Category Archives: Travel

My favorite dessert spots: spotlight on cupcakes!

I went to Singapore last year. And when I’m there, I usually eat my way around the city. That time, it was no different, but instead of eating Laksa, Satay, and Chicken rice, I decided to try the Singaporeans’ take on dessert.

I have to admit that even though my last trip to SG was a couple of months previous, I saw a lot of culinary improvements. I don’t prefer eating at fancy restaurants. I do like dining in them, but occasionally only. I’m more into street fairs, markets and even food courts.

I was still in sugar-rush mode even after a few days have passed already. I had to let go of my obsession with Xiao Long Bao because we went to Grandma’s. It’s local food alright, but what’s nice about it is that it’s located inside the foodcourt. We didn’t bother ordering dessert in the same place. Instead, we walked around the food court and bought whatever our eyes fancied.

They had cupcakes, breads, cookies, ice cream, milk teas, and all that jazz, but I was really surprised that I found a lot of chocolate in Singapore. There was an overdose of chocolate wherever we went. Esplanade Mall even had a Max Brenner.

What caught my attention was this tiny cupcake store called “Twelve Cupcakes.” It was a local store and it didn’t really have that much of a selection. But honestly, even if they were only selling two or three flavors, I would keep on buying from them. They were that good!

The reason why I’m elated over dessert is because I don’t really bake. It’s really not my thing, which frustrates me a lot because I love eating desserts. The most decent thing I’ve ever baked was pandesal. Well, I can make bread. Maybe it’s because of the kneading or that it doesn’t really entail that much measurement, but yeah. I can make bread but not cakes. Go figure!

I’m sharing with you some of my favorite cookies and cupcakes from all over the world. I really hope that one day we’ll get to sit down and eat and share our cookie/cupcake experience.

Martha’s Country Bakery

This one is located in New York, USA. I’d always go to their Forest Hills branch because it was near my home. Every week, I’d buy different types of dessert, but I’d always get their cookies and cream cupcake. They also have red velvet and those big chocolate chunky cookies.

Magnolia and Crumbs (New York, USA)

These are two different stores but both are found in the city. I love that Crumbs live up to its name. Their cupcakes are moist and crumbly. They’re also big enough to share. And as usual, red velvet is my top pick.

Magnolia’s cupcakes are good because they’re not too sweet, just enough to satisfy your craving for cupcakes.

Twelve Cupcakes (Singapore)

This you MUST try. The one that I went to was at Bugis Junction. I was still trying to control myself from going back to Singapore after we already ate the last cupcake we brought home from the trip. Too bad, it’s a local brand and there is no news about a franchise here in the Philippines. Their red velvet, salted caramel, and chocolate cupcakes are really good.

Sorry to say that I can’t recommend any place here in the Philippines. It’s not that I don’t find their desserts yummy but I often forget the restaurants or stores because they’re just too many of them.

Banapple is one of my faves, but it serves mostly cakes. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave me a note and I’ll try them one of these days.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Bohol: where to go

My husband and I dream of travelling the world. But since we need to dedicate more time to raising our kids for now, we’ll start by exploring our beautiful country.

My favorite local destination by far is Bohol. The people are warm and friendly, the province hasn’t (yet?) been commercialized. We love the shores of Panglao because unlike Boracay, it’s not crowded. It’s just pure waves and peace.

To make sure we go to the best places, we hired a tourist guide/driver named Mang Henry who was highly recommended by a friend. We went to a lot of beautiful places which we all loved. But there were five exceptional ones that I would like to share:

1. Bee Farm

Yes, you got that right. It’s a farm full of bees! But don’t worry, the bees are housed in boxes. During the tour though, the lady took out a wooden sheet full of bees. I learned that there’s always only one queen bee per box. The rest are what they call “workers”, i.e. the ones responsible for making honey. If you’re not scared of bees, they will allow you take photos with them for free. However, if a bee stings you, you have to pay a particular fee because bee stings, apparently, relieve various ailments.

