Canadian Education

 

 

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My graduation day at the University of Toronto.

 

It is that time of the year again when I talk about the value and importance of my education in support EduCanada’s Study in Canada Fair. In the past, and in my book CHIC: Tips on Life, Style, and Work, I have shared how my high school and university education in Toronto armed me with skills and gave me opportunities that went beyond the borders of my home town. This year, I participate both as an alumna and as a parent of future Canadian students.

First, let me start with my usual disclosure. I was not a foreign student whose parents sent me to get a degree in Canada. I am Canadian. I was living in Toronto where my whole family still resides. Now I am here in my motherland, the Philippines. My choice to study in Canada’s premier post-secondary school, was instinctive. I was following the natural path. As early as when I was 13 years old I set my eyes on going to university. And thus began my lofty goals and aspirations of getting a degree from the University of Toronto, or U of T as it is fondly called, one of Canada’s top universities. Competition was tough, so I worked hard during my high school years in order to get in to my university of choice.

 

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The day I got my degree. In front of University College, University of Toronto.

 

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Whenever I’m back in Toronto, I always return to U of T. This was in the summer of 2015.

 

I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts, Specialist in Fine Art History, Minor in Urban Studies. It is one of Canada’s biggest universities with three campuses across Metro Toronto. I chose the main campus in downtown Toronto, St. George campus. Because the school was so big, it was further divided into smaller colleges, by which students from the Arts and Science faculties chose an affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s College, because it was the Catholic college. My courses were spread out across campus though, so there were times I had to walk across Queen’s Park, our provincial legislative building, just to get to Sociology 101. My network of friends and classmates were registered in different colleges.

The St. George campus is beautiful. Architecturally, it has some of the most historically significant buildings like the Romanesque and Byzantine-styled University College, Tudor-styled Trinity College, peacock-shaped post-Modern Robarts Library, and the modernist concrete block of Sidney Smith Hall. My centrally located campus was a block away from Chinatown and the posh shops of Yorkville. My local neighbourhood reflected the diversity and multiculturalism of Toronto. I also benefited from my internship programs at the Royal Ontario Museum where I studied East Asian Art and at Toronto City Hall, where I interred for a city councillor and learned more about urban planning, public participation, urban development.

 

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Downtown

 

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Nathan Philips Square. This was my view from where I interned at the new City Hall. Toronto has a beautiful mix of old and new buildings.

 

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The Royal Ontario Museum or ROM, with the new facade by Daniel Libeskind, was walking distance from my residence.

 

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I did an internship at the ROM. Now it is one of my kids’ favourite spots in Toronto.

 

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Roncesvalles

 

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In Canada there is never a shortage of vast open spaces…

 

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… and public art.

 

Student life at U of T, was and is what you choose to make of it. There are so many different clubs and organizations to choose from. In my freshman year, I joined Pi Beta Phi, the oldest women’s fraternity in North America, dating back to 1867. In Pi Beta Phi, I found a community of dynamic women who strove for excellence, and we shared leadership and philanthropic goals. Instead of living in an official campus residence, I chose to live at the Pi Beta Phi house on Beverley Street. I also got to try off-campus housing in a more colourful part of Toronto. Let’s just say, my social life was very active during my university years.

Whenever I go home to visit my folks in Toronto, I always bring my husband and daughters for a walk through my old campus. It is still so beautiful there. My daughters feel like they’re in a Harry Potter set. A lot of movies have been filmed at the U of T downtown campus — Incredible Hulk, Mean Girls, Good Will Hunting, Anne of Green Gables.

 

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Hart House, University of Toronto.

 

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My eldest, Sophia, at University College, U of T.

 

As the mother of three girls currently studying in a Philippine school, I also hope that one day my daughters choose to study post-secondary school in Canada. I am rooting for my alma mater in Toronto, of course. But we are open to exploring other excellent schools across Canada that may fit their fields of interest more. Canada is the home of some of the world’s top research facilities and academic institutions. There are medical breakthroughs, great inventions, and new innovations from Canadian schools that we read about in global news. There are Nobel Laureats among Canadian alumni and professors.

