Category Archives: Places

My Unforgettable Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Tour

I’ve never learned what the Holocaust meant in school. History lessons were very much compressed at my public elementary and high schools. My first exposure about the Nazi genocide against the Jews in Europe was the film Schindler’s List which I accidentally watched around 1997-1998. I’m not particular about the exact date but during that time, I was at the cusp of puberty. I was a very sensitive and emotional child and that film just touched something in me that stayed with me into adulthood.

I’ve tried learning more about it in high school, but the inept teaching and inadequate resources made me thirst for more until I went to uni where I finally got the scope of this terrible part of our history. I’ve read books, articles, news reels, film archives and tried to absorb as many information as possible. There were so many questions that I wanted to get answered but until this day, some of them remains unanswered, rather unanswerable. The whys and the hows are just too much and just unfathomable.

That is why this trip was extra special for me. To have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, a couple of places amongst the thousands of Nazi concentration camps feels like a blessing somehow. It felt like it would answer some of the questions that I’ve had since I was a teenager and I feel that I’d be able to somehow connect with the victims of this horrifying human tragedy and most importantly, pay my respect by never forgetting about them.

For the record, I do not personally know a single Jewish individual but I do believe that as human beings, we have to acknowledge what transpired here and the rest of the concentrations camps around Europe because I believe that we owe it to the victims to keep their memories alive for all the time we have to be reminded what is at stake and what should be done to avoid such humongous tragedy in the human history ever happening again.

The tour started very early in the morning. It was freezing that day. I thought I was already accustomed to the cold but the weather that day made me lethargic for some reason.

 

Took this picture of the beautiful Krakow morning while waiting for the bus to pick me up.

Auschwitz is located in Oświęcim which is 66 kilometers west of Krakow or around 2 hours from Krakow.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” over Auschwitz gate is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holocaust. It means Work Makes You Free, a very disturbing reminder of the Nazi cruelty.
These are Zyklon B cans, which contained the gas used as a killing tool in the gas chambers.

The Museum collections include:

• about 40.000 m3 of shoes;

• about 3,800 suitcases, 2,100 of which bear the names of their owners;

• over 12 thousand kitchen utensils;

• 470 prostheses and orthoses;

• 397 striped camp garments;

• 246 tallisim;

• about 4,100 works of art (including about 2 thousand of which were made by prisoners). Source

Our group tour around Auschwitz took about 2 hours and we had a little break before heading to its adjacent camp, the Birkenau concentration camp.

Bought a copy of this guidebook and Viktor Frankl’s book about his time in various Nazi concentration camps.
Heading to Birkenau concentration camp.
I was able to go to the quarters and touch what remains of their bunk beds. It was heavy and sad.

It took me a while to share these pictures that I’ve taken when I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps last December 2019 because I didn’t think that it’s proper to post them at all. I posted the pictures of the exterior of the camps instead on my Instagram page instead but not these images because they just felt too personal then, but I realized that I wanted people to know, especially the young ones who have not heard or read about the Holocaust to be aware of this tragedy, to know its history and to see a glimpse of a dark past in human history that should never happen again and must never be forgotten. We should forever honor their memories for they’re a constant reminder for us to always treat each other with dignity, respect each other’s differences, learn not just to tolerate but to accept and view life as a gift. The victims – those who perished and alive up to these day gave their lives to be our social conscience and may we never forget that.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

Euro Vacay Day 8-9: Krakow In My Heart

I’ve arrived in Krakow at the crack of dawn and and I was still feeling a bit hazy from lack of sleep inside the bus. It took more or less nine hours from Vienna to Krakow, and I was just too giddy to sleep right away even though I was very tired from my day tour in Vienna. Who could sleep comfortably inside a bus though? Haha!

Arriving at the Krakow (Kraków) Dworzec Autobusowy MDA, I opted to use Uber to take me to the city center right where I made a booking for a couple of nights, after exchanging about 100 euros at the station for some Polish złoty. Just a little FYI –  although Poland is a European Union member, they still use their own currency.

As mentioned above, I’ve booked two nights at the Ametyst Hostel and let me tell you that it is absolutely my favorite hostel during my whole trip. For one, the guy at the reception allowed me to check-in right away, thank goodness because I still need a couple or more hour of sleep. I stayed at a six-mixed dorm room and everything was just perfect! I’ve got my own locker, the bed was warm and comfy and it doesn’t feel cramp at all and their bathrooms are always clean! And the most wonderful thing about it is that, it is just five minutes away from the main square! Like seriously, it’s smack dab in the heart of the city! I just know that I’d definitely go back to Krakow and will stay with them again!

I was assigned the top bunk near the window!

After getting some sleep for a few hours and feeling refreshed,  I embarked on my very first winter in Poland! Haha!

The weather was a bit overcast but thankfully, it did not rain. It was just too cold as usual!

Eros Bendato’ (Eros Bound) or The Head is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (1944 – 2014). This sculpture in the western corner of the market square is a popular meeting place and is one of the most popular landmarks in the city.

The sculpture at night and up-close.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków, is one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland, and a favourite meeting place at the Main Market Square in the Old Town district of Kraków. source
The monument at night.

Mickiewicz is counted as one of Poland’s’s Three Bards (the others being Zygmunt Krasiński and Juliusz Słowacki) and the greatest poet in all Polish literature.

The St. Mary’s Basilica

After the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most important church in Krakow. It’s construction was started in late 13th century on the foundations of a former Romanesque church. The new temple was consecrated around the year 1320. Over the centuries, the church underwent numerous reconstructions of both its exterior and interior.

The whole ambiance at the main square was heartwarming! It’s still the holidays after all.
The view from the Wawel Royal Castle.
Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland.
Saints Peter and Paul Church.
Or course, I had to take a picture with one of Pope John Paul II’s statues in Krakow. This life-sized monument of the former local lad turned Pope turned Saint John Paul II stands across from Wawel Cathedral near the entrance of the Cathedral Museum, which just so happens to have been opened by the man himself (then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła) back in 1978. Source
A clearer image in the morning. Source
Inside the Wawel Royal Castle
This looks unreal IRL.
Christmas just ended and 2020 is fast-approaching. How I wanted to go back to this day when we’re all still unaware of Covid19.
Food! Food! Food!
My dinner! Ugh! This was actually more than it looks here!
Dessert!!!
Souvenirs options!
Candies! Candies! Candies!
I’ve almost forgot about this but it’s good!
The artistry!
Heading back to the hostel here!
This was a couple of blocks away from the hostel! Ugh! Looking at this made me miss Krakow more!

I think I went back to the hostel past 11, I still need to wake up early the following day for the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour I availed via Klook!

Krakow will always have a special place in my heart. Ugh. Writing this part of the trip made me emotional for some reason. I hope to come back here real soon.

Euro Vacay Day 7: My POV of Vienna, Before Sunrise Style

Let me tell you that for the most part of this trip, I’ve availed the service of FlixBus to take me from point A to point B and vice versa. Now, here’s a little peek of my day trip in Vienna before heading to Krakow, Poland.

Like Prague, Vienna isn’t on my original itinerary but since it’s just “nearby,” I thought that I might as well get a look of this beautiful and historical city which also happens to be the main location of one of my most favorite films of all time – Before Sunrise.

This was technically the first snow I’ve seen during this whole trip and I was inside the bus heading to Vienna – as per my iPhone – we were in Ruda during this time.

I had to leave my luggage at the Vienna West Station and only took a string bag, some granola bars and bought my one day transpo ticket to explore Vienna for the whole day. (Which I was not able to to use extensively by the way!)

