Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Round-Up: 50 Things I Did Before Doomsday!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

12/21/12 is regarded as the end of the world or doomsday! Of course it ain't true, but it would be good to always live as if it is our last and find fulfillment everyday of our lives.  So other than my 12 memorable combo trips and first time destinations this 2012, I also was able to check off this year 50 tasks  from the book "2001 Things To Do Before I Die"!

My Kindle Fire has "Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
1. Read a Christmas Carol
2. Spend New Year's Eve on Times Square
3. Approach each new year with unchecked enthusiasm
4. Allow Yourself To Feel Patriotic
5. Tell the chef the pizza was perfect - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Got some Reeses inside Hersheys 'Chocolate World  in Hershey, PA
6. Memorize the Gettysburg Address - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
7. Eat a Peanut Butter First in a Reeses
8. Eat only the green M & Ms
9. Learn to Sing Happy Birthday in three languages 
10. Make angels in the snow - Hershey, Pennsylvania and Alton, Utah

Catching Snowflakes in Roy, Utah with Akemi and Caleb

11. Catch a snowflake on your tongue - Roy, Utah
12.Perfect your yodel - Alton, Utah
13. Savor the spotlight - J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference 
14. Give a rousing speech /Move an audience to tears -  - Salt Lake City, Utah
15. Taste green

Getting Awestruck with Carlo Aquino on board a ferry to Siquijor
16. Unearth an amazing archaeological discovery - York, England
17. Stop at a cathedral at night when it is empty
18. Start a conversation with a stranger
19. Allow Yourself To Be Awestruck
20. Share Your Umbrella with a Stranger

Getting Silly Inside A Photo Booth During My Friend's  Wedding
21. Get your name mentioned on national television - State of the Nation by Jessica Sojo
22. Take Silly Pictures In A Photo Booth
23. Levitate -Dipolog, Philippines
24. Get quoted in a major magazine 
25. Honor a Local Hero

Walking In Long Bay Beach During Winter in North Shore, NZ 

26. Walk on the beach in winter - North Shore, New Zealand
27. Bare your soul to a stranger - Auckland, New Zealand
28. Follow that the best things in life are free - New Plymouth, New Zealand
29. Walk knee deep in maple leaves - New Plymouth, New Zealand
30. Chase rainbows - Auckland, New Zealand

"I love You" in Maori Language (New Zealand) is "Kei te aroha au ki a koe
31. Change Your LifestyleTry being a vegan
32. Get a really good foot massage
33. Learn How To Say I Love You in ten different language
34. Mend a broken heart
35. Be known for your baking

The Purple Car Featured in Hongkong Disney
36. Fall in love on Public Transportation - Singapore
37. Feel purple
38.Tell Your Age Proudly
39. Eat, drink and be very merry
40. Check in with a lover from your past

Rode A Merry -Go -Round in SM Novaliches with Red
41. Locate and call a childhood friend you haven't communicated within at least twenty years
42. Visit the house where you were born/ where you lived
43.Reread old love letters 
44. Ride a merry-go-round
45. Overcome your most dread

46. Relive those thrilling days of yesteryear

47. Rekindle a flame
48. Be Swept Off Your Feet
49.  Ask Him To Marry You
50.  Commit

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TRAVEL ROUND - UP: A Dozen Memorable Combo Trips For 2012!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Flights and Ferry / Road Trips could well be the central themes of my 2012 Travel Round Up! But while it is easy to say that the first half of the year from January to June was filled with flights around the United States, Singapore, Germany, Indonesia,  United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Philippines and the second half from July to December is full of road trips around the country, separating the two is not always possible. Many a times I have to fly to get to the destination and while there I get the most of the place by going on a ferry or road trips. So, in the same fashion as the ubiquitous offerings for "combo meals" or "complete meals", here's my 12 Memorable Combo Trips in chronology as entry to the Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival for the month of December.

