We were thrilled to receive a text message from my cousins Patricia and Richard inviting us for a one-day excursion with their families up north. I must mention right off the bat that I love road trips, and at the same time, I also love traveling with my cousins in particular. We’ve gone on many, many trips over the years, and they’re always fun, pleasant and easy-going. As for their kids, my adorable nieces and nephews, let’s just say that they kept us adults on our toes. Hahaha!
By the way, there’s a bonus vlog at the end of the post — Make sure to watch out for it!
Full disclosure — We actually had breakfast at Starbucks just minutes before having this second one at Burger King. How's that for an awesome start to the road trip?!?
We got to the top of Mount Samat, on which this gigantic memorial cross stands proudly.
Cristina and Patricia hold up our tickets as we waited for our turn to ride the elevator up the cross. Fee was 10 pesos (or approximately 25 US cents) per person.
That's our car right there.
Anthony enjoys the sweeping view with my goddaughter Patrice, who wears the most adorable full bob I've seen and is also one of the funniest little girls I know.
We received a warm welcome from the ladies at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, where old Philippine mansions have been rebuilt and restored to their former glory.
I actually spent a few minutes trying to unwrap this lollipop for my nephew Santi. Didn't realize they made candies that are 100% child proof these days…
Heads up, everyone! I made sure to admire the beautiful hand-painted ceiling, which is typical of ancestral Philippine houses.
First order of the day was a hearty lunch. This beef kaldereta was one of my favorites, though I admit I was thrown off by the strips of melted cheese, which left me feeling awkward for some reason.
I thought it would be a healthy option to order a side of laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), until I realized it came with huge chunks of deep fried pork belly. Oh happy day!
We split an order of refreshing Guinumis, a popular Filipino dessert consisting of shaved ice, sweet milk, toasted rice, sweetened fruit and jello.
Anthony must have enjoyed chatting up this little chap, as he continued to pretend to converse with it long after this picture was taken.
The houses are named after the place where they originally stood. This is Casa Binondo, their fully-operational hotel that features authentic gold leaf detail inside.
How could we resist the quintessential mirror-shot?
Artist Joey Velasco came up with this painting in 2008 after he dreamt that Jesus Christ was painting his portrait.
And then suddenly there was Marilyn.
I stole Cristina away from the tour group for a few minutes for an impromptu waltz in the house of Teodora Alonzo, mother of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Oversized chins seem to have a strange effect on Anthony.
Anthony finally comes face-to-face with a Snakes and Ladders board game, which is the Filipino version of the original Chutes and Ladders. It's more fun to slide down snakes, I told Anthony. LOL!
Couldn't help thinking about Dexter, one of our favorite HBO series. He'd surely have a ball with this wall!
I love this interesting tile detail.
Someone may have been watching one too many Criminal Minds episodes…
Found this interesting sketch of the grand entrance to one of the houses, which the artist entitled Unang Akyat ng Ligaw, or First Courtship.
And this is the actual staircase.
The cousins gather around for a souvenir photo.
If my red shorts look familiar, it’s because I wore them here.
Took a hour-and-a-half drive to Clark for an Italian dinner at the popular C restaurant.
Upon entering the restaurant, diners are greeted by an entire room of ceramic plates signed by popular celebrities, artists and politicians.
Rajo's plate was my favorite — Love the fashion illustration!
One has the option of dining al fresco with Venus de Milo.
The first bite of the meal is always exciting, especially after a full day of sightseeing and chin-worshipping. Hahaha!
C Restaurant is the home of the original Panizza, which is meant to be eaten rolled up with some lettuce and alfalfa sprouts. I wouldn't consider myself a fan of eating pizza this way. It's a little disorienting.
Their hearty lentil soup, which came with large chunks of ham, totally hit the spot for me.
I wanted to get a little more creative with the alfalfa for this photo (think Carmen Miranda kind-of-creative), but then again I didn't want to set a bad example for my nieces and nephews by playing with my food. Hahaha!
My heart leapt for joy when I fished out this huge chunk of ham from my soup.
Can't put my finger on it, but there's something about the experience of eating a panizza that I just don't like. I guess I'm just old fashioned that way.
I managed to stop Anthony for a quick snap just a split-second before he took the first bite of his "wing-wee-nee" with meatballs.
The true winner of the evening was my cousin Charlie, who ordered this beautiful dish of pasta topped with huge fillets of chicken parmigiana.
I forget how much I love road trips, and how they also provide quiet moments for self-reflection.
Have a great day, everyone! Any interesting plans for the weekend? BTW, thanks to my cousins for a wonderful trip! Love you, guys!
You can visit the website of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar here.