Rockin’ it Good at Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation from a near distance

Despite the frequent wanderlust attacks, heaven knows I’m not really an avid fan of trekking, especially if it involves slippery walks through damp swamps, uneven rocks, and mountain slopes. I’m the laid-back beachbum type, and as such, mountain climbing and trekking are on the last of my list of to-do’s and to-try’s in terms of adventure. So imagine my brother’s effort in convincing me to accompany him to join the trek (this was actually just a looooooong walk with a few hills and slopes to climb – author’s brother) on Kapurpurawan Rock formation in Ilocos. Being the doting sister that I am (*ehem* *ehem*) plus the constant prodding and nagging from my mom to accompany my much younger brother, I agreed but with the condition that my brother will and should literally stay by my side during the entire stretch, lest I slip, fall, or worse, roll while trekking. Brother agreed with the return condition, that I will be his official photographer while he poses ala-Johnny Bravo during the trek.

The trip to the Kapurpurawan Rock formation was part of our Photoholic Ilocos trip (under Travelfactor). This awesome and unique work of Mother Nature can be found in the town of Burgos in Ilocos Norte (a northern province in the Philippines). From afar, and in my opinion (and sometimes crazy imagination), the rock formation appears like the head of a sea serpent or dragon. It is facing a vast sea, which according to our tour guide, was already the South China Sea. The trek would entail a looong walk from an unpaved dirt road which then opens to a vast open landspace filled with some moss-like swamp-ish marshlands (which I think are portions of the sea water seeping through the land), and finally a stretch of dried, white-sand covered big rocks which leads to the foot of the hill/mountain – on top of which rests the rock formation. For me, the walk or trek was a long (and seemingly endless) one. I thought my supposedly mountain trekker’s sandals, would give up after I almost tripped in one of the in-between-rock paths we crossed. I was just thankful that Brother dear was able to grab me before I totally slipped and slumped on my b*tt. Nonetheless, all feeling of fatigue disappears when one gets to come face to face or at least close enough to the rock formation itself. My brother, who was more physically fit than I am, was able to go up the steeper slope and was able to reach THE rock formation itself. After almost slipping, I was contented viewing its magnificence from the the 2nd level slope (i.e. a slope just above the base or foot). Aside from the rock formation, the sight of the mid-size waves crashing on the land and the breeze from the sea was also breathtaking and calming. Seeing the sparkle in my eyes, my brother nudges me with a “Buti sumama ka.. Kita mo na kung ano ang mami-miss mo kung sakaling nagpaiwan ka sa bus… ” (It’s a good thing you joined. Just imagine what you would miss had you chosen to stay in the bus.). He was definitely right.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation up close and personal (well a little bit at least…)

View from the top. The South China Sea waves kissing the land.

Special thanks to Johnny Bravo.. oh I mean, my Bro, for convincing me to join the trek…

I must admit that for a non-experienced trekker like me, the walk was really tiring. The uneven trek paths, plus the occassional slippery damp marsh-like portions made it difficult, add to it the climb to the slope of the hill/mountain where the rock formation was resting. A bit of advice for those who are planning to visit – make sure that your trekking shoes or sandals have sturdy straps. This would prevent slipping and would ensure that your feet are safe (from possible sprains) when you need to cross those big, uneven rocks. And though no one can predict the weather 100% correctly, try visiting the place during the summer peak season. This would ensure that there are really no or very minimal rains. We were fortunate enough that during our visit, the rain poured on our way back to the bus. At least we were still able to enjoy the view before the heavy downpour. Overall, the experience was worth the view. I must say that I will really be regretful had I not joined and just listened to my brother’s personal testimonial. 🙂

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Pure Adrenaline Rush – Subic’s Treetop Adventure

TreeTop Adventure in Subic, Zambales

One of the nearby getaways from the bustling Metro Manila is Subic in Zambales. With just about 2-3 hours drive (under moderate traffic conditions), it is an easy escape from the wearisome city life. After several visits in the said place, me and my family were surprised to find this new spot wherein thrill seekers and adventure junkies can test their adrenaline rush limits – Treetop Adventure.

