Beautiful Cadiz

Sunset in Cadiz

Cadiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe, is what I call a beautiful surprise.

We had no plans but to rest in Cadiz, as this is our stopover before we finally drive out to Sevilla. No tours booked, nothing. We booked a flamenco show when we already arrived.

If there is enough time, sometimes it’s good to not join tours or just let your feet take you wherever they may lead.

Cadiz, one of the most ancient European tows, was well worth it the missed flights and the long drives.

 

Of delayed flights and other travel shenanigans

It’s 2:08am in Singapore. Our flight to Barcelona has left at 11:30pm and we are not in it.

A faulty hydraulic delayed our Jakarta to Singapore flight for 2 hours and instead of an hour and a half’s worth of layover in Singapore, this delay will cause us to stay for two days in the Merlion City. This in turn causes us to lose our two days in Valencia. Such is the domino effect of this whole fiasco.

When traveling, delayed flights and lost luggage are the two greatest equalizers. Yes, even for business class travelers.

The queue for flight rebooking has not moved for almost an hour now, with a lot of flights fully booked in the next two days. The business class lounge had ZERO people after midnight (I am calling you out, Singapore Airlines), and the ground staff seemed to be unprepared, despite the 3-hour lead time that the airline already knows of the delay.

In short, I don’t see this blunder getting fixed until four in the morning.

I’m tired, I need a shower and I have a lot of time in my hands, ergo the blogging and probably reading some app dev porn from my tech agile stream.

What else is there to do?

One thing I have learned from my travels is that I just get more exhausted from bitching and getting angry about delayed flights and lost luggage (another debacle experienced during my trip to Italy).

Patience is not one of my greatest virtues but I have learned to adjust and make-do with the cards that I’m dealt with, especially if there’s really nothing I can do about it.

While Arshad is patiently in line (thank God for resilient travel partners and husbands), I am sat here in Coffee Bean writing and eventually clearing out some of my readings.

The cliche’ “when life gives you lemons, get vodka and make lemoncillo” (or is it a different one?) holds very true.

So Singapore it is in the next two days. Marina Bay Sands, here we go!

The Majestic Mount Mayon

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Mount Mayon: photo taken by Bella in December 2017

Before Mount Mayon erupted in January, I took the family to Legazpi for a short trip in December. NO, we did not bring the eruption to the volcano (although coincidentally, Mount Agung of Bali erupted days after we arrived in October).

Now called the Beautiful Disaster, the view of Mayon remains to be a majestic sight to behold. It was my first time to see it up close and personal, too, when we did the ATV ride around the volcano.

Mount Mayon is indeed beautiful, a national price for the Filipinos.

Of passion projects and worthy causes

The blog has been quiet lately, sorry about that. I still owe you the sequel to my post about my recent trip to Nusa Lembongan, which I’m hoping to finish very, very soon!

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Cur8te logo: Find and follow me on Instagram!

The past two weeks have been spent shuttling back and forth between Manila and Jakarta both for the Holy Week break, for housing renovation and lastly, one of my passion projects as of late: Cur8te.

I opened new social media accounts for Cur8te, my small advocacy and business supporting handcrafted, locally-sourced, fairly-traded products.

I don’t have the slightest talent for hand-making products, let alone hand-making anything!
One of my gifts though is an eye for beautiful things: bags, shoes, clothes, furniture, name it. I buy well. I can fairly say that I have good taste. I shop well – no, I’m fantastic at shopping – and these traits make me an awesome buyer.
I can get lost in flea markets in Spain and Italy for an entire day, much to the chagrin of my partner. Since I’ve been doing this for years, it’s safe to say it makes me highly qualified. Lol!
I do have a soft spot though for handmade, hand-crafted items that are made from locally-sourced materials. Whenever I travel, I always buy items that can only be found in that particular place.
I feel that a part of me slowly dies whenever I see that even flea markets in Europe are well-infested by knock-off items made in China.
When I was in Venice, Italy two years ago, almost 70% of the stores carried “Murano” glass beads and jewelry, not made in Murano but in China. The leather items that used to be a proud Italian heritage were mostly from China, too! I remember spending an ENTIRE day not giving up and finding local artisan stores who carried genuine Italian leather and Murano jewelries that were locally made and hand-crafted.
So here I am, starting out with Cur8te. I don’t do the products myself, but I connect to local artisans and small communities who make their own products. Lovingly handmade, passionately local.
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Half-moon bamboo bags from Bali and wet bikini pouch from Bomba Id.

