Monday, January 30, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: Surfing, paddleboarding & birdwatching in Ilocos Norte

Blue Lagoon (Mairaira Cove), Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
On Day 3 of Lakbay Norte 3, we drove from Tuguegarao, Cagayan to Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

Chicken Kelaguen at Kapuluan Vista Resort
We had lunch at the Kapuluan Vista Resort in Mairaira Cove, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte where the group went surfing at the famous Blue Lagoon, before proceeding to Laoag in the evening.

Crispy Dinuguan and Higado at Johnny Moon Cafe
Saniata or Dragon Fruit Rolls at Johnny Moon Cafe
Dinner was at the newly-opened Johnny Moon Cafe (Johnny Moon is a funky translation of Juan Luna's name), beside the Museo Ilocos Norte, for some stylized Ilocano food. We spent the night at two hotels: Rosewell Hotel in San Nicolas and the Ilocos Norte Hotel and Convention Center (INHCC).

Pinakbet Pizza at Saramsam Cafe
Poque-Poque Pizza at Saramsam Cafe
We actually sneaked out in the evening for pizza, drinks and videoke at Saramsam Restaurant. Yup, we had Pinakbet and Poque-Poque Pizza.

Lake Paoay
Paddleboarding in Lake Paoay
The next day, we had breakfast at the Malacanang ti Amianan in Paoay followed by birdwatching and paddleboarding in Lake Paoay.

Empanada from Batac, Ilocos Norte
Miki from Batac, Ilocos Norte
We made a brief stop at the Suba Sand Dunes before driving to Batac to stuff ourselves silly with Empanada and Miki. Talk about Double Double!

Check out the video of Day 3 and 4 edited by Carlo Cruise. Also check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Kapuluan Vista Resort
Sitio Baniaran, Barangay Balaoi
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
+63 (920) 9522528 / (920) 9285273

Johnny Moon Cafe
La Tabacalera Lifestyle Center
Laoag City, Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Rosewell Hotel
Brgy.1, San Francisco National High-Way San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.
+63 (77) 6706528 or 6706529 / (927) 4784190 / (918) 4610482 / (923)9502266

Ilocos Norte Hotel and Convention Center
Brgy. 41, Balacad, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
+63 (77) 6708817

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: Spelunking in Bulacan, fishing in Nueva Ecija, whitewater rafting in Cagayan & Kalinga

Lake Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija
Victory Liner bus for Lakbay Norte 3
Lakbay Norte 3, the media familiarization tour of the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB), got underway last Sunday. Day 1 included a visit to Pinagrealan Cave in Norzagaray, Bulacan, a lunch stop in Microtel Cabanatuan and fishing in Lake Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija.

Whitewater rafting in the Chico River, Tabuk, Kalinga
We then drove to Tugugarao, Cagayan and checked-in at Las Palmas de San Jose Hotel early in the morning. For Day 2, we proceeded to the Chico River in Tabuk, Kalinga for whitewater rafting and capped the night with dinner at Las Palmas. Check out the video of Day 1 and 2 edited by Carlo Cruise. Also check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Microtel Inn Cabanatuan
Sta. Arcadia, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
Tel No. +63 (44) 4647777 / Fax +63 (44) 4647778 / Mobile +63 (927) 8042929

Las Palmas de San Jose Hotel
San Jose Village, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
Tel Nos. +63 (78) 8441661 / 8468115 / Fax +63 (78) 8448091

Adventures and Expeditions Philippines Inc. (AEPI)
c/o Anton Carag, 29 Burgos St., Tuguegarao City
Mobile +63 (917) 5327480 / Tel No. +63 (78) 8441298

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Taiwan: Applying for a Taiwanese visa in the Philippines

Here is information on how to apply for a Taiwanese visa in the Philippines. I actually had to apply for one despite supposedly being exempted since my trip last year happened when relations between Taiwan and the Philippines were a bit shaky for a few weeks.