United States of America (North America)
Combo 1. Fly to NJ (USA) then Road Trip Around PA (USA)                                To See Life's Simulated Journey Destinations 
After taking a Luftansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Newark, New Jersey, I welcomed 2012 with the thrill of seeing the historic New Year Eve's Ball dropping from the flagpole atop the historic Times Square in New York City. But since it was my fifth round in the Big Apple, a road trip around Pennsylvania was in order, not only because of its relatively  short distance travel from New Jersey where I was staycationing, but also because this State of Independence has it all - from birth  to living life to the fullest to death destinations!  My first weekend was spent around Philadelphiaa place where the United States began to take shape and getting its nickname "the cradle of America". Then I traveled to Hershey for mouth-watering journey to enjoy life's sweetest pleasure - chocolates! But as every good things end, my final destination in this "Chocolate State" was in Gettysburg, a place where "more men fell than in any other battle fought in North America before or since".  This scene of carnage, however, became a symbol of sacrifice of the 51,000 soldiers buried there and an inspiration to the living, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered the well-known "Gettysburg Address"
Combo 2.Fly to Salt Lake City then Road Trip Around Utah (USA)                                To Experience Winter Haven Destinations
Being the only airport in Utah, I arrived in Salt Lake City aboard a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey. But since it was my fourth trip in the capital and the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the many LDS-related sites like the Temple Square, decided to take a road trip to the home of the "greatest snow on earth" - Southern Utah! The trip took me more than 4 hours of combo car and shuttle rides, which to date was the longest winter journey I ever had but it was so worth it! Snow jumping, making snow angel, shoveling for fun, being a snow bunny whenever I see the velvety snow while going around Long Valley Junction, Alton, Cedar City and Duck Creek - ah, the experiences I will never forget!    

United Kingdom (Europe)
Combo 3. Fly to Heathrow, London then Road Trip Around Greater London For A Glimpse Of The Olympic Destinations 
As a first timer who did my homework, I knew that Greater London, England has so many attractions I want to see - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, to name a few. But with only a full 24 hours on this England's capital in a spread of two days, my toughest decision was, what to do first? I got my bearings inside the London Tubes, or what Londoners call the Underground Rail Network or the subway (thanks to my friend Cath Iblan!). And although I am not good at commuting (and could hardly remember directions), I had a fun experience and smooth journey aboard the tubes and have seen the treasures this 2012  Olympic Games' host has to offer! 
Combo 4.Fly to Heathrow, London then Road Trip To Lincoln and York England  For  Two Days Out In History 
On board the Virgin Atlantic Airways, I have flown to Heathrow, London instead of Humberside Airport, a small international airport situated where my nephew's family lives. This decision allowed me to experience the hospitality and luxury of the youngest fleet in the world while exercising a Leap Of Faith  traveling for 5 hours at night to a new destination without a cellphone! In the end, I had much - awaited reunion with nephew at a place that didn't disappointKingston Upon Hull, famed because of its longest suspension bridge, is only an hour or two away from old cities for a day out in history! My host Steven (and Juris) drove me to the City of Lincoln to climb and get breathtaking views of the city from the 900 year-old Cathedral and Lincoln Castle (in picture) dating back to 1068. The second day, we went to the City of York, England  where I've seen, heard, felt and climbed the Medieval, Roman and Viking England of yesterday!

Philippines - Mindanao (Asia)

Combo 5. Fly To Dipolog Then Road Trip To Dapitan and Katipunan                 For A Travel Like Our National Hero 
Still awed about Dr. Jose Rizal's travel around Singapore and London and wanting to be one of the 100 pilgrims to complete the 27 sites in the Lakbay Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail, I flew over Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte with my two brothers Mike and Joel aboard Cebu Pacific Airlines. After a visit to the Dipolog Cathedral we beat the clock to ride the last bus to Katipunan, which is home to Rizal's Farm. It was a lovely experience seeing the more than a 100 years old mango tree and meeting the 96 years old Crisostomo Eguia Sr., son of Rizal's student, who now owns the farm. The following day we took a road trip to Dapitan and got to know more the life in exile and the making of a national hero! 

Combo 6.Fly to Iloilo then Ferry to Bacolod and Road Trip To San Carlos City and Ferry To Sipaway Island For Island Discovery
In May, I culminated the Visayas Leg of Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail with a flight to Iloilo aboard Air Philippines. After checking off two-must sees in relation to Rizal, I ferried to Bacolod City  and scored a cheap but nice accommodation with swimming pool while in the area. The next day we had a unique  CERES Road Trip bound to San Carlos City, crossroad city being in the middle of four major cities in the Visayas - Cebu City, Bacolod City, Iloilo City and Dumaguete CityFor some wet fun,  we took an 15 - minute journey on an outrigger boat and a  short tricycle ride to Sipaway Island, geographically  known as Refugio Island.At the Whispering Palm Island Resort we breathed in fresh mountain air, enjoyed a dip on its cool water, felt its white sand and feasted on the beautiful tropical sights for onlyPhp 300 inclusive of a day tour entrance and lunch! 

