Philippines Diary #1 – Our new life begins

August 21, 2009 – Friday 
Category: Travel and Places

We (Gina, Justin and me) arrived three hours late in Manila via Singapore on SIA on Sunday 28th (missed the connecting flight in Singapore due to the nose wheel on the Airbus 380 from London being replaced but SIA were very efficient at transferring everyone to later flights, the benefit of booking all the way through with one airline) and checked into the Manila Hotel for two nights so I could complete the immigration registration process. First thing on the Monday morning we visited the Bureau of Quarantine which is only one block from the hotel. The results of the many medical tests performed before I was granted my 13A non-quota Immigration visa by the Consultate in London, including a large chest X-Ray, were all reviewed again. Thankfully no issues so within an hour the relevant papers had been stamped and signed and we moved on to the Bureau of Immigration. Here I had to complete more forms, have my fingerprints taken with ink and scanned, photo taken, and finally receipt issued for collection of the Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) I-Card (smart card).
A process of moving from one window to another and avoiding any so-called "fixers" although we saw none that day. Justin of course gets immediate Philippine citizenship by birthright and when he is older will need to complete a process if he wants to retain both his Philippine and British nationality. For now he is oblivious of such things.

So on Tuesday we were free to visit a construction company Northon Construction & Management, regarding building our permanent home on land Gina has purchased in the barangay of Patul, on the outskirts of Santiago City. It took a while for the taxi to locate the office which was tucked away in a small business centre off a busy main street. We were impressed by the process they use to manage a range of building projects for a number of foreign customers who want homes built to their design in the Philippines. Northcon favour a concrete and steel construction process (derived from the USA) which, while more expensive than the popular hollow block method used throughout the Philippines, makes construction much faster and is far stronger than hollow block. Bearing in mind we are on the ring of fire where both volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur using the best materials would seem a good idea. Anyway, we went through how they manage the project starting with a visit to provide their initial assessment report which covers everything from the permits required to the availability of labour and materials. As a reference we made contact with one of their customers, a Dutch couple, for whom they are presently completing a residence in Cebu. Their feedback was very positive.

On Wednesday morning we set off for Santiago City in brother-in-law Resty’s minibus with two relief drivers for the normally 8 hour journey. In fact it took 12 hours due to the large amount of road repair being done to the mountain roads. So it was nearly 11pm by the time we arrived at Santiago City, having stopped for both lunch and dinner on the way. We went straight to the house we are renting and collapsed. Apart from a double bed and a plastic table and chairs there was no furniture. But we could see immediately that the house was ideal for storing the entire contents of our 40ft container when it arrived from the UK.