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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Covid 19 US Visa Medical Experience at St. Lukes Medical Center Extension Clinic

 Hi everyone,

As you all know I'm finally with my husband and migrating to the US very soon. I just wanted to share with you how the US visa medical went.


First of all, once you get an interview scheduled you need to set an appointment online with St. Lukes Extension Clinic (SLMCEC). Do remember that there are two, Manila and BGC. I went to the one in Manila as thats whats indicated on the embassy email. 

The email that you will receive will have a link to the website where you can schedule an appointment. I got my appointment email October 29 and on the same day I scheduled the medical exam for October 30. I was in a hurry because my interview date was set November 5 so I have to get moving and have the tests done. 

I was able to get a confirmation email in less than an hour and i was set. 

Here are the things that you need before going to the medical appointment:

  • US visa compliant photos
  • Passport
  • SLMCEC appointment letter
  • Embassy appointment email
  • Copy of Bio Page on your passport
  • DS-260 confirmation

Depending on your age, the cost of the medical exam differs
15 y/o and older  -         Php 17,025
younger than 15 y/o-     Php   9,583

They accept cash and major credit cards (visa and mastercard)

For more detailed information you can visit St Luke's Medical Center Extension Clinic Website

To be specific Im going to the US on a Immigrant visa (CR1) it was the same test as everyone else going to the US. Please refer to the flow charts below 

photos from st lukes website

So heres how it went:

I arrived reasonably early around 5:30 am on the day of the exam (Oct 30), the line was long already. Before you stay in line go to the security guard and ask for a number and they will then ask you for what country (I was going to the US and then i said that), they will then provide you a number and you have to fill out a health declaration form. The security guard will then scan the documents you have and assemble it for you before entry. I had an online scheduled appointment so I dont need to fill out a physical form. They allowed us in before the counters even open, the time i entered there was already around 30 people inside sitting. There was also a lady calling in the numbers for photos for the medicals, they call using the name of the country and number, i was US 10 so they called numbers that way. Be very aware as sometimes they skip your number. They do other countries to so be aware when they skipped your number to ask the lady nicely and tell them your number. (it was all jumbled up countries so no wonder that this happens at times).

After your photo was taken, you will be asked to wait for your number to be called on the counter, they still use country + number code. I was called and the documents were taken and verified, you will be given a paper and then also your passport to go to 5th floor to pay. I used the elevator since its 5th floor and i was on 1st floor. There was only one window for the cashier, and thankfully there wasnt any line. 

I have to give my papers to the receiving area every single counter that you go to. You basically have to move your papers along after you are done on one station to another. This is a very common scenario in the clinic. And make sure you give it to the correct counter, as there are multiple countries and if you mix it up it will delay your progress.

