Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Continuing Saga

We finally filed our 13 (a) ... but not without hitches. After complying with all the requirements, such as the notarized letter from the spouse (petitioner), notarized application form (signed by the applicant and petitioner), NSO issued Birth Certificate, NSO issued Marriage Certificate, and photocopy of alien spouse's passport which includes the bio page, date of admission and date of authorized stay, we finished 2 to 3 hours after our arrival at the Makati Office.

All I can say that except for one or two staff of the Bureau of Immigration, every single one of them were grumpy and rude. They certainly were less courteous to the foreigners, who they even sometimes summarily dismissed as either not following instructions or refused to be seated down (when there was clearly no seat left). I can understand how staying in a country not ones own is a privilege but certainly every civil servant worth their salt, should realize that the foreigners coming to our country help to fund our economy in some form, ergo also fund their (the Bureau of Immigration staff) salary. Further, Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Official is sufficiently broad that disrespect to ones clientele can easily land them an administrative charge. But hey, maybe it was the heat of the sun and the packed office that made their heads equally hot that day, whichever it was.. it certainly did not make my dealings with them pleasant.

I must emphasize the point that under the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA), government agencies are required to have a flowchart of the frontline services they offer. For example, there should have been a flowchart of procedure for those needing a tourist visa extension, for those filing under 13-A or such other processes. No such flowchart exists anywhere within the satellite office. It seems that for those needing anything from the BI they would either have to figure this things out on their own, or deal with accredited agencies. I cannot understand why the process cannot be clearly laid down on paper and each step-by-step instruction made readily available at the office itself.

At any rate, I decided I will be more proactive the next time. I will ask around with my lawschool friends who work with the Bureau of Immigration about the whole procedure, since I certainly cannot get a straight unoffensive answer from the office itself.


  1. Interesting. And I was hoping for a much better experience for you, knowing that you work at finding the answers and being prepared. Oh well.

    First of all, I didn't know one could file except at Intramuros. I know the Field Office (Sub-port) in Angeles City cant/won't accept 13a packages.

    Secondly, the overall nastiness or at least extreme uneasiness with the clients is likely bred from a lack of training/ignorance of their own regulations.

    In the course of my stay here, I was introduced to a fairly senior BI official (who by the way offered to process my visa himself for P10k additional to the standard fees as a 'favor'... completely unsolicited)

    During my initial discussion with this official I was assured, among other inaccuracies, of the astounding fact that Balikbayan privilege program didn't exist any longer, that it had been terminated by PGMA and that I was in the country illegally. Hmmm.

    I politely found a way to excuse myself and haven't seen this person since. If this is at all indicative of other supervisory personnel in the BI, it would explain a lot.

    Speaking of BB privilege, my asawa and I just came in through NAIA very early Wednesday a.m. and got I my third BB stamp with absolutely no hassle or delay, even a smile and good wishes from the officer.

    Now my calesa doesn't turn into a kalabasa until 24 Feb 2011, so no real need to pursue the permanent visa yet again.

    I keep telling myself, I ought to, I should, this year for sure ... but then procrastination and comfort enter into the picture.

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after ... that's my motto.

  2. Hi Paul! Yeah, I do work at finding the answers... but the funny thing is not everything can be found on the internet... and a great deal of the answers can only be found within the agency, from trusted people inside.

    My mistake was not in calling the people I do know, in advance. I should have done so but I was admittedly arrogant myself to think I can find out all the answers without consulting, aside from being restricted by the 21 day time frame and having my own schedule restricted by work. At any rate, I do know better now.

    Yes, you can file at the Makati office. I don't know if other satellite offices are restricted.

    Anyway, I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt. The place was incredibly hectic that day. I just thought to myself, they should be cautious of their behavior, they may irk someone to the point that they might find themselves in the end of an administrative charge.

  3. That would be interesting ... someone actually filing a charge against them. You know I hardly thing the attitude is unique to the Philippine BI at all .. I really got my eyes opened when I helped my wife through the US citizenship process. The US INS (now ICE) operates in many ways with exactly the same attitude. I guess it comes from being in absolute total authority over people, and people who have waited so long to get to the head of the line that they are willing to accept virtually any treatment to get a precious stamp on a piece of paper.

    A psychologist could no doubt have a field day doing case studies. You know in the US at least, those officers have more power than a Supreme Court justice. One flick of the thumb and you can be in an immigration jail and/or put of the county. In many cases appeal actions can only be filed from outside the US and appellate courts are loathe to issue TRO's and other legal 'safety vales' that are common in other civil/criminal cases.

    And of course in today's world, they can slap the legal shroud of the American Patriot Act over any case they chose.

    I also know of at least two foreigners who sta out 6 years a piece in Philippine immigration jail, never convicted of anything ... at the end of six years all charges were dropped and the were deported. Both undoubtedly gave cause for some sort of legal action, (one in particular publicly cuckolded an elected official in a public, bastos way)but unlike the police, the BI really doesn't have to file and prove a case. Thye can put you in jail and build the case at their leisure ... or drop it at a later date if it suits them.

    Immigration offices are scary places for me ... I wouldn't want to have my blood pressure taken there ;-)

  4. Yes, I think it is unfortunate how foreigners can be cowed. What irks me is that I should feel that way. I do not want to feel that way... because unlike the foreigners... I pay income taxes to the Philippine government for all my 15 ++ years of work. I can certainly demand and say I pay for their salary (in like manner that I get paid because from taxes).

    But I do worry about my Asawa getting mistreated so I try to tone down, even when I am just about ready to argue with someone.

  5. I guess it is the nature of things. It has been my experience that "foreigners can be cowed" no matter who they are and no matter where they are. It is not easy sometimes being a stranger in a strange land.

    I tried to locate your budget details from when you started but I have been unable to locate it.what do you think the biggest obstacle is for your husband vis a vis settling in to Metro Manila. I am truly curious as I might be finding myself in the same boat shortly.


  6. Biggest obstacle? I would say the cost of moving in in general.

    My husband is fortunate because I myself have the financial capacity to cover the cost of moving in. I paid two months advance and one month deposit on the place -- that's around P25,500. I bought at least three appliances on CC (deferred payment) at around P50,000. That though isn't so much a problem because by the time we start paying he is here already to help pay the CC.

    The medicines had to be bought for a 6-month supply. I have checked one medicine locally so far -- and for a generic equivalent -- it wasn't so bad, just P5. But then I would prefer buying from Mercury Drug, but I have to check the other medicines still. It may be costly over all. We are exploring other options like buying from Walgreens and having it shipped to us. An Auntie of mine is a US doctor, so maybe she can fill our prescriptions for us, but I am still factoring the total cost to see if it is still cheaper to buy here over all. I have 5 more months to work on that. :p

    The visa was a little daunting. Not so much in terms of cost but in terms of figuring out what to do. The materials on the internet are not always complete and up to date, and BOI are such jerks if you don't know someone inside. I took the easy route and called a Law school friend. I may just keep doing that to have a concrete idea of what to do.

    Overall, everything is doable with advance planning. I am still doing some research on health plans.. I will update you on that.

    I still say rent is better than buying property.

    I am still thinking whether commuting is better than buying a car. Cost of maintenance and then parking for our condo complex may put a dent on our budget.

    After I get our electric bill.. I will tell you how much that is for almost 24-hours of aircon. LOL! :p That is if anything else is what worries me a little.

  7. Oh and I bought the bed for P15,000 last year. There are cheaper ones on the market, but Asawa Pogi is a big man so I figured I couldn't scrimp on that.

    We will be buying a nice dining set next week.. around P14,000++. We have a rickety table right now. LOL! :p

    A 13 inch refrigerator NO-FROST at P23,000 ++
    1.5 aircon at P16,000 ++
    A gas range at P18,000 ++

    You can always rent a place that's fully furnished. But the place we wanted wasn't furnished and we had specific preferences for appliances than that which was available in other units in the compound.

  8. Claudette

    Thank you for your detailed response and I will tell you my little tale. I am fifty years old and happily married for many years to a lovely woman from the Philippines. We have no children and we are currently living here in NYC. I have been impacted by this brutal recession and this is reflected in my net income. My wife is a CPA and has not been impacted.
    I was offered an opportunity to go to Asia and represent a small and very aggressive manufacturing company sell into the Pharma industry. I believe I might start off in the Philippines and if I am successful, I would expand to Singapore, ect. I will have to watch costs very carefully as I will have to share in expenses. I will not be receiving a salary but will participate fully in profits. In other words the first year will be crucial; indeed the first six months will be crucial. All the Pharma plants are located in and around Metro Manila and they would represent my first line of offense.

    I guess my question after my little introduction has to be, how much money is needed to live in Manila per month. I am a simple man and I do not drink or smoke. I would need a small furnished little apt with internet access. Initially I would be prepared to sign a six months lease if that were possible. I have been to the Philippines but I certainly do not know my way around Manila. I believe some of these Pharma plants are located in Pasig and Laguna. I guess I would initially have to hire a car and driver; hopefully an in-law.

    If you have any insights I sure would appreciate hearing from you. It is truly astonishing that I am contemplating this course of action but I have to say that the economy here in the States is shot to pieces. I really like living here in New York but one has to adapt to different circumstances in life. My wife is very ambivalent about this venture but as they say one step at a time.


  9. Hi Joseph,

    I think if anything else, I hope you have factored in the cost of doing business here. I could tell you things will always be rosy and everything will run according to what is on paper... but if there is one thing you should be ready with is.. the corruption that you may encounter in your effort to do business.

    Getting your business off the ground may not run according to schedule and that may put on a damper on your budget.

    On the other hand, the cost of living (minus the business), I think is certainly lesser. Although where you live in Metro Manila may also be a big factor. I doubt if the cost of living in Pasig is low. Certainly not as low as it is in Quezon City. Although living in Laguna may be better, in terms of lowering your cost of living. But as far as I know the manufacturing may be in Laguna, but is their business centers there too? My brother is a pharmacist employed by one of the big pharmaceutical companies, and he is in the manufacturing arm housed in Sta. Rosa Laguna. But isn't their business centers still in Pasig though?

    I think the realistic amount to live in Metro Manila is between $1000 to $1500. But if you are really frugal, and if you live in the right part of Metro Manila... $1000 may be sufficient.

    What is the right part of Metro Manila in terms of cost? Quezon City, Pasay City, Manila (City)...

    Costly places? Pasig, Makati City, some parts of Taguig, Paranaque, Alabang

    Another thing to consider is how big is your household? Do you have relatives of your wife expecting financial support? If no $1000 is certainly sufficient. You wouldn't live in luxury, but it is sufficient.

  10. Also, get a driver only when you have to. There are so many cheaper means of transport here (not counting the jeepneys). I mean cabs are cheap especially if you live near the place of work, and the MRT plies through all the major business centers if cabs are not enough. On the other hand, if you really need to be on time and if you have several errands you need to do on time in a day, then go get a driver. But to maintain on a monthly basis a driver with his own vehicle, that may put a dent on your budget and you certainly will need more than $1000 a month. :p

  11. Claudette. Many thanks for your reply. I am going to budget 2000 dollars a month for a year and see what happens. This budget will have to take care of some flights to Singapore and Hong Kong. I am somewhat relieved that I will be able to do without a car initially.

    There is an enormous pharma industry in the Philippines and we deal with about seven or eight of these oufits here in the States and in Europe. We have no office in Asia and I hope to start one in Manila. We believe that at present, no one in the Philippines with ISO 9001 certification, is providing our services and so the work is done here in the US or maybe Japan. I find it quite fascinating to hear from you and many others that corruption is the main obstacle to doing business in the Philippines.

    On a personal level, I believe missing my wife will be my greatest challange in the Philippines. I have checked Craigslist for Manila sub lets and rentals and I believe I will focus on Makati vis a vis accomodation.

    I like your blog because you are born and raised in Manila and you seem to write about Manila. Many other bloggers seem to write about the provinces (and retirement issues); I do not have much interest in these matters.


  12. Hi Claudette,

    Interesting but a sad experience that you had at BI office. In my opinion, reporting the misconducts to the head of BI along with other elected officials is the way to start at least something about this enethical and unprofessionalism of these govt. employees. Not that I'm saying something will definately happen as a result but there is nothing wrong to bring all this to the attention to big shots people, but doing nothing will not change how things are there. Just my opinion.

    By the way, could it be possible for you to list ALL the required documents and forms needed for 13a visa? And PLEASE do tell me how much your electricity bill came out for running an a/c for 24/7.

    I was in Makati (Manila) for a month and just got back home in US. I was staying in a hotel cum Condominum there. My electic bill came 9000p in which I was using an A/C only in the night at the time of sleep. Many times I didn't even start a/c because it was very windy. I hardly cooked there and was watching tv only for one and half hour in whole day. Lights were off most of the time and except charging my cellular phone and computer, I didn't use elecriticy elsewhere. I was shocked to received a bill of 9000p for the electricity for one month. Later on I found out thru my research online that the electricity rate in Makati (Manila) is highest in the world. Prior to Makati, it was highest in Tokyo and before that it was in New York City.

    While I was there I was looking to extend my stay but couldn't find any place to stay on a reasonable price. I paid almost 45000p for a month stay in the condominum I was staying in there which I didn't want to pay if I had extended my stay. That's why I was looking a much reasonable place to stay without a lease since I was not in a position to sign a lease. By chance, do you any place in Makati which is safe, cleaner and not to expensive, without a lease? I heard of Pasig, Quezon and other more places in Manila which seem to be lot cheaper but are they safe, cleaner and more accessible to Makati?

    I'm planning on going to PH again in the December of this year for 3-5 months and don't want to have the same experience that I had in my last trip. That's why I'm doing my research and asking questions. It was my first visit to the PH. My wife is a Filipina who lives with me in NYC. She is from Lucena City where she has many houses. Lucena city is 3 hours from Manila and I want to spend my time in Manila because I might be looking around property to buy there. She will not be with me because she works.

    Food, accommodation, electicity, internet access (SIM cards), transportation and everything except airline ticket, I ended up paying $6000 for a month in there and didn't even enjoy my time in there. So, this time I like to go with planing and of course don't wanna spend this much for my whole staying there in my upcoming trip. How much renting a car costs there, with and without a driver? Please let me know anything if you know.

    Thanking you in advance.


  13. Hello Joseph,

    Are you already in the PH or not yet? If so, are you staying in Makati or somewhere else in Manila? Could you give some details on living expenses in there, please?


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  15. Hi Sam! Sorry it took me so long a time to read your post. I have been very busy with life, having my husband here and using the computer majority of the time. LOL! His computer broke, so my cutesy pink notebook seemed his only respite to boredom while at home.

    Yes, I live in Metro Manila. But honestly, I wouldn't live in Makati even if I had money to burn (which I don't). LOL! Its too polluted and the cost of living is high. I also am not that cosmopolitan, and I do like to live in a place with trees and wide-open spaces, which I have in Quezon City.

    How much is the cost of living here? The highest electric bill we paid so far is P6,700 for maybe 15++ hours of aircondition. Of course we have other appliances, like a 21" cubic feet No-Frost refrigerator, T.V., laptop that is on 24 hours, internet moden, and flat iron. That's just about it. We just recently bought a microwave so I would have to tell you later how much our new electric bill cost.

    The rainy season is upon us, which only means we may be able to cut down on electric usage. But my husband still wants an air purifier, inspite the relatively lesser pollution we have here in Quezon City. We live near a main road which probably accounts for a bit of the dust we collect in the house.

    If I had the time to look for another place, certainly I would try to find a place in Quezon City which is a bit off the main road but still near where I work.