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THE PUERTO GALERA CHARM

The Philippines is made up of thousands of islands. It is a tropical paradise like no other. If beaches are the topic of discussion, several spots come to mind. Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, Cebu.. But if you want to hit the beach, and you don’t want to hop on a plane, the choices become limited. If you ask me though, I don’t feel shortchanged if I don’t have much time or cash to spare. I hit Puerto Galera and I am a happy camper!

Puerto Galera is accessible by land and sea. A two hour drive to the Batangas City port, and an hour by boat are all it takes, and you are in Puerto Galera. Many may refer to it as the poor man’s Boracay. But it offers us more than that. It may have had its share of bad publicity over the years. But its natural charm will lure you back to it. I have been going back and forth to Puerto Galera and I never tire of it. You just need to know where to look and where to hang out.

Let me show you the pockets of beauty that Puerto Galera offers. Perhaps I can change your mind about it. :)

My accommodation of choice: Mindorinne Oriental

My accommodation of choice: Mindorinne Oriental

This is the view from the balcony of our room at Mindorinne Oriental. No other hotel on the white beach stretch can beat its central location. Rooms are hotel type, there is free wifi and free breakfast that comes with the package. Call +639178578425 for more details.

Colorful highpower boats

Colorful highpower boats

This is one of the boats that will take you from the Batangas City Port to the White Beach stretch of Puerto Galera. It takes an average of one hour. Since it sails on open seas, it is best to traevl in the morning when the sea is at its calmest.

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This to me is one  of the most beautiful spots in town. The local church has its own grotto of Our Lady of Puerto Galera. Its backdrop is the scenic Puerto Galera Marina, set in one of the 10 best bays of the world.

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Undoubtedly the best picnic spot in the entire of Puerto Galera, Haligi beach! Just look and you will agree.

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Puerto Galera has one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. I’ve witnesses perhaps hundreds of this, but I couldnt keep myself from taking endless snapshots with this as my subject. :)

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My New York Food Truck/Cart Hunt

I have been a long time fan of the Food Truck feature show, Eat Street. It is seen in various cable channels here in Manila. And when I visited the US last year, I pledged to catch at least a truck or two that I’ve seen featured on the show.

First truck I caught was the award winning vegan food truck, Cinnamon Snail. I approached the truck as it was parked somewhere midtown. I saw it parked alongside other food trucks. It thrilled me to finally hunted them down. I stood in front of the order window, and barked, “I saw your truck on Eat Street, and I flew all the way from the Philippines to taste your food!” That was kinda groupie sounding. But I didn’t care. This was one of the perks of being in New York, since vegan food is so scarce in Manila. I had to grab at this chance!

I ordered the Dutch Chocolate Coffee and the Lemongrass Five Spice Seitan, and their Creme Brulee Donut. It really felt like a treat, despite it being vegan. It changed my notion that healthy, meatless can be yummy!

My Seitan Burrito and Vegan Creme Brulee Donut from Cinnamon Snail

My Seitan Burrito and Vegan Creme Brulee Donut from Cinnamon Snail

After tasting the food, I turned into a real groupie, stalked The Snail on Facebook and Twitter even when I left New York. I was so crushed hearing that they would stop operating the food truck on a daily basis. I saw the love from its legions of fans, I send this as a love note to The Snail as a one time visitor. Thank you for changing the face of vegan food. I hope one day to grab your goodies again!

The next food truck hunt I took on was The Famous Halal Guys. One of my visits at the MoMA, I bumped into a long line that snaked around the corner. It was cold and damp that day, but this didnt stop the people from standing in line. I smelled something really yummy. But then, I didnt have time to wait around. I had no idea that the crowd drawer was The Famous Halal Guys.

So, on another weekday afternoon, I trekked towards MoMA yet again, and found a shorter line. I was again so thrilled that the universe conspired for a better shot to taste a New York fave. A mound of yellow rice, topped with lettuce, a choice of chicken, beef or lamb and pita bread, smothered with the best white sauce you’ll taste. All for the amazing price of $6! No wonder people cant get enough of it. It was a masterpiece bang for your buck!

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When I returned home to Manila, I could not stop raving about Halal Guys. Despite knowing that it will soon open in Megamall this year, I just cannot wait anymore. So I asked my chef-mom to concoct her own version of Halal Guys. She scoured the Net, watched Youtube videos, and tweaked her own recipe. Soo happy to get my own Halal Guys fix. This is a jazzed up version, but tastes just as great!

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I caught Cinnamon Snail in November at Midtown. But they have stopped doing their rounds :(

The Famous Halal Guys is located in several corners around the Theater District. But I went to the stall/cart parked on 53rd and 6th just fronting the Museum of Modern Art. 

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Sweets for my Sweet- Europe Edition

Europe is candy for a sweet tooth like me. I browsed through my photos to find my memorable sweet fixes throughout my stay there.

One of my favorite things-to-do during winter is to visit Christmas markets in Germany, which were a train ride away from the Netherlands. Just looking at these stalls left such a sweet taste in my memory

KolnKerstMarktWMA Christmas market stall in Koln, Germany

Another memorable food stop was when we tried churros in Barcelona, crunchy dough sticks dipped in thick gooey chocolate! We tried one along the Rambla.

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This dessert was not representative of Roman cuisine, but we made a pitstop in this restaurant after a long day’s walk in the streets of Rome. This apple upside down cake was a perfect pairing with an espresso.

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Macarons always amused me. Those pillow like candy colored crunchy bits are one of the cutest desserts ever. Just the same, it exudes a certain whiff of class and pizzazz unlike any dessert. When I was in Paris, the first macaron I tried was, along the Champs-Elysee, at the McCafe! :) Haha very un-French I know. But well, it was not all that bad!

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What is a trip to Italy without gelato? But with the endless choices, which stand should we go to? A kind Italian friend led me to the iconic Giolitti, which was established in 1890. Such history, wrapped in a gelato store. We went to its original store in Via Del Vicario. Just talking about it gives me the chills :)

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And finally, I just had to try canoli! And where best to try it but in Venice, at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio! Nostalgia rules!

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O sweet heaven! :)

Smorgasburg Outdoors

The Brooklyn Food Fest Called Smorgasburg

Brooklyn has become a food haven for New Yorkers. Manhattan has become unfriendly, due to lack of space and skyrocketing rentals. There were many restaurants that sounded inviting to visit for a tourist like me. But nothing got my full attention until I heard the words FLEA. FOOD. MARKET.

So on a chilly November Saturday morning, I took the train to Brooklyn to check out Smorgasburg. A crafty play of words for a food feast at the Williamsburg side. That Saturday, I trekked to East River State Park. It was the second to the last Saturday before the Smorgasburg turns indoors to shelter itself from the cold. I followed the drones who were going toward the market. I walked and walked until I saw this sign.

Smorgasburg Outdoors

I looked around, to choose which stall I will line up for. While in deep thought, I was so thrilled when I saw this stall, that made me proud that Filipino cuisine was in the mix.

Lumpia Shack

My instinct told me to go where the longest lines are. My choices were trimmed down to two:

Milk Truck

Yes people were braving the cold to line up for grilled cheese sandwiches! The main draw is ooey gooey cheese mixed with various options, avocado, bacon, etc. Interesting, but I needed something more.

Mighty Quinn

Saturday suddenly turned into a cheat day, as soon as I laid eyes on Mighty Quinn, a New York Smoked Barbeque resto. Who could resist those sliders with meat on a cute little bun, with a touch of red chili and pickled onion?

Li'l Brisket

This is one of ’em days that I repeatedly told myself, “I will never turn vegetarian”.

This was the small slider that they served, slices of the fall off the bone, melt in your mouth pork heaven. I was tempted to get the bigger size, but after eating every bit of this masterpiece. $5 was all I needed to a wide grin and a happy tummy.

Smorgasburg View

Travelling is made of days like these. This was one of the best finds of my trip. And with these photos, it is a joy to relive the day I met Smorgasburg. :)

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

OUR LADY OF LOURDES

Our Lady of Lourdes is very special to me. When I was in third year high school, I remember it being my section. But I started praying to her before her statue in Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City. I used to be a regular church goer to that parish, up and until my priest uncle started saying mass at our compound every Sunday. But everytime I would visit the church, I would always light a candle and say a little prayer to her before her statue.

There was one time I felt that she really listened to me. That I was asking for a sign, and as I approached her statue, I saw a beautiful bouquet of pink and green flowers. It was awesome, it was to me an answered prayer.

During her feastday, I was searching online for a novena prayer and I chanced upon the official website of Our Lady of Lourdes. And they made it possible to place online petitions, that the parish will pray for on your behalf. I was so thrilled that was possible. What’s more awesome, is that with a minimal donation, the parish could also burn a candle to go with the petition. The donation may be made via paypal or credit card payment. I was so excited, and did it immediately. There were bumps along the way, but the transaction went through.

I received this authentication certificate from the parish to prove that the candles have been offered at their grotto in France. I felt as if I did it myself.

Happy Feastday to our dear Lady!

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

Japanese Proverb

FALL SEVEN TIMES, STAND UP EIGHT

I first saw this quote in a Converse ad, featuring Derrick Rose. Since then, I wanted it to be my daily mantra. We’ve been down so many times for many things. And each time, we just feel like giving up. It can apply not only to sports,  to love, practically anything about life.

I wanted to find out where this excellent soundbyte came from. And I found out that it was lifted from a well known Japanese proverb. In Romaji, it is translated as “nana korobi ya oki” It’s amazing how six words put together can create such a powerful message.

Nana korobi ya oki

“FREE” Handset for Globe Loyalty Rewards? Think Again

Dear Globe Telecom,

I have been a Globe subscriber as far back as when I got my first mobile phone in 1998, and our family has been Globe users since then. As longtime subscribers, we would qualify for loyalty rewards, such as free handsets or monthly rebates. And we would avail of these concessions. We are very well aware of the conditions that these rewards entail. The subscriber will be bound by a 24 month holding period, during which we cannot terminate the said contract nor downgrade the plan which came with the handset, or otherwise be subject to a pretermination fee. In the past, we had very positive experiences availing of these rewards. 
 
But after what happened to us this time around, we could not believe that Globe would treat their loyal subscribers in this manner. If loyalty truly mattered, we would not be lead into signing a loyalty reward agreement that is deceptive, misleading and malicious. This agreement would have us pay for a P600 amortization (“ULTIMA SERVICE”) for handsets they offered for rewards that were described as FREE, without us knowing.
 
On separate occasions, we took out handsets from two accounts  under the “MyRewards MyGlobe Loyalty Program”. These were an IPhone 4S 8GB White on May 2014 and an LG G2 Mini White on August 2014. As part of their Standard Operating Procedure, the subscriber will be made to sign a recontracting agreement that has, among others, the following terms and conditions:
 
1. The handset is for “FREE” or with “cash out of state cash out amount: (___)”
2. That the subscription is locked up or recontracted for a period of 24 months from availment.
3. That the subscriber shall enroll the account to a “My Superplan”
4. That the subscriber shall not downgrade or terminate the plan for the entire duration of the holding period. Or otherwise be subject to a pretermination fee and administrative fee.
 
This was initiated through the hotline, and these were the conditions mentioned to us by the agent, and we agreed thereto. Before delivery of the handsets, we signed both agreements for the two handsets. We have copies of the recontracting agreements, should you be interested.
 
On February 6, 2015, as we were checking our monthly bills, we noticed that we have been charged P595.00 for the LG G2 Mini and P600 IPhone 4S, described as an “Ultima Service” under the heading “Best Ever mySuperPlan Peso Value”. We then backtracked to previous monthly billings and this charge recurs in all of the monthly bills dating back to the signing of the recontracting agreements in May and August 2014. You will find photos of the monthly bills below. 
 
I called the Globe Customer Service hotline 211 at around 6pm, and spoke to agent who gave her name as “Ann”. I requested that these charges be credited back to the accounts as consumable peso value, which we  use for phone calls and text charges. As a result of this “ultima service”, the available consumable peso value would not be enough to cover these charges. Hence, phone calls and texts become top up charges. Essentially, this fee dubbed as “ultima service” was in fact an amortization for the handsets we took out that were supposedly FREE. After over an hour, the agent repeatedly denied my request saying that these are valid charges, nor were they hidden. She insisted that we agreed to this when we took these handsets from Globe. 
 
I insisted that I have read the agreement, which was in front of me, during that call. I read and re-read it, and nowhere in the agreement did it say that there was in fact a charge that would be deducted to the peso value of the Best Ever MySuperPlan. The agent in reply, said yes it was free, and that there was no cash-out required on our part. I told her but because Globe was deducting from the peso value allotted from the plan, that handset is not FREE.
 
Then the agent Ann, offered as a compromise, that if I wanted, that this charge no longer be deducted from my consumable peso value, and instead, be added to our monthly service fee. And then this infuriated me. We had no way out but to pay for this “ULTIMA SERVICE.” These options should have been explained and laid down to us when we first inquired about the reward, and moreso, indicated in the contract. And not now, when we can no longer terminate the contract without paying a substantial penalty. 
 
I asked her to escalate my complaint to her supervisor, since there was nothing she could do at her level. It was over an hour after that she turned me over to her supervisor, a certain “Ben Francisco”. He explained to me the mechanics of the MySuperPlan, insisting that we agreed to this. I said there was something intrinsically wrong with the written agreement subscribers are being made to sign, upon acceptance of their supposed FREE handsets. Only to find out afterwards that there is in fact a charge. Had we known that this was the case, we would not have availed of the handset in the first place.
 
I have asked repeatedly throughout this conversation with the two agents that it was clear to me, it was beyond their competence to resolve this complaint. It was only after an hour and a half that “Ben Francisco” recorded the complaint, and generated a ticket for it. When I asked him for details on where to elevate my complaint. He gave me the generic talk@globe.com.ph email address for customer complaints, and the generic corporate address indicated in the billing statement: 32nd Street, corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig Philippines 1634. 
 
This is the manner by which Globe treats its loyal postpaid subscribers. We are subscribers who stayed on the linefor 1 1/2 hours. Yes, we are the distraught ones  who did not find resolution to our complaint. Worse, we are the ones who only have written agreements that are supposed to protect us and our rights. But then, these agreements do not reflect what subscribers are really in for. I surmise these are the same pro-forma agreements millions of subscribers sign when they avail of their so called loyalty rewards. Given my experience with the customer service hotline last  February 6, when I was made to feel that as a consumer, we do not have any recourse to be protected against these deceptive, misleading agreements. I think now, how much more, the million others? 
 
There has to be a way to protect individual consumers against these non-transparent promotions. We have elevated this complaint through different channels, to Globe Legal, Globe Customer Service and the DTI. I received a call from Globe billing this morning, and apologized for the manner by which my complaint was handled. But the agent told me that they could not fix it.

I am writing this on my blog for Globe to know that transparency matters. In this country where consumers always get the raw end of the deal, it is the least they can offer us. Truth is, the loyalty we attribute to Globe is more of laziness to find a more worthy service provider, or that we don’t have much of a choice that we are left to stay. 

 
From a very dissatisfied and exasperated Globe subscriber,
Michecesa

A Handset With a charge called "Ultima Service" is not FREE!

A Handset With a charge called “Ultima Service” is not FREE!

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