So We Applied for a Green Card

My family and I first moved to Nashville in the USA in 2015. At that first move, Cha and I didn’t really decide how long we were going to stay here and when we will go back to the Philippines.

I was granted an R-1 visa because I work with a global agency of the United Methodist Church. Since the R-1 is only good for a maximum of 5 years, I needed to apply for a green card if I wanted to keep working here.

Sometime in late 2017, we decided to apply for the green card so we could continue staying and working in the US.

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Bank of the Philippine Islands Just Made It Significantly More Difficult for Overseas Filipinos (OFWs) to Use their BPI Online Banking System

I’ve been a loyal BPI customer since I first opened a savings account with them in 2005. I love their service and their online banking system. It’s easy to pay bills online and connect your savings, checking, and credit card accounts together.

Although I’ve been in the US for the past 4 years, I continue to use my BPI account for remittances–sending money to family, funding my investment accounts, saving some money, and paying online bills and subscriptions. I also use my BPI credit card every now and then for transactions in the US and when I travel around the world.

Towards the end of 2018, they announced the transition from BPIExpressOnline.com to Online.BPI.com.ph. The new website features a sleek new design and a more minimalist, elegant design.

Right now, that’s all the good I could say about this new service. You see, BPI just made it significantly more difficult for Overseas Filipinos to use their online banking system. Here’s why.

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How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Green Card in the USA?

Applying for a US Green Card can be an expensive process. Some jobs provide a way to become a Permanent Resident. Sometimes, though, you arrive in the US with a work visa and after at least two (2) years, you become eligible to apply for Permanent Residence, aka Green Card.

By the way, it’s called a “Green Card” because the Permanent Resident cards issued before 1976 had the green color. Since 2002, though, the card has a light pink color.

We arrived in the USA in the third quarter of 2015. By mid-2017, we became eligible to apply for Permanent Residence. However, because of the demands of my job, we chose not to apply. But I was actively seeking information about the process and what it will require from us.

Expensive!

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Father to Two Sons

Last November, Caspian came into our world. He joined his kuya Malcolm, Nanay (mother, aka my wife :D), and me. We are now a family of 4! And I became a father to two sons.

My wife and I entered a new stage of our lives. As we take care of our children, one of them an infant, we are far away from family.

Malcolm is in Kindergarten and I go to my office 5 days a week. Meanwhile Nanay takes care of Caspian all throughout the day. This is a new experience for us.

Away from Family and All Things Familiar

When Malcolm was a baby, we were still in the Philippines, surrounded by family. Every weekend, we went to Nanay’s home in the province. He would spend some time with uncles, aunts, and cousins.

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Extrapolating the Future

“Look at the past — empire succeeding empire– and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm of events.

Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?”

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.49

I read the Book of Ecclesiastes in my early twenties. It was a depressing book. But it provided interesting insights about the cycle of life and how meaningless a lot of things are in the world. (I don’t agree that everything is meaningless.)

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What We Devote Our Energy To…

“Pointless bustling of processions, opera arias, herds of sheep and cattle, military exercises. A bone flung to pet poodles, a little food in the fish tank. The miserable servitude of ants, scampering of frightened mice, puppets jerked on strings.

Surrounded as we are by all of this, we need to practice acceptance. Without disdain. But remembering that our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.”

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.3

Dabbling with Stoicism

I read parts of the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius last year. Reading it helped me glimpse into the mind of a certified Philosopher-King. It was also a good exercise in understanding what a branch of philosophy had to say about the human condition and how we can live our lives meaningfully.

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Caspian is Home and We’re Learning How to Care for an Infant in the USA

At about 4:45 am on Sunday, 18 Nov 2018, my wife woke me up and told me “It’s time!”

I got up quickly and wiped away all traces of sleep from my eyes. Our second child was on his 39th week in the womb and we have waited a long time for this moment.

Cha then woke up Coco and asked him to prepare to leave. Thankfully, a friend of ours–another Filipino family in our apartment compound knew about Cha’s situation and agreed to take care of him while we are at the hospital.

Over the past several months, we have tried to prepare Coco for the day that we will leave him at a friend’s house. When that time came, he picked up his toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bunch of other toiletries as we were leaving. Our bags were already packed and in the car, so we simply left the other toiletries that Coco brought out.

We arrived at the hospital and the nurses started monitoring her vital signs. Before long, we checked in to her room.

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We’re on the Third Trimester!

Cha’s tummy keeps growing and our little one keeps moving inside her womb. She says that Baby no. 2 moves and kicks way more than Coco did. Maybe that’s a warning that he will be even more active than Coco is!

Two boys in the house after November. We’ll have double riot at home! We have a year or so before baby no. 2 starts crawling and walking and making lots of mess at home.

We’re away from family when Cha gives birth.

About 2 months ago, we asked my mother if she could file for a leave of absence from her teaching job in the Philippines so she could visit and help us. She applied for a visa. And got a resounding, inexplicable NO. She applied again. The result was another NO!

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My Walking Exploration of Lisbon, Portugal

On my way home from Porto, Portugal, I had a 14-hour layover in Lisbon, Portugal. I arrived at the Lisbon airport late in the afternoon. I bought a ticket for the train and went to the downtown area and went to the hostel where I was spending the night.

Stay at a hostel near the city center.

Hotels are expensive, so I stayed at Castilho Lisbon Suites. It was cheaper than most hotels. I had some difficulties finding it, but after calling their number, I found it. I checked in and found a really nice place to spend the night! Here are some photos I took of the hostel.

Read about history.

On my flight to Porto, I downloaded an audiobook about the voyage of Magellan around the world. He was a Portuguese, but he did not really serve Portugal. He went to Spain and declared his allegiance to the rival empire.

As a result of my reading, and my exploration of Lisbon, I was able to write a poem. It’s in Ilokano, of course. So that might not be useful to the readers of this blog.

That is one thing I try to do if I visit a country, I read about their history. It’s a good way to learn and appreciate the country and its past.

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