May 29, 2017

PROFILES: Sheryl Kamantigue


I've never been a fan of Frappuccinos lately but on that sunny morning, I was just a couple of sips away from finishing my cup. That is also when we decided that it's time for our interview. At 39, Sheryl Kamantigue is a Professor at De La Salle University - DasmariƱas, my Alma Mater. I was blessed to have been one of her students during my college years and when I was teaching, she was not just a colleague but became one of my closest friends.

Prior to the interview proper, we were already indomitably speaking for two hours for we had so much to catch up. For five years, we taught students together and spent almost everyday at the same faculty room. That is when I have known her, when I really have known who Sheryl was. Strong, warm, and yes - inspiring. Sheryl was the only name in my mind when I decided that my next interview will be with a Teacher.

Stevenson Que: Good Morning Maam Sheryl! And thank you so much for accepting my invite to be my next guest.

Sheryl Kamantigue: Yes!

Stevenson Que: Maam She, let's say you are speaking in front of an audience, How will you introduce Sheryl Kamantigue?

Sheryl Kamantigue: I have to say, I'll introduce myself as Sheryl, the professor, the teacher in DLSU-D. I've been teaching for 15 years and I can say that I'm happy and fulfilled as a person and it's what keeps me going with my life.

Looking Back


Stevenson Que: Wow 15 years!  So, let's turn the hands of time, tell us who Sheryl was during her early years.

Sheryl Kamantigue: Early years as a teacher?

Stevenson Que: As a person.

Sheryl Kamantigue: As a person, I remember myself as someone who's really determined. When you come from a background where things are not handed to you, you have to strive very hard and that's the time when I realize that education is the most important thing for me to overcome poverty. And for me to be able to do things for my family. I am where I am right now because of that dream.

From L-R: Clara (Mother), Alejandro (Father), Sheryl, Alex (Brother)

Stevenson Que: Was there any situation wherein you almost gave up on that dream?

Sheryl Kamantigue: Actually, on a dream of having a degree, No. When I graduated highschool and I wasn't still sure if I will go to college, I had this determination to tell my Nanay [mother], I should go to college. I should study. Or else nothing will happen. It's my faith in the Lord that tells me to say those things and I was never wrong with that.

Stevenson Que: You have always been one of my heroes. Being the breadwinner to the family, you still maintained that effervescent positivity in life. Knowing that you have siblings, do you think that being the breadwinner was a matter of choice to you?

Sheryl Kamantigue: I suppose Yes. That's when I realize that when you pray and you are specific, God will give you the specifics too. Because when I prayed to be able to graduate and earn a degree, I told God that I'd provide for my family. Perhaps this is it, this is the time and fulfilment of what I have prayed for. So you have to be careful for what you pray for. Being the breadwinner to the family is something that that keeps me going. It's part of my mission in life so I suppose I don't regret it.
"The attitude of being grateful for everything
that you are blessed with, that's one
source of happiness." -Sheryl Kamantigue
When you come to a point in life where you get to accept the situation you are in and you are thankful for it, because I wouldn't be able to be where I'm in without the help of my parents. The attitude of being grateful [to your parents], I suppose you are the person that you are because of them. I wouldn't live my life any differently.

Life as a Teacher


Stevenson Que: After we talk about your past and how you've been through life, let's talk about your profession. What is something different about being a teacher from other professions, in terms of character?

Sheryl Kamantigue: For me, I'm just being myself. People get to see me for who I am. Perhaps my students also accept me for who I am. My relationship with them is something that is so important that I don't have to pretend, to have to be someone else. That's why I don't have any difficulty relating to them. Teaching is really a noble job and I just have to be who I am. I just have to teach the way I believe I can influence my students and at the same time nurture them for being who they are.

Stevenson Que: How do you feel about living by the norms of what a teacher should be in this judgemental society? Do you think it's fair?

Sheryl Kamantigue: Regarding people?

Sheryl Delima Kamantigue

Stevenson Que: Regarding to the society that we have right now, where in you have to encompass certain characters to be something like a role model? Someone who is almost perfect?

Sheryl Kamantigue: When you relate to your students, they can see who you are. You can't hide, especially students nowadays, you can't fake them. They will know who you are, what type of person you are, based on your relationship with them.I'm not perfect but I suppose there's something in me that they see that I'm true and that I'm genuine. It is how I relate to them with my faith and belief [in God], that they see me as someone who is not a role model by being perfect, but a person they can imitate.

Someone who they can look up to, with the positive influences that I can give them. Because I can be a friend, I can listen to their problems, I can help them if I have a way to do so. I see my students as persons too. But more importantly, they are my students because I have to impart knowledge to them. But more than that, it's building a relationship with your students that makes them trust you and not judge you.
"Most students will forget their teacher, but they will never
forget the teacher that influenced them positively"
-Sheryl Kamantigue
Stevenson Que: I can attest to that because I have been your student. But to be honest, everything you said is actually evident and I can prove that. But how about for other teachers? Do you think it's fair that every teacher should watch themselves, their reputation with their students? Do we have an obligation to be almost perfect and be someone who should be imitated?

Sheryl Kamantigue: Yes, it's a big responsibility to be a teacher.. When you become a teacher, people look up to you, your students will look up to you. You are not perfect but your goal is to at least do things that will influence your students to do good.

As a teacher, attitude can influence your students. Even if you're not perfect, [but] you are trying at least to be perfect for your students, it's one way of getting the job done. Most students will forget their teacher, but they will never forget the teacher that influenced them positively. It's not always about the acknowledgement and recognition, it's being remembered that I have done or said something positive to them that they may always remember me by, that's already a mission accomplished for me.

