Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Pony Treasure Hunt: A Short Story by Julia

Julia's write-up of her story
Julia, now seven years old, attempted to write a short story. With her little notebook and pencil, she painstakingly, wrote a story. Along with the story are images she also drew. Her first story is about a treasure hunt which was inspired from one of the books she read. The title of her story is "The Pony Treasure Hunt." Here is a powerpoint version of her story. We hope you'll enjoy reading her story.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mother's Day Tribute: Missing my Mom's Cooking

I miss my mom. I miss her dishes. Her cooking is an expression of her heart's or Corazon's love to her children. That's why her dishes always fill our tummies with nutritious food and make our hearts more loving. This mother's day, I pay tribute to my mom, Corazon Coronel Oreta (June 15, 1931- June 22, 1979) through a list of three dishes that she cooked and that I really miss.

1. Ginisang Bulaklak ng Kalabasa
When we were living inside Basa Air Base, Pampanga, I remember our vegetable garden with flowers of the kalabasa (pumpkin), alugbati and root crops like kamoteng kahoy. The ginisang bulaklak ng kalabasa my mom cooked from the flowers harvested from our garden always come to my mind whenever I pass by an open market and see the yellow flowers of the pumpkin. Cooking this vegetable is so simple yet I sledom find this in restaurants. You  may saute the vegetables and flowers with bagoong or coconut milk to introduce a different taste. Make sure the flowers are not overcooked so that when you eat it you will feel the crispiness and rough texture of the flower.

2. Pork Humba
Humba is a sweet pork dish like the adobo but it is highlighted with certain ingredients such as brown sugar, salted black beans, and sometimes banana blossoms. It is a dish not for those who are in diet or reducing in cholesterol.
My mom cooks her humba in a claypot until the pork is so tender that it melts in your mouth. I've tried the humba at several restaurants in Metro Manila but  so far no resto was able to equal the quality and taste of my mom's version. At home, too much "taba" or fat is a NO NO especially to my wife. But it's the fat that makes the humba awesome!

3. Nilagang Baboy
Nilaga is a simple dish and easy to cook. You just throw everything - the pork, the vegetables, onions, potato, etc. and let it cook until tender.  I can easily cook the nilaga but I still miss my mom's version. I remember my mom saving a bone (from a ham) and let it dry under the sun. Whenever she cooks the nilaga she includes the bone with the other ingredients. So when you taste the soup, there is that unique taste of ham in the nilaga which you will not find in an ordinary nilaga.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our Bohol Trip: Alona White Beach at Panglao Island

Alona White Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol
Bohol is known for its 'Chocolate Hills' and Tarsiers.  But in our recent vacation in Panglao island, what remains as the most memorable is the quiet, placid, and relaxed atmosphere of the beach.

I am not a huge fan of beach parties and adventure tours; a friend told me it's probably the age kicking in. Alona White Beach in Panglao island, Bohol offered what I wanted (and needed) - rest.  The Alona Kew White Beach Resort (where we stayed) combines the hotel ambiance with the feel of a beach resort.  While there were some quirks at the beginning of our stay, it eventually turned out fine in the end. Our cottage room is beside the pool. The rooms are clean and the staff regularly clean them. Buffet breakfast is satisfactory - main viands (corned beef, longaniza, danggit, bangus) change every other day. The waiters are very attentive to the costumers, always ready to serve the hot coffee or chocolate. The resort rests in front of the beach, so we can go to the beach anytime we want to.

The sand in the beach front is comparable to Boracay - powdery white (although admittedly, Boracay sand is more fine than Bohol's). There were the usual massage service offered by local masseuse; ambulant vendors selling arrozcaldo (congee with chicken),  guinatan (sticky rice cooked with coconut milk), beach wears, etc; and tour service offers (island hopping, dolphin watching, scuba diving).  During nightfall, there are also 'shows'/ performances - we saw some local bands, a fire dance, a group doing the hula or hawaiian dance - but they are sparse and hence do not dominate the whole beach front.  In other words, the beachfront offers whatever suits one's fancy  -- restful and relaxed mood or party-adventurous mood.
Julia enjoyed playing in the sand. She collected shells and corrals.

Julia enjoyed the beach the most.  Geof had his bonding moments with the little sister in the beach front and the pool fronting our cottage.  Andy and I enjoyed the slow and leisurely ambiance of the place. The verdict?  We all enjoyed Bohol and are looking forward coming back again.

