2D1N in Macau, dubbed as the Vegas of Asia

First and foremost, you have to know that Macau is a relatively small place divided into 4 major parts: The Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. Majority of tourists cross to nearby Hong Kong after visiting Macau, or vice versa since both places are pretty small and the transfer is quite accessible. You may refer to the map below for a quick look. If you are searching for a place to stay, here’s what each area has:

  • Macau Peninsula – If you want to experience the charm of old Macau, then this is the place to be. If you book the right place, it also allows you to do a walking tour of Macau’s tourist spots.
  • Taipa (locally known as Tamzai) is a growing residential area and home to various temples in Macau.
  • Cotai Strip (reclaimed land between the islands of Taipa and Coloane) which is filled with casinos and luxury hotels. So if you are looking for a night of gambling and entertainment, this place is for you.
  • Coloane – I wasn’t able to go down south but they say this is where you get to see the Macanese (Macau-Portuguese) architecture and a true gem for photographers since everything looks picturesque. This is also where the famous Lord Stow’s Bakery is located, home of Macau’s famous egg tarts.

Accommodation:

For the history buff that I am, I chose a hotel in Macau Peninsula. I must tell you, hotel rates in Macau are pretty steep so be warned. One of the cheapest ones I saw which had a good location and was pretty decent was Ole Tai Sam Un Hotel. It is located in No 43-45 Rua da Caldeira, Macau City, which is walking distance to the Senado Square. Each night costs roundabout 100USD for a standard double room without breakfast.

Positive: Clean, very good location, helpful staff, comfy bed, free bottled water and WIFI in the rooms.

Negative: Room is quite small, especially the shower. Imagine me saying that despite my Asian size.

Transportation / Going Around the City:

There’s no train in Macau so you may opt to ride the bus or the cabs. However, the buses take a while and like in any foreign place, it’s hard to get the routes right. The cabs, on the other hand, charge quite a premium and the language barrier is also a concern. Hence, the best thing to do is maximize the free shuttle service of hotels. They are everywhere!

To get to Macau City (or to our Hotel), we took the shuttle from The Venetian (located at their West Lobby) bound to Yuet Tung Pier. We alighted a few blocks from our hotel. Yay!

To get to Cotai Strip from our hotel, we walked towards Sofitel and took their shuttle bound for the Macau Ferry Terminal, this is located at the 2F of the hotel and not the one at the main lobby. We almost rode a shuttle going to the China border! At the Macau Ferry Terminal, you may choose which hotel/casino you want to go and ride the hotel’s shuttle there.

Currency: 

The official currency of Macau is the pataca (MOP). Pataca is the Portuguese name for both dollars and pesos. You can use Hong Kong dollar (HKD) while in Macau since the pataca is accepted on an equal 1:1 basis. However, do note that government transactions only accept pataca while casinos only accept HKD.

There are money changers in the airport, ferry terminals, as well as at the vicinity of Senado Square so changing money won’t be a concern. However, note that changing to or from patacas outside of Macau is almost impossible even in Hong Kong, so any patacas should be spent or changed before leaving Macau.

When in Macau:

1. Visit the Senado Square

A visit to Macau is not complete without joining the flock of tourists at Senado Square. This area shows a glimpse of Macau’s historic past as a Portuguese territory until 1999. East certainly meets west with Neo-classical buildings painted in bright pastel colours lining up the Square amidst stalls of bakwa and other Macanese street food. If you are into shopping, right smack at the middle of Senado Square are big stores of Watsons, Bossini and Giordano.

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2. Say a little prayer at St. Dominic’s Church

A sunny little facade with green doors and shutters will catch your attention while strolling at the Square. This is St. Dominic’s Church, a Baroque-style church, which up until now holds mass in Portuguese.

*Photo not mine

3. Devour on free samples of Macau’s gastronomical treats

The walk to The Ruins of St. Paul was leisurely with the weather and the food you can see and try along the way. I love bakwa (meat jerky) at any given time so imagine my excitement when I saw bakwa everywhere! Aunties cutting strips of bakwa and giving free taste to passersby was heaven to me.  Not only that, you can also see a sea of bakeries selling almond cookies, which of course you can try.

