling it up. Could it be because I’m already married? Just kidding. And so I just borrowed from Sophia’s. I will share my list once the link is up. I have to add that the reason she has this mindset is because I shared with her the story of her Lola, my mom. My mom did a lot of traveling before she married my dad. She always told us to “see the world first, before you get married.” I’m glad I did.


How about you? Where are the places you want to go to? And what’s your deadline?



Taking a breather



Tomorrow, the auction goes live. Please click the graphic icon below to take you to the www.ebay.ph/unicef site.


square 250x250 v2


Everything has been about the auction… I’ve put so much work on hold. I hope you all take the time to set up an Ebay.ph account. It’s easy and free. You don’t even need to give your credit card number. Bidding will even be easier. And for this auction, you can pay by bank deposit or cheque. I hope you find it worthwhile to participate.

I’m very nervous about the auction. This is new to all of us. But I am confident about the items. They are beautiful. Meanwhile there is a storm coming our way. I thought that was it tonight. It rained and howled at around 7pm. Turns out that’s not even the storm yet. I hope Chedeng won’t be as bad as the forecasters say it could be on Thursday or Friday. We don’t need another catastrophe. I’m praying for the communities that could possibly be affected. Storms make me nervous.

Last weekend we stayed at Sofitel Manila (Philippine Plaza). It was the most perfect staycation for our family. Lovely hotel. Awesome service. Will blog soon. Beautiful weather. But on Sunday, just like that this huge dark cloud covered Manila Bay. It was surreal…


Last Sunday's sudden rain
Manila Bay May 22 4pm.


Haircut by Alex Carbonel, Studio Fix
I had a haircut yesterday with Alex Carbonel of Studio Fix in Greenbelt. Look at how long my hair has gotten.


Haircut by Alex Carbonel, Studio Fix
And this is what Alex did. He gave me nice bangs. When my kids picked me up at the salon, Sophia said, “Mom you’re so pretty. You look like Lady Gaga.” Then Lily said, “You look like us!” I think Soph was reacting to the red/burgundy lipstick I wore plus the new bangs. Lily probably meant I looked younger? Before going to bed Lily said I looked like Hanna Montana. I know their world. They meant them all as compliments.


F reunion lunch
I had lunch with my old F team today, all the way in Quezon City. It was nice to see the old team, all doing very well. With me and Angel in this photo, Chi Almario-De Guzman and Alex Alikpala.


I should go to bed. I have a big day tomorrow. Rainy season is here while spring is in full effect in Canada. This time last year we were home with my parents. I looked at my Flickr calendar and found these… it brought me home and made me feel peaceful.


Benjamin's in St Jacobs
At Benjamin’s Restaurant in St. Jacobs, Ontario.


Benjamin's in St Jacobs
Waiting for our table.


Benjamin's in St Jacobs
Stella fed herself.


Running through the weeds
Soph ran through meadows (full of weeds).


St Jacobs Ontario
And Lily bought strawberries from lovely Mennonite ladies.


The only covered bridge in Ontario
We found the only covered bridge in Ontario. And kissed.


I can’t believe it’s been a year. I miss the old life.

Folks, tomorrow morning I hope you tune in to ANC Headstart with Karen Davila. I will be on as a guest together with Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF Representative. We’ll be talking about the auction ofcourse, and also about the programs of UNICEF. I am so grateful for the support of media and the general public. It’s overwhelming.


karen davila