Where do I begin?

April 23, 2014 – 3:26 pm -

This is my dilemma after our 15-day trip to Japan. I don’t know where to start. To start the ball rolling though, I decided to make a summary instead. I plan to write anything that comes to my mind. So please bear with me.

I was expecting that the weather would be around 14 deg C, unfortunately it went down to as low as 6. Eh ginawin ang lola nyo, patay! Thanks to Uniqlo, we were able to shop for clothes. Uniqlo is not an expensive brand, plus cheaper in Japan, so gorabels sa shopping. We layered our clothes so that we can still wear them here in the Philippines. When I found an Isetan in Osaka, I was excited to go inside thinking that they have cheap but nice clothes, unfortunately, their Isetan is comparable to Rustans. Kaya yung bilis ng pasok ko sa mall, ganun din ako kabilis lumabas lol!

There’s so much to see (and eat) in Japan. So if you have few days to spend there, say a week, I suggest you go straight to Tokyo. There are temples, palace, city life, parks, disneyland, shopping district and a lot more tourist spots to explore in Tokyo. Plus, other cities in Japan are accessible from Tokyo station. In our case, after Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto, we were already tired when we reached Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong though, it was worth seeing Osaka and Kyoto, but if it means spending a day or two in each city, it’s not worth it. Nakakapagod! Not to mention that train fare is very expensive. So either you have two weeks (or more) vacation, or visit each city at a time. Kobe and Kyoto are near from Osaka (an hour or so away using train). But Osaka is 3 hours away from Tokyo (bullet train), 10 hours (by bus). Bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo costs around 6k pesos one-way.

Electronics, watch and bags are cheaper there. They have lots of stores which offer second hand as well.

They have lots of sweets in a box. I admire how they lovingly wrap each of those like gifts in every purchase. As much as I’ve wanted to bring home more of those Japanese food, Gary already bought 11 bottles of liquor (add those to the perfumes and chocolates that we bought). Ang OA na ng hand-carry namin!

Japanese people don’t understand much English, but they are really nice! I tried memorizing some Japanese words (excuse me, sorry, how much, etc) but they didn’t stick to my mind, all I remembered were Arigato (Thank you) and Do Itashimashite (You’re welcome). So whenever I ask something, I removed all the linking verbs and they understood better, like “Where Toilet?” lol

I admire Japanese people, parang ang OC lang nila. It’s clean everywhere and organized. They don’t have much trash cans around, sometimes nothing at all, for them to bring their own garbage.

We ate Ramen most of the time, especially in Osaka. Their Ramen is basically soup with noodles, seaweed and pork. Wala nang iba pang arte. They usually eat Ramen with gyoza and fried rice. Parang ang takaw nila diba? But they are all fit. Maybe because they walk a lot. Also, most Japanese restaurants seldom serve soft drinks and juices, they give free cold tea or water, that’s it.

My whole Japan experience was like living between a dream and reality. I have to remind myself a lot of times that I am already in Japan. It was definitely worth the wait. :)

 


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Daily Itinerary

March 8, 2014 – 6:08 pm -

One of the requirements for Japan Visa application is the daily itinerary. Of course it doesn’t really have to be the exact plan, like for us who don’t want to be tied with schedules and group tours. But the places you plan to visit within the day should at least be realistically close enough. In short, I have to do a little research just to come up with this document.

So here’s the list (minus the exact date, contact number, flight and accommodation details – just PM me if you’re interested), it might come handy in the future.

Day 1. Arrive Osaka

Day 2. Universal Studios Japan

Day 3.  (Tour around Osaka) Osaka Castle + Aqua LinerRiver Cruise

Day 4. (Tour around Osaka) Shopping Districts; Shinsaibashi-Suji, Umeda Shopping Arcade, Den Den Town

Day 5. Travel from Osaka to Kyoto.

Day 6. (Tour around Kyoto) Nijo Castle, the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kiyomizu Temple

Day 7. (Tour around Kyoto) Maruyama Park and Okazaki Canal

Day 8. (Tour around Kyoto) Kyoto International Manga Museum, Shijo-dori shopping, Gion

Day 9. Travel from Kyoto to Tokyo

Day 10. Tokyo Disneyland

Day 11. Tokyo DisneySea

Day 12. Sanrio Puroland

Day 13. Mt. Fuji day trip

Day 14. Travel from Tokyo back to Osaka

Day 15. Return home from Osaka to Manila

It was a tough decision between spending more days at Disneyland and touring around Tokyo especially when @qtbelle started sharing links to Tokyo Disneyland. Knowing Gary though, he can just tolerate a day each in Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Sanrio Puroland, that’s it. I know because he didn’t even agreed to go to Disneyland Paris even if we stayed there for 10 days. I didn’t complain though because there’s so much to see in France. So I don’t think Tokyo DisneySea would be feasible anymore.

The parks I chose are known for best viewing of cherry blossoms. I also would want to see castles and temples. With regards to the Mt. Fuji day trip, I would let our tour guide (Gary) to decide on it. I am not sure if it would be adviseable to bring kids near Mt. Fuji. Not that it would be erupting anytime soon, but if it would mean a lot of walking/hiking, I’ll let it pass.

During my research, I learned that Gion (Kyoto) is a geisha district, not to mention a place where collection of streets defined by its old wooden buildings, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants are still present. So this is definitely a must for me.

We also plan to experience riding the bullet train on our way back from Tokyo to Osaka.

Don’t expect though that the actual Japan experience would be similar to what I planned it to be. It would depend on our tour guide’s mood, own research and the realities around Japan. I’ll keep you posted.


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Japan Visa Application

March 4, 2014 – 5:47 pm -

I find Japan visa application easiest compared to all the other visas we applied for. Maybe because I got used to the whole visa application process, or maybe because for the first time we let an agency process our application. We don’t have a choice not to do the latter because Japan embassy does not accept direct visa application (except for special cases), but only through accredited agencies. My father who’s been to Japan recommended Universal Holidays Inc. They charge Php2,500 per application. Good thing there was Travel Expo held last Feb so they offered their visa processing services at a discounted price of Php 900. Can you imagine how much money we saved for the 5 of us?

Now for the documents that we submitted:

Gary:

1. Duly filled-out application form

2. Old and new passports

3. 2×2 picture with white background

4. original birth certificate (NSO issued within one year)

5. original Marriage certificate (NSO issued within one year)

6. personal bank certificates

7. (proof of business) Business permit, SEC registration, ITR  and company bank certificate

8. Daily Itinerary (activity plus contact number and address in Japan)

9. Plane booking and accommodation (I prefer booking at booking.com because they have rooms with free cancellation)

 

Me:

1. Duly filled-out application form

2. Old and new passports

3. 2×2 picture with white background

4. original birth certificate (NSO issued within one year)

5. personal bank certificate

 

Children:

1. Duly filled-out application form

2. Old and new passports

3. 2×2 picture with white background

4. original birth certificate (NSO issued within one year)

5. School certificate

6. Photocopy of school ID

7. Letter of Guarantee (We as parents guaranteeing that we will support all our kids’ expenses during the travel)

 

I am glad that I don’t have to photocopy all the supporting documents (including the passport and previous visas granted) and attach them to each of our application. (I really find it waste of resources)

We submitted the documents to UHI. 2 days after, we received an email informing us that our passports are ready for pick-up the next day. I went to Dusit Thani Hotel where the UHI office was located and thankful to see Japan visa stamped on our passports. Btw, we were given single entry for maximum of 15 days stay.

Lord, Domo Arigato!


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Good Life

February 26, 2014 – 9:45 am -

quote-about-a-good-life-is-when-you-smile-often-dream-big-laugh-a-lot

 

I don’t know what I did right in my life that I am getting all these blessings that I don’t think I deserve.

Or maybe it’s not about me, this life is a testimony of God’s greatness.

I really hope I can share to you all the blessings that we are receiving without sounding like we’re blowing our own horn. So great that we are receiving things far beyond our imagination. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t have a perfect life. If you were in my shoes, I don’t know if you’ll have the same outlook.

All I am saying is that, life is REALLY good and that we are all blessed. And I can’t wait to receive more blessings from Him, while we continue to dream big.

It will come to each one of us, I know. Let’s continue to be patient, thankful, generous and always keep the faith. Or maybe, it is happening to you already but you are too focused on your doubts and fears that you fail to see (and enjoy) the miracles happening in your life.

 

quotes-1321

 


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This will be short but sweet

February 14, 2014 – 11:43 am -

Op Op Op… ingat baka matapakan nyo ang hair ko sa sobrang haba.

I just want to share how my husband made me really happy this Valentines Day. I know I told you about me not being fond of flowers, but when I saw Gary carrying two pots of tulips for me and Lia as he entered our condo unit, my heart melted. Aawwww

 photo-47

 

Take note, pots. So there’s not much to worry about, like how to take care of it and where to place it. Perfect!

This time na-surprise talaga ako. And you should see Lia’s face when she received flowers for the first time. Sabi ng papa nya, para mahirapan daw ang mga manliligaw sa sine-set nyang standards. hehe

At partida galing pa si Gary sa breakfast meeting nyan.

On top of that, he marinated salmon before he left so that we can share baked salmon for lunch.

So Papa Gary eto para syo…

improve

Para sa Surpise category. lol

Gary, I LOVE YOU! HAPPY VALENTINES DAY.

p.s. may gusto ka ba bilhin?


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I finally found you

February 13, 2014 – 10:12 am -

This is definitely not a prelude to Valentine’s Day.

I am just so happy to finally find the product that would clean and protect my face without causing acne.

photo-46

 

Tadaaa…. Faceshop lang pala!

When I bought facial masks in Seoul, they gave me samples of their other products, which includes the CC cream.

I tried using it and I immediately noticed how it provides awesome coverage while giving my skin radiant and brighter skin tone. But I didn’t purchase one yet, I waited for days expecting pimples to start appearing. But not a single one did! So I excitedly went to Faceshop and ended up buying an Aura CC Starter and facial foam on top of the CC cream. According to the sales lady, the cc starter is the secret behind that extra glow you see on Korean’s faces. And according to the packaging, Aura CC Starter… “is a make-up base exclusively designed to maximise the feeling of CC cream application while adding moisture and radiance to skin”. You can use it even without applying a CC cream after. It provides glow while providing sun protection. Swak na swak sa natural but shiny look na gusto ko!

And because my purchases reached a certain amount, they gave me another set of samples.

 photo-45

 

I love the set especially the toner. Maybe because for one it contains no mineral oil, no alcohol and no synthetic fragrance. And I’ve seen improvement on my face already! (pwede rin namang guni-guni ko lang yun, pero hayaan nyo na ako basta happy ako sa products. lol) I’m glad I finally found… The Face Shop!


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Traditional Hilot

February 3, 2014 – 6:37 am -

Di daw pwede yung masahista mo.” Gary woke me up last Sunday with this. And then followed by, “Mag TheSpa ka na kasi.

For weeks I’ve been complaining about my very painful (upper) back and I know I badly need a massage that would release all the nodules (lamig) inside my body. I’ve been planning to go to TheSpa again and try their Volcanic Rock massage. It costs 2100 each in suite/villa (private room with private facilities), and 1500 for executive. Nagcompute na nman ang lola nyo. For a thousand, my trusted home massage therapist can provide massage service for two plus tip. So I texted my therapist and made a schedule. Unfortunately, she cancelled it on the day that I was expecting her.

So Gary and I went to The Spa Fort instead. We arrived around 12pm, and learned that they open at 1pm so we had our brunch first. The Volcanic Rock Massage was not available so we ended up getting the Traditional Hilot.

As always, I used 20 mins of my time inside the steam/sauna. Heaven! Para akong piniprito sa sarili ko’ng mantika, bonggang-bongga ang pawis ko. After the steam, I already felt an improvement on my back. After a quick shower, I was lead to the room where Gary and I will have our massage.

Gary:”Ang haba ng ngiti mo ah! Eto mga gusto mo eh. Dapat pala palagi ka nandito para lagi ka naka-ngiti.

Tse!

Then we talked about having our very own Sauna in our dream house.

The traditional massage started in a couple of minutes. They did our (upper) back first, perfect. They placed oil and hot leaves on top of our back after the massage. Even more perfect!

All in all, it was way worth it. This blog will remind me not to compare the price between a home therapist and TheSpa (with all its perks) anymore.


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Finding joy in conflict

January 26, 2014 – 12:14 pm -

understand

This quote sums up my chika for today. We’ve finalized our Japan trip this April, and as much as I would want to be excited about it, something has bothered me for months. Ever since my mom went with us on our European trip, she has been expecting that she’ll be part of all our foreign trips. She has been bugging me about our Japan trip and I don’t know how to tell her that this time we decided that we wanted it to be just the 5 of us. It’s not being selfish but I know every family needs that time alone. Kahit gaano kami ka-close ni mama, may mga bagay na nakakailang pa rin gawin na kasama sya. Plus, she’s not getting any younger. Commuting abroad with 3 kids plus her is getting harder each time. Hindi na siguro masama na naisama namin sya sa Europe at Singapore.

Problem is, as much as I wanted it not to sound bad, it will never be understood the way I want it to be. I’ve prayed for it for months. When I finally had the courage to tell her, it broke her heart! She even asked me, “Galit ba kayo sa akin?” Huwhat?!

I stood my ground not because I don’t care for her but because I don’t want her to be dependent on me. I have my family now. And I want her to find that fulfillment in God, not us (her children). Another thing, I wanted her to travel with my father. So just to make them go, I told them we’ll pay for their airfare. I am not taking any credit for it. God is just using me to make her understand that anyone can disappoint her, except Him. That He will bring her anywhere she wants, not me.

To cut the story short, she’ll be going to Japan too with my father and brother this April. A blessing in disguise indeed…


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Let it go

January 21, 2014 – 2:04 pm -

I wanted to blog for the longest time but I don’t know how or where to start… I just have so many things in mind.

So to start the ball rolling, I decided to write about my mantra and emphasize on “being careful with what you wish for.” Just like when I asked God for patience, he gave me 3 hyper and assertive kids (not to mention a strong-willed husband). When I decided that for this year I won’t get affected (much) anymore on things that gives me stress, God made sure NOT not to give me stress-related situations. Rather, he made sure I’ll be trained to handle so. In fairness to Him, He handles well all those beyond my control. All I have to do is ask.

So here I am trying to BREATHE.

To help me cope though with all the challenges that the world is throwing at me, I made a list of things that I have to do this year;

1. I won’t go to the office/coffeeshop during weekends. Saturday used to be a working day for me, not anymore. Of course except for those days that I REALLY have to be there, like events or emergency meetings. I used to think that I have to be there all the time to make things work. Experience taught me that handling business is a mixture of presence (being hands-on), trust (to your employees) and (set of) controls.

2. For the remaining 5 days, I will allot 1 day for errands. Last year, it stresses me out when I have to do a lot of “other” things that seem menial but still important. Now, I have a day for that. Also, wanting to maximize the time, I used to fill each day with so much activities that any changes (mostly additional work) makes me panic, angry and stressed.

3. I’ll start delegating tasks especially in the office.

4.I will go home early. This is hard especially when I have to finish a lot of things. Also, even if I can go home at 10pm, I have to wait for Gary to finish his work (usually past 12am). This is one of the reasons why I am pushing for number 5…

5. We need to get another car ASAP. This has been our plan since last year. During the first two quarters, we were not in a hurry to buy one because we thought that having a driver could address that. Later that year, it became harder and harder for Gary and I to make our schedules meet. You have no idea how stressful that is. We were so busy though that we find it difficult to go through the whole process of buying a car, not to mention the struggle of choosing what’s best for us. I would choose an SUV, if you may ask, because driving (and riding) a sedan gives me motion sickness. But whatever Gary chooses, EXCEPT A SPORTS CAR, is good to me.

As for the rest… I just have to let it go, let it go…


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