Tough Love: The Reality of Long Distance Relationships

To say that long distance relationships are hard is an understatement. I would know for sure, as I’ve been in one for over two years now. If you’re ever wondering what it’s really like, I took the liberty of interviewing my own boyfriend, TJ, to share his personal take on the matter. I opened up the idea to him, and to my surprise, he indulged me.Β I think he was just really excited to get featured on my blog. HAHA. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

About TJ

Born and raised in Massachusetts, TJ is a die-hard Star Wars and Led Zeppelin fan. He’s a real badass when it comes to word games. He’s quirky and funny, and he never runs out of things to say. He’s got the perfect blue in his eyes, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s stubborn, a certified snugglebug, a caffeine addict, and a one-of-a-kind pain in the butt.

Let’s see what he has to say about our long distance relationship and LDRs in general.Β Spoiler alert: Might contain cheese in various forms. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚Β 

1. When and where did you two meet?

We met November 5, 2014 on Words with Friends during random gameplay. She invited me to play, messaged me and said hi. She was the one who made the first move. *grins*

2. Would you say it was “love at first sight” when you met her or was it the “developing” type? How would you describe it?

I would say both because the immediate attraction was there, I won’t deny it. I fell in love right at the beginning when we exchanged messages and phone calls. Then when I saw her for the first time on video, I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t expect that.” I was just overwhelmed by her beauty. From there, it developed into a greater love and now, as I recall it, it had always been more than puppy love. It was and is the real thing.

3. What would you say is the biggest challenge of being in a long-distance relationship?

I think the biggest challenge is not being able to touch each other in person. Touch is very important in a relationship and the fact that we are deprived of this need because of distance makes our set-up really painful and oftentimes, aggravating.

4. What would you say is your favorite thing about being in a long-distance relationship?

My favorite thing about being in a long-distance relationship is being able to embrace a new culture. She lives in the Philippines and I, the United States, and apparently, our ways of life differ. Being with her has made me realize that in as much as we are alike in a lot of things, we also have palpable differences such as the food we eat and the language we speak. She has inspired me to learn Filipino and without her, I tell you, I wouldn’t have bothered. *laughs*

Β 5. Has being in this kind of relationship helped you as a person? In what way/s?

Being in this relationship has given me a brand new perspective on love. It has helped me grow as a person, it has taught me the value of waiting and patience. It’s true what they say, “Good things come to those who wait,” and I believe she’s worth all the time and effort. Our phone calls are the only thing we have right now. It’s sad, yes, but we both understand that we have our own lives to live. She works, I work, and we have this 12-hour time difference. It sucks but whatever time we have, we take it, no matter how little, and we make the most of it.

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6. Long-distance relationships are commonly frowned upon. How do you deal with it when people say you’re being a fool for choosing a long-distance relationship over a conventional one?

Life is nothing without risk. She is a good woman and I believe that in my heart. It doesn’t matter if she is living faraway or if she is my next door neighbor. What I’m getting at is, distance doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the relationship we have.

7. Would you say it’s better being in this type of relationship? Why or why not?

That’s a difficult question and there really is no right or wrong answer to this. All I can say is, the quality of a relationship is never determined by its form or type. It depends on the people involved, and how they make things work for them. There is no guarantee that domestic relationships are better. A lot of them fail, just like long-distance relationships. At the end of the day, it boils down to how much effort a couple is willing to put in, in order to make a relationship healthy, fun, and exciting.

8. Last question, what’s the most important advice you can give to people who are in long-distance relationships?

Two things. First, don’t give up. Long-distance relationships are sure as hell difficult and heartbreaking. There will be days when you will break down to tears and wonder how and why it’s all hard. You may feel like quitting but you have to remember not to give up on the relationship. Never give up on the person. Never give up on love. Always try to see it through. Nothing is ever impossible in the name of love. Second, work together as a team. Establish a common goal, that is, to get together. Focus all your energy into the fulfillment of this desire. Work until distance becomes history, and you two are able to live your own happy ever after. πŸ˜‰

So there it is guys! To be honest, he and I share the same sentiments and I’m almost certain that anyone who has been and who is in a long-distance relationship right now would very much understand where this is all coming from. TJ and I have been through a lot of ups and downs. Distance sure makes the heart grow fonder, but it doesn’t get easier especially when the yearning turns to frustration and the latter translates to tension. If you ask me how we managed to stay together, I guess it was because we both understood the imperfection of our situation. We worked our way through disagreements and made conscious efforts to stay in touch and really, really talk about things that bother us, scare us, and those that make us happy altogether.

I’d love to hear your insights about long-distance relationships. If you’re in one right now or have been in one on the past, I’d love to hear from you. Leave them comments below!


See you around lovebirds,Β 

Neri❀


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Up, Up and Away: Fulfilling the Dream of a Lifetime Blog Series, The End of an Era

It sounds tragic, even to me as the writer, to name this chapter the way I did. But as Alexander Graham Bell once put it, “When one door closes, another opens.”

The moment I affixed my signature on the crisp paper that read Job Offer, I knew there were a lot of things that I needed to put into perspective. Yes, my life is about to change. But before it could, I have to go through two exams – mandatory, before my application with NMC could be formally lodged.

Part of the requirements for UK employment is the dreaded IELTS test. Both my employer and agency recommended that I enroll myself in a review center in preparation for the said exam. I heeded their advice and decided to go for the review. This decision, however, came with another – leaving my job.