Stevenson Que: Nowadays, do you think teachers of today are still respected by society? Why or why not?

Sheryl Kamantigue: There's this connotation that teachers are teachers because they can't go anywhere[in life, farther].

Stevenson Que: Oh Yes! I've heard that one.

Maam Sheryl and me during the 2014 Graduation Rites at DLSU-DasmariƱas

Sheryl Kamantigue: Yes. Society can be judging, but at the same time they can also be, [the term is] not forgiving eh, but very considerate. When people say that there will be no engineers, no lawyers, no doctors without teachers, that lifts the spirits of teachers up.

All professions must be respected, but I suppose it's how you separate teachers from other profession that makes you want to appreciate it more. At times, it's sad to hear these stories that teachers are regarded less, but at the end of the day, as a teacher, it is your own fulfillment that defines you. If teachers are not respected by the society, but as a teacher, you do everything in your power to be respected by your students or your friends or anyone who is in your circle, that's what's most important.

Stevenson Que: Was there a time that you had a difficult student? I'm sure! In my 5 years, I had a few, and you have been teaching for 15. Tell me about how you handled that situation.

Sheryl Kamantigue: Honestly, in my first years of teaching, I was very strict. These difficult students always give me a hard time-always absent, not submitting requirements, before i was really very furious. I was still in my 20s when I started teaching, I would retaliate. I would lose my patience. As you mature, you'll see that these students, these difficult students are those that have problems. Therefore it is better to understand and know where they're coming from instead of getting angry.

Stevenson Que: So it's not a matter of how the students are changing, it's a matter of how you change as a teacher.

Sheryl Kamantigue: Yes. Now, I try to see where the problem starts and try to understand my students. And if there's something that I can do, even if I have to get out of my way, I'd do it. Because there's always a reason why they are difficult, why they are doing these things to themselves, why they are the way they are. It's really a different phase, because before I just burst out in anger, even tried to get back at them. But now, it's a different story.

Love and Friendship


Stevenson Que: Tell us about this unwritten chapter, your Love Life? Is it really unwritten? Can you share about it?

Sheryl Kamantigue: I think it is really unwritten.

*both chuckles and laughs*

Because I'm in this point in my life where I am contemplating if I will still be able to get married or not. But when I talk to my best friend, what's nice about where we are in life right now is maybe because we are still needed by our parents that's why we are not yet married. It's a mission that we have to accomplish for our parents and not for ourselves. It's really good when I talk to your Ate Yen [Sheryl's Best Friend] about these things. But the good thing is we are still open to it, we're not giving up, yet. I suppose when you mature, the most painful heartbreak that you had is just something to laugh about now.

From L-R: Sheryl, Memey, Yen, Lhot

We've had our share of ups and downs when it comes to love life. We've met people we never thought we'd meet if not in that area. These people have helped us and shaped us to the person that we are right now. With your Ate Yen, I'm very sure she wants to get married. With me, I am...also, but I'm on the verge of contemplating that 'Lord, if it's not for me, then, it is not for me' I believe that every people has a calling. I may not be in the vocation of being married, but I can still be a parent to my nephews, students, therefore, it is not necessary for me to be a real parent. But I'm not closing my doors.

Stevenson Que: That's the good thing.

Stevenson Que: How do you manage to become both single and a person who is happy and thankful. Because I can see it in you.

Sheryl Kamantigue:I guess it's about being content with who you are and what you do. Knowing what could fulfill you. Being single has made me a stronger person, because I don't have to rely and do things on my own, I have to, I don't have a choice, but I'm happy. Being happy means realizing that you are where you should be, in a place where you are bound to. You don't need things, the affirmation of other people for you to be happy. The attitude of being grateful for everything that you are blessed with, that's one source of happiness. Therefore it's true! You can be happy and single at the same time.

Stevenson Que: You have been through a lot, I know that. I am very proud of what you have become today. Any words of encouragement to the Sheryl's today? people currently experiencing what you have experienced in life.

Sheryl Kamantigue: My advise, perhaps, is what I did. Because the experiences that I had were rewarding. Just have that dream, that goal, it's really important. At times I get sad when I realize that my students don't have that goal anymore because everything is given and provided for them. It's having this goal and doing everything to achieve it, to make it happen. And at the same time, balance it with your faith in God, your belief that things will go your way if you just pray and believe in yourself. I just prayed, I dreamed of earning that degree - which I did, and at the same time, I have this faith in God and with my family that kept me together.
"To those people who have been blessed enough,
at least be grateful for it;and still have
that dream that will make you feel
accomplished and fulfilled." -Sheryl Kamantigue
To those people who have been blessed enough, at least be grateful for it;and still have that dream that will make you feel accomplished and fulfilled. Have that sense of courage and determination that I had, things will go your way. It's not that easy but it will in time. There's no specific formula or element that you can use to get to where you want to go but you have to take people to journey with you. Put Emphasis in your character and how you deal and relate with other people. You can never say that you will not depend on people because  for sure you will need people to help you carry that burden, lift it up with you, and make your load lighter. Have that dream and be very specific on what those dreams are.

Maam Sheryl at the Grand Canyon, USA - 2016

Stevenson Que: Finish this Sentence. I'm happy right now, but I still want to...

Sheryl Kamantigue: I'm happy right now, but I still want to have my own family.

***

PROFILES is a new segment on my blog which will be a one-on-one interview with an interesting personality, as I ask them to share a page of their life as they know it. I've always wanted to be a journalist so this is my way of feeding my hunger for that little taste of being a host. Through this blog, this world that I can call my own, this is my talk-show.

May 28, 2017

Asiong's of Cavite

Asiong's of Cavite in Silang

Nestled in the upland Cavite town of Silang, Asiong delights its guests not just with the delectable tastes of their menu items, but with it's aesthetic beauty that fuses nature and the old world. Just as you arrive, the sight of lush greenery will instantly relax you and gives it a distinct ambiance that only nature could provide.

In Celebration of my father's 65th Birthday, he took me and my brother Wilson to Tagaytay City for breakfast and that's when we decided to have it as Asiong's. A few kilometres away from the bypass road from the city, we reached outskirts of Silang where these greens and memories are planted.

Interior of Asiong's

We arrived early in the morning, at around past 9 and we were greeted by Mr. Sonny Trias Lua, owner of Asiong in Silang, Cavite. He is the second generation of the Lua's who nurtured Cavite City with their famous dishes through the original Asiong's Carinderia. Like us, he is a decendant from generations of Chinese families, just like ourselves. I can still remember during my elementary days when my aunt Mama Vicky brought me to the original Asiong's in Cavite City where I ordered Lechon Kawali, it was the best I ever had right next to the one I had in Macau.

My brother Wilson, Me, my Father, and owner Mr. Sonny Trias Lua

Just when we arrived and my father started walking inside, Sonny greeted us pleasantly and asked "Drove all the way from Malabon?". You can really recognise his Chinese roots (compared to us). We were very early and that was a really good thing as per Sonny, because they have a lot of reservations in the afternoon especially that it was a Saturday which is a weekend where they are usually packed. Sonny and my dad started to chat and it amazes me as they talked about people they both know of, mutual friends and family, that are intertwined by today's time and theirs.

NOTE: Sonny suggested that if you wish to dine with them on weekends, it is best to make a reservation since they serve a lot of guests during Saturdays and Sundays. You can call them in advance using the contact information I have provided at the end of this article.

I was then led by Mr. Sonny to the back of the restaurant where they have this Al Fresco dining spots which also houses their Herb Garden. While I was there, Sonny showed me all of the herbs that they are growing that are actually used for their dishes. It's amazing! It's like I was watching a Martha Stewart show as he cuts herbs, including those that will be used for our Garden Salad - Lettuce, Gotu Kola, Ashitaba, and more.

Javanero Peppers from Sonny's Garden

Sonny was also very kind to let me taste the Stevia's that he grew at the garden. Stevia is a natural sweetener and I've seen commercial packets of it being sold but I have never tasted a real one before. He plucked a few sprouts and handed them to me. I chewed on them and at first it was a little bitter but chewing further just bursts out a lot of sweetness! He also crushed some tarragon and lemon balm for us to smell and it was so fragrant and fresh. I stayed away from the Javanero Peppers because Sonny might pick one and ask me to tastes some of its fruits. Haha! Just kidding Sir Sonny!

Farther along the gardens of Asiong's

The photo above shows the spot with the Bamboo shades, that's a beautiful spot! I can imagine Queen Elizabeth just below the shrubs, enjoying her cup of afternoon tea. It was so peaceful and serene. I think the garden is also perfect for upcoming events such as weddings and posh birthday brunches to be held at.

Oh the fresh mountain air just soothes my tired body that morning. Right after work (I work on graveyard shifts), I just took a shower and then we went straight to Tagaytay. But the fresh air and the beauty of the place just took all of my weariness away for quite a time.



Trees lined up the gardens

Fresh Lettuce (still planted) - perfect for Salads

Produce are also sold at a spot on the restaurant called the "County Store" including delicious goodies and pasalubongs for home. Famous Cavite delicacies such as the Jacobina biscuits of Mendez, Highland Coffee, and even their own healthy options such as Kale chips and Onion Chips can be bought. The sauce that they use for their pasta con huevos de pescao are also sold on jars so you can enjoy their specialties at the comforts of home.

Goodies at the County Store

An old Photograph which reminds me of Photographs of my Grandfather and my uncles

Asiong's of Cavite - Silang, Metro Tagaytay

Then it was time for our food! It was presented and plated just perfectly and right there and then when the first dish was served, one of my favorite smells in the world made it's entrance - Cheese! (I love the smell of cheese ON MY FOOD OKAY? Not on any other thing, thank you very much) It was so tempting to just grab a bite from the plate but yes, we usually wait for all of the dishes first just as we are used to. I know salads are starters and can be killed right at that moment but we treat delicious and good looking salads like this one as main courses HAHA

Fresh Garden Salad with Quesillo Dressing

The smell of this dish is just enticingly fragrant. The strong smell of the Quesillo dressing makes anyone just grab their forks in an instant. The tomatoes are sweet and the fresh herbs that we gathered earlier at the garden are perfect. The croutons, at first, appears to be too toasted but its slight bitterness actually compliments the saltiness and all other flavors of the dish. Oh and before I forget, I have to commend the creaminess of their special Quesillo dressing that makes everything about it a lot smoother on the palate. I can eat like three plates of this one for sure.

Pasta Marinara with Meatballs

This was my order. I'm a self confessed killer of Pasta, in case you haven't heard or seen. And this one is good. What I really like about this one is the the sauce that was made really smooth with perfect explosions of fresh herbs that were used to concoct it. I know it's a matter of preference, but I really like sauces on my pasta smooth without any trace of chunky and oversized onion slices or giant squares of peppers, that's why this one is a match made for me. The sweetness of the basil and the strength of oregano, everything falls in its perfect place. 

Let's not forget another important component to this dish - the meatballs. One thing that puzzled me if these meatballs are baked or fried, but either way, they do taste good. Aside from the taste, they managed to maintain the juiciness of the meat inside while making the outer shell crispy, which gives it an opposing body to the smoothness of the sauce and the noodles.

Pasta con Huevos de Pescao

This one is my Brother Wilson's choice. Can you agree with me that this dish was plated so perfectly? IT'S SO CUTE! I was actually looking away when my brother started mixing it because it's like a cute birthday cake that you just don't want to cut because it will ruin the dedication icing on top. My brother was so kind to let me have a taste.  This dish is very rich and I think if this is consumed by large quantities, it will leave you feeling uneasy. But of course, if consumed with this serving, it's perfect!

The richness of fish roe, Tuna to be exact as I asked Sonny, is the star of this dish. There's this hidden sweetness in the saltiness of the roe. Crazy but that sweetness under saltiness does exist, well for me I guess. You would have to mix it very well before you grab a forkful so that you can enjoy the perfect amounts of everything- roe, sauce, herbs - and it will definitely be a delight to your tastebuds! Aside from this preparation, they also serve this dish in spicy and in negra or with black squid ink.

***

Right after, we then said our goodbyes to Sonny and pushed all the way home. It was a great dining experience and something memorable as we celebrate my father's 65th year. That's also where I gave my father his birthday gift, a round trip ticket to Taiwan this October! I'm so excited for his trip (yes, i'm not joining huhuhu) and as he roll the streets of taipei, I'm very sure he'll remember when we had our delicious brunch at Asiong's.


Asiong's of Cavite
4455 Buenavista Ave., 
Bo. Bucal, Silang, Cavite
Metro Tagaytay, Philippines

for Reservations:
0918 565 2691
(046) 686 1048

May 25, 2017

Jeju Island - South Korea Series Part 2

Udo Island, Jeju-do, South Korea

On the first part of my South Korea Series, I took you back step by step during the first day of our adventure, from our departure at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, connections in Soeul, up to our arrival in Jeju Island. This time, I will take you all the way to this magical island where nature lives hand in hand with it's amazing people.

Day 2 came and we were very excited! The night before, our Taxi Tour Guide, Mr. Bruce Hong called us and informed us that our call time for tomorrow's day tour around Jeju will be at 9 in the morning. It was originally at 7 in the morning but he informed us that it is too early so we did agree with him with the updated departure time.

My cousin Carmina visited us that morning at our room. She is also staying at Days Hotel

This trip was originally a family trip with my most favorite cousins but a lot of events happened that made them cancel the trip. I was absolutely sad because of it because the main reason I was looking forward to this trip is not just the beauty of South Korea, but because bonding time with my Viniegra cousins is just golden. But anyway, I'm sure there's still a lot of moment that we are going to be sharing in the coming years, but I have to admit, I really did miss them the whole trip! But I was still happy because one of them, Ate Carmina, was there and we got to see her and chat with her for about an hour that morning.

Mr. Bruce Hong from Jeju Taxi Tour arrived perfectly on time on the hotel lobby that morning. It was 9 in the morning and we are so ready for what's in store for us that whole day. He ran through our itinerary briefly and then he led us to his car. And so the journey began.

Bruce Hong of Jeju Taxi Tour

Mr. Bruce Hong is a happy person, and I can say that he loves his job, just as much as how he loves his beautiful island. He loves music and making videos and just like us, taking pictures. I will never forget when the song "Hello" by Adele played, he told me that he nearly cried the first time he heard of the song. Honestly. I have to agree with that. Aside from his out-going persona, Bruce is also resourceful, smart, and shows interest with our own culture and the Filipino Language. And best of all, he took amazing photographs of us, directing our poses and all. You can contact Mr. Bruce Hong through email at humt818@naver.com or through his Facebook link: Bruce Hong on Facebook

We drove for an hour due East and then around up north until we reached the northeastern coast of the island. The roads are perfectly smooth and the view around is just amazing! Fruit bearing trees, flowers, cute house, flowers, and flowers everywhere! It really is a beautiful, sunny spring day! after about an hour, the roads led us to this beautiful mountain as we get closer and closer to it. I knew what it is just from its silhouette, Jeju's famous Sunrise Peak or in their local language, Seongsan Ilchulbong.

Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)

At first, I thought we are to go straight to the mountain but Bruce told us that we should go directly first to Udo Island. Udo Island is just off the northeast coast of Jeju Island where you can see different beaches and a lot of sights that will color out your memories of springtime in South Korea. When we passed by the Sunrise Peak, it was just about a few minutes when traffic started to build-up. We realize that the traffic is towards the pier where people are also heading towards to.

The tourism office on the pier was quite packed with tourists, mostly domestic tourists from all parts of South Korea. One thing we noticed is that most tourists, about 60-70% is composed of senior citizens. Groups and groups of grandmas and some grandpas flock the airports and buses and now, the ferry aboard to Udo island.

Top Deck on the Ferry to Udo Island

I chose to wear shorts because I saw that the skies are clear and the sun is shining bright that day, but yes, it was a chilly ferry ride going to Udo, but it was just a short 20 minute ride and after just a few photographs, we are on our way out of the ship. 

Right at the docks, bicycles and motorcycles are for rent. Though do take note that you need an International Drivers Licence to rent a motorcycle or any motor vehicle in Udo or anywhere else in South Korea. So we opted to hire just bicycles for 20,000 KWN for an hour and a half of use. Helmets come with it and so as something that the bike guys have placed on our bicycles. That's when we realize that the wheels that we're gonna be riding are actually electric bikes which have gears to make it faster and can even work with minimal pedaling. We hired our bikes on the shop next to a Philippine Mango Shop.


Me, My Electric Bike, in Udo Island

Biking around the island is very easy as you just have to follow the coastal trail around it. The views are spectacular! You can see the Seongsan Ilchulbong on your first few meters from the trail that goes clockwise from the docks. beaches of different sands can be passed by this trail.

The first beach that we reached is the Coral Beach. The sand is made up of nature-crushed corals which makes it a nice shade of creamy white. We stopped and took a few pictures. Of course, this trip will never be complete without a picture with my toy dog Chicosi. I always bring Chicosi, or Doggy as I call it, on my trips abroad. If I've been to 12 countries, Doggy has also been to all 12 of them.

Me and Doggy at Udo Island

A few more pedals and we are almost at the tip of the island. but before we reached the lighthouse at the north, we passed by something that gave me chills even when I was on top of my bike. Canola Fields or Rape Seed Fields are in full bloom which gives it a magnificent bed of yellow flowers over the deep blue seaside view.

These canola fields are famous to Jeju Island and can be seen on Korean dramas, one of which is Spring Waltz, which I was able to watch during my college days. I have always been a big lover of flowers and colors and blooms that is why these views are something that can really make me feel so happy from deep within. So we hopped out of our wheels and took photos, a lot of them at the Canola Fields. Oh I love the shots, makes me feel happy that I wore that deep blue shirt that complements the bright yellows and strokes of green.

Canola Fields of Udo Island

We continued biking around the island but when it seems like our time is short and we have to bring the bikes back to the shop, we decided to cut it shorter and took the detour on the second half of the trail. We were kinda lost on that detour because the streets are so narrow and the houses all look the same. We tried asking for directions but the old ladies tending their crops are having a hard time with English so good thing that the WiFi router had good signal so we just used google maps to get to our destination, where we started, on the docks.

We reached the shop just in time for our deadline and at the same time, for the next ferry going back to the Jeju mainland. It was about 2 in the afternoon when we left the docks all the way back to Jeju Island. The sun is up but the spring breeze was just so relaxing as it sweeps through my skin. When we arrived, Bruce was already there waiting for us. Next destination - Sunrise Peak.

All aboard and on our way back to Mainland Jeju.

Driving our of the pier and into the base of the Mountain gives you more amazing views of Seongsan Ilchulbong. It's unusual shape makes it very remarkable that it is what it is. As Bruce is slowly parking on an empty spot at a Korean Restaurant, there he informed us the biggest news of the day, we are climbing to the peak! WHAT! I was quite tired already from more than an hour of biking and here comes an uphill trudge. But hey, I'm in Jeju and it's a beautiful day so BRING IT!

Me, Cousin Judy, Brother Wilson, and our Guide Bruce Hong -  - Photo from Bruce Hong

The trail was not that hard because there are stone stairs going up towards the peak but still, the fact that this is uphill makes the legs squirm little by little and the heart rate goes up and up. Slowly but surely, I climb up the stairs and yes, the wonderful view of the city below, and the amazing flora that you will encounter on your way up just helps ease the efforts.

Seongsan Ilchulbong - A UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site

After about 30 minutes, we reached the top of the Sunrise Peak! The Crater is 600 meters in diameter and the Peak is at 180 meters above sea-level. Since it was spring that time we went, you can see so many hues below the mountains showing the lush and colorful vegetation of Jeju Island. Of course, while on top, Picture taking is never an option, but a sure must!

Me and My Cousin Judy on the Peak of Seongsan Ilchulbong

The descent from the peak downhill was a lot easier because there is a beautiful staircase made of wood that was built all the way down. The view is just breathtaking! The sea meets the shore meets the city meets the flower fields, everything in Jeju just lives hand in hand in perfect harmony!

Northeaster Coast of Jeju Island

And just when we thought that picture taking was over, we were wrong because Bruce has just started yet. Here he made us his subjects as he took us photos with all the poses and choreography that he asked us to do! It was so funny, he knows how to use his angles and his camera to make crazy and cute photographs!

Here are a few of the shots from his phone. Bruce sent these via Facebook. I wish we asked them for the full versions because his camera phone is very clear and the quality is so high but since he is a Samsung user and we are iPhone users, it was hard to do file transferring. (We can never master that iOS to Android on ShareIt, Okay!)

Me, Ate Judy, and my Brother Wilson at the wildflower fields - Photo by Bruce Hong

Me and Kuya Wilson on our Tekken Inspired Shot - Photo by Bruce Hong

Who says my cousin Ate Judy cannot carry me? - Photo by Bruce Hong

That was so much fun! Right there and then, we passed by Starbucks which is just at the foot of the hill, but there were no traces of the Jeju Mug so I end up getting nothing from Starbucks from Jeju (Even on the airport sadly). So we just had lunch on a Toast place called Isaac. the cafe was cool and cute.

We went straight right after late lunch to our very last destination, Jeju Mazeland. We were almost off the 9 hour time but still Bruce took us there so we can have more fun! On its name, Mazeland is a beautiful park made up of three giant Mazes that are made of hedges and bricks. The first two mazes were quite easy ones but believe me, the last one was CRAZY!

The very last one was really hard, but Bruce is just so cool! Even if we missed the 9th hour, he really did not teach us how to get out of the maze even if he can see it clearly from where he is, so we'd have an amazing and memorable time at the place.
At the entrance to that very last maze - Photo by Bruce Hong

It took us about an hour on that very last maze because it was so hard! Aside from it being very huge, the way-arounds were sometimes wide and sometime unrecognisable. some dead ends are not actually dead ends, you being furious would just miss that tiny way out to the correct path haha But still we managed to get around with smiles on our faces and when we finnaly reached the end, it was a big relief as we rang the bell (end point where you have to ring the bell which means you reached the finish line).

The last and hardest Maze - Photo by Bruce Hong

We then went all the way back to Seogwipo which took as about an hour where Bruce dropped us back to our Hotel at Days Hotel Jeju Seogwipo Ocean. While we were on the way, we passed by a road where there are windmills that are surrounded by more and more canola fields! Oh how beautiful it is! Then passing through a road where it was lined up with Cherry Blossom Trees and Canola. Too bad we were late for the Cherry Blossom season so all we had seen are budding leaves.

When we arrived, we gave Bruce his extra fee for that extra hour. He told us not to pay anymore but we insisted because his service was great and he treated us like good friends or family I can even tell. If ever we get back, we'd surely call bruce again to take us around the Island. There's still so much more to see in Jeju that makes us want to go back more!

But wait, there's more to come from Jeju Island on the third part of the South Korea Series!

My Orange Chair at Mazeland, Jeju-Do

***

Never Stop Travelling
Steven


This post is part of Skywatch Friday that features different views of the sky around the world. Visit Skywatch and go on tour around the globe seeing sunrises, sunsets and so much more than the sky that you know at http://skyley.blogspot.in/

May 23, 2017

PROFILES: Caren Que Viniegra


Just a few weeks away from a grand milestone on her life, Caren Viniegra is excitedly waiting for that big day. At 20, graduating from University of Santo Tomas, she couldn't believe how fast time flew. A proud Filipina, a school achiever, a loving daughter, and a thoughtful sister - Caren is one of my favorite cousins that I was blessed with to look after, as she grew up from this cute little girl to the smart and beautiful lady that she is today.

It was 2 in the afternoon and just after I re-potted the cactus for her garden on that humid Monday afternoon, I was very excited to do my very first interview for this new segment on my blog. Caren is one of my favorite people in the whole world and to add to it, she even helped me setup the voice recorder app on my 5SE just minutes before we went live.  

***

Stevenson Que: Alright Caren, Let's start! Please let us know who you are briefly.

Caren Viniegra: I am Caren Viniegra, currently a graduating student so we are just waiting for graduation day. I go to University of Santo Tomas and I am 20 years old.


College Life


Stevenson Que: Give us some of the details and key points from your college life, since you graduated from high school up until now.

Caren Viniegra: It was hard at first since everything was new, I had to adjust to a different lifestyle and take care of myself at the same time. However, through the years I was able to adjust and it became easier as time goes by.

Stevenson Que: How did you come up with the degree that you are going to finish very soon?

Caren Viniegra: It was not planned actually, and I was originally going for Architecture but I ended up in the College of Fine Arts and Design. So with that, I was planning to shift or transfer the following year. But by the end of the year I realize that art was just a hobby, so transferring to Architecture would basically be the same thing. And during college applications, I usually went for Architecture or Pre-Law, so I thought, why not try Political Science?

Then I was asking my Logic Professor that time in the College of Fine Arts about shifting processes, and she recommended me Legal Management if I want to pursue Law.

Stevenson Que: So this means you are going to be finishing a degree in..

Caren Viniegra: AB Legal Management

Caren Viniegra at UST's LM Week Business Plan Competition - Their team won as CHAMPIONS

Stevenson Que: Were there clubs or organizations that you were part of actively?

Caren Viniegra: There weren't much but I joined SCARLET and YFC or Youth of Christ, though I was not really active there.  I also joined SOCC or the Student Organization Coordinating Council and UST-LM Society (University of Santo Tomas Legal Management Society) were I became active in my latter years.

Looking Back


Stevenson Que: Through the last four years, what do you consider your greatest achievement on your college days?

Caren Viniegra: Probably in SOCC where I became a project head on a project called MAKIBATA. So it's where you foster kids from indigenous places for a few days and although I didn't get a chance to foster since I was staying on a dorm. It was very fulfilling to organize such activity and to see smiles on their faces, you'd really be filled with joy whenever they say "Salamat Ate" [Thank You Sister] to you with so much gratitude.

Stevenson Que: If you have something to tell UST, what will it be?

Caren Viniegra: It will probably be "Salamat" [Thank You] It was a great four years, and these four years brought me to people that I will forever treasure and of course the school brought me closer to God.


Caren Viniegra and her friend Laurmaine on their High School days (2013)

Stevenson Que: As we look back, What is your message to the Caren Viniegra 4 years ago?

Caren Viniegra: It will simply be, don't be afraid to make mistakes and have the courage to amend them.

Stevenson Que: How about to high school students nowadays about to enter college, what will be your advise to them?

Caren Viniegra: Just the same, parang it's okay to make mistakes if it happens, there's nothing you can do about it. And the best thing you can do is to fix it the best way that you can or if you can't, then you should just accept it, move on and try to find new things na mas okay para sayo [that would be much better for you.]

Moving Forward


Stevenson Que: What's Next for Caren Viniegra?

Caren Viniegra: Since my degree is in Legal Management, there's no way to go but Law School.

"I just wish that I can be successful fast enough
to give back to them" - Caren Viniegra

Stevenson Que: Ilang years pa ba after? [How many more years after?]

Caren Viniegra: Four years plus Bar, one year.

Stevenson Que: Where do you see yourself 10 years after?

Caren Viniegra: Working, of course. Mostly giving back to my parents. I'm thinking of fixing the house, buying furniture for it. It's one thing I always pray for, knowing that by the time that they are going to be old, after I graduate, after bar, I just wish that I can be successful fast enough to give back to them.

Both: Awwwwww

Stevenson Que: Yah, They'll be 70 in 10 years!

Caren Viniegra: Just as I've said, I want it fast enough, para makapagbigay pabalik kasi baka super tanda na nila [to give back because they'll be very old that time]

Stevenson Que: Kaya mo yon, ikaw pa! [You can do it, that's for sure!]

Caren Que Viniegra

Stevenson Que: Graduation is upcoming, how do you feel right now?

Caren Viniegra: Super. I can't explain. Especially during the Baccalaureate Mass, they said that's definitely one of the highlights because you get to sing the Alma Mater Hymn, Fireworks, and there's a lot of symbolism, they gave us a Dominican Cross which is a symbol of the cross and the light, guidance, It was very nice. It's been very fast, considering three years ago, I was on a different course. I was doing a very different thing like plates, art, but after that it turned to readings and recitations - it was all very fast!

And now I'm graduating, I realize that I did Legal Management for just three years. I had 14 back subjects when I shifted, as in 14 back subjects from first year that I needed to make up to, which I did by overloading schedules and summer terms every year.

Stevenson Que: I can even remember you telling me that you were pleading with the registrar to permit your overloads.

Caren Viniegra: Yes! Because one is not allowed to do overloading unless you are in your Senior Year. But since I was explaining that I have so many subjects to make up to for me to graduate on time...

Stevenson Que: *interrupts* So you mean since your second year, you are already overloading subjects?

Caren Viniegra: Yes and ayun, nakaraos naman [there, I made it through]

Stevenson Que: So that's all! Thank you so much and Congratulations! You know that I've always been proud. Two weeks left and I'm excited on what's next beyond graduation, but saka na muna yon [let's not think about that for the moment], let's first celebrate for now! Again Thank You Caren.

***

PROFILES is a new segment on my blog which will be a one-on-one interview with an interesting personality, as I ask them to share a page of their life as they know it. I've always wanted to be a journalist so this is my way of feeding my hunger for that little taste of being a host. Through this blog, this world that I can call my own, this is my talk-show.

May 21, 2017

Roadmap to Jeju - South Korea Series Part 1

Jusangjeolli Cliff, Jeju Island

Every time we watch a Korean drama or series, we usally hear this place-Jeju, Jeju Island, Jeju Do-it all refers to the paradise nestled across the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula. Boasting with the most beautiful and spectacular jewels of nature, the whole island has been hailed as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. But how do we get there in the first place?

NOTE: Philippine Passport Holders are allowed to enter Jeju Island Visa Free for up to 30 days but not allowed to enter Mainland South Korea without a valid Korean Visa. You can obtain a South Korean Visa by checking through this link: Korean Visa Requirements

There are several ways to get to Jeju Island from Manila and several airlines that offers connection from Manila to Jeju. China Eastern Airlines offers connection through Shanghai-Pudong International Airport, So as Korean Air and Asiana Airlines that offers connection through Seoul Airports. Philippine Airlines also offers chartered flights directly from Manila to Jeju International Airport.

For us though, we chose to get round trip tickets to Seoul via Jeju Air, and then round trip tickets from Seoul to Jeju via T'way Air. There is an Airport transfer though from Incheon International Airport (where we arrived from Manila) to Gimpo International Airport which is also in the Seoul Metro (where we will be leaving to Jeju Island). Most Domestic flights from Seoul are served in Gimpo Airport than on Incheon where most international flights are hubbed.

Arrival at Incheon International Airport

We left Manila at 11:50pm and arrived at Incheon International Airport at 4:50am Seoul Time via Jeju Air Flight 7C 2306. Seoul is an hour ahead of Manila so the flight is just about 4 hours. The Immigration lines are not very long at the time of our arrival since most of the passengers on the flight are Korean Nationals so we had the foreigner lines only to ourselves and about 10 other Filipinos.

After immigration, we grabbed our luggages and proceeded to the Airport Halls. We had to get our WiFi Eggs at the KT WiFi Stations. We rented a Wifi Egg for 7 days (Monday to Sunday) for a very affordable price! Since I was travelling with my brother and my cousin we rented just one router since it can accommodate up to three devices with unlimited data for each. There is a deposit fee of 20,000 KWN on top of the rental fee though, but if you have a valid international credit card, you can just have it swiped and you don't have to pay the 20,000 deposit. This is their way of ensuring the devise if something happens to it or if you ever lost it. By the time you return it before you leave, the deposit will be handed back to you. For more information on KT WiFi Eggs, click on this link: KT WiFi Router Rental Service

We then got out of the Airport Building and into the chute towards the AREX Train Station. Do take note that it is best to ride the "All Stop Train" and not the Express because the Express shoots directly to Seoul Station. Gimpo International Airport Station is our bound so we bought three one-way tickets priced at 3,750 KWN. We purchased a SINGLE JOURNEY Ticket that has a 500 deposit which then can be refunded once you arrive at Gimpo.

Just stood up for the picture - Incheon to Gimpo All Stop Train

Gimpo International Airport is 7 stations away from Incheon International by the All-Stop Train. We left Incheon around past 6 am and the train ride was about 21 minutes long. Through this ride, I got to see my first sights of this awesome country and yes, there still are Cherry Blossoms that bloomed late since we arrived mid-April. Oh those trees looked like paintings on the beautiful green and concrete cityscape.

What I love about these Asian Megacities is that their airports are connected to their metro trains by an airport railway system. I remember that they also have this services during my visits to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

Cherry Blossoms along the highway - All-Stop Train

Gimpo International Airport is located at the northwestern part of South Korea, just a few miles away rom North Korean borders. It houses most of South Korean domestic flights and a few international flights from nearby countries such as China and Japan. Flights that are bound to Jeju are hubbed here including big carriers such as Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. There are other low cost carriers that services from Gimpo Airport, some of them are Jeju Air (which we boarded our Manila to Incheon Flight), JinAir, and the ones we will be flying with to the magical island of Jeju, T'Way Air.

NOTE: We got our round trip tickets from Gimpo International Airport to Jeju International Airport via Skyscanner.com. It was quite cheap because we got our tickets for roughly Php5,100 pesos with 15-kilo check-in baggage allowance on both ways.There are a number of cheap low-cost carrier tickets that you can purchase through the search site but we chose T'way so we can try a new airline but Jeju Air flies GMP-CJU several times a day as well.

We arrived at Gimpo International at around 6:45 am and walked all the way the chute from the train station to the Airport Building. there's a very long Walkalator which makes it faster for us to get to the baggage check in stations. Gimpo Aiprport is old but it is being rehabilitated and redesigned when we got there and signages indicate that the rehabilitation will be completed by 2018.

Check in counters in Korea open about 1 hour and 30 minutes before the flight so we were quite early and we sat first as we wait for the time it opens. As we did, there is a gate nearby that we pass by to get outside and breathe in some fresh air, my lungs' very first South Korean air.
Me and the reason why I went to Korea, my Black Coat

We were called to check in our bags around 8:15 am. We were quite tired but the excitement never ever wavered. We are flying to Jeju International via T'Way Air Flight TW 705 that leaves Gimpo at 9:45 in the morning. We were then prompted to go to the boarding gates  at about 8:30 am but yes, the Gates aren't open until 9:30 am!

South Korean Carriers usually open their gates 15 minutes before the Flight! I don't really understand this concept because how can you ever make all the passengers board and setup and do all the necessary flight preparations in just 15 minutes! But hey, I don't own any airplane so we just go with the flow, with the flight I meant.


Morning Departures from Gimpo International Airport

We boarded and the check-in lady was so nice to place us in the front rows of the plane. The flight was a little bumpy to be honest but maybe I was too tired to even feel scared HAHA but yes, we did land safe and sound to Jeju International Airport.

The sights even from the plane window gives me a feeling of Hawai'i, both tropical and temperate and seas are bluer than blue. After baggage claim and a few pictures, we arrived at one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Jeju Island! Their airport is also cool with trees native to Jeju, planted along as landscape designs, including a few Jeju Tangerine Trees that are known from this beautiful place.

Me standing at a pair of Dol Hareubang, jeju Island's Iconic Statues

From Jeju Airport, we rode a taxi that took us directly to the southern regions of the Island. Jeju is not a very small island and the famous Mount Halla is located in the very middle of this land mass. We hired what they call a "Jumbo Taxi" sincwe our luggages were quite huge since we have all our things and supplies for 7 whole days. It took us an hours drive from the Northern coast of Jeju City to the southern seaside city of Seogwipo where we will be staying for 3 days and 2 nights.

We stayed at Days Hotel Seogwipo Ocean. It was a fairly new hotel, opened just less than a year when we stayed there last April 2017. The staff are accommodating and was fast enough to process our check-in which is very important for us since we just got there from three connections from Manila to Incheon to Gimpo to Jeju and an hour drive from the airport. Click the link to read the rest of my review of Days Hotel Jeju Seogwipo Ocean.

Our Triple Room with three single beds at Days Hotel Jeju Seogwipo Ocean

The room is complete and cozy and even the bathroom was not crammed. The beddings are so comfortable to sleep at but the air-conditioning system was a little confusing for us to operate so we just opened our windows. It was raining the time we arrived but it did stop just before the night came.

It was a quiet sea-side city where you can even see a glimpse of the beautiful coast from our hotel windows. This part of the island does remind me of my days in downtown San Francisco but a lot more peaceful than my most favorite city in the world.

Our window's view of downtown Seogwipo, Jeju Island, South Korea

There you have it! That concludes the first part of my South Korean Adventure. Jeju is a wonderland and I am just so excited to share with you the places that we have visited throughout this beautiful island. No wonder this is a famous spot not just for travellers but also as a setting for big Korean Drama Shows and Movies. It is very colorful and in every part of this place, every sight you see, every scent you smell, and even on the sounds that you will here, there's that spirit of untouched nature that lives perfectly with its locals.

For now I leave you with some of these photographs from what I call the place where nature is the main citizen, Jeju. Stay tuned for my next posts about my Springtime adventure on this multi-part South Korean Series. South Korea, especially Jeju was just another of my dreams, but hey, I have pictures so I guess it came true :)

Me in the Canola Fields of Udo

My cousin Judy on the rolling hills at Springtime Seongsan Ilchulbong

Cousin Judy, Me, and my Brother Wilson at Jusangjeolli Cliff

***

Never Stop Dreaming!
Steven