Posted in New Zealand

Caleigh’s First Birthday in Queenstown!

Okay, I haven’t been a very good blogger and it’s 4 months (!) since I last updated my blog and this post is long overdue but work has got the better of me and there’s just too much on my plate lately that I haven’t had the time to sit down and write a proper entry, so my sincerest apologies to you all. For now I’ll quit yapping and tell you about our trip to Queenstown to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday last June. You see, we’re not the type who throw grand parties but we would definitely travel in a heartbeat at the slightest chance we got. We’re cool to spend our hard-earned money collecting memories rather than spending it on lavishness or material things so even when our daughter wouldn’t remember it yet, we decided to fly to Queenstown and add pockets of family quality-time to our memory bank instead.

Oh Queenstown! I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this place is. It’s not dubbed as “The World’s Adventure Capital” for nothing. If you’re into some adrenaline-pumping adventure and YOLOing, go pack your gear, rush to the airport and book a one-way ticket to Queenstown! Yes, live here if you must! Think of the stuff you’re lusting to tick-off your bucket list – skydiving, bungy-jumping, gforce paragliding, heli skiing, canyoning, etc. etc. — it’s all found in this adventure-mecca! But since we had a baby in tow, we kept it low-key and just settled for sight-seeing (sayang, mag sky-diving talaga dapat ako, ha-ha!).

For some night-life, you can head over downtown to Minus 5 Degree ice bar. It’s literally the coolest place in Queenstown with controlled temperature ranging up to negative 8 degrees! It’s so cold I only lasted for 20 minutes, yeah the cold did bother me after all. Here you can see ice carvings, shot glass made of ice and even the walls of this bar are made of thick ice. The admission fee comes with some mocktails and cocktails, which aren’t half bad either.

Queenstown did not disappoint on the sight-seeing department as well. From Arrowtown, to Glenorchy to Lake Wanaka – your senses will be filled with picturesque and scenic landscapes enough to fill your camera’s SD card! Be sure to have extra cards handy. Every angle is just so photogenic you cannot take a bad photo here even for an amateur like me.

Below are some of the mediocre shots we gathered, believe me when I say that pictures didn’t give this place justice.

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Posted in New Zealand

Hamilton Gardens: Springtime Perfection

Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand is by far the loveliest garden we’ve been to and that’s saying a lot considering the multitude of beautiful gardens that mushroom the country. The entire ground is very well-kept and the best part is the access is always free! The site features an impressive 21 gardens representing art, beliefs, lifestyle and traditions of different civilizations or historical garden styles such as the Renaissance, Tudor, Surrealism, Modernist, Chinos Erie, Maori, etc. This garden is such a visual spectacle that it was coined Garden of the Year last 2014. You can also pack lunch or snacks and have some picnic after strolling around.

Below are some snap shots we had while discovering the place…

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Posted in New Zealand

5 Things You Need To Do Before Moving to New Zealand

So you have heard of the Top 5 Reasons Why Filipinos Migrate to New Zealand. You are intrigued by the idea of settling down to a country with awesome views and kind-hearted people. You clamour for that much-needed work-life balance. You visualize yourself being in the great outdoors, camping on its vast parks and natural wonders, skiing in the middle of the winter, hiking on its different terrains or swimming in its crystalline waters on weekends.

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Goat Island, just a few hours drive from Auckland

You are inspired by the opportunities and promise of a better life that this country has to offer. And now you ask, what are the next steps you need to consider before moving to New Zealand? Below are some of the things you need to arm yourselves with before plunging into the deep regions of migration:

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Skytower as seen from the Auckland waterfront

1.) Research. Research. And more research. Never underestimate the power of information when moving to a different place. There are tons of things you need to know before diving to a completely different territory and you need to gather as much knowledge of the country as you can possibly muster. The internet is a great source of information but you need to carefully select those trust-worthy sites as scammers are spreading like wildfire in this time and age. New Zealand immigration site immigration.govt.nz will let you chose which visa you wish to apply for and it will provide you with the necessary steps on your application. Since NZ’s residency is based on point system, you can try their online calculator to ensure that your points reach at least 160 as this will make you automatically selected for further assessment. NZ immigration has allotted points for skills, qualifications, age, family ties in NZ, job offer, ability to settle in NZ, etc.

