Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Rise of Gwanghuimun Gate in Seoul

A long long time ago, Seoul, the capital of South Korea, was surrounded by 8 gates. If you want to enter Seoul, you must pass through one of the eight gates. There are four big gates and four small gates and one of the small gates is the Gwanghuimun Gate which is located at the south of the fortress wall.

However, during the Japanese invasion, this gate has been destroyed. It was neglected because of the damage caused by war. In the year 1975, the restoration of this historical gate has begun. After 39 year of being protected by barbed wires and hibernation, Korea offer to the world the rise of the Gwanghuimun Gate. It is now proudly standing in the heart of Seoul open for anybody who is interested to reminisce and feel the earlier era of South Korea.

The Gwanghuimun Gate of Seoul

The Gwanghuimun Gate (광희문) was originally called SUGUMUN or "Water Channel Gate" in English. Later on, the name was changed into NAMSOMUN or "Small South Gate" in English and this is considered to be a "Corpse Gate" because this is where funeral processions passed through.

Nothing's really interesting about the place except for the sentimental association for the Korean war. It has become a mute witness of the history of Korea.

Entrance to the Gwanghuimun Gate

I tried to view the place as if I traveled back in time during its glorious era. I imagined how the Fortress wall stood strong to protect the City.

Inside the Gwanghuimun Gate

I was amazed with how they constructed the fortress wall because despite the fact that this gate has been destroyed during the war, the blocks of the wall remained in tact. If you will look closer, you can see some damages and burned parts, but still, for a wall that has been preserved for how many decades, I admire its strength and its capacity to withstand the test of time.

The Fortress Wall of Gwanghuimun Gate

Korea has been seriously working on the restoration of this gate. There's an area where tourists can just walk around the area, sit around and relax at the ambiance of this historical spot.

Around the Gwanghuimun Gate

Although some parts of the gate have been obviously rebuilt anew,at least you can still see the traditional Korean style of architecture.

Traditional Korean Architecture in Gwanghuimun Gate
The newly rebuilt Gwanghuimun gate may not be a strong head turner for some but it conveys a message of survival and strength.

Gwanghuimun Gate can be easily accessed by taking Subway Line Number 2 or 4 to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. Take Exit Number 3 and you can see it one block away from the exit. The gate is open for visit 24 hours a day, 7 times a week and 365 days per year.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

8 Must Try Korean Street Food in Myeong-dong (명동)

Myeong-dong (명동) is one of the best places in Seoul for shopping. There are a lot of shopping places in South Korea but what makes Myeong-dong stands out among any others is that you can find big brand name shops and high end department stores in this place. Brands like Nature Republic, Forever 21, and other shops with premium labels are all present, you can even find Starbucks in Myeong-dong. I must say this is a place for shoppers who are into designers items. 

But for those who don't care about branded items like me, there is still a reason why Myeong-dong is a must visit place in Seoul. Aside from the famous restaurants and shops and department stores, Myeong-dong is also a haven for Korean Street Food. In fact, the place is one of Korean tourism's pride because tourists go to this place as part of their itinerary. They either go there to shop or just walk around and eat Korean Street Food which I often do. If you happen to visit Myeong-dong, here are the 8 Korean Street Food that I recommend for you to try

1. The Dried Squid

The first time I saw this dried squid, I was surprised. I think one of the most unique Korean street food I ever encountered. The squid or octopus is grilled over a very hot temperature, then they will shred it and serve. There are also a lot of varieties of squid and octopus so that customers can choose.

Price range: From 2,000 KRW to 3,000 KRW

2. The Tteokbokki

This particular street food of Korea is very famous especially during winter. This has been a staple of street food in Korea. Don't be deceived with the hot red color because it's not really that spicy.

Price Range: 2,000 KRW to 4,000 KRW per serving

3. The Korean French Fry Hot Dog

A tornado fries rolled over hotdog. I could feast on this for one whole day without eating rice. Watch out for carbs though.

Price range: 3,000 KRW to 4,000 KRW per stick

4. The Dragon Bread

I am really in love with breads, any kind of bread would do as long as it smells good like this dragon bread. Although this is not really a traditional Korean street food per se, I would still want you to try this out. Nothing's really special about this bread except that it is being stuffed with pumpkins or bulgogi.

Price Range: 2,000 KRW to 3,000 KRW per piece

5. The Bboki

If not for the entertaining factor on how this food is made, I wouldn't mind sharing about this. In other countries, this is called honeycomb. Basically, it's a candy with baking soda. It is very crispy.

Price: 1,000 KRW per piece

6. The Hot Dogs

Sort of a western influence to South Korea, I am not sure though. This is not simply a hot dog because they stuffed a lot of things in this bite size hot dogs. I am sure you will gonna love this.

Price: 3,000 KRW per stick

7. The Red Bean Fish Toast

No, it's not a fish. It is not even made of fish. The shape is just like a fish but this is just made of two pieces of of toast filled with sweet red bean paste.

Price: 1,000 KRW

8. The Cotton Candy

Not really a Korean traditional street food, but for sweet tooth out there, this one is for you. This colorful cotton candy is not only enticing in the eyes but also tastes good. It tastes like candy! Yeah, candy!

Price Range: 2,000 KRW to 3,000 KRW

So there you go foodies, I hope you enjoyed what I shared to you today. If you are looking for some great food adventure, try the Korean Street Food at Myeong-dong. You can eat a lot at a very reasonable price.

Happy Eating!!!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

3 Reasons Why We Should Say No To NPS-SSS Agreement

Under the Principle of Reciprocity, all OFWs in South Korea can immediately get the Lump Sum refund after the sojourn period. The Lump Sum is based on the total amount of monthly contribution to the respective National Pension Service (NPS). It is so far one of the most anticipated benefits by OFWs here in South Korea. That means the longer you stay here and contribute to your NPS, the more refund you will get when you go home.

Isn't it awesome?

BUT wait!!!! This Lump Sum Refund will be about to demolish if the Social Security Agreement (SSA) will push through.

How will this SSA affects our refund?

To simply put, the lump sum refund 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.


Just to clarify the issue, this agreement has been proposed by the Government of Korea. This did not come from Government of the Philippines.

Can we stop this agreement?

If we can raise our voice, it is possible to stop this. In fact, we should stop this. So before the Government of the Philippines sign this Bilateral Social Security Agreement, here are my 3 personal reasons why we should all say NO to this!

1. We don't trust our Government.

If we are going to trace back the political history of the Philippines, corruption played a vital role why despite of the rich natural resources and skilled citizens, the country remains poor. If they were able to do that in the past, they can possibly do this today and in the future and we are afraid that our money will be the subject of their greediness. We don't want to put our hard earned money at risk. We have hope for our Government, but we just couldn't entrust our money. Sorry. :(

2. Inflation rate! Anyone?

The value of our money will never be the same 20 to 30 years from now. If you will see the inflation rate of the Philippines, it is not getting any better. Supposing we can get our money when we reach 65 years old, the buying power maybe much lesser than today. If we can get our money now, we can do something about it to t least prepare for the inflation rate in the future.

3. We need the money now more than ever.

This may sounds desperate but it's true. If we go home, we need to start a new life. The money can help us start a new business or use it to further develop our skills for better job and opportunities. We can't start a business at 65. I mean, we can, but we can't do it as effective when we are much younger than this. Whether we are 30 years old or 65 years old, we need money and we prefer to have it at early age.

So what can we do to stop this?

Participate in the survey!

The survey will be our voice to say that we are against this agreement. Check on the FEWANIANS Facebook Group for more updates regarding this survey. Your voice is important! We should stop NPS-SSS agreement.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2 Days and 1 Night Seollal Winter Retreat at Jisan Forest Ski Resort

The Seollal(설날) or Lunar New Year is one of the most anticipated holidays here in Korea. We usually call it Chinese New Year as it marks the beginning of the New Year based on Chinese calendar which predates the Gregorian calendar. The celebration of Lunar New Year is usually three days long commencing from the day before and ends the day after. For the year 2014, Lunar New Year falls on January 31, 2014 and we at Sinwoldong Sungkyul Church Foreign Ministry took the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy God’s wondrous creation at Jisan Forest Ski Resort.

We left Seoul at around 11 AM on January 31, 2014. Since it’s a Lunar New Year holiday, the families all over Korea usually gather at the house of their oldest male relative to offer worship to their ancestors and elders. The traffic was a little bit heavy but not really stressful. Jisan Forest Ski Resort is located at Icheon-si, Gyeongi-do, South Korea, if not for the traffic and other circumstances; you can travel from Seoul to Jisan in 40 minutes.

Our accommodation is in a location very convenient for skiing at Jisan Forest Resort. We can even see the view of the snow filled slopes enfolded by beautiful pine forest from the balcony of our temporary home. The accommodation daily rates range from as low as 150, 000 won to 600, 000 won depending on the size of the rooms and the quality. Generally, the rooms are clean but designed to appear minimalist.

As soon as we arrived, we relaxed a little bit while others prepared our food for our late lunch. It was a wonderful experience for all of us eating lunch with fellow brethren with laughter, fun and singing.

After our sumptuous lunch, some of us (especially the kids like me.. :) ), had decided to start the fun at the ski resort. We geared ourselves up with thick jackets, skiing gloves, goggles and all sort of cold prevention essentials because we are about to freeze for fun.

We rented the skiing and snowboarding equipment at Terraceski Rental shop which is just few meters away from our accommodation.

And look who’s the most excited to ski, the youngest member of the congregation we call Aling Maliit.

Lo and Behold! I think this is one of the most amazing creations of God. A sloppy mountain filled with snow. Our coolest Pastor ever is enjoying riding a sled with Aling Maliit.

So how was it to experience skiing for the first time? It was FUN, painful but FUN! If I am not mistaken, I stumbled 7 times before I finally learned to balance. But it was generally a happy experience for all of us.

We skied up to the early night time, just in time for our dinner. And then we celebrated more with Filipino street food. Yes, we brought these all the way from Philippines. We had Adidas, barbecue, Fishballs, and squid balls and our street food experience was followed by another noisy and fun dinner.

But wait, the day has not ended yet. We had already accomplished a lot of things from our first day of vacation but we are about to do the most important activity of the day just yet, our Devotional and Fellowship time. With the theme “In God Alone We Can Find Enjoyment”, we have feasted upon God’s word, we prayed and we sang praises and worship to the source of our happiness. Nothing can equate to the fun and enjoyment we got from offering sweet aroma of worship to our God.

We had parlor games that night too. We competed not only for the prize, but for honor, dignity and pride! Oh well, our group didn't win but we had acquired pure joy and fun from the games.

We slept already late that night but all things that had happened that day will always be part of our precious memories about South Korea.

The next day, we woke up a little bit late and we faced the new day with fun and laughter. After we identified who snored a lot, who sleep talked and who moved a lot, we had our breakfast to strengthen us for another round of skiing. Yes, we had so much fun the other day that we decided to do it again.
So we’re back at the Jisan Ski Forest Resort for more fun. Although the sky was cloudy and it will about to rain, that didn't stop us from our playtime. We skied more, we stumbled even more and we hit more people. The slope was too crowded in the morning, so it was a little bit uneasy to move around especially for the beginners like me.

We almost forgot we have to go home that day, we skied up to the last minute of our stay and prepared to leave Jisan to go back to Seoul. We traveled back to Seoul on that rainy Saturday afternoon.

Although we’re all tired, we enjoyed our winter retreat not only because of the ski, of the accommodation, of the food, but also because we are all spiritually refreshed. Albeit the world has all it got to make us happy through God’s creation, we acknowledge that the source of enjoyment is no other than the Creator of the world. What better way to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of HIS creation than to gather with fellow believers in fellowship and worship our God in spirit and in truth. It was a blessed 2 days and 1 night activity for all of us. Indeed, "In God Alone We Can Find Enjoyment".