I’m a staunch supporter of fair trade so if I do not find the items in flea markets, I talk directly to the artisans themselves and the local communities. I go direct to the sources of products in the Philippines, Indonesia and soon in Malaysia, with no middleman, even if it means I need to speak the local language (Bahasa Indonesia), albeit broken.
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Rattan bag with Indonesian Batik fabric lining: a Balinese heritage that I bring home to the Philippines

I do encourage my friends to buy local, support handmade products and our local crafters. Some people complain that handmade items are more expensive than the ones made in China.
Look at it this way: it’s a small price to pay to be greener and more environment-friendly, to support local communities and empower our craftsmen and encourage them to continue their heritage.
Lovingly handcrafted, handmade products by small communities and talented artisans. It just makes sense.

Koi Kemang: Brunch, anyone?

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Prosecco Treviso Cascine, one of my favorite prosecco

Champagne brunch is one of my favorite things to do when I spend my weekends in Jakarta. I call it champagne brunch but I literally drink anything vino – red wine, chardonnay, cava, prosecco, champagne – name it, I will down it!

Since 2010, one of my favorite brunch places in Jakarta is Koi in Kemang. Koi has witnessed a lot of my life celebrations with friends and loved ones and it continues to be one of my default go-to places. The quality of the food is consistent and the plenitude of red and sparkling wines are always great reasons to visit this place.

For me, Koi Kemang will always be a timeless classic!

Here are some of our favorites from Koi, which we usually order over and over again. These never get old for me.

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Koi’s wheatgrass shot with a slice of orange on the side.

I normally start my meal with a wheatgrass shot and I drink it clean and straight.  It’s a good way to start the meal as wheatgrass is power-packed with chlorophyll, which acts as a neutralizer of toxins in the body. It also improves blood sugar and detoxifies the liver (great when you are just about to indulge on the fizzies!)

Some mix the wheatgrass shot with fresh orange juice, but I just prefer mine straight up.

Although cheese is considered dessert, I normally order it as my appetizer. At Rp150k, Koi’s cheese platter has brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

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Koi’s cheese platter: brie, gruyere and French blue cheese, with baguette on the side, roasted cashews and yummy caramelized onions.

Arshad and I normally pair the cheese with either a light, fruity red, a bubbly prosecco, cava or champagne. My top faves: Corte Giara Bardolino from Italy and Trimback Riesling from Arsace, France.

Apart from cheese, we usually share a salad: caesar salad with honey and truffle oil.

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For the main course, we are creatures of habit. By default, I always order the poached eggs with spinach and hollandaise sauce. It’s basically their Eggs Benedict without the ham, since I prefer to eat mostly plant-based.

Aside from the vast selection of wine and their perfectly poached eggs, another primary reason why we keep on coming back to Koi is their steak and eggs.  Arshad has tried steak and eggs from other restaurants but they always pale in comparison. He keeps getting disappointed so the verdict was that if he wants his steak and eggs, we only go to Koi.

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Koi’s medium rare steak and eggs with herbed butter, vegetables and potatoes

For dessert, if you are a first-timer in Koi, it merits to try their dessert sampler, where a plateful of Koi’s best desserts can be had.

My newly-discovered heaven, though, is the flourless chocolate quinoa cake with vanilla ice cream on the side and vanilla sauce. After tasting this, the definition of dessert will never be the same!

After indulging your cravings for Koi’s delectable food, you can go to their second floor to check out teakwood furniture, paintings and other Indonesian fixtures. Koi also showcases beautiful curated Indonesian pieces from local craftsmen and furniture makers.

