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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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Dubai

December 1st, 2015 No comments

After spending two solid days in Abu Dhabi with our friends Kym and Will, we drove the 90 minutes or so to see our other friends in Dubai for three and a half days. We first met Carey and her family at church in the Philippines where they lived near us for a year and we became fast friends. Our kids were very excited to visit with them again and play with their toys and dog. Carey acted as our tour guide and babysitter when we needed one. It was wonderful to be able to reminisce about friends and the Philippines with their family. After spending a week in the UAE during the cool season I would be willing to move there.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this...a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Most of the ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai looked like this…a lot of nothing but sand. After living in a concrete jungle for three years, I think this view is beautiful.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Sometimes we came across these air conditioned bus stops.

Filling up your car in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren't a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

Getting gas in the UAE is time consuming. Since there aren’t a lot of gas stations in the country, you wait in long lines to fill up your car.

We made it to our friend's home and it was great to to see them again and the kids couldn't wait for their kids to get home from school.

We made it to our friend’s home and it was great to to see them again and our kids couldn’t wait for their kids to get home from school.

We left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding, and I watched the penguin show sinec I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn't a fun experience.

Our first evening in Dubai, we left the kids with our friends and Matt and I had another date night. This time at the Mall of the Emirates. Matt tried snow boarding at Ski Dubai, and I watched the penguin show since I have only tried skiing once in the fourth grade and that wasn’t a fun experience.

We had a delicious dinner at ? where we were also able to watch people who were at "Ski Dubai"

We had a delicious dinner at Karam Beirut where we were also able to watch people on the slopes at Ski Dubai.

Day 1

Our tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Our friend and tour guide, Carey, had us walking a lot on our first morning.

Culture breakfast. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about the country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

First stop was to Al Bastakiya area to attend a culture breakfast at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. We ate the traditional food that Emerati families would eat and then we were able to ask any question to our hosts about their country, culture, or anything else on our mind. Yummy food, very informative and fun.

We walked to the water taxi area to rode the boat for a short ride to cross the water so we could see some souvenir shops.

We walked to the water taxi area and rode the boat for a short ride to cross the Dubai creek so we could see some spice souk & gold souk.

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

GOLD ring that is big enough for a giant!

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

While the older kids stayed home to play with their friends and toys, Blake joined Matt & I at the Dubai Mall where we took him to his first aquarium.

Blake wasn't sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath.

Blake wasn’t sure about this glass flooring where there were large fish (maybe some sharks) underneath. He was too scared to walk over the clear areas.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

While waiting to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show, Blake was making friends.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about 7 minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Duabi Mall fountain show is only about three minutes, but was fun to watch and to see Blake enjoy the lights, music and water.

Night view of the Burj Kalifa after the water show.

Night view of the Burj Khalifa after the water show. We actually watched the water show twice before heading home.

Day 2

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Kalifa.

Our friends got us 9am tickets to go up the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa.

You don't actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters, we made the records books.

You don’t actually go all the way to the top of the building, but still at 452 meters (494 yards), we made the records books.

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Kalifa

Our kids looking out at Dubai from the Burj Khalifa

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

If the Burj Khalifa had a voice, this what it would say.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the "Atlantis" hotel and walked around their aquarium.

We had time to spare in the afternoon, so we went to the “Atlantis The Palm” hotel and walked around their Lost Chambers Aquarium.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a 4-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

In the late afternoon we got picked up in a four-runner and headed out to the desert to experience a desert safari. Blake stayed home with our friends for the evening since he was too young.

There were so many cars there to do "dune bashing." It is like a roller coaster ride in the car and air is let out of the tires for this experience.

There were so many cars there to do “dune bashing.” It is like a roller coaster ride in the car.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We stopped and watched the sunset during our time of dune bashing.

We arrived at the "Arabian Nights Tour" dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

We arrived at the “Arabian Nights Tour” dinner location where hundreds of people gather for a buffet dinner, entertainment and a fun experience. Mason quickly made friends with the majority of the kids there and they all played tag.

Mom & daughter henna.

Mom & daughter henna.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Camel ride was short, but now we can say we rode a camel in the desert.

Farley family as Emirates.

Farley family as Emiratis.

Day 3

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is their church building.

In the Middle East, Fridays are the Sabbath day. So we got to attend church with our friends inside this villa that is the LDS church building.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard with his bare hands.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a “camp ground” area in the sand dunes. Matt caught this small lizard as it was zipping over the sand dunes.

After dinner we drove about 15-20 minutes and pulled off on the side of the road and picked a "camp ground" area in the sand dunes. We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We got to watch the sunset with friends.

