Seriously, just go here.
It's totally worth it.
From post:
Go out the Kimchi Pot gate
Turn right
Cross the street in the underground crosswalk
Come out on the right hand side
Walk a little ways and you will see Standing Coffee on your left hand side
 
 
I'm sorry I failed you guys.
I cannot believe I did not share this with you guys this winter.
Sure I shared it on FB, but do you know how hard it was for me to find on FB? 
The East Coast is still getting snow, so East Coast friends go ahead and get your martini shakers out friends.
Ingredients:
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup (4 ounces) vodka
½ cup (4 ounces) blue curacao
½ cup (4 ounces) cream of coconut (not coconut milk)
10-12 ice cubes
Shake it up!
Rim the glass with shredded unsweetened coconut.
Enjoy.
 
December 31-January 3

On day 7 we moved again to what was our favorite little B&B, Grand Luis Lodge in the Philippines.  This B&B was up in Forrest area in Bohol -- beautiful and quiet!  This was my favorite location of them all, plus the house was amazing.
I loved everything about it.  We spent our last few days on Bohol just relaxing and enjoying our time together.
The kids loved the pool....
This is the outdoor shower!
The last sunset of 2013.
Goodbye 2013....
We rang in the New Year on the roof top of our B&B.
I have never in my life seen anything like it.
Fireworks were everywhere -- seriously, every direction we looked there were fireworks and the bulk of them lasted for a good 2 hours...and we are not just talking a few, the entire island was COVERED with fireworks going off.
When we went to bed after 2AM, fireworks were still going off.
On New Year's Day Hubby and Boys 1 & 2 went on a 'deep sea fishing adventure'.
Let me be the one to break the news to you....if there is not an 'organized' tour, don't ask anyone in the Philippines to organize one for you.  The fishing poles were the fishing line in the picture below, their bait was a conch that the boat driver dove underwater for.  He brought it onto the boat, broke it open with a rock and hooked it to the 2 hooks they found along the way.  The only fish the boys caught:
That's right, Boy 1 caught NEMO.  :(
They came home early from their 'fishing trip'.

Then we headed to the Alona Beach.
Where it rained on us for most of the day, but we didn't care, it was still super fun.
Girl found this awesome shell....
And the kids hung out with some local kids who showed them the ropes:
As soon as the boats would come in, the kids would just on, and off and on and off.  It was their own little playground in the water.  The boat drivers didn't seem to mind too much either.
And of course there were recycled Christmas trees everywhere.
On January 2nd we took the Supercat back to the Cebu where we spent our last night on vacation.
The morning before we headed home we had breakfast by the pool....
And Boy 2 had his last watermelon juice before we headed back to the land of the $20 watermelons.
Happy New Year!

(Yeah, Yeah, I know I'm writing this in March.)
 
