Amanpulo: Palawan, Philippines. My break into paradise? Was it worth it?

If you’re all lazy to read. Here is a video of our trip to Amanpulo.

Ever since my dad mentioned it, Ive been dreaming all my life to visit this island. When I was much younger and we were less endowed with the best things in life, we used to come to Palawan and visit the more affordable resorts as you may call it. My parents worked really hard, as the eldest child I saw my mom and my dads highs and lows. But the beach or more so Palawan was our safe place, it was somewhere we spent most our time going to take vacations to. In the Philippines my dad only wanted to come here and nowhere else to him was more beautiful. 

Enough of the things about us, We came here for my parents 29th Anniversary. I cannot count with my hands how many times Ive been here to Palawan since I was 10. But Amanpulo is the best of the best here and I only found our 3 days before our flight that we were coming to the island. In the middle of my work and everything I got really excited because this trip would hit the Holy Week break! 

Coming to the island only takes 40-50 mins if youre taking the bigger plane. They greet you with Sampaguitas and give you your own tour in your personal golf cart. Its really an island for the rich, well for 3000-5000usd a night it should be. But this blog wont be about how fancy or luxurious this place was. Im actually going to share to you my own tips on how to visit this island on your budget based on our experience. But of course if you have that money saved up, then by all means you should visit! Personally, if I were to pay for this place myself I would eat up more than half my savings and that wouldnt be a wise way to spend my money. 

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VISITING THE ISLAND: 

My mom found a lot of faults in their booking. I guess they assume that everyone can pay and afford their island. But if were speaking about practicality some rates and things are completely out of any practical persons budget.

We complained more than 4 or 5 times about the pricing and they kept on telling us that they would extend the credit, in the end we were left with Php -800 credit for them to return to us, but not after me viewing their terrible accounting statement of which I had to decipher. It was obvious that the person who made the accounting statement was not an accountant, and they just printed out what they thought was proper deducting and adding, but after doing the analysis and the math, It was clearly a very confusing situation already because different managers were promising different things to us each time and in the end I didn’t know which was the agreed upon statement anymore.

They probably didn’t think that they’d meet someone such as my mom, my mom is just the type of person who wants you to explain it clearly to her, and the manager and staff clearly didn’t know what was going on with their accounting system. If they did, they could have easily told her what the statement stated and included. Instead we got more than how many different managers telling us 3 or 4 different things.

  1. You actually have options that they dont explain.When we first booked the place, they never mentioned it to us. They just sent us a statement and made it seem easy to book. Not that I didnt like that, its just that if there was an option for a cheaper booking I would have saved my parents a lot more money.There is actually an option not to have the room food replenished everyday and that rate they said is cheaper. We didnt know at first because it was not even explained to us how to book in the first place.

    At the end of our trip we ended up asking for the un-replenished daily chocolates we were supposed to receive per day since we did pay for it but it was not mentioned to us, tea and drinks. If it was explained to us earlier we would have taken it. I mean of course we want our moneys worth if we paid extra for it.

  2.   Read all of their agreements and non disclosure agreements.
    There are a lot of charges an rules here and there about the island. Mind you its not cheap either.
  3. You can bring your own food.If it were up to me, i would have survived with 2 meals a day or even just one meal a day. My mom brought some canned tuna and bread from Manila and her own food and snacks. Being on the island, you dont really eat much. And if you paid that extra 70usd for lunch then I suggest you remove it because breakfast is part of your rate anyway.One meal costs about 50-80 usd and the massages range from 200-300usd. We didnt avail for anything on this island. Because a lot of things were freeassuming it was already included in that rate we paid for.

  4. Take the free snorkeling every 10am and 2pmIt will save you a lot of money since going on a private tour is about 200-400usd as well. It would be great if you were a lot but we were only 4 on this trip and it would have not been practical at all. The snorkeling tour goes to places where you can see turtles as well as really big fishes!

