• Travel Stories
  • OFW Christmas in Oman

    It has been 4 years now that I am spending Christmas away from home. I wonder how it is like to celebrate Christmas with the family, friends and relatives.  It is the season where friends meet, relatives organize parties, family cook and go to church together. Sometimes I feel so homesick and wish I could be home for Christmas. I missed the tradition -preparation and the rituals Filipino does back home. I miss all the parol, Christmas lights and decors, Christmas caroling, “Simbang Gabi” and Noche Buena. I must admit the actual presence to be in the Philippines is totally different if you are working overseas. So how do expat primarily the Filipinos celebrate Christmas in a Muslim country where Christmas day is just an ordinary day?

    Oman is an Arab country but not totally a place where Christmas can’t be felt. Hotels, malls, hypermarket have Christmas designs, decors and music to feel the spirit of the Yuletide season. The Catholic / Christian churches which is in Muscat , the capital of Oman hold Christmas masses to celebrate. The church provides “Simbang Gabi” for Filipinos and there are times they provide Christmas show as well.

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    Avenue Mall, Muscat
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    Intercontinental Hotel, Muscat
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    Muscat City Center
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    Catholic Church in Ruwi, Muscat
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    Filipinos waiting for the Tagalog Mass in Ruwi, Muscat

    But sad to say, not everyone is able to celebrate on the eve of Christmas. Some has to go to   work and it is a struggle to ask for a day off. You’re lucky if you will be given an off or consideration on that day. Filipinos usually organize  Christmas Eve Party. We do it in a place that can accommodate a large number of persons. This year we had it in one of our colleague’s place. We usually contribute money for the tokens and we bring our own contribution of Filipino foods to the party. There are committees assigned to certain things like arranging the programme, foods, games and sound system. Usually we start it with a prayer, do a programme and have some parlor games so everyone can participate. There are some tokens given to make everyone happy and enjoy the night. Filipinos globally celebrate Christmas the way it is in the Philippines. It is one of the tradition that will be always be on the heart of every Filipino. It is during  Christmas time that I miss more my family. It is the time of the year I wish I could spend time to my love ones. After all, it is not about having a grandiose party and  receiving gifts, but it is  being with the family, relatives and close friends that matters most . But wherever we are, I believe the true meaning of Christmas shouldn’t be missed. Merry Christmas to my fellow Oversea Filipino Workers (OFW)! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!!

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    Filipino foods for the Christmas Eve, 2015
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    Christmas 2011
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    Christmas 2012
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    Christmas 2013
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    Christmas 2014
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    Christmas 2015
  • Travel Stories
  • Thanksgiving Experience in USA

    Thanksgiving is one of the celebrated events in United States of America. People usually spend time with their family, relatives and friends. This also marks the start of the Holiday season and is just as important as Christmas. It is the time of the year when Americans give thanks to Almighty God for the blessings throughout the year. It is currently celebrated on the fourth of Thursday in November. Some of the Americans have long weekend holidays so it is popular to go for out of town trip too.

    So what was my Thanksgiving experience in USA? Some of my family and relatives are living in US. I am happy I was given the chance to experience one of the seasons being celebrated by the Americans and even Filipinos in the USA. My family decided to join our relatives to have our Thanksgiving dinner together. Since it is also the mark of holiday sale we opted to go to the nearest mall to go for window shopping but all shops were close in the morning of Thanksgiving, but to my surprised some shops like Best Buy and Walmart has already long line of people in the morning outside their stores though it will still be opened in the evening. My first time to see people camping out and putting out tent to be the first one on the line for the shopping time! Yes, Thanksgiving in the USA is actually the start of holiday shopping and everything was almost on sale!

    When we reached our cousin’s place everybody was busy preparing foods for dinner. My cousin, brother and I went out to get the food we ordered and went to Walmart store to buy some drinks. The thing was, in US they are quite strict when people buy some alcohol especially if you are on between 21-40 years old. They asked for an ID to verify if you are of legal age to buy liquor. It was my brother and I who were holding the bottles to the cashier when the cashier asked for our ID. On my thought it was enough my brother showed his ID but to my surprised the cashier also asked for my ID. I forgot to bring my ID so we had no choice but to leave and go another shop and make sure only my brother or my cousin will hold the alcohol so we can go buy. Hehe! At the same time, while going around, the line for the Thanksgiving sale was also getting more! I thought the one shown on TV people falling in line was exaggerated but when I witnessed it with my own eyes I was really awed and surprised!

     

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    At Ontario Mill Outlet Stores

    When we returned back home, we had our Thanksgiving dinner. We had sumptuous dinner prepared by my aunts, uncle and cousins. More than the wonderful dinner we had, I was happy that I was able to catch up with my relatives which I haven’t seen for long time. Filipinos treasure so much of their family and relatives. It is one of the cultural tradition being valued and even if Filipinos don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, it has been already adopted by some Filipinos living in USA for the good thing it brings. It is a time for get together and spending quality time with the family. Wherever Filipinos are, they treasure and keep their closeness.

