Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GM LP, Part 2

I mentioned some posts ago that LP's a bit of a chess player, and that her school's got a talent development program that exposes the children to different activities such as ballet, tae-kwon-do, chess, among others. First and second graders are exposed to an activity every month. LP's most recent stint was in chess.

She recounted how funny the first day of chess was, that her classmates called the bishop "priest" and the rook, "tower"and that capturing pieces was akin to "eating" them.

Then she told me how her she was the best player in class and that none of the kids wanted to go against her. Not once did she lose a match, and the teacher herself was surprised at LP's moves, specifically, the castle and en passant.

"Fritz taught me," LP replied when her teacher asked who taught her such moves. "I play with Fritz in the laptop all the time."

I had initially dismissed Fritz as too advanced for me, let alone a child. Turns out my chess skills are pathetic compared to LP's. She had also complained that Fritz was always beating her in chess. Now I realize that the beating she was getting from Fritz was way better training than playing with me (one semester of chess in college) or her peers.

So now the pressure's on me to nurture LP's talent. First tae-kwon-do, now chess.

This single mom's got a lot on her hands.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

LP's birthday, part 2

The perenially broke mother that I am, I had to figure out how to celebrate LP's birthday without taking out another salary loan. I had initially thought about getting three dozen doughnuts (again) from Krispy Kreme, which meant another Php 700 or so. Then I thought, why not just buy ready-made cupcakes and ice them a la Sonja's cupcakes? It shouldn't cost me more than 500 bucks! And since the nuns at LP's school seriously forbade birthday celebrations in the classroom, that meant I didn't have to feed the entire second grade and faculty.

So that's what I did, bought 6 packs of 10 cupcakes each (Regent, you know, the assorted pack that consists of pandan, ube, mocha, etc.), ingredients for icing, plus food coloring and candy sprinkles. Hehe, Sonja, eat your heart out!

Making the icing was easy, but icing 60 cupcakes proved to be impossible, as I was only able to squeeze enough of the stuff to barely top less than 40 cupcakes. Argh.

And it looked ugly. So bad, I didn't bother to take a picture. The icing wasn't stiff enough to form cute peaks, and even with the star-shaped tip of the piping bag, the icing fell flat. And the cupcakes were, er, rounder and flatter than I thought. They looked more like small mamon than cupcakes.

I started having second thoughts about bringing the cupcakes to LP's school, for fear of embarrassing her. I took out the candy sprinkles and very generously poured the entire can over the cakes. Whew, that improved the appearance somewhat.

I had Yaya smuggle the cupcakes to LP's teacher the following morning. The verdict? The kids loved it! LP recounted how her classmates raved over the cakes and how yummy they were, and that she should bring some more next time. It sure wasn't embarrassing for my LP.

And here I cropped some pics to show how my cupcakes turned out:

Check out the big smiles on their faces.

After school, we picked her up and proceeded to North Park for the much-appropriate noodles and LP's favorite food, siomai.

Happy 8th, Sweetie!

Monday, June 16, 2008

LP's sweet birthday, Part 1

Just because she's over and done with the grand celebration of turning 7, doesn't mean my LP won't have as much fun for her 8th.

I had the folks at Krispy Kreme Megamall ice two dozen doughnuts with "Happy B-day Justine." Yep, all 24 of 'em. They suggested that they ice jelly-filled doughnuts instead, one letter per. I insisted on the whole banana each. I'm such a hardball mom, I know.

And isn't Chardy the chef hot? Er...get a grip, Cat. He's too young for you.

I took LP with me to the company beach outing Saturday, which technically wasn't her birthday yet. (It's on the 17th, Tuesday.) So this is celebration no. 1. Yep, everyone loved the doughnuts.

And since I got my first watch at age 8, I figured it was high time she got hers, too. Frikkin' Swatch cost me extra because it came with a diary and pen. Sheesh.