  5. The room is big enough for 4 peopleIts an extra 1000usd per person also including the flight to the island. If youre not such a particular group of people there is an even cheaper treetop casita that is about 1900usd per night  including the flight for 2 people and an additional 1000 per head if you add. Of course a double bed will be added. I feel like this is shareable and had i known I would have just asked for this option and slept on my parents couch in the beach casita.

  6. Pets are not allowed on this island.I really wanted to bring my dog, considering the priced we paid. My chihuahua is really small and I hoped we could have brought him with us too. But I can’t complain about this so much, since I guess its a private island and I shouldn’t really be expecting to be able to bring my little baby.

  7. My sister and I nearly got lost at sea, be careful of the currents.

    I don’t want to explain much about it, I already got comments on Facebook that blamed me as a sister for not doing much. I think I was able to do my part by staying with my sister. Just be careful when you’re out with young kids. They don’t really monitor you so well and I think when you’re with a kid you just need to stay by the shore.

  8. They will want to charge you for the bigger room so you could bring more peopleI also read this on their Facebook comments section. They really want you to get the Villa which is $21,000. When I called them at first, they really wanted me to get the Villa for our whole family instead of 2 separate rooms which would turn out cheaper. Just remember that you have a lot more options than you think, and even if they’ll hate you for asking, just ask them, you’re a paying customer.

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For a 5 star resort, maybe my expectations were just higher than this. Maybe it is really visited by people who bring their maids on vacation and we were too poor compared to these other people to understand the situation. But It made me see also how different the other side of life is like. There is beauty in simple places and more homey hospitality. Personally i did not feel it on this island. 

They have 400 employees on this island and we didnt see most of them on the island. Most of your money probably goes to the extra people  who need to maintain the island and its filtration system and the good food and chefs. Being aware that the island has more employees than actual guests. I was disappointed when I realised that we were so little compared to them. As the island is only home to about 47 cottages and half of these are privately owned and not for rent. 

Now after reading you might think, how much of a cheapskate can this girl get? Come on, bringing your own food and sleeping on the couch?! I guess doing this is not for everyone and we all have different ways we want to live. I just think that looking at it in an economical more practical standpoint. That money could have been used for so many more important things than just the food on our vacation or the chocolates and drinks in the fridge.  And of course I have to make this post neutral for those haters who might say, enjoy it, it was a free vacation after all! That is true, I will not of course deny the beautiful memories I made here with my family, good or bad.

I do believe it is somewhere you could go to experience for once in your life. I will definitely say that, I loved the beachfront and there is nothing like it or compared to it. I just hope that someday the management improves and their staff training. It is definitely what you’d call a luxury leisure resort and the staff are also just as in leisure as the guests.

Wishing you all happy days!
Hope this all helps you make decision in visiting the island.

thebackpackingballerina.com

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On twinkle toes’ posts about me

I don’t choose to look back on this memory, it’s been more than one year since I left and i really wanted to move on from leaving this place i called another home for a year or so. I don’t want to post hate online but i believe people are not dumb, and everyone we be better knowing my side of things as well. I will just allow this post, and my actions from here on, to speak for myself.

Im making this a public post unlike my former employer Ms. Cherrie May Umbalin who chose to hide her posts from me or my family so i would not be able to see them. Thanks to your hateful and snarking posts, people i don’t even know, and who don’t even know me, hate me. Though I try to avoid trouble, I still think that when something wrong is being said about you, I have to defend myself tactfully and honestly. I am aware of every single thing I had done. I even have all of her emails to show everyone involved, as she has decided to post about me, seeking for affirmation from her friends to wish ill on me. She was a really close person to me, until she wasn’t. I felt like I left on good terms when I started my own ballet program because I had sent her my resignation letter (before which I had already talked to her about leaving) which will be included under this post. I even sent it a month before leaving and yet I still taught at her school afterwards.

Now, I get people from other schools saying that I am stealing students. I never did drag anyone to my school or force them to come. They came and paid at their own will. Stealing or Poaching people is a funny term to be used. I mean, if a person tries and ends up preferring my training to yours, that’s on him or her, not me. And if a person decides to leave my ballet program and join your school then no problem –that only reflects on her preferences. I will tell you all though, since I left twinkle toes ballet and music academy, in Fairview, I have had only 5 of her students come and join me at their own will, wiith them messaging me first and not the other way around.

