Category Archives: Photography

The meiLBOX 5+1 Project is now in Instagram!

Hello dear readers! I am happy to let you know that  The meilBOX 5+1 Project is now in Instagram (IG)! We can now swap updates and photos there! Here is the link.

I used to enjoy Facebook but I think that Instagram suits me better. For one, I do enjoy photography and being in Instagram allows us to share pictures as well as savor the beautiful work of other photo buffs. Thanks to my hubby and business partner, JR, I was able to learn how IG works! The use of hashtags was so “beyond me” at first but IG is worth the learning curve. Just seeing all those beautiful sites and photos make it worthwhile! Thanks to you guys and gals who created and continue to make IG a free platform for sharing and inspiring creativity (minus the ads, at that!).

Here is a couple of the first pictures that I posted there.

See this and other pictures of trees in the meilBOX 5+1 Project IG page. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

See this and other pictures of trees in the meilBOX 5+1 Project IG page. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

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To love and to hold. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Since The meilBOX 5+1 Project is about trees and letter-writing, I would be posting mostly pictures that I have taken of trees. More importantly, I will also use the site in sharing the pictures of tree-lovers and letter-writers who will participate in this project. If you are among them, please send me your pictures* (via the email addresses I had indicated in the project’s page here) and/or you can directly tag me through IG. You can do this by adding @the.meilbox.project and #meilboxproject in your IG post.

I will also appreciate it a lot if you can help me in passing the word around about this project. The more people who knows about this, the more letters we can send, the more love we can express and share, and the more trees we can plant!

Please help me in making this a greener, healthier, and happier world! Namaste!

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*You can share/post any of these pictures: (i) a picture showing you in the post office as you mailed your letters/postcards; (ii) a picture showing the stamped letters that you are sending out (please don’t take a picture unless you are already in the post office and are actually sending the letters out); and (iii) a picture of you planting a tree.

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This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Boljoon, CEBU: Where time stops and asks you stay a little bit longer

Boljoon, Cebu. (Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Boljoon, Cebu. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

It was my friend, Chin, who mentioned Boljoon to me. Her mother hails from this  quiet coastal town in Southern Cebu and the minute I laid my eyes on it, I had thought that her mother was one lucky woman, indeed. Boljoon is a sight to behold. It is that enigmatic smile that you just cannot forget, or that painting that won’t leave you, however hard you try.

Just the name itself intrigued me; it was a name that evokes of history and mystery. And so, when I had the chance, I dragged along my husband (who luckily hails from Cebu) and his wonderful Papa and Mama, and ‘Kuya’ Dale, who have all been so warm and sweet, enveloping me with the love of family, ensuring that this ‘adopted’ daughter of Cebu can laugh with the winds and play with the waves. Ahhh, this is truly a wonderful world. And there is a God.

These photos are shared with you with my deepest hopes that you, too, can visit Boljoon someday.

The blue skies and the wispy clouds, beckoning you to reach up and touch them. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The blue skies and the wispy clouds, beckoning you to reach up and touch them. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

Boljoon Church: One of the oldest (original) structures in the Philippines. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Boljoon Church: One of the oldest (original) structures in the Philippines. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

The old church as night time approaches. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The old church as night time approaches. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

Oh, the joys of youth! This moment told me one thing: there is authentic beauty in the simplest moments. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Oh, the joys of youth! This moment told me one thing: there is authentic beauty in the simplest moments. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

Boljoon asks you to think of the past, too, and know that there are treasures and memories left behind so that our present will hold more meaning. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Boljoon asks you to think of the past, too, and know that there are treasures and memories left behind so that our present will hold more meaning. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I pray, I love, I laugh. Thank you, our Supreme Being. You are here on the tiles, on the ceiling, on art itself, and in the hearts of people, Catholics or not, just because you are LOVE itself. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I pray, I love, I laugh. Thank you, our Supreme Being. You are here on the tiles, on the ceiling, on art itself, and in the hearts of people, Catholics or not, just because you are LOVE itself. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)
There is beauty in silence. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

