9.11.2020

The Strangest Dream I Ever Had

The Strangest Dream I Ever Had



I had a dream a while back that was like no other dream I have had in my life.

It was very confusing and took me some time thinking about it to begin to figure it out.

Still not sure I have.

There were two people in the beginning. But it is more complicated than that. It was my mother and father and they were young. They both looked like movie stars from the golden age of cinema when they were younger. Everything fell apart for them later in life, including their marriage. In the dream they were glamorous and they were on a train. 

I said it was complicated. My wife and I were there too, but it is like we were somehow co-mingled with my parents. It was only our minds. So there were the physical bodies of my parents and our four minds and it was like we were all one.

My mother spoke to my father as they were seated on the train. She said, "Where did the time go?"

My father replied, "here."

My mother said again, "why does it sow so long?"

I knew that she meant "sow" as in sowing seeds and I am not sure, but I think she was talking about time.

The next thing I knew my parents (all of us) were standing near the exit of the train and my daughter was outside the door and she was maybe twenty years older than she is now.  

My daughter was a bit excited as she said "we are so getting out of this place!" 

That was it.

Later that day I realized that it was the anniversary of my mother's death. 

The dream could be a pun about sowing time. I looked it up and in the Bible the time of sowing is around the autumnal equinox, which is nearly upon us. 


9.01.2020

2020 Philippines Census: Expats Count

2020 Philippines Census




It Is Census Time Again In The Philippines


Census taker was one of the hats I wore when I was working through college. I am well aware of the very common antipathy for filling out the Census questionnaire.

Did you know that in the US you can be fined for refusing to fill out the Census questionnaire?

The Philippines also takes the Census very serious, so serious in fact that Section 25 of  Republic Act 10625 is referred to twice on the front of the Census questionnaire:
Obligation to Provide Information. – The National Statistician shall determine whether a statistical inquiry or survey to be conducted is with or without an obligation to provide information. If such obligation is stipulated, all respondents whether natural or legal persons shall be liable to reply to the statistical inquiry or survey. This section applies to all statistical inquiries or surveys conducted by other statistical offices in the PSS.
A lot of times the Census takers like to sit down with each individual and fill out the form. The Census taker will probably be someone you know who is from your own community, so they will probably let you have a copy to fill out at home at your leisure. 

There is nothing too invasive about any of the questions, but I understand the appeal to personal privacy that some people may put up. 

Still, responding to the Census is the law of the land and as the front page of the questionnaire states, under RA 10173 data privacy does not apply to the material you are asked to disclose for the Census.

Your answers are confidential, but like I said there is nothing too juicy in there. Your neighbors probably all know that you have a flush toilet and a fridge.

After you complete the process, the Census taker will place a sticker on your residence noting that you have been counted.   

8.28.2020

Philippines Expat Guide To Returning To The USA

Philippines Expat Guide To Returning To The USA





Table Of Contents:

 

Things Change


Have you been living in the Philippines for five or ten years?.

Has you US state driver's license expired?

Have you cancelled your US credit cards? Do you know what your current credit profile looks like?

Many things can change what we thought was a permanent move to the Philippines.

Maybe you have a son or daughter who will go to college in the US. 

Or maybe you just decided that you want to work again.

Returning to the US after a decade living in the Philippines can be a challenge.

Before you move to the Philippines you should a contingency plan for a return to the United States, because everything changes with time. 

You Will Need Credit To Travel


Don't wait until the last minute to consider your credit profile. It can take a long time to fix a problem that you don't even know that you have.

Do you have a low credit limit. Do you have bad credit? Do you know? I suggest getting acquainted with your credit report and score.

Don't wait. You should be doing that now.

It could take anywhere from days all the way to eternity to get your credit shaped up for a trip back to the US, depending upon your situation.

If your credit profile is in particularly poor shape or you do not have any active credit accounts, then you may need to start building it up with a secured credit card:
A secured credit card is a type of credit card secured by a deposit account owned by the cardholder. Typically, the cardholder must deposit between 100% and 200% of the total amount of credit desired. Thus if the cardholder puts down $1,000, they will be given credit in the range of $500–1,000. In some cases, credit card issuers will offer incentives even on their secured card portfolios. In these cases, the deposit required may be significantly less than the required credit limit, and can be as low as 10% of the desired credit limit. This deposit is held in a special savings account. Credit card issuers offer this because they have noticed that delinquencies were notably reduced when the customer perceives something to lose if the balance is not repaid.
After a few years of little to no activity on your credit report you become an unknown risk to the card companies. Credit cards that you maintained a good payment history with will give your credit rating a boost for up to ten years after having been closed. The bad ones only stay on the record for seven years. 

A secured card is one of your options when you have few credit options. It may take a year or two but you can build that initial secured card with a $500 limit into a couple of unsecured cards with a $10,000 limit or more.

A $10,000 credit limit is the low end of what I would consider as necessary for a return to the states (augmented by cash reserves and ongoing income). More would be better. You need to determine what you need and start working to get your credit limit and cash reserves up to that number.

Most of the big ticket items involved with return to the states require a credit card or work a lot easier with one than without one.

estimate of return cost

Rental Car Insurance


The collision damage waiver and liability insurance that rental car companies offer at the time of your rental can be a little pricey. Normally, you would be covered by the insurance that you have on your daily driver auto. However, if you have been living in the Philippines for years that likely does not apply.

Many credit cards will provide the collision damage waiver as a free benefit if you book the rental with the card. You need to become well acquainted with the fine print in your card’s policies regarding what is and is not covered by the “free” CDW that comes with your card. And remember that you still need liability coverage.

Keep in mind that if you do damage the rental car you will have to settle that cost before you can file any claim.

This is true even if it's the other guy's fault.

If you rent a $25,000 vehicle and total it, then you may be asked to settle that expense plus other costs with the rental company immediately. Can your card limit handle it?

Liability Insurance is at least as critical as CDW. I would not want to start off my return to the states by having to pay tens of thousands of dollars due to an accident for which I did not have liability insurance.

Rental Vehicle Insurance Options


Buy Insurance From The Rental Car Company


You can purchase liability and or collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance from the rental company. Each one will cost approximately $10 per day. Be sure to understand exactly what is and is not covered by each insurance option that you purchase.

Maintain A Non-Owner's Auto Insurance Policy


In advance of traveling to the US and perhaps before you ever come to the Philippines you could acquire a non-owner's auto insurance policy. Apparently, there are people who maintain this type of policy, while living overseas. Non-owners auto insurance could be useful for intermittent rentals and also to make it easier to transition to an owner's policy when you buy. 

Your driving record is a lot like your credit record and even more sensitive to a blank spot. After a few years of lapsed coverage the insurance companies may evaluate you as the same way that they reckon someone with no driving history. They have to account for an unknown risk and they will do that with higher premiums. A non-owners policy will keep you on the books so that you never fall into the category of unknown risk.

Buy A Car Online


Avoid the rental car and find a permanent vehicle on a site like Cars Direct or Cars.com.

You can pick three or four vehicles a few days before arrival and then make the final decision in person. Work with an insurance agent before you ever get to the US to ensure that you are fully covered before you leave the sales lot.

I did this before and Cars Direct even picked me up from the airport.

Long Term Rental Housing


Many landlords require that you have a minimum credit score. What if you pick out a nice place only to discover that the landlord requires you to have a minimum credit score of 700 and you do not even know what yours is? You can prevent that by maintaining your credit, while living in the Philippines.

In planning for long-term rental calculate enough cash to cover first month, last month and security deposit and be prepared to pay this in cash - just in case. 

Driver's License


I do not want my US license to expire leaving me with no license at all, so before that happens I need to go down to the LTO and apply for a Philippine driver's license.

I have been busy updating because LTO is 404-ing a lot of pages. Be aware that things change fast and frequently.

Requirements for conversion of a foreign driver's license:
  1. Duly accomplished Application for Driver's License (ADL) form;
  2. Original and one (1) photocopy of passport with entry date of at least one (1) month and visa duration of at least twelve (12) months from date of application; 
  3. Original and machine copy of valid visa or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) if the foreign applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines;
  4. Electronically transmitted medical certificate in LTO prescribed form (present original);
  5. Original and one (1) photocopy of valid foreign DL. If the foreign Driver’s License is not in English language, original and one (1) photocopy of official English translation; 
  6. Original copy of drug test result issued by DOH Accredited Drug Testing Center; 
The meaning of #2 above is that you must be in the Philippines at least one month before you apply for a license and when you apply you must have a visa that allows you to stay in the Philippines for at least one year beyond that date on which you are making your license application. This bars all temporary visas. If you do happen to slip through the cracks and get a license anyway beware. If you are stopped by the PNP they will probably seize your license.

If you are converting a foreign license that is valid, then no exams are required. If it is expired, then you will be subject to both practical and written exams.

In the US, when you apply for a license in a different state you must turn over your old license. This is NOT the case when you apply for a Philippine driver's license. Make sure that you get your US driver's license back.

The fee for conversion of a foreign driver's license is 752.63 PHP.

You can download the driver's license application or fill out a copy from your local LTO.

A Philippine driver's license is valid for five (5)years:
Non-professional driver's licenses, professional driver's licenses and conductor's licenses shall be valid and effective for five (5) consecutive years reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee, unless sooner revoked or suspended.
Note the statement, "reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee." If you want it to be valid for a full five years, then apply on your birthdate, because the timer begins on your last birthdate not your next birthdate.

In most locations the medical certificate is required to be transmitted online directly from the examining physician to LTO:
PUBLIC NOTICE
LTO System hard validation of medical certificates will start on February 4, 2019 (Monday) in the NCR.
LTO-IT System will automatically prohibit transactions requiring medical examination certificates unless such are electronically uploaded.
Please ensure that the doctors where you get your medical certificates has already uploaded it to the LTO IT System before you proceed to LTO Office with the hard copy.
You can check/look at the computer screen to make sure of the uploading in the LTO IT System.
There may still be some locations that have not yet adopted online transmission, but they will eventually all require it. I am hearing that the exam fee ranges 500-600PHP.

LTO does have an online appointment system, but if you visit that site you will see that in order to use it you must input your existing Philippines driver's license number. You will not be able to use the online system for your initial license.

Be sure to follow the dress code whenever you visit any LTO office:


To avoid being scammed or misled be sure to avoid fake LTO websites, email addresses and FaceBook pages. Check the official LTO FaceBook for a listing of all legitimate sites for LTO.

Staying current with a Philippine driver's license may not make it easier  to get a US state driver's license, but at least you will be able to use it temporarily to get around. Be prepared to take all of the tests for a state license if you want to keep your Philippine license. You will also be required to establish residency according to state laws before applying for a driver's license.

Keep in mind during this time of COVID that the LTO may turn you away if you are older than 59 years of age.

Emigration Clearance Certificate


If you have been in the Philippines for many years, as I have, then you will be required to obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate prior to leaving:
BI Spokesperson Elaine Tan said that based on airport statistics, foreign nationals who failed to present their ECCs comprised 33% of travelers who were denied departure. “It is unfortunate that we have to deny the travel of our foreign friends, but we have to implement the law”, Tan said.

Section 22-A of the Philippine Immigration Act provides that a foreign national who is about to depart from the Philippines temporarily or for good should seek clearance from the Commissioner of Immigration to insure that the foreign national has no pending obligation with the government of the Philippines.
Two Types Of ECC

The ECC-A is for those who are departing the Philippines permanently:
  • The following foreign nationals are required to secure regular ECCs at any of the 17 BI offices and present the same upon departure:
    • Holders of Temporary Visitor Visa (tourist visa) who have stayed in the Philippines for six months or more;
    • Holders of expired or downgraded immigrant or non-immigrant visas;
    • Holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who are leaving for good;
    • Philippine-born foreign nationals who will depart from the Philippines for the first time;
    • Holders of tourist visa with Order to Leave;
    • Seafarers who have stayed in the Philippines for 30 days or more.
  • Applications for regular ECCs shall be filed three days prior to departure and shall be valid for one month upon issuance. Foreign nationals must submit the following requirements upon filing of the application:
    • Application form;
    • Photocopy of passport (bio page, visa pages, latest arrival);
    • Original and photocopy of ACR I-Card;
    • Photocopy of receipt of latest visa extension;
    • Photocopy of order of downgrading (if applicable);
    • Five pieces 2x2 photo
According to BI Order No. SBM-2015-00, you may apply for your ECC-B at the airport if you:
a) Are leaving the country within twenty-four (24) hours and with Boarding Pass;
b) Stayed in the Philippines for six (6) months but not more than one (1) year;
c) Are a holder of a valid Temporary Visitor’s Visa (TVV);
d) Have no pending obligation with the Government, its instrumentalities, agencies and subdivisions, and have no pending criminal, civil or administrative action which by law requires your presence in the Philippines; and
e) Are registered under the Alien registration Program (ARP) and were issued a Special security Registration Number (SSRN).
The airport ECC-B is also available for holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who intend to return to the Philippines.

Fees for ECC:
  • 1210 PHP (approximately) 
  • Additional fees may be charged if the foreign national is found to have arrears.
If you get an ECC-A, then make certain that you get both a receipt for payment AND the actual ECC certificate.

Even though the BoI directive states that, as a 13a holder, I can obtain my ECC at the airport I am a little concerned about leaving that to chance and being told something different when I get to the airport. Having never done this before, I still want to talk to BoI about it to put my mind at ease.

I googled "Emigration Clearance Certificate" and read everything I could find about other people's experiences.

Travel Documents Required For Dual Citizens


According to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, it is possible for dual nationality holders to depart the Philippines with only a foreign passport if they present a Philippine citizenship document (like a certificate of naturalization):
Filipinos with dual or multiple citizenships are advised to present both their Philippine and foreign passports in order to avoid paying the Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee. This is also to ensure that all arrival and departure records are reflected completely on both passports. Those who had only presented only a foreign passport at the time of their admission into the Philippines may be cleared for departure without need of surrendering a certificate, permit or proof of payment of imposable immigration fees, provided they present, at the time of departure, a genuine and valid Philippine passport or an Identification Certificate.

On the foreign passport, the immigration officer shall stamp either of the following, whichever is applicable: “PP” – if a Philippine passport is also presented, or “IC” – if an Identification Certificate is presented.

If the traveler fails to present both his Philippine passport or Identification Certificate, at both arrival and departure, he shall be assessed an Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee of P710.00 for using a foreign passport upon departure.

So this can be done. But the question now is should it be done. I do not want to take the chance of getting to the airport and running into a customs officer who, for whatever reason, does not want to accept anything that is not a passport.
If at all possible GET A PHILIPPINE PASSPORT for everyone in your traveling party who needs one and do not rely upon a citizenship document to exit the Philippines.

Traveling Cash


When you depart the Philippines for the US (or any foreign country) it will be necessary to have a certain amount of both Philippine currency and currency for your destination country.

There are limits for how much currency you can physically transport out of the Philippines:

Philippine Peso Limit:

A person may bring into (import) or take out of (export) the Philippines, either physically or by electronical transfer, legal tender Philippine currency of an amount not exceeding PHP 50,000 (fifty thousand pesos, Philippine currency) without prior authorization from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The monetary forms include legal tender Philippine notes and coins, checks, money order and other bills of exchange drawn in Philippine Pesos against banks operating in the Philippines.

The increase to PHP 50,000 in the allowable amount of Philippine currency brought in or out of the Philippines took effect on 15 September 2016, per Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular No. 922, series of 2016, dated 23 August 2016, titled “The Amendments of the Rules on Cross-Border Transfer of Local Currency”.

Any excess amount not covered by specific written BSP authorization is subject to confiscation by the Philippine Bureau of Customs.

Foreign Currency Limit:

A person may carry up to the amount of USD 10,000 (or equivalent in any other foreign currency), in cash or other monetary instruments, into and out of the Philippines. Other monetary instruments include travellers’ checks, other checks, drafts, notes, money orders, bonds, deposit certificates, securities, commercial papers, trust certificates, custodial receipts, deposit substitute instruments, trading orders, transaction tickets and confirmation of sale/investment.

If a person wishes to bring more that the equivalent of USD 10,000, a written declaration must be made in the form of the BSP’s “Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form” which may be downloaded from http://www.bsp.gov.ph/regulations/regulations.asp?type=1&id=631.
I would count on at least 10,000 PHP in airport fees for every person in the traveling party and as much USD as I would be comfortable carrying without having to declare it.

8.27.2020

Philippines Expat Guide To Credit & Identity Protection

Philippines Expat Guide To Credit & Identity Protection



credit card bill


Table Of Contents:


Free Annual Credit Report 



Whether or not you are planning to move abroad or not you should be monitoring your credit. Fortunately it is becoming easier to keep track of your credit and credit score due to the proliferation of services that allow you to do that and many of them are free.

If you are not already doing so, then you should be requesting a copy of your free annual credit report from the big three credit agencies. You can get that same link directly from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As the name states, you are entitled under federal law to receive one free report once annually.

Fraud Alerts (To Protect Your Credit) 


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) outlines some special circumstances that also allow you to gain access to free credit reports, such as Fraud Alerts and Credit Freeze:


The Initial Fraud Alert used to be only 90 days, but a new law passed in 2018 bumps that up to one year. If you Place a Fraud Alert with one of the credit bureaus they will in turn contact the other bureaus on your behalf. A Credit/Security Freeze is different. You must contact each credit bureau individually in order to place a Security Freeze.

Contacting the Credit Bureaus:


Depending upon your circumstance, you may have issues with any one or all of the credit bureaus in relation to accessing your report online. 

When you contact a credit bureau they will ask you for personal data and details for existing credit/bank accounts in order to confirm your identity.

If you have been living overseas the credit bureaus may need for you to contact them by post mail and or by telephone to further confirm your identity. 

They still may not be able to allow you online access. It has been my experience that Transunion is the most accommodating of the three.

Contact info for the credit bureaus: 



Credit Monitoring


TransUnion's True Identity Service 


True Identity allows you to view and lock your credit report for free. True Identity will also send you instant SMS updates when there are new requests for credit in your name. Transunion also provides $25,000 in ID theft insurance at the free level.

I can confirm that the Transunion credit report that you get from True Identity does have all of the right data and it is up to date, at least in my case.

