Saturday, November 19, 2011

South of Cebu Dive Log: Diving with Whalesharks in Oslob

I have a never ending affair with whalesharks. I don't know what's up with these gentle giants, but they just simply amaze me.

A few weeks ago, I spent four days out at sea, in Leyte in search of whaleshark, seen none but instead saw pilot whales, dolphins, seahorses, turtlessss....  (read my Leyte Dive Log).  Sometime last year, we also ventured in Pescador Island, Moalboal, Cebu to see thresher sharks feasting on sardines, some divers in the group were too lucky to also chance upon a whaleshark and caught it on video.

This time, news broke amongst the diver community that there have been whaleshark sightings in the south of Cebu.   My dive peers went ahead immediately after our Leyte trip, while I was recuperating from an ear infection.  The following weekend, I had to gather my family and some friends to join me on an early morning two and half hour drive down south of the city.

We left at 4:30 in the morning, passed along General Maxilom Avenue and found party people still up and about while we are awake for a new day.  Two hours later we arrived at our jump off point, just in time for the seven o' clock feeding time.  The owner gave us a short briefing.  We were told that these whalesharks are actually resident whalesharks and the local fishermen have been feeding them for the past two years.  (But the fishermen says it's just for the past 6 months.)  These spotters (local fishermen) look for it and pour food (as bait) so it follows them nearer to the shore.
paddle boats

While us divers, swam out from the shore, non-divers were escorted to take the small banka (paddle boats).  These banka are small and could hardly carry one passenger, no safetly facility like life vest is available.
snorkling with whalesharks

It took longer for me to gear up with shore entry than finding myself in the midst of a baby whaleshark.  Just two minutes into the dive, the whaleshark was just there, unmidful of the banka and people around.  On the surface, the fishermen were feeding it with some shrimps and krill - that kept it on the surface for a long time. 
The local fishermen allowed people to touch it.  Kids aged 5, 7 and 8 were able to pet it from the banka without having to get wet.  I dove around it for an hour, without needing to chase it.  The waters are crystal clear, one can actually admire it from a distance.  In previous days, there are have been sightings of up to three whalesharks, but this time, seas were kinda rough and makes it harder for the spotter to look for them.
feeding them shrimps

There is no existing ordinance to protect these gentle giants in the area.  The locals are neither educated how to protect these.  The locals are definitely not ready to accept the influx of tourists.  I fear that doing this commercially at this time might harm these gentle giants.  Nevertheless, it's a joy to know that they are here.
sideview

Sorry, I'm not comfortable to divulge exactly where this is, not until an ordinance is passed.

from bottom up


Post Trip Accounting:

P100/pax Spotter fee
P100/pax Boat rental
P75/pax Resort fee
or
P2000/2dives Diving fee

As there are no decent place we can purchase food in the area, we brought our own food.

P3800 whole Cang's lechon

Leyte Dive Log

It has been a year since I last had a good dive, that was an out of this world encounter with thresher sharks at Moalboal, Cebu. This time, I got an invite from Aquadive Inc, to go on a south safari to Leyte, in anticipation of diving with whalesharks. With the president's short notice to declare a long holiday, I was lucky to still be able to confirm.

Aboard an outrigger boat, fourteen of us left Mactan, Cebu at 630am. The group was composed of a handful of nationalities, there are Filipinos, German, Australian, French, South American, Indian, American... When breakfast was served, cultural differences was obvious. Filipinos feasted on rice, sardines and chorizo; while the rest opted for sandwiches, carrot sticks and chips and dip.

On a good weather day, the sea was practically calm, it turned a little rough in the open seas around Leyte. Five hours later, we reached the seas of Leyte.

Dive 60, 61 Limasawa Island. 69ft 59mins, 79ft 51mins


rich soft and hard corals
Dive 62, 63 Nahpantaw Island 89ft 42mins, 89ft 49mins


up and down current: turtle overload
Dive 64 Pintuyan Island 71ft 52 mins

spotters, the group had to pay P5,000 but no whaleshark in sight :(
Dive 65 Max climax 79ft 63mins

Dive 66 Binit 89ft 54mins
pretty in pink: nudi



spot the pygmy seahorse
 Dive 67 Padre Burgos Pier 27ft 74mins

night dive: stargazer


night dive: seahorse

lovely calm day with our boat
 Kuting Reef

We checked-in in Kuting Reef for three nights.  Kuting Reef is said to be one of the best in the island.  It is hours away from town.  The ambience was good, the room size was generous, but the walls are thin, I can hear our neighbors talk and the strokes of a massage.  Food is average but takes hours to prepare.  Like anywhere in the province, you ought to order a meal in advance.


