Review of Awilihan Private Resort: A Charming, Provincial Home

My family often takes trips with family friends and of course our extended family.  It is nice to see the kids develop friendships with the children of my siblings, cousins and good friends.  It brings extra warmth and fun to the trip.  And what would be a better destination for such a big group but a whole resort to ourselves!

Last weekend,  we had our family reunion (4 families) at Awilihan Private Resort in Tanauan, Batangas. It is just an hour's drive away from Makati even on a December weekend!  I have attended an overnight birthday party of a friend here last year and fell in love with the place.  I wouldn't exactly call it a resort because resorts sound grand and commercial.  Awilihan is more like a provincial home, charming and modest.It enjoys the view of [Read more...]

Dinosaur Island Clark Pampanga: Unexpected Fun

Unexpected F-U-N! That was what we had when we visited Dinosaur Island in Clark. My elder kids yawned when I mentioned it to them. We will drive all the way to see dinosaur statues? Really, mom?  Plus, I read mixed reviews with some people finding the place boring or too short an entertainment compared to the long drive.

Well, the whole family was in for quite a surprise. The life sized, Dinosaur animatronics amidst the forest surroundings provided for a lot of excitement and fun for everybody including the eye rolling teeners.

Our adventure began with the humongous, boulder like entrance to the park that is reminiscent of Jurassic Park's entry way.

Dinosaur-Island-Clark---Entrance-SoloInside is an array of over 30 species of moving, life sized dinosaurs.   The dinosaurs featured are [Read more...]

Domicillo Design Hotel: Stylish, Romantic Getaway in Tagaytay

Domicillo TagaytayIt is our 15th wedding anniversary and I thought that since we only had the weekend I have to find the most romantic getaway that won't be too far away.   My frenetic search on the net led me to DOMICILLO, a design, boutique haven offering one of the best and widest view of Taal Lake.

Because of work, errands and the horrendous traffic (4.5 hours instead of 2 hours to Tagaytay) to get out of Manila, we arrived at Domicillo at 7:30pm. I was almost in tears. Hehe because we paid a premium plus our anniversary is too hurried. Uwaaah it's not a happy anniversary anymore.

But truly, when we stepped into Domicillo, the warmth and charm of the place reminded us what we were here for - a relaxing, intimate getaway to celebrate 15 years!

Domicillo TagaytayThe place was just as the pictures promised it to be. Understated elegance.

We got the best room in the 8-room boutique hotel, the [Read more...]

Anvaya Cove: Things to do with the Kids

Anvaya CoveAnvaya Cove is a well manicured village set in the forests and shores of Bataan.

A members-only development of Ayala Land Premiere,  it is a 2.5 hour drive from Manila thanks to the good roads of NLEX and SCTEX.

Residents have built sprawling beautiful resort inspired houses that are a haven by itself.  My friend who hosted us built her house's concept with an eclectic mix of Balinese and Morrocan inspiration.

I love her doors!  All are Balinese inspired and made by the crafty hands of Pampangenos.

different kinds of doors

I heard there was a hotel but due to lack of time,  I wasn't able to check out the place anymore.

The main pavilion, the focal point of Anvaya opens up to pockets of pools that are interconnected.  There are no deep parts, maybe 4.5 feet and has wide shallow banks where toddlers can play while an adult stands on the deeper part of the pool.  I brought my son to the 4.5 feet part of the pool and was asked to move to the shallow banks or kiddie area since he doesn't have floaters.

The beach, right below the pool, has a long shoreline.   The sand is a mix of light brown and black but powdery.   The beach waters is not that clear but it is calm with a little surf.

Kids would love the jungle gym play area built on sandy ground.

Anvaya has several nature camp activities for everyone.  My kids sweat it up at the Magma Field Obstacle Course.

Obstacle Course at Anvaya

And they were on a high at the 100-feet high, 260 meters long Adult Zipline.  Kids 12 years and above and weighing 100 pounds up are allowed.  This is for their safety since if they are too light,  they might not reach the end of the line and would still need a rescue team to push them down to the end.  A scary scene, I would think.

Anvaya Zipline

They have a Kiddie Zip line too but it was undergoing maintenance check when we were there.

Anvaya Kiddie Zipline

Don't forget to bring your rubber shoes when you go there.  All activities in the nature camp are better done with rubber shoes on.  We didn't bring our rubber shoes so I had to skip the fitness trail.  The trail is a 30 minute session where you trek around the forests and there are fitness stations along the way,  pump weights etc.

When the heat is getting to us already,  all 10 kids headed back to the beach club. Some played ping-pong, some were in the foosball, some were in the air hockey and the tweens were, well, in the game room catching up with Facebook.

