Experiencing Davao

Spending time with friends who are visiting Davao, either for work or leisure, is a great time for me not just to touch base but also see the city with fresh eyes. The lure of reconnecting with friends I have not seen for some time overcomes my usual desire to avoid going out and being caught in the city’s increasingly worsening traffic problem.

So it was welcome news when a longtime friend told me she will be in Davao for two days to do some research work. She arrived just before midnight on the 30th of November and left early evening on the 2nd of December. It was her third visit, but she spent most of her time in her previous visits outside the city exploring Samal Island and climbing Mount Apo. The short visit was a good time to stay at the heart of the city and experience it. It also allowed me to see what has changed, what remained the same, and what I call the in-betweens — the subtle things that are easy to miss out when you are too busy looking and paying attention.

The Traffic Problem
What used to be a roughly 20-minute trip from home to Abreeza or Gaisano Mall on a weekday now stretches to at least 45 minutes. Weekends can be just as bad except early in the morning when it is much lighter. And it is even worse when I try to venture farther to Ecoland or Matina. I thought I have escaped the nightmarish traffic woes of Manila when I decided to go back home to Davao in 2009. I may have enjoyed a few years respite from it. But those restful days are over and I have to deal with living with heavy traffic again. This makes walking a much better option. But Davao City is not really what I would call a “walkable” city. It may be safer to walk here than in Manila. But walking here can be a far from pleasant experience when it is too hot or raining heavily.

Bankerohan Public Market
The perpetually busy and crowded Bankerohan Public Market can be overwhelming. And it has evolved into a tourist attraction in its own right. Known for its overabundance of cheap produce from across the Davao Region, it is a great place to find a wide array of fruits and food products. A lot of tourists go there to buy pasalubongs and/or try its famous tsokolate de batirol (sikwate) and puto maya.

Looking for Durian 
I was honestly surprised by some of the videos I have seen showing people’s reaction when they try to eat durian. I did not realize a lot of people hate it so much. The smell can be nasty but I thought that they would learn to appreciate it once they get to taste the fruit. I was wrong. I felt bad thinking about the people who received durian candies from me as pasalubong and promised to avoid doing that unless I am sure the recipient eats durian.

My friend’s visit sparked a question in my mind about how the city’s famous fruits seem to be in short supply lately. I  know it is not in season, but I find it unusual not to see a lot of them out there. Even during the last Kadayawan, durians were unusually expensive. The many small trucks and makeshift stalls selling them at roadsides that were familiar sights during the Kadayawan month were also conspicuously absent.

As my friend and I explored the fruit market in Bankerohan, we only saw a handful of stalls selling unripe ones. The famous durian restaurant just across the Fruitasan do not have them either. I was used to eating fresh durian all-year round and this was the first time I had trouble finding one. So my friend and I settled for the frozen D101 variety that one of the vendors in the fruit market was selling.

Trying out the beer and frozen D101 durian combo

My friend told me that eating durian in the hotel room is not allowed so we have to finish it off before she turns in for the night. We tried asking the hotel staff at the restaurant if we can it eat there but were told we have to take it outside the premises. Who would have thought that finding a place to eat [frozen] durian in a city famous for it can be so troublesome? Thankfully, there was a 7-11 nearby with an outside seating. I grabbed a beer and settled in to enjoy my first taste of the D101 variety which tasted amazing.

Davao’s Cacao in the Spotlight
Davao has long been known as one of the countries best places to find abundant and different varieties of durians. Not to mention the best and cheapest mangosteens when in season. It is also home to top quality bananas and mangoes. And in recent years, a new addition to the list has been stealing the spotlight — the region’s cacao which produces the finest tableas that a growing number of Dabawenyos are beginning to enjoy.

I was actually surprised that it took this long for it to get noticed. Cacao and tableas are part of my childhood. I remember learning how to make pure and rich tableas from the seeds of cacao fruits harvested from the trees in my grandparents’ backyard at their home in Davao del Norte. My grandmother makes enough to last for months and even send some for us living in the city and to my uncle who was based in Manila.

Some of the goodies at the Cacao de Davao stall at the ground floor of the SM Lanang Premier

 

More Cacao de Davao products
Cacao de Davao Tablea

I love cacao so it is great to see so many good quality products now being sold in stalls and supermarkets in malls here. I brought my friend to Cacao City which opened last month. I first heard of the store from my sister who gave me the deliciously divine Wit’s Sweets and Savouries’ Durian Granola which she bought from there.

