Tokyo for 19, please.

Tokyo for 19, please.

We took a family trip over the New Year holiday to Tokyo. The kids have been waiting for this for months – especially the promise to see snow!


There were a bit more of us than our last trip to Japan. From 10, we became a group of 19! We stayed, again, at an AirBNB and it was located just outside Tokyo (think Cavite in terms of Manila). It was a nice place with 5 rooms – enough for all 19 of us – though there was only one toilet and one bath! It may seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but we pulled through ok. No one needed to use the toilet at the exact same time – miracles do happen!


[See our trip to Osaka here]

We stayed 7 days, and the big difference here was we rented a van to help us get around sightseeing. The drivers were Pinoy, so it helped a lot in terms of communication and tourist information. I would recommend this for a big group with a lot of kids – like us – because going on the train, changing lines, might be too stressful. Though we did that too over two days when we went to the Disney parks.

Day 1:

From the airport (we took Philippine Airlines), we went straight to Odaiba. It is a shopping district, and we ate. After that flight that left 7:00 AM, we were all hungry. Start of ramen everyday!


In that area, there is a huge Gundam statue, and everyone was taking a picture with it. I never watched the cartoon, but we took a picture as well. Gundam, it’s huge!


From there we went over to the view of the Rainbow Bridge, which is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. And there is also a replica of the Eiffel Tower. At this point, the sun had set and we were already freezing, so any stay outside was minimal.


We called it a day after that and went to our AirBNB.

Day 2:

This is the day all the kids were waiting for! Visiting Mt. Fuji at the Fujiten Park. They went wild with the snow. At the parking area pa lang, sigaw na sigaw na agad! It was so worth it. They rolled in the snow. Threw snowballs. Went sledding. All their gloves, socks, shoes, pants – everything – were wet soon after. Tip: Bring extra clothes. We spent the entire morning and early afternoon there.


From there, we went to Kawaguchiko lake, which is just that. A lake where you can boat. We just looked around, then made our way to Oshinu Hakai ponds. It is known for clear water and lots of ponds. Ha ha. Not too excited about that either.



We spent the rest of the evening at Gotemba Outlets, but they closed early due to the fact that it was December 31! End of the year, and we spent that end of the year at our AirBNB with family. No fireworks, nor pollution.


Day 3: HAPPY NEW YEAR!


What way to spend the Happy New Year but at the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! Which was Mass. We took the train to Roponggi and heard Mass at the Franciscan Chapel Center. Lots of Pinoys there, and most on vacation as well!


From there, we went to Disneyland! It was a holiday, and it was the first day of the year, so it was packed! But kids had fun nonetheless. Just a small hiccup after the Small World ride. Aida ended up following a stroller she thought belonged to Lucas. She realized she was lost and went back to Small World, where we were looking for her. Tip 2: Wear something other than Uniqlo! My goodness, everyone was in Uniqlo! Hard to spot people. Carlo and Joshua started wearing our bright red sweaters after this.


Tip 3: Talk to your kids about what to do if they get lost. Go back to the place they last saw you. Instead of going around and looking for you. Good thing Aida has a smart head on her shoulders.


Took the train back to the AirBNB again. Always buddy system, with adults at every end.

Day 4: Another day at another of the Happiest Places on Earth! Disney Sea! Disney Sea had the Pirates of the Caribbean, Little Mermaid, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Toy Story attractions. It looked like Venice on one side, and a volcanic place on the other.



My feet were already killing me by this time, but hey, anything for the kids. Another hiccup, Franko made a wrong turn and ended up losing the group as well. He went back to the last place we were all together, and that’s where Joshua found him. Another kid with a good head on his shoulders. The park was packed, and everyone wearing the same colored Uniqlo jacket, so likelihood of being sidelined was big. He was also wearing a big, green alien head – so that helped too. Tip 4: Buy big green alien heads.


Day 5:

By this time, everyone was so tired, so good thing we were back with the van. We went to one of the tallest towers in Tokyo first.


Asakusa Temple was the second stop (we started after lunch na), and Jax fell asleep, so I stayed with her in the van. From there, I took the kids home so the moms can go shopping.

But we passed by Shibuya crossing to see the Hachiko statue. How can you go to Tokyo without seeing that loyal dog? Of course it was at Shibuya crossing so there were so many people there! The van driver got nervous and followed me and the 5 kids just in case.


Mission accomplished! Brought them home (all complete!) right after.

Day 6:

Our last full day! The plan was just to stay home and rest, but how? We had to see the polar bears and pandas at Ueno Zoo! Took the train as well, and caught a Farfetch’d (yes, we still play Pokemon Go)! Saw the penguins as well.


Day 7 was the end. We rushed to the airport. Rushed to the gate. And back to the loving arms of the Philippines!

I truly love Japan. It is such a nice place to visit. Good food. Very polite people. A bit too quiet, but it isn’t stressful as everything is in good order. Where in Japan can we go next?

Sayonara!

Catholic Social Media Awards: We won!

Catholic Social Media Awards: We won!

