running in red stilettos

Mayon Volcano, Albay

I thought June would be the perfect time to go on a trip to Bicol (or anywhere in the country for that matter) since the peak season for local and foreign tourists ended in May. And I was right. There were a lot of empty seats on the plane when we flew to Legazpi City (or was it because I got us the six a.m. flight?) I did not want to waste any time and had wanted to embark on an early morning journey as soon as we got to Albay. 

My son and I did a lot of research weeks before our flight, but since Bicol is a huge region divided into four provinces plus two other island provinces, it was a demanding task just to try to decide which places in Bicolandia to visit. 

Much has been written about Bicol and all the beautiful places dispersed in all of its six provinces, so we made other travellers’ experiences and a few articles on the historical places in Region 5 a significant part of our planning. 

Did our trip plans roll out well? Pretty much. I’m geographically challenged, but I am overjoyed to say that travelling alone with our 12-year-old son yanked the independent traveller out of me. 

Educational Trip
The trip was part of a series of educational trips that we’ve planned for the year. We’re a homeschooling family and one of the advantages of homeschooling is not being tied up to a schoolyear calendar that makes students suffer from studenthood. So when everyone’s boarding the school vans, homeschooling families like us could be on our way to places where we learn from experience and not from pictures from the books. 

I have a vivid memory of how Mayon Volcano looked like in our Social Studies book in grade school. I remember it so well I can still smell the ink from the 200-page or so book printed in newsprint. What we aim to do in our homeschooling years is to not only look at books but try to go to the places they talk about as well. 

Travelling Across Bicol
We traversed the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur. We’re saving Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate for future trips.

The Bicol region has myriad places for all kinds of travellers. For those who like undemanding uphill climbs, there are beautiful places in Albay with magnificent views of Mayon and the cityscape such as Lignon and Kawa-Kawa Hills. For a historical caving tour, Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Cotmon, Camalig is an enlightening experience for people of all ages. The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga is probably the most-visited place in Albay, judging from the number of people with photos online going overboard with jump shots between the bell tower and Mayon. 

Cagsawa Ruins, Legazpi, Albay
A view from Kawa-kawa Nature Park, Guinobatan, Albay
Lignon Hill, Legazpi, Albay
Hoyop-hoyopan Cave
Albay is also the home of the Church of Nuestra SeƱora de la Porteria located in Daraga. It is a picturesque church on top of the hill with Mayon Volcano for a view.

Church in Daraga

Camarines Sur
Naga, an independent component city in the Bicol region, is roughly 94 kilometers from Legazpi City. Degustation is Naga’s twin word and taking a nice, long walk along Magsaysay Avenue should help set your gastronomic adventure. One thing Naga is known for is the Camsur Watersports Complex (just say CWC so people will know what you mean), but we skipped this one (for now) since my son decided that he wanted to take surfing lessons in Bagasbas, Daet.

Naga City
A city walk tour in Naga City is enriching and is also the best way to reach architectural beauties such as the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, Penafrancia Basilica Minore, and the Archdiocese of Caceres.

Camarines Norte
Bagasbas Beach in Daet is one of Bicol’s havens for beginner-surfers. Waves roll in from the Pacific Ocean and the horizon behind it offers an awe-inspiring view to the two-kilometer stretch of the rustic beach. The boulevard is lined with no-frills restaurants and mini-hotels. 

Bagasbas Beach, Daet, Camarines Norte

Daet is the provincial capital of Camarines Norte where the very first monument for Jose Rizal was built. It is a quiet town that transforms into a colorful, lively place during the Pinyasan Festival held in the month of June. The sweetest pineapples in the Philippines, they say, come from Daet, thus the festival is named after the fruit. 

Very first monument for Rizal in Daet, Camarines Norte
I should not forget to mention that in 1919 Daet became an independent province on March 3, incidentally the same day as my birthday. 

