A New and Better Home for Hearty Chowder

Hello everybody! It’s been more than a month since this home had been quiet. Just like any home, improvements and renovation are inevitable for such home to remain special. :)

Venice Welcome Gondola

This was the reason behind the silencio in this home. I want to offer something new, fresh and bigger. This is definitely NOT a goodbye to Hearty Chowder because the same heart of Hearty Chowder continues on at www.msjmdelarama.com. A new HOME  but with the same HEART.

Click the photo to visit our new home for more hearty life and travel inspirations. See you there!

Divine Travels: A Time of Wander and Praise in Sydney, Australia (City Walk + Hillsong Conference)

In celebration of Hillsong United‘s visit in Manila this week, I also reminisce my second time in Sydney, Australia.

I remember one of my dreams was to visit the Hillsong Church in Sydney. But God prepared something better. I was able to attend not just one of their services, but also the 25th Anniversary of Hillsong (with two of my friends – Cecilia and Lujene) last July 2011.

More events

The exciting opening that made the crowd wild and crazy to praise and worship.

It wasn’t just any kind of conference or celebration. But it was one of those empowering and refreshing events that will really leave you transformed.

For days we would wake up early just to be on time to queue before each start of the conference at 8am. Thank God we always had good seats during the 4-day event.

Hillsong Conference

Why can’t church be this cool? Oh yeah church can definitely be this cool while honoring God! :)

This particular Hillsong Conference that I attended was something special. Hillsong really demonstrates how they honor God by the brilliance that they show from their preaching, to their praise and worship, and up to the minute details of their services and events.

I couldn’t help but think about this event as a preview of what heaven looks and feels like! The excellent lighting and effects, the shout of praises from people, and the peace and joy of just lifting the name of God through Jesus – it was really fulfilling.

The reason for this celebration

The reason for this celebration!

I believe that for one to mature spiritually, we all need a church where we can grow with people. And I’m blessed to be a part of an excellent church, my home church at Victory. Besides my home church, one of the churches that I really admire for their excellence and passion is Hillsong. And I was blessed to witness how they do it – live!

Joel Houston Hillsong NYC Pastor

One of the men who lead the worship was Joel Houston, who’s now the lead Pastor of Hillsong in New York City, U.S.A.

We were filled with amazing praise and worship, which was lead by Israel Houghton, Jesus Culture, Darlene Zschech, Joel Houston, and the rest of Hillsong United. Besides the praises, impressive and sometimes humorous intermissions, we also got the opportunity to listen to great and eloquent speakers and their powerful messages.

The baby

Baby love! This ADORABLE baby boy (and his getup) definitely made our day (especially Lujene who kept poking his fat cheeks) while waiting in queue. (If only I could hand-carry him…zuper kyut!)

Jesus Culture

One of the bands that lead praise and worship was Jesus Culture. Amazing passion! As in grabehhh (superrr)!

The speakers Mr. John Maxwell and

Two of the speakers at the conference: Mr. John Maxwell (one of my favorite speaker and author)
and Mr. Nicky Gumbel (Vicar of HTB or Holy Trinity Brompton, the largest Anglican church in UK).

One of the messages that spoke to my heart was what Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of HTB shared. He articulated the need for each and every Christians and churches to be united. I agree. With so many different Christian denominations out there, the results are sometimes conflicts and bashing. So sad, when we should instead extend love and peace to each other.

When he shared about this piercing message, there was a time of silence and repentance in the huge conference hall. And a declaration of peace and unity to all churches was spoken.

New friends

Represent yo! Ms. Philipines, Ms. Australia, Ms. Spain (joke lang), Ms. China (no joke).
What a pleasure to be with these women – Cecilia, Amanda and Lujene. In perfect booties and “unison” for the Lord. ;)

Besides the conference, we had the opportunity to meet new people and one of them was Amanda and a group of Filipinos and Kiwis (not the fruit).

In between we'll have some city tours

Taking advantage of our free time. Showing Lujene some of our photos in the city. Oh lala look at ze bangs hehe.

We also took advantage of the little time that we had to walk around the city and find the perfect pair of Ugg boots, which Cecilia ended up buying. (Haha!)

Darling Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

We didn’t have enough time to explore and enjoy the city that much, but at least we were able to see some of Australia’s iconic landmarks.

a walk

Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night.

And though tired (but filled), we were able to squeeze in some walk in the evening. It was chilly but a lovely time to stroll around and take advantage of autumn.

Sydney Opera House night walk

A walk at the Sydney Opera House at night.

City walk

The fascinating city of Sydney.

My favorite pic of the city

One of my favorite pictures of this busy city.

So here’s a quick Aussie cheer to you mates and a prayer for you to be especially filled with a fresh portion of passion. Just a reminder to those of you who will attend Hillsong United’s event this week, it’s not about the people on stage nor the music, but it’s about the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. :)

My take away from the conference and this trip: the contagious PASSION in loving and honoring Jesus and to just enjoy the walk (literally when traveling and spiritually with Him).

Enjoy mates!

The perfect verse to start it all.
As we attend events like this, may we always remember that it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about the so-called “concert” nor conference, but it’s about Him. I recall what one of the worship leaders of Hillsong United said before the band started playing and while people were beginning to get wild – “Let’s remember that this is not a concert, but this is about Jesus”.

For those of you who want to experience and attend Hillsong’s annual conference: http://hillsongconference.com/sydney/

P.S.

When traveling to Sydney, please don’t forget to try their Vegemite. ;)

17 Cities in 7 Years… one of which is a divine travel to Sydney, Australia.

❦___❤ ___❦

Bucket List: ☑ To attend a service at Hillsong Church  ☑ To experience Hillsong Conference ☑ To see and listen to John Maxwell – live  ☑ To meet someone special ☑ To enjoy another autumn walk ☑ To choose Him above all else (a different kind of freedom and surrender)

A Smooth MINI Drive to Hamilo Coast

I had one of my best and quickest summer vacations a few weekends ago! You can read the details about this sweet getaway on the upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine. So please watch out for that. :)

For now, since the rainy season is already around the corner, let me indulge you with some beautiful summer visuals as a preview to my article for Travelife Magazine. Here are just a few photos from the unforgettable weekend that I had. I had a happy getaway driving our MINI and a much-needed chill out time at Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club.

I’ll miss you summer! Until our next getaway…

Approaching Pico de Loro Cove... can you see why it's called Pico de Loro?  Clue: Parrot's Beak (See it?)

Our weekend goal: A visit to Pico de Loro Cove… Can you see why it’s called Pico de Loro?
Clue: Parrot’s Beak (See it?)

With my travel madame Ms. Gel Bayona and one of our MINIs for the weekend. Thank God I was able to renew my license day before this weekend.

With my travel madame Ms. Gel Bayona and one of our MINIs for the weekend. Thank God I was able to renew my driver’s license days before this weekend. Haha. We miss the rest of the “beach & the city” ladies!