But she's worth it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

LP makes doughnuts

Krispy Kreme's Ayala branch has a promo of sorts for kids. (By kids, I mean people aged 35 and below.) They let kids with grimy fingers and runny noses make doughnuts.

Hehe, I'm kidding, of course. They had LP put on gloves and I made sure she took some antihistamine for her allergic rhinitis that day.

Anyways, so here she is, clad in an apron and a hairnet, with KK's fun cranky old geezers here!

Btw, KK-Ayala doesn't have an oven and glazing conveyor, so the donuts they serve aren't piping hot, which I guess isn't a problem for most people. (Long lines during lunchtime and after 5:30.) Neither do they give free donuts (boo-hoo!!!). Imagine the inventory loss from giving out free donuts to hungry yuppies all day.

Anyway, here's LP dipping the donut in chocolate before dipping it in sprinkles.

And here's the lovely chef and her finished product.

Featuring KK's really cute crew. They know me by name, and to think I've only been there twice. Must be the record I hold for consuming a donut completely before reaching the table. Aren't they really, really cute? They remind me of the bibo waiters at TGIFriday's.

And here's LP forcing herself to finish the doughnut she made. Not that she's a terrible cook, but she disclosed that she liked the original glazed variety better, two of which she wolfed down later on.

Oh, and because I like this particular branch so much, I'm shamelessly plugging for them. Krispy Kreme Ayala has free Wifi! Not only that, all tables have power outlets, which means you can everything there: your laptop, your phone charger, your camera, your all-in-one it. Bring a jacket, though, the A/C's up on high to keep the glaze from melting.

Oh yeah, and the coffee's perfect. Yummmmmmmmm.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

2 Nights, 3 Hotels

Yep. Only in Tagaytay.

In my previous post, I recounted my horrible phone inquiry with Royal Taal Inn, and it ended with my calling up Residence Inn for a reservation.

So let's start there.

By 9am, we were at Residence Inn. The staff then led us to our viewdeck room...and I almost wanted to leave as soon as I stepped inside the room. It looked tired. That's the first thing that came to my mind. Tired. Then I noticed there was no TV, and called the attendant's attention. A few minutes later he reappeared with an old TV, and when we turned it on, the reception was so awful, only GMA-7 was on the screen. Turned out they didn't have cable. The bathroom was decent, though. No tub, but there was hot water, towels, shampoo and soap. The view from the room was great...unfortunately we felt like we were part of the attractions of the zoo. A flight of stairs from the lobby led to the lower level of the zoo, and by taking those stairs, guests could see us from outside.

That was another pain, the stairs. It was fairly steep...not an easy trek for my folks. And to add insult to injury, it rained that afternoon! Not only that, the power went out! Imagine being stuck in a "tired" hotel room on a rainy afternoon with two cranky senior citizens and a very bored 7-year-old. We had to contend with LP's lecture on snakes and spiders, which I guess were appropriate since she had a fantastic time with the animals earlier. (That was a plus, at least LP was happy.)

By 5pm, the rain hadn't let up and the power still hadn't gone back on. We decided to have a short joyride before heading off for dinner at Leslie's, rather than wait for the power to come back on. Fortunately, attendants brought flashlights and lit the way for us...yep, steep flight of stairs and rain and all.

By around 8pm, after dinner, we headed back to the inn. The highway was pitch dark and we missed the hotel by a kilometer! Anyway, I figured if the power was still out, then we'd have to leave. True enough, the inn was dark as hell. I threw a hissy fit at the staff and demanded a refund, which they gave. (Turns out we were the only guests that night! No wonder!) I started packing (in the dark, aided by candles and flashlights) and left in less than a half hour.

Hotel 2

A short drive down the highway, I spotted an inn (the sign just said INN) and checked it out. It looked curiosly like a motel, but the interiors were a fair bit more "wholesome," and had a small dining/kitchen/receiving area, and they had power! But there were no windows in the room, and I figured that would've brought out the claustrophobe in me. At P2,000, it seemed like a fair deal, but I wasn't about take it just yet.

