Family Trip to Coron Pt. 4 – Coron Island Tour

Our 3rd full day in Coron was for the Coron Island Tour. This was also arranged by our hotel (similar to our Island Escapades Tour the previous day and the Smith Point visit on my birthday.) This was probably the most standard of tour packages in Coron– featuring Kayangan Lake.

We were picked up at our hotel at 8:30 AM by a Calamian Island Tours van. The van brought us to the boat jetty nearby (probably a 5-10 minute walk from One Averee Bay Hotel). The boat was already filled with other members of our tour group that morning.

Coron Island was just across the straits. Here were our stops in the order we visited. I took some notes while visiting:

Kayangan Lake – stunningly beautiful (but mosquito-ridden!). Bring and apply OFF! Lotion. You can opt to do some snorkelling to see what’s underneath the lake. You’ll spot some fishes and some rock formations. Suggestion is to be one of the first to arrive at the lake before other groups beat you there. This allows you to take a photo of the lake without people. Try to grab the floating balsa before everyone else. Take your time on the steps up and down as they may be slippery. Definitely one of Coron’s most picturesque.

Coron Coral Garden – A wonderful snorkelling spot. Depth was fine during our visit. No need for slippers when we went in high tide. I spotted beautiful blue fishes and a few jellyfish at the deeper side. You can work with your guides to get you around faster using those flotation circles.

Beach 91 (Lunch Venue) – This was a small beach meant that served the purpose of being a pit stop for tour groups. Pass the rice and be friendly with your group! The waves were beautiful at high tide. Some mosquitos. You can kayak if you want stronger waves. Beach 91 is cornered by towering limestone cliffs.

Japanese Shipwreck – because we couldn’t access Siete Pecados (on our original itinerary), we were brought to a location where you can spot a creepy WWII Japanese shipwreck. You could only see the bow. There were plenty of fishes! I spotted one jellyfish the size of a shopping bag.

CYC Beach – our boat driver and tour guides said that this was one of Coron’s last remaining public beaches since all the other ones were privately owned. We arrived here during low tide which meant the boat was unable to approach the island. Some of us walked to the beach in shallow water. Not much to snorkel but I spotted some shrimps and a larger fish the size of a remote control.

Twin Lagoon – a fantastic finale for our Coron Island tour. It was beautiful approaching the limestone cliffs during late afternoon. There was one lagoon for boats, and another lagoon for people to swim to while wearing life vests. There’s this strange warm and cold water sensation that changes from time to time. Felt like entering a natural IMAX amphitheatre, with voices of tourists echoing. This was probably one of my favourite spots in Coron. Nothing to snorkel at since the water was dark (and mysterious). Wear slippers because some areas are rocky (especially getting through the shallow tunnel portion that links the two lagoons).

At the end of our two days of island tours, it appeared that my family were also having a great time. Which to me means everything. 🙂

The rest in photos…














— End of Part 4 —

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All photos taken using my iPhone 6 Plus. Photos processed with the help of VSCOCam.

My Experience: Bureau of Immigration Annual Report 2015

It’s that time of the year again when ACR I-Card Holders in the Philippines have to troop to the Bureau of Immigration and file their annual report.

Since I’m working in Singapore, I have to extend my holiday leave to cover at least one or two working days of 2015. I went to the bureau on 5th January, the first working day of 2015.

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I was anticipating crowds who were rushing to file their annual report. We have to physically file within the first 60 days of the year or face penalties.

The annual report fee is PHP 310.00. The same as in previous years.

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While the setup may change as crowds thin out over the next few weeks, here were the four steps during the crowded first working day.

Step 1 – Evalutation. You show the officer your ACR I-Card. The officer will input data on his/her computer.

Step 2 – Queuing. Once you are cleared by the evaluator. He/she will issue you a queue stub number.

Step 3 – Assessor. Show them your ACR I-Card and then he/she will issue you the invoice stating how much you need to pay (PHP 310.00).

Step 4 – Payment. Pay the cashier the amount in the invoice. And then you are done.

It took me 3 and a half hours to complete the four steps above during my visit on January 5, 2015.

“Improvements” would be the queueing system and the large signs saying where you should go. The immigration staff I encountered were courteous. Even if you are exhausted while waiting for your turn, it pays to smile at them as well because in fairness it felt like they were dealing with hundreds of people that day. Improvement is the senior citizen/PWD lane. I saw many in wheelchairs and I saw so many elderly clutching their brown folders… Surrounded by hundreds of people.

There can be ways to streamline the process of the annual report.

– Payment available thru electronic means (e.g. Credit card, debit card)
– Annual report that is staggered according to your last filing (e.g. July 2014 was last filing, must file before July 2015 and not within the crunch time of first 60 days of the year; useful for ACR I-Card holders who are working abroad).
– Space. The building is overcrowded.
– Sign that says how much is the standard annual report (PHP 310.00) so people can prepare before they reach the cashier. Instead of causing a delay.
– More windows for Step 3 Assessor. It was a bottleneck there when some card holders were stuck due to some reason.

My 2014 holidays in the Philippines

A photo recap of the past ten days. This is my longest holiday back home since I started working in Singapore.

I flew to Manila on Christmas day onboard PR508. The flight was packed. I got to “surf the web” for the first time while up in the sky. As usual, the ice cream was great! But I skipped the alcohol. No beer or wine this time. When we arrived in Manila, people started jumping up from their seats. Grabe wait lang.

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Reminder to self: Don’t travel on Christmas day again! I had to wait longer at the luggage carousels. We shared our belt with another PR flight from Macau. So many TV sets on the belt.

First order of business while in Manila? Celebrating Christmas dinner with my family. We went to Yellow Cab at D. Macapagal Boulevard. Cheese pizza, Charlie Chan, and soda. Sodas should be fine, it’s the holidays!

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On the 26th I met up with my former colleagues T and R for a Cavite road trip to Balay Indang. We stayed overnight and ate almost every 3 hours. The place remains peaceful and serene. The food was great. 😀 Oh and I must comment, ang laki na ng arms ni R. And I miss T so much.

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Went to MOA which was crowded! The holiday shoppers were busy. I did my own shopping. It has been months since I last shopped. I noticed some things like a new “Tap and Pay” system at the parking lot (finally! similar to Malaysia and Singapore and other SE countries). Picked up gifts for some people. Dinner at Tokyo Cafe to escape the crowds. And picking up Paul’s friend J. Oh, and a FROZEN tree.

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On the 29th it was time to catch up with my college friends. We planned this months back. We stayed overnight at La Luz in Laiya, Batangas. I brought my family along to enjoy the beaches of San Juan. More food, more fun. 😀

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The 1 night in Laiya was honestly bitin. But we made the most of it I guess. Playing cards late at night. Playing charades underneath the palm trees. Sands on our toes. Doing an unofficial prenup for my friends K and CJ, recently engaged. Asking for more mango sago.

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The following day was a bit cloudy (Typhoon Seniang was in the southern Philippines). The wind was a little chilly so I didn’t want to get in the water. We headed back to Manila but had two pitstops along the way. Lunch at this cute local cafe called Cafeno in San Juan. Followed by a visit to Starbucks at Shell SLEX Binan. That’s where we parted ways.

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New Year’s Eve was at home in Cavite. The best place to welcome the New Year is with your family. I did some last minute chores like clearing my closet of old clothes I don’t need. I counted about 80+ t-shirts and polos that I gave away. That’s 12+ years of clothes. My selection of clothing is also quite eclectic. My parents prepared our traditional spaghetti and barbecue.

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My brother got to use his new GoPro which was fantastic at capturing this moment:

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2014 ended on a high note. My boyfriend has a job and an employment pass. I am doing reasonably well at work (I guess so? Hope my manager thinks so haha). We are truly lucky and I am very grateful.

I got to drop by my old stomping grounds in Cavite. SM City Bacoor is as bustling as ever with more “contemporary” offerings like Cotton On. There are some others. They stand next to renovated favourites like Kenny Rogers, Wendy’s, and National Bookstore. This mall is approaching 20 years old if I’m not mistaken.

I got to meet my high school friend C and her husband and three kids. 😀

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On the 3rd of January I was invited by my housemate in Singapore (who gave birth to her 2nd kid here in Manila) to be her son’s ninong. What an honor. Both my boyfriend and I are ninongs to baby Z. I went to the baptism ceremony at Malate Church and the reception at Tramway Buffet along Roxas Boulevard.

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That same afternoon I met up again with college friends at MOA. My mom and dad invited me to experience the “SM Prestige Lounge” hehe. The toilet paper though. 😀

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Yesterday, the 4th of January, relatives came over to our house so we could all have a post-New Year potluck. Great to catch up with relatives on my dad’s side. Some of which work in countries like Qatar and the United Kingdom.

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My 2014 holidays in the Philippines concludes with a trip to the bureau of immigration later this morning and my brother’s birthday lunch at MOA. 😀

Updated: BI Annual Report 2015, Paul’s Birthday at Vikings MOA, and my departure from Manila

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Sorry if the words are so straightforward. I’ve been repairing my WordPress install for hours. Naubos oras ko dun. Happy New Year!

