Wednesday, June 29, 2011

[NEGROS ORIENTAL] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: June 25, 2011
Taxi (to NAIA 3) - 125.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 200.00
 Cebu Pacific (Manila - Dumaguete) - 96.00
Hot Choco (Cebu Pacific) - 80.00
Ham and Cheese (Cebu Pacific) - 100.00
Tricycle (Downtown) - 50.00
Grand Pensionne (Single Aircon/2 Nights) - 1,360.00
Sans Rival (Silvana/Sans Rival/Lasagna/Coke) - 113.00

Monday, June 27, 2011

[DUMAGUETE] Emo Tambay Mode at Rizal Boulevard

Dumaguete is the capital of Negros Oriental, a province in Central Visayas sharing the island of Negros with Negros Occidental, which belongs to Ilonggo-speaking Western Visayas. The dominant language here is Bisaya. Crossing over to Cebu or Siquijor can easily be done through ferry. The city is fondly called the City of Gentle People.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

[ILOILO] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: June 18, 2011
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Iloilo - Manila) - 1,159.68
Taxi (to NAIA 3) - 120.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 200.00
Hot Choco (Cebu Pacific) - 80.00
Van (Iloilo Airport - Molo Bus Terminal) - 50.00
Ceres (Molo Bus Terminal - Miagao Plaza) - 44.00
Lunch (Burger Machine) - 76.00
Ceres (Miagao Plaza - Molo Bus Terminal) - 36.00
Jeep (Molo Bus Terminal - SM City) - 7.50
Taxi (SM City - Highway 21 Hotel) - 64.50
Highway 21 Hotel (Single air-con/1 night) - 975.00
Jeep (Leganes) - 7.50
Dinner (Bauhinia ) - 435.71
Dessert (Nothing but Desserts) - 50.00
Taxi (Smallville - Highway 21 Hotel) - 74.50

[ILOILO CITY] Iloilo Doesn’t Love Churches

Iloilo shares the island of Panay with Aklan, Antique, and Capiz. Together with Negros Occidental and the island province of Guimaras, they form the geographical region of Western Visayas. Aside from the various Eco-tourism sites scattered across the province, Iloilo is more popularly known for its churches.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

[MIAGAO] How Baroque is Your Church?

Considered as the country’s largest municipality comprised by 119 baranggays, Miag-ao is popular mainly because of its church which is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list of Baroque Churches in the Philippines. The main campus of the University of the Philippines - Visayas can also be found here, with the entrance around ten minutes walking distance from the church and the plaza.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Okay John You’re Not Gay, May I Shower Now?

John told me with his broken English that I was handsome. Well thank you, John. I like your sense of humor. Either you have drunk too much of this spa water we are wading on or you just have very poor taste. In any case, you are starting to annoy me, and the maintenance guy is looking at us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 1/Episode 10

1.10 Fire and Blood
As news of Ned’s fate spreads across the kingdoms, Robb mourns and vows revenge. The northerners pledge allegiance and declare him King of the North. Cat breaks down herself before taking out her anger on Jaime, who admits he’s the one who pushed Bran off the tower. Jon Snow deserts the Wall to join Robb in avenging their father’s death, but is persuaded by his comrades to come back and keep his oath. Arya is taken by one his father’s men, passes her off as a boy, and they escape north. Sansa is continuously tortured by Joffrey, even forcing her to look at her father’s head on a pike. Acknowledging his son’s skills in strategy, Tywin names Tyrion Hand of the King and sends him back to King’s Landing in an effort to avoid any more crucial mistakes by both Cersei and Joffrey. Daenerys wakes up childless, without a tribe, and with an alive but catatonic Khal Drogo. The witch admits to tricking her as revenge against the Dothraki who pillaged her homeland. The Khaleesi smothers her husband, and later on joins him in his funeral pyre along with her three dragon eggs. But she does not burn, and they find her the next morning unscathed, with a trio of hatched dragons in tow.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

