Some Random Observations

As the title says, this will just be some random vignettes of my life here in Iloilo City.

Inday and I went to SM Supermarket, which is in SM City, the large mall. We came out with a cart full of shopping bags, ordered a Grab car to bring us home, and when the car arrived the driver jumped out and opened the back of his car to load our bundles. One of the mall security guards, with his long gun strapped across his chest, came up and started helping the driver load everything in the back of the car. It was all done so fast, we didn’t even have a chance to help. Then the guard smiled, waved, and walked off.

Once the Grab driver dropped us off at home, as we approached the lobby door one of the building staff opened the door and greeted us as we entered, then he pushed the elevator call button for us, and when the door opened and we got in, he reached in to push Floor 3 for us so we wouldn’t need to do that with our hands full. I have no idea how they manage to remember that we live on the 3rd floor. There are 7 floors of condos in this building.

Does anybody remember the arcade game Frogger, from back in the 80’s? Crossing the road here is like a game of live-action Frogger. If the road has two lanes in each direction, then there could be three lanes of traffic in each direction, plus motorbikes filtering by on either side and in between. There are signs directing drivers to Yield To Pedestrians In Crosswalk. They are a total waste of time and materials. Nobody stops. When I first got here my strategy was simple: I’d stand on the curb and wait until some locals ventured forth to cross the road, and I’d shadow them. I’ve become marginally competent at crossing the road now, although Inday still thinks I’m not to be trusted on my own and always takes my hand so she can steer me across the road. To be fair, I did nearly get run down by a motorbike right in front of her once. But only once!

Filipinos typically eat using a fork and a spoon. I’ve actually adopted this method at home, although I use the spoon to help load food onto my fork, while Inday uses her fork to push food onto her spoon. In restaurants the staff will sometimes give Inday a fork and spoon, and will give me a fork and a knife. I get a chuckle from that every time!

Back in the States people lament the rise of cellphone addiction. It is nothing like what it is here. Nothing! People seem to be glued to their phones every waking moment. More than once I’ve had Filipinos walk right into me while staring at their phone screen.

When we moved to this condo, there was no toaster. I need to have my toast in the morning, so we headed off to the SM Store to buy a toaster. When you buy something in the Philippines, the store staff will unpack whatever it is and make sure it works before you pay for it and leave. So the sales clerk took the toaster out of the box, plugged it in, made sure it heated up, then packed it back into the box and sent us on our way to the checkout.

Similarly, Inday bought a toy train for her son Edrian, and the store staff unpacked the little train, put the batteries in it, and made sure it ran on the track. Then they packed it all back up, checked us out, and sent us on our way.

Okay, that’s it. Nothing important and profound. Just a few snippets about adjusting to life here. I hope it was worth the few minutes to read.

Week One Is In The Books

I’ve been here in Iloilo City for a week now. It feels like I’ve been busy, but at the same time not busy at all.

When my flight landed at the crack of dawn in Iloilo last Friday, I was met at the airport by two other expats living here who I had connected with on Facebook. Chris and Mary were so kind to pick me up and drive me to the condo I had rented on Airbnb. It made a wonderful start to my time here.

Since then I’ve figured out my neighborhood a bit. I’ve shopped for groceries a couple of times. I either run or walk on the Esplanade most every morning.

There are some things I need to do to settle in here. One of those is to get a Philippine phone number. My US number is with Google Fi, which works in most countries in the world. Here in the Philippines, Fi uses Globe’s network. Since Globe and Smart are the two big players here, I chose Smart for my local SIM. This way, I should have coverage most anywhere I go.

I tried to buy an eSIM from Smart via their website, but in order to complete the checkout, they require a Philippine phone number. So I went to the Smart store in the mall to take care of it. It cost me P40 for a SIM, which included unlimited calls, texts, and 5G data for 3 days. Since my phone is dual SIM capable, I have both my US service and my Philippines service active at all times, and I have it set so the phone automatically switches to whichever data service is better at the moment. Very convenient.

The system for funding a prepaid phone plan, and for choosing what calling, texting, and data options you want, is completely different than in the States, and very confusing to me, but I think I’ve figured it out enough to have a working phone. There are so many little details of daily life to learn anew!

When I landed in Cebu and went through Immigration, they stamped my passport with a 30 day tourist visa. I’ve since gone online and applied for a visa waiver, which gives me another 29 days. It was very easy to do online. I logged into the Bureau of Immigration website on Sunday night, filled out the form and submitted the payment, and on Monday morning I got an email from BI with the waiver attached. So now I’m good until Christmas Day, December 25.

I believe in December, when I apply for a visa extension (I don’t know why the first extension is called a waiver, and then you subsequently apply for extensions) I can also apply for my ACR card. ACR is Alien Certificate of Registration and is a government issued ID card for non-citizens living in the Philippines.

The other significant thing I’ve been working on is finding a long-term rental. This Airbnb is okay, but it’s relatively expensive, it’s very tiny, and I don’t love the location as much as I thought I would. I looked at a one-bedroom unit that’s currently available at a condo complex called Avida Storey. It had a reasonable amount of space, but the way it’s laid out makes no sense and results in a tiny living room with a significant amount of wasted space by the kitchen. The plus side to Avida is that I really like the complex. There are a lot of conveniences on-site, including a 7-Eleven, a water refill station, and a laundry service, as well as some coffee shops and restaurants. The pool area is really nice, and shaded in the afternoon, and there seems to be more air there. It’s also not right on a main road, which I am here.

So I didn’t like the unit I looked at, but there’s a different one-bedroom unit coming available in early December, and that one has a much better layout with a decent sized living room. Right now I am waiting to hear if they will discount the rent if I sign a one-year lease.

This was meant to go out on Friday, and it is now Sunday morning. So I should properly rename this entry “Week One Plus Two Days Is In The Books,” but I’m not going to. Such a rebel!