Coffee Food

Sophie’s Mom

I have a fixation with cupcakes, you give me one when I’m having a bad day and I’d be indebted to you forever. It’s like a switch that when flicked can easily alter my mood. So whenever I see a cupcake place I get excited, like a child who sees a Jollibee sign after enduring a snooze-inducing mass on a sweltering Sunday morning. It’s what I felt when I spotted Sophie’s Mom after a failed mission of finding a new place to live in few weeks ago.




What happens when you go around the neighborhood trying to find a new place to move in and fail? In my case, I found a new place to eat. This is how I discovered Jopoy, a diminutive restaurant with quirky interiors that reminds me a lot of my former favorite coffee shop.



100 Happy Days Challenge

In February, I dared myself to be happy for one hundred days by taking in the 100 Happy Days Challenge. To be honest, I’d been plagued by doubts if I could see it through especially in the first few weeks. I am not exactly a person who barfs glitters and rainbow and I have those days when I can be quite difficult to deal with because I tend to lean on the dark side of things. When I started this I was at the peak of my depression, a condition I have been battling my entire life, hence, attempting to take this challenge is no picnic. But I was determined and the fact you are reading this post means I’d been successful.

The task didn't come without some issues. Among the challenges that I faced were...

  • Boring days – Some days were so uneventful I had to make an effort to find something to be happy about.
  • Sad days – This is the most difficult because dealing with depression means you are feeling miserable most of the time, so imagine trying to be happy when you’re feeling anything but.
  • Bad days – You know those days when bad things pour that you get frustrated and angry, and you just want to kill some people. I had many of those.
  • Forgetfulness – Sometimes I forget, in fact there is one day that I missed posting so I had to extend another day just to complete the challenge.

Those were the challenges but as you can see, I’ve managed to trump them all. Does it mean I had been happy the entire 100 days? Of course not. It only means I was able to see past the ugly things and find something pleasant even in the shittiest of days.

So what are the things that made me happy in those 100 days?

100 Happy Days List

  1. Olaf of Frozen
  2. Tea Farm with Ni and Es
  3. Dumaguete sylvanas
  4. Valentine sweets from colleagues
  5. Wickedmouth Unang Putok book signing
  6. Castle (TV series) book version
  7. New e-books
  8. Sheldon and Amy’s first kiss (The Big Bang Theory)
  9. New York cheesecake
  10. Beef wanton mami
  11. Finishing level 167 of Candy Crush
  12. Mitch Albom book signing
  13. Swiss chocolate cake
  14. Sold two of my books
  15. Pizza treat by Dennis
  16. Earning from selling books
  17. Coffee with Nicalyn
  18. Jackson and April (Grey’s Anatomy)
  19. Test shoot for a TV commercial
  20. Halabos na hipon
  21. 12 Years a Slave
  22. Watching live bands at SaGuijo
  23. Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza with Ni, Rhoda, and Alchris
  24. Blue Jasmine
  25. Chitchat with Patti
  26. Uniqlo tank tops
  27. Seafood marinara
  28. Drinking with Bembe and her friends
  29. Training ISO newbies
  30. Gino’s Oven Pizza with FTWWP
  31. Hanging out with Shayne in her place
  32. Lunch with Maggie
  33. Words of encouragements from friends
  34. Late-night meetup with Christian
  35. Free McMuffin from McDonalds
  36. Peach tart
  37. Boracay
  38. Puka island
  39. Checking out Boracay’s night scene
  40. Christian’s birthday party
  41. PHP 500 off on my room rental fee
  42. Visiting Shayne in her office
  43. Choies clothes
  44. Commune
  45. Merienda with Raffy, Orlene, and Rhoda
  46. Pure & Best chocolate drink
  47. Grateful Protons Meetup
  48. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  49. Greenbelt chapel
  50. Customized tote bag
  51. Mango and banana
  52. Polvoron
  53. Trip to Ifugao
  54. Amphitheater rice terraces
  55. Riding top load in Banaue
  56. Conquering Sumaguing Cave
  57. Dagdagay
  58. Free laptop use courtesy of Alchris
  59. Opening a BDO account
  60. Bagnet
  61. Cloudy day
  62. Staycation at Best Western Oxford Suites
  63. Bato Springs reservation
  64. A glass of milk
  65. BDO debit card
  66. Afritada cooked by Shayne
  67. Dressed-up earphones
  68. Mochi
  69. Staycation at Berjaya Hotel
  70. Berjaya lotion
  71. Mangoes from Gerald
  72. Jopoy’s
  73. Pizza treat by officemates
  74. Coffee
  75. Polished nails
  76. Sophie’s Mom
  77. Carrot raisin bread
  78. Loan reimbursement
  79. ISO team
  80. Aircon in the bus
  81. New backpack
  82. Sponsored staycation at Casa San Pablo
  83. Lake Pandin
  84. Listener doll
  85. Jollibee’s Creamy shake
  86. Part-time job
  87. Innodata summer outing at Ocean Park, Subic
  88. FTWWP’s summer outing at Bato Springs
  89. Hair treatment
  90. The happy pig in the Farmville app
  91. Work tips from Roland
  92. Free and convenient doctor consultation
  93. Hot calamansi juice
  94. Witches of East End
  95. Cold soda drink
  96. Pasalubong from Alchris
  97. 2:54
  98. Treat by Diwa, Glaiza, Zu, and Ina
  99. Doughnuts from Roland
  100. Central with friends

