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Review: Ordering Books Online From Fully Booked Philippines

As a child, my parents encouraged me to read a lot, even though they aren’t readers themselves. We weren’t rich, but they’d buy books for me whenever they had money to spare, so I had no shortage of Peter & Jane books and Enid Blyton novels. For that I am truly grateful. Because without books and the magic of imagination and wonder, I would not be who I am today.

Course, I think my mom regrets it immensely, now that the house is running out of space to store my books lol.

But I digress.

A friend’s daughter had her birthday recently, and since she likes reading (a rare thing among kids these days, I think!), I thought of sending her a book. A Neil Gaiman title if I could find it. But since my friend lives in the Philippines, I had to look for a store/retailer that could deliver there.

I first went to Amazon, but apparently it has a policy whereby books, music, video and DVD products can’t be shipped internationally (coz of copyright issues). Same thing with sites like Kobo and Kindle (even the e-version! If you’re in a different country, it only allows you to read it in that country wtf).

After what felt like hours (and getting annoyed that we’re in 2020 and it isn’t even convenient to buy a fahking book to gift to someone overseas) I ended up at the website of Fully Booked, a books and stationery retailer in the Philippines. Their flagship store in Bonifacio Global City, Manila, is known for its cool lifestyle-oriented aesthetic; similar to how BookXCess is like here in Malaysia. They also have an online arm, and they ship within the Philippines. Perfect!

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The site is easy to navigate and offers a seamless online shopping experience. Books are sorted by category (children’s books, fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle, art & design, etc.), and they also have a tab for special collections and bestsellers. If you know the title/author you’re looking for, there’s a search bar you can use to navigate the site. Aside from books, Fully Booked also carries stationery, totes, clothing and novelties, as well as toys and games.

After selecting your order and adding them to cart, simply key in your details and check out. Payment can be done via (for those in the Philippines) Dragonpay through options like Over-the-Counter Bank Deposits and Over-the-Counter Non-bank payments, and credit card. Since I’m based in Malaysia, I chose Paypal as my mode of payment, and it automatically converted the currency from RM when deducting the amount (this is based on standard international conversion). You can also choose to pay via Cash on delivery, provided you have a minimum order of PHP799. Free shipping is also available for orders above that amount.

Once I made the order, I received an email confirming my purchase, along with a tracking number. It takes about three to five working days to process, after which they’ll send another email informing you that the shipment is on its way.

All in all, I think it took about five days in total for the book to arrive, which is quite efficient!

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I originally wanted to get Coraline, but it wasn’t available, so I chose a lesser known Gaiman title which I thought she would enjoy.

Cinnamon is a picture book set in a make-believe place in India. It talks about a talking tiger, who is the only one who may be able to get a mute princess to speak. Illustrated by Divya Srinivisan, the book is full of colourful illustrations that both adults and children can enjoy.

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Some of the book’s lovely illustrations!

I was glad to hear that she enjoyed reading it – and that it piqued her curiosity about Indian culture. That’s another great thing about reading : it encourages us to broaden our minds, and with that, our understanding of the world.

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So that was my review of using Fully Booked for the first time. Even if you don’t live in the Philippines, I think it’s fairly convenient to buy something from Fully Booked as a gift for someone there. The only downside is that you can’t give it as a ‘surprise’, since you’ll need to key in their contact details.

fullybookedonline.com.

PS: Thank you Mr.A for the photos!

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I Interviewed My Husband on his Typhoon Ulysses Experience

November has been an awful month for many Filipinos. 

The island nation has been battered by consecutive storms and typhoons, with five within the span of the last few weeks. Earlier this month, super typhoon Goni – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded – devastated large swathes of Eastern Philippines, leaving 25 dead with thousands more displaced. 

And now another one has struck. 

Named after the Latin moniker for the Greek god Odysseus, Typhoon Ulysses made landfall on November 11 on the island town of Patnanungan in Quezon, before steadily carving a path of destruction across parts of Luzon with winds reaching up to 105 kph. As of November 13, Reuters reported at least 42 dead and over 75,000 packed into evacuation centres. Of course, this doesn’t bode well not only because of hygiene and sanitation, but also because of the current pandemic. 

Typhoons are very common in the Philippines,  so when I heard about the news, I asked N if his area was going to be affected. This was on Wednesday night, and he was pretty nonchalant about it, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. 

We  usually message each other the first thing after waking up, so when I didn’t hear anything from him at 11am on Thursday, I began to worry. Shortly after, I got a message from my sister-in-law, telling me that their house was flooded. Since there was no electricity, they were turning off their phones to conserve battery, and would update me on the situation as it went.

