I have a plan for you. Do you believe me? - God

9:42:00 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

Last year, I was getting ready to settle down with the plus one. I was saving up for bills, emergencies, feeding someone other than myself, etc. But he and He had other plans for me, and in a snap, I was less-one.

Okay, I told myself, I have to explore life again (hence the blog). So I started going out and exploring, and eventually I was feeling content again. I was having fun being a freelancer and working from home - something that my dad lamented over because I was not meeting new guys (which is a complete 360-degree turn for him!). I think God answered his prayers because I started getting job offers from reputable, big companies...which I refused.

I told God I'm happy now, and what those companies offered me are for my previous dreams of being corporate, but not now. Not anymore. But I guess my parents' prayers were stronger than mine because I found myself working with other freelancers. No matter how tired I was in seeking out other freelancers, I was glad because I got to work with my friends, and my horizon on life was expanded. That, and I got to practice my newfound virtue of patience and control.

And when I was feeling again that "this is it!", God dropped another huge ball on my plate, one that I would have eagerly lapped up in my younger years, but one that makes me wary now. Of course I accepted it, but the responsibility makes me nervous. I want to do a great job, and I'm nervous that I might fail. My sister keeps telling me, "You're still learning, of course you'll make mistakes." (That does not comfort me at all.)

But what I realized is this: God has bigger plans for me than I do for myself.

Which is funny, because that was the thought that got me through 2013. During one of my lowest days, my friend Mia shared this with me: I have a plan for you. Do you believe me? - God

And after hearing it, I kept repeating that line to myself, and eventually sharing that with others who were also down in the dumps. I can see now that God indeed had, and has, plans for me. I actually feel plan-less because I haven't been planning the direction of my life since D-Day. After planning my life for the past five years, and have it disappear in one day, made me realize that things will always change, and no matter how much careful planning I do, things will not go the way I planned it to, especially when there's someone else in the equation.

So God has a plan for me, and it's playing out slowly. I feel a little lost and a little rudderless, but not really. I have come to realize that by letting go and letting God, I get to wonderful heights in my life I would never have thought possible. And human frailty makes me scared, but I know now that God is with me with every step.

Busog chibog at The Plantation

12:30:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

My college best friend and I have been trying to see each other more often, especially this year. Since I'm back in the city, I met up with her on my very second day. I consider it very special because I was actually done with work two hours before we were supposed to meet up. On any other day, I would have just gone home, but since I missed her too, I decided to wait for her.

One side of their coffee menu
The Plantation has a free socket that you can use if you're lucky enough to sit by the socket, and they also have free WiFi. Since I had to charge my phone, I wasn't able to play or surf as much as I liked.

I think the people at The Plantation thought I was a journalist or 'mystery shopper' because of my notebooks. The service was pretty efficient (to be fair, there were only about five groups of diners, me included) at that time. But they were a little noisy and kept shouting around. The music was good, though, and definitely kept me company as I worked.

The night before, I saw Click the City's very helpful The Hungry Guide: Legaspi Village Food and Restaurant Map (they also have one for Salcedo Village) and after consulting with food-buff Dastine, I suggested The Plantation to Mi. Since she's pretty much game, as long as it's somewhere nearby, she agreed. To aid my pitch, I also sent her a map. (Being geographically-challenged, of course she got lost, hehe!)

The Plantation is right beside the street, but being vertically-challenged, I did not notice it immediately. I had to backtrack and by accidentally glancing up, I found it. I wasn't aware much of what they had offered, only that it fit our P250 meal requirement and that it was midway between our offices.

Chicken fingers & potato wedges (P165)
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they also served coffee and cakes, as well as the usual Pinoy and American favorites, and other The Plantation creations, too. Oh, and did I mention the 3pm-9pm happy hour everyday? Yep.