You must upgrade to a paid membership if you for True Identity to provide your other two credit reports and to see to your credit score. A paid subscription will also give you the ability to monitor your ID on the black market. Paid subscription expands ID theft insurance to $1,000,000.

Experian Credit Monitoring Service 


Experian's credit monitoring service will give you your FICO 8 score for free. The FICO 8 score is the same score that True Identity uses.

Upgrading to a paid membership with Experian gives you access to credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus. Paid membership also allows you to lock your Experian credit report and receive alerts (Transunion provides this service for free). You also receive $1,000,000 ID theft insurance at the paid level.

The credit locking service offered by Experian is only available if you upgrade, unlike True Identity's Credit Lock. However, you can take advantage of the Experian Security Freeze that they are required to provide for free.

Experian CreditLock vs. Standard Security Freeze:

  • A security freeze requires that you enter a PIN code and verify your identity every time you want to change the status.
  • A security freeze does not include monitoring or alerts of attempted credit inquiries the way Experian CreditLock does.
  • Experian CreditLock allows you to block access to your Credit File. But unlike a freeze, you can lock and unlock your file easily, in real time.
  • Experian CreditLock includes daily monitoring and attempted inquiry alerts if someone applies for credit while your File is locked. Keep in mind that the lock only applies to that particular company's respective report.

Equifax Credit Monitoring Service


I have never been able to get the Equifax credit monitoring service free accounts to work for me.

Lock & Alert and Freeze & Fraud Alerts are free options. Additional services require a paid subscription.

Summary Of Credit Bureau Credit Monitoring Services


I can see no reason to pay for credit monitoring.Your experience may be different, but everything that I need to do with credit monitoring I can do for free:
  • monitor credit report and attempts to gain a credit account in my name and
  • monitor my credit score (Experian is the only one that offers it for free*) 
  • place fraud alerts on my report for a year at a time or
  • place a freeze on my report shutting down all attempts to get credit in my name

Free Credit Monitoring Options From Banks 


Experian is the only credit bureau to give you free access to your credit score, but there are other ways to get it for free. 

Maybe the US bank that you are using right now offers free credit monitoring and credit score.

Capital One provides a free service called CreditWise that allows you to monitor your Transunion credit report and VantageScore 3.0. The VantageScore 3.0 is based upon a different model from the FICO score. The VantageScore 3.0 could be, for instance, 60 points lower than the FICO 9 score.

CreditWise recently began offering three new services:
  • Social Security number tracking: tracking instances where someone attempts to use your Social Security number to apply for credit
  • Dark web monitoring for pieces of your personal information turning up on the dark web and
  • Alerts for new account attempts from both Transunion and Experian 
It is possible for anyone to sign up for True Identity CreditWise whether or not they are a Capital One account holder, but you might be better served by signing up for True Identity (above) instead.

If you do have existing accounts with Capital One, then you can use your login credentials for those accounts to sign in to CreditWise.

Wells Fargo and Penfed both provide Experian FICO 9 credit score tracking to their customers free of charge. 



US Government Websites That May Help Protect Your Credit & Identity






The Internal Revenue Service


If you want to see your current tax account, then you can create a personal account on the IRS website:
  
create an online IRS account to manage your taxes


If you're an individual taxpayer, you can use this tool to view:
  • Your payoff amount, updated for the current calendar day
  • The balance for each tax year for which you owe
  • Up to 24 months of your payment history
  • Key information from your current tax year return as originally filed.
Once you have viewed your information, you can:
  • Select an electronic payment option
  • Go directly to Get Transcript without having to log in again 
After you click the link to create an account, at some point before you enter your personal information you will be informed exactly what you need to prepare in order to register for an account:


personal information needed for IRS online account


credit information needed for IRS online account


US mobile phone needed for IRS online account

The last screen is where a lot of expats will have an issue. Many expats may not maintain a US based text capable phone. And Google Voice and other “virtual” options are not accepted. You must use a cell phone number that is connected to a monthly billing account that will show up on your credit report under your name.

You can receive your IRS tax transcripts online or by postal mail.

You can view your historical tax transcripts online if you already signed up in the previous step or you can sign up now:


get your IRS tax transcripts onlinie

Or receive your tax transcripts via post mail:


get your IRS tax transcripts via snail mail

A transcript viewing account has the same sign up requirements as the current tax account, but again, if you already signed up for the current tax account you should be good to go.

For me the road block is the SMS capable US based mobile phone “with your name on the account,” as I am sure it is for many other expats.

The Social Security Administration


Sign up for an account on the Social Security Administration website to view your Social Security Statement and contribution history.

The Social Security website used to require that account holders possess an SMS capable phone for 2-step authentication, but that has been made optional.

They can send the code to your email address if you prefer.     


My Social Security online account actions

With your “my Social Security” account you can:
  • View your Estimated Benefit
  • View your Earnings Record
  • Print your current Social Security statement
  • Get a Benefit Verification Letter
  • Request a replacement Social Security Card 
Viewing your earnings record is vital to making sure that no one else is using your SS number.

E-Verify 


You can use E-Verify to lock your Social Security number making it impossible for anyone to use your number when applying for work with employers who use E-Verify. You can also view the history and current use (if any) of your number. The down side is that only about 20% of US employers use E-Verify, as it is not required.


I was able to get in, lock my number and view the history.

This graphic from the E-Verify website shows what an individual can do with their account:


My E-Verify online account features

In the course of signing in to the system I was prompted to input personal and contact information. I had done this last year, but E-Verify has been upgraded and my old account needed to be reassessed.

As part of the upgraded security a soft pull on my credit report was initiated in order to confirm my identity, which is good. After that I was taken to my account showing these choices:


My E-Verify online account options

E-Verify could be a good tool to add to your identity protection portfolio. The self lock and case history features are the tools that make it valuable to me, but they would be a lot more valuable if all employers were required to use E-Verify. After 14 months I was sent an email that self lock had expired.

Many times I was not able to logon to E-Verify, including just now. It is midnight in the US, so maybe the server is down for maintenance/updates.

I did not see any notification about it, but some government sites cannot be accessed over the weekend or at night etc. I figure that might explain not being able to access the site on occasion.

