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Plantita I

Since the start of the community quarantine, I lost a day job. I still go to the office every now and then, but most of the time I’m just home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bored! With 2 kids hanging around there’s no time to be bored how I wish!

They say during the quarantine you become either two things, a cook or baker, or a plant lover. I think I became a plant lover, plantita, plantmama, whatever way you call it. I’m so used to taking care of another being, I guess, I added the plants to care for, and check everyday.

The plants are so beautiful! I did not even give a fig about them before, but looking at them now make me feel so good. I feel happy when I see another new leaf, or when a flower blooms. Plus they make the house more lively, more vibrant, you know?

Showing off the indoor plants I collected so far. Hoping for more to come soon! Plus did I say that most of these are great air purifiers? 🌿

Fiddle leaf fig
Snake and Peace lily
Selloum and Janet Craig
Money tree
Calathea Lutea
Cactuses and Jade
These Caladiums suddenly grew and multiplied in the yard!
Bamboo

Sophie’s extracurriculars : Ballet and Kumon

Sophie is doing ballet again! She used to do ballet when she was 5 but stopped after 2 months due to various reasons. She lost interest when she stopped but last November something must have sparked her interest again, coz she asked if she can do ballet again.

I inquired in a different school, and her schedule fits, so we’re braving the traffic at Alabang Zapote Road everytime. Here she looks happier with her new teacher and new found friends. They are having a recital on May so we are looking forward to that.

Sophie in ballet

Btw, she also started her Kumon class last December, too. I wanted her to join Kumon for a long time but due to various reasons again, she was not able to. Now that she’s doing Kumon I realized how difficult it is for them, to do a worksheet on a daily basis but surely it would eventually pay off in the long run. It teaches a child strict discipline in studying. How I wish I did Kumon in my younger years, too.

Since she can read already, she’s doing Math in Kumon. Highly recommended if you want to teach your child responsible and independent studying.

Acts Manila Alabang

Kumon BF HOMES

My 2019 : Year in Review

2019 has got to be my best year yet! I know I say this almost every year, but really, it just keeps getting better every year. Blessings after blessings came pouring in, and I am and always will be, counting and thankful for my life’s blessings, big or small. I will cap off this year citing the monthly happenings, good or bad, and other important events in my life.

January

My baby Jolo was baptized this month. Our first trip of the year was in Hongkong, with our new joiner, Jolo. My hair started to fall immensely, postpartum hairfall is real! This went on for the next 3 months.

February

We celebrated Valentines day twice in an amazing crabs restaurant called Ministry of Crabs. We also watched my favorite musical of all time, Phantom of the Opera, when it returned to Manila. Went to Bali, Indonesia for the first time with the family.

March

We went to Guam for hubby’s birthday! My best buddy in college got married so I was able to see my college friends and their families after such a long time. Sophia was also a flower girl for this wedding.

April

We went to Coron for the first time for my mother-in-law’s birthday. We also went to Auckland, New Zealand during the holy week break. My highschool class had a reunion in a posh restaurant called Flame in Discovery Primea. It was an unforgettable night reminiscing our highschool life.

May

We went to Osaka, Japan together with my parents and sister. It was their first time in Japan so this trip was extra special. Sophia graduated in preschool this month! She received an Achievement Award for ELA and Math and Values Excellence Award. I’m so proud of her!

June

We went on a European trip for the first time! This was our dream destination and we’ve been planning this for a long time already. It was heartbreaking that I had to leave Jolo and wean him from breastfeeding. My breasts were sore and painful for 7 whole days! Extended our trip to London, where we watched Aladdin the musical in West End.

July

We did not have a trip this month, but this month is unforgettable because Dylan Wang came to Manila! And Jolo watched a movie for the first time, The Lion King (but knocked out few minutes after it started). Our relatives from Canada had a vacation in Manila so Sophia got to see her little aunties again after almost 3 years.

August

We went on an overnight trip to Anvaya Cove to treat Sophia’s Canadian aunts. It was also my birthday month! Celebrated it simply just by dining outside. But we went to Shanghai a week after. It was Jolo’s first time to visit a Disneyland in Shanghai.

September

Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary this month. Sophia tried ice skating for the first time but she found it too difficult. We also went on a daytrip to Tagaytay, where we lunched at our favorite Balay Dako and visited an outlet shopping mall called Acienda. VW Pendy was my car this month as CRaVe went on a vacation, aka, casa.

October

It was Jolo’s first birthday! He had his first haircut, too! We had a double celebration at Shakey’s because Sophia turned 6 also this month! We had a trip a week after, to Florida and the Bahamas. Sophia completed her 6 Disneylands in the world! Oh, and Lee Seung Gi came to Manila for the first time! Not everything about this month was smooth though. I had to wear eyeglasses and tried physical therapy for my recurrent headaches and vertigo.