December 30th, 2013
Bohol Adventure to Balicasag Island, Virgin Island and the rain storm that had someone all freaked out.
Hubby and I started our morning off with a walk.....
We were trying to find a beach to take t he kids to.
This one was perfect for Hubby and I, but the kids would like a little more.
There was NOTHING here - which could be perfect for some, but not for others.
If we lived here and we were prepared with all our 'beachy' stuff this place would be perfect.
But when we realized there was NO PLACE TO FEED them we thought they might go off the deep end, so Hubby and I soaked it up and savored this moment for ourselves.
After spending a little time on Duero Beach (I think that is what it is called.)
We hoped in a tricycle & headed back to our hotel.
We then chartered a boat to Balicasag Island which left from the tiny little beach (muddy) area at the back of our hotel.
By about Day 5 our kids are pretty much done with going (you might be surprised to find out that we have a couple of real home bodies) and the complaints were flying that we had to go on another adventure.
Girl on the other hand is always raring to go!
We passed Virgin Island on our way to Balicasag Island.
Upon arriving to Balicasag Island it was NOTHING like the pictures would lead you to believe....
It was shack, after shack after shack of people trying to sell you things.
We were BOMBARDED by the locals and by this point in our trip we were done with it.  We wanted to sit on a beach, snorkel and just hang out.  They were trying to sell us everything from lunch (I learn that lesson in Cambodia!) to snorkel & dive trips, to taking us to other islands.  It was madding and with children on the brink of melting down we had to GET OUT.  We knew there was a 'cleaner' area on the island so we took off on our own little tour.
And we were so thankful we did.  When we got to the other side of the island there was a resort where we could sit in beach chairs, snorkel from the shore to our hearts content -- ON OUR OWN, have cocktails and just relax.  And that is what we did.
Another Christmas tree.
This made my heart happy.
This is the life.
Cocktail in hand, lounging on a chair while Hubby snorkels and the kids have crab races under a tree.
(Boy 1 was lounging on a chair beside me.)
I joined Hubby for snorkeling around the reef, it was amazing!
On the 'other side of the island' they will tell you that you need to hire a boat to swim around the reef, but we had no problem doing it on our own from the resort side.  If you were to hire a boat to come to this island, ask them to drop you off at the resort side.
After spending a leisurely afternoon we did end hired a boat to take us out past the reef in hopes that the kids would feel more comfortable and jump in the water.  After feeding the fish for a little while most of them couldn't resist and they jumped in and swam around.
These two said they were fine feeding the fish from the boat.
Back on the boat to head to Virgin Island.
Traveling back to Virgin Island it started to rain.
Then it started to pour.
Someone, I'm not mentioning any names had a freak out and was insisting we turn around and go back.  We were in the middle of nowhere and could see no land around us.
And I will admit it was a little freaky being out in such a rain storm.
We all wrapped up in towels at first.
And then we grabbed the life jackets to shield the rain from us.
When I was finally able to pull the camera out again this is how dark it was:
And after the longest 20 minutes ever on a boat the rain stopped and the skies started opening up.
We all (except for Hubby) wanted to just go home, but out boat driver insisted that we get out and get in the water to warm up.  When we did the water felt like a hot tub!!

This is the only picture we took of Virgin Island, but it was beautiful. We had more crab races, just hung out and explored the entire island.....as we were the only tourist there! 
(and yes, I realize Boy 3's swim shirt is too small. ;)

The kids were happy when we arrived back at the hotel - they swam in the pool, played on their electronics and ate.
And ate.
And ate.
 
December 29th, 2013
We packed a WHOLE LOT into our 1st day on Bohol.
(So grab you coffee, this is going to be a LONG one!)
Our first stop was at a market to buy flip flops for Boy 1.
His shoes broke the day before and since we travel light, the poor boy needed shoes.
While we were there we picked up a little breakfast for the kids.
Just kidding. 
While they are adventurous, the draw the line at eating dried fish from a box.
On the way to our next destination we saw this Jeepney FULL of people getting to and from work, home & Grandma's house. 
This was a common site.
These things were ALWAYS PACKED to the BRIM and many times overflowing.
Hubby really wanted to ride on one, but alas I was not really into strapping the kids to the roof, although it would have made a great Christmas card for next year.
Our next stop was at the Blood Compact Monument in Tagbilaran City.

This is what is inscribed at the monument:
"
About the middle of March 1565, the fleet of Captain General Miguel López de Legazpi anchored along these shores. In the course of this visit, López de Legazpi entered into a blood compact with Datu Sikatuna for the purpose of insuring friendly relations between the Spaniards and Filipinos."

It added that the compact was performed a as part of the tribal tradition:
"Each of the two leaders made a small cut in his arm, drew a few drops of blood from the incision, mixed it with wine, and drank the goblet containing the blood of the other. Thus was the first bond of friendship between Filipinos and Spaniards."

In his report to Philip II, Lopez de Legazpi wrote:
"
It is observed in the following manner: one from each party draws two or three drops of blood from his own arm or breast and mixes them in the same cup, with water or wine. Then the mixture must be divided equally between two cups and neither person may depart until both cups are alike drained."
And that was it.
Ranked #19 on Trip Advisor.
True Story.

