Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Tactics to Stay Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines

When traveling to the Philippines, be ready to face its notorious traffic
 and its unpredictable weather condition.
Traveling - whether in the Philippines or in other countries - takes a toll on your health. With all the walking, running, hopping from one ride to the next, booking and taking flights, haggling for better prices, changing hotels or hunting for new accommodations, coupled with various activities from morning til night -  traveling definitely requires a healthy body and staying that way.

If you are one of the million tourists and foreigners who have made the best decision to travel to the Philippines, it is necessary for you to stay healthy to enjoy your stay. Getting sick while in the midst of your travel in the Philippines is heartbreaking. It can mean losing the rare opportunity to enjoy the beaches of Boracay, the beauty of Davao, the mystic island of Camiguin and other tourist attractions.

While the Philippines is a very beautiful country its wet and dry season distresses not only foreigners but locals as well. The country’s weather, affected by climate change, is notoriously a health hazard while traveling. It is now considered the new “normal” to experience a very sunny morning and and a heavy downpour in the afternoon.  With this kind of unpredictable weather condition it is very difficult to stay healthy while on the road.  Common diseases such as colds and flu are prevalent in this kind of erratic weather in the Philippines. Thus, it is very important for travelers, foreigners and first time visitors to get acquainted with the weather and learn about safety precautions to avoid these common diseases and stay healthy while traveling.

Drink in bottled water - As much as possible, drink in bottled water while traveling in the Philippines. While in most cases, potable drinking water is available in restaurants, cafes and and other food establishments, it is best to politely ask if the water is purified. There are cases where water is served from the tap that can usually cause stomach discomfort, illness or other water borne diseases.

While traveling, it is necessary to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Even during the rainy season (from the months of June to October) the weather in the Philippines is still hot and humid. Just walking for a few miles can mean a lot of sweat and some foreigners may find it very inconvenient. However, consider it as part of the experience.

In far flung provinces, do not not forget to bring bottled water.  In cases where there are no bottled or purified water, it is best to boil your water before drinking.

Eat in clean restaurants -  the Philippines is a mecca for foodies and travelers who want to savor the best food or just simply taste something new. In the Philippines, travelers are treated to a wide array of street foods from grilled blood, duck embryo, fish balls, to chicken feet. It is tasty, cheap and a really a must try.  However, caution must be taken when gorging on these street foods.  Be observant of your surroundings and make sure that the area is clean including what you eat.

Bring mosquito repellants – when traveling in the Philippines, it is a good idea to bring and use mosquito repellants. Mosquitoes are common in the Philippines and we know that these insects are notorious in bringing several dreaded diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever. If in case you forget to bring a mosquito repellant try to cover your skin with clothing and protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Avoid contact with stray cats and dogs -  As we travel around the Philippines, we often see a lot of stray cats and dogs. Most of these animals have not been vaccinated and are freely going around the streets, resorts, restaurants and other establishments.  While some of these dogs and cats are cute, cuddly and remind you of your pet at home, it is not a good idea to touch or get near them as these animals may suddenly bite and scratch that may cause rabies.

Get vaccinated before traveling to the Philippines – Given the various diseases that can be potentially acquired while traveling, I suggest that you get completely vaccinated before traveling to the Philippines.

Do not forget to bring your medicines – there are certain medicines that are not easy to find in the Philippines even if you check out the big drugstores. If there are certain medications that you need while traveling  in the Philippines do not forget to bring a substantial amount including your doctor’s prescription.

Get as much sleep and rest as you can – in traveling with so much to see and do there is a tendency for sleep and rest to escape us. If you travel around the Philippines for just several days or even a month, is not enough to fully enjoy what this country can offer. As a result, travelers often lose sleep enjoying the nightlife and then waking up very early in the morning to get to other other tourist destinations.

Wherever you may be, always remember that you need to get at least 7 to 8 hours of  sleep. Lack or inadequate sleep not only affects the way you play chess but also prevents you from fully enjoying your travel. Whenever possible, sleep in the most comfortable hotel or lodging house.  Comfort does not necessarily mean expensive. What is important is that you are able to sleep and get a much needed rest for another hectic day of traveling.

With a very hectic schedule, traveling can be very tiring. To rejuvenate and recharge yourself, it is necessary that you take as much rest as you can during while traveling. Try to get a few hours of sleep while inside the plane or train. Learning how to sleep or rest while traveling to your destination can help a lot in ensuring that you have the energy to do various activities while on vacation. 

