Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sri Lanka Day 3 - Kandy, the Great City

Stayed overnight in Kandy and woke up overlooking this hilly city's magnificent centrepiece lake which somehow made up for the not so pleasant event of last night.

The hotel that we supposed to stay was fully booked and had us moved to another hotel (their new branch). The hotel is obviously new, nice and all but unfortunately the rooms are not sound proof. It was raining heavily all night but I still could hear all the noises from the next room - shouting and laughing MEN (!), I could tell they were drinking. Since our room is located behind the lobby, I went to the reception TWICE but the sliding door to the lobby was locked and no one was there! I tried several times to reach them by phone without success. So I had no choice but to message our travel agent in the middle of the night. Few minutes after informing him about my suffering, heard someone knocked on the next door then the noise died down and silence fell. I think those men are hotel staff. 

Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya

Left the hotel after breakfast to explore the garden. Snapped few shots and I knew if it wasn't raining this park would look more colorful and beautiful. Next photo is one of the 5 Palm Avenues beautifying the Botanical Garden.
Royal Palm Avenue: the earliest and tallest Palm Avenue in the Botanical Garden

Spice Garden & Honeypot Resto

A great amount of spices to learn about and its uses in the Spice Garden plus a wide range of pricey herbal remedies that promise a lot are available in their shops. No pressure to buy but still we left the place with our purchases and with great hope/expectation, LOL. 

Then we had a traditional Sri Lankan "rice and curry" for lunch at the Honeypot Restaurant.
Honeypot's rice & curry

The Honeypot's balcony offers fantastic river views, how I wish we had a Lion beer after lunch, LOL

Chauffeur-Guide's House

After lunch, our chauffeur-guide Sam invited us for an afternoon tea in their family house and met his wife and daughters. It was a beautiful traditional house with spacious lawn, wish I took photo - blame it on the rain, and his family are warmth and hospitable. It is indeed a privilege to experience another person's culture.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Kandy Cultural Dance

Temple of the Tooth Relic
We visited the temple where Sri Lanka's most prized possession - Buddha's tooth is being kept. Also, that evening, we watched a cultural dance performance before we leave to Ramboda.
That's me, inside the Tooth Relic Temple

◄ Sri Lanka Day 2          |          Sri Lanka Day 4 ►

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sri Lanka Day 2: Safari in Habarana and Climbing Sigiriya Rock

Nice Place Hotel, Dambulla

We spent our first night in this hotel located in the middle of nowhere - not exaggerating but it is FAR from the main road but the place is worth it as it is really NICE in the truest sense of the word - a paradise in the middle of jungle. 

Had a little episode that night - almost fainted in the middle of dinner but was saved by the ice and cold water. Must be the exhaustion and the adverse weather. 
Nice Place Hotel

Kaudulla National Park, Habarana 

The next morning, it was stil raining so after breakfast, we left the hotel for a wildlife safari by jeep.

Click and swipe for more wildlife safari photos/videos here

We had wonderful traditional Sri Lankan meal on a taro leaf for lunch after the safari:
a little of everything 

Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya  

Then visited and climbed the Sigiriya Rock despite the stormy weather coz no visit to Sigiriya without climbing that rock and with the weather that day, it was really quite challenging and exciting to climb the 1200 rickety steep and narrow staircase.
1200 steps to the top
Click and swipe for more photos/videos here and here.

Cave Temple, Dambulla 

This is located uphill from the Golden Buddha statue. Unfortunately, on our way to the ticketing booth it started to rain HEAVILY and in the middle of the flight of steps we were already soaking wet. We decided not to go further - climbing the Sigiriya Rock in that weather was enough for the day.

◄ Sri Lanka Day 1          |          Sri Lanka Day 3 ►

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sri Lanka Day 1: The Elephants in Pinnawala

Sri Lanka welcomed me/us with a bit gloomy weather, rainshowers and wet roads. But it is okay, having grown up in a tropical country, I am so used to this kind of weather. 

First stop:  Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage 

About 3-4 hours away from the airport, this orphanage houses abandoned and wounded animals since 1975. There was an elephant bathing in the river when we arrived and we got the chance to bathe it and touched the trunk of one of the elephants there for photo op. Also, we did an elephant ride - something I am not proud of (shame! shame! shame!). Wish people wont get tempted riding an elephant no matter what others say like it's okay they wont be hurt (believe me, IT IS NOT!), or just because it is in someone's bucket list and dream to ride one (you can always say NO, politely!). Elephants have feelings too and the best things we could do are bathe them and/or feed them.

