World’s largest religious monument

Cambodia is always associated with Angkor Wat. It’s like bread and butter – you think of them together. Angkor Wat is a temple slash mausoleum that showcases classical Khmer architecture. It was built in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple, then later it became a Buddhist temple. So confusing! Although perhaps I shouldn’t be so confused. Some Christian churches in Europe were later turned into discotheques. 🙂   It was a French explorer in the mid-19th century who introduced the beauty of Angkor Wat to the west – after Cambodia was colonized by France. But it was a Portuguese monk who first wrote about it. The temple was built in 37 years. Beautiful structures that last for centuries take a long time to build. We were there December 2013. We stayed in Siem Reap, the capital city, which is the gateway to the Angkor region. Angkor is the old capital city which flourished in the 9th to 15th century. To see Angkor is to see numerous (about a thousand) temple ruins amidst a jungle.   It was sunny and very warm the whole time we were in Siem Reap. We had hats, fans and water. Walking in the heat of the sun was exhausting. I could hardly walk. We hired a guide who drove an airconditioned van for our family the week we were there. I remember that while in Cambodia, our guide kept saying that grandfather was so handsome. 🙂 Footnote: Here’s an article about Angkor Wat as a sacred... read more

Palacio Real and the scandals of Spanish royalty

Here’s Palacio Real de Madrid, or the Royal Palace of Madrid. It did not impress me. The royal family of Madrid does not live here. They live in in an oversized villa, La Zarazuela, on the outskirts of Madrid. As a tourist, the exterior of the palace in Madrid isn’t one of my favorites. Havings seen many palaces, this is not something that is really breath-taking. It has the same (boring) effect as the palaces in London and Berlin. They are just big, but has no charming character. So even though there was a very short queue to get in, we didn’t get enticed to get in. There’s more character in palaces in Versailles, Beijing and Bangkok. But the queues there are longer, too. Some tidbits about the new king of Spain:  Felipe VI, took over after his father’s abdication this year, 2014. The new king is only 46 years old and has two daughters with 42-year old wife Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, an award-winning tv journalist formerly with CNN. They king and queen married in 2004 at Almudena Cathedral, which is right beside the palace grounds. And speaking of royalty in Spain, there’s a lot of  scandal around the royal, specifically the old king who abdicated, Juan Carlos (who is said to be infamously philanderous and lives an excessively lavish lifestyle – when many spaniards are struggling after the recession), and his daughter Princess Cristina and son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin, the couple who are now corruption suspects. (My sources of information regarding the scandals are Metro newspaper, The Daily Beast, RTE News, and The Guardian.) Here are the articles: Princess Cristina in... read more

Don Quixote and sleeplessness

We passed by the statue of the lanky man whose sleeplessness due to excessive reading made him insane. Don Quixote. Don Quixote, one of the world’s most famous and influential literary works. It has been translated into so many languages – more than any book except the Bible. Don Quixote is not only about chivalry and insanity for me. It reminds me of having enough sleep. To sleep at least eight hours a day, so the much worked-up brain can relax. It is so easy to take the brains for granted. It’s the superman of the whole body which can work long after the other parts of the body have given up. But the brain gets exhausted, too. In our world of traumas and stress, the brain needs time to recover. And it does it at night. And it does when we don’t stress. And when we think of happy thoughts and avoid people and things that can make us feel depressed. There was a short queue to get near the statue of Don Quixote and his side-kick Sancho Panza. Tourists wanted to take pictures beside it. When it was our turn, my six-year old daughter ran under Sancho Panza’s donkey, and didn’t want to leave. She wanted shelter from the sun. I had to coax her to come out. Something about the Philippines is mentioned in the book – the Kingdom of Maynila – which was one of the three major city-states around Pasig River and is now the site of present-day Manila, according to Wikipeda. The statues are at the square Plaza de España, which has the monument to novelist Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra,... read more

Hang up your condoms

A Christmas tree with happy-looking condoms was one of the candidates for the best Christmas tree in Sigtuna 2014. For the past nine years, the hotell Stora Brännbo in Sigtuna has been holding a yearly christmas tree exhibit. I’ve seen and written about several of them. Some trees are unforgettable, like the one made entirely of dark chocolate, by chocolatier RC Chocolat – the chocolatier is now a nominee for the best coffee houses in Sweden at Fast Food Awards 2014. This year, many trees used recycled materials for decorations – such as bottle caps, tiny snaps glasses, silver spoons and gold-painted light bulbs. But my eyebrows raised when I saw glittering condoms hanging up a tree. Thankfully, those were not recycled. The condom-inspired christmas tree is created by the group Tjejjouren Idun, a young woman’s empowerment center in Sigtuna. Rachelle Charbachi explained the underlying message behind the condom tree: “We have chosen to design our Christmas tree with condoms in order to highlight the importance of using contraception to protect oneself against transmitted diseases as well a preventing unwanted pregnancies. Our tree is unconventional and carries an important message – the right of every human being to have a safe sex life and a free sexuality.” They didn’t win the contest. A golden tree by the Swedish bank, Swedbank, won instead. Nevertheless, the condom tree is unforgettable. Here are more pics plus the articles I wrote about the christmas tree exhibit and The Winner tree. Here are all the christmas trees at Stora... read more

About fun and auto-da-fé at Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the scene for different events like markets, shows, soccer games and bullfights. The same square was used in the past as a place for public execution (Hello Spanish inquisition!) Its function reminds me of the Roman amphitheaters. It’s amazing how people in the past could easily mix entertainment with gore. Or was it the lack of buildings (and morals) that there was no line dividing  fun and fear? Are inhuman forms of entertainment the “scary films” of the past? Well, well. I’ll end the gory part here and focus on the fun. It used to be a chaotic plaza with another name before its official construction in 1617. It was rebuilt many times due to enormous fires – which makes me wonder, were some fires caused by the burning of the heretics? For during the Spanish Inquisition, auto-da-fe by burning at the stake was imposed on accused heretics, which were mainly new Christians, who converted from Judaism and Islam (and not just “witches”, as I first thought). Now I am talking gore again. Back to the lighter part. There were many people in the square when we visited the place twice. We ate dinner at one of the restaurants at the Plaza. The food was so-so (like a lot of restaurants serving tourists in Europe) but we liked watching people pass by. There was even an impromptu show, when a singer showed up with his chair and guitar, and started playing. After dinner, we got caught up by a funny clown show (picture at the top). It was after this show that I bumped into friendly strangers, kabayans, Filipinos living... read more