Like any parent, I am concerned about the cost of a foreign education. It is something we have to plan and prepare for even if they study in the Philippines. Here is an interesting fact though, Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for foreign students compared to the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. And because I am Canadian (and so are my kids), I got my globally-recognized education at a fraction of what it would have cost us in a private American university. The good news for foreign students is that they can actually work and study at the same time in Canada.

My Canadian education not only gave me skills and qualifications that are valued around the world, it also gave me very balanced and fair view of the world. We take pride in the fact that Canada is a multicultural society. We are not a melting pot. We have what is called, a cultural mosaic, where people are encouraged to celebrate their uniqueness and diversity. I know what it’s like to be in a healthy and safe community where equality and respect for human rights are respected.

My university experience was not just about the books and the grades. It was about the friendships I forged with students from my field and the women I lived with. It was about living independently in a beautiful, well-planned, dynamic city like Toronto. These are the reasons why I wish for my daughters to study in Canada. And because we want to raise them to be strong, fair, well-informed, unafraid, and involved future leaders, creative thinkers, down right amazing women, a high-quality education in Canada will surely open doors for them wherever they choose to live and work.

 

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ePoster - Manila Cebu

 

The Embassy of Canada in the Philippines will take the EduCanada Fair on the road next week.
Representatives from 37 Canadian institutions will meet with prospective students and parents to discuss opportunities for studying in Canada at the K-12, college and university levels at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City (Wednesday, October 19) and the Shangri-La at the Fort at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig (Saturday, October 22). Admission is free.

Interested students and parents are invited to register at www.educanada.eventbrite.com.

For more information on studying in Canada, including admissions, scholarships, student life, immigration, and more, visit the EduCanada website.

 

 

Discovery Shores Boracay

 

 

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Kids have been back to school for a month. The rains are here. Even though we had the longest summer break, I don’t know where our “summer” went. We didn’t do any major long trips. We did Tokyo on the last week of July, but for most of the summer break we were just home. June was the most action-packed for us, with my sister Johanna and her family visiting us for three weeks.

The highlight of my sister’s visit was our trip to Boracay. We wanted pure tropical bliss and an easy and safe destination for our kids. Discovery Shores Boracay was all that and more.

 

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Very nice Discovery Shores welcome

 

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Foot bath in our room, with 5 minute foot massage for each of us.

 

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We stayed in a one bedroom suite.

 

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Coffee machine and a nice kitchen counter.

 

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The living room was huge, with a balcony that led to our bedroom. Here is Sophia, receiving her welcome foot massage.

 

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The kids slept on the daybeds at the living room.

 

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The kids never stopped doing their art.

 

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My sister and her family stayed right next door. We kept our door open and shared our huge living room.

 

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Discovery Shores Boracay is very well-maintained.

 

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The second-floor corner room was our room. It had a wrap-around balcony.

 

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Sandbar during the day.

 

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I loved the landscaping, especially with these anahaw plants.

 

It is the service and personal touches that make a hotel special. The décor and maintenance of Discovery Shores Boracay were superb. But it was the service of the very well-trained and happy staff that made our stay most memorable.

 

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Every night they made these towel sculptures.

 

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Turn down service was lovely.

 

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And all over the resort, the staff was pleasing, knowledgeable, hospitable. They offer face sprays while you’re lying on the beach. Very refreshing.

 

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They give chilled cucumber slices for your eyes, which Lily loved.

 

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And they also offer to clean your sunglasses!

 

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At the pool, there are free snacks for all. We had muffins, cookies, halo halo!

 

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Free halo-halo

 

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Every afternoon the kids have activiites.

 

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We particularly loved the T-shirt painting activity.

 

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While the kids played, we did our thing… happy hour.

 

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The location of Discovery Shores right on the beach at the end of Station One makes it one of the more exclusive sites with the ultimate luxury of having the softest, whitest, finest sand in Boracay.

 

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Boracay is beautiful no matter what time of day. I particularly love how silvery the beach gets during midday.

 

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My lovely sister

 

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This is my favourite “attraction” in Boracay. When everything and everyone slows down for the greatest sunset show on earth.

