Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Spirit and Lots of Fun at Lotte World Korea

Lotte World Adventure Korea
Lotte World Adventure Korea
(c) Anny Martinez

If you are looking for a theme park in Korea that offers entertainment as well as adventure, I recommend the Lotte World. I must say it’s an awesome venue to bring your family and friends because this is a perfect spot for sightseeing and to enjoy thrilling rides. Although Korea has a lot of theme parks, Lotte World is one of a kind because aside from the rides, parade and other entertaining activities, you can just go there to enjoy the view because it is located right next to Seokchon Lake, hence making it appear even more magical and interesting. I can’t say it’s the best theme park in Korea, but generally, I like the ambiance of Lotte World. 

The Indoor Adventure of Lotte World Korea
The Indoor Adventure of Lotte World Korea

What I like most about Lotte World is the different kind of parades they exhibit inside the park. Me and my friends were lucky enough to visit this theme park in December, this is of course courtesy of KEB-Hana Bank of Korea who gave us free tickets to enjoy Lotte World. We enjoyed the Christmas parade so much because it reminds us of the most celebrated holiday of the year which is Christmas. In Korea, you can only see and experience Christmas when you go out to major cities and markets and malls. Seldom can you see people decorate their houses with Christmas ornaments. But at Lotte World, we have witnessed how they spread the Christmas spirit to all the people inside the theme park. The Christmas parade was so colorful and entertaining, plus the Christmas music and characters were all jovial enough to make the ambiance festive and jolly inside the biggest indoor theme park in the world. 

Christmas parade at Lotte World Korea
Christmas parade at Lotte World Korea


So why is it considered the world’s biggest indoor theme park?

Well, aside from the fact that it can accommodate different parades in every season like the Christmas Parade in December, it has also a concert stage. Yes, a concert stage inside a theme park. In fact, we went to watch the concert first before doing anything. 

Korean kids performing at the concert stage of Lotte World Korea
Korean kids performing at the concert stage of Lotte World Korea


The Indoor adventure also includes 22 different rides like the World Monorail, Camelot Carousel, French Revolution and a lot more.

Not only that, there’s a connecting passageway to the second floor that will lead you to the Outdoor adventure where you can see the Magic island, an artificial island that is situated in the middle of the Seokchon Lake. Imagine this: A Magic castle in the center surrounded by the beautiful natural lake with different choices of rides all over the place. I don’t know about you, but I found it so overwhelming. 

The magic castle at Lotte World
The magic castle at Lotte World


There are about 17 thrill rides at the Magic Island of Lotte World. We actually tried the Bungee Drop, it’s a smaller version of Gyro drop. We saw how people were thrilled at the high-altitude-free-fall Gyro Drop, so we just decided to try the smaller version of it, at least we were confident we can handle the Bungee Drop. 

One of the many thrill rides at the Outdoor adventure of Lotte World
One of the many thrill rides at the Outdoor adventure of Lotte World
(c) Anny Martinez

Since some of us were not really into thrill rides, we just enjoyed the Christmas ambiance of Lotte World. When it started to dark, the magic castle lit up. Oh no, actually, Christmas lights started to appear everywhere in the Magic Island. It was such a magical night for us indeed.

The magic castle of Lotte World at night
The magic castleof Lotte World at night
(c) Anny Martinez


It’s all good at Lotte World except that we found it difficult to buy food. While there are a lot of food stalls and restaurants inside the park, we found it hard to find a good one because they’re all scattered in the area. It would be pretty easier for people to choose and find something to eat if there’s an area where you can buy food, it’s just my two cents though. But from our experience, we wasted some time to go from one area to another just to find something to eat.


Lotte World Fantasy Gift shop
(c) Anny Martinez

Generally, the combination of the fun rides, the entertaining Christmas parade and the magical view of castles and lake made our visit at Lotte World memorable and fun.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cute Products You Can Buy in South Korea

I love cute!

I don’t care if it’s a person, a thing or an animal, as long as it is cute, I definitely love it. I mean, who does not love it, right?

If you are into this kind of stuff, shopping in Korea is made easy for you because this country has a lot of cute products that you can buy and bring home. Most of these items are available in the street of major markets in South Korea like the Nampodong Market in Busan, Myeongdong in Seoul, Namdaemun and Dongdaemun. When you go to Korea and you set your foot in one of these markets, you will surely see these cute things all over the place. Here are some examples of adorable products that you can buy in South in Korea.

1. Cellphone Cases

The cute cellphone cases in Korea
The cute cellphone cases in Korea

 People here in Korea are into personalizing their mobile phones. From the apps, to the wallpapers, you can almost tell the personality of the person by just looking at their phones. These cute cellphone cases can transform your phone into extra ordinary looking gadget. Cellphone cases are no longer the boring black or white rectangular shaped ones. You can have a cellphone case in the form of your favorite cartoon character. Isn’t that awesome?

2. 3D Greeting Cards

3D greeting cards in Korea
3D greeting cards in Korea

In this digital age, greeting cards are in the verge of ending its era. But some people still choose to still send greeting cards than a text message or an online generated greetings because it is more personalized. Korea has found a way to make greeting cards more interactive and interesting. They call this 3D Greeting Cards! When you open the card, something will form in a 3D to surprise you. I really find this cute.

3. Hats

Hats with design in Korea
Hats with design in Korea

Whether it’s a winter hat or a summer hat, you will never get bored with the design of hats in Korea. It always comes with something attractive and nice to look at.

4. Kids’ Fashion


Korean Kids apparel
Korean Kids apparel

Ever wonder why Koreans are into fashion?
Because they are already fashionable since birth.
 I like how clothing for kids in Korea have own fashion statement. When Korean kids wear these fashionable clothes, they even look more adorable.

5. K-pop items

kpop items for sale in Korea
kpop items for sale in Korea

Pillows, pins, posters, calendars…… name it and you can find any item possible with the face of your favorite kpop star printed on it. I am sure that fanatics of Korean Drama and Korean songs will truly appreciate this. I guess if you are to bring these people something from Korea, you will never find it hard because these cute Kpop items are almost everywhere in South Korea.

6. Socks

Socks with cute designs in Korea
Socks with cute designs in Korea

If there’s one thing I can assure about South Korea, their socks will surely never suck! While you can buy some plain boring black, white and gray socks, these cute and colorful and attractive socks designed with different cartoon characters, combination of colors and weird form of art are almost everywhere in the market of South Korea. This is fun Korean item you can give as a gift to someone. And the quality? Definitely the best! Socks here are cheap but the quality is good. Just make sure you are buying something that is made in Korea.

7. Souvenir items

Souvenir items in Korea
Souvenir items in Korea

The souvenir items perfect to bring home or as a gift to somebody who loves Korea are not just like any other souvenir items in the world. There are key chains, pins and even nail cutters. But what makes these souvenirs different from others is that it is customized to show the culture of Korea. You can see the Korean flag, hanbok, significant landmarks and any other symbols that will tell you that the item has been made and bought in South Korea.

8. Stuff toys

Korean stuff toys
Korean stuff toys

When we talk about cuteness, of course we can’t eliminate stuff toys. But what makes stuff toys in Korea unique is that you can always find a Korean trademark in the items. Whether it’s a character from a Korean cartoon series, a cute teddy bear wearing the Korean traditional clothing, or a famous kpop star, Korea will always find a way to make it appear obvious that a stuff toy is made in Korea.

These are just some of the cute items you can buy in South Korea. If you have time to walk around one of the markets like maybe Myeongdong, you can see these adorable products for sale along the street of the market. If you are thinking of something that you must buy in Korea, in the cuteness level, I will gladly suggest you buy one of the above items I shared and keep as your cute remembrance of this country.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

CFO Conducted Peso Sense Financial Literacy Workshop to Filipino Migrant Workers in South Korea



The CFO or Commission on Filipino Overseas came to South Korea to conduct a free financial literacy workshop to the Filipino workers. This is part of their Financial Education campaign program called PESO SENSE. This Financial education campaign is part of CFO’s “Ugnayan sa South Korea” program which was held last November 27 to December 4 2015. The objectives of this program are encapsulated in three major components which are to ENGAGE which aims to address the challenges faced by the Filipino communities, EMPOWER which aims to provide Financial education to the OFWs in South Korea through PESO SENSE program, and to ENTERPRISE which aims to provide information on business and investments available for us.

Last November 29, 2015, I was able to attend the financial education campaign of their PESO SENSE program at the Philippine embassy in Seoul, this is in connection to their aim to provide EMPOWERMENT through the “Ugnayan sa Korea” event. It was attended by several other Filipino migrant workers here in South Korea. Together, we embarked into a fun and educational workshop.
In the first workshop, we were able to identify our financial status based on the lifestyle, spending, work attitude, luxuries and mindset towards success. Through the workshop, we realized how we are when it comes to financial status and we were grouped according to the result. As a group, we discussed ideas, opinions and other matters relating to our choice of lifestyle and how it affects our financial well being.



After that, we went through several other activities like taking the Financial Fitness Quiz where we assessed our personal financial health based on our lifestyle, insurances and level of literacy. We also formulated our Personal Income and Expense Tracker or PIET where we breakdown all our income and the corresponding expenses. We also went through prioritizing our expenses and we found out that when it comes to expenses, everything is relative. Your priorities are based on your status in life and your mindset too.




I guess my favorite part of the program was the Dream Matrix part. I always love it when we get to write down what we want to achieve in life. We were able to identify our top 10 goals in life, chose the top 4 and let go of the others based on the concept of S.M.A.R.T which means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. We created a dream matrix where we set a timetable to achieve our dreams and how much money we need to get it.





In the end, we realized that your attitude towards spending, saving and budgeting has an effect towards achieving your goals. Let’s face it, our dreams have corresponding cost and you can only achieve it if you have enough discipline when it comes to money. At the end of the program, we settled how much money we should allocate for savings, expenses and how much money we should save every month to achieve our ultimate dreams in life.



Before we closed the program, we made a vow to apply what we learned from the workshop and to constantly remind ourselves of our goals in life. It was such a productive day for everybody who attended the event and we went home feeling inspired. I personally felt like I stepped a notch higher when it comes to financial literacy. To the people behind CFO and this program, thank you for bringing us PESO SENSE, this will surely help OFWs not only in South Korea but around the globe.

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

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.

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. Please note that there is no POEA accredited Korean language training centers in the Philippines because they are usually independent companies.

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

9. KRT INTERNATIONAL TRAINING CENTER INC.Main Office: 2F J& L bldg. Poblacion, Paterno St. Balanga, Bataan..
Contact Number is 0908-594-6111

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 

BOHOL BRANCH
POB SUR, (AT THE BACK OF PUBLIC MARKET)CARMEN,BOHOL
CONTACT US 0943-407-9243, 0906-547-5751

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.

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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Culture of Filipino Christian Communities in Korea and Why You Should Join

Filipino Christian Communities in South Korea
Filipino Christian Communities in South Korea

If there’s one Filipino trait that we could never ever get out of our system, it’s the value of taking responsibility for fellow Filipino especially abroad. We feel like accounted for each others, and though there is no formal instruction that we should take care of each other, it’s our innate nature that has been deeply rooted to our culture to look at each other’s welfare. This is one reason why Filipino communities exist around the world. There is always a reason that binds the Filipinos who are living abroad. It could be the ethnicity like a community of Ilonggos, Bisaya, Batangueno and more. It could also be a passion like a group of travelers, or photographers, or even dancers. Whatever it is, Filipino could always find a reason to form a community.

In the context of Christianity, Filipino believers of Christ have also communities in Korea in the form of a church. People can freely express their faith and belief here in South Korea, that is why joining or attending a church is not a problem. Like any other Filipino communities in Korea, Filipino Christian churches have been the comfort zone of some OFWs in terms of nurturing their spirituality. This is where a believer could feel the sense of belonging.

As a Christian, one of my primary concerns when I came here in Korea was to join a Christian community. It took me almost one year before I was finally invited by a friend to attend the church at Sinwoldong Sungkyul Church Foreign Ministry which is by the way 3 hours away from where I work. Attending a church in Korea with fellow Filipinos are no different from the church I was attending in the Philippines. There’s the usual praise and worship, devotional, and of course listening to pastor’s preaching.

Praise and worship by PRASIA

But unlike in the Philippines, there’s always extended fellowship here. Most churches here offer free lunch to the churchgoers since worship service usually ends up at around lunch time. This is one of the best times to talk to fellow OFWs, listening to their concerns and whatnot. I find this somehow therapeutic because you will get to realize that your hardships are no different from the others. It’s one way of saying “I feel you brother” without saying the exact words. And sometimes, you get to pray for each other since you both understand the situation.

Christians in Korea fellowship though sharing and praying
Christians in Korea fellowship though sharing and praying


I guess if there’s one advantage of joining a Christian community over any other communities in Korea, it’s the assurance of being taken cared of without compromising anything. I mean, when you are in a community, most often than not, you talk problems over bottles of soju and beers. Or you help each other escape reality by partying and drinking all night. I don’t judge communities doing these activities. What I am saying is, Christian community has better approach of dealing difficult situations. It’s the same “pakikisama” but different meaning.

Extended fellowship after dinner

Let’s take for example last Chuseok. A holiday like this is a perfect time to meet up with communities or group of friends to do whatever activities they have in mind. However, churches find this a good opportunity to gather and do spiritual retreat. The church I am attending joined the other group of churches for a 2 days and 1 night Chuseok retreat at Incheon with the theme “Follow Me As I Follow Jesus”. The event was attended by 5 other churches that travelled all the way from Ulsan and as far as Busan. Rev. Jessie Arce of Good Shepherd Baptist Church flew all the way from Delaware, USA to grace the event as the guest speaker. There were a total of 169 attendees, 169 people who chose to nurture their spirituality first rather than going to holiday parties. In the retreat, we learned the true meaning of being Disciple. That it is not just all about modules and lessons and memorizing verses. Discipleship is a lifestyle, it is sacrificial but also rewarding. And learning lessons like this makes attending the event more productive than doing any other activities.

SSCFM attendees topic discussion


 In gatherings like this, you will see how every member of the community reach out to each other and how the fellowship, worship service and singing of praise lifted the spirit of everybody. For me, it’s one good way to temporarily forget the hardships of living abroad and to improve the perspective in life.

Aside from nurturing the spirituality of every member of the church, Christian communities also help improve the social aspect of everyone by going on trips with fellow believers. Activities are not just all inside the church building. As a group, they usually go out of town trips to enjoy, relax and sometimes bond with nature seeing that Korea has a lot of tourist destinations that must be visited.
I can’t guarantee that Christian communities are all perfect. Of course, misunderstanding and arguments also happen and these are just inevitable. But a cup of coffee and a session of prayers can always do miracles to bickering members of Christian community.

Christian community at Everland Korea

So if ever you are in the area and you are looking for a church to join in here in Korea, I have here a list of churches, the missionary in charge and their contact numbers to reach them.

PLACES
CONTACT NUMBER
Missionary
Ansan
010-8671-9492
Ptr. Henry Arce
Busan
010-4048-3640
Ptr. Jug Cepe
Changwon
010-3316-1976
Ptr. Leo Taguan
Incheon
010-2249-1206
Ptr. Nick Cepe Sr.
Gwangju(Seoul)
010-5658-4363
Ptr. Jessie Ignacio
Jinyeong
010-2574-3658
Ptr. Rai Sotang
Kwangju (Prov.)
010-5631-2923
Sis. Sheryl Diaz
Seochang
010-4875-1160
Ptra. Sara Hong
Sinwoldong (Seoul)
010-5898-6275
Ptr. Jerry Yusi
Suncheon
010-8217-0782
Ptr. Tito Seril
Ulsan
010-7474-8015
Ptr. Moises Shin
Yangsan
010-4935-1964
Ptr. Joel Caranay Sr.
Asan
010-6445-7231
Ptr. Nick Cuevas

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Understanding Racism in Korea Through Sunday Academy (일요학원) Exhibit


I have a lot of horror stories when it comes to racism in Korea. As I find it deemed controversial and at the same time complicated, I rather choose not to speak about my experiences as one blog post could not handle it. I guess Korea is not yet ready to become fully diverse when it comes to culture. 

As a foreigner living in Korea, all I can do is to understand their culture. I am not sure where they are coming from that but I guess it's them being so much loyal to their country that they tend to close their doors to make friends with the foreigners, let alone sit beside them in the subway. For me, Koreans are not aware sometimes that they are racists. I mean, it just comes out naturally which is of course a bad thing. Of course this is just me speaking out my mind in a stereotypical mode of thinking. Not all Koreans are racists, this is just one of my prejudices about Korea.

To have a better understanding about racism in Korea, there's an upcoming event in Seoul where foreigners can openly discuss about this topic. This is an educational language exhbition called Sunday Academy 일요학원.

Here is the press release of the event.

Sunday Academy 일요학원

Minyung Im Solo Show
October 18 - 27, 2015
Mon - Sun, 11am - 7pm
Opening Performance : Free Korean language lesson “How to talk to Korean”
October 18, 4pm

Space Aka (스페이스 악어)
258-11, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
02-766-2555

Sponsored by Seoul foundation for arts and culture




Sunday Academy is a language educational exhibition and performance which attempts to reveal the racism directed towards immigrants in South Korea. The exhibition will be in Hyehwa-dong where the Philippine market is held every Sunday in Seoul. There will be lecture performances on “How to talk to South Koreans” on 18th of October, 2015.

One DVD video will be screened. It is an educational video shown to migrants working in South Korea. It claims to show the events of their daily lives. It reveals a situation where racism has been internalized so deeply that it is very difficult to talk about.

As immigration becomes more common, racism becomes better hidden. Usually it can be found within seemingly innocent conversations, which is why the project deals with language education. All migrant workers in South Korea have experienced discrimination from South Koreans but it is not something they are allowed to talk about. Sunday Academy aims to be a pressure-free opportunity for this issue to be openly discussed.

This project is opposed to the violence of making aliens, and asks why we do.

■Minyung Im


How to talk to Korean, 15’ 16’’, DVD, Performance, 2015

‘How to talk to Korean’ is an educational video shown to migrants working in South Korea. It claims to show the events of their daily lives like in the restaurant, company, and hospital. It reveals situations where racism has been internalized so deeply that it is very difficult to talk about.

How to get there:




If you are free on October 18 and you wish to know more about this issue, feel free to RSVP on their Facebook Event Page. CLICK THIS LINK and JOIN.

See you there!!!!