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♫♪♫♪On a clear day

Rise and look around you

And you’ll see who you are

On a clear day

How it will astound you

That the glow of your being

Outshines every star

You’ll feel part of every mountain, sea and shore

You can hear

From far and near

A word you’ve never, never heard before…

And on a clear day…On a clear day…

You can see forever…

And ever…

And ever…

And ever more…♪♪♫♪

I think I am having  a LSS. That’s Capones Island located in San Antonio, Zambales. Someday, I would love to come back here and wait for the sunrise…maybe just greet the early morning with a smile.

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There are circumstances and events that live in one’s memory more prominently than the others and going on road trips with the family is one of them – remembering the happier days. I am transferring some of my family albums from Multiply which according to news will close in a few months and I can’t resist posting this particular album here since I loved the place when we dined there more than three years ago, a few months before I discovered that I had colon cancer. It changed my perspective about life because after my surgery, we have cut down on taking trips like this. It was replaced by regular trips to the hospital, diagnostic centers and my doctors. I am so grateful though that before  that life-changing ailment, I was able to visit here.

This was when I was still starting my love affair with my camera. I can’t remember now which one I used here, because I used to have a Pentax Optio and a much-lower-priced Samsung. I am using a Canon Ixus now with many added features. These are raw shots that were never altered, not even cropped.

Breakfast at Antonio’s (that’s actually the full name of the restaurant), is a high-end restaurant that serves breakfast meals all day long.  I remember the date, it was January 15, 2009. We came from our first road trip to Caleruega and we were on our way back to Manila. We were talking of where to take lunch even before we left Caleruega. And the kids were unanimous in saying that we will have it in Tagaytay so they could also enjoy the view of the Taal Lake. It was quite cloudy when we were there so I suggested why not try Breakfast at Antonio’s? It is about two and a half kilometers from the main highway but it is worth the time and the wait. We waited for about thirty minutes to be served. There were only about three occupied tables when we arrived. It’s gourmet dining at its best. Hubby was impressed. My two kids ordered chocolate milk drinks while  hubby  had tomato juice. I just had plain water because I had so much coffee while we were in  Caleruega.

It’s an architectural showcase, notice the high beams, it blends so well with the place.

While waiting for our food, we had one of the waiters take a shot of the four of us.

The fun part – eating! They call this Sausages and Scrambles.

Beef  tapa, a must have for a nourishing breakfast but we had it at lunch.

Ham and Swiss Cheese Roesti

Croque Madame

More than the food, I just love the ambience of the place.

This greets you at the reception area, a room full of antique items on the walls and as decors too. Even the floor entices you to go barefoot.

Ah, the Koi, we all love Koi!

Love that big pot of Anthurium, part of the charm of the place.

The main door stays closed but they open it for clients and diners.

My two kids….

A rare shot of the four of us – as always, we have to set up the tripod for this.

Love those paintings on the wall. This dining area has that airy atmosphere which is just perfect for a lovely chat.

I love that picture window and the garden beyond.

And this lush Koi pond….

The Koi fish are bigger than the ones they have at Caleruega.

Couldn’t resist these  lovely blooms….

Another shot of the reception area…

The garden in front…

That’s my son enjoying a few minutes of walking around the place.

I really hope one of these days, we could come back here and sample their other menu on the list.

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I took these series of shots in one of our road trips this year. We were on a long, long highway going to Tanay, Rizal and I was fascinated by the clear view of the countryside, but since we can’t stop and admire the mountains looming ahead, I have to aim the camera through the car window.

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They always say that life is how you make it and your happiness depends on how you see the simple things that come your way. Would it make you smile? Would it make you laugh? Or would it make you remember some memories from childhood?

Over a year ago, Nissa, Obet and I went home to the province to visit some of our relatives and friends and to bond with my seven-year old niece. It was also our  chance of introducing  Obet to the family. Across the street is a neighbor’s house, they are relatives actually, where I saw this old-fashioned way of making charcoal. I do remember decades ago how my grandfather would prepare a pit and arrange wood to make something like this. The harder the wood, the better it was to use. Back in those days, guava trees just grow everywhere and when it’s time to clean the yard, my grandfather always saves the bigger trunks for charcoal-making.

