Friday, June 30, 2017

The delightful Vanilla Cupcake Bakery at Kamiseta Hotel

For our 10th wedding anniversary and the 18th anniversary of when Vince and I fell in love, Kamiseta Hotel Baguio was so sweet to offer us a delicious lunch at their charming boutique hotel. It's such an exquisite hotel! Pictures don't do it any justice (although these ones on Real Living are gorgeous!) It's so much more glitzy and kitschy and glorious and delightful in real life. So if you're ever off to Baguio, do book a stay there. Or just have a meal at Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, like we did. And what a meal it was!

Here we are at the iconic blue doors to the Kamiseta Hotel. It also sports the logo of beribboned K's. You will see this logo everywhere (and I mean they went overboard), but allergic-to-logos me didn't mind at all. I guess because it looks like a ribbon so it wasn't tacky.

Here's the receiving area. As I said, pictures do it no justice. Especially this one haha.

Kamiseta Hotel used to be a heritage home so do expect that it will look and feel like a house. There's no lobby, for example. But I loved that it felt so homey. I thought it was lovely that every detail of the hotel spoke volumes of the love poured into this hotel. It's near Wright Park in Camp John Hay. Down a very quiet street. It's so beautiful, I want to live there. Rooms are small but so sumptuously decorated. I think I'll need to wait for a time the boys can stay in their own room, though. But definitely I want to go back and stay here for a night or two!

Another family photo proving that family photos are the craziest photos ever. It's a good thing this was taken in a magnificent setting. Hindi sayang hahaha

Count the logos! It reminded me of how I was when we went to Disneyland and I played a game of "Spot the Hidden Mickey." At Kamiseta Hotel, you'll have fun spotting the logo, too!

On to lunch! Kamiseta Hotel has just one restaurant, which is the Vanilla Cupcake Bakery. It's so pretty! I want to throw a party here. Maybe I will. Dear Lord, please make this possible!

You can tell every piece was carefully picked and designed. The chairs and tables don't match but that makes the decor so eclectic.

We chose a table outside in the back, on the terrace that overlooks a small but lush garden, which then turns into a view of the mountains. We may have gone there at high noon but because of the cool weather, it was so pleasant to just sit there, enjoying the breeze and the view.

But the big reason why we chose to eat al fresco is because we have three little super likot boys who needed to run around while we waited for our delicious lunch!

First order of business for me was coffee. The coffee in Le Monet Hotel where we stayed was so awful. Just awful. So I'm soooo glad the coffee here in Vanilla Cupcake Bakery is good.

For Vince, Thai bagoong rice. Vince says it was very good. Tasted like Thai bagoong rice but appeals to panlasang Pinoy.

For me, porkchops with peppercorn gravy. Very good dish. That gravy makes it special. The fresh vegetables were sooo good, I wish they'd add more! Piero and I shared this dish. Yum!

For Vito: chicken tocino. This was tender and juicy, and tasted really great with the crunchy vegetables with pesto.

Iñigo had spaghetti bolognese and fried chicken. I forgot to take a photo! It was really good spaghetti and the chicken was crispy and tasty, too. Fantastic meal!

On to dessert! We had cupcakes, of course.

Red velvet. 

Oh, we had such a good time! My boys loved Kamiseta Hotel and Vanilla Cupcake Bakery sooo much!

And here they are, waiting for their Papa to drive up that gravel driveway to pick them up, full of good food and mountain air and ready to go back home to Manila!

To book a stay at Kamiseta Hotels, click here.

Thanks, Kamiseta Hotel and Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, for celebrating our anniversary! We'll be back for more!

And that concludes our wonderful Baguio trip! I have a gazillion more photos! Thanks for coming along this last week and celebrating with my family. I have more summer adventures to tell you. Stay tuned, dear Loyal Readers!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Our family adventure at Eco Trail in Camp John Hay (with useful tips!)

