Retiring My Site :(

I haven’t posted in a while; so I decided to retire my blog. I will still keep my posts here for posterity; because others may still find some older posts helpful. I have enjoyed writing for everyone who have referred to my site for travel advice, among others. It was really fun while it lasted.

Signing off. 😦

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My US Visa Experience: Part 2

Important Note: I applied for a NON-IMMIGRANT B1/B2 (Business/Tourism) CATEGORY VISA; so anything different from this particular subject will not be covered.

Schedule An Interview

  1. Go to this link: http://cgifederal.secure.force.com/
  2. Click on “New User?” and create an account.
  3. Once you have an account, log in and click on New Application/Schedule Appointment
  4. Follow the steps with the necessary information. Be ready with your passport details, Receipt Number and Application ID.
  5. Select the date and time of the interview.
  6. Select the method of delivery. I chose to pick it up at a 2Go outlet near me; but you may opt to have it delivered straight to your home/office. The delivery is already covered in the application fee; so there’s no need to pay for this anymore.
  7. Schedule the appointment.
  8. An Appointment Confirmation will be generated. Print this out. You may also have a copy sent to your email address.

I M P O R T A N T !

There’s a grace period before your application fee payment/Receipt Number goes through the system. Refer to this page http://ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-niv-paymentinfo.asp under Scheduling Your Interview for full details on the timelines.

T I P !

Unless you’re really confident and complete with your supporting documents, I suggest scheduling the interview at least three weeks from submission of the DS-160 form. That way, you have enough time to gather all the documents you may want to bring to the interview. But this might, of course, turn out to be unnecessary. More on that later.

Go to The Interview

  1. Bring the following:
    1. Appointment Confirmation (all pages)
    2. Original MRV Fee Receipt: Php7680 Deposit Slip Confirmation
    3. Valid Passport
    4. DS-160 Confirmation Page
    5. 2×2 Photo
    6. supporting documents proving socio-economic ties to the country. Here’s what I brought:
      1. old passport
      2. latest ITR
      3. bank certificate
      4. employment certificate
      5. credit card statements from two accounts for the past 3 months
  2. Arrive at the US Embassy Consul at least 15 minutes before your scheduled interview. There’s no need to arrive hours and hours before your schedule to line up.

T I P S !

  • You are not allowed to unload people right in front of the US Embassy. I suggest you park/be dropped off where Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is (Avenue of the Arts, 1388 Roxas Blvd corner Sta. Monica Street) and get across via the overpass.
  • If your appointment is really early, you will see a bunch of monoblock chairs situated near the entrance to the tents. Those aren’t free. That’s Php30 for a seat. It’s cheap; but I sat without knowing I had to pay for the chair. Oh well… had to pay up.
  • Do not bring any electronic or battery-operated device, big bags/backpacks, anything with an on/off switch, any flame generating device or sharp objects. They are very strict with this. There are people outside who are willing to hold your valuable items for a fee.
  • There are people offering to sell black ballpens as well. You don’t need these. Don’t buy.
  • If you arrive around 30-45 minutes before your scheduled interview, I suggest you go ahead and enter the first barricade. Chances are there’s already a line that has formed waiting for the go signal to enter.
  • US Embassy personnel will put up signs giving notice as to which schedule is already being processed (ex. Now Processing Non-immigrant Visa 7:00am). Once your schedule is up, people are led to the first security check.

Continue reading “My US Visa Experience: Part 2”

My US Visa Experience: Part 1

Important Note: I applied for a NON-IMMIGRANT B1/B2 (Business/Tourism) CATEGORY VISA; so anything different from this particular subject will not be covered.

A number of bloggers have shared their personal US Visa stories online; and they’ve been really helpful to me. I promised myself that if successful, I will pay it forward and share my story as well. Hopefully, my own experience will help someone out in successfully obtaining a US Tourist Visa.

First, a little about myself just so you have an idea of my profile:

  • single
  • no children
  • 31 years old
  • no immediate family in the US
  • applying alone
  • working in the same company for almost a decade
  • 5-figure monthly salary
  • traveled to a number of countries within Asia: Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Japan

For the first five details I shared, I am someone usually categorized as a “high-risk” candidate – one who is most likely to go TNT and not come back to the Philippines. However, the last three details prove my strong economic ties to the country and my love for travel. What’s not on paper, though, is that I genuinely just want to go to the US for sight-seeing. I believe this is a big part of what made my application result in an approval. I will elaborate on this more once I share my interview experience.

