Sunday, August 28, 2011

Choose Philippines - Bacolod

i was writing about my last trip in Kota Kinabalu with the TV on ASAP in the background when my attention caught the show's launching of "Choose Philippines", ABS-CBN's newest initiative to promote our provinces and the Philippines' tourism via internet. i immediately stopped writing about KK and felt the strong urge to write about my own country first!
traveling abroad is more of a personal experience for me - it's my way of giving myself a treat for working sooo hard in a year and just following and doing my passion of exploring other countries by making my own itinerary. it is a worthwhile experience to learn about other country's transportation system (i am always fascinated how the metro rail/subways are designed and how i can actually experience those!), their history and culture; taste their delicacies and cuisine, and, know their people as well. having traveled to different countries, at least in Asia, i am able to see what those countries are up to and what our country should have as well if only we actually live that unity and love for our own country.
i've been to different provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and now it's time to write about Philippines. i choose Philippines.
first in my list is my own province - Bacolod City.
i was born and raised in Mina, Sipalay located in Southern Island of Negros. i completed my studies in Bacolod City, capital of the province of Negros Occidental. we have a house in Bacolod City and that's what i call my home! whenever i want to get away from the stressful manila, i fly and rejuvenate in Bacolod.
last october 2009, i brought my office colleagues, Anna, Vivian and Joan to Bacolod for them to witness and experience Maskara Festival. it was my first to witness the street dancing because way back in college, i was either in Sipalay on semestral break or was just at home watching the festivities on TV. i didn't realize it was more fun being on the streets!
Maskara Festival street dancing - October 2009
there are a lot to be proud of being a Negrense!
TOP in my personal list under category of food and delicacies are as follows:
Inasal (Bacolod Chicken Inasal) - the famous marinated chicken, charcoal grilled and best with spicy sauce for dip and made of soy sauce, calamansi, sili (chilli) and vinegar (i always put vinegar!). i'd love to eat it with plain or garlic rice poured with chicken oil. the best way to eat it? by bare hands! my favorite part is pechopak (breast/wing chicken part)! i can eat chicken inasal for my breakfast, lunch and dinner! :-)
In Bacolod, if you want to try authentic chicken inasal in an authentic place, i'd recommend Manokan Country. It is located in the Reclamation area, just in front of SM Bacolod. this is a long street with an array of stalls of mouth watering and famous grilled chicken for a cheap price compared to other chicken inasal restos. i always eat in Aida's whenever i go home. However, if you want to try chicken inasal in an airconditioned restos, you may try at Chicken House, El Camino, Chicken Deli House and other restos. Namit gid!
Manokan Country and the Chicken Inasal
Seafoods Delight (Kinilaw, Sinugba and Sinabawan) - eat them grilled, sizzling, steamed, spicy, sour or sweet, buttered or in oyster sauce, deep fried, in soup or purely raw marinated in vinegar and different local spices! i grew up in a place where sea and seashore are just a few minutes drive away from our home and where fishing is the first source of income so i'd never thought that seafood is scarce for other places. i missed it when i started working in manila where seafood is quite expensive. Negros is abundant of seafood. in bacolod, i recommend Pala-pala in 18th Street for a more comfy and little bit pricy, and the old Pala-pala at the back of the provincial office building for a much cheaper price.
Batchoy - is a noodle soup made of chicken stock, pork organs, beef loin, chicken strips, shrimps(for some), round noodles and garnished with crushed pork cracklings and vegetables. some would like to eat it with egg, soy sauce and sprinkled black pepper. if Iloilo has Lapaz batchoy, Bacolod has its own authentic flavor. My fave batchoy houses in bacolod are as follows:
  1. Bar 21's Batchoy - i can still remember when i was in my junior year in La Salle when i and my classmates saved a portion of our allowance and eat a bowl of batchoy in Bar 21. we then saved the table napkin with printed bar 21 logo and kept it in our accounting books! we're proud to have eaten at that then-expensive-resto-for-us! we cannot splurge just like that!
  2. Chinky's Batchoy - their batchoy tastes a little bit sweet, just how a Bacolodnon and Negrense are known for. whenever i go back to Manila, i'd bring with me Chinky's Batchoy.
  3. Ted's and Deco's - though originated in Iloilo, these batchoy houses are also famous in bacolod
Quan - is known for its native delicacies. their main branch is near La Salle and our "tambayan" during college days located just beside Jollibee. my favorites are the chocolate cake squares, fresh lumpia, dinuguan, lasagna, cuchinta and most of all, napoleones. i also go for their mais con yelo and sago't gulaman.
Calea - is famous for their cakes! way back in college, my classmates and i ate there and bought different flavour of cakes. then we took a small bite then share to everyone- that way, we were able to try different cakes! but now we can afford to buy a whole cake! hahaha! many of my office colleagues would ask me to buy for them whenever i go back to Bacolod.
Bongbong's - famous pasalubong center in bacolod. the most famous are piyaya, pinasugbo, cheese tart, barquillos, tarts, butterscotch, etc.
there are other new restos now in bacolod to try. with the development and improvements in infrastructure, public highways and transportation and more jobs with the rise of call center companies and malls, bacolod is more lively and vibrant than ever. i would suggest the following also:
1. Kuppa Coffee Shop - a cozy place to stay by just having coffee and working on your laptop for work or just browsing the net. i just found out that many students hang-out in this place either to study (i dont know how they do that!)
2. Cafe Bobs - i find this more family friendly coffee shop where you can bring kids in their pajamas and have ice cream, milk or coffee before going to bed. this is my favorite hang-out with college friends where we catch-up with each other's life stories till 1AM. =)
3. Bob's Restaurant - main branch is located at the front of Riverside Hospital. i go for their rib steak, black sambos and batchoy also. good thing they have branches now in makati.
more than the food trip, there's more in bacolod and nearby cities and towns in Negros where you can appreciate that such places can only be found in the Philippines!
Sipalay and nearby beaches - Sipalay is my hometown and Mina to be exact where i spent most of childhood to teenage years! when i was a kid, my father would usually bring us to the nearby public beach (Calat-an in Cartagena) every Sunday after attending the first mass. when we say public beach before, it was more than the private and pricy beach of today. now, there are more developed and commercialized beach resorts owned by private individuals (sad to say many are foreigners) which i find very expensive though. i think this is because they more cater to foreign tourists than locals.
Mambukal Resort - is a mountain resort located in Murcia, Negros Occ. Only 30-mins drive from Bacolod City. Mambukal serves as a gateway to the Mt Kanlaon Volcano, which is the highest mountain peak in Visayas. I can say that Mambukal is a combination of artistic work of man and nature. It is a haven to family for a weekend picnic, friends who love extreme adventure or for some couples and individuals who would love to have a nature get-away. In Mambukal, you can hike the 7-water falls (but not all are open for swimming), do canopy walk, dip in a hot spring of sulfuric water, a bath house with spa, swimming pool and a lot more.
Hiking the 7-falls in Mambuca; Hot Spring Pool and one of the falls.
Panaad Park and Stadium- this is my park! why?? because the park is just at the back of our house where i can jog in the morning, swim in the mid-afternoon in their olympic size pool and brisk-walk at dusk! surrounded by eucalyptus trees and of other kinds, this is nature for me in the middle of a developing city. It is a multi-purpose stadium and host to a lot of events like the most-talked about Azkals football game. this is also the home of Negros festival, "Panaad sa Negros", a week-long celebration usually held during summer. The park also features the replicas of the famous landmarks of the thirteen cities and municipalities of Negros. Strolling around Panaad Park is like being able to see the whole of Negros.
Panaad Park and replicas of Negros key cities and municipalities taken in October 2009

