Saturday, March 31, 2012

Party Entertainment

If you're looking for entertainers to spice up your party but don't really want to hire the usual clowns, comedians, magic acts and even cycling jugglers... why not hire professional yoyo players and have a yoyojam of sorts?

Your guests are sure to be amazed because it's not always seen and it may even be fun if you start with a contest among them. After all, one or two may have mastered walking the dog in their childhood. It's also sure to make the adults look cool in children's eyes.

Try to contact any of the FlipSpin community members. At 600+ strong, you're sure to get someone (or some) at your price...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Raymen Beach Resort, Guimaras

People who may be wondering where to stay in Guimaras are usually referred to Raymen Beach Resort. After all, the resort enjoys one (if not THE) of the finest white sand beaches in the whole of Guimaras. Raymen Beach Resort shares Alubihod Beach with two other resorts (but weirdly enough, you seldom hear mention of the other two) and offers cottages (for day trippers), fan rooms (in huts that, unfortunately turned me off as someone travelling with young kids) and air-conditioned rooms.

We stayed in their family room that is good for 4 pax (kids 12 years and below are without charge, provided they share beds with the adult) that had TV and hot shower. It cost P2,200 per night.

Raymen Beach Resort is about 45 minutes to an hour away from Jordan wharf via tricycle or multicab. As of March 14-16 (dates we were there), one-way tricyle fare was P250 and P450 for multicab.

I have seen some pictures of the resort in my research but I forewarned my family that it's going to be a resort in an island so they shouldn't expect much. However, we actually loved it there.

The room was nice and clean enough. We actually didn't have complaints apart from the issue we had with the air-conditioner located at bed-level (and thus freezing whoever is sleeping nearest it). Sure, I did hang the sign asking them to clean our room and that wasn't done, but it was also no biggie for us to just borrow a broom and sweep the sand and crumbs my darling sons keep bringing in. I figured, if my sons refuse to wash their feet properly before entering our room (as politely asked by a sign before you enter the building), then it shouldn't be a problem that I end up sweeping after them.

The room we stayed in was the one on the first floor, immediately after the reception desk.

we were actually surprised there was cable... and to think we limited our viewing to ABS CBN's telenovelas, haha

outside the CR is a sink and mirror, and to the right of the sink is a small nook for stashing your luggage in and hanging clothes in; that nook can also serve as a sort-of private dressing area

another view of the room, including my amazed relatives over the LCD TV, and my eager-for-the-beach sons

view of the aircon rooms from the restaurant

partial view of the building for the other air-con rooms and function room (they held a party for the Secretary of Agriculture while we were there)

when you get to the beach, this is your view if you look left

view if you look right

the cottages for rent (free use for resort guests)

fan rooms

should you want to go island hopping

Now, the restaurant was a total surprise for us because we didn't expect it to offer good food. The pancit bihon and chopsuey were so good, we had them twice. They also offer sandwiches, Filipino and Continental breakfasts and other dishes. Food was really good to great... you just have to generally order ahead of time (even heating up piaya you buy from their consignment kiosk takes some time). Hot water is charged (P3) but coffee or hot chocolate comes free with the breakfast meals. Their wait staff are friendly too... one even babysat my youngest so we could eat in peace.

loved the soup of their tinola; we couldn't finish it so we asked them to keep it in the fridge for us and reheat it for our meal the following day

even their liempo was good

chopsuey and inihaw na tuna

For an idea of the price range of the dishes served at their restaurant, click here. Generally, we paid between P500-700 per meal we ate there (but we were 4 adults and 2 kids who eat enough, not just pick-and-peck on their food).

