Chasing Summer

School just started and summer is officially over for us here in Manila.  Oh, how I wish it could’ve lasted a little bit longer!  So this post is a round-up of our summer (if only to hold on to it a little bit more).

Right after school ended, we flew to Bangkok for S‘s gymnastics competition.  This was her first international tournament so she was excited and nervous at the same time.  As for me, it was my first time to be away from baby for such a long time so I experienced a major separation anxiety attack!  It was a good thing that my mom (Laly to my kids) agreed to stay at our house for the duration of our trip.  This eased my mind and calmed my heart a little over leaving the baby in the care of just the nanny and our helper.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our nanny is trust-worthy and reliable; and she takes good care of but having Laly around to oversee things helped me a lot.

The tournament turned out to be a great experience for .  She won 1 Gold (vault) and 3 Silvers (beam, bars and floor) on her first try.  We were beaming with pride as we cheered our little princess!

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We were also able to explore a little bit of Thailand during our 4-day stay.  We have a good friend who is now living in Bangkok with his family and they were kind enough to take us around that weekend.

We first went to Bang Pa-in where we roamed around the royal family’s summer palace.  All that walking prepared us for our next stop at the Gong Kong Market where we sampled authentic Thai cuisine.

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Freshly cooked Pad Thai at the market

After that, we explored the Ayutthaya Ruins and checked out the Elephant Palace.  We were hoping to see elephants play football but it wasn’t in that part of the city so F & S just fed the big guys with turnips and carrots and experienced an elephant ride.

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A view of Ayutthaya ruins

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Food was something we truly enjoyed during this trip! F found new favorites as we devoured those Thai delicacies.  Of course, we ordered the classics like tom yum goong, pad thai and mango sticky rice.  But we also loved new discoveries like prawns in coconut, beef curry, deep fried soft-shelled crabs and Thai chicken rice.  We would love to go back to Bangkok if only to go on another food trip! 😋

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After this trip, the kids’ summer was mostly spent in the gym or the pitch.  S had gymnastics training thrice a week while F had football seasions almost daily.  His club joined two big summer leagues – Rizal Football Association (RIFA) and United Football League (UFL) Youth – so they had their fair share of games every week.  The team shows quite a potential as they finished second and third runner-up in the tournaments respectively, considering that they were relatively new than other youth clubs who joined.

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U13 JP Voltes-Malaya Team

It was already at the tail-end of summer when we realized that we haven’t even gone swimming yet! The kids were a little disappointed that we had no planned trip to the beach.  With just a few weeks before classes, the nearby beaches that are nice are usually fully-booked on weekends.  I guess luck was on our side as N was able to book a quick getaway for us in Hamilo Coast, Pico de Loro on short notice.  We were only too happy to pack our swimsuits and head out for some sun and sand for the weekend!

This out-of-town trip was a first for J.  It was also his first swimming experience so we were all excited to see how he would react to the water.  Well, it looks like we have a natural swimmer in our midst!  He loved the pool…he loved the beach as well!  He played happily with his brother and sister and if only for that, it was a weekend well-spent.

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Beach time, fun time!

So, that was the summer that was.  True, it was not as eventful as some other summer vacations we had in the past but we had our moments and that is enough to bring us smiles in the meantime.

For now, we bid summer good-bye as we gear up for a new adventure back in school! 😊

I would love to hear your summer stories, too! Hit the comment button and share, would you?

Cheers! 🎉

Football Diaries: Negros Occidental Football Assoc. (NOFA) Cup 2015

When told us that he is part of the team going to Bacolod for a tournament, I was thrilled and excited! First of all, the team is composed of 8 boys from DLSZ and 8 kids from La Salle Greenhills.  The thought that he was one of those selected by the coaches to represent his school is an awesome feat!  Secondly, this is his first out of town tournament — and to the football capital of the country, no less! Plus of course, Bacolod is also known for its gastronomic feasts.

F is required to travel and stay with the team for most parts of the trip.  S and I booked the same flight as the team so F would have a companion.  Plus, I figured that we have to bring him to the airport anyway, so might as well take the same schedule to save us a trip.  N had work duties so he just followed us in Bacolod.  Here’s a run-down of our five days in the City of Smiles.