We built a fire in the sand and made s'mores.

We built a fire in the sand and made s’mores.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

To end our Friday Sabbath, we went home and decorated Halloween sugar cookies.

Day 4

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they "mow" the sand. We spent a couple of hours there playing in the water and enjoying the company of friends.

We woke up early and went to the JBR beach where they “mow” the sand. 

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

We spent a couple of hours playing on these inflatables in water and enjoying the company of friends.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is 6 years old and that was his first time to "carve" a pumpkin.

Mason got to help carve a pumpkin since it was Halloween. Poor boy is six years old and that was his first time to “carve” a pumpkin.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

We had such a fabulous time being with friends and exploring Dubai.

More photos of Dubai here.

Abu Dhabi

November 24th, 2015 No comments

We have now lived in Asia for three years. Two years ago a good friend from Texas moved to Abu Dhabi and I wanted to go visit her. Then, when another family that we met in the Philippines moved to Dubai, I knew we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit them both by taking advantage of Manila’s direct flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I had been telling Matt for nearly 18 months that I wanted to spend our fall break visiting these friends and exploring that part of the world. We had never been to the Middle East and were told that in October the weather would be cooler. So off we went, and the weather cooperated and we all had a wonderful time being with friends and exploring the UAE. Many thanks to our fabulous host in Abu Dhabi, Kym, for taking such good care of us and being our tour guide.

Philippine Air has a direct flight from Manila to Abu Dhabi that is nearly nine hours. To upgrade to business class is rather inexpensive for this flight, so that is what we did and even 16 month old Blake knows this is the preferred seating.

Philippine Air has a direct flight from Manila to Abu Dhabi that is nearly nine hours. To upgrade to business class is rather inexpensive for this flight, so that is what we did and even 16 month old Blake knows that this is the way to go.

We made it to Abu Dhabi where our friends were waiting to pick us up.

We made it to Abu Dhabi where our friends were waiting to pick us up.

Day 1

View from our friend's condo of Abu Dhabi.

Part of the view from our friend’s condo in Abu Dhabi.

First place to visit was the Grand Mosque.

First place to visit was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Inner area of the Grand Mosque. Kalani was a little bit upset that women had to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and cover our heads, but the men could wear short sleeve shirts and didn

Inner area of the Grand Mosque. Kalani was a little bit upset that women had to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and cover our heads. Whereas, the men could wear short sleeve shirts and didn’t have to cover their heads.

Amazing chandeliers are inside the Grand Mosque.

Amazing chandeliers are inside the Grand Mosque.

We had lunch at a yummy Lebanese restaurant.

We had lunch at a yummy Lebanese restaurant.

We strolled along some malls and found a few "spices store". So many different types of spices before they are grounded up.

We strolled along some malls and found a few “spice stores”. Pictured: so many different types of spices before they are ground up.

We are friends from Texas, so we had to snap a photo in front of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.

We are friends from Texas, so we had to snap a photo in front of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant…Blake’s never been to Texas, so he isn’t in the photo.

Farleys are in Abu Dhabi

Farleys are in Abu Dhabi

We didnave the

We were too tired to go inside and explore Ferrari World, but we made it to the entrance.

Day 2

We spent the morning exploring the UAE Heritage Village.

We spent the morning exploring the UAE Heritage Village.

Family photo with the Abu Dhabi skyline.

Family photo with an Abu Dhabi skyline.

Our first time seeing a camel up close. Mason was very comfortable being around it.

Our first time seeing a camel up close. Mason was very comfortable being around it.

Lunch at a Mexican restaurant where all of the staff were Filipinos. So of course they helped us take care of Blake so we could eat.

Lunch at a Mexican restaurant where all of the staff were Filipino. So of course they helped us take care of Blake so we could eat.

We had an appointment to visit the Falcon Hospital and learned a lot about falcons. If they are wearing a falcon hood they are calm.

We had an appointment to visit the Falcon Hospital and learned a lot about falcons. If they are wearing a falcon hood they are calm and can go on an airplane with their own passport. (in their own seat!)

Blake wasnt too keen on

Blake wasn’t too keen on being this close to a falcon. It was such a neat and educational experience for all of us.

Date Night at the Emeritus Palace. There is a strict dress code to enter, but you can never dress too fancy there.

Date night at Emirates Palace. There is a strict dress code to enter, but you can never dress too fancy there.

ATM machine where you can buy gold is inside the Emerites Palace.

ATM machine where you can buy gold, inside the Emirates Palace.