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She also sent me a few photos of the interior. I’ve been to N’s house several times, which is located in Cainta, about 12 kilometres from Metro Manila. Since it’s in a low-lying area, the house is prone to floods during the rainy season, so the main floor (living room, bedroom, kitchen) is slightly elevated above the entrance by about a foot. From the photos, I could see that water had already seeped into the upper level, so there was probably about three feet of water. 

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Water at its highest. You can see how much it rose compared to the previous photo.

Now.. this might sound super ignorant, but living on the west coast of Malaysia, which has zero natural disasters (we’re blessed), I’ve always imagined floods to be this super swift rush of water, obliterating everything in its path and sending people and things to a watery grave. This is the case in some scenarios, but there are also floods where the water level rises over time. Not that it’s any less dangerous; if anything, I think these are actually more deceiving – you think the water isn’t that high and boom! You’re suddenly stuck on the roof. 

Thursday was spent on tenterhooks as I waited for updates. Watching the news didn’t help, as media outlets showed devastating scenes of people stuck on rooftops, submerged homes and vehicles, uprooted trees and damaged infrastructure. I went to the FB group for residents of where N lives, and some areas were so badly affected, they had to use boats to get people out. 

I was relieved to hear that the flood waters had subsided by 6pm. N and my in-laws spent the night in the attic. It was very uncomfortable because they didn’t have electricity, but I was glad that they were, at least, safe. 

I didn’t hear much from N until Friday evening, when he got the electricity and Wi-Fi back.  He spent the whole day cleaning up; there was a lot of mud on the floor, and some items had to be thrown away – but the important thing is that him and his family are safe. 

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Kaya the doggo looking down from the attic.

During our call that night, my inner curiosity won out (once a journalist, always a journalist?) and I plied him with questions lol. It was actually a pretty insightful conversation and helped me to understand better what I should do in case of a flood (or any disaster for that matter). 

So, what actually happened? 

N: It had been raining throughout the night. I think the water started coming in around 6am. I was sleeping. 

What? How can you sleep through a flood? 

N: It happens all the time here. If it was serious my family would have woken me up, lol. I think they were also deliberating if they should pack up and go to a hotel, or stay behind. In the end they just started moving some of the appliances and stuff to the attic. I woke up around 9am and the water was about an inch-high in my bedroom. I helped my brother stack the bed up onto chairs. 

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Was it worse than Ondoy (2009)? 

N: In terms of wind strength, I think this was more powerful. But Ondoy brought a huge volume of rainfall with it, so the floods were worse. This house was almost submerged. I can’t really tell you how that was though, because I was living near campus at the time and wasn’t affected much.

So the waters were rising. How did you prepare? 

N: You should watch the Korean movie Alive. It’s on Netflix. 

Isn’t that about zombies? 

N: Yeah, but it’s still super useful for disaster situations. I learned that you should get your earphones, because the 3.5mm jack actually doubles as a radio antenna. If you don’t have a radio, you can use your phone’s radio function to tune into the news. My mom also has a small transistor radio for emergencies. The night before, when we heard that there might be a possibility of floods, we charged up all of our devices and power banks, coz we knew electricity might be cut. Then there’s the usual; batteries, flashlights, emergency first aid kit. Electricity companies will automatically cut off electricity, but we turned off all the switches just in case. 

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View from the roof of N’s house. Uprooted trees

What else do you think one should do when preparing for a flood? 

Perishables won’t keep if your fridge is submerged, so have some processed food and canned food on standby. The water wasn’t that high this time so we could still use the gas stove to cook all the perishables for dinner. As for clothes, you can pack them into waterproof bags. Previously we used garbage bags because they float, but the material is thin and if it tears your stuff will get dirty and wet. If you have a vehicle, you should remove the car battery. Also, if you have important documents, put them all in an envelope so it’ll be easy to carry and keep safe.  

What did you do while waiting for the water to subside? 

I went downstairs to observe the situation, my family stayed in the attic. I fell asleep again and woke up around 1pm. 

I am astonished you can sleep in the middle of a flood. 

Well, it happens all the time so I’m used to it. We get floods very often; I used to call it ‘annual general cleaning’ because we’d have to clean the house from top to bottom afterwards. I was a little surprised that the water rose fast though. Like two inches every 20 minutes. I think it reached about three feet. 

What did you do at night? 

Just had dinner, talked. We didn’t use our devices to save battery. It was very hot and difficult to sleep with everyone in the attic. S (niece) kept tossing and turning, so my brother had to fan her.  The next morning we started cleaning up. We couldn’t move the fridge because there was no place to put it. Thankfully it’s still working.  