Via Cavitex the shortest route to Nasugbu, Batangas with this fine scenery

Our fine scenery via Cavitex, the shortest route from Manila to Nasugbu, Batangas.

Taking a MINI break

Taking a MINI break. :p

Excited to arrive at Hamilo Coast

Excited to drive to Hamilo Coast.
(“I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it, and I know I know I know I know I know I want you.”
– to those of you who actually sang this song, don’t deny it! Same era tayo ah hehe…)

Our premium room

I was like a kid playing with these MINIs inside our Premium Room.

The view from our room

The view from our room.

Pico de Loro's beach

Pico de Loro’s Beach

Sunset

The beautiful hues of sunset. How romantic. ;)

My view the next morning

My view the next morning during my “me time”. Grateful to the Lord. :)

Our butler

Our butler welcoming us to one of Hamilo Coast’s private islands – Santelmo Cove.

One of our views at Santelmo Cove

The gorgeous view of the sea, sand and sky.
I couldn’t help it – I walked on the beach, swam, snorkeled, floated in the clear water (with the “fishies” under me), and basked in the sun. :) A perfect day!

Driving home

Driving home… wishing to go back… soon…
(Check out my view. Until we see each other again Hamilo Coast.)

Ternate Tunnel  (the longest underground tunnel in the Philippines)

Ternate Tunnel
(the longest underground road tunnel in the Philippines)

My favorite Rainbow

Here’s one of my favorite brushes of rainbow from God! Living a travelife. Until my next weekend drive. :) Thanks for joining me!

 ___________❦____________

P.S. I have friends who have been asking me about this getaway. For those of you who are interested about MINI and how to be a member of Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club, check these out:

http://www.mini.com.ph/

http://www.picodelorocove.com/how-become-member

Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club Customer Care – (02) 464 7845,

Mall of Asia Office – (02) 857 0100 local 1133

Lifestyle #Insta Inspiration: Health, Food and Fitness

I like organizing my apps this way. :)

Being social. I like organizing my iPhone apps this way. :)

As much as some of us would prefer to remain old fashioned and stay away from social media, it is now merely impossible to do so if you want to connect with earthlings.

From using a classic Sony Ericsson P800 to making a big change (yes, it’s a major step for me to change phones) to an iPhone, my social life also evolved. Now, my social circle is no longer restricted to my own little sphere, it is now expanded to the whole world. Literally.

One of the most loved social media apps and my personal favorite is Instagram. Instagram changed how I perceive squared and filtered photos and communication. It makes my photos classic and Polaroid-looking. Plus, as someone who’s very visual, it makes me enjoy connecting to people more. For me, photos (and even short videos) are the best way to inspire and get inspiration.

With this, I also got inspired to feature key Instagram or “IG” people that I follow and get inspiration from. I initially intended to feature them in one entry but thought I want it to be more special and focused. So from time to time, I’ll be featuring different IG people that hopefully won’t just inspire me but others as well.

I’ll be featuring people (toys and animals too – yes you read it right) who inspire me to laugh more, live and work better, and have a healthier lifestyle. Since people are quite busy these days, I’m limiting my Q&A to just three fun, simple and random questions. Hopefully, these questions will  make us get to know these personalities more beyond the world of IG and the reason behind their accounts.

With this, let me kick off this lifestyle/inspirational category with a guy who inspired thousands (I’m not exaggerating) people to eat healthier and stay fitter. The first IG personality that I’m featuring is (drum roll please) “Mr. Slim” of @videomeals.

Literally, this guy is being followed by 600+ thousands of people.

Literally, this humble guy is being followed by 600+ thousands of people.
How can someone hate this guy?
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

I got interested with Mr. Slim’s IG account upon seeing his yummy looking food videos. His videos weren’t just delicious looking, they were also healthy. So I browsed and discovered the owner of the account and immediately got curious.  I wondered when he started with such advocacy? Was he always this *ehem good looking and fit?

Very organized and awesome helpful videos of healthy recipes.

Very organized and helpful videos and healthy recipes.
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

So here goes our Q&A:

JM: Why do you call yourself slim when you really look lean and mean? Is it your real name?

SLIM: Haha, appreciate the compliment and yes Slim is my real name.

JM: When and what made you start living a healthier lifestyle?

SLIM: When I came out of a 5-year relationship. Instead of dwelling on the past I wanted to focus on the present and future. Life is too short. So I kept my head healed high and pushed on.

The makeover. Are you ready for your own transformation this year? I can't wait to work on my 8-pack abs (LOL).

“The Makeover”
Motivation and determination.
Are you ready for your own transformation this year?
I can’t wait to work on my 8-pack abs (LOL). But seriously, living a healthier lifestyle makes a lot of difference. This is me preaching to myself. I want to be more motivated and determined this year (so help me God).
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

JM: Besides the valuable lesson that you shared on Instagram about your Mom’s “elephant question”, how can you motivate someone to act now and avoid procrastinating in achieving his or her goals?

SLIM: You can either keep making excuses, or just get it done. The sooner you start, the sooner the results.

the elephant question

“The Elephant Question”
Moms are really the best! I like that “with one bite at a time” or “one step at a time” when it comes to achieving your goals.
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals 

As what Slim always say in his videos, “and there you have it.”  And ladies, just so you know I already “stalked” him for you. If you’re going to follow him, follow him for healthy food, recipes and tips and not for anything else. Haha. ;) He’s already taken and has a gorgeous babe.

Personal account and some videos for work out Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

The personal account of Slim where he also shares his workout routine. 
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

To those of you who are busy but still want to live and eat healthy, follow Slim and @videomeals for simple and quick healthy meals. I hope there would be more MEN (and women) who would be determined to live healthy (from the inside and out). Again, I’m preaching to myself.

Inspired yet? I hope so. :) Looking forward to share more of my inspirations on IG. Do you know other inspirational IG accounts? Feel free to share them with me.

Recipes Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

Sample simple recipe. Yum!
Photo from the IG account of @videomeals

“I really want to reach out to people to show them it’s simple to cook healthy meals.”

– Slim

Videomeals Website: http://videomealsonline.com/en/

Instagram: @videomeals @slimmy82

Divine Travels: A Medley of Sunsets and its Colors

“How daylight fades and evening moves,

The sun sets to rest while the moon arises

Another day, another time

To witness the grandeur of the Master’s painted canvas.”

(From the coffee-table book Hearty Chowder’s: Autumn Love)

The striking of the sun at the Mount of Beatitudes in Northern Israel.

Melbourne, Australia

The sun is about to rest in Melbourne, Australia.

Aquaria in Batangas, Philippines

The colors of sunset at Aquaria in Batangas, Philippines.

Burano Island in Venice, Italy

The shadows that says, “until tomorrow Mr. Sunshine”. The beautiful colors of Burano Island in Venice, Italy.

Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, Philippines

The sunset at the famous American Cemetery and the city of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, Philippines.

Masada Israel

The last heat of the sun at the ancient Masada in South of Israel.

Paris, France

The romantic glow of sunset never ends in Paris, France.

