Sunday, December 8, 2019

Top Seven Ways to Enjoy Aulani, A Dream Disney Vacation Club Resort!

We recently spent a few days at Aulani in Ko Olina, Hawaii! It was amazing! I can't wait to go back! Here are seven ways to enjoy the resort!

1. Enjoy the room!
We are Disney Vacation Club members, so we booked a one-bedroom villa that sleeps five! You can also buy points to rent villas, but I am not too familiar with the process. The room is amazing, however the only downside was all of us sharing one bathroom.  That made it tricky getting back from pool time and getting ready to go back out.  Here are some pictures of the villa.
Living area with sofa bed and murphy bed under the TV
I love that the villas have a kitchen!
It was awesome that the kitchen had a rice cooker! I had my rice ready! I'm looking for an Instant Pot to show up next!
Not shown is the jet bathtub. We took turns in it!  Very lovely way to end a day!

2. Listen to live music!
Where we were located was near the nightly luau. So all we had to do is open our balcony sliding door to hear lovely Hawaiian tunes each night.  Lulled me to sleep!  They have live entertainment happening nightly throughout the resort and even ukelele lessons to get you started!

3. Go in the water!
The pools, lazy river, and the beach are first class.  We went into the water every day of our stay.  Here's my son paddleboarding on the beach.

4. Take a tour of the resort!

It was cool to hear the history of the construction of Aulani and how things were developed.  Uncle gave us a very educational and informational tour.

Uncle talked to us about the importance of the coconut tree to Hawaiians due to its many uses in Hawaiian life, to build shelter, for food, how the kukui is used for the oil, especially for torches like this!

He also told us about how water is life and the systems that were in place with the water flowing from the mountains into irrigation design when plantation life was abundant. Today, Hawaiians are fighting for the rights for water!

Uncle told us about this piko stone, the most important part of the resort. Local elders chose this specific location to be the "bellybutton" of the resort, where the connection is to Mother Nature, the center.  It is made of coral.

5. Special activities!
Aulani has a daily schedule of activities, some are included and some have a nominal fee.  We only took advantage of a couple, because of our limited stay. I would recommend at least a week!

DVDs to rent if you want to chill in the room
Materials to make customized Mickey Ears!

6. Character dining!

What would a stay at a Disney resort be without meeting some characters!  There are characters for scheduled Meet and Greets, but you can also have some interaction with characters if you book a Character Dining event at Mahaliki.

With Dale!

Don't forget the shave ice!

7. Aulani has so many beautiful spots, one way to capture your dream vacation is by having a photo session. The pictures will be worth every penny.

Like I said, we can't wait to be able to go back to Ko Olina and visit Aulani again!

Thanks for reading! Have a tip to share? Please leave a comment below.  

Saturday, October 26, 2019

San Diego Asian Film Festival celebrates its 20th Anniversary!

Filmmakers and film subjects who shape the way we see San Diego’s history will stud the exclusive red carpet kicking off the 20th anniversary celebration of Pacific Arts Movement’s San Diego Asian Film Festival on November 7, 2019. To commemorate this momentous occasion, Pacific Arts Movement will feature the premiere of The Paradise We Are Looking For, the documentary it commissioned to highlight Asian American stories from local neighborhoods in San Diego throughout the decades.

This festival, historically the largest platform of Asian cinema on the west coast, strives to represent the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community through storytelling. Through the decades, the festival has influenced how Asian and Asian American cinema evolved, and The Paradise We Are Looking For displays the AAPI community’s long-standing presence in San Diego. The documentary’s themes of identity, immigration, inclusion and military presence uncover the relationship between these elements and their lasting impact on AAPI communities.

“Throughout our 20 years, we've discovered thrilling new directors with relationships with San Diego, some of whom grew up here, others who have passed through, but all of whom have something to say about our neighborhoods and communities,” says Brian Hu, San Diego Asian Film Festival’s artistic director. “We wanted to challenge them to uncover buried histories and shed light on folks we might think of as ordinary -- precisely the everyday laborers, students, family members we pass by every day but who deserve the big-screen treatment because their stories embody the San Diego we are all looking for.”

ABOUT THE FILM: THE PARADISE WE ARE LOOKING FORSan Diego has been called many things—including a paradise. It’s also a refugee city, a cluster of neighborhoods, a militarized zone, a border town. And Asian American. This collection of four short documentaries, commissioned on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, maps many such San Diegos— across ethnicity, geography and history.

At the helm are four emerging cinematic voices who have grown up in San Diego, studied there, or once called it home:
  • Norbert Shieh’s stirring film essay recalls a 2008 University City plane crash that cast a somber shadow over a military city.

