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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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nothing "Bonita" In Our Isla Bonita Experience

It's the last month of summer for those unaffected by changes in the school calendar here in the Philippines. And as the usual summer activity goes, heading down to the beach is something we would normally do. This is why, upon being invited to go to San Juan, La Union; we packed our bags and just asked "where there?".

Our invite brought us to a charming little place known as Isla Bonita Beach Resort (yes, I burst into song and did my most karaoke version of THAT Madonna hit song).

A 5 minute walk away from the San Juan Public Market, we were met with narrow, one way streets that were well labeled with signage of the resort.

I wasn't able to get a "feel" of the staff as I was not able to have any interaction with them

Parking into the tight entrance and limited parking area/courtyard; Spanish style architecture and a well maintained surrounding welcomed us.

As we were a big group (of 17), we ended up occupying the poolside room for allegedly 8 people and one of the studio rooms for 12. This is where the review gets a bit "unfriendly". For starters, the number of folks that could fit in the room was indicative of how many people could sleep on the mattresses on the floor of THAT room. Our group's assumption on how many people could fit in a room was based on the info found in Agoda.com and  on the resort's website (PLEASE CLICK HERE).

2 beds and a decent bathroom (weak water pressure though) are in this area

The room that we stayed in was pretty clean, although the location of our bed was changed in favor of a mat in the living room area as the cool air from the AC did not reach us in our previous area.

I was also kept awake by loud laughter and conversation from just beyond our room's sliding glass doors, till the wee hours of the morning,

In the other room, they had bathroom issues as the toilet would not flush. This led to our companions going across the courtyard and into the room we were staying at just so they could use the bathroom.

a kitchen counter with a sink and mini fridge

The studio with a messed up toilet had a good view of the beach and the sunset though.

the private pool

Given how many we were, we were assigned a private pool for the day. The pool was not chlorinated, which could be a plus for some (I giveth), however, the pool was not equipped with a filter (then I taketh), which basically allowed our group to swim on stagnant water. The tiles used on the pool weren't meant for such use as it was quite slippery.

the bar and the studio rooms are in this building

As for food and beverages, you're better off bringing your own or at least plotting a path to the nearest food establishment as they have no restaurant on the premises. They do however provide breakfast. Given how our halo-halo (snack) turned out that afternoon, getting take out elsewhere was the option for breakfast. They do have a bar though that also functions as a game room of sorts.

the living room area in our poolside room

All in all, I think the place has potential but is just not well managed. Having been reopened recently under new management, you'd think they'd do better than the last one. The comfort/convenience of it's customers seem to be taking a backseat now. The place looks pretty and has a decent beachfront. That being said, these are the only things this place has going for it, to date.

Our recent trip was made wonderful only because of the people we were with.

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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

SEA Anything You Like? (Dining Like The Locals At Miri)

Because of its close proximity to the sea and all her bountiful goodness, Miri is known for its Seafood restaurants. Missing out on this experience while we were in Kota Kinabalu, we made it our mission to head out to one of those seafood centers, when available.

Asking directions from the concierge, we walked a good 5-10 minutes and headed out to the Seaworld Seafood Center.

The place is an unairconditioned local watering hole that serves fresh seafood nomnoms. Various huge tanks may be found at the front of this Chinese-Malaysian run establishment. I brought up the nationality as Chinese food almost always has pork in its menu.

La tortue will one day be La tortured :(

True enough, even the traditional crispy pata (Philippine Crisp Pork Leg in the menu to you) was available.  

Communication was a bit tough if you had to inquire about the food as the employees speak Malay, Chinese and just a handful of English. It wasn’t as simple as pointing out the menu, as when it comes to these places, you had to specify the portions, size and flavors not expounded on in the menu.

Summoning 6 months worth of conversational Mandarin, we ended up ordering the ff.

seafood fried rice

Cooked lightly (with the crab cooked a little lightly for my liking), and immensely flavorful, we enjoyed the meal. Our pre-schooler MAX was actually just happy to eat his Yang Chow fried rice.

yangchow fried rice

salted egg crabs

garlic butter praws (emphasis on the garlic)

When the bill came, we were happy to know that all the stuff we got was around 60-70 MYR (less than a thousand Philippine pesos, tops). 

As expected, food was a good 20-30 minute wait. Phil got some delightful lime and dried plum drink while MAX and I had our Cokes. I wanted root beer, saw it on the fridge out front but the Malay waitress did not understand root beer and said there was none. Oh well.

It was our mediocre adventure for the day. After packing up enough leftovers for another meal, we headed back to our hotel with thoughts of what to eat next, temporarily forgotten for a couple of hours. 

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

Friday, May 2, 2014

SSSH…It’s A Secret (Garden)

Tucked into a side street along South Drive is a cozy restaurant that serves good comfort food. 

Sumptuous pastas, thin crusted and freshly made pizzas, plus decent handcrafted beverages make this the go to place for kicking back.

Did I mention that this establishment works well for dates too?

Upon entering its tiny gate, a pretty walkway in the midst of a quaint garden leads your path to the restaurant.   

The restaurant itself is a one story wooden structure that brings to mind Goldilocks and the 3 bears. 

Upon walking through its doors, cozy wooden furniture and d├ęcor fit for a country home welcomes you with open arms. While big picture windows allow you to view the garden and bask in the natural light.

The ceiling, with its wooden beams and rafters evoked images of what a barn’s ceiling might look like. 

Upon being handed the menu by a friendly and product knowledgeable waitress, I decided to order a refreshing beverage and pasta with some pizza (for the folks I was going to have a meeting with).

Here’s a look at their menu:

 we tried the Secret Garden Pizza - nice crust, full of toppings, GOOD!

I had the Shrimp Chili Pasta. Quite heavy, sauce was light but tasty

I guess I should have taken more food pics, but was just too caught up in the moment. For a look at what’s available at Secret Garden, check out their Facebook page here: (PLEASE CLICK)


All in all, service was great, prices were quite affordable, the pizza and pasta was just right. Would I go back there and sample more of their food? The answer would be a definite YES!

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sushi King Rocks! (Please Open One In The Philippines)

I am absolutely blogging about this place for pure, unadulterated selfish reasons. Loving Japanese food as much as we do, we headed out to a Japanese restaurant franchise in the local Bintang Mall at Miri. The place was Sushi King.

Bintang's the place with a Giant branch at the basement
Entering the place, we found ourselves amidst a late lunch crowd that took did not seem to dissipate, especially the ones near the huge thin conveyer belt of assorted makis and sushis. I was in a nomnom happy place!!

Getting a booth at the side, as the few available seats near the sushi factory was making our MAX quite too excitable, we proceeded to peruse the huge menu that was promptly given to us.

Here’s a look at some of the things on their menu:

Not really sure where to start, we ordered away:

Iced Blackcurrant Lemon

spicy nabeyaki udon

The food was quite good, and given the reasonable prices, we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t some dry, reheated or mushy version of the stuff we got (given an uninspired fastfood sounding name as Sushi King). The service was A plus, and the food and its presentation; excellent.

soft shell crab temaki

Hence my blog….

To all those wonderful entrepreneurs (or those who plan to be one), please, PLEASE bring over this food franchise to the Philippines! It definitely has possibilities! (CLICK HERE FOR THE SUSHI KING WEBSITE). The complete menu's in there too.

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