Night view of Etihad Towers that are across from Emirates Palace. The towers were used as a filming location for the 2015 film Furious 7. In the film, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) steal a Lykan HyperSport and drive it through three of the towers

Night view of Etihad Towers that are across from Emirates Palace. The towers were used as a filming location for the 2015 film Furious 7.

More photos of Abu Dhabi here.

Malapascua, Philippines

November 23rd, 2015 1 comment

In late September we had a couple’s get-away to Malapascua in the Philippines to do some scuba diving. We had obtained regular certification about six weeks previous to this trip and are trying to cram in as much diving as we can while still in the Philippines since the diving is so great here. Matt really wanted to go to Malapascua to see the thresher shark. Not only did we see the threshers, but we also saw some white tip reef sharks, sea snakes, eagle ray, octopus, cuttlefish, lion fish, nudibranch, eels, etc. We completed our Advanced Open Water and Nitrox Air certification and did seven dives in two days. (It was our first time to use a GoPro while diving and now have bought a red filter so our future photos should look better)

Link: Video of Thresher Shark Encounter

Within a couple of hours of arriving at the resort we were already in the water doing our first night dive where we saw this octopus and other sea creatures.

We woke up at 5am two days in a row to see the rare thresher shark.

We woke up at 5am two days in a row to see the rare thresher shark.

We took a boat to Groto Island and found some white tip reef sharks.

We took a boat to Gato Island and found some white tip reef sharks.

We watched this really long sea snake rise from the bottom of the ocean floor.

We watched this really long sea snake rise from the bottom of the ocean floor.

We saw various sizes of cuttlefish.

We saw various sizes of cuttlefish.

After seven dives in less than 48 hours we are now certified to dive down to 30 meters 100 feet).

After seven dives in less than 48 hours we are now certified to dive down to 30 meters (100 feet) and to use Nitrox air which allows us to stay under water longer.

We rented a motor bike and drove around the island of Malapascua. Not many roads are paved.

We rented a motor bike and drove around the island of Malapascua. Not many roads are paved.

We found this make-shift basketball hoop nailed to a coconut tree.

We found this make-shift basketball hoop nailed to a coconut tree.

Even on a small island in the Philippines, basketball games are still played.

Even on a small island in the Philippines, basketball games are still played, with or without shoes.

We wanted to get to the lighthouse, but were not certain how to actually get there since there was no visible road when we got near.

We wanted to get to the lighthouse, but were not certain how to actually get there since there was no visible road when we got near.

These kids became our guides and showed us how to get up to the lighthouse through some foliage and brush.

These kids became our guides and showed us how to get up to the lighthouse through some foliage and brush.

These plant was growing all around the light house. The red color on the leaves make it look like it is a flower from a distance.

These plant was growing all around the light house. The red color on the leaves make it look like it is a flower from a distance.

It was long weekend to be able to spend time together as a couple and enjoy a new hobby of scuba diving together.

It was long weekend to be able to spend time together as a couple and enjoy a new hobby of scuba diving together.

More photos of Malapascua here.

Baler Vacation 2.0

November 22nd, 2015 No comments

With so many islands and countries to visit, we don’t normally go to the same place twice unless we have family there. However, we did make the exception to go back to Baler. In mid-September we made the five hour drive from Manila to Baler and met up with some close friends. We stayed at Costa Pacifica again for two nights and spent a whole day with our friends having a BBQ and playing at some beachfront property they recently purchased and plan to develop. It is was a quiet, beautiful, and relaxing weekend.

We started off the morning having breakfast at the resort and then saw these four LDS missionaries. We paid for their breakfast buffet.

We started off the morning having breakfast at the resort and then saw these four LDS missionaries. We paid for their breakfast buffet.

We had the whole beach to ourselves. Everyone had a great time playing in the water.

We had the whole beach to ourselves. Everyone had a great time playing in the water.

There is clean water on their property, but you have to use the spigot to pump it out. Mason really liked using the spigot.

There is clean water on their property, but you have to use the spigot to pump it out. Mason really liked using the spigot.

The kids also liked playing on the hammocks.

The kids also liked playing on the hammocks.

We had a super yummy BBQ for lunch.

We had a super yummy BBQ for lunch.

After lunch we walked to another area of the property to have a friend climb up the tree and get us some coconuts.

After lunch we walked to another area of the property to have a friend climb up a tree and get us some coconuts.

A beautiful location, good food and great people about sums up our weekend in Baler.

A beautiful location, good food and great people about sums up our weekend in Baler.

More photos of Baler here.