There is beauty in silence. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I listen and wait and wonder. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I listen and wait and wonder. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

I walked this path. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I walked this path. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

The angels are overjoyed and sing happily! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The angels are overjoyed and sing happily! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

Boljoon, we shall be back and definitely stay longer. :) Thank you for embracing us! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Boljoon, we shall be back and definitely stay longer. :) Thank you for embracing us! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

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This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

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Contacts:

CLUB FortMed

Boljoon, Cebu, Philippines
Telephone Numbers:
(6332) 482 – 9050 / (6332) 482 – 9051
Email: info@cebu-clubfortmed.com

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Hidden Gems of Nueva Vizcaya

Enroute to Nueva Vizcaya, I was able to capture this picture of Mt. Arayat (Pampanga) from the vehicle's window. The "banderitas" added more charms to the beauty of the mountain. :) [Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Enroute to Nueva Vizcaya, I was able to capture this picture of Mt. Arayat (Pampanga) from the vehicle’s window. The “banderitas” added more charms to the beauty of the mountain. :) [Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I had been been traveling the past three weeks for a project where I am involved with right now. These travels, while work-related, allowed me some time for quick sight-seeing and perfect opportunities to plan for a longer visit in the future.

Enroute to Ifugao, I had a chance to stay overnight in Nueva Vizcaya, mostly to visit the newly-constructed Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong. I will refrain from discussing work in this post as I am still finishing my reports and have yet to ascertain the extent of information that I can share but let me express my appreciation to the hospital’s personnel for welcoming me and the engaging discussions. I am truly impressed with the turn-out of the new building as well as the seemingly improved services that the hospital team is able to give to trauma patients with its new building and equipment. Just to give you an idea on how the new Trauma Center looks like, here is a picture.

Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

As you will notice, its design is very modern and can easily compare with the more modern hospitals in key cities of the Philippines. Going through the hospital complex and talking with the doctors and personnel there certainly gave me so much hope for the future of hospital and health care in the Philippines.

As the intent of this post is really to share with you the simple gems that I found in Nueva Vizcaya (and nearby provinces) during the quick visit, let me proceed with this image that I took of the countryside while traversing the national highway (I believe this was taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija).

Philippine countryside offers beautiful sceneries. This one is taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Philippine countryside offers beautiful sceneries. This one is taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

My neck hurt a bit at some point because I just cannot stop looking outside the windows. The wide expanse of rice fields and mountains–although some parts are quite denuded (calling the attention of our DENR officials and local governments!)–invite inspiration and inner joy.

One of the first things that  impressed me upon arrival in Nueva Vizcaya was the way the surroundings of the Provincial Capitol easily provided nice leisure grounds for the residents. It was surrounded by simple parks, pathways (perfect for running/jogging), and basketball and tennis courts. In fact, the provincial government even built the Tribu Biscayano Village, a theme park that showcases the unique culture and traditions of our Nueva Vizcaya and Cagayan Valley/Cordillera ancestors mainly through replicas of native huts, which was said to have been built by tribal folks coming from the Isinai, Gaddang, Bugkalot, Kalanguya/Ikalahan, Iwak, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, Ayangan, Tuwali and other IP groups. (Source: nuevavizcaya.gov.ph)

The Tribu Biscayano Village honors the rich culture and heritage of our indigenous people. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Tribu Biscayano Village honors the rich culture and heritage of our indigenous people. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I felt this was a good way to honor and remember our cultural heritage. I salute the local government of the Province and its current and previous leaders as well as those anonymous workers who have obviously built the capitol grounds and the Tribu Biscayano Village out of a desire to give its residents a safe, culture-rich, and enjoyable places where they can spend quiet afternoon walks and engage in sports/games with friends and colleagues. It is very rare that I encounter Capitol grounds with such consideration. The trees everywhere also give the kapitolyo a nice greenery.