Cacao City at Palma Gil

The everything-Davao cacao products store is located beside the Pasalubong Center at Palma Gil just beside People’s Park. It showcases local brands like Malagos Chocolate, Cacao de Davao, Cacao Culture Farms, Rosario’s Delicacies, Wit’s Sweets and Savouries, and more.

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An Exhausting Trip to Singapore

My travel misadventures this year seem to share a common woe — airport pickup fails. The first one was in July at the Kaunas airport where a mix of a flight delay, miscommunication, and whatever fateful reason left me stranded there alone waiting for the transportation that unbeknownst to me has already left with the Greek team that was on the same flight as me. I had no idea that I was supposed to leave with them. I must have missed seeing the person holding the sign in the midst of all the noise and excitement from the crowd waiting at the airport for the Lithuanian gold medal-winning team coming home straight from a successful stint at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics.

After almost an hour of waiting, I finally managed to locate the volunteer tasked to pick up delegates from the airport. She told me I was not on her list of arrival schedules so she thought she got everyone on board the bus that already left. She made some calls and later told me to take the bus plying the Kaunas airport-Vilnius route then just take a cab to the hotel from where it will make its final stop.

Solo trips are not new to me. But there is something about being unprepared that unsettles me. I berated myself for not thinking of a contingency plan trusting that all arrangements have already been taken cared of. Thankfully, the over one hour trip to Vilnius and the few minutes taxi ride to the hotel went smoothly.

Little did I know that two months after I would find myself in the same predicament. What happened in Kaunas was still fresh in my mind so I made sure to confirm the arrangements with the event organizers in Singapore at least twice.

The October 9 Davao to Singapore flight was scheduled to depart at 7:20 pm but got delayed for almost 30 minutes. To quote the pilot who told us the reason when we were finally on board, “A bird was ingested by the engine” (I assumed during landing on arrival from SG) and they had to make the necessary safety checks. It is one of those things that are guaranteed to stress out a nervous flyer like me. It was far from a relaxing flight with several instances of turbulence throughout. We were scheduled to arrive a little over 11:00 pm. But the arrival was further delayed by thunderstorms over Singapore. The aircraft spent over 20 minutes just circling around unable to land.

The plane touched down past midnight and it was almost 1:00 am when I finally came out of the arrival hall to look for the person who was supposed to pick me up. I had this bad feeling that no one will be there so I was not really surprised when I could not find anyone there to meet me. I did not get any response to my messages to my contact so I had to make my own arrangements. I looked for an ATM to withdraw money for cab fare. Because there was no way I am going to wait there for hours when we have an early start the same morning. I was so tired and needed a few hours of sleep before our work there start.

The only good thing I remembered thinking while I was dealing with all of it was that I was in Singapore so I felt safe with the idea of leaving the airport at past 1:00 am to go to the hotel on my own. Finding a taxi was easy because Changi has an excellent airport transportation service.

The taxi rates are not cheap though. But they at least have options so passengers can take the least expensive ones. I found out that taxi rates are higher past midnight. The elderly driver was nice but he could not speak much English.

A few minutes out of the airport, the rain poured heavily. I could not see anything in front of us and I figured the driver must be having a hard time as well despite the windshield wiper doing a good job of clearing the waters cascading down the glass. The trip took over thirty minutes and as we reached the deserted roads going to the hotel, the driver asked me why I chose to stay somewhere so far and without access to public transportation. He told me that the I will have to take a taxi every time I have to leave if I want to go sightseeing. I told him that I have no choice since the organizers booked me and my colleagues from other countries there.

Frankly, at that moment when the taxi stopped in front of the hotel entrance, I was just happy to finally arrive, get my key from the front desk, and get some much-needed sleep.

Saturday Morning at Bankerohan Market: Of Walking and Enjoying Davao’s Sikwate and Puto Maya

When I’m in a city that’s new to me, I try to go to the central market very early in my trip. I’ll go at 6 a.m., when people are shopping for businesses. You get to see what people buy and really eat. There are usually food stands and trucks geared exclusively to locals. You get an idea of what a city or country is good at, because they’re catering to local tastes. ~ Anthony Bourdain

Food markets and cemeteries. Two of the fascinations I acquired in recent years when traveling. One offers a glimpse into the daily life of the locals and the other about stillness and death.

While I have been to Bankerohan market a few times, I mostly do not frequent it since it is in the opposite and far side of the area where I live. So when a high school classmate/close friend came for a visit I thought it would be nice to do what many locals and tourists do when in Davao — have some sikwate and puto maya at the city’s largest public market.

My friend and I decided to take an early morning walk from the hotel where she was staying to Bankerohan. We set out about a quarter to six in the morning for the roughly 2.5-km walk, which was much later than planned. We got sidetracked a bit by the fascinating sculptures outside the hotel. It was a pleasant walk along neighborhood streets, main thoroughfares, and alleys with plenty of reminiscing along the way as we saw familiar landmarks that reminded us of our high school days.

The entrance to Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel, Davao City
One of the many sculptures outside the hotel
More sculptures
The sculpture of the boy at the right side reminds me of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Oblation
Full circle
Almost done
Meditation
Storytelling time
Some of the stalls at the fruit stand building in Bankerohan market

 

Fruits and treats
Mangosteen
Durian
The batirol used to prepare the tsokolate (sikwate). The chocolate drink is prepared using tablea made from cacao from Davao
Waiting for our tsokolate batirol (sikwate)
A hot cup of sikwate with milk
Puto maya that pairs deliciously with the hot chocolate drink.

2 tsokolate de batirol (sikwate) with milk + 2 puto maya = Php56.00

Bonus find: 1 lapad bottle of honey = Php100

Food, Comfort, and Conversation: A Taste of Sea Green Part 2

It has been years since my last visit at Sea Green Cafe, which seems to be turning out as a place to meet with high school classmates I rarely see. It was one of the top places that came to mind when I was thinking about where to have dinner with another classmate and close friend from high school who is visiting from Cebu. I know she would be happy to eat at any of the restaurants in the mall where she was hanging out after her appointment with a client. But I wanted to bring her somewhere else for a change. Luckily, Sea Green was only a few minutes away so we agreed to go there.

The cafe has undergone a lot of upgrades and changes that I could hardly recognize it. I like the new look and feel much better than the old. And I love the timing of the visit because there were only a handful of other guests apart from us which added to the feeling of homey comfort and coziness that matched its ambiance.

Having tried some of the cafe’s bests on my previous visit, I was determined to try something new this time around. But I simply could not pass up on the Tablea Cheesecake, which turned out to be more delicious than before.

At Sea Green Cafe
My friend Leonor taking a look around the place
My friend checking out the items at the counter
Fried Quesong Puti
Baked Organic Chicken with Pan Roasted Vegetables
I love this dish!
Brown rice
Tablea Cheesecake
The Tablea Cheesecake up close. The bitter & sweet taste of the tablea balanced by the natural sweetness of the ripe mango toppings ❤

One More Reason to Love Etihad Airways

Almost two years after the Manila to Geneva and return flights from Brussels, Etihad Airways gave me another reason to be impressed with its customer service. My choosing the airline at that time was unplanned. I was looking for the cheapest flights that will get me to Geneva, which is the nearest airport of entry for me to Aix-les-Bains in the Savoie region of France where I was headed. Etihad had the best price then so I picked it not knowing much about it.

The flight to Geneva was a pleasant experience. I was happy with the food and the in-flight services so I thought I got a good deal out of it. And it was the same on my return flight from Brussels. I cannot remember when they gave all the passengers the Etihad Guest miles programme form to fill up. But I recall filling it up not really thinking that I would be able to use it since I do not travel often.

Over the months following that trip, I have been getting regular email updates on flight deals and other information. I think I received emails every month or just often enough not to be annoying so I did not unsubscribe from the mailing list like I tend to do with other merchant newsletters and notifications I get.

Some of the most recent emails I got from them was to inform me that my miles were about to expire. I did not open the first three emails related to that and finally got around to checking the fourth one when I received it. I was clueless about what I was supposed to do with those expiring miles. But I was impressed by how they made it easy for me to figure out my options.

I started checking out the items in the Etihad Guest Reward Shop to see what I can get so I could use the expiring miles. I opted for a backpack since it is something I could always use, especially on future trips. As I was exploring my options, I was still half-expecting that getting whatever reward I choose will not be as easy as it seems to be. I was also expecting that I will end up paying something for it like maybe the shipping cost or whatever. So I was really surprised when the transaction was smooth and seamless. I also did not have to pay for the shipping. So I got a nice backpack for free all thanks to the frequent reminders that got me using my miles before they expired.

I was also happy with the reward merchant’s service. I had a change of mind about the backpack’s color I initially picked after I finished ordering it. I read from the confirmation of the order email I got from Etihad that I will have to contact the merchant directly for any changes. I sent an email the next day asking if they can change the color from black to navy. But I was not optimistic that it will be changed since a day has already passed and they might not be able to read my email in time. But a few days after, I got an email from the merchant that my request has been applied to the item and it has already been shipped via UPS. They also sent a tracking number that provided up-to-date information about the current location of the package.

Less than a week after I placed the order, I got my new Fjallraven backpack and in the color I requested.

package arrived
The packaged from the Etihad Guest reward merchant in Latvia arrived
My new navy Fjallraven backpack
The reward from the miles that almost expired ^^ Thanks for the constant reminders about it, Etihad!

I have been impressed by Etihad’s service during that trip in 2015. And I even wanted to travel with them again when I was booking my flight for the trip a month ago. But the airline was not among the options available. So I booked with another airline. I may not have traveled with them again this time. But I hope to do that again in the future.

[PhotoJournal] 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships

2017 World Rowing Junior Championships/Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Qualification
Trakai, Lithuania
2 to 6 August 2017

01 August 2017
View of Lake Galve with crews in training. Taken from the side of the road going to the Trakai Island Castle from the WRJCH17 venue
01 August 2017
View of Lake Galve with crews in training. Taken from the side of the road going to the Trakai Island Castle from the WRJCH17 venue
01 August 2017
Lake Galve, Trakai, Lithuania
01 August 2017
Team Managers’ Meeting
01 August 2017
At Trakai Island Castle ~ venue of the Opening Ceremony at 19:30hrs
01 August 2017
FISA Executive Committee members with the head of the 2017WRJC Organizing Committee greeting the mayor of Trakai District Municipality
01 August 2017
2017 World Rowing Junior Championships Opening Ceremony
01 August 2017
A hot air balloon passing by during the
2017 World Rowing Junior Championships Opening Ceremony
01 August 2017
A jaw-dropping and gravity-defying performance on stage showcasing impressive upper body strength during the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships Opening Ceremony
02 August 2017
View of one of the three out pontoons and the in pontoons with the castle in the distance. All boats out for the last race of the first day of racing
02 August 2017
Crews rush to the out pontoons as soon as the race course opens for training after the first day of races
02 August 2017
Crews rush to the out pontoons as soon as the race course opens for training after the first day of races
02 August 2017
At the Finish Tower
03 August 2017
Taken on our way to the Historical National Park of Trakai for the Jury, Media, and FISA Outing organized by the 2017WRJC OC
03 August 2017 A restaurant at the Historical National Park of Trakai
03 August 2017
The dinner hosted by the 2017WRJCH Organizing Committee started out like a taste-test of some of Lithuania’s famous liquors. The small glasses contain Lithuanian Mead which is said to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. Sweet, smooth, and subtle with a kick just like the way I like my drinks.
03 August 2017
The white house that sits beside the restaurant at the Historical National Park of Trakai
05 August 2017
2017 WRJC Trakai Jury with the FISA Umpiring Commission members
(c) Igor Meijer
05 August 2017
At the Nations Dinner at Trakų Galvė restaurant in Trakai
05 August 2017
The Mayor of Trakai District Municipality giving a speech at the Nations Dinner
05 August 2017
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland giving a speech at the Nations Dinner
Accreditation card
Shuttle timetable and other information for Jury, Media, and FISA staying at the Holiday Inn Vilnius
Nations Dinner and outing invitations with some of the food and coffee coupons to be used at the race venue
Nations blades of participating countries at the 2017WRJC
Team Managers Manual; Yellow and Red cards
Designated dining area for FISA, Jury, Media, and SWISS Timing at the venue
Running on coffee. Just one of the many cups of caffè lattes I’ve got thanks to the coffee coupons the OC gave us.
Nice reminder. Seen at one of the many toilets in the venue
View from the building where the Team Managers’ Meeting Room is located
Another view from the building where the Team Managers’ Meeting Room is located
Catamarans and motorboats area

13 Hours in Istanbul

The plane touched down the runway of Istanbul Ataturk Airport at 4:10 AM of the 31st of July, one hour ahead of the 5:10 AM ETA. I was feeling a bit worn out already as I have been technically on the road for over a day having left Davao on the 30th of July at 8:10 AM. I spent almost 11 hours at NAIA Terminals 3 and 1 waiting for my evening flight to Istanbul and spent most of the roughly 12-hour flight awake as my two seatmates sitting on the window and middle seats kept making trips to the toilet.