[GYEONGGI] Budget and Itinerary

FRIDAY: June 10, 2011
Seoul Metro (Myeongdong - Gangnam) - 1,100
Dunkin Donuts (Munchkins x20 + Iced Choco) - 8,200
Bus (Gangnam - Everland) - 1,800
Entrance Fee (Everland) - 38,000
Locker (Fee) - 2,000
Locker (Fee) - 2,000
Snack (Pineapple Slushee) - 2,500
Snack (Corn Dog) - 2,500
Snack (Churros) - 2,800
Souvenir (T-Coaster Photo) - 7,000
Dinner (China Moon) - 10,300
Bus (Everland - Gangnam) - 1,800
Seoul Metro (Gangnam - Sadang - Seoul Station) - 1,100
KRW81, 100.00

Estimate of KRW1,000.00 = PhP40.00
TOTAL - PhP3,244.00

[YONGIN] Everland!

Considered by many as Korea’s very own Disneyland, Everland offers a lot of thrills for both theme park enthusiast and plain wanderer alike. Located at the city of Yongin in the province of Gyeonggi, the park is just around an hour away by bus from Gangnam Metro Station. Another station in Southern Seoul where bus connections can be found is at Jamsil in Songpa, meaning you could combine your Lotte World and Everland tours for one day of jam-packed thrill, but I would suggest that you allot a day each for both. Inside the theme park are various gardens including a big rose garden, Mardi Gras inspired parades in the afternoon, an animal safari, various rides including a wooden roller coaster considered as the steepest in Asia and second worldwide, and lots more. Next door is a water park called Caribbean Bay, the entrance fee for which you have to pay for separately.

Friday, June 17, 2011

[SEOUL] Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: June 4, 2011
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 125.00
Travel Tax (NAIA 3) - 1,620.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 750.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Incheon - Manila) - 7,182.91
Hidden Spring (500 ml) - 50.00
Hot Chocolate (Cebu Pacific) - 80.00

[SEOUL] Cheap Electronics and a Lot of Foreigners

Directly north of the Han River and right smack in the middle of Seoul, Yongsan could probably be referred to as the “heart” of this city if based on location alone. Other than that, this district is popularly known for its electronics market and that area of the city notorious for its night life, party scene, and foreigner attendance. Yes, I am referring to you, Itaewon. If it is night life you seek, in Itaewon it is night life you get.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

[SEOUL] Wish Upon a Tower

There is an island in the middle of the Han River dubbed as Korea’s Wall Street and is said to be one of the most affluent districts in Seoul. There you'll find the offices of  TV giants MBC and KBS. There is also a tower that goes by the alias “63 Building” which houses the highest art gallery in the world. I went there for that tower, and I got lost in that island.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

[SEOUL] The Tower and the Palace

N-Seoul Tower a.k.a. Namsan Tower is probably the most famous in Korea despite the existence of other more interesting rivals such as the Jongno Tower or the 63 Building in Yeoui-do. However, although the last two might both have their own gimmicks to lure tourists in, Namsan actually has more tricks up her sleeves: a Teddy Bear Museum; a veranda full of “love locks”; an observatory; and a revolving restaurant. Oops, I forgot the cable car. The two other skyscrapers suddenly became boring.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

[SEOUL] The Grand Palaces of Jongno-gu

There are around six palaces in Seoul. I know they have: Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Unhyeongung, and another one whose name I just forgot, --Guigung something. The first three along with Unhyeongung and the Jongmyo Shrine are all located in Jongno District in northern Seoul. The suffix -gung means “Palace” by the way. After reading one too many info stands I’ve come to know that most of these palaces were built because the other was destroyed by an invading force or the reigning monarch just wanted a different residence for himself or his parents, etc. “Look, Pa, we just can’t live under the same roof anymore. I’ll just build you your own palace a few hundred meters away, okay?”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 1/Episode 9

