Bag Crush: Mansur Gavriel

I can’t even begin to tell you how bad I wanted to own a Mansur Gavriel.  The Bag Hag blogged about it in January this year, and it was love at first sight (again!) for me.

It was the description “very light” that made me take interest in their bags – particularly the tote bag which is simple in design but has very fine structure.  Investing in good leather bag/s is always a good choice, ladies and as much as I wanted to buy myself one, I find their weight a bit heavy and that’s what been holding me back (from buying).  That’s also the reason why I prefer  Cath Kidston bags over the others right now: they’re lightweight, water-proof and are very easy to clean.

I learned that Mansur Gavriel bags are made of vegetable tanned leather, and for this alone it is worth buying already.  Why? Here are interesting facts you should know about vegetable tanned leather (from

  • Vegetable tanning is environmentally friendly; meaning any leather products that have been vegetable tanned can be recycled.
  • Vegetable tanning is an age old tradition, so most tanneries have very skilled craftsmen producing and dyeing the leather.
  • Due to the natural tannins used, vegetable tanned products are unique and have their own life, they are not the same for their entire life, but they change, continuously, for the better developing a patina over time.
  • The colours that vegetable tanning produces are rich and warm tones that look completely natural.
  • Vegetable tanned leathers are more valuable and thus sold at a higher average price compared to chrome tanned leathers.

Now the thing about Mansur Gavriel’s vegetable tanned leather handbags is that they are surprisingly affordable.  The smallest size-bag will set you back at around Php 20,000, which is reasonable considering its leather quality that is guaranteed to last a lifetime.  And it is no doubt cheaper than luxury bags like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and others.

So far, I’ve not had any success in ordering one online.  All the bags are SOLD OUT, but I read that they are restocking this month so there’s hope for me pa hehe!  I am eyeing 3 bags to choose from, all of which are in small sizes:


From left to right:  Small Tote (Brandy) – $425.00, Mini Backpack Canvas (Black) – $525.00 and Mini Bucket Bag in calf leather (Flamma) – $475.00

There’s this interesting story about how the Mansur Gavriel brand was born.  I highly encourage you to read it because their success story was built on “making things that they love” and doing it at a comfortable pace.  Beware though, because after reading it you too will want to have your hands on their bags.

And that’s where frustration kicks in because the waiting list is insane!

Wanna stalk the coveted Mansur Gavriel bags and shop as soon as one becomes one available? Bookmark their official website / online shop now at

Good luck ladies!

Blue Sapphire: A Gemstone of Love



From the Diamond-Jewelry-Pedia:

“The “Celestial” Sapphire – symbol of the heavens, is said to guarantee good health, innocence, truth, and preserver of chastity. It is the birthstone of September and its name is derived from the Latin word “Sapphirus” meaning blue.

This gem has been known since the ancient times. There was a belief that Earth is set on this gemstone, because of which sky is blue. The ancient Egyptians associated this stone with the ‘eye of Horas’ (the eye in the sky).

It has been popular since the middle ages and, according to folklore, it was believed to protect loved ones from envy and harm. Favorite among priests and kings, this stone was considered as the symbol of wisdom and purity.

It also symbolizes the qualities required in a healthy relationship, like loyalty, faithfulness, truth, sincerity, constancy and reliability. Therefore, it signifies long term relationships, while representing attributes like – sincerity and faithfulness.”


Now that we know the symbolism behind the beautiful blue sapphire, it’s no surprise that this coveted gemstone has become popular in betrothal rings.  Aside from having a striking blue color (its hue ranges from royal blue to indigo to cornflower blue), blue sapphire also comes second to diamond in terms of hardness (yes, it’s scratch-free!).  If you are looking for a family heirloom jewelry to invest in but do not want it to be in pure  diamonds, blue sapphire is your next best choice.

And to make it more special, The Bright Spot combined the elegant and traditional design of Princess Diana and Duchess Catherine’s popular engagement ring (with 12-carat oval blue Celyon sapphire in the middle) and the opulence of Titanic’s Heart of the Ocean with this design:



The total carat weight of the 3 blue sapphires is 19.15 cts.  Genuine diamonds surround these heart-shaped blue gems set in 14k white gold, further enhancing its heavenly hue.

