Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

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Recipe for a Happy New Year

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past-have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, prayer, meditation, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing-don' t do it), and one well-selected resolution.

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Makings of a Chef

My daughter made a splendid presentation with her own creation which she named: “nutsy chococake”. She sliced a piece of Yo’s cake, topped with broken pieces of peanut brittle and finished it with sweetened chocolate powder. Lookin’ good, Daisy! I need to get a piece of that!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Feasting with "Immensely" Sweet

We received from family and friends, among others... loads of chocolate crinkles, some unusual fruits coming from god knows where, and a variety of scrumptious, delectable, to die-for pastries and sweets this Christmas. They're just too good not to make them known here.
First, let me introduce to you, Chocolate Struffles. Baked by Jemjem, the beauteous daughter of my very good friend who owns Lola’s Bakeshop. They have branches at SM, Lopue’s East and Mandalagan. The whole thing is just delectable. Chewy and mouth-watering! Actually, it’s a great find!

Second, our cousin H, who is a superb chef gave us her choco chip cookies. Crammed with white and brown chips, exceptionally yummy and dreadfully moist! Yum… yum big time!

Third, my bestfriend Yo’s Chocolate Cake. Oh boy, I never had so moist, so deadly, and so sinful a choco cake ever!
Fourth, Carrot cake by KusinaMia given to us by our cousins, Ro and Yenne. Best with afternoon tea. Just gorgeous! Gorgeous!

Fifth, a variety of melodious squares from JD Bakeshop, Iloilo …. truffle bars, macapuno bars, tropical bars, chocofudge, revel bar, espresso, choco chewies, and oatmeal. All are heavenly!!! Sixth, homemade Almond Rocca from Jing and Manong Dan…… let the pictures speak for itself! Our sweet teeth aches for it!

Seventh, Baguio’s the ever exquisite! Mountainmaid (Good Shephered products) Peanut Brittle and Strawberry Jam from Tom and Grace. Always have been and will forever be my family's front runner!
Now, would you say, I haven’t gained a bit?

Our 16th Christmas

December 27, 2007
(Our 16th Christmas)

I’m so glad for Christmas. My brother and his family stayed with us for two nights over the holidays. The Salvador reunion was held in our house. After all, Christmas is about loved ones and special friends coming together. The busyness of it all was all worth it.

We tried to make the kids endure a bit by not opening their gifts before christmas. However, we allowed them some grace by letting them open one gift a day, 5 days before Christmas eve. Through the years, we have learned that we can alter some traditional rituals..

The kids received wonderful gifts from their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents, mostly cash, which they prefer. So with our Christmas blessings, we took advantage of the malls’ year-end sale. CJ went wild with new clothes while Jed, got himself a bunch of football/soccer gear and other little stuff. Daisy is into watercolor painting so she bought painting materials and new clothes. Kay bought a giant stuffed dog which she named “Fluffy”.

Bim and I will take our yearly get-away on the 29th. We really do not know where we are going as of yet. We might take a short trip to San Carlos or Mt. Canlaon. Sometimes it's better to set off without plans and just go where the wind blows. We really look forward to a time of adventure, just the two of us.

Our plans for New Zealand is on-going. We are waiting upon God’s right timing. I pray 2008 will be the year for that.

We wish for more peace and a simpler life in the coming year as we continue to savor God's daily faithfulness upon my family. I feel it in my heart that the best is yet to come. We too, wish you and your family well. We further bless you with a double portion of His amazing grace in the coming year.

We miss you and hoping to hear from you soon!

Much love,
Jenny with Bim, CJ, Jed, Daisy and Kay

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whet your appetite!

For the recipes, refer to the following links:

I wish I could just do my christmas shopping with a handsome budget and raid the malls! But I always have this deep urge to give out gifts that I personally make for very special friends and families. And so, I have decided to go all out with my gift-giving. This year will be our family’s Special Atchara (pickled green papaya), Sinamak Bisaya (spiced vinegar) and Mama’s Uyap (ginamos - prepared shrimp paste). I call it the "pampagana trio”.