The simple life back in the province still has that attraction to me.  Don’t get me wrong because now, they even have cable TV, satellite discs  and every modern gadget that you could think of  but somehow, it’s quite a novelty to see  such a laid-back way of doing things amidst modern times.

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Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words.  They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning.  ~Lydia M. Child

It is always a joy to visit the garden early in the morning. There is that feeling of being at peace with the universe when one is busy looking at the Koi gently swimming  and discovering something new – a bloom or a shoot of an annual plant that was not there on your last visit. I always look forward to seeing my Hoya orchids bloom every year. They are truly a sight to behold.  This morning I was pleasantly surprised when I saw several buds of flowers. There is no fixed month where one can see these flowers bloom, before you know it, they’re just there and all you need is to admire them and wait patiently for another shoot on another day. They seem to say, “you’re surprised, aren’t you” because they finally decided to show their face for you to utter those “oohs” and “aahs” because finally you have something to show for your effort after another year of regular watering. I thought of taking some shots but I could not upload them here anyway so I’ll just show what Hoya is like on a previous post that I did. Growing Hoya , you can find this at my Multiply blog.

Hoya belongs to species of hanging plants in the family Apocynaceae (Dogbane) and is commonly known as waxplant, waxvine or  waxflower probably because its small triangular  petals are wax-like and sturdy.

I have a close circle of friends at my Multiply home page and they’ve been my contacts for years. I normally don’t accept requests if I don’t know them personally but the other day, I was surprised that a certain Rembrandt Vocalan requested that I add him up, with a short note of thanks for blogging about Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant  located in the picturesque town of Angono. We went there two years ago to celebrate Valentine’s day. It turned out that Rembrandt is the son of the owner Pedrigon Vocalan. The former is an artist too and a photographer.  What a small world! One of these days, we may be able to revisit the place and explore the rich culture of Angono. It is known as the Arts Capital of the Philippines.

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A friend of mine who lives in Netherlands just spent a beautiful week in the Drome region of  Provence, France . They went camping in a place she called Menglon and posted and shared lovely pictures of their stay. I just could not resist downloading a few from her albums especially those she took of her lovely daughter Francesca. Come to think of it, I have watched the  girl grow from toddler to a charming little lady via lots of pictures that my friend shared with us. They are a family who simply loves nature and loves exploring the countryside. I told her she could write travel books out of the lovely rural places they have seen and the quaint churches they have visited. Add that to the fact that she loves to explore castles. What a lovely way to relax and enjoy what nature brings.  She actually gave me permission to copy any shot that I fancy.  I also love photography and I normally take macro shots of every flower that blooms in our garden.

Hello Francesca! What A lovely smile.

I love the play of light and shadows here, what a nice capture!

All set for a wonderful adventure…

I love a rural setting like this.

Oh, oh, I kind of miss those childhood days….

Lovely macro shot as usual!

I call this a typical “Malou shot”.

Do you know that Lantana flowers attract butterflies? So if you want more of these in your garden, plant a Lantana.

This is my favorite shot – a beautiful blend of nature and a child who loves it.

Love the colors incorporated in one shot. Great composition!

La Chapelle En Vercors

THANKS MALOU  for sharing these lovely shots…

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Life is a gift, given in trust – like a child. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I could not remember how many times I’ve read the book, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh but I remember the times when her words consoled me and lifted my spirits. I even blogged about her a year ago. Kindly read  She Speaks For Me.

At times,  words are enough to make you feel happy and contented but there is a different kind of happiness when you recall  places that made so much impression on you.  I was reviewing all the pictures I took for the past three or four years using my digital camera and then I saw these series of shots that made me smile, pictures of Pundaquit Beach in San Antonio, Zambales.  That was two years ago, a few months before I found out I had colon cancer.  And the only thing closest to spending another journey to the beach was last December when we went to Maxine By the Sea in Lucap, Alaminos City, Pangasinan to have lunch. The place faces the famous Hundred Islands.