This “farm” does not only house honey bees. They also have a variety of plants and flowers, a restaurant and an ice cream shop! More than seeing the bees, eating their Malunggay flavored ice cream is the better part of the trip. It’s delicious and not to mention very healthy.

2. Dolphin Watching

We rented a boat (with a boatman of course!) who picked us up very early in the morning to spot some Dolphins in the middle of Panglao’s sea. We met up with a other boats in the middle of the sea to wait for dolphins. After a short wait, there were dolphins everywhere! They jumped so quickly so it’s hard to get a good picture if your camera is low-tech like mine. However, I was lucky enough to take one good photo (below). I was so happy because it was my first time to see dolphins in their natural habitat, and here in the Philippines! 🙂

3. Snorkeling in Balicasag Island

My husband and I were thinking twice about going snorkeling, which is part of the “sea tour”, together with the Dolphin-sight seeing. We were hesitant because we had to pay extra for the use of snorkeling gear. However, the boatman encouraged us to try it out so we gave in, thinking that this may be a once in a lifetime experience. And boy were we MESMERIZED! The view of the corals and fishes from the boat did not compare when we actually dove in the shallow part of the ocean. We had a very good view of the beautiful sea creatures (some fishes were already touching my skin)! I wish I had an underwater camera to capture the colorful world underwater! Like what the boatman said to us, “highly ricomended po talaga!”.

4. Tarsiers

We wouldn’t miss seeing Tarsiers in their home land. I saw a Tarsier once in a zoo but it was in a cage and I didn’t see much movement. In the tarsier spot that we visited, we were allowed go near them. I thought they were like babies: quiet, mild and gentle. But I was shocked when I was about to take a picture with one. It suddenly jumped and skipped around like a hyper toddler! Despite my fear, I still find them cute. 🙂

Just a note, please be careful when taking photos. Tarsiers are very sensitive that camera flashes can scare, or worse, kill them.

5. Chocolate Hills

I remember my SIBIKA book dubbed this place, together with Mayon Volcano and Rice Terraces, as one of the magagandang tanawin sa Pilipinas. And, seeing it for the first time, I could say that it’s a beautiful place indeed! It’s so amazing how the hills are formed and how they cover a vast area of Bohol. The only thing I did not like about seeing the place is the many steps we had to climb to get a good view of the hills.

with Mang Henry (middle)

If you need a Bohol tourist guide, feel free to call Mang Henry at 0921 476 9771. 🙂

This post was written by Maan Bello-de los Reyes.

Enjoying food isn’t about the binge

food marketI get to travel a lot. And of course, one of the reasons why I like travelling is that I get to taste different kinds of cuisines.  But I’m still wary of what I eat.  I may be experimental, but I’m not suicidal.  The world of food is very interesting to me but it’s not my extreme sport.  I’m not a glutton either, but I do love the smell and look of food.  I find happiness in a loaded buffet the same way I get giddy whenever I’m at a food’s market.

In the Metro, there are certain markets that only open during weekends.  I have to wake up early and drag my friends to Salcedo Market just so I can see fresh produce and other independent shops that offer mouth-watering dishes.

My friends and I would save enough money ever the week so that we can buy items that are only being sold in these type of markets.  That’s what we do when we visit Merkato.  We don’t eat dinner, and when we get there we walk for a few minutes before eating.  We’re sure when midnight strikes, we’re already quite satisfied.

Good food doesn’t have to be expensive for you to enjoy it. When you go to an ordinary market, chances are there are eateries there that serve fresh, hot-piping dishes.  And I’m sure that they used fresh ingredients.  When I’m in New York, I eat like a typical New Yorker, breakfast will be a bagel and coffee while walking towards the subway.  Lunch would be Filipino food because I worked in a Filipino restaurant, but dinner is either a slice of bread and or whatever’s left over in the fridge.

If I’m in a new place, I try to go where there are a lot of people lined up.  Either that place has great food, or it’s cheap, either way, that’s a good find.  But kidding aside, I try to research on the place and look for its popular dishes and restaurants. I’m more interested in a country’s cuisine rather than its tourist spots.

I don’t eat or crave for food just to satisfy my hunger.  Food for me is like shopping to some people.  I find comfort in it.  I don’t necessarily have to eat it, but it makes me happy to experience new dishes and or new tastes.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

The Prize Winner in CJH, Baguio

Back in February, I attended a PLDT Bossings event and won the best prize ever: a three-day, two night stay in Camp John Hay! Call me a geek, but the first thing that came to my mind was that I could work on my thesis in Baguio 😉 Nerdy me finally scheduled a thesis-writing weekend on the last week of March.

But even if I had every inclination to make this a solo trip, I wasn’t about to waste the prize. The room I was given could take a maximum of four people! So I went ahead and brought along the most obvious companions—mom and dad.

Speaking of mom and dad, here they were right after we arrived at the hotel:

Mom and dad sleeping in our deluxe room at The Suites
Mom and Dad knocked out from the trip

They’re really the perfect paper-writing companions. As you can see, I don’t have much of a problem asking them to leave me alone 😀 I unpacked our stuff in the most OC way and fled the scene to scout the area.

We were billeted in The Suites because The Manor was full. But this hotel was equally world-class:

The Suites bathroom fixtures The Manor stuff at The Suites Hallway at The Suites

Here’s the very relaxing lobby area:

Lobby, The Suites Lobby, The Suites Lobby, The Suites Lobby, The Suites

and how it looks from outside:

The Suites at Camp John Hay The Suites at Camp John Hay Entrance of the Suites at Camp John Hay

The hotel experience was so wonderful that I’d go back when I could afford it. I was surprised to find out later that they give a 50% discount during the yearly rainy season, so that’s probably my chance!

I went to the proverbial Mile-Hi, where I spent the rest of that afternoon and where we would eat most of our meals during this trip. The Manor’s restaurant, Le Chef, is very famous but the prices are beyond us. Mile-Hi and the Filling Station (farther down the road) were our meal stops.

Cordillera coffee Liempo Longganisa with garlic rice Beef with broccoli

We wanted to try Chocolate de Batirol but it wasn’t open when we went 😦

Chocolate de Batirol signage Chocolate de Batirol Chocolate de Batirol

And to take advantage of the relaxing air in Baguio, I went around taking photos of the scenery:

135.JPG 146.JPG 136.JPG 197.JPG  025.JPG 018.JPG 183.JPG 221.JPG

We also visited two churches:

1. Baguio Cathedral

Baguio Cathedral Baguio Cathedral Baguio Cathedral

2. St. Joseph Church

St. Joseph Church, Baguio St. Joseph Church, Baguio


And the thesis? No photos. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything done 😛

The Pinay on a budget travel to Rome

Not a lot of us have money to travel, and when we do get to save some money, the best that we could do is to travel on a budget. I’m not new to budget traveling, so I hope that this article will help give ideas to budget travelers like me.

Sample Cost:

  • $1,121 via Qatar Airways
  • 60 Euros for Schengen VISA 
  • 100 Euros for 5-day budget hotel near Roma Termini (w/ breakfast)
  • 20 Euros for shuttle from Airport to hotel and back
  • 15 Euros for lunch and dinner for each day
  • The rest of the cost is for optionals (museums, metro, souvenirs)
You can save on all travel expenses except for the airfare and Schengen VISA fee. Now let’s go straight to making your Rome experience cheap but memorable.
  1. Save on accommodation. Although we opted for a budget hotel, it wasn’t that bad at all. We appreciated the breakfast served everyday which saved us a bunch. Going to a budget hotel (like Hotel Luciani) is probably worth the convenience and the breakfast. After a long walk around Rome, you’d want to go home  and sleep on comfortable beds and having not to worry about what to have for breakfast. This hotel is perfect if you are 3 or 4 persons to share the room cost. What’s best too about this hotel is that it’s extremely near Roma Termini. WiFi is for 5 Euros though but that will last you the whole trip and you could share with the others though you can’t go online at the same time. Befriend the Filipino manager, and you might get this for free. 🙂 Or you may try Couch Surfing. It requires that you agree to allow another couch surfer your own couch when he visits Manila. It’s practically free. Like asking a friend to make you stay at his place for a few days.
  2. Sightseeing and Museums. Rome is actually very small. You can walk from one sight to another literally. It is very normal for a Roman to walk at most an hour to get from A to B. You don’t normally need to pay to enter the amazing Churches in Rome. You just have to brave the long lines at St. Peter’s Basilica, but it’s not as long a wait as it may appear. If you want to see all the art collections in Rome, the only museum you should pay for is the Vatican Museum. Save yourself time by buying your ticket online although it will charge you an extra 4 Euros for the service. We overtook a really long line because of this. Then again, you might want to save 4 Euros for your lunch that day. 🙂 Take my word for it, you can just walk around Rome. On each day, you can focus on an area so you don’t go all around. Here’s a suggested itinerary for 3 days walking tour:
    • Day 1: Central Rome – Colosseo, Roman Forum, Arc of Triumphs, Trajan’s Column, have a gelato, pizza and pasta for lunch

      That’s me in front of the Colosseo. No need to go inside and save on entrance fee!
    • Day 2: Southeast of Rome (Passion of the Christ tour) – Santa Maria Maggiore (relics of the true Cross), St. John Lateran, Scala Santa (stairs that claim to have drops of Christ’s blood), Santa Croce en Jerusalem (relics from Calvary), Santa Prassede (relic of the pilar where Christ was scourged), relax at a park

      St. John Lateran
    • Day 3: Central eastern Rome for St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Museum (you might want to buy a day trip ticket for this tour @ 4 Euros), Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Cecilia, Bocca della Verita, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi, and Scala Spagna (Spanish steps).

      Throw a coin over to the Trevi Fountain and wish to come to Rome. It worked for me. 🙂
  3. Transportation. Rome bus and subway systems is difficult to figure out compared to Singapore’s, New York’s or Madrid’s. It might take a while for you to figure out and maximize your unlimited ticket. But if you are willing, the ATAC Rome metro system offers one day unlimited (only up to 12 MN) for 4 Euros, and 3 days for 11 Euros.
  4. Side trips outside Rome. Our group was able to visit Florence. If you want to save on your Florence trip, purchase your train ticket ahead of time. If you do so, you might be lucky to get a MINI fare which can save you up to 60% off on regular fares. We chose to take the nonstop train (1 hour) to Florence to save time for 45 Euros and took a regular train (3.5 hours) for 17 Euros. You can get cheaper prices as well for Milan and Venice. Florence is a cheap place to go to for the art lover and can be a day trip. You can go around Florence for just half a day. The other half you can spend absorbing the art and a bit of shopping. Don’t miss out on San Lorenzo market (5 minutes walk to the west of Santa Maria Novella train station) where you can buy authentic leather goods and various souvenirs. Don’t miss out on buying Florence stationeries which they are also famous for. For better quality paper and bookmarks, visit Mandragoragift shop behind the Duomo. They sell wax seals, Florence stationeries and various bookmarks at affordable prices. Making side trips, the best place to stay is near Roma Termini so even if you come home late, your hotel is just nearby. You don’t have to pay 6,50 Euros to see Michelangelo’s David. There is a replica at Palazzio Vecchio. 🙂