Why the trio?

First of all, pickles, spiced vinegar and ginamos are popular filipino condiments. But did you know that these are also healthy for your diet? There are many different recipes out there, but each version has its own healthy benefits depending on the ingredients that goes into the recipe and the method used for pickling and preserving, whether fermented or packed with vinegar.

Second of all, The spices with which they are made are also healthy. For example, ginger and garlic, both of which are popular in pickles, they have the ability to regulate bacterial growth. Other spices also contain flavonoids, which is a healing addition to your diet. The Special Atchara is made of papaya and other vegetables, high in fiber which is necessary for digestive health and fighting cancer.

Third of all, the "trio" are made with vinegar. This healthy liquid has several positive properties in addition to its tangy taste. Vinegar is known to boost the immune system, ease digestive disorders, and can break down calcium deposits in a person's joints. In addition, vinegar is known to decrease high blood pressure, and help treat urinary infections. It is even said to re-mineralize your bones, balance your blood pH, and fight infection. Vinegar is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It inhibits the growth of the E.coli bacteria, and when used in conjunction with salt, which is common in pickling, the anti-bacterial properties are amplified.

My husband, one that always has either of these condiments with his meals emphasized that they should not be treated as main viand or side dish, but should be a preparation to enhance flavor or enjoyment to meals and dishes. Good point, hally!

The making of the amazing "trio” was tedious. I started with conceptualizing the idea from the food preparation down to the packaging. It was a family activity, every one participated. My husband helped with the documentation (taking of pictures) and provided for the budget of course! My eldest son, CJ, helped with pouring of the cooked mixture into clean glass containers. Jed, my second son helped with the labels and packaging. Daisy and Caila were hands on with the mixing and cooking the recipes.

Let me start off with the containers. I scouted around 3 local markets for recycled glass bottles and containers. The glass containers for the pickles were limited and so with the “long neck” bottles for my sinamak. The vendors make them into gas lamps, the reason for the short supply. They were pricey for a whooping five pesos each regardless of size! Well, at least they’re better than plastic. It's always wise to use glass containers for pickling and preserving food. If only I could store my used bottles in the house, I would if I have space. Otherwise, I sell to kids that buy them for only 50 cents each! I cleaned them thoroughly by soaking with mild detergent and disinfectant overnight. The next day, I discarded the soaking solution and submerged them in warm water so that the labels that are stuck on to the glass surface easily falls off. The trick is to buy one of those shredded iron scrubbers. I was careful to use rubber gloves when scrubbing off old labels and a baby bottle brush to reach very difficult corners. After they’re cleaned, I rinsed them three times and let it dry thoroughly.

Next is the exploration of the vinegar. The one that I used for the sinamak bisaya is a newly harvested coconut vinegar. The reason being is for the vinegar to age with the base mixture for best results. So last month, I ordered a few containers of the vinegar from my mother’s farm in San Carlos. On the other hand, the vinegar used for my Mama’s Uyap and Special Atchara is a local “very sour” fairly aged coconut vinegar bought at the local supermarket. Mind you, I have to screen and taste them first before purchasing volumes of it.
The choosing of the best ingredients is next. Libertad market has the freshest ingredients if we are talking vegetable components. They usually have new arrivals from Mt. Kanlaon and nearby farms every late afternoon.

The chopping, grating, and the mixing….. I could feel my fingers nimble while cutting up onions, garlic, ginger and langkawas. My hands and fingers, through the years has handled the sharp knife and chopping board and has become a specialist when it comes to chopping with dexterity. I taught my kids how to chop properly without risking the cuts.
The pouring of the mixture into the containers was the fastest in the process. I let the mixture cool off first before pouring them into the clean bottles and containers using an improvised funnel. Then, I seal the containers lined with wax paper, rinsed them again, pat them dry before putting on the labels. I finish them off with bonnets from the myriad of colorful "retazos" (scraps) during my quilting days, and a touch of christmas-y ribbons with gold trimmings.
The most exciting part, the labeling and the packaging. I was quite particular about the labels so I had to create my own designs using the Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. It’s a very nifty software and user-friendly too. You can do anything with graphics, pictures, clip-arts and images with it. My husband was my best critic when I was doing the lay-out....he has an eye for colors! They turned out to be just as nice!