The Plantation is chillax, and the perfect spot to hang out with friends, or even just eat by yourself. There were officemates hanging out, a businessman eating by himself, other official-looking men, just buddies enjoying the booze, and some other girls enjoying the good food. I think it's perfect for groups because the serving for some dishes is good for sharing, and their menu is extensive and can cater to the health conscious to the meat-lovers like me. Also, they have tables for two up to six people.

I only read one online review to find out their notable dishes, and I was expecting good things.

I ordered chicken fingers with potato wedges and ate it while I was writing my notes for work, because I forgot my tablet and didn't have anything to read. The chicken fingers was...sad. It looked so pale, and definitely tasted a little bland for me. The honey mustard sauce was its saving grace, but I enjoy my food more if I could enjoy it without having to resort to the sauce. I was expecting the food to be a little more brown. But then again, I was so hungry so I almost polished it off before my bff arrived.

Chicken cordon bleu on pesto rice (P230)
 The bff ordered chicken cordon bleu on pesto rice. To be fair, The Plantation had a lot of delicious-sounding food so we had quite a time choosing which dish to really order. Mi enjoyed her dish, and it fit her P250 budget.

Dory Thermidor on pesto rice (P230)
Me, on the other hand, was salivating for The Plantation-original dish Dory Thermidor on pesto rice. It's described as having hollandaise sauce, and the review I read was raving about it, even though it admittedly does not look that appetizing. Ugh. Kind of a letdown. The fish was creamy only in some places, the hollandaise sauce was almost non-existent. The pesto rice tasted bland. I had to slather on honey mustard to enjoy the dish.

I actually don't order fish often because I find that they don't meet my expectations, and this one just added belief that my mom's fish is the best.

Tiger (P150/bottle), 2 + 1 free (P300)
San Mig Light 1 + 1 (P80)
We could have totally fit into our budget (although I did have that extra chicken fingers dish) if only we hadn't decided to throw our waistlines out of the window. We decided to enjoy their happy hour. Mia ordered San Mig Light while I went for the Tiger beer, which I enjoyed the last time I was in Singapore. By this time, the place was noisy and the trio of men beside our table were so irritatingly loud! They were louder than the band who started playing around 8PM.

One beef I have with The Plantation was that the waiter explained to me that the 2 bottles + 1 free bottle of Tiger beer was only P150. But when we asked for the bill, I was charged P150/bottle so I ended up paying P300. I was so full from the food that I just brought home the unopened 'free' Tiger beer and gave it to my father as a pasalubong. I paid P5 deposit for that.

Mia, on the other hand, only paid P80 for two San Miguel bottles. That's actually already a rip-off because I know beer is super cheap when you buy it in supermarkets. Ah, the price of chilling out in restaurants.

Aside from the beer, we also ordered nachos with melted cheese. The melted cheese was so delicious, and we could probably have polished it off if we weren't super full. We decided that the next time we can just eat their nachos if we wanted to drink beer.

I'm always on the hunt for good cafe mocha or ice-blended mocha drinks, so maybe I'll try their espresso-based drinks next time. It's also a good thing I arrived there early because the place was packed by 7pm.

They also have a single-toilet bathroom that's a little cramped. At night, it's better to bring your own supply of tissue to make sure you'll have some to use.

Midweek fun with one of my best, Mi. Love you :*
The Plantation has affordable food and has that just right chillout vibe, but I was disappointed with the taste of most of the dishes I ordered. I'm not sure if and when I'll be back, but I just might be back to try out their coffee and other dishes instead.

The Plantation Bar & Bistro
106 C. Palanca Street,
Legaspi Village, Makati City
(02) 501 5727

Good grilling at Nanbantei of Tokyo

12:30:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Photo by my friend Anne Villegas
Since I was coming back to my first beloved city - Makati - my girl Anne and I met up in Greenbelt 3 last week. After some consideration, we had dinner at Nanbantei of Tokyo because we wanted...tonkatsu. Haha if you've been there, then you know it failed to meet that craving. (Photos are unedited. Also, I'm not very good with food photography)

We didn't read a lot of reviews or their menu thoroughly, but apparently their food is like grilled street food, and served on sticks. It's a little pricey as well, especially if you're hungry.

