What To Do If You Lose Your Philippine Passport

Losing a passport is one of the most stressful things that could happen to a traveler, especially when abroad. In fact, it is also one of my biggest fears (gasp!)–I can imagine the headache and the hassle you have to go through, as well as the change of plans and expenses you will incur. Losing a passport is not very fun.

Even if you haven’t lost your passport, some preparedness and knowledge will come in handy in case the event arises (we hope it won’t!). This will help diminish stress levels. Read on if you want to know what to do in the case that you, or a loved one, lose a Philippine passport.

First, How NOT to Lose Your Passport

First of all, let’s talk about deterrents–how NOT to lose your passport.

Your passport should be the first and last thing you check when leaving or arriving at all times.

Most hotels have safe boxes–use them. Leave your valuables and passport when not needed. You’re less likely to lose your passport if you kept it safely locked in your hotel room than bring it with you everywhere. I don’t carry my passport unless I have reason to.

Granted, there are countries that do require mandatory identification checks. If you do choose to carry it around when touring, just make sure your wary of your valuables and keep your handbag close to you at all times.

Also, carrying a passport when clubbing is a bad idea.

Finally, always bring a photocopy of your passport when traveling. Leave a copy to trusted family and friends too, or even keep a digital version of your passport so you can easily print it when the need arises.

Losing Your Philippine Passport at Home

If you already lost all hope and resign to the fact that you have indeed lost your passport, you need to file an Affidavit of Loss and a Police Report. Get the Affidavit of Loss from a lawyer, where you will have to state all the details on how you lost your passport: when, where, how, etc. This document must be notarized.

For the Police Report, go to the nearest police station that covers the area where you lost your passport. Even if you lost your passport by sheer carelessness and not through criminal activity like theft or arson (hey, it can happen), you still need to file a police report.

Apart from these two requisites, you need the usual documents to passport application: your NSO birth certificate, valid Government-issued ID, etc.

Just go through the same process of applying for a passport, just pay an additional Lost Passport fee of Php200. To learn more about the new passport application process in Cebu, read my blog post here!

Losing Your Passport Abroad

If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, you need to act fast. The first thing you need to do is to file a Police Report. You’ll also need the police report for travel insurance claims and declaration of lost passport. Immediate action will also prevent anyone from using your passport illegally.

The next step is to locate and contact the nearest embassy or consulate (For a list of Philippine Embassies and Consulates around the world, refer to this link). You need to make a personal appearance, so book an appointment (as walk-ins are generally not allowed). The Philippine embassy or consulate or normally available for appointment on weekday mornings, so let’s hope you didn’t lose your passport over the weekend!

philippine_embassy

Bring your police report, passport photos, itinerary, flight details and proof of citizenship.You will need to pay some fees in cash and should be able to get your temporary passport within 24 hours. The embassy or consulate can either give you a replacement passport that will allow you to finish your trip or an emergency travel document that will get you back home ASAP.

 

 

Jiufen & Shifen: Taiwan’s Old Streets

Did you know that Taiwan was actually Japan’s first colony? You can still feel it, once you step on the shores of Taiwan–you can feel a little bit of China, and a little bit of Japan… but don’t tell the Taiwanese that.

Japan wanted to show off to the world that they can also do the imperial colonizing thing like the Westerners can, and wanted to set Taiwan as a model example. You can still see the remnants of Japan especially in Taiwan’s old towns, particularly Jiufen and Shifen. If you want to experience more history and culture, these old mining towns give a feel of what Taiwan was like during the late 20th-century Japanese occupation.

In the late 20th century, gold was discovered in the area which ushered the gold rush and brought in a lot of people in that area. Mining was a lucrative industry in the hey-day: naturally rich in sulfur, gold, clay and gold. Nowadays, however, Taiwan now relies on imports to meet their mineral demands.

Jiufen and Shifen are good to visit in a day’s trip, as they are quite nearby and accessible. (Personally, I think it would be better if you allocate one day for each town!)

How to Get There?

Jiufen and Shifen is 40km and 30km away from the capital, respectively.

To get to Jiufen and Shifen, you need to get to Ruifang Train Station. You can also take the bus (approx $15-22 NTD/trip). . The commute is fairly inexpensive and easy to navigate, and takes approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour to get to your destination. The travel offers scenic views of the Taiwanese countryside.

shihfen flying lanterns

I should warn you that the commute back is a lot less pleasant. Queues at the bus station get pretty long after sunset. Day visitors often have to compete for a seat to the bus ride home.

So if you’re not the hustling kind, it would be better if you take the train (buying a roundtrip ticket in advance gets you a guaranteed seat) or simply hire a cab for the day. It will be more comfortable that way.

Jiufen

Jiufen is a charming little mining town in Northern Taiwan where time literally froze. It used to be a bustling gold mining town, until the gold depleted and it became a deserted, forgotten gem. There was a revived interest in the town when it appeared in the acclaimed movie City of Sadness, and it became a famous tourist attraction.