Do not forget to wash your hands or use a sanitizer – we all know that by simply washing our hands or using  a sanitizer, we protect ourselves from acquiring various infectious diseases. Our hands carry germs that can cause sickness. By washing our hands properly, we prevent these germs from multiplying and we avoid transferring them to our fellow travelers.

Again, the Philippines is a very beautiful country and you won't regret making that decision to visit the country. But to enjoy your stay, you got to stay healthy and fit to enjoy what the country has to offer.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

How to Travel Safely in the Philippines

The Philippines is a very beautiful country. It has everything everyone is looking for – long white sand beaches, heritage sites, endemic plants and wildlife and great people.

In most cases and in several places, it is actually very safe to travel in the Philippines even if you are a conspicuous foreigner or a first time tourist.  You can actually do a “walking tour” around Manila and other major cities without getting harmed.  Filipinos are generally friendly and you will meet smiles as you walk from one destination to the other.  If you need to ask for directions or need help in taking your photos, it is generally safe to ask anyone for assistance.

But just like in other countries, there are remote and isolated cases of petty crimes such as theft, pickpockets or getting ripped off by unscrupulous individuals. Yet, after traveling to different parts of the Philippines and living here for decades, I can assure you that it is very safe to travel in this country.

Here are some tips for foreigners and first time tourists who are planning travel around the Philippines:

(1)  Hire a reputable travel agency. Sad to admit that the Philippine transportation system has lots of things to improve. For a foreigner, it is very difficult to travel around Manila and other major cities commuting or being dependent on the mass transportation system. 

    From the airport, it is not easy to hail a taxi to your hotel due to the traffic and the number of passengers waiting to get a ride. Due to this situation, foreigners and first time visitors often fell prey to rip offs when riding a taxi. There are notorious taxi drivers who instead of running the meter will resort to the illegal “contracting system” which usually result to a higher fare.  It is great to know that in Baguio, Cebu and Davao these cases have become “isolated” thanks to the campaigns of the local government. 

However, if you hire a reliable travel agency where upon arrival at the airport there is a ride waiting for you, you will be saved from the inconvenience, hassle and being victimized by these notorious taxi drivers.  Moreover, travel agencies usually provide a “travel guide” who can give you valuable information about the Philippines and how to travel safely not usually found in travel books.

(2)  Keep bad remarks or comments about the Philippines to yourself while traveling. -  While there are several great things about the country, there are matters that somehow require your understanding and patience. One is the traffic congestion problem. According to a report, the Philippines now ranks 5th in the world with the worst traffic.  Thus, if you intend to travel around Metro Manila and Cebu City, bring with you loads of patience. From the airport to your hotel, you would immediately get the reasons why Metro Manila has garnered such an appalling distinction. However, no matter the traffic situation, the road condition, the garbage on the streets, pollution and any inconvenience you would see on the road keep it to yourselves until you are in the privacy or comforts of your hotel room. Do not assume that since you are speaking in your native language, you cannot be understood by anyone while you rant about the Philippines. There are many locals who can understand foreign tongues aside from English.

When you travel around the Philippines, act in a way that will not give you unwanted attention or create enemies. Do not do things that would put you in trouble even in your own country. Be friendly while being wary about your surroundings at all times. Show respect and you will beget respect.

(3)  Dress simply and appropriately. -  If you decide to go backpacking and opted not to hire a travel agency or a guide to herd you from one tourist destination to the other, dress simply and appropriately. Avoid wearing expensive jewelries.  

If your main purpose in visiting the Philippines is to see the sites, enjoy great food, experience the culture and meet people, then why wear those expensive jewelries? In order to avoid getting noticed by or attracting the wrong people, dress simply without those expensive jewelries. Do not give the impression that you are someone loaded with money.

What’s best to wear while in the Philippines? Since the Philippines is a tropical country, it is best to wear clothes meant for the summer season. If you intend to travel around the country wear light colored attire, fast dry t-shirts, jeans or walking shorts and rubber shoes. It is not appropriate to wear sleeveless shirts while traveling or even within the hotel premises. Wear attire that blend in with what the locals are wearing. In this way, you get less attention and you can move freely without getting those obnoxious stares. Keep a low profile while moving from one place to the other.

(4)  Be always on the alert. Just like in any other country, there are pickpockets, snatchers, and rip offs whom you got to be cautious about. When traveling in the Philippines, it is best to bring a small bag with “snatch proof” features where you can keep your valuables. Be alert of street children who can easily slip their hand into your bags and pockets. Wherever you are, keep an eye on your valuables. You got to realize that these mischiefs can disguise themselves by being well-dressed.

If you opted to stay at the Heritage Hotel and you decided to hunt for bargains in the nearby Baclaran area or in 168 Shopping Mall in Divisoria (again) dress simply.  I suggest a good pair of jeans, comfortable t-shirts, rubber shoes while hunting for bargains.

Being alert also means learning the art of ignoring strangers including beautiful women and well-dressed individuals. If you are approached on the street as if they are offering something, just casually move away and continue walking to your destination. Filipinos are friendly people. However, it is not customary for us to approach strangers or foreigners on the street without reason.

(5)  As much as possible do not travel alone. If you travel in groups there is lesser chance of you being mugged or harmed. When traveling in groups, move casually without getting unnecessary attention. Do not display your expensive cellphones, cameras and other gadgets in public.

(6)  Avoid visiting informal settler areas. If are staying at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, I suggest you take a taxi in going to Ayala Center. You can actually walk from your hotel to Ayala Center but you will pass rows of informal settler houses. As a precaution, walk on the other side of the road avoiding the area.

(7)  Just bring enough cash when traveling. Enough cash means sufficient money to last you through the day or until you get back to your hotel unless you intend to buy some stuff. If you travel away from major cities, ATM Machines can be hard to find. Moreover, having an ATM Card can give the wrong impression that you have lots of money. Keep your extra cash in the hotel at their safety deposit box. Exchange your foreign currency only at reputable money exchange centers. Do not forget to count your money before leaving the counter. When exchanging your foreign currency it is a good idea not to do it alone.

In Sum:

Again, the Philippines is a very beautiful country where it is relatively safe to travel. Filipinos are friendly, honest, and very helpful to tourists and foreigners. However, just like in any country there are isolated cases of crimes that can be avoided.  A foreigner may be subjected to lots of inconvenience or find something not right while traveling in the Philippines. Nevertheless, once you see what the country can offer, you will say that it is really worth visiting the Philippines.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Make the Right Move! Travel!

The "Tinago Falls" in Linamon, Lanao Del Norte, Philippines
The experience of seeing this falls (for real) is priceless!

Everyday, we see an emergence of gazillion blogs about traveling. In twitter and instagram, there is an abundance of photos and stories about their traveling experience – what they see, hear, tasted while on the road, the sky, and the sea.

Yes, it is a big world out there and “anyone who fails to travel sees only one page” and “we get only one shot at life”. With these truths, we have to make the right move. We have to stop our endless procrastination and take the first step to see the world. Here are some quotable quotes to inspire you to leave your comfort zone and see the world.

“Travel is the only thing you spend on that makes you richer.” – Every expense makes a dig on our pocket. It reduces our income (or savings) into a certain degree. On the contrary however traveling enriches us in the form of experience and knowledge about the world.

Traveling means spending a lot – for the fare, accommodation and other expenses. But once you get to your destination and after seeing the different culture and way of life, your gain a lot of experience and information about the place and the people, something that you cannot gain from just merely staying at home. Reading a book and scouring those beautiful pages of people and places is not a replacement for traveling. It is different if you have actually been there, experience and seen the place. A photo represents a very few percentage of the actual picture of the place and the scenery.

Since money however is essential in traveling, save as much as you can. If you try saving on the day-to-day basis, it can amount into something valuable allowing you to travel at least once every six months. To save on travel expenses however it is very important to make travel plans and get as much information about our itinerary and avail of various travel promos.

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” – (I have read this quote several times in my instagram and twitter account). Traveling is indeed a form of escape to something new. It breaks the monotony of our everyday life. But actually, we got to travel because we don’t get any younger! Today is the day we are at our “youngest”.  And I think it is not a good idea to wait until retirement before you travel. Even if we already got the money and time, but we are no longer able to climb that mountain because of old age… we would really regret why we have not traveled while young.

Yet, when young, (I consider anyone 50 years of age and below as relatively young to travel) one great hurdle to traveling is the expense. Let us face it! Every travel necessitates spending money. It has its costs. Unless you are born with a silver spoon, traveling means spending your hard earned money in a new place.

When we are at this age range, more often than not, we are still struggling financially. There are just so many things to spend on and traveling is not considered a necessity.  But if you are really determined to travel and see something new just try saving even just a small part of your income everyday and use it for traveling in the future. If you are employed, take advantage of  seminars and conventions that give you the opportunity to travel. Take every chance that gives you an opportunity to leave that cubicle and be in another place.

But of course, I am not saying that since you are already at retirement age, you are bound to stay home. Some say in fact that age is really nothing but a number. Actually, I agree! There are a lot of retirees who are much more capable (in terms of physical health) of hurdling the difficulties of traveling compared to their much younger counterparts.  What is important is to plan and and get as much information about the place. Assess the difficulties and inconvenience that traveling might bring that can be hazardous to your health. Preparation and planning is the key.

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” – this is absolutely true. We regret those things we didn’t do and chances we did not take. In traveling, the bad habit of procrastinating is hard to shake off. We tend to delay traveling hoping that the next season will be better. But there is no guarantee. In fact, delaying our travel plans may mean loss opportunities to see how wonderful the world is. Not every heritage site will still be there next year. Not every waterfall will still be as majestic when you finally decide to travel.

If you got the time and the money, take every opportunity to travel and see the world. Do not delay. Say yes to every travel opportunity! If you got the chance to travel, take it! Take the plunge and see how beautiful the world is! It is time that you realize that our regret is due mainly to chances we have not pursued.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – if you travel, the more you realize how small and how little you are in this very vast world. Sometimes, if we don’t travel, we forget that we are just a tiny speck and we began to have that mistaken notion that we own something huge in this world.

Well, if you think about it, we really do not own anything in this world. Everyone is living on borrowed time. Instead of trying to accumulate things, how about try accumulating lots of experience? Once we start traveling and gain lots of experience we gain a broad understanding about the world. We realize that the world is such a very big place and what we own based on the “land title” hidden in the cabinet is not something you can brag about compared to the whole world.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

French Defense

The french defense is one solid opening black can play against white's e4.  This opening (1. e4 e6; 2. d4 d5) is criticized for momentarily blocking black’s queen's bishop causing delay in the development of the pieces but at the same time creating solidity that is very difficult to destroy with normal play.

With the momentary blockade of the queen's bishop, black's position looks cramped and may result to passivity. If black fails to solve this problem, he could remain on the defense during the entire game.  The attacking possibilities for black usually initiates on the queenside where he has a seeming majority given the resulting pawn structure in the event that white pushes his pawn to e5 -characteristics of the “advance variation” and the  “Winawer”.

In the advance variation of the French defense where white is able to occupy the e5 square with a pawn, at first look, appears to be an advantage as the pawn push gains space for white and denies black's knight the coveted f6 square. But in reality it is very difficult for white to hold on to his e5 pawn. Black's move (c5) is a thunderous declaration of the intent to challenge white's pawn chain. Once this pawn chain is destroyed, the e5 pawn is dangerously holding for its dear life.

To avoid this scenario of losing the e5 pawn after a voracious attack from white, the exchange variation is a great alternative. In this variation, white immediately exchanges his e4 pawn with black’s d5 - the pawn structure is eradicated, tension is released in the center but an early scuffle usually results in both ends of the board.

White's attacking prospects are on the kingside and it is usual to see an attack by black on the other side of the board while white is pursuing his. In several games, I have seen an early Qg4 with focus on black’s g7 pawn making it very dangerous for black to castle kingside.

Aside from being known as a solid opening, the french defense is reputedly resilient - a characteristic viewed by some chess players as "dullness".  After the moves (1. e4 e6; 2. d4 d5) the pawn structure created is at first impression "dull" compared to the highly energetic nature of the ruy lopez.

If we look closer however, the french defense is a very dynamic opening where sudden changes in the board situation can occur dramatically with just mere exchanges of pawns.  In the Winawer, white cordially accepts a damaged pawn structure on the queenside with the hope of holding the seeming majority of space in the center. Due to the damaged pawn structure, white more often than not, castles on the kingside to avoid black's onslaught on the queenside.

During those times when the kingside is already compromised and white has gained a very promising attack on this side of the board, black always has the option of castling queenside which results to a very exciting chess game.

Aside from the sicilian, the french defense is one opening that is difficult for white to face. The move (e6) as a reply to white's e4 is a curtain opener to other various solid openings at black's disposal including the dreaded pirc defense.

With the french defense, black can be said to be shooting two birds with one stone since he gains solidity against premature attacks and the same time flexible enough to meet the changes in the situation during the early stages of the game.

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