Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Agoo Church

I am not a big fan of churches, since in the Philippines, they pretty much look the same to me. There are some though that mesmerize, like the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo and this one, the Basilica of our Lady of Charity, more known as the Agoo Church.

Help CDO and Iligan

On this day, December 20, I was expecting smiles and a lot of fun from our Mindanao Christmas party in a lovely resort in Jasaan.  Today, we visit them with smiles to cheer them up. I have come to love Mindanao, and CDO has been special to me this year.

This is what Emily Homes looks like now, which is reminiscent of Ondoy's wrath in my former home in Provident Villages. It has happened again, and will happen again soon. 

Help CDO and Iligan and all the other affected areas of Sendong, by donating in whatever way. We are here to help.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Guess Where Next

Guess where my next destination is. More on one of the country's top tourist draws up next! Merry Christmas everyone!

Biking Around Camotes

I I wanted to end my Camotes blog with Santiago Bay, but if there's one thing that made my trip memorable, it was the impromptu bicycle tour that we took on our last day.

Around Camotes: Santiago Bay

When one mentions a beach in Camotes, one would probably say Santiago Bay. After visiting Timubo and Lake Danao, we decided to grab a snack at Santiago Bay Garden Resort, perched on the cliffside of Santiago Bay.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Around Camotes: Timubo Cave and Lake Danao

Just like most islands in the Visayas, Camotes has primed up its popular tourists spots. The island has its share of destinations, making a day trip around the countryside worth your while. We hired at multicab to take us around for P2,000 a day. We were also picked up from the wharf with this  fee. We also had a bubbly and informative tour guide, who took us to the right spots. Our first stop was the Timubo Cave.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort

I find great satisfaction in discovering new places. The Mangodlong Paradise Beach Resort was an accidental find, since we were really supposed to stay in Mangodlong Rock Resort beside it. When I saw the new resort, I was already lured towards it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

En Route to Camotes

Finally, after 5 years of wanting, I found myself boarding the ferry to the island of Camotes in Cebu. If you have been reading my blogs on Cebu, you will be familiar with Camotes, as the destination I've wanted to go to, but never got the chance. So now, boarding this ferry is indeed surreal.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Apple Store Hong Kong

I was walking in IFC headed for Pret-a-Porter, when BOOM! It was there. I was planning to check out the Apple Store afterwards, but as I went up the escalator, it was there.

Cubic: COD Macau

I must admit, I am back to my younger days, when clubbing was a addiction. But it's probably not because of the drinking and wild nights that I crave for, it's the music. And for the past years, I have been hooked so much on house and electronic music. In fact, I even wanted to become a DJ because of this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Grand Resort Deck at Galaxy Macau

And so I come to the reason why we are staying in Galaxy Macau. Just like roof deck and sky high bars, beach clubs are a growing trend in Asia. So when I chanced upon the beach club at the Galaxy, I definitely said to myself that I needed to experience it for myself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Galaxy Macau

I have been moving in and out of Macau to go to HK recently because of Tiger Airways fantastic prices to Macau from Clark. For example, for this flight to Macau, I only paid P1,500. It was even more expensive to travel to Baguio because of the gas. So, Macau has been my entry point for my past visits to HK. However, when in Macau, who could resist the lure of their ever growing luxury hotels.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Theodore Hotel

We stumbled upon the newest boutique hotel in Tagaytay after giving up our search for a new restaurant. We got intrigued by Agui's fresh Tagaytay cuisine concept, because it was very vague. What was Tagaytay cuisine anyway? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Enchanting Loboc River Night Cruise

Most cruises to the Loboc River in Bohol take place during lunch time as part of the standard countryside tours in the island. However, I discovered that taking the night cruise is a better experience.