The visit to the province gave me a chance also to quickly reconnect with my friend, Maita, a true-blue ‘Novo Vizcayana’, who is seemingly becoming a household name as she lovingly manages and nurtures Ayuyang Bar. Ayuyang, a favorite hang-out place in Solano, was built by her brother and his friends–and I suppose, with much support from Maita herself and their whole clan–out of the love for Pinoy music, arts, and family traditions, and a desire to provide a ‘sanctuary’  for kindred souls who need to unwind and simply enjoy quiet moments and conversations. (“Ayuyang” cannot be directly translated to Tagalog but it connotes “a place for refuge, rest, or relaxation.”) The photo below shows a part of Ayuyang’s interior.

The stage area in Ayuyang Bar. Notice the intricately-crafted sculptures and other art works that adorn the bar. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The stage area in Ayuyang Bar. Notice the intricately-crafted sculptures and other art works that adorn the bar. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

One does not often encounter such places even in culture-rich provinces so Ayuyang has easily captured my heart. Here is another picture that I really liked. The smaller wheel at the background provides a nice contrast to the bigger wheel.

Ayuyang Bar invites you to linger and savor the quiet moments more. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Ayuyang Bar invites you to linger and savor the quiet moments more. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

In Ayuyang, I had experienced the best version of chicharon bulaklak (deep fried pork mesentery). No kidding. I am not really a big fan of chicharon bulaklak but the smell of Ayuyang’s version is enough to cajole me. And my gosh, it is yummy! The sawsawan (dip), a local vinegar (sukang basi) with generous amount of garlic, made the dish even more unforgettable. Ahhhh….a trip to Nueva Vizcaya should be in my bucket list again.

Another nice revelation is Balai Gloria, a hotel and events place that must be gaining popularity, too. It has nice gardens, a swimming pool (although it seems currently not in use) and a restaurant that serves a wide range of menu. Food is probably not the best in this part of the Philippines but the few I have sampled did not give me reasons to complain about. The kinilaw na tangigue is actually good. The photos below show a bit of the place.

Balai Gloria is worth a visit. If you do not mind simple accommodations and the chance that loud music might be playing in the background if an event is still taking place as you prepare to rest for the night, then this is a good option. (I noticed though that the music stopped shortly before midnight so the administration must be enforcing a sort of 'curfew' for the playing of music.) This photo shows a cottage by the pool. I think this is often used for private parties such as wedding receptions. Check Balai Gloria if this cottage can also be rented out for family accommodations. It seems perfect for the whole family as it has its own living room, bar, and what looked liked a small kitchen. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Balai Gloria is worth a visit. If you do not mind simple accommodations and the chance that loud music might be playing in the background if an event is still taking place as you prepare to rest for the night, then this is a good option. (I noticed though that the music stopped shortly before midnight so the administration must be enforcing a sort of ‘curfew’ for the playing of music.) This photo shows a cottage by the pool. I think this is often used for private parties such as wedding receptions. Check Balai Gloria if this cottage can also be rented out for family accommodations. It seems perfect for the whole family as it has its own living room, bar, and what looked liked a small kitchen. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Balai Gloria grounds. The building on the right (partly shown here) is an events venue where I noticed a seminar taking place that week. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Balai Gloria grounds. The building on the right (partly shown here) is an events venue where I noticed a seminar taking place that week. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

The small bridge leading to Cafe Angelo, the restaurant-bar of Balai Gloria. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The small bridge leading to Cafe Angelo, the restaurant-bar of Balai Gloria. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

On the way to Ifugao the next day, hungry and in search of a “local” restaurant, I chanced upon Myra’s Special Pancitan, along the national highway (still in Solano). It looks like a typical ‘hole-in-the-wall’ sort of eatery but I would highly recommend its Pancit Lomi! See the proof below… :)

The pancit lomi in Myra's Special Pancitan is highly recommended. I still prefer the lomi version of a hotel in Calapan (I will mention the place in my next blog) but still, this is the No. 2 in my list. :) (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The pancit lomi in Myra’s Special Pancitan is highly recommended. I still prefer the lomi version of a hotel in Calapan (I will mention the place in my next blog) but still, this is the No. 2 in my list. :) (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

