Excellent Service!

We came back from Australia and my heart has been full. I have nothing but praises for the Sydney hotel we stayed in.

Traveling with 2 young children means traveling heavy. It means expecting occasional melt downs, and setting aside your own personal expectations. Reality it is tiring but also super fulfilling.

So let me tell you about our trip. When we arrived in Sydney, the kids were already feeling a little tired from the plane ride. It was not helping that the taxi drivers there drive fast and press heavy on the brakes. My children were complaining that they were car sick.

Arriving at Sofitel Wentworth, my son was crying because his stomach was upset from the taxi ride and he was ready to vomit. The bellboy who picked up our luggage was quick to give my son bottled water.  Anna was also about to start a melt down and so I walked with her to the front desk to check in. Their front desk happens to be a Filipino and she was super accommodating. She gave Anna chocolates while we were being processed to get to our room.  She offered me Accor membership and gave us a special deal for breakfast. She also gave us a guide where to walk around. It was such a pleasant check in experience.

However going up to our room, Anna started to snap and cry. She was tired and she was behaving in such a disobedient manner. We were getting impatient with her and warned her a discipline would come. As we arrived to our room, Marcus the bell boy saw Anna in full crying mode. I was of course embarrassed that I could not keep her quiet. Marcus was kind to help us with our luggage and strollers.

About 30 minutes later, we had a knock at the door. When we opened it was Marcus with a teddy bear for Anna! He asked for Anna and gave her that gift and encouraged her not to cry anymore and to enjoy her stay in Sofitel. I was so impressed by their genuine kindness.

Sydney is beautiful and our hotel is a 8 minute walk to see the Harbour Bridge and a 12 minute walk to the Opera House. The hotel location is so conveniently close to many beautiful museums by walk or by train.

But what got me most on this trip is Sofitel’s service and hospitality. On our last evening in Sydney, we came home almost 11pm. I decided to process our check out and book a ride to the airport. As I was checking out, the front desk assisted another guest making me wait for my bill. My little girl wanted to rest and I really wanted to settle the bill first because we leave by 9 am. The front desk seeing my change of mood, was very apologetic. When the front desk staff completed my check out, he gave me chocolates again and apologizing for the delay. I thanked him and I rushed upstairs to finish packing again.

The next morning, I woke up early and I saw this letter on the floor.

I call this thoughtfulness — great hospitality. I felt so special and sincerely cared for by the people who work in this hotel. This gesture just made me want to vote them as the best hotel we experienced in Australia.

SOFITEL Sydney Wentworth, I salute you for your warmth and excellent service! I will never forget Sydney because of you!

Flying without my daughter

I had to attend the ASEAN Tourism Forum and it meant flying to Manila. I decided to just leave the children because I would be gone for just 3 nights. The biggest challenge for me was leaving my 1 year old baby who is still exclusively breastfed. This will be our very first time to separate from each other in a year.

 I bought my little Anna the sippy cup, a cup with straw because she opposed the bottle. We tried introducing her to formula and she just refused the formula milk. I thought, she won’t take it because I am still around. She would however sip duchmill yogurt drink (which she learned from her older brother). I bought 2 kinds of formula so she can choose which one she prefers while I am away. I also left several of my clothing that I have not laundered so she could have a sense of comfort when she smells me.

  
The night before I left, my little girl may have sensed it because she just fed almost every hour. I could not sleep! I did not have any spare breastmilk stored because once babies start to eat, supply usually deplete. 

I called a friend who left their daughter for a trip and she said that her daughter took the formula because she had no choice. They were gone for a week or even longer and their baby adjusted. So I trusted her advise and I also got this confirmation from another close friend who had the same experience. 

I left for Manila and focused on the sales mission for the next couple of days. I called to check on my Anna. I found out on the first day she was on full protest and did not drink from any of the sippy cups, nor from the bottle. She went on the whole day without milk and just munched away on food. I honestly started to worry.

  
Day 2- I learned that at 6 am she was supposed to take milk in between her sleep. However,  she did not. She woke up,  ate food and went back to bed. She was still protesting taking the formula milk. I had to start researching and learned that as long as she is eating a lot, she should be fine. So I relaxed. 

Meanwhile in Manila I had to express milk because my breasts were feeling painful. I was able to store some milk and many I had to throw away. 

