Our Valentine’s Weekend Staycation at F1 Hotel

My husband and I are both musicians, and that means that our work schedule is unpredictable compared to office work. It also means that during weekends and holidays, we are often working while others are taking a break from their jobs. Valentine’s Day is definitely an occasion during which, more often than not, musicians are working rather than dating. Lucky for me and Casey, since we both are musicians, we can have a work date (which while fun, is not as fun as a date date, but at least we’re together). Haha. This year though, Casey managed to inject a huge dose of romance into our Valentine’s work date by surprising me with a string quartet arrangement of one of my favorite songs! He had been spending hours on his computer the past few days before Valentine’s, and I thought he was playing games, but it turns out he was busy arranging a song for me, which we played during our Valentine’s Day set. Suffice to say, we had a great Valentine’s Day. He also bought us a voucher for an overnight stay at F1 Hotel in BGC, which we were able to use last Sunday.

string quartet Philippines Manila String Machine

Valentine’s Day surpriseHappy family Valentine’s Day

We got a Deluxe Room, which was spacious enough for the three of us. I requested for a crib for Wolf, which at first lacked a piece in its base. We called room service, and they were quick to replace the crib’s base. Overall, I was happy with the room, which was styled nicely and was spotless. The bed was very comfortable, with pristine sheets and pillows with just the right amount of fluff. The towels and bath robes were soft and thick. We had a few minor issues — the floor was fake wood and not carpeted, the bathroom had no tub (making it more challenging to bathe Wolf), and the aircon placement resulted in a draft on one side of the bed.

I took a few pictures but was not able to fix the lighting, because Wolf was not enjoying his crib and wanted me to carry him (as you will clearly see in the pictures). Haha.

F1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe RoomF1 Hotel Deluxe Room

For dinner, we walked over to High Street. BGC on Sundays is great for strolling around, as there are few cars and lots of dogs, which Wolf enjoyed seeing. With the many restaurants, malls, and bars in BGC, you won’t run out of things to do when you stay at F1. We decided to have dinner at Sunnies Cafe, so we could avail of their Buy 1 Take 1 Ricotta Pancakes promo via the Booky app. Aside from the pancakes, we ordered fried chicken and carbonara. Little did we know, one order of pancakes was a stack of four! We ended up having the second order to go. It was our first time in Sunnies, and we enjoyed the food and ambience. Wolf enjoyed their nice wooden high chair and gobbled up a bit of everything we ordered!

At Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies Cafe

At Sunnies Cafe

At Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies CafeAt Sunnies Cafe

We went back to the hotel happily full, and Wolf promptly fell asleep, dutifully giving his parents some quality time alone. What a good little boy. Hehe. The next day, we went down for buffet breakfast a bit late. We got there past 9:30 and the buffet was closing at 10:00 (last call)! It was like one of those timed shopping sprees, wherein you just dump as much as you can into your cart. I got a bit of almost everything and ended up with a plate overflowing with food. Casey had no trouble piling his plate with his usual fare — bacon, sausages, eggs. The food was pretty good. Of note was the bacon that was quite crispy, the scrambled eggs that were creamy, and the cold cuts and cheese selection, which although limited was of good quality and paired very nicely with the breakfast rolls.

Breakfast at F1 Hotel

F1 Hotel breakfast buffet

After breakfast, we tried out their pool. Among their three pools, I chose to try their 4-foot one with Wolf so I could carry him easily in the water. The water was way too cold, unfortunately, and so we didn’t stay long. Next time, we will look for hotels with indoor heated pools so that Wolf can stay longer in the water.

F1 Hotel poolF1 Hotel pool

Checking out of the hotel was a breeze, and we appreciated being granted a late checkout of 1 pm, especially since Wolf decided to nurse after swimming, leaving me no time to put on makeup or even brush my hair! Haha. We didn’t bring a car, but getting an Uber was quite easy. One of the big advantages of F1 Hotel is its prime location in the heart of BGC. I’d love to have another staycation in the area, and I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to F1 Hotel. It was a Happy Valentine’s Weekend indeed!