I never realized how staying in an institution for nearly 3 years could hold me back. Working for MakatiMed has been a whirlwind experience, with a lot of ups and downs, days when I cursed non-stop, days when I barely had time to pee or eat, and days when I could’ve spent holidays at home with my family instead of reporting for work. Then again, I wanted to be a nurse. Yes, there were bad days but there were also good ones. Days when patients let you know they appreciate you and what you do for them, days when you just have 2 patients and days when you get by a shift without admissions, trans-ins, and complaints. I knew I was going to miss it all but I gambled and took my chances anyway. It was in October of 2016 when I left. Like what I always said to myself back then, whatever it is I’m doing, it’s all for this dream worth chasing – the UK.

It was mid-November when I started my review in JRooz. I was enrolled in the Unlimited program, which afforded me the countless sit-ins, mock exams and one-on-one coaching sessions I had, before taking the exam January of the following year.

I didn’t get it right the first time, and that alone crushed me. I had been sick days before my actual test; I showed up for my speaking exam, feverish, constantly coughing and sneezing. To top it all, I barely had voice, which was a big no-no. πŸ˜“ This carried on until the day of my written exams. I was, in no way, fit to take any test – as I was physically exhausted and mentally unprepared. As soon as I walked out of the ballroom, I knew better not to expect.

13 days later, the results were released. I was right not to expect good scores. I felt awfully sad and frustrated, seeing as I made it on all sub-tests except for Writing, where I only got 6.5. Failure never hit me hard like it did that time; that 0.5 away from my target score meant I would’ve to resit the exam again. Nooooooo. 😭😭😭

There was no telling how heartbroken I was then. I debated whether retaking the exam or having my current one remarked would be the best option to take. I slowly lost my resolve to continue the UK dream, but it was my mom who dragged me back to JRooz, who told me that it was foolish to abandon everything all because of one setback. And she was right. I probably stressed myself way too much because of the exam that I ended up getting sick.

I gathered all the strength I had to set my priorities straight this time. I was more focused – the exam was beatable, given the right attitude and preparation. Yes, preparation and at the same time, taking care of myself. When I started going back to JRooz, I was fortunate enough to be part of the “pilot” class of the Intensive Writing Workshop. Here, I learned how to think faster and write better. I couldn’t be more thankful for the timing. It was exactly what I needed . πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡

It was March 25 when I decided to take the IELTS again. Doing it for the second time, I’d say the overall experience was better. It gave me quite an edge because I already knew what to expect from the test, the examiners, and the whole nine yards. I felt more confident and relaxed. But more than that, I guess it’s because I wasn’t sick that day. Yessss!

As soon as I finished my exams and walked out, I felt positive. I was happy because this time, I knew that I was able to give my 101%. Though I was not discounting the fact that the exam was rather challenging, I knew in my heart that I gave my best shot. Whatever happens, happens. Results came out after almost two weeks. I was blown away with my scores and couldn’t help but cry, laugh, jump and shout. I was able to hurdle my Writing; and got an 8.5 for Listening, 8.0 for Reading and Speaking and 7.5 for Writing. I didn’t expect such good scores. All I wanted was to pass, and God simply gave me so much more. It couldn’t have been all me – I know God, the stars and fate were all on my side. They wanted me to be in UK and that’s why I passed. Great way to look at it, eh? 😊😊😊

One down, more to go. My IELTS journey was not perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I went through failure, but rose up to the challenge and proved something to myself. Remember: The only time you fail is when you stop trying.

Here are my tips for aspiring IELTS test takers:

  1. Embrace the English language. Language is a skill and for you to be proficient at it, you have to practice. Practice! Practice! Practice!
  2. Bombard yourself with everything English. Watch English shows, read English books and speak in English. Listening to podcasts might also be helpful.
  3. Really review for the exam. If you can, you might want to consider taking a course on IELTS or hiring a freelance IELTS mentor. In this way, you are able to seek feedback, especially when it comes to your writing and speaking.
  4. Check out trust-worthy IELTS sites like IELTS Liz IELTS Buddy or IELTS Simon. You can also find them on YouTube for tutorials. Personally, I found Learn English with Emma very useful during my review. She has a playlist of IELTS lessons that gets you covered from Listening to Reading to Writing and finally, Speaking.
  5. Have the right attitude and disposition towards the test. The IELTS is not impossible to pass. All you need is to work hard and I guarantee you, you will reap the fruits of your labor. Likewise, learn to take care of yourself. If you feel too stressed, take a break from studying and find something relaxing to do. Take it from me, you can’t ace the exam if you’re not at all okay to begin with.

To those of you who will take the IELTS, pray a lot. Do your best. GOOD LUCK AND MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.

Leave ’em comments below. If you have some questions, you can reach me at mnpmijares@gmail.com.

Bye for now,

Neri❀

Up, Up and Away: Fulfilling the Dream of a Lifetime Blog Series, The Birth of an Idea

dream (noun)

: something that you have wanted very much to do, be, or have for a long time

In my twenty-seven years of existence, I’ve had quite a number of dreams. As a kid, I wanted to become a doctor, a pediatrician to be exact, a teacher, and an actress. Gee, looking back at it now, I can’t help but laugh at myself – I had such high hopes, can you believe it?

Fast forward to the day that is today, a lot has changed. Some childhood dreams got washed away by time and the need to be practical. I ended up as a nurse, basically because I got drawn to the promise of a bright future. Yes, the reality of the nursing profession here in the Philippines continues to stupefy me however way or angle I look at it. Even then, what kept nurses afloat despite the horrendous working hours and the menial pay was the hope that one day, they’d be able to seek a better opportunity abroad and live decently. This same thing has kept me going for nearly three years working as a nurse in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. I relied on three things, and God knows that it took more than that and sheer will to get to where I am today. Every day, I had to repeat these words to myself: Better life. Stable job. Income that is going to be more than enough for bills and basic needs.