Anvaya Cove in Batangas, Philippines

The theatrical setting of the sun at Anvaya Cove in Bataan, Philippines.

Phiippines

A soothing fusion of colors at Sta. Rosa in Laguna, Philippines.

Goa, India

Even the birds celebrate the last minutes of Mr. Sunshine overlooking the Arabian Sea in Goa, India.

Peninsula de Punta Fuego in Batangas, Philippines

Shadows and the marrying of pinks and blues at Peninsula de Punta Fuego in Batangas, Philippines.

Hong Kong

A good night indeed overlooking Causeway Bay in Hong Kong.

Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel

Aaaaahhhhh what can I say about this? Speechless over the rays of the sunset at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Zambales, Philippines

The beauty of the sea, sand and sunset in Zambales, Philippines.

“Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.” (Psalm 65:8 NLT)

Cheers to more sunsets, cities and divine travels. :)

Divine Travels: Tel Aviv, Israel (The Holy and Explosive Encounter) & An Episode of Grace (Part V)

At the 66th Celebration of the Independence of the State of Israel.  Photography By: Vincent Garrucho

At the 66th Celebration of the Independence of the State of Israel.
Photography By: Vincent Garrucho

(My apologies for the über dramatic title. This is kind of an “action-packed” post. :p)

INTRODUCTION

I had the privilege to host at the 66th Anniversary of the Independence of the State of Israel last May 5, 2014 at the New World Hotel in Makati City. At first, it was quite an intimidating evening since I’m not into such social functions. About four hundred people including dignitaries and known personalities also graced the event. Nerve-wracking? Not so much. Eeeerrr, uhmmm…

I know how special that night was so I didn’t let my tiny frame absorb such fraught and overwhelm me (I tried). It was a significant evening as I felt the strong and deep connection between the nations of Israel and the Philippines. How these two countries helped each other in times of difficulties.

That evening, His Honorable Albert Del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines shared three points about the relationship between Israel and the Philippines. Philippines were among the 33 countries, and the only Asian nation that supported Israel to be a State. We also assisted a thousand (not sure about the exact number) of Jews in our country during the holocaust period. The last point was something personal for him, which was related to his grandfather who helped two German women. And who could forget the devastation that Typhoon Yolanda left our country? The Israelis were one of those nations who offered immediate help to us. While these points were shared, I just nodded in agreement and marveled.

Old Jaffa

Jaffa’s Clock Tower (made of limestone) at Yefet street.

Sorry for the long introduction. But I just thought that the perfect follow up to my blog series “Divine Travels” would be about Israel since it’s timely for this month’s celebration of Israel’s Independence Day and Mother’s Day. Israel’s Independence Day and Mother’s Day, you may ask? Yes, there is an unusual and unexpected connection between these two. This Divine Travel post is also a continuation of the Episodes of Grace.

This connection made it difficult for me to compress my first visit to Israel in one article. For this particular entry, kindly allow me to backtrack and start this series from how it ended.

(Warning: This post is very long and personal since I want to remember and document this significant part of my trip and season of my life.)

3 months, 2 weeks, 3 days…

This is about those last three days.

The Clock Tower after the siren and when a missile was intercepted
(I learned that this Clock Tower is also a memorial to the Israelis that were killed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. 1948 was the year when my mama was also born.)

THE EXPLOSIONS

How can I forget the 16th of November 2012? It was a day before my departure from Tel Aviv back to Manila. It was also the day when our group who conducted a financial seminar for our Oversees Filipino Workers (OFWs) went around, and saw the Old Jaffa in South of Tel Aviv. This was where I experienced two “explosions” in a day.

Jaffa was a good contrast to explore from the usual character of Tel Aviv. It was a nice afternoon for a leisure walk around the Old City. We were looking for some trinkets and souvenirs to give as a present to family and friends. Suddenly, a siren began to wail. The long and loud siren warned us that another rocket was fired and we need to take cover.

THE FIRST ROCKET

You read it right, “another”. That wasn’t our first time to hear that kind of siren. A night before that afternoon, as we were walking around the city to get dinner with an Israeli friend, we heard the first siren during our trip. It was one of those incomparable experiences to any traveler. I felt like I was part of an action-packed and adrenaline-rush-kind-of-a-movie set. It was surreal. Minutes after the siren, a couple of friends saw the intercepted rocket in the sky that looked like a huge spark and “BOOM”! It somewhat looked and sounded like a firework! As if nothing happened, we continued the walk to our dinner.

One of the people who calmed us down was our Israeli friend. I’m so surprised on how cool he was. We continued to walk until we reached a Mexican restaurant. At that time, drinking shots of tequila would be logical. Is this kind of incident just normal in Israel? Hmm…yes and no.

For our Israeli friend it may seem normal since hundreds of rockets are being fired to Israel day in and day out. We can only imagine their every day situation. But we also heard that in twenty years, it was the first time that a missile was fired and reached an Israeli metropolis. And we were there. We were there not just during one, not even two, but three sirens and Iron Dome-intercepted-rockets. (Intercepted – thank God!)

THE TWO EXPLOSIONS

I must say though that the biggest two consecutive “explosions” that I experienced was in Jaffa. After the first siren that we heard that day, birds went crazy at the town square. We also encountered kind and concerned people at the store where we were. Upon hearing the siren, the sales men at the shop immediately invited us to go inside their store to take cover. After a scene of us haggling, we swiftly saw ourselves taking cover at the same shop.  We took cover until the siren stopped and the rocket intercepted. Thank God! Praise the Lord! Oh my dear! What an experience…

I was already feeling uneasy that time. In my heart, it was more than the intercepted missile. I felt like there’s another one coming. This time, it was something that I won’t be able to control in my head. It was something that cannot be intercepted by any human hand, time, and mind. I wanted to leave the place and go back to our hotel. But we stayed a little longer.

Another set of crazy birds. This time I felt like it's very different... I already had a feeling it's something personal....another explosive news

Right after the siren, the birds went crazy again. This time I already felt that something was deeply wrong. Then I got the call…

Right after the first siren that day, the birds went crazy again. This time it took place at the opposite side of the Clock Square. Then something sounded familiar. It was another troubling sound. This time it was coming from my phone. It was a call from my brother.

You know those times when you just know something terrible happened or will happen? Your ear is prepared to hear the news but your heart is never prepared to receive nor your mind prepared to perceive. You try to fight the fact and the reality.

“Hello sis, I’m calling because Mama is already saying goodbye”, my brother calmly said. “Do you want to talk to her?”, he continued.

Three months 

Before the trip…

It was 2010 when my desire to go to Israel started. It was also the year when we discovered about Mama’s colorectal cancer. Strange…just strange how these two things always get connected. Israel and my Mama (read more about this here). Two years and a number of months passed by and we saw ourselves (my family and I) at the four corners of a hospital room for three months (wrote our detailed hospital miracle experiences here). Those three months were definitely the toughest season of our life as a family.