November

Jolo started walking on his own this month, at 13 months old! Sophia was a flower girl for 2 family friends weddings. We also saw a new musical called Cats. I also re-enrolled Sophia in ballet because I want her to be involved in sports again. Also, we found a nanny for Jolo because I had to go back to work. This time I tried Chiropractic therapy for my headaches.

December

I enrolled Sophia in Kumon, to enhance her Math skills. She also came home one day with a surprise, she received a Green Honors Certificate for the term, the highest honor the school gives! We also had a Christmas family photoshoot with beautiful photos at Concept Room Studio. Sophia watched a Disney on Ice again this year, she never misses a show every year since she was 1.

I do not have a lot of money (because I travel for memories!), I have dues to pay, and my kids needs and wants come first before mine. But I am beyond thankful for the providence and graces I receive constantly. I am always thankful for my family, I am reminded that I am blessed by simply having them in my life. 2019 has given me incredibly fond memories to keep and cherish for many years to come. 2020, lets go rock it!!! 🥳

A Different Kind of Baby

Late post: We brought Tigger home on April 12

This is not the baby we expected but, we are very thankful nonetheless! Sometimes we think this is still so surreal, owning and driving our very own Porsche. Congratulations to my hubby for finally having your dream car! And to Tigger, welcome home! Lets have safe travels all the time, okie? ❤️

The Porsche Macan
Driving this badass home
Welcome home!

School girl, soon

I hate to admit that Sophie is growing up faster than I expected. In 6 months time she will become four, and though I still have my reservations if she’s ready for school, I know in one way or the other she has to go. 

I have finally chosen Southville to be her first school. We had a 2-day trial and it was good, so far. The problem I have with Sophie is that, even though she loves posing for pictures, she is extremely shy and doesn’t socialize with kids. I hope I won’t encounter any separation anxieties from her during the first weeks.

Anyway, from the 2-day trial I had a glimpse of their learning method. Southville has a progressive method of teaching. The kinder class has only 6 students, a teacher and a teacher aid. They have singing, dancing, lots of educational activities, story telling. They have computer lab and library periods. The kids also know how to read a little, which I think is very advanced for their age. 

The tuition fee is around 124k for a year for the kinder class, excluding the books, school supplies and uniforms. Its actually more expensive than other schools, but since its an international school, I know it will be worth it. And the best part is that, its just a kilometer away from the house. Its so conducive and very apt for us!

Here is Sophie enjoying the playgrounds of her future school. 


 

Website:

Southville International School and Colleges

US Tourist Visa for Filipinos – My Personal Guide

Since we have bought our flight tickets during the last Travel Madness sale, at some point we would have to apply for the US Visa. I guess considering the numerous travels we had over the years, we’re a little (just a little) confident that we have an edge to be granted the most elusive visa of them all. Of course we did some research on the common questions to be asked for the interview. Nowadays, you can’t just complete your application and just head straight to your schedule at the US Embassy and thats it. You HAVE TO study your answers beforehand. While most of our answers are scripted, it meant positively on the consular officer, as we are answering in sync and know what we are going to say. It is still best to come prepared.

When I tried to schedule online, the earliest available is June 27. But when I called their hotline, the earliest is June 6. So I grabbed the June 6 as it will spare us the agony of waiting for so long. I guess it was better to just call the hotline instead, since they can accommodate us earlier because we have a small child. The MRV payment is needed to be able to schedule the appointment interview. We already paid this in BPI.

On the day of our interview, I brought all the docs we would be needing: (Standard Tourist Visa for Filipinos living in the PH)

1. DS-160 confirmation page

2. Appointment letter (sent in email by the US embassy customer service)

3. Original MRV receipt 

4. Passport

5. 2×2 photos 

6. All other docs (proof of financial capabilities)

Since I applied for the DS-160 online, I did not need the 2×2 photos anymore (I was wondering too why I still need to bring them). I already uploaded the digital copies during the application. As for all the other docs, the officer did not ask for any of them.

Our appointment schedule is 9:30am, and since the guards are strict about lining just 15 mins before the schedule, we walked from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (from the other side of Roxas Blvd., where my sis in law dropped us and would be waiting) just 10 mins before 9:15. We waited for just 5 mins outside, and come 9:15, we queued going inside. The first queue we were asked for the Appointment Letter, and the staff put barcoded stickers on the back of our passports. She also gave us a letter E yellow cardboard (express queueing for senior citizens, pwd and with small children), when she asked for Sophie’s age and I said she’s 2. 

When we got inside there’s a security checkpoint, and an x-ray machine for the bags and belongings. ANY electronic devices are not allowed, as in ALL, even USBs. So we did not bring our cellphones anymore.

Since we have the letter E, we bypassed long lines and headed straight to the first counter, where we were asked DS-160 confirmation questions by a Filipino staff. Next counter is the biometrics-taking, an American officer took my husband and I’s finger scanning. No biometrics for small children like Sophie.

