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The SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS Travel Manifesto

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I will see the world with wonder, with gratitude, with respect.
I will strive to stay, though ever moving, right in the happy middle: the intersection of longing and contentment. I will not close my eyes to the harsh realities of life and will endeavor to respond with compassion and action, but I will keep my rose-colored glasses on hand, in my carry-on, and remember to count my blessings.

I will not count how many countries I’ve been to, though I won’t think poorly of people who do. I will try to resist the temptation to count because I don’t want the number to be my motivation. I don’t want to travel just to tick a place off a list. I don’t want to say: “My name is X and I have been to Y out of Z countries,” though there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I just don’t want to feel like I’ve left behind the rat race only to join the passport stamp race. I’m sure the number is much less than I would want it to be and much more than majority of the people in this planet will ever have the means to achieve.

I will travel because I want to, in the manner that I want to, and I will allow others the courtesy to do likewise. I hope never to catch myself saying those who can’t leave behind the comforts of home should stay home. I hope never to become the sort of person who thinks I have the right or omniscience to dictate who should and shouldn’t travel, and how. I hope never to get sucked into “traveler versus tourist,” a distinction that may have started as a well-meaning attempt to describe different levels of interaction with a place, but is now too often a none-too-subtle ploy to pat one’s own back: a traveler is me and a tourist is someone not like me. I will always endeavor to dive deep into a place, to hear the hidden drum beat to which it marches. But I will not judge those who rush from place to place, for it may be the only time they have, with the wealth they have or lack thereof, to see the places they’ve always longed to see with their own eyes. I will not be the sort of self-validating traveler who thinks he is better than people who have never been outside their hometowns. I believe — no matter what Mark Twain says — that a person who stays in one corner of the earth all his life can still be capable of “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men.” I believe a person’s passport does not define his character. And I believe people who have truly sucked the marrow of the road will have hearts too full to find fault in others.

I will challenge myself. I will talk to locals and fellow travelers even though I’m someone who usually keeps to herself. I will try to capture an experience, in words and in images, the best way I know how, but I will also take time to just savor the moment, that even if my notebook gets lost or my camera gets stolen, the memory will have been burned into my heart to keep forever.

I will not stop dreaming. Someday I will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, Scottish highlands, cherry blossoms, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, glorious lions in the wild…. And I will encourage people to dream. I will never tire of telling them: someday you will see Antarctic penguins, northern lights, Scottish highlands, cherry blossoms, sunny vineyards, gloomy cliffs, pink beaches, purple trees, and glorious lions in the wild.

I will inspire by being ordinary. There are too many inspiring stories of people who leave everything behind in order to travel the world. I will tell stories of people who stay, who find contentment in what would seem a humdrum life, who work and go home and save $10 a month in their travel fund, most of the paycheck having already gone to milk for their kids and educational funds and utility bills…and who, after 10 years, finally go on a whirlwind 5-day dream trip to Paris. I will celebrate the courage of working with what you have, the heroism of looking at the banal and saying: “This is my life and I am happy with it.”

I will travel whenever I can, for as long as I can, and while doing so I will create a home worth going back to. I want to be excited to leave and happy to return. I will create such a home that when my children and my children’s children go out, in their turn, to explore the world, no matter where their feet may take them, they will always feel that the best place on earth to be is still home.

 

The SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS Travel Manifesto” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

 

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She took the midnight train going anywhere

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SGMT train station

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There’s nothing romantic about midnight trains.

Oh, there’s romance in the notion of stepping from a wooden platform onto a steel carriage, from solid ground to motion, to adventure, to the dark.

There’s nothing romantic about not knowing where, exactly, in the designated platform of a rather long train, two people with a ticket that says “CNL 1319, 2 Liegeplätze, Wg. 186, Pl. 55 56, 2 Oben, Abteil, Nichtraucher, inkl. Zuschlag” should stand to wait for their car; nothing romantic about expecting the cars to be ordered numerically all throughout, then finding out they’re not, then having to decide — fast! — whether to go forward or back; nothing romantic about deciding, at the last minute, to board a random car and searching from car to car for the right car and the right compartment; nothing romantic about dragging your luggage along narrow corridors and having to wait for rowdy groups of people to settle themselves into their compartments so that you can pass by to get to yours.

