Our high school days may have been many decades ago but our Assumption HS 81 batch remains as close knit as ever. We have chosen various life paths here and abroad but somehow managed to keep in touch. Apart from getting together for our Velada homecoming every five years, we travel to new destinations as often as possible.

After enjoying several trips to Japan, Thailand and Korea, our batch recently discovered Taiwan where our tour leader Popsie Gamboa prepared an exciting itinerary equally divided into shopping, eating and sightseeing. But as always, shopping trumps all.

Our early flight to Taipei on board Philippine Airlines was on time. Philippine Airlines lady boss and fellow Assumptionista Tinnette Nisce assisted us with her girls, Chiqui dela Merced and Mariel Mesina, at the PAL Makati Ticket Office. PAL has many flights a day to Taiwan so enjoying a short Taipei food trip is quite convenient.

The gang checked in at the centrally located Taipei Fullerton Maison North along Fu-Xing North Road in the city center. Awarded Luxury Business Hotel 2017 and Luxury Modern Hotel 2017, the Fullerton is stylishly appointed with luxe contemporary furniture and modern setting. Our class genius Maripi Jalandoni was able to arrange for room upgrades thanks to her former Citibank colleague Jessica Lee. Jessica’s close friend Cindy Chen is the gracious owner of Taipei Fullerton.

After settling in, we headed to the most iconic building of Taiwan, Taipei 101, where we had lunch at Din Tai Fung. The Taipei 101 Observatory is spread over four floors, where visitors can enjoy the fantastic scenery and learn about the engineering marvel of Taipei 101, the tallest green building the world.

Any free time possible was dedicated to shopping. One of the city’s oldest night markets, the Raohe Street Night Market was our favorite. The epitome of a traditional Taiwanese night market, this 600-meter path along Raohe Street in Songshan District is packed with interesting foods and snacks, quaint shops and stalls. There is also the Ciyou Temple built by local residents during the Qing Dynasty era.

We also found Ximending quite exciting. This shopping mecca in the northeastern part of Wanhua District has been called the “Harajuku of Taipei.” Ximending is the source of Taiwan’s fashion, subculture, and Japanese culture.

Our first touring day included the natural attractions of Taiwan. We drove up the northeast coast to marvel at Yehliu, a rocky cap known for the interesting rock formations that were formed when ocean waves eroded part of the rocky shore. The formations, called hoodoos, can be seen in the Yeliu Geopark. The most famous hoodoo is called “the Queen’s Head.”

We found more shopping at Chiufen village. Formerly the center of gold mining, Chiufen features an old street that is full of local snack vendors and accessory stores. We tasted various popular foods such as taro balls, fried meatballs, and sausages.

After a delicious seafood lunch, we headed to Golden Waterfall located near the Gold Ecological Park in Jinguashi. Although there is no actual gold flowing forth from these falls, the name reflects their golden appearance from abundance of heavy metal elements deposited in the riverbed radiating a gold-like color.

My favorite highlight of our tour was the sky lanterns experience along the Pingxi Railway Line. Every year during the Lantern Festival, people have their wishes written on sky lanterns and release them to the skies. Each color on the four-sided lantern represents an aspect, so my sister-in-law Myda Prieto and I wrote our wishes of good health, abundant wealth, endless love and happiness on our own lanterns and released them to the sky.

Rosie Tsai, owner of MyCitiHomes, also did this same experience and was truly delighted. She recommended not to miss dining at the famous Aquatic Addiction Development. I met Rosie at her office when we taped for Philippine Realty TV for their upcoming launch of their latest project, Sabella Village.

Before we headed back to our hotel, we squeezed in another night market at Shilin District Taipei. A combination of eating and shopping, this market has rows of street food stalls and loads of apparel shopping ‘til late at night.

Our tour also included a visit to the incredibly impressive Taipei National Palace Museum. The splendid architecture of the structure is modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing and incorporates elements of traditional Chinese royal design in feudal society. Taipei National Palace Museum houses the largest collection of priceless Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world, including many possessions of the former imperial family.

Our dinner hosts were the parents of classmate Tessa Alindogan. Nonoy and Cory Alindogan were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary in Taipei and met us purely by coincidence, so they graciously hosted all 13 of us.

Extremely happy with our Taiwan adventure, we are already planning our next destination. We will be arranging another trip to Samar with the Assumption Alumnae Association for our charity works.

Another generous Assumption batch that is doing a fundraiser next weekend is Assumption Convent San Lorenzo High School ’68 Association (ACSLV68). On February 1 to 3, Birds in Paradise, a unique group of collector friends and classmates, brings in a pop-up shop that showcases everything artisanal and vintage at the Makati Garden Club. Now on its fifth year, the annual shop-for-a-cause event will donate the proceeds to help fund the scholarship program of ACSLV68.

The bazaar, with items mostly sourced overseas, is a treasure trove of Victorian-era bamboo furniture, pressed glassware and cutlery, ottomans of hand-woven fabrics, handmade jewelry and decorative shell masks. Jenny Paradies, Madlen Faustman and Isabel Aspillera have sourced treasures from antique markets and auctions all over the world.

ACSLV68 primarily relies on donations for the scholars, and the pop-up store is one major way the group raises funds for the students´ expenses. Please support this worthy project and have fun shopping too.

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