 

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Magic hour glow.

 

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My nephews.

 

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Night scene, lighting design is beautiful at Discovery Shores.

 

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Lighting is everything.

 

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Food in Sands Restaurant was so good. We always looked forward to their impressive breakfast buffet – with continental, oriental, Filipino dishes.

 

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I loved this incredible chicken pork adobo. Oh my. I don’t know how many hours they slow cooked this. It was soo good. Best adobo I’ve had ever!

 

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Seriously!

 

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The kids’ meals were generous. Most of them were shareable sizes.

 

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Burger…

 

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Lechon kawali…

 

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It’s always Happy Hour when you’re on vacation.

 

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Room service was fun too. We loved the hotdog and fries! Comfort food!

 

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Discovery Shores Boracay’s Indigo Restaurant was featured twice in the Philippine Tatler’s Best Restaurants List, and shortlisted for the 2010/2011 MIELE Guide to Asia’s Best Restaurants.

 

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The other half of the resort fronting the beach is Sandbar.

 

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Sands Restaurant and Sandbar.

 

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Back to Indigo… They prepared a wonderful dinner for us by the beach.

 

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This was our view.

 

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Dinner at Indigo, Discovery Shores Boracay with my sister, the boys, and our family.

 

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The servings are big, family-style. Plating was so creative.

 

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Comfort and great service even til the end.

 

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Our boat transfers to Caticlan.

 

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The boat ride was just five minutes long, and the attendant made sure we were comfortable. She offered water, cookies, a cold towel.

 

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Three nights in Discovery Shores Boracay. Perfect.

 

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Thank you, Discovery Shores Boracay.

 

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Transportation: Air Asia
Accommodation: Discovery Shores Boracay

 

 

Rediscovering Boracay

 

 

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It has been almost ten years since I’ve been back at Boracay’s White Beach. It wasn’t a deliberate absence. We’ve just been spending more time with long summers in Toronto. I was also under the notion that I had outgrown Boracay. I’d been going there since the early 1990’s. But last month, during my sister’s visit to the Philippines, we planned a four-day stay in Boracay.

We flew to Kalibo, instead of the more convenient Caticlan. I knew there would be extra land travel once we land in Aklan, but I was told that the roads were nice and the drive was pleasant. It was. This time we flew Air Asia. It was my first time to try Air Asia. I was very impressed with their snappy service.

We chose to stay at Discovery Shores Boracay. I knew about their excellent service because we stayed at Discovery Primea in the early spring. What I didn’t know, being a first timer at Discovery Shores, was their excellent location. They’re at the best part of Boracay, the northern tip of White Beach called Station 1, with the whitest and finest sand.

Here’s how our Boracay rediscovery went…

 

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Our journey started in Terminal 4 which, in my opinion, is the more organized terminal than the other three. It’s smaller and more efficient. But there are no tubes and ramps, so you have to walk across the tarmac. On a sunny day, it’s wonderful.

 

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We had five kids with us.

 

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The kids were so impressed with Air Asia’s in-flight menu (pretty pictures and bold graphic design). They ordered a feast!

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Stella’s in-flight meal. I suggest for longer flights, you pre-order your meals online for fancy hot meals.

 

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Stella and her new friends.

 

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Our land transportation to Caticlan from Kalibo was arranged through Discovery Shores Boracay. We had a private van. The trip took 90 minutes. These days there are many options, like shared vehicles or buses. You may arrange it with your hotel or on your own. On board the flight, Air Asia staff was selling land transfers as well.

 

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The Caticlan shore.

 

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Our bunnies excited to just be there already. All my three girls are wearing Gingersnaps and Melissa shoes. Unplanned.

 

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The five-minute boat ride from Caticlan to Boracay was very comfortable. The little boat was air-conditioned. We were given cold towels, cold water, and oatmeal cookies. There were lifejackets for all of us in the seat pockets in front of us. And there was a stewardess!

 

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Our home for four days. Approved by The Lily, my only child who loves doing OOTD shots.