Right next door was another inn, Sierra Spring. The only room available was a family room, and when I checked it out, I was sooo relieved. The place was new, the beds were new, the beddings were new, there was POWER and TV and CABLE! At 2,500, they threw in an extra cot for free. Whew. I checked in right then, and realized our room had a nice verandah, albeit no view of Taal. Plenty of fresh air, though. The staff were very accommodating, too. We had our first restful sleep that night.

Hotel 3

The following morning after breakfast, I spotted a resort right next to Sierra Spring. The sign read, WITH WIFI. Crap, how could I have missed that? Then I saw the name, Pura Vida Resort, and realized that I chanced upon its website once and dismissed it as way over my budget. But I figured there was no harm in checking out the place.

Wow, I was impressed. The lobby was spacious and had two desktop computers AND wifi. And they had a pool! The rooms were great, too! Just like a real hotel: painted in gentle yellow and blue hues, big fluffy comforters, flat TV, well-appointed bathroom, verandah overlooking the pool, etc. Really, a room for relaxing! Spanking new. At 3,800 inclusive of two extra cots, it was a steal.

So I had my folks pack up and move next door. Turned out that we had the entire place to ourselves, imagine that. Pura Vida also had three villas with views of Taal Lake, and each villa accommodates at least ten. I spent a good hour exploring the three villas, gushing at each and I had a house just as beautiful and tastefully furnished. The villas had the view of the lake, too. Whoo.

I guess the best part was having the place to ourselves. We lorded it over the lobby and the screaming kids, save for LP and her peals of laughter from swimming in the pool. The staff weren't at all ignorant, and all our concerns (which weren't much, really) were addressed quickly and professionally. Questions were answered, no blank stares nor I-don't-knows were given. My folks were happy and LP was ecstatic.

We're definitely staying there next time! I recently found out that the hotel is only a few months old, but the vacation houses have been around for the past three years, so if you check out their website, there is no mention of the hotel. Call them, though, and be assured of a fantastic stay.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Where not to stay this summer

I'm not much of a critic, really, but I do know poor service when I see it, or worse, experience it.

Take the case of Royal Taal Inn, whose "glowing review" I chanced upon What struck me was that the a few pages were dedicated solely to the hotel...duh, who reviews an inn that much? Unless the review was paid for. Sure, there were other inns and hotels that the site mentioned, but only as an attempt to compare what sucky and/or more expensive options there are in Tagaytay. (RTI's supposedly separate site is

The sucker that I was, I emailed the RTI. Take note that their contact page, says "For faster service, please use e-mail."

Hi, I chanced upon your website, I was wondering if you still charge the same rates for a superior room?

I'll be taking my parents on a two-night stay in May, if you could please email me with a quote for the following:

Date: May 1 to May 3 (3d/2n)
Room: Superior room
4 adults, 1 child.

I understand your rooms only accommodate up to three adults, but I was wondering if you'd care to be flexible in our case. I'll be willing to pay extra for a cot.

Thanks very much. Hope to hear from you very soon.

To which they replied: Nothing.

I waited an hour and decided to give them a call on their landline and cell. After several attempts (two lines were down, apparently), I managed to get through. I said I sent an email earlier and wondered if they received it, to which she replied, "Ma'am wala po kasi akong access sa email, yun may-ari lang po, mas maigi po na tumawag nalang kayo dito." (Ma'am, I don't have access to email, only the owner has, it's better if you call us here.)

I answered, Ah, OK, and proceeded with the inquiry, for a 3d/2n stay in their superior room, the largest room among the choices. She then told me to make a deposit to secure the room. I got the bank account details, said thank you, and hung up.

Looking at their site and the glowing review again, I figured RTI would provide the best vacation experience EVER:

The surprisingly large rooms sleeps two adults and two children, a rare event in today's holiday industry, though there are only a few rooms suitable for a family of four and they do book up fast.