Two weeks 

Before the trip…

Within those two weeks before my travel to Israel, my place was already prepared for Mama’s homecoming. Upon receiving a discharge order from Mama’s doctor, we prepared every thing that she need, from her hospital bed to her personal nurse, and other medical essentials. We were expectant for her homecoming with us. I was at peace knowing that she was coming home even before I leave for Israel.

On the day of my trip, I wasn’t able to say goodbye. There were so many things to do and accomplish both at the hospital and for my trip. The mental and emotional tension was there. Just a few hours before my flight, I went at Mama’s hospital room. Everyone was there. I wanted for everyone to leave that time but I just couldn’t speak nor move. I just went to her bedside and told her, “Mama I’ll be back, okay?”. I didn’t even kiss her because I was sure that I would have a hard time holding back my tears. I wanted to go back but I never had the chance.

I was sure that during that time, it was hard to comprehend why I needed to leave when Mama was still in the hospital. I couldn’t explain it too. I just know that I need to leave. Upon closing the door at her room, I couldn’t stop crying. I cried from the hallway, to the elevator (where I saw one of Mama’s nurse and told her to take care of her), from the parking lot and even up to the point when I accompanied my brother to buy our Mama’s medicines. I thought I would stop crying. But I never did, until I reached the airport.

I left in peace, but in my heart the emotional and mental anguish was there. It was the hardest time and decision to leave. When I left the hospital and Manila, I know that I needed to surrender Mama. As I left for Israel, I prayed that God would take care of Mama and my family. I just know that I needed to go. Whatever the purpose and reason was, I just needed to go.

The last three days…

Before our departure from Israel

(This wasn’t the first time that I got a call from a family member. A day or two before our stroll to Jaffa, I got a call from my sister-in-law that my Mama needs prayers. Her heart was getting weak. I couldn’t believe it. She was still in the hospital while I was in Israel. The morning prior to our Skype prayer time, I learned that Mama was revived.)

After my brother passed the phone to Mama, I started talking. I started thanking my Mama, telling her how much I love her. I talked and talked even when I couldn’t hear any response. I talked some more until my brother got back on the phone and we hung up. As I walked towards the Clock Square, I decided to call my brother again. I wanted to talk to my Mama for the last time even when I could no longer get any response.

I called and this time, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I used to pray in faith, for miracles and for healing. I didn’t know what to pray anymore. Should I pray for a miracle? It wasn’t that in that instance, I  already stopped believing in miracles. I was actually imagining that maybe God will do what He did to Lazarus when he called him back to life. Maybe it was going to be one of the death-to-life-kind-of-a-miracle? He can do that to my Mama, right?

My tears just flowed during that second call. It wasn’t tears about the explosions, but it was tears of surrender. I didn’t know what to say nor pray anymore. Until I reached the square and heard my friend Vanny weeping more than I did that time. She was weeping while trying to comfort me by embracing me on my side. That time, I just cried, “Mama, Mama, Mama…”. I cried and prayed. It was a prayer of surrender…. I surrender. My heart just died. I surrender.

Since I’ve been wanting to go home even after the first siren, I told our group that this time I really wanted to go home already. I was willing to commute alone while they can still stay, but they all walked with me. We waited for our bus as we head home.

THE FINAL KISS

When we got on the bus, I swiped my card but it didn’t work. That was strange. My friends and I paid and had the same balance on our pre-paid bus cards. My card didn’t work while theirs worked just fine. I’m grieving, mourning, and in pain for goodness sake!

The bus driver then pointed me to sit in front. I was thinking maybe he wants us to settle it later on instead. I sat in front while my friends sat at the back where we usually sit. I didn’t want to be bothered at that time. So I sat near the window, placed my camera purse beside me so nobody can disturb me.

Then another strange thing happened. Of all places and of all people, an old lady came inside the bus. She was carrying a grocery bag and a bag of bread. Our eyes met then she pointed her lips on the seat beside me. I didn’t have a choice but to let her sit beside me. So I moved my purse.

I looked outside the window and in my head I exclaimed, “Wow, Lord! Of all people why would you let this old woman sit beside me? Why Lord, why? And she even has her grocery bag with her! You even remind me that I can never do the groceries ever again with Mama. She also gave some bread to the driver. You remind me how Mama was. Why Lord, why?”.

I was trying to fight my thoughts. I don’t want to cry inside that bus. So to divert my attention, I reached for my purse, grabbed and sprayed some organic hand sanitizer on my hands. Eeek, wrong move! Something that I feared the most happened. The old lady started talking to me, and in Hebrew!

She was moving her hands directing where I bought my hand sanitizer. I told her I didn’t buy it there. I bought it back home, in Manila. Then I just couldn’t help it. I tried to keep my tears from falling but she noticed it. And she asked why. I told her through gestures and in words that my Ima (one of the only few words that I know in Hebrew) passed away earlier and she was in the Philippines far away from me.

With gentleness and kindness in her eyes, she told me that I could stay with her when I get to visit Israel again. I gave her my card and thanked her. I didn’t have time to get her name and contact details. In just a split second, my friends called me that it was already our stop. It was time to leave. I hurriedly said goodbye to the old lady. Then as if our world paused, she gave me a warm hug and a goodbye kiss.

I couldn’t help but think that in that brief moment, God made a way, drove the bus that afternoon, played with my pre-paid bus card, pointed me to the perfect sit, and let me and my Mama talk, hug, and kiss me for the last time through that old lady. Is it just me who find this bizarre? Just minutes after my Mama’s passing, this happened.

Waiting for the sun to set at Tel Aviv Beach.

THE SURRENDER

As we headed back to our hotel, I told my friends that I wanted to be alone. I went to my room, closed the door and just wept. I wept and wept until I felt my eyes getting burned! I wept, I prayed, I knelt, and I cuddled myself. After weeping, I talked to my friends and asked them to excuse me that evening. I wanted to be alone even for a while. I walked along the beachfront near our hotel (which I’ve been aching to do since we arrived). I wanted to walk and see the setting of the sun. So I went there and Vanny accompanied me. I was hurting…. I was in terrible pain.

finally was able to walk at the beach and this time with vanny a girl who lost her mama when she was still young.

Who could have planned this? Vanny who lost her Mom at a young age was the one who was trying to comfort me at the Clock Square and the  one who accompanied me to this walk to the beach.

I asked Vanny if she could join me in prayer. I wanted to pray for my Mama and commit her to the Lord. I prayed and lifted my hands of surrender in front of the calm sea. I surrender! There was nothing that I can do but to thank, praise and worship God! I always pray that He would be in control. And I was certain that He was. I committed my Mama and my heart to the Lord. I prayed for Him to let me understand…I know that He will let me accept and understand.

Waited until sunset

The beautiful sunset and calm Mediterranean Sea.

As I prayed and faced the Mediterranean Sea, God gave me a picture of the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. It was so beautiful and serene. The sea was also very calm. God gave me tranquility, a sense of peace in my heart. I just know that I can rest on Him. In pain, in grief and in mourning, I can rest on Him. I know that healing will take time but I chose to rest. In loss, I know I gained more of Him. I gained His grace and His grace became my strength in such weakness.