Day 3 – I learned my strong-willed Anna just continued to refuse the milk that was given to her. I could not believe that she has reached this far without milk. She is well behaved but would cry before sleeping because usually we are cuddling so she could sleep. At night she won’t sleep early. She would stay up till 11pm and ask to go outside. There she would call “Mama… Mama…”. When I heard that, I felt that maybe she was waiting and hoping I would be home that night. I felt so bad to hear that report. 😢

Day 4- I could not sleep. I kept thinking of my children and how excited I am to see them. I wondered if Anna would still breastfeed when she sees me… I took the 6:35 am flight so I could be home the soonest that I could. I am missing my family.

As soon as arrived home, my son rushed shouting “Mommy!” … On the sideline with smiles and giggles was my baby girl who stood her ground to not drink any milk. She was so happy to see me that she positioned herself ready for breastfeeding. And that’s pretty much what she wanted to do all day was stick by me and latch!  

  This trip made me learn a few things about my daughter… When she sets her mind on something, she will stick to it no matter what. So for now we are going to continue breastfeeding until she is more ready to wean.

Family trips: Manila Zoo

I thank God for giving me a husband who is excited to give his children an amazing experience. Going some distance and over some traffic is no big deal, as long as the family gets to experience something great together.

I was amazed on one weekend that Steve decided to bring us all to Manila Zoo. I was not sure what we would be seeing but the opportunity to show real animals to the kids, especially to Joshua, meant learning! Animals in our picture books are no match to the real thing. 

  
The entrance fee was only P50. I was so surprised how orderly and clean Manila Zoo is. It is the oldest zoo in South East Asia and has been operating since 1959.

We were able to see the controversial elephant Mali. She is a lone elephant whose residence is a cemented structure. There were volunteers who were feeding her and showering her water to keep her cool from the heat. She is controversial because many want her to be transferred to real Elephant sanctuary (like Thailand) where she can live a more normal elephant life with other elephants. She has been in captivity for more than 40 years. It makes me wonder if she can still adapt with others after being so alone for all these years.

  
Daddy took Joshua to meet different animals. We got to see different kinds of birds (peacocks, flamencos, etc) and see how big ostriches are… 

 
The Manila zoo is a 5.5 hectare park. It is so nice to walk around because of all the trees and the greens found inside. You can also tell that the animals are also well fed.

   
 
  

Daddy Steve showed Joshua the deers, crocodiles, turtles, monkeys, lion and Tigers. But I think the most fun part was touching the animals while taking a photo with them!  Inside you will find a photobooth where you can take photos with different birds. Look, Joshua held a bird in his hand and Anna had one on her head! 

  
Manila Zoo also sold refreshments inside and for sure you will need water. Walking around the zoo can make you a bit thirsty!  

I love how Joshua now realizes the cartoon videos we watch on his tablet like “5 Little Monkeys” are just inspired from the real thing. He actually felt a little concerned that real monkeys don’t look as friendly as the one on his video.

   
 
I love Manila Zoo because it is stroller-friendly too. Even our little Anna can enjoy just strolling around this park. 

   

And before leaving Manila Zoo, we took another family photo this time with some albino Python snake. Joshua did not get scared, he actually held it too! 

  I recommend the Manila Zoo for family bonding trips. It was interesting and educational for our little boy, and it was good fun for us all. I was actually happy to see how clean and well maintained Manila Zoo is. 

If you plan to visit, here are some information you need:

Location: Quirino Ave., Adriatico St., Malate Manila Luzon Philippines (corner of Mabini St. and Harrison St.)

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily 

Telephone numbers: (632) 400-1884  or (632) 522-6179 

Sarangani my child’s teacher about the environment

Sarangani is a beautiful province located In southern Philippines. It has mountains, waterfalls, rivers, coastlines, and the beautiful Sarangani Bay. The biodiversity in this province is rich, but is in need for protection. 

About 4 out of 5 sea turtle species are actually laying their eggs in its coast. Mostly Olive Ridley, Hawks Bill, and Green turtle are still hatching on beaches of Sarangani.  In Maitum, they have two turtle hatcheries or turtle sanctuaries. 

I brought Joshua for the first time to the Turtle sanctuary and it was his first time to see so many little hatchlings. I explained to him that turtles give birth to baby turtles by laying eggs.  And when they are ready, they are able to get out of the egg and go straight to the ocean. The ocean is their home.

   
 There were baby turtles in the aquarium and he saw them swimming around. He found them really cute! Joshua got more excited when I told him he was allowed to choose one turtle that he would help get back to the ocean. 

He was a little scared to hold them because they were moving so quickly. Finally he got himself one turtle that he would release to the wild. 

