Meloncreme is Alive!

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Hello everyone! It’s been so long since I’ve posted something on this blog. How are you guys doing? I hope life is treating you well.

I think some of you might be wondering why I haven’t posted anything after my post about applying for a Korean visa and getting approved. I would be curious too since a free trip to Korea and five days of attending a short course about Korean culture at Kyunghee University would’ve been a good topic to blog about, right?

Did I get lazy to edit tons of pictures?

No, I did not get lazy. Why would I be lazy when I was too excited to blog about it? I had a lot of plans on how to blog about it and what to write about. I even made a list of what I should pay attention on and things that I should definitely not forget to mention on my blog posts. I also planned to edit videos of the places I went to and upload them on Youtube. I also made a list of songs to use for the background music. I think I would have gone an extra mile just to help KTO in promoting Korea. It’s the least I could’ve done to thank them for the free trip.

So why didn’t I blog about it?

The reason why I didn’t blog about my Korean trip is because I’ve got no pictures to post, no stories to talk about and no videos to show you guys. I never went to Korea. Because my health wasn’t in good condition, I couldn’t go so I had to cancel 2 days before my scheduled flight. And as what we had agreed on, I had to give the trip to the 2nd place winner. Pretty sad, isn’t it? Yeah, it was really sad.  Oh well, that’s life.

I did get depressed about it. Who wouldn’t be, right? But I got a job not long after that and it kinda helped me to distract myself. I worked in the city hall for 2 months before I had to quit because I kept getting sick. Not really knowing what to do, I enrolled in an online TEFL course. I just might find it useful someday. (I still haven’t finished it. Ugh)

I decided to try my luck in business again so I opened my travel agency. I just started a few days ago. (Ehem, I do have Korea tour packages if anyone is interested. Lol. Shameless plugging, I know. Haha!) And I also sell handmade products for planners and journals.

And just recently, I made a Facebook page. I should have done this before when I still had regular readers. Lol. But some people who are learning Korean wanted to add me on Facebook and I’m not really comfortable in adding people I barely know because some of my posts are kinda too personal to be shared with total strangers. There were also a lot of people who messaged me asking me about the application process for the Korean speech contest. I created that page so that it will be easier for them to reach me. Also, since I plan to get back to studying Korean again, it will be good a place to post short updates of my progress.

Anyway, thank you for taking a moment to read this post. Please kindly like my pages. I really need everyone’s help and support right now. Thank you in advance.

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Applying for a Korean Visa

South Korea has been a popular travel destination for Filipinos nowadays. Fans of Korean dramas flock there to visit the filming locations and try out the foods seen in dramas and there are some fans of K-pop who go there to watch concerts and music shows and go to places where they might see their oppas and unnies like in celebrity-owned cafes, restaurants or clubs. There are also some Filipinos who just want to try and experience the cold for a change since Philippines is a tropical country where it’s “summer” all-year round.

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Unfortunately, Filipinos must have a Korean visa to be able to set foot on Korean soil. Over the years, the visa policy has been changed, making it easier for tourists to visit their country for travel. It is Korea’s strategy to attract more tourists and boost the country’s tourism. As long as you have all the required documents, the process is fast and easy.

As part of the prize I got from winning the Korean speech contest, I will be going to Korea for a week and attend a short course at Kyunghee University. My friends who have been to Korea told me to apply for my visa at least a month before your scheduled travel date. A couple of weeks ago, I started gathering the requirements. I sent an email to KCC requesting for the letter that I need to submit to the embassy. My mom and sister also prepared their own documents because they are going with me to Korea.

Having all the requirements prepared, we headed to the Korean embassy yesterday to submit our documents. I was really nervous so I checked the documents before leaving the house. I even thoroughly scanned the application forms a couple of times, making sure that everything has been filled up. I was worried on the way there because I was wearing a pair of sandals but I was relieved to see a woman standing outside the embassy wearing flip flops.

Upon entering the building, I was surprised to see that there were already a lot of people waiting for their numbers to be called and there was line to have your documents checked before submitting it to the consul. Using of phones and taking of pictures aren’t allowed so I don’t have pictures to show what it was like inside the building.

Before lining up, I made sure everything was arranged according to the order written on the list then we sat down after having our documents checked and waited for our number to be called. Seeing that there were a lot of people, I was worried that we might have to wait for a long time before our turn comes but it was surprisingly fast. Before I knew it, our number was called and we went to window 1. The lady scanned through our documents and returned the things that weren’t needed (it doesn’t hurt to be over prepared lol). She looked at my letter from KCC and asked if we were traveling as a family and I said yes then she gave us a piece of paper to be presented when we come back to claim our passports. The process was fast and we were out of the building in less than 30 minutes. To say that I was impressed is an understatement.

I wish it was that fast in BIR too. Ehem! Ehem! *grins*

We have to wait for at least 5 working days to claim our passports. I’m hoping and praying that my mom, sister and I will each get an approved Korean visa. *crosses fingers*

Anyway, here are some things that people might find useful.

EMBASSY DETAILS
Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines
Address: 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City 1634, Philippines
Tel: (63-2) 856-9210, Fax: (63-2) 856-9008 | Hours of Operation: 08:30 ~ 17:00 (Mon-Fri)

SCHEDULE
Visa Applications: 08:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Claiming of Passports: 01:30 PM – 4:00 PM

PROCESSING TIME
For first time applicants: 5 working days
For frequent travelers: 3-4 working days

LIST OF REQUIREMENTS
For the complete list of requirements, click on this link –> Korean Visa Requirements.

APPLICATION FORM
— You can download it from the website of the embassy.
— I’m not sure if it’s required but I saw “210mm×297mm [백상지 80g/㎡(재활용품)” written on the bottom right of the application form so I decided to use A4-sized 80 gsm or substance 24 paper just to be sure coz you never know.
— Fill it up and make sure there are no erasures. Put n/a instead of leaving a field blank.


PASSPORT

— Make sure your passport is valid for more than 6 months. If not, better renew it first before applying for a passport.
— If you don’t have a passport yet, prepare the documents and go to the DFA office in your city.
— In some cities, the DFA office doesn’t accept walk-in applicants (unless you’re a senior citizen, below 1 year old, person with disability or an overseas Filipino worker). You have to call the DFA office to set an appointment first. Some offices get a lot of applicants that sometimes you have to wait a month or two just to be able to set an appointment.
— If you are in a rush and you can’t schedule an appointment because there is no open slot, go to a travel agency. You will have to pay more but it will be faster.
— Bring your old passport as well just in case they ask to see it. You never know.
— Photocopy the bio page. Make sure it’s clear and details can be read easily.

BANK CERTIFICATE AND STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT
— You can request these documents from your bank for a minimal fee. I got mine at BDO and I paid P100 each for the bank certificate and the bank statement.
— Make sure all the necessary details are on the certificate and statement and make sure they are correct. The certificate given to me had a lot of mistakes or lack a few details that were needed so I had it corrected and I didn’t leave the branch until I was sure that everything was fixed.

NOTES
— There is no rule on how much money you should have in your bank account but just make sure that it is more than the budget you stated in the application form.
— Do not withdraw your money before your visa has been issued.
— I’m not sure if they have a dress code but please come in proper attire. No slippers, “pekpek” shorts, spaghetti strap tank tops etc. You are going to an office so wrap yourself up in decent clothing. A mentor told me that there are consuls who also observe and evaluate you based on your appearance and behavior as well.
— Make sure you have all the requirements and arrange them according to the order in the list. If you have other documents that you think is important and they might ask to see such as old passports, just bring it with you and prepare a photocopy of it.
— Check the official website for announcements.
— For BDO Gold and Elite, BPI Gold Master, SkyMiles Platinum Master, Amore Visa Platinum and Gold BPI Express Teller Debit cardholders, there is an ongoing promo that if you apply with your card, you will get a multiple entry visa for 3-5 years, depending on what card you have. Also, if you have any of the cards mentioned, you are exempted from submitting a bank certificate and ITR. *Eligible applicants are not automatically issued a multiple entry visa. Issuance of visa whether single or multiple entry is subject for approval of the consul in-charge.

Good luck in applying for a Korean visa. Just an additional note before I end this post. If you don’t have a Korean visa but still want to go to Korea, you can go to Jeju Island. It’s just as awesome as Seoul, probably even better if you’re the type of traveler who wants a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find it useful. If you have any questions, you can reach me through the Contact page or leave a comment below. Just a little reminder though, I do not work for the embassy so I may not have answers to all the questions. ^^;;

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KCC’s 2016 Korean Speech Contest

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I went to Cebu to compete in the semi-finals of the 2016 Korean Speech Contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines and I got 1st place which automatically made me the representative for Cebu (even though I’m from Tacloban) to compete in the grand finals in Ateneo de Manila University.

On the day of the competition, I was nervous but I didn’t know whether it was because I was about to ride the plane to Manila or because of the competition itself. My near death experience in the plane in 2009 still scares me at times whenever I’m about to ride a plane. But I arrived safely and I was way less scared and more relaxed than my flight last year. I’m still trying to get used to it.

The KCC van was already there waiting for me and the other regional contestants. I was the first one to arrive so I was asked to wait for the others inside the van. The contestant from Davao arrived together with her mom. Imagine the surprise on my face when she said she was 14 years old. She speaks better than I do. I write better than I can speak. The contestant from Iloilo got lost and due to time constraints, we couldn’t wait for him so he was instructed to get a cab and meet us at the hotel. We had to pick up one more contestant before heading to the hotel so we dropped by a mall where the contestant from Pampanga and his family were waiting for us. The van was already crowded by then.

After checking in and dropping our bags at the hotel, we went to have lunch at Jollibee before heading to the contest venue. I couldn’t eat properly. It was a challenge to swallow my food when I was trembling.

I was excited to see Ateneo. I planned to walk around before the contest and take a few pictures but it was raining when we arrived and the place was huge, I didn’t want to risk getting lost so I didn’t get to take photos.

Once inside the hall, my hands and feet were ice cold. I could already feel the anxiety building up inside of me. I was greeted by Director Oh who recognized me for joining last year’s speech contest. We were then asked to sit according to sequence. They have already decided on the order and I was the 4th one to deliver my speech.

I was planning to wear a hanbok so I brought one with me but seeing that none of the other contestants were wearing a hanbok, I decided to present in my dress. I was worried that the hanbok would make me feel more uncomfortable delivering a speech in it.

Moments before the program started, I couldn’t help but call my sister to ask if I could have one more of the anti-histamine capsule to help me relax because my heart was pounding like crazy. But she didn’t allow me because I already had one before I got on the plane. So I just endured it.

When it was my turn to deliver my speech, I felt pressured when the MC introduced me as last year’s 3rd place winner because I was worried that it would make people expect more from me. Before standing in front of the everyone, I took my glasses off, thinking that not being able to clearly see the look on the judges face would help keep me calm or at least not make me even more panicked than I already was.

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I stood in front of everyone and began my speech. I was surprised how not being able to see them clearly made me deliver my speech in the pace that I wanted, slow and dramatic. But unlike other contestants, I couldn’t walk around comfortably and make hand gestures because I was shaking. I even held the microphone with two hands and I gripped it very tightly. I stood there awkwardly as I delivered my speech. As I got to the end of it, I turned around to quickly put my glasses back on for the interview.

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I was asked if I have been to Korea, if I had considered going to Korea for medical treatment, and if I had plans on going to Korea. And my answers were:

1. No, I haven’t been to Korea.
2. Yes, because Commander Lee told me to try to go to Korea to get treatment.
3. Yes, if I would be given the chance to go to Korea, I would. (They laughed because it was like I’m implying to make me win so I can go there. Believe me or not, that was not my intention. Lol.)

After delivering my speech and the interview, I went back to my seat and I just buried my face in my palms because even though I did better than last year, I was still not satisfied with my performance. But I just heaved a sigh of relief because it was over and I was already telling myself to accept whatever the result is. Yeah, I was already accepting my defeat, seeing how the others performed well and according to how they were coached.

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When everyone got their chance to deliver their speeches, we were all asked to line up in front to get our KCC gift bags. A very little part of me was still hoping to get the 2nd or 3rd place. But when other contestants were announced as 2nd and 3rd place winners, I already began to think of a way to break the bad news to my parents. They’ve been very supportive of me and I could already hear them say “It’s okay, dear. You did our best.”

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The MC, who was trying to prolong the suspense, asked the audience who they think would be this year’s grand prize winner. I was teasing the contestant from Davao to treat us. I was already congratulating her. Someone from the audience yelled “Tacloban!”. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting someone, especially a person I don’t know, to cheer for me.

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“Our 2016 Korean Speech contest came all the way from…”

Okay. All the way from… which only meant one thing. The winner lives in a place farthest from Manila and that place is Davao. Okay.

“All the way from TACLOBAN!”

What? What?? WHAT???

I had a Pia Wurtzbach moment, ladies and gentlmen.

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I couldn’t believe I won and the contestants standing beside me gave me a little push because I froze in my spot, looking at everyone with a blank expression. While everyone took several photos, I couldn’t help but ask Director Oh (who stood beside me after giving the trophy) if it was a hidden camera prank. I was actually waiting for the MC to say that there has been a mistake but it didn’t happen. I felt like an instant celebrity as people took turns to have a photo with me. It’s kinda sad that I had no photo of me delivering my speech or getting the award so I just grabbed whatever photo was uploaded on Facebook.

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The president of Philippine International College offered me to go to their school and someone from Ateneo asked for my contact information because they were interested on making a short film about my life. I was like… Wow.

As soon as we got inside the van, I called my dad to let him know that I won.

Me: Pa..
Dad: Anak, what happened? How was the contest?
Me: It was okay. I won.
Dad: Really? You won? What place did you get?
Me: I got the 1st place, pa.
Dad: That’s good. 1st place, right? Congratulations, anak. We are proud of you and we love you very much. We can’t wait to see you when you come back.
Me: Thanks, pa. I love you. Bye.
Dad: Okay, anak. Take care! We love you.

I wanted to cry but… there were so many people in the van. My parents couldn’t make it to the contest because they were busy with the campaign for the upcoming elections.

I stayed up all night that night because I still couldn’t believe what just happened and I was trying to relive the moments in my mind. When I’m at an event or just hanging out with friends, I usually post a status or a photo on Facebook as soon as possible but this time, I didn’t post anything about it until the next day, when KCC announced it on their Facebook page and my friends were already sharing the KCC’s post and tagging me with a short congratulatory message. Before then, I couldn’t bring myself to post anything about the contest because I was still in the process of convincing myself that it was not a dream. It took hours to sink in.

All of my friends were congratulating me through comments, private messages, statuses and some even called me. They knew how long I’ve waited for the chance to go to Korea and this is the chance that I’ve been waiting for.

Someone’s going to Korea in September. Thank you, Daddy God, for giving me this unexpected blessing. I was only asking to be able to set foot in Ateneo and maybe grab the 2nd or 3rd place but You have given me way more than what I asked for. You are amazing and I will never stop giving praise to You. Thank you for this new adventure I’m about to take in a few months.

Here are some articles about the contest:

1. http://www.mb.com.ph/tacloban-native-wins-korean-speech-contest/

2. https://kccsupportersblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/the-2016-korean-speech-contest-grand-finals-a-day-of-inspiration-to-grow/

3. http://pnatacloban.blogspot.com/2016/05/tacloban-native-shines-in-korean-speech.html

4. http://cebuin.com/korean/8624/2016

Photos were grabbed from Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines fanpage

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