Trip back to Tagaytay

Every time I visit Tagaytay, I bring back some new experience. This is one of the accessible place to go to where the weather is cooler. My cousin returned home recently and this reminded me of our trip two years back to this place. It has been a long time since we’ve seen each other but it felt just like yesterday when we were talking.

5 things about this trip:

  • We visited Sky Ranch which was quite new then, the food establishments in the area were not fully opened yet. We paid the entrance but ended up not riding anything because some rides are for kids and most rides have additional payment.
  • To quench our thirst, we bought some buko shake then. I saw how the drink was made because I was standing in front of the stall. I saw the man put about 2-3 scoops of condensed milk in the drink but I wasn’t able to voice out to stop him. We ended up drinking a very sweet drink and was not able to finish it due to its extreme sweetness. (My bad…)
  • We went for a walk and sightseeing at the back of Taal Vista. We had to pay Php150 for the entrance/parking but it was all good. We sat on the hill, the field of greens and ended up with a few sunburns when we went back. The sun was that hot to pierce through our skin when it’s already October then. The place had an amazing view and a spacious area to walk about.
  • We stopped for coffee at Bag of Beans, the branch which overlooks to the Taal lake. My professor has been recommending this place and we finally try this out. We were lucky to be seated at the veranda to enjoy the cool breeze.
  • There’s a dinner party that we have to attend so we were on our home when the sun was going down.

tagaytay sky ranch ride buon giornocoffee at bag of beansbag of beanssunset on the way home

Refreshing view at Cingjing Farm

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Serenity, is what we crave for after staying too long in the metropolitan area. That calm, peaceful view is inviting and captivating.

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Cingjing Farm boasts its vast expanse of green, the blue sky, and the patches of clouds up there make great art work. Walking alongside the sheep and getting the chance to feed them is indeed a delightful experience. It’s amazing how they follow you when you have food to offer. There were a lot of tourists when we visited the farm but according to our cousin who has been here before, you could literally interact and play around with the sheep then and they are strong enough to bump you and knock you down. We were able to watch the herding and sheep shearing show.

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It rained the past days, that’s why the sheep looked quite muddy. Some of the sheep are becoming sick as more visitors flock by the farm. Guests are reminded to be responsible for their trash to keep the environment clean for the habitat of the sheep. It’s nice to keep in touch with nature as we easily forget its importance when we’re busy with our gadgets or while immersed in city life.

the field amazing view

*Cingjing Farm is located at NO. 170, Renhe Rd., Datong Village, Ren’ai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan(R. O. C.).

Thank You for Another Year

Year 2014 is nearing its end; looking back I can see that it’s been a great year. It has been a year of explorations for coffee, photography, travel and writing. I learned a lot this year, have let go of some things and felt at ease with myself. I have learned that there are lessons we gain from simple things to significant events in life. There are things that are necessary to help us grow and some pieces fit in perfectly later on.

This was what I wrote before the end of the year; then something happened at the beginning of 2015. It’s not big of a deal, because it already happened before. But I guess this is what kept me from writing something here. I don’t know what to write or how to start. Even when I encourage myself to write something else, I keep getting back to this. Being scolded for something you didn’t do has been a repetitive pattern in our household. All I did was try to understand and still end up being yelled at. I struggled between holding myself back and speaking up. I chose the latter because I think if you cared enough, you would say something. I rarely post any status in my social media page, but this time I posted something that drew attention from some of my friends. I felt better after letting it out and talking to some friends have helped. Friends and relatives whom I haven’t talked to for a long time now responded. I began the year with a rant and some tears, which is not a good thing to share, but I gained a lot of encouragements. Somehow, some wounds have healed up more easily than before.

It’s still going to be a good year. I will live each day with purpose because I realized that’s what made last year worthwhile. The past year has been a witness to how I brought my smile back. I am thankful for the blessings that I have received, for the beautiful scenes that my eyes have captured and for some essentials to make the stories complete.

I am grateful to be able to meet with old and new friends, for the chance to play and travel with them. This year might be the year that I was able to travel the most times. There were some impromptu travels and more invitations to go out. It was good to accept invitations and to be able to take lots of photographs, visit new places, to meet and connect with people.

I am inspired by the music that I’ve listened to, the books I’ve read, the films I’ve watched and by listening to the stories shared to me. I am glad for the times we could cook for our loved ones, for the time they spend with us, for the warm cups of coffee they’ve shared with me.

For this New Year, I will be brewing more cups and hope to explore other brewing techniques. We recently bought new beans and received some coffee beans last Christmas. I’m very excited to try out the new beans. We’re already on the second bag from the harvests last December.

Mornings are great, and so are Sunsets. Thank you to Yesterday, Hello to Today!

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I am ready for more travels, to appreciate the simple things in life, to acknowledge the things that people have done for me, to encourage people to enjoy the life they deserve, to laugh more and cook more flavors to add to our lives.

O Christmas Tree

20141206_141527 20141206_171553 20141113_131536 20141115_183334 20141123_165425 20141205_124821 20141206_134730 The decors in the mall are inviting, which is far from what we can do at home. I am thankful that we have s tree though it has been the same tree for several years now as a lot of people we know do not put up a tree. My favorite among these is the peacock themed decorations at SM Aura, if there was a competition, this would be my first place.