Okay, I have to ask this. Since everyone is in the attic, where do you go when you need to pee? 

N: You pee in the flood water. 

Come again? 

N: You pee in the flood water. You can’t go outside because snakes might swim into the house when you open the door lol. And the toilet is flooded anyway. So you just kinda go downstairs and do your thing. You know, the first night, I had this overwhelming urge to poop and I kept holding it in the entire night. The next morning when I could finally go to the toilet, nothing came out. What the effing hell. I guess if you really need to do a no.2, there are plastic bags… 

Typhoons are so common in the Philippines. Do you think that the government should improve on their disaster prevention measures? 

N: I might get a lot of flak for saying this, but I actually think there isn’t that much the government can do. I think they’re doing okay with what they have.

(note**: While writing this, I read some articles about how more money should be allocated to improve housing for the poor. Many Filipinos from the low income bracket live in flimsy wooden homes, which are easily flattened by storms – as is the case with Haiyan in 2013. N and I did not discuss this, but I think we should expand on this after more research).

While the worst of Ulysses seems to have passed, relief might take a long time – especially with government agencies and facilities overburdened as it is from COVID and previous disasters. It’s 1AM and I’m still seeing cries for help on social media from areas like Cagayan and Isabela, which are located in the northern part of Luzon: there hasn’t been much media coverage and apparently aid is slow in coming, and many people are still stuck, with flood waters rising.

I’m glad N and my in-laws are safe, and that there isn’t that much damage to their home. -Ber months in the Philippines are when the La Nina phenomenon occurs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another typhoon decides to make a visit. 2020 just sucks in general.

I know it’s a difficult time and there’s nothing that I can say that can help make it easier. But to those affected, please stay strong, and keep each other safe. For donations, Philippine Tatler has compiled a list of organisations that you can contribute to. Link here.

This photo of a dog stuck on a roof broke my heart. There’s a happy ending though – it was rescued and reunited with its owner.

10 Of My Favourite Places To Visit In Manila, Philippines

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I have a love-hate relationship with Manila.

On one hand, I love how culturally rich and historical it is, with its museums, churches and art galleries (And Jollibee, of course!). On the other, I’m not a fan of its insane traffic, the pollution, and the fact that its one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s extremely difficult to find a quiet space.

Image: Assy Gerez via Unsplash

Having been here several times, I often get friends asking me if Manila is worth visiting (for many Malaysians, the Philippines is not as popular as other S/E Asian destinations like Thailand or Indonesia – and if they do visit, it’s usually to Boracay). My answer is always “It depends on what you like.” If you’re thinking the type of packaged cultural offerings you often get in Bali or Chiang Mai, or a beach getaway (because Manila is by the sea right? lol), then you will be disappointed. Manila is not a place to ‘get away from it all’. But if you’re up for a bit of urban adventure in a chaotic and colourful city…then Manila has a certain charm.

While quarantine restrictions are still in place due to COVID, that doesn’t stop you from planning for your next adventure. Since June 24 marks Manila Day – commemorating the 449th anniversary when Manila was proclaimed as Spain’s capital city in the Philippines – I’ve made a list of my favourite places to visit! For those who have never been to Manila, this will give you a good idea of what to expect.

INTRAMUROS 

If you’re new to Manila, Intramuros is undoubtedly the best place to learn about the city’s rich history. Dating back to the late 1500s, this old walled city has walls that are at least two-metres thick and six metres high, and is home to many historical landmarks, from churches and gardens to old mansions and museums. You can walk around the impressive stone ramparts, some parts of which have cannons on them, or ride around in horse-drawn carriages called kalesa.  

SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH

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One of my favourite places to visit in the area is the San Agustin Church, which was founded as a monastery by Augustinian monks. Part church, part museum complex, the building has a sad and haunting beauty, with austere stone hallways and sombre oil paintings. This is in stark contrast to the church proper, which features stunning architecture rivalling the grand churches of Europe. There are also galleries filled with religious artefacts and even a crypt. If you’re a history nerd like me, a visit to San Agustin is a must. 

BALUERTE SAN DIEGO / SAN DIEGO GARDENS 

The San Diego Gardens is one of those rare oases in Manila that offer a quiet respite, with tranquil European-style lawns and fountains that make it popular as a wedding photoshoot venue. The Baluerte San Diego, a small fort within the gardens, is the oldest structure within Intramuros. Its purpose was to ensure a clear view of the place and prepare against invaders. Back in the day it had all the facilities: courtyard, water supply tank, lodging and workshops – but all that remains of what must have once been a thriving fort are bare brick and stone.

FORT SANTIAGO

The story of Jose Rizal fascinates me. I am no revolutionary, but as a writer, there is something very moving about how Rizal’s writing set a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people that eventually led to their fight for freedom against their Spanish oppressors. His story is a true embodiment of how the pen is mightier than the sword.

Fort Santiago is where Rizal was housed before his execution in 1896, and visitors to the fort will see a pair of bronze footprints embedded in the ground and leading out to the gate – said to retrace Rizal’s last footsteps. Inside the fort, you will also find a shrine/museum dedicated to this Philippine National Hero, which contains various memorabilia including poetry pieces, letters he wrote to family and friends, replicas of sculptures, paintings and more.

PLAZA SAN LUIS 

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One of the items on my bucket list is to visit Vigan, a town known for its Spanish colonial architecture. In Manila, you have Plaza San Luis, a complex that contains five houses, a museum, theatre, hotel, souvenir shops and eateries. Since Intramuros was nearly levelled during the war, many of the old homes were destroyed, and the homes here have been replicated to represent different eras in Filipino-Hispanic architecture. The overall colonial feeling of the place – with its quaint courtyards and staircases – makes it easy to believe that you are peeking through a window in time. You can almost believe that some rich young ladies in traditional Filipinianas, giggling behind their fans in the summer heat while out for an afternoon stroll, are just about to round the corner.

MANILA CATHEDRAL

This cathedral was rebuilt a whopping eight times – it kept getting destroyed by fires, earthquakes and whatnot. While the architecture is not as grand as St Agustin, I like the stained glass art that it has, as well as the replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta in which Mary cradles the broken body of Christ

RIZAL PARK 

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A short distance away from Intramuros is Rizal Park, one of Manila’s few green areas. Like many old parts of Manila, it teems with history – hundreds of nationalists were executed here during Spanish rule, including Jose Rizal. It is fitting then, that the Philippine Declaration of Independence from America was read in this spot, and that the park was named after the revolutionary himself. When Pope Francis visited the Philippines and conducted a mass at the park, six million people turned up – that’s 1/5 of Malaysia’s population! While I wouldn’t say Rizal Park is the best park I’ve ever been to (litter is a problem), I think it’s a great place to visit if you’re sick of Manila’s endless malls. There are a few smaller parks within like the Nayong Filipino which are nice to explore.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY 

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With it’s tall, white-washed Corinthian columns and wooden doors, the grand-looking National Museum of Anthropology (aka Museum of the Filipino People) is hard to miss and is just a stone’s throw away from Rizal Park. Part of the National Museums of the Philippines, it houses the anthropology and archaeology divisions, spanning five floors. Coming from Malaysia where we have pretty lame museums (sorry, got to call a spade a spade), I was blown away by the quality of Manila’s major museums. The quality of the exhibits, as well as how they are arranged (with sections dedicated to indigenous art and culture, the history of the Philippines during the colonial era, etc.) offer interesting insights into the development of modern Filipino society.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

Filipinos are artistic people – there’s even a stereotype about how all Filipinos are good at singing and dancing (these people have obviously never met my husband) – and art has always been a way for the people to express themselves, even in times of oppression.

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The National Museum of Fine Arts, which is housed in the former Legislative Building, is a testament to this creativity and resilience, with works by national artists such as Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Guillermo Tolentino. In fact, when you walk in, the first thing you will be greeted with is an almost floor-to-ceiling work of Juan Luna Y Novicio’s Spoliarium – possibly one of the Philippines’ most popular pieces of art. The gallery is filled with artistic treasures, most of which reflect the country’s European-influenced past, and there are pieces that are so intricate and detailed, you can’t help but marvel at the level of craftsmanship that went into creating them. It’s definitely a place that you can get lost in for hours.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

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Another must-visit is the National Museum of National History, which has a very picturesque central court that boasts a structure called the DNA Tree of Life, as well as loads of interesting exhibits on nature and geology in the Philippines. There are sections dedicated to botany and entomology, marine life, mangroves and more. Even if you’re not into natural history, the architecture of the building alone is worth dropping by for.

BINONDO 

I try to visit the local Chinatown whenever I visit a foreign country. Idk, call it a subconscious need to reconnect with my roots or whathaveyou, lol.

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Manila’s Chinatown, Binondo, is the oldest in the world, dating back to 1594. Its narrow, chaotic streets, with its haphazard signboards and buildings, can feel claustrophobic, but it has a charm of its own. What I like about Binondo? The food. There are legendary establishments here that have been in the same family for generations, such as Eng Bee Tin – known for their hopia (a type of pastry) and tikoy (sticky rice cake – in Malaysia we call it niangao). If you’re here, look out for a shop called Ling Nam, which serves mami noodles (plain or with pork asado) – I stumbled across this gem purely by chance. There are many restos around the area that I haven’t had the chance to try yet, so I’m looking forward to another visit!

 

 

 

 

How To Get Married To A Malaysian: A Guide For Filipino Foreign Spouses

Hey guys! 

So I haven’t had time to write about this properly, but I got my marriage registered in November last year (2019), with my Filipino husband.  We had the marriage registered in Malaysia and started planning as early as 2018. It took us over a year to have everything in place.

Getting married in Malaysia is no walk in the park if your spouse is a foreigner. The information available online is  not complete, and in some cases policies change – so we ended up running to a lot of different government agencies, having to enter and exit the country multiple times, etc. I hope that by sharing my own experience, it can help other spouses plan their marriage registration better!

Note: This is written from the perspective of a non-Muslim Malaysian spouse and a non-Muslim Filipino spouse (husband). The procedure for Muslims is different.

Note 2: Information is updated as of 2019. Some policies may have changed in the meantime.

WHAT TO GET IN THE PHILIPPINES – FILIPINO SPOUSE 

Step 1: NSO Birth Certificate & Certificate Of No Marriage (CENOMAR). You can order copies of these online at psa.gov.ph which should take two business days. They should cost around PHP 350 – 450 each. The CENOMAR is valid for 120 days from the date of issuance. Order two copies of each to be safe.

Step 2: The NSO Birth Cert & CENOMAR has to be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a process called ‘Red Ribbon’. This can be done at any of their satellite branches and will cost around PHP300. Hubs had his done at the branch in SM Megamall Ortigas.

Step 3: Getting a Single Entry Visa (SEV) from the Malaysian Embassy in Makati. 

Okay, this is the complicated part. Filipinos travelling to Malaysia get 30 days on arrival, without having to apply for any visas. BUT. The marriage registration process takes more than 30 days. So unless you’re willing to exit Malaysia, go for a holiday in Bangkok for a couple of days or something, and come back again with a fresh 30-day pass, I recommend getting a Single Entry Visa (SEV), which allows Filipinos to stay up to 60 days in Malaysia without exiting. I think it used to be 90 days but they’ve shortened it to 60 – not sure if it’s applicable across the board or if it was our own personal experience.  

Because this section is pretty long in its own, I will detail this in another post.

Other stuff: Passport sized photos with white / blue background. Make lots and lots of them.

WHAT TO DO IN MALAYSIA 

So your Filipino spouse is finally in Malaysia. You’re halfway done, congrats! This part will involve lots of running around to different government departments – hopefully this’ll help guide you in your journey. 🙂 

STEP 1 : CERTIFICATE OF SINGLE STATUS – FOR THE MALAYSIAN SPOUSE 

No one actually told me that I had to get a cert of single status. So when we got to the Philippine embassy (with all the other documents ready for submission) and got asked for it, we had to scramble to the Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara in Putrajaya to have it issued – there goes the day! At JPN, head to the Marriage and Divorce counter and tell them you want to get a cert of single status issued. If there aren’t too many people, you should get it within a couple of hours. PS: I can’t recall exactly but I THINK this needs to be certified by a commissioner of oaths. You can find one within the building.

Important note: After I got the cert of single status, a member of the staff advised for me to get the cert  authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Wisma KLN, Precinct 2, Putrajaya. The reason given was that ‘anything that deals with foreign affairs must be authenticated at the foreign affairs department’. I have not read anything about having to do this step, but we didn’t want to risk going to the Philippine embassy and being turned away again.  So we got EVERYTHING (my cert of single status, Hubs’ CENOMAR and birth cert, etc.) authenticated.

STEP 2: Applying for CLCCM (Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage) 

We returned to the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur the next day with documents in hand:

  • Copies of Birth Certificate and CENOMAR by NSO, authenticated (Red Ribbon) in Philippines AND stamped by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia.
  • Malaysian – Certificate of single status
  • Photocopy of Malaysian spouse IC
  • Photocopy of Philippine Passport (front page + page with date of entry to Malaysia will do but we printed everything to be safe)
  • Passport size photos of both parties (2 pieces each)
  • Affidavit of Contracting Party (you can get this at the embassy)
  • Application for CLCCM (you can get this at the embassy)
  • Payment: RM106.25.

Be there early (before 9AM) because it gets pretty crowded. We submitted our documents within the hour, and were told to return after 13 working days. 

