The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up 

Parks in the middle of the city are 💙💙💙 

Having said that, Japanese gardens and parks feel extra neat and organized. Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s their culture. Or maybe they just know how to physically organize. Having read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I figured it’s not just the Japanese who can be physically organized. We non-Japanese people can be too.  

Right after finishing the book, I’ve started on this tidying up project that will roughly last for half a year. According to Marie Kondo, a Japanese professional organizer, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tidying should be a major event. The book has a step-by-step guide on how to declutter and how to do so permanently. No rebounds. 

To those who know me and my sisters while growing up, our bedrooms have been filled with clutter in the form of clothes, shoes, books, papers, photos and tons of memorabilia to the point that our Lolo wrote us a note using a red marker on how we should keep our bedrooms neat and tidy as young ladies. We would like to be neat, of course, but maybe we didn’t know how to do so exactly. We knew how to organize our thoughts, but we needed help with physical organization. And after reading this book, I knew that I needed to do this. To be physically organized. And unlike before, I now strongly believe that being tidy is something we can control, and is not solely because of our genes. Although being “orderly” is a personality trait, and we know some people who are naturally neat and tidy with their belongings, thinking that we have control over this makes me feel liberated, and positive about being able to accomplish this and more. As Marie Kondo said, do it now, this one time big time event that on average takes half a year, because we need to spend the other parts of our lives doing our real purpose. 
This is Lala by the way. I can’t seem to publish under my name. 

#mariekondo #lifechangingmagicoftidyingup #wishmeluck #doesthissparkjoy #garagesalecomingsoon 

First, Create.

I’ve been reading this book called “In The Company of Women” by Grace Bonney, and it has been slowly inspiring me to pursue what I’ve always wanted to do as a child. I’ve kept this passion in the backseat because it’s not something that I have prepared myself for, something not aligned with my education, and something hindered by my personal fears. Sometimes though when you’re called to do something, you just know that you have to do fit. 

The creative women in the book (writers, artists, musicians, designers, ceramicists, entrepreneurs) have all these inspiring words that gave me a nudge, and I found myself drawn to reading parts of the book each day, and urging  me to pick up my pen and notebooks. To do that one thing that I must, because behind everything I’ve done in the past (teaching preschool, teaching grade school, teaching poi, dabbling in modeling, contributing articles to magazines, constant studying) I’ve known that there is within me, a need to write. That what I actually want to do is to keep writing.
I know that if I do this, and practice it each day, I shall remain true to myself. That deep inside me, there is a need for me to write. And to do so creatively, in fiction. 

As my patience has not yet been honed to finish a novel, I’ve started several short stories that I’ll be putting up in this blog. 

I usually work with a pen and notebook and edit as I type on my laptop. Right now, I am typing in my phone, but I wanted to declare it in this post so that I remain accountable for what I told myself to do. 

To be a writer in fiction is not a norm in my family nor in my circle of friends, as I personally do not know anyone with the same passion. Maybe that is where the fear comes from. And the unknown — what’s next? I honestly don’t know what’s next. What I know though is what’s first. To create. To be prolific. To be true. 

With that, I declare that I am a writer.  And there is a whole new universe of words to be written in the coming days.  

Ballet Philippines Features the Filipino in Sarong Banggi

Everything was beautiful at the ballet, even infidelity.

Ballet Philippines’ Sarong Banggi celebrates the music of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. The prolific music-maker again proved his genius through the re-working of fifteen Filipino folksongs. A project of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Cayabyab together with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra endeavored to produce this collection of well-loved tunes. Familiar melodies of yore were given updated nuances of Filipino lightness and harmonic texture. The songs retained their charm and regional flavor and provided hinges on which librettist Dennis Marasigan anchored his vignettes on.

The ballet’s narrative is too contrived and rushed and while the normative prescriptive stance on Philippine life and culture may not necessarily be proactive and progressive, credit must be given to the creators of this ballet for having been able to come up with one coherent plot based on fifteen songs that have their own individual narratives and cultural contexts. The ballet followed the love story of Pilar and Jose and how their lives, and their family, were changed by sarong banggi, one night. Marasigan’s libretto told of the travails of sustaining and protecting the family and how family wins at whatever cost.

Earl John Arisola and Monica Gana as Jose and Pilar in a touching pas de deux choreographed by Carissa Adea. Photo by Erickson de la Cruz.

Monica Gana as the young Pilar was delightfully coy. Her innocence and spirit showed through every gesture perfectly complemented by Earl John Arisola’s Jose that is brimming with youthful energy and boyish charm. The older Pilar and Jose were played by more seasoned dancers of Ballet Philippines, Rita Winder and Jean Marc Cordero. Winder and Cordero’s performances reflected the maturity necessary for their roles. Rita Winder, as the lead matriarch, was commanding both in presence and dance technique. She proved to be one of the stronger dancers of the BP ensemble and had amazing control and clarity of movement and theatrical portrayal. Other noteworthy performances were delivered by BP dancers Jemima Reyes, Janine Myrtle Arisola, and Garry Corpuz. Sarah Anne Alejandro who played the mistress can afford to be more coquettish.

Sarong Banggi is to be lauded for brilliant choreographies. Six dance-artists collaborated to come up with interesting dance pieces that carried the characters from scene to scene. Each piece has its own strength but the production can benefit from seamless transitions, consistency, and better organization. Artistic director Paul Morales’ gift is in telling stories with sharpness and coherence. His piece allowed the audience to distinguish the present from the past while Nonoy Froilan’s strength is the ability to illustrate and evoke emotions with the body. Hong Kong-based Carlo Pacis worked wonders for the corps de ballet for the beginning and the closing acts of the ballet. He kept with the fiesta theme for both dances and was successful in livening up the stage with innovative movement design accentuated with handheld props. The last dance with white kites was a feast for the eyes. Movement and materials were carefully curated to fill the space without compromising the Filipino sense of ginhawa or ease.

12094841_10153691088164284_4687239066442819237_oRita Winder (center) as the steadfast matriarch Pilar. Photo by Erickson de la Cruz.

The tersipchorean veterans shared the opportunity of art production with the younger generation. Ballet Philippines must be proud for having honed dancers into fine choreographers in Carissa Adea, Ronelson Yadao, and Cyril Fallar. Adea’s pas de deuxs were interesting because of the recurring movement motifs that strung the various love stories of the narrative together. Yadao, on the other hand, brought in much texture into the ballet with well-researched explorations. Especially fascinating was the incorporation of mimetic movements of mating birds inspired by regional dances from the Cordillera for the first meeting of Jose and Pilar. Fallar’s pieces were refreshing for their whimsical qualities. Providing younger artists with possibilities of this magnitude is a way of empowering them and supporting their craft. It also gives homage to the tradition that has allowed them to develop into the artists that they are and will become. Congratulations, Ballet Philippines and CCP Dance School!

The costumes and sets were effective, too, in rendering visual and contextual support to the production. Rajo Laurel’s dresses brought color and added dimensions to Ohm David’s imaginatively spartan set design. The color-blocked costumes with uneven hemlines, reminiscent of the local delicacy sapin-sapin, gave so much life to the stage. His decision to use color as time reference helped the audience follow the plot. Black and white costumes were used to depict memories in the same manner as sepia photographs while the colorful dresses stood for the present. The power of simplicity was also emphasized by David’s sketches of Filipino culture with blown up doodles of fiesta buntings, bamboo depictions of vintas and spatial boundaries, and exaggerated outlines of built heritage.

Everything has to beautiful at the ballet—this and the need for happy endings that very much agrees with our Filipino sensibilities may have limited the Sarong Banggi. However, the most recent Ballet Philippines production is valuable for stirring renewed interest in Filipino culture and celebrating their homegrown talents. It is a good starting point for further exploration of the new musical material that is Cayabyab’s Serenata. It opens the material for other possible interpretations and imaginings. Hopefully, it will encourage artists to be more mindful of the cultural values they are promoting and the kind of knowledge that is being produced and reproduced by their art.

Toi, toi, toi for the rest of the season, Ballet Philippines!

Be kind to yourself. Dance.

Dance, for me and many people I know, offers limitless possibilities. We cannot deny its entertaining properties. Some turn to dance for fitness and exercise. There are others, too, who have explored dance for healing and wellness. Daloy Dance Company’s upcoming production is an exposition of the cathartic capabilities of movement with Mga Sayaw ng PAGHILOM: Healing Through Dance. 

I am excited for this show because I know that it is born out of personal struggle. Interesting how challenges become surmountable with art and how strife can be choreographed into a celebration of life, a celebration of the person as victor. Toi, toi, toi, Daloy Dance Company!

Watch Daloy Dance Company and support Philippine performing arts!

Profile Shot Ea Torrado Photo by Tuchi Imperial

“This November, Daloy Dance Company in cooperation with Peta Theater Center presents Mga Sayaw ng PAGHILOM, a twinbill fundraising show featuring a current work – Pieces of Me, and an upcoming work – Unearthing. Only in existence for a year and a half, Daloy has made waves in the Manila art scene. Formed by artistic director Ea Torrado in April 2014, Daloy has performed in venues such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines, PETA Theater Center, as well as in unconventional sites and events such as Fete de la Musique in Intramuros, The National Book Development Board, and at the Malasimbo Lights and Dance Festival.

Daloy Dance Company constantly snips away at the strands that define dance, theater, improvisation and performance. The company produces works towards deepening human connection and celebrates the power of live physical performance. Mga Sayaw ng PAGHILOM is another testament to Daloy’s exploration of movements closer to everyday life, sharing the experience intimately with the audience. As a homegrown Filipino company, Daloy has produced critically acclaimed works that both question and celebrate society; such as Dysmorphilia, Canton and Himalaya. This time, the fundraising show focuses on healing through dance with a look to the past and a nod at the future.Pieces of Me 2

Pieces of Me

Pieces of me delves into the universal struggle of personal relationships. A re-imagining of past works, this 1 hour long devised piece melds together the strongest pas de deuxs of choreographer and artistic director, Ea Torrado. The ensemble amalgamates the piece using structured improvisation. The work is tailor made for an in-the-round, personal experience. A timeline of moments of love, hurt, happiness, and self-discovery made to be shared – this work is incredibly approachable in its contemporary, human and gestural movement language.


Unearthing is a work in progress that was first shown at the Karnabal Festival earlier this year. It now moves forward into its next phase, integrating elements and a movement language inspired by Reiki, Qi Gong and Yoga. Unearthing explores and experiments with the idea of healing through generating, releasing, and re-channeling energy. The body remembers and stores history and trauma. The process of this work fearlessly aims to unearth and uncover the trauma and heal together, collectively, as one community through focused energy, movement and touch.

As a non-profit, independent company the revenue of this fundraising show will be allocated to support Daloy’s studio rental, travel expenses for upcoming tours and full mounting of Unearthing in 2016. Mga Sayaw ng PAGHILOM is showing on November 19 and 20 at the PETA Theater Center 3rd Floor Studio A and B. Tickets are at Php 1,500 and are inclusive of 1 Free Contact Improvisation Class Held every Saturday at 12 noon at the Erehwon Arts Center. Contact 09399269232 (Sarah) or 0998 985 9185 (Carla) for tickets. Come, dance and heal with us.”*

*Press release and photos from Daloy Dance Company

The Joy in Bedrest

I usually keep working while pregnant, and it is such a humbling experience to be asked to rest and take things slow. Perhaps my body needed to rest (not that my work is rigorous physically) but maybe it’s more of the moving here and there the past months that eventually took its toll on me. In a gist, I had strong, early contractions — too early and too strong for this stage in pregnancy — and had to reassess my current lifestyle from the hospital bed for three nights. Thankful for my very hands-on doctor, husband, and strong family support, I am now resting at home.


(Last out of town trip before the heavy contractions. A wedding in Batangas with my husband.)


I have a week and a half left before reaching full-term. I could give birth in two, three, or four weeks. Right now, however, what’s important is to keep resting. I didn’t know that it could be quite a jolt to change a usually faster daily pace to something that’s filled with bedrest, bedrest, and bedrest. In other words, many people, find bedrest completely boring. (Admittedly, I almost did too at the start when I was not allowed to have my phone in the delivery room for 24 hours, but I realized that boredom only happens in our heads)

Boredom, I believe, is one of those things that we can choose to have or not. Bedrest can be boring or it can be joyful. Yes, joyful.

The joy of resting, for those who are used to fast-paced lives, easily comes once the jolt is done. In my case, I find joy in being able to nap with Elijah everyday, spending more time bonding with him, seeing my husband happy that I am actually home when he gets home, exchanging Viber messages with my high school friends, and gratefully coordinating with my hardworking partners at work through calls, texts, and Viber messages.

And it hits me.  This joy is my personal joy, nothing really grand. Just the simple thought of being healthy, anticipating our second baby boy, and being blessed by good people around us.  As my dad said, in the next two weeks, I must take things slow.  No amount of work (or food tasting) will ever be equal to the peace of mind brought by the fact that I am able to keep our baby safe inside the womb. So the ra-ra-ra-always-on-the-go part of me had to take a backseat for now, and I am taking things slow until my 38th week.

photo(Food tasting in the Garden Cafe at Mateo’s. One of the perks of our work that I miss, but I could always go back to later on.)



Ballet Manila breaks the fourth wall

The Philippines’ premier classical ballet company Ballet Manila opened its 20th season of storytelling though dance with Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang. The material, the cast, the treatment is easily relatable and highly entertaining. First you have a lola (grandmother) who indulges her grandchildren with tales from lands not so far away and then you have comic characters who do the Nae Nae. Family and novelty are two things you can’t go wrong with and these were creatively woven into the company’s first offering.

Promotion of Filipino Classics

 The featured ballets were based on Severino Reyes’ stories. Reyes used Lola Basyang as a pen name and came to be known as a staunch purveyor of Filipino fairytales and folklore. These stories were once communicated to the public through the radio. They have also served as inspiration for many movies and television shows and were included into the basic education curriculum. Perhaps it can be made available as podcasts so today’s children can enjoy them and learn from them as they are means though which cultural values were effectively socialized.

Set on solid libretto and accompanied by carefully curated music by the country’s best arrangers and composers, Ballet Manila’s artists turned literary fantasy into a visual feast. Words flowed as gestures and mime and the storytellers’ visions were realized with technological aid and imaginative choreographic devices.

The Saturday matinee show had an additional treat for the audience. Company directors Lisa Macuja Elizalde (Artistic Director and CEO), Osias Barroso (Co-Artistic Director and Ballet Master) and Christopher Mohnani (Managing Director) opened the show with what they called Ballet Mime 101. They taught the audience classical ballet gestures that were to be used in mimetic scenes so that we could follow the story with ease. It was delightful to watch the audience mime along with Macuja Elizalde and her team. It was an invitation to the dance that the afternoon crowd gamefully accepted. The performance had not yet started but people were already engaged.


Old Material, New Revelations

Ballet Manila’s Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang first premiered in 2008. This year’s restaging is made special by new faces and new realizations.


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Katherine Barkman as Prinsesa Singsing with Elpidio Magat who played the title role of Prinsipe ng mga ibon. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

BM’s newest dancer Katherine Barkman is every inch the people’s princess. Her audience was enraged when her father broke his promise. They grieved as she nursed a broken heart and they celebrated when she finally married the love of her life. As Prinsesa Singsing, Barkman was delicate but decisive. She showed her beautiful attitude, literally and figuratively (an attitude is a leg extension to the back with a bent knee). Unlike the usual foreign air that we are all too familiar with– boisterous and imposing, hers is a quiet elegance that very much agrees with our Filipino sensibilities.

Osias Barroso’s movement design for Ang Prinispe ng mga Ibon showed his deep understanding of ballet as an art form. The symmetry of shapes (individual body positions and group formations), the plot build-up through movement, and the pas de deux (partner dance) between the leads all convey familiarity with the genre and utmost regard for tradition. His corps de ballet (group dancers) was impressive in their synchronization and management of space. Hopefully, he takes on more choreographic assignments in the future.


The magical tree in Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya with Anindya Febrina who danced the role of the snake. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya began with the most beautiful looking stage tree. The audience broke into applause when the snake came out of the tree and circled the stage and the house in the manner of Chinese dragon dance manipulatives. This segment featured dancers Alvin Santos, Joan Emery Sia and Abigail Oliveiro who showed strength and confidence in their performances. Alvin Santos flew across the stage with powerful jumps and high extensions. Good thing he holds the title role because his dancing can (and did) upstage his stage sisters.

Gerardo Francisco as Rodrigo in Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin is truly remarkable. His energized performance and funny facial expressions drew laughter from the crowd. It helped, too, that the character that he portrayed was one that many could associate with. Rodrigo is a laborer who is not appropriately compensated by his employer.

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Gerardo Francisco as Rodrigo and Micheal Divinagracia as Ahab in a scene from Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

Tony Fabella’s choreography accentuated Ryan Cayabyab’s dynamic musical composition. Movement ideas were simple and were repeated throughout but the spirited and intelligent dancing of the cast made all the difference. Francisco has been with the company for over a decade and his stint as Rodrigo further solidifies his stature as one of the country’s most reliable danseurs.

Missy Elizalde’s role tied the narratives together and the corps de ballet was effective in providing the necessary support and additional landscape for the tales. The curtain call made it even more obvious how deep Ballet Manila’s ballet bench really is. The company’s wealth of terpsichorean talents prepping for the spotlight makes one hopeful for the future of Philippine dance.

Ballet for the People

Dance artistry is not limited to choreography and performance. Macuja Elizade’s strength may not be putting steps together into a dance but audience aptitude is a great and important talent. She knows her audience and values them enough to give them what they want. The use of flying mechanisms, less sophisticated musical choices and transitions, and other production devices, choreographic and otherwise, made the show exciting and palatable.

It is uplifting to be in a theater where people would clap and feel with the performers. It is uplifting to be in a theater where there would be people who are not performing. Others would consider this to be hard sell but maybe it is time that we consider it as community and community-building.

The Garden Cafe at Mateo’s

A few months ago, I wrote about Mateo’s blooms, referring to flowers that surrounded the front wall of Mateo’s.  What I did not predict then would be how Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe would bloom into what it is now, literally sprouting a Garden Cafe surrounded by glass and beautiful plants.

Last Tuesday, August 18, we had an afternoon of Spanish Lessons and Sangrias at the new Garden Cafe. We were taught how to speak basic Spanish by Lolo Mateo’s grandson, Tito Benjie Valerio, who was visiting Manila during his break from work. He teaches Spanish and French in the prestigious La Guardia High School of Music, Arts, and Performing Arts in New York City. (Cool trivia: Nikki Minaj was once his student, and he also taught the children of Madonna! And yes Madonna would personally be there to meet him for PTC’s)


(Ongoing Spanish Class photo by Margaux Lucena)


The event was styled by Sarah Bautista-Abaño of With a Flourish. She prepared our Welcome Signage with table assignments, dessert buffet, sangria bar, and the table center pieces.


(Welcome Signage photo by Stella Pastores-Esquivias)




(Sangria Bar and Dessert Buffet Table photo by yours truly)


(Top view dessert spread photo by Sheryll Rose Ontimare)


(Tablescape photo by Stella Pastores-Esquivias)


Our food for the event was of course lovingly prepared by the kitchen headed by our talented Tita Grace Valerio.  We had bruschetta, Spinach Mushroom Quesadillas, Calamari, Gambas, and Spanish Paella.



(Top view photo of Spanish Paella, Blue Fish Seviche, and Gambas by Sheryll Rose Ontimare)


To all the special guests who attended, we hope you enjoyed as much as we did! Gracias!:)


(Gracias toppers prepared by my blogging partner, Issa Mijares-Ramos. Thank you for your support always, Issa!)

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The Garden Cafe at Mateo’s is open for bookings and reservations for intimate events.  It can hold up to 40 pax.  Email or call (02) 696-3724 from 11am-10PM daily.







When Weaning is Everything

There was a point in time when I thought I wanted to write a book about breastfeeding and I would entitle it as “OMG, I’m BFG” (BFG being a shortcut for breastfeeding). As they say breastfeeding is difficult to establish at the start, but its rewards are amazing that one would want to do everything and anything to make breastfeeding work. I experienced exactly that. Hence, the idea of the book, as I miraculously breastfed my firstborn son then. The book is still an idea and life happened.

Fast forward to having my talkative two year old son with his molars growing, being pregnant with a second baby on second trimester, AND still breastfeeding. I was clueless as how to wean exactly so I researched online and also asked around how to wean from breastfeeding.  My father, who was a pro-breastfeeding physician, was telling me that weaning was not just about my son, but also about how I, as a mother, would be adjusting to something new. It was cutting off a special bonding moment more than cutting off a nutritional need at the age my son was in.  True to form, he asked me to research on it.

Before I go into my story, here’s a summary of my research. There were two schools of thought for weaning successfully. One was the sudden, cold turkey type of weaning, with the mother completely separating from the child for several days, which seemed to have worked for many mothers I knew and was also mentioned by one of my trusted doctors. Another was the gradual process with a few steps forward and backward, just like how making baby sleep usually goes if it’s not the “cry it out” process.

Mine was a bit of a countdown. Actually it was literally a countdown as I told Elijah we had three weeks left, then two weeks, then one, until it was March 28, a Saturday.  I did not intend for this to happen but it was Earth Hour that night, shutting off lights and electrical power for Mother Earth.  We slept in an indoor tent that night, and Elijah miraculously slept straight without waking up to breastfeed. I’m not sure if it was due to the novelty of sleeping in a tent, or perhaps due to an extra restful sleep in a dark, dark night, but I used it as a springboard.

I slept beside him that night.  He moved about and grunted every so often, but he did not breastfeed. The following morning, he woke up in a very good mood too. Hallelujah! That was Day 1 or Night 1, rather, of complete weaning.

The following night, we talked about it and I decided to spend extra time reading him books or singing songs with him to lull him to sleep.  The real challenge was the week following that springboard.  It’s like jumping off a cliff and in the middle of the free fall, you ask yourself, “what do I do next?”

Of course he still asked for breastfeeding two nights later but we talked about why we were weaning.  And he traded breastfeeding for singing invented animal songs with me.  There were meltdowns, but after a while, he did not ask for breastmilk anymore.

Another possible aid for me was his sudden liking for raisins around that time.  Yes, dried grapes.  It was new to him, and he liked it very much. In a way, it was another novel item introduced to him that seemed to give him enjoyment, which I think was better than chocolate or crackers.

* * *

 I did not imagine my Weaning Story to be like this.  I had my own share of breastfeeding woes and striving to overcome all those and would not even start to think about weaning before.  I just feel very grateful that it turned out well, and hoping this story could help other mothers wean too. When weaning is needed, how do we do it?

Generally, I think mine was a combination of a very slow process (the talks and countdowns) followed by a sudden novel event not related to breastfeeding (Earth Hour and sleeping in a tent) and lastly capped off by a gradual, patient process of substitution (reading more books, singing newly invented lullabies, playing more music, having good solid delicious food such as raisins, etc).

Just like with almost anything in life, what specifically works for me can be altered and tweaked for what works for another mother-infant or mother-toddler relationship.

Breastfeeding nourishes our child physically.  More than the physical nourishment, it brings us a lot of bonding time too.  Weaning is about having our child who is ready to rely on other nutritional food sources and to confidently enjoy other emotionally bonding activities.

Bonding can be done through conversations, reading books, walking at the park, singing songs, going on vacations, and spending quality time in any alternative activity that suits the parent and child.  To parents who would not want to leave their child to other people at night for weaning, the good news is that it can be done in this  process:

1) slow process of debriefing (as preparation to complete weaning)

2) sudden novel event

3) follow through bonding process (to ease complete weaning)

This may sound like a tongue twister, but I believe this process I stumbled upon is a win-win worry-free weaning for worried mothers when weaning is everything.

Mateo’s Blooms

Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe will re-open somewhere along N Domingo Avenue, Quezon City this mid-April. While it’s still within Quezon City, it will also be nearer Greenhills, San Juan. 🙂

I will post more soon about our exact location, but for now, I will just leave these blooms for clues. They will be part of our al fresco area.


Have a wonderful Thursday!