The last time I visited my motherland was back in 2008 and my husband, Robert's last time was when he was a freshman in high school. The trip was way overdue for a visit and we were blessed to be able to visit again for my brother's beautiful "fairytale" themed wedding.
[Parenting tip with babies and toddlers] We had no idea if we needed to bring car seats so we ended up bringing them since it's free to check those in. Come to find out, the car seats were just dusting away being unused. So, for those parents out there wondering if you need to bring car seats out of country, do NOT waste your time thinking about bringing them unless you're traveling within the US.
Our layover was in Taipei, an airport with Hello Kitty galore which had multiple hello kitty shops to hello kitty indoor playgrounds. Your little ones and the kids at heart (like me) will enjoy this fun little airport for a few hours. I recommend getting milk tea boba too since Taiwan originated boba!
As we arrived in Manila, two vans were waiting for us. The traffic from Manila to Pampanga was ridiculously insane. If you think Los Angeles, Hawaii, and New York traffic is cray...our destination to the province was only 34 miles and it took us about 3.5 hours to get there. OMG! Right?
[Starbucks lover tips] If you're a Starbucks lover and collect Starbucks destination mugs, do purchase the 'Manila' mug half way point to the province. I wish I did. We couldn't find any 'Manila' mug anywhere in Manila or in San Fernando. I didn't get a 'Manila' mug but ended up a 'Batangas' mug when we visited Tagaytay since the 'Tagaytay' mug were sold out as well. My next visit to PI will be hunting down a 'Manila', 'Tagaytay', and 'Cebu' mugs for sure because it's not the same if I just buy the mugs off Amazon. Oh, and the coffee drinks are totally different than in the states. My usual drink is ice coffee and they didn't have that so my usual drink on this trip was cafe latte on ice. And no, they do not have stevia...yet. So plan on packing your own stevia sugars! Also, they do not accept Starbucks gold card or Starbucks app which totally sucked on the rewards point system. They do, however, accept cash and visa's.
We settled in to my lola's (grandma in tagalog) house in Apalit. A lot has changed since my last visit here in 2008. The famous big mango tree has been removed and my relatives added condos in the front yard. My uncle recently added a kubo (hut) for kids to play in and old folks to rest in. My boys had a blast playing in the kubo with the other kids. I've learned more of living less and simple by watching the maids and their families live; doing laundry using big buckets and getting water from the well, roasting a pig on a pole, etc. Life is pretty different out in the Philippines and just makes me grateful for how our parents migrated into the US in the 70s to live a better life. I wanted to be like Angelina Jolie and take home all the children in the province but they seemed to be doing pretty well anyway since they look so happy. The kids living there are going to school and they got everything we got in the states, especially wifi! Robert and I enjoyed walking to the market in town every morning and buying filipino junk food/snacks for all the kids back at lola's. We even explored riding on the tricycles and jeepney but we ended up liking to walk so we could be a bit more adventurous while our boys are having fun playing with the other kids back at lola's in the hut. I'm so glad my boys adjusted easily, they loved playing with the other kids, the chickens, and surprisingly helped roast a pig we got from my uncle's piggery for the new years eve party.
If you ever want to celebrate NYE, I suggest celebrating it in the Philippines. Fireworks galore, party on the streets, delicious food, money thrown out all over, it's just funner celebrating New Years there.
The big day, my brother's wedding on New Years Day! We stayed a night over at the resort my brother had his reception located in San Fernando, 20 minutes away from my lola's called the Grand Palazzo Royale. The wedding ceremony was just beautiful, just how my sister in law wanted...a Disney Fairytale Wedding. Just as long as the couple are happy, then I am happy as well. I dressed up as Ariel, my boys were dressed as little prince, and Robert and the rest of the groomsmen dressed up as prince.
Back in the province at my lola's, we decided to take all the kids a trip to the waterpark resort called Jed's since the kids go back to school the next day. My Aunty treated us since her goal was to make all the kids happy and have fun. The waterpark was decorated with lots of hello kitty and disney characters and were filled with different kinds of water pools to choose from. I ended not joining in the fun because I came with a two piece and nobody wore a bathing suit, mainly shorts and shirts is what they wore to swim in the Philippines. I forget how conservative most filipinos are. The boys had a blast and I would definitely come back when I'm back in the province. [Swimming gear tip] When going to a swimming resort in the province, swimming gear should be shorts and a tank, preferably full body rash guards.
The next day our Aunty took us to my uncles two piggery farms. The boys loved it as usual. I'm sad to say our camera and mobile phones died when we arrived to the first farm. Lots of green and lots of pigs: big ones, little ones, baby ones. We wanted to take a baby pig home to lola's as a pet but just thinking about having one might be a lot of work, especially when we are on vacay mode.
Rob and I did our usual morning walk to the market the next day to get more meryenda (snacks in Filipino) for all the kids back at lola's. We also ended up driving in San Fernando later on that day to check out SM Pampanga. Rob discovered a toy store called "Toy Kingdom" and went crazy over the hot wheels there. I went crazy over the Sanrio tsum tsums that's exclusively made for Toy Kingdom. I was so sad all the hello kitty tsum tsums were sold out. We also did a few damage shopping there as well. SM Pampanga is by far my favorite mall in the Philippines.
My Aunty, Uncle, Mom, and I went to the local church at 6am the next day to celebrate my lola's birthday. We celebrated her birthday by having a little luncheon at her house. Relatives and neighbors came by to celebrate my lola's spirit. Later on that night, we packed our stuff and arrived at our family's condo in Metro Manila.
Rob and I decided to take the taxi to MOA (Mall of Asia), supposedly the largest mall in Asia. We roamed around and checked things out. We came back to the condo, got ready to have a dinner party at my Aunty Mary's house in Manila. Her home is so gorgeous and modern and always preparing us with good food. Aunty Mary is one of my favorite aunts and my mom's best cousin/friend, always so humble and welcoming.
A few days after, we went to take a road trip with Aunty Mary and her family to their lovely, modern home in Tagaytay. The scenery is so beautiful out there, just like windward side in Oahu. My lovely cousin, Ateh Ermin, showed us around and took us to see Sonya's Secret Garden and there we saw Alden Richards, a famous Filipino actor. It was too late to take a picture of or with him since we found out too late who he really was and left to go to his hotel. Maybe we'll see him again next time around.
Back in Metro Manila, we took the boys swimming at the condos and walked around the marina. We went to the mall almost every day. We decided to go further out and take the taxi to Makati, Greenbelt, and Glorietta. We all roamed around, took lots of pictures of the tropical greens inside Greenbelt. I ended up getting eye lash extensions at Ooh La Lash in Makati for $18 and turned out so pretty! Too bad their eyelash extensions only last 2 weeks. There fills are only $9! But since I'm back in Los Angeles, I don't know if I'm willing to pay so much to get my lashes maintained.
On our last night in the Philippines, we took the boys out to SM by the Bay, an amusement park behind MOA. SM by the Bay will be having GEN, my favorite AYCE KBBQ! We ended up eating KBBQ at 678 Manila since they are pretty yummy too and they have one in Hawaii. The boys had fun riding the carousel and the bumper cars. All the other rides closed early because of the rain.
And that's a wrap! My favorite part of the trip was seeing my boys have fun, learning where they came from, who my lola was, enjoying and playing with other kids in the province. I'm so happy they can adjust to different types of culture. Hope some day we can visit Piñas again soon.