But despite the creeping fatigue, I was buoyed by the prospect of seeing even a little of Istanbul. I was looking forward to the sightseeing tour that Turkish Airlines offers for passengers with at least six hours of wait time at the airport.

I wanted to take the 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM tour schedule that includes a visit inside the Hagia Sophia. But as my ETD to Kaunas, Lithuania from Istanbul is at 4:00 PM (which got delayed for 1 hour and 20 minutes), the much shorter 8:30 to 11:00 AM sightseeing tour will have to do.

Turkish Airlines’ TourIstanbul 8:30 to 11:00 AM Sightseeing Tour Schedule

With still about three hours to kill, I decided to explore the terminal and see if I could find a place to get a cup of coffee. But I had trouble finding a table at the many coffee shops I saw. So I decided to look for the Old Bazaar I read about where I could buy some souvenirs. I figured I should buy what I need already since I may not have the time to do it on my return flight.

Old Bazaar at the airport

Luckily, I quickly found the shop and spent some time there browsing a wide array of items many of which I really liked. I managed to stick to my list and bought what I needed except that I could not find the black soap I promised to buy for my friend Anna Liese and the Istanbul or Turkey mini-bell for my friend Chalyn.

At around half past six in the morning, I decided to start looking for the Hotel Desk where I needed to be at 8:00 AM if I do not want to miss the tour. I had a bit of trouble locating it so I asked one of the airport staff at the information booth just across the passport control area in the departures terminal. The girl told me to head out to the food court, take the elevator located on the left side, and go down to level 1.

As I reached level 1, I asked one of the airport personnel I saw there where the Hotel Desk is located. He told me to pass through passport control first. I was surprised to see the long queue. It took me more than 15 minutes to reach the line closer to the booths. But it was then that things got a bit frustrating. Some people were so eager to go first that there were double lines queueing for each booth and with many people jumping lines to get ahead.

I finally managed to get through after a little over ten more minutes of waiting. I passed through customs to get to the exit, turned right, and walked straight looking for Starbucks that serves as an easy-to-find landmark for the Hotel Desk that sits beside it. There was no one in line so I went straight to one of the windows and asked about the tour. The guy asked for my boarding pass, checked it, and told me that I will have to take the 8:30-11:00 AM tour. He then told me to wait at the cafe and wait for my name to be called.

I observed that there were already a handful of passengers that seem to be waiting for the tour as well. But Starbucks still have plenty of tables and seats so I was finally I able to get a cup of coffee that I have been longing for since I arrived.

Just before 8:00 AM, one of the Turkish Airlines staff started calling names. I was confused because I did not hear my name. As the group was about to leave, I went to the Hotel Desk to ask if that was for the tour and he told me that it was for the group going to the free accommodation. The hotel stay is for passengers with at least 10 hours of layover who probably prefer to sleep or rest than go for a quick tour of the city.

At about 8:20 AM, the staff called the names on their list. There were more than twenty of us in the group. We were told to follow the tour guide and we left at exactly 8:30 AM. We walked a bit to where the bus will pick us up and waited for about ten minutes there. We got on the bus as soon as it arrived and it left the moment everyone was on board.

I have read a lot of things about Istanbul and seen numerous photos of it over the years. I thought I have a fairly good idea of what I will see. But there was something about actually seeing some parts of the city that made me wish I have more time to enjoy the sights longer than the few seconds that it takes for the bus to pass by. What little traffic on the road was a welcome experience for a change for it meant slowing down to take in some of the views.

The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.
The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.
The scenery along the coastal road from the European side of Istanbul coming from Atatürk Airport.

I was sitting in the window seat at the right side of the bus with a great view of the coastal scenery. We were coming from the European side of the city where the airport was located. On the left, there were many fascinating sights as well including the views of the Yedikule Fortress, Old Samatya Armanian District, the Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul City Walls), Hagia Sophia, and so much more. I was really hoping we could at least slow down or stop for a few minutes just to see more of them. But we were on a tight schedule. I just have to remind myself that the short tour is much better than just staying at the airport and not seeing any of it at all.