It's a good thing she reserved a table for us because the place was packed that night (this was on a Tuesday night before Holy Week). We sat beside the grilling area, but we didn't smell the smoke and we didn't exit the place smelling like good. That was a definite plus.

Nanbantei's grilling masters
When we sat down, they immediately set out this sauce, which tasted like bagoong, and wash cloth for us while we read the menu. It was then that we found out they don't serve katsu. I wanted to leave, but we decided to stay because we were shy. They already set out the table for us, and we decided to at least just try something new.

It was a good thing we stayed because even though it was a little pricey, the food was good. Our bill reached P600+, and we each paid P300+ only, because we shared everything we ordered, except for the rice. (Admittedly, I was still hungry afterwards but my dessert at Cafe Breton fixed that)

We ordered several dishes:

The Poteto Maki was okay but pretty ordinary. If not for the bacon, I wouldn't have ordered it.

Poteto Maki - Potato wrapped with bacon
Tori Karaage - Breaded chicken w/ ponzu sauce
The Tori Karaage was served last, and it was tasty; that was bang for the buck. It was the only dish we ordered that we could really share. The sauce was a little spicy though, but thankfully the karaage can be enjoyed without the sauce.

The Yaki Oginiri was a disappointment for me. The rice was too dry, and even felt a little burned on the side. Since it was my first time to eat at Nanbantei, and my first time to try the Yaki Oginiri, I wasn't sure if it was supposed to taste like that, although it looked different on the menu.

Yaki Onigiri - Grilled riceballs

Beef Yakiniku - Grilled thin slices of beef
By far, my favorite dish from Nanbantei is their Yakiniku. It's tasty, cooked just right, and plentiful. It doesn't look like much on the photo but there was a lot on that stick.

Happy Girls. Photo by Anne Villegas, with IG filter.
Anne and I love to eat, and we have several restaurants we want to try that the other has already visited. I plan to bring her to Mamou, and she plans to bring me to Apartment 1B. And we both plan on ordering their Eggs Benedict!

Thanks for blocking off Tuesday for me, Anne! To more lunch dates and dinners <3 and maybe get that Tonkatsu craving fixed ;)

Nanbantei of Tokyo
3/F Greenbelt 3,
Esperanza St, Ayala Center, Makati
(02) 757-4130 to 31

CloudMagic: Handy email app on the go

11:03:00 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

With my work, I have to be online and mobile almost 24 hours on weekdays. This is to make sure I get all the emails and disseminate it to the appropriate people in our team. I used to only have my work Gmail, but with the expansion of my tasks, I was given a Workspace email AND an Outlook email.

List of cards available
in CloudMagic.
I love technology and software so I immediately started researching on the best email apps to use to consolidate my non-Gmail accounts. I think Android's Gmail app is handy enough so I haven't thought of replacing it. Samsung's Email app (I have an S3 and a Note 10.1 2014) is okay, but I wanted more functionality and a better-looking app. I finally decided to try CloudMagic.

CloudMagic is a free email app that boasts awesome search ability and other goodies called "Cards" where with a click of a button you can send contents of your email into workable tasks, or record it to Evernote, or see the sender's details, etc.

Workspace's push functionaility was apparently discontinued a few years ago so I constantly had to refresh the Email ap. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that CloudMagic ignores that inability and pushes the email on to the user anyway as it arrives in your mail. You don't know how much that has saved me hours of refreshing, and waking up and finding my email waiting and ready to be read for me. I don't have to be anxiously waiting for the email to appear, it just syncs onto my tablet just like that.

So that solved my Workspace problem out of the way. As my niece Aj likes to say, Ta-da!

Now, onto my Outlook email.

My Outlook email, for some reason, took over the security of my Samsung tablet. I can only use Pin for security, instead of the pattern security code. I hated that an app had control of my tablet like that, but I thought I couldn't get out of it.