Delighted to see Bosch’s garden

The main reason for us to see Museo del Prado in Madrid was to see painter Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” For me, this triptych is twice worth more seeing than Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”. Don’t get me wrong, of course I am charmed by Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile. But the winding queue to Louvre in Paris plus the long queue to see Mona Lisa were bad enough. And then being close to her, seeing how small the painting is, and that she’s all that I see – dominating the whole artwork. I remember my reaction was: “Is this it? And that’s it?”. Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world. But The Garden of Earthly Delights is doubly delightful to see. It’s huge with three sections, and there are so many details, so many stories to fantasize about each character. Further, the queue was shorter! Even my six-year old daughter took time observing all three sections of the painting. The name of the game was “I spy devils.” Museo del Prado is a Spanish national art museum which houses one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the 12th to 19th century. We enjoyed seeing the works of Goya, El Greco and Bosch. Hubby was so impressed with El Greco’s details on facial expression. I liked Goya’s depiction of the “The Third of May 1808” – because of the portrayal of the horrors of war. It was about the Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies. There is a café inside, and I enjoyed the museum store. I bought a stuffed toy – Prado’s mascot... read more

In the heart of Madrid

  We stayed in the heart of Madrid, at a four-star hotel called Hotel Intur Palacio San Martin. And these are what I liked with the hotel: 1. Its location. It’s very near two metro stations, a huge department store called El Corte Ingles, and many other shopping stores. It is after all very near Gran via.  It is also quite near Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. 2. Its aesthetic competence. The building looks like an old palace, but it has modern facilities and high ceilings (I like high ceilings). 3. Our room has its own balcony. We loved staying here in the morning and late afternoon to observe people as they walked down the... read more

Shopping in Madrid

I like it flamboyant, so my eyes were set on Desigual, of course. Other Spanish brands I was also interested in are Mango and Zara. Other Spanish brands which I got acquainted with were Pull & Bear, Stradivarius and Massimo Dutti. When it comes to bags there are names like Tous and Loewe. But I fell for Bimba y Lola. I spotted a store at a factory outlet called “The Style” in Las Rozas in Madrid. I didn’t really know about Bimba y Lola, but my husband noticed the hysteria among women who gathered in the store that announced a big sale on its windows. I was curious about what these ladies were going crazy about. So I asked: what is Bimba y Lola? One answered: “It’s something new and popular and fashionable. And expensive! You can’t get the same prices in department stores in the city.” So I took a green bag worth 150 euro. Our hotel is located near the opera house and lies within a shopping area, but besides shopping and window shopping in the city, we decided to go to “The Style” in Las Rozas. It took an hour – one way – by subway/train. From the station we walked some thousand meters in the middle of a hot day to the factory outlet. And we had shopping galore. And oh, did I mention that my daughter bought small icons from a religios shop, too? The tiny icons are for my... read more

The way of prostitutes

Calle Gran Via – that’s an upscale shopping area in Madrid where even fake Louis Vuitton bags  and prostitutes are openly sold. When I was in Nice, France (March 2014), I wondered how in the world could so many ladies own Louis Vuitton bags? Did all these women buy at super discount? Heirlooms perhaps? Or did they buy fake LV:s on the internet? There are Louis Vuitton stores in Nice, so I assumed that there were either many rich women, or that many women bought their bags during the stores’ big sale. Even in Sweden, lots of women carried such, young women with tote bags. In Madrid, July 2014, I saw an alternative answer. I saw LVs – or what looked like very good copies of Louis Vuittons – out in the streets, even in what is called the Spanish broadway, Gran Via. I remember passing through Gran Via, admiring particularly the huge H&M department store, but as I turned my head towards the opposite direction, I noticed an immigrant with a blanket spread on the ground, on which he placed his wares – Louis Vuitton bags that looked authentic (except perhaps at closer inspection – but I was embarrassed to come near the bags and stare.) And he was not the only LV-businessman I saw, there were several of them stationed at different streets. Some people living in Madrid explained to me that these “businessmen” moved from street to street. When policemen came to threaten to arrest them, they would gather their wares fast in the blanket and run. There were never any arrests. One late evening we saw a little commotion – a group of... read more

Afternoon lunch, late night dinner

Breakfast at 10 am, lunch at 2 pm and dinner late in the evening. That’s how eating is timed in Madrid.  We changed our sleeping and eating habits on the week we visited Madrid. Meaning: we started sleeping late to wake up late for breakfast. So very un-swedish. The first day was a surprise to us. I remember that to save money we decided to go for brunch. But when we got to a terrace restaurant, there was no brunch, simply breakfast at past 10 am. There were churros – fried Spanish fritters dipped in warm chocolate. I could not have this for breakfast? Those for me were snacks! So I went for jamon, or ham. Lunch was not available at noon at the restaurants we visited. So we ate lunch after 2 pm. Later in the afternoon, many stores were closed. We heard that Madrid had long lunch breaks, which could be accompanied by siesta. To kill time and avoid the hottest hours of the day, we took siesta ourselves. In the evening, dinner started at around 8 pm – when office hours ended. This was a time when Madrid came alive. People went out dining or taking walks until midnight! Reminds me of Filipino nightlife. We learned from that first day and adjusted fast to the Madrileño eating customs. During our weeklong stay we ate a lot of churros, paellas, jamon and tapas. We saw the label, Jamon Iberico, a lot. But it didn’t mean much to us because our family hardly eats red meat. But then I read in Wiki that a certain Jamon Iberico de bellota is said... read more

Looked back into catholic roots

Spain is the reason that the Philippines is predominantly Catholic. Ironically, Spain has become less religious since the last two decades, while the Philippines still holds on to its religious beliefs. I was baptised and raised Catholic, went to private Catholic schools until I was 16. So of course, even if I had seen so many catholic churches in my life, I would like to see the churches in the country that introduced us catholicism. When we were in Madrid, we visited three famous ones: Almudena Cathedral (Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Almudena), the basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (San Francisco el Grande) and Jerome Royal Church (San Jeronimo el Real). The Almudena Cathedral houses the image of the patroness of Madrid, the Virgin of Almudena, which is the medieval icon of Mary. Its contruction started in 1879 and ended 1993 – with a long pause in between. In 2004, the wedding of the then crown prince of Spain, Felipe VI, took place there. He became king this year, 2014, after the abdication of his father. Beside the Almudena Cathedral is the royal palace. Near the Almudena Cathedral is the Royal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Its dome is larger than the one on Saint Paul’s Cathedral (not that I care so much about dome sizes).  It is a part of a convent that was founded in the 1300s. Saint Francis was a preacher who was never really ordained in Catholic priesthood, but became a very important religious catholic figure. He started the Franciscan order, a group of monks that lead a money-free lifestyle. When it comes to... read more

On the rooftop

When you’re in Madrid, look up. There are many rooftops worth seeing. In Paris we visited lots of outdoor cafés – in Madrid, we headed for the rooftops for brunch, snacks and cocktails. We were at Terraza Cibeles near Plaza de Cibeles and the rooftop of Bellas Artes Center (Circle of Fine Arts). The pictures in this blog entry were taken at the latter.   We were in Madrid in July 2014 and it was very hot. But it felt breezy on the rooftops, which had mist coolant spray systems that cooled the air. If you ever happen to choose Bellas Artes Center, make sure to have cash – to enter the building, you’ve got to pay cash. There are several rooftop terraces to choose from. Check these blogs: http://blog.esmadrid.com/blog/en/2013/07/12/rooftops-with-a-view/ http://inmadrid.org/the-best-terrace-bars-in-madrid/ http://www.nakedmadrid.com/2014/04/20/madrids-best-rooftop-bars-round-2/ Sarimanok about Lounging in a terrace... read more

NK and its Christmas window

Every year, the high-end department store NK in Stockholm opens a Christmas window display. People, especially families with children, come to see it. There are four or five big windows, showing moving elves in different settings. It was crowded when we came to see it, but my height (for once!) gave an advantage. I am short, so my daughter and I easily navigated around long Swedish legs. And people hardly noticed or cared that I passed through because they could see things over my head anyway – my shortness didn’t block the view. 🙂 NK, or the Nordic Company, is the counterpart of Rustan’s in Makati or Harrods in London. It has been around since 1902. This window display tradition reminds me of a now-dead tradition in Quezon City, Philippines: a Christmas show on the rooftop of the deparment store COD. My aunt and uncle  used to bring us there annually. I loved each and every show. It’s a childhood memory that will never fade. Thanks Tatit and Manscar.... read more

Christmas calendar – a Swedish tradition

The christmas calendar is a Swedish tradition. The most popular ones are those produced by Sveriges Radio (SR) and Sveriges Television (SVT). So there’s the radio program, and the tv-program, which have entirely different stories, and they also have their own illustrations. It’s an honor for those bestowed the assignment of creating them. Every day, kids listen to the radio program and watch the tv-series and open boxes in the illustrations. SR:s julkalender started in the 1950’s while SVT:s first julkalender was broadcast in 1960. Swedish kids are crazy about them. We were always away in December so we hardly engaged ourselves. But this year, we are home in Sweden so we are definitely going to follow them loyally. We started this December 1, with SR:s julkalender – my daughter woke up at 7 am without protest. In the evening we checked out SVT:s version. I am also enthusiastic because I interviewed the illustrator of the radio christmas calendar, Anna Westin. (Here’s the article in Sigtunabygden and Upsala Nya Tidning). The name of SR:s program is “High Tower”, and its setting is Mårsta, which is inspired by the district called Märsta in the municipality of Sigtuna. The picture above is Anna Westin’s illustration of “High Tower”. I also interviewed Sofie Forsman, one of those who wrote the manuscript for the tv christmas calendar program, “Piratskattens hemlighet”. (Here’s the article in Sigtunabygden and Upsala Nya Tidning). Both of them came from the municipality of Sigtuna, which I cover for our newspaper. We’ll see which is more exciting between the two christmas calendars. I can pass judgement at the end of the programs before... read more

“Madrid smells like Manila, mama”

The morning we woke up after arrival in Madrid in Spain, my six-year old opened the balcony door at our hotel room and said, “Madrid smells like Manila, mama.” Coming to Madrid was almost like coming to Manila, according to her. The smell of traffic and sweat and the sound of people chattering and cars honking. Madrid was crowded and lively, just like Manila. And we liked that Madrileños dined out until late at night. But besides that, it is noticeable that Spain has influenced the Philippines, particularly Manila and Cebu, in many ways. The names of streets, the churches, the food. Philippines had been after all a Spanish colony for hundreds of years. I don’t like that we were a Spanish colony. Our colonizers in the past were mean to us. Our colonizers are the reason why we still suffer from colonial mentality – when we think that westerners – with their fairer skin – are much much better than we are. The kind of thinking that kills one’s self-esteem. But well, all is in the dark past now. What matters is believing in ourselves, and giving up the slave mentality — although for many, it is easier said than done. *** There were many Filipinos in Madrid, too: well-off students, service-oriented restaurant employees and English-speaking nannies. We bumped into students in some tourist sites. And sat on benches in parks with nannies who were out with kids. And we were served by friendly Pinay waitresses. It was nice to meet a lot of kababayan and speak Filipino with... read more

Retiro – a pleasant retreat

The Buen Retiro Park literally means “park of the pleasant retreat” – and it lives up to its name. The park belonged to the Spanish monarchy, but in the late 19th century, it became a public park. Thank goodness, because the public deserves this pleasant retreat! It’s large,  1,4 square kilometers. We walked a lot there, rowed a boat, took afternoon snacks on a grassy area, saw an art exhibit, sat on a rocking chair in a sauna-hot crystal palace – and we just saw an iota of this huge park. We should’ve been there the whole afternoon, or the whole day, if we had time. Two-three hours in the park were not enough since our kid loved the area – and we did, too. Buen Retiro Park was the favorite park in Madrid of our Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal. So when he was exiled in Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte, he called the place of his exile “Mi Retiro.” For Filipinos who want to visit places in Madrid that are associated with Rizal, there’s a homepage of the Philippine Embassy there. Here’s the link:  http://www.philembassymadrid.com/rizals-madrid I was in love with Rizal when I was teenager. 😉 It was he who inspired me to write. To be proud to be a Filipino. And to explore the... read more

