2.22.2020

Globe System Migration

Globe System Migration



Was Your Internet Dead Today?


When I woke up this morning and went to get my fix of Internet and I was met with this message:
Hi! You've already used up all the data from your GoSURF 999 promo
Which I thought was strange, because I know that I have tons of data in my account.

I frantically texted GS STATUS to 8080 and received this response:
Hi! As of 2020-02-22, 07:26:57, the remaining MB on your active promos are:
Freebie - Facebook (1GB): 1023.54
MB GoSURF 999 (8GB): 0KB
Add Surf 499 (8GB): 8GB
Rolled-over Data (AddSURF499): 7.98GB
Rolled-over Data (GoSURF999): 0KB
Monthly GoSURF free WiFi (1GB): 1GBx
I do not use the free WiFi, but you can see that I have 8 gigs of Add Surf and 7.98 gigs of rolled-over data. 

So I dialed up Globe service at 211 to speak with a Globe rep.

The rep told me that Globe had undergone a system migration recently and this was most likely the cause of my service interruption. 

The Solution? 


The Globe rep instructed me to text *143# and in order to turn off SurfAlert.

What Is SurfAlert?

SurfAlert is a free service that protects you from unexpected browsing charges. When your SurfAlert is on, your browsing will be put on hold and you'll receive free alerts and flash notifications when your mobile phone or device tries to connect to the internet and any of the following conditions are met:
a. Your surf promo has expired
b. You already used up your data allocation from your surf promo
c. You're not registered to a surf promo
d. You try to access a site or app that is not covered by your current surf promo
e. You don't have enough load to continue surfing
This advice alarmed me because without SurfAlert I will be charged the regular browsing rate of P5 for 15 minutes or P2/MB.

However, the rep informed me that she would give me a reference number for removal of the charges after I receive my next bill.

So I followed the instructions to remove SurfAlert and the rep gave me the reference #.

When I get my bill after the first of March I will have to call Globe back and give them the reference # and then Globe will be able to "realign" my account.

Before ending the call I again reiterated to the rep my concerns about turning off SurfAlert and she assured me that the realignment process would remove the charges and that I would not lose any of my rolled-over data.

When my new billing cycle begins I need to turn SurfAlert back on:
Step 1: Dial *143# and press the call button for free.
Step 2: Select MyAccount.
Step 3: Select Mobile internet usage.
Step 4: Select Turn ON mobile internet alerts.
Step 5: Select SurfAlert.
Step 6: Select Proceed. 
Step 7: Wait for the text message saying that your SurfAlert has been activated
You can also send SurfAlert commands by text <keyword> to 8080: 
SURFALERT ON - Turn on alerts
SURFALERT HOLD - Turn off alerts for the day
SURFALERT OFF - Turn off text alerts permanently 
A few days later and Globe will send my bill and then I need to contact Globe again and request the realignment.

Update 3-4-2020



Globe realigned my account today, but the bill credit comes through on the next payment.

2.15.2020

Return To The USA Part 3

Return To The USA Part 3





It's almost flight time.

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.

Requirements for conversion of a foreigner 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 six (6) 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;
  7. Expired NPDL / PDL if applicable
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, but you are probably best off to 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.

Staying current with a Philippine driver's license may or may not make it easier for me to get a US state driver's license, but at least I will be able to use it temporarily to get around. I intend to take all of the tests for a state license so I can keep my Philippine license. I will be required to establish residency according to state laws before applying for the applicable driver's license.

Emigration Clearance Certificate


If you have been in the Philippines for many yeers, 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.
There are 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
The ECC-B is for holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who intend to return to the Philippines. The ECC-B may be secured at the airport.

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, like this page from TripAdvisor.

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.

Flights And Fares 


I will be looking at flights through various providers like, Expedia and Travelocity. I will also be looking at various fare prediction sites. I am not recommending or endorsing any of those sites. They are all part of the information landscape and I look at many different sites of different types to get a complete picture of what is available. 

It is also possible to save money on a fare by picking the right Arrival city. From a cursory exploration, it seems that flying into Los Angeles from Manila tends to yield lower fares. If I did that, then I could rent a vehicle at the airport and drive to my final destination. Of course, the cost of the rental car and any lodging will need to be figured in.

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.

Having A Vehicle Ready To Go In The US


In Part 1 I talked about initially having a rental car for a few weeks, but I have decided against that. I will use either Cars Direct or Cars.com to secure a permanent vehicle prior to arriving in the US. I used Cars Direct before and I know it can work. My plan is to pick three or four vehicles a few days before arrival and then make the final decision in person. I will be working with an insurance agent before I ever get to the US to ensure that I am fully covered before I leave the sales lot.

2.10.2020

Roasting Peanuts In The Philippines

Roasting Peanuts In The Philippines




My wife knows a lot of secrets when it comes to preparing simple yet delicious treats.

It does not get any simpler than roasted peanuts, but there are a few secrets that it helps to know when it comes to roasting them.

My wife gathered the black sand from the beach near our home. She hand-picked each piece of sand to get the perfect size. It must be small enough to slip through the strainer that separates it from the peanuts, but not so small that any of it gets lodged within cracks in the peanuts themselves. Once she finds the perfect sand she washes it thoroughly.

So why do you need sand at all? 




The sand is heated in a pan. Before the sand reaches it's maximum temperature the peanuts are added:




The sand helps to ensure that the entire peanut is roasted uniformly. You must continually stir the mixture for about ten minutes. At about the halfway point you will hear the peanuts begin to snap and pop. It is like popcorn, but not as loud. At about this time you remove the pan from the fire and continue to stir for another ten minutes. You can sample the peanuts to see if they are done and keep stirring until they reach the perfect roast.

Once the peanuts are roasted to perfection simply strain and enjoy:




As we learned from the Market Day article, a ganta is about three liters. We buy a ganta of fresh shelled peanuts from the local market for 150PHP for one ganta. It works out to about $.60 per pound. Not bad.

Peanuts are as near to being a perfect food as you can get and their nutritional value is impressive:
source of data

If you have insomnia or restless leg syndrome it could be due to magnesium deficiency. Peanuts contain a hefty quantify of the trace element magnesium, among many others, and I have found that adding peanuts to my diet does seem to help me in getting to sleep.

One bad thing about peanuts (and corn and many other crops) is that they can sometimes be contaminated with mold. How they are grown, harvested and stored makes a big difference. The mold Aspergillus flavus will grow on peanuts if they are not handled properly i.e. allowed to become and remain wet until they begin to rot. We try to limit our peanut buying to the dry season. 

Aspergillus produces a toxin called aflatoxin and it is a known liver carcinogen.  Many studies have determined that roasting peanuts significantly reduces the amount of aflatoxin in them.

If you like peanut butter, then make sure that you buy the right kind. In the US, manufacturers used to add partially hydrogenated oils to peanut butter to prevent the peanut oil from separating and rising to the top. A few years ago they replaced partially hydrogenated oils with fully hydrogenated oils, which produce no trans-fats and are thought to be somewhat healthier. Even so, I prefer natural peanut butter with no added oils. The peanut oil does rise to the top, so you have to stir it. You should only have to do that once if you store the peanut butter in the fridge. The best thing is reading the ingredients and seeing only peanuts, cane sugar and salt - as opposed to a long list of terms from an advanced chemistry exam. 

The peanut butter brand that we love is Lily's. We usually buy the 504g  plastic container that is priced at about 180PHP. We probably have a hundred of those plastic containers and use them for all sorts of things.


2.05.2020

US Embassy Outreach Legazpi City February 19, 2020

US Embassy Outreach Legazpi City February 19, 2020

 



Passing this along from the US Embassy in Manila:

Event Description:

The U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) unit will be providing U.S. citizen services in Legazpi City. Representatives from the Social Security Administration will provide remote assistance via a dedicated telephone at the event.