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Must try – the spicy beef from Bee Cheng Hiang

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Out of all the many that I’ve tried, Koi Kei’s almond cookies stood out for me

4. Take your best shot of The Ruins of St. Paul

Probably the most famous landmark of Macau, The Ruins of St. Paul is officially listed as part of the Historic Centre of Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Even if the stone facade and pillars were the only ones left standing, it somehow gives a glimpse of the glamour it probably once held. You might also want to visit the Museum here which is free of charge.

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Ruins of St. Paul’s Church is Macau’s postcard image

5. Know your host country, visit Museum of Macau

When I go to new places, I almost always make a point to visit their local museum. I believe it helps me get to know the place, and eventually appreciate it better. Located in Mount Fortress, which is just adjacent to The Ruins of St. Paul, this was home to the city’s military defence.  This is now home to the 3 level museum, which showcases the Genesis of Macau (1st Floor), Popular Arts and Tradition (2nd Floor) and Contemporary Macau (3rd Floor).

Hours of Operation:

10am to 6pm (Ticket booth closes 5:30pm)

Closed on Mondays, Free for public on the 15th of every month, Open on public holidays.

Admission :

MOP 15 – Adults

MOP 8 – Children aged 5-10; – Students with valid ID; – Seniors aged 60 or above

Free – Children under 5; – Scholastic and associations’fieldtrips; – All visitors on the 15th of every month

Macao ID cardholders and Macao student cardholders can visit the museum for free on Sundays

6. Try your luck

Even for someone who does not like gambling, I had to try my luck in Macau. It probably is the shining lights , the sound of slot machines raking cash, the energy of this strip or maybe, the persistence of a husband who doesn’t want to quit that made me sit in a casino for 4 hours. It’s really not my thing but who knows, maybe lady luck is on your side. Unfortunately, it wasn’t with me but at least there’s free soda and coffee. Lol.

The Venetian Macau *Photo not mine

7. Eat that delicious Chicken Shawarma from the Persian Kebab stall in Rua da Caldeira

Why is it worth the stop? Because it is so damn good. It’s the real deal, cooked by a Persian guy himself who was very nice and didn’t complain as we slathered loads and loads of sauce on our shawarma at every bite.

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This is the best chicken shawarma I’ve tried so far

Other things you can do which I wasn’t able to:

1. Must see the A-Ma Temple

One of the oldest and most famous Taoist temples in Macau

2. Lord Stow’s Bakery at Coloane

Even if it’s already here, it’s nice to try the famous egg tart from where it all started.

3. Do the extreme at the Macau Tower

If you are the adventurous type, then a visit to the Macau Tower is in order. Activities like the bunny jump, sky jump, sky walk and tower climb will surely get you on a high, literally and figuratively! You may book from the AJ Hackett Adventure Company to check on available dates as well as the rates.

Celebrating our Happy First in Macau-HK

March 15, 2014 | The start of something new

March 15, 2014 | The start of something new

Celebrating our 1st year anniversary as Mr. and Mrs. San Miguel, yehey! Time indeed flies when you are having fun! A year ago when we were 10 lbs. lighter, Gel and I got married and my world has dramatically changed. I am praying and hoping that like wine, we will get better with age.

Happy anniversary to us Gel! You continue to make my world exciting in ways I cannot imagine possible. You are the crazy to my chill, the OA to my NR, the extrovert to my introvert, the competitive to my steady. I can name so much more but like what you always say, we complement each other perfectly. I love you my forever partner and ever so responsible husband! Thank you for loving me the best way you can. *ants, ants*

Now, on to my post… 🙂

We made our anniversary more fun with an out of the country trip we’ve been cooking since December. Apart from a vacation and opportunity to be with Gel, it was also a much needed break from all the hullabaloo that is work. Ohhh, how we wish to just get away on a whim. This is actually a 5-day trip wherein we landed in Macau and exited through Hong Kong. I’ll share with you what we did in these 2 places but do note that as travellers, we aren’t really the type who runs from one attraction to the next. We actually like taking our own sweet time and explore the streets, to the point of going off-grid from famous landmarks. So yes, let me write that soon on the blog.

