Cafe Seolhwa: Bingsu Date with my Sister

My sisters and I have been roommates ever since I can remember. Whenever I’m with them, I can honestly say that I feel very much at home. I guess it’s because I’ve spent more than two decades making good and crazy memories with them, having pillow talks, playing imaginary drums on our bellies before going to bed, and sharing our clothes, shoes, accessories, and bags with each other. However, ever since we started working, we somehow slowly drifted apart. It was ironic because even though we saw each other every morning and evening, we didn’t have the same closeness and bond that we had before. But, by God’s grace, He still gives us opportunities to develop our relationships at home. One of the major highlights that I experienced recently was the 9-month bonding that my eldest sister (Camille) and I had since last August. Looking back, I realized that it was one of God’s opportunities for us to get to know each other’s hearts more.

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It started when our company transferred to another city last Summer. My sister graciously offered to bring me closer to work and to wait for me everyday since her workplace was also in the same area. I was hesitant at first because I knew that it would be a hassle for her. Picking me up from work everyday meant that she would wait for 2 hours in the afternoon and patiently go through the heavy traffic during rush hour. I was also hesitant because I was used to having my alone time (which my introverted self sincerely enjoyed) to and from work since I was employed almost four years ago. However, because commuting to and from our new office would cost more (considering the time and effort), I agreed to our carpool arrangement.

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This went on for months and even though we didn’t know how long we would be doing it, my sister continued to help me in this aspect. (Thank you, ate!) A few weeks ago, we had some changes in our transportation and schedule and we eventually decided to end our daily carpooling adventures. When it was finally sinking in that we weren’t going to work together and that she wouldn’t be waiting for me anymore, I suddenly had a separation anxiety. We had nine months of driving along C5, watching sunsets together, spotting stray cats and dogs on the streets, talking about the blessings and victories after a long day at work, ranting about stressful and discouraging situations, enjoying the sights of rainstorms and lightnings, taking turns in driving the car home, being silent when we weren’t in the mood to talk, sharing our hearts’ dreams and goals, treating ourselves to fastfood, and playing new songs in the car.

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It was definitely a wonderful set of experiences that my heart will treasure forever. Even though I was hesitant at first, I saw God’s grace at work in our hearts and in my relationship with my older sister. During the past months, we not only had our ultimate bonding experience but she was also able to make good use of her daily waiting time by developing her skills and craft in calligraphy and painting. Also, because of our carpooling adventures, I was able to experience the wonders of walking around the city where our office is and discovering interesting finds like free Krispy Kreme donuts in the morning, new photography sights, and making friends with strangers (e.g. Sweepers, policemen, etc. in Bonifacio Global City) on my way to work. It was also a good cardio workout for me as I enjoyed a 30-minute walk to the office while listening to my favorite songs. Somehow, God still allowed me to have my alone time which filled my heart.

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I know that sometimes we may not fully understand why God allows things to happen in our lives. But, through this experience, I am reminded and encouraged to trust in Him as I welcome changes. From the start, God knew that this would be good for my heart and I’m glad that He allowed my sister and I to share special moments together on the road.

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To celebrate our 9-month adventure, I treated my sister to one of my favorite dessert places in town. This is one of the few and quite expensive treats that I sincerely want my family members to try. I fell in love with Café Seolhwa’s bingsu when I first tasted its soft and sweet shaved and milky ice that melts in the mouth. The flavors that I’ve tried so far are the Mango Cheese bingsu and the Berry Cheese bingsu. I wouldn’t mind ordering them again and again. The only branch I’ve tried so far is the one located inside Bonifacio Global City. I love the artworks inside the store, the Korean music playing in the background, and the awesome presentation of bingsu desserts. One regular size of bingsu costs around Php 240, but it is already good for sharing (2-3 persons). For more details, you can click on the link at the end of this post.

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In the near future, I hope that I can bring the rest of my family there too. But, for this month, I had the privilege of enjoying both flavors with my eldest sister. Hooray! Sometimes, it still feels a bit weird not travelling home with my sister. But, I guess it’s time for me to move on (haha!) and welcome new changes in my life.

