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Monday, August 20, 2018

Canada Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos

8/20/2018 12:42:00 AM 0 Comments
Canada was not on top of my list this year. All the documents I prepared were originally for the purpose of getting a UK Visa. But as day passes by, I started to have a change of heart. I mean, UK is still a part of Europe. Why not visit another continent this time? While I was doing my research, I also found out that getting a Canadian Visa will be less tedious. I don't have to print a lot of documents as requirements can be submitted online. I don't have to get a confirmed flight tickets as well. A few more research and I found myself submitting my application to the CIC website haha. :)


Toronto Skyline - Photo Credits to Tourism Toronto

Prior to application, I followed a few steps in the website:

  • Find out if you need a visa - just answer all the questions, then it will identify the type of visa you need to apply for
  • Option to apply online or apply on paper - I chose to apply online
  • Find out if you are eligible and apply online - again you have to answer all the questions. Please answer carefully and truthfully as this is where they will base your eligibility and your document checklist or personal checklist for your application.
  • Important! Don't forget to download or print the personalized document checklist. To apply online, you will need the Personal Reference Code printed on the top of the checklist. It also has the list of documents you need to submit. 


To apply online, you must have access to the following:
  • A scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents
  • A credit card

These are the requirements I was asked to submit:

  1. IMM5257 or the Application for Visitor Visa Form
    • just fill out the form electronically, don't worry about the signature just put the date of completion and then Validate
  2. IMM5645 or the Family Information Form
    • same with IMM 5257, a signature is not required just the date
  3. Passport
    • Scanned passport photo page and all pages with visas and stamps.
  4. Photo
    •  Your scanned photo should be passport-sized, neutral face and in white background.
  5. Travel History
    • Scanned current and expired passports including all pages with visas and stamps
    • My electronic visas from Australia and New Zealand since they didn't issue visa stickers on my passport
    • My round trip boarding passes to Australia and New Zealand since I also don't have passport stamps from their immigration. Everything was done electronically!
  6. Proof of Means of Financial Support
    • Bank Certificate - I requested my bank to reflect my account opening date and ADB. Not really required but I think this will give an edge to my application.
    • Bank Statement - for the last 4 months. If you have an online banking account, you can save or print as pdf from there. For passbook accounts, scan it.
    • Credit Card Statements - for the last 4 months. This is optional but I decided to include this to show my good credit standing and my substantial credit limit to let them know I have alternate means to afford this trip.*
    • Certicate of Employment
    • Income Tax Return 2017
  7. Purpose of Travel
    • Flight Details - not necessarily a confirmed booking, it can only be a reservation
    • Hotel Booking Confirmation - you can book one with a free-cancellation policy
    • Day-to-Day Itinerary - your itinerary should match the amount of money you have in your account so you won't seem questionable
  8. Optional Documents
    • Cover Letter - explaining the purpose of your travel and your planned length of stay. This will help you to explain your honest intentions on why and how long you're visiting their country*

Those marked with asterisk (*) are optional requirements that I submitted which I believed could positively affect my visa application.

Please also note that requirements may vary from person to person. It will depend on the answers you provided on the eligibility questionnaire.


Additional Notes: 
  • CIC website has a file size limit. The size of each document must not exceed 4MB.
  • Each document type should be uploaded as a single file only. For example for Proof of Means of Financial Support, I merged my bank certificate, bank statement, credit card statements, COE and ITR as one PDF file before uploading.

Helpful Websites for Optimizing your Files:

Once your done preparing your documents, you can now proceed to the online application.


How to Apply Online:


Step 1: Create a GCKey (CIC) account

When you click the link above, you will be redirected to the CIC website and you should see this:


Scroll down until you see the Continue to GC Key button then click on Register.



Sign up for a new account. Make sure to register your most frequently used email address because this is where you will receive updates regarding your application.

After completing your registration, you will be ask what you would like to apply for. Select Visitor Visa. If you already checked your eligibility prior to registration like me, you can already provide your Personal Reference Code right away. If not, just follow the instructions and answer the questionnaire.