Combo 7.Fly to Cebu then Ferry / Road Trip To Dumaguete                              and Siquijor Island For "Mystery It's More Fun In The Philippines" Tour
Dumaguete is the capital and largest city of the Province of Negros Oriental, which I visited for the umpteenth time by flying direct from Manila. This year, I gained access to this gem through combo trips - by land (flying to Bacolod City and taking a Ceres bus) and by sea (flying to Cebu and jettying across Sibulan, Negros Occidental). The combo trips do not end there though. Since Dumaguete is a principal seaport, I used it as a jump off point to Siquijor where I've got my much - needed break away and relaxation amid stunning and picturesque surroundings. Also, I was able to check off my 64th (out of the 80) province of the Philippines

(Bonus: I finished at No. 65 in the Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail while my brother Joel was No. 66 and my brother Mike at No. 77!)

New Zealand (Oceania)

Combo 8. Fly to Auckland the Road Trip To Hamilton Then To Hobbiton        For A Magical Journey To Middle Earth 
This year, heaven's conspired to  let me check off my so-called Pacific Triangle Dream by being in New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Thanks to an invite for a lawyers' conference in Hamilton and for a promo fare on Jetstar from Singapore to Auckland! And because it is my first time in this dream destination, I naturally had a dizzying amount of places to go in my itinerary! I let loosed of my inner child by conquering Middle Earth in Hobbiton, and then beckoned its beautiful scenery and wide range of fantastic attractions while snapping some pictures I  listed as  My 7 Super Shots of New ZealandRead below to know three (3) must - takes road trips around the country "last settled by humans"...
Combo 9.From Hamilton Road Trip To Waitomo                                                      For A Scenic Travel  and Easy Caving
After experiencing the unique beauty of Hamilton, I went on a joyride with my friend Helen to experience scenic country roads, peaceful surroundings and anything that glows!  The trip took us through prime Waikato farmland, to Otorohanga to meet New Zealand’s national symbol - kiwi and finally to our main destination - Waitomo (or water hole). Call it the cave region of New Zealand! It was amazing to be inside Waitomo Caves with its subterranean splendor decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms in its natural, un-altered state.  Yet, the caves are surprisingly easy to walk through with its with  well-paved roads, making the caves enjoyable even by kiddos!

Combo 10. Fly to Auckland Then Road Trip To New Plymouth                                 For A Garden And Parks Experience Like No Other
My attraction favorite in a new destination is easy: immersing myself in nature for free! Yes FREE - and my post Top 10 Highlights in New Plymouth would show you that was just what I've got in the most liveable city in New Zealand and the best small city in the world! As my new love destination, New Plymouth boasts of  having in its soil the almost perfect cone Mount Taranaki or Mt. Edgmont, parks with beautiful scenery and gardens worthy of celebration! At Pukekura Park, I walked along trails through the inner-city botanical wonderland and discovered a lake, zoo, tea house, waterfalls, playground, viewing deck, and this iconic poet's bridge! Then I wandered inside the beautifully landscaped Tupare Garden sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, climbed up to Paritutu Centennial Park for a breathtaking view of the mount and the sea, and the list goes on until maybe 245 parks and reserves and counting...
Combo 11.Fly to Auckland then Road Trip Around                                                       and To North Shore To Get To Know The Place
While in Auckland and its nearby North Shore, I found excitement and exhilaration around every corner of this coveted  largest urban area in New Zealand. I first got my culture and history fixes inside the Auckland War Memorial Museum where I submerged myself in the large collection of Maori and Pacific Island artifacts, treasures, carvings, largest collection of applied and decorative arts in New Zealand and aextensive permanent exhibition covering wars including a war canoe. Outside, I brought out my  camera and snapped pictures as we circled around this iconic building doubling as museum and war memorial and perfectly located in the middle of a garden! For some more natural scenery, I sampled the many bays and beaches open everyday for FREE like the Mairangi Bay, a facility just a stone's throw away from my friend's house and Long Bay Regional Park, a popular destination where I enjoyed the sweeping expanse of sand, sea, sun and super fun photo ops with my young friends - Pen and Moe!.  

