Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding Highlights

While the rest of the world is glued to television watching Prince William take Kate (Catherine Middleton) for his wife, i'm at the office attending meeting after meeting.

Thanks to youtube.  Catch the highlights of royal wedding in Youtube on The Royal Channel like i did the rest of the night.

However, watching Kimerald videos seem more interesting :))  I still don't like seeing Camilla around, do you?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Philippines' Legal Holidays for 2011 and 2012

A. Regular Holidays
  • New Year’s Day – January 1 (Saturday)
  • Araw ng Kagitingan – April 9 (Saturday)
  • Maundy Thursday – April 21
  • Good Friday – April 22
  • Labor Day – May 1 (Sunday)
  • Independence Day – June 12 (Sunday)
  • National Heroes Day – August 29 (Last Monday of August)
  • Bonifacio Day – November 30 (Wednesday)
  • Christmas Day – December 25 (Sunday)
  • Rizal Day – December 30 (Friday)
B. Special (Non-Working) Days
  • Rizal 150 Day - June 20 (Monday)
  • Ninoy Aquino Day – August 21 (Sunday)
  • Eideul Fitr - August 30 (Tuesday)
  • All Saints Day – November 1 (Tuesday)
  • Last Day of the Year – December 31 (Saturday)
C. Special Holiday (for all schools)
  • EDSA Revolution Anniversary – February 25 (Friday)

As of November 24, 2011, the above 2012 holiday calendar has been amended as follows:


A. Regular Holidays

New Year’s Day
Maundy Thursday
Good Friday
Araw ng Kagitingan

January 1 (Sunday)
April 5
April 6
April 9 (Monday)
Labor Day
Independence Day
National Heroes Day
Bonifacio Day
Christmas Day
Rizal Day

May 1 (Tuesday)
June 12 (Tuesday)
August 27 (Last Monday of August)
November 30 (Friday)
December 25 (Tuesday)
December 30 (Sunday)
B. Special (Non-Working) Days
Chinese New Year
Ninoy Aquino Day
All Saints Day
Additional special (non-working) day
Last Day of the Year
January 23 (Monday)
August 21 (Tuesday)
November 1 (Thursday)
November 2 (Friday)
December 31 (Monday)
C. Special Holiday (for all schools)
EDSA Revolution Anniversary
February 25 (Saturday)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Explore Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) is the entry point to Vietnam from Manila, Philippines.  Looking at every traveller's album to Ho Chi Minh almost always covers a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels boasting how tiny the tunnels were,  a story to be told on how they outwitted the Americans during the war.  However, it doesn't appeal much to me and to my travel buddies.  So we set out an itinerary to explore Vietnam sans Cu Chi Tunnels.

On board Cebu Pacific, we arrived in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam almost midnight.  Since we could not find any money changer selling Vietnamese Currency: Dong, back home, we had to exchange at the airport in Ho Chi Minh. 100 US dollars is equivalent to 20800 Dong.

Since we did not arrange for airport transfers and the airport taxi counter was already close, we had to proceed outside and find a taxi.  Several taxi drivers were offering their service for $10, $15, $25...  knowing that taxi drivers in Vietnam are notorious, we had to walk further and look for reputable taxi operators (as advised by wikipedia) like Vinasun and Mailinh.  The taxi at the airport seems territorial since only the brand Saigon Tourist were able to park at the loading bay.  We found one Mailinh taxi at the parking lot, and so we approached the driver.  At first he was hesitant and pointed out to the taxi waiting at the bay; but we insisted we wanted his brand of taxi, and he agreed to take us from the airport to district 1 for $8 on his Innova.  We were expecting $5 based on online reviews, maybe it has already increased; the $10 initial offer was actually reasonable.  The city center is just 20 minutes away from the airport.

view from our room

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anyone Can Cook

Good Friday is a day of fasting.  As soon as I woke up,  I headed to the kitchen and thought of cooking some no meat dishes for the family and visiting relatives.  Of the limited dishes that I know how to cook, I opted to make some mushroom bruschetta for a change.  Since my aunt just bought some fresh clams from the market, I had no other option but to cook spaghetti vongole instead of my sister's favorite spaghetti funghi porcini.

I totally forgot that there are more relatives arriving from Manila that day.  An aunt came and she's one of those that you'd dread  to cross path with, simply because she has the loudest voice and has the knack to criticize about anything and everything, she's so hard to please.  She found the mushroom bruschetta, beautifully placed on the dining table's lazy susan and started questioning... what ingredients I used, why it's too dark, how I prepared it, blah blah blah and I answered each question cautiously.  After a while, she sat down and took a bite and said, ah "this is good and healthy!"  That remark was such a sigh of relief.  It is very rare of her to give praises.  And to return the favor, I offered to give her some dried mushrooms to bring home to Manila and she expectedly accepted it.

Next thing I know, she was beside me trying to reach the wok while I started cooking the spaghetti vongole.  She asked too many questions again, maybe found interest in my cooking.  It's the first time for her to see me cook.  Considering it's italian cuisine, I feel so vindicated when she liked it.

Whew,  I felt jittery for a moment, I could possibly get the worse comment today but thankfully it was all praises.  I needed that to get some boost, I am more confident to serve some real food.  Anyone can cook, right?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Freebies for Pinoys

Raffle draws or freebies are baits to consumers; and these credit card promos are driving everyone nuts.  We thought we had the greatest deals with free movie passes, chicken McDo, gift certificates, starbucks...

But these free international flights from HSBC I would say is talk of the town.  These promos is obviously not for the poor, but for the rich who are suckers of anything for free. Unscrupulous cardholders intentionally split transactions at the merchant's inconvenience, some sells redeemed tickets for profit (yes, this happens), others even swipe on their own business's machine without a valid transaction (yes, unbelievable).  An unscrupulous cardholder even is in the brink of diabetes with daily dose of starbucks.

Here's my take on it...  a trip to USA or Europe only takes fifteen of ten thousand charge slips using a platinum or premier card.  To be a platinum card holder, a million annual proof of income is required (ITR in the Philippines are never real); while a premier card holder, has at least four million placement or investment in HSBC's private banking.  If you compute, P150,000 x 5% merchant discount rate, they only earned P7,500 from this transaction; if you swipe a fictitious sales, that's your cost for that free ticket.  I don't know how they did the math, someone is going to be in big trouble.  If only they limited the redemption to the cardholder's name, then these fraudulent transactions won't be as rampant.  But if dominance is what they're after for the AB market, then kudos to the brains behind this.  At the moment, they can no longer keep up with the demand; they are a month behind in approving credit card applications. A memo has recently been issued, they are now auditing split transactions; so if you are, be prudent. And believe it or not, when you do split sales, the call center agent immediately calls you and accuse you of doing so.

By the way, HSBC cards is no longer owned by HSBC (the bank); it's now just a mere use of name.  What does this tell us?

But don't get me wrong, I'm not against this, I'm eagerly waiting to get my share of this deal.  So how can you accumulate to avail of HSBC's free international trip?  Here are what people are doing:

1.  Pay your globe handyphone and globelines (smart?) at the business center; especially when you have several bills to settle from your business.  Globe accepts creditable withholding tax certificates even with credit card payments.  PLDT, VECO does not accept credit card payments.
2.  Plan your grocery list.
3.  Negotiate with your vehicle gas supplier to accumulate your bill.
4.  It's time to renovate your house.
5.  It's time to get new appliances.
6.  Charge your rent, insurance premiums, amortization, if allowed. The add on rate is just worth it.
7.  In unfortunate circumstance, charge hospital bills; partially pay off by the P10,000 until you're discharged.
8.  To legitimately split credit charge payments; a credit card merchant's advice is to have one invoice per one charge slip;  your next swipe should be at least ten minutes later.
9.  The surest way to avoid charge back, buy only P10,000 a day per store, it only takes 15 days to complete one redemption.  Unbelievably, a lot is willing to go through that inconvenience for a trip to USA.

For more information about the promo, click here.

Reminder:  Take note of the fine prints:

1.  Only HSBC VISA cards are entitled to this promo.
2.  The only Mastercard acceptable is HSBC Premier cards.
3.  Only Platinum VISA and Premier Card are allowed to redeem for tickets outside Asia.
4.  Charge slips must be redeemed within 90 calendar days.
5.  Tickets can be issued to a person other than the cardholder and requires personal appearance.
6.  Tickets are rebookable and is valid for one year.
7.  Reservation is allowed even prior to redemption.
8.  Taxes beyond $100 is on the account of the card holder.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Autumn in Namisum (Nami Island): Winter Sonata