Step 2: Upload your documents

After entering your Personal Reference Code, it's finally time to submit your Application Form and Supporting Documents!


This is how it would look like after your submission.


Step 3: Pay the Visa Fee

Once your done uploading your documents, you can now proceed to paying your visa fee. It is CAD 100. All major credit cards are accepted. Just fill out the credit card details then click "Process Transaction". Just be patient because it may take a while. Don't double click to avoid getting charged twice.




You will be prompted "Transaction Approved" after your payment and you can print that page as your transaction receipt. The conversion of CAD 100 at the time that I paid was PHP 4,115.


Step 4: Submit your passport to VFS.

VFS is the third party agency that processes paper visa applications and accepts the online applicants passport submission for Canada.

But don't submit it right away! Monitor your account and wait for the Embassy's notice requesting you to bring your passport. Don't worry, you will also receive an email every time there's an update being made on your application.


Wait for this!
Once you receive that message, you may now proceed to submitting your passport to VFS:

Canada Visa Application Centre

VFS Services Phils. Pvt. Inc.
Mezzanine Floor Ecoplaza Bldg.
Chino Roces Ave Ext.
Makati city 1231
Philippines

Hours of Operation:

Application/Passport Submission: 7:00-15:00
Passport Collection: 15:00-16:00


You just need to bring your passport and the passport request letter you received (downloadable from your CIC account). Upon arrival you will be given a Consent Form and a Personal Info form where you will indicate your delivery address for the courier.

I paid for the following fees:

Php  576.00 - Passport Transmission
        303.00 - Courier
          69.00 - SMS Fee
---------------
Php  948.00 - Total Paid

Courier is optional but I find it more convenient and more cost efficient. Grab is super expensive nowadays that my cost of going back and forth to VFS actually costs more than the courier fee. But you can always go there personally to collect your passport if you want to.

I guess SMS fee is also optional but whatever. I just availed it haha. Though I would say that it is not helpful at all unlike the SMS service of the NZ VAC.


Processing Time

My visa processing took 10 business days. Not bad, right? For a country with tons of applicants everyday, this is pretty fast.





They granted me a Multiple Entry visa valid until my passport expires. It would have been so much better if I still have several years left on my passport but it's expiring next year huhu! But still, I'm very happy with the outcome of my application. Besides, I don't think I can still wait for 2019 before visiting Canada. :)

Note: I deleted crucial information from the photo because this visa will still be valid until my passport expires.


My Application Timeline:

May 07 - submitted online application
May 15 - received notification that a decision has been made and the original passport request
May 22 - dropped my passport to VFS and paid processing fees
May 25 - received my passport back with the visa

I didn't bring my passport to VFS right after I received the original passport request notice (I was traveling hehe). Because of that, the processing time took longer than it should be. But all in all, it only took 10 business days. 7 business days from the time I submitted online and got the request to bring my passport to VFS. Then 3 business days from the time I submitted my passport to VFS up to the day it was delivered back home with my visa. I consider the entire process a little bit easier than the others.


Honestly, Canada is an expensive place to travel. But there is nothing you can't do as long as you are well-prepared and you are saving smartly. I also have to feed that curiosity of why there are so many Filipinos who chose to live in that country. What is so great about this cold country in the North? I already heard interesting stories from the people I met in VFS when I submitted my passport but I can't wait to see and know more.


On a lighter note, I'm also excited to see the filming locations of Goblin in Quebec haha! I have to go guys, gotta find that portal that will lead me to Gong Yoo. :)


Scenes from Goblin filmed in Canada :)


Curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Isla Verde: Batangas City's Hidden Gem

7/29/2018 09:40:00 PM 0 Comments
We were sad about the closing of Burot Beach to the public. Calatagan used to be our go-to place whenever we needed a quick getaway from the city. Beau tried to look for a new place we can go to for our spontaneous beach escapade. We initially thought about going to Masasa in Tingloy but with all the hype it's getting lately, I don't think it's a good choice. I don't like crowded beaches. He told me there's this island called Isla Verde. I honestly haven't heard of it before so I think it is not under many people's radar yet. I was sold.