On my way back to Manila (after staying in Ifugao for a few days), while cruising along the national highway somewhere in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, I checked my email and realized that my superior sent me an urgent email a couple of hours earlier. In the email, she gently requested me to finish a simple document by COB that day. I quickly sent an email promising that I will find a coffee shop where I can stop and work on the file. I thanked the heavens when, suddenly, in a spot that must be located in the highest point of the mountain ridges of Sta. Fe, I saw a simple but cozy restaurant where I can work because Globe Tattoo signal is working! (Thank you, Lord, for nice cafes/restaurants that suddenly appear even up there in the mountains!) The placed, called Cafe Mijares & Restaurant, has striking red paint so you can easily spot it (although the way its location was “angled”  makes it easier for people enroute to Bayombong to see it rather than for those coming back. The signage was also on that side of the road). Here is another picture that shows the facade where the restaurant’s fruit stand is also located. Hope this picture can help you in finding it if you also needed a place for stop-over. :)

If you find yourself needing a place for a stop-over or a quick meal, or even a perfect spot to check emails or work (!), here is a place where internet signal is working. Cafe Mijares sells fruits and vegetables, too! (Photo taken in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

If you find yourself needing a place for a stop-over or a quick meal, or even a perfect spot to check emails or work (!), here is a place where internet signal is working. Cafe Mijares sells fruits and vegetables, too! (Photo taken in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I can easily go on and on and this will most likely become a long list. However, I leave it up to you to discover your own gems, knowing that every moment brings new discoveries.

Follow my footprints and create your own. I wish you a great journey!

Contacts:

Ayuyang Bar | 115 Magsaysay Street, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya

Balai Gloria | Washington Street, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya | Tels. +63 78 326 5417 +63 922  859 6449

Myra’s Special Pancitan | National Highway, Brgy. Quirino, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya (across a small office called Royale Business Club)

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© 2014 meiLBOX /Mary Anne Velas-Suarin. Photos used here are protected by copyright/intellectual property laws. Please seek permission if you need to use or re-post them.

This is not a paid blog.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Of doing good for public health, The Champ, fresh seafood, and more of Sarangani

I feel a little guilty for being away so long! If my blog can ‘feel’, then he must be feeling abandoned already.  :-O Nevertheless, I will try my best to make up for it by posting some insights and pictures from all my travels of the past six months or so. :)

Picture moments with our boxing champ, Rep. Manny Pacquiao. Also in photo (extreme right), is the former Secretary of Health, Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan.

I will begin with Sarangani as I have been there twice in the last six months, in line with my engagement with a project that assists LGUs in working for better public health services through PPPs (public-private partnerships). The first travel happened in December 2011 and that was also when, for the first time, I had met “The Champ,” Rep. Manny Pacquiao. My colleagues and I were all star-struck and unable to stop ourselves from requesting some photos taken with him. :) The second trip took place in January 2012 and although we were not able to meet with The Champ again, his very accommodating aide gave us a personal tour of his mansion and even gave us souvenir (PacMan) T-shirts. (To protect the aide’s privacy, I will no longer mention his name here but let me send our big thanks to him through this post!)

It might interest you to know that the LGU of Sarangani, through the leadership of Governor Miguel Dominguez and Rep. Pacquiao, is planning to build a modern hospital facility in Alabel. We are part of the technical assistance team that is supporting the LGU as it prepares for the eventual management/co-management of the  facility, to be called Sarangani Medical Center. The medical facility is part of the LGU’s commitment to improve public health services for the people of Sarangani and nearby provinces. (To know more about the proposed hospital, you may visit http://www.interaksyon.com/article/9855/pacquiao-leads-groundbreaking-of-saranganis-p200-m-hospital)

Rep. Pacquiao and Gov. Dominguez, in a huddle, as the group discusses the planned Sarangani Medical Center.

