Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Hope

Whew, this year has been a roller coaster ride.

I had an acute case of wanderlust and it's getting worse every year.  Is it a good or a bad thing?  Last year, I've upgraded my Lakbayan Grade to C+ by fulfilling my Wow Philippines wishlist.  Unexpectedly, this year, I was able to tick off most of my Southeast Asia and the Pacific wishlist:

  • Bonding with cousins during the Hot Air Balloon in Clark, Pampanga  in February was exciting.
  • Trekking up Mt. Pinatubo, Capas Tarlac with my soon to be in-law in February was breathtaking.
  • Diving with pelagic (sharks, napoleon wrasse etc)  in Palau, Micronesia in March was a whole new world.
  • Trying out my new toy: Panasonic GF1 in Boracay in April was lovely.
  • Conquered the waters and locals of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia in May was superb.
  • Got a ten year US visa in July even I have to intention of going there soon.
  • Sardines and Thresher Shark overload in Moalboal, Cebu last July was fulfilling.
  • Backpacking Japan in August was an experience.
  • Autumn in South Korea in October was sweet.
  • Business trip to Bangkok, Thailand in November was an eyeopener.
  • Foregone a trip to Davao in December was a good decision.
  • Stopover trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in December was luxurious.
  • Leisurely trip to Siem Reap in December was heartwarming.

I still have too many travel journals to write about.  One thing is for sure, I'm loving those stamps on my passport!

In between, work life has been a great challenge.  A big decision had to be made, hoping that the benefits will outweigh the risks.  Next year will be a year to beat. With a big new project on hand, I have to play superwoman and be wanderlust no more.  I hope I can pull it off with the rest of the team.

It has also been a tough year for my family.  Serious health issues had been popping every so often for the past year.  First my uncle's spinal surgery, then my aunt's fall and hyper acidity attacks, then my uncle's impending kidney transplant, now my dad's post surgery issues.

As of this writing, it is his second day in the Coronary Care Unit after having been moved from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  He was in the ICU for five days after suffering irregular heartbeat during and after a three hour raptured appendicitis surgery. The doctors say he is at high risk of getting a stroke if things don't normalize.

This happened when I was away from home after Christmas.  I was all too jittery everytime my phone rang, I get updates from my siblings through text messages and emails.  I tried to rebook my flight home but can't. In times like these, every hour counts.  While waiting for my transit flight home, I got a call from dad.  After the short conversation, I felt very sentimental and can't help but shed some tears at the airport!  He's even first to ask how's my trip rather than me asking him how's he's coping.  He's simply the best, he's my strength.

Today, we visited him twice, it was a relief to see him in a good disposition.  At around 6 in the evening, while we were chatting with him, his heart monitor kept alarming.  His heart stopped for a split second then his heartrate instantly became normal (from a level of hundred plus to sixty-six).  The cardiologist even came back on a New Year's eve to verify the ECG, he can't believe it himself.  OMG,  a miracle just happened before my eyes.

Thank you Lord,  I can welcome the new year with a bigger smile.  Hopefully he recovers fully.  I believe in miracles, do you?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

There's Always Plan B

After a week of being indecisive, this week's event may not be all too sweet for my ears.  So I opted to stay where my heart is, that is Cebu.  I guess I've said my piece to my peers, the best way I can so as not to offend anyone intentionally or unintentionally.

I thought I'd be such a loser being stuck here with my mind wandering on prestine white sand of Boracay or zipping high up in Davao.  But the weekend turned out to be promising.  I was invited to an appreciation dinner at the Marriott tonight for an 80's themed party but opted to have casual dining at Dong Juan with a visiting cousin.  I volunteered to be his host while my parents are away.  Tomorrow, I'm taking him to Parkmall to watch the last leg of Tanduay's Nationwide Tour of Tanduay First Five 2010 featuring today's most popular Pinoy rock band: Bamboo, Kamikazee, 6 Cycle Mind, Sandwich, Chicosci.  It will be a first for me to watch a rock concert, but having these five in one venue is something to look forward to.  I'm not sure if I could relate, but nonetheless, I'm sure I'll enjoy it with the VIP tickets I have on hand.

Unbelievably, all weekends of December are filled up. This Sunday will be a long day with an early morning run and will cap the day with the homecoming of a close friend which should mean: a reunion with a set of good friends.   Next weekend will be a Christmas party with two different sets of badminton friends, the following weekend will be spent with family at Shangri-la Mactan Resort and a wedding of a college classmate.  And then, it will be an extended Christmas vacation in Kuala Lumpur and Siem Reap.

Aaah, life is sweet because there is always Plan B.

What:  Tanduay First Five 2010
When:  December 4, 2010, Saturday
Where:  Parkmall, West Parking Area
             Ouano Avenue, Mandaue Reclamation Area, Cebu
For Tickets: Simply redeem proof of purchase of any Tanduay product at their booth next to Family Appliance and M. Lhuiller inside Parkmall.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Dilemma

A few months ago, when I learned that my badminton friends bought tickets to Davao, I thought it's a good time to revisit the place.  It has been years since my last trip there and there seems to be a few interesting things to do there since.  When Cebu Pacific Air went on sale, I decided to join them and purchased a ticket to Davao.  The group will arrive a day earlier and play badminton while three of us will follow the next day and have agreed not to play but just to explore other stuff in Davao like ziplining and/or wakeboarding.   Unfortunately, the two who will be joining me are backing out.  Here comes my dilemma!  Proceeding with the trip without these two will definitely put me out of place.  I guess, I'm all too quiet, prim and proper for their standards!  Hay,  I feel left out lately already, what can I do in Davao for two days to make the most out of my stay there (even with my lonesome self)?

Then I bumped into this ad!  For a thousand roundtrip via Seair, I can spend the weekend in Boracay instead.  Last weekend, I got an invite from my bestfriend to join her in Boracay Shangri-la (courtesy of Coca-Cola Philippines).  Seven months ago, I was with the same group in Regency Boracay.  This time, after a day use in Shangri-la, we plan to resort hop the next two days in Station 2.  However, I have to go on leave for three days but the offer is simply irresistible and the sea breeze is calling me...

Oh my, I'm torn but I better have a good excuse.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skycable Cebu Channel List

For the longest time, I've been blinded with the cable channels simply because our old Sony TV ceased to show the channel number.  So if you ask me what channel is which, then I wouldn't know.  I normally go channel surfing with its auto scan and just randomly lands into whatever channel looks interesting, but ends up with the local channels.  Then sometime last month, our TV ceased to show anything... a good reason to buy one.  Sony has always been the household preferred brand, but we can't resist the good deal of Samsung's flat screen tv.  (I'm still not used to the wide screen setting, everyone on TV looks fat!)