You’re probably wondering where I am writing this from. If you must know, I’m still here in the Philippines, but God-willing, I hope to be in the UK soon. Yes, you heard it right. That’s where I’m headed and this blog series will be on all accounts of what has happened from day one, what is happening and what will happen to me when I get there. I am way, way behind in my writing, as I’ve come up with this idea not even 48 hours ago. But hold me down to it, I will try my damnedest to recount everything that took place from the time I decided to embark on this journey.

So now, where do I begin? Hmmmm, let me see. It was 2016. September. I had grown weary from days and nights spent being a nurse. It sure had its perks, which I did get to enjoy most, if not all. πŸ˜‰ The sad truth was, no matter how much working with the rest of the team felt like bonding with family, my exhaustion finally took a toll on me. I realized I wasn’t happy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a nurse. I wouldn’t have stayed being one if I really didn’t feel passionate about it. It just got to a point where I paused momentarily, looked at myself, and asked “Is this still worth it?” Aside from the fact that I was clearly experiencing the cardinal signs of what you may call a “burn out,” much of my frustration resulted from the inequity that is – how inversely proportional every nurse’s pay grade is to the amount of workload he bears. I was part of the industry for a while and with my own eyes I saw how nurses grappled just to make ends meet. I was one of them.

It was heartbreaking, bearing this in mind every time you had to go into work. But my inner resolve was much stronger than I imagined – when every day felt like a quitting moment, a mental picture would flash right before my eyes and remind me that in 5-10 years, all the hardships would pay off. That kept me going, what urged me to wake up and brace yet another 8 or sometimes 12-hour shift without breaks in between. You have no idea what it feels like to put this all down into writing. Surreal. I feel like I deserve to score an Olympic medal or an Oscar trophy. Haha. 😁

Going back, it was late last year when I ended up fooling around with the idea of working abroad. To be honest, while I have considered the possibility of a life away from friends and family, I haven’t really made a solid decision about it yet. It seemed pretty tempting, especially when a lot of your colleagues are doing the same thing. Bandwagoner, I guess that’s me. πŸ™‚ Out of curiosity, I managed to send out resumΓ©s to one or two recruitment agencies. One thing led to another, and to cut the long story short, I got a job as a nurse in the UK. It all happened so fast, that none of it even registered to me at first glance. Suspension of disbelief. This is how I would phrase that moment. More than ecstatic, I felt a whole lot of emotions overwhelm me. I felt worried and anxious because not only did I have to physically and emotionally condition myself to take in what would be – the biggest change in my life – the immediate need was for me prepare myself mentally. Just when you thought you’re already done with exams, you realize that life is one hell of a test. No way you and I are getting out of this, brotha. 🀣

Anyway, in order for me to jump-start my Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) application, two exams were deemed necessary – one is this English proficiency exam called the IELTS, and the other is a nursing competency exam, which is the CBT.

Join me as I open the next chapter of this blog series with my experience sitting the IELTS. Crazy things happened along the way and I’m looping you in with all the juicy details.

See you around,

Neri❀

Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast: Home Away from HomeΒ 

I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time now. Our trip to Baguio couldn’t have been more amazing if not for Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast. πŸ˜„

Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast is a former house that was converted into a charming bed and breakfast. Lucia takes its name from the owner, Lucille and her daughter, Lia. Located at #7 Navy Base Road Extension, Baguio City, Lucia’s is a hidden gem, tucked away from the hubbub of Session Road and streets alike.Β 

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On Booking Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast

Coming up with an itinerary that would work for us three was tough. I had to cluster places that were nearby, just so we could save time and effort. I had to basically research about everything – how to get from one point to another, where to eat, and most especially, where to stay.

I remember starting out with so much enthusiasm. I had tabs on the Internet loading simultaneously. I perused articles and write-ups about budget-friendly accommodations, making notes of and getting in touch withΒ various hotels, bed and breakfasts, and transient spaces for rent. But then, it struck me. We were heading to Baguio at a time when everyone else was. At the back of my mind, I didn’t quite know what to make of the Panagbenga Festival. Was I supposed to be happy that we’re able to watch the parade? More than happy, I’d admit – I felt disenchanted. I realized what we were getting ourselves into.Β Thousands flock to Baguio for the said event.Β This single-handedly meant that finding a nice place toΒ crash in for 2 nights would be downright impossible. Or that, if we ever got lucky, room rates would be very impractical and prohibitive. Nooooooo. 😭 

Despite the dilemma, I bore in mind that a task is a task. And no task should be left undone. I carried on with my search to find a decent accommodation. I came across a whole bunch of places, including Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast on their Facebook page. I looked at the pictures of the property and read through their customer reviews. For such good ratings, I muttered wow to myself. I sent them a message and what was initially an inquiry panned out to be a ‘yes, I’d like to book for 2 nights‘ type of deal.Β Cathy was the one who got back to me, and she was prompt. She answered all my questions and walked me through everything. She was Lucia’s first impression to me, and she was nothing but great. πŸ‘

On Getting to Lucia’s Bed and BreakfastΒ 

Lucia’sΒ Bed and Breakfast is nestled in the quiet part of the city. To be honest, it wasn’t an easy find at first. From the bus terminal, we took a cab to Navy Base Road Extension. Cathy was kind enough to provide us landmarks, just to make sure we were headed the right direction. Unfortunately, like all first-time travelers, we got lost and took quite a detour. Turns out, the driver hit the road opposite to the one we were supposed to take. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long before we reached the place. And even from the gate, overlooking what was inside, I knew I was going to fall in love. 😊

On Staying at Lucia’s

Lucia’s is a breath of fresh air. It’s not at all hard to imagine where it gets all its praises from. The place is ideal for the quiet-seekers – couples, friends, and families altogether. It’s perfect for reunions, group outings and even teambuildings!