The result…… tah duh! The great trio: Sinamak Bisaya, Special Atchara and Mama’s Uyap… a total of 173 bottles specially homemade for families and friends from my kitchen.

My hope and prayer that with these special homemade gifts, my family was able to impart some love from our home to yours this christmas.

Happy Holidays !!!!

With much love,

Bim, Jenny, CJ, Jed, Daisy and Kay

Monday, December 10, 2007

Italian Salamis

It's been mostly Italian food this week. The highlight of which is the "great salamis" (thanks Bianca!). Here, with a few slices of butter and garlic french toast and a generous spread of my ultimate party herbed cheese, the plain and simple is turned into sumpteous "buon mangia"!

Ultimate Party Herbed Cheese:

1 block cream cheese
2 heapful teaspoons of mixed dried herbs
** optional: prepared luncheon meat, mashed (ie spam or purefoods luncheon meat)
** ground nuts: about 1/2 cup of peanuts or walnuts

Mash cream cheese and add in dried herbs (and luncheon meat) until thoroughly mixed. Shape into a log or ball and roll it unto ground nuts. Wrap in cling plastic and put in molds. Refrigerate for 3 days. Serve with crackers or bread.

uova con la salsa di pomodori

Planning meals can be frustrating when you're a mom on the go. A great deal we find ourselves stuck to buying ready-cooked or fast commercial food when we hardly have time to do some serious cooking.

"What's for dinner, mom?" inquired my son the other night. I have to think fast. So I assessed my fridge and pantry only to find three main ingredients: eggs, tomato sauce and a can of mushrooms. When we talk of egg dishes, I immediately relate this to italian food...hhhhmmm... "We're having italian!" I hollered back and whispered to myself, "filipino style". I cooked up the ingredients in my head and came up with this very simple recipe that's both nutritious and filling. It's something that's related to spaghetti so 'lil kiddos will love this!

6 boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
¼ ground pork
1 head onion, sliced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium can button mushrooms, sliced
250g tomato sauce
2 tablespoons prepared ginamos (Mama’s Uyap)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
dash of mixed dried herbs
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
In a hot pan, drizzle some VOO, saute garlic and onions. Add in the ground pork, stir for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms and further stir for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, ginamos. Bring to a boil. A pinch of dried herbs and some salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Carefully add the boiled eggs.

You can top this dish with all purpose cream and grated parmesan cheese once served on a large platter.

Good for 6 people.

Garlic and Buttered Pitik-pitik

(a.k.a: spiny rock lobster tails/ philippine lobster/horseshoe crab/ poor man’s lobster)

Last weekend, I went to Libertad market to search for the freshest vegetable ingredients needed for this year’s holiday gift-aways: special atchara, sinamak bisaya and Mama’s Uyap. As I was going around, a market guy approached and offered me a bargain price for all his pitik-pitik (he was the only one selling them in the market). Boy, it must have weighed a total of 2 kilos. At first, I thought they were giant prawns. Then when I looked closer, they were indeed lobsters! I was quite hesitant for these sea beings were just "babies" and the thought of buying them would result in culpable purchase. Poor guys!
Then from nowhere, I caught myself biting my lip! I shove away the guilty thought when pictures began to flash on the horizon. I further reasoned out in my mind that I can give justice to these little thingis by coming up with a simple, yet delicious fare for the Sunday family luncheon.

As I recall, pitik-pitik tastes like a cross between crab and prawns. The biggest one I had was about... oh, a foot long, a long time ago when mature ones were being sold in the market. They are tropical in origin and are a common sight amongst Philippine reefs. They lack the large chelipeds of other types of lobster, but have very large spiny antennae, as seen here. They generally prefer hiding places such as holes or crevices under outcroppings of coral.
There has been studies conducted by the Philippine Fisheries of its excellent local and export potential. While juveniles are easily captured and locally consumed, going commercial would be tricky the reason for the limited availability (alright, alright, I am guilty)! Nevertheless, it should be a feasible industry for philippine fish farmers if given the right education and technology to culture them for market purposes.

