About Me

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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

A Quick Peek At Mother's Garden

It's our 2nd time, and we're still loving it
here at Mother's Garden
Being moms, we always have a checklist when it comes to taking out the kids. On top of making sure their wardrobe and hygiene is spot on, we consider our choices on where to bring them. Is the place fun/ family -friendly and do they tolerate normal kid's behavior? Do they serve meals? Are they nutritious/organic/tasty? Living in Baguio gives you few options on where to bring your kids. Sure, there's the mall (SM), there's Camp John Hay and maybe even Burnham park, but then again, other parents are bringing their kids to roam wild and free in the aforementioned places. Somehow dealing with your kids and that of others isn't fun at all.

the terraces of Mother's Garden
Good thing Mother's Garden opened it's doors to the public in 2010. Nestled in a relatively residential area at Upper Fairview, Quezon Hill here (see map) in Baguio City, signs to the place will help you reach your destination without the benefit of a GPS system.

Michelle the HUGE pig (ya gotta see it to believe it)
aside from goats, there are ducks, geese
turkeys, a dog and chickens
A 2,000 square meter lot atop the hill gives you an excellent view of the City of Pines. Beautiful flowers and organically grown vegetables dot this tranquil place as well as a multitude of farm animals in their petting zoo.

Kicco being taught how to harvest ginormous cabbages
A minimal consumable entrance fee is all it takes to enter Mother's Garden. Old and young alike would be delighted with the interactive mini tour of the place as it involves pottery making, harvesting fruits and veggies as well as feeding some of the animals in the place. It's a real-life Farmville!
Feeding time! Kicco gets some pointers in strawberry picking from the green thumb behind the gorgeous plants, as well as the brains (and heart) behind Mother's Garden, Therese

One of the many places to dine Al Fresco
Hungry? They've got a pretty simple yet exciting continental menu that utilizes the garden's produce as well as some of the  animals living in the place. Food is quite reasonable, with meals costing 300 php - 400 php on average. Plating is superb and taste is quite great. They'll throw in an edible flower or two, which makes for great conversation. Try their Thuringen Bratwurst and their meatloaf (not the canned variety). You may dine Al Fresco or on the balcony. Do bring a sweater though if you opt for the latter, as you can really feel the cool breeze of Baguio up there.
The balcony
A meal for two or a big group...Mother's Garden can fit you right in
If you're with a picky eater, worry no more. Mother's Garden has pizzas and sandwiches for those looking for the familiar. The pizzas and even some of the meat dishes are actually cooked in an authentic Pompeian oven.

A waiter at Mother's Garden
The staff is quite courteous and accommodating and are always there to cater to your needs.

MAX enjoying the sand pit...
...with friends
The atmosphere is quite laid back. Kids may also run around and enjoy the huge play yard of Mother's Garden. Swings, a slide, a sandbox and even a giant castle of sorts allow imaginations to run wild! Art materials are also available for your budding artist.

The playplace
The top of the castle
For those Cultural aficionados out there, an Ifugao group is there to regale you with their authentic Cordilleran beat. On top of the pottery making (highland-style), you can also get a hands-on tutorial with a Cordilleran wood carver.

There truly is something for everyone at Mother's Garden!

Visit their Facebook page or their website and see what you and your family are missing.

** Catch the new activities for kids every weekend! Face painting, art lessons and many more!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Merry Marinduque

Heading off to Bellarocca may have been the primary goal of our most recent Marinduque trip, but that didn't stop us from checking out where the locals wine and dine.

Marinduque, specifically the town of Boac ( a 45 minute ride from the airport) is one of the biggest towns of the province. As populated as it is (by Marinduque standards), there is no nightlife to speak of (as with the whole province). With our three year old toddler in tow, that wasn't an issue. What we DID want to experience was the feel of the place.

Here's a rundown of the of the sights and tastes from the heart of the Philippines:

Our Tahanan sa Isok room
Tahanan Sa Isok: Our post-Bellarocca journey brought us to a 15 room hotel a block away from downtown Boac. Tahanan Sa Isok is the home of the Jamilla family who decided to share it's quaint charm to the world by converting it into a hotel.
The owners still live on the 3rd floor of the structure.
All rooms are fully air-conditioned, carpeted with their own hot and cold shower equipped bathrooms. Reasonably priced (if not downright inexpensive), the rooms have ample space and cable tv to boot. Did I also mention that they're the only hotel in town with a pool? Not just a wading pool, but a full sized one.

TSI Pool
We decided to take the most expensive room in the place simply because a. it had a bathtub and b. after Bellarocca, having one just seemed right. The cost of this "expensive" room you ask? 1500 php a night! It had two double beds, ample storage space for our wardrobe ( I hate literally living off a suitcase) and a pleasantly clean, bright, wide, fully functional bathroom! (I'm big on decent bathrooms). You may want to bring your own bedsheets though. I felt that the fabric of our customized sheets should have been hanging on curtain rods (not exaggerating). They do however provide you with toiletries and decent towels (and extra ones for a price), so much love was still felt towards them.

the lobby at TSI
Our room was in the 2nd floor (no elevator, just a grand staircase to give you a dramatic flair as you saunter down the hotel lobby), so lugging your stuff could make you break into a sweat. Speaking of the lobby, there's free wi-fi in it as well, so you won't go into facebook withdrawals while in TSI.