Pinch me, I’m dreaming! In 2013 our website http://familyandlifeupdate.com got a Special Citation from The Catholic Mass Media Awards. And the year after, 2014, we won the CMMA for Best Website!

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Now this year, our online show Live LIFE with Learning has won BEST ONLINE SHOW from the Catholic Social Media Awards!

It is an honor, privilege and a huge responsibility to keep on going. Thank you for everyone involved in making all of this happen.

Big Family Vacations: Boracay

Big Family Vacations: Boracay

We took a weekend trip to Boracay recently and it was a good break from the traffic armageddon happening in Manila lately. Thank goodness, the flight to Caticlan was not delayed (thank you, PAL!) and as a bonus there was even food served on the plane (with no extra fees!). The kids loved the plane ride, and even loved the bit of turbulence that came along the way.

I would say that Boracay island is still very safe. A lot of police always walking the beach, and even if we were there during the off-peak period – so less people – the police were still very visible.

The water current was pretty strong, so we didn’t stay in the beach too much. Spent more time on the sand and in the hotel pool. Where we stayed, there was a kiddie pool, so kids had more fun and could stay in the shallow pool.

When going around, we take extra care by pairing up. If possible, one adult buddies up with one kid; if not, they pair up and we look after each pair (with our youngest with Des). Works out well, but even with glitches, it still is a good system. We are perfecting it!

Kids love the beach, the pool, Jonah’s fruit shakes. Not so much the sand (I have no idea where that came from), but they get used to it once they are covered in it (haha). It is easier to go to a more developed beach as there is more stuff for the kids to do.

We were even able to try out off-road driving somewhere inland Boracay. We weren’t able to go island hopping this time, as we weren’t too sure when rain would fall (apparently, just a few bursts during the afternoon).

Boracay is always wonderful to visit!

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Big Family Vacations: Baguio

Big Family Vacations: Baguio

One of our favorite spots to go to in the Philippines is Baguio. The summer capital of the country. It used to take 6 hours or more to get there from Manila – because you had to pass through towns and cities along the way, but now, it is much faster.

From North Luzon Expressway, it connects to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway without passing any toll booths so it is quite easy. And the SCTEx connects to the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. And TPLEx now exits at Binalonan, Pangasinan. Which is only about one hour away from Baguio. So a total of 4 hours! So much faster.

This trip we went to some tourist places (which over years of coming to Baguio, we don’t really visit anymore) to let the kids see them – since they can appreciate them now more.

Mansion House, Mines View Park, Good Shepherd, Camp John Hay, Batirol, horseback riding – all such good experiences for the kids. Baguio is only stressful with the traffic situation, but aside from that it is safe, and the kids were happy to enjoy nature and fresh air (though there are a lot of smoke belching vehicles in Baguio nowadays).

Next time we will try strawberry picking in La Trinidad, and maybe the classic Wright Park.

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Ten Years!

Ten Years!

Des and I celebrated our tenth year last September 2. We weren’t planning on anything, as we would both be on mission for most of August (me longer than her), so it would be hard to have something.

But we did decide to have a renewal of wedding vows. Our Parish – The Immaculate Heart of Mary – agreed, and we scheduled it after the morning Mass of that day. Fr. Jovi, our Parish priest would officiate it.

After the Mass, we took our places in front with our parents and our children (already a big wedding party!) and we renewed our vows. Much to my surprise, in Tagalog! Well, here’s to new experiences, right!?

Thank you for the wonderful ten years, babe. This is just the beginning (though let’s give chance to others in regards to more kids)!

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Live Life in the USA

Live Life in the USA

It has been a long month! I am now back behind my desk at the CFC FFL Home Office, and I am still in awe at what actually happened over the past few weeks.

Last month, I went on mission to the USA. We started with 2 LIFT (LCSC Institute for Formation and Training) Training sessions. One in Houston with participants from all across the USA – which was held over the course of 3 whole, jam-packed days. And then in Dallas over three evenings – just focusing on the 4 pillars of LCSC: Live Pure, Live Life, Liturgical Bible Study and No One in Need, and the Servant Leaders Formation program (SeLF).

I presented Live Life and Family and Life Update on both occasions and for the rest of the trip and different appointments and assemblies.

From there, we went on the Cruise Conference of CFC FFL USA. Aside from a presentation of LL there as well, I gave the first session of the Mercy Abounds conference. It was a different experience, actually having a conference on a cruise through Mexico! A captive audience. 🙂

Our schedule went full-blast after that. Flying to New Jersey, taking the train to Maryland. Train back to NJ to catch a flight to Chicago. Flying to San Francisco. Flying to Houston to drive to Rio Grande Valley. Driving back to Houston to fly to Manila. With assemblies, meetings, presentations all along the way.

All the people who helped us, hosted us, listened to us, fed us. You all inspire us to work even harder. The CFC FFL community who embraced this work, and saw how needed it is for the world – you push us even more to do better and improve what we have.

Now, back in Manila, gearing up to do even more.

Thank you. We continue to pray for our community, our work and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

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