To Apply for an Australian Visa

There are only two visas that I have applied for since I started traveling : Korea and Australia. I was lucky that both were for official business (aka government related work) that I didn’t have to line up to get those precious visa labels.

Then, I decided to try on the tourist stream/visit visa/tourist visa for Australia last year. There were the usual form completion and submission of documents and a bit of waiting. The (first) second time I applied for an Australian visa was too toxic for me. The reason? I chose to cram when in fact, I have months to prepare since I already bought the tickets. Yes, I was so sure to go down under that I bought myself some AirAsia flights!

These are the steps I did on my road for an Australian tourist visa:

Download and complete Form 1419. It can be found at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. You can either print it and complete the form hand written or download, answer and print the complete form (somehow, you can not save the file with the answers unless you’re using Mac where you can download, fill out, save and print later). Yes, I tried it both for Windows and Mac-run computers.

Prepare the documentary requirements that will identify you and provide enough information that you can afford the the trip and you will return to your country of origin before the visa expires. On my end, I prepared the following:

Identification:

A photocopy of your passport’s biopage and the stamped pages
Birth certificate from NSO

Finances:
Latest income tax return
Bank certificate
Credit card billing statement

Reason to Return:
Certificate of employment and compensation
Approved leave form
Title of property

A proposed itinerary indicating the places you intend to visit on given dates

2 passport sized photos

Manager’s check (latest fees can be found at http://www.immi.gov.au/Visas/Pages/Pricing-Estimator.aspx)

Write a good letter of intent stating the reason why you want to visit Australia and when do you plan to depart and return from/to country of   origin. Also state why you need to back in your country at a specific date. If you have a sponsor, mention what the person will be providing on your visit.

Speaking of sponsorship, ask the sponsor to write a letter of invite addressed to the Consul stating he/she is inviting you for —– (insert reasons here). State your relationship with the sponsor. Much better if it is signed by their Justice of Peace (similar to a notary public). Attach in the invite letters proofs that the sponsor has the capacity to provide the necessary support (e.g. bank statement, house rental statement,  certificate of employment)

 You can either submit the completed form and attachments in person (which I usually do at the VIA Center) or arrange for a courier to pick it up.

The center informed me that the average processing is 1month. I got my previous visa in 2 days while the latest was processed within one week. It varies, I suppose on the case officer who handles your application and the nature of the visa.

It was the longest week ever since I had a fast processing experience back in October 2013. I had to call the contact center after 7 days only to learn it was ready for pick up.

My first application through business stream was no sweat, thanks to a different color of passport.

My first application through business stream was no sweat, thanks to a different colored passport.

In my experience, just be honest on your intent to visit (and emphasize that you will not be overstaying) and submit the complete documents. After that, just wait for the decision that will be handed on a piece of paper (unless you want a sticker label similar to the photo above).

Happy visa lodging!

Three Years of Togetherness

Back in April, I got a notification from WordPress informing me that I have been with this platform for three years now. Wow! I started blogging back in 2005 but it was more of a “dear diary” slash blow by blow account of all my travels and everything Kpop. Just imagine that I started in Multiply and graduated to Blogger and then jumpshipped to WordPress. My relationship with WP is better than ever. Hey, I got the WP app in smartphone!

Hestory. History.

Hestory, now a history. I was so addicted with kpop back then

Three years of maintaining this blog taught me to :

  1. Write about what you love. I don’t force myself to write something just for the sake. I feel that if I want to share something, it is straight from the heart. Right now, it is all about travels because sometimes, photos shared in Facebook or Instagram are not enough to describe what it feels like to have that first taste of cendol , the feel to be in one of the Turtle Islands or the feel to be with fellow tennis fans during the Sydney Open.

    Braving the summer heat for the Sydney Open at the Sydney Olympic Park

    Braving the summer heat for the Sydney Open at the Sydney Olympic Park

  2. Be open to suggestions. I am not your best in English blogger. I consult my besty if I what I wrote made sense. I am such a scatterbrain (most times sometimes) that my thoughts are all over. Good thing, I got my own personal editor. Cheers to you, Besty!
  3. KISS. I try to keep it short and simple because I might traumatise the reader. Similar to my albums in Facebook, I don’t load the photos (or ideas) in one go because this can scare the viewer/reader. As much as possible, I don’t use high falluting words (heck, my vocabulary is limited anyway. Those words from SAT reviewers went down the drain over the years).

I foresee that I will be writing more. Topics will be varied. Blurred photos will be less. Stories that will inspire. Definitely, posts that will not bore you to tears.

A Brand New Day

A Brand New Day

P.S. How timely that this is my 100th post! Yay!

To Gear Up : Outfits to Go

From the usual shorts and jeans from long time ago, I graduated to  wrinkle free and roll-able comfortable clothes when traveling. I realised that checking in and getting out of the airport take a lot of time when you have a check-in bag. With the travel light fares, moreover, it is wiser to pack lightly for one’s bag to fit in the overhead bin.

Gone are the days with my suitcase or a large backpack filled with denim jeans (or shorts) and large bottles of toiletries (or shall I call my bathroom buddies) . It is all about minimal weight and size of luggage without looking and smelling blah. Hey, even when I take my 4 wheel lightweight trolley with me for business travels, I still go with the “roll and wear” (and if sun permits, wash) outfits. I just pack a shawl. And wear the blazer to be business looking.

As of late, I pack a dress or two for informal work related trips (meetings, workshops) and those scheduled getaways. A dress is light, flowy and easy to pack. I scored my go-to dresses from St. Francis Square and tiangges all over the metro. When attending a formal business event, however, I go a bit beyond the tiangge quality (Hello, Dorothy Perkins when on sale!)

Dresses that have travelled alot with me

Dresses that travelled alot with me

Sometimes, it is more comfortable to wear pants especially if you go running around. But hey, no denims still! I go gaga over cropped slacks that can be dressed up or toned down. And I got the jeggings that are not too tight for those cold wait in the airport.

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

What do you pair with your bottoms? Since knitted is too hot this summer, I go lacy and cottony. Just don’t forget to wear something underneath to avoid being racy.

Look, no wrinkles!

Look, no wrinkles!

Of course, when being on field —out in the sun, my ever reliable dry fit airy polo comes in handy. Not the most fashionable especially if I am wearing my arm protector but hey, it is very comfortable when you’re under the scorching sun.

Cool. Easy to dry.

Cool. Easy to dry.

Opposite for this is my other favourite – a heat tech shirt I got from Uniqlo. It was supposed to be a undershirt for guys but the v-neck and the comfort it promises paved the way for my loyalty to the brand :).

Unless I am going to the mountains, I always have my swimwear with me. I got this habit since my first job because you can never tell when an opportunity to dip in a pool or beach comes after a stressful day “in the office.”

Now, roll em and voila – you are all set.

What about you, what are your on-the-go clothes?

To Visit the Churches (Visita Iglesia)

One of the activities to commemorate the Passion of Christ in the country is Visita Iglesia or Church Visit. In the Philippines, it dates back to the Spanish colonization in which Catholics visit seven churches to pray and meditate.

The tradition has its roots to the early years of the establishment of the Church, when there were 7 great basilicas in Rome that Christians would visit for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Visita_Iglesia)

I remember my first attempt doing this religious activity when I went to Antipolo (sans the long walk). I was quite surprised of the big crowd gathered in the church’s courtyard. It was a mix of tradition, family gathering, bonding and travel.

In this solemn week, I decided to list down the churches I have kneeled and prayed at during my trips. Which among these were you able to visit?

Parish Church of Villa de Arevalo

Parish Church of Villa de Arevalo

Located in Arevalo in the province of Iloilo, it houses the 3rd oldest Sto. Nino  in the country. The white facade reminds me of an old house.  Creepy as it may seem, the photo of my friends in front of the church looked like a rendition of the American Gothic painting.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon

Every time I visit Bohol, I always drop by in one of the oldest church in the country to give thanks for the safe travel. I think that this is close to my heart since I was a member of Children of Mary group when I way in grade school.

It has a museum that houses church paraphernalia as old as the Church — including a “music room” with large song books. As the photo shows, I will always be fascinated with this elevated seat that reminds one of a royal watching an opera.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan Island

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan Island

Aside from the white sand and secluded beaches in the island, this 5- hundred year old church located in the heart of the town is one of the island’s tourist draws.

Made of stones and corals, it is a cool refuge from the not so busy streets of the town proper. It also houses a simple museum that contains, among others, the order from the Vatican that the island is exempted from abstinence of meat during the Holy Week.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Binondo

Minor Basilica of St.  Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lay of the Most Holy Rosary Parish  in Binondo

Located in the corner of Ongpin Street, it stands proud among the banks and fastfood restaurants.  It was build in the 1500s but was damaged over time with the bell tower as the only remaining original infrastructure.

I am always in awe with its altar in gold trimmings.

Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova or the Miagao Church

Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova or the Miagao Church

A trip to Iloilo is not complete without a visit in this famous landmark in this side of the province. I remember braving the rains of Typhoon Frank just to reach this church in Miagao.

According to exploreiloilo.com,

“The artistic facade of the Miagao Church is decorated with a relief sculpture of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs. Like any other foreign influences, the architecture of many colonial churches has undergone the process of indigenization. This process is carried out by incorporating the prevailing Hispano-American and Medieval Spanish architecture with local as well as Muslim and Chinese touches….Supporting the facade are the twin belfries, one towering two-storeys and the other three-storeys high. The church’s simple interior is nevertheless highlighted by a striking gold-plated retablo.”

The Church of Saint Anne in Molo, Iloilo

The Church of Saint Anne in Molo, Iloilo

Still in Iloilo stands the red roofed Molo Church. Known for its Gothic architecture  that looks like a castle, it is one of the tourist attractions of the province. The interiors is made outstanding with the 5 pairs of pillars and statues of 16 women saints lining up to welcome churchgoers.

The Church of St. Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte

The Church of St. Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte

The giant “wings” or buttress of the church makes this landmark north of the country a must see for devotees and tourists alike. The baroque style architecture is mesmerizing that one can imagine walking the church grounds during 1700s. If studied closely, the “towers” on the roof look like small temples reminiscent of temples from the other parts of Southeast Asia.

Basilica Minore of Sto. Nino del Cebu

Basilica Minore of Sto. Nino del Cebu

The most visited church during Sinulog festival and beyond. The Basilica houses the oldest religious image in the country — the Sto. Nino or the image of Child Jesus.

I have never seen the Basilica replete of people given its  popularity among devotees and Filipinos. For the many instances I have been there, I always line up to view and “kiss” the image while saying a little prayer.

The Basilica is also a tourist destination. Nearby are the Magellan’s Cross, the fort, Parola, Gorordo Museum and the oldest street in the country- Colon. It is like a devotion that once in Cebu, go to Sto. Nino.

The Church

The Church

Among the many churches I have been to, this is I called The Church akin to Jamie Sullivan’s church in the book/movie A Walk to Remember.

The church located in the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Immaculate Heart Convent is a small church located in San Jose, Tagaytay. It is non descript with its plain looking architecture among the tall pine trees in the compound. The interiors, on the other hand, has some sort of a divider to separate the nuns from the common churchgoers which really attracted me.

It has been my church of worship when I spent my summer before college . Over the years that I have attended workshops and trainings in Tagaytay, the simple facade made me fall in love with it that it made me decide that it will be the church where I will tie the knot.

 

Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza in Zamboanga City

Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza in Zamboanga City

Fort Pilar, as what locals call, is like home to me. Every time I am in my birthplace, I always visit the place to light a candle and say a little prayer. Then, a visit to the national museum at the side.

Countless processions that I attended always end up in this religious landmark. First-time visitors are always brought here. Numerous candles have been lighted to give thanks or ask some favours.

Since this is a fort, it is an outdoor church with concrete pews. Early morning and late night churchgoers flock Fort Pilar (yes, we don’t call it a church) for their daily devotions.

After the siege, I don’t know what it looks now since I haven’t been home for more than a year. I do wish that the old birdhouses are still there, Pinang’s (women selling candles and prayer books) still trading their wares and the colourful popcorn and cotton candy makers still luring the kids.

Have a Holy Week, everyone.

Ten Things to Squeeze in a Two Day Trip in Singapore

It was my official first visit in Singapore (not counting the layovers where I was stuck in the airport for four hours early this year). As much as I wanted to taste all the culinary extravaganza and do the historical walk in this island state, I have to squeeze in what a tourist would do:

1. A river cruise to see the famous sites while listening to a prerecorded commentary. It is the best way to see imposing structures of the country in an hour. Esplanade? Check. Circular Quay? Check. The Merlion? Check. The Raffles Hotel? Check.

Fastest way to see the sites.

Fastest way to see the sites.

2. A leisure walk at the Gardens by the Bay. To all flower lovers, it must be in the itinerary to stop and smell the flowers at the flower dome. The Rainforest dome, on the other hand, is a different experience for those who haven’t been to a real forest. The 5 Degrees show at the end of the tour is a must see to have a better appreciation of climate change and what we can do to adapt.

War of the Roses at the Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome.

War of the Roses at the Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome.

The waterfalls inside tha Rainforest Dome.

The waterfalls inside the Rainforest Dome.

Lovely roses I wish I can grow

Lovely flowers I wish I can grow.

3. Since we are still at the Gardens, get on your back in one of the green patches to watch the light show of the Super Trees. Why on your back? The lights are astonishing and looking up for a couple of minutes will definitely hurt your neck.

Supertrees supershow

Supertrees supershow

4. Try out the rides at the Universal Studio Singapore. I am such a scaredy cat that I didn’t even join the crowd for the Jurassic ride or the Mummy. I can boast, though, that I have watched almost all the shows (except the one in the Diner)! My favorites are Soundstage and the Monster Rock,

Sesame Street babies we are not.

Sesame Street babies we are not.

5.Joyride at Sentosa –from the Waterfront to Imbiah to Beach Station. It was hot and humid that day but might as well enjoy what Sentosa has to offer…including….

Stitch scaring the Merlion at Imbiah.

Stitch scaring the Merlion at Imbiah.

The boardwalk at Siloso Beach.

The boardwalk at Siloso Beach.

6. A picnic by the beach. It was the best picnic ever with sounds from the nearby restaurant and tastiest meals from my cousins. Now, this is what a picnic at the beach in Siloso beach is for them. We had to forego boiled bananas and sweet potatoes, bagoong, liempo and grilled fish. It was a first world picnic in the imported sand.

01_beachwoman

7. Photoshoot in the city. The lights beckon one to have night shots in almost every corner.

From the outside

From the outside

01 mall

to the inside

8. Drowning yourself with kopi c partnered with kaya toast and soft boiled eggs. I love coffee. Period.

Having the traditional breakfast before a day in USS.

Having the traditional breakfast before a day in USS.

9. Savoring the Indian platters in this place called Little India. It wasn’t my intention that I chose our hotel near that place that is dotted with restaurants that offer dahl, naan and tandoori chicken.

Manong and my dosai. A naan with curried potatoes stuffed in it.

Manong and my dosai. A naan with curried potatoes stuffed in it.

10. Enjoy the company of friends and family. I am so thankful that Tin and Carlo were there to keep us company and feed us along the way. For the tiny state, there is still a lot to see. In my next visit, I will try on the chili crabs and walk along the shophouses.

Loca Over Malacca

When we booked for a flight for Kuala Lumpur, Malacca (or Melaka in Malay) was originally not in the itinerary. Friends, however, insisted that it is the best place to visit especially if we are planning to go to Singapore from Malaysia. They raved about the 3Cs : Colors, Cuisine and Culture. It got me thinking – might as well go to another heritage site on my birthday since I love history.

Seeing Red

Like any town surrounded by water, Malacca is one of the trading spots in the spice route. Chinese, Indians, Arabs and Europeans have passed by this seaside city that faces its own Strait and the Indian Ocean. Wares have been traded. Intermarriages happened. Influence of other cultures are very much evident in this side of Malaysia. Conquered by Portuguese and Dutch, the imposing Church by the hill, the water wheel by the river and the “red” square shout European. Yes, red is everywhere – from the Melaka Church to the scaffoldings at A Fomosa. Due to its Chinese origins, the lanterns, signages and the large Jonker Street stage are coloured crimson. There are yellows and greens and oranges yet the colour of life and love is everywhere.

red postal box

red postal box

Crimson gate of our guesthouse.

Crimson gate of our guesthouse.

Red scaffoldings in St. Paul's Ruins and A Fomosa

Red scaffoldings in St. Paul’s Ruins and A Fomosa

Parade of Hello Kitty rickshaws

Parade of Hello Kitty rickshaws in different shades of red.

Something to light the alley.

Something to light the alley.

Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Different colors : Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Hot, Cold and Sweet

My first travel abroad 10 years ago introduced me to Malaysian cuisine — or the mixed of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences on the food. It didn’t leave a bitter (or spicy) taste in my tongue then and it is still on my eat list after tasting the good eats in this side of Malaysia. The noodles kept me breathless with all the spice and fish cakes. The simplicity of the dumpling noodle paired up with a strong kopi c kept me energized for a morning of walking.

Noodles galore at Jonker 88

Noodles galore at Jonker 88

Peranakan noodles, chicken 3 ways and musses in a pot

Peranakan noodles, chicken 3 ways and musses in a pot

The story of noodles continued until lunch with the Nyonya laksa that is best eaten with a tissue on hand—or a crunchy and sweet rojak on the side. To counter all the soups, an ice cendol or ice kachang made of shaved iced and flavoured beans and sweet nothings drizzled with coconut syrup, is the answer. A dessert that looks like a meal by itself. It was an attack to the senses when I first tasted the syrup that I decided to get a solid form of the sugar.

My new favorite : Rojak!

My new favorite : Rojak!

Ice kachang

Ice kachang

Since it was relatively warm in the city, cold treats came in between walks : iced pops with red or green beans, cendol, cold durian puffed and iced kopi o. Eating iced pops reminded me of younger days – days you buy iced buko straight from the styro box. I think I never forgot how to eat ice pops real fast – bite the ice!

Night cap was composed of a gula malacca cake (since it was my birthday), a dare to stuff one’s mouth with durian puff (the tastiest since I tried it in Singapore too!), sweet potato pie since I am so impartial with this root crop, a bit of egg tart (hey, this was a former Portuguese colony) and the list goes on.

Street desserts

Street desserts

The Place the Baba dan Nyonya Built

There might have been strong presence of the Europeans in the city but nothing can compare to the intertwined cultures of Chinese and Malay. There are areas that Malay culture is very eminent as shown in their architecture. Yet, shophouses that dot the area shout Chinese. The Baba dan Nyonya Heritage Museum is one of the best places to dropby to learn about this great combo. There are no shots of the interiors of the house but photos can’t put justice to the affluence and the strong attachment they have for their married culture. It was like a bahay na bato with a whole lot of Chinese stuff.

02 Museum

01_culture 1

Outside the Baba dan Nyonya heritage house

Outside the Baba dan Nyonya heritage house

My favourite parts of the tour? Holding on to the marble (to cool you off) and admiring the yellow paint interiors of the hallways. It is so admirable that the 4th generation were able to preserve the original house.

It cannot be discounted that Peranakans love their history so much. Admittedly, developments can be seen from the outskirts (or shall I say the city center) but preservation of their culture is still on top of the list. From the shophouses to the food to the lively shows on weekend nights, these speak volume of how the people in Malacca treat their history.

St. Paul's Ruins

St. Paul’s Ruins

Thirty-six hours in Malacca is not enough. I would love to go back and explore all the churches and visit all the museums. Take a cruise in Sungai Malacca during the day to see the arts by the river. Eat the chicken rice balls and go biking afterwards.

Malacca had me when I saw the light illuminating the river.

A river runs through it.

A river runs through it.