October 30, 2016

My Two Weeks in Muscat, Oman (Part II)

Continuing my previous post....

Sights to See

Because my main purpose for traveling to Oman is work, I only had one weekend to go around. Well, technically I had two weekends--the first one was when I arrived in Muscat. During that first weekend, I was able to go one of Muscat's marketplace, thanks to a colleague who has rented a car for the duration of his stay. During the second weekend however, most of my colleagues flew out of the country, so I was left to tour on my own.

Mutrah Souq

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Mutrah Souq (or Muttrah Souk) is considered as one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world. It is located near the Muscat harbor, which was originally used to trade goods from India and from China [Source: Wiki]. Nowadays the main corridors of the marketplace contain stalls that sell souvenirs, fankincese, textiles, jewelries, and other dried goods for both locals and tourists alike.


While there are a lot of places to see in and around Muscat, most of the places aren't accessible by public transport. You would either have to rent a car (or a 4x4 if you're headed out to rough terrain), or avail a tour package from one of the tour companies in the city. I don't drive (and if I do, I wouldn't venture out into such strange territory alone), so renting a car is out of the question.

October 28, 2016

My Two Weeks in Muscat, Oman (Part I)

I'm starting to understand why people enjoy making travel videos. I find that moving pictures give the audience a more immersive experience, compared to images in a photo album. Don't get me wrong, I still love photography to bits, but if I want people to view my travels through my eyes, videos are the way to go.

Thank God for the wonders of technology; there's now an app to edit your videos right in your phone!

For those wondering about my "process," I usually start with thinking of what
background music to use. This more or less influences the composition of the
video clips I'll be taking throughout the experience.

Q&A Time!!!

What were you doing in Oman?
Much like my stint in India, this was a company-sponsored trip. I was there for only two weeks, so I only had one weekend to explore the country the best that I can.

Do you need a visa to travel to Oman?
Yes. I was granted the Express Visa, which is a single-entry visa good for three weeks in Oman, and must be used within one month from the date of issuance. My application was handled by my company, but apparently you can apply online as well.

Are there non-stop flights to Oman?
The nearest destination offered by my go-to airlines Cebu Pacific Air is Dubai, which is an hour away  (by air) from Oman. Oman's flagship carrier, Oman Air, offers non-stop flights from Manila to its capital, Muscat (WY 844), and vice-versa (WY 843). Travel time is 8 hours and 15 minutes.

Where exactly is Oman?
The Sultanate of Oman is located at the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is south of UAE, east of Saudi Arabia, north-east of Yemen [Source: Wiki, Google Maps].

What can you tell me about this country, in a nutshell?
Short facts about Oman, which I think will interest the Filipino reader [Source: Wiki]:

  • Arabic is the official language of Oman; Islam--its official religion
  • Sultanate is the form of government in Oman, which is a unitary state with a parliamentary system, and an absolute form of monarchy (wherein the Sultan is the monarch)
  • Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is a coastal city in northern Oman, nestled between the gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountain Range (which extends up to UAE)
  • Supposedly, the climate differs between the north (i.e. Muscat) and the south (i.e. Salalah). Muscat climate is more on the dry, desert side, while Salalah climate is more on the wet, subtropical side. I've only been in Muscat, and the hottest temperature I've experienced is around 40 degrees Celsius at noontime
  • Omani currency is the Rial (OMR). As of writing, 1 OMR = 125.97 PHP
  • Oman uses the Gulf Time Zone, which is UTC +04:00. It is 4 hours behind the Philippine Time Zone (UTC +08:00)

October 05, 2016

Pregnancy Journal: Financial Benefits from the Government

Links to my previous pregnancy-related entries:


Listed below are some benefits that you can avail from the government, to help ease your financial worries during pregnancy:

SSS Benefits for Female Members

Female SSS members with at least three (3) monthly contributions within the twelve (12)-month period immediately preceding the semester delivery date or miscarriage are qualified for maternity benefits that include allowance (amount is based on contribution) and leave (60 days for normal delivery/ miscarriage, 78 days for c-section). This is only for the first four pregnancies (including miscarriage).

At the beginning of the pregnancy, notify SSS that you are "officially" with child. Download the Maternity Notification Form, include your ultrasound result, and submit to your employer at least 60 days from the date of conception but not later than the date of  delivery/miscarriage/procedure.

To claim the maternity benefit and the maternity leave, submit the following on or after the delivery procedure:
  1. For miscarriage: Obstetrical History Form, duly accomplished by the attending doctor and a certified true copy of the operating room record/ surgical memorandum indicating the procedure
  2. For normal or caesarean delivery: certified true copy of the child's birth certificate.
  3. For stillborn: certified true copy of the child's [fetal] death certificate.
  4. Additional requirements for employed members:
    • SSS Digitized ID (or UMID) or E-6 acknowledgement stub with two valid IDs, one of which with recent photo (photocopy and original). After presenting the IDs to SSS, they will be returned to you
    • A copy of the payslip that includes the SSS Maternity Benefit that was credited to your 
    • Duly accomplished SSS Form MAT-2 (i.e. Maternity Reimbursement Form)

PhilHealth Benefits

PhilHealth members may reimburse part of their hospital bill (this includes miscarriage). There are at least three forms to accomplish:
  1. Claimant Form No. 1 needs to be accomplished in advance. For employed members, the employer (thru HR) will need to provide some information in this form. Guidelines for accomplishing the form can be read here.
  2. For employed members, you also need to submit a Certificate of Contribution. The employer (thru HR or Payroll) will be providing this information based on a prescribed format from PhilHealth.
  3. Member Data Record or PhilHealth ID. Member Data Record can be applied online, but if you already have your PhilHealth ID, this is no longer needed. 

Additional Resources:

Since government websites tend to be slow and prone to time-out issues (SSS and PhilHealth are of no exception), here are other blogs to check out:
  • SSS Philippines Notes has a comprehensive list of requirements for maternity benefits, for Miscarriage, Normal Delivery, Caesarean Delivery, and even if the child was born abroad..
  • Unsullied Perspective is the most comprehensive blog post I am able to find regarding benefit filing.
In any case there are still unanswered questions as to what and how, Google is your friend.

October 01, 2016

Fukuoka, Japan Part II: Shopping and Dining

Continuing my previous post...

Shopping arcade in Tenjin area

As we've pretty much exhausted all the sights we wanted to see in and around Fukuoka, we spent the next days exploring the shopping malls and the restaurants in the city center.