Balikbayan Program

Last Sunday, February 19 our family flew to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for a purpose of availing again a year of visa less stay in the Philippines for a foreign passport holders like my husband, Joshua and our daughter Abigail through Balikbayan Program.  So, you may ask how it is possible, and what is Balikbayan Program?

BALIKBAYAN PROGRAM 

Before I proceed, allow me to express my disclosure on this.  I did my researched to pulled-out a most reliable sources of articles defining this program.

According to www.lawphil.net, Section 1 of Republic Act No. 6768 or popularly known as Balikbayan Program.  A Balikbayan Program is hereby instituted under the administration of the Department of Tourism to attract and encourage overseas Filipinos to come and visit their motherland. This is in recognition of their contribution to the economy of the country through the foreign exchange inflow that they generate.  

The program allows visa-free entry to the Philippines for a period of one (1) year for foreign passport holders, with the exception of visa-required nationals.

 

THE TERM BALIKBAYAN DEFINES

• A former Filipino citizen with foreign passport and members of his/her family. The term “family” shall mean the spouse and minor children of the balikbayan (who are not balikbayan in their own right) who are travelling to the Philippines together with the balikbayan
• A Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of at least one (1) year from the date of last departure and their families
• A Filipino overseas worker   (Source: Embassy of the Philippines)

 

SO HOW IS THIS APPLICABLE FOR OUR FAMILY? 

This program first benefited our family the first time we flew back from United States of America (USA) to Philippines as a family last September 1,  2015.  Since I stayed in USA for almost 2 years, I was qualified in the program and technically considered as Balikbayan, and a  Filipino Citizen.

A Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of at least one (1) year from the date of last departure and their families

Joshua and Abigail that time received a visa-free entry stamped in their passports to the Philippines from the immigration and its good for a period of one (1) year which was effective until August 31, 2016.

The only requirements we needed to complied to benefits from this program, and received a visa-free entry is travelling together as a family.

A Foreign passport-holders family members such as spouse and children needs to travel together with a Filipino Citizen or former Filipino Citizen and MUST present themselves together with the Immigration Officer at the port of entry and declare the desire of availing the privilege of Balikbayan Program.  

 

IT DOESN’T MAKES SENSE, WHY GOING OUT IF YOU ARE ALREADY IN? 

Well the gist is to avoid visa extension fees and fines. As I mentioned earlier their first BB was effective only until August 31, 2016 and before it expired, our plan was to exit to neighboring Asian country and be back in the Philippines while processing my papers with US Embassy.  We thought we had a perfect plan even before we left USA.  But most of our prior plans didn’t materialized on our own projected time frame.  So before their BB expired, we applied for them a tourist visa which was valid only for one month or till September 30, 2016. Tourist visa extension was costly, and most of the time stressful. Joshua even had a stress-triggered psychosis-type episode, an emergency room admission, and re-occurring episodes while processing another extension for the month of October 2016.   WWhichhich we failed to finished because of all the commotion that happened in the immigration.  The third time we went back, we settled all the immigration late fees covering four (4) months of expired visas and a month of approved extension which is valid only till February 28, 2017.  The results of our paper works with US Embassy will come out between 30 to 90 days from February 3, 2017.  With this it is  more practical for us in terms of monetary and more stress free to  depart the country once again, and returned and availed the BB Program.

Today their passports are stamped with BB and that they can stay in the Philippines visa-free until February 20, 2018.

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WHY NOT APPLY FOR A PERMANENT RESIDENCE?

Somebody asked us about considering a permanent residence application for Joshua and Abi in the Philippines.  Our response was, its not on our radar.  No future plans for it yet.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT? 