Damages brought by Typhoon Glenda in Cavite

Typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun) passed over my home province in the Philippines. My family in Tanza experienced the strength of the typhoon. My mom was rather calm when she described how strong the gusts were (if I were there, I would have panicked because as a kid I used to get nightmares of being chased by a tornado). Power was knocked out for over 60 hours. In the 15 years we’ve had that house in Cavite, I don’t recall electricity for having gone out for that long.

So what else happened? Continue reading “Damages brought by Typhoon Glenda in Cavite”

My Experience: Annual Report 2014 at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila

It’s that time of the year when foreigners residing in the Philippines have to troop over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to file their annual report. Holders of the super digital and incredibly innovative ACR I-Card (Alien Certificate of Registration) have to report to the BI within the first sixty (60) days of the year to settle a fee.

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After my traumatising experience during the renewal of my ACR I-Card in 2012, I hate visiting the BI in Intramuros. It is stressful and having a degree in broadcast journalism makes me hyper critical and highly observant (e.g. long time to return change, staring contest, red tape… so on). When I went to the bureau this morning I was already expecting to spend the whole day there just to process my annual report because the deadline is March 1. [ACR I-Card holders who are abroad during the first 60 days of the year are allowed to just fly back to the country to settle this within the first 30 days, if I am not mistaken… so take that with a grain of salt].

OK ranting about BI is so passe na. I’ll get to it. My experience this year at the BI in Intramuros.

  • Date: 24 February 2014 (Monday) — a few days before the “60 days” deadline ends.
  • Approximate time to finish everything: 1 hour only — despite lots of people, see notes below
  • Annual Report Fee this year: PHP 310.00
  • MUST BRING: Original Passport (not just a photocopy), ACR I-Card (duh), a 2×2 or passport-sized picture that will be pasted onto the form, extra ballpen and your own folder to keep things organized
  • WILL HELP: Bring all your past receipts of Annual Reports just in case some glitch forgot to record your previous payment into their system. Know your parents’ passport numbers and have them ready. Know everything about your status in the Philippines like what visa you have been issued with.

Steps for the 2014 Annual Report

MY STEP 1. Once inside the building, follow the blue line to the back area. It leads down a hallway where you exit the side of the building where tents are set up. Get the new 4-page form and fill it up. There are high tables and plenty of space to write stuff. [Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask around. Dahil, we are all in this together. Do note the people you are queued with so you can determine if you are going in the right direction.]

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MY STEP 2. After accomplishing the form which requires details about your parents passports, get in the queue for [PRE-EVALUATION]. This took only 10-15 minutes for me even if the tents were full of people. There were about four or five officers handling the crowd all at once which was himala (that’s Tagalog for “Miracle”, fantastic. Kudos sa naka-isip na ‘to. The nice evaluator I got skimmed through my accomplished form to individually verify each item I wrote vis-a-vie my passport.

There’s a Senior Citizen lane. +5 points, BI.

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MY STEP 3. After this, proceed to the [ISSUANCE OF QUEUE NUMBER] back inside the main hall. You basically get in queue to get a queue number. Took about 5 minutes and there was a cute officer pa nga. Uhm, hi. Taga-La Salle ka rin?

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MY STEP 4. Hold onto your number and walk a few steps to the center of the main hall where the [ANNUAL REPORT PROCESSING AREA] is located. Wait for your number to appear on the screen. This took about 15 to 20 minutes, with a room full of people. In fairness, it was FAST and a far cry from my 2012 mental breakdown during renewal which took three days.

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MY STEP 5. Once your number appears, head to the designated counter indicated sa screen (e.g. Counter 1) and then hand the nice officer your form. He/she will do an assessment and if clear *fingers crossed*, it gets handed back to you with a [PAYMENT ORDER] slip which indicates how much you have to pay. This time it was a standard PHP 310.00. Walang express lane fee… pag may express lane fee hindi naman ganitong kabilis. Slide to the next counter to settle your payment. Expect the spiel: “Sir, may ten pesos kayo?”

MY STEP 6. Done! I deserve Jollibee or authentic Savoury chicken.

My experience of the Annual Report 2014 went by smoothly.

However, the nice man in front of me during pre-evaluation apparently had an issue that his address had changed when it didn’t change at all. At some point during the pre-evaluation to assessment, he was told that he had to file a “change of address” document of some sort and to have it notarized… he patiently explained to the assessment officer in front of me that his address hadn’t changed at all. The officer elder initiated a staring contest with the man’s forms… if you get what I mean.