All jewelry pieces are custom-made.  We use 14k Philippine gold and high-quality gemstones sourced from all over Asia.

For price inquiries, email me at

Taal Vista Hotel

I’ve been reading lots of good feedback about Taal Vista Hotel, so to celebrate AJ’s birthday last week, I booked us a weekend stay here.

Thankfully, traffic was not so bad that Saturday morning.  We left Makati at 11 (without any breakfast!) and was at the hotel at exactly 1:30 p.m.  We were supposed to have lunch first at Josephine’s before checking in at Taal Vista but their waiting line was insane!  Eh mainit na rin sa labas so instead of looking at other places to eat, we checked in at the hotel na and had our lunch instead at Cafe Veranda – Taal Vista Hotel’s main restaurant.


Their weekend buffet lunch (priced at P1,212 per head) was a mix of Filipino and International cuisine. I especially enjoyed the fresh lumpia, chicken inasal, the tenderest roast beef pochero and paella rice!  I forgot to take pictures, though.  Famished na kse kaya deretso kain na hehe!

When we checked into our room, AJ was surprised to find this, hihi!


I availed of their Superior Room Package (Mountain View), priced at P8,500.00 and already includes buffet breakfast for 2.


The Superior Room (King).

Superior King

Picture from Taal Vista Hotel’s official website.

The hallway.  Big windows, lots of natural light.


We spent the afternoon relaxing and strolling around the Ridge, which is popular for its “most perfect” view of Taal Volcano.


If you want a better view of the Taal Lake, the Lake View building of the hotel can afford you that.  The rooms there are pricier, though.


By late afternoon, the Ridge was teeming with guests and visitors of the hotel enjoying the cold wind chills that begin to set in.

Another equally attractive spot is the Magnolia Pavillion, also overlooking the Taal Lake and designed in Tudor-style architecture.  Much of the hotel (then called Taal Vista Lodge) was reconstructed in 2002, after it was acquired by SM Investments Corporation.  However, its original style was retained, thus preserving Taal Lodge Hotel’s glorious and historical past.


Taal Vista Lodge in its original grandeur (picture from

The gable with framed woods design is the architectural element that defines Taal Vista Lodge, now Taal Vista Hotel.


Notice the white projector screen outside the pavilion?  Every weekend starting this month until May 31, outdoor movies will be shown in tandem with the barbecue dinner buffet set being offered by Taal Vista Hotel.  They showed “Maleficent” on the night we were there.

At first I thought the dome-shaped “clay pot” in the middle of the pretty bougainvillea pocket flowers was too big, until the night sets in and it lit up – revealing a big lamp with warm, soft glow.  There are several of these lined up in the Ridge.



The sight at night was magical and romantic.

Dinner was at Taza Fresh Table, a newly-opened restaurant just beside Magnolia Pavilion. It was inspired by the “farm-to-table” restaurant concept.  Locally grown and organic products were sourced for the menu, so the food tastes fresher and more delicious!


Since hindi pa k’me fully recovered from our buffet lunch (that ended at 3 p.m.) AJ and I decided on a “light” dinner and shared on the following:

Spinach with Bacon Jam, served with Flat Breads (Php 200.00).  Anybody here knows where can I buy a bacon jam (or how to make one)?  Ang sarap eh!


Four Cheese Pizza (Php 395.00).  The combination of locally-produced cheeses like Laguna kesong puti, Pato quezo de bola, Laguna mozarella and homemade ricotta in a pizza is like having an all-star cast in a movie.  It was so good, and so worth the price.  I usually sprinkle some chili flakes over a four cheese pizza, but for this one, I skipped the chili flakes because I wanted to savor each of the cheese kind in my pizza.


We chose a pasta dish to go with the pizza and decided on this Mushroom and Spinach Matagliati (Php 390.00).  The main ingredients are the wonderful trio of Tagaytay mushrooms: oyster, shiitake and button mushrooms. The fact that it was cooked in truffle oil made it a winning choice for us.  Like the other dishes we had, we found this superb.  Oh, mukhang maliit sya in picture but it’s good for sharing.