Are you a koreanovela addict?  I was for a time and  Meteor Garden started it all.  Although Meteor Garden was a Chinese tv series set in Taiwan and is based on a Japanese Manga series called "Hana Yori Dango" (Boys Over Flowers).  I could barely remember who introduced that to me, I watched it as a "refresher course" for my mandarin language studies before I left for Beijing to study (language).  While in Beijing, weeknights was movie nights with my roommate in the comforts of our room at the dorm.  It's an excuse to learning mandarin, since it was not available in any other language but in Korean with Chinese subtitle.  It was a choice between watching 24 Hours or Korean telenovela, oddly I preferred the latter. The "Endless Love" series was the most popular then, Autumn in my Heart and Winter Sonata. The latter starred Bei Yong Jung and Choi Ji Woo and the fever continued when I came home with Hotelier and Beautiful Days.  Beautiful Days was the last I saw, you have no idea how many buckets of tears I poured with these koreanovelas --their stories were almost always tragic.  I had to stop because it was too straining to stay up all night crying and staring at those subtitles. :)  But I left a legacy, my roommates back home got addicted too, upto this day.

Since then, South Korea was on our list of must see places.  Plans didn't push through a couple of times, not until a few weeks ago when there was a sudden rush to make it happen.  As I always say, if there's a will, there's a way.  We booked a package tour with Rakso Travel,  in a week's time, we landed in South Korean soil. :)

Unfortunately, our package tour did not include a visit to Nami Island.  For me, a visit to Korea won't be complete without a visit to Nami Island, where Winter Sonata was filmed and autumn season should be the best time to go.  So we had to forego one day of our package tour and explored Nami Island on our own.

A week before the trip, I have a travel buddy who was in Seoul and advised that I need to book a tour ahead.  Autumn is peak season for Nami Island, getting there the earliest possible time is a must.

I booked a train from Cheongnyangni Station to Gapyeong Station on; we were left with no better option than to book the 6 am train; that's the only available trip for the morning.  (Read this post on how to get to Nami Island.)  Getting there early was great, we had the place to ourselves for an hour or so; later the rest of tourists and locals started coming in, thousands of them.

Nami Island used to be a deserted island, the owner started planting trees (lots of them) and fortune came when Winter Sonata was filmed here.  Winter Sonata probably is one of Korea's best tv series.  Now, the island is adorned with anything and everything related to that tv series.  It has also become the local's weekend getaway.  They picnic, bike, row, eat, play... it is especially pretty (and romantic) during autumn when leaves turns red and yellow and fall off the ground.

soju bottles turned art piece

bank of Naminara Republic

kalbi was just great!  don't miss this Sum Hyang-gi (Fragrance Restaurant) across the Unicef Hall.  There's no english sign or menu; you just hope that one of the staff can speak.

You can walk around the whole of Nami Island in two to three hours;  but it is best enjoyed doing activities or simply doing nothing.  For more information, visit

Curious about the story?  Here's the storyline of winter sonata, i had to read it again to relive the memory:

How to Get to Nami Island - Namisum/Naminara Republic

When going to South Korea, I'd say, a trip to Nami Island is a must. More so if you are a koreanovela fan and cried a bucket of tears watching Winter Sonata.  If you are not on a package tour, there are several ways to get there on your own.


By Naminara Republic Shuttle Bus:

The most convenient way to get to Naminara Republic (Nami Island) is by taking their own shuttle bus.  Prior reservation is advised especially during peak season (autumn) and weekends.  Simply find your way to Insa-dong, near Topgoi (Pagoda) Park, before 9:30am.  Details as follows:

  By Train:

Since we wanted to get to Nami Island before the crowd, we opted to take the early morning train at 6am.  We boarded the ferry with the workers of Naminara Republic (before the tourists arrived).  After an hour, the crowd started to come in, thousands of them.

Book train tickets online on from Cheongnyangni Station to Gapyeong Station; pay online with credit card and print confirmed reservations.  Redeem the voucher at the train station.
Get yourself to Cheongnyangni Station, just beside Lotte Department Store by taxi or by subway on Cheongyangni Subway line 1 (go up and out of the subway).  Request your guide/hotel receptionist to write it down in Korean alphabet to make sure you give the right stop to the taxi driver. Upon arrival, take the escalator up to the train station (going down will take you to the subway station).

 Redeem your voucher at the counter (top left) for train tickets located at the far end, next to the wall.  You won't miss this, the station lobby isn't too big.