If you decide to use E-Verify, then for best results I suggest accessing it during business hours on weekdays and not holidays and be prepared to answer questions about items on your credit report. The system appears to be constantly undergoing upgrades, so be patient.

The Bottom Line 


Most valuable services IMO:
  • Free credit monitoring services from US banks
  • My Social Security Website
  • One Year Fraud Alerts
I was able to easily create an online account with the SS Admin and the information is straightforward and useful. My existing online account was all that I needed to see up-to-date credit report information from my US banks.

Paid credit monitoring services are of little to no value to me because I can get everything they offer for free.

The IRS website was difficult for expats to use before COVID. Now it is practically impossible.

E-Verify is good in concept for protecting Social Security numbers from abuse, but until it is universally required it is not of much value. What is valuable is the ability to create an account and see whether or not your SS# is being abused...assuming the information is valid.

In closing this post I just need to add that I suggest scanning all credit cards and IDs just in case they are ever stolen or lost. You can also read up on these suggestions to physically secure your sensitive documents and data.

8.26.2020

US Expat's Philippines Homeschool Guide

US Expat's Philippines Homeschool Guide





Table Of Contents:


Homeschooling Was Always Our Plan


We planned to homeschool from the very beginning when we were still living in the United States. When we moved to a provincial area in the Philippines we were happy to have homeschooling as an option. Homeschooling is not for everyone. Many parents must work. My wife and I are are retired and we both have bachelor's degrees and even for us homeschooling has not been an easy path.

When we began searching the Internet for homeschooling support here in the Philippines we found a lot of 404-ed pages, dead links, defunct domains and many email addresses that never responded or came back as address unknown.

We also found in the non-Internet world that no one seemed to understand homeschooling and many people disapproved of it. We were often told that homeschooling was against the law.

When we stopped looking for outside support and forged our own path everything went much smoother.

That was almost a decade ago and much has changed since then. Now there is more support available for homeschoolers in the Philippines. You can find large scale exhibitions dedicated to homeschooling, like the annual Philippine Homeschool Convention. Many curriculum publishers showcase their material at these conventions. I have found that events like this tend to be held in Manila, but you might be able to find similar events in other locations in the Philippines. Homeschool events should become more common as the popularity of homeschooling continues to grow in the Philippines (especially with the advent of COVID-19).

There seems to be greater public acceptance of homeschooling in the National Capital Region where there are many high profile families that have publicly spoken about their decision to homeschool. They make this choice many times due to the child having a career and homeschooling provides greater flexibility for scheduling.

Homeschooling Is Legal In The Philippines 


Republic Act No. 10157 otherwise known as The Kindergarten Education Act of 2012 made preschool kindergarten compulsory in the Philippines.

Republic Act No. 10533 otherwise known as The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 made grades 1-12 compulsory in the Philippines.

Prior to RA 10157 and RA 10533 the Article XIV of The 1987 Constitution Of The Philippines made only elementary education compulsory:
Section 2. The State shall:

(2) Establish and maintain, a system of free public education in the elementary and high-school levels. Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children, elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age; 
Homeschool organizations and private schools in the the Philippines point to this paragraph as support for the legitimacy of homeschooling under Philippine law.

"Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children," is the operative statement. If parents' rights to raise their children are not limited, then parents cannot be forced to send their children to public school.

But this right is tempered with a responsibility of the parent to assure that the child is afforded their right to an education.

In addition to having a foundation of Constitutional support, homeschooling also enjoys explicit approval from the Philippine Government, as noted in Philippine Senate Resolution 308 drafted in 2017 by Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, wherein the Senate expresses its full support for the first National Homeschool Day.

The Department of Education also showed its approval for homeschooling when it distributed DepEd Advisory No. 334 in 2014 pertaining to the National Conference on Homeschooling.

Also from the 1987 Constitution, to uphold the rights of children and as a matter of national importance the state retains the power of oversight:
Section 4.(1) The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.
The following quote turns up dozens of times on the Internet (though none of them provide the full text of the DepEd memo it references or any link to it) and seems to be the extent of the "reasonable supervision and regulation" mentioned in Section 4.(1). above:
"the Department of Education (DepEd) Memo no. 216 s. 1997 entitled 'Home Education Program' states that if a homeschooled student wants to transfer into a conventional school, he or she must first be accredited by DepEd."
Student accreditation in this instance means placement testing. This policy also holds for all DepEd accredited private elementary, secondary and college level schools. This does make perfect sense and it is also consistent with U.S. practice.

The student(s) will need to be assessed by DepEd via the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT). At the time of the test the student is issued a Learner Reference Number (LRN) that will be used to track and identify the student throughout their schooling. Additional information about this test can be found at FilipinoHomeSchooler and the Homeschooling Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI). If you need more information, then you must contact DepEd personally.

It is possible (though not required) for a homeschool to be accredited by DepEd. If you do not want to be accredited by DepEd, then you can homeschool independently. However, if you want your child to eventually be accepted at a university in the Philippines or enrolled in public school or an accredited private institution, then they will need to be assessed by DepEd first.

HOMESCHOOL SUBJECTS AND METHODS


Reading


Our daughter had a good vocabulary by the time she was 18 months old. We attribute this in part to the fact that we spent a lot of time talking to her. We talked to our daughter the same way that we talk to each other with no baby talk. There is some debate on whether baby talk is bad or not, but we also just spoke naturally.

We also began reading to our daughter daily. It is extremely important to read to your kids from early on. We continue to this day to read together as a family. Thanks to this practice our daughter is a voracious reader. She has read books that I shy away from, like the near 1000 page behemoth, Moby Dick.

In addition to reading books, we introduced her to Hooked on Phonics when she was about three years old.

Now that we live in a semi-remote location of the Philippines it is little difficult to find hard copies of books. Still, we have had a bit of luck. We have found quite a few hard copy classics and novels suitable for school aged children at National Bookstore. We have also ordered a few books from their website. 

The majority of our books have been found online. Many are free sources, but we also buy books from Amazon, like Clive Cussler's adventure novels, that can be read on the Kindle for PC.

Even more free books here and at www.web-books.com.

ReadWorks is great online resource that we have used for building reading comprehension. They offer free reading comprehension worksheets for grades K-12. We used ReadWorks worksheets extensively for grades 4-7. An additional benefit to the reading comprehension worksheets is that they cross over into the domains of science, mathematics, government and history.

English Grammar and Writing 


To a limited extent the rules of grammar can be absorbed by osmosis through a solid reading regimen.

It is still essential to master spelling, punctuation, parts of speech and syntax/sentence structure through a targeted topical approach.

We had no trouble finding plenty of books that help to teach the fundamentals of English Grammar and handwriting. We were able to find a good supply of English handwriting and grammar workbooks and other materials at bookstores in the malls of larger cities. These supplies helped us to structure our daughter's learning experience for the main grammar topics.

We augmented the books we found with worksheets downloaded from the Internet. The site we used most is K12Reader.com. We started started out with the spelling lists and worked through all of those from grades 1-5. We are now working on the high school spelling program. K12Reader offers worksheets for all grammar topics and they are suitable for elementary, middle school and high school levels. We found the sentence diagramming worksheets particularly helpful.

For the last couple of years we have been adding writing assignments to any subject that requires extensive reading. Reading a chapter in history? That requires a report. Reading a book or novel? That requires a report. We have also been studying strategies for the new optional SAT essay and practicing online with Khan Academy.

Writing assignments are completed sometimes via word processor and sometimes via hand written format. When an assignment is to be completed in hand written format I require it to be done in cursive. I have heard that cursive is no longer being taught in some schools, but I think that cursive is important and so I made it a point to teach it to our daughter.

Check out Applied Educational Systems for a nice seven lesson plan that teaches kids how to craft email messages. We worked through the lessons and then assigned our daughter to send an email to a University requesting more information about one of their undergraduate programs.

Mathematics 


Homeschooling is easy for younger children when it comes to math and other subjects. You can find plenty of basics on the Internet and possibly at the bookstores here. It is also simple to just make up your own material for the primary grades. We went through hundreds of flash cards and print out worksheets.

Finding curriculum began to become difficult for us at about the 6th grade level. I searched the book stores and did not find much. That is when I was saved by the Internet (again).

I found Stephen Hake's Saxon Math. We solved every problem in Course 1, Course 2, and Course 3. We diligently worked through the 2000+ pages of problems in those three books. The three links lead to Amazon where you can read the descriptions of the books. No Kindle versions are available. We acquired only the student editions with no answer keys. I had to solve all of the problems myself, which I found to be good for keeping me engaged.

Saxon Math courses 1-3 roughly correspond to grades 6-8. Our daughter completed them before the end of what would have been her 6th grade year in the U.S.

Since that time we have been working though various Algebra I & II resources from Amazon Kindle and Khan Academy.

This coming year we will continue with more Algebra II practice followed by geometry and pre-calculus. Amazon Kindle and Khan Academy will continue to be important resources for subject material.

In the 2021-2022 time-frame we will begin ramping up our SAT math preparations by: a) continuing to study core test subjects b) taking several full length practice tests and c) studying testing strategies.

Science 


Like math, science is easy to teach and to find material for the primary grades. It is possible to find pdf textbooks online for pretty much any science subject and at any grade level. The problem is that, as the grades get higher the material gets drier and more massive. It's really hard to teach from a massively boring 1200 page pdf biology textbook.

For the junior high and high school years we will focus on four major topics tackling one every 6-8 months beginning in 2020: biology, earth science, chemistry and physics. We have touched upon all of those topics in the earlier years, but now it's time to delve deeper.

We need the material to be as interactive and varied as possible, so I have decided upon a mixture of curriculum in both hard copy and online formats. For chemistry, in addition to Kindle and Khan, I might use a virtual lab resource like the ones linked at Chemistry Clubs. I checked out some of the links and the one I like best at this point is the virtual lab provided by Chem Collective.

We are fortunate that we live in a place that is conducive to teaching and learning about science. We have mountainous rain-forest to one side of us and the ocean to the other side. We live in a place frequented by typhoons making the weather a frequent conversational topic. Living in a rural location brings the natural world to our doorstep. And yet, we are also immersed in a rapidly changing technological environment.

Our place is very conducive to sky watching due to very dark skies. When We first came here I wondered why the same band of clouds persisted overhead night after night. Then I figured out that it was not clouds. It is the Milky Way. I had never seen it so clearly in the United States. Venus and Jupiter were also much more brilliant in this location. Our daughter loves to use Stellarium Astronomy Software to determine the identity of objects in the night sky. If I can find a local supplier where I can try before I buy, then I would like to take sky watching to the next level with agood telescope.

Makabayan & Filipino 


These subjects have been mostly  my wife's lane, but I will do my best to talk about it. Makabayan (meaning love for country) incorporates many subjects, such as: Sibika at Kultura (civics and culture); Kasaysayan (Philippines history);  Hekasi (geography) as well as economic and political structure

Our daughter has been learning a lot of the language and cultural material from mom literally since birth. When we moved to the Philippines that learning was multiplied manifold by the presence of many family members and neighbors and being immersed in the actual culture. 

We were able to find a wide variety of workbooks in local shops, including National Bookstore. Eventually we hired a tutor who was able to teach Filipino subjects  and language to our daughter. 

The history, geography and political science part is more along my line. Amazon has countless books on Philippine History. We have also used National Bookstore for hard-copy books, but for variety and instant availability Amazon cannot be beaten. No single book can cover everything, but two I can recommend are: A History of the Philippines (Illustrated) and History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos

There is no need to buy any kind of book for Philippine geography. There are too many tutorials for this subject on the Internet to enumerate. It will take some effort to wade through them all and find the quality. Geography needs to be interactive with lots of graphics, quizzes and stuff to print out and stick on the wall as a constant reminder. The method I employed in teaching geography was to cherry pick data from the Internet and assign study of that material. Then I would compose my own quizzes over the material. 

A basic resource that you can use for Philippines Geography is Geography of the Philippines from cicred.org.

The study of the Philippines' political structure is another subject that benefits from crossover learning from other Makabayan subjects and also the study of US political science, since the Philippines shares so much in common with the United States' political system. 

There are plenty of books to be found in local bookstores that cover the subject of basic political structure of the Philippines. I also liked this primer from the University of Illinois that broadly covers the overall political structure, but focuses on the barangay. I used that document and pulled out questions to create a test over the material.

Another good general source for a wide variety of material on Philippines government, history and geography is provided by countrystudies.us.

Bible 


We began our daughter's Bible study with an old copy of Egermeier's Bible Story Book. We read it over and over until the binding fell off and the pages fell out. She also memorized many verses and passages over the years.

To this day we study together as a family.

A great tool that I have used for years is the Online Bible application. The tool is free and there are also many free Bible versions and commentaries that can be downloaded as modules, as well as an Interlinear Greek version, Strong's Concordance and many other helps and add-ins.

Computers & Technology 


Within the next few years our daughter will prep for the CompTIA A+ Certification Exam via Amazon Kindle and might actually sit for the exam and earn the certification some day.

We started with computer basics when she was 5-6 years old. She learned about the mouse and the keyboard. The first application we introduced her to is every five year old's favorite, Microsoft Paint. That quickly progressed into the file system and word processing and MS Office followed by other programs and applications. At around 8-9 years old our daughter was learning about networking and video games.

It was also at this time when I began to introduce her to programming and that started out with Scratch. Scratch is "an event driven, visual, block based programming language."

Scratch is developed by the 
Lifelong Kindergarten Group 
at the MIT Media Lab. 
 (CC By-SA 2.0)

Next, we moved into Small Basic. Small Basic is a free application developed by Microsoft that includes an integrated development environment (IDE) built around a simplified form of the BASIC programming language. Small Basic was created to introduce beginning programmers to object oriented programming:


A screen shot of Microsoft Small Basic 
used with permission from Microsoft.

Descent




Descent is a six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) video game that pits the player against rogue robots in various mines on various planets and moons. Versions 1, 2 and 3 all came out in the 1990s. I think Descent is a great game for introducing the capabilities of 3D computer programming. Just getting the games up and running makes for a great introduction to lots of different computer concepts.

You can get Descent 1, Descent 2 and Descent 3 from Good Old Games (GOG). We only have a demo for Descent 1, but we purchased the full versions of Descent 2 and Descent 3 from GOG.

Getting Descent 2 set up on machine 1 went smoothly, but on the second machine it failed to run. We ended up having to create a .bat file that sets the SDL_VIDEODRIVER environmental variable to windib:
set SDL_VIDEODRIVER=windib

"C:\GOG Games\Descent 2\DOSBOX\DOSBox.exe" -conf "..\dosboxDescent2.conf" -conf "..\dosboxDescent2_single.conf" -noconsole -c "exit"
The second line is the command string from "target" value in the shortcut that the game installation created on the desktop. The .bat file should be placed in the dosbox folder in the Descent 2 folder. Then right click on the bat file and select send to desktop as shortcut and that becomes your new shortcut to open the game.

Another issue that we had with Descent 2 came up when we wanted to play a multiplayer game. Descent 3 came out with full support for IPv4. Descent versions 1 & 2 only support the old Novell IPX protocol and no version of Windows has supported IPX since XP (but you can use Kali emulator). 

We decided to use a tool that we already have and that is the free app of Descent 1 and Descent 2 called Descent Rebirth. The software is a source port and it does away with the need for dosbox and includes built in support for IPv4.

To play the full versions of Descent 2 with multiplayer capability:
  • Download and install Descent Rebirth
  • Purchase Descent from GOG and install it 
  • copy these files from the GOG Descent 2 installation into the same folder as the installation folder for Descent 2 Rebirth that contains the D2R .exe file:



Descent 3 came out with native IPv4 support, so when you purchase it from GOG you are all set to play multiplayer games.

Our daughter taught herself how to make new levels for Descent 3 using the OOF Editor and the GAM Tool. You may also need the MS Visual Basic runtime files.

US Social Studies


A lot of Filipino History can be covered in the course of teaching the language. Another large part of it is intertwined with US History. We have had an easy time finding hard copy material for Philippine History and government at the bookstores here.

For US History we have enjoyed using USHistory.org. USHistory.org covers everything from the Anasazi to the Information Age. We are also working through their sections on US Government and Ancient Civilizations.

Khan Academy offers an even wider array of Social Studies topics that incorporate YouTube video and quizzes.

Unlike the SAT, the GED does test for Social Studies knowledge, so we will be focusing heavily upon history, government and economics in the coming years.

Practical Money Skills by VISA 


I discovered a great resource from VISA that teaches kids and young people skills for managing money. The program is called Practical Money Skills and it has lesson plans available for pre-K all the way through college level. We are working through the grade 9-12 block of lesson plans. You can download zip files that contain all lessons within the grade block including teacher instructions.

HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OPTIONS

 


When our daughter ready to enter college we will have been living in the Philippines for about fifteen years. That is not far off in the future. We are barely a year away from the time when we will focus all of our efforts on testing for a high school diploma that will be accepted by US based universities and colleges. There are but a few options for acquiring that diploma. 

General Educational Development (GED) Diploma


Students who desire to take the GED at international locations may do so at age 18 with no restrictions. If the test taker is under 18, then they may take the test once they turn 16 years of age, but they must also submit Parental Consent Form. When an account is created with GED Testing Service if the test taker is between 16 and 18 years old there will be an alert message that will provide the link I gave above that leads to the consent form.

I contacted GED Testing Services to inquire about age restriction for test takers in the Philippines and this is the response that I received:
If your daughter intends to test in the Philippines while she is 16 or 17 years old, she will need to submit a completed Parent/Guardian Consent form and a Non-Disclosure Agreement form. These forms can be accessed directly through her account at GED.com by selecting "Clear My Alert". Please note, the tester and their parent/guardian will both need to sign the forms.

Once the forms are completed, please submit them as attachments in an email to Help@GED.com. Please allow 48-72 hours for processing and approval.
It is possible to take to the GED battery of tests in the Philippines through MISNet Education, Inc. To be certain, I also contacted MISNet Education to confirm that they do offer the GED test in the Philippines. I specifically inquired as to whether the Makati and Cebu locations offer the battery of GED tests and MISNet confirmed that they do indeed offer the GED tests at both locations.

Of course, we could also take the GED test back in the US too.

If you do decide to register for the GED and you want to use MISNet as your testing center, then you must register at GED.com.

This information is subject to change at any time, so please confirm the information I have provided here for yourself.

Passing the GED provides a high school diploma that is accepted at the vast majority of US colleges and universities and all of the particular colleges and universities that I have researched and short-listed.

To prepare for the GED a parent needs to create an account on the GED Testing Service website. Once you have an account you can access information about the four tests (mathematics, social studies, science and language arts) that must be passed to obtain the GED certificate.

The GED website also provides links to study options that include practice tests, study materials and prep courses. I know for a fact that live GED prep courses are available in Manila at this time.

Some people that I have spoken with about our plans doubt the viability of the GED. I have yet to discover a college or university that does not accept the GED, but the US Military does allow only a limited number of GED recipients to enlist per year.

HiSET


The HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) is another option to earn the high school diploma. Each state determines specific requirements for HiSET testing in that state and there are no International testing locations. Since the GED allows us to test before we relocate it remains our #1 choice for a high school diploma.

TASC


A third option for the high school credential is the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion). The TASC is offered by New York and Indiana and neither of these states is on our relocation shortlist.

COLLEGE ENTRANCE TESTING


College entrance exams test acquired skilled in reading, writing, science and mathematics. They also test a student's ability to manage time and cope with pressure and stress. The ACT and the SAT are two standardized tests that every college bound student should be planning for many years prior to graduation from high school.

The ACT


The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized college entrance test developed by ACT, Inc. Like the GED website, the ACT website provides links to study materials and resources. The ACT test can be taken at several locations in the Philippines throughout the year.

The ACT test assesses English, mathematics, reading and scientific reasoning. There is an optional essay that tests the student's ability to understand and write about a complex issue.

The SAT


The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) was developed by College Board, Educational. The SAT is offered throughout the year at various locations in the Philippines.

The SAT test assesses reading, mathematics, writing and language. Unlike the ACT, the base SAT test does not assess scientific reasoning. The SAT also includes an optional essay. In addition to the base battery of tests, the SAT currently offers twenty subject tests that can be taken to boost a student's university placement.

Live prep courses are available in the Philippines for both the ACT and the SAT. Use Google to find them.

The prep route that I think we will take is through a combination of SAT and ACT study guides. Hard copy study material can be found at bookstores throughout the Philippines. Amazon Kindle versions of ACT and SAT study guides are also available. Amazon provides Kindle software for most devices. We have been using Kindle for PC for some of our homeschooling material.

Khan Academy offers an online SAT prep program that is free of charge. Khan currently has ten (10) full length SAT practice exams available that were written by the College Board especially for Khan Academy. Our daughter has already taken several of the exams and we do plan to make this a part of our ongoing test preps. Prep Scholar is a paid platform that offers SAT preparation online and they provide an insightful article detailing the shortcomings of the Khan SAT program.

Our strategy is a multifaceted plan and we will make use of many different formats and sources for our college prep.

Paying For College


US citizens and certain other non-citizens may be eligible for Federal Student Aid. The Federal Student Aid website provides information about what types of aid are available, eligibility requirements and access to the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Main types of aid available are grants, scholarships, various types of student loans and federal work study.

Federal student aid is subject to eligibility requirements that will be determined in part based upon whether the prospective student is classified as dependent or independent.

To establish dependent status US citizens who have children while they are living in the Philippines should report the birth to the US Embassy as soon as possible. The sooner this is done the easier it will be to acquire US citizenship and a US passport for the child. It is also possible to adopt a child while living in the Philippines and they can subsequently be granted an immigration visa if certain conditions are met.

On Campus University Or Online?


Armed with a high school diploma and a decent SAT score our daughter will be ready to start submitting applications to various universities.

Many of the specific programs that we have been looking at are offered online and more programs will become available online as time passes.

The problem for us with an online degree program boils down to cost. Most universities will classify our daughter as an international student and that causes the tuition cost to go well beyond reach.

We will most likely qualify for federal grants and with good SAT score there may be some scholarships as well. Some universities also offer in-state tuition rates to worthy students. There are a couple of online programs that are very reasonably priced even without being classified as "in state."

We may opt for on campus classes and for this we would need to move to a given state and establish residency under that state's laws. This typically takes 12 months. To establish state residency you can either buy a home in the state and actually live in it and or be gainfully employed in that state. We will not be buying a home, but we will be working. Those 12 months do not have to be wasted time. Some states allow a student to take a limited number of credit hours at in-state rates even though they do not otherwise qualify.

Education Credential Evaluation


If you plan to move back to the US and you have a spouse or child returning with you who has a degree from a University in the Philippines and they wish to use that degree for work or to pursue higher education in the United States, then they may need to have the degree evaluated by a Credential Evaluating Service whose work is accepted by the US employer or college/university. The process can take months to complete and may cost several hundred dollars, depending upon many factors.

If the degree is not printed in English, then the credential evaluator may require you to have it translated before they will evaluate it for you. Some credential evaluators also provide in-house translation. Two national associations of credential evaluators that can provide you with a listing of their members are:
  • The National Association of Credential Evaluating Services (NACES) and
  • The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE)
Just because an organization is a member of one of these two associations does not guarantee that you can depend upon them. I did my own research on several credential evaluators and searched for reviews on Google to see what the public has to say about the quality of services offered.

The Bottom Line


The homeschooling strategy outlined in this article is geared toward our unique circumstances of having US citizenship and our plan for our daughter to obtain a US high school diploma and then attend a US university.

I hope I have shown that it is very possible to homeschool in the Philippines even in a somewhat remote location. Hard copy books can be found, but might be limited, especially at higher school grades. The Internet can be used to great effect in rounding out a homeschool program.

A final point I wish to address is socialization. Everyone who is "in the system" always hits on their perceived lack of socialization with homeschooling. When you look at the state of the world it is evident that socialization is a poorly comprehended and misunderstood cliche. 

For every positive of socialization there are concomitant negatives. Parents have the right and the responsibility to thoughtfully determine what kinds of socialization their children are subjected to. Thoughtlessly turning children over to public education is no better and perhaps worse than fearfully sheltering them at home.

It boils down to this question: do you care about what strangers are writing on your child's tabula rasa?