Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Applying for a Philippines Student Visa? Here are some tips!

Well, since I really found no help on the internet for Applying for a STUDENT VISA or any of the sort online, I thought that I would try to give my best advice on how to go about this. First of all, many of the requirements were recently cut out, which we foreigners should all rejoice at, as if we needed to jump through those hoops we would lose our minds!
Now, before continuing, the BEST way to go through this whole process is to have a Filipino friend who is familiar with how things work, or at least will be willing to do a lot of the talking for you. Honestly, you feel like a walking dollar sign coming towards people, who will eagerly take advantage of you.

So, what do you need to do, and were do you need to go? For me, the BIG 3 were the 1) NBI clearance 2) Bureau of Quarantine and 3) Clearance Certificate/NICA Clearance at the Bureau of Immigration.
Fee's:
Student Visa 6550.00 PHP
Visa Extension 3030.00 PHP ( if needed)
ACR Card 5600.00 PHP
Physical Exam( Bureau of Quar.) 950.00 PHP
NICA Check ( Bureau of Imm.) 1-2000 PHP

** Student Visa, Visa Extension, ACR have Express/Rush Fee included, because they didn't give me an option. It's just automatically included **
-General Fare for LRT is between 12 PHP for short distances, and 14 PHP for longer rides.
-DO YOURSELF A FAVOR have extra copies of your passport info page and last stamped page, as well as extra 2x2 pics!! They don't seem to care if the pics are very good, mine were all from a photo booth.
1) NBI Clearance:
If you are able to access the LRT than look for the Carriedo stop on LINE 1. When you exit the LRT station, look for ANDOKS chicken, when facing Andoks, turn left, and the NBI building is about the 5th building on your left. You'll see a little signs for it, but just look for the big lines and/or guards outside. Go up the escalators and you'll come into a big room, most likely with a ton of people. Get in the line and pay the 20 peso fee, which you NEED to do. From there, make your way to room 604. Once on the 5th floor, look for the back stairwell and go up one more floor. From there, you'll fill out some paperwork, and go all the way back down to STEP 1. This part is quite easy.....just follow the steps. Have some spare change to pay for the wet nap to wipe your fingers after they fingerprint you! (5 php). Finally, they'll tell you to come back a few days later! (
I'm assuming like any other service, if you pay under the table, they'll rush it. If not, they're a bunch of pricks, like they were for me and wouldn't even give it up a few hours early.) Try not to get overwhelmed as there's a lot of stuff going on around you. ALWAYS be conscious of your surroundings and pickpockets. ALSO just walk there. I took a trike, the guy tried to charge me 80 pesos for a 3 min walk from the station. It is really quite simple to do, but it's also time consuming depending on which day you go. I went early Monday morning, and it seemed like so did the rest of the city. I went back on a Thursday and Friday and the place had half the amount of people!

2) Bureau of Quarantine:
Again, if you can use the LRT than go one stop further to on LINE 1 at Central Station. If you're comfortable using jeepney's then use that, but a taxi is a safe bet. The easiest way to get there by taxi is to say you're going to HOTEL MANILA. You're actually going to the Bureau of Quarantine, but no one seems to know where that is. If you're looking at the front of HOTEL MANILA, you want to use the road to the right (You'll see a a set of traffic lights and SHAKEYS, take a left). So now you're on the road beside Hotel Manila. Walk straight. You'll think that you shouldn't keep going because you'll see concrete barriers, etc. KEEP GOING. Then on the RIGHT HAND SIDE lies the BUREAU OF QUARANTINE. MAKE SURE that when you enter, you Turn Right after the guard station. (
DO NOT go into the main building. I did, no one told me until it was too late. I waited in line with all Filipino men [should have been my first clue] so I asked one of the nurses if I was at the right place and showed her my sheet saying I needed a physical check-up. Of course she said yes, and the next thing you know I was getting a shot/needle and had to pay 1000 PHP! Then they decided to inform me they made a mistake and took me to the correct building. Again, this was all after I explained exactly why I was there. Quite convenient on their part...once in the correct building I was told that I had to pay an additional fee for the check-up. I argued it was their fault that I was in the wrong building, and the guy actually felt bad because the guards did not tell me which building to go to. I guess being a lone white foreigner doesn't really mean anything to a guard...I'm a regular I guess...so out of this ordeal, I wasted 1000 PHP...and this was actually only a short time after I had just payed off the official at the Bureau of Immigration![see below!] ). Once you're in this brick building they will want your PASSPORT AND 2 PHOTOS and you will pay a 950 PHP fee for the physical examination( TIP!! MAKE SURE to bring tissue!!!! You'll have to poop in a cup, and there is no ass-wipe provided! ). For me, they said to come back the following day, however, the fellow looked as if I would have paid him I could have had it later that day, but the boss was there. When you go back to pick up the documents, make sure they stamp/seal your passport page. GO back to where you got dropped off, as there are always taxi's waiting.

3) Bureau of Immigration:
IF you are getting a STUDENT VISA, and you are doing all of the running around( my university did this to me) then you are looking for a Clearance Certification/ NICA Clearance. Walk straight through the doors. Don't listen to the people outside, and proceed up the stairs. Go to the 3rd floor and turn left. On your Left Hand Side, you will see the window for NICA Clearance. Now, here is where you HAVE to be persistent. Tell them what you need, they will ask for one of the Notarized forms you should have filled. They will ask you to fill a small sheet, and then they will write a date for you to come back. For me, that date was 3 weeks later!! However, be dramatic, tell them you NEED it that day!! How can you please get it that day? . SELL YOURSELF. (
This happened to both myself and a Korean girl in the same situation. They then brought us into the office, one at a time, where we talked to the Supervisor. Again, sell your story of how you need the paper that day not 3 weeks later, as you'll most likely be kicked out of the country by then for overstaying your 21 day tourist visa. Once in the office, I asked if I paid could it be rushed. Once I was in the office of the Supervisor, they asked me why I needed the paper. They agreed and told me [by hand gestures...no words used] to pay 1000 PHP, but the Supervisor wouldn't take the money. I had to give it to one of the lower level employees who was in the office as well. The boss wouldn't say anything about money, rather he just held up fingers and motioned who to give the money to and what to do! haha. Corruption at its finest!!
I'm not sure why I paid that much, because the Korean girl said she paid 2000 PHP. Either way, a few hours later I had the useless little paper and I was good to go.) As I said, If you are the one doing all of the running around, and/or your school isn't going to help in the process, then take your chances. I went to the Student Window on the main floor, inside the building, and the guy behind the counter offered me to rush the process if I paid him a fee. I declined because I did not have my documents, but it is very likely that even the lower level employees are looking to cut deals on the side.
* DON"T be afraid to mention MONEY. Just play stupid and ask if there's any way to make it go quicker or who do you have to talk to! Believe me, it's a pain in the ass to continuously have to return to these places! *
**IF you are getting a VISA EXTENSION, it's actually really easy and quick. Most countries have an automatic 21 day Tourist VISA, however, if you are going to go over this amount of allotted days, than do this while you're at the Bureau of Immigration. Make sure you have you're passport and a photocopy of your info page and the last stamp you have. You can pick up a form at the desk immediately in front of you as you enter the building. Fill this out, along with your photocopy and passport. It should take a few minutes, then you go pay a 3030 PHP fee, go back to the original window, wait about an hour, and you're DONE!
Tip: the earlier you go the better. It gets crowded and crazy at about 10am **
*** IF you need something to be notarized then there are Notary Publics at both the NBI building and Bureau of Immigration, however, I have no idea how much they charge. It should be no more than 100-200 PHP, as per normal***

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Train Journey from Hell


I've decided to give this story its own post, as it is very well deserved. It was a ridiculous day to say the least, traveling from Berlin to Krakow, Poland, with many interesting happenings....

So, we left Berlin and we had to catch a train to Frankfurt Oder, which was on the border, from there we had to switch trains and travel to Wroclaw(referred to as Assclaw in my story), and then on to Krakow. Easy enough? You'd think so, wouldn't you?

As I said, we were on the train and we were all catching a little shut eye, when we heard the announcement for "Frankfurt Oder." So, still groggy from our sleep, we all jumped up, grabbed our packs and scrambled out of the doors, just in time. However, once outside we noticed that we were on a lone platform in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, as the doors were sliding shut a young guy yelled to us " You guuuuysss, this is not Frankfurt Oder!" With that, the train sped away, and we were left dumbfounded. We made our way up to the road and tried to get a taxi, however, luckily after some time we were able to get on a public transit bus and eventually make it to the train station. Looking back, it was a pain in the ass, but that jerk on the train who yelled out too late serves as a good laugh.

Once at the train station we were actually able to catch a train to our next destination, which even though we were behind schedule, we would be able to catch up to all the trains we had planned to take....or so we thought.