For three days, I did eight dives, missed out on three dives.  It was a disappointment not to find any whalesharks, instead, saw pilot whales (sorry no evidence), dolphins, stargazer, seahorse, pygmy seahorse, candy crab, frog fish, pygmy frog fish, turtlesssss, tuna, jacks, bump head parrot fish, porcelain crab, squat shrimps, cuttle fish, barracuda, stargazer...  oh it was not so bad afterall.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gilutungan Fish and Olango Bird Sanctuary, Mactan, Cebu

It's not so bad after being grounded in Cebu.  Nine of us was determined to get stoked one Sunday, the wanderlass was determined to go somewhere, anywhere!

With last minute arrangements the night before, we hired an outrigger boat through Aquadive Inc. since their own boat wasn't available, the owner helped us find another one, "Super Lucy", it was big enough to comfortably fit like 30 people.  It was a good deal for P6,500 in comparison to other smaller boats.  I could feel the monsoon wind that day, true enough, the sea was rough but Super Lucy was big enough to brave it and keep us safe.
aboard Super Luci with fashion blogger thirstythought

Gilutongan Fish Sanctuary

Our first stop was Gilutongan Island.  Gilutongan is a fish sanctuary.  Entrance fees is pegged at P100 per person for snorklers and non snorklers.

Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary

This trip was meant to see the bird sanctuary in Olango Island.  It has been years since I last went there but didn't see anything.  So we thought of revisiting it.  November is said to best time to visit Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and it must be timed at least two hours before high tide.  The bird sanctuary doesn't appear like what I imagined, where birds fly in flocks.  When they get there, the birds are scattered around the vast sanctuary, feeding themselves, making their stop over from the winter months on the other side of the globe.  You would need binoculars to see most of them.

How to get there:

With an outrigger boat, depart the mainland of Mactan Island to Sta. Rosa Port Terminal, Olango Island.  P1 per person terminal fee plus P64 docking fee is charged by the Cebu Port Authority.  From the terminal, take a tricycle to Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary.  After haggling with opportunist tricycle drivers, we paid P250 for 4 pax, roundtrip.  We know we can haggle it much less than that but my bargaining skills wasn't that good.  The tricycle waited for us, for our return trip.
 
Fees: 

P20 Olango Wildlife Sanctuary Entrance Fee
P10 Birdwatching Guide Fee
P10 Non Professional Camera
telescope is provided by the guide

spot the bird from afar

zoomed in!  check out these endanged chinese egret

fees, fees, fees... i don't mind paying as long as they issue receipts!



Monday, October 10, 2011

Looking for stuff to import? Join the Canton Fair 2011

It's time to get into business.  The China Import and Export Fair, otherwise known as the Canton Fair will be on October 15 to November 4, 2011.  The fair will open by industry in three phases. 

Here is the schedule:


Phase 2:October 23-27, 2011
Phase 3:October 31-November 4, 2011
How to get there?
Make your way to Guangzhou, China by plane, bus or train.  More information http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/
The venue is accessible by: 

1. Guangzhou Metro

Guangzhou Metro opened in 1999. The network covers much of the city center and is one fo main transportation vehicles in — Guangzhou. The fare ranges from RMB 2 to 12. Most of the signs and announcements are also in English. Tickets are bought from vending machines in the stations. Bills from RMB 5 —10 or coins from RMB 0.5 — 1 are accepted at ticket vending machines. Smaller bills can change at the customer service counter. The ticket is a small plastic token, which use at the gate entering the platform, and at the exit.

Getting to Canton Fair

  • Line 1

    If you take Line 1 first, please get off at Gongyuanqian Station and transfer to Line 2 (To Guangzhou South Railway Station). Then get off at Changgang Station and transfer to Line 8, get off at Xingangdong Station (to Area A,C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B,C)
  • Line 2

    If you take Line 2 first, please get off at Changgang Station and transfer to Line 8, get off at Xingang Station (to Area A, C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B, C)
  • Line 3

    If you take Line 3 first, please get off at Kecun Station and transfer to Line 8 (To Wanshengwei). Then get off at Xingangdong Station (to Area A,C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B,C)
  • Line 4

    If you take Line 4 first, please get off at Wanshengwei Station and transfer to Line 8. Then get off at Xingangdong Station (to Area A,C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B,C)

  • Line 5

    There are two ways to get to Canton Fair, if you take Line 5 first.
    Firstly, please get off at Zhujiang New Town Station and transfer to Line 3 (To Panyu Square). Then get off at Kecun Station and transfer to Line 8 (To Wanshengwei), get off at Xingangdong Station (to Area A,C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B,C)
    Secondly, you can get off at Chebeinan Station and transfer to Line 4 (To Jinzhou Station), get off at Wanshengwei Station and transfer to Line 8. Then get off at Xingangdong Station (to Area A,C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B,C)

  • Line 8

    If you are close to Line 8, please get off at Xingang Station (to Area A, C) or get off at Pazhou Station (to Area B, C)

Route map


Guangzhou Metro

Four Metro lines of 54.12 kilometers have been completed and opened in Guangzhou, with an average passenger capacity of 585,000 person-times per day. Lines under construction include Lines 3, 4, 5, 6, the extensions of Lines 2 and 8, and Guangzhou -Foshan Section of Pearl-River-Delta Inter-city Track Transport.

