Pia’s 1st Birthday – Rainbow Party :)

For those of you who’ve been following my posts or read my About Me section, our miracle baby, Pia Maria Isabelle, was born on 26 March 2012.  In the Catholic Calendar, the date 26 March is usually before or during Holy Week, and this year, as expected, Pia’s 1st birthday fell smack in the middle of Holy Week, Holy Tuesday, so we decided to have a simple home celebration on the actual date of her birthday and a ‘bigger’ post birthday party at a later date.  We decided to have the party about 2 weeks after, on a Sunday, April 7, so that Papa & Mama, Pia’s grandparents from my side, would both be able to attend. 🙂

I spent months (and I do mean months, about 3-5 months!!!) viewing first birthday party ideas on Pinterest before finally deciding on the Rainbow Party theme for Pia.  In the Bible, the rainbow is the sign of God’s promise to His people, and I felt like it was just right because truly, Pia was God’s promise fulfilled to Rhenee and I. 🙂  Deciding on the theme made the other aspects of party planning easier and my organization skills really kicked into full gear and momentum as I made my To Do List, Task and Timeline Checklist, Shopping List, and various other Lists! Hahaha!

After deciding on the date, we had to decide on the venue and time of the party.  Originally one of our close friends, Tita Lyna, had offered her house for Pia’s party but we couldn’t have the party there as she would be out of Brunei on April 7.  We couldn’t think of any other house big enough that would be able to accommodate us so we decided to check out the kiddie friendly commercial establishments in the Gadong, BSB area.  After several visits and discussions, we decided on Ideal Cafe Restaurant in the Gadong commercial area, located across The Mall.  Mary, the friendly staff at Ideal made us a very good deal.  I especially liked the fact that we could bring in our own decor, backdrop, birthday cake, and a little additional food for our invited guests.  Their budget friendly price was of course a big factor too! 🙂 I had read somewhere on Baby Center and Parents Magazine, that the best time for a birthday party for a one year old is when the birthday celebrant is at his/her most active time i.e. it should not be held during his/her nap time (Duh!!!) plus it should not be too long, only 3 hours maximum, so that the birthday celebrant would actually enjoy and participate in her party (Double Duh!!!).  You wouldn’t want the birthday celebrant missing out on his/her own party, right? So after consulting Rhenee on Pia’s daily routine, schedule of nap and awake time, we decided to have the party between 2-5PM, merienda time.

pia's 1st bday invitation

Once the date, venue and time was decided, it was now time to create Pia’s birthday invitations and backdrop and luckily for us, we had one of our SFC friends, Kristine, do it for us at a minimal fee.  Kristine even designed Pia’s birthday photo souvenir frame and was one of the ‘official photographers’ at the party.  < If any of you reading this need Kristine’s help in designing your invitations or backdrop/banner, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her. 🙂 >  After the invitations were finalized, to save on printing costs, we decided to just email the invitations to the invited guests and to also create a Facebook Event Page where guests could view the invitation and RSVP.  As for the printing of the backdrop, I emailed the design to Papa and he had  it done in the Philippines for a very, very low price of  BND20 (if we had done it here in Brunei, it would have cost us about BND100!).

pia's birthday banner

One of the main attractions of a birthday party, well, for me anyway, is the birthday cake.  Agree or disagree?  The birthday cake is one of the main attractions or centerpiece of the party so I really wanted a beautiful, elegant, charming cake for our equally beautiful, elegant, charming birthday girl.  We had gone around all the known bakeshops in BSB but as expected, the birthday cake design I wanted to have for Pia would cost us a big bundle.  Lucky for us, there’s #tereeielcakes and after giving them our cake idea design and concept, they came up with a beautiful, elegant, charming birthday cake for our Pia, at no cost to us at all! Thanks very much Tere and Eiel! 🙂 < Again, for those of you reading this and would like to get your #tereeielcakes, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with them. 🙂 >  Since I had no cake stand, I made do with an empty cake box which I then decorated with some colored foil paper cut outs I brought with me plus some colorful gummy candies.  Mind you, this was all on-the-spot-last-minute inspired but I think everything turned out pretty well, don’t you think?


In addition to the birthday cake, we were also blessed to be gifted rainbow cupcakes courtesy of Al & Young.  The cupcakes were ordered by Young from a friend and were just so pretty and colorful – I loved them instantly!  It was a good thing that I had printed rainbow themed cupcake labels which I taped onto toothpicks beforehand and I managed to put them to use by placing them in the center of each of the cupcakes, except on the those which had marshmallow flower tops on them.  I then placed all the cupcakes on the cupcake display stand lent by Ria and positioned them next to Pia’s birthday cake.  The small Happy Birthday Pia banner I made and threaded on a golden ribbon completed the cupcake stand display.  The birthday cake and cupcakes became the centerpiece of the display table which was placed below Pia’s birthday banner.


