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!
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 :)


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


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):

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


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+
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

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

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.

Panorama Heights, Nivel Hills, Gorordo Ave
Cebu City 6000
032 2327375

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.

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


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.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Twilight Breaking Dawn Movie Trailer

The Twilight saga has been one of the very few novels that I've read.  I haven't read the Breaking Dawn but watching this trailer makes me want to pick up the book now, if only I have the luxury of time to do so.

Even before it will be officially released at the MTV awards, the trailer leaked...  watch it before it gets banned.

My heart goes to Jacob...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Northern Vietnam: Hanoi

After a chaotic experience with the locals, we arrived Hanoi with much angst.  We shall never get fooled by any locals was our game.  Upon arrival at Hanoi airport, we were met by soliciting taxi drivers for a fixed taxi fare.  We walked past them and found a seemingly nice taxi driver who was willing to take us to the city on a meter.  We took the risk and thought, we cannot forgive ourselves if we get into a trap again.  Luckily, there are a few good men.  Shortly, we found our hotel for the night, Indochina Queen booked through agoda.  The receptionist was a good looking tall fair Vietnamese guy.  That's a rare find in Vietnam!  He came out and helped out with our bags and made sure we had no issues with the taxi driver.  He was very accommodating and I was particularly fond of him saying "certainly" in British accent each time we asked for something.

Just like in Ho Chi Minh, the facade of the hotel was narrow.  The room was spacious and well equipped.  Arriving close to midnight, we had to hurry and pack an overnight bag for our much awaited trip to Halong Bay.  The hotel gladly stored our luggage overnight while we were out in Halong Bay at no extra fee.

After settling in, from an overnight trip at Halong Bay with Indochina Sails, we went to see the water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre at 8pm for 40,000 dong.  The theater was a few blocks away from the hotel and the receptionist advised us just to walk to get there.  The show wasn't a must see, but knowing that it was brought around the world gave us a reason to see it for ourselves.

the puppeteer came out for the finale

We walked around Hoan Kiem Lake with numerous dating couples and locals dancing in the night and finally found Fanny's Ice Cream Parlos.  The presentation was definitely fantastic, the taste was so so.
Fanny's Ice Cream Parlor
I love the weather in Hanoi.  Day 2 was allotted for a day tour around Hanoi's historic spot - Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and it's adjacent presidential palace and museum.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh's modest house
We also visited the temple of literature.  It was obviously, of Confucian influence with chinese characters all over.  The Vietnamese Museum of History was not for me, we killed time lounging at the museum, since there was not much people here, it was definitely cozy for some cheezy conversation.  The cafe next door also was a great place to hangout with, serving some good opera cake.
Temple of Literature

the Vietnamese Museum of History
Since we've practically covered the important sites in Hanoi for a short time, we went back to the area of Hoan Kiem Lake.  Checked out those that I normally find in travel blogs of Hanoi and took a shot of Huc Bridge, vietnamese ladies holding hands in costume and some old vietnamese locals playing chinese chess.  Ah, these shots completes my stay in Vietnam. :D
numerous dating couple at Hoan Kiem Lake

Vietnamese Ladies in costume

old Vietnamese playing chinese chess at Ngo Soc Temple grounds

the Huc Bridge leading to Ngo Soc Temple

rickshaw ride around the old quarter

Confessions of a Shopaholic Two

With a stressful life these days, retail therapy has never been this therapeutic and pampering thyself have been guiltless.
  • I seemed to not leave Promod without a shopping bag in tow;
  • I now have three pairs of fitflops;
  • I just bought a long champ bag and ate my words when I said, I'll never get one;
  • I bought cosmetics, I know I will rarely use.;
  • I just got a new i5 laptop, and this one was for free;
  • fine dining at Cebu's finest!  Olio's a thousand eat all you can beef and Anzani's 800+ four course meal
  • everyday, I find some good reason to buy new toys... an iphone and an ipad for work and light weight point and shoot camera for daily use.
  • everyday, my mind wanders around the world...Misibis Bay in June, Davao in October, India in December, London in February, South Africa in April
Somebody stop me please... :))

PAL Grants Cancellation of Redeemed Miles for Japan

I was able to redeem free round trip ticket to Tokyo, Japan on Philippines Airlines (PAL) with Mabuhay Miles.  But after the nuclear crisis, my plans foiled.  When I called PAL's hotline, it was not possible to reroute the flight.  I was only given two options:
  1. Rebook to a later date, within one year from ticket issuance date.

    The first  rebooking is free of charge. Each subsequent rebooking will be subject to a rebooking fee of USD30.00 for International award ticket or PHP600.00 (Exclusive of  VAT)  for Domestic award ticket.

  2. Extend ticket for another 6 months for a fee ($25 if i remembered it right).
We had our ticket rebooked to a much later date without having it revalidated so I can still change the date without a fee.  Not until I was told by a friend that he was able to have his credited back.  And so I wrote to mabuhaymiles@pal.com.ph and wecare@pal.com.ph as follows:

"Locator #_____
Passenger Name: _______
Mabuhay Miles # 00______

Hi, we have redeemed tickets to Tokyo scheduled last March,  because of the unfortunate event of the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, we were constrained to cancel our trip.  At that time, we requested for rerouting but was declined.

We are appealing for your kind consideration to credit back the miles used and refund the taxes paid since the resolution of the crisis remains uncertain.

Hoping for your kind consideration and hope to hear positive response from you."
A follow-up note and a month passed and I have not received a reply but this:
 "Please be advised that your concern is currently being reviewed by our Awards Group. Your patience and understanding in awaiting for further communication from us regarding this matter will certainly be appreciated... Very truly yours, Eileen Jover-Galindez, Manager - Product Loyalty Marketing, Operations"
I was constrained to contact some people we know at PAL's office and was advised to email Romme Belles of Mabuhay Miles Service Center at  Rommel_Belles@pal.com.ph

In two days, I received a response stating:
Dear Freeze,
"We have already cancelled and credited back the 20,000 miles to your account. You may now proceed to any of our Philippine Airlines ticket office and apply the refund of the taxes (please bring your tickets). Thank you. Romme Belles, Mabuhay Miles Service Center"
What a joy this news bring!  I won't be tied down going back to Japan soon while Japan's nuclear crisis remains an issue.  Now I can enjoy a different beat in South Africa and visit the queen in London courtesy of HSBC.

Note:  Miles redemption that are canceled are not necessarily credited back to today's date.  The original redemption is canceled, any miles expired or expiring is extended upto the next cut-off.

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