2 By Car:

A trip to Canton Fair from Baiyun International Airport normally costs around RMB 160.00.

Price List

Taxi Fare
Flag-Fall RMB 10.00
Charge per kilometers RMB 2.60
Taxi Hotline: 96900 / 96122

Traffic Guide


Traffic Guide

The complex covers a total construction area of 1,100,000 M2 with the indoor exhibition area of 338,000 M2 and the outdoor exhibition area of 43,600 M2. The Area A has an indoor exhibition area of 130,000 M2 and an outdoor exhibition area of 30,000 M2, the Area B has an indoor exhibition area of 128,000 M2and an outdoor exhibition area of 13,600 M2, and the Area C has an indoor exhibition area of 80,000 M2.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No Other Woman Quotable Quotes

After seeing quite a number of posts on facebook (yeah, that's where I get updated with latest buzz) I was intrigued by the movie "No Other Woman" produced by Star Cinema starring Anne Curtis, Derek Ramsey and Cristine Reyes.  I'm not an avid fan of either of the three and watching Tagalog movie isn't my usual treat but whenever I hear good reviews, I find myself in the movie sobbing on the slightest drama scene.  The movie isn't exactly all that good, it just happened to have a well written script.  These lines will definitely be one for the books.


The movie tackles about love and temptation. The mistress Cara, played by Anne Curtis, not admitting she's a mistress but just having fun “Having fun? Ngayon yes fun! Pero paano pag iniwan ka na niya? Paano pag pinili na niya ang asawa niya? Paano pag na iskandalo na ang pamilya mo? Fun pa rin ba!”

All along she was in denial, this playgirl has fallen in love with a married man, Ram, played by Derek Ramsey.  Ram was a self confessed playboy but turned family man when he married Charmaine, played by Cristine Reyes, a fairly conservative housewife.  Charmaine won't give up the fight as her mom warns her that "Ang mundo ay isang malaking Quiapo. Maraming snatcher. Maagawan ka."  

Intimated my the social status of heiress Cara, her mom tells her "Pareparehong puta lang yun! Ang mayaman bumibili ng hermes sa mall, ang mahirap bumibili ng hermes sa greenhills."  "Panahon na para i-pack-up ‘yang si Lucy Torres mo. Ilabas mo na diyan si Gretchen Barretto. Sabi nga niya sa Magkaribal, ‘You want war? I’ll give you war.’ Anak, ako na ang bahala sa red stilettos mo!"  I just love that bitchy line popularized by Gretchen Barretto.


Charmaine bumped into Cara in one of the department stores.  Both of them were wearing purple,  and so Charmaine's friend blurted out "Meron ba ditong paparty ni barney na hindi ko alam?"  That line was hilariously gay as they proceed to fight for a bag implying no one shall take whatever one has already taken while an all innocent saleslady comes up to say, they have enough stock. haha

 
And so Charmaine befriended Cara, invited her for dinner at her place and threw this line... Charmaine: Why don’t you have dinner with us tonight, pa thank you ko na rin dahil kinuha mo ang asawa ko. Cara: I’m sorry? Charmaine: Bilang supplier ng furniture para sa resort niyo."

Over dinner, Charmaine was a run away winner and slapped Cara with these line, "The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Pero sa ganda mong iyan, siguradong marami kang alam na shortcuts."  "Alam mo kasi ang marriage parang exclusive village. Kailangan mong bantayan para hindi makapasok ang mga squatters."  "Mababaliw siguro ako kung malaman kong may babae siya. Baka mapatay ko yung kabit, silang dalawa actually."


In the end, Ram chooses to be with his wife but Cara won't give up just like that, and chased him on the highway swerving here and there, he slamed a truck with deformed bars (steel) sticking out of it and pierced him.  (That sent me goosebumps, that actually happened to a colleague a few months back where from out of nowhere, a steel bar flew right smack his windshield, which caught dead on the spot.)  Ram was lucky to have survived, Cara eventually gave up love.



Have I missed out on something, do write them here.


They say it's a movie for husbands to see, for me, it's a movie for wives to watch and learn.  Wear that red stilettos out, woman!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs Dies at 56

Yesterday, I woke with my facebook feeds flooded with disappointment about the ipone4s. Today, was even more disappointed by news about Steve Jobs death. I am priviledged to have use one of the first apple computer in the early 80s. Only a few months ago was I convinced to get my hands on an apple gadget - an ipad2. Since then, a day isn't complete without me checking on it, and it's the first and last piece of gadget I hold to start and end the day.

Here's an excerpt of his autobiography, he was adapoted, a dropout, a visionary, LEGENDARY.