The Ruins - is the newest attraction in Bacolod located between the boundary of talisay and bata, bacolod city. i was able to visit it for the first time when i went home last october 2009. this is used to be a mansion owned by don mariano ledesma lacson for his wife, maria braga, a portuguese from macau which the family intentionally burned during WWII so that the japanese soldiers won't be able to use as their headquarters.
with Joan and Vivian take last October 2009
Balay Negrense - is an ancestral house located in Silay. it's architectural design depicts the lifestyle of early residents in Silay during the American regime in the Philippines.
Balay Negrense during our vacation last October 2009
Lakawon Island - is a banana-shaped island off the coast of Cadiz City which is an hour and a half drive from bacolod city. it is a family-run resort that offers more privy, more relaxing and feels like having your own island sort of vacation.
there are a lot of nearby resorts within the vicinity of bacolod city and among them are the following:
1. Grand Water Forest Park Resort - newly developed resort located at the heart of Brgy. Taculing in Bacolod City. i love this resort because it's just a tricycle-ride away from my house.
2. Nature's Village Resort - located in Talisay City and been there only once when i was in college during our Acquaintance Day for BS Accountancy.
3. Palmas del Mar - located near SM Bacolod and used to be our venue during one of JPIA Nights back in college.
4. Sta. Fe Resort - this is i think the most oldest and most visited during my college years in Bacolod where we had our swimming classes.
5. Carribean Water Park - found inside the Goldenfield Commercial Complex, the first water slide and currently the biggest water slide in the whole of Negros Occidental.
Also, there are a lot of historical sites and newly establish infrastructures in Bacolod. Among them are the Provincial Capitol Lagoon, the newly-built New Government Center, old City Hall, San Sebastian Cathedral, the Centennial Bells, St. Jude Thaddeus Church, Sacred Heart Seminary and Church, and the famous Pope John Paul II Monument built to honor the Pope's visit in 1981.
San Sebastian Cathedral and the Man and Carabao in Provincial Lagoon taken last October 2009 Maskara Festival
Of course, how can i forget my other way of de-stressing! You can also find a lot spa and massage salons after a day of touring Bacolod and Negros where prices are much cheaper than Metro Manila's. I usually go to Live Well Spa which is located along Lacson St and recommended by my college classmate because they have exclusive discounts for La Sallians. So we usually have our girl-bonding moments there! =)
This coming November 2011, i am very excited to tour in Negros and Bacolod some of my office colleagues who came from different provinces. :-) on my list will be the other places around the Philippines that I had gone to and explored since Year 2006.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