Working with the team has opened my eyes further to the problems in the public health sector. Through this project, I was able to once again visit public hospitals and got more convinced that there is more that the private sector can do in ensuring that our people will get decent and compassionate healthcare.

I am aware that after the devolution of social services, many LGUs found it hard to manage public facilities due mainly to lack of managerial competence, resources, and in some cases, political will. I was not vocally in support of PPPs before but after seeing the state of some of our public health facilities, I decided that I want to keep a more open mind about this strategy. After all, this is about building partnerships. I don’t think the government can do it alone nor can we always expect it to do everything for us. I do agree that the government must build enough and efficient public health facilities but I also recognize that healthcare can be better managed if the managerial expertise of the private sector can be integrated in the whole system.

Anyway, let us ponder on this topic more in my next posts. :) I would now be sharing some photos from these last two travels in Sarangani (and even General Santos).

This is where we stayed in my team’s December 2011 trip. Called A-Montana Resort, it allows one to sleep and relax in cottages built on concrete stilts! Guests can further enjoy their stay there by fishing and boating (and I heard that there is also a swimming pool there although I was not able to see it).

Another image of the cottages on stilt. Looks inviting, isn’t it?

I saw this small orange boat while I was walking around the walkways in between the cottages.

With Sarangani Governor Migs Dominguez and my colleague, Ms. Pearl Soleta. I am not easily impressed but I sense the eagerness and commitment of the Governor when it comes to the goal of improving public health services.

This is my “pet”, Dinger. He also enjoyed being with the fishes in A-Montana Resort. He also got to enjoy my room. ;D Seriously, I just want to share the “Pinoy” ambience of the cottages in A-Montana Resort. The floors are wooden, too.

Dinger may be wondering how can he get to enjoy my mango shake, too!

We had very limited time to see some more of Sarangani because of our hectic schedule but we luckily chanced upon a beautiful beach resort in Glan, Sarangani, as we were going around to visit some of the public hospitals in the province. I am not sure now but this might be Isla Jardin del Mar Resort in Gumasa, Glan, Sarangani. We were truly blessed that afternoon because the sun was setting the moment we stepped down from our vehicle (I had to run madly though or I won’t catch the sun anymore!)

PacMan: Ang Pambansang Tubig. :) Nice, isn’t it?

This is one of the pictures I was able to take while we were going around to visit some of the health facilities in the province. This is part of the beautiful Sarangani coastline.

We had lunch and a short stop-over in Lemlunay Resort (overlooking the crystal clear waters of Sarangani Bay). This boat was ‘happily’ anchored by the cliff so I cannot help but capture this magical moment.

We got to see The Champ’s Hummer, too! :)

Dinger: What will I choose? What will I choose?! Help!

Of course, hubby will not allow me to go back home without the usual “order”: fresh seafood (including tuna!) from Sarangani! Thank you, Lord for the bounty of your oceans! :)

After the hard work, I wanted to pamper myself a little bit so I stayed in General Santos City enroute to Manila and tried the East Asia Royale Hotel. Rooms and service are ok but the hotel is a little old already. I appreciated the fact that the room I booked has a jacuzzi so I had the chance to take a warm bath, listen to good music, and simply relax. :) So, yes, have a good life and relax! Hope you can visit my blog again. :)

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This is not a paid blog.

Contacts:

A-Montana Resort | Email amontanaresort@pldtdsl.net | Tels. 083-826-6699/ 553-8553/ 553-0220/ 553-0110/ 301-333

Lemlunay Resort | Email lemlunayresort@yahoo.com | Tels. 083-228-1704/ +63 928 524 4528

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Crazy over Madeleines

Goodies at Madeleines (my fave is on the rightmost side of the plate).

Crepe au chocolat chaud et chantilly. Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. Chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with organic brown rice (or Battambang rice). Yoghurt stawberry ice cream (low fat). How’s that for lunch?