The corner of the display table near the wall was designated as the Gifts Table, where guests could place the birthday presents they had brought for Pia.


On the other end of the display table, I placed a few small water bottles with customized Happy Birthday rainbow themed labels on them.  Next to these I placed the Party Favors I had packed: a small box of crayons and a packet of chocolate Nips placed in clear plastic bags with customized Thank You rainbow themed tags.  I wanted something rainbow-colored for the favors that were useful and affordable at the same time.  We bought the crayons at Super Saver Store, Gadong Central while the Nips were bought in Hua Ho, Yayasan branch.




Mary at Ideal Cafe Restaurant helped decorate the venue with different colored balloons.  In addition to the birthday banner at the center display, I decided to develop selected pictures of Pia from birth to 11 months which I then pasted on colored art paper.  These served as the wall decoration above the buffet table so when guests were waiting in line at the buffet table, they had something to look at to entertain them. 🙂



An additional idea for Pia’s first birthday party that was inspired by a post I saw on Pinterest was what I’d like to call The Birthday Celebrant’s Chair.  In Pia’s case, since we didn’t  own a high chair yet and I didn’t want to use the high chair that Ideal Cafe Restaurant had due to its moss green colour (totally not a match with her party theme), we used a portable baby chair that was gifted to Pia and placed it securely on a normal adult size chair which I then decorated with helium-filled balloons.



And of course, it’s very important not to forget the special birthday outfit for the guest of honor, the birthday celebrant herself. 🙂  Pia’s birthday outfit was another Pinterest-inspired idea and was lovingly made by another SFC sister, Shawn.  She made a onesie that had the number ‘1’ in the front and a rainbow colored tutu.  The rainbow colored long socks were bought by Mama in the Philippines while I ordered Pia’s flower clip online at Celestina & Co, one of my favorite online shopping sites for finding beautiful clips and headbands for little girls.

Pia’s birthday guests were just family and close friends, mostly from our Catholic community, Couples for Christ.  We had asked guests to come in their favorite color/s of the rainbow, though looking at the pictures now I don’t think most of them followed that request! Hehehe! What do you think? 😉
























Anyway the important thing is that they made time out of their busy schedules to celebrate this milestone in Pia’s life.  Instead of the usual guest book signing, Rhenee and I made a photo sign in frame for guests to sign and write down their messages for Pia.  This way, when she’s older, we would have something to show her as a souvenir of her first birthday party.



The program we had prepared for Pia’s party was very simple and straightforward.  After the arrival and sign in of guests, we had the opening prayer (led by Papa), the showing of Pia’s birthday AVP (lovingly made by Daddy Rhenee), the singing of the birthday song for Pia, the blowing of the candle on her birthday cake, merienda, party games, and a special song number by Janine and Abel (kids of our good friends, Alan & Len, one of Pia’s godparents).







The party games were (of course) also in line with the rainbow theme of the party.  We had the ‘Pin the Pot O’ Gold on the Rainbow’ game (thanks super friend Elna for helping make the props), the ‘Rainbow Mummy’ game and the ‘Bring Me: Pia’s Edition’ game.  For the ‘Pin the Pot O’ Gold on the Rainbow’ game and the ‘Rainbow Mummy’ game, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  As for the ‘Bring Me: Pia’s Edition’ game, it’s your classic Bring Me game but in addition, players had to answer certain Pia trivia questions to get their prizes, e.g. What is the full name of Pia? How much did Pia weigh when she was born? etc.

Naturally since Rhenee and I would be busy with the ‘running’ of the party and taking care of Pia at the same time, with assistance of Papa and Mama, we assigned some of the tasks to be taken cared of during the party itself.  For the collection of cash gifts and envelopes, I had my colleague and friend, Wil Ni, handle the collection.  For the signing of the guests on the photo sign in frame, Merf and Kitz helped us out; while Eiel and Tere helped with the giving away of the party favors and party game prizes.  And of course, to document the event and capture the special moments of the party, we had the awesome due of Leny and Kristine to help us (thanks gals!).

Overall I was pretty pleased with how Pia’s party turned out.  It was tiring of course, but everything was all worth it seeing Pia’s beautiful face smiling and laughing as she celebrated her 1st birthday party.


