Thursday, April 25, 2019

Miss to Mrs

I’m drafting this post on the plane bound to Taipei at exactly one month after our wedding. Husband is sleeping soundly beside me while I decided to reflect on life as Mrs Fong so far.

As my sister said on her maid of honor speech, which made me lose some of my honor, my husband and I already had a ‘trial period.’ The three of us lived together in our condo. It started with a sleepover then sleepovers became a full blown living together arrangement with a plus one. I can say that it gave us an advantage because we’re able to get to know each other on vulnerable -tired from work, having anxiety, after a fight-  and daily setting -the toothpaste test and different definitions of cleanliness. We were able to talk about and accept each other’s mood, pace and quirks. I’m not saying that there won’t be any surprises in the future, i’m sure that will keep the spark in our relationship because you want to be comfortable but not too complacent. 

When people ask me ‘how’s married life so far?’, my answer is that the biggest change so far is that my sister moved out. We felt like we sent off our first born to college. We’re enjoying our life together, just the two of us and we’re creating new routines. I’m very excited to come home to my husband who runs to the door every single time I open it, unless he’s in a virtual meeting. I love our no phone allowed dinners where we get to talk about our day and plans. I love waking up beside him and praying together to thank God for blessing us with another day.

Yesterday was Holy Thursday and my husband suggested that we do Stations of the Cross on our wedding and engagement church. We’re both not accustomed to going somewhere on Holy Week so we’re kind of scared to do the one thing that our parents often say ‘don’t go anywhere on Holy Week/Good Friday except our house/church.’

Fortunately we returned safely from our vacation.

I’m sure our marriage will have a lot of fun and shaky times but I’m always grateful to God for blessing me with my husband who will forever be my  friend, number one fan, chef and tag team partner.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Salamat, Pierre 

Last night, I heard the sad news that our CEO who retired few weeks ago, passed away. I found myself feeling sad and I even cried a little while reading social posts and tribute pages for him. I never met our CEO in the 6 years that I’m part of this organization but I’ve read hundreds of comms and watched videos of him. He is brilliant, warm and even shows his humor while championing the company and his advocacy on inclusion and diversity. He makes me feel proud when he represents the company in global stage like Davos.

Pierre often talks about Stewardship as his favorite company core value and it resonated with me that he is living and breathing it. Thank you for this legacy and for the opportunity to help make the world a better place.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

On Mindfulness, Praying and being Assertive 

One of the perks of working in a global company is beyond the salary and benefits, they help foster an environment that will support my holistic growth. Practicing mindfulness is one of the campaigns that was launched and I’m actively trying to practice. My current role is demanding not just on how much I crunch my brain cells but also on how I manage myself to fulfill my roles as a people manager and a digital marketer. 

Mindfulness started as another buzzword from our HR team but I’ve learned to commit to it to keep my sanity. If I need to explain it to my 7yr old niece, it simply means that I attempt to focus my mind to the present, to what I’m doing, who I’m with and even my surroundings. At first I thought that it’s trivial but life gets so busy that I often forget about what’s in front of me. How many times did I experience that I need text message someone but I remembered that I dont have food for dinner so I began googling recipes then I started browsing Facebook and half an hour passed already. My mind often leads me somewhere else and most of the time it lefts me feeling anxious. Practicing mindfulness is about me being fully aware of the present and trying not to give a knee jerk reaction to all stimulus.

I’ve recently finished reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F and it’s a great, blatant reminder that i dont have to care about everything. It’s not about being cold or anti social but choosing wisely on when and where should I focus my energy. The bible is also a great source of inspiration. Recently, when I get caught in a tricky situation, I sincerely pray to God to help clear my thoughts. I also learned from a parenting show, on how you can count 1-10 before reacting or responding. Basically, as I get older and hopefully more mature, I dont want to hurt people or myself and avoid being overwhelmed by what’s going on around me. I also want to practice assertiveness which involves a lot of personal assessment so that I wont regret any words or actions.

I just started on this journey and I hope I can continue practicing mindfulness.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

So You're Engaged, Now What?

Oh Wow! I opened my "The Knot" app and it says "6 months to go!!" I still vividly remember how we got engaged and after that, we made a conscious effort to personally share it to our family and close friends. It helped that it was during the holiday season, the time when we usually get together with them. For family and friends living overseas, we made it a point to send private messages because we wanted to share this great news in a more 'personal' way rather than them seeing it first via a Facebook status update. 

So now what?