More about Bicol in my next posts. Thank you for coming over and feel free to share this article! For other homeschooling related stories, click here.

bicol homeschool legazpi naga daet camsur surfing mayon albay tour budget travel cheap flight field trip

running in red stilettos
Lang, Andrew, ed. The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965.
Hansel and Gretel was one of the stories that enchanted me when I was little.  The story goes that Hansel and Gretel found a house in the forest made of bread (and sugar?) owned by a very old woman. The old woman, was in truth, an evil witch who pretended to be a good old dame to lure the children into her house.

Not long after, Hansel and Gretel found out that the witch had viciously planned to eat them so they fled her sacchariferous house unharmed.

How they outwitted the witch and how that story really ended escapes me now. All I remember is how amazing that hardbound book was with all the colorful pictures in it.

Whatever I know about Hansel and Gretel at this age come from faithful translations of Grimms’ Fairytales. We all reach an age when we discover that so many of the fairytales we knew as kids were sugar-coated and far from their original version.

One of the required readings in Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, an online course that I took up last year, was Children's and Household Tales by the Grimms’ brothers. What got me thinking was whether to let our children read the child-friendly versions of Grimms’ fairytales or let them wait until they’re ready and allow them to enjoy the English translations of Children's and Household Tales.

My husband and I decided that introducing them to a few chosen original Grimms’ tales was a good idea as we cherish genuine literature. We’re saving Jacob and Wilhelm’s other dark tales for when they’re older.

Musicals: Moments When We Embrace Happy Versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales
Lyric Opera of Chicago

Watching musicals is certainly delightful and educational. They are also the kind of entertainment that we want our children to indulge in. Musical theater productions for children are created to fascinate and stir the imagination of young minds. 

Children also develop appreciation for theater if they are adequately exposed to it. In an  article at, it interestingly mentioned that theater plays a major role in global literacy. (More on the positive effects of theater on children later.)

Although we want to remain faithful to the original version of Grimms’ fairytales, the whimsical, colorful and gleeful presentation of Grimms’ tales in musical plays should be embraced by families. There is so much about theatrical interpretations or adaptations of stories that open wide, shimmering doors into a magnificent world for children. The story itself is just a part of an entire magical world that they become a part of, so yes, Grimms’ fairy tales in musical should not be missed.

Hansel and Gretel: A Children’s Musical

Director Luigi Nacario and Musical Director Eugene Belbis will be presenting their interpretation of “Hansel and Gretel” in a musical on June 8, 2014 at the Eastwood Mall Atrium at 3 p.m. The musical will feature the CampArt Kid Actors.

Nacario’s “Hansel and Gretel” won the 26th Aliw Awards for Best Production for Children and the 2013 Broadway World Philippines Awards for Best Book, Lyrics for a Filipino Musical.

For details, you may contact Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Concierge at 709-9888, 709-0888 or 0917-8380111.

kids acts philippines children's theater eastwood city campart kids hansel and gretel grimm's fairytales homeschool event awards musical
running in red stilettos

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is holding a three-day arts festival for children dubbed “Likot, Liksi, Lipad: Children’s Arts Festival” beginning May 30 until June1, 2014.

What could be a more enthralling way of ending the summer than honing your creativity through workshops, film showing and live performances?   The even greater news is that the festival is for free and parents or guardians are invited to join in as well, doubling the fun for everyone. 

PETA wants to reach out to as many children as they can that’s why a participant can only attend one festival day. So choose your day and make sure you register at the PETA Theater Center or call (02) 7256244 (loc. 23) or 09175183654. You may also send e-mail to

For other details, here’s a link to PETA’s FAQ.

PETA arts festival children's theater manila homeschool workshops activities

running in red stilettos

Organization is the key to everything in homeschooling. Before we begin a homeschool year, we (try to) put together everything that we need such as books, various reading materials, binders or notebooks and art materials.

And by we, I mean me.

If say,  I don’t get to fill up our school supply/craft cabinet before the start of the year, I’d just collect other needed materials as we go along the way. But then I have this thing for supplying supply cabinets with a lot of supplies, so you can come knocking on my door for anything from scratch paper to sponge paper and I’m ready to supply you with those.

There is, however, another kind of organization that calls for a lot of attention: the planning and managing of weekly or monthly lesson plans, activities, presentations, discussions, field trips, etc.