     

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    Just before the midnight struck we went to the outlet mall to experience holiday shopping sale!  People hunt for holiday promos and sales that usually starts Thanksgiving Day. It is said to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year. As advised by my cousins who are certified shopaholics and bargain hunters, we should leave just before midnight struck as sale will be more on the midnight until the morning (yes shopping centers were open till dawn) and so we left around 11:00 pm and reached the Ontario Mills (outlet store) around 11.20 pm but we got parking only after how many minutes of going around. Yes there was no parking space at all!  Patience was needed. Some tips if you plan to go shopping on Thanksgiving?! Know what you want to buy before going there. It was seriously crowded. Line was long. Prices were really down 50-75% but the line was terrible. My family just went there for like 2 hours and left. Hehe!  So yes thanksgiving is a family get together and start of holiday shopping until you dropped! Sale was from Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and till weekend! Will I go shopping starting Thanksgiving Day midnight next time? Probably no. I went the next day to other outlet stores (Citadel) and everything was still on sale. Hehe! But even if I will not do it again, it was indeed a good experience.

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    Certified shopaholic cousins! hehe
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    Citadel Outlet Stores on Black Friday

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  • Travel Stories
  • My 24hrs Flight to USA

    It was November 3 when I left Oman for my first vacation to USA. My flight was around 1:00  in the morning.I remembered I booked my tickets two months in advance to get affordable tickets. My round trip airfare to USA was 395 OMR/ 1026 USD / 48,500 PHP economy class and got Lufthansa as carrier. I chose the 20 hours flight compared to other flights that may take me more than 20 hrs. There were carriers who have less hours of flight and direct but the cost was almost double so I decided to stick to my 20 hours flight. But just 2 weeks before my departure date, I received an email from Lufthansa to contact them due to some changes with the flight. Unfortunately flights were cancelled by Lufthansa from/to Oman. They offered alternative flights with other sister companies and I ended up taking Oman Air from Muscat, Oman to Munich, Germany. From Munich, Germany to LA, California ,USA  it was Lufthansa with a total flights of 25 hours including transit. When I was at the airport (Muscat) ,they verified my tourist visa for USA and checked if I need an airport transit visa to Germany. Important thing to remember, Filipino doesn’t need an airport transit visa while in Germany.

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    I arrived in Munich at 6.30am local time with a total of 6.5 flying hours and 6 hours transit. There are two terminals in Munich. Oman Air landed in terminal 1 and from terminal 1, there was a bus that transferred me to terminal 2. It was too cold when I arrived in Munich, probably around 6-10 degrees Celsius. Given the 6 hours transit, I enjoyed going around the Duty free stores where there were lot of things to check and try.I tried the cold sandwich and had coffee for breakfast and enjoyed the free Wi-Fi at the airport. The airport wasn’t that huge but it’s clean. I didn’t even notice the time when I was there! When I went to Lufthansa service center for my boarding pass from Munich to LAX, I was even offered to stay for a day in Munich with free hotel and allowance as the flight was full. That moment I want to grab the opportunity but when I told them I don’t have my Schengen Visa, they didn’t push the offer. But yeah I wish I could have stayed in Munich even for a day. Who wouldn’t like a free hotel plus money allowance around 300 pounds?! (Not sure if I heard it right though)

     

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    Selfie at the airport terminal in Munich Germany

    Everything went out smoothly at the passport control going to LAX.My flight from Munich to Los Angeles was 11 hours!  The airbus was huge and the flight was almost full. I remembered there were like 5-7 lavatory on the lower level which is like the first airbus I had tried with such huge passenger capacity. Food served was great too! I can’t even forget the biscuit with a chocolate filling that was served, it was  irresistible! I am not a big fan of milk chocolate but it was really delicious.The good thing too, I am the only one sitting on a 3 seat so I was able to stretch and lay down during my 11 hours flight. I slept, listened to music and watched several movies to consume the time.I also noticed there were only few Asian passengers on that flight. I guess less than 5 and the rest were Europeans.

    So, what was my first feeling when I first landed US of A? Oh well, I still can’t believe I was already in USA. I have to go through the officer to know whether I will be allowed to stay in US. The line for the tourists was really long. It took me approximately 40 minutes to one hour before I had my turn. Some of the questions asked were the purpose of my visit, how long will I stay and my work in Oman. He also asked for a copy of my ticket back in Oman. Everything went out smoothly. I was granted to stay in the US for 6months!  But actually I didn’t check on how many days/weeks or months I was granted to stay in the US. It was my mom who asked me 2 weeks after my arrival if how many weeks/ months I was allowed to stay in USA.

    How was the feeling of having a 24 hours flight? Tiring! I never had this kind of long flight in my life. I remembered there are flights from Muscat, Oman to Manila, Philippines with a total of 12-15 hours including transit in Dubai, and already eating up all my energy. So what more for a 1 day flight?! It was indeed an experience…

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    Tiring yet soo happy! Got a warm welcome from my brothers based in LA