To be as comprehensive as possible, I will start from the beginning… from deciding to apply all the way to picking up my Visa/passport. In between, I will share some tips or insights I picked up along the way.

Deciding to Apply

During early May, my brother mentioned an exhibition he’s planning to attend in Las Vegas late this year. He also mentioned wanting to visit Silicon Valley during that same trip. I suddenly became very interested. I’ve been wanting to go to the US for a long time – Hollywood, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Golden Gate Bridge, Grand Canyon (the list goes on and on)… and that’s just in the west coast! Why don’t I tag along? I certainly feel like I could set aside enough money in time for the trip. I also felt like I’m not getting any younger, right? It’s time.

After a quick Google Maps search, a trip from San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge, Silicon Valley) to Los Angeles (Hollywood!! Harry Potter!!!) to Las Vegas (main reason for the trip where the exhibition will be, near Grand Canyon) is very feasible. The idea just sounded better and better the more I thought about it. My head just kept on thinking, “Why not? Just take the plunge. Try to apply for a tourist visa. The worst that could happen is that I would be denied and the money I could potentially save will go towards a different trip.”

And with that, I decided to apply for that infamous and allegedly elusive US Visa.

Continue reading “My US Visa Experience: Part 1”

Year-End Thanksgiving

A lot of tragedies happened this year, both for the country and the world. There’s no need to expound on this fact; but we felt it… the sadness, the anger, the helplessness, the fear… That is why for my year-end reflection, I’ll do my best to turn things around and focus on what I’m thankful for this 2013. I’ll also keep it short and sweet; so we could quickly move forward and welcome 2014 with a positive attitude.

I’m thankful that my family is healthy, happy and safe from harm. I’m thankful for the home that I live in, the comforts that I am able to enjoy, and the simple luxuries that I could afford. It allows me time to take a break despite life’s stresses; and I’m able to feel secure knowing that the people in my life are doing okay.

I’m thankful for my health. The past year has been a constant and conscious effort for me to maintain the weight that I lost in 2012. I’m happy to say that the weight has been off and I’ve lost a couple more pounds by the end of the year. The next year will be all about finally reaching my goal and keeping that healthy weight for good.

I’m thankful for my personal growth. I’ve traveled some more this year, both to familiar and unfamiliar places. I’m grateful to have had these trips, which gave me wonderful life experiences that I will remember forever. I’m also thankful for the many challenges that work has thrown my way. It has definitely made me stronger and allowed me to grow in an industry that never fails to surprise me every step of the way. I’m looking forward to more curve balls in the near future.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the love that surrounds me every day. I know that it’s corny; but I really feel so blessed to be around people that genuinely care about each other. The laughter and joy that comes with it just keeps me going every day. As a bonus, it pushes me to pay it forward and help out others as much as I can.

I’m very grateful for the year that was. I’m very hopeful for the year to come. Here’s to a wonderful New Year! Let’s do it!

The Veronica Mars Movie Project: Thoughts of A Proud Backer

With less than an hour to go, the Veronica Mars Movie Project has broke all the possible records on Kickstarter: (1) fastest past $1,000,000, (2) fastest past $2,000,000 and (3) most number of backers (now over 90,000 and still counting). As a true marshmallow, I of course backed this project, no questions asked.

I'm a backer!
I’m a backer!

Needless to say, the past month has been really exciting for a fan like me. (Heck, the first few hours when we already hit the $2,000,000 mark was absolutely insane!) Having loved this series from the very beginning and writing about the show a number of times on my old blog, the reality of having a Veronica Mars movie to look forward to is just plain exhilarating. Seeing the numbers continue to rise day by day has been both believable yet unbelievable at the same time. Now that it’s ending, I just want to say a few things.

As a backer, having a hand at making this happen is rewarding in itself. The shirt, DVD, etc are just icing on the cake. I’ve long believed that Veronica Mars fans are some of the most rabid, enthusiastic and awesome people ever. Now, we have solid proof of our numbers and our deep pockets… Pockets that reveal themselves when something like this is at stake… even if the show ended over five years ago. I love you guys!!!

