Saturday, July 19, 2008

Get to Know Philippines in Madrid

Puerta de Alcalá

PinoyExplorer is now in Spain's Capital---Madrid. We have stayed in a small province of Guadalajara, a 45-minutes travel from the city of Madrid. It feels like you are living in northern part of Bulacan and traveling via the NLEX. While in Madrid, I feel like home. For me, it's like the suburban Ayala in Makati City area but has wider highways, medieval architectural buildings plus the presence the statue of our great hero Dr. José Rizal. Yes, the replica statue of Rizal is standing proud at Santander Park. It is in corner of Calle Santander and Avenida de las Islas Filipinas. The mere sight of Rizal is already a relief for me.

So why is Rizal's statue was here in Spain? You might ever wonder why the Spanish government was convinced enough that Rizal deserve a monument to his honor. It was in 1996 in commemoration of his death centenary when it was erected. The story behind this is really monumental work but i don't think it would fit on this blog, so better have your research :)

Well, If you can still recall in our history class in college, behind his parents knowledge, Rizal secretly traveled to Europe in May 1882. He pursue his studies on medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid and earned his Licentiate in Medicine. It is in Europe where his nationalistic endeavor leads to the birth of his famous two novels "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo."

If you are a fan of Rizal and want to know more about him, Europe especially Madrid has a very rich information. Some books and documents about him are inside the Universities, Museums and Libraries. Madrid is rich in terms of its cultural and historical heritage. They value every document they have and have preserved it well. Some rare books that was possessed by private individuals was sometimes can be found in Book Fairs and Book Sale. So, if you are scavenging for Philippine related books, you can find it here. And don't you know that a copy of the rare novels of Rizal was also found here?

Anyway, PinoyExplorer's purpose is not for the tour, but because I was involve in an organization that advocates on resurrecting our interest to Philippine history. While in Spain, we have to do some research work and bring it home. I'm am talking about, a digital library project that has already taking its shape two years ago. Two years of fruitful projects but still striving for more. We want to gather more materials (documents and books) that are very prominent. If we think it's a vital resources, we uploaded it online and let the whole world know about it. I'm not a historian so to speak, but as I was involved in this prestigious project, I have learned to value our history, our culture and our people. I was able to understand more about our history that is already being neglected by our current generation. Most of our history, according to some historians were written here and that's what we are trying to find out. In our studies, Philippine history was interpreted mostly by the western world and we have never heard the stories behind it. It was only in the present days that Spanish historians are interested to go back century hence and find out what had transpired during that era.

If you can recall, more than 300 years ago, we've been colonized by Spain and its early writings about us were written in Spanish. It is not until today that more young historians were determined for an in depth study of our history and forced themselves to study the Spanish Language. For these reasons, more Spanish documents are meant to be translated into English or in Filipino so it could be understood by Filipino readers. Pity on us, these resources were here in Spain and anyone who would like to have access on it should go here first or if you are a scholar, you will have to wait for a scholarship grant.

Our young historians are looking for resources and sad to say that most important historical facts about our country can't be find in our own country. If we have it, they find it hard to access in our National Library and Archives. Now, that's where the advocacy of takes place. All these resources should be put online and let Filipinos access it for free. We are open to all possible resources and we aimed to digitized it for preservation.

So much talk for now... In my next post..I will give you some details and stories on some fruitful research work while we were in Spain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Islas Filipinas in Metro de Madrid

If you are a usual commuter in Manila via MRT, this is a very familiar scene. But unlike the usual passing through the metropolis, watching all the billboards in every stations, here in Madrid all rail stations are organized via its subway transit. They can be considered as underground worms roaming around the healthy land of Madrid. This is the first thing that calls my attention while wandering inside our rented car with my camera. At first, I thought it was just an underground pass but through its signage, I have concluded that indeed, its a train station.

They call it "Metro" which I think where our concept of MRT have been patterned. They are located beside the sidewalks that can easily be seen and has an elevator up to 4 levels if I am not mistaken. These 231 stations has a locator map that can be seen upon entrance and is color coded so you would know in which stations you would hop for your connecting destinations. Yes, you heard me right., a Metro subways are connecting all destinations in Madrid and other country side of Spain including the famous city of Barcelona which is my next destination for 5 days.

