My 2015 in Review

I know. I have been away too long, I know!  It has been crazy for the past weeks…errr…months for me.  But I am here now and I thought that there is no better way to get back on track than to look back at the year that was.

Our 2015 did not start quite as well as I hoped it would.  We were beset with illnesses and loss of dear ones.  We were in grief and sadness with Lolo Manny’s passing and still miss him a lot; but we have come to terms that he is already in a better place.

February was a happier month as we saw family and friends who visited from the States.  This month was filled with a lot of get-togethers and reunions.

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We got the biggest surprise of our lives as March rolled in and found out that I was infanticipating!  The initial shock that got to me was soon replaced by eagerness and excitement for our newest blessing 😊.

We also celebrated a milestone this month as F graduated from grade school, with an award for perfect attendance to boot!  It was indeed a proud mommy moment for me!

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We welcomed summer with F‘s first out of town football tournament.  La Salle decided to field a DLSZ-LSGH contingent to the NOFA Cup and F was one of those chosen to play.  It was our first time in Bacolod so aside from the football, we also made sure to try the delectable food that this province has to offer.

I took my core leave in May so I can spend more bonding time with the kids but our plans were interrupted by a spotting scare.  I had to go on bedrest which meant missing out on our Laiya beach getaway with my mom and siblings 😢.  This month, I also had to deal with domestic concerns with our household staff that added stress to my already challenging state.  But it’s true what they say that character will be tested during difficult times.  Despite the challenges we experienced on the homefront, I am truly grateful that my kids responded well and showed maturity beyond their age.  I feel very fortunate and blessed to have such caring and responsible children.

By June, F & S were raring to go back to school.  We had a new set of helpers and a few changes in our routine so we had to adapt to these changes in our household.  On my end, I am also happy to go back on work mode again.

July greeted us with sad new that our trusted helper (whom we’ve already considered as family) lost her battle with cancer.  It was very difficult to accept, especially for F & S, who have grown very close to Ate Jojie.  We were truly devastated with her passing but we had no choice but to accept it and just pray for her and the family she left behind.

August flew by without me noticing it as I got busy with work demands.  But as September rolled in, I was ordered to go on medical leave by my doctor because I was experiencing premature labor.  Thankfully, I work for a company which allows working from home.  This way, I was able to continue being in touch with my team without getting out of bed.

As I reached the homestretch of my pregnancy, we were already doing weekly visits to my OB-Gyne and regularly monitoring the progress of Baby#3!

October was our most anticipated month!  We celebrated S’s 10th birthday (has it really been a decade?!) with a simple party.  She invited her classmates and gymnastics friends to an afternoon of clay art fun.  It was a small party compared to the ones she had before but it was fun and enjoyable.

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Of course, the highlight of this month… nay, YEAR…was welcoming our newest bundle of joy!  From the moment I laid eyes on him, he has filled my heart with so much happiness!  We are exhausted and somehow, still trying to adjust to our new routines, but nothing compares to the joy that we feel 😊.

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With Baby J in tow, days and nights came and went with me taking very little notice.  I stayed home most of the time taking care of our little one.  Even before giving birth, I made a promise that I will try to do better in breastfeeding J than I did F & S.  It is, by far, the hardest thing I had to do as a mother! But challenging as it was, I am happy to report that J is still 100% breastfed…3 months and counting! Yay! 😊

We celebrated F‘s 12th birthday in November.  It was also J’s first month celebration (and marked the first time I stepped in the mall again after giving birth hehe).

December marked my 40th birthday.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had every intention to hold a party with family and friends.  It was a milestone birthday, after all, and it has been quite a while since I threw a party for myself.  But with a breastfeeding baby (and so many sleepless nights since then), I opted for a quiet dinner out with my family instead.  Maybe I’ll throw that birthday bash on my 41st instead…we’ll see 😜.

As expected, I missed most of the Christmas parties and shopping this year but I truly did not mind.  I was happy to spend Christmas (and New Year) and celebrate with those who matters most.

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2015 was indeed a roller coaster of emotions.  For all the happy and sad moments, I am grateful.

This 2016 promises to be a whole new adventure, especially with F, S and Baby J and I look forward to sharing these with you too!

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.

Party Planning: Kids’ Splash Bash

This is a late post of what has to be my craziest week of party planning and preparations for the kids’ joint birthday celebration.  F & S‘s birthdays are only a month apart.  They used to have their own parties but since their friends have somehow intermingled, we decided to just hold one party for both of them.  And what could be a more gender-neutral theme than a swimming party? 🙂

Once the theme was decided on, the kids agreed on a date which they said should be a Saturday between their respective birthdays. As soon as that was settled, we went full throttle on the preparations.  The foremost consideration was the venue.  We wanted a location that is convenient for us and our guests.  We were lucky that the pool and clubhouse at my aunt’s village was still available on our chosen date so we booked it immediately.