Treetop Adventure boasts of a lot of adventure “rides” for various levels of thrill seekers. Due to budget and courage constraints we were only able to try 3 out of 6 major rides. The Canopy Ride allows one to take a tour of the Subic forestry from an “open” cable car/seats. The cable car/seats moves from one station to another. If there are few riders, there is a minimal to zero waiting time in a station. During peak season, one will wait for about 1-3 minutes for the next cable car/seat to arrive before moving on to the next station. We were lucky enough that there were a few people taking the Canopy Ride when we came (we came at around 3pm). It took us roughly 45 minutes to complete the entire adventure – from first to last station. For those who enjoy looooooong walks, there is the Canopy Walk. This is similar to the Canopy Ride, minus the cable car/seat. Guests can take their sweet time viewing the vast expanse of Subic forestry while walking from high and secured elevated walkways.

Dear brother onboard the Canopy Ride

Another ride which we tried was the Superman Ride. I must say that this several notches higher than the Canopy Ride in terms of heart-pounding adrenaline rush. Hanging from about several hundred feet from the ground are two trapeze-like structures. Guests are assisted so that their bodies lie between these trapeze-like structures – hands/arms grabbing (or hugging)  the front trapeze, while the legs/feet are placed and rested at the back trapeze – making the guest appear like flying – thus the name Superman Ride. Once the guests are secured and settled (some guests – like my brother – are saying their prayers first before giving their go-signal), the trapeze-like structures moves at full-speed backward, making the guest appear  like Superman (or Superwoman) flying on reverse mode. Once the other end is reached, the direction is reversed and the structure moves full-speed forward, returning to the original starting station. The ride takes only a few minutes, but the heart-pounding after effect lasts 10 times longer.

Cousin and I on the Superman Ride – backwards mode

Cousin and I on the Superman Ride – forward mode

The last, but definitely not the least, ride which we tried was the Tree Drop. From a spectator’s point of view, this adventure seems to be easy. But NOT when you’re the one to be dropped. Guests climb up to a 60-foot tree. Harnesses are then attached to him/her. The guest is then asked for his/her preferred “dropping style” – whether conventional (i.e. with rope – feet first to hit the ground, head up), lizard style (i.e. with rope – head first to the ground), or the daredevil-ish Australian  style (i.e. face first free fall – in full speed). Once the dropping style has been chosen, guests are then launched from the station platform to “drop” and “freefall” to the ground. No need to worry for safety. On the landing spot lies a big and thick mattress which would catch the “falling” guests. The crew operating the ride is also closely-watching such that the guests are caught just in time before they hit the mattress. Being the adventurous and daredevil types that they are, my brother and my cousin chose the Australian free fall style (for my brother) and the Lizard style (for my cousin). Brave as they were, they screamed their hearts and lungs out as they were plummeted to the waiting mattress on the ground.

Brother dear preparing for the Australian-style drop

Australian-style drop… view from the top

Cousin dear preparing for the lizard-style drop

Lizard-style drop… view from the top

Being the “scared one”, I chose the conventional drop (feet first). Despite the drop style being the safest one, it took me more than 15 minutes before I actually allowed the crew to release the ropes, to start my descend. I also requested them (the crew) to control the drop speed lest I die of cardiac arrest while descending. I swear, it was the scariest 20-30 minutes of my life!! Thank God that the crew (and the next people in line) were patient enough in handling and waiting for an acrophobic like me. Thank God also that the crew had the mercy not to take my pictures during this ordeal. 😀

Some bits of advice. First, if you are a sun-worshipper who doesn’t mind being under the sun, it is ok to visit the place anytime during their operating hours. But if you’re the type who’s conscious of your complexion or into gluthatione or whitening agents, or simply hate being under the sun, try visiting the place late in the afternoon (around 4 or 5pM). Since most of the rides require you to be under the sun, you might appreciate these rides more with lesser exposure to the sun’s rays. Second, each and every individual has his/her own limits. If you are the type who’s scared of heights (uhmm…like me…), try avoiding the TreeDrop ride/adventure. Though it is a source of pure, unadulterated adrenaline rush (the closest thing to bungee jumping that I can think of) and a 100% sure way to face and conquer your fear of heights, it is not for the weak-hearted acrophobics. You do not want to climb up to 60-70 feet, be cheered on by a watching crowd, only to chicken out at the last minute after learning that your nervous heart rate will be nothing compared to the impending drop speed. Third, simply enjoy the moment and have fun. The rides and adventures are not that cheap, so make the most out of it by screaming your hearts and lungs out and simply enjoy the rush.