What I liked more was the view:
(and the coffee shop next door....I have yet to have a good cup of Joe in the Philippines.  I'm starting to have withdrawals.)
But check out what you see when you looked down.
Rubble.
On that balcony to the left is an infinity pool..
...and below...
Baclayon Church.
One of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines founded in 1596 and was the best preserved church in the region until the earthquake of October 2013.
On Bohol the devastation from the earthquake was worse than that of the Typhoon of November 2013.
We always seem to find the ice cream man!
Hanging with my favorite 17 year old.
While traveling though the Philippines we saw Christmas trees EVERYWHERE and most of them were made from recycled products.
Our next stop was the Xzootic Animal Park.
Really pathetic and not worth a stop.
They did have a 'Gray Squirrel'.
More devastation from the earthquake.
Another old church reduced to rubble.
More fun things to see while traveling....a pig in a tricycle.
Another festive Christmas tree!
I LOVED seeing these everywhere!
The most fun thing of the day....
ZIP LINING at Loboc Eco Adventure Park.
We did 2 zips.
1st Zip:
Length 520 meters
Height 120 meters
2nds Zip
:
Length 420 meters
Height 100 meters

The view from the middle of the zip:
My favorite sign of the entire trip:
We then headed over to the Tarsier Conservation Area.
The Tarsier is the cutest little creature I think I have ever seen.
We were able to see them in their natural habitat.
I think we spotted about 5.
Isn't he adorable?
I wanted to take him home.
Chocolate Hills - Ranked #1 on Trip Advisor.
Chocolate hills have NOTHING TO DO WITH CHOCOLATE....do you hear me....NOTHING.
The Chocolate Hills is a geological formation.  There are at least 1,260 hills - they are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season....LIKE CHOCOLATE.  WHAT?!?!  Seriously, that is how they got their name. Do you know how disappointing it is to go to the Chocolate fields and not get chocolate?  Thank goodness we knew this before we got there or I would have had a revolt on my  hands.
At the top of the view point.
More devastation from the earthquake.
I love how the palm trees are still alive...I hope they replant them someplace else.
This is what happens after you have been sightseeing for an entire day and you ask you people to take a family picture at the chocolate hills with no chocolate....
Traveling to another area we see this:
They have STOOLS in the back of their truck for sitting.
Genius?
As we continue on our trek we ask to stop at another market. 
Hubby's flip flops wore a blister on his foot so he needed new shoes now.
This market was HUGE!
It kind of reminded me of Cambodia.
Need clothes?
Cabbage?
Rice must be comfortable...if you remember I posted a picture of children hanging out on rice bags in Cambodia.
Christmas started lined the streets of Bohol.
After a long day we made it back to our B&B where we had the pool to ourselves!
The sunset was magnificent!
After a long day we sat down to a dinner of fresh caught fish by the owners of our B&B, Isola Bella Beach Resort.
After dinner we finished the night with a few fireworks on the beach.
The world is a book & those who do not travel only read a page. ~ St. Augustine

I am blessed beyond measure that I have been able to read several chapters with the people I love the most in this world.
 
December 28, 2013

We didn't leave Nalusuan until after lunch.  I took a few pictures of sunrise but for most of the morning I put my camera down and just soaked in the natural beauty of this piece of paradise on earth. 

This morning the kids ask if I would wake them up so they could see sunrise - that impressed me.  They really enjoyed the island too even though there was no electricity or internet (OK,OK Boy 1 didn't LOVE it as much as the others...and he may have rejoiced a little when we boarded the boat to leave, but I know he enjoyed himself too....)

