Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How OFWs in South Korea Reacted To BOC’s Balikbayan Box Inspection Issue

(c) PEBA, Inc.
Finally, the Philippine Bureau of Custom will no longer do random inspection of the Balikbayan box. Thanks to President Aquino for stopping this stupidity. Filipinos all over the world were in rage after they heard that BOC will open Balikbayan boxes for inspection. I guess the Social Media helped us voiced out our opinions regarding this matter.

What will you exactly feel if somebody you don’t know opens your sacred balikbayan box?

I do understand if you will react violently to that idea because as an OFW, I understand the sentiment being put in a mere balikbayan box. For us, it’s not just a box, it contains our gifts to our loved ones. Every item in that box counts because we worked hard just to buy it, not to mention the emotions involved that lead us to decide to buy it and specifically assign a worthy receiver of the gift. I can’t blame you if you will curse at Secretary Alberto Lina and the rest of Bureau of Customs gang for pushing the idea of randomly opening a balikbayan box.

But what is it for?

According to Secretary Lina, the reason why they have to inspect a balikbayan box is because they want to prevent smuggling and entering of illegal weapons in the country. The BOC is so brilliant to think that some people will take advantage over balikbayan box by inserting some smuggled goods and weapons, that is why they must inspect some suspicious and random box to make sure that no smuggled items can enter Philippines. Really now? So how about those smuggled luxury cars that enter the country under the noses of inspectors? If there are smuggled items in balikbayan box, that’s nothing compared to the large containers that freely enter Philippines. This genius plan of BOC is a big insult to us OFWs, that is why I understand if an OFW will react violently to this. Poor OFWs because the only way they can air out their sentiments is through Facebook.

Just like other OFWs in the world, we here in South Korea are against this inspection. Not that we are being judgmental, but yeah, we don’t trust the customs. The OFWs here in South Korea have their own way to show their rage over this idea on Facebook. Here, let’s take a look on how creative OFWs in Korea in expressing their thoughts over this issue.

Let’s start with some “real talk”. I guess we need to inspect what’s inside BOC’s mind too:





Here’s a “hugot” open letter to BOC. They must read this!!!




Some brought out the inner poetic in them just to express their thoughts.



And to really emphasize it, some put their curses into writing in a CAPS LOCK and made it even a cover photo…. PARA INTENSE!



But of course, some still wants to stay on a high road. Smooth and simple words may touch the heart of BOC… if they have any… booo



Some tried hard to hit BOC:





Or maybe target their conscience, again…. If they have that too.



If all else fails, a video like this would do!!! (Warning: obscene languages in the video)



South Korea against BOC. Cameraman: yours truly
Posted by Nalord Sumaya on Sunday, 23 August 2015


And finally, this!!!BEAST MODE




Ofw South Korea: BEAST MODE!F*** Y** B.O.C
Posted by Natning Bansil on Sunday, 23 August 2015



Thankfully, our government listened to these small voices, oh well, election is coming!!! We must vote for somebody who looks at OFWs as Filipino heroes and not smugglers.
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Monday, August 17, 2015

A “Rail-y” Exciting Bike Ride at Yangpyeong

Rail Bike Site at Yangpyeong
Rail Bike Site at Yangpyeong
(c) Kristine Bulanadi

What else can you do with an abandoned railway?


Perhaps leave it to rust and decay. Or maybe totally destroy it and plant trees instead. Or never care at all….like… At All!!!... I mean what joy can you get out of an old railway? Right?

Koreans had their creative juice decide what to do with an old and dilapidated railway. Apparently, they turned it into a real rail bike site.

Bike Ride in an old railway
Bike Ride in an old railway
(c) Anny Martinez
And you are like…. Who in their right mind would bike through an ancient railway? Isn’t it dangerous? Is it fun? Is it convenient? Unless you tried it, you will never appreciate it as much as we did.

Enjoying the bike ride at Yangpyeong railway
Enjoying the bike ride at Yangpyeong railway
(c) Anny Martinez

I can say that this rail bike site is a true gem for the province of Yangpyeong. This province is not something to top the list of your go-to in Korea, but if you are tired of just going to Seoul again and again, then Yangpyeong is a province to visit not only because of the rail bike but also because there are a lot of tourist attractions in the area like the Gyeongi English Village and the Dreamy Camera café. You can visit them all in one go because the Yangpyeong Rail Bike will only last for about 1.5 hours.

The bike railway
The bike railway
(c)Kristine Bulanadi
Yangpyeong Rail Bike is a 6.4 km fun filled journey as you will get to pass along the picturesque scenery that the province could offer. There are beautiful river, green trees, awesome tunnel and everything seems to be magical when you are biking at a speed of 15 km/h.


Inside the tunnel of the rail bike site
Inside the tunnel of the rail bike site
(c) Arman Carinan

The bike ride is a real treat for people who love nature as it offers priceless view from Yongmun to Wondeok.

The scenery at the railway
The scenery at the railway
(c) Arman Carinan

Not only that, rail biking at Yangpyeong will also give you a glimpse of the best that Korea’s four seasons could offer. We did the rail bike during summer, so we were treated with the beautiful and flush greens of summer. Just imagine how it looks like with the cherry blossoms during spring, the colorful trees during autumn and the white snowflakes during winter.

the flush green summer of Yangpyeong
the flush green summer of Yangpyeong
(c) Arman Carinan

HOW TO GO TO YANGPYEONG RAIL BIKE SITE?

Get off at Yongmun Station, that’s Jungang Line of the Seoul Subway. Go to Exit 1 and walk straight for about 10 minutes.

You can choose between couple(good for 2) or family (good for 4). Couple bike costs 25,000 KRW ($25) and family bike costs 32,000 KRW ($32). Railway bike is open until 6 pm during winter and 7:30 pm during the other seasons.

Railway biking at Yangpyeong is one unique way to experience and view Korea’s wonderful nature. It feels like a never ending joy ride. You must try it!
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Friday, August 14, 2015

What You Should Know About Your Korean Won Remittances?



One of the main concerns of any overseas worker in any part of the world is the remittance. An overseas worker must know how to send money to their family from wherever part of the world especially for Filipinos in Korea. And by knowing “how to send money from Korea” I mean finding out options to maximize the value of your won remittance.

When we send our Won to, for example, Philippines, most of us know that there is a corresponding remittance fee to that. But we don’t know that we are not only charged by just the remittance fee, on top of that, there are other extra charges deducted to our money, and when I say “Extra charges”, I mean “EXTRA CHARGES!!!!”.

So, what are those charges?

When you send money to a particular bank in the Philippines, you must select a bank to handle this process. Depending on the amount of won you’ll send, a particular bank will charge you a fee called “Handling Charge”. At least we all know about this. Sometimes we call this the remittance fee and of course we are willing to pay for this. It’s business after all and any bank will not provide the handling service without corresponding fee. Fees may vary for different banks, channels and amount of money. These are the three main factors that will determine the handling charge. Costs may start from as low as 2,500 KRW up to 25,000 KRW.

However, it doesn’t end just like that. You don’t know that banks have this thing they called “Swift Charge”. The Swift charge is a payment for a service that allows banks to exchange messages including payment instructions . The cost may also vary from one bank to another from as low as 5,000 KRW up to 8,000 KRW.

Just when you think the charging of fees chronicle is over, you are wrong. If you are sending money from a Korean bank to a bank in Philippines, there is this thing they called “Interbank Charge”. Again, cost is different for each bank, usually, from 10,000 KRW up to 18,000 KRW.

Now, you do the MATH!!!... Add Handling Charge and the Swift Charge and the Interbank Charge, for an average remittance of maybe 1 Million KRW, total charges may start from at least 28,000 KRW up to maybe 36,000 KRW. I can’t give the exact number because fees are different for each bank in Korea.

So, what are our options to minimize the remittance charges?

Well, first and foremost, I have to clarify that I am not in any way connected to what I am going to endorse now. I don’t receive commission or whatsoever, this is just an opinion and the remittance options I know you can get the best deal. If there are options better than this, then probably I don’t have any knowledge about that, or lack thereof.

First option: KB-BPI remittance

Aside from their promise that their service is fast, convenient and they have competitive FX rates, KB-BPI remittance service has very low charges. This charge doesn’t only mean the handling charge, it also includes the swift charge and the interbank charge. Since we couldn’t get these termite charges out of the equation, the only way we can do to minimize the charges is to find a remittance service that offers the lowest charge, and compared to any major banks in Korea, the KB-BPI tandem is significantly lower. Let’s say for example, you are going to send 1,000,000 KRW to the Philippines, these are the charges involve at KB-BPI and how they compute it. Please take note that FX rate varies, this is just an example just to show the charges in your remittance and how it is computed.



If you go to other banks, the computation is generally the same, except that the extra charges and the handling fee is higher than what KB-BPI can offer.

If you have more questions about the KB-BPI remittance service, feel free to contact Roy Perez BPI on Facebook. He is the BPI representative here in Korea and I would like to thank him also for allowing me to disclose the computation in this blog.

Second Option: Woori Bank

Woori Bank has been my remittance service provider since I came here in Korea. Although compared to KB-BPI, the regular rate of Woori bank when it comes to handling charges, swift charges and interbank charges is higher, I like how Woori bank has marketing promotion for the benefits of foreign workers in Korea. Woori Bank allows foreigners to send remittances to the Philippines through Moneygram and bank to bank transfer. When it comes to remittance fee, bank to bank has lower rate compared to moneygram, but most people still send via Woori-Moneygram because the recipient can get their money instantly. Bank-to-bank transfer has lower rate but it takes 2 to 3 days before the money will arrive in the Philippines.