South Korea Itinerary 101

for travelers like us who make our own travel plan, prior to our trip, there are things that you need to check first!


i did a research for good location to stay considering the three c's - comfort, cheap and clean.  there are a lot to check in the net based on the travel blogs, tripadvisor, etc. best is to ask from colleagues and friends who had been to South Korea already.

i first inquired with friend's house but they were fully booked already. but it was a blessing in disguise that we booked at hongdae guesthouse instead. it was very convenient from the airport to its location - airport bus stop is located just across the building!

what's good with hongdae:
1. convenient location - bus stop at the front of the building and with elevator access to seoul mtr hongdae stn
2. safe area with lots of nearby food chains and restos
3. walking distance to other tourist zones like hongdae walk and coffee prince
4. affordable price - best for group travelers or family
5. decent place - ours is a 6-bed dormitory type room with free wifi, computer, drinking water, blower, washing machine. they offer breakfast of jam, bread and coffee but we did not avail for it as it was only available @9am and we usually left as early as 6am with our amazing race like itinerary. =)
6. friendly owner - mary even waited for us till 11pm when we checked in and allowed a little extension when we checked out

on our last day in Seoul, we transfered to bukchon village and checked in @ bukchon guesthouse to experience a hanok stay (korean's traditional house). 

what about bukchon:
1. a few meters walk to subway station but quite far from the airport bus stop- not ideal though if you have lots to carry but with trolleys could be fine. overall - it is still manageable!
2. surrounded with restos, coffeeshops, noodlehouses and special artcrafts stores
3. nearby tourist zones like the Changdeokgoong (palace).
4. free breakfast (cook what you want from the ref!)
5. reasonable price too and comfy and homey

places of interest:

next is a list of what you want to see and visit in south korea! for us, i consider the following:
1. hangang river park where we can see cherry blossoms (but unfortunately, it was way past the season already!)
2. drama setgrounds (full house, nami island, 63 building, coffee prince)
3. museums, palaces (seoul has five palaces!) and appointed unesco heritage sites
4. themeparks (everland)
5. shopping! (flea markets and malls!)

so if not all, we tried to squeeze these must-see! places in our itinerary.

Day 1: 
11:00PM- Arrival (korea's streetfood and soju experience)

Day 2: 
AM - Yeouido Park, COEX, Kimchi Museum
PM - Everland

Day 3:
AM - Insadong, Gyeongbokgung Palace
PM - Dondaemun, Myeongdong, Namsam Park, N. Seoult Tower

Day 4:
whole day - Nami Island
night - Dondaemun Night Market (Doota, Migliore)

Day 5:
AM - Si-do/Shindo Island (Full House Setground)
PM - Bukchon

Day 6:
whole day - Nandaemun Market
7PM - Departure

seoul mrt subway and transpo system

being a DIY traveler, you need to understand the country/city's subway and transporatation system. south korea has the most complicated subways for me with seoul's 9 lines connected to subway stations of major cities like incheon, bundang, jungang, airport road and gyeongui. but if you have tried hongkong and singapore's subways, i think you can manage seoul's too.

my advice if you will make your own itinerary is to check first the direction via subway going to a certain place and take note of the exit #s. you might be going out to a different street/road.

from there, use seoul mrt site and input the "departure station" and then the "arrival station" and the website will show you if there's any transfers or which line to take, the estimated travel time and most of all, the fare.

an example, if you're going to gyeongbokgung palace and you're staying in hongdae hostel. the nearest station from the hostel is hongik university which in line 2 and gyeongbokgung is in line 3.

Options in going to gyeongbokgung palace:
1. gyeongbokgung station, exit 5 (line 3)
2. gwanghwamun station, exit 2 (line 5)

so if you'll take option 1 above, that is, from hongik station to gyeongbokgung station, the smrt website will show you this:

copy and paste this in your detailed itinerary. i tell you, this is more helpful and reliable than figuring the subway map on your own.

an important key in traveling is to enjoy the trip - it doesn't matter if you get lost along the way or ordered a wrong food or missed out one place in your list. remember, there's always time to come back! what matter more is the experience, the fun and the adventure. loosen up a bit when travelling - you'll never have a perfect itinerary and on the dot travel time! so just enjoy every minute and every place!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Celebrate Life

i am very thankful for my birthday celebration this year. i am blessed with family and friends who love me dearly. i never thought i am treasured by a lot of people even with those who i haven't met in person yet.

at the eve of my birthday, my SOC/SEEUS team greeted me at the office. mhelie gave me a guess shirt and joy a lucky red girbaud wallet. it was also my first time that i reported to work on my birthday. but i didn't know it would be a blast!

at lunch, i met my friends marinette, generie and mangie who gave me a buffet lunch treat at cafe havana. i told them i should have gotten a zara outfit than that food trip! but kidding aside, i was really happy! i am used of giving birthday treat than receiving one. =)

reporting on midshift, i asked joan to order 6 boxes of pizza hut and kfc bucket meal for my IG team. it was a change from the traditional aling tonya's treat that i & rona used to give them. =)

dinner time. i asked my ecp team to a dinner at tempura only to find out that they prepared a dinner surprise for me at the pantry! it was my first time to receive such a surprise. i hate surprises because i don't know how to handle it - i always feel awkward.

and the highlight of them all, is a video birthday message from simon and edward from london!! i felt like in cloud 9. woot!woot!

and my special day ended with an e-card from mangie!

then, straight from work, i went to the airport for my early flight to bacolod. on the next day, my bffs from la salle and a highschool classmate were there to spend the day with me at the orphanage. it was the time in my life that i thought i need to give back to people that are less fortunate. this was also the first outreach program that i experienced from my religious studies class during my first year in la salle. since then, it is my dream to help the kids!

there were a lot of important people that i am very grateful for:
1) my former company, sca hygiene products, for sending 3 boxes of drypers diapers from manila to bacolod. special thanks to ms pinky, also a native of bacolod who arranged for this.
2) my bffs since la salle days, guia, grace and irene for giving me their time and efforts. guia who arranged everything from coordinating with holy infant, to birthday goodies up to jollibee. =) grace, for providing the transpo. irene, for helping out that day.
3) for vibes, my classmate in high school who brought her family to join the event too.

so on that sunny saturday, with our give-aways, pinata, balloons and other stuffs that the kids will like, we went to holy infant orphanage. the orphanage is run by private individuals and the home of the kids from a few weeks-old to 6 years old. they more cater for adoption and many of the kids are with their new parents abroad or here in philippines. the orphanage are also posting pictures in their bulletin board of the kids who are abroad with their adopted parents. this is to show updates of the kids and to assure the orphanage that they are in good hands.