raw beauty

Isla Verde is located within the vicinity of Batangas City. It lies along the Verde Island Passage, a strait that separates mainland Luzon and Mindoro. It is a very busy sea lane as it is the main shipping route from Manila to Visayas and Mindanao in the South.


farm life feels :)

There are several resorts in Isla Verde but considering our travel style and budget, we opted to stay in Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort. We also read some good reviews in Facebook so we gave it a shot.


our yummy baon :)

The first time I saw it, my impression was - yaiikss it's so rocky. Saan ka magswi-swimming dito? But then, I just took that thought off my mind and proceeded to the resort to check-in. We were already hungry by the time we reached the resort so we decided to eat lunch first.


our camp site

After filling up our tummies, that's the time we started pitching our tent. They gave us an option on where we can camp. They have a paved camp site at the back surrounded by tall trees. Knowing that there are not too many people during our visit and that there is no electricity provided at night, we opted to camp in the front area. I think it'll be scary at night if we are the only people there.


moments like this :)

The resort has a relaxing atmosphere. I mentioned about the rocky beach front, right? It's not only that but the waves are also strong in this side of the island. So there aren't many things you can do here but just to chill and watch the world go by. I don't know about you, but for me it is absolutely fine. I can just read a book or take long naps and I'll be happy.


the rocky shores 

I appreciate the resort creating this man-made salt water pool. Since you can't swim at the beach, it serves as an excellent place to unwind and still enjoy the sea. It gets filled during high tide. :)


my favorite part of the resort

Don't worry about the resort not having a sandy shore. You can just hike to the other side of the island going to Mahabang Buhangin for a swimmable beach. They actually offer guides for that but we always do things DIY and our goal is always to save money. As an adventurous duo, we just hiked on our own.


the island's verdant hills, hence the name isla verde

Tada! We found it! We didn't get lost. Mahabang Buhangin still isn't a perfect beach. No fine sands but mostly pebbles. But the water here is so calm and crystal clear.


floating without a care in the world

There are still rocks at the deeper parts but very safe for swimming. This area is even great for snorkeling.


pebbly but lovely :)

We spent majority of our second day in this beach. We never get to explore the other parts of the island anymore but I heard the Sawang part is also beautiful.


♥ happy times

No matter which island we visit, we always always look for freshly caught fish to buy. We were lucky to be able to get some, yay! We feasted on fried and sarciadong fish that night.


weeee! from the sea to our tummy :)

We stayed there for 2 days and 2 nights. Why not 3 days? Because the boat going back to the city leaves at 4:00 AM! We were technically just there for 2 whole days. Sad. Waking up very early while on vacation is just ugh.

It was a very fun vacation until it ends. Isla Verde has a rough beauty. You won't love it at first sight. You have to explore it and enjoy what it has to offer before you can appreciate it. We can see ourselves returning to this island.


How we made it to Isla Verde:
  1. Ceres Bus from Buendia/Taft bound to Batangas City.
  2. Alighted in Batangas Grand Terminal and took jeepney going to Bayan (city center).
  3. We were informed that the boat doesn't leave from Tabangao that day, so we took a tricycle to SM Batangas City Terminal for the alternate route.
  4. At the SM Terminal, we rode a jeep going to Dela Paz Port. 
  5. From Dela Paz Port, we took the boat going to Isla Verde and got off in Sampalukan.

*Under normal circumstances, the port being used by the boat going to Isla Verde is Tabangao. But during our visit, locals said the waves are strong that day so the boat was stationed in Dela Paz.


Reminders:
  • There is only one boat servicing the island every day. Arrive early or else you will have to wait for the next day!
    • Tabangao to Isla Verde: Departs at 9:00 AM
    • Isla Verde to Tabangao: Departs at 4:00 AM
  • Travel time from Manila to Batangas City is 1.5-2 hours. Ideal time to leave Manila would be between 4:00-5:00 AM.

