Friday, August 31, 2012

Balay Cena Una: The Grandeur of the Old and the New

 When I was planning our trip to Albay, there is another major concern I was dealing with.  Where I could get a top-notch place to eat with the whole family that is note-worthy and one we could cherish.   To be honest, this adventure-full  trip is not only for a leisure sight-seeing, but also for the gastronomic experience the region has been boasting of.
 Oh yes, Bicol's cuisine is not only about chilies (sili), coconut milk (gata) and pili nut.  The cuisine is as rich as it's culture and history.  Talking about Bicol's history, a house from an off-beaten path is tucked away in a residential area in Daraga is transformed into a fine-dining restaurant whilst restoring its ancestral artistry.
Balay Cena Una  ('sinaunang bahay' in Tagalog and old house in English) is a  Spanish style restored ancestral home.   It is like a huge history book opened up for us.
In this picture my husband is seen telling stories to my daughter about Bicol's old world, captured in the pictures on the wall.  Old collectibles are maintained at wooden cabinets covered with chicken wires.

And of course, moving on to the main reason why we were there, their food offerings.  The menu is so varied, from internationally known food such as steaks and pasta, down to some  fusion of International-Bicolano dishes.
 My kids had the Creamy Mushroom Soup which was so heartily filled with mushrooms and a garlic bread on the side.  We asked if they could split the order for two and they gladly accommodated us with it.  One order is only P76.
 For the Amuse Bouche, we had to try their Bruschetta.   I actually have a post about making this from Julia Child's recipe which was a success, but will still have to be posted.  We wanted to see if theirs would be better or bad compared to Julia's.  Bruschetta are sliced of breads, toasted in olive oil and brushed with fresh garlic, topped with tomatoes cooked in EVOO.
 Since I am still full with the late lunch we had at Sibid-Sibid, I only ordered Wild Fern Salad.  Known to us as pako, I really never knew this can be made into salads, of course like any other vegetables.  But this one was tastefully done.  Bicol is so blessed with edible ferns so they can craft any beautiful dish with this.
 The three girls had their share of  the Pasta Carbonara.  For a cost of P195 it is such a steal.   The fettuccine was al dente enough for them, which was richly smothered with creamy, milky sauce with lots of bacon chips and ground parmesan.

 Bhogs had the plate of Cena Una Marinated Boneless
Chicken (P211).  Chef Dick's specialty as mentioned by the staff.  The chicken was marinated with fresh lemon juice then friend.  It is then drizzled over with a brown sauce, likened to adobo.  This dish is complimented with rice. He liked the chicken because it was very tender and tasty. The mixture of sweet and sour is very pleasing to the palate.

I had a cold glass of mixed herbal teas to wash down my healthy plate.  Served with lemon juice and honey on the side.

Then came the desserts....

The English Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce.  This divine baked cheesecake kicks off that vanilla essence in every bite.  We were swooned over with this artfully made plate, which we found hard to dismangle.   The spoon glides so smoothly at the cheesecake, it actually resembles a hard custard but it's definitely a cheesecake.

Creme Brulee, a very voluptuous creamy pudding, that's rich, smooth, with an eggie cream waiting to ooze out on the spoon that breaks through the caramelized sugar disc on top.   Made even elegantly with fresh fruits balled and sliced.  One ramekin was not enough for all of us.   This will make you selfish, you wouldn't want to share with anybody, that has what my daughter become.  Danielle said this is the best dessert she had yet in a restaurant.

More pictures from the second level of the house...

Oh we are still dreaming of this place...till next time Balay Cena Una!

A Filipino Made it to KidsRights Nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2012

Our very own Cris “Kesz” Valdez of the people’s organization CLUB 8586, Inc. is one of the nominees of  the  International Children’s  Peace Prize for 2012.  This young hero had shared how volunteerism saved him from an abusive childhood and helped him reach out to underprivileged kids like himself.   Known to many as Kesz,  founded the Caring Children Club, a group of young volunteers who use the extra money they earn from selling candies to buy toys, food and slippers for poor children in their community,who despite his traumatic past chose a life of helping others.  See the whole story of the world nomination below.

Press Release

On 19 September Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu will present the prize in the Ridderzaal in The Hague, The Netherlands Amsterdam, 7 August 2012 – Today KidsRights, a Dutch children’s rights organization, announces the three nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2012, the
ultimate international recognition for advocates of children’s rights. It is awarded every year by a Nobel Peace Prize Winner to a child who has made a significant contribution to advocating children’s rights. On 19 September Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu will present the prize to one of the three nominees in the Ridderzaal in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The nominees’ inspiring stories
The children nominated for 2012 are Amina (15) from Ghana, Anwara (16) from India and Kesz (13)  from the Philippines*. They were selected from 97 entries from 43 different countries. Amina, Anwara  and Kesz are actively committed to  advocating children’s rights. They all brought about impressive changes in their communities at a very young age, each in their own way:

• Amina (15) from Ghana risked being taken out of school aged twelve to be forced into marriage. Her teachers managed to prevent this in collaboration with the local authorities. Ever since, Amina has been defending the right to education for girls.  Despite her young age, Amina has already made many people in Ghana aware of girls’ right to education. She founded an organisation that  defends the rights of children.
Among other things, she sends out petitions asking for constitutional changes.
• Anwara (16)  is  from the West Bengal region in India. After her father passed away Anwara was given to a local human trafficker. She was forced into domestic labour and was freed by a local NGO in 2008. Since then she has been fighting girl trafficking and early marriage. Anwara has managed to help many girls and their families in her community.
• Kesz from the Philippines (13) was abused and forced to  beg and scavenge at the dumpsite as a two-year-old. Three years later, he even sustained burns on his arm and back, which prompted him to run away. On his seventh birthday Kesz did not want any presents for himself; he wanted to help other street kids instead. That year, Kesz set up an organisation aimed at giving children hope and showing them that they can take their future into their own hands. So far Kesz has helped over 10,000 children.

KidsRights’ International Children’s Peace Prize
KidsRights launched the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2005 in Rome, during the Nobel  Peace Laureates’ Summit , chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev. The prize is presented annually to a child whose exceptional efforts have helped  advocate children’s rights. KidsRights  provides children who defend children’s rights  with  an international  platform where they can  draw attention to their  plight and that of other children. The prize, which has quickly become the ultimate international recognition for  advocates of children’s rights, is being awarded for the eighth time this year.

Desmond Tutu
The prize will be awarded to one of the three nominees on 19 September by Desmond Tutu, patron of the International Children’s Peace Prize and KidsRights,  in the Ridderzaal in  The Hague in the Netherlands. “The International Children’s Peace Prize is a very important award because it  gives children who  have made a significant contribution to a more peaceful world easier access to an international platform. Day after day, these three brave nominees fight for the rights of children in their country, sometimes even in dangerous circumstances. Children are the future, but they are not always heard:  “KidsRights gives a voice to the voiceless,”  says Desmond Tutu.

- End of press release -

* To respect their privacy, the last names of the nominees shall not be announced publicly. 

About the International Children’s Peace Prize 
The International Children’s Peace Prize is presented annually to an exceptional child,  whose courageous or 
otherwise remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems, which affect children around the world. The prize is an initiative of the Dutch organization KidsRights and was launched by KidsRights during 2005 Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev. Each year the winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize is selected from nominations from all over the world. Everyone, individuals and organizations, can recommend a child for this prize. An independent Expert Committee assesses the candidates and then selects the winner. The prize money of €100,000 that is attached to the Children´s Peace Prize is spent by KidsRights on projects that are closely connected to the winners’ area of work. The winner receives financial support for his or her education.  

Suggested Accommodations at Legazpi for Budget Travelers.

 Would you like to wake up early in the morning with this awesome view on your veranda or terrace?
Legazpi City is a mix of the old and modern world.   Traces of the ancient times are richly scattered, while new buildings and business establishments work well side by side with the iconic view only found in this region, the Mayon Volcano.
Accommodation is not problem.  There are more than a dozen in the same town, however each one is distinct.  For sure there is not only one that will definitely match your style and your budget.
Here are some that we could recommend.   Of course, budget and proximity to the airport and major terminal or rides are also noted.