Have a sip

now brewing...

I woke up in a gloomy Christmas Eve morning, with constant pouring of rain outside. It was nice to brew this last batch of Starbucks’ Christmas Blonde Roast and some cookies that were given to us. This is perfect to start the really long day ahead of us, something to warm our hearts this Christmas season. I was able to make about 35 8 oz. cups out of the 250g pack. I could not find this blend in any stores I’ve visited so our next brew would be Willow Blend, still a blonde roast. I’m looking forward to brewing more cups! We head out to some festivity, a simple dinner gathering with family to celebrate this occasion.

The HeArt of Gift-giving

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The Christmas rush baffles a lot of people especially the mothers who are tasked to prepare gifts for everyone. When I say everyone, it means all the relatives, friends, acquaintances, workers, and anyone they’d be able to think about in the process. My sister and I finished our list early on. We had a longer list this year but I had fun preparing them.

I understand the dilemma of giving: if what you give represents how you value the person or is it the right gift you have chosen. Giving would mean wanting to give something that the receiver will like. At some point in time, we would have received gifts that would make you wonder if giving was really sincere. It is true that we should not equate the gift with the amount it costs, but closer ties would mean that they at least would have thought about what you like. I was quite impressed with my niece and nephews in how they save their allowances and buy their mother a birthday gift. At a young age, their gifts are much expensive than what we would normally give, but the price tags aside, I saw their heart in finding that perfect gift for their mother. The same is the case when they look for a gift for one of their siblings, pull in all their savings and buy something out of it.

This Christmas, I helped my mom think of gifts and did some Christmas shopping for her. It was a bit stressful because she insisted that the packaging or paper bag should contain the original product. Due to reuse, reduce, recycle campaign, my sister and I were saying that what is important is the content not the packaging and that our bags are well-kept and very much presentable. Our dad is on our side too on this note, plus a lot of people do the same. Our view is that if you want a neutral packaging, it is better to buy gift wrappers or gift bags and wrap the gifts yourself, put beautiful ribbons (which we also saved a lot in our drawers). Then our mom remarked that it is expensive to buy gift wrapping papers just to wrap those gifts (quite our point) thus the solution we presented. We do know some people who would go out their way to buy gift bags to put their presents inside. As I am tasked to buy some of the gifts, I followed my mom’s directive and asked for extra paper bags. Good thing that a couple of shops were more than willing to give me bags and gift cards.

Finding the perfect gift is not easy. There might not be a perfect gift. But I believe that if you like the person you would want to find the best gift you can get for them. I felt joy while picking up the gifts on our Christmas list. It is true that it’s the thought that counts but I think this doesn’t mean we could give just any gift we can find. If we follow this train of thought, the gift should be something meaningful or valuable to the person we would be giving this to. It should have been well thought of. The receiver will be able to appreciate the gift you prepared if it is from the heart.

a gift my sister recieved that she asked me to build
a gift my sister received that she asked me to build

It is but natural to find a nice gift for someone whom you really know, like knowing their interests, likes and needs. If you don’t know the person enough, it might be good to buy a neutral gift, something that is useful to that person. There’s also a consideration on the budget that we can allot for gifts, as the lists are quite long if we add all the immediate family, extended relatives, friends, people in the workplace, and people around us. I know a lot of people who have a really long list that you’d want to save up but also consider giving a nice gift. One of them is my grandma (she literally has an endless list of gifts to give). I’m amazed at her heart to give. The web of ties she has accumulated over the years is massive. Some people at her age would be the ones who should be receiving gifts, but she has practiced gift-giving for a long time now and is not giving up on it. At times we would worry at the level of stress she has to carry in thinking about everyone, but then I’d realize that’s how she is, she won’t stop caring for others. She really has a big heart and all that she reaches are touched with the idea of thinking about them in this special occasion. I’m glad though that my mom was happy with our suggestions and then finding some good buys in the mall to complete her gifts. She would in turn relay some ideas to help my grandmother.

There are a lot of affordable gifts and great gift ideas out there. I think the most important thing in finding a gift is the heart of giving. Give because you want to give. If you genuinely want to give someone a gift, you’d pour your heart into finding something special even if you’re unsure that the other person will like it. You can choose to be creative in giving gifts. In the process of searching for gifts, we found some really nice stores and gift options.20141204_145615
Explore your local department stores, toy stores, coffee shops, stores that you don’t usually go to, go to bazaars in your area, chances are you’ll be able to get something special. It is good to do your Christmas shopping early, as I’ve observed that some things have run out now that the holiday is just couple of days away.  It is helpful to schedule an early Christmas shopping to avoid the crowd and to pick out fresh selections for gifts.