For all these and more, I’d say Koi never fails to make my Sunday wonderful. I will never tire of going back for more…and more. =)

Koi Kemang’s details:

Address: Jl. Kemang Raya No.72b, RT.7/RW.2, Bangka, Mampang Prpt., Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12730
Hours:  Opens 7am Closes 11PM

Phone: (021) 7195668

Nusa Lembongan, Bali: another face of the Island of the Gods

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali: walking at the beachfront with jelly legs after surfing

I’m one of them people who find solace when I hear the crashing of the waves and the echoes of the sea.

And whenever things get crazy in my day-to-day, my tendency is to fly out to Bali.

Last February, I went off to Bali once again (first for the year!) to take a quick 4-day break. This time around, I went to Nusa Lembongan.

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali

Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali. Yes, it is still Bali, but a more laid-back, more peaceful and slower version of it.

Traffic, hawkers and pollution do not blemish the island…yet, and while this is the condition, I decided that it was good time to visit. It’s quickly becoming a popular attraction though, so I’m guessing that it’s only a matter of time that this paradise island will be affected by the main island’s hectic pace.

For now, if you want to just sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a cocktail or two, Nusa Lembongan is definitely a great idea!

I’ll be posting places to visit and things to do in this still-pristine island in the coming days.

In the meantime, happy Monday and may we all have that beach weekend soon!

Pause.

For the past 2 months, all my weekends were spent traveling, except for one when I had a Philippine Embassy event.

Today is a very rare Saturday when I’m staying put in Jakarta, and I’m relishing every single second of it!

I love traveling and I always will, but doing it non-stop for both work and leisure wore me down. I felt tired and consumed, day in and day out.

I’m taking advantage of this weekend to sit back and relax, catch up on my reading and writing.

To slow down. To pause.

Literally.

I have so much material for the blog, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time, not even to look at my stats. I have been an absolutely horrible blogger as of late!

The good news about it is that while I have been failing as a consistent blogger, I’ve been winning at recovering and living my life. I’m slowly finding my joie de vivre and my groove back.

It’s not a perfect process and I don’t have a bullet-proof solution. It’s a hit and miss, in fact. There were days that I was at a point of exhaustion that I had to bail on dinners and parties with friends, much to their chagrin and much to my social punishment (I have clingy albeit loving friends, which I truly appreciate).

Lesson learned: Balance. Balance is always key to wellness.  

 

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This Bella is on pause this weekend.

It may sound simple, common sensical even, but a lot of us take this for granted. We pack so much stuff in our schedules, in our mind space and in our lives that we forget to breathe.

This weekend is a glorious time to pause. To breathe and to claim my moment of peace.

To the weekend warriors, have a great one. I’m sitting this one down, armed with my Macbook and a cuppa.

Chinese New Year 2018 in KL

It’s been 2 years in a row that we’ve been spending Chinese New Year in KL. It has now become a family tradition that I look forward to yearly, where the yummy cookies and pastries in red-topped jars abound and Chinese aunties stuff you silly with all their cooking (not complaining!).

Aside from the usual Chinese New Year tradition of seeing the cousins, tossing the Yee Sang, eating, drinking…and more eating and drinking, Arshad and I also celebrated our 4th year anniversary.

The weekend was well-spent revisiting the old and discovering something new. 

We went back to Villa Danieli, the resident Italian restaurant at Sheraton Imperial, where he proposed 5 years ago. We haven’t been back since, so we figured, 5 years is long enough and revisiting it was in order.

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Bella and ze Hubs at Villa Danieli, Sheraton Imperial

Villa Danieli’s location is quite strategic, as the KL Tower is overlooking its outside patio.

I also loved the entrance’s styling and the restaurant’s glass-blown murano vases, lamp shades and the murals painted on the walls and ceilings. The ambience makes it very conducive for romantic dates.

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prossecoThe place reminded me of our nights in Florence and Venice when Arshad and I hopped from one restaurant to another, literally downing a bottle of prosecco each to chill ourselves during the hot and humid summer nights in Italy.

It was good that Villa Danieli had prosecco on the menu, as it was just appropriate to celebrate the occasion with something light and sparkling.

