Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cebu Pacific Refund and New Travel Options

Google about Cebu Pacific then you'll read a lot of blogs if not about it's low fares it's by disgruntled customers, about it's poor on-time performance and more so about their poor customer service including delayed refund processing, bumping off passengers on overbooked flights, cancellation or flight delays without proper notice. If you've been following my blogs, I had my fair share.

Almost always I get jittery when I take a flight with Cebu Pacific because of it's poor customer service. Since PAL doesn't ply the route to Siargao, I had to take my chances again with them. We booked our trip to Siargao four months beforehand to avail of promo rates. When it's promo rate, it's obviously not refundable, it's a risk any budget traveller would take.

A few weeks before our scheduled flight we were informed via email (wow) and got a call too (wow) that our flight was moved ten minutes earlier. We were given the option to rebook, reroute or refund at no extra cost. Wow! I took the chance of cancelling the flight of a companion who could not make it. The agent gave me a locator number regarding the refund. Previously, I had to haggle and insist on them giving me a letter stating so. Today, I got the refund through my credit card. This time not 6 months later but within 30 days. Wow (again)! I took Cebu Pacific twice this year and I had no problem with them this time. I'm eagerly waiting for the promo come new year. Have I forgiven Cebu Pacific? Slight! haha They will still remain my second choice but I'm giving them a free plug...

This month, they introduced new travel options like change of name and a travel fund, read on for more details.

Starting December 1, 2009, leading domestic airline Cebu Pacific (CEB) will offer new products for the additional convenience of its guests.

The name change option allows passengers to transfer their tickets to another passenger for a fee.

Meanwhile, the travel fund allows passengers to use the value of changed flights within 90 days from the date the fund is created, or to transfer the booking to another passenger. The fund eliminates the waiting time for refunds. Passengers can immediately use the stored amount for their next booking.

CEB will also begin using a new booking and cancellation policy starting December 1, 2009.

Under the new rules, passengers can change their ticket more than one day before departure date. This includes modifying flight, route, date of travel and name, or canceling flights.

Involuntary flight disruptions (such as cancellations or delays by CEB) of three hours or more allows passengers to refund or store booking in the Travel Fund for future travel without penalties within 30 days.

In cases of situations beyond the airline’s control (like weather), tickets are not refundable but passengers may rebook flights without penalties as long as travel is completed within 30 days. Passengers may also store booking in the Travel Fund, but with a penalty since these disruptions are beyond CEB’s control.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Green Passports (Non-Machine Readable Passports) Maybe Not Valid

The official statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA):



 
09 February 2009 – The Philippines has been issuing machine readable passports (MRPs) since 17 July 2007.
All green passports (non-machine readable passports) will be valid until the stated date of expiry.
This advisory is issued to reiterate the Department’s previous statement on the validity of green passports and to allay confusion roused by recent erroneous information.



There are talks and emails circulating that the Green Passports are no longer valid April 2010 onwards. As clarified above and after reading through some materials, green passports can be issued until before April 2010 and is valid until expiry.

However, I inquired with two different travel agents, they informed me that DFA changed it's stand that it is valid only before April 2010. But I guess, it's a case of disinformation since the official website of DFA still says that it is valid until expiry. The agent's advise is that green passports may still be acceptable in Asia but it's best to change them to Machine Readable Passports (MRP) for other continents.

To avoid any inconvenience with the transition, I'll just have my passport changed to MRP or better yet the epassport, if it's already available. I won't take the chance to spoil my trip to Palau, Micronesia.

Today, I received my plane ticket confirmation to Palau, Micronesia. I am both excited and anxious to go on a diving trip come April next year. I'm on a guilt trip as well to go on vacation on a holy week. We are somehow mandated to stay home during holy week and attend church service during these times after a freak accident that happened to our family when I was barely 3 months old. It wasn't as hard as I've expected to ask for my dad's approval but I know he's not happy about it. Oops! I ought to break the rules once in a while.

Note: Picture taking for MRP is required at the office of the DFA (or is it next to DFA office? hmm...) Proper dress code is expected when entering DFA. Shorts, sleeveless, sandals, slippers or flip flops are not allowed. Entrepreneurial pinoys are on standby outside DFA to rent out clothes and shoes but you don't want to get your feet in there, do you?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you the timeless treasures of Christmas.
The warmth of home.
The love of family
and the company of good friends.

It's almost midnight and everyone else is asleep.  What's your Christmas wish?  His wish is as good as mine... http://bosanchez.ph/

Merry Christmas and Noche Buena (spanish for good night)! :D

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Voter's Registration Extended: Exercise Your Right to Suffrage in 2010

Let's do our share and exercise our right to suffrage during the May 10, 2010 presidential elections.  I am still undecided who to vote and I missed the presidential debate.  The next president should be one who has good leadership skills and can lead by example, one with political will and does not succom to pressure to the king maker.  I personally like Gordon for his leadership skills but doubts his winnability.  Noynoy is simply the safest choice because he's the lesser evil but he's leadership skills is questionable.  Gibo sounds very articulate but doubtful as to his motives being the administration's choice.  Bravo for Villar's political campaign he has positioned himself for being for the masses but after a conversation with a bank executive, he's definitely out of my list - he's one shrewed businessman.  Estrada is nothing but shameless for running inspite of getting convicted.

Who's your choice?  Now convince me. :)

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday extended registration of voters for the May 10, 2010 elections until January 9, 2010.

In a nine-page unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Court en banc granted the petition filed by Kabataan party-list led by Raymond Palatino seeking to declare null and void Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 8585, which shortened the deadline of voters registration to October 31, 2009, instead of December 15, 2009, as previously fixed by Comelec Resolution No. 8514.

Section 8 of Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996 provides that the registration of voters shall be conducted daily in the office of the election officer during regular office hours, except during the period starting 120 days before a regular election and 90 days before a special election.
 Read the rest of the story http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Using Invicta X1: The Weight Reduction Camera Strap

It was my first time to travel on an extended vacation with a Nikon D40 dslr in tow.  After three long weeks hanging on my neck, I didn't want to bring one again.  Then I came across this weight reduction camera strap through my gadget freak sister.  It is ingeniusly invented by a Filipino and endorsed by many professional camera users over at PIPHO and they swear it does really help lighten the "burden".  Invicta X1 is an all around weight reduction camera strap designed for comfort, convenience and durability.  It comes with a removable memory card case and disposable polycarbonate sheet pop-up flash diffuser.




Try it and feel the difference.  It's available online for P1,100 at echostoreph.com

Whew, there are four friends off my Christmas list.  They're getting one from me tonight. *hugs*. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Using ProEar Diving Mask to Help Equalization Problems

Dive # 31, 32
Tinggo 45min 60"
Talima 49min 80"


I intend to retire from my so called diving career, after at least 3 barotrauma. But I'm giving it another chance after a dive buddy introduced IST ProEar diving mask for P3,000.





This product aims to:


* improve diver comfort and preventing painful ear problems
* improve hearing and sense of direction underwater
* simplify equalization of pressure while diving

My reviews:1st dive: It worked pretty well for the first 10 feet. Thereafter, it took me some fifteen minutes to get to the bottom at forty feet with a painful left ear. (sorry folks, to keep you waiting, again) Thereafter, I was fine.


2nd dive: I tried to descend on my own, it worked pretty well til the bottom - that was 20 feet. As we continue, my right was painful at 50 feet. Very unusual since I normally feel fine at 40 feet onwards.


It wasn't difficult to adjust to it after reading all available materials and understanding the science behind this gear. *geek* It feels like the usual mask except that it's bigger than my TUSA splendive and it tends to slip on to the filtrum which could lead to mouth sore with friction between (inside) the mouth and mouth piece (later did I realize it caused it). It tends to slip since the strap is linear to the earpiece.  It feels safe to hear the boat propeller clearly since sounds are magnified. With the ears covered, I can move faster, looking at any direction without the water coming in my ear (and not worry about stings and bites on the ear). Other than that, I could not safely conclude that it simplified equalization. :(  I'll give it another try soon.


Pretty strong waves today that got two companions sea sick. Luckily, current was not strong. Nevertheless, had good dives with interesting finds diving in Mactan, Cebu:


@Tinggo: yellow frog fish, (a family of) squids, lots of nudis


@Talima: pygmy seahorse, mating eels (aha so that's how they do it! LOL)


PS: no underwater photography after leaving at home my beach bag with everything else in it (except my dive gear). hay, senior moment again.