1.  Balay De La Rama, Daraga, Albay
1542 Banag, Daraga, Daraga - Albay, Bicol, Philippines
Balay De La Rama is a Bed and Breakfast hotel that promises to give you a comfortable stay where you feel at home, with the volcano as your neighbor.  Each room is equipped with new AC, favored lighting condition, clean and ultra-comfy bed with soft pillows and clean sheets.  Cabinets are also available for storing your things keeping them out of site and making your room more spacious and organized.
Since the rooms are newly furnished (probably newly built also) the bath rooms are so clean and everything is new.   Hot and cold shower is available, with clean white towels and free soap.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Legazpi Tour 2012: Lignon Hill and the ATV Adventure Ride

While at Lignon Hill, taking a few breaths of fresh air from a 10 minute uphill walk at the entrance gate, we were faced with a dillema. Should we all go to the foot of Mayon and ride the ATV for a hell of an adventure or should we just stay at this hill trek and try to reach the top of the nature park which is 156-meter high.  Ligñon (also spelled Lingñon, pronounced as /li-NYON/) has a lot of fun activities to offer.

One is Kapit Tuko Trail (Lizard Grip Trail) – an exceedingly steep shortcut to the summit of Lignon Hill, this trail offers a taste of what it feels like to climb to the summit of Mayon Volcano in 5-10 minutes.
The Japanese Tunnel – an arms cache used by the Japanese forces during WWII, this 50 foot tunnel gives visitors a chance to act like soldiers and enter 3 foot high tunnels. (Bring a flashlight, it is almost impossible to get lost but there are areas where one has to crawl)
And the ATV ride to Mayon Volcano.

Here, my kids were geared up with helmets, dust masks and the girls fashionable boots, for a thrill of a ride up the famed volcano.    The masks were from keeping dusts and ashes at bay.   All-terrain vehicle, ATV for short is a like a quad-bike, a four-wheeled motor vehicle that is fast but a fun ride mostly for thrill-seekers.   It's safe though the path is really rugged and rocky, as you can see my youngest girl was seated at his back.

A helipad was built on top of  Mayon Volcano's lava rock formation.  This is just approximately 6 kms. away from the mouth of the volcano (epicenter).   This helipad, is owned by Misibis Bay Tours.

Darren looking at Lignon Hill from the lava rocks formed around Mayon Volcano.. ."where are you, Mom?"  

It was fun indeed, but let me share some must-do when trying to hit the trek up the volcanic path.
First, make sure you brave enough (unlike me), and expect a bumpy and dizzying ride.   There would be turns along ravines so do take extra precaution.   Also, you will come to a level where the ride would be steeper and slippery.
Second, always start a day like this with a heavy breakfast.  There is no fast-food or store on the path, only stones, ash and lava rocks.
Third, there is a guide who also will be on an ATV.  He will give you everything you should know about riding one and he knows the path by heart.
Fourth, make sure you are loaded with bottled waters, there is no way you can get a drink without it.   
Fifth, bring with you hats or caps, towelletes and extra shirts.   
Sixth, make sure you have lots of power in your camera and the memory is not full.  (In this case hubby wasn't able to get all the shots from the slr, as you may observe)
Here is by the way what beckons on the top of Lignon Hill...

 The park on the top of Lignon Hill.
The view...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heart-warming Letter From the Department of Education Sec. Armin Luistro

Let me share a letter from DepEd Sec. Bro. Armin Luistro to his fellow servants for the education's sake, now being passed on to DepEd supporters.  This is also in line with the country's heartfelt support for the legacy which DILG Sec. Jessie Robredo left us.   

