Family filled weekend

March 12th, 2016 No comments

Last weekend really made me so happy to be back in the states with family near. My parents and youngest brother flew to Texas from California to spend a week with their Texas family…which consists of me, my two sisters and our Aunt and our families which is about 20 people. We had a girls lunch, a few different family dinners, four birthday celebrations, a baby blessing, and a lot of laughter and memories. I love being with my family.

We enjoyed a campfire and taught the kids some fire safety tips.

We enjoyed a campfire and taught the kids some fire safety tips.

Roasting marshmallows and Starbursts over a fire was a fun activity.

Roasting marshmallows and Starbursts over a fire was a fun activity.

Mason made a small wagon at Home Depot with his uncle Seth.

Mason made a small wagon at Home Depot with his uncle Seth.

Kalani's birthday dinner at Valley Ranch. This was the kid's table.

Kalani’s birthday dinner at Valley Ranch. This was the kid’s table.

Kalani made her own birthday cake. It was devoured quickly and Blake always knew where it was at.

Kalani made her own birthday cake. It was devoured quickly and Blake always knew where it was at.

My parents with their Texas family.

My parents with their Texas family.

Grandparents with 10 of their 15 grandchildren.

Grandparents with 10 of their 15 grandchildren.


Scuba Diving in the island nation of Palau

February 29th, 2016 No comments

Matt and I got certified for scuba diving at the beginning of August. We had originally planned a trip to go to the island nation of Palau in November during the APEC conference (Tue-Wed-Thu were declared non-working days by the city of Manila to accommodate the conference).

However, due to the fact that several national Heads of State were arriving in Manila, our flight was cancelled. We knew that we were repatriating back to the states at the beginning of January, so we had a very small window to be able to make this trip happen. Flights to Palau from Manila are only a couple of times a week. So we rescheduled for the last Tuesday in December, leaving around midnight and returned home Friday evening (New Years Day).

We had six dives and saw first hand what has made Palau famous as a world-class diving destination. We also felt like we were still in a part of the Philippines since there are so many Filipinos that work there. It is a slow pace of living there (island style), but that was a nice change and a relaxing time just before the craziness of moving started for us.

Day 1

After getting only six hours of sleep, we were on the dive boat with about a dozen other divers. A dive boat is full of dive tanks and gear. The people were really nice, friendly and helpful as well.

After getting only six hours of sleep, we were on the dive boat with about ten other divers. A dive boat is full of dive tanks and gear. All of the divers and boatmen were really nice, friendly and helpful as well.

Siaes Corner was our first dive site. I had problems with my mask fogging up, but Matt said that this was the best diving ever. Lots of fish and coral.

Siaes Corner was our first dive site. I had problems with my mask fogging up, but Matt said that this was the best diving ever. Lots of fish and coral.

We hooked in and watched the marine life for a time at Siaes Corner.

We hooked in and watched the marine life for a time at Siaes Corner.

So many sharks were here. This trip exceeded expectations on the first dive.

So many sharks were here. Six are easily visible in this photo, but there were more. This trip exceeded expectations on the first dive.

Siaes Tunnel was our second dive.

Siaes Tunnel was our second dive. Can you see the shark?

Outside of the tunnel we saw a bunch of other marine life.

Outside of the tunnel we saw a bunch of other marine life.

We found this turtle who looked like he was trying to hide.

We found this turtle who looked like he was trying to hide.

Third dive of the day was at Chandelier Cave. No marine life, but cool stalactites.

Third dive of the day was at Chandelier Cave. No marine life, but cool stalactites.

Our couple photo inside Chandelier Cave

Our couple photo inside Chandelier Cave

Day 2

First dive of the day was to German Channel. We were lucky enough to see this manta ray that was near the surface while we were below.

First dive of the day was to German Channel. We were lucky enough to see this manta ray that was near the surface while we were below.

This shark was not scared of us as long as we kept our distance.

This shark was not scared of us as long as we kept our distance.

We didn't know why there were sucker fish on the sand until we realized that there was a stingray buried there as well.

We didn’t know why there were sucker fish on the sand until we realized that there was a stingray buried there as well.

Second dive of the day was to Blue Corner. We hooked in and watched the sharks and other fish swim around.

Second dive of the day was to Blue Corner. We hooked in and watched the sharks and other fish swim around.

We went to another area and hooked in and watched more marine life.

We went to another area and hooked in and watched more marine life.

As we were making our safety stop we saw this huge school of barracudas.

As we were making our safety stop we saw this huge school of barracudas.

Our last dive was at Helmet Wreck. This was our first wreck dive and it was pretty cool to see a ship from World War II.