As mentioned, Train #2 from Frankfurt Oder station to Wroclaw/Assclaw, went without a hitch, however, once we arrived in Assclaw, things went downhill quickly. Once we got off the train and entered the main lobby of the station it felt like we went back in time. Seriously. I felt like I was in the midst of the cold war. It was so old, cold, dark and dingy, with lots of suspicious characters hanging around. It was also past 10pm at night, haha. So, we checked the timetable, and lo and behold, we were literally about 5 -1o minutes late and our train had departed. Not knowing what to do, we saw our first real bit of controversy, and who could blame us after what had already happened that day. Anyways, thanks to Brent's awesome Polish, we found out that there was a train at sometime between 2 and 3 am, so we were going to have to tough it out.

So, what to do to kill time? Drink VERY large steins of beer. Yes, that we did. We sat outside of the train station, drank and ate at a pub on a nice leather couch, and people watched. Now, here we got to see the real colours of Assclaw. As we were drinking, a guy and girl were having a smoke just outside of the pub. As they were doing this, a drunken, shady character walks up to them. I can't remember if he grabbed her butt, nonetheless he did something stupid, and next thing you know they're all getting into it. She ended up kicking him in the butt, and the last thing we saw of him was the boyfriend taking the guy towards the doors of the train station and throwing him....needless to say we didn't see the drunk again, and I have no idea what happened to him.

Once that happened, we promptly finished our last drinks and got the hell out of there. Luckily, it was almost time for the train. So, as we went to board the train, we were flabbergasted. If the train station was Cold War era, than the train was definitely straight out of WWII. As our Eurorail tickets didn't work, we had to buy tickets, and this was the nail in the coffin. Upon boarding we looked for an empty spot, but there were none to be had. I mean NOTHING!! Every cabin was full to the max, people were sitting in the hallways, and we were left, again, dumbfounded! So, what did we do? We literally sat on our backpacks in front of the bathrooms. Brent and Nat sat in front of one, and I sat in front of the "1st class" car's WC. Literally, we were on each side of the connector. There was NO heat, so we all had to wear as much clothing as possible, because the temperature was easily floating around 0 C. On top of that, the dick conductor kept coming and waking us up, talking in Polish, then walking off laughing. The guys also had an interesting encounter, as half way through the journey, a Polish Army officer left the bathroom, where one can only assume he passed out, because he reeked of booze.

As the sun came up, we were all dead tired and huddled around the lone heater we found. Sleep deprived and low on morale we entered Krakow. Thank God that city made it all worth while, but that's for the next chapter.

BERLIN


After leaving Amsterdam, we caught the train to Berlin, and were promptly met at the Dutch/German boarder by soldiers and dogs trying to sniff out any reefer that those hippies would be trying to smuggle into the country. After a decently long journey, we made it into what could be the biggest train station I've ever seen. I think it honestly had 6 floors of platforms there! (storytime... when we were leaving I really had to use the washroom...#2...so I went there, but had to pay something like 2 Euros...anyways, I go in and look in the stall, but there is no toilet seat...so I hang around, cause I just spent 2 Euros to crap! Finally the cleaning person enters, goes in, sprays the rim/seat and then i realize that that's the way it is....regardless it called for a skybomb....but boy did i feel stupid) Anyways, we had to catch a cab to get to our hostel, and that's when I realized that this city is MASSIVE. It is so spread out, and we for the 2 nights that we stayed there, we definitely didn't even scratch the surface. We stayed at the Meinenes City Hostel? It was actually a really nice place, with a huuge selection for breakfast (free) where we actually made sandwiches for later that day when walking around. Pretty clutch when you're traveling by budget!

On our first full day, we caught the free walking tour which starts at the Brandenburg Gates. During this tour, the animated tour guide gave a brief history ( esp. WWII), and it was the first time that I felt my History undergrad was put to good use. We got to see the Memorial to the Murdered European Jews, the now parking lot which was once Hitler's Bunker and where he committed suicide, the Reichstag, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and the square where they held the burning of the books, Museum Island and other great stuff. I actually really enjoyed the tour.

Finally at night we hit up our first pubcrawl which was a good time, and soon we were off for the most ridiculous train ride ever to Poland

Berlin was awesome, and I definitely would go back and spend more time!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Brussels, Maastricht and AMsterdam

Fresh out of the UK, we ventured into Brussels, Belgium and right away found it a different and difficult place. The language was a bit off ( French or
Flemish) and we had a bit of a time trying to find the hostel, but once there, we settled in and relaxed. The hostel was pretty decent, and Brent and I indulged in some Belgian beer, which we later found out was about 12%, and after a few had a nice buzz.