Got the opportunity to bathe this elephant
Either I'm too thin or this elephant has huge trunk
Elephants marching after bathing from the nearby river


Elephants frolicking and bathing in the nearby river

For some reasons, past noon I started to feel unwell. I did not know if it was exhaustion, lack of sleep, hunger or the tropical weather because my stomach started to ache whenever I moved but had to endure as I did not want to spoil our trip... 

Please do check my IG for more photos.

◄ Hello Sri Lanka          |          Sri Lanka Day 2 ►

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ayubowan, Ceylon (Hello, Sri Lanka)!

There had been much challenges towards my trip to Sri Lanka.

My friend and I underwent several planning stages which took a year before it finally materialized. 

It was August last year when we planned to spend Eid holidays in Sri Lanka but I had became half-hearted to go after learning that my dad suffered a mild stroke (he is better now) back home so we had to cancel our plan.

Fast forward Eid this year, we came to a decision to go during Eid holidays so we booked our flight, hotels and tours. But three days before our flight, my friend's dad suddenly passed away so of course we canceled everything as she had to go to Philippines to be with her family.

October came, she was hesitant to pursue the Sri Lanka travel as she felt something bad will happen again. I convinced her that it was purely coincidental and bad things can happen anytime. 

We then finally decided to go in November, two days after her birthday and so the Sri Lanka saga continues...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Celebrating Diversity at Work

Last week was Sustainability Week at work and as part of celebrating our diversity, we were asked to show off our national pride by wearing our national costume from our native country. 

And this was OUR fun way to share a bit of our heritage and culture… so here we go!

Me wearing a modern Filipiniana dress looking like a Matapobre (one who looks down on others, particularly the poor; a snob)

My colleague wearing a magsasaka (farmers) outfit that made us look like --- him as an alipin (slave) and me a Donya (madam/mistress), beside each other.

These photos definitely remind me of History class - the Filipino society and the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period (1521-1898).

Additional photos posted on my IG.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Importance of Reading Instruction Manual

I have done stupid things today. Bought a nano phone and here's what happened:

  • Kept shoving the SIM popper in the slot — when no SIM tray popped out, I checked the instruction manual (!). The slot I thought was for the eject SIM is the phone's built-in mic. Phone has really no SIM tray.
  • Pushed my nano SIM horizontally all the way in the SIM slot till it can't be moved... then I started checking the instruction manual (!!) again and found out that phone requires a micro SIM. 
  • Despite what's written in the Safety Notes: "Disassembling, Repair & Maintenance should be carried out by qualified personnel...", still I disassembled (!!!) the phone thinking I can get my SIM out... but can not. Phone switched on itself and couldn't switch off. 
  • To make things worse, I used the popper to get the SIM out of the phone till it is broken. Then used another popper and had it broken too while the SIM got buried way too deep in the slot. And my sanity has officially flown out of the window...
  • I finally managed to switch the phone off, put it back in the box. And there it goes my new nano phone with my SIM still stuck inside... RIP'ing in the box.
Reported to my mobile provider that I lost my SIM and requested a replacement.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

550 pesos Airport Terminal Fee Refund for OFWs

If you are an OFW and have booked your air ticket abroad, you are exempted from paying 550 pesos airport terminal fee at NAIA. 

Based on my experience last April, only few OFWs claimed their refund prior to their departure. Most of them were not able to do so due to lack of time to queue at the "Terminal fee REFUND" counters as they have to catch their flights, either that or they do not know about this privilege.

Here are some tips on how to avail the 550 pesos. Please note that I traveled via Emirates.
  1. To avoid long queue, check yourself in online and print your boarding pass or use your mobile for the boarding pass.
  2. Proceed to the baggage check counter when you arrive at the airport and drop your baggage there. Present your ticket, boarding pass, passport and OEC. They will tell you to go to the next Emirates counter.
  3. At the next counter, you will again present the same documents and then they will give you Official Receipt/Invoice.
  4. After you gone past Immigration, you will see the queue at the Departure refund counter - it's a small room on the left side.
    Queue at the Departure refund counter
  5. I had to wait for more than half an hour in the queue to get the refund... I almost left the queue.
  6. While still in queue - heard the ladies at the counter (only 2 counters inside) telling OFWs to have available copies of work visa, etc next time. That explains the long queue lines - some OFWs were submitting incomplete documents. Photocopying their documents is slowing the ladies at the counter down. Good thing they have a photocopy machine and it's free of charge plus they have ready change of 550 pesos.
  7. When it was my turn, I apologised to the lady for not having a copy of my work visa as I did not know. The lady told me it was okay as long as I have my OEC and that visa copy, etc are only required for those who do not have OEC.
    Inside the Departure Refund Counter

We, OFWs, should also play our part. Before you complain & criticize the government for being slow and blame them for the long queue, ask yourself first - have I done my part? do I have the necessary documents? Remember, the country progresses when people and the government work together towards a common goal: DEVELOPMENT.

