Friday, October 17, 2014

12 Things I Learned About Japan

Inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka
The waiting was worth it. Japan did not disappoint the six of us who trooped to this culturally rich country last month to visit Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. It was an eight-day adventure with former workmate Jerri, sweet hearts Jeng and Chino (who by the way I just met for the first time on our departure to Osaka), my dear cousin Jheck and friend Richard. 

Months before our trip, we have had conversations over private messaging about the visa requirements and application process, where to stay, what to do, how to purchase an unlimited Japan Railway pass and everything vital for this sojourn. We even had a final meeting over dinner to collate all the data and make certain that everything on the list was done and ready.

Came September 22, 2014, the group departed Manila and landed in Osaka the same day with much excitement to explore one of many traveler's ultimate destinations. Within the duration of our trip, our group had the pleasure and luxury of time to sneak in stores (all kinds), shop a bit, satisfy our palate, speak with the locals, take pictures (this is obligatory), enter theme parks, get lost, mesmerize with the surroundings, compare things with our very own (including prices of goods and meals) and observe things revolving Japan.

So, without any further ado here's the 12 things (since it's my 12th visited country) I found out about the land of sushi, castles, temples, advance technology and cosplay.

The JR Pass, shinkansen terminal
1. Railway system in Japan is colossal. It's as vast as our galaxy. You will surely get lost. I'll bet my bottom yen.

2. Arrival and departure schedules of trains are always on the dot. You got no reason to be late. 

3. Taxi flag down rate is around 600 yen or 280 pesos. You cannot just hail a taxi anywhere. You need to call one. Can we just walk?

Nope, this is not NYC. It's Odaiba City in Tokyo.

4. No food in Japan isn't delicious. I wonder what their secret ingredients are. If you are on a diet, you may want to skip Japan on your bucket list.

5. Everywhere in Japan is practically clean.

6. Shopping goods in Japan are cheaper. So are the chocolates. Thank God for this.

Promo girl in Shibuya

7. What's cheap in the Philippines is expensive in Japan and vice versa. Except from Starbucks coffee - same price.

8. Japan has Disneysea. Enter this theme park no matter what happens. You won't regret it. Believe me.

9. In Akihabara, you will find an eight-floor building of sex toys, condoms, lingirie, sex videos, magazines, sex dolls and all that's carnal.
Ramen tasting in Tokyo

10. Only Japanese people can pull off a clothing ensemble that's weird in the public eye. This is a compliment.

11. Japanese people are very humble. So far they're the most respectful people I've encountered. Not to mention they're very appreciative and honest.

12. Mostly, Japanese people seem secure of their lives. Hence, they don't seem worried. Such may be contributed by their strong education about insurance and investing.

Here's hoping you had a glimpse of what Japan has to offer. To those who have gone there, feel free to share things you learned. You might even picked up more interesting things even quirky ones about this incredible destination during your visit.

Nijo Castle, Kyoto
To Japan, thank you for the very wonderful experience. We will never forget you. Personally, your greatest impact is on my diet. Because of your healthy food (and expensive chips) you took my junk food cravings away from me.

Again, if I may say, Japan is so worth it. It's every traveler's must do.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Apply for Korean Tourist Visa in the Philippines

Not too long ago I went to South Korea with friends. It was one of my wonderful trips. Hence, I am very much willing to return to this great destination given again the liberty to fly out.

Most of Filipinos are K-Pop lovers. Presumably, they would want of course, one day, to land on South Korea to realize what they're going gaga about. But a lot of them are restricted of the fallacy that getting a visa for this country is as hard as they imagine. Well in fact, it's not.

Here's sharing with you my experience towards obtaining a Korean passport "sticker".

The Requirements

As usual, before heading to the embassy you ought to prepare the following items:

1. Original passport. Must be 6 months valid from the date of your tour

2. Photocopy of your passport's first page

3. 1 colored passport size photo

4. Fully filled up visa application form. Don't leave any item blank/unanswered. Put "N/A" if not applicable. Form can be downloaded right here.

5. Photocopy of the latest ITR 

6. Original Certificate of Employment if employed. If you are businessman, SEC or DTI and mayor's permits.

7. Bank Certificate

You may have your printed etickets and/or hotel vouchers handy during submission BUT as per my experience they did not ask for any of those.

DO NOT go to embassy with any of the above requirements lacking to avoid re-queuing and for you to save time and effort.

The above documents were the only ones asked of me. I know of a friend who were asked to present his college diploma. I did not know the consul's reason. Neither did my friend. So, this depends on the embassy discretion.

Visa Application Process

Korean embassy is located at McKinley Town Center, 122 Upper McKinley Rd, Taguig 1634. How to go here? From MRT Guadalupe Station, you can ride a jeepney en route to Market Market/C5. Tell the good driver to get you off at Korean embassy. Or you can hail a cab.

The procedure is as follows:

1. Be at the embassy between 9:00 to 10:30 AM. Submission of applications strictly closes at 11:00 AM. I was there by 10:30 AM. Only few applicants were left. I think it's the best time to go as most of the applicants are already done with their transactions. 

2. Upon entering the lobby, you will be given a queue number. 

3. When it's your turn, walk towards your designated window and present your documents. I'll repeat, be sure all of the 7 basic documents are with you. I forgot to photocopy my passport's first page. Thankfully there's a standby xerox machine inside the embassy. Hence, was able to have my passport photocopied. However, I had to get another number and waited for my turn.

