Thursday, January 30

Thrifting & Creating

I don't usually shop for clothes now. I'm done with that phase in my life where I plot every mall sale or bazaar event in my calendar. After so many years of accumulating material goods, I felt bummed by how much I spent on these temporary things rather than investing in real life treasures such as traveling. 

I started making little changes with my spending 3 years ago or earlier. I tried to forego buying new stuff while still maintaining the "fassshyownista" in me. I pretty do a great job mix matching my 3-week worth of clothes and accessorizing. I also made this annual clothing swap with a friend - each of you get a new set without spending a single dime. Once in a while I go to ukay-ukay where I find vintage and boho pieces that I really adore. Sometimes, I get lucky that my friends are so generous to extend their loot of goodies for me! How can I possibly not look good even with a  little budget on clothing? I just need to make the best out of what I have. Speaking of which, my friends at Pinay Curvies have this challenge of sharinsomething old from your treasures. I thought of joining in to show my support and encouragement that being beautiful and fashionable need not to be expensive especially if you are living in this big city where every price of your basic needs goes up.

I found this really flowy, vintage skirt from one of my ukay-ukay trips and had an idea of making it into a new dress. Thank you to my trusted modista for making it possible!

Investment: PHP 70 skirt + PHP 80 modista fee = PHP 150
It's Thursday today and consider this my #TBT entry. Hehe! This was me in 2012 for a trip in Bacolod.

What do you think about my little saving tip, ladies? :)

Keeping it real & simple,


Wednesday, January 29

Getting a US Visa for Filipinos

WARNING: This post might contain excessive exclamation marks! :))

Hooooray!!!! I already got my US tourist visa last Thursday (January 23). Imagine my excitement!!! My trip to the US in September of 2014 will come true! Another HOOORAAAAY for THURSDAYS or for every day! <3

Let me first share with all of you how on earth did I ever thought of coming to the States side, given that I'm an independent city girl scrimping on a little budget. Currently, I am a happy local traveler, snapping photos here and there, capturing the beauty of what God has gifted the Philippines. However, it seems like life has a grander plan to offer. I was invited by my kindergarten BFF to be one of her bridesmaids at her wedding in California. I told my relatives and other friends who are based there my intention to visit and they too are so thrilled to accommodate me. Isn't that amazing?! That's the birth of my yearning to visit the US of A.

With great conviction, I browsed through the US Embassy website and read the steps carefully. When it is your turn to do this, please do not be intimidated. The words written there are actually it and can totally help you in the process. Click on what type of visa you will be applying for (again, read with a lot of care). You can save your application form, in case you cannot finish it in one sitting. Just take note of the application ID that will be provided - write it down or print it so you won't forget the next time you log in. 

My application form is called DS-160 for non-immigrants. I logged in last January 6 (Monday) and was able to finish completing all my information by January 8 (Wednesday). If you are a "sigurista" or OC like me, you can also start the filling out the form and go through each step. It gives you more time to read all the tips (do's and don'ts) especially on the correct photo to upload. Or you may go ahead and have your photo taken (does not need professionally, as long as it meets the embassy's set standard) and pay for the visa application fee through BPI or Bancnet then start your application form. With this, you will be able to finish the form and schedule your interview in one session. TIP: Read, read, read carefully and make sure you understand. Follow the instructions, as stated. When in doubt, you can always call their hotline and a friendly representative will be happy to assist you. I once called to verify which machine validated number from the deposit slip will be used to schedule an interview. I felt relieved to get an accurate information rather than second guessing myself. 

With the application form, it seeks to know your personal information and your intention to visit the US. TIP: BE HONEST. If you are, then there's no need for you to worry that you might forget what you wrote down or be afraid with the questions thrown by the Consul during the interview. As it will be based on your information, nothing else. If you are not, most likely the Consul will be able to determine, so choose honesty. There was a question asking about who is my point of contact when I arrive. For my case, since I am flying solo to meet relatives and friends there I answered my cousin's information. They say, it is risky to tell the US embassy that you know people in the US - as this may strengthen my ties there and I might opt to migrate. I think otherwise, though. It is true that I'll be living with my cousin when I get there so there is no point in lying. Also, I'm not willing to spend a dime for my hotel accommodation (because I have the privilege of free stay), I'd rather spend my pocket money on food and my quirks. Hehe! If you are truly traveling alone or with family and you plan to book your tours/accommodation, just indicate that fact too. 

