Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Engagement Photo Shoot - Oct 2010
Four years have passed since Vince and I walked down the aisle on a whim. Ours was not a whirlwind romance but our trip to the altar was a little rushed. We were in a long distance relationship and the physical separation was getting harder with each "goodbye, see you again, my love," no matter how frequent our visitations were. We both knew that we were going to marry each other and it was just a matter of when. So one time over our daily Skype dates, and this was after a few days of our engagement, we randomly decided, "Tara, pakasal na nga tayo!" Our plan was to civil wed, file for my J2 visa, then move to the US to be together. However, God's hand allowed us to get married in church despite the lack of time (28 days after engagement) and resources, and that was a wonderful blessing we both will never forget. We got married in late October and by early January, I moved to Pennsylvania to be with my beloved husband. When people asked us then why we hurried into getting married, we would joke and say, "Napagod na kasi si Vince mag-drive."

Fast forward to now, we celebrated our anniversary last month in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This was the second of our two-part Caribbean holiday, the first one being in Mexico to celebrate Vince's birthday the week prior. We didn't have any plans other than having a babysitter for Vonn Kaleb, so that we could have alone time together at the resort. You know, do regular stuff, like maybe eat, swim and talk, and be a childless couple even for just a couple of hours. Things happened so spontaneously though that our supposed to be simple anniversary celebration turned into a sweet and special two-day event, really worthwhile and memorable:

1. We biked around the resort's bumpy cobblestone and paved paths. We had sore bottoms afterwards but we had fun! ☺️

2. We kayaked on the wavy waters of Atlantic Ocean. The waves were so strong, we got knocked off a couple of times, and our camera fell in the water! We almost lost all of our vacation pictures but the kayak staff who was helping us fortunately found it. We kayaked and rolled with the waves until we both felt a little seasick.

3. We had a very relaxing couples massage. I was really glad that it finally happened as I had been wanting Vince and I to get massage together for the longest time. It was his first time and he was very satisfied with it. He was "oooohing" and "aaaahing" a few minutes into the massage. Hehe!

4. We played beach volleyball under the scorching heat. I just realized now that volleyball was a significant part of our love story ☺️ so it was just appropriate that we did that.

5. We enjoyed a romantic dinner at the beach under the stars ♥ I will tell more of this in a separate post (or two) and will share lotsa lotsa pictures ☺

6. A surprise bubble bath was waiting for us in our suite. Another hopeless romantic must! I will share details and pictures in a separate post.

I'm so thankful I married my best friend, my one and only soulmate, the love of my life, the awe to my some, the beat in my heart. Vince, there's no one else I'd rather have as a partner in life than you. You're one of God's greatest blessings to me. Every day with you is a celebration of happiness and love, and I'm looking forward to four scores and forevermore with you. I love you. ♥

Monday, November 24, 2014


One of the highlights in our recent Mexico vacation was our trip to Chichen Itza. It was memorable to me for several reasons:

1.  I had always wanted to see a Mayan ruin. From the moment I first saw a picture of a Mayan step pyramid in my high school history book, I was fascinated by it. After seeing Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, it went straight to my bucket list.

2.  We stayed in Cancun, Mexico, which is about two to two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chichen Itza. Going there by a tour bus would've been our best bet IF we didn't have Vonn Kaleb. Bus tours leave sooooo early, and having a toddler who loves to sleep in like her mother, there was no way we could get our arse out of bed by 7:00 a.m. So, that left us with our only other option, which is to drive ourselves there. Yay! (or more like nay???)

3.  With a little prodding, I was able to convince Vince to rent a car and drive ourselves to the famous tourist attraction. The first challenge we encountered in this plan was the rental car associate who was no habla Ingles. Oh dear! We wanted to rent a car with a car seat but language got in the way, and so we had to wait another day for an English-speaking associate to assist us.