Although there is some dispute regarding this, Jiufen is said to be the real-life inspiration behind Hayao Miyazaki’s film, Spirited Away. If you haven’t seen the animated film, it’s about a little girl whose parents transformed into pigs and enters into a spirit world. Jiufen offers the magical backdrop of the film, from the winding, cobblestone streets  down to the  pork dumplings the Chihiro’s parents devoured greedily in the film.

Jiufen is filled with shops selling unique food and quirky things you will never find elsewhere. Shops sell trinkets, calligraphy art, peanut ice cream, shaved ice desserts… all sorts of things!

One particular shop had a handmade mask exhibit that reminded me again of another scene from the Miyazaki film.

The bathhouse is inspired by the A-mei Teahouse nestled in the highest part of the mountain. The teahouse is said to be a century old, where you could have traditional tea served with a good view of the town

Shifen

Located in Pingxi Disctrict is another charming town famous for another thing: their magnificent flying lanterns. Annually, they hold the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival every February wherein thousands of sky lanterns are flown. I bet that is a sight to behold.

Once a bustling town with a railway that was a major player in Taiwan’s coal mining industry, the city is now best known for two things: the Shifen Waterfalls, lovingly dubbed as ‘Taiwan’s Niagara Falls’, and the flying lanterns, where visitors could send their wishes to the sky.

Wishes are color-coded and prices could vary from NT100-NT150, depending on the lantern you wish to send to the sky.

Just like most people, we wished for good health, love and more travels. Oriental characters on the flying lanterns seem more awesome than the English alphabet though… Watch our lantern go up in the sky!

It was magical to see your lantern fly up the sky and see your wishes reach the heavens… Unfortunately, I was told that the lanterns fly up for 10 minutes before it comes down to the ground. The lantern shops have workers whose job is to retrieve the fallen lanterns. Boo. Not as magical as I thought.

photobombing pixie sticks shifen taiwan

In the evening, we bought some fairy sticks and acted like kids. Who knew it was so much fun to light these things? Thanks fairy light photobombers for making this photo of me awesome!🙂

So here you go! Do yourself a little favor and have a side trip to Jiufen and Shifen when you’re in Taiwan.

Postcard Eats: GIBBS’ Hot Wings and What’s New

ewGibbs’ Hot Wings is one of Cebu’s most famous hole-in-the-wall new restaurants and their hot wings are comfort food of choice to many Cebuanos. Reputed for being the best wings in town, I adore the unique flavors of hot wings and their careful selection of craft beers. Coy sure knows his beers.

gibbs angel wings
My personal favorite–the Angel Wings!
gibbs hot wings beers
Gibbs Hot Wings Beers. They also carry a good selection of local craft beers by Cebruery!

I personally love their Angel Wings (affectionately called ‘Carbonara Wings’) because I can’t handle my spice as much as some people could. If you love your spicy, you can choose the spiciness level from 1 to 5.

They started in a small and humble manner. The owner, Coy Oliva, used to drink with friends at home and his wife’s hot wings was the crew’s pulutan of choice. The hot wings were a hit: his friends requested for them all the time, and eventually started ordering them to bring to their family and friends. One friend suggested to them that they should sell their hot wings.

Gibbs’ started as a small-hole-in-the-wall in the extra space of the owner’s house. The hot wings were such a big hit, that within months the owners opened their second shop in Streetscape, Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.

So, What’s New with Gibbs’?

On our media launch last week, we were the first to know the many exciting news for Gibbs’ Hot Wings. First, introducing their newest on the menu: Their Cajun Hot Wings. It had just the right amount of spicy and smoky flavor.

gibbs hot wings cajun

Second, Gibbs’ Hot Wings has partnered with Zomato for delivery orders. You can get your hot wings fix conveniently at the comforts of your home by just ordering via the Zomato app.

Lastly, Gibbs’ has announced that they will be opening their second branch at Robinsons Galleria Cebu, set to open later this year. A very interesting year ahead for Gibbs’!

GIBBS’ Weekly Events and Promos

Gibbs’ holds interesting weekly events, giving you more reasons to visit:

  • Mayday Sundays – Come in groups of at least 5 and for a minimum orders of P1000, to get 10% off.
  • Wing It Wednesdays – Bring your bff, wingman or winggirl, barkada, to get one free order of fries!
  • Acoustic Wednesdays – Listen to the cool tunes by Acoustic Duo Anton & Glynis from 8pm to 10.30pm
  • Thirsty Thursdays – Unlimited Coolers! Order any pitcher of our house blend coolers to avail of bottomless drinks.

You can check their FB page for more info on event and promo updates.

DISCLAIMER: Some photos by the owner and the Gibbs’ official FB page

GIBBS’ Hot Wings is open for lunch from Tuesdays to Sundays at 11am to 2pm and open for dinner daily from 5:30pm to 12:00am. GIBBS’ Hot Wings is located at Streetscape Mall, Maria Luisa Rd, Banilad, Cebu City. Contact number 349-2103 / 09226424888. Check their FB Page here and their official website at http://www.gibbshotwings.com.

Uber for Traveling, Uber for Cebu!

I don’t know about you, but there’s something ‘off’ or ‘weird’ when getting a cab in another country. There’s a ton of things to worry about. Is this safe? Did I bring enough money? Should I tip? Did I give him the right directions? My anxiety levels are high when I feel vulnerable, as I am normally the one behind the wheel at home. Now I have to give my trust to a complete stranger.