For more information on the available adventure rides and packages from Treetop Adventure (in Subic and their other branches), try visiting their official website. Enjoy and have fun!! 🙂

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The Mark of Christianity Down South – Magellan’s Cross in Cebu

A trip to the Queen City of the South, Cebu, will not be complete without a trip to the famous historical landmark – Magellan’s Cross. For this reason, when my family and I visited Cebu, I didn’t pass up on the opportunity to visit the said landmark.

The facade of Magellan’s Cross on a busy Sunday morning

Magellan’s Cross is located in the downtown area of Cebu City, on a street aptly called Magallanes St. It is located just beside the Basilica of the Sto. Nino.  According to our tour guide, the cross was planted around 1521 by the Spaniards  as ordered by their leader, Ferdinand Magellan, when he arrived in Cebu. Though the area is usually bustling and busy, the landmark cannot be missed even from a distance due to its circular shape and its red “salakot”–like rooftop. A salakot is a local wide-brimmed hat that is pointed at the tip. A bit of advice though – to avoid the large crowd, and to have a better chance to do some photo shoot in Magellan’s Cross, try visiting the place not on a Sunday, as Masses are also being held in the nearby Basilica of Sto. Nino during this day.

Inside the circular landmark, on the rooftop is a mural depicting how the Spaniards came into the Philippines and introduced Christianity to the early Filipino people.

Mural depicting how the Spaniards introduced Christianity to the Philippines.

Mural in black and white.

The huge wooden cross is located at the center of the landmark. There is a sign just below the cross, which says that the original cross brought by Magellan, is housed inside the wooden one. I think this was done in order to preserve the original one.

Full view of the cross.

Inscription at the foot of the cross.

Yellow-clad women dancing and saying prayers for the candles.

One thing that caught my attention inside the said landmark were the yellow-clad old women who are selling candles of various colors to tourists/guests.  According to the women, each color represent a different intention (i.e. red was for love, green for wealth/money, etc.). Initially, I thought the women were just plain  candle sellers, similar to those I see in other local churches here in the Philippines. To my surprise, after paying for the 3 candles I bought, the woman stood up from her small stool and walked inside towards the cross. She held the candles I bought while she danced and silently chanted prayers seemingly at or for those candles.

My jaws dropped at the sight of this, and it took a prodding from my mom to be able to exit that surprised stage, and eventually took a picture of the dancing woman. The candle “ritual” lasted for about 3-5 minutes. After doing her thing, I asked the old woman what was the “ritual” for. She answered that she prayed to the Sto. Nino for whatever petitions were associated to those candles. As I have deep-rooted petitions in those candles, I gave the old woman some extra bucks, just to express my gratitude to her for doing an extra prayer for those candle petitions. It was also from that old woman that I learned the there was an old belief that the original cross bore powers such as healing and providing good luck. It was for this reason that the original one had to be placed inside another wooden cross, as guests and tourists try to chip off some pieces from the original one.

the Lola (i.e. old lady – Filipino term for grandmother) who danced and prayed for my candles.

Initially, I thought that my trip to Magellan’s Cross will only be a trip down history lane. After seeing the faith of the old woman and the other people who bought candles, as well as the people lined up in the nearby Basilica of the Sto. Nino, my trip Magellan’s Cross also became a trip to revisit my faith. Somehow, and in some way, the experience strengthened my faith, believing that God (through the help of the Sto. Nino) would somehow answer my prayers in a way that would benefit me best. 🙂

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The Secret Serenity of Laguna’s Lake Pandin

Laguna is one of the provinces in the Southern Tagalog region of the Philippines. As compared to its nearby neighbors – Cavite, Batangas, and even Quezon Province – it was not blessed with sea nor beaches. However, the province got its revenge by having seven lakes – one of which is Lake Pandin in San Pablo City.