Well, if you are salivating now, head off to…Madeleines! However, we Manilans will have to suffer in our cravings (for now?) because Madeleines’ first-ever branch is about 2,000 kms from Manila. (Wink!) Yes, my dearies, Madeleines is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the place that healed my soul when I was suffering from lunacy brought about by a tear-jerking break-up.

This is no time for melodramatics so let me introduce you to Madeleines and its beautiful, wacky, sexy, sweet and strong-willed owner and executive chef and pastry connoisseur, Karen Le Calvez.

Madeleines is located in a quiet neighborhood near Sihanouk Boulevard (where Lucky Market is – for expats who are very familiar with this Phnom Penh landmark). (Update: Madeleines has moved since this post so the new address is below this post.) Madeleines is a dream-come-true for my close friend, Karen. She’s always wanted to have her own café-restaurant-bakery and Phnom Penh just turned out to be the perfect place to have her wishes fulfilled.

I’ve known Karen since the start of her family’s stay in Manila last 2000 (or maybe even earlier). They stayed in the Philippines for several years and then had to relocate to Phnom Penh after staying back in Europe for a while. When I went to Cambodia last June 2007, it was time to reconnect with her again. I realized that I missed this woman’s presence in my life because of her funny and intelligent take on almost anything about life. She is also too ‘human’, too ‘real’, and that means, you can be very comfortable with her, warts and all. Being both expats in Phnom Penh (her country of origin is France and I am a true-blooded Pinay), we shared our dreams, expectations, and struggles that usually come with being ‘strangers in a foreign land.’ It just felt like we were just taking off from the time we last talked while she was still in Manila.

Anyway, I also must thank her (and her whole family too!) for allowing me to stay in their beautiful house with their two crazy and sweet dogs, Luna and Sabbay (ok, the ‘sweet’ goes to Luna and the ‘crazy’ goes to Sabbay) :) while they vacationed in France and Finland for almost a month. That really gave me the much needed solace and quiet moments while I was starting a fresh chapter in my life.  It also made me an expert nanny for dogs! (I have old posts about my sojourn in Cambodia so you can view them, too).

Just about the time that I was already leaving Phnom Penh (with my newfound love and now hubby!) last December 2008, she opened Madeleines! I was too happy for her but admittedly, a little bit sad for me because then I realized that I will miss her goodies so much! Darn, why didn’t she open earlier?! ;D

Anyway, Karen gifted me and JR with a quiet and sweet farewell lunch party at Madeleines last December 24 (and another one on the Saturday before that where Karen also opened up bottles of exquisite French wine – or so my poor memory can serve me right now!) In that lunch party, Karen made me a special organic salad with mixed greens (among them, watercrest), and shrimps. Yummy yummy yummy, to think it was very healthy! I was so thrilled when she served it that I had to take a photo of it before I gobbled it up. See this photo on the right.

Organic mixed green salad with shrimps especially made for me! (Grab it at Madeleines!)

I asked her how would she name it and she said I can coin up a name for it. I need more time for that so for now, let’s simply call it, Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. During the dinner farewell, we had her fabulous pastries (see the photo again below). Arrgh, it’s even harder to write about these goodies because now I am really salivating! Of course, my favorite is Madeleines because it is not too sweet, just the right amount of sugar and so it makes you feel so satisfied without ever feeling that you ate too much sweets for the day. Whenever I would order a box from Karen and brings it home, I had to strictly forge an agreement with then housemate, JR, to eat it only when I am around (!) because he also loves it like crazy. (Actually, I got to ‘steal’ a couple of so pieces on one of those days he was not looking!) :)

Yesterday, Karen sent me an email and updated me about her new ‘concoctions’ and darn it, I was ready to buy plane tickets for Phnom Penh if only I had the budget for it! Among her latest menu items are the oatmeal banana organic palm sugar cookies, yoghurt green mango ginger ice cream (she said here, “No cream and home made yoghurt, low fat…good for us!” Tasty! My kids don’t want to eat other ice cream since I started that!”)