Historical mini-field trip at Aguinaldo Shrine

My memory of Aguinaldo Shrine is quite faint since the last time I visited this place was back when I was 12. Since I lived in the North, this seemed like a faraway place tucked in Kawit, Cavite reachable only after a long and gruelling ride. Little did I know that it is so near Las Pinas where I currently reside and accessible with Cavitex.

Just a trip down memory lane, the Aguinaldo Shrine is a very important part of our history. It is not only the home of the First President of the Philippine Republic but this is where the independence of our country was declared over a century ago.

Some of my favourite observation and learnings from our mini-field trip to the Shrine include:

1. President Emilio Aguinaldo was a very strategic man. This was something you can see on how he designed his home. Every nook and cranny has its purpose. If not for storage, it was made as a secret passage to keep the family safe from attack. After all, this was the time of the revolution and a man (especially one of his stature) can never be too careful.

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2. He sure had style. From his signature white ensemble to his choice of shoes, I can say that the President had it in him.

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He wore these “Ang Tibay” shoes – some lovely brogues, double monk strap and a Toms-looking pair.

3. He owned and loved books. He had LOTS of them.

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What you have to read if you want to be President.

4. He was a survivor. He did not only survive the war, he was also a force to reckon with even by infections and complications. Apparently, President Aguinaldo had appendicitis but after his operation, he was still complaining of something hurting from the inside. When they cut him open, they found out that gauze was left inside during the initial operation.

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That’s it, that little bottle at the bottom.

5. He was born at the shrine and his remains were interred at the shrine as well. That is him going full circle.

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At the back of his own home, our president lies peacefully.

Aguinaldo Shrine is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. They have very accommodating guides who can share with you more fascinating stories when you pay a visit. What’s more fascinating is that there is NO entrance fee so feel free to bring your family, especially the kids here. I hope you can just drop a donation since we need historical sites like these to be preserved for the generations to come.

Husband’s Dirty Thirty Birthday!

My husband officially hits the 30 mark this year! Woohoo! How time flies! I knew him when he was still this lanky dude throwing those silly grins at me, how was I to know that we’ll end up together? Haha! Anyway, I am not really a person who loves throwing surprises. I guess I was never the sweet type. Poor husband! However, since being 30 is such a milestone and this is also his first birthday as a married man, I wanted to make it extra special. So I planned to surprise him with a party. Since he loves casual get together with friends, his party had to be chill.

I didn’t go through the hassle of looking for a place, I knew I wanted to do it at the newly built Shawarma Snack Center in El Grande Arcade, BF Homes Paranaque. It was spacious, al fresco and we love the food. I immediately contacted their office to inquire. I was initially assisted by the owner’s daughter, Fats, who was super helpful. Then, Mrs. Sarmiti, the owner herself came in to the picture and I must say, she was the one who did all the magic. I had little time to organize the party (aka: plan a program, do some DIY, etc). All I knew was to link it to Basketball hence the following:

1. Basketball themed cupcake c/o SSC with toppers downloaded from here.

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Thanks again to Mrs. Sarmiti for preparing these goodies for us! She and her team even volunteered to be the ones to stick the toppers themselves.

2. Cake and basketball cookies from Darling Cupcake Philippines. They are located at Veraville Homes, Talon 3 Las Piñas. Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

It’s Php 1,250 for an 8-inch fondant cake and cookies are P25 each. I think the price is reasonable enough for a customized cake. I was able to try the chocolate cake. The design looks good although the details can get better. It was also a bit dry, perhaps because I was able to try it the following day already? Maybe.

3. Customized Buntings and orange balloons from Party Options. They are located at 47 Gloria Diaz Street, BF Resort Village, Las Piñas.