I tried to avoid getting a cab abroad because it’s horrendously expensive (especially in London!). However there are times when you really need to cab it: when you’re carrying a giant backpack plus a 30 kg. luggage; and when you’re on the way to a party looking like a million dollars.

I thank the stars that the idea of Uber was conceived where you can hail a cab with a touch of a button. Moreover, there is no awkward exchange of cash (my least favorite thing, especially when you’re handling with alien currencies)–everything is tabbed to your credit card.

My First Uber Ride.

My first Uber ride was in Paris. I was living with a friend in Universitaire and transferring to another friend’s at Cite de Phalsbourg. I know getting there via Metro would be impossible–I did have my 30 kg. luggage this time, and the Paris Metro is infamous for their lack of escalators and elevators. Plus the last time I took the metro, someone stole my box of pizza.

Yes, someone took off with my pizza. That really happened. Everything happens in Paris!

I figured out it was the perfect time to try Uber for the first time. Interestingly, I later learned that the idea of Uber was conceived when the founders couldn’t get a cab in a cold winter night in Paris.

I used my friend’s referral code and got 10 EUR off my first Uber ride. The 10km ride cost me less than 20 EUR. If I had taken the traditional cab, I would’ve paid around 30-40 EUR.

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My Uber Obsession in Manila

If the Uber founders found it difficult to get a taxi in Paris, they haven’t been to Manila.

The cab drivers from hell live in Manila. The moment you arrive the airport, taxi drivers try to rip you off as much as they can. They will pretend to be oblivious on where the hell Greenbelt is even if they’ve lived in Manila all their lives. When you show them the map, they pretend to be stupid and will go around avenues just so they can charge you more.

Fuckers.

If you’re traveling to Manila soon, my advice is to just stick to Uber. Honest taxi drivers are mythical unicorns in Manila.

My stress levels are high every time I get on a traditional taxi in Manila, so I Uber almost everywhere when walking is not an option. Uber cars have a GPS so they can never say ‘I don’t know where that is’. And the tracking makes it harder for them to go around in circles so they can charge higher. All I needed was to get in the Uber car and not worry about anything.

Why Uber is Awesome

Uber is perfect in the Philippine setting for those number of reasons, and more. Philippine taxi drivers will rip unsuspecting tourists off any opportunity they can. With Uber, you have a rating system where riders can rate drivers (and vice versa) so customer satisfaction is optimally better.

Another aspect of customer satisfaction is the quality of the ride. Uber drivers own the car they drive, hence they take care of it and better maintained than the traditional taxi counterparts. A/C will be working, seats will be more comfortable and the car will be cleaner.

UberX, which is available in the Philippines, is the low cost option, which is generally 30% cheaper than getting a regular cab ride. The GPS app they use ensure that they will know where they are going and won’t drive you in circles just to mess with you.

Who says car owners can’t use Uber too? Studies confirm that it is a lot cheaper to Uber than to own a car in Manila, with the hidden costs of maintenance and upkeep. Plus, won’t it be awesome if we could just sit in the backseat, not worry about driving and play Pokémon Go? If you want to go out without the worry of parking or who will be driving after a few beers, just Uber it!

Uber’s advocacy is to have less cars on the road. Traffic is getting worse in the Philippines, and if you could lessen the quantity of cars, we make it easier for all commuters on the road. I myself personally hate driving even if I have my own car, so the convenience Uber brings make ‘owning a car’ a less priority to millennials than before.

More butts into the backseats for fewer cars in the road. The UberHop feature allows you to split costs and carpool with fellow Uber riders going on the same direction as you. I don’t know about you, but sounds like a grand idea.

Uber Celebrates Cebu

Uber is now available in 480 cities around the world, including Manila and Cebu in the Philippines.

Cebu City will be the first city in the Philippines to have a cash payment option for Uber riders! This is good news, as in the Philippines credit card penetration is only 2%. This makes it more accessible to more Cebuanos!

In line with that, all first-time Uber riders in Cebu get 50% off their first five rides from today until July 17. Simply enter the promo code: CELEBRATECEBU upon sign up to avail of the discounted rides.

cebu bloggers society smartlife
CBS with Uber PH heads, Laurence Cua, Uber PH GM and EJ dela Vega, Uber Cebu City lead

How to Use Uber

Simply download the app and register for an account to start using Uber.

Uber How-to JPG

How to use the Cash Payment Option in Uber?

Choose the uberX option in the app. Before requesting a ride, change your payment option to cash on the confirmation page. The payment bar is located at the lower half of your screen. Enter your destination and request a ride.

You’ll see your driver’s details straight away–name, photo and the details of the car. These drivers have professional driving licenses and have undergone an extensive screening process.

At the end of your trip, the app will reflect the fare that you need to pay. Hand your payment to your driver and you’ll receive an electronic receipt via email.

Download Uber now and use my promo code to get your first free ride!

My promo code: rachela5448ue

Or just click this link! https://www.uber.com/invite/postcardpretty

How to Apply for your Philippine Passport Online in Cebu

Good news: we aren’t so archaic anymore–you can now apply for your Philippine passport online! Passport application is now made faster and more convenient for everyone. I was never a morning person, nor am I the most patient human being–so this is very good news for me! Horray–no more long queues at midnight!

I. How to Apply Online

  1. Go to the official DFA https://www.passport.gov.ph/ website. Just read the instructions–it’s all pretty clear and straightforward.
  2. Choose a schedule. Go to this link and select whether it is an individual or a group appointment. Afterwards you will need to fill in the DFA Office location, date and time for your appointment.
  3. Fill up online application form. Provide your personal information and contact details.
  4. Once this is done, simply download the accomplished form (it will be sent to you in PDF format) and print out in an A4-sized paper. Bring this along with your other requirements on your scheduled appointment.

II. Requirements

Bring the following on your DFA appointment.

  • Printout of your accomplished application form in an A4 sized paper
  • NSO Birth Certificate
  • valid Picture IDs and supporting documents to support identity (e.g., driver’s license, voter’s ID, SSS ID, etc.) – refer to list of accepted IDs and supporting documents here
  • For passport renewal applicants, don’t forget your most recent expiring or expired passport.

There may be additional requirements for other applicants such as for muslims, minors, etc. For complete information on passport requirements, you can read about it here.

III. Appointment

Yes, after the online application you still have to make an appearance to the DFA office to submit requirements and have your biometrics taken. If you apply online you can skip the queues and just show up during the appointed time.

Starting next month, walk-in applicants will not be welcomed and all applications will have to be made online. Only the following will be allowed as walk-in applicants: military personnel and family, senior citizens, PWD, pregnant women, infants and children 7 years old and below.

(If you would like to know how I applied for my baby’s passport, read my blog post on How to Apply for your Baby’s Philippine Passport)epass-releasing-schedule

Passport fees are as follows:

Express Processing – 10 working days – Php 1,000
Normal Processing – 20 working days – Php 950

(Fees and processing times vary from one DFA office to another!)

You can have your passport couriered to your address for an additional fee of Php 120.

IV. Additional Tips 

  • Come at least thirty minutes before your scheduled appointment. No time for Filipino time!
  • Failure to show up on your scheduled appointment means that you will not be allowed to book another appointment online for the next 30 days.
  • Boycott fixers. It is illegal. Period.

The Filipino Traveler Identity Crisis

On my numerous trips, I’ve been constantly approached and asked where I come from. For fun, I make a game out of it to let them guess. Most commonly, I’ve been perceived to be Thai. I’ve also been thought to be: Singaporean, Nepali, Kazakhstani, and on rare occasions, Chinese or Japanese.

filipinos what do we look like
But never Filipino. When I tell them my real identity (like Batman), two reactions alternately happen.
Either: “Oh really? You don’t look Filipino!” they say it like a genuine compliment, so I say smile. But I couldn’t help but wonder what they really mean by that. What’s a Filipino supposed to look like, anyway?

Or: Utter ignorance. “Where is the Philippines? Oh wait, wasn’t that in the Bible?” During these times I sometimes wished we have something notoriously spectacular, like the Fidel Castro or the Angkor Wat or the Dalai Lama. Oh wait, a lot of people aren’t even familiar with these. Oh wait, we have Manny Pacquiao.
pacman_3490363b

‘So, are Filipinos Asians or Pacific Islanders?’  

A fellow traveler asked as follow up, seeking to ensue an intellectual debate.

This gets a little more interesting. Before I could answer, another one butted in: ‘Neither? They seem more hispanic or latino to me.’

To note, these were raised by people who were neither Filipinos, but Americans. As westerners try to lump us into a particular ethnic group, we become more alienated and confused. Hence the understandable Filipino identity crisis. In the first place, we never classified ourselves as such or such before. It is all a western invention.

The Philippines is a creation by Western colonizers to begin with. If the Spanish never came, force-baptize the natives and named our islands after a historically unimportant king, there never would have been ‘The Philippine Islands’ in the first place. Our islands would probably have been absorbed by Chinese civilization from the north, or be integrated into the Muslim Malay nations from the south. Who knows?

To get back to my nationality guessing game, there was only one person who got it right once. Once. A Slovakian Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque guy we encountered in Ibiza.

Wow, you’re the very first person who got that right the first time!” I said, really impressed.

“It’s not that difficult. You’re a tan Asian with very good American English. So there you go. Filipino.”
I was stammered, because now this includes another element to the whole equation: the Filipino Americanization. This is getting more complicated than I thought.

Geography 101

southeast_asia_pol_2003

Geographically, we are in Asia. Hence, we are Asians! I cross-checked and consulted the world map and I confirmed that we are in the right continent.
Likewise, we love our rice to death. There’s nothing more Asian than that!
To be more specific about it, we are Southeast Asians, particularly, of the Austronesian or Malay0-Polynesian ethnic group. Identifying features include: short face, mild epicanthic fold, straight, black hair, and a happy, light-hearted disposition. Sounds familiar?
filipina girls

‘Orphans of the Pacific’

On the other hand, being labeled as ‘Pacific Islander’ is not entirely wrong, either. Historically, we used to be part of the Spanish East Indies, which comprised of Moluccas (Indonesia), Guam, Mariana Islands and the Philippines.

Our islands were once called ‘The Philippine Islands of the Pacific’. We are located in the Pacific Ocean; a tropical island paradise, 7,000 of it. Even if most of the comprising ‘Pacific Islands’ are 4,000-8,000 km away, we see plenty of similarities in physical features and culture among people in Guam, Hawaii, etc.

Filipino migration to Guam has been happening for several centuries– the Spanish were fond of exiling Filipino rebels and prisoners to Guam. The Americans continued the practice when they took over.

Kumusta / Como estas?

The term Hispanic is a broad representation of the people and cultures with historical linkages to Spain. This term commonly referring to her former colonies, although strictly speaking, it refers to the former Spanish colonies in Latin America.

After 333 years of colonization, we have a rich hispanic heritage. The native tsokolate and mais made its way to the Philippines after centuries via the Galleon trade with our latino brothers. We share our fervent Roman Catholic faith with other hispanic cultures; as well as our love for lechons, siestas and fiestas. Do you know that ‘Filipino time’ and ‘Latino time’ is exactly the same?

And who else do we share our enduring obsession with boxing and beauty pagaents?

Today, very few people in the Philippines speak Spanish, although many of our abuelos still do when they’re angry. A few Filipinos also claim Spanish ancestry. I’d like to think my aquiline nose and freckles proves some European descent. Disclaimer: I swear I’m more modest in person.

are filipinos hispanic?

So the whole debate was really much ado about nothing.Our islands have been a melting pot of cultures for centuries.It’s okay to be a little confused about demonyms assigned to us. Identity crisis have always been part of us, and maybe that’s why it was so easy for foreign entities to colonize us. Who cares if you identify yourself as Asian, or Pacific Islander, or even Hispanic? It’s all a western invention.

 

 

Taipei, Taiwan: What to Expect

For Filipinos, Taiwan isn’t something we typically think of as a ‘tourist destination’. When it comes to traveling abroad, we dream of going to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore or Thailand–we often forget about visiting Taipei, Taiwan, which is only 1,000 km from the Philippines.

This is why Taipei is so beautiful in its own way–an underrated and unassuming city that has a lot to offer. Cebu Pacific now offers direct flights from Cebu to Taipei thrice a week, which will get you to the capital of Taiwan in two hours.

Veer away from the mainstream and try visiting this eastern gem for a change. There’s a reason why, when Portuguese sailors caught a first glimpse of the island, they named it ‘Formosa’ (literally meaning ‘beautiful island‘).

how to apply taiwan visa free

Before you put Taipei into your next stop of destinations to visit, here’s a few things you need to know, before you go.

1. You may or may not need a visa.

Philippine passport holders are required a visa to visit Taiwan. Failure to present the necessary travel document will mean refusal of entry. For more details on visa application, read about it on my blog post, How to Apply for Taiwan Visa for Philippine Passport Holders.

If you have a valid visa or permanent residency in: Japan, UK, US, Schengen, Canada, AUS or NZ, you can travel to Taiwan without a visa by simply applying for a visa exemption certificate online. For more details, read on How to Apply for Visa Exemption for Philippine Passport Holders.

2. The Taiwanese are genuinely kind and helpful people!

I mostly relied on the kindness of strangers in Taiwan. Even their cab drivers. That statement needs to be bold for emphasis. Kind and honest cab drivers are like unicorns in Manila–they simply don’t exist in our ‘hood!

Case on point: When I first arrived to Taipei in the dead of the night (1AM), I took a cab from Taipei Main Station to get to the place we booked via Airbnb. My friend arrived a day before, and we decided to meet in a Family Mart near the address. When I hopped on the cab, the driver said there were actually three Family Marts in that area. I told my cab driver to drop me wherever and I can figure it out on my own.

“No, it’s too late for a lady to be out on her own!” he said, like a concerned grandpa. Instead, he took me to all three Family Marts and even accompanied me to look for my friend.He was also sweet enough to teach me a few Mandarin words that came really useful throughout my trip.

It is easy to befriend the Taiwanese people, and have had random friends we met in a restaurant, bar, or even on the streets. They will go out of their way to help you.

3. Taiwan is well-known for its gluttony.

Foodies will love Taiwan; because they have a great love affair with their food. You can’t talk about Taiwanese culture without mentioning their street food cuisine. Kinda unfair– they never seem to get fat.

I will go as far as to say that food should be the primary reason you’re going to Taiwan. Go all out and don’t think about dieting! Some of the famous Taiwanese food include: pearl milk tea, stinky tofu, oyster omelette, steamed dumplings, crispy chicken cutlets… everything. Most times, I don’t really know what type of animal or animal part I ordered–they surely don’t waste any animal part, and it all tastes good anyway.

Michelin-star restaurant Din Tai Fung originated here, so make sure to try their world-famous xiao long bao while in Taiwan.

They have the oddest restaurant and cafe concepts I’ve seen, probably only second to Japan. They have restaurants dedicated to Hello Kitty, the toilet, hospital, and more. It will be a good idea to go cafe-hopping and discover for yourself!

4. Things to see in and out of the city.

NYC has the Statue of Liberty and Paris has the Eiffel Tower… what iconic landmark Taipei have? There are two main landmarks in the city: The Taipei 101 tower and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial.

Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until the completion of Burj Khalifa. Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan and the largest green building in the world. You can see the whole of the city on their 89th Floor Observatory.

If you have the luxury, I recommend you go out of the city. Taiwan has so much beauty to offer with their unspoilt nature. Most famous day trips are the mountain towns Jiufen and Shifen, which I will write about in another blog entry soon.

5. They have sizzling nightlife.

There are plenty of things to do in Taiwan at night. With a lifestyle of 24-hour convenience stores, there’s always something happening–even at 5 in the morning.

So in a scale from 1 to Filipino, how seriously do the Taiwanese take their karaoke? Their KTVs are serious, lucrative business, and atmosphere is first-grade. It would be an experience to try it, but they don’t come cheap compared to our hulog-piso karaoke machines.

taipei-nightlife-2

Ahh, and Taipei nightclubs are happening. There are too many nightclubs and I remember their names very vaguely; so after a quick Google searchI remember being or passing by most of these clubs: Barcode, Myst, OMNI, Room18–the clubs are all clustered in one area near Taipei 101 so they’re not that hard to spot.

One thing I noticed though: Taiwanese love to party without limits–they drink until they can’t stand up on their own feet. I always see Taiwanese men and women passed out drunk in toilets, in and out the clubs. In the nightclubs, all the toilets are expected occupied with puking girls by 2 in the mornin. I like to control my alcohol content and avoid losing my shoes, thank you.

6. Don’t haggle so much, don’t leave tips.

You don’t haggle so much in Taipei markets. You can ask for a discount, but you can’t get an item 80% 0ff its original price like you can in Mainland China or Thailand. This is because Taiwanese don’t like overpricing their goods, as they believe that the practice is dishonest and unethical. Try haggling 15%-20% off the price, and if you do, you’re lucky.

Tipping in Taiwan is generally not expected. On one occasion a friend was chased after the waiter when he left the restaurant for leaving his money behind. Tipping is also not expected by the Taiwanese taxi drivers, who are quick to give you your change to the last cent. 10%-15% service charge is already included in restaurants. Rule of thumb, 10%-15% tip is generally accepted in spas, salons and tour guides.

7. Internet?

Taiwan has the fattest internet service I’ve experienced, even compared to Western countries! The Taiwanese are just as obsessed as getting connected, so Filipinos won’t have any problem with wi-fi service at all.

Taiwan is the very first destination in the world that provides free wi-fi access for tourists for up to 30 days all over the country via iTaiwan. Simply go to the Tourist Service Center near you and show your passport or entry permit (if you’re from Mainland China) to staff.

Aside from that, wi-fi hotspots are available almost everywhere–cafes, restaurants, convenience stores, mini marts, MRT stations, everywhere! So you don’t have to worry about uploading your Snaps or Instagram posts on time. You’ll have no problems being connected while in Taiwan.

Another tip, the Taiwanese don’t use Whatsapp much. Instead, they prefer Line or Wechat. Maybe you can download these apps before your trip for easy communication access.

8. Shop for electronics, hoard in the night markets!

Taipei is also a shopper’s dream. Especially for electronics! As you know, a lot of technology brands originated here in Taiwan: Acer, Asus and HTC, to name a few. Everything is much cheaper here, and of higher quality than, say, China. Get your share of electronics at Guanghua Digital Plaza.

taipei electronics taiwan

taipei-taiwan-shilin-night-market-002

Taiwan is also known for their night markets. Their biggest and most famous one is the Shilin Night Market with thousands of stalls selling food, toys, clothes, shoes and souvenirs of all sorts!

For a first-world nation, Taiwan is surprisingly peso-friendly! 1 Taiwanese Dollar is pegged almost the same as the Philippine peso (Around our time of visit, 1NTD = 1.4 PHP) so no need to make annoying conversions in your head.

9. 24 Hour Convenience Stores is part of life.

24-hour convenience stores are an indispensable way of life in Taiwan. I mentioned earlier that our Airbnb place had three different Family Marts in one street. This isn’t actually commonplace across Taiwan–with over 10,000 convenience stores with one store to every 2,000 residents, the country has the highest mini mart density in the world. They sure love their convenience, and you will too. If you’re hungry post-party, you’re sure to get your fill, there’s bound to be a restaurant or shop open for you.

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Mum & Baby: My Toddler’s First Trip to the Movies

Caleb knew how to get my attention.

He wasn’t that subtle, either. After half a dozen times of sitting on my laptop and GMAT books, I gave up any hope and concluded no studying is going to happen for the rest of the week.

We need to do something. Mum and son are quickly getting cabin fever at home. I’m the kind of human who gets bored of routine and I have all the reasons to believe that my offspring is the same. The rest of the family were in USA, his nanny went home to the province–what else was there to do? I decided to take him to the cinema.

Finding Dory is already showing, and Caleb already loved Finding Nemo–that movie has been on replay since he was 12 months old. In fact, Caleb can identify more marine animals than land animals. Sharks are his favorite. Finding Dory will make the perfect first mother-and-son movie date.

finding dory

Plus, I already had some Ayala Center Cebu credits that we could use, by being featured at the A Guide (Ayala’s Shopping Style Guide). So I’d like to thank Ayala Cebu for making our first movie date possible!

As we queued up for tickets, I started getting a mini-panic attack. Caleb was already running around back and forth and pretending not to hear me. Was this really a smart idea, to take a 2-year-old to the movies? Will he cry, shout and annoy the other moviegoers?

This should be interesting. Knowing my little man, I was sure he wouldn’t cry or shout–but he’ll probably run around in the movies. I decided to take the 2:00pm schedule and the front row seats for my two-year-old’s viewing purposes.

After buying the tickets, we got the snacks. A lot of patronizing parents will judge me for getting him unhealthy Potato Corner french fries, but it’s his favorite snack and I wanted to indulge him once in a while. If you want a healthier alternative, I also got us Tater’s tofu chips. I tried to feed him these but he barely touched them. I also got Tater’s sugar-free lemonade for our drinks.

Of course, the success of movie-going depend largely on the parent, the child and the movie. Not all kids are the same, and some may find the loud sound and darkness overwhelming. I’m thankful Caleb is unfazed by most things (I am more scared of the dark than he is!) and he tries to help me by carrying the food and drinks. He likes having a role, it makes him feel responsible and has a purpose in life (to take care of this absent-minded adult who calls herself ‘mom’).

Upon coming inside, the cinema staff asked if we would want to have a high seat for Caleb. I didn’t know cinemas offer this because it was my first time taking a kid out to the movies, but it was great. So even if we were sat at the front I still decided to take one. I also took a snack tray because we brought a lot of food!

two year old baby first trip to the movies

The movie is around two-hours long, so I didn’t want to strain Caleb too much. We went outside during the ads and trailers part–I didn’t see the point of him watching the trailers. For toddlers, they don’t see the difference between film and ad content, so I had him run around outside the cinema to entertain himself before the movie starts.

There is a animated short skit before the start of Finding Dory about a baby bird in the beach. The visuals are so impressive now, I couldn’t believe even a single grain of sand is well-defined and high-def!

Caleb was smiling like silly from the first scene to the last. He kept on saying ‘Dory!’ ‘Nemo!’ He was pointing at the sea animals he knew–whales, turtles, octopuses and fish. He was laughing at all the appropriate scenes, and imitating the famous Dory whale talk. One thing about Caleb–he has a great sense of humor, that kid.

So yes, when Sia was already heard singing ‘Unforgettable’ and the credits rolled out, I sighed in relief. Wow, my two-year-old actually sat throughout the whole film! I didn’t even notice the 120 minutes pass by. Sure, in the middle of the film Caleb took out his high seat (it was actually very hard and uncomfortable) and he spilled the lemonade towards the end, but other than that, it was a gratifying experience for both of us!

I would recommend Finding Dory to even little kids like mine. The movie is colorful, funny and full of lovable characters–Dory, Nemo, Marlin, Hank, Destiny, Bailey… and even the hugging otters, they were all so adorable.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.23.51 PMFor doing a very good job in behaving at the movies, I treated Caleb to some post-movie treat, The Suite Room matcha ice cake.

So yes. It is possible to take a two-year-old to the movies. Did he enjoy it? Yes. Will he remember it? Probably not most of it. It was a great experience nonetheless!

As a recap, here are some tips and pointers on what to expect on your little one’s first trip to the movies:

  • If possible, choose an afternoon schedule on a weekday. Choose a not-so-busy movie schedule.
  • You can miss watching the trailers. Your child can’t tell apart movie and ad or trailer content, so why bother?
  • What’s a movie without snacks? You can get the usual popcorn and soda, but there are also healthier alternatives such as the tofu chips and sugar-free lemonade that we got from Tater’s.
  • Your child will be slightly disadvantaged by height, so choose the front row seats whenever possible, or avail of the high chair.
  • Know your child’s interests and preferences as well. Caleb loved aquatic animals and the film kept him interested all throughout. He would also probably love animated movies about cars and animals.
  • Be mindful and respectful of other moviegoers. If your child starts crying or screaming, or kicking on the front seat, don’t pretend like it’s normal. Apologize, and if you can’t control the situation go out of the cinemas to calm your child.

 

Mum & Baby: Kidzoona in Robinsons Galleria Cebu

As a parent I always encourage my son active play and social interaction with other kids. And for Caleb, he doesn’t need much ‘encouragement’ at all. Every time I take him to a playground full of kids, he instantly comes running to them in a panic and forget about me. Not that I minded, I’m thrilled by his energy and independence.

Unfortunately Cebu City does not offer parks and safe public places for children to play. The malls are this generation’s playground–offering safe and indoor play for children. While I would’ve preferred for us to explore the mountains and forests, I’m going to save that when he’s older. Caleb, please hurry up so we can backpack across South America together. So we explored the newest indoor playground, Kidzoona, has to offer.

Kidzoona is located in the 3F Robinsons Galleria Mall, Cebu City, Cebu. Kidzoona is owned by a Japan-based corporation and already has 800 branches across Southeast Asia! There are 20 outlets around Philippines already. They are set to open their 2nd and 3rd branch in SM Seaside City and SM Consolacion, respectively.

Play Fee is Php250 for 1.5 hours and Php400 for 3 hours, including one parent or guardian. Kids 1-12 years old can enjoy the indoor fantasyland for hours! Even a 26-year-old (ehem) enjoyed her time and wished we had facilities like these when we were younger.

lockers in kidzoona cebu
Shoe Lockers in Kidzoona

Upon coming in, we are given a locker for shoes and bags (locker rental is also free!). Hence we could run and play hands-free without worrying about our valuables and stuff.

Kidzoona was much bigger than we expected! On the right side of the room is a massive ball pool with inflatable slides and a pirate ship! Kids can go climb into the island and jump in the sea of balls!

On the left side of the Kidzoona center is the role play area where the little people can pretend to be firemen, doctors, ice cream vendors, florists or sushi chefs.

On the front part of the playzone with a giant zorb ball where little kids pretend to be hamsters and try to run over each other! Little kids should be more careful of the bigger kids!

play toys kidzoona

Finally, this area of the playroom has train sets, playhouses, puzzles and other toys for children to explore. Just beside it is an open space for kids to bike around.

train toys in kidzoona

Aside from that, they also have activities and mini-games–in fact during our time there Caleb won a one-hour free play GC from their raffle! The Kidzoona official mascot pops up once in a while to dance and play with the kids.

So would I bring him here again? Of course! But not too often–I always try to bring my little man to as many new, different and exciting environments as possible.

Kidzoona Cebu is located at Robinson’s Galleria and SM Seaside City. For more information, you can visit their Facebook and official website.

Postcard Eats: The Suite Room’s Ice Cream Cakes

I must’ve been living under a rock, because I only recently knew about this piece of heaven.

Of course I’ve heard of The Suite Room. The Suite Room is located at Ayala Center Cebu Rooftop and Ramos branch (their pioneer branch). It is part of the Casa Verde group and is often known as the more posh and upscale version of the Casa Verde. I’ve tried Suite Room’s main course and steaks, and these were quite good.

This entry however isn’t about The Suite Room’s main course menu. We take a closer look at their dessert choices, particularly their honest-to-goodness ice cream cakes.

They have six different ice cream cake flavors, While they are all so good, everyone has their own preferences as well. As I devoured every spoonful, I kept on thinking: ‘where were you all my life?!’

Okay, that was a bit of overkill. Still, I love ice cream and I love cake. I thank Babe for Food for bringing me here and introducing me to what will be a new cheat favorite. These are their ice cakes’ six different offerings: Matcha Green Tea, Apple Cinnamon Raisin PIe, Caramel Macchiato, Mixed Berry, Double Strawberry and Peach Mango Ice Cake. The serving is huge! One order costs Php 238.

ice cake offerings at the suite room ayala cebu

  • Matcha Green Tea Ice Cake

My favorite. It’s not too sweet, and the slightly bitter taste of matcha perfectly cleanses the palate making it the perfect dish to cap off a full course meal. Matcha green tea paired with cream cheese is genius. I would have this all the time.

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Matcha Ice Cake
  • Apple Cinnamon Raisin Pie Ice Cake

This is the frozen version of the All-American favorite dessert, the apple pie. I always have my apple pie warm, but this one I don’t mind served cold at all. The cinnamon smells tempting!

apple raisin walnut ice cake
Apple Cinnamon Raisin Pie
  • Caramel Macchiato Ice Cake

Caramel Macchiato is the frozen cake version of the beloved coffee drink. This is my friend Justinne’s favorite. Caramel Macchiato is rich, flavorful and sinful.

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Caramel Macchiato Ice Cake
  • Mixed Berry Ice Cake

A surprising favorite to most of us! It’s something I would order to share with girlfriends who want to eat something sweet, but not be too guilty about it (Hey, it’s berries! High in antioxidants!)

mixed berry ice cream cake
Mixed Berry Ice Cake
  • Double Strawberry Ice Cake

Double Strawberry was another satisfying one. Probably children’s favorite, and my son could probably eat all this on his own. He hates sharing his desserts!

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Double Strawberry Ice Cake
  • Peach Mango Pie Ice Cake

Another frozen version of the famous Jollibee Peach Mango Pie. Peaches and mangoes are always a great combination.

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Peach Mango Ice Cake

I’m no food blogger, so I’ve easily run out of things to say to describe food! Let us know what you think of The Suite Room’s ice cakes. Which flavor is your favorite?

The Suite Room – Ayala Branch is located at 4th Level, Ayala Center Cebu, Archbishop Reyes Ave Cebu Business Park, Cebu City, Philippines.
Their Ramos Branch is located at 69 Lim Tian Teng Street (right beside Casa Verde), Ramos, Cebu City, Philippines.
For more information you can check out their Facebook page and official website.
Contact number: Ayala – (032) 266 3860 Ramos – (032) 254 0508
Opening Hours: Everyday from 10AM to 10PM