4. Once all your documents are scanned and the consul deemed they are sufficient, you will be given a claim stub indicating the date of your passport's release. Processing usually takes 5 working days. 

Wearing of slippers or sleeveless top is not allowed inside the embassy. 

Visa fee is gratis or free if staying for up to 59 days only. Else, a fee applies. Refer to this link for details.

Visa Releasing Process

1. Be at the embassy between 2:00 to 4:00 PM. Releasing of visa strictly ends at 4:00 PM. I was not able to personally claim my passport due to work schedule conflict. I had it claimed by my good friend. If you'll do the same, please don't forget to give him the claim stub and an authorization letter.

2. Upon entering the lobby, you will be given a queue number. 

3. Once your turn, go to the designated window. Voila! You have your passport with Korean visa sticker on it.

This procedure is for TOURIST VISA only. If your case if different, you may refer to Korean embassy official website here for further details.

I hope you find this post helpful. You may email me for any other inquiries at

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beijing and Goodbye

Up to this very moment, I still do not know how to put my Beijing experience into words. My heart would pound every time I try to recall what happened on that one fateful day.

It was on October 19, 2013 when I left for Beijing with my friend Richard and cousin Jocelyn. That was the birthday of my Inang Yaya. Before leaving, we celebrated her 62nd birthday over lunch with some of her friends whom I invited to come over. Inang Yaya was surprised upon seeing her former kachikahan. On a wheelchair, she had a small chat with them talking about goings-on of everyone. Then, everybody sang her the birthday song with a candle on a cake followed by a simple lunch altogether. 

She was happy. I know she was. On the hindsight, I was thanking God that she was able to celebrate her birthday alive. 

Back Story

To at least have Inang Yaya live up to her 62nd birthday was what I asked from God and it was answered. She was diagnosed of liver cirrhosis on April 2013 along with complications in kidney brought by her multiple stroke. The medical doctor then told me that her mortality is about to end in 6 months. I was whistling Dixie. I believed that she could live longer than that. Coupled with researches about her situation, I looked for organic solutions to her illnesses. Like an obedient child, she would take whatever it was that she had to take no matter how bad it tasted just to improve her condition. 

We religiously brought her to specialists to monitor her organs and medication updates. However, her weight loss was unstopping. It was on September 2013 when she was referred to a hematologist and diagnosed that she has chronic myelogenous leukemia. An uncommon type of blood cancer. Right then on, my dire belief that she would recover lessened as another opponent joined the battle.

Last Goodbye

40 minutes past 2PM it was time to leave for a 7PM-flight to Beijing. I settled Inang Yaya first to her bed after changing her nappy. My exact words before I left were "Pagaling ka". She just nodded and did not say a thing. I knew she was excited for my trip as she always was every time I travel.

Days prior to this day I was thinking of cancelling my trip as Inang Yaya was confined in the hospital. Yes, she was confined in the hospital 6 days before her 62nd natal day. What made me decide to push this trip was when she was released by her doctor from the hospital. I knew that the ultimatum could happen anytime soon but not sooner than I expected. I was positive that she could live longer than what her doctor was expecting.

Beijing Sojourn

We arrived Beijing on a cold midnight of October 19. We were then transferred to hotel and rested for the next day's tour.

Beijing, for me, is a laid back kind of place. To my surprise, this city does not belong to the cities of lights. Barely you can see billboards on the expressways and even on the avenues. And I can not recall that I noticed any international brand campaign streamer elsewhere. Maybe that is part of communism. Anyway, if you want to see both touches of modernity and the past then Beijing is perfect for you.

The first 2 days of our stay was devoted to attractions visit - Summer Palace, Ming's Tomb, The Water Cube, Bird's Nest, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and The Great Wall of China. Of all I enjoyed my experience in Tiananmen Square. Never mind its bloody history but there's something in there that made me feel that I was really in another world. Of course, the great wall experience was surreal.

But the best part of our stay in Beijing was the location of our hotel. It is located near a hutong. It is a small alleyway or lane. It is typical of the old part of Beijing and is formed by lines of siheyuan (a compound made up of rooms around a courtyard ) in which most Beijing residents used to live. This place offers many cheap buys from souvenir items to different kinds of food to posh and simple diners to club to bookstores to everything!

Our Last Day, Her Last Day

Strangely, I woke up at 4AM of October 22 in the middle of my sleep. I saw Inang Yaya's face on my friend's face. Thinking that it was just an imagination, I went back to my sleep.

It was 7AM when I received an SMS from my sister telling me that Inang Yaya already passed away. I immediately Vibered her and asked for details. A lot of details. She was found lifeless already with a peaceful face and open hands. As if she willingly surrendered herself to death.

I broke down. That was the most painful news I ever heard. I felt guilty for not being on her side during her last hour. I thought she would wait for me but she cheated me. She knew that I would not let her go if I was there. It would be harder for her to leave. Hence, she made me believe that her passing was not happening anytime soon.

My friend and my cousin comforted me the best way possible. We spent the remaining hours elsewhere in Beijing before we flew back to Manila and went straight to her funeral. When I saw her face I felt relieved. The sight of peace was glaring on her aura. She peacefully died.

To Inang Yaya, I know you're in a happier place now. Smiling as always. No more pain. No more weird juices to take.

Thank you for everything. Thank you for spending 29 years of your life with me. You know how much I love you. If you would only know how much I'm longing for you.

Happy trip! See you soon.