Next was taking vitals, height, weight, blood pressure, pulse rate and vision. As for the vision part make sure that you have your glasses or contacts with you and tell them if you are wearing any.
I was then instructed to go for the Xray on the 3rd floor. I have to leave my papers on the reception area on that floor and then wait for my name to be called, once called you will be instructed as to what room you are supposed to go. Males and female rooms are separated and there is a changing room that is free for all. Yup there is one changing room and you have to leave your clothes there and things. You will be asked to wear a hospital gown with no bras (for girls) also you need to keep your hair all tied up and not obstructing the Xrays. once you are done dress up and leave the lab gown outside on the dedicated basket. 
You will be handed your papers again and will be asked to go to laboratory. (im already using the stairs at this point going up and down as the elevators are always full and i dont have time for delays.) Same thing, leave the papers and wait for name to be called. At this phase blood work was taken from me (yes i hate needles and it freaks me out whenever im poked with it intentionally) and urine sample was taken (to save a lot of time, i drank a lot of water on my way to the clinic and hold it in). 
There was also a point where there was a questionnaire where there is a medical checklist and for girls its important to know when you had your last period (LMP on the form) and also your last sexual contact.  
I was then asked to go to to an interview with the doctor about my medical history, like measles or if i already had chicken pox (which i had when i was a kid but i didnt get any scars from it) and other medical stuff. I suggest ask your guardians, parents for info as much as possible before going and also ask for immunization records (we call that Bakuna in the Philippines) as its gonna be of great help. I was then asked to take remove clothing and have a physical exam (yes my doctor is a female). I was asked to turn around etc, there was also a stomach exam where they press on your stomach gently on different areas (maybe to check if there is an anomaly in your body i guess).
After the laboratory bloodletting, you will be asked to go to radiology again for releasing of the xray- this was  a bit confusing as i didnt really get any physical copies of my xray. I asked what time will it be released, they said i need to wait til 10:30 (it was around 9 or so) so i went out to get something to eat and kill the time. Upon return i was told that i was on the clear and i can go to immunization, I left my papers on the reception on that department and then i was called after around 2 hours at the most. And i was in for a treat, I was given a waiver to sign with all the adverse effects of the vaccines and that SLMC is not liable if it goes wrong, and yes i was slightly interviewed and then the vials came in, i realized whats gonna happen and its not a fun experience for me. Mostly because im scared of injections, i was able to tough it out and 3 injections were given to me at that point, MMR, Tdap(tetanus) and varicella. 
After I felt like a human pin cushion i was led out, feeling successful as i was able to not lose my mind during the whole injection ordeal. I brought with me some band aids so i used that before going home. 

I waited a bit to get my papers from them expecting that it might be an envelop and such, but they just returned my passport with a stamp and some numbers and signature, they mentioned that they do it online at this point and no papers are needed, the stamp represents that im good for interview and should be able to go to the embassy without hiccups on the medical end. 

For people who have something going on with their xrays they need to wait 2 month for the culture sample to check for tuberculosis.

on a side note, i spent half a day for my medicals to my own surprise, it was fast and well organized. you just need to go up and down the stairs a lot, mostly because of the socially distanced elevator situation. the nurses that administered the vaccines was actually fast and not fumbling around, the blood letting was also pretty fast. (i pinched myself pretty hard during all of those times). Everyone wear masks and face shields, social distancing was somewhat followed as some floors tend to be more crowded than others. 

Photos are not allowed inside the establishment and i cant put the stamp that st lukes put on my passport as they have personal info on them. 

Anyway, I hope you find this helpful and remember to keep safe!


Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Mississippi River - Historic sites that are not to be missed

The Mississippi River is one of the greatest waterways in the world. It runs through a diverse range of American states, which are home to some of the most historic sites in the country. Stop anywhere along the river and you can see how US history helped to create the world we live in today, as well as admiring the beauty of nature along the banks of the great river.

One of the best ways to embrace the history of the Mississippi is to take an American Queen Steamboat Company trip. You get to spend time on a traditional steamboat where you can relax onboard, or maybe spend time at one of the historic sites that the river passes close to.

Fort Crawford Museum

Fort Crawford was built to protect the area of Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin, and it did so from 1816 until 1856. The fort was offered up as a venue at which to train Union soldiers at the time of the American Civil War. Today, the Fort Crawford Museum is open to visitors from May through October and private tours are available at other times of year. Visitors can see what life at the fort was like when it was still in use and get a better understanding of how it protected the city.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

There are more than 200 American Indian mounds at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. The mounds are considered to be sacred by many American citizens and their splendor is awe inspiring as is the beauty of the area which surrounds them.

Black Hawk State Historic Site 

This site, in Rock Island Illinois, has been home to American Indians and 19th century settlers. Its most close association is with the Sauk nation. The site is named after Black Hawk, the Sauk Nation leader. Today the site is known for its natural beauty, a great attraction to visitors.

Mark Twain's Boyhood Home 

Mark Twain is one of the most famous and well-respected American writers. He is closely associated with the Mississippi River which featured in many of his novels. Twain's childhood home, in Hannibal, Missouri, is now a museum which is dedicated to helping people appreciate the writer and how his stories still have relevance in today's world.