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Everything about Lucia’s was great. But what I really enjoyed the most boiled down to three things: the ambience, the breakfast, and the people. 😊

The Ambience

Parts of the house were remade when it was turned into a bed and breakfast. However, we were told that most of it were kept as is, to preserve and maintain its original form and character. The decorations though, were totally a different story. Each was unique, creative and might I add, Instagram-worthy!

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We stayed at the Laugh room. From the entrance door, it was the first room to the left. The Laugh room is good for 3-4 people. It comes with two beds, a Queen and a single. Apart from that, the room has its own bath, equipped with a water heater. There’s also a counter where the electric fan sits, a cabinet, and a bedside table with a cutesy nightlamp. What I truly liked about our room is the fact that it was spacious, simple and that it gave off a particularly relaxing vibe. (Blaming it on the dainty yellow sheets and duvet! πŸ˜‰)Β 

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The whole property is filled with inspiring quotes and catchphrases. Our room was no exception.

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Despite all things good, a little heads-up to future guests, there are no televisions in their rooms. This has not been a big deal for us, since we didn’t go all the way up north just so we could watch TV. Because sometimes, it pays off to disconnect yourself from the noises and make-believes, and simply revel in the mundane and embrace that state of tranquility instead. But for those who can’t resist, there is Wi-Fi service. There is barely a signal when you’re inside the room, but right where the common area is, it gets pretty strong.Β 

Adjacent to the living room is the indoor dining area on the right and the kitchen on the left. You can stuff items in the fridge and source drinking water, free of charge. Sometimes, they permit the use of the kitchen for cooking, but certain arrangements need to be made with the management prior.

From the main gate, there are parking spaces available on the left side of the property. Right across is a sloping walkway that descends to the back end of the lot where the outdoor dining area and bonfire are located.

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What’s even more interesting is that when you walk down the path, the walls are filled with murals of positivity. Now, who wouldn’t want to wake up to that?Β 

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The Breakfast

Part of the whole Lucia’s experience is their signature breakfast. What makes them stand out among the rest is how they craft their meals. All the dishes they serve are concocted ingeniously from scratch. Everything is naturally prepared from the marinade down to the bread. At least we know, the food is made with love, and is definitely healthy. πŸ‘

On our second day, we had strawberry-glazedΒ longganisa, sayoteΒ tops with salted egg salad, and a combination of Baguio-grown black and red rice. (If my memory serves me right. πŸ˜“)

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On the third day, we were in for a Western treat. We had sausage on what appeared to be English muffins, egg quiche and lettuce salad topped with tangerines and strawberries, dressed in vinaigrette. The chef, Emerson, pretty much admitted that this was their version of the McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin. Not bad, I must say. It comes really close, if not better. πŸ˜‰

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What made it extra special was the cozy dining set-up and the idea of breakfastΒ al fresco – in Baguio, no less.

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The People

Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast owes its success to the wonderful people behind it, from the owner herself, down to the caretakers. Their service is unparalled and their hospitality, genuine.

Our entire stay with them has been nothing but peachy keen. Lucia’s takes care of all their guests and looks after their safety, which is why, as part of their house rules, they ask for everyone’s commitment to abide by the 11 p.m. curfew.

But if there’s one thing I’d always remember, it is their kindness and willingness to go the extra mile for their guests – literally and figuratively. I’ve seen it first-hand and can definitely vouch for it any time. πŸ‘

So, to the whole Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast family especially to Cathy, Emerson and Jona– thank you for making our weekend in Baguio truly memorable. Apart from all the sights we’ve seen, it is with you that Baguio has left such an imprint in my heart. To the owner, Lucille – we would’ve loved to meet you. Thank you for sharing your humble abode with us.

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To know more about Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast and their room rates, find them on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/shabbychicbaguio. πŸ˜‰

Ciao for now,

Neri❀


Weekend Getaway in Baguio: Day 3

Day 3: All Good Things Come To An End

Things seemed to fuzz up from here on out. We only had a few more hours left before we traveled back to Manila. Coming to terms with it was rather heartbreaking. It was like getting to the last page of a book you didn’t want to end. 😒

It started as a usual day. We woke up to another one of Lucia’s signature homemade breakfast meals. Ugh, can’t wait to write about this one. Really soon, I promise you guys. πŸ˜‰

As soon as we were done breakfast, we headed out to buy our pasalubong. We initially planned to do this whole shopping thing yesterday, but sadly, we didn’t make it to Good Shepherd on time.Β It was still early when we left Lucia’s, and from what we’ve gathered, the convent doesn’t open until 8 am. We had an hour or two to spare, so weΒ figured a quick stopover in Mines View Park won’t hurt.

First stop: Mines View Park, Outlook Drive

One of the more popular tourist spots in Baguio is the Mines View Park. The park provides an overlooking view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines. Hence, the name. The main attraction is the observation deck, which you can get to by walking down the stone-covered stairway. From the platform, the view was just impeccable. There were no words to describe the scenery that was right before my eyes. To say that it was extremely breathtaking would still be an understatement.