As I've mentioned in my previous posts, I was able to get an interview schedule a week after the completion of my application. I chose the earliest available time (January 16, 7.30AM) as I need to know the result before February 14, in time for the travel expo -- see, I'm already claiming it even during the process :) I cannot confirm how many schedules are there in a day but the first is at 6.30AM.

If you already have an interview schedule, the Embassy requests you to be at the gate 15 minutes before the listed time in your appointment letter. As for me, I was excited and heard the advice from friends to go there as early as 5.00AM. However, TIP: you don't need to be that early unless you want to avoid the heavy traffic in that area or you want to relax with beautiful sunrise in front of Manila Bay or you just want to give the bystanders an opportunity to earn (andaming negosyo doon, from monoblock chairs while waiting, human counter - for your mobile phones/electronic devices, food/drinks to passport size photos). I turned my sleepy-because-I-was-TOO-early situation into something fun. I have been able to observe and listen to different stories of every applicant I've met, so sulit pa rin ang paggising ko ng maaga besides kabado din ako and it helps to know na I'm not alone :)

TIP: Before leaving the house for your interview, make sure you have the following documents - interview appointment letter, DS-160 confirmation page, valid passport, one 2” x 2” photo, and all prior passports and U.S. visas, if available. Along with the required documents, I also brought some of my personal documents in case I will be asked (better to be ready than sorry). These are NOT necessary but I  chose to bring them: certificate of employment indicating tenure, current position title, basic salary and that my company is allowing me to have my 3-week vacation leave; 2013 ITR, invitation letter from my bride-to-be friend and itinerary; and photos. I decided to leave my passbook at home as I am not confident to talk about it. 

After the waiting outside the Embassy gate, applicants are called per batch according to their schedule. My batch was called 30 minutes before. There is a scanning facility to detect any electronic device, so double check your bag or pockets before entering. TIP: Do not bring any electronic device with you, no matter how small it is. It was an easy-breezy queue. There were staff everywhere to make sure you are at the correct line and have the needed document. You can take a CR  or coffee break before entering the main hall where the interview is conducted. Again, the batch will be called by the marshals when it is the time. You may have a chit-chat with other applicants too, to ease whatever you are feeling that day. It will also help you and others if you remain in a positive, happy attitude rather than infecting others with negativity and anxiousness. TIP: Follow the marshals. When in doubt, ask!

The time has come when your batch is already called to enter the main hall. Another round of bag checking then you will be asked to fall in line for Step 1 - screening. I was only asked about the purpose of my travel and how long will I be staying in the US. After which, you can take a seat but you cannot relax as you need to watch out for your number on the highly installed monitors. The numbers are flashed randomly. TIP: PAY ATTENTION

Step 2 is the finger scanning. You will be asked to state your name and birthday before the actual finger scanning. If your hands are sweaty like mine, don't worry they will give you tissue paper to dry them first :P TIP: Your DS-160 confirmation page should be stamped with a red "CAPTURED" after this step. If not, tell the staff and they will gladly do so. 

You are now ready for Step 3 - The Interview. This may take a long wait than the usual queues so be patient while fixing your eyes on the monitor for your number. You may hear the interviews of the applicants before you - whether pleasant or unpleasant result. I chose to only hear the pleasant ones to psyched me up and also, to have a grateful heart for others. It helped me calm down as I approach the window where the assigned Consul for me is. As I heard more varied scenarios, I can say that there is no exact formula on how to get a visa approval. I don't think it depends on the Consul's mood or yours, or the answers you gave or how you answered or your capacity to afford your trip. I say, if it's yours then be it. You can only pray and hope for the best. If not it's not yet your time to visit the US of A, it's not the end of the world. You can always save and re-apply :)

You may see below how my interview with the Consul went, in case you are really curious. I tried to remember it as verbatim as possible :P TIP: Just relax. Be yourself and listen to the questions. Provide short but complete answers. Be polite. Enjoy the moment!