Day 1: Team screening, training and welcome dinner

We arrived in Bacolod at around 7am.  Thankfully, the rooms at Luxur Place were already available so we checked-in immediately.  I just helped F settle in with his teammates in their room and then we all proceeded with breakfast and got some rest.

The boys at the airport waiting for our flight

The boys at the airport waiting for our flight

Coaches Hans, Alvin and Manji called for an assembly at 3pm for players only.  They went to the Bacolod City Government Center for a screening and interview of the players and then off to a last training session.  All participating teams were invited to attend the Welcome Dinner prepared by organizers.

U13 La Salle team off to  interview and training

U13 La Salle team off to interview and training

Since this was exclusively for coaches and players only, S and I spent our time relaxing at the hotel.  In the afternoon, we went out with N to check out Calea — a cafe and bakeshop famous for its luscious cakes and pastries.  Everything looked sooo good, we had a hard time choosing!  In the end, we got a slice of chocolate cake, berry cheesecake and an ice cream cake.  All did not disappoint! ☺🍰

Still tired from the travel, we had dinner at the hotel then hit the sack.

Day 2: Opening Ceremonies and Start of Games

We headed off to Panaad Stadium where all the games will be staged.  There were 12 competing teams in the tournament.  After the lots were drawn, Team La Salle was grouped with Malaya FC, Crocodile FC (Davao), Barotac (Iloilo), NOFA, and Sta. Barbara FC (Iloilo) — all very strong contenders!

One La Salle Team at the opening ceremonies

One La Salle Team at the opening ceremonies

First game against Malaya FC ended with a heartbreaking lone goal from their opponent.  La Salle dominated the game with ball possession majority of the time.  The boys had several attempts at the goal but it just wasn’t to be.

F in action (photo credit: Malaya FC)

F in action
(photo credit: Malaya FC)

We comforted ourselves with a good and hearty lunch at 21 Restaurant.  N and I tried their famous batchoy while the kids got steak and chicken.  Great ambience and delicious food, no wonder it came highly recommended by a lot of our friends!  We left the restaurant happy with our food choices and ready for the next game.

Pre-game huddle

Pre-game huddle

The afternoon game against Crocodile FC was more to our liking.  La Salle dominated the game and didn’t let the opponents from Davao score.  We had several missed shots at the goal but we were happy to go home with a 2-0 score.

For dinner, we went to another restaurant recommended by friends.  We went with some of F’s teammates and co-parents.  Dinner at 18th St., Pala-Pala was well worth it!  Stuffed squid, grilled tanigue, buttered garlic prawns, pork barbecue, calamares. Y-U-M-M-Y!!! After that sumptuous dinner, we were ready to call it a day.

Day 3: Games vs. NOFA and Barotac

The game in the morning was against the hosts, NOFA.  According to Coach Hans, their selection came from approximately 80 kids who tried out.  So to say that this team is first-rate is an understatement.  Our boys played their hearts out.  At the end of the half, we were down by only 1 goal.  However, as the game wore on, the NOFA boys found their groove and scored 3 more goals until the final whistle.  It was a tough loss indeed.

Everybody went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for yet another anticipated gruelling match in the afternoon.  We decided to try out the ribs place very near the hotel.  Lord Byron’s Ribs was a hole-in-a-wall restaurant — no aircon, just nipa huts and makeshift furniture — but it had a full lunch crowd!  The menu was limited.  They only offered ribs, sisig, bangus steak and burger so we opted to get the house special.  The ribs were so good and tender and the portion is very generous.  In hindsight, S and I should’ve just shared an order and that would’ve left us both full.  It was no wonder that this place is packed!

Yummy ribs from Lord Byron's

Yummy ribs from Lord Byron’s

The boys were ready for another battle with Barotac FC, one of the football teams that has made quite a name for itself.  Apparently, Barotac was the team of former Azkal captain Chieffy Caligdong when he was younger.  Our boys played a good game and won the match by 2-1 margin.

Post-game interview with local television network

Post-game interview with a local TV network after the win against Barotac FC

For dinner, F decided to stay with his friends and go back to the ribs place. N took S & I to Manokan Country for some authentic chicken inasal (barbecue).  After three days in Bacolod, all I could say was “Finally!”.  Manokan Country is a line of small reastaurants all offering inasal.  We chose to go to Aida’s for arguably the best inasal in the area.  The three of us had paa (chicken legs), chorizo, chicken liver and of course, chicken oil drizzled over a cup of garlic rice.  It might have been the simplest meal we had but one of the yummiest by far!  After we’ve had our fill, we headed to Calea again for dessert before going back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day’s games.

