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By Land, By Sea, By Air: Philippine Travelogue 2018


By: Maria Girlie Pascual


I settled into my Premium Economy EVA Air seat like Kanye’s famous foot in his Yeezys, hunkered down in the roomier, better positioned area of the airplane for a fourteen hour non-stop flight to Taiwan, then on to Manila.

2017 came and went in a hazy blur, the year dominated by my son’s triple wedding which started with a Catholic ceremony in Chicago back in July, followed by a short civil service by a judge in California in August, then a final big destination event in Mexico in October. The last ceremony in Riviera Maya, southern coast of Mexico, brought over my relatives from Manila and Chicago to stay with us in Los Angeles until November. It was a full month of entertaining my brothers and their families as we juggled transportation, lodging, meals and entertainment between two kids, two teen-agers, two drinking age nephews, two sisters-in law, three brothers, an ex, my son and his new wife, a roommate, four dogs, and a partridge in a pear tree. Thank God for my son’s excellent Excel file, we all survived!

After a grueling year of selling real estate, fielding phone calls to help with the wedding details, frantic emails from relatives, guests, clients and friends, traveling between Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Chicago every two months, after the holidays, I knew I had to take a prolonged trip back to the Philippines. I was scheduled to attend another family wedding, emcee a golden anniversary, and celebrate my birthday. My Philippine sojourn started right after New Year’s Day. I took an EVA air flight on January 7th and did not return until seven weeks later.

The first two days in Manila was spent on a full body massage, a trip to the salon for a hot oil treatment, mani-pedi with more massages, and a chance to chat with my classmates to let them know my schedule. My son and his wife came two days later, and it was off to the races! Seventeen other family members, two brothers from Chicago with their family of five, plus two other brothers with twelve family members for a grand total of twenty travelers flew to the island of Panglao, via Bohol in the southern isles of the Philippines. It was my niece’s wedding, Attorney Therese Kris Pascual Gruba to fellow counsel and classmate Attorney Jun Guzman, and I was honored to be invited as one of the Godmothers at the ceremony. We all flew into Mactan International Airport, all twenty of us, including my aunt from Carson City, California.

The Amorita Resort was a very quiet and beautiful venue for a wedding. Facing the ocean, it had small buildings and casitas for guests, infinity pools with an open layout for the restaurants, bars and banquet areas. Loud conversations and music ceased at 10 pm, so my party loving family members opted to stay outside the wedding venue at a more “relaxed” atmosphere on the beach itself. We enjoyed the Amorita facilities by day, and partied next door with my other brothers at night.

The wedding ceremony took place that weekend, a wonderful whirlwind of activities accompanied by jiggers of premium Blue Label and 18 year old MacCallan whisky flowing like water from a well, as “A list” guests toasted the happy couple. I personally gravitated towards the iced Grey Goose with calamansi, but the highlight of the festivities was the undeniable love between Therese and Jun, surrounded by loving family and friends on their special weekend. It was a very memorable, emotional yet fun occasion, but all good things must come to an end, and it did. Thank youTherese and Jun for a most unforgettable weekend, and “Congratulations” on your new life as husband and wife. The day after the nuptials , we had to take a boat to Oslob from Panglao island, a bumpy two hour outrigger ride which made us re-think the whisky and the vodka, although purging is always a good thing they say.

Oslob was the site for the “butandings”, the local whales that thankfully fed on a diet of plankton and seaweed, drawing nearly 10,000 international visitors a month for the pleasure of seeing them up close and personal. Swimming with them costs another 150 pesos, and needless to say, actively diving in the water and interacting with these amazing creatures was well worth the extra bucks plus the sea journey, and after a day of Oslob and Cebu, we were on two mini vans, catching a flight back to Manila. Five days of family bonding time was well worth the trip, priceless memories for both kids and adults alike.

My son Kristoffer and his new bride Svienna, spent the next few days shopping and chilling with family and friends. They all started to leave within the week—my son and his wife, my brother and Father of the Bride Brent Pascual with his wife Dodjie, their two kids Miki and Mika left two days after Toto, with my brother Bently following suit after another two days. I was the only one left that third week of January, but I had more traveling to do, and it was back to Cebu for me on January 25th as the official emcee for the Golden Anniversary of Nolit and Alice Rabor, held at the Chateau De Busay, hosted by their children Barber, Melody and Angie and their families. It was a beautiful event and a wonderful reunion for the Rabor clan, their friends and relatives form Cebu.

On a sadder note, I also had the chance to visit Fred and Nora Tsai who were two of the three survivors, including Dra. Elenita Rubio, in the tragic accident that took Dr. Nunilo Rubio’s life, along with six other passengers the fatal weekend prior to my arrival. They are still trying to recuperate as of the time of this writing. Our prayers and well wishes continue to flow for them and their families.