I just gave Lorraine, the owner, directions on the theme and what I want printed on the buntings. She sent me the design for me to approve before they proceeded with printing. Design is 3 patterns alternating for each flag. Size is 4 x 4.5″ and comes with a string already.
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 My advice is to make it a little bigger next time. I think it was quite small, especially for an outdoor event without the bright lights. They also don’t have helium-inflated balloons. Apparently, there’s a scarcity of vendors these days.

For the menu, we had sumptuous dinner consisting of:

  • Kebab
  • Chicken Tikka
  • Beef Tenderloin
  • Pasta
  • Fried Rice
  • Chili Sambusa
  • Sizzling Shawarma
  • Arabic Bread
  • Motabal
  • Green Salad
  • Hommous

Gee, the owners were so generous, helpful and went beyond what I asked for. They were so much willing to help me with my (limited) props, the set-up and the food! They were indeed heaven sent!  I definitely recommend Shawarma Snack Center so if you are interested to book it for your events, call +632 478 4667 for their packages.

Things went according to plan except for the fact that the surprise didn’t end up as a surprise! Hahaha! Please, if you are planning to do this, take note of these things:

  1. Ask your in-laws (or those whose cars your husband knows very well) to NOT park in front, let alone at the center of of the venue for him to see.
  2. Tell the crew, especially the overzealous guards NOT to tell all guests that there’s a surprise party going on. The next thing you know, he’s telling this to the celebrant himself.

Even with this little mishap, I had so much fun and more importantly, my husband loved his party with all his loved ones there 🙂 So, I think I’m gradually becoming to be a sweet wife. Teehee!

Weekend Food Trip and Adventure in Pampanga

When we were still based in Singapore, my husband and I had this habit of watching a lot of Filipino shows on The Filipino Channel (TFC). I guess it helps beat the homesickness blues. One of the shows we used to watch was Kris TV, an open format daily show which features places to eat, go and other trends in the Philippines. Last May, we saw a feature on this new adventure place called SandBox and Apag Marangle, a local restaurant, both located in Pampanga. My husband has been urging me to go here once we’re back in Pinas. After so many failed attempts because of the weather, we finally went on a whim last Friday. Thanks to Waze, we found our way!
Kapampangan Food Feast at Apag Marangle
Since it was dinner time and we were incredibly hungry, off we went to find Apag Marangle. We made a lot of bad turns but luckily found it! From NLEX, take the San Fernando exit and go straight to Olongapo-Gapan Road in Bacolor, Pampanga. Apag Marangle is right along the highway.
Location Map from Bacolor Pampanga's Official Website

Location Map from Bacolor Pampanga’s Official Website

Apag Marangle means Dining in the Farm. True to Its name, it is a very spacious farm with huts on stilts built on a huge fish pond. Since we were there for dinner, we weren’t able to take photos of the view but I bet it looks good during day time. You may check out Lakwatsero’s Blog for more photos of the place.
On to the much awaited part: eating!!! Almost all their dishes serve 3-4 pax so as much as we wanted to try so many things, we limited ourselves with the humba, nasi marangle, betute and their specialty drinks. We ordered the following:
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Nasi marangle (P295) is actually rice mixed with pakbet and topped with fried pork. So tasty and I must say, a meal in itself! We couldn’t finish the whole serving but I think our leftover can still feed 2-3 pax!
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Humba (P285) or braised pork was served with sweet bean sauce. Not really a fan of sweet ulam but this one was a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Loved it!
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The betute (P90/pc) is a local exotic dish –a deep fried frog stuffed with savory ground pork like relleno. It tasted like chicken but I can’t finish it all because it looked very much like a frog to me! Hahaha!
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I also liked their drinks. I had the iced lemongrass tea with honey which felt relaxing at every sip. My hubby got their buco pandan drink which was also good too.
Good news metro peeps! They will be opening a branch in Parksquare Makati soon!
Overnight stay at Tune Hotel
We didn’t book a hotel in advance so I relied on my trusty Agoda app to help me find an affordable but decent hotel to stay in. So I found Tune Hotel, located at Don Juico Avenue, Malabanias, Angeles City, Pampanga. It is right outside Clark which makes it convenient for us to go to SCTEX the following day.