Our last dive was at Helmet Wreck. This was our first wreck dive and it was pretty cool to see a ship from World War II.

On wreck dives you need to be careful not to kick up the silk/sand that has settled on the wreck or else you can't see anything.

On wreck dives you need to be careful not to kick up the silk/sand that has settled on the wreck or else you can’t see anything.

Items from World War II

Bottles from World War II

Day 3

Since we were flying out later this day, we couldn't dive. Instead we did an island tour and saw these sting-less jellyfish.

Since we were flying out later this day, we couldn’t dive. Instead we did an island tour and saw these stingless jellyfish in a land-locked saltwater lagoon.

It took us about 10 minutes to swim over to the area that they jellies were at, but it was pretty amazing once we got there.

It took us about 10 minutes to swim over to the area that they jellies were at, but it was pretty amazing once we got there.

Matt decided to do a dance with the jellies.

Matt decided to do a dance with the jellies.

Our next stop was to see some giant clams.

Our next stop was to see some giant clams.

Once that you touch the clams, they close up quickly.

Once that you touch the clams, they close up quickly.

Our last stop on the boat was to a place called "The Milky Way". The water is a gorgeous milky blue color because of the limestone sediment that has settled on the floor of the water cove.

Our last stop on the boat was to a place called “The Milky Way”. The water is a gorgeous milky blue color because of the limestone sediment that has settled on the floor of the water cove.

The milky sediment that was on the bottom of the cove floor.

The milky sediment that was on the bottom of the cove floor.

A natural sunscreen and moisturizer that makes you look like a swamp monster.

A natural sunscreen and moisturizer that makes you look like a swamp monster.

After lunch we went to the Eco Theme Park.

After lunch we went to the Eco Theme Park.

We saw people riding a monorail that didn't go very fast, but they didn't have to walk uphill either.

We saw people riding a monorail that didn’t go very fast, but they didn’t have to walk uphill either.

The main reason why we came here was to see the waterfall.

The main reason we did the hike was to see the waterfall.

Our driver turned into our tour guide and took us to see a Palau Bai home. These homes were used like a city hall to discuss all matters for the villagers.

Our driver turned into our tour guide and took us to see a Palau Bai home. These homes were used like a city hall to discuss all matters for the villagers.

We saw some World War II machinery that is still laying around the island.

We saw some World War II machinery that is still laying around the island.

A Japanese bomb from WWII.

A Japanese bomb from WWII.

We were looking for souviner items to take home on New Year's Day and many shops were closed. Our driver/tour guide took us to the jail to check out their gift shop.

We were looking for souviner items to take home on New Year’s Day and many shops were closed. Our driver/tour guide took us to the jail to check out their gift shop.

 

Palau is beautiful with hundreds of these small islands in the middle of the ocean.

Palau is beautiful with hundreds of these small islands in the middle of the ocean.

One day we were able to have lunch on the boat in this area that was secluded and peaceful.

One day we were able to have lunch on the boat in this area that was secluded and peaceful.

On our way back from a dive our boatman took us over by the famous Rock Arch of Palau.

On our way back from a dive our boatman took us over by the famous Rock Arch of Palau.

We had a great time doing six dives together and creating wonderful memories.

We had a great time doing six dives, seeing another beautiful country, and creating wonderful memories together.

More photo of Palau here.


Christmas in Siquijor…4th time in a row

February 28th, 2016 No comments

Our long lost relatives live on the beautiful island of Siquijor, and we have been spending Christmas with them every year since 2012. So this year was no different. Again we stayed at our “home away from home”, Coco Grove Beach Resort. We love the staff there who know us by name. (Having a staff member be Blake’s nanny while we are there really means everyone knows Blake and we are just his family) And word has spread throughout the International School of Manila about Coco Grove Beach Resort, so our kids saw their friends and teachers at the resort. Our agenda is more or less the same thing every year with what we do around the island. This year was a little different in that we are now scuba certified, so we had a day trip to Apo island where we ate lunch, did some snorkeling with turtles, and had two dives around the island (Apo is one of the top dive sites in the country).

Our flight was delayed leaving Manila so we didn't get to see our Welcome sign until the next day. Being at Coco Grove Beach Resort really does feel like we are coming home.

Our flight was delayed leaving Manila so we didn’t get to see our welcome sign until the next day. Being at Coco Grove really does feel like we are coming home.

SIx year old Mason doing a flip off a rock at Cambugahay Falls

Six year old Mason doing a flip off a rock at Cambugahay Falls

Lugnason Falls got a major make-over from the last time we visited his place two years ago.

Lugnason Falls got a major make-over from the last time we visited two years ago.