   
  

  
 We released our chosen turtles on the beach and they crawled towards the water and swam. Josh watched his turtle go. He was concerned actually if his turtle will be okay. They looked so small in front a huge ocean. Reality is only 1% per batch of hatchlings survive. (It is an alarming low percentage!)
This is why Josh now knows we have to do all we can to help turtles survive. In fact, he cried hard when we left. He wanted all the baby turtles released in the wild. It actually was the right thing to do. Marine scientists will concur that the sooner the turtles get to the wild the better are their possibility to fend for themselves and survive. 

  
Sarangani was our teacher that day about turtles and our environment. I believe if we pass on these values about caring about the environment at a young age, children will grow up doing so. I was about 8 years old when school explained the hole in the ozone layer causing the greenhouse effect. Garbage also directly correlates with destruction of the environment and adding to carbon footprints. That information has impacted me personally.

Now, I want my children to have that same values and conviction of loving and protecting the environment. And lucky me because my children will learn a lot of these in Sarangani.

Family Time at City of Dreams Manila

I did not realize that it has been 5 months since I last went to Manila. This is our first travel as a family of 4. Anna who is known for her opera singing a.k.a crying spell went to Manila for the first time at 2months  old. Thank God she was a good girl on the plane! 



We looked forward to this short break to spend time with family, especially with my sister-in-law, Samantha, who now resides in Australia. They are in the Philippines for a short visit and it is an opportuned time for us to introduce our new baby Anna.

The newest buzz in Manila is the opening of the  City of Dreams complex. We have been to City of Dreams in Macau and we enjoyed the entertainment it offers the family. Unlike the old days where casinos were just for gamblers, now it’s concept has evolved to cater to entertain the entire family. 

This facade is adding flare and glamour to Manila Bay. A complex of 6 hectares is operating a hotel, casino, shopping malls, and an array of restaurants and cafes. It also has an area specific for entertainment such as night clubs, shows, and even a Dream works amusement center for the kids to enjoy.

This investment is quite big and has the stamp of excellence just like the City of Dreams in Macau. There are shuttling of buses from airport to City of dreams.  I am very impressed with the architecture and the interiors. What was a planned lunch for the family became a 5 hour stay… Yet it was not enough! 



 Some restaurants have opened and it included a Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and continental cuisine. The family chose to eat at Erwin’s…the food served were burger, pizza, steaks, and salads.



After lunch we were given an opportunity to see the soft opening of the amusement center called Dream Play. Dreamworks characters are inspiring the themed center with rock climbing, slides and canopy walks, rides, 3D theater show, and even their own retaurants including ginger bread’s bakery. 



They were on dry run so not everything was opened. It was a look and see of what it could be. It was good fun especially for kids above 3ft! I would suggest it for 3 year old and above! 

What I loved about the place was how they considered every detail. Like providing a mothers lounge for breast feeding moms like me. I took our 2 month old Anna with us and having that mothers lounge helped me feed and change my infant while my toddler kept on playing! 




It is impossible not to return to this place because they make it a whole lot of fun for the entire family. I look forward to going back and discover more of what City of Dreams can offer.

Its okay to play with sand

February and LOVE goes very well together. Both have the following ingredients to a great short vacation — Great weather, white sand beach, and a wedding. Yes, it so happens that the youngest sister of my husband has decided to have a destination wedding in Boracay Island. Our little boy will play a role as a ring bearer on that special day.

It will be our first time as a family to go to Boracay. The travel was a long one for us. We had to drive to Davao then take a plane from Davao to Cebu. From Cebu we get a connecting flight to Caticlan. Then lastly a boat ride from Caticlan to the main island. Oh well, even with the long travel, we were excited to be with family.

Joshua’s first beach experience was in Gumasa, Glan. He was so young though. He was only 5 months that time. This time, he is much older and I think will appreciate the beach even more!

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Sand challenge
We as parents have been so careful about cleanliness and hygiene. Especially after Joshua got sick with ameobiasis we became even more cautious. So many times we warn Joshua about dirt and not to touch it. So, for the first time, Joshua was allowed to go freely and touch the sand. However, we found him in full restraint and even dislike playing with the sand. He wanted sand to be taken off from his feet and just wanted to be carried. Oh-oh!!!

Steve being the strongest figure in our son’s life was the only person who could break that “scary sand” mindset. So daddy, took time to play and introduce the powdery white sand of Boracay to Josh.

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It was not long, Josh was finally under the sand! Thanks to daddy and his uncles, Joshua was able to conquer his fear.