I cannot find a good skycable cebu channel list online (even in their official website) so here, I'm making a list and checking it twice!
  • 04 NBN
  • 05 TV 5
  • 08 GMA 7
  • 10 ABS-CBN 2
  • 12 RPN 9
  • 13 IBC
  • 14 SUGBO TV
  • 15 SKY
  • 17 HERO
  • 20 ANC
  • 21 BBC WORLD
  • 23 STUDIO 23
  • 24 AXN
  • 25 JACK TV 
  • 28 W
  • 29 HBO
  • 30 MAX
  • 31 DIVA
  • 32 ESPN
  • 33 BALLS
  • 36 RCTV
  • 39 FX
  • 40 VELVET
  • 45 Q TV
  • 46 MYX
  • 47 CNTV
  • 48 EZ SHOP
  • 49 FOX
  • 50 CNN
  • 52 DZMM
  • 58 NET 25
  • 60 EWTN
I just realized, Arirang TV and KBS World are no longer available on a basic package (and it has been like that for a couple of months)!  No wonder my roommate has not been watching the koreanovelas, and I have the TV (and computer) all to myself these days.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Backpacking Japan: Arriving in Tokyo

3rd stop of Backpacking Japan.

From Kawaguchi Lake we took the highway bus for two hours to Shinjuko Station, Tokyo.  Out of all the stops, I was looking forward to Tokyo the most.  I was curious to see how chic this city is.

Shinjuko Station was overwhelming,  it is said to be the busiest station in Japan.  Considering that it was not rush hour, the crowd was just too much.  I could just sit (if I could find a seat but there seems none) there all day and watch the crowd go by.  Looking at the complexity of the route map, you will just refuse to understand it.

Changing lines is not as easy as going to the train across the platform.  It could mean going up or down stairs, in and out of the station.  If you bring your luggage around, finding escalators is not easy, but there should be one somewhere.  Each stop has several exits but generally, there is only one elevator per stop; lucky if you happen to use that particular exit.

thank goodness, there is english!  one day subway pass for 1580 yen
Going around within Tokyo city on the Tokyo Metro Subway is actually easy.  The Tokyo Metro is composed of several lines.  Separate fees (about 200 yen each) apply every time you get on and off different lines to get to your destination.  To make life simpler, we got the unlimited day pass called Tokyo Round Tour Ticket for 1580 yen.  When navigating the subway map, simply plot which station you are coming from and your destination and note which stops you'll change trains.  No worries, the stops are in English alphabet and signs are tourist friendly.

To learn more about taking trains in Japan read here (good luck!).  After a while, you'll get the hang of it, it's not as complicated as it seems.

From Shinjuko, we were heading to Asakusa to find our hostel.  Finding Yamanote line could have been easy, if you're a local and don't have a luggage in tow.
one of those murals on the subway

The good thing about being on a tour was leaving the navigation to the tour leader, the bad thing about it was, when the tour leader is a tourist himself, you get lost with him.   We exited at Asakusabashi Station, walked up several flights of stairs with our luggage only to realize that Asakusabashi is different from Asakusa.   Waaaaah.  We had to go back down the subway (with our luggage!), took the train again, exited Asakusa Station, walked passed the crowded Asakusa Market. After an hour, we finally reached Asakusa Hostel exhausted.
the corridors of our hostel, reminds me of prison
Upon check-in at Sakura Hostel in Asakusa, we were provided with bed linens and blankets, which means, you need to fix your own bed and return them upon check-out.  While we were better off to share a room for four with wooden bunk beds on the third floor.

private room for 4 at 12600 yen/room

Eight of them cramped in a room for eight at the basement.  There was not much space and there was a lack of ventilation unless you keep the glass door open.  Their room became a little stinky with those old clothes and shoes especially by the boys which prompted one of them to join us the following night not minding sleeping on the floor.
private room for 8 at 23,520 yen/room

Sakura Hostel can be reached at  Rooms are equipped with air conditioning, individual bed light and outlet, a small cabinet, clean common toilet and bath with shower enclosures, an elevator, friendly & helpful english speaking staff and free wifi at the lobby.  If you're on a budget, Sakura Hostel should be one of your options.  You would not go wrong with K's House Tokyo too.

Backpacking Japan even with four-wheel strollers?  Never again.  But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the trip, lagging our luggage around was worth the experience at least once in your life :p

Up next:  Exploring Tokyo and how we emptied our pockets. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Backpacking Japan: Going Around Kyoto

We went around Kyoto using a combination of Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Subway One Day Card.  To be honest, it's not easy to figure out the map, since there's too many of us, I left the navigation to my peers and get lost with them... yes, getting lost is an integral part of the experience.

You can read through how to access public transport at Kyoto City Web.  This pastel colored kyoto city bus and subway map likewise gives you a visual guide around Kyoto.  The day card doesn't always mean unlimited access, extra fees may be required for certain stops marked as "squares", so do take note of the legend.  The bus or subway stops doesn't normally stop near the entrance of these tourist attractions; 5 to 15 minutes walk may be necessary.

  • Kyoto Sightseeing Card (1,200 Yen for one day, 2,000 Yen for two days) - Unlimited usage of Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and the two subway lines in the city of Kyoto. The 2-day pass can be used on two consecutive days.

  • Kyoto City Bus One Day Card (500 Yen) - Unlimited use of Kyoto City Buses in central Kyoto. The area of validity is smaller than that of the Kyoto Sightseeing Card, and doesn't include some of the city's more outlying districts, such as Arashiyama.

  • Kyoto Subway One Day Card (600 Yen) - Unlimited use of Kyoto's two subway lines on one calendar day.

    Kyoto is everything cultural heritage sites; there are more than seventeen temples, castles and shrines.  Visiting all of them would definitely be overload.  Since most sites close by five in the afternoon, it's best to start early.  The best season to walk around these sites should be between mid to late November, when there's an explosion of colors brought about by the autumn season.  late March to April would also be best for cherry blossom viewing.  And here I am, walking around in August, at the height of summer, and I tell you, it was such a bad idea.  At an average, I could consume three or more iced desserts in a day.  The vendo machines that you can find anywhere served its purpose to keep us hydrated.  A bottle of water costs about 100 yen on the vendo machine.
        Day 1
      Tenryuji is a Zen temple in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. It has been ranked first among the city's "Five Great Zen Temples". Last summer, the zen garden looked so pretty, but I sat there  imagining how much prettier it would be in autumn.
      • To get there: Tenryuji is just a few steps from the Keifuku Arashiyama terminal station. The small Keifuku trains connect Arashiyama with the Ryoanji/Kinkakuji area and Shijo-dori.  The JR Saga-Arashiyama Station is a 5 minute walk from Tenryuji and is served by the JR Sagano Line (San-in Line) with frequent trains that take about 15 minutes to Kyoto Station.
      • Hours: 830 - 1700 daily
      • Admission: 500 yen
      Nijo Castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo Shogunate, as the Kyoto residence for himself and his successors.  It took some time to go around the premises, the garden was huge and twas interesting to step on those so called "nightingale floor".  The floors of the outer rooms at the castle squeak whenever someone steps on them. The squeaking sounds much like the singing of the nightingale but they weren’t designed because the shogun liked to hear birds singing but he was very fearful for his life, and the squeaking floors were designed to alert the ruler if anyone approached his chambers.
      • To get there: Nijojo-mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line
      • Hours: 845-1700
      • Closed: Tuesdays (Wednesday if Tuesday falls on a national holiday)
      • Admission: 600 yen
      Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf.  Looking from across the lake (photo above), it looked picturesque with it's reflection on the lake. However, up close, it looked plain and simple.  Its premises was also not promising.
      • To get there: Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 in about 40 minutes and for 220 yen. Alternatively, it can be faster and more reliable to take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station (15 minutes, 250 yen) and take a taxi (10 minutes, around 900 yen) or bus (10 minutes, 220 yen, bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) from there to Kinkakuji.
      • Hours: 900 - 1700, all days
      • Admission: 400 yen