Hello everybody! Thanks for following my family's adventures in Baguio. Today, I'll share with you tips on how to properly and safely do the Eco Trail in Camp John Hay. Why? Because we didn't take precautions! I feel really stupid, being a mommy with little kids, and just going on a forest trek willy-nilly. Thank goodness we're all okay!

But first, let me say we had the most amazing fun and I totally want to go hiking there again. That said, I'll be more ready next time!

At the start of the Eco Trail!

The Eco Trail is right across our hotel, Le Monet. We weren't planning on going on the trail. Instead, we were going to check out the Butterfly Sanctuary, which was the first stop on the Eco Trail. So off we went but when we got to to sanctuary, my sons said they didn't want to see the butterflies. Since we were already on the Eco Trail, we decided to just check it out. 

It was a beautiful walk! Totally worth all the huffing and puffing! But as a mommy and daddy, we should've been more prepared. For one thing, we didn't know the distance (it's about 3 kilometers), where the trail ended (there are three exits), and if there were rest stops along the way (there were none). We had small kids! We should've been more prepared!

Paths have been made for hikers.

I'm so proud of my boys, though. They never complained throughout the hike. They didn't misbehave at all—no running, no bothering the bugs, no walking to the edge of ravines, no dangerous stunts. They listened to us and were careful, especially when we had to clamber up tree roots just to climb steep hillsides. They also patiently waited their turn when we had to assist them one by one over streams and narrow, rickety bridges. What little troopers!

So despite the ominous tone of this post, I still want to say that we totally enjoyed our hike and I would love for us to explore the Eco Trail again. I think we'll do better next time because next time, I'll make sure we're prepared! Here are my tips for a fun and safe adventure for families who want to check out the Eco Trail:

Despite the cool weather, Vito said his shirt was hot.

1. Dress appropriately. While the cool mountain air makes it pleasant to hike, do remember you're in a forest. That means there are lots of bugs so long pants and a thin long-sleeved shirt will help protect skin. We met a few other people on the path, one was wearing a sando and he kept complaining about being bitten by little bugs. Thankfully, we weren't bothered by the bugs except that part near a stream where we saw a spider with a red mark on its back. Now I'm not sure if it was a poisonous spider but all those nature documentaries said stay away from brightly colored bugs! So do try to not bother the bugs. If you don't want to wear long sleeves and long pants (and I totally understand because the hike will make you sweat), apply insect-repellant lotion.

A beautiful day for a hike in a beautiful forest!

Another tip is bring a jacket or a raincoat anyway. Even if it's sunny. Baguio weather can suddenly turn chilly. In our case, we started the hike with the sun out, but within 30 minutes, heavy clouds rolled in. We were alarmed because when you're caught in the mountains in the rain, it gets very cold fast. Hypothermia can set in. We had three little kids with us! I was quite frightened.

And of course, wear the right shoes. Rubber shoes, hiking shoes. Remember those people we saw on the path? The women were wearing low heels and strappy sandals. Not a good idea at all!

Through the foliage, we could see the clouds rolling in and covering the once clear blue sky.

2. Check the weather for the whole day. To be fair to me, we set out on our hike on a bright and sunny day. So we were alarmed when we heard the distant thunder and saw the skies grow dark. Rain makes the forest very cold. Plus the fact that mud will make the trail slippery. No place for babies!

It's a good thing the rain didn't fall, even as it threatened us with rumbles. Whew! So we still got to enjoy our lovely hike!

Tree roots on the path help you climb the slopes.

3. Bring water. If you think you can buy refreshments while you hike, nope you can't. There are no rest stops along the way. I guess it's because it's just 3 kilometers. That's not really far. But all that climbing and walking will make you thirsty.

If you want to bring a snack for your kids, that would be nice. Little tummies get hungry fast, especially on a hike. Plus, the forest makes for a picturesque picnic. However, please make sure you bring your trash with you.

There are planks to help hikers on slippery parts on the path.