I’m happy for the gifts I’ve received this year. Yes, we have already exchanged with our relatives even before Christmas arrives and have opened the gifts. Some have already plans for the holidays, so we distributed the gifts early on. Our tree is empty now but was filled with gifts a few weeks back. We got a new stash of coffee beans, two trays of apples and oranges(we decided to make some fruit shakes out of them), a bottle of sparkling juice and leche flan, chocolate cupcakes; I received a sketchpad, a travel journal, a book for writing, nanoblocks, baking set, some baked cookies, a bag and charmed necklace (which my sister and I exchanged-an unexpected find in a bazaar). I have read in William Ury’s Third Side about gift giving as one of the keys to make peace with people, it increases good will and rehabilitates or strengthens relationships. I guess my grandmother has observed this one for a long time now, that’s why has maintained connections.

Let this season be Merry!

The Reading Journey

I’m not much of an avid reader when I was growing up. I would just read the required readings in school. The love for reading wasn’t instilled among us siblings. Our cousins have tons of books and I was amazed how much they have read. Both our parents are not that keen in books collection, usually they would read magazines and newspapers. At some point, we would borrow books such as R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps and some Sweet Valley High from our cousins. At most, we would read at a very slow pace and the books took longer to finish. We would read our elder cousin’s collection of Archie’s and that’s about it. Later on, she would lend us the Harry Potter series and I was able to read the entire series later on bit by bit. I could not find enough time to read in college because there are too many readings for the courses we’re taking up. I would borrow some books from the library and end up not reading them, but my sister was able to read those titles such as John Grisham’s novels. I like exploring books in the library, that was a place where I could pick up a title and read some chapters during my break time. Somehow that was an opportunity to read. Several times, I picked up Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude but until now I was not able to read the novel but we do have a copy now at home. I finished his The Chronicle of a Death Foretold as a required book review in Lit class as well as Shakespeare’s Tempest.

My journey in finding good books to read after being immersed into the fiction and fantasy world grew. After exploring the young adult series novels like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, Cassandra Clare’s shadowhunter’s series, reading some Geronimo Stilton, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other books we borrowed from our niece, I began to explore more titles. I have read some literary works and different genres of Asian, European, and American authors and it was fun how I was taken to the different worlds and experiences of the authors. I have read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Roy Arundhati’s The God of Small things (as recommendation by a professor in college), The Little Prince, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime, some detective/crime novels, the books of Neil Gaiman, Jostein Gaarder, David Sedaris, Terry Pratchett, John Grisham’s Innocent Man, etc. I told myself that I’d like to read some non-fiction books too. Then we found books by Malcolm Gladwell, titles like Finding the Next Starbucks, Lexus and the Olive Tree, the Dollar Meltdown, and Falling Leaves. This time we have filled many bookshelves. My dad would accompany us to our local bookstores and attend book fairs, then fast enough our collection grew. He encouraged us to buy books that we like and he chose his own titles too. We were late bloomers in reading but all the same is a fun journey.

Right now, I’m still enjoying Rick Riordan’s adventure nto-read booksovels, Haruki Murakami’s not so bizarre novels, and I have more pending books to read in our shelf. My goal this December is to finish the books that I’ve started reading but never got to finish. I just finished Buffetology, The Miracle by Michael Schuman, Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond which took a long time before I reached the last page. I still need to finish a novel by Giddens called You Are the Apple of My Eyes (already watched the movie) and Ng King Kang’s book called On Board@2359, one of our professor’s books entitled Connect the Dots, another Chinese book and Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, two of Kathy Reich’s titles are all on my current list. Of course, while sorting our shelves, I found more books to add to my immediate list. I hope I could find the time to finish all these.

I enjoy visiting bookstores and because of that, I get new book acquisitions now and then, thus my list is unending. On my previous post years back, I have featured a few book shops that we visit. Just right now, my sister and I are careful in choosing the tiles as there are no more space in our shelves and we’ve become more critical readers. We told ourselves to just read what is worthwhile because there are many enticing titles out there that I’d like to pick up. With the advent of e-books, we also have some titles in this form, though I prefer holding the book and flipping the pages with my hands. I need to increase my space since I still have a lot more titles to go.

Reading does help widen our perspectives, deepen our knowledge, help us reflect and meditate. Somehow our inner voice is awakened when immersed in reading. We’ll develop some realizations and the possibilities become endless.

I Want It Black

brewed coffee with cane sugar

I want my coffee black if it is brewed coffee or Americano, no milk and no sugar. There was one time though that my professor forced me to try this “panocha”, a type of cane sugar you can add to your coffee. She asked a friend to buy this from Vigan and was excited to let everyone to try it with their coffee. I wasn’t able to protest much as she dropped a whole piece of it to my coffee that easily dissolved. It’s amazing how it dispersed in the coffee, just stir it a bit and take a sip. She placed two pieces on her cup and I was surprised. It was quite a good blend of coffee and cane instead of the usual taste of white or raw sugar in your coffee. Due to that instance, I know now how to use that cane sugar to pair with coffee. On one occasion, I was able to share my knowledge on that to my family while having after coffee at a local dinner place. Some would think that it is a type of cookie or candy placed on the side of your coffee cup, but it’s an option that you can take to put it in your coffee. My professor reminded me not to bite it, but I was too late in warning some of my relatives who got the opportunity to try this cane sugar. They did find out afterwards how they would use this “panocha” and were amazed at this. My professor was happy to know that what she shared to me was put to good use.