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Steve Jobs, the Apple founder and former CEO who invented and masterfully marketed ever-sleeker gadgets that transformed everyday technology, from the personal computer to the iPod and iPhone, has died. He was 56.
Apple announced his death without giving a specific cause.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Explore Central Vietnam: Old Town of Hoi An

Previous:  Ho Chi Minh and Hue to Danang

Hoi An appealed to me simply because it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We did not make plans for Hoi An except for hotel reservations and scanned through trip advisor on where to eat. Our flight out of Hoi An was moved 10 hours later, to our advantage, we have more time to spare.  A day and a half to spend in Hoi An was just right.  Although the town is small, there are too many alleys and nooks to look into, restaurants to try out and activities to do.
view of the riverside

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Free Tours Across England: London, Bath, Stonehenge, Cotswold, Windsor

Looks like I've becoming a walking trip advisor.  Shall I be flattered or it's a wake-up call that I've been wandering too much.

I just got back from a quick trip to England and there are quite a lot of good bargains and freebies, all things to be grateful for on this trip, for ten days, 500 pounds was more than enough to live by and even took home four long champ bags.

Thanks to HSBC for flying me there, it was not a joke spending early mornings and weekends going around the city swiping.

Thanks to my host, who met me at the airport, toured us for a day or two and graciously allowed me to stay at her place.  Every night was a good night's sleep on the couch.

Thanks to my travel companion, who flew all the way across the globe.

Thanks to BDO for complimentary Marco Polo Club membership, no queues!  I love the priority check-in and boarding, feeling first class on economy ticket.  Without it, I would be running off to the boarding gate as the check-in counters are really long.

Thanks to lots of free tours!  History isn't my cup of tea and visiting historical places don't exactly excite me.  Thanks to free tours, it made everything more interesting.

Here are some tips how we availed of free tours and great bargains while visiting England: London, Bath, Windsor, Stonehenge and Cotswold.
  • The London Pass
The London Pass has to be purchased outside of London.  It is a smart card with a computer chip inside - which allows you completely cash free entry to your choice of over 55 London tourist attractions.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tonight's the Night

Tonight has been the night I've been expecting to happen, hoping that it happens at the right time, at the right place. Bumped into my so called pseudo ex, it has been six years since the last time. Although I got a glimpse of him earlier this year with his pregnant wife, I don't think it was appropriate to approach him at that time. Tonight was different, he was with unfamiliar peers; he came up, we shook hands,kissed, exchanged stories just like long lost friends - reminiscing old facts and knowing he's following me on some updates on facebook, lol! It was short but meaningful.

He's just a guy, a special one maybe, but he is not mine. Wishing him well, he's now a dad to a pretty baby. Okay, I follow him on facebook too. But I think I've found mine, but he hasn't found me yet. :)

It's a matter of believing in destiny and taking that leap of faith. :)

-o-
So looking forward to Black eyed peas concert in Manila. It will be my first time to watch a concert in Manila, the crowd here must be more fun than in Cebu where it takes a storm to get them on their feet. I'm pretty sure it will be a party. The best thing about it is, my ticket is free courtesy of my now pregnant sister. Isn't that a bundle of good news? :)

Multi-awarded hip hop group Black Eyed Peas is coming back to perform live in Manila on October 25, 2011 at Mall of Asia Concert ground. For more details, follow http://twitter.com/futureupdate and http://twitter.com/mmilive

Ticket price is pegged with a hefty price tag of:

Seated VIP - 15,000
VIP A – 10,000
VIP B – 8,000
Gold – 6000
Silver – 3000
Bronze – 1000

Call Ticketworld 891 9999 or SM tickets 470 2222 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

US Visa Reissuance Program: No Interview Required for Renewal

Good news to those who needs to renew their US visa.  As of July 25, 2011, the US Embassy in the Philippines announced the Visa Reissuance Program (VRP) for qualified applicants.  This means that if you're qualified, you need not undergo for an interview with the consul but personal appearance is still required for ten printing (fingerprint scanning).  This is pretty much the same as their previous program some 15 years ago where they allow "drop box" for renewal.  I'm a year too late for this, last year, I had to wait for three hours for an interview to renew my visa, nevertheless was granted a ten year visa.