1.9 Baelor
Tyrion gets a new concubine in Shae (Sibel Kekilli), a prostitute that Bronn “kidnaps” from one of the tents. Playing a game of truth or drunk, the Imp narrates how he was once married, how it was all just a ploy, and how he lost his wife. He later leads the vanguard against the northerners, but gets knocked out in a stampede. They win the battle, but end up losing Jaime Lannister as he is taken captive by Robb, who gains the allegiance of Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) of the Twins in exchange for him and Arya marrying two of his children. Weak due to his infected wounds, Khal Drogo falls off his horse. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) advises Daenerys that he is a lost cause and would die soon. He suggests they flee before that happens knowing how Dothraki traditions would deem her useless as a Khaleesi without a Khal. Desperate, she asks one of the witch slaves to perform blood magic to revive her husband. Famished, Arya wanders the streets in search of food, but ends up at the Great Sept of Baelor to witness her father’s judgment. Sansa beams with pride as Ned confesses his “treason” in exchange for a life of exile at the Wall, except that Joffrey has other plans and orders the Lord of Winterfell beheaded in front of the crowd.

[SEOUL] Long Day at Lotte World

I liked Lotte World better than CoEx, as a mall that is, but this is a very biased opinion. Lotte World obviously has the advantage. Both are linked to a couple of hotels but Lotte has its own amusement park and Seokchon Lake to back it up. CoEx cries unfair. Well, whoever said that life is not unfair lied, CoEx. Anyway, the two malls are located in the neighboring districts of Gangnam and Songpa in Southern Seoul. To get to Lotte World you just have to hop on a Seoul Metro train and figure out the connections yourself. Just remember that you are headed to Jamsil station. It won’t take you an hour to get there from Seoul Station. If it takes longer than that then you might be going the wrong way. Perhaps you boarded the train headed to Incheon, hahaha. Bon voyage!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

X-Men: First Class


Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his gang: Azazel, the tornado guy, and Emma Frost (January Jones) push their agenda for world domination through intimidation and mind control, pushing the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of a nuclear World War. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) discover the existence of other mutants as they struggle to form a CIA-backed elite team to stop the said event. Along the way they meet Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), a metal-bending mutant with a lot of emotional baggage out for revenge.

Judging from both Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn’s respective cameos and the extended Auschwitz scene from the first movie in the franchise, X-Men First Class seems to be positioning itself as a prequel to the previous four. It actually is a good precursor in terms of characterization in that it really helps a lot in understanding why the characters think and act the way they do in the Marvel movie universe, with emphasis on the word movie. Another noteworthy observation would be the various references to the origins of some important items that successfully link this movie to the others such as Magneto’s Helmet, the Blackbird, and Cerebro, to name a few. However, there are just so many inconsistencies in plot and timeline to link this one to the four earlier sequels. You would probably have to declare several of them as non-cannon just for the others to work. The perfect example would be Emma Frost.

[SEOUL] Not that Impressed with CoEx

I'm sorry but I wasn't that impressed with Co-Ex, but before you pelt me with Kimchi you have to understand that where I'm from, saying that we have "many" malls is an understatement. CoEx doesn't have the advantage of a bayside view that gives the Mall of Asia its charm. It could probably rival Greenbelt in terms of the chic factor but this is mainly attributed to the people who go there. Koreans are very fashion-forward and they are probably the only ones who could give the Japanese a run for their money in terms of fashion sense, no matter how outrageous it might seem at times. Greenbelt, on the contrary, would remain trendy with or without the people, in my opinion. The building's orientation linking it to a tower could probably rack in some extra points but this becomes fairly negligible when pitted against KL's Suria KLCC. There's just no winning against the Petronas Twin Towers.

[SEOUL] The Cheonggyecheon Walkathon

Cheonggyecheon is a restored stream that starts from Cheonggye Plaza and ends somewhere at Dongdaemun. The plaza is located between Gwanghwamun and Seoul City Hall. It is not that hard to miss because of the cone structure thingy that looks like a red and blue beehive that marks the plaza. This stream is long. I walked for two hours without rushing and it still didn’t want to end. And so I exited at Dongdaemun to see the gate. The map said that it would continue farther by a few more kilometers.

