Tuesday, October 27, 2009

moments frozen in time at the yuchengco museum

Monday, October 26, 2009

tagaytay pig-out sunday: verbena, sonya's garden, and bag of beans

we decided to go for a quick drive to tagaytay yesterday to have lunch and just get a whiff of non-manila air. we finally got to eat in verbena at discovery country suites, then go for a walk around sonya's garden, and top the day off with apple pie a la mode at bag of beans.

first stop: verbena at discovery country suites
susie and i have always wanted to try the food there, since we've read a lot of good things about the place. but whenever we're in tagaytay, we always end up eating somewhere else. this time, though, we weren't going to let anything get in the way between us and verbena.

service at verbena is wonderful: we were greeted courteously by the guard as we parked, opening the car door for me, and asking us how he could be of assistance. he ushered us into the cozy country-home style interiors, where a friendly waiter was waiting to accommodate us.

tagaytay was especially hot yesterday, and i was at first disappointed that the restaurant was only fan-cooled. but after a while (and a few sips of beer), i started to cool off while enjoying the view from my side of the table (pictured above).

after browsing through the verbena menu, susie and i settled on the organic mozzarella cheese pot for our appetizer, with additional cream of asparagus for susie. i initially wanted the oysters, but the waiter told us they were all out. for the main dish, susie chose the pork chop, and i decided to go for the burger.

everything we had was just wonderful, including the two complimentary dishes that the chef sent out for us. the first one was an appetizer that was sort of like a breaded deviled egg, and the other complimentary dish was our chocolate dessert, which susie ended up finishing almost by himself.

i feel a bit ashamed because i wasn't able to finish my burger, even though it was really good! i'm really not used to eating a lot of bread before a heavy meal. but i resolve to make it up to verbena by going back and eating there again. susie was also delighted with his pork chop, and he even asked the waiter to tell the chef that his dish was fantastic.

next: sonya's garden
i've never been to sonya's garden EVAR, so we thought this might be a good time to check out the place. after all, we needed to walk the bloated feeling out, and a nice romp in a garden might help with that.

we enjoyed walking along the brick-lined paths and discovering huts and pavilions througout the place. the property was huge that you just end up stumbling into sprawling dining halls and cozy nooks wherever you go. i had so much fun taking photos of the place.

we were also able to check out the country store, where i got oatmeal soap and honey facial soap for P50 each. there was a coffee table book about sonya's garden being sold as well.

after taking a lot of pictures and exhausting all the brick-lined avenues on-site, we left sonya's and drove to...

bag of beans for dessert
i've been having major apple pie cravings for the past few weeks, and i wasn't going to leave tagaytay without having bag of beans's apple pie a la mode. susie couldn't believe that i could already eat something so heavy after the feast we just had. that's just how i roll, i guess.

the apple pie hit the spot. very filling. the crust was yummy, and the mix of cinnamon and apple was just perfect. *sigh* i'll be back there again for another serving, that's for sure!

take a look at more photos of our tagaytay sunday getaway.

contact information:
restaurant verbena at discovery country suites
address: 300 calamba road, san jose, tagaytay city
phone number: (046) 4132540
mobile number: +63915172150
email address: rsvn@discovery.com.ph
take a look at restaurant verbena's menu

sonya's garden
address: barangay buck estate, alfonso, cavite
mobile numbers: +639175329097 or +639175335140
email address: info@sonyasgarden.com

bag of beans tagaytay
address: 115 aguinaldo highway, mendez crossing west, tagaytay city
phone numbers: (046) 413 4356; (046) 413 2724
mobile numbers:+63923 454 4797; +63920 954 6370
email address: bagofbeanscoffeeshop@yahoo.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the epassport renewal experience: phase 2

i had high hopes when i went to the DFA today for my epassport renewal, since i've been reading so many good things about the efficiency of the process.

unfortunately, i didn't have as easy a time as everyone else. the passport renewal process started out well, actually. i got to the DFA, was bugged by some touts, who were actually successful in getting me to go to a stall, because they insisted i needed to put my fingerprints on my application form. well, as it turns out, they were mistaken, so i left the stall in a huff, while they all tried to apologize and pass the blame on each other. like everybody says, ignore anybody who tells you to go to the stalls beside the gate.

epassport applicants should enter through gate 3 and go straight to counter 28 (actually, counters 26-28 are all dedicated to epassport applicants) the line here wasn't long at all, and the people behind the counter worked really fast. this is where you submit your requirements, which are:
  • your old passport
  • a photocopy of the data page of your old passport
  • a photocopy of the last exit and entry stamp on your passport (this is not necessarily the last stamped page, so check to make sure you've photocopied the page with your last entry stamp)
  • a photocopy of the inside back cover of your old passport
  • filled-in application form (for epassport applicants, no need to affix a photo and put your fingerprints)
  • a printout of your epassport appointment email
after checking your information, they will issue a receipt that reflects the amount you will pay for your passport. regular processing costs Php 950, and will be done in 10 days, while express processing costs Php 1,200, and only takes 5 working days. also take note of the date your passport will be ready for pick-up. these dates are posted on the counter. take your receipt and documents and proceed to the cashier, which is outside the counters. no lines there, either. pay, get your receipt, and proceed to the second floor for picture-taking, and information encoding.

i arrived at the DFA at about 1250pm, and i was lining up to have my photo taken at 105pm. which meant the entire process downstairs took all of 15 minutes. i was counting on being out by 130 or 145pm at the latest, considering the speed at which they handled the first part of the process.

well, they quickly made up for this efficiency by making us epassport applicants wait for more than an hour to have our photos taken. when i got to the second floor, i was given a number, and told to take a seat. the waiting area snaked around the corner of the narrow hallway, and there were people seated, waiting impatiently for their turn. not all of us were epassport applicants, though. some of them, from what i heard, encountered some problems with their passport application, and they were being handled by another office.

as for us epassport applicants, we were being called four at a time. when i took a seat, the last number called was 17, and i was number 28. 11 people ahead of me wasn't so bad.

or so i thought. numbers 28-31 were called at around 2pm, and we were made to wait an additional 15 minutes to be accommodated in the room where they took our biometrics information and our photo. we soon found out what was causing the delay: it seems that with every batch of four numbers, someone from the inside, one of the people processing our information, would take "sponsored singit" applicants and accommodate them as well. no wonder this process was taking so long!

taking your photo and biometrics information and encoding your personal details probably took 5 minutes per person, which includes verification of details. they ask you to check the information they've entered, and sign to verify that the information was correct. you leave all your other documents here, and take your receipt for when you come back to pick up your passport.

but since i didn't want to go anywhere near the DFA anytime soon after this experience, i asked around for courier services who can deliver my passport to me instead. if you also want to avail of this service, just go to the basketball court (ask around), and all the courier companies are there. i opted for 2go-pilipinas teleserve, which charged P99 per delivery. you will have to leave your receipt with them, so that they can claim your passport on your behalf.

i was finally able to leave the DFA at 3pm, a bit lethargic from all that waiting. i even looked lethargic in my passport photo, something i have to live with for a few years until i have to go and renew my passport all over again. i'm just hoping i don't have to endure another 2 hours of this. please, DFA, try to figure out a better way to accommodate epassport renewals!

i'm angus steakhouse special nights

susie and i, on a whim, decided to finally check out i'm angus steakhouse in yakal street last night. i'm happy to say that the experience was unforgettable, in a VERY good way. the staff were courteous and accommodating, and the food was oh-so-delicious. it's definitely not cheap, but if you're looking for a fancy place to treat that special someone, then i would suggest taking them to i'm angus.

susie ordered the tenderloin, if i remember correctly, and had it done rare. i, on the other hand, felt particularly full, and decided to just opt for the salmon. every entree is served with a choice of siding, and sauce. silly us forgot all about the sauce and started digging in. the steak and the salmon both were very good despite us having forgotten to sauce 'em up. :)

we also got invited to a couple of their events, which is open to everyone (that's why i thought i'd post it here and invite all of you as well!).

every wednesday night, i'm angus steakhouse will be serving roasted US certified angus prime rib of beef with salad, baked potato, and your choice of sauce, along with a glass of argentinean wine for just Php 980 net. that's a full meal with delectable beef at less than a thousand bucks!

even though we just came from there last night, susie and i were actually thinking of going again tonight to try out this meal. we'll have to see if we can handle it, though. :)

the other event is the i'm angus steakhouse country night, set for october 29, 2009, starting at 7pm. this is a buffet-style scheme, where you can have your fill of:

caesar salad station
couscous salad
wild rice and chicken salad
pickled shrimps
atlantic crab cake
chilli dip cornbread
sourdough bread

from the steaming kettle
chili con carne
jambalaya creole style
spicy ranch beans
baked beans
mushroom stew
kentucky style fried chicken
baked potatoes

from the grill
bbq pork spareribs
beef short ribs
steakhouse steak with fried onion slivers

bbq roasted US beef brisket and beef shoulder
roasted US CAB prime rib
chili and tomato salsa
mango and red onion salsa
bbq sauce
black bean and corn salsa

strawberry pie
lemon meringue pie
pecan pie
homemade ice cream

and what's more, i'm angus steakhouse is also opening their cellar and giving you a chance to try out selected argentinean and chilean wines:

finca flinchman
misterio chardonnay
misterio cabernet sauvignon
misterio malbec
gestos caberet sauvignon
vina ventisquero
cabernet sauvignon reserva
carmenere reserva
merlot reserva
sauvignon blanc reserva

no other meals will be served on country night, and this one-of-a-kind treat costs Php 2,500 net per person. it's a bit too steep for the likes of me, but if you're a wine and meat lover, you're definitely going to enjoy this night. :)

restaurant information
i'm angus steakhouse
address: 7431 yakal street, san antonio village, makati
phone number: 8926206
fax number: 8931573
email address: wic@werdenberg.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

update on my passport renewal

well, i got a reply from the dfa, and i have my appointment for my epassport renewal tomorrow. :) it means i won't have to have my picture taken anymore, since they will be taking my photo and biometrics information tomorrow.

wish me luck! i really hope everything is as smooth as everybody says it is.

new link for passport renewal online appointment system

okay, so i've been using the old passport renewal online appointment link, and finally found the updated version:


that link will take you here:

i just called the DFA, and i was told that my appointment tomorrow was for a machine readable passport. i requested that my appointment be changed to the epassport, and rio, the lady i talked to on the phone, told me that it's possible to have it changed. :) as instructed, i was told to reply to the email that they sent, and i'm hoping to get a reply within the day.

here we go!

the passport renewal experience: phase 1

my passport expires may 2010, but since most countries require that you should have a 6-month validity on your passport when you travel, my current, and most beloved, passport is as good as useless. so i quit putting it off and finally went to the dfa passport application online appointment system last night and get a move on in renewing my passport. the page looks like this:

but when you click on submit, you won't be taken to any confirmation page that indicates that your request has been submitted. instead, you will be taken to the passports information page of the dfa, which outlines the requirements that you need to bring with you on the day of your appointment. don't be alarmed if this happens, it doesn't mean they didn't receive it, it just means that the dfa needs to be more user-friendly and let us know that our form was indeed submitted, and not just floating around in cyberspace.

a few minutes later, i checked my email, and there i read the confirmation. this means you have to be careful in filling in your email address in the form above, since that's the only way they will contact you (i received no confirmation or information on my mobile phone, even though i put that in as my contact number as well). the email told me that i will have to wait about 7 days to receive my passport appointment, so i slept soundly last night, knowing my appointment will come in a week or less.

today, i got to work and checked my email. lo and behold! i got an email from the DFA saying that i have an appointment for my passport renewal tomorrow! that was quick, but a little short notice. still, i'll take it. it's probably one of the fastest government office appointments evar, and i'm not going to let that pass me by!

i'm just a bit confused, though. the email today addressed me as "machine readable passport applicant," but at the end of the email, it cited the epassport processing fees (P950 for regular processing, P1,200 for expedited processing) instead of the machine readable one. i'm really hoping to get the epassport and not the machine readable version, but just to be safe, i'll be taking the requirements needed for both. a bit of a hassle, but better than being turned away and wasting a day.

so tomorrow, i'll be taking with me the following requirements for passport renewal:
  • my present passport, and photocopy of data page, and pages 1, 2, and 3, and the inside back cover
  • photocopy of the pages showing latest bureau of immigration departure and arrival stamps
  • three (3) colored photos taken against a royal blue background and no shadow. (must remember to wear a dark top with sleeves and collar)
  • a duly accomplished passport renewal application form
  • print-out of my appointment
  • valid ID
  • P950 epassport fee, or P1,200 for expedited processing, in case i decide to fast-track the process
let's see how this "adventure" turns out tomorrow. i've read a lot of good things about the dfa's passport renewal system, and i'm hoping i'm one of the lucky ones who won't encounter hassles during my passport renewal.

you can also read more about passport renewal at just wandering. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

typhoon ondoy: how you can help

my family and i are fortunate that we got through typhoon ondoy unscathed. sure, water reached our house, and slightly damaged our car, but it's nothing compared to what others are going through at the moment. and i'm thankful for coming out of this tragedy unscathed, and to show my gratitude, i'm doing whatever i can to help.

so far, i've rummaged through my closet for clothes i want to donate, urged my sisters to do the same, and we've dropped them off at designated relief centers near us. to me, it doesn't matter where you choose to give them, as long as it's a group that means to help, then i'm good with that.

i also did some grocery shopping for instant noodles and drinks to help feed the growing number of victims. i dipped into my travel funds to add to my donations. at the moment, traveling is but a mere luxury, completely irrelevant during these trying times.

but i still feel like i haven't done enough. i'm starting to feel a little helpless. there are still so many people who need to be rescued, who need to be fed and clothed, and if you want to help out, too, here are different ways you can reach out:

help for missionaries of charity tondo
they need food, water, and baby food and milk for the children.
you can get in touch with rea at 0917 850 5766 or landline 215 6976.

myayala ondoy online donation facility

this is a very convenient way of donating money for the victims of ondoy.
no need to get out of the house, or go to the grocery.

database of drop-off centers for donations
if you have clothes, food, and other relief goods to donate, find out where the nearest drop-off points are.

help for typhoon ondoy victims
a google page of consolidated information, from rescue hotlines, to bank donations, to volunteer centers.