“The Lord knows my weakness. And He’s the only One who can also give me such strength in such a time”.

DEATH AND LIFE

I pictured, if this view was already spectacular, how much more the place where my Mama is right now? And her face and body, I can only imagine how beautiful she is at this moment. I find it sad to think that our life just ends here on earth. You know, you just live and die, that’s it. I find that so sad. But what makes me excited about having a relationship with God through Jesus is that life doesn’t have to end here. Death is just a beginning of another life – an eternal one with Him. Life that is surrounded with His love. And I’d rather be surrounded with His love than be away from it. That’s what my Mama is experiencing right now. Love and eternity.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

After that night of surrender, the next day, PD told me that I could go ahead of them so I can attend to family matters. It was just a day before our return to Manila. So I thought that it wouldn’t change a thing even when I go ahead of them. I wanted to finish whatever the purpose of my trip was. I felt like God wasn’t finished yet.

What I loved about our mornings in Israel was our daily devotional. This was our last devotional as a group in Israel.  
Photography by: Benny Dychangco

Backtrack…

Days before our departure from Tel Aviv, PD and I went to a mall. At that mall I told him that I want to meet a senior citizen. I don’t know why but I just want to meet one.

After our lunch, I excused myself and went to the ladies room. Inside the loo, I saw an Asian-looking woman who was attending to an old but beautiful woman. As I went outside, they were still there. I approached them and started talking to Ate Remy (“Ate” pronounced as “ah-te”, a Filipino term of respect, which means older sister). Ate Remy is a Filipina caregiver who looks after Rachel, the old but beautiful woman on the wheelchair.

As I was talking to Ate Remy, Rachel started talking to me too. I was surprised on how witty and funny she was. She also spoke good English and her mind was still sharp. We talked for several minutes until PD saw us and approached our group of ladies. (Maybe he got worried and curious what took me so long in the ladies room?)

I really enjoyed talking to Rachel and Ate Remy. Before we left, I told Rachel how I would love to see her again. I asked when she would go to the mall again. She said that we could visit her at her home instead. Ate Remy was surprised because Rachel doesn’t normally invite people to her place. She said that was very rare of Rachel.

I felt so privileged and excited to be invited to her home. So we set the date and exchanged numbers. I was really looking forward to see Rachel again. But a day or two before we were scheduled to meet, she called and asked if we can reschedule our date. She realized that it was Shabbat and her family will visit her at her place. I told her with regret that I no longer have other available dates to meet her since I was flying back to Manila that Saturday evening.

I understood how important it is to celebrate Shabbat for the Israelis. But she insisted that we could meet in the morning instead.

Rachel’s beautiful home.

That Saturday Morning…

The Purpose

I thank God that I was able to stay on our last day in Tel Aviv or else I would have missed something incredible. After our last morning devotional as a group, it was time for our Shabbat date with Rachel. I took a cab with PD and Tita Mamoosh as we journeyed to her place.

When we arrived at Rachel’s building, we were welcomed and assisted by Ate Remy from their lobby to the elevator, going to their home unit. Upon entering their home, we were welcomed by Rachel’s cheerful spirit and warmest smile.

Love this carpet

Love the details and colors on this carpet.

That Saturday morning felt like Christmas with Rachel. As I gave her some presents from the Philippines, I was surprised that she also prepared something for me. It was a beautiful hardcover book full of nice pictures and details about Israel. Ate Remy said that Rachel let her choose their gift for me. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness.

With gift from Rachel

This is my lovely friend Rachel. (Please excuse the “sebo” on my face.)

Despite being in a wheelchair for years, Rachel displayed such energy and zeal for life. She was very sweet and you can tell that she enjoyed life.

One of her travel collections.

We were filled with admiration as we gazed at Rachel’s collections that surrounded her very cozy home. She then started to give us a tour of her place and collections while in her wheelchair. Her place showed how well-traveled she was. She showed us the variety of decorative items that she has, which she curated from the different countries that she visited, including a wooden chicken from the Philippines.

The variety of her collections shows how well-traveled she was.

She shared stories after stories in her usual humor. We really enjoyed our time with her. We appreciate how she took the time to welcome and accommodate us.

More collections

More collections from around the world.

After our house tour, she invited us to a nook at her kitchen. She had Ate Remy prepare some local snacks for us. When I asked if she cooked all those treats for us, she humorously replied, “Yes, I made them with my own bare hands”. Then she continued, “I bought them from the store and made them from my own bare hands”. Then PD, Tita Mamoosh, Ate Remy, Rachel, and I continued our conversation until Tita Mamoosh started to talk in Spanish with Rachel. They looked so adorable.

Rachel’s chicken collection.

Our snack.
(You can see how she loves her family as she placed photos of her children and grandchildren at her breakfast nook too.)

Soon after, Rachel shared about her collections again and shared something personal that really pierced my heart. Right then and there I felt sharing to her about Mama.

Beautifully framed old pictures at Rachel’s home.

I couldn’t stop crying again. Instead of comforting her, I ended up being comforted by Rachel. I had the urge to tell her how I lost Mama the day before our date. It was painful and sad but I was assured that my Mama is already very happy, at peace, whole and is already with Jesus. I am sad but at the same time I was at peace. I know and I’m assured that she’s already in a beautiful place.

An intimate time with Rachel and Ate Remy on the background.
(I didn’t know that PD was already taking our photos during this time. He’s like a trained paparazzo! But thank you PD. Moments like this is priceless.)

Then I had the inkling to ask Rachel if she also wants the same assurance and if she wants me to pray for her. She agreed and we prayed together. After praying, she also shared a lot of wisdom to me about life and how she wants to live it.

After praying with Rachel, we heard more stories from her.
(Thank you for getting my camera and for taking pictures without our permission PD. Now, I appreciate these kind of photos more.)

JM: “What do you think about life?”

Rachel: “Life is beautiful, you are beautiful!” (hahaha)

JM: “And you are beautiful too!”

Rachel: “I don’t want a long life, I want a beautiful one. It’s you who makes your life beautiful. You can’t blame your mother, your father or anybody. You can only blame yourself.”

Group photo with the ladies – Ate Remy, Rachel and Tita Mamoosh.

Rachel also asked us to sit on her lap during our group photo. She said she doesn’t feel anything on her legs since she was paralyzed hip down, so it’s okay for us to sit on her lap. So we carefully sat on her lap like kids. She was too cute! She was something special. After our prayer and chat time, her grandchildren finally arrived. We were introduced to them before we bid goodbye.

Last walk on the beach.

(After our first date with Rachel, we kept in touch until I got back to Manila. I had my long distance phone calls with Rachel and Ate Remy. She was so sweet. She would tell me how she misses me and how she loves me. It was like talking to Mama.)