Exploring Anilao

It was a bright and breezy morning as the sun rose from behind the house, revealing the beauty of the sea and the surrounding islands. I got so excited, so I planned our short island exploring trip. We hired the boat that was parked beside the house for P2,500. The rate was quite steep, considering we only used the boat for 3 hours. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Anilao Getaway

For the Halloween long weekend, we decided to go to a beach town that I haven't visited in years, probably because I'm not a diver. Our trip to Anilao was one of the long drives that put a smile on my face. From Alabang, it only took us a total of 1.5 hours, all because of the Sto. Tomas expressway being connected to the Star Tollway. The next thing you'll know, you're in Batangas City, and just 30 minutes away from Mabini, where Anilao is.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Surprising Dumaguete

Before going back to Manila, I decided to explore Dumaguete city by foot. I had myself dropped off at the boulevard, and looked for lunch. The last time I visited, I wasn't really able to digest that I was in Dumaguete, so it was just like any quaint city to me. This time however, I was pleasantly surprised to see how it reminds me of a laid back Southeast Asian coastal town.


Monday, October 31, 2011

On To Antulang

For some reason, I have been dying to see this resort in Siaton, Negros Oriental for the longest time. Even before villas were the trend in accommodations, Antulang Beach Resort boasted of its villas with private pools overlooking the Sulu sea. So when I finally got to go back to Dumaguete, I immediately booked a room in Antulang, which is located an hour away from the city.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Amorita Resort: Luxury on Alona

Bohol's accommodations are a bit tricky for me. For one, I still haven't found the perfect resort even after being here for more than 8 times already. I get to check out most hotels as part of my work in events, and the last event that we had in Bohol was set in probably the best looking resort in Bohol. This is the Amorita Resort.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wow! W Hong Kong

W Hong Kong has got to be one of the best hotels I've stayed in. The moment you arrive, you get that feeling that this stay would be special. And it was a warm and special welcome indeed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Renaissance at Phuket

From Singapore, we were thirsty for more beach. I still wanted luxury, but didn't want to spend so much, given that Shangri-La already set me back a lot. So, the most obvious choice is Phuket, since it is relatively nearer than Bali (thus cheaper airfares). I searched extensively for a great resort, but with an affordable price. Low and behold, I never thought I would end up in a Marriot property in the quieter and more luxurious northern part of Phuket. Welcome to the Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort

Oh yes, Shangri-La. I may have fallen for the hotel chain as it has satisfied my needs for truly relaxing vacations. My latest experience is in its Sentosa Singapore property. This is the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Calea Opens Bigger Doors!

Anybody who has been to Bacolod must have heard about Calea. When I first stepped into its doors four years ago, I immediately fell in love with the White Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecake. I even branded it as one of the best cheesecakes in the country. It's now 2011 and because of its inevitable popularity, Calea has grown immensely.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harolds Hotel Cebu: The Way It Should Be

I discovered the latest hotel I am raving about after a last minute reservation with Agoda. Harolds (I mistook it for Harrods) is centrally located in Gorordo Avenue. I knew it was a business hotel and initially, I thought it was just any other new business hotel.

The Misibis Bay Escape: Part 2

Despite all my criticisms on the resort's design and food, we still managed to have a good time in Misibis Bay. And as they say, you really go to Misibis Bay to enjoy their activities. "Activities" are all the things you can do in the resort, most of which are for free!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Misibis Bay Escape: Part 1

In my quest to find the best luxury resort in the Philippines, I stumble upon that elusive destination in Cagraray Island in Albay. This is Misibis Bay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon

There has been a sudden surge of celebrity and Michelin star restaurants in Asia recently and the top venues are of curse, Singapore and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, we have Bo Innovation leading the list for its molecular gastronomic take on Chinese cuisine. With the opening of Marina Bay Sands, several celebrity chefs put up restaurants, such as Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza and Pizerria Mozza, Daniel Boulud's Bistro Moderne and Guy Savoy among others. The list goes on, in Singapore, having new Michelin starred spots such as . Perhaps one of the most celebrated chefs is Joel Robuchon, who finally opened not one, but two restaurants in Singapore's Resorts World Sentosa. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

iFly Singapore

When I heard an indoor skydiving tunnel was being built in Sentosa, I was so eager to try out the new adventure. So when it finally opened, I didn't pass on the chance to fly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cirque de Soleil's Zaia at the Venetian Macau

