Seoul Essentials: Five Things To Do In Seoul, Korea (

(This piece was published in last March 30, 2012)

I confess, I am child to a mother who is riding the hallyu—otherwise known as the Korean wave. It has become the norm for me to hear and see Korean shows on television whenever she is glued to it. I have even become familiar with some Korean words from too much exposure. Annyeonghaseyo!

I knew it was just a matter of time for her to express her interest in visiting the country that she has only seen in the small screen. It finally happened when we were able to get a good travel deal to Incheon, which is the gateway to Seoul.

We stayed there for four whole days and I discovered that it still wasn’t enough to really see the place and experience the people’s culture. But if you are traveling there on a limited time, I would suggest you do the following.

Taste authentic Korean cuisine

From street food to fine dining, there are a variety of places where you can sample true Korean food. My mom and I especially enjoyed trying the local fare being peddled by street vendors. We were enticed by the delicious aroma of the food and were also impressed by the many locals who went in line for it.

It was also nice to eat in a restaurant where it’s warm inside and you get to relax while enjoying your meal. The best thing about having a sit-down meal is that they serve complimentary appetizers with your order. Of course, thekimchi is a staple there so expect to sample different kinds in various restaurants. While there, I tasted the local bibimbapmandu (their version of a dumpling), and other dishes that made my mouth burn. Nearly everything was hot and spicy but I still enjoyed my eating experience there.

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In Search of Seoul Food (asianTraveler)

(This feature was published in asianTraveler, Passion Capitals issue, January 2012)

It was barely nine o’clock in the morning and I have already tasted two different kinds of kimchi for breakfast. There was a small eatery that was walking distance from our hotel, which happened to be the only one open on the morning my mother and I arrived in Seoul–our first trip to this side of East Asia.

Not really familiar with the Korean language, we depended on the artificial food displays with corresponding English names outside the restaurant. The vibrant plastic bowls and noodle dishes seemed so real–and mouthwatering–that we did not hesitate to enter the establishment. There were no foreigners, just us, who looked like locals at first glance.


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The Philippine Seoul (Illustrado)

(This article was published in Illustrado Magazine, May 2011 issue)

Is the Philippines turning into a Little Korea Town?

It all started with kimchi. Then the hallyu, or better known as Korean wave, washed up on Philippine shores, along with the popular hit song “Nobody” by the all-girl music group, the Wonder Girls. Since the introduction of Korean pop (Kpop) in the country, there has been a steady stream of all things Korean into the Filipino culture—from soap operas to music groups, and even cosmetics and grocery items. Nowadays, it is not unusual to bump into a Korean national in any part of the country, or have a Korean neighbor.

The spread of South Korean culture started in China in 1999-2000, before anywhere else in the world. According to Kring Elenzano, one of the founding members of Cassiopeia Philippines and the Philippine Kpop Committee, Inc., “Korean pop invasion in the country is really a phenomenon. I personally feel like it was long overdue. Kpop stars have been big in neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan since around 2003.”

The Philippines Kpop Committee, Inc. is the first, biggest, and only Kpop organization in the country, which was put up in 2009. Elenzano shares, “We saw the strength of the fandom and Kpop was really becoming mainstream and we felt the need to have an organization what would somehow represent the fans and be involved in activities of all the fan clubs.” The group is in partnership with the United Korean Community Organization, Korean Cultural Center of the Korean Embassy, Korean Students Association, and is recognized by pretty much all the record labels that distribute Kpop albums. The group also gives back to Gawad Kalinga, the biggest non-profit organization in the country that promotes nation building. Elenzano revealed that, “Last December, the local Pinoy Kpop community raised half a million, which will be used to build houses in Bantayan Island, Cebu.”

It helped that the Philippines was familiar with one of the members of the Wonder Girls, which features former local TV personality Sandara Park. Kpop ruled the airwaves then. Local television was not far behind as it aired Korean telenovelas that were all the rage. Who can forget Coffee Prince, Boys Over Flowers, Lovers in Paris, or Autumn in My Heart?

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