Ilocos: A Not-So Perfect Holiday Getaway

I have already mentioned in my previous blogs about my son and I’s adventures.  Some were okay, some were not so okay.  It cannot really be avoided that there will be some unavoidable circumstances along the way (delayed flights, baggage on another flight, among others), but I guess our latest adventure is the worst so far.

I have already been itching to go to Ilocos for the longest time.  I have been reading a lot of travel blogs so that I will be prepared when that opportunity comes….and it came on December 25th, 2014….

I told my son that it’ll be my Christmas gift to him.  He was very excited to see Ilocos and he had been reading a lot about Ilocos on the Internet and even checking the map too.  I immediately booked the tour at a travel agency when my request to share a room with someone was granted.  I am not really choosy naman since I am a cowboy so I asked if there will be someone who is willing to share rooms with us. 

December 25th was a busy day for us.  We went home from Noche Buena at 2 a.m., slept at around 4 a.m.  Woke up at 10 a.m. and went to Kib’s ninongs and ninangs before heading to San Juan City to visit some relatives and the grave of my father.  We  went home by 3 p.m. to do some cleaning and packing for our trip.  We left our house by 5:30 p.m.

Merry Christmas Lolo!

There were some traffic on the road, but somehow I enjoyed the trip going to our meet-up place (Trinoma Open Parking) because I don’t have to drive, I’m just a plain passenger, hihi.  We arrived before 8 p.m. at Trinoma.  At this point, the problems on our Ilocos trip started.  Let me enumerate them one by one.

1   1.     Van seating arrangement.  I was happy that we will be riding on Toyota Hi-Ace Grandia at least we will be comfortable all throughout our travel.  However, there were some problems on the seating arrangement.  The travel agency didn’t plan the seating arrangement very well that Kib and I still stayed outside the van at Trinoma while the tour coordinator was trying to find a solution on how everybody can sit comfortably all throughout the travel.  Since time was running short, five people seated on the second row of the van up to Petron Lakeshore.  The tour coordinator just transferred to another van from there.  Later on, other passengers confessed that the tour coordinator was even thinking of Kib sitting on my lap all throughout the travel, my golly!

2   2.   Unguided tours.  After confirming payment, the itinerary was emailed to me.  However, on the actual tour, I was expecting that someone will explain the history behind the tour sites, but no one did.  The van driver was also clueless about the story of each venue, plain and simple, he’s just a driver.  The tour coordinator doesn’t also know anything too. So sad, we just went to the tour sites for plain photo opportunity.

At Marcos Museum.  I want to know more about Marcos but no one has explained his life to me.  We just read the notes on each exhibit inside.  Kib was also very curious too, he really stops to read.

3.     Lack of coordination with the resort.  We stayed in Pagudpud, but the travel agency didn’t really made their homework on knowing the amenities of the resort.  We were all hungry from the tour but the resort that we stayed in doesn’t have a canteen!  We still have to ask a staff of the hotel to buy food for us and the food bought was disappointing.  I ordered for menudo but it was all pork fat!  The following day, we requested the driver to make a stop so that we can buy dinner before heading back to the resort.

Apart from the problems on the amenities, one tour group had problems with their own hotel that they needed to be transferred to our hotel.  The tour guide talked to me in private asking me if I want to be transferred to another hotel so that the other group will be accommodated to our hotel.  I said no.  Aba, dehadong-dehado na kami ha?!

4.     The convoy slowed us down.  The travel agency has rented four vans for this trip, but not all drivers are knowledgeable about Ilocos, so there is a need to make ‘alalay’ to those drivers who are not well-versed on the streets of Ilocos.  Also, since it’s a convoy, we have to wait for each other even if other vans are ready to go to the next destination.  Well, it’s okay with me to travel on a convoy, but some passengers don't care that other passengers are waiting too.

5.     My digicam was lost.  Or rather, my digicam was stolen.  I was about to take the LAST PHOTO of our trip at the marker at Café Leona along Calle Crisologo in Vigan when I noticed that the zipper of my bag was open.  I thought I just left it open because I just bought longganisa on the establishment beside Café Leona.  When I was already looking for my camera, then that’s the time I realized it was lost.  I went back to the store just to confirm if I didn’t leave it there.  The owner and the helpers were very kind to assist me.  They told me to immediately report it to the police since there are lots of CCTVs on the area.  I saw a traffic aide and he immediately radioed it to the police station.  Minutes after, a policeman assisted me.  He got my details.  I am so happy that even I wasn’t able to file a formal complaint (we need to get back to Manila already), my concern was taken seriously and an investigator even called me to confirm details.  I am no longer after the return of my digicam but I just do hope that they will catch whoever that person is to teach him/her a lesson.  My son was traumatized that he cried inside the van until he fell asleep.