In our experiences, we concluded that immigration laws are different in every country so, expect the possible unexpected situations and questioning.  The first time we attempted to availed the Balibayan Program, we experienced some sort of questioning not in the Philippines but in China.  Our connecting flights were from Los Angeles to China, and from China to Philippines.  At the Guangzhou Airport during our boarding at China Southern, the questioning begun.  Since Joshua and Abigail are both US passport holders, the boarding officers asked us to provide a copy of their return tickets to USA.  They were enforcing a standards verification procedures.   Since our plan was to stayed in the Philippines for a matter of year and be worry free from immigration fees through Balikbayan Benefits.  But the boarding officers weren’t aware about the Balikbayan Program so we needed to explained it to them, and asked them to check the Philippine Immigration website about the existence of the program.  It took us 15 minutes of explaining ourselves to the boarding officers and supervisors. With the helped of some appropriate supporting documents, at the end we were allowed to proceed and board the plane.

 

WHAT ARE THE APPROPRIATE SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS? 

  • For foreign spouse, bring  an original copy of your marriage certificate.
  • For foreign children, bring an original copy of their birth certificate
  • For adopted children, bring an original copy of their adoption papers.

Understand that these boarding officials and immigration officers are just doing their job so the tip is to satisfy their questionings with factual explanations supported with black and white documents.  If you aren’t sure of what you are doing, before travelling make sure to do your research, talk with appropriate class to apply those information with confidence.

 

EXITING NEARBY ASIAN COUNTRY

It took a while for us to made a trip outside the Philippines to the nearby Asian Country because of some uncontrollable situation our family faced during the last quarter of 2016.  I’m referring to the Haltom Family Health and Wellness. We were planning this trip for a long time but due to uncontrollable situations like family emergencies, Philippine Immigration expired visas, and budget it didn’t push through.  So once we addressed it one by one, we were able to planned our one day trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.  Thank God for the provision.

The moment we pulled out everything, and recieved unexpected funds, we set a workable budget, look for a place to visit, booked our round trip plane tickets with Air Asia, and  researched an affordable hotel with airport pickup and returned.  The goal was to exit the country, and returned together as a family to once again availed the free visa less stay for a year stamp at the immigration for Joshua and Abi.

 

DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL-PHILIPPINES & KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA

Both the immigration officers in the Philippines and Malaysia were accommodating during our departure and return. The process was quick.  As expected, the departure immigration officer at Ninoy Aquino International Airport asked us about the Emigration Clearance Certificate or ECC.  But when she realized that we benefited from Balikbayan Program and calculated the time of our stayed in the Philippines from the date of Balibayan stamped arrival and expiration, she didn’t asked us anymore questions.  One by one took our pictures, stamped our passports and  were good to depart.  When we arrived at the Malaysian airport, and faced the Immigration Officer at the port of entry, he just asked our passports, identified us by names while looking on our individual passport then stamped our passports with arrival date with maximum number of permitted days to stay for visit.   For American Citizen, Joshua and Abi they both received a 90 days social visit. While for me, Philippine passport holder only 30 days.

 

EMIGRATION CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE

A few days before our scheduled flight, I came a crossed to an article in the internet which stating that Philippine Immigration is mandating an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) for all foreign nationals passport holders who have been in the Philippines for a matter of 6 months and longer.  The requirement is to apply for it in the Bureau to avoid departure problem.  I honestly freaked out a little bit because we just had a workable budget, and wasn’t expecting it. I was calculating that we’ve been staying in the Philippines for a matter of 1 year and almost 6 months.  We just paid a humongous amount of pesos for the late fees for five (5) months of tourist visa extension for Joshua and Abi which accumulated for long period because of us not able to addressed it during Joshua’s emergency and episodes.  We decided to go at the Philippine Immigration and inquired about ECC, but the good thing about it we made a phone call first and asked them about ECC and explained our situations that we just went there amount ago, settled our fines and fees, and more payments.  When I asked them why the processor didn’t issue as an ECC, the woman over the phone started calculating our stay and according to her explanation we came in the Philippines with a free visa less one year stay through BALIKBAYAN BENEFITS, and counting from our BB expired, we are only running 5 months and few weeks.  Technically, not yet 6 months given that the number of days in a months differs. Make sense?  That day, as she said our family were good to go without ECC. The following day, just to confirmed that the information we received was factual and dependable, once again I called the Philippine Immigration, and with explanations on my part, the immigration personnel over the phone, after he made his own verification and calculation  he stated clearly that we were good to go and no need to apply for ECC. Praise God.