[SEOUL] The Crowd and Art of Insadong

Insadong-gil is a street in Seoul's Jongno district that is famous for its market. Foreigners usually go there for the souvenirs; others, for art and antiques. If food is what you want you can also find it there. It is also a good place to practice your haggling skills. In Korean.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

[SEOUL] Peace of Mind and Chant-Rap at Jogyesa

Jogyesa is one of the most revered Buddhist temples in Korea and can be found in the northern district of Jongno. I found it after wandering for half an hour or so trying to find Hyewa-dong where Filipinos convene on Sundays to go to mass. The temple, with its location along a major road, is not so hard to locate. Via the metro you just have to stop at Jonggak station then head north away from Bosingak (Belfry) and Jongno Tower. You don't have to ID that tower. You will recognize it right away given its unique architectural design.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season 1/Episode 8

1.8 The Pointy End
Ned is charged with treason and held prisoner in the dungeon. Arya escapes just as she is about to be captured, while Sansa is left in King’s Landing to be manipulated by Cersei.  The Queen tells her to write to his eldest brother Robb Stark (Richard Madden) demanding that he pledge loyalty to Joffrey. Reunited with his mother who fails to win her sister Lysa’s support, Robb responds with war and brings along 20,000 soldiers with him to march south and face Tywin Lannister’s army. Tyrion, along with tribesmen who ambush him on the way, arrives in his father’s camp just in time for mobilization. Daenerys watches the Dothraki ransack a tribe. She uses her position as Khaleesi to save the women from being raped, a move that causes friction between Khal Drogo and his men. Back in King’s Landing, Tywin and Jaime are declared Hand of the King and Lord Commander of the royal guards, respectively, cementing House Lannister’s hold of the Iron Throne. At the wall, rumors of White Walkers’ return are persistent and gain some credibility as one of two fallen rangers rise from the dead, attacking Jon Snow.

[SEOUL] Looks like an Airport, Feels like a Mall

With close to three million inhabitants, Incheon is the third most populous city in South Korea after Seoul and Busan. Once a part of the province of Gyeonggi, it is now a self-governing city and serves as the gateway to the country because the primary international airport is located there. Going to Seoul won’t take an hour since the two cities are just next to each other and their subway systems are linked.

Friday, June 3, 2011

VISA: South Korea (Single Entry)

For Philippine Passport Holders a visa is required to visit South Korea unless you are only going to Jeju Island (visa-free, rejoice!) which means booking a direct flight with Asiana that you probably would not like to afford after seeing how you could land directly at Busan or Incheon for less than half the price via Cebu Pacific. Besides, the visa fee is waived for 59-day single entry visas. What have you got to lose? Please be reminded that this is not really an entry on how to get a South Korean Visa per se, but rather an anecdote on how I got MINE. Getting yours is so not my problem. Hence, I could not answer questions like:

A - “What are my chances of getting a South Korean visa?” I do not work for the South Korean Embassy. Telling you not to worry and that you will get a visa would be like your grandmother telling you that you were cute when you were young just so your feelings won’t get hurt. The South Korean Embassy processes a lot of visa applications on a daily basis and there is ample reason to believe that they don’t have the luxury to care about your “feelings”.

B - “I am a 49-year old housewife with no income, will I get a visa?” I am not a housewife. I do not have a wife. My mother is a housewife but she is not going to South Korea, and I would think twice about inviting her to join me because she walks too slow and shops too much. Hi, Ma! If you are twenty-something, have been in the same company for almost two years, and have a bank account with xxx, xxx.xx, then hurray! We have the same profile. You could gauge your chances against mine. But then again, we won’t know unless you apply now won’t we? You don’t win the lottery without buying a ticket, after all.

So, what requirements did I submit?

Certificate of Employment – Get it from your company’s HR Department. Mine took three days to process. Make sure that the date of joining the company is stated along with your annual gross income. The embassy dictates that you need an approved letter of leave. I did not have that but they granted me a visa, which makes me think that it is not that essential. The CoE is an important indicator for them that you are coming back here because you have a job. This is actually more important than your Bank Certificate, IMO.

