Saturday, November 28, 2015

Journey to the Depths of the Ocean at COEX Aquarium

Entrance to the COEX Aquarium
Entrance to the COEX Aquarium

If you are looking for an indoor attraction in Korea, I think I will recommend COEX Aquarium. This is a place where you can actually experience the underwater world, that means embarking on a water journey where you can see different sea creatures and species that you can only see when you go diving. I have tried diving before in the Philippines, although the COEX Aquarium could not offer you the same experience as in diving where you can see the sea creatures in their most natural habitat underwater, at least you get to see an in depth look of some species that you can only see in the depths of the oceans.

Sea creatures you can see at COEX Aquarium
Sea creatures you can see at COEX Aquarium


What is good about the COEX Aquarium is that it is not just an aquarium. I mean it’s a giant aquarium but it does not only contain things related to oceans. Upon entering, you will get a glimpse of how a tropical rainforest looks like where you can see creatures in the mountains and some animals you can only see in the forest and caves.

Bats inside the museum
Bats inside the museum


Everything is inside the museum, from swamps to rivers, name it and you can experience all of this and more. It feels like trekking through Amazon tropical rainforest. For a while, I forgot I was actually inside a building, that’s how convincing the set up is inside the museum.

Some interesting sea creatures at COEX Aquarium
Some interesting sea creatures at COEX Aquarium

But of course, the star of the museum is no other than their giant aquarium. I felt like I was swimming in the depth of the water minus the oxygen and the wet suit. I saw live sharks, turtles, octopus, electric eels and my favorite, the pulsating jellyfish. You know we are trying to avoid them in the water, but I find their movement actually entertaining.

The jellyfish at COEX Aquarium
The jellyfish at COEX Aquarium


The Entrance fee for COEX Aquarium is 22,000 won ($22) for adult. For Middle to High School Students, ticket price is only 19,000 won and 16,000 won for children. Seniors and disabled adult ticket price is 16,500 won only while disabled children will only pay 9,000 won. There is also a group discount (20 people or more) but you need to call them first at this number: +82-2-6002-6312.

Different variety of fishes at COEX Aquarium
Different variety of fishes at COEX Aquarium


COEX Aquairum address is in 513 Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul [서울특별시 강남구 영동대로 513 (삼성동)]. If you want to go via subway, take Seoul Subway Line Number 2 and get off at Samseong Station. Go to Exit 5 and 6 and go directly at the end of the Ocean Walk section which is located next to ASEM Plaza and Megabox Cinema. Coex Aquarium is directly connected to the COEX Mall. COEX Aquarium operating hours is from 10 am to 8 pm.

COEX Mall
COEX Mall

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Friday, November 20, 2015

What You Should Know About the Progress of Social Security Agreement Between Korea and Philippines



The meeting between President Aquino and President Park during the APEC summit held in the Philippines has left a bad taste in the mouth of OFWs in South Korea. Judging from the social media rants of some OFWs in South Korea, nobody approves President Aquino in his request to President Park to support the approval of the Social Security Agreement.

Just like other workers in South Korea, I reacted so badly with this because as far as I know, the issue about SSA has been resolved. But before I discuss further about the progress of SSA in South Korea, I just think that WE have overly reacted to this. It’s ok to get angry, it’s ok to rant, but I think saying bad words to our President and cursing our government is way too much. I understand that Social Media is our only outlet to express our disgust with this issue, but let’s be responsible with what we’re saying. To add insult to the injury, some of us are using wrong hashtags and information. Please don't use phrases like "No To NPS agreement" or something like that because it is way different from the Social Security Agreement or NPS-SSS Agreement.

The reaction has actually blown out of proportion as some of us created banners protesting against the NPS. Please be informed that the National Pension Service or NPS of Korea is not our enemy here, not even the SSS. We have no enemy and we don’t need to fight. What we are just fighting here is our right to claim what is due to us, which is in this case, our kukmin. If possible, please take down all those posters and banners because NPS may not like it seeing their logo used in a negative light. Let’s be responsible with our action as this will compromise our status as migrant workers in this country.

The Social Security Agreement, as we know it, is all about the agreement between Korea and Philippines to put our lump sum refund or kukmin in our respective SSS accounts. We can only claim the benefits when we reach the age of 65. Nobody agreed to this and NPS was kind enough to listen to the sentiments of the Filipino workers.

During the NPS-SSS Agreement forum


I asked Ms. Gennie Kim, an active Filipino volunteer and advocate in Korea, about what has actually happened to the Social Security Agreement throughout the course of the year. According to her, there was a forum held last February 2014 and there were some progress made in the agreement. Before the said forum, the Filipino EPS Workers Association or FEWA had conducted a survey soliciting from Filipino workers of their opinion about the SSA. Of course, the obvious reactions were negative; I for one has posted my own opinion about my dislike to this agreement.  The NPS was kind enough to listen and validate the reasons of the OFWs, and through that forum, the voice of Filipino workers was heard.

NPS representatives with the FEWA officers

I must say that the meeting held between Filipino workers and the NPS was successful because both parties came up with a working solution. Instead of making it mandatory for everybody to have their kukmin deposited to SSS account, an EPS worker can actually choose between two options:

1. To claim the NPS refund either in the Airport or deposit it into the bank account in the Philippines

2. Transfer the NPS refund into the SSS account and claim it at the age of 65 years old provided that the worker has contributed for 10 years in the NPS. This option is impossible to achieve because an EPS worker can only stay up to 4 years and 10 months.

That was what has been agreed at least during that forum, and from then on, nobody talks about the NPS-SSS agreement since obviously nobody wants that.

Not until the recent event in the APEC summit where President Aquino discussed this with President Park. If it’s all about making SSA mandatory or not, we don’t know! What we know is, as per agreement with NPS, we have two options. After all, what happened during the summit was just a discussion and President Park did not exactly say anything about it but she instead vowed to improve the Social Security Agreement for the benefits of the people.

So I guess let’s just be calm and stop condemning NPS, you are barking at the wrong tree. We have their words and Korea always listens to us.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

President Aquino Sought President Park’s Support for SSA at APEC

Photo credit: businesskorea.co.kr

The SSA or Social Security Agreement between Philippines and Korea seems like rising from dead again. Yes, just like how the dead people animate in The Walking Dead series, President Aquino took advantage of the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Philippines to talk to the President of South Korea Park Geun-hye about some concerns and issues and this includes the amended Social Security Agreement.

As an OFW in Korea, I am totally against this SSA. I have already posted my opinion HERE about that issue and as far as I know, we have successfully shut down this agreement.

To remind us about this SSA, this is how it actually works:

How will this SSA affects our refund?

To simply put, the lump sum refund(KUKMIN) will no longer be granted immediately when you go home. Instead, it will be deposited to your Social Security System (SSS) account and you will only get the lump sum at the age of 65.

Apparently, our dear President Aquino is trying to convince President Park to support the passage of this agreement at the bilateral meeting.

And to quote Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr:

“President Aquino said he hoped South Korea will positively consider proposed amendments to the Social Security Agreement so that it may be finally concluded to enable our peoples to fully maximize its benefits,”

President Park did not exactly respond to this request yet but she promised to develop the social security program to benefit the citizens involved in this.

I sincerely hope that this is the last time our government will touch the topic of Social Security Agreement between Philippines and South Korea. We don't simply trust you putting your hands on our hard earned money.... so back off!!!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

List of Korean Language Training Centers in the Philippines



Korean Language is fun and easy to learn… if you are going to learn it the right way.

It can also be difficult and cumbersome especially that sentence structure is different from English.
People want to learn Korean language for different reasons. Some study the language because of the influence of Kpop and Korean Dramas while others have to learn it because it is essential when you seek employment to South Korea.

There are a lot of ways to learn the language and I think one of the most effective way is to learn it with the help of Korean Language Training centers. It may cost you money and time but at least you have expert people willing to help you.

If you want to learn Korean while you are in Philippines, here’s the list of training centers specialize in teaching Korean language.

LUZON AREA

1. Name of Center: Hangul Sarang Korean Language Tutorial and Review Center
Address: Unit 303 CASA Malvar Bldg. General Malvar St. cor. Singalong St. Malate, Manila
Contact Numbers: 09491456324 and 09231481439

2. Name of Center: Korean Language And Culture Training Center
Address: U904 Parc Haus II Suites 21 EDSA, Guadalupe Nuevo Makati City, Philippines
 Contact Numbers: (02)882-1602 and 09154391076

3. Name of Center: CK-LC Korean Language Tutorial
Address: Block 67 lot 19 Grand Riverside Subd. Phase 2-A, Pascam General Trias Cavite
Contact Numbers: 0946-653-6066, 0910633-8742 and 0939-233-7704

4. Name of Center: JLTC
Address: 
Quezon City Branch

Unit 306 TDS buidling 72 Kamias Road Quezon City Unionbak Kamias

LAS PINAS BRANCH

2nd floor Aragon building, 107 national road/ alabang zapote road

MANILA BRANCH

#2150 San ANDRES Extension, Sta. Ana , Manila

PAMPANGA BRANCH

‪#‎San‬ Jose Baranca, MAGALANG , PAMPANGA

Contact Numbers:
Quezon City:0915 946 5431
Las Pinas:0918 540 6400
Manila:0939 544 7807

Pampanga:0939 544 7807

5. Name of Center: FIRST ALLIANCE ACADEMIC INSTITUTE INC. (FAAII)
Address: Unit 318-320 Victoria Bldg. 11th Avenue Gracepark Monumento Caloocan City
Contact Numbers: 0908-2541622/ 0915-1138373

6. Name of Center: SHACAZEL LANGUAGE CENTER, INC.
Address: Balibago, Sta. Rosa Laguna
Contact Number: 0908 818 5234 OR 0908 244 1235
Other Branches:
                      Naic, Cavite
                      Balanga, Bataan
                     Tanuan, Batangas
                     Lemery, Batangas

7. Name of Center Britton International Languages and Tutorial Center
AddressL Rm 409 Hansel arcade bldg Aurora Blvd cubao near gateway at isetann landmark stop light at 7-11

Branch: Mc Arthur Highway, San Vicente, Apalit, Pampanga

call or text at 09437083336 / 09172770697 / 09434063585

8. Hangeul Excellence Language Tutorial Center
Pls visit any HELTC Office
Main Office: 1058 Marbea Subd. Sta Cruz
Magalang Pampanga
Angeles Branch: 109, 1st flr Sonny Lao Bldg. Jake Gonzales blvd. Virgen Delos Remedios Angeles City
MEXICO BRANCH: 2nd flr. Ommeta Bldg. Callye Washington/Javier St. Parian Mexico Pampanga ( near Municipality of Mexico)
Guagua Pampanga Branch:209, 2ND FLR. OLD MAC ARTHUR HIGHWAY 
SAN JUAN NEPOMUCENO BETIS GUAGUA PAMPANGA

VISAYAS AREA

1. Name of Center: Hanguel 101 
Address: A.S Fortuna, Mandaue City, Cebu
Contact Numbers: 0932.423.40.60 and  0949.838.55.64

2, Sebu Hangeugo Language Tutorial Services
Main Branch:
Sangi Rd, Lapu-Lapu City,Cebu
Contact # 09232838601
Bohol Branch:
Rm 203 Norkis Building, CPG Ave. cor Ma.Clara St.
Tagbilaran City Bohol

Contact # 09434079243/09065475751 

MINDANAO AREA

1. Name of Center: ABBY KOREAN LANGUAGE TUTORIAL CENTER
Address: ANGLIONGTO ST. DIHO,BUHANGIN, DAVAO CITY. Diversion Road location namin . 
Contact Numbers: (smart) 0918 651 4822 . (globe) 0917 671 4786. (TnT) 0910 997 9764. 
(globeline) 082 – 324 4326

2. Name of Center: TESDA KORPHIL Training Center
Address: ONB Tibungco Bldg, Asian Highway 26, Bunawan District, Davao City, 8000, Philippines

3. Name of Center: H.S. Son Korean Language Center, Inc.
Address: 3rd Floor N.B. Mercado Bldg. McArthur Highway, Matina Davao City, Philippines

Contact Number: 63 82 297 2477

4. JEM Technological Institute Inc. or JTii
addressL 3rd floor Del Mar Building, Mt. Mayon St. Davao City 
Tel no.: 300-3760 

cp no.: 0936-802-0046 or 0949-671-0360

If you know any Korean Language training center in the Philippines that is not in the list, please feel free to let me know so I can add it up to this list.
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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Keep Calm At The Garden of The Morning Calm (아침고요수목원)

The Garden of the Morning Calm during Autumn
The Garden of the Morning Calm during Autumn
It’s early November in Korea and Autumn Season is at its peak. I am vocal with my love for autumn and it is obviously my favorite season of the year. It is this time of the year when the green surrounding magically turns into what look like a painting of a wonderland. What better way to enjoy the autumn season is to go out and visit the places that could definitely give justice to the beauty of the most colorful and celebrated season of the year.

And where are these places?

Now, this is where dilemma is kicking its way to confuse your subconscious. There are a lot of great places in Korea to visit during autumn. It is up to you to choose and do research on which one is accessible. For this year, I visited the most famous garden in South Korea, The Garden of the Morning Calm.

GETTING THERE.

Last year, I had the privilege to visit Nami Island and Petite France in Gapyeong during Autumn. The Garden of the Morning Calm is just around the corner of the city but I was not able to visit because I don’t have ample time. When a friend invited me to go to the garden, I did not hesitate because I wanted to go there since last year. Gapyeong is almost 2 hours away from Seoul. Seeing that I am coming from the province, it would take me at least a good 3 hours of travel via subway. Just as there are a lot of ways to cook a fish, there are also a lot of options to go to the Garden of the Morning Calm.

If you have your own private vehicle, going there could be very easy and convenient. Just navigate to this address and you will surely find your way there:

432, Sumogwon-ro, Sang-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do 
경기도 가평군 상면 수목원로 432 (상면)

Me and my friends wasted a good 45 minutes to discuss how we should go there. The options are via ITX Train from Yongsan Station to Gapyeong, or by bus, or just the ordinary subway.

ITX from Yongsan station to Gapyeong Station is the fastest. For only 4,500 KRW, you can get to the Gapyeong Station in just 50 minutes. Aside from being the fastest option, you can also get a comfortable seat all throughout the trip. The disadvantage of this is that you may need to book ahead of time for the ticket. There is a schedule for this, so you also need to check the schedule. We did not take this option because we need to wait for about an hour before the next trip, so we decided to take another option.

If by Bus, you need to go to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and take the bus bound for Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal. It would take about 2 hours of travel. And from Cheongpyeong Terminal, you need to take Bus 31-7 that would take you to the Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원).

Since we were already inside the train station that time, we took the third option, and that’s to go there via the regular subway. We took the Gyeonchun Line from Yongsan Station and got off at Cheongpyeong Station. It took us almost 2 hours to travel via the subway.

From Cheongpyeong Station, there are two ways to get to the garden. First is by taking Bus 31-7 at Cheongpyeong Terminal, second is by taking the City Bus Tour. We chose the City Bus Tour because there is not much Bus 31-7 available.

The City Bus Tour costs 6,000 won, you can hop on and off at the bus at different spot for one whole day. If you want to go to other places aside from the Garden of the Morning Calm, you can do so. You can check out my previous post about the ITINERARY TO GAPYEONG DAY TOUR on how you can fully avail the city tour.

FOOD TRIP.

We were so exhausted and hungry seeing that it was lunchtime when we arrived at the garden. We cared less of the view of the mountain and the garden because we looked for something to eat first. Good thing that there are a lot of restaurants available inside and outside of the garden. There are a lot of coffee shops, pension houses and Korean restaurants in the area. If you are planning to go there and spend overnight in the area, you can do so. We went to a chicken restaurant and had our lunch there. Before the entrance to the garden, there are also Korean street foods available. You will surely never go hungry there.

AT THE GARDEN.


entrance to the garden of the morning calm
entrance to the garden of the morning calm

But of course we did not go there just to eat. After we ate, we went to see what’s inside the garden. The entrance fee costs 9,000 won per person during the weekend. There are also special prices for the youths, senior citizen and for kids. If you come in by group, you can also get a discount price. If you go there during weekdays, price is lower by about 1,000 won.

At The Garden of the Morning Calm, every single walkway is a perfect spot for photography. As a photography hobbyist, I did not find it hard to find scenic angles because everything inside the garden was perfectly designed. The grasses were beautifully manicured and the flowers are so attractive you could not resist but to appreciate it.

relaxing spot at the garden
relaxing spot at the garden


I don’t know how the garden looks like in different season but for me, it’s beautiful in the autumn. Just imagine how these 5,000 kinds of plants entertain your eyes with their colorful leaves and blossoming flowers. I was enticed by the beautiful foliage because it makes the garden even more romantic that is why couples find this place perfect to hang out.

Couple enjoying the scenic walkway of the garden of the morning calm
Couple enjoying the scenic walkway of the garden of the morning calm

I like how I felt like I was connected with nature when I was inside the garden. The elements of water, earth and plants are so powerful that it helps you forget about the busy world outside the garden.

the serenity of the garden of the morning calm

Korea is big when it comes to preserving nature but not everyday you get the chance to stop and appreciate it. The garden has different sections you can enjoy. There are sections for trees, for flowers, for forest, for stones and for waters. I forgot how exactly they call it but yeah, all these and more, you can experience at the garden.

one of the interesting displays at the garden of the morning calm
one of the interesting displays at the garden of the morning calm

FOUR SEASONS.

I really appreciate the garden during the autumn, but apparently, the beauty of The Garden of The Morning Calm never fades all through the year. It is not only beautiful during the autumn, it finds a way to stay attractive and awesome in different seasons of the year. When we went there, the Chrysanthemums and fall foliage dominate the public eye because it was autumn.

Chrysanthemums and fall foliage festival at the garden of the morning calm
Chrysanthemums and fall foliage festival at the garden of the morning calm

Imagine how it looks like during spring. During this season, the garden celebrates the Spring Garden Festival where different varieties of flowers bloom. During summer, it’s the Festival of Roses, Hydrangeas and Roses of Sharon and on winter, they have the Lighting Festival where you can see the magnificent form of the garden when embedded with lights of different color and sizes.

And on that note, I am planning to visit the garden again at different season of the year. I think that would be very interesting.


END OF TRIP.

an old tree in the garden of the morning calm
an old tree in the garden of the morning calm

All in all, we enjoyed our visit in the garden. It was one sweet and memorable afternoon because we once again experience the beauty of autumn in Korea. It’s far but it’s worth the visit. We went out of the garden at around 5 in the afternoon because it was getting cold already. We also need to catch the last trip of the city tour bus so we could go back to the train station. There were a lot of people during our visit probably because it was the peak season for autumn, but it was fun. I can’t wait to go back this winter if I have the chance again to witness the Lighting Festival.

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