This ia a post that she recently shared online: It was sent in to me by a friend of mine since I obviously would not have seen it.

The third photo caught my attention, because this photo is actually of my current assistant Sophie. She allowed me to use the photo in this post.

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Sophie actually was the one who approached me, expressed her dislike for the school and how she was treated. She expressed to me that she wanted to work with me after as my assistant and that the only reason why she stayed at twinkle toes was because of me. It was of course her decision to come and not mine, and so I would like to clarify that, since she used this photo to show that I was inviting people.  (I will get to the schools system after this)

REASON 1: HOW THE SCHOOL IS RUN 

When I first got there, there was no system at all. I remember my first year, there even wasn’t a schedule. I was just told to come in from a given time and there was no specified ending time, which I found weird. I was the one who made the ballet schedule, being a person who actually runs on a schedule. I was really keen on setting up one. I wanted to help the school because I saw a lot of talent among the students there. I think every parent who was there really knows how much work I put into the school.

The school owner, Ms. Cherrie, and I would talk a lot after ballet because I would encourage her to set up more shows or more events for the kids or things to look forward to so that they could get better and more exposure. She did so and followed through, but the system of the school, or lack thereof remained the same. She would charge the parents extra PER MINUTE for going overtime. She always encouraged me to extend their training so that they could be charged more. I never knew that a school would charge a per minute fee of overtime. Talk about ethics. So I’m sorry to those parents who paid overtime per minute, but rest assured I only got paid per hour and wasn’t privy to her schemes.

Now, I’m not sure if that has changed or not but I’m hoping it has.

EFREN1SILAY

REASON 2: HONG KONG COMPETITION TRIP

I went to hong kong with her daughter and another student of twinkle toes. As their coach, I wasn’t asked to go to Hong Kong with her and the school. I found that to be a bit saddening and I really wanted to come because you trained the kids and your presence would be beneficial for them. I didn’t push it but when the other parent expressed that they wanted to pay for me to be there, I opened it up with Ms. Cherrie. The parents expressed to me that they wanted me, the coach, to be there and not Ms. Cherrie. They knew that they wouldn’t be taken care of because her daughter would be competing too.

We enjoyed our time in Hong Kong regardless of Ms. Cherrie. I got to talk to my student and have coffee with her and her parents. We had a long talk about leaving the school, as they were not satisfied with the way things were.

In the end Ms. Cherrie told me that she wanted to discuss my payment but I told her in a message maybe we could discuss it in person. I never got a meeting to discuss it, i found that really unprofessional on her part. She then told me that she would pay me partially every month for my fee and all other expenses but we never really got to discuss the rate. I don’t know how things like this work and I was just too tired and I didn’t want to see her anymore. If she really did want to pay me she really would have paid me already. The parents on the other hand were very clear on the intent of me being there with them in Hong Kong and we constantly were with each other.

If you go to these competitions, you would not be paid for being there to support the students. Sometimes you couldn’t even watch if you didn’t have a ticket. It would be an ordeal from 7am-9pm and it was really no fun at all. On top of that, not getting paid for your time might be fun at the start because you would think, hey, it’s an experience. I was happy the first time, because that was the first time we joined and that was my first competition where I coached my students (Which i guess are her students under the school, technically). It was nice seeing the kids improve and I loved that feeling. But when it starts to feel like work and you’re not getting paid, things can get sad.

FINALLY: RECITAL

As for twinkle toes’ recital many people know that I did almost everything for them last 2017. I was backstage, i did the kids make up, most of the choreography, the program set up, i was the PA backstage, i had the headset and was even the one on the microphone announcing intermissions. But I was only paid as a teacher, and none of those other roles. That day was utter chaos and just one of the worst days of my life. I was paid but i feel like doing all of that was not part of my obligations. But If I didn’t do those things who would have? She had no sound director, lighting head, she had no trained assistants. Of course I knew how it worked, I’ve been living in the theatre for almost 14 years of my life.

That was the last straw for me, i couldn’t stay in a job where I knew I couldn’t soar any higher. I knew I could really do so much more than that. I felt useless that I got so frustrated but then I had an opportunity to go to Latvia. It felt like a chance to start fresh before coming back.

To get one thing completely straight. I absolutely loved my students at twinkle toes. Everyone knows I would spend my Sundays there or even make time beyond what was agreed upon. If you are or used to be a parent with twinkle toes you would probably know she always does this.

I posted a video of our student (her school, but my coaching) because I was proud of her. The parents of that student trusted me with her training and they were the ones who wanted me to be in Hong Kong. Now, Ms. Cherrie has and entire issue with the video, as if it’s completely hers and the student has no say in it. The student is in my program now.

Another issue was that one of her students wanted to come with me. I offered this girl a scholarship since her mom asked. If you knew this girl, she was and is really gifted. I wasn’t aware that she was on “partial” scholarship under NO CONTRACT with Twinkle Toes. It became a really big issue and I told Ms. Cherrie that under her contract, I would not allow the student to come to my program without settling her fees with twinkle toes first. I felt as though this wasn’t an issue with me, as it was ultimately the decision of the parent to pull her out, and settle her dues. I also included at first that as a scholar, the mom needs to bring in 2 students, The mom did eventually invite 2 people for me even if it did take a little while. I was informed in a text message from Ms. Cherrie later on that I was lying because she knows someone who joined my program and said that there were no other students. How would this person know? Since she only came a few times. We all can’t just run on these assumptions and allegations and post angrily online.

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So think what you will, but i really think we should just move on with our lives. That’s what I’m doing. I am so happy with the current dance program im putting up but i know i have to do this first to put this issue to rest. I am still inviting anyone who wants to learn ballet the proper way from someone who thinks that ballet is an art, beautiful and brilliant and not only business. Im crazy about it —my eyes are set on my students falling madly in love with ballet just as much as me.

I’m not someone who jokes around when it comes to ballet because just like any good teacher, we acknowledge that our community is one of tradition. Insulting me would be an insult to all of the teachers who has ever taught me. Of course, people who have not been through the training and the culture that I and many other individuals have been through, would never understand, as she does not.

Getting a tourist visa to Russia, in Manila

Surprise surprise! Im going to Russia! I recently got accepted to the training program at the Vaganova ballet academy in June. This is probably one of the only visas ill ever need, being a Japanese. I have a lot of respect for those who have to go through this VISA trouble, just to get to a country you want to visit. Most especially for those who need a visa for a lot of countries.

I had quite an experience, in getting a Russian tourist visa that I just had to write about it. The first thing I did was to call the Russian embassy, the problem was, the persons on the phone were Russians who could not speak good english, it was quite a confusing call. We ended up saying pardon me? And can you repeat? Over and over again. After this, I contemplated on getting my visa to get done by an agent. I lived in Quezon City, and with Manila traffic, going to Makati would be a huge hassle. But with the blogs I read, assured that I could do it myself so i did, and I also wanted to try to do it, for the experience.

So i went on a Tuesday, and i found out that the embassy in McKinley is not where you apply for a VISA. VISA’s are processed in the RCI building at RADA ST. in Makati. So that was my first mistake, my second mistake was that i looked up online and it said it was only open TTH but apparently upon getting to the embassy they were only open MWF. So i wasted 4 hours in traffic from QC-MAKATI and that happened to me the same week I went on Wednesday, just to find out that it was a RUSSIAN HOLIDAY. So make sure before coming here, you come on a MONDAY, WEDNESDAY or FRIDAY, come early and you should check if it is or not a Russian holiday.