Lounging near a monument

There’s no point in just taking pictures of Plaza de Cibeles. I want to enjoy it! Plaza de Cibeles was formerly called Plaza de Madrid – an easier name to remember – but the politicians probably had the need to complicate the name and thereby changed it. It’s now a symbolic monument and tourists flock this place like mad. Some even run and cross the round-about to get better pictures –  even though there are no pedestrian lanes. My hubby is one of these madmen. When we were there, I noticed that people just took shots of the buildings and the round-about, and then left. Uh-uh, that’s not good enough for me. I didn’t come all the way to this street just to take snapshots and go. I had to enjoy place. There’s a palace there housing among others a nice coffee shop and a terrace bar. So we went for these. (Take note: opening hours for the terrace bar is limited, so check it before going there). We were in the palace several times because we liked the terrace bar, Terraza Cibeles. We were at the terrace at noon, and we were the only guests, until a group of executives in black suits came. My daughter loved the mist that sprayed now and then to keep the air cool. I expressed my appreciation to the music being played, and it so happened that the waiter was the brother of the dj who mixed the lounge music. So I got a free cd of the music! How generous! We were also back there one evening, but then it took some time to find a... read more

Ponderosa at our leisure

Ponderosa Leisure Farms in Silang, Cavite is a gated community. To enter, one has to either own a property there – or know somebody who does. Every time we come home to the Philippines, we visit Ponderosa. It’s almost like part of the pilgrimage back to homeland. And the wonderful part is, the whole family is there, plus the cousins, too. We often stay half a day and just laze and eat. My daughter loves this place. There’s a nice swimming area, playground, eating area, picnic area and Japanese- inspired park. People don’t come in the clubhouse during the weekdays, so that’s when we come, to monopolize the whole swimming area. My mother plans to stay there in her older years. But right now, she still enjoys our noisy crowded street in Guadalupe. We have many good neighbors in Guadalupe – and that gives a sense of security in itself – even if not is not... read more

Feeling the Sea Wind

We stayed at an old hotel called Sea Wind Resort when we were in Boracay. The service given to us was superb. Hospitality at its best. The staffers took care of us the best way they could. The resort is big, so it is split into two: the seaside, and the greener forest side. The seaside was full, so we took the other area. It’s nice here, too. There’s a pool and the houses are nice with Filipiniana theme. But in the evening, it gets dark (it doesn’t have much light plus there are so many trees and bushes) that it scared me. It felt spooky, even in our room – so I had the lights turned on the whole time. Otherwise, the whole stay was good. Hilot-massage in the room or at the beach every day. Hilot is a traditional Filipino massage. And a huge buffet breakfast near the beach. There was not one boring moment on Boracay because the island offers different activities. Check my link about Boracay to see what I tried  and... read more

Parasailing made me feel for throwing up

I almost threw up on my sister as we parasailed. I swear this was one of the longest 30 minutes of my life.  A colorful parachute, a good view of Boracay’s white shoreline, to be up, up in the air. I mean, who would say no to this experience? So I said I’d take the chance. Hubby and his brother didn’t like the idea. And my sister, well, she was forced to come along because of me. We left early morning, skipping breakfast (as per instruction). We had our guide taking us on a boat that was exclusively for my sister and me, and there was a staff of around six men to assist us. It felt safe. But then I felt for backing out at the last minute, but it was too late, because the parachute whisked us away up into the skies. Now I know how it feels to be…a kite. We were rocking back and forth and sideways because it was windy that day. And by God I felt my stomach turning. “I am going to throw up!” I warned my sister. She gave me the angry Garfield look. “You are aware that the wind blows much my way?” she said with an even tone. If I threw up, she’d pretty much get a splatter of last night’s dinner on her somehow. I tried to shout and signal them to let us down, but we were too far up to be understood. And the wind was somehow loud. At that point I wished I had a plastic bag to throw up into. I did my best to... read more

Fire dancers warmed the night

I burned for the fire dancers on the island Boracay in the Philippines.  But ironically, prior to the show, I actually underestimated them. Something like: it didn’t matter if I saw the fire dance show or not. But it mattered, after what I saw! These dancers were not just “Oh, look at me, I’m sexy”. I mean, Philippines is unfortunately known for that kind of sexy shows. But these dancers that we saw were not that type of performers. They danced – not to seduce – but to impress. They danced seriously, professionally, and with fire. As the numbers got harder, I was almost praying that they wouldn’t hurt themselves. And what a stage. It was on the beach, under the stars. with the waves in the background. Nightlife on Boracay is wonderful. Restaurants lined the beach, we ate and drank al fresco, with the moon and skies as our ceiling and the sand as our floor. And how the lobsters tempted... read more

Helmet diving in Boracay

Helmet diving is walking on the ocean floor, around ten feet below water surface. I tried scuba diving once, and I am not a fan. So I didn’t try helmet diving. Hubby did. He didn’t need a wet suit, all he had to put on was a helmet with a long hose that is attached to an air compressor. The helmet was heavy. But then it felt a little lighter under water, and hubby was entertained seeing fishes swimming around him – for 15 minutes. That was how long helmet diving was. To helmet dive, we had to take a boat ride to the diving site. Was it worth it? Hubby said it was ok to try, but he would not do it again. There are many pictures of helmet diving under water in the internet. The picture above is a picture of how it looked from our standpoint on the boat – as we saw hubby walking on the ocean floor.... read more

Tiny island life on Crystal Cove

 I would have liked to stay longer at Crystal Cove in Boracay, Philippines. It’s a tiny island worth enjoying more. We took a 15-minute boat ride from Boracay to Crystal Cove. There was an entrance fee of I think 200 pesos to set foot on the island. The island is small, roughly two hectares, so we were able to walk around the island with our guide and checked every nook and cranny. We saw the island’s two caves, in which the sea waves flushed into. I had to hold onto a rope – that was attached to a rock in the cave – to keep my tiny self from being flushed out back into the deep sea. There were picnic areas and viewpoints. Half a day (or less) was actually enough to explore the island. I wish we stayed longer though – at least enough time to eat lunch and have siesta there. I think a lazy afternoon on Crystal Cove would have been very memorable. Just feeling the sea breeze, seeing my daughter run on the grassy picnic area, enjoying a good grilled fish. Oh, quiet island life!... read more

On chocolate hills

In the picture above, these thousand hills are green. But when the grass dries up, they turn brown like mounds of chocolates. I saw the Chocolate Hills in Bohol for the very first time in old family pictures. My mother and aunt were there as young women, posing happily in the 1970’s. Since then, the Chocolate Hills was in my list of places to see. It took many years until I set foot on Bohol. I’ve been to other countries and places, but I came to Bohol when I was 40. It was a childhood dream come true. My new dream regarding Chocolate Hills? I would actually like to stay a day or two in a nipa hut on the foot, or atop, one of these hills. With my family. And hopefully some friends in Bohol coming over. Like my professor friend Alfredo. Some of the hills were damaged after the earthquake of 2013. But I will always remember the Chocolate Hills as simply perfect.... read more