For short term visas to Taiwan, you will have to submit the following to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), the office which issues Taiwanese visas in the Philippines:
1. Application form completely and correctly filled out plus one photocopy. Do not leave blanks. Indicate N/A if not applicable
2. Two (2) passport size photos 1.5 x 2 inches with white background, taken within the last three (3) months
3. Philippine Passport valid for at least six (6) months plus a photocopy of the first page
4. Birth Certificate issued by the National Statistics Office
5. Marriage Contract (if applicable) issued by the National Statistics Office
6. Supporting documents related to the purpose of visit and financial capability such as:
- Confirmed round trip plane ticket or booking certificate
- Certificate of Employment and letter of permission or proof of leave from employer
- Financial statements of the applicant such as: (1) Income Tax Return (2) Bank Book or Bank Statements
- Letter of Guarantee (if applicable)
7. If traveling on business, you must also submit:
- Business letter or trading records from the Taiwanese company
- Certificate of Business Name Registration and SEC Registration (if owner of the company)
- Invitation letter from the Taiwanese company or organization in Chinese letterhead that outlines clearly the purpose of your visit and duration of your stay
- Official letters or request letters from concerned authorities for official trip
- Seminar program
- Certificate of Employment, professional identification and/or company ID
- Other supporting documents if required such as SSS contribution lists, pay slip, etc.
8. All documents submitted must be original plus one photocopy
9. Applicant may be scheduled for an interview (if required)
10 Visa fees are Php2,400.00 (Single Entry) and Php4,800.00 (Multiple Entry), payable upon filing of application and are non-refundable.
11. Processing time is three (3) working days. For rush applications (one day processing), there is an Expedite Fee of Php1,200.00 (Single Entry) and Php2,400.00 (Multiple Entry)
12: Filing Time is 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. from Mondays to Fridays except holidays. Releasing Time is 1:45 to 4:45 p.m. Mondays to Fridays except holidays.

Visa Exemptions
Effective March 15, 2011, Philippine passport holders may apply online for an Authorization Certificate for visa-free entry to Taiwan for up to thirty (30) days. Those eligible for visa-free entry are passport-holders with valid visas or permanent resident cards of the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, European Union (Schengen), Australia and New Zealand, provided that they have never worked in Taiwan as blue-collar workers before.

Qualified applicants should register their passports and personal data at the website of the National Immigration Agency of Taiwan and apply for approval. Upon obtaining approval, print out the Authorization Certificate and show it to the airline check-in counter. Remember that the Authorization Certificate must be presented at Taiwanese Immigration together with the valid visas or permanent resident cards. Failure to do so will lead to prohibition from entering Taiwan.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office
41st Floor, Tower 1, RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City
Telephone No. (02) 8876688; Fax No. (02) 8877828

Download Taiwanese Visa Application Form (print on A4 paper)
Alternate link for Taiwan Visa Applcation Form

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Manila: Binondo food trip on Chinese New Year! Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!

Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Happy Lunar New Year! 新年快樂! And as our Tsinoy friends would greet people, Kiong Hee Huat Tsai! 恭喜發財! Of course, the best way to celebrate is to visit Binondo and go on a wild food trip! Too bad I'll miss the festivities this year since I'll be on the road. But I definitely had fun last year, especially after nibbling our way through Chinatown.

We visited Dong Bei Dumplings, President Tea House, New Po-Heng Lumpia House, several hole-in-the-wall establishments, and a new restaurant. We also took home some hopia and other delicacies from Ho-Land. Anyway, I'll let the photos do all the talking. Yummy!

If you want a guided food tour of Chinatown this weekend, book a slot (if there are still slots available) on the Big Binondo Food Wok (Chinese New Year Edition) of Old Manila Walks on January 21 (Saturday) 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; January 22 (Sunday) 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m.; and January 23 (Monday) 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. E-mail for reservations.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Start 2012 with Tropicana Twister's new flavors! Drink to the New Year with a perfect twist!

Tropicana Twister has two new blends to start the year. Let’s welcome 2012 with Trop’s new flavors! Apple-Lemon is a blend of apple, white grape, pear, peach, kumquat and lemon. Red Fusion is a mix of apple, pomegranate, red grape, purple sweet potato and peach.

Both drinks are unique, with real juice from real fruits! You can get them in 355ml and 1L bottles at your local supermarkets and grocery stores. Note that the mixed juice drinks are offered at a limited time only, just for the first few months of the year. So get them while supplies last and drink to the New Year with a perfect twist.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

South Korea: Daejeon, Seoul & Muju

I was in South Korea just last week, together with students of the UP Asian Institute of Tourism, to attend the Woosong Winter Culture Camp 2012 in Daejon. While there is not much to see in Daejeon, it was a culturally-enriching seven days thanks to the program designed by Woosong University, sessions which included Korean language, hanbok, food and even K-pop.

Part of the trip included visits to Seoul and the Deogyusan Ski Resort in Muju. In Seoul, we visited the Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Insadong, the N Seoul Tower and Myeongdong. Here are photos from the Woosong Winter Culture Camp 2012:

January 2-7 - Daejeon, South Korea
January 3 - Seoul, South Korea
January 5 - Muju, South Korea

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Manila: A walk through UST (University of Santo Tomas)

Since we're both named Ivan, people often mistake my tokayo for the blogger and me for the Old Manila Walks tour guide. We have the same interests when it comes to travel, that's obviously architectural heritage. In fact, we both visited Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras this summer. We've collaborated on a lot of stuff, including Ultimate Philippines Tours. Now we've decided to bring my tokayo's own travels to you through Ivan About Town. I'd like to introduce our first resident co-blogger, Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks.

The University of Santo Tomas sits right in the heart of busy Sampaloc district in Manila. This campus is a true urban oasis in this densely populated part of the city. Founded in 1611, U.S.T. lays claim to being the oldest university in the Philippines and the school grounds is replete with notable landmarks to guide you through the institution's 400 year history.

There is no better time to explore this historic complex as the school caps-off its fourth centenary celebration. And the best way to do so is on foot. Coming from busy Espana Boulevard, one immediately leaves frenetic street traffic; and upon entering the campus, is welcomed by the Arch of Centuries. This university landmark is one of the few relics left from original Intramuros campus which was destroyed during WWII. It was transferred and reconstructed to its current site in 1955 and today symbolizes UST's role as a "gateway in history to the finest breed of Filipinos." From here, a pleasant stroll down shady the walkway leads one to the Benavides Monument, another remnant from the original campus. Cast in 1891, it honors the school's founder Fray Miguel de Benavides, OP. If you look at floor at the back of the statue, there is a huge Chinese tombstone on the floor dating back to the 19th century.

A few steps up and one is now at the Plaza Mayor which is dominated by the majestic Main Building. Easily one of the most famous structures on campus, this landmark building was built in 1927 and was once an internment camp for Allied POWs during WWII. Today, it houses the Museum of Arts and Sciences, the oldest in the country (established in 1871) and holds an eclectic collection of ethnographic, historical, natural and artistic exhibits including two-headed animals! Just recently, the museum also re-inaugurated its Visual Arts Gallery where on can admire works by prominent historical artists such as Juan Arceo, Galo Ocampo, Carlos Botong Francisco and Fernando Amorsolo to name a few.

Immediately west of the Main Building is the Botanical Garden and the Central Seminary (built in 1933) which houses the Santissimo Rosario parish, drop by to admire its classic Art-Deco interiors. Cap-off your tour of the campus at the Quadricentennial Square at the back of Main Building. This delightful open space facing the Benavides Library features an interactive dancing fountain with a sculptural centerpiece called Tetraglobal by glass sculptor Ramon Orlina. Modeled by UST almuni Piolo Pascual and Charlene Gonzalez, this modern sculpture commemorates UST's four centuries of educational legacy and is a fitting end to your walking tour.