THE FINAL WALK

After our visit to Rachel and Ate Remy, we went back to our hotel to prepare for our flight. Before we left for the airport, I took my final autumn walk on the beach.

Last Sunset

My last walk and sunset in Tel Aviv Beach

On my final autumn walk, I also watched my last sunset overlooking the grandeur of the Mediterranean Sea. As I looked at the horizon, I thanked God for such a divine trip. The kids that were playing at that time, also reminded me about my own childhood. Oh, how my Mama took really good care of me and my brothers from the day we were born and until we became adults. Oh, how life is fleeting.

Coach to the airport
Photography By: Benny Dychangco

On our way to the airport, I was trying not to feel that anxious. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrive home.

“I’m coming home Mama…”

A SPECIAL CONNECTION

I remember what PD told me before we left Rachel’s home, “You know what JM, Rachel and your Mom have something in common… It’s you. And when they finally meet in heaven, they will both talk about you’. I sniffed, tried not to cry and told PD, “PD, you’re not helping…”. Of course, I was just kidding. We met a special friend in Tel Aviv in Rachel. And I believe that Mama also gained a new friend in her. What PD said reminds me that indeed, my trip to Israel was never in vain. God made me understood the reason why I was there.

Inside Ben Gurion Airport
Photography By: Benny Dychangco
(Thanks Kuya Benny! It was really a blessing to travel with another photographer. I finally have good photos on this trip!)

AN EPISODE OF GRACE

It was just a day after my Mama’s passing. I was still mourning and couldn’t wait to be home with my family at this point in time. But guess what? During my turn at the immigration, they couldn’t find my name on their system. Strange! Oh my goodness! I couldn’t believe it, they cannot find my name on their system?

God's time is always on time

“Though we may never understand it, we can always trust that God’s time is always on time.”

But through that waiting, God gave me patience. I waited but also talked to the officer and showed them my itinerary and ticket as a proof that I entered their country at a so and so date. Bi-zarre! But thankfully, I made it back home in time for Mama’s wake.

This was how my friends patiently (and worriedly?) waited for me. ☺ I’m really grateful for these people. Thank you!
Photography By: Benny Dychangco

Overall, my first trip to Israel reminded me about this verse in the Bible that says:

“I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.

I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.

I will fill the desert with pools of water.

Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.

I will plant trees in the barren desert—cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine.

I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means—that it is the LORD who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it.”

(Isaiah 41:18-20 NLT)

I may be out of context, but this verse reminded me that although this trip may seem to leave me scorched as that of a desert and a parched land, still God made sure to feed me with His springs of living water to refresh me. He made me see and understand His miracle-working hands.

At Tel Aviv Beach. The moon, the sea, and the sky. This was a beautiful picture of an Episode of Grace.

As I celebrate the Independence of Israel this month, I also celebrate not just the life and love of my Mama this Mother’s Day. I also remember the grace that comes with and from the love of God.

3 months, 2 weeks, 3 days…

An Episode of Grace

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (Malachi 4:2)

A continuation from: http://heartychowder.com/2013/05/16/a-beautiful-and-lingering-pain/

and Part IV: “The Promise”

17 Cities in 7 Years… one of which is a divine travel to Tel Aviv, Israel.

❦___❤ ___❦

Bucket List: ☑ To walk where Jesus walked  ☑ To experience God’s amazing grace ☑ To meet new and special people  ☑ To surrender completely and wholly to God’s will ☑ To experience a different kind of adventure ☑ To just be free and cry and mourn

A Healthy Gourmet Food Delivery Experience with Ichef Concepts

Blackened Beef with ox feet sauce, mushrooms, blackened jerkins, raddish and some salad greens with red wine dressing

Sample lunch from Ichef Concepts: Blackened Beef with ox feet sauce, mushrooms, blackened jerkins, raddish and some salad greens with red wine dressing

I had the pleasure of indulging myself with the creativity and passion of Ichef Concepts for nutrition and food. If I can come up with my own formula for their company, it would be:

 Gourmet + Nutrition + Creativity + Food Delivery = Ichef Concepts

The box

Every morning, Ichef makes sure to deliver a box of meals to be prepared and indulged for the next day.

I’m not a newbie when it comes to health, wellness, and food delivery. I’ve researched and tried a lot of these things for my Mom since 2010.

We searched and tried alternative and healthy stuff. We also tried organic groceries and food deliveries in the Metro. To this day, I try my best to live healthier especially when it comes to the food I eat. I also enjoy watching lifestyle and food shows on TV more than teleseryes.

What's inside

What’s inside the box on my first day with Ichef Concepts?
*The meals are labeled if it needs to be chilled, frozen, or reheated in a microwave. There’s also a note about the menu of the day and simplified instructions per meal. I personally stopped using microwave oven for health reasons. For my meals, I reheat them on a pan.

It’s good to be acquainted with Ichef Concepts. I got curious on what type of food delivery they have since there are already a number of them who offer this kind of service.

So I asked and “grilled” (just kidding) Chef Allan of Ichef. And he was gracious enough to answer my eagerness to learn more about his company. I don’t just try any products (including food) or service; I research and study them first before I share them.

Breakfast

Day 1′s Breakfast: Onion tart with smoked fish and caviar, topped with anchovy dressing, pickles and onion ash.
(Not a fan of tarts in the morning {Filipinos like rice hehe} but this one was nice for a change. I like how the anchovy dressing complemented the onion tart.)

For those curious “foodnatics” like me, here are some details on what Ichef Concepts is about:

JM: What is Ichef Concepts?

Chef Allan: We do daily food delivery, the healthy stuff but our philosophy is very different from the other providers. We are more concerned with the nutritional value rather than just the crash and fad diets available. Although we count calories as well, our main focus is putting nutrition back to your diet.

We really position our products for those who are well traveled and are exposed to this kind of food. It’s hard to explain our food to the people endorsing the budget daily delivery services. Though part of my vision is for this kind of well thought of food, using all natural, nutritious and healthy ingredients be accepted in the mainstream, not just in the niche market. Eventually, I am hoping that people demand more from food providers. I want our food to show people that it is possible to make this kind of food daily, delivered and served at a reasonable price.

Our food is 95% made in house. Most of the items that we can do, we create from scratch, ensuring that we can control the quality of ingredients that we use. We veer away from artificial stuff and try to incorporate a wide variety of ingredients (grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.) to provide the best bang-for-your calorie buck.

Lunch

Lunch: Pork crackling in spicy tomato sauce, seasoned with a little balsamic and each bite with tuna mayonnaise. Chicharon with mortadela yogurt and veggies on the side.
(The pork was tender and nice with the tomato sauce, which wasn’t that spicy. I like that my vegetables are fresh and still had that crunch. I tried just a little tuna mayo with my pork since it was unusual for me to combine my pork with tuna. The chicharon was a nice touch for any one not to feel “deprived” too. Haha. )

JM: I saw that one of your menus include pork? How can you say that it’s something healthy/nutritious?

