How Much is Fire Insurance in the Philippines?

Do you have fire insurance for your condo?
How much are you paying for fire insurance?

My co-worker was asking me these questions yesterday. I remember about fire insurance being mentioned by my agent when I signed the loan documents at UnionBank last year. However, I forgot the exact figures; I took this is a reminder to check on my monthly amortization schedule again.
There you go. So, 
I am paying Php4,332.49 a year for fire insurance to Mapfre Insular. They are tied with UnionBank, and the fire insurance is mandatory which is added to my monthly amortization. I never really heard anyone talking about fire insurance before. And now that I think about it, isn’t earthquake insurance a more appropriate offering for condo owners in Metro Manila?

Do you also have a fire insurance for your property here in the Philippines? Share us your story by leaving a comment below.


Anyway, while looking at my loan amortization schedule, the MRI Premium caught my attention. I am going to talk about MRI in my next post.

How I Settled My Credit Card Debt

My credit card debt started to pile up in 2008. I had the card for only over a year, and by the second year, I was already only paying the minimum required payment. How did it happen? It was basically due to lack of knowledge about credit card usage.

I decided to stop paying in October 2010. I lost my card three months prior to that, and the replacement card that I requested was never delivered in my address. I dealt with customer service for three months that when I finally got the card, I immediately throw it away and decided to forget about it. And so I thought.

For the next few months, I started receiving calls, emails and letters from debt collectors often posing as lawyers. I became an expert at recognizing unwanted calls and in researching who those callers are. When I got a new job in 2012 and needed to travel abroad, my company submitted an application for an AMEX Corporate card for myself and was denied. We had to submit a notarized document in order to get the issuing bank’s approval.

The calls and emails stopped for awhile, but in early 2014, they came back. It became concerning at that point as the calls are actually coming in at work. Then in 2015, my siblings and I purchased a condominium unit under my name. That is when my credit card nightmare started (again).

I’d say, I always had the intention to eventually pay as I have been in fact saving money for it. But I just didn’t know how and where to start. A lot of things are holding me back, I was afraid that:

  • my bank might ignore me and refer me to the debt collectors. I was firm from the very beginning that I will never negotiate with debt collectors, ever.
  • my bank may accommodate me but I was afraid my debt has already earned very high interest which I could not afford to pay.
  • I might need to get a lawyer and deal with all the legal stuff.

All these disappeared with just one call!

See, all banks declined my home loan application because of my unsettled credit card debt. It took my agents over three months to convince me to call my bank. And the rest is history, you may check my previous post for the story:

How to Get a Bank Clearance for your Credit Card

So, how do you settle your credit card debt?



1. If your card is still active, meaning your latest payment due date has not passed one month yet, call your bank and ask for an amnesty. Negotiate and request for a supervisor if necessary. Be honest about your financial status and come to an agreement about payment terms and on deducting interests. You may be granted a payment term of up to six or twelve months depending on the total amount. Note that the bank’s decision will depend on your past paying habits. If you have been a very good payer for a long time, you may be given better options and considerations.

2. If you already stopped paying and you have already been receiving calls from debt collectors, you may:

    • negotiate with the debt collector
    • ignore them, save money, and settle with your bank later

Either way, you are going to pay anyway. I opted to negotiate with my bank, although it took me six years to do that. You don’t want to wait six years. The need to borrow from a bank may come anytime, and your credit card debt will definitely get in the way. Start considering calling your bank today.

3. Do you have multiple cards and are having a hard time paying them? You can seek assistance from the Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP). The below article may be useful:

Get Help From The Credit Card Association of the Philippines – CCAP

Basically, they will help you consolidate your credit card debts through their Inter-bank Debt Relief Program (IDRP). Start by calling your bank, and ask if they are a member of CCAP, and is participating in the IDRP.

There may be lots of things which are holding you back right now. You may choose to settle your credit card debt today, or later. But one thing is for sure, it feels great when you finally get to receive that clearance. Peace of mind, at last. If you have been dealing with debt collectors for awhile, maybe this is the time to call you bank.

Are you also having problems paying off your credit card debt? Share us your story; feel free to leave your comments below.


The New Amore Visa Prepaid Card from BPI

So I just received an email advisory from BPI that they are replacing the My ePrepaid Mastercard with Amore Visa Prepaid Card. I actually have seen this product in their website before, so they may have just added additional features before relaunching it.

Here’s the advisory that was emailed to My ePrepaid Mastercard users:

The Amore Visa Prepaid comes in 2 variants:

  1. The payWave card allows for contactless transactions — tap, swipe and dip in POS terminals in stores worldwide. You can use this card to shop online as well.
  2. The beepTM card has 2 wallets: The Visa wallet allows you to shop in stores worldwide and online, and the beepTMwallet allows you to use MRT, LRT, NLEX, SCTEX, P2P and BGC buses with easy loading features.

You can also enjoy the following privileges:

  • Exclusive perks at Ayala Malls
    • Access to Ayala Malls lounge
    • 5% off movie tickets in Ayala Cinemas
    • Invitations to cardholder events like concerts, movie screenings and Ayala Malls sale events
  • Lower fee with longer validity period
    • P200 for payWave and P250 for beepTM
    • Validity of up to 4 years.
  • Rewards on your everyday spend through the new AmoRewards Program 

Click here to apply for an Amore Visa Prepaid Card.

So what will happen to the old My ePrepaid card? If your My ePrepaid Card is not expiring within 2017, you may still continue to use and enjoy the benefits of your existing card. However, if you want to renew in the future, the Amore Visa Prepaid Card will be your option.

 

How to Pass a US Visa Interview in the Philippines

I am applying for a B1 US visa for the fourth time, and although I got approved on my second and third attempts, I still feel nervous for this one.

Tip Number 1: be very honest with your answers in the DS-160!

I was denied on my first try because based from the feedback, I was just on my second month with my company at that time. Two years later, I applied again and was given a B1 visa which was valid for three months. Unfortunately, I was not able to use it because the meetings that I was supposed to attend in the US got cancelled. In 2015, I once again found myself lining up along Roxas Boulevard for another B1 visa. It was approved, and although it didn’t come with the 10-year validity that I was hoping, it was more than enough to be grateful for. I was admitted in the US for a two-week business trip. That was my first international travel, and I felt privileged that it happened in the United States!

This time, I’m ready for my fourth visit to the US Embassy in Manila in the span of five years. Knowing how unpredictable the process is, I still am not assured of another B1 visa.

UPDATE: I got my third B1 visa. Amused that I still am not eligible for a 10-year visa.

So, how do you pass a visa interview?

You may have already read other articles about this and found out that there really is no concrete or sure-way hit to get a visa. The following are the usual tips, along with my personal comments about them:

1. A good balance in your savings/bank account – in all four occasions, I’ve been advised to bring a copy of my bank account statement. However, in my three interviews, they never bothered looking at those documents. The case may be different if it were for a tourist visa application.

UPDATE: I did not bring a bank account statement during my most recent interview.

2. Your properties – such as a car, house and lot, or land titles. I was also never asked about these by any of the consular officers who interviewed me.

UPDATE: I brought with me a photocopy and the original copy of my condominium CTS (contract to sell) in my last interview, but the consul did not ask for it.

3. International travel history – this is one of the questions during my first and second visa interviews. At that time, I have never been out of the country so the answer was a direct “no”. Does it count? It didn’t seem so for a B1 visa. But it definitely strengthens your profile especially if you are applying for a tourist visa.

UPDATE: This was one of the questions to me again this time.

4. Employment – I was denied in 2012 supposedly because I was not a regular employee in my company yet. But it is interesting to note that a co-worker was given a 10-year multiple entry visa despite having been in the company for only over a month. He is also single and at that time has never traveled abroad. This also happened to several female colleagues with a comparable profile who applied in 2010. So this should give hope to those who have similar background. Nonetheless, years of employment in the same company obviously gives you an edge. Your company’s record and reputation is also a factor.
5. Letter of guarantee (LOG) – in relation to number 4, the LOG is the single most important document that you should bring with you to the interview for a B1 visa. In this letter, your company declares that it holds responsibility of you and any untoward activity that you may do in the US should you be allowed to enter. So if your company has a history of sending employees to the US who never came back (read: TNT), that may affect your chances.

UPDATE: In all my four personal appearances, this is the ONLY document that I was asked to submit while inside the embassy.

6. Civil status – they say, the chances of getting approved are higher if you are married with kids. Well, I am single with no kids.

UPDATE: Consistent to my previous applications, this is again one of the questions in my recent interview.

7. Other public records – I don’t really know much about this, but I guess a pending case in court may affect your chances of getting a visa too.

8. A pending petition. My co-worker was denied twice – first when she applied for a tourist visa, and second for a B1 visa. We suspect that her pending petition is the reason. But this may not be the same for everyone.

So what documents should you bring to the interview?

I’d say, ALL available documents. You’ll never know which one they will need, and it is always best to be ready. Keep them handy but do not give them to the consular officer unless he or she asks for it. Do not even suggest that you have those documents with you! Just relax, and enjoy the experience regardless of the turnout. Approved or not, there’s always a lesson to be learned.


Here are the questions that the officer asked me during the visa interview, and my answers. It was quite long compared to the previous ones which didn’t last longer than 3 minutes.

Consul: Good morning!
Me: Good morning! (I gave him my old and new passports, and LOG)
Consul: Why do you want to go to the US?
Me: Well, I was invited to attend meetings and trainings.
Consul: How long?
Me: One week.
Consul: So you’ve been to the US before?
Me: Yes?
Consul: That was in March 2015, what did you do there?
Me: I also attended a training.
Consul: A training for two weeks?
Me: Yes.
Consul: So who’s inviting you this time?
Me: (mentioned the name of our company)
Consul: They’ll be hosting you?
Me: Yes.
Consul: What makes this visit different from the last time? (I feel like this is the clinching question, which I was quite prepared to answer. However, my nerves made me quickly jump from my first point to the next.)
Me: Before, I attended a sales training with a group of sales persons from the US. It was more of  a technical training; it was held in Minnesota. This time, I will be attending meetings with my counterparts in Colorado, and they are also bringing in our colleagues from Costa Rica (I mumbled about “planning” at the end. I was not satisfied with my answer; that was a missed opportunity knowing that there was more to discuss).

Anyway, for first time B1 visa applicants, you might be asked about why you need to fly to the US to attend meetings when you can just do conference calls and web meetings.

Consul: Aside from that trip to the US, have you been to other countries?
Me: I was in Hong Kong in 2016.
Consul: Are you married?
Me: No.
Consul: Have kids?
Me: No.

I thought that ends the interview but he seem to have spotted something on his monitor, and asked:

Consul: Have you been to Canada?
Me: I applied for a visa for Canada in 2015. (I immediately realized that my “record” is showing him my tourist visa application for Canada. It was denied but I didn’t go there anymore assuming that he already knows. He, in return, did not ask if it was approved or denied).
Consul: (While typing) Your visa is approved. You will receive it in 3-5 business days.
Me: Thank you!
Consul: Enjoy your trip.
Me: Thank you!

I just arrived from my trip to the US, and decided to update this post. My ultimate tip? Be VERY HONEST on the information that you declare on your DS-160. I actually think that I was denied the first time not because I was a new employee in our company but because I initially selected “no” to the question about having a relative in the US. I had to change my DS-160 when I realized the error, and that might have raised a red flag. During this recent interview, I did not think twice about mentioning my visa application for Canada when he asked if I have been there. It would have been more convenient to just say “no”, but I thought telling him directly that I actually applied conveys the message that I have all the right intentions.

On all four appearances, I felt that they already knew all about my background before I even got there. The interview is just a formality, and to test your honesty. So don’t lie!

I wish you the best of luck on your visa application!

How to Submit an Online Legal Query to DOLE

Contacting the DOLE hotline at 1349 is the faster and easier way to get an advice about concerns related to your job or employer. As an alternative, you can also submit your complaint using their online contact form which can be accessed at https://www.dole.gov.ph/queries/submit.

The form is very straightforward. Simply enter your contact information and the description of your concern, then submit.:

You will receive a response via email in 3-5 working days. While the content is mostly general, it may include an information which is helpful. Below is an example of an email response received from DOLE through their online legal query form:

How to Contact the POEA Legal Assistance Online

POEA has just launched a legal assistance contact page on their website. If you need legal advice related to your job abroad, or if you know an OFW who needs legal assistance, the said contact page may help. You can find this at http://legalassistance.poea.gov.ph/main/legalcounseling.

The page will ask you to fill-out this form:

Make sure that all the information you entered are correct and up to date as you may be contacted via phone or email. Upon submission, you will be provided with a Reference number.

How do you check the status of the complaint or case that you submitted? In the same page, click on the Check Status button and submit:

Enter your Reference Number, and answer the Validation question.

If you need further assistance, you can contact the POEA hotlines at 722-11-44 or 722-11-55.

10 Years of Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

Experience is the best teacher, they say. My ten years as a blogger taught me a lot but I failed to recognize that until recently. I wasn’t paying attention. I knew I have to keep learning but I was too lazy, and a lot of things were holding me back. So after a decade, I still haven’t made an impact in the blogging community. With the right mindset and strategy, some were able to find success from blogging within a year or two, and here I am just starting, again.

Shirt by: www.milastolemyheart.com

I made this list to hopefully help other bloggers who are going through the same phase, or for aspiring bloggers who want to avoid the same mistakes that I made. Here are my 10 mistakes to avoid when blogging, all of which have happened to me in the past 10 years:

1. Blogging for Monetary Reasons

While this may have enticed you to start, don’t fall into the trap of building a blog and expecting to earn money right away. Yes, you can earn money from blogging, but not after a lot of hard work, dedication and focus. For some, the monetary gains start to happen after six months to a year, or years. And this is not to disappoint you, but it may not even come at all.

The truth is, if you want to monetize your blog, you have to offer something extra to your readers. You receive what you give, so be mindful of what you are giving. Focus on the value of what you are offering, people acknowledge that when they see it. You may have at some point shared some articles, videos or links on social media about things that you find relevant. You may have liked and followed pages on Facebook which are not celebrity-owned. You did that because you saw something that it is of value to you, got inspired, amused, or touched.

So if you are not receiving enough from your blog, you may not be giving enough.

2. No Clear Purpose

I started this blog after establishing its purpose, the purpose why I am blogging, and why this niche. I aim to share, with hopes that what I am sharing would be of use to others. It is important that there is a reason behind the blog, not just the blogging.

Ask yourself, what is my blog’s purpose? What are my intentions? I have talked about this briefly in a previous post:

How to Be a Part-Time Blogger

3. Not Having a Niche

If you know the purpose, it becomes easier to pick a niche (although finding a niche could still be daunting). A niche determines the overall content of your blog. Unless your blog is your online journal and is exclusive to your selected readers, you will end up writing about anything and everything when without a niche. I have also discussed this in a separate post which you may find helpful:

How to Find a Niche for Your Blog

Keep in mind that your purpose and intentions could help you determine a niche. What are your intentions?

4. Not Understanding SEO and Other Related Tools

I intentionally used the phrase “layman’s terms” in this blog’s tagline for obvious reasons. I hate technical terms, and “SEO” and “Google Analytics” are one of the many jargons that I avoided for years. I failed simply because I chose to not understand things which I find complicated. Wrong.

Make sure to learn these as you start creating your blog. There are lots of free online references available, use them. You don’t have to be an expert on this subject, again unless you intend to be one. While I still am unable to articulate SEO or Google Analytics in a way that I could make them a topic for a blog post, I now get the idea. Gaining knowledge about these tools helps, don’t be afraid to explore them, and use them!

5. Not Having a Domain

My fellow bloggers have been convincing me to to get my own domain since 2008. I did not listen to them. At that time, I didn’t have any plans to monetize my blog so I thought purchasing a domain and getting it hosted are money wasted. The thing is, you do not really need your own domain in order to monetize your blog. A .blogspot.com blog would do.


Why do you need a domain then? It simply is more appealing, it looks and sounds more professional. And if you have been blogging before, getting your own domain is a milestone. It is taking your blogging to the next level. Bluehost is one of the best web hosting out there where you could also purchase a domain along with the hosting.

If this is your first time to blog, number six is for you.

6. Having a Domain Too Soon

If you are new to the world of blogging, buying a domain may not be a very good idea yet. You may need to explore and experience things that goes around the Blogosphere first; I highly recommend a .blogspot.com blog. Not only that it is easier to manage, but Google loves it!

Back in 2015, I closed my old domain and started a new one. I had a plan I was very excited about so I purchased a domain right away. Only three articles later, the excitement started to fade away. I stopped posting after five months, and just like that, I threw away a year of domain and hosting subscriptions! This is the reason why it took me two years to decide to start again. I’ve learned my lesson, and that is one of my inspirations to come up with this list.

7. Not Networking Enough

Yes, you do really need to be “open-minded” about this. A blog is still a social media, and just like Facebook, you need to have friends in order to have an active timeline. I had over fifty solid connections in the Blogosphere eight years ago, and I regret the fact that the connection was not sustained and I stopped making more.



Network by visiting other people’s blogs. Leave comments, and ensure that these are genuine comments because a seasoned blogger is good at spotting spam and pushy comments. Be professional, you will need to establish a good reputation in order to gain other blogger’s trust. This takes time so be patient, which leads us to number eight:

8. Being Impatient

Indeed, patience is a virtue. It’s good to let go of all the expectations first. Instead, keep building your blog with quality posts as the priority. Your posts are your foundation. Build your foundation in the first three to six months, make it deep. So deep that it will be strong enough to handle success!

I am impatient myself, I use to want to publish three to five times a week that I ended up posting random articles in my old blogs. I sacrificed the quality, I had no clear intentions other than to post something, just anything. Well, I know now that that is not how it works. Always prioritize quality over quantity.

9. Not Being Unique

When I learned about “niche”, I started looking at other people’s blogs with the intention to copy what they are doing and expect to be as successful. Another mistake. In order to stand out, you have to be different. Be inspired and learn from someone you look up to but don’t be a copycat.

Do not overthink! While it’s true that all topics are (maybe) taken, there will always be something you can offer that others can’t. You can write about a similar topic and add your personal “touches” to it. We may have related experiences, but no two experiences are exactly the same. This is one way of taking advantage of your individuality.

And lastly,

10. Thinking That Blogging is Dead

Never. Blogging is still at its peak. Blogging in the Philippines is still very active. Vlogs will not kill blogs. I’d say blogs are here to stay and will continue to dominate search engines. Visit the website of any company you know, and there will always be a link for “blog” or “news” in their main page. That is how they survive online, more than just selling their products or services.

For us bloggers, our blog in itself is our product. Keep on writing and sharing. It’s true that there are lots of negative impressions about blogging and bloggers. Do not focus on those. Instead, aspire to be one of the bloggers who spread positive impressions (and earn those page impressions)!

I wish you the best of luck on your blogging. Be an inspiration!

Cheers!!!

Blogging in the Philippines

Is blogging still a thing in the Philippines?

It used to be just an online journal for many. My first encounter of a blog was through Friendster when it introduced blogging as one of its features back in its heyday. It was around 2003 or 2004, and I didn’t even know what a blog was. All I know is that it needs me to write, and I find that exciting.

I got introduced to WordPress and Blogger in 2007, and I chose the latter as it was simpler and was a popular choice for beginners. I believe that blogging in the Philippines reached its peaked around these years. There was this sense of community amongst Bloggers and everyone was actually connecting with everybody. We were each other’s audience, visiting each other’s blog and leaving comments along with our “x-links” requests.



Before we knew it, blog monetization has become a thing. Everyone started signing up for Adsense, and were publishing paid posts. If PPP, PayU2Blog, and Blogsvertise sound familiar to you, it means you have been in the Blogosphere for at least a decade!

But all these paid posts started disappearing during the 2008 economic crisis. And in 2009, almost everyone has migrated to Twitter and Facebook, and coined the term microblogging.

The simple hobbyist had a choice to either leave or adapt to the changes. One could bring their articles to Facebook or maintain their blog and earn from it. For most new bloggers, and still surviving old bloggers, their reason to stay is monetary. Needless to say, the new generation of Bloggers gave this online platform a new name.

So, is blogging still a thing in the Philippines? The answer is a resounding YES! Regardless of your view about it, blogs will continue to dominate your search engines. In fact, the Philippine Blogosphere is enjoying its millions of potential audiences, most of which are very active and more importantly, scattered all over the globe. There’s no denying that the Filipino online presence is very strong that not only local bloggers are taking advantage of it, foreign bloggers (who are mostly vloggers) have started to take notice too!

If you are interested to build a blog, today is the best day to start! You may find the below posts helpful:

How to be a Part-Time Blogger?
How to Find a Niche for Your Blog?

Cheers!

What is a Consularized Special Power of Attorney

I encountered this while processing my home loan documents with UnionBank. Since my sister (who is my co-borrower) is working in Canada, I needed to sign all the bank documents in her behalf (unless she actually wants to fly back here in Manila). As a requirement, we had to submit a Consularized Special Power of Attorney.

Unlike a regular Special Power of Attorney (SPA) where you only need a lawyer to notarize the papers, the Consularized SPA needs to be brought to the Philippine Embassy in the country where the person involved is located. For our case, my sister went to the Philippine Embassy in Vancouver.

The process is quick and she was able to obtain the consularized SPA the same day. The SPA itself doesn’t need to be notarized, the officers inside the embassy will simply sign on it as witnesses, and is provided with a cover page with the consul’s signature and a red ribbon:

So, what do you need to bring when processing a Consularized Special Power of Attorney?

1. The SPA form itself. It doesn’t have to be notarized (rules may be different in other Philippine Embassies).

2. Your passport, and depending on rules of the Philippine Embassy in the country where you reside, you may need to bring an ID and additional documents. It is advisable that you call them first beforehand. You can go to ph.embassyinformation.com to lookup for contact information of Philippine Embassies worldwide.

Get Help From The Credit Card Association of the Philippines – CCAP

Photo Credit: CCAP

Still wondering how to settle your credit card debt with your bank or banks? If you have more than one credit card and you want to consolidate your payments, you may need the help of the Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP). Watch the video below for more information:

IDRPAre you financially distressed and buried in credit card debt due to the factors beyond your control? We’re here to help! The Credit Card Association of the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and participating banks launched the Interbank Debt Relief Program. Watch this video to learn more about the program.

Posted by Credit Card Association of the Philippines – CCAP on Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Basically, this Debt Relief Program allows credit card users to sustain paying the account and prevent further delinquency. “To enroll in the program, CCAP will review the debtor’s financial capacity. The repayment period is up to 10 years for “severe cases indebtedness” with a low rate of 1.5 percent per month or lower depending on the profile of the customer, debt to income ratio and completion of documents required for the program.  The participating banks may also have the option to disapprove application for customers who misused and abused the credit facility granted by the banks, said CCAP.

Based on a statement, CCAP said that as part of the guidelines of the program, all existing credit cards of the customer will have to be blocked or cancelled upon enrolment of the accounts to the program.

Rebates and rewards earned will also be forfeited. “Additionally, customers cannot apply for new credit facility with the participating banks while the accounts under the IDRP are not yet fully settled.” – Source: http://www.ccap.net.ph/?p=632

CCAP presently includes as members Asia United Bank, Bank of Commerce, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Citibank, China Banking Corp., Eastwest Banking Corp., Equicom Savings Bank, HSBC, Maybank, Metrobank Card Corp., Philippine National Bank, RCBC Bankard, SB Cards Corp., Standard Chartered Bank, and Union Bank of the Philippines.

What is the first step? Call your bank and ask them about IDRP!

To learn more, you may visit the CCAP at their Facebook page and website:
Facebook Page: https://web.facebook.com/CreditCardAssocPH/
Website: http://www.ccap.net.ph