At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel At F1 Hotel


My Unpleasant Experience Breastfeeding at Venice Piazza

In the Philippines, most people are quite supportive of mothers who nurse in public. A mother has the right to breastfeed anywhere and in any manner she chooses. Our law safeguards this right. One of the objectives of RA 10028 is “to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the Philippines as the normal, natural and preferred method of feeding infants and young children.” The most natural way to breastfeed a child is actually without any cloth obstructing or covering the breast. For those who have never breastfed, using a cover may not seem like a difficult thing to do, but often, the cloth of nursing blouses inhibits a baby’s access to milk, while nursing covers make babies sweat profusely (actually, even without a cover, they usually tend to sweat more while nursing, and that’s why I need to always have a fan on hand when I’m with Wolf). Older babies usually will not tolerate being covered.

Wolf always takes off the cover, and so I have done away with using one. I bought several nursing blouses and dresses, which ensure that when I breastfeed in public, there is little to no flesh revealed. I use nursing wear not because I’m conservative (I’m actually quite the opposite), but because I want to avoid unwanted attention and possible conflict. The point is, when I breastfeed in public, it’s pretty discreet. And for one whole year, I received zero negative comments. That changed last Friday, when I had my first unpleasant experience breastfeeding in public.

We were having early dinner at Venice Piazza in BGC. It was our first time in this mall, and we went there because it was right across where we had our gig earlier that day. We were with our fellow musician friends at the food court.

Venice Piazza food court

We had just sat down at our table, and I decided to nurse Wolf. I was wearing a maxi nursing dress. The little flesh that was revealed while nursing was mostly blocked by Wolf’s head. Honestly, you’d have to be really looking closely to notice that I was feeding Wolf (most of the time people think he’s just asleep in my arms). So I was surprised when a guard approached me to tell me off for nursing in the food court. He told me that there’s a nursing room in the mall. I said that I’m fine nursing where I am. He told me that I have to go to the nursing room and that “bawal dito” (nursing isn’t allowed in the food court). I said, I am allowed to nurse anywhere. It’s my right. It’s in our law. He refused to back down, and Casey and our other friends stepped in. They said that there’s nothing wrong or indecent with what I’m doing. The guard insisted that I need to leave as it is their policy, and so Casey told the guard to call his supervisor. The guard was hesitant, but the supervisor had already spotted the altercation and approached us. The supervisor apologized to Casey, saying that the guard was new and didn’t know the protocol. However, the supervisor said, “baka pwedeng takpan” (perhaps she can use a cover). Casey then said, “Eh paano kung ayaw niya? Choice niya yun. Okay lang sa’min. Kung hindi okay sa inyo, huwag na lang kayo tumingin” (What if she doesn’t want to use a cover? That’s her choice. It’s fine with us. If it isn’t fine with you, just don’t look). The two men still looked like they wanted to disagree, but at this point, Wolf ended his nursing session. I don’t know if he was really full already, or if he was just annoyed at the nosy guards. Haha. The guards finally left us to order and eat in peace.

You may wonder, why didn’t I just go to the nursing room? Well, that would have been highly inconvenient and stressful. I was already hungry. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day and it was already 5 pm. It would have taken longer for me to be able to eat if I left the food court. If I forced Wolf to unlatch so we could transfer, he would have cried. Also, I wanted to be with my friends. Nursing takes up a lot of time, and if I were to always nurse in isolation, I would miss a lot of the rare opportunities I have these days to interact with fellow adults. Given this line of thought, you can see how forcing mothers to nurse away from the community can trigger postpartum depression and other negative emotions.

The guards had no right to tell me where and how I should feed my child. It’s truly deplorable how the sexualization of women’s breasts has made breastfeeding in public seem unnatural, when it is actually one of the most natural and instinctive human behaviors. I hope never to experience such closed-mindedness again. And if you are a nursing mom who nurses in public and you find yourself in the area of BGC, I suggest that you steer clear of Venice Piazza to avoid possible unnecessary stress!

Food, Parenting, Travel

Our Family Staycation at Hotel Jen

Last Sunday, we kicked off the new year with a staycation at Hotel Jen. My dad and his wife, Tita Josie, gave us a gift certificate for an overnight stay at a Deluxe Room. The funny thing is Hotel Jen is right across Casey’s work place, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). So as we drove to the hotel, he felt like he was on the way to work. Haha.