There is, I suppose, something romantic about the thought of going to sleep in Paris and waking up in Venice, as if transported by dreams in a drizzle of pixie dust.

In unromantic reality, you wake up when the authorities need to see your ticket and your passport, and again when they are returned to you. Or if the air conditioning is wonky, you wake up every 30 minutes or so: when it becomes too hot, and again when it becomes too cold. That is if you can sleep at all, in your cramped berth, your 1 couchette in a crowded car of 6.

And yes, it might be romantic: the idea of 6 strangers seemingly thrown together by fate, their life’s journeys interconnected for a time altogether too brief.

What’s not so romantic? Not being able to sit up in bed, having to creep into it, and staring at the roof of the train just a few inches from your nose, because a 6-couchette compartment in a 12-compartment 26-meter car does not a penthouse suite make.

So honestly?

There is nothing romantic about midnight trains.

Just the idea of them.

And yet…

I still love them.

I love that the experience is raw and real, not a smooth ride contrived for my paying convenience.

I love that they remind me of why I travel: to experience the unfamiliar, even when it’s uncomfortable.

And I love that they remind me of my favorite stories, the ones with happy endings. They give me hope that, someday, after the curveballs and the uncertainty and the discomfort and the pain, in the end I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.

(In Venice, sipping a latte.)
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List of Philippine Holidays 2017

List of Philippine Holidays 2017 | SGMT

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Time to start planning your travels next year!

Here’s the list of regular holidays and special non-working days for 2017, as decreed in Proclamation No. 50, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last August 16 and released by Malacañang today, August 18. The special holidays for the observance of Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha will be announced as soon as the official dates of these celebrations are set based on the Islamic calendar. Long weekends in 2017 are in red.

January 1, 2017 (Sunday) – New Year’s Day (Regular Holiday)

January 28, 2017 (Saturday) – Chinese New Year (Special Non-Working Day)

February 25, 2017 (Saturday) – EDSA Revolution Anniversary (Special Non-Working Day)

April 9, 2017 (Sunday) – Araw ng Kagitingan (Regular Holiday)

April 13, 2017 (Thursday) – Maundy Thursday (Regular Holiday)

April 14, 2017 (Friday) – Good Friday (Regular Holiday)

April 15, 2017 (Saturday) – Black Saturday (Special Non-Working Day)

May 1, 2017 (Monday) – Labor Day (Regular Holiday)

June 12, 2017 (Monday) – Independence Day (Regular Holiday)

August 21, 2017 (Monday) – Ninoy Aquino Day (Special Non-Working Day)

August 28, 2017 (Monday) – National Heroes Day (Regular Holiday)

October 31, 2017 (Tuesday) – Additional Special (Non-Working) Day

November 1, 2017 (Wednesday) – All Saints Day (Special Non-Working Day)

November 30, 2017 (Thursday) – Bonifacio Day (Regular Holiday)

December 25, 2017 (Monday) – Christmas Day (Regular Holiday)

December 30, 2017 (Saturday) – Rizal Day (Regular Holiday)

December 31, 2017 (Sunday) – Last day of the year (Special Non-Working Day)

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As you can see, we have 4 long weekends next year, not counting Holy Week and Christmas. Start planning and budgeting! 🙂

(And if you’re wondering, the beach in that picture above is Nacpan Beach in El Nido, Palawan. Batanes, pictured below, would be the perfect place to visit in the May/June long weekend. See: 7 things you should know before planning your trip to Batanes.)

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How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy

How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy in Manila, Philippines | SGMT
SGMT Germany Munich 1200x630

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When I visited Munich two years ago, I was on a trip through several European cities and had gotten my Schengen visa from the Dutch embassy. For that reason, when last week my mum’s friend asked me to help her get a visa to visit her sister in Germany, I told her I would still have to look up the specific procedure at the German embassy. (You see, procedures can vary among different embassies: some use third-party visa application centers, some handle it themselves; some require cover letters, some don’t; and so on.)

The website of the German embassy in Manila was very helpful but with the wealth of information there, it took several clicks to tease out just the information that I needed. So…I figured it might be useful if I gathered all the information for tourists/family visits and put them all here in one page.