Noticed this first inside the mall at the train station.
I’ve walker my way to the Zollamssteg Bridge – this is where Before Sunrise protagonists Jesse and Celine meet the guys promoting their play. It is alongside a railway station (given the shot of the rail lines which pass diagonally beneath the bridge). And since I was the only person there that day, I took the chance to do a bit of a photoshoot lol with the help of my ever reliable tripod. 😅
The art tho.
I mean, I don’t really need to go inside a museum here.
Next stop: The Wiener Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel at the western end of Prater Park. This is where Jesse and Celine had their first kiss.
I had to just walk all over the city because I feel that I’d be lost somehow if I use the tram. It was so worth it though because I get to feel the vibe of the city much more.
In front of the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and is one of the most significant landmarks in Austria.
Albertina Palais Museum.
This is where Jesse recites part of WH Auden’s As I Walked Out One Evening – “O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time” to Celine at the balcony of the museum.
Ugh. I was so kilig remembering the scene of this location!
It’s getting late by this point and I’m getting kind of tired and had to wait in line for me to get in so I opted to just get this little selfie right here. This is where that iconic telephone game happened! I wanted to do that if only I have someone with me then. Haha!
My last stop was at this 15th century Gothic church of Maria am Gestade, Salvatorgasse 12. (Mary on the Strand Church)
I don’t pray a lot but I actually prayed here. There’s just something about this church, being alone at the time that I was able to really connect.
It wasn’t a complete Before Sunrise tour but I figured that I may have to come visit next time because a day tour here isn’t enough to really savor what the city has to offer.
So for the record, this was the shortest stay in any country that I’ve been to. I cannot wait to visit again!

 

Euro Vacay Day 1-4: Berlin, Berlin…

I was very excited to finally set foot in Europe and with Berlin being one of my must-visit cities before I die. Haha! I’m really beyond thrilled! The immigration officials weren’t as stern as I expected them to be, due to the horror stories I’ve read and heard from some people. They just asked the purpose of my trip, the countries I’ll be visiting and it took less than a minute I think and I finally got my entry in Germany!

After planning this trip for almost a year, you would think that I was able to cover all of the bases already but no – my Qatar Airways flight landed in Berlin Tegel Airport around 10 – or past 10 in the evening. Lo and behold, most if not all of the stores are already closed! And stupid me was expecting there will be stores open 24 hours where I could buy a SIM card! I even bought a new phone for this trip! LOL. So my only option was to asked the airport staff on how to go about getting to my hostel for my four days in the city! There were buses that will take you anywhere in the cities, and tram too. I mean, this is Germany after all, but I was still totally clueless since I’ve not internet to Google where I am – so I just checked my accommodations booking and prayed to the gods that I got off the right station. Apparently I did not. Haha. I was literally lost and walking aimlessly. And there are only a few people out and about. Remember, this was winter time and I think it’s already past eleven in the evening. 

Thank goodness though, because I bumped into Norah – a local from Berlin who helped me find my hostel. She’s truly a godsend because I was just getting really cold by the time I bumped into her.  I told her the whole thing of me not able to get a new SIM card at the airport and I just showed her my booking and she took me to my hostel right then and there. 

I had my Berlin accommodation at the St. Christopher Inn Berlin-Mitte. They were very gracious and the hostel was actually kind of nice for a solo traveler like myself. One of the guy manning the reception asked me where I was from and I told her that I’m from the Philippines and he smiled and said that his mom is Filipina! Instant connection! LOL.  I absolutely loved the location of the hostel! It’s perfect because it ‘s all walking distance to all the tourist traps!!! I swear, I never had to use any transportation system within my 4 days in Berlin.  

The following day was not as eventful as I’d like it to be because I was still getting used to the cold! I just went our first to familiarize myself – saw the Berlin Cathedral where I went in for a mass on Day 3,  Altes Museum, Humboldt University, Alexanderplatz etc… It was just me being very fascinated and I still cannot believe that I made it here! For some people, this may just be nothing but from someone like me who grew up in the country – this is definitely a whole new world! A feat by itself!

Here are some of the pictures I took on my first foray in Berlin.

 

This was December 25th of last year! It was my first time spending Christmas outside of the country and alone for that matter. It’s kind of sad if you think about it because I’m usually with my family during this season but I was having the time of my life all’s good!

I joined a free tour of the Reichstag glass dome on top of the rebuilt Reichstag building! It was exhilarating!

Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. It feels so heavy visiting this memorial. I will be writing more about this in conjunction to my visit at Auschwitz-Birkenau the following days.

The Reichstag Building

The Berlin Cathedral

I actually got inside the night before but was not able to take pictures inside because one – it was disrespectful and second – it was not allowed I think but I still see some folks trying to sneak a picture or two…

The Urania World Clock is a large turret-style world clock located in the public square of Alexanderplatz in Mitte, Berlin.

Yep, it really isn’t Christmas without this big ‘old Christmas tree!

Of course, I ordered Currywurst!

8 euro ain’t so bad.

The beautiful Postdamer Platz

Humboldt University

The Lustgarten

The view on my way back to my hostel

At the Westkreuz Station early in the morning on my way to Prague!

My Schengen Visa Experience at the VSF Netherlands (Philippines)

After reading several blogs and forums to get tips on having a successful Schengen visa application, I thought I should also give back by posting my very own Schengen visa application experience. For us in the Philippines, getting a travel visa is always a tedious process since we need to spend time and money on collating several documents, paying fees and the actual submission of application and /or attending the actual interview. (Most of the embassy does not require interviews anymore though.)

At the beginning of 2019, I’ve decided to spend my Christmas break overseas. I thought, a South American trip will be easier because I won’t have to get any visas to enter a few countries but upon realizing that the flights are way more expensive there and with last year’s tragic Amazon fire and the economic turmoil in the region, I opted to just push through with a European getaway.

I will also be sharing some stories on my month-long mini-Euro vacation but before that, para sa mga pinoy who are also looking for some tips, I am going to list down what I’ve submitted for my Schengen visa application. 

First off, What is a Schengen visa?

A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area. It is valid for 26 Schengen member states and is for short stay for a maximum period of ninety days within a six months period. A Schengen visa allows the holder to travel freely across the Schengen member states.

The following 26 countries have implemented the Schengen Agreement: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Schengen visa application goes through VFS Global –

VFS Global, also known as “Visa Facilitation Services Global,” is an outsourcing and technology services company that serves governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments.

I applied for a short-term Schengen visa mainly for tourism so this post is only applicable for those who will be traveling for leisure in and around the Schengen states.

The general requirements I’ve submitted are the following:

1. Valid Passport

2. Round-trip flight reservation.

(Remember, you just need a reservation. Please don’t buy your tickets without an approved visa yet.)

3. Travel insurance policy with a with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros (I got mine from Malayan)

4. Proof of Accommodation (I booked all of my accommodations via booking.com which are all cancellable – again, do not pay in advance if you’re not sure that you’d actually be getting a visa.)

5. Proof of Financial Means

I’ve submitted a bank certificate indicating my account number, its daily balance and account balance.

I’ve also submitted the following:

Employment contract.

Current bank statement from the latest 6 months upon submission.

Leave permission from the employer. (The one that my employer provided includes the start date of my leave and the date I was expected to return.)

My latest income Tax Return (ITR) form or the 2316 form.

6. My Trip Itinerary (I included the places that are on my bucket list of course, but I also did a lot of research on what I should be see in each respective places – I think it helps that you personalized your itinerary as much as possible.)

7. A cover letter which really helped, I think.

The submission of application is by schedule through the VFS Global website, just register, log in and select a date and time of your submission. The Netherlands Embassy does not require any interview, at least as far as I know. You will be evaluated by its consul based on all the documents you’ve submitted.

I’ve had my schedule on November 15, 2019 – about a month before my intended trip and I chose the earliest time available – that’s around 07:00 AM. It was actually very straight to the point. You will be instructed on where to line up and just follow the procedure and give out the documents and pay. No interview needed, although the lady who collected my documents asked the purpose of my application (tourism was my answer) and the date of my intended departure from the country as well as the date of my planned return and that’s it!

I’ve paid around P4,876.00 which includes

Logistic – 901

Courier – 400 because I cannot afford to pick it up myself due to work but you can choose to personally claim your passport or have a representative pick it up for you.

SMS – 150, I thought this was a good idea at first but it turns out it’s just a waste of money. I’ve only received one message saying: Visa Application MAKA/********01 has been forwarded to the Netherlands Regional Support Office in Asia on 11/15/2019 and never got an update. I even had to call the office because I cannot seem to track my visa status online regularly because it’s not working all the time.

So the whole two weeks, I was being so paranoid because I am second-guessing my chance of getting approved since I’ve read horror stories of some pinoys who are well-traveled and well-funded still getting rejected for some reason. I’ve only been to eight countries prior to this application with 2 visa-requiring territories so I’m kind of hoping that would give me a bit of an advantage but yeah – it was a nerve-wracking two weeks for me.

But the odds are definitely in my favor as I’ve received my passport with an approved visa! It took 14 freaking calendar days! I was very happy because I was given a multiple entry visa, with 45 days validity and 30 days duration of stay!!!

Looking back, I thought it’d be very difficult but it’s really just straight forward. You just have to make sure that you have the resources, the right intention and the correct documents.

Hit me up privately or through the comments if you have any concerns or questions that I may help you with!!!

When this pandemic dies down, I would definitely apply again because I really had a blast visiting parts of Europe for the first time and I wanted to see more!!!

P.S.

Because we have this on-going pandemic and we’re now living the new normal, I am not sure about the changes when it comes to the visa application but I reckon it will still be the same, but with more precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid19.

I wrote this article a few months after the Pandemic hit the Philippines and I didn’t think that it would be so catastrophic that even now that the year’s about to end, the cases are still getting worse particularly in Europe. I hope the vaccines that were approved recently will give us hope to move forward from this darkest year of our generation.

Sign The Petition Now! Say NO to Nickelodeon’s Underwater Theme Park in Coron, Palawan! #coronisnotbikinibottom

spongebob_coron

We call on the Local Government of Palawan, Nickelodeon (Viacom International Media Networks), and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc., to junk their plan to build a 400-hectare underwater theme park in Coron, Palawan.

Why is this important?

Contrary to the press statement that the underwater theme park would “advocate ocean protection,” it will accomplish the exact opposite. By building artificial structures, you will undeniably damage and disrupt Palawan’s marine ecosystems — our Last Frontier. If you are sincere and serious about marine conservation, the money allocated for the underwater theme park should be invested in marine protected areas, sustainable livelihoods for local communities, and environmental education programs.

For a channel that targets children, Nickelodeon is setting a terrible example to the younger generation by taking away their right to enjoy our natural resources. We don’t need an underwater theme park — our underwater life is fascinating, entertaining, and educational on its own.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PEITION!
https://www.bataris.org.ph/petitions/no-to-nickelodeon-s-underwater-theme-park-in-palawan

Gallery

In Photos: Urbiztondo Beach in San Juan, La Union

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2 Episode 9 – The Girl With a Wild Side

There’s a lot of things that I liked about the episode last night and just a few missed that I didn’t care about at all after waking up this morning. I loved the fact that my two home-girls got the first and second call-outs, whoot hoot! And ofcourse, the photoshoot this week was j’adore!!!! I’m not that disappointed with the girl that was sent home, only if you will based the episode on their body of works all throughout the competition but to boot her out with that picture was a travesty! For this episode, the girls went to Sarawak in Borneo. During the shoot, resident judge Mike Rosenthal was their photographer so the girls were very nervous and all. It was the best concept of the season for a shoot if I may say so, let’s all check them out…

Jodilly

Jodilly

This for me is beyond incredible! It’s my favorite shot of the season! This is a very strong photo and could easily land Jodilly a spot in the finals!

Josephine

Josephine

I just love this girl! She keeps on producing great shot after another! I’m not gonna be mad if I’ll see her walking the final runway.

Katarina

Katarina

I love me some baby Katja and she’s looking fierce as hell here! I love that she also reminds me of a tribe princess here jungle warrior princess theme since the outfits says so little about the latter.

Marie

Marie

This shot is too grotesque for me in the face. I wished Marie could’ve soften it a little but nevertheless, it was still a good shot face down.

Natalie

Natalie

Remove the shoes and I can totally picture this in a National Georgraphic feature. I just love the composition of this shot! There’s so much to look at and it’s really interesting!

Nicole

Nicole

Nicole’s magic seems to be not working this time – she’s totally losing it. Cmon’ girl! It’s the final stretch!

Sheena

Sheena

Wow! Sheena is looking so luminous! I love her body movement and I love that I can still see Sheena! Like always, it’s smashing!

So who went home this episode?

Call Out Order
First Call Out: Katarina
2nd: Jodilly
3rd: Sheena
4th: Marie
5th: Josephine

Bottom Two: Natalie & Nicole
Eliminated: Natalie

pictures via Asia’s Next Top Model

The Majestic Stairway To Heaven

Kapay-Aw Rice Terraces Sagada, June 2013

Kapay-Aw Rice Terraces
Sagada, June 2013

I took this beautiful scenic view of the Kapay-Aw Rice terraces after our trekking at the Pongas Falls in Sagada (’twas my second visit as well.) What can I say, I just love this place for everything seemed to be perfect in it like this view!

Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2 Episode 3 – The Girl Who’s Hot When She Is Cold

This episode almost killed half of the girls in the house. For their reward challenge, the girls did a commercial shoot for Visit Malaysia 2014 ads where they have to walk  the runway  on top of Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower)! Janice had a panic attack while most of the girls did pretty well. Hometown girl Josephine was the winner of this challenge!

For their third shoot, the girls are to posed sexy as they test their limits to withstand the cold wearing just skimpy outfitsin SnoWalk in Sengalor. Most of them were amazing this episode except for Janice who seemed to be off her elements this week.

At panel, Josephine was yet again praised for her consistency as well as Nicole  (who’s becoming my favorite by the way) for delivering edgy looks. The judges were not that impressed with the rest but they ultimately felt Janice and Jihye didn’t deliver at all…

So who’s getting the boot???

I just love how Nicole's working her face!

I just love how Nicole’s working her face!

Jihye's looking too posey for me

Jihye’s looking too posey for me

Not a fan of her face here, Luv her body language though. Step it up Jodilly!

Not a fan of her face here, Luv her body language though. Step it up Jodilly!

Poojaa - Model 101

Poojaa – Model 101

Josephine is werking it!  She's unstoppable! The one to beat atm!

Josephine is werking it! She’s unstoppable! The one to beat atm!

my little Katja! Wow! She's totally improving!!!

my little Katja! Wow! She’s totally improving!!!

Sneha's giving me a very "inexpensive" pose here...ehem...

Sneha’s giving me a very “inexpensive” pose here…ehem…

Jihye's looking too posey for me

Jihye’s looking too posey for me

Thao needs to know how to look tall in pictures!

Thao needs to know how to look tall in pictures!

Sheena's one of my favorite girls in the competition, like what the judges have mentioned - she knows this is a competition!

Sheena’s one of my favorite girls in the competition, like what the judges have mentioned – she knows this is a competition!

'still not a fan Tia girl. NEXT!

‘still not a fan Tia girl. NEXT!

Natalie's shot's just okay. Nothing special really...

Natalie’s shot’s just okay. Nothing special really…

This shot has got to be the worst for me... it's  borderline catalog and girl' doesn't know her angles!

This shot has got to be the worst for me… it’s borderline catalog and girl’ doesn’t know her angles!

Call Out Order
FCO – Josephine (double win!)
2. Nicole
3. Sheena
4. Katarina
5. Natalie
6. Tia
7. Thao
8. Poojaa
9. Jodilly
10. Marie
11. Sneha
Bottom Two: Janie and Jihye
Eliminated: Jihye

Best Photo Week3

pictures via Asia’s Next Top Model