Happy Independence Day, Philippines!

When you are away from home, the best way to celebrate Philippine Independence Day is through Barrio Fiesta in Brisbane. The festival is held every year to celebrate our freedom, but also to feel closer to home as you meet fellow kababayans and eat a lot of Filipino food.

Barrio Fiesta

I have been in Australia for more than six months and ohh boy, do I feel homesick at times specially on some occasions.  The  ways Pinoys, make every celebration like a feast. I miss the heaps of  food on the table, the never ending visitors coming in and out of your home and of course videoke. The closest I can be Pinoy again is being invited to a birthday party or christening by the Filipinas I met in Australia.

So when my husband said there will be a Filipino Festival that held this week, I felt excited. We went to Rocklea Showgrounds yesterday. Brisbane is an hour and a half away from home, so we drove early morning,  8:00 am to the venue. We got there on time to attend the mass. Part of readings were from Luke 7: 44-50;

44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, butshe has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Yes, our Creator forgives our sins, without reservations if we repent with all our hearts.

It was a great day that started with God’s message.

After that, the smell of food being cooked around the grounds were hard to resist; we roamed around to check what food to eat. My eyes were full, so were my senses of smell. Gosh, it was a feast! There were more than 25 stalls of food, from the usual street food of the Philippines to the sumptuous menu you prepare during fiestas.

We tried sisig and longganisa with rice for AUS 8. Hmmm, yummy, the first bite brought me home. Then we craved for more, salivating while we were doing the rounds of choosing what was next. I saw a few holding bowls of food, scooping warm and aromatic food. Wow! Arroz caldo, I grabbed my husband and told him, it’s a must try; and it did not fail, arroz caldo never fails.

There was so much I wanted to eat that day, kare-kare, menudo, dinuguan, bopis, barbeque, empanada, turon, banana-q and kamote-q; it was  a tough choice lol! 🙂 My husband, Stephen, saw his favourite Ilocos Empanada and without batting an eyelash bought one for us to share. Ube cake and cassava were mouth watering, I was never a fan of Ube cake, until I tasted the one we bought in the fiesta.

After all the eating spree, we watched the kids dance tinikling, sang our National Anthem – Lupang Hinirang and also Australia’s Advance Australia Fair.

Tickets were sold for Entry at AUD 5 per adult and AUD 5 for parking. All visitors have the chance to win one of the two International  Return Airfare to Philippines sponsored by PAL.  The food were amazing, though they are a bit pricey; we shared all the food we bought to have more variety.

It was a great experience!  Will definitely come back 🙂

*photo from brisbane.barriofiesta.org/bfb2016

How Important is Show Money for Visa Application?

Departure

“How much show money should I have to have to be approved?”

This is one of the most asked questions visa applicants have, when they start their journey to get that stamp to travel outside the country. As a person who is a citizen of a third world country, it is far more difficult to get out and travel to countries that require visa. Immigration and Border Protection of each countries have their own set of guidelines for tourists; this will ensure safety, socially and medically. So you will likely to have to be asked to get police checks and medical examinations.

But how do we get a higher chance of a visa approval?

  1. Travel – and yes I mean get your feet off that couch, now! Start small, travel to countries that does not demand visa.

You will be surprised that there are 25 countries you can travel to without a visa. Isn’t that amazing!!! gmanetwork.com/…/pinoys-can-visit-at-least-25-countries-without-visas-dfa. HongKong, Malaysia, Thailand to name a few. How about basking in the sun in Brazil??!!  or having a sip of pinacolada in Maldives? But you might think, it’s expensive.

Why not travel in one of these Asian countries without visa first for the next 2 or 3 years – this is an achievable goal. Here are are few tips:

  • Save for a year or so- put that Php1000  every payday in a savings account and stay true to your goal. That’s Php2000/permonth* 16months = Php32,000. Once you have that safe and sound. Get ready !
  • Stay tuned for LowFare Promos – take note of the usual dates / months airlines advertise cheaper fares. Do you know when Philippine Independence Day is? Mark that and make sure you start stalking their website as early as June1.
  • Since you already have that travel money in the bank – it’s easy to pay for the return ticket. Don’t worry about having a credit card to pay for tickets, most airlines use 3rd party  payment centers like LBC, etc. Please see following links philippineairlines.com/…s/OfflinePaymentscebupacificair.com/…/booking-payment.aspx
  • Once you booked that ticket, travel period is usually a few more months before you get into the plane. Which means you can save more. Resist that urge to dine out and focus on knowing your destination at the moment.
  • Research about the country – plan your trip. This will help you create an inexpensive travel itinerary. Read blogs of those who have set a budget in their travels and stick to it. Whether you are travelling solo or with a company of two, knowing where to go for accommodation, food and sight seeing, planning will help you appreciate the experience more.
  • Leave your 13th month and SL/VL conversion pays alone – think of spending Php 3000 to 5000 pesos only from these additional savings. Imagine getting Php22000 (13thmonth) + Php7000 (SL/VL) = Php30,000 . Multiply it in 3years and you have Php90,oooo. Stop! Don’t think of buying a go-pro at the moment..:) This will help you create a more solid track record of savings for your future visa applications.

Once you traveled to at least 2 or 3 countries within 3-4 years; start saving for your trip to South Korea, Japan, or Australia. Remember, you can still travel while saving for your next big trip.  Philippines is a great country with a lot of scenic beaches, amazing sunset and gorgeous landscapes.  With these I mean, Nayong Pilipino, National Museum,  Majayjay Laguna, Antipolo, Cagbalete Quezon, Burot Beach, Cavite,  – search the web for budget travels of less than Php1500 every 3months to keep a balanced life.

       2. Get ready for your next BIG TRIP. Think about the money you saved at the moment. This will give you power and motivation to start planning your trip to South Korea or Japan. Remember to save more and continue your 2K monthly travel savings, give yourself a year. Plan one budget travels every 3months for less than Php2000 at this stage. Remember you still have that 90K savings. Get your bank account to 6 figures without the decimal points 🙂

        3. Finally, get your visa application ready. Search the web and get all information and requirements before applying the visa. Start with Asian countries that require visa. This time, you will be confident that you have strong track records of money in the bank, have experience travelling overseas and a bit of planning to make your trip worth while.

For countries like USA or Australia, travelling solo means having more credentials that you are a genuine tourist.

  • Having strong and long history records of money/savings in the bank helps, not the money you just deposited or borrowed a few months before applying for the visa.
  • Have visa stamps on the passport. That is why it is important you start with other countries that are easy to apply visa for.
  • It means saving more for the next 2-5years and sacrificing expensive wants; Focusing on your big trip to Australia or USA or France. Continue to save Php3000 permonth * 12= Php36,000 for 2-5 years. This will be Php 180,000.00 Or more if you can.
  • Start acquiring assets – open bank trusts and time deposits. Your next 5years will help you. Think about saving your 13thmonth and SL/VL conversion for the next 5years.  Php 30,000 * 5 = Php 150,000. It can be in the province where you grew up, a piece of land or a house and lot as prices are lesser in the provinces.
  • Having goals to travel will also help you, stay on the same company longer and will motivate you strive to better at what you do, getting more skills to be promoted or to get bigger incentives.

There it is folks, who said show money is important? I guess in one side of the story it is, but there are other factors as important as having 6 digits in your bank account.

I’m happy to see your comments or questions below 🙂

Let’s go and travel!!

See you xoxo

 

 

 

Visa: Land Down Under

Applying for Australian Tourist Visa is easy breezy. Whether you have a family member, partner / boyfriend / fiance to sponsor or you’re someone who loves to travel, there are a lot of information online to help you get the visa to the Land Down Under.

First, there are two ways you can submit your application, online or personally in VFS.Global Philippines – through courier / postal (if you live away from VFS offices in Cebu and Manila). I  applied online through Australian Government: Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Advantages in  doing this includes: no courier / handling fee and avoiding traffic to travel to VFS office. Your sponsor can also help you upload documents if both parties are aware of the log in details.

createImmi

After creating my account, I prepared all documents needed to be to be uploaded. Here’s the list of requirements philippines.embassy.gov.au/…/Subclass 600 Tourist Stream checklist – updated 24-06-2015.pdf.

In uploading your documents, please click border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/Atta. 60 documents are allowed in a TV SubClass600. However, I collated similar information in each category to upload more in one go. You can see below how I named one file as Sponsor_Financial_Proof and included in that file are documents like bank statements, payslip and proof of accommodation from my sponsor. You can save each file in PDF, word or JPEG with maximum 5MB size per file. Please label each documents and photos accordingly. You may experience uploading documents twice like proof of identity (passport , BC), it’s normal, just put them in when needed.

UploadingFiles

I scanned all documents and some needs to be notarized like:

  1. Passport
  2. Statutory Declaration (Commonwealth statutory declaration form [DOC 53KB]) from the sponsor
  3. Birth Certificate

There are a lot of notary public in the Philippines and it cost from Php50 to Php150 per document; price depends on the type of document. You can use your smart phones to take photos or scan documents. Free applications you can download on your phones itworld.com/…/8-best-scanner-apps-for-ios-and-android

Payment was done using credit card. Check this link for fees border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/Fees.  I started uploading documents after that; and also got an email confirmation from Immigration. I didn’t worry about completing the whole application in one go, as they allowed adding documents. I did go back a few times to add bits and pieces. I do recommend though to get the all important requirements be uploaded within a week.

My tourist visa SubClass 600 was sponsored by my fiance. Applying for a sponsored TV means;

  • your sponsor must be eligible (financially & must be Australian citizen / resident) to support your stay in Australia – expenses, tickets, travel insurance etc. Documents that will prove this are: birth certificate, passport, statement, payslips, his/ her rent receipts / contract, or papers to prove that he/ she owns the house you’ll be staying. Other things that might help is a statutory declaration from the sponsor, stating that he / she is in relation to  you and that he’s the sponsor(please see above form)
  • you are related to your sponsor – whether he is a family member, friend,  fiance, proofs are important. This includes, photos together, letters / emails for each other, messenger/skype/viber convos. If you are in a relationship (bf/gf, fiance) a brief history of the relationship will help. Birth Certificates if you are related by blood.
  • Most importantly – the applicant’s strong ties to go back to his home country. This will include family, work and assets.  Family – photos, BC. Work – Certificate of Employment, letter from your manager that you’re allowed for a vacation leave  (include the dates),  payslips. Assets  – bank statement, investments, land / car / house titles / registrations.

Here are other things that might help:

  1. CoverLetter – from the applicant stating relationship with the sponsor, itinerary and reason for applying for the said visa.
  2. If you are already have a Fiance Visa application, you may indicate reference number in your letter. As having it doesn’t allow you to marry in Australia, until  the Fiance Visa is approved. It also needs to be granted when the applicant is outside Australia.
  3. NBI

Medical is only required when you are staying for more than 6 months. You have to wait for their advise when to get one. Or if you haven’t received any information about it within 2-3 days, you can click the HAPID button and get your reference number, email them that you applied for Visa for more than 3months stay and medical is needed. Usually they will reply within 5days and you may complete the requirements on the following accredited hospitals / clinics: border.gov.au/…/Help/Location/philippines. Applicants will undergo – x-ray and medical exam: border.gov.au/…rement/health-examinations. They will advise if the results are good or whether you need to do some additional tests. Results are forwarded to Immigration within 3-5 days. This clinic will advise you if there’s a need to go back for another check. You can also follow up if the results have been forwarded.

Tourist Visa can be a long wait. I received my visa grant notification after 35days .Others get it in less than two weeks. This depends on a lot of factors. People who apply need to make sure they have genuine motive of being a tourist and follow visa requirements and conditions.

I basically have to send email to immigration.manila_permanent@dfat.gov.au and follow-up after 25days. Immigration does not recommenced booking the ticket / accommodation prior to application as this doesn’t guarantee approval, but we did it anyway and used it as one of the proofs. If you think that you have all documents and proof then you may do so.

Overall, applying is not as dreadful as it may seem. It’s the waiting game that gives you a bit of a nervous breakdown. I have never felt so nervous reading an email, but it’s worth it 🙂 opening the attachment was terrifying, but when I saw it was a visa grant, it was such a big relief.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I’d be happy to answer them 🙂