      Day 2
        Fushimi Inari Shrine is the most famous of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan. Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and foxes are thought to be his messengers.  It is also famous for the countless torii gates, offerings by worshipers.  These are etched with Chinese and/or Japanese characters of names of businessmen who made those offerings. that cover the hiking trails of Inarisan, the wooded mountain behind the shrine's main buildings. It takes about two hours to walk along the whole trail.  We hiked up those steps just half the way.
        • To get there: JR Inari Station on the JR Nara Line. The train ride takes five minutes and costs 140 yen from Kyoto Station.  We took the bus and we waited for about 45 minutes for it on the way back.
        • Hours: Always open, all days
        • Admission: free
        Kiyomizudera ("Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan.  There's obviously a good number of couples and locals compared to other temples.  IMHO, this is probably the most interesting among all temples, aside from me being unmindful of the walk uphill because of the numerous small stores and tea houses along the way.
        Jishu Shrine
        Behind Kiyomizudera's main hall stands Jishu Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking. In front of the shrine are two stones, placed 18 meters apart. It is believed that if you successfully find your way from one to the other with your eyes closed is said to bring luck in finding love. You can also have someone guide you from one stone to the other, but that is interpreted to mean that an intermediary will be needed in your love life as well.  And yes, I was able to find my way to the other end with my friends' help, does it mean I need a matchmaker to find my match?! :)
        Otowa Waterfall
        The Otowa Waterfall is located at the base of Kiyomizudera's main hall. Its waters are divided into three separate streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream's water is said to have a different benefit, namely to cause (left to right) wisdom, beauty and longevity. However, drinking from all three streams is considered greedy.  We knew little about this fact during the trip, we thought it was all for "love"; no wonder an old woman lined up for this too! (I drank the one on the left.) :)
        • To get there: by bus number 100 or 206 (15 minutes, 220 yen). Get off at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, from where it is a ten minute uphill walk to the temple. Alternatively, Kiyomizudera is about a 20 minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station along the Keihan Railway Line.
        • Hours:  600-1800 
        • Spring & Fall Illumination: 1830-2130 mid March to mid April and mid November to early December
        • Admission:  300 yen (400 yen for illumination)
        WHAT TO EAT:
        Aside from the heritage sites, one thing I love about Kyoto is food!  We did not find so many typical Japanese restaurants like those serving sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen (save these for Tokyo).  When in Kyoto (or southern Japan), have these interesting meals part of your to do list:
        Okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza) served in a small diner outside Tenryuji
        Quail yakitori is popular outside Inari Shrine. (Fox's hunt them.)
        everything green tea at a desert shop on the way up to Kiyomizudera
        Takoyaki (octopus balls) pitstop after Kiyomizudera
        (you won't miss this when heading to the restroom by the vendo machines)
        After a scorching hot day at Kiyomizudera, the skies started to rumble, so we had to swallow those takoyaki and rushed downhill to the bus stop.  It was not long before the rain poured.  We all cramped into a corner, under the roof of a restaurant extending on the sidestreets and screamed as we rushed inside the bus when it arrived several minutes after.  We must looked so poor yet clumsy, the people on the bus had a good laugh.  An unusually big japanese guy seated next to me can't stop giggling and laughing til the next bus stop.  We finally caught the attention of the locals who are generally reserved with their actions.
        • PONTOCHO. Pontocho is one of Kyoto's traditional nightlife districts. It is a narrow street running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of the Kamo River. Overlooking the Kamogawa River, there is a row of restaurants and teahouses, ranging from inexpensive to highly exclusive establishment offering good ambience.  We would have wanted to sit at those alfresco tables but were taken aback by the cover charge of 300 to 500 yen per head on top of a 2000 to 4500 yen set menu.  Although there's a good selection of restaurant with plastic food display window, it took us a good thirty minutes to find a restaurant with english menu at a reasonable price.  We ended up on the third floor of the first building, in a restaurant that serves a wide range of bento boxes, yet we still got a table by the window overlooking the river (indoor).
          Pontocho: large eel bento for 2400 yen (L), all sushi plate for 1400 yen (R)
        • SHIJO DORI.  Perpendicular to Pontocho, the 4th Avenue must be it for shopping at high-end department stores like Takashimaya.  We kept coming back here, not to shop but to take advantage of its luxurious restrooms!  This avenue looks like one of Kyoto's main (accessible) street since after a day of sightseeing, we almost always end up here to change to the bus stop to our hostel.
        • NISHIKI MARKET. Known as Kyoto's Kitchen is a narrow, shopping street, lined by more than one hundred shops. Various kinds of fresh and processed foods including many Kyoto specialties, such as pickles, Japanese sweets, dried food, sushi, and fresh seafood and vegetables are sold.  Unfortunately, we missed out on this since we got lost in those small alleys and ended up going back to Pontocho for dinner.
        • GION.  Crossing that bridge on Shijo Dori leads you to Gion.  You might bump into a Geisha as you walk through Gion or if you don't find one, dress yourself up!  We didn't make it to Gion, but we were lucky to get a glimpse of a Geisha at the Kyoto Station and I was so tempted to run after her to take a photo, they simply walk too fast.
        Next stop:  Mt. Fuji, Kawaguchiko

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      Backpacking Japan: Arriving in Kyoto via Kansai, Osaka

      1st stop of backpacking Japan.

      For the first time, I met the rest of the participants of Travel Factor at the airport.  On board the budget airline Cebu Pacific, we flew from Manila to Kansai International Airport (KIX), Osaka and won for the 2nd time the on-board fun games a pouch perfect for my shades.

      I was seated next to a Japanese guy in his early twenties.  I knew he was eager to strike a conversation and so we engaged in one.  He shared some valuable tips and showed some of the pictures he took around Japan.  He speaks English fluently and a little Tagalog.  He has been in the Philippines for several years, working for the Philippine Retirement Authority and owning a hotel in Angeles, Pampanga.   He loves the Philippines but thinks that he will die young eating Filipino food... oily and salty. :))  That LV wallet and lexus car that was meeting him was a status symbol that he was one wealthy kid!  haha  Our chit-chat made the 3-hour flight short.

      It was quite a long and slow queue at KIX immigration.  The interiors of the airport seems not impressive, in contrast to what I was expecting after watching the Mega Structures documentary on National Geographic.

      With some pencil pushing, I budgeted 3,000 yen a day for pocket money but my peers brought 3 times more.  Is it really that expensive out there? After immigration and getting our luggage, I had to exchange more US dollar to yen at the airport.  (Forex rate in the Philippines was a better deal.) Gladly I did, you can hardly find any money changer in the city.

      Our ultimate destination for that day was Kyoto, so we had to take an hour van ride from Kansai to Kyoto. TF pre-arranged with MK Skygateshuttle Counter a shared van ride from  Kansai to Kyoto which costs 3,500 yen per person.  The van sits nine pax and is necessary to book two days in advance.
       MK Shuttledesk can be reached at +81(0)75-778-5489 and the counter is open from 7am to 10pm.

