Saturday, 2 March 2013

Scent from the Sentosa Flowers


If there's one more thing you can credit Singapore (aside from the cleanliness, the working system and extreme level of OCness ),  they're really excellent in creating happenings and marketing them with aplomb.  Even insignificant and minor activities, turn into tourism event, due to  great communication plan and pervasive media exposure.

Take for instance, this Sentosa Flowers during the Chinese New Year.   I've been hearing about it,  in TV, newspapers, fliers and social media, months before.   All the hype made me think, wow, this is something big that I really must see!

But then again, after braving the crowd, probably curious as I was, the event was a big let-down for me.    :((

My expectations were too high, I guess.   I imagined wondrous and over-the-top displays of floral heaven,  with rare varieties and intricate arrangement.  But all I witnessed were unimaginative flowers beds and weird set-up using ordinary blooms.

Probably, I'm just comparing it to my country's Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City, where rare blooms and extravagant floats made of real flowers are showcased.  Come to think of it, unlike Baguio with its cool temperate climate;  Singapore is very hot, and growing these blooms is already a feat, in itself.  :))

Snake with a woman's head?! Gives me the creeps.

It's the year of the snake. What can you expect?  snakes are all over town.

No matter how cute they try to make the snakes, they still make me squirm.

I know nothing growing plants, so I was stupidly wondering how all these flowers grew together, with such nice set-up, when I looked underneath,  they're all in pots :))   Aha!! It's  just a set-up! :))

They made cute bigger-than-life  installations for photo opportunities.     For lack of better something to say,  allow me to point out,  that the colors,  contrasted beautifully with my plain white dress :))

Lest you forget, it's not just CNY, it's also Valentine's :))
Mom! The Hungry Caterpillar is bigger than me!!

Giant caterpillar grows into a Giant Butterfly!

In fairness to Sentosa, it's a big effort to set it up, considering that it was raining the last few days preceding Chinese New Year.  My friend Shine relayed her awful experience when they visited.  It was raining, and everything was soaked! :P

When I read about the reviews after the event, the locals really lambasted it.  It used to be a free event, now they charged 5sgd per person, for a lackluster affair.   The organizers vowed to make it bigger and better next year.   We'll see ....

'till next adventure!


Sunday, 10 February 2013

River Hongbao 2013

Chinese New Year is a major holiday here in Singapore.  The holiday usually lasts for 4 days, but people usually take a leave from work for a week.  They have family reunions, visit their hometowns, usually those from Malaysia, go back to their old villages or kampungs.  Stores, markets and restaurants are usually closed for two days.  Expats usually go home to their respective countries taking advantage of the long holiday.

This year we went to the River Hongbao.   "Hongbao" refers to the red envelopes or packets with money given as gifts or tokens during the Chinese New Year.  The River Hongbao is a big Fair.  They feature huge, colorful lanterns,  traditional food not usually served on normal days, and also showcases dances, songs, from dance troupes in Guangzhou, China and Taiwan.   It runs only 9 days at The Float in Marina Bay Sands.

The Float is literally a floating stage along the river.

Here are some images that I took.   I'm not so good with photography.   I don't think I did justice to all the vibrant and beautiful works of arts.

Pineapples has always been a sign of luck.  Though, I imagine the house of Squidward here.
Here, they feature the different animals of the chinese zodiac  inside huge jars.

It has been raining hard in the past few days, and I was amazed how sturdy the exhibits are.  They're made of strong cloth and wires, I think.  No expense spared.

My favorite fish lantern, floating on the river...

My daughter's favorite lantern, she calls it Kung Fu Panda and wife. 

Most of the lanterns have moving "heads" while some have special effects like firecrackers popping.  Beautiful haunting Chinese song pervades throughout the venue.  It's really lovely.  I can't capture them all.

Feng Huang, legendary Chinese bird similar to the western's Phoenix

Graceful cranes, very oriental-symbols, even the bridge is just part of the "effect" to lend ambiance to the cranes and fish lanterns.

The lantern of the God of Fortune is huge!  It's 18 meters tall or the height of a 3storey building!