Take note: I use dalandan rather than lemons.

About 2 kilos of pitik pitik
About 2 tablespoons of sea salt
½ bar butter
1/4 cup chopped garlic
2 dalandan juice (Philippine sweet orange)
zest of two dalandan
salt and pepper to taste
some dried herbs
In a large wok, pour in a liberal amount of VOO (virgin olive oil) and sauté the garlic until almost golden brown. Set aside. In the same wok and with the remaining VOO, add in the pitik-pitik and sprinkle sea salt. Cover and let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes in low-medium heat. Then, when they start to turn orange, add in the butter, fried garlic, squeeze in 2 dalandan juice (do not use lemon or else it will taste sour), dalandan zest, freshly cracked pepper and dried herbs. Stir for another 5 minutes and serve immediately.

Serve with barbequed porkchops, sweet onion and tomato salad (please see recipe: and “ice-cold” coke!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

After a month….

If you're a frequent visitor of my blog, about a month ago, I featured an article about drying your own herbs.
Last week, I finally harvested the long-awaited herbs that has been hanging to dry by the roofed patio for a month!
And here they are.... my fresh dried herbs. It looks and smells like heaven after I crumpled them into bits and pieces. I used this convenient flip-flop air tight container for storage. Whenever I need a dash for my dishes, it's just a flip-flop away!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The power of a prayerful wife and mother

I want to be the best wife and mother I can be to my husband and children. But surely, I can never master the role. Most often than not, I make mistakes and get busy just like everyone else. Being a wife and mom can be overwhelming. It is stressful. It is like I am pressed on all sides and the demands are endless. It is during these times that I am blessed to have a prayer support system.

God laid a burden on my friend’s heart to start a women’s group in 2003. Women in our church come from all walks of life with unique backgrounds, concerns and struggles. And so we have formed different women’s groups that cater to individual needs and unique giftings: Moms n’ Wives, Silver Belles, Golden Girls, Single Again, Young Ladies, Single Moms, S.S.S., W.O.W, and One Heart.

There’s about 5 of us in my group who meet every week. We are the Moms n’ Wives group. Our goal? We pray for one another, our husbands and children. We usually read a chapter at home from a book that we choose. When we get together, our focus is centered on the chapter we read or sometimes it might be sharing about our struggles or praying for our husband and children.

I can’t tell you what a blessing this group and time on our knees before God has been in my life. You see, my family benefits from my (our) prayers. But I benefit too. I benefit from hearing other wives shoulder my concerns and lift them up on my behalf. I benefit from giving those same concerns to the Lord instead of trying to handle them on my own. And in the process, I in turn, have been growing and digging into my own heart the desire to be more of a helpmate and blessing to my husband, a resting place to my children and a genuine friend to the people around me as well.

The tears and praises I share with these other women stretches my heart and inspire me with my relationships with my family, friends and loved ones as I get godly advice and counsel from my groupmates.

Praying for your husband:
Praying for your children:

Recommended books:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cinnamon and Cheese

I found these favorite of the kids at SM Bakery: Cheese Rolls and Cinnamon Glazed Bun. I thought they're a good find and reasonably priced too! You might want to try them. They're best when warm!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Got ya!

Do you see that? It's a hummingbird! I finally got the little thing. At first, I thought it was just the annoying wasp. When I got closer, it is the most amazing thing. I have waited so long for a shot of this incredible creation! They usually start to come out early September and disappear before December. Yes, they love my honeysuckle! And sometimes I see them playing by the veranda railings. I am quite surprised to see them still around at this time of year! Must be my lucky day! And so I ran and grabbed my sony cybershot, escaped through the back door and tiptoed behind the animate being! Wow! It's just unbelievable!

