Around Pilipinas has migrated to www.aroundpilipinas.com

Hi Guys!

Finally, I’m able to use my domain www.aroundpilipinas.com.  This is my last post here on this site. Thanks to Michael of Coffeemags who facilitated the migration for me with excellent customer service.

It was from fellow blogger Mark Villar of Yolomoments that I first heard about Coffeemags. I took the liberty to google the company and I was glad to find out that it’s a Filipino hosting company based in Cebu. I sent them a message of inquiry and I got an immediate response.

It was their affordable rate of $1 a month that initially drew me to them but when I engaged their services, I found their customer service so admirable and rewarding.   Unlike other big hosting companies, you get personalized customer service at Coffeemags.

Being non-technical, I had little to no knowledge in terms of migration and hosting. I only know how to customize and update my site — install themes, widgets, plugins, the works. But the tedious  jobs involving hosting and migration, nah! Michael educated me on some technical aspects, which was awesome.

No, I don’t get anything from talking about Coffeemags but I feel that other bloggers like me deserve to know better options when it comes to hosting their blogs and websites. Again, please know that I won’t be updating this blog anymore.

My next posts can be found at www.aroundpilipinas.com and I would really appreciate it if you could visit me there at my new home. Too bad I can’t migrate my current followers due to technical restrictions but I hope you’d still follow me on my new address.

See ya’ll!

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My “secret” life as a voiceover talent

Okay, so my secret is out. I’m an independent voice over artist.  My voice has been used in numerous radio commercials, corporate audio-video presentations, newscasts, telephone response system, voice overs, and narrations since 1994. Fine, now I just gave away my age.

Voice acting/recording is not my bread and butter though. But while I have other regular sources of income, the voiceover craft has always been an essential spice in my life.  It’s been my passion since I joined the radio industry two decades ago and stayed there for seven fun years.

Long after I left radio, up until now, I still do it. It’s a special part of me that I can’t let go, no matter how hectic and serious my life has become. I’m not as young and carefree anymore and I have more responsibilities now than ever before. While perhaps for some people, voice recording is considered just an odd job, it’s more than that to me. It’s my love, my stress buster.

I love giving life to an otherwise humdrum script. Sometimes I help in formulating the script too. I love being a voice to a faceless character.

Is it lucrative? It depends on one’s skills. It is in demand? Recently, I see a surge in demand for audiobooks so I believe if you know where to find clients and you’re good at what you do, you can make a killing out of it, regularly.

Lots of Filipino voice talents can compete with native English speakers due to our neutral accent (some can even mimic American and British accents). Plus, Filipino talents charge lower rates compared to their American counterparts so those clients who work on a budget, they outsource the job to Filipinos.

To give you an idea about the business side of it, here are sample rate cards (Filipino rates):

30-second Radio Commercial – $100 minimum

Corporate Presentations, tutorial/training modules – $100 (0-5 minutes audio)

Audio book – $100-$300 per hour of finished audio

All rates above are for raw files only, no music beds included. For complete audio production, the rates are higher depending on client requirements.

Some people don’t understand why a 30-seconder would cost that much and even higher on some cases. The output may sound like a breezy job but the truth is, there’s a lot of work behind a single 30-seconder commercial or audio file.

Behind the scenes of a 30 seconder voice file:

  1. Post production reading, rehearsing –   5-10 minutes
  2. Recording  –   5-15 minutes (depending on skills, it could take 30 minutes)
  3. Editing      – 1 hour or more, depending on client requirements

Ergo, a 30-second audio file takes more than an hour to do.

For longer audio files, it would include lots of research. One word or name could mean 15 minutes of researching and calling several people just to make sure your pronunciation is correct.  No, not all the time Google has the answers.  Some words and names may not be on YouTube and other sites where you could verify proper pronunciation. Not even native speakers know all the answers. What I’m saying is, it’s tougher than one might think.

My latest audio projects:

  • Game of Thrones Season Finale Spoiler Alert
  • True Detective Review
  • NBA Draft Confidential
  • Newscasting on weekends (jaygerfm.com)

How I do it:

I have set up my own recording system at home just this year, which makes it more convenient and cost-effective compared to doing it in a professional recording studio or in a radio station (which I’ve been doing since the beginning of my voiceover career).

Sometimes clients work on a tight budget so negotiation is part of the business. But I make it a point not to sell myself too short. Like I illustrated in the kind of work that a 30-seconder audio file would entail, imagine a 300-page audio book.

One time, a client said my rate was too high so he tried to haggle. I gave in, considering that I really wanted to do that project. After the recording, he took back his word and said I deserved to get paid in full. Ending, he added more payment before I left the recording studio.

If you have the same passion, pursue it.  It can definitely put food on the table and the great part is that you’re enjoying it.

Working with Direk Biling of ABS-CBN Davao.
Working with ABS-CBN Davao Director Beling Rodriguez.

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As Coco Martin's voice coach in a TV commercial.
Worked as a voice coach to multi-awarded young actor Coco Martin in a TV commercial.

I put it this way: It’s my recreation that actually puts good money in my pocket. That’s exactly the reason why I can’t let go of this craft — I love it and I earn from it.

To others in the business world, I’m a business manager, a budding entrepreneur, a marketing person, a trainer, a struggling writer. Little do they know, I’m a voice talent by heart.

It completes me.

Beautiful Bataan

Bataan: One of the country’s last stands before succumbing to Japanese forces during the World War 2.

So much have been said about this place in Philippine history, yet more of its beauty can be unraveled when you visit it yourself.

Perhaps most of us remember Bataan for the dreadful Bataan Death March where our Filipino fighters and American allies were forced to walk by the Japanese Imperial Army for 102 kilometers from Bagac and Mariveles to San Fernando then to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. They were beaten, starved, and some were summarily executed. Most survived, but many didn’t.

With Bataan’s important role in our country’s history, I found it imperative to be one of the places to visit in the Philippines. For me, it’s a symbol of our forefathers’ valor and their heroic fight for freedom.

A few amateur snapshots I took while marching around: Bataan bataan2 bataan3 bataan5 bataan6 bataan capitolUpdate: Bataan at night. Photos courtesy of UNDP’s Ryan Cuanan.

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Sunset in Balanga, Bataan.

 

 

 

 

Around Pilipinas to have its own domain

I just bought the domain aroundpilipinas.com to finally give this wordpress blog a sense of ownership.

Three months after I jump-started this blog as a diversion from work and everything else, I decided to keep it and give it a name without WordPress as its last name.

I’ll be using the domain soon so I thought I might as well give you a heads-up.

This is actually my 4th since I started blogging in 2009 but I’ve killed the other two a few years ago. Time and again, I miss writing. I guess some old habits really die hard.

Rescued cats draw cattraction for new café

Cattention: all paws on deck!

There’s a purr-fect haven for cat lovers just within Quezon City where one can enjoy good food and drinks and the precious company of their feline friends — Cat Café Manila.

Partnered with CARA Welfare Philippines, a non-profit and non-government organization advocating animal welfare, Cat Café Manila provides shelter for cats while looking for a fur-ever home for them.  Such a brilliant  ‘CATtraction’ that allows animal advocates to help give these furry fellows a better life and at the same time enjoy their company. The good eats are a plus.

Mama Cat and Shelly lounging while waiting for customers.
Mama Cat and Shelly lounging while waiting for customers.
Basu was found and rescued from a garbage bin (basurahan), thus the name
Basu was found and rescued from a trash bin (basurahan), thus the name “Basu.”

For only P200 per person (half of which goes to the cats’ welfare and half goes to your food/drinks), you get to enjoy a good serving of either pasta, cupcakes, cookies, or drinks. The invaluable side of it is that you help Cat Café in its noble ‘CATvocacy’ of caring for these rescued cats.