Maybe, it’s time for me to have new adventures with my other siblings as well. :)

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To my eldest roomie at home, thank you for graciously, unconditionally, and patiently driving for me and waiting for me for the past nine months. Like what Justin Bieber said in one of his songs: “You know I love you. You know I care. Just shout whenever and I’ll be there!” HAHAHA. See ya later, alligator!

CAFÉ SEOLHWA

https://www.facebook.com/seolhwabingsu/

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To My Polar Bear Dad

“Nicolas, I have a gift for you!” My dad randomly gave me a yellow microfiber cloth for my camera’ lens before we left for our family’s dinner last night. Yay! It was such a simple gift, but it reminded me of how God provides and how He knows what I need, even without me asking for it. You see, yesterday morning, for some reason, I remembered how dad would graciously lend me his microfiber cloth (the one he uses for his eyeglasses) whenever I forget to bring mine. This usually happens when we eat out as a family. Having that cloth is very important to me because I sometimes accidentally touch the lens of my camera. It was just amazing that without me saying anything to anyone, he surprised me and gave me a lens cloth last night! Awesome! Thank you, dad!

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Just this morning, God reminded me once again of his provision while I was looking for a parking space in our church’s building. I left the house late so I arrived at the lobby area a few minutes before the worship started. It was almost impossible for me to find a slot in the basement parking. But, by God’s grace, he allowed me to park at one of the last few available slots just in time for the worship service. After attending the service, I went to the supermarket nearby to do some errands. Again, because I knew that a lot of people would be eating lunch at the supermarket, I knew that I would most likely have to wait for a parking slot. I whispered a prayer to God and told Him that if it was His will for me to save more time and park immediately, I prayed for a slot to free up. A few seconds later, one of the cars near me left!

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Aaaahhh! I just love those kinds of moments. Sometimes, it’s the little things that speak volumes to our hearts. God has so many attributes that I am thankful for. But today, I want to honor Him by being my ultimate provider. Before I could even pray for or have the desire for something, He already knows it! He knows what I need and He provides for me. But, more than receiving the material things in life, He gave me the greatest gift we can have and that is eternal life with Him through his son, Jesus. Because of His love and His gift (that we do not deserve), we are able to live life abundantly.

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This Father’s day, I want to honor the fathers in my life. :)

To my dearest dad, thank you for encouraging me to know Jesus and to grow in my walk with Him. Thank you for working hard and for providing for the family. You have always been thoughtful and I appreciate you for that. Thank you for giving us the most random things like our stock of green mangoes, my worm fertilizer for the plants, chicken mami soup for dinner whenever mom’s not around, and for the polar bear hugs every time you go home. Thank you for encouraging us to be good stewards of the things that God has graciously blessed us with. From taking care of the vehicles to budgeting and saving wisely to not excessively consuming electricity at home, and many more.

I pray that this year, we (my siblings and I) will get to know your heart even more. I pray that you will continue to love and serve the Lord and love mom. Even after almost a decade, the attitude of gratitude that you’ve taught me still remains in my heart. (If you can still remember, it started many years ago, when you gave me money for the electric guitar that I wanted to buy! Haha). Thank you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

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And of course, to my heavenly Father, you know the deepest desires and struggles of my heart and yet You still love me the same. Words can never express how grateful I am to have a personal relationship with You. Thank You for constantly speaking to me, picking me up when I fall down, for making me the way I am, and for loving me unconditionally. You deserve more than my best praises and I look forward to having and documenting more memories with You.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  –1 John 3:1

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Five Highlights of our Family’s Trip to Baguio

I still can’t believe it is almost 2016. What a year it has been! While I was reminiscing on my experiences this year, I realized that I did spend most of my days working in the office. Somehow, it felt like the months just flew by without me noticing. By God’s grace, He has given me the privilege of work and I am very grateful for it. But, at the same time, being more aware of how I spend most of my days helps me to appreciate the time that I have with my loved ones as well. Just a few days ago, our family (mother’s side) celebrated our grandmother’s 80th birthday in Baguio and it was one of the best times we’ve had.

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Some of the highlights of our trip to Baguio:

1. Getting to Know our Relatives

Most of our relatives live near each other so they usually have more opportunities to bond together. Since we live a few cities away from them, we rarely get to spend time with the clan. But, by God’s grace, He made a way for almost all of us to be there in Baguio. Even though we missed some of our cousins, it was a blessing to see all of the brothers and sisters of my mom in the trip. We spent three days with the Palma family in Baguio where we exchanged stories, shared our skills and resources, and experienced funny moments during meal times, stopovers, and road trips.

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2. Light Show and Dinner Buffet at The Manor

It was a lovely night. While we were waiting for our dinner at the hotel, we were serenaded by a choir. Some of the guests placed their mats on the grass as they listened to harmonies and familiar tunes. After their performance, we were entertained by a group of fire dancers and gymnasts. They were amazing! Lastly, they ended the short program with a lightshow where Christmas lights all over the hotel’s garden lit up while Christmas songs played in the background. Kudos to the staff of The Manor at Camp John Hay.

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After the show, we had our delicious dinner buffet. Sharing a meal with our clan at the hotel that night was a superb experience. The food and service were great! My eldest sister shared to us that the cook politely insisted to serve her freshly cooked pasta even though she requested for a few pieces only. There were also times when my siblings and I were talking while we were having dinner and the server near our area would fold our crumpled table napkins every now and then. These simple gestures showed how much they valued their customers. Thank you, The Manor, for your excellence that evening.

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3. Honoring of Mother/Grandmother

After our lovely dinner at The Manor, we went back to our cottage and spent a few more hours with each other just before midnight. Since our grandmother (Inapo) was celebrating her 80th birthday, our mom encouraged the clan to say a few words of encouragement to her. My mom started by sharing a verse in the Bible where it says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:1-2).

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Then, one by one, our uncles, aunts, in-laws, and some of the grandchildren gave their heartfelt messages for our grandmother. It was such an encouraging moment because it was our first time to do it together. Because of the things they shared, we learned more about the hearts of our relatives and how much our family members sincerely love each other. Our hearts’ tanks were definitely full that night as we cried and laughed together. I really thank God for the experience. Thank you, Mom, for initiating this. :)

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4. Teamwork

During our stay in Baguio, we also saw how our relatives showed teamwork. From cooking breakfast at 4 am, to taking turns in driving the vehicles to making a bonfire for our s’mores night, to playing games (bowling and billiards), and offering to pay for expenses.

 

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(Photographed by Gabo)

 

5. Enjoying Photography and Nature

We have an amazing God who creates crazy, amazing things. One of the best parts of travelling is being able to see first-hand and to document the beauty of nature. There were moments during the trip when I would sneak out at night just to take photos of the stars or climb a hill again just to see and take photos of the sunset. And in those moments, I remember how much in awe I was because I couldn’t understand how God is able to make such beautiful things.

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Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful Baguio trip with the Palma family. Looking forward to more adventures with them this 2016! :)

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(Photographed by Gabo)

Dinner at 22 Prime Discovery Suites

“Roses are red, violets are blue. We’ll treat you to dinner tonight at Prime 22.”

Toblerone cheesecake from Coffee Bean + calligraphy (c/o my sister, Camille)
Toblerone cheesecake from Coffee Bean + calligraphy (c/o my sister, Camille)

Two weeks ago, our parents celebrated their 30th anniversary. Because it was a very special occasion for the family, my siblings and I prepared two surprises for them that day. The first one was an invitation for our parents to have dinner with us at 22 Prime (Discovery Suites), one of the best steak restaurants in Manila. While, the second surprise was an email account filled with greetings and messages from more than 100 people, including family and friends. Yay!

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By God’s grace, our parents enjoyed the surprise celebration! We spent the whole night talking about their marriage, what they have been learning from their experiences, and how God has been so gracious to them and to our family for the past 30 years. (You can read more about it here: http://encouragingtreats.com/secret-30-years-marriage/)

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We usually don’t eat at hotels because of our budget. But, every now and then, it’s fun to try something new with the family. When we arrived at Prime 22, the staff warmly welcomed us and guided us to our table. They even offered to pull and push our chairs as we sat down. Love it! The place had dim and soft lights all over the place which helped create a cozy and relaxing atmosphere. Throughout the whole night, the waiters also stood nearby and attended to our requests. Even without us asking, they re-filled our glasses with cold water – a simple and thoughtful act that I truly appreciate as a customer whenever I dine out.  Moreover, while waiting for our main dishes, we were given two, refillable baskets of complimentary bread with spreads. The spreads offered were: Herbed butter, Feta Cheese in Olive Oil, and Sun Dried Tomatoes.

For our main dishes, we had the ff.:

LOBSTER BISQUE (Php 395) – Fresh lobster, micro greens, and tomato herb croutons. Although this soup was a bit salty for me, it still had a rich seafood taste and was very smooth and creamy.

Lobster Bisque at 22 Prime
Lobster Bisque at 22 Prime

PRIME CEASAR SALAD (Php 360) – Fresh bacon, six minute egg, and shaved parmesean cheese. A simple and refreshing salad. It helped balance the strong flavors of the soup and steaks.

Prime Ceasar Salad at 22 Prime
Prime Ceasar Salad at 22 Prime

SURF N TURF (Php 1,450) – Grilled Angus ribeye steak, jumbo prawns, twice baked potato, and grilled asparagus, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. The 200-gram Angus steak was perfectly tender and juicy. It had a tangy gravy on the side, but even without it, it was already full of flavor. I just hoped that the steak and prawns were bigger though. But overall, it was a delicious dish. You can never go wrong with ordering steak and seafood. Well, for me, at least. It’s one of my favorite combinations!

Surf n Turf at 22 Prime
Surf n Turf at 22 Prime

WAGYU HANGER STEAK (Php 950) – 200-gram grilled hanger steak, baked tomato, and herb mashed potatoes. I like how the steak was perfectly grilled without having any hint of bitterness. Even if it had charred marks, it was delicious, juicy, tender, and flavorful. How did they do it? Haha! The mashed potatoes also complemented the steak well. It had the right amount of salt, butter, cream, and herbs.

Wagyu Hanger Steak at 22 Prime
Wagyu Hanger Steak at 22 Prime

OYSTERS PLATEAU (Php 1,200) – A tower of oysters served with a cocktail sauce, mignonette, and horseradish cream. THIS DISH WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT. We made sure to order oysters because we were celebrating the pearl anniversary of our parents. :) Aside from its lovely presentation, this tower had 3 kinds of oysters (broiled, baked, and Rockefeller) which was perfect for our family since we have different taste preferences. My personal favorite is the classic oysters Rockefeller (with lemon juice squeezed over them). My other siblings liked the cheesy baked and broiled oysters more.

Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime
Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime
Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime
Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime
Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime
Oysters Plateau at 22 Prime

CHOCOLATE GODDESS (Php 360) – Double chocolate mousse, melted dark chocolate, topped with candied pistachios. This dessert was amazing. Even after two weeks, I still remember how rich the chocolate flavor was. It also had a smooth texture which was very delectable. When I go back to Prime 22, I wouldn’t mind ordering this dessert again.

Chocolate Goddess at 22 Prime
Chocolate Goddess at 22 Prime

Before we left the place, the staff and waiters of Prime 22 were gracious enough to help us surprise our parents one last time that evening. Just before serving our dessert, they brought in a complimentary slice of chocolate cake with a dedication (made out of chocolate ganache) written on the plate. They also brought out the bouquet of flowers that we bought for mom earlier that day. Yay! Thank you, Prime 22, for the special treat!

22 Prime
22 Prime

As we were on our way out, our dad shared that his heart was so full and overwhelmed because of the love and grace they experienced that day through the surprise gifts and greetings. It was also a very encouraging experience for the whole family and we can only thank God for this privilege and for His grace.

This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. –Psalm 118:24

 

Until our next special night out! :)

 

PRIME 22

22nd floor, Discovery Suites, 25 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center Pasig City.

For reservations, call  7196822  or 7198888.

www.discoverysuites.com