Now, if you want cheaper fare, just outside the resort is a line of carinderias/provincial barrio bars. We enjoyed the batchoy (P30) offered at JM Carinderia (the farthest of the lot) so we dined there one night. Their pancit canton looked weird but tasted really good (albeit a little salty for my palate). Their sinigang was good too, the chicken barbecue was a little bland. My son ejoyed their mango shake.

the dishes at JM Carinderia are about P20-30 cheaper compared to Raymen's Restaurant

So... how fine a sand does Alubihod beach offer, you ask? Not Boracay sand fine, but this fine:

For those travelling with young kids, I really consider the resort ideal since the kids can just play in the sand. Phone reception is best at the beach too... so my husband was able to take conference calls. At night, we could walk the length of the uncluttered beach and feel safe. In short, Raymen Beach Resort is highly-recommended for those who want an island experience without completely going off the grid (as is the case in other resorts In Guimaras).

They do say that it can get quite crowded at Raymen when during weekends or peak season (someone told hubs, all you can see are heads in the water, haha). We were there on weekdays so that must have contributed to our great experience.

When I inquired from them last February, these were the rates they gave me, so best to ask them directly for their latest rates:

Aircon Rooms:
P1,350 - good for two (w/o hot and cold shower)
P1,600 - good for four (w/o hot and cold shower)
P1,800 - good for four (with hot and cold shower)
P2,200 - good for four (with TV and hot/cold shower)
P2,800 - good for eight with ref

Fan Rooms:
P900 - good for 4
P700 - good for 2

Entrance fee for adult is P25, child is P10. Corkage for food is P30/head and drinks P100/case and electricity/appliance charge is P120. Cottages start at P500.
To contact Raymen Beach Resort:
Landline: (+63) 033 3960252 Mobile: (+63) 9185207271

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mango Pizza at the Pit Stop, Guimaras

Guimaras is most famous for its mangoes. It seems logical then that its people will try incorporating it into all kinds of dishes and treats... even pizza.

Mr. Eugene Mark Torrento won for Pit Stop Restaurant the 2011 Best Mango-Inspired Recipe Contest (2011 Manggahan Food Festival) for his Mango Pizza topped with Cashew Nuts. It is no suprise, then, that travellers to the island of Guimaras would make sure to stop by the restaurant for a taste.

In all honesty, I was VERY doubtful I'd like it since I don't like my fruits cooked or mixed with bread or other stuff (yes, I don't even eat halo-halo or fruit salad). But I decided that we may never go back to Guimaras so I might as well try it once. Plus, since it's mango season, I figured I would at least get to taste it with the fruit at its best.

Sigh. Suffice it to say, I now believe can eat a whole pizza if it isn't too filling as well.

The crust itself is thin. It's topped with some light cream/cheese-based sauce then mango slivers, green bell pepper (which gives it the smell/flavor of pizza), very mild cheese and chopped cashews. Nothing spectacular, right? But it really surprisingly works... and the more you eat it, the more you love it. I think i'd love some more salt (cheese) in it but it really was great as it was. I didn't try putting ketchup on it but everyone else did, and they all said it tasted even better. Imagine mango on pizza with ketchup... hard, right? But hubby, who grew up feasting on pizzas at midnight, swears by it.

The best time to go the Pit Stop is coming from Jordan Wharf to your resort/hotel (order it 'to go' and have it in your hotel room as your first Guimaras feast), or when you're on the way off the island. Just ask your driver nicely so that they won't charge you extra anymore for the stop.

The Pit Stop seemed like part diner, part bar too, since it offered Pepsi floats and beer and chicken adobo with a twist (mango is involved again) and burgers. It also offered pasta, so definitely a restaurant that can cater to your gastronomic desires away from home.

For the family-sized mango pizza, two Pepsi floats and a cheeseburger, we paid around P340. And the pizza was really filling... and a definite must-have again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Personal Leadership Workshop for Scholars

Since students who are scholarship recipients are usually seen as dynamic, innovative and with much potential for leadership, my good friend Alvin M. Belen decided to offer a leadership workshop for them this summer.

Give these kids yet another reason to avoid going to a cigar bar or ending up drunk in some beach with their peers this summer. Call 343-3189 or 0922-8849852 or e-mail for more details. Mr. Belen is currently a freelance speaker and consultant. He is an Independent Consult-ant/Facilitator with Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development (CORD), an on-call Facilitator with Visions and Breakthroughs International (VBI), a board member of the Optimal Wellness Network (OWN) Research Center, and a representative to the International Council for Self-Esteem.