My mom, my cousin, and I had the chance to join a tour called “Viaje del Sol” which had taken us to several spots in the area of Laguna and the nearer areas of Quezon Province. One of these spots is Lake Pandin (Note from the author – Watch out for the other spots we visited. It will not bring justice if separate posts are not created for all of those great places!). To be honest, I am not a “lake-person”. I prefer the more adventurous and free-flowing seas and beaches. As such, I was not that excited when I’ve heard that our last stop for the tour was Lake Pandin. Add this to the fact that we had a God-knows-how-looooooooong walk from the van’s parking spot to the lake. It took us about 15-20 minutes from the parking lot to finally reach and see the lake. It was a tiring trek, because of the rough, soil-filled tracks we had to pass. But all these immediately changed when we finally reached the lake. The calmness of the lake and the surrounding view was simply breathless.

To enjoy the lake better, our tour included a ride of a giant bamboo raft (locally known as balsa). The raft had been

The bamboo rafts which are being used as the tourist vehicle around the lake, together with the women bankeras.

customized such that seats were built on it, that one would think he/she is onboard a boat (i.e. it has a giant central table and seats surrounding this table). A more surprising thing was that the raft’s driver and navigators were women. According to the lady raft drivers we were with, tourism in Lake Pandin served as the source of livelihood for the women in the area.

Aside from the breathtaking view of the lake and the surrounding greenery, the ride was made more pleasant, as we were served a local merienda (snack) – ginataan halo-halo – sweetened camote, banana, bilo-bilo (i.e. glutinous rice shaped as balls), sago, and jackfruit strips all boiled in sweetened coconut milk.

Simple yet Cozy-looking Homes Along Lake Pandin

According to our tour guide, some of these houses along Lake Pandin are for rent to tourists who want some quiet time

Some more views while onboard the raft.

While we were at the center of the lake, we were surprised to see two local celebrities riding on another raft. They were Julia Clarete and Iliac Diaz. As their raft and ours met at the center, we let out a big, cheeful “HELLO!” to them, and they gladly replied back. The two local celebrities were so friendly, that they willingly joined us in our raft to have our pictures taken with them. This made the ride more fun-filled, as one won’t commonly see celebrities on tour with you.

Group Picture with Ms. Julia Clarete and Mr. Iliac Diaz

Towards the other end of the lake, was a mountain, where a small waterfalls was located. In that mountain, images/statues of the Virgin Mary were engraved. Since I was a bit tired from the loooong trek, and was still stuffed with the ginataan snack, I chose to stay in the raft and view the images/statues from where I was seated. My cousin, who still had the energy, dared to check out the falls, as well as the statues of the Virgin Mary.

Grotto with the image of the Immaculate Conception

Grotto of the Virgin Mary with other Virgin Mary images

As our raft turned to return to our starting point, one of the lady raft drivers, asked if we or if some us would like to trek another mountain, to see another one of the Seven Lakes of Laguna. Unfortunately again, due to my fatigue (and I guess my being overstuffed with that ginataan snack), I opted to stay in wait in our raft, while my cousin and some of our companions joined the trek to another lake. According to my cousin, it was both a good and bad thing that I didn’t join. It was good that I didn’t join because the trek was much longer – double the distance we traveled to reach Lake Pandin from the parking lot, with matching slippery soil-ridden tracks. However, she also mentioned that the other lake was as breathtaking and as mystical as Lake Pandin. Too bad I wasn’t able to take a picture of it.

On our way back to our starting point, I realized that lakes are not as boring as I initially thought them to be. Though seas and beaches appear more “dynamic” and more lively because of their waves, lakes like Lake Pandin give off that certain feeling of serenity which is not usually found in the active lifestyle emanated from seas or beaches. Overall, I can say that the trip to Lake Pandin was worth it. Somehow, it brought balance to my usually hectic life. =)

The breath-taking view of the greenery surrounding Lake Pandin.

Lake Pandin – a calming escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila life.

Lake Pandin – a reminder that it is okay to slow down, and appreciate the silent and quiet moments in life.