Geof and Julia bonding at the beach
Enjoying guinataan and congee at the beach
Kuya  plays "horsie" to Julia

Alona Beach at night.  Dining and drinking while listening to acoustic music
and watching a boy doing a fire exhibition

Man and beast enjoy the sunset at Alona White Beach

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our Bohol Trip: Wonders of Nature by Geof

Geof writes about Bohol's wonders of nature: The Chocolate Hills and the Hinagdanan Cave.

Bohol's Chocolate Hills - one of the world's wonders of nature. One legend tells "the story of two feuding giants who hurled rocks, boulders, and sand at each other. The fighting lasted for days, and exhausted the two giants. In their exhaustion, they forgot about their feud and became friends, but when they left they forgot to clean up the mess they had made during their battle, hence the Chocolate Hills." - Wikipedia

The plaque says that "the unique land form known as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol was formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion."

To get a good view of the chocolate hills, we had to climb up a very high observation deck. Even though it was tiring, the view was worth it.

Hinagdanan cave is at Panglao island. Geof says "This is my first time being inside a cave. We saw stalactites, stalagmites, and a lot of swallow birds."
Inside the Hinagdanan cave, you will find a painting of snake-like image.
Hinagdanan came from the root word "hagdan" or stairs.

Inside the cave, you will find a lake where you can dip to cool yourself

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Bohol Trip: Loboc River Cruise

A Floating Restaurant at Loboc River
One of the highlights of our Bohol summer trip 2012 was the Loboc river cruise. Here you get on a boat which is also a floating restaurant. The buffet food - fried chicken, shrimp, pancit, adobong pusit, crabs, grilled fish, fruit and kakanin for dessert.  Geof says "This was one of my favorite part of the tour. We were able to eat delicious food and view the scenery of the river while cruising."


Enjoying the food and the cruise
Aside from enjoying the food, your trip becomes memorable as you are seranaded by a live band which plays the music of the Beatles, Bee Gees, Peter, Paul and Mary and popular 60's and 70's singers. The band reminds me of the so called "Galvezton" band at Floridablanca, Pampanga.

The band plays 60s and 70s music
The peacefuland calm river and the forest was a view to behold during the cruise. One of the passengers commented that "sana ganito kalinis and Pasig river." Indeed, the Loboc river was well preserved and I hope this cool and clean condition of the river will be sustained by the local government and the community including the tourists.

Loboc River Cruise: filling and relaxing ....
The Loboc River cruise is for me the climax of our trip - it was a filling and relaxing experience ...

Our Bohol Trip: The Tarsier, Prony and the Butterflies by Geof

Our Bohol summer trip last April 26-29, 2012 was filled with memories of Bohol's fauna. We booked a one day tour where we saw, touch and interact with Bohol's lovable fauna. Geof and I describe below our experience with these wonderful treasures of Bohol.

Sleepy Tarsier
The Tarsier. It's small but terrible - according to our guide, the Tarsier is a territorial animal. When it is removed from its territory it becomes suicidal and it kills itself by not eating, by not breathing or by banging a soft part of its head. The Tarsier is one of the most popular animals in the Philippines and unique in the world. It's a primate that is as small as your fist. With his big bulging eyes, you will be reminded by Yoda of Star Wars. Its hands are like that of ET.  At the Tarier Conservation Area, we walked through the forest and and your objective is to spot a Tarsier. A guide usually stands beside a Tarsier. Here, we took many pictures of the Tarsier, learned about it’s nature and habitat, and bought souvenirs.

"May the force be with you" 

The Python. Prony is the name of the largest python in the Philippines.  Prony's waistline is 30 inches - and can eat a whole pig weighing 65 kg (pig-in-tummy after just an hr!) or 2 goats. Digestion takes 1 month, after which Prony eats again.  Julia and I were able to touch it’s body, and take pictures of it.

Butterflies.  Our next destination was the butterfly farm. Our tour guide took a picture of Julia and my parents with wings. It was awesome - my Mom was transformed into a butterfly. We  saw many colorful and beautiful butterfly species. A butterfly even landed on Julia's hair and hand.
Butterfly on Julia's hand

LOL! A Butterfly lands on Julia's hair

Julia Butterfly

I can fly!
Butterflies in love
For information about affordable Bohol tours, contact Randy Amores at