Uber for Traveling, Uber for Cebu!

I don’t know about you, but there’s something ‘off’ or ‘weird’ when getting a cab in another country. There’s a ton of things to worry about. Is this safe? Did I bring enough money? Should I tip? Did I give him the right directions? My anxiety levels are high when I feel vulnerable, as I am normally the one behind the wheel at home. Now I have to give my trust to a complete stranger.

I tried to avoid getting a cab abroad because it’s horrendously expensive (especially in London!). However there are times when you really need to cab it: when you’re carrying a giant backpack plus a 30 kg. luggage; and when you’re on the way to a party looking like a million dollars.

I thank the stars that the idea of Uber was conceived where you can hail a cab with a touch of a button. Moreover, there is no awkward exchange of cash (my least favorite thing, especially when you’re handling with alien currencies)–everything is tabbed to your credit card.

My First Uber Ride.

My first Uber ride was in Paris. I was living with a friend in Universitaire and transferring to another friend’s at Cite de Phalsbourg. I know getting there via Metro would be impossible–I did have my 30 kg. luggage this time, and the Paris Metro is infamous for their lack of escalators and elevators. Plus the last time I took the metro, someone stole my box of pizza.

Yes, someone took off with my pizza. That really happened. Everything happens in Paris!

I figured out it was the perfect time to try Uber for the first time. Interestingly, I later learned that the idea of Uber was conceived when the founders couldn’t get a cab in a cold winter night in Paris.

I used my friend’s referral code and got 10 EUR off my first Uber ride. The 10km ride cost me less than 20 EUR. If I had taken the traditional cab, I would’ve paid around 30-40 EUR.

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My Uber Obsession in Manila

If the Uber founders found it difficult to get a taxi in Paris, they haven’t been to Manila.

The cab drivers from hell live in Manila. The moment you arrive the airport, taxi drivers try to rip you off as much as they can. They will pretend to be oblivious on where the hell Greenbelt is even if they’ve lived in Manila all their lives. When you show them the map, they pretend to be stupid and will go around avenues just so they can charge you more.

Fuckers.

If you’re traveling to Manila soon, my advice is to just stick to Uber. Honest taxi drivers are mythical unicorns in Manila.

My stress levels are high every time I get on a traditional taxi in Manila, so I Uber almost everywhere when walking is not an option. Uber cars have a GPS so they can never say ‘I don’t know where that is’. And the tracking makes it harder for them to go around in circles so they can charge higher. All I needed was to get in the Uber car and not worry about anything.

Why Uber is Awesome

Uber is perfect in the Philippine setting for those number of reasons, and more. Philippine taxi drivers will rip unsuspecting tourists off any opportunity they can. With Uber, you have a rating system where riders can rate drivers (and vice versa) so customer satisfaction is optimally better.

Another aspect of customer satisfaction is the quality of the ride. Uber drivers own the car they drive, hence they take care of it and better maintained than the traditional taxi counterparts. A/C will be working, seats will be more comfortable and the car will be cleaner.

UberX, which is available in the Philippines, is the low cost option, which is generally 30% cheaper than getting a regular cab ride. The GPS app they use ensure that they will know where they are going and won’t drive you in circles just to mess with you.

Who says car owners can’t use Uber too? Studies confirm that it is a lot cheaper to Uber than to own a car in Manila, with the hidden costs of maintenance and upkeep. Plus, won’t it be awesome if we could just sit in the backseat, not worry about driving and play Pokémon Go? If you want to go out without the worry of parking or who will be driving after a few beers, just Uber it!

Uber’s advocacy is to have less cars on the road. Traffic is getting worse in the Philippines, and if you could lessen the quantity of cars, we make it easier for all commuters on the road. I myself personally hate driving even if I have my own car, so the convenience Uber brings make ‘owning a car’ a less priority to millennials than before.

More butts into the backseats for fewer cars in the road. The UberHop feature allows you to split costs and carpool with fellow Uber riders going on the same direction as you. I don’t know about you, but sounds like a grand idea.

Uber Celebrates Cebu

Uber is now available in 480 cities around the world, including Manila and Cebu in the Philippines.

Cebu City will be the first city in the Philippines to have a cash payment option for Uber riders! This is good news, as in the Philippines credit card penetration is only 2%. This makes it more accessible to more Cebuanos!

In line with that, all first-time Uber riders in Cebu get 50% off their first five rides from today until July 17. Simply enter the promo code: CELEBRATECEBU upon sign up to avail of the discounted rides.

cebu bloggers society smartlife
CBS with Uber PH heads, Laurence Cua, Uber PH GM and EJ dela Vega, Uber Cebu City lead

How to Use Uber

Simply download the app and register for an account to start using Uber.

Uber How-to JPG

How to use the Cash Payment Option in Uber?