Dino and Melody Dizon, with their children Josh, Jericho and Jassy all left for Chicago after the ceremony, while Barber with wife Ella and their sons, along with sis Angie, hubby Jason and kids, stayed a few more days to enjoy their vacation from the winter. It was quite a fun experience to party with the true “Cebuanos”, including late night dancing with Tatah Costales, famous designer and owner of ATEH boutique in Cebu City. Thank you for a great time beyond the norm!

In between my time at Calatagan, Batangas, Cebu, Cavite, Tagaytay and all the other places I was fortunate to have been shuttled, driven, ATV’ed to, I was invited to take part in a seminar which will allow me to sell condominiums with the brand Century Properties of the Philippines. These homes have been outfitted by architects, fashion icons and designers such as Giorgio Armani, Missoni, Philip Starck, Daniel Liebskin and Paris Hilton with prime locations in Makati, Mandaluyong, the south and north corridors of Metro Manila including Paranaque and San Fernando. These properties are perfect for the overseas workers and “Balikbayans” or returning residents that want to invest for their retirement while increasing their net worth at the same time.

For two days, I sat next to aspiring twenty and thirty year olds, all full of hope and dreaming of a million peso paycheck for selling these condos. I went into a full panic mode when I found out that there was an exam at the end of the training period, but my mentor assured me it was optional on my part and that I could leave without taking the test. Great plan, unfortunately, pride and my competitive nature kicked in, and so I hunkered down with the rest of the class and passed with flying colors. Giddy with happiness, I learned that this dinosaur can still run with the millennials! I am now an accredited Century Properties independent broker and if you contact me, I can help you find that perfect investment in the Philippines.

My birthday fell on a Wednesday, February 7,so I booked Chivz Bar in Greenhills with the help of Cathy Gruba and Noemi Prieto. Joey G of Side A was the guest performer that day, and with forty friends and relatives, I am happy to report that I had a grand time and forgot ninety percent of what transpired that evening. Needless to say, my brothers Docboy and AA made sure another milestone was improperly celebrated.

The next two weeks prior to my return to Chicago consisted of a more concentrated massage through a non- English, nor Tagalog speaking Chinese masseuse by the name of Vicky who literally re-aligned what was needed, got rid of all the knots and bubbles in my back, as well as the stiffness in my neck, joints, arms and legs. Advertised as a “foot massage”, it was that and everything else. All I can say is, Vicky was the cure I needed for all the stress that I had accumulated last year, and twice a week with her made me feel ready to come back to Chicago, refreshed and ready to rumble.

Sure, I slowly gained ten pounds in the seven weeks that I was there. And how could I not? Between Mariles Ibarra’s macadamia Sans Rival, Cebu’s famous Carcar chicharon, Alan’s Bistro’s Dewey Boulevard pancit, Siyudad by Barrio Fiesta’s Crispy Pata monggo and Kare-Kare, full rice breakfasts by Docboy, endless food offerings by my cousin RJ Yambao of Arny Dading’s Pichy-Pichy, lunch and dinner invitations by my classmates and Tita Alice, bar food and cocktails with my cousins and friends, ten pounds is a small gain I think and say to myself as I try to get back to my lighter version back in Chicago. Now it’s time to get back to work. Spring is almost here and the real estate market feels like a winner again for 2018. With rates hovering at a manageable 4% for a 30 year fixed mortgage, it is a great time to buy and sell.

Sure, I love the warm weather back home, but along with it came the intense three hour drive along EDSA, the constant smoke belching of vehicles that puts us in the Top Ten of the Most Polluted countries in Asia, and the truly, worrisome internet service, or lack of it, that makes life in the Philippines the challenge that it is today. Would I consider living there permanently again? Of course I would. After all, I was born a Filipino, and whether I am here or there, will die a Filipino, but hopefully, not too soon. I still would like to experience being a Grandma, to feel what it’s like to skydive, to continue to travel, meet new people and see new places, to swim with more whales and other sea creatures, to continue to see a new and better world, God willing. In the meantime, let me help you with your home plans and start right here, right now. (See ad on Page 26)


It’s More Fun in the Philippines for sure ! Girlie in Bohol, Amorita Resort Panglao Beach at the Gruba-Pascual Guzman wedding of Kris Therese and Jun with her Pascual clan from Manila and Chicago.


Newlyweds Kris Therese Pascual Gruba and Jun Guzman with son Jaime.


Pascual clan swims with the whales in Oslob.


The Rabor and Morales Women with CPRTV Health Matters Host Melody Rabor-Dizon and cousins, aunts, mom Alice, sis Angie Rabor-Maranan, Sis -in-Law Ellla Rabor. gmail5

Pascual Grand family vacation to Bohol

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