On our first three months back to homeschooling, the load of work drove me up the wall—and I don’t mean that in a cute way. Cole was five years old when we first homeschooled him so we relied on what was around us—we counted cars, watched birds and their colors, listened to sounds of animals, etc.  Click here for a portion of our homeschooling story.

Now that Cole’s 12, we’re following a more structured curriculum which my husband and I prepare on our own.

My Ultimate Virtual Homeschool Organizer

I discovered that so many homeschooling parents around the world were just as addled as I was when they started homeschooling.

Am I doing things wrong? Is there something wrong with how I sequence my lessons?

Those were just some of the questions that bugged me every single day. And of course, there were the perpetual questions on record keeping, grading, compiling study materials, and a long list of everything else.

I constantly searched for help on how to organize everything until I found Homeschool Skedtrack, a free online lesson planner, scheduler, and tracking system in one. It was a bit confusing to use at first but they provide comprehensive video tutorials every step of the way. With a bit of diligence on my part, I was able to fully understand and appreciate how HS worked.

What I like about Homeschool Skedtrack

Writing down lesson plans could be a daunting and time-consuming task (I kid you not!). With the skedtrack I am able to put all our subjects (or courses as they call it in HS) in one place and create activities for each course. Cole has nine courses for 2014-2015, seven core subjects and three electives. 

The Activities page contain the lessons that we want to cover for a homeschool year. In my case, I only had time to prepare for two days’ worth of activities (or lessons) before we started homeschooling for 2014-2015, so I just kept adding lessons as we progressed. 

We’re on our third week now and here’s our Activities page for Grammar just to give you an idea of how it looks like.

I clicked on Predict Dates to see how much work we could finish at a given time and at what dates we could accomplish them if we stick to the lesson plan that I prepared without delay. Delays are okay, especially if it means sticking to a certain lesson if you think you need to.

If you’re not crazy about computing grades (I’m not!), the Homeschool Skedtrack provides that service as long as you provide them details of your graded activities. You can also go without a grading system if you choose to. That’s one of the beautiful things about homeschooling. If you think your child will soar higher without you giving him A's or B's and whatnot, then you can always opt for a hug rather than  a grade of A+ for a job well done. There are also kids who think of grades as their mini trophies, so give it to them if gives them motivation.

What’s great about homeschooling is that it gives you the opportunity to explore what type of learning works best for your children. It also allows you to find the kind of lesson planning that matches your creativity level as a teacher.

The Homeschool Skedtrack is just one of the virtual organizers that can assist you with your day-to-day activities. It works for me but other homeschooling moms think that it’s not for them. Keep in mind that a great part of the success in homeschooling comes from understanding by heart your goals and how you want to reach them. 

homeschooling homeschool organizer virtual assistant homeschool skedtrack school materials courses study manila schedule home school lesson plans study materials
running in red stilettos
Photo Courtesy of Mars One
Would you ever consider moving to Mars? Asking this question takes me back to a time when the idea of traveling to another planet was pure fiction. We are a Twilight Zone-obsessed family and we've always believed that most of its story lines will happen sooner or later in real life. With Mars One sending people to begin a colony in Mars, we are left with little to the imagination.

My mother thought I was going bonkers when I told her over breakfast the other day that a private company called Mars One has been accepting applications for Mars since last year. Around 4,000 people from 177 countries have already qualified with the US having the most number of qualifiers. I couldn't blame her. Although I have heard of Mars One and its mission to begin sending people to this small planet in 2024, a part of me still find the whole idea too out-of-this-world (excuse the pun). I didn't think it was actually going to happen in my lifetime.

We were lucky to be at the Astronomy Week Celebration at The Mind Museum on February 22. The line up of events were indeed worth every minute of our time. The highlight for me was Cafe Scientifique's “We are Going to Mars!' It was an interactive exchange through Skype between Arno Weilders and the guests. Arno Weilders is the Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of Mars One. 

Live Skype exchange with Arno Weilders

Weilders gave a brief introduction to Mars One and then went on to answer questions from the audience. The questions ranged from what kind of government the first inhabitants would have, how conflicts would be resolved, what kind of food would be available, and what would the source of water be, among others. The last one was a question from a little girl in the audience.