Decorating Christmas

My sister-in-law sent me this site: (share this with friends and show to your children), and it just confirms my going simple this Christmas. It's a story about over-consumption, as well as a great lesson in ecology, economics, geopolitics, psychology, ethics - My simple interpretation of this is of man’s hunger for possession of material things and its waste.

Possessions may capture the heart, but they fail to nourish the soul. Our passion for material things far exceeds our compassion for others. This materialism leads to a spiritual emptiness that can't be filled by the addiction of consumerism.

You see, I’m one of those Christmas freaks. Every year, I really get crazy about Christmas: I change styles every year such as changing motifs. I make my own Christmas tree decors according to the motif that year. I start making stuff by October up to the end of November. My Christmas "things" build up through the years and so the house is cramped with either red, green and gold. It’s always a busy time for me and more often than not, instead of really enjoying the real essence of the season, I would end up burned-out and empty.

As I was browsing some entries in my journal from years ago, I found these to do lists, among others:
- Finish decorating by end of November
- Finish all handmade Christmas decors: this year’s motif: indigenous
- Make homemade Christmas gifts: this year: “sinamak”
- Bake three kinds of cakes: carrot, butter and mocha
- Write Christmas newsletter and print Christmas cards
- Finish Christmas shopping early
- Give handmade/homemade gifts to all office staff, school teachers, etc
- Bring out Christmas curtains, table runners, coasters, placemats, napkins, etc
- Buy 1500 Christmas lights (no colored lights)
- Do this….. do that….

The list is endless.

Yesterday, I was thinking of decorating the Christmas tree the simplest way so I went to the market with an impossible budget. Why impossible? Because I knew it’s never enough. But God saw me through. I went to the fabric store and bought only a couple yards of silk cloth of gold and copper. I didn’t know what to do with it until I found myself cutting the cloth in strips of 2 inches in width and made bows and connected them to make a garland. I added some glittered twigs aside from the Christmas lights. It turned out to be very, very nice. Simple. My husband even said it’s the best Christmas tree ever.

My favorite portraits of a godly woman in the Bible says, "she can laugh at the days to come," (Proverbs 31:25). She was filled with such incredible joy not because life was perfect but simply because she had decided to make laughter, peace, and true happiness the hallmark of her life. Proverbs 31:30 goes on to say this was a woman to be praised because she so reverenced God in the shrine of her heart that she knew without a doubt, He was enough.

I have decided in my heart to go simple this holiday season. I’m decorating my heart by buying less, loving much, hugging tighter, giving more, laughing harder, enjoying life and celebrating Jesus!

Indeed, Jesus is enough.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Recommended book: She can laugh at the days to come by Valerie Bell

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On the little things and the little creature

I had my moment this early morning and took a picture of the baho-baho flowers that are abundantly flourishing in the garden. When I uploaded the picture unto my laptap, I noticed a little creature that was focused on my camera.

This reminds me of the things we take for granted. Oftentimes, we miss out the little things that gives beauty to life!

The Little Things
by Marian Jones

Thank you God for little things
That bring much joy our way,
Like a sudden burst of sunshine
Cleansing a sky of grey.

A kindness from a stranger,
Children's laughter as they play;
There are so many little things
That brighten up each day.

Things we take for granted,
Like someone's thoughtful deed;
A perfect flower unfolding
Amidst a patch of weeds.

So at the end of every day
When we turn to God and pray
Let's thank Him for the little things,
He loves to send our way.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cebu Must-Munch

I just arrived from Cebu for the Nursing Licensure Exams held Dec 1 and 2. How did I do? What I know is that, I was more focused and physically amp for the exams. Only God knows how I did. Some parts were easy, some were difficult. Oh well, at least I did my best.