Feel free to forward to organizations you may know who are helping scholars and thinking of how better to invest in these kids.

SEAFDEC Research Station, Igang Marine Sub-Station

I decided to make a separate post for SEAFDEC ((Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center) because there is so much to share.

Around 45 minutes to an hour from Raymen Beach Resort, SEAFDEC is a government-owned research station that is known for its giant groupers (115-pound groupers ARE scary). SEAFDEC has perfected milkfish-rearing and has been working with the Canadian government to grow huge groupers, thus, their giants.

Our guide/host (I unfortunately forgot his name, but he has been working with SEAFDEC for 30 years) was very friendly and eager to share what they are up to. It was just hard to concentrate on what he was saying because we had kids I was concerned for who kept on insisting on leaning over the railings so much. The receiving area/raft at SEAFDEC is surrounded by the giant grouper cage, the huge red snapper and sea bass... all carnivorous type of fish... not to mention that it was deep sea over there.

Milkfish are fed feeds in pellet form and we found out that they lay their eggs at night. SEAFDEC workers would gather those eggs to transfer to another cage.

visiting boats 'park' along this long plank structure, registration is done at that house/station at the far end of the picture

SEAFDEC employees navigate fish pens through a network of makeshift bridges made of bamboo; pens are separated by nets

carnivorous fish are fed small fish and visitors are welcome to try, they can wash up later at the registration station

sea bass, about the length of an arm at least

red snapper, also as long as an arm at least, and they really look fierce! (we had 2 underwater cams with us but again, these are carnivorous fish)

for their lunch! fished just outside the pens since a lot of different fish are attracted in that area due to the feeds (which is why it wouldn't hurt to have a small piece of bread with you, to crumble over the edge of the station house and watch different kinds of fish fight for the crumbs)... edge of the floating station is too high from the water though, so again, we couldn't use our underwater cams

our guide/host, about to demonstrate how they grow abalone

these babies supposedly sell for around P4,000/kilo

offices, sleeping quarters were built on the surrounding rock formations/small islands within the area

SEAFDEC has also been wooing private investors to start their own fishing farms (in collaboration with SEAFDEC) within the area with the primary hope of being able to supply the demand for fish in the country as well as provide employment for the people of Guimaras. Since the research station is in open sea, there isn't the risk of oxygen deprivation like what is happening at the fish farms in Taal Lake.

They also breed/care for seahorses.

Guimaras island hopping would definitely be incomplete without a trip here. We suggested that maybe they can keep a pen that's open to the public who want to experience fishing there (and hey, what about a restaurant?). The giant groupers were sure scary but an experience nonetheless... and there are plenty of staff to assist visitors in navigating the bamboo bridges.

Entrance fee/donation costs P25/adult and P10/child.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guimaras - Island Hopping Tour

Because Guimaras is an island, it is only natural that island hopping tours are offered to its visitors by the locals. The usual starting point is Alubihod (or Alubijod) Beach where the resort we were staying in (Raymen Beach Resort) was situated. Raymen offers the usual tour of roughly 7 islands/places and the tour can be accomplished within 3-4 hours (longer if you take your time swimming in each island/site). You pay by the hour anyway, and regardless of whether you book from Raymen or not, the rates are standard all over the island.

If memory serves me right, the places one can visit in an island hopping tour include Ave Maria Beach, Lawi Marine Turtle Rescue Center, Buho Ramirez Cave, Natago Beach (you can anchor and swim there if the owner of the island isn't there, since it is privately owned), Sol y Luna and Baras Beach Resort/Cave. You can also venture out to the SEAFDEC Research Center if you're interested in big fishes and fish feeding.