  • Quyên Nguyen-Le introduces us to the City Heights mortuary workers who help refugee families grieve.

  • Joseph Mangat’s rousing observational piece thrusts us into the electric immigrant space of a karaoke-restaurant in National City.
  • R.J. Lozada interviews former classmates at his 20th high school reunion in the South Bay, and finds that memories, including his own, are not always reliable.

  • Pre-reception: 5:30 p.m.
  • The Paradise We Are Looking For screening: 7 p.m.
  • Post-reception and director Q&A: 9 p.m.
  • Location: The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center (7600 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037)
  • Tickets: Available at
Featured this year are blasts from the past with films selected by a poll of past viewers featured in "The Asian American Canon" category.  Also new this year is an Official Cosplay Gathering with the Saturday, November 9th Screening of  Brave Father Online: Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV. All attendees are invited to cosplay in any Final Fantasy costume. RSVP to the official event: HERE.

There are so many great films to choose from, hopefully you can get your fill with the Festival running from November 7 to November 16, 2019.  

All Free Screenings require a physical ticket.To receive a ticket, visit the venue’s box office during box office’s normal business hours starting November 1. 
  • FREE FILMS AT 4: All films at 4:00PM on weekdays of the festival are FREE.
  • VR: WATER MELTS (Sat, Nov. 9 & Sun, Nov, 10): on a first-come, first-served basis in the UltraStar Lobby.
  • SHORTS FOR SHORTIES (Sat, Nov. 9): A collection of international short films for kids, FREE for all ages.
  • REEL VOICES (Sun, Nov. 10): World premiere of our high school documentary program, FREE to the public.
    and staff with valid ID.
  • PAC ARTS MEMBER SCREENING (Tue, Nov. 12): The screening of WE ARE CHAMPIONS is FREE for Pac Arts members with membership card.
 Follow film festival happenings on Twitter and IG - @PacArtsMovement #SDAFF2019

Saturday, August 3, 2019

2019 Chula Vista Harborfest - August 17!

Dance Your Day Away with FREE Live Entertainment on the Bay Featuring Latin Beats and Local Artists on Three Stages at Chula Vista HarborFest!
Saturday, August 17, 2019 10 AM-6 PM 
Chula Vista Bayside Park

Chula  Vista,  CA- August  is  the  peak  of the  San Diego Summer Season and  Chula  Vista  is  keeping  the  sunny celebrations  going!  The  well-loved  HarborFest,  presented  by  the  Port  of  San  Diego,  returns  on  Saturday, August 17,  from  10  AM  to  6 PM  with even MORE  summertime  activities  for the  entire  family!  There  is  no better way to spend a beautiful Saturday than sipping on thirst quenching margaritas, listening to live music, and munching on the  best tacos north of the border while enjoying the charm of Chula  Vista Bayside Park! Whether it is a family affair, or an afternoon with friends, you are destined to have a day full of fun, laughter, sunshine, and of course, lots of dancing.

HarborFest offers three  stages of diverse music  showcasing incredible  talent  to satisfy every interest across the  board!  Salsa  your  way  to  the  Seven  Mile  Casino  Latin  Beats  Stage  for  the  spicy  mix  of  Samba  Music, Mariachis, Ballet Folklórico, and MORE. Head to the Port of San Diego Harbor Main Stage for a blast from the past, where tribute bands like Polly Vinyl will bring you your favorite hits from the present and past. The This is  Chula  Community  Stage  is  the  perfect  setting  to  celebrate  and  admire  our  local  talent    lineup  to  be announced  soon!  Vibe  your  way   through  this   FREE  festival  and  pay   tribute  to   HarborFest’s   amazing entertainers who will pour their heart and soul into mesmerizing performances all day long!

Latin Beats Stage:
   10:00 AM – Southwest Mariachi
   11:00 AM – DanzArts (Ballet Folklórico)
   11:30 AM – Charlie Chavez Afrotruko (Latin Swing)
   12:30 PM – DanzArts (Ballet Folklórico)
   1:00 PM – Los Duques (Latin Ska)
   2:00 PM – DanzArts (Ballet Folklórico)
   2:30 PM – Manny Cepeda Orchestra (Salsa)
   3:30 PM – DanzArts (Ballet Folklórico)
   4:00 PM – Santana Pa Ti (Samba)

Port of San Diego Harbor Main Stage:

   10:00 AM – Polly Vinyl (Cover Band)
   11:00 AM – HarborFest DJ
   11:30 AM – Captain J and the Jive Crew (Rock)
   12:30 AM – HarborFest DJ
   1:00 PM – Groove Kitty (80’s Rock and Pop)
   2:00 PM – HarborFest DJ
   2:30 PM – Coldplayed (Coldplay Cover Band)
   3:30 PM – HarborFest DJ
   4:00 PM – Kenny Metcalf as Elton John (Elton John Cover Artist)