it was a happy celebration with jollibee as our main attraction. bunch of thanks to guia for arranging it. we were surprised though because when jollibee came out, the kids went cried out lout and wails and shouts ruled all over the place. i was a bit worried because i might have traumatized the kids but dr. villanueva, the chairwoman, told me not to worry at all. it was just the kids are not used to see a mascott. but as the celebration went on, the kids gradually liked jollibee. =)

it was indeed a worthwhile experience. from the caretakers of the orphanage, we learned that they need more of diapers and pillows. so i hope i can continue to support them in my own little way.

i was very thankful for the time and effort that grace, guia and irene gave me so to the end that day, i treat them to Be Well Massage with their daughters. it was a girl bonding on the spot!

i am very thankful to our dear Lord for a very wonderful life!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 6 in South Korea: Best Buys at Nandaemun Market

Day 6: Last Day in South Korea

08:00         Wake-up call
09:00 - 10:00 Breakfast in Bukchon Guesthouse
10:00 - 15:00 Off to Nandaemun and Lotte World for last day shopping
15:00 - 17:00 Check-out and final wrap-up
17:00         Leave Seoul thru Airbus
18:00         Arrival Incheon International Airport/Check-In
21:35         ETD IIA via Cebupacific
00:35         ETA NAIA 3

After breakfast, we packed our luggages ready for our departure to Manila that night. But we still had last one thing to do in our list- flea shopping! The rain could not stop us in going to the flea market. So armed with our jackets and umbrellas, and some shopping bags, we walked down the street to the nearby Anguk Station. 

     Our destination - NANDAEMUN MARKET
     To Do - S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G

We woke up late than our usual wake-up call due to the drizzling weather and the comfortable sleep that Ondol mat gave us.

Ondol mat - traditional Korean sleeping mat
Two of my friends (who can cook unlike me) were already preparing our breakfast. In bukchon guesthouse, everything in the fridge is yours! From ham to egg, up to tea or coffee on the table,you can eat as much as you want for breakfast. 
the chef and the eaters

Nandaemun Market is the famous flea market in Seoul (like our own Divi in Manila). It was designated as a tourist zone by Seoul City Government after a statistics of 46.5% foreign visits in 2008. The market is famous for garments especially for ladies but we bought a lot of souvenir items like korean dolls, key chains, magnets and other display items. Also, imagine having faceshop in 168 or primeblock! haha!

along one of the market alleyways in Nandaemun Market
When we got there, we split the group so everyone can go around and buy things they wanted. We agreed to meet at a certain time in a certain place. This is my advice for those traveling in group. In shopping, we do have different tastes and preferences so rather than tagging everyone, split into groups and go around the market/mall on your own but just strictly stick to the agreed time. that's the rule! =)

how to get to nandaemun:
Nandaemun Market Gate 6 : Line 4 to Hoehyeon Station (Nandaemun Market) and take Exit #5

Nandaemun Map from Visit Korea Tourism website

A quick tip that I got from VKT website

After our quick but fulfilling (literally means overflowing souvenirs and emptied wallets!hehehe) shopping in Nandaemun, we then decided to continue our shopping spree. Anna and Joan went back to dongdaemun market while Vian, Lea, Ai and I went to Lotte Mart to buy some korean noodles and chocolates.

how to get to dongdaemun market:
exit 9 of dongdaemun station on subway line 1 & 4.

how to get to lotte:
connected to exit 4 of jamsil station on subway line 2

Unfortunately, that day was like a "mall holiday" and the department store was closed so we spent more in the supermarket instead. but the mall had this venetian themed display so we took another picture like we're in macau. =)
at Lotte Mart

For more shopping must-see in South Korea, check out Visit Korea Tourism website.

It was nearly 3PM when we went back to Bukchon Guesthouse so we hurriedly packed our shopped items.  Before we left, we had our photo taken with the owner. Will post this in their wall when I see Korea again.

with the owner
We then marched down the street to the bus stop pullling our trolleys with shopping bags on the other hand and waited for airport bus 6011 to Incheon International Airport.

that ends our trip in seoul!

More than the cherry blossoms and maple trees, i learned to love the city not because of their movie dramas or k-idols but because of the parks, their crafts, how they preserve their tradition and culture (maintaining the palaces in the center of the city), their truly being nationalistic (you can't see other brand of cars than their own manufactured vehicles only) and skinfood, of course =)

..and at the airport, we met some kababayans and Olyssa, of course, whom I still have contact with via Facebook.