 

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A lot has been said about Boracay’s environmental problems – over-development, algae, flooding, local governance and more. Yet one thing remains, that 8 kilometre stretch of white beach is still so beautiful. As someone who once worked on an environmental planning project there in 1995 (under my Canadian government’s technical assistance program), it alarms me to see the many violations that have been/and are still being committed. But I am also hopeful because there are stakeholders that are trying to do things to improve and preserve Boracay. I think all stakeholders, including tourists, should pause and realize that this small island can only take so much. Technically there is an index called “carrying capacity.” And we can see that for such a small place, perhaps it has been maxed out.

 

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Looking towards Caticlan, there are windmills. It’s good to see sustainable energy choices in the area. Wind power is renewable and non-polluting. By the way, my camera was set on auto. The sky just does crazy things like that during magic hour. Beautiful.

 

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In the shore fronting White Beach, they only allow eco-friendly recreational sports. I’m glad there are no more jet skis allowed there. (Yes, it has been that long since I visited white beach). Sophia and I loved the stand-up paddle board. I suck at every sport, but I’m very comfortable with anything with paddles and scuba diving. But I don’t know how to surf.

 

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David Goldberg is the owner of Heidiland, the Swiss deli located in D-Mall. David is my good old friend. We met in the 90’s when I was managing an environmental management program in the island. We helped set up Boracay Consortium, a group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders who started different programs to ensure the environmental stability of the island. It had lofty goals. Not all were met, obviously. But we started the communications and cooperation between different groups and communities. This eventually became Boracay Foundation.

 

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My family and my sister’s family stayed at Discovery Shores Boracay. More on that experience at a later post.

 

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We loved Discovery Shores. Facilities were beautiful and well-maintained. And the service was impeccable.

 

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As beautiful as our room was, we couldn’t wait to hit the beach every morning.

 

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The whitest and finest sand.

 

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I never got tired of looking out at the water. The light changes quickly. This was just after lunch. I love the silvery tones.

 

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From Discovery Shores, we were able to go anywhere in the island using their shuttle. But honestly we only went as far as D-Mall. Considering we were at the best part of the beach, I didn’t find the need to go to other places.

 

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I regret not buying these cute hand-painted creatures. They were made of seeds and husks from mangroves. No two creatures were alike. I am hating myself for not buying at least one.

 

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My daughters don’t stop drawing and painting. They carry their sketchbooks and markers everywhere they go. Scroll back up to the photo of Lily and Stella in the flight. Both had notebooks. At D-Mall, Lily drew some cute anime figures while I had my coffee.

 

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Sophia and sorbetes.

 

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Cheap lunch at D-Mall. I meant this panoramic shot for Facebook 360. Only I knew that I was taking the photo. Sorry Han!

 

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I always made sure we were back in our part of the beach during Happy Hour. This signals the start of the greatest show in Boracay, the sunset.

 

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Wearing my favourite caftan from India.

 

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Our kids created little ecosystems where crabs, snails and other creatures lived.

 

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Another folksy cover up.

 

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Me and my sister Johanna.

 

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Stella kept herself busy shuttling from beach to shore, carrying sand back and forth.

 

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Sunset usually brings down the tide. So the kids can lay down like its a big bathtub.

 

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No need for caption. Sigh.

 

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White beach at magic hour.

 

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Just when you think the sunset is over, the sky does this.

 

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Discovery Shores at night. Kudos to the lighting architects.

 

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On our third night, we took the kids to the busier part of the beach.

 

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Lily found it a bit loud, haha. I had to remind them that Boracay is many things to different people. If we found it serene and relaxing, there are others who come here to party. And that’s ok.

 

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Sophia and that fiery sky.

 

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Lily too.

 

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Stella couldn’t keep still long enough for me to capture her profile though. Here she is running around before it got completely dark.

 

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I was really pleased to see that Boracay is still all that. Yes, many of us look back at the past and think it was much better then. And it was. But Boracay is still really beautiful. I just hope that something will be done about the threats the island is facing. Before it’s too late.

 

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Seriously. No wonder we Filipinos are beach snobs… and sunset snobs. Just look at that! No filter. Oh, Boracay, you are still so beautiful.