Then I used CloudMagic, and I was able to use whatever security code I preferred! Ahhh bliss.

The only glitch I've had with CloudMagic so far was that my Outlook account was disconnected one time and I only noticed it when I decided to check the app because I wasn't getting any emails on my tablet.

You can also set a passcode for the whole CloudMagic app if you want to keep your emails on a lockdown.

Right now, CloudMagic only supports iOS and Android devices, but they support various email services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail/Live/Outlook, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Google Apps, Office 365, and other emails via IMAP (as I mentioned, this works for Workspace).

CloudMagic is a free app, but I don't get advertisements on my app, which is awesome. But the downside is you can only add up to 5 accounts. Since I have several Gmail accounts, I still retained my Gmail and Yahoo Mail apps. But I'm not complaining about this limitation!

CloudMagic only pushes emails from the past 30 days. but since I regularly clean out my email inboxes, I don't have any problem with this.

CloudMagic for iOS
CloudMagic for Android

*This is not a sponsored post. But all CloudMagic photos are from their press kit.

Plantation Bay - even better the second time around

6:30:00 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

Plantation Bay
Plantation Bay is one of my family's favorite resorts. Last March 2014, we revisited the resort because my sister, ate Mako, wanted to spend her birthday 'celebration' there. Our first time there was so lovely that we were all excited to go a second time. (Note: Photos are unedited.)

My first sunset
I only slept four hours everyday that week, and on the night before our trip, I only slept for an hour. I was super busy, but I forced myself to stay awake. Since we wanted to make the most out of our overnight trip, we booked the 5am flight...

...and I was rewarded with this super beautiful sunrise before 6am. It was my first time to actually catch the sunrise, and I was so happy! I love sunsets, and I believe we have really beautiful ones in the Philippines (the horizon can be seen from our house), but with this sunrise, I felt like waking up early every day to see more of it.

One of the things we love about Plantation Bay is their excellent customer service, and this was manifested and affirmed throughout the whole trip.

Plantation Bay is a man-made resort, and they have a lot of different pools and activities, both free and paid.

For swimming, they have a freshwater pool, several freshwater pools, a huge pool that emulates the sea, and one pool that feels fresher than a swimming pool but is not exactly freshwater.

Perfect for sea lovers!
My dad, who loves the sea, loved swimming in their seawater pool. Its steepest level is at five feet. There is a part that is cordoned off, that is at twelve feet, but it's reserved for their 'cliff diving' activity.

Me and my mother
It encircles almost the entire resort and tries to look like an infinity pool. If you just want to swim from the moment you wake up, you can book a room that has a ladder, or a porch that opens direct to the waters. But since we were concerned that night swimmers might be too noisy and we won't get to relax, we didn't book that room. We booked a family room instead.

The family room has six beds, composed of one big bed and two bunk beds, but if there were six people, you'll have to pay additional $20/head for the fifth and six beds - and that does not include breakfast and no toothbrush! The beds were so comfortable and we had no trouble sleeping. We all had a good night's sleep, and we were all so rested. You don't know how happy I was to see my parents so unhappy and looking untroubled.

Me, on the other hand, kept nodding off the whole day, especially after lunch that I had to take a nap for two to three hours just to keep going until nighttime. I almost wanted to sleep on the top bunk because there were a few ants roaming around my bed. I don't know why, but I didn't get bitten when I slept anyway.

Marble everywhere!
It just bummed me out when they didn't provide toothbrushes. Also, their rubber slippers used to be free in 2010, but you can't take it home. Now, they charge P100 for every slippers' plastic bag you open. There are several containers for shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, and plenty of towels no problem.

A little too enclosed.
The room was very spacious, and their bathroom  was also spacious. Curiously, there was more space in the foyer of the bathroom than in the toilet and shower stall themselves. If you were a little claustrophobic, you might not want to do your business in their toilet for a long time. Also, they didn't have a bidet, or the Filipinos' ever-reliable tabo.

