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Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Video That Works

You know how frustrating it feels when you thought you finished something correctly... then you found out that it's not working as it should be.  I found myself stuck with my laptop, downloading video converters suggested by forums just to have the correct format that our DVD player would accept.

It'll be just a couple of days to our son's first birthday.  My wife and I planned to have a photo slideshow of his pictures from the day he was born to present.  Everything was really smooth sailing, from the choosing of the pics and the music to play with it until converting to to a video format.  The challenging part was when we found out that it should be playable with a DVD player since it was the only available media in the restaurant where the party will be held.

Unlike in laptops and other computers, where almost all video formats are playable, some dvd players are a little bit choosy.  Using Windows Live Movie Maker, I was quite hesitant that it's default video output [WMV file (.wmv)] would be compatible in our DVD player.  So after a bit of surfing the net, I downloaded a video converter.

I started with an MP4 format but it was rejected by our player.  Then, an AVI format as most of DVDs were but failed again.  After several minutes to an hour, I was hoping the MPEG2 format would play, but like the rest, it didn't.  Good thing we purchased a rewritable DVD, I just erased and replaced its contents.

And just when I was about to give up and ask others to do it for me, I read about the VOB video format.  No harm in giving it one last try, and what do you know, it finally worked.  Success at last... one down and a lot to go.  Good luck to us.  Yahweh bless.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hafa Adai, Guam - Third Day: Going Home

We had our simple breakfast inside our room, instant noodles cup we bought from a convenience store near our place.  It was sort of a brunch since we woke up late, recuperating from the whole day of tour around Guam yesterday.  Then after a while, I went to McDonald's and ordered for our lunch "to go" (termed "take-out" in our place).  Included in our accommodation package was our ride to the airport, so even if our flight was still in the evening, we checked-in way ahead of our schedule. 

After we checked-in our baggage, we had our lunch and then roamed around A.B.Won Pat International Airport.  There were actually a lot of shops inside selling signature items and goodies (and the prices? hmmmm...), and one can actually try them (especially the chocolates). There were a lot of Filipinos working as sales representative, so there's really no need to speak a lot of English there.  We then settled on the benches and watched an animated movie over and over again (I think 3 times before our flight schedule came).

Our plane departed at around 7 p.m. Guam time and expected to arrive at 9 p.m. Philippine time.  Our flight was fully occupied and I had to endure more or less 4 hours of being seated away from my family.  We had an uncomfortable flight, there were a lot of turbulence along the way, wasn't able to relate with the food they served me (sorry...), and the kids were not feeling well (did I mention we all had cough) which made me worry a lot, thinking my wife was left alone with our kids.  Still, everything turned out well, we arrived safe and sound in Manila... and we thanked the Lord for a safe trip.

From NAIA Terminal 1, we rode a shuttle provided by the airport to Terminal 3.  And since our flight to Davao was at 3:45 a.m. the following day, we decided to wait inside the airport terminal.  We had a midnight snack with the kids (good to see prices to be lower and in pesos... LOL).  The only downfall was, even if we are known for our hospitality, a lot of passengers (both locals and foreigners) were sleeping on the airport floor.  Good thing we brought a lot of blankets for the kids.  Our airports should install or at least provide more benches for their passengers especially for those staying for an early morning flight schedule.  It would definitely show their concern to passengers and more making the world know that our hospitality isn't only limited in books.

Good thing we're seated together during our flight to Davao.  We arrived safely in Davao on a beautiful Saturday morning.  When we arrived home, it seemed like we had not rested for days, so we slept the whole day.

Thank you Lord for the great experience, You gave our family, to visit another wonderful country.  For providing safety and guidance in the whole duration of our trip.  We are truly grateful for your kindness and we bring back all the praises and glory to You... 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hafa Adai, Guam - Second Day: Visiting Landmarks

We woke up late in the morning, it was almost 11:00 am when the kids woke up.  There was not much we could do, as we were losing our chance to roam around Guam.  And the only way that fitted our budget was to contact the hotel service driver and ask if he could drive us to a popular beach resort near the place.  He agreed but we had to pay him $10 for the one way trip.  

The driver then brought us to Tumon beach.  It was indeed a popular location for tourists like us, as we've seen different nationalities there.  The white sand and warm water were just perfect for a swim.  And surrounded by famous hotels, made it very accessible to visitors.  We took a couple of pics and decided to find a place to eat and maybe we could walk after to roam around the places nearby... that was our plan.  But just as when we're ready to accept our fate, that it'll be the only place we'll get to visit in Guam, a blessing came... we met a "kababayan", Ray.

Ray was eating his lunch alone when we met him.  So, it was easy for us to ask him where we could find a good place to eat.  He suggested a couple of restaurants thinking we had a ride, when we told him we didn't have any, he nicely offered to accompany us.  We were hesitant at first, but considering the kids, we took the offer.  And after a short introduction, he then asked us if where do we want to eat... He offered Ross or Kmart, and we chose to visit Kmart.

We asked Ray to eat with us at Kmart's food court to at least return the favor.  The place was just typical but it was where I first enjoyed refilling your soda cup to whatever you like and to your heart's desire until you can't take no more.  After we roamed around and bought some groceries and goodies to bring home, Ray decided to tour us around, which we first denied, but he insisted... he said, it's Filipino hospitality.  We're not in the position to argue, I guess, we were just in luck.

He then took us to Guam Premier Outlets to see Ross.  Ross, focuses on discounted RTW's, shoes, accessories and alike... as it's tag line says,"dress for less".  We were able to find good buys as a treat and remembrance for our visit.  We didn't stay long as there were still a couple of places we were going to.

Next stop was Paseo de Susana where  a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty stands.  We saw some Chamorros fishing nearby and tourists parasailing in the deeper sea were also visible in the place.  It was a cool location to enjoy the sea breeze and the sights of the sea.

A famous church in Guam was our next destination: Dolce Nombre De Maria Cathedral - Basilica.  Ray said the church is air-conditioned when there is a mass, but having a high ceiling compensated the temperature inside at that moment.  The feeling of serenity and calmness as we entered the church also added to our ease.  We were the only people during that time, so it was just perfect to pray.  They say, when you visit a church for the first time, you pray and you get to have one wish.  I say, the Lord is listening all the time.

More, the church is located within the perimeter of Plaza de España, another tourist destination.  We enjoyed relaxing there for a while... under the shades of the trees and the cool breeze, just perfect.  Also in the area were the Guam Insular Force Guard monument, Chocolate house and Pope John Paul II statue.

It was getting late, so we then hurried to Two Lovers Point before it closes.  Talking about saving the best for last. The place offered a breathtaking view of Guam's shoreline from a cliff.  The place is famous for lovers who want to tie the knot, stone after stone of engraved names of couples who married in the place served as evidence.  They also had what they call "wish or love lock", its a padlock with a heart where you can write a wish or dedication.  It is then attached to the wire fence in the place.  We also tried their machine that converts a penny to a souvenir piece.  Well, there's practically a lot of things to do there... truly, a must see.

We had our well-deserved meal at Mc Donalds, the one near our place.  We treated Ray for a meal, though we know, it wasn't enough to return all the favors he had done for our family for the day... it was a gesture that we were truly grateful for touring us around Guam.  So after, we returned the favor by accompanying him to watch his favorite game, we watched a friendly game of soccer nearby.  Then he gave us a ride to our hotel and bid our farewells afterwards.

We thank the Lord for using people like Ray in making our stay in Guam memorable and meaningful.  And most of all, for the gift of friendship.  We felt accomplished and satisfied as we rest the night off.  To Him be all the glory.  Yahweh bless.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hafa Adai, Guam - First Day: To Where America's Day Begins

We woke up early the following morning (in as much as we still wanted to sleep), to prepare for our flight to Guam.  Just wanted to say that we had a comfortable stay at Lorenzzo Suites, good facilities and very accommodating staffs.  So, in behalf of my family, thank you for making our stay easy for us.  And off we went to war... i mean, to the airport.

I just don't know why people are giving you a hard time going out of the country (not to mention how many times we and our things went to x-ray and metal detector machines).  We went to the airport early because there were just a lot of things to do and comply (just like when we went to Singapore).  It took us a couple of minutes just checking in to our flight, a little problem about our baby's ticket.  It was a good thing though that the travel tax's already included in our plane fare, we skipped that another long line.  Our departure was scheduled at 10:55 am and 4:55 pm arrival time - that will be 4 hours flight duration.  Yup, that's definitely correct, Guam is 2 hours ahead of us.

Next stop, filing up documents for our local immigration requirement where it took another couple of minutes.  Then, we again strip up for another body search before we entered the waiting area.  Finally, we reached the finish line and boarding came next.  

We had a smooth sailing flight, the airlines provided meals, we were entertained by their movie feature: Johnny Depp's The Lone Ranger, and most of all, the kids were tame during the flight duration.  Although our baby "pooped" just minutes before we landed to Guam.  At the plane's window, Guam looked like our Samal, the difference was just evident when we landed.  It had nice buildings, infrastructures and wide streets that really made us think we're in another country.

Upon arrival, we went directly to the U.S. immigration office.  Good thing we had our kids with us, it lightened up the atmosphere with airport police officers.  Though there was still something we had to comply, however, we were told that we had the option to do it later, so we were allowed to enter Guam.  They even helped us contact our hotel for our ride to the place.

Guam: Where America's Day Begins... seen this in a car's license plate, so I asked why?  I was told that it is the U.S. territory where the sun first rises.

When we arrived in our room in Harmon Loop Hotel, we were happy to see Mc Donald's just across the street.  But we had a different plan, we wanted to see the place so we took a hike with the kids to the Micronesia Mall, we were told that it was just a walking distance from our place.  Though it took us a while walking with the kids, it was a fun experience, as we saw a lot of Filipino establishments along the way. 

We were hungry when we arrived, so we went to their food court and settled with Burger King.  And as expected, it cost us $20 for a simple meal.  We can't really help to convert the cost to peso since not one of us earns dollar, our pocket money were exchange from our bank.  But we must spend for our necessity, so there's nothing much we could do about it. We then enjoyed the rest of the night roaming around the mall.

We walked back to our place after.  Strange as it may seem, we only saw very few people walking in the streets.  I guess, everyone had a ride.  Though the walk maybe a little far, but everyone enjoyed the short talks and sights along the way.

Even if it's very evident how everyone looked so tired as we arrived in the hotel, but the kids still had the energy to watch the Disney channel...  Amazing, though I hate to be "killjoy" but it's time to rest.  Goodnight all.  Yahweh bless.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pre-Departure Registration and Orientation Seminar

We had a busy early morning today as we prepared to travel to Manila, not for a vacation, but to attend a seminar in the Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO).  We traveled along with our 3 kids (including an infant), so my wife and I already prepared ourselves for a tough whole day.  Even if we already briefed them with the dos and don't(s), still kids are kids, always be prepared that a lot of unexpected things will happen.

Upon arrival in Manila, we proceeded to our hotel to unload our things.  Just a tip:  There are taxis outside the airport, those with fixed price and those metered ones.  We preferred an airport metered taxi, although their flag down rate is higher than the usual, it would still come out to be cheaper and safe.  It was still early so we can't check-in, good thing the hotel personnel were kind enough to tell us that we can leave our baggage in the counter.  So off we went to CFO.

Why are there Filipinos who give our country a bad reputation?  Going to CFO, we were told by the taxi driver that he won't be using his meter because we will be caught by the traffic and told us we will pay him 300 (if not for the rain and the kids, we already vacated the taxi).  I told him that's too much for a short trip, and negotiated the price to ₱200, told him it'll be more than enough.  The driver didn't say a word, so I assumed we had a deal.

We arrived in CFO on time, we registered for the seminar, with wifey, filling up a lot of forms and me taking care of the kids.  Thinking that it will only cost us a registration for me and my wife, it was ₱2,000 for the whole family (₱400 each).  Never thought the kids were included, what will they orient them about, ABC's?  Our baby won't still get it... LOL.  The seminar was scheduled early in the afternoon so we decided to stay and wait in the place (as much as we wanted to rest in our hotel, the time didn't permit).  And as always, the tough part was, taming the kids.

What was the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) all about?  Well, generally it was what life would be like abroad and how laws and authorities are much respected there.  We also were told of what things to bring and not to bring during the flight and what processes to expect and undertake going out our country and upon entering US the first time.  And most importantly, to check the completeness of our documents and ensure that everything is in order.  I don't know if I missed something, to tell you frankly, I had not been able to concentrate well with the seminar since I had a bad cough (sadly, the kids had it also).

Glad everything went well, and we received another important sticker in our passport which we would need when we go out of the country.  Everything's done for the day and at last, we went back to Lorenzo Suites, where we stayed and had our needed rest, before our long travel the next day. 

The kids were  already asleep as we thank the Lord for keeping our family safe and sound the whole day.  Looking forward to another out-of-the-country adventure tomorrow. I know that He will be our guide... Yahweh bless.