Super Typhoon Mangkhut

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The perfect eye. Mangkhut is about to slam into extreme northern Luzon.

Luckily for those in Manila and provinces in the south of Luzon island, the super typhoon isn’t going to be a direct hit. It’s a different story right now for the people up north who are bracing for the strongest typhoon yet of 2018.

I haven’t been in a typhoon in years since I am in the Philippines usually in December. It was business-as-usual for me today. I met up with my high school friends at SM Mall of Asia. We even went to the Manila International Book Fair.

Outside it’s gusty. The rains at the moment aren’t torrential. You can get a sense of the typhoon by the way the trees are moving. I acknowledge that my family lives comfortably here in Cavite. I can’t imagine a typhoon, whether a direct hit or not, in a house with a crappy roof. I can’t imagine how it would be like to live in an area prone to flooding. I can’t imagine how it would be like to be worried about loved ones who still have to commute in this weather. I know I am lucky. And a typhoon like Mangkhut is a reminder of that.

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Stay safe, Philippines.

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Visit my fave resource of typhoon information: maybagyo.com

Video: FDS featured in ABS-CBN Sports + Action “The Score”

We’re one of the featured teams in an ABS-CBN report about¬†the 11th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival. Woohoo. Here’s the segment which aired on April 28, 2017.

I shared photos about the race here. I also created a recap video here. ūüôā

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YESSSSS, I’m the one with the arm movement.

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Kanya-kanyang awra lang ‘yan.

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Thanks for the feature!

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Review: Boracay Haven Resort

Boracay Haven Resort was our team’s lodging during the 11th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival (BIDBF) from 20-22 April 2017.

I think it’s the best one I stayed at during a dragon boat race. This is third year in a row I participated at the BIDBF.

  • 2015, La Carmela de Boracay – the expansions give the resort a “mass tourism” taste to it, I did not enjoy my stay here.
  • 2016, Deparis Beach Resort – rustic, centrally located, great restaurant area

I was¬†happy¬†with Boracay Haven Resort. Its location is right at the heart of Station 2 (next to Henann Garden Resort and the McDonalds). It’s only a two minute walk to the beach down a reasonably sized alley.

I also liked the breakfast buffet spread. I wasn’t expecting much but what was on offer was tasty enough. The pool is a refreshing amenity. Great to take a dip before or after a trip to the beach. The whole idea of Boracay is to get wet and stay wet.

7 Reasons to Love Robinsons Place General Trias

When Robinson’s Place General Trias opened in 2016, it brought with it the excitement and convenience of having a mall just five minutes away from home. Gone are the days of spending almost an hour getting to SM Bacoor or SM Dasmarinas. Even getting to nearby¬†SM Rosario (ten minutes away from my family’s house) takes about 15 minutes due to traffic along EPZA.

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Seven reasons I’m thrilled about this new mall nearby:

  1. Wonderful dining options in an “al fresco” setting.¬†Great to see two¬†all-time favourites “Shakey’s Pizza” and “Gerry’s Grill”. There are plenty of other choices like Kuya J, a sisig restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, etc.
  2. Family agrees¬†that Robinson’s cinemas here are good.¬†I counted six cinemas. The lobby is quite spacious.
  3. Robinson’s Supermarket is¬†the right¬†size. I don’t like walking¬†a mile to get from one side of the supermarket to the other.
  4. Great selection of mall standards. Bench, Mang Inasal, Potato Corner, Chowking, Jollibee, Greenwich, Pennshoppe, Levi’s, BDO, hardware stores, Daiso, furniture shops…
  5. Wide open spaces, a roof park, the al fresco area. It does not feel stuffy or boxed at all.
  6. Select government services are available like LTO and Phil Post. I understand that it is possible to do renewals here for driver’s license.
  7. Location at Tejero. The mall does not contribute to the centuries-old¬†traffic problems of nearby Tejero.¬†But it’s location just a few steps from an intersection of Tanza, Rosario, and General Trias… is ultimately convenient.

What do you think about Robinson’s Place General Trias?

Location of Robinson’s Place General Trias

My Experience: Annual Report 2017, ACR I-Card Renewal and Waiver

Surprise, it’s faster this year!

I got my ACR I-Card Annual Report completed in less than 30 minutes. It’s a pleasant surprise because I did it on the first working day of 2017. That’s a record-breaking completion after having doing this for several years.

This is assuming you have all your papers in good standing. For this, I open this journal entry with a “good job” Bureau of Immigration – Manila!

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Displayed with large texts because there are many elderly who file for this each year.

ANNUAL REPORT 2017

Like in recent years, the Annual Report steps are displayed in large texts. It’s streamlined effectively into three steps: EVALUATION, ASSESSMENT, and PAYMENT.

I noticed this year they created a PAYMENT counter at the open area outside of the main building. This helps ease traffic for the people doing the annual report. No longer having to crowd inside the main building and queuing side by side with the rest of the public who are paying for other transactions at the bureau. Good job.

I hope it could be done like this every year.

ACR I-CARD RENEWAL

Now, we move onto my ACR I-Card renewal. It has been five years since I experienced hell at this same building.

Let’s recall in 2012 the endless queues on those horrific January mornings. I remember the people holding ACR I-Cards that were printed WITHOUT EXPIRY DATES. Stories of people being held up at the airport because when the Immigration Officer (IO) checked their ACR I-Card, it was expired! And poor souls, true enough when you look at their cards… the expiry portion is BLANK! WTF talaga.

You can imagine the anxiety I have for my ACR I-Card Renewal going into 2017. However, I gave positive thoughts. The BI has improved over the years based on how they seem to improve the Annual Report each year. I can see improvements in efficiency. LORD. Salamat.

  • Total Cost: PHP 2,988.50
  • Total Time to Accomplish Submission of Documents: 4 hours

For the complete process for the ACR I-Card Renewal, visit this page on the BI website. It’s what I used to prepare my documents.

George’s Tips:

  1. Prepare all the documents and place them in the proper order.
  2. Put¬†them into a folder 8×14 (see website for details).
  3. Have a pen, stapler, binder, …all of these extra stuff in your bag just in case.
  4. It helps to smile even if you must fake it. Nothing helps if you are mean to the people at the windows. Imagine they have to deal with hundreds of grumpy faces everyday.

I will admit… people need a stroke of luck when dealing with the BI. Sometimes your papers are all correct and in order. But with the shuffling between windows or photocopying… something can easily fall out of place. Or a misplaced document might not even be your fault. Andami kasing papel!

Luckily, no problems with my paperwork. I followed procedure. I went to the BI armed with information available on the BI website. I hope they keep that website updated with the processes. Kasi malaking tulong na po ito!

The renewal processing will take 3-4 weeks. I heard someone actually say one month. I have authorised my parents to claim it on my behalf. Again, visit the website for details!

Next… because I work in Singapore… I need a…

ACR I-CARD WAIVER

I don’t have the luxury of waiting 3 to 4 weeks for the release of my new ACR I-Card. While I believe this whole waiver could be streamlined if they changed the rule to “KEEP YOUR OLD CARD UNTIL THE NEW ONE IS ISSUED.” … sayang naman if BI can’t cash in on another process.

So I applied for my ACR I-Card Waiver. Which in itself takes three to four days to process. Their website says apply for the waiver at least 48 hours before your scheduled departure. Eh how!

Learn how you can apply for an ACR I-Card Waiver by visiting this page on the BI website. I used the information there to help me apply for mine.

Because of the website, I arrived prepared with my letter addressed to the commissioner (derecho talaga sa commissioner wow). You have to get the letter stamped and they do a check if you have any derogatory record.

  • Cost of Waiver including the Express Lane Fee: PHP 1,010.00
  • Total Cost including the Exit Permits, etc.: PHP 3,180.00
  • Total Duration (achieved with some running between windows): 1 hour

Included is the Exit Permit, Clearance, etc. which is normally paid at the airport prior to departure. The IO at the window issues me a six months waiver after I informed him I’ll be back in the Philippines in April. On the receipt it says “Grace Period”. I have to claim the waiver tomorrow or on Friday.

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OVERALL

It will take much to completely reform¬†my view of the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. Because when I was a teenager, I remember a lady at one of the windows here asking for (about)¬†my mom’s jewellery. Which is the most absurd thing di ba. Grabe, alahas talaga. Pwede ba Jollibee lang?

But over the years, processes seem to be improving at least in speed. Seeing younger faces at the BI gives me some hope. The saddest thing is having young and promising government officers be influenced by the ways of old. By the stinking system of yesteryear.

Continue improving, BI Manila. ūüôā

I was like, why are you so obsessed with me? LOL. Read about my ACR I-Card experiences documented in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

My Experience: Bureau of Immigration Annual Report 2016

This is the third year I’m sharing my experience in filing my annual report (AR) at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) main office in Intramuros, Manila. If it is in anyway useful, you can read about my experiences in 2014 and 2015. Do be forewarned if I was ranting in the previous instalments.

What’s the AR? It’s a requirement for ACR I-Card Holders (Alien Certificate of Registration) to report in person to the BI within the first 60 days of the calendar year.

I’ve had traumatic experiences at the BI¬†with epic queues and overly bureaucratic procedures. I thought, who else writes about this? The senior citizens clutching their brown envelopes in confusion?

Giving credit where it is due, I have observed that¬†in recent years… things DO LOOK BETTER. There are true blue express lanes for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). These days you will¬†see¬†younger immigration staff who are far more welcoming than their roughened¬†superiors. The AR itself is now a three-step “simple” process.

Since I’ve been based¬†in Singapore since 2012, filing for my¬†annual report must be done during my annual “Christmas holiday” in the Philippines. It’s the sexy part of my holiday itinerary. Sadly leeching on my precious paid¬†leave days.

What’s the secret to getting it done quickly?
Continue reading

Holiday Homecoming 2015

This was my fourth homecoming to the Philippines since I started working in Singapore in 2012.

At this point, both countries feel like home. I’ve learned to gauge the pros and cons of both countries. If only we lived in a universe where we could have the efficiency and safety of Singapore, combined with the hospitable warmth and unpredictable spirit of the Philippines.

One can dream, right?! Continue reading

A little bit of Tagaytay is good for your health

A few weeks back I got to catch up with some former colleagues in Manila. We met up in Tagaytay and started chatting about possible future trips together. Considering that… whenever we discuss destinations, it has to be somewhere really, really far. Like tipong Sri Lanka, Maldives… and I’m not sure if Egypt or Morocco was in there somewhere. Uh, guys! ūüėõ

My former colleague Ms. May blogs at May Walks the Earth. ūüôā

I hadn’t been to Tagaytay in years. I noticed the traffic has gotten worse. They treated me to lunch at Tootsie’s and desserts at Bag of Beans (this new branch closer to the old Starbucks). So sweet guys… thanks so much! ‚̧

The shirt I’m wearing here was a gift from my dragonboat teammates Archie and Mo. Thanks! Support Archie’s t-shirt business¬†(also see the Facebook page)!





Great to catch up with you ladies! Mwuah!

Tootsie’s Tagaytay¬†(J.Abad Santos, Cor. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City)

Bag of Beans Tagaytay (115 Aguinaldo Highway, Mendez Crossing West, Tagaytay City)

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