What is nice with Anvaya is you are not charged at every turn.  All the activities I mentioned were all free! Just prepare a tip for your zip line attendants:-)   Tipping is not encourage in Anvaya according to one reader.

Apart from the activities mentioned,  they have the usual water sports activities like banana boat, kayak, pedal boat etc.  They also have wind surfing and wakeboarding lessons.  As for land activities,  they have the nature camp and bikes for rent.  I would like to bike and do the fitness trail on my next visit.

My general review of Anvaya is that it is a good place to relax over the weekend.  It is just 2.5 hours away and the drive is easy.  It doesn't have that "wow" factor that I expected from all the rave reviews I heard but it was nice.  Planning my next trip already!

Location Information:

Address:  Anvaya Beach and Nature Club, Morong, Bataan

Rate:  Members-only.  Find a member friend to endorse you:-)  Hotel rates range from P 5,000 - P10,000

Contact Numbers:  (02) 793-9000 or 9178-ANVAYA

Website:  www.anvayacove.com

Food:   Sorry will have to update this.  I stayed in my friend's house and we had our meals there.

Washroom: Wasn't able to check this out as well.

Density of People:  Tolerable.  We were there on a weekend and there were quite a number of people but not enough to crowd the place.

Date of Travel: May 2013

Directions:

1. Take the North Luzon Expressway.

2. Then take SCTEX Exit (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway)

3. Take Subic Exit

4. Enter Subic via Subic-Tipo Toll gate

5. Once inside Subic, follow the Anvaya road signs. If there aren't any, follow the signs to “Morong Gate”.

6. Keep driving until you reach Morong Gate.

7. Just stick to the road until you reach the entrance of Anvaya Cove.

Disclosure:  This is not a sponsored post.  My family and I went to Anvaya Cove upon invitation of a friend who has a house there.

Travel Happy!

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Pico de Loro, Hamilo Coast, Batangas: A Good Mix

Pico de Loro, Batangas

My family loves beaches.  Give my kids some sand and they can be entertained for a few hours.  Give them sand, a well structured pool, lots of places to run around in plus the facilities a country club has to offer and they would want to stay there forever.

Pico de Loro is a members only leisure community developed by SM Land.  And my family has been there twice last year and 2 trips are scheduled back there this summer.  Pico has a good beach with fine light brown sand, huge open spaces with verdant greens, a man made lake surrounded by low rise residential condominiums, a very beautifully structured 3-tiered pool and complete club house facilities like bowling, kiddie play area plus ATV rides, pony rides etc.

Sharing you some pics and info (how to book etc.) of our wonderful Pico trip.  Enjoy!

Sand and Water  at Pico de Loro Batangas

The beach sand,  though brown, is fine and not ouchy to the feet.  The water was clear and there were lots of silver colored fishes to see.

Kids by Pico de Loro Batangas beach.  Sun deck chairs at Pico de Loro Batangas.

My daughter had lots of fun trying to catch the schools of small silver fishes but they were just too fast.  The sun deck chairs dotted the beach, perfect for relaxation.  My son, his shovel and the sand are inseparable.

Beach at Pico de Loro Batangas

My kids and I can't get enough of the beach.  Go for an early morning walk. We were in the beach by 7am.  The sun is not scorching and there are not much people around. Plus there are more fishes to see.  Swimming in the beach is also safe.  No undercurrent and sudden drop that I know of and I walked quite far yet the water is still shallow.

Marine life at Pico de Loro Batangas

My kids squealed in delight when they saw a small puffer fish that blew itself up.  We caught several crablets and a shell fish that stuck its body out looking like a grotesque alien.  All marine life we saw and caught were immediately returned to the sea.

Man made lake at Pico de Loro Batangas

The condominiums, the main club house (there is also a beach club) and the Pico Sands Hotel surrounds this serene man-made lake.  Afraid of dengue, much?  The lake has fishes so it shouldn't breed dengue mosquitoes.  We didn't feel mosquitoes too.  But just the same,  bring and spray those anti-dengue mosquito repellants.

Man made lake at Pico de Loro, Batangas

More of the lake.  Bring your rubber shoes.  It's nice to have an evening or early morning run around the lake.

Swimming Pool at Pico de Loro Batangas

This well structured 3-tiered pool, by the main club house and near the hotel, is a beauty!

Swimming Pool at Pico de Loro, Batangas

The fountain pool on the upper right come in 2's left and right (see pic below).  The low water level where the sun deck chairs are, are perfect for toddlers who are still too small even for kiddie pools.  After the infinity sun deck lap pool,  an even longer lap pool awaits.