 

Transportation:             Air Asia from Manila to Kalibo

Airport transfers:         c/o Discovery Shores Boracay

Accommodations:        Discovery Shores Boracay, Like them on Facebook,

 

 

Shanghai Giveaway

 

 

It has been four years since Patrick and I took that wonderful trip to Shanghai. I dug up some old photos, and sigh, wow, Shanghai is really beautiful. We went during the winter/spring of 2012. We explored Shanghai French Concession, the Bund, the gentrified Tianzifang, our beautiful hotel Waldorf Astoria, the skyscrapers of Pudong, saw a friend who lives there, ate lots of yummy dumplings, and spent an afternoon in the urban planning museum. Shanghai is really a wonderful mix of east and west, old and new.

I’d really love to go back to Shanghai and perhaps bring our kids next time. In a few days on June 16th, the $5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort will open. It is Disney’s third theme park resort in Asia, after Tokyo and Hong Kong, located in Shanghai’s bustling Pudong district, home to some of Shanghai’s landmark skyscrapers.

Last week I attended the launch of Air Asia’s newest destination, Shanghai. The launch was held at Niu by Vikings. Air Asia, now my site partner, is the World’s Best Low Cost Carrier for seven consecutive years. Starting June 10, 2016, Air Asia offers direct flights from Manila to Shanghai with an all-in promotional fare starting from as low as P2,888 booking at www.airasia.com now until June 12, 2016. Guests who avail of this promo must travel from June 10, 2016 to October 29, 2016. You may also have this promo via their mobile site.

Here are some of the highlights of our last trip to Shanghai. It is such a chic destination. I really loved our week in Shanghai. And now with Disneyland, it is more family-friendly. Can’t wait to bring the kids soon.

Scroll down to see how you can win one round-trip ticket to Shanghai (from Manila) with Air Asia.

 

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The view of Pudong from our hotel suite at the Waldorf Astoria.

 

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Nanjing Road

 

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The city’s most recognisable landmark is the Oriental Pearl Tower. We didn’t go up anymore, but we went up close. Patrick doesn’t like crowded, touristy places. So in lieu of sightseeing at the Oriental Pearl, we went up to several rooftop bars in some of Shanghai’s tallest skyscrapers.

 

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In one of the traditional market areas. East-meets-west, truly.

 

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In Pudong.

 

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At Flair, Ritz-Carlton.

 

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Blooming jasmine tea

 

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Self-confessed urban planning nerd. I spent a few hours in the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum.

 

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French Concession

 

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View of The Bund from Pudong.

 

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View of Pudong skyscrapers from Flair, the bar at the rooftop of the Ritz Carlton.

 

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Cloud 9 at the Grand Hyatt at Jin Mao in Pudong. When it was built in 1998 it was the tallest building in China. I find this building really elegant with all it’s lines. The exterior curtain wall is made of glass, stainless steel, aluminium, and granite.

 

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But by 2007, Jin Mao was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center right beside it – the one with the blue lines.

 

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The Bund, all lit up at night.

 

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Street food.

 

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Our fancy dinner at Jean Georges in one of the buildings at The Bund.

 

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The glamorous bathroom of our suite in Waldorf Astoria.

 

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Xiao Long Bao in Din Tai Fung.

 

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Shopping and dining areas in Xintiandi.

 

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We loved Tianzifang because unlike Xintiandi, it had more local colour — lots of hipster shops, vintage finds, designer studios, quaint restaurants.

 

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A shop in Tianzifang.

 

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Beautiful sycamore trees at Xintiandi.

 

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Monumental commercial buildings in the Beaux Arts style that date back to the 20th century, when the Bund was developed into a major financial center of east Asia.

 

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At the lobby of our hotel, Waldorf Astoria.

 

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Butter with the most perfect font!

 

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A fishing village about an hour away from Shanghai.

 

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It was a lovely contrast, seeing this traditional fishing village in the rural part of the outskirts of Shanghai.

 

My Air Asia Giveaway –

You can win – One roundtrip ticket Manila-Shanghai-Manila. Valid travel period is from June 10 to July 1, 2016.