Transpo and Resort Expenses per person:

Php 344.00 - Bus, Pasay to Batangas City RT (172 one-way)
         24.00 - Jeep from Batangas Grand Terminal RT (12 one-way)
         15.00 - Tricycle going to SM (one-way only)
         45.00 - Jeep from SM Batangas City to Dela Paz Port (one-way only)
       240.00 - Boat, Batangas City Port to Island Verde RT (120 one-way)
       250.00 - Camping/Tent Pitching Fee (Camping fee 100/pax, 150 tent pitching fee/night)
         50.00 - Mineral Water (100 for 5L)


that melodramatic sunset

What I Liked About It:
  • The beach and the water is clean.
  • Budget-friendly. Rates are very affordable.
  • It is not too far from Manila and very accessible to public transportation.
  • It is not crowded (when we went there), it made our stay very relaxing.
  • Clean bathrooms and toilets.
  • The resort people are very kind, cool and accommodating. All our requests had been met.

What I Didn't Like About It:
  • The beach in front of the resort is very rocky, not suitable for swimming. So you have to explore the other side of the island for a good swimming spot. I'm not sure about the other resorts though.
  • The schedule of the boat going back to the city. It's too damn early. :)


Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort 
Sampalukan, Brgy. San Agustin Kanluran, Isla Verde, Batangas City
Contact Person: Tita Jo
Contact #s: +63 2 7825833; +63 916 440 8647
Email: islaverderesort@gmail.com
Website: https://islaverderesort.com


Life is like the ocean. It can be calm or still, and rough or rigid, but in the end, it is always beautiful.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thunderbird Resort - Poro Point: Santorini Feels in La Union

7/26/2018 11:10:00 PM 0 Comments
Our family had been to resorts near Manila too many times already, so we thought of going somewhere far this time. If it's going to be a long drive, then we must stay in a somewhat luxurious resort. It should be in the North too because we were always in the South. That's when Thunderbird Resort came in to the picture. And who wouldn't be intrigued by those blue domes, white painted, Santorini-like architecture?

time to relax :)

Thunderbird Poro Point is located in San Fernando, La Union - in a cliff facing the West Philippine Sea, overlooking San Fernando Bay. It took us 6 hours from Manila. We passed through NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX then finally made it here. We arrived just right on time. Check-in took a bit longer due to a lot of guests checking-out but the process was very smooth.


loved the ceiling art at the lobby

Right after we checked-in, we were assisted to our rooms by one of their staff. We are a family of 6 so we got 2 Premier Deluxe Rooms. We considered getting a villa but the 2-bedroom villa is just good for 4 persons. The 3-bedroom villa is good for 6 but it's Php 40,000+ per night. We don't want to waste that much money for just a night.


the key to our staycation haven

There are complimentary water and some pastries upon arrival.


welcome pastries

We were very satisfied with our rooms. They are very spacious and has ocean view. The bathroom is huge too which we also liked.


our room

Our parents really liked their room and their bed so much that they hardly leave. They did not explore the resort that much.


our balcony
Our room has a balcony with a fantastic view of the sea. Just looking out from there is already relaxing.

blue and white

Thunderbird Poro Point is also known for their Santorini-inspired structures. I think this is their best selling point. One can feel like they are vacationing somewhere in Greece. :)


Deluxe Building

They have 35 premier deluxe rooms, 29 deluxe rooms in Ocean Wing, 4 luxury suites and 60 villas. Yup, it is a huge resort covering 65 hectares.


sweeping views

Ang ganda ng lugar mga besh! Ang daming photo opportunities haha! :) We spent that afternoon just roaming around and taking good pictures.


feeling blue

We booked their Best Available Rate with Breakfast. We heard that their buffet breakfast is good. They serve it at the Olives Restaurant.


my breakfast plate :)

I came here for the unlimited bacon! :)


when bacon is life :)

They have a great selection of breakfast options. After feasting on the savory stuff, we tried the sweet pastries!


they had me with the heart waffle :)

The breakfast spread is superb. I highly recommend getting the room package with breakfast! It's worth it!


swimming time!