Please note that this guide is for Filipinos who want to go to Germany either (1) for tourism, or (2) to visit family and friends there. The website of the German embassy in Manila can guide you if you want to go to Germany for other purposes:

  • Au pairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Business (see requirements HERE)
  • Employment (get more info HERE)
  • Fairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Family reunion and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Jobseekers – highly skilled professionals who want to look for a job in Germany (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course less than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course longer than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Marriage and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Nurses seeking employment in Germany (get more info HERE)
  • Seafarers joining their ship in a German harbour (get more info HERE)
  • Studying in Germany (see requirements HERE)
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*Applying for a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy: The Basics
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_1_The Basics

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Basically, there are 5 things you need to do to get a Schengen visa from the German embassy:

  1. Prepare your travel itinerary.
  2. Fill up the online application form.
  3. Gather all your requirements.
  4. Set an appointment at the Germany embassy.
  5. Go to the embassy at the appointed date and time and submit your requirements.

Personal appearance is necessary.

The earliest time you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you intend to enter the Schengen area. For example, if your flight from the Philippines to Germany is on the first week of November, the earliest you can apply for a visa is on the first week of August.

According to the embassy website, processing will take one week — and it is NOT possible to expedite the visa processing.
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Step 1: Prepare your itinerary
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_2_Step 1 Prepare your itinerary

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The first thing you need to do is to prepare your travel itinerary because you will need to write the details of your trip when you fill up your application form online (in Step 2).

The information and documents you need to have on hand are as follows:

  • Your personal information — name, date of birth, etc.
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  • The names and address of your parents or legal guardian
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  • Your passport details — passport number, date of issue, etc.
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  • Your home and e-mail addresses
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  • Occupation and employer’s name/address
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  • Travel data
    • Main purpose(s) of your journey — tourism, visit of family or friends, etc.
    • Member state(s) of destination — Germany (DEU) plus any other Schengen state you plan to visit
    • Intended date of arrival, intended date of departure, duration of the intended stay or transit
    • Schengen visas, if any, issued during the past three years — dates of validity of the visa, date your biometrics (specifically fingerprints) were taken
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  • Details of your entry permit for your final country of destination, if you are going somewhere else after you visit the Schengen area
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  • Reference details — your reference could be the person/organization that invited you, a hotel, an accredited diplomat, an EU citizen, or you could select “No reference person”
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  • Expenses
    • Who will cover your cost of living and traveling — yourself, a third party (e.g., company), or a sponsor
    • Means of support — cash, traveller’s cheques, credit card, accommodation provided, all expenses covered during the stay, pre-paid transport, other
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  • Name, address, and other details of your sponsor (if you have one)
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Step 2: Fill up the online application form
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_3_Step 2 Fill up the Online Application Form

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When you have your travel details ready, you can now fill up the online application form.

(It’s not a must-read but you can see the General User Guidelines for the application form HERE.)

Once the form is completed, print it out. You will need to bring the printout of the application form to the embassy during your appointment.

The German embassy website says: “The printout should be done in the best possible quality so that we can read the barcode into the data processing system. If you do not have a printer, you are welcome to let a person you trust (e.g. your host, business partners in Germany, relative, friend, etc.) fill in the form for you and / or print and then send it as a scan (pdf-file) to us by email (visa@mani.diplo.de) at least one working day before your visa appointment. The most important part for the data processing is definitely the last page with the barcode!”
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Step 3: Prepare the Visa Requirements
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_4_Step 3 Prepare the Visa requirements

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A checklist of required documents can be found in the German embassy website:

These are the requirements you need to prepare:

  1. Passport — original and photocopy
    • Must be valid for another 3 months after the end of your trip
    • Must contain two empty pages
    • Bring previous passports
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  2. Current passport picture
    • One (1) picture if you are applying for a tourist visa
    • Two (2) pictures if you are applying for a visitor’s visa
    • Photo studios generally know the specs needed for Schengen visa applications but you can also see the specs HERE
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  3. Visa application form — the printout of the form you filled up online. Don’t forget to sign it!
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  4. A signed printout of the “Declaration according to § 54 AufenthaltsG” — this basically says that if you provide false or incomplete information in order to get a visa, you may be expelled.
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  5. Travel details

    • For tourists, you need to submit the following documents:
      • Details regarding your travel destination and travel route
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      • Details regarding your means of travel for the outward and return journey (details regarding the airline — no flight ticket needed)
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      • Hotel voucher or confirmation of the hotel/guesthouse that the accommodation has already been paid for. For hotel reservations that you can cancel in case your visa application gets denied, Booking.com lets you filter search results to show only those hotels that offer free cancellation. Here are the links to hotels in some of the most popular German cities:
    • If you are going to Germany to visit family or friends, you need to submit the following documents:
      • Proof of your relationship with your sponsor — birth/marriage certificates, written correspondence between you and your sponsor, proof of telephone connections, other evidence of relationship between you and your sponsor
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      • If no formal obligation is submitted, an informal invitation by your host, in which information is given regarding your host’s exact address of residence, the purpose of your travel, and the full duration of your travel and stay
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      • Details regarding your means of travel for the outward and return journey (details regarding the airline — no flight ticket needed)
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  6. Financial coverage of the cost of your travel and stay
    • For tourists: Statements of your account(s) for the previous six months, with a confirmation by the bank. According to the German embassy (in “How can I prove self-financing of subsistence expenses?“) you would generally need an amount of about €45 per person per day. (This is what people sometimes refer to as “show money” although the money is definitely not just for “show.” You need to have this amount to prove that you have the financial capacity to pay for the expenses you may incur during your trip.) You can substantiate that you have this amount through:
      • Proof of your own income
      • Presentation of your credit card together with the accounts of the past six (6) months
      • Presentation of your bank statements for the past six (6) months together with a confirmation of the bank
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    • For visitors to family/friends in Germany: EITHER (or both, if you can) of the following:
      • Statements of your account(s) for the previous six months, with a confirmation by the bank
      • Formal Obligation (original and a Xerox copy) according to §§ 66-68 of the German Residence Law, given by your host at the aliens authority “Ausländerbehörde”) in Germany that is responsible for his / her area of residence
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  7. Travel health insurance, which is valid for all Schengen-States and the full duration of stay for which the visa is applied for, with a minimum coverage sum of 30,000 Euros. Philippine insurances must be accredited and given in the original with a Xerox; German insurances are accepted as a Xerox, Fax or scan. The Schengen-accepted Philippine travel insurance companies that are accepted at the German embassy are:
    • ACE Insurance Philippines
    • Chartis Philippines Insurance, Inc.
    • Assist-Card
    • Blue Cross
    • BPI – MS Insurance Corporation
    • Everest International Group Administrators Inc.
    • FPG Insurance Co., Inc. (vorher: Federal Phoenix Assurance Co., Inc.)
    • Fortune General Ins. Corp
    • Liberty Insurance Coporation
    • MAA Insurance
    • Malayan Insurance Company, Inc.
    • MAPFRE Insular Insurance Corporation
    • Oriental Assurance Corporation
    • Paramount Life and General Insurance Co
    • Philippine British Assurance Co., Inc.
    • Philippines First Insurance Company
    • Pioneer Insurance Company
    • PNB General Insurers Co., Inc.
    • Standard Insurance Co.
    • Starr International Insurance Philippines
    • UCPB General Insurance Co. Inc.
    • WorldWide Travel Insurance Plans
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  8. Proof of rootedness in the Philippines
    • If you are employed: Proof of your employment, i.e. most recent income tax return, certificate of employment (including your employer’s full name, complete address and telephone number with area code details regarding your position or professional designation, income, duration of the working relationship) AND letter of approved leave of absence signed by your employer
    • If you are self-employed: proof of registration and commercial activity of your company in the Philippines, e.g. income tax returns, bank certificates, documents of the company accounts or other
    • If you are a pupil/student: School certificate / University certificate; proof of enrollment (for students), if applicable; letter of exemption from studies
    • Plus: If you own real estate property, e.g. original land title, deed of sale
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  9. Additional documents for children below age 18:
    • Personal appearance of both parents during submission of the visa application (if residing in the Philippines) with valid ID (passport or driver’s license)
    • Original Birth Certificate of the child, issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA – former NSO) on Security Paper (SECPA)
    • If not traveling with both parents:
      • Declaration of consent by the legal guardian(s), signed in front of a German consular officer
      • Passports of the legal guardian(s) (original and Xerox copy of the data page)
      • Proof of legal custody (for minors with parents whose marriage was dissolved/ annulled)
      • Death certificate of the other parent
      • Travel permit issued by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
    • If the person(s) having care and custody of the child is resident abroad, a declaration of consent, given before the responsible German Consul must be submitted. If the person(s) having care and custody of the child live(s) in Germany, this declaration must be given before a German Notary Public or the responsible aliens authority (Ausländerbehörde).
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  10. Visa fee
    • Children up to 6 years – no fee
    • Children from 6 to 12 years – €35
    • Applicants older than 12 years – €60
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Step 4: Set an appointment online
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_5_Step 4 Set an appointment online