      From Osaka's cityscape, we drove into a quaint and quite neighborhood then we thought, we must already be in Kyoto. The side streets were narrow, you had to hold your breath on behalf of the driver but even on these alleys, the streets are well paved and clean.  Since we occupied the whole van, the driver dropped us right in front of the guesthouse where we will be checking-in.  It would probably be difficult to locate it on our own.

      Bola Bola Guest House is one typical Japanese home, small and clean.  It's quite cramped to fit 20 guests but I love the interior, it was truly a local experience to keep shoes off all the time, to squat whenever you wish to rest, to figure out how to flush the toilet, to use common bath and to sleep on those mats on the floor.

      Guest House BOLA-BOLA
      25-17 Horigauchicho Uzumasa
      Ukyo-ku Kyoto-city, Japan
      rates are from 2500 to 3500 yen per pax, sharing rooms, common toilet and bath
      The owner is very nice, helpful and speaks fluent english.  It would probably be nice to rent the whole place for a group of 8 to12.  Food is not served but the kitchen is available for use.  Seven-eleven and Sukiya Restaurant are within walking distance.  The place is far from the main city but there's a bus stop at the corner and the JR train station is about 10 minutes away by foot.

      However, sharing rooms wasn't such a pleasant experience.  The snore echoed through the night on that tiny room and air conditioning wasn't cool enough on a hot summer night (the same case in all the places we checked-in), which kept us awake all night.

      We arrived Kyoto at nine in the evening,  lucky we found Sukiya around the corner.  Sukiya (すき家?) is a Japanese restaurant chain serving gyūdon, other donburi, and curry but we had a dilemma... they don't understand english and there was no english menu available, although the menu came with pictures, guessing game and sign language was put to test...  viola, to my surprise, my meal came with a snoopy spoon on a snoopy plate. :))

      Sunday, September 12, 2010

      Backpacking Kawaguchi Lake: Finding Fuji San

      2nd stop of Backpacking Japan with Travel Factor.

      I thought long and hard whether to bring along a neck pillow on a backpacking trip, it's not an inflatable one but one like a bean bag which takes up a lot of baggage space hoping it will make me sleep better on overnight buses.  I have sleeping problems, I don't get to sleep anywhere, anytime.  So I did bring one with me.

      We took the Kintetsu Highway Bus from Kyoto to Kawaguchiko Station; twas a nine hour overnight bus.  We were delighted to see that there was three rows (all aisle) of individual seats.  Unfortunately, the road was a lil bumpy and the bus was running no more than it's speed limit of 50kmph.  The aircon bus was warm, i guess the wool blanket, pashmina, and jacket were definitely useless.  We complained to the bus driver that it was warm and if he could switch off the light but to no avail.  At 2am, the lights were finally off and there goes an orchestra of snores on the bus and one blurted out, do you have something to kill a fly?  We had to burst into laughter, our tour leader snored a magnified version of a buzzing fly beating its wings.  At somepoint another snores in a different tune and an earphone falls off with disco music loud enough for us to hear. Well, well, well... i barely had sleep on that overnight bus ride.(more info on trips from Kyoto to Kawaguchiko here.)

      We arrived Kawaguchiko Station a few minutes earlier than expected.  While waiting for our complimentary hostel transfers, we spotted Mt. Fuji from behind the station.  I took a snapshot by the window, and gladly I did because finding Fuji san the rest of day was difficult on a seemingly sunny but cloudy day.

      Mt. Fuji on the background

      After a while, my fellow travellers spotted a Filipino, from abs-cbn... ecstatic about seeing fellow Filipino (which is rare in Japan), he said he'll be back with his camera.  He came back with his camera and Ya-chang!  Remember Ya-chang?  He was discovered for being candid as a contestant in Wowowee; they were there filming for Bayaning Pilipino, to be shown sometime in December.  They caught a video of us with him at the station, hopefully we get our tv debut soon.  They invited us to join them on their tour to Oishi Park, unfortunately, we still have our luggage in tow... we ought to check-in at our hostel first.  Ya-chang insisted, that we can leave our luggage in the station, anyway it won't get lost... nothing gets lost in Japan.  Really?! (tourists like us do! haha)
      abs-cbn camera man with Ya-chang!
      K's House Mt. Fuji is about 5 minutes by car from Kawaguchiko Station or 15 minutes by foot.   The lobby, kitchen, living room was spacious, by far was the cleanest and most spacious hostel we've checked-in during the whole trip.  Six of us shared a room en suite a private comfort room but i preferred the common toilet and bath since it was clean and more spacious.  We slept on the floor like Japanese do; being the smallest, I had to tuck myself in a corner to fit six mattresses in the room.

      Kawaguchi Lake is the jump-off point to see Mt. Fuji (from afar). The place is serene with lovely little towns best for rest and relaxation.  Travel Factor provided us with a ticket around Kawaguchiko on Retro Bus for 1000 yen. Later did we realize that with limited time, it is wiser to avail of a day tour like Mt. Fuji Bus Tour for about 4,900 yen (or a 70 minute open bus Kaba Sightseeing Bus for 1,200 yen also looked interesting). It gets you to see more places faster since the retro bus schedule is not too frequent.
      town's specialty Hoton Noodles for lunch.
      We were left on our own to wander around with the Retro Bus; most attractions close by 4 or 5 in the afternoon, with little time left, we narrowed down our choices to two:

      Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway; no Mt. Fuji in sight, it was covered up with smog.
      Oishi Park:  very few flowers bloom in the summer; but the corn on the cob & blueberry ice cream were sweet!

      more info about Fuji Five Lakes / Kawaguchiko
       While browsing through some brochures in the hostel; there's more to see in the area:
      Thomas the Train Bus to Fuji Q Highlands and so my nephew asked, "did you buy it?"
      ecstatic knowing that there is Thomas Land in Fuji Q Highland; my nephews will love this!
      Late in the afternoon, some of us did the laundry while 3 of us were tasked to buy food from the grocery for our dinner.  We had an inexpensive sumptuous dinner at the hostel with sashimi, gyoza, tempura, katsudon and more.   Mt. Fuji was standing high and mighty on our way to the grocery, of all times, I left my camera. *boo!*

      We capped the day with a dip on a forty degree jacuzzi at the onsen to pamper those tired muscles.  There is proper etiquette to be observed at the onsen; but oops i came across this the morning after.

      DIY post trip accounting: (1 yen = .53 pesos)
      Y8000  bus fare from Kyoto to Kawaguchiko on Kintetsu Highway Bus
      Y2700 1 night @ K's House 2,700 yen/person, 6pax sharing
      Y1000 retro bus
      Y1300 hoton noodles
      Y800 dinner from the grocery
      Y1700 bus fare from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo Station/Shinjuku Station

      Saturday, September 11, 2010

      Reviews: Backpacking Japan with Travel Factor

      Travel Factor (TF) is a pioneer in organizing budget tours (especially for 40 below) around the Philippines.  In recent years, it's new partner Cedric Valera expanded its reach by covering international destinations while it's founding partner, Leia Nagal, decided to tie the knot and settled down in America.

      Prior to Japan I have joined two travel factor trips;  the first was a photography workshop called  Photoholic Ilocos organized by Leia and the second was the river rafting trip Conquer Kota Kinabalu facilitated by Eric.