We were on a roll. After being blown away by House of Dancing Water, I realized it will take a long time for another show of that proportion to come along my way. Hence, everything was downhill. Nevertheless, we were getting bored already, and since we were staying in the Venetian, we decided to catch Zaia's matinee performance.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ice World at the Venetian

This year, the Venetian in Macau brought in an interesting attraction: Ice World. Located in one of the convention halls of the resort, the ice sculpture exhibition brings the experience of the northern Chinese city of Harbin to the shores of balmy Macau.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The House of Dancing Water

It was spontaneous and very exciting indeed. Our trip to Macau was booked two days before I scored some tickets in one of the most anticipated shows staged in Asia, Franco Dragone's House of Dancing Water.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The City of Dreams: Macau

When I last visited Macau, the City of Dreams were on its final stages of completion. Now, it is fully operational, brightly lit and beaming with promise. It may not look like a city, but the newest kid on the Cotai strip is definitely making some noise.

The Venetian Macau

I'm quite familiar with Macau already, having set up events there for my corporate clients. This will be the first time that I will be blogging about the place though, since it's my first official time on vacation here. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Philippine Customs Process

If you read the title, how many of you would think this post is a rant? I guess, a majority. But I'm not going to write about how useless our government is. I am here to share a recent experience.

I was on flight 5J 143 bound for Manila from a recent 5-day 3 country tour. I was with my 10 year old daughter who would be leaving for the US the next day. We arrived at midnight, and we breezed through immigration and baggage collection.

We had to pass the customs desk, so I gave the declarations form to the officer. I checked the electronics part, since I bought a Mac Book Pro in Hong Kong. I've always bought my macs in HK, and I have probably brought in 4 pieces already in the past 5 years. I was supposed to buy an iMac, but settled for a Mac Book Pro since it was just really such a hassle to bring home. 

Because of my intention to buy an iMac, I asked a friend who knew someone from the Customs if it was indeed legal to bring in an iMac. I mean, a laptop could be easily be kept in a bag. The iMac must be inside the box, and thus, will be easily noticed by any Customs official. I just wanted to be sure and safe.

I was told that I could actually bring in 2 pieces of the desktop. I asked again, just to be sure. My friend told me to call her if ever something arises when I get home.

True enough, as I passed through Customs, something happened. For the first time, I was asked to pay for taxes. It was also the first time I declared. I was asked, and I didn't want to lie. In my previous travels, most officers don't ask. So I thought it was nothing, that it was okay.

So there I was, with my daughter, being charged for the MacBook Pro. I told the officer that I thought I could bring one in. I was referring to the information my friend gave me, who I was unable to contact that midnight. I asked for the Supervisor for an explanation.

The Supervisor handed me a brochure that briefly explained the law in bringing in goods from abroad. She explained that EVERYTHING bought abroad must be taxed. There were some exceptions though - if you're an OFW, or been out of the country for more than 6 months, or a former Philippine passport holder. I pointed out that my daughter was eligible for the last exception, but then she quickly told me that the exception was for duty free goods. She didn't expound any further.

I was really confused already that time, and I wanted an answer. What is the rule? In the declarations form, there was really nothing that lists what one can bring or not. It was just a declaration. So, what most Filipinos do, is that they don't declare. Everyone shops abroad, so therefore, the law states that anything bought abroad must be taxed. Thus, almost ALL travelers should be taxed.

I asked for the Head, and the supervisor told me that he was in Terminal 1. I had to argue a little bit. I told them that I am willing to leave the laptop behind until I get a clearer explanation on the rule. Yes, I was a bit stubborn and some may call me over-acting, especially if the supervisor was asking me to go already. She eventually told me that I could go.