The new salad offerings include Nicoise salad, Greek feta mint salad, tomatoes, olive and basil salad, potato no-mayonnaise with grain mustard dressing salad, tzatziki and organic green salad with paratha bread, and fresh mint tabouleh salad.

She also added 2 hot dishes: porkchop with fresh rosemary, and sauted baby potatoes or Battambang rice and organic salad; and the one I mentioned above – chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with Battambang rice.

And there are crepes, too! They are all served with organic side salads. They are: crepe with ham and emmenthal cheese with egg; crepe with eggplant, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; and crepe with chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic and basil. For the sweet crepes, try Karen’s crepe avec pommes caramelisees a la cannelle et chantilly, toutes les patisseries, and yup, not to be outdone, she also has white chocolate cupcake.

For sandwiches, you can have her feta mint eggplant baguette sandwich, and parma ham with rocket salad and tomatoes.

Do you still have the space for the desserts?! Don’t quit yet, you will love her fondant au chocolat with strawberry yoghurt ice cream! She also bakes homemade cookies, oatmeal, dark chocolate chips, raisins, butterscotch and birthday cakes full of candies that you (and your kids!) would also go crazy about.

After a good and quiet meal (ok, it depends on whom you are with!), you can easily just relax there, perhaps read a good book and listen to your Ipod music. The place is so cozy and relaxing that you’d feel you are just home where everything feels so sweet and familiar. However, on a busy day, you might feel guilty to overstay when others are waiting to be seated so just come by another day and who knows, the place may just open another branch soon! Perhaps in Manila too?!

It’s so cozy, you’d have to force yourself to leave or end up staying there the whole day!

Hurry up for reservations and be crazy over Madeleines, too! Bon appétit ! Amusez-vous bien alors ! (With the help of Francis who said my first attempt for this sentence is meant for older and more formal audience. Hehe!)

UPDATE: Sorry, as of mid-2012, Madeleines has closed down because Karen and her family already moved to Bangkok.

[This is not a paid blog.]

Farewell lunch party at Madeleines (the beautiful owner-chef, Karen, is on the left, seated. Others in photo: Hubby JR, Idon, Ate Cel & Hanne)

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Extraordinary moments

The flowers smile at the sun.

Here in Baguio, I am reminded once again that in ordinary things lie great mysteries and sheer beauty. Here, I have learned to look at flowers again, explore their details, like the way they smile at the sun.

I have learned to enjoy a cat (a very naughty and aggressive cat at that!) even if I have always been a true-blue dog-lover. Meet Baguio’s Garfield: he is the adopted cat of the house (the first one where we stayed two weeks in late March & early April) who meows, wails, shouts, and kicks like a little girl who just lost her favorite baby doll whenever she is hungry (which is like 8 times a day!). I also suspect that “she” is gay because she enjoys curling up her body with the legs of MY fiancé! I swear she never did that with me!

He sure knows how to throw a tantrum ;D

I have enjoyed simple card games like Black Jack where I always won against JR. Whenever I shuffle the cards, I would always make some voodoo-like whispers and gestures to the cards as well as some hand and arm movements so as to bring me luck and true enough, I always won most of the games. JR thinks I am really a witch. The more amusing thing is, he also started doing some hand and arm gestures which even looked funnier and crazier coming from him! The laughters we shared are so heartfelt that sometimes, it seems that tears of joy would be rolling down my face any moment. Ahhh…being together with someone who makes you laugh at yourself and at life is really one of the greatest gifts of the universe.

We promised to grow old together. :)

Armed with my digital SLR, I have learned to look more into the details of things. I was able to take a nice shot of the lowly “pang-sipit ng sinampay” (clothes clips) and again, felt grateful that I have two eyes that allow me to look not just at the big picture but appreciate the details that are often taken for granted. Aren’t we all guilty of this sometimes? Faced with problems and challenges, we forget the “small things” around us that truly matter.

There is beauty in the smallest details.