         Me: Good morning!
            C: Hi, good morning. How are you today?
         Me: I'm good... and excited!
            C: Oh, wow! That's good. Tell me about the purpose of your travel.
         Me: I was invited by my childhood best friend to be one of her bridesmaids at her wedding and I look forward to attend.
            C: That's nice. In which state?
         Me: California. (pause -- she seems to be scrolling my DS-160 form in her monitor)
            C: What do you do now? Where do you work?
         Me: I work as a Senior Account Manager in (interrupts me)
            C: What again?
         Me: Philippines.
            C: Okay, what's that? Tell me about your job.
         Me: It is an online portal where companies post their job ads. I work with recruitment agencies who help Filipinos find their job overseas.
            C: For how long have you been doing that?
         Me: Going 3 years now.
            C: How much do you earn?
         Me: Every month, I get a salary of xxx plus incentives and commissions of xxx.
            C: So, you get an estimate of xxx per month?
         Me: Yes.
            C: What do you do before that?
         Me: I worked for ABC company where we import candies and chocolates to be sold here in the Philippines.
            C: Do you travel around?
         Me: Yes, locally. And in Singapore for my birthday last year.
            C: What did you do there for your birthday?
         Me: I met with my friends who work there and did all the touristy activities.
            C: Did you travel alone?
         Me: Yes but I've met with several friends when I went there.
            C: What's the occupation of your friend who is about to get married?
         Me: Pharmacist.
            C: What about the husband to be?
         Me: He is a photographer.
            C: Do you have relatives there?
         Me: Yes.
            C: Are you married?
         Me: Not yet.
            C: Do you own a house? Where do you live here?
         Me: No, I rent an apartment in Quezon City.
            C: How long will you stay in the US?
         Me: Just for 3 weeks. My boss did not allow me to extend my vacation.
            C: Okay, you can wait for your visa to be delivered in 5 days.
         Me: Really?!
            C: Yes!!! Congratulations! Thank you, safe travels.
         Me: Wow!!! Thank you very much.

Wow!!! As I find my way out, I'm smiling up to my ears and I can't stop babbling, "thank you God. Praises to You, only You!". I was nearly in tears as I have no one with me to share such precious moment and I don't have my phone to inform my family about the good news. Then, the guard randomly asked how it went and he extended his congratulations. I'm overwhelmed!!! The two female strangers from the queue earlier saw me walking along Roxas Boulevard. We decided to have a little coffee date in celebration of that day. I'm also thankful for the experience. It pushed me to trust and inspire other people too.  

As I've said, there is no known formula in getting a US visa. All we have to do is pray for a grateful heart no matter what the result will be and to trust that God is in control. He is our deliverer!
Here's to inspiring you to overcome your fear (of applying a US visa), to make the experience fun than terrifying and most of all, to remain in faith as you wait for the result.

Faith and love,


Thursday, January 23

Breakthrough upon Breakthrough

A few days ago during the annual prayer and fasting at my church, I shared with you that I strongly believed for a US visa grant and many others.

I was told by my small group leader before that when writing and praying for faith goals, it should be something I cannot do alone, something near to impossible if I rely on my own understanding and actions. So, I let go and let God. I humbly asked Him to impress in my heart what He wants me to do this 2014. I steadfastly wrote them one by one in my journal – shared one or two with my friends, prayer partners and on this little online space.  It was difficult to share something this personal here, opening up is a breakthrough in itself. Most of all, it was scary knowing that I can be judged or be face-palmed when it doesn't turn out to be as expected. But, I obeyed (with sweaty palms) because I know that my God is faithful, generous, mighty, deliverer and awesome! I stood in faith that whatever the outcome, it will be a testimony of my obedience to God and His faithfulness in my life. It was indeed a humbling experience. 

During Day 1 (of 5 prayer and fasting), Pastor Robert challenged us that if our faith goals are not answered by God, will we still fix our eyes on Him? It was totally a heart check-up for me. I was comforted by the passage and promise in Exodus 14:14 “For the Lord will fight for you, be still”. I prayed that He change my heart to see His goodness more than His blessings. 

