Tip on Getting More From Your Starbucks Card

I got into collecting Starbucks mugs when the global coffee giant started operating in Manila way back in the 1990s. This interest soon fizzled out because, let’s face it, Starbucks mugs aren’t that cheap; not to mention that I stayed away from coffee because of my gastro issues.

Lately, however, I have rediscovered my taste for coffee, particularly the Starbucks’ fraps. A fascination with its Cards — with all the interesting designs and “limited edition” marketing kinda fueled my Saturday-after-school-let-me-have-my-venti-frap habit.

So I have been collecting the Cards and to preserve their “collectible” conditions, I transfer the loads to just one card, which gets swiped, scratched and, generally, battered.  However, doing so, have made me lose out on having the complimentary grande drink which comes with every Starbucks Card purchase. After doing this for some time, I realized it isn’t that smart. Consumer-wise, of course.

So what I do is buy a new card and register it to https://starbuckscard.ph/sbcard/index.php?/start/register using my legit email addresses as well as those of my husband’s. I wonder what I’ll do when I run out of email addresses. Suggestions?

The catch, however, is that I have to use the Card when I redeem my complimentary drink. It breaks my heart when the cashier swipes it instead of taps it. But then again, a small scratch versus a complimentary drink. Hhhmmm. As a consumer, that’s hardly a toss up. If someone knows that collectible cards are raking in so much, please let me know so it would be easier to forego the drink.

Note:  Starbucks markets the Card with a COMPLIMENTARY DRINK. What is my beef with this? I’ve grown knowing that FREE is a great word. But NO, Starbucks opts to use COMPLIMENTARY when saying FREE would essentially mean the same — read: yeah,  no cash out. People love the word FREE as much as they love the word SALE. But, Starbucks appeal to lifestyle and to the “soshal”/ “konyo” mentality in people that saying something is for FREE would make us look “trying hard” and not just quite “in”. To most consumers, using COMPLIMENTARY is appealing not just on the financial level (Yay, it is free. No cash out.) but also on the self-esteem level (Hey look, I am carrying a Starbucks drink. I can effin afford.)  In general, COMPLIMENTARY has a nicer and more sophisticated ring to it.

Just my opinion. 🙂


5 TIPS in Getting a Tourist Visa for South Korea



Yup! I was bitten by the KDrama bug and the obvious offshoot … a nagging feeling to go to South Korea.  I did go last February!

Here are 5 useful tips when getting a tourist visa for South Korea.


The visa application is free if you go directly to the Korean Embassy. You just need to submit the requirements to their office in McKinley, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and pick up your passport (hopefully with visa) on the date they say so.

But, if you are an employee like me, you might want to consider getting the assistance of a travel agency.  Just submit the documents to them and they’ll do the legwork for you. At a PhP1,000 per head, my husband and I realized the big savings in tapping a travel agency than taking a leave of absence from work for 2 days (1 day to submit, 1 day to pick up).

Check this link for the various types of visas available for South Korea and the corresponding requirements.

If you’ll have a travel agency assisting you, get the list of requirements from them.

  • Check the reasonableness of your travel agency’s requirements.  The initial agency I contacted required a birth certificate, which the Korean Embassy does not require for the kind of visa I was applying for. In the age of identity theft, be careful about giving out personal data or documents.  So I contacted another agency, which thankfully have consistent requirements with the embassy.

TIP 2:  THE APPLICATION FORM THAT YOU NEED TO FILL OUT NEEDS TO BE PRINTED ON A4 PAPER SIZE (210mm x 297mm)  and NO ERASURES PLEASE.  I repeat, A4 paper size and no erasures. I repeat, A4  paper size and no erasures.

TIP 3:  YOU NEED BANK CERTIFICATES AND BANK STATEMENTS FOR 3 MONTHS.  No surprise there. However, a good rule of thumb, is to have P10,000 for each day that you will be in South Korea — in your bank account. Of course, the more the better.

  • Call your bank and ask what you need to get the certificates and statements, the charges for them and the turnaround time.