Chef Allan: Personally, I believe that the best diet still is a balanced diet without omitting any food groups, since there are unique nutrients and health benefits from each ingredient. What I try to stay away from are artificial and unhealthy processed products, which we also practice in all the food that we do. But we can customize our food if our clients have certain preferences. 

Dinner

Dinner: Fish roulade, shrimp “skin” in sauce American with a little seafood oil, grilled shrimp ceviche, grilled corn relish, shrimp crackers.
(I liked the shrimp ceviche more than the fish roulade. I think I had too much seafood from this meal since I felt a little weird after eating my dinner. I remember my allergologist who told me that I was allergic to a number of seafood. I wrote, “was” because I still eat and try to enjoy them. ;)

JM: You mentioned that you create most of your food items from scratch. What are these items? Tell me more.

Chef Allan: For the ingredients and condiments, 70% of all items in the menu are made in-house. Dressings: All dressing that we use (mayonnaise is store bought to control fat and sanitation of egg based mayo).
Cheese: homemade ricotta, homemade smoked cheese. Flavored vinegars: beet, rosemary, thyme, bay, basil, and lemon. Oils: all infused oils (chili, harissa, herbed oils, lemon, seafood, bacon, charcoal, etc).
Spread: cheese spread, dill yogurt, etc.
Meats: all cooked meat preparation, smoked meats, sausage, fish. Salts: all salts are kosher salt based then processed in house (smoked, infused with aromatics, etc).
Bread: flat bread, black chapatti, all short breads. 
There are more. So more or less, down to the smallest garnish and condiment we do it in-house if we can do it better and do it healthier. We sometimes overlook the cost just to make a better product. 

Surprise

I get excited each time a new box arrives! I always anticipate what meals I’ll have next. Congrats Ichef for tapping my “learner” side.

Types of food and services that IChef Concepts offers:

EAT SMART DIET SYSTEM Promoting a complete and well balanced diet with a vast selection of food items. ( 1300-1500 calories/ day) 3 meals 1 snack

COHEN FRIENDLY MEALS Based on the studies of Dr Cohen. Promoting minimal fats, sugars and carbs to curb weight. Regulates your metabolism by allowing you to eat frequent low calorie meals. (900-1000 calories/ day) 3 meals 1 snack

PARTY FOOD Creative family style platters, delivered fresh.

FOOD CONSULTANCY Turn your food ideas into reality.

Lunch

Lunch (day 3): Chicken roulade, confit chicken wing, currant couscous in red chicken curry, topped with cashews and seasoned with cilantro green sauce, white mint yogurt per bite, tomato salad on the side.
(I’m not sure if I over reheated the chicken but it came out kind of mushy for my taste. What I loved about this meal though was the couscous and the different fusion of the curry, yogurt, and cilantro sauce. I also loved the “tomato salad” on the side. Anything with tomatoes is love.)

Personally, I really enjoyed my healthy gourmet experience with Ichef. Their concept for a healthy food delivery service deserves kudos.

As I’m already svelte (I like this term better than thin), I definitely don’t need to diet. But I want to know and discover more how I could have a proper and balanced food intake every day. I want to feed my body right.

Lunch (day 4): Braised smoked pork voluete, truffle risotto, mushrooms brined raddish red wine sauce drizzled with charcoal oil and topped with parmesan and hazelnuts.
(I like the pork because it was tender and it tasted nice with the sauce and parmesan.)

I also try to stay away from pork especially starting this week when a friend sent me this article. I like eating pork from time to time but even a long time ago, we tried to avoid it at home.

I’m hoping that Ichef Concepts can help me more on these as I suggested for my next meals not to include pork. (Maybe there’s an exemption like the candied bacon, which was really something though).

I wonder if they can have a special system for people like me who don’t want to loose weight but who want to have the proper nutrients and gain more strength and energy?

Ref

Save some space in your chiller for Ichef Concepts meals. This was how a part of my chiller looked like.

I’m quite excited on the other food concepts that Ichef will offer soon. I hope there would be more people who will support and take advantage of this kind of food service.

Breakfast

Breakfast (day 4): Banana pudding with chocolate tapioca and chopped candied bacon, coffee.
(Another quick breakfast! The pudding wasn’t that sweet, which is good. After taking a photo of this, I put all the tapiocas on my pudding, and tried to save my candied bacon. I loved the candied bacon so much! I wish Ichef can pack them as a snack, which I can bring as baon.)

I’m also impressed that they make most of their items from scratch. Their unique menus certainly showed the time, creativity, research, and kind of effort they exert to accomplish such healthy gourmet meals delivered to their clients’ homes.

Snack

Sample Snack (day 4): Vegetable sticks in dill yogurt, lemon tea.
(I hope there were more veggies. But then again, this was just a snack.)

I enjoyed discovering each meal, plating, and photographing them.

dinner

Dinner (day 4): Mixed greens with alfalfa sprouts, parma ham, confit potato, orange supreme, orange dressing, shrimp crackers.
(I like this salad minus the confit potatoes. And I’ll like it more if there were more sprouts on it. I’m a fan of this quick, easy, and healthy dinner especially after a long day of work.)

I’m curious on how many people are interested in this kind of meals?

Breakfast

Breakfast (day 3): Polenta shortbread in orange-rosemary essence, homemade cheese, balsamic syrup and fresh oranges on the side.
One of my favorite quick breakfast meals from IChef! I was surprised to enjoy the polenta shortbread so much. I like eating it together with the fresh oranges. The homemade cheese was also fantastic. And the balsamic syrup? I loved it! I like this combo very much. Another “I-wish-this-was-in-a-snack-container” moment.

Send me a comment or message on how you find this kind of food service. I’m hoping to work on some possible special treats for Hearty Chowder friends too.

For more information about Ichef Concepts, send them an email at info.ichef@yahoo.com or contact them at 0917 884 2433. You may also visit their Facebook page here

P.S.Happy Mother’s day to all amazing Moms out there! ♡♡♡

Virtual flowers to all moms out there

Every morning of Mother’s Day, I used to have flowers delivered for my Mama and surprise her. Since she’s already up there watching over us today and enjoying all the kinds of flowers that we could ever imagine in heaven, I’m just sending this one (virtually) to all mommies out there! Thank you for your sacrificial and selfless love to so many people besides your kids. :) Happy Mother’s Day! 

Divine Travels: A Royal Visit to Loire Valley, France

Welcome to the Loire Valley region, Central of France

(A view of the Loire River in Amboise.)
Welcome to the breathtaking and dreamy “Garden of France”the Loire Valley.

With the timely visit of the 44th President of the United States of America in the Philippines, Mr. President, my uncle (just kidding) Barack Obama, I also remember my “royal” visit to one of the most “feel-good” places of all time – Loire Valley.

"Letting my hair down..."

“I’m thinking whether to let my hair down this time or not…”

I mentioned in my post here how I dreamt of traveling to Disneyland. It was my kind of “la-la land” when I was a kid. Until now, I still haven’t been there yet but God made me experience something better.