Location: 

Legazpi City, Albay
The Oriental Legazpi
Taysan Hill, Sto. NiƱo Village

Map:


Map Data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Time:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
8:00 AM to 11:00 AM

For more information, updates and changes to the schedule/venue see:



* I am not affiliated with the US Embassy. I am just a citizen of the US passing along information to other citizens of the US.

2.03.2020

Transferring Money To The Philippines From US Banks

Transferring Money To The Philippines From US Banks




UPDATE 2-24-20


My suspicions have been confirmed. Wells Fargo ExpressSend cannot send money to a USD account.  I had attempted to google that question before trying the transfer and search came up empty, yet I still suspected that it was just too good to be true. Turns out that it is too good to be true. ExpresssSend can only remit to a peso account. To approximate the exchange rate WF will give you google "USD to PHP" and knock about one peso off of that.

So it's back to depositing checks unless there is some time critical  emergency, in which case there are probably cheaper options available.

It is odd that no one at Wells Fargo could tell me this at the time they set up the transfer agreement.


**************** end update

For years and with only a couple of exceptions we have used one method to transfer cash from the US to the Philippines. It takes 4-6 weeks for a check from our US bank to clear in our PNB dollar account. The cost is 200PHP per deposit and there is a limit of $2,000 per check. Sometimes they wave the 200PHP fee.

A PNB Dollar Account requires a $500 opening deposit and $500 is also the minimum maintaining balance. When we opened our account they gave my wife the OFW dollar account, which has a $0 minimum maintaining deposit.

The long wait for the checks to clear is ok with us. We plan ahead. But in the event that there is a rush we have some options. One option that I am considering now is Wells Fargo ExpressSend

ExpressSend Single transfer limits:
M Lhuillier, Cebuana Lhuillier: $1,000 (cash pickup only)
Bank of the Philippine Islands, BDO, Unibank, Metrobank, Philippine National Bank: $3,000
Additional ExpressSend transfer limits:
The minimum amount you can send is $25.
The maximum daily amount that you can send to all beneficiaries using multiple Wells Fargo ExpressSend Service Agreements is $5,000. The maximum total amount that you can send during any consecutive 30-day period using the Wells Fargo ExpressSend service is $12,500. You cannot name the same beneficiary on more than one service agreement.
PNB Customer Care informs me that the fees for international transfer are as follows:
USD 8.00 - for credit to a PNB Dollar account
Php 450.00 - for credit to a PNB Peso account
Php 500.00 - for credit to a Peso account with other banks

Transfer Cost & Clearing Time Examples


Example #1:

A $3000 transfer by check requires 400PHP in fees (two checks x two 200PHP deposit fees) and a 4-6 week wait for the checks to clear in your PNB account.

For the same $3000 transfer by ExpressSend, Wells Fargo will charge $4.00 and PNB will charge $8.00, the total of which is roughly 600PHP. Your cash will be clear in about three business days.

Example #2:

A $20,000 transfer by check requires a 2000PHP in fees (ten checks x ten 200PHP deposit fees) and a 4-6 week wait for the check to clear in your PNB account.

For the same $20,000 transfer by ExpressSend, presuming $3,000 transfers ($2000 for the last one), seven separate transfers will be required. Each transfer will cost about 600PHP for a total of approximately 4200PHP. You can have the first $12,000 within a few days, but you will have to wait 30 days to transfer the remainder.

Setting Up ExpressSend With Wells Fargo


Wells Fargo recommends that you should allow up to five (5) Business Days for the Beneficiary account details to be established before you make a Remittance to be credited to an account.

If you do not already have a Wells Fargo account, then you may have problems setting up ExpressSend according to the FAQs:
The first remittance sent under each service agreement must be completed in person at a Wells Fargo branch. Customers with an existing checking or savings account may be able to complete their first remittance by calling the Wells Fargo Phone BankSM, subject to caller authentication requirements and additional fraud prevention controls. Subsequent remittances may be completed at a Wells Fargo branch, calling the Wells Fargo Phone Bank, or through Wells Fargo Online® at wellsfargo.com.
If you are in the Philippines and you do not already have an account, then it may not be possible for you to enroll in ExpressSend. Wells fargo does have a presence in Manila. If you Google it you can find several Wells Fargo hits:
Wells Fargo Bank N.A.Makati, Metro ManilaOpen now · (02) 884 8426
Wells Fargo ExpressSend Quezon City, Metro Manila(02) 8712 4774

I have not contacted wither of those above. If you click on the ExpressSend link in Google locations it shows this location info:
Banco de Oro, 202-204 Banawe Avenue, corner Agno Street, Quezon City, 1103 Metro Manila
Also, from the ExpressSend FAQ above, part of what is meant above by, "caller authentication requirements and additional fraud prevention controls" is using your credit file to verify you are who you say you are. This is why it is important to maintain a US credit card and a US address. Without doing so, there may not be enough information in your credit file for your identity to be verified by asking you questions about this data.

The Bottom Line


The bottom line for me on this issue is that ExpressSend will never save money on fees, but if you need money fast and within certain limits, then ExpressSend might be a good option to take.

I would not recommend transferring cash into a peso account. The Wells Fargo exchange rate does not look as good as what you will get transferring the cash from your Philippine bank dollar account to your peso account.

I will attempt to set up an ExpressSend transfer sometime this month and post back the results.

UPDATE 2-10-20


I contacted Wells Fargo at 1-800-556-0605. The automated system requests your account # & last four of SS#. When it asks what you need say "other options" and then specify "Express Send."

The account rep will verify your ID through various questions and you account will be set up. You will see the option for international transfers in your online account, but you will only be able to do the first transaction by calling Wells Fargo again and intiating it that way.

The rep told me that it may or may not work and we will not know if it is allowed until we try it that first time. If it does not work, then I would have to go into a branch for that first transfer. That's not an option and I did confirm with the rep and her supervisor that the Wells Fargo presence in Manila is NOT able to help out with this.

Service reps are live 24/7 at the 800 number I gave above for Wells Fargo. However, to execute the first ExpressSend transfer you need to call when the sales dept. is open so you must call from 8 AM to 10 PM Monday-Friday.

So we will know in a few days if it works when I attempt the initial transfer.




2.01.2020

Morning Hike In The Philippines

Morning Hike



The above is the hill area that we set out to walk earlier this morning.

The power was shut off at 0430 for routine maintenance. It was no good lying in bed and sweating, so we decided to take a walk into the foothills to check the land of my wife's family.



I used to go walking (jogging really) up here by myself everyday, until it started to become dangerous. A man was killed last year and to this day the perpetrator has not been caught. A few years ago a group of people came down out of the mountains and knocked on the door of our neighbor (an older lady). They asked her to pay the revolutionary tax. She told them to get lost. She told them that she worked very hard for her money and they have no right to just take it. They left without incident. They have never knocked on our door.



The walk is beautiful and there are a lot of cows grazing along the way. The smell of cow manure is not a bad smell to someone who grew up among farms and ranches. It is the smell of home and the soil.


We pass many terraces and small farms and gardens, as the sun is just beginning to peek out from behind the hills.



We started our walk at sea level and looking back at the ocean you can get a sense of how far we have come.



The mountains beyond the river rise to heights grater than 6,000 feet. My wife tells me I cannot go there.



On the journey back home we pass a sleepy guardian of the path, a kitten belonging to a cat that was a hunting buddy of my Butterscotch.



I included the good with the bad. I don't like to lie about how things really are. We love living in the Philippines, but bad things do happen. It is not right to withhold the whole truth. The place is beautiful and most of the people are wonderful, but like everywhere there is a dark side.