I was impressed with how they build the Metro subways of Spain. It is well planned and automated. The stations are well equipped with ticket vending machine, and mind you, these tickets can also be used for a bus ride. Time here is very precious for trains really come on time or else, you have to wait for the next ride. It is the fast and easy mode of transportation and they seldom ride a bus. I have noticed, bus routes here are also very limited.

One of the station that is very significant to me is the station named after our dear country "Islas Filipinas". It is part of the station line 7 of the Madrid Metro beneath the street Cea Bermudez, between the Plaza de Cristo Rey and the intersection with Avenida de las Islas Filipinas, in the Madrid district of Chamberi. This station was opened for business on February 12, 1999. Adjacent to it, you can see our national hero "Jose Rizal" standing tall on its Luneta statue replica.

And while searching through the web about Metro in Madrid, I have encountered this video commercial and mind was shoot in the Philippines.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pinoy Guide to Schiphol Amsterdam Airport

Schiphol is a European mainport located in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It connects most of european travel. According to wikipedia, in 2007, Schiphol handled 47,793,602 passengers, ranking fifth in Europe behind London, Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.

If you are first timer like me, for sure will like this sleek, modern (and the world's oldest airport), serving 50million passengers a year! It is the home base of KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) and one of the cleanest, most efficient airports I've been in. As I went through my assigned gate for my connecting flight to Madrid, I have found out that the airport is connected directly to rail trains which will take you right into the city (Central Station, facing the Damrak). This station also is a stop for the international high-speed train Thalys, connecting the airport with a direct train connection to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. For a wired person like me, the airport has a Wi-Fi hot spots and almost 100 internet stations...whew..its really something to show. (How I wish NAIA 3 in Manila is now open and let's see the difference they have made)

Anyway, according to reports, this airport has won all kinds of international awards for design, people-friendliness, accessibility, etc; including best airport in the world, and best tax-free shopping. Yes, you heard it right, this airport is like a mall, wherein they have integrated all the amenities they can offer in one roof.

As first timer, I find it easy to navigate. Signs are well-lit in yellow and flight schedule kiosk are place strategically as aid to all travelers. Customer service stands are also very prominent and moving walkways helps a lot to those who are on the rush.

Before I go, this airport has main terminal and five concourses:

  • Arrivals and Schiphol Plaza is located on the lower level of the terminal. This area contains hotel, shuttles, car rental booths, public transportation, baggage claim, and Passport control.
  • Departures, Lounges, and Holland's Blvd are located on the middle level of the terminal. This area contains check-in, Post Office Service, and concourses.
  1. Concourse B contains gates B1 - B19.
  2. Concourse C contains gates C2 - C18.
  3. Concourse D contains gates D1 - D58.
  4. Concourse E contains gates E2 - E24.
  5. Concourse F contains gates F2 - F9.
  6. Concourse G contains gates G2 - G9.
  • The upper level contains gates D59-D87.
Airport maps are also available at the information desk or while still on board, if your are in a KLM flight, flip the magazine pages and you will find it there. Or.. download it here!

Got to go and congrats to will be celebrating its 92th birthday this year.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On the Air to Amsterdam

It was so amazing to know that while you are on air for almost 11 hours, the sun never sets and its getting more intense as I expected. Europe particularly Madrid and Barcelona where I am intended to visit is 6 hours late and that's the reason why KLM jet is flying the other side of the clock.

The plane leaves Manila at 10:45 am and when we passed by China around 9 pm (manila time), the sun is still high and getting more intense. I have decided not to adjust my time so I can see the transition of time in this part of the world. I have been monitoring the flight status in a mini TV in front of me from time to time and I can see clearly the simulation of day and night in the virtual global map.

I feel so excited every time I see the position of the plane to its course and I can't help myself peeping through the window and see how the plane passed through the fly zone of Moscow. At 2 am (Manila) the sun is still up but its like 5 pm in Philippine time. So, while flying, you will have this notion that sun never sets in these areas.

I have been counting the time and keep on looking to my flight itinerary to verify the time that I suppose to land. I have selected a seat beside a window and from time to time I open the window and still its blinding light out there.

I tried to keep myself asleep but I'm just being bothered by things I have left behind. Sometimes, it's healthy to have this moment of your life when you are faraway from your usual routines and take some reflections. I may sound sentimental but this is only the time you can think more about yourself, what you have done so far and what you gonna do in the future...about 30,000 feet above sea level.I remember all the people that helped me process my documents, the people that supported me all way to pursue this travel opportunity and to all people who believe in me. I think about my son, my lovely wife, my friends and relatives. That's how I consume my hours while I'm on top of the world.