Anyways, the next day we decided to tour the city and set our for the Maniquan Pis. Of course, we took a right, instead of a left, and what should have been about a 10 min walk, turned in to an hour adventure....where eventually a homeless guy, who only spoke french gave us directions....and then asked for money! haha
Once we got to the city centre we saw some nice architecture, the main square was nice, and a couple of cool parks.....the Maniquan Pis, however, was a bitter disappointment. It was tiny, there were tons of people around it, and it was a waste of time.

Brussels was ok, but i won't be going back.


We then moved on to Maastricht, Netherlands to stay with yet another friend of Nat's, where she was doing an exchange course at the local university. It was nice to be in a small town, to really get the feel, and really understand that the Netherlands LOVE BICYCLES!!! It's retarded....only in Japan might they be matched!
Anyways, we did some fine drinking, and I was able to witness a large feat that night. We went to the local pub with students, and there was a challenge at the pub to drink 7 pints in one large glass. The fastest time went on the wall as a local hero and you won a shirt.....well, the first fellow failed miserably, however, the next guy ( both were Brits) was a powerhouse. He pieced together straws, and drank that way to get by the head/foam. He accomplished it in record time, and it was pretty funny to watch.
Maastricht was a good time, but won't be going back...

Finallyyyy, AMSTERDAM. Well, to be honest it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, to me. It was pretty cool, but at the same time really ordinary and a little overpriced? Maybe because we stayed in a shit hostel it didn't help out, but i dunno...i wasn't that impressed. The Van Gogh museum was pretty dope, I really enjoyed that. And of course it was interesting to go around the Red Light District at night and check all that out.....although it was weird seeing elderly couples just strolling around and checking it out too! We also had an entertaining discussion after Nat gave us his opinions on the streetlights and traffic and how it relates to a jungle...a suburban jungle and each entity was it's own animal....yes, quite humorous if you were there. The worst thing about it was that I didn't take ONE picture!! what the hell is the matter with me ?


All in all Amsterdam was cool, but still not sure, I'd go back for sure to give it another shot!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Cup of Tea in England



Once we departed the Emerald Isle, we took a short flight over to Leeds, England, where we'd then go on to Hull to stay with a few of Nat's friends. One of the funniest stories of the whole trip happened during our bus ride through Leeds. Nat was educating me and Brent on the "chaf" situation in England (he had just finished working in a summer camp in the UK), and we were on a "chaf" look out. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is your typical "greaseball/skiv/white trash/etc" Think of a soccer hooligan, with a track suit and sneakers.

Anyways, as our bus came to a bus stop, there was a group of about 8-10 of these unsightly characters, however the wise busey decided he'd have none of it, so just as about those rascals stepped on the bus, he shut the doors and drove off, while the chafs were yelling and hitting the bus. It was a pretty sweet introduction! haha

Anyways, we got to Hull, and met the ppl whose house we'd be staying at. It was pretty quiet, and we really didn't do much other than get drunk and check out the university there. I guess it was cool to see a different part of England, but not a place that I will ever go back to.

From there we made our way down to Bristol via bus. I liked Bristol a lot. Again, we stayed with a friend of Nat. The first night we hit up a uni party, and I was able to direct us back home, hammered....well within a block, which I still gloat about today. The next day we just walked around the city, checked out all the sites and then were off to London.

London is awesome. Even though it is very expensive, it's definitely worth the money and I will definitely go back. I really enjoyed just walking around the city and checking everything out! It's exactly what you expect, but also really damn cool too. We stayed in a good hostel near Hyde park called the Smart Hyde Park Hostel ( nice place, tiny rooms, but ok and nice location! Also throw in free breaky too). Once there we spent 3 days of being ultimate sightseer's of course hit up all the sites ( Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Trafalagar Square, Nat'l Art Museum, Prince Albert Mem. Hall, Princess Diana's Mem. Fountain, Etc). London is just a cool city. I also really liked the Monty Python's "Spamaelot" that we went to see. It was pretty damn funny and an all around good show and cheap ticket! We also met up with Nat's friend Matthew, who showed us around some of London for one of the days. Unfortunately, there were no crazy stories that I can remember from here...Brent and Nat, I need your help! haha

Essentially, England is what I expected, and I will definitely go back. Next time I'll hopefully be able to catch a Premiership Match.