REQUIREMENTS:
You will not be able to apply for a visa without the following requirements:
1. ELECTRONIC VISA APPLICATION FORM which is processed on their website: http://visa.kdmi.ru
2. ID photo (photo for the VISA) photo has to have plain white background and natural face with no hair around your face (You will have to stick this on the electronic visa application form which you will have to print out on an A4 paper)
3. Ticket to Russia
4. Hotel, Accommodation and Itinerary
5. VISA SUPPORT, VOUCHER or Invitation to stay in Russia ( this is the most important, I got mine from http://hotels-pro.ru/order/hotelspro, some hotels also send out these invitations for you with an extra charge. The price should be around $30usd extra and nothing more.
6. Passport

TIPS ON YOUR APPLICATION DAY: 
1. Make sure you come early so that you can get your name NOTED DOWN in line. I was here at 8am but i was already 20th in line. Im not one who likes to wait especially since I woke up at 6am to drive here.

2. These are the actual OPENING HOURS:
Monday-Wed-Friday
9:30-1:00pm
(Not open on Russian holidays, so you should check for holidays) ** double check this before coming to the embassy 

So i waited a good hour for the consul to arrive, he forgot that he had to be at the office. So one of the travel agents decided to just pick him up. The process itself was very smooth, I waited for 6 hours from 8am before I got called around 2pm, and he just asked a few questions and then asked me to pay at UCPB which is around a 5 minute walk from the building.  Afterwards you just come back to the embassy to give him the paper, and voila! You can get your visa either rush or not. I think prices vary depending on the kind of visa you get, but for my 30 day single entry visa I paid Php 1800.

I noticed some individuals were asked for supporting documents, but maybe that was because they weren’t applying for a tourist visa such as myself.

All in all, for my first time, It was really a funny experience to get this VISA. I just decided to write about it since there aren’t a lot of blogs about it, maybe because its rare for someone to be wanting to go to Russia. But I am quite excited for this new experience, hoping this could help someone who wants to go to Russia, from Manila too!

That’s d pointe dance shop, Manila

Hello Dancers and Dance lovers,

As you are now well aware of, I’ve been fixing my website and sharing YouTube videos revolving around my life and ballet. Today I want to feature another ballet store in the Philippines called, thats d’ pointe dance shop. This shop owned by Ms. Charmaine, is located in Metrowalk, Ortigas ave. and in Fisher mall, Quezon City. The Shop is very much complete with the basic things and they have an ample amount of stocks, of course if you need special sizes you may also request that with them. They are very accommodating. I will be attaching our new video blog to this post.

If you are ever in need of dancewear, you may visit them today, and you can also check out their online store on this link, That’s d pointe dance shop

Dance by Lina Update: Spring and Summer collection

Update on my dance wear line, we’re currently trying to develop 4 new things. The portable ballet barre, a mens sizing chart, a tweens sizing chart and a plus size line. I recently gave up on making leotards as it is too difficult to deal with the spandex fabric. I decided to stick to warmers, knit and cotton. Also some skirts, and our favourite tutu bag.

Here are some of the new colours we might be introducing by the end of this month! You can follow my Instagram account for other updates on colours. These colours are for our knit warmers.

For our long skirts, which did so well last year we decided to add a new  for spring: PLUM, we are also hoping to add at least one more rose colour, then for our portable ballet barre update we just finished our first sample! So we are much excited to showcase this by the end of the month.

We always appreciate our customers comments. So any suggestions are welcome! A lot of these ideas always come from you guys and what you guys want to see me develop next, Thank you for always supporting my line, its really almost like a dream come true that started as my own little hobby into becoming something quite big and special to me.

❤ Lina

FOLLOW OUR JOURNEY! (my shop and I) dancebylina.com

PERSONAL INSTAGRAM: @dancebylina_

INSTAGRAM shop: @dancebylina_dancewear

Baler, Philippines

The birthplace of surfing, baler is my favorite out of town vacation spot. Only 5 hours from Manila or 4 if you are quick, Not only is it reasonably cheap to go there but it is also very relaxing. The last time i went here i wrote something about Costa Pacifica but with the unreasonably expensive prices of this hotel I opted that we stay at another hotel right next to Costa Pacifica.

HOW TO GET THERE:

By private car, going here by car might be the easiest option if you have a car. I always prefer coming by car as you can control your own time. We just wazed the place, its relatively very easy as the roads are already smooth unlike the first time i went to baler the winding bumpy road was a horror story.

