Sunday, February 26, 2017

US Vacation 2014 - Fr. Gino's Ordination

One of the reasons why we visited the US last 2014 was to attend the ordination of my husband's cousin to his chosen vocation. It was the first time that I attended an ordination and in another country, to boot.

The ceremony was held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart at New Jersey. It literally felt like a wedding as we were all decked in formal attire (barong for the males). There was even a reception at a hotel afterwards.

One noteworthy moment was that the photographer that my husband's aunt hired was also our wedding photographer, John Mateos Ong. He shared with me that it was the first time that he will cover an ordination. I'm sure he captured the moment well.

The picture below is me receiving the first blessing from Fr. Gino. I remember shedding tears as his prayer was personal and heartfelt. 

US Vacation 2014 - Disneyworld

This post is so long delayed. I've grown to rely on FB as my memory album but I know nothing beats a blog. With my really undependable memory, I should resolve to write down stuff again before I forget.

My husband and I first visited the US together in 2011. At that time, it was only the 2 of us as it was a delayed honeymoon of some sort. When we got married in 2007, we jointly applied for US Visas and was approved. But before we could book a flight, we found out that I was pregnant. Thus, we postponed until 2011 but we decided to leave our 2 year old son behind. When he turned 5, we decided to bring him with us thinking that he wouldn't be too much of  handful as compared to bringing a toddler.

Of course, the first thing to do was to get a visa for our son. I blogged about it here. When he was approved, we looked around for flights and we settled with Cathay. When we first went to the US in 2011, we rode Eva Air where the stopover was in Taipei. It was the first time that we considered Cathay as previously, their port of entry in the east coast was in JFK in New York. But they recently opened flights going to Newark, New Jersey which is nearer to my sister. Since we heard good reviews about the airline, we booked 3 tickets with my friendly neighborhood travel agent.

We left Manila on May 16, 2014 and it was such an exciting day. Though we have previously traveled as a family, it will be our first long flight together! I prepared myself as much as I could by bringing my son his art materials, crayons, and of course, the ever reliable iPad. However, it can only entertain my 5 year old as much.

The MNL-HKG leg was uneventful and he had a kick exploring the terminal. However, the HKG-EWR leg was the killer. He fell asleep sometime at the start of the flight but he woke up 8 hours into the 15 hour flight and started screaming inside the plane out of sheer boredom. It was the nightmare of parents! Fortunately, we were able to calm him down enough and make him sleep again until we finally landed at Newark at 940 in the evening.

Our schedule though was a killer. My sister was prompt in picking us up and bringing us to her house where we stayed most of our trip. However, we had to be awake at 3AM as we had to catch our 6AM JetBlue flight going to Florida for our Disneyworld adventure! I think I only ended up sleeping for an hour or so before we had to get ready.

JetBlue was a budget airline so not much frills about it. The flight was around 2 1/2 hours long and my son was able to sleep on the plane (again) but I couldn't. Probably from excitement as we'll be going to the most magical place on earth!

Day 1

We arrived in Orlando at around 8:30 in the morning where the Disney bus picked us up. Just sitting there and seeing the monitor with the trademark Disney castle really made my 38 year old self all hyper. Though how old you are, Disney brings out the child in you.

We were booked at Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside. One of the numerous hotel resorts in the humongous place. After an hour of riding, we arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately, our rooms were not yet available so we had to wait. There were 4 families so 4 rooms--and our room was the last one to be ready. By that time, I was falling asleep at the really nice lobby as jetlag was catching up. When we were firmly ensconced in our rooms, we decided to take a nap as we're scheduled to visit Animal Kingdom in the afternoon. However, the nap turned out into a long deep sleep. My sister kept on calling us and we eventually just decided to meet up with them at the Animal Kingdom lodge to have dinner.

One cool thing about the whole experience was that we all had to wear the bracelets like the one above. Each family had a customized bracelet which we use in lieu of bringing cash and IDs. We just swipe whenever we need to buy something or even for fastpass purposes. Really you can walk around the park without worrying about cash. If I'm not mistaken, it's waterproof too.

Anyway, here's a pic of our bed at the hotel. I really like how they did the mickey logo with the towel and look at that awesome headboard!

The lobby of our hotel has an arcade place and out of all the hundreds of things that one can do at Disney, my son decided that this arcade game is the best. At his age, he was a bowling fanatic and we could just leave him there for hours without him getting tired. Like father like son as his dad is not a fan of amusement parks. I remember during out first date at Enchanted Kingdom, he never rode any of the rides. I had to ride the rollercoaster all by myself. He did however, accompany me at the Ferris Wheel.

Anyway, we managed to bargain with him to go around the resort with the promise that we will begin and end our day at the arcade.

After a sumptuous dinner at the lodge, we went back to our hotel where we got our much needed rest.

Day 2

The next day was the real start of our adventure at the happiest place on earth. We decided to visit the Magic Kingdom theme park first. Kids were encouraged to be in costume so my son decided to go as Spiderman.

Before meeting up with the rest of my family, we took the chance to explore our hotel/resort. 

Facade of our building where are room is located

Gazebo by the lake

at the hotel lobby

with the kids dressed up for Magic Kingdom

We wanted to have breakfast near Magic Kingdom so we settled for 1900 Park Fare Grand Floridian. It's such an awesome place. While having breakfast, mascots go around and you can take pictures with them.

Selfie with Tigger

With Winnie the Pooh

Everyone crowding around Mary Poppins! And she speaks with an English accent too

with Alice

amd the Mad Hatter

Trying to take a pic of the humongous lobby of the restaurant's hotel

After that very filling breakfast, we excitedly lined up at the theme park. The kids were excited but Basti and hubby are not fond of rides so he was content with having his face painted and I just hung around with my mom.

I think we left the park early but my little family left for Downtown Disney where we explored the place. My son was happy that we found a place which has bowling a bowling alley and he bowled a few games while we had dinner. Instead of taking the bus, we took the ferry from our resort all the way to Downtown. Definitely faster than the bus and it lets us off near our hotel too.

Day 3

Our third day at Disneyworld was spent at Hollywood Studios. Back then, there was the American Idol experience. Now that there's no more AI, I'm not sure if they still have that in the park.

The American Idol Experience

We also visited the Pixar Place and the ride where we went through scenes from different movies. 

The shot below is interesting as the backdrop is actually just painted and not an actual sky. 

For dinner, we went to Yachtman Steakhouse. I think we rode a boat going there.

Day 4

The last theme park in the place, EPCOT or as what my husband told me, is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. What makes it notable is the big golf ball in the middle of the park.

Posing with the golf ball

The golf ball actually has a ride inside. They also have different places around the park that features a different country. By then, I learned that one of the "things-to-bring" in Disney is sunscreen. Though it's not as humid as here in the Philippines, the heat can easily bake you. 

That sky is real

Basti finally completed his autographed book

That night, we went back to Downtown Disney where we met up with a former boss.

Day 5

Though we haven't been to Animal Kingdom, we didn't want to go there so we went back to Magic Kingdom to find the Frozen dolls that people back home seem to want as pasalubong. Fortunately, we were able to buy some.

Disneyworld was definitely an experience and one I would hope to experience again. As my husband and son are not fans of amusement parks, hopefully, I can visit again with other members of the family. I love rides and would certainly want to experience more of this magical place.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bank Hopping

I went bank hopping this morning to facilitate refunds for our event that will not push through. Good thing that most of the banks that I need have branches outside the village so it's just a matter of walking from bank to bank.

Doing this exercise made me test the customer service and facilities of the different banks. I therefore conclude that BDO has the best and BPI and Metrobank has the worst.


My first stop was BDO at the Richville Center branch. My bank of choice is actually BDO and I maintain accounts with them at my branch at One McKinley at Taguig. I'm glad to see that their customer service is uniform across all branches. I had multiple transactions and they were very patient with me. They even scolded me when I lined up as being pregnant, I should have gone straight to the new accounts area where there are seats. When I had to use the cash machine, an employee was waiting in the wings just to assist me.

I also went to another branch in Molito and it was the same experience. Even though I'm grumbling about their fees which they will charge soon for online transfers, their service makes up for it.

Summary: Great customer service, boo for the charges for deposit to provincial account as well as for send money transactions. But the cash machines is a work around for that. 


Next one was BPI which was at the next building at Unioil. I also had multiple transactions so I meticulously entered them in their machine. After which, I scanned the room and saw that there were no available seats as the branch was fully packed. I waited for someone to offer me a chair but the customers were all impatiently waiting for their number to be called. I pointedly looked at the guard manning the door and he just looked right back at me. So I just stood there for several minutes until finally, a seat was vacated. The numbers were still in the 30's while the numbers I were holding were in the 70s. I was prepared for another long wait when one of the tellers called me. Apparently, I can jump the queue since I was pregnant. I was pleased but it did not diminish my disappointment about their lack of concern for pregnant women and PWDs.

Summary: I haven't had a good experience with ANY BPI branch. Their cash machines are not that user friendly if you intend to deposit to another account (you need the card number of their ATM instead of the account number). However, their "any branch is your home branch" facility rocks. No charges for deposits to provincial accounts and you can book an appointment if you do not want to line up. However, you can only do this for up to 5 transactions only. 


My next stop was Metrobank, which was at the Alabang Business Tower--also next door. My transactions were deposits to a provincial account so I was looking for a cash machine so I can save on the service charge. When I entered the branch, I asked the guard about it and he just looked at me and abruptly said that they don't have one. I asked where is the nearest one and he said it's just at Ayala across Honda. So I walked down Acacia looking for the branch but I didn't find it. I just took a jeep (yes, I hauled my pregnant self into a jeepney!) to Molito where I know there's another Metrobank branch with a cash machine.

When I got to Molito, I searched for the cash machine. It's not located inside the branch but inside a hot stuffy room with the ATM with its own entrance. But I couldn't stay long inside that room because the machine was not user friendly and it kept on spitting out my bills. In fact, it tore the P500 bill which I inserted which the teller fortunately replaced. The heat did not help and there was no ventilation inside the small room. I went back and forth from the branch and the machine but in the end, I gave up and just did an over the counter transaction and paid for the P50 each charge for two non-NCR accounts. I asked the teller why the machine was not accepting my bills and he said that the machine does not accept P200 denomination. *facepalm*

Summary: Metrobank branches are hit and misses. There are times that you have to line up for an hour just for your number to be called. And my first time to use their cash machine is quite a disappointment. The grumpy security guard was also a turn off. One thing I learned about branches is that the security guard is the first point of human contact of the customer so it should count. Apparently, manong guard didn't get the memo.


For a bank with a few branches, I was glad to see that they had one here at Alabang. However, I wasn't able to push through with my transactions as I was told that the service charge for deposit to a provincial account was P100. And I was only depositing P750. At least the security guard was friendly and answered my questions for me. I don't know though if what he gave was correct but the point that there's a charge was a disappointment.

Summary: Pogi points for the helpful security guard but boo for the charges.


I was supposed to have one transaction with this bank but backed off when I found out that there's also a charge for deposit to a provincial account. Again, it's also at P100 and I'm only depositing P750. I did not even make it inside the branch!

Summary: Come to think of it, I didn't see a security guard at the door. Once I entered the branch, I was immediately greeted by their new accounts teller who answered my question.


I've always had good experiences with Unionbank in whatever branch I go to. The one that I visited was at Alabang Town Center and I was the only one there. Great thing was there was no service charge for an over the counter transaction. Too bad it was only one account though.

Summary: the branch in ATC is a small one but everyone was so helpful.