Archery at Gandiva Archery Range

My nephew is visiting from the US and I wanted the kids to have a unique activity. I had heard of Gandiva Archery from a friend whose kids had gone. I asked the kids if they wanted to try archery and they said yes. I made reservations for a weekday slot, just to make sure the three of them would be able to go together.

The Gandiva Archery Range is located on the 7th floor of One Corporate Center, Julia Vargas corner Meralco Avenues. The range was empty when we got there, it being a weekday early afternoon. I got them one hour sessions each, which included a set of archery equipment, target face, and safety gears, plus the instructor.

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The kids had fun channelling their inner Katniss, Legolas and Hawkeye. Their arms felt sore afterwards, but they had a lot of fun.

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Comfort Food in My Old ‘Hood

When we were growing up, our area in Marikina was purely residential. We had to drive elsewhere if we wanted to eat out. Nowadays, Lilac Street is lined with restaurants with various food choices. We decided to try out Miguel & Maria for dinner when my brother and his family came over to visit.

Collage_Fotor_FotorWe ate there twice in a week and both times, the place was full! The ambience was homey, perfect for family gatherings. The food can be described as comfort food, food that is familiar, but given a new treatment. Serving sizes are quite generous. On our first visit, we had the tomahawk steak, spiced shrimps and baby back ribs. All of those were delicious! On this particular night, though, we had the roast herbed chicken, the stuffed pork chop and the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was the best of the three. The chicken was good, but the pork chop was a disappointment. It was tough and dry.

For dessert, they had “home crafted ice cream” with unique flavors. We tried the butterbeer and it was yummy! The brownie ala mode, chocolate cake and blueberry cheesecake were also delicious.

Eating in Miguel & Maria is like having a family reunion in your grandparents’ house – good food, homey ambience, great company.

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Still High On Japanese Food: Trying Out Dohtonbori

There’s a new restaurant that opened at the SM North EDSA City Center – Dohtonbori. We weren’t able to eat okonomiyaki (or Japanese savory pancakes) when we went to Japan. Dohtonbori specializes in okonomiyaki, so we decided to give it a try.

Apart from the main dining area, they have a separate room with teppan tables, for a more authentic Japanese experience. You are asked to remove your shoes and leave them in a locker before entering the room. Diners are seated  on the floor around the teppan table.

We ordered the okonomiyaki, gyoza, chicken teppan and katsudon. Aside from the katsudon, everything was cooked in front of us. You can choose to cook it yourself, but this being our first time, we had them cook for us.

Collage_Fotor_FotorThe okonomiyaki was good, but I would have preferred to have more meat in it, instead of having mostly vegetables. The teppan was okay, nothing great. The gyoza was quite dry and bland. The katsudon was okay too.

Collage_Fotor2_FotorIt was a novel experience, but not quite satisfying.

Japanese Cheese Tarts in Manila

During our trip to Japan, we discovered this delicious cheese tart in a convenience store. It had a pastry crust and the filling was very cheesy. To my surprise, I saw an article about some Japanese cheese tarts being sold in Cafe Kumori in SM North EDSA The Block.

Cafe Kumori sells a lot of bread products. I tried out a few of their specialties: the Kumori Signature Hanjuku Cheese (original), the Kumori Signature Cheese Tart, the Crabstick Bun and the Custard Butter mini.

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I tried the cheese tart first. I liked this crust better than the one I tasted in Tokyo because it was sweeter. But the cheese filling here is less cheesy. It was still okay, though. The Hanjuku Cheese was soft and creamy and really melt-in-your-mouth. The crabstick bun was delicious, with generous amounts of crabsticks in it. The custard butter bun was quite plain.

There are still a lot of pastries that I want to try in Cafe Kumori. I hope I will enjoy them as much as I did the cheese tart and the crabstick bun.

Quick Day Trip To Nagcarlan

We are firm believers of domestic tourism. We try to bring the kids to a new town/province/region in the Philippines every year. With the change in the academic calendar, vacation was pushed to the rainy season, so we didn’t make plans to go far. I chose Nagcarlan, Laguna as our local destination this year. Our good friend, Amie Malabag-Hernandez, was recently elected as the Vice-Mayor of Nagcarlan. I got in touch with her and she agreed to meet us.

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With Vice Mayor-elect Amie Hernandez

Amie first brought us to the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. It is the only underground cemetery in the Philippines. During the Philippine Revolution, the cemetery served as a meeting place of leaders of the Katipunan. It also served as hideout during the Philippine-American War and World War II.

