Saturday, May 20, 2017

What makes Cafe Shibuya click apart from desserts?

Isn't it ironic that I don't usually go to restaurants and malls in the North, even if I'm from Quezon City? This came as a recent realization when my friends and I were deciding on where to meet for dinner. A'las, SM City North EDSA won. I told myself, "it's time to meet my neighborhood up north."


Work ended at 6PM; soon enough, I found myself selecting a restaurant to dine in at the Ground Floor of The Block in SM North EDSA. Because I am very fond of Japan, Cafe Shibuya piqued my curiosity. As soon as I entered, I immediately asked the staff if the restaurant is a franchise from, well, Shibuya in Japan, and was told it isn't. I figured I'll try it out anyway, since the ambiance is good and it wasn't too noisy for my friends and I to effortlessly chitchat.

We asked for what's new and what's best-selling in the menu, and gladly ordered them even if some sounded admittedly 'risky.' Dishes came in one by one, surprisingly with fast and efficient service. It's time to dig in!


For starters, we got the Beef Bulgogi Nachos (Php295). It comes with good amount of Bulgogi sirloin beef cubes, combined with tomatoes, onions and jalapenos, then topped with cheese plus wasabi mayo sauce. We really enjoyed this one as the different flavors of sweet, salty, and a bit of spicy all made up one great appetizer!


Although this restaurant's name got its origins from Japan, they're offering a lot of food items from other cuisines as well. One of which is the Kimchi Pasta (Php275 single, Php495 sharing), which we decided to explore. It's made up of spaghetti pasta cooked al dente, flavored with homemade kimchi, Gochujang paste, and bacon strips. All of us liked it and commented that the kimchi flavor tasted legit. 


For my main dish, I got the Honey Lemongrass Chops (Php310). It came with two pieces of pork chops that were grilled and marinated in honey lemongrass concoction, and served with a side of tomato-corn salsa and java rice. No other dips or sauces needed, as the meat already has its own flavor in it.


My friend A had the Fireside Grilled Chicken (Php275), which is a quarter-cut chicken that's baked then grilled, served with guacamole and java rice. We consider this dish healthy from the manner it was cooked--it wasn't oily as well, so eating the skin was guiltless. Its taste was born from herbs and spices, which gave it a bold flavor.


The best entree for the night was ordered by my friend L, called Crispy Pork Belly with Kimchi Rice (Php315). It sounded so usual that it gave us much of a surprise. The deep-fried, succulent pork belly came with its sweet and salty flavor, which greatly complemented the spicy kimchi rice. We would gladly order this again next time.


Onto desserts to cleanse our palettes, we indulged ourselves with the Strawberries and Cream Molten Cake (Php185). The warm strawberry cake was very moist, and when sliced had its molten core oozing with strawberry decadence. Eating the cake with vanilla ice cream was such a delight! 


And because Cafe Shibuya specializes in dessert toasts, we couldn't leave without trying the Sans Rival Toast (Php215 small, Php275 regular). It had butter cream, cashew meringue, and pistachio ganache layered delicately over toast, finished with vanilla ice cream. We unanimously voted that this is great for snacks or as a standalone dessert, since it's very filling and quite heavy to have after eating our entrees.


These are the drinks that we had throughout dinner—Pink Passion (Php85) and Mango Coconut with Aloe (Php155). The former has a tangy and sweet taste brought by the combination of pineapple, orange, and cranberry juices altogether, while the latter is more on sweet and creamy. I'd order the Mango Coconut drink again and again!


Cafe Shibuya currently has four branches in Metro Manila—TriNoma Mall, SM North EDSA The Block, SM Megamall, and Glorietta 2. It's a great place to dine and meet with family and friends. Choosing this restaurant as our meet-up place didn't disappoint.


Cafe Shibuya
Ground Floor, The Block, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City
Open daily from 10AM to 10PM
+632 512 0527

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Different flavors of Meat Skewers in one Eat City

Business diversification is now the "in" thing not only for big conglomerates like Ayala and San Miguel, but also for mid to high-scale entrepreneurs. Such is the case for Anthem Group's Eat City restaurant. This is their first venture into the food business, after being in the retail industry for quite some time. 


Eat City is a casual restaurant tucked at the corner of Two Serendra, facing McKinley Parkway Street just before you cross over to Market! Market! It opened last October 2016, and has since expanded to SM North EDSA's The Block for its second branch. Eat City's food concept brings several flavors of meat skewers into one restaurant, at a very affordable price.

Apart from meat skewers, Eat City's menu also has soups, salads, sandwiches, all-time favorites (lechon kawali, beef tapa, pork tonkatsu, and spicy pork sisig), add-ons (onion rings, potato wedges, rice), and drinks. Their dishes are straight-forward, simple to eat food, which is why they're big on online food delivery site Food Panda. 

For our first time at Eat City, we decided to get all flavors of their Skewers by the Stick, which consists of two sticks per order. Each flavor has its partner sauce, which adds to the taste of the meat. They have the following flavors to choose from:
  • Bangkok beef satay with peanut sauce (Php170)
  • Manileno chicken inasal with spicy vinegar sauce (Php160)
  • Mediterranean chicken with garlic mayo sauce (Php160)
  • Mexican pepper chicken with garlic mayo sauce (Php170)
  • Texas pork bbq with barbecue sauce (Php180)
  • Tokyo chicken yakitori with yakitori sauce (Php175)
  • Korean beef kalbi with Korean sauce (Php175)
These skewers were all tender and juicy. I didn't have a hard time removing the meat out from the sticks, which signifies that it wasn't overcooked. If I were to rank all seven, Korean, Manileno, and Bangkok skewers would be my top three, while Mexican and Mediterranean would be my bottom two. Sauce or no sauce, most of the skewers are tasty on its own. 


We also got a Kimchi Rice (Php50) and Japanese Fried Rice (Php50) to go with the meat skewers. I had the Japanese rice, which had veggies and seafoods in it. It tasted so good, albeit it can use lesser salt to be perfect. The Kimchi rice, on the other hand, wasn't bad as well. 


For drinks, we had the House Blend Iced Tea (Php80) and Lemon Mint (Php110), which were great refreshments after the very filling meal. 


Overall, I can say that I'll surely be back at Eat City if I want my share of comfort food and inexpensive meal. Although the restaurant is a bit small, I think the interiors were nicely done. I would recommend this for those living in condos, as it's easy to eat and clean up. It's great for potluck parties as well, or simply just food for pasalubong to your family. Go, check it out!


Eat City - Serendra
Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Open daily, 11am-10pm

Eat City - SM North EDSA
Basement, The Block, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City
Open daily, 10am-10pm

Friday, April 28, 2017

Travel spontaneously without breaking the bank — here's a travel hack for you

Travel junkies, rejoice! I'm here to share a cool travel hack for spontaneous travelers like me. You see, I was able to book a MNL-HKG-MNL roundtrip airfare via Philippine Airlines for less than Php7,000 (originally Php17,000++), just three days before the departure date, and for travel on peak days of Holy Week. Read further to find out more.

STANDBY PASSENGERS

By now, most of us would already know that airlines intentionally overbook their flights for maximum revenues (thanks to the recent United Airlines issue), because they know that not everyone who has a confirmed booking will show up. Naturally, it's not always rainbows and butterflies for them. There would be flights that are not fully booked. So what do airlines do? Unknown to the general public, available seats are offered to standby passengers who are mostly airline employees and their relatives. Wouldn't it be great if these last minute available seats are offered to all of us?


CAPE APP IS BORN

Here's why Filipino Founder and CEO Lyle Jover created the Cape app together with his team of Pinoys and foreigners. His goal is to make traveling fun and inexpensive, and standby seats to be reachable by more people. The Cape app is now available for free download on iOS, but will soon make its debut on Android as well. Among the destinations it currently offers are flights to/from Manila, South Korea, Tokyo, Singapore, Kalibo, Cebu, Ho Chi Minh, and Hong Kong -- all flown via Philippine Airlines. They're also preparing to launch flights in Europe and Latin America, as well as new features in a few weeks/months.

In a gist, Cape app shows you available flights for the next seven days, and be on the waitlist until standby seats are either confirmed or cancelled 12-24 hours before the departure time. Confirmation of your booking will depend on the number of last-minute seat availability of a flight. You will only be charged via credit card once the flight is confirmed. Depending on how many people have booked the same flight, Cape allows to bid for a fixed price to get you on top of the waitlist, ahead of everybody else.  On the average, prices are cheaper by about 50%, but still depends on seasonality.


ARE YOU READY TO STANDBY FOR A FLIGHT?

Step 1. Download the Cape app and register for an account. It's currently by invite only, but don't worry here's a link you can use -- this is limited only, so hurry!

Step 2. Select your destination and whether you'd like to see One Way or Round Trip schedules, then hit Search. Note that your booking will still be per way even if you select Round Trip.


Step 3. Select your preferred schedule on the next screen. It will show you how many percentage chance you have to successfully get into the flight. 

Step 4. Review the flight details and agree with the terms and conditions, then click Reserve. You will see that the flight status is Pending. You can still cancel the reservation for free up to three hours after reserving, but with a small fee of $5 if you're on top of the waitlist. 


Step 5. Some people may also book the same flight as yours at a higher price. In that case, you will be demoted to the second or third in line. When this happens, you can either stay put to wait and see if you'll still get in, or you can bid for a higher amount to jump up the waitlist. You will see that the Bid button is enabled.


Step 6. Within 12-24 hours before the flight, your booking status will change to either Confirmed or Bumped Off. Once confirmed, just go to the airport and check-in using the electronic pass on your phone.

IS CAPE FOR YOU?

Cape is best for passengers who have a free-hand in managing their schedules. Your mindset should be open to the possibility of either making it or not to the flight, and even staying longer in the country you're going to, just in case a flight back is not immediately available. Cape is still on beta and has 20,000 registered users. Are you ready to have a chance to fly? 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tasteless Food Group's Kushikatsu Daruma Brings Osaka Closer to Home

Kushikatsu Daruma ("kushi" meaning skewers and "katsu" meaning deep-fried cutlet of meat) draws its origin from Osaka, Japan. It has been successfully brought into Manila by the Tasteless Food Group, one of the fastest-rising food experts in the country, with Hey Handsome, Le Petit Souffle, Hanamaruken Ramen, Freezer Burn, and Ping Pong Diplomacy under its helm. 


Located at the second floor, al fresco area of Uptown Place Mall BGC, Kushikatsu Daruma can easily stimulate one's curiosity with its seemingly naughty character holding skewers, and its multitude of interior signages that shout "no double dipping!"


Kushikatsu Daruma's menu isn't complicated at all. Around 80% of its food items are varieties of meat, vegetables, and seafoods -- deep-fried, battered, and in skewers, of course -- and the rest are side dishes and beverages. Prices are very affordable with each stick going as low as Php39 each.


The ambiance of this restaurant is cool and relaxing, and not intimidating at all. Its interiors are simple, yet classier and more comfortable feel than that of its originating country. I like that it has dividers that give a bit of privacy when dining. 


Whether eating in groups or alone, you can find your perfect spot inside. One can either choose to sit on regular wooden chairs or watch the cooks dish off your orders at the bar counter. Another thing that I like about this restaurant is the availability of power sockets lying around different parts of the restaurant, giving you a hint that this is a good meeting place. Its acoustics are not the best, but you can discuss and talk clearly without having to shout.


I dined in with a friend for a quick catch up and mentoring session on a Friday night. Lucky were we that we got in ahead of others and found a well-lit and cold spot to chitchat about career and life updates. We were given this complimentary bowl of radish and carrots -- you may choose to make this as an appetizer or a palette cleanser later on as in-betweens while eating katsu.


On the table is a container of light tonkatsu sauce, which is basically the universal sauce for both the appetizer and kushikatsu. This is what's being pertained to by the "no double dipping" reminders posted around the restaurant, since one would easily be tempted to re-dip an already-bitten katsu. Of course, this is prohibited due to hygienic measures, and other Japanese traditions that the restaurant wants to preserve.


For a meal for two, we ordered the Beginner Level (Php480), which is composed of a total of nine sticks of the following: 
  • Classic Kushikatsu (beef) - the best for me
  • Prawn - good, too!
  • Chicken with Garlic
  • Chikuwa (Fish Cake) - I could taste the fish cake, but not much
  • Tsukene (Chicken Meat Balls) - good, but can be more tender
  • Tonkatsu (Pork Loin)
  • Leeks
  • Potato
  • Camembert Cheese
An Advanced Level (Php480) is also available with a total of eleven sticks, a combination of beef, chicken heart, chicken and pork intestines, chicken gizzard, garlic, gyoza, lady finger, white onion, leeks, and pork loin.


Since the set only had one stick of each, we got an extra stick of Classic Kushikatsu (Php39) and Prawn (Php39), so each of us can have our own share of those. We also got one stick each of Japanese Oyster (Php129), which is from the Specials list that also includes Foie Gras (Php199). What makes the meat, vegetables, and seafood tasty with or without the sauce is the fact that they're deep-fried in beef oil. 


As Pinoys, there's no complete meal without rice. We got one bowl each of Chahan Rice (Php150), which is a Japanese fried rice with myriads of other ingredients like scrambled eggs, garlic, onion, etc. It tastes so good, I can eat it even without anything else.


On the side, we ordered an ala carte of Yakiniku Beef (Php190), which is a perfect complementary dish to the dry katsu that we had. This one was stir-fried and seasoned well, leaving the beef perfectly cooked without appearing to be rubbery. 


And since my friend had a challenging week, he also ordered an ice cold Beer No. 1 (Php120). There are lots of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks available, with price points as low as Php55 for sodas and as high as Php340 for cocktails. 


When all the sticks have been consumed, there's a cylinder container where you can put those in. In the end, our total bill for two summed up to around Php1,500, which is not bad for the quantity and quality of food that we ate.

When dining at Kushikatsu Daruma, one must remember that this is a 'kushikatsu' restaurant; hence, the food items are mostly battered and deep-fried, cooked the same way. Please don't demand for too much food variety, as it may lose focus on its main concept. I must admit that existing food selection will eventually become passe. The challenge is for them to continuously think of new items to add to the menu, as is with any restaurant. 

Kushikatsu Daruma is open from lunch time to wee hours (2AM) to cater to office workers, shoppers, and partyholics who needs drown out the alcohol in their bodies with fried food.

Can't Stop the Feeling with Magnum Red Velvet

"Nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance; Feeling good, good, creeping up on you so just dance, dance, dance; I can't stop the feeling!" -- is this song familiar to you? You're right, it's by Justin Timberlake, and this is how Magnum Red Velvet makes me feel. All because it aids the summer heat!


As many people would know, red velvet is usually made of cocoa mixed with red food flavoring -- and by cocoa, it's essentially very similar to chocolates. I'm honestly not fond of chocolates. But I don't know why, red velvet desserts never fail to make me salivate. Is it because of the color? Or is it the cream cheese that makes the difference? Whatever that may be, Magnum has definitely done a good job with their all-new flavor inspired by the red velvet cake.


The new Magnum Red Velvet is one of two flavors under the Magnum White Range. It is crafted with decadent red velvet ice cream, a rich cream cheese flavored swirl, and wrapped in an exclusive white Belgian chocolate with cream cheese flavor. The other variant from this range is the Magnum White Almond, which is the same decadent white chocolate ice cream bar we all know and love, in a fresh new look.

Both Magnum White Range flavors are in line with Magnum's #NeverStopPlaying campaign, a sophisticated homage to the life less complicated, a reminder to find fun in everyday life, and a delicious invitation to take a break to enjoy life’s little indulgences.


Magnum's way of embodying the #NeverStopPlaying attitude is through fashion and lifestyle. They have partnered with world-renowned bag-maker Aránaz, eyewear curator Sunnies Studios, and noted clothing designer to Manila’s most fashionable set Boom Sason.

What better way to jump into the bandwagon than through an online activity, which will allow all of us to win exclusive pieces from the #NeverStopPlaying Fashion Collection starting April 16. Simply head on to www.magnumfliptoplay.com to flip to play using your smartphone. Play as much as you can daily and increase your chances to take home one of 25 Sunnies his and hers #NeverStopPlaying kits, 6 one-of- a-kind Arānaz pieces, and 6 custom-fit Boom Sason designer pieces from the Magnum collection.

Magnum White Almond and Magnum Red Velvet are available in all leading supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

3 Reasons to Watch Citipointe Live in Manila

Since I became a born again Christian, praise and worship through songs has been one of my favorite parts of church service, and my personal past time too. One of the bands that impacted me is Citipointe Live, especially when I first heard their song "You Reign" - it has become my LSS for several weeks!

I'm very glad to hear that they are coming to Manila, brought to us by Becca Music. And it's very soon... on June 3, 2016 (Friday)!

Here are three reasons why I encourage you to join the worship concert::

1 - Singing for God pleases Him

God loves to hear His people praise and worship Him. Citipointe Live will surely lead all attendees to an awesome night of uplifting music and life-inspiring worship! Their songs are contemporary worship music, so it sounds young, fun, and full of God's power in its lyrics.

2 - Venue is nice, tickets are not too expensive

The concert is happening at the CCF Center in Tiendesitas, which is a great venue almost at the center of Makati and QC. I bet everybody's too used to going to the usual concert places, so this is a breath of fresh air.

As for tickets, it's very affordable starting at P300 for upper balcony, P500 for lower balcony, P800 for Patron, and P1,000 for VIP. Each section is free seating, except for the VIP section. Be there early, as gates open by 5PM.

3 - We never know when they'll be coming back again

It took them seven years before coming back to Manila this year, and who knows when they're coming back again after this June 3rd?! Isn't that enough reason to get your tickets as soon as possible, before it runs out?

So on June 3, 2016, Join Aaron and Becky Lucas,. Joey Ramsey and the rest of the Citipointe Live band, as all roads lead to the CCF Center in Tiendesitas to praise and worship God at 8PM.

For inquiries and more information, contact Becca Music at (02)9105524. To get tickets, visit www.ticketnet.com.ph or call (02)9115555.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

6 Reasons Why You Should Get a Robinsons Malls VIP Card

Robinsons Malls has recently re-branded its now defunct Privilege Card, and calls it the VIP Card -- a name very apt for its very important customers. I've been a regular goer of Robinsons Malls to attend Victory church service and process my government-related transactions. Getting my own Robinsons Malls VIP Card just recently couldn't be any happier. Here are six reasons why. 

1. More discounts at shopping and dining establishments. I can't remember as much brands that participated in the old privilege card. Now, it's good to know that some of the brands I frequent like KFC, Max’s, Pizza Hut, Italiannis, Adidas, Converse, Lacoste, Nike Forum, etc. have joined in the program. Aside from that, the likes of Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Handyman and True Value are also participating in the program.

2. Free jumbo popcorn at Robinsons Movieworld. Who doesn't love eating popcorn when watching a movie? I'm glad that Robinsons Movieworld will be sponsoring my jumbo popcorn every time I buy two cinema tickets and present my VIP Card. That's a savings of Php150 or more! And, since I frequent Robinsons Galleria, I also get to use the Express Lane when purchasing my tickets. Yay!

3. Free use of Pay Toilet. Are you like me who's stingy, not wanting to shell out Php10 to use a pay CR lounge? Haha. This is such a blessing to us! Now, I can do my number one or two in clean, comfortable pay lounges for free, thanks to the Robinsons Malls VIP Card.


4. Free use of mobile phone charging stations. Mobile phone battery is now a necessity to live by while we're out in the mall. I'm sure you'll agree with me, especially when emergency strikes, or when, uhh, you're about to meet someone you've met on Tinder and your battery suddenly runs out. When this happens, simply go to the mall's customer service counter and charge your mobile phone for free!

5. Simple joys on your birthday. Robinsons Malls knows that delighting the customers, no matter how simple it may be, is key to keeping them loyal. With the VIP Card, we'd get a personalized birthday greeting via text, and redeem free giant sundae cone from Ministop.

6. Notifications for special deals and perks for sale events. By being a VIP cardholder, Robinsons Malls will alert us about special deals and sale events of participating brands and malls. What's more, we'd get reserved seats to mall concerts and activities as well.

Ready to get your very own Robinsons Malls VIP Card? Just visit any nearby Robinsons Malls and get your FREE card with a minimum accumulated purchase. To see the list of participating brands and their corresponding perks and privileges, click here.

Monday, February 29, 2016

This Can Be Your 6D/5N Seoul Itinerary!

So are you about to hop on the plane to Seoul, South Korea, but you still don't have an organized itinerary? Don't fret! I'm sharing my itinerary with you, hoping that you'd find it helpful. Depending on your preference, you can opt to follow it as it is or mix and match them.


Before I continue, please note that the schedule below took the following conditions into play:
  1. This isn't my first time to go to Seoul. I already had my taste of the Korean village and temples, so I'm skipping those this time around.
  2. I had to consider the Seollal holiday. It's Korea's biggest holiday, a la New Year, so several establishments were announced to be closed. Therefore, I planned my out-of-Seoul tours on those days.
  3. I want it to be chillax. Chill. Relax. I don't like very tight schedules, so I can relax and enjoy the beauty of Korea.
And so let's jump right to my itinerary...

February 04, 2016 (Thursday)

03:00 PM - Flight from Manila to Incheon International Airport via Cebu Pacific

09:00 PM - Arrival at Incheon Internationa Airport, South Korea

10:00 PM - Withdraw money from ATM (read this) and dinner at Bong Ju inside the airport. They are known for their congee and bibimbap. Note that most restaurants close at 10PM, but this one's until 11PM)

11:00 PM - Travel to Myeongdong via subway, bus or taxi

12:00 AM - Check-in at Metro Hotel Myeongdong

February 05, 2016 (Friday)

08:00 AM - Breakfast

09:00 AM - Trickeye Museum and Love Museum at Hongdae (Board at Euljiro 1-ga station, get off at Line #2 Hongik Univ. Station Exit 9, walk straight about 151m. Cross the first traffic light towards SPAO and walk towards Hongik University on the left. Make a right turn at Tony Moly corner and walk into the alley straight 105m until you reach the museum.)

12:00 PM - Lunch at Myeongdong Kyoja back in the Myeongdong area. They are famous for their Kalguksu (handmade noodles)

02:00 PM - Watch the NANTA Cooking Show at the NANTA Myeongdong Theater

04:00 PM - Free time to roam around Myeongdong

06:00 PM - Drop by Lotte Plaza and Lotte Young Plaza, which are walking distance from Myeongdong street

07:00 PM - Dinner

February 06, 2016 (Saturday)

09:00 AM - Breakfast

10:00 AM - Visit the Kyobo Bookstore Jongno, Korea's largest chain of bookstore to check out international books

12:00 PM - Walk towards Insadong from Kyobo Bookstore for lunch, then stroll around the alley to see traditional goods, paintings, and other art-related items.

06:00 PM - Go to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza to see the cutting-edge modern multicultural facilities. The DDP is like a huge donut-shaped architecture with different sections. Visit the Design Lab for artsy-fartsy items for sale.

07:00 PM - Dinner (option to eat street foods from Myeongdong)

08:00 PM - Stroll around Myeongdong for skin care products, food, and apparels

February 07, 2016 (Sunday)

07:00 AM - Breakfast

08:00 AM - Pick-up from hotel en route to Yongpyong Ski Resort, around 3 hours away from Seoul. Tour was booked from Klook.com (read more)

10:30 AM - Arrival at the ski rental place to get footwear, clothes, and head gears

11:00 AM - Arrival at the Yongpyong Ski Resort, the resort with the highest slope. Once settled, learn basic ski lessons from tour guide, included in the package. Ski on your own.

12:00 PM - Lunch

01:00 PM - Take the Ski Lift to go to the top of the mountain, which is more than 1,250m above sea level. Get tons of photos and enjoy the snow. One way takes about 30-minutes each.

03:00 PM - Depart Yongpyong Ski Resort to go back to the city.

06:00 PM - Dinner, then rest

February 08, 2016 (Monday)

07:00 AM - Breakfast

08:00 AM - Pick-up from hotel en route to Nami Island, which is about 2 hours away from Seoul. Tour was booked from Klook.com (read more)

10:00 AM - Arrival at the Nami Island port to ride a 5-minutes long ferry to the other side. Take a lot of photos. Find the right locations and angles to avoid noise in your background

12:00 PM - Lunch

01:00 PM - Travel to Petit France, a French-inspired tourist spot with lots of photo opp areas and interesting locations where Koreanovelas were shot

02:30 PM - Depart Petit France to go back to the city.

04:30 PM - Drop by the Ginseng Center or Duty Free or COEX Mall, the largest mall in Seoul for tea tasting or shopping

07:00 PM - Dinner, then rest

February 09, 2016 (Tuesday)

11:00 AM - Wake up late and check out from the the hotel, then leave your luggage in the hotel lobby.

12:00 PM - Lunch

01:30 PM - Visit the N Seoul Tower (Board at Euljiro 1-ga station, transfer to Line#1 at City Hall station, get off at Seoul Station exit 9, then ride the Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle Bus No. 3)

04:00 PM - Ride back to Metro Hotel Myeongdong to get the luggage

05:00 PM - Walk a meters away to look for Ibis Hotel to ride the Airport Limousine Bus 015 worth KRW10,000 (~Php390) going to Incheon International Airport

07:00 PM - Claim tax refund and have dinner inside the airport

10:00 PM - Depart from South Korea to Manila, Philippines via Cebu Pacific 

There you have it - a very chillax itinerary for non-first timers. For the free days, you can also opt to try the strawberry picking tour or visit the popular theme parks, such as Lotte World and Everland. They do have cheaper entrance fees starting 4PM onwards.

Enjoy your trip!



10 Tips For An Enjoyable Trip To Seoul, South Korea

Traveling to Seoul, South Korea anytime soon? I just recently came from there and had a great time experiencing new stuff! If you're like me who's OC during the prep time prior to your trip, here are some of my tips and recommendations for you.

1. Book your flights early for cheaper airfares.

They say the early bird catches the good worms. More often than not, Cebu Pacific puts up the cheapest prices when they first open slots for certain destinations. I was able to book my trip to Seoul for less than P5,500 last year when they had a sale. Some people won't agree with this, since they get to find good deals as the travel dates get nearer, but for me, this always works -- most of my trips are booked a year before.

2. Similarly, book your hotel accommodation early, online, and preferably around the Myeongdong area.

Several online hotel booking aggregate websites (i.e., Agoda, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Asiatravel, etc.) offer early bird discounts of 20%-40% when you book early. What I do is to look for hotels via TripAdvisor.com, then navigate to the site with the cheapest price from there. Mostly though, I get good deals from either Agoda or Booking.com. For this trip, I got to book our 6D/5N stay at Metro Hotel Myeongdong for Php26,550 (Php2,600/pax/night), which I will tackle in another post. 

3. Print discount vouchers online to save a little.

There are some sites that offer discounts to tourist spots and cosmetics or apparels. Simply look for them online and print them before your trip. Some sites that I recommend are Visit Korea and Visit Korea Committee. With myriads of cosmetics stores scattered around South Korea, be sure to know the exact store location on where to use the voucher. 

4. No Korean Won? Use your ATM card to withdraw money. 

Check with your bank if your ATM card will be accepted in international automated teller machines. If yes, you can conveniently withdraw money from there when you arrive at the Incheon International Airport -- ATM's are easy to follow and usually has English options. As for me, I made use of my BPI ATM. I compared Google's exchange rate vs the ATM rate after I withdrew, and found out they're almost the same. When withdrawing, you will get the money straight as Korean Won, so compute your expected amount prior to your transaction.

5. Buy a T-money Card for convenience and discounted fares.

This card is similar to Hong Kong's Octopus card, which is widely accepted in convenience stores, transportation systems like subways and buses, as well as some restaurants across Seoul. T-money card comes in different cute designs, and can be bought from convenience stores like 7-Eleven, GS 25, etc. for KRW2,500 (~Php96), which is non-refundable. Reloading the card can also be done in convenience stores or via kiosks placed inside the subway station. As an added bonus to convenience, having a T-money Card gives you KRW100 (~Php4) discount on train and bus fares (not all), and free/discounted transfers. 

6. Book your tours and mobile wi-fi device ahead of time, online.

I recently discovered Klook.com, a site that offers discounted tours for several countries across Asia. We got to book our Yongpyong ski tour package for KRW110,000 (~Php4,300), Nami Island + Petit France tour package for KRW103,040 (~Php3,960), and 6-day unlimited mobile pocket wi-fi rental for KRW45,474 (~Php,800) from there. Don't be hesitant to book your tours early, since you can still cancel it without a penalty fee up to a day or two prior to the tour date.

7. Satisfy your hunger with street foods at Myeongdong.

Stroll around the Myeongdong Street during late afternoon to evening and get to try several street foods (e.g., meatballs, chicken barbecue, corn on the cob, strawberry with red beans, beef stew japchae, sweet crepes, etc.). Apart from those, you can also see clothes, socks, fruits, drinks, cosmetics, and more around the area.

8. Download offline apps for subway, buses, and maps.

Since South Korea has a ton of subway lines, it'll be very helpful to download apps that can show the list of stations, number of and where to transfer, schedule, price, and distance. I downloaded the app called Subway Korea, which is just free. For an offline map and list of buses, I used the Korea Tour app, which is also free.

9. Get the free facial masks or any freebies from cosmetic stores.

Don't be surprised if you see several beauty shops lined up almost beside each other in every block. Some of them will offer you facial masks as you pass by their store. Get it. It's free. Just exchange it with the courtesy of going into their store to look around and inquire politely. You don't have to buy anything at all. In one night, I was able to get at least three facial masks.

10. Try out something different.

Most tourists go for the usual temples and shopping. If it's your first time, spare some time to research and also try out skiing (if visiting between December to March), strawberry picking, checking out books/arts stuff, watching shows, visiting attractions outside the city, and more. If you don't have much time to read up, I'll try to help you by posting our itinerary in another entry.

Apart from these ten tips, I'd like to suggest that you prepare your mind and body to experience and learn something new from traveling. Have fun and enjoy in the process, whether you get lost or don't get to do all the items in your itinerary. Try to find time resting at night as well, so you'd feel refreshed and ready for what's to come the next day.

Lastly, please bring appropriate clothes for the weather, depending on the time of your visit. When I was there in early February, the temperature would range from 3 to -11 degrees Celsius. I would always check the weather forecast and dress up accordingly before going out. It helped that I had several pairs of leggings, jackets, scarves, and of course earmuffs to battle the very cold weather. Enjoy your trip!

Got other tips? Feel free to share it to others by commenting below.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

7 Valuable Lessons About Leadership

Leadership is a journey of continuous improvement. In fact, it's a lifelong process filled with lots of learning on a daily basis. Therefore, I believe there's really no one-best-person who can embody the perfect meaning of what a leader is. However, we can all strive to be the best that we can be, day by day.  

In my three years of being a leader in my organization, handling a total of ten awesome individuals, I've learned several lessons that I'd like to share with you. Whether you're just starting to lead your own team, or you dream to lead a team in the future, I hope these seven points will serve as thought-starters for you.

1. A Leader is more than just a Manager

Spelling aside, a "leader" and a "manager" are two management terms often mixed up by many. While a Manager is meant to plan, organize, and coordinate the tasks of his team members, a Leader inspires and motivates them. As such, a Leader therefore shouldn't be making his team members work for him, but follow him in the path to success. 

In my first few years of being the Head of the team, I delegated tasks and ensured that all deliverables were completed on time. While each member was able to deliver their respective outputs, I realized they needed to understand the bigger picture and deeper sense as to why those tasks were assigned to them, and what those are for. By knowing how their role and outputs impact the business, it made more sense for them to accomplish their tasks with quality, rather than just simply finishing them for the sake of doing so.

2. A Leader is self-less

Humans are naturally selfish. That's why becoming a Leader challenges one to be a man for others. Being a self-less Leader means spending the most precious thing in the world -- our time -- to hear others, to mentor them, and to disciple them.

I'm not afraid to admit that I'm also selfish. There were times I wanted to hide in a room to concentrate on my own tasks, and be able to go home earlier. However, my conscience often slaps me in the face and tells me that I must ensure my team members get to approach me when they need anything from me.

I remember one time when my team members wanted to spend time with their families during the Yuletide season. As I was thinking about my situation, I knew that I didn't have any planned family events. I then decided to take their place and work in behalf of them during the holidays -- that is of course after aligning expectations moving forward and telling them about the evolving business needs.

Image from Purpose Driven Life

3. A Leader must have a purpose 

Knowing your purpose in life is key. Ask yourself: what is that one thing that I want to keep doing in my lifetime? What and why do I have to do it? What's the first step in doing it? How do I want others to remember me? As you step back and answer these questions, you'll get to your very core, your foundation.

As a young leader, I have so many aspirations for and expectations about myself. It sometimes leads me to become frustrated at myself and others. Thankfully, having known and believed my real purpose in life always brings me back to what I should be doing, and how I should do it. Once I am reminded about that life purpose, it helps renew my perspective about things.   

4. A Leader needs to be self-aware

Self-awareness drives change. It's important that we take a step-back and ponder on the situations we've experienced, the reactions we've gotten from others, and the state of emotion we've influenced others to feel. From those, we are able to realize what behaviors and traits we need to stop, continue or start, so that we can become a more inspiring leader.

It wasn't easy for me when I realized I was just acting as a Manager, and not a Leader. At first, there was in denial, which made me think it was others who should adjust and not me. But when I learned to accept the fact that I needed to be adaptive to others, situations changed and reactions became more positive - slowly, but surely. 

5. A Leader isn't afraid of feedback

People always say that feedback is a gift. It is, indeed. When we learn how to accept good or negative feedback from others, we grow and become better. When we are always hungry to get honest feedback from others, we learn how to be more understanding of how others feel about us.

I'm very fortunate that I was born to be very open to constructive criticisms, and that I act on it quickly. I always believe that I am not any better than others if I only rely on how I feel about myself. Feedback for me is my source of learning and growth. More than just the things I learn about the business, what's more important to me are the soft skills (i.e., behaviors and character) that I can nurture and bring even as I go out of my current company. 

Image from Huffington Post

6. A Leader facilitates open communication

If your team members are fearful of you as their leader, you better be alarmed. Having fear in you is far different than just respecting you. Many team members who fear their leaders would often hide things from them, or shy away from them the moment they see their boss' shadow. However, this is easily resolved by having an open communication.

As much as I can, I make time for bi-weekly 1on1s with each of my direct reports. In this session, we don't exactly talk about the statuses of their tasks, but instead use this time to open up to each other through exchanges of thoughts and stories. These sessions help both me and my team member to learn and understand our motivations to work, our external issues that may affect work behavior, our life/career expectations and aspirations, or simply remind us of our wins as a team. It is also a good avenue for both parties to reveal each other's vulnerabilities, so we both realize that we're just humans after all. 

7. A Leader is God-centered

The makings of a great Leader is hinged on a higher being, who is God. As humans, we cannot solely rely on ourselves. There will always be people who won't like us; there will always be challenges that will come our way. But the Bible says in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

There have been many times in the past three years that I've wanted to give up due to several reasons -- too much workload, unaligned expectations, bad behaviors, rejection and persecution, etc., but when I'm reminded that there is a God looking after me, I know I can ask God for discernment; I believe that God will not allow anything to happen to me without His permission. The Scripture teaches, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

To date, I'm still working on many aspects of my leadership skills. As I continue to strive to be better every day, I'm confident that I can be the best that God wants me to be, in His time. It's not easy, but I'm definitely up for the roller coaster ride!

What lessons have you learned as a Leader? Feel free to share in the comments section below.