We opted to do the tour in the morning because the locals said the waves tend to be bigger in the afternoon. We started our Guimaras island hopping tour at 9:00 AM and proceeded first to SEAFDEC (Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center) as it was the farthest and I promised my son fish-feeding.

the rock formations you see on the way to SEAFDEC were amazingly beautiful

feeding sea bass with smaller fish; I forgot exactly how much the entrance fee was but I believe it was P25/person and P10/child under age 12; because my son loved it there, we also gave our guide/host some tip for snacks

it doesn't look it but these sea bass are HUGE! I, unfortunately, didn't get a great shot of the giant groupers

Our next stop was Lawi Marine Turtle Sanctuary, which actually only has one turtle for show (a baby still, at 3 years old). Apparently, turtles only lay their eggs there every 6 years, and the last time that happened was 3 years ago. When the turtles come laying, volunteers and biologists help make sure the eggs are not stolen (by people, to sell) or eaten (by other animals). The hatchlings are cared for and the weak ones are given time to grow some more before being completely released into the open sea.

The lone turtle in the island is supposedly scheduled to be released by October of this year; I believe we paid P20/person (kids weren't charged) here

We chose not to make a stop at Ave Maria Island anymore, which is just across the turtle sanctuary and proceeded instead to Baras Cave. And when I say cave, I mean the boat goes into the cave to rest on the slippery rocks of Baras Cave. You'd hear bats inside and you'd have to swim out to really be able to do some swimming.

entrance/exit to the cave is at the far right

Because we had kids who wanted to swim and play in the sand, our boatmen (I really couldn't call them our tour guides because they never offered information, didn't really regale us with trivia or any Guimaras-pride stories) brought us to the other side of Baras Cave (different from Baras Beach where Baras Beach Resort is) so we can frolic in peace.

sand here isn't as fine as the one at Alubihod Beach but we were surprised to realize that Guimaras seems to offer white sand everywhere you go

water is also just really clean and teeming with fish

After this, we decided to call it a day. We would have wanted to land on Natago Beach but we couldn't so we just viewed it from afar.

the home of the German owner of Natago Beach... don't have a picture of the beach itself because I wasn't quite sure where to point my camera. Told you, our boatmen weren't really chatty

The rates for a Guimaras Island tour, as of March 2012, is as follows:
4-6 persons – 400 per hour plus 150 pesos per exceeding hour.
8 persons – 500 per hour plus 150 pesos per exceeding hour.
10 persons – 600 per hour plus 150 per exceeding hour.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Best Bacolod Butterscotch

My friend who hies from Bacolod says that the best butterscotch ever are sold from a house owned by a certain Emily Lacson at J. Pitong Ledesma at Silay City (very near the El Ideal Bakery). They also supposedly sell the best fresh lumpia. We were however pressed for time so we didn't look for it anymore and just opted to shop at El Ideal, the oldest bakery in Negros, when we were at Silay.

Anyway, here are five butterscotch brands, four of which can be easily found in Bacolod. According to my butterscotch critic husband, the hierarchy from good to best is as follows:

1) The mango butterscotch from Trappist is, of course, only sold in Guimaras. It also happens to have the longest shelf life of the five (expires in May) and is actually the toughest and least delicious. Sorry.

2) Biscocho Haus' butterscotch is softer and better than Trappist's. However, you can sometimes get some that are a little tougher than what you expect (maybe those slices coming from the edges). Expires within a month.

3) Bong-bong's butterscotch is better than Biscocho Haus' (and if you buy it from Bacolod, it may be P5-10 peso cheaper per pack). Expires within a month and comes in a P90/pack (around 25 pieces).

4) Merci, of Napoleones fame, offers really wonderful butterscotch and is the second best of the lot. Expires within 3 weeks.

5) Unsurprisingly enough, El Ideal's butterscotch is to die for and the best of all five. It isn't too sweet and just the right chewiness, maybe because it isn't as mass produced as the others. However, it's packaging doesn't bear any expiry date and I assume it has the least preservative so better to feast on it asap.

If you're not going anywhere near Silay and therefore can't try El Ideal's... may it comfort you that there are a lot of Merci bakeshops around the city of Bacolod. There is even one at the airport.

A huge Bong-bong's Pasalubong Center is just outside the Bacolod (Silay) airport... and just like Biscocho Haus, you can also find them inside SM or Robinson's.