The countryside of France

Located in Central France, Loire Valley is also known as “The Cradle of the French Language” 

Before heading to my first trip to Europe (one of the many miracles, read the intro to this blog series here) at 26 years old, my friend asked me if I want to go to Loire Valley. I didn’t have any idea where it was and what’s in that place. So, I googled it. I researched, read, and saw how picturesque Loire Valley is. All of a sudden, I was thrilled to the bones! I beamed with excitement just thinking about the place. And yes, of course, I agreed to go with her to this countryside of France.

Our home for our short 3-day stay in this region of France.

Our home for 3 days in this region of France.

From Paris, we took a TGV express train and journeyed for about an hour or so. It was my first time to commute with a heavy luggage and bag, which we need to carry from one train station to another, and up and down staircases. It was one of those days that I wished I were with a macho man who can carry our baggage for us. But I also realized that such circumstance is part of the fun and intensive work out when traveling.

One of my friend's happy times.

One of my friend’s happy times.

Upon arrival to Loire Valley, my friend rented a car for the three of us. She loves to drive even in the crazy streets of Manila. So undoubtedly, she enjoyed all the more, driving to the beautiful landscape of the Loire region. It was certainly a treat for her except for some mini clashes that we had here and there, which I think made our journey more interesting.

One of the cafes where we had our “petit-déjeuner” (breakfast) before heading to another château.

One of the best breakfast I had! Yes, we finished our individual sandwiches. The bread was so good!

One of the best breakfast I had! Yes, we finished our individual sandwiches. The bread was so good! It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside! I just had one problem…

It was too big haha! The bread was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Yum!

The baguette was too big and crispy! I thought I’m going to loose my two front teeth. Haha! Nonetheless, it was so good that I didn’t bother to get messy that morning.

I knew we’ll be walking a lot in our few days in Loire Valley, so instead of glass slippers, I wore my sturdy Mizuno (they didn’t sponsor me) running shoes. I was there for comfort and not for style. So I wore whatever I had to keep me warm for autumn. I didn’t mind the possible scrutiny of French fashion snobs.

The majestic Château d’Amboise as my medieval backdrop.

Besides not being able to wear my glass slippers and my royal frock, I also forgot to bring my edible pumpkin ride. Maybe that’s why fairy godmother decided not to match me yet with the young and handsome Brad Pitt look-alike that I saw at a souvenir shop. I was already trying to play some basic French in my head, but I just didn’t have the guts to verbalize them to him. It wasn’t my style. I was too shy. ;)

One of my favorite pathways and "autumn" captured in photography. :)

One of my favorite pathways and “autumn” captured in photography. :)
I can still remember the feeling while walking to this pathway approaching one of the châteaux.

Nevertheless, I also discovered that a true lady doesn’t need a man to bring her incredible joy. She just needs to open her eyes and see the blessing in the season. Fairy godmother wasn’t able to pair me with someone special on this trip, but I was definitely swept away by the love of my Abba Father, my King. I really felt like I was in the movie “Enchanted”, as I was visiting one château after another.

The room

The unforgettable room at Château de Cheverny.

One of the châteaux that were unforgettable for me was Château de Cheverny. As I was walking at one of its rooms, which was quite dark for an afternoon, I suddenly heard a sound, “tok, tok, tok”. I looked around and saw no one in the room. I thought, “Who or what could it be?” Then the beating sound was there again, “tok, tok, tok.” I took another look and found this…

"The knocking bird" :)

“The knocking bird” :)

This made me laugh! The bird was knocking on the window until I took a photo of him. I felt like he was just trying to get my attention. Or perhaps to send a special message for me?

“The little bird reminded me to enjoy life and God’s blessings. To live life to the fullest.”

"The jumping bird"

“The jumping bird” :)

Beyond the fairy-tale experiences like this, I had so many reasons why I enjoyed Loire Valley so much. I felt like singing, dancing, and leaping to some classic Disney songs while wandering. I was also culturally satisfied by the immense amount of art and history that surrounds this region.

From its notably splendid châteaux (there are about 300 of them),

Chateau

Château de Cheverny

to historic towns,

here

Timber-framed houses in Amboise.

fruit orchards,

Beautiful lettuce.

I know this is not a fruit but I just love this assortment of lettuce. So beautiful!

impressive architecture,

Chateau

Château de Chambord

vineyards,

"Be amazed. There's a maze!"

“Be amazed. There’s a maze!”

and lush gardens,

Pedicured gardens

Manicured gardens at Château d’Amboise

there’s no doubt why a wide area of the Loire Valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The view from Leonardo Da Vinci's room at

The view from Leonardo Da Vinci’s room at Le Clos Lucé in Amboise.

Loire Valley is a serene, grand, and happy land that transported me to the time of French kings and aristocrats, and great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci.

"The Mona Lisa" (just a copy)

“The Mona Lisa” (just a copy)

I know that Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius but visiting his home and seeing the scale models of his (super advance) inventions made me realize the reality of his legacy. His work shows how exceptionally gifted he is.

The double-helix staircase that they say Leonardo Da Vinci helped in desiging at Chateau de Chambord

They say that this double-helix staircase at Château de Chambord was co-designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

It’s amazing to see a lot of beautifully made and detailed tapestries, antiques, and other artworks around each grand château.

"L'Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean"  Pierre-Paul Rubens Siegen 1577 - Anvers 1640

“L’Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean”
Pierre-Paul Rubens
Siegen 1577 – Anvers 1640

I extremely enjoyed my time in Loire Valley. Out of 300 unique and impressive châteaux that Loire Valley displays, I only got to see a few of them. For some, these châteaux and gardens may all look similar, but for me each has its own character and beauty. (Although, maybe if I’ll stay here for more than a week, I’ll also think the same.)

Special hounds at Château Cheverny. They're huge!

Just some of the many special hounds at Château Cheverny. They’re huge!

My favorite hallway at Château de Chenonceau.

My favorite hallway at Château de Chenonceau.

I can’t picture myself living in such an extravagant château for a long time. But I’m thinking, if people can build such enormous and grandiose castles, and grow well-groomed and colorful gardens on earth… I wonder… how much more magnificent and splendid are our eternal mansions and lavishly prepared our heavenly views are? In that place, I look forward to and can surely live.

Just a thought…

Sunset - Loire River.

Sunset – Loire River.

I enjoyed my Autumn Love in Loire Valley. It gave me a taste of aristocracy, history, and arts . Three days was such a short time to visit. So the next time I get the chance to travel in this area again, I would love to see more vineyards, drink wine, and ride bicycles.

17 Cities in 7 Years… one of which is a divine travel to Loire Valley, France.

❦___❤ ___❦

Bucket List: ☑ To be more cultured ☑ To see the Mona Lisa (not the real one yet) ☑ To see Brad Pitt (look-alike)  ☑ To visit real castles ☑ Learn more about Leonardo da Vinci ☑ To eat real French bread ☑ Travel with friends ☑ To travel in Europe ☑ To fall in love