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Hunua Falls

2.) Be financially prepared. Whichever visa you wish to have, there are lots of fees you need to pay in order to be successful in your application and the costs are no laughing matter. Lodging your application, IELTS, assessment of your qualifications all require a huge sum of money and so is having a complete medical check-up especially for the skilled migrant category. Know the cost of living in New Zealand and the amount you need to bring with you while searching for work. Take note that it will take you a couple of months or more before finding a suitable job, so you need to take into account everyday expenses such as food, transportation, accommodation, internet connection, phone bills, etc. that you have to pay while you’re still in the midst of job-hunting.

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Cable cars @ Rotovegas, Rotorua

3.) Get all your documents ready. Have your passport, diploma, transcript of records, certificate of employment, birth certificates, NBI/police clearances, etc. handy. Before lodging your application for EOI (Expression Of Interest), make sure to have all your necessary documents with you so as not to cram with the given grace period of submitting your documents. Once your EOI expires, you need to lodge your application and pay for the necessary fees again.

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Picnic behind cherry blossoms @ Cornwall Park

4.) Create a network of friends and acquaintances in NZ. Maybe you have friends or some distant relatives in NZ? Get in touch with them and connect thru social media.  They can give you tips on what to expect on your first few days, weeks, or months in NZ. They might refer you to some accommodations or even job openings. They can be your set of friends when you have settled down in NZ. There are also lots of Filipino Communities in NZ providing support to new migrants. Be sure to interact with them beforehand.

5.) Be patient. Migrating to a new place is a long and tedious process. You need to be patient while waiting for the results and just hope for the best. Stay positive but be ready with whatever the outcome will be. After all, nothing in this world is 100% guaranteed.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed immigration consultant. All contents of this article and site are based purely on personal accounts

Posted in New Zealand

Top 5 Reasons Why Filipinos Move to New Zealand

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Mixture of old and new architecture @ downtown Auckland

Filipinos are a proud race thus the term “Pinoy Pride” is overly used on social media with the cloying #hashtag attached to it. We take pride on our world-class performers such as Lea Salonga, international beauty stand-outs like Pia Wurtzbach and of course Manny Pacquiao who’s ruling the boxing arena for years now.

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View of Auckland City from Mt. Eden

El Nido is often hailed as the most beautiful island in the world and Boracay the best beach there is. But behind these world-renowned personalities , pristine beaches and paradise of islands lies the fact that millions of Filipinos are unemployed, living under 2 dollars a day, and deprived of even the most basic of sustenance. Worsening traffic in the metro is enough to make you pull your hair in anger. Corruption in the government and crimes in the streets are daily news. This never ending list of socio-political issues and the slow economic growth which have been haunting the country for ages now resulted in the diaspora of Filipinos world-wide. Whichever country you go to, you are sure to find a Filipino working or residing there in search for a better future. And New Zealand is fast-becoming the top choice for Filipinos to move to.

So what are the reasons why 40,000 strong Filipinos decide to move to New Zealand?

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Flowers in full bloom @ Rotorua Museum

1.) New Zealand has the least corrupt government in the world. NZ holds this title for more than 5 years now and yet they are not being complacent and still targets to gain more public trust in the long run. There’s nothing like the comfort of knowing that the taxes you pay to the government from your hard day’s work is being utilized in the most efficient way possible; that the government is “actually working” to provide support and service to the people. Integrity, government transparency and public rights are top priorities here and everyone if fervently obliged to adhere to the laws.

2.) New Zealand provides greener pastures (both literally and figuratively). Okay to be honest, the cost of living in New Zealand is high, but if you have a decent job here you can surely provide for your family and still have a little extra for some luxuries or even holidays from time to time. And of course, it won’t hurt that you are also having the most awesome views of rolling hills, turquoise-colored lakes and snow-capped mountains on your way to work. Minimum wage in NZ is 15.25nzd/hour or roughly 550php/hour.

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Serenity and Peace @ Piha Beach

3.) New Zealand is family-friendly. Companies/employers in NZ are very lenient when it comes to family matters. Here, family comes first. You need to take a day off for your daughter’s ballet recital? No problem. You need to take a week off to tend to some family emergency? No problem. And even when you work in the retail industry, you can still enjoy a 9-5 job as most shops and malls here close at  5pm (to give everyone a much-needed quality time with the family). And during Christmas holidays, most companies are having a 2-week shut-down so you can have a full 2 weeks of vacation and Christmas break! How cool is that?