Swimming Pool at Pico de Loro Batangas

Can't get enough of the beautiful pool.  The pool on the lower left is a separate pool located at the beach club house area.  Btw, be sure to check if the main pool is available on your date of travel.  First time we went, it was open.  Second time, it was closed for renovation.

Kiddie Pool at Pico de Loro Batangas

Lower Right: Adjacent to the main club house pool is this kiddie pool.  And a separate kiddie slide pool where my kids went for the slide again, and again, and again.

Gardens and Open Spaces at Pico de Loro, Batangas

There are a lot of spaces that are green and open.  And the whole family loved it!

Gardens and Open Spaces at Pico de Loro, Batangas

Lower left is the pathway that connects the beach to the lake with the low-rise condo structures.  Lower right is the pathway from the beach to the chapel.

Hanging bridge at Pico de Loro, Batangas

Hanging bridge by the lake will bring you to a small patch of land.

St. Therese Glass Chapel at Pico de Loro, Batangas

The glass chapel of St. Therese overlooks Hamilo Coast.

St. Therese Glass Chapel at Pico de Loro, Batangas

The simple yet stunning chapel of St. Therese, up close.

Ride at Pico de Loro, Batangas

You can go around Pico using the top pic or settle for the friendlier jeepney.  Kidding on the cow.

This post is a tad too long.  I will make a separate post on:

Pico Accommodations and Reservations

Pico Club House Facilities and Dining

Trekking with the kids at Pico

Meantime,  my general review of Pico is that it is a wonderful place to travel with the family.  The beach, though not white,  is safe and friendly to the kids.  The swimming pool is beautiful and there are a lot of other activities to do.

The only setback for me is the number of people around.  When we went on the long weekend of Bonifacio day,  it was kinda packed.  I guess the renovation in the main club house pool forced people to gather around the club house pool causing the overcrowding.  If you can take an off on a weekday,  do take that.  My kids are a bit crowd averse and these things matter to them:-)

Address:

Pico de Loro Cove at Hamilo Coast

Nasugbu, Batangas

Website:  www.picodeloroclub.com

Contact Numbers:(02) 214-7888 or (0917) 809-1289 (Pico Sands Hotel)

Rate:  Members need to give you access to the club through an authorization letter.  If you are booked in the hotel,  the room rate of the hotel covers the access to the beach and country club facilities.  Some condominium owners also rent out their studio units.  Rental of the studio unit is exclusive of the guest fees below:

Holiday / Long Weekend Rates:

  • Accompanied by member = Php500/adult & Php150/kid (ages 4-12y.o.)
  • Unaccompanied by member = Php1000/adult & Php300/kid (ages 4-12y.o.)
  • Kids = 3 years old and below is FREE of charge

Weekday Rates:

  • Accompanied by member = Php300/adult & Php150/kid (ages 4-12y.o.)
  • Unaccompanied by member = Php500/adult & Php150/kid (ages 4-12y.o.)
  • Kids = 3 years old and below is FREE of charge

Directions:

Take SLEX and exit at Sta. Rosa and follow road to Tagaytay.  Go past Tagaytay until you reach junction of Balayan (Caltex Station on your right).  At that junction,  turn right to Nasugbu.  You will see lots of trucks carrying sugar canes because you will pass Central Azucarera de Don Pedro on your left.  When you reach the Shell Gas Station (on your left), turn right to go to the Nasugbu Town Proper.  You will then go uphill and will pass Canyon Cove and Punta Fuego.  Go further uphill until  you reach Pico de Loro, Hamilo Coast.  There are signs along the way, that reads “Hamilo Coast.”

In case you want to eat before entering Pico, your last stop for fast foods is at the Nasugbu town proper.  There is a Jollibee and Chicken Inasal.

Travel time by car is approximately 3.5 hours with relatively easy traffic flow.

Pico de Loro also offers ferry services from Roxas Boulevard to Pico at P1,200/per person for non-members.  Travel time by ferry is at 1 hour 30 minutes.

Date of our Travel:  May 2012 and November 2012

Disclosure:  This is not a sponsored post.  My family and I went to Pico de Loro and paid for everything.

Hope you check out my other Pico de Loro posts:-)

Travel Happy!

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Fun Farm at Sta. Elena: Balik Bukid Experience

Fun Farm - Carabao Resting

Say "bukid" (farm) and images of a field with carabaos and a myriad of farm animals come to mind.  Say "bukid" again and smile for simple, carefree fun.

That is what my mind conjured of Fun Farm and that is exactly what my family and I got.

Developed by Hindy Tantoco of Holy Carabao for her kids,  Fun Farm at Sta. Elena is a sprawling provincial farm that is just a 10 minute drive away from South Superhighway's Cabuyao exit.