Extra sleeping beds available (at additional cost.)

Probably the best perk of all is the friendly, efficient and warm hospitality this family run business offers. You feel more like you're at home or your best friends house, rather than staying at an Inn. The family goes way beyond being helpful offering to arrange transportation, reservations and suggesting "to do" recommendations during your stay. What a refreshing change from the run of the mill business establishments nowadays.

The family running the Royal Taal Inn , trusts that by offering excellent value for money, they will encourage other Tagaytay establishments to lower their prices accordingly. Who knows, maybe this idea of bringing prices into parity with other Asian nations will spread across the Philippines and help attract a greater number of visitors to this friendly and marvelously beautiful country. At least this is the idea behind this site. Therefore it may be a good idea to bookmark or save this site as one of your favorites as we will endeavor to continually update and bring you the very best deals in Tagaytay and the Philippines we can muster up.

Two weeks later, I call again. Several attempts later, I get through. (After being charged two minutes for calls to their cell that were answered by nasty static.) The lady who answered the landline said, "Ma'am, kayo po ba yung tumatawag sa celpone?" (Ma'am, were you the one calling the cellphone?)

I replied, Yes, and proceeded to make the reservation. I then told the lady that there'll be three adults and one child.

Receptionist: Ma'am, di po pwede, kasi pang two adults and two children lang po. (Ma'am, that is not allowed, the room can only accommodate two adults and two children.)

Cat: Sa cot nalang ako, kasi yung bata di naman papayag matulog ng walang katabi yun eh. Sa kama sya kasama yung adults. (I'll stay on the cot, the child won't sleep without anyone by her side, anyway. She'll stay in the bed with the two adults.)

R: Di po pwede, kasi yung cot pang bata lang po.(That is not allowed, the cot is strictly for children only.)

C: OK, in that case then, I'll just pay for an extra bed.

R: Di po pwede, kasi di po magkakasya yung extra bed sa kwarto.(That is not allowed, the extra bed won't fit inside the room.)

WTF?!?! What happened to the "surprisingly large rooms?"

C: Di pwede? We'll be staying there for two nights and you won't allow us?

R: Ma'am, kasi naman po pag more than two adults, two rooms po ang kinukuha. (Ma'am, when there are more than two adults, two rooms should be taken.)

C: But the only other extra adult is me, and I don't even take up that much space.

R: Istrikto po kasi yung may-ari pagdating sa capacity. (The owner is very strict when it comes to capacity.)

C: So you're refusing us?

R: Opo.

C: Really?

R: Opo.

C: Ah, OK, then.

A minute later, I receive an SMS from RTI: "gud am! wu u po?"

Crap. Where's the "friendly, efficient and warm hospitality this family run business offers?" My Yaya's a great deal more efficient and hospitable.

I managed to get a real review from Virtual Tourist, and here is junefer's review:

my stay in royal taal was "ok" just a little disappointed with the service they give, here are the good things about them, the room is clean, its just litlle small, and there is no closet, no hanger.....and they let our beer put in their fridge which is we appriciate it.....were buying beers outside to bring it in our hotel beacuse they dont have mini bar, and no stores near by..... and the bad things are....all the staff are unable to answere even simple question u ask about tagaytay....there fav. word is "i dont know" and then u cannot get thesame treatment as westeners guys get, they treat them very well than local customers ar asian customers...which is unfair i also pay thesame $$....if u are planning to visit tagaytay just do a little research about the place, there are plenty of hotels u can stay...


So I called up Residence Inn and reserved a viewdeck room that can accommodate two more adults. That's a queen-size bed LP will be bunking in with my folks, plus an extra bed for me, and another extra bed for Yaya. Oh, yeah, and I got the rooms CHEAPER. So much for the ballyhooed guarantee referred to for RTI.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Mom Song

This is how I am to LP...and I'm actually relieved that most other moms are like this, too.

Courtesy of some colleagues from work, who all happen to be single and below 25.