23 December 2008

Buying Euros

Since euro is still a minority in the money exchange business in the Philippines, buying euros is slightly an inconvenient experience. It is not as easy as exchanging those dollars. Since dollar is a universal language, transactions can be done in practically every mall you see. But not euro. The currency is so rare that if you do come across a bank or a center that sells it, you'd have to call first to make a reservation prior to the exchange. You need to state how much and when you intend to pick up the money.

Based on online recommendations, Edzen seems to be one of the best money changers in Manila. It is quite obvious that it has a large stock of euros as publicized by the Euro general scandal. Edzen Money Changer is located in Mabini Street, between Pedro Gil and Salas Street. If you don't like Edzen, there are other exchange centers looming around the place.

The problem with Manila though is that it is a very unsafe place to carry around money. Since I didn't want to die of paranoia I decided to buy my euros in BPI Forex 6750 Branch. It is the best option for me since I have a BPI account. Instead of carrying around cash, I only had to fill out a withdrawal slip and hand it over to the teller. After few minutes of waiting,...voila! The pesos are now in euros.

At the time of my transaction, BPI rate was 1 EUR= Php 64.0827.

Aside from BPI Forex, I also recommend iFX Foreign Exchange Center. It is located in the lower ground of Goldcrest in Glorietta.

21 December 2008

Penny Pincher Flight

My original plan was to fly to Paris on January, so that I could at least spend Christmas and New Year here in the Philippines. I also thought that I'll be able to grab a cheap deal if I target that month. However, in my research, I found out that I'll get a better deal if I leave on December. Ticket prices would have doubled by 2009. That's a shock for a cheapskate like me. I opted for an after Christmas flight and picked out Gulf Air. I'm not really much of a fan of Gulf Air, but with my budget, it's the best that I've got.

I've discovered that tickets are usually cheaper if you buy them from travel agencies than if you buy them directly from the airline companies. Of course that's not always true so it's best that you compare prices first before handing out your cash. It's also a whole different story if you're booking online. There are sites like Asiatravel.com, Expedia, Travelocity, Sidestep that let you compare prices and book online. Prices to beat are usually from Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Etihad Airways and Malaysia Airlines. I bought my ticket in Pan Pacific Travel, upon the recommendation of a friend. If you happen to be in Makati, it's an agency worth trying.

20 December 2008

French Competence and Talent Visa

Before I handed out my resignation letter to my Syrian boss in UAE, I knew I wanted Europe to be my next stop. I just didn't know how. But in my ignorance, the conspiracy of the universe took over. One day, a friend called me up to share about the French Competence and Talent Visa.

Also known as the Skills and Talent permit, the visa allows highly skilled foreign nationals to carry out professional activity of their choice in France for a period of 3 years (renewable to six). It is a new type of visa added by the French authorities to promote economic development of both France and the grantee's country. In the Philippines, only 100 slots are available for this year.

Who's eligible
France is eyeing out holders of Doctorate or Master's degree who already had work experience. Sounds heavy? I felt your pain in reading those words. I already had an overseas work experience but I don't hold any highfalutin titles. But they must have smelled my hunger and thirst. Sometimes, hunger and thirst are equally important as that of credentials. So if you think you can contribute to the development of France and Philippines, and is brave enough to learn the French language, then I think it's high time that you apply.

Applying is very easy. All you have to do is submit to the French consulate a letter stating your career plans, along with other requirements. Don't be shocked when you the see the long stay visa application form. As it is written in French, you have to find someone to translate it for you or seek a good free online translator such as Systran. Remember to hand out two sets of the requirements plus six passport size pictures with white background. Although not required, it is best that you wear a business attire or smart casual attire even if you're just submitting your documents. Although they don't say it, first impression does count. And oh, don't forget that the embassy closes at 12noon. When my friend and I submitted our requirements, we came an hour too late so we had to go back the next day.

Parlez-vous Francais?
You don't need to speak, write and read French to be able to qualify. But I recommend that you state your intention to learn the language. Logic tells you that you should really be serious on your aim to learn the language if you don't want your French dream to turn into a nightmare.

1. The visa is F-R-E-E.
2. If you're married and have kids, you can take them along with you. Your family will be granted a Private and Family Life permit, which will enable your family members to live there. Your spouse is also entitled to work in France.
3. As a visa-holder, you are protected by French Laws. You are entitled to social and health insurance.
4. If Paris is your dream, this is seriously a dream come true.

Sorry to say but work is not included. After the granting of the dream and the million-dollar feeling comes the hard part. After the consul hands you the visa, you're out on your own. That means looking for work, looking for a place to stay and all the other details vital to survival in a foreign land. Clearly, the visa is not for the faint-hearted. To be a dreamer is not enough. You have to be brave enough to battle through the obstacles that come with the package. And according to the consul, having connections is key in landing a job that you like in France. He was blatant in saying that he doesn't want us to end up washing dishes there.

Waiting Period
In China, it takes a month to know if you qualified or not. In the Philippines, it only takes about a week or two to know if you made it or not. How would you know? The embassy will call you, congratulate you and ask you to claim your visa.

The Evidence
A jeweler and a physical therapist were among the pioneer recipients of this kind of visa. My close friend who's a fashion designer/interior designer also qualified and is off to Paris on April. As I was researching in the net, I found two others who were given the visa. One of them is Timi. Timi is now in Paris working as a technical writer. She's one of the reasons why I created a blog. A generous soul who helped me a lot in plugging the dream into reality.

For Further Reading
The French Competence and Talent Visa by Timi
'Competence cards' given to Filipinos seeking work in France
Few Filipinos availing of France's all-access cards-envoy
France opens door to Chinese students and 'foreign experts'
France Visa

18 December 2008

Pay It Forward

The gateway to Paris has finally been opened to me. I've never thought that my fairy godparents would grant me an access to its iron gates. Given so many factors, it used to be like a faraway dream. In fact, for a long time, even though the visa was already in my hands, it felt oh so surreal. It felt like winning a million-dollar lottery. It felt so much more.

And so, as gratitude to this beautiful thing that has happened to me, I've decided to create this blog as a guide to other hopefuls like me. I want to pay it forward.

Corny as it may sound, I can attest that miracles do happen and quantum physics is real. Mixed together, it explodes to something like...Paris for free.