Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gone Fishing

On our trip to Manila, my father arranged for us to go fishing in his friend's fish pen in Malabon recently. Though we almost had collective heart attacks as we thought our van would go straight into the water since the road going to the fish pens was rough road and unbelievably narrow, we eventually made it there alive and lived to tell the tale and though we caught very few fish, it was still a great bonding experience especially for the kids. Although they did fight over who gets to feed the fish, who gets to hold the fishing rods and pretty much everything else. Still, fun times.  

Canoe near the shore 

Enclosed area of the fishpen 

 Rickety bamboo bridge leading to makeshift feeding area

 Slightly later in the day, with birds on the horizon

 Lexi under a banana tree

 Lexi and her cousins on the bamboo bridge. New words for the day: bamboo and mud puddle

The cousins on a bigger canoe

Lexi on the bamboo bridge again

 Andi trying to fish, but sadly no catch for the baby that day

Lexi guarding the haul of 3 fishes, though she later on wanted to throw the fishes back into the pond

Lexi looking out over the pond

Our First Appointment at HDB

It's the last day of 2012 and we completed one last major task - which is to have our first appointment at the Housing Development Board so we can buy a resale flat. Admittedly, we scrambled a bit since we just came back from Manila early morning of the 30th and only remembered we still had paperwork to prepare for our appointment. Our trusty printer was still able to chug out most of the documents needed save for one, but we were able to photocopy outside the HDB anyway. In all, it took just one hour to check through the documents and to schedule our next and final appointment. We're one step closer to having our own home in Singapore.      

Scale models of the HDB Housing Estates in the Lobby Area

A map showing the location of the HDB Housing Estates throughout Singapore 

 More pictures at the Sales Display Area

Queue Ticketing Kiosk

 Our documents and queue number

The waiting area, lots of comfy benches, but hardly any time spent waiting - everything done in an hour

UPDATE: What You Need To Know When Getting an OEC

Among Filipinos working in Singapore, there is normally a debate on the usefulness of applying for permanent residency status. For those still wondering though, I would say apply if you can, even if only for the fact that you'll never have to get an OEC ever again.

The OEC is the Overseas Exit Clearance that an Overseas Filipino Worker usually needs to get so he/she can exit the Philippines. It is not a requirement to exit Singapore but needs to be presented at the NAIA upon return to Singapore to exempt OFWs from payment of travel tax and airport terminal fee. It seems such a simple thing but as with all other Philippine government processes, it is usually very time-consuming and tedious.

My husband and I have already been free from the shackles of the OEC-procurement process for quite some time but unfortunately, we had to get OECs for our FDWs so they could come home with us to Manila for the Christmas break.

Here is what we've learned, a few pointers to remember when applying and some useful links to check out before going through the process:

1. There is already an online appointment system for getting OECs which was developed and launched by POEA in Manila last November 2012 and is being pilot-tested in Singapore as well. This means you can set appointments for getting OECs online either in Singapore or the Philippines. While the system is being pilot-tested, the Embassy in Singapore has noted that they will still entertain walk-in clients until OFWs become more familiar with the on-line appointment system. See OEC online appointment system in the Philippines and Singapore

2. In Singapore, you can also apply for the OEC at iRemit in Lucky Plaza but only on Sundays. However, you need to make sure you have all the proper paperwork and have paid all required fees for requirements such as OWWA and Pag-Ibig since they don't process these on Sundays. Note OWWA contribution is on a per contract basis but they require updated Pag-Ibig contribution for the particular month in which you're applying the OEC for. Try to call ahead as well since they sometimes cancel this service on certain occasions. 

3. You must prepare a number of documents and bring photocopies of everything 

See checklist of requirements below:
  1. Passport - valid at least 6 months from the date of departure
  2. Valid Work Visa / Work Permit or Equivalent Document
  3. Proof of Employment returning to same employer
    (e.g., Employment Contract, Certificate of Employment/Company ID/Pay slip)
  4. Verified and Authenticated contract - For Household Service Workers (HSWs) only
  5. Confirmed roundtrip plane ticket
  6. OEC application form (2 copies)
4. You don't need to pay Philhealth in Singapore, but you do in the Philippines. In that sense, it's slightly cheaper to get your OEC in Singapore.

5. UPDATE: If you are an FDW and you have a choice, choose to get your OEC from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore instead of in Metro Manila.

It used to be that you could process your OECs in several counters in Metro Manila such as the POEA main office in Mandaluyong City, Trinoma Mall, Duty Free Philippines in ParaƱaque City, Global Pinoy Center in SM Manila, OWWA Main Office in Pasay and PAG-IBIG Main Office in Pasay.

But now all Household workers cannot use any other processing center other than POEA. 

My FDWs took 2 hours to process their OECs in SM Manila previously but at POEA, even with a counter dedicated to Singapore OFWs, it still took 6 hours. But at least we found out about this new rule in time. Some people left it at the last minute and tried to get their OECs at Duty Free Paranaque the day they were supposed to fly out and subsequently missed their flight. 

6. UPDATE: This service unfortunately no longer provided.

You can also choose to skip the waiting in line (actual waiting time 3-4 hours) and just have the OEC delivered to your doorstep. OEC is now included in the citizen services provided by the National Statistics Office and Department of Foreign Affairs like NSO Birth Certificate (and Marriage Certificate) Delivery Hotline and the DFA Passport Appointment System services. However, it will mean higher cash outlay since you pay all the fees initially and they just refund you back the fees during delivery, if your OWWA and Philhealth membership are still valid. You also pay additional P560 to cover the service and courier fees. You can access the link here 

POEA Processing Fees
   P 100.00
   P 100.00
OWWA Membership
   P 1,090.00
   P 900.00
2GO / ABoitiz Courier Fee
   P 160.00
Teleserv Service Fee
   P 400.00
P 2,750

7. Important to note the validity period of the OEC before applying. Someone at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore told our nanny that validity was 1 month and therefore when she applied for it early, she was turned away, but if you check the internet, a number of sources say it's 60 days. However, one of our nannies got a 3-month validity (from Singapore) while the other got a 2-year validity (from Philippines).    


Embassy of the Philippines (Singapore)20 Nassim Road, Singapore 258395
Open from Sun to Thurs, 9:00 am-5:00 pm.

IREMIT SINGAPORE PTE LTD.304 Orchard Road, #03-69 Lucky Plaza,
Singapore 238863
Tel. Nos.: (65) 6235 8600, (65) 6235 8914
(65) 6235 8915, (65) 6235 7943
Fax : (65) 6735 8641
Office Hours
Monday to Sunday 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kids' Stuff in Manila

One of the main activities we look forward to whenever we go back home to Manila is the shopping. Around Christmastime that could mean doing the round of Christmas bazaars as well as going to the malls. We normally try to stock up on clothes, shoes and other essentials for the kids when we're here so we don't shop as often in Singapore where the prices are much, much higher given that the selection is mostly imported brands from Europe or the US.

Here are some of the items we've recently found from bazaars and from other shopping trips here so far:

Pink  backpack (Loopy from Pororo) P400
My daughter saw this and stopped in her tracks, and when her dada asked her what she wanted, she nudged the backpack with her head. This same booth had a Dora backpack as well which we thought she would have preferred, but this is far cuter than Dora. She already named her backpack Paj after a character in one of her Dora books.
(Karl Edwards Bazaar @ The Fort)
Mickey Mouse shirts P150-P175 each, on sale. We've actually been pretty good about not buying clothes this time around because we recently received a huge bag of clothes from a dear, family friend and there's tons of stuff for the kids to wear for the next year. However, we can't resist cute and cheap shirts like this one.
Our stash of Sugarbabies shoes. We found this brand last year and now we've come back for more. They have good designs, are made of good quality and quite affordable at P400 each. Compare that to department store shoes at Singapore which cost the equivalent of P600 to P900.

We normally don't advocate buying humongous stuffed toys for kids. But Lexi gravitated to gigantic Minnie and asked her Nong-nong for this as her combined birthday/Christmas gift. Now we'll have to figure out how to bring gigantic Minnie to Singapore.
 Of course we have to order from Human Nature. We tried the baby lotion, baby wash and the sanitizer sprays last year. We swear by the baby lotion. My then newborn had flaky skin on her forehead which eventually cleared up with continuous use of the baby lotion. The baby wash is okay but not enough to cover up her smell since it's fragrance-free. In our case, our baby didn't have that fresh newborn smell and she can get quite stinky so I'm spending quite a bit on Mustela just so I can take pride when strangers say what a lovely-smelling baby we have. Baby Lotion 200ml P139.75, Sanitizer sprays in juicy burst, citrus burst and tropical burst 50ml P64.75, Cleansing Bar 120gm P59.75, Kids Shampoo and Body Wash in Tangerine Tarsier and Pineapple Pawikan 500ml P289.75.
Shipping charge is flat rate at roughly P50 and I received my order within 2 days.
(Ordered from their website

My daughters got super-excited when they saw their boy cousins' collection of Petron cars and started sneaking them out to play with. And who wouldn't get excited? The cars are quite sleek-looking, heavy, has lights and sounds and with pull-back mechanism. And they come in 5 colors: black, red, white, blue and gray. Their Lolo Boss was a bit surprised that the girls wanted toy cars but he eventually took out 2 cars from his own stockpile and gave a car each to the girls. We're now trying to get the other colors as well and complete our own collection. Petron cars P180 each with every P1000 worth fuel purchase at Petron branches.
More Dora books. Lexi already has about a dozen of these which we read to her at night, and we bought a few more to add to her book collection. Dora books P109.75 each.
(Toys'r'us Greenbelt 5)
Shopping's all done for the kids and we're only midway in our vacation. I think now it's the parents' turn to stockpile on stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nuvali Lot Turnover

We flew in from Singapore last Saturday and was amazed at the lack of traffic. My husband told me not to comment on it out loud or else we'll jinx it. Our good run lasted until Tuesday and by Wednesday everything went back to the familiar, curse-arousing snail's pace we've come to know and perpetually hate. Case in point, we left Navotas a little past 11 and we arrived at the Venare clubhouse at exactly 2pm. 3 hours! In any case, we were happy to finally see where our hard-earned money went to. And though it would have been nice to have been able to use the pool (no, they're not yet operational) our daughter still had fun exploring the area while we sat down and went through the turnover process. Now all we have to wait for is the actual lot title.

Here are pictures of the site in case you're wondering what Venare looks like.

Our cornet lot. Venare is on rolling terrain so our lot is slightly elevated.

Main Clubhouse at Venare

Reception area with brand new still-in-plastic-covering furniture

Three of the four pool areas

 Clubhouse driveway

 The Venare Welcome Pack and complimentary wine. The four booklets pictured include: Construction Guidelines, Pattern Book, Village Rules and Amenities Rules.

 Lexi playing with mommy's bag

 The lovely mural at the kids' playroom

Lots of greenery

Requisite fish feeding at the koi pond at Solenad

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh the joy of having kids

I was on leave from work recently and spent the past few days spending time with the kids. Here's how our week was like.  

Friday: My husband and I went to our first school year-end activity where the kids put on a show for the parents and afterwards got to play in this giant play structure at Explorer Kid in Pasir Ris. The kids went mad running around the tunnels, going up and down the slides and jumping into ball pits. You don't know what 'tired' means until you've chased, climbed and crawled after a child and then been almost run down by a bunch of rugrats in a play tunnel. Or at least that's what my husband told me on the way home.

After our fun-filled energetic morning, we decided to slow it down and brought our daughter to the doctor and went home by bus. It was the first time I realized the reason why I don't see a lot of toddlers in buses is because their parents wisely decided early on that taxis are a much less embarassing mode of transport. That's what I kept thinking as my almost-3-year-old daughter decided to show off her skills by singing 'Willy, Tuck and Ming-ming too...' really loudly and over and over and over again. It's not as if I could just plonk her on a seat away from me. My husband already did that. Good thing I learned a thing or two from Cesar Millan. Wait, what? What could I possibly learn from the Dog Whisperer. It's all about distraction. Must Distract Child...which is how I ended up running commentary on the rain, the trees, oh look shrubbery and leaves... from Orchard Road to Whampoa Drive.     

Saturday: Went to a trial Gymboree class for my younger daughter. Guilt was starting to set in. When my older daughter turned one, we went crazy shopping around for classes and trying out My Little Gym, Kindermusik and Gymboree before signing up for a full package at the latter. Meanwhile my younger daughter was already 14 months and we still haven't signed her up for anything. Have to catch up. Gymboree this week, Our Music Studio next week!   

Monday: Went to Paragon playground with the kids, where the younger daughter got into a shoving match with another baby - twice! And a boy at that. Maybe he thought she was a boy too. Anyway, don't let that sweet, innocent, can't-possibly-do-no-wrong look fool you. This baby can defend herself. Maybe we should sign her up for judo instead of music lessons.

Tuesday: Went back to Paragon playground again. Already instructed nanny on what to do in case the baby gets into a fight again. Nanny: You want me to take a video of your daughter getting into a fight?!? Me: Well, maybe just sneak a quick one before you stop the fight. Okay fine fine. Don't take a video, jeez. Maybe just a picture? Okay, no, I'm kidding. Actually, I'm not. No, just kidding.

And so our play-filled couple of days ends and it's back to work. But the weekend's just around the corner and more baby and toddler adventures await. Though this time we're taking taxis.

Waiting in line for Poulet

The word 'affordable' doesn't usually apply to French restaurants here in Singapore but what with the booming restaurant industry these days with new restaurants opening every month, I would have thought someone would have wised up and started offering good and cheap French food. And I was right. Finally, there's Poulet.
It was Sunday, right in the middle of the peak lunch hour when we went there so to some extent I wasn't surprised that it was fully-packed and there was a queue outside the restaurant. What's surprising though is how people in the queue were willing to wait for a seat rather than go somewhere else. I was especially intrigued by the roast chicken - it looked so soft and tender...juices slowly dripping off its skin...and so I was willing to brave the desperate hungry looks of my family members and sweetly smiled and passed around biscuits for us to eat while waiting. My husband gave me an exasperated look before munching on his biscuit.
Meanwhile, trying to be efficient, I grabbed a menu and started looking through items to order. Hmmm, soup, yes, salad, no...chicken, definitely...what else....sausages, no...pork belly, yes..... dessert...hmmm....I guess we'll go safe and order tiramisu...done and done. By the time we were seated, we straight away ordered.
And it was worth the wait.
 Poulet, where the specialty is poulet roti or roast chicken

 Lexi waiting for the chicken to arrive

 Lexi 'promoting' the poulet roti

Cream of mushroom soup. This was supposed to be for my daughter but it was so good I ended up eating half of it on the pretext of feeding her (Is this soup hot? Let me try. Um yup that's hot. Let me try again).

Pork belly. It looks pretty much like a blob on the picture but oh my goodness it was so rich and sinful my husband said he felt a stroke coming on after he ate it which prompted me to say maybe I should've married someone younger if you can't even handle this itty bitty pork belly.

And the star dish, the roast chicken in all its juicy goodness and swimming in a cream sauce. And yes, it was utterly delicious.
Poulet Restaurant
201 Victoria Street
Level 4 Bugis+, Singapore
Tel: +65 6509 9411
Daily: 11.30am – 9.30pm

Sunday, November 4, 2012


After our recent parent-teacher conference, we realized our daughter was already doing puzzles, and so I thought we'd buy some so she could practice at home. We went to prologue at ION and guess what? They're having an anniversary sale from Nov 2-18. So we brought home a ton of great puzzles from my favorite section at Prologue in ION (the Chinese section) and some pre-school workbooks. I was more excited than Lexi to tear open the puzzles, but when she got them open she just went through them all in a heartbeat. And to think I was thinking maybe we went overboard for buying 4 sets in one go. Apparently not. Children are sponges and we as parents are really just here to help them develop and be the best they can be and be prepared for a fun, fun ride along the way.

Baby puzzles for 3-4 year olds. 5 puzzles in each box. Each puzzle comes in 6-10 pieces. Original price SGD5.90. Discounted price SGD4.50. Different themes available but we took animals, fruits and vehicles.
Fruit puzzles
Young Children's Jigsaw Puzzles. 8 puzzles in each box. Original price SGD9.90. Discounted price SGD7.50. Different themes available but we only took the Home theme. The others were a little bit cutesy.

Home sweet home puzzle
Wipe clean pre-school workbooks for practicing tracing numbers and letters. Original price SGD17. Discounted price SGD13.  

Sample sheet from the letters workbook

A backpack of Dora books. 6 books inside the backpack. Original price SGD19. Discounted price SGD14.