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Mines View Park
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The observation deck
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View from the observation deck

There isn’t much to see in the park after the deck. But for those visitors who’d like to make the most out of their trip here, there is a museum and a souvenir shop right at the entrance. Apart from that, one can simply indulge in the beauty of the flowers and bonsai being sold everywhere. Or if you’re a dog lover, why not consider a photoshoot with Baguio’s all-time favorite St. Bernard? The price of 50 Php is quite reasonable, given the unlimited number of shots. However, they charge extra for wacky poses, which really, I don’t understand why. πŸ˜“

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For the plant growers and flower fanatics!
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Clearly, the dog wasn’t feeling it

From the park, we walked a few meters to where we were buying our pasalubong. Any idea exactly where?

Next stop: Good Shepherd Convent, Gibraltar Rd.Β 

The Good Shepherd Convent is known as “the go-to” place for everyone’sΒ pasalubong. While it’s a tradition for Filipinos to bring home something from a trip, there isn’t much to worry about because Good Shepherd Baguio has you covered. Their bestsellers include peanut brittle, strawberry and ube jams, among others. It was just upsetting that when we got there, the peanut brittle was already out of stock. 😭

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Good Shepherd Convent Baguio

What I genuinely liked about the whole set-up was the system. It was neatly organized from start to finish. Sales clerks and security guards were constantly on sight, providing clear instructions to incoming customers on how to go about the shopping process.Β 

Tip: The early bird indeed catches the worm. Most of their products get easily sold out so it’s better to march up there in the morning. Good Shepherd is open from 8 am to 5 pm.

Β As soon as we finished checking out, we left for our next destination. In the first blog, we’ve kicked off this journey with a visit to a church, that being the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. In the same spirit, we’ve decided to end this beautiful trip by going to another one of Baguio’s most celebrated shrines.

Final stop: Lourdes Grotto, Dominican Hill Rd.

The Lourdes Grotto sits atop a high hill, where access can either be through climbing up the 258-step stairway (yes, we counted!) or driving through a narrow, precipitous road. Candles and flowers were sold for a minimum price. We bought a white rose and a bundle of candles as offering.Β By the time we reached the top, we were greeted by the seamless sculpt of theΒ Our Lady of Lourdes itself, a church on the left, and a candle lighting station on the right.Β 

The church was beautiful. It was its simplicity that drew people to it. Unlike other churches, this one was plain and modestly designed. It lacked the fancy decorations most churches have; the pew was outrightly made of wood. For some reason, I guess this was its charm – right where everything was bare and unadorned, it made the whole experience of staying there more peaceful and light. As we stepped out of the church, we found people lining up at a table where, along with the pile of donation envelopes, a record book was in place. We learned that people who come up the grotto write their petitions and prayers in the book. Without much hesitation, I did just as the others. I put down my personal intentions into writing, in the hopes that someone will get to read it and say a prayer for me.

From the church, we walked to the candle lighting station, where we lit the candles we bought, and offered more prayers. Then, we spent the rest of our time, silently taking in the magnificent view that surrounded us. To be there, right at that moment, was truly gratifying.Β 

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Our Lady of Lourdes
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Some snaps we took at the Lourdes Grotto
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And some more…

It was a little after 10 when we trudged our way down the grotto. Luckily, we were able to hail a cab right away, that got us back to Lucia’s in time for our check-out. The minute we got there, we grabbed our bags, took some more pictures of our humble abode, and finally said our thank yous and goodbyes to the lovely people behind Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast. 😒 

We headed to the bus terminal afterwards. By 1:25 pm, we were aboard, leaving this gem of a place. Thank you for your warm people and your cold weather, for the pine trees, the sunflowers, the strawberries, and the countless sights. It was an unforgettable experience altogether and I am beyond grateful.Β 

And that, my friends, concludes our wonderful Baguio weekend getaway! I hope you enjoyed reading! ❀ For those of you who areΒ planning to go to Baguio and stay there for 3 days and 2 nights, feel free to use my itinerary as your reference.Β It sure was tiring, trying to squeeze in everything, but I tell you, at the end of the day, it was all worth it! πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

‘Til our next trip,

Neri ❀

Weekend Getaway in Baguio: Day 2

Day 2: Hustlin’ and Bustlin’ in Baguio

The day started early, but not as early as I had planned. We woke up, fully recharged from yesterday’s activities. As we went outside to our breakfast table, I was remarkably cold. What a break from the usually sweltering weather in Manila!

It’s true what they say. You’ll have this uncanny love-hate relationship with the Baguio weather. At times, it’s perfect. But a real enemy for when you need to get out of bed. πŸ˜…

Nevertheless, it was relaxing to wake up to something different. It felt good looking at tall pine trees for a change. And the fact that it was 15Β°C that morning made it even more spectacular.

We had breakfast and it was so good. More details will be posted on my succeeding blog, so watch out for it! As soon as we were done, we were back on the streets.

First stop: BenCab Museum, Asin Rd., Tuba, Benguet

Getting to BenCab proved to be more than difficult because of the ongoing street parade. A number of roads had been blocked, which left us with no choice but to walk. The good thing was, we were able to catch glimpses of the event. As such, every 10 minutes or so, we’d stop on our tracks to take pictures and videos.

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To get there, you would need to take a jeepney going to Asin Rd. A terminal is located near the city market. There is just about some wait time since jeepneys don’t leave until they’re completely filled. The ride costs 11.25 Php per person, one-way.