With  amazing  FREE  interactive  activities  to  enjoy,  there  is  nothing  quite  like  the  boundless  opportunities offered throughout the day at Chula Vista HarborFest. You can enhance this beautiful day on the bay and go HarborFest VIP for just $25! Your VIP ticket includes parking, a two-street taco plate, two drinks, and exclusive lounge seating. Love tacos and spirit sips? Sip and savor the day away with UNLIMITED tastes at HarborFest’s Tacos,  Spirits  &  Craft Beer  Revolution  for  $25!  Tacos  only  tickets  go  for  $20  and  the  Champagne,  Rose  & Wine Tasting tickets go for just $10!
little tacos (1).jpg

HarborFest is brought to you by the City of Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego. For more information or to purchase VIP and tasting tickets, please visit

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Top Eight Tips for a Fabulous Family Reunion!

Our last Family Reunion was ten years ago in 2009.  Since then, kids have grown, some have gotten married, more kids have been born, and sadly, some relatives have passed on to the after life. As time ticks by, it becomes more and more important to reconnect! My family had a blast at our 2019 reunion! Here are my top eight tips for a fabulous Family Reunion!

The four remaining Saluta siblings!
1.  After you pick a date and a venue, reach out right away to those who have to travel so they can make their travel and lodging arrangements. After all, these are people who you probably don't see on a regular basis!

2. Choose a communication system to best deliver information.  For our family,it was Facebook (FB).  I would say 90% of our family is on it, so I just decided to create a Facebook group and post information and update documents there. I did print out about ten paper invitations for those families not on Facebook. I created a document in the FB group for people to sign up for the potluck and to head committees for the t-shirts, the games, the talent show, the set up and clean up, etc.!
I regret not adding a document for people to add their phone numbers and addresses so that everyone could keep in touch after the reunion, but like I said, most everyone is on FB! 
3. Incorporate pre and post reunion activities. I specifically chose the July 4th weekend date to help with minimizing time off needed from work and extend the week so that everyone could enjoy a holiday together. And it would be my summer vacation time!
Our reunion week activities included the following:
Wednesday: Welcome Dinner
Thursday (July 4th Holiday) Family Mass at Mater Dei Catholic Parish. It was also my paternal grandfather's birthday. This was a special way to celebrate the head of the family. We attended mass in the early evening and my cousins, Alex and Rhoda hosted dinner afterwards in their home.We watched fireworks from a spot in my cousin's neighborhood!
Family attending mass together!
Friday: Free Day! No formal activities planned!

Saturday: Day of the Reunion! Here was our program
Sunday:  Lunch hosted at cousins Ariel and Elma's house and a Farewell Dinner at our house.

Some pictures:
Celebratory Cake!
Lunch is served
Family tree history provided by cousin Alex and Rhoda
Third generation of Saluta's.
Talent show act!
One of the fun games!
4. Hire a photographer (and possibly a videographer) to capture all the moments.  We have a huge family so it was important for me to capture everyone in one shot.  Take a look!
2009 Reunion
2019 Reunion
Check out the cool video made by my niece, Jasmine, that captured the highlights. It was a whirlwind week but I think everyone enjoyed!

5. Get to know your out-of-towners and what they enjoy.  Our family from Texas stayed with us. Now that I know my cousin is into classic cars, I could've looked into a car show or something.  Our nephew is a gym rat, so luckily his cousins were able to accompany him to the local gym every day. Whatever it is, street food, musicals, museums, it would be nice to have them see what they love here in San Diego. After hearing my cousin tell some jokes about being Filipino (he is mestizo, so also half-Caucasian)  I introduced them to Jo Koy, via Netflix. By the sound of their laughter, it seems Jo Koy's Seattle show was a hit with them!  If I timed the reunion right, we could've planned attending one of his live concerts here in SD! 
PC: He's sooo funny! Josep!
6. Have a photo backdrop for this instagrammable world. I enjoyed making this paper flower one. After the reunion, ask everyone to drop their photos from their phones into one location online and make a photo book to preserve the great memories!
Paper flower backdrop
Cousin Junior perusing our 2009 Family Reunion Photo book!
7.  Tap into the talent literally! We had to have our singers in the family participate in the talent show (A snippet of James singing "Circle of Life")! Also, one of our nieces, Clarisse, has a graphics design background so she designed the logo, another two nieces took charge of the games (Jasmine and Jamie, both nurses), and another niece who is talented in dancing took charge of the talent show, Gelli.  Our cousin Mikey, who DJs professionally, provided his services for the reunion! For sure, an event like this takes a team!

