Up Close and Personal with the Moon

Most of you who have been following me on Instagram (@densfan) would have seen my close-up photo of the moon. Since a lot of you have been asking about it, I thought i'd share that experience in a post.

This adventure started when my youngest sister, Trixie, wanted to do star gazing on her birthday. My other sister discovered this place in UP Diliman where you can actually do just that. But God had other plans. Instead of letting us see stars, we saw various planets and the moon in all its glory.

We got there around 8:30pm and there were no other visitors but us. The place is quite old and not exactly tourist friendly. Even though the idea sounds romantic, the place definitely is not. It's more like an educational experience for the kids. And, of course, for adults who want to be amazed with astronomy.

For only P25 per head, you get to borrow the huge telescope that will allow you to see the moon, stars and various planets up close.
Troy was the first one to take a peek. And his reaction caught all of our attention. At the first sighting of the moon, Troy exclaimed 'Wow, this is so cool!!!' And all of us rushed to get our turn. And indeed it was.
We also got to see various planets which look like stars through the naked eyes. But with the telescope, this is  how Saturn looked like.
It was a wonderful experience for the kids. They say the best time to go is during the months of December to February when it's not as cloudy or rainy.  It's best to call them up first to check weather and visibility conditions before going.

It's a great experience for the entire family. For those of you wondering how i took those shots above. It's really just getting the right angle with my iPhone on the telescope lens. Not much science to it.

The UP Diliman Observatory is open 24 hours and is located inside the UP Diliman campus.
UP Diliman Manila Observatory


Find Happy in McDonalds

Yep, you read that right! It's not a grammatical error. Happy is the newest character in McDonalds. He is the Happy Meal box that came to life.

Watch this and meet Happy.


What Does It Mean to Forgive Someone?

So the other day I was having one of those insightful one-on-one conversations with my 7-year old about life. He was telling me about a story he read in his children's bible on forgiveness. Then I asked him "Do you know what it means to forgive someone?".  The question sounded basic enough.  But after asking him, i started wondering how a 7-year old would explain the concept of forgiveness. I was thinking he will probably say 'washing away of our sins' or something in those lines. But Troy's answer surprised me. He said:

"Forgiveness means you are giving the person another chance" 
That made me think. Troy is right. Forgiveness is really about second chances. Sometimes we wonder how many chances we get with the Lord when we keep on making the same wrong decisions in life. Will i get another chance? Well, here's the good news.

Psalm 103:12 "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he [forgave] removed our transgressions from us"
From the east to the west. That's the largest measure we can ever fathom on earth. That's how great God's forgiveness is upon us. And following Troy's thought, we can confidently say that He is not only a God of second chances.  He gives us multiple chances to repent and do right by Him. Not to say we can abuse this allowance, and am sure people who genuinely love the Lord will never do that, but accept the grace and mercy that God has freely given to us.  And in the same way, we can also extend the same grace to others. 

Think about it. Pay it forward. Who needs another chance from you today?


Touch the Sky (Hillsong United)

Thanks to my friend, Jeno, who introduced me to this new song from Hillsong United's recent album, Empires. Such a beautiful song for our King. It is when we go down on our knees in desperation that we get to experience Him at such an amazing level. Only God can make you fall upward and have your spirit soar so high.  Thank you, Lord. Amazing Love.
What fortunes lies beyond the stars;
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb;
I got so high to fall so far
But I found heaven as love swept low
My heart beating
my soul breathing
I found my life
when I laid it down
Upward falling
spirit soaring
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground
What treasure waits within Your scars
This gift of freedom gold can't buy
I bought the world and sold my heart
You traded heaven to have me again
Find me here at Your feet again
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender
Come sweep me up in Your love again
And my soul will dance   
On the wings of forever


Hawaiian Adventure Series: Marriott's Maui Ocean Club

We stayed at the Marriott's Maui Ocean Club for a week while in Maui. The resort is strategically located along the famous Ka'anapali Beach.  Moreover, it is only about 15 minutes away from the Lahaina Historic Town which had a number of souvenir shops and restaurants. 

The only thing with our resort is that you need to rent a car in order to go around Maui efficiently. But I guess that's the case with any resort in Maui. They have shuttles but the desitations and schedule are quite limited. I will talk a little bit more about renting a car in Hawaii in a future post.

Our hotel's feel is very laid back. The lobby is definitely not the posh, carpeted, five-star hotel type but the interiors definitely fit the beach-vacation ambience of the place.
The resort is separated by the Molokai, Maui and Lanai towers.  All of these towers houses guest rooms that generally look the same. The only difference, of course, is the view from each tower. If you are booking more than one room, you may want to request for rooms from the same tower as traveling from one tower to the next requires elevator transfers and a good amount of walking.

For our family of 8 (6 adults and 2 kids), we got one Guest room and one 1-Bedroom Suite. I was not able to take pictures of our rooms before we settled in but they looked very much like the pictures below.
Guest Room with 1 king size bed and a sofa bed
Living room of the suite. The couch is a sofa bed.
Bedroom of the suite, 1 King size bed
Here are pictures taken from our hotel room in the Lanai tower.  

The resort had a good fitness center which I used a couple of times. But truth is, when you're in a place as beautiful as Hawaii, you'd want to run outdoors. I only used the gym on days when I woke up too late and want to avoid the harsh mid-morning sun.
The resort has a schedule of activites that changes every day. From Koi feeding to Zumba, they got the entire family covered.  
Playroom for the children (and yes, parents, you can leave your kids with them!)
Giant chess which Troy loved
A full functioning kitchen at the lobby that can be used by all resort guests.  We cooked some of our meals here.
And, of course, there's Starbucks inside the resort. I count that as an activity.
Overall, I would not hesitate staying in the Maui Ocean Club next time. The kids enjoyed going to the beach every day and we also got to enjoy lounging while watching them have the time of their lives.

Marriott's Maui Ocean Club - Molokai, Maui & Lanai Towers
100 Nohea Kai Drive, Marriott Vacation Club Hawaii Tax ID # W20121878-02
Lahaina - Maui, Hawaii 96761 USA


Hawaiian Adventure Series: Reef Dancers #SemiSubmarine

During our first few days in Hawaii, we decided that we wanted the kids to experience the marine animals in the wild. Since we were unsure if they will be brave enough to snorkel in the middle of the sea just yet, we decided to try the submarine tour.

There were a few to choose from and after some research, we were down to either the Atlantis Submarine or the Reef Dancers. The former is more popular and is a real submarine that goes underwater while the Reef Dancers is a semi-submarine in that there is a bottom portion that gives the feel of a real submarine but the deck is still afloat. There were some negative reviews on the Atlantis and our resort's staff highly recommended the Reef Dancer so we decided to book with them.

We got to the Lahaina Harbor 30 minutes before our scheduled departure. All the tours have their own mini booths along the harbor so you just have to look for the one that you booked with. There are a couple of parking areas nearby. See the map of Lahaina Harbor below.
Reef Dancer and the crew
So you have the option to stay on the deck the entire time. Maybe get some sunshine, if you're up for that, or try to spot some dolphins. But then again, why book with a semi-submarine if you are not staying in the 'submarine'?
Inside the submarine with the marine life expert
One of the reasons why we chose the Reef Dancer over the Atlantis Submarine was because they told us that the Reef Dancers had divers who go out and bring interesting sea creatures to the glass for us to see.
We were hoping to see some octopus and sea turtles during the tour but none of them showed up during our schedule.  Given that they are in the wild, spotting these animals will never be a guarantee. We did see various types of fish though which is quite interesting for the kids.
Overall I would recommend the Reef Dancers if you would like to get a feel of riding a submarine and have small kids who are too young to snorkel. Don't expect any guarantees on spotting octopus and sea turtles as we did because you may get disappointed. But then again, you might just see them on your trip...who knows?

You may inquire and book with them here if you are interested. It does not cost too much and it's not something you get to do everyday. I'd say still worth checking them out.


Hawaiian Adventure Series: Sea Turtles

Aloha! If you have been following my Instagram feed (@densfan), you will know that our family just spent two weeks in the beautiful island of Hawaii. From outlet shopping to swimming with the sharks, there are just so many fun things to do. Two weeks is not enough!
I will be doing a series of posts of some of the things that we did during our vacation. Today's post will be about spotting the beautiful Sea Turtles in Hawaii.
So here are some facts about sea turtles taken from Defenders of Wildlife :
"Sea turtles are one of the Earth's most ancient creatures. The seven species that can be found today have been around for 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The sea turtle's shell, or "carapace" is streamlined for swimming through the water. Unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their shells. Their color varies between yellow, greenish and black depending on the species."
The first week of our vacation was in Maui. We were told that Sea Turtles can sometimes be spotted within Ka'anapali beach, specifically near the Black Rock which was right in front of the Maui Sheraton Hotel. Our hotel was just walking distance from the Black Rock so we decided to visit one day as the sun was setting. We trekked the shores for a good 15 to 20 minutes before we reached Black Rock. But after staying for an hour and a half, we knew we were not going to find any Sea Turtles that day. We were quite determined and decided to go back early morning the next day.
We got up around 6:30am and reached Black Rock before 7:30am. The sun was shining and the water was clear. Still no Sea Turtle in sight but the kids enjoyed playing in the beach nonetheless.

Black Rock - it's known as such because of this huge black rock that sits by the shore. Lots of locals come here to cliff dive.

If you can't spot them, you make them!

Our very own baby turtles

The kids enjoying the early morning swim

A week later, we found ourselves in Honolulu. My friend told me about Laniakea Beach in the North Shore. It's basically a public beach just along the Kamehameha highway. There are no signs but you will know that you are already in the area when you start to see a lot of cars parked by the roadside. We got there around 10am and met around 4 to 7 beautiful Sea Turtles sunbathing on the beach and swimming near the shore. Such an amazing experience.
Huge Sea Turtle sunbathing.  You need to stay about 10 feet away so that you won't hurt the turtles
Another turtle resting near the rock
Sea Turtle swimming near the shore
I highly recommend visiting the Laniakea Beach (a.k.a. Turtle Beach) when you find yourselves in Honolulu. It's such a blessing to catch them in the wild.
Laniakea Beach is located in 61-676 Kamehameha Hwy Haleiwa, HI 96712



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