In a few more minutes, the project is about to go off the ground. The screenplay has been written; and cast members are slowly getting on board. I just want to say that I understand the pressure Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell and company must be feeling right now… the pressure to deliver the best possible movie that would make all this worth it (for us fans and for them). As far as I’m concerned, though, I have complete faith in their ability to come up with something amazing with the funds that they’ve raised… so no need to worry about little ‘ol me! Just go make that movie!

Anyway, I know this would just be a blip in the radar since I’m not some high profile VM fan… But I want to say THANK YOU:
– to Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring and the rest of the cast: for loving this show and this character so much that you never gave up on it. You continued to fight in bringing her back and thought up ways to make it happen even if very few believed how AWESOME and NUMEROUS the fans are.
to Kickstarter: for being such an awesome site that makes projects like these a reality.
– last but not the least, to all the fans worldwide: for the nonstop support and continued LoVe for all things Veronica Mars. I’m so proud to be one of you. You guys are the BEST EVER!

Surviving 2012

We all survived the end of the world. Again.

WRONG. I SURVIVED!
WRONG. I SURVIVED!

It’s been a looming prophecy since the movie came out over two years ago. I didn’t watch it, by the way. And face it, we all thought it’s a bit ridiculous that a group of people who weren’t able to predict their own extinction would be able to foresee the end of the world as we know it. Still, recent natural disasters made me think, “What if?” What if the world were to end suddenly? I didn’t really consider this thought as a major driving force in my life this year; but this teeny tiny possibility pushed me to make the most out of 2012 while I’m still young, kicking and very much alive. I’m pretty sure you know of these life lessons; but I’m sharing them with you anyway.

It’s never too late for a transformation.
Frustration over my physical health pushed me to change my body this 2012. I’m proud to say that I’ve lost a significant amount of weight over the past few months. I’m almost at my goal; but at this point, I’m already happy with what these changes brought out of me: more confidence and more self-control. As a bonus, I am loving shopping again! RTW sizes fit again! A bunch of old clothes I kept are being used again! It just feels good!
In 2013. I’m looking forward to finally achieving a healthy and stable weight and keeping it off for good. Also, I’ve started experimenting with new styles of clothing and hopefully, I’d be able to adapt and pull off a new look by next year. Time to change some more!

These ladies get to bond a lot!
These ladies get to bond a lot!

Keep in touch.
Always make an effort to keep in touch with old friends. I’m happy to still be planning meet-ups with my high school and college friends after 10 years. After all, catching up on Facebook just isn’t the same as catching up over lunch and gossiping about what your batch mates have been up to. Even if you don’t see each other as often as the girls in Sex and the City do, a get-together once or twice a year is enough to keep the ties tightly bound.
In 2013. More meet-ups and bonding, hopefully… A group trip, perhaps?

Chocolate Hills, Bohol -- woohoo!
Chocolate Hills in Bohol — woohoo!

Get out there and travel!
I traveled more than ever this year. Let’s see… Singapore, Hong Kong, Misibis Bay, Boracay, Batangas, Bohol… All beautiful places. With every trip, I am reminded again and again how awesome it is to take a break and see what’s outside the confines of Metro Manila.
In 2013. I’m in the process of planning my first out-of-SEA (Southeast Asia) trip. I just need to get my stuff in order. I’m also going back to Singapore with an intention to make a quick stop to Legoland Malaysia. It’s going to be totally awesome!!!

Wicked -- before the show started.
Wicked — before the show started.

Watch a bunch of shows.
I’m not just talking about TV shows or movies. I’ve never regretted plopping down cash for a good concert or theatrical performance. This year was off to a good start when I dropped everything and flew to Singapore just to watch Wicked. Hearing “Defying Gravity” live for the first time seriously brought tears to my eyes. It was a truly amazing experience. Aside from that, I screamed for NKOTBSB, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga and Foster the People. Of course, I had my share of regrets: missing Katy Perry in concert and Phantom of the Opera. Never mind. There’s always next year!
In 2013. More foreign acts worth watching, I hope.

2013, Here I Come!
I haven’t completely visualized 2013 for me; but I’m looking forward to it. I just need to internalize my resolutions and actually COMMIT to them. Here’s to more (life) experiences and more changes (for the better)!

Happy New Year!