    My friends in front of the San Lorenzo Church with its unfinished facade. Across is the San Lorenzo Market.
  5. Tour guides. No, don’t pay for a tour guide. There are many audio tours you can get online before making your trip. Better for you to already be informed before going to the places so that when you get there, all you have to do is admire. It’s difficult to study or listen to a podcast while you’re staring at ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Since you studied ahead, you look forward to seeing the places in real life. You can download some maps and audio here.
  6. Save on drinking water. When we visited Rome, it was summer and dry. With that weather, we were easily thirsty and hot-headed. Bring your water bottle. There are many water fountains that you can find along the way to fill your bottle with water. Just make sure it’s potable. Don’t get your water from fountains like the Trevi fountain. 🙂 Also, drinks from vendo machines are much cheaper (by a Euro) than buying from a person. 🙂
I also would like to share some generic travel tips that will save you the hassle as you try to enjoy your trip outside your country.
  • Check-in Online. Usually, 36 hours before your flight, you can “check-in” online. This has saved so much time when checking-in. For online checkers, they usually have a fast lane for you and you will skip the generic queue and you can choose your seat ahead of the rest.
  • Use your credit card. Using your credit card (I assume that you pay your bills on time), can buy you time to save money before actually paying for your train ticket or museum ticket. Above all, it saves you time from lining up most of the time.
  • Travel light. Budget hotels are found in old buildings, and does not necessarily have an elevator like in the case of Hotel Luciani. Don’t expect a first class treatment in a budget hotel. Remember always that you get what you pay for.
  • Always have a map.
I definitely enjoyed my trip despite being on a tight budget. I hope you do too! Rome is one big museum as others would say. You shouldn’t have to pay so much just to see the beauty of Rome. Appreciate the art. Appreciate the role of the Catholic Church in taking care of what’s left of Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Rome. The Church only wants to keep a record of the greatness of man — a record of man’s ability to create, which is a gift from his Creator.
Enjoy your trip! Worth emptying the pocket, I promise.
This post was written by Trish Castro.

A not-so-young Pinay at WYD 2011 in Madrid

I’m not within the prescribed age range of WYD participants, but they allow otherwise if they act as the group leader. Acting as group leader or not, I still joined my first WYD. Allow me to be illogical: It’s the best WYD that I’ve attended! What made it the best? All the pain that we experienced.

“Esta es la juventud del Papa! Esta es la juventud del Papa!”

The Jornada Mundial Juventud (JMJ) pilgrims in Madrid chant the words from the top of their lungs to the point of almost losing their voices. “This is the youth of the Pope!”  Indeed, the youth of the Pope is this: lively, enthusiastic, faithful, prayerful, and energetic long-haired rockstar-looking caucasians, slit-eyed Asians, dark-skinned Nigerians, sharp-jawed Iraqis, and ubiquitous Filipinos holding the Philippine, US, Abu Dhabi, and Canadian flags proudly. The youth loves the sweet Vicar of Christ on earth. 1.5 to 2 million youth from France, Italy, Spain and afar profess their faith along the streets and subways of Madrid — shamelessly and proudly, wearing their “cross” on their sleeve. This is reality — the reality of our faith, the reality of evangelization, the new evangelization.

My delegation, “Stella Orientis Choir”, at Zone E1 at Cuatro Vientos after the Closing Mass with the Pope.

“Benedicto! Benedicto!”

Pope Benedict XVI has always been portrayed as a strict and stern Pope. Ask the 1.5 to 2 million young pilgrims if that is true, and they will surely answer that he’s not. His facial expression when winds and rain battered the JMJ stage during the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos is priceless: ever smiling, almost looked like he’s enjoying the spontaneity that the phenomenon is bringing out in him! To the point that he was moved to say these unscripted words: “You (the youth) are stronger than the rains.”

Pope Benedict XVI bearing the winds for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament despite getting a “bad hair day.” 

Firmes en la fe.

“Strong in faith.” Faith is the greatest gift that God has given to man. Faith allows us to see God in others and exercise Charity. Faith allows us to speak about God unashamedly to others. Faith allows us to kneel down and pray to God, our creator, and father. Faith allows us to have Hope in the future. These are the reasons why our faith needs to be strong: firmly built up and planted in Jesus Christ, the source of Faith himself.

Vale la pena

Vale la pena. It’s worth the pain. The heat, the thirst, swollen feet, discomfort, and crowded metros are all worth the trouble to see and hear Benedicto speak. When he talked to us, we became almost blind-sided to his words and forgot all the miseries and discomfort that we were experiencing. We, the sincere JMJ pilgrims, only saw and heard the Pope as if we were on Mt. Tabor experiencing the transfiguration. “It is good to be here.” It was good to be in Madrid; the spiritual high was good to have and we all wish that it does not end. Thanks to the Pope for the gift of the crucifix that will help remind us of what happened in JMJ 2011 in Madrid, and that all the pain is worth it. Vale la pena.

JMJ 2011 – Not as perfect

I decided to add this last paragraph as an endnote to explain to those Filipino pilgrims who only had bad things to say about their experience in Madrid. Some of the comments are as follows:

  • “We were housed in a school almost an hour away from the JMJ venue.”
  • “Some of our things were stolen during the Vigil.”
  • “Why would they organize the WYD during the Spanish economic recession?”
  • “Communion was not distributed during the Closing Mass!”
  • “The adoration tents were destroyed!”

These comments, though factual, have a bratty connotation to them. When we participated and registered for the World Youth Day, we should have known that we were not going there for a vacation or to expect to see heaven. We will see heaven when we die; only then will we have great and perfect accommodations.

  • Theft during the vigil is expected. We cannot assure that every single “pilgrim” is 100% sinless. For all we know, like other thieves, people go to these crowded events to take advantage to precisely steal.
  • The World Youth Day is a spiritual event and income generating. If the pilgrims registered properly on the WYD website, they would have paid a fee and received food cheques amounting to almost 15 lunches and dinners at great restaurants and fast food chains, each cheque worth 6.50 Euros. Imagine all the 1.5M to 2M pilgrims spending this much in each restaurant. Food business is good! Not to mention the souvenir shops and malls that opened even on Sundays (malls are closed on Sundays in Spain) for the pilgrims.
  • Naturally, since the adoration tents were torn because of the strong winds and rains that night, the organizers were not able to keep the consecrated hosts the next day’s Mass. We were told to receive communion in any Church in Madrid — we didn’t have to wait for Mass to receive communion. We can simply knock on the Church door, and ask the priest to give us communion.
We were all pilgrims and sacrifice was key to making the WYD experience successful and fruitful. Besides, the Christian life is to be adorned with sacrifices so that when we reach the end, there is a stronger and greater appreciation of the consequence of Loving Sacrifice: heaven.
It’s not too late to change. It’s never too late to change. You can change now. Have faith in God, and in yourself. Vale la pena!
This post was written by Trish Castro.

Outing to Bato Springs (San Pablo, Laguna)

Note: This blog post is a review. If you’d like to post an inquiry for Bato Springs Resort, kindly send them an email at

Man-made waterfalls beside a pool
Man-made waterfalls beside a pool

I’ve been to many resorts in Laguna, but this one really stands out. Amidst the lush landscape of Bato Springs are pools that aren’t your usual tile-lined vats of chloroform–the walls are made of stone and the floors of cement, allowing them to blend into the surroundings as if they were natural springs. One refreshing feature is the presence of artificial waterfalls beside many of the pools. If only for aesthetics, the waterfalls already do a great job, but even more, they make swimming in the pool a much livelier experience as well. For those who aren’t so comfortable with such natural-looking pools, there is one tiled pool. It didn’t miss out on the special feature, though. A lovely artificial waterfall still enlivens one side of the pool.

Huts in Bato Springs

Taking a walk around Bato Springs is a real treat. It’s not your usual square-ish resort; the paths are winding and surrounded with lovely scenery. At times, you’ll get to cross some of the pools using a short footbridge (a la Gaugin) or big stones that rise above the water. You’ll also see the different types of huts and cottages that guests can rent. The cottages are your typical booth + table in the middle + nipa roof on top. The huts, which are of different sizes, are reminiscent of the kubo but with some obviously modern furnishings (metal roofing, cement ladders and posts, glass windows). I was also told that some venues had air conditioning.

I’d recommend Bato Springs for a family getaway. With its affordable fees and quaint facilities, all the members of your family will get a good rest in this resort in San Pablo.

Natural-looking pool
Who’d think that this is a pool?
A beautiful pool
Tiled pool with man-made waterfalls
Tiled pool with man-made waterfalls
A pavillion
A pavillion
Bridge over untroubled water
Bridge over untroubled water

For inquiries, please email batospringsresort(at) or post on their Facebook page.