At Calle Crisologo in Vigan.  This photo was taken using my iPhone, few minutes before my digicam was stolen.

While we are on our way to Manila, I was calling friends just to air out my feelings toward the incident.  I felt relieved that my friends really listened to me and even asked what can they do to help.  Some friends offered prayers to us and one friend even sent credits to my Sun Broadband.  It was a long journey back home and it gave me time to reflect on what had happened to us.  I thought of good things about our vacation and the lessons learned about the incident, here are they:

1.     Still thankful that we still have some vacation photos from the tablet and iPhone

2.     Thankful that it was ONLY the digicam that was stolen and not my wallet or iPhone (good thing I was holding my iPhone when the incident happened)

3.     My son and I were not held up at gun/knife point

4.     My bag was not slashed just to get the item inside my bag.  Thieves don’t have mercy over branded bags. Moral lesson: never bring a branded bag anymore

5.     Don’t go on a holiday on peak season.  This was the second for us (first was a New Year’s holiday at Boracay in 2011).  Traffic is terrible, and you’ll feel agoraphobic with the influx of local tourists.  Imagine, it’s like summer in December in Ilocos!

If you ask me if I want to go back to Ilocos, my answer is: I DON’T KNOW.  It’s really a tiring trip (12 hours or more travel time) plus the trauma that we experienced.  Maybe I will go back there together with friends and family, and hoping that the next time around, it’ll be a perfect Ilocos getaway.

Certified Positive Planner 2015 Review + Announcement of Winner

Just like what I told you on my previous blog, I plan to use Certified Positive Planner for next year.  My planner arrived last December 10 and I immediately skimmed the pages.  This is really a spoiler but I really want to share with you how this planner makes a difference among others. Take a look at the photos of the actual planner:

The planner comes with a bookmark

It is 8.25 inches in height

And .75 inches thick

If you are curious about Smith-Sewn binding, this is how it looks like

In Smith-Sewn binding, the pages can be spread easily

This is what Certified Positive planner looks like from the side

After the flyleaf, this is what will greet you...amen to that!

The planner does not ask for a lot of your personal information, which I find it safe for the owner.  It only asks for your name, email address, and mobile number should there be a need to contact you in case the planner gets lost.

After the copyright page, this is what you'll see next: steps in finding salvation.  Truly, this planner really aims to spread the love of God to people!

Just like what you have seen on Certified Positive's website, this page gives us what to expect on the planner and gives us tips on how to use it.

The Daily Verse Tracker gives you tips on how to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations.  The days on the planner also indicates the chapters that you will read on that day.

The Bills Payment Tracker page lets you monitor your bills for the whole year

Above all else, the spiritual goals come in first

This is where you can write down your thoughts during your meditation with God. 

After your have written down your spiritual goals, then it is time to write down your own personal goals

At the start of each month, you will read testimonials of different personalities about how they have encountered God in their everyday life and how God uses them in their own ministries. 

The following pictures below are the things that you will see on a monthly basis: What the Bible Says About (different topics each month), monthly goals (there are different boxes on each goal), monthly budget (just like a spreadsheet, there are already items listed below that are considered regular like tithes, loan payments, and utilities), daily expense tracker (this is for people who are really conscious about their budget), and the month in overview.  The weeks of the year are arranged from Monday to Sunday.

Take note of Certified Positive's anniversary!  I am not telling you which month, hihi

At the end of each month, there is a page for Reflections.  Wow, this planner really helps you to be a positive person!

The following pictures are the things you can see on the daily and weekly schedule: Top Priorities This Week, Weekly Devotion, Daily quotes, Weekly Bible Trivia, and Pos-TWEET-ive Act.  The Pos-TWEET-ive Act encourages everyone to post on Twitter on a weekly basis

In between months, there is an information about the partner-NGOs of Certified Positive, below is an example:

There are also twelve pages of blank pages towards the end of the planner for doodling and other important notes.

There are twelve stickers which you can use to inspire you or your loved ones

These are the twelve cards that you can give

Emergency numbers

This is the last page of the planner

The planner is really promising and indeed can really help you to be positive throughout the year; however, the font used is very thin and small, and for a person who uses eyeglasses  (like me) it'll be very hard to read.  I hope the Certified Positive team will take note of this so that the next year's planner will be a more improved and more inspiring one.