View from where I was standing at Galata Bridge 

I did not take many photos as I did not want to miss the sights as the bus continues on its route. The first stop was at Galata Bridge. Our tour guide told us we will spend ten minutes there to take photos. The sight of birds flying and gliding gracefully against a backdrop of the water and the cityscape was among the most beautiful things I have seen as the bus journeyed along the coastal road. And I got to see it again as we spent time at the bridge. Birds were soaring above the Golden Horn that glistened as the thin clouds on the clear, blue sky offered little cover from the bright sunlight.

Dolmabahçe Mosque

The second and last stop was at Dolmabahçe Palace where we spent twenty minutes wandering around taking photos. There was a cafe at the palace grounds with outdoor seating with a nice view of the European coast of the Bosphorus.

Dolmabahçe Clock Tower (Dolmabahçe Saat Kulesi)
The main gate (Sultan’s Gate) at Dolmabahçe Palace
Outdoor seating, and just a small section, of the waterfront cafe in the palace grounds that offers a great view of the Bosphorus.
Another view from the cafe
View of the clock tower from the Sultan’s Gate
View from the exit

We left Dolmabahçe Palace at exactly twenty minutes after we arrived and continued the sightseeing tour, this time en route to the airport.

I have always been fascinated with the things I have read about Istanbul. While I thought of wanting to see it at some point, I did not really have that much of a strong desire to do it until that moment when the tour started last week. As the tour guide started telling us about the city, I found myself wanting to explore it at length, see its breathtaking architecture and landmarks, taste as many of the foods as I can, and drink plenty of Turkish coffee and tea, among many other things.

If there was one thing I was sure about as I stepped off the bus back at the airport, it would be this: I want to come back. I started the tour just curious about what I would see. And I finished it already in love with the city.

How to Get a Turkish e-Visa

Opting to book with Turkish Airlines for my flight to Lithuania led to some really interesting discoveries. I initially had a reservation with KLM which was supposed to have a ten-hour layover in Amsterdam. I flew with KLM before so for me it was a good choice except that I was a bit iffy with the departure date and time from Kaunas, Lithuania because it meant staying another night in Vilnius then traveling at dawn to Kaunas to catch my flight.

I was not sure if the organizing committee of the event I was going to will arrange a transportation for us from Vilnius. And I did not want to risk getting lost like I did as I was leaving Aix-les-Bains in 2015 so I chose to be on the safe side and looked for other flights which will leave Kaunas on the 6th of August. I thought that I would be more comfortable traveling on my own to the airport in the afternoon than at the crack of dawn.

The Turkish Airlines flight came up on top as I was making comparisons with at least three different sites with KLM coming in a close second. The former was cheaper by almost a US$100 and the arrival and departure times in Kaunas worked for me. So I picked it.

But like KLM, the Turkish Air flight also had a 10+hours of layover. I was wondering how I will spend the long wait time at the airport in Istanbul so I started doing some research.

I was happy to discover that Turkish Airlines actually offers a choice of either of the two services for their passengers with over ten hours of layover in Istanbul Atatürk Airport — 1) a free hotel accommodation or 2) a free tour of the city (for those with waiting time of at least 6 hours). I immediately decided to take the second option and proceeded to learn more about it. I found out that I need to get a Turkish visa which, thankfully, I can get online.

Applying for a Turkish e-Visa is easy when you have the required supporting documents like a valid Schengen or US visa.

Here’s how to get a Turkish e-visa in three simple steps.

1. Apply

Go to the evisa.gov.tr website
Click the Red “Apply Now” Button located at the top left side of the screen

Fill out the form and make sure to double check all the information as anything that does not match what is on the requirements will make your e-visa invalid


Once you have completed the information, you will get a confirmation email. Check the email message and click the link provided to proceed to payment

2. Make Payment

3. Download the e-Visa

Schengen Lithuanian Visa Application

I finally 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 Center. The 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 picked the visa center in Cebu since it is much closer coming from Davao. I booked an appointment for 8:00AM on a Monday last May. I traveled to Cebu Sunday afternoon and stayed at the New Era Pension Inn which 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.

Monday morning 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

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