I had a better appreciation of this underrated bubbly during our trip to Italy and because of Nicky Pellegrino’s One Summer in Venice.

The food was also noteworthy. We shared the insalata di rucola (tossed arugula salad served with green apple slices, cherry tomatoes and gorgonzola dressing) and fungo portobello (oven baked mushroom with goat cheese served with cherry tomato confit and mixed salad).

Since the antipasti were already big plates, we decided to just share our main course of quattro formaggi, Villa Danieli’s take on the four-cheese pizza, delectably smoldered with mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan and taleggio cheese.

 

If you want a romantic dinner in the heart of the city with a good selection of wine, cheese and Italian food, Villa Danieli is highly recommended.

Villa Danieli details:

Address: Jalan Sultan Ismail, Chow Kit, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hours: Opens 12PM

 Phone: +60 3-2717 9922

Mr & Ms pancakesFor the new find, I was specifically craving for pancakes. For months now, I’ve been craving for my Grandma’s pancakes and although I know nothing will ever come close, I still wanted to get my fix. Alas, I got it courtesy of Mr. and Ms. Cafe’.

The 3-layer pancake that I ordered came with banana and strawberry slices on top and blueberries on the side. I had the sweet butterscotch on the side, instead of drizzled on the pancake stack, so that I could control the sugar that I put.

Mr & Miss Spicy Baked Eggs and Sausages

Arshad, on the other hand, ordered the spicy baked eggs with chicken sausages. The baked eggs were topped with herbed chicken sausages, with sun-dried tomatoes, chilli padi (his favorite), potato hash and yogurt with bread on the side. Not bad for a hearty breakfast!

The ambience was also nice and inviting. The area of the cafe’ wasn’t that big but it’s definitely conducive for breakfast or if you just want to have coffee while reading or working on your Macbook.

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Mr. and Ms. Cafe in Damansara

Their menu was also quite exhaustive: they have a lot of salads, quite a selection of pasta, risottos, sandwiches and burgers. I will definitely come again to try more food on the menu!

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The Arshads enjoying their breakfast at Mr. and Ms. Cafe’

Mr. and Ms. Cafe details:

Address: Oasis Square, B-G-3A Block B, Jalan PJU 1A/7A, Ara Damansara, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Hours:  Opens 10AM

Phone: +60 3-7859 6665

Overall, Chinese New Year 2018 in KL was a blast! It’s a time to spend with family and friends, a time to revisit the old and a time to try something new.

Belated Gong Xi Fa Cai to everyone! May the Year of the Dog bring you good tidings and fortune.

Depression has no face.

When I outed myself and admitted my depression, several friends and acquaintances reached out to me to disclose that they are going through the same thing.

Some people who are the same age as I am thought it’s the phase of us going through our big 4-0 that made us feel this way and that it’s just that – a phase that we have to go through.

You’ll be surprised to find out that those who have sent me private messages on my social media and in my messengers and some who even called me to admit that they have depression, ranged from ages 15 to 40.

I’m not a pro in this and like them, I’m still going through it. All I could offer is my time to listen (I may talk a lot but in moments like this, I’m helluva good sounding board), share what I’m going through or point them to the right direction of people and places who can help them.

I wanted to write about this and share what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and how I’m trying to deal with it, not because I wanted the attention or the sympathy of others. In fact, as much as my friends coaxed me to talk about it, I preferred not to. I gave the dossier to the closest circle of mine when we celebrated my birthday in Bali but I talked about it (at least those that I can share) only once and that’s it. That’s the first and last time that I wanted to talk about the deets.

I wanted to stop writing about it, but in the past few weeks that I was talking to a friend who is currently going through depression, I realized that outing myself paved the way for others to reach out to me, because they found someone who they can relate with, who will understand, who they can trust and who will not judge them. 

What we are going through ain’t pretty and it definitely ain’t a choice because if you ask me, I wouldn’t want to be in this rabbit hole over and over again.

These people I talked to, some of them were the paragon of happiness. At least on the outside. You’d see them laughing, engaged in conversations, sociable, participating and even spearheading social events. Some are even the life of the party, lighting the room by their mere presence. They’re your friend, your officemate, your kumare, your kapatid, your relative, probably even your partner. 

