My happy places at home: Refreshing Tagaytay

When I want to feel refreshed, I go to Tagaytay. Just a little over an hour drive from our home in Manila and you’re in a place that’s like no other – “an island (Vulcan Point) within a lake (Crater Lake), on an island (Volcano Island) within a lake (Taal Lake) on an island (Luzon Island) Yes, it’s really that and that is why it’s a place like no other!

It’s cool breeze and amazing view; it’s beautiful hotels and quaint cafes and the wide selection of dining places with real good food make it a perfect place for a staycation. If you want to be pampered, there’s also a lot of spas that offer wonderful massage and wellness services. You won’t run out of choices and there’s always a new place to check out every time. Thus, my kind of place for these reasons and more.

Exactly 2 years ago, I brought my childhood best friend, Marylene here. She was living in Cebu and it was a perfect time for a little get-away. It was a birthday gift I gave her and her sweet daughter Mekailah, who just turned 18.

We trekked to the main crater (it was the first time for all of us) and as we walked 45 minutes (one way) with our guide, stopping here and there for group photos, sweat flowed and the scorching heat of the sun would tempt anyone to take the easy way by riding a horse but we carried on on foot and when we started feeling the sulfur steam on our feet, we know we were near. The sight of the main crater is so captivating that my 15-year old daughter requested to do the same on her birthday along with her best friends.

As I write this, I am actually here in Tagaytay having a full view of the Taal Lake and Volcano because after being “quarantined” for almost 8 months due to the pandemic, I just need to feel refreshed and so as travel between cities is now permitted, the first place I thought of is Tagaytay! The other reason I wanted to be here at this time is to commemorate Marylene’s birthday. She passed away exactly a month ago and while I know she is in a better place now, I still feel the pain of losing my childhood best friend of 50 years and coming here on her birthday is like celebrating it again with her.

“Coming here on her birthday is like celebrating it again with her.”

Whenever I come to Tagaytay for a staycation, I always stay in hotels that have a view of one of the Philippines’ wonders, the Taal Volcano and the Taal Lake. Looking at such picturesque creation brings me to a place of serenity and gives me so much peace.

It’s so ironic because this little volcano is active and when it erupted on January 12 this year, it spewed ashes and covered several towns; destroying homes, livelihood to the point of making some areas uninhabitable and desolate.~

Thanks God it is quiet again for now and it is my prayer that it will stay like this for a very long time. Waking up to the amazing view of the Taal Lake restores my soul. I gave in to its invitation to do my usual quiet time followed by an hour of yoga and as I flex my muscles and do mindful breathing with nature at its finest in front of me, I know that I have achieved my purpose of coming here – to be refreshed!

My happy places at home: El Nido, Palawan

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

Charles Spurgeon

My happy place at home number 2 is El Nido.

I’ve been to El Nido several times and whenever I land in this island paradise, it’s as if Joy envelops me. It’s enchanting limestone formations and the secret beaches are simply magical and the endless blue seas confirm the fact that it is the Philippines’ last frontier.

Staying in those high-end resorts in the islands offers packages that include full board and tours. Imagine opening your balcony and you see the limestone formations that look like little islands in the vast ocean that is so quiet and blue. You can choose to stay in the resort and enjoy the amenities including a guided mountain trek (do this early morning or late in the afternoon) or go island hopping (which is a must).

The big lagoon is simply breathtaking and kayaking in the small lagoon is surely an unforgettable treat.

I do not know how to swim so I dread being in the deep but with such a persuasive and reassuring guide, I ventured into my very first snorkelling experience in the deep and I can confirm that indeed, you’re in another world when you see what’s under the sea.

I brought my family to El Nido a couple of years ago to celebrate my birthday and we opted to stay in a main island resort with a beachfront. We all loved it! I realise there is more adventures to explore in the main island. We did the canopy walk to see 360 degree-view of El Nido. It was a thrilling experience!

Nacpan Beach is another discovery for us during that trip. It’s long stretch of white sand with beautiful bars by the beach gives you the front view of the magnificent sunset as you sip your mojito and bite the slice of pizza in your hand…oh my…you want time to stop to savour the moment!

A trip is never complete for me if there is no shopping. I am a self-confessed shopaholic and a must visit for those who love artistic souvenirs like me is Kalye Artisano. The items there are so lovely and unique you will never leave it empty-handed.

A beautiful hand-painted memento from Kalye Artisano in Lio.

Indeed, El Nido is my happy place number 2. Definitely, one of the places I will visit with my family again…very soon.

How I discovered running

I can say I had always lived an active lifestyle that includes visits to the gym and when it became boring, I moved to boxing and Muay Thai and then yoga. So, I juggled these work-outs and even did a combination at some point but never got into running. I got interested from the sharing of my office mate and close colleague, Div, after he participated in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2015 where our company is a major sponsor of. He related the gala night before the run held inside Angkor Wat with one of the temples as the back drop. It seemed so interesting and it was affirmed by two of my team members, Bimbo and Nicole, who participated in 2017.

The pre-run gala dinner with a temple as a backdrop lit by a thousand candles.

So on July of 2018 at age 52, I started training to run 10K in the same event that is held annually in the 1st week of December. I downloaded a training app and began my training. I realised running 5 minutes straight is challenging even if I was relatively physically fit. Indeed, one cannot join a marathon at whim as it requires months or even years of building endurance lest you either faint or get injured.

To keep me motivated, I encouraged my teenage daughter, my sister and her son and even our househelp to run too and I would register everyone in fun runs. I started with 5K then progressed to 10K just in time for the Angkor Wat run. I also encouraged a couple of my team members to participate so we can travel together. That’s how my “destination runs” started.

That’s how my “destination runs” started.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, what draws tourists to Siem Reap, Cambodia is Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world! Events held in the complex are limited and running with those amazing temples of almost a thousand years old is just so surreal. The run route is so amazing passing through a beautiful lake while the sun rises colouring the sky red orange is magical! You run through arches and bridges that are attractions in themselves which speak of so much history; you run surrounded by several centuries-old trees that grew on walls and structures like nature conquering what men made. There’s no wonder it is such a popular event with over 10,000 runners that year, over 5,000 are foreigners from 76 countries (

Training for 10K requires at least 3 times a week of run days building endurance to be able to run at a good pace and after doing it for almost 5 months, I got hooked into it. I went back to run half marathon (21K) in 2019 with my husband and sister, Ging (in orange in the photo) and another officemate and team member, June, running 10K and would love to do it again! 

From the time I discovered running and started training in July 2018, I have never stopped. I continue to run at least three times a week and my husband has joined me in this passion which we have incorporated in our family travels. Oh yes, I am looking forward to run my first full marathon and I hope it will be soon.