Saturday, October 29, 2011

Philippine passport renewal in shopping malls

Soon, I can have my favorite Red Ribbon cake and eat it too (pun intended) while processing my passport!

How is that possible? Read on.

GOOD JOB Department of Foreign Affairs!
"The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday announced that it will soon start moving its regional consular offices to shopping malls around the country in a bid to improve passport services, and save the government millions of pesos as well.

The DFA has entered into Memorandums of Agreement with the Gokongwei-owned Robinsons Land Corporation and the Gaisano-owned Pacific Mall Corporation for the transfer and hosting of an initial six of the 18 existing DFA regional consular and extension offices and two new regional offices. 
“With this move, the DFA is taking a big leap forward as it can now more effectively deliver consular services to the public in modern, more applicant-friendly settings at very little cost to the government,” DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.
He said he expects to begin transferring the first of nine regional and extension offices to some of the country’s leading malls that are covered under Private-Public Partnership arrangements before the end of the year.

Negotiations are also ongoing with other mall developers for the transfer and hosting of the remaining regional consular offices as well as the opening of new passport extension offices in Metro Manila. lifted from

First it was the driver's license (LTO) then NBI clearance followed. Now, it's the passport's turn. Nice.

locked up abroad

"Everyone is vulnerable. Protect yourself by doing your research and know what the risks are."
One thing I learn from this video (see below) is to never give anyone your passport if you are in a different country

This brings to mind 3 very important travel tips:

one |1| PHOTOCOPY| always have a photocopy of all your important travel documents like passport, credit card and government-issued IDs (and keep them secure).  

two |2| DOUBLE CHECK| if you are offered employment abroad, it is extremely important to verify first if the employment is indeed legitimate.

three |3| THINK ON YOUR FEET| and finally, make decisions quickly if you get yourself in a sticky situation.

I belong to a nation of migrant workers. Every month, many of my countrymen travel abroad for vacation but the bulk, tens of thousands of them, travel abroad for work. There's an alarming figure somewhere regarding those who pass through illegal channels. I know for a fact that there are many crocodiles lurking in the immigration counter at NAIA Terminal 1 waiting for Filipino au pair bound for Denmark, Norway or Sweden to fall prey and shell out Php10,000 or even more as bribe money even if these au pair have complete documents. These immigration personnel operate by scaring these innocent Filipino workers!

While many found gainful employment through direct hires as Information and Communication Technology workers in Singapore, domestic helpers in Hongkong and the Middle East, TESOL teachers in Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos, a few of them end up, sadly,  in dead-end sweat shops as cheap labor or worse, forced as commercial sex workers.

Watch this 24-minute video Enslaved: an MTV EXIT special.

Human trafficking knows no social boundaries. True. So, it's very important to be well-informed.

ENSLAVED: An MTV EXIT Special Hosted by Jared Leto from Thirty Seconds to Mars (Official Online Premiere) from MTV EXIT on Vimeo.

We all have responsibility to end human trafficking. Learn more what you can do by visiting

Thursday, October 27, 2011

a new and better NAIA Terminal 1, please.

off-topic: look at this amazing Cobonpue furniture!

Every Filipino traveler I know has been clamoring for a better international airport. In fact, any good news, even though if they are just proposals are received with much anticipation. Take for example the transfer of NAIA to Clark. But before that happens, we know that a fast and efficient railway system must complement the development like what is done in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hongkong and Shanghai. That takes time and billions of funds.

International airports, you and I both know, are the best introduction to a country. With the present state of NAIA terminal 1, it sure does say a lot about the Philippines--lagging, inefficient and littered with crooks. Such a big wall to tear down.

But its never too late. Never lose hope. As Mr. Bill Luz, proponent of the NAIA T1 renovation and chairman of the National Competitiveness Council said If this relatively simple mission cannot be carried out, there is little reason to believe that people will be convinced that much more complex tasks can be carried out.

With the resilience and warm hospitality of the Filipinos, I can't wait to see the day when the NAIA Terminal 1 I know becomes the best boutique airport in the region. But before I get ahead of myself, I  keep my fingers crossed  the proposal gets the nod from the government.

Here is the statement from Mr. Luz:


Does  days on the road in a bus packed with a motley crew appeal to you?

Come, join a busload of interesting people for a tour around North of the Philippines! The best part if you may ask--it's going to be an all-expenses paid trip! Insanely interesting. Yea! 

Now on its 3rd edition, Lakbay Norte is a 9-day media tour around North Luzon in key places like Subic Bay and Baguio to as far as Ilocos Norte and Cagayan Province.

Before you go hysterical, let me tell you that this is a contest and the organizers are looking for not just one or two but six talented and lucky bloggers to join the Lakbay Norte 3: Outdoor Adventures of the North. And before you go loco, let me tell you also that the winning bloggers will enjoy complimentary meals, lodgings and activities included in the itinerary. Personal expenses are not included and winners who reside outside Manila will have to cough up some cash to haul themselves to Manila. Now, go and hyperventilate.

So, if you are 18 year-old and above, a resident of the Philippines with a one-year old blog (at least) and have not participated in any Lakbay Norte tours in the past, you might be the chosen one North Philippines Visitors Bureau has been looking for. 

How to Join 
Download application form and fill out information
Post an article on your blog regarding Lakbay Norte 3 Blogger Contest
Send application form and screenshot of google analytics to on or before Oct 31, 2011
  November 20, 2011 11:59 (GMT +8) with the subject "My Official Entry to Lakbay Norte 3 Blogger Contest."
Contest Proper
20 Finalists will be selected on Nov 5, 2011 from all applicants and each will make a 500-article on “Why I want to Join Lakbay Norte 3″  to be submitted on or before Nov 14, 2011.
NPVB will post each article as a facebook note on the North Philippines facebook page. From Nov 16 to Dec 18, 2011, finalists can promote their note to receive likes. 
6 Bloggers will be chosen to join Lakbay Norte 3 and will be announced on Dec 23, 2011
2 with the most number of facebook likes on their Lakbay Norte entries.
2 with the best blog content
2 as chosen by NPVB’s Sponsors
Summary of Competition Dates:
Application Period:Oct 7-Oct 31
Pre-Selection: starts as soon as entries come in until Nov 4
Notification of Finalists – Nov 5
Article Preparation – Nov 6-14
Uploading of Entries in Facebook – Nov 15
Contest Period: Nov 16 – Dec 18
Judging Period: Dec 19 – Dec 21
Winners Informed: Dec 23
Lakbay Norte 3: Jan 22-30
* Read the complete mechanics by clicking this link >>>

Remember, closing date is October 31, 2011 is November 20, 2011. Good luck to us!

This google analytics thing is rocket science to me! Thanks for revision of the game!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal I Rehabilitation and Renovation

I have fascination toward airports. I have this intense fascination I can even stay in airports all day. Just people watch. See the drama of hellos and goodbyes. Admire the architectural design. Write stories inside my head.

I love sleeping in airports, especially in Singapore Changi Terminal 2 where it's quite and with free beanbags to use!

...and buying stuff too because everything is duty-free!

and the free movies, massage chairs, internet and so much more at Changi! 

Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok have the best airports in Asia but Singapore's Changi is definitely second to none! I still have to check out Incheon though.

sleeping in HK airport while waiting for the first trip bus to Causeway

In the local ground, after a lot of bad press my country's NAIA Terminal 1 got from as world's worst airport (was there a time NAIA T1 got good reviews?), it's an awesome, awesome, awesome news to have this statement and pro-bono proposal from THE  Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug and Royal Pineda, no less! (see official statement and video below)!

WOW! (wow in big bold letters, font size one million!) I am a big Kenneth Cobonpue furniture fan! Since I can't afford his furniture yet, I'll just stay as a huge fan for now.

"A pro-bono proposal from Budji Layug, Royal Pineda and Kenneth Cobonpue in cooperation with the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines. Its time someone did something about the worst airport in the world. So we made this design because we believe that no matter how beautiful our country is, our airports give the first and last impressions. This plan is relatively inexpensive and simple to adapt. The plan also involves renovating the interiors to allow faster flow of travelers between security, immigration and departure. 
 The first step has been done. Lets hope our government moves on this proposal quickly."

From Kenneth Cobonpue: 
Share and talk about it... We can all be a part of it. Hopefully the right people can make the right decisions...

It's a proposal, yes. But it means a lot already.


The Public Affairs Section of the Embassy of the U.S.A. is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 2012 Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines on "New Media in Journalism." The institute will take place over the course of five weeks from approximately June 24 - July 29, 2012.


This is an intensive academic program that provides groups of undergraduate student leaders with a deeper understanding of the United States while simultaneously enhancing their leadership skills. The institute will be hosted by Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The four-week academic residency will be organized into four main components: new media journalism; leadership; U.S. history, government, and foreign policy; and American life and culture. The workshops will be held in classrooms and computer labs on the Ball State campus. On-site media visits are planned at The New York Times, The Indianapolis Star, Voice of America, Indiana Public Radio, National Public Radio, and WRTV-TV. The academic residency will be complemented by an educational tour that will include visits to Detroit, Gettysburg, New York, and Washington DC.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

8 things to do (and one thing to avoid) in Bali, Indonesia

I dreamt of Ubud, Bali many times. The smell of rice plantations rousing after a brief rain on a summer afternoon. The early morning walk along rice paddies--seeing the friendly locals just starting off their day with an offering to the gods wrapped in a leaf and adorned with delicate petal blooms and done with such intricacy and passion.  

truly the "Island of the Gods!" reason #1: the magnificent temples

The Bali I come to know has the restraint that is inviting but at the same time wrapped in a mist. It's a mystique waiting to be cracked. It's an island where religion is deeply rooted and marries beautifully in the way of life of the people, where faith is the fabric that holds these people together.  

resort in the middle of rice plantations

elaborate religious rituals of the Balinese people (replete with the wearing of traditional clothes)

Bali maintains such a disarming balance--quiet in Ubud, play hard and party harder in Kuta until the sun comes up! In the middle of this all is the elaborate way of life in the island. A life that revolves around Hinduism with a distinctly Indonesian flavor.

My seasoned traveler friends who have been to Bali suggested I spend more time in Ubud for the laid back atmosphere, vibrant (notwithstanding exploding) art scene and quiet beauty then head out to Kuta Beach for the ultimate adventure which Bali is so known for--surfing!

Friday, October 21, 2011

free Pinoy food in 101 restaurants, 10 destinations in 30 days!

If you eat with much gusto and write with a flavorful flare, show what you've got by posting a hot, steamy, fresh off-the-grill blog entry about Why You Should Be the Ultimate Sooo Pinoy Blogger! (minimum of 300 words, maximum of 500 words)

Here's what Nuffnang sent me today:

"Explore the diversity of Filipino cuisine at lasapin ang kakaibang sarap ng Pinoy food. Travel to different places and experience 101 restaurants in 30 days. Enjoy the most delicious month of your life! 
Blog about your passion for food and discover what makes Filipino flavor so unique when you go on the ultimate food trip."

Makes me hungry (for the win)!

Now, where to fish for inspiration for a meaty, juicy and succulent entree, rather, entry (the one that will WOW the judges to the bones. hihihi)?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

win a year's supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee!

To celebrate the 100,000th visitor to hit this site, backpack traveler (because he runs this blog with no budget at all) will be giving you the ultimate prize, rather, tip on a how to score an awesome, awesome freebie! 

It's a one year supply of Krispy Kreme doughnut and coffee! Yes, the doughnut we all love as pasalubong from Manila is already in Cebu!

Patience. Patience and a healthy dose of luck because the contest is looking  for the FIRST person to line up on October 22  at Krispy Kreme doughnuts' first and only branch outside Manila--in Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu!

If you get lucky, it's actually more than 365 yummy goodness (1 dozen per week for one whole year!) of Kripsy Kreme doughnuts we are talking about! And yes, backpack traveler will also be there too (to see you win, of course :) so, good luck! 

The mechanics:


... and yes, the other Krispy Kreme branches set to open soon in Cebu are:

  • SM City Cebu - Fiesta Strip
  • Asiatown I.T. Park - Asia Premiere Residences

Saturday, October 8, 2011

black virgin of Siquijor

“…a saint carrying a skull and with a wound on her forehead.
She reportedly walks around town at the strike of midnight!”

Badjao kid in the pier
The vessel is supposed to drop anchor in the capital town Siquijor, Siquijor. But because the waves were big and the harbor shallow that day, the captain diverted the trip to another port, farther east in the town called Larena.

The cabin smelled like yesterday’s lunch. Sour with a hint of tuba. I stood up to stretch my leg and the smell of ammonia and white flower wafted from the first row seats. The two ladies across my seat looked pale with their barf bags laid on the wet floor. The cranking aircon didn’t help by letting a sour, salty and rusty smell that filled the air.

That part of the trip, when the ferry navigated gingerly through the cove meant everything turned all right. The waves the size of bus stopped pelting from all directions. Otherwise, if it stretched for another hour, I would’ve the feeling the dilapidated fast ferry would split open any moment.

The sky was clear, the clouds fast moving and the cove with its pea-green water looked calm. Everyone heaved a sigh, a few started talking, that the cabin felt warmer and mustier.

Larena is a 30-minute drive from Siquijor. Compared to the open Siquijor pier, the natural harbor of Larena, deep and covered by a ridge is the natural choice for bigger boats and other vessels to dock, especially during monsoon season.   

The car rental service which was advised by the Siquijor station about the diverted voyage came to meet my group in time. We were warmly welcomed by the driver. A smile was painted on his face but his eyes, black and penetrating, there was a certain look in them.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

more on Steve Jobs

comic trivia shared by Harry Kawanda:

As expected

Trivia: What can be better than heaven?

Answer: Heaven with Jobs' touch in it!

In news from heaven, oh he didn't! Wow, Job well done!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bacolod hotels/pension houses for Php500 (per pax/twin sharing) or less

Where to stay in Bacolod? The saga for an affordable, clean and homey place to stay  in the city of smiles continues.

Yesterday, I was unsuccessful in scoring a hotel room for next week's MassKara Festival weekend. All fully booked! Wish me luck today.

"Located at the business and entertainment district of Bacolod City, Lacson Streets. HMV at 15th East is a boarding house ideal for students, professionals, and transient guests alike."

"Why choose HMV 15th East?
• one ride to most schools in the metro (USLS, Riverside, LCC, UNO-R, CSA (walking distance))
• one ride to all malls and fast food joints
• walking distance to Sorrento, Starbucks, Calea, Bob's, Shakey's, Mairfair, Taste Station, L'Fisher, Bar 21, Mushu, and more.
• very accessible

HMV at 15th East has a peaceful ambiance, perfect for students, professionals, and transient guests who are in need of a relaxing environment right after a day at school or work."--from HMV's facebook page

Room rates:
•Php 7,000/month, excluding electricity and water
•Php 500/day for Transient Guests

HMV 15th Street
#28 15th St. Lacson, Capitol Subd, 6100 Bacolod City, Philippines
(034) 709.1377

Another option is the guest house inside University of St. La Salle.

"Balay Kalinungan 2 has 36 air-conditioned private double rooms with individual restrooms. It also has a chapel, conference room, a dining hall and a kitchenette."

Now, Eve can have an Apple, too.

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The ones who see things differently. While some may see crazy, we see genius." -


"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."-- Interview with 60 Minutes, 2003

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” more inspirational Steve Jobs quote by clicking this link



I am deeply saddened to hear the passing of a man who changed the world--Steve Jobs. I am a big fan not only of his innovation but most importantly, I am a big fan of his presentation style. Truly a genius! 

Goodbye and thank you, Steve Jobs. 

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

last minute bed request for Masskara Festival 2011

Where to stay in Bacolod during the Masskara Festival weekend?! All eight of us! I've been frantically searching the internet for a decent bed during the busiest weekend in Bacolod! The search result? Depressing. 

By far, a dismal result of zero in the last three hours! I've been calling every imaginable numbers listed in blogs, referred to by friends, as well as official websites! Who, in his right mind, would start booking for a room this late into the Masskara weekend which is already a week from now? Yes, that would be me. Guilty as charged.  

I am not going solo this time. I will be with a groupie of eight travelers on this trip. The budget? One thousand pesos (per person), max. A budget good enough to stay in a comfortable (and probably chic or artsy) hotel (with free breakfast) at a minimal rate since we will split the hotel bill of course.

I am not giving up just yet. 

I called hotel number one on my list: (1) Modern, tastefully designed and conveniently located at the heart of where the action is--Lacson Street, the tourist strip and the main drag where the electric masskara parade (and the ultimate street party after) happens on Saturday night! It's older sister L'Fisher Hotel caters to the high-brow market while this hotel, right at the back, is priced for mid-range. 

family room (4 pax) Php3,000.00
free breakfast and wi-fi
amenities include a fitness gym and roof deck swimming pool

other rooms available:
 Grand Superior Room (2)               5,000.00
Superior Room (2)                           4,000.00
Grand Family Room (4)                  4,000.00

Standard Room (2)                          1,600.00
Economy Room (2)                          1,295.00
Budget (1)                                          995.00

L'Fisher Chalet Chalet tower ii

14th Lacson Street, Bacolod City
 Tel No.(034) 433-3731 to 39; Fax (034) 433-0951
 E-mail:, website: 
 Manager: Robert Baide

status: fully booked!