Although Woori bank has considerably higher rates when it comes to charges, they have this thing they called “Direct Overseas Remittance Service”. This is only applicable for bank to bank transaction. The benefits of this are, you can transfer money via ATM, you will get 30% discount on the remittance fee and 50% discount on exchange rate to USD, JPY and EUR and 30% discount on other currencies. That’s a big help to minimize the charges.

If you want to know more about Woori Bank remittance, their Hyehwa branch is open every Sunday. Feel free to visit and inquire.

Third Option: Bluepan Payphil

A new blood when it comes to remittance service, Payphil is proud to present their new way of transferring money to the Philippines. They use Blockchain, a new technology of Bitcoin. But you know what’s great about Payphil? You can completely eliminate those charges I mentioned above. They only charge you an average of maybe 5,000 KRW for a 1 Million won remittance. They have delivery fee charge if you will send it through the pawnshop but very minimal. Bank transfer is completely free of charge. What is good about Payphil is that it is just a money transfer, so if you want to try out their service, you don’t need to go through the trouble of cancelling your account in other banks. And another thing, the FX rate of Payphil is based on the current actual exchange rate. It is changing from time to time.

If you want to know more about this new remittance service provider, feel free to contact them on the following medium:

Kakaotalk: Bluepan Payphil
CP Number: +8210-3075-5436

If there are other remittance service that can offer best deals aside from the ones I mentioned above, feel free to send me a message so we could add up to this list. For time being, I guess these are my Best 3 when it comes to sending money to the Philippines. It’s up to you to choose the best alternative to minimize your remittance charges. Protect your money by knowing the best option available for sending money.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tour Around the World in One Day at Aiins World(아인스월드) Korea

Entrance to Aiins World Korea
Entrance to Aiins World Korea

Have you been dreaming of traveling around the world? Are you wanderlust enough to aim to see the world’s greatest landmarks and famous sculptures and buildings? Do you want to tour the world in One day? Then go to South Korea!!!... Yes, you read it right, South Korea has this place called AIINS WORLD (아인스월드) that allows everyone to take a glance of what the world has to offer to travelers for one day, or less. Located in Bucheon, Aiins World has been one of the famous attractions outside Seoul to both the locals and tourists in Korea. In this place, you will see the World’s famous monuments and buildings.

Let’s take for example the Stonehenge. This is one mysterious landmark that I really want to visit. They said that Stonehenge was constructed by aliens. There are also some conspiracy theories that these stones were used by some cult or religious groups a long time ago. Until now, the mystery is still unresolved, that’s why I am so interested to visit this in England.

Stonehenge at Aiins World Korea
Stonehenge at Aiins World Korea

What is good about Aiins World is that they have placed markers on the footpath so that you will not find it hard to take a perfect angle when you want to make a structure as your background. Like this Eiffel Tower in France, one can be very inventive or creative in posing in front of the tower, but nothing beats the well-placed marker for better photo.

eiffel tower in Aiins world
Filipino tourists posing in front of Eiffel Tower like it's real

As I’ve said, almost all popular structure in the world has a representative at Aiins World. Australia represent!!! When I say famous structure and when I say World, you can’t take out the Opera House in the equation.

Opera House of Australia at Aiins World
Opera House of Australia at Aiins World


And even the Cathedrals in France, they each has its own version at Aiins World. Just like this Cathedral of Chartes.

cathedral of chartres in Chartres, France
cathedral of chartres in Chartres, France

Speaking of Cathedral, you can stand in awe to the colorful and magnificent representation of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.

St Basil's Cathedral of Russia at Aiins World

Even natural landmarks such as the Petra in Jordan is best represented here.

Petra of Jordan
Petra of Jordan

There are a lot more interesting and famous structures at Aiins World. It is one place where you can enjoy the world’s best and at the same time learn from it because they posted information about the structure in different languages. As for the rest of the structures present at Aiins World, I will leave it to your next visit at this very interesting park.  Other interesting structures are the Tower Bridge of UK, the Louvre Museum of Rance, the Sphynx of Egypt, Colossus of Rhodes of Greece and the Great Wall of China.

Aiins world is located at this address: Address: Gyeonggi-do Bucheon-si Wonmi-gu Sang-dong 529-2

Regular admission fee is 10,000 KRW and 7,000 KRW for kids. If you want to visit at night time, it’s a little bit expensive.

To go to Aiins World, take Seoul Subway Line number 7 and get off at Samsan Stadium Station. Go to Exit number 5 and walk for about 150 m. Then take Bus 558 and Get off at Aiins World (아인스월드) bus stop. You can just actually walk from Samsan Stadium Station if you want.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Renewing Commitment to our Passion and Dreams at Dreamy Camera Café (꿈꾸는사진기) Korea

dreamy camera cafe korea
The front view of Dreamy Camera Cafe (꿈꾸는사진기) 
I have been to several cafes. In Korea alone, I can’t remember how many cafes I have visited. From the ordinary to the mainstream, cafes have been the option as a venue for group discussion and meetings. But what interests me more are the themed cafes that are sprouting everywhere in Korea. The most interesting so far is the Dreamy Camera Café located about six miles East of Seoul. I and my wanderlust buddies were instantly became interested to go to the place despite the distance because we are all camera lovers. It helps that the café is in the shape of a Rollieflex camera, as a photography hobbyist, I thought it would be a mortal sin not to go there. We don’t have any expectations though because we were all just after the concept of the café which is all about camera. Our goal was to go to the place and check out what it can offer to people who are into photography.

When we arrived to the place, we were in awe to the magnificent design of the building. It’s a two storey building in the form of a Rollieflex TLR. I have seen it already in the photos, but it was way different in the actual. I thought I could go home right at that instant because gazing at the building from the outside was quite enough for me. But we were already hungry that time and it was hot outside, so we decided to get inside the café to relax.

Just when I thought I have already enough of the camera café, I was overwhelmed with the number of cameras inside. I am guessing that the owner of the café is not only passionate about photography, maybe they also have the hobby of collecting different models of cameras. There are real one and even fake ones. My eyes drooled for a moment, and I was like a kid checking the cameras one by one. I don’t even recognize some of them.

cameras inside dreamy camera cafe

cameras inside dreamy camera cafe
Different models of camera displayed inside Camera Cafe
Photo Credit to Anny Martinez


I guess the best one so far I saw was the Argus C3 also known as the Harry Potter camera. If you happened to watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there’s a character named Colin Creevey who brought with him a muggle camera called Argus C3 at Hogwarts. This is how that camera looks like.

argus c3 harry potter camera
Argus C3 known as Harry Potter Camera



However, the longer we stayed at the Dreamy Camera Café, the better we understood its real purpose. I mean, it’s not all about cameras or photography per se. When we were asked to write our bucket list in the piece of paper, I started to view the café in a different perspective. I guess what the owners would want to convey to the customers is that if they were able to materialize their dreams to build this camera inspired café, we too can write our dreams and make it come true. So our attention was shifted from the cameras to the piece of paper where we wrote our top 5 bucket list.

bucket list writing at camera cafe
Busy writing our bucket list
Photo Credit to Anny Martinez


After writing the bucket list, the kind lady who owns the café took a photo of our list using a Polaroid camera and it will be posted in the wall of the café. This will help remind us that we have dreams to follow and if we believe, all of this will soon come true.

bucket list in polaroid photo
The bucket lists posted in the wall of the cafe


Aside from cameras, the interior design of the café also played the big role in giving a homey ambiance to the customers. It is one place where you can freely discuss with friends, or read books or even play board games. We do not have dull moments inside the café.

window lens of camera cafe
The window lens of the cafe
Photo Credit to Anny Martinez

And of course, we ordered some cheesecakes and lemonade. The cheesecake is so “Daebak”, I like it so much I was able to finish it in less than 5 minutes. The prices are reasonable too. You can order for as low as 5,000 KRW. You can’t simply take away their food menu out of the equation because ordering something to eat or drink is part of the café experience. Of course, you don’t go there just to write your dreams and take photos, you must try their food too.

food at dreamy camera cafe
Photo credit to Arman Carinan


The couple who owned the café was so accommodating. You can ask help from them if you want to ask for directions, or call a taxi or even taking the photos. We also found out that the Dreamy Camera Café is ranked number 5 as best designed cafes in the world. Wow, that’s an achievement for them. I also like the idea that the café is located just beside their humble abode. That’s the kind of life I want to have. A simple home and a dream café just beside it located in a laid back and peaceful area. It’s just so awesome….

photo credit to Anny Martinez


HOW TO GO TO DREAMY CAMERA CAFÉ?

If you want to go to Dreamy Camera Café, the address is in 341-13, Jung-won-ri, Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea, Yangpyeong.

If you want to go via Subway, you can get off at Yongmun Station, that’s the last station of GyeonguiJungang Line. When you arrived at Yongmun Station, go to Exit 1. You can either take a bus or a taxi to go to the café. However, bus availability is not convenient because it only arrives one every 2 hours, so the best option is to take a taxi. In front of Exit 1 of Yongmun station, there’s a taxi waiting area, just go to that place and tell the taxi to go to “중원리 꿈꾸는사진기” , if you can’t read Korean, just show that text to the driver and they know it already. Taxi fare will cost you up to 10,000 KRW.

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