Poverty Point World Heritage Site

The Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Louisiana is a mysterious place. It was built at the same time as the Ancient Egyptians were creating monuments and temples. Poverty Point was built by hand, by American Indians, and consists of a massive mound surrounded by concentric circles. It's original use has never been definitively identified.

The Mississippi is a powerful and beautiful river which runs through a multitude of attractive surroundings. Its banks are home to some of the most historic sites in the US and you can pay them a visit if you take a trip along the river. 
Friday, June 29, 2018

Why Cruises Are Great For Families

Travelling with children can feel limiting, especially when you’re travelling with young children.
Sometimes it feels easy to stay close to home or relax by the beach. However, the right kind of
vacation can make all the difference, turning your family trip into one you won’t forget.

A cruise is the perfect way to enjoy a family vacation, taking you to multiple destinations while
enjoying all of the perks of a resort stay. If you’re unsure if a cruise is the right kind of break for you,
then this article might help you change your mind.

Take a look at some of the reasons why cruises are great for families.

Simple, straightforward travel

Once you arrive on-board your cruise, you just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Unlike
being on a plane, a train or in a car, you can start exploring your surroundings immediately and take
advantage of the facilities a cruise has to offer. With your itinerary all planned out, you don’t have to
worry about what to do each day and can simply enjoy the thrill of waking up in a new destination.
You’ll have your own space and plenty to keep you occupied between destinations, offering the
perfect combination of relaxation and sightseeing.

Explore places you wouldn’t normally explore

Cruises can offer ‘travel tasters’, allowing you to explore the best bits of a destination without the
need for an extended stay. Cruises can take you to a multitude of destinations, and offers cruises to everywhere from Antarctica to Asia. With the world at your feet, a cruise can help you take in many destinations in a short space of time, allowing you to
see things you might never have seen otherwise.

They’re a resort all on their own

Travelling with kids can be a nightmare, but it helps when there’s plenty of things to keep them
entertained. A cruise offers a fantastic resort experience, complete with swimming pools, movie
theaters, kids clubs, performances and plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy. Cruises
that are family-friendly can help everyone to get the vacation they want, and as the kids play during
the day, parents can get the chance for some rest and relaxation on deck.

They’re excellent value

While you can find ways to save money on family vacations, nothing offers value for money quite like a cruise. Most cruises are all-inclusive, so you know what you’re paying upfront and can budget
accordingly. With everything included in one cost, you can keep the spending money for excursions
and sightseeing adventures. Pick a cruise for the right time of year, and you could save even more
money on your family adventure!

If you’re planning your summer break, then a cruise could be exactly what you’re looking for. With so
many different destinations and some great facilities on-board, a cruise could be the perfect vacation
for you and your family this year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Villa Escudero Waterfalls and Villas

Villa Escudero is one of the top tourist attractions that balikbayans visit to rekindle their Filipino spirit. And, many foreign tourists are even more intrigued with the rare dining experience Villa Escudero offers.

Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon allows its visitors to experience Filipino life and culture through food, accommodation, museums, folk dance presentation, and other recreational activities. But, in this article, I’d like to highlight my review on my dining and overnight experience in the Villa.

Overnight Accommodation

Villa Escudero has five types of accommodation rooms, namely Riverside Units, Executive Riverside Units, Longside Unit, Executive Longhouse Unit and Presidential Suite. The most expensive they have is the Presidential Suite. This cost P6,200 to 10,500 per night depending on whether it’s a peak season or not. It can be occupied by at least five persons. And, it has a large veranda from which you can relax and view the river.

The Riverside Units also have verandas from which you can view the calm river. Each of these rooms cost P 4,400 to 7,000 per night depending on the season. These units can accommodate a big group with twelve members.

Since they have air condition, the Executive Units (Riverside and Longhouse Units) have a more modern design compared to the ordinary rooms. And, they are more expensive for about P1,200 to 2,200.

