Posting this in retrospect, we have now been in the Philippines for just over 30 days. A few days ago, I asked my wife “when does retirement begin?” and she responded “I think at this rate, never!” I will explain…since arriving here, there has been no laying around in some beachside hammock spread between two coconut trees. Nor has there been much time for relaxing. Our first week back found us settling into my wife’s sister’s house. The first couple of nights were as expected…warm, muggy, and full of restless sleep. On day three, I suggested to the wife that she would sleep much better if the bedroom we were occupying were to have a small window air conditioner installed. ”I mean after all honey, we will be staying here until our house is ready.” The idea took off quicker than a tricycle driver heading to a Sunday cockfight. She quickly announced to her sister our intentions and that once we moved out, they could keep the A/C unit. With a quick nod of approval from sis, it became clear that pride and happiness sure abound here in the Philippines and it doesn’t take much to put smiles on people’s faces. The very next day we went into town, purchased a small unit, and installed it. We have been sleeping in comfort ever since.
Shortly after arriving in Samar and after we were well rested with feet firmly on the ground, it was time to head back to Manila. We planned on spending 4 full days there to get everything done that we needed to get accomplished. We first had to head over to the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) where, as part of the immigration requirements, I was to drop off my chest X-ray and my physical exam results signed by my doctor stating I was “not physically and mentally defective or diseased.” Basically, what I needed to obtain was a BOQ endorsement on my 13A Visa stamp in my passport approving that I was not among the walking dead, so to speak. Once there though, I discovered they had to extract more blood. I also had to pee in a cup no bigger than a half-dollar, and then was asked to provide a stool sample to check for parasites. It seems the information I obtained on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) website and the instructions provided to me by the Chicago Consulate failed to disclose all the requirements in detail such as complete and annotated blood test results and the parasite check. Basically this is what we would refer to in the U.S. as a Chinese fire drill (slang for runaround) They not only extracted my blood, urine and poop…they extracted another PHP 1,200 from me and I had a feeling it was coming, so at least I was prepared.
Actually, as it was explained to me, a parasite check is only good for so many days. Also, my cumulative blood test results from my Dr. stated “Negative Results” and this is not sufficient. The BOQ wants to see actual numbers and levels of this and that. So I guess the blood extraction thing was justified. The urine test was to check for syphilis which was never divulged until I set foot in the country. But I had nothing to fear, except that they would find some contaminant that would disqualify me from living here. I believe my asawa was much more worried than I was. She was extremely happy when it was all over and I was proclaimed healthy, disease-free, and deemed to live for at least another day.
Once cleared by the BOQ as being physically fit to live in the Philippines as a permanent resident (as compared to living here as an undetected disease infected tourist for years at a time) it was time to head over to the BI to complete my application for my ACR-I card (ACR stands for Alien Certificate of Registration). My 13A Visa was obtained at the Chicago consulate about a month before we left the U.S. and that already being accomplished, qualified me for permanent residency. After about two hours and six different BI windows later, another Php 7,000 was extracted from me and my application was submitted. They then told me it would take about 2-3 weeks for my ACR-I card to be processed and available for pick-up. But the nice lady at the last window (who happened to be from the same Eastern Visaya region as my wife, agreed to forward my card to the branch immigration office in Calbayog City where we will be living. How convenient!
Next, it was off to Goetz Moving & Storage in Paranaque (Metro Manila) who are the consignees for our household goods shipment. After about an hour there, everything was arranged for Goetz to complete the process to gain my full tax exemption and release of our container from Customs. I had to leave proof of my ACR card application and my passport which had my 13A Visa and BOQ endorsement, but that was to be much better than the alternative…staying in Manila for another three days to get it all done by ourselves. I thought, why not leave it to the people who know how to do it, and at no additional cost to us. It was included as part of their service. What a deal!
Believe it or not, all the above was accomplished during our first day (less than 6 hours) and we now had 3 more days to kill. So it was off to a hotel and a two-day excursion around and through the Mall of Asia, definitely one of the largest malls in the world. Even after nearly two full days, we never accomplished everything there was to see so, we moved our departure date up and returned home to Samar early. We did manage to bowl a couple of games and met another couple working on a fiance visa (her from Luzon and him from Florida.)
The rest of our short time here has been spent making many trips into Calbayog City to get this and that…tile, fixtures, appliances, air conditioning, locating contractors, more lumber, utilities, etc. In between all that running around, we have managed to get in a few luncheons, trips to the resort beach and swimming pool next door, and a Saturday outing at a local beach.
We have also spent some time in town locating the really important places like internet cafes, coffee shops, and wifi hot spots. I did convince myself (and my asawa!) to buy a motorcycle to make the trips to town a little more cost-efficient and convenient (exciting) and after about two trips to town, I re-discovered what I learned nearly thirty years ago… the driving skills needed to navigate the roads and traffic here have not changed one bit. Oh the road hazards – Kids and Chickens and Dogs, oh my! And that my friends is all I will say about driving in the Philippines (I’ll save that for a dedicated post later!) All in all, we have been pretty busy overseeing the contractors and work on the house to get ready to receive our household goods around the middle of the month (August).
So back to my question of “when does retirement actually begin?” At this juncture, I believe retirement to be either a big misnomer or even a fallacy. But I know this – when the cabinets are all arranged, and the pictures are all hung, things will be a little less hectic. Maybe then I can search for those two perfectly spaced coconut trees on the beach – in between all the honey-do’s of course! The one plus to date is that I can always find the time to consume a few cold San Miguel’s – between and even during some of those many assigned projects.