August 28, 2012
To my dear colleagues in the Department of Education,
We have been working together under the present administration for a little over two years now. Every one of you knows that the two years have not been all sweet and easy.
At the beginning of our service we inherited a long list of backlogs, received a fresh set of mandates, and accepted what perhaps can be considered as one of the most challenging assignments this department has ever dared to undertake: the reformation of our entire basic education system.
We encountered much resistance—both from without and within our department. In such circumstances, conflicts and arguments are inevitable. And we certainly experienced—even continue to do so—these confrontations.
Despite these challenges, we have proven thus far that we, here in the Department of Education, can work together and accomplish much for a larger purpose which transcends all our individual plans and agenda.
In two years, we have brought the Department back on track toward the fulfillment of all our backlogs in classrooms, chairs and textbooks.
In two years, we have efficiently rolled out, in phases, the K to 12 program, including the Mother Tongue Based, Multi-Lingual Education agenda.
In two years, we have effectively communicated the benefits and mechanics of all our programs to as wide a reach as possible, to all stakeholders and to the public.
All our progress and accomplishments cannot be credited to any one individual or group. They are all products of your collective effort, wherever you are assigned, whatever your role. We are all functioning parts of one complex body; every person fulfilling a task which is unique to him and beneficial to the entire organization.
As early as now, I thank each one of you for your contribution to the cause of education: to provide every Filipino child the opportunity to stretch her mind, broaden her heart, and nurture her spirit.
Our department has begun to become a true government for the people. One that is professional, competent, and committed, set on serving the needs of our countrymen.
Together with all the progress unfolding in the sectors of our economy, health, safety, public works, national defense, and private, the Philippines has clearly gathered momentum toward a better and brighter future.
We are part of this progress. We are making it happen.
This is an opportunity for all of us in the Department to make our mark in history. To leave a legacy for our children, and our children’s children. To make our families proud. This is the perfect time and opportunity to make a difference, and truly be agents of change. To change the face of government. To change the destiny of our people.
Let us work in synergy and convergence. Infect one another with renewed hope and optimism.
We do not deny the uphill climb that stretches out before us. The country we carry on our shoulders—our beloved home—remains huge and heavy. We would need all the focus, strength and determination we could muster to complete these improvements.
Let us revive the spirit of Bayanihan within each of us. Let us all do our part, share the load, that the burden may become lighter. And what seemed impossible can then become possible.
Today, we also join the rest of the nation in mourning the loss of and in laying to rest a true and dedicated public servant, Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Madaming iniwan si Sec Jesse na pwede nating pamarisan. May mga iniwan din siyang salita na may malalim na kahulugan. Aniya:  Hindi lahat ng matino  ay mahusay,  at lalo naming hindi lahat ng mahusay ay matino. Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang karapatdapat tayong pagtiwalaan  ng pera ang bayan.  Kailangan ng DepEd ng mahuhusay at matitinong kawani dahil sa ating mga kamay ipinagkatiwala ang mga kabataan ng ating bayan.   
Sec. Jesse’s commitment to uplift the lives of ordinary Filipinos through government is a real virtue all of us should remember and emulate. May the memory of his life and works inspire us, empower us and strengthen us. Like him, may we proclaim to our people that hope remains in government.
I have full faith and confidence in each one of you, and again, Maraming salamat!
We entrust all our efforts to the One who breathes new life into all that we do.
Mabuhay and DepEd! Mabuhay ang kabataang Pilipino!

Monday, August 27, 2012

GMA Kapuso's Tween Hearts Stars Now Unisilver Timebassadors

L-R,  Julie Anne San Jose,  Barbie Forteza,  Derrick Monasterio and  Enzo Pineda
The country's promising teenage love teams were on time for the signing of Memorandum of Agreement between GMA-7 Kapuso's Talent Center and the leading fine silver and timepieces creator , Unisilver.
Tween Hearts members officially signed their contracts with UniSilver Time as endorsers of the said company, and will be knowned as “TIMEbassadors” or “UniSilver Time Ambassadors” starting last August 26, 2012.   A press conference followed after at Annabel's Restaurant in Tomas Morato.
Apparently, Tween Hearts, the show, have been dissolved but more doors of opportunities were being opened to them.  This time their fans will now see more of their teen idols through the exclusive watch series.   Each watch was designed and named after each member of the tween hearts celebs, courtesy of the biggest and most trusted watch company in the country, UniSilver Time.  The designs were based on each or their personalities, their favorite colors, patterns and strengths are played up.
According to Ms. Rosiebeth Padua, Sales and Marketing Manager of UniSilver TIME, the wholesome and good image of the said teen idols pushed the said institution to acquire the stars as their endorsers and time ambassadors.

“UniSilver TIME has a very wide range of watch collections. And one of its targeted audiences are the members of the young generation. Since UniSilver TIME is an advocate of youth empowerment, it has created products that would remind the youth to be responsible by observing time properly, thereby giving each young heart the power to reach their dreams. We believe that the Tween Hearts members will serve as the youth’s inspiration for years to come,” said Padua.
I guess it is high time to say good bye to Filipino time and say hello to the 'on-time generation!'

Here is video presentation of the Unisilver Timebassadors with their personality-captured time-pieces.

The management of UniSilver Time believes that  Derrick, Bea, Barbie, Joshua, Enzo and Julie Anne would serve as good examples for their fans all over the country.
Here are some of the sample watches they have, however, the market will still have to wait for the new time-pieces endorsed by the Tween Hearts, Unisilver Time will launch it in November.   Do check out this blog for updates on that.