But I wasn't over with the situation yet. 30 minutes have passed, and the line at the Customs desk was unimaginable. there were only 2 officers serving 300 passengers. It was the first time I saw a line like that. I wondered why suddenly they were checking all the baggages, asking everyone to open their bags. This caused a lot of frustration and anger to some foreigners as well. I'm thinking, yes, welcome to the Philippines. 

Surprisingly also, after 30 minutes, it was only me who seemingly bought something. I was even more frustrated when the passenger beside me got through, when she bought an SLR (I overheard that she bought it and loved the camera). And after more and more passengers slowly made their way through Customs, I was still the only one who shopped abroad. 

Well, probably, I was the one who bought a Mac, probably an expensive piece of equipment. I stated my case to the officer checking, and he told me that the system is really imperfect, that most can pass through without declaring things they have bought.

That statement got me. Now, I was resolved not to pay anything, and contribute to this IMPERFECT system that everybody is aware of. Getting more frustrated, I told the Supervisor that I will be leaving the laptop behind. They couldn't answer me and sort of strayed away from my concerns. However, they told me again to wait for the leave form, since they were with their Head, who was apparently in Terminal 1. 

This got me going. My daughter was sleeping on the luggage already and I was tired. Finally after 15 minutes, the supervisor opens the drawer in front of her, and surprisingly finds a form. I quickly filled it out, and it took them another 15 minutes to process. 

I left the laptop in a sealed envelope and warned them that nothing should happen to it, until I get my answers and claim it. I got their names and signed the form. We left tired and dazed. What the hell happened?

I didn't get into detail on how I was treated by the supervisor and officer, since they just looked lost. I couldn't conclude if they wanted a bribe, since I stressed that I will not pay anything, even the taxes required. So, the next day, I called my friend and told her what happened.

I asked my friend if the situation could be sorted but she didn't want to compromise her credibility as well. She just mentioned that there was really no rule, and that the law states indeed that ALL goods bought abroad should be taxed, even if it costs 10 pesos. 

Fast forward 5 days after, when I decided to claim the laptop in the customs office in Terminal 1. I left office after lunch to make it there at 1PM. I asked for the Head, but I was told she was at lunch. After 20 minutes, she shows up.

I was called in and was surprised that they were already expecting me. Apparently, the supervisor who handled my case wrote a report, and even indicated that we had a bad argument, that I raised my voice. I told the Head that I was calm that night, and that I purposely tried to do so even if I was agitated.

In any case, I asked the Head the questions on the process of taxing goods from abroad. She told me the same thing, that EVERYTHING under the law must be taxed. But since the system is IMPERFECT, the Customs department can get lenient and let passengers pass. I was particularly stopped because I was a tourist who has been out of the country for 5 days only and that I bought a $1,000 laptop.

The Head was actually very accommodating, and I wasn't planning to raise my voice and concerns anymore. There and there, I saw how hopeless the situation is, that I can never get the answers I want. The Philippines gives no allowance limit to the items bought from abroad by its citizens, unlike almost ALL of the countries in the world. The Head told me that the law has to be rewritten.

So until the law is updated, we will be experiencing the same vagueness in process, that you can be taxed or not, depending on the officer, on depending how good you lie in declaring the things you bought. And this opens up another frustrating situation. 

With this process, most Filipino travelers are forced to lie, to not declare, since they will be taxed. I mean, who buys nothing abroad?? Thus, we are all breaking the law technically when we travel and come back with all our shopping - from the shirts bought in the the Night Market of Hong Kong and Bangkok to the electronics bought in Singapore. 

The law is absolute, and we bend things now, because it is obsolete. And this promotes a culture of dishonesty for both government officials and citizens. 

I paid around P1,800 for the laptop, since the Head declared the price of the Mac at only $300. Still wrong, but she told me it was compensation for what happened. I thanked the Head (Roxanne Antonio) for accommodating my concerns. I was happy I paid my dues, and followed the law as much as I could.