Truly everything was a labor of love and sacrifice and I can’t wait to do the whole thing (and perhaps more???) all over again, as her 2nd birthday approaches.  Daddy & Mommy love you so much, Pia! Here’s to more birthday celebrations together!!! 🙂


Blessed Happy Birthday, Pareng Jovert!

<This is a dedicated post to our dear and close friend, and one of Pia’s ninongs, Jovert, whose birthday falls on 30 July.>

Parekoy/friend, wishing you a very blessed happy birthday!  We hope and pray that you had an awesome and memorable birthday today and our birthday wish for you is more graces and blessings from our Heavenly Father above.

May God continue to bless and guide you as a father, brother, son, ninong and friend.  And we also pray that He grant and answer the deepest desires of your heart, your hopes and dreams for the future, according to His divine will and plan for your life.

We are indeed very blessed and privileged to know you and to have you in our lives.  Many thanks again for the small and big things you have done for our family, but most especially for your care and love for Pia.

We love you!  Happy, happy birthday again!

Jovert with Pia last year, July 2012

Reminiscing: Pia’s Birth Story


According to the doctors, Pia’s estimate due date was 29 March 2012, which would be a Thursday.  A week before, I had gone to the clinic for my regular check-up and since I was not experiencing any contractions and/or any other labor signs, I was advised to come in again on my actual due date for another check-up i.e. if I still did not start labor.  Actually as per doctor’s recommendation I should have stopped reporting for work 2 weeks before my due date, but since I (1) wanted to save up my maternity leave for after I actually gave birth to allow me more time to rest and bond with Pia, (2) still had to finish briefing my reliever at the office (too many things to teach in such a short time), and (3) was not feeling any discomfort, even Braxton Hicks’ contractions, I decided to continue reporting for work until actual labor begins.

The weekend before my due date, i.e. Saturday, 25 March 2012, I reported for overtime duty to give my final briefing to my reliever, Wendy.  We worked from 9AM to about 1PM, if I recall correctly, and I was still feeling fine after we separated ways.   No pain, no discomfort, still no signs of labor.  Saturday evening passed uneventful.  The following day, Sunday, I distinctly recall speaking to Pia in my womb; telling her that it’s ok to come out already, since Lola is already here.  Lola is my mom, Mama, who had already arrived a few days before from the Philippines to help me with my birth, recovery and taking care of Pia.  Sunday morning also passed uneventful.  Late afternoon, I started feeling a little back pain but thought nothing of it as the feeling still came and went at irregular intervals.  I even attended the 530PM Sunday Mass with Mama and Rhenee and although I could feel the back pain again several times during the mass, it was still bearable .  After mass we went home for a quick dinner then went back to church to show our presence and support for the ongoing Christian Life Program that our Catholic community was conducting.  I was chatting with my CFC sisters, Len, Jane & Gerly, in the hall about the excitement of welcoming Pia and some  commented that my face looked ‘different’ already especially when I would get my back pain.  My close friend, Jovert, even told me, after sharing with him what I had experienced so far, to go to the hospital already but I still said, no, I’m still okay and that I would just go home first, because if indeed what I was having were contractions, they were not very regular yet and I didn’t want to end up going to the hospital and being told to go home.

We went home close to 11PM already.  I was still complaining of back pain and so my mom and I decided to record and time my intervals to see if there was already a pattern forming.  Then I excused myself to go to the bathroom and when I sat down at the toilet, I saw that my panty already had blood on it!  This is it!  I had read  in my pregnancy preparation books that this was one confirmed sign of labor so I hurriedly told my mom and Rhenee.  Mama told me to take a warm shower and change into comfortable loose clothing, then off to the hospital we went.  En route to the hospital, I began sending text messages to my family and friends about what was happening, asking especially for their prayers for a quick, normal, healthy delivery and birth for Pia.  When we arrived at the hospital and the nurse/midwife checked me, I was already 4cm (or was it 3cm?) dilated!  This is really it!  I was feeling nervous and excited and fearful all at the same time, but through it all I kept praying to Mama Mary and St. Pio, for Pia and for myself too, that I would be able to have a safe, normal and quick delivery.