My family had a whole afternoon of good, easy, fun riding a carabao cart, feeding rabbits and guinea pigs, horseback riding, fishing, boating and simply basking in the quiet and peace of this charming farm.

Sharing with you some pics (and info) of our wonderful Fun Farm experience. [Read more...]

Stilts Calatagan Beach Resort

Pure bliss, sweet and simple.  That is how I would describe Stilts.

Everything in it from the trees that lined the entrance, the front desk that gives a peek of the haven that is to come ... [Read more...]

Mt. Pinatubo: Tips in Trekking Mt. Pinatubo with a Child

1.  Know your child.

Can he withstand walking/trekking for 3 hours straight with just 2 breaks in between?  Kids are very strong and they have all the energy.  So don't underestimate them:-)  More importantly,  do they like the great outdoors?  My son enjoyed the experience but my daughter [Read more...]

Scaling Mt. Pinatubo with my Kid

My 10 year old boy and I basked in the beauty and awesomeness of what is Mt. Pinatubo.  It was his first trek and [Read more...]

Directions from Manila to Subic via NLEX-SCTEx

Directions from Manila to Subic via NLEX - SCTEx.

Trip Time: 2 hours.  Distance: 153km from EDSA Balintawak

  • Go to NLEX via the Balintawak interchange in North EDSA
  • Pay P45 at Balintawak Toll Plaza and get your toll card.
  • Drive to the Dau Toll Plaza at the end of NLEX [Read more...]

Segara Suites in Subic (Review of Segara Suites in Subic)

 

If you have been to Subic for the nth time and tire of going to the usual places like Zoobic and Treetop,  the hotel becomes the destination in itself.  Segara Suites is a modern, cozy boutique hotel that is a good place to bring the family to relax over the weekend.

Since it is new, just over a year old,  the rooms are spanking clean and are quite big for the kids to run around in.  It's barefoot clean level and the bed and sheets are comfy.  Kids enjoyed running around and doing their superman stunts from bed to bed.

 

When the room got boring,  and it will get boring,  we headed down to the pool which we had to ourselves (not much guests when we were there).  Btw we got room 201,  they say it is the biggest one plus it is nearest to the pool exit.  The pool is infinity style but of course there is no sea to create the grand effect.  Instead,  it was surrounded by the Balinese style villas that are uniquely themed.

I loved that the pool is designed with a wading pool for infants that opens up to the kiddie pool on one side and the adult pool on the other.  My 10 month old enjoyed his first dip in a pool as his siblings doted on him.

Overall it was a nice quiet stay.  Next to try Camayan Resort!

For more details visit their website at SegaraVillas.

Enchanted Kingdom Revisited 2011

It's been a decade since I visited Enchanted Kingdom.  I thought I would give it a shot since there is an Ensogo group buy promo.  Also, my kids have not been there (well, my boy when he was a baby) and as they say support your own.

My husband was totally against it.  Anticipating hordes of people and a park that is run down.  Well,  we went on a holiday and there were hordes of people.  People from all walks of life which was what we expected.    But all I can say is kids are kids.  They enjoy a theme park any form it comes in.  Heck, they would probably even enjoy the Fiesta Carnival in Cubao if it still existed.  They were oblivious to what I in my grown-up caste style judgment view things.  The cliche "in the eyes of a child" rang true.

While my husband and I criticize the chipped off paint and the supposedly Yogi bear 4-D ride,  my daughter clapped in glee.  While we complain about the long line on the log ride, trash on the floor and stink of sweat,  my kids eagerly anticipated the log ride and talked about it a good while after.  Of course it is a far cry from Disneyland and Universal but it still did bring happiness to the people who matter.  My kids:-)

Tagaytay Highlands

If I were to describe Tagaytay Highlands in one word it would be lush!   The whole place is surrounded by greens.  Manicured or wild.  The whole place is dotted with fabulous plants and flowers and the entire community is surrounded by mountains.    Highlands is a membership only, sprawling leisure and residential community in the scenic Taal Lake, Tagaytay.   It is just a 2 hour drive away, and yet when you get there it's like you are transported to a different land.    They have a lot of activities but the atmosphere begs for you to slow it down, relax and enjoy.

pool at camp highlands

They have several pools.  One at Camp Highlands and an indoor heated lap pool at the Sports Center.  But the kids love the one at the main Clubhouse since it is surrounded by mountains .  They also have 4 outdoor jacuzzi.  Make sure to try the one at the patio as it offers the best mountain views.