Mars One launched its selection process in April 2013. It is a rigid process that requires an applicant to have five key characteristics such as resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust, and creativity and resourcefulness. Applicants should also be at least 18 years old, which is what is considered the legal age in most countries.

“It will all be up to them,” Weilder said, when he was asked about conflict resolution. “There is a 20-minute delay in communication between Mars and Europe and it will be impossible to manage Mars' inhabitants from the Earth,” Weilder added.

For the first year, they will be feeding on canned goods that will be sent with them on the first trip in 2024. The trip will take somewhere between eight to nine months and they are expected to land in 2025. Other crucial details about the first trip have not yet been revealed.

When asked if he was ever tempted to apply, he answered, “Yes, it did cross my mind, but I have two young kids and I don't think it would be fair for them.” Weilders quickly added in jest, “I'm not very good at dealing with stress so I don't think I'd qualify.”

Even if you wanted and decided to, there is no guarantee that a family will be allowed to travel together. It will still depend on the result of individual assessment.

What really sends chills to my spine is that the trip is a one-way ticket to Mars. No return trip...ever. To me, it is a real-life closing credit to an episode of the Twilight Zone. 

Mars One, Mars, Arno Weilders, The Mind Museum, Twilight Zone, fiction, earth, 2014
running in red stilettos
Look! A "Legolized" me! 

If not for Cole's passion for Lego, I would not find myself walking through Nathan Sawaya's amazing exhibit at the Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. There was not a second during the exhibit that I did not wish for Cole to be by my side, enjoying all those amazing creations by an artist who fell in love with Lego when he was only five years old. 

"The Art of Brick" is Nathan Sawaya's largest collection of Lego sculptures. When asked about his masterpieces, Sawaya said, "These works are very personal to me since they reflect my growth as an artist as I strove to discover my creative identity." 
The New York-based artist explains that his work of art is something that bridges anyone at any age to their interest for unique creations. "The museum exhibition is accessible because it engages the child in all of us while simultaneously illuminating sophisticated and complex concepts. Everyone can relate to the medium since it is a toy that many children have at home. But my goal with this exhibition when it first debuted in 2007 was to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before."

Nathan Sawaya's latest show began yesterday at the Mansfield Art Center, Mansfield, Ohio. It will be from September 21, 2013 to November 16, 2013.

Here are a few of the very many shots that I took. Sawaya is touring the world and my wish is to take Cole to one of his shows someday.

running in red stilettos

the four of us were enjoying a long walk towards the south tip of the long beach in boracay a few days before our flight back to manila when our 11-year old son popped the question: “how can we bring back all the shells and pebbles we collected in the last two weeks?”

i wasn’t sure if he was worried if we’d be allowed to take them out of the island or if we’d be charged extra for “excess baggage” which of course i knew would oddly be the case. my husband’s answer was brief, simple and exhilarating for the three of us who stood under the drizzle.

“then we don’t leave,” he said smiling.

days and weeks passed and friends and family began asking if we were staying for good. my only answer was “we’re here and we’re there. we can’t bring the beach to manila and we can’t bring manila to the beach.”

you see, we believe that life is a journey and home for us is anywhere as long as we’re together.  and so, we made the decision to make boracay our home, too.

we would love to share our home with those who will be making their own journeys to this side of the philippines, whether it's a long one or a very short getaway. read and share about our bed and breakfast here:

running in red stilettos
Well, okay. Maybe it's a little too late to post something about Christmas shopping since Christmas is in seven days. But I'm pretty sure there are still some of you who are yet to rush out the door to do late (or even post) Christmas shopping. The thing is, whether it's the Christmas season or not, we all have to keep in mind things that we're supposed to do—-or not to do when we're out releasing our hard-earned money.

Click the photo to read my article at Security Matters Magazine.