Friday, June 16, 2017

8 Days of Summer in Paradise

Since I was born in summer on an island, I decided to begin the best part of my life in El Nido (read: paradise) for a week. Dubbed as "the most beautiful island in the world", it is one pit stop you will want to extend or never want to leave. 

Seeing El Nido with my own eyes - the incredible landscapes and beautiful turquoise waters - by the end of my first day there, it was over. I was sold. It was love at first sight.

The camera cannot capture what the naked eye can see..

Bacuit Bay

Small Lagoon

Nacpan Beach

Bacuit Bay

Bacuit Bay

Places I have been while I was in El Nido (check my IG for more photos/videos):

  • Small & Big Lagoons. Kayaking around and getting El Nido's "badge of honor" - a nasty deep coral cuts on my toe and a few light coral scrapes under my foot.
  • Secret Lagoon, Miniloc Island
  • Entalalula Island
  • Snake Island. Overlooking the S-shaped sandbar (best seen during low tide) that snakes across the water, connecting the island to the mainland.
  • Seven Commandos Beach. Where you can ignore everyone else at the end of the day and just do whatever the hell you wanna do. Been here twice.
  • Las Cabañas Beach. El Nido's best place to catch the sunset. Been here 3 to 4 times
  • Nacpan Beach. Where you will realize that life is pretty amazing
  • El Nido Cove Resort, Lamoro Beach
  • Helicopter Island
  • Fishing Village
  • Talisay Beach. Where I  bagged my 2nd El Nido's "badge of honor" - got nipped by a fish twice and wounded both my legs.
  • Hidden Beach. An unseen beach unless you go further in between two rocks.
  • Secret Beach. A piece of paradise concealed by the cliffs and can only be accessed by swimming through a narrow crevice.
  • Paradise Island. El Nido's best spot to scuba dive
  • Duli Beach. Heaven seems a bit closer here.
  • LiO Tourism Estate. Another best to catch the sunset

Other best places to eat/hangout:

  • Jarace Grill - fresh seafood and beach front dining PLUS a taste of crocodile crispy and crocodile sisig
  • Sava Beach Bar - this is kinda high end beachfront bar. Been here thrice
  • Maremegmeg Beach Bar - while waiting for the sunset in Las Cabañas. Been here 3 to 4 times
  • Mezzanine - the loungey resto boasting views over the bay of Bacuit and its islands. 

Also, when it comes to island hopping in El Nido, if you want to experience the best, Pardz boat is perfect for it. Manned by 2 crew - a captain and a helper, Pardz can accommodate up to 16 guests. The crew know all El Nido's best kept secrets, from hidden lagoons to remote beaches & diving/snorkeling/kayaking sites. They cook delicious grilled foods for their guests too! Contact: (+63) 09303740994

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sia and World's Richest Race Day

Well, this has been lying on my drafts for months...

Come on, come on, Dubai World Cup is on
It is again the last Saturday of March phenomenon
Gotta do my hair, put my make up on..
Coz it is the yearly Meydan horserace thon
Gotta paint my nails, put my high heels on..
Coz it is the yearly Meydan horserace thon
Gotta wear my cocktail dress and fascinator on
It is the annual richest horserace phenomeno

You sang my post to the tune of Sia's song didn't you?

I came later this time.. I didn't get to see the race but I was in time for the fireworks.

It was so windy and raining but didn't stop the racegoers to have fun and get drunk to oblivion that night (everybody loved cheap thrills!)

◄ 2016 DWC          |          2018 DWC ►

Friday, March 31, 2017

OEC in Dubai

posted in POLO-OWWA, Dubai
I don't go to Philippines annually, so I am always lost when it comes to getting an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) from POLO (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) before going back to Manila. 

It has been three years since the last time I have been to Manila - and the balikbayans (Filipinos working abroad and returning to Philippines) policies have changed twice or thrice already.