You need never go without butterscotch in Bacolod, for sure! :)

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Perfect Summer Drink

We can't always be carting buko (young coconut) around, but the next best thing can easily be kept cool in our tumblers. It's just calamansi (our local lemon) and some honey. It's refreshing. It's detoxifying. It's healthy. And it may curb most of our cravings. You won't need to Google anymore because you'd be feeling full a whole lot longer if you just continue sipping this.

Want more enticement? It's the secret stuff models and celebs lug around in their water bottles. So, join the bandwagon and let nature's gifts keep you cool (and maybe even slim) this summer.

Multimedia Solutions for all OS

Frustrated about your downloads requiring different players before you can enjoy them? How about Googling "vlc media player download" and downloading the latest version of this open-source multimedia player for various audio and video formats (including DVDs, VCD, Blu-Rays). This way, you need only install one media player in your gadget and won't be limited by the file format of the gems you see online.

There is even one for Android phones. Yay!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Dessert Du Jour

I generally don't eat crepes because I don't like my fruits mixed with anything... even whipped cream. And that is how I've always seen crepes are served, with fruits. So, when we were served Gateau de Crepes at a family gathering, I thought to myself: "Good thing we brought cake."

But when they started slicing out the giant of a crepe, I got intrigued. And when everybody started raving about it, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and have a bite.

Suffice it to say, since I am blogging about it, that I was a convert. I loved how it tasted like a dessert but wasn't too sweet, but also very fluffy, airy and light. My youngest also devoured it, so we had to ask my cousin-in-law for some take-home.

He said he has always ordered from Dessert Du Jour (by Mara de la Rama-Poblete, 0917.811.6272 /0917.803.6272 ) and has always appreciated that they can get something that's low sugar but get their guests raving.

you can't even see the layers because they're so thin! and this is about 12" in diameter so it's also value for money in terms of number of servings!

Don't just take my word for it... try their gateau de crepes. I think we'd get the quezo de bola cheesecake for my niece's birthday since she feasts on quezo de bola :) Click here for Dessert Du Jour's latest price list.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

MV Logos Hope: The Floating Library that Rocks

To be honest, I did miss the fact that you could see the sea while shopping for books aboard the now retired MV Doulos. But MV Logos Hope was really nice. It felt like you were in a mall because the bookstore was really well-kept, well-lit and modernly-designed.

Docked at Pier 15 (it's near Manila Hotel but you enter at South Harbor, Gate 1, and try to find parking near the Coast Guard area), you might miss it because a huge Superferry ship is usually awaiting passengers in front. MV Logos Hope is anchored behind the Superferry ship and you'd have to walk the length of Eva Macapagal Terminal (outside) before getting a good glimpse of the floating library.

Entrance is P20 but children below 12 can get in for free (a perk of the enclosed bookstore, as opposed to formerly open-air Doulos that didn't let young kids on board). A Logos Hope bag sells for P50 and a donation of P100 gets you a button pin. And the books? A really wide selection!

Yes, some of the titles, you can get from the usual bookstore... and could even get for bargain prices at Booksale. But some were entirely new titles to me... There were even books on homeschooling and a lot of children's books that teach about religion and good values.

Their exchange rate for our country is 100 units = 100 pesos (since they can't really keep changing price tags for the books they sell).

Mv Logos Hope is here in Manila till March 13, and then will set sail for Subic. They are also open till 9 PM, which was great because at least we didn't have to contend with ship passengers and the heat when we went there. Parking was easy too.


an anteroom with lots of reference books

something for the kids to play with

bring coins to enjoy this one

I don't know what you call this installtion but it depicts a modernized version of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

the cafe

toy area in the cafe

loved those bins!

One other thing about MV Logos Hope is their HIV/AIDS Awareness advocacy. For a donation of P50, you can even get a storybook about a child who has HIV, which she got from her mother, and how she suffered because other kids wouldn't play with her.

I believe they also hold a film showing of sorts on HIV/AIDS Awareness.

Let's support this ship that has brought together people of different nationalities in pursuit of God's will.
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