By bus, i know plenty of people who come here by bus, my only problem with the bus is that it stops at the town proper where you still need a ride from there to the main area.

By air , i only recently found out that Baler airport have flights from Manila to baler via SKYJET airlines. The only problem is that it is still around 10-20 mins away from the sea by car and im not sure if there is a transportation service from the airport. The airport is pretty far from the city proper.

RECOMMENDATIONS ON WHERE TO STAY:

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Nalu surf camp, a great alternative and 60% cheaper than your stay in costa. When they told me that my 2 night stay would cost me Php20000 (400usd) it sounded feasible for 4 people except, it wasn’t what i wanted. Costa is known only because it used to be the only safe hotel around Baler near the sea. But after discovering the beautiful Nalu surf camp, i don’t want to try Costa Pacifica anymore. You wont get the same service at Nalu than Costa, but the ambiance of Nalu is definitely perfect for surfers and easy going people. Costa Pacifica’s food prices in my opinion is too unreasonably priced and their room rates are also not exactly the best, considering they are an open resort that isn’t really heavily guarded either.

Another place to consider staying in baler is The Hostel behind Costa Pacifica. If you aren’t looking to be fancy the hostel is good for those who want to meet new people only 500php per night (10usd), or the Ifugao nipa hut rooms room which already comes with air conditioning at Nalu surf camp at 3000 per night or 60usd. Some others stay at hotels far from the seaside near the town proper because it is cheaper and they drive to the sea for some waves but i think it is safer and much better to just stay by the baywalk are hotels. Just make sure to choose somewhere safe and to never leave any belongings unattended or in your rooms.

WHERE TO EAT:

The street right behind Costa Pacifica is one of the better and cheaper places to get food. With Inihaw (grilled food) being priced from 160php-300php only good for sharing. Also a few blocks down the main road are some places that sell good and cheap food too, if you walk along the baywalk you will get a big selection of things to eat but some places aren’t that good and very pricey. If you are looking for fancy and expensive you could try Costa Pacifica, but if you are looking for a local taste i would definitely recommend the restaurant called Yellow Fin bar and grill for your dinner.

THE SHACK, is also one place I will recommend, surprisingly with its good indian food! Its a place you must visit if you are ever in Baler. Their beef shawarma is one that you must try, really filled and not so much oil. Another place i would like to try is EL JARDIN ESPAÑOL in Baler and MADISON CAKES AND PASTRIES, leaving more things to do for the next visit!

SURFING PACKAGES:

At Nalu, our surfing package of php350 ( roughly $7 ) already included a free beer or cold pop and free pictures. I think this was the best surfing deal of all the deals i saw solely because they gave us free pictures with our package and that they had good instructors as well, the owner of the place was always around the camp and he is very hands on with the place. Nalu surf camp was also nice because it was guarded and closed off, the parking was safe and a guard was always on watch.

But don’t limit yourself to the sea, there are also guided tours to waterfalls and quiet beaches around Baler you could visit. Just ask the tricycles around the beach area and they will give you packages from 700-1000 php (14-20usd) for a whole day tour around the city proper and around the trekking areas and waterfalls also the private picturesque beaches. Hoping you can all consider coming to Baler after reading this. As moana would say ” I am a girl who loves my island and a girl who loves the sea, IT CALLS ME” (haha) and of all the places i have been to in Luzon. Baler really holds a special place in my heart.

Knowing your worth as a dancer

Knowing your worth as a dancer is always important. I always believe that you should see yourself in your own way and not in how others see you. I think being a dancer this is one of the hardest things. We are taught in class to be obedient, listen and to absorb, and we are told not to hold back during during rehearsals and shows.

There will always be someone better that is true, and for the past 22 or so years I’ve had to learn this the hard way. That there is enough sunshine for everyone, but you should believe that if you work hard enough (like really work, eat breathe live dance) you deserve your piece of sunshine too and don’t be afraid to show that you do. ❤️

Picture taken during my performance last summer as Paquita by Miguel Antonio Gonzales