When I asked what types of room they have, the receptionist said they only have 2. One with a queen sized bed and another with 2 single beds. Since I went here with my husband, we went with the former. The room costs P1,115 quite a steal given its proximity to Clark and also very near some restaurants.

The room was very simple yet highly functional. A bed with clean, white sheets, 2 pillows, A/C, TV with cable, hot and cold shower, hair dryer and a safe. Don’t expect breakfast too because there’s none. They do sell instant noodles at the reception but we were prepared, we brought our own Nissin Cup Noodles! Since we checked in around 9 and were to leave early the following day, I think the rate was really worth it.

Upside apart from value for money was it’s clean. The staff were really helpful too. Downside, there’s no parking and the tap water comes with a price.

Just some quick info I picked up from their site:
  • Conveniently located along Don Juico Avenue, where a host of restaurants, entertainment outlets and bars are located
  • 20 minutes by car to local tourist landmarks such as Salakot Arch, Old Pamintuan, Bale Matua (Founder’s Residence), Camalig, Santo Rosario Church and Fort Stotsenburg.
  • 10 minutes by car to get inside Clark Ecozone, a former US Airbase with hotels, resorts and the world-class Mimosa Golf Course.
  • 6.1km to the Clark International Airport, formerly known as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA)
  • Check in time : 2:00pm onwards
  • Check out time : 11:00am
We were also able to squeeze in a one-hour body massage from Nuat Thai which was right beside the hotel. I enjoyed mine since the pressure was just right, however, my husband felt his muscles went sore even jokingly saying that the masseuse might be having a bad day! Lol.
Half Day Adventure at SandBox
This is us, trying to shy away from the old farts that we are. Hahaha! Adventure is out there! We took SCTEX from Clark and took the Porac exit. I think it was short of 20 minutes away! You can easily spot Alviera (where SandBox is located) when you take the Porac exit.
Good day to be out!

Good day to be out!

SandBox is inside ALVIERA. It is a collaboration between Ayala Land and Leonio Land, Inc. It’s a sprawling 1,125-hectare  development which will house various establishments like a commercial area, business and industrial park, university, recreational areas, and residential neighbourhood. SandBox is part of this grand master plan. It provides an outdoor attraction for family and friends to enjoy. Although I’m a bit wary for little kids, I think this works best for kids 8 and up.

.We're here!

There are 2 steps before you can get inside SandBox:
(1) Pick the attractions you want:
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(2) Pay the corresponding fees. Entrance Fee is at P75. Since the Avatar One was under repair, the packages weren’t available so we had to choose on a per attraction basis. They give out tickets per attraction so be sure to keep all those safely tucked in your pocket or bag.
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Tickets? Check!

Tickets? Check!

We tried the Giant Swing which was the most exciting amongst the available attractions. My husband, who had a terrible fear of heights, had no choice but to try it out with me! As with any extreme activity, the first swing from the highest point was the most jaw-dropping one! The feeling of your heart stopping and your stomach seeming to float in the air is the same with this one.
Up in the air

Up in the air

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Aerial Walk

The Tower for Free Fall, Rappel, Wall Climb and the Avatar One

The Tower for Free Fall, Rappel, Wall Climb and the Avatar One

We tried the Wall Climbing but goodness gracious! I couldn’t even lift myself up! Props to the husband who was able to go mid way up! That tower right there is what we had to climb. Trust me, it wasn’t as easy as it looks. The Avatar One was closed for repair.  I think it’s been closed for 3 weeks. Too bad! 😦 This was the attraction I was really excited to try.

We didn’t get to try all because the lines were crazy long. During our visit, there were regular guests and an AXN event. There was also some confusion on where people should line up since the AXN guests had a line exclusive to them. Not a big deal for me but I just hope that the staff were proactive and attentive enough to make the guests queue where they were supposed to be and not making them transfer after an hour of agonising waiting. The scorching heat also didn’t help. There were tents for the queue but gaaaaah, I cannot take the heat anymore. I realised now more than ever that I like being out in the sun only when I am clad in a bikini 2 feet away from the beach.