So here's my experience:

Step 1 of 3: How to Register Online

  • I used the BM (Balik Manggagawa) online system to know if I am exempted or in my case get an appointment.
  • I registered as a "New User" using my personal email to sign up,  since I do not have an account yet, then received a confirmation link in my email.
  • I logged in as "Already Registered" user. I have records already but had to update, as required, "MY Profile" and uploaded my current ID photo: 
  1. Personal Detail: updated my passport details since the one in the record has already been expired and other details
  2. Contract Particulars: In the record, I did not have an OEC number as it was different the last time I went to Manila 3 years ago. The company where I am employed (still at the same company for the last 4 years), last deployment date (your last flight to Manila from Dubai) and the arrival date (last time you arrived in Dubai from Manila). Mind the month/day/year-format when entering the dates, I could not get it right at first because I was wrongly putting the date by entering the day-month-year-format.
  3. Legal Beneficiaries / Qualified Dependents 

  • I clicked the "Acquire OEC or Exemption" and entered my flight dates (mind the month/day/year format) to find out if I am exempted. As expected, I was not so I was redirected to the "Appointment Page". Then I selected my preferred POEA office, which is POLO Dubai. And scheduled my appointment by choosing the date and time I preferred to go, process and pay my OEC. 
(Tip: Schedule it a week or a day before your flight to Philippines because OEC is only good for 2 months, if it expires before you return to Dubai, then you have to get/pay another OEC).

Step 2 of 3: What to bring and do to POLO-OWWA office

POLO is located next to the gate of the Philippine Consulate in Dubai 
  • As per my experience, they only require original passport and 3 copies of your signed BM online appointment.
  • I repeat, bring 3  signed copies of the appointment. If you don't, make sure you have 2 dhs coins with you to use the photocopier at the POLO. They have the coin-operated copier wherein you have to insert coins in the box to activate it. It costs 1 dirham per page. It was never mentioned on the website that they require 3 copies but I brought 2 and was glad that I have a dirham coin. Otherwise, it would have been a hassle for me.
  • As soon as you enter the POLO gate, go directly to the door facing the gate. Insert the 3 copies of your appointment in your passport where your visa page is. Then sit down wherever the queue ends. Those in queues are sitting like 6 persons in a row.
  • Come at least 15 minutes early before your appointment time because you still have to wait. I came 10 minutes early but I was given a queue number around 20 minutes after. It's by batch of about 6 people.
  • After I got my queue number along with my batch mates, we were told to proceed to Room #10. In Room#10, another set of people, a dozen maybe, are sitting down waiting for their number to be called. 
  • I had waited for another 15-20 minutes before my number has been called. I have given the appointment/passport then I was only asked if it was my first time to go home (yes, I always look like an FOB) so I said no, but the last time was 3 years ago. Also I was asked if it was in the same company and when I planned to return (to Dubai). Then I was ask to pay 92dhs for OEC and 10dhs for OWWA. While giving me the OR (original receipt), the Lady in the counter told me that OEC expires in 2 months but OWWA is good for 2 years so if I am planning to go to Manila again before OWWA expires - 30 March 2019, I will only need to pay 10dhs for OEC. Then she told me to go to Counter#1 to pay PAG-IBIG contribution
  • PAG-IBIG counter has given me an option to pay there or at the accredited exchange centers (I was given a PAG-IBIG  leaflet). Also, I was given an option how much I want to pay (200 pesos minimum per month) and how many months - 1month or so, I want to pay. I paid 52 dhs including 5dhs charges. It was 600 pesos contribution, though I was told it's for 6 months contribution, in the receipt it was stated: 600 pesos contribution for March, meaning 600 is my monthly contribution. Anyway, whatever. I wanted to get done and over with the whole OEC thing because it had already consumed one hour of my time just for getting/paying it.
  • I am not sure if PAG-IBIG contribution is mandatory or not but I chose to pay because I do not want it to be a problem later at the airport when I am going back to Dubai.

Step 3 of 3: How to Print your OEC

  • Login to your BM online account.
  • Go to "My Transaction" and click "PRINT OEC" then "PRINT RECEIPT".  make at least 3 copies of the OEC to be presented at NAIA counter during your return flight to UAE. Though, as per the note posted in POLO-OWWA, only 2 copies are required. But still bring 3 copies, better safe than sorry. Also make sure the POLO-OWWA issued OEC original receipt and PAG-IBIG contribution payment original receipt are with you. 

That's all Kabayans! Enjoy Pinas!