Fast forward to Day 3, I was able to pay at the bank and finish my DS-160 form. To my relief, upon scheduling my interview I saw that there were available slots for the following week contrary to what others told me that it will take about a month or two. It must be the big guy up there! Woot!

A week after, my breakthrough day came. It was a beautiful, cool morning of January 16. I was scheduled for 7.30am but I was there as early as 5.30am. I didn't waste any time while waiting. I kept on seeking God. I kept on praying. I am grateful and will always be. That was the attitude I had - I chose gratitude over doubt or fear. Finally, I heard the Consul "You can wait for your visa to be delivered in 5 days. Congratulations. Safe travels!". I can't believe it ! I am ecstatic that moment and lasted for days up to now. I just uttered "Praise God. All the glory to You, only You".

Next question that popped into my mind is "How will I be able to finance this grand trip?" Remember my travel fund jar? Happy to report that it started to be filled with commission fees from hosting/event planning opportunities entrusted to me by my friends. Yay! I'm finally starting to get paid for things I love to do - it was a good affirmation also. 

Another breakthrough came - a financial provision! God is truly generous and blesses His children. I was told by my supervisor that my individual development plan is on to the next level. I will be assigned to another role which will be both challenging and rewarding. My current salary can be doubled! Yes, x 2! Of course, it will require a lot of time and effort but still... it is another opportunity that I have been waiting for all these years. My God is giving me unlimited possibilities!

Lastly, my story (particularly on how I got my US visa) is a testimony to a lot of people - to believe and let God. Many have heard the news. They shared their genuine happiness to me and allowed me to inspire/bless their life with mine. This is the greatest breakthrough above all - honoring God and ministering to people.

** I will share my full visa experience plus tips in my next post in the hope of helping others get theirs too without fear.

Glorifying God,


Tuesday, January 14

4 Simple Goals for 2014

I'm a goal-setter! I work best when I've written down my goals - be it daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. 

Fourteen days (14) of 2014 have passed and I just can't contain how those days came by like a lightning! I'm not complaining in any way but my impression is that 2014 will be both challenging and exciting. Let's just say, I have received breakthroughs already and I'm ready for more! :)

For me not to be caught up in all the hullabaloos, to keep my cool and focus intact, I'm sharing my 4 simple goals for 2014 with you:

1. Be always present. 
I do not only mean reporting to work on time, 5 days a week. More so to be present with the people that matter most, in their milestones (both big and small) in life. You know how it feels like when you are invited to a party and every detail seems to be taking your attention from the celebrant? I want to make a reform on that - to take home more shared stories than photos I took. I'm more interested now in creating deeper conversations and more of life with family and friends.

2. Be more of a home-buddy.
I was never one. I'm the kind who is always on the go. And this 2014, I want to learn how to value rest and stillness and relaxation at home. I only intend to visit two new places this year - USA and BKK. I told myself, not to book local plane rides until the end of December. Haha! My overseas travel plans are okay for now :P It means more time for my quiet sessions, reading, writing, cooking, gardening, DIY projects and perhaps, cocktail-making too. Friends are welcome to visit me!

3. Be consistent with my fitness plan.
Eat more greens daily. Drink up smoothies everyday. Cut some meat and rice and sugar. Run every Saturday and Sunday morning. Attend boxing classes thrice a week. Do yoga at home. 

4. Be a saver, not a spender.
I'm always kuripot but I have hoarder tendencies. I need to work hard on this by starting to unsubscribe with most of online sites I follow. Hihi! I also plan to continue the "clothing exchange" thing with some of my girlfriends. And oh, I should also put to good use the craft materials I hoarded in 2012. I'd love to grow my herb garden - both healthy and economical. I also started a TMF (The Me Fund) saving plan with my friends. 

That's my list. Wish me luck! Care to share your goals for 2014 too? 

Happy goal-setting,


Wednesday, January 8

The Highlights of My 2013 (August - December)

Hooray for part 2 of what 2013 has been like for me! I wrote about Part 1 yesterday.

Looking back at each month got me really sentimental. I lived 2013 the way I know best how and it made me really crazy happy!