Although Hotel Jen is under the Shangri-la group, it is just a four-star hotel, unlike the Shangri-la hotels in Edsa, Makati, and BGC, which are five-star establishments. The branding of Hotel Jen is hip and urban. They seem to be targeting yuppies. Given the four-star rating, we were not expecting Hotel Jen to be faultless. We had, for example, to take into account that the building was quite old, as it was formerly Traders Hotel. I hoped that we would not be assigned to one of the refurbished rooms, but alas, that is what we got.

The corridor of our floor smelled musty and was dimly lit. The room itself seemed a bit worn down, but it was clean and spacious. The bed was comfortable and had pristine sheets. Wolf highly enjoyed the crib that they provided, as it was just the right height for him to peep over at us. The bathroom was a bit small but well equipped with basic toiletries, a tub and shower, and hot water. Funnily enough, the toilet was exactly the same model as our toilet at home. The view outside was terrible, in Casey’s opinion, at least. It was a view of CCP. He didn’t look out the window even once. Haha.

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The food at the breakfast buffet of Hotel Jen was, unfortunately, several notches below the food at Shangri-la group’s five star hotels. The bread was dry, and the bacon was not crispy. The spread of dishes was limited and unremarkable. The only part of breakfast that I enjoyed was my omelette, which was prepared fresh at the egg station. The eggs were perfectly fluffy and creamy.

Hotel Jen has an outdoor pool, and so Wolf was able to swim for the second time in his life. Unfortunately, the water was quite chilly, and so we didn’t stay long.

Hotel Jen outdoor pool

What Hotel Jen lacked in accommodations and food, they made up for in service. All the staff members were cheerful and attentive. Booking a room, checking in, and checking out were a breeze, as the receptionists, guards, and cleaning staff all worked efficiently.

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Jen, because Wolf liked the new environment, because the bed was quite comfortable, and because service was excellent. However, I don’t think we will go back unless we are assured of better accommodations. I’m not sure if all their rooms are merely refurbished or if they actually have newly built rooms. This is something you should definitely ask if you plan to stay at this hotel. It’s ironic that Hotel Jen’s branding is youthful and fun, but their building and rooms are old and worn down.

Although we may not return to Hotel Jen, we are excited to try other hotels soon. The staycation was a great way for us to relax and enjoy some family time (aka time away from Casey’s computer and PS4). Haha! Here’s to more staycations this 2018!

Mom and babyMom, dad, and baby


Wolf’s Cookie Monster-Themed First Birthday Party

Happy New Year! 2017 was a great year for me, because it was a whole year spent with my baby Wolf! We celebrated his first birthday party last December 26. The feeling of satisfaction after the party outclassed what I felt after our wedding, surprisingly. I think it’s because this time around, I was much more confident about taking the reins in planning the event. I conceptualized and coordinated all the details. We did away with hiring a stylist, a coordinator, and even a host. I did a lot of DIY elements, and several family members also contributed DIY stuff, resulting in a heartfelt event with lots of personal touches. Our theme was Cookie Monster, because early on, Wolf would giggle whenever we would make Cookie Monster sounds. My cousin and godfather to Wolf, Kitt, made a cute digital invitation. I made table centerpieces featuring cutouts of Cookie Monster, cookies, and milk. I cut out monster eyes for the loot bags. I also made cookie bean bags while my sister and one of Wolf’s godmothers, Jica, made a monster box for a Cookie Toss game. My cousin (also Wolf’s godmother), Mei-mei, made scrumptious cookie inception giveaways and bought game prizes. She also did my makeup for the party. Another cousin, Li-an, made Wolf’s Cookie Monster cake that impressed many guests. My MIL, Julie, and my sister, Melay, both baked lots of yummy cookies to add to our dessert table. All these personal elements made our party so much sweeter!

Cookie Monster birthday invite Cookie Monster birthday table centerpieces Cookie Monster birthday loot bags Cookie Monster birthday party game DIYCookie Monster birthday giveawaysCookie Monster birthday cake

The event wasn’t 100% DIY, though. That would have been way too ambitious for me, not to mention stressful, given the season. We outsourced our venue, catering, ceiling decor, dessert table, photo booth, photographer, and mascot. I am quite satisfied with the suppliers we hired. They all met or even exceeded expectations.

