VISAtisfied Voyager: new visa blog of the U.S. Embassy Manila

The U.S. Embassy Manila is now the most active embassy in the Philippines on social media (with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr). And just recently, they did it again!

They now have….*drumroll*…..a VISA BLOG!

You read that right. They have an official visa blog, VISAtisfied Voyager, whose goal is “to provide timely and relevant information to members of the public interested in learning about the Nonimmigrant and Immigrant visa processes.”

The choice to put up a blog shows the determination of the embassy to draw in feedback from readers. Every week, topics relevant to visa applicants will be posted. You can ask questions, leave comments and even provide feedback with any experience you may have while applying for a U.S. visa.

Behind the blog is a team of visa experts from the embassy’s Non-immigrant and Immigrant Visa units. It is hoped that through this blog, visa applicants can be kept up to date with new developments that may affect their applications.

Take note though. The U.S. Embassy Manila will not be able to respond to individual visa-specific questions on the visa blog. If you have questions that are specific to your situation, email the embassy at the following addresses:

consmanilaniv@state.gov (for individual, non-immigrant visa applications)

ivmanilareplies@state.gov (for individual immigrant visa applications)

With literally thousands of Pinoys applying for travel visas every year, the addition of this visa blog is sure to clear up many myths and provide clear advice for everyone, more so for those who may be applying for the first time.

Congratulations to the entire team of the U.S. Embassy Manila who are behind VISAtisfied Voyager as well as responsible for all its social media efforts!

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MV Doulos on its last voyage

Through the newspapers and blogs of some friends, I found out that MV Doulos, the world’s largest floating bookstore was making its last voyage. It was actually here last December 2007 and that was supposed to have been its last trip to Manila but they decided to extend their Asian trip and return in 2009. 

Right after the Krispy Kreme event in Makati, the 3 kids and I traveled to the Port Area where we were directed to the ship. We had to walk a short way, line up (thankfully lines were reasonably short), pay P10 each (M2 was exempted due to his age), then work our way up the steep ladder to the ship itself.

Here is some trivia about MV Doulos and its last trip to the Philippines:

* Doulos is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest active ocean-going passenger ship.

Doulos is owned and operated by Gute Bücher für Alle e.V. (Good Books for All) – a charitable trust, registered in Germany. The ship is registered in Valetta, Malta, and so the Maltese flag is displayed at the stern of the ship.

* It has received over 20M visitors, made 500 ports of call, visited >100 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and many island nations

* Its volunteers (over 300 of them) come from 40 countries, mostly young people who dedicate 2 years on board.

* No crew or staff, including the captain, receive compensation. In fact, each one of them has to raise the funds to cover the expenses of their stay on board.

* MV Doulos is supported in the following way: Half of the funding comes from the volunteers themselves, their family, friends and supporters; 25% comes from the sale of books and other items on board; the last 25% comes from gifts and donations by individuals, trusts, foundations and community groups.

* On this last voyage to the Philippines, the Doulos volunteers tutored 36 hearing-impaired students in Cebu. Prior to these lessons, the kids were also taught woodworking, welding and soap-making at their school.

That was a terribly humid afternoon and the bookfair area was NOT airconditioned. But despite it being on its last few days in Manila, the bookfair still had so many visitors, including children. I noted that most of the books were Christian books and books for young children although they had other books on health, the arts, food, sports, science and philosophy. CDs were also being sold (mostly Christian) as well as Doulos souvenirs.

We came away with a Doulos souvenir book, a Doulos plastic glass and M1’s book on scientists. Not much, really. We could easily have bought that in an ordinary bookstore. But I wanted the kids to experience Doulos because of its historic significance and because we may never get this chance again. I think the kids appreciated the experience as well because they did not complain as much as I expected. M2 even went up to one of the foreign volunteers before we disembarked and chatted him up. He was told that there could be plans to transfer the bookstore to another ship. Let’s hope so…

Here are some pictures of that afternoon.

Kids at MV Doulos

Me at MV Doulos

M2 on his way up MV Doulos

 

Bookfair view of MV Doulos

Checkout area with view of Doulos Cafe

With a Doulos volunteer

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