The restaurant’s Manager (a nice lady whose name I failed to write down) suggested that we try their Bignay Fizz (Php 395.00 per glass), a champagne fizz infused with dried bignay tree bark –  said to have potent health benefits.  It tastes good but too pricey for me.  You can already order an additional pasta or pizza with its price.

After-dinner tea was at the Lobby Lounge.  They serve TWG teas.



There was a high school prom going on that night so naging entertainment ko ang mag-rate ng gowns nila.


Taal Vista Hotel’s breakfast buffet, as expected, was a hit among the guests.  Cafe Veranda was still full at 9:00 a.m. but the hotel staff were ever efficient and courteous, we didn’t mind waiting (and we waited only a little) for available seats.


Weekend naman eh, so I rewarded myself with bacon hehe!

After breakfast, AJ and I checked out more of Taal Vista Hotel’s surroundings and found that there’s so much to see there pala.

There’s a swimming pool just outside the Mountain View (where we stayed).


A cake shop inside the hotel, near the main lobby.


There’s a Kultura shop too, also inside the hotel.


More souvenirs and local produce for sale at these kiosks along the Ridge (leftmost side from the Magnolia Pavillion).  Not sure though if they are a permanent feature there, or just a weekend market.




AJ and I are used to exploring different places in Tagaytay whenever we are there (check out the travel stories from our last trip), but the charm of Taal Vista Hotel won us, and we didn’t want to leave.  We knew that our travel plans that weekend have changed after stepping into the hotel’s lobby and enjoying our welcome drinks.  It was a true staycation bliss, enjoyed right in the heart of Tagaytay.

Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post.  All images appearing here are my personal photos, unless stated otherwise.  Attribution is required if you want to re-publish or re-blog my photos, for personal or commercial use.  Link to the blog post where the photo is featured is strictly required.   Thank you.

Maleficent’s Fire

The green fire of Maleficent inspired the creation of this jewelry setting using beautiful Biron emeralds (check out my first emerald jewelry feature HERE).


The idea was to create a jewelry setting inspired by Maleficent (Angelina Jolie’s version).  It has to display power, fierce, drama and flamboyance – Maleficent’s defining characteristics.  Big Biron emeralds were used, to represent the powerful green fire she emits every time she cast a spell.  The jewelry setting should be elaborate, but must not overshadow the gemstone one bit.

My jeweler partner and I came up with this design, showing 2 thin diamond-encrusted gold bands “guarding” the emerald in the middle – the same way that Maleficent fiercely guarded the Moors from the greed of humans.



The earrings come with detachable jackets, in case you want to wear the emeralds separately.



All jewelry pieces are custom-made.  We use 14k Philippine gold and high-quality gemstones sourced from all over Asia.

For price inquiries, email me at

Beatles Fan Alert!

Don’t miss out on these limited edition Hallmark cards that feature the famous lyrics of Lennon-McCartney, the song-writing duo behind the biggest band in the world: The Beatles.


I found them by chance at National Bookstore (SM Mall of Asia branch) 2 weeks ago while looking for a birthday card.  There are 6 designs available (at least at this National Bookstore branch), and more than the bright and happy colors of the cards, it’s the typography and the words chosen for each that I find fascinating.


I just wished there’s a card saying “It’s been a hard day’s night” because aside from being one of my favorite Beatles songs, it also sums up my state of mind nowadays hehe!


Of the 6 cards, my favorite is the one with the lyrics “The Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away” in front because it very much mirrors the psychedelic culture of the late 60’s – the era I believe I am stuck in.  It was also in the late 60’s where the critically-acclaimed Beatles album Magical Mystery Tour was released.  This is my 2nd favorite Beatles album (the first being “Revolver”), and it contains my ultimate favorite Beatles song ever – “I Am The Walrus”.


“I Am The Walrus” is also the reason why I fell in love with the 90’s Britpop band, Oasis (a die-hard fan here!).  I heard their live interpretation of the song in ’95 and it was effing great!  IMO, no band has come close to the Beatles except Oasis.  No looking back in anger here, even though they canceled their Manila concert in 2002.