STEP 3: Waiting 

It is a requirement to reside in the state where your spouse lives for at least 7 days. I think this is pretty hard to track because you can be travelling around as a tourist, and it’s not likely they’ll come to check on you – but to be safe, stay at your spouse’s place and go check out their neighbourhood, get used to Malaysian life, etc.

STEP 4: Collecting the CLCCM / Getting It Authenticated 

After 13 business days, return to the Philippine Embassy to get your CLCCM. Guess where you’re headed again? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Putrajaya. We made a return trip to get the CLCCM authenticated. Remember, if you’re not sure (and government staff tend to give you different instructions or “I don’t know”) , just have everything authenticated. 

STEP 5: Verification of Marital Status Letter 

One final hurdle before you can apply to get married. Foreign marriages can only be registered at the district where the Malaysian spouse resides. It cannot be done in JPN Putrajaya if the Malaysian spouse’s IC is not registered in Putrajaya (excluding special cases like Chinese or Nigerian nationals).

My IC is in Puchong, which falls under the purview of Daerah Petaling. Puchong has a JPN but it’s very small so for all major happenings /registrations/whatnot = JPN Petaling (in Petaling Jaya). BUT. I cannot go directly there. I had to get a Verification of Marital Status Letter issued by JPN Putrajaya, which I would have to bring to JPN Petaling. It’s basically an approval letter stating that you’re intending to marry this person and have already gotten your certificate of single status and are therefore allowed to marry.

STEP 6 : Application for marriage 

We finally went to JPN Petaling for our marriage application. Documents needed:

  • Verification of Marital Status Letter
  • Form JPN.KC02 (can be obtained at JPN Petaling)
  • One (1) colour passport-sized photograph per applicant.
  • Malaysian spouse’s MYKAD
  • Photocopies of Malaysian spouse’s MYKAD (photocopying services are available but it costs RM1)
  • Filipino spouse’s passport
  • Photocopies of Filipino spouse’s passport
  • CLCCM (authenticated)
  • CENOMAR (original and photocopy)
  • Filipino Birth Cert (original and photocopy)

Again, to be safe, bring every single document listed in the procedures from above. You don’t want to be running to another department to get some thing or other.

Our JPN officer guided us through the forms that we had to fill up. She could speak English so we didn’t require translation services from a commissioner of oath. If you or your spouse can’t speak English or Malay, you might have to get the forms translated (I think there is a commissioner of oath available inside the JPN building)

Once you’ve submitted and filled out everything, they’ll put up a notice for 21 days, and anyone (jealous exes?) who wants to raise an objection can do so in this period. You can also set a date for the swearing in.

We had a hiccup here because even though we had a 2-month SEV for him to stay in Malaysia (mid August – mid October) the dates available for the swearing in were full until November. We went to immigration to ask if we could extend but they didn’t allow it. He ended up flying back to the Philippines (additional cost ;__;), then flew back here in November on a tourist pass lol. Which sucked because we wasted a lot of money applying for the SEV, not to mention plane tickets back and forth.

In most cases, two months should suffice. To give you a breakdown of the timeline that we followed:

  • Verify Filipino spouse’s CENOMAR, Birth Cert and Malaysian spouse’s Certificate of Single Status at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Putrajaya – 1 day 
  • Apply for CLCCM at Philippine Embassy KL – 1 day 
  • Wait 13 business days for the CLCCM (does not include weekends – so we’re looking at almost 3 weeks here. It may be earlier; they will call you if it is)
  • Collect CLCCM. Go to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Putrajaya to authenticate. – 1 day
  • The Malaysian spouse has to get their Verification of Marital Status Letter if you’re marrying anywhere other than Putrajaya. We got this on the same day we verified the CLCCM at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Head to the JPN Branch of the district where your Malaysian spouse is residing and apply for marriage. They’ll put up a notice for 21 days. – 21 days 
  • Total: About 40 days, give or take.

Step 7 : Swearing in !

After all that hullabaloo, our swearing in date was finally set. The process is on a first come first served basis, so be there early ! (we were at JPN Petaling around 7.30AM). Bring:

  • 2 witnesses (if they’re Malaysians, have MYKADS ready, if they’re non-Malaysians then passports)
  • Malaysian spouse IC
  • Foreign spouse passport

Casual wear is not allowed so no flip flops or tees. You don’t have to wear your gown though – a dress for the girl and a formal shirt for the guy should be good enough.

We were called into the room where the officer read a bunch of stuff and we had to sign some forms. We also did a symbolic ring exchange.