TIP 4:  VISAS ARE EFFECTIVE FOR 3 MONTHS, USUALLY.  So make sure you don’t get overexcited and apply so early that your visa expires before your planned travel dates — Visa processing turnaround time is about 7 working days, 5 working days in some cases where you have valid visas and arrival stamps to OECD countries for the past 5 years.

  • The 34 OECD member countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

TIP 5:  DO NOT BOOK A FLIGHT BEFORE YOU GET A SURE VISA. Well, actually, this depends on your risk appetite. I am a risk taker so I booked a flight before I even got into preparing my visa requirements. Cebu Pacific had a promo that saved me PhP8,000 in fare.  But I prayed hard to get a visa and it paid off.

Anyway, this is just the 1st part of a series about South Korea.  I’ll post tips or insights in the next ones.  🙂


How I Got Out of Debt

In 2008, I went to the US — shopped and toured by myself. I was almost broke when I got back.

In 2009, I decided to loan a house and lot with little to almost nothing at all in my bank account. What I had, though, was a handful of credit cards. Like 14 of them from different banks.

The loan I got from the office was not sufficient for my house specs/requirements so I resorted to credit card loans. The payments for the office loan are netted out before my salary even got credited to my account. My net salary each pay period was 4 digits – just enough for other essentials. The payments for credit card dues came from other credit cards, fresh loans (i.e. Insurance policy loans), office bonuses (which were kind of few and far between). In short, I was just plugging one debt with another debt.  I was drowning. 

What did I do to reach the shore?  In a nutshell, I made smart choices.

1.  Create an excel file and start taking stock of all your debts, all your assets, bonuses (if any) as well as dues on a monthly basis for the next N years. Make assumptions, if necessary, like in the case of merit increases, bonuses and their timing. Update this regularly.

  • Insert a worksheet  or have a notebook where you can keep track of your daily expenses.

2. Do not add more debt unless necessary. For a while, my new house had nothing but the cheap furniture basics. My new debts were to pay for debts coming due.  Remember, I had no cash.  Just pay partial or enough not to prompt the credit company to call your debt and consider you in default. Bad. 

  • I didn’t even purchase a car eventhough I was already entitled to 3-4 years ago because the car payments would affect my credit card payments. My 10-year old car is doing just fine anyway. But I have to review this given the upcoming excise tax on vehicles.

3. All windfall (e.g. bonuses) go to prepayments and preterminations of loans. No excuses. Non-negotiable.

4. Pay the loans with the lowest interest last. The insurance loans I made remained unpaid for 5 years. These were the loans with the lowest interests. 

5. Cut paid credit cards. Maintain only those which are reliable and internationally accepted. Interests across cards are almost always the same so the deciding factors don’t include that. (I will write about my favorite credit cards in the future.)

5. Keep at it. Realize that it is a long and painful process. The important thing is you are starting somewhere.

8 years later, I am debt free except for the house and lot which will run for 12 more years. I still use credit cards but only to earn points. I don’t do revolving credit anymore. It has been my goal to pay my purchases as they fall due.
I did it. So can you. 

Confinement at Asian Hospital (Part 1)

I was confined at the Asian Hospital in Alabang for 4 days due to a major surgery. The bill easily ran up to over P300,000. 

But you know what, insurance or no insurance, it was worth it.

Facilities: I am a stickler for cleanliness but Asian never made me feel like I couldn’t trust sitting on their waiting chairs, using their toilets or leaning on their walls. Maybe it is also a function of the crowd who goes there. I am not sure.

Room: My Standard Private Room got the essentials — well functioning ref, phone, cable TV, an ottoman where my Dad slept and a convertible chair where my husband slept, a clean cabinet, a toilet and bath (with simple toiletries and hot and cold water for shower and faucet), a built-in window seat, a bedside cabinet, an eating table and a dresser. It was like being in a hotel minus all the medical sockets and apparatus. 

  •  Toilet Note:   There was no window but there was an exhaust. It seemed kind of dark and the tan-ish tile color was depressing. There were 3 trash cans, one for wet trash, dry trash and contagious/infectious trash. Very good.

Food: My husband said patient food was great (large portions, hot and covered, generally looked trustworthy for a picky eater like me). I was sick so my palate was probably wonky. The sight of porridge for  the 3rd day in a row made me gag, seriously. I remember asking my hubby to buy me take out from the nearby Savory at the mall, the downstairs Cafe France and Cafeteria by Chef Florabel. 

Nurses:  Asian has beautiful nurses on an 8 hour shift so for the 4 days I was there I got to meet a lot. They were all polite and patient. 3, however, stood out. 2 of the 3 had something to do with suppository duties. Hahaha. I felt so icked with the idea of pushing something down there and I doubt if I could have pushed the suppositories all the way through as prescribed so I practically swallowed my pride and asked the nurses to administer them for me. Fortunately, they did not have qualms about it. One even told me it is their job. Well, job or not, thank you.

 The last nurse on my top 3 was the one who gave me practical tips so as to avoid additional/extra charges (e.g. if you already have alcohol do not buy the hospital issued alcohol, etc.).

One nurse, however, with all her happy and welcoming smiles failed to deliver. Whether it was a function of the doctor not giving her proper instructions or advice when she relayed my concern, I don’t know. See, I messed up my pre-op medicines and meals and I asked her how to remedy the situation. She didn’t give me any so I decided on my own.  It wasn’t a big deal anyway as it turned out. I am just saying I was expecting an answer that never came. 

Other Staff:  The members of the food crew, who delivered my meals and who picked them up after, were so nice. Always smiling and always patient especially since I didn’t eat on time. I think they had to make extra trips just to get my meal tray back. Sorry for my wonky appetite boys. Sometimes, though, my meals were late. For instance, I was supposed to eat around 5am, I think, cause I was scheduled for pre-op fasting and cleansing starting 6am but my meal arrived almost 6am. Good thing that it was just clear soup. Clear — like water with a touch of green color (maybe it was veggie soup) — and icky flavor. I would have preferred tea instead. Anyways, being late didn’t matter cause it was a non-existent breakfast.

  • The bestest person in this category was the nurse assistant. She gave me a “bath” on the hospital bed the day after my surgery . Got my hair shampooed, got an upper body sponge bath and a private parts’ wash.  Thank you! Just to put this into perspective, I take a bath before I go to sleep. No matter how long my day was or sleepy or tired I was…I take a bath before sleeping and take a bath again before going to work. Being on the hospital bed was not an excuse not to take a bath or a semblance of it. So, I was thankful.

Pantry: My room was near the pantry, where watchers can wash their plates or what nots. It was also equipped with a microwave oven and there was a hot and cold drinking dispenser.

There was newspaper everyday. 😱😁

Special: 8 Things You Need To Know About Rabies

This got stuck in my draft box. Anyway, rabies, especially in summer, is still relevant. Be safe all.

Note: I highlighted some statements for emphasis.

Credits to ABS CBN News.

8 things you need to know about rabies

Posted at Mar 21 2012 02:46 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2012 11:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Did you know that 200 to 300 Filipinos die of rabies each year?

Dr. Raffy Deray, program manager for rabies at the Department of Health’s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said a patient bitten by a rabid dog may die within three to five days.

“The latest recommendation of the DOH is all bite victims should be provided immunization as early as possible,” Deray said in interview on “Mornings@ANC” on Tuesday.

Here are some things you need to know about rabies, as mentioned by Deray:

  1. Rabies is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system. A patient may die within three to five days.
  2. Rabies accounts for about 55,000 deaths worldwide every year, and majority of the fatalities are children. In the Philippines, the disease is responsible for the death of 200 to 300 Filipinos annually.
  3. Rabies cases are usually higher in the Philippines during summer, when children spend more time playing outdoors.
  4. There are two ways that a person can get the rabies virus – through the bite of a rabid animal such as a dog, and by inhalation. The latter occurs only in special circumstances, such as when the patient is inside a laboratory.
  5. Here are some signs that you may have rabies: anxiety, stress and tension, delirium, drooling, convulsions, exaggerated sensation at the bite site, hallucinations, loss of feeling in an area of the body, loss of muscle function, low-grade fever (102 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), muscle spasms, numbness and tingling, pain at the side of the bite, restlessness, insomnia, and swallowing difficulty.
  6. Rabies cannot be cured, but it is preventable. There are two ways to prevent this disease – by vaccinating dogs, and by vaccinating humans. Traditional healers’ approaches to treating rabies have no scientific basis.
  7. When bitten by stray animals who may have rabies, do the following: 1) immediately wash the bite with soap and clean water. Antiseptics may be applied. 2) Consult a physician or go to your nearest animal bite center for immunization. 3) Consult a veterinarian for the management of the biting dog.
  8. The DOH is targeting a rabies-free Philippines by 2020 mainly through the vaccination of all dogs in the country.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) means the treatment of a bite victim that is started immediately after exposure to rabies in order to prevent rabies from entering the central nervous system which would result in imminent death. This consists of:

  • local treatment of the wound, initiated as soon as possible after exposure;
  • a course of potent and effective rabies vaccine that meets WHO standards; and
  • the administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), if indicated.

Effective treatment soon after exposure to rabies can prevent the onset of symptoms and death.

Local treatment of the wound

This involves first-aid of the wound that includes immediate and thorough flushing and washing of the wound for a minimum of 15 minutes with soap and water, detergent, povidone iodine or other substances that kill the rabies virus.

Recommended PEP

Depending on the severity of the contact administering with the suspected rabid animal, administration of PEP is recommended as follows (see table):


Table: Categories of contact and recommended post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

Categories of contact with suspect rabid animal Post-exposure prophylaxis measures
Category I – touching or feeding animals, licks on intact skin None
Category II – nibbling of uncovered skin, minor scratches or abrasions without bleeding Immediate vaccination and local treatment of the wound
Category III – single or multiple transdermal bites or scratches, licks on broken skin; contamination of mucous membrane with saliva from licks, contacts with bats. Immediate vaccination and administration of rabies immunoglobulin; local treatment of the wound

All category II and III exposures assessed as carrying a risk of developing rabies require PEP. This risk is increased if:

  • the biting mammal is a known rabies reservoir or vector species;
  • the animal looks sick or displays an abnormal behaviour;
  • a wound or mucous membrane was contaminated by the animal’s saliva;
  • the bite was unprovoked; and
  • the animal has not been vaccinated.

KDrama: Uncontrollably Fond (Kim Woo Bin & Suzy Bae)

This is my 4th Korean Drama and my first without Lee Min Ho. I will make this short and sweet cause I would hate it to be dragging like the drama itself. 
Acting has more depth. Kim Woo Bin and Suzy Bae delivered a relatively powerful performance. I am actually comparing it to LMH’s Boys Over Flowers, The Heirs and Legend of the Blue Sea, which are all comedy-drama ish, where not too much depth is required. I was expecting a sub par acting from Suzy but she amazingly acted well especially the heavy scenes. Cheers  to the director.

Plot formula: Dashing rich actor with terminal sickness reconnects with high school  girl crush who has serious financial problems and family issues. Guy pursues the girl then girl falls in love then guy holds back feelings but solves girl’s problems then guy reconnects with estranged mom then guy gets sicker and then, finally, he dies (implied). 

The drama attempts at instilling conscience and owning up and justice intertwined with a doom-to-end love story. It started interestingly but towards the end, the story became fragmented. It ended with many loose ends. I actually became confused why it was entitled Uncontrollaby Fond. 

In a range of 1 to 5 stars with 1 as boo and 5 as recommended. I will give it 4. I am witholding 1 for the plot issue. 🤓

Kim Woo Bin is a total eye candy. ♥️💋

Mercury Drug vs Rose Pharmacy Queueing System (in layman’s terms: Pilahan System)

How many times have you gone to Mercury Drug to buy medicines only to find a counter thick with scrambling customers, each muscling his or her way to the front and vying for the pharmacists’ attention?

Me? Too many to count. Some Mercury branches have adopted a numbering system where you get a number the moment you get to the store and wait for your turn. It kinda solves the “scrambling” problem. It actually makes customers more civilized, in a way.

But, I am disappointed. Mercury is M.E.R.C.U.R.Y. It is a large drugstore. No other drugstore comes close in terms of stocks and in terms of number of branches. Let alone, the locations of these branches. And all they got are numbers on cardboard sometimes on fiber glass? Common. They can do better than that.