After starting the day with heavy breakfast, it's finally time to swim! We were there in the pool area quite early so there were just a few people around. Awesome!


loungin' under the sun
It was nice to just chill at the poolside for a while before going for a swim.


bar turned photo background

What do you do when there are no people around? Take a lot of photos! :)


to the sea!

When you had enough of the pool, you can go to the beach. I was a little disappointed actually. For a resort this big, there's just this small patch of seashore. It's not even that good for swimming as there are very rocky parts. Imagine the chaos if the resort is fully booked and everyone goes for a swim.

nevertheless, rock it!

We made the most of our stay. We're a very laid-back family, so we didn't even bother to check the other recreational facilities. As long as we enjoy the bed, the pool and the food - we're good. The only minus point for me is just the tiny beach.


sunsets are always beautiful everywhere

If you're looking for a resort with plenty of activities, this is not what you're looking for. This is more of a relaxation destination. They also have a casino, so if you're into that, this is also good for you.

I recommend this for those who want to unwind and take some time off from the city. Also, if you can't go to Santorini just yet, this is your best bet. :)



Thunderbird Resort - Poro Point

Address: Poro Point Freeport Zone, San Fernando City, La Union
Phone #: +63 72 888-7777 
Email: pororeservations@thunderbird-asia.com; sales@thunderbird-asia.com
Website: https://thunderbird-asia.com/poro-point/

Rate per Night  Php 10,500 for Premier Deluxe Rooms (good for 2 pax)
Extra person charge: Php 1,500 per person per night

*Rate posted is based on the room that we booked. Check their website for the other room types. We booked through their website directly.


Accommodation Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Enjoying life in the moment is the real luxury in life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Seoul Food Trip: What and Where to Eat When in Seoul

7/17/2018 01:33:00 AM 0 Comments
It's amazing how you can easily find food everywhere in Seoul. Just like us Filipinos, they also love their street foods. But if there's one place I would highly recommend where in you can sample many different Korean delicacies, it would be Gwangjang Market. I already mentioned this on my Day 1 post.

Some of the foods that we tried were inspired by what we saw in Korean TV shows. Please note that I only included here the local and traditional foods. For me, that's how you get to know more about the country. So, here we go!


Tteokbokki (Stir-Fried Rice Cake)

This is one of Korea's most popular food and also one of my favorites!

plain tteokbokki

This is usually seasoned with chili paste (gochujang) and sometimes being served with fish cakes or boiled eggs. I love it when the rice cake is so soft and chewy.


Bukkumi

It is a half-moon shaped pan-fried rice cake with sweet red bean filling. We had no idea what it is before we come to Korea. We just noticed a very long line of people waiting to buy this, so we thought we must try it.
yummy bukkumi
It is delish but at the same time heavy since the rice cake is made from glutinous rice. We just had our bibimbap that time so, we had a hard time finishing it. It is best eaten while it's hot!


Gyeran-ppang

This is also called the Korean Egg Bread. It's an oblong-shaped cake with a whole egg cracked on top of it.

it's like french toast and egg in one!
It is fluffy, sweet and savory. This is perfect as a snack or for breakfast.


Bungeo-ppang

This one I'm already familiar with because I've seen it so many times in variety shows and Kdramas. This is a super popular Korean snack.

i like snacking on this on the street :)
This is a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with sweetened red bean paste. This is like a smaller version of Japan's taiyaki.


Bibimbap

It literally means "mixed rice". Bibimbap is one of the most well-known Korean dishes to many people.

veggie bibimbap
This is served as a bowl of hot white rice topped with veggies, soy sauce, chili paste (gochujang) and fermented soy bean paste (doenjang). Slices of meat and egg are sometimes added to make it more special.


Ogyeopsal

I'm always looking forward to night time in Seoul. There are so many good eating places to choose from. At night, we always make sure to treat ourselves with their famous Korean barbecue!


eyes on the meat! handsome oppas are so distracting hahaha! ;)

Most of us are already familiar with samgyeopsal (three-layered pork), so let me introduce you to ogyeopsal. It means five-layered pork. Yes, five! The fifth layer is actually the pork skin. I also noticed that ogyeopsal has thicker slices than samgyeopsal.


wrap it up!
It's always a fun dining experience. The grilling, the wrapping, the multiple side dishes and the soju shots over stories. Those are happy memories.


