Well, where do I begin? My Manila plans have changed.

Majority of you know I came home to Melbourne last Sunday. And so many of you were a tad surprised and confused with lots of questions. So I figured the easiest way to explain the changes in my plans is to put it on my blog. My blog is to keep a history of my Manila adventure so my return home is definitely a piece of that adventure.

During Simon’s final week in Manila, work approached me asking me to stay on in Manila for a few more weeks. Manila has been a great adventure for me and career wise, its a smart decision. I have learnt so much and really want to see the work be a success. Simon and I always knew accepting a period in Manila would mean a possibility of needing to extend if asked. So we have always been prepared for this.

So as thought, work approached me asking me to stay longer in Manila so we agreed (Simon and I) and I extended my time. My original return home date was February 28th but I will now be in Manila until April 13th.

Because I agreed to stay longer, I was lucky enough to come home for a week. My visa needs to be renewed so a week out of the country was needed. It was a crazy mad rush as it was organised last minute. I had 24hrs to change my flights on the Friday to come home on the Saturday. I was super lucky as I got on the same flight home to Melbourne as Simon. So no teary goodbyes at the airport as planned, I came home too!

The crazy rush to organize coming back home so suddenly and very unexpectedly meant that I didn’t really have a chance to tell anyone. Plus I thought it would be a nice surprise for the family. I had the best Sunday surprising them. Sunday night dinner was fantastic – so normal and complete.

I know extending in Manila means more time away from Simon and home etc. But Simon is the most supportive person and wants me to do this. We make these decisions together, his opinion is the most important. I’ve always said – its easier for the one travelling for work then it is for the one left at home. I couldn’t have gone to Manila without his encouragement and he knows this is important. He is excited for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life. His patience and love makes my being away so much more easier. He definitely deserves husband of the year award!

I return to Manila tomorrow (Monday) ready to begin the final part of this journey. Its 55 days to be exact and i’ll be counting down the days till home time. I’m excited about the extra sight seeing i’ll be able to squeeze in. And it may even mean Simon gets to come back to Manila over Easter. Lots of possibilities!

Thanks for following my adventure. I love that everyone is enjoying the blog. Keep reading!

Love Kathleen



PS: LOVED seeing my pups again. They are adorable!


On the weekend Simon and I, along with some work colleagues went sight seeing again. We went to a place called Intramuros.



Intramuros is the old capital of Manila and was built in 1571. It is a relic of the Spanish period in Philippine history. It is a city within a city, surrounded by a wall. However many buildings were destroyed during the second world war. It is an amazing sight to see as the wall still has bullet holes.

IMG_2496To see the whole of Intramuros, we rode a horse and carriage. It was the best way to see all the sights and to have a tour guide tell us about the history.

IMG_2505The tour guide told us that the wall was originally built in the 16th century and it was built to protect the city from foreign invasion. It took years to build the wall!

IMG_2507A famous church surrounded by the wall is the St. Augustine’s church. It was beautiful in side. My camera couldn’t really capture the true essence of the building. I have never stood in anything quiet as old as this. It still had a lot of ceiling detail.



Above, is one of the oldest stone fortifications in Intramuros. During the war, they used it to hold prisoners in. It is also the oldest stone fortification that Simon dropped his water bottle in……..gone forever! 😉

IMG_2503On part of the tour, we went into a beautiful garden that was so green – the greenest I’d seen in Manila. We stumbled across a massive section of bonsai’s. They were gorgeous and would have been incredibly old. Simon was in heaven!

IMG_2495It was an awesome day. We also learned the cart’s the horses pull have no suspension, ouch! It was a relaxing day and an interesting educational trip.


We may have bought some tacky souvenirs to stick on the mantel piece or in the pool room. Just some memento’s to tell the grand-kid’s about. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience, being in Manila and having Simon here as well. But I am missing Australia now and all my family & friends. Bring on 1st March.

Love Kathleen






Simon has arrived!!! Can you tell i’m super excited about it?! He arrived last weekend so the lack of blogging is his fault.


But I needed to quickly jump on here and show you some amazing pictures. We had a really nice day trip out to a place called Tagaytay – country area.This is where a popular restaurant called Antonio’s is. I was told when I first arrived in the Philippines that I needed to try Antonio’s, at least for the atmosphere. So off we went!


The drive to Antonio’s took about 2 hours. It is down this back side street which at first would make you think áre we in the right place’ but once you pull up to the gates, it looks amazing. They wont let you in unless you have a reservation.


*Our awesome waiter Arnold

It is a beautiful house that has been turned into a restaurant. It is surrounded by amazing gardens and the interior still has that olden day feel to it. It is gorgeous and very peaceful. The owner, Antonio, traveled the world training as a chef and experiencing different cultures. He actually trained for a year in Adelaide (see, us south Aussies are not that bad!).


The food was yummy. It is a set menu starting with a salad (Mixed greens with blue vein cheese and walnuts), a soup (Pumpkin and roast capsicum) then a main of your choosing (Simon had the rack of lamb, I had the filet mignon) followed by a rich chocolate ice cream (forgot the photo, sorry!). It was very fresh and completely satisfying. I loved it.


After Antonio’s we commenced the drive home. On the way back, we stopped off at a view point to check out the amazing scenery. It is spectacular.


I took so many photo’s (as you can tell) and am struggling picking the best ones to show you. This is turning more into a photo blog than a word blog.


*Typical Simey

I loved the view. Its like a hidden treasure in Manila. We stayed for a while as a group of us mucked around taking photo’s. Planking is obviously so old now (and dangerous depending on what you do it on) but it was quiet hilarious when Simon did it. Right in front of this amazing view.


The drive home took much longer than expected. It was INSANE! Even our drive was getting impatient. He tried taking a back street which at first looked successful but ended back on the same road in the same traffic. 4 hours later (on what was suppose to be a 2 hour drive) and we finally made it back to the hotel.

I loved the Antonio’s experience. Definitely a must do if you ever come to Manila.

Love Kathleen XO

What a crazy week. At work. In general. Thankfully it has gone reasonably fast. And waking up to views like this every morning from the hotel make a great start to a crazy work day.


At work I get some amazing views. Manila weather is temperamental. Not at all like Melbourne. A good weather day in Manila is based on the amount of smog. And some days are terrible. But on one particular day the views we were getting were……concerning.


I was busy training my group of staff until I noticed the above view from work. It was a fire. (And yes church friends, that white building with the spires is the Manila Temple). Sirens were going off everywhere. It was a big blaze and near my hotel (concerning!). After the excitement, we went back to work. Until………….


An hour later we heard more sirens. So off to the window we went again and around the corner we spotted more smoke. Its on the opposite side to where the first one was but this time we could see the flames (not able to capture it on camera). This fire was in the slums. The staff were telling me it was probably some shanties that had a dodgy appliance inside. And because the shanties are made of light materials, they burn quick and fast. Its sad.


And then, the next day, another fire. In a slightly different location to the first fire (and no where near where the second fire was). This time though, it looked smaller, but it made the local papers. It was a group of houses that unfortunately burnt to the ground because of dodgy electrical wiring. Terrible for the occupants. I’m hoping that my hotel has good electrical & appliances…..!

On a completely different note, my staff and I had a trying week. We had to say goodbye to some colleagues and it was an emotional time for them. They have worked really hard this week so I promised them a treat. I’d already given them tim tams, vegemite, & krispy kremes in previous weeks. This time I asked them what they would like. They liked the Krispy Kremes but said there was an even better doughnut place in the Philippines called J.Co.


A new store has opened near our office so I went grabbed some for the class. They look like krispy kremes on steroids. The colours are so vibrant (all the more additives I’m sure) and are much cheaper. They are lighter in weight so you don’t feel like you’ve eaten a fattening doughnut. And they have awesome flavors – the oreo one (Top, 3rd from left) is my favorite!


*Some of my group – the minute you pull out a camera, out come the poses.

They loved the donuts and are always so appreciative. Working with these people is fun and challenging and different. We are a close group and they support each other all the time. If anyone is struggling with the learning, someone is always there helping them. Its great.

So we ended the week on a high (A doughnut high!) and are looking forward to our long weekend. The staff get the Australian Public Holidays so we are all super excited for the long weekend. And especially me as Simon arrives tomorrow. What more could I ask for!

Love Kathleen XO

Where do I begin with Greenhills. Lets just say I’ve been there 3 times now and each time I go back I struggle to see everything, there is so much! Greenhills is a big indoor shopping area with hundreds and hundreds of stalls that sell everything you can think off. Mens clothing, Womens clothing, shoes, handbags, electronic’s, things for your pets, plus so much more. This is the place where you buy all the knock off items you can think off. And everything is cheap!


Men’s clothing at this place is brilliant. Off course if you buy a brand name, its generally a knock off but the quality is perfect. I bought some men’s polo shirts (Ralph Lauren) that are amazing quality and awesome colours. When you want to buy items, you have to barter. Hmmmm I’m not so great at this. Whatever someone asks for, I tend to just go ‘ok’ but here, it is expected that you barter. And they will always try the line ‘give you special price, first customer’. Always first customer, it could be 10 o’clock at night and they have made lots of sales but will always say to you ‘first customer’.


*One of the never ending lines of knock-off handbags

Ever wondered how so many people walk around with Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Marc Jacobs, Gucci or any other famous designer handbags and dont really look like they could afford it? One word: Knock Off’s. There is no other way. Its become so infectious buying these handbags that everyone does it. Everyone here in the Philippines carries one. And I’m not just talking the well off classes of people. I’m talking the low income individuals. People who cant afford to buy clothing or put shoes on their feet yet carry a Chanel handbag. It just doesn’t make sense. Before I came, everyone told me about the knock off’s but I am the sort of person that prefers the real thing. I highly doubt’d i’d be interesting in buying copies.


BUT – I was walking past this one stand and there it was! A BEAUTIFUL black leather Prada handbag that is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. I can hear you all now saying ‘but its a knock off, why would you want a knock off’……but here’s the thing. Its perfect, like literally perfect, and the name brand means nothing to me. I don’t have famous brands in my wardrobes, just don’t for a number of reasons. If I like something, I like it because of how it looks and makes me feel – and this bag made me feel sexy! I could totally see myself walking into work in some black heals, matching winter jacket and this handbag. The quality of this bag was amazing and for it to make me fall in love with it, it had some amazing powers. It generally takes something special for me to love it.

I’ve learnt that there are 3 types of knock off’s – B grade (rush jobs, mass production, quality of the stitching is good but not perfect, easier to tell its a copy), B grade (slightly better standard, better stitching quality and feel) and Replica (exact copy, perfect stitching, could maybe get away with people thinking it was the real deal unless they had a trained eye in handbags). This bag was Replica – which meant it was expensive (Philippino expensive). Trust me to fall in love with a bag that is the most expensive. For example, the knock off B & A grade Louis Vuitton’s go for between 1000-4000 peso ($23-$93). This gorgeous replica Prada bag goes for 11,000 ($257). I don’t know what came over me. I said I wasn’t going to get sucked in buy it. But I guess I like what things look like rather then who made it so i was bound to get bitten by the knock off bug at some point. I was a good girl and put the bag down. But its haunting me. I cant stop thinking about it. I may need to go back……………and get it…….maybe. I just wont tell Simon 😉


The other thing I love about Greenhills is pearls!! I had no idea but the Philippines has a lot of fresh water pearls. These are the real deal. I checked. Had too. I wasn’t going to buy knock off pearls. I’m no pearl expert but i did some research and discovered there are several ways to tell if a pearl is real.

1. By the texture of the pearl – it should feel slightly grainy. If it feels perfectly smooth, something is wrong. And the pearl shouldn’t been 100% perfect. It will always have some slight imperfections.

2. It should feel heavy (but not rock heavy) and cool on the skin. You can easily tell with fake pearl strands that they are cheap and can be thrown around.

3. If you rub 2 pearls together, it should make a powder – fake ones cant do this.

4. You should be able to hold a flame to the pearl and it wont affect the pearl at all. I did this several times at Greenhills with a lighter – definitely true!


I love the pearls. There are so many stands selling the pearls and they are beautiful. You pick the strand of pearl you want and they will make it into a necklace or bracelet. There are also earrings, broaches, and rings. It is beautiful.


The ladies that sell the pearls are so passionate about them. Yes, because this is how they make their living but also because they have a true love for the Philippines and how pearls are grown so easily here. They have a unique talent for making the pearls look beautiful and turning them into gorgeous jewellery  They are so quick at making them into a necklace, it is a true art form.

Love Greenhills and all the funny sites you see. And all the bargains you can get. Whether you’re a knock off person or not, or a pearl person or not, its a fun place to shop.

It is a place of refuge when work has been full on. And I am not looking forward to Monday as I have some unpleasant tasks awaiting me. Think of me this week as I’ll need all the positive vibes and prayers you can give.

Love Kathleen xo

What a long week. I feel like I’ve been living at work. I literally go to work, home to eat/gym then sleep – that’s it……. Its been a stressful week at work. A million things happening at once. So I always try where possible to unwind and relax. I think I must be sick in the head to say this but going to the gym and working out completely clears my mind. It wasn’t easy, I hate working out but I’ve needed to in preparation for Oxfam. So It has taken weeks but the gym has finally become my place to clear my mind in preparation for a good nights sleep!


*Gorgeous fruit and veg

I’ve also been trying to eat healthier. It is so easy to order all the fattening things from room service and pig out on snacks at work. But thankfully I’ve found a supermarket that sells aussie foods!!!! Score!! So happy because I’ve been able to eat yogurt (Philippines yogurt is not so nice and is full of sugar), cheeses (hate American cheese, its everywhere here) and plenty of fresh fresh fruit. This supermarket has become my friend.


I love wondering the supermarkets and seeing all the weird and different food items. And comparing how cheap everything is compared to back home. But another thing I love is how the locals do their shopping. Only the higher middle and upper class Filippino’s would venture into a supermarket. Everyone sticks mainly to road side stalls. I pass these sights every morning on the way to work.


*The freshest banana’s – i’ll never be able to get one at home that tastes just as good

The road side Fruit and Vegetables are so fresh, its amazing. One of the locals told me he buys it from a farmer out in the provinces and peddles (thats right, on a bike) it back to Manila for sale. He makes a small profit but lots of people buy from him. The produce is so fresh and looks completely different to the store bought groceries we buy back home. I never really thought much about the quality of food we buy. I’ve heard people mention that the fruit is stored and frozen so we have year round produce. But looking at the way the Filippino’s eat – they stick to fruit and veg that is in season and nothing is frozen then thawed for sale. The fruit here has got to be the best I’ve ever had.

image*Left hand side is filleted fish

As for their meat and fish. Lets just say i’m not brave enough to try it. The butchers cut up the meat on the side of the road and let the blood drain into the street – not a pretty sight and at one stage I was tempted to become vegetarian. This is a picture I will not be showing you! Once the meat is prepared and fish cut up, it sits in the sun. Temperature’s here at the moment is around 31-32c so the meat is warm and I’d hate to think what the fish smelt like. But the locals buy the meat/fish same day they cook it so I guess that’s not too bad right?

Its been fascinating learning and watching how another culture lives. I’m loving the experience!

Love Kathleen XO

Well I’m back! My break over Christmas went so fast. Christmas was nice and New Years was relaxing (sort off, slightly stressed about going back to Manila). Whished I had had longer at home. Simon spoiled me – got to go to the Pandora store and buy a bracelet. I picked some gorgeous beads and can’t wait to wear it! I haven’t brought any of my imageexpensive jewellery with me as it is too risky to loose it plus it brings unwanted attention from the locals. They all think I’m super rich (I wish!) so the less attention the better! Simon also gave me a Pandora watch for my birthday a month or so ago. So I’m desperately looking forward to wearing the bracelet and watch!


I flew Qantas this time. Heaps easier then flying Singapore airlines as I didn’t have to stop over in Singapore. I flew domestic to Sydney (bad turbulence though so felt sick as a dog) and then caught a flight direct to Manila. It was a long day but much easier. I hated with Singapore airlines having to wait for a couple of hours at an odd time of night just to get home. Singapore is a slight detour off the path to/from Manila where as Qantas is quicker and direct!


I picked a window seat this time – best decision ever. Got to see amazing views. Loved it!

I’m hoping the next 2 months go fast. Looking forward to the challenge at work but also looking forward to Simon coming over on Australia Day! I am a bit home sick this time which the break home has probably set off but I am looking forward to the many new adventures ill have here!

Love Kathleen xo

PS: Did this all from my iPhone so I hope this blog post looks ok!

What a year it has been. I know we all say this every year, but this past 12 months has gone exceptionally fast!

Our year started off with a big bang, well, perhaps not literally but you know what I mean. Smack bang in the beginning of January I came down with pneumonia. No idea how I caught it (I secretly blame public transport!) and for a few days I thought it was just a bad case of the flu. After trying to fight it myself my body just couldn’t cope anymore and off to the ER I went. After a week in hospital and a month off work I eventually returned to life. But it took me a good 6 months to feel mostly back to normal. This completely messed up the beginning of our year but that’s life!

We didn’t get up to much after that. Partly because I didn’t have the energy but also because we enjoyed the downtime. It cut out much of what we’d hope to achieve in 2012. The house is pretty much the same. We have grand renovating plans but all in good time! We are in no hurry.


Its been an eventful year for work. Simon’s team went through a restructure so he decided to apply for roles else where in the bank. It was a stressful time but he was successful in obtaining a new role in a brand new team. I am so proud of him! I on the other hand had some big changes at work which has meant a trip overseas for work. Change is always exciting and I am enjoying the experience. I have been in Manila (Philippines) for the past month and will spend the first 2 months of the new year there also. When I return, I will start a new role (still as Team Leader) in a new team. Looking forward to the challenge.

The pups keep us on our toes. They turn 2 in March and have started to mature. They are ultra cute. Jerry is very sweet and loving and will constantly follow me around the house. But he does have a grumpy side.


Jemima loves cuddles but is equally independent and prefers to be surrounded by us observing (clearly top dog!). This year though she has needed a lot of special attention and care – as well as extra cuddles!


She has shown her anxious side this year (destroying the laundry door was one clear sign). She has anxiety issues and doesn’t like being alone (even with Jerry around) which proved a trying week for us trying to help her. She lost some weight and it involved many trips to the vet. but she is now on meds which has helped her greatly and she is much more happier and content. So all round a much more happier set of pups and an even more happier set of owners.


Other achievements for the year include buying a new car (Mazda 6) which we LOVE! Or maybe its just me that loves it……hmmm. I also took a trip to Tasmania with a friend. It was very relaxing and Tasmania is beautiful. Oh and we painted 1 wall……….at this rate we will be completing renovations in 2050.


Its been a quick year but also a long year. We are looking forward to starting 2013 healthier then 2012’s beginning (touch wood!) and are looking forward with what the new year will bring. Hoping to do more house renovations and maybe even an oversea’s holiday!

I’m flying back to Manila tomorrow morning so my next blog update will be all things ‘Pinoy’.

We hope you all have a happy new year.

Love Kathleen XO

I’m home!! Its good to be back. It was a nice sunny warm welcoming Sunday. Simon picked me up and we went straight home to the pups! I’ve missed my little family so much!!


Was a bit of mayhem getting here. Saturday I spent shopping at the markets in Manila. Had leisurely stroll back to the hotel. Was mostly packed until I received a call from the airline asking me to get to the airport asap as my original flight had been delayed meaning I would miss my connecting flight home from Singapore. So I did the mad dash to the airport and raced in with a little time to spare to catch an earlier flight. Just as well, as my original flight was delayed by 6+ hours which definitely would have caused me to miss the connecting flight. It would have been a ‘not happy jan’ scenario!

Its Christmas! Where has this year gone? Being away for the past month has completely thrown my Christmas routine. Managed to finish some of my Christmas shopping this morning. Crazy! Oh and sorry for the lack of Christmas cards from us – none existent this year. Too hard with me being away in Manila. And its the same with our house being decorated too. Sadly the below picture is the extent of our decorations this year. Just didn’t have the time or feel the need, Simon didn’t want to go to all the hassle of getting them out and me not being around to enjoy it.


My sister Michelle and I have built a yearly tradition to make a gingerbread house on Christmas Eve. Last years looked a tad pathetic so a lot of planning went into this years. She did a great job organizing it! Putting it together was fun and we stuck to a colour coordinated theme of green, red and white. The picture below speaks for itself! Looks amazing!



Christmas day will be spent roasting some turkey and ham as well as some lamb on the barbie. We are having dinner at the in-laws and will be helping with the cooking. Looking forward to the feast. I might also stick the Christmas tree up at their place. Cant have Christmas without a tree.

I was spoiled this morning. Santa came early. Simon made me get up early and took me to Knox  We went back to the Pandora store and he bought me a bracelet (the ones you add the charms too). I got to pick whatever I wanted, choose a couple of the charms and am having a fun time planning what other charms I might get. Spoilt!!


Simon and I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas day together and enjoy spending time with your families and friends. I will be thinking about the year that has been and remembering to be grateful for everything that I have.

Merry Christmas!!

Love Kathleen (& Simon) XO




A group of work colleagues and I took a road trip on the weekend to try and locate a popular site seeing spot for tourists. It involved a 3 hour drive (which we initially thought was only going to take 1 and a half hours) through the country side and we got to see some fabulous sites. We were on a mission to find a waterfall called Pagsanjan falls.

Driving through the country side was lovely. Except for when we were stuck in traffic – yes, there is heaps of traffic in country towns. We also passed a lot of shop fronts selling coffins….yep, burial coffins. Driving through the country side you see a lot of rice patties. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Much nicer looking in person!



When we finally arrived at our destination, we had to get out and barter for the price of being taken to the waterfall. The first place we went to tried to rip us off and wanted us to get out of our drivers car and into theirs (which we all refused to do for a million reasons). So we drove to the Mayors office who directed us to a better place to organize the trip. We met the people, a colleague did the bartering then we were off.



In groups of 3, we each got into long shallow canoes where we had to sit in the middle to ensure the weight was distributed evenly to avoid capsizing. I must point out that I was completely out of my comfort zone and the last thing I wanted to do was capsize and fall in a river with snakes and who knows what else!! But that didn’t happen. After we climbed in, 2 local men, 1 sitting on each end, paddled us up the river. It was so nice and relaxing (eventually!) and we got to see parts of Manila that were so special.



We saw children laughing and playing in the river. Women washing clothes and using massive rocks to beat the clothes against. Men sleeping in their own canoes. Shanties (peoples homes) put together using bamboo and branches. It was amazing. And makes you feel very grateful for what you have.



The men paddling our canoe are super strong. There are a lot of rapids so they would get out and literally push and carry the canoe (with 3 of us in it) up the rapids. Amazing!


The views were picture perfect and the sun was heaven. It was the first day that I have seen a clear blue sky in Manila (without smog). And the fresh air was divine!



Along the way, the views were amazing. The greenery was so beautiful! And was incredibly relaxing just sitting in the canoe enjoying the view.



This is what the canoes looked like. Not the best picture but the only one I could grab. They are very shallow so water would continuously come in whenever we went over a rapid. It was a warm day so the water was incredibly refreshing.



How can you argue with views like this? Life changing!


After the relaxing canoe ride, you could eventually hear the sound of rushing water. It was a clear indication we were approaching the water fall. And it was BEAUTIFUL!


This was so beautiful to see in person. Unless you went by canoe up the river, you would have no idea the waterfall existed  I googled the water fall and apparently it is considered to be one of Asia’s top water falls.


If you wanted to experience the water fall up close and personal, you could get on a bamboo raft. The locals then drag the rafter along the water to the water fall via ropes.  They take you under the side of the water fall (not directly under it) and let you experience the intensity of it. You are not strapped in so you hold on for dear life. I didn’t do this. I knew if you fell off the raft, you’d drown and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (in other words I chickened out!). You’d never be able to do this in Australia. Just not worth the risk! But people love it!



Apologies for the ugly shot of me, just love the water fall!

The views were amazing, being able to witness how other people live, watching money poor happiness rich children splash in the river and seeing the locals cherish this waterfall was a life changing experience. Its perfect!

Love Kathleen XO