Conceptualized, manufactured, bred and educated in the city of Manila, Ivan Man Dy is the feet behind Old Manila Walks. When he's not busy doing is first love (running his walks and talking about Manila), Ivan shifts to his second passion (traveling) and takes to small towns, big cities and occasionally the great outdoors. He dabbles as freelance features and travel writer to major dailies and has done occasional TV appearances. Now, if only he can host his own travel show. Before he finally took to the streets, he was an active museum guide as well as a staunch heritage preservation activist. Now, he has found his calling being seasoned urbanite, a self-designated life-long citizen and ambassador of Manila. Since 2005, he has led the thousands of happy walking hordes down his city's most historic quarters. Four years on and countless calluses later, he is still loving every step of the way.

Ifugao: Plant rice at the Mayoyao Rice Terraces! Pfukhay ad Majawjaw 2012!

The Pochon Group is once again inviting everyone to join the Pfukhay ad Majawjaw (rice planting in Mayoyao) to be held from January 20-22, 2012 at Barangay Bongan, Mayoyao, Ifugao. This activity will be hosted by the Pochon and Maanichar Centennial Batch Association (Pochon Group) and the community of Barangay Bongan. Other partner organizations include the Mayoyao Tourguides and Indigenous Knowledge Holders Allied Organization (MATIKHAO) and the Akha’kha-emeh Cultural Performing Group.

During the tour, participants get to plant rice in the rice terraces, watch a cultural presentation showcasing the local dances of Mayoyao, learn how the traditional Mayoyao house is contructed and many more. Homestay accommodation will also be offered on the second night of the tour (January 21).

Tour cost is Php3,900 and includes meals, accommodation, transportation within Ifugao and activities. It does not include transportation from Manila to Santiago, Isabela; and from Banaue, Ifugao to Manila. Add Php450 to your deposit so Pochon can do the Banaue-Manila reservation for you. Contact Josh Nalliw at or +639065308242 for inquiries.

January 19, 2012 (Thursday)
9:00 p.m. - Depart Manila via Victory Liner Bus, Kamias/Kamuning Terminal (purchase your own ticket to Santiago, Isabela)

January 20, 2012 (Friday)
5:00 a.m. - Arrive at Santiago City (Victory Liner Terminal)
- Travel to Mayoyao via the Ifugao towns of Aguinaldo and Alfonso Lista (Pochon Group will be waiting at the terminal)
6:30 a.m. - Breakfast at Ubao, Aguinaldo, Ifugao
10 a.m. - Arrive at Mayoyao, Ifugao (room assignments and rest)
12:00 noon - Lunch at the lodge
1:00 p.m. - Orientation followed by visit to Akakoy Nature Park, demo on native house construction and visit the Mayoyao Museum
5:00 p.m. - Roaming around the town plaza and shopping for souvenirs
7:00 p.m. - Dinner at the lodge

January 21, 2012 (Saturday)
7:00 a.m. - Breakfast at the lodge (pack things for transfer to homestays later in the day)
8:00 a.m. - Proceed to Barangay Bongan and join the rice planting
12:00 noon - Lunch with the community
1:00 p.m. - Trek to Abfo’or burial tomb and down to Mapawoy Rice Terraces Cluster
5:00 p.m. - Homestay assignments
7:00 p.m. - Dinner with respective host families
8:00 p.m. - Cultural presentation

January 22, 2012 (Sunday)
7:00 a.m. - Breakfast (pack-up for trip to Banaue)
8:30 a.m. - Visit to Chu’it Viewpoint
10:00 a.m. - Travel to Banaue
12:00 noon - Lunch
3:00 p.m. - Arrival at Banaue, Ifugao (free time)
8:00 p.m. - Depart for Manila via Florida Bus Liner

January 23, 2012 (Monday)
Between 4 to 5 a.m. - Arrival in Manila, Florida Bus Terminal, Lacson St. cor. Espana Avenue, Sampaloc, Manila

For more information on the tour, read Rice planting experience in Mayoyao, Ifugao.

Friday, January 06, 2012

It's more fun in the Philippines!

The Department of Tourism just launched the new tourism slogan! It's more fun in the Philippines! Spread the word!

Source: It's more fun in the Philippines!

Update (01/07/12): I really like what Atty. Ted Te wrote about the new tourism slogan. He says, "The understanding that one could complete this particular sentence starting or ending with "It's more fun in the Philippines" is an amazing exercise in citizenship, in identity, in optimism, in truth. It is also, consistent with tourism campaigns everywhere else, a great opportunity for a people to come together and agree on something.

"That is why I choose to own and complete the sentence. It's more fun in the Philippines. Indeed."

Read the entire article in the comments below.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Japan: Applying for a Japanese visa in the Philippines

Applying for a Japanese visa is no longer done at the Japanese Embassy. Most visa applications must be made through the agencies accredited by the embassy. Which is why it is very important that you submit complete and accurate documents. The embassy may require certain applicants to appear in person for an interview at the embassy or consulate.

Where to Apply
Contact any of the following accredited agencies of the Japanese Embassy to submit your application for a Japanese visa:

Universal Holidays
Manila Branch: G/F Shopping Arcade, Century Park Hotel, P. Ocampo Sr. St., Malate, Manila
Tel. No. (02) 5250606/5229074/5244370
Makati Branch: Mezzanine, Dusit Thani Hotel, EDSA cor. Arnaiz Ave. Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel. No. (02) 8593811 to 15/(0922) 8403785/(0906) 4665899
Cebu Branch: 2/F JY Square Mall, 1 Salinas Dr., Lahug, Cebu City
Tel No. (032) 5056227/5056228/(0932) 9174873

Rajah Travel Corporation
Manila Branch: G/F GLC Bldg., A. Mabini cor. T.M. Kalaw St. Ermita, Manila
Tel No. (02) 5238801 to 07

Reli Tours and Travel Agency
SM Mall of Asia Branch: SM Department Store South Building, SM Mall of Asia, Bay City, Pasay City
Tel No. (0906) 5136777, (02) 5561445 to 47/5560546
SM Megamall Branch: 5/F Bridge Way, SM Megamall, EDSA, Mandaluyong City
Tel. No. (0906) 5136555/(02) 6374694 to 96/6375020/6329207
SM Southmall Branch: SM Southmall, Las Pinas City
Tel. No. (0906) 5136222/(02) 8004948 to 50/8053588

Attic Tours Phils., Inc.
Manila Office: Unit 203 Coko Bldg. 1, Patio Madrigal Compound, 2550 Roxas Blvd., Pasay City 1302
Tel. No. (02) 5566301 to 05
Traders Hotel Branch: G/F Traders Hotel Manila, 3001 Roxas Blvd., Pasay City 1305
Tel. No. (02) 9840566/6689845
Cebu Office: Waterfront Airport Hotel 1, Airport Road, Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Island, Cebu
Tel. No. (032) 3412299/3412011/3412012/3412015

Friendship Tours and Resorts Corporation
Main Office: 3/F Dusit Thani Manila, Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel. No (02) 8401060/8188896/8195644
Cebu Branch: Unit 101 Bldg.1, Oakridge Business Park, 880 A.S. Fortuna St., Banilad, Mandaue City
Tel No. (032) 3453459/3444825

Pan Pacific Travel Corporation
Main Office: 353 E.T. Yuchengco St., Binondo, Manila
Tel. No. (02) 2436666
Ermita Branch: Space A, G/F and 2/F Pacific Pace Apartelle Suite, 539 Arquiza St., Ermita, Manila
Tel. No. (02) 5213141 to 46
Makati Branch: LG01 Herrera Tower Condo, 98 V.A. Rufino St. (Herrera St.) cor. Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City
Tel. No. (02) 8108551 to 56
Cebu Branch: Diplomat Hotel, 90 F. Ramos St. Cebu City
Tel. No. (032) 2540343/45/47/49

The accredited agencies accept all types of visa applications except for Pan Pacific which can only receive applications without a Japanese guarantor (i.e. no Japanese documents). While the temporary visitor visa is free (gratis), the agencies collect a handling fee and each agency is free to set their own fees.