Restaurant Recommendations:

Being a foodie traveler, I researched some must-try restaurants that we should visit while in Seoul. I actually do this in every country I visit. I don't mind giving recommendations when I really liked the food and the place. I'm not being paid to do this. I just want to share good stuff to other people. :)


Tosokchon

We came here for samgyetang. I always hear about this dish in Kdramas and it sounded like it's a delicious and a comforting dish. So I looked for the most famous restaurant where we can try this and they say Tosokchon is the place.

the best place for samgyetang!

Tosokchon is just walking distance from Gyeongbokgung so after touring the palace, this was where we had our lunch. It was a cold spring day, so having a warm soup is perfect. I actually find it weird that Koreans prefer to eat this during summer. Keep in mind though that this is a popular resto, so be prepared to queue.

samgyetang
Samgyetang is also known as the Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup. It has a whole chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, jujube, chestnut and garlic. The broth is very light but pleasant. It's already a complete meal! They also serve kimchi-all-you-can and a shot of soju along with it. Don't miss this when in Seoul!

Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 10:00 AM-10:00 PM
Price: KRW 15,000/person


Yoogane

We were shopping around Myeongdong and we didn't know where to eat. I remembered seeing this when I was researching so we used Google Maps to find it - and we found it!
 
dak galbi

Yoogane is famous for dak galbi or spicy stir-fried chicken. This is made of gochujang marinated diced chicken with rice cake, cabbage, sweet potatoes and scallions. After you order, the server will cook your food right in front of you, so you don't have to worry on how to do it. They also have a self service station where you can get unlimited kimchi and other side dishes.


tired of shopping? eat!

It is a popular choice for friends who want to get together to eat. Yes, I've seen this in dramas too haha. They are also cheaper compared to the other restaurants that we visited, so thumbs-up for that!

Note: They have 2 branches in Myeongdong. We visited the first one (the one further from the station).

Address: 3-1 Myeong-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 10:45 AM-12:00 AM
Price: KRW 8,500/person


Palsaik

I'm totally saving the best for last. You guessed it, now it's time for samgyeopsal! Yes, this was my most favorite dining experience in Seoul. Palsaik now have branches in 6 other countries. We visited their main branch in Seoul which is said to be the best.


Palsaik Sinchon

We know this will be way more expensive than our usual food budget but we didn't give a damn about that. I mean, what's going to Korea without feasting on a high quality samgyeopsal? Right? With that said, we ordered the most expensive set.


Seafood Doenjang Soup
Palsaik Samgyeopsal Set comes with a complimentary huge pan of soup or stew (depends on your choice). We went for the seafood soup. 

4/8 flavors
What's so special about this place? Palsaik actually means 8 colors. They serve fresh local pork belly meat seasoned in 8 flavors. If you want to know what those 8 flavors are, they are Original, Wine, Ginseng, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso Paste and Hot.
 
can't wait to eat it!
With all of this you are also getting unlimited salad, kimchi, fresh greens and sauces.

what a feast!
   
Everything on this table was sooo good. From the soup to the meat to the sides. Quantity and quality are both superb! It was the best samgyeopsal I've ever had up to this day.
 
very happy tummies :)

I don't know how we managed to finish all that haha. This is definitely one of the best meals I had during my travels. I highly recommend this restaurant!

Address: 121-100 Mihwa Building B1F, 18 Baekbeom-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 11:00 AM-12:00 AM
Price: KRW 43,000 (good for 3-4 persons)


I hope this gives you an idea on what to eat when in Seoul. There are still so many foods that we weren't able to try like sundae (blood sausage) and jokbal (braised pork trotters). But it's okay, so I'll have more reasons to go back to Seoul. If you've also been to Korea and have additional suggestions, feel free to leave comments below. :)



The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating.