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.

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

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

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.

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 to lookup for contact information of Philippine Embassies worldwide.

Finding the Exact Location of Golden Horizon Placement Agency

While processing his OEC, my brother and I have been going back and forth to Golden Horizon Agency in Novaliches this past few weeks. We were there five times, and for our first two trips, our Grab and Uber drivers were able to find the exact location. For our succeeding trips however, Waze is sending us to this location:

The above, as shown in Google Maps is incorrect. The correct location of Golden Horizon is:

Golden Horizon Placement Agency Inc., Quirino Highway, Novaliches, Quezon City

It is just along Quirino Highway, fronting a vacant lot and is a few meters away from a Shell gas station. If you are coming from Commonwealth, turn left from from the LTO building, you will pass by a footbridge and the office shouldn’t be far from there.

Screenshot from Google Maps.

How to Get an OEC for Direct Hires

As of November 2016, direct hiring of Filipino workers by a foreign employer is no longer allowed by the Philippine Government. You will need to seek the assistance of a POEA-accredited agency to process your Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC, unless you qualify under the below exemptions.

Per the advisory released by POEA dated April 26, 2018:

“Pursuant to DOLE Administrative Order No. 196, Series of 2018, in relation to Article 18 of the Labor Code of the Philippines (Ban on Direct Hiring], Republic Act10022, and the Revised Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Landbased Overseas Filipino Workers of 2016. while observing the fundamental principle of deployment of workers only to countries with certification as compliant destination for our workers, the following guidelines shall govern the registration of Direct-Hire OFWs by this Administration.

I. Coverage.

No employer shall directly hire an overseas Filipino worker for overseas employment. The following, however, are exempted from the ban:

a. Members of the diplomatic corps;
b. International organizations;
c. Heads of state and government officials with the rank of at least deputy minister; or
d. Other employers as may be allowed by the Administration, such as:

  1. Those provided in a., b., and c. above who bear a lesser rank, if endorsed by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), or Head of Mission in the absence of the POLO;
  2. Professionals and skilled workers with duly executed verified/authenticated contracts containing terms and conditions over and above the standards set by the POEA. The number of professionals and skilled OFWs hired for the first time by the employer shall not exceed five (5). For the purpose of determining the number, workers hired as a group shall be counted as one; or
  3. Workers hired by a relative/family member who is a permanent resident of the host country, except domestic workers (Iive-in caregiver/care worker or household service workers).”
    Read the full memorandum which includes the list of documentary requirements for exempted applicants in this link:

This means that if you do not qualify under any of the above conditions, you may need to seek the assistance of an agency to process your Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC. This way, the employment will no longer be technically considered as direct-hiring since it will go through an agency.

Bring your complete documents to an agency so that they can discuss the process with you. Depending on the circumstances of your application, the processing may take as short as two weeks, or up to three months.

Make sure that the agency is accredited. For the complete list of POEA-certified agencies, visit

How to Get an OFW ID

The OFW ID is supposed to replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) which serves as a legal exit paper for Filipinos who are working abroad. Based from the POEA’s press release in June, the OFW ID is meant to be implemented mid-July 2017. It turns out that the agency is not yet fully prepared with the process, and as of August 2017, the latest advisory as published in the POEA website is:


• Hindi pa po nagbibigay ng OFW ID sa ngayon. Hindi pa po tapos ang guidelines tungkol dito
• Habang wala pa ang ID, sa pa rin po ang exemption o appointment para sa OEC ng mga balik-manggagawa
• Hintayin po ang mga susunod na announcement para sa tamang proseso ng pagkuha ng ID ng mga OFW

UPDATE: The OFW ID is now available, and can be obtained online. Simply login to and follow the steps from the website.


How Credit Card Debt Collectors Find Your New Contact Information

I use to frequent online forums for topics concerning unpaid credit credit card debts. I was having the same dilemma back then, and because this is not commonly being discussed face to face, I understand why a lot of us resort to online message boards to talk about it.

What I observed from reading everyone else’s stories is that, a lot of people are surprised at how these debt collectors found them when they already changed their numbers, and have moved to different locations. The answers are simple, and they’re mostly in the internet.

1. Social Media.

It is very easy to find someone on social media. Just type in a old friend or acquaintance’s name on Facebook’s search bar and there’s a high chance that you will find them. You can even use phone numbers to look them up. If they used that number to create their account, their profile will appear on the search results.

It may not be as easy to do this on Twitter or Instagram where most users prefer a handle or nickname.

2. Google.

Try googling your name, and your social media profiles, old and new, active or not, are likely to be shown. If you passed a board or licensure exam, you will see your name on various lists published by the PRC, some blogs, and other major publications.

Try searching for your old numbers and anything that was posted online that has your number on it can also be found.

3. Work Records

So you changed jobs, or even moved overseas. But debt collectors were able to track you and even calling you via IDD. They may have seen your new job title or location which you posted in your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.

You may choose to turn your Facebook’s privacy settings to maximum, but doing so with LinkedIn defeats the purpose (of having a LinkedIn profile).

4. Bank Records

If you recently applied for a salary loan, personal loan, car loan, or home loan, and was lucky enough to get approved, you must be aware that your credit record is accessible to all banks. As this is a new transaction, it surely has your new contact details. Your credit card issuer may have passed these information to the credit card debt collectors.

It is difficult to keep your privacy in this digital age. You’ll be surprised to discover that your personal information is everywhere. While most of these can be hidden (at least from debt collectors), your credit record and contact details that go with it are being shared by all banks.

Therefore, I will keep recommending that you settle your debt with your bank like what I did. CLICK HERE to find out how I got cleared from HSBC. Trust me, it is liberating!