The conclusion

My 100 Happy Days journey officially ended on May 22, 2014. I can honestly say that my state of being is a lot better now than it is 100 days ago.

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
– Dalai Lama

From doing the challenge I learned that “happiness is a choice” is not just some corny cliche but a truth. In those 100 days, I was compelled to examine life in a different spectrum. It has helped me see with clarity, what used to be a blurred and inconceivable theory, that anyone, including me, who has been suffering from clinical depression for quite a long time, can actually be happy. Happiness that may not be in a grand scale and may have only come in small doses, but happiness nonetheless. I’ve been very uncomfortable, at times, frustrated because some days were just really bad I was forced to go out of my way to find something to be happy about. But this has taught me that no matter how awful a certain day may seem, there is always something good in it.

To all people who have one way or another, contributed to the success of this undertaking, thank you very much. And my lovelies, I wish you all happiness.


Casa San Pablo Bed & Breakfast

When I was a kid, I used to wonder why my family never go home to a province during summer vacation. When school is back, my classmates were riped with stories of running in the fields, of cows, frogs, and roosters, of swimming in rivers and seas, of eating local delicacies, of life stripped off complications, worries, and modern technologies. I had none of these and so I’ve always had this feeling I might be missing something big. Maybe it’s one of the many reasons I love traveling in far-flung places; I’d been chasing a childhood fantasy.

Two weeks ago, I have been given a glimpse of the things I might have missed in the old summer days. It happened when I and four of my friends visited Casa San Pablo Bed & Breakfast.

Casa San Pablo is a Bed & Breakfast in San Pablo City, Laguna, about two to three hours travel from Manila. The place is owned by Boots Alcantara and his wife, An Alcantara. It has over 18 rooms and other amenities which include a swimming pool, dining area, function rooms, and a pavilion. The design and architecture is a marriage between old Filipino theme and modern perspective.


We were billeted at room 18, with one queen-size bed and an attic equipped with five mattresses. It has two bathrooms, two air condition units, flat-screen TV, chest cabinet, and a small closet. It even has its own veranda. Not only is our room clean, it also smells good. I soon found out that this is all true in all of their rooms.

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Casa San Pablo is what the young people would describe as “instagrammable”. There are so many beautiful things to see, it’s hard not to raise your camera to point and shoot. You must know I had a hard time selecting and limiting the photos to post on this blog. If I’m not mistaken, I’d taken over 500 photos. I can show them all to you but it is better if you just go and see the place for yourself.

I love the beautiful and well-decorated rooms, some are so big you’d feel like you’re renting a house.

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For those in want of a dip, there is a big swimming pool at Casa Pablo, blue and glistening under the morning light.

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Want to catch up on your reading, they have books that guests are free to use. You can just lie on one of the hammocks in the lawn and forget about the rest of the world. They also have a playground, with the swing and the see-saw, where you’re free to unleash the kid in you.

Casa San Pablo is an ideal place for team building. In fact, they have a Junk Garden perfect for such requirement. The Junk Garden promotes upcycling, or the art of transforming junk materials into products of higher value than its original form. There you can find old junks, such as used bottles, an old rice cooker, tires, etc. repurposed as decors and art pieces.


At Casa San Pablo, thou shall never be hungry. Whether you stay overnight or just go on a day tour, you will be fed. They have a restaurant with a big dining that can seat big groups. The place can be convertible into a bedroom for those times that they need to accommodate more guests.

They take the hassle of choosing tables out of your hair. Each table is already reserved, you just have to find which one bears the name tag of your group.

Because the place is beautiful I’ve had high expectations when it comes to their food. I wasn’t disappointed. Eating at Casa San Pablo would remind you of a barrio fiesta setting. Food came in abundance; our table was overflowing with foods that I had a difficult time choosing which one to stuff in my mouth first. For lunch, we had Nilagang Tahong (braised mussels), Lumpiang Hubad (no wrap spring rolls), Lechon, Grilled Tilapia, and for dessert, Ube Halaya.

