Lady Grange NYD - January 2015

Between moving, travelling and having a baby, its been quite a few years since I’ve celebrated a New Year with friends.

With our extended stay in Australia (and the joy of babysitting grandparents) we were lucky to join one of Broady’s oldest friends Greg Sara in welcoming 2015. 

Enter Lady Grange, the new resident at One Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda. 

As the inaugural New Year's Event, owner Jay settled on the theme of Tiki - one truly fitting the amazing view of St. Kilda Beach, awaiting the sunset over the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron's iconic club. 

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Being New Years, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Happy New Year's all - may it be one for the ages. 

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JB xx

Euroa Butter Factory - December 2014

I’ve been waiting a while year for this. One of my dear friends, and one of my bridesmaids, is getting married, and I’m honoured to be one of her bridesmaids in turn.

The small town of Euroa is located in North Eastern Victoria, approximately 90 minutes drive from Melbourne. In my research to provide you, Dear Reader, with some factoids, the name Euroa is the local Aboriginal word for “Joyful”, and for this occasion, so very apt.

The dry run. Sammy nailed it. 

The dry run. Sammy nailed it. 

I had visited the Euroa Butter factory with Felicity and Sam during my visit back in August, but seeing the venue in the summer, with the gardens in full bloom, was truly special.

A small army of the happy couples nearest and dearest converged on the small town to celebrate the nuptials  – friends and family we hadn’t seen for years, and to do so in such a picturesque location was an absolute privilege. 

The Seven creeks hotel, Euroa 

The Seven creeks hotel, Euroa 

The Bride and her five bridesmaids awoke early on the Thursday morning and went down to the local sports ground for a quick exercise session before breakfast. The smell of eucalyptus and hearing magpies carolling brought back memories of childhood summers in the country.

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The amazing staff at the Butter factory ensured we were well nourished, with amazing locally sourced produce, all provided with a smile, even if it meant shelling tens of thousands of peas. 

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The wedding took place 12/12, and if you're wondering what goes in to creating a magical event in a converted butter factory, here are some clues. 

FLOWERS. SO MANY FLOWERS!

FLOWERS. SO MANY FLOWERS!

I wanna be with you everywhere

I wanna be with you everywhere

Making the bouquets

Making the bouquets

The day of the wedding started with glorious blue skies, and didn't stop. Being the 12/12, it did feel like Christmas, but better, as we ANTICIPATED family and friends coming from across the globe to celebrate such a special OCCASION. 

Interior and exterior

Interior and exterior

We laughed, snacked and got ready together, and eventually heard the crunch of gravel on the drive as guests started arriving. 

It was not just one of those weddings, but one of those days, where you can feel the energy amongst those lucky enough to share it. And believe me, there was so much love in that little town that day, I don't think I'll ever forget it. 

Congratulations Felicity and Sam - Love you to the moon. 

JB x

Boracay - November 2014

As much as there is to do in Manila, the Philippines is much more than it’s sprawling capital city.

So, at the very end of my parents visit to my new home, we chose to show them one of the nation’s most famous islands – Boracay.

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Visited by over 600,000 international VISITORS annually, Boracay has a little something for everyone – extreme luxury at the Shangri La, jetskis & parasailing at station 1, and parties at the many clubs and bars lining white beach.

Write here...

Write here...

We stayed in a villa overlooking bangayan & punta beach, away from the hustle and bustle of white beach, with the famous boracay sunset all to ourselves. 

Going, going, gone. 

Going, going, gone. 

What we didn’t realise was that one of the busiest times of the year for Boracay is Halloween. it stands to reason - Boracay is our little ibiza, so on the evening of October 31, young and old came out to revel in the celebrations. weekends are always a little crazy in boracay after sunset, but halloween was so much more. 

As i'd never been to the northern tip of the island, one afternoon i strolled to the far northern tip of the island, and could not believe what i found. 

colours seen as they are - this is not a filter. 

colours seen as they are - this is not a filter. 

Puka beach seemed to be the old boracay: what it may have been like thirty years ago. small restos dot the pristine beach, while island hoppers come and go, marveling at the aqua waters and indulging  in a San Mig or Two. 