Rose Pharmacy, in my opinion, was able to solve the queueing problem more professionally. As if, they have “scrambling” customers than Mercury, right?  It is actually funny really. But Rose is commendable where Mercury has been wanting. A proper and professional queuing system.

First step:  Select transaction (read: What kind of customer are you?  The KSM Card is their Mercury Suki Card equivalent. I have one and, for the love of all Pokemons, I couldn’t remember how I got one.). Press Regular Lane on the touch screen monitor.

Comment:  I suggest they put this monitor, with accompanying glaring instructions, in a more conspicuous place. Sometimes, I see people get confused how to use it, that is, if they first figure out where to find it.  Why not put a large card with GET YOUR NUMBER HERE?  Maybe people ignore monitors especially with the likes of this one where half of the screen is occupied by an advertisement.


Second step. Get your number from this machine, located near the monitor where you pressed Regular Lane.


Third step. Wait for until your number appears on another monitor, a bigger one and imposing atop the counter. It directs you which counter to go to for assistance.

Note:  Pharmacists and/or pharmacist assistants are such sticklers for prescriptions.  Even for simple antibiotics. Be prepared.


Fourth step.  Wait for your medicines at the Claiming Section. Okay, I breezed through all the steps except for this step. As you can see, these were bored people waiting for their loots.


Overall, the experience is pleasant. Much pleasant than scrambling for attention. Nakaka stress ‘yun.


Agoda Refund

The other day I was so excited about booking a hotel room that I totally overlooked the payment options for Pay Now or Pay Later. I usually opt for Pay Later especially since my plans are not always firm and free cancellations allow me to lock in prices now for accommodations far far later. So, anyway, the payment default in Agoda is Pay Now so my card got charged right away. That would have been okay if not for the fact that I had to cancel the booking and book another one.   How dumb. 

Although Agoda has a refund policy, I was pretty skeptical given my past experiences with refunds in general. What went running in my mind…endless phone calls, long waiting time,  no replies and the like.  Considering the amount, I  was scared. That’s US$166++ (P7,800). I was prepared for the worst.

To my surprise, however, just after 2 days, I checked my account and the charged amount was already credited back. <Insert a huge sigh of relief here>

Thanks Agoda. I am happy customer.

Holiday Inn and Suites Makati

Checked in for overnight because I wanted to shop in Makati without having to think of driving back to the south after and wrestling with traffic, which had been horrible recently. More compelling was the early morning seminar and afternoon meeting I had scheduled the next day.

I did our reservation via Agoda. Originally priced at PhP6,600++, I was able to book it at PhP6,300++, immediate payment and non-refundable. Restricted terms are often cheaper but of course  you have to forgo flexibility like cancellations. Good thing my schedule for next day was pretty solid. 

What can I say? The front desk personnel was polite and efficient. We arrived way too early of check in time but the front desk personnel registered us and asked for our mobile numbers so he can text us as soon as a room becomes available. I got a text at about 1230pm saying we can check in despite the standard check in time of 3pm. When we got to the front desk, we were handed our room keys since we already registered earlier. A total breeze. Oh, we got a late check out of until 1pm.

Upon reaching the room, we received a birthday cake for my husband, who will be celebrating his birthday this coming Friday.  We also got the usual welcome fruits! 

The guard from the lobby, the housekeepimg personnel, the life guards by the pool and the concierge people were so nice and helpful.

The room was clean, the bed linens were fresh and looked new. The bathroom didn’t have molds or mildew…yay! The shower area drain was working perfectly — this is a big deal for me cause I am such a stickler for clogged rains. The bathroom amenities were adequate.

The pool was pretty small and I can imagine how cramped it would be with 10 or more people swimming. But that’s alright, we would have gone to the beach if we wanted to swim. My husband enjoyed his quick dip.

The hotel is adjacent to Glorietta 1 so it was easy to go back and forth between the mall and hotel especially with all the shopping I did. 

We didn’t eat at the hotel since there were many restaurants in the mall anyway.

My overall rating is a 5 of 5. I would gladly stay in Holdiay Inn Suites Makati again.