 

DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL:  KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA AND PHILIPPINES

On the day of our departure at Kota Kinabalu, the processed we had encountered with the Immigration officer was quick and easy.   We handed our passports.  Take note of this.  Every time we go to the immigration officer, we go as a family.  Again asked our names, took our pictures, and placed our index fingers at the bio metrics.  When we arrived at the Philippines, again together as a family we presented ourselves and handed our passports. The processed was the same, identified our names, and one by one took our pictures even our 2 year old daughter.  We over heard the lady beside us that she was   declaring her desired to avail the Balikbayan Benefits for her family.  So, we did the same.   And the gracious Immigration officer stamped Joshua and Abi’s passport with an acronym BB which stands for BALIKBAYAN BENEFITS.  He reminded us that we can avail it anytime only my husband and our daughter needs to traveled with me and presents ourselves together with the immigration officer.

 

OUR LEARNING

1.  Planning ahead.  Never Procrastinate.

We learned that planning ahead will help us to established our goal straight, and establishing our strategies how to achieved it.  It will also help us Joshua and I to focus ourselves together in the same path.  The plan of exiting to the other country was set even before we left USA.  The thing was we lacked in prioritizing it.   With the continuous coming of funds, we procrastinate it. With the family emergency which started last quarter of the year, it was completely set aside.  Planning ahead, will discipline us more to adjust ourselves to one-income budget.  To become more realistic but with definite time frame, building a cash reserve, and workable budget and the most important developing a more harmonious relationship with Joshua and avoiding friction as a result of being unprepared.  We thank God that we booked a cheaper round-trip plane tickets with Air Asia, found an affordable hotel with an airport pickup and returned, and enough budget for our food.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? -Luke 14:28 New Living Translation

2. Trusted Source of Information

That was the very first time our family visited to Malaysia and first time we flew with Air Asia.  Haven’t we received reliable source of information like an option to pay Air Asia through Bayad Centers, I was struggling to booked the tickets for 1/2 days using online payment option.  Good exchange of emails with the hotel management helped us to had advance information from the hotels such as its distance from the airport, corrected our reservations from two (2) adults to two (2) adults with child, and even arranged an airport pick-up which we truly enjoyed.  We felt so privilege.  Internet information is always good but not all of it are applicable to  a given situations like us not needing to have ECC, so talking with the right people are more advisable.

20 Get all the advice and instruction you can,
    so you will be wise the rest of your life. -Proverbs 19:20 New Living Testament

3. Family Fun while Pressing Towards the Goal. 

This one day exit to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia helps our family to refresh, getting out of our daily routine, build memories together, helps us to trust one another’s company, and cracking the seriousness of life to a more fun ways.  This travel also help Joshua and I to renewed our confidence with each other.  When we were in Malaysia,  unexpectedly Joshua told to me that he would do his best again, and pray to God to bring back my confidence in him and in his leadership just like when we were living in USA.  When we migrate in the Philippines, our situation changed.  In USA, I was fully dependent on him in every little things.  New culture, new people, new system, new language, and different style of living. In the Philippines, he experienced all of the things I experienced in USA in a very extreme way.  It was more harder on his part because he experienced anxiety, stress-triggered psychosis-type episode, and a series of relapse.  Because of his traumatic injury during younger years, he was diagnosed with several and serious mental conditions.  In USA, it was managed well, and his life was easy.  Though there were challenging times, he always come out  strong.    In the Philippines, he somewhat lose his confidence in expressing himself, he experience tough times and setbacks, that made his symptoms worsen. He had several relapses which led him to emergency admission.   That one day trip in Malaysia gave us both a freedom from each other’s shadow.  His confident to expressed himself came -out again without fear of being prejudiced.  It was a selah from our fears.  Over all we enjoyed it as a family.  Our daughter surely witnessed the strength and weakness of her parents and how we worked things out together.   It was a joyful experience.