But imagine, I had to undergo all the hassle to be satisfied. I walked out of the airport with my laptop wanting to share this experience to everyone. What you make it this is up to you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Arano: Tucked Away Spanish in Cebu

I was getting bored of the food in Cebu, so I asked for something different. I was looking for a place that was not fancy and non-Filipino. After some researching, we decided to head off to Guadalupe in Cebu City, near the capitol building for a hole-in-the-wall Spanish restaurant called Arano.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Grand Quartier Suites at the Crosswinds

The Grand Quartier Suites is located in the upscale residential hillside community of Crosswinds. The hotel takes its design inspiration from the Swiss Alps, hence, makes it try unique from the other hotels in Tagaytay.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Shangri-la Boracay Experience: Part 4

When we were walking back to our room, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the garden villas near the poolside. We were able to catch a glimpse of these villas, so we curiously approached the front desk and asked how much the villas were.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Shangri-la Boracay Experience: Part 3

It is often said that the "flaw" of Shangri-la Boracay is the beach. Well, if one compares the sand quality of the resort's private beach to White Beach, then it is really inferior. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Shangri-la Boracay Experience: Part 2

We took too long in our lovely room so we pushed ourselves to explore the all-inclusive resort. We wore our swim suits and headed straight for the beach area. As soon as we left the room, we were greeted by their friendly personnel who was fixing the other room. I asked for the fastest way to get to the beach.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Shangri-la Boracay Experience: Part 1

Last June, a close friend of mine got married in Boracay. I actually recommended him to Asya Premier Suites, so that was where the wedding was held. I was with my daughter who lives in the US, so we decided to splurge for our first night in Shangri-la Boracay. This begins my journey back to Boracay, now older and not really after getting drunk every night (though this still did happen). 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review of Varekai

So, after hearing all the hype and raves, I finally made some time to score tickets to the first Cirque du Soleil show in Manila - Varekai. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Loreland: Our Savior

So where did we go after that horrific experience at Casa Ibiza? We left Ibiza and headed straight to a nearby resort, Loreland which was one of the most popular resorts in Antipolo. I was really hesitant at first, but some of my colleagues told me it was nice there.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Casa Ibiza Antipolo: Very Bad

As you can see by the title, this will be a rant blog. It's been a while since I've written something bad about a place, because I try to censor my articles already (don't write anything when there's nothing good to say about it).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's Time Tawi-Tawi!

And so it begins. Cebu Pacific finally opens their 50th route to the southern most province in the country, Tawi-Tawi. I've been wanting to go back to this elusive group of islands, given its remoteness and charm. Of course, one cannot discount the security concerns, but as long as you keep close guard, Tawi-Tawi is relatively safe.

So, time to escape to Tawi-Tawi. I'm not a fan of Cebu Pacific, but I just want to congratulate them for opening a whole new era of tourism for the province. With Sitangkai, Simunul and even the Turtle Islands on its realm, Tawi-Tawi is indeed the new Batanes.

Time to explore! Read more on Tawi-Tawi from my previous entries here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

UP NEXT: Guess Where?

And yes, more on this top island destination coming up next.

Puting Buhangin/Kwebang Lampas: Pagbilao, Quezon Province

A trip to Pagbilao won't be complete without a visit to Puting Buhangin, arguably the best beach on this side of Quezon Province. To get here, it's best one takes a boat from the Silangang Nayon coastline. We, however, took the trail by land, since the waves were strong.

Silangang Nayon: Pagbilao, Quezon Province

It was the end of Summer, and we hoped to shipwreck ourselves to Cagbalete, one of the destinations I desired this 2011. However, the weather was bad (a storm was still lingering), so we decided to go to Pagbilao in Quezon Province instead.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Grand Marina Bay Sands Blog: The Shoppes

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is one of the best looking malls in Singapore. It's just the right size, sprawling yet still luxurious in feel. Of course, most of the stores here are high end, but there are your regular favorites as well. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Grand Marina Bay Sands Blog: The Sky Park

We were granted a late checkout at 1PM, and decided to head up to the Sky Park. This was one of the top draws for the hotel after all. I kind of regretted staying in the room the whole morning after seeing the  highest infinity pool in the world.


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