      For backpacking Japan, there were 11 of us in the group:
      • 1 travel coordinator with 4 of his TF friends; 
      • me and 3 of my friends and 
      • 2 other first time TF solo travelers.  
      All my friends and the 2 solo travelers swear they will not join or recommend Travel Factor.  They were completely dissatisfied with the service.  There was an absence of a leader, who will do some briefing or break the ice and unite the group.  In the primer it said; there are 11 travelers, please be friendly; i guess the tour coordinator himself failed to observe this.  It was a consensus that it felt like joining the travel coordinator's friends' vacation rather than joining a group tour.  One said, it felt like "nakikisabay lang and paying for their share".  We barely see them in some days, so we had to explore on our own; and "adopt" the 2 solo travelers to our group.  The itinerary is not necessarily followed; they tend to appear much later (minutes or an hour) than the agreed time.
      I too was disappointed with the service; TF is not the same without Leia's touch.  On the other hand, from day one it dawned on me, I was with the wrong company; no matter how much conditioning of the mind I did to my friends prior to joining a backpacking tour; they cannot stop complaining throughout the trip.  When you're used to some luxuries in life, it's somehow difficult for some to accept the thought of living in hostels and using public transport.
      Travel Factor is for you when you don't mind:
      • not having airport transfers - in Japan, when we move from one city to the next, we had to lug our luggage around; up and down the stairs in between stations/subway ride; this for me was hell.  Escalators or elevators are not always available; or if they are, some could be a block away from the desired exit.
      • taking public transport like bus, trains and overnight buses - in Japan, no transportation was chartered exclusively for the group to go around sightseeing; unlimited day pass on bus or subway was provided as part of the package; overnight bus was chosen over shinkansen (bullet trains) or flights between cities.
      • sharing a room with other TF participants - they normally book a hostel room for four or more and share it among TF participants; if you are a group of friends, chances are they'll put you in a room together (with or without other participants).
      • using common toilet and bath - condition will depend on the chosen hostel; in Japan, they are generally clean.
      • not having a tourist guide - the tour coordinator does not act as a guide; they will only arrange the accommodation and transportation;  you'll be left on your own to explore the sights or get lost with them.  It is likewise important to do your own research, there won't be much input from the coordinator especially what to do during free time.  If there are issues like folded train ticket, laundry or room key you have to deal with it on your own.  Basically, the group is organized to share some travel cost like transportation and accommodation.
      • having a flexible itinerary - the itinerary agreed maybe not be followed; some sights may be skipped (in this case, you'll be refunded by that amount of entrance fee) due to time constraints.  You may join the group or opt to explore on your own.  The pace is normally laid back and meet up time is not strictly observed.  Even the tour coordinator shows up an hour after call time.
      For me, joining Travel Factor is about managing expectations.  Traveling is about the experience.  It doesn't always have to be luxurious; it's with these modest pleasures that you'd appreciate even more what you have and don't have.  Going around Japan for ten days for U$999, what do you expect?!

        Friday, September 10, 2010

        What's up Philippines?

        There has been much hullabaloo about the hostage crisis,  I wasn't around to see the live stream, so it might not have struck me as much as it did to others, I was off to some place more peaceful.  Nevertheless, it was shameful and it definitely put a slump on Philippines' tourism.

        Anyway, what's up Philippines?  Aside from the soaring index of the stock market (I have yet to sell my stocks, is it time?)  I'm getting feeds from facebook and here on google, about the ziplines hanging up around the Philippines.  Is this a craze?  If it is, I am so out!  I haven't tried one in my entire life, and that's so sad.  My cousins are coming over two weeks from now and they are bugging me to go on one, why not!?

        Here in Cebu, there has been two (or three?) already:
        • K33 Green Adventure - located 33kms from the city, on east of the Cebu Transcentral Highway. K33 claimed to be the longest zipline in Cebu with a 300 meter and 220 meter zipline pegged at P200/zipline.  They can be reached through Barry at +639209272449 | (032) 5112158
          or | Address: Ga-as, Balamban, Cebu, Philippines
        • Gaas Eco-Adventure Park Inc. - resto-adventure cafe with a shorter zipline at P100-P150 and offers other activities like rappeling and spelunking.  Contact: Nigel +639209474460 +639228237138
        Around the Philippines, these are a few that I've come across lately:
        Take me high up and fast around the Philippines.  Your feedback on any of these (and other) facilities would be greatly appreciated.

        Tips and Lessons Learned in Applying for US Visa

        The day came.  Applying for US visa can be exhausting, heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

        I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch my early morning flight to Manila.  We arrived at the US embassy thirty minutes past eleven in the morning for our 130pm appointment.  (Note: Cellphones and other electronic equipments are not allowed inside and there's no concierge to leave it with.)

        Step 1:  At the gate, present appointment confirmation with DS-160 submitted online, passport and blue copy of visa fee payment.  Time of appointment doesn't necessarily follow anymore; one will be given a priority number on a first come first serve basis.

        Step 2:  Proceed to the Pavillion (non-airconditioned waiting area); food and drinks are available for sale here.  Fill up the pink form given at the entrance and make sure you know the following details (my father completely forgot these details, luckily they did not make a big deal out of it):
        • Applicant's full name (surname, given name, middle name/maiden name)
        • Father's full name and birthday
        • Mother's maiden name and birthday
        • Spouse full name and birthday
        Step 4:  Wait for you number to be called; the blue copy of payment form will be verified and you'll be given a new priority number.

        Step 5:  Groups of 4 and up were called separately and documents are checked ahead.   However, it wasn't such a good idea, in our case, it took longer.  1 group is assigned a priority number after every 20 individuals.

        Step 6:  Once you get your new priority number, you will proceed to the room where the consuls are.  Wait for your number appears on the board; looking at those red colored numbers makes me dizzy.

        Step 7:  Your number will be called for ten printing.  Ten printing means, your fingerprints will be scanned.

        Step 8:  After ten printing, you have to wait again til your number is flashed on the screen, for the interview with the consul.

        Step 9:  If disapproved, you'll be given a notice for the reason of denial.  The passport will no longer be stamped as denied.  On the other hand, if approved, you'll be asked to proceed to Air 21's booth and pay for courier.  On several occasion, the courier will update you via text message the following:
        1. tracking number of the passport (at midnight on the day you paid the courier)
        2. when the passport is dispatched out of the consulate
        3. status in transit
        4. estimated delivery time (I got mine after three working days)
        All interview appointments will be done by 4 in the afternoon.
          Here are my personal tips in applying for a US Visa.

