Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Philippine Passport Renewal in SM Seaside 2022

Just renewed my passport!

The major change for new Philippine passports is probably the 10-year validity. Thank God.

If you have renewed your passport in the past, you know that it's a hassle to book an appointment online. Yet, the new booking system is better in some way because you won't have to wait in a long line and go in DFA early. 

You can book an appointment here: https://www.passport.gov.ph/appointment

There are 2 new sites you can now go to in Cebu - DFA office in Pacific Mall Mandaue and SM Seaside. I was able to successfully book an appointment in SM Seaside, which is near my place - convenient!

The tricky part of getting an appointment is that you need to always check on the site for available schedules. There's a new gig on Facebook where you can get someone to book an appointment for you for a fee. So if you want to save yourself from the hassle of waiting for a vacant slot, you may want to avail of it. I don't think it's a "fixer" system anyway.

For renewals, you just need to bring the following:

  • Old passport
  • Photocopy of the first page of your passport - the one with your picture in it
  • A copy of your Online booking with your details and receipt
  • Identification card (just in case)

From my experience, here are the steps to renew your Philippine passport:

1.  When you arrive in the satellite office (SM Seaside), you can just approach the guard and he will collect your documents.
2. Wait around 15 to 25 minutes for your name to get called. They will hand you your documents back.
3. You will line up for the DFA staff to check your documents  (no stress cause you will be sitting down) and there are more than 5 of them who'll be checking. It's just quick.
4. If everything's good with your documents, you will be instructed to go to the next room where you'll get your picture taken. You will also get a stub with the pick-up-schedule.
5. Get your picture taken. Make sure your shirt's neck area isn't too low.

Even if you renewed your passport in SM Seaside, you still have to get it in Pacific Mall. Yes, this is the sad part for a satellite office. 

Pacific Mall - Regular passport fee: P950 (12-20 days) / Rush: P1,200 (7-10 days)
SM Seaside - Regular passport fee: P1,200 / No Rush

Goodluck with your passport renewal!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Applying for SSS Maternity Benefit 2022

SSS Maternity Benefit Application for voluntary members is now online! 

I love how convenient it was to process my SSS Maternity Benefit after giving birth last May. I was told that it used to be a tedious process, and you have to wait for weeks to get the money. Now, it's so different.

Let me walk you through the process from my experience.

1. Upon learning of my pregnancy, I immediately filed for Maternity Notification through the SSS website.

Click E-services < Benefits < Submit Maternity Notification. Just provide your expected date of delivery or due date then the rest of the details being asked.

You will receive an email to confirm your submission. DONE!

2. While waiting to give birth, make sure you have an enrolled Disbursement Account where SSS will deposit your money. You need to have a Disbursement Account before you can apply for Maternity benefit.

Click E-SERVICES < Disbursement Module. You will be asked to submit these three: Proof of Account, ID Card, Selfie photo. I got rejected 3 times because of the Proof of Account I submitted. 

Proof of Account - I want the money to be deposited in my BPI account. Since I have the app, I took a screenshot of my account. I have on the left the screenshot that was successfully approved.
You have to wait for another email to confirm if your details got approved or rejected.

If you cannot see any buttons in the Disbursement page, that means you need to update your account details first. This one is tricky because you have to submit your details in the office.

To know how much you can get, go to INQUIRY < Eligibility < Sickness/Maternity

3. If approved, you can now apply for Maternity Benefit. 

Click E-services < Benefits < Apply for Maternity Benefit. Just provide the details being asked and attach a copy of your baby's Certificate of Live Birth. Make sure you have the original copy with the stamp like below:

I got rejected twice because I was asked to submit a colored copy of the Certificate of Live Birth. I actually submitted the original/colored copy, but the color wasn't very clear. So I did some magic to make the green labels stand out. See below sample:

I saw in the forums that some had to go to their municipal office to have their document stamped as Certified True Copy. But you don't necessarily have to do that. Just make sure the green labels are clear.

I got the approval/rejection in my email after 4 days of submitting the document. I received the money in my BPI account after 3 working days. I was approved Thursday and received the money Tuesday. For reference, I got the maximum benefit of P70,000 since I've been paying P2,400 contribution since 2020.

I really appreciate SSS for making their processes simpler and more convenient. Now, I can even contribute voluntarily thru Gcash, Paymaya and UnionBank since I'm doing freelance work. And the posting of the contribution in the website is real-time. I hope Pag-ibig and Philhealth will improve their websites and processes in the coming months as well.

That's it. Good luck with your application!

Friday, June 3, 2022

My Birth Story in 2022

I gave birth to my first baby last May 1, and I want to share with you my birth story.

If you're a first time mom-to-be or haven't had kids in years and is now pregnant, I hope you can get something from my experience of preparing for delivery and relate to my birth journey in a way.

Also, if you want to find out the answers to the following questions, please read on.

  • How much did it cost to give birth in a private hospital in Cebu?
  • Was getting a swab test required?
  • Why should you get or not get a maternity package?

I think I could answer more questions, but those I have to highlight.

How did I find out I was pregnant? There wasn't any obvious sign. Missing my period was normal for me. I didn't feel nauseous or sick. One night in September, while we're out, I just felt like I needed to take a pregnancy test. Bought one on the way home, and surprise...there were just two undeniable lines. Took a second PT the next day, secretly hoping that it was a false positive, but I got the same results. I was scared but excited.

I had to confirm my pregnancy right away, and a friend of mine recommended her OBGYN. Went for a Transvaginal Ultrasound and I was told that I was probably on my 6th week since the baby didn't have a heartbeat yet. I was asked to go back for another TVS after 2 weeks. The doctor gave me vitamins to help with the development. When I went back in, there was a heartbeat already. 

SSS Maternity Benefit. When my pregnancy was confirmed, I immediately made a Maternity Notification through the SSS website. I pay my SSS contributions voluntary after quitting my corporate job last year. I continued to pay P2,600 monthly, so I got an estimate of P70,000 as maternity benefit. I think this is the maximum that SSS can give.

Anyway, the next pregnant months were okay. Didn't experience the usual morning sickness or any other pregnancy symptoms except that my belly was getting bigger and my thighs are showing some marks. I found out that I was having a baby boy during the 6th month.

Before my 24th week, I had to decide whether to avail of a maternity package or not. It would've saved me a lot. But why didn't I avail?

I was not sure if it's best for me to avail of a maternity package for these reasons:
  • I got told that it's best to have a private OBGYN who I can consistently talk/ask for concerns - because if I get a maternity package, my consultation will be with any available resident OBGYN in the hospital so I won't be talking to only one doctor
  • I got told that it's best if I can build a relationship with my OBGYN because she'll care for me and give me the best treatment during delivery
In my 7th month, I started preparing my hospital bag. Here's what I packed:

  1. Maternity underwear/napkin 
  2. Toiletries 
  3. Underwear 
  4. Comfortable clothes for postpartum (ideally dresses) 
  5. Husband/Partners'/Accompanying Companions' clothes 
  6. Phone charger 
  7. Slippers  
  8. Snacks
  1. Newborn clothes (shirt, shorts, cap, mittens, socks and swaddle) 
  2. Newborn diapers
  1. Baby book from your OBGYN
  2. Admitting order from your OBGYN
  3. Swab test results - Hospitals require a swab test result. This is usually only valid within 5 days from testing, so you have to test again and again until you pop. I was very lucky because I got tested a day before I was advised to go to the hospital and got my results just hours before I got admitted. I availed of Vicente Sotto's or VSMMC's Free drive thru/walk-in swab testing by making an appointment online HERE
  4. Philhealth MDR
  5. Identification card (ID)
  6. Downpayment - mine was P15,000
Make sure you have the bags and documents in your car or in one area of the house so you can grab it as soon as you feel any labor sign.

I have to mention that I changed my OBGYN 3 times - in my 7th month and 8th month because their clinics were far from our house and I can't keep up with their clinic schedules. I know I'm not supposed to do that, but I was lucky I found my current OBGYN. She was what I needed.

Just some tips/steps during your private OBGYN visit:
  • Ask your OBGYN what hospitals he/she is affiliated with - and decide where you want to deliver your baby. I delivered mine in South Western Hospital formerly Sacred Heart Hospital. 
  • Ask for an Admitting Order once you reach 7 months - If you didn't avail of a maternity package or didn't consult with the OBGYN from the hospital where you plan to deliver, they won't admit you.
One thing I didn't know was that I need to have a Pedia as well. Good thing my sister mentioned, so I asked my OBGYN about it and if she can recommend someone. And happily, she has a partner Pedia. Saved me time and effort to find one.
  • Ask your OBGYN and Pedia about their professional fee so you can prepare. Mine was P25,000 (OBGYN) and P5,000 (Pedia). Note: My OBGYN required cash payment, but the hospital can accept debit/credit cards.
Some optional things you can get if you have the budget: Congenital Anomaly Scan (usually P2,000+) and 3D/4D Ultrasound (Usually P1,500+)

In my 8th and 9th month, I watched a lot of Youtube videos on baby's week-on-week development . I also watched videos on how to progress fast, how dilation works, breathing exercises and everything that could help me prepare for delivery. I think that helped me a lot to be mentally prepared. I also convinced myself that I will have a better experience than my sisters. And that I had an amazing pain tolerance. haha. Which I proved to be right when I was still able to talk and laugh with the doctors and assistants in between contractions while I was 8cm dilated.

How did I found out I was about to give birth? I had my first IE on my 37th week. I was already 3cm and didn't even notice. The following week, I was just supposed to attend a close friend's wedding, but my OBGYN asked if I could come early for my second IE. I was 5cm, so she asked me to prepare and go to the hospital by 6PM. I asked if I can still attend the wedding and she said OK. My hospital bag was already in the car, so we just went straight to the reception, finished the program and went to the hospital right after. 

I didn't progress fast. My bag of water wasn't ruptured so they had to manually do it. I progressed 1 cm every 2 hours after. Labored for 5 hours. I had a normal delivery. I was not induced, and I didn't get an epidural. We stayed in the hospital from April 30 to May 2. My baby was discharged together with me. Overall, I paid P70,000 for the delivery. 

I'd like to commend the staff of SouthWestern University Medical Center for being very accommodating and attentive to my needs.

It's important to be mentally prepared to give birth, so ask other moms, read and watch videos to know what to expect during labor and delivery. Good luck!