Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction: lost lives and shattered dreams. How can we help?

It has been a few days since Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name: Yolanda) barreled through the Philippines, specifically the Visayas Region. Like Filipinos everywhere, I am heartbroken over what happened to these people. You all know what happened and so many things had been said the past few days on the web/news/social media – both necessary and unnecessary – so I will no longer elaborate on what happened and how I feel (because I honestly don’t know how to put it into words). But the bottom line is there is only one thing to do: help in whatever way you can. Even the smallest donation will go a long way.

The Philippine Red Cross is accepting donations. You can go to their website and choose the Super Typhoon Yolanda (HAIYAN) campaign.

Some people I know have formed a group collecting relief goods that will be sent to the Philippines with the help of LBC. For any donations such as canned goods (those that do not need can openers), dry food, bed sheets, towels, medicines, boxes (to be used to post these donations), etc. here in Sydney, you can look for the Sydneysiders Relief for Yolanda Victims event on facebook.

For those residing here in Australia, these are some agencies/groups that you can contact if you want to donate money:

1. The Australian Red Cross – visit their website or call 1800 811 700

2. Caritas Australia – visit their website or call 1800 024 413

3. ChildFund Australia – visit their website

4. ADRA (the Adventist Development and Relief Agency) – visit their website or call 1800 242 372

5. Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia – visit their website or call 1300 13 60 61

6. CARE Australia – visit their website or call 1800 020 046

7. Australia for UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) – visit their website

8. UNICEF – visit their website

9. World Vision – visit their website

10. Oxfam – visit their website

11. Plan Australia – visit their website

Here are some websites that you can also go to for more comprehensive lists of organisations from around that world that you can support: CNN, The Guardian

If you’re looking for friends or family who were in the Visays Region or have any information about someone, you can use Google Person Finder.

Sending my prayers to everyone in the Philippines and to those who have family and friends affected by this horrific disaster.

How Connected Is The Philippines?

The Global Traveler (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/theglobaltraveller/) came up with the Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) – a list to show how connected countries are to each other via air travel. Every six months he would check and update this list. As of June 2011, topping the list were Germany (110 direct flights), France (108 direct flights) and the UK (106 flights). Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino on the other hand, have no flights that go in and out of their countries.

map of the philippines

So how connected are we? The Philippines is number 78 on the list with 21 direct flights. 78 is not bad out of 192 but with only 21 direct flights traveling is still not that easy for us Filipinos. Hopefully in the near future more flights will be added so that it will be cheaper for us to see the world (crossing fingers for open skies!!!! :)).


Australian Tourist Visa Application

One thing I despise about living in a 3rd world country is having to apply for tourist visas for most countries outside Asia. Not only are they expensive but it can get pretty stressful having to compile all the documents that you need.  When my husband and I travel, we hardly go through travel agencies nor do we join tour groups. Oh if only I could skip the hassle and go everywhere I want to in a whim (I would totally fall in love with my Philippine passport).

Yesterday, in preparation for our family trip to Australia in May, we lodged our tourist visa applications. This was the second time we applied for a tourist visa and this trip will be my third time to visit this lovely country (my favorite Australian city – Gold Coast – how I miss you!). I had to lodge 5 visa applications – mine, my husband’s, my son’s, my 2 sisters-in-law’s apps. We had 2 options: 1. call the toll number and schedule for a courier pick-up. 2 way fee (pick-up & delivery): P320 per applicant. But the downside was the call would cost us 32 bucks per minute. And based on experience, the call takes a while. 2. Go directly to the VIA Center (Visa Information & Application Center) in Makati. Fee: P600 per applicant. The good thing about bringing your papers directly to them is that they make a checklist of everything that you submit. Also, your papers will be at the embassy the very next day. The downside: it took me 2 1/2 hours to finish everything–a waiting time of almost 2 hours and another 30+ minutes once you get to the counter. My husband brought his PSP, so he wasn’t bored. I, on the other hand was a bit unlucky; I forgot to bring my ebook reader (I blame it on the stress), I had my Ipod but wasn’t able to charge it and cellular phones had to be shut down.

So what do you need to apply for an Australian Tourist Visa? I would say the usual: filled up forms (48R for Filipinos), bank cheques (payment for the visa fee – P4,700 per applicant – even for my 20 month old son!), birth certificate, marriage certificate (I submit this because I don’t use my husband’s family name), passport pictures with plain backgrounds, bank certificates, proof of financial capability (credit card statements, etc), employment/student/business papers and any other kind of proof of your ties in your country. But I completely forgot about needing photocopies of the data/information page of our passports and photocopies of our bank certificates. Luckily my husband’s PSP ran out of batteries and he had them photocopied for me 🙂

Every time we lodge visa applications, I learn something new (I seriously learned how not to cram applications the HARD WAY). This time around I found out that some people just submit a photocopy of their passport (Aus visa application only). This will become helpful when you have other trips in line and you fear that your passport might not be returned to you in time. Of course there is an additional cost but I suppose it should be worth it rather having your passport pulled out (which a lot of embassies allow if really necessary).

My husband (the optimist in our relationship) always tells me not to worry about being approved, but I always do. I just don’t want to set myself up for disappointment. So here I am again, counting the days and crossing my fingers that all our visa applications will be approved. 🙂

Lakbayan: How much of the Philippines have you visited?

My Lakbayan grade is C-!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan! (Created by Eugene Villar)

I have never been a fan of local travel. I don’t know if it’s because of the heat (i’d rather go to some place cooler) or the difficulty of having to go through heavy traffic, unpaved roads and small towns. My husband would often tell me that I must learn to appreciate the Philippines.  He used to ask me often how I could appreciate foreign countries when I could not even appreciate my own? And taking this to heart and because of various local trips we’ve taken (though very very slowly), I’ve managed to appreciate its beauty more.

Among all the places I’ve been to locally, I would definitely recommend going to Batanes, Palawan and Bicol (swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol was truly an experience to remember!).

Hopefully, we get to see more of the Philippines in the coming months (next local trip…CEBU!).