I would love to share with you the  lovely gifts that I found while I was uploading these pictures – peace of mind, serenity, happiness, an awesome feeling of bliss and a profound respect for nature.


Infinity…

Capones Island as seen from the shores of Pundaquit Beach

Nora’s Beach, Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales

I wonder how many secrets  you are harboring in your bosom,  I whispered something but you probably didn’t hear.

I love the play of light here, where ocean meets the sky.

And it gives you peace that you will never find in the city.

A closer look at the Hundred Islands….

This is my favorite shot! I watched them steering the small boat, serenely gliding through..what a life!

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And I thought I had enough of taking  pictures of clouds, and sunrise and sunsets, but it’s not to be. I still feel  too excited, too mesmerized by  the beauty of it all that I just can’t help but snap a few shots again.  They always say that when opportunity presents itself, why not grab the chance?

And I know deep in my heart that’s this is what I have been waiting for.  Every time I get the chance to travel up north, I always look forward to seeing sunsets and sunrises, unhampered by the foggy pollution of the city.  A breath of fresh air, you might say.  Next to taking macro shots of my garden blooms, clouds are my favorite subjects.   I ask myself, what is it that makes me enthralled by the beauty of nature?  I’d rather aim my camera at a wayward bloom than taking shot of a group of people. I’d rather freeze those moments of seeing the sun dance and the clouds making pretty pictures that tell of dreams and tales of fantasy.

So while we were on our way back to Manila last December 27, 2010 after an overnight stay in our place in Pangasinan,  I had the perfect opportunity to take a few shots . SCTEX  (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) is a 94 kilometer stretch of expressway connecting Metro Manila to the southern end of Subic and Tarlac City in the north.   It is definitely the best place to take  cloud pictures.   The above photo shows truckloads of sugar cane at the ready for transport.  I was fascinated by the rope hammocks  which were hung at the side of the trucks, the drivers sound asleep.  Just three quick shots in less than a minute!

Then the sun opened its face further along the highway and I was like an excited child with a new toy. I opened the window of the car  a bit, just a little space to have my camera in a right angle and presto, three more quick shots while the car was moving.

I was aiming for the sun’s rays but we were a little too fast to properly focus  on it.  It’s still visible anyway!  Heaven and Earth, beautiful!

You can see the clear view of the electric wires  lining up the road  but unlike the tangled lines you see in the city, this seems to be a natural part of the landscape.

Then the sun  was  partly obscured by a cloud formation that was simply so beautiful.   It was heaven to see a big ball of white rapidly traveling behind the dark  cloud formations.

My daughter suggested that I use the video but I said, no, I don’t want to have a depleted battery. I might see other things worth clicking further along the way.

I am nuts, but these shots made my day.  Then I remember  this quote from Martin Luther, “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

The beauty of seeing the wonders of creation!  Some of us take things for granted but when you are given a second chance at life,  you are just grateful and thankful for everyday blessings.

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Just had my  first  trip home since my surgery eighteen months ago and a year after my last chemotherapy.  Although hubby and I took some trips  in some provinces a few months back, this is the longest one so far.  It took us more than five hours to reach our place in Pangasinan.  I love taking road trips, communing with nature and just love the feel of  the crisp mountain air.  Gosh, was it cold out there?   It was windy, alright.  At 3pm,  it was like typhoon signal number two minus the rain.

It was just an overnight stay with my daughter and her boyfriend but  we enjoyed the brief vacation seeing  relatives. We visited my father’s grave at the town cemetery and lighted some candles.  It’s  been three years now since he died and I never get the chance to visit him on All Saints and All Soul’s Day so I make it a point to light some candles every time I have the chance to go  home.  There is a certain kind of sadness looking at gravestones and remembering, just remembering the days of old.  Memories are sometimes a little tricky – they make you cry and think about the happy days, they make you reminisce and look back.  And they make you wish that time could stand still.  But amid the sadness is a quiet joy, a simple leap of the heart , a tearful smile of remembrance.  There are moments when the happy memories stand out and this is one of those times that I remember him vividly in my mind.  I hate saying  farewell so I’ll just say, until next time!