Just thinking about being on the island sends a calming sensation throughout my body, mind and soul. 
I cannot tell you how much I loved this place.
For breakfast Governor Lala (I can't help but think of the Teletubbies every time I say her name....Governor Lala - it just makes me smile!!!)  offered us a local breakfast food, dried Rabbit Fish.
Of course we accepted.
And guess what?
Delicious.
Really.
I would eat this regularly.
It was a little salty, a little crunchy a little yummy.
Isn't it beautiful?
Cool video we took in the water...
This plant (or whatever it is)  just disappears after touching it.
Lunch!
Goodbye Nalusuan....I hope we meet again.
The moment you realize your children are really world travelers...
They get on a boat and it is so second nature they fall right to sleep and don't care to look around.
For me, there is way too much to see.
Dive boats....
Fishermen, calm waters, & tons of little random islands...
Upon arriving back on Mactan Island we took a cab to Cebu.
Reconfirming that Mactan Island & now Cebu are NOT 2 of my favorite places on earth.
I did get a kick out of them advertising "Free Facebook".
This picture is just wrong. 
I am assuming this is a toy gun.
For the life of us we could not figure out what this sign means.   Red cars on one side, black on the other?
Just like in most Asian country, motor bikes are the primary mode of transportation.  This family bought LOTS of rice.
Traveling across the bridge into Cebu this was our view.
We were driving so I couldn't get a great shot, but these houses over water were stacked right on top of each other.
 Getting ready to take the "Super Cat" ferry to Bohol (Tagbilaran), another island in the Philippines.
Traveling by ferry is a very economical way to travel around the Philippines.  For the 6 of us it cost around $100 USD ROUND TRIP and it takes about 2 hours each way.
By the time we got to Bohol it was dark and we headed straight to our B&B, Isola Bella Beach Resort where we had our BEST meal to date in the Philippines.  And we thought the food on Nalusuan was good! 
Butter chicken.
This was my FAVORITE dish .... so bad for you yet so good!!
Everything was delicious!
We ordered way too much food and ate every bit.
Tomorrow...Bohol!
 
December 27th 2013

Day 2 on Nalusuan and I was already kicking myself for not booking more days at this little slice of paradise on earth.
I woke up right as the sun started to rise and it was magical, something I could SO get used to.

Good morning sun.
After sitting on the balcony for a few minutes to watch the sun rise I decided to go for a walk around the island...
After a little while Hubby joined me.
I can't tell you how peaceful it was on the pier.
I mean look at how calm the water is.
I could get used to this life.
I also couldn't get over how the sky was changing every few seconds.
I think I have 100 shots of sunrise.
Look at how calm the water is.
It wasn't too long before our people started waking and peering over their balconies to say good morning.
And then it was time to start our fun filled day of snorkeling (for hours!!), playing on the beach when low tide came in and then jumping off the pier when it was high tide!

This was the first time I had ever seen star fishtracks! 
Can you find the starfish in the picture that has 6 legs?
I didn't even notice that until a friend pointed it out AFTER we were home!
The starfish were incredible and they came in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes!
We have no idea what was doing this - they were all over the beach!
We tried to dig it up and look, but we could find nothing.
Do you know what it is?
We could walk for a good mile in the water.
Boy 1 introduced us to the game 'Ninja' which we played often while on the island.  I am sure many of the tourist that flock to the island for snorkeling and scuba diving between the hours of 11 & 5 could not figure out what the crazy American's were doing.
Someone found a nice and relaxing spot!
I don't have an underwater camera so I didn't get any snorkeling shots, but the snorkeling was the best we have ever done.  The live coral which was just a few feet from the pier was spectacular.  I've never seen so many colors and so many different types of live coral & fish as there were here and we have been snorkeling and diving in many locations across the world.   By far my favorite place for snorkeling, hands down! 

At the end of the day when all the tourist left we and it was high tide we headed out for a little pier diving!
As soon as he knocked his dad off the pier, HE RAN!
My favorite day on vacation EVER.
At the end of day 2 the island was all a buzz....
Governor Lala was arriving!
Governor Lala owns the island.
Goodnight Nalusuan.
I can't wait to see you in the morning.
 
December 26th we headed to Pongo Marigundun Port to be picked up by boat to be taken to Nalusuan Island which is about a one hour boat ride from Mactan Island. No one seemed to know where Pongo Marigundun Port was, luckily Mactan Island isn't very big so it was not too difficult to find although at first we were not sure we would ever get there.  Our boat pick up time was scheduled for 3pm.  What we had already learned in our 1.5 days in the Philippines is that everyone is always late.  They are totally on island time.  Pick up time at the port was no exception.  I think we were finally picked up around 4:20PM.