To learn more about the Viaje del Sol tour (which includes the visit to Lake Pandin), feel free to visit the Travelfactor website.

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Timeless Classic : The Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag

Brief Description of the Shrine

A trip up north will not be complete without visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in the town of Manaoag,  province of Pangasinan. Even a non-Catholic will find the visit worth remembering, as the church has a lot to boast of in terms of historical and architectural value.

My father, being a devout Catholic, always tries to visit the said shrine, at least once every quarter or at least every 3-4 months. Surprisingly, it was only our recent visits wherein I become interested in the place, and took some photos.

Devotees Waiting to be Blessed at the End of the Mass

One of the noteworthy things I have observed in the shrine are the murals on the walls. These murals depict some of the shrine’s history and the legend as to how the Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag was discovered by a local.

Mural Showing How the Lady of Manaoag Was Discovered

Another mural on the Church’s Wall

Another Mural on the Church’s Wall

Aside from the murals on the walls, the architecture and the structure of the shrine was reminiscent of vintage Spanish churches.  The paintings on the roof, especially that of the 4 evangelists (i.e. St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John) were also remarkable. I am just an ordinary visitor, but it doesn’t take an expert to know that the shrine doesn’t follow modern architectural forms, and the carvings on the doors and pillars remind me of great and classic Catholic basilicas such as St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

Painting of the 4 Evangelists on the 4 Corners of the Central Roof

Paintings on the Central Roof

The Main Altar

The sites are not only limited to the views one can see while on the church’s ground floor. To note, one tradition being observed by most devotees is the “kissing of the mantle”. Devotees or simple kibitzers usually fall in line on the side of the church towards a staircase that leads to the upper floor. In the upper floor of the church, one can see the back view image of the Lady of the Rosary. Outstretched from the back view image of the Virgin Mary is her long veil which devotees “kiss” and venerate. Surprisingly, even if a lot of devotees “kiss” and venerate the said material, the long veil remains clean and  well-maintained. Inside that room, one can also see images of various saints, including that of Jesus Christ. In the adjacent room, is a small souvenir shop wherein religious items (i.e. rosaries, novenas, images, etc) are being sold at a reasonable price.

“Kissing” and Venerating the Virgin Mary’s Mantle

View of the 2nd floor

Stepping outside the church, there are a few more sites within the shrine’s vicinity or compound that are worth visiting.

The Paschal Chapel

First is the Paschal Chapel. The Paschal Chapel is the most adjacent area to the main church. When the main church is jampacked, especially during Sunday and fiesta Masses, the Paschal Chapel is a refuge to those who wish to be seated, but would still like to be able to listen to the Mass itself. Notable images inside the Paschal Chapel are the images of the Black Nazarene (including the Santo Intierro– i.e. image of Jesus lying on his sepulcher) and the Sorrowful Mother.  A second site to check   is the Candle Gallery. The Candle Gallery, though a bit farther from the main church than the Paschal Chapel, cannot be missed as this is well-lit. This is the area can be located on the side of the main church and where devotees light candles while silently praying for their personal petitions. Candles of various sizes and colors (i.e. different colors for different prayer

Candle Gallery

intentions such as prosperity, studies, love, etc) are being sold near the entrance of the said area. Posters are also strategically placed on the walls of the Candle Gallery. These posters contain the short prayer – “Prayer Before Lighting the Candles” – which devotees usually recite prior to lighting their respective candles. At the center of the Candle Gallery is a huge image/replica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, with angels near her feet. Below this huge image

Image of Our Lady of Manaoag in the Candle Gallery

is a pool of water which some devotees think of as a wishing pool and some go to the extent of wishing and throwing coins into the water. Many devotees and visitors choose to have their pictures taken here with the Virgin Mary as their backdrop. Another site worth seeing within the shrine’s compound is the Rosary Garden. As opposed to the Candle Gallery, this is a bit more difficult to notice — well, the Rosary part that is. This site is often mistaken to be a simple garden

Prayer Before Lighting the Candles

only, until one takes a closer look at the statues and images that are placed within the garden. To be honest, it was only on my 3rd or 4th visit wherein I noticed the “Rosary element” in this area. I remembered my mom’s reaction – a mixture of surprise and amusement – when she learned that it was only during my 3rd or 4th visit that I discovered the the garden actually contains images depicting the mysteries of the Holy Rosary — “Matagal na tayo nagpupunta dito, ngayon mo lang napansin na Mysteries of the Holy Rosary yan?!?” (i.e. We have visited this place several times before, and it was only now that you’ve noticed that the garden depicts mysteries from the Holy Rosary?!?). Oh well.. I was not yet that observant during my initial visits. Nevertheless, the Rosary Garden is another venue for photo-ops for devotees and visitors.