4. Tell someone you're going on the eco-trail. I got this tip from another blogger. There are three exits: the Manor, the Filling Station, and the one near Loakan Road. Near is not near haha. If you exit near Loakan Road, that's still a looooooong walk to the road! So best to have someone with a car waiting at the exit. You can arrange for your hotel to send a car for you, or you can just tell the concierge where you are and what time you'll return so that they can alert authorities in case you don't come back at the expected time.

But the most important reason for telling someone you're on the Eco Trail is for safety reasons. Vince told me that hikes and climbs should always have someone at the starting point registering climbers. At the end of the trail, someone checks if all the registered climbers have come back/exited. If you haven't exited at the expected time, then they will send a search party. There is no such safety precaution at Eco Trail.

Behind Iñigo is a steep drop into a ravine. Always tell your kids to stay on the path.
My hearts! They had so much fun!

The trail is safe, okay? I don't want to scare anyone. But even the safest places can get people into accidents. There are bugs, steep climbs, sharp drops (and no fences!), tree roots across the path, fallen trees, rotting vegetation—all of which can fascinate and excite little kids! So if you're a family with little kids who wants to go on the Eco Trail, be prepared. Otherwise, like if you're all adults in the group, I guess you can be more carefree (never wise when you go into nature, though).

I still recommend the Eco Trail for families to explore. We had a great time! Have fun, mommies!

If you have more tips for families on how to have the best time on the Eco Trail at Camp John Hay, please share!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bikes, boats and balloons in Burnham Park

Our Baguio adventure continues today at Burnham Park! Yesterday, you got a glimpse of our fun day at the popular tourist destination. Today, I'll share a few more photos of our activity-packed morning there.

It's a huge park at almost 33 hectares so we decided to just do three things: bike, run around the gardens, and go on the boat. But there are many other things to see and do at Burnham. There's a skating rink, lots of little stalls to shop at, parks and gardens of roses and orchids, large areas for picnics and for playing sports, and the Children's Playground. This last we found just as we were about to have lunch so even though the kids wanted to play, we didn't let them. We knew better that they're already hungry and will get super cranky and weak if we let them play. But it was such a fun playground! Next time, next time!

Again, I'll just share photos today! Here's what we did at Burnham Park:

We went biking! This was Vito's first time on a bike. He loved it!

Well, okay, that's a trike haha but little steps, little steps.

Vince and I rode pedicabs with the littlest boys as our passengers. I had Piero, Vince had Iñigo. And because we're out in a park so rarely, Vince and I allowed ourselves to let the boys have cotton candy and balloons.

All that sugar fuelled their urge to run run run! Sugar's great for little boys because they're sooo malikot! They can burn through it in seconds!

So let's supplement with dirty ice cream heehee

So madungis! My kids are always sticky, sweaty and sweet.

Off to the man-made lake! It's brown. Has it always been brown? And no life vests??? But did we still ride those rickety, leaky boats anyway???

Yes. Yes, we did. The boys were so unhappy hahaha But at the end of our 30-minute ride, they were enjoying it. That was basically our Baguio trip—the kids suspiciously eyed every activity we offered them, but they ended up enjoying themselves anyway!

Parenting is so weird. But it's also the most fun I've ever had! More of our Baguio adventures tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Family fun in Baguio City

After almost two decades, Vince and I went back to where our love story started—in Baguio City! We met at the UP National Writers Workshop. He and I were fellows for short fiction. By the end of the two-week workshop, we were in love. Eight years later, we got married. Eighteen years later, we have three beautiful boys and, yes, we're still writing. We have the most beautiful life!

I thank God every day for this life because I honestly didn't think I'd ever love marriage and motherhood and I never believed I could make a living out of writing. But I did it all anyway! I treasure my blessings. We may not be swimming in money (one day, one day!) and we could use someone to help us with the chores so we won't be so exhausted all the time, but what's that compared to enjoying my family and my work every day? Okay, maybe it's not so amazing every day haha, but at the end of the day, I still know that life is glorious and I shouldn't take it for granted.