Flowers in the menu

We ate lots of flowers in Bohol Bee Farm. Dozens of it.  Healthy lunch was what we were after when we visited Bohol Bee Farm, which is located atop a cliff on Panglao Island in Bohol. We ordered seafood, brown rice, spaghetti made of coconut flesh, and lots and lots of flowers. More about Bohol Bee farm in this Wikipilipinas link.  And more pics and blog entries about Bohol in my Sarimanok... read more

Tarsiers up close

While in Bohol, we visited some tarsiers. It’s one of the most endangered primates in the world. Before, tarsiers were spread in Europe, Asia and North America, but now they are restricted in just some islands in Southeast Asia like Sulawesi and Sumatra (both in Indonesia), Borneo (Brunei and Malaysia) and the Philippines. They are tiny, just slightly bigger than my fist. And they have a very keen sense of hearing. I’ve heard that the Philippine tarsiers are also loners and extremely shy. We were not allowed to touch them. We’re happy with that condition. We’re happy enough to have seen them up close. For more pics from Bohol, check out my blog... read more

Serenade on Loboc River

Cruising on Loboc River in Bohol was sweet.  The boat was big enough for many customers, but my sister preferred to have the whole boat on our own. It was actually a good idea, because we danced without feeling shy in front of the singer/guitarist who played us songs. It was breezy that day and the world looked so green. We were served lunch, with coconut juice, seaweed salad and fried chicken and rice on banana leaf plates, among others. A group of local students also performed traditional dance and songs for us when we passed by their side of the river bank. I liked that day very much. We were shown Filipino hospitality at its... read more

Friendly caterpillars at the Butterfly farm

We had a nice stroll around the butterfly farm in Bohol. But what Tuwa liked most was touching a caterpillar – for the first time.  I felt squirmish, so my cousin, a doctor, showed Tuwa how to hold the little... read more

A day with dolphins and sea urchins

Tuwa was two years old when she saw dolphins swimming in the sea for the first time. We were in Bohol. It was a wonderful sight, to watch dolphins swim. It was worth waking up at dawn for and traveling two hours by a small boat. I am far sighted, so I was also quite good at spotting them from a distance and yelling to our boatmen: “Dolphins!” and pointing my whole arm to the direction, so we could follow them. People say that kids can hardly remember trips, ergo no sense in tagging them along. But Tuwa remembers this trip even now. She wants to come back to Bohol. After whale watching, we went to a long and narrow sandbar, or shoal – right in the middle of the sea – and ate sea urchins raw, before traveling another two hours to get back to our hotel, Amarela resort. Here’s my blog link to... read more

The White Beach of Boracay

Boracay is one of the world’s best island destinations and has one of the world’s best beaches, according to Swedish tabloid Expressen. All because of the white, smooth sand, torquise blue water and there are so many activities. All very cheap, too, according to the article. Swedes have been looking for an alternative to Thailand, which has become quite “average”. The journalist ends his article: It gives a feeling of being inside a postcard – but for real. The article was written January 2014. Here’s the link to the article. And here were activities our family did. (Many of the activities below are linked to my blog entries) 1. Snorkelling 2. Quad biking 3. A boat ride to Crystal Cove 4. Eating a lot and sitting on a hammock 5. Massage 6. Parasailing 7. Helmet diving 8. Dune buggy 9. Night life 10. Shopping We stayed at Sea Wind Resort during our Boracay visit in October... read more

Quad biking in Boracay

We went quad biking in Boracay, Philippines. It was quite fun, but I don’t think I’d like to do it again. I suppose that All-terrain vehicle, ATV, is a streetlegal vehicle in Boracay, because many of  us were quad biking alongside tricycles and jeepneys when we were there. My sister and I quad biked for two hours, while hubby and his brother rode a dune buggy with our then two-year old daughter. We stopped by at an aviary and Ocean Tower, the highest point in Boracay with a 360 degrees view of the island. Ocean Tower is a roof bar/restaurant, so it was refreshing to drink and find shelter from the sun – after driving around in the middle of the day, breathing in exhaust gas. My body felt battered after driving. I didn’t like driving alongside jeeps in narrow roads. And the sun burned me sore and crispy brown. My face felt sandy, too. But sure, it was fun to experience it for the first time. But I am not quad biking in the street... read more

Fainted on Antonio’s floor

Anotonio’s in Tagaytay is a fine restaurant that serves expensive breakfast. It’s elegant and squeaky clean – the best place to faint 🙂 It feels exclusive – we were the only customers the time we visited. Or perhaps we were just the first to come that morning. Since I knew it was going to be an expensive restaurant, I did not eat breakfast prior to the visit, even if my mom told me to eat something light. I should have listened, because it took some time to get to Antonio’s in Tagaytay  from Makati. Preparing our order took also some time. While waiting, I suddenly felt dizzy due to hunger. I was back then breastfeeding my kid, and I needed food and energy fast! I was so hungry and dizzy – and it was also very hot that day – that I collapsed twice. The first time was in the washroom – thank goodness, the toilet was squeaky clean, almost as pretty as a bedroom. My aunt was there to assist me. The second time was in the hall, near the entrance, which also has a very clean floor. We were on our way back from the washroom to our table, when I felt weak and sprawled on the floor with the waitresses and my aunt assisting me. The owner of the restaurant was also there and asked us how we were. After a drink of juice, I found energy to rise. As I sat at our table, another guest came in. A VIP – basing on the helicopter that landed on the helipad where he came from, followed by an entourage. The bill... read more

In the garden of Amarela

Beach, garden, art – we loved these at Amarela Resort in Panglao, Bohol. But I was so scared of the tokay geckos! We were well taken care of at the hotel, which is set on a slope near the beach, with the views of Bohol Sea. I liked eating at its terrace restaurant. And it has an art gallery showing paintings, sculpture and woodwork by local artists. There’s an infinity pool, huge garden, access to the beach. The only thing I didn’t like was that there were so many tokay geckos crawling and hanging on the walls – live ones (not wooden wall decors!). I’ve never seen so many in my life – and I respect their right to live – but I don’t like them near me. We were in Bohol in October 2010. So we were able to see the Chocolate hills and the centuries old Loboc Church, before the devastating earthquake that struck Bohol in October 2013. Other places and experiences while we were in Bohol: 1. Dolphin watching 2. Ate sea urchins at a sand bar 3. Butterfly Garden 4. Loboc river cruise 5. Tarsier encounter 6. Bohol bee farm 7.Chocolate Hills 8. Firefly river cruise in the night! (This night cruise was exciting because it was dark and quiet in the river. And then we saw fireflies in trees. It was a beautiful sight. Magical. And natural. Alas my night pictures weren’t so successful.) 9. Baclayon Church 10. Loboc Church  ... read more