Still able to smile here

Since I was still at the early labor stage, the nurses took me to the Stage 1 Labor Room.  I had to stay there by myself while Rhenee and Mama  stayed outside of the ward as they were not allowed to stay inside with me.  My labor steadily progressed while I was in the Stage 1 Labor Room.  My contractions became more and more intense and the nurses could hear me breathing heavily through each and every contraction.  There were 2 other mothers with me in the room; they were sound asleep when I arrived and still sound asleep when the nurses wheeled me to the delivery room when I became 6cm dilated at a little past 2AM.  The nurses notified Rhenee and he was allowed to stay with me in the delivery room but Mama was not allowed in.  So it was just Rhenee, myself, the midwife, and nurses in the delivery room. There I was laid down on the bed and asked if I wanted any medicine for the pain but I refused any drugs as I didn’t want them being passed on to Pia.  I had already planned to have a natural, drug-free birth and although the contractions were really painful, I just kept breathing and praying through the pain, one contraction at a time.  Rhenee was there with me the whole time, encouraging me, praying over/with me while documenting what was transpiring.  Mama was outside of the delivery room, waiting it out and praying too.  And I knew that scores of other people, esp. my family in the Philippines was praying for us too.

Excited Daddy Rhenee @ Bhot
Mama patiently waiting & praying

Everything was going well for a time, i.e. my cervix was slowly opening every hour … 6cm, 7 cm, then at 8cm, it suddenly didn’t want to open further for over 2 hours!  The midwife called for the OB-GYN on duty and she checked me and told me that if I didn’t progress further, they would have to do an emergency caesarian section, esp. if Pia showed any signs of stress or difficulty.  Rhenee and I had to sign the consent form to have the caesarian and I remembered praying even harder after that because I honestly didn’t want to have the procedure done as much as possible, but of course, if it had to be done esp. for Pia’s sake, we would do it.  So after Rhenee and I prayed together, he went out to Mama to update her and to ask for more prayers from everyone who was waiting on news from us.  It was already about 7AM by this time, meaning I had been in labor for the past 7 hours and the contractions were already very intense and closer and closer together.  The night duty midwife had to say goodbye to me already because her shift was over, but she left me with some encouraging words: “You are very strong.  You can deliver your baby normally. Just keep doing what you’re doing, focusing on your breathing. And of course, continue to pray.”

Breathing & praying through the contractions – Mama’s St. Pio prayer booklet under my pillow

And that’s what I did.  Breathe. Pray. Pray. Breathe. Pray. Pray.  And I think it was after another hour or so I when my cervix began to open again, praise God!  The contractions were more intense than ever and the intervals so short, I could hardly catch my breath and when they checked me, I was already 9cm dilated!  They kept telling me, don’t push until I tell you to push, but I just couldn’t hold the pushing anymore and no matter how hard I tried from refraining to push, I just couldn’t – I was tired and hungry and I felt my body telling me it’s already time to push Pia out!  It was now close to 9AM and would you believe that I still had the presence of mind to tell Rhenee to call my office because they did not yet know I was already in the delivery room! Hahaha!

Don’t forget to call my office that I’m delivering our baby now!

Anyway, back to the pushing.  So it was push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. Rhenee: Come on, dear. A little bit more. I can see her head already. Push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. Rhenee: A little bit more dear. Come on. Push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. Rhenee: One more big push, dear. Her head’s almost out. Push, push, push, rest. Push, push, push, rest. And then, finally, at 9:44AM, Brunei time, Pia was out! All 3.58kg of her! Rhenee: I love you, dear! I love you! Ang galing mo! (You’re awesome!)

Here’s Pia! 🙂

After cleaning her up, they brought Pia to my breast to drink my colostrum, so we were skin to skin for a while.  No words can describe what I was feeling at that moment.  No words. But mostly I think I was just grateful and relieved that labor was over, and I had made it, and that Pia was finally here, healthy and normal.  Praise God!

You know how some say you’d cry after seeing your newborn baby? I honestly didn’t cry at that point.  The tears only fell when I finally saw Mama in the post delivery room.  That’s when I started bawling!!!  Grateful, blessed, joyful tears.  Grateful for the gift that we had been given. Blessed to be a real mom at last. Joyful for the miracle of life, love and family.

So blessed: Mama, moi & Pia

Some things I love about Pia

<Pia is now 15 months and 4 weeks old as I write this post.  She turns 16 months on Friday, 26 July 2013.>

I love that when she wakes up in the morning, she sneaks a peek at who is in the room with her and then when she sees me, she quickly gives me her cutey, beautiful smile.  She is such a morning person!


I love that she wants to have some cuddle time after waking up, just lying down on the bed together, side by side, while we say her morning prayers.  She is so sweet!

I love that she can already say and sign ‘milk’ when she wants to breastfeed, ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ during meal time, ‘bath’ for bath time, ‘play’ for play time, and ‘book’ for reading time.  She is so smart!

I love that she can play independently on her own and that I can now do some of my household chores while she confidently plays by herself in our bedroom while I’m in the kitchen or living room.  She is so brave!

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I love that she loves being with her daddy Bhot and how she lights up and giggles every time she sees Daddy coming.  She is such a Daddy’s girl!


There are so many other things to love about you, our dear Pia… and more than the things I love about you, Mommy loves you, as you are, the perfect gift from God above, the miracle answer to Mommy and Daddy’s prayers.

May we be able to love you unconditionally just as our Heavenly Father loves us.  Love you, baby!  Love you so much!

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The Miracle of Life

(This is the text of my sharing that was featured on Kerygma magazine’s February 2012 issue.  I added in new pictures to bring more life to the story. 😉 )


By Lisa Bobiles as told to Tina Santiago-Rodriguez


“Pray, hope and don’t worry.” This is one of the most famous statements attributed to St. Pio of Petrelcina. Ironically, our family did not know St. Pio that well until last year, when he helped grant a prayer, a miracle that we had been waiting for.

My husband, Rhenee, and I got married on December 23, 2000.  I distinctly remember telling him on our second anniversary that we would be celebrating our 10th year of marriage by renewing our vows, with our own children as part of the wedding entourage.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last year but what we had initially discussed many years ago did not come to be – because we were still childless.

After much prayer, many check-ups and various unsuccessful natural fertility treatments, we had already accepted the fact that we would be one of those couples that would grow old together without the blessing of having our own children.  We had even discussed the idea of adoption but never really seriously considered or explored it actively as we both work in Brunei.

In the last quarter of 2009, Rhenee’s employment contract ended and he decided to become a mission volunteer for our Catholic community, Couples for Christ, serving our CFC brethren in the Borneo mission area, specifically Sibu, Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. As for myself, the Lord blessed me with a new and more stable job with an international company, which was really timely as we were facing a very challenging financial situation at that time.  All throughout this period, we continued to remain active members of CFC in Brunei.


A Blessed Homecoming

Rhenee and I with my family at my cousin, BJ’s wedding in July 2011

In July 2011, we went home to the Philippines to attend a cousin’s wedding.  During that short trip home, Rhenee and I were able to hear Sunday mass at the St. Pio Chapel in Libis, Quezon City with my parents, sister and her family.  My mom was the one who first told me about the chapel and St. Pio and the many prayers that had been answered through his intercession.  She told us that Rhenee and I should visit the chapel and pray to St. Pio to grant our prayers for a child.

While waiting for the Holy Mass to begin, Rhenee and I were handed pieces of paper where we could write our prayer requests to St. Pio. We did so, and after the mass, we even stayed behind to be prayed over by one of the Eucharistic Ministers at the chapel.  A few days after that visit to St. Pio’s chapel, I went back to Brunei while Rhenee remained for another week in the Philippines. He stayed in Brunei for a week or so before leaving for a 5-week mission trip to Sibu, Sarawak.


Pregnant at Last!

About a week into his mission in Sibu, I decided to take a pregnancy test since I had not had my monthly period for over 2 months.  Actually this was not an unusual case for me as I had always had irregular periods since puberty. I don’t know why this time around I decided to take the test.  Much to my surprise, the test result was positive!

I couldn’t believe my eyes and even thought that perhaps I had taken the test incorrectly.  So, the day after, I took another pregnancy test, this time following the instructions carefully. The test still came out positive!

I immediately called Rhenee and told him the news, but we decided to contain our joy first until I had gone to a doctor to really confirm that I was pregnant.

The following day the first thing I did was to go to the clinic, where the doctor gave me another pregnancy test – the result was the same!  Despite this though, I asked her to perform blood tests and an ultrasound because with my fertility history, I really wanted to be sure that I was positively pregnant before making any public declarations.

After my visit to the clinic, I immediately called my mom and told her the news, which she received with tears of joy, and she declared that God through St. Pio had granted our prayers.

A week later, the blood test results were “consistent with pregnancy” and the doctor took the first picture of my growing baby inside my womb at approximately 10 weeks old.  God had indeed answered our prayers, through the intercession of St. Pio.

Baby Rhenlis_1Sep2001
My first ultrasound picture taken on 1 September 2011

St. Pio’s words “Pray, hope and don’t worry”, had come true for us. Even if we had already given up on being parents, the Lord, through the prayers of St. Pio and all our family members and brothers and sisters in CFC, had granted us our desire. All praise and thanks to Him for this wonderful miracle of life!

Preggy me @ 7 months
Preggy me at 7 months


Maternity Shoot @ 9 months by Uniokeez
Preggy me at 9 months
Family at last - 26 March 2012
Praise God! Rhenee and I welcome into the world our miracle baby, Pia Maria Isabelle on 26 March 2012 🙂