The multilingual Filipino

I finished my phone conversation with a silly grin on my face when I caught Nico* looking at me without disguising his curiosity.

“What language was that?” he asked.

The conversation was with my girlfriend from back home. We were sat having sandwiches outside the Fisher Fine Arts library in UPenn, where my friend and I normally studied. 

Visayan.” I said. “Why?”

“It didn’t sound like the same language you speak with Ryan.” he said, referring to another Filipino classmate of ours.

“That’s Tagalog.”

“But this language Cebuano–it must be your first language, yes?”

I confirmed, and he shot a grin back in triumph.

He said he knew because everyone always sound angrier in their own language. He said I certainly sounded angry, but knew I wasn’t, because I was laughing after every sentence.

“Unless, you laugh in anger in your culture,” he mused.

I thought about what he said for a while. He made a pretty good point. We are always nicer and more respectful in another language, saying everything in a more gentle, question manner, unsure of ourselves; like we become children conversing to adults once again.

Come to think of it, I do tend to take up different personalities in the different languages I speak. I feel more professional in English, more gentle in Tagalog and Hiligaynon, and I’m a foul-mouthed, warfreak, drunken sailor in Cebuano.

Being Filipino, I grew up to hearing different tongues–sometimes simultaneously–that it was the only kind of world I knew of. In my hometown, we spoke both Visayan, and our Muslim brothers Maranao; my father’s side spoke Hiligaynon, and my mother’s side Tagalog. You know my grandfather’s temper is on the upside when you hear cussing in Spanish, English is taught in our schools from prep to college, and French…simplyfrom dating a few of them.

Sounds impressive, but not really. This is not unusual in a typical Filipino household. The country, after all, has 7,000+ islands, 300+ dialects, with frequent movement and diaspora; long colonial Spanish history, and then raised by Hollywood and 80’s love ballads. With this hodge-podge history, it is already given for every Filipino-born to be multilingual (or bilingual at the least).

We don’t really think about the multilingual aptitude much. But when you go abroad and realize that most people speak only one language.

Some weren’t granted the opportunity or exposure to other foreign tongues and cultures. Some by choice and refuse to learn any other language. And some are just simply crippled by the convenience of being born spoilt into a culture that didn’t have the necessity (I’m looking at you, America).

Foreign peers compliment me at how ‘good my English is’, like I’m not supposed to get my v’s and f’s right. And then revel at how easily I can switch from one language to another. It’s kinda nice to show off once in a while, pretending it’s some sort of superpower.

The truth is, you don’t really need to be fluent in the languages–you just need to know enough. You only need to know ‘hi, nice to meet you’, ‘beer’ and ‘cheers’ in a dozen languages for them to look at you like black sorcery. Kanpai!

Nico, being European, was also multilingual.

And so I played around with the topic and shot back a question: “Nico, what language do you think?”

His blue eyes danced, like he had been expecting the discourse. “The German language is made perfectly for a thinking mind, I believe. The vocabulary is just so exact and concise, there’s little room for error.”

I shot back the question to myself. What language do I think? What language do I feel?

On formal and professional scenarios, English seemed the default. It was my rationalizing language. But in the social and emotional aspects, Cebuano is my preference. 

Especially when it came to bodily feelings, I feel I could better explain myself in my dialect. How can you translate gigil? Kilig? Binhod? Panuhot? Pasmo? Alimungawan? How do you translate them to English in one word, without giving people the context or comparison? The nuances of languages tell us how the people and culture are characteristically; and on this–it seems like Cebuanos are very attuned to their bodies and feelings.

Nothing is more satisfying than swearing in Cebuano. I would write some of my favorites down, but they might not make it out on print. Sometimes, the F-word just don’t cut it, you know? There’s just more meat in our dialect, it’s just so wrong , dirty and crude.Especially the B-words…

Ah, nothing beats the B-words.

Now that I think of it, when I need to make more rational and moral decisions, I should probably not process my thought processes in Cebuano.


Cebu’s sizzling salsa scene

You get tired of the night club scene after a while: same crowd, same scenario, same cliché dance moves. I’m not really a creature of habit so after a couple of recurring same-old, same-old  nights I was ready for a change of scene one evening of 2015.

So I got hooked. For the next three months I came with my girlfriends once a week to dance salsa and bachata. The community was then so small and closely knit. But it was a great change of scenery, where stranger bodies just don’t grind on you and touch you in inappropriate areas–you actually get to meet a lot of great friends through salsa!

Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 12.41.23 AM.png

It’s so easy to approach someone and ask them to dance with you–no matter the language you speak, dance is universal. When I find myself alone (traveling/living), I reach out to the local salsa community to meet new and friendly faces. This is how I met some great people in Taiwan and US. I’ve never been to Latin America, but that’s next on the list!

Take note that everywhere in the world except New York dances ‘on 1’, whereas NY salsa dances ‘on 2’. You need to know these technicalities else you will feel lost like an idiot if you find yourself in a latin club that dances a different style than you do.

Still, nothing beats like home. I have moved several times over the past three years, but whenever I am in Cebu I always try to attend the socials were organized by Cebu Salsa Club. Essentially, it is part of the experience of ‘coming home’.

The Cebu salsa community has since then has grown by leaps (kudos to Jilly and John!). I don’t recognize most of the people now. Everyone is getting better each visit. It’s impressive! They have salsa nights three nights a week now, too!


Every Wednesday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Bacardi Mojitos all night
Maya Mexican Restaurant
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Merengue | Reggaeton

Every Friday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Cuba Libre
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata

Every Sunday
No Cover Charge
2-for-1 on Tequila Cazadores Margaritas all night
Maya Mexican Lounge
Crossroads Mall, Banilad
Call Maya for dinner table reservations ✆ (032) 238 9552
Salsa | Bachata | Kizomba

If you’re new to the scene and would like to learn social dancing (maybe as a dare, maybe as a new year’s resolution, or maybe to impress a date?), Cebu Salsa Club also offers classes on salsa, bachata and kizomba! Classes start in February, advance registration here:


If you want to keep connected with fellow enthusiasts and keep updated about salsa socials and events, join the Cebu Salsa Club FB group, Cebu Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba Dancers FB group.

Still haven’t convinced you enough? I’ll try to with 5 more reasons as to why everyone should dance salsa. Read the post here.

2016 Cebu nightlife guide

This blog post was written on 2016.

For a lot of travelers, nightlife is ineluctably part of their itinerary. Sure, sightseeing and tours are a great way to see the city–but how do you truly know a city unless you’ve seen the night lights… unless you’ve mingled with the locals?

To upcoming tourists and travelers to Cebu, this is a comprehensive-as-possible guide on nightlife in Cebu, and on how, where and when to party when in the Queen City of the South.

party in cebu

Mind you, this guide features bars and clubs that I personally frequent–bars great for socializing, drinking and just having clean, good fun. So, this isn’t exactly the guide on bars that can help you ‘score’ some girls… sorry, not an expert in that department. Although

How to Drink and Party in Cebu?

There’s this widely known credence that Asians ‘can’t drink’… but this does not apply to Filipinos. The men have beer as drink accompaniment with their meals–breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether you are in the city or the province, you can walk around and will see groups of men huddled in a table, drinking together. They will often invite you to drink with them.

Filipinos love their beer and alcohol. Beer is the poison of choice for most Filipinos. In more formal occasions such as family gatherings where the titas and titos are sure to make an appearance, then they will take out their wine glasses. Otherwise, gin, rum and beer are a safe bet. Filipinos drink to get drunk. Period.

It’s amazing to see how many activities Filipinos can do intoxicated–they can drive, cook, go to work, and do their errands while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not something we’d recommend though.

Tagayan‘ is popular especially among Vis-Min area, a manner of drinking wherein instead of separate glasses for every drinker, only one cup is used and passed around. I know, it sounds very unsafe and unsanitary, but this is how Filipinos bond and show camaraderie.


Filipinos like to drink with some food, known as ‘pulutan‘. These are often fatty deep-fried foods like chicken skin, sisig or nuts.

Karaoke is another popular nightlife activity, as majority of the Filipino population aspire to become famous singer-celebrities someday.

In Cebu, EDM or electro dance music is the preference of most partygoers, although the hiphop/r&b scene is slowly gaining momentum lately. A lot of visitors complain that Filipino bars and clubs tend to be ‘too loud’, where you can barely hear or speak to each other.

Cebu parties start late and end late. The clubs start getting packed by midnight. The party usually starts to subside by 3AM, although on high peak season party could last until 5-6Am.

It’s customary for partygoers to eat after-party, to regenerate some lost energy. Cebuano’s favorite post-party food of choice is bulalo. Other favorites include siomai and puso, ramen or noodles, silog (breakfast) food at Gian’s or fast food like Jollibee or McDonald’s. Cebuanos don’t care much about eating healthy…

When to Party in Cebu?

There seems to be an annual trend in the party scene in Cebu, with a high peak and low peak season–plan your trip accordingly. The night scene is pretty dead during the summer school break, around on April time, before it starts to pick up again during July when school season starts and tourists coming in. It gets even busier during ‘-ber’ months, peaking on December and January, before winding down again on February.

The best time to come to Cebu to party is during December to January, which is holiday season leading up to Sinulog season. Cebuanos are on ‘party mood’ during this time, as many balikbayans and overseas relatives come home during the holiday season. This means an endless string of christmas parties, reunions, homecomings, family parties, and more. Lechon, lechon, lechon. And plenty of Jose Mari Chan.

Sinulog is a different experience on its own that i would like to immortalize in a separate future blog post. But it’s definitely something one needs to experience, to get to know what Cebu party life and hospitality is all about. I met the best people and had the best experience every Sinulog!


Off-peak season is a bit trickier. Unlike major Asian cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong or Manila where something’s always happening every day of the week, Cebu City still has some sleepy days. Nightlife is pretty good on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Saturdays being the busiest time of the week.

On Wednesdays, the most popular activity is Salsa Nights at MAYA, a Mexican restaurant of the Abaca Group in Crossroads, Banilad. Salsa night is every Wednesdays from 9PM to 12PM every Wednesdays. The crowd is hip and international, sharing the same love for latin music.

Where to Party?

Cebu nightlife is colorful, lively and loud. Filipinos  always have energy to go out and mingle.

  • LIV Superclub

LIV is the biggest nightclub in Cebu offers a club experience set at international standard. Famous local and international EDM DJs have played here, including Otto Knows, Dirty South, EVO-K and more. Even the Maria Ozawa has graced her presence here!

LIV Superclub is located at The Times Square, Mandaue City, Cebu. There is usually an entrance fee of Php300.

(photos grabbed from the LIV Superclub FB page)

  • Distillery

distillery crossroads cebu

Distillery is the default drinking place of choice for the people within my crowd. Distillery is located in the Crossroads, Banilad Cebu City. I could easily go there any day of the week alone, not make plans with anyone, and still find a friend or acquaintance lurking by (looking at you, Jedd and Alvin…).

The problem with Distillery is it can get a bit… clique-ish, because everyone knows everyone in here. It’s still a nice place to have drinks and listen to good music though.


  • The Sentral

The Sentral is Cebu’s first all-hiphop bar and lounge, providing the best of hiphop and R&B music in Cebu.The Sentral is located at Norkis Cyberpark, AS Fortuna, Mandaue.

  • Maya

Maya Mexican Restaurant is part of the Abaca group of restaurants and located in The Crossroads, Banilad, Cebu City.

Come to Maya at Wednesdays, when the second floor transforms into a salsa dance floor! Wednesday salsa nights attract a lively and international crowd. Maya Restaurant the best mojitos in town–which is 2-for-1 on salsa night! Starting mid-2016, Maya also has Salsa Sundays with 2-for-1 margaritas!

maya mexican restaurant cebu philippines

  • The Social

The Social is a restaurant and cafe by day, and a bar lounge by night. A lot of expats and foreign tourists prefer The Social because of its location and convenience, located in the 4F Ayala Center Cebu. They have Havana Nights on Tuesdays and one can also easily make friends by just chilling on the bar and watch football.

