I will never ever get tired of watching the sunset in Boracay. This experience never gets old!
We’re very fortunately to enjoy two back to back long weekends! And for the second long weekend, my officemates and I took a road trip to San Juan, La Union, also known as the surfing capital of Luzon.
San Juan is a town in the province of La Union, located at the north western part of Luzon and is famous for its surfing spots and beaches. It is accessible via car from Manila, about 4-5 hours away (depending on traffic and number of stop overs), or via bus going to Ilocos.
It was our first time to go to San Juan, but not our first time to surf. However the last time I hopped on a board was way back in 2009, so I am a little rusty and apprehensive when it comes to surfing.
We checked in at the Kahuna Beach Resort, one of the nicer resorts in the area. It was actually very comfortable and reasonably priced, although this is given they are at low peak rates. It had garden rooms like little villas and had its own pool, spa and direct access to the beach.
Since we had the whole day of Sunday, that’s where all the action began.
We spent the first part of the morning playing with baby Shawn in the kiddie pool as its his first time to swim.
As mentioned earlier, I haven’t surfed in years so I was a bit apprehensive with conquering the waters of La Union. The waves actually looked scary and with the constant rains and southwestern winds blowing, the waves were coming in droves along the coast.
We hired some local instructors to teach us how to surf. We used long boards first since we were beginners. We practiced the techniques on how to get up on the boards on the beach first before going into the water.
We were just a few meters from the beach. The water just reached to chest level where we started catching waves. Our instructors usually just helped us position our boards and gave the signal when the wave comes in.
After a few wipe outs due to nerves, I finally got up on may board and hung on for a few moments!
I am not sure if its the waters and waves in LU or the instructors that made the difference, but I can definitely give credit to all my yoga and Anti-Gravity Yoga Flying Fitness classes for helping me with my balance and upper body and core strength. I could really feel my arms and core working to help me stand up properly and keep my balance.
I really had so much fun during the trip and being on a health program didn’t spoil it either. I actually packed my fruits and veggies in a cooler and brought it with me. 🙂
I am all excited and looking forward to my next surfing trip!
Every Good Friday, our family takes a road trip down to the province of Bulacan, in the town of Pulilan to join the procession where almost a hundred life-size statues depicting events in the life of Jesus and note-worthy saints are paraded through the small sleepy town.
Pulilan, Bulacan is about an hour’s journey from our house, headed north of Manila. You take the North Luzon Expressway and enter at the Pulilan exit.
Pulilan is the hometown of my grandfather. Although born in Pampanga, my grandfather grew up in the ancestral house in Bulacan. Until recently, his sister, Auntie Rose and her late husband Uncle Manuel, resided in the over a century year old house.
This house is home to the Mater Dolorosa, the family patroness, which has been in the family since the 1600s. And every year, on Good Friday, she joins the procession around the town, with our family devoting to decorate and pull her carosa.
The procession began at 6pm and lasted for over two hours, since there were almost a hundred carosas to be paraded. It took an hour just for the Mater Dolorosa to pass where we were waiting with our grandfather for him to catch a glimpse of the patroness. And an additional hour to walk the route.
As a pre-doniminantly Catholic country, the Philippines celebrates and observes with reverence Holy Week, which is from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is a national observance and the Thursday and Friday before Easter are declared national holidays, giving the people a long vacation from work.
In line with this there are many traditions being celebrated with the Church to commemorate Christ’s passion and death, starting with Palm Sunday, leading up to Easter Sunday.
The main days for the Holy Week start from Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, up to Black Saturday, leading to Easter. One these days, one reflects, prays and rests, and participates in the annual traditions.
Maundy Thursday is the day the last Supper was held and the institution of the Holy Eucharist to the Apostles. Later on Jesus, prays in the Garden of Gethsemane and is later taken by officials to prison.
For Maundy Thursday, an annual tradition is the Visita Iglesia. Catholics around the country go around and visit 7 Churches. Some only go to one and keep an all-night vigil or some go to 14 churches to commemorate the 14 stations of the Cross. Usually people go and pray, keep vigil, go to confession, or pray the stations of the cross.
Another popular tradition in Metro Manila is the alay lakad, wherein hundreds of young men and women take a pilgrimage to the Church of our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo to pray for safety.
Every year, our family visits seven Churches around the metro and this year was no different.
We began our visits at our own parish at San Antonio Abad in Maybunga, Pasig City. Upon arrival, the mass was just about to finish so we didn’t stay long. Usually a mass is held at around 6pm where traditions like Washing of the Feet are held before opening the vigil until 12mn.
There are also other activities going on in the Church, one of them is the senakulo, an on-stage drama on the passion and death of Jesus.
We decided to go through the Quezon City route for our fourth stop. Our first Church is the Chapel of the Carmelite Sisters in New Manila, where devotees of St. Therese of the Child Jesus go to pray and ask for help. This is one of my mom’s favorite places to go to for prayers.
For our sixth stop, we decided to visit a new church, the Sacred Heart Parish along Sct Ybardaloza Street, Bgy Laging Handa, Quezon City. I always pass by this Church going to my dad’s office, but never got the chance to visit.
Its tradition that for every new church you go to for the first time, you make three wishes.
And for our last stop we visited St Paul the Apostle Parish along Timog Ave, Quezon City. I wasn’t able to take a picture of the church facade since we entered the back entrance, but this is a picture of the holy tabernacle for the vigil.
Another year to complete the vigil, another night of prayer. Its always a wonderful practice for us Catholics, and I always look forward to this every year.