My friend just applied for one,  simply register online, pay your fees in peso at any Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch, schedule for an appointment.  At the embassy, some questions will be asked regarding the content of your application, in thirty minutes, you're done and visa most likely approved!
US VISA REISSUANCE PROGRAM (VRP)
As of July 25, 2011, some visa applicants may be eligible for an appointment through the U.S. Embassy in Manila's Visa Reissuance Program (VRP).  If qualified for a VRP appointment, applicants need only to schedule an appointment, appear at the Embassy at the appointed time, and then have the application screened and give 10-print fingerscans.  No need for an interview, and appointments are available within a few days!  To qualify for the VRP, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following:
1. I am a Philippines passport holder.
2. I have previously been issued, in Manila, a full-validity visa (a visa good for five or ten years).
3. My visa is still valid or it has expired within the last twelve months.
4. I have in my possession all of my passports covering the entire period of time since I received that full-validity visa.
5. I have not been refused a U.S. visa in the last twelve months.
6. My visa is not annotated "clearance received".
7. I have not ever stayed in the U.S. longer than 6 months (even if the Department of Homeland Security approved the extension of stay).
8. I have not ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even if subject of a pardon.
9. I can provide the visa control number from my visa (located in the upper right hand corner of the visa).
If you are able to meet all of the above conditions, you are eligible for a VRP appointment.  Please go online or contact the call center to schedule the VRP appointment.
Important Reminders:
1. The U.S. Embassy in Manila reserves the right to interview any applicant.  If an interview is required, a representative of the U.S. Embassy will contact the applicant within two business days of his/her VRP appointment.
2. If you schedule a VRP appointment, but are not actually eligible for a VRP appointment, you will be turned away at the Embassy and asked to schedule a regular appointment.  Please make sure you are eligible for a VRP appointment based on the above criteria.
For more information, visit http://manila.usembassy.gov/

Friday, July 1, 2011

Things To Do at Misibis Bay

THINGS TO DO AT MISIBIS BAY:

If you come to Misibis Bay Resort, you come to make the most out of it as a luxury island playground.  It was well worth it to get the package that includes unlimited use of non-motorized sports and limited use of selected motorized activities like we did.  For three days, two nights, these were the activities in lined for us:



1.  30-minute ATV at Eco-energy Park Adventure Zone (P3,000/hour)


this looks so much fun!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Misibis Bay, Cagraray Island: Luxury Island Playground

Unexpected weekend getaway at Misibis Bay with best travel buds (thanks for the company, even with such short notice). This is such a welcome break after all the cluttered thoughts.  Misibis Bay is a luxury playground, tucked away on one side of Cagraray island. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Roof Top

If there is one place to enjoy a panoramic view of Cebu's nightscape, it should be a visit to Tops, Busay.  It's a long steep winding road to get there on your private vehicle.  You may charter a taxi cab for about P600 or hire motorbikes at the foot of the hill of Nivel near JY Square.   It can be chilly at night especially during Ber months.  Entrance fee is now pegged at P100 or 50% off if you have a discount card.  Reservation is not required, but if you're a big group that needs much space, contact 4247800 or 3407837 for details.


You need not go too far to enjoy the nightscape, I just discovered two new stops:

Blu Bar & Grill
at Marco Plaza Hotel 

Located at the Penthouse of Marco Plaza Hotel, sitting on Nivel Hills offer a panoramic view of Cebu City and beyond.  Open from Tuesdays to Sundays. Cocktails start 4:30 PM and dinner starts at 6:30 PM and closes by midnight. For reservations and enquiries, please call (6332) 2531111 extension 8355.  Waitresses are impressively well trained. Complimentary cashew nuts were great pica-pica.

Caipiroska, a combination of vodka, lime and sugar 
at blu bar. This is a new discovery!
Highlights
at Harold's Hotel
Located on the roof deck of Harold's Hotel, sits right the very heart of the city.  The glass partition was built from the floor to eye level, thus giving a good panaramic view even while sitting on the couch. I was surprised at see the pretty nightscape even in the middle of city. Nightly music provides a balm to any guest at the end of a long day. Serves Ala cartè menus for cocktails, light snacks and dinner. Open daily from 5:00 PM to12:00 Midnight.  Live music entertainment is available from 9pm-12midnight from Mondays to Saturdays.

Confessions of a Wanderlust

With considerable travel journals I have written over the past years, I'm making a new blog dedicated to all my travels.  Come visit and enjoy the site.  See ya there :)

http://bitten-by-travelbug.blogspot.com

I just earned my first paycheck on google adsense.  Hope to get it soon, how soon?  I'm not sure, google help wasn't so helpful. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Escape

I'm writing in the comforts of my bed, overlooking the sea. (Our room overlooks the sea!) I'm on vacation (I'll be writing about my destination soon). This is such a welcome break from all the fuzz over the past months. The silence is deafening (my roommate is playing plants and zombies for hours today). The sounds of the waves outside are playing on my head. My thoughts remained cluttered.
i can tuck in bed all day.

Today, Bo Sanchez wrote about pencils, of all stuff. And I quote,

"You can't be distracted, or you endanger your very existence. You must be focused on one thing. What is your one thing?"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Visa Application to United Kingdom from the Philippines

I just learned that my HSBC card have been approved and I'll get my hands on it tomorrow.  I cannot believe what I was upto this evening... I scheduled an appointment and I'm filing up a visa application to United Kingdom (UK).  I don't know when exactly I'd be free to go, but I'm pushing my luck to squeeze a short trip very soon.