Hungry? Look no further! Cafe Ellas is the hotel's own restaurant, where everything is made to order! (Seriously!).
Nothing reheated, except probably for the rice, you would have to order an hour ahead before a meal (as with our experience,
Lotlot, a staff of TSI,  was the same person who brought up our luggage, fixed up our room, did the  laundry and provided us with pool towels, was the same person who was to cook our lunch! What can I say? They're super hardworking in Marinduque).
Cafe Ellas entrance
The food is your standard home cooked Filipino meal with burgers, sandwiches and spaghetti added to the menu for those who don't care for sinigang, calamares and the likes. Everything was a 100 php or less and the portions were quite ok.

Should you go out of the hotel and return a little later (8pm being the closing time for most establishments), just advise the hotel staff as they lock the front door up at night.

Due to the absence of a hotel shuttle, we decided to check out the next day and move over to Boac's oldest hotel, Boac Hotel (betcha didn't see THAT coming).

Boac Hotel Lobby
Right in the heart of Boac, this 16 room hotel is often the recommended next destination of Bellarocca guests. Wi Fi is available from the 1st and 2nd floors only (we got a suite at the 3rd), and they have an in house restaurant known as Cafe Mamita (more on that later) as well as a pasalubong shop (will elaborate in a few).

Killer Stairs
Suite B
Moving to The Boac Hotel seemed to be necessary in catching our flight out of the province as we were informed that free transfers were provided for by the hotel (I have the email to prove it). Phee ended up paying an extra 300php to one of the hotel's staff. All things considered, maybe the free transfer applies only to a 3d, 2n stay at the hotel (?).

Try to keep the fuzzy toilet
seat cover dry with
this set up :P
Since our room was a suite (the last room available as the 2nd floor rooms were being renovated), we kinda expected a bigger room than the one we had at TSI. After all, it was 1800 php a night (Marinduque's the bomb as far as budget travel is concerned). Instead, it was slightly smaller (probably due to the four poster, canopied queen sized bed in the center, a coffee table and chair near the door, an antique looking armoire 2 feet from the bed as well as the tv and tv stand at the foot of the bed). They had nice satiny robes, slippers and toiletries in the armoire, which was a nice touch, since their email earlier told us that toiletries would not be provided. If the room was a bit cramp, the bathroom was a claustrophobe's nightmare.

As clean and new looking as it was, the width of the bathroom was around 4 feet wide and probably 7 feet long . Muy sikip!! At least the hot and cold shower worked fine...oh wait! They turn off the water pump at night so you might not be able to use the shower unless you ask for one of the staff all the way down at the first floor to turn it on. How convenient :)

However, kudos to the staff for being courteous and efficient.

Now, onto our food experience:

An assortment of food choices at affordable prices
Karinderya ( a small local food eatery serving home cooked meals at affordable prices) styled restaurant that's fully airconditioned. Food, except for the rice was already cold when we went there for dinner (around 7 pm, which is probably a late one by Marinduque standards). Portions were small and appropriate for the prize. It's adjoined by:

My 50 php Raspberry Frap at Cafe by Kusina Sa Plaza
Cafe by Kusina Sa Plaza - pizza, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, inexpensive shakes, coffee blends, teas and the likes. Perfect for those searching for the familiar. We didn't get to try their pizzas, but that seemed to be the bestseller of the place as that as was what everyone seemed to be ordering (lots of take out).

Cafe Mamita Interior
Cafe Mamita -  Just inside the Boac Hotel, you're in for a blast from the past as you look around the restaurant's memorabilia of the 60's. From framed ads, old record covers, fashion and pictures of movie actors and actresses of that time, it's a visual treat. Food-wise, the selections are quite numerous, portions are generous, as with the cooking oil and salt content of some of the dishes. If you have issues with these 2 ingredients, feel free to speak up to the waitress, or forever hold your peace.
Rejanos products at the Boac Hotel
Rejanos - owned by the same owners of the Boac Hotel and Cafe Mamita, Rejanos is a one stop shop on pasalubong. Danggit (small dried fish), Uraro (Arrowroot cookies) and other souvenir items are available in the Boac Hotel. It's main branch is in Sta. Cruz, but suffice it to say that this shop is well stocked.

Boac Church at sunset
Boac Church - a glimpse at history, culture and religion. Built in 1792, this church is well preserved and reminiscent of other Spanish-era churches in the Philippines. Do check out the church's main door. The antique carving of the 4 apostles is beautiful.

in front of the antique carving
of the Boac Church's main door

Our Marinduque adventure was slightly marred by the changing of hotels that ate up our time. Given a chance to return, we'd love to visit the other places in the province, such as Mogpog and the fine beaches of Torrijos, as well as enjoy an authentic Marinduque meal.

Can't wait to go back!

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!