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You can book an appointment at the Germany embassy HERE.

The instructions in the website are quite easy to follow but if you need a step-by-step guide with screenshots and labels and arrows and all that, you can find one HERE.

Once you have booked your appointment, you will receive a confirmation email. Print out the email and bring it with you during your appointment. You will not be admitted for your appointment at the Visa Section without a printout of the confirmation email.
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Step 5: Go to the embassy at the appointed date and time and submit your requirements.
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_6_Step 5 Go to the embassy at the appointed date and time and submit your requirements

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Address
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German Embassy Manila
25/F Tower 2, RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Ave (cor Sen. Gil Puyat Ave)
Makati City
Metro Manila, Philippines

Contact number of the German embassy’s Visa Section: (63) (2) 702 3001
Fax number of the German embassy’s Visa Section: (63) (2) 702 3045
Email address: visa@mani.diplo.de

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Make sure your documents are complete (review Step 3). The German embassy says: “Incomplete applications will not be accepted: the application will then be turned away free of charge, and you will need to set a new appointment.”

There will be an interview and biometrics will be taken.

And then: wait. The embassy will release their decision after 1 week.

If your application was denied, you can file an appeal.
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Extra Tips
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_7_Extra tips

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The Germany embassy website has a FAQs page that you might want to check out.

As I mentioned at the top of the page, I got my Schengen visa from the Dutch embassy (and another time from the French embassy) and I’m simply compiling this info for my mum’s friend. For tips from someone who actually — successfully! — obtained her visa from the German embassy, check out my friend Daisy’s blog.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer

Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer | SGMT —
Plus guidance straight from the Bureau of Immigration and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).



I recently had the chance to put a few questions to an Immigration officer and he kindly agreed to give me a few tips for travelers who might be nervous about getting offloaded. (I promised him I would keep his identity confidential, even though he didn’t really require this as a condition to answering my questions, and I also assured him he didn’t have to reveal any “trade secrets” from the Bureau of Immigration.) Please take note that these tips are for legit tourists, particularly first time travelers who might understandably be worried about the possibility of being offloaded. If you’re reading this so you can find out how to fool the Immigration officer at NAIA, I urge you to please, please reconsider your plans. You may have good intentions — maybe you just want to work so you can send your kids to school and get your family out of poverty — but the risks can be very high. It might be your family who will end up having to sell everything to save you, so please think about it.
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Required Documents: The Basics

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First of all, if you haven’t read “Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel” please do so right now. (The link will open in a separate tab so you don’t have to leave this page.) That article will give you a list of documents you have to bring when you travel — the basic requirements, the additional documents that may be required if the Immigration officer has doubts about you, the requirements if someone else is paying for your trip, and the list of people who need a DSWD travel clearance or a Travel Authority. If you want to be really prepared — to the point of being over-prepared sometimes — you’ll find even more tips here: “Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs.”
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An Immigration Officer’s Tips

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Here’s the gist of what the immigration officer said when I asked him for tips for first time travelers:
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Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel

SGMT | List of Documents Required by Immigration — 
In 2014, I wrote a post titled “What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration” and since then, I’ve had a lot of people writing to me and asking for advice on how to “pass” the Immigration screening. Two years have gone by since that article first came out so I thought I’d create this updated list of documents that travelers may be required to show at the Immigration counter.
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What documents are required for ALL Filipinos who are traveling abroad as tourists?
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  1. Passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – must be unexpired with at least 6 months remaining validity*
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  2. Visa – if required at the final destination
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  3. Return ticket

*I emailed Immigration some time ago and they verified that the passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of departure.