Here's the ProEar diving mask instructions for use.
  • ProEar Mask Function:  In addition to standard to standard dive mask function; the ear cups keep the ears dry, protecting them from the elements of pressure, pollution and cold.  The squeeze we feel during a dive is caused by the imbalance of pressure either side of the ear canal.
    While our ear canal is exposed to water and ambient pressure, our middle ear (which is on the other side of the ear drum and is connected to our nasal cavity by Eustachian tube) is still filled with air and experiences less pressure. The greater external force is able to push our ear drum inward, causing discomfort or pain.
    With a ProEar mask, the ears are completed sealed off from the outside and air, at the same pressure as your nasal cavity, is able to be introduced through the Eqaulisation Tubes into the Ear Covers. Therefore the pressure on both sides of the ear drum becomes equal.
    So as pressure and depth increase, the simple act of breathing air into your Ear Covers can significantly improve your enjoyment of diving.
  • Preparation: Just like any other new mask, thoroughly clean both side of the lens with a non-abrasive liquid detergent or toothpaste to remove any residue and then rinse with fresh water.  (Our dive master normally, burn the film on it's first use and putting shampoo to keep them from fogging and rinsing it off just before every use.)
  • Wearing the mask: When putting on the mask, it is preferable to hold the ear cups in the palm of each hand and pull slightly apart as you slip the mask over your head.  Make sure that as little hair as possible gets into the ear cup and that it covers the entire ear.
  • Checking the seal: After putting on the mask, check the seal by inhaling through the nose.  It should pull in toward your face as a vacuum is formed.  The ear cups should also respond with the vacuum.
  • Adjusting the straps:  The strap sits a little lower than normal due it needs to support the ear cups.  Make sure the mask is snug but not too tight.
  • Beginning your dive: Descend slowly while very gently blowing air through your nose.  The air will go through the tubes and the one-way valve.  The valve may "whistle" slightly if you blow too hard into the ear cups.  Exhaling through the nose helps equalize the pressure in your mask and ear cupas and creates a "closed circuit" system of ambient air pressure.  Do not blow too hard.  You may also need to pinch your nose shut (as normal) occasionally to help with the equalization. (As for me, I still had to pinch my nose every so often to let it pop.)
  • Mask leakage:  If water gets into the ear cups, clear it with head facing forward, press the top of the ear cups against the head and blow air through the nose.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Free livestream of Pinoy Big Brother Double Up

It was a totally different experience to witness the PBB auditions last March.  Turnout was more than expected considering the short notice.  Inspite of the huge crowd turnout, the crowd was exceptionally behaved knowing it could be their time to shine.

I haven't religiously followed this season's PBB Double Up.  Shoutouts from contacts on facebook makes me curious.  I was upset with Tom's exit following his unguarded temper.  Now, it's the Melason fever that's hitting the ratings.

Kudos to ABS-CBN, they really do know how to run the show.  Earning billions at the expense of wannabe's who are given only P5,000 weekly allowance.  That's sad.

If you're a certified Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) fan like me two years ago,  you might also want to subscribe to livestream for free, here's the link!

http://livestream.com/pbbdu

Friday, November 13, 2009

Viva Las Vegas Sans the Casinos

Las Vegas isn't all about gambling. Aside from the casinos, there's so much more to do in Las Vegas.  What to do in Las Vegas if you don't gamble?

HOTEL HOPPING

Walk down the strip! One thing I enjoy in Las Vegas is hotel hopping. Awesome interior is an understatement when it comes to the themed hotels of Las Vegas. As you walk into these themed hotels, you get a feeling of entering a new place, far and away. A must see should be the Venetian, Bellagio, Paris, New York New York, Mandalay Bay, Ceasar Palace and MGM.


EAT, EAT, EAT


Most hotels offers buffets ranging from $18 to $25, serving roast prime ribs. We went to Mandalay Bay, their selection was great. All day buffet is also available in a few hotels like MGM, Luxor and Excalibur ranging from $25 to $35. We tried out the all day buffet at MGM, but it wasn't such a good idea. The menu served for lunch and dinner was fairly the same, it felt like eating left over. Food courts are also available for those on a budget.

WATCH FREE ATTRACTIONS

Take advantage of the free attractions in selected hotels along the strip. If there's something not to be missed, I'd say:

  • Fountains at Bellagio

Hours of operation: Monday - Friday, 3 p.m. - midnight. Saturday and Sunday, noon - midnight. The fountains run every half-hour until 7 p.m. and every 15 minutes after that until midnight.

  • The Sirens of TI (Treasure Island)

Hours of operation: Open daily, 7, 8:30, 10 and 11:30 p.m., weather permitting.

  • Volcano at the Mirage

Hours of operation: Nightly every hour on the hour from dusk to 11 p.m.

  • Fall of Atlantis and Festival Fountain shows at Caesars Forum Shops

Hours of operation: Fall of Atlantis and Festival Fountain: Every hour on the hour Sunday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - midnight.

For more info, check out this site.

WATCH SHOWS

Cirque du Soleil shows are spectacular, trust me, it's worth to spend $100-150 to watch it.

  • "O" is probably the most popular, I haven't seen this but if I get the chance to go back, I'll surely line up for this.


  • "KA" was amazing! It is the only Cirque du Soleil acrobat show with a story line.


There's also Mystere, Criss Angel Believe, Reve, Zumanity...

Aside from Cirque du Soleil production, Phantom the Las Vegas Spectacular was more than spectacular but the Blue Man Group wasn't worth the green bucks.

For more shows, check out this site.

TIP: Last minute tickets at almost half the price are available in tix4tonight kiosks along the strip. You can find one between the Venetian and Harrahs. You won't miss it.

SHOP TIL YOU DROP

If you're a shopaholic, walk the mile at the Mile Shop or go shopping at the premium outlet.

TOUR

Las Vegas serves as the departure point for trips to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Red Rock Canyon and Zion Park.

Whatever you do, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. :D

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quest for Whale Sharks Continues in Sogod Bay, Leyte

If you're looking for the Whale Shark Interaction in Donsol, see my travel Guide here.


Some dive buddies are back from a diving trip in Southern Leyte. Bringing back with them load of pictures to boast about their second encounter with whale sharks, locally known as butanding. Their first was in the waters of Mactan, Cebu. Yes, in rare occasions, they come in the waters of Mactan.

I had my quest for the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon early this year. It seems like it's not going to end there. And, yes... before the year ends I'm going to Southern Leyte with my wetsuit. :) There are some good reason to check out the whale sharks in Pintuyan, Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte:

First, water visibility is way better, chances of seeing it's head to tail even from afar is high. Donsol Bay water tends to have poor visibility, limited to 1 to 2 meters.

Second, diving with the whale sharks is allowed (unlike in Donsol).

Third, taking your own outrigger boat is allowed. It can be reached with dive boats coming from Cebu or Bohol. In Donsol Bay, whale shark interaction is regulated by the government and services are exclusively managed by them.

HOW TO CONTACT:

Kasaka Peoples Organization
Barangay Son-Ok,Pintuyan, Southern Leyte
+639264477382
+639269616814

FEES:
Boat rental: P700 - 800 pesos (for two)
Spotters: 450 pesos

NOTE: The largest concentration of whalesharks in the world is still in Donsol, Sorsogon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween

America has glorified halloween, it's even more festive than Christmas my friend said. I went shopping for Halloween costumes at Target for my nephews and Disney for my niece. As a stage aunt, I'm excited too see them in their new costumes this Saturday, at least this time they don't have to dress as superheroes or princess from SM like so many other kids. hehe (It's quite ironic for someone who's not so willing to wear one herself. haha!)

I had an early halloween feast in Universal Studios and Disneyland, California. My friends would laugh at me but a trip to the USA won't be complete without the theme parks!

Universal Studios in Universal City.

Universal Studio offers a sneak peak of behind the scene on famous tv shows and movies. Aside from this, the park is also packed with thrilling rides. This is what I love most! If there's anything not to be missed, I say get soaked with Jurassic Park the ride, adrenalin rush at the Revenge of the Mummy the Ride, optical illusion with 4-D The Simpsons Ride. It was worth paying 30$ premium for priority line, waiting in line can go as long as an hour or two.

Before closing time, our last stop was the House of Horrors. I was trailing behind two screaming ladies, I had to keep up with them so I won't be in the forefront being bullied by "dead people". Until I was steps away from them and my parents were meters behind me. At some point I was alone, I looked back and saw a Hunchback following me. I freaked out and literally ran to the exit. I can't believe it, I got teary-eyed after a good laugh at myself.


After a day in Universal Studios, dine and hang around in Universal City Walk, right outside the Studio.



