Michael Brian Tina

Experiencing life while taking down notes

Category: Travel (page 2 of 2)

Driver’s License Renewal at LTO SM City Cebu

Hey, guys! How’s it been going? Here’s another late post. Just turned 22 *Cue T. Swift song* last September 4, and that also meant I had to renew my driver’s license. So, I went to the LTO Office in SM City Cebu.

My sister dropped me off at around 9:30. I waited outside the entrance near Radisson Blu. All this time, I was thinking it was near VECO! I was actually on the opposite side! It’s advisable if you go at around 9 or so, so you can be first in line going in the entrance. Remember to line up at the entrance near APM Mall.

Even if I was on the wrong side, there were already a bunch of people waiting outside. About 20 people at 9:45, so I assume there were more people on the correct entrance.

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At exactly 10, the guards let people in, and it was a mad dash! I realized my mistake when I got to VECO, and ran to LTO after I got some directions. It’s actually on the third floor, below where the Bowling Center is, and is a stone’s throw from Slimmers World Gym.

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When I got there, I was already No. 53 in line. To think, I was there at 10:05 AM! I’m glad, because after around 15 minutes, the line swelled up to about 150 people. It was kind of crazy.

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Took some pictures and some random snapshots, since information was just posted and scattered around. As you can read from above, the LTO Renewal Office is open from 10AM-6PM Monday to Fridays, and they don’t stop for a noon break.

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The first step in renewing your license is to get your medical exam. The LTO certified clinic is named HLO. It used to be that you needed to pay a pretty penny for the medical portion since you needed a urine sample for a drug test, but now, you just need to pay PHP 100.00 for the basic medical exam and to surrender your old Driver’s License. The picture below shows that you need to pay PHP 450.00, but that’s the old chart.

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If you guys aren’t in a rush, I really suggest that you go get your medical exam and driver’s license renewal in the afternoon, at around 3-4, as there are less people at that time. So if time isn’t an issue, by all means, go in the late afternoon.

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After you pay at the counter on the left, you will be given a priority number and a form to fill up. This form is actually your form for the LTO driver’s license renewal, and after the medical exam, they will attach the clearance to it. You will be waiting again. There is an indicator flashing red the corresponding priority number, which is kind of convenient. SM also has free Wi-Fi for around an hour, and it’s fast enough for you to check your Twitter, FB or load a few Instagram pictures. Take note that they will prioritize the Senior Citizens, so even if you are priority number 1-50, they will still get a batch or two of Senior Citizens and let them take the medical exam first. This is mainly what caused my wait at the medical exam for about 2 hours. It also lagged on because the 2nd doctor (there are two of them, and one nurse) was late in arriving.

After waiting, my priority number was flashing. I gave it to the nurse, and she took my weight and height. The doctor got my blood pressure, asked a few questions about my health, and it all seemed pretty routine. Under 3-4 minutes, and I was cleared!

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So after being cleared on the medical exam, I handed my form to this guy on a desk at the right side. This is the actual LTO Driver’s License Renewal Center, as the space next to it was the HLO Medical Clinic. After the guy gets your form, he will fill in some information, and you will again be asked to wait. It’s a good thing there are chairs at both the clinic and the renewal center, but it is really lacking for the amount of people that go everyday.

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After about another hour waiting, you will go to counter 1 and your picture will be taken and you’ll be asked to sign your digital signature on their table, and then you will be asked to wait again. Take note that there is no priority number or flashing indicator this time, they just shout out your last name, so you just have to listen attentively.

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After about 10 minutes, you go to counter 3, and will be asked to pay! Now, if you didn’t get the penalty, which means that you renew your license before your birthday (your license expires on your birthday) you will be asked to pay a total of PHP 418.00. If you have your license renewed after the expiry date, you will be paying PHP 493.00. The penalty is up to 1 day up to 1 year, which means that, given that my birthday is on September 4, even if I renewed on September 5 or even 5-6 months after my birthday, I’d still pay PHP 493.00.

After about 10 more minutes, the guy will call your name, and you go to counter 4, and they hand you your brand new driver’s license!

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I spent about a total time of around 3 hours and 30 minutes before I got my license. Maybe there were just a lot of people today, and that doctor being late also delayed things, but I heard that the usual time is about 2 hours tops. Maybe it’d also help if you just go in the late afternoon, where it’s non-peak hours.

So, that about wraps it up about my experience in renewing my driver’s license at the LTO Renewal Center in SM City Cebu.

Here are some tips for you guys:

  • Go early at about 9-9:30 so you’ll be first in line outside the mall. Wait at the entrance across APM mall so that you’ll be one of the first people there. Don’t forget that it’s a mad dash to the 3rd floor when the guards let people in!
  • Don’t forget to bring your old driver’s license and a ballpen. They won’t need any other documents aside from your old license. The ballpen is so that you can fill up the form.
  • Bring PHP 100.00 for the medical exam, and PHP 418.00 for the actual renewal fee. It’s PHP 493.00 if you’re expecting to pay the penalty fee. So bring about PHP 700.00 just to be safe.
  • There is a digitized board that indicates the priority number at the clinic, but when you actually get to the renewal center, they just shout out the last name of the person, so you have to be more attentive, otherwise they will skip you.
  • Just be patient. It’ll all be over with soon!

That’s it! If you have any questions or clarifications, I’ll be glad to answer them in the comments section. If this post helped you out, leave a comment!

Until next time,

Cheers!

My Passport Renewal Experience at the DFA Cebu Office

Hey, guys! This latest post is about my personal experience with a passport renewal at the DFA Office here in Cebu. I know we all have bad notions regarding government agencies and how long it takes to process stuff, but let’s be honest, they do have to cater to a lot of people everyday, and we only look at things from our own perspective. We should help to build up, shape and improve the process, instead of just complaining and tearing stuff down with our superbly negative comments.

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Anyway, I don’t really remember when I first applied for my passport, since I was a minor then and I just had to accompany my parents and make a personal appearance. A little wait and a picture for the camera, and voila, there was my passport. This was back when the DFA was located in the heart of Cebu City.

Now, the DFA Office in Cebu has transferred to Mandaue City. It’s located at the 4th floor of Pacific Mall (Formerly known as Super Metro) and specifically at the United Nations Avenue corner of Briones Street in Mandaue City. This was a good thing for me as it was much nearer to where I live.

The DFA in Manila has an appointment system so that people don’t have to wake up and line so early in the morning, but unfortunately, we don’t have that here yet. So, reading from personal blogs and friends comments on Facebook, they told me that I’d need to be there by 4 AM and some even said to be there by 3 AM.

This was kind of crazy, but if that’s how it is currently, so the only option is to line up early or have your passport application sorted out by a fixer. Which is illegal and could get you imprisoned. There are also travel agencies that line up for you, but you’ll have to pay an extra buck for this. I asked my friend who owns a travel agency, and you could end up spending an extra PHP 1,000-1,500 just for that express lane. Another option is if you’re a minor, senior or a person with disability, then you don’t have to line up and get a priority number, as there is a courtesy lane especially meant for these people.

There are also different requirements needed if you’re a first time applicant or if you’re just there to renew your passport. You pay the same amount, but the requirements such as your supporting documents and ID’s are different. I’ll try to post some pictures at the end with the information on some of this.

The first thing I did was research on the DFA website on the requirements. Good thing I had the necessary ID that was government issued, which was my driver’s license, and another one such as a school alumni ID. I also needed around 2-3 supporting documents, which was in the form of my TOR, CTC and Birth Certificate.

I also read blog posts from other people regarding their experience with the DFA, and it was also very helpful. Just do a quick Google search, they should be in the first page, and read all about it. I really wanted to prepare myself before heading over there so I wouldn’t waste any time.

I made a check-list of all of the stuff I’d need on the day, such as the requirements, and the snacks, water, reading materials, and the like. I’m not saying you should do this, but it really is helpful to have a checklist to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything. It would really suck if you were already at the DFA and you forgot to bring your driver’s license. Now, since I’m making this massive post, I took a picture of some requirements, reminders and the list of acceptable IDs and supporting documents, depending on whether it’s a first time application or a renewal. Check it out below.

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After gathering all the requirements, I went to photocopy all of them. Better safe than sorry. If you also have the green passport, you should photocopy the first and last page, as this is also a requirement. If you do it before you head to the DFA, you’ll save a few minutes than if you went to photocopy your stuff inside the office on the day itself.

So, that was all the preparation I made the day before. I followed the advice of my friends to go there at around 3 AM to make sure that I’d be one of the first few in line. It really did sound crazy, but I read that the earlier you line up, the earlier you finish. No point arguing with that.

Set 3 alarms on my cellphone, to go off at 2:15, 2:20 and 2:30 respectively. Turned off the first two and finally woke up at 2:30 AM. Took a quick bath, brought out the car, and headed to Pacific Mall. There was ample parking space outside for both cars and motorcycles. I got there at 3:07 AM. There are already people lining up. On my count, I was around the 50th person there. I was really glad that I went early. Now, the camp-out!

I came prepared. Stocked my cellphone with 3 movies (all in 1080p, no doubt!) to kill time with, since I didn’t have a friend who tagged along. Got to talk to my neighbors in the line about the requirements and stuff, and it was helpful as they also offered some advice and they were knowledgeable with the line mechanics and stuff.  More people started to line-up, and they had to sit on the side of the street of the mall.

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Watched Warm Bodies, which admittedly, I liked a lot. I wasn’t expecting too much, but it turned out to be real good! Maybe that, or I was just really sleepy! 2 hours passed. Switched batteries. The guard handed us application forms at around 5 AM. I filled it up, and went back to waiting. It was relatively easy to fill up. You can see the form in the picture below. Then I started watching Premium Rush.

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Now, at around 6:30 AM, the line was moving. We submitted our application form and we were given a priority number in exchange for a valid ID. We were also told to come back at 10 AM. I got number 56. Not too shabby, I guess.

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Had breakfast at Jollibee, and went back home for a nap. Felt much better, and headed back at around 9:45 AM. By this time, the mall was already open, and I headed to the 4th floor. No more waiting outside! The DFA Office space was actually very big, and it was airconditioned. There were also food stalls, and lots of chairs and benches. Really much better than the situation outside.

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So basically, this was the outside waiting area. There is actually another area for entrance, and they call you by batches of 50. 1-50 and 51-100, so on and so forth. This was the reason of having a priority number. I didn’t take too many pictures of the inside anymore due to low battery status. But basically, the inside interior has a photocopy section, a notarial section, an information section, and the actual tellers to process the passport. It’s also airconditioned inside and there are seats inside. Good stuff.

After they called 1-50, I got in line for 51-100. Basically, after this long line, it was hassle free from there. I finished everything in about less than 2 hours. You go to different tellers in a step by step process, all until you reach the end. Each teller has a queue as well, so waiting time really can vary. But they advertise that the actual processing time of all the tellers is just around 24 minutes.

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The first step is the processing area. This is where you submit your documents (IDs and supporting documents) for evaluation. They’ll ask you your parents’ middle names when they were single, so keep note of that! They’re going to require some photocopies or original documents from you. One thing I found weird is that if you were a first time applicant, you’d need to submit your original NSO Birth Certificate. But if it’s just for renewal, you’d only need the photocopy. She signs your application form, staples all the documents together, and forwards you to the next step.

The second step is the cashier area. You need to pay PHP 950.00 for a standard passport processing which is about 25 working days. You could also opt for the express processing which would be done in 15 working days, but you’d need to pay PHP 1,200.00. You can also opt to have LBC deliver it to your home. Prices and fees are shown below. Whatever you pay for, you just have to line-up and the teller will call you to pay the required amount before bringing you over to the next area.

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The third step is the enrolment area. This is where you submit your documents from the first step, and your receipt of payment from the second step. After some waiting, you’ll be called to the teller. She’ll take a picture of you using their camera.

  • No glasses or eye contacts of different color.
  • Ears have to be visible.
  • No teeth or gums showing.
  • No necklaces or adornments around the neck.

After the picture, they’ll need you to affix your digital signature and your left and right thumb print. It’s all very quick. When the teller encodes your personal information, you’ll need to be vigilant, as you need to tell him/her if there is any wrong information or wrong spelling on any data fields that were inputted. It’s your obligation, as you need to sign a sort of waiver at the end, not holding the DFA liable for any incorrect information. Just double check and it’ll be fine! After a bit more waiting, and after you’ve signed that everything is in order, you are now done, and you’re told that you can claim your passport in the releasing area 25 working days from today. You just need to keep your receipt as shown in the picture below as proof of the processing. Hooray! You can now proceed to go home and rest!

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That is actually the fourth step, which is the releasing area. You go back to the DFA office, and you don’t really need to line up and get a priority number anymore, as you’re just there for claiming. Unless you paid for LBC delivery, you’ll need to go back 25 working days from when you processed your passport. Note that there is still a hefty line for this, as lots of people also want to claim their passports. Shown below is the graph for the releasing of the passport, which I’ll have to do next month! Keep on reading to the next section for my time stamps and tips to get through the DFA Passport Application in a breeze!

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Just for a more personal recording on how everything went down at the DFA, I kept recording my thoughts and their respective time stamps. Read below if you want to know my thoughts moment by moment.

2:30 AM – Had 3 alarms set on my cellphone at 2:15, 2:20 and 2:30 respectively. Guess which one I woke up to?

2:54 AM – All prepped and good to go. Here we go!

3:07 AM – I arrive at the DFA. Lots of parking spaces outside the mall. I see that there are like 45-50 people already lining up.

3:08 AM – In the line outside and I’m starting to feel the sleepiness kick in. Thinking of what movie to watch first. At least there’s a place to sit and it has ample lighting.

3:13 AM – Talking to my immediate neighbors in the line. Confirmed everything else I read online about the priority number and application form. Priority number is given by the guard at around 5 AM – 7 AM. Come back around 9 AM-10 AM.

3:16 AM – Burping the remnants of last night’s Lumpia. I hope I don’t need to go to the restroom during this entire ordeal.

3:17 AM – Finally decided to watch Warm Bodies. I don’t know. I need something light to watch. The guy next to me has Hot Choco. Smells good. But I know if I buy some, it’ll cause me to take some unwanted detours.

4:49 AM – Had to change batteries on my cellphone. Almost done with the movie. Really enjoying Warm Bodies. Just a feel good movie! About 45-50 people have showed up after me, bringing the total to about 100 of us.

5:06 AM – The movie is over. Ended up liking it much more than I thought I would. More people have shown up. The line is getting even longer.

5:15 AM – The guard is starting to hand out application forms and is telling us to fill it up in advance.

5:22 AM – Done filling it up. Easy for the most part, just basic information. Now for some more waiting.

5:29 AM – Don’t feel like watching another movie. Sun has risen and it’s shining bright.

6:26 AM – Decided to watch another movie since I really had nothing else to do. About 15 minutes into Premium Rush. Joseph Gordon Levitt! There are now about 150 of us lining up.

6:38 AM – The line is moving.

6:47 AM – Submitted my form. They gave me a priority number. Number 56. Not too shabby. Have to be back by 10 AM.

6:59 AM – Jollibee for breakfast. Thinking of heading home for a quick nap after.

7:11 AM – Heading home.

9:14 AM – After a nice nap, I’m heading back to the DFA. Time for round 2!

9:43 AM – The DFA office is on the 4th floor of Pacific Mall. Heading there now.

10:34 AM – Done watching Premium Rush. It was alright. While I was watching, the people with priority numbers 1-50 went inside already. Big waiting area with some food stalls. Airconditioned. Not too bad. More people waiting though.

10:48 AM – Guard calls out priority numbers 51-100 . Already inside. Processing is starting. There’s a priority lane for PWD, Senior Citizens and Minors.

11:00 AM – Done with the ID, supporting documents and appearance validation which is the first part. The teller just confirms if you are who you say you are. Remember your parents’ middle names! On to payment. 950 Pesos. If it’s a regular application or renewal, it’s 25 working days. Express application is 15 days processing, but it’s currently suspended as of late. August 7, 2013 is the claim date. 

11:10 AM – Done paying at the next teller. I’m in line for encoding, which is going to take my Biometrics and stuff. Picture. Thumb prints. Remember that the smile has no teeth or gums showing. And that your ears should be visible. No contacts or glasses. No necklaces and stuff.

11:46 AM – Finally done! Have my official receipt and I’ll be back here to claim it in 25 working days. Pretty efficient once you’re inside . Just a little bit short of 2 hours. Well, until next time!

Before I end, here are some thoughts and tips that I’d like to share with you guys:

  • Preparation is key. There are a lot of resources on the internet such as the DFA website and personal blog posts on the needed requirements and advice to help you get through this ordeal. All the requirements and valid documents are just listed on the site. You can also ask your friends who have went through this before. Come prepared and everything will go smoothly.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk it up with your neighbors. They might have interesting tidbits and stuff that may help you along the way. Everyone is willing to help, and who knows, you might just make a new friend.
  • There’s a photocopying station inside the office for your requirements, but I suggest you photocopy your IDs and supporting documents in advance so you can save a few minutes in the queue.
  • Bring stuff to help you pass the time such as a book or some movies and games on your phone/tablet. Another option is to bring friends who you can talk to. But also be sure to be attentive when they’re calling out names and numbers. You don’t want to miss out and have to do it all over again.
  • During the encoding process of your name and of your parent’s name, it’s your job to make sure the encoder is typing the right information. Make sure everything is correct or you could pay a hefty fine to correct it later. Make sure you know your mom and dad’s middle name when they were single!
  • All in all, the most important thing is to be patient. It’s actually just the initial line that takes a while, but the rest is a breeze.

It took about 9 hours, but I’m glad that I finished everything in half a day without requiring the services of a fixer or a travel agency. It just takes discipline, preparation, and most of all, patience. It actually felt fulfilling at the end of it all!

This is a massive post with a lot of information, and some of it could be inaccurate. This is my own personal experience and sort of guide to the next reader. If you find something wrong, please don’t hesitate to comment or message me and I’ll try to correct it for the benefit of all. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or opinions that you’d like to voice out, please feel free to do so.

Update: (8/26/13)

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Got my passport! Didn’t have to wake up early for that, just went to the DFA at around 10:00 AM and the guard will direct you to the hallway at the side, which links directly for claiming of passports. Took less than 5 minutes. You just have to present your receipt and authenticate with your signature. I must say, the new passport is very well made! It feels kind of hardbound, and the page with your information and your contact details looks shiny and presentable. Can’t wait to get stamps, signatures and approvals on this little guy! Reminding you guys again, it’s 25 working days before you can claim your passport, unless you want them to have it shipped for you through LBC. So it’s really up to you if you think it’s worth the extra PHP 100-120 to have it shipped to your house.

Update: (12/29/2013)

I don’t know how long this has been in place, but apparently, basing off of the comments, Pacific Mall now has a Mall Priority Number that they start distributing at 9 PM the night before. So you get your Priority Number the night before, go the next day and exchange it with the DFA Priority Number. This kind of saves time for you having to wake up super early by at least ensuring it the night before and giving you some peace of mind. Will have to get more information about this. If anyone has any additional information, please feel free to comment below or shoot an e-mail at michaelbriantina@yahoo.com. I’d still prefer the appointment style by calling in advance, but this is also a bit better than waking up at 3 AM.

Update (01/28/2015)

Some acquaintances and friends of mine have told me that the applicants now have to wait in the street instead of the waiting shed, which I think is very stupid. The waiting sheds at least had light and a place for you to sit down. I don’t understand why Pacific Mall isn’t letting people stay there, for their safety and security. Also, back from my original update, it seems like the getting of the priority number isn’t being done the day before anymore, they’re going back to first come first serve on the day, which is promoting people to line up as early as 3 AM again. Personally, my suggestion would be to adapt an appointment system, kind of like how Manila does it. But only time will tell if they will do so.

Also, to those who keep on commenting and asking questions if the documents they have will suffice, please don’t expect me to answer that. You can check the files and pictures I used as well as the requirements and verify yourself. A little research and reading goes a long way! But again, many thanks to everyone who shared their experiences and stories. Hopefully in the next few years, passport applications and renewals will be easier to accomplish.

Update (02/05/2015)

My sister just got her passport renewed yesterday, but she had it coursed through with the help of a travel agency (boo!) so she had to pay a bit extra. A tip she gave me was instead of lining up real early (like at 3 AM), it might be worth a try to go late in the afternoon at around 3-4 PM. Sometimes, on busy days, there are no more priority numbers left in the afternoon, but when she went on a Wednesday afternoon, there were almost no people left and still some leftover priority numbers! The processing took around 30 minutes from start to finish because there were no people around! So maybe if you can spare the time, going on a late afternoon could help prove useful. If this method is indeed effective, please do share it in the comments section below!

Update (03/14/2015)

So I got two useful inputs from the comments section below. Read the comments section below, as people have been sharing their experiences during their own personal passport renewal. One person told me that going late in the afternoon around 3:45-4:00 PM was effective, as there was virtually no one around and she was done in about 30 minutes. Another person told me that Saturdays are indeed reserved for travel agencies, but once the people from the travel agencies are done at about 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, you can go and process for yourself even without a travel agency. Thank you to everyone who has been providing input! It’s been really useful so far.

Well, hopefully this was helpful and a good read for you as well.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Into the blue! Scuba Diving in the waters of Mactan.

Hey, guys!

So last Sunday, I was able to go scuba diving in Mactan, Cebu. It was a shore dive from Kontiki Club. My sister is a PADI licensed rescue diver and has lots of friends who are licensed dive instructors, so it was only a matter of time before she got me to try it. I also wanted to try because you don’t get to do something like this everyday, so I was like, what the hell. I’m glad I gave myself this opportunity, and even though it was a bit scary, it definitely was an experience unlike any other!

Woke up around 7 AM, and I was lacking a bit of sleep (6 hours) but I had to suck it up. Had a hearty breakfast! Always make sure to get a full meal, as scuba diving is very tiring, and it’ll require you to be at your full energy! I was with my dive instructor friend, who would be teaching us, my sister, who would serve as assistant, and another acquaintance who was having his first dive too.

The usual price for a discovery (beginners) dive is around PHP 2,500-4,000 depending on the instructor. There is a dive instructor with you at all times, who makes sure nothing goes wrong. He’ll keep you safe and will teach you the basic dive signs too (OK, danger, up, down, stay close) and he has this whiteboard marker to teach you about the different species of plants and animals right under our noses. He’ll teach you everything about the gear (BC, regulator, tank, fins, mask, weights, rashguard) and how to set it up. It seemed heavy and awkward during the initial fit (especially the rashguard) but once you get underwater, it’ll feel very light and adaptable. You’ll also be taught the basic skills that you’ll need, such as clearing the mask if water gets in, sweeping your regulator to retrieve it and how to equalize. You can’t go up to the surface right away if you’re 40 feet underwater, lest you get decompression sickness. All of this sounds scary and technical, but one rule that the instructor gave me was to not think, and just enjoy, and let him worry about everything else.

It was pretty fun to learn the gear and skills, but actual application in the water really took some time. But I really had fun! You feel like an explorer, going to an alien world, with all your gear and stuff. It also feels pretty weightless when you’re underwater, kind of like flying but of some different sort. You also feel like a baby, since you’re taking in so many new sights and experiences, like learning to breathe with your mouth, and getting used to the fins. It’s an indescribable experience, something you just have to try! Something for the bucketlist!

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With Dive Instructor, Francis Abelgas. Learning the basic skills!

After the skills and gear training, we went on two dives. The compressed air in our tanks was good for around 40-45 minutes, and each dive was something unique. The first dive was the getting used to part, as it isn’t really your natural reaction to go deeper and deeper. It’s a fear you sort of have to overcome. The deepest we went was around 40 feet, which is already a bit deep. I had some reservations and fears, like floating up too high and the air gauge reading low, but you’ve got to let go of that if you really want to enjoy down there! It was real beautiful! You get to see so many things that aren’t available up top, and so much marine flora and fauna came to greet us. The corals were very beautiful, teeming with fishes and other marine life. We got to see this crane part that fell underwater and turned into a rock formation over the years, and we got to see a school of sardines in a rush! Probably tens of thousands of sardines dancing around. It was very surreal! Let the pictures do the talking!

The second dive was more on reaching the Can-till or wall. Imagine a cliff, but it’s underwater. That’s how it’s like. It’s like the edge of a cliff, and it goes straight down. We went to 60 feet. Scary but exhilarating too. So much marine life, and it’s just a lot to take in. More exploring and observing. The deep blue and that feeling that time is moving very slowly and it’s like you’re in suspension. It’s really something you have to just experience.

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Are you ready for school? Sardine rush!

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Lots of weird animals and plants and things I can’t even begin to describe. 

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Beautiful corals. Teeming with fish of all different shapes and sizes! Imagine Finding Nemo, but in real life!

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This pufferfish bloats up when you hold it! He seems mad. Gotta be gentle!

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This is the cantill or edge. It just goes straight down, up to about 100-300 feet. 

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This is the OK sign. This lets everybody know that you’re still good and kicking!

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And this is the rock sign. It’s not an actual dive sign, but it’s still pretty cool!

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More fish! It’s crazy how many of them are under there. Lots of surprises in store, that’s for sure!

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My sister was taking most of the shots. Our dive instructor is signaling us that it’s okay to touch this object.

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Some weird plant I got to touch. Everything really does feel slippery and slimy under there.

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Explorers into the deep blue!

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Happy campers after the dive, resting and enjoying a fresh mango shake. I keep using thumbs up, but it’s actually the ‘up’ signal, which only the dive instructor can signal. Oops!

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Don’t forget to strike a pose, enjoy, and just go with the flow! Like Dory said, just keep swimming!

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience, something you really just have to try to understand. There’s a whole world down there, and we just don’t realize it. This is perfect to try with your friends and family. Whether it’s just for the bucket list, or you want to go a bit deeper than snorkeling, this is definitely on your list. I’m really grateful to my sister for dragging me and finally convincing me to try it.  Who knows, if you enjoy it, you might even get yourself to become a licensed diver.

We’re blessed to have such a beautiful landscape here. The Philippines has 7,107 islands, and it’s teeming with jackpot dive sites, both discovered and unknown! Even if you just try a shore dive here in Mactan, it’ll still take your breath away. So for those of you who have an appetite for adventure, and who just love the waters, you’ve got to give this a try sometime!

Until next time,

Cheers!

P.S.,

You can contact me if you have any questions or comments. If you really do want to give it a try, I highly recommend the dive instructor I went with, Francis Abelgas, as he’s been diving for over 10 years now, and he knows all his stuff underwater. He’ll keep you safe and he’ll keep everything in check on this crazy good experience. Just let me know through my various social media sites, and I’ll give you his contact details.

Facebook: facebook.com/mikes41720

Twitter: @mikes41720

Instagram: @mikes41720

E-mail: michaelbriantina@yahoo.com

Site: www.michaelbriantina.wordpress.com

Cagayan De Oro (CDO) River Rafting Experience!

I just recently came back from a trip to Cagayan De Oro , and it was amazing! We went there because of our student congress and convention, and participated in the quiz bowl and some other events. Cagayan De Oro is such a nice place, and we got to visit some nice places. Limketkai. Centrio. Black Nazarene Church. Cagayan River. Xavier University. But the highlight of my trip there was definitely the river rafting!

I had been dying to try the white river rafting, and it was definitely on my to-do list even before I knew the convention would be in Cagayan De Oro. I’m really glad I got to try this, and I would highly recommend everyone who is in Cagayan to stop by and try this!

Now, for some technical stuff. Cagayan River is huge! It spans around 6.5 KM (correct me if I’m wrong) and courses through the whole city of Cagayan. Since Cagayan De Oro is predominantly a mountainous area, you will start rafting from the top and make your way down. There are many agencies that can book you with rafting trips, inclusive of transportation and lunch. You just have to do your research, call and make a reservation! It’s pretty flexible, and rates get cheaper with more participants per trip.

There are 3 levels to choose from when you go rafting. The difference between levels is the skill it takes, the length of the journey, the number of rapids and the number of guides you take along with you, and of course, price.

Basic = 14 Rapids, 1 guide, PHP 500-1000 per person

Advanced = 21 Rapids, 1 guide, PHP 1200-1500 per person

Extreme = 36 Rapids, 2 guides, PHP 2000-up per person

Now, people can choose to take basic and advanced courses right away. The basic course is highly recommended if you have adolescents and women with you, but if most of you are guys (and gals) who are sporty, adventurous and like adrenaline, you can try and go for the advanced course right away! Now, the guides will not let you take the extreme course if you haven’t conquered the basic and advanced courses, and from the word itself, “extreme” makes you think that this is for professionals only. They even require 2 guides, so that shows you how tough and challenging this course is.

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The loading and unloading of the rafts.

You’ll be transported to the Cagayan river, and from there you will be greeted by some souvenir shops. Once they unload the raft from the jeepney, you’ll be given a flotation device, a paddle and a helmet. All standard gear. They’ll give you an orientation, assign you a guide and teach you all the commands you need to know. Depending on the size of the raft, you’ll be assigned to groups of 4-6 people per raft (and +1 for the guide). The guides have their own paddles, and will be at the back of the raft for the guiding and directing. He also has his own flotation device and has a line with a buoy that he can use to pull you from afar if ever you drift far away from the raft.

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The beautiful Cagayan River!

There are 3 basic commands. Forward pedal, back pedal and stop. The guide will be in charge for the direction or steering, so all you need to do is trust him when he assigns a command. Just keep on your toes, paddle hard, and enjoy the journey. Don’t forget to shout “Bugsay!”

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Orientation from our guides.

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Ready to roll out!

The starting point of the basic course is the ending point of the advanced and extreme course, so you will encounter totally different rapids if you take advanced and extreme than if you would have just taken the basic course.

Now, we took the basic course. It was a whole lot of fun! The whole trip from start to finish took about 3 hours. There are still water areas where you have to paddle, and there are 14 rapids spread across that you have to coordinate and work as a team to get through. There was also a segment where we got off and took pictures at a rock formation, and actually getting off the raft and swimming! It wasn’t just about the actual rafting, but there were some good sections for picture taking and swimming too. Your guides have a camera of their own, and they can take lots of pictures, compile it to a CD and sell it to you repriced. (We got ours at PHP 150.00 for around 100 pictures. I guess it was worth it!)

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Picture at the rock formation!

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Swimming time!

Now, there are 4 levels of rapids (as far as I remember), which indicate their difficulty of maneuvering and the water drop! The basic course has around 2-3 level 3 rapids, with a lot of them being level 1 and 2 rapids. The advanced and extreme courses have mostly level 3-4 rapids, which definitely makes it a challenge.

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Brave the waves!

There is also the option of night rafting, but it isn’t really advised unless you’re a bit experienced already. Also, every time there’s a big typhoon (Pablo or Sendong) the rapids get re-arranged. Some rapids get stronger, some get weaker, some dissipate, some show up. So the guides will have to survey before they allow people to try the rafting experience. So, we’re in pretty good hands.

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Bugsay! What a drop!

There are lots of beautiful sights while you’re rafting across the river, bordering between Cagayan and Bukidnon. Lots of caves, cliffs, rock formations, flora (balete trees, vines, flowers) and fauna (snakes, insects, fish) which can leave you in awe and amazement. It really is just a beautiful place.

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Pretty wet and cold after, but what an experience it was!

So, this is something I would definitely recommend to everyone. It’s moderately priced, it’s one heck of an adventure, and it is a must-do if you’re in Cagayan. It’s not too taxing on the body, and there are options out there for everyone. The guides are friendly. The view and environment is beautiful. The water is fresh and invigorating. The adrenaline rush through the rapids is there and the teamwork and camaraderie between the people in the raft is formed. It’s an experience worth trying. Definitely.

Please comment or shoot me a PM if you have any more questions, and I’ll gladly try to answer them for you. So what are you waiting for?  Schedule a trip and get to tackling those rapids!

Until next time,

Cheers!

West 35 Eco-Mountain Resort!

Hey, guys! Went with the family on a road trip to Busay and Balamban today! We went to West 35 Eco-Mountain Resort. It’s located in Gaas, Balamban along with the other attraction sites like Adventure Cafe, K33, and Island in the Sky.

We left the house at around 10:00 AM and got to the place at around 11:30 AM. Most of you probably know that the drive going there is a steep and winding road. It’s a bit dangerous too, so better be careful.

One of the things I recommend on doing before actually arriving at West 35 is to buy corn at the small market place along the road. You can’t really miss it. Lots of vendors that sell fresh fruits and vegetables for prices much cheaper than that in the city. But I definitely recommend buying some sweet corn. It’s sort of what Busay and Balamban is known for. Kind of cheap too. Better take advantage while you’re there anyway.

We got to the place and it was really breathtaking. We got lost along the way, but there was a signboard which guided us as to where the place was, so it was all good. I’ll be posting a lot of pictures, so don’t worry!

West 35 Eco Adventure Park has several facilities which include: a playground, restaurant, viewing deck, trekking trail, zipline and villa accommodation!

My nephew, Enzo, had a fun time in the kid’s playground. I tried some of the obstacles, but then reminded myself that I didn’t fit into the 5-12 age category! PHP 50.00 per child and with the guardian, but luckily, we didn’t get to pay to use it today. Maybe because it’s Sunday? Check out the pictures. He’s starring in it! This place is good if you have kids. They’ll enjoy this area for sure!

That’s that for the kid’s playground! Let’s take a look at the restaurant and viewing deck. It was a bit of a climb, but it was really nice. Great design, nice furniture and it was really windy. That kind of cold wind that you can only experience in high altitude environments.

Let’s not forget to include the food! The name of their restaurant is Haven Cafe. Food was very reasonable with price ranges of PHP 120.00 to PHP 200.00 per plate of food. Surprisingly, the food was really good! We had fresh garden salad, baby back ribs, tinolang manok and pork barbeque. We also had a pitcher of their healthy iced tea at PHP 150.00 and it was pretty good! Sort of like a healthy version of C2. Let the pictures do the talking!

Did that make you hungry or what? Well, we had some good food and got to rest. The fresh air was so refreshing. We took a walk and got to inquire about their villa accommodation! If you’ve got some friends to bring, then it is a welcome place. I’ll list down the prices of their overnight villas later, but enjoy the pictures! No air conditioning, but you won’t need it as the mountain air will suffice as natural AC! There’s also a bonfire with a great view, so that’s another plus!

West 35 Eco-Mountain Resort accommodation rates: (updated as of 2/28/16)

Group Accommodation  – PHP 4,500.00 (6 PAX)

Deluxe – PHP 4,500.00 (2 PAX)

Suite – PHP 6,000.00 (2 PAX)

Extra Person – PHP 500.00

Entrance Fee – PHP 50.00

*Enjoy 10% to 15% on selected rooms during weekdays

*No bringing of outside food or beverages inside the resort premises

*Prices are subject to change without prior notice

Cebu Address: Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City, Philippines

Contact Numbers: (032) 520-2633

E-mail: ecowest35@yahoo.com

Alright! We’ve got all the technical stuff out of the way. Well, if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air, or a new place to visit with friends or family, I’d definitely recommend West 35 Eco-Mountain Resort! It may not provide too much for the adventure or adrenaline junkies, but if you’re looking for some much needed R&R, this place will definitely provide. Stunning views, good food, nice facilities and a whole lot of fresh air!

Until next time,

Cheers!

Update:

(07/04/13)

Thank you for everyone who has read this particular post! To date, this has been my most popular post after the local apparel stuff, and I’m really happy with how people are Googling the place and my blog is like 2nd or 3rd on the search list. Check the place out! Cheers!

(02/28/16)

Visited West 35 again with my dad, and the place is still in pretty good condition. The entrance fee is still PHP 50.00 and is non-consumable on weekends, but is consumable from Monday-Friday.

Updated contact numbers for inquiries or reservations:

0933-995-3245 / 520-2633 / 514-3262

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