Sunday, February 28, 2010

DEERS Enrollment, US Embassy Manila -- 11.04.09

Having a husband always has its benefits. Not only do you have a life partner, a best friend and a lover all rolled into one, but also you get to officially spend the rest of your life with him.

What's even better is that you also get to be a dependent to health benefits for having an active duty military spouse.

In order to receive such benefits, the sponsor must immediately enroll/register eligible family members to Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). After family members are registered, they can update personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.

The only way for us to accomplish this task is to rush down US Embassy Manila to have myself registered in their database. We were not able to immediately go to the embassy on the day after the wedding, which we originally have planned, because they only process such applications on the 1st Wednesday of each month. It was fortunate for us to have our wedding fall a week earlier, like things fell really in its place.


So we planned the embassy visit and set the date for November 4. Again, we woke up during the wee hours of morning to be able to queue up at the gates along Roxas boulevard at around 5AM. Luckily, D was second in line specifically for American citizens, while I simply stayed at the Starbucks across the embassy for my morning coffee. This was also the day when the 2010 Starbucks Planner was launched. Hence, I got a free sticker for being one of the first customers! :)

At around 6:30am, I went to where D was lined up as they would be opening the gates at 7:00AM. If you're wondering why we have to put up with this is because they only process applications on a first-come-first served basis. US Embassy Manila is one of the busiest US embassies in the world so just imagine how many people would queue up each day to have visa applications and other consular services processed.

It is important to bring your passport when entering the US embassy for identification purposes, otherwise, you will not be allowed to get inside.

You are to bring at least 2 valid IDs (not really required, but recommended), other than the passport. Why?

  1. Electronic devices such as cellphones are not allowed inside. One must leave electronic gadgets at the front desk, along with a valid ID, and a claim stub will be given. Now, you wouldn't want your passport to be your claim stub just for your stuff, wouldn't you? (**UPDATE: leaving electronic gadgets are NOT ALLOWED anymore, so don't bring them). 
  2. The Social Security and Veterans' Affairs section would ask you to leave an ID and a visitor's pass/ID will be given upon entering its premises.
You may bring your SSS, TIN or any of the government-recognized valid IDs, so that you can still keep your passport with you.

Most importantly, a personal appearance by the sponsor (in this case, my husband), is a must. Not bringing your sponsor may give you A LOT of additional requirements.


We needed to go to window 3 in the Social Security and Veteran's Affairs section for the DEERS/RAPIDS ID Card. Again, they're open on a 'first come, first served' basis, with only limited slots available.  They would normally allow only 30 applicants per day. It was indeed vital to get included in those 30 slots, otherwise, you'd have to wait another month to get this done. Much to my delight, we were 3rd in queue. Their office officially opens at 8:00am, but you are free get in the embassy by 7:00am. (**UPDATE: Now, you will have to schedule for an APPOINTMENT by going to http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwhju18.html. All the UPDATED information are there, but most are still pretty much the same).

Make sure to bring along valid documents to prove your relationship. You are required to bring your NSO copy of the birth certificate. Recently married couples also need to present the ORIGINAL copy of the marriage certificate. They do accept even the one that came from the Local Civil Registry (LCR), as long as it's original. The ID guy will only ask you to come back some other time with an original copy in case you just brought a photocopied one, and nothing else could be done. At window itself, they will use a scanner to save the document(s) in their database. Your spouse also must bring their DOD (Department of Defense) ID/Military ID to complete the process. There is absolutely NO FEE for the ID card, and it will be issued the same day.

Specimen only, but this is the very card I currently have
(source: http://whfrtc.ky.gov/iddeers/teslin.htm)

Who may avail?

The following personnel are eligible for DOD ID Cards: Active duty members, retired members, and members of the Reserve components not on active duty in excess of 30 days. Retired Reserve members who have reached their 60th birthday. Family members of military sponsors on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days. Family members of Ready Reserve (Selected, Individual and Standby Reservists) Family members of Retired Reservists, who have qualified for retired pay at age 60, yet have not reached age 60. Un-remarried or unmarried former spouses previously enrolled in DEERS. Medal of Honor recipients and their eligible family members. One hundred percent disabled veterans (DAVs) and their family members. Former members having reached age 60 and in recipient of retired pay for non-regular service, and their family members. Also eligible are survivors of the following: Active duty members. Retired with pay members. Reserve members on active or inactive duty. Retired reserve members who qualify for pay at age 60 but die before reaching age 60. One hundred percent DAVs. Medal of Honor Recipients. "Please note that DAVs MUST HAVE A COMBINED RATING OF 100% TO BE ELIGIBLE!!! DAVs receiving 100% because of unemployable status but your combined rating falls below 100% are not eligible, No exceptions will be made. (Source: http://www.dav3philippines.com/DEERS.htm)

Now I can use TRICARE and freely enter and exit military bases, commissaries, and other facilities!

All questions may be directed to (63) (2) 524-2227 on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Calls placed outside of these times will not be entertained. The workstation will be closed on all weekends and U.S. and Philippine federal holidays.

For more tips in planning a trip to the US Embassy in Manila, and to see how our first visit went, click here.


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Lunch with the in-laws -- 11.03.09

What better way for us newlyweds to spend our 101st month as a couple was to spend it with the in-laws. They actually requested an available time where we could simply "hang out" without the other extended family members. Unfortunately, my parents were not able to join since they were on a trip to New Zealand. Oh well!

We went to Greenbelt in Makati to give them a tour around, and to search for the resto that we could all try for the first time. You see, D and his parents lived in the Middle East (Riyadh) for about 8 years and they practically missed having food that they all came to love.So we finally decided to give Gilak by Hossein a try.



And boy, we were not disappointed at all! Fine dining, with a Persian flair!


It was a feast indeed, a Persian feast! We had lamb, kebabs, curry, some of that Persian rice (I forgot the term, but it's quite similar to Riyadh's kabsa).The food was authentically exquisite (at least that's what I thought it was), and was also glad that D's folks liked it as well.

Gilak by Hossein is located at Greenbelt 3, 2nd Level (across Bubba Gump).

For complete photos:


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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quickie NBI Renewal Kiosk at Megamall

You would usually see a lot of people queued up to the top floor of SM Megamall only to find them renewing their NBI clearance. I was one of those unfortunate few who had to go all the way up to the 5th floor since D needed my clearance as part of his requirements in the marriage package. Coming from a night shift, I did everything I could to stay up -- counted the minutes when the line budged, tried to listen songs off my iPod, and counted the flight of steps. It was about 10 or 11AM when I came and imagine how exhausting the heat could get during this time.

But really, it didn't take that long for me to have the entire thing done, and how relieved I was that they didn't have lunch breaks. If my memory serves me right, it took about 30-45 minutes from top floor all the way down to the basement. With eyes already droopy and so wanting to go home, getting the piece of paper was all that mattered.

Just yesterday, I once again had to embark the same routine as I need this as part of my  Japan visa requirements as well as for my US CR1 visa to be presented during my final interview, and to my surprise this was what I saw at around 5:00pm:
Note: The people seated are maybe just resting

Maybe not everyone knows that they serve the public from 10:00am UNTIL 6:30pm. (**UPDATE: They are ONLY OPEN from Mon-Fri). Anyway, the entire thing took me barely 5 minutes (walking down the basement included!) since there were like 2-3 people lined up. So when renewing your NBI clearance, it is more comfortable to do it outside office hours.

So each time I needed to renew, it had to be 4:30 onwards to avoid that dreaded long line! I tried renewing at around 4PM and had reached the first flight of steps at least.

Remember, NBI Kiosks such as the one in Megamall only processes renewals only on weekdays (Mon-Fri from mall opening till 6PM). New applicants should go directly to the head office or satellite offices. Make sure to bring your personal copy of the old NBI clearance and prepare PHP115.00. Kiosks accepts renewal of clearance applied from 1998 to present provided that barcode is still clear and readable by the computer. They could accept changes only in address and purpose of clearance.

For changes in NAME, DATE OF BIRTH and PLACE OF BIRTH, you are advised to come personally at the NBI Clearance Center or in any NBI Satellite Office to fill-up a new application form and attach a photocopy of your birth certificate (source: NBI). There is actually 1 satellite office in Mandaluyong city hall complex. To read my NBI experience at the Mandaluyong City hall, click here.

Having the task done, I was able to spend more leisure time for myself. I so missed Japan so I decided to have this as my late-lunch-early-dinner meal:

I know right? Bento meals here are not be as good as the ones I had during my trip, but it would have to do. I just found the Fuji Apple sauce in my Tonkatsu a little too strong for my taste, and the meat was not tender at all. I am not having it again.

Don't get me wrong, maybe it was a bad batch. I did still find the veggies buttery just as I like it. Maybe it's just me and my taste. So there!

For more information about securing your NBI clearance, visit http://www.nbi.gov.ph/faq.htm



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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Status Update: US Petition (ii)

D & S's Timeline
 


Civil Wedding, Mandaluyong City Hall

Submitted Paperwork for Petition

Case forwarded to US Embassy Manila 

October 26, 2009

December 16, 2009

 February 25, 2010


November 4, 2009

January 25, 2010



DEERS Applications and ID

Form I-130 Approved




It really had to be exactly a month from the time that i-130 was approved. lol

Manila is "one of the largest and busiest consular operations in the world." (source: US Embassy Manila), so I'm really hoping they'd put greater care since D is an active mil personnel, who may get deployed at any time (huhu!).

Keeping my fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spa sesh at Taj of Tagaytay -- 11.01.09

After hours of food tripping within Tagaytay, D and I finally went back to the Taj of Tagaytay B&B for our spa appointment.

This Middle Eastern-inspired B&B is situated just right after the town proper and Tagaytay zoo. But an easier landmark would be after the "fruit arch" along the highway in Tagaytay. You definitely won't miss it.

As we stepped inside, I saw a lot of Indian-Middle Eastern articles all over. However, I was not able to feel much the ambiance because of the cross-mix of Halloween and Christmas decorations during the time of our visit. Besides, were they really expecting guests on all saints day though they say they're open 24/7?

However, the waiting area felt cozy with D by my side (cheesy much!)

For a list of their services, you can click here. It may seem a bit pricey but hey, who would get to have a spa treatment with Taal volcano as your view? We had an hour for foot spa, 1 hour Swedish massage, and another hour for the body scrub. Sweet! 

I could tell that D really relaxed and enjoyed it, and here's proof: 
Really made me happy seeing him all relaxed (and snoring). Priceless.

I simply wanted to have a shot of myself in the toilet simply because of the pink-coated walls!

Being energized and fully revitalized right after, I suggested that we drive over to the convent of the Pink Sisters -- having been inspired to the pink walls on the spa. Haha! D hasn't been there, so it suddenly became a must-see place. I was also excited to make him taste the cloister cookies also being sold there at the convent.

The place was quite serene and quiet. We thought it was a beautiful place to have a church wedding there. It's such a shame that they do not allow such. Oh well...


Unfortunately, it was past 4 and the convent's store had closed. So instead, we prayed and D made a wish, as part of a ritual for first timers of a certain church. After a few snips, and we headed back home.

What were the activities that you did in Tagaytay? You can share them with me for future travels. :)

For more pics: 
 

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Classified Odd -- Japanese airline takes toilet etiquette to new heights

From http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/

TOKYO – Japan's All Nippon Airways, which has asked passengers to visit the toilet before boarding to help the environment, said Tuesday it will fit its jets with a women-only lavatory.

ANA will introduce one female-only toilet per aircraft on international flights next month after a survey of women fliers identified it as the second most attractive service they wished for after being offered desserts.

The rest of the toilets onboard will be for men and women as usual.

"We received many comments that having a women-only lavatory would be a factor in differentiating our airline from others," said an ANA spokesman.

"Many women said that they feel uncomfortable taking their time in the lavatory knowing that a male is waiting just behind them in line," he said.

The spokesman denied that the new service was introduced following complaints about men soiling the bathrooms, telling AFP: "Those opinions may exist, but we do not have that data on hand."

Since 2006 ANA has pursued a one-month awareness campaign each year in which it asks domestic fliers to visit the bathroom before boarding to reduce their body weight and therefore cut the plane's carbon-dioxide emissions.

The airline is also planning to install "washlets" in its aircraft -- electric toilet seats with water sprays for washing -- a common sight in Japan and generally a source of amusement for first-time visitors and users.

The "washlets" will be installed in the Boeing 777-300ER, due to begin operating in April, and the Boeing 787 fleet set to start flying this year.

**********************

On a side note:

Oooh! I so love those toilet seats in Japan. There's this function where you could set the seat on "warm", so it makes it comfortable to sit on. Since the weather was a bit chilly during my visit, the toilet would have to be "the sanctuary".

This is the only toilet where I could dare sit like a queen, unlike when I'm in Manila! Also, I took advantage of the water sprays -- really helpful indeed during my time of need! Need I say more? lol

Posts about my Okinawa trip to follow. :)

Arigatou.

ありがとう





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Food and Road Trip in Tagaytay -- 11.01.09


Since it's my turn to be a grown up, D and I now have the chance and privilege to just go wherever our feet, our curiosity (and car) could take us - just the two of us. We went to Tagaytay because it was a place where we haven't been to as a married couple, and have not fully explored what it had to offer.

The Tagaytay Fruit Arch (or what I at least call)

It was a fine Sunday morning, but I knew we had to get there early because of a possible traffic, and the fact that it was All Saints Day, we could wind up stuck somewhere on the South Expressway (SLEX), and my predictions were somehow correct. After that hour-long drive, we decided to have breakfast at the Pancake House at Paseo de Sta. Rosa. As expected, D ordered a local dish.

Beef Tapa, yum!

One other reason why we went to Tagaytay was because D wanted to relax in a spa. Our trip to Boracay made him realize what he's been missing. So, okay!

We drove off to the Taj of Tagaytay (along Aguinaldo Highway) to have an appointment, though they also accept walk-ins. I mean who would have an appointment on All Saint's Day anyway? However, there was only one therapist available at the time, and we had two hours to wait for 2 therapists.
 

"Yay! 2 hours of road tripping!"

D and I quickly left the place, and thought of having coffee at Breakfast at Antonio's, just to let time pass before lunch time. The long drive from the highway makes you want to feel lost and hopeless along the way, until you find this huge gate where the excitement kicks right back in.

 

It has been known for its very relaxed and elegant setting.  No wonder people flocked to the place! It's colonial America-inspired interiors makes the ambiance quite nostalgic, and homey at the same time. It felt like visiting relatives in an ancestral home! Its elegance can be described by the grand chandeliers, the servers' black and white long-sleeved uniforms, and the grand antique collections that adorned the entire place.

 
I knew I should have taken more b&w and sepia pics of the resto so that I'd end up looking at a photo that came off an old folk's album.

After lounging and talking, D decided to have lunch somewhere else, so okay! The road trip was on!

We went back to Aguinaldo highway looking for good places to eat. We had already gone to Leslie's before and I don't think we need be in Tagaytay to eat Yellow Cab, Jollibee or any resto we could likewise find back home. So we finally landed to Bag of Beans since it was also along the Aguinaldo Highway.


I always knew this place was just a bakery and coffee shop, but I was dead wrong -- well, somewhat. It indeed has its own separate bakery upfront as in the picture above, but if you move towards the left, you'll find the stairs leading to the main entrance of the coffee shop and restaurant.


Starving and all, D and I went down and sat at a non-smoking area, which is similar to a small cottage. The smoking area, on the other hand, would have to be the dining areas all located outside the cottage. This time, the place has a country-style feel -- quite appropriate in breezy Tagaytay.

This bakery turns out to have a wide menu of food choices after all, and we were not disappointed with the servings at all. D's steak was tender, as well as the fish fillet that I had. Perfect!

What I didn't like about the place was that they allowed solicitations from Club Astoria where they make you sign some stubs for a "free raffle", which was sort of a scam anyway. More details are found here.

Other than that, it was a fantastic way for us newlyweds to enjoy life.


...and this ain't the best part yet...

Post for the spa sesh, click here!

More pics here!


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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do You Remember - Jay Sean

Do You Remember Jay Sean Feat. Lil Jon and Sean

Hey! Jay Sean
Yeah! Sean Paul
Lil Jon!
This one right here is for all the ladies
Ladies who want to take it back
(i don’t know what Sean Paul said)
Holler at them Jay

I’ve been thinking about you
And how we used to be then
Back when we didn’t have to live we could start again

There’s nothing left to say
Don’t waste another day
Just you and me tonight
Everything will be okay
If it’s alright with you then it’s alright with me
Baby let’s take this time let’s make new memories

Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back

(Yo Jay Sing for these ladies!)

So long since you’ve been missing
It’s good to see you again
How you how you doing
And how about we don’t let this happen again

There’s nothing left to say
Don’t waste another day
Jay Sean Do You Remember
Just you and me tonight
Everything will be okay
If it’s alright with you then it’s alright with me
Baby let’s take this time let’s make new memories

Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back!)

Yo ay girl yo bring it back to the time when you and me had just begun
When I was still your number one
Well it might seem far-fetched baby girl but it can’t be done
I’ve got this feeling fire blazing and it’s hot just like the sun
Know you feel it too my girl just freeze up may the good vibes run …
Girl take a sip of the champange take a lil trip down my lane my girl
While you noe every night you’ll feel alright look I tell you dis girl atta My world
Dont change imma na Rearange Ay girl imma tell you straight dis atta my world
How many years do you want come kiss dis I know you miss this
That’s what I heard that’s what I heard that’s what I heard word girl

There’s nothing left to say
Don’t waste another day
Just you and me tonight
Everything will be okay
If it’s alright with you then it’s alright with me
Baby let’s take this time let’s make new memories

Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Do you remember do you remember do you remember
All of the times we had
Let’s bring it back (Let’s bring it back)
Let’s bring it back (Bring it back)
Let’s bring it back (Let’s bring it back)
Let’s bring it back (Oh)
Let’s bring it back



More Free Music at MP3-Codes.com






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Aux Break is now Online


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If you are a current or former member of the OD team, joining this community is a must in order to receive timely updates. I think by far this is an online community that has not been blocked by Sykes IT. Hehehe! So before it does, be sure to join. Everyone can share pictures, videos, or anything! There are also links for the agents' improvement, like English 101 or Train Yourself. You can find all the features on the profile page after signing up.


Even former agents and Sykes employees can dig in. All you need to do is just answer a quickie sign up form, and you're good to go. Customizing your page and domain name couldn't be any simpler.

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