The Nationwide Hotline Number for Emergencies is 117

Security Matters, Christmas, shopping, Lisa Ito, Kalikasan Partylist, toxic materials, cheap toys, gifts, WHO, ICC, DTI, Makati Fire Department, harmful chemicals, nationwide hotline number

running in red stilettos
Ronald Garcia gives a lecture on Basic Photography to kids at Cypress Towers

Saturday, 8:57 AM. Today's “Moms and Kids Day” and the photography workshop by Ronald Garcia starts at 9 AM. 

Good grief, three minutes to the event and Cole was still in dreamland while I was between checking my mails and giving in to the demands of the little one who was running around and grabbing everything she could with her chubby little hands. 

“Coleyyyyyyymolleeyyyy! It's 8:57!” Even Mr Young bolted up from the bed and asked why the alarm didn't go off. 

“My fault. Forgot to set the alarm,” I confessed.

Cole jumped up from the bed, took a really quick shower, grabbed his camera and ran out the door. Good thing the event was just at the clubhouse 22 floors below and 10 short leaps away. He got there thinking he was very late for the workshop but then he was actually the first kid to arrive at the venue. 

“Thank God they did not play 'Gangnam Style' while we were waiting for the others to arrive,” he told me earlier tonight.

“What kind of music did they play then?” I asked, amused and very much grateful that the kid has grown good taste in music. Mr Young and I would never forgive ourselves if our soon-to-be 11-year-old listened to the trash that half the population on this planet listen to these days. 

“Mostly Diana Krall.” So I was informed. 

I was the one who got there late because I had to give Attika her morning bath. When I arrived at the clubhouse Ronald was halfway through the workshop but I was able to pick up a lot of things (mostly things Mr Young already taught me many times before, but then being a good student's never really been part of my scanty positive traits). I was mostly interested in taking good photos of moving subjects—an area where I mostly fail. I've never taken any photography lessons and curiosity played a great role for me today.

Apart from being a great photographer, it turned out that Ronald could also work really well with kids. His lecture was delivered in a language that kids and all the other attendees were comfortable in even when he got to the more technical part of photography.

It got me thinking for a second there. It's wonderful that people are so much into photography now, even giving birth to the word “cam-whoring” and whatnot. In a conversation with veteran photographers Rod Banzon and Manny Fernandez years ago in the editorial box of the Big C Magazine where I was Lifestyle Editor, they expressed their heartache over how photography's been lambasted by the advent of digital cameras. Today, everyone who can afford a digital camera is a photographer. I still wouldn't place that as a parallel statement to Robert Fulghum's “Anyone who sings is a singer.” 

I found this poster on Facebook and anyone who understands what the bitching is all about would give this one a resounding “like”. 

Cole picked up the hobby four years ago. His first camera was an instamatic analogue camera (with an underwater casing) and his first photos were of a rally in UP, then our humble homestead. Mr Young, otherwise known as his dad, had given him his first lessons and those lessons continue at present. Lucky for us I guess because we have a professional photographer at home. Mr Young completed his professional training in the war zones of Mindanao prior to his stint as stringer for CNN and BBC when we were still in college. 

“Mr Garcia asked me what got me interested in photography,” Cole told me. 


“I told him you're a photographer and so I also got interested in it. I also told him you gave me your camera.”

No, no, no, a photographer I am not. I have had some bouts with luck when my photographs were published. I also try sometimes, like a happy little fish (I've some photos here). But to my mind, a photographer is strictly somebody who's had formal training. So clearly, I'm not one of them. I'm just another one of Mr Young's absentee students. 

By the way, it was also Cole's first photography workshop and he said that he had so much fun. I think young people should be taught the value of appreciating an art form by exposing them to the right source of knowledge. It would also help if they got their information from experts such as multi-awarded photographer Ronald Garcia and allow them to decide on their own if they want to pursue it or not. All this as opposed to just handing over to them an expensive piece of equipment and letting them do things all because everyone else is doing it. 

Just my two cents worth. 

Cole asks Mr Garcia about ISO

The event was sponsored by Ascof Lagundi and Cypress Towers, DMCI. 

basic lessons digital camera, photography workshop, Ronald Anthony Garcia, Ascof Lagundi, Cypress Towers, DMCI, homeschooling event, CNN, BBC, kids activity, arontaz images

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