Cebu is becoming one of the great cities in the Philippines. I was surprised of their speedy progress. I recall the times when my Mom brought me with her as she frequents Cebu when I was little. Oh, It was around my grade school years, I think. We crossed the seas via those “very slow” ferry boats that took almost 4 hours of agony and torture between San Carlos, Negros and Toledo, Cebu! 35 years later, they have this fast crafts that make traveling between the islands effortless for only 35 minutes! By accident, my friend, Georgen and I, as we were looking for a place to eat, alas, brought into being “Hotel de Mercedes” in downtown Colon (well I guess at that time, colon was the only place to go around).
It is still standing alright after 35 years since I last stayed there! The façade is the same but the inside was completely renovated from what I recollect. Across the hotel was my favorite restaurant, Pete’s Kitchen. Oh, I remember the food they serve!!! At that time, the place was always full. Every time we went there to eat, I always had a mound of rice with only “lato” (grape-like seaweed) and “sinamak” (spiced vinegar) on my plate. Unfortunately, when we ate there, the place was never improved nor had any face lifts. Food was nothing great compared to my day... and the worst part was that “lato” is no longer served.

My only Mom’s sister, Tita Gamay, who’s blind since birth along with her yaya, Tita Acay, stayed in Cebu almost half of her life. My Mom built a small little cottage for her to stay at the blind community of Banilad. Those were one of the most fun times I have had with the company of great and wonderful, group of people. Inspite of their disability, they remained warm, energetic, jolly, gifted with musical instruments and ideal masseuses regarded as their major source of income. This community once held a concert with Nora Aunor as their special guest. Tita Gamay, my aunt, had a solo with her, as she played the acoustic accompaniment for Ms. Nora. Don’t be surprised if I did, too performed that night. Not to sing nor to play an instrument, but to dance the hula to the tune of the familiar Hawaiian song, “To you sweetheart, Aloha…”? I was about 8 or 9 years old then. Both of my brothers went to Cebu for college. So you see, Cebu is quite a big part of my life.

Of course Cebu, being so progressive has SM City and Ayala. One of my favorite places i love to hang around is the Pearl section of the Malls. Ayala used to have a large space for Philippine cultured pearls alone. When I came to visit recently, i was saddened to see only a few stalls with very limited jewelry selections.

One of the greatest things I love about Cebu are the food delicacies.

There’s this Pork CHICHARON, traditionally deep-fried pork skin, crispy, salty and hot. They now come in exotic flavors such as garlic and vinegar, sour cream and onions, and chili. I like the traditional ones with a little meat in the center. The famous kind are the ones of Carcar. But what I got was a large pouch of Chilen (this was my surprise gift for my husband). I heard the Villalonga Chicharon is good too. I serve this with my spiced homemade sinamak or with some balsamic vinegar and VOO (virgin olive oil) as sawsawan.

Why, I wouldn’t go home without some dried mangoes! I got a large package of dried mango chips from Chilen too. I find it tastier than the ones in small packages.

Georgen, my friend bought some AMPAO, a Carcar delicacy made from sweet crunchy rice crispies. They come in shapes of round, squares and rectangles. Sometimes, they are also in all sorts of colors: red, orange, green and yellow. Little kids love to munch these.

Great tasting MASAREAL a bar-shaped concoction of crushed and ground peanuts, sugar and milk, wrapped in white paper, which is then secured by a piece of string or twine. It's gritty, sweet, and absolutely delightful. The famous ones are that of Didang’s. But this will not hold long coz they usually develop molds if not consumed right away. This is far better than Choc-Nut!!!! Yum yum!

I wouldn’t miss PUTO MAYA (murag budbud sa bisaya, negros), two varieties of glutinous rice (pilit and tapol) mixed together and boiled in rich coconut milk flavored with salt, sugar and ginger. This is usually best served with sun-ripened Cebu mangoes and tsokolate, a traditional hot chocolate drink blended from cacao (tablea). This is great breakfast treats!!!

Then, there’s BIBINGKA A LA CEBU, a steamed rice cake made from ground glutinous rice mixed with sugar and coconut milk, and topped with strips of exotic goat or carabao cheese. I happen to get a bite near the Santo Nino church in Colon while waiting for my friends light some candles for Sto Nino. Look at that! It's generous with coconut meat! Now, what could be more spectacular than that?

(Me and Georgen in Ayala Cebu)