 Proceed to Gyeongchun Line, go down the stairs, turn left then take the escalator down to the train tracks.

 Take bay number 5 which moves towards Seongbuk (next station).  Cheongyangni is the first station.

 Enjoy the view during the one hour and half ride to Gapyeong Station.
 Get off at Gapyeong Station. Refer to the table below for the number of stops the train will make.

 Outside Gapyeong Station, take a taxi to Nami Island, simply tell the driver Namisum.  Flag down starts at 2300 won, if I'm not mistaken, we paid about 3,000-5000 won.  The station is about 5 mintues to Nami Island jump off point. 
 This tower for bungee jumping is the landmark of Nami Island Parking Lot.  Get off there.
 Proceed to the ticket counter and pay for the entrance fee of 8,000 won inclusive of roundtrip ferry ride.
 Proceed to the wharf and board the ferry.
ferry to Nami Island

this was the line to the ferry when we were about to leave Nami Island; during peak season, allocate two hours before your return train schedule.  There could be traffic jam at the parking lot and it may be difficult to find a vacant taxi. We had to rush and walk a block away to find a taxi.  We almost missed our train. whew!
    Gyeongchun Line (Moogonghwa train to Nam Chuncheon, at Cheongryang-ri Station)

    Cheongryan ri
    Pyongnea hopyong


















    As of January 2009
     By public bus

    1.  Buses going to Nami Island depart from:
    East Seoul Terminal( 02-446-8000 (1h 20m)
    Sangbong Terminal ( 02-323-5885 (1h 20m)
    Chuncheon Bus Terminal( 033-241-0285 (25m)
    2.  Get off at Gapyeong Bus Terminal 031-582-2308
    3.  Take taxi to Nami Parking Lot (wharf)

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    My Shopping Box

    Need a forwarder for shopping online from a USA website and shipping to the Philippines?  Try  (This is not a paid advertising.)

    I once received a newsletter from BDO Credit Card offering one year free subscription to online shopping forwarding service in the USA called  I quickly signed up for it, have my own US address and used it once to purchase online a CD software from ebay.  The seller will only ship to a US address, so this service became useful.  It took a while for the package to arrive in my US address, but I think it was the seller's courier's fault.  As soon as the package arrived in my US address, I was notified via email and I executed online authorization to ship it to my address in the Philippines, with my choice shipping by air.  I received the package within less than a week from the time I authorized shipping to my address in Cebu, Philippines. I didn't have to pay extra for the shipping between Manila and Cebu as the package arrived via Manila.  Freight charges was charged to my BDO credit card and received rebates a month later.  This service is so convenient, and I'm trying to control my shopaholic side not to get hooked with this.

    Advantages of this service:

    1.  Upon registration, they will provide you a US address, with a suite number uniquely yours. Such will be your mailing address when purchasing online.  This is particularly useful when the seller only ships to a US address and when availing for free shipping within the US.

    2.  Freight charges are cheaper (see rates below)  with option to send it to the Philippines by air or by sea.

    3.  No duties.  The package is declared as personal effects thus, no duties is charged.

    For more info, read on and check their website or email them at (they do reply)

    Once we accept your online registration and minimal sign-up fee, MY-SHOPPINGBOX will immediately send you an email response confirming your registration, as well as the details of your personal My Shopping Box address and suite number in Los Angeles, California.

    Example: Johnny dela Cruz
    339 South Myers Street
    Suite: 100-1000
    Burbank, CA. 91506
    The Suite Number will also be used as your own exclusive MY-SHOPPINGBOX account number which can be used to log-in to your account, update account information, check what's in your box and give instructions on how you want us to ship your packages with the corresponding Air or Sea door to door delivery charge from the MY-SHOPPINGBOX Facility to your registered delivery address in the Philippines.
    Once your done with your shopping, give the merchant your MY-SHOPPINGBOX Address as your Delivery-Shipping Address in the U.S., then all you need to do is wait for your package to arrive, and once it gets to your MY-SHOPPINGBOX, we'll take care of the rest.
    We will also notify you as soon as we receive your package, and provide you with shipping options - by air or, if you're not in a hurry and want to save on costs, we'll ship your package safely by sea. You have complete control of your shipping.

    Applicable rates:
    $25 a year for a personal address in the US
    $5.50 per pound - Air Freight (Class 1)
    $8.50 per pound - Air Freight (Class 2)
    $2.50 per pound - Sea Freight

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