Choose the uberX option in the app. Before requesting a ride, change your payment option to cash on the confirmation page. The payment bar is located at the lower half of your screen. Enter your destination and request a ride.

You’ll see your driver’s details straight away–name, photo and the details of the car. These drivers have professional driving licenses and have undergone an extensive screening process.

At the end of your trip, the app will reflect the fare that you need to pay. Hand your payment to your driver and you’ll receive an electronic receipt via email.

Download Uber now and use my promo code to get your first free ride!

My promo code: rachela5448ue

Or just click this link! https://www.uber.com/invite/postcardpretty

Nighthawks and the Death of a Hipster

nighthawks by edward hopper

This is ‘Nighthawks‘ by Edward Hopper, a 1942 American realist painting, oil in canvas. ‘Nighthawks’ is constantly referenced in pop culture, from The Simpsons to Blade Runner. It is also one of my favorite paintings of all time.

The painting shows four figures in a downtown diner at the dead of the night. Neither of the figures seem to be talking to another. The scene looks straight out of a classic film noir scene.

What drew me into the painting is the unsettling stillness. The nonchalance of the figures, together with the eery atmosphere–it portrays exactly the overtones following a wild night of partying, a few moments before the break of dawn. Most of Hopper’s paintings convey a sense of urban isolation and detachment.

Isn’t it ironic, how urban cities feel so crowded and lonely at the same time? We all sit cramped elbow-to-elbow in jeepneys, but no one is talking to anyone. Contrary to the province, everyone knows who’s sleeping with whom.

Poor, unfortunate souls lingering after dark. They spend the night in pubs or clubs; to forget, to numb the heart a little, to drown in EDM. As the night progresses, people get friendlier; and ‘one drink’ became five. A classic film noir hero: flawed and tragic.

At 4 in the morning, the lost ones are ready to retire their day; while others are just waking up to start theirs. You conclude the night starving and smelling of smoke.

For this particular night, the recovery food of choice was pochero.

The pocherohan’s background music undid me. It was the XX’s Coexist album. Orgy for your ears.

I had tried to forget, but before all this I used to be an artist and hipster.

But damn this pocherohan and their awesome playlist. Now I remember the things I used to love: watercolors, oxford shoes, film, florals, polaroids, vinyl, vintage tattoos and indie music. I fiddled in the dark room with chemicals (and no, it’s not to make meth). Holga and Diana were not just names of girls. Hiromi Uehara and Portishead were the coolest, ever.

I ate whatever I wanted; bless my prepartum metabolism. I am reminded of the time when I didn’t own a hairbrush or I couldn’t care less about makeup. What a time to be alive!

film cameras

My current wardrobe is mostly blacks and whites–like I’ve been mourning for the death of my right brain— she just couldn’t fit in the real world.

My friends had finished their beef stew, and are now bantering at each other loudly. I look at my friend across me. She’s a lovely transgender, more beautiful than me or of my female friends combined.

I wonder if she’s willing to pose nude for a portrait. Maybe it’s time to pick up my brushes again.

 

Rachel the Chameleon

There is always that close friend whom you don’t need to see often to maintain that closeness. That friend knows everything happening in your life, despite the circumstances of missed time. In my case, my friend lives far away and thus we only get to meet once every two years. For the convenience of readers, let’s call him L.

We met in Starbucks. He orders his usual americano, and my usual green tea soy latte. I was ready to find a table outside for the convenience of my friend, but he shook his head. He said he had already quit smoking. That’s new, as I saw him take out a pretentious vape from his pocket.

He knew me when I got engaged, and then as a cafe owner, and then a university professor, and then a mom, and then a travel blogger, and now–a bum-by-choice.

Every time L saw me, he said, I was always different and he was always the same. He whines about working for the same corporation since graduation, but not the fact that he now has a high position and earns a monthly six-digit figure.

A few weeks from now, I will be unemployed. 8 full semesters, 2 summer semesters and 3,000 students. I have learned so much from my students. I will miss the loud laughter from the faculty office, and the green jokes of my colleagues. It really didn’t feel like work at all. Nor did it feel like four years.

Officially, I will be on ‘study leave’. But I’m not even sure if I wanted to finish masters, to finally start on my book or to climb Mt. Everest. So, I pooled whatever I had and booked myself to a Euro trip adventure of a lifetime. In my head, it sounded like a rather logical decision to do (at that time…) 

Kinda like my habit of tipping buskers the last of my pocket change and cheerfully hoping they don’t spend it on some meth.

L teases me about my transient drifter phase, because he said I was supposed to be the smarter one.

“You are like a chameleon.” L said.

“That’s an ironic way to describe me. Lizards are the only thing I am deathly afraid of.”

Happy Birthday to Me and My New Neurotic Disorder

There are different ways to solve a problem.

All throughout high school and college, I was always the first one to finish exams. I think fast and write fast, mostly for the fear of forgetting if I don’t jot everything down quick. Also, so I could be dismissed early.