All you have to do –

1. Upload any of your photos in Instagram. Tell me why you want to go to Shanghai. Tag 5 friends and my IG account @DaphneOP. Use hashtag #WhereinShanghai, #AirAsiainShanghai #DaphneOP

2. I will choose the winner based on your answer, so make it interesting. Winner will be notified by IG direct message.

3. This giveaway runs from now June 6, 2016 to June 9, 2016 5pm. Winner will be announced on June 9th before 7pm Manila time.

4. Winner is responsible for processing his/her own Chinese visa. See requirements below. By joining this contest, I assume you have a valid passport and are able to apply for a Chinese visa.

 

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The Terazi Spa at Discovery Primea

 

 

TERAZI SPA

 

Our long weekend staycation at Discovery Primea was even made more special because of our couples massage experience at Terazi Spa. We hardly ever have a couples massage because frankly, who has the time? And when we are staying in hotels, it’s usually logistically impossible because who will watch the kids? This time was different because my mom and dad also had their own Business Flat room just beside our Primea Suite. So they babysat the three girls for a couple of hours.

I have never been to Turkey so I don’t know what an authentic Turkish bath is like. But I’ve been to a 5-star, 5-diamond waters spa in the US. And I can imagine that in Istanbul, Turkish baths are more exotic. Patrick and I were in for a surprise when we stepped into the Terazi Spa on the 3rd floor of Discovery Primea. The decor was warm and modern. Lots of wood panels and indirect lighting. There was nothing ethnic or exotic, just a quiet elegance. Here’s a rundown of what we experienced.

 

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The lobby foyer of Terazi Spa.

 

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I filled out a few forms.

 

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They asked about our health situation. There are some medical conditions that contradict the treatments. So if you have some health concerns, please check with your physicians first as the Hammam involves steam and heat.

 

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After filling out the forms, we sat in a little lounge where we were given a really refreshing cold tamarind drink.

 

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Our shoes were taken away and we were given white rubber flip-flops.

 

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Upon entering our therapy room, I see my new Melissa slides in this basket. I love these slides they are perfect for the summer and for pedicure days. This is from the newest Take Me To Rio collection.

 

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And this is the Hammam. This traditional, marble-lined Turkish bath is the only one of its kind in Metro Manila.

 

The room was heated with steam. At one point I couldn’t see past my arms. Patrick and I were in opposite sides of the room. We were given cold citrus water and an ice pack in case we felt faint and dehydrated. We sat for 10 minutes soaking in all the steam. Then we were occasionally doused with water.

Then we were made to lie face down on the heated marble bed. Terazi’s therapist started us with a deep body exfoliation using a traditional ‘chess’ mitt and castile soap. This is where it gets TMI. But you have to just surrender. The therapist will scrub every nook and cranny of your body. (We kept our undies on, haha). And here is the most incredible part, when the therapist covers your body in a cloud of soap suds or bubbles to wash away dead skin cells. Imagine how that feels. The bubbles pop and slide down your skin. It’s a very gentle sensation. It was the most relaxed I’ve ever felt. I didn’t want it to end.

After the hammam we were escorted back to our massage room. They led us to the shower. And gave us another glass of cold drink.

 

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The shower area.

 

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And here is where we had our massages. There were three choices of oils. I chose the one with eucalyptus.

 

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It was an amazing massage. I sort of fell asleep but not deeply. I don’t want to actually sleep for fear of missing the massage sensation. Patrick on the other hand totally conked out. Again, the service and ability of the the therapists were excellent.

 

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After all the treatments, we sat at the little lounge up in front again. We were given another drink, warm ginger tea this time.

 

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It was just so, so, lovely. I miss it already. That hammam experience was incredible. It’s definitely something to try. I’m already thinking of when I can go again next. It was that good!

 

Our couples massage was sponsored by Discovery Primea in partnership with Melissa Philippines. Watch this space for a chance to win a weekend staycation at Discovery Primea.

For inquiries about the Hammam Treatment and other spa treatments at Terazi Spa, call Discovery Primea at +632 955-8888 local 7310, or email dp.rsvn@discovery.com.ph for reservations.