And there was the full moon! I have always been a moon-watcher. I try to keep track of the phases of the moon. In Baguio last April, we were there when the moon was at its fullest. And it was also a double-blessing because the moon was directly facing the room assigned to us. We gazed at her and took pictures…and was probably even “moonstruck” on the second night of moon-watching because suddenly, after an hour or so of watching, JR and I just simply collapsed in bed, feeling like our energies were totally sapped by the moon and yet, wonderfully, strangely, the following morning, we felt like we had a very long, deep and completely restful sleep.

Moonstruck in Baguio.

It is May now and we are back in Baguio. I am sure that there will be more nice surprises and yes, challenges along the way. I continue to sit still, be in total awe of the moment, contented that the river flows and I am alive.

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Germany on my mind

The year 2004 was a special time in my life because I was able to visit a beautiful and intriguing country, Germany.

If there is one thing that stayed with me long after my trip to Germany was the way the people made me feel that embracing their past means owning up every part of their history. There was no evasion; at least from the people that I have been privileged to have long conversations with. There was no effort to evade the topic or consider it taboo: the killing of the Jews under Nazi rule.

I think this is a beautiful reminder of how the human soul is capable of owning the sins of the past and from there, self-acceptance and forgiveness. As I disembarked from the Lufthansa Airlines plane (I must say that it was a pleasurable ride despite the long hours), I did not know what to expect but I carried with me a resoluteness to capture what my lens could get in that brief visit, wary only of the very tight schedule and the possibility that I would be taking most pictures from the buses and trains that our group was taking while we travel from one place to another. I was there as part of an Asian media delegation that was invited by the German government for an informational tour and attendance to the International Conference for Renewable Energies held in Bonn.

Luckily, I was able to take pictures but at first, I was not too sure how they would come up. It was not very sunny on most days (it was still the last days of Spring when we arrived but the weather was still very unpredictable) and the beauty of black & white photography depended so much on the stark contrasts that only a good sun can provide.

It was also difficult to know how those photos from the buses and trains would look like. So I was nervous when I went to the photo shop where I had my films processed. When I got the contact prints, I was relieved. I had good shots that show the soul of Germany, and perhaps, even a bit of mine as I tried to focus my eyes and mind on the learnings that I encountered each day.

Beautiful Germany

Germany is a beautiful country. It is alive. It is an abstract painting waiting to be understood. It is a poem. There is vibrancy. Serenity. Confusions. Order. And I enjoyed each step I made, confident that I am embarking on a journey towards understanding the past, the world and my present more. The Berlin Wall echoed hopes and aspirations. The house of the great literary genius Goethe embraced me like a long-lost daughter or it must be that I find so much solace in old houses and books that smell of the past.

The cobbled-stones streets of Weimer reminded me of our Old Intramuros, and they warmed my heart as I saw young and old couples walking hand-in-hand, sometimes with their beautiful dogs. In Cologne (Koln), I saw the majestic Dome Cathedral and it simply took my breath away! The grandeur was mesmerizing.

And oh, the City of Bonn. The House of Beethoven there was a source of fascination. Imagine seeing the pianos that this great musician used! Bonn intrigued me as a city caught between the past and the present. In its quiet and unassuming confidence, I found reassurance.

And how else would I forget the friendships forged among my fellow writers and journalists who all come from Asia? Mostly from tropical countries, it took a while for us to adjust to the very cold temperature! But there were fun and laughters, political and not so-political discussions, dissecting of cultural intricacies, dancing, learning together….it was one of the best trips of my life. These photos that I took carried with them the history, messages, longings, mystery and hope of the German people.

In my heart, there is only that desire to connect to these people who have somehow made me feel very welcome. Among those that I truly found very special is Ingrid Fischer. She glides through the streets of Weimer in a wheelchair but you will never really feel it because her strength strikes you as very reassuring. That everything in this world is ok.

May these photos speak to you. They may have different messages for you but at some point, we will all understand what they mean.. We will forget these images, but the meanings, they would never go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin