Friday, October 31, 2008

Genting & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Oct. 17, 2008

It's a good thing that we prepared in advance. My Wife's High School friend which is based on Japan had her vacation here in Singapore. She wanted to go to Malaysia since she's in Singapore anyways. We opt to take the 3D2N package Genting/Kuala Lumpur. For weeks we've been searching for the best deal. Me i was pretty particular about the coach. I've heard stories from my friends when they went to Genting. It's 6 hours long drive from Singapore. The coach that they booked has an individual LCD screen where you can choose programs you want to watch. To get the best deal my officemate suggested we go directly to the Golden Mile Complex along Beach Road. These is where most of the coach companies are located (Grassland, Konsortium, Five Stars). Coach companies have their own travel agencies also. Grasslands' package was much more attractive and cheaper than other travel agencies offer but that's understandable.

Oct. 17
Our coach leaves at 7:30am so we must arrive at the Golden Mile Complex 30 mins. before to show our booking to get our tickets and hotel vouchers from the Grassland Travel and Tours. It was on time. Our coach is Royal VIP 21 seater. Seat can be reclined to almost flat. Seat and leg pads can be controlled also.


The LCD screen doesn't turn on until we past the Singapore Immigration. I was dying to watch the in-house movies however to my disappointment i already watched most of the english movies. One category is "Other Movies" where they showcase Malaysian, Thailand movies. No luck from there since there are no english subtitles. So i tried the "Chinese Movies" and thank God most of them have english subtitles. I even saw the movie of Alessandra de Rossi titled "The Maid" which is shot in Singapore.

Getting through Singapore immigration is a breeze. Don't need to bring your bags.

Next stop was the Malaysian Immigration where you need to bring all your stuff since you will go through standard security checks like x-rays and metal detectors. Not as fast in Singapore but not bad also.

3rd stop is like a Food Centre with small shopping mart. My Wife and Jo had a waffle and bought 6pcs donuts.


4th stop is a short one just enough to go to the toilet. It's near the checkpoint which is already in Malaysia.

We arrived at around 2pm at the First World Bus Terminal. You can already feel the cool breeze and mist. I think it's like a counterpart of Baguio in the Philippines minus the Theme Park and Rides.

The first thing to do is to check-in. People are packed during these hours. There's a queue ticket for those who wants to check in. I found some seats and wait for the girls to get the lunch while i wait for our queue number to turn up. We ate our lunch (Kenny Roger's) while we wait. We checked-in at around 3:30pm already. We quickly went to our room so that we can fully enjoy the outdoor and indoor rides. It's drizzling a little bit outside since the rain poured at around 3pm. We started off with the Outdoor rides first. It closes at around 7pm so we thought we still have enough time to complete all the thrill rides before that.

Bali, Indonesia Getaway Sept. 19, 2008

It's been over a month since we've been there so I'll try my best to recall the events that took place. I'd like to start of unconventionally by relaying the lessons I've learned when planning your trip to Bali.

Advices:
1. Plan ahead
- Ours is pretty much those spur of the moment kinda thing. If you can go on leave for an off-peak month then that would be the best. You can find a lot of travel agencies online that is based on Singapore to get the best price and inquire when is their off-peak season. Also try to avoid rainy seasons.

2. Have a budget
- You cannot really truly enjoy the vacation if you have tight budget so try save some for this.

3. Beachfront hotel
- If you're like me who likes to feel the breeze of the ocean early in the morning then do not settle for anything else but a beachfront regardless of the price. Make sure to double-check with the hotel itself if they are located near the beach or search online. Don't go for Kuta area unless you're in to Surfing. I've heard that surfing areas have uneven sea floor and strong undercurrent (not sure about the term). Search online for the best shoreline in Bali. Our guide said Nusa Dua is great also.

4. SGD to RUPIAH
- I've got the best deal in Chinatown inside People's Park Centre. Ask all Money Changers. That time i got 1sgd=6500rupiah. Too bad he ran short of rupiah's. When we arrived in Bali the exchange rate was 1sgd=6450rupiah. In the airport it was 1sgd=6400rupiah. Although make sure that if you change your money in Bali don't go to those make shift counters along the streets. Safest is inside Kodak or Banks. If it's to good to be true then it probably is.

5. Souvenirs
- For shirts heed our advice and buy quality shirts. We bought ours at Pasar Sukowati. Shirts for women and men. When we washed them they shrank and the colors faded like they were old. You can buy them very cheap at around 2sgd per shirt but it's still a rift off. I've never experienced that when i bought my souvenir shirts in Boracay and Puerto Galera. Although i've got some best buys like the 6 different native musical instruments that i bought and my Wife bought a painting of the face of Buddha which she said is expensive in Dubai. Keychains and magnets never gets old too.

6. Activities
- If you took my advice and got a beachfront hotel in the best beach of Bali then good for you. Just don't forget to experience it. White-water rafting was great.














Elephant ride is cool also if you've never tried it. There are a lot of things to do in Bali which to me, a 3D2N, doesn't cut it because some of these activities are 1 hour or more drive. If you try to fit all then you'd be pretty exhausted and you won't be able to enjoy.

7. Transportation
- If you've got any Balinese or Indonesian friend that can refer you to a trusted rental car driver then that would be the best. Your travel agency should've provided you with a transport from airport to the hotel and back. The driver would definitely offer you a tour package. Try to negotiate the price. Make sure to bargain 50% off everytime they make an offer. If they won't agree then just ask for their number. They will definitely lower the price. However you must insist that you just take their number but be polite. Just tell them that you need to discuss it first with whoever's with you. Never go on a vacation alone. There are some scrupulous taxi drivers in Bali. There was this time during our last day when we went back to the hotel around after lunch with my Wife. The meter was 5k rupiah (it was a very short ride)> I don't have the exact amount so i gave him 20k rupiah. I was waiting for the change but he just stared at me. So i ask him where's the change. That's the only time that he gave me 10k rupiah. I stared back at him because i supposed to get 15k. He said it's 5k for me and 5k for my Wife. I was like
Are you kidding me?
My Wife already unboarded but not me. I was still waiting for the 5k. The amount is nothing really. It's just the feeling of being ripped off that pissed me off. Finally he gave me the 5k. So i was thinking he has no intention of giving any change in the first place. I think if you're in a group then they wouldn't try to rip you off.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First Hawker Dinner Update

I got some nasty comments from my post titled "First Hawker Dinner" regarding the HOT20 mistake that i made. There is no such thing as HOT20. To the Auntie i'm sorry for the sarcastic comment in the post. Also i'm very sorry for those who i offended. I should have checked first before posting. Lesson learned for me. I'll try my best from now on to double check details of my post. I must admit i had that coming. Although i would have accepted the comments if there's a name or even just a nickname or alias along with it. Thanks anyway for the correction.

Monday, April 7, 2008

In Re-applying Denied EPEC April 7, 2008

For those of you whose not familiar with EPEC it is a long term social visit pass for foreigners who wants to look for a job in Singapore. You can stay for 2 years. The cousin of my Wife applied for EPEC last December and got denied at the same
month. She re-applied in January and the EPEC was approved. Now i asked her what changes she made in her application that made the difference. She told me she changed her job title to something much simpler and commonly used here in Singapore.
Her first application she indicated here job title as "Senior supervisor assistant in purchasing" which at first glance doesn't look too bad. The 2nd application she changed it to "Buyer" and got approved. I asked her again why did she chose the
word "Buyer". She said she got it from job sites and this title are more commonly used here in Singapore. As simple as that can change the outcome of your EPEC application. Certainly knowing the market and its details will improve your chances in landing a job here in Singapore. Almost everything can be found online anyways so there's no excuse for doing your homework.

Good luck and God bless!

First time filling your tax? Read on...

April 7, 2008

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website contains some useful information.
http://www.iras.gov.sg/

They say filling of tax lands mostly on April. This year (2008) for tax filling for the year 2007 the due date is April 15.

Some say it's very easy to file your tax here since you can do it online. If you are eligible to file IRAS will send you a letter or your company/agency will send you the FORM IR8A which will contain the salary they have given you in 2007 to remind you that you need to file.

Now i got this from their website when i was asking myself "Who is eligible to file?". Browsing to their website i found out my category which is Individuals (For foreigners) > If you work in Singapore > If you are in Singapore for less than 183
days. (URL: http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page01.aspx?id=88)

Do I have to file tax? (URL: http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page.aspx?id=288)

You will need to file if you have received a paper form (Form B1/B/M) or a letter from IRAS inviting you to e-File.

Did not receive anything?
Even if you have not received any notification from IRAS to e-File, you need to file if:
=>your income for the previous year is $22,000 or more; and/or
=>you wish to claim tax deducted at source in respect of Singapore dividends that you received last year.

Please log in to myTax Portal to e-File your tax return by 15 Apr if you have not received any notification to file your return by 15 Mar.

If you are a new taxpayer who has not submitted any income tax form in the past, and you have not received any notification from us by 15 Mar , please complete and submit the registration form for new taxpayer (43KB) . We will activate your tax
account and send the paper form to you.


Tips to Avoid Penalty Being Imposed (URL: http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page03.aspx?id=116)

Income Less Than $22,000
Where an IRAS PIN Mailer / SingPass invitation letter / Income Tax Return has been issued to you, even if you are not liable to tax, you must file by the filing due date. If you have no income, you should declare ‘0’ in the respective income sections of the e-Filing template or Income Tax Return.


I also tried to call their helpline and had a pleasant experience. The "call agent" was very helpful and knowledgeable. For more details, other inquiries or confirmations call 6123-0000 if you're already in Singapore.
(URL: http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page.aspx?id=2374)

It wouldn't hurt to apply for Singpass ID in advance since it's very easy. Just make sure you have your Passport and EPASS Card if you're an EPASS holder or your SPASS card only if your an SPASS holder. The reason for this is because for EPASS
holders the Date of Issue is indicated in the Passport and not in the card. However in SPASS Card it's already indicated there. After the application you will receive your Singpass ID via Mail within 4 working days. You will use this ID for IRAS
transactions which e-filling tax is one of them. For more details go to https://www.singpass.gov.sg/sppubsvc/index.html.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

First Wedding Anniversary Marche' Mar. 30, 2008

Actually it should be Mar. 31 but since it lies on Monday we opt to celebrate it on the Sunday. I was planning on a setting

up our room for a romantic dinner but that would not be possible since my Wife's cousing and her friend stayed on our room

temporarily until the other room vacated. So i decided to bring her to Marche' in Vivo City. We arrived at about 8pm and i

was surprise that there was a line already but not that long. After 15 minutes we were able to be seated. At the front desk

we were given a card each. This card is used to purchase anything inside. It's like a market inside with different

categories. One part are for drinks (hot and cold), a pastry or bakery, Seafoods, Grill, Salads, Soups, Vegetables and

Desserts. My Wife had Fried Calamari, rice, salad and Freshly squeezed green apple juice. I had Australian Porkloin steak,

rice and lemonade. It was a nice simple dinner, eating while reminiscing. After dinner we stayed outside for a while

overlooking Singapore night lights. There are a lot of lovers around. We went home at about 10pm. What happens next is, of

course, confidential in nature...hehe.

Ministry of Sound Feb. 29, 2008

We planned to go to MOS as early as Feb. 24, 2008. My friends suggested to go to MOS on Friday night. This was my first

disco/bar gimik in Singapore so this has to be a blog-post. After office i went to my Wife's office then we went to Central

Mall in Clarke Quay to have dinner in Burger King. After that we met our friends near the Turkish Ice Cream stand. We waited

for a couple of minutes then we went in at about 10pm. Security checked our bags then we bought ticket inside worth S$17.00

per person. My other friend told me that MOS is pretty pouplar since it has different branches all around the world. He said

it originated in Europe or something. Anyway when we went in there was a huge disco ball lowered in the middle of the dance

floor. We toured the different levels and rooms. Each room caters to different genre. Main dance hall witht he big disco

ball is for techno and house, the other room is Hip-hop and R&B, one room is for 80's music. They have other rooms too for

Smoking. Although you might need a jacket if you're planning to stay inside it longer as they said it was freakingly cold.

Some of the things i learned are the following:

1. If you want to be seated throughout your stay reserve in advance. I don't know how their reservation works but i bet you

need money for that. We tried to get a table around the disco ball but the staff said we need to buy some drinks but not

just any drink. It will cost you around S$40+ but this will not guarantee your seat. If someone already reserved those seats

and once they arrive you need to give it up.

2. Don't bring anything that doesn't fit your pocket if you plan on dancing. No one's going to keep an eye on your stuff

since you and your friends would want to dance together right?

3. Obviously don't bring weapons of any sort.

4. Don't bring foods and drinks from the outside.

5. On regular days (no events) people will only start to come in at about 10pm onwards and usually the party starts at about

1pm.

It doesn't hurt to be prepared so that you can fully enjoy this experience.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Arena, Clarke Quay Mar. 23, 2008 First Gig as a Drummer

How it started...

While me and my officemate were having a conversation after eating our lunch in Food Republic in Vivo City i mentioned that

i was a part of a band back in High School as a Guitarist and learned other musical instruments as well during those times

such as the Bass Guitar and Drums. I told him i learned the drums after our drummer taught me while in class just tapping in

the desk. Then my officemate told me that his housemate is looking for a drummer for replacement and it's just "jamming". So

i obliged since i really enjoy playing the drums although the only time that i got to play drums was way back in High School

and my "Despedida" last Nov. 5, 2007 in Roland's house studio. Then his housemate contacted me on Mar. 20 and we will be

performing in THe Arena on Mar. 23. MY instant reaction was "Say, what?!". I told him that i'm just a beginner and if they

don't like my performance they can just tell me directly and wouldn't feel bad about it. He assured me that there's no

pressure since this will be just like a jamming session. He e-mailed the final song line up so that i can listen to it. It

was all Beatles songs. I added those songs in my Ipod and from there listened to it everytime.


The practice...

We had a studio practice in Sembawang on Mar. 22 from 5pm to 8pm and there i met the band for the first time. We had a

keyboardist, bassist, 2 guitars and 3 singers. I made a lot of mistakes but i'm not alone. After the practice we requested

for another practice on Sunday before going to Arena. I didn't pay for anything. Sunday practice was a lot smoother but

we're still having difficulties in Here Comes the Sun.


The sound check...

This is my first time also to experience a real sound check. The sound engineer of The Arena asked each one of use to do

this and do that to check and adjust the sound accordingly. On my case he told me to hit the bass drum, then the tumtums,

the snare, the cymbals. On the guitar he would ask to play a high and low note, regular and with distortion effects.


The Arena...

Every sunday is PINOY SUNDAY in The Arena where Filipino gathers. I think it is organized by different Filipino Communities

here in Singapore. The place is great. I think it is one of the best looking bars i've ever been to. Sounds and lighting

makes you think you're in a mini-concert. The theme for that sunday is Beatles night that's why we only played Beatles

repertoire. Two of my friends came to support me and i'm very thankful for them for easing the pressure. Programs consists

of a Videoke singing. You can either choose the songs in the music sheet in fromt of you where you can find the lyrics also

or you can read off the lyrics in their laptop. Also when the band is playing anyone can freely jam and the best jammer of

the night will receive a price. The Arenam also welcomes other talents like dancing. It's like a stage for Filipinos to show

off their talents for free. Like an open mic or something. I'm not sure though about the procedure. The first performer is a

one man acoustic player. Very skillfull dude who admits to be a Beatlemania so he can play most of the Beatles songs with

his eyes closed. After that we thought it was our turn, but a band from Mauritius requested to play. Our singer said they

are mainstays of the bar. They didn't play beatles songs. They played 3 fast-paced songs. Their drummer is a showman so our

Singer keeps assuring me that they are professionals and telling me that i should not be pressured and just do what i have

to do.


The moment...

Our name was called, The Maharlika Band. The host ask our names and then i started signalling the guys to start with the

stick. At first my hands are shaking a little bit and quite stiff. Then i started breathing and relaxed myself while i

played. You can't see the audience while on stage because of the lights so it seems that no one is watching. After a while i

got used to it and hitting harder. After each songs the Singer would joke around and that relieved some of the pressure. I'm

amazed on how they handle the crowd. After the performance it was a good feeling. Although i made a lot of mistakes it

didn't matter to me. I said to myself "Ah...it's finally over". My friends congratulated me when i arrived at the their

table and teased me a little.

I just wished my other friends and my Wife could have been there but unfortunately she was in the Philippines for a

vacation. See our videos below. More to follow. I can't wait to hear myself (because i am hidden behind the drums).

video

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Among OFWs, we need more ‘TNTs’

Migration is a natural phenomenon. As the song goes, birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.


Practical steps on how to stretch your dollar or dinar

By Pat Sto. Tomas

Chairman, Development Bank of the Philippines



Migration is a natural phenomenon. As the song goes, birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.



The non-migrant is the oddity. If you do not live where you were born, you are a migrant.



So enough already. Let’s stop the national flagellation and defeatist mantra that we leave the Philippines because there are no opportunities here. The human race and the not-so-human race leave for perceived better opportunities. Why else do you see all those foreign-looking nationals in Ortigas, Makati and my native Mindoro?



But this is not about migration. This is about how migration can be made to work for the OFW himself or herself. This is how that hard-earned dollar (or euro, dinar or dirham) can go a longer way so that it benefits not just the family that is left behind but the one who leaves as well.



Save, Save, Save!



I have a few suggestions.



First, we need to have more TNTs. That is correct. We need more people who can do Tago ng Tago (TNT), hindi Gastos ng Gastos.



If you make $400 a month (that is minimum wage for domestic helpers), open an account for yourself. Deposit at least 25% of your income to that account. Let that be an account which you cannot withdraw from for a specific period of time, usually your contract duration. Ask the bank to put it in a higher yielding account other than savings. If you have a 12-month contract, you would have saved $1,200 or P48,000 for one year.



The assumption is that an OFW leaves only if what he gets abroad is at least double what he makes in Manila. You may send $200 to your family but you may want to impose a number of conditions to that remittance.



Start a business



One is that they may avail themselves of a loan from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration or OWWA (up to P40,000) that allows them to start up a little business. This can be done even before the OFW leaves and after his contract is processed.



For that amount, one telephone company will give you an Internet Service Package where OFW beneficiaries can derive some income through rental time. The Internet package may also be done in conjunction with cell phone loading operations. This should allow repayment of the loan anytime from 6 months to one year.



I also know of one company that allows small investors to distribute their products such as soft drinks, hot dogs, tocinos and assorted household necessities for a minimum investment of P20,000. This can be sold in your neighborhood.



Keep a book of accounts



The second condition for the regular remittance is to keep a book of accounts for expenses sourced out of remittance. This allows all concerned to monitor costs every month and to be mindful of what is necessary and what isn’t.



The OFW is not a milking cow. Separation should be a reason for undertaking fiscal discipline and engaging in activities that keep the family together. Within the family, there should be a designated treasurer, an auditor who verifies the expenses and renders a report to the chief financial officer—the OFW.



The OWWA organizes family circles for people left behind. Ask them to put you in touch with family circles in your area. The family circle is supposed to facilitate support. They should be able to tell you where to access services for things like counseling for rebelling children or tutoring for those who do not quite make good in their academic studies.



Join family circles



At the same time, family circles are supposed to facilitate bulk-buying of basic necessities like rice, cooking oil, pork, fish, chicken or even school supplies. This should also be a source of savings for families who wish for their remittances to go a longer way.



It is tempting to view having an OFW as an opportunity to splurge. If income from the home-based business exceeds payment for business-related expense, the remaining $100 can be shared between OFW and the family so that there may be room for a little luxury.



I am a penny pincher myself, so what about putting that money towards an education fund for the children or a housing fund for the family. My sense is, after five years of a regime like this, we would have learned not only financial discipline but a better appreciation of the kind of hard work and loneliness that affects an OFW and his/her family. The OFW experience can thus be a self-limiting exercise if everybody cooperates.



After Tago ng Tago, we might be Tuwang Tuwa because all that sacrifice would have made possible better opportunities for the OFW and his /her family.

The author is chair of the Development Bank of the Philippines and former labor secretary.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=110536

Sentosa Weekend Getaway

My Wife and 3 of our friends went to Sentosa last Feb. 24 (Sunday) of 2008. We agreed to meet in Harbourfront at about 12pm. One of our friends already went to Sentosa a couple of times before so i did not bother planning. Since it was Sunday my Wife and I went to Novena Church at about 9am. The mass started at about 8:30am. We're late again. Nothing new there. We decided to eat breakfast in McDonalds along Orchard Road after the mass. I didn't know that they also serve pancakes like in the Philippines. Seats are located outside since it was a Cafe style and ambience. The morning is nice. Until we found out that pigeons flock on that site rummaging the floors and empty tables for leftovers. I'm not a pigeon or bird hater or something but if you see pigeons or any bird for that matter flapping their wings beside and on top of you i'm sure you will be bothered too. It's a good thing that they don't just jump on top of occupied tables. We finished at about 10:30am. While we were walking towards the MRT station we saw the poster of the movie "L Changed the World". We thought since our meeting time is 12noon why don't we watch this movie first. Having watched the first two movies of Death Note with my Wife way back we decided to go ahead (even though we're short on the budget already). We didn't expect that the movie was relatively long (approx. more than 2 hours) so we called our friend that we might be late. After the movie we huried to Orchard MRT so that we can get off to Dhoby Ghaut station to the purple line. We met at B2 of Vivo City Kopitiam to eat our lunch. At about 2pm we're off to the Ticket Counter of the Cable Car. There are direction signage pointing to the ticket counter so i was easy to find. I say this because my friend forgot the way which is understandable. Two-way cable car ride costs S$12.00/person. Regular cable car can accomodate 6 person at a time. They have special cable car with glass floor which, of course, is more expensive. They also have packages for lunch in cable car. There are different packages offered. If you want to check them out just visit their website. At first we thought the line was long because when we arrived the line was already outside the door. It's a good thing that it moved fast so we were able to buy tickets in no time. We took our pictures inside the ticket counter and while we are waiting to be boarded. While waiting i tried to crack a joke. I said
Hey, there has been no accident happended in the cable car yet, right?
as they lookup to the cables attached to the carriage which literally will be holding our lives. My friend told us stories of their experiences in the cable car were one of their friends are wriggling the carriage while it's moving. She told me her friend said
Don't do that! This is not a joke anymore!
. The ride was great although some of the views below are construction sites. The panoramic view was great! We took our pictures inside the carriage and the surrounding view. Ride lasted for about 10 minutes. I kinda' wish the ride lasted for a little more. The drop-off point is the visitor center. Here you can shop for souvenirs although there are other souvenir shops inside Sentosa. We just followed our friend since she was the one familiar with the place. Along the way we saw some people gathering at the sides. THen we saw a family taking their picture with a boa (sawa in tagalog but not sure with exact specie but i'm pretty sure it was huge). Flowers all around relaxed my eyes. We stopped at a building with "Images of Singapore" sign on top of it. In front of it was a garden of flowers and a statue of a mouse-wizard reading a book (sorry i don't know the name). There are telescopes which you can use provided you insert S$1.00 to it to take a closer look at the view. A word of advice though. When you plan to go to Sentosa make sure you were the proper clothes. Just a couple of minutes of walk made me sweat. So if possible where cotton shirts, shorts and bring face towels and water bottle. You'll thank me for it specially once you arrive in the beach. We also took our picture in the Carlsberg tower. Picture this: Place a circular ring in a long stick. Move the ring up and down the stick. Basically that's what the tower look like. You will get in fromt he ground the the ring will rotate while coming up the tower. We haven't tried that one because of budget restrictions. Maybe some other time. I read that you can see Malaysia on top of the tower. We encountered also a Merlion statue as big as the one in Esplanade. We saw some people on top of it so it's like Statue of Liberty where you can go to the top of the crown (although i've heard it's not aloud anymore because of 9-11). I won't go to the details of the walk. We bought tickets for Songs of the Sea for S$6.00/person. Later on our friends bought tickets for the Luge and Skyride. Its S$9.00/person which includes 1 skyride and 1 luge that is if you bought it after 7pm. See their website for other packages. There are rental bikes also. They have adult bikes, kidde bikes and tandem bikes (2 person in one bike with two pair of pedals). The only beach we saw is Siloso Beach. For me the beach is great. White sand, lifeguard post, a resort, beach volleyball nets and coconut (or maybe palm) trees. I wished we brought a mat. We rested under the shade of the tree. The problem is there are a lot of ants. My Wife was so tired i think she fell asleep for a couple of seconds in my lap. The heat and wrong clothes took toll on us. I said to myself "Next time we will come prepared so that we can take a dip at the beach and relax." The beach was so enticing. Some families brought their dogs and made them swim too. We stayed until 5:30pm then we decided to buy some drinks in 7-11 near the Train station inside Sentosa. For those who don't know there are 3 ways in getting to Sentosa. By cable car, train and bus. You can bring any food and drinks in Sentosa to save money. We waited until 7pm then me and my Wife got in the queue for the Songs of the Sea while our friends went to the Luge. The show starts at about 7:40pm but there's already a long queue. We saved them seats. My advice is choose seats at the front (2nd to 3rd row) and middle to get the best view in my opinion. If you have a camcorder you must bring it if your planning on watching the Songs of the Sea. At first i thought it will be boring since the title seems kidde stuff but twhen the show started i was impressed. The shows plot is these group of teenagers trying to wake up the princess by singing. They summoned different creatures in their village until the princess finally awaken. The actors lip sync the songs which is necessary since it was an open air performance. The show highlights the combination of choreographed water and laser displays and image water projections. Bursts of fire are part of the show too. Everybody can feel the heat generated every time fire burst. Images projected in the water fountains have 3D effects that they almost look like holograms. You haven't been to Sentosa until you saw the Songs of the Sea. For me it's a must-see attraction. It ran for about 30 minutes (if i'm not mistaken). Sentosa is like a setting in fairy tales in the morning and specially in the evening. Lights are colorful and has that romantic feel. We had our dinner in Vivo City Kopitiam again. After that we went our separate ways. It's quite an experience but very tiring. Next time i'll be more prepared. I'd like to relax at the beach and maybe this time try out the Luge. For pictures see the following links below.

Sentosa Website
www.sentosa.com.sg/

Pictures
http://jelmarven.multiply.com

Friday, February 15, 2008

POEA suspends controversial direct-hiring memo

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Thursday suspended the implementation of a POEA memo which required foreign employers to pay bonds to directly hire Filipino workers, ABS-CBN News learned.

POEA Administrator Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz ordered the "relaxing" of Memorandum Circular No. 4, Series of 2007, which required foreign employers wishing to directly hire Filipino workers to pay repatriation and performance bonds.

Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2008, was released to "relax the rules [on] direct hires for professionals, those to be employed by reputable companies already providing adequate protection and similarly situated employers" based on MC No. 4.

The new memorandum also said that the agency will process documents of directly-hired Filipino workers using procedures used before January 15, 2008.

The new memo comes after Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Arturo Brion instructed the POEA to suspend the implementation of MC No. 4.

In a statement, Brion said he will convene with the POEA Governing Board on Monday to discuss the directives of President Arroyo on further amendments to the memorandum.

The POEA’s new rules took effect last January 15, amid protests from Filipino professionals abroad that the new rulings will make employment abroad for them harder.

In direct hiring, recruitment agencies are not involved and compliance to the contract is therefore dependent on the capability of the foreign employer.

Before the memorandum was released, these professionals negotiated their own contracts without intervention from the POEA.

With the memorandum in effect, everything in relation to a Filipino professional being hired directly by a foreign employer would have to go through the overseas employment body.

Aside from mandating stricter documentation and processing requirements which would include posting a $5,000 repatriation bond per employee, employers are also required to post a $3,000 performance bond per employee to guarantee payment of the employee’s salary for the duration of the employment contract. The bonds should be secured from local bonding companies.

Further, it said employers are required to provide their employees with health and medical insurance.

Brion earlier said the adoption of a stricter policy on direct hires is aimed at strengthening the protection of the OFWs.

However, Brion said the DOLE is open to exemptions from the total implementation of the memorandum on a per country, employer or workers classification basis on the request of the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs).

POEA records show that in 2007, a total of 26,753 OFWs in the household and other services were directly hired by foreign employers. The biggest employer of directly hired household service workers was Italy at 5,564 followed by Canada and Spain, while the Middle East hired the most number of non-household service OFWs on direct hiring basis.

OFWs with employment contracts and work visas issued after January 15 was to be covered by the new guidelines prior to its cancellation.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=109166

Thursday, January 31, 2008

M.C. No. 04 on hold

Announcement from the Embassy:

Please be informed that the Philippine Embassy is holding in abeyance implementation of M. C. No. 04 (Series of 2007) re Guidelines on the Direct Hiring of Filipino workers until further notice.

For more details go here (Source):
http://www.pinoysg.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=65

Official Link: http://www.philippine-embassy.org.sg/index.cfm?GPID=207

a·bey·ance
n.
1. The condition of being temporarily set aside; suspension: held the plan in abeyance.
2. Law A condition of undetermined ownership, as of an estate that has not yet been assigned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Warning to all ASPIRING OFW

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has issued stricter rules on direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The rules, which have taken effect since January 15, allow direct hiring of OFWs by foreign employers only upon approval by the Labor Secretary.

The hiring will be subject to screening of employers and employment contract verification by the Labor Attaché or the Philippine Embassy.


Direct hiring may be allowed only for members of the diplomatic corps and of international organizations, government officials of ministerial level, and employers hiring on one-time or trial basis. The number of employees to be hired directly shall not exceed 5.


Employers will also comply with stricter documentation and processing requirements which include the posting a US$5,000 repatriation bond per employee to guarantee the return of the worker or of his remains, in the event of death. They are also required to post a US$3,000 performance bond per employee to guarantee payment of the employee’s salary for the duration of the employment contract. The bonds should be secured from local bonding companies.

They will also provide the employees with health and medical insurance.


Employers who do not want to comply with the bonding and insurance requirements or with the standard employment contract will not be allowed to hire OFWs directly.

They, however, may hire via licensed placement agencies which are willing to assume responsibilities over the employees, including payment of salaries and other employment benefits.


Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, also concurrent POEA Board Chairman, said the adoption of a stricter policy on direct hires is aimed at strengthening the protection of the OFWs.


OFWs with employment contracts and work visas issued after January 15 will be covered by the new guidelines. The new guidelines for direct hiring are posted at the POEA website (www.poea.gov.ph).

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storyPage.aspx?storyId=106102

----------------

Tougher rules for Filipino professionals working overseas
By Alastair McIndoe, PHILIPPINES CORRESPONDENT

MANILA - TOUGHER rules have been implemented for Filipinos offered work overseas in a move which could affect professionals working in Singapore.
Under the new regulations, Filipinos who have found jobs overseas by themselves - rather than through government-licensed recruitment agencies - have to get clearance from the authorities in the Philippines before they can go.

What is more, their overseas employers need to get permission to hire them from the labour attaches of the Philippine embassies in their countries.

Employers also need to post bonds totalling US$8,000 (S$11,500) to guarantee salary payments and to cover the cost of sending home the body of an employee in the event of his death.

Filipinos already working overseas are not affected by the new rules, which took effect on Jan15.

The regulations add a second layer of red tape to already bureaucratic procedures for those who want to work overseas.

Even before the new rules, all Filipinos heading overseas to work - either as direct hires or via licensed recruitment agencies - had to register with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) before leaving.

This will not change.

Workers given the go-ahead to take up overseas posts will still have to register with the POEA - a process often involving long waits and red tape which rankles many of the highly-skilled Filipino professionals, such as academics, corporate executives and scientists, who find themselves a new post abroad.

Filipino nurses working in Singapore would likely be recruited through accredited agencies and not affected by the rules.

In the case of Filipino domestic workers in Singapore, many have, for a long time now, been able to circumvent the POEA registration procedures by arriving as tourists and finding employment through local recruitment agencies. The new rules are unlikely to change that situation.

Though the new rules prescribe no penalties, direct hires who do not have clearance now run the risk - as do all so-called 'undocumented' Filipinos heading overseas to work - of being caught by airport immigration officials and not allowed to leave the country until their paperwork is in order.

A check with Philippine embassy officials in Singapore and other agencies drew a blank on the new rules and how it affected Filipinos in Singapore.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/Free/Story/STIStory_199023.html

Official Link of the memorandum
http://www.poea.gov.ph/mc/mc4_2007_namehire.pdf

Petition Link
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/antiOFWcircular/index.html

Related Links
http://zchendevlemh.blogspot.com/2008/01/nice-going-owwa.html/
http://milkcashcow.wordpress.com/category/poea-sucks/

Friday, January 25, 2008

Workplace Rants Jan 25, 2008

I know, i know everybody has their own issues. I just want to let my steam off or shake the stress off my mind even just a little bit. Overall i know I'm quite independent in terms of work. As much as possible i don't want to bother or disrupt others just to ask questions. That's why most of the time i use e-mail. I'll itemize all my newbie questions then send to your e-mail and wait for you to reply back whenever you feel comfortable replying. But i guess some seniors are just to busy answering their newly hired contract staff. Well how the hell i am supposed to do my job if i have no idea what I'm doing. Let's give an example:

I work in the IT department of a Bank. Here they got lots of process and security protocols. If you need to request or do something you need to fill up the forms. Other departments will process those forms. It's like Bureaucracy, really. My team handles different projects. If your supervisor asks you to help him prepare some forms for a particular project what will be your response? Honestly...really? I bet you won't be typing away and submitting the form, right? My response is pretty obvious and here are them:

1. What and where can i get the form
2. If to be submitted via e-mail what's the e-mail address. If hardcopy needs to be submitted where and to whom should i submit it
3. What should be the contents of the form or at least give me a sample or a similar previously submitted form

Pretty reasonable, ey? Here's the dialogue.
If i have any questions, i'll just come to you, ok?


His response, mumbling while walking away,
Don't come to me...don't come to me lah


Go figure.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

First Hawker Dinner

Hawker - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_centre

We are having problems with our gas range which prompted us to eat our dinner outside instead. My Wife and met in front of Novena Church after work. I forgot to take note of the name. It's directly in front of Novena Church located on the right of Cheers convenience store in front of the bus stop. We went to Cheers first since our housemate asked me to buy a prepaid card for her. In the counter i asked the Auntie
Do you have HOT 20?
She doesn't respond and gives me a WTF-are-you-talking-about? look. So i repeat myself and still she didn't understood me. Then my Wife comes to the rescue and said
Top up hot 20?
Finally the Auntie nods. Auntie told me that i just need to say either "top up" or "top up 20" next time. I just laughed at myself. The prepaid card name is HOT20 in bold text in front of the card itself so i assume that i should use that name in purchasing the card, right? No, they wan't the "top up" instead. I guess it's a little bit easier to pronounce and understood "top up" compared to "HOT 20"...sheeshhh.

Anyways back to the Hawker dining experience. I'm really not sure if it can be considered as a Hawker although it looks like one. We checked the menu and if i remember correctly it was divided into categories. Vegetables, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Noodles, Drinks, etc. They also have deer meat. I forgot the term they use in calling deer meat. Since it looks like a hawker i was expecting the price to be in the range of S$3.50 to S$6.00 but to my surprise the cheapest meal cost around S$5.00 (Small). They also have waitresses that take down orders. Their meals comes in 3 sizes or quantities, Small Medium and i guess Large. We chose Pork Rib King (S$5, S$8, S$16) and Crab Meat Fried Rice (S$5, S$8, S$16). We opt for the medium size. For us that's quite expensive already. We seldom shell out more than S$6.00 meal/person. My Wife brought our drink in Cheers while i ordered. I almost did not understood the waitress since i'm still having a hard time diciphering their chinese accent. She asked me
For 1 person?
and i answered
No, for two
After a couple of minutes she placed the plates, 2 wet tissues in a pack and placed the utensils on top of the packs. I said to myself "What the hell?" since the spoon and fork slid down to the table surface. She could have just placed those on top of the plates instead. I'm not that whiny so i just got my tissue paper that i took with me and wiped the utensils along with the plates since it's still a little wet. A copy of the order slip is placed on a small bottle in our table. Then after eating you need to bring that slip in front of the counter to pay. I guess that's their system. Another couple of minutes our order arrives. Of course i don't have a picture of the meals because i only decided to post this experience on the blog late at night. The Pork Rib King almost looks like sweet and sour pork with sesame seeds and strips of green vegetable garnishing. It also has a small fake rose bud but i don't know if it's edible or not since it looks like made out of styrofoam. The meal is good for 2 - 3 persons. The Medium Crab Meat Fried Rice is huge. The platter can at least feed 3-4 person. They also served free bowl of hot soup with chopped spring onions. At first i thought this was another one of the tasteless free soups that some of the stalls in food junctions gives but this one tastes good to me. Finally a free soup with attitude! We didn't got to finish it all so i asked the waitress to pack it for take away. By the way they use "take away" instead of "take out" in the Philippines. I went to pay at the counter and i saw the Aunties punching in two 8.50 and another .40 but i let it slide since i tought it's just tax and i don't really want to complain since i'll just probably have a hard time understanding her. I gave the receipt to my Wife and she told me that the wet tissues are 50 cents each so i guess the tax is 40 cents. Total damage? S$17.40!! Just like eating in a restaurant. Aside from the place, the Food is ok. I even ate the left over crab meat fried rice during lunch time today. The left over pork rib king is for dinner later.

Tips for the newbie

Ask a friend
- Ask a friend who has had some Hawker experience for recommended Hawker stalls and food. Sometimes doing trial-and-error is frustrating specially when you're hungry.

Observe
- Observe the eating crowd and look for the popular stall. Chances are its good there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Working Tips based on my own methods of handling work

- Do not be overwhelmed
Sometimes when tasks are given to us and loads of information are poured like we can digest every information we tend to get overwhelmed which is a normal reaction. You need to train yourselves in reacting differently. Tell yourself if a task or project is given to you you will automatically think "Do not be overwhelmed." Take the information and categorize or organize it first. "Divide and Conquer!" as they say. It's just like memorizing an 11-digit number. You divide the numbers to whatever you are comfortable in memorizing it. e.g. Which is easier to digest? 09191231131 or 0919-123-1131

- Organize Documentation
Before i often forgot the importance of organizing documents. When the time comes to extract a particular information or do a knowledge-transfer i am left lost with all the filenames in a single folder. Do not be lazy in renaming your files and folders consistently since this will save you a lot of time in the near future.

- Compile questions before asking
Be considerate to your collegues or supervisor. Compile all the questions that pops up in your head. Place it in a spreadsheet. Try answering those questions by yourself first. It's a good thing that i'm a bit shy in approaching my collegues whenever i want to ask questions so i am left with only myself to rely on. Until the answer comes upon me then i realized that most of the questions are can be answered by myself by digging and truly understanding the related documents given to me. Of course this will depend on your schedule. If you have tight schedules then you might not have the luxury of finding the answers for yourself.

- Visualize
To be able to comprehend faster you need to put yourself in that particular situation. This is specially useful in learning processes. Imagine yourself doing the process.

- Take a breather once in a while
If you feel strain building up or stuck get up from you chair and walk for a while. Strike a conversation, peak in the window, stretch your arms and legs, take a couple of deep breaths, cover your eyes with your palm for a couple of minutes, drink water until you feel revitalised and can get back to work.

- Take pride and joy with your work
If you are the type that "hates" your job but you have no choice since you have to provide for your family then hating your job more won't really help. Try looking for the positive side and concentrate on them instead. Post an encouraging note in front of your workstation or wherever that you think you most likely see so that you won't forget. You will feel much more relieved and proud on yourself if you take more pride and joy in what you do.

- Have a stress reliever
I've read somewhere that daily exercise is a great stress reliever. Make it a habit. If you really don't have the time then constantly walk. You'll live much longer to enjoy life. Buy a punching bag, play a video game, watch comedy when you get home, write a blog, whatever releases your stress (provided it's legal of course).

- Smile
Brings your mood up and somebody else too.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Our First Notebook

We bought it on a sunday morning (Jan. 6, 2007 ). My wife and I planned to go to Funan to just browse for notebook promotions and inquire the price of Sony Ericsson k550i which is a gift for her sister.

We were planning to buy a notebook on Mar. 6 - 9 during the anticipated PC Show of 2008 in Suntec. However i told her that if we can find a good deal that fits our budget and specifications then we'll grab it.

I've done my research since this is a big investment for us. For me shelving S$1,700 or more is no joke. Here are some links that proved very useful.

This link really helped me deciding what type of notebook should i buy:
http://www.hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?id=965&cid=27&pg=5

Based on the link I've decided on the things that i am looking for in a notebook:
- Our notebook should be a desktop replacement meaning it will spend most of it's time in the house so weight is not an issue

- Processor should be Intel Core 2 Duo minimum 1.8 GHz.
Why Intel? Because i have good desktop PC experience with Intel processors.
Why 1.8 GHz minimum? Because i want my notebook to last for a couple of years. This means that it needs to support applications and games within that duration.
Also it's acceptable on my budget. Not too old and not too new.

- RAM should be 2 GB since we will be using vista.

- Video Card should be either Nvidia or ATI Radeon. No integrated graphics accelerator for me. No work and no play... we'll you catch my drift.

- Minimum of 14.1" screen since i love to watch movies. Again this size is what fits in my budget.

- Integrated Camera would be a nice-to-have but not critical since we constantly chat with our family back in the Philippines. Less clutter.

- Integrated WiFi of course since i don't want to purchase it separately. And i think current notebooks nowadays always comes with a WiFi.

- Vista OS. I specially don't like to purchase this one separately also.

- Should look good but reliable.

- HP, ASUS or Fujitsu brands. This are according to numerous forums, reviews, tech-savvy friends advice and personal choice.


Back in Funan we came across 3 possible choices that within our budget. Here are the specs:

Fujitsu Lifebook
tbf

HP
tbf

ASUS
tbf

Upon deliberating with my wife a couple of minutes we decided for this one:
tbf

Box inclusions:
- ASUS optical mouse
- ASUS carrying case
- ASUS cable tie
- Drivers, Recovery DCD, Nero Installation CD
- User Guides, Quick Installation Guide, Battery Notice
- Telephone Cable

Now why ASUS? Here's why:
tbf

I've known ASUS during my desktop days to provide quality products that lasts years (4 - 6 yrs depending on usage and care).

Nothing beats 2 years international warranty although the 1 year warranty has been voided. I informed the salesman that they should remove or update their brochures since this will be misleading to the untrained eye. His answer is that they only use the old brochures for the notebook specs. well i didn't argue anymore since i saw that one and didn't matter to me anyways.

Another Plus factor for the store is the freebies they gave us:
- LCD screen Cleaning Kit
- Cooling pad with cool design
- 20L Cooler and Warmer

At first they gave us an optical mouse instead of the LCD Screen Cleaning Kit. But when the salesman opened the box a carrying case and an optical mouse (ASUS) is already included. I thought "Sean" the salesman will not exhange the freebies but he proved us wrong. He gave us the LCD Screen Cleaning Kit instead. As he handed it to us he said
Here's your freebie just as promised.


The Cooler and Warmer have a different story on how we acquired it. It started with a curiosity. My Wife asked me
What do you think that image in the box is?
I answered
Maybe it's a cabinet for plates or something.
But in the picture we can see that there's a temperature gauge so to make sure and to feed our curiosity i asked Sean what is that product. And he said it's a cooler.

One of the salesman heard me asked and he blurted out
Do you want one?
I asked
Is it for free?
He said
Yes, Sean can you get the stroller.
Our parents taught us not to say no to grace so we graciously accepted it (grin). Deep inside I'm laughing my heart out. The salesman told us that they are giving those coolers away as a freebie for another product.

We had such a nice first-time-purchase experience.

TIPS for Notebook Hunting
- Look at the specs carefully. You have to know the differences between models. Some of the specs that might caught you unguarded that i've seen in the posters, flyers and brochures:
e.g. Core Duo
Duo Core
Core 2 Duo or Core2Duo
As you can see you might mistake the Core Duo as Core 2 Duo at first glance.

- Useful Freebies

- If Sean is right, buy on a Sunday morning. Salespersons gets grumpy in the afternoon according to him and that lessens your chance on getting cool freebies.

Also he said that according to Chinese custom the first customer on a Sunday is considered as a good omen or good luck so they splurge the freebies on the first potential buyer.

- Do your homework or at least know what's your main purpose of buying a notebook (See link above for the article) before going to stores since most of the time they get tired of explaining every model specs but in the end the customer is still clueless about what they want.

I know it's their job to inform and "sell" but a little consideration won't hurt and it will save you time and money and shield yourself of getting "dupped".

- Do a search online for tips, pricing, promotions, recommended notebook models, etc.

- Ask a knowledgeable friend. If you have a Notebook technician friend the better. If not, a friend with first-hand experience on different brands or one brand that your aiming for will do.