 To be consistent with my simplified efforts last month, I once again intensified my love affair with Sunday markets. I did my best to wake up early morning for a good run, then have my good-for-the-heart breakfast and take home some fresh produce for the week’s meal plan. Not only did I shop for organic foods there, I also tried my luck in growing herbs in my own garden. I started with basil, thyme, oregano and mints. I need to learn more about this, though. Excited for this home garden project this February! <3

with my household
Another milestone in the de Vera family is celebrating Nanay Roming’s 89th birthday. We are so grateful for her life and her strength to carry on!

Nanay with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In the Philippines, September is one of the much anticipated months as it is a beginning of Christmas. Yes, we celebrate early (and lengthy)! Also, in September we celebrated my Momsie's 53rd birthday here in Manila with the Napolitanos. It was a perfect excuse for more DIY, home-cooking and reunion with relatives.

Mama and the grandparents
There was such a bummer moment for me too when I lost my wallet after a good spa date with my friend. I know must be so relaxed that I dropped it while hopping into the car. But, the next day a man called my office (it pays off to have business cards inside your wallet). In the end, I got my wallet back with everything in it. A true testimony that there are still good people here in Earth ;)

This is where we had lunch when I got my wallet back. Good life!
I fell in love with boxing!
with my boxing buddy
It’s my birthday month and I went on for my first and solo international trip. I met my friends in Singapore and they are so kind that they blessed me with almost everything I need for my 5-day vacation. Also, I was able to meet a lot of tourists too! I’ll write more about it soon :)
giddy me!
The Halloween party I organized together with my “Hallie” friends that made us move mountains to push through. Glad to know that my colleagues had fun too!!!

it was a masquerade party :)
I joined my first badminton tournament. And I think I did great! Planning to join a badminton group this year to enhance my smashing abilities :P
our game-on face
Yehey!!! Planned and did our first out of town trip with de Vera cousins in Tagaytay. We made it! Looking forward for more trips with them :P
in costumes!

December was bittersweet for me. There were difficult decisions to make in order to truly see what is best for me and us. It has its fair share of ups and downs but nonetheless, it was worth the ride. The love from family and friends kept me alive and want to live for more!

Aaaaaaaand finally, we were able to convince my parents to spend their Christmas holidays here in Manila. We all had fun just being together and exploring the city. This experience is a perfect year-ender! <3

Gosh! 2013 I really, really love you. 

2014, beat that! :)

For a victorious 2013,


Tuesday, January 7

The Highlights of My 2013 (January - July)

I have spent the first 7 days of 2014 in so much awe! It seems like the days came in a breeze, the smooth kind. I have spent a good quality time with family and friends - both personal and online (can't get enough of people from around the globe). At the same time, I was able to get a lot of quiet time just by reading books, watching TV series, jogging and reflecting. And I can't help looking back at how I have spent my days in 2013. It took me to self-discovery in a lot of levels, the good and the bad. Let's take a walk down the memory lane, shall we?

At work, we have a group called TGIF where we meet every Friday to honor God by sharing His word to our colleagues and friends. As we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, we are so blessed and we wanted to share that blessing to others too. We organized a full party with food & drinks, games, song & dance numbers, face painting, decorate-your-own-cupcake, mini act/play and even brought a photo-booth set-up for the kids to enjoy! It was indeed a fruitful Saturday morning for all of us.

Another thing is the celebration of Miguel's 31st at home with his family. I love how simple yet special the idea is. We ordered Chinese food from our favorite restaurant in San Juan for dinner and I got him an ice cream cake!

I love the beach and traveling and going to Puerto Princesa, Palawan with friends is perfect to celebrate love month.

It's official! I'm living with my not-so-little brother and two cousins in my current apartment. That means, a  lot of DIY for the home and meals too.

It was a busy month of nesting and one of my college bestfriends got married! Oh, I love March! <3

Started Q2 with a trip to Mindoro with my not-so-little brother to celebrate his shared birthday with Tatay Indo. He's thrilled with more future travels together!

Discovered my inner Amazona and Gladiator moves at our company team-building in Tanay, Rizal.

Finally met the fiance of my long time since-kindergarten-bff, Kathy when they visited the Philippines. Together we explored the Old Manila and some undiscovered beaches up North.