BenCab Museum is the brain child of Benedicto Cabrera, famous Filipino artist. The place features an assemblage of his own works, and a couple others from his fellow artists. Included as well are crafts and sculptures native to the Cordilleras.

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BenCab Museum
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The Art Gallery

Below the gallery is where you’d find Cafe Sabel. We’ve asked the guides who the restaurant was named after but just like us, they were clueless. I can only assume that the inspiration was BenCab’s mother, Isabel.

Overlooking the entire museum was the farm and garden, with a hut and a fish pond as its centerpiece. On the other end was where vegetables were being grown. There was a supposed eco-trail which unfortunately, we didn’t get to see anymore. 😭

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The Farm and Garden

Nice to know: BenCab Museum is closed on Mondays. So be sure to check your calendars twice if you plan on going there. It’s open from 9 am to 6 pm. Should you wish to avail of the guided tour, just approach the reception. Just a heads up, video taking is not allowed. Fee is 120 Php per person.

From the museum, we hailed a cab and headed back to the city. Good thing, there was no more traffic since the parade had already finished. After getting off the cab, we looked for a jeepney bound for La Trinidad. Can you guess where we’re going? πŸ˜‰

Next stop: Strawberry Farm, La Trinidad, Benguet

Any Baguio itinerary has to include the Strawberry Farm, am I right? πŸ˜‰ What’s special about this farm is that you can relish in the unique experience of picking your own strawberries. That’s right. You do the picking!

The farm is known for its strawberries, but other vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes are also grown. There is no entrance fee. But those who will pick their own strawberries and buy them afterwards, a kilo is worth 450 Php. Once inside, you will need a basket and a cutter before you can start picking. The farmers are gracious enough to offer it to you but in case no one does, you can simply ask.

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The Farm

Towards the end of the plantation, apart from all the vegetation, sunflowers can be spotted. Visitors who enter can take unlimited pictures for a small fee of 10 Php per person.

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Sunflowers

Tip: You can also buy pre-picked strawberries right outside the plantation. Compared to the 450 Php per kilo when you pick them yourselves, you can find pre-picked ones almost half the price. Big, big savings! πŸ€“

Just outside, ice cream vendors were all over the place. We dove right in on the bandwagon and bought ourselves yet another Baguio favorite – strawberry ice cream! Unlike ordinary strawberry ice creams, the ones in Baguio are made from real strawberries. Which makes it 3x more delectable. An ice cream, however, costs 25-40 Php depending on your choice of cone. Quite pricey but definitely worth it!

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The advert says it all
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Strawberry ice cream

From La Trinidad, we rode a jeepney back to the city. We craved for something more familiar so we ended up eating in Yellow Cab, the one located in front of the city hall. As soon as we were done, we headed to our next destination. Clue: it’s another park. πŸ˜‰

Next stop: Wright Park and The Mansion

We found ourselves stuck in traffic for over an hour, trying to get to Wright Park. According to the cabbie, it seemed like a lot were heading to Mines View Park, another tourist attraction that was relatively nearby.

Wright Park is located across the Rizal Elementary School in Gibraltar Rd. The park is particularly known for horseback riding. Horses can be rented for 200 Php (30 minutes) and 400 Php (1 hour) inclusive of an accompanying guide. While the experience was both scary (for some unexperienced riders like me) and enjoyable, the place was stenchy. Horses do their business all over the trail so make sure your noses can tolerate some serious stink. πŸ˜‚

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The horse trail
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Our friendly but not-so-friendly horses

After our time with the horses was over, we hiked our way to the other side of the park. Hiked, because climbing up over a hundred stone steps was definitely no joke. As we reached the top, a beauty unfolded right before our eyes – a long stretch of man-made pool fronting a mansion. Known as the Pool of Pines, this body of water gets its name from the towering pine trees that reflect on its surface.

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Pool of Pines

A few meters walk and we were fast approaching the gates of The Mansion, located along Leonard Wood Rd. The Mansion is the northern counterpart of the MalacaΓ±ang Palace and is basically the official summer residence of the Philippine President. It was built in 1908 under the proclamation of then American Governor-General William Cameron Forbes, and was designed by William Parsons. There is no entrance fee, but tourists are only allowed to take pictures and videos from the outside. Beyond the sidewalk is already off limits. Too bad, it would’ve been nice to stroll around and peek through the inside of a presidential house. πŸ™„

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The Mansion

It was already getting late when we left The Mansion. However, we still managed to squeeze in one tiny stop. We decided it had to be now or never, because we only had until tomorrow morning before we left for Manila. Next thing we know, we were getting off the cab as we arrived at our destination.

Next stop: Camp John Hay

Camp John Hay used to be a US military base in Baguio, named after Theodore Roosevelt’s state secretary. A former recreational facility for American soldiers in the country, this was later turned into a resort that has attracted many local and foreign tourists.

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Panoramic view of Camp John Hay

The area highlights its golf course, a hotel, several cottages and restaurants, a shopping center and a convention hall. More than the luxury of everything in it, the beauty of Camp John Hay is best experienced through a lazy saunter across its vast expanse of land. If you’re the soul-searching type, the calm and quiet will definitely work for you. Or if you’re the bold and creative type, the pine trees and the rest of the greenery can be your befitting muse.

One of the major things people associate with Camp John Hay is The Manor, which is dubbed as the most expensive resort hotel in Baguio. Its rustic architecture is reminiscent of how typical cabins were built, which is pretty much central to the modern country home vibe it has.