As for us, we stayed at the Longside Unit. Overnight stay in this room costs around P 3,600 to 6,000 depending on the season. It can accommodate up to six persons only.

This was perfect for us since we were coming from a vacation from Singapore and I had a lot of work given by my chinese tutor Singapore. This was a good spot for me to work.

I really loved how the Villa has a rustic vibe. The Villa’s accommodation rooms feature modern bahay kubo design. Among the room types, I think the Longside Unit captured the rustic vibe most. It is carefully designed with high ceiling and with the materials, sawali, and bamboo.

These designs allow natural ventilation within the room.The room was big enough. There was a main bed with a canopy. Beside it is a single bed. Then, there is a loft in which you can find three mattresses. But, either which space you prefer, you’ll feel very cozy and homey. The bathroom and shower are built with tiled walls and floors. And, they have separate glass doors. The sink is situated in between the shower and bathroom. The shower has a cold and warm switch. And the bathroom is fairly decent with bidet.

What I loved most was the outdoor living room. Here is where you can just sit and maybe take out your laptop and work. Or, maybe you can just hang out with your friends and just chill.

Waterfalls Buffet Lunch in Villa Escudero

Many tourists really visit Villa Escudero just to experience dining in at the foot of the Labasin Falls. So, the place can be crowded during weekends and Holidays. The best time to visit the place is during weekdays.

Although I think you can ask for a plastic spoon and fork, eating at the base of the Labasin Waterfalls may be best if you do it with your bare hands. Eating bare hands or Kamayan Style is a traditional way of eating in the Philippines.

At their buffet table, they serve all Filipino cuisine from soup, main dishes with rice and up to the dessert. Usually, they’ll serve grilled pork, roasted chicken, pancit, caldereta, and fresh vegetables. For dessert, they have banana cue (deep fried banana) and fresh fruits.

I’d say my dining experience at the base of Labasin Waterfalls inside Villa Escudero is satisfactory. They generously serve delicious Filipino dishes. Plus, I love the natural ambiance. The sound of the chirping birds and of the flowing water is relaxing. And, seeing many families and barkada (friends) enjoying the buffet lunch gives a vibe similar to a fiesta (celebration).

Have you experienced staying at Villa Escudero yet? Did you enjoy your buffet lunch at the base of Labasin Waterfalls? If not, I’d suggest you bring your family or friends with you to visit the Villa. If you’ve already visited the place, let me know your experience by commenting below.
Monday, March 6, 2017

Pingyao Travel: Pingyao Ancient City Joint Ticket

The Pingyao ticket costs 150Rmb ( $21) and you basically have access to at least 20 sites in the area. its valid for 3 days and I think that is good enough to see all the sites.

You can check out Travel China Guide for the places you can see with this ticket

During our visit we paid 150 even though most sites and even the ticket says 130. The tickets can be bought at the ticketing office located at the entrance for climbing up the city wall. 

Photo above is the main tower on the city wall and if you turn left the ticketing office is just there. They are easy to deal with especially if you have exact amount when you pay.

The tickets are basically scanned upon entering  the site and you can only visit a location once. The bar code should be aligned well because sometimes it doesn't scan properly. There are times where there are attendants at the entrance to do this but sometimes there are none. 

Also a thing to remember that sites do close around 5-6 PM. And by 10 pm most of the stalls are already closed and the streets are almost empty. Unless you want to get locked out by your hotel better go back early. We got locked out for a bit good thing the staff is still awake and opened the door for us.

Here are just some information about the joint ticket that I personally experienced and its also better to ask for a map at your accommodation so you know where to go as well.

I hope you guys find this helpful and you can also check my other Pingyao related posts

Top 5 Things to do in Pingyao
Pingyao Accomodation
Train Travel to Pingyao


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Top 5 Things to do in the Ancient City of Pingyao

Pingyao Ancient City is one of the best spots I have visited so far in China. Its small and not too busy on a regular weekend. Its an ideal spot for a weekend getaway and just to chill and unwind. Since its a historical site that retains the Ming and Qing feel to it, it does make us want to go there to see for ourselves how we like it.

Since this place is very accessible to our city we just need to hop on a bullet train and go there. The trip took us at less than an hour from our city to the nearest train station. You can check my train ride HERE

Disclaimer: This is just for a trip inside the walled city only.

Without further ado here are my top things to do in Pingyao

The City Tower along the Ancient Street

See the Tourist Sites

Well, Like other tourist destination its a must to visit the sites. Since this is a pretty small area, they sell a joint ticket for the site at the ticketing office near the entrance to climb up to the wall. It is very convenient because the sites do have a scanner for the tickets and you dont need to keep on dipping into your purse to get money to pay for separate tickets.

Eat Pingyao Beef and the Local Delicacies

Pingyao is known for Pingyao beef and we had it the first day we are there and it was amazing. Its tender, flavorful and has that roast beef feel to it but looks like a big hunk of corned beef that wasnt shredded yet. There are a lot of local restaurants lining the streets from noodles to vegan friendly options. Also if you are a drinker local beer is being served everywhere and if you want a margarita that is good and reasonably priced you can head on to Cozy Bar.

 Braised Eggplant and Stir Fried String Beans
Some potato dish with egg and Pingyao beef in Curry sauce

Walk along the ancient Ming and Qing streets

This is an activity on its own and you should not miss doing it at night when the lanterns are on.
Its also cool in the evenings so we really did enjoy walking around the area and also shop around.
There are a lot of antique stores lining the streets and they have really cool vintage items.

A re-enactment parade we glanced upon

Relax and take a break and do people watching

Its a fun activity for someone like me who wants to enjoy life at a slow pace. After a whole morning of walking its great to sit down and relax. You can also have a massage for 30 Rmb ( around $5) we had one and it was pretty relaxing after walking a lot.

Here are just some of the things you can do in Pingyao and it didn't really cost much for a weekend trip. We will definitely come back and visit this place again. Not only its a historical place, there are only a handful of places like this in China that still remain intact and retained its ancient architecture and charm. It can get quite touristy during holidays, so its best to go there during a regular weekend and enjoy the scenery.

I will add some more links to this post in a few days.

If you are in China and going to Xian from Beijing this is a great place to visit and enjoy. Definitely worth your time.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Yingze Park

Yingze Park is one of the popular parks in Taiyuan, Shanxi. Its a huge park that covers 63.28 hectares and 20 of that is by the lake. The construction started 1954 and it was opened 1957 it contains 10 gardens with a large variety of plants. There are also a lot of things to do inside the park for all ages.

There are parts of the park that are well shaded than others, The most prominent tree around are willow trees and the place is a great place to do exercise and walk. During our visit there are a lot of people hanging out because its the week end. 

Since there a lot of things to do in Yingze Park i filmed some of the highlights of our visit and you can check the video below!

Since the park is massive it gets really tiresome and we actually spent half a day just walking around. Since it was spring time during our visit it tended to get hot too. There a lot of snack stalls in this area that sells local snack food like Chinese hotdog and fish balls. Activities such as boat riding and some rides for the children are available. There are a lot of gazebo and there is actually a museum that you can go in for free. 

Here is a map that shows the scope of the place.

Address: China, Shanxi Sheng, Taiyuan Shi, Yingze Qu, 迎泽大街218号 邮政编码: 030001
Phone:+86 351 202 2622
Entrance is for free but if you want to do activities inside most likely its not free unless its educational like the merchant museum.

The place is nice if you like to walk and just hang out. When we visited it was a pretty clear day and the smog is not that bad. The free exhibit is rather nice too. I wasn't very excited with the animal enclosure because I personally didn't like their situation. But over all it was okay. 

Thats it for this post. I hope you guys find it helpful.