Note that there are exceptions. When I applied for a Japanese visa last year, I did direct at the Japanese Embassy since I was invited by a UN agency. If you fall under any of the following cases, you can apply directly with the Japanese Embassy:
(1) Diplomatic or official visas
(2) Visas for invitees by Japanese government organizations or institutions, independent administrative agencies of Japan
(3) Visas for invitees of Japan local governments or national, municipal educational institutions of Japan to participate in educational, cultural exchange programs and youth exchange programs
(4) Visas for scholarship awardees sponsored by the government of Japan
(5) Visas for commercial purpose of employees of a joint venture company or a branch office of a Japanese enterprise listed in the Japanese Stock Exchange or a member of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines
(6) For cases requiring humanitarian consideration such as serious illness of a relative in Japan

To clarify if you fall under any of these cases, you can contact the Japanese Embassy:
Manila: (02) 8347514
Cebu: (032) 2317321/2317322
Davao: (082) 2213100/3200

All documents must be original unless otherwise stated:
(1) Philippine passport (broken lamination of the photo part is not accepted; must have signature and have at least two blank pages)
(2) Visa application form
(3) Photo (4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background; photo must be pasted on the application form)
(4) Birth certificate of applicant (NSO issued within one year)
(5) Marriage contract (if the applicant is married; NSO issued within one year)
(6) Daily Schedule
(7) If visiting a friend, documents or photos to prove relationship
(8) Invitation letter from guarantor in Japan (must have handwritten signature)
(9) Bank Certificate
(10) Income Tax Return (Form 2316) original and photocopy
(11) Residence Certificate or Juminhyo (if guarantor is a Japanese)
(12) Foreign Registration Certificate from City Hall (if guarantor in Japan is not a Japanese)

If the applicant presents an old or valid passport with a used Japanese visa, no need for (4) and (5). If on package tour, no need for (8). Make sure you can produce all the requirements for the visa. You can also submit additional documents such as proof of income, economic and social ties with the Philippines, or urgent cases such as medical certificate or a wedding invitation. Remember that submission of requirements does not guarantee issuance of visa.

If guarantor in Japan will shoulders any part of travel or living expenses, you will need to submit (i) guarantee letter (mimoto hoshosho) and (ii) income certificate of guarantor (shotoku shomeisho) from City Hall, tax return certificate (nouzeishomeisho form 2) from tax office, kakuteishinkokusho hikae or bank certificate (yokin zandaka shomeisho).

Application Procedure
(1) Applications filed through accredited agencies
Applications will be accepted from 8:40 to 9:40 a.m. on weekdays except Wednesdays. After accepting the application, a receipt stating the verification date will be issued to the accredited agencies.

If the examination of an application is not completed by the verification date, the additional required documents or reasons for the delay in processing will be noted in the receipt. If you wish to know the status of your application, please inquire with the accredited agency.

(2) Applications filed direct with the Japanese Embassy
Manila: Applications will be accepted from 8:40 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on weekdays except Wednesdays. A receipt stating the verification date will be issued for accepted applications.
Cebu and Davao: Applications are accepted on weekdays from 8:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. After an application is accepted, applicant will be contacted by telephone on when to report at the consular offices.

Multiple Entry Visas
To see if you qualify for a multiple entry visa, you can read the eligibility and requirements in the Japanese Embassy website.

Download Japanese Visa Application Form (print on A4 paper)
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