Friday, November 22, 2013

Shopping in the Philippines

Ok, folks, so there's a lot to know about shopping here in the Philippines. There are the back alley DVDs and markets where you can negotiate a price, but this post will talk about shopping at the malls. Which are everywhere. Everything is in a mall. Kind of like California, where everything is in a strip mall. Only here, malls are all indoor because it's so hot all the time.

Some things you should know:

  • Getting your money back for any purchase just isn't going to happen, even with a receipt. For clothes, some places will exchange a garment for the same in a different size, but don't count on it.
  • The process of purchasing something isn't as quick and easy as it is other places around the world, particularly with a credit card. Credit card purchases usually require 2 signatures, sometimes 3. Credit cards are still not accepted at many places in the Philippines, particularly outside of Manila.
  • The cashier will always tell you how much they received, or that they received your card - "I receive 100 pesos, mam" or "I receive American Express, mam." The same way they will announce that they are repeating your order at a restaurant - "Mam, I repeat your order.."
  • If you by some sort of electronic, they will open the box and plug it in right there before they take payment. This is of course to see/show you that it works - since there are no returns.
  • Every store has twice or maybe three times the employees a store would have anywhere else I've visited. For example, I was just at the True Value and there were probably 8 employees just around the batteries/light bulbs area. The batteries are in a locked cabinet, and I had to wait for someone with a key to get me a pack of 4 AAs. It's the same at checkout - there are usually 2 people, one who does the money exchange and the other who bags your purchase. 
  • You'll find some familiar brand names here - Colgate, Tide, Lysol, Pampers, Glade, Kotex and Dove are a few. I did find Meyers brand at True Value, but because it's an import, it was really, really overpriced.
They do have some of their own unique brands, some of which I find pretty amusing. Check it out!

Toilet paper, known here as tissue.

Also tissue. Of course!

Yep, it's magically whitening. Sure it is.

Feminine napkins. If my eyes rolled any harder they would fly out of my head.

Remember: if you ask for a napkin at the dinner table, you may get one of these!

This makes me giggle.

BAHAHAHAHA, because nothing says luxury like "Merica"
If you're reading this and planning a trip - please feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda, Christmas time in Manila and other observations

Hello out there! It's been a couple of weeks since my arrival here in Manila, so this post is well overdue.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Typhoon Yolanda hit the central part of the Philippines really, really hard. Here in Manila, it was very windy the night it hit, but no damage was done as Manila is about 400 miles north of where the typhoon was centered. Here is a little map to give you an idea:

As soon as the extent of the devastation was known (seeing the photos and videos of this has been very emotional), the team at Concur wanted to help, as did I. I was moved by how much my Filipino friends donated, knowing that they all struggle to make ends meet. I went with them to shop for goods and contributed a good amount myself. With the help of a fellow Concurian in the states and another ex-pat's wife who knows someone with an airplane, we donated around 20,000PHP (around 450USD) worth of water, food, hygiene and survival goods that went straight to where it was needed. It felt really good to know that it didn't have to go through any government red tape to get there without delay. It is amazing just how far 450USD will go here. These photos show just how much:

The first load. The second one was 2 carts full!

Repacking the goods
If you would like to help, just a quick Google search will list the many options available! 

...A moment of silence for those who perished...

Onto a happier topic! It's Christmas time here in the Philippines! Actually, the Christmas season here starts in September. They say all of the "-ber" months equals the holiday season. One of my favorite things about the season is the decorations, which are abundant here in Makati. For some reason, most of the lights are orange. Definitely different than the clear lights you see in the US.

One of the many Christmas trees at the mall. So pretty!
The reindeer heads move. And you can get a picture with a Santa statue! Side note: most Filipinos here have never seen snow in real life. Or reindeers. (You know they aren't white, right guys? ;-)
I'm very much looking forward to the Concur Manila Christmas party this year. Since I normally work at home, it will be fun to attend a company gathering - and it's always more fun in the Philippines!

Other notable observations, not related to anything else:
  • The hallways of condo/apartments stink. Not much different than the US?
  • The stairwell doors are all locked in my building. You can only go down. I should have remembered that. My poor legs.
  • Cigarette prices have gone up to 70PHP (1.60USD)
Here is a panoramic view from my apartment:
Quezon City is to the North, on the right side of this shot.
Speaking of views....
The end! (hahahaha!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm going back!


I won't be there nearly as long as last time, just 6 weeks. I hear the team is already planning an outing! I can't wait to see everyone!!!!!

I will be updating the blog again with more adventures and insight.

See you at the end of October, Manila friends :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back in the USA!

Hi everyone!

Well... after a long, uneventful air trip, I'm back in the US.  Driving is so liberating.  I am working on my blog while listening to Vikings football.  Last night I had a very American meal cooked on the grill.  It feels great to be back - and will feel even better when I'm reunited with my family and my favorite four legged friends soon.

Overall, my experience living as an ex-pat in Manila was good.  I made lots of awesome new friends, saw a lot of really beautiful places, and was successful with regards to the work I was sent there to do. 

So let me just say:

I DID IT!!  I made it!  And it was good.

Thank you to everyone who supported me.  I will never forget the kindness shown to me by Filipinos, fellow ex-pats, Concurians, and my friends and family.
Memories xoxo

That being said, I still have a few experiences I want to blog about.  Not necessarily in chronological order though...

My team put together a fun farewell party for me that included swimming, games, food, singing, and of course plenty of alcohol.  Here are some pics from that!
Some of my party people! Taken in front of Alphaland, where the Concur office is located.
Mel, Precy, me, RC, Dice, Meneth and Pam
Dion and Mikel joined the party too!  So did Dice and some guys from IT.  Yay!
Dancing the night away!    
RC, me and Dice.  Fierce.
The day before I left, my team and I had breakfast together.  I should mention that gifts started coming my way - it is a custom for Filipinos to give departing gifts.  Everyone was so thoughtful, and now I have plenty of items to remind me of my time in the PI.

Charm, Wella, Joanna, me, Precy, RC, Pam, Mike and Mel in front of my daily lunch spot
I hope to see everyone in the Philippines again - I would love to go back for a visit and I would recommend the PI to anyone looking for a tropical paradise vacation.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bohol, Philippines!

That's Brandon behind me

Hello faithful followers!  Sorry it's been a while, but life here hasn't been all that exciting lately.  However, my travel cronies and I took a trip, and I am compelled to share the adventure with you!  It was me, Darina, Mikel and Brandon - who recently arrived here from Minnesota.
This time we flew to an island south of Luzon, called Bohol.  It's a very green island and looked gorgeous and untouched when we flew in.  It rained most of our first day there.

We had a reservation at the Bohol Beach Club where we could also get different tours of the island.  The rate included breakfast each morning, which was nice. I wasn't a fan of the food , but everything else was pretty awesome.  There is a bar, a restaurant, a dive shop, tour options, a little store, a few pools... everything you need!

The first night, we checked out the bar and restaurant scene.  There was a live band so we listened to that for a while.  After that we explored the area - the Beach Club is huge, and there are other adjoining resorts when you walk the beach so we stumbled around the island until pretty late.  That was not well thought out, because we scheduled a day-long tour for early the next morning... Haha! Here are a couple of shots of us having fun, and of the resort areas.
Beach. Cloudy..
pool area

This is really a real place!  Stunning
Walkway to our rooms

Brandon listens to tunes...
Darina and I laugh about something :)

The next morning was sunny and we had a tour that included seeing tarsiers, a place called Chocolate Hills, and a river cruise with lunch.  Our tour guide was very informative and pleasant.  She told us that tarsiers can be prone to suicidal tendencies when stressed out.  You used to be able to handle the tarsiers, but they stopped allowing it.  Tarsiers are not social animals like their other primate relatives.  Also, they do not have peripheral vision.

Next up is the Chocolate Hills.  The Chocolate Hills form a rolling terrain of haycock hills – mounds of a generally conical and almost symmetrical shape.  They're so cool, and there are so many!  We had to climb a flight of 214 stairs to get to the viewpoint.  It is breath taking.

 Does anyone else think of the song "My Humps" looking at these?  Maybe it's just me.......
After we went back down the 214 stairs, we were whisked away to the Loboc River, where we were serenaded with music and fed a buffet lunch.  The river is brown, but the surroundings are lush and very green.  When I closed my eyes, I  felt like I was back home in WI on my parent's boat.  Only it was humid, and the music is different...

 An added treat during the cruise was a stop at a dock where we were entertained by a group of children and adults who put on a song and dance to thank us for visiting the river.  I'm told that your Filipino childhood is not complete if you didn't learn the Tinikling dance- a traditional Filipino dance where they do fancy footwork over bamboo sticks.  I love it!  Check it out:
The last stop was the Blood Compact Monument.  The Sandugo was a blood compact, performed in the island of Bohol in the Philippines, between the Spanish explorer Miguel L√≥pez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol on March 16, 1565, to seal their friendship as part of the tribal tradition. This is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos.  
 That evening was quiet, and our dinner also included being serenaded with music.  They sang a few songs to us in Spanish.  I quite enjoyed it!
 The next day, we got up early again to go island hopping - boating and snorkeling, some of my favorite activities!  The snorkeling here was really cool - but we all got stung by little jellyfishes.  No big deal.  The water and the islands are so PRETTY.  I just can't believe how beautiful this place is, and that I saw it in person.  I'm so grateful. 
Our boat.  Much larger than we've had before!
Couldn't help myself... :)

Brandon jumps off
Mikel dives off

Second stop
This guy was selling seafood
Bohol was fantastic, I really enjoyed the activities, sights and accommodations.  For those of you interested in how something like this costs, it was about $325 per person for the flight and hotel for two nights.  The hotel rate included breakfast for all four of us for the two mornings we were there, and also one lunch.  It also included transfers to and from the airport.
The island tour was around $50 per person and included lunch.  I don't recall what we paid for the island hopping, but I'm thinking it was somewhere around $25 per person.  Food and beverage is extra, but still very cheap.  Once you're here in the Philippines, these island getaways are quite inexpensive! 

It's more fun in the Philippines!