Monday, May 14, 2018

Cebu Safari and Adventure Park

Around the second half of 2017, I heard a safari was in the works somewhere in the mountains of northern Cebu. After many many delays, Cebu Safari and Adventure Park finally opened (on an advance reservation and advance payment basis) in early 2018. Not wanting to get caught and be kept in the safari myself, I put on my Crocodile Hunter disguise and combed my mustache before entering the safari.

After a briefing at the Welcome Pavilion, we stopped to smell the thousands of orchids at Michel's Garden and the flowery serpent-dinosaur-peacock near Michel's Pavilion.

 Michel Lhuillier's orchid collection

Serpent-dinosaur-peacock at Michel's Pavilion

From Michel's Pavilion we chose a counter-clockwise direction around the Safari. On our way to the Tiger Turf, we saw peacocks and peahens, and a number of deer and black bucks. The peacocks weren't in a flirtatious mood thus no display of their beautiful tail feathers. I didn't see the Visayan warty pig though it was supposed to be around the area. Maybe I should have just looked in the mirror!

Deer and black buck

In the Tiger Turf, one tiger was playing with a coconut in the pond, and another was licking its lips observing the people observing him. Just kidding. He wasn't hungry, but he sure was staring at us. What I really wanted to see was the white tiger, but he probably knew I was coming and had decided to hide. (The Safari has, if I remember right, a dozen Bengal tigers and one white tiger. Not all of the tigers are let out all at once. If you want to see the white tiger, just ask the Tiger Turf staff for the schedule.)

We then went to say hello to our cousins: a lonely gibbon that was trying to figure out how to cross the moat and shake our hands or grab our bags, a momma orangutan playing with her little one, and a barangay of energetic funky-haired black apes or Celebes macaque.

 A gibbon thinking of a way to get across

A black ape sitting down for lunch

Then, aboard a truck, we went around the African Savanna where we saw zebras, blue wildebeests (which were grey-brown, not blue haha!), blesboks, and waterbucks. At the end of the Savanna tour, the guide asked us what we thought of the tour. I couldn't help but cry out: TOO QUICK!!!

 Zebras and waterbucks

Blue wildebeests and blesboks

After the disappointingly short Savanna tour, we went to see the Congress of the Philippines: crocodiles. There was one huge croc, just lazing in the shade with its mouth wide open. The rest of the crocs were in the water waiting for a chicken to be dropped (Php 50 per chicken).

Philippine crocodiles

Nearby were two cheetahs, one was sleeping, the other was running around though not in full speed. On our way to lunch at the Safari Outpost, we saw a lonely sulcata tortoise; and two striped hyenas, one was just lying on the grass while the other was acting crazy, going around in small circles as it went in a circle around the area. We also stopped to feed (Php 50 per skewer of fruit) two giraffes called Fred and Lola.


Sulcata tortoise

Striped hyena

I forgot if this is Lola or Fred

While waiting for lunch at the Safari Outpost, we observed the meerkats by the entrance and the white and black swans, pelicans, ducks, geese, and crowned cranes on the south side of the Outpost.

One of many meerkats

Black swans

Crowned crane

After lunch, there were only four areas left to see: Canopy Trail, Macaw Aviary, Animal Trail, and Aviary Dome. Along the Canopy Trail we observed cassowaries. My sister's description of a cassowary? A big bird with the body of an ostrich and the legs of a dinosaur.

 Canopy Trail


In the Macaw Aviary, we saw scarlet macaws, and blue and gold macaws. There were pink ones too, but they were in the back of the aviary, staying away from the crowd. Kids were enjoying feeding (Php 40) the scarlet, and blue and gold macaws.

Blue and gold macaw

Emus, llamas, alpacas, and capybaras (the cutest of all) were roaming around the Animal Trail. And in our last stop, Aviary Dome, we saw parrots, red and blue lories, and huge crowned pigeons (the birds in the Aviary Dome can be fed for Php40).


 Aviary Dome

Victoria crowned pigeon

It took us about five hours to see the area. Cebu Safari and Adventure Park is not yet 100% complete, the Safari Stadium is still under construction, so are the hotel and adventure activities like a zipline. There are some animals that have not been shown to the public yet, like wallabies, kangaroos, camels, and lions. There are air-conditioned and open-air shuttle vans to take guests from from point to point and the walking paths are paved. And kudos to the enthusiastic and well trained staff of Cebu Safari and Adventure Park, we had a pleasant day at the Safari!

Cebu Safari and Adventure Park
Carmen, Cebu
Wednesday to Sunday
8AM to 5PM (last entry at 2PM)
Admission fee Php 800* (includes lunch)
* 50% off for kids 2~3 ft; free for kids below 2 ft.
facebook: @cebusafariph

Directions to Cebu Safari and Adventure Park: From North Bus Terminal, take a bus to Carmen and get off at the junction before Carmen National High School. From there take a habalhabal (motorcycle) to the Safari. (Just recently I saw somewhere along the highway in Carmen a sign advertising vans going to the Safari.)

Monday, May 7, 2018

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Some of my blogposts have been published in the GPSmyCity app and five more have been chosen by the GPSmyCity Team for publishing:
To celebrate the release of my new articles on GPSmyCity, the upgrade (to access its GPS-aided map) to Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan and Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City article apps will be given away for FREE from May 7 to May 13, 2018! Please click on the link and try it out! (If you haven't already downloaded and installed the GPSmyCity app, it will prompt you to do so.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #63

On laundry

Use the hostel's washing machine and/or dryer. It will most likely be cheaper than going to the self-service laundromat around the corner. Note: This tip is applicable in Japan. I am not sure in other countries.

In the middle of my trip in Japan, I needed to do laundry as I had brought just a few clothes. The hostel had one washing machine which could be used by guests for free (just pay for laundry soap for 100 yen), but no dryer. Since I was moving to another city the next day, I needed a dryer. The hostel's washing machine was being used by another guest and I was too impatient to wait. I lugged my bagful of dirty clothes and went to the self-service laundromat nearby. The laundromat was empty and all the buttons and dials on the washing machines and dryers were in Japanese. It took me quite some time to figure out how to use the machines and I also had to pay 300 yen for the washing machine, 100 yen for the laundry soap, and 300 yen for the dryer (100 yen/10 minutes).

Monday, April 30, 2018

What's in a (Business) Name? Setenta y dos

Flowery scents, not musical notes.
Spotted in Poblacion, Minglanilla, Cebu.

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

GPSmyCity Giveaway: Free One Year Subscription!

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #62

On flowers
Stop and smell the flowers.
Or at least appreciate its beauty.

It was not until I had traveled to other countries where spring is a season people looked forward to did I appreciate the beauty of flowers. Only then did I notice that although I live in a tropical country, where we only have two seasons, wet and dry, some of the plants I see daily but have taken for granted do have its spring season too.

I now notice the vibrant flowers of the fire or flame tree (delonix regia), which blooms from April to May.

The bougainvillea, which I have seen anywhere and everywhere since I was little but paid little attention to, I now appreciate more. Although it has flowers throughout the year, it is most vibrant in the months of April and May.

Palawan Cherry or Balayong at Montebello Villa Hotel in Cebu

And the local Palawan cherry or Balayong (cassia nodosa)! It bursts into pink flowers from late March to April. How I wish we had more of these trees in my city. Maybe it could draw tourists too? Like how people flock to Japan for sakura.

Friday, March 30, 2018

What's in a (Business) Name? Setenta y uno

Your meal would not be complete without this.
Spotted in 168 Shopping Mall, Manila.

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #61

On seat sales

Do you go on a booking frenzy when an airline goes on a seat sale (promotion)? Do you even think about where you want to go and when you want to go or do you just book any random destination on any day as long as it's a super cheap fare?

I used to go on panic mode when there were seat sales, especially the really low-priced ones where one can get a roundtrip ticket for an international flight for less than 2000 pesos. When these surprise promotions would come I didn't have any travel plans plotted out 10 to 12 months in advance, therefore no specific destination in mind. And if I did find really cheap fares for whatever destination I had become interested in in that instant, I didn't know if anyone would come with me and would be willing to book a ticket with me right away. So most of the time I'd end up booking nothing.

Now, I think ahead and have a rough plan of where I want to go 10 to 12 months in the future. I have these three things in mind: destination, number of days for the trip, and the month or (flexible) dates I want to go.

And then I set a higher budget for the plane ticket, in case I can't score these really cheap tickets for the destination and dates I am aiming for.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What's in a (Business) Name? Setenta

This cafe is full of love.
Spotted in Junction 1, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

SUP (Stand Up Paddle) with Island Buzz Philippines in Mactan Newtown Beach

I have tried SUP thrice.

First Try
The first time I tried SUP or Stand Up Paddle was when Island Buzz Philippines offered a 2-hour lesson for a discounted rate. (Because I am a cheapo, remember?) Buzzy, chief of Island Buzz (it just dawned on me why "Island Buzz Philippines" haha!), showed us how to choose the length of paddle to use, how to hold a paddle, the different paddle strokes, how to stand on the board, etc. After the lesson on dry land, everyone excitedly (and nervously, in my case) went in the water, and Buzzy instructed us on the proper way to get on the board and to sit seiza style (for beginners) as we paddle out. He told us to paddle using the strength of our upper body and not to bend our arms. We moved farther from shore and one by one, the participants stood on their boards. It took me a long time to get up on my wobbly legs (with the encouragement and coaching of Buzzy). I was the last one to do it, and once I did, I could not stand and paddle for too long. My knees would tremble and my leg muscles would protest. So I spent most of my paddling time sitting while paddling, and trying not to fall in the water in the few times I tried to stand, afraid I'd make a fool of myself if I could not haul myself back on the board because of my big fat butt. Eventhough I was Sit Down Paddling, not Stand Up Paddling, most of the time, I did enjoy it so much (but I was parched after two hours) that I was sure I'd try SUP again soon. (Not the next day, because the next day my legs were aching.)

A SUP lesson on land


Second Try
I brought along a different group of friends, three first timers and one who wasn’t. It was a nice and sunny day, and the sea was calm. Since we did not avail of the two-hour lesson, but just rented a board for an hour, we were given a quick crash course on shore. Then we were off gliding on the water. And one by one, we stood on our boards with a grin of triumph on our face. We did it! We had a lot of fun paddling around and the hour went by so fast with us wanting more paddling time, but our budgets would only allow an hour’s rent.

Sitting seiza style

Everyone was able to stand on their board!

Third Try
The wind was blowing and the waves were slapping the shore: in two days it would be 2018 and the first typhoon of the year would come. But still, my college buddies and I, gor and first timers that we were (I am a third-timer, but I have the skills of a first timer), ventured out on our rented boards (after a crash course). The sea was rolling beneath our boards, but we persevered with our paddling (albeit just sitting on our boards), trying not to let the distance between us and Buzzy get too far. As everyone slowly got the hang of paddling, we tried to stand with shaky legs on our shaky board. I would be able to stand for a second or two and then splash into the sea. In the end, I threw my hands up, dropped to my knees, and accepted that I was being punished by the sea for my bulging belly and weak core. My other friends were too thickheaded to give up, and would stand, paddle, paddle, and splash, and stand, paddle, paddle, and splash, and on and on. When we’ve had enough punishment and parked our boards on the shore, Buzzy told us that the “sea conditions were for advanced paddlers, but good job!” How were my friends feeling the following day? Every muscle in their body was aching, one said even her fingers were sore! But we would definitely do it again...on a calm day.

Beginners on sea conditions for advanced paddlers haha

SUP is offered by Island Buzz Philippines at Mactan Newtown Beach.

Island Buzz Philippines
0917 144 0503
facebook: @IslandBuzzPhilippines
  • 2-hour SUP lesson Php1500 (includes board rental)
  • Board rental only Php500/hour (For first timers, you can ask for a quick crash course.)
  • Lifevests can be borrowed for free.
  • Island Buzz also offers SUP tours, kayak rentals, bigiw sailing, etc. Please inquire through their fb page for rates.

Mactan Newtown Beach
Open daily 6AM to 6PM
(032) 316 2715 / 0917 704 4893 / 0922 389 2833
facebook: @MactanNewtownBeach
location map
  • Entrance fee Php200 weekends / Php150 weekdays. Tip: If going on a weekend, bring an ID with a Cebu address for a 50-peso discount.
  • Picnic tables and open cottages are available for rent from Php500 to Php3000.
  • Open shower available (Php5 for every 2 minutes).
  • Changing rooms available (free).
  • Parking area available (free).
  • Food brought in are subject to a corkage fee of Php50 (for every person who is bringing food).
  • There are a few food stalls selling meals, snacks, and drinks.
  • Watersports (jetski, bananaboat, parasail) are also available.

Good news for cheapos like me! Island Buzz Philippines is offering SUP rentals for Php250 per hour for the months of February and March 2018. (This post is not sponsored by Island Buzz Philippines. Nor were any of my three tries. I just enjoyed it so much that I think you should try it, too.) As Island Buzz Philippines would say: Sea you!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #60

On Mr. Sun #2
Appreciate the sun no matter how hot the day gets.

When Mr. Sun's scorching power is raging down on me making steam and melt into the pavement, I curse Mr. Sun. Living in a tropical country that means I curse him on most days of the year.

When the rainy days come, I curse the flooded streets of my city—to get home or to get to the office, I have to wade through three flooded streets—and I immediately miss Mr. Sun.

When I am in a foreign country and the temperature drops to 2°C and the wind mocks me with its cold, cold breath, making me shiver in my pants, I immediately miss Mr. Sun.

I'm sorry for cursing you, Mr. Sun! I do appreciate the sunshine and warmth you bring into my life! Please don't ever go away!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Cebu Pacific Flight Cancellation and TravelSure (Insurance)

When you travel, do you avail of the airline's add-on travel insurance? I usually don't for domestic flights, but I do for international flights—without really reading the coverage, just skimming. Stupid, I know.

For my last trip, I paid Php 400 for travel insurance, at the same time praying the airline would not lose my luggage (I don’t own any expensive clothes, but it would be a hassle physically and financially to have to buy new clothes if they did lose my sack of rags), I would not get hospitalized (or worse, die!) while on the trip, or the flight would not be cancelled.

The inevitable happened. Of all the days the typhoon had to landfall, it had to be on the date and time I was set to travel. The suckiest part of all was that Cebu Pacific cancelled the flight just six hours before. That would have been okay had my flight been direct from Cebu, but it wasn’t, I had a connecting flight via Manila, and their announcement came when I had already arrived in Manila. I knew the flight would get cancelled, but I was hoping they had made the announcement the night before (like PAL did for their flights on the same route) or at least while I was still in Cebu. I guess they just didn’t want the hassle of having to rebook the other leg of the trip for those who were on connecting flights. (The airline provided a replacement flight for the cancelled flight segment; replacement flight was scheduled for the next day.)

The travel insurance covers flight cancellations under certain conditions, but they would not be the ones to provide accommodation, meals, and transportation. You would have to fend for yourself and then file for reimbursement. The maximum amount you can claim per day would be Php 1000.
Flight delays are recoverable under your TravelSure insurance if the flight is delayed for more than twelve (12) hours. The insurance provides up to Php 1,000.00 (up to 20 days) per day of reasonable expenses incurred if delay is caused by the following:
  • delay caused by any severe weather conditions; 
  • delay due to strike or other job action by employees of the airline on which the Insured is scheduled to travel; 
  • delay caused by the equipment failure of the aircraft on which the Insured is scheduled to travel. 
This cover only applies to normally scheduled airline flights which the Insured had duly confirmed according to the airlines rules and regulations.

This policy will reimburse the Insured up to the limit specified in the schedule if the Insured’s flight is delayed for more than twelve (12) hours, for:

  • any prepaid, unused, non-refundable land or  water accommodation 
  • any reasonable expenses incurred in respect of meals and lodging which were necessarily incurred as a result of the delay and which were not provided by the airline or any other party free of charge; 
  • the cost of transfer to and from the airport.
This information (and all other insurance coverage) can be found in the Cebu Pacific and TravelSure websites or can be provided by TravelSure through email.

The expenses I incurred for being stuck in Manila for a day was about Php1500, not including accommodation (because I luckily had a friend who adopted me for a night). I only submitted receipts for two meals and transportation to and from the airport (they accepted screenshots for Uber) for a total of Php909. I could not file for reimbursement for dinner because I had forgotten to ask for a receipt. (Had I not forgotten to ask for a receipt for dinner and had I stayed in a hotel, they would only have reimbursed a maximum of Php1000 a day anyway.)
Kindly furnish us the following documents please in order for us to proceed with the evaluation of your claim:
  1. Scanned copy of your passport
  2. Scanned copy of your itinerary ticket
  3. Copy of Certificate of Flight Cancellation / Flight Delay from the airline
  4. Scanned copy of your rebooking ticket
  5. Scanned copy of the original receipts for your expenses incurred on either food, accommodation or cost of transfer to and from the airport
  6. Duly filled-out Client Information Sheet form (provided by TravelSure through email) 
It took two months to process the reimbursement and they approved the amount of Php900.
More so, upon approval of your claim, we may proceed with either check or bank transfer as the mode of settlement.
For check, the claimant should have a local bank account here in the Philippines. Once the claim check has been prepared, we will notify the claimant for the pick-up of his/her check in our Binondo Head Office.
For bank transfer, upon approval of your claim, we may send the money via bank transfer. Kindly give us the details of your nominated bank – preferably your savings bank account. Please take note however that your bank shall apply charges/fees for the transfer so the amount that you will get shall be lower than the amount of your claim.
Because I was based in Cebu, I had no choice but to choose bank transfer. The total amount I received? A whopping Php504 because of bank fees! Was it worth all the trouble? I spent Php400 for the insurance and Php1500 for being stranded in Manila, and all I got back was Php504. What a laugh. (On a brighter note, the person they assigned to handle my case was responsive and always provided updates.)

Better get a real travel insurance next time.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Guest Post: Offshore Kayak Fishing is the New Trend

This is a guest post by Tom Miller, a kayak fishing enthusiast who also writes for The Kayak Critic.

Fishing is a favorite hobby for many of us, but it is also an important industry to work in. No matter, people nowadays are going crazy over this new growing idea of kayak fishing. Previously, only a handful of people can be seen with a kayak moving offshore for hunting their prey. Now, dozens of people can be seen embracing the adventure. Not to mention proper seminars are being conducted to educate the fishers to help them explore in a better way.

This method of fishing has been adapted for several reasons. Kayaking itself allows our muscles to tone. While paddling in the water, one strokes up for miles which helps our arms, legs, and our whole body to find the rhythm. Kayak fishing is quite a workout and will you a fresh and delicious meal afterward, which makes things more interesting. Kayaking also keeps your heart in good health. But most of the time offshore fishing is a significant relaxation method used by many of us in this fast-paced time. In many parts of the world, offshore kayaking has proved to be substantial for team building exercises.

Building the team up is one reason for offshore kayaking, but at the same time, it also helps us with self-reliance. Isn't it amazing how just one outdoor activity can do so much for you? Although it isn't as easy as it sounds there are a few tips and tricks you should keep in mind:
  1. Take your first note: offshore kayaking is not for beginners, and practice is what makes a person perfect.
  2. Second, of course, to choose the right kayak for your adventure. Fishing kayaks are different. Don't go in the middle of the sea with a kayak that has no place to put the fishing gears.
  3. Third, nature is beautiful, but it is dangerous, too. The sea is no joke. Put your life jacket on and keep yourself safe from the elements in the sea. You don't want things to go out of hand. And to be on the safe side, do take an emergency communication device with you, because your safety comes first.
  4. Fourth, plan before your trip down the sea, ask a local meteorologist for details. This active-mindedness will help you be on time for the last wave to go by, as that is your time to start doing what you came to do.
  5. Down the lane is the knowledge of weight distribution. As I mentioned earlier, fishing kayaks are different, and if you don't put the weight balanced in the center, you will end up hurting yourself every time a wave breaks onto you.
  6. Lastly, do not forget to be visible to others while you are out. You do not want bigger boats to overlook you. In daylight, a safety flag from a distance can make you visible to others. And at night time, use a 360-degree light for yourself.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How to Get Your ITR Stamped as True Copy (in Cebu City)

We all want things to be free and easy. Applying for a visa to Korea for trips of less than 59 days is free. (Yay!) And the list of requirements for applicants who are employees is short and simple enough. (Double yay!) But, alas, when you're applying in the consulate in Cebu, you don't simply hand the consulate staff a copy of your ITR—unless it has been stamped and certified by BIR as a true copy. (Well, you can, but the consulate staff will hand it back to you and will not accept your application!)

Since I work for a company that falls under the Large Taxpayers Division (LTD) of BIR, it wasn't as easy as popping by the BIR office and flashing them my ITR. I had to prepare some documents and go to two different BIR offices.

If you, like me, work for a company that's under the LTD of BIR, here's what you need to do:

Prepare the following:
  • Copy of ITR that you want certified
  • Request letter signed by you and your company HR or your manager
  • Copy of your ID
  • Php 115 in exact amount (Php100 for certification fee and Php15 documentary stamp)

And then get your butt to the BIR offices:
  1. Go to the BIR Regional Office Building and get a priority number for the Cashier/Window 12.
  2. Give the cashier your ITR copy and pay the certification fee and documentary stamp fee (total of  Php115). The cashier will give you a receipt with the documentary stamp attached.
  3. Go to the BIR Large Taxpayers Division Office (a 10-minute walk from the Regional Office).
  4. Present your request letter, photocopy of your ID, copy of ITR that you want certified, certification fee receipt with attached documentary stamp. The BIR staff will verify your ITR, stamp and sign it, and stick the documentary stamp on it.
If you work for a company that does not fall under the Large Taxpayers Division of BIR, you only need to go to the BIR Regional Office Building for the certification. Please inquire from BIR for the exact process.

BIR Regional Office Building
Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Cebu City
(032) 231 1593

BIR Large Taxpayers Division Office (BIR LTDO)
8th Floor Pag-Ibig Fund – WT Corporate Tower
Mindanao Avenue, Cebu Business Park, Cebu City
(032) 233 9820

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #59

On snow
Don't succumb to the snow's siren call.

Oh, Snow! You look so beautiful! Freshly fallen, you sure are an angel! But the longer you stay, letting yourself pile up, melt, and then transform into a sheet of have evil on your mind: you wait for me to slip and fall on my butt, you mock my tropical-ness with your icy fingers, you make me wear all the clothes in my luggage, and, ultimately, you turn me into a hermit.

In short: Snow looks beautiful when it freshly coats everything. Snow looks beautiful in photos. And I will just admire it in photos.

Don't say I didn't warn you.