Thursday, January 5, 2017

Text and Photos By: Beng Fontiveros, Escape Manila Correspondent

2016 passed by so fast, and 2017 is like that gooey choco lava cake finally served at your table – it’s screaming right at you to eat it.  The promise of a new year brings a sense of wanting to either kick start it with friends or go on a personal retreat. A stone’s throw away from Manila where you do just that is San Rafael River Adventure (SRRA) in San Rafael, Bulacan. Roughly 2 hours away, depending on traffic of course, you can find a place of respite for your expectant heart.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 has been a good year for Escape Manila. I have accomplished a lot in terms of ticking off the bucket list. It started really good and it ended well. There were hiccups along the way but overall it's a year to celebrate and remember. Here's my 16 best travel moments in 2016.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Aside from traveling, cooking is also one of my passion. This holiday season I am sharing one of my pasta recipes. Enjoy the Christmas family get-together with this creamy and cheesy pasta in white sauce.

Jolly Meaty Seafood Carbonara à la EscapeManila Recipe


1 kilo of pasta spaghetti (Cooked as per packaging instructions)
1 pack of cream cheese
1 can of all purpose cream
1 can of full cream evaporated milk
1 can of Jolly whole mushrooms (sliced into thin pieces)
1 can of Jolly cream of mushroom
200 grams of honey cured bacon (sliced into bits and pieces)
200 grams of smoked ham (sliced into bits and pieces)
1 piece of onion (Chopped)
1 kilo of shrimps (Peeled and Deveined)
1 kilo of mussels (Cooked)
1 kilo of squid (Sliced into rings)
Generous amount of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese

Cooking Procedure:

1. Cook the bacon low and slow until it becomes red and crispy.
2. Remove the bacon from the pan.
3. Sauté the onion in the pan with bacon drippings then add butter.
4. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer until it caramelized a bit.
5. Add the squid, mussels, smoked ham and shrimps.
6. Add the cream cheese and mix properly.
7. Add the cream of mushroom and mix continuously.
8. Add the all purpose cream, evaporated milk and parsley.
9. Add salt and pepper according to your taste then simmer for about 2 minutes.
10. Add the sauce in the cooked pasta and drizzle with generous amount of parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Applying for a Japan Tourist Visa is not as tedious as you might have thought. The process is easy as getting a Philippine passport, you just have to religiously follow what is in the guideline and in less than a week or so you will have your Japan Tourist visa and you're good to go.

Discovery Tour, Inc. is the only accredited agency in Davao who can process a Japan Visa. You may call or email them for further questions. Contact information is listed at the bottom of this post.

Japan Tourist Visa Requirement:

1. Passport 
  • validity of more than 6 mos. at the time of departure from Japan 
  • has at least 2 blank pages left 
  • with signature
2. Application Form 
3. Photo 
  • 4.5cm x 4.5cm or 2in x 2in with white background
  • Make sure you follow the right size to avoid delays in your application.
4. PSA Birth Certificate
  • If non-record in the PSA: Provide PSA Certificate of Non-Record with Birth Certificate from the Local Civil Registrar
  • In non-record in the PSA and LCR: Provide Certificate of Non-Record from the PSA and the LCR
  • If not clear/unreadable: Provide Birth Certificate from the LCR
  • If it has late registration label: Provide original Baptismal Certificate and certified true copy of Form 137 from Grade School or High School. Indicate the address and contact number of the church and school.
5. PSA Marriage Certificate (if married) 
  • If not clear/unreadable: Provide Marriage Certificate from the LCR
6. Guarantee Letter (if there’s any) 
  • Can be downloaded from the Japan Embassy website -must be printed on A4-sized bond paper
  • Download the Guarantee Letter in English here.
7. Bank Balance Certificate (original)
  • You can get this from your bank for a fee. Some banks release it in hours, some may take a day or two.
8. Philippine Income Tax Return (copy) 
  • Must be printed on A4-sized bond paper
  • If you are a freelancer and do not have an ITR, you may write a letter of explanation address to the Visa Releasing Officer like what I did. Sample below.
9. Itinerary 
  • Can be downloaded from the Japan Embassy website -must be printed on A4-sized bond paper. You may download it from here: Schedule of Stay Format
Additional Notes:
  • Additional Documents must be printed on A4-sized bond paper.
  • PSA and LCR documents are original and valid for 1 year.
  • For applicants who have been to Japan, include original old passport with used Japan visa. 
  • Handling fee is P1,500/applicant. Additional postage fee of P300.00 for non-Davao applicants. 
  • Office hours are Monday to Friday (9:00 am to 11:30 am; 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm) ; Saturday (9:00 am to 11:30 am).
The Visa Application Process
Once you have all the requirements, you may proceed to Discovery Tour to start processing your visa. You will have to pay the visa handling fee before they check your papers. Upon paying the associated fees, a staff from the agency will thoroughly check your requirements, if everything is good, you will be given a slip and he/she will advise you to wait for a call once the passport is returned from the embassy. A staff would normally say 15 days processing time but in actual it only takes a week or less. Visa approved? Time to go to Japan!

Discovery Tour, Inc. (DAVAO) 
Door 109 G/F Court View Inn Bldg. 
Quimpo Blvd. Cor. Sandawa Road, 
Davao City (Beside Ice Giants) 
284-4114 (Landline Sim)/285-7188 (Landline) 
0915-326-0111 (Globe) 0920-210-4677 (Smart) 0923-423-2207 (Sun)

Sample Explanation Letter

Visa Processing Officer 
The Japanese Embassy Manila, Philippines 


Dear Sir/Ma’am: 

I am a Travel Blogger from Davao City, Philippines and I would like to explore more of Japan since I was only there for two days the last time I visited. One of the requirements is to produce an Income Tax Return, unfortunately, I do not have it as I work as a freelancer and just registered as a tax payer earlier this year. In lieu of this requirement, I am submitting a copy of my Bureau of Internal Revenue registration. I work as a freelance contractor with Upwork and I have listed my details below so you may be able to check my profile. I have also attached a copy of my Certificate of Earnings issued by Upwork. 

I hope you will consider this document to grant my Visa Application. 

Sincerely yours, 
Name of Applicant

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's my second time to use Flytpack Travel Wifi and again it did not disappoint me. To be honest, I was initially concerned about the 500MB fair usage policy in Hong Kong but luckily I did not have any connectivity issues after reaching the cap.

Flytpack became my new and favorite travel buddy when going on a holiday abroad. It allows me to connect to the internet easily. No more reason to get lost anywhere I go. With Flytpack, I no longer need to a buy local sim card or use my international data roaming. For only P220 a day, exploring Hong Kong became more fun and uncomplicated.

Flytpack in Hong Kong
Fkytpack is about sharing internet connection with friends and travel buddies. It can connect up to 5-8 devices at once. Yes, that's one of the good things about renting a Flytpack Travel Wifi. When I was in Hong Kong, I traveled with my friend Albert and I shared my Flytpack Travel Wifi with him. He was really satisfied with the speed and reliability. He loves (is addicted to) Pokemon Go so with Flytpacks' fast and dependable internet, he was able to Pokehunt with ease in Hong Kong.

PokeHunters in Hong Kong

Aside from online games, Flytpack also allowed us to explore the big city in a breeze. With access to Google maps, TripAdvisor and Foursquare, looking for a place to visit and explore was really straightforward. Flytpack helps travelers, indeed!

So, why choose flytpack?

Flytpack is Easy to Use
There's no need to configure the device, all you need to do is to turn it on. It's also easy to carry around. You can put it in your backpack, sling bag or even in your pocket like what I did. The battery lasts long and it's easy to recharge if you need to. Actually, you can re-charge it with your powerbank.

Flytpack is Inexpensive
For only P220 per day, you get to stay in touch with your friends and family at home, play online games and update your social media accounts anytime and anywhere in Hong Kong. Check out rates for other countries: Flytpack Rental Rates.

Flytpack is Reliable
With Flytpack, you no longer need to chase for  internet connection at train stations, malls, coffee shops, and restaurants. You get connected everywhere. You can do google maps anytime when you're lost or use google translate when you need to. It's a fast and reliable internet service at very affordable rates!

So, what are you waiting for? Stay connected to the internet while in Hong Kong or in Japan, United States, Europe, Canada, and Russia. Rent your FLYTPACK Travel WiFi now!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas is in the air at Universal Studios Japan. I got a chance to visit USJ this Christmas season and it was such an amazing experience. I had so much fun trying their Christmas offerings. USJ has prepared a number of shows, programs, and surprises especially available for its guests this festive holiday.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

USJ Holiday Tree
This year marks the last appearance of the famous and Guinness world record holder Christmas Tree of USJ. The tree has been awarded by Guinness World Records™ as having the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree (as of December 17, 2015, number of lights: 534,280). It is so fascinitating especially during night time when all its lights are fully illuminated. It's definitely something to look forward when you pay a visit to USJ this Chrismas season.

Santa's Magical Surprise
Santa's Magical Surprise is one of the shows that kids and kids at heart can enjoy in USJ. The show offers a lot of surprises that audience will surely cherish. It features different cartoon characters, dances, and musical plays.

Christmas Re-BOOOORN Parade
Christmas Re-BOOOORN is a parade of extravagant and colorful costumes where visitors can party in with world renowned cartoon characters.

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman Ride
After the Christmas Re-BOOOORN Parade we tried The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman Ride, the world's best attraction and the first to win the world's best ride award for seven consecutive years. It's one of the must-rides when you visit USJ. It's a 4K3D ride so you will definitely have fun!

The Flying Dinosaur
Another ride we tried was the Flying Dinosaur. At any circumstances, I would have passed but I was already there so I did it. It was my first Roller Coaster experience and it was a helluva ride. I initially think I'm not gonna do it again but if I get another opportunity, I might actually. Hahaha!

The Gift of Angels III - The Voice of Angel
The Voice of Angel is an impressively beautiful show that will surely take your breath away. It's a grand farewell to the last appearance of USJ's legendary tree.

Dinner at Finnegan's Bar & Grill
At dinner, we tried Finnegan's Christmas Roast Beef Set. It includes a soup, a perfectly cooked steak with veggies on the side and a dessert. Finnegan's Bar & Grill is located in the New York area of Universal Studios Japan.

Food and Souvenir
During our trip to Universal Studios Japan, we managed to try different food items. We've tried Santa Minion buns, Minions pop corn, sweet potato churros and a lot more. We also did window shopping so we checked several interesting souvenir items from stores inside USJ.

The Universal Wonder Christmas event is until 9 January 2017. For more information, check out their event page.

How to go to Universal Studios Japan from the Philippines?

Cebu Pacific, the largest airline in the Philippines, flies between Manila and Osaka five times weekly, with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book its trademark lowest fares now through or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Philippines is one of those underrated travel destinations in South East Asia, but it is actually a gold mine of breathtaking beaches. With 7,107 islands, you’ll never run out of beaches. Here are our top 15 choices of Philippine Beaches you can spend your Christmas holiday.