Disneyland Resort, Anaheim

I thought a day in Disneyland would be enough for a third timer like me, but I was wrong. It has been thirteen years since the last time, now there's two Disneyland Resort Parks in Anaheim. Aside from the classic Disneyland Park, there's Disney's California Adventure. The latter is for the kids at heart like me and my parents. I had a thrilling free fall ride on the Tower of Terror, a 360 degree turn on the roller coaster, weeeeee!



After a day at Disney, unwind and dine in Downtown Disneyland, just right outside the park.

So who said I'm too old for Disney? I'm just a proud Disney baby, are you? :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blog ni Ella. Bloggers don't lie, do they?

reposted from Blog ni Ella.

Dear friends,

I’m asking your help to spread the word. Tulungan po ninyo akong ikalat ito. Beyond this, we should also demand action. I disabled a plugin so you can copy the photos of relief goods rotting in DSWD warehouses. You can link this post to your blogs, facebook, websites etc. You can also email the photos.

Philippine News (US based Philippine newspaper) will use this as its front page story this week. Every Filipino has the right to know where the tons of donations from the UN and other counties go. Kahit po nakakahiya sa mga nag-donate. Kung sa ganitong paraan, matutulungan natin ang mga nasalanta, then by all means, let’s do it.

For those who have the time, please try to volunteer sa DSWD warehouses. Getting in was not easy. A friend had to put in a word for us. Let’s see kung madali nang makapasok sa DSWD warehouse ang mga volunteers.

Please read on and good luck to us.

Ella
div

(This post was last edited Oct 22, 12:30 pm)

Kahapon, tinanong ng Philippine News si DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral:

Editor of Philippine News: Why are the relief goods in DSWD warehouses not moving?

DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral: Wala kasing volunteers.

This short interview was done over the phone. Philippine News wanted to hear her side pero ayaw niyang makipag-usap sa press. After four tries, pinasabi na lang niya ang maikling sagot na ito sa secretary niya - “Walang volunteers”.

I don’t want to accuse her of corruption but at the very least she is showing signs of being totally incompetent. We are in a state of calamity where every second counts. May namamatay araw-araw dahil sa sakit.

In my opinion, these deaths could have been prevented if Secretary Cabral had tried a little harder to do her job.

div

Deaths from Philippine storms nears 1,000

“Tropical Storm Ketsana left 420 dead and 37 missing when it flooded 80 percent of Manila on September 26, a disaster the government said affected 4.35 million people.

Some areas are still flooded three weeks later and 189,000 people remain in evacuation centres,

Typhoon Parma hit the northern Philippines on October 3 and lingered as a tropical storm for a week, triggering landslides that killed 438 people and leaving 51 missing mostly in mountain communities.

The government agency said Parma affected 4.16 million people, including more than 32,000 who remain at evacuation centres.”

div

During the first week after the storm, lumabas ang “bayanihan spirit” ng mga Pinoy. “Makatulong lang kahi’t konti,” katwiran nila.

kung walang volunteers, ano ‘to, komiks?

From Stella Arnaldo’s blog:

“At the offices of many civic groups and private organizations, hundreds of people showed up to volunteer in packing relief goods.

At the Tulong Bayan center at the Expo Centro in Cubao, Most of the volunteers were adolescents as young as 10 years old, along with their kuya or ate in high school and college.

They came in huge numbers, many of them barkadas, classmates or siblings, dressed just in their tees and shorts, wearing their Havaianas. All were just enthusiastic to do their share!
Photos by Leah Navarro

bayanihan
Even grade school kids pitched in to help!

tulong
Youth volunteers repack detergents for distribution

making beds
Making beds from carton boxes

div

GMA asked world for donations

Our government begged the world for more donations. Sumagot ang buong mundo sa ating panawagan. In less than three weeks, dumaong ang mga barko, ibinaba mula sa mga cargo planes, i-diniliver ng mga trak at container vans ang sandamakmak na relief goods. Cash donations were in the millions of dollars.

But these donations must be coursed through DSWD

Nagpalabas ng directive ang pangulo. Individuals, private companies and other nations were ENCOURAGED to send their donations to DSWD. I blogged about it here and the video of her announcement here.

This PGMA directive sounded suspicious to me then. Now I know why. Here’s the story.

A group of eight people, your ate Ella included, went to one of DSWD warehouses to help in repacking relief goods. We know they need volunteers pero hindi namin akalaing WALANG TAO TALAGA SA LOOB NG WAREHOUSE!

As in sa isang humongous warehouse (1000++ sq.m) NA PUNONG-PUNO NG RELIEF GOODS HANGGANG BUBONG, ISANG DSWD employee lang at ISANG SECURITY GUARD ang tao!!

Kailangang magpa-register at i-schedule ang volunteering

1) UNICEF Registration (as a volunteer)

The warehouse can only take as much as 50 volunteers at a time or per shift. Here you will find that there is a 4-hour shift, and an option for a 6-hour shift for the volunteers to indicate their availability.

What “volunteers”? Nasaan?

Aside from the 8 of us? Nope, there was nobody there. Bakit kailangan ang scheduling? Feeling hindi ba magkamayaw at nagu-unahan ang mga volunteers?

I know somebody who wanted to volunteer many times. She was always bumped off, laging nirere-schedule kasi “there were too many volunteers” daw. At tuwing Sunday lang daw puwede. What the hell is going on here?

Nakatambak ang donations ng UNICEF sa warehouse, local and international

Mga banig na dapat ay nahihigaan ng mga nasalanta. Mga imported camp beds na hindi na yata masisilayan ng mga biktima. Mga kumot na hindi naman nakabalot sa katawan nila. At mga pagkaing hindi sumasayad sa sikmura nila.

The relief goods are not going anywhere

We arrived at about 8 am and left by midafternoon and yes, you guessed it right. Kami pa rin ang tao bukod sa isang DSWD employee sa loob ng warehouse maghapon. Walang ibang dumating.

The relief goods are not moving. By the way things look, they are not going anywhere. Hindi maglalakad mag-isa ang mga donations na ito papunta sa mga evacuation centers.

LET THE PICTURES DO THE TALKING

Note: Pinagbawalan kaming kumuha ng pictures sa loob ng warehouse. I wonder why.

walang tao 2
“Not a creature was moving, not even a mouse.”

walang tao
Parang haunted warehouse ang dating. May multo na yata.

pots and pans
Kahit na daig pa ang tindahan sa Divisoria sa dami ng naka-stack na kaldero

kaldero pa ulit
At walang katapusang kaldero pa ulit

delata 2
Kahit halos natakpan na ang mga bintana sa dami ng mga kahon

coleman
Kahit umabot na hanggang kisame ang stack ng mga kahon

camp pads
(Close up ng Coleman camp beds sa previous photo) Hindi ito kasama sa ni-repack naming goods. Para sa mga “special victims” kaya ito? Ire-repack kaya ang mga “imported” camp pads na ito ever?

banig
Sabagay, may BANIG naman para sa “ordinary victims”. Ito ang kasama sa inimpake namin. Sayang ‘yung imported.

kumot
Ano kaya ang laman nito? Hindi rin pinabuksan. Pang-special victim din kaya ito? (teka, dito nga pala galing ‘yung mga kumot)

jica
Mahiwagang mga kahon from Japan Aid.

japan
(close up ng mahiwagang kahon) Hindi rin ito kasali, of course. Hindi namin alam kung ano ang laman nito. “Imported” are not included, we have concluded.

toys
Marami ito, mga laruang kasinlaki ng tao. Hindi nakunan ng pic kasi nasa tabi ng sikyo.

pork and beans
PORK AND BEANS? Yup, you’d think kasama ito sa relief bag. Pork and beans lang ‘to, puwede na sigurong ipamigay,

close up pork and beans
Naaah! “Imported” pork and beans from Spain po ito. Sorry, hindi pa rin included

Now let’s take a look at what a victim will get from DSWD

sa loob ng kaldero
Look Ma, sampung lata ng sardinas! How generous! Kaldero ang unang ilalagay sa sako. Sabong panglaba (bar soap) at sampung sardinas sa ilalim. Siyam na sabon sa gilid ng kaldero. Local goods lahat syempre.

tuwalya at napkin
Tapos papatungan ng isang tuwalya at isang pack ng sanitary napkin.

kumot
Sisiksikan ng tatlong rolyo ng kumot(?) ang blue water jug tapos ipapatong sa kaldero sa loob ng sako.

sako
Last but not the least, lalagyan ng dalawang banig.

tinatahi
Sabay tatahiin na ang sako. O di ba, parang asong tinapunan ng buto ang mga nasalanta? Eniwey, busog naman sila sa SAMPUNG lata ng Mega sardinas

Do not delay

do not delay

YOU THINK?? WTF is the matter with these people? Mag-iisang buwan na mula nang masalanta ang mga kababayan natin. ISANG BUWAN!! Do you mean “do not delay ang dati nang delayed”?? Shet.

Anong ginagawa ng mga donations na ito sa warehouse?? APAT na warehouse ang nasa loob ng compound na ‘yon! APAT na warehouse na punong-puno ng inaalikabok na relief goods! Relief goods na ayaw yata ibigay sa mga nasalanta. Halatang-halata.

Marami pang pabubulukin

shipment
Wow! May bagong shipment na naman! At the rate DSWD is moving, next year na madi-discover kung ano ang laman ng mga kahong ito.

nutri biscuit

“The first of two of the largest high-energy food shipments from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) arrived in the country two days ago for victims of storm “Ondoy” and typhoon “Pepeng.”

The biscuits were fortified with essential vitamins and minerals for supplementary feeding to children, pregnant women and the elderly in evacuation camps. Another 100 tons of biscuits will arrive on Oct. 24, in a continuing effort to provide food assistance to flood victims.

Sige, ideretso ‘nyo ulit ‘yan sa DSWD warehouse. Para AMAG naman ang abutin ng biskwit… at sapot ng gagamba.

Conclusion

Sa maghapon namin sa warehouse,nakagawa kami ng 150 sacks of relief goods. 150 bags of relief goods lang ang lumabas sa warehouse na ‘yon that day. At nandoon pa rin sa loob ang mga imported relief goods, safe, sound and packed as the day they arrived.

Nakisakay kami palabas sa isang DSWD delivery van. Gusto sana kaming ihatid ng driver hanggang Makati pero wala raw siyang sobrang gasolina. Ibinaba na lang niya kami sa gitna ng EDSA. Millions of dollars in donations, walang extrang pang-gasolina.

Susulpot din siguro ang laman ng mga mahiwagang kahon at mapapasakamay din ng mga tao…sa ARAW NG ELEKSYON. O mabibili na nila ang mga imported goods na ‘yon sa mga puwesto sa Quiapo at Divisoria.

Suggestions lang po sa DSWD:
# Alam ‘nyo palang walang mag-volunteer sa inyo, bakit hindi kayo mag-hire ng mga tao? Bayaran ‘nyo ng arawan para mag-repack. Ang daming walang trabaho, makakatulong pa kayo. Hindi naman malaking kabawasan ‘yon sa bilyong pisong donasyon na natanggap ninyo.
# Isa pa, gaano ba karami ang mga sundalo natin? Hindi ba puwedeng ipagawa sa kanila ‘yan? Baka isang araw lang, tapos na ang problema ‘nyo
# Bakit hindi ‘nyo ibigay ang trabaho sa mga NGO, churches, private charities, TV stations? I’m sure they are more than willing to help. Time is of the essence. Huwag kayong suwapang. Obvious ba, hindi ‘nyo naman kaya.

Kung talagang gugustuhin ninyong makarating agad sa mga kawawang biktima ang mga donasyong ‘yon, nagawa ‘nyo na ‘yan. Maraming paraan…kung talagang gusto ‘nyo lang.

You are the government. You have the power, the resources and the money. You just have to really care.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old Foe and New Friends

Wow, I am overwhelmed by the number of comments I got when I was away. I lost track of your posts, I say thank you for dropping by (and leaving a comment).

Today, I had to reflect on this:

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.


An old foe just appeared asking to be friends (ok, on facebook). Funny that all these years, I haven't had the heart to forgive and forget her.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shoutout

I had such a long day today. With an upcoming long vacation, I have to finish a year's worth of backlog. Seriously, a year's worth. After every morning rehab session for my tennis elbow injury, I head to the office clicking my mouse practically all day. Today, I skipped my usual siesta and had a working lunch. Burned the seat until past nine in the evening. Got home late and found my pseudo ex's status changed to married. If my memory serves me well, it has been four long years. Coincidence or otherwise, I opened up to a friend a few weeks ago about strangely thinking of someone every single day. As the song goes, I remember the boy but I don't remember the feelings anymore. It aint such a good thing when things are better left unsaid. All these years, closure is all I need. My prayer has finally been answered. But I didn't see any pictures, what if it was a hoax? haha

It's past midnight and I'm so wide awake. Not good since I'm feeling feverish since yesterday. I'm off to youtube for today's episode of Tayong Dalawa that I missed, it should be up by now. :)

updated: 12/25/09 apparently, it wasn't a hoax!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From Cortisone Injection to Freaky Friday

After four months of tennis elbow injury from too much wrist extension playing Farm Town and badminton, I finally decided to see my orthopedic surgeon. I wasn't upto having a surgery but rather, considering the idea of having Cortisone injection. My doctor wasn't really up to it yet since the specific tendon causing the pain cannot be identified. Cortisone injection is advisable only to be done on a swollen tendon, my doctor explained. It only treats the inflammation and injecting it on a normal tendon will cause more harm. If inappropriately done, it can cause the bone or tendon to brittle. Ergo, I'm not such a good candidate, we'll see after ten days of arcoxia.

I took the elevator from the hospital basement back to the lobby. As I walked in, I saw a very familiar face. Wearing his office uniform and holding a kid. I stared at him (while he was staring at me) deciding whether or not to strike a smile. Seconds later, I was battling with the thought - this person can't be the one I know. But he looks exactly like him, his built, his complexion, everything! Except that his company shirt was not where he was working but just the same, it's located in the same zone. I was tempted to ask him if he knows the person I know, but I was too scared to hear his reply. When the elevator door opened, I hurriedly walked out, then it dawned on me, the person I know who looks exactly like him is dead!

I've never been so scared, I felt like crying for a second, then felt goose bumps all over. I was at the wake, it was crazy of me to even think what if his death was a fake. I guess I've been watching too much telenovelas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Secret Hotels

Thanks to internet (for the nth time), it does save a lot of money when making arrangements for travel. In my previous trip, the internet has become my saviour for countless ideas and tips from travellers, not to mention the forums that answers specific inquiries.

This time, I am busy googling for airfare and hotels. It's amazing how much savings it is to book flights online, I got like 50% off from what the travel agencies are quoting here.

Kayak.com did all the help. It can search for flights from different airlines and not only that. It can even search which site provides the best rate for the same flight. It is so easy to use, the buttons to specify flight hours, stop over, lay over times are just a slide away. Check it out and see what I mean.

From Kayak, I bumped across Gtahotels.com. They have this thing called "Discounts on Top Secret Hotels", as they put it:

We call them secret hotels as we sell for so cheap that we cannot publish the hotel name. The name of the hotel will be secret till you complete your booking and see the amazing deal up to 70% off.


After going through a lot of forums, little information is available. I've learned this site is maintained in Istanbul and it had its fair share of good and bad reviews. I tried it out, booked four nights with a secret hotel with a room called "Venezia Suite Twin Room". That was a give away, nowhere else in Las Vegas has a room with that name. After paying online, with a sigh of relief, I had a great bargain. I just booked with no less than the Venetian Las Vegas with one night free stay.

The hotel vouchers looks decent and it's already on my credit card bill. I am just so hopeful this isn't a hoax. If it is, I'll never hear the end of it from my mom and you'll never hear the end of it in my blog. haha I'm keeping my "fingers crossed". :D

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Off The Beaten Path: What's New in Cebu? Parkmall, Edge Coaster, Imperial Palace Resort Waterpark

In my previous post, I highlighted the usual tourist spot in Cebu.

You must know by now, Cebu's two major malls just recently expanded, SM's new wing boast high end shops and Ayala's Terraces highlight's a range of Manila's best restaurants. But what else is new?

Experience something different in PARKMALL.


Located along Ouano Avenue, Mandaue City, (across Convention Center of Cebu - CICC), Parkmall's charming al fresco dining experience in zen garden offers a wide range of restaurants featuring Cebu and Manila's finest restaurants. Mooon Cafe, Chika-an, Pier One, Manila Foodshope, Joven's Grill, KFC, Out of Africa, You Bar, Tandoori, Da Vinci's Pizza, Shabu Way, Mang Inasal, Bo's Coffee, Postrio, Ice Castle, Fine Cuisine, Kk Fine Dining, Saigon Quan, Tsiboom and more.



Indoor, the kids village is Parkmall's pride. Playmaze Fun Hub is any child's dreamland.



My personal haven are the outlets and the micro-retail shops on the second floor, having the best bargain ever for clothes and accessories with exhibitors from Greenhills, St. Francis, export overruns and local entrepreneurs. I was also excited with the opening of Pixel Pro, (by Henry's Camera from Hidalgo, Quiapo), I shall get my new toy soon. Finally, Visayans now have access to good bargains.

For more info, check out
http://parkmallph.blogspot.com/ or http://parkmallph.com

Go over the edge with Sky Experience Adventure at Crown Regency Hotel.




Located right in the heart of uptown Cebu, view the city and conquer your fear of heights on the 38th floor, with a thrilling ride on the Edge Coaster or do the sky walk. Check their website for details.

Get wet and scream at the Imperial Palace Resort Waterpark & Spa.



It's located along the coast of Mactan, Cebu (right beside Hadsan Beach Resort). This is Korean owned and aimed to cater Korean tourists. Rack rate starts with a whooping $250, but it's best to contact them for promo rates. Currently, promo rates start at P8,000++/night, day use is pegged at P1,500 with lunch buffet valid until end of September. We spent a night and I had a blast and service was great! The photos speak for itself, isn't it so inviting?

For inquiries and reservations, contact:
http://www.imperialcebu.com/eng/main.htm
call: 63-32)494-5241 to 44
email: rsvn@ip-cebu.com

Now, you have even more reason to come visit and revisit Cebu! See ya around! :D

Friday, August 14, 2009

Haciendera

Three weeks ago, I became a certified haciendera after reaching level 34 of Farm Town, a virtual farming game over at Facebook. It's the last level, I suppose. Now, I don't only have one but two mansions, and I'm buying my third next week!



Ah, it is but a dream to live the life of the rich and famous, now it's a reality with my private beach with friends who came by for a swim!



Ooooh, what a life!!! Okay, back to reality and maybe I'll gain interest to blog again. :D

Philippine Holidays in 2010

The year just passed half way but the office of the President had already announced the holidays for 2010.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Proclamation 1841, declaring regular holidays, special non-working holidays, and special school holidays for 2010. The proclamation is in line with Republic Act 9492, which provides that all non-religious holidays be moved to the nearest Monday.

Regular holidays covered by RA 9492 next year are:

January 1 – New Year’s Day
April 1 – Maundy Thursday
April 2 – Good Friday
April 9 – Araw ng Kagitingan
June 14 (Monday nearest June 12) – Independence Day
August 30 – National Heroes’ Day May 1 – Labor Day
November 29 (Monday nearest November 30) – Bonifacio Day
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 27 (Monday nearest December 30) – Rizal Day

Special non-working holidays include:

August 23 (Monday nearest August 21) – Ninoy Aquino Day
November 1 – All Saints’ Day
December 24 - Christmas Eve
December 31 – Last Day of the Year

Aside from these, the President also declared February 22 (Monday nearest February 25), EDSA Revolution anniversary next year as a special school holiday.

Meanwhile, the Palace said proclamations declaring national holidays for the observance of the end of Ramadan (Eid’l Fitr) and the Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid’l Adha) shall be issued after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined in accordance with the Islamic calendar.

The second Monday of May should also be declared as National elections will be held sans any constitutional amendment.

So where are you off to? Ah, this is crazy, i need to save up! :D

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buying Cheap Yonex Racquet in Bangkok (Racket)

Buying an original yonex racquet is quite heavy on the pocket, but since I bought mine (or should I say since my dad bought it for me and didn't accept when I was going to reimburse for it *wide smile*), it was a good choice, I was content with just one. It has been about 5 years since I bought my Yonex armortec 800 OF and it's perfectly well but I just feel like getting a spare. After weeks of googling what's nice and new, a Yonex Arcsaber 9 was on my shopping list on my trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

In hot pink and white grip, the Yonex Arcsaber 9 is said to be designed for women; not only for it's color but for its lightness and manoeuverability. I felt the difference by the one and only time I got to use it. I will have to wait until my 3-month tennis elbow injury heals before I can use it again.



If there is anywhere in this world that sells the cheapest Yonex racquet, I'd say go to Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand has a knack of selling cheap stuff when it's made in Thailand.

WHERE TO BUY ORIGINAL YONEX IN BANGKOK:

Bangkok's department store sells about 30% lower compared to racquets sold in the Philippines. I particularly like the display in Siam Paragon and in Yonex shop in Central World.

If you think you've got a good deal, I've got a better one. Racquets that's about half the price compared to Philippine's mall can be purchased from the sport shops next to the National Stadium, they are wholesalers that sells retail at 20%+ cheaper than Bangkok's mall and Yonex Shop, strings, socks and other accessories are just about the same price as sold in the mall.

You can browse through badminton forums, they can attest that they are original and an email from yonex also confirms that they have authorized dealers in the area. You can visit:

FIRST SPORTS
847/5-6 Soi Chula 5 Rama 1 Rd, Wangmai Pathumwan Bangkok tel 2141616

SPORTS MARKETING
847/7 Rama 6 Rd. Pathumwam, Bangkok tel 2141390


DIRECTIONS:

from MBK (Mah Boon Krong - tokyo department store exit), take Rama 1 road and proceed towards the National Stadium. At the end of the block, turn left, straight ahead on the right side of the road, you'll find FBT store at the 1st intersection. Straight ahead, about 3 stores after FBT store you'll find First Sports and Sports Marketing. It's with small glass door and are just beside each other selling sports equipment like boxing gloves, shoes, racquets, strings etc.... This is about 15 minutes walk from MBK.

see this link for more directions .

NOTE: I had my racquet strung at the Yonex shop in Central World, when you buy string from them, labor cost to string is free.

UPDATE:  as of march 2013

First Sports have already moved from Chula 5 to junction of Chula 12/Chula 5. Chula 12 is a few streets further down from its previous location. (Chula = Chulalongkorn)

Sports Marketing will move from Chula 5 to Thanon Banthat Thong next to Kasikorn Bank (or K Bank to the locals) shortly. 
The new Sports Marketing shop is still under renovation as at time of posting. To go to the new shop, take a walk to the junction of Chula 8/Thanon Banthat Thong where Somfood Seafood is located. You should see K Bank and Sports Marketing.

for more details check out this link from badmintoncentral.com

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Country in Mourning

The Philippines is in mourning following the death of former President Corazon Aquino. It has been 23 years since she became the icon of democracy of our country and to the rest of the world. The prayer vigil all over the country during her battle of cancer was overwhelming... I am personally overwhelmed and surprised to realize that she is well loved by many. It is no doubt that in life and in death she continued to unite the people in prayer.

Yesterday, I woke up from an afternoon nap by Kris Aquino's (her youngest daughter) voice on television. Kris is known to be the prodigal daughter yet remained to be her mom's favorite. It was her first time to speak in public after her mother's death. A good host as she is, she clearly recounts the battle of the late president and her family. She shared to the public what her family has opted to keep in private the past month. As I watched her, I could not help but feel her pain... sobbing and crying a bucket of tears for nearly two hours, that left my eyes puffy when I had to attend a party that night. Her story was very heartfelt, showing that they are just as fragile as anyone else. Anyone who has lost a loved one or has fears to lose one will definitely relate and learn from that experience.

Senators are now pushing to pass a bill to declare January 25, her birthday as Cory Aquino Day. A 10 day national mourning has been declared and August 5, has been declared a special non working holiday by political foe and incumbent President Gloria Arroyo to observe the internment. What remains to be seen is if and when the President comes back from the USA, she is duty bound to pay her last respect, damn if she do, damn if she don't, hopefully they can manage to be apolitical.

If Ninoy spoke with dignity "You have a president who robs you, and a first lady who robs you more." With President Cory Aquino's death (and Cardinal Sin), who would be brave enough to standby, lead the people and say "You have a president who robs you, and a first gentleman who robs you more."?

Nothing personal, strictly politics.

Friday, July 10, 2009

At Home in Bangkok, Thailand

I had second thoughts of visiting Bangkok, Thailand because of the political issues hounding the country. Last December thousands were stranded when the airport was blocked by protestors and another incident months later. I "facebooked" my Thai friend about visiting Bangkok, she said it's absolutely safe. I take her word for it, and it was just an hour before midnight, an hour before Philippine Airline's Real Deal was about to end. I was able to fly to Bangkok, Thailand for about P7,000. Regular fare usually average US$350.

This is my fourth visit to Bangkok, Thailand. This time, it's strictly no sightseeing. I'm going there simply to shop and to go on our own.

ARRIVING IN BANGKOK

Without airport transfer service which costs about 1,400 baht per way, we opted to take the airport cab, located at the farthest (left) end of the terminal. It's just outside baggage carousel 20+, just where our empty luggage are. Taxi from the airport to Bangkok City is about 360 baht inclusive of toll fees. If you're a solo traveller, you may take the airport bus for only 150 baht.

We arrived in Arnoma Hotel 45 minutes later.

STAYING IN BANGKOK

In my previous trip, I normally stay at Baiyoke Suite simply because it's cheap. Since tourism has gone down in Bangkok, hotel rates are low, so we got a good rate at Arnoma Hotel for only $220 good for 2nights, with daily buffet breakfast for 3 pax from asiarooms.com

Arnoma Hotel is located across Central World and walking distance to other major shopping centers. Noticeably, they have renovated their lobby. It's looks much cleaner and nicer than two years ago.

GOING AROUND IN BANGKOK

A sky train runs across Bangkok City. In my four visits to Bangkok, I've never took the train but some friends say it's very convenient.

Lazy to go up the stairs to the sky train, I opt to take the taxi. It costs about 60-80 baht to get from one shopping center to another. :) It's quite near, but traffic in Bangkok is bad. Traffic routes are confusing aside from it being right hand drive, it's mostly one way street. Taxi drivers can be rude, you have to insist on having the meter on and you have to decline if they offer to drop you off in a jewelry store for them to get free gas. If they don't agree, go find another. Taxi is abundant in Thailand. As my friend says, there are too much vacant taxi even on rush hour.

The tuktuk is an option, but most drivers asks for 100 baht when it is suppose to be just 40 baht. It might be worth a try, for photo op.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Job

The reason that I have not been blogging is that I have been awfully busy. I spend about four hours everyday with this new job, it is so intense that my back and arms are now sore. Healing of my tennis elbow injury is slow due to this too. I am into farming and never thought I have a green thumb!

The truth is, I am into virtual farming called Farm Town. It's a beta game in facebook. I swear, it is so addicting and even got my peers into it. So, our table topic is always about the farm but it doesn't end there, once we get home, we meet again in our virtual world!


Group shot before a harvest.


I started way ahead of my neighbors, I'm close to getting that coveted mansion. From a plain green field, (modesty aside) mine is one of the nicest! :p



I draw inspiration from other nice farms like these:
http://s592.photobucket.com/albums/tt4/leewonra/

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Way To Go PAL

Yehey! This is what I am waiting for... another round of international seat sale from our flagship carrier Philippine Airlines. The real deal promo was such a hit! Their website crashed due to too much traffic. I had a friend who lined up for six hours just to get her ticket and another who had been lining up for eight hours and there are 2000 people in front of him. Dubbed as Way To Go Promo Fares, now it's not only available online, but also in ticket offices and travel agents.

For sale and ticketing from 01 to 05 June 2009 only.

SECTOR WEB FARE BASIS BCC ALL-IN FARE
(USD)
Round Trip
$688 MANILA - SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES/LAS VEGAS/VANCOUVER
$468 MANILA - HONOLULU
$468 MANILA - SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (PR 211 ONLY)
$228 CEBU - NARITA
$228 MANILA - FUKUOKA/NAGOYA
$188 MANILA - OSAKA
$198 MANILA - BEIJING
$178 MANILA - SHANGHAI
$168 MANILA - JAKARTA (PR 503/PR504)
$148 MANILA - JAKARTA (PR 535/PR536)
$118 MANILA - BANGKOK/SINGAPORE/SAIGON
$98 MANILA - HONG KONG/MACAU/TAIPEI

Prices listed above are inclusive of surcharges and exclusive of government taxes and other fees that are to be collected at the airport.

APPLICATION:
* Valid for round trip travel on economy class.

TRAVEL VALIDITY:
TRANSPACIFIC
* Valid for outbound travel from 01SEP09 through 25DEC09

REGIONALS
* Valid for outbound travel from 01JUL09 through 30NOV09.

MINIMUM/MAXIMUM STAY:
TRANSPACIFIC
* Minimum 3 days and maximum 21 days stay

AUSTRALIA
* Minimum 2 days and maximum 21 days stay

REGIONALS
* Minimum 2 days and maximum 8 days stay


SALES RESTRICTIONS:
* Tickets must be issued on or before 05 June 2009.

RESERVATIONS, PAYMENT AND TICKETING:
* Tickets must be issued 24 hours after confirmed reservations.
For reservations made and confirmed on 05 June 2009,
tickets must be issued within the same day.
* Changes are not permitted
- rebooking/rerouting/reissuance/upgrading/endorsement/combination
are not permitted
* No extension of validity
* Non refundable. Surcharges attached to this fare are likewise non-refundable
Government taxes are refundable subject to USD 25 Refund Service Fee
* No child/infant discount

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISION:
* No mileage accrual

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Know more about A(H1N1) Swine Influenza

I was in Beijing at the height of SARS. It was a horrible experience fearing the unknown. Something I would not want to experience again.

At that time news blockout was implemented all over China, so little do we know what was actually happening. We were in the shock of our lives when gallons of disinfectants were seen rushed inside the school campus. Then, the over populated Beijing turned into a ghost town.

Being discriminated was another thing to handle. Poor you, if you get sick at this time, no one would be willing to nurse you. We had to wear eleven layers of mask to protect ourselves. No one wants you home either, a companion of ours was booted out of a hotel after knowing they came from Beijing. While waiting for the incubation period to lapse, I too was quarantined. In consolation: we were quarantined in luxury in a suite room in five star hotel in Makati for a week and it was a taboo to say we came from Beijing.

Now, I'm worried about the non-rebookable, non-refundable flights I booked last week when Philippine Airlines slashed airline rates by 60%!

What now? Don't let paranoia kick in. Stay healty and get informed. Know more about A(H1N1) (swine flu virus):

swine flu: frequently asked questions

About the disease

WHO update as of 1 May 2009
How do people become infected with influenza A(H1N1)?

Outbreaks in humans are now occurring from human-to-human transmission. When infected people cough or sneeze, infected droplets get on their hands, drop onto surfaces, or are dispersed into the air. Another person can breathe in contaminated air, or touch infected hands or surfaces, and be exposed. To prevent spread, people should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing, and wash their hands regularly.
What are the signs and symptoms of infection?

Early signs of influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea.

Regarding study of the first outbreak, have you received any feedback from the WHO team sent to Mexico to investigate the outbreak?

Teams are already sending epidemiological evidence but we will know more over the next few days.

Is there any confirmation of transmission between pigs and humans at this point?

No.

Is there any information on the economic impact of the outbreak so far?

No.

Why are we so worried about this pandemic possibility when thousands die every year from seasonal epidemics?

Seasonal epidemics occur every year and we are able to treat the virus with seasonal vaccines. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic. It is a new virus and one to which the populations will have no immunity.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wander our Wonders: Island Tour of Batan and Sabtang, Batanes

I was off to a well deserved break after the tax men came knocking on the door that left me sleepless and restless for a time.

We had to be awake by three in the morning for our early morning flight. But my blogsy friend Nina was right, we had to wait, flights don't leave earlier than six. "Finally!" is what we blurted out when we landed in Basco, Batanes. After months of hullabaloo, we safely landed aboard the 30-seater plane of seair together with a group of 19 joining the photo safari of Mandy Navasero. See my reviews about the photo safari here.

The view of Mt. Iraya and a stylish stone house airport terminal greeted us on the runway of Basco Airport. We were met at the airport by a local guide. Mang Roger is a typical Ivatan local: hardworking, hospitable and jack of all trade. He was more than just a tour guide. Aboard the jeepney, some were seated on the roof, a thrilling ride zipping on that winding road cliff of Batan. Batanes here we come!


Clockwise (L-R): Batanes runway with Mt. Iraya, Seair, Jeepney Ride, Basco Airport Terminal



Day01 ISLAND TOUR OF BASCO, BATAN

First stop was a fifteen minute spelunking in a World War III Japanese Tunnel. True to popular sayings, there's light at the end of the tunnel. As we exit the tunnel, it was our first view of the hedgerow. Hedgerow is a closely spaced shrubs that serves as barriers, protection from wind and prevents soil erosion. These hedgerow are popular in Scotland which earned Batanes the name, Scotland of the Philippines.



The rest of the day was a jeepney ride to Tukon Hills overlooking Basco, a climb up the Mahatao Lighthouse, a walking tour of Basco, a sit on the rocks of Rocky Beach or Chadpidan, a wait for the sunset at Chanarian View Deck and an evening entertained by the Basco palo-palo cultural dance.


Clockwise (L-R): Mahatao Lighthouse, Chanarian View Deck, Tukon Radar, Grazing Cow in Mahatao, Rocky Beach, View from Tukon Hills, Hedgerow View from Tukon Hills (center)



Day02 ISLAND TOUR OF SABTANG

With an early morning wake-up call, we're headed to Ivana port to ride the falowa. With lifevests on, we were prepared to rock with falowa as we crossed the sea to Sabtang Island. The weather was great, the waves was not as rough as I've expected.

We toured the town of Savidug, had buko juice in Chavayan, had lunch in Nakanmuan’s White Beach under the famous Batanes Natural Arc, went to the Sabtang Lighthouse while waiting for our falowa ride back to Batan.


Clockwise (L-R): Kid overlooking the window at Savidug Stone House, Whitebeach Natural Arc, Nakanmuan's White beach, Carabao in streets of Savidug, Chavayan Stone house, Raging waves by Sabtang Lighthouse, Sinakan Stone House, Ruins at Savidug, Peddling Ivatan, Sabtang Lighthouse (center)



Back to Batan Island by four, we dropped by the UNESCO heritage House of Dakay built in 1600. Lola Frestilda Dakay lives in this house alone. This old lady is one of the most photographed person in Batanes. Now she's very old and weak, as much as she wants to get up and sit by the door like she did on a cover of Reader's Digest, she can only hold onto a rope atop of her bed to sit and made a gesture to welcome us inside her house.



Further down in Ivana is the Ivana Church and the one of a kind Honesty Coffee Shop. It's called Honesty for the simple reason that you pay for what you buy even without someone manning the store. There's a price list on the wall, a log book to write what you bought and a box where you'll leave your money. You should bring change, it's keep the change policy here. This is something you'll only find in Batanes.


Clockwise (L-R): Ivana Church, Ivana Port, Ivana Port, Sunset at Ivana Port, Honesty Coffee Shop



Day03 ISLAND TOUR OF BATAN

It was another early day as we wanted to catch the sunrise, but we were caught offguard, our jeepney ride arrived when the sun has risen. We had breakfast instead and headed to an early morning walk at the Rolling Hills. Lo and behold, the view of the hills overlooking the sea is heavenly. It's tranquility moves the soul and breaks one into tears with a song of prayer. A moving experience felt by one during a group prayer that touched the rest of the group. Who would have thought that someone who chose to go solo on this trip, one who was exceptionally bubbly was feeling empty seven years after her husband's death, found peace on this land and so she speaks, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want..."

After that enriching experience was a ride back to Tukon Hills. Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge sits on top of Tukon Hills overlooking the sea where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea. It was once the home studio of a great artist Pacita Abad who lost the battle of cancer. The place is reburbished in country style charms with rooms overlooking the sea and mountain. Rooms starts from P3,750 to 8,000.

The so called Marlboro Country, was another breathtaking panoramic view, with velvet green grass and grazing cows. I could hear the sound of music playing in this windy Marlboro Hills. We had a tasty lunch in a hut but I could imagine laying down after having our picnic on a mat right on top of the hill. Wishful thinking maybe, but it's not impossible.


Clockwise (L-R): View from Rolling Hills, Fundacion Pacita du Tukon, View from treking up to Fountain of Youth at Diura, Early morning walk at Rolling Hills, Marlboro Hills, Diura Beach, Rolling Hills, Infinity pool of Fountain of Youth, View from the window of Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge (center)


We moved to Diura fishing village, where we started our trek up the hills to the Fountain of Youth. It's spring water with infinity pool overlooking the sea. Others took a swim while we just laze around waiting for the tides to go low. We continued to walk down by the shore, leading to Crystal Cave for a short spelunking. As we exit the tide went high instead of low. The guide must have overlooked the calendar. We had to brave the raging waters, as we head back to the village. Some didn't want to get wet but in the end, everyone got soaked. Whew, we survived with scratches here and there and a bundle of fond memories to last a lifetime.

Batanes is finally off my wishlist, but wait! Batanes will remain on the list, I'd love go back there with a free and easy itinerary, different from what we had. That is, to laze around Fundacion Pacita sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Pacific and South China Sea... to lay a picnic mat at Marlboro Hills with the real sound of music... and to watch the clouds go by as the sun sets by the Rolling Hills. :D

MANDY NAVASERO BATANES PHOTO SAFARI:

Mandy Navasero: (02)8991767 or mandynavasero@yahoo.com
Nice Travel & Tours: (02)5266363 or nicetrvl@i-manila.com.ph

GETTING TO BATANES:

Fly via Seair from Manila to Basco Airport.

GOING AROUND BATANES:

1. Pack a Map of Batanes by Ironwulf.
2. Contact a guide. Mang Roger Amboy: +639183331797
3. Discuss your itinerary with your guide, maximize travel time.
4. Hire a jeep or van. (I didn't see any form of public transportation.)

ACCOMMODATION IN BATANES:

  • Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge http://www.fundacionpacita.ph/ Rates: P3750 - 8000+

  • Batanes Resort +639275829078 Rates: P550 - 1500

  • Batanes Seaside Resort and Restaurant +639212290120 +639178825609 Rates: P450 - P1200

  • Shanedel's Inn +639204470737 Rates: P350 - 1200

  • Ivatan Lodge ivatanlodge@yahoo.com  P300 - 1200
  • Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    More Long Weekend Holidays: Eid al-Adha

    President Arroyo has signed an executive order formally declaring Nov. 27 and 28 this year as national non-working holidays in observance of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha.

    Eid al-Adha means "festival of sacrifice", celebrated by muslims to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God.

    This will give way for more Filipino Muslims to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the hajj. That also means a four-day weekend from Friday, November 28 to Monday, November 30 (Bonifacio Day). This will be the 12th long weekend holiday for the Philippines in 2009 (to add to those previously announced.)

    read more.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Batanes Photo Safari with Mandy Navasero

    Along with my sister, we booked this tour five months before the scheduled trip. With early bird discount, we paid P20,000 all inclusive of travel photography workshop, full board and lodging, and airfare from Manila to Basco with Zest Air. Regular rate is at P25,000.

    Zest Air flights are suspended due to unfortunate events. With a sigh of relief we were accommodated with Seair. A few days before the trip, we were informed that our flight was cancelled. It would have been lovely to experience Batanes with the cold front but we were left with no choice but to reschedule it on a later date. Two weeks ago, we finally land on Basco, Batanes at the height of summer.

    We were checked-in at Batanes Seaside Resort, unfortunately, not all bookings were honored. Some overstaying guests occupied our rooms, so some of our companions has to stay for a night in another lodging house. With basic ammenities, rooms are clean and spacious, private bathroom comes with electric hot and cold shower, the suite rooms came with a refrigerator, and there's television too but food was ordinary.



    Mandy Navasero's Photo Safari is unlike the travel photography I've been to. There was no room-in lecture, not even a critique session. Mandy's teaching style is different. Her creative ideas are outrageous and her personality is a standout - at times with comic relief and naughty antics. She remained energetic and passionate with what she is doing inspite of her age.


    Mandy Navasero during an informal lecture at the view deck



    She puts emphasis to shoot with a heart, to pose with an attitude, and to add life into the subject. After a while, I've come to appreciate it. It's not the technical aspect that brings life to a photo. My basic knowledge on travel photography came in handy, but Batanes landscape is lovely as it is, it will come out beautiful in any photo. She puts much emphasis on colors and fashion photography with the so called "S-curve". Frankly, it doesn't come naturally for me, I look awkward in my photos. All throughout the trip, it seemed like we were having a photoshoot. We had our fair share of becoming a bench model, a beauty queen, a lifestyle model and a mastered the art of jumpology. On the otherhand, being the photographer, one must know how to motivate and to bring out the spirit of the subject, flatter if you must.



    This is my second travel photography workshop and I'm getting comfortable with the Nikon D40. No more cheats this time, I managed to pull off some good shots with the manual settings. Yipee! :)

    Joining Batanes Photo Safari with Mandy Navasero:

    I recommend this tour for those adventurous fellows who love to travel and like to shoot and/or appear in them, but not for those hard core photographers who expect point by point photography lecture.

    PROS: hassle free: board & lodging, itinerary & flight bookings and everything else are taken cared of; touring with a group sharing the same passion for travel & photography

    CONS: quite hectic: itinerary needs to be ironed out to maximize travel time and to start on time; for pre-trip briefing: personal appearance was necessary when it could be done remotely via email; no critique session: it would have been necessary for a photography workshop.