Day 4:  Game vs. Sta. Barbara and Quarterfinals

The morning game against Iloilo’s Sta. Barbara was a thriller.  We were down 0-2 by the end of the half but we started the second half strong with a quick goal.  There were several shots on goal but the boys weren’t able to convert. Sta. Barbara scored another goal towards the latter part of the game which eventually sealed the match.

By lunch time, we were told that our scores were good enough to get us through the quarterfinals.  We decided to just stay at the hotel for lunch to prepare for the battle against Pag-asa FC from Iloilo.

Warming up before the big game

Warming up before the big game

The quarterfinals game was exciting! Up against the best team from the other group, our boys showed up and gave their all.  It was quite a tough match from start to finish.  In the end though, we had to bow to the other team with a final score of 4-2.

The boys were sad and disappointed that they didn’t make it to the “trophy rounds” but we, the parents and coaches, were truly proud of how they fought in all their games.  They lost in some of the games but they picked themselves up and played their hearts out in the next one.

One La Salle team with parents and coaches

One La Salle team with parents and coaches

We arranged for a team dinner at Ana’s Garden and Seafood Grill for players and parents and also as a thank you to our coaches who have been nothing but patient, understanding and supportive of the kids.  It was no easy feat handling 16 tweeners so all I can say is “Kudos, Coaches!”.

Day 5:

After several days of early call times, we decided to sleep-in on our last day.  Shortly after breakfast, we went to hear Mass at a nearby church as we won’t be able to make it to any of the Masses in Manila due to our flight schedule.

For lunch, we decided to go to Bacolod Chicken House for one last bite of authentic inasal.  Afterwards, we let the kids have some more fun time swimming and bonding with their friends.

Swimming time

Swimming time

Before we left for the airport, we were informed that Team La Salle was awarded Best in Sportsmanship.  I believe ours was the only team that was not handed out any yellow or red cards during the entire tournament.  Truly, fair play is at the core of the team’s values and it was a great feeling to be recognized for that by the other teams.

We bought our pasalubongs and Bacolod goodies from Merzci and Bongbong’s and soon after, we were headed back home to Manila.

I am sure that Bacolod has sooo much more to offer.  We barely scratched the surface of places to visit and restaurants to try! And so, while we bid the City of Smiles good-bye, we cannot wait for another opportunity to come back.

Football Diaries: Malaya Cup 2014

My son, first played football during his toddler summer class in Prep Camp.  He was just two and a half years old then and he was hooked ever since.

From then on, we spent our weekend mornings either watching him train or cheering him during tournaments.  Yesterday’s mid-week holiday was spent like that – on the pitch.  Coming off a long hiatus from football training due to our vacation (which deserves a separate post), F jumped at the opportunity when he and his friends were invited to play at the MALAYA CUP 2014.

Since school barely started and training has not resumed yet, there was no way to field an official school team.  It was really through the efforts of our reliable co-soccer parents that their team was formed on such short notice.

The team was composed of ten boys aged 8-10 years old competing in the U11 category.  It was great to see them outside, playing the sport they love with their friends.  Nothing could have stopped these boys from playing.  Never mind if it was raining hard and the field is muddy.  Never mind if they got bumped, bruised and hurt physically by some rough players.  Never mind too, if they lost their first three games.  Never mind all that.  These kids just came to play…and they played their hearts out.

Of course, there were times when they got tired and frustrated.  But it was just great to see them go out there and pick themselves up after a loss or a fall.  And every time a teammate scored a goal, it was heartwarming to see them burst into big smiles as they hugged and cheered on each other.

His team mates congratularing him after scoring a goal. Photo credit: Bong Gregorio

F being congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal. Photo credit: Bong Gregorio

 

At the end of the tournament, they only won one game (their last).  They didn’t make it to the semis or the finals.  There were no medals to take home.  But that’s okay.  They still went home with smiles in their hearts.  They gave their best, played the sport they loved with their friends. That was all that mattered yesterday.

Sharing with you also the PTV Sports coverage of the Malaya Cup 2014: