Author: KennyG

Sun’N Fun RV Centre

Sun'N Fun RV Centre
Sun’N Fun RV Centre

Michelle and I went to see a 1987 Camper Van at “Sun’N Fun RV Centre” in Waterdown Ontario.  We drove sixty minutes to see the Camper Van and as the excitement was high.  Just behind the back of the service department there she was, sitting there waiting for us.  Sadly though, just after opening the side door we knew it was not for us!

Sun’N Fun RV Centre

I am having a difficult time getting my head wrapped around how the viewing went.  The sales man, was sure to let us know, that the van was kind of guaranteed to run problem free for about six months but after that all bets were off.   I tried to find out what he meant by that, but could not get detailed answers. We are finding it difficult to find a Class B Camper Van in our price range, and when we do, it’s snapped up before we can get a bid on it.  We have been looking on Kijiji, CraigsList as well as Auto Trader but still no luck.  We have decided to search Canada wide from British Columbia through to Nova Scotia.  We just missed a beautiful Class B in West Kelowna today.

We will keep plugin away and see if we can find what we are looking for.  We even have thought about doing a conversion of our own, which we think would be a lot of fun but we are not sure it will be any cheaper then purchasing one.

Check back in a few days as we continue to look for a suitable Camper Van.

 

The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines

The Kookoo's Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines - Cere's Terminal
The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines – Cere’s Terminal

So the gang got together this month in Bacolod City and dediced we should head down to The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines, and boy was it an adventure as always.  The countryside on Negros Occidental Negros Oriental always is picturesque, to say the least.   With all the beautiful Rice Paddies and the fields of Sugar Cane, to the Mountainous regions and back down to the Ocean, I could travel around forever as my eyes are always hungry for the beauty of the Philippines.

As with any trip, we seem to take, it begins at the Cere’s Bus Terminal and for this trip we headed to the South Terminal, which is pretty rugged compared to the Northern Terminal so, do come prepared.  The cost of the “Aircon bus” was 377 Peso’s which is very reasonable for the distance we need to travel.  Be sure to come early as at this point you are not able to purchase your tickets before hand, so it comes down to first come first serve, and you purchase your tickets from the Conductor on your bus, he arrives maybe 1 hour prior to your departure time.  Michelle, my wife is very wise, and she was able to find out which bus we were taking, and got on board with the kids, and got seats while I waited in line to purchase tickets.  Smart cookie eh!

En route to The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines

The bus trip was advertised as a 6-hour trip but we were able to do it in less than 5 hours and I figure that was due to the fact we were on the Night bus and there was very little traffic which is very unusual here in the Philippines.  We arrived in Dumaguete at about 4 am, wich was 3 hours early from the time we said we would be there, so it was a need to wait once again.  Being use to this kind of travel it was simple for us, but I know Becca was getting a little tired of the waiting.  In a world of instant everything, it can get very trying for those who are not used to it.

The Kookoo's Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines - Beach Front
The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines – Beach Front

We had the option of taking a second bus that would let us off near the road we needed to get to the Resort, and there would be a need of taking a Tricycle or Moto to the Resort which would be very exciting for those who are not used to this form of travel, but with a group of 5, two younger children, I figured we would pay the extra for a pick up at the bus terminal and boy was it worth the amount it cost us.  We were in a van, and it took us easily `1 hour to reach the road that Nest was on, and then another 40 minutes down a road filled with construction.  Our driver was fantastic navigating all the obstacles and got us there safe and sound around 8 :30 am, about 3 hours before we could get into our rooms, but we were able to get breakfast and the girls were quick to head down to the ocean.

The Resort

I have to say the resort was beautiful!  Rustic, clean with plenty of things to do.  Everyone headed off into the ocean for some swimming, and snorkelling though this happened to be the first time for the girls to go into the ocean, and Michelle was so very

The Kookoo's Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines
The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines

excited to introduce the girls to joys of snorkelling, and seeing all the wonderful critters in the sea.  Me being a former PADI Course Director, it was like finally coming home to the water where life for me makes sense.   I had an opportunity to speak with Jamie and Nikki Ingram the owners of the resort.  Both people are very friendly and they go out of their way to make sure your stay at the Resort is a pleasurable one.  They offer Snorkelling rental sets, scuba diving if you are certified as well as Diving courses, which would be amazing to learn in such a beautiful place compared to where I learned how to dive.  There are also a couple of Kayaks so if you would like to tour the beach front and coast, plus some pretty cool nature walks.  Plus for me, some spectacular areas for shooting pictures and some amazing sunsets for sure!!

The Driftwood Cottage

Michelle and I decided on the Driftwood Cottage mostly for the space and the number of beds.  We had three adults and two

The Kookoo's Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines
The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines

children and needless to say the number of beds was very important.  The cost of the Cottage was $1,500 peso’s, which I felt was very reasonable.  Our view was the ocean and we were just feet away.  There are no words that can describe how beautiful the area was!

Every evening we were treated to a huge congregation of Hermit Crabs coming into the Restaurant Area, as well the various walkways and walls.  All you could here was the little clicking sounds of them walking around catching up with all the other crabs.  I know I should have taken a few minutes to shoot some macro pictures of the little guys, after all, I had off camera flash with me, but as is the case on some occasions, I just never did.  Speaking of the restaurant, the menu was had many different selections, some local, some Thai food, and a selection of western food, which was a godsend since Becca was having problems with the local foods.  I found the costs were really quite reasonable, and the dishes were a good size but not so big that you could not eat them.

The Kookoo's Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines
The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines

As with any trip we seem to take, it’s always difficult to leave.  We wanted to stay for a couple of more days if it was possible, however, the kids started school on Monday so we had no choice but to gather everything up and head back to Bacolod City.  The Kookoo’s Nest Resort Zamboanguita Philippines will be on the top of our list for a return visit.  Definitely another opportunity to enjoy more photography, and maybe the next trip will have some diving it in for me.  If you are interested in visiting The Kookoo’s Nest you can reach James and Nikki through this link or by calling +63 919 695 8085.  Also if you are interested in seeing more pictures be sure to visit the gallery found here.

 

 

Thanks to Ken Dunlop Photography for the use of their images!

 

 

Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines

Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines
Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines

Here it is June and I find myself finally back home in Bacolod City, Philippines.  I have been struggling away back in Niagara Falls Ontario Canada for the past six months.  Every moment of the day that passes me by has me thinking of here Bacolod City, more precisely my wife Michelle.  Every moment of every day is spent either talking on Skype or sending text messages on Viber.  When skype does not work, or the call drops, I sit there counting the minutes until I figure Michelle is awake, or home from work, so I can skype again.

Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines

Being back home in Bacolod City, Philippines means Michelle and I can do the things we love to do together.  Things such as exploring and photography, though I think I have a greater love of photography then Michelle, she is a good sport and plays along.  On this trip, I brought my niece’s daughter Becca with me. This is her first trip really, to a place that is not related to a resort.  She is drop smack dabbed in the middle of downtown Bacolod City, where there is simply chaos pretty much 24 hours a day!  I mean this in the best of ways.  Bacolod City is known as the City of Smiles and I am never disappointed, everyone I have run into here in Bacolod has been wonderful, helpful and friendly which more than I can say you will find in Canada.

We have taken it slow for Becca.  Giving her plenty of time to rest and catch up and to become accustomed to the different lifestyles, food and weather.  Though things are going to be coming fast and furious this next week as we have a trip headed down to the Resort called Kookoos Nest.

Mambukal and Beyond

Our first stop after arriving in Bacolod City was getting back to the place where Michelle and I spent time on our first visits

Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines
Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines

together when were still dating.  Mambukal Resort in a beautiful and picturesque area.  There are beautiful walks around the area, guided tours up to the 7 waterfalls, and the various pools and dipping pools.  Our first visit there was marred with heavy rains,  though for Michelle and I, that simply added to the experience.  We have this way, of travelling away, with little time available and deciding at the last minute to make a night or weekend of it.  This time, however, Mambukal was very busy, and if we needed to spend the night, it certainly would not be there as it was packed with people  which is always good to see for the local attractions.  If you are ever in the area, be sure to have this on your list of places to visit here in Negro Occidental!

Ma-ao & Pata-an

Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines
Back home in Bacolod City, Philippines

Our next day out was to take Becca to Ma-ao and Pata-an, places we have visited before, but it is certainly worth going back to again that is for sure.  There is so much beauty in looking down into the valleys of the area and getting to see the various shades of green that you see from the various vegetation, I don’t think there are words that can describe how beautiful it is.  Pata-an is the area where I dropped my Canon 7D camera into the river, and funny enough the same security guard was working the day we visited from over a year before.  Sure enough he remembered me.  Thankfully this trip up to the area was not marred with another damaged camera!! lol

I have included so of the images Ken Dunlop Photography shot on this trip.  Please feel free to make comments on this article and the images.  If you are every going to be in this area and need suggestions then feel free to contact me.  We have the number of an awesome TriCycle Driver who gave us fantastic rates to rent him for the day.

 

#philippines #kookoosnest #travelphotographer #travelphoto #worldtraveller #bacolodcity #kendunlopphotography

 

YYZ

YYZ - Flying to the Philippines (CP PHOTO - Steve White)
YYZ – Flying to the Philippines (CP PHOTO – Steve White)

Here I sit at YYZ for more affectionately known as Pearson International Airport in Toronto.  The last time I flew out of here was two years ago as I was headed back to Vancouver.  A lot has changed in those two years.  I left my job at Ocean Quest Dive Center in Burnaby BC, sadly the departure was extremely bumpy, but it is always difficult to say good bye, and not everyone is mature enough to live up to the words they speak.  I married Michelle as we all know.

Arriving at YYZ

So, as per usual, I arrived at the airport a staggering 5 hours early, and we can always thank the Military for that, I would hate to be late for my flight which is now delayed I suspect due to weather.  So far with the exception of the flight delay everything has gone off without a hitch.  Last night, I plugged in the address to the Park & Fly in my GPS, and sure enough I arrive almost to the planned minute and the people at the Park & Fly were very helpful, explaining where to go, and what is needed when you get there. I returned to the car in order to pick up my luggage, and even one of the people giving directions came to me to explain how things would work, and even went so far as to ask if I had any questions.  I have to say I was very impressed.

There are a couple of different Park & Fly options, I chose Valet Park, since I did not want to carry my Car Fob with me to the Philippines in the event I happen to lose it, which if you know me is really possible.  If you would like more information about the Park & Fly at YYZ, click on one of the links above.

Philippines Airlines, West Jet and Flight Hub

As always, I am so very impressed with Philippines Airlines.  I really wish Air Canada would try to model their

YYZ - Flying to the Philippines
YYZ – Flying to the Philippines

service after them, as I still have a bad taste in my mouth when I flew with Air Canada now what three years ago.  This trip I kind of went about it a little different, I was not able to find the flights I was needing directly through the PAL website, so after doing an internet search, I found what I was hoping for through FlightHub.

Flight Hub

I choose to call Flight Hub, and book my flights through a customer service rep, and I have to say that everyone I spoke with was very very helpful, and friendly.  So my so, I got into a detailed conversation of where and why I was going to the Philippines, and that is when I learned that the Customer Service Rep was Filipino.  As my flight dates approached, I received a reminder email with my Itinerary on it, and links that allowed me to go to Chick In on line etc.  One thing that is a little different is that since Flight Hub books the tickets on your behalf, their locator numbers do not allow you to do the web check in on any of the flights.  You will need to check in once you arrive at the airport.

 WestJet

So, checking in at the airport, since my first leg of the journey is with WestJet I need to go through the Customer Service person there.  Once again, she was fantastic, very friendly, talkative and she was quick to answer all of my questions.  This is the opposite I have experienced with other airlines, United and Ari Canada being ones that come to mind.

So, I am T minus 3:35 hours to take off, I am enjoying a beverage, complimentary internet, and phone charging

YYZ - Flying to the Philippines
YYZ – Flying to the Philippines

here at YYZ, watching the snow come down, and counting the hours till I can be with my wife once again.  I would just like to Add, Greg McCracken, when you said to me how I had screwed my life up so much with my decision.  You were right, I should never have accepted the job with you in the first place.

 

 

Coming to Canada

Coming to Canada - Hydro Power Plant, Niagara Falls
Coming to Canada – Hydro Power Plant, Niagara Falls

It’s been longer then I had liked between my posts but I have relocated back to Canada, Niagara Falls to be exact.  Very close to where I was born and my journey that has taken me around the world on a number of occasions.  This post is titled “Coming to Canada” for a reason.  My lovely wife Michelle Alcaraz Dunlop has decided she would join me here in Canada from the Philippines.  A decision I am very honoured she has made.

Steps to take for Coming to Canada

I returned here on the 13th of May, and in hand I had a huge number of documents I need to make the application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for my wife to obtain her Permanent Residences so she can stay with me here in Canada.  This is not an easy task by no means, and I know that anyone that is following this process knows this to be to the truth.  I also totally understand that it is no easy task for CIC as the number of applicants must be huge.  While serving with the Canadian Navy, I went on a couple of migrant ops with the CIC and RCMP ERT teams, and intercepted boats coming from China while I was on the West Coast so I have a very small understanding of what they are up against.

With that all being said, Coming to Canada is a long drawn out process, and there is so many conflicting pieces of advice out there for average person to follow.  I have spoke with a couple of so called Immigration Specialists, and two that come to mind were as crooked as can be, and they are licensed by the government to be our sources of information in order to navigate these forms, applications and various other things that we must figure out.   Originally Michelle and I decided to go it on our own, we found the various forms downloaded them and began completing them on our own.  We also confirmed which documents for support we needed and started to obtain the originals.  This is no easy task as well!  Michelle happened to be an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) and she was in Brunei for 5 years so trying to get a security/background check from there so far not been an easy task.  We finally heard back that they will not do that until we receive the request from Canada, and then it could take up to three months to obtain. Otherwise, I think we have all the other forms recorded even the medical clearance which we traveled to Cebu to obtain.

How long will it take…

Coming to Canada - British Columbia
Coming to Canada – British Columbia

So now it’s the waiting game, it’s been almost one month since the application went in, and we were told that it will be around 3 – 4 months to hear if I can sponsor my wife, and once that decision is made, Michelle’s file will be sent off to Manila where we can expect about 17 months for confirmation.  It’s going to be a long road, I am saddened to discover that it is very unlikely to impossible for me to have her visit me here in Canada, while we wait.  Since the visitors visa (Tourist Visa) is something temporary, and we are asking for something permanent, and also, what is the incentive for Michelle to leave since her husband is here.  I get it…don’t like it, but I get it.  So having returned here, I have spent almost 2 months nailing down a job so I can support my wife and myself, giving me two households to support, plus in order to spend anytime together, the plane tickets to get back and forth during the down times from my job so we can have some resemblance of a normal life.  Thankfully my new employer says that business is slow in January, so I can go then to see her in the Philippines which is about 7 months apart from the last time I saw her.  Michelle is easily the strongest woman I know, she is standing tall, we try to lessen the distance by skype calls, and text messages via viber.  Our data plans on our phones are taking a beating but it’s all worth the wait.  I just wish there was some way we could fall asleep together in the same bed, and wake the next morning knowing we just need to open our eyes to see one another, and not hope that the internet is working, and we can reach one another for a video call.

Michelle and I will try to keep an accurate timeline for any other people thinking of going down this road.  I can put my hand over my heart and recommend our Immigration service if you are looking for one.  I have not always been happy with the answers I am given from them, but at least they have been honest and that is all I can ask for.  I would love to hear from any other couples that are applying for permanent residence, I would be more than happy to post your stories here on our blog.

You can lets us know your stories about Coming to Canada, by submitting your story below.

The Philippines

The Philippines - Michelle Alcaraz Dunlop
The Philippines – Michelle Alcaraz Dunlop

So this is a pretty crazy story, and a cool one, and one that is pretty amazing. So, as you know Michelle and I are husband and wife, and Michelle is 100 percent Filipina. She was born and raised in the Cavite area in the Philippines. Michelle and I dated for about three years all via Viber and Skype, with some emails smattered in there. When we first started talking Michelle was living in Brunei where she was working in a department store I swear I was in, but in the mid 90’s when I was in Brunei with the Canadian Navy. I have always said it’s a small world, and I seem to prove it time and time again.

Southeast Asia

I have had the honor of living in a few different countries in Southeast Asia. I have been on Sibu Island Malaysia managing a dive center at a resort called the Cabanas. I also spent time in Johor Buru, which I remember fondly. Then a couple of weeks in Kuala Lumper, which was fantastic!! I then spent time living in Pattaya, Thailand, and to this point it was one of the most favorite stays. For no other reason  then the fantastic people I met there and I am contact with to this day! Then I did two stints in Sihanoukville in Cambodia managing two different dive centers, and Cambodia always felt like home to me.

But then, Michelle and Bacolod City came into my life, and things have not been the same ever since.   There are no words that come to mind to describe Michelle. When I say she is beautiful, it’s a strong word, but when

The Philippines - Bamboo in Patag Silay
The Philippines – Bamboo in Patag Silay

you see Michelle flash that smile of hers when she laughs at something silly I have done, beautiful is certainly not strong enough. Elegant, she is very much that for sure, she has this air of proper around her when she is out in the public. Though I know the Michelle at home, when she lets her hair down so to speak and starts teasing and laughing and joking around.

Bacolod City is unique unto it’s own. It is affectionately known as the city of smiles, and when I first was there I would have said I did not see it, but then I was only there for a couple of weeks, and it would not be fair of me to judge that sort of thing. But now, after living there for 6 months solid, the people I have met in Bacolod City are easily the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever met, and I have been in 250 different cities around the world, so I have some experience to draw upon.

People are very honest as well. I once paid a tricycle driver 1000 pesos, for a 100 peso ride, an honest accident, and I certainly didn’t notice the mistake I had made when I paid the driver, but he quickly showed me I was making a mistake and went on his way. Standing in SM mall and I dropped a 300 peso phone card out of my pocket, and a gentleman picked it up for me and hand it to me, saying I had dropped it.   I think if there was one thing I learned about Filipinos it is that they are a very hard working, honest, god fearing, strong, determined people, who no matter what is happening they try to find the happy things in everything. I spent a day at Mambukal with a group of Michelle’s work peers, and they did nothing other then laugh and have a good time. No one was trying to be better or out do anyone else. It was genuinely a fun day. I spoke to a woman who was there tonight, and we were talking about how much Michelle and I love one another, and our conversation turned to the day out together, and she said everyone was concerned I would feel left out because I don’t understand their language, and I said, I was honored to be included, and I loved trying to follow what was being said. I have never felt so included in an event with a group of people in my life.

Rice Fields in the Mountains
The Philippines – Rice Fields in the Mountains

I am sitting in a hotel this evening in Manila, waiting for my flight back to Canada, and I feel lost. I have all my life gone places, and after so long had to leave, and I have been despondent and quiet about leaving for the next chapter in my life. Tonight however, I feel lost like I have never felt before. There are a couple of big reasons for this, and the main one, is that I have had to leave Michelle in Bacolod City, to wait for her Permanent Residence application to be processed, which is widely known to take 17 months. During that time, I maybe allowed to try to get Michelle a tourist visa so we can be together, but that is only if she qualifies. To qualify, I have had it explained to me that she needs to prove that she has ties to the Philippines. Her being a citizen of the Philippines does not count. Her having children does not county. Her having a job does not count, unless she is the owner of the business. The things my country wants, is proof of ownership of land, business or a home, plus 4000 Canadian, or 144,000 pesos in the bank. The fact her husband is a Canadian, is actually a hindrance, and we were actually directed by one Immigration Consultant to lie about our relationship.

Here is the strength of a Filipina, Michelle said, she loves me, she will wait no matter how long it takes, because she loves me. She then through both of our tears said, think about how soon we will be together again.

The Philippines

This country has so much beauty to share with you. Whether you are an Ocean person, scuba diver, photographer, explorer there is so much that is beautiful for you to see and do.   A word to the wise though, I have heard it said that the Philippines is pretty cheap to visit and live, and I am afraid I would have to disagree. Rent is certainly cheap. The cost of our apartment is about $155.00 Canadian and Electricity, water and our internet this month totaled about 1500 pesos, or $40 Canadian.   However, shopping for food is close to the same amount. Need clothes, and you shop at SM, it is as expensive if not more so. I had to scan some documents the other day, and I was told 20 pesos a page which is about $0.80 cents, and when you say 40 pages, that is pricy. You really need to pay attention to costs otherwise it will surprise you.

The Land of the SPA

I have never seen so many different Massage, SPA kinds of businesses in my life. Michelle works at Spa Natura

The Philippines - Spa Natura at Mambukal
The Philippines – Spa Natura at Mambukal

and The Blade as well, and both places are so professional and give a fantastic service to the public. Spa Natura has figured out that service plus ambiance will give the customer that dreamy experience. The layout and decor is beautiful there. The therapists are professional and give a fantastic service.

Vacation Time

I know the first thing Canadian’s thing when it’s January and you want to head to the fun and sun, you say Mexico. What!! Mexico…it’s like a warm Canada or United States. Seriously even if you only have 7 days, go to the Philippines. It is so worth it. The People are fantastic! Scenery puts Mexico to shame, and the dollar is still pretty strong even though, I said the Philippines is not as cheap to live in as people let on….visiting for a vacation is not all that bad, and there is so much to see and do, with beautiful fun people!!

Keep good thoughts for Michelle and I, as we tackle CIC in Canadian, hopefully my government will allow me to spend time with my lovely wife. Mommy please can I have a friend over!!!