A. Online Application:
To apply for tourist Visa to UK from the Philippines, simply fill up the online application form at http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/applyonline.  Before you do, have the following information to hand:
  • Passport (for the past 10 years)
  • Address in the UK
  • Itinerary
  • E-mail Address 
  • Sources of Income

B. Schedule an appointment online: (no payment required):
https://www.vfs.firm.in/pl-apptsystem/appscheduling/appwelcome.aspx

C. Visa Application Fee:
When all is ready, you can pay your visa application fee in any of the following options:

  1. Bank receipt - cash over the counter at a Union Bank Pasong Tamo Branch (service charge free option)
  2. Bank receipt - cash over the counter at any other Union Bank branch (Php 150.00 service charge)
  3. Managers cheque (service charge applies) made payable to the British Embassy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perception

Countless forwarded quotes are exchanged.  It could be a message that cannot be expressed directly to the other party, and can be construed as half meant.  Or it could simply be just a forwarded message, for the sake of forwarding.  A simple message can bring too many conclusions.  A guy who receives sms regularly, assumes that a girl is interested in him, not knowing it was a mass sms.  I heard too many stories like this (hindi lang pala babae ang assuming!).  Forwarded quotes could also shape the sender's personality;  one who sends bible verses can be perceived to be religious, one who sends some serious stuff can be perceived to be going through some issue; one who sends green jokes can be perceived to be naughty. Guilty?

In the era of facebooking, a one liner status update or a quote can bring too many conclusions as well.  Vaguebooking stirs the curiosity of your lurkers.  It somehow reflect the personality of the person but may not necessarily always reflect their thoughts.  Undeniably, others assume the message you wish to convey based on how they perceive you.  It could also be interpreted based on your last conversation or an incident which happened ages ago.  In the same way, we assume some things with their responses and the absence of emoticons, can be read differently.

Uploaded pictures can also shape the lifestyle of the owner, leading your contacts to think that those are the norm rather than an exception.  Too many times, I've been approached, especially by lurkers, I'd be surprised at how they perceive me to be, through my posts.  Looking at things differently, it becomes a good way to start a conversation and catch up.

"Marami ang namamatay sa maling akala." and I leave you with this quote:
Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet.
Whatever we truly think them to be, that's what they'll become for us.
~Richard Cowper
Things may not always turn out how we want them, but the journey makes life worth living.  Have a great week ahead! :D

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Investing in Diamonds: Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut

I'm quite clueless how to tell a good quality stone.  I don't have the eye to tell the difference and totally rely on the seller's words.  If you don't have the eye like me, it is important to buy from reputable sellers and here are basic facts you need to consider when buying diamonds:

1. Carat

Hint: A bigger cut diamond per carat is more valuable.
 
The carat is a unit of mass equal to 200 mg (0.007055 oz), and it is used for measuring gemstones and pearls.

The Rapaport Report is the jewelry industry standard for the pricing of diamonds and is exclusive to subscribers.  The price matrix is quite extensive with price shifts near the edges of the size bands.  The price difference between cuts and weight defy logic and may jump depending on marketing and consumer expectations.  For example, a buyer expecting a carat diamond may not accept a .9 carat diamond.  The price of a .9 carat diamond and a carat diamond for a similar quality has a material difference.  The bigger carat per cut diamond, is much more expensive per carat for example:
 
0.49 carats (98 mg) stone may list at $5,500 per carat
0.50 carats (100 mg) stone of similar quality lists at $7,500 per carat

As of this writing, in the Philippines, a color grade H round brilliant .10 carat is at P58,000 per carat, .20 carat at P70,000 per carat, .30 carat is around P90,000 per carat, while a .90 carat is estimated at P160,000 per carat, and a 1 carat cut is roughly P300,000.


2. Color

Hint:  A diamond color grade of "near colorless", between H, I, J are good enough to have.

