Saturday, April 01, 2006

A day in Scheveningen while renewing my passport


My passport validity is actually until September 2006, that’s roughly almost 6 months from now, which is still a stretch but since I might be traveling soon, I have decided to renew it early. Some countries require at least 6 months before expiry as part of the standard entry requirements.

Passport Renewal
The Philippine Embassy in NL is located in this long street name called, Laan Copes van Cattenburch 125 in Den Haag [The Hague], somewhere near the outskirts of Scheveningen. Getting there is easy by car and by public transport. Parking will however pose as a minor challenge but what’s new, this is always the case in the Netherlands anyway. If taking public transport, take Tram 9 from Den Haag Centraal Station and get off at the Laan Copes van Cattenburch stop. Quite handy, the tram stop is the same name of the street of the embassy.

After ringing the doorbell and hearing the buzz sound of the door, I entered the red carpeted hall, turned right to the big open salon where the consular office is and was greeted cordially in Tagalog by one of the embassy workers. In the other adjacent office, I heard people talking in Tagalog too. I felt the tinge chill of familiarity. It’s like having that odd feeling of being home but not quite.


Although I chat with a few friends on the internet in Tagalog and Cebuano, I’ve always been surrounded with Dutch and English speakers in real life, thus somehow affecting my native speaking skills.


The Philippine Embassy and Consulate Mission in Den Haag and to the right is its neighbor, the Thailand Embassy.

My Tagalog is rusty, always has been. Even my Cebuano has become a little bit too and I need a few days to simmer down with the language and become fluent again when I am back in Cebu. Clearly, I have been bastardized by the English language and now with the new happy addition of Dutch. But anyway, I spoke in Tagalog with patches of English and wondered if the Filipina lady in front of me can understand Cebuano.

She, the lady manning the counter was a curvy woman in her late 30’s I think. I told her the reason of my visit and handed over my documents which she checked meticulously one by one. She then asked me to fill up another form.

After I was done filling up the form and seeing that the lady I spoke to is still busy with someone else, a Dutch-Filipino couple, both in their 50’s who wanted to move back to the Philippines, I decided to take the liberty of surveying the embassy premises.

The embassy interiors are quite old, the building is probably built around the 18th century, its design I can’t quite put a finger on, perhaps classical something. The salon has high imposing ceilings, long flows of draperies adorned the tall windows and in the foyer by the entrance to the salon, was a flight of stairs going up to which looked like a mezzanine. The elegantly designed stairs were covered in red carpet and it trails back to the hallway and towards the massive entrance door of the embassy. Maybe the stairs lead to the ambassador’s office? There was also a shiny dark Mercedes Benz parked outside, the ambassador could be in.

The Dutch-Filipino couple smiled at me as they alight from the salon. I quickly moved forward to the counter, took out my documents and presented them again to the lady. She reviewed my documents again too: my passport, 4 picture ID’s, a copy of my passport [the front part] and a copy of my verblijsvergunning [Dutch residence permit], front and back, a filled up form which I have downloaded from their website and the form that I have just filled up awhile ago in the embassy.

Giving me a grin, she said, “I will cross the single box for your civil status. Geregistreerd partnerschap [registered partnership] and samenwonen [living together] are not recognized by Philippine law, only marriage.”

These are the only civil statuses acknowledged by the Philippines: Married, Single, Separated, Divorced/Annulled and Widowed.
“Ah, alright…” I replied sheepishly.


It’s so strange to see my civil status in the forms as SINGLE, when in reality I am not. Hey Dutchman, did you see that? I am single! Woohoo! Uh, yeah, weird indeed... he-he.

We also had the chance to discuss the retention of Philippine citizenship. Basically, the message that came across to me was, it doesn’t matter if you have acquired citizenship from another country, and even if the country of your newly acquired citizenship does not allow dual citizenship; you will, and can, regain back your Philippine citizenship anytime. She also added that when going back to the Philippines, its best to show to the immigration in Manila or Cebu both passports.