Getting married in Malaysia is not easy and couples should be ready to face a tonne of bureaucracy and challenges that require lots of patience and perseverance. If your foreign spouse is planning to stay here in Malaysia for the long term, it’s a whole new set of hurdles, like applying for a long term spouse visa and work permit. We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but we’ll face it when the time comes.

I hope this guide will be helpful to future couples. Good luck!

Helpful sources: 

https://heycontemporaryhippie.wordpress.com/

https://www.jpn.gov.my/en/maklumat-perkahwinan/pendaftaran-perkahwinan-bagi-pemohon-bukan-beragama-islam/

30-Day Writing Challenge : Day 10 – Traffic

10. Traffic 

Like many major cities in Southeast Asia, traffic in Kuala Lumpur is pretty bad. The distance between my home and the office is about 20 kilometres, and I spend about an hour getting to work, and 1.5 hours to get home. This will stretch to two hours when it rains, or if it’s a Friday evening.

Traffic congestion has been a long standing problem in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley. We are a nation of drivers – almost every household in urban areas has at least one car. Malaysians reportedly have one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world. It’s not because we like cars (who wants to be tied down with loans and whatnot, especially since our cars aren’t that cheap either) – but it’s a necessity. Getting from place to place is simply too inconvenient if you don’t have one.

The way I see it, the major issue is connectivity.  For example, the area I live in has no buses servicing the route, and the nearest train station is 25 minutes (on foot), with no pavements to walk on (you’ll have to walk on the road where you’re at risk of being run over by a truck or some shit). This is true for many housing estates, so the only way one is able to travel conveniently is to get a car (or a motorbike). Even when using public transportation, it is often unreliable. I used to travel from my home to my college (about 40 kilometres away), which would involve me getting up at 5.30AM (my dad would drop me off at the train station on his way to work), catching the train at 6.30AM, and arriving at school at 8AM. When I had to go home, I’d take the train and switch to a bus (the journey would take up to 3 hours) and I still couldn’t get right to my doorstep because it would be a 30 minute walk on unpaved roads again – I had to wait for my dad to come pick me up.

These days, there is Grab – but the government has been regulating the system and as a result, many people have quit being Grab drivers, and the supply is limited. Longer waiting times aside, there has also been a surge in price. There have been calls from certain parties to promote carpooling by banning single drivers (which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard), but until the day they can have better urban planning (don’t build housing estates THEN think about transportation; sane people do it the other way around) and better connectivity, I doubt there will be a solution to our transportation woes.

Then again, I just need to take a trip to Manila to remind myself that we have it much better than they do. Visiting N there has been a nightmare the last couple of times; like the time we got stuck in a flood which took us 5 hours to get from the Museum of Natural History back to our hotel near the airport: a distance of 12 kilometres. Also, breathing in diesel fumes from jeepneys, being squished like a sardine in the vehicle, sweating from pores I didn’t even know existed, and such. Yep. Gimme KL traffic any day.

 

 

 

Hotel Review: Manila Marriott Hotel, Manila

Has it only been a month since my Manila trip? It feels like ages ago :’D

Maybe it’s because I can’t wait to go back so I can gorge on Frankie’s buffalo wings spend quality time with the Boy again. LDR isn’t an ideal arrangement, but fingers crossed that we won’t have to do this for much longer.

But I digress.

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While in town recently, the Boy and I stayed for two-nights at the Manila Marriott Hotel, a five-star luxury accommodation located in Pasay, just a stone’s throw away from Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Convenient location aside, the hotel boasts a slew of facilities, including 570 modern guest rooms and suites, several restaurants and bars, a rooftop pool, and the brand’s signature Quan Spa.

One thing in common with many Marriott hotels all over the world is their modern yet elegant decor, as well as connectivity. Apart from having ballrooms and meeting spaces, most of these establishments are linked to malls and/or entertainment centers. Manila Marriott Hotel is accessible via a covered walkway to the Resorts World Manila shopping area and casinos.

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Our premium room was extremely spacious, with a king-sized bed complete with fluffy duvets and pillows, large TV with good selection of channels, coffee-making machine, complimentary tea, mini bar and work table. Furnishings were sleek and modern, employing use of white marble countertop surfaces paired against dark wooden flooring and furniture and grey carpeting.

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What I really liked: international sockets – so you don’t have to bring a travel adapter along! You can also charge your devices using the USB port, without the three or two-pronged charger head.

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Stocked mini bar.

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Bathrobes in the closet all fluffed and ready. They also have complimentary shoe-shining services.

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Another thing I really liked – the bathtub! There was a big glass window separating the bathroom from the bedroom, and a shade you could pull down at the touch of a button if you need privacy.

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Very spacious, branded amenities from Thann in the bathroom.