We were so, so thirsty and the Snack Yankee Shack right at the entrance was our only saving grace. The menu is very American but it’s very affordable. The drinks were quite refreshing! See what we got below:

Snack Yankee Shack Menu

Snack Yankee Shack Menu

Strawberry Slushie to beat the heat!

Strawberry Slushie to beat the heat!

Some tips and watch outs:
  • It’s a rough road once you’ve entered Alviera to reach SandBox, be sure your tires are ready!
  • I cannot stress the fact to wear comfortable shoes (rubber shoes to be exact) and clothing.
  • Wear sunblock, the heat can be excruciating.
  • If in case there is rain, the venue has the right to close the amenities for safety purposes. Better safe than sorry!
  • There are age, height and weight restrictions for the attractions. Be sure to check them out here before you go.
  • You cannot bring food inside but the parking lot is quite near so perhaps you can store your snacks and drinking water in your car.
  • Last and the most important one: Driving all the way to Pampanga with the purpose of visiting SandBox alone may get you a little disappointed. There are limited things to do and the area is far from getting developed. So to have a good time, consider this as a one-of in a list of destinations you will visit in the North. I suggest you plan it out and perhaps go to Nayong Pilipino in Clark, extend your drive to Subic or go on a food trip in Pampanga (which we did).

Lunch at Meat Plus Cafe in Clark

Meat Plus is a popular steakhouse in Subic offering different kinds of steaks like American Angus steak. This is a classic Subic baby which started its operations back in the nineties when the American troops were still at the base. They now have a second branch at the Shell Station in Clark, Pampanga which we tried for the first time!

My perfectly cooked slab of meat

My perfectly cooked slab of meat

When in Meat Plus, one should order the steak so I got the Topsirloin steak which came with rice, vegetables and a drink. The meat was very tender, had it cooked in medium well. My husband who’s hard to please when it comes to my I-wanna-try food suggestions liked it too! (Yey!) He ordered a cheeseburger meal and said that the meat of bun tasted very much legit.

We ended our little food trip with Buko Pandan at Nathaniel’s Bakeshop in true Kapampangan fashion. But between you and me, we bought at their Timog branch hahahaha! We were looking for a branch in Pampanga via Waze but got lost so we opted for one which was along the way. 🙂

To give you an idea on how much we spent, please see below.
Expenses (of course, we could have saved a lot more if we weren’t such gluttons):
Items Amount in PHP
Toll Fee – NLEX 45.00
Toll Fee – NLEX 112.00
Dinner at Apag Marangle 760.00
Overnight stay at Tunes Hotel 1,115.00
Toll Fee – SCTEX Clark to Porac 30.00
Sandbox Entrance Fee and Attractions 850.00
Lunch at Meat Plus Café 560.00
Nathaniel’s Buko Pandan 260.00
Toll Fee – SCTEX 30.00
Toll Fee – NLEX Angeles to Balintawak 198.00
1-Hour Massage for each person at Nuat Thai 700.00
Total 4,660.00
 There you go! That’s our 2D1N in Pampanga 🙂

Be with someone special

Yes, because you are too 🙂

Hodgepodge of my Twenties and Thirties

Be with someone who reads, he knows magic, unicorns and ever afters.

Be with someone who loves art, he appreciates beauty and the passion that comes with it.

Be with someone who writes, his imagination is infinite.

Be with someone who?s optimistic about life, tomorrow promises more joys than today.

Be with someone who notices the details, he will memorize every crease on your face, the color of your eyes and your wonderful scent.

Be with someone who knows how to laugh, nothing will ever be too complex.

Be with someone who listens, he values that your opinions are equal to his.

Be with someone who expresses, he is confident in his actions and will stand up for you.

Be with someone who says sorry, he is man enough to admit he is not perfect.

Be with someone who treats his mother politely, it mirrors how he is going to…

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