          Although no documents were asked during our interview (some applicants were asked), bring a birth certificate and/or marriage  certificate, and prepare documents that will establish your ties in the Philippines and proof of capacity to finance your travel, like:
          • original income tax return
          • original land title
          • passbook with significant transactions for several months (a bank certificate may not be sufficient)
          • significant credit card billings
          • original business registration/stock certificate or employment certificate
          • license issued by professional regulation commission, where applicable
          Make sure you know by heart what you  have written on the DS-160 (application form).  The consulate doesn't have a database to verify your application.  The consul will ask you questions and will verify whether the same information is on your application; any discrepancy will be construed as if you're lying.  Questions raised in our case were:
          1. What do you do (for a living)? - when having your own business, the consul did not like hearing answers like "I'm the manager of A Corporation";  For them, it's pretentious to claim as if you work in a corporation recognized worldwide.  He wants an answer as simple as "I have my own business" or "I work for my father".
          2. What is your position (at work) and compensation?
          3. How old are you?
          4. What is your profession? - undeniably there is discrimination against certain profession.
          5. What is you longest stay in America?
          After the first question, the consul said, "you have enough ties, all of you are qualified".  Then he proceeded with the other questions and verifying our answers on our application form online (without asking any documents).  We did not realize that my brother answered incorrectly the last question.  While we all answered 3 weeks, it totally slipped my brother's mind (and us too) that he once stayed there for 5 months for an on-the-job training.  Looking upset, the consul looked into his previous visa and asked what he did there.  My brother explained that he was sent by his previous employer from the Philippines to "work".  With the wrong choice of word, the consul thinks that he should have gotten a H1 working visa instead of a B1 business visa and as such, he can be banned re-entry to the USA.  (However, that period has lapsed.)   The consul became ill-tempered and felt that he was lying and would not accept that he made an honest mistake.  All these were noted in his record; and so he asked further what his work was and asked if he received compensation in the USA.  He was paid in peso in the Philippines and only received training allowance in the USA.  This pacified the consul a lil bit knowing he was not paid in USA.  But damage has been done, he was denied for failure to establish ties in the Philippines and have not overcome a presumption that he will use the visa to immigrate or work illegally in the United States.   As such, he may reapply soon; no documents were required to rectify his status, his next application will depend on the next consul's judgment.

          With no further question, the rest of us remained silent, fearful that our application will be jeopardized, we were granted a visa.

          Technically, my brother had the correct visa, choice of words is very crucial, he could have used the word "training" instead of "work".

          Consular officers tend to focus on factors whether the applicants possess compelling ties to applicant’s home country:
          • If the applicants have traveled to the U.S. previously, how long did they stay? If they stayed longer than 6 months, did they have INS approval to do so? (Note: Please have the applicants bring their INS extension approval notices to their interview).
          • If the applicants have traveled to the U.S. previously, how long have they been back in home country?
          • How many children and grandchildren do the applicants have back in home country?
          • Have the relatives in the U.S. ever returned to home country to visit their families as is normal for foreign students, workers, and residents in the U.S.?
          • Are the applicant active professionally in their home country; if so, what is their income and the nature of their work?
          Looking back, more than anything else, presence of mind is key, one wrong answer will be construed as insincerity.  Be consistent and keep your answers simple: less talk means less mistakes.

          The B1 in lieu of an H1B

          In certain, limited circumstances the US Consulate may issue an employment-authorized B1 visa where the work to be undertaken would usually require an H1B visa. This provision is particularly applicable to situations where you may need a non-US company to send a member of staff to the US for a limited period in order to undertake specific projects for you, or where you wish to bring in an employee of an overseas subsidiary, affiliate or parent for a limited period. The requirements for acquiring a B1 in lieu of H1B are:-
          • The work to be undertaken in the US must be H1B level – i.e. the worker must be engaged in a 'speciality occupation';
          • The worker must permanently employed (i.e. not a contractor) and paid by the employer outside the US;
          • The worker may receive no compensation other than expenses from a US source;
          • The worker must have a degree relevant to the services to be provided– there is no provision for work experience to be considered equivalent to adegree, as there is under the H1B.
          While in the US as a (B1) business visitor, an individual may:
          • Conduct Negotiations
          • Solicit sales or investment
          • Discuss planned investment or purchases.
          • Make investments or purchases
          • Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully.
          • Interview and hire staff.
          • Conduct research.
          The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:
          • Running a business.
          • "Gainful employment".
          • Payment by an organization within the US.
          • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.

          Friday, July 23, 2010

          Food for the Soul

          Reposting Bro Bo Sanchez' latest post.  It's exactly what my parents preach every single day.  If I show this to them, I'm sure I'll never hear the end of it.  They will agree with much conviction.