Pets’ day at a home for the aged

The day’s assignment was to visit Ärlinghems äldreboende, a home for the aged. They  celebrated “Day for pets”. There were heavy North Swedish horses, large Brahma chickens, a 180-centimeter-long boa constrictor and rose hair tarantula, among others. Celebrity animal expert Jonas Wahlström from Skansen was also there. The kids loved it! And the elderly watched happily as kids goofed around. My six-year old daughter tagged along. It was her first time to touch a boa constrictor, and I was delighted for her sake. As I watched the commotion, I felt really happy for the elderly. I wish we have something like this in my country. For the article I wrote in our newspaper, Sigtunabygden,... read more

Paifang – symbol for Chinatowns

Behind this paifang in Wangfujing is a wonderful shopping world with red lanterns, narrow alleys, and shops with thousands of things to buy cheap. Paifang is an architectural gating style, according to wiki. Like an arch. Outside China, paifangs are the symbol for chinatowns. Have you ever seen a chinatown without paifangs? Then let me know.... read more

Starfish snack at Wangfujing

Wangfujing in Beijing is a nightmarket where there are many shops with traditional Chinese stuffs like bracelets, shoes, bags, among others. There are also malls and high-end stores in the same area. And if you get hungry, there are snacks here, albeit hard to eat, like raw scorpions, fried starfish, snakes, centipedes, and the like. I tried a starfish, but I could only eat half an arm. It felt like chewing a handful of sand. Read about the experience here. It was in this area that we were almost fooled at a store. It was bad enough that the storekeepers tried to shortchange us, they even tried to scare us by being aggressive and shouted at us. We were not scared. We knew we were right. Read more here. But generally, the shopping experience was fun.... read more

Where the last Ming emperor hanged himself

We didn’t know much about the Jingshan park, except that if offered a huge garden, so we went in. Then we noticed how people flocked under a tree. We found out that it was the hanging tree – from which the last Ming emperor, Chongzen, committed suicide, after the peasants stormed the Forbidden City in 1644. The leader of the peasants, Li Zicheng, then started  a new dynasty that didn’t last very long. The original hanging tree, a pagoda tree, was actually uprooted during the Cultural Revolution. So the one that is so famous now is actually a replacement. The tree is also called the Guilty Chinese Scholartree. Jingshan park is a good spot to take photos of the yellow-roofed buildings in the Forbidden City. It’s just across the Imperial Palace. The park was once attached to the ground of the palace and was a private garden. The picture above is taken from the hill with the good view of the Imperial City. It’s also a place where tourists can wear costumes and have their pictures... read more

Temple for heaven worship

I didn’t know that there was a religion called Heaven worship until I came to Beijing. The Temple of Heaven was the sacrificial temple where the emperor – also called Son of Heaven (and therefore a mediator to the heavens) – offered prayers and animals annually in the past for a good... read more

How some tried to scam us in China

Some tried to scam us while we were in Beijing, China. Here’s what happened: 1. Friendly “artists” and “art students” approached us and invited us to see galleries with them. It was exactly what the book Topp 10 Peking warned about. Such could end up with us getting fooled into buying overpriced art pieces. So we said no. 2. We were even invited to tag along to a gallery at a backstreet late in the evening. Following a stranger in a backstreet? No way. 3. Hubby was invited by some female students to go to a coffee shop. According to Topp 10 Peking, this could end up with the tourist buying overpriced food. And no, hubby didn’t go with the ladies. 4. Some salesladies were aggressive, even blocking me from coming out of their shops. All the more I refused to buy. According to our guide, aggression is part of the selling strategy, so the customer feels stupid or sorry or intimated to be forced to buy. 5. I generally refuse to buy products in stores that have no price tags. Because I am not good at haggling. 6. And even if there were price tags, calculate well, because when we were at a small-scale grocery store in Wangfujing, the storekeeper added it up more than double. When we mentioned it to the storekeeper, he got mad. Even his assistant was angry, and shouted, trying to scare us. But we knew we were right, and that in China, the government is fair towards tourists so we demanded a correct count. When they shouted aggressively, we returned some of the stuffs and... read more

Sights and experiences in Beijing

No city has exhausted my strength as Beijing did. Even taking the subway is hard work. Everything is so big, and everywhere you turn there are people. So we took the taxi a lot of times, and even hired a van with a driver and guide. The taxi drivers are often honest and used the meter. I appreciate that. We always tip honest drivers. But in Beijing, people get surprised and refuse to accept tips. Very unlike our trip in America, where tips were very much expected. Little tidbit to remind me: Beijing is both modern and very old. It’s one of the ancient capitals of the country, with age 3000 years old. Beijing, also called Peking, is the capital of China and is the second biggest city (over 21 million people) in the country after Shanghai. My daughter and I stayed here eight days. My hubby even longer because of work. Interesting sights and eperiences for me were the following: 1. The Forbidden City 2. The Great Wall 3. The Summer Palace (where the Kunming Lake and Marble Boat are) 4. Tiananmen Square  5. Temple of Heaven 6. Hutong 7. Jingshan Park 8. Living in a siheyuan 9. Wangfujing food market 10. Houhai lake 11. Peking duck at one of Beijing’s best restaurants 12. Hotpot dinner 13. Guzheng concert 13. Mid-Autumn festival   Now some tried to scam us, too. Read this link to see what happened.  ... read more

The wooden Marble boat

It’s not a boat, but a pavilion. And it’s not made of marble, but of wood that is painted to imitate marble. Before we found that out, we had been curious as to what a marble boat would look like. So we combed the Summer Palace to find it. We followed the end of the Long Corridor, at the quieter end of Kunming Lake to find it. It is a lovely... read more

The square that has room for a million

There’s really not much to do here, but sit and stand and look around. We could easily have skipped it, but we just had to see the world’s largest public square. During the Cultural revolution, up to a million of people would pack here to listen to speeches. That’s how big the square is. Modern China was born here, according to Lonely Planet. In 1919 students demonstrated in the square crying for less corrupt government, and boosted nationalist sentiment. Thus started the civil war, communists versus nationalists. The communists won in 1949 and Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China from atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace. The square is also known for the protest in 1989, which ended in the death of many... read more

Pedalling boats at Kunming Lake

In sunshine, the roofs in the Summer Palace were a blaze of gold. Yellow roofs were for royal palaces. Green for the princes.  And grey  for other people. I took this picture from one of the highest points in the palace, overlooking Kunming Lake, where we earlier tired ourselves pedalling a boat.  ... read more

“Can we take a picture of you?”

