We had to plan an urgent return to the Philippines for Beth. As with many situations in life, it’s a bit of a long story, and we don’t really want to bore everyone with all the fine details. The basics of the story is that Beth’s mother had become quite ill, and we decided that it would be best for all if Beth could return to the Philippines to spend some time with her dear Mother.

Davao, Philippines.

This experience has taught us a few things that we were not aware of. Some of the things that we learned I will mention here now, and will also follow up with a more detailed post, as they deserve more information. As an example, when it comes to travel insurance, it is a real minefield for Filipina citizens temporarily returning to the Philippines. But I’m getting ahead of myself again, so I’ll try to start at the beginning.

As I said, Beth’s dear mother had become quite ill, and we decided that Beth needed to return to the Philippines as soon as possible. We double checked her Bridging Visa and realised that Beth had been issued with a Bridging Visa “A”. This Bridging Visa class doesn’t allow multiple entry and exits of Australia. What this means is that Beth would be allowed to exit Australia with no issues at all, but that she wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter Australia on her return. After doing some research, and a few phone calls, we learned that we needed to apply for a Bridging Visa “B”. This type of Bridging visa allows for Multiple entries within a certain time frame.

We applied for the Bridging Visa “B”, giving the Department of Immigration the estimated dates of expected travel, and reasons for the required travel out of Australia. When this Visa application was approved we could go shopping for a return airfare to the Philippines. We already had a very good idea of the expected prices for what we needed to do, as we had been doing a lot of research in the three weeks that it took for the department of Immigration to approve our Visa application. We had every intention of purchasing the required airfares online, but the best laid plans are the best when they are also made to be flexible. We were doing our weekly shopping, we noticed in the window of a local travel agent a special on return flights to Philippines. We went inside and started asking the agent a lot of questions, eventually purchasing the required flight tickets from Brisbane (Australia) to Manila (Philippines) return, with connecting return flights to Davao from Manila.

Lechon Baboy, cooking process.

The travel insurance is a minefield for anyone attempting to achieve something outside of the accepted travel agent box. I’ll try to explain. If I want to purchase travel insurance to travel from Australia to Philippines, it is actually quite easy. I just make the application here in Australia (as an Australian citizen) pay the required cash, and it’s all done. For Beth, it’s a little bit more of a challenge. To purchase the travel insurance here in Australia, the first sentence in the agreement form of the application states that the applicant (Beth) must be an Australian citizen or resident. When attempting to try to purchase travel insurance from a Philippines based company, they will only cover for the flight leaving the Philippines, not the flight originating here in Australia, nor the time spent in the Philippines. We eventually found a company that could help us out, and give Beth reasonably affordable cover for the time required. More details about this in another dedicated post.

All the children that could get to the celebrations. Only one is missing, working overseas.

So, we got all the air fares and travel insurance sorted. Then we read some more of the fine print on the ticket. Oh bugger. It seems that Philippine Airlines has some rather challenging baggage allowance limits. On the international flight from Brisbane to Manila (return) the baggage limit is 30 Kilograms. On the Domestic flight from Manila to Davao and return, the baggage limit is only 10 Kilograms. Que the music, time for more research. After several emails to PAL asking questions, and a couple of phone calls we arrived at a solution. It seems that PAL offer a method around the dilemma. Simply get to the airport (domestic) about four hours prior to check in time. Purchase a Pre-Paid baggage upgrade for a nominal fee (I can’t remember the exact amount but it’s reasonably affordable) and there is no problem. It is however VERY IMPORTANT to remember that the pre-paid baggage upgrade MUST BE PURCHASED PRIOR TO CHECK IN.

Birthday celebrations. Beth with her dear Mother. Note the Lechon Baboy is finished and proudly on the table prior toi the start of the feast. the little boy is hungry and impatient to start.

Beth was finally returning to the Philippines. When Beth originally left her home and family for a little holiday in Australia, the intention was that she would be gone for only three months. That was in February of 2015, it was June 2017 that she was returning to her home for a short visit. Something was said earlier in this post about best laid plans being flexible. Beth was finally going to spend some much-needed quality time with her dear Mother and her siblings. Many messages were sent, and much organising of dates with the brothers and sisters was done. Importantly, Beth was going to be able to be with her mother on the day of her 81st birthday. Filipino culture being what it is, this was a great reason to plan a major family get together and celebration. Beth is part of a very large (by western standards) family, she is the youngest of 9 children. Needless to say, when family get togethers are required, there is a lot of planning involved so that as many as possible can attend. The fact that their mother was ill, required a major family get together for some serious discussions about her future welfare.

The family meeting, discussing the future.

Beth spent a couple of days in Manila, utilizing the opportunity to personally pick up the NBI clearance that we required for submission to the Australian Department of Immigration. This was in relation to the Spouse Visa application. Then she was once again on another aircraft heading for Davao (with lots of luggage of course). Over the course of the following three weeks many discussions were had with family members and many decisions were made. New roads were travelled, many old roads were travelled, but they were viewed with fresh eyes. Beth was now viewing her own country with a different vision, a vision that was now more travelled, and more mature. She was viewing the country with a view to the future. A plan is being developed for future use. It will involve us both moving permanently to the Philippines. As with all good plans, it will have back up plans, there will be many clauses and alternatives included so that we do not back ourselves into a corner from which there may be no escape. We are still working on this plan, and we anticipate that we will be moving to the Philippines for my retirement in 2030.

Beth, the proud cook, in her favorite kitchen.

The major family get together for the celebration of the 81st birthday of their dear mother was had. The meal was totally amazing, with the pride of place being held by the Lechon Baboy (pig on a spit), being surrounded by many other Filipino traditional foods. Beth was totally in her element, cooking for so many people in their own family kitchen. She really enjoyed being able to introduce some of her family to some of the cooking styles and individual dishes that she has learned from her world travels. One of her brothers was quite open in stating his dislike of curry meals. He was so impressed with the version of curry that Beth made, he asked for a container so that he could take some extra home. Beth also managed to convert many of her family to liking Australian Vegemite. She succeeded because she didn’t try to feed them directly with vegemite on bread, she just added a spoonful of Vegemite into the cooking. They loved the extra added flavour that it gave to much of their cooking. Apparently we might now be needing to find a method of possibly sending a little of this in a Balikbayan box.

Heading for Davao Airport. Note the police checkpoint.

We will be making another post about the details of the travel insurance, for those that are traveling to their home country for a visit, you might find the details possibly apply to you also. We will also write another post detailing the adventures of Buster the dog while Beth was away in the Philippines. I gotta get moving and edit and publish this, Beth is in the kitchen, and my nose tells me that I had better get there with her really soon.