Legazpi Tour 2012: Cagsawa Ruins

You might be thinking why we bothered going to Albay even though we didn't know anybody there.   For one, there stands the majestic beauty Mayon Volcano at the heart of Legazpi.  
When I was a school-kid, we learned at school that it is famous for its symmetrical "ice cream cone-like" figure.   Since then I became that interested, whether it is true or not, I need to see it with my own eyes, so does my husband.
Our two-day tour began with a breakfast at Bigg's Diner in Daraga, which was a 10 minute tricycle ride from  the airport.   We decided to pass by our unit at the Bed and Breakfast Hotel we reserved to drop our baggage off and start with the adventure.   Bhoggs chose Balay De La Rama which is near the road where buses and jeepneys pass by and is near all the famous landmarks we planned to visit.

Our first day was exciting but we didn't have so much luck with the perfect cone iconic figure of the volcano. During this time, especially when there are storms, clouds cover parts of it.  It didn't disappoint us yet, we know that the wind blows and the clouds move so we just took time enjoying the culture, the safe environment, and the kind and cheery people of Albay.
After our bags were checked in, we took a mere 10 minute-jeepney ride to Cagsawa National Park.   It is were you can find the Cagsawa Ruins with a spectacular view of the Mayon.   Mayon, btw, came from their word 'magayon,' which means beautiful.
We also noticed that with the vast land covering the whole town, traces of past strong storms are scattered, like the picture of an abandoned house in the middle of this grass field seen above.
On the sunny road to the Cagsawa park, artworks in stones and rattan crafts are being sold.
At the entrance, my daughter is seen checking out native-designed Christmas lanterns.   A fee of   to get you in the park.
Eerie isn't the feeling projected here as some would assume and say.   The ancient belfry still stand strong a midst the tragic Mayon Volcano eruption on February 1, 1814.  Almost two centuries old of remembering how nature can fiercely take its course.   Badly though, Mayon Volcano is not on site at this time.  My kids would ask, "why is the volcano hiding from us behind those clouds?"
On the site are some other stone structures left behind by the eruption and storms.
A park wouldn't be called as such without more of natures alluring florals.

On the site are some fast food stalls for some refreshments.   We had this Halo-halo at Jimaynam Eatery.   This cool snack have shreds of  cheddar cheese on top of it, all served  on  a bowl.   Visitors also flock here for Bicol's Pancit Bato, Laing and Bicol Express.
Next stop is Lignon Hill and then a one-of-a kind Bicol cuisine at Sibid-Sibid.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Breakfast at Bigg's Diner, Daraga, Albay

First up on our long-planned Bicol tour is a breakfast at Bigg's Diner.   Good thing it's open 24 hours.   To make our family trip to Legazpi more manageable, I made an itinerary both for the first and second day.   Right after getting off Legazpi Airport, we immediately asked a tricycle driver to bring us to Bigg's Diner.   All six of us with a backpack each (except me, mine is only a shoulder bag) crammed in to a fairly small vehicle, assuming an unexpecting day.
But aside from the majestic view of Mayon Volcano, the food trip was also my focus. 
Apparently the biggest food chain in Bicol.   Jollibee and McDonad's are outnumbered.   It is where you find comfort in food.  Let me say "bigg in taste!"
Oh yes my kids we're in on a treat!
My Farmer's Breakfast( P80.00).   It has a Frankfurter, with rice and that crunchy on every bite hash brown.
A plate of American Slam for my two lovelies. (P135.00)   The bacon was cooked the way they liked it, non-greasy but not to dry and crunchy.   The serving of fried rice was good enough for them.   It also have a Franks and Hash browns.
One of the best-seller and which I would recommend is their Cordon Bleu.  (P154.00)
Salisbury Steak is one of the American Comfort food they have on the menu, my Danie just can't help but order on for breakfast.
For Daddy,  bowl of  hot Goto.
While the kids were finishing up their breakfast, and my android being charged, I found time to suss out the second floor area.  It was like I was transported on a different era, with all the mementos from the 60's to 70's time.
They also have separate function rooms for those special or intimate gatherings, named after Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe.

Rizal St., Daraga, Albay

Other Bigg's Diner Branches:

Legazpi - Old Albay
Legazpi - Pacific Mall
Legazpi - Embarcadero