Many Beijingers asked us for our pictures. The first time I was asked, I refused. I was afraid – what would they do with my picture? The girl said I was very beautiful. Later on we noticed how people stared at my family – they observed how we ate or walked. And some dared approach us to ask for pictures with them. We started letting them, hoping that the pictures would not be used in a bad way. But the people we allowed, we also took pictures of. They seemed very nice and friendly. The guy above is the friendly waiter at a nice restaurant near the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park. The same requests for pictures happened to us in Macau and... read more

Peking duck at century-old Quanjude

We ate Peking duck number 107 772 at the popular Quanjude restaurant in Beijing. A trip to Beijing would not be complete without tasting the famous peking duck so we specifically asked the hotel receptionist about the best restaurant in town. Quanjude is 140 years old and is one of the two best peking duck restaurants in Beijing. The other restaurant, Bianyifang, is even older. There is no booking system, so the wait is quite long. But there is a waiting hall with chairs. When we finally got in the dining hall, there was an ongoing show with different numbers showcasing Chinese culture. The taste of the Peking duck was very good. . We didn’t know how to eat it, but the waitress showed us. It’s eaten with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce, wrapped with thin pancake. Peking ducks have been served since the 1300s. It’se been developed though after the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, the Ming... read more

Stuck in a duck

We got stuck in a duck in Houhai lake in Beijing. Since there were men swimming around we thought that we could probably shout at some for help. But after some time, the motor started again. Around Houhai lake is fun. There are lively bars and restaurants that turn colorful at night. We enjoyed walking around the hutongs here. We also found a great restaurant, Quanjude, that offers Peking duck and performances featuring Chinese culture. The queue in the restaurant is long but they have a waiting area with... read more

Emperors’ resting place

After visiting the Great Wall of China, we headed towards the resting place for 13 of the 16 Ming emperors. The Ming Tombs is Beijing’s answer to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, according to Lonely Planet. The pictures I am showing are within the huge complex. What to see here? There is the 7 kilometer-long Spirit Way, which is lined with statues of animals and court houses. Then there are huge courtyards and structures. The actual place where the emperors are buried are under huge mounds – like the Viking burial mounds. Underground, the emperors’s possessions, concubines and servants were buried with him, according to our guide.... read more

Wandered in hutongs

Hutongs are narrow alleys formed by rows of siheyuans. While in Beijing we lived in a siheyuan at Courtyard 7, which is located in a hutong that was some 800 years old, according to the hotel manager. I loved the nightlife of commercial hutongs. Shops and food stores were open until ten, even up till eleven in the evening. People wandered around – probably because it was a holiday, the Mid-autumn festival. I liked wandering in the evening more than daytime because is was cooler and there were less people. We did our last minute shopping along the ancient hutongs. Hutongs were built during the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. There used to be 6000 hutongs in Beijing, but the number has dwindled to a thousand because many were demolished during the period of Republic of China in the early 1900s. Bigger roads were built instead, and siheyuans were replaced by apartment blocks.The few hutongs and siheyuans that are left are now protected to preserve Chinese culture. Many hutongs are also residential areas. We wandered around some and were surprised by their oddity and chaos. Many are in poor condition. Hutongs and hotpot have one thing in common: both came from the... read more

The world’s longest cemetery

The Great Wall of China is the world’s longest cemetery, according to our guide Jessie. Many builders and soldiers died here. The Great Wall is a series of forts built to protect the Chinese empire from foreign invasion. The earliest sections were built 700 years before Christ. Then it took several centuries before word about this wall spread. The Arabs heard about it in the 14th century, then the Europeans in the 16th century. Now everybody knows about it. According to Jessie, men in the past – especially when the Mongols threatened to invade the Chinese empire – were forced to choose between becoming a soldier or a wall-builder. I thought at first that it was easier to build a wall. But then when we started our ascent in the fort on a hot sunny day, I swore I would never have chosen to work with the wall! I let hubby walk by himself for an hour. The guide, Tuwa and I watched him as he paced up the wall. We waited at a roofed tower, enjoying the breeze and sight and watching people sweat and struggle. We were at the Mutianyu section of the wall.  There is a newly built tourist center somewhere at the foot, where there are modern restaurants, shops and toilet facilities. I did not buy at the shops. I found the selling strategy too aggressive. Here’s our experience on how some people tried to fool us. To get to Mutianyu, we hired a private van and a guide just for our family. From the wall, we headed towards the Ming graves. (Anyway, as we were here, I... read more

Guzheng for the first time

On mid-autumn festival, I experienced a guzheng concert for the first time, thanks to our hotel Courtyard 7. Guzheng is a Chinese traditional instrument and a plucked zither. I’m not unfamiliar with zithers. I’ve seen plenty of these in Sweden, where I interviewed zither players. The lady guzhengist (like a guitarIST or pianIST) played beautiful soothing music. I just wish she wore a more traditional dress, so the whole experience of listening to guzheng in an antique siheyuan would feel even more special. The music was so soothing that I fell asleep halfway the concert (it was an hour long). I woke up and people were gone. No kidding. The musician was elsewhere in the courtyard receiving praises, and I also gave her... read more

A siheyuan experience

Siheyuans are old courtyard houses in China. I’ve seen such in old Chinese films, so I was delighted to stay in one, Courtyard 7 in Beijing. Courtyard 7 is an authentic 300-year old siheyuan. Empress Dowager Cixi – whose life fascinates me – gave this to one of her senior ministers. Courtyard 7 has a small reception area. It has a courtyard with four surrounding buildings. The southern building is the dining area. The other buildings are the hotel rooms. Every building is connected by roofed passages to protect the people from rain and heat. On Mid-autumn festival on September 8, we were out in the big yard to listen to a guzheng concert. It was a lovely evening. We had a small room (we wanted a bigger one, but there was no available large room). But the advantage with the room we got is that it has its own little yard, with a big wooden gate that we could close for privacy. Courtyard 7 became a hotel in 2008. The German Prime Minister Angela was once here on a visit. Some things bothered me though. My sensitive nose itched. Could it be dust? The smell of an old house? The (friendly) huskies roaming around the yard and visiting the rooms? Or simply air pollution? Further, I refrained from going to the toilet in the middle of the night because the room felt spooky. God knows the history of the people who lived there… 🙂 The Empress Dowager Cixi lived in a siheyuan. She was once a concubine and all concubines came from the upper class. She lived in... read more