Eventually the earnest man’s patience and voice tone worked and the staring contest ended… the elder officer crossed out the “discrepancy” on the form and the nice man got to leave without having to repeat X-amount of processes. Kind of weird na na-hold siya sa ganon… “change of address” was indicated but the guy’s address was the same on the form with the one written on his ACR I-Card. Paano nangyari yun.

Tips:

  • Go early.
  • Be patient and try to smile. (I smiled at one of the Sisters there.)
  • When in doubt, ask people. Conditions or counters change and they will be updated with what’s happening or be just as clueless as you.
  • Bring your old Annual Report receipts to avoid having to double pay something.

To the BI, things have improved with this cycle. +1 point in the restoration of my faith with this bureau.

Share your stories at the BI this year or in previous years!

Let me end with the parting chat I had with my evaluator in Step 1. In a friendly conversation (not interview) she curiously asked me why I was in the Philippines (and not in the United States).

Dahil kahit ganito, mahal ko ang Pilipinas.

#PHthankyou at ION Orchard, Singapore

The Philippines’ says thank you to the world for sending in aid and support after the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Haiyan (known as Bagyong Yolanda in the Philippines).

The advertisement of “thanks” #PHthankyou was released at major cities worldwide like New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Singapore. I happened to pass by ION Orchard last weekend to take a peek.

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The #PHthankyou campaign message at ION Orchard, a popular mall in Singapore.
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The #PHthankyou campaign message can be seen at major cities worldwide.

The ad appears every few minutes along with MediaCorp OOH and ION Orchard commercials.

According to a report on Channel NewsAsia, the Singapore Red Cross raised more than S$10 million in donations for the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan (approximately PHP 350 million).

I hope that the worldwide donations reached the people that need them the most.

I witnessed the outpouring of love and charity after the onslaught. My Singaporean colleague’s sister organised a fundraiser for victims of the typhoon. A librarian at work showed empathy and concern if I had any relatives in the affected areas… then she e-mailed me a link to a donation drive that was happening in Singapore. My boss kindly asked everyone to donate to the victims if they could. The HR department at my company organised a bake sale where the proceeds would go to Typhoon victims.

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Bake sale by HR.

My Filipino friends in Singapore also came together to remit cash into donation accounts set up back home. There was a food packing and donation drive that took place at Labrador Park. After I made my own remittance at Lucky Plaza, the lady behind the counter said there were many people who had made remittances for the purpose of donating to the likes of Sagip Kapamilya or Red Cross Philippines.

If I were back in Manila I would’ve taken time off to help out at relief centers. My friends in Manila organised their own donation drives as well. Some even went to Manila airport to comfort the evacuees coming from Visayas.

So yes, #PHthankyou to others may seem like an advertising campaign. But from where I see it, the world did give back to the Philippines’ when the country needed it.

Singapore, thank you for helping the Philippines. 🙂

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Spotted this at a store in Changi Point.

(Now, to sustain that help and rebuild.)

My December holidays in the Philippines Pt. 2: Kabarkada

Sharing more photos from my recent trip to the Philippines.

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Christmas at ABS-CBN is always magical.
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This is the big Christmas tree at the ELJ lobby.
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Hard liquor at my friend Toni’s house. Rye tagged along!
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At Mister Kabab with my former colleague and my former boss!
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Dropped by Studio 23 where I worked previously. I miss my colleagues!
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Lara’s stayed on with Studio 23 longer than I have. More than five years!
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My seniors DJ (L) and Jerome (R) with Rye in the center.
Singing and dancing to Beyonce’s COUNTDOWN.
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Ayala UP Technohub.
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Mister Kabab!
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Nice to still see Bistro Deli at The Loop ABS-CBN!
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KUBU is still around. Last time I ate here was two years ago!
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Some programs that were assigned to Neil before. Saw it still posted on the office wall!
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With Joan the trailers production coordinator. Ask for more spots!
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Rye and Lara outside ABS-CBN studios.
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This is real! We encountered a giant rat in the office back in 2007!

Thanks Toni for hosting me for that one night! I had so much fun catching up with my kabarkadas.

It’s nice to see that ABS-CBN is still the way I remembered it from two years ago. There were plenty of new things and new faces. But the best part was reconnecting with old friends and old colleagues. I also loved revisiting places like The Loop (where we ate most of the time) and my old table at Studio 23.

Sinulit ko talaga ang bakasyon na ‘to! Including fixing my BDO at ELJ and seeing my cute dentist again.