I missed taking photos of the food.  I got busy tasting all those interesting traditional Chinese food.  There is a section of carnival rides and games, where the boys won, as usual,  a huge teddy bear for their little sister.  There were fireworks displays as well.  But we didn't stay up to wait,  because the kids were too tired and sleepy.

The River Hongbao is on it's 27th year, and we're looking forward to see another one next Chinese New Year...


Monday, 14 January 2013

Back in the Saddle ... Almost!

By June 2013, we would be marking our second-year living  here in Singapore.   How time flies!   It seems only yesterday when I was writing my 1st entry on this blog regarding my hesitancy and eventually my decision to  move here.

2013 is also a milestone for me, when all my children will be in schools.  Primary 3, 1 and Nursery.  Needless to say, I am excited in the prospect of having more time for myself ;)  I am actually contemplating on getting a regular job maybe within the year, when all has settled down into a routine.

But then, opportunity comes in most unexpected times, and I am not one to close my door,  especially to something / someone whom I respect a lot.  

I have mentioned in my previous entries that, aside from being a full-time housewife and mom;  I do work-from-home jobs.  I'm so lucky to be blessed with mentors who trusts me and my skills.  They understand my situation of needing to be full-time with the kids ... yet they know me so well,  how I love to work and earn for myself.

During the holidays, I got an unexpected email from my boss,  that if  I'm interested, they're needing someone with my skills,  to do  half-day, 5 days a week.   Wow, talk about answered prayers!   Perfect working hours for someone who wants to work fullt-time but still has reservations to leave her growing children at home.  So, I said yes.

Now, it's been a week that I have been shuffling to and fro.  So, far no major challenges at home have come up to make me regret my decision.   Hopefully, everything will work out for the best... in both of my worlds :)

I just want to share some learning I had while being a stay-at-home mom,  work-from-home employee, and now, part-time regular worker.  

1.)    Don't burn Bridges -  resigning from a previous job, should not mean the end of the relationship with former bosses, colleagues and friends.   (Even if you have resigned in not so favorable situation).  As the cliche goes, it's a small world, afterall.  More often than not, your good work will speak for yourself and colleagues will seek you out, regardless of companies you now belong.

2.)   Yes, you can Reinvent Yourself  - my former job was an account manager involve "face-time" with clients.  I have never imagined that I can actually be at home, doing the things I love to do and get paid for it. Long ago, there wasn't even a profession called Blogger, Content Writer or Social Media Editor.  Now, when I started calling myself that, I found that I can actually get hired for it.   Don't box yourself with the course you finished in college or the 1st job you started.... Be willing to try new things, and discover what else you can offer. 

3.)  Always leave a little something for yourself -  indeed being a full-time is the most noble of all profession/ career.  I don't need convincing with that.  But I also experienced that it can be the most draining of one's energy and self-esteem!  The greatest pressure, I think, does not lie from other people, but from oneself.  The self-doubt that "Oh, I'm just a housewife."   I realized that the cure for that mentality is really to have something for oneself.  Something that you can call truly your "own."  Whatever your interest is,  scrapbooking, photography, knitting, cooking ... pursue it!  It gives a feeling a pride, of accomplishment, that is totally in a different category of  The Best Mom/ Best Wife.... but the Best Me... that I can become.   

4.)  You don't have anything to Prove - I can be quite competitive when it comes to career, or whatever it is that I engage into.  I have to be the best, the first!  My opinions,  have to be heard!   Maybe it's the age, or the fact that I also have accomplished things that I am proud of, .. that I have mellowed down.   Now, I am less arrogant, more tolerant, more giving, less judgemental.  I like working for the value of work in itself,  (Of course, the pay allows me to take pride in my work, as well).  I'm working because I love working, not because  I don't want to be a plain housewife. 