Camera in hand, we took a walk at the ridge where one can see  the view of the river below.  I always love to take a few shots of this area every time I come home.  This is one of those moments when I’d rather have my camera than my cellphone.

Country  scenery  at its best…

I love the nippy air of December.  We even brought a jacket and an umbrella.  There was a brief rain shower earlier giving more color to the green countryside.  I even managed to take a picture of a carabao grazing on the grass.  How much rural can you get?

I took a few shots of the flowers growing along the road.   Just can’t resist these lovely blooms, just simple pleasures that no amount of money can buy. It’s kind of  nostalgic – because I grew up here until I was ten years old when we transferred to Manila to study in high school.  Not everyone is given the privilege to look back and have some place to  come back to.  How I wish I could stay here for long, about a week maybe and take shots of all the flowers in my mom’s garden and play with my seven-year old niece.   Sometimes though, a day is just enough to fill one’s heart with joy.

This is the rough stretch adjoining our concrete road.

An afternoon of exploring and lovely conversations –  it feels like having a walk in the park.

Life could be this simple, life could be this great!

Maybe, deep inside I am still a small-town-girl, longing for a wider space to build my dreams on, comfortable with the silence, at one with nature where I could be my most authentic self.  It’s a long stretch but it is home away from home.




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I was plain excited when my daughter came home from a five-day trip to Bangkok, Thailand.  She was in the company of some friends and she was so enthusiastic in sharing her experience touring the place and absorbing  the culture.  Five days would not be  enough to see all there is to see  about the place but they went there for the food tour, they enrolled in a Thai cooking school to learn authentic Thai recipes.  More than  anything , I was elated when she brought home several ingredients for Thai cooking.

Two months ago, I bought a cookbook on Thai Cuisine and both of us planned of trying some of the recipes there.  Thai cuisine has a lot of similarities to some Filipino food so it is not so hard to find fresh ingredients in the wet market.  I just told her to source for dry ingredients  which are difficult to buy here. And she came home with several packets of Coriander seeds, dried Kaffir lime leaves, red curry paste, chilli powder, whole white pepper, instant Phad-kapraow paste and hot and sour curry paste, good enough for several experiments in the kitchen.

The richness of Thai cooking is more pronounced through its skillful use of wealthy colors, tastes, textures and smell wonderfully incorporated in every recipe that they use.  Many people think that Thai cooking is a complex process since they use a lot of ingredients and spices.   It is said that  “much of the heat of the  spicy dishes comes from red and green peppers” which we commonly know as chillies. The Thai call it Phrik. Thai food comes in varied forms like soups, fresh vegetable salads, dips, grilled meat, fish or chicken but the most popular   is the use of curry paste.  I’ve been accustomed to using the yellow curry powder so I was surprised that there is a red one too.

Here’s one recipe which is the whole family’s favorite when we eat at a Thai restaurant.  It’s called Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves.

Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves (Kai Hor Bai Toey)

You would need:

2 cups of boneless chicken meat

10 pandanus leaves (Pandan  in Tagalog)

Oil for deep frying

Pound Marinade together into a paste:

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp. oyster sauce

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sesame oil

1-2 tsp. pepper corn

3 garlic cloves

2 coriander roots

And the ingredients for the sauce:

1 tsp. white sesame seeds

1/2 cup ( 250 ml.) distilled white vinegar

1 cup (100 grams) sugar

1 tbsp. black soy sauce

1 tsp. salt

Cut chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.  Mix the marinade with the chicken.  Set aside in the refrigerator for three hours. To prepare the sauce, cook the same seeds in a skillet for 2 minutes without oil or until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix white vinegar, sugar, black soy sauce and salt.  Add the sesame seeds and set aside.

Wrap two or three pieces of chicken in each pandanus leaf to form a knot.  Alternatively, wrap each pandanus leaf around the chicken to form a bundle and secure with a toothpick.

Heat oil in a wok or small frying pan.  Deep fry until fragrant.  (about 5 minutes).  Serve with sauce and steamed rice.

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