    For inquiries, they can be reached at:
    Mandy Navasero: (02)8991767 or mandynavasero@yahoo.com
    Nice Travel & Tours: (02)5266363 or nicetrvl@i-manila.com.ph

    Read more about my experience on the trip here.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Ad Sense, No Sense

    I've long received from google my google (ad sense) account and got more than a thousand points on Entrecard.

    I've signed up after a little encouragement from a blogger friend but I actually don't know what to do with it. For now, these made no sense to me. Boo!

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Discovering Camsur Watersports Complex

    After our successful encounter with the whale sharks in Donsol, we were off to discover Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili, Camarines Sur.

    It was an hour land trip from Donsol, Sorsogon to FilCab/GT Express Daraga Terminal.


    In Daraga Terminal, several vans are waiting in line for hire. At P140 per head, we found our way to Pili, Camarines Sur two hours later on a Daraga - Naga van for hire. That's a lot of savings compared to hiring a private van at P3000. We got off on the highway, crossed the street and rode a tricycle leading to the Eco Village inside the complex of the Capitol. At P7.50 each, five of us and a stranger were forced to cramp inside this tricycle with our bags and luggage on top since the driver refused to have it all to ourselves.

    I made reservations with Eco Village. Quite disappointed with what we saw, we had to look into the rooms first before we checked-in. Facilities and rooms are unfortunately not well maintained and dilapidated. The cabins looked more like dog houses (excuse me for such comparison but it's what I think it looked like). Even the staff could not give a decent answer if the rooms are good. The eco village concept would have been nice. I guess the reviews I read was written many years ago. Good that I've researched beforehand, I knew of other options. We asked if there is available room in the cabanas. Timely, the WWA Wakeboard Championship just concluded the previous day, there were available rooms. So we had to lag our bags again and cramp on a small tricycle further into the complex.

    Voila! I was happy with what I saw. Accommodations at Villa del Rey is what I envisioned CamSur Watersports Complex is, clean and world-class. The front desk of Villa del Rey was right next to Villa del Rey Villas the most luxurious accommodation available in the complex with this huge pool nestled in the middle.




    Across the street is where the Villa Del Rey Wood Cabins and Villa del Rey Containers are lined together in a spacious lot. On the other side is the Villa Del Rey Cabanas.



    We settled in the Cabanas at P1350/room for two. I could not understand how the pricing scheme is but the accommodations in this newer area are cheaper than the rooms in eco village.



    CWC WAKEBOARDING COMPLEX:
    Open daily from 830am to 930pm, Mondays from 830am to 7pm

    The WWA World Championship just concluded but the place is still packed with foreigners. I assume many of them joined the competition. The complex is equipped with free wi-fi, club house, swimming pool and more. Wakeboarding fees is reasonably priced, check out their website for applicable rates. As much as I wanted to try it out, I know I can't pull it off. The queue was long, once you fall you have to queue at the end of the line again so we opted to go to Lago del Rey.



    LAGO DEL REY AQUAPARK:
    Open daily from 830am to 6pm.

    Lago del Rey Aquapark is just across the street, I saw this featured on Sports Unlimited a few weeks before our trip and it looked so much fun. It's a fresh water man-made lagoon, 5 to 20 feet deep, filled with inflatables for aquasports. A lifevest is provided and must be worn at all times. For P120 an hour or P380 per day, kids will enjoy the kiddie round inflatable and wading pool, while adults will enjoy playing on a slide, a seesaw, an obstacle course, a volleyball court, a trampoline and an iceberg (for wall climbing). Sailboats and jetski are also available for rent. It's so much fun being a kid for a day.



    FOOD AND GETTING AROUND THE COMPLEX:

    Food is available only at the clubhouse or at the Mansion for about P150 to P300/meal. Food kiosks are also available on special events.

    Villa del Rey is walking distance to the wakeboarding complex and Lago del Rey. You'll need a ride going to and from the Eco Village and the Mansion. Free shuttle service is available around the complex but if there are too many guests, it would be difficult to find one. There's also a free shuttle that will take one from CWC to Naga City for about 15 minutes ride on a scheduled trip (9am, 2pm, 7pm). The airport is in Naga City, and so is the van and bus terminal.

    The 9am free shuttle service to Naga dropped us off at the FilCab/GT Express van terminal in Naga, right across the soon to open SM Naga. At the van terminal, we managed to talk it through, to drop us directly at Legaspi airport for P150/head. It's two and a half hour land trip from Naga City back to Legaspi City, just in time for our flight.

    -0-

    Hail to the governer who has a vision to develop something like this. I hope they can keep up with the maintenance of the facilities more than his term in office and not just build and build something new. For my reader's info, it's taxpayers money that funds this project.

    If there is anything that is remaining in my wish list for Bicol, I'd say Camaroan. See, the list just keeps getting longer!

    CONTACT INFORMATION:

    Camsur Watersports Complex Office:
    Provincial Capitol Complex
    Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur
    Contact Number: +63(54) 475-0689 or +63(54) 475-4784
    Fax Number: +63(54) 477-5162
    E-mail: info@camsurwatersportscomplex.com
    info@camarinessur.gov.ph
    Website: http://www.camsurwatersportscomplex.com
    http://www.lago-delrey.com

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    WoW Donsol, Sorsogon: Butanding Interaction

    More about Whaleshark Interaction, see my Donsol Travel Guide here.

    I've looked forward to summer like never before. With back to back trips from Donsol, Sorsogon, CamSur Wakeboarding Complex and Batanes, I am overwhelmed and fascinated. With tan lines all over, add all the superlatives, now my thoughts are garbled! I can't seem to make a decent post.

    While on the plane, our flight was announced delayed for reason that documents have yet to be completed and Legaspi airport is closed and learned that our companions' flight out of Manila was likewise delayed for an hour. What the #@?!! I was anxious, this can't be... nothing should go wrong. It was hell of a pressure to set foot in Donsol and see the whalesharks. I knew I can't go back home not seeing one otherwise I'll be at the receiving end of all possible mockery. For those who knows my tale, the long wait was worth it. If it rains it pours, this time it poured with so much luck!

    We were met at the airport by a van driver arranged by the resort. Before heading to Donsol, we dropped by Cagsawa Ruins and Daraga Church. The Mayon Volcano was standing high and mighty across Legaspi City. The Mayon Volcano is best viewed from a distance between 6 to 8 in the morning when skies are clear. With P10 entrance fee, we entered Cagsawa Ruins with the Mayon Volcano on the background. Once in Cagsawa Ruins, you'll be met by local kids, age 10 to 16, they will start by narrating the history of Cagsawa Ruins with visual presentation, then later offers to take your pictures with camera tricks. Good thing I've read an article about it, otherwise I would have shooed them away. I tell you, they are very creative. They even knew how to use my digital camera more than I do. In the end, you won't hesitate to give them a tip.


    Afterwhich, we proceeded to an hour land trip to Vitton Resort in Dancalan Beach Resort, registered at the Donsol Tourist Center next door and met by a lovely sunset.

    Next day was judgement day, I booked the best Butanding Interaction Officer, Omar. He was the videographer of Donsol (the movie) and guide to celebrities like Korina Sanchez of Balitang K and Dianne Castillejo of Sports Unlimited. He took care of the booking of the boat, skipper, spotter, gear and everything else.

    It was non-stop sightings between 730 to 11am, we barely had time in between to reapply sunblock or to grab a sandwich. Just in time we get settled on the boat, the guide shouts "ready!". Who am I to complain? I rushed to put on my fins over and over again, be the first to sit on the edge of the boat and lucky to be dragged by the guide through and through. Twas an amazing encounter with the gentle giants.



    I've lost count, but I can safely say we swam with 5 different whalesharks in more than 8 occasions. But it's not in the numbers. The first one was the biggest and the friendliest. It didn't mind our presence, interaction lasted a good 30 minutes... it could have been longer but we could not keep up, after having our portraits alongside it (so I have proof to brag). I was literally panting the first time when fear sinks in, then excitement sets in and eventually breath rans out. I probably gulped a liter of water with planktons (eew!) and heard someone screamed underwater. With that first encounter, we were already very much content but they just kept coming and coming, even on our way back to shore.

    The rest of the day was a lazy afternoon, spent an hour of thanksgiving mass in Donsol, Church in their native dialect and nourished our hungry pangs at Amor Farm Resort.


    It was a totally awesome experience, I don't mind going back someday.

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! off we went to Camsur Watersports Complex.

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