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The Manor in Camp John Hay
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The facade
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Real life Christmas trees

Activity-wise, there are a lot that can be done in Camp John Hay. Horse back riding can be your option, or if your bet is for something more extreme, then the tree top adventure would be the best choice. You can also follow the eco-trail if you feel like burning some extra calories. πŸ˜‰ Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do all this and more because it was pretty much sundown. It would be amazing to go here probably in the morning when there’s not too much people yet or early in the afternoon for the activities.

As the sun slowly bade us farewell, we realized just how tiring this day had been. We had this overwhelming desire to seek out the comfort of good food as we scouted for some place to dine. Out of nowhere, we thought of Cafe by the Ruins.

It turns out that this restaurant has two branches, the pioneer branch down in Shuntug St. and the other one along Session Road, called Cafe by the Ruins Dua. We decided to go for the latter considering it was practically near where we were staying. Compared to the former, the Dua is relatively more contemporary in design, and more spacious, which makes it ideal, I guess, for larger groups.

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Cafe by the Ruins Dua

Like all first-timers, we chose to order their bestsellers. It was pretty easy pinpointing which of the dishes were, because they always had the word Ruins attached to it, such as their Ruins’ Coffee and Ruins’ Leche Flan. Aside from that, we had the bagnet and the spicy shrimp for our mains, which were both good. Oh, but the shrimp – I just loved how it was oozing with flavor and spice. The kesong puti salad was yet another thing. What stood out, apart from the whole green leafy medley, was the carabao cheese and how it was done. Imagine breading and frying it with sesame seeds. Who knew sesame seeds could make such a difference? πŸ€” The kalabasa puree, however, wasn’t topnotch. It was too bland for my taste as though someone forgot to sprinkle salt and pepper. On second thought, maybe someone did. Too bad. πŸ˜“πŸ˜“

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Clockwise: Ruins’ Leche Flan, Ruins’ Coffee, Ilocos Bagnet, Black Rice, Carabao Cheese Salad, Spicy Shrimp, and Kalabasa Puree

After eating, we worked out a plan to visit the night market in Harrison Road. From Cafe Dua, we took a cab, only to get there an hour early. It was a bit frustrating missing out on this experience, but there was also no denying we were way too tired to wait until 9 pm. So, we headed back to Lucia’s instead.

The moment we arrived at Lucia’s, we were like “Thank God we’re home!” The entire day was fulfilling because we were able to cross out the bulk of our itinerary, but it left us too exhausted to even let out one more word at that point. Nevertheless, everything that happened that day was worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

Later that evening, we got invited to try out the bonfire. It was pretty chilly, so we jumped right in and said yes. A few minutes after, we were called out to the back of the property where the bonfire was set up. We sat close to it, feeling all warm and cozy. I figured this was what I needed to cap the night off. How I wish everyday would finish off like this. Two words. Absolutely perfect.

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Bonfire and me

Third and last day coming up soon! Don’t forget to tune in.

Lots of love,

Neri❀

Weekend Getaway in Baguio: Day 1

We were in Baguio over the weekend (February 24-26) in celebration of my mom’s birthday last February 22. To be honest, we didn’t think we’d be there just in time for the culmination parades of the Panagbenga Festival. We felt lucky for the chance to witness the highlight of this month-long festivity. Although, at the back of our heads, we knew we were getting into probably the city’s busiest time of the year. A lot of people, especially those coming from Manila, make it their yearly tradition to drive up to Baguio to attend the festival. Towards the end of the month of February, Baguio holds the most anticipated activities of the said festival – the Grand Street Parade and the Grand Float Parade.

About a month ago, we decided we wanted to celebrate mom’s birthday out of town. Apart from the usual birthday dinners we do, we opted for something different. And so the idea of traveling to Baguio was born. We carefully arranged our travel to and from Baguio, our accommodation and the itinerary. It sure was tedious enough coming up with a decent itinerary for a 3-day stay that it took me almost a month to draft a plan. Allow me to walk you through our Baguio experience. I’ve included tips, a little bit of history of the places we’ve been and short reviews of the restaurants we’ve tried.

How we got there:

Several bus lines service the Manila-Baguio route. We personally decided to go with Victory Liner, because of their online booking facility. Just a few clicks on their website and we found ourselves booked for the trip! As easy as 1-2-3. 😊 Although, don’t get me wrong, there are also other bus companies that travel up north to Baguio (a little research won’t hurt πŸ˜‰).

Going back, we booked the regular aircon fare for Php 445 each from Cubao to Baguio. On top of that, there was an additional 50 Php fee for probably booking seat reservations online. From what I know, they also offer the deluxe, first class fare for Php 750. The only difference is, the deluxe buses have a built-in restroom. Not to worry though, even if you take the regular aircon buses, there are certain stopover points. In our case, this was the Sison Bus Stop in Tarlac. They have restrooms you can use for a small price. Aside from that, the place houses a number of food stalls that has everything from breakfast buffet to munchies on-the-go.

We booked the 4 am trip out of Manila. It took roughly 10-15 minutes for all the passengers to board the bus and before we knew it, we had left the terminal and were on our way. The whole travel time, including the stopover, took approximately 4-5 hours as we reached Baguio 10 minutes to 9 am.