Hah.. I miss the Philippines now..

Flight to Amsterdam via KLM

I'm the early flying bird being at the boarding Gate 11 at 7:57 for a scheduled 10:45 flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). This is where KLM 804 flight going to Amsterdam is boarding. Do you think that's cool? Well, I'm may be excited that I have never run through the lines. To tell you the secret, I took advantage of KLM online check-in and manage to line up first in the business class.

The good thing about the online check-in is that it enables you to bypass the usual long lines and allows you to select your desired seating number. This is one of the features that we cannot see in our local airlines. It's the web support facilities that made our travel becomes an experience. I have selected my seat by the window side to have a view of the hemisphere going to Amsterdam and of course took a bit of aerial photos which I think is very seldom seen.

Now, as you read this. I'm already seating at the boarding area, had opened my notebook and tinker this notes while waiting for the gate's call. As time go nearer, seats are being filled by those I see in the long line who had braced the immigration officer and check-in counters. I am leaving for Madrid and have my connecting flight to Amsterdam.

At around 8:55, KLM flight 804 had already docked and now waiting for us to go aboard. It's a shining light blue color majestically stage herself to the awaiting passengers and its like weaving its wings for us. Passengers started to embark and suddenly, a group of high footed blond ladies in blue uniform parade the hallway. They are the stewardess of KLM flight and with them the captain and some flight crews whose looks can be compared ala James Bond or Tom Cruise. They are the superstar of today's flight and glad to see them on their snappy uniforms and greeted everyone with a happy smile. Now..I'm relieve..I know this would be a great flight :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pinoy's Guide in Acquiring a Schengen Visa

If you heard about the word Schengen, it could mean that a person is securing a visa or is traveling to Europe. It may sounds like Chinese to you, but it is actually a village in Luxembourg who became famous because it is the place the Schengen Agreement was signed on June 15, 1985 by the five countries —Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.. Today, it is the unifying factor that contributes to two agreements among European states in 1985 and 1990.

That's why, if you're traveling to a European country such as Madrid or Barcelona, you need a Schengen visa. With this visa, it allows you to have a multiple entry to any country of the member European states. So, I can go to France to see the famous Eiffel tower or see the romantic city of Italy or perhaps in Switzerland to see the Einstein Museum in Berne.

Two years ago, the Spanish Consulate in the Philippines have implemented the courier delivery service so all visas that was processed can now be delivered at your door steps. But if you are like me who had expedite the visa processing, you will be personally have to get your visa at their office in Makati. If you are a new applicant, you need to prepare documents prior to submission to the Spanish Embassy in Manila. You can see application form here. In my case, I'm on a short stay and for business purposes, I have prepared the following:

* Schengen Visa Application Form ( xerox in 3 copies)

* 2 x 2 photo (blue or white background)

* Passport (xerox in 3 copies)

* An Invitation letter from my host (Conference invitation)

* Airfare tickets and Itenerary

* Travel Insurance

* Hotel Booking

Before I miss, you need to pay P3,600 for your visa. But when I go there to fetch my visa, Effective July 3, they have raised the amount to P4,100. Yes, you have read it right, I have already my visa.. thank God and that's exactlly 10 days of processing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

PinoyExplorer goes to Spain

For my next travel blog series, I am quite hesitant to write about my travel abroad because it is not in line with my advocacy in promoting all about the wonders of Philippine travel. But, upon the advice of my friends, I got a second thought since according to them, I'm still tackling a topic of a Pinoy who explore the other side of the world and experiencing how it is to be and live in a foreign land...interacting with people of different culture and traditions.

Pinoy Explorer would like to feature Spain as my next stop and discover to myself as a Pinoy, how it is to be in the land of once a colonizer of the my motherland for centuries. I will also be discovering new things about this country in the the world of globalization and what it can offer that would allow me appreciate its unique beauty and as spiritual sibling of mixed culture and traditions.

So this time, as I have gone through sleepless nights waiting for my Schengen Visa, I am preparing myself for this long trip. But before that, I would like to thank Vibal Foundation for giving me a chance to be part of its delegation that will attend and present to an international conference on Free Software, Free Technology that will happen in Barcelona, Spain. Also, I would like to give thanks in advance for the generosity of GAV and EAV down to the Excom who have supported me all out up to securing my papers. me expedite my visa..

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