4.  Car seat - check! Rental car - check! GPS - uh oh! Nada. Although the resort staff and the rental car associates were very helpful in giving us directions and were confident in saying that it's very easy to go to Chichen Itza, we definitely needed a GPS. Going from the resort to Chichen Itza was a no brainer. Vince drove while I sat at the backseat with senyorito Vonn Kaleb -- I was paranoid that the car seat would malfunction. Vince really didn't need any help navigating our way to Chichen Itza - it was pretty straightforward.  We took the scenic route as per the rental car associate's advice. There weren't a lot of cars taking the "scenic route" -- which could either be a good thing or a really BAD thing -- but anyway, it was a safe route and led us to our destination as it was supposed to. While driving, we entertained ourselves by once again pretending that the Valencias habla Espanyol. Hehe!

5.  So, when I said above that we definitely needed a GPS, you probably figured it out already that we did get lost. Yup, going back to our resort from Chichen Itza, what was supposed to be a two-and-a-half-hour drive at the most, it took us a couple of extra hours more. Oh Dios mio! First off, it was raining crazy -- thunderstorm, zero visibility, the like that reminded me of Philippines and made me want to shout, "Delubyo!" We drove inter-barrio on the way home, where I saw small houses and sari-sari stores that were (once again) reminiscent of Philippines.  Amidst the heavy rain, Vince drove steadily. We passed by barrios after barrios until we were back on the road leading to Cancun. We took the exit to Cancun, and by that time, it was already starting to get dark.

6.  I remember seeing a mall on our way to Chichen Itza earlier, so I asked Vince if he would like to check out the mall and grab dinner there. Might as well since we're not returning the car until the day after anyway. So he drove and drove to what we thought was headed to downtown Cancun, but the next thing we knew, we were getting deeper and deeper into the city without any sign of the mall nor our resort (or any resort)!

7.  It was getting late already. Vonn Kaleb had not had any real food yet. He had been sitting in the car for almost four hours already, so he was getting bored and antsy and starting to be really fussy that time. The maps we had on hand weren't very accurate, so Vince thought it best to ask people for directions. We saw a car dealership and so we stopped to ask. No luck for us, however, because the people at the dealership did not speak English. We tried to ask at the gas station when we gassed up, and as expected, we once again were lost in translation. Oh jeez! We were starting to get worried, so I turned to my last resort, Siri. Guess what, she wasn't very helpful either :( We were driving around in circles, trying to put together bits and pieces of English direction we were able to gather from the people we had asked, until we saw a road sign that pointed to where the resorts are. We were finally able to breathe!  It was already dark and still raining, and some motorists were not very cautious, so when we started seeing resorts we were familiar with, we were so relieved.

8.  Eventually, we reached our resort.  I was really grateful to God for his protection and travelling mercies and for bringing us back to our hotel safe and unscathed. Whew! We were very proud of Vonn Kaleb for being the trooper he was. He held on and cooperated and behaved himself very well the entire time we were lost. I am so thankful to my husband for being courageous enough to step out of his comfort zone and obliged wholeheartedly to do that road trip, albeit his reasonable apprehensions and fears. If it wasn't for him, we would've missed out on that chance to see one of the seven wonders of the modern world. A big hooray for team Valencia! Woohoo!

Anywayz, now that I've finished outlining why our Chichen Itza trip was memorable to me, I think it's high time to share pictures of the astounding Mayan ruins, right? ;)

This mango smoothie was a lifesaver. It kept Vonn Kaleb hydrated during our drive back to the resort!

To read about Chichen Itza, here's the Wikipedia link:  Chichen Itza

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Our family of three (or two-and-a-half as we always say) intended to do a two-week trip to London and Europe, but lo and behold, we ended up once again in the Caribbean!

First stop was Cancun, Mexico. Actually, scratch that. First stop was Disney World. We flew from Orlando, and coincidentally, a dear friend of mine gave us free tickets to the park, so it made perfect sense for us to do a pit stop in Magic Kingdom before we arriba-ed to Mexico.