4.) New Zealand is very conducive for having/raising kids. As per the government welfare act, new mothers are entitled to up to 16 continuous week’s paid maternity leave and a further 52 week’s unpaid leave. Pre-natal care and costs of giving birth are also fully covered. Medical and dental check-ups for children are free until they reach 18. Tax credits, weekly allowances, school subsidies and housing supplements are just some of the support given by the government for working families. Plus (and this is a HUGE plus) safety here is second to none.

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Strawberry-picking is a favourite summer activity in NZ!

5.) The Kiwis (New Zealanders) are the kindest in the world! You will be surprised at how a Kiwi will go to great lengths just to help you. There was one time when I got lost and asked for directions when one Kiwi offered to just drive me to the place! You are also sure to get smiles and hellos from people on the streets. At work, Kiwis often start the day with some chitchat of how your weekend was, your plans for the weekend and just about any random stuff to lighten up your mood. The Kiwis are also known advocates for gender and race equality and diversity in the workplace is embraced here. You will feel welcomed in New Zealand regardless of your skin color, accent or beliefs.

Here are just a few reasons why thousands of Filipinos chose New Zealand as their second home. What about you, what are your reasons for moving to New Zealand or other country? Are you planning to move to New Zealand soon? I will be happy to hear your story.

Posted in New Zealand

Hobbiton: The Quintessential NZ Must-Do

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Hobbit-holes, Green Meadows and Neatly Lined-Tress

For J.R.R. Tolkien fans or so-called “Ringers” walking through Hobbiton is like stepping into a dream. Imagine being inside a Hollywood film set but instead of seeing makeshift houses that looks like empty wooden boxes everything here is real and not just a product of some computer-generated visual effects!

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Rolling hills and beautifully landscaped terrains leading the way to the Shire
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Multitude of flower pots making the already colourful hobbit-hole more vibrant!

Hobbiton is an out-of-this-world movie set location for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series which is found in Matamata New Zealand. It is a vast piece of estate with real patches of green meadows, rolling hills, meticulously-manicured flower beds, crystal-clear lakes, vegetable gardens, neatly-lined trees, native bushes and grazing sheeps and cattles. The hobbit-holes are not just some small-scale replica of the ones seen in the movie, but are actual “hobbit-holes” where you can have a peep inside (though, it’s empty), take some selfies or really cool photos and instagram-worthy shots!

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Pristine and Crystal-clear Lake

The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour usually starts at the Matamata I-site or at the Shire’s Rest Café then a bus will bring you to the location. The buses leave approximately every 30 minutes. It is wise to book for this tour ahead of time to avoid any hassles and since walk-ins are not allowed on the actual movie set. The fee is around $79nzd which is a bit of a tourist-trap for many but the experience of witnessing this natural as well as man-made grandeur is truly worth it! Sounds cliché but it is a classic must-do when you’re in Middle Earth even if you’re not a fan of the movies.

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Which way are you up to?

The tour guides will usher you to each section of the Hobbiton Movie Set location and provide really fascinating facts about the place and fun trivia about the movie. According to them, this farmland was discovered on 1998 when a location scout was having an aerial search of the perfect place for the movie LOTR and when they happened to saw a “party tree” near the lake complete will rugged hills and mountains, they instantly knocked on the doors of the Alexander family and the rest is history. The construction of the “Shire” even involved the New Zealand Army as heavy earth-moving machineries were required to shape and contour the lands.

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Loaves of bread, anyone?

If you’re lucky enough, you can even see cold-blooded LOTR junkies clad in their extravagant “Gandalf” or “Lady Galadriel” attires or a 6 feet tall man in a full hobbit costume parading the place!

After the tour of the whole place which takes around 30 minutes or so, you will be directed to the intricately-designed Green Dragon Inn (pub frequented by hobbits) where you can relax and have some complimentary Girdle Fine Ale, Sackville Cider, Oak Barton Ale or Southfarthing Ginger Ale. There are also some light snacks offered on their menu if you are hungry from all the walking or you want something to match your free booze. Once a week, there’s a special tour wherein the guests are treated to a feast in the inn like a true hobbit!

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Relaxing by the fireplace with a warm mug of ale and cider
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Unlike the hobbit-holes, Green Dragon Inn was built inside and out!

Russell Alexander, the owner of the estate is a true genius for deciding to make this movie set location a permanent tourist attraction. Thousands upon thousands of visitors flock the site each year and are left dumb-founded by the sheer magnificence of the place making it one of the most visited locations in the country. It is indeed a quintessential New Zealand experience wherein you can marvel in nature’s beauty and be awed by the artistic hands behind it’s grand display of imagination and creativity!