Diamond color grading scales[5]
GIA Status: current AGS Status: current AGS Status: historical: pre 1995 CIBJO Status: current IDC Status: current Scan. D.N. Status: current Old World Terms Status: historical
grade and description[6] grade and electronic colorimeter scale[7] grade and electronic colorimeter scale[7] grade[8] grade and description[8] grade for .50ct and over[9] grade for under .50ct series 1 scale[8] series 2 scale[8]
D Colorless 0 0 - 0.49 0 0 - 0.75 Exceptional white + Exceptional white + Colorless River White Finest White Jager
E 0.5 0.5 - 0.99 Exceptional white Exceptional white River
1 0.76 - 1.35
F 1.0 1.0 - 1.49 Rare white + Rare white + Colorless when viewed through the crown Top Wesselton Fine White
2 1.36 - 2.00
G Near Colorless 1.5 1.5 - 1.99 Rare white Rare white Top Wesselton
H 2.0 2.0 - 2.49 3 2.01 - 2.50 White White Wesselton White Wesselton
I 2.5 2.5 - 2.99 4 2.51 - 3.0 Slightly tinted white Slightly tinted white Slightly colored Top Crystal Slightly tinted white Commercial White Top Crystal
J 3.0 3.0 - 3.49 5 3.01 - 3.75 Crystal Top silver cape Crystal
K Faint Yellow 3.5 3.5 - 3.99 Tinted white Tinted white Top cape Tinted white Top cape
6 3.76 - 4.5 Silver cape
L 4.0 4.0 - 4.49
M 4.5 4.5 - 4.99 7 4.51 - 5.50 Tinted color 1 Tinted color Slightly colored to colored Cape Tinted color Light cape Cape
N Very Light Yellow 5.0 5.0 - 5.49 Tinted color 2 Low Cape
O 5.5 5.5 - 5.99 8 5.51 - 7.0 Light yellow Cape Very light yellow
P 6.0 6.0 - 6.49 Light yellow
Q 6.5 6.5 - 6.99
R 7.0 7.0 - 7.49 9 7.01 - 8.5
Dark cape
S Light Yellow 7.5 7.5 - 7.99 Tinted color 3 Yellow
T 8.0 8.0 - 8.49
U 8.5 8.5 - 8.99 10 8.51 - 10.00
V 9.0 9.0 - 9.49
W 9.5 9.5 - 9.99
X 10.0 10 + 10+
Y
Z
Diamonds that rate toward the colorless end of the range are sometimes known as "high-color" diamonds, and those toward the other end, "low-color" diamonds. These terms refer to the relative desirability (as demonstrated by market prices) of color grades, not the intensity of the color itself.

3. Clarity

Hint:  Most diamonds sold in the Philippines are at the most of VVS clarity.

Category Flawless Internally Flawless Very Very Slightly Included Very Slightly Included Slightly Included Included
Grade FL IF VVS1 VVS2 VS1 VS2 SI1 SI2 I1 I2 I3

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond grading scale is divided into six categories and eleven grades. The clarity categories and grades are:
  • Flawless category (FL) diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification.[2]
  • Internally Flawless category (IF) diamonds have no inclusions visible under 10x magnification, only small blemishes on the diamond surface.[2]
  • Very, Very Slightly Included category (VVS) diamonds have minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.[2] The VVS category is divided into two grades; VVS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VVS2. Pinpoints and needles set the grade at VVS.[1]
  • Very Slightly Included category (VS) diamonds have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.[2] The VS category is divided into two grades; VS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VS2. Typically the inclusions in VS diamonds are invisible without magnification, however infrequently some VS2 inclusions may still be visible to the eye. An example would be on a large emerald cut diamond which has a small inclusion under the corner of the table.[1]
  • Slightly Included category (SI) diamonds have noticeable inclusions that are easy to very easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification.[2] The SI category is divided into two grades; SI1 denotes a higher clarity grade than SI2. These may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.[3]
  • Included category (I) diamonds have obvious inclusions that are clearly visible to a trained grader under 10x magnification.[2] Included diamonds have inclusions that are usually visible without magnification or have inclusions that threaten the durability of the stone. The I category is divided into three grades; I1 denotes a higher clarity grade than I2, which in turn is higher than I3. Inclusions in I1 diamonds often are seen to the unaided eye. I2 inclusions are easily seen, while I3 diamonds have large and extremely easy to see inclusions that typically impact the brilliance of the diamond, as well as having inclusions that are often likely to threaten the structure of the diamond.[1]

4. Cut

Hint: Round brilliants is the most popular cut given to a diamond.  It is the best choice for its marketability.  It appreciates faster than the other cuts.


Most gem-quality diamond crystals are octahedra in their rough state. These crystals are usually cut into round brilliants with minimal loss of weight. If the crystal is malformed or twinned, or if inclusions are present at inopportune locations, the diamond is more likely to receive a fancy cut (a cut other than a round brilliant).  Fancy cuts are more fashionable yet are of lesser value.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Romancing with the Taxmen

As a student, I was curious to know the tricks and the trade inside; but I was discouraged by a classmate whose mother was holding a position in the bureau (and he ended up working there).  It's an open secret, that graft and corruption is rampant... unfortunately, it has become a norm rather than an exception.  There were attempts to revamp the bureau; but I guess it's a hard habit to break.
A few years ago, I remember a press release from the bureau that they have hired a new breed of young, competent, intellectual Certified Public Accountants.  Over coffee, an examiner claimed to be one of those but I guess, they are corrupted just the same and even worse.

In any negotiation, over used lines go like these:
  • "may cut pa kasi sa taas"  taas could mean, as high up as the President of the republic.
  • "we're having a revamp, let's settle this so it will be removed from my inventory."
  • "in our division, we don't accept anything below a million."
  • "how much are you willing to pay?"
  • "20% lang may recibo, so it can't be less than x amount"
  • "the amount has to be divisible by three" kasi tatlo maghati-hati
With this new administration, I'm hopeful, I would not hear these lines anymore. No matter how you keep your records clean, they never fail to ask for something.  It could be something for themselves or for the government; thus, be prepared to set aside a budget for this.