I really don’t have plans of using these greeting cards (you see, even the most mundane Beatles item is a collector’s item for me) but I’d like to have them framed someday.

Here are the 6 Beatles-themed Hallmark cards, which I lined up for better view of the designs:



Each card is priced at Php 37.50.  Available at all National Bookstore branches.

Caleruega’s Retreat Center

Today being Good Friday, I want to look back at our visit to Caleruega in Tagaytay last year.

Caleruega is a compound that houses the popular wedding destination, the Transfiguration Chapel, and the Caleruega Retreat Center.  Not everyone may know this but the administrators of Caleruega offer retreat packages for schools, couples and families.  Perfect for this Lenten season.


I remember having one of our school retreats at Caleruega, and the ‘side trips’ we took at the beautiful pocket gardens and nature trails inside the compound.  Their slogan “close to nature, closer to God” indeed rings true even if you spend just an hour here in this place.

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime (Part 1)

Text and pictures by my Guest Writer: AJ the Hubby, the Baker and the Gamer.


How would you feel when your boss suddenly asks if you have a valid passport?  That could potentially mean travel, right?  After the sudden rush of knowing that a travel opportunity lies ahead, of course you’d wonder where to, how long, what for, why you.  So it turned out I’m being sent on a training session half the world away, to learn as much as I can about a new team, a new business model, and new tools that we’re bringing to the Manila office.  Off I went to Toronto, Canada where I stayed for three weeks by my lonesome.

It was exhilarating and dreadful at the same time.  The furthest I’ve travelled by plane was only 4 hours away.  My travel kit said total travel would be 17 hours, with an hour’s stop at Vancouver.  It was a new and exciting experience for me, but the long travel time did take a toll on my knees and legs.  After about a couple hours in flight I couldn’t wait to stand up and walk around again.  Of course, loitering’s prohibited inside the plane and the only walking I got was to the washroom and back to my seat.  I was grateful to wait in line, though – it meant being able to stand longer and flex the sore muscles.  But overall, I liked the sensation and the sights of being up in the air. I loved looking at the sky and the clouds and the stars at night.

Meals in the economy class were far from gourmet, but I had little choice anyway.


“Are we there yet?” Repeat as desired until arrival at destination.


I arrived at Toronto on a Sunday night.  It was August, and since it was still summer the weather was cool and the breeze was gentle.  It feels like Baguio in November/December and there was no need yet for heavy jackets and mittens.  After checking in at the hotel downtown, I took a few snapshots of the marvelous view out my window, informed Leah I was cozy but missing her, and then promptly fell asleep.

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‘Spicy Mexican Chicken’

This is what my 4-year-old nephew, “Chef Liam”, called the dish he cooked for us last weekend, when I made a surprise visit to Cebu:


He’s into a lot of things these days, cooking included.  Nainggit ako sa cooking tools nya – complete set talaga!   My favorite part of our play time was the “Cooking Show with Liam”, where I would play the “program host” while he is the star chef.  He would walk me through the ingredients of his special dish, which were all prepped up by Ate Donna and me:


The messy kitchen.  Fresh ingredients lahat yan, all picked from their little backyard.


I loved playing the part of the sous-chef too, while multi-tasking as the program host.  I prepared the “chilies”, “garlic” and “basil leaves” that Chef Liam would use in his chicken dish.




The blue liquid you see below is his “magic cooking oil” which he said can be purchased only in Japan.  His daddy buys it for him daw, hehe!  (This is actually water mixed with blue food coloring).


We were able to prepare a full-course menu, but no desserts, because “it’s bawal“.   He has tonsillitis k’se and can’t eat sweets for 10 days.  Smart kid!

Thanks Liam for teaching Ninang how to cook your secret recipes!  It was good to see you again (even just for 2 days) and boy, aren’t I glad to have smelled the flowers again!  It’s been a very, very busy 1st quarter at work (and it will get busier in the months ahead!) so pardon me if this blog has been scant with updates the past few weeks!

Have a blessed Palm Sunday, all!