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Boracay is really a place for babies to learn to love the beach. Its cold, fine sand just appeals to kids of all ages. Its also a good place to help strict parents like us to just chill and take a break. It gave us a chance for our little boy to enjoy just being a baby boy. Thank God for precious moments like this.

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Joshua walking on sand

Dreamworks Package

When we went to Macao in November, we got a Dreamworks Package from Holiday Inn Hotel. It included a Shrekfast and tickets to Ice World. It made my baby enjoy Macao. Often times we associate Macao with just Casinos, but there is more to Macao.

It will be Joshua’s first time to attend a themed breakfast. I felt so excited. The breakfast would include live appearances of Dreamworks cartoon characters. It will be Joshua’s first time to see cartoon characters up close too!

So we were promptly there at 8 am. We opened the breakfast hall and the lively decor and music got us excited. Since we were the first to get in, the welcome of the dreamworks team were high fives. Joshua was smiling, saying “hi” and he just returned the high fives like a basketball player entering a game. They also provided his own high chair.
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Their food was sumptous and themed as well. Look how cute!
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The best part was the show. The kids and parents alike loved it! Shrek, Fiona, and Puss in Boots were there…
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The other characters that performed dances were Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and the Dragon from “How to train your dragon”. Loads of fun!

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Ok from the looks of it, mommy enjoyed the most!!! Hahaha! It was a good family experience! Macao is a kid-friendly and family destination! Dreamworks Package still available until January. Contact Go Sarangani Travel at gosaranganitravel1@gmail.com for more information.
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First International Trip!

Planning for an international trip for your baby requires some preparation. It means knowing requirements before enjoyment.

We had to get a passport first. In the Philippines, the requirements are filled out application form, nso certified birth certificate, parent’s passport, and personal appearance of both parent and baby at the department of foreign affairs. The good thing is you don’t have to queu in line when you are with an infant.

After the payment and photo, you can claim passport in 2-4 weeks.

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Next part is booking your travel! Children below 2 yrs of age has a very minimal fee to pay. Inform your travel agent your baby’s birthday. In booking accommodations, look for child-friendly hotels. Check their amenities and inclusions for children (e.g. Are they included free breakfast? Do they offer extra cot for free?) These little details can be very valuable.

Whenever we travel we have to think of what happens during travel. So this makes you assess what to bring. Be prepared to walk and carry your baby. So this means bring a stroller or a baby harness. If you want mobility without getting tired, it is really worth it to bring one of these or better even both!
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Expect to pack a whole luggage just for your baby. Bringing disposable diapers, clothes, toiletries, even medicines (like paracetamol just in case), some toys and snacks, can take up a bit of luggage space. Thats just the way it is.

Part of preparation is to check the weather for appropriate clothing. In our case Hong Kong and Macau was around 18°c -23°c when we got there. So I made sure Joshua had jackets and socks to keep him warm.

Lastly, packing good humor and positive attitude is key to enjoyment. Appreciate the family bond above the inconveniences just makes family trips abroad more fun and memorable. The bond Joshua had with his daddy during the trip was precious. I loved every moment of it. Joshua was so happy and such a great buddy to travel with.

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(part 2 to follow in the next blog)

The little jet-setter

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Since Joshua was 10 days old, he has taken plane rides with me almost every month. My little one is a frequent flyer.

We learned many things throughout our travels and I’d like to share these with my other mommy friends.

1. Always pack the essentials in your carry on bag. It is so important to have the following in the bag: 2 diapers, travel size wipes, changing pad, baby blanket, jacket, extra shirt and pants, breastfeeding cover, and a few toys. These sound bulky, but it really is not. All these can fit very well in one carry on bag. I have changed Joshua in airplane toilets for pooping up in the air. So better be prepared than sorry.

2. Breastfeed going up and going down. Our baby’s ears are subject to pressure because of the change of altitude and it needs to equalize. To relieve the pain, the moving of the jaws help equalize the ears. When breastfeeding or bottle feeding the motion of sucking allows the ears to readjust its pressure. I have become sensitive especially during the descend to feel my ears. I take it as a cue to start feeding my son. This usually is about 25-30 minutes before landing. If I dont catch it on time, I end up really stressed because Joshua would cry and it would be very hard to console. Not to mention the embarrassment and having to apologize to other passengers for bothering their flight with my crying baby. To make it easier for myself, I have prepared a pre-pumped milk in the bottle for Joshua to drink during the descend.

