Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My South Korean Invasion, Day 1:June 16, 2009

Everyone loves trips, vacations, tours – whatever you call it, traveling is always a welcome pursuit. It really proves that human is basically nomadic and a natural wanderer.

Opportunity blended with luck and prayers was given to us, the 20 selected Information and Technology (ICT) Master Trainers from the Division of Cavite to travel and visit the famously known as “Land of the Morning Calm” – South Korea for the 10-Day Training in Information and Communication Technology. After the tedious screening of who will be included in the fifth batch of the lucky delegates, I finally uttered a sigh of relief when I received my roundtrip airplane ticket together with the passport and the authentic South Korean visa.

Upon the directive of our delegation head, Dr. Elias A. Alicaya, the Education Supervisor in Information and Communications Technology of the Division of Cavite, most of us came very early on the scheduled time which is 7:30 in the morning at the main lobby of Robinson’s Mall in Dasmarinas, Cavite on Monday June 16, 2009. The overcast sky was showering intermittent rain that made the morning gloomy amidst the over excitement and anticipation in the heart of every participant.

While waiting for the others to arrive, we went inside a nearby fast food chain to have our quick munch of light breakfast. Camera flash was in active mode as everyone brought a digital camera which meant to record event and picture beautiful sceneries in all the places along the way.

After having the breakfast and with all of the participants then around, we agreed to proceed to the airport. We headed to the waiting white mini-bus with a big “Cavite Revolution” logo courtesy of the Provincial Government. Others got in to their personal vehicle and all the vehicles convoyed going to the airport. The minibus where I was in, led them along the highway. We felt we were high ranking government officials or some VIP’s because the mini bus used the loud siren along the way

We arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 just on time and we lined up pushing our baggage trolleys heading to the departure area. The usual procedures meant for the departing passengers were experienced by all the delegates like the body thermo scanning and baggage scan checking. At the height of A(H1N1) scare, we felt confident and calm that our training will be as safe and fruitful as we dreamed of.

After the authority of Asiana Airlines inspected our plane tickets at the departure counter, gave us our boarding passes and assigned each of us the plane seat, we next proceeded to pay and get our terminal fee. While the group was walking, one of the participants, Melanie Cantoria met his family relative who is a police security in the airport. Miss Cantoria introduced our team leader, Dr. Alicaya, to Police Capt. Moises M. Ganalongo.

Inside the airport, some of the participants have their peso currency be exchanged to Korean won and some US dollars too for possible expenses in the foreign place where we will be into. While some were busy, Mr. Michael de Guzman of Dasmarinas, the lone principal among the trainers was questioned in the Custom’s Area. His name is being blacklisted by the NBI. But later on, it was found out that he is not the Michael de Guzman being referred to in the report but another person with just the same name. Through the help of Captain Ganalongo , Mr. de Guzman was not apprehended.

Sigh of relief obviously shrouded not only Mr. de Guzman but all the trainers as well. So we proceeded to the Asiana Airline’s waiting area to wait for the OZ 702 Flight bound for Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea. Again we made some picture taken while killing the time waiting for our 12:45 PM flight.

At 12:15, passengers started to board Asiana. Inside, we were amazed by the fixtures of the plane, since it is the latest airline of South Korea, which won the “2009 Airline of the Year”. Mostly with Korean passengers, the 20 Filipino trainers were pampered by the cool ambiance, delicious Korean food for lunch, shows over the portable television screen in front of each seat, music from the headset given to us and a sound sleep for almost five hours.

Still anticipating for all the wonderful experiences stored for us, the plane arrived Incheon International Airport at 5:45 PM. In whisper, we thanked God because we arrived to the destination safe and sound.

While disembarking from the plane, some took souvenir pictures with other female Korean stewardess who willingly and generously accepted their invitation. Afterward, we hurriedly proceeded inside the airport to claim our baggage. We had quite a very distant walk before we came to the baggage claim area. After having our belongings, some went to the bank inside the airport and have their Philippine money exchanged to Korean currency.

Some Koreans were already waiting for us, in the waiting area. One male Korean was holding a placard mentioning the title of the training, “ICT Training for Philippine Teachers”. Each of them was smiling while introducing their leader, the Superintendent in Jeollabuk-Do Office of Education Department, Mr. Choi Kyu Ho. With the interpreter, Mr. Kim , the first meeting with Dr. Elias A. Alicaya and Mr. Raymundo Salazar went smooth and very well.

After that short introduction, the Filipino teachers were directed to board a big waiting bus with a big and red digital signage “Philippines” in all capital letters.

Inside the bus, all the participants were seated cozily and prepared ourselves for a four and a half road travel. While on board, Mr. Kim, in Korean-twanged English, used the microphone and once again introduced all the Koreans who were in front row seats of the bus. The bus started to move on while the kind interpreter was reading the name of the participants on the list. He also distributed to us our identification card and hand-outs of our day-to-day schedule of activities. He gave some reminders and the do’s and don’ts while having the ten-day training. He also shared information about the places along the way. The participants enjoyed and were star-strucked with the complexities of everything in South Korea: the stunning and huge skyscrapers, the wide and concrete highways, the well-planned steel bridges, and the clean rivers and environment without the eyesore slum areas just like in the Philippine setting.

Everyone was tired and exhausted already, so we fell asleep while the bus kept on track. At about 8:30 PM, Mr. Kim awoken all the sleeping participants and told us that we will have our dinner at a famous folk restaurant beside the superhighway. He said that we still have one and a half hour to be in our hotel.

At the folk restaurant, we tasted the first bite of real Korean food which was literally very spicy. Some were not able to finish the food they had chosen but still forced themselves to finish it because they didn’t want to be embarrassed since the Koreans who paid for the food were in front of them. Participants once again took some photos of the food being prepared by the friendly Koreans and some accommodating customers who were also eating during that time

After dinner, the bus continued on track while some of us continued also their interrupted sleep and others enjoyed watching the Korean show on the television in front of the bus. At about 11:10 in the evening, we arrived at last to the place where we can rest our weary body. We got inside the Chonbuk University Hunsan Gungi House. Mr. Kim, with other Korean officials, once again gathered all the participants and instructed us about the place and the time of our breakfast for all the days of our stay in Gungi House. We would have our breakfast at the second floor of the building at exactly 7:30 AM. We were also informed that 8:30 was the time we will leave every morning going to the training venue.

Dr. Alicaya wanted everything to be ironed-out before we went to sleep. He met all of the trainers and re-instructed all the things the Koreans had said to us. After the clearing house of ideas, the 20 Filipino trainers called that day, a day.