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. -Philippians 3:12-14 New Living Translation

 

Additional Source of  Reading:

An Act of Instituting A Balikbayan Program                                                                                              Balikbayan Program, Embassy of the Philippines in Netherlands                                     Republic Act 9174, an Act No. 9174 Republic An Act Ammending Republic Act Numbered 6768, Entitled “An act Instituting Balikbayan Program”                                                        Balikbayan Program, Embassy of the Philippines

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Kids Station at Ninoy Aquino International Airport

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Eminent Hotel

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Local Neighborhood, Restaurant Community Plaza nearby Eminent Hotel

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Eminent Hotel

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Kota Kinabalu International Airport

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Kota Kinabalu International Airport

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Kota Kinabalu, International Airport

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Be a Better Dad Today!

For an outside day in Manila not too long ago with my wife Lady and her niece, Nica, together with our daughter Abigail, I was gifted a book by Author Gregory Slayton entitled, “Be a Better Dad Today!”

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I can honestly say that I haven’t been able to get too very far in the book yet, besides the occasional glimpse.  The only reason I can think of is that Abigail is both of our first daughter and she is just about to turn three-years-old.  One might think that they wrote the book on manhood until they decide to name their daughter Abigail Exodus.  I am very proud of us for doing that.

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The book opens with a favorable review from former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush (1999-2007).  And today, we see many changes facing the American landscape.  In 2016, America has been blessed enough to have a 45th President, a Republican named Donald Trump.  Fatherhood is not like politics though.  It is also not so different.  Fatherhood is not like gambling either, and neither is it so different.  The story of Peter and Paul from the New Testament can tell us that much.

The book is divided into three sections:
1. The Journey of a Lifetime
2. The Ten Tools of Fatherhood
3. Special Situations

These multi-facetted concepts seem to break the mold of freedom and liberty, and they do.  But then again, prayer changes everything.

After these three sections are a Men’s Study-Group Guide, Acknowledgements, Suggestions for other Reading, and Footnotes.

We see today, in every type of media, people are praying from their own angles on the state of the world and how they wished that this story will turn out for us.  I haven’t read very many books cover to cover, but this one was endorsed by the Library of Congress, so how bad could it be, right?  I am sure every father of the 21st century could benefit from reading about these immensely beneficial tools geared directly to and from the Word of God.

As I reflect on the meaning of this book for myself, I am reminded so much, but particularly, the story of Zacchaeus from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19v1-10, as it is written, “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short man he could not see over the crowd.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down quickly and welcomed Jesus joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all complained, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!”  Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

For several days, Abi kept saying as we would wrestle on to bed, “You are NOT my hero” but just last night, she told Lady that her hero is her daddy.  That made be very proud.  I sure do need a lot of prayer.  With my being a little bit absent minded already at my age, words for fatherhood are difficult to express, but with Abigail becoming even more bright-eyed each day, I can say, it is getting easier, one day at a time.

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Family and Traumatic Brain Injury

Disclosure:  This post was written last October 7, 2016

[For the choir director; according to [shoshannim]; a [maskil] by Korah’s descendants; a love song.] My heart is overflowing with good news. I will direct my song to the king. My tongue is a pen for a skillful -Psalm 45:1 God’s Word Translation

Today is the 7th day of once again experiencing God’s faithfulness in our family by bringing us endless hope and resurrection from dead. Last Friday, September 30 my husband (Joshua) and I headed to De LaSalle Medical Hospital for Joshua’s consultation with Doctor Santos, a Psychiatrist which ended to emergency admission.  He experienced one psychotic episode triggered by stress in processing immigration papers.  We were informed by the hospital information personnel that travelling from Imus to Dasmarinas will only take us 30 minutes if there is no traffic.  So we decided to traveled as early as we can for we only using a public transportation.  We discussed the plan with our two years old daughter Abigail.  I said looking to her eyes, “Abi, daddy and I needs to go to the doctor because daddy needs to become more healthier for our family to be more stronger and us becoming a better parent to you.  You need to stay with Papa, and Tati.  When she heard the plan, she wasn’t like it. She said, “I go to the doctor” and I insisted that she needs to stay with Papa.  It broke my heart when tears started to fell from her eyes.   She insisted to come with us.  But, she understood that it was for her better staying with Papa.  Her resolved was bringing the phone with her, and she agreed with the plan.  In fact, when we left her with the care of my father, she was in a joyful spirit.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

