Sunday, August 18, 2013

Airline Review Part 4


Qatar Airways – They call it the world's 5 star airline and indeed it was a great experience. The fleet was new and the seat was quite spacious. The entertainment was quite okay and there were numerous selections and options. The only thing I hated about my journey was that upon arrival, we had to transfer to a mini bus that brought us to the Doha airport (same thing for departure). I will understand this kind of setup if Qatar Airways is a budget carrier. Anyway, there was no much complaint with the service and it was a smooth and steady flight. (2013 Skytrax rating:  2nd world's best airline [behind Emirates] and world's best business class)

Gulf Air – This airline is so affordable! I was able to book a business class seat for a low price and the service wasn't bad at all. It was my tour in Nepal when I booked into Gulf Air. Though the total journey was only almost six hours (with stopover in Bahrain), the flight attendant ensured that I had everything I needed during the flight. I was all alone in the business class. What I really liked about this trip was the opportunity to use their lounge. There was a buffet dinner, free internet and sockets where you can connect your device/s to charge. Also, the seats inside the lounge were very comfortable and I was able to take a sleep (the layover was about 4 hours). Since I enjoyed this airline, I immediately enrolled to their Falcon membership. I will definitely use this airline again for my forthcoming Middle East trip. As of writing, I heard that they have terminated their route to Kathmandu. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)


Royal Brunei – It was 2009 when I acquired this airline's service. It was also my first trip alone as I was preparing for my Asian backpack tour. What I remember about Royal Brunei is that before departure, they took time to pray before departure and so far, it is the only airline that does such thing and I think that it was a nice gesture as I felt safer and assured of a wonderful journey. Also, the fleet was new and was very clean. The flight attendants were very attentive and helpful. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)
TAROM – This is the flag carrier of Romania and short for Transporturi Aeriene Romane. It was March 2013 when I booked a direct flight to Bucharest, Romania. It was very noticeable that the plane is quite old and not properly maintained. Honestly, I didn't like the uniform the flight attendants, it was very simple. I know I'm not an expert in fashion but it didn't fully represent the airline and the country. It was like plain blue and white. Nevertheless, the service wasn't bad at all but some of the flight attendants weren't smiling and if they were smiling, I think it wasn't genuine. Maybe they were tired that time. The in-flight foods and drinks were okay. Another good thing about this airline is that we departed and arrived on time and on schedule. (2013 Skytrax rating: 3 star airline)

See also:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Getting OEC in Manila is Easier than in Dubai


My vacation in Manila last June 28 was my first time not getting an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) from Philippine Embassy/Consulate. Being an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) for more than five years and a frequent returning Filipino resident (more than 10 times I think), it is a major hassle to get such certificate for various reasons. First, in Dubai, the consulate is not open during weekends compared to Singapore where you can get OEC even Sundays. So you don't have a choice but to file a leave of absence just to get such document in Philippine Consulate in Dubai. Even if you take early lunch, trust me, 2 hours is not enough to finish the process. Second, the queue is always a major problem. Though there is a ticketing system, still the number of people processing their OEC is superb! They call it by batch and it is 20 people by hour. Third, the consulate is not that accessible; there is no train station that is walking distance so the only choice is to take a cab.


One of the first things that I did when I arrived in Manila was to look for the procedures on how to get OEC in POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) in Ortigas. The procedure is well defined and explained in their official website (http://bmappointment.poea.gov.ph). In my own experience, I did the following easy steps: (1) set an appointment using the system on the website (2) fill up the online information sheet then print it (3) go to the designated office based on your schedule and don't forget to bring all the requirements listed on the website (4) a staff will point you to the next steps which are assessment and payment (5) get your OEC from the cashier and you're done. All in all, the process did not take more than 30 minutes. Also, you can get multiple OEC in Manila but not in Dubai. So for me, it is more convenient now to process the document in Manila.  

First image taken from pinoy-ofw.com

A Breathe of Happiness



After almost a year, I had the chance to have a quick vacation in Manila. It was a multipurpose trip as I have to arrange some personal things and attend major events. Also, it was my first time to see the new house and lot that I bought for my parents. So aside from spending quality time with my family (by staying at home most of the time), I was a bit busy with other things. It started with my first nephew's baptismal. His full name is Cynder Marcus John M. Cona and yes, it is a long first name. The christening was held at Pasig Cathedral on the 30th of June with more than 10 pairs of godfathers/godmothers. Afterwards, the reception and feast of the food was organized in our new house. It was a simple celebration but the house was filled with relatives, friends and some neighbors.


Second thing is the bachelor's party that I have prepared for my bestfriend and of course, I am not going into details on what happened that night. I reserved a two bedroom suite at Linden Suites in Ortigas and the rest is history. As for the wedding proper, it was held at Mt. Carmel Parish on 6th of July where I stood as a bestman. Ryan, who is my bestfriend for over a decade now, was a bit nervous but was able to hide it in a gentle manner. Though the ceremony isn't perfect (there were some missing entourages during the march), it was a solemn and a great day for everyone. It was followed by a dinner reception at Fernwoods where I played the role of one of the masters of ceremony (emcee) and it wasn't an easy task but I think I was able to deliver.



The night did not stop after the reception. Since some of my classmates attended it, we had some sort of a "reunion". It was so nice seeing some of them and we had some talk and we shared some updates about our lives. The night continued to Starbucks in Eastwood where we had, of course, coffee and some pastries. We all enjoyed remembering those things that we did way back in college. The newlywed joined us after few hours and we filled the night with noise of laughter. There is a huge possibility that I will have my next vacation this Christmas and hopefully, I can organize a formal reunion for us. The happiness that I experience everytime I'm in Manila is really priceless. It can't be compared to any material things and being surrounded by family and close friends even for a short time is indeed helpful to move forward and aim for more goals.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's Going on Stock Market?


For the past few weeks, my portfolio isn't looking very good. It is like a blood bath on my screen. All is turning to red (loss) and yes, it is a bad news. But you know what? I am not really worried about it. Yes I am a bit concern but I have this inner confidence that says to me that everything will be alright. Oh well, the status update from one of my stock advisers (naks!) added an assurance that time will come that it will be all green (gain) and with Him, it's alright to fall sometimes because there is no way but up. Neil also said that this is where men separates from the boys and that only the brave ones survives and makes money.


I'm not really a technical analyst or very keen in checking the performance of my stocks. I just love reading news and forums and of course with the help of some friends and financial experts, I can choose the stock where I will invest. Well enough of the money matters; I researched on some probable causes why this is happening in the stock market. I have enumerated some reasons:

  1. Profit. The stock exchange index has reached to record breaking points and for many investors, it is a very good thing and it also means profit. Many investors are taking advantage of the percentage of gain from their portfolio so they were probably excited in taking in more money (I admit I am one of them haha)
  2. Foreign Investors. I also read and heard that many foreign investors are pulling out their money and transferring it to the recovering economy of the US. It means lesser investment in our part and it is a huge part in the gradually decreasing of the index point. Is there a way that the government should lessen the foreigner's privilege in getting stocks in our country? 
  3. Current News. I think that Serendra explosion thing have contributed to this. There was a huge concern that the cause was a bomb. This news spreaded wrongly as the investigation results did not come in a faster way. The terrorism news is very bad in a country and can whisper negative impact to neighboring countries, so bad means negative and negative means lower index points.
  4. Panic. Of course if your profit is slowly negating, you might want to sell your stocks just to avoid a total loss. My officemate sold his stocks in a panic mode even if it was a loss. Many of us are looking into a negative perspective that leads us to grab the profit immediately rather than checking the probable positive outcome in the near future. There is no shortcut in success.

Again, I am no expert in this thing and I still consider myself as a beginner in this field and I am sure there are more reasons why this is happening. It is a good thing that we are aware of these things rather than be ignorant to what's happening in the economy. It can also give us hope and pointing our eyes only to positive results. Well life isn't exciting without risks, just be prepared to what will be the result is, whether gain or loss.

Image taken from inquirer.net

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Romania Trip - Bucharest


It was before lunch when my sister and I bid goodbye to Brasov. We were headed next to the Romanian capital, Bucharest. It was more than three hours of journey before reaching the city. We immediately checked in to Hotel Minerva to rest for a while. It was snowing that time so it was very cold. Our room was quite nice and clean and the view from my window was magnificent. After unpacking some things, we decided to go out and roam the city. Even though it was so cold and the snow was pouring heavily, we still went out to look for the nearest supermarket to buy some foods.


The next day, after a quick breakfast inside our room, we checked the city and navigated each of the alleys. I can say that Sibiu is way better than Bucharest in terms of order and cleanliness. Nevertheless, Bucharest is still an interesting place to explore. We saw some buildings with great style and architecture. The snow did not stop us from walking for almost three hours just to feel the atmosphere of the place. I noticed that there were bakeshops everywhere and the gogoshi became my instant favorite. We also found the Pope John Paull II cathedral and stayed inside for a while. I was glad to see some Filipino products in a store where we bought some items.


We came back to hotel to have our lunch and leave some things that we bought. Our next destination was the "Palace of the Parliament" (Palatul Parlamentului). I checked some details on the internet and found out that it is near the Izvor MRT station. One thing I love about Bucharest is their train transportation system. Back to the palace, it is the world's largest civilian building and the heaviest. Once you enter the building, you will notice numerous big chandeliers and big rooms. In 2008, the palace hosted the 20th NATO summit. Some of the rooms use natural light by getting directly from the sun. There was also this one room where a high official stayed who received several death threats so he ordered to stop the air circulation inside the room to ensure that he wouldn't be poisoned.


That day didn't end in the palace. We came to this big shopping mall via bus. B─âneasa Shopping City offers varieties of retail shops and a huge food court. We had our big dinner there and I bought an Adidas shoes. Afterwards, we watched a movie then called it a day.


Our last day in Bucharest was a bit laid back. In the morning, we took a bus going to the "Arc of Triumph" (Arcul de Triumf) and took some few shots. We toured again the city a bit until it was time for my sister to go back to Sibiu. I had my flight going back to Dubai the next day morning. My Romanian trip is indeed a memorable one. I was able to spend it with my sister and had a wonderful and quality time with her. I fell in love with Romania especially the customs, the people and its music. More pics below:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Romania Trip – Brasov


After those fun days in Sibiu, my sister and I headed to Brasov. It was a three hour journey, good thing there is a minivan terminal in Sibiu. We tried to book for a bus and train but the timings weren't perfect. The journey was a bit scary as we were trailing dark roads and it was very cold. It was like a chilling moment while watching a horror flick and I was scaring myself by thinking, 'this is the place of Dracula and vampires'. Fortunately, we arrived in Brasov safe and sound.  From the terminal, we took a cab and located our hotel. I booked a hotel apartment but the cab driver and I noticed that it is too far from the city. The driver was too kind to recommend us a hotel near the city in an affordable price and when I saw it, it was perfect. We were both settled at around nine in the evening but still, we tried to navigate the city. Most of the shops were closed but we still managed to roam for a short time. Since it was snowing and was very cold (it was -6 degrees Celsius), we decided to call it a night.


We woke up early the next day because I was so excited to visit Dracula Castle. It was snowing that day and I was concern that it might be closed but fortunately, it was open. From Bus Terminal 2, there are buses that leave every 30 minutes to Bran; I think the ticket was 5 RON and one and half hour of journey. I was immediately amazed when I saw the castle and yes you can see a full smile on my face, another dream came true! There were other tourists on that time but my sister told me that during summer, more tourists are coming so we were lucky that day because it wasn't that many and it was a good chance to roam the castle without any hindrances during picture taking haha. To see the entire castle, it might take you three to four hours to check each of the corners. It is very obvious that some parts of the castle were renovated but still, there are some interesting things like the cape of Dracula, his old room, the torture room and some items from the queen. It was indeed a very fulfilling day.


There were several souvenir shops outside the castle so we bought some items. Also, we had our lunch in a Chinese restaurant (yes, there is!) across the street and the foods were delicious and very affordable. We headed back to Brasov and we were able to see the city during daylight. We visited the Town Hall Square (Piata Sfatului) which features medieval buildings in different architecture styles. We also visited the Black Church (Biserica Neagra) but unfortunately, it was close that time so we just got contented in appreciating the outer part of the church.  It is the largest and one of the most important Lutheran places of worship in the region.


The snow didn't stop us in walking and touring the city. We don't have a definite destination that day (after the Dracula castle) but we were looking for that famous cable car. So we found ourselves walking for almost an hour just to reach that place in Tampa. It is actually a mountain part in Brasov on which from the top, you will see the entire beauty of Brasov. We were able to catch the last ride that day and on top of the mountain, the view was picturesque. We took some pictures there but we weren't able to walk further as the snow was so thick. It was actually a short visit in Brasov but it was an amazing experience. It was also a good thing that I was prepared for such kind of weather since I was not completely recovered from my illness last January. More Brasov pictures can be seen below:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Romania Trip - Sibiu


My sister has been working in Sibiu for five years now and one of the main reasons why I traveled to Romania was to visit her. From the international airport in Otopeni, I took a bus from the basement that brought me to Gara de Nord, a train station in Bucharest. From there, I immediately looked for a store to buy a sim card and luckily, the man in the store was so helpful despite the fact that he can't understand and speak English. I used some signs and point on a sim card and because of that I was able to call my sister. He even helped me to purchase a ticket for my Sibiu trip; I was touched by his actions and the kindness that he showed me. At 10:30 AM, the train departed the station and it was a five-hour journey towards the Romanian province.


Upon arrival in Sibiu, I took a cab and went straight to my hotel (Hotel Rin). I unpacked some things, had my late lunch and rested for few hours. At around 11PM, my sister went into my hotel (she wasn't able to pick me up in the airport since she was working that day) then we headed into her house. She is living with 2 colleagues, Esmeralda and Lhala who were waiting for us so that we can go together in a bar. It was 1 degree Celsius that night and it was indeed so cold. Initially, we went to this Irish pub where I met some Romanian friends (Romina and her cousins) of my sister but we wanted to dance so we transferred to a bar named Oldie's (don't be fooled by the name). It was jam-packed that night but we still managed to get a place, drank and danced. We left the place before 2AM.


The next day, after a free breakfast from the hotel, my sister and I, together with her two friends, Esmerald and Gay, strolled the old town. There, I witnessed the beauty of this city where several great architectures can be seen. Several designs of churches were also on "display". Our plan was to climb up to the clock tower but it was under renovation so we weren't able to do it. Nevertheless, we walked for almost two hours to feel the breeze of the place and cold was embracing us tightly. The place and the surroundings are so clean and the old buildings were still impressive. After that tiring moment, we went back to my sister's place to eat and have some coffee.


After a quick rest, we went to Muzeul Astra. It is actually a museum but in different approach. Normally, when we say museum, it is a showcase of paintings, art crafts, culture, etc in a room or big building. But this one, it is a big field and open area that requires hours of walking to navigate the surroundings. The museum exhibits the old life of Romanian people including the old houses, tools for farming and food preparation. At first, it was like I was just in a province but once you see the representation of Romanian culture, then you will embrace their nature and realize that there is something more in that place. We were lucky enough to meet a "museum guide" and I was amazed how these Filipino ladies were able to communicate in the Romanian language.


On my third day in Sibiu it was Palm Sunday so I accompanied my sister to church and the entire mass was in Romanian language but there were papers with English translation for foreigners. After that, I met Sofia and we headed to their home where a special lunch was waiting for me. I was so touched that they took time to prepare meals for me. Sofia's husband, Sorin, a Romanian baked a cake for that occasion; I was astonished by their hospitality. I also met Sorin's mom who also prepared a dish that day. The foods were all delicious and I really loved the chili mixture that they prepared. But before that sumptuous meal, we have drunk a special wine first as a tradition. They gave me a bottle of chili and wine and I brought them here in Dubai.


Afterwards, together with Sofia and Sorin, we went to a Romanian Art Gallery (Palatul Brukenthal) where taking pictures inside the vicinity is prohibited. The place actually showcases amazing paintings from the locals that exhibits the old and modern life of Romanian people. There are also some portraits of known personalities. On the other part of the gallery is a display about vampires and old artifacts of the country. Later that day, we walked around the city for almost two hours then we decided to take a rest in a bar where I met their other colleague, Girish; we had beer and snacks. The next thing we did is to look for the perfect way of going to Brasov for our next day's trip. My sister and I were planning to visit the Dracula house in Bran, a province near Brasov. The next day, I visited my sister's workplace in Mercuria and the area is so big. I can't believe that my sister can operate such huge machine for weaving. We didn't take much time to tour the entire place as we were leaving for Brasov that time. More Sibiu pictures below:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One Year in Dubai


Exactly one year ago, I entered Dubai for the first time and I bid farewell to Singapore. It was actually an emotional day for me. Singapore has been my second home and a lot of memories, good and bad, made me who I am now. My one year experience here in Dubai is very challenging. The first few months were the time of adjustment. I was alone most of the time because I stayed alone in a hotel apartment for a month. The job was a bit stressful at first as I had to complete the training with a passing grade. I only have few friends here unlike in Singapore where I have a lot.

My life here in Dubai is a bit slow and everything seems to be relaxed. I found a church, met new friends via small group and continued my path towards Him. My job became demanding but most of the time, it was boring. I joined Fitness First and started to lose weight with the help of my trainer who eventually became a good friend. I also had the chance to travel again (my favorite thing to do) and in a span of one year, I was able to tour three countries: Nepal, Turkey and recently Romania where I spent quality time with my sister. I also got the chance to take a vacation in Manila and Singapore after staying here for only four months. My boss was kind enough to approve my leave. My father visited me here and I really enjoyed those times. It was one of the highlights of my stay here and every minute of it was priceless. A college friend also came here for a business trip but still, we got the chance to see each other and spent quality time and reminisced the past that we had during the college years including some gossips and updates.

The challenges started when I struggled in my job and I felt I was left alone and the work wasn't that fulfilling. Also, I got sick this year and it was really bad. I had Bell's palsy and I almost gave up that time as it was very painful. There were no family members who took care of me but I was able to recover with the prayers from them and also from close friends. I think that was the lowest point of my life here in Dubai. But it was not always sadness; I was able to buy a house and lot for my parents and that brought me a great joy. Also, I am now an uncle since my sister gave birth to a baby boy. Life is indeed full of obstacles that we must overcome. My experience here in the Middle East taught me how to be more independent, how to handle sadness, enjoy happiness and how to embrace the gladness and pain of love related matters. It will be a long journey to fulfill my dreams but I am not really sure if Dubai will answer all of it. Well, I survived Dubai for one year, let's see how it goes. Some things might happen and I'm not sure where opportunities will bring me.

 
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