Math exams were different however. Our maths teacher was intent on finishing the 45-minute time slot and dismissing us altogether. That did not sit well with me, pun intended. I couldn’t stand sitting in one place doing nothing. FML, I’m wasting my life sitting here.

As a result I would provide at least three different solutions all leading to the same answer. One item would still only be worth one point, though. It would drive the teacher crazy that I would use all the white space available in the paper, but I can only blame her too. If she had dismissed me earlier this would never had happened.

————

I wonder what my neurosis is, I mused. The family line seems to have some sort of neurosis, one way or another, so I feel left out not having one. My mother is a neat and organized freak, while my sister is obsessed with sanitizing her hands with alcohol every five minutes (she likes alcohol in general) and my father is neurotic about his lecture slides. My younger brother is the most normal person I know, but I’m sure I’m neurotic about something. Society finds a need to name everything into a disorder, after all. There’s bound to be one for me.

Then it hit me.

While the people I know have one right way of doing things, I have none. I refuse to have one. It’s that fear of routine, fear of doing the same thing, the same way all over again.

I’m no ‘creature of habit’ who gravitates towards the same shops or restaurants. I like wandering myself into secret finds at obscure spots. I’m the one who says: ‘yeah the sushi place was nice, but maybe we can try the ramen place beside it this time?’

It’s the kind of neurosis where even if you know the best route to a destination, you choose a different route ‘just because’.

It’s even if you excelled at maths in high school and was recommended into Chemical Engineering or Accountancy, you decided to take up Fine Arts instead.

It’s having five different ways to getting home. Ten different ways to wear a scarf. Four different ways to fold your clothes. Six different ways to calculate a basic derivative of a function.

It’s having curly hair, straight hair, wavy hair, short hair, long hair, mid-length hair, brown hair, black hair, blonde hair, hair with streaks and messed-up hair. If the school allowed it, I would’ve had blue hair by now. It’s not caring about your hair because they grow out anyway.

It’s that even if you know you hate fish and chips, you’ll still have it because you might like it this time around. (you still won’t, but maybe next time?)

It’s relishing the fact that you’re celebrating your 25th alone in Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport because it probably won’t happen again.

It’s preferring to remain unstable but take control of your time and freedom rather than having a routine 9-to-5 job.

For this kind of neurosis, it’s never say never.

It’s knowing there are many different means to an end. We know the number of Pi, but there are four different ways of calculating it.

It’s hating to be ‘left out’ or ‘missing out’. If you didn’t try it another way, or seeing it from another angle, you might be missing half your life. Who would’ve known there are a dozen different ways to cook an egg, if they didn’t try, right?

I blame maths for a lot of things, such as my bad handwriting. And my new neurotic disorder.

This self-diagnosis is not to be taken seriously. If, however, there is still no name for this neurosis I would like to name said disorder in behalf of myself because it’s my birthday today. 🙂

Arriving to Paris on a City Lockdown

Our trip to Paris was eventful the moment we arrived at Gare du Nord from London. Upon exiting the Eurostar train and making my first step into Paris, a dozen French police stopped two men before us; told them to put their hands on the back of the head and searched them. I remember the anger from the men, voices starting to raise and the growing crowd of onlookers.

What a shock of a welcome. Bienvenue à Paris!

We would later find out that just hours before our arrival, the Charlie Hebdo shooting had just happened. The city is on a manhunt as they pursue the gunmen responsible for the terrorist-driven shooting that left 12 people dead. What a time to come to the world’s most romantic city.

For the next few days, we would experience Paris like never before: military and police everywhere on the streets, no tourist crowd, and the attractions almost all to ourselves.

 eiffel tower winter

Whoa, wait–Paris without a crowd?!?

While that may sound far-fetched, we came to Paris on winter season heightened by the heinous act of terrorism. There was an odd sense of stillness in the air. Even going to the nearest supermarket was a little daunting.

Nonetheless, seeing the French police with their big guns on every block of the city made us feel safer. We can’t even see any police around our Sinulog festivals, so that was comforting to see.

france-subway-metro

Here’s a comparison of our Paris photos on January 2015 vs. fellow CAFA colleague Carla’s photos on May 2014. If you want to know more of Carla babe’s Euro trip adventures, you can visit her blog here.

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If our photos really looked gloomy compared to Carla’s, that’s because it really was!
versailles-winter-spring
No crowd, no problem
hall-of-mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors

louvre-paris

louvre-paris-france

louvre-sculptures-crowd

orsay-may-jan-comparison

It’s amazing how the French uphold in what they believe in so much. ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ – freedom of speech & freedom of the press. Throughout our trip, we would randomly walk into peace rallies held by people of all religions on the streets.

On our fourth day in Paris, Ejay and I along with a friend showed our support and attended the anti-terror rally in Place de la République, among the city’s busiest squares. An estimated 4 million people congregated in one place. Some were already climbing on to the trees and statues.

“Charlie, charlie, charlie”, the crowd chanted in unison. People were waving French flags, with placards, posters and banners in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic. They waved pens and pencils in the air, all the while singing ‘La Marseillaise’. It was mesmerizing.

Here are photos Ejay took of the said event:

I wonder how despite having such a large crowd, they could still remain orderly. No pushing or shoving or violating of personal space. Personal space means a lot to me.

‘The French are not afraid to speak.‘ What can you expect from the descendants of the French Revolution? They value their freedom of speech so much, and instill those values to the young to not be afraid to say what they think. In the rally, the parents brought their children (some as young as 3) to join in the chanting and sharing of experiences. ‘They are just as passionate for their freedom as they are with their french kissing’, I joked.

Speaking of....
Speaking of….

It felt good to be able to take part in such a historical event. The rally is said to have had the largest gathering in France (with 4 million people) since the nation’s liberation in 1944… Until of course, the following week we saw on the international news that a mass was held in Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines with Pope Francis and 7 million Filipinos. Kaning pinoy, di jud papildi. hehehe

I’ll talk more about Paris on my future posts and how we were able to travel there in less than P50,000 for five days (without missing the most important spots) Watch out for that soon!

Postcard Travels on Sunstar Weekend

The greatest sense of fulfillment for every aspiring writer is to be read. It’s a bad habit of mine to look at my stats every now and then. Every digit up my viewership stats makes me want to do a little victory dance. It’s a nice feeling that someone is actually reading (or viewing) my blog.

So imagine my excitement when Sunstar Weekend magazine editor Noel Villaflor contacted me and asked if I would want a bi-monthly column for the publication. I tried to maintain cool while messaging with Noel he could even sense it and said ‘Excited kaayo ai’. It felt like my writing aspirations have been somewhat validated; that people actually read and care for my musings.

Starting this weekend on May 17, you’ll see my column Postcard Travels at Sunstar Weekend twice a month where I’ll be talking about travel, history and culture from my experiences around the world.

10 Things That Changed Since I’ve Become a New Mom

Three weeks ago, I received a message from the awesome Fiona of Sunstar Weekend, asking if they could feature me and Caleb for their Mother’s Day Issue. It never really dawned on me until that point: Oh right. I am a mom! I can’t believe I forgot.

Mom. That still sounds weird to me, to call myself a ‘mom’. When you become a ‘mom’ you become totally responsible for another human being. Sounds so noble, almost saintly.

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My friends often joke that I’m the last person they imagined to be a ‘mom’. I’m not the kind to swoon at babies and puppies and butterflies. I’m selfish, over-involved, flippant, and did I say selfish?

For the first three months of his, errm, ‘inception’, I thought it was a serious case of jet lag. Bouncing on and off six different countries over that short time period, and apart from fatigue, nothing was out of place. I continued to live the daily lifestyle of a selfish 20-something-year-old youth, blissfully clueless.

But after a dreadful time on roller coaster rides at Ocean Park, I thought to myself: ‘This is weird. I don’t do ‘queasy’ on daredevil rides. Where’s my mojo?!’ Apparently, Caleb was already two months in. He took my mojo.

When my son came on Christmas Day, I can’t exactly say I changed that moment on. Tbh, I think learned more from him than him from me. My son has disproved many things I used to believe in. Or, to put it better, he proved many things I didn’t believe in before.  I’m surprised a lot of things have changed so much–and at the same time, not really.

If you want to read about my views on juggling between motherhood, Sprockets Cafe, teaching university, and a new blog, get Sunstar Weekend’s Mother’s Day Issue today.

So since today’s Mother’s Day, I dedicate this post to all the moms who’ve worked so hard for their little ones. Here’s 10 things that actually change when you become a mom, coming from a new ‘mom’ to a bouncing retroactive toddler.
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Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, but equally celebrated and loved. Because life doesn’t come eith a manual. It comes with a mother. Happy Mother’s Day!

1. Everything you knew about motherhood gets thrown out of the window.Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.52.30 AM

I’m going to be honest, I was prejudiced. When someone said ‘mom’, I saw flashes of women with messy hair doing household chores, screaming baby in the background, sunken eyes with deep eye bags, screaming ‘help me….’. (shudders)

TV is mostly to blame for such an unflattering image. Media portrays motherhood as a funeral of a woman’s professional career and a life term sentence to household chores inside white picket fences.

I used to think motherhood is a death sentence (I hope Caleb won’t be able to read this when he’s older). But I’ll tell you a secret: being a mom is actually quite fun. For real. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. HAHA #really #notreally #butreally

2. Motherhood: Multitasking Lvl. 2000

So because of motherhood I’ve discovered there are so many tasks you can perform with just one hand. You think of ways to get the job done that is most cost-efficient and time-saving. Mothers need to be good strategists as well!

Women have always been good multitaskers, but mothers take it to the next level. Supermoms are excellent management consultants who always think of ways to save time and money, spend time with their kids, and still achieve it all with perfect hair and manicured nails.

3. Your fashion sense changes.

No, you don’t suddenly develop a taste for lola’s dusters. But you start prioritizing practical over fashionable. You want to wear clothes that are comfortable, and not get potentially disrobed every time your kin pulls and/or yanks at you. And you tend to tone down on the accessories especially when you start thinking of them as choking hazards.

4. Your profile’s news feed changes, as well.

I’m one of those annoying Facebook Friends who would constantly post random stuff about their children. I hope I’m not hurting anyone with all the cuteness. At least I don’t use annoying hashtags like OOTD or FamBam or SepAnx.

5. You see things in his eyes.

You want to share everything and anything for Caleb. You see things in your own child’s eyes. You constantly think: ‘Oh, he would’ve loved it here!’, ‘He would have enjoyed this!’, ‘I wonder what he would think of this?’ You want to share your goals, ideals, hobbies and interests with him. And if you experienced something awesome and fun without him, you get pangs of guilt. It’s the OMG-I’m-having-too-much-fun-without-my-son kind of guilt that won’t go away so easily.

My dream is to have him homeschooled so he can travel around the world with me and learn about history and culture firsthand, but his father is too traditional for the Thornberrys way-of-life, preferring Caleb’s education in a traditional UK boarding school. I hope he gets into Hogwarts. Or Cambridge, at the least.

6. You’ll never take for granted me-time ever again.

Sure it’s great being with your kid… but you’ll also learn to value alone time like never before. I don’t get it a lot nowadays, free time is rare. I’m a workaholic who wants to kill herself when I think I’m not being productive with my time. Shove all your work away and treat yourself sometimes–read a good book over tea or get a Swedish massage. It takes a lot of self-will not to use time for productive work or school or family, but sometimes I have to convince myself that I deserve this.

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7. You get really toned arms.

It’s no surprise you get improved upper strength and toned arms from all that workout lugging around a 14-kilo youngster. Next time, I’ll challenge his dad to a round of push-ups.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.52.21 AM8. The hardest part? Getting him to sit down on a meal.

I’m lucky Caleb is easygoing and so agreeable. He is easy to take with everywhere–17-hour flight to UK? No problem. My biggest challenge is getting him to sit in a meal. Even for just five minutes.

I’ve had numerous fights with Caleb about strapping him in the baby seat but he always has other plans, e.g., walking around the restaurant, annoying dinners in every table, and running around the place. It’s hell to take him in a restaurant. I could never properly eat until he’s dozed off.

I don’t know if it’s the same for other mothers with one-year-olds, but I never imagine sitting him down on a meal can be so. damn. difficult.

9. You start being the most boring person in the party.

I try to stop myself. But I can’t help try to insert how Caleb’s just learned to sort his colors in parties. Or you start whipping out your phone to show them that funny burping video of your baby from three weeks ago. Your kin is suddenly your favorite topic. And oh, the poop stories. Mothers can never have too many poop stories.

10. You will mess up. And that’s okay.

5Sadly there is no foolproof manual on how to figure out momhood, nor numerous Google searches on ‘how to become a good mom’ can make you become one. A trial-and-error method ensued, what works and what doesn’t work for my little one. Because of the love and support poured by everyone, he is happy, bright, confident with a wicked sense of humor.

The biggest lesson from motherhood? You’ll probably never experience a bond and love as strong as with your kiddo. Your little one will bring out the better version of you.

Photography by JSD Photography. Thank you for the wonderful photos, Sprite. Hair, Makeup and Magic by Jerwin and Karlo and Feature written by the awesome Fiona Escandor for Sunstar Weekend. 

30 Travel Tips for the Wanderlust on a Budget

This article was published on Sunstar Weekend around March 2014 (I think). I don’t have the hard copy so I’m publishing the soft copy on my blog instead. Thank you fellow travelers for your wonderful insight on traveling on a minimal budget. Rest in Peace, dear big traveler Jethro Estimo who also shared his tips in this article.

A wanderlust has a passion—and almost animalistic lust—for travel. That need to ditch our desks and hit the beach is all too familiar to us–but while we all love travel, most of us don’t get to travel as much as we hope. And with summer just around the corner, we’re all starting to feel that travel itch again.

So what do you do if you don’t have enough capital to cure a bad case of wanderlust? You don’t need to forgo that dream vacay– The key is to travel more, spend less; finding ways to stretch your money’s worth.

Gone are the days when travel was only a luxury for the rich and famous. Budget airlines, promo airfare and Internet booking have provided a wider window for travel opportunities. A limited budget is no longer a hindrance to travel—in fact, it can be a challenge to see ‘how low you can go’. Part of the adventure is going out there and having some sort of money limit. Spending less lowers the barrier between you as tourist and the culture you traveled so far to experience.

Here are 30 tips from backpackers and seasoned travelers in Cebu for the fellow thrifty wanderlust:

On Booking Tickets, Planning an Itinerary and Packing:

carla adlawan

‘Keep your eyes peeled for cheap flights. Subscribe to airlines’ newsletters, visit their websites religiously. As soon as you see that seat sale, book it! Your dream vacay starts by booking that flight.’ – Carla Adlawan

hannah katrina lim

‘These days there are heaps of good travel advice everywhere. From websites to personal blogs—good and bad reviews alike assist you in every step of travel planning’ – Hannah Kate Lim

honeylette to chip

‘For tickets, check local budget airlines. You can do this by going on Wikipedia and searching for the airport of your destination. It’ll list the airlines that land in that place. Compare rates and book the best price’ – Honeylette To Chip

chacha mercado lee

‘Read airline policies beforehand, especially with budget airlines. Know their restrictions when it comes to baggage allowance, check-in instructions, printing boarding passes, etc. in order to avoid unnecessary penalty costs – Chacha Mercado-Lee

‘Sometimes if you go back to an airline website multiple times, the price gets higher. It’s a technical thing… they remember your computer so it offers higher rates each time you come back’ – Honeylette To Chip

dj tudtud

‘Never forget to bring an extension cord so you don’t have to think about buying lots of travel adaptors. All you need is to plug all your devices in the extension cord, attach a universal travel adaptor and you’re good!’ – DJ Tudtud

‘The obvious is to book your flights in advance. Their promo rates are available around three months ahead if you book it online’ – Atty. Janjan Perez

jon cabiles

Staying in hostels is a great way to save money and meet other travelers. Check websites like airbnb—the places are cheap and these places often have the added benefits of doing your laundry and kitchens where you can cook your meals for free’ – Jon Cabiles

hannah bacalla

‘Travel off-season to find better deals, budget rooms and cheaper airfare. Explore like a local—ditch the usual tourist spots and explore the city’s hidden gems’ – Hannah Bacalla

audi villa

‘Never have your currencies changed at the airport’ – Audi Villa

On Touring and Getting Around:

bait nicart

‘Your itinerary serves as a guide. You don’t need to follow it to the dot but it’s usually more expensive to be spontaneous (albeit certainly more fun) – Bait Nicart

johnn mendoza

Foursquare is a really useful app with various tips especially for a newcomer in a certain place. ’ – Johnn Mendoza
patricia zosa

‘Wear your most comfortable shoes! Saves you transpo allowance. Let’s you take your workout on the road too.’ – Patricia Zosa

‘Think like a video game character. Establish savepoints & waypoints. Learn and research subway and commute routes, so you can get lost worry-free and easily retrace and load from last save’
Victor Villanueva, film director

jethro estimo‘Go in groups of two or more so you can save a ton, especially in accommodations and commute fares’ – Jethro Estimo

karlo pacheco

‘As much as possible, take an overnight train/bus/boat to your next destination—it saves you money on accommodations.’ – Karlo Pacheco

danielle aballe

‘Museums usually have high entrance fees; but do a little research beforehand—there are usually entrance-free days. To save you some buck schedule your visit on those free days’ – Danielle Aballe-de los Reyes

sam despiSave yourself some time by knowing the local name of the places. Keep them on your phone or write them on a piece of paper. This is especially helpful in places with their own alphabet. When I was in Thailand 90% of the cab drivers didn’t speak English well and we couldn’t pronounce names of the destinations properly. That wasted a lot of time. It surely helped when we looked up the names online and in the Thai alphabet’ – Sam Despi

On Food & Shopping:

celeste rodriguez

‘Hit the groceries, find a park in the city and have a delicious picnic with a gorgeous view. Saves you a whole lot of dough’ – Celeste Rodriguez

janjan perez

‘Avoid the tourist-y restaurants and cafes because the prices are sure to be jacked up. Look for eateries frequented by the locals—that’s where the good food and good value is found. – Atty. Janjan Perez

victor villanueva‘Check out food areas near universities. They have tasty food on a student budget. Plus get to know the students for possible true love’ – Victor Villanueva

paolo manalac

‘When challenged with the language barrier, I just use the mighty pointing finger and point at whatever that guy’s got. You will have a sample of local flavor and an extra bang for your buck’ – Paolo Mañalac

radel paredes

‘Pack some instant noodles. They make great emergency food. Some airports, like in China, provide free hot water. You can also ask from stores’ – Radel Paredes

hanz libato

‘Make sure to start early and eat breakfast before you leave the hotel. Never go out hungry or else you’ll end up spending more in restaurants’ – Hanz Libato 

homer mediciDon’t hoard on pasalubong or souvenirs. You will just have a hard time packing them, and might even end up paying for additional baggage fees.Homer Medici

And Others:von jovi jover

‘Learning a few local street words help a lot, especially in Asian countries. Usually protects you from getting ripped off by locals or charging a crazy amount of money ‘ – Von Jovi Jover

Always be nice, try to make conversation. One time, I got upgraded to business class just because I made the check-in counter girl laugh, like she really lol’d. I wonder how that worked because I thought it was a really corny joke. This and many other things I wondered while sipping my wine in business class.’ – Victor Villanueva

‘Research on prepaid plans for internet and phone if you want to be constantly connected. Your phone will serve as your navigation device too and you’ll never get lost’ – DJ Tudtud

honeylette to chipTripAdvisor is helpful but not all restaurants and hotels that are rated highly are as good as they seem. Some people are paid to give good ratings and reviews to places’ – Honeylette To Chip

10 Moments of Culture Shock in Europe as a Filipino Traveler

Traveling to an unfamiliar place is always full of surprises. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and urges you to leap unto the unknown. That’s why traveling can be so liberating and beautiful. Seeing the world gives you a whole change of perspective. The customs and beliefs you’ve learned since you were young suddenly get challenged when in a strange and new place. venice-italy-gondola-europe-ride Europe has always been a place of wonder and romance for me–a place from dreams of a little child. I thought I’ve read enough books seen enough Downton Abbey to prepare myself on what Europe is like. But, just like marriage, you can never be fully prepared for what’s to come. Here are 10 moments of culture shock you’ll likely experience as a Filipino traveler!

1.  Sparkling Water

The first culture shock I experienced was in Venice after a long-haul flight & three stopovers from the Philippines. Thirsty and famished, my family and I found the first restaurant we could find in Venice. I ordered one bottle of water, and when it arrived I drank it up immediately, only to spit it out in shock because it tasted like gas.

People, why do you drink this.

In Europe, they serve two types of water but Filipinos are only used to drinking the still water kind.In some other areas, they serve two types of iced tea too–the still and carbonated kind. So be specific if you want your drinks without the bubbles.

2. You have to do a lot of walking.

You’ll get to do a lot of walking. A lot. One time, Ejay told me we were going to visit a friend’s place and not to worry because ‘it’s just a five-minute walk away’. To me, a ‘five-minute walk’ meant walking to the next block. To Europeans, it means a 1-km walk. I didn’t wear enough layers during that walk and was not happy freezing to death–so you’d understand the numerous revenge plots on Ejay in my head at the time.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 2.08.16 PM
Lovely view, but it’s been a long day!

The Philippines does not have the ideal setting to nurture the walking or commuting culture. Don’t ask me why, but it’s probably due to a combination of climate, politics, urban planning and discipline (or lack thereof). We grew up in a car-priority society. To get from point A to point B, we mostly ride the jeepney or taxi, we drive our cars (and get our licenses without taking any driver’s test). The option to walk is very limited in the Philippines, mainly because our cities are built to discourage walking. There are no safe place for pedestrians on the road, and walkers have to run for their lives even when walking on pedestrian lanes. Doctors say that walking is good for the heart, but how can we eliminate the risk of dying every time– either by getting run over or developing a pollution-causing terminal illness?

3. Sorry, we’re closing.

While in Europe, I’ve been refused by shops a number of times because they were going to close in a few minutes. I was appalled at first (the businessman in me wanted to scream: but don’t you want my money?!?!). 

We are so used to the 24-hour convenience of Asia that the idea early closing times is distressing. What if I crave for 7-Eleven ice cream or Korean instant noodles in the middle of the night? What if I suddenly want to work out at Citigym Waterfront because I feel fat at 3am? In Cebu, many shops, restaurants and even gyms are open 24/7. In Europe, shops close early at around 5pm-7pm.

Many shops close on Sundays and holidays (museums close on Mondays, by the way). On some occasions, you will find your favorite store suddenly closed for the whole summer because the storekeeper is on vacation. Or closed for winter because no one really wants to work on winter. Did I mention that they don’t have 24 hour drive-thru? Nor a pizza delivery service? Tsk.

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Well, that’s a shame.

4. Don’t they feel just a little bit claustrophobic?

For such tall people, the Europeans seem to like everything tiny and cramped. All over Europe everything feels like it’s specifically Asian-tailored–their hotel rooms, wardrobes, toilets, cars… While I don’t mind, being Asian and all. But I wonder, If I’m a six-foot-tall European, I would probably feel just a little claustrophobic.

Tiny alleys in Mykonos, Greece
Tiny alleys in Mykonos, Greece

I wish Europeans would better take care of their cars though. Drivers would bump on to other people’s cars just to squeeze in a tiny parking space. But just as one Italian friend put it: ‘what’s the use of the bumper but to bump on it?’

5. Thinking about Clothes.

Dressing in the Philippines is relatively easy. You put on a shirt, shorts or jeans, snickers (slippers if you’re feeling more casual), and you’re good to go. Some people choose to suffer for fashion and put on boots and suits in this sweltering 30-degree weather. Dressing up in a place with four seasons is fun at first. Later on, it gets tedious. Dressing up takes at least 30 minutes for me on winter. I hate the fact that I have to wear five layers of clothing–and make sure all the clothes match together. I hate the fact that it adds 5kg to my weight. I hate that I couldn’t look cute if I wanted to. Nor the fact that clothes and shoes I got for UK would be impossible for me to use when I’m back in the Philippines.

Four Layers and we still try to look cute.
Four Layers and we still try to look cute.

5.1 And the lack thereof.

I’ve seen a lot foreigners in Philippine beaches and it’s easy to tell which one’s American and which one’s European–their swimwear. Americans settle for the long swim shorts that Filipinos wear too. Again, Europeans seem to like everything teeny-weeny. (If I were male, I’d probably feel claustrophobic inside those Speedos too)

To illustrate my point…

Nude beaches are all the range in Europe. They are laissez-faire when it comes to public display of personal goods. However,  if you’re a little squeamish about nudity, do research on which beaches are ‘family-friendly’. All other beaches that aren’t family-friendly will most probably give you some degrees of a good boob show. I’ve been to a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea and have seen women go topless by the pool or on beaches in Greece. I have no problem with that but… based on my experience, most women who don’t go topless, should. Most women who go topless–really shouldn’t. I’m talking about you, Grandma.

6. Feels like you’re back in the past

It still amazes me how people in Europe still prefer to read a book in the subway, or sketch outdoors in the park, or actually talk to people and make actual eye contact. In cafes you’re forced to talk to your acquaintances because wi-fi is mostly not available (or horrible).

Sketching new ideas
Sketching new ideas

I remember coming back to Hong Kong from London and the moment I stepped out of the airport– each face is glued to their respective screens–and I’m suddenly reminded that I’m back in Asia. Technology hasn’t escaped Europe though, and you’ll find some people in their mobile phones. They aren’t as selfie-crazed. The kids still prefer to play in parks rather than stare down at tablets all the time.

I'm trying to take a selfie as subtle as possible or I might embarrass myself
I’m trying to take a selfie as subtle as possible because I don’t want to embarrass myself

7. Nothing costs like peanuts.

I remember exchanging my months’ worth of savings to euros–a thick wad of peso bills changed into five notes in the euro currency. Five notes–all my months’ salary worth and my confidence down the drain. Coming from a third world country, I can’t help but convert everything to local currency. Shopping in Europe means I would mentally convert it in peso and think really hard if I really need it. Who wouldn’t feel bad if a cup of nuts in the UK would be able to be feed you lunch and dinner in the Philippines?

Smile and pretend you didn’t regret buying this, Rachel…

8. PDA

Everywhere in Europe, especially Paris, I am forced to watch soft core porn–whether it’s on the romantic lock bridge by the river Seine or while queuing up for a crepe.

Even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.
Even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.

Yes, even during the Je Suis Charlie rally.

9. European smiles take a bit of effort.

Filipinos are generally cheerful– we love to laugh and smile. We give it openly and freely. We laugh when we’re happy, excited, embarrassed or even when we’re a little annoyed. In fact, even when I’m chatting with friends, if I don’t put a ‘hahaha’ at the end of every sentence they would think something’s wrong with me. That’s how we take our jovial attitude seriously.

Hence, the famous Mona Lisa smile.
Hence, the famous Mona Lisa smile.

Europeans look more stern and very serious. They keep a straight face when telling a joke. I thought at first that it probably hurts for them to move their zygomaticus major muscle. Or,maybe they have poor dental care. hehe. Kidding aside, Europeans aren’t really aloof or miserable, as is the common misconception– but they just don’t like to smile without reason. They are generally more reserved and somber compared to Americans or Filipinos.

10. The churches are empty.

I come from a country where it’s dominantly Catholic, people are very religious, and the church is still relatively powerful when it came to people’s and government’s decisions. Most Filipinos from middle to upper class studied in a Catholic institution where we were taught to memorize our prayers and observe religious practices strictly. Going to church every Sunday is part of every Filipino’s lives. So to get to Europe and to see all these beautiful churches and cathedrals–and to find their Sunday service almost empty–feels a bit weird. Most of Europe’s churches now work as museums for tourists to gawk at. While some churches still hold Sunday mass, attendees are sparse and few. Even the shoddiest chapel in a Philippine barangay get more attendees–and observers are willing to pack in like sardines just to observe mass.

Beautiful Florence Cathedral
Beautiful Florence Cathedral
Sunday Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Sunday Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

What are your personal moments of culture shock while you’re in Europe, or Asia, or other parts of the world? Share your own experiences in the comment box and let me know!