The more strict and complicated these tax laws become, the more reason these taxmen can play around it.  Examiners are corrupt and they are spoiled by equally corrupt taxpayers, don't you think? 

I once talked to a deputy commissioner about a haphazardly prepared assessment, the only assurance he could give me was to tell the examiner, "times have changed", oh has it?  Convince me please.

P.S. After so many sleepless nights, not a single centavo went to their pockets.  At least not from me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fine Dining in Cebu: Olio, Corner Table, Anzani, Maya

Knowing my grandfather's struggle from rags to riches and my mom's patriarchal family upbringing, I've been raised to live a frugal life. Amongst my childhood friends, they knew me as someone who's very frugal and some mistake me for being a miser. The truth is, as school kids, we were not given monetary allowances. On better days, my aunt offered to give a few bucks, ten pesos perhaps. Somehow this left a strong influence on me, trying to stretch every peso because it is never easy to earn one. Once I started earning my own paycheck, I'm constantly saving up for rainy days yet maintained to be financially independent for my own needs and wants.

I have different sets of friends from different walks of life. There are those who tries to make ends meet, hanging out with them makes you appreciate life's little pleasures. There are those who have rose from their ranks, hanging out with them makes you appreciate the fruits of your own hardwork. There are those who are born with a silver spoon, hanging out with them makes you savor life.


Amongst those who knows how to savor life, foodtripping is one of our bonding moments. Trying out Cebu's fine dining restaurants, unmindful of the bill until it lands on our table and all blurts out with a knowing laugh seeing it. Recent months has been a feast!

If you're looking for some fine dining restaurants in Cebu, here are your options:

Olio Steak and Seafood Restaurant
Crossroads, Banilad
Contact number: 2323589, 2321991, 2382931
http://www.oliocebu.com.ph/

Olio is on Philippine Tattler's Philippines' best restaurants list. They serve a good selection of oysters, scallops, steak, lobster, wine... On their anniversary, we endulged ourselves on eat all you can USDA Nebraskan Prime Rib Eye for P899++ (about P1,000 net). While one of us consumed 1.4 kgs., I consumed about 500 grams of it; although I wanted more, my heart is screaming enough. :))

Corner TableThe Gallery, Juan Luna Street, Mabolo, Cebu City
2368910

Corner Table is from the same proprietors of Ginza (Japanese Restaurant) and Academy for International Culinary Arts or A.I.C.A.. Corner Table serves spanish cuisine: tapas and paella. The menu is quite limited. I personally liked their Gambas al Ajillo, Pan con Tomate y Aceite, Arroz Tinto (paella cooked in beef stock topped with sliced steak) and a spanish meal won't be complete without some good Sangria.

Anzani
Panorama Heights, Nivel Hills, Gorordo Ave
Cebu City 6000
032 2327375
http://www.anzani.com.ph/

Anzani serves new mediterranean cuisine. Anzani has great ambience over looking a mountain; indoors it's as if you're in a log cabin somewhere in Europe or Canada. With online coupon craze, we got a deal at snagthecity.com for a four course meal.for bout P800. The verdict: other than its ambience, there's nothing much to rave about this place.

Maya
Crossroads, Banilad, Cebu City
Telephone number: 2389552, 2389618





http://www.mayacebu.com/

Maya is from the same proprietor of Abaca, a boutique hotel known for its high-end tasty Italian food in Mactan. Maya has a sophisticated yet casual ambiance for dining and has a tequila lounge on the second floor. It's mexican food is great. I personally liked the beef and fajitas and nachos with salsa, their version of cripy lechon kawali is a hit to many. The drinks are quite pricey, so it's a place to see and be seen for 30's and up young urban professionals and entrepreneurs, ergo - yuppies. They have a wide selection of good quality and rare find Tequila like the blue agave. If you're looking for some cheap tequila like Jose Cuervo, they don't serve it here. My peers liked the flaming ferrari, it's a 3 colored mixed drink set on fire while sipping it in one shot. I had the Patron tequila - it was smoooooth! and I especially like their Bacardi Mojitos. Alas, I'm starting to like something to drink and that's totally unbelievable! It was here when I first experienced how the world can spin for a second. Seems like my palate is for pricey stuff! haha

One can't get drunk here without emptying your pocket, the price of a good shot at Maya is at least P300. Another place to see and be seen in Cebu is in Vudu (for youngsters) and Formo (for yuppies)


Patron tequila by Maya (photo by Maya)
So are you ready to party and savor life in Cebu? I just did and loving it! :D

These photos aren't mine, post like this give me one good reason why I should get a new point and shoot.

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