Or maybe it's what Anthony Robbins called "Re-creating one's Story."   He said, we go through life creating our Story.   But most of the times, we get frustrated because we don't achieve the Successful Life Story that we want.   At that point, we probably need to RE-THINK the life story we want for ourself.   Our concept of success should be personal and not society's yardstick.  If you are frustrated of not being successful, maybe it's time to define what's success is for us.  :) 

My thoughts are trailing-off .......  I hope you get the gist :)

My new colleagues here in Singapore


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Soaked at the Port of Lost Wonder

Singapore weather is summer year round.  I've never really experienced typhoons or cold weather  here.  Rains usually last for 20 minutes, and then followed by sun-shiney day.  Probably, because of its location. Singapore is 1 degrees above the equatorial line.  Sunlight shines directly on this tiny country.

But lacking in natural beaches, they make it up with plenty of swimming pools in the condos, community centers, and private clubs;  most parks also have fun and colorful water parks, as well.

The latest water park to open in this little red dot of a country is the Port of Lost Wonder in Palawan Beach, Sentosa.  It's basically a simple water park, they just added tons of other activities for the kids to have something else to do.

Entrance fee is 8 SGD for weekdays and 15 SGD for weekends.  Almost double the price :(   They're taking advantage that people are always looking for somewhere to bring the kids over the weekend, and they're new, opened only last year, so people are still curious.  There's an annual membership fee of 90 SGD, which gives free passes to other attractions in Sentosa.  Quite pricey for me, especially since we rarely go to Sentosa, anyway.

The entrance comes with coins or curios which you can use to purchase food and other items in the park.  The park operates on curios as currency.  You have to buy them before getting in.  It's either part of the fun or they're trying to prevent the staff from holding real cash :))) 

(Let me digress, "staff not holding cash", from my observation is one way corruption is prevented here in Singapore.  Especially for government transactions, everything is done electronically, not only for efficiency, but to prevent temptation to pilfer, or "lagay"  everything has paper trail.)

My kids love the water, they're now quite dark from too much swimming, chlorine and sun exposure.  Sometimes they're mistaken for Indians, Malays or Bangladeshi.   And I would say, No, they're Filipinos who just had too much sun.  :)

The park has only one restaurant that serves light food like pizza, tacos, fish and chips, and the waiters bring the food over to your place in the grounds.  Convenient, rather than crowd around in the restaurant.

There are scheduled activities like storytelling, scavengers hunts, family games, and even a bird show.  But my kids are more into the waterplay.  So, we just enjoyed getting soaked ...

It's a fun place, but nothing monumental.  :)  But then, most of the things that bring the biggest and brightest smiles to our children, are really the simple ones,  like splashing water, falling rain...... and a Mom that joins in the fun!!

If you want to know more about The Port of Lost Wonder.  (Although, I think they are closed for January 2013 to improve their facilities.  Will re-open on February 2013).    Click Here.

'til next adventure!


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Be with us in Bintan Island, Indonesia

Singapore is an island,  you would think, it's surrounded by great, white-sand beaches.   Not really. there are very few beaches for swimming here.   In fact, there are only about 3 (Sentosa, East Coast and Changi).   All of them are man-made.   Even so, very few people swim in these beaches at all. Unless you count the caucasians tanning themselves, but never really dipping in the waters. 

But then again, if you're seeing oil tankers, huge shipping vessels a few meters from the shore,  who would dare swim?  =)

sentosa island from

Most Singaporean residents, when they want real beach, they head-off to Phuket or Bali, which are just an hour or less by plane, or Bintan, Indonesia, an hour or so by ferry.

Bintan belongs to the  archipelago of the Riau Islands.  Indonesia is promoting Bintan as the next best tourist destination after Bali.

powdery white sand of Bintan

I've been to Bintan two years ago for training, courtesy of my generous Nu Skin family. This time,  I decided to bring my family so they can enjoy real beach.

From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, tickets to Bintan costs about 65 SGD round-trip.  Don't forget to bring your passport!  There's a small duty-free shop at the departure lounge for all your alcohol needs.  We even brought along our own chips and drinks.  Everything is pricey in Bintan, and there are no big supermarkets.  Otherwise, we would be forced to consume the hotel room's snacks, price is more than double!   Plus, they use Singaporean currency in Bintan!

father & daughter at the ferry departure lounge

The hour-long trip is via catamaran across the Singapore Strait.  The destination is the Bintan Jetty Port.   As soon as you pass through immigration,  there are  buses/ vans, which resorts  normally sent to pick-up guests.  

Unlike Phuket, Bali or Boracay,  the island of Bintan is not crowded or even largely populated.   There are no major commercialized beach strips with ordinary locals doing business.   The island has a kind of  "exclusive" atmosphere.

Almost all of the resorts are huge, big names and pricey.  Club Med.  Banyan Tree.  Angsana.  Indra Maya Villas.  Most are equipped with  golf courses designed by top golf course "architects."

It is advisable to book one's accommodation, before going to Bintan.  I haven't seen any public transport. Mostly vans and coasters of hotels.  There are car rentals that must be booked, as well.

Bintan Lagoon Resort

I reserved two nights stay at  Bintan Lagoon Resort.   It's the only resort in Bintan, with it's own ferry that docks directly to their own port.   They have their own immigration services, exclusive for the resort's guests.

Main Hotel of Bintan Lagoon

This is our lovely room, which has a nice view of the grounds, and a bit farther, the sea.  

There are so many activities for the family at the resort, but first on our agenda, the Beach!

 The waves are a bit strong that day, because it was raining earlier & the day before.  But no matter, the sands were spectacular.

The kids NEVER want to leave, but I was concerned they're getting too much sun.  We moved to the pool area, which offers some shade.

While the kids and their father were frolicking in the pool.  I sneaked out to these lovely beachside cabanas, for some rub-down by these charming Indonesian ladies.

Aahh.... Bliss ;))   Food is not so much to gush over.   They have 12 restaurants in the resort.  During our stay, we would try about 4 of them.   My favorite was the Japanese Miyako Restaurant, where we had our 1st night dinner.    The Orzo,  Italian restaurant has cozy & intimate ambience.  I was embarassed with my noisy kids while the other diners are honeymooners. :(    But the staff were kind and pretended that dropping of cutlery was normal occurrence.

The next day, my husband was dreaming of the two 18-hole championship golf courses.  The Jack Nicklaus Sea View course and Ian Baker-Finch Woodlands course.  Well,  it remained just a Dream.

We instead, took the kids biking around the huge resort (750 acres).  It's been awhile since I did some biking (outside the gym) :) and I was quite wobbly on the two-wheels.  But I don't want to disappoint my Ivan, who thinks I can do everything :)   Hans,  is a bit cocky, since he can already bike on this own.

Biking is the best way to see the resort  (Ok! next to the effortless golf carts and All-Terrain Vehicles!). We saw all the beautiful villas, fronting the beach and equipped with their own private pools,  gardens, house-keeping, and  golf cart service.  Minimum stay is 30days is you wanna book one of these beauties.

Hay... so this is where the privileged Singaporeans & Indonesians seclude themselves!

For late lunch, I decided to take them to Pasar Oleh-Oleh  (pasar "market" and oleh-oleh "gifts)  It's a 30mins drive, small cluster of huts, with shops selling Balinese souvenir items,  restaurants with local cuisine.  It's very touristy, and not advisable to shop.  Better go to Bali, if you want similar items.  But the local restos, is a nice change from hotel food.

When we went back, the boys headed for the pools again, while Rania and I lazed and napped in the room.  :))

Before diner, we walked around the beachfront again... savoring the last rays of the sun.  Like Singapore,  sunset in Bintan is about 7-715pm.... plenty of things to do before feeling the need to hit the sack.

If you are the type of person who prefers quiet getaway, with none of the hustle and bustle of tourists sightseeing.   Bintan is actually a good escape.  Albeit, pricey.  I don't think,  we can afford go back in the soonest time, unless free :))  It was a good experience though.    Cheaper than going home to Manila, then flying to Boracay, or Palawan or Cebu.   But of course, nothing beats our own places.

As I close, I'd like to thank you for your support of my blog for the whole of 2012!  This is actually just a personal diary for me, and it makes me happy to hear that my friends enjoy reading them as well.. THANK YOU AND MUCH LOVE!

Wishing you all the best for the coming 2013 ......


If you want to read more about Bintan, here's my earlier blog entry, written two years ago.
Beauty of Bintan.