3. Cheap distractions. Usually the domestic flights we have taken are about 1 to 2 hours. Sometimes Joshua would sleep on the flight, and sometimes he won’t. My objective is to make him as comfortable and relaxed as possible. So, packing about 2 handy toys and a book can help. I also use the emergency instruction card as a “story book”. The bottled water is also good distraction by shaking the water inside and allowing him to play “shake the bottle”. It is also free to pack some nursery rhymes to keep baby from boredom.

4. Note the time. By 4 months, our babies have already accustomed themselves to a schedule of sleeping incorporated with eating and playtime. So it is super important to check the schedule of the flight and what your baby is doing at that time. For instance if the flight is at 12nn, make sure you packed lunch for babes who have started solids (usually 6 months and above). Always pack crackers in the bag and fruit for snack periods. Never make the mistake of starving baby from food or sleep….it is stepping on stress zone!

5. Never forget to pray! This seems like last on my list, but in reality it is what parents should do all the time. When we pray, God takes over as our pilot and He is our best travel companion. Every time we travel, we pray and lift to God the specific details of the trip. “Lord make this flight enjoyable for us, that Joshua will be comfortable and will not have tantrums or cry on the plane. Lord, we thank you that it will be a delightful trip and we ask you to make the take off, flight and landing smooth. Be with us all throughout the flight”. In my experience when I pray I have more pleasant flights than unpleasant ones.

As a newbie mom, traveling can either be stressful or be enjoyable. I think traveling will become a norm in our family and so I choose to make good memories by enjoying it with my little jet-setter.

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Separation anxiety!

I work for an international telecom company for 12 years already. For the first time in a long time, the company decided to hold a sales kick-off for the entire sales force of the company in Macao. To some its the most exciting experience to look forward to. In all honesty, I felt kindda torn about it because for the first time I will be apart from my little one.

I am an exclusive breastfeeding mom. I plan to be one until my son decides he is ready to wean himself. The dilemma I had was how to be able to prepare to be apart from my son for one week!

Since I knew that my trip was in July, beginning April I started to save about 2-3 oz of breast milk each day. I would store in bpa free plastics and freeze it in the freezer. I would label each plastic the date I expressed it and the volume.

I also began observing my baby’s schedule. His daily waking hour, his daily eating time, his sleeping schedule, his bathing and playing time, and his milk drinking periods. What was difficult to tell was how much milk he was drinking from me at night because it is straight from the breast. So I “guess-timated” because it was pretty hard to measure.

I also began to pray to prepare my baby and myself for that particular week. I prayed that my son would be okay, and he would be able to sustain a week without me, to have enough milk, and to be accident free. Most of all I prayed for me to be okay. Mind you… I have not been away from my baby for more than 6 hours for the entire 6 months of his existence! So this was a huge deal for me.

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So before I left, I saved about 90oz of frozen milk packed in containers according to chronological order. I made a schedule for yaya Jovy to follow. I was also super grateful to my sister-in-law, Pria for staying in The province to oversee Joshua for me.

I took the night flight out to so I could stay as long as I could with my baby. I was able to breastfeed him and I left him in a happy playful mood. But that flight gave me butterflies in my tummy from all that anxiety of leaving. That night and every night away from home, I found it difficult to sleep because I was not used to sleeping by myself. Weird as it may sound but I felt something was missing so all my sleep were light and stressful.

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The sad part about that week was the fact that I could not store and bring home the milk I would express while in Macao. So it was a “pump and dump” week. I felt so sad when my breast milk was being thrown away. I guess my only consolation was thIs thought “I’ll get to eat and drink all the food and drinks I have refrained from all these months! Hello spicy food, hello coffee and tea, and hello wine!”

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I had to trust that while I am away, Joshua was in good hands, had enough milk and food, had a schedule of sleeping, eating, playing and bathing that my helpers were following. Most of all thank you Lord for technology whereby I see photos and communicate with my baby. I had to remind myself God is with us and He is the ultimate protector and provider of Joshua.

It was time to also let my hair down and have fun! It was also good for me to engage in learning and applying concepts at work. It was also an awesome experience to socialize with other team members from all over the globe.

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At the end of that long week, all I wanted to do was go home to my family. After all our sessions, I took the next flight out which happens to be at night. When I got to Manila I had a 4 hour layover and took the first flight in the morning to General Santos. It was a tiring trip but was the best decision to travel that way because I could not wait to hug and snuggle my baby and husband. It was perfect timing too because my baby was down to his last milk stash.

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I don’t think I can probably go on a trip away from my baby for a while. But it was a good learning experience for me. I learned that Separation Anxiety is not a myth. It is real!