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)

Beautiful Strawberries in Baguio

I saw a bunch of deformed strawberries on our way home from Baguio. Without any hesitation, I bought them even though they were more expensive than the “normal” ones. One of the strawberries resembled a heart, while another one looked like a small teapot. They were amazing!

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Despite their unusual appearance, I thought that they were very beautiful. I was also reminded of the verse in the Bible where it says: “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

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Most of the time, it’s difficult for us to see our true worth especially when we focus on our flaws and mistakes and view ourselves through the eyes of the world. But, one of the things that I am praying for as I welcome another year is to constantly have the strength to resist these kinds of thoughts and to remember that my true worth and beauty are found in Christ alone. He died for me. He rose again. He loves me more than I can comprehend.

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I also want to encourage you with this song. It’s one of the songs I’ve loved since I was in highschool. May it bless your heart today. :)

 

“Well, you can doubt your worth
And search for who you are and where you stand
But God made you in His image
When He formed you in His hands

And He looks at you with mercy
And He sees you through His love
You’re His child and that will always be enough

Oh, I say the measure of a man
Is not how tall you stand
How wealthy or intelligent you are
‘Cause I found out the measure of a man

God knows and understands
For He looks inside to the bottom of your heart
And what’s in the heart defines
The measure of a man”

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Simple Sunday Snack: Puff Pastry

I recently watched a video of Gordon Ramsay and a baker in Paris making freshly baked croissants. It caught my attention because the video showed the basic steps of making the delicious, flaky, buttery bread from scratch. The baker used a machine to fold and knead the water-based dough with a huge block of butter since he was making bulk orders for his store. After folding the dough seven times, they prepared it for baking.

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As I watched them roll out, cut, assemble, and bake the dough, I couldn’t help but crave for croissants and other puff pastries. I then remembered a shop (Sweet Craft) that offers really good, pre-made puff pastry dough. So, during the recent long weekend, I invited my siblings to join me in buying and baking the dough. We spent two hours assembling, decorating, and baking the puff pastries. It was really fun! We also experimented with different kinds of shapes and used some of my favorite fruits, chocolate, cream cheese, and nuts as the filling/topping.

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Using the pre-made puff pastry dough helped me appreciate the art of baking more because it reminded me of the hearts and skills of the professional bakers out there. In order to make really good puff pastry dough from scratch, the baker needs to make sure that he/she uses the right amount of ingredients and measure them down to the last gram of flour or butter or teaspoon of water. Also, the baker needs to carefully discern how many times he/she would fold and knead the dough without letting it get tough. These are just some of the crucial aspects in baking and it’s just amazing how bakers can create such interesting and beautiful things.

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Indeed, it really was a wonderful experience for me and my siblings to bake pastries that night. I loved the fact that I was able to do something that I love (baking) and enjoy it with my family. Also, I enjoyed seeing the puff pastry dough transform into delicious, crisp, golden brown, flaky, and buttery treats! They were beautiful. They were exactly how I imagined them to be!

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The day after we baked the pastries, my older sister and I decided to give some of them to our family friends who were visiting the country for a few days. My sister packed a couple of pastries and informed me early in the morning that she would pass by their place to give them the treats. Before she left, God somehow urged me to give our friends fresh strawberries too because we had extra strawberries from our baking session the night before. So, I asked my sister to add three strawberries to the container too.

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A few hours later, I got a message from my sister and it showed a photo of our friend, Ate Riz, and her daughter, Cami, holding the pastries and strawberries. I remember feeling delighted and shocked at the same time because my sister shared to me that ate Riz and Cami randomly prayed for strawberries that morning. It was really amazing to see God’s grace and provision in that simple moment with our family friends. When I woke up that day and asked my sister to add strawberries to the container, I didn’t know that Ate Riz and Cami were already praying for some.

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It reminded me of how sovereign our God is and it encouraged me to continue listening to His voice and obeying Him even in the smallest things. He can use even the simplest moments and acts of obedience in our lives to bless others and ourselves. Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to experience You in moments like these. :)

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” -Deuteronomy 5:33

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Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

Simple Sunday Snack: Fruits in Ice Cream

Two days ago, a former officemate dropped by the office and invited our department to have lunch with her outside. Even though it meant that I would have to spend more money that day, I still joined the team since it was a rare opportunity for us to hang out with our friend. (Note: I usually bring food to work because it’s less expensive compared to buying food from our cafeteria or the restaurants outside.)

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We spent the next hour catching up and talking about our experiences in the office, her new workplace, and other random, funny things. After eating our lunch, she invited us all to a nearby Ice Cream store and got us a cup of ice cream each! It was the kind of ice cream that I wouldn’t buy on a regular day because it was quite expensive. So, you could just imagine how grateful I was for my cup of Strawberry Banana ice cream. After a while, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the office.

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That day, I was reminded of being more intentional in blessing others and being an encouragement to them. Our friend just invited us for lunch and treated us for dessert, but her simple act really blessed our hearts. I am also reminded that being a blessing doesn’t necessarily involve material things. Sometimes, we can bless others by saying words of encouragement, listening to them when they share what’s in their hearts, praying for them, praying with them, spending time with them, and the list goes on.

In the ff. Bible verses, we are encouraged to be more like Christ in the way we deal with the people around us:

Philippians 2:4 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

John 15:12 says: “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

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How can we be a blessing to others this week? How can we be more like Christ? :)

 

Crunchy Fruits in Ice Cream (Inspired by my friend’s ice cream treat!)

Fruits in Ice Cream (Strawberry) – One of my favorite brands!

Slices of Banana

A generous amount of plain corn flakes

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)