Explore España: Frigiliana

I often find myself looking through lists of the most stunning and must-see villages in Andalucía and Frigiliana almost never fails to make an appearance. Luckily, I live only half an hour away. So one Friday, the boyfriend and I spontaneously decided to take a day trip and see for ourselves what the fuss was all about.

There are no direct buses from Málaga centre to Frigiliana so we had to take the bus to Nerja first and take another one. The bus service (and I think there’s only one) that got us from Nerja to Frigiliana was not yet registered in Google Maps so we checked this site for the schedule. When I got on the bus and saw it was filled with “silver travellers”, I knew that that was gonna be my kind of trip.

Before anything else, let me properly introduce this charming Andalusian village by sharing a little bit of its history.

HISTORY

  • It is believed that the name Frigiliana was given during the Roman settlement, named after the historical character called Frexinius.
  • The Arabs arrived and built their fortress as part of the Islamic conquest of Spain. To this day, some of the most authentic manifestations of traditional Arab architecture in Spain can be seen in Frigiliana’s Barrio Morisco (Moorish quarter) or Barrio Alto.
  • The Christian army of the Catholic Monarchs won the battle at the