          The Best Medicine In The World Is Right In Front Of You

                 Lolo Carding and Lola Caring met each other in their old age, fell in love, and decided to get married.
                 Their age? Lolo Carding was 81 and Lola Caring was 79.
                 One day, while walking in a mall, they passed by a big drugstore.
                 Lolo Carding told his fiancé, “Let’s go in.”
                 They met the woman behind the counter. Lolo Carding asked, “Do you sell heart medication?”
                 The woman said, “Yes, Lolo.”
                 “Medicine for arthritis?” Lolo Carding asked.
                 The woman nodded her head, “Plenty, Lolo.”
                 “How about medicine for memory problems, back pains, osteoporosis, constipation, high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes?”
                 The woman smiled, “Yes, we have all those medicines, Lolo.”
                 “Do you also sell wheelchairs and walkers?”
                 “We have many brands, Lolo.”
                 Lolo Carding and Lola Caring smiled at each other, turned to the woman behind the counter and said, “We will be getting married in one month. Can we use this drugstore as our bridal registry.”
          How You Can Avoid
          Becoming A Walking Drugstore?
                 People expect that as they grow old, they’ll be taking more and more drugs.
                 Why? Because that’s what old people do. 
          I know of some people who take 20 tablets a day. 
          That seems normal now. People take maintenance medicines for hypertension, high sugar, cholesterol, uric acid, high sugar, and heart problems. Plus, they take more medicines for the side effects. Isn’t that insane? Yet that has become normal too.
                 Friend, this doesn’t have to happen to you.
          You have a choice.
          There’s another path to growing old.
                 I’ll repeat my message: The best medicine in the world is God’s chosen food. Eat it and be healed.
          Consult Your Manufacturer
                 If you’re phone is busted, what do you do?
                 You just don’t bring it to anyone.
          If you’re wise, you bring it to its manufacturer.
          If you have a Nokia phone, you bring it to Nokia. 
          If it’s Samsung, you bring it to Samsung. 
          If it’s an Iphone, you bring it to Apple.
          Today, I want you to go to your Manufacturer.
          Get yourself repaired.
                 Consult Him. 
                 What does He say about becoming healthy?
                 I’m not a doctor.
                 I’m a spiritual mentor.
                 So I’ll be showing you what the Bible says about health.
          It’s amazing how science is now discovering the logic behind these ancient verses. 
          99% Cause Of All Disease
          Read carefully: According to immunologists, 99% of all diseases aren’t caused by germs. They’re caused by a starving, weak, malnourished immune system.
                 Your body has an incredible, God-designed, super-elite army capable of destroying any germ that tries to attack it.
                 This internal army consists of billions of cells in your body that can prevent and cure any disease in your body.
                 But that’s the problem: We don’t eat the food that God designed for us to eat. So that army is starving.
                 No wonder we get sick!
                 If you look at the Bible, it gives you very practical recommendations on what you should eat. Let’s consult our Manufacturer and find out what He says about what we should eat.
                 Let me discuss three prescriptions today.
          1. Eat Plants
          2. Eat Clean
          3. Eat Other “Food”
          1.Eat Plants
          In Daniel 1:11-15, we read the fascinating story of how Daniel and his friends competed with the Babylonians in the “Who Will Be Healthier In 10 Days?” Contest…
          “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food….” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
          Daniel and his friends ate “vegetables and water”.
          The other young men ate “royal food” which consisted of meat and other food that was considered “unclean” by the Bible. After ten days, Daniel and his friends were healthier. The poor man’s diet won over the rich man’s diet.
          The Bible says in Genesis 1:29, “I have given you every plant with seeds on the face of the earth and every tree that has fruit with seeds. This will be your food.”
                 The Bible tells us that plants should be our main food. And today, modern science agrees!
                 If you study our bodies, you’ll find more similarities with herbivores than carnivores.
                 Go to the mirror now and check your teeth.
          What do you notice?  They’re flat. (If they’re all sharp, I suggest you find a good Exorcist.) Just like the teeth of cows, goats, and sheep. 
          Carnivores, like lions and tigers, have sharp teeth. 
                 Second, herbivores have very long digestive tracks. Just like ours. Carnivores have short ones.
                 Our anatomy is telling you that our major food should be plants. The reason why we get sick is because for many years (decades?) we’ve not been eating enough plants.
          Objection 1:
          “But Bo, I Take Vitamins!”
                 Some people say, “I don’t like fruits and veggies. So I just take vitamins.”
                 Thank God you’re taking vitamins.
          But that isn’t enough. Sorry, vitamin pills won’t replace the actual fruit or veggie. 
                 They’re called supplements because they add, not replace. 
          Because fruits and vegetables aren’t just about the vitamins. The actual plant also gives enzymes, trace elements, fiber, alkalinity, etcetera!
          Let me give you an analogy.
                 If you’re my age, you probably watched Voltes V.
                 For younger people who didn’t watch this Japanese cartoon, my deepest condolences. 
          Voltes V consists five spaceships piloted by Steve, Mark, Big Bert, Little John, and Jamie. There was a love triangle between Steve, Mark, and beautiful Jamie and…uh, never mind. 
          By themselves, the spaceships are okay. Each can shoot down enemy ships. 
                 But somewhere in the middle of the cartoon, these five spaceships connect with each other and “volt-in”.  Attached together, they form a giant, powerful, kick-butt robot with a saber sword. 
          Yep, the sum is always greater than its parts.
          Swallowing a vitamin pill is like getting only one spaceship of Voltes V.   But when you eat the whole fruit or vegetable, you’re getting all 5 team members—and they volt-in!
          They work together to build you up.
                 Take the case of enzymes.
          You Need Workers
                 Vitamins and minerals are like the raw materials for building your body. Imagine all of the wood, steel, and cement necessary to build a home. 
          But the enzymes are your laborers. Without laborers, the house won’t be built.
                 And where do you get enzymes? Not from a pill.
                 You get enzymes when you eat raw fruits and raw vegetables.
          Alkaline Body
                 No, I’m not talking about long-lasting batteries.
          Here’s another thing complete fruits and vegetables gives you that pills can’t: When you eat plants, your body becomes alkaline.  And germs can’t live in an alkaline environment. Cancer cells can’t live in an alkaline environment. That’s why cancer patients and other sick people have highly acidic bodies. (By acidic, I’m not talking about stomach acidity. I’m talking of the entire body.)
                 When you eat fruits and vegetables everyday, you make your body alkaline, thus making it stronger against disease.
                 Here’s another objection…
          Objection 2:
          “But Bo, I Do Eat Fruits and Veggies!”
                 That’s great!
          Question: How much?
          Some eat one fruit a day—a banana after a meal—and they pat themselves on the back and say, “I’m healthy.”
          Some eat one tiny side dish of cooked veggies—perhaps buttered string beans and carrots—and they say, “I’m healthy.”
          But doctors specializing in immunology will tell you that you need fifteen kinds of fruits and vegetables everyday to be healthy.
                 Fifteen! Every single day.
                 I’m not asking you to be vegetarians. 
          But if you want to be healthy, make fruits and veggies your main food. Let everything else be side dishes.
          Objection #3:
          “But Bo, It’s So Simplistic…”
                 Last month, while traveling in Shanghai, my 85-year old mother got sick. (Yep, at her age, she still travels!)
                 When she came home, she got worse. She was coughing non-stop, felt very weak, couldn’t sleep, had pain in her ribcage.
                 When my sisters brought her to the clinic, the doctor gave her top-of-the-line antibiotics. They were expensive and powerful. She took one tablet before she slept.
                 The next morning, she felt terrific. “It’s a miracle,” she said, “I feel so good. The antibiotic worked.”
                 That day, my health mentor visited us (I have a mentor for various areas of my life). He looked at my mother, and said, “Mommy, I want you to take a megadose of vitamin C.”
                 My sister asked, “What brand?”
                 My health mentor laughed. “When I say megadose of vitamin C, I don’t mean swallowing a pill. I’m talking about eating fruits and drinking fresh fruit juices.  Liquefy them. Drink juices many times everyday!”
                 Here’s what happened. 
          My mother didn’t listen to him. Nor did any of my sisters who were staying with her.
                 Why? Because the antibiotic was working.
                 Or so they thought.
          The next day, the “miracle” wore off and she got worse. 
          Her coughing got worse. Her pains got worse. Despite taking powerful antibiotics everyday.
                 After one week, she was a wreck. 
          Mom hates hospitals. But that morning, she felt so bad, she woke up and said, “Bring me to the hospital. I can’t take it anymore.”
                 But that day, my health guru visited again. 
          And he asked her, “Mommy, did you take your fresh fruit juices?”
                 Mom shook her head.
                 My sisters said, “Ooops, we forgot.”
                 My health teacher scolded us, “What happened? Mommy, please take your juices, non-stop, everyday.”
          Healing From Simple Fresh Fruits
                 That day, we gave her fresh fruit juices.
          Many times a day. We’d take the fruits, chucked them in a blender, and poured the juice into a glass. Simple.
          That was her main food the next few days.
                 And would you believe? 
          In two to three days, she was cured!
          Here’s our problem.
                 We don’t like simple solutions.
                 We like it when the solution is complicated. 
                 It’s more believable.
          Like costly pills.
          A trip to the hospital.
          An expensive medical test.
                 But when we hear the words, “Eat fruits”, we think it’s old wives tale.
                 But scientists are now telling us it’s NOT old wives tales.
          Just last January, a group of food scientists proved that Mango—in an experiment made in a laboratory—fought the cells of breast and colon cancer.
          For years, scientists have been saying that bananas are effective against hypertension, depression, digestive problem and a host of other diseases. And ripe bananas have cancer-fighting elements.
          For years, pineapples have been known to have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
                 Ordinary fruits that we take for granted because they’re so available. But what do we do?
                 We’d rather eat a candybar than a mango.
                 We’d rather eat chichiria (chips) than a pineapple.
          I’m not a scientist. Never was and never will be. But here’s my wild guess: I believe all fruits are powerful medicines for your body. If you follow the immunologists and eat 15 kinds of fruits and vegetables everyday, you’ll avoid many sickness.
          Let me give you two very practical steps on how to apply this important food recommendation into your daily life.
          Action 1:
          Eat Local Fruits For Breakfast Everyday
          I have a simple solution for you.
                 Instead of a breakfast of hotdogs, pancakes, bacon, eggs, spam, and rice—why not eat fruits?
          Here’s what I do.
                 Every morning, I eat local fruits for breakfast.
                 Pineapples. Watermelons. Melons. Star apple. Mangoes. Bananas. Guyabano. Papaya. Etcetera!
                 I try to eat 5 fruits every morning. 
                 When I do that, I bless my body everyday with the following:
          o   I load up with natural vitamins and minerals.
          o   I take in necessary living enzymes.
          o   I cleanse my internal organs of toxins.
          o   I give my body an alkaline environment.
          Suggestion: To really get the maximum effect of the fruits, wait for an hour before you eat any other food or drink water.
          Action 2:
          Eat Raw Veggies For
          Lunch And Dinner Everyday
                 Most people eat veggies.
                 But we eat too little of them. 
          A few leaves. And we think we’re okay.
          No, you’re not. Your immune system is starving for real food.
                 Another thing? We cook our veggies to death. All the nutrients and enzymes are gone.
                 Here’s my very strong recommendation: For lunch and dinner, eat a huge bowl of raw salads. Let that be your main meal.
                 What veggies? Sing Bahay Kubo.
          Organic, if you can find them. If not, wash thoroughly.
                 For variation, you can also eat slightly cooked, slightly steamed, slightly blanched veggies.
                 I’ve got some favorite dishes: I love a bowl of hot soup filled with slightly-cooked fresh veggies with a dollop of Korean fermented chili (spicy!) sauce. Yum!
                 I’ve been eating this way for some time now and my body is thanking me for it. If you’re good to your body, your body will be good to you.    
          I encourage you to study how to make delicious veggie dishes. Google it. Buy vegetarian recipe books. Make your family healthy and prevent disease! Ten years from now, you’ll be grateful you upgraded your diet.
          Here’s my second prescription.
          2.Eat Clean
          If you read the Old Testament, you’ll find God calling some animals “clean” and others “unclean”.
          Here’s one example in Leviticus 11:1-3: The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.
                 According to the Bible, cows, sheep, and goats are clean.
                 Pigs aren’t.
                 Chickens and turkeys are clean.
                 Rabbits aren’t.
                 Tuna and salmon are clean.
                 Crabs, shrimps, shells, and squid aren’t.
                 On and on the list goes.
                 In the New Testament, we no longer follow these food laws. Because as Christians, we don’t consider them spiritual laws anymore. We’re free to eat anything. 
          Yes, you won’t go to the fires of hell if you eat lechon
          Instead of taking them as spiritual laws, I suggest that we take them as health recommendations.
                 Because this is what I find amazing: Science is now discovering that animals labeled as “unclean” by the Bible carry more diseases and more toxins than the “clean” variety.
          For example, “clean” animals have 3 or 4 stomachs and with very long digestive tracks. But unclean animals have one stomach and a very short digestive track. 
          A cow takes 24 hours to digest its food. 
          Aside from the fact that a pig eats anything, it also takes only 4 hours to digest its food—absorbing much of the toxins that it eats into its meat.
          Vacuum Cleaner Of The Sea
          I find this next passage rather fishy.
          In Leviticus 11:9-10, it says, Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams, you may eat any that have fins and scales.  But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to detest.
          What are sea creatures without scales or fins? 
          Crabs, lobsters, shrimps, squid, and all shells.
          Today, we know that they’re the scavengers of the sea.
          They’re garbage collectors.
          They’re vacuum cleaners.
          They’re bottom-feeders, eating fish droppings and dead creatures.
          Because of this, they purify the water. 
          Good for the water. But bad for them. And bad for those who eat them.
          High concentrations of germs and toxins are in their meat.
                 In fact, if scientists want to know the toxicity level of a lake or lagoon, he’ll get a shrimp in that water and measure the toxins in its meat.
                 And what’s so important about scales anyway? 
                 Today, science has discovered that scales are important because that’s what fishes use to release the toxins from its body.  
                 My recommendation?
                 Avoid pork.
                 Avoid crabs, lobsters, shrimp, squid, and all shells.
                 At the very least, minimize eating them. 
                 Because if you eat them regularly, you’ll have a more difficult time preventing disease in the future.
                 Let me now go to my last prescription…