Another dream destination came true this month of June when I visited Camiguin with friends. More on this from my CDO-Camiguin-Bukidnon post.

It's a CHALLENGE-full month of July. I joined an online selfie challenge called #abeautifulmess on Instagram and through it, I gained an online friend who happens to be the childhood friend of my cousin in the US. Wow, small world and it's just perfectly awesome! Also, I found my sweet spot in running too, with the help of my not-so-little brother. Most importantly, simplifying my life by owning a simple, Pinoy-made phone and eating mostly home-cooked meals :)

So far, so good eh? Will be back for the next half tomorrow! 

Monday, January 6

Faith in Action

Today is Day 1 of the annual prayer & fasting at my Church. And yesterday, I'm fortunate to meet a few of my friends who share the same faith as I do. We gathered over chocolate fix at Xocolat Katipunan. We shared our victories and challenges in 2013, and our faith goals in 2014. We got a little bit sentimental of how far we've come in following, obeying God. Indeed, it is a living faith - how He molded each one of us and placed right where we belong. Of course, it is not an easy journey but we believed that our strength come from the grace of God and by the friendship He has especially planted in each of hearts. Our fellowship remained strong despite the distance and our lack of time, perhaps. We are truly grateful and honored and overwhelmed by how God has tremendously blessed and made us a great testimony of His faithfulness. Amazing!

I have written quite a number of faith goals in my family, ministry, career and personal. Let me share with you one of the things I'm strongly believing for this year - approval of my US visa and then travel fund for the trip that can sustain my visit for a month. I love to travel around the Philippines but I've never thought about visiting the States side because of I felt it is just impossible. But last year I got invited by my BFF-since-kindergarten and her fiance to their wedding in September 2014. Tada!!! This is a perfect excuse for a vacation and visit my relatives and friends there too. At first, I was reluctant and just wishfully thinking about it. I know I couldn't afford the visa application fee, ticket costs and other travel expense. Buuuuuuuuut, God has His way of telling me "Kid, you should trust me with this. C'mon, you can't do it but I can!". Wow, the Big Guy up there is talking to me?! Well, I believed Him forgetting about all the worries I have. True enough, my cousin (without me even asking and her popping up a message on Facebook) pledged for my visa application fee as a "talent fee" for my tour guide services when they visited the Philippines last year. Wow! I'm wide-eyed and totally grateful <3 Kinilig talaga ako! So, I trust that the US Embassy will grant me a US visa this year. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed too :P Then, last year I went ahead to see one international travel expo. I was pleasantly surprised to see flights via one famous airline at about $700 round-trip. It looks like my dream can be a reality soon! But before I daydream for it once again, I made sure my boss and the company I work are okay with my plan - 3 weeks to a month vacation. And they told me, it can be arranged as long as I do my best and prepare before this long scheduled leave. I know, I know... I'm joyful, grateful, teary-eyed, overwhelmed. While I wait for my interview and the result of my application, I want to stand in faith that God can deliver His promise. That He will be the approving body and provider for this USA trip in September 2014. With that, I'm putting action to my faith. Along with prayers, I'm setting up a very tangible (and cute) travel fund too. I trust that God will give opportunities for me to grow this - maybe I can do a garage sale of my stuff!

It is scary to write something I'm believing for here but I pray that as I share my story today, that it will be a testimony of God's faithfulness in my life as I choose to obey Him. Indeed, God can do miracles and knows the desires of our hearts even before we ask for them.

Jeremiah 29:11"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

In great faith,


Friday, January 3

2013 Travel Photo Diary

2013 is my best year yet. It took me to places I've only dreamed of before. It made me courageous and cheerful!

Company team-building in Tanay, Rizal
White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro
Greens in Bukidnon
Ziplining in Palawan
Haji Lane, Singapore
Played tourist guide with Ate Mai and Dmitry in Tagaytay
Anda, Pangasinan
Los BaƱos, Laguna
Sual, Pangasinan

Another trip in Tagaytay with de Vera cousins 
Visiting Nanay & Tatay in Mindoro with Mon

I'm grateful, indeed. Thank you 2013!

Ticking off travel bucketlist one by one,