Venue: Kidzooona, Century City Mall


I originally thought of holding Wolf’s party at Gymboree. Luckily, I stumbled upon Kidzooona in Edsa Shangri-la, because I was looking for Gymboree there and found out that the former had replaced the latter. When I saw what Kidzooona had to offer, I realized that it was a much better party venue than Gymboree, because it catered to both young and old kids, whereas Gymboree was limited to toddlers.

Kidzooona is an awesome indoor playground. A Japanese brand, Kidzooona now has branches all over the Philippines. By the way, the correct spelling is Kidzooona, not Kidzoona. It’s odd to have a triple o, I know, but the Japanese are odd in many wonderful ways. Haha.

We chose to have our party at the Century City Mall branch due to its accessible location, spacious layout, and brand new facilities. The staff were also very accommodating. During the party, kids and adults alike enjoyed the venue. The only hitch we encountered was a mix-up in ingress time that resulted in our party beginning late. Although we confirmed with the manager that our party is from 10 am to 1 pm, they mistook 11 am for the start time, and so they were not able to let the other suppliers set up early enough. Since the mix-up was the fault of the venue, we were allowed to party until 2 pm.

For me, the best thing about Kidzooona is that it’s not only a venue; it’s also the main source of entertainment. I didn’t bother hiring a host or magician, because I knew that kids would already be ecstatic with the many activities in the playground. Our program was simple. We had one game for kids, a Sack Relay with Cookie Toss (kids had to shoot cookie bean bags into our Cookie Monster box). Then we had a game for adults, Cookie Face (they had to get a cookie from their foreheads into their mouths using only their facial muscles). After the games, the Kidzooona mascot, Lala Chan, came out to greet Wolf. Then we had a prayer led by our friend and godfather, Ted. We sang Happy Birthday, and Cookie Monster came out to join us. We had candle-blowing, then had lunch. After lunch, Cookie Monster had a dance number, then Wolf tasted his first ever cookie! Throughout the program, kids and adults were free to roam around and play.

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Catering: The Creamery Catering


I found out about Creamery through Kidzooona, as the former is one of the venue’s accredited caterers. Our original plan was just to order KFC or Burger King for our food and then rent table cloths and chair covers for the tables and chairs in Kidzooona. Unfortunately, there were no covers available for rent on our party date. My mom then volunteered to help us pay for catering as her gift to Wolf. Who needs Santa when you have Grandma?! Haha.

Out of all the accredited caterers of Kidzooona, only Creamery had decent table set-ups for me. We were not able to schedule a food tasting session, because Creamery couldn’t accommodate any food tasting sessions for December due to the busy season. I picked our menu items based on recommendations online and suggestions from our account executive, Kath. It was very difficult to communicate with her online, as her replies were usually delayed and incomplete. I suspect the peak season was the culprit. Finalizing our menu was also cumbersome, because the dishes were not categorized according to price tier. We needed to request customized costing for each and every menu combination.

At the end of the day though, catering is about food, and for their price point, the food did not disappoint. We had burger sliders, basil butter rice, corn and carrots, boneless chicken barbecue, pork pot roast, spaghetti, house blend iced tea, and double chocolate Oreo tarts. Guests were fans of the burger sliders, chicken barbecue, and spaghetti. I would say that Creamery is a good choice for birthday parties. It would be great though if they could organize their menu items so that menu costing would be more efficient.

Cookie Monster birthday party table set-upCreamery catering Creamery catering

Decorations: Faye’s Balloon World


Faye’s Balloon World is one of Kidzooona’s accredited balloon suppliers. I chose them because their set-ups were the nicest for me. I honestly found the other options tacky. I actually took extra care in conceptualizing the balloon decor, because decorating with balloons can end up looking cheap and unoriginal. For our ceiling decor, I emphasized that I do not want it to be cluttered, and I want a good balance of balloons, paper lanterns, pompoms, and banderitas. They did an excellent job executing my ideas. The ceiling decor was one of my favorite aspects of the party.