The visa must be unexpired.

You must have a ticket for your flight back to the Philippines. A few people have asked if return tickets are still needed if, for example, they plan to go backpacking around Southeast Asia and don’t want to set their schedule in stone. I asked an Immigration officer about this and, yes, you still need a return ticket. This is because the country you are heading to — and most other countries — will almost certainly require tourists to present a return/onward ticket upon arrival, as proof that you don’t intend to stay in their country illegally or for longer than you’re permitted. Without a return/onward ticket, you could be sent back to the Philippines.

  • If you really intend to go on a trip without making specific plans for return, I suggest you set an estimated date of return and: (a) buy a ticket back to the Philippines from a budget airline, so it won’t hurt your pocket too much if you decide not to use it, OR (b) buy a ticket from an airline that will let you change travel dates. This strategy might cost you a bit more but that’s better than being sent back — prudence is cheaper than regret.
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Dolphins are always a good idea

Dolphin Watching in Puerto Princesa | SGMT
SGMT Palawan Dolphin Watching in Puerto Princesa 03

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Who doesn’t love dolphins? (No, seriously, who doesn’t?) We had the chance to go dolphin watching on our last day in Palawan and it was absolutely one of the highlights of our 6-day Puerto Princesa/El Nido itinerary.

Our flight back to Cebu was scheduled to depart Puerto Princesa  at 3:20 PM and at first we had nothing planned for the day. We figured we would probably just use the time to shop for pasalubong — we were staying at Holiday Suites, which is conveniently located right across Robinsons Palawan — or simply lounge by the hotel pool and enjoy our last vacation day before plunging back to reality. However, while researching Puerto Princesa tours, I stumbled upon a group offering a half-day dolphin watching tour and it just seemed to fit perfectly into our schedule, so we went for it.

A guide picked us up at 6:30 AM and drove us, along with half a dozen others, to the Puerto Princesa Baywalk, where we boarded a boat staffed by another guide, a boatman, and a dolphin spotter. As we headed out to the Sulu Sea, the guide explained that the tours were seasonal (April to October) not because the dolphins were only there for part of the year, but because we were going out to open sea and the waters tended to get too rough for comfort during the rest of the year. She said they can’t guarantee that we would see a dolphin that morning — but, she added with a wide smile, the chances were around 95%. Hurray!
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Nacpan Beach: To Go or Not To Go (and Spend P1500)

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El Nido Nacpan Beach 00


I’ll be honest: if the tricycle driver hadn’t offered to take us to Nacpan Beach for P1000 — instead of the usual P1500 — I might never have gone.

Nacpan Beach has been described in superlatives ranging from “the best beach in El Nido” to “the most beautiful beach in the world.” Friends who’ve been there told me: absolutely, I should go. And yes, I’d seen that oft-shared overlooking image of the twin beaches, Nacpan and Calitang, separated by a stripe of palm-tree-lined blinding white sand. Nacpan is nice — no question about that.

But sometimes, the more a place is hyped up, the more I hesitate. I feel like if so many people I know have already been to a place and unanimously agreed that it’s great, then there’s not as much motivation for me to go and see it for myself because…what could I possibly add to the discussion? And superlatives are all very well but I have to admit I’m a bit cynical about them, especially here in the Philippines where a surefire way to go “viral” is to tell us Filipinos we are the best at something. Online poll results I take with a grain of salt, particularly ambiguous awards like “best” or “most beautiful” because, well, how do you define good or beautiful? It’s all subjective. For me, it’s less informative being told that Nacpan Beach is the best beach in El Nido (or the world!) than being told exactly what makes it good, what people love about it.

So…in the end I went to Nacpan Beach. And in case anyone out there is also wondering whether it’s worth the P1500 asking price, let me tell you what I liked about it so you can decide for yourself.
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