Yes, those are rescued cats by CARA, and most of them were found in the streets and garbage cans in horrible conditions. Now, you wouldn’t even think they had a sad past. They’re obviously well taken care of, neutered, spayed, and vaccinated.

The cafe is manned by two friendly people (forgive me for forgetting their names) but trust me that they’ll give you excellent customer service and loads of interesting information about the cats when you visit.

If you’re not a cat person, I would still recommend that you try visiting it.  The sociable and cuddly cats there like Ling Ling, Chaka, Bicco, Mama Cat, Basu, and all the others just as adorable might give you a change of heart.

You may even adopt one of the furfriends there.

My namesake Shelly was rescued from a Shell gas station, hence her name. Cat Cafe recently announced that Shelly is their first cat to be sent for adoption. Sad to hear that we won't see her again at the cafe but glad to know she has found a new family.
My namesake Shelly was rescued from a Shell gas station, hence her name. Cat Cafe recently announced that Shelly is their first cat to be sent for adoption. Sad to hear that we won’t be seeing her again at the cafe but glad to know she has found a new family.

Many years ago, I didn’t like cats. It was because my first encounters with them were unpleasant — some strays would sneak into our kitchen and steal our food; one of them ate the helpless bird I tried to rescue after it broke one of its wings; and the worst thing happened when we woke up one day to see all our hamsters gone, with no other suspect but that same stray cat we previously saw trying a few times to get to the hamsters in their cage (apparently the cat succeeded while we were sleeping).

Frustrated about that particular cat, my uncle opted to feed it to his pet snake. My younger brothers told me about it and without hesitation, I rushed to the snake’s pit and took out the poor cat. Though I hated that it wasn’t a tame cat, I thought it didn’t deserve to be a snake’s hearty meal.

Fast forward, I noticed that cats grew tame on me and I started to like them.

Check out Cat Café Manila at 2nd Floor, 189 Maginhawa St. corner Makadios St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City.

To avoid stressing the cats, Cat Café Manila limits the number of customers to 15 at a time so it helps to book ahead. Send them a message through their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/catcafemanila?fref=ts. Don’t worry, your curiosity would benefit, not kill the cats.

Good food plus feline friends are a purr-fect combination not only to bust stress but also to show that you care for those rescued cats.

Nuff said.  Meow. Cat Cafe_FoodCat Cafe_Glass

Adding your BPI Express Teller account to your PayPal

I initially thought that only Unionbank and BDO could be linked to PayPal. I was wrong.

I set up my PayPal account back in 2009 and had it verified by opening an EON account at Unionbank (took me several business days to complete all that). I’ve always used EON to withdraw funds from my PayPal. When I stopped blogging due to busy schedules, I also closed my EON account but it remained tied up to my PayPal account.

Lately I started working online again and since my EON card is not active anymore, I had to update my bank information on PayPal by adding an active bank account. Though PayPal is a user-friendly platform, I had doubts if my BPI Express Teller account would actually work with PayPal.

Turns out, BPI Express Teller indeed works well with PayPal!

For the benefit of those who are yet to go on the same route, here’s your guide in adding your BPI Express Teller account to your PayPal.

1. Log in to your PayPal account.

2. Go to “Profile” and from the dropdown menu, select “Add/Edit Bank Account.”

3. Click “Add” and fill in all the fields carefully. (Important: The name on your bank account must match the name on your PayPal account. Otherwise, it might be rejected and there would be a return fee of P250.)

  • Bank Name: Bank of the Philippine Islands
  • Bank Code (9 digits): 010040018
  • Account Number: (Found at the back of your BPI Express Teller card)
  • Re-enter Account Number:

4. Click Continue and you’re done!

If you have a dormant account linked to your PayPal, you better delete it before you mistakenly transfer money there instead of your active bank account. It happened to me when I carelessly transferred $400 to my dormant EON account instead of my active BPI account. Fortunately, the money bounced back to my PayPal after more than week. P250 was charged for the bounced transaction but it was way better than losing $400.

I hope this helps. Happy blogging and earning online!

Back from a self-imposed hiatus

Ok, this blog has taken the backseat for a quite a while. My work schedule has been crazy, but finally I’ve found a bit of a break this week.

In my next posts, I will blog about using PayPal which a lot of Filipino bloggers and independent virtual assistants are using as a payment channel. From personal experience, I had to scour the Internet for help about PayPal when I had to change my bank details and transfer money to my new bank account. It wasn’t complicated but I had to double-check if I was doing the right thing in order to make sure that my hard-earned money wouldn’t float out there in the void. In the first place I’ve always used my EON card since 2009 but now I had to try if my BPI Express Card would be a good replacement for EON. First time could spell discomfort and sleepless nights until you actually see the money transferred to your bank from PayPal.

Hence, I see the need for aspiring virtual workers to get a step-by-step guide from fellow online workers if only to ease their discomfort in using PayPal.

Until then, have a great weekend!

Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, Samal Island

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When you’re in Davao and have enough time to bask in the sun, sea, and sand, make a quick trip to Samal Island and ask locals about Villa Amparo.  It’s arguably one of the most scenic and tranquil beach resorts on the island.

It’s about 20 minutes away from Babak Wharf, which means a quiet refuge from the more-populated beaches in Samal.  If you don’t have a private vehicle, you get there by a motorcycle or a tricycle once you reach Babak Wharf.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride so brace yourself.  The road going there is not yet fully developed.

The first time I went there with friends some two years ago, we thought we were being kidnapped because the road was getting narrower and farther from civilization, lol! We could see more trees and hills than the coastline.  And when the driver finally said we have reached our destination, we were welcomed by the resort’s security guard with a gun visibly hoisted to his side.

But seriously, there was nothing to fear there.  In fact, Samal Island as a whole boasts of a low crime rate and is arguably one of the safest places to visit and live in the Philippines.

All of Villa Amparo’s staff from the guard to the kitchen and office personnel were very accommodating.  Since it was a lean season, we had the place to ourselves!  Serenity.

We rented a nipa hut that could accommodate 3-4 people for only P750.  In the morning, we had our breakfast served at the Islet Gazebo without additional charges. Guests would have to pay P600 for a day at the Islet Gazebo but then again, we had the resort to ourselves and were given excellent perks fit for queens.

Their food was delicious yet inexpensive.

Their common shower rooms and restrooms were clean and well-maintained, and that was of primary importance to me.

Overall, Villa Amparo is worth checking out when you’re in Samal.

Tip: Don’t go there after a night of heavy rain because the sea’s current would wash loads of trash from Davao to this side of Samal. Go there on sunny days and enjoy the clear waters of Villa Amparo throughout your stay!

How to get there from Davao City:

By bus:

1. Ride the Island City Express bus from the Magsaysay Park in Uyanguren. This will get you to Sasa Wharf and ferry you to Babak. Get off at Babak Wharf, not in Caliclic. (Around 15 minutes sea travel from Sasa Wharf)

Fare: P30

2. Ride a tricycle or a motorcycle just a few steps away from Babak Wharf. About 20-30 minutes ride from there to Villa Amparo.

Fare: P75-P100 per head on motorcycle or P375-P500 for a tricycle depending on your bargaining skills;

Some habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers may offer P200 per ride, but able to accommodate three passengers at a time. Jaw drop 😉

By private vehicle or taxi:

1. Pay P270 at Sasa Wharf (not sure if rate has changed).

From the Babak Wharf, turn left and be on the lookout for small billboards and road signs along the way that will help you get to Villa Amparo. If all else fails, stop and ask locals.

Address: Sitio Dasag, Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal.

The resort is pretty secluded from the other beaches in Babak Samal but when you get there, the breath-taking views, good food and customer service will let you know it’s all worth it.

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A comfortable overnight stay in a Villa Amparo nipa hut only costs P750.
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Boardwalk gazebo (P800 day tour). Take the spot upstairs for a fantastic view of the beach.

Our stay there was so relaxing and fun, and yet we didn’t break the bank. That’s the reason I went back last year and looking forward to going there again with more friends to tag along.

Debunking Myths about Mindanao

If you haven’t been to any parts of Mindanao, you’re probably one of the people who cringe at the thought of going there. I don’t blame you. Mindanao is generally and unfairly portrayed in the media as a war-torn island where gunshots are as common as firecrackers on Christmas and New Year’s eve.

I’ll tell you a story:

Many years ago, I was walking along a dimly-lit street in Pasay City when a stranger started taking my pace and tried to spark a conversation. I had this gut feeling that his intentions weren’t wholesome and I certainly wished he’d leave me alone. And then he asked me where I came from: I said briefly: “Mindanao.” “Ha? Muslim ka?” (You’re a Muslim?) His startled reaction was overrated. And he scampered away.

What is it about Mindanao and Muslims that scare people? Myths. Unfair generalizations based on hearsay instead of facts.

Once and for all, let’s settle this.

1. Mindanao, which is the second largest island in the country composed of 26 provinces, is generally peaceful.  Only a small fraction of Mindanao is actually conflict-prone. Not even all of Cotabato (North or South) is risky, so to be scared of Cotabato as a whole is not quite fair. However, you might want to avoid Mamasapano in Cotabato at this point. This agricultural area was unfortunately put in a bad light after a bloody encounter between armed groups and our law enforcers last January. Monitor the news first before you decide to visit that area.

But then again, it is but a small area in Mindanao. According to Wikipedia, the island of Mindanao is larger than 125 countries worldwide, including the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland.

2. Whenever Mindanao is mentioned, one top-of-mind association is “Muslims.” First off, Mindanao is not limited to the ARMM or the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) which are predominantly Muslim areas.

There are many other cities and provinces in Mindanao that are dominated by non-Muslims.  And even if there are many Muslims in some parts of Mindanao, so what? They are like everyone else, regardless of religion. Sadly, many of us have ingrained a certain degree of prejudice against our Muslim brothers and sisters as if they’re synonymous to terrorists and rebels. They’re not. I have Muslim friends and they are some of the nicest and most peace-loving people I know on earth. It’s not fair to brand people.

3. Modern Muslims and Christians are not the only dwellers in Mindanao. Mindanao is also home to lumads (indigenous people) who have distinctively rich cultures but are usually not under the media radar (except maybe during the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City where a lot of these lumads converge and participate in government-initiated activities). Filipinas Heritage Library lists these lumads as follows:

  • South Central Mindanao (esp. Davao, Bukidnon, Cotabato): Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Teduray, Manobo, Kulaman, Blaan, T’boli
  • Eastern Mindanao (esp. Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao, Surigao): Mandaya, Ata, Mansaka, Dibabawon
  • North Central Mindanao (esp. Bukidnon): Bukidnon/Higaonon
  • Western Mindanao and the Sulu Islands (esp. Zamboanga, Cotabato, Lanao): Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Tausug, Samal, Yakan, Kalibugan, and Subanen

I am a child of Mindanao and for more than three decades, I have never felt that my safety has been compromised. Was I just lucky? Not sure about that.  I’ve been to parts of Cotabato and Comval Province, places they tag as rebel-infested and war-torn, but I never heard gun shots nor have I been robbed nor assaulted.  There was a single instance though when our group was approached by a member of the New People’s Army somewhere in Compostela Valley but he didn’t bother us, maybe because our guide was a local farmer whom the group respected for creating livelihood in their area.

Still scared of Mindanao? Start with Southern Mindanao particularly Davao City, the 4th Safest City in the World with a crime index of 13.27 and safety index of 86.73.

Experience not strife but the serenity of its nature parks and mountain resorts, the beauty of nearby beaches, the modern facilities around the city, the abundance of seafood, meat and other fresh produce, the diversity and unity of cultures, the hospitality of its people, the honesty of its taxi drivers. Before you know it, you’ll be wanting to visit nearby provinces and telling your friends that their perception of Mindanao being scary is not at all true. around pilipinas