  • Ibiza

Ibiza Beach Club is a chic bar and lounge located in Movenpick Resort, Mactan. Modeled after the actual Ibiza in Spain, it offers a unique drinking and dining experience with a breathtaking ocean view. They have happy hour everyday from 3-5pm where drinks are 2-in-1, and have a lovely view of the sunset too.

Ibiza is one of my favorite spots in Cebu and would be here more frequently if it wasn’t so far away from the city central.

  • Morals and Malice

Morals and Malice is a posh and stylish lounge bar located about the Tinder Box, and right beside The Crossroads, Banilad. The interiors are a work of art, masterfully crafted by the famed Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue himself.

The bar’s interesting namesake is based on the two-part, yin-and-yang concept nature of the establishment. Half of the place will be serving coffee and brunch (Morals), whereas the Malice part serves drinks and cocktails.

Image from The Inquirer
  • Mango Ave

I am not an expert when it comes to the party scene in Mango, but I’ve stumbled here on rare occasions when I already had that much to drink to make it ‘okay’ for me to venture out here. Something’s always going on in Mango–popular bars are J-Ave and Alchology. Things always seem to get weird here, one way or another… It’s definitely not boring though.

  • Other Chill Drink Areas

For wine nights, La Vie Parisienne and Ampersand are personal favorites. La Vie is affordable, while Ampersand is the more high-end choice with great food choices. Marriott Hotel offers unlimited wine on the evenings for only Php699/head, and is conveniently located beside Ayala Mall. Gusto Urban Deli + Cafe, District 53rd and Planet Grapes are also good choices.

Cebu has a growing number of pubs around the city to accommodate the growing population of expats and foreign visitors coming in. Aside from The Social, Marshall’s Irish Pub and Emerald Isle are recommended pubs to watch football or rugby (or your sport of choice).

For cocktails, I think Bellini is beautiful and underrated-this champagne lounge is located beside Anzani Restaurant in Nivel Hills, Lahug and offers a nice view. I’d recommend this place if you want some privacy or a quiet date night.

Bellini (image source: Zee Lifestyle)

Other Nighttime Activities

Not really a party animal? There’s still tons of activities to do in Cebu when the sun goes down. If you enjoy singing as much as most Filipinos do, karaoke is a good nighttime activity. There aren’t many hookah bars in Cebu–although I’ve seen some in IT Park (Figola) and in Times Square, Mandaue City.

If you’re a self-proclaimed geek, you will enjoy trivia nights, slogos nights and board game nights which happen on various days of the week. Cebu Trivia Night is every Wednesdays at Alejandro’s and every Thursdays at Politics. Slogos Night is every Wednesdays at Monkey’s Belly and every Friday’s at Handuraw Kasambagan. Tabletop Nights allow you to play board games with fellow enthusiasts, held every Mondays at Bubble Bee Tea House Escario Central.


Why everyone should dance salsa

You get tired of the night club scene after a while: same crowd, same scenario, same cliché dance moves. I’m not really a creature of habit so after a couple of recurring same-old, same-old  nights I was ready for a change of scene one evening of 2015.

I heard about salsa night at Maya Mexican finally decided to see it one Wednesday evening when I had nothing to do. And it’s just what it’s name means: salsa is hot, and I’m not talking about the dip!

salsa night maya cebu

Not convinced and still a little shy? I’ll give you five good reasons why salsa dancing should be mainstream!

1. Salsa is sexy.

Salsa is sexy. A guy friend I brought there said: “This is cool. It’s like a scene from the Dirty Dancing movie.” It unleashes the inner latino/a in you. Without noticing it, your hips start to do the talking.

It’s not that difficult too–and this is coming from someone with admittedly two left feet.  After learning a few basic steps from one salsa night, you can already look like you know what you’re doing. If your lead is exceptional, you’ll look just as awesome as well. Just go with it!

2. It will never be a cock fest.

Maya has a lively and more international crowd. At any given salsa night, male to female ratio is 1:3. What are the chances to having that ratio in any other party or event? Close to none.

So if you’re tired of dancing with other dudes and need more female eye candy, you’re always welcome to check Salsa Wednesdays out.

3. Salsa Nights also mean Buy 1 Take 1 on Mojitos!

Yes, you heard it. Maya Mexican Restaurant also offers Buy 1 Take 1 on Mojitos and P395 on all burritos all night long, only every Wednesdays.

4. There will be some respect of personal space.

I don’t like a lot of things about clubbing: the sweat, the smell, and the ‘accidental’ groping. Good thing you won’t have to deal with these with salsa. Sure, you’ll still be sweating(salsa is good cardio workout!), but at least you won’t come out smelling like smoke and a mixture of other people’s smells.

5. It’s free.

Oh shat, I had to wait ’til the end of my post to announce the most important thing: it’s free! There’s no cover charge. Grab your most comfortable heels and check it out.

Salsa Wednesdays are every Wednesdays at 8:30PM to 12:00 midnight at MAYA Mexican Restaurant, Crossroads, Banilad Cebu City.

If you’re new to the scene and would like to learn social dancing (maybe as a dare, maybe as a new year’s resolution, or maybe to impress a date?), Cebu Salsa Club also offers classes on salsa, bachata and kizomba! Classes start in February, advance registration here:

If you want to keep connected with fellow enthusiasts and keep updated about salsa socials and events, join the Cebu Salsa Club FB group, Cebu Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba Dancers FB group.

Sample Travel Documents Templates

filipino passportI am probably aiding in driving travel agencies out of business–but I sincerely believe that applications should be done quick and easy so applicants can do on their own. I get asked a lot how I craft my written letters for travel document requirements, and to be honest I also just refer to my parent’s previous letters as well as sample letters online.

To make it easier for my readers, here are sample travel documents that you can craft and revise for your own applications. As long as you use the letters for personal applications and not for business purposes, you are free to use them. Don’t forget to thank me 🙂

1. Sample Letter of Introduction to the Embassy or Consulate

This is a requirement for Schengen visa applications for most embassies. It must state your travel dates, intention to travel, submitted documents and travel companions. Here is a Sample Cover Letter that can be applied on all EU embassies, and my Letter to the French Consulate to the French Embassy attached.

2. Sample Itinerary

A planned itinerary is a requirement for all tourist applications for whatever country. The itinerary is a supporting document that you are really traveling to the said country for tourism purposes. The following are sample itinerary you can revise to fit your own trip:

3. Letter of Authorization

Being based in Cebu, I often have to fly to Manila to acquire visas (US and most EU countries). I can’t afford to fly back to receive my passport, so I often have to ask someone else to collect it for me. You will need a Letter of Authorization, photocopy of your two valid IDs, two valid IDs of the authorized person, and sometimes the official receipt of your visa processing fee. Here is a template of Letter of Authorization.

4. Notarized Affidavit of Consent

To apply for DSWD Minor travel clearance, among the document required is a notarized affidavit of consent.

I’ll continue updating this page for more sample travel documents and requirements I will encounter in the future to help you with your applications. In the meantime, I hope my sample letters helped!

Cebu Pacific travel hacks

This post was written on 2015.

I’m a frequent flyer of budget airlines including Cebu Pacific, but I’m not gonna lie: I had my own share of Cebu Pacific horror stories. I’ve waited six hours on the airport because of delays. I’ve been left by the plane (even if I was on time). A rude Korean passenger had constantly kicked my airline seat because he didn’t appreciate the plane’s legroom, so I decided to recline my seat to annoy him further. Because I can be nice like that sometimes.

Despite all my bad experiences, I still fly Cebu Pacific, because, why the hell not? No one can beat the CebPac rates. I’m a Cebu Pacific trooper since 2006 and I have seen great improvement on service and support throughout the years.

If you can’t beat Cebu Pacific, what can you do? Do damage control and mitigate (a word I just learned and so badly want to use!). Read through this blog to have future pleasurable flights through some important travel hacks and tips I’ve learned from my constant flights.

  • How to Avoid Delayed Flights

Per my experiences, domestic flights across all local airlines are almost always delayed from 15 to 90 minutes. That’s perfectly normal and something expected in the Philippines due to air traffic congestion, late arrival of aircraft from origin, among others.

The simplest solution is to take the first flight. The first flight is an originator flight, meaning it begins at your specific airport, meaning you won’t be waiting for your aircraft coming from another destination to arrive. A few minutes delay in the first wave of flights will mean delay in subsequent flights throughout the day.

Flying earlier in the day provide a lot of benefits. Sure, waking up before sunrise is hard, but that’s the only most difficult thing. I normally fly between 4am to 6am, or the first wave of flights for a number of reasons: to bypass traffic on the road, less people on the flight, flight crew still on a better mood (not yet sapoton), on-time flights, and these first flights often offer the cheapest rates.

  • How to Book Promo Flights

I’ve heard a lot of people whine that Cebu Pacific piso fares as scams or deceptive marketing strategies. Here’s what I got to say to the skeptics: the piso fare deal is real. I’ve booked piso fare flights countless times. Piso fare flights seem elusive to more people than others–you need to be smart and quick to get these flights!

Piso fares do get sold out quick. I constantly check Cebu Pacific’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts just to be ahead of everyone. The Cebu Pacific website is on my browser’s main web pages. What disorder do you call ardent stalking and an obsessive need to find promo flights? Because, I probably have that.

BTW, piso fare is only the base rate, and does not include other additional fees such as tax, VAT, web admin fee, baggage allowance, etc. It is still cheap however. To give you a good overview, here’s an estimate of roundtrip flights I’ve bought or seen during Cebu Pacific promos:

  • Cebu to Manila: Php 1,500
  • Cebu to Hong Kong: Php 3,000
  • Cebu to Singapore: Php 3,500
  • Manila to Sydney: Php 6,000
  • Manila to Dubai: Php 9,000
  • Manila to Siem Reap: Php 4,000

As of 2015, Cebu Pacific has also removed the fuel surcharge on all promo flights, in line with decreasing fuel prices worldwide.

No one knows when a promo fare comes out, but based on observation I often expect them to come out on Philippine holidays, and they usually make the promo announcements on ungodly hours like 12am-3am.

Sometimes, I could get the promo on a flight to a destination, but have a hard time getting the same promo offer on the return flight. If I can’t find a good return rate, I just buy a one-way ticket and worry about buying the return flight on the next seat sale.

Another tip: when I travel to Europe, I normally book a promo flight from Cebu to Hong Kong and then find another budget airline that can take me from HK to European cities for cheap (as low as 25,000php round trip!)

  • Check in Luggage or Hand Carry?

Prepaid baggage is a wise option to get as excess baggage rates are steep (especially for international flights). I’m a light traveler, so I can normally just backpack and skip check-in luggage. Most airlines allow a carry-on maximum of 7kg. To be safe, I sometimes purchase luggage on the return flight because my carry-on weight increases– dirty laundry is always heavier, plus additional shopping and pasalubong items add to the pile.

Trust me, I’ve begged another Filipino to place my excess items to his check-in luggage. I was refused and the nerve of him because he did not even look anything like JM de Guzman. Won’t work, it only happens in the movies.

(Additional note: Although to be fair, if someone asks you to place items in your luggage, it is wise to refuse, else you could be the next trafficking victim)

  • How to Avoid Missing a Flight 

You’re not a true traveler if you’ve never missed a flight. So far, I’ve missed one domestic flight (Cebu-Cagayan) and one international flight (Dubai-London) for different reasons, both which I traveled with family. I never missed a flight when traveling solo, probably because I’m more aware and accountable for myself when I’m alone haha.

Missing a flight is inconvenient, expensive and annoying. Missing a flight can get you stranded at the airport for several hours to a day. It’s something I never want anyone to experience, so here are tips on how to avoid missing a CebPac flight:

  • The most obvious tip: don’t stay too far from your gate. After going through check-in, immigration and security checks and once you’re inside the terminal, don’t get distracted about getting food or looking at duty-free shops. The first thing you need to do is to locate your gate number. Once you’ve found it, you can probably do your own thing if you still have extra time. But don’t stay too far away from your gate and be wary of any intercom announcements.
  • For connecting flights, allow at least 4 hour time allowance in between flights. Domestic flights are notorious for delays, and you need at least two hours to check in for international flights, go through immigration and security checks.
  • 5J vs TG. Know your Terminal number–especially when in NAIA. Most Cebu Pacific flights are in T3, but since the TigerAir and Cebu Pacific merger, you will now have to check if your flight is a 5J (Cebu Pacific) or a TG (TigerAir). TG flights are in NAIA 4.
  • Should I Get a GetGo Card?

GetGo is CEB’s newest rewards program for frequent fliers where you can earn GetGo points when flying Cebu Pacific. Through the points you can also earn free flights.

Those who were already signed up for CEB Club become automatic GetGo Members. Non-CEB Club members can become GetGo members by paying the initial membership fee of P150.

I am now a GetGo member but still waiting for my card to arrive via mail. I haven’t converted points for free flights yet, so I’ll reserve judgement as of now (but I will update you soon). It’s worth a try to get a GetGo card, there’s nothing to lose. Currently, they are still on beta mode and improving the system and partnering with more merchants to create a more pleasant lifestyle program for their members.


So there you go–some CebPac Travel Hacks that can improve the quality of our flight experience. Let’s make every flight count!

(DISCLAIMER: These insights are based on my personal experiences and may not reflect the experience of other travelers.)

30 travel tips for the wanderlust on a budget

This article was published on Sunstar Weekend around March 2014 (I think). I don’t have the hard copy so I’m publishing the soft copy on my blog instead. Thank you fellow travelers for your wonderful insight on traveling on a minimal budget. Rest in Peace, dear big traveler Jethro Estimo who also shared his tips in this article.

A wanderlust has a passion—and almost animalistic lust—for travel. That need to ditch our desks and hit the beach is all too familiar to us–but while we all love travel, most of us don’t get to travel as much as we hope. And with summer just around the corner, we’re all starting to feel that travel itch again.

So what do you do if you don’t have enough capital to cure a bad case of wanderlust? You don’t need to forgo that dream vacay– The key is to travel more, spend less; finding ways to stretch your money’s worth.

Gone are the days when travel was only a luxury for the rich and famous. Budget airlines, promo airfare and Internet booking have provided a wider window for travel opportunities. A limited budget is no longer a hindrance to travel—in fact, it can be a challenge to see ‘how low you can go’. Part of the adventure is going out there and having some sort of money limit. Spending less lowers the barrier between you as tourist and the culture you traveled so far to experience.

Here are 30 tips from backpackers and seasoned travelers in Cebu for the fellow thrifty wanderlust:

On Booking Tickets, Planning an Itinerary and Packing:

carla adlawan

‘Keep your eyes peeled for cheap flights. Subscribe to airlines’ newsletters, visit their websites religiously. As soon as you see that seat sale, book it! Your dream vacay starts by booking that flight.’ – Carla Adlawan

hannah katrina lim

‘These days there are heaps of good travel advice everywhere. From websites to personal blogs—good and bad reviews alike assist you in every step of travel planning’ – Hannah Kate Lim

honeylette to chip

‘For tickets, check local budget airlines. You can do this by going on Wikipedia and searching for the airport of your destination. It’ll list the airlines that land in that place. Compare rates and book the best price’ – Honeylette To Chip

chacha mercado lee

‘Read airline policies beforehand, especially with budget airlines. Know their restrictions when it comes to baggage allowance, check-in instructions, printing boarding passes, etc. in order to avoid unnecessary penalty costs – Chacha Mercado-Lee

‘Sometimes if you go back to an airline website multiple times, the price gets higher. It’s a technical thing… they remember your computer so it offers higher rates each time you come back’ – Honeylette To Chip

dj tudtud

‘Never forget to bring an extension cord so you don’t have to think about buying lots of travel adaptors. All you need is to plug all your devices in the extension cord, attach a universal travel adaptor and you’re good!’ – DJ Tudtud

‘The obvious is to book your flights in advance. Their promo rates are available around three months ahead if you book it online’ – Atty. Janjan Perez

jon cabiles

Staying in hostels is a great way to save money and meet other travelers. Check websites like airbnb—the places are cheap and these places often have the added benefits of doing your laundry and kitchens where you can cook your meals for free’ – Jon Cabiles

hannah bacalla

‘Travel off-season to find better deals, budget rooms and cheaper airfare. Explore like a local—ditch the usual tourist spots and explore the city’s hidden gems’ – Hannah Bacalla

audi villa

‘Never have your currencies changed at the airport’ – Audi Villa

On Touring and Getting Around:

bait nicart

‘Your itinerary serves as a guide. You don’t need to follow it to the dot but it’s usually more expensive to be spontaneous (albeit certainly more fun) – Bait Nicart

johnn mendoza

Foursquare is a really useful app with various tips especially for a newcomer in a certain place. ’ – Johnn Mendoza
patricia zosa

‘Wear your most comfortable shoes! Saves you transpo allowance. Let’s you take your workout on the road too.’ – Patricia Zosa

‘Think like a video game character. Establish savepoints & waypoints. Learn and research subway and commute routes, so you can get lost worry-free and easily retrace and load from last save’
Victor Villanueva, film director

jethro estimo‘Go in groups of two or more so you can save a ton, especially in accommodations and commute fares’ – Jethro Estimo

karlo pacheco

‘As much as possible, take an overnight train/bus/boat to your next destination—it saves you money on accommodations.’ – Karlo Pacheco

danielle aballe

‘Museums usually have high entrance fees; but do a little research beforehand—there are usually entrance-free days. To save you some buck schedule your visit on those free days’ – Danielle Aballe-de los Reyes

sam despiSave yourself some time by knowing the local name of the places. Keep them on your phone or write them on a piece of paper. This is especially helpful in places with their own alphabet. When I was in Thailand 90% of the cab drivers didn’t speak English well and we couldn’t pronounce names of the destinations properly. That wasted a lot of time. It surely helped when we looked up the names online and in the Thai alphabet’ – Sam Despi

On Food & Shopping:

celeste rodriguez

‘Hit the groceries, find a park in the city and have a delicious picnic with a gorgeous view. Saves you a whole lot of dough’ – Celeste Rodriguez

janjan perez

‘Avoid the tourist-y restaurants and cafes because the prices are sure to be jacked up. Look for eateries frequented by the locals—that’s where the good food and good value is found. – Atty. Janjan Perez

victor villanueva‘Check out food areas near universities. They have tasty food on a student budget. Plus get to know the students for possible true love’ – Victor Villanueva

paolo manalac

‘When challenged with the language barrier, I just use the mighty pointing finger and point at whatever that guy’s got. You will have a sample of local flavor and an extra bang for your buck’ – Paolo Mañalac

radel paredes

‘Pack some instant noodles. They make great emergency food. Some airports, like in China, provide free hot water. You can also ask from stores’ – Radel Paredes

hanz libato

‘Make sure to start early and eat breakfast before you leave the hotel. Never go out hungry or else you’ll end up spending more in restaurants’ – Hanz Libato 

homer mediciDon’t hoard on pasalubong or souvenirs. You will just have a hard time packing them, and might even end up paying for additional baggage fees.Homer Medici

And Others:von jovi jover

‘Learning a few local street words help a lot, especially in Asian countries. Usually protects you from getting ripped off by locals or charging a crazy amount of money ‘ – Von Jovi Jover

Always be nice, try to make conversation. One time, I got upgraded to business class just because I made the check-in counter girl laugh, like she really lol’d. I wonder how that worked because I thought it was a really corny joke. This and many other things I wondered while sipping my wine in business class.’ – Victor Villanueva

‘Research on prepaid plans for internet and phone if you want to be constantly connected. Your phone will serve as your navigation device too and you’ll never get lost’ – DJ Tudtud

honeylette to chipTripAdvisor is helpful but not all restaurants and hotels that are rated highly are as good as they seem. Some people are paid to give good ratings and reviews to places’ – Honeylette To Chip

How to apply for your baby’s Philippine Passport

This post was written on 2014.

At some point, a mother will start to worry about applying for their child’s passport. Maybe you needed to see family or friends abroad. Or maybe you just want to take your little one to Disneyland! Summer is around the corner and travel is the best experience you can give to your child. I got my baby’s passport when he was barely two months old so that he can visit family abroad.

caleb at 5 months old, macau to cebu flight

By the way, I applied for his passport more than a year ago so my memory is kinda foggy on details. I do remember that it was quick and easy though–I remember being in the DFA center and leaving for only 30 minutes! I am surprised that the Philippine agency is very baby-friendly and convenient.

Starting this July 2016, the only walk-in applicants allowed will be infants, PWD, senior citizens and pregnant women. Other applicants will have to apply and book an appointment online. To find out, read my blog post on How to Apply for a Philippine Passport Online.

I. Requirements

  • Personal Appearance – you’ll need to bring your baby to DFA as applicant. Either of the parent must also be present (if legitimate) or the mother (if illegitimate).
  • You don’t need a confirmed appointment – minors ages below 7, senior citizens, pregnant women and handicapped can come right in and go to the courtesy lane.
  • Birth Certificate – an original NSO birth certificate will suffice. When I applied, Caleb’s NSO birth certificate wasn’t available in NSO yet (him being born a month or so ago). I had to bring his original birth certificate and had it certified at the Local Civil Registrar.
Local Civil Registrar in Cebu City
Local Civil Registrar in Cebu City
  •  NSO Marriage Certificate of Parents (if married)

    – If the parents are married, minor applicant will need a parent’s consent letter from both parents. If the parents are not married, minor applicant will only need a consent from the responsible parent (usually the mother).

  • Original and photocopy of passport of the person traveling with the minor.

– Original passport and copy of either parent will do or of mother (if illegitimate).

  • Notarized Affidavit of Support and Consent to Travel

– You will need a notarized affidavit from both parents (if legitimate) or mother (if illegitimate). I had the  notarized by my good lawyer friend Atty. Janjan Perez.

Additional Requirements:

  • If the child or minor applicant is not traveling with both his parents, you will need additional requirements:
    • Travel clearance form issued by DSWD. Original and photocopy will be required (blog post to follow on how to secure this)
      • Note that minors will not need to acquire the DSWD clearance if parents are living abroad or are immigrants, or in the Foreign service. Proof needs to be provided that parent/s are living abroad.
    • Affidavit of Support and Consent by either parent (mother, if illegitimate)
    • Passport copy of the person the child will be traveling with.

II. Appointment

DFA in Cebu is located at the 4th Level, Pacific Mall – Metro Mandaue, U.N. Avenue, Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines.

Pacific Mall – Metro Mandaue

Since Caleb was still an infant, he didn’t need a scheduled appointment. The perks of being a baby mean that you can bypass the long queues of disgruntled applicants through the Courtesy Lane. It won’t save you from their dagger looks, but cut them some slack for they’ve probably been queuing up since 4am. The courtesy lane accepts babies, senior citizens, pregnant women and handicapped applicants. I haven’t tried this (but I have thought of it), you can push it even further and try to apply for your child’s and your passport renewal. (hehe)

Step 1: Make sure to come to DFA with all the documents complete and organized to make the passport application process swift and hassle-free. Bring original copies and photocopies of all required paperwork. Once you enter, the guard will give you an application form you need to fill up. Just wait inside for a few minutes and once you’re up, submit your documents and form to the official assigned who will review them and make sure documents are in order.

Isn’t he big for a one-month-something old?
Big and strong too! 🙂

Step 2: Line up to give payment at the cashier. It’s Php 950 for regular processing and Php 1,200 for 7 days express processing. As of writing, express processing is temporarily ceased and the regular processing takes a minimum 6 weeks. Waiting times will be much shorter and you will be directed to pay at the courtesy lane. After you’re done with payment, you will be given a number and directed to another room where the applicant’s picture will be taken.

Step 3: Picture-taking time. Process is again fast and painless as there were probably 30 or so counters in front–in a few minutes, we were asked to go to a counter to have baby’s picture taken. Being only two months old, he could not sit up on his own yet so he had to be laid down in the table in a blanket. If you’re worried about hygiene issues, you can bring your own light blue blanket.

Picture-taking took a longer time than expected. The applicant had to be looking at the camera with eyes open. That’s not exactly easy for an infant to do (especially if he’s sleepy or hungry!)–so the person in charge had to take several pictures and sighed in frustration.

We finally got Caleb to look at the camera after a dozen attempts. It wasn’t a very flattering photo (he looked like a mochi!) and wanted the staff to try again… but the guy didn’t want to be bothered. We left DFA roughly thirty minutes when we came in–I honestly didn’t expect it would be that easy!

Step 4: Waiting time. I didn’t opt for the delivery service so I came back to DFA exactly 6 weeks after application. I got it as promised. Thank you DFA for a swift and easy process for the little ones!

Doesn't he look like a mochi?
Doesn’t he look like a mochi?

How to apply for UK Visa in Cebu, Philippines


Last December, I traded lechon, fruit salad and queso de bola for turkey, pudding and scones. I had a white Christmas in the UK with my one-year-old son.

My boy had been on a few domestic and Asian flights before, but it was his first long haul flight. If you want to know more about it you can read on my blog post on practical tips on How to Fly and Travel with Baby! (spoiler: we survived!)

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

I love DIY travel arrangements: I plan flights and apply visas sans travel agencies. Travel agencies’ processing fees range from PHP 9,000 to 15,000 (screw that).It saves me money and I find joy in being my own travel planner! It can be time-consuming, but entirely doable (and pleasurable, at least in my case). Many friends and colleagues have asked me how I applied for my UK, US and Schengen visa, so to make it easier to everyone, I’ll be writing a series of Visa Applications 101.

All Filipino passport holders require a UK Visa if you plan to visit the following territories: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you plan to visit other parts of Europe, you will need to apply for another type of visa. In my case, we made a short side trip to Paris so I needed to get a Schengen visa as well.

Applying for a UK visa doesn’t need to be stressful. You just need to be prepared and do ample research far ahead. If you’re reading my blog right now–good job! You just aced the research part. I have divided the UK tourist visa application process in four steps: 1. Preparation, 2. Online Application, 3. Appointment and 4. Waiting Period.

By the way, if you’re planning to make a side trip to other European countries, you will need another visa, a Schengen visa. Click on this link to read on How to Apply for a Schengen Visa.

I. Preparation

1. Type of Visa 

What is your purpose for visiting United Kingdom? Are you there to see family or friends, to get married, to study or to relocate?There are different types of visas for different purposes, and you can check UK website’s Visa and Immigration page to know what type of visa you need. For marriage, study or other types of visas, they require different requirements and information; but this blog can only provide information on how to get UK tourist and short stay visas only.

It is important to always be truthful regarding your purpose to visit UK. Any inconsistencies stated in your application or documents will get be refused a visa, or even get blacklisted. For General Visitor short stay visa (as is the focus on this blog), your maximum stay is only six months. You cannot work, study, or get married during your stay as a General Visitor.

Initially, I filled out the online application form for a General Visitor visa, but then after careful reading I realized that we actually needed a Family Visitor visa instead. Our primary purpose was to see my partner and his family to spend Christmas together; sightseeing and leisure being secondary. I canceled my primary applications and made new applications under Family Visitor. Again, be mindful of what type of visa you’ll need! 

2. When to Apply?

Applications are accepted up to three months before your travel date. You should apply for your visa as soon as you’ve finalized your travel schedule and booked that ticket! (you don’t need to buy a ticket just yet, a booked reservation will do). I recommend to apply 6-8 weeks before your travel date.

3. How to Apply?

Once you have all your travel information, passport and contact details on hand, you can start your visa application process. The only way to do it here is online. You can start your online application here and read through the second phase to guide you on how to fill up the online form. There’s no need to panic if you don’t have all the information on hand–you can always log in and out of your account any day and fill up the details when you have them ready.

4. Other Important Information

UK visa applications are done on a third party application center (currently VFS Global Services) and not submitted directly to the British Embassy. VFS does not have any control towards your visa application decision. Here are important details you might need to know (information lifted from VFS Website)

Manila Address:

VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc.,
Mezzanine Floor Unit M01, Ecoplaza Building, 
2305 Chino Roces Avenue Extension Makati City, Metro Manila 1231

Cebu Address:

VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc., 
9th Floor, Keppel Center, Unit 905, Samar Loop
cor. Cardinal Rosales Avenue, 
Cebu Business Park, Cebu City 6000

Opening Hours:

Application submission – with a prior appointment:
Monday to Friday
07:00 – 13:00

Application submission –prime time appointment (presently in Manila only)
Monday to Thursday
16:00 – 19:00

Pick up Time –
Monday to Friday
14:00 – 15:00

II. Online Application

In the Online Application process, you need to register for an account. Afterwards, you’ll need to fill in details of the following:

  • Applicant Basic Details and Contact Information
  • Your Visa Type
  • Passport details and Travel History
  • Family Details
  • Employment and Income
  • Family and Friends in the UK

Read through your applications twice before you click send! Once you submitted the application and paid the fee you cannot change any details anymore. Confirm that everything is correct, Book an Appointment, Pay the Visa fee and Print your Application.

  • UK Visa Fee

The UK visa fee is steep- on 2014 the short stay visa fee in the Philippines was USD 120-150, but since we lodged our applications in Cebu we had to pay an additional service fee of USD 101. Total cost per application was USD 143 or around PHP 11,000+. I paid the same amount for my son’s application and mine.

III. Appointment

In the online application, you are given the option to choose the date and time of your appointment. If I recall right, appointment times can be done on weekdays and from 8:00-12:00 only. I chose my appointment date on November 11, 2014 at 11am (not a morning person here). This gave me approximately two weeks to collect all the necessary documents I need.

For UK visa appointments in Cebu, you need to go to VFS Global Services which is at the 9th floor of Keppel Building, in Ayala Cebu Business Park. It’s not hard to find.

Keppel Building, image from Skyscrapercity

On the day of your Appointment, come early and be prepared. They are strict with their rule and will not let anyone in until 15 minutes before your appointment to avoid crowding in the center. If you came 16 minutes or earlier, you will have to wait outside.

You need to bring all necessary documents and need to take your biometrics (photo and fingerprints taken). The documents should be properly organized and arranged so you wouldn’t be fumbling around your papers on your appointment. Basically these documents support your purpose of UK visit, and show your ties in the Philippines (job, family, children, school, properties, business, etc.) and establish proof that you are coming back.

Checklist of supporting documents to bring:

  • Confirmation of Booking Appointment – this is sent to you via email which indicates the time and date of your appointment. I was not able to print this because I thought VFS already has a schedule of confirmed names and appointments. Since I came early, I had enough time to go down, look for an internet cafe and print the booking confirmation and return just in time.
  • Printed Application Form with Photo – print out your complete and signed application form and affix a photo (glue it in!).
    • Photograph Requirements – Most photo shops would already know the specifications needed for visa requirements-just tell them it’s for a UK visa. I had ours taken in Ayala Center Cebu.
      • recent photo taken within six months
      • 45mm x 35mm
      • White or cream background
      • Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or tinted spectacles, or a head covering unless for religious or medical reasons. The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eye brows). Applicant should be facing forwarding, looking straight ahead.
  • Personal Supporting Documents – proof of your identification details & personal circumstances
    • NSO Birth Certificate
    • Marriage Certificate, if married
    • Current Passport and Previous Passport, to see travel history
  • Financial Supporting Documents – documents that prove you don’t need to work while you’re in the UK. This can include bank statements, pay slips, credit card statements, property titles; within the last six months or so.
  • School & Employment Supporting Documents – provides proof of coming back to the Philippines.
    • Student – a letter from your school or education provider confirming your enrollment and leave of absence
    • Employee – tax returns, pay slips, letter from your employer confirming employment, and confirming leave of absence.
    • Business Owner – tax returns, business registration documents (stating your name as business owner)
  • Travel Plans – this includes your flight ticket details, hotel/accommodation bookings and your itinerary. (Need help in your UK itinerary? Refer to my blog post, Suggested Itinerary: 5 Days in London!)
  • Supporting Documents from friends and family in the UK – If you’re planning to visit friends or family, include a letter of invitation from them, their financial documents and bio data of their passports attached as well.

Complete submission of these documents will be helpful in obtaining that visa, but does not guarantee a visa issuance. Missing or incomplete supporting documents may also result in a UK visa refusal.

Other Important Information:

  • No need to dress to kill–just look presentable. Wear comfortable, smart casual clothes that cover all the right areas. The application center’s task is to receive your application and documents only–a personal appearance is required but no interviews will be conducted for tourist visas, unless deemed necessary.
  • For the biometrics, you will need your photo and fingerprints taken, hence the need for a personal appearance. My baby boy needed to be there for his biometrics. Even newborn babies are now required to show up in the visa center.
  • You can not to bring your bags, mobile phone and other personal belongings inside, and you’ll be asked to leave them in the reception’s storage counter.
  • Store your documents in a transparent envelope. An enclosed folder or even a brown envelope is not allowed.
  • All transactions will be paid online.

It only took me an hour and a half to go through the process, although I heard the female guard comment that it was unusually not busy that day.

IV. Waiting Period

The most tedious part for me was the waiting game. Once you’ve done with the appointment phase and submitted all documents, I was told by VFS Cebu to wait 14 working days to get my results. This works for Cebu area, but Manila is said to take 7 working days only.

You can sign up for an SMS service to update you throughout your visa’s processing, but I haven’t tried it. Also, they will request for your email address and will email you if your documents and visa is ready for pickup.

I received two emails from them, and you will probably expect the same. I received the first email on November 14 and it looked something like this:

Your decision will be despatched shortly.  Passports can normally be collected from the Visa Application Centre after 3 working days unless you have been advised it will be returned by courier or have paid an additional courier fee.

This email means that the UK Embassy in Manila has already made a decision towards your application. This may mean either way that you’ve been approved a visa or not. I received this email on Friday, probably sent deliberately to give me an awfully nerve-wrecking weekend.

On November 17, I received another email from VFS, which looked like this:

The processed visa application for GWF reference number –  GWF___________ was received at the UK Visa Application Centre on date time.

If a courier service was purchased from VFS Global, your processed application will be delivered to the chosen address.

If not, your documents can be collected during the designated passport collection times.

This email means that your visa has landed in Cebu and is now ready for pickup. I got mine the day after on November 18.

V. Results!

You can choose to have your documents returned to you via courier or pick-up at the center. I chose the latter as I only lived nearby anyway.

As soon as I got my email, I went to the visa center the next day. I had my appointment on November 11, and on November 18, I was able to get our UK visas! That’s exactly 8 days, or 6 working days. Doesn’t it look lovely?

UK visas

Need help with planning your London, UK trip? Read my blog post, Suggested Itinerary: 5 Days in London, UK to help you through!

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Parian, Cebu – the Chinese ghetto

This photo of The Parian was taken in the early 1900s–notice the Yap Sandiego ancestral home in the photo; which was built in 1675 and now considered as among the oldest residential homes in the Philippines to date.

The Parian is a ghetto outside the Spanish walled cities where Chinese were placed and segregated. The Spanish believed it was crucial to separate ethnic groups (like Jewish ghettos) and regarded the Chinese as of the lowest class, lower than the indios. Soon the Parian became known as the silk market, and flourished with all kinds of trade goods at very cheap cost.

One Spaniard wrote back to Spain that the Sangleys (Chinese) are so remarkable with their workmanship that they can imitate any product at better quality— and at ridiculously cheap costs that they are driving many Spaniards out of business. I guess the Chinese know their business way, way back.