As with most of the philippines, it is hard to reconcile the luxury and hedonism we as tourists see compared to the living standards of the locals, many of whom are involved in the burgeoning tourism on the island. dwellings are basic, but in true filipino spirit, children and adults alike are often seen sharing a snack, joking and singing together. 

With so much new development underway in boracay, it will be interesting to watch and see what the future has in store for this little piece of paradise, and see if the old ways can in anyway
co-exist with the new. 

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JB x

Manila American Cemetery - October 2014

For the first time ever,  my Mother and Father are in Asia. The occasion is my Father’s 70th birthday, and I am thrilled to spend it with him in my new country.

I am the child of migrants following WW2, an Irish Father and Polish Mother. This heritage meant the history of the war in Europe was always a part of our family story, but until I lived in the Philippines, my knowledge of the Pacific War was sketchy.

So, seizing the opportunity, I took my parents to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, not perhaps the most joyful of family outings, but a meaningful one all the same.

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In an eerie coincidence, we made our visit on October 20 – the 70th anniversary of U.S troops landing on Leyte. Within that following week, the Japanese Navy is defeated and President Osmena is reinstated to office.

The cemetery is over 150 acres large, overlooking now BGC and what was McKinley Fort. It is the largest American cemetery of casualties of WW2, with a total of 17,201 soldiers laid to rest, most of whom were killed in action in New Guinea and the Philippines.

In case you were wondering how huge the memorial really is.

In case you were wondering how huge the memorial really is.

Carved into large limestone slabs are the names of those missing in battle, 36,285 in total. Within these hemicycles there are painstakingly created mosaics detailing each of the battles which took place in the Pacific, China, India and Burma.

At the centre of the memorial is the Chapel, an extraordinary interior of blue mosaic tiles and a traditional psalm on the left wall.

It is a beautiful and sad reminder of a terrible time, but also gives great hope and has an extraordinary sense of calm about it. And seeing the rows upon rows of Crucifix lined up, one realises the sheer scale of the war which changed our world forever. 

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JB x

Todd English Food Hall - September 2014

Due to the Traffic-geddon in Manila this year, it's got to be something pretty outstanding to get me out of my Makati bubble. 

But then some friend's started mentioning Todd English - new in town, sophisticated, with something for every girls taste!

Enter Todd English Food Hall - another great edition to the already amazing selection of restaurants at SM Aura. My first visit was with AJVB (see blog post on Atmosphere) and if she can have a great time out and love everything on the menu, i knew it was going to be my new favourite hangout for lunch with friends. 

Beautifully designed, well-staffed with lots of cozy nooks and crannies which belie it's enormous footprint (remember, it is a Food Hall) TEFH offers patrons everything from share plates, pastas, grilled specialties and freshly shucked oysters.

And a Macaron Ferris Wheel. 

Girlfriends and I ordered the amazing Popcorn Chicken Tacos, an amazing pizza, Sweet Potato Fries and a selection of sushi. Plus my order of the incredible 48 hour brined pork chop (possibly the best pork i have ever tasted -sorry Mum!), all topped off with an expertly picked Chianti

Guests can also purchase from the selection of Todd English produce and cookbooks tastefully displayed within the dark mahogany cases lining one corner of the restaurant. 

Whilst most of my friends were well behaved, i couldn't resist a little after dinner treat - a baileys, with some macarons (to share!) and the most incredible interpretation of S'mores with homemade graham cracker crumbs, orange fluff , homemade ganache and an amazing vanilla ice cream. 

... and a green tea for good luck!

... and a green tea for good luck!

If you'e wondering, i skipped dinner that night. 

If you'e wondering, i skipped dinner that night. 

Todd English Food Hall is located at 5/F SkyPark, SM Aura Premiere, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Your can learn more about this amazing dining experience here



Atmosphere Resort & Spa - July 2014

As much as Australian summers are magical, Australian winters (especially in Melbourne) are pretty bleak. And when your birthday is in July, a tropical island getaway to celebrate isn't an option. 

So now we live in the Philippines, my birthday was the perfect excuse to pack up and head to Dumaguete on the island of Negros Oriental for a perfect mini break! 

Atmosphere Resort has become synonymous in the dive community as bringing the best of both worlds - some of the planet's best diving on it's doorstep, combined with luxury accommodation and dining. 

AJVB - cannot wait to get in the big blue. 

AJVB - cannot wait to get in the big blue. 


Matt & Gabrielle Holder started Atmosphere in 2009, and today the resort has 14 suites, 8 garden apartment and 4 penthouses built on a former coconut grove at the edge of the Bohol Sea. 

Wish you were here?

Wish you were here?

Our suite was close enough to the pool that we could enjoy fresh buko and watch the sunset just before kids bedtime.  

The weekend was idyllic - a cycle of swimming, eating, napping - and colouring!

And if all that becomes too taxing, book in for a treatment at the amazing Sanctuary Spa - bext Thai Massage i have had (counting massages in Thailand too!)

Every afternoon, at 4:30pm, the friendly staff ring the bell to annouce the start of Happy Hour - 90 minutes where staff and guests alike meet, talk about their day and get to know one another, whilst the kids can splash in the pool beside. 

The infamous bell! 

The infamous bell! 

The gift shop offers carefully selected pieces which serve as the perfect souvenier from your trip to this little slice of heaven. 

Special thanks go to Adam, Matt, Gaby and all the staff who went above and beyond to make our long weekend so wonderful. For more information on Atmopshere, go to  http://www.atmosphereresorts.com/ 

Pinto Art Museum - June 2014

It had to happen eventually. This is my first blog post which did not occur in the month I am writing in. This month was meant to be all about Hong Kong. I did in fact go to Hong Kong, and it was wonderful, except for the fact that it stormed like i have never seen storms before (I live in Manila - i know storms). 

So, this month I introduce to you the Pinto Art Museum, which i visited with my in laws back in April during their holiday the Philippines. 

I'll admit, the Museum is not exactly signposted in neon. It is nestled in the hills overlooking Metro Manila, and on clear days you can see for miles and miles.  

Located in the one hectare Silangan Gardens, Pinto Art Museum was founded by the Silangan Foundation for Arts, Culture, and Ecology, headed by renowned neuroscientist and art coinessur Dr. Joven Cuanang. Designed and built by artist Antonio Leano, the original building was erected in 2001, and has since grown to a number of outbuildings which serve as the cultural home to these pieces. 

The museum takes it name from the Tagalog word for ""doors", and as you make your way through the adobe inspired buildings, you understand why. 

Resident artists are available at select times during the week to guide visitors through the galleries, and the main house, which is the weekend retreat of Dr. Cuanang is available for private events. 

On weekends visitors can get a bite at the cafe, with a range of local and international dishes. 

Pinto Art Museum is located at 1 Sierra Madre St., Grand Heights. For event bookings and private hire, go to http://www.jotform.me/pintoartmuseum/pintoartmuseumreservation

Live Match - May 2014

This May saw the Dusit Thani's newly renovated ballroom turned in to a boxing ring as the Springboard Foundation, in conjunction with Dusit Thani Manila & Team Insider Boxing Gym staged a round of "fights for good", with all profits going to aid Springboard Foundation with their work in Leyte, Cebu, Payatas and the Spratleys just to name a few. 

I was thrilled to be asked to cover the fighters in the lead up to the big night, with the opportunity to watch the fighters train and see the dedication and hard work of these guys (who were all absolutely lovely, in case you were wondering!) all in the name of charity. 

Finally, the big night was upon us - a red carpet and red dress affair. I had never been to a boxing match, and i'm not sure all are as glitzy and well heeled as this one.

A fantastic selection of memorabilia was up for grabs on the evening too, with 100% of proceeds going straight back to Springboard Foundation. 

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370 guests attended the evening. Dancers from Mechowla Entertainment provided intermission entertainment,  and the amazing voice actor and columnist Ted Lerner served as Master of Ceremonies. 

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The extremely talented Gina Respall was well and truly the Belle of the Ball, her exquisite voice rising above the crowd and lending a touch of elegance to the night. 

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Over all, the event raised over PHP1.1m in total profits. 

Enormous thanks go to Dusit Thani, The Event Committee, Team Insider and all the fighters for the tireless efforts in truly making this a night to remember. 

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Deverana Spa - April 2014

I always love what i do, but when my work crosses over into some serious girlfriend time complete with pampering, how can i resist?

This month i was fortunate enough to be invited to see the newly revamped ad rejuvenated Deverana Spa, located in Dusit Thani Manila. Devarana derives its name from the ancient Thai Sanskrit word meaning "Garden of Heaven", and the design truly reflects this concept. 

Dusit has been at the forefront of luxury accommodation for over 60 years, and as part of the ongoing facelift of the Makati location, the Devarana Spa is being relaunched with greater products, services and those tiny touches which make a luxury stay all the more special. 

Myself and three girlfriends were treated to an amazing breakfast in the Club Lounge, before heading to the spa to begin our treatments. 

The spa features six separate treatment rooms where one can enjoy a selection of wraps, scrubs, massages and manicure / pedicure (complete with Chanel lacquer!) while sipping their choice of tea.

I indulged in the lavendar body scrub & the Deverana Signature massage - amaze!!!

Once we were all finished being thoroughly spoiled we enjoyed a lovely late lunch courtesy of Umu - Dusit's amazing Japanese restaurant. 

To make your appointment at Deverana Spa Manila click here or call +63 (2) 238 8888

Hiroshima - March 2014

10 days in Japan will give you a lot of material for a photography blog. From the cutting edge of technology to ruins dating back a thousand years, Japan's culture is as diverse as it is breathtaking.

We stayed in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. It was Hiroshima i knew the least about. Hiroshima, (like Nagasaki) is synonymous with the last chaotic days of WW2, but I'd always thought that was the end - Hiroshima was gone.  I didn't realise it was a functioning thriving city.

View from the Sheraton Hiroshima

View from the Sheraton Hiroshima

The Atomic Dome is the starkest reminder of August 6th, 1945. The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was completed in 1915, and was the only building left standing following the detonoation of Little Boy. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. 

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Sasaki Sakado died aged 12 in 1955 from leukemia. She was two years old and 1 mile from Ground Zero when Little Boy exploded. Following a Japanese legend, Sakado dertmerined to fold 1000 paper cranes, in the belief she would then be granted a wish - to live. Her memorail, the Children's Peace Monument was unveiled in 1958.  Surrounding the statue are cabinets filled with chains upon chains of tiny origami cranes.

The museum was established 11 years after attack. and whilst one could never call it  a fun afternoon, it is both incredibly sad and inspirational.

You probably already know this, but Japan gets cold. Very cold. I was under the (mostly incorrect) assumption we would be greeted with Sakura Fever, but instead the biting cold was a stark departure from tropical Manila. However, there were moments when the sun shone, and one realises how beautiful the Peace Park really is.

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The Cenotaph, home to the eternal flame. The arch is intended to serve as a shelter to the 70,000 souls lost to the atomic bomb.

The Cenotaph, home to the eternal flame. The arch is intended to serve as a shelter to the 70,000 souls lost to the atomic bomb.

ECPAT - February 2014

In the 10 month i have lived in the Philippines, I have had some truly amazing experiences. Food, travel and the people i have met are a constant source of inspiration and wonder. 

However, its no secret that my new country has had ongoing crises with poverty, and all that goes along with it. Destitution, famine and suffering are not something you see in Makati, but you don't have to go far to find it.    

This February I was approached to capture some images for a fundraiser for the Annual Australia New Zealand Association (ANZA) Ball. The charity being supported this year was the Philippine chapter of ECPAT - End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography And Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. An NGO active for over 20 years, they are present in 75 countries. ANZA asked me to visit a girls shelter not far from Makati,  and photograph the shelter and the girls who live there to document the work which still needs to be done. The images would tell their story in a forum they could not. 

I admit to being apprehensive and nervous on my trip to the shelter to meet the girls for the first time. I didn't know what to expect - would they resent my presence? Coming from such an affluent nation as Australia, this was something you might see in a documentary, or read about in Time.

What i discovered was not a place of fear and suffering. I found a home, with amazing carers and counsellors, who quite literally, offer these girls a new life. 

Some were the victims of kidnap, some were sold. Some had never known their mother, and had never had their own bed. To protect their identities, i was not permitted to photograph their faces, but when they turned back to face me once the lens was covered, they overwhelmingly had smiles on their faces. They talked about their school, their friends, and even (surprisingly to me) which boys from school they had a crush on. 

The power of their optimism and gratitude was extraordinary. 

Thank you to the fundraising arm of ANZA, and the local chapter of ECPAT. 

Yes, the shelter needs work, There is much to be done in fixing the bathrooms, providing clean running water and maintaining a safe, comfortable environment.  To support ECPAT, go to http://www.ecpat.net/donate

Morwell - January 2014

So, I’ve written this post late. These images were taken in January, just weeks before the devastating Victorian fires. Here we are a month later, and a town which has had its share of ups and downs is now in crisis.

Burning since February 9, the fire in the Hazelwood open cut coalmine is now a serious health and safety concern for the entire town. Many residents have evacuated, staying with relatives out of town, or waiting, after weeks, for a resolution. 

This former dairy is a cruel reminder from Morwell's former halcyon days

This former dairy is a cruel reminder from Morwell's former halcyon days

Morwell will always be a special place for me. It was where I saw my first movie, where the “good” shops were and where my grandmother would go to buy her Polish imported food.

I saw live bands play there as a teenager (the 60 year old Karma Theatre burned to the ground in 2005), and at Christmas my father and i would make a special trip to buy all our seafood for the feast ahead.  These memories are a far cry from the reality of 2014. 

Beside Karma Lane, opposite Village Twin Cinemas

Beside Karma Lane, opposite Village Twin Cinemas

It was a town of affluence, culture and roses - all watched over by the Hazelwood power station in the South. 

Time has not been kind to Morwell. Developments outside the township, the growth of neighbouring Traralgon and an upsurge in government housing has meant many business have struggled to stay open, and others have been left to rot.

Rear of Commercial Road, Corner of Hazelwood Road

Rear of Commercial Road, Corner of Hazelwood Road

The Village twin Cinema on Buckley Street closed in the late 90s, has sat mosty dormant ever since. A Google search showed a company known as WonderWorld Games offer the venue for hire, though appearance suggests patrons are few and far between. 

"Where'd everyone go?"

"Where'd everyone go?"

Gudes Arcade, also on Buckley, was once a popular shopping destination. This site has been left to decay, with the mark of vandals all too clear. 

"The party's over, baby. "

"The party's over, baby. "

On Church Street and Princes Drive whilst businesses seem to have fared better, the vacant shops are a reminder of how much trade in the town has declined. 

From left to right - the Princes Drive arcade and Central arcade 

From left to right - the Princes Drive arcade and Central arcade 

The Merton Rush, a family hotel in the 80s and 90s, now sits abandoned, the tables and chairs still in residence. 

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Morwell is a piece of living history. Now, as the coal mine fires continue to rage, who knows what will next be in store for this former "Rose of the Valley."

My dear friend Louise who helped me on this shoot grew up and works in Morwell. She works closely with the community and has been my touchstone since i left almost 8 years ago. I thank her and her amazing family for more than 15 years of support. 

JBx

Pampanga - December 2013

Is there a nation on Earth with a greater propensity for natural distasters? Tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, major floods and fires, not to mention the Typhoons which frequently ravage the islands have all left their mark. These “Acts of God” are common, awe-inspring and often deadly.

I remember watching the Pinatubo eruption as a 7 year old on the news. I knew what lava was. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to visit the ancient town of Bacolor in Pampanga that i knew what lahar was. 

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As this is December,  Christmas is in full swing. Nowhere does christmas like the Philippines. It starts in September, and with a brief intermission for Halloween really ramps up in the final weeks. So I decided to head to Pampanga to see what a Filipino Christmas looks like.

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These are called parols. These traditional lights adorn streets and homes all over the Philippines. But what i really came for was the churches. 

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San Guillermo's history is a long list of tragedies - fires, earthquakes and floods, and all have made an impact on the Baroque Church. But the most significant of these was due to the greatest “Act of God” in the Church's history - the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Though the initial eruption occurred in 1991, it was a lahar flow brought on by Typhoon Mark’s rains in 1995 which has left the most visible scars on the 400 year old Church.

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What was once a 12 metre high cathedral now sits on a new foundation. Parishioners now enter through the former second floor windows. The cemetery has since been remediated, though several structures can still be seen rising through the soil.

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The Church took many years to be excavated to the condition we see it in today, and the former classrooms now house the Museo de Bacolor.

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Just a few minutes drive away another sacred site with it’s own history of distasters – the Lady of Lourdes of Cabetican. 

What looked like little more than a large white home is the current shrine of the Lady of Lourdes, which has been built and rebuilt for centuries. The shrine is known for it miraculous events and healing properties.

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On my way out I saw what appeared to be a huge concrete structure rising out of the ground. Manila has some beautiful examples of Brutalist architecture (the style was favoured by former first lady Imelda Marcos) and i assumed i had found another example, so i went closer to investigate.

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Wow - this is the previous Lady of Lourdes. Destroyed in the Pinatubo blastof 1991, it has since been partially excavated. You can see the Stations of The Cross still adorning the wall. 

How big is it really? That's my friend in the lower picture. The answer is Very Very Big. 

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Another amazing experience in what has been a truly amazing year. See you all in 2014! JBx

Baler, Aurora - November 2013

It's a jungle out there.

Not my urban jungle - a highrise amongst highrises in the heart of Makati city. The real thing - steamy, mysterious, primordial.

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A few weeks back after some San Miguels at the incredible Plantation Bar, a friend and I got talking about her childhood home. A place of mango orchards, palm trees and untouched beaches accessible only by foot. Waterfalls, giant trees and farmers living their lives as they had for generations before.  Even though she warned the drive was a long one, by the next day we had our bags packed and were ready for our first Pinoy jungle adventure.

Baler is located in Aurora province, located on the North East corner of Luzon. Since the opening of Costa Pacifica and other great resorts, the area is gaining more visitors, but prior to that it was a place beloved by local and international surfers alike.

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On the 9 hour drive (there is a road over  the mountains, and a road around them!)  I was astonished at the clean air, blue sky and rural surrounds you simply don't have in Metro manila. Carabaos, cows, and children playing in mountain streams made my home seem like another world.

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As we drew closer to our destination, I said to my husband "It looks like evey Vietnam War film ever made". And turns out I was right.  During the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippines untouched jungle and countryside made it a favourite for directors such as Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), John Irvin (Hamburger Hill) and Francis Ford Coppola. 

His iconolastic war materpiece Apocalypse Now was filmed primarily in the Philippines. The famous helicopter attack scene, known for its lines "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" and "Charlie don't surf" were filmed around Baler Bay and an isolated beach now known amongst locals as Charlie's Point. 

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This magnficient spot is only accessible through rice fields and jungle. It is strewn with driftwood, has the occasional hut and of course, lots and lots of coconuts.

We stayed at the wonderful Azbahaen Leisure Resort & Farm where we treated like family. For three days we swam, ate and basked in the jungle sun. An enormous thank you to everyone there who made our stay so wonderful.

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Manila Hotel - October 2013

I'll admit it, I adore grand old hotels. The feeling of history, wondering who spoke with who, what whispers were uttered in the lobby and rooms - these buildings seem to breathe.

My intention was to combine these photos into a blog post about Manila Bay, but after learning the history of the Philippines first luxury hotel, I knew it must stand alone.  

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Celebrating its centenary last year, the Manila Hotel has been the host of war rooms, grand parties, a century's worth of international celebrities and was the location of key political turning points in Filipino history; the Japanese occupation, the seizure of the site during the Marcos' dictatorship, and of course the home of American General Douglas MacArthur for six years.

During his time as Military Adviser to the Philippine Commonwealth, MacArthur occupied the penthouse of the hotel. This has since been recreated with his original furnishings on the fifth floor. Not only is this floor a museum, but it's also a fully operational hotel room, complete with 24 hour butler service. 

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The details in this building were captivating - to the massive Doric columns in the main entrance to the palm leaf motif going through the stairwells... and the boardroom in the Presidential Suite was bigger than some apartments I've lived in.  

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The hotel has it's own "trophy room" if you like, filled with photographs and memorabilia collected over the decades. The Beatles, Ernest Hemingway and JFK were all guests, as well as HRH Prince Charles - there's proof! 

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During the Marocs Regime, First Lady Imelda Marcos was often seen dining in the Hotel's restaurants. Red carpets, garlands of flowers and perfumed air made the hotel an international destination for celebrities and politicians.  

Speaking of restaurants, the hotel has recently opened Cafe Ilang Ilang, complete with 8 cooking stations offering an international smorgasbord. You really can't fault a buffet where servers shuck oysters as soon as you order them, and even peel your prawns if you don't want to chip a nail.  

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Of course, even though the worst of rainy season is thankfully past, it poured just as i was beginning lunch. So... fingers crossed next time i can share with you the spectacular sunset over Manila Bay.  

JB x

Buddha Bar - September 2013

After 4.5 months in our new country, our first visitor has finally come to town, and to say i'm a little bit excited would be an understatement! 

Of course, Makati and surrounds are brimming with great bars and excellent restaurants, but how to really WOW someone who has travelled the world, worked with some of the finest photographers in Europe, and is generally incredibly cool? 

The answer: Buddha Bar.

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AMAZE!

The first Buddha Bar was opened in Paris in 1996, and has since seen venues opened across the globe, with locations in Moscow, Geneva, Amsterdam & Monte Carlo to name just a few. Each location features a unique Buddha, collected from around the globe.

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Buddha Bar Manila opened to public last year, not far from the hustle and bustle of party district P. Burgos. The sheer size of the venue is incredible, and the service is equally wonderful.  

We dined on the very generous Set Menu, showcasing three courses with a choice of Sichimi Crusted Salmon  or Beef Ribs with Black Bean and Garlic  BBQ Sauce, washed down with a lovely bottle of rose. Not to mention we weere fortunate enough to be there on Wednesday which is Ladies Night, so free-flowing bubbles for the girls. The icing on the cake though, is the incredible use of light here - i have never seen a colour changing ice bucket before, but know i now i must have one!

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I can't wait to go back and shoot with a tripod, (as you can see, Buddha Bar is red red red!), and also be able to show you the delicious food, so i guess i'll just have to go have another amazing night out! 

Lastly, a big thank you to our dear cousin for coming to see her ex pat family. xx

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Antonio's Tagaytay - August 2013

It seems as soon as you mention to locals and ex-pats alike you are visiting Tagaytay on the weekend, the immediate response is "You HAVE to go to Antonio's". Indeed, this restaurant founded by Chef Tony Boy Escalante in 2002, is synonymous with the region, and seems to be as famous as Taal Volcano.

I sound informed, don't I? Well, I wasn't. Truth be told, I didn't really understand what Antonio's would be like. After a stroll in the People's Park (me in a summer dress,  Husband in a tee and jeans), we asked our driver to stop off at Antonio's so we could "grab a quick bite".

After driving around in circles for around 45 minutes, we finally turned down a long, leafy driveway, eventually stopping at an immense gate. After being asked very cordially if we had a reservation (we ummed, ahhed and generally looked pathetic) we were eventually allowed to enter the gates to speak with the immaculately presented servers at the main restaurant. Apologetically, pleadingly, we asked if at all possible, we could have a quick lunch, pretty please. We were answered with warm smiles and shown directly to a table for two overlooking the verandah. 

 

Chandeliers in the trees and beautiful reclaimed brick footpaths

Chandeliers in the trees and beautiful reclaimed brick footpaths

Antonio's offers an amazing set lunch menu, whereby you choose a main and dessert, and your entree is served to match the main. Interestingly, Antonio's refers to what we would think of as a main as "Entree", and the entree in the traditional sense is a salad. We were both served Antonio's house salad with whipped Roquefort cheese and raspberry vinaigrette, served with a cheeky Chardonnay for me and a Malbec for Husband.

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And now, for the most important part - what we ate! 

L: The Seafood Sampler. R: Herbed Roasted Rack of Lamb with Cardamom Beurre Blanc

L: The Seafood Sampler. R: Herbed Roasted Rack of Lamb with Cardamom Beurre Blanc

L: Flourless Chocolate Cake. R: Passionfruit Pavlova

L: Flourless Chocolate Cake. R: Passionfruit Pavlova

The meal was completed with coffee and a glass of home-made limoncello.

In summary, my opinion is thus: The food? Flawless. The service? Flawless. The surrounds? Flawless.

Antonio's is both gastronomically & aesthetically world class, and I cannot wait to go again to celebrate a special occassion.  

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