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Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

We also visited a candy-making factory and the vegetable tram which was high up in the mountains.

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For our last stop before lunch, Amie brought us to the Nagcarlan Forest Resort. Aside from the usual swimming pools, this one had a stream of running water. The water was cool. Too bad we weren’t ready for swimming.

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Nagcarlan Forest Resort

By then, we were famished. Amie brought us to what used to be an abandoned warehouse, but is now a “boodle fight” restaurant. Boodle fight is how soldiers eat – the rice and viands are placed on banana leaves in the middle of the table and each one gets from there and eat with their bare hands. The food was delicious!

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Boodle fight!

Our last stop in Nagcarlan was the San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church. It is a beautifully-preserved church. The original floor tiles from Talavera, Spain are still there on the walls. This church was used as setting for “Kampanerang Kuba”, the movie which starred Vilma Santos, as well as the television series which starred Anne Curtis.

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San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church

This trip was very educational and fun for all of us. Thank you to our very gracious host, Amie, for a day of discovery.

 

 

A Convenient One-Stop Shop for Government Services

I used to dread having to avail of government services. Lines are long, offices are hot and uncomfortable, employees are grouchy. I needed to send something by mail, but I didn’t want to have to go to the post office. I was even willing to pay more to send it by courier, but the courier said they did not deliver to that particular area. I asked the ladies in the information desk of SM North EDSA if there was a post office within the mall. She wasn’t sure, but she said I could try looking in the basement of the Annex.

I’m in the mall fairly often, but I have not seen any post office there. The guard pointed me to the very end of the Annex, just before the bowling alley. You wouldn’t think there was anything beyond the two guards posted. You enter a corridor and at the end, you will see this:

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With SM Government Service Express, now you can transact with these offices in the comfort of a mall. The offices were lined up against the walls, leaving lots of seats in the middle for the customers. When I got there on a weekday afternoon, there were hardly any people. So I was able to mail my parcel in a minute.

Thank you to SM Malls and the government for finding new ways to serve the public and to make their services more readily accessible to everyone.

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Tips for Travelling to Japan

Our trip to Japan was a DIY project. I researched on what sites to see, how to get to each destination, where to eat. Here is a compilation of the tips that helped us in this trip:

  1. Apply for your Japanese visa 60 days before your scheduled trip. Get the forms from accredited travel agencies. Complete all the forms and submit them. Make sure you fill in all the blanks. You will also need to submit your planned itinerary, copies of your tax returns, and certifications from your bank. Allot 6 – 10 working days from the time you submit your application to the time you get your passports back. Also make sure that your passport is not yet expired.
  2. Order Japanese yen from your bank. Some banks require a few days to a week.
  3. If you are going to take the Keisei Skyliner from the Narita Airport to Tokyo, it would be cheaper if you booked your tickets online.
  4. Consider getting a hotel close to most of your destinations. We always choose a hotel that is close to a major train or subway station.
  5. Get a Suica card or its equivalent. These are reloadable cards which you can use to pay for train/bus/subway tickets or even convenience stores. This saves you time since you don’t have to line up to buy tickets. Consume it to the last yen, if possible. Before leaving Japan, you can return the cards for a refund of JPY500. You are charged JPY220 if your remaining balance is more than that.
  6. Order a rental pocket wifi. I rented a unit from Pupuru. This will come in handy when you are trying to access Google Maps or any navigation guide. I had the unit delivered to the hotel so it was ready when we arrived. Before leaving, I placed it in an envelope that they provided and had the hotel drop it in the mailbox for return.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. You will do a lot of walking.
  8. Don’t be afraid to try small restaurants in the side streets. Food is delicious and prices are lower. Even the sushi and onigiri sold in convenience stores, department store basements and train stations are delicious.
  9. Depending on your itinerary, you might want to consider getting a Tokyo Metro 24-hour pass for unlimited subway rides. I think there are also passes for multiple days.
  10. If you are a fan of outlet shopping, you might want to schedule a trip to Gotemba Premium Outlets. You have the added bonus of having Mt. Fuji as your backdrop while you shop. Prices are generally not as low as those in the US outlets, although there were some stores that offered great deals. You can get to Gotemba by bus or by train. I booked our roundtrip bus tickets online before leaving Manila.

Japan is a very nice vacation destination. We hope to return there someday soon.