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.
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.
More photo of Palau here.
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).
… and don’t miss this compilation video Matt put together!
More photos of Siquijor here.
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.
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.
- 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