For the love of a child

Early morning VIP-shopping at H&M Sollentuna Centrum. That’s where I rushed to from Solna, before going to work in Märsta. I had only 15 minutes to shop, and I bought winter clothes for Tuwa. Two jackets, a sweater and a hat. I didn’t even buy for myself. The picture above is a wall decoration at H&M. The style reminds me of Swedish artist Lovisa Burfitt’s illustration. I wouldn’t be surprised if it indeed is her creation. I interviewed her early this year during her exhibit at Konsthall... read more

Mid-autumn festival in Beijing

Mid-Autumn festival fell on September 8 this year. And we didn’t know about it until that day. Our hotel, the 300-year old Courtyard 7 made it memorable for us. They invited their guests to free dinner buffet with lots of fruits and mooncakes and other food, as well as a concert in the courtyard. It was a lovely evening. The guests sat outside, in the courtyard. And listened to a musician playing a guzheng, a traditional instrument that looks like a zither. Mid-Autumn festival is a harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese. And it’s a public holiday in mainland China, so there were lots of people out during that weekend. It’s been celebrated since 16th century... read more

Inspired by a century-old artist

Anna Norman from Märsta is a 103-year old artist who creates wool art. I met her once to write about her involvement in an art exhibit, Konst Nu 2014, at Konsthall Märsta. She would never know the impact she had on me. On that short single meeting, she taught me that it is never too late for anything you have passion for. You see, she had her first solo exhibit when she turned a century. A few days after our meeting, I started painting. The picture above is one of my first paintings in my 44 years of existence. Here’s a link of the article I wrote about her in Sigtunabygden. There’s a picture of her there, too: Anna... read more

Kurdish afternoon tea with a survivor

Deraan Areb has been blind since he was a kid. His fingers were blown off and his face scarred by a bomb explosion. He is a survivor of the infamous Halabjah massacre in 1988. Saddam Hussein wanted Deraan Areb’s people, who live in northern Iraq, dead. Deraan Areb and his family came to Sweden as refugees, with the help of UN. Now they live in Steninge in Sigtuna municipality (Sigtuna kommun). He is an educated musician and is now starting an organisation, “Sing, Talk, Act” against genocide. It was touching to have met a tough survivor oozing with optimism. This is the article I wrote about him:... read more

Life in the barracks

That life in the barracks in Sweden is a way lot better than the city shacks in poorer countries make me green with envy, in behalf of third world countries. I was here yesterday in the barracks of Magnegatan in Märsta to check out how temporary residents are faring. All is well, according to a lady I talked to who has been living there since summer. But it’s not going to be easy this winter for those who are staying. Some old apartments owned by Sigtuna municipality’s Sigtunahem are being renovated, ergo the need to move guests temporarily. Here’s the link to my article in... read more

The haunted Venngarn Castle

The visit to Venngarn castle was like a therapy. I’ve been pissed with the gray weather in Sweden lately, but coming to the castle reminded me that even autumn can be lovely. The castle, as it looks now, was built in the 1600s, but it’s way older than that. One of the owners was Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, who came from a very wealthy family. He himself owned 30 castles, but died poor. Another owner murdered his own children in the castle. That’s why the castle is said to be haunted. From 1916 it became a shelter for alcoholics, and then later on a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, and home for refugees. But from the 1990’s, it was criticised for bad maintenance, that it looked like a slum. In 2013, a new owner, Olle Larsson took over. With Midas’ touch he turned the castle into a hotel, a gallery, a park – definitely a lovely place to visit. If you happen to visit, I warmly suggest a tour with the guide named Hampus. He is theatrically amusing and knowledgeable of the castle’s history. I was here because the editorial staff of Sigtunabygden had a day-long meeting here in October 2014. I also visited this summer.  ... read more

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace: my favorite tourist spot in Beijing. It’s now  a vast park. But in the old days, the Summer Palace was where the emperors could indulge in sexual ventures more freely. I read that an emperor called “The Limping Dragon” took well-known prostitutes who had bound feet (which suggest that they were Hans) to the Summer Palace, where rules were less strict. We were here in August 2014. More about The Summer Palace... read more

Home to thousands of concubines

The Forbidden City: home to thousands of concubines – mistresses and sex slaves of Chinese emperors who believed that sex with young women was the key to youth and virility. The emperor had only one empress, but had thousands of teenage girls to entertain him. These girls came from upper-class families. It was a hot and hazy September day 2014 when we saw the Forbidden City.  There were no benches, no trees and no plants in the main area. Author Jung Chang in her book “Empress Dowager Cixi” explains that plants were absent in the front, or south section, of the Forbidden City because plants conveyed softness. Plants should therefore not be seen in the area where only men were allowed entry. The harem was housed in the north section. So the garden is at the back of this huge complex.... read more

The biggest pork chop I’ve ever seen

It took us some time to find Marcia Adams, a Mediterranean restaurant in Alfonso, Cavite. We followed Google Map and drove back and forth near it, but just couldn’t find it. Christine had been there some time ago and liked the ambience, and wanted to take us with her back. I’ve read it profiles itself as the Tuscany of Tagaytay. We didn’t want to lose more time getting lost so we asked the vendors on the road, and they knew the place. We were just a few meters from it, from the main road. There were cars parked outside the resturant which looked like a usual gated house with a big garden. The signboard was also small. The garden was wild and interesting. It has rustic interiors with old wooden chairs, hardwood tables and floor with decorative cement tiles that some bloggers call Machuca tiles. And I like that it feels open. There is an area that is walled, here’s where it feels like Tuscany. I like the window overlooking a field that gets shades of yellow as the sun sets. The other area is like a huge roofed terrace – it’s wide open. We decided to sit here, so we could talk loudly about the last 16 years. The last time I saw Christine and Sol was in UPLB 1988. She is my former roommate at the nun-run St Therese dormitory, and he my fellow Pandayan (Pandayan is a political party at the University of the Philippines, LB). They haven’t changed physically, except for a few kilos – a sign of wealth – and some white hair – a sign... read more