Thank you, dearest Lord. I am so grateful! You are good always.

One of the best things that happened lately is our family vacation in Baguio. We decided to go celebrate it there, this time with the boys. We honestly didn't think it was a good idea because our sons are super magulo in the car but we had such a great time! I'll just do a photo essay today and add more stories through the week.

We stayed at Le Monet Hotel. It was okay. Nothing to write home about. But we got a really good deal, and it was in Camp John Hay, and the staff was so polite and nice, and we did enjoy the view!

Lots of birds always outside our window. Vince took lotsa photos of the birds. He always does that when we're on vacation.

Also outside our balcony were horses. Which meant the cool mountain air was redolent of horse poop aroma! My kids thought it was horrible but Vince and I didn't mind. It added an element of freshness to the atmosphere haha

Kids posing for Mama's Instagram...

... and for Papa's real camera.

Foggy Baguio mornings. Takes me back to those magical weeks when Vince and I fell in love!

And look at this adorableness that our love produced!

The kids at the hotel breakfast buffet. We went there just after Easter hence that golden egg on our table.

Happy baby Piero!

After breakfast, we went to Burnham Park to go biking. I've always wanted to do this when I was a kid. So happy I was able to do this with my own family. We had such a great time!

Fun balloons for just P50! The boys loved their balloons!

Even though Baguio is a cool place, all our biking, walking and running made us hot. It's a good thing ice cream was available everywhere.

As a kid, I've also always wanted to go boating in Burnham Park! But we never did huhu so I was so thrilled that Vince and I were able to take our kids on the lake. Vince actually didn't want to because it was the touristy thing to do but I don't care! It's on my Baguio bucket list. Check! And—despite the boys' faces haha—we had fun!

I'll post more photos this week of our touristy Burnham Park day!

After lunch and a rest, we went hiking on the Eco Trail. That was a looooooong walk. Well, actually, it's just 2 kilometers but because there were lots of climbing and clambering, it felt longer. This was such an adventure. We loved it!

I'll post more photos and a review of the Eco Trail this week. Have lots of advice for families bringing small kids.

For dinner, we went to the critically acclaimed Amare la Cucina. Here's Iñigo watching our pizza being baked in the brick oven. Everyone said Amare served the best pizza in Baguio. As we are a family of pizza lovers, we highly doubted this, especially when we saw the dark and unappealing decor of the restaurant. But, guys. They really truly do serve the BEST PIZZA. Like, kailangan niyo siyang puntahan. Like, I wish they'd open a branch in Manila, specifically right outside my door. Their pizza and their other food like the baked ribs was AMAZING.

Before we went back to our hotel, we stopped by Choco-Late de Batirol for some hot cocoa. They served really good and thick cocoa. My kids—used to Swiss Miss and Milo—were surprised. They didn't like it, which made me sad. Must serve them real hot chocolate drinks from now on!

But that didn't stop Piero from eating the generous topping of marshmallows!

The next day, April 18, was our anniversary! But before we celebrated it with a special luncg, we went to Good Shepherd to buy goodies because Piero loves ube. His pediatrician said he was like an old person haha

For lunch, we went to Vanilla Cupcake Bakery at Kamiseta Hotel. Here we are at the receiving room of Kamiseta Hotel. The hotel was a delight. The food was delicious! And my kids were not up for photos hahahaha

But they were certainly up for cupcakes! Here's Vito and Iñigo waiting for their dessert. I'll blog about our excellent meal this week!

I just really want to share with you this blessing because we honestly didn't think it was going to happen (we had no money haha) but I asked God to make this particular anniversary extra special and within a week of praying that, I found a great deal on Deal Grocer that not only had a hotel in a great location but also allowed for 3 months' instalment! And then when Kamiseta found out we were going to Baguio, they offered us a free meal at their hotel. And then just before our trip, our checks were released and cleared so that we had money for our vacation and for tuition! God is good!

For more of our Baguio adventures, check out: