Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Philippines: Gateway To Pristine Beaches And Adventures!

I love my tropical country. Aside from the warmth of the people, what really makes the Philippines special is the fact that we have 7,107 beautiful islands to explore and experience.

While a lot of people say that Boracay is overrated and has become too mainstream, it still remains to be my favorite place in the entire world---the white sand, and aqua clear water is just too amazing. Plus, it's where B proposed to me, so, I'm pretty biased.

I don't think I have to further sell Boracay to you because CNN Travel, Lonely Planet , Travel + Leisure and all other top travel media outlets and publications continually rave about this amazing island year after year.

White Beach, Boracay

However, aside from Boracay, here are 2 other places that I love and recommend for travelers and adventurers alike.

Coron, Palawan

This place is more for the adventurous, nature loving kind. Coron undoubtedly offers the best island hopping spots in the country.My favorite spot in Coron has got to be Kayangan Lake. I mean, look at this.

Entrance to Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake is dubbed as the Cleanest Lake in Asia. After seeing the turquoise, cool water, I never doubted it. It takes 10 minutes to hike to the lake and this is the view from the entrance way.

Kayangan Lake

After the short hike, you will be welcomed with this. Kayangan Lake is one of the seven majestic lakes of Coron. It was once off limits to tourists because the indigenous Tagbanua tribe of the Calamianes Islands considered it sacred. It is believed that spirits lived in the lake and a ritual had to be performed before it was opened to visitors.

Photo Credit: Traveller's Couch

Banaue - Sagada

The Philippines may be world famous for its pristine beaches but, the archipelago also boasts of amazing mountain ranges. One such place is Banaue, home of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. The trip is pretty long coming from Manila. When I last went there--- Almost 5 years ago, It took 12 hours... Perhaps they have better routes now? After a long bus ride, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Banaue Rice Terraces, making the trip worthwhile.

Banaue Rice Terraces

The Rice Terraces are considered as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World by many Filipinos. The terraces were first constructed as a practical solution to the problem of growing rice on land that falls away in front of you at vertigo-inducing angles.

While NY may have its beautiful skyscrapers, the Philippines have these terraces that are around 1,500m above sea level.

Photo Credit: Chris Ong

Sagada Mountain Province

We stayed for a couple of hours in Banaue but went to a smaller mountain town called Sagada where we did Cave Exploration, Spelunking and a whole lot of Hiking. Sagada is now very popular among adventure travelers for the plethora of activities it offers.

I underestimated the amount of workout my body will get during the trip and for an entire week, I was in blissful pain. Blissful because the experience was something out of Survivor and, I won't mind doing it again in the future.

Echo Valley, Sagada

Echo Valley, Sagada, a beautiful place where it echoes... A lot.

Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley, Sagada. People of Sagada believe that the higher they "bury" their dead, the closer they are to God. Some of these coffins are over 100 years old! However, not everyone is qualified to be buried this way; among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren.

Sumaging Cave, Sagada

Entrance to the cave. Some of these "woods" are actually coffins. You don't get as true to life as this in Disneyland!

Entrance to the cave, where the adventure began.


We had to go to scary holes and passage ways!


The view deep inside Sumaging Cave, Sagada

Photo Credit: Slim

Bomod-Ok Falls, Sagada 
Nothing good comes easy, especially when you want to experience the beauty of Bomod-Ok Falls. It takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the falls from the town proper. However, your exhaustion will be distracted along the way because you'll be looking at beautiful surroundings and trekking over the luscious rice terraces.

It took us 2 hours to hike to the Bomod-Ok Falls (Big Falls) but, it sure was worth it. That's me enjoying the view!


Sagada Bomod-Ok Waterfall


I wish I traveled more domestically when I was living in the Philippines. Now that I'm at the opposite part of the globe, it's going to be more expensive to go to its other beautiful islands! However, I am glad I did travel as much as I could!

Have you been to the Philippines or are you planning on going there?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Someone put a very, very expensive $22.1 million ring on it

So, this ridiculously massive diamond ring was bought for $ 22.1 million in New York the other day, only after 3 minutes of bidding----Some people have some serious purchasing power out there!
Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Though I would not NOT take it if it were given to me, I don't think anyone will ever believe that it's real if I wear it. Most likely, this is how I am going to look like.

Heck, I don't even think Queen Elizabeth can pull it off. Pretty sure people will either think:

1.) She's a Queen Elizabeth impersonator


2.) The ring is as real as a Ring Pop

Anyway, the point of this post is, and, I understand that not everyone might agree with me on this one: I believe that significance of the ring is more important than worth or size.

When B proposed to me with his late mother's engagement ring, I immediately fell in love with it. He did tell me that I can customize it, add more to it, etc., though, I felt that it would defy the purpose of passing down a family heirloom.

My precious.

Though, if he didn't give me his mother's ring and decided to give me a new one based on a style that he believes I will like, I would still love it equally because him professing his desire to spend the rest of his life and start a family with mean means so much more than any ring can offer.

Do you feel the same way?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tray 10: Living With Invisalign

I am officially on my 10th Invisalign tray now and am really, really happy with the progress so far. I know that a lot of people always ask when they start seeing results (Yes, I am one of those people!) and while individual results vary, I began noticing changes around my 6th tray... My bite has changed and, my left front tooth has significantly moved forward. Note that for every tray, there are certain tooth or teeth that are being moved---They can't all be fixed at once, that would be hellishly painful!

For those of you who know me, my biggest source of insecurity comes from my smile. My two front teeth point inward and under certain lighting, it looks like I don't even have teeth! Since that discovery, I've learned to smile without showing teeth, much like Victoria Beckham---who, coincidentally shares the same birthday as I do.... Not that it has anything to do with our smile commonality.... Or maybe there is something there?

My lack of smiling has become my signature... To the point where my friends would pose for photos wearing the "Miles Smile":

My friends went on vacation and took a snapshot with the "Miles Smile"

B knows about this insecurity of mine and we have talked about getting possible treatments. But, since we're spending a lot already for our wedding, I thought it could wait----It's not exactly an urgent matter. Although, deep down inside, I was dreaming of smiling confidently for the cameras on our wedding day... Nothing says "happiness" much like a full smile and I'd like to look back and relive the moment through our wedding photos. Somehow, a conservative, half-smile does not seem to convey, "This is the happiest day of my life" image.

Luckily for me, Invisalign & The Knot chose me to be part of their ultimate pre-wedding bridal makeover---They listened to my story and gave me what is perhaps the biggest and best gift any bride to be can ever receive! Check out this video:

SO, here are a few photos of my Invisalign journey thus far:

Pre-Invisalign Smile

I had to submit an all-smile photo to The Knot and Invisalign to qualify for the makeover. It took me a while to make a decent looking one if only because I don't really smile with my teeth showing. Notice my two front teeth slightly inward pointing? From afar, it actually makes me look like I have a gap in between my teeth!


 For illustration purposes, here's a photo taken from the side. See how inward pointing they are?

Now on my 10th tray, one of my two front teeth have surfaced and they register much better on photographs. I'm actually practicing smiling with my teeth showing. Since I've been smiling with my mouth closed for over a decade, it has become second nature to me.

My two front teeth look so much better now, however, I still have a long way to go. I'm not even halfway there. Though my 2 front teeth are my biggest concerns, other things that Invisalign is fixing are the following: My severe overbite and a crooked tooth at the lower part of my mouth --- These are not visible, so, they never really bothered me, however, getting them perfectly straight would be AWESOME!

Check out this recent photo below and compare it with the photo above? Notice the HUGE change?

Clearly, there have been movements, they are not so inward pointing as they used to be. Check out the side view and be amazed!

What also plays an essential part in this whole journey is working with a great orthodontist! When The Knot and Invisalign contacted me, they gave me freedom to select the doctor I wanted to work with. I did my research and when I found out about Dr. Denise Emma, I knew I would love to work with her. She is a nationally awarded Invisalign Elite Preferred Provider, making her among the top 1% of certified specialists in North America. Her office is nice, clean and welcoming and her team is composed of friendly professionals who always make sure that you are well taken cared of. I am so lucky to have Dr. Emma as my tooth/teeth fairy!

Meet Dr. Denise Emma, AKA My Teeth Fairy

I still have a long way to go with the treatment but each change of trays is like a earning a badge of honor for me... Borrowing Tyra Bank's line... I am one step closer to becoming... a bride with amazing smile!

I am excited to reveal my new smile on August 7, 2015!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Best NY Rooftop Bar: Ides At Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 32...."

Yes, as corny as it sounds, I borrowed Taylor Swift's song as the national anthem to welcome my 32nd year on Earth.... I even went as far as making it my official birthday hashtag which obviously did not trend... It's a full 140 characters for Twitter alone....


This year's celebration is very significant because it's my last birthday as Ms. Montecillo. In a little more than 3 months, I will officially take on the name Mrs. Bonanno  --- For those of you who are aware of NY mob families (read this), no, B is not connected with them. However, I still find it cool that I'll be taking on a gangster of a name (literally).

To celebrate the start of a new year, B took my to my favorite bar in Brooklyn, Ides at The Wythe Hotel. We were blessed with the year's first warm weather, making the day perfect for a rooftop bar.

This is how the space looks like from the inside.

A magnificent view of the NY skyline welcomes you soon as you enter the bar.
Photo Credit: Archinect

We got the best seats in the house!

While it's probably the most perfect rooftop bar there is in Brooklyn, I love hanging out inside since it offers an amazing view of the NY skyline.

The outdoor is equally awesome too:

Ides Rooftop Bar
Photo Credit: Ides Instagram
Every time I have friends visiting NY, I always take them at Ides because it never fails to make an impact. Seeing the world famous skyline over a couple of good liquor and wine is one of the best experiences any NY first timer can ever have.

This is how the Wythe Hotel looks like from the outside

Cheers to 32 years and my last birthday as Ms. Montecillo!

So if you're planning a trip to NY, make sure to stop by Brooklyn and check out the Ides Bar --- The best rooftop bar in NY and no, they did not pay me to make this!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where Does Magic Happen?

Before I packed two suitcases and booked my one-way ticket to NY, the hardest part about my life-changing leap was that proverbial first step. It's always easy to plan and think of things but putting it in motion? Now, that takes a lot of courage.

Thoughts of failure, uncertainty and sadness always made its way into my head. It was a constant battle between my head and my heart.

Being the visual person that I am, I scribbled some words of motivation on my office window to assure me that I am doing the right thing.

It has been two years since I moved to NY and I couldn't be happier. Magic has happened indeed and it is continuously unraveling in many, many ways.

Today, an ex-colleague and friend of mine shared this on social media. I never thought that my little scribble could make an impact in another person's life aside from my own. So, now, I am putting this in public in case there's someone out there who is also going through the same thing... Let this be a sign.

Remember, if your dreams do not scare you, they are probably not big enough.

This is what my friend wrote:

"This is something @milesmontecillo scribbled on the glass of the office window once upon a time. I took a photo and made copy which I placed on my office desk for me to see everyday. I can't begin to tell you how this image has influenced me many times over... Still does. I'm taking this image with me and maybe someday, share it with my kids. "

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Knot & Invisalign: The Ultimate Bridal Makeover featuring... ME! (Surprise!)

I've blogged a sneak preview of this a couple of weeks back but now, cat's out of the bag! I am very, very lucky to have been selected by The Knot (the best bridal website & magazine, EVER) and Invisalign for a pre-wedding makeover!!

My smile is something that I've always been conscious about and ever since I discovered that I look like I don't have my two front teeth under certain lighting, I've made it a point to smile without showing teeth in every.single.photograph. Thank goodness Victoria Beckham made it popular, making little 'ol me trendy. Read more about my insecurity here.

I've always thought about wearing braces, especially after I got engaged to B (because you know, I'd like to be able to really express my happiness through our wedding photos!) However, having been blessed with the Asian gene of looking younger than I really am, I feel that if I had metals in my mouth, I would look like a teenager---not exactly ideal for my corporate job.

So, as I was browsing through The Knot as while doing research/preparations for our wedding, I found their blog post about looking for brides for an ultimate pre-wedding makeover. I got so excited and I wrote to them immediately! And then the universe conspired to make this happen.

Thank you, Annie & Keleigh from The Knot, Invisalign, Dr. Denise Emma, Eva Scrivo, Donna Morgan NYC, you guys absolutely made my dream come true! Click here to read the full article.

Watch the video here:

Thanks to Invisalign, I will be able to give a full smile on my wedding day!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Moving to New York

If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere... Although, can I really make it here?
Photo Credit:

Two suitcases, a 1-way ticket to NY and a million uncertainties. Those are the only things that I brought with me as I waited at 6:30 AM at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on March 13, 2013.

You're giving up a comfortable and secure life. You have a nice corner office at a global advertising agency. You've established a name for yourself in the field that you're passionate about and have a very bright future ahead of you. Plus, you have friends and family here who will make you smile every day of your life. What the hell are you doing?

This is the barrage of thoughts that kept me company as I wait to board my flight.

What am I doing, anyway? Any sane person would be happy with the life that I'm about to give up. At 30, I should be content---ecstatic even----with the comforts that I've built around me.

The demons are pretty chatty though.

It's not too late to drop this so-called adventure, you're too old for it anyway. You can still turn around, catch a cab, go home and sleep this insanity out. You know how hard it is to make it in the US, unless you have a million dollars or are well connected. You have a slim chance of success.

But.... What if I do make it? The optimistic side of my conscience finally spoke up.

Yes, you do have a comfortable life in the Philippines but is comfort the best way to live life? Is that what you want, a safe life? Besides, your good life here was never handed to you on a silver platter. You've worked hard the last 10 years of your career to establish your presence in the marketing industry where you've gained credentials, experience and made lifelong friends. And ultimately, you have a family that is behind you all the way who never once stopped you from realizing your dreams, no matter how crazy it sounds.

If you were able to make it in the Philippines with your attitude and perseverance, what's stopping you from replicating the same success in New York? Hard work knows no geographic boundaries.

You, at the very least, owe yourself this chance.

Without looking back, I shook off the demons and courageously boarded my Delta flight to the US.

It has been 2 years since that leap of faith. In those 2 years, I've struggled, kept my head high and never stopped believing that one day, it will all pay off. They say that fortune favors the brave. In my case, fortune favors those who bust their asses working to achieve their goals.

Today, I have successfully self-petitioned my green card, am a Digital Marketing Director and will marry the love of my life in 4 months.

Thank God I got on that flight.

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