I remember one early Saturday morning, I woke up to an FB message from a friend in Manila asking me to pray for her. She said she was already having suicidal thoughts, plotting how she can kill herself without it looking like suicide so that her family won’t hate her for it. I ended up spending my entire Saturday morning just talking to her and sorting out her thoughts and why she feels like this.

Another friend said she found herself just frozen inside her bedroom, not wanting to move at all, as she stared at herself in the mirror for an hour because she didn’t know what to do with herself. She kept asking: “Why is my life just a repeat of everything? It’s the same thing everyday and I want it to stop.”

She told me that in the office, she found herself just frozen, unable to move and sweating furiously, thinking that if she got up from her desk, her knees will buckle and fall.

A fifteen year old girl who I didn’t personally know gave me access to her private blog to show me her writings and illustrations on how she sees her depression. She told me she stopped school for a while and is currently on medication. We don’t talk about what she’s going through. She just wanted me to critique her writing and her drawings.

Very recently, another friend of mine spoke to me that she had to confront the invisible elephant in her room and admit that she’s depressed. It took her almost a year to finally admit it to herself.

Another guy friend – and this one surprised the hell out of me – came out that he’s having panic and anxiety attacks, to the point that he’d bail on social obligations because he’d rather be alone. Most of our friends think he’s just a flaker who didn’t value his social commitments to our circle. He was recently diagnosed with clinical depression. I’m the only one who knows.

In conversations, we normally end up comparing notes.

“Ganito ba talaga? Minsan ayaw mo na lang magising. Paulit-ulit na lang. Nakakapagod na.” [Is it really like this? Sometimes, you don’t want to wake up anymore. Everything is just repeating and it’s exhausting.]

“Minsan, ayaw ko na bumangon. Iiyak na lang ako buong araw.” [Sometimes, I just don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll just cry it out the whole day.]

“Ayoko maligo. Ayoko kumain. Ayoko matulog.” [I don’t want to take a bath. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to sleep.]

In trying to make light of the situation, sometimes we’d end up laughing at the silly things we go through.

Personally, I swung back and forth. There were times that I’d barely have 2 hours of sleep. At times, I slept my way through for 14-15 hours, which wasn’t normal for me because my average is 7.

That time when you didn’t want to do anything, not even take a bath? Yes. Gross but I went through it.

Until now, I catch myself (or my husband does) biting my fingernails when I’m feeling anxious, and the littlest and most mundane things can be a trigger.

There will be days, weeks and even months that things will be fine, until one day, I just wake up in the most miserable state of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Believe you me, I try. Except for medication, I tried everything to make things better. I got into yoga, I went back to weight and cross-fit training with a personal trainer, essential oils (helped me regulate my sleep) and I openly deal with my bouts of depression. I pause and try to declutter my cobwebs of thoughts whenever I go through it again.

The people who came to me to talk about their situation are the toughest nails and most resilient that I know. You wouldn’t even know when you come across them that they’re going through it.

A girlfriend told me that her friends were surprised that she was depressed. “Hindi ka mukhang depressed,” [You don’t look depressed] they said.

Well, people, the thing is, depression has no face. If you see me and if you know me personally, you wouldn’t think that I went through it.

Would you think of this person as depressed? Yep, ‘didn’t think so.

Depression has no face and depression can hit anyone – even that someone who seems to be the happiest person on earth.

This blog post’s message is more for those who are going through it and those who reached out to me in confidence.

To you:

Thank you for trusting me. We may not be that close or I may not be your best friend, but you found comfort in reaching out to me.

What you’re going through is not easy and I know there are days, and there will be moments that you will feel you want to give up. 

Don’t. 

Tell yourself this, and believe me that it is true and it will be true: 

You will be alright.  

Even in the worst of worst days, tell yourself in the mirror: You will be alright. 

Make that choice everyday. Amidst the hopelessness, make that choice everyday. In moments that you think you can’t anymore, ask for help from someone you think you can trust. 

But it all starts in making that choice. Everyday. 

You will be alright.