With a little knowledge of everybody, Joshua’s life journey is a celebration and a proof of the existence of a Divine Healer.  He is Yahweh Ropheka, the Lord who Heals.  Its been 19 years when a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) happened with Joshua.   With the story that I gathered from Joshua’s side of the family, black and white records from the hospital, and with the permission of my husband, I will try my best to share how Yahweh Ropheka continuously uphold Joshua and our family year after year.

September 27, 1997 when the young Joshua who was only 13 years old at that time was admitted at the Neurology, Emergency Room at Jackson Madison County Medical Hospital.  He was confined and treated for a TBI  he had incurred when his head was hit by a running truck when he landed jumping from the school fence.  His Length Of Stay (LOS) in the Nuerology lasted for 23 days.  In his story, he was told that he was coma or unconscious for a matter of 7 days.  He was discharged from NEU dated  October 20, 1997 with a ruling diagnosis of Cerebral Contusion.

CEREBRAL CONTUSION

According to emergency medicine physician, David Feldman, MD, of Good Samaritan Hospital, cerebral contusion is another term essentially for concussion.  Essentially it is a rust.  Physical rust as well as mental rust.

A cerebral contusion is basically a bruise of the brain. Just like elsewhere on your body, if enough force is applied in a trauma, the tissue can become damaged and swollen and blood vessels within the tissue can break, leading to oozing of blood into the tissue (which is what causes the black and blue appearance of a bruise).  When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the brain moves around inside the skull. Either the direct impact or the sloshing of the brain and hitting the inner part of the skull can cause this type of injury to the brain. The brain tissue itself is quite fragile and easily injured. With enough force applied to the head, the brain can hit the side of the skull, leading to a cerebral contusion.  Source: http://www.nervous-system-diseases.com

This kind of TBI isn’t something to ignore for it has a lifetime effect so its really helpful on our part to know more about this TBI while watching  the video entitled, “What is cerebral contusion?” created by  Attorney Robert Jarchi, a lawyer who is proud to represent brain injury victims.  In his video he clearly discussed the definition of cerebral contusion, as well as cerebral contusion symptoms, recovery, treatment, and rehabilitation.

GETTING DEEPER

According to Attorney Robert Jarchi, a cerebral contusion typically occurs when the brain strikes the skull during a TBI. The bleeding of the surface of the brain most commonly occurs along the Frontal and Temporal Lobe.  For this reason problems with attention, emotions, and memory (I will try my best to discuss this part gradually) which are associated with these lobes are common to persons with cerebral contusions.  Most persons who’ve had cerebral contusions have serious head injuries.

FRONTAL LOBE

When we were still living in Tennessee, my husband always had an ample supply of encapsulated dopamine that we were getting from Wellness Center at Jackson, Tennessee.   Myself not being used of taking so much supplements and vitamins, I questioned why he needs to take it daily.  He then explained that because of his previous TBI accident that happened when he was 13 yrs. old, his right Frontal Lobe was severely affected.

According to centrefornueroskills.com, the frontal lobes are considered our emotional control center and home to our personality. There is no other part of the brain where lesions can cause such a wide variety of symptoms (Kolb & Wishaw, 1990). The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior. The frontal lobes are extremely vulnerable to injury due to their location at the front of the cranium, proximity to the sphenoid wing and their large size. MRI studies have shown that the frontal area is the most common region of injury following mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (Levin et al., 1987).

To be continued…