Today, I will also announce the winner of my blog promo.  Thank you to everyone who joined and I'm so happy with the responses that you gave.  Since I believe that everyone deserves a planner, I decided to draw lots instead with the help of my son.

Names of all the people who joined my blog promo

I've put them in this cute tin can

My son drawing the name of the winner



CONGRATULATIONS TO VIX PARUNGAO!  I will send you an email for the shipping of your Certified Positive planner

Kib’s Photographs Throughout the Years

I like taking photos of my son.  From the moment he came to this world and up to the present, all of his milestones were documented.  I’m just so in love with my son that I don’t get tired of taking his pictures.  These pictures serve as a memento of his childhood and a record of all of his milestones.  I never get tired of seeing his old pictures, it makes me walk down the memory lane and reminisce those times whether it may be happy or sad.

Kib's very first photograph, pardon the blood =)

Kib had his first professional photography session when he was six months old.  It was only shot at a studio inside a shopping mall.  I was so happy with the results that  since then, I swore to myself that I will have Kib’s photos taken by a professional photographer every year.

Kib's studio photographs at 6 months old

The first few years were only taken at a studio, particularly those studios that can be found at shopping malls.  During that time I didn’t have any idea about exclusive photoshoots. 

Kib at 1

Kib at 2

Kib at 3

Kib at 4.  This picture was used for his application at Ateneo

When Kib was four, then I started to book him for exclusive photoshoots.  Exclusive photoshoots are longer than the mall studio photoshoots that only takes less than 10 minutes.  Exclusive photoshoots may take two hours depending on the mood of the child.  I was a bit nervous that Kib will be cranky when he gets tired during the session.  Maybe I did the right thing also of letting Kib eat before the actual shoot that is why he didn’t show any signs of bad mood during the shoot.  Good job, Kib!

Kib's first exclusive photoshoot with Mia Criel Studio with magazine theme

Kib’s exclusive photoshoot at age 5 was a bit dramatic because it was done outdoors and we had to wake up very early so that the shoot will be done before it gets hot.  There was a moment during the session that he cried because he feels sleepy.  He was only appeased when he was allowed to have his pictures taken together with his favorite toys, PSP and his beloved teddy bear.

Kib's photoshoot with Arteta Online at Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife, Quezon City

 When Kib was six years old, I asked a highschool batchmate of mine to take his photos with vintage theme.  My batchmate also had fun taking his pictures as he said that all shots were good, no wastage of camera clicks.

Photo credits to Dino Jasper Morales

Kib was six years old when he had his first print ad photoshoot.  He did great that it only took less than twenty minutes to get the shot that they needed.

His next print ad photoshoot was with other kids.  He was the most energetic among the group and the photographer had fun taking his photos.

When I accompanied my friend for the birthday photoshoot of her daughters, the photographer fell in love with Kib’s charm.  Even if Kib was not included in the photoshoot, the photographer took some photos of Kib.  There was an instant connection between the photographer and Kib.

Stolen shots made by Sophiaphotography

I was so happy with how Erwin treated his paparazzi shots with my son.  Even if Kib was not part of the photoshoot, he still edited Kib's photos and took pride on it by posting it on his Facebook fan page.  Kib's photos with Sophiaphotography brought clients to Erwin, hihi.

For Kib's 7th birthday, I scheduled Kib for an exclusive photoshoot with Sophiaphotography.  Kib changed attire for four times plus a bonus mother and child photoshoot.  Erwin likes 'experimenting' with Kib as he is very energetic and easy to direct.

Kib's 7th birthday photoshoot with Sophiaphotography

Kib had two more print ads, one with SM for their United Nations and Halloween campaign and for 7-eleven.  

Kib's print ad with SM in 2013

Behind the scenes of Kib's print ad with 7-eleven

This year, Kib had a birthday photoshoot again with Sophiaphotography.  

Another photographer-friend of mine, Mike Rilloraza, is also fond of taking pictures of Kib, though not an exclusive photoshoot unlike the others but more of event photos.  Mike is good in taking photos of your most unexpected moment but still you look good, not the type of photos that your friends will post on social media and to laugh at, haha.

Paparazzi shots of Mike Rilloraza of MRLightworkz Photography

My son is already used to being photographed.  Though there may be times that he'll be cranky, but he is professional enough to immediately get back on his feet and finish the show.  Looking forward to more exclusive photoshoots for my son!