Koreans are very well known for their beauty and skin care lines. Brands like The Face Shop, Etude, Skin Food and Laniage have all made its way into the Philippines and have been staples in our beauty and skin care regimen.
As an avid beauty and skin care fan, I couldn’t pass up not getting something from these stores to update my skin care and make-up line.
The stores are easy to find. In Myeong-dong, the stores are right next to each other and are usually open later than the boutiques. The sales ladies are very helpful and actually know their skincare line when we asked them specific questions like “what is good for dry skin?” or “what is good for women 50 and above to use?” (like when I got my mom some beauty products). And the best part are the freebies that come with it 🙂
Here is my Korean Beauty loot:
I am an avid fan of oil based cleansers and have been using Shu Uemura cleansing oils as a prime make up remover. I was running out of stock so I wanted to get one, but found this great alternative from Nature Republic! Its made out of Olive Oil, perfect for dry to normal skin. I tried and tested it already and it easily removed my daily make-up and has the sweet smell of olive oil. Its also light on the face and much cheaper than Shu Uemura!
BB Creams (Blemish Balm creams) are all the rage now and has gained popularity in Korea, and now in the Philippine market. Its used mainly to hide imperfections, giving a smoother effect on skin. I experimented with two brands – Tony Moly and Nature Republic, trying out their snail bb cream, that promises to keep the skin moist and firm.
I already started using the Nature Republic brand, and I liked the results. I use mainly after putting on my tinted moisturizer as a sort of concealer before dusting off with mineral powder. The results is flawless looking skin and it surprisingly stays on until I wash it off with water and cleanser.
Because I am not getting younger, I invested on some eye cream to pack in the vitamins and help reduce wrinkles. I got the 70 Whitening Collagen Dream Eye Cream from Nature Republic, that the sales lady says was for lightening dark undereyes and the collagen ingredient helps reduces wrinkles. I’ve applied it both day and night. It has a light formula that isn’t that irritating to the eyes and it sticks! I was surprised when I accidentally washed it off when I went to the bathroom at night, and left a little residue.
And ofcourse no journey to Korea is complete without a stop at the airport duty free to get some MAC lipstick which was actually cheaper than here in the Philippines. I got some red Ruby Woo retro matte lipstick and stocked up on my staple Viva Glam IV lipstick.
Part of the reason that I was excited for my Korean adventure was to sample authentic and yummy Korean food. I have always enjoyed eating Korean food here in Manila and couldn’t wait to hit the restaurants in Seoul.
I will not make reviews on each restaurant but instead will focus more on the food itself. In Seoul, we sampled many types of food, from restaurants to street food and was treated to delightful dishes.
Let me start off with the restaurants.
In Korea, there are ample restaurants lining the streets where you can sample dishes and authentic Korean cuisine.
In Korea restaurants, before every meal, plates of appetizers are put down in front of you for free. These can be eaten before the meal or with the meal. The appetizers, we also noticed, vary from dishes ordered.Some appetizers include kimchi (spicy cabbage dish), bean sprouts, tofu, seasoned vegetables, and melon slices.
One of my favorite dishes is the bibimbap, a mixed rice topping dish placed in a stone pot. And I couldn’t get enough of this dish! On top of the rice are ground meat, vegetables and an egg. You mix them together to make it sort of like fried rice. You have the option to put their spicy bean paste to give it a spicy kick.
Soups and Stews
Korean people also love their soups and stews. These hot dishes make perfect companions for the cold weather. We also sampled some of their famous stews.
This dish was a winner 🙂 We ordered this at a restaurant in Bokchon Hanok Village and it was spicy and bursting with flavor from the meat, spices and vegetables. It was also cooked in a portable electric range to keep warm.
This hearty soup kept us warm during our rainy last day. Its different from the Korean beef stew as this was more of a soup. The meat had no bones and it had vermicelli noodles in it.
This hearty dish is already a complete meal on its own. The chicken is boiled in a soup base and packed with rice. The one we ate was flavorful and cooked just right. You may opt to dip in a salt and white pepper mixture for added flavor.
The best food in Korea is always their barbeque. Pieces of sliced meat are cooked in front of you in a portable stove with hot coals. Once the meat is cooked, you wrap them in lettuce leaves and dipped in sauces – their spicy bean sauce and an oil, salt and pepper mixture for flavor.
Aside from restaurants we also tried a variety of street food being sold in stalls around busy areas such as Myeong-dong, Insa-dong, Ehwa Women’s University and in Nami Island.
With its busy lifestyle, Korea is also home to fast food chains specializing in burgers. They have the usual McDonald’s but in Korea, Lotteria takes the lead. Their specialty? Bulgogi burgers – a burger topped with bulgogi sauce, a sweet meat sauce that brings a different twist to your regular burger.
As much as I enjoyed my Korean food trip, there are some tips to be remembered:
- Please take note in Korea, some restaurants require you to order per person. Some of you may not understand why I am bringing this up, but in the Philippines, you are allowed to order family style for sharing. Like if we are three people, we usually order 2 dishes to share. But in the Korean restaurant where we regularly eat, we each have to get one order each. The language barrier also doesn’t help for us to explain why we want only want to order two dishes.
- Tips are not necessary in restaurants.
- Read carefully as you may end up with food good for a family of six when you’re only three. That was one of our mistakes in one restaurants. But then again, their menu is mostly in Korean and just have pictures and a one liner English translation.
- Food is relatively cheap – ranging from 1000 to 3000 won for street food, 5000-7000 for coffee shops and fast food and 10000 to 3000 for restaurants.