The next queue is the Interview. We lined up with the seniors and with small children, and waited for around 40 mins before it was finally our turn. Since we were seated in the area where applicants passed by after the interviews, we have witnessed different reactions and expressions. Some fortunate ones were crying tears of joy, clapping their hands, shrieking “yes!” or just simply have joyful smile on their faces. The unfortunate ones however, have blue papers in their hands, returned passports and have disappointed, faraway looks. 

The feeling was nerve racking. I felt like I was going to get my IELTS results. (add: I was positive that I would fail my IELTS back in 2008, so when I went to get my results, I could hardly walk up the stairs going to the IDP office — I was a total nerve wreck!) It was so stressful I could not wait for our turn and get over it. When it was finally our turn, my husband carried Sophie while I gave our docs to the officer. Here’s how the interview went:

Us : Good morning.

Officer : Good morning. Hi Sophie, how old are you? (I was surprised she called Sophie by nickname)

Sophie quietly said “two” and raised her 2 fingers.

Officer : What’s your relationship?

I : We’re a family.

Officer : What’s your purpose of travel?

I : We would like to tour, go shopping and go to Disney World for our daughter.

RJ: We would also like to try different restaurants like the Pinks Hotdogs and Buffalo wings.

Officer : Buffalo wings (smiles) How long will you be staying?

I : Probably around 2 weeks.

RJ: We would also like to catch the Black Friday sale.

Officer : Right, so you can get good deals. (Smiles) Dad, whats your job?

Tabs didn’t hear this. So I nudged him and said, dad!

The officer was a little amused. She turned to Tabs, “You’re the dad, you’re the mom.” (To me) and laughed.

RJ: Sorry. I’m the Chief Technical Officer of a family-owned corporation. We have 3 *** gas stations.

Officer : How long have you been in the company?

RJ: Since its incorporation in 2007.

Officer : How many people are there in the company?

RJ:  In all 3 branches around 70 plus 10 accounting staff, so around 80.

Officer: How much do you earn?

RJ: I earn *** a month, excluding allowances.

Officer : And how much including your allowances?

RJ : Around *** a month.

Officer : Mom, what’s your job?

I : I’m a businesswoman. I have a *** shop in the ***.

Officer : How much do you earn including all allowances?

I : I earn more or less *** a month.

Officer : Which countries have you travelled?

I : We’ve been to London (nods her head when she heard London), Japan, Korea, China.. (she cut off, she didn’t seem interested with Asian countries)

Officer: Is Sophie always with you?

I : Yes, we always bring her with us.

After a pause and tinkering on her computer, finally she said.

Officer : Alright, you will receive your visas within 7 days.

The interview ended and we said our thanks and goodbyes. Of course we were elated after! The interview was short and concise, and we didn’t have to defend or explain further anything, like some of the applicants before us. The officer’s mood was light during our interview, very much unlike how I thought of her when we were in the queue. I thought she was scary and bitchy, but she was not. My nervousness quickly went away during the course of the interview.

In reality, getting the US Visa is probably one of the easiest to process. Since the officers face around 150 applicants per day, they do not have the time to ask for the docs to support your answers. They will simply depend on the DS-160 that you submitted and how well you answered the questions.  The DS-160 is more on personal details, but the most important thing here is that you study and know the answers to the frequently asked questions. If you will lie (unless you’re a very good liar),  they can spot in your answers as they give series of questions depending on how you answer them. They are trained to recognize your real standing and your purpose of application.

Since we passed our interview with flying colors (hehehe), we received our passports 3 days after, all with 10 year Multiple-Entry Visas! US of A, see you real soon! 🇺🇸

Get started with your application here.

Sophie’s Summer Classes

Sophie’s last class in Gymboree Greenbelt ended in March, and I’ve been wanting to transfer her somewhere nearby, since we’re in BF during the weekends. Her schedule in Gymboree as level 5 were every Fridays, and even though there’s a Skyway, Friday traffic are always unbelievably unbearable.

Anyway, good thing I was able to start her into the Summer term of Little Gym Alabang. It includes 8 sessions for 10,580 + 1,960 annual fee. Its more expensive than Gymboree but its more into gym or sporty activities. Sophie was such a scaredycat in Gymbo and holds her yaya’s hands everytime. So this time I got rid of her yaya, I personally attend the classes with her. I’m letting her do her thing and explore on her own.

Sophie seems to love her new playschool. At 30 mos she’s called a Beast (19-2.11 mos). Little Gym is more spacious, she has lots of classmates (they’re around 10 or 12), and she has more physical activities. For the past 2 sessions, they had basketball and archery as main activities. Plus they have about 10 minutes to just play and explore the gym. Even though Teacher Laurie got her hands full with the kids, she seemed to make time, encourage and compliment each one by one.

exploring on her own

I wanted Sophie to be busier this summer, as she’s growing and she’s always at home with no playmates. So apart from the summer school, I also enrolled her in swimming class. I researched and found Aqualogic Swim Co. They are more expensive than the others but they have classes at The Village Sports Club, also in BF which is very conducive for us. The classes cost 7,590 + 500 membership fee for 10 sessions.