To those who want to visit the place with the intention of attending Mass, take note of the schedule of the services (below is the shrine’s official website – please check under Schedule of Services menu) when planning and considering your departure time from Manila. You don’t want to arrive at the shrine at 1PM, only to find out that the last Mass in the morning is scheduled at 12NN. In this case, you may need to wait for the 1st available afternoon Mass, which is usually around 3 or 4PM.

Another bit of advice. Similar to any crowded place, be extra careful of your belongings especially during Sunday masses and when you intend to visit the shrine during its fiesta period (i.e. First Sunday of October). There are a few lawless (and God-less) elements who try to slash bags and do pickpocket. Nonetheless, the shrine should still be given credit, and should still be visited, as it provides security personnel to watch over the safety of devotees and ordinary visitors.

For more information about the said shrine, feel free to visit its official website — http://www.manaoagshrine.org/.

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Ark Avilon : Zoo in the City

Ark Avilon Zoo in Pasig City – celebrating Wild Life

Any parent would agree that in order for kids to learn faster and in a more interesting manner, they should sometimes be exposed to the “real thing”. Take the case of learning animals, in order for kids to get more acquainted with different animals, it would sometimes be helpful to bring them to zoos so that they would see the animals in their “living and moving” state. But with the ongoing traffic in Metro Manila, people coming from northern Quezon City would find it difficult to visit the national zoo – Manila Zoo – which is located down south in the capital city of Manila.

This was my dilemma until I discovered Ark Avilon Zoo which is located within the Frontera Verde complex along Ortigas Ave.  and C5 in Pasig City. If you thought it was only my son who was excited to enter this ark-shaped zoo, think again! My brother, my mom, my cousin, my son’s nanny, and even I was excited and very much curious to know what can be found inside.

The first creature we met upon entering the Zoo was Jenny the Bornean Orangutan. She was a very lovable and friendly creature who welcomed guests to the zoo. She was very domesticated, that she readily posed for

Jenny the Bornean Orangutan with her handler

Jenny the Bornean Orangutan with my son’s Nanny

pictures when people wanted to. Everyone in our family had a picture with her – the funniest of which was Jenny’s picture with my son’s Yaya (i.e. nanny) as Jenny was looking dearly at her.

For avian or bird lovers, there is a whole bunch of our feathered friends in Ark Avilon. From the elegant eagle to the fiesta-colored parrots, Ark Avilon can be considered as a good avian zoo or bird sanctuary.

Aside from birds, the zoo has a great array of animals and wild life that could trigger the interest of the kids and even the kids-at-heart. The zoo also boasts of amphibians (e.g. tortoises), reptiles (e.g. lizards, snakes, pythons), and a variety of mammals (e.g. mini horses, rams, bobcats, tigers, etc).

The downside of the Ark Avilon experience was the steep entrance fee. Adults were charged PHP 400, while kids whose height was below the measuring bar were charged PHP 300. The animal feeding facilities inside the zoo also has a separate charge. For parents who have active kids (like mine), be sure to bring some extra moolah in case your kid(s) wants to try feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs.

Kids feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs

Putting the steep entrance fee on the side, the Ark Avilon experience was still a good one and I would still recommend it to any parent who is thinking of a covered zoo that is clean, well-maintained, and has enough animals for smaller kids to learn. Bit of advice – if you can, do visit the zoo on a weekday, as weekends are jampacked with other families who would also want to visit the place. Another bit of advice – don’t forget to bring your camera when visiting Ark Avilon. Aside from making the most out of your entrace fee, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to have that picture taken with Jenny the Orangutan – one of the zoo’s in-demand mainstays.