The port at Pongo Marigundun was awesome!  We wish we had more time to check this out -  (if we had only known how late our boat was going to be...) - but it was fun talking to the locals and getting the scoop.  The huts below are for day rental for just a few dollars you can rent one for the day and just hang out and have a good time with your family.  Most of the people that frequent this area are locals.  This is a place we believe we would have LOVED to spend a day!!
On the other side of the port were hotels...again, most of the patrons are locals and the hotel didn't look all that great, but we would have happily stayed here for a little fun in the sun! There is always next time - right?
Our boat to Nalusuan was very small, just big enough for our family and the two crew members.
The island in the picture is Nalusuan.
It is a little big bigger than a football field.
We totally felt like VIP's when arriving to the island.
They really didn't want us to carry our own backpacks, but most of us insisted, they insisted more and ended up taking them from us and in return they gave us shell necklaces and orange juice upon arrival.
Feeling special.
I'm already in love with this place.
The rooms were very small, but ADORABLE even if Hubby and I had to sleep in separate beds.
Check out our balcony.
Our room was on stilts in the water.
We had 3 rooms, 2 kids on either side of our room.
The kids loved having their own space.
Even if there was no electricity from 8AM-6PM
and NO TV or internet AT ALL.
This place is magical.
The pier was longer than the entire island.
And this is what you could see with the naked eye from the side of the pier. 
How many star fish can you count?
Can you see the little nemo fish off to the right?
And the striped fish towards the bottom center?
2 of my precious boys.
There was an anemone below the sign with tons of clown fish and you could see it by just looking into the water!
The sky was amazing!
(Those are our rooms on the left side of the screen!)
And the water was so clear!
I had no idea blue star fish like this even existed!
I cannot tell you how peaceful this place is.
And my pictures do not do it justice.
This picture was taken from the front window in our room.
I've never seen such beautiful skies......
Our dining experience was just as amazing as our arrival.
We had our own private table.
In fact, we had our own private island for the first night as we were the only guest on the island.
When we went out for dinner our table was already set and waiting for us.
We started with sizzling squid - which was just as AMAZING as it looks.
Boy 1 had fish soup, with the head and all.
Aren't our kids awesome?
He didn't even flinch at having a fish head in his soup.
He even had to share the eyeballs with Boy 2.
True story.
(I know..they are weird and awesome all at the same time! But I wouldn't have them any other way!)
Girl and Boy 1 stuck to more traditional chicken on a stick.
Our first night on Nalusuan was awesome.
I couldn't wait to see what the morning would bring us.....
 
After our tour of Mactan Island we headed over to Plantation Bay to visit 3 sets of friends vacationing in the Philippines as well.  While on the grounds of Plantation Bay you definitely do not feel like you are in the Philippines that we just saw earlier in the day.  This is an all inclusive resort where you do not have to leave if you choose not to (in fact they encourage you not to!).  Everything you would ever need is located within beautifully maintained walls Plantation Bay.  It truly is a paradise and our kids were a little miffed that we were backpacking it through the Philippines livin' the rough life while their friends were livin' the good life in paradise.  (CRAP...they have seen the OTHER SIDE!!)
They take pool safety very seriously here.
Repeated screaming is not allowed - they WILL (not that we know..) ask you to stop.
And if you want to swim before 8AM or after 8PM they will wake a lifeguard up so you don't drown.
And if they are really afraid you don't know how to swim they will give you a life jacket & a raft to help you stay afloat in water that if you just stand up in you will be fine.
Life is good!
Friends, fun, swim up bar, relaxed husbands, SERIOUS life guards watching your kids.
A girl can't ask for much more!
By this point we had lost track of how many pools were at this place! 
But no worries, there were lifeguards EVERYWHERE.
Ahhh....we have the most beautiful daughters!
I love this sassy girl!
Between the 4 families here we have 13 kids!
(Not all kids are pictured.)
The resort's show for the evening was American Pop Culture.
What I took away from this show is that Texas & Top Gun are the two biggest things that influence what Filipinos think of America.
And check it out...a Christmas miracle we caught someone having fun!
From shanty shacks to a 5 five star luxury resort...
What a great Christmas Day in the Philippines!