          Prescription #3:
          Eat Other “Food”
                 Food isn’t our only food.
                 Your body requires other kinds of nourishment.
                 Let me mention four of them today very quickly.
          1. Oxygen
          God formed Man out of dirt from the ground
          and blew into his nostrils the breath of life
          –Genesis 2:7
          Your cells are starving of fresh oxygen. 
          Germs can’t live in a highly oxygenated environment. 
          Take deep breaths everyday. De-stress yourself at different times of the day.
          This naturally happens when you follow the next “food”…
          Physical exercise has some value…
          –1 Timothy 1:8
          Find an exercise that you enjoy. 
          Personally, I love walking. 
          It’s the simplest exercise. 
          When you walk, you go outdoors, you get sunlight, you oxygenate your body, you get an emotional lift, you lessen your stress, and you cleanse your lymphatic system.
          And speaking of sunlight…
          The light is pleasant,
          and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.
          –Ecclesiastes 11:7
          Many people are sick because they lack Vitamin D. 
          Because Vitamin D prevents osteoporosis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, depression, diabetes, and obesity. (No one is marketing sunlight because we can’t bottle sunlight and earn from it.) Mothers who expose their babies to the sunlight know what they’re doing. But what’s the difference between the baby and an adult? Get 30 minutes of sunlight everyday.
          Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain…;
          for he gives to his beloved sleep.
          Psalm 127:1-2
          Many people don’t sleep enough. 
          If you want to be healthy, listen to your body. Your body will tell you how many hours of sleep it needs. For example, I’ve noticed that vegetarians need lesser hours of sleep—because digestion takes a huge amount of energy. But most people will require 8 hours of sleep to be fully totally restored.
                 But at the end of the day, I believe that real sleep doesn’t come from sleeping pills or an expensive bed.
                 I believe real sleep comes from God.
                 Do you trust in the Lord for all your worries?
                 When you trust Him deeply, you can sleep!
          — 0 —
                 By the way, didn’t you notice that the four elements above—oxygen, movement, sunlight, and sleep—are free? Health isn’t expensive.
          Cleanse Your Soul,
          Cleanse Your Body
                 Let me end with two true-to-life stories.
                 I know of a woman who was almost a vegetarian for ten years. But recently, she had cancer.
                 People around her were aghast. How could someone whose diet was so healthy have cancer?
                 The answer came from those who knew her predicament: Last year, she discovered her husband was having an affair. It was such a painful experience for her. Her heart was filled with rage and bitterness.
                 In my ministry, I’ve talked to so many people with cancer. I’m no longer surprised when I find out that it coincided with a highly stressful, very painful event in their lives.
                 Why am I sharing this to you?
                 To remind you again that we’re not just biological creatures. We’re spiritual and emotional beings too. And eating the right food is crucial for our health, but that’s just one part of the equation.
                 Let me now share with you my other story.
                 My friend had breast cancer 7 years ago.
                 Prior to this, she too discovered her husband had an adulterous relationship. The family was torn apart. Bitter rage filled her heart.
                 But she knew the deadly poison of resentment. And so daily, she let go of her anger. She surrendered her husband to God.
                 And in prayer, she was led not to go through any chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, she became a pure 100% vegetarian. Her goal was to remove all emotional and physical toxins in her body.
                 She was successful.
                 Because today, my friend is totally free from cancer.
                 I pray that the same miracle will happen to your life.
                 Go ahead.
                 Cleanse your soul.
                 Cleanse your body.
                 May your dreams come true,
                 Bo Sanchez

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