We also availed of a dessert table from them. I wanted our dessert table to feature more cookies, naturally. They were able to do this and more. From the customized cupcakes and cookies, to the cute backdrop, the dessert table was a hit with our guests and worth the price we paid.

Among all our suppliers, I had the easiest time coordinating with Junna of Faye’s Balloon World. Despite the busy season, she was able to respond promptly and comprehensively to my many queries, and she was very helpful in suggesting ideas based on her expertise. On the day itself, they were the first suppliers at the venue, arriving even before the catering. Junna helped set up not just their dessert table but also our table of giveaways and loot bags. She really went over and beyond what was required. Faye’s Balloon World is highly recommended!

Cookie Monster birthday party ceiling decorationCookie Monster birthday party dessert buffet Cookie Monster birthday party dessert buffetCookie Monster birthday party dessert buffet Cookie Monster birthday party dessert buffet Cookie Monster birthday party

Photo booth: Get Snappy


Get Snappy is a new business venture of Wolf’s godfather, Chino. We decided to get them because I trust the design sense of Chino and his wife, Ida (the photographer at my maternity shoot and Wolf’s shoots). The last time I hired a photo booth was for our wedding. I remembered how difficult it was for me then to get our wedding photo booth design to look sophisticated. I didn’t want to experience again the inconvenience of dealing with a graphic artist with questionable taste, which is unfortunately the case with many photo booth design staff.

As I expected, Get Snappy’s design of our photo booth layout was on point. I gave them my pegs that had a rustic crafty feel, and they delivered exactly what I envisioned. Our photo booth backdrop was cheesecloth with strips of blue and brown banderitas. One of the best aspects of our photo booth was that our props were customized in line with our theme — we had cookies, Cookie Monster headpieces, and Sesame Street signs. Our guests enjoyed posing with the different props.

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Photography: PhotoStreamer


It was a last-minute decision to hire a photographer, but I do not regret it one bit. At first, I thought we wouldn’t need one, as we can just ask our guests to take lots of pictures. Then I realized that this would be leaving too much to chance. There were so many elements of the party that I wanted to document, and without a dedicated photographer, many details may end up not getting preserved.

PhotoStreamer was recommended on online forums, and so I checked out their photos online and was satisfied with what I saw. We had Mike as our photographer. He arrived early and immediately began taking shots. He stayed until the event ended, and although that would’ve counted as overtime, he did not charge us extra. He was able to send the digital files the next day. The photos were crisp and captured well the details of our event. Although most of the photos were simple shots taken purely for documentation, there were a few that were shot with a high level of artistry. For their price point, we were very satisfied with Mike’s work.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

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Mascot: Splurge in Memories (SIM)


I found Splurge in Memories through a Google search. They were the only ones I found that had a Cookie Monster mascot that did not look malnourished. Haha. I had a very difficult time contacting them, as their Facebook page was down, and they were not responding through Viber. I contacted the owner, Robert, through Facebook, and finally got a reply. Robert would take long to reply to my queries and requests, but because SIM Mascots had the only decent-looking Cookie Monster mascot, I persisted. In fact, I think that all their mascots are quite nice relative to those of their competitors.

Our Cookie Monster mascot was a hit during the party, with children and adults alike having their photos taken with him. However, they were unable to bring music for the dance number, and so the mascot had to take a break first while we looked for a song to play. He made a second appearance after lunch for his dance number. Robert actually told me prior to the event that I can give them my choice of song for the dance, but my choice was not relayed to his crew member. There really were many gaps in communication with SIM, but we were happy nonetheless with their service during the party. Even the staff of Kidzooona were taking videos of Cookie Monster dancing! A mascot is not really necessary, but it was a great decision to splurge a bit to get our special furry guest.

Cookie Monster birthday partyCookie Monster birthday party

And that rounds up our suppliers for the party. All six helped make our party such fun! I knew that the party was a success when adults commented that it was well-planned and when a kid exclaimed, “Best party ever!” Haha. Even my husband, who initially was hesitant to throw a party, on the ride home was already thinking of venues for Wolf’s next party. Hahaha. Well, given the difficulty of planning amid the Christmas rush, we’re not sure when the next party will be, but we surely have no regrets celebrating Wolf’s first birthday with a monsterrific bash!

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