Singapore & Indonesia (Asia)

Combo 12. Fly to Singapore then Ferry/Road Trip Around                        Batam, Indonesia For An Exploratory  Trip
From Auckland, I flew back to Singapore on Jetstar. But since it was my fifth stint in the Lion City, I braved travelingl solo to Batam, Indonesia, one of the 18,000 plus islands of Indonesia and the largest of the 3,000 islands of Riau Archipelago. This industrial hub is only 50 minutes south of Singapore and easily and cheaply accessible by ferries for only Php 1,550 round trip! At the Batam Centre International Ferry Terminal my adventure started with hiring a taxi service to get the most of my 2 - day stay. BaRelang Bridge  is Indonesia's bridge system that connects the three islands of Batam, Rempang and Galang  where the bridge name was coined from.  It is a chain of six (6) various types of bridges, the most popular of which is the cable-styled bridge that connects BATAM and Tonton Island and locally called as Tengku Fissabilillah. Many tourists and street vendors come together on the bridge for a nice photo session while tasting Batam's street food. So did I!

This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2012 with the theme 2012: This Year In Travel, which for the first time is being co-hosted by two travel bloggers - Gay Mitra - Emami (hot momma with combo surnames!) and Regine Camille Garcia (a first timer blog carnival host with combo first names)! Check out the previous blog carnival topics in Estan Cabigas' Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Philippines: "In the Spirit of Christmas" Destinations

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

For me, there is no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by seeing huge Christmas trees  illuminating with tons of bright, white or colorful lights and adorned with snowflakes, wreaths and a spectacular star topper. It is sheer magical and merry

Candy Land by Georgia Club Vista Land
This year I don't have to go too far  to experience this magical adventure with a plus - we just head home to Sta. Rosa Heights at night and stopped along the road by Nuvali to see two giant thematic Christmas Trees and get enchanted with the colorful Candy Land and Santa's House both courtesy of  Vista Land Company of the Villars.  (note: this is not a paid post hehe)

With the traditional green - colored Christmas tree decorated with red balls, bright white lights and huge candy canes and lollipops around, you would definitely not want to pass by everything there is to do at the Candy LandCall it a museum of candies! Inside I let loosed the inner child in me as I marveled at the various candies on display! It is soooo yummy but none of the candies are for sale. 

Santa's House by Valenza Crown Asia

Santa's House At Night
A few meters away from Candy Land is another incredible winter - inspired Christmas Tree as it illuminates with thousands of bright white lights and a huge star topper by the Santa's House. White Christmas in the Philippines? Why not!

Santa's House In the Morning
Seeing Santa inside his very own house is a Christmas tradition that truly enchants me. And no matter how many times I've seen it before, it's always awe inspiring, so I keep coming back - day or night. 

After enjoying the holiday spectacle and the beautiful light display, I enjoyed a Merry Red Red Christmas in the nearby Paseo de Sta. Rosa which hosts an array of free events, food extravaganza and red tags sales as early as November. So don't act surprise if you hear me say I'm in Sta. Rosa again! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sporty Chronicles: Finding My Best Charity Gift Idea in Tarlac!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I was traveling around Tarlac for the last two days since I tagged along with my princess in scouting a house and lot for sale for her client. Red was the driver slash the sales agent, bodyguard and a business partner rolled into one. You should see how my princess felt so happy!

But I'm not writing about Red on this post. There's one more reason why my princess was happy during this trip. While in SM City Tarlac she found a gift for herself that gives! 

SM Cares Foundation Bears of Joy  is a project that appealed to my princess who is an arctophile or a teddy bear collector. For only Php 100, she got two bears of her own choice -  the pink one that she could take home and the other she got to hang in the Christmas Tree to donate and make a child happy!

So since this holiday season is a time of giving, why not give me away? - I mean buy two Bears of Joy teddies until December 31, 2012 in any SM Malls and be charitable this Christmas. Anyway, as SM puts it "CHRISTMAS isn't CHRISTMAS without things that make us MERRY" (which happens to be my princess real name!) and teddy bears like me can truly make any child merry!

(Note: This is not a paid post)

Lakbayan Philippines Grade

My Lakbayan grade is A!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

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