8. My last tip, before the reunion ends, pass the torch on for the next one! I'm hoping my nieces take on the planning for the next one in 2024! We can't wait another ten years!

Have a tip to share, please comment below! I wish you a great family reunion!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

My Balikbayan Box Story

"Balikbayan" - loosely translated, means to return home.  In my youth, I could always remember my Mom and Dad filling up balikbayan boxes  and sending them "home" to the Philippines. The boxes would contain cans of spam, corned beef, chocolates, toiletry items, and our old / outgrown clothing. Little did I realize that the contents of these balikbayan boxes would have a profound effect on me. I remember quite vividly a visit to the homeland when I was 13, over thirty five years ago!
It was 1983, I was 12 years old and we took a trip to the Philippines.  Since I was used to the mild, sunny temperature of San Diego, the climate of the Philippines shocked my physical senses as soon as I stepped off the airplane. The humidity and heat were overwhelming.  Within seconds, I was drenched in my own perspiration.  After such a long journey (15 hours or more), I longed to take a refreshing shower but would have to wait as the trip to my grandmother's house entailed another hour of riding in a taxi and little did I know there would be no running water in the restroom.
In the taxi, my thoughts quickly transferred from wanting to shower to being in awe of the mountain-high block-wide amount of trash that people were scavenging through to find I don't know what, scraps to salvage or recyclables, or even food. I could not stop watching the old and the young in bare feet picking through four-story-high hills of trash!  A feeling of shame then set on me. These people were trying to survive by sorting through garbage!  I thought to myself, what a privileged life I have been living. I was quiet the rest of the journey as I processed what I just witnessed.
When the taxi finally turned down my mom's hometown street, children mobbed the car!  We could barely inch through the crowd.  Faces were smashed against the window  looking in.  I was a bit fearful to even get out. I didn't know if I would be safe. The children were dressed in thread-bare shirts or tank tops, shorts, and flip flops or with nothing on their feet.  I was hesitant to open the door. I wondered if they were going to start touching me. They seemed so fascinated with us, the people from the "States."  
It was then I experienced another jolt of the day.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lime green track suit pants with yellow stripes running down the side pant legs.  Wait a minute....that looked awfully familiar.  It then hit me that this boy, who was a relative that I hadn't met yet, was wearing MY old pants from two years ago.  I loved that track suit! Yes, it no longer fit me, but I had wondered what happened to it! Here it was across the world. I never gave a second thought as to what went into those boxes my mom and dad carefully packed. Now I knew.

Since it was so hot, we slept with all the windows open.  I wasn't yet adjusted to the time zone change so the next morning I was the last to wake up in my room.  When I opened my eyes, I immediately noticed kids squatting on the tin roof next door just watching me through the windows until I woke up.
I was spooked and ran downstairs to find my mom, ducking my head on the wooden stairs as I almost ran smack dab into a 2-inch long flying cockroach!  Eww!

What else do I remember from that trip? I used a bucket with a long handle for the water (tabo) to give myself a bath.  I stood in front of a fan to dry my hair.  I poured talcum powder all over myself to keep my skin as dry as possible. I was bit from my eyelids to toes by mosquitoes who loved my sweet blood. I also flinched at least a half dozen times a day when a lizard would pop out of nowhere and scramble across the wall or ceiling.
I remember going shopping and being embarrassed that I was a size extra large in clothing compared to my relatives. And when we ate a hamburger at Jollibee's,  I wanted at least two more, because they were smaller than my hand! Look at how actor Josh Garcia can probably finish his burger in two bites!
I also remember the hospitality of all we encountered who opened their doors when we visited and offered us plenty to eat and wanted to show us around. I also remember the grandeur of the local cathedral when we attended mass.
I remember seeing students in their white and blue school uniforms walking to class and wondered what their school day was like. I remember the sari-sari stores on the neighborhood streets and buying a piece of candy or something to drink.  I remember drinking soda from a plastic bag from a straw.
I remember women and girls holding handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths as they stood on the sidelines trying to hail a ride. I remember riding a crowded Jeepney and being jockeyed up and down as it drove over the pot-holed streets.
Mostly I remember how that trip humbled me. It changed me.  My relatives didn't nearly have the amenities and luxuries I had but they didn't need these materials things to be joyful.  Laughter and smiles were plentiful!
I understood fully for the first time that it really was the simple things in life that mattered.  I learned how to be appreciative and how to be grateful for what I had. I understood what humility meant. I came back with a total paradigm shift of what was important to me. On that trip, all of those life lessons learned were packed in a balikbayan box and now are held in my heart and mind since.

Been on a life-changing trip? Please leave a comment here!
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