My South Korea Visa Application Experience

Hello there! Last night I received the good news that my South Korea visa application was approved and I am beyond elated. I mean, it’s the first piece of good news I’ve ever had this week. Work this week was tough and there’s an uncle who was hospitalised and I missed my cats’ vaccination schedule so I really needed one, just one piece of chicken joy. Lol.

First off, let me tell you that this is not a comprehensive guide on how to apply for a South Korea visitor visa. I’m too lazy for that and anyways, so many bloggers already did that. Instead, I want you to visit a few of these blogs because they helped me a lot when I was preparing my documents 🙂

I’m just gonna tell you about my experience in applying for one now that the ever evasive Company Alphalist is now part of the requirements.

I was given a claim stub dated April 23rd. I applied only recently– April 16, 2018– and checked my visa status online last night. Yes, it is already available and yes you can check your status online by visiting the Korea Visa Portal. I found out about this from the website pinoyadventurista.com. Click the link for the step-by-step guide on how to proceed. 🙂

For a step-by-step guide on how to accomplish the requirements, you can check out iamaileen.com. Not only did the author provide detailed information, but this blog is also very interactive. I learned helpful tips especially from the people commenting on their blog sharing their experiences, good or bad, when they applied for their visas.

For instance, that’s where I found out that the lines outside the embassy are really long especially during peak season and that not everyone gets accommodated so my friends and I came prepared. The Embassy didn’t entertain people until 8 in the morning but we went at around 4 in the morning and there was already a long queue. When I filled up the log sheet, I was visitor # 135. I heard the guard say that they are letting in 250 people. Visa application time is from 8:00-11:30 am only. We were safe! Haha. BTW, this is in Taguig, BGC, Metro Manila.

And here’s another helpful website — laagankaayo — detailing how to fill up the application form. But before following this guide or any other helpful website, please make sure to visit the embassy’s official site for the up-to-date list of requirements and application form.

When I was preparing the requirements, I made sure that there will be no loopholes as much as possible. I even submitted a cover letter explaining why I am travelling to South Korea. I gave my all, made sure that no more information will be needed from me by the Embassy. They do call applicants if they require more information.

One of my friends joining me on this trip received a call from the Embassy. She was asked why she declared on her application form that she’ll be staying in Seoul for 7 days but on her Certificate of Employment (COE), she had 9 days of vacation leave approved. She was also asked whether she’s travelling alone or not, where she works and how long she’s been working on her present job. Also, this is going to be her first out-of-country trip. She answered all questions truthfully and guess what, her visa got approved! 🙂

BTW, on the COE, it is not a requirement to include your approved leaves at work but as there is such option to include in our COE (we work for the same company), we asked for our approved leaves to be included for an extra boost! We’ve both been working for the same company for over three years now. 🙂

The most challenging part is obtaining a copy of the Company Alphalist. Our company doesn’t issue one due to confidentiality — we have over 41,000 employees in Metro Manila alone and we’re big on information security so I can totally understand.

I logged another request to our HR Dept that they provide a letter explaining why they can’t issue me an Alphalist. It took two follow up requests to get an answer, which I understand because I bet I am the first (or one of the firsts) employees to request such document. They issued not only a letter but also a copy of the stamped BIR Transmittal Form and a copy of a notarized Sworn Declaration form. Aww.. Very supportive, right? I so love my company! 💞

I immediately gave my travel buddies a heads up to send a follow up on their requests. They got theirs only a couple of days after I did. Sweet life.

As for the Bank Certificate and Statement, I got mine from BPI using my payroll account since it is more active. The amount, to be safe (or so I have read), make sure you have at least P10,000 for each day of your stay plus extra amount as some sort of an emergency fund and to assure the officer that you still have enough to live by after your trip and that you are not planning to exceed your time there. Prolly it’s safe to have at least twice the amount of your budget. I am not sure how much the ADB matters but I have read that it is safe for it to be P10,000 and above.

Anything to satisfy the officer-in-charge that you are financially capable to fund your travel. I don’t know if the process is different if you have a sponsor.

If you have a PRC card, do submit a copy, too. I have one (I’m a Registered Nurse). I think it’s a boost on my application.

Oh well papel. That’s all I could think of right now. But one thing’s for sure.. Someone’s excited to claim her passport on the 23rd!

And that’s me! 😉

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TRAVEL Malaysia: Container Hotel Penang Review

I stayed in this avant-garde place called Container Hotel. As I am working in the export industry, I guess the name of the hotel drew me in. Yes, my job has definitely rubbed off on me.

I think only a small portion of it was made out of intermodal containers but, whatever, I’d highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Penang Island. Not only is the hotel located in the heart of the heritage site (and near the other landmarks such as Clan Jetties) but it’s also very affordable. I only paid 76.50 RM for two nights. That’s about only 10 USD per night. I booked direct on their website where they offer the best rates. Click here to book.

Here’s what the inside looks like. Guy on the first photo, that’s Timothy. Such a nice fellow who greeted me when I reached at past ten in the evening.

And I call this my tiny cat box. Haha. There’s nothing quite like it! It was so cozy and comfortable! There’s fan inside and a dropdown desk/mirror. It’s got a roll up curtain for privacy.

The shared washroom was okay, very clean plus their were hair dryers. I can’t live without one you know. Whenever I book a place to stay, I always check first if there’s at least one hair dryer in that place. 😂

The location of this hotel couldn’t be more perfect as it is strategically located within the heritage site. With street arts everywhere, George Town is like this big open-air museum. There’s always art hiding in a corner on little back alleys and side paths. I didn’t have to go far from the hotel to find one. Below were hidden in a narrow street just across my hotel.

And this one right here was on the hotel’s right wall!

And this was just a few steps away.

Another reason why you should book with Container Hotel is that it’s near the Weld Quay bus station, about ten minutes walk away. It’s also in the route of the free Rapid Central Area Transit (CAT) shuttle hop on bus. If you’re visiting Penang, don’t miss this free ride as it will take you around the city including Komtar area and 18 other points of interests.

That’s it, for now! I’ll write about my Hop on Hop Off experience with both CAT and Penang HOHO on my next blog.

TRAVEL Malaysia: Exploring Penang Island

I remember feeling so excited when I boarded my plane in Singapore at eight in the evening back in September. I had prepared quite an itinerary and intended to follow it no matter what. I recall thinking to myself after the trip that I was glad I chose Penang Island for my first ever solo out of town trip.

I reached Penang International Airport a little past nine. The airport was okay, it was small, similar to the one in Clark or Naga. It was a little deserted I guess because it was a little late already.

My first purchase was a SIM card pack. If I remember correctly, it costed me 10 MYR and it came with 1GB data, which was more than enough for my 2-day stay as I only needed the mobile data for navigation. It was a good investment, really, as I was able to visit so many attractions without me getting lost.

After buying the SIM card, I went outside the airport and waited for Bus No. 401E which would take me to Weld Quay. I paid only 2.70 MYR for the ride which took me to my destination in 45 minutes.

If you’re not as cheap as I am, you can flag a cab. Grab is also thriving. But if I were you, I’d choose the bus not only because it’s whole lot cheaper but it’s also safe and the seats are comfortable and spacious.

I reached Weld Quay at around 10:15 pm and walked for ten minutes and, voila, there’s my hotel! I’m going to write about my Container Hotel experience on my next blog post.

I went to sleep after taking a shower to prepare for my Day 1 in Penang Island!

I woke up at five in the morning haha Iknowriiight I was so excited and couldn’t wait for the day to start only to find out that it was still dark outside. Not wanting to go back to sleep, I explored the inside of the hotel and found this cozy library on the 2nd floor of the building. Definitely my thing though I dint have the time to explore the books..

Finally, the sun came out at 7 am but first things first.. I saw this street art just across the hotel and you know what happened next. I remember it was drizzling that morning but it didn’t dampen my spirit. I can’t recall why I was laughing in this photo but I know for sure that I was happy and contented though very much alone. Alone but happy. 🙂

After the nth shot, the drizzle stopped and I took off to Weld Quay and boarded the CAT bus.

This is a free hop on shuttle bus which takes you to 19 points of interests within the city. It weaves thru the heritage site and to the Komtar commercial district.

After exploring Komtar and taking photos of the Hindu temples and Times Square, I waited for the Penang Hop On Hop Off double decker bus at Stop 6.

I will write about my HOHO experience on one of my next blogs.

I reached Stop # 13 Kelawei in 30 minutes. I chose this as my first stop because of the temples. There are two attractions in Kelawei– the Burmese Buddhist Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram (Thai Buddhist Temple).

Both had enormous Buddha statues inside their main temples, one was standing, the other reclined.

Here are the photos I took of the Burmese Temple.

I thought the lady looked so elegant so I took her photo with the enormous Buddha.

The Thai temple was so much bigger. I think there were like three temples inside the complex.

Not to be outdone, the temple’s got it’s own version of a ginormous Buddha– and a reclining one at that!

Please bear with me as I am in the temple-hopping stage at this point in my life. 😂

Next stop was Kek Lok Si. It’s this huge temple complex perched on top of a hill and is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in all of Malaysia.

Rows and rows of buddhas around the temple..

Turtle pond at the base of the temple..

After Kek Lok Si, I skipped the rest of the stops on the city route and moved on to the beach route. When switching to the beach route, one will need to drop at the intersecting stop in Gurney Drive. From Gurney Drive, I asked to be dropped off at Holiday Inn to visit Batu Ferringhi beach. From there, I had to ask a local on how to get to the beach without passing through the luxury hotels.

Batu Ferringhi is charming in its own way. It’s not as lovely as the white sand beaches that we got here in the Philippines well firstly because the sand wasn’t white. It would be fairer to compare it to Laiya beach in Batangas.

But like all other beaches, the view was great and there were all sorts of water activities such as jet skiing and parasailing. I would’ve had a go but I brought no spare clothes and I also thought it’d be a little awkward if I went parasailing alone.

So I whiled away my time under a tree near the beach and found company on this cute little fellow.

I know he looks annoyed on the photos but isn’t he a cutie? 😍 I remember feeling so lonely but Mr. Grey made me forget about my loneliness. Yep, he’s the legit Mr. Grey (not that psycho in the movies haha) This kitty is the reason why I missed the 5pm HOHO bus and it was worth it. He was like any other kitty, he purred a lot when I stroked his neck and chain. He also kept on rubbing his soft body against mine. How I badly wanted to take him back home with me 😢.

Every time I look at these photos, I feel a pang of pain huhu I badly miss him! (I know right, crazy cat lady alert 🚨 )

I will surely visit Batu Ferringhi again in the near future and I’d be sure to give Mr. Grey more than just a pat. Yes, I’ma hug him like crazy!

I almost didn’t want to say goodbye but it was time for me to leave to catch the 5pm bus so I had to let Mr. Grey go with a heavy heart. 😭

I headed back to the direction of the road only to watch the HOHO bus pass me by. On my way to the bus stop, I saw these tiny monkeys walking/clinging on the cables. It was such a wow moment. I mean, how often do you get to see stray monkeys on inhabited places? The one which crossed the road thru the cable even stared me in the eye probably realizing that I was lurking.🙊

The next bus won’t be until 6pm so I decided to walk a little farther to kill time until I reached the next stop, Hard Rock hotel.

I discovered that there was a nearby dirt road leading to the beach so I decided to check it out and I’m glad I did because I got to ride on a horse by the beach! Just my luck! Haha.

The owner of this horse told me that his horse liked me because he was nuzzling me on my neck! I bet that’s how the horse gets to convince tourists like me to ride his back! Kidding!

Here’s the view I got while riding on the horse:

I wished I didn’t have to leave sooner but I also couldn’t wait to reach my next destination before nightfall. You’ll see why on the next photos.

So from Hard Rock, I asked to be dropped at Straits Quay. From there, I walked for about 15 minutes and stopped by this place where streetfood were sold and I meet these two lovely Amirah’s! I forgot the name of the third girl, silly me.

They fed me an assortment of goodies, i forgot what they were called but they’re really good!

Afterwards, I had to bid them farewell and headed on to my next stop– the Penang Secret Avatar Garden! Before I got to see the garden, I had to pass by the Thai Pak Koong temple. Near the temple was a topiary garden. There were also lots of animal stone sculptures surrounding the topiaries.

This was past seven in the evening and it was nearing sunset so I rushed to the shore and was just in time to capture this moment!

And what better way to cap off all of my adventures for the day than to behold the beauty of the Avatar Garden!

So that’s how I spent my Day One at Penang Island! Day Two was exploring the heritage site in George Town, which I wrote about on my previous blog post.

I will talk about my Container Hotel Penang experience on the next blog. Ciao!

TRAVEL Malaysia: Exploring George Town

After seven months of procrastinating, here I am, writing about my Malaysia trip back in September 2017. I’ve been meaning to write for so long but I got caught up juggling my time between work (ugh, iknowriiiight), reading books, giving warm baths to my cats, eco-volunteering, hanging out with friends and traveling some more.

George Town, Penang. How can I forget about this place? It is so lovely in a rustic way — old British colonial buildings, street arts everywhere, mosques, ornate temples, clan houses and rows of Chinese shops — yet it boasts modern structures, skyscrapers, swanky shopping malls and artsy cafés and boutiques. It has several app-ready bikes for rent in its old streets. With its well-preserved heritage buildings, the city of George Town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What makes this place memorable for me are the numerous street arts featuring cats. Hah! If you are following me on instagram, you’d already know how batshit crazy I get when around cats. You’d also know that these street arts are the reason why I decided to visit Penang in the first place. Below are just a few of the numerous cat arts I saw in George Town.

And of course I had to take selfies with one of the cute stray cats. I mean, what good are cat murals without the real-life inspirations? Seriously this cutie is so adorable I had to stop the urge to take her back home with me.

All of the cats I saw looked well-fed and with thick fur — a possible indication that they are healthy stray cats. 🙂 Which is not at all surprising because the food in George Town was really good. I didn’t get to take a lot of food photos because I was always so hungry after my adventures around the island I just devoured everything on my plate without taking photos first like I always do when dining at some place new. To give you an idea, their food is mostly a hodgepodge of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisine.

I always had my breakfast at this place just behind my hotel. The food was the best and really cheap! I spent less than two dollars for every decent meal– that includes 2-3 viands plus rice and rose tea. I particularly loved this really spicy lamb dish. It was so good I forgot to note down what it’s called. The chicken was also yummy. Whatever sauce they added did the magic.

Secondly, it was my first time traveling out of the country alone and I’m telling you now, going solo is very liberating. There’s nothing quite like waking up in a foreign place all by yourself. No one to depend on but yourself. No other decisions to consider except yours. And it had me thinking about doing this solo traveling thing over and again.

That is, until I get tired taking my own photos! That’s the downside when traveling solo. Thank god for my trusty iPhone 7 and its’ camera timer, I was able to take decent shots without having to beg passers-by to take my photos. Haha.

Here are a few more street art photos..

But seriously I am just so glad I ticked this solo travel thing in beautiful Penang Island!

Ciao for now! I will write about the whole of my Penang Island trip on my next blog!

Oh, Singapore!

Two weeks just ain’t enough if you are planning to visit the Lion City but if you only have limited time like I had then you just have to make the most out of it.

Singapore is my first ever out-of-country travel experience and I’m glad it was! Let me provide a trivia.. Did you know that the Singapore passport is the most powerful passport in the world right now? Yes. You’re welcome!

It is an expensive country for a third-world fellow like me but I chose it because, first off, it’s so glam and the people there looked like they just came out of fashion shows. Yes, in the plural.

Seriously. I love the way Singaporeans dress and I think their sense of style just rubs off on everyone who visits because everyone just looks so sleek and á la mode! Well, almost.

During my visit, I felt so underdressed in my favorite wraparound floral dress and running shoes just looking at this lady sporting a blond bobcut wearing a loose, wrinkled white shirt and black slacks and heels (heavily, dramatic sigh). I can never pull off a wrinkled shirt! Kill me now.😫

Before we continue, let me warn you. This is not strictly a travel blog. So don’t expect me to provide itineraries and DSLR-quality photos. I write in a story-telling kind of way. I like whiling away every moment so I don’t really keep track of my time and the places I visit. And I suck in photography as you can see. Quite content with my iPhone, I’ve no plans at all buying heavy contraptions with so many appendages that I think are so hard to figure out!

But please don’t leave my page just yet. So far, you’ve already invested a minute reading so what harm will it do if you stay for a couple more? 😅

Allow me to proceed by telling you that this city is so clean. God, you must be wondering how dirty my home city is and I don’t really wanna talk about that, ha-ha. In Singapore, there were no cigarette butts, chewing gums stuck under public benches, candy wrappers on the streets. Heck, there was even no speck of dust you could practically lay down everywhere without ruining your outfit. There were no stray dogs. I saw a couple of cats and they were all sooo black and humongous the cat lady in me wanted to take them home!

Third, it is an expensive city alright but there were so many attractions you don’t have to spend a single dime apart from the food, souvenirs (bought mine at Bugis Street) and bus/metro rides. I visited Merlion Park, Gardens By the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Island, and roamed the streets of Singapore without coughing up extra cash. Okay, except for the bars of chocolates I bought at VivoCity. 😂

Also, Changi Airport in itself is a major attraction you can spend a day just touring between the terminals! It’s got everything– designer brand stores, lounge rooms, movie theatres, a lap pool, game rooms– you name it! In Terminal 2 alone, there are indoor gardens, a Koi Pond and a Sunflower Garden on the rooftop. No wonder this airport is named as the best in the world!

Captured these cute couple on a video I made of the Sunflower Garden. Aren’t they sweet??!! 😋

I didn’t pay for my accommodation as I stayed at my friend’s place. Okay, that’s my second tip to anyone planning travels anywhere: connections. It’s always a bonus to have friends who live in the area you are visiting.

I want to highlight the light shows at the Gardens By the Bay and Marina Bay Sands. They happen every.single.night. If I recall correctly, the show at GBB starts at around 7:30pm Singapore time. Afterwards, the lights and water show at MBS is at 9:00pm. Seriously, if you’re staying even for just one night in Singapore, you must not miss these light shows! MBS is only a short walk from GBB so come on now don’t be a lazy bum and watch both shows! I tell you, it’s worth it!

Last but not the least: pandas! It’s always been my dream to see a panda for real and it came true when I went to Singapore and saw not one but two pandas– Kaikai and Jiajia. 😻 The male one, Kaikai, put on quite a show when he seemingly struck a pose on his wooden throne. He’s so kawaii!!!

The female, Jiajia, was the quintessential panda. All it did was sit and eat carrots the whole time we were watching her. So adorable!

The pandas are at the River Safari in Mandai Lake Road, btw. It’s a twenty-minute ride via cab from Simei Street. My friend and I booked via Grabcar. I believe it will take more than an hour via MRT from the airport. For the River Safari tickets, I paid USD 31.30 for two via Klook. (Seriously, it’s a great booking app. Lots of discounts!)

River Safari is not your regular zoo as it has a river theme featuring about ten rivers of the world and their menagerie. You might think the price is a bit steep but, for me, it’s a steal as it came with a boat ride– the Amazon River Quest– which I immensely enjoyed I had a second go on it! I loved the pink flamingoes!

And, of course, the pandas, are the must-see attractions, as well as the tiny, perky red panda.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of wildlife parks. I’d rather these animals are left alone in the wild but then I can’t help feeling a bit partial about the whole thing as I also want to experience them as I know it would be nearly impossible for me to see them in the wild. I can only hope that they are well-taken cared of in these zoos. 😊

That’s it for now! I will write about my Penang trip on my next post. (Best solo trip ever!)

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on IG: kjatorralba 😁

 

What’s Three* Years Compared to the Rest of Your Life?

Recently, I had one of those in-depth conversations with a very inspiring lady. One question that really got me going was this, “What’s [three] years compared to the rest of your life?” Yes, indeed.

This is one of those questions that are not even intended to be answered in a spur of a second. It has all sorts of answers depending on your state of mind at the time that it was fired at you. When my friend posed that question to me, she spoke it like a prayer. Like some kind of an advice but a whole lot more than that and so I didn’t even bother answering because I knew that she wasn’t expecting an answer. She meant for me to take it with me after our conversation.. to ruminate upon, poke at it in different ways, see all sides of it from different angles. But I answered anyway silently inside my mind. I like to keep things simple. One word. Yes, at that moment, that was what was inside of me, waiting to be uttered but the word was like a shy kid. It refused to come out.

We have so much time in this world. So much time we can swim in it, who knows, for one thousand, one million laps, or more, so much time it cannot be swam through. It cannot be contained. (This sounds like some movie I watched a few months back.) Who knows right? What will be coming is waiting to be spent, waiting like the moon waits for the skies to get dark every night in this part of the world, like the days that couldn’t wait for the sun to rise for new beginnings. The rest of my life is waiting, it can’t wait to show me what could still be. What I could be. It can’t wait to show how there are so much more to explore, not just physical places, but places that don’t require the senses..

If something is no longer as fulfilling as it was before, if it’s stifling you, if it is stopping your growth.. If you feel like a plant with a Tupperware protectively hovering over it, sheltering it from the sun, the wind and the rain.. if it’s something that’s holding you off from venturing out of your comfort zone.. if it’s something that’s hurting you, makes you want to lock yourself up and cry.. If it’s something that no longer fulfills your needs and wants.. then it’s got to stop. If it’s something that will make you change the essence of who you are.. that will make you forget what makes you tick.. Erase the codes that you’ve carefully built in within yourself for twenty-something years.. Auto-delete what’s been programmed in your mind to make you laugh without inhibitions.. what makes you do all the quirky things that you do.. what makes you you.. If it’s something that makes you fake your laughters and smiles.. then it’s got to stop.

Alright, so let me ask you now. What’s three years compared to the rest of your life? What’s four, seven, ten years compared to the rest of your life? Nothing. They’ve all gone. Three beautiful and sad and tragic years and now this sounds like a Taylor Swift song. Three years was everything with a list that goes on and on so long it could span the entire length of this island, so long it could break records but that’s not my purpose in writing this. 

I guess whoever’s reading this now, I want you to think about it. What’s three years, five, seven, ten years? These are just numbers.. There shouldn’t be regrets or perhaps just a little, but definitely no turning back. 

What’s to come is like a promise, you can almost touch it now if you let go and let be. It can hardly wait and YOU ARE worth the long wait.



*could be three or less or more depending on the reader’s personal experience 🙃

Kawalan by Makatang Rosas

This is a special entry by a dear friend, someone I consider as my second mom, and she gifted me with this poem and it’s very fitting of my situation right now.. Thank you, Makatang Rosas. 😘




Sa sandali ng pagtahak sa landas ng pag-iisa,

Sa daigdig na kung saan hindi ka na nakakasama ;

Walang oras at sandaling hindi kita naaalala ,

Pagkat ang mundo kong ito salat sa kulay at sigla.


Para akong naroroon naglalakbay sa kawalan,

Kung saan ako patutungo yun ay hindi ko alam;

Pagkat ang pagsintang taglay ay pilit kong iniiwasan,

Ay sadyang naroon pa rin at aking nararamdaman.


Saan ako paroroon at dadalhin nitong paa?

Kung ang iyong mga haplos ay di ko na nadarama,

At ang bawat tagpong yao’y silay na lang sa alaala,

Mayroon pa ba sa mga labing mga ngiting maliligaya?


Tahimik ang bawat paligid at puso ko ay nakaratay,

Nag-iisip sa desisyong ipinasyang maibigay;

Paano paninindigang tuluyan na sayong mawalay,

Kung ang damdamin kong ito sabik pa ring naghihintay.


Bawat sandali sa pagtahak ko ng landas,

Nais pa ring sariwain yaong mga nakalipas,

Pinagyayaman ko pa rin mga natitirang bakas,

Pagkat nais ka pang makasama sa darating na mga bukas.



– Makatang Rosas

Sa Malayang Tulaan

10/16/2017  11:53am