Saturday, January 3, 2009

12/23 Calvinball –The Next Round

One of our purposes in travelling to Manila was to check the status of our long-term visas. (Calvinball is the game that never ends. If you don’t understand the Calvinball reference, refer to this post: Visually Insignificant Stationary Astroplane) When we were there in September, we were told we needed to personally return in 3 months to see if our visas had been released. We were not sure if the Immigration offices would be closed for the holidays and nobody seemed to know what the holiday schedule would be when we asked at that time.

Because our plane flew back into Manila early on Tuesday 12/22 and our bus did not leave until 8:30 that night, we hoped we could make a trip to Immigration during the day. Then we would need to figure out what to do the rest of the day.

We made arrangements with a fixed-rate taxi to take us to Immigration and wait for us so that we would not need to transport all of our luggage as we went in and out of the buildings. He told us that there would be no additional charge if we were less than 30 minutes. So when we arrived at the Immigration, we hurried in and found where we needed to be. On the way in we passed the crowd of men hanging around outside that offered their notary services. Who knows, maybe they really are legitimate…

On the upside, our visas had been approved. They had been completed in mid-November. On the down-side, we were not in the office on the right day. Apparently Mondays or Thursdays are when we are supposed to conduct such business. So on top of the huge (and unexpected) fees for the implementation of our visas, we would also need to pay for (get this) double express fee. All of the money we had paid so far was only for our visa application. We were unaware of the implementation fees and had no idea of the double express fee, so we did not have that much cash on us. (And to get a visa, they don’t take Visa – or American Express.)

So out we hurried, back to the taxi (23 minutes). Our plan was to go to the local mall so we could check our luggage at the baggage claim area of the department store, get lunch, and take care of some shopping needs while waiting to head to the bus stop in the evening.

While at the mall, I found that most of the ATMs were out of cash. Once they had enough, the transaction limit was much too small to for the amount I needed. There was a bank branch in the mall, but they could not do a cash advance.
By lunch time, Lisa and I were worn out. The fatigue from travelling and the stress we feel whenever we are in Manila, added to the aggravation of the visa situation, had us both feeling overwhelmed when we sat down for lunch. If a bus would have been leaving in the next hour, we would probably have been on it even without our visas.

That is when God’s grace poured down. Nothing miraculous happened. But I walked outside of the mall and saw a small bank across the street. They could not do a cash advance either, but their ATM had money and the limit was high enough that I could get the cash I needed in 4 withdrawals. I sent Lisa a text (did I mention that I had lost my phone hours before we left Bontoc and was borrowing the girls’ phone?) that I was heading to Immigration. I caught a trike and was at Immigration in short order. I walked right up to the first window and made it from one window to another to another without much waiting. I was a little worried when one clerk made me fill out a receipt form for our passports. I was expecting her to tell me to come back the next day like some offices did when we were extending our tourist visas. Instead she said to be back in an hour. By lurking outside her window, I was on my way back to the mall with stamped passports with a total time at Immigration of about an hour. I am so glad that God intervened in our spirits. Another round trip to Manila seemed worth it at the time, but we would have regretted it later when we actually had to do it.


  1. Wow, I am glad that is all done. It stressed me out just reading about it. :~) I don't like big cities and don't want to be in Manila any longer than necessary.

    Holly Wallace

  2. Holly,

    When you arrive prepared, it is not so bad. The document I sent you has some of the things we have learned and I am sure the friends you will be joining will be of help. You just need to remember it is your responsibility to obey; it is His to work everything out.