Tip: On the average, Baguio is 8 hours’ worth of travel time. To get there faster, you may want to try traveling during the wee hours of the night. It sure will save you a good 2-3 hours. πŸ˜‰

Day 1: First Day High

As soon as we got off the bus, we went ahead to book our return trip. Sadly, we weren’t able to do this online because there were only limited trips on the website. Either Victory Liner does this purposely, or they forgot to update their site. Anyway, we were able to secure a trip back to Manila on the 26th at 1:25pm. So far, so good. At least, we didn’t have to worry about our way back. We can fully enjoy Baguio, as we were supposed to. 😊

Right outside the bus terminal, we were greeted by a taho vendor. For those of you who don’t know, taho is silken tofu, topped with thick brown syrup (arnibal) and sago pearls. But because we were in Baguio, it wasn’t just ordinary taho – it was strawberry taho. In place of arnibal, they use strawberry syrup with strawberry preserves. Yum. πŸ˜‹

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Strawberry Taho

After getting our taho, we hailed a cab and went to 50’s Diner for breakfast. Known for its pink facade and American-inspired set-up, there was no way we were going to miss it. We had Bacon Omelet, Spam with Egg, and Corned Beef Hash. Servings were hefty and filling. Prices, cheap enough. However, food was of poor quality and taste. Immediately I could tell that the luncheon meat they used wasn’t Spam. Too bad, because I’m such a Spam lover. πŸ˜“ I guess people have overrated this place in their reviews. Though if you’re someone who’s working within a budget and is after heavy-duty meal servings, then this will suit you just right. πŸ˜‰

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The Pink Diner known as 50’s Diner (Military Cutoff Branch)
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Bacon Omelet and Spam with Egg

Interesting Fact: Cab flag-down rate in Baguio is Php 30, as opposed to the Php 40 in Metro Manila. Part of the reason why I think it’s cheaper is because cabs don’t need to turn on their ACs. The cool breeze does the trick! What’s more, cabbies are genuinely honest. They give you your change down to the last peso!

Next thing we did was head to Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast to leave the rest of our things. I’ll be posting a separate review about Lucia’s so watch out for it. We met Cathy, who showed us around. She was so warm and welcoming. Well, all the staff were. A little chit-chat and we were on our feet to begin our itinerary.

First Stop: Baguio Cathedral, also known as Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral

As I came up with the itinerary, I wanted to start off our tour with a visit to a church. Luckily, I came across Baguio Cathedral on the Internet. The chuch is located in Mount Mary, Cathedral Loop, merely adjacent to Session Road. Since we were not familiar with the ins and outs of Baguio yet, we took another cab from Lucia’s (which is in Navy Base Ext.) to the cathedral. I already forgot how much we paid for our ride, but I can assure you it was less than a hundred bucks. Just like any cathedral, it looked majestic from the outside and even more on the inside. A total sight to behold. From what I’ve read, the church was constructed in 1920. Apart from that, it survived the carpet bombing of Baguio in 1945. To think that it has lived for nearly a century now, the cathedral has sure been well-kept.

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Baguio Cathedral

Next Stop: Burnham Park

A few blocks from the Cathedral and SM Baguio is Burnham Park. With a lot area of 32.84 hectares, this park is accessible from Harrison, Kisad, Governor Pack and Magsaysay Roads. It is named after the American architect, Daniel Hudson Burnham, who laid the groundwork for the design of Baguio City.

We weren’t able to cover the whole park, given its vastness. But we were able to visit the man-made lake, where we rented a boat and struggled with the paddling. πŸ˜‚ Boat rentals cost 150 Php per boat for half an hour and a single boat is good for a maximum of 5 people. We also rented a go kart and a chopper for 50 and 75 Php, respectively, which is 30 minutes worth of cycling around the track. The funny thing was, even if it poured, none of the people stopped biking, including us! That’s why I ended up wearing a bandana! πŸ˜‚

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Boat rentals
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Biking around Burnham Park

While walking around the park, we came across the Panagbenga Landscaping Competition and took snaps without hesitation. A few feet away, sunflowers were on sight. Guess what’s my favorite flower? 😍

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Panagbenga Landscaping Competition
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How can a flower be this beautiful?

A little past 5 pm, we were starved. From Burnham, we headed to Hill Station Tapas Bar and Restaurant for an early dinner. This is located in Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road. The ambience was very inviting. Rustic with huge windows overlooking the back part of the casa. We ordered Caesar Salad with Smoked Beef Carpaccio, Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes, Pan Fried Fish Fillet (I actually forgot the name of the dish😢), Death by Chocolate and Deep Dark Chocolate Cake.

What I liked about this place was their value for food presentation. Taste was also good. Service was commendable. Though, it was kind of pricey. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Baguio, I’d urge you to give this a try.

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Clockwise: Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes, Caesar Salad with Smoked Beef Carpaccio, Deep Dark Chocolate Cake, Pan Fried Fish Fillet, Fresh Mango Slush, and Death by Chcolate
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Hill Station on the inside

Afterwards, we snuck to the quaint, next-door book shop – the Mt Cloud Bookshop. The shop is home to a large collection of local books from hard-bound history digests to children’s illustrated books.

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Mt Cloud Bookshop

We had left the book shop, only to find out that it was still raining. πŸ˜– We then decided to call it a day and return to Lucia’s. It was the first time we had difficulty finding a cab ride. Fortunately, as we walked frantically, we passed by a tourist assistance tent. They told us to wait while they looked for a cab. In no time, there was one! Yet another thing amazed me about the people of Baguio – as soon as we got into a cab, we called the guy who helped us and held out something as a thank you token. I was taken aback when he refused and said he was just doing his job. I wish I could’ve gotten his name. Kudos to you, sir! πŸ˜‰

The cab ride back to Lucia’s concluded our first day in Baguio. Tune in for Day 2 on my succeeding blog post. 😊

With lots of love,

NeriπŸ€—