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Resorts World Manila is just a short walk away through a connecting passageway! Very convenient. Although, if you aren’t planning on dining at the hotel, food options are rather pricey/limited.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to try any of the facilities because we came back late on the second night after getting caught in a flash flood and conked out almost immediately after getting back to our room. There is, however, a nice pool we got to check out, as well as gym facilities.

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More on the breakfast buffet in a separate post!

Rooms start at PHP8,000 (RM612 – USD150) per night.

MANILA MARRIOTT HOTEL 

2 Resort Dr, Manila, 1309 Metro Manila, Philippines

Reservations: +63 2 988 9999

marriott.com 

*erisgoesto was invited as a guest to stay at Manila Marriott Hotel in exchange for a review in Going Places Magazine (goingplacesmagazine.com). Views here, however, are entirely my own.

 

Review: Filipino Fusion @ 75 Lilac Cafe + Kitchen, Marikina

On my last night in Manila, N’s sister brought us out to 75 Lilac Cafe + Kitchen in Marikina for dinner (thank you for the meal, ate!).

Specialising in Western and Filipino fusion cuisine, expect dishes the likes of Wagyu Salpicado with Tofu and Carne Asada Tacos as well as more traditional takes of pasta, pizza and Crispy Pata. 

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The resto is located within a commercial block facing the street, so parking is rather limited.

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The place exudes homely vibes, with warm ambient lights, assorted frames, brick walls and unfinished concrete flanking colourful chairs and diner-style couches. Guests will also find various posters and decorative quotes/pictures hanging from the wall.

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We kicked off the meal with an appetiser of salted egg chicken lollipops (PHP200 – RM15). The portions were generous, but the chicken was rather bland despite its creamy disposition. After the excellent experience(s) at Frankie’s, this was quite meh on my list.

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I’ve had traditional sinigang at N’s house, but I’ve never tried Sizzling Sinigang (PHP380 – RM29), which is one of 75 Lilac’s specialties. Served on a hotplate with the sauce still bubbling, thick cuts of tender beef short ribs are stewed with French beans, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bokchoy and sinigang gravy. The tangy sourness of the gravy, with strong tamarind overtones, whets the appetite and is the ultimate companion for rice.

Our second main was the Sigarilyas Sa Gata with pork belly (PHP380 – RM29): essentially crispy pork belly on a bed of sigarilyas (winged beans) cooked in coconut milk, cherry tomatoes and chilli oil. The crunchy winged beans are the perfect complement to the soft, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of the pork belly with a crispy crust, bathed in fragrant coconut milk. I couldn’t get enough of the sauce, I was still sopping it up even when the rice had run out 😀

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Awesome layer of fatty goodness.

Verdict: 75 Lilac delivered on 2/3 of the dishes we ordered, and for such a setting, was reasonably priced.

  • Food: 7.5/10
  • Ambience: 8/10
  • Service: 8/10

75 LILAC CAFE + KITCHEN 

75 Lilac St, Marikina, 1800 Metro Manila, Philippines

Opening hours: 9AM – 10PM (weekdays), 7AM – 11PM (Sat-Sun)

 

 

Day Out @ World Of Fun, St Lucia East Grand Mall Cainta

Now, now. Am I REALLY going to blog about going to an arcade?

Yes. Yes I am. 😀

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While I enjoy the finer things in life once in awhile (like an expensive, romantic dinner date), I’m not averse to a fun day out at the arcade either. In fact, there’s nothing I like more than a guy who can play some FPS or shoot a few hoops with me – so it’s great that the Boy is one of those that doesn’t mind my childishness. 😛

After lunch at Razons, we went to kill some time at World of Fun @ St Lucia Mall, a massive entertainment center that’s almost like a mini theme park, complete with a small roller coaster, bumper car rides, ghost house and merry go-round. There was also a section dedicated to carnival games where you can win prizes like stuffed toys, and the clippy vending machines where you can try your luck fishing out ice cream, sweets and other goodies.

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I’m impressed with the variety of machines and games here! It’s rare to find such a large arcade in Malaysia.

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Convinced the Boy to go on the small roller coaster; no mean feat since he has a fear of riding in coasters. We survived!

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Managed to finish the Walking Dead arcade game, then spent the remaining coins trying to grab ice cream from the pincer machine but failed. 😀

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There was a karaoke corner where you can go on a mini stage and ‘perform’ to a crowd.

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Random PS: Ended the trip with a visit to KFC because the Boy says that it’s different in Manila vs KL because they have awesomesauce, unlimited gravy. Agreed – the chicken was tastier, somehow, and less greasy.