Wednesday, December 30, 2015

EMPOWERING THE PINAY


Submissive, docile, caring and attentive are some of the characteristics of the pinay that make them endearing to any man they meet.  This appears to be ever more present in the "probinsiyana" pinay but also in some city-dweller pinays as well.

Because of the docile behavior of the pinay some pinays (not all) have come to rely heavily on their men folk.  This is all the more true for the pinay who marries a foreigner thinking that he can give her the comfortable life she has not known before. Some foreigners, happy with the love and concern of the fairer sex come here to stay in the Philippines; lured by a lower cost-of-living and the prospect of having a large family.  But what they do not realize is that being foreigners as they are, they have a unique set of needs that can be addressed only by a pinay who shows a less laid back personality in dealing with the challenges of living with a foreigner.

Luckily for my husband, I was never laid back.  I have been a problem solver myself since my own father left us when I was just in the middle of my college years.  I have taken on the role of "head of the household" and have taken the weight on my shoulder as my own mother was the "typical" probinsiyana pinay - docile, submissive and just reliant on the "stronger" sex.  I was in every way both the man and woman in-charge of the household.  So when my husband came to live with me with his special set of needs I took on the task of doing my homework and doing research on all the things I can do to better our family's life. 

On the first year of his stay we spent a total of P11,000 a month for his medicines (out-of-pocket).  Now believe you me, although I was earning and did have a higher than average salary, paying for my husband and I's household and my mother and brother's household meant that a cut of P11,000 a month in the family budget was nothing to sneeze about.  So I asked myself, how can I remedy this situation.  During the course of our courtship I had learned later that my husband is a rated US veteran.  At the time I did not know what his rating was, so eventually I learned he was rated 20%.  I asked myself what did that mean in terms of possible benefit. I learned through research on the internet that it meant he belonged to Priority Group 3 and therefore was entitled to more than most veterans.  Later on I learned that there was a VA outpatient clinic in Manila that was catered specifically to rated veterans.  I called the US VA in the Philippines, set up an appointment and lo and behold, all his medications were covered. Presto... we were able to get P11,000 allotted for other things which then meant getting a new car.

As a lawyer, I did the research to know what he needed to get his 13-A visa here in the Philippines.  Believe me, if you know what you are doing and did the research, you do not need a lawyer to file this yourself.  But you have to be open-minded about learning what you need to learn for your hubby to live here comfortably.  Don't rely on your husband who may or may not know better.  And certainly do not rely on a lawyer who will overcharge you for a service you yourself can do.

Also as a lawyer, I did the research for my son's CRBA (Certificate of Recognition for Birth Abroad).  Again, believe me, you don't need a lawyer for this.  You just have to think like one - what are the requirements to transfer citizenship. Believe you me, it is not cut and dry.  Unlike Philippine law that only requires that you be born of a Filipino mother or father, US regulation requires that you had stayed and worked in the U.S. for a certain number of years after 18 in order to transfer citizenship.  So coming there with nothing more than your US passport is really not good planning.  Likewise, in order to debunk paternity or filial issues, more than a picture of relationship, proof of the relation of the parents (stronger if they are married) is necessary and proof of the pregnancy (birth/medical records).  Again this involves planning and research that only one who has patience, insight and determination can accomplish.  The pinay has to come out of her "victim" or "damsel-in-distress" personality and become the master of her family's fate - not only for herself but for her husband and child.


When the US bank started asking for hefty fees for remittances that cut our finances even more.  I literally had to be creative to reduce the backlash and asked for remittance only once in two months, so we had to stretch our budget for two months at a time.  I again had to ask myself what can we do to make this less difficult on our family, so I remembered something the US consul said on my son's interview for his CRBA, to make sure I report his birth to Social Security.  I learned on-line that as the son of a US citizen already receiving his pension, he was entitled to an allowance and that solved our monetary problem.


Every day offers new challenges for our family - things like converting his US driver's license to a Philippine license so that he did not have to take the exam.  These little things all together meant I had to take the time and creativeness to do my homework to help my husband, and my son have the life they deserve.  Sure it is important you know how to cook and clean your house - but you are more than just a maid, you are a mother and wife and that demands more than just cooking and making your house clean.  And as a wife of a foreigner who will be seen as a cash cow you have to be more than just a house help or a pretty face.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Challenges in Maintaining a US bank Account

In the beginning of last year, we were surprised with the increase in remittance rates charged by the US bank - about $80. Now for a couple receiving only a small amount of money in monthly pension, $80 a month is a big thing. Based on my estimate, I might as well buy a plane ticket for the cost of a yearly remittance sent every month. In our case, we retained the US bank account, precisely for the possibility of going to America, and re-establishing residency, but the cost is such that we are starting to re-evaluate the process.

Now, with my salary and his $1,200, it would be seem that a monthly reduction of $80 would not be so much, but 1) we have a child to support; 2) two senior citizens (my husband and my mother) who both go ill once in awhile and require either medication or hospitalization, and 3) we live in expensive Metro Manila.

With the increasing cost of living, I had to be more creative.  So while we were at the U.S. Embassy working on my son's CRBA and U.S. Passport, the consul reminded us to report the birth of my son to the U.S. social security.  I began to think of the possibility of my son receiving US social security benefit, being then a full-fledged American citizen.  After all, he does not require residency to receive social security since he is a US citizen.  And I learned on the internet, that if the principal member is either retired or disabled, the dependents who are US citizens can receive benefits.

So we filed together, and the account was opened under my name as my son's principal guardian.  It turned out that he was entitled to $787 and that since we only filed last October, and he has been a US citizen for about a year or so, we received back pay.  (A word of note.  The background investigation took almost a half year.  So don't rely on the benefit, until it is actually granted.  If your son/daughter doesn't qualify for CRBA, he/she most likely won't qualify for SS benefit.)

So it pays to do research and to always think of possibilities.  Never rely on other people for answers, find it yourself.

Now we are doing fine.  Although I am still contemplating having my husband's social security directly deposited into a Philippine bank.  US banks are ripping us off in remittances! $80 a month is still too much, if it can still be avoided.  I plan to do some more creative planning to keep the US bank funded even while my husband's US social security is directly deposited here in the Philippines.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What is Best for My Son

I ask about that constantly now.  I have only two years to go before I become fully vested in government service.  By then, I could choose to receive retirement from then Philippine private social security or its government equivalent.  Either way, I am set and comfortable.  After all, I have worked for more than twenty years now - eight in the private sector and thirteen in the government sector.  For all intents and purposes, HERE, the Philippines is my comfort zone.

But I constantly wonder what is best for my son. Is my staying here foreclosing his chances for a better life? Is the USA really the land of plenty? Or  am I just romanticizing something I do not even know?

If I choose to stay here, how will it affect my husband's access to effective health care? He doesn't qualify for a health plan over here because of his age.  I, and my son, on the other hand, are covered by a private health plan I got for both of us. 

Since I got my son social security coverage (about $700); with that, my husband's social security benefit and my salary, we live a fairly decent life.  I think we can send my son to a good school over here.  There, on the other hand, it's a big question if we could afford a good school, since I would be starting all over again.

Certainly if we do move, I will guarantee this - I will have an exit plan.  Because I have more to lose in leaving than I would in staying.

How about you,  what do you think is best for my son?