Our kids love to ride on the motorcycle with their cousin Sherwin.

Our kids love to ride on the motorcycle with their cousin Sherwin.

We had lunch at our cousin's home and then sat around chatting and some people took naps.

We had lunch at our cousin’s home and then sat around chatting and some people took naps.

We had dinner at our other cousin's home.

We had dinner at another cousin’s home.

On the way back to the resort from our cousin's home we saw the moon shining over the ocean.

On the way back to the resort from our cousin’s home we saw the moon shining over the ocean.

Christmas Eve dinner party at Coco Grove we got to listen to these sisters sing.

Christmas Eve dinner party at Coco Grove we got to listen to these sisters sing.

Coco Grove fire dancers also performed.

Coco Grove fire dancers also performed.

Island Melody Band were the final number for the Christmas Eve party.

Island Melody Band were the final number for the Christmas Eve party. (we’ve seen them perform 4-5 times now and they’re always great)

Christmas Day we got on a boat and headed towards Apo Island. Our kids wanted to be in the front.

Christmas Day we got on a boat and headed towards Apo Island. Our kids wanted to be in the front.

Apo Island is in sight.

Apo Island is in sight after an hour boat ride from the resort.

We had lunch here and also went to the turtle sanctuary nearby to snorkel with some turtles.

We had lunch here and also went to the turtle sanctuary nearby to snorkel with some turtles.

Mason and Tia snorkeling while a turtle eats grass.

Mason and Tia snorkeling while a turtle eats grass.

Apo Island has some beautiful coral.

Apo Island has some beautiful coral.

We saw a sleeping turtle while scuba diving.

We saw a sleeping turtle while scuba diving.

Christmas dinner we had about 30 family members over and 4 missionaries from our LDS church. Dinner was delicious, the company was great and the entertainment was memorable.

Christmas dinner we had about 25 family members over and four missionaries from the LDS Church. Dinner was delicious, the company was great and the entertainment was memorable.

Missionaries shared a message about our Savior Jesus Christ to our family members on this Christmas night.

Missionaries shared a message about our Savior Jesus Christ to our family members on this Christmas night.

Nearly 30 decedents from grandpa Limary/Limatoc together for Christmas in Siquijor.

Nearly 30 descendents from grandpa Limary/Limatoc together for Christmas in Siquijor.

Wacky photo with everyone who was participating in our Christmas celebration...family members, missionaries, and resort staff.

Wacky photo with everyone who was participating in our Christmas celebration…family members, missionaries, and resort staff.

We love Siquijor and the beautiful people and scenery that fills our days there.

We love Siquijor and the beautiful people and scenery that fills our days there. (photo from our balcony at Coco Grove)

… and don’t miss this compilation video Matt put together!

YouTube Preview Image

More photos of Siquijor here.


Bohol Island Get-a-Way at Eskaya Resort

February 27th, 2016 No comments

In October we had a date night to attend the American Women’s Club of the Philippines annual Hoedown. There we won a free two-night stay at the resort Eskaya. Since we knew that we were relocating the beginning of January, we only had one weekend when we could use this vacation. Our kids skipped the last day of school, which was just a half day, so we could catch a flight to head to the island of Bohol and use our voucher at the resort. The shuttle ride from the airport was about 20 minutes and the resort was nice. Each villa had it’s own private pool, plus the main pool and the beach front. This was the third time that we were at Bohol, so we didn’t do the normal tourist sight-seeing things. Instead we hung out at the resort one day and went scuba diving the second day. On the third day we went to Church and then flew home. We don’t have many photos of this vacation since we were using our GoPro…and on our last dive the GoPro broke off the stick and fell to the bottom of the ocean. Good times.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Boarding the plane looked like this since they had the AirCon blasting, but it was hot and humid outside.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Getting ready to land in Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Eskaya Resort is on Panglao island of Bohol.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and "drive" for a while.

Blake liked the golf carts that we came across often and had to sit in them and “drive” for a while.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

The main pool at Eskaya had a kiddie pool in front of the main pool. Basically our family was the only one using it during our stay.

Our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

If we didn’t want to be in the main pool, we could use our private pool that was just outside of our villa.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Mosquitos were a problem at the resort. We all slept under mosquito nets and the resort burned mosquito coils for all of the villas.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children's Primary Program, which was fantastic.

Before leaving the island, we found a local LDS church and attended their sacrament meeting, which happened to be the Children’s Primary Program, which was fantastic.


Letter of Recommendation: Helen & Marilyn

December 21st, 2015 No comments

For the past three years we have employed Helen & Marliyn as our live-in household kasambahay and would like to now advertise a very strong recommendation for their services.

