In 2022, our adventures brought us closer to our loved ones and gave us priceless memories that we will always remember. Even if we forget, this post will serve as a reminder of the amazing times we had. Despite the challenges and sorrows of last year, the experiences we shared on our travels helped us to stay resilient and optimistic. As we enter the new year of 2023, I am filled with gratitude for the adventures we had and the valuable lessons we learned during the past year. Here’s a lookback:



The havoc wreaked by Typhoon Odette the previous month did not dampen our hope, faith, and optimism that 2022 would bring better days. I held on to this even though the year began with Cyd getting sick and injured. At least, we got to spend New Year’s Eve as a complete family. It was the first time Neil had joined us on the trip from Manila. He made navigating Manila’s airport much easier, especially since Cyd was feeling unwell at the time.

Boarding may be delayed, but at least my taste buds are soaring with Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory’s special cheesecake


Kandaya Resort, Daanbantayan Cebu

An invitation to stay at Kandaya Resort was too enticing to refuse after recently recovering from the stress caused by Typhoon Odette. The luxurious beach resort is only a 3-hour drive from Mandaue City, and thanks to the low cost of gas, we were able to get a van to take us there. Kandaya Resort, with its private villas and a variety of activities, is truly a paradise. Cyd particularly enjoyed the resort’s outdoor playground and the kuwadra, where friendly horses are housed for guests to interact with. This vacation was made even more wonderful because it fell on my friend’s birthday. Also, with Cyd’s babysitter joining us, I was able to enjoy some wine and adult company. It was a trip to remember.

The first order of business for this little beach bum at Kandaya Resort


Cebu Safari and Adventure Park & El Mar Resort, Carmen

To focus on my health and Cyd’s well-being, I quit my full-time job. And with this, we achieved our first travel goal: to see the wandering giraffes at Cebu Safari.

Looks like we found the tallest crowd at the zoo!

We stayed in a cozy cabin that slept six and offered a stunning view of Carmen, Cebu. The wood cabins added to the charm of the resort, and guests who book for one night get free entry to the park for two days. Cyd and his friend Lianna enjoyed the resort’s pool despite the chilly weather. Our companion, Liz, had been to the park before and warned us that the weather could be unpredictable, so we planned accordingly and didn’t try to see everything in one day. The park offers a variety of dining options; we stopped by The Outpost (where guests get up and close with meerkats, giraffes, and aquatic birds) and Auntie Anne’s for some pretzels and lemonade. The crocodile den was a particular hit with the young visitors. We detoured a bit to dine at Alhibe, a spot that Darwin recommended. To sum up, we can all agree that this quick trip was fantastic.

Gohan and family from Manila

My sister and her family came to visit us and we made sure to make them feel at home by staying at Bluewaters Maribago for two nights. Cyd and his cousin Gohan had a great time, but as the night went on, Cyd’s teething pains became unbearable. He was crying and begging for help, so I knew the pain must have been severe. When Cyd developed a fever, I had to cancel my plans to show my sister and her family around Cebu. Despite this, they decided to go ahead with their plans to visit Bohol and took some beautiful photos of the popular tourist attractions.

Are they siblings? No, just cousins making a splash in the gene pool.


White Island, Camiguin

As Neil had to travel to Camiguin to take care of some business, we decided to join him. My mother is also from Camiguin, and I’ve visited the island several times. In November 2021, we took Cyd to Camiguin to celebrate his second birthday, so this is his second visit to the island. Whenever we come here, we try to do something different, such as explore a new part of the island or try a different restaurant. This time, we were able to visit White Island, Cyd’s first trip to an uninhabited island. With sunscreen and plenty of water, Cyd had a great time with Neil’s family at the beach.

White Island’s hottest father-son duo, rockin’ their shades and bringin’ the heat

Tagaytay with the Bongalosa Family

To celebrate my father’s recent retirement and special day, my family and I decided to travel to Tagaytay. Originally, I had considered Baguio, but the logistics of organizing a trip for 30 people, including infants and toddlers, made it too challenging. So, we chose a private retreat in Tagaytay, which we found on Airbnb. We visited a restaurant with a stunning view of Taal Lake, which looked very different from its previous state due to the recent eruption. It was wonderful to have the entire family reunited and to celebrate my father’s dedication to our family over the years.

Tagaytay trip with large family


La Vie Busay, Buwakan Ni Alejandra, & Cebu Safari

It has always been a delight to witness the love between Neil’s parents throughout the years. One of their favorite ways to celebrate is by traveling, and the pandemic had unfortunately put a halt to their annual tradition for two long years. However, as travel bans were lifted in 2022, they were able to resume their beloved tradition. This year, their anniversary fell on the same week as two of their children’s birthdays, so they decided to celebrate it by visiting Cebu. During the trip, they visited Buwakan Ni Alejandra, La Vie in the Sky, Cebu Safari (where they even stayed the night), and Simala Church. To provide them with a comfortable place to stay, we booked a 2-bedroom space in our building which is listed on Airbnb. It allowed them to conveniently explore nearby restaurants. Goodbyes were hard for Cyd as he had grown attached to his cousins, especially Xia, and it was the first time he realized the significance of family.


Bakhawan Beach Home in Daanbantayan, Cebu

One of the best things about living in Cebu is that it is close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. This makes it easy to find quiet, private beach villas for a memorable vacation. We returned to Bakhawan Beach Home in Daanbantayan in June, this time with a larger group. We were lucky to have two talented cooks with us who prepared an extraordinary “boodle fight,” or traditional Filipino finger food feast.
This was Cyd’s first time taking part in a boodle fight, and he had a great time. He enjoyed the delicious feast and the new experience of eating with his hands and sharing it with everyone. The Bakhawan Beach Home was an excellent place for our group to get to know each other, relax, and make lasting memories. A lovely private beach, superb cuisine, and fantastic company made for an outstanding vacation.

Bakhawan Beach Home Swing
Sandy toes and swinging high, childhood memories are made at the beach.


EVO Nature Park, Bluewaters Maribago, and Panglao, Bohol

I gave Chris Denylle, my sister, and LeAnn, my niece, the gift of travel. This is to celebrate my sister’s birthday and graduation (she earned her engineering degree). They spent a week here in Cebu, and I tailored the trip to their interests. They ended up going glamping at EVO Nature Park, swimming in Bluewaters Maribago, ATV riding in Bohol, and lounging on the sandy shores of Dumaluan Beach. They also stopped by Cafe Elim, a chic cafe in AS Fortuna, and enjoyed home-cooked meals prepared by my partner and me. They stayed in the same building as us, Midpoint Residences, giving them the privacy to watch Korean dramas and listen to K-Pop music to their heart’s content. After their trip, my sister sent me a heartfelt thank-you note, while my niece gave me a beautiful painting of El Nido to show her appreciation. I’m delighted I was able to give them a memorable experience that they’ll be able to look back on and cherish for years to come.

Cyd’s first time glamping at EVO Nature Park


San Remigio, Cebu

This month, Cyd and I had the chance to visit San Remigio with Neil and his team. I knew that my son would have a great time at the beach, as he always loved playing in the sand and being near the water. But the beach was not as inviting as we’d hoped, so Cyd ended up spending a lot of time playing with the grownups and watching random shows on TV. As for me, this trip was all about being the primary caregiver to Cyd, responsibly skipping the booze, and having some grown-up conversations. While playing chess, I stumbled upon a strong player in the group, which ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for me.

I’ve got a tan, sand in my toes, and a hint of salt in my hair. Totally at home here.

Ardent Hot Spring, Pilgrim Beach Resort, and Tubig Sagay, Camiguin

We returned to the lovely island of Camiguin in August to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a new house. We were able to enjoy the simple pleasures of swimming in a clean river pool and being just a few steps away from a pebble beach with a beautiful view of the mountains. After being closed for the duration of the pandemic, the island’s famous hot spring had just recently reopened, so we took the chance to check it out. Cyd especially enjoyed swimming in the untreated water, which the locals claimed had therapeutic benefits. It was a wonderful and refreshing quick vacation overall.


Montebello Villa Hotel

On my birthday, we chose to unwind at the Montebello Villa Hotel. I had always been interested in this hotel, but I never got the chance to go there in the nine years I lived in Cebu. The hotel is surrounded by beautifully groomed grounds and is within a 3-minute walk from the University of Cebu and Gaisano Country Mall. The hotel has an outdoor pool, a fitness center, meeting rooms, and a playroom, among other things. Room service is also offered, particularly for those staying in pool-side rooms. I had only planned to spend the day at the property, but it was so relaxing and fun for Cyd that we ended up staying the night. Cyd had a fantastic time, and it was an unforgettable birthday celebration that ended with a surprise from my family, who lives over 300+ miles away from me.


Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, Lapu-Lapu City

This month was all work; yes, I returned to work in July. Nonetheless, we tried to give Cyd a semblance of a party on his 3rd birthday, with Neil taking charge of the decorations, the paella, and the cleanup. I took care of greeting visitors and ordering the Gecko’s Garage-themed cake (which Cyd had asked for) and other party food. Before the celebration, Cyd and I went to Bluewaters Maribago to meet a dear friend, Celine, and attend a Halloween party. We ran into friends Rovie and Michael, who had brought their son Fred to participate in the Trick or Treat festivities. Due to a problem with her flight, Celine had a longer layover, so she was able to join us for the Halloween fun. Although Cyd and Fred preferred playing in the sand and playground to the hotel’s planned activities, the trip was a hectic but fun getaway for everyone.

Flash and his trusty sidekick, Celine, digging for treasure at the beach!


South Palms Resort Panglao in Panglao Island, Bohol

When we arrived at the resort, I was charmed. The gorgeous villas, lush gardens, and glistening pools were like a dream. Neil felt the same and expressed his desire to extend our stay.  When I told him how much it cost each night, we both tried to do the math in our heads and realized it was still too pricey. Thanks to a travel fair my friend Mel had told me about, I was able to snag a deal for two nights at this sanctuary.  The resort was more than just a place to stay. The beachfront location, spa by the sea, and inviting pools were like a slice of heaven on earth. The resort’s farm, with colorful construction vehicles, a duck pond, a mini-zoo, and delectable eateries, was its crown jewel. There was so much to see and do here. We should have stayed longer.

Looks like someone’s ready to dig their way out of nap time.

Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Neil and I turned a routine passport renewal into a fun weekend trip to Puerto Princesa. We had visited the city as a young couple in 2013 and been advised by some new friends that we shouldn’t rush into parenthood lest we lose out on all the fun. Last November,  we took our young son Cyd to Puerto Princesa and stayed at the Microtel Wyndham. The city has improved since our last visit. We chose this hotel because of the pool and the beachfront location, even if the ocean wasn’t particularly appealing. While his father was at the DFA office, Cyd had a blast at Robinsons Mall’s rides and arcades; saw crocodiles at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center; cruised through a pitch-black cave at Subterranean River National Park; and climbed Ugong Rock.


Rizal & Metro Manila

Christmas is a special time of year, and I wanted Cyd to share the joy and warmth of the holiday season with my family and me in Manila. The city is well-known for its festive holiday decorations, delectable traditional foods, and warm family reunions. My father has always wanted our entire family to live under the same roof, but as we’ve gotten older and started our own families, that goal has become less realistic. Despite the distance, spending the holidays together makes our time together even more memorable. When Neil agreed to join us in Manila for Christmas, I was overjoyed. Even when we stayed in the mountainous part of Luzon, Rodriguez, it was alive with the spirit of the season, with the sounds of Christmas carols filling the streets. We went to Costa Abril on Christmas day and shared a potluck lunch for the gathering. We had a short program with games for both children and adults; it was great fun to share our Karaoke culture with Cyd and Neil.

We decided to take Cyd to the Mind Museum two days after Christmas. Surprisingly, he cried when he thought we were leaving Earth. I’ll tell you more about it in future posts.

By Issa

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