At first, Sophie was scared and cried for more than half of the 30-minute class. She has since improved on the succeeding classes, as she’s getting used to being submerged into the water. We’re on the 4th session the last time, and even though she doesn’t seem to enjoy it, at least she’s listening and cooperating. Her age is the best time to teach swimming I think, because she can understand already, unlike the class before us, who are I think not more than a year olds. They’re always crying, and I feel sorry for the babies being submerged in the water. They’re just too young, imo.

Maybe next year I will enroll her again in a swimming class, until she learns how to do it herself. I am not a good swimmer myself, I’m actually a poor swimmer. Of course back then my parents did not have the means to enroll us in swimming classes, nor the availability of the classes. But the generation now is different, even babies starting 6 mos can now have swimming lessons. So this early I wanted Sophie to learn the basics first, how to feel safe and comfortable in the water, how to return to the ledge, and in due time how to swim by herself.

sliding down the pool

The Little Gym Alabang thelittlegym.alabang@gmail.com

Aqualogic Swim Co. info@aqualogicswimco.com

Our Family Portrait

In just over a month my parents-in laws will be having their church wedding. This is their first ever wedding, so we can tell its going to be grand. A lot of people were surprised to know that they weren’t legally married after all these years, but at least after they patched up their legal problems they still decided to marry each other. It maybe true love, after all. Hehe.

We picked out the best suppliers out there imho, since there’s no problem budgetwise. Our photographer, Jiggie Alejandrino is relatively new in weddings, but is a veteran portraitist. At the wedding fair last year, we were thinking of getting Nice Print again, since they document well and has a reasonable price. But we met Jiggie thru Team OSS (4D photobooth) that we also got, and he showed us some of his works, and they looked great and well made.

As Tabs also studied a bit of photography, he said Jiggie knows what he’s talking about. He is very detailed and meticulous, and getting him for the wedding was one of the best decisions we made. He has the best rates too. He included the prenup shoot in his package, and also included our family portrait. 

Below are some of the family shots that he took of us, amidst the prenup shoot of my inlaws. These were shot in Las Casas de Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. It was amazing to see the photos so bright and well lit, because I remember it was so dark during our shoot. And these are not even edited yet. He’s a surprise find, this Jiggie. 

We plan on having one or two of these blown up to put up on the walls of the house. You know, kinda like the old houses with portraits of ancestors. Hehe.

   
    
   

Bikram Yoga – a first timer

I have wanted to try yoga for a very long time. I haven’t been working out in several years, except the runs I have every now and then. When I was enrolled in Fitness First years ago, I would always peek at the yoga class and thought how gracious the participants were and how easy it looked. Maybe I can also try that at some point.

Recently I enrolled in KFIT, an online app of thousands of activities at hundreds of gyms/studios (Php 999/monthly). I scheduled for a Bikram Yoga class at the date and time I preferred, at a studio nearby home. Its how convenient this app is.

Before going to Evolve Yoga & Fitness in Alabang, I made known the things I would be needing. I bought my own yoga mat, brought 2 large towels (1 for use on top of the mat, and the other 1 for taking a bath), brought my own toiletries, water bottle and padlock (I forgot this, but they let me borrow). I ate a little and hydrated myself 2 hours before the class. I dressed into my dri-fits, I was nervous but I thought I was ready.

Before the class began, the 3 of us first timers were briefed by Coach Lorena the do’s and don’ts on the floor. No pressure if we can’t do the position or we can catch our breaths and just sit if we can take it anymore. At first I thought I was doing okay, but as the class went on I thought about quitting halfway into it. Bikram Yoga is typically 90 minutes and has 26 positions, and believe me, these dragged on. It felt like forever before we finish one position. It was a hot yoga (read: no ventilation whatsover), the room was stuffy and every pore in my body sweat like crazy, even my palms. I was dizzy and felt like throwing up at one point. I couldn’t follow when it got to the harder positions and suddenly had a bad chest cramp 70 minutes into the class. I whispered to Coach that I was having cramps, and she stretched my arm a bit and told me to lie down and rest. I rested for about 10 minutes but followed again to finish the rest of the class. It was by far, the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my life. 

I decided after the class that maybe yoga is not for me. Maybe its the stuffy room, or maybe because its my first time, but god I never expected it to be so difficult. I felt like I went there to punish myself. I’m not closing myself for a yoga in the future, but for now, I just can’t yet. ☹️
 

after my 90 minute Bikram Yoga
 

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