Savoring Sagada, Bontoc and the beauty of the north


The Philippines has spectacular sights, beautiful islands and natural landscapes to visit. After countless trips to various beaches, our family thought of doing a Mountain Province adventure for an exciting change. My hubby Dennis planned the long but scenic road trip to Sagada, Bontoc and the Maligcong rice terraces.

Leaving Manila early in the morning, we reached Baguio City in time for a tasty Pinoy breakfast at Café by the Ruins. And then we continued our trip to Sagada, arriving in time for lunch.

This was my first time in Sagada and I was excited to visit the famous Sumaging Cave and other landmarks. Our 12-year-old Athena was so adventurous and went all the way into the deepest tunnels of the cave.


The next day, we did a longer hike to the Bomod-ok Waterfall, passing through rice terraces and rural villages. We were quite lucky with the weather and witnessed awesome sunsets.

From Sagada, it was a short drive to Suzette’s Homestay in Maligcong, just past Bontoc. Suzette’s is the go-to accommodation for tourists visiting the Maligcong rice terraces.

These terraces are not as famous as Banaue or Batad, but the two mountains and central valley of Maligcong make it one of the most expansive and, arguably, the most photogenic of all. In fact, the locals say that postcards labeled as our world-famous rice terraces are often shot in Maligcong.

Suzette Chees, owner of our homestay, is the all-around chef, housekeeper and tour director. Her place has an alfresco dining area that directly faces the terraces.

Aside from trekking Mount Kofafey, tourists can also explore the terraces and surrounding villages, ideally with a local guide.

On the way home, we passed by Bontoc Museum. Dennis’ late aunt, Sr. Nieves Valdes, was one of the nuns who started and developed the small museum, with its amazing photographs including those from the famous photographer Eduardo Masferre.

Store opening

The day after arriving from the uplands, I headed south to Talisay City in Negros Occidental for the opening of Wilcon Depot’s 38th store. The home construction retail store now has three branches in the Visayas. The opening included a motorcade around Talisay, showing many of Wilcon’s supplier brands.

William Belo, Wilcon founder and chairman emeritus, was joined by COO Rosemarie Bosch-Ong and chief product officer Careen Belo.

Supplier partners included LIXIL country manager Alen Alban, Matimco CEO Charlie Liu and Mariwasa Sim Ceramics VP Jakkrit Suwansilp.

The ribbon-cutting included local dignitaries—Talisay City Mayor Nilo Jesus Antonio Lizares III and Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Lacson.

Wilcon continues to make visible green tracks in the archipelago, with its goal to get to 65 stores nationwide.

For more information, visit; follow their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram

Louie Ablaza’s birthday

My active social life takes me to different parts of the country. For the celebration of Louie Ablaza’s 80th birthday, I headed to his family’s sprawling countryside manor in Cavite.

Ablaza, honorary consul of Zambia, decided to have a spectacular African Safari party together with his beautiful wife Mellie and their lovely family.

Dressed in glamorous tribal outfits, the entire Ablaza clan welcomed their guests to the whole-day affair that started with a Mass at the family chapel officiated by Fr. Jefferson Agustin.

Son Jun Jun Ablaza worked with fashion designer Steve de Leon to create the awesome tribal ensembles with over-the-top, feathered headdresses and ethnic accessories.

Daughter Czarina Ablaza-Syquia, with her husband Dr. Jofe Syquia and their children, also gamely dressed up in matching African outfits highlighted with raffia details.

Chef Jessie Sincioco, favorite culinary expert of the Ablazas, made an extra-special, sumptuous feast while the program entertained the guests.

The afternoon’s finale was highlighted by a well-applauded fashion show by Jun Jun. He presented a 17-piece, neotribal collection in distressed, acid-washed and patched denims with unique accessories like shells, coral, ivory and feathers.

The party’s dramatic extravaganza was successfully staged by production manager Marvin Choa and director Jett Carpio.

Benefit ball, art exhibit

Another fun social affair was the recent 35th Annual Benefit Ball of uniquely named The Original Ugat Lucena Association Inc. or Toulai, held at Queen Margaret Hotel, Domoit, Lucena City.

The ball featured an ’80s theme, aptly titled “U-GAT the Beat,” and was spearheaded by hardworking Toulai gentleman president Ronnie Manalo Padillo and lady president Maria Nova Villanueva Veluz.

The highlight of the Annual Benefit Ball is the “Grand Waltz,” always participated in by Lucena’s creme de la creme.

This year’s ball also featured the coronation of the night’s muse, Ysabelle Villanueva Veluz, escorted by Cameron Yazon Padillo.

Proceeds of the Toulai Benefit Ball went to the rehabilitation and renovation of Ilayang Talim Elementary School.

Joint exhibit

Check out the joint exhibit of Monica Delgado and Michelle Perez, ongoing until July 29 at Finale Art File Tall Gallery in Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati.

“Painting in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)” gathers Monica and Michelle’s series of recent objects, using poured and layered acrylic paint—vividly colored and viscous forms shaped by controlling the medium and letting it flow.

Working with this medium and process, the two artists explore the possibility of painting without its tools, perhaps pointing to how, within the practice of contemporary art, painting may not be in trouble, after all.

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