I then paid at the cashier, which is located beside the entrance foyer. They do not have the PIN debit facility, so payments are made in cash. Here in the Netherlands, the popular payment method is PIN debiting through the normal ATM bank card. Cash is okay but credit card is not always handy. I paid € 63 for the new passport.

Since I’m a little bit paranoid, I preferred to wait for the passport issuance. And even though the post offices here in the Netherlands are 101% efficient and effective, I do not trust it. I guess my trauma of the Philippine postal system haunts me still. I shall never trust my passport with post mailing!

The woman then told me, “You may come back at 2PM.”

I have two hours to bum around, so I hit up Scheveningen further north, about a few minutes away. Scheveningen [and the beaches further to the north, Bloemendaal, Zandvoort, etcetera] to me is something like the Dutch version of the Mediterranean Riviera.

Scheveningen

It was 13C but the strong sharp icy coastal wind made it feel like its 7C or colder.

Scheveningen [one of the hardest Dutch words to pronounce, the “sch” and the “g” in there are spoken with the gurgling sound, so let’s not attempt] is a popular Dutch public beach. Right, the Riviera of the north. The place is usually swarmed by locals in late spring to early autumn and many tourists also come here, mostly Germans and English.



Still empty, still cold! These are café and lounge terraces by the Scheveningen beach. Just imagine how this will look like when its full of people.



And this is the Scheveningen promenade, a long stretch lane, maybe a kilometer or so. The building that looks like a palace in the 2nd picture is the Kurhaus hotel.

The Dutch are certified beach lovers, though many come here not to swim... but to laze under the scorching heat of the sun, enjoy the glorious scenery around: sexy clad topless women in string bikinis [don’t drool] and the laid back atmosphere of relaxing and partying.


During summer, it is almost impossible to find a parking slot, a sun bed and a table in the café and lounge terraces. Golden advice: It’s always best to come early, before 9AM.

I had lunch in Westewind, a nice restaurant by the promenade and ordered a plate of Cesar salad, a glass of bitter lemon and later, a cup of coffee. When the salad arrived, I noticed that it did not look like the normal Cesar salad that I am familiar with. The good news is, it was tasty. I would surely come back for another serving!



Having cesar salad as lunch, and this is the view outside the restaurant’s window.

I also did some little business while in the restaurant, i.e., straightening out my agenda and making some calls. There were 3 Dutch guys sitting across me who kept looking towards my direction. Naturally, I wondered why. After I was done with my personal business, I eavesdropped on their conversation and found out that they were discussing about some South East Asian trip. One of the guys talked about his previous vacation stint in Indonesia. Ah fine, maybe seeing me live made their conversation more meaningful...

You see, my blow dried straight hair makes me look more Asian while my normal curly hair makes me look South European or Latina.

I left the restaurant and strutted off to the beach before going back to the Philippine embassy to pick up my new passport.



The beach coast facing the cold North Sea, uhh... bbrrr... cold.

Scheveningen Beach safety information board, basically the don’ts... and the view from the coast to the promenade.
Philippines - Netherlands Facts

There are about 20,000 Filipinos living and working in the Netherlands. This figure is only guesswork and includes all types of statuses, i.e. Filipinos that are already Dutch citizens, immigrants, Filipinos with work permit, students and the infamous TNT [illegal aliens].

The Netherlands too is the strongest economic partner of the Philippines in Europe and the 4th worldwide export partner of the country after, in order, Japan, USA and China. Who would expect? I would have thought of the bigger countries such as Germany, France or UK?

The international shipping and cargo industry in the Philippines are also dominated by Dutch flag ships.

And aside from the embassy in Den Haag [The Hague], there is also a presence of Philippine consulate offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Too bad there is none in Utrecht, but anyway, Amsterdam is near.

.

Link Within

Related Posts with Thumbnails