Hillsborough Aqua Park

Hillsborough Aqua Park

Given the short lead time we have, I opted for a simple, fuss-free party. Most of the food were pre-ordered and delivered straight to the venue: giant 36″ Calda Pizza, spaghetti from Amber and barbecue from Monzon’s in BF Homes. The only thing we prepared were chicken lollipops and hotdogs plus the refreshments station of iced tea, soda and lemon water. Sweet treats were provided by Sugar Lily cupcakes and Nestle Ice Cream.

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As with all other parties I planned previously, I relied on the creative expertise of my sister, Faye to put some fun and color to our celebration. She did a magnificent job designing the invitations, menu cards and cupcake toppers for the event.

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Lastly, we added some other little stuff to tie the whole pool party concept together. My sister-in-law bought beach balls and pool noodles for the kids to play with while in the water. I also asked her to buy some pails which I filled with chips and doubled as centerpieces for the tables.

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Overall, it was a fun-filled Saturday afternoon spent with family, classmates, football and gymnastics friends!

Sharing with you some of our suppliers which may help you in your future parties:

  • Hillsborough Aqua Park
    Contact numbers: 63 2 772-4371 /809-3533
  • Sugar Lily Cupcakes & Pastries
    https:/www.facebook.com/SugarLilyCupcakes
  • Nestle Ice Cream
    https:/icecreamparty.ph/
  • Calda Pizza BF Homes
    Contact number: 63 2 519-2954
  • Amber
    Contact number: 63 2 884-8888

A Salute to My Little Gymnast

Last October 25, S attended her first gymnastics ranking meet.  She was among the 33 girls chosen from over a hundred students of the academy to be assessed and ranked.  The top 15 girls will participate in the ucoming competition in December.

S became interested in gymnastics when she learned that her friends were taking lessons for their summer activity.  We did not enroll her right away because we were going away for vacation and I wasn’t also quite convinced that she really liked gymnastics.  I was thinking that she just wanted to join to be with her friends.  How wrong I was!

We went in for a trial class one fine Saturday morning last June and has since then, been spending our Saturday mornings there.

Trying her hand at the forward roll

Trying her hand at the forward roll

Going into training, S knew that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The exercises, tumbles and rolls were anything but easy. Gymnastics required physical strength, flexibility and balance and I saw that as a beginner, she was struggling with some of these.

While trying to do a cartwheel or a handstand, she would sometimes fall (and I would squirm in my seat). But always, she would get get up, ever so determined to try again…and again. S takes her training sessions very seriously. In fact, she used to incessantly ask me if she can have an additional training day. I said I will think about it…

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During the ranking meet, I saw her perform by herself in front of a crowd for the first time. She was poised, confident and self-assured. Her routines weren’t perfect but there were glimpses of perfection — like when she did a flawless cartwheel that she had been practicing for weeks or when she executed a good jump during her balance beam routine. She was ecstatic that she waa able to perform these stunts. Me? I was just beaming with pride. My baby girl has come a long way since our trial class.

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At the end of the meet, S ranked 22nd. With only four months of training, she kind of expected this result. She knows that there are still more skills to learn and a whole lot of room for improvement. S just takes this all in and embraces the challenge with open arms. With this kind of resolve, the least we could do as parents is to fully support and cheer for her…and yes, agree to that additional training day she was asking for. 🙂

With her gym friends

With her gym friends

So see you at the next gymnastics meet!

Family Fun Run

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Last September 6, I achieved a “milestone” of sorts when we joined the Energizer Night Race in Filinvest Corporate City in Alabang.  You see, in the midst of the hype and craze of all these fun runs, it never really caught up on me.  Come to think of it, I am the only one in our brood of five who has no atheletic/fitness bone.  Unlike my sisters who would go to the gym regularly or my brother who took up boxing, I was never big on exercise. Thus, the thought of getting up at 4am to run for 3km or so did not really sound appealing to me.

The kids are the opposite though. F has been into football ever since he could run while S is into gymnastics training.  So when I casually told them of this invitation to run, they were both excited to join! N & I ran out of “excuses” not to go, given that it was a night run (no waking up early) and close enough to our place.  So off we went to our first ever organized run!

All geared-up for the night run

All geared-up for the night run

Most of our group signed up for 5K – N & F, my brothers and my nephew, my sister Kat as well as my cousin, Bea and her mom.  S & I registered for 3K only with my mom.  My other sis, Faye and her boyfriend took on the 10K challenge.

All in the family

All in the family

We got to the venue with some time to spare.  The place was packed and bursting with energy! There were all sorts of people: there were those who seemed veteran runners and those who seemed like first-timers like us.  There were groups of friends, couples and families in the event.  After a while, even the reuctant runner that I was, got excited too! The vibe was just contagious 🙂

S & I finished our 3K run/walk in a little under 30 minutes.  She could’ve finished with a better time if not for her mom dragging her.  Oh well, we’ll do better next time.

Tired but happy finishers

Tired but happy finishers

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: