Schengen Lithuanian Visa Application

I got my Schengen visa three weeks after I filed my application at the VFS Austria Visa Application Center in Cebu. The Austrian Embassy Manila also represents Lithuania so I applied for a visa there, or to be more specific, via the VFS Austria Visa Application Centers either in Manila or Cebu. The visa requirements are the same as when applying for visa for travel to Austria. And booking for appointment is done online through the VFS website.

I decided to book an appointment at the visa application center in Cebu since I will be traveling from Davao. Cebu is a cheaper and more convenient choice for me. I scheduled an 8:00AM appointment on a Monday last month and traveled to Cebu Sunday afternoon. I stayed at the New Era Pension Inn since it was only a few minutes’ walk away from the Keppel building where the VFS Global office was located. I was happy with the accommodation and would stay there again if I have to apply for a visa through VFS Global again.

I left the inn about 40 minutes before my scheduled appointment. I was so glad I did because I got lost on my way there. I was told by one of the staff of the inn to go straight, turn left, and just go straight until I reach the brown building. I followed the instruction to the letter and have been walking for over 15 minutes when I realized that there was no brown building in sight as far as I can see. Thankfully, I passed by a gasoline station and saw a group of people chatting. I asked them for directions and they helpfully told me how to get there. It turned out that I should have taken another left turn only a few meters after that last “just go straight” initial instruction I got.

So I retraced my steps and spent over 10 minutes walking to Keppel Building. I arrived a little before 8:00AM, signed my name on the appointment sheet handed to me at the reception, handed a number, and was told to turn off my phone and not to use it while I am inside.

I was number three so I spent more than two hours waiting for my turn. From what I observed, processing time for each of the two applicants before me was about an hour or so.

It was my first time to try applying for a visa through a VFS application center. My previous experiences have been directly with the countries’ embassies in Manila. I did not know what to expect. So I was happy that it was a fairly good experience. I realized that the reason the whole process stretch to at least 45 minutes was because the man in charge of receiving the applications was, not surprisingly, meticulously checking them. I also like how the person was being detached and professional without being rude.

After checking all the requirements, he proceeded to ask me a set of questions that was on the document where he also wrote down my answers. The next step was the biometric fingerprinting and finally I was asked to pay the following fees:

  • Php3,240.00 – Visa application fee
  • Php2,710.00 – Logistics + courier + SMS fees
  • TOTAL: Php5,950.00

Some thoughts about the visa application and the requirements:

  • It was really convenient that there was a visa application center in Cebu. I hope that VFS Global will also set up a center here in Davao to make it easier and more cost-efficient for applicants coming from Mindanao.
  • Personal bank statement balance should cover six months unlike the three months requirement for visa application at the Embassy of Belgium Manila
  • I had to submit the travel insurance with the requirements unlike before at the Belgium embassy when they only required applicants to submit a copy by email before they released the passport with the visa in it
  • For the second time, I got my confirmed flight reservation from here. And once again, I was happy with how quickly they sent it to me

—–
VFS Global Cebu
Location: 503, Keppel Building, Cardinal Rosales Avenue Cor Samar Loop, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu

Mindanao Martial Law: A Mindanaoan Trying to See from Different Perspectives

I grew up in Mindanao during Martial Law days. I have a lot of memories of truckloads of soldiers passing by my grandparents’ house that sits along the highway somewhere in Davao del Norte. I am used to hearing gunshots even in Davao City. I have seen dead bodies with gunshot wounds or riddled with wounds from a machete.

I am no fan of Martial Law. I have heard of the atrocities it has caused. I know of military abuses. I have listened to stories of people who have become victims by it. I have seen my share of abusive paramilitary groups. And I have lost friends in summary killings — killed and buried in shallow graves for their ideologies somewhere in the hinterlands.

I have several military friends and teammates who are either military men and women also serving as national athletes or have been recruited to the military through our sport. I’ve heard soldiers lament about why they feel like human rights advocates are deaf to their own suffering in the hands of the enemies.

I may not be politically savvy. But my interactions with people who have different views and experiences with Martial Law helped me gain a broader perspective on the issues related to it.

I am against Martial Law because of what it represents to me. I fear for the possible repercussions of the recent proclamation covering the entire Mindanao region. I could not help but look back to the realities and the stories of the past.

But as a daughter of Mindanao, living in a region that has been largely neglected by the central government, I also understand that this time the threat is even more sinister. Local groups that have long been identified as terrorists have openly proclaimed allegiance to ISIS. They seem to be growing in numbers. And even more alarming, reports of them uniting and collaborating to pursue their cause have been surfacing since last year. And if the recent skirmishes in Marawi City indicates, these groups are indeed working together.

I see Martial Law now from the perspective of someone living in a land of so much promise but trapped in a seemingly never-ending conflict. A place of possibilities long hindered by underdevelopment, poverty, and lack of opportunities. An island where most people are really just trying to live peacefully together regardless of differences in cultures and beliefs. The promise of solutions to the terror problem makes Martial Law seem appealing, especially if you are looking at it through a lens that fails to capture the risks and dangers it may pose to the marginalized and the most vulnerable — people from far-flung areas with no access to government IDs, the uneducated, and the uninformed about their fundamental rights.

But fear from the growing threats from terrorists who have repeatedly shown how savage they can be seems to make a lot of us here in Mindanao blind and deaf to reason.

I have been silent about the issue since the president proclaimed Martial Law a few days back. Not because I do not care. But because I may be among those who are still trying to process everything in a place where the safety and security threats are much too real. I am in that place right now where emotions seem to trump logic. I am trying to put myself in the shoes of people who have direct experience with the continued war against local terror groups, those who live in remote areas who have no access to government services and aid, and everyone who has no benefit of the privileges many of us enjoy. With so many factors at play, I begin to hesitate more about saying things I may not truly understand.

INTJ Struggles I Can Totally Relate To

Screenshot from https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality

I’m an INTJ with Type 5 Enneagram who has a longstanding fascination with zodiac signs. And no, I don’t think that astrology or personality types should shape and define people’s lives. But I’m a great believer in the insights they give to help me understand myself and others better.

I’ve long been interested with astrology. I even know what my moon sign is and has been in countless conversations about the topic with friends. It helped me gain a better understanding of myself and the people around me. It helped me in times when I just want to make sense of people’s actions and motivations. But this interest did not extend to psychology’s different personality types until much later.

I first heard of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in high school when the guidance office administered the test to us. The result indicated that I was an INTJ but it was something that was really not clear to me at that time. Fast forward to college, I took the same exam at the university equivalent of a guidance office and I still got the same result. Still, it was not something that I gave much thought about.

In recent years, I noticed an uptick of interest on these topics. I often see a lot of Facebook friends’ post about their zodiac signs and MBTI types. I started to develop a keen interest on my MBTI. I took some of the online tests I came across and was surprised to get the same result. I’ve heard of friends whose MBTI type changed over the years. It seems that I’m so set in my ways that even after all these years, I’m still an INTJ.

Lately, I’ve been in a most frustrating situation. It has been building up for almost three years. And I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but the last straw happened. I’ve been through similar frustrations on this particular issue in the past which prompted me to step away from the least empowering environment I’ve been in. But there has always been a part of me that still felt like I was not ready to completely let go. This time though, something just snapped that I could almost literally feel it. The first thing I did was to disconnect from all the people associated with it. I even deactivated my Facebook account to give myself time to process things without coming across anything that might fuel all the negative feelings I had at that moment. I didn’t plan to go offline for long. But curiously, one day stretched into almost a month, give or take three days, and I still don’t feel like activating my Facebook account again. And I realized that even in the past, it’s that feeling that indicates that I’ve reached saturation point.

Looking back, here are some of the INTJ struggles I can totally relate to in the context of my personal experiences in that environment that I now choose to leave behind.

Being judged for not being “friendly” or sociable
I’m not really good at social settings. Some people may think that I use this as a psychological crutch or an excuse not to try. But I do try. But expecting me to be as bubbly and “friendly” as everyone else will not change who I really am. I’m more of an observer. And I don’t enjoy gossip and neither am I good at small talk. My keeping to myself or not joining conversations is not arrogance. It’s just my default mode, especially when I’m focused on the task at hand.

Some people assuming I’m a cold and heartless bitch
I find it easier to deal with logic than emotions. But that does not mean I lack empathy. I just show it differently. I can actually relate with a lot of things people around me go through. I may not be good at offering words of comfort. But I focus my energy on how I could make things a little bit better for others. And if I could improve something in my environment that will make it a better place for others, then I will gladly take on that challenge.

Being misunderstood
I’m used to being misunderstood. I can’t really blame people when I find it difficult to articulate what’s truly on my mind. And talking in a straightforward and cold manner only adds to the impression that I’m a bitch.

Focusing on logic and issue rather than emotion and personality
Fighting with someone who focuses on personality rather than the issues at hand is extremely frustrating and draining. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone has to focus on my negative traits and personality when I could easily do the same to that person. I find it mindboggling how my personality is more important than the issues when even without me in the picture the same problems that affect other people still exist. I didn’t even create those problems and yet I’m made to feel like it’s my fault for being a bad person. And the most frustrating thing was I began to believe those things being thrown my way. It made me feel helpless and unhappy. But thankfully, I got to realize that there were many people around me who actually believe and support me in their own quiet ways.

Dealing with a person who gossips and says a lot of bad things behind people’s back
I recently learned that the person who attacks my personality every time we have a rift has been saying a lot of really bad things about me behind my back. This was even after two years have passed since our last major rift. And for someone in a position of power to do that to someone who chooses to keep silent about the issue is not only unfair. It also eroded whatever little respect I was trying to preserve. I don’t have to like you to work with you. And I will tell you what the problem is in your face. That’s how I tend to approach anything that needs to be done. So I find it difficult to understand how some people can attack from behind instead of confronting the person head-on.

In the end, there are some things that just don’t make sense that are better left behind. If it’s not helping me grow or become a better person, then it’s high time I remove myself from that situation — to heal and devote myself to things that support my growth.

Jury Duties at this Year’s Junior Champs

With the release of the ARF jury list last week, I now can prepare for my assignments for this year. It’s quite a coincidence that I’ll be doing jury duties for two junior championships. From what I understand the Asian championships will also serve as the qualification regatta for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Umpiring may not be an easy job, and often a thankless one too, but it is something that I always look forward to. The constant challenge and being around people who are driven, committed, and passionate about what they do make every stint a worthwhile experience.

Jury list for the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships in Trakai, Lithuania
Jury list for the 2017 Asian Rowing Junior Championships and FISA Asian Qualification Regatta for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)

A Matcha Mille Crepe Kind of Day

I have been craving for Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe as soon as I saw some photos of it on their Facebook page. So I finally headed out to their stall at the ground floor of SM Lanang this morning after I finished with my errands. I bought a slice for take out and had it after lunch.

Exactly my plan
Matcha Mille Crepe to go
Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe

There are three things in matcha mille crepe that I love — matcha, crepes, and layers. But there is something about all of them together that did not quite work for me. I could taste the matcha and the crepe which is good. And yet there is something that I seem to be missing. Maybe it is all about the layers. My choices in cakes have always been simple. Maybe all that layering made it complicated for me. It got me thinking why I like layers in the first place.

28 Hours in Cebu

Last Sunday’s trip to Cebu was not for leisure. But it proved to be a welcome break to what has been a most stressful month. Not only was I able to accomplish what I needed to do there. I also got to spend time with my high school friend

DAY 1

Can’t it be just “new driver”? ~ Seen on the way from the airport to Mabolo

The flight was delayed by about an hour so I arrived at Cebu at around 2:00PM. I took a taxi to the inn where I was staying. I chose the place because it was near the building where the office I needed to visit the next day was located. My only plan for the day was the meet-up with my friend later in the evening after her coaching training. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on some much-needed rest and sleep.

My friend and I later had dinner and a long chat somewhere at Ayala Terraces.

DAY 2

Taking care of business

Early Monday morning was for taking care of my main reason for traveling to Cebu. I finished what I had to do by 10:00AM and headed back to the inn to rest and get ready for check-out.

Lunch at Zubo Chon

Zubo Chon
The placemat
Delicious crispy skin and flavorful meat

Eating lechon is part of a Cebu experience. And I was not planning on leaving without having one. My friend brought me to Zubo Chon after I told her I want to eat it for lunch. I was happy with the restaurant’s lechon although my friend told me she prefers the one she buys in one of the city’s public markets. Something to keep in mind for next time.

A Glimpse of Casa Gorordo

Casa Gorordo Museum
Outside looking in

My friend wanted to have coffee at the cafe in Casa Gorordo so I could look around the old house/museum. But it was closed when we got there. We were told that it does not open on Monday’s. Luckily, there are other spots worth exploring nearby so the trip was not entirely wasted.

Location: No 35 Lopez Jaena, Cebu City

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

From Casa Gorordo, we walked to Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House. This old house may not look as grand as Casa Gorordo. But it was impressive in its own way. The house is said to be one of the oldest Chinese houses built outside of China. More than 90% of the original roofs and walls are still intact. One of the volunteer guides there told us that since it was built, the house has withstood some of the strongest earthquakes that struck Cebu.

A little about the old house
Some of the many items to find at the ground floor of the house
Dining table at the ground floor
One of the windows at the ground floor
Tempted to play a game of sungka ~ at the 2nd floor of the house
View of the garden below
An old radio that’s still working
An old harp
A banggera with a clay jar that stores drinking water. I remember a similar jar at my grandparents’ home and how the water stored there was always cool to drink.
Wishing well
An old boat used as a window planter. View from the garden
Not sure why there’s a portrait of a couple at the cooking area. But I love these old pots.
At the ground floor again

The interior is filled with things — from old everyday household items to religious sculptures and images that made me think about some of the collection I saw at the Baclayon Church in Bohol when I was a kid.

According to the guide, the owners still live in the house on weekends.

Location: Parian District, Cebu City
Admission Fee: Php50.00

The Jesuit House

Inside the compound where the old house and the hardware business are located

At the second level of the house

An old movie projector
How the Jesuit House looked like in the past
The newly opened Cafe Parian inside the compound

Located only a few meters away from the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house, the 1730 Jesuit House stood hidden in no-so-plain-sight. I love the story of how it was “discovered” by the son of the owner who was studying at the Ateneo in the 1980’s. According to the story my friend told me, the son was looking at photos of the old Jesuit House in a textbook when he suddenly realized that it looked familiar. It turned out that the building has served as the bodega or warehouse for their family’s business for many generations.

The first and second level of the Jesuit House are made of coral stones. It has many interesting features including the wood reliefs and floorboards.

Location: 26 Zulueta St, Cebu City
Admission: Php50.00

Heritage of Cebu Monument

One section of this impressive monument

This monument immediately captured my interest as my friend drove past it on our way to Casa Gorordo. It was our last stop in our unplanned culture and heritage tour. Heritage of Cebu monument was stunning up close as it was from afar. I love the details and the way all the sculptures seem to blend so well together. I could have spent more time gawking at it if it were not for the merciless heat of the sun that was already beginning to make my head ache.

Homeward-bound

We made a quick stop to my friend’s home in Mandaue before we headed to Mactan International Airport to catch my 5:55PM flight to Davao. I like how there are many trees on the side of the road leading to the airport as well as the many cafes, restaurants, and shops inside the terminal. Those are just some of the things I hope to see in Davao’s airport in the near future.

Twenty-eight hours in Cebu may not be enough to see what the Queen City of the South has to offer. But it was enough to enjoy some of the city’s best.

Feeling Like a Misfit in Kendo

I have not been writing about kendo in the past months. I guess that was a reflection of how I felt about my kendo journey — confused, demotivated, lost, and generally uninspired. I wish I could go back in the beginning and grasp at that feeling of excitement and joy in learning despite the hardships. Lately, it just felt like all suffering without the fun. Another reason I have not been writing about practice was because I went on a hiatus again. This time the self-imposed break lasted for three months. The longest number of consecutive weeks I stopped training. It is not something I am proud of. But it felt like the thing I needed most at that time.

1st Day Back

Getting back on track is tough. I knew that when I came back three weeks ago. And I realized once again that there is no easing your way in. There is no process or program that those coming back from a long break can get into to relearn the basics and build the stamina for the grueling bogu class. It felt weird training on my own with largely no supervision as everyone was in bogu and training intensely. It felt uncomfortable and made me think that I should have brought my bogu so I can join the regular training despite knowing that it is ill-advised to jump right into an intense training after months of inactivity.

2nd Day

I still was not ready to join the bogu class, but I did anyway. I guess I was lucky because there was a scheduled kyu exam that day so keiko was shortened by almost an hour. I was in the zone. I may not be back to my old form, but it was not as bad as I expected. And I did not stop to rest so that was one of the things I was thankful for, especially since there was no water break.

3rd Day

Two hours of non-stop keiko with no hydration breaks in a training venue with poor ventilation. I honestly do not know how I survived that. I promised myself to just follow everyone’s lead in keiko (read: do not be that nail that sticks out). This means enduring like the rest is doing regardless of how the former competitive athlete in me thinks that there is something seriously wrong with what I was doing to myself.

To put my (constant) dilemma in context, some advices, information, and instructions we receive can be confusing or ambiguous at best. We are not supposed to stop to rest during keiko unless the sensei or dojo leader calls for a break. But our club’s dojo leaders say that it is okay to ask permission from sensei for a quick water break. So it is left to members’ discretion if they want to do it or not. And yet there is this thing about kendo that makes you hesitate to do something unless those who outrank you take the lead. So the message can get a bit murky sometimes.

Our club manager said something in the past about kendo being a traditional martial art and it is common for practitioners to practice for hours without drinking water. I noticed that there seems to be an impression that traditional martial arts do things differently. This is something that I find hard to understand, especially since a lot of things I do now seem to depart from what I learned from the best coaches of my other sport and from some of the country’s top experts in sports nutrition, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, sport doctors, physical therapists, and sports masseurs among others. I am stumped by how club-based martial art practitioners whose level of fitness is not at par with national athletes train so recklessly and seemingly without much care for how our kind of training impacts our body. But all these thoughts I keep to myself. I have repeatedly raised my concern about proper hydration in training given the duration, intensity, and poorly ventilated venue not to mention the constricting equipment that we wear that make us sweat profusely even without the merciless heat.

Apart from training for two hours without drinking any drop of water and sweating buckets, I also received jarring blows to my head from sensei. Not just once but at least five times when he was using me as “dummy” to explain to everyone what we were doing wrong. The pain was excruciating but I had to stand there as if it did not bother me. I put it behind me until the next day when I noticed losing trains of thoughts several times. I was even close to making an embarrassing mistake at the grocery when I almost put the cat food I picked up from the shelf inside my bag. It was the first time that it happened to me. And there were those moments I forgot what I was thinking about and I had trouble concentrating at work. It may or may not be related to the blow. But it was scary just the same since it all happened the day after I received the blows.

My kendo journey at the moment confuses me and leaves me feeling helpless. I believe in the concept of emptying the cup or losing preconceived notions. I have been trying to do that from the beginning. But a part of me is unsure if it would be wise to unlearn what various experts in the field of sports and sport sciences have taught me over the years.

For now, I just tell myself to endure. Because I love kendo and I truly want to keep following the path to wherever it leads me.

Traveling in Europe by Train

A friend’s Facebook post yesterday made me look back to my own experiences booking train tickets online for my Geneva-Aix les Bains-Paris-Brussels-Antwerp trip last year. I have not thought much about the process at that time. It was just one of the whirlwind of activities I had to deal with prior to the trip. But now that I reflect on it, I would have to say that it was a bit confusing at first.

Screenshot of my friend's post
Screenshot of a friend’s post

I remember spending some time looking for the best routes and transportation options. I had to figure out how to get from Geneva airport to Aix-les-Bains and book tickets for that as well as for other trips. I made all the arrangements on my own so I was initially anxious about how things would turn out. But I was pleasantly surprised everything went well — well, at least most of it. And these are some of the things that helped me through it.

Rome2rio

My go to source of information for routes, transportation options, and more
My go to source of information for routes, transportation options, and more

Rome2rio is informative and user-friendly. I has been my go-to source of information when looking for the best routes. I find it helpful and reliable. I like how it made some of my past trips a lot easier to plan.

Voyages-sncf.com

Aix les Bains to Paris (TGV)
Aix les Bains to Paris (TGV) – Train tickets for me and my friend from Myanmar who asked me to book a ticket for her as well
Paris to Brussels (Thalys)
Paris to Brussels (Thalys)

Booking tickets with Voyages-sncf.com was a breeze. And in hindsight, the “Ticketless” option I chose on my Thalys ticket was more convenient. I just saved the barcode ID they sent me on my phone and presented it to the inspector as instructed.

My TGV e-ticket, however, was another story. I thought that I just had to present the e-ticket I printed as stated on the confirmation email I received. But as I was sitting at the lounge area across the information and ticketing booths at Gare d’Aix-les-Bains-Le Revard, I noticed that most of the passengers I saw were holding what looked like boarding passes. So I approached the woman issuing tickets out to ask if I needed to confirm my reservation again. And this is where my Aix les Bains to Paris misadventure began. I had trouble conversing with the woman because she was talking to me in French the whole time. And whatever little I have learned in my French 10 class in college did not help. After a lot of pointing to the printed ticket and showing the email confirmation, she finally understood what I was trying to say and gave me a boarding pass. Too bad I did not get the chance to use it and enjoy the free Wi-Fi onboard the TGV train since I mistakenly went to the wrong platform and boarded the wrong train.

Fond Memories and Takeaways

  • What they say about booking train tickets online months before your trip is true. The Aix-les-Bains to Paris ticket I purchased on Voyages-sncf.com only cost me $42. The cost of the ticket from Bellegard to Paris that I had to buy after I missed the TGV train to Paris-Gare de Lyon was approximately EUR100 (give or take 1 or 2 Euros) not to mention the price of the ticket from Culoz to Bellegard. Boarding the wrong train was an expensive mistake on my part. But on the upside, I got to see more of France and met some of the kindest strangers I will never forget.
  • The beautiful scenery reminded me once again why I love traveling by train (Amsterdam to The Hague, Beijing to Hangzhou to Xiamen, Guangzhou to Hong Kong, and others)
  • The stranger seated next to me in the Thalys train who  put (and retrieved) my heavy luggage on the overhead compartment
  • Paris-Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord — the architecture, trains, vibe, and the people
  • Taking the train from Brussels Midi to Brussels Airport instead of heading straight to Antwerp. I chose that route because I figured it would be more convenient for me to take the shuttle from the airport that stops directly in front of  the hotel where I will be staying. On the downside, I missed out on the chance to see the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station which was one of the city’s attractions.
  • Meeting a US-educated Tanzanian politician at the platform while waiting for the train and having an interesting conversation with him about education and politics during the trip from Brussels Midi to the airport.

KDramas I’m currently watching

Japanese and Korean dramas are among my guilty pleasures. But I have not written much about the ones that I like. The first and last time I wrote about something I watched was back in 2012 soon after I finished watching Warrior Baek Dong Soo. In the past few weeks, I have been following K-dramas currently airing. Here are my top five picks:

5. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Lovers:_Scarlet_Heart_Ryeo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Lovers:_Scarlet_Heart_Ryeo

Genre: Historical drama, Fantasy, Romance

One name: Lee Joon‑gi. The first teaser of this drama popped up on my radar a few months ago. And I was hooked the instant my eyes clapped on Lee Joon‑gi. I have been a fan since his stint at My Girl in 2005. There was a lot of hype surrounding this drama months leading to its first episode. I find it a tad disappointing though. With so many actors at play, there were certain episodes that it felt like the lead actor was left at the sidelines. It was tedious and heavy at some points. But things seem to be picking up lately. One thing that keeps me happy is that Lee Joon‑gi never fails to deliver.

4. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_the_Moonlight
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_the_Moonlight

Genre: Historical drama, Coming-of-Age, Romantic-Comedy

It took me a while to check this one out. I decided to make a quick peek out of curiousity. I was not really expecting to get past the first episode. But I was surprised how it somehow got to me. It has all the makings of a cliche but Park Bo-gum and Kim Yoo-jung pulled it off. I stopped watching on the 10th episode not because I was no longer enjoying it. Limited time and that feeling of dread that it will not have a happy ending made me stop. But only for now. I intend to finish it when I have the time.

3. The K2

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_K2
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_K2

Genre: Political drama, Action, Romance, Thriller

I am a Ji Chang-wook fan so it makes sense that I would watch this. I also like Im Yoona so that makes two reasons already to get me curious. But the biggest draw is that its being an action drama. I am a huge fan of action, adventure, detective, mystery, and thriller dramas so there is no way I am going to miss this.

2. Woman with a Suitcase

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_a_Suitcase
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_a_Suitcase

Genre: Legal drama, Comedy, Drama

This one was another surprise. The curious cat in me just wanted to know what it is about. The lead actors (Joo Jin-mo! and Choi Ji-woo) are rocking it. It has an interesting cast with Lee Joon delivering like he always does.

1. On the Way to the Airport

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Way_to_the_Airport
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Way_to_the_Airport

Genre: Romance, Melodrama

The last drama that I started watching turned out to be the one I like best, at least for now. It took me a while to finally decide to see it. But it has been an INTENSE ride right from the first episode. The extra marital affairs theme is touchy. But the writer and production group seem to be pulling it off splendidly. I am into this for the rawness of emotions it squeezes out and the complexities surrounding the lives of the characters. Kim Ha-neul and Lee Sang-yoon are superb in making their characters come to life. I also love how Lee Sang-yoon does this romance thing. He has a knack of making me fall for him in every role that he plays. I am not sure if rooting for their characters to end together is bad. But that is what I have been doing from the get-go.

An unexpected visit from a 7th Dan Sensei from Japan

I was about to step outside briefly from the dojo more than 30 minutes before keiko started yesterday when I noticed a man who just came in seemingly looking for someone. I approached him and bowed as a greeting, which has sort of become a habit for me since I started doing kendo. I thought he was one of those people who come from time to time to watch or inquire about kendo. He told me that he was looking for our Japanese 3rd Dan senpai. I told him that he hasn’t arrived yet and that he’d probably be coming in a few minutes.

Our guest told me that he was from Japan and that he played kendo there. I asked if he’d be joining us that day and he was sort of noncommittal about it. We talked a bit after that. I apologized that I couldn’t speak Japanese and he laughed and told me that it was okay since he also couldn’t speak English well either. It was around this time that I saw our sensei so I introduced our guest and left them to talk.

Our Japanese senpai arrived a few minutes after. I didn’t notice our sensei leave. I later learned that he had a meeting so he couldn’t join us for keiko. But I saw him approached one of the new members and heard him telling him and the others to do the footwork exercises. It’s been one of his long-standing instructions to everyone since about two months after I started kendo. We’re supposed to practice our footwork thirty minutes before keiko starts. And he’s been reminding us of that over and over again since a lot of us seem to have this unshakeable habit of ignoring it.

I noticed that like what happens most of the time, only a handful of us did what sensei told us to do. Most of everyone who were already there were either standing around or taking a lot of time setting up their bogu. Some were just sitting there. This has been a norm for a long time.

I noticed the newest batch member that Lim sensei talked to earlier. He was just standing there doing nothing. I asked him if Lim sensei told them to do the footwork exercises and he just nodded to me and slowly left without saying anything. I remembered again how bad it feels to be ignored when you’re trying to tell junior members to do something. And then I thought about how this same person ignored our sensei. If he can do that to our sensei, I figured he’d do it to everyone else if he chooses to. So I really shouldn’t feel bad about it.

It turned out that our Japanese guest was a 7th Dan sensei from Japan. He joined our practice and ended up teaching us a lot of things. It was a great experience to review the basics again and receive a lot of feedback on how to improve our kendo.

One thing stood out for me yesterday apart from having a surprise visitor who turned out to be a high-ranking sensei. It was how undisciplined and unteachable we’ve become as a group. This time, and initially unbeknownst to us, there was a visiting sensei who saw us act like we normally do in the dojo. It revealed once again the kind of kendo mindset we have as a group.

At the end of keiko, our Japanese senpai told us that our guest sensei will be leaving for Japan but will be back after two weeks. And that he’ll be staying in Davao for a while and will help teach us. We’re all happy to hear this. I personally hope that things will get a little bit better soon when it comes to etiquette in the dojo.