In the future, I hope to see more animals in the said zoo. I hope they would try to expand to cater to more animals, including more exotic and the less exotic but bigger-in-size (i.e. elephants, giraffes, etc) kinds. Aside from getting my money’s worth, adding more animals in the zoo, would help me and the other parents in educating our children about the animal world. 🙂

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Calea: Ice Cream Cake Anyone?

Calea Pastry Shop

Calea Pastry Shop

Just this May, my family and I attended a family reunion in my mother’s hometown in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. On our first night, after gorging on a sumptuous Chinese food dinner, we chanced upon a daintly pastry shop just across our hotel (L’Fisher Hotel along Lacson Street) – Calea. One of my uncles whose a native of the city advised us to try the ice cream cakes, as these are not common sights in pastry shops in Manila (to my knowledge only Dairy Queen serves ice cream cakes nowadays). Armed with that recommendation from my uncle, and our natural sweet tooth, we entered the pastry shop and was immediately mesmerized by the homely ambiance.

My family sat in a corner table near the transparent freezer which stores and displays the wide array of ice cream cakes. After staring and drooling for about 1-2 minutes, asking the food server which are their best

The Transparent Freezer –  the Altar of Ice Cream Cakes

sellers, what’s this and that cake made of, we have finally made up our minds and decided on what to order. We ordered several ice cream cake slices, most of which are the shops’ bestsellers.

One of our favorites was the Chocolate Mudpie ice cream cake. The base ice cream cake is made of rich chocolate ice cream. This base chocolate ice cream cake appears to be rolled on grounded choco cookies (i.e. the likes of grounded oreo cookies) , and what appears like frozen chocolate syrup seem to top the cake. Bits of walnuts are then sprinkled on top of the cake.

Another sinful favorite of ours (most especially yours truly) was Calea’s version of the Chocolate Mousse. If the Chocolate Mudpie is too sweet for an ordinary tongue, then the Chocolate Mousse is a very good alternative. Calea’s version of the Chocolate Mousse is also made up of 3 layers. The bottom-most layer is made up of crushed choco cookies (i.e. the likes of oreo choco cookies again). The second layer is made of rich and oh-so-yummy chocolate ice cream. The topmost layer is made up of a pudding-like white mousse with chocolate stripes. The great thing about Calea’s chocolate mouse is that the three layers complement each other. If the two bottom layers are sweet, the topmost layer is not at all sweet despite the chocolate stripes it has. This is the reason why the Chocolate Mousse is not “nakakaumay”, and one can eat it even without a glass of water on the side.

Chocolate Mudpie – Back View

Chocolate Mousse – Top on the Side

Chocolate Mousse Top Up View

Our other favorite ice cream cakes include the Vanilla ice cream cake for those who are not into chocolate (which was my Dad’s favorite) the Caramel-like ice cream cake which was delicious but was far too sweet for my palate. My Dad has another favorite – the simple yet appetizing chocolate-strawberry ice cream. The cake’s top and bottom layers are made up of the usual butter-chiffon cake. In between these chiffon cakes are one layer of chocolate and one layer of strawberry ice cream. Prior to serving, strawberry syrup is poured on top of the cake slice.

The Vanilla Ice Cream Cake – for the non-Choco Lover

The Caramel Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate and Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

After our hearty and satisfying round of sweet desserts, comes the bitter part of paying the bill. Due to the delectable flavors of our ordered cakes, we were expecting that our bill would also be that expensive (having experience with some of the special pastry shops here in Metro Manila). To our surprise, our bill didn’t reach PHP 1K.  It was only close to PHP 600. We were surprised to know that each of the cake slices we ordered were less than PHP 90 per slice. This is in sharp contrast to the specialty cakes which we usually buy from a nearby pastry shop here in our place in Quezon City.

So just in case you’ll ever get the chance to visit the City of Smiles (Bacolod), never ever forget to drop by Calea’s Pastry Shop (they do NOT have a branch yet in Manila). This is a must-try place for any Bacolod visitor and for anyone who has a sweet tooth. 🙂

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