Aside from these, they had a complimentary basket ready for us with several delicacies of Cebu like the ever-popular dried mangoes. The basket also included a small can of Pringles, two cans of Coke, and some canned juices. There was also daily complimentary bottles of water.

Aside from these, we had two TV sets. One was for watching TV, and one was for gaming. Yes, as in you can play Mortal Kombat for free, but you have to request it from the game room.

Game room? What? Yes. They have a game room where you can play table tennis, billiards, darts, and foosball, which are free until 6pm. They also have computers that you can use for free for the first thirty minutes. And you can also ride their bike for thirty minutes, and partake of their free kalesa rides, or their jeepney rides. They also have a gym for the gym buffs.

And oh yeah, they also have some books you can borrow...for free. It's like they're catering to every type of hobby they could. Sigh, Plantation Bay, you make me happy.

My sister and I played all the games except foosball, and gaming. Instead, we swam to our heart's content, and did their other activities. Like...

Unlimited archery in the afternoon. I went for four rounds.
Yep, that's my dad wallclimbing!
My sister trying out golf.

After trying out their free activities (and yes, I climbed a wall while wearing my dress) and biking around the place several times, we decided to relax in our favorite pools.

Their cold, freshwater pool that's a little hidden from view...

Seeing this photo of my parents always warms my heart. <3
I watched as the sky turned dark while I swam on my back, looking up at the clear blue sky. Here's a secret tip: the pool in Kilimanjaro restaurant has several pockets of jacuzzi-like enclosures. My favorite spot can be seen in the photo below, in the dark rocks. My sister and I just laid there, with the moon shining right above us, and the evening star twinkling as dusk settled. It was perfect. I felt so blessed.

My parents goofing around in our favorite pool!
For lunch, we ate at their Kilimanjaro restaurant. Plantation Bay's food is supposed to be one of the best, but sadly, I didn't feel that the food was anything spectacular. It was just okay.

Kilimanjaro in Plantation Bay
We ordered fish, soup, lasagna, and a sandwhich. The food was okay, but it was too pricey for me; I didn't feel like raving about it afterwards.

Tip: If you're looking for slightly cheaper food, try their Cafe Palermo which serves croissants and some danish and cookies. Their food there was bang for the buck!

We decided to try out another restaurant. I insisted on treating my family to dinner at their Fiji restaurant. Along our way, my sister and I saw the beach. There is an actual beach, and you can swim in it if you want natural water, but it's not safe to swim there at night. But on the beach, there was a film viewing with several beach chairs, and a bonfire. The attendant there said there were usually a lot of people, but he was all alone when we got there. It was probably because of the show that night, that again, we didn't get to see because we were busy having dinner.

Another perfect spot to relax, especially at night.

We dined al fresco because it wasn't too cold outside, despite our being close to the beach. There weren't any insects or pesky mosquitos. My dad was the only one who took a bath before dinner; us ladies actually came straight from the pools.

One of the things I like about Plantation Bay was that I felt safe. In fact, I pretty much walked around and swam in my bikini. Even my sister eventually took off her top and swam in her bikini.

Actually, their gyoza tasted weird to me. I've eaten in several authentic Japanese restaurants so I'm pretty familiar with the taste (and it's my favorite). Fiji's gyoza wasn't not delicious; it was just different.

But their katsudon, oh my gosh, I just wanted to moan in delight. It was delicious. I think it's the most delicious thing I've tried in Plantation Bay, and the best I've ever tasted.

What impressed me most about the place, though, was their customer service. I like ordering chocolate shakes when I'm on vacation; it signals the ultimate leisure for me (Idk why!). Now, Fiji does not serve chocolate shake. It wasn't on the menu. But earlier that day I had a chocolate shake from Kilimanjaro and they served me one, so I asked the head waiter just in case. This was our conversation:

Me: Do you have chocolate milkshake?

Head Waiter: Uh, we'll see if we can make one for you ma'am.