Bank Certificate – Get it from your bank. A bank certificate is a certificate, NOT a statement. The bank statement is the one you receive monthly showing your balance and stuff, similar to that of a credit card statement. A bank certificate is just a piece of glossy paper indicating the total amount of money you have in that particular bank. It takes a day to process and costs 300 pesos at HSBC. Please don’t ask me if you have to get one from HSBC if you bank in BPI.

ITR Copy – Only people who have multiple jobs and have no fixed income could file for an ITR directly at BIR, I think. If you are employed like the rest of us (employed = corporate slave) what you actually receive is a copy of the Certificate of Tax Withheld, the code of which I think is Form 2316 or something. It’s that long sheet of paper indicating how much has been deducted from your salary to fund the European family holiday of your favorite corrupt government official.

Application Form – You could fill one out at the embassy or print the one they have at the website. I printed mine on A4 and accomplished everything by hand. I am not sure if typewritten application forms are accepted. Are there people who still use a typewriter nowadays? Haha. Hahaha. Hahahaha. You attach a Passport-Sized Photo of yourself on the form, if possible taken within the last six months. Paste or glue would be preferable over sticky rice or stapler. Family pictures (Facebook?) and whole body shots (PBB Audition?) are not accepted.

You do not need an itinerary like the one they require for a Japanese Visa. You do not need a copy of the Round-Trip Plane ticket like the one they require for a Chinese Visa. You do not need a Travel Insurance that would cover 30,000 Euros like the one they require for a Schengen Visa. Write N/A if a certain entry in the Application Form does not apply to you. For example, I marked both “Residence in Korea” and “Phone Number in Korea” with N/A.

Remember that the visa is only valid for three months upon issue. If you are leaving on December 1, you could apply one week before September 1, or on September 1 itself. Mine took exactly a week to be released. Who knows, the visa officer assigned to you might love doing overtime. If you get it earlier, the three month rule still applies. Estimate lodging your visa application accordingly. If you have been to any OECD country or if you hold a US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand (-i, -er, -ese, -ian?), or Japanese visa, the processing time is shorter and you have the chance of getting a multiple entry visa.

The embassy is located at McKinley Hill next to Jollibee and the gas station. Take a bus or a jeep up to Market Market from EDSA corner Ayala. Then you could take the bridge going down east of the Market Market parking lot if you love walking. If not, a taxi would be good as long as the driver is not a grisly bastard trying to rip you off because he is originally planning to go the opposite way to Quezon City. I also saw jeeps plying the said route, although I wasn’t able to determine where they were coming from.

You fill out the attendance sheet at the guard house. There are separate sheets for applicants and for those already claiming the visa. By the way, visa application is up to 11 AM only. The whole afternoon until 4 PM is reserved for claiming only. Just follow the path left of the guard house for the entrance. The rotating silver metallic thingy that looks like a medieval war weapon is actually the exit.

The woman by the door would be more than willing to assist you and I bet you could ask her questions as long as it doesn’t involve anything personal like her ATM Password or TIN Number. There are separate windows for first time visa applicants and those who already have valid visas from the countries mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. Typical waiting time is one week. I applied March 29, 2011 and got the visa April 5, 2011. It is indicated in the paper you would receive in exchange for your passport anyway. Again, the visa fee is waived. The only thing you pay for is the bank certificate and the fare to and from the embassy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

30 Before 30

Off the Macau Tower. On July 22. With a rope. If things go according to plan. This would obviously be documented considering the attention whore that I am.

#02 Play a whole song on the Piano
Either James Horner’s Hymn to the Sea or Danny Tan’s Iisa Pa Lamang. Believe me, this is going to be difficult. Playing the piano is a big frustration of mine.

#03 Dye my hair white
This has been part of every Halloween and New Year’s Resolution but has never come to fruition. Even just for a day will do. Perhaps spray paint is the answer.

My most successful to date has 3,000. I really can’t do anything about this but wait. Or perhaps a Tagalog cover of Rebecca Black’s Friday with matching dance?

#05 Do a back flip and/or a back handspring
This has been on my bucket list ever since I saw Blue Ranger and Pink Ranger escape from Rita Repulsa’s orcs by doing this instead of just running away.

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