In Mexico, we stayed in Club Med Yucatan, an all inclusive and kid friendly resort. We chose this resort because it always came up as one of the top 10 kid friendly vacation spots when we did our online research. Now that we have Vonn Kaleb in tow, the first thing we look for in a vacation spot is, you know, if there's something for him to do there. Although unlike other Club Med resorts where they have daycare facilities for babies his age, the one in Yucatan doesn't have one. They have Kids Clubs ranging from 2 years up, and Teens Club, both of which Vonn Kaleb obviously did not qualify for. However, they do have a baby welcome center which provided in-room crib, stroller, bottle warmer and baby tub, and the main restaurant served baby foods and provided baby food makers, microwave, and bottle sterilizer should guests need them. We're at the toddler stage where feeding could get pretty challenging and so having baby food in the buffet restaurant was a lifesaver.

Anyway, here are the highlights of our trip:

1. Crocodile sighting at the beach. Big guy was lost and headed towards the shore. Good thing he changed his mind before he reached the guests.

2. Road trip to Chichen Itza. We drove and we got lost but we found our way back. Thank God! A 20-month-old who had been sitting in the car for about four hours, iPhone map that didn't have info for Mexico, Mexicans who hardly speak English, us who hardly speak Spanish, thunderstorm, zero visibility driving inter-barrios...whew! The car rental gave us fair warnings regarding driving in Mexico, so when we finally got back safe at our hotel at around 8:00 pm, we were mightily relieved. The experience was well worth it though, and more importantly, we had fun. Vince was thankful I motivated and encouraged him to drive. I was thankful that Vince stepped outside his comfort zone within reasonable limits and agreed to drive to Chichen Itza. The Mayan structures were marvelously amazing. No wonder Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. This deserves a separate blog post and I will share pictures... lots of them! ;) Bucket list item crossed off!

3. Pretending that Vincent and I habla Español. We conjured the craziest, silliest, most ridiculous pretend Spanish phrases and sentences, it cracked me up darn good. LOL! ROFL! This is my most favorite memory of our Cancun trip :)

4. Thunderstorm almost every day we were there. We had one bright sunshine-y day and that was the day before we left. Boo! We hardly had the chance to swim, so I pretty much just ate, ate and ate  I may have to diet and bootcamp myself to skinny now that our two-week Carribean all inclusive vacations are over. 

5. Authentic Mariachi over dinner. I wish I understood the lyrics but the mere fact that I was in Mexico listening to a Mariachi band was enough happy thought to cherish. Needless to say, another bucket list item checked off.

6. During dinners, Club Med guest relation officers join guests to eat and mingle with them. So when a Mexican guest officer sat with me at dinner one time, I gave him some witty remarks he surely won't forget. Haha! He told me he wants to travel to New Zealand, Bora Bora, and Philippines. I told him that if and when he visits the Philippines, don't say nothing about Manny Pacquiao. Hehe! That, and that how we were once hit by Thalia of Marimar and Maria del Barrio fever. He was entertained by me rather than the other way around. On a more serious note, I recommended Boracay and Puerto Princessa to him ;) #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines

7. Feliz cumpleaños, Vince! My husband celebrated his nth birthday on our last night in Mexico. I feel really bad and guilty for not having planned anything on his special day :( We didn't even have dinner together then. We had to take turns eating because our senyorito Vonn Kaleb had countless early terrible 2 moments during our holiday. I know that Vince felt that our holiday itself (and shopping spree later when we got back) was suffice but still, I should've done something other than that. Sigh! Oh well,  I'll make it up next time... pinky promise!

By the way, the reason why our London and Europe trip did not push through was no other than our precious little boy. My in-laws went there in September and they gave us the advice that we may want to hold off our plans because apparently London, Paris and Rome are not very kid friendly. The flight to London alone may be too exhausting for Vonn Kaleb and we didn't want to risk him getting sick while we're there. So our Caribbean trips were literally last minute but I'm really glad we pulled it off and we had a memorable family time. We're all getting better at this traveling-with-a-child thing especially Vonn Kaleb whom at his very young age is proving himself to be a trooper like his parents ;) Of course, we're so thankful for God's traveling mercies and protection all the time. We sometimes do get adventurous when we travel but God has always kept us safe and sane, and has allowed us to enjoy and spend quality family time during our vacations.

So that's about it for now. I'll make separate blog posts to share pictures from our vacation and I'll explain more in detail our two-week holiday in future posts :) Until then, vamos Taquitos and hasta la vista, baby ;)


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