Main Clubhouse Pool

In the morning it is nice to walk around or you could rent a bike at the Sports Clubhouse.  The amphitheater is nice and quiet and the kids can run around in free abandon!

amphitheater (near camp highlands)

In the afternoon,  the kids can visit the Animal Farm and spend an hour there.   The zoo, though not that big has animals like tigers, orangutans and llamas, reptiles like pythons and crocodiles and they have a wide selection of birds.  It is enough to keep the young ones entertained.   Other activities the kids will surely enjoy are:  horseback riding (near zoo), fishing (near cable car entrance), kiddie playground (choice of indoor and outdoor),  mini-golf, renting a bike and go around highlands, paint ball course, go-kart and the usual sports like badminton, basketball, billiards, bowling (some lanes have kiddie rails) etc.  And do try the cable car ride.  The one that will take you to the highest point is the one from Main Clubhouse.  The view is stunning.  Do call first especially if you are going on a weekday so you could schedule your ride.   Note:  it can get very hot inside so time it well:)

Mini-golf 9 and 18 holes. And of course there is the full golf course (Golf Course Club House)

Fishing with dad - caught 3!

At night,  there are a lot of choices for lodging.  There is the woodlands - homey, beautiful but a bit pricey!  It's a huge log cabin and the rooms have bathrooms that have huge windows so your little ones can play in the tub as you watch them from the room.  We had a very pleasant stay here.  Other options include mini-hotel (rooms are small and no ambience) and the airconditioned bahay kubo at cottage grove (at camp highlands). It's the kids first time to stay in a bahay-kubo style room and they loved it.

bahay kubo at cottage grove

Or, if you are feeling adventurous and decided to try the tent. It was a big tent - my kids can stand up inside. And they have a mattress with complete beddings but since it was a hot night coupled with an unauthorized boisterous crowd who crept into the camp highlands pool at 1am – they didn't have a restful night. Maybe this would be better on a December or January night.  If weather permits,  you can also request for a bonfire to be set-up between 7 pm - 9pm.

Camp site at Tagaytay Highlands

Where to eat

We loved eating at the golf club house since they have a fantastic view, the kids can run around in the garden and best of all chase after the mandarin ducks. Try their jumbo bangus, creamy carbonara and super burger. In the morning though, you have to compete with the flies -- they landed smack on our sinigang.

The trail in between cottages and to the tent site was an adventure for the kids. Flashing their lights and very careful not to step on a snail or bull frog.

On the way to Highlands,  my parents caught on the Pinoy Genio bug and entertained the kids making them guess a word with only one clue given (example it is an animal). From there, the kids asks them questions answerable by yes or no, that would drive them to the answer. My son was hilarious and “yabang” with the clue body part - he answered blood vessels, gullet and whatever new body part he learned in science.

A packed weekend, indeed.

Splash Island: Cool off at Splash Island

It's 34 degrees outside and it's time to head out once again to Splash Island. It has been 3 summers now and Splash Island has almost become a ritual for me and the kids. Big wide open space + water = FUN, FUN! Now it is very critical that you go at the right time unless you want to swim with the entire Philippine population.

We always go on a weekday and usually just right after school ends. It is our right of passage to summer v-v-vacation!

The kids try all the water rides the height requirement permits (hehe takes after me). My boy welcomes wave after big wave at the wave pool. I never ever let him out of my sight at this point.  Horror stories of wave pools are for real - drowning and hitting head on the pool wall. So take caution.

Then the favorite raft ride.  It permits a group of 4 to ride a big rubber raft which will be dropped from a high winding slide -- Wohoo!   Age catches up on me as my heart thumps like a voodoo drum beat. I heard that they will even add heart stopping rides just for this summer.

So far, the times we have been there has been pretty slow, that is, I see water and not heads. We have had that in Malaysia, but that's another story. First I make sure we go on a weekday. Do take that leave - it's a must for your enjoyment. Secondly, I call to find out if there are truck loads of people coming in. Sometimes, there is a big corporate event - red light, stop, postpone.

To my dismay, they have relaxed their swimwear rules, accepting shorts and shirts on the pool.  But then at least, you don't have to buy Yaya a swimsuit. Do follow the safety rules to avoid injury and keep your eye on the kids - always. Kids and water are not exactly soul mates though kids would like to think so.

So there, go, frolick in the sun and soak in the cool, cool water ...

Operating Hours: Friday - Sunday 8am - 8pm P 500 adult / P 400 child
Monday - Thursday 9am - 5pm P 400 adult / P 350 child
*Summer Schedule only.
Address: Splash Island Spa & Resort
Southwoods Ecocentrum Binan, Laguna Philippines
Contact Numbers: 0918-912-9177 / 986-5058

Website:  www.splashisland.net