And this I have to make a special mention of, my absolute favorite out of all the food that we had, a local dish called, Pipian, it’s basically kare-kare but they used chicken instead of pork. According to Ms. An, this was created with the kids in mind, because most kids cannot appreciate the regular kare-kare. Come dinner we were treated to another round of feast. We had Nilagang Baboy (braised pork), Chicken Adobo with turmeric powder, Steamed shrimp meal and Liempo. By the way, the Ensaladang Pako (native fern salad) is for the win!

The next morning, even our breakfast did not disappoint. We had longganisa, danggit, sunny side up eggs, some fruits, and pandesal with choices of fruit jams.

I think I gained a few pounds for a day of staying there, I love their food so much I could not stop myself from eating.


I found that the urge to wax poetic was intense when I was in Casa San Pablo. Those lush of greens, those things rusted in time, those candles in hanging jars that grow resplendent in the night, had me reacquainted with that person who likes to string words that rhyme. The place seems to hold the key for locked creativity. You go there and you will find yourself reconnected with your talents. The time we’d been given was quite short but our hostess, Ms. An Alcantara, made sure that it’s maximized. You don’t just sleep and run at Casa San Pablo, there are tons of things to do and we had a taste of it all in our overnight stay. I will try my best to present them all to you today.


There are many things you can do when you book your stay at Casa San Pablo, one of which is to learn how to cook local delicacies. In our case, we were taught us how to cook Pinaltok by Ms. An herself. It’s San Pablo’s version of ginataang halo-halo, or the answer to a bilu-bilo (sticky rice ball) killer’s prayer. It’s easy to make and only require a few ingredients. Pinaltok is a local term means “throw in”. When you put the sticky rice balls into the pan you have to throw it in, one by one to prevent the balls from sticking together. Pinaltok is best served with suman.

Suddenly I was a kid all over again. There are bicycles that guests are free to use so we used them. We reached a clearing that has a playground, surrounded by rose apple and mango trees. We parked our bicycles, got busy picking and munching on those makopas, we played on the swing and the see-saw, laughed like there’s no tomorrow, and even shared to one another our fun childhood memories.

One of the things that you will notice at Casa San Pablo is the Storyteller Dolls. These dolls are inspired by Cochiti Pueblo storyteller dolls, which is an Andrean folk art in boxes. The dolls are made of terra-cotta clay, which Ms. An patiently creates herself, with the help of some women from the neighborhood. Ms. An wants to promote the Filipino culture through her storyteller dolls hence, the themes of her clay figures. During our stay, Ms. An showed us how she makes those dolls. We all gathered around her like grade schoolers completely amazed by our teacher.

You can purchase and take home some of these dolls. They are displayed in the lobby of Casa San Pablo. I went home with a doll of my own, a listener doll for only 50 bucks.

Before I put this Casa San Pablo experience into writing, I went through an inner struggle to select what and what not to share, and I do not just mean the photos. In truth, I found it difficult to sum up the beauty of this magnificent experience into two, let alone one post. I am profoundly grateful to my friend Athan, for inviting us to this event, and to Ms. An for making it possible. It was something unexpected, something too beautiful, that still puts a smile on my face every time I look at our pictures.

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We had a day bereft of worries and concerns. It’s a gift considering that in this day and age, peace of mind is so hard to achieve it is almost a luxury. I may not be as fortunate as my classmates for having a province to go home to. But I am grateful for some little blessings, of places that could at least, give a taste or a clue of what I had missed. Yes, I do not have those summertime stories, but I have Casa San Pablo memories. It’s good enough for me.

Casa San Pablo
Brgy. San Roque,
San Pablo City, Laguna
Telephone nos: (632) 211-2132/0920-9675277/0917-8126687


Batad Pension and Restaurant

Rest is a reward you have to earn if you are spending the night in Batad. In our case, we stayed at Batad Pension and Restaurant, which can be found at the foot of the hill. The place is big and offers an unobstructed view of the Amphitheater Rice Terraces.


Philippines Travel

Exploring The Caves Of Sagada In The Mountain Province

I have observed during my previous online research that there is a deliberation on which part of the Cordillera is the best place to visit. Is it Banaue (Batad) or Sagada. I figured that the reason may be strictly geographic as these two places are sitting far apart from each other. Now that I’ve taken the trip, I realized that it was more than that. The Batad trek is physically taxing and would leave you sore the next day. If you are planning to go spelunking in Sagada on the same trip, it’s like subjecting yourself to torture. And subjecting ourselves to torture we did when we went exploring to the caves of Sagada.


Philippines Travel

The Trek To Batad, Ifugao

For days I walked with a limp, every step had me writhing in pain. I descended the stairs like a crab, screaming expletives like an old woman suffering from bad arthritis. But it was a kind of pain I could never hate and was willing to endure for it bore my pride. In exchange for a bit of suffering, I had the privilege to see the famed beauty of the rice terraces in Batad, Ifugao. (more…)