[comes back after a few minutes and tells me they can make it for me]

Me: Okay, but how much is it?

Head Waiter: No extra charge, ma'am. It's priced the same as our other shakes.

Oh, be still, my happy heart.

The swimming pool outside our place.
When we booked our room, my sister and I opted for their breakfast the next day because it was discounted. When we asked the waitress at Kilimanjaro what the dishes would be, they cited several Filipino favorites like tocino, pancit, etc...then bacon. I was like, "Filipino breakfast, but there's bacon?" She said, "It's a universal favorite po kasi ma'am." Needless to say, I was excited for breakfast.

Presenting...their Filipino buffet breakfast!

They make your eggs on the spot - but not Eggs Benedict.
Salad station
Bread stand

Bread station
Arroz caldo and pancakes station
Fruits station
The viands and rice (and bacon!)
Unlimited juice and water
Cereal station
Beside the cereals, they also put kakanin, but I wasn't able to take a photo.

I had eggs over easy (perfectly made!), croissant, bacon (of course), and other viands like tocino. The croissant was delicious and excellent, if not the best I've ever tasted. They had mangoes, and I was so excited because I love mangoes! And the ones in Plantation Bay are said to be excellent. I was hoping they came from Guadalupe or *ehem* Guimaras. However, that day the mangoes are labeled as 'just average'. Well I'm glad they were honest about it. I saw some foreigners very happy with the mango (and they even ate almost half for their group) but since I've eaten a lot of mangoes, true enough, they weren't up to par. I guess when you've eaten succulent mangoes picked straight from a tree at the right stage of their ripeness, and that were not fertilized with chemicals and preservatives, you'll be hard-pressed to find one better.

Then came another example of Plantation Bay's excellent service.

Me: Excuse me, do you have cream cheese?

Server: I'll check ma'am if we have some from the kitchen. (Goes into the kitchen and speaks in Bisaya).

I went back to our table and resumed eating, assuming they didn't have any. After a few minutes, the server arrived with a plate full of cream cheese. At no charge. Awesome!

Thank you to my sister!
Since this was my sister's third time in Plantation Bay (on her first time, she went with a friend), Plantation Bay actually had her details on record. We know this because they contacted her on her old number, which my mom currently uses. Then on our first day, they even called and asked if they could send a complimentary basket of chocolate goods. We were like...of course! We don't know why we received those chocolate goods, but they were so delicious. It contained some brownies, etc, and three pieces of chocolate. I bit into one, and instantly wanted to weep because it was perfect. The bitter taste of the chocolate hit me first, then I was instantly overwhelmed by the sweetness of it. I regret not having been able to ask where they bought their chocolate.

After our trip, my sister and I vowed that when we go back, we're going to stay in their spa room - the only place I haven't explored yet. We really want to bring our eldest sister and niece there, especially my niece because the pools aren't that deep, and she loves to swim.

Aside from that, they fetched us from the airport when we arrived at 6am, and even booked us immediately. I guess they can book you in early as long as they have a room available.

Plantation Bay is in Mactan Island, and is about 45 minutes away from the city proper. They offer free rides to the nearby malls on a schedule, so plan your itinerary carefully! And oh yeah, they have free WiFi all over the place...even on their shuttle. Yep.

My last complaint about the place aside from the few ants on my bed and the no toothbrush & toothpaste amenities were the bruises we all had! For some reason, they had a few rough surfaces and we kept scraping against them. Nothing serious, though, but a little of a buzzkill.

See you in a few more years, Plantation Bay!

P.S. This post is not sponsored. My sister paid for our room, while my parents paid for their air fare. I paid for mine and my sister's air fare.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa
Plantation Bay Resort and Spa
Marigondon, Mactan Island
Cebu, Philippines 6015
Email: inquiry@plantationbay.com
Tel. + 63 32 505 9800
Fax + 63 32 505 9818
Plantation Bay website
Plantation Bay Facebook page
Plantation Bay Twitter account