April 28, 2017

Visa-Free Entry to Taiwan for Philippine Passport Holders

Since late 2016, Taiwan offers visa-free entry to qualified Philippine-passport holders. This was announced in a post in the official website of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines and you can read more about it here: http://www.roc-taiwan.org/ph_en/post/1421.html

To be eligible, the following conditions must be met:
1. Applicant's passport must have remaining validity of at least six months starting from date of arrival in Taiwan
2. The applicant must possess an onward/return air or ferry ticket
3. The applicant must have never been employed as a blue-collar worker in Taiwan
4. Applicant must possess a resident card or entry visa issued by any of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, any of the Schengen countries, United Kingdom or United States. This excludes work permits.

The online process will only take a few minutes to complete. Simply go to https://niaspeedy.immigration.gov.tw/nia_southeast/, and fill out the required information. 
a. Enter you middle name either in the Surname or Given Name field. 
b. For permanent resident cards with no expiry date, enter 999 for year, 12 for month and 31 for day in the Date field.

You are then asked to review the information you've provided and after another click, you are now a holder of a Travel Authorization Certificate to Taiwan which allows you to enter and stay in Taiwan for 30 days within 90 days from the date of application (multiple entries allowed).

This visa-free entry is also offered to passport holders of the following countries:
India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

A few things to remember:

1. If your visa has been stamped VOID, CANCELLED or CANCELLED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, you have to present a renewed or updated visa. Otherwise, you are not eligible for a Travel Authorization Certificate.
3. Online application is only for holders of valid regular passports (no temporary emergency or informal passports).
4. If you make a mistake, you can always make a new application.
5. Make sure to print your Travel Authorization Certificate and be ready to present it with your supporting visa when you enter and leave Taiwan.

January 31, 2017

Weekend in Davao

Jul 8-10, 2016. It's another jam-packed weekend for the travelling warriors and our destination for the week is the very popular --- Davao City!

Located in southeastern Mindanao, this city is very much known for two things: Duterte and durian. Davao is the hometown of current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, where he also served as the city's mayor for several terms. The effects of his leadership are still very much present to this day - the city is clean, smoke-free and the people are disciplined. Everyone (including public utility vehicles) are following the speed limit. For someone who deals with the daily horrendous traffic in Manila, seeing PUV drivers who drive within speed limits and loads/unloads in correct places is a sight to behold. 

As ever present as Duterte's influence is the durian fruit and all things durian. Aside from fruit vendors flocking in every place, you can find durian in every food imaginable -- from fruit shakes to candies to ice cream to coffee flavor! Yup, there's no shortage of this fruit here. 

Being the biggest city in the Philippines (in terms of land area), we know we couldn't possibly cover all the must-do's in just one weekend. But we tried our best and here's a quick run-down of what we did in the short time we have:

Samal IslandSamal Island is just a quick ferry ride from the city and is known for its white sand beach. There are a lot of resorts on the island ranging from budget accommodations to posh resorts.

We stayed at Secdea Beach Resort, as recommended by my sister. The resort is beautiful, the rooms are spacious and it's reasonably priced. I suggest you stay here on a weekday to avoid the crowd of day visitors during weekends. (We initially wanted to stay at the other  popular posh resort, but due to their unreasonable child policy, we decided otherwise).

Sea Shell room at Secdea Resort
Two of the three pools in the resort
Beach area

We just stayed here for a night and it was enough to relax, enjoy the resort's amenities and binge on their sumptuous food.

Eden Nature Park and Resort. A quick drive away from the city is this man-made mountain resort offering a variety of activities and attractions. There are currently three adventure rides to try - the Sky Rider (which is a zipline), Sky Swing (a giant swing similar to the one in SandBox Pampanga) and Sky Cycle (a suspended bike ride).  

Eden is home to about a hundred-thousand pine trees
Sky Cycle
Since we got here really late, we decided to just try the Sky Cycle (the only ride we haven't tried yet anywhere!). The line was long and so we decided to try the other free activities in the area while waiting for our turn. They have a flying fox (a mini zipline-like activity) and a long obstacle course with tire obstacles, monkey bars, and a lot more adrenaline-pumping,  sweat-inducing activities.

We had so much fun racing in the obstacle course and before we know it it's our turn to try the Sky Cycle.

As fun and as easy as it looks like, the Sky Cycle is the longest, scariest, and most excruciating  ride I've tried in my entire life. Not even the crazy rollercoasters come close to this one. Unlike in a zipline or a rollercoaster ride, where you just stay still, close your eyes and scream your lungs out until the ride is over, the Sky Cycle requires that you exert effort to pedal so you can actually move and finish the ride! That, or you get stuck suspended in mid-air, about 60 feet above ground (with people cursing you for delaying the line). 

I was fighting back tears as I tried very hard to pedal while screaming and watching my kids and hubby gain lead on me. When I finally reached the other side, I really wanted to cry as I realized that we have to go pedal back to where we started! 

I'm very happy to write that I survived the Sky Cycle, and it's officially the scariest ride I've ever tried. But then, don't just take my word for it, go give it a try!!! :)

Camp Sabros. This adventure camp/mountain resort is located a bit farther out the city, approximately two-hours away. It offers a captivating view of Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country. Unfortunately for us, it was a very cloudy day and we couldn't get a clear glimpse of the mighty mountain.

Camp Sabros is well-known for its zipline rides as they are one of the first ones to offer such in the country. They also offer accommodations for overnight trips. 

Overnight accommodation at Camp Sabros

Instead of bringing your car all the way up the mountain, you can park your car halfway up. Then ride a horse the rest of the way to the resort and enjoy the scenic view. When you get there, you might opt to have a quick brunch at their restaurant which serves mostly Filipino cuisine.

Despite the high elevation, I enjoyed the zipline ride here. The view is breathtaking and it's not as scary because you can do it with a partner. 

Davao Crocodile Park. Of course a trip to Davao will not be complete without a visit to the famous Crocodile Park. The entrance fee includes admission to the Crocodile Park, Butterfly House and a seat to see the fire dance show by the Tribu K'Mindanawan.

Be sure not to miss the Crocodile shows. They feature comedic acrobats trying to cross a tightrope hanging over the crocodile pen. They also make the crocodiles "dance" by baiting food and making them jump up vertically. 

They also have an ostrich pen and you can feed them off your palms (there's a minimal fee for the ostrich food). Now, if you don't like the idea of giant birds (as big as humans) pecking at your palm, you can choose to feed the gentler koi fish at the pond.

Up close and personal with an ostrich

Now if you're up for an exciting and new experience, you might want to try the Snake Massage. Luckily for us, it was already closed for the day, as this activity is only available until 5pm (apparently, snakes don't really like it when you make them work overtime).

Aside from exciting experiences, you can also try the exotic food available here such as crocodile ice cream (made with crocodile eggs), ostrich ice cream (made with ostrich eggs) and civet coffee (made from beans pooped out by civets, mammals that look like huge rats).

We tried the ostrich ice cream (which looks like the safest amongst the three) and it tastes like an ordinary vanilla ice cream just not as smooth and creamy.

When the sun sets, it's time to watch the fire dance show by the Tribu K'Mindanawan.

We weren't able to visit the Butterfly House because we still have a flight to catch. Also, there are more places within and near Davao that we wanted to visit (like Mati), more activities to try (like white water rafting), but for now, this is where we end our quick but jam-packed trip. 

Secdea Beach Resort
Email: secdeabeachresort@gmail.com
Tel: +63 82 305 2774
Mobile: +63 925 892 6072

Eden Nature Park and Resort
Eden Bayabas
Toril, Davao City
Tel: +63 82 2991020
Fax: +63 82 2990313
Mobile: +63 918 9307590
Email: info@edennaturepark.com.ph
Website: www.edennaturepark.com.ph

Camo Sabros
Sitio Baras, Brgy. Kapatagan
Digos City, Davao del Sur
Tel: +63 82 2840579
Mobile: +63 912 8689981
Email: inquiry@campsabros.com
Website: www.campsabros.com

Davao Crocodile Park
Diversion Highway
Ma-a, Davao City
Tel: +63 82 2868883
Fax: +63 82 2214671
Email: parkinfo@crocodilepark.ph
Website: www.crocodilepark.ph

November 10, 2016

Anvaya Cove, Bataan

Sep 11, 2016. Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club is a leisure development of Ayala Land located in Morong, Bataan. It's just a short drive away from Manila via NLEX-SCTEX, which makes it a perfect getaway during weekends. If you're visiting on a long weekend, prepare to be greeted by throngs of other guests all eager to get a respite from the daily grind. 

The Bamboo Restaurant at the main pavilion serves buffet lunch. It's reasonably priced and the food is really good. Our favorite? The dessert of course! We couldn't have enough of their sinfully delicious crepes. For those who are watching their weight, the restaurant also serves a la carte dishes. The Hainanese Chicken is worth a try.

Create your own crepe

We spent most of our time lounging by the sundecks at the pool area while the kids swam to their hearts content.

Their "White Sand Beach" has white sand at the Gazebo and playground area but turns darker as you approach the beach. 

The Water Sports Pavilion offers tons of activities including Banana Boat ride, kayaking, stand-up paddle board and aquatrike. The kids had a blast riding the banana boat into the sunset.

We also played football, beach volleyball and frisbee! Equipment are available for borrowing at the Game Room.

We stayed at the Sea Breeze Veranda - a low-rise condominium within the Anvaya Community. It was a spacious two-bedroom unit with sweeping views of the mountains.

Access to the Club is strictly for members only. We were able to visit the place by renting a unit at the Sea Breeze Veranda and having the member endorse us to use the Beach Club.

Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club
Barangay Mabayo, Morong, Bataan,
Tel: +63 2 793 3000
Mobile: +63 917 826 8292
Email: members@anvayacove.com

November 01, 2016

Dreamplay at City of Dreams Manila

Have a blast with your favorite Dreamworks characters

March 25, 2016. DreamPlay, located at City of Dreams Manila, is an indoor playground filled with fun, exciting and physically-challenging activities. The play center is an eye-candy dotted with larger-than-life-sized characters from popular Dreamworks movies. 


We arrived a little after lunch and there was no line at the tickets so getting in was a breeze. We were given tickets for 2 adults and 2 kids good for 4 hours of play which was included in our room package at the Nobu Hotel.

First on our list is to sign up for a baking class at Gingy's Kitchen. Now while waiting for our schedule, we went around to try the different activities.

The Dream Theater features short 4D film snippets from some of the famous animation movies from Dreamworks and show runs every 30 minutes. The film isn't really a coherent mini-movie and the seats are not moving, so over-all, I didn't really enjoy it. I guess I was expecting much more than just stitched movie trailers. 

How to Fly your Dragon features a workshop where you get to design and build your own dragon then launch it at the top and and see it fly across the area.

There are two ways to get to the launch area -- take the normal stairs, or climb up the aluminum dragon body all the way to the top. My kids of course, prefer the more challenging way.

Shrek's Swamp Stomp takes you to Shrek's home and invites you to stomp around while looking for his missing keys.

Whatever Floats your Boat is where you design and build your own boat and let it sail in an obstacle-filled river. This activity is actually similar to How to Fly your Dragon.

Dreamstudio is an animator's dream as it lets you create your own animated film featuring Dreamworks characters!

Fast as Lightning Kung Fu Fighting features an Xbox 360 game where you have to follow the kung fu moves being taught by the Furious 5.

Afro Circus is a two-storey arena where kids can shoot away and play around foam balls. It's mainly for the tiny tots but my big kids had a blast here nonetheless.

Dinotrux is where you navigate a course using remote controlled eggs (or Reptools as they call it)

Now for the best attractions -- Thread of Enlightenment and Wall of Destiny! Older kids will surely get a kick from the adrenaline rush when they complete the obstacles -- it's like American Ninja Warrior for teens! 

The Wall of Destiny features a number of activities. They have a massive regular climbing wall, another wall with rotating climbing holds, Stairway to Heaven and Leap of Faith. The first one we tried is where the wall has a Yin and Yang circles that rotates as you step/hold on to them. This one's a bit challenging as only my agile daughter was able to complete it while my older son cannot bring his weight up to the top.

Stairway to Heaven is where you climb a series of escalating poles with the highest one almost as high as the ceiling. When you reach the top, you then jump to the ground (with a harness of course!). It get's really challenging as you climb up because the poles get wobblier as you ascend.

Stairway to Heaven
Leap of Faith is an absolute must do! You climb a tall tower and stand on a diving board-looking ledge. Instead of jumping down, you jump horizontally to reach the boxing bag a few meters away in front of you. How cool is that?!? I'm glad to say that both my kids were able to do this and I'm absolutely relieved that only kids can do this activity (saved me from making up excuses for not trying it).

Climb to the top
Then hold onto dear life!
Another favorite is the Thread of Enlightenment (again, as an adult, I'm not allowed to participate in this activity). It's an elaborate obstacle course set two stories above ground! It's a test of balance and strength and this one really reminds me of the American Ninja Warrior show. Kids have to be at least 140cm tall to try this activity.

Swinging Pole Bridge
Horizontal Web
Unfortunately, my son was not able to complete the course. The obstacles were just insanely difficult. 

After trying out almost all the activities, we went back to Gingy's Kitchen for the baking class. It's basically just a decorate-your-cookie activity but the full-on costumes plus the little side show makes this activity more interesting and fun. 

There are more or less twenty activities to try, and though it might seem like a lot, a four-hour stay is enough to try and enjoy all the activities.

Helpful things to remember:
  • Wear comfortable clothing and rubber shoes (slippers are not allowed) as there are a lot of physical activities
  • Socks are required for the ball pit in Shrek Swamp 
  • Sign up immediately to secure a schedule at Gingy's Kitchen 
  • They have a mini-game where you collect badges by scanning your DreamPlay bracelet as you complete the activities in the different areas. You get a freebie (pin or sticker) depending on your achievement status.
  • Once your time lapses, you can still enjoy the attractions and you'll be billed at the exit. So keep track of the time if you don't want to pay extra :)
  • Operating Hours: Monday-Thursday 11AM to 8PM, Friday-Sunday and Holidays 10AM to 8PM

City of Dreams Manila
Asean Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd.
Entertainment City, Paranaque
Tel: +63 2 808 09 09
Email: dreamplay@cod-manila.com
Website: http://www.cityofdreams.com.ph/entertainment/dreamplay