14 months to go - set the date: After all the congratulations and re-telling of our engagement story, the next question is "when's the wedding?" I think it's very important to pin the date or even just the month and year because it will drive our wedding timeline. Chino's eldest brother was also engaged and set to be married in 2018 so definitely we're getting married in 2019 and it was just a matter of which month. Chino just wants to marry me (awww) and doesn't have any prefered month and date while I, on the otherhand, wants to be married before my birthday. 😂

14 months to go - Wedding Excel or any tracker: We decided to get married in March 2019, it was more than a year of engagement period and will give us time to leisurely plan. But when attended a wedding in January, 14 months to go, and we ended up staying up until 2am, creating our wedding Excel file and projecting budgets. It was so funny how it triggered us to start thinking about our own wedding. To be honest, both of us were clueless and don’t know where to begin. I actually don't have a dream gown or wedding. I just always imagined that we'll share this moment with our family and friends with good food and music on the background. 

One of the initial things that we needed to agree on was the guest list. It's a big factor on what type of venue we need to get. We wanted to have a small wedding but we can't trim down the guest list to 100 or less. We tried and when we thought that we did it, we realized that we left out our own names and we don’t know who else to remove to make it a 100. In the end, we're able to trim it down to 150 (as of September 2 haha)

13 months to go - the wedding fund: One of the important thing that we did together was to talk about our finances and we agreed on opening a joint bank account. This is where we set aside savings for our wedding and for our future life together. I'm happy that we both decided not to touch our personal savings and we committed on saving specific amount every month for our target budget.

One time, a curious colleague asked about the wedding fund, who will foot the bill? My simple answer is that this wedding is about me and my fiancé so we’re paying for it and we don’t expect to receive anything from our parents or anyone. Any help is greatly appreciated but don’t expect anyone to chip in. He asked about the traditions in the Philippines, he’s also a Filipino, and I said that all of my friends paid for their own weddings as far as I know. Personally, my fiancé and I dont want to be a burden to anyone and we know that we’re on this together.

13 months to go - Research ideas. Wedding planning so far is turning out to be a great experience for the both of us. We started by researching - thanks Pinterest, sharing blog links and reading lots of articles online and by February we started to have concrete venues to check. One of our fun adventures was checking out Lemuria and Felicidad Mansion in Quezon City and then we ended up walking around the area to check hotels and events places. It can become overwhelming and it definitely worked up our appetite!

We also considered having an out of town wedding so one Saturday morning, we went to Tagaytay with our friends and Chino's best man, Eros.  I think, I listed 10 must see venues and churches but we just ended up checking out Pulo Events Place, Le Jardin Rosella, 3 other events place we saw along the way and 1 church. We loved Pulo and the church but both were already booked by other couple and we realized that we needed to let it go. Going back and forth to Tagaytay for our wedding planning may be too much effort and we don't want to change our wedding date. 

It can and will be overwhelming, with all the pegs and information available but as a couple you should define what are your non negotiables and that can be your North star whenever you get caught in immense options.

13 months to go - Reception venue and catering. We actually fell in love with Felicidad Mansion's architecture and it became our only choice for our wedding reception venue. We loved the high ceiling and the unique vibe of this ancestral house turned events place. Our next decision was which package and catering to get from them.

13 months to go - Church. Our original choice for the church was St Paul Parish where Chino proposed to me but it will be renovated with no specific timeline because it depends on when can they gather their projected budget to fund it. The logical thing to do was ask our venue for a list of churches near the venue and we checked out Parish of Hearts of Jesus and Mary. We realized that we’ve been on this church together, it’s where my godson was baptised last year. We inquired in the office and one of the indescribable things that we consider in choosing our partners for our wedding is the 'feeling' that we get while talking to them. For example, ate Linda from the parish office, felt motherly and we easily got convinced that this is where we want to get married. We're not prepared and short of cash so we booked an Uber to drive us to the nearest ATM to withdraw some cash and booked our date on the same day!

13 months to go - My gown. I actually don't have any idea on what do I like aside from it's a color white haha. I'm very fortunate to have a fairy god brother who even volunteered to take care of my gown <3. That's one off our wedding budget but he asked me to transfer and splurge on hair and make up budget.

12 months to go - mood boards. My sister slash maid of honor is a graphic artist and very keen on details! I told her the colors that I want as she created a palette and mood board via Pinterest that I never knew I needed.

12 months to go - wedding preparations hotel. One of the hardest thing to decide on is the hotel for wedding preparations. We realized that when you're booking something and you add "wedding" there will be additional costs that you need to pay for. We started looking around QC area and there's not a lot of choices, honestly. Most are boutique hotels and the major hotels are in Ortigas or Makati area. This is another big entry on the wedding budget. We’re planning of getting at least 4 rooms, for me, my fiancé and one each for our parents.

12 months to go - save the date! I made a DIY save the date using Canva for us to start asking our principal sponsors and inviting close friends and family. Most of them are out of the country and I wanted to add a personal touch by sending a digital polaroid style photo of us together with "Will you be our Ninong/Ninang?".

12 months to go - wedding bands and quartet. One of the fun surprises is when your family members volunteer to give gifts that will actually be used during the wedding <3 Thank you mommy and to my brother, Jerwin for pledging to buy our wedding ring and pay for the quartet.

12 months to go - wedding preps gown. My brother instructed me to buy a specific laced gown in Forever21. It was perfect and on sale haha!

10 months to go - gown fitting. My fairy god brother and my sister accompanied me to fit wedding gown to give me an idea of what style do I want. I’m leaning towards mermaid and A-line silhouettes. 

10 months to go - book photo and video. After all the research, my brother recommended Photogenics and we finally set a meeting to provide the downpayment. The thing with meeting suppliers is that you should have a cash on hand, unless you pay a downpayment, your date is not yet officially reserved.

9 months to go - reserve the hotel. We chose Luxent Hotel because of it's elegant design. The rooms also looks very cozy and the price is reasonable? Were still thinking about the type of rooms to get. My brother advised me to get the biggest room because on wedding day, we’ll have H&MU, photo/video team, coordinators, entourage and family in the room! 

9 months to go - attend bridal fairs. Initiallybridal fairs left us overwhelmed but we realized that it's best to attend bridal fairs when you already have a specific supplier in mind and you just want to get discounted rates. We were able to book Global Invitations(for invitations), Events on Demand - On the Day wedding coordinators and Principal Sponsor gifts from Red Clay when we attended Themes and Mottifs bridal fair at SMX. Unlike during the random bridal fair that we attended at Megamall, we’re able to strategically manage our time and book the suppliers that we want. I guess for us, we prefer researching suppliers online rather than getting to know them during an event with hundreds of other suppliers. 

7 months to go - prenup shoot:We completed our prenup shoot earlier than usual because I wanted to use up my remaining vacation leave balance in the office. We have a different fiscal year and I want to save my VLs for other wedding errands.

 It was definitely a fun but tiring experience to be models for a day! We don’t really want to have a prenup shoot but Photogenics said it’s already part of the package and it’s a chance for us to get to know the team, build rapport and see our angles. Great marketing spiel! We booked Studio Namu for our indoor photoshoot and Ann Santiago for H&MU. Clothes and art direction were care of my brother. Aside from venue, clothes, H&MU, photo/video prenup fee (it’s usually separate), you need to have a budget for food because these shoots last for at least 4hours! If you’re meeting all of them for pre production planning, that’s another cost to take note.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tummy Tour: Myeongdong

Watching Go Mi Nam(Park Shin Hye) and Kang Shin-woo(Jung Yong Hwa)'s Myeongdong date inspired me to visit this area. I've been to Seoul 3x and staying in this area has proven to be the best way to enjoy Seoul. This shopping area is heaven for international brands and local cosmetic shops AND it's home to a variety of street food and restaurants.

"Famous cafes" aka I've seen in K-dramas are lined up in Myeongdong and each are equally inviting, mostly because of the K-celebrity endorser's photos plastered on the Instragam-mable spaces.

Breakfast at Holly's cafe
Holly's Cafe. This place and their hot breakfast meals became our refuge from the cold winter while waiting for check-in time.
Dreaming of Dak Galbi
Yoogane. I came back for stir fried chicken, gochujang, rice cake, vegetables and cheesy dish known as Dak Galbi. I also love their unlimited side dish! They have 2 branches in Myeondong but most of the time it's both full.

Sulbing.  Patbingsu or Korean shaved ice

Patbingsu is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings that may include chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red beans. Varieties with ingredients other than red beans are called bingsu. 

I love Korean food and I'm so thankful that globalization or K-drama craze made it accessible in every part of Manila.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Osaka adventure: Ichiba Kuromon Market

Take exit 2 of Nipponbashi station
One of the best way to get to know a city is by visiting a market because you'll be able to see the wide variety of cuisine for that area and interact with locals. Our last day in Osaka was dedicated to exploring the city while the sun is up. For the entire trip, we're only in Osaka on evenings and finally we'll be able to check out Kuromon Ichiba market. It is one of the popular tourist markets but we couldn't skip this one because it's a great place to do a food trip.
The market is open from 8am to 5pm
We arrived at around 8:30AM, the market just opened and we had breakfast in mind. The stores are still opening and we explored the market before deciding what to eat. There are supermarkets inside but majority are still mom and pops run stalls.
ichigo heaven
I've eaten a lot of strawberry in this trip but it was my first time to try the white strawberry. Seven pieces of this white strawberry costs Y300 or PHP150, a little expensive but I paid for the experience of trying a rare berry.

The market is a seafood heaven! The BIG crab legs are amazing, my parents and aunts bought one for Y3000 or PHP1500 and the four of them shared it.

fresh and soft

Chino and I went to a stall that grills seafood. We bought a skewer with squid and shrimps, it's so delicious like it's fresh off the sea. The cheesy lobster is also super worth it!

Sushi <3
Chino and I found a sushi corner stall that sells sushi and sashimi in takeout plastic containers. We bought salmon and shrimp then found our way to the seated area. It was soooo good but we wanted to try other food.


For mid meal dessert, we tried these pancake like bread with soft served Vanilla ice cream.

For our main breakfast meal, Chino and I stumbled upon a small curry stall and we automatically sat on the counter style restaurant. We ordered 1 Japanese beef curry rice meal, we're too full so we just shared it. It turned out to be a popular curry restaurant that boils their curry for 24hours and it was featured on a lot of Japanese TV shows. The curry sauce was amazing and we're again at the right place and right time.

After 2 hours, the market was busy with tourists and locals flocking it.  The crabfish and other seafood displays served as good markers when we need to find our tour group.  Kuromon Ichiba Market has been around for 170 years and it remains to be a good local neighborhood market. Aside from the enjoyable walking and eating tour, we'll always remember the warm welcome from the vendors and the overall pleasant vibe of Kuromon Ichiba Market. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tummy Tour: Kobe's Tor Road Steak Aoyama

Osaka to Kobe
On our "free day", Chino and I decided that we're not leaving Japan without eating Kobe beef in Kobe! There are several restaurants in Dotonbori which serves Kobe beef but after knowing that Kobe is just an hour train ride away, we happily travelled for the precious beef!
Off to Kobe - Sanomiya 
Our original plan was ride a train and find the nearest Kobe beef restaurant because we taught that since we are in Kobe already all beef are legit!  But when we're researching for restaurants the night before going to Kobe, we read about Tor Road Steak Aoyama and got impressed by the consistent positive reviews. We arrived in Kobe at around 11AM and made our way to Tor Road. 
2 Chome-14-5 Shimoyamatedori, Chuo, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture 650-0011, Japan
It was a 10 minute walk from the station and we arrived at around 11:30AM, when we entered the small homey restaurant, we're greeted by a lady who asked if we have any reservation. We said that we don't and we're just trying our luck. Fortunately, they have 2 vacant spots and we just have to go back by 12noon.

They mentioned that they have course meals that cost Y7000 or PHP3500 or per person. Chino and I decided to check the menu and price of other restaurants. Honestly, there were cheaper options but we wanted to trust the 5.0 ratings in TripAdvisor and pay for the 'experience'
The ingridients
So we went back with no expectations aside from having a good lunch. When we arrived at 12pm, we're seated around the iron-plate grill with a family of 3 on our left and another couple on our right. It turned out that they only serve 7 customers and we're so lucky to be at the right place at the right time! 
55yr old soup recipe
The restaurant was run by a family - Chef Shuhei , his parents and a waitress - and have been serving the same soup for 50years already. It's their original recipe of a potato potage, it's light and a perfect appertizer. 

Chef Shuhei managed to entertain us while meticulously prepare our meal. He asked where are we from and even managed to greet us in Filipino, Chinese and Thai. He even joked that if we took his photo, we should share it on our social media profiles and provide great review for the restaurant. he didn't need to ask twice!

the best salad ever!!!

While the chef was busy cooking the vegetables, the waitress served the second course. It's the best salad that I've tasted so far, it's comprised of greens, avocado, a light sauce, chicken, sashimi and steak! 

Chef Shuhei

Chef Shuhei belongs to the 3rd generation of family who runs Aoyama. He prepares and cooks the vegetables and beef with showmanship while his parents prepare and serve the other course meals. He jokes about cleaning the steel grill every day of his life and the family gives off a vibe that they are proud of their restaurant and it's history.

100grams of heaven
It was Chino and I's first time to try Kobe beef and we decided to have 100grams each. We agreed that we should savor the beef by itself so we asked for toasted bread instead of Japanese rice. We both asked for medium rare and eating Kobe beef is an experience itself, it's buttery and melts in your mouth. The steak was perfect as it is but we also tried their recommendation of dipping it on truffle salt, eating it with fried garlic chips and another way is steak with dipping sauce. It was so juicy!! 

Coffee or tea
To end our delicious dining experience, we're asked to move from the grill area to the dining tables. We chose to have green tea while thanking Chef Shuhei's parents for the wonderful memory in Kobe. His father even gave us a postcard of Steak Aoyama as souvenir.

Dining at Steak Aoyama is a great Kobe memory for Chino and I. If you want to eat Kobe beef and have a memorable dining experience, try Steak Aoyama. It's one of the best meals I had in my life because of the quality of service and food. Don't push your luck and make sure to book your reservation!