Bangayan sa Bora

I was very bothered and alarmed upon watching “Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho”‘s last episode about a current dispute between the local Boracay Tour Guide vs. foreign guides.

Boracay is our country’s top beach destination and has consistently been voted as one of the best beaches in the world by many travel magazines and organizations. I’ve been to Boracay many times in the past and the sheer powdery like white sand, clear waters and vibrant night life are good enough magnets to draw attention of local and foreign tourists alike.

The last time I was in Boracay was more than 5 years ago. During that time, there are already plenty of Korean tourists but in recent years more and more South Koreans visit the country which is definitely good for our tourism. I can imagine some parts of Boracay now has transformed into a Korean town of sorts.

On top of that, we have also been drawing a good share of Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Russian tourists lately.

More tourists means more business and employment opportunities for locals right? But not in the case of Tour Guides in the island as what Jessica Soho’s program depicts in their last episode.

A lot of the licensed local tour guides are now finding themselves getting fewer share of the tour guiding works for these nationals. This is due to the fact that many of the tour groups and travel companies prefer hiring native speakers to assist the group rather than getting Filipino guide who mostly can only speak Filipino and English language.

Naturally, if I am a Korean I would prefer a Korean tour guide who speaks the same language as I am, understand a Korean tourist behavior better at the same or slightly higher price than Filipino guides.

According to the report, there are over 150 Korean guides working in the Island now many of them are tourists at the first time but decided to stay in Boracay longer. To sustain their expenses they have to work as a guide.

In the past, our local guides could earn up to PHP 30,000 per month  but with the influx of Korean guides, they are earning average of PHP 10,000 more or less whilst Korean guide could earn up to PHP 100,000 depending on the season and number of groups they assist. Big bucks right?

As a Filipino and a professional working in the travel industry I am very worried of these recent developments. Surely more tourists would mean added revenue to our country’s coffers. It would also attract more investors.

However, progress in our tourism should benefit Filipinos as a priority. There is no better host that could describe the real “Boracay” or even “Philippine” experience than a local despite the language barrier. Sadly, I don’t think our laws could regulate the number of foreign guides in the country at the moment.

I verified on the case of Tour guides in Thailand as I thought many of the tour guides serving in popular tourist attractions are locals but fluently speaking in a foreign language. I’ve been to touristy places like Royal Grand Palace, Wat Po, Pattaya or Phuket beaches and often times I would hear a Thai guide explaining to a group of tourist about the place either in French, German, Russian, Chinese, etc. I would always get amazed by how Thailand was able to maximize their tourism work force and even enhance the skills of the people in order to get the opportunities of their tourism boom. Of course once in a while some overseas companies would secretly hire the service of the guide from that country but the Government also protects the welfare of the Thai guides with regulations on foreign workers.

In our country’s case, regulating these foreign workers would also mean our tour guide must enhance their skills and learn how to speak a foreign language apart from English in order to compete. I believe it’s not hard as many Filipinos could learn a foreign language easily due to our common adaptability.

It is inevitable for our tourism to boom. I’ve been reading a lot of positive news about many hotels opening in the next few years and various efforts of public and private sector to lure overseas tourists and investors recently.

Apart from suggestions to improve the country’s infrastructure which is long overdue, we also have to consider the workforce if they are able to address the demands of the job.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will be in effect by 2015. We could expect more ASEAN friends to influx our country either for leisure or employment. We have to be prepared as early as now.

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JUICEtified

ImageYes, the title of my blog post is JUICEtified. Because drinking Juice has countless of proven and justified benefits to the body. When I say Juice, I meant fresh fruit or vegetable juice not the one bought in can or packs in the supermarket.

Those commercial juice surely have health benefits too and some are even fortified to give added nutrition. However, most of the tetra juices are very sweet which may not be too good for daily consumption.

I was a coffee, soft drink and alcohol drinker more than a juice fanatic in the past. I love drinking to socialize, relieve from stress and just be with my friends (or my lonesome at times). I even go to Wine Bar offering Wine Buffet for a very reasonable price. I loved Red wine and these wine buffet let me taste red wine from different countries like France, Italy, Romania, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and many others. I also stocked few bottles of wines and spirits in my pad so whenever I have friends coming over, we can enjoy few glasses or so. Or sometimes if I felt so stressed, I just sip a glass of wine then I’m fine.

I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic because I don’t drink wine everyday (or night) and on occasions that I do, I usually don’t allow myself to get drunk. However, towards December of last year, I sort of developed an allergy and according to the doctor the main culprit is alcohol. I thought I’ve eaten a kind of seafood that made me develop the allergy as it is almost simultaneous. I just came back from several back-to-back overseas and trip back home during that time. In one occasion, me and few other colleagues tried some seafood including Stingray. It was my first time to eat that seafood. About 1 or 2 days after, my body start to be itchy.

I remember there was also an occasion that I’ve eaten a lot of fresh oysters in a hotel buffet during Christmas and few days after I got a big red spot in my neck which resembles a hickey so some of my friends try to be naughty and asked me who gave me a kiss mark. LOL.

About 2 weeks ago when my family visited me in Bangkok for a week (which was my last blog post prior to this) , I may also have overeaten meat and seafood plus the very scorching heat of outdoor activities, I suddenly developed rashes in my chest.

Anyway, the doctor said there are certain triggers like food or alcohol but he told me to avoid alcohol if I can.
Seems life has been quite boring for me since then right? However, because I’m a firm believer of the saying “Health is Wealth”, I researched for some ways to live (or eat healthy).

There were a lot of topics in the internet suggesting people to be vegetarian for optimum health. But since I can’t give up crispy fried pork or KFC at this point, I searched for other alternative means.

Then I came across the blog called “Juicing for Health.com“. This blog I can say really convinced me to try drinking freshly juiced veggies or fruits.

The blog generously describes the health benefits of various fruits and vegetables and some helpful consumption tips and suggestions of which fruits or veggies are a good combination.

One day I decided to go to the nearest mall to purchase a juicer. I always had the impression that fruit juicers are expensive. I was very surprised when I realized that a good brand juicing machine costs less than THB 2,000 (approx. USD 64). There was a sale during that time so the discounted price was around THB 1,500 for a Tefal brand machine. Isn’t it really a good deal?

After that I went to the supermarket to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I did my very first “concoction” of Orange and Carrot Juice that night. The taste was really refreshing and I felt my body is starting to detoxify all those bad cholesterol and gut in my stomach with a glass of juice. Ha ha ha. Of course, I’m just exaggerating.

Anyway, I continued reading the blog and got interested to try other varieties to benefit from it’s medicinal promise.

Over the next few days I tried Cucumber, Spinach, Beetroot and Bitter Gourd. Yes, you read it right- Bitter Gourd! This vegetable I believe is probably the most unappealing in terms of taste and texture to a lot of people. But reading the long list of benefits, I got encouraged to try it. Loving the juice of this veggie is an acquired taste. I had to try for few days before I started liking it. Now, I can drink a glass of bitter gourd (from 1 medium size gourd) juice in an empty stomach in the morning to get the maximum benefits. A caution though, you have to start with a small quantity at first otherwise you will have upset stomach the whole day.

I felt lighter, more alert and healthier after a month of drinking different kinds of juice. Since some of the juice serves as diuretic (to flush out toxins from the body), I lost weight a bit so my friends kept asking me why I lost weight. I jokingly told them I became vegetarian which they definitely will not believe me.

To reap the benefits of the juice, it has to be taken consistently (not once in a while). I read many articles about people looking very young and healthy because of regular consumption of these healthy drinks. Of course water must not be replaced by these juices. However, freshly made juice also aids in cooling off especially in this scorching summer. Try watermelon or cucumber and you surely will feel refreshed.

Some people may think that drinking fruit or vegetable juice is actually an expensive habit especially if the fruits are not in season. However, you can be smart enough to select what are in season so it is less expensive. There are a long list of fruits and vegetables you can choose from.

You may ask what is my favorite juice so far. I like Carrot Juice and Cucumber the most. Sometimes I mix them together. I also like Carrot and Beet Root but Beet Root is very potent so you have to put only a small or medium sized bulb for a start.

So start to be healthy, drink your juice regularly.

Family Fun in Thailand

It’s been 4 years in the making!

Last 2 weeks I was so busy. Busy with work and arranging itinerary for my so-called VIP’s.
You see, I’ve been working in Bangkok for nearly 4 years now and it will be the first time my family (not entire though) will visit the Land of Smiles- Thailand.

I would’ve wanted them to come earlier but as some of my regular blog readers would know, the past 2 years had been quite a roller coaster ride for me and my family. My Dad was diagnosed with Bladder Cancer and they have to stay home as much as possible due to frequent visits to the Doctor. He died early last year.

It was really my earnest wish for my parents to visit the place I now consider my 2nd home. I know my Dad really wanted me to just work in the country so the family could be together but I would always tell him I had to grab this opportunity. It also helped us financially speaking during his sickness.

Some years ago, I had the chance to take both of them to Ilocos Region during a business trip. The room and transfer was free anyway so I just had to pay for their meals and other miscellaneous costs. They would always tell their friends and relatives about how memorable that trip was and how beautiful are the places we’ve visited. Apart from that we would go to some nearby places like Baguio, Tagaytay, etc. if our busy schedule permits.

Going back to the Thailand trip, it was postponed further as my Mom had some problems in securing her passport due to her birth records cannot be found in Manila so they have to go to the province to secure the documents. Anyway, it finally happened mid of April in time for Thailand’s longest and happiest event- Songkran Festival or their Thai New Year.

My Mom, my youngest Sister and her Boyfriend arrived in Bangkok on 13 April which is the first day of Songkran. Traditionally, Songkran is a water-splashing festival wherein everyone just literally splash water to each other either by water gun, hose or any thing they can use to throw water to expecting or non-suspecting passersby.

I had to meet them at the airport so I really carefully walked along the street from my pad to the main road and gingerly took taxi. I was successful not to get wet.

After they arrived in my place and had few hours of rest, they began their 1-week journey with a visit to one of the biggest shopping mall in Bangkok, MBK or locally known as Mah Boon Krong. It is the counterpart of Greenhills Shopping Center in Manila but maybe 5x bigger. You can buy clothes, souvenirs, cellphone and all those gadgets in this mall.

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After MBK I took them to Siam area which many consider is the very heart of Bangkok. We visited few other shopping malls like Siam Center and Siam Paragon.

Next day I took them to the traditional places tourists visit such as Royal Grand Palace, Wat Po, Chatuchak Weekend Market. It was such a scorching hot day so it made our activities on that day more tiring. They enjoyed the cheap price of clothes and souvenirs though.

Before heading home, I let them try Thai Massage. It was indeed a great relief after walking almost the whole day!

Next day I took them to Holy Redeemer Church which is one of the few Catholic Churches in Bangkok. After that we went to Platinum Fashion Mall for more shopping. At night, I took them to a Dinner Cruise along Chao Phraya River.

Monday is still a holiday because of Songkran. My Thai boss and her family took us to the ancient capital of Siam (former name of Thailand), Ayutthaya to visit the ruins of the old city as well as the Bangpa-In Summer Palace. We also rode an Elephant which is a first time experience for me and my family.

We had our lunch in a popular restaurant by the River. We feast ourselves with a variety of Thai and Seafood dishes including the highlight of the restaurant, the grilled King Prawn. It’s very large and costs THB 300 a piece. Good enough to indulge once in a while.

We visited Bang Pa-In Royal Palace which is also known as Summer Palace. Entrance to the Palace is THB 100 per person for foreigner and it is convenient to rent a Golf Cart as the complex is big and if the weather is very warm, walking is discouraged.

The Palace has a mix of Thai, Roman and Chinese style structures. The lawn and gardens are well maintained and such a refreshing view.

Within the next few days we did more activities. We went watching Siam Niramit, dubbed as Thailand’s Must See Show. I’ve watched several other shows like Alangkarn Show, Tiffany Show and others but I must say that Siam Niramit is the best of them all in terms of grandeur and production value. Too bad they don’t allow photography or video inside the Theater but there are many interesting things in the Theater grounds that is worth taking few snapshots.

We stayed in one of Bangkok’s finest 5-Star Hotel, lebua at State Tower near the Chao Phraya Riverside Area. The hotel offers picturesque view from the balcony. We were assigned in the 57th floor of the hotel so you can just imagine the unobstructed magnificent view of the city.

Not only is the view the selling point of this hotel but all the spacious and luxurious guest rooms. We were assigned in the Club Floor Room with access to the Executive Lounge and the bath amenities are Bvlgari. You will literally bathe in perfume when using the toiletries.

We capped their  one week holiday with a drink in the hotel’s rooftop bar located at the 64th floor called “Sirocco- Sky Bar”on their last night in Bangkok.

It was such a memorable trip for my family. I would surely be glad to welcome them again and other family members too.

Hunger Games and our daily fight for survival.

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Last night me and my friends watched Hunger Games in cinema. This movie I read has been reaping big bucks at the Box Office and is already the 3rd highest grossing film opening weekend only behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Batman “The Dark Knight”.

The movie is about a fictional nation called “Panem” (which is where the previous North American countries were located) holding an annual game called “The Hunger Games” wherein each of the 12 districts shall pick 2 representatives (1 male and 1 female aged 12-18) by lottery. The persons who were picked are called “tributes”.  They are sent to the ultra-modern Capitol and they have to fight the other tributes to death in order to win the game and earn the honor of being called “victor”.

Each of the tribute has to gain the viewer’s support and admiration to gain sponsors which will help them to survive the game by sending foods, medicine or tools. The main character, Katniss Everdeen from District 12 can be considered fierce and elusive. However, because of these characteristics, people loved her and was even called “The Girl on Fire”. To add more drama to the games, she and the other tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark were made to act like the “star-crossed lovers” which eventually Katniss decided to follow this calculated ploy in order to stay on in the battle.

The rules of the game was changed several times. When only Katniss and Peeta survived at the end of a few days battle, they changed the ruling and state that only 1 person must be the victor.

Upon hearing this, Katniss convinced Peeta not to let the Gamemakers and the audience have 1 victor and it’s better to have none. Peeta agreed to eat a poisonous berry called “nightlock” which Katniss got from one of the tributes who died eating the said fruit.

But before they were able to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announced that the rules were amended and that both of them were the victors. The movie ended showing the 2 victors returning to District 12 to the delight of the people.

This movie is actually taken from the highly successful Trilogy novel by Suzanne Collins which also includes “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”.

At first, I didn’t intend to watch the movie because as I read the plot it seems the movie promotes violence due to the brutal fighting till death. However, as the movie progresses, I find there are still some redeeming values in the storyline:

1. Family is important and invaluable.
2. We need friends and alliances. As the saying goes, “No man is an island”.
3. We must know our strengths and maximize it, acknowledge our weaknesses and try to improve it.

In our daily lives, there are times that we are like tributes and we are participating in a very big hunger game. A lot of people are hungry for power, fame or fortune while many others are hungry for love and affection. There is nothing wrong in being hungry for these things. What’s wrong is if we already have more than what we can chew but we are still asking for more.  That’s called GREED already and is considered a deadly sin.

That’s all for now folks. May the odds be ever in your favor!

P.S. It is the Lenten Season next week. It’s time to fast, repent and reflect on God’s ultimate love for us. Less of us, more of God.

Magnum Mystery…

I was really intrigued by all these Magnum craze hitting the Philippines it seems like “Bungang Araw” seriously hitting the backs of children who are seemingly unaware of the heat of the summer sun.

I learned about this brouhaha from some Facebook friends who would proudly post about their first bite of this “glorious” Ice Cream or some rewarding themselves a piece after a long hard day at work.

Then I read in Twitter about celebrities promoting Magnum Ice Cream. Looks like this sweet is really toppling the old-fashioned but always reliable summer heat fighter Halo-Halo.

I’ve first tasted Magnum last year here in Bangkok. Not sure though how long ago it was introduced in the Thai Market but it seems Thais are not as ecstatic as their Filipino counterpart in trooping the stores to buy Magnum. For one, it is a bit pricey (around THB 40 or a little over 50 Pesos per piece) compared to other Thai desserts like the similarly refreshing Nam Kang Sai Sala (Shaved Ice with Sala Syrup) which is only THB 10 per bowl usually sold on the streets and you can even select some toppings.

I actually commend the Marketing minds behind the Magnum Craze as they were successful in making this dessert very in demand. I heard that some people have to go through several 7-11 shops just to find Magnum as many shops had it sold out.

Since I already forget how Magnum tastes like, I asked my friend to buy some from the nearest convenience store so we could indulge this most-sought after dessert.

Verdict: After tasting Magnum Almond, I find the Ice Cream too sweet and I can’t find any bit of almond in the bar.

I have nothing against people who go crazy with Magnum but personally I would still prefer Pinipig Crunch, Twin Popsies or even the traditional Ice Buko with Red Beans.

You may also try Ice Monster which is a healthier alternative as you can select fruits as toppings.

Welcome to Safari World…The World of Happiness

The title of my blog post is the catchphrase of Safari World, one of Bangkok’s interesting attractions. The park is quite far from the Central Business District (approx. an hour drive) but is easily accessible. My friends and I went there last Sunday. Took an Ordinary Bus (No. 115) from Lumpini Park  and paid THB 8.00 per person till Fashion Island (a shopping mall located in Ramintra Road on the outskirts of Bangkok).  From there we took a taxi to Safari World and paid THB 80.00.

We were able to visit the place at a cheaper price because during a recent travel consumer fair in Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, Safari World has a booth and is selling entrance ticket for only THB 380 per person instead of THB 580. Quite great discount!

Safari World has a total land area of 1,650 rai and comprises of the Safari Park and Marine Park and is open from 0900H-1700H everyday.

We first entered the Marine Park. This area houses vast spectrum of animals from land, sea or air and visitors are entertained with a variety of shows like Orangutan, Sea Lion, Elephant, Dolphin, Bird Show, Spy War and Stunt Show. My friends and I find the Spy War show a bit boring as it seem like an act from some TV Action-Drama series. The animal shows are quite entertaining though and I enjoyed the Dolphin Show and Bird Show the most.


However, the highlight of the Marine Park for me is their newest attraction called Mini World. You will have to go inside a giant bird cage-like space and once there, you will see variety of birds. There is 1 section wherein you could have  the opportunity to feed birds. It’s very cool that birds would fly to either the palm of your hands or your shoulder to eat some of the feeds and you can take photos with them very closely.

Only consideration when visiting the park is that since it is open area, the temperature can be very hot and humid especially during summer but there are plenty of shops to buy water or food or some staff would roam around the stadium before each animal show starts. However, I find the price of their food as well as souvenir 2 notches more expensive than the other popular places in Thailand like Dream World, Siam Park, etc.

After roaming Marine Park and viewing most of the shows, we went to the Safari Park. This area allows the visitors to get to see hundreds of animals from all over the world up close and have the feel of a real Safari experience from their own vehicle or through the shuttle buses that regularly roam the park. We took the shuttle bus and paid THB 30.00 per person. Entire trip took approximately 45 minutes to complete.

There was an area in the park with several lions comfortably resting under the shade of the trees. When our shuttle bus passed by, we were fortunate to see one lion capturing an innocent bird for his “dinner’. Talk about an authentic Safari scene.

I just came to know while writing this blog the information written in Wikipedia that Safari World has been subject to some controversies about the way they keep and treat animals in the Zoo and many groups discourage visitors to support the park because it is almost the same as helping them to continue mistreating the animals particularly Orangutans and Elephants. Not sure about the status of these international scrutiny is at this point.

If you are Bangkok and would like to see the City of Angels on a different angle sans the temples, shopping malls and food stall, then Safari World is definitely a good option.

Happy 3rd Birthday Kikomatching!

It’s actually a belated Birthday Greeting. Nevertheless, I am greeting my pseudonym Kikomatching a Happy 3rd Birthday! It has been 3 years since I started blogging last March 14, 2009. I love writing but never get the chance to share my thoughts to the world through blog so I started creating my own. I remember I can’t even decide if I will use blogspot or wordpress. Finally I decided to use wordpress cos I feel it is much simpler and I never turned back since then.

On my 3rd year as a blogger, I created 150 blog posts, was featured in the Freshly Pressed page of WordPress for my story about the trip in Koh Samed, Thailand. I was wondering why on that day I was getting a lot of comments in my post as well as hundreds of page views. Only when I logged out and logged-in again did I realized my story was in the front page of WordPress. Isn’t it cool? 🙂

I’ve written topics about my various travels, talk of the town issues or even tips on how to lose belly fat! Sometimes I would bug my friends begging them to suggest a good topic for my next post. Few of them are kind enough to give me interesting topics.

I’ve also followed and became close to a few fellow bloggers but unfortunately have not met any of them in person yet. Hope to meet some of you in person someday.

Every time I receive a comment from someone complimenting about my post or the pictures I shared, I am thrilled.
Some people have been following my blog and I thank you for considering my blog worth following.

Three years is really short a period. I will continue to blog as long as I can. I am thankful to my Dad as he inspired me to write. He was a good writer when he was still alive. Many of his colleagues would ask for his help in various correspondences be it a memorandum, letter of apology, recommendation letter, even speech!

Papa, this blog is for you!

Thank you once again and God bless us all!