Why should you hire them?

  • 100% Trustworthy – in 38 months we have never once experienced an issue with honesty. After the first year we were comfortable leaving our kids with them overnight. You could even say they’ve played a large role in raising our 18 month old baby.
  • Safety – they have always kept our kids safe and exhibit a strong sense of safety.
  • Work Ethic – both H&M have a very strong work ethic and do not shy away from hard labor; they’ve kept our condo spotless. When we wakeup Monday morning after they’ve been off over the weekend, the condo is already clean. They’re also very willing to go above and beyond their job description with miscellaneous tasks we delegate their way.
  • Temperament – we’ve often heard of “maids with mood-swings”, but can honestly say we’ve never seen anything but a steady positive attitude from these two.
  • Local Knowledge – if you’re new to the Philippines, they know the ropes so you don’t have to. One has handymen brothers who can help out as well.
  • Stability – I haven’t met any other expats who have kept the same house help for 38 consecutive months. That says a lot about H&M.
  • Self-Starters – We never have to tell either one of them what to do around the house.

 
Why should you hire Marilyn specifically?

  • Marilyn’s primary responsibility is cooking and cleaning. She backs up Helen in regards to taking care of the kids as a secondary responsibility.
  • Her cooking is amazing. See photos below. We’re often disappointed when we eat out because the food isn’t as good as what Marilyn cooks at home.
  • She is 100% self-led in the kitchen: we never tell her what to make or how to make it. We’re just treated to a delightfully surprising variety of dishes every time we sit down to eat.
  • She teaches herself new dishes on a regular basis. She watches YouTube videos and gets recipes on the internet and tries them out. Nine times out of ten they turn out great.
  • Parties parties parties. We’re fond of hosting dinner parties with 10..15..20..+ guests of varying nationalities and tastes. All we have to do is give Marilyn a headcount and she does the rest. Photos of some of the spreads she’s put on are below. With Helen’s help, the two of them can facilitate an entire dinner party and we don’t lift a finger or manage anything.
  • Weekly grocery shopping is done with little supervision from my wife. Marilyn finds the ingredients we need, and my wife just meets her at the cash register to pay the bill. (Warning: having a restaurant-quality chef in your kitchen can lead to restaurant-level food bills, but it’s worth it)
  • Again, Marilyn is a very hard worker and does a great job cleaning and doing laundry in addition to cooking.

 
Why should you hire Helen specifically?

  • Helen’s primary responsibility is childcare and cleaning. She will backup Marilyn in the kitchen as a secondary responsibility.
  • Helen takes excellent care of our three children. Catering to the needs of an 11 year old, 6 year old, and 18 month old.
  • She is familiar with the International School of Manila and helps make sure the kids are prepared each day and get to / from school.
  • She takes great care of the baby, and has done so since he was born. Her level of safety and rigor is so high we do not worry in the least bit when she’s out with him. And as mentioned earlier, we’ve left all three kids with them for 2-3 consecutive nights.
  • She is always present when workers are in our condo, and because of that we have never had any issues of damage goods or money stolen.
  • Like Marilyn, Helen keeps the condo clean and tidy when the kids don’t need her. Zero hesitation when it comes to hard chores.

 
Other FYI’s:

  • Their preference is to stay together at their next job, they work really well with one another.
  • They both live with us, and probably prefer live-in jobs, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Marilyn lives in Cavite, Helen in Pasig.
  • Their schedule with us is Monday morning through Saturday afternoon.
  • We started them at 12,000 PHP each / month, and have increased it 1000 each year. So 2016 would have been to 15,000 (includes SSS, Pag-Ibig, Phil-Health for their portion and our portion).
  • We give them the standard Filipino non-working holidays.
  • English skills are adequate, but not above average

 
We will be out of town Dec 23-Dec 27, so they will both be available for interviews during that window. Otherwise, we leave Jan 8 and they’ll be available to work full-time after that.

Helen can be reached at: 0905 678 1494

and Marilyn: 0915 670 4453

 

One of Marilyn's more "simple" dinner spreads

One of Marilyn’s more “simple” dinner spreads

Helen taking good care of Baby Blake

Helen taking good care of our baby

Helen playing with the baby

Helen playing with the baby

Helen playing video games with Mason

Helen playing video games with our middle child

Marilyn front-row left, Helen far right

Marilyn front-row left, Helen far right

Marilyn learned how to bake on her own and these cookies are good I told her to make me a batch every Saturday! They're a hit with my friends too.

Marilyn learned how to bake on her own and these cookies are good I told her to make me a batch every Saturday! They’re a hit with my friends too.


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