Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Adobo Affairs

Much has been said and done about ADOBO. It has been pitched as a national dish, tweaked and fused in so many ways by various culinary experts.

The Philippine Adobo (from Spanish adobar: "marinade," "sauce" or "seasoning") is a popular dish and cooking process in Philippine cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade.

Many food outlets, from the whole-in-the-wall start-ups to the gourmet restaurants have included adobo, in various executions, in their menu.

Here is what I have so far, and I will add more along the way.

Chicken and Pork Adobo Via Mare | PhP340

Pork Adobo Filipiniana, Foodcourt of Solaire Resort & Casino | PhP280

Crisp Adobo Flakes | Via Mare | PhP335

Thursday, January 19, 2017

All Eyes On Ilocos!

Aaaaaaaaaand I'm ILOCOS bound this February. πŸ‘Š

I'm excited af since I haven't been on that side of the far north. I've been in Tuguegarao and Isabela though. Here's how the planned trip will go.

Manila to Laoag
I'm going to take the Feb. 17, 10:15PM trip of the GV Florida Sleeper Bus.  Its the one with the bed provision and comfort room. Departure is at the Sampaloc Terminal,  ETA in Laoag is at Feb. 18, 7:15AM. Bus Fare is PhP800. 🚌

You can book your bus seats online here.

The site will initially send you a confirmation that they received your booking request via your registered email and via SMS.  They will confirm again if you can proceed payment.

Via e-mail

Booking Request Confirmation Via SMS

Once the bus company confirms, you will get a message to confirm booking and process payment, and will also send a message once you've completed the process.

Payment instructions will be sent.

Be ready with the full names of the passengers because it will be asked.

I decided to pay via online banking because the service fee is slightly lower than paying via credit card.

If payment is successful, you have to validate it by clicking on the link sent via email.

Lastly, once payment is confirmed and verified, a travel voucher will be emailed to you.  It must be printed and presented to at the booth at the bus station.

Laoag to Manila
I'm doing this via plane to maximize the time. Currently, Cebu Pacific has pulled out its flights for this route so the only choice is Philippine Airlines. It will be a one hour flight. Airfare is at PhP3,374 with the standard inclusions of PAL like 10kg check-in baggage. πŸ›¬

You can book your PAL airline tickets here.


We booked via Agoda.com.  We choose a 3 star rated hotel called Ilocos Rosewell Hotel and Restaurant. Hotel room costs PhP1,496.50/night for 2pax with breakfast. 🏨

Ilocos Rosewell Hotel has 7.1 Very Good Rating based on 58 reviews.

This is our working itinerary as of today (obviously bound to change)

Day 1 - Feb. 18 Saturday
Laoag City Downtown
City Hall
Museo Ilocos Norte
Singking Bell Tower
Laoag Cathedral

Day 2 - Feb. 19 Sunday
Patapat Bridge
Blue Lagoon
Saud White Beach
Cape Bojidor Lighthouse
Bacarra Church

Day 3 - Feb. 20 Monday
Sand Dunes
Fort Ilocandia
MalacaΓ±ang of the North
Paoay Lake
Paoay Church
Marcos Mausoleum
Batac Empanada and Miki
Curimao Beach
Juan Luna House

All major details are set and I'm ready to go. I'm working on the van rental rates and will update here soonest, and I guess I just need to tweak the itinerary just a little bit. I hope there's no big language barrier because I totally can't speak or understand Ilocano. 

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

No Visa? No Problem!

Since I'm still at a travel and see the world mood, my trusty travel agency (SMB Travel & Tours) shared to me a shortlist of countries where Filipinos do not need to apply for a Visa to visit and tour.

Through the years, I was able to visit Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand from the list above.

I'm having a sweet tooth for Brazil, Brunei, Micronesia, and Israel. πŸ’“

What do you guys think?

7 Day Challenge: My U.S. Tourist Visa Application Experience

Here it is. My first post as I return to blogging.  I've stopped blogging for about eight years due to work related demands.  Well, the demands are still there but I promised myself to do this on one very specific condition - once I find the drive to apply for a U.S. Tourist Visa and it gets approved.

You guessed it right. Today, was my interview and it was successful. 😍

I would like to share with everyone my experience.  It was rather a spur of the moment challenge to myself and I prepared for it in only 7 days. Yes, 7 days. πŸ’ͺ

Here's a quick timeline of how it transpired:

Needless to say, my passport is still valid for at least 6 months from date of application.

January 11, 2017 Wednesday
Eureka! I will apply for a U.S. Tourist Visa! *over hot brewed coffee*

My profile:
37 years old
Single Dad
Employed with a 7+ year tenure
No Immediate Family in the US
Been to 5 Asian Countries - Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Macau, Singapore

I assessed myself to be qualified. Claimed it! πŸ‘Š

I proceeded to the websites and started filling out the forms. This where it will all star, just click to start your journey: ustraveldocs.com. You also need to fill out the DS-160 form. 

Please print or write down your Application ID. You need that just in case you will need to retrieve your file.

This is what the DS160 Confirmation looks like.

I also went to Great Image for the required 2x2 photo.  Their U.S. Visa package costs PhP370 and consists of 4pcs 2x2 photos, 4pcs 1x1 photos, and a CD for soft copy (which you need to upload at the websites during application).  They are very strict with photos, click here for details.

January 12, 2017 Thursday
This was documents completion day.  I decided to prepare the following:

Certificate of Employment - Requested via email from our Human Resources Division.  I'm glad we have a very efficient HR team as they promised to have it out in 5 working days but actually produced it in 3 working days. Kudos HR! I πŸ’™ You! 

Owned Property Documentation - I brought the Certificate of Registration of my vehicles (photocopies only since they are still mortgaged with the bank) and Certificate of Turnover and contracts of the condominiums.

Financial Documents - I went to PS Bank and requested for a Bank Certificate (costs PhP100) and got it in ten minutes.  I also requested the same from BDO (also PhP100 per account).  However, for BDO , you can't wait for it. I was asked to pick it up the next banking day.

January 13, 2017 Friday
I went to BPI to pay the US$160 or PhP8,160 (this varies on the currency conversion rate).  It was fast and easy, it took me around 15minutes for the entire transaction. Click here for more details on the Bank and Payment Options.

Here is what the payment confirmation looks like. I paid Over The Counter.

I also requested Bank Certificates from BDO (also PhP100 per account).  However, for BDO , you can't wait for it. I was asked to pick it up the next banking day.

I was able to complete all the forms and get an appointment schedule.  Here's where you get the Appointment Schedule.  Fortunately, I chanced upon a January 18, 2017, Wednesday, 7:45AM slot.  πŸ’ͺ

The Appointment Confirmation looks like this. Please make sure your DS-160 Confirmation Number is correct when you enter it. They will not let you in if even one digit/character of your DS-160 Confirmation Number is entered inaccurately as you schedule an appointment.

January 14 & 15, 2017 (Saturday & Sunday)
These were days of agony and anxiety. Two very long days. 😑

January 16, 2017 (Monday)
I was able to get my BDO Bank Certificates and Certificate of Employment.  All is set. Documents complete! ✊

January 17, 2017 (Tuesday)
I did a quick run through of what I can bring and should not bring.

Here is the set of documents / requirements I prepared:
Valid Passport
Company ID
2x2 Photo
BPI Receipt
Appointment Confirmation
DS-160 Confirmation
Vehicle Certificates of Registration under my name (photocopy only)
Condominium Certificates of Turnover under my name (original)
PS Bank Bank Certificates
BDO Bank Certificates
Certificate of Employment

What documents you should not bring:
Print out of your DS-160 details

You can't also bring the following to the U.S. Embassy:
Any electronic gadget and battery-operated devices (this covers cellphones, tablets, laptops, e-book readers, all the way to USB Drives)
Lighter or any flame-generating device
Sharp Objects including army style multi-tool accessories
Crayons and Markers
any kind of food and drink
any device with On/Off switch

Oh, and I barely slept on this night.

January 18, 2017 Wednesday
This is it, pansit!!! πŸ’£

I can tell you about the entire experience (which was really pleasant!) but I would rather get down to the details most people are curious of: What did the consul ask? Here it goes. Note that my answers are as verbatim as I can remember.

*after we exchanged Good Mornings*

Q1: Please state your full name.
A1: *blah*blah*blah* 

Q2:  What do you plan to do in the US?
A2: Tour and visit family

Q3: So you are working for [stated my employer] as [stated my position in the company]?
A3: Yes

Q4: For how long?
A4: Eight years this May

Q5: I see you have been all over Asia?
A5: Yes

Q6: How long do you plan to stay in the US?
A6: 3 Weeks

Then the big bang,

You Visa has been approved. Please expect it to be delivered to the address you indicated within a week.


As if the pressure wasn't enough:

Q7: But wait sir, if I may ask.
A7: 😱 Yes?

Q8: Just out of curiosity, what exactly do you do as [my position] at [my employer]?
A7: *couldn't help to let out as smile and with relief, I recited the introduction of my resume.*

And that was it!

No supporting documents were asked!


However, I guess having prepared what I prepared gave me the extra confidence to balance the shaking nerves and kabog ng dibdib.

I am expecting to receive my US Tourist Visa in three to five working days. 

As of now, I am already laying out my itinerary for the much awaited visit to the United States of America!

*daydreams of all the selfies I must take*

Oh but before I continue daydreaming, I must thank some wonderful blogs where I got a lot of helpful tips and insights. All my free time in my 7 day visa preparation was devoted to reading these blogs again and again, all the way to the comments! Salute to all of you!

Kach & Jonathan of twomonkeystravelgroup.com
Camie Juan of wild-spirit.net

Here are my personal tips:
1. Do not lie. They will smell your sin.
2. Be concise in your answer and answer only what is asked.
3. Dress and groom appropriately.  Its not Fashion Week but you must be decent.
4. If you are telling the truth (See Tip#1), then you would not have to think about your answers.
5. Smile. Think Mona Lisa not Joker, please. Just be pleasant.
6. Many say that you don't need the supporting documents because the consul will not even look at them. This is true in my case. I guess getting the value of having supporting documents was more for my personal confidence. Being confident can help lessen the chances of stuttering or spacing out during the interview because of kaba, which can easily be mistaken as lying.  And the consuls will look for these red flags and strike them out immediately. 
7. Pray. It works.
8. If you feel you are ready, go for it. You wouldn't know until you try. I know US$160 is a bit steep but it might just be worth it. πŸ’ͺ

That's all for now, and excuse me as I go back to daydreaming while waiting for my passport to be shipped back. Do comment for questions. :-)


January 19, 2017 - Visa Status Check

24 hours after your interview, you can check the status via the CEAC Site.

Here is how it looks like:

CEAC Website

January 20, 2017- 2GO e-Trace
You can also monitor the delivery via 2GO's e-Trace online service.

2GO's e-Trace

January 21, 2017- Delivery Day! πŸ’“

I woke up today with this message on my phone, time stamped at 08.29AM. It was stronger than coffee!

SMS from 2GOExpress

At 12:11PM, I got an email from US Travel Docs that my document has been collected from the US Embassy.

E-mail from US Travel Docs

Then finally, at around 12:40PM, the anticipated knock came at our gate. I opened it (hurriedly) and the 2GO personnel greeted, "Good afternoon sir, ito na po yung US Visa niyo". I was all smiles. πŸ˜ƒ

Here how the package looks, take note of "Do Not Accept If Seal is Broken".

I opened it carefully, flipped the pages of my passport, and there it was on page 25:

A ten year, multiple entry, B1/B2 Visa from The United States of America. 

US B1/B2 Via

Quickly running it down my mind, I decided to apply for the US Visa on January 11, 2017; and by January 21, 2017, I already have it with me. The process took 10 days. Not bad, considering I didn't get the services of a travel agency.

There you go folks, that's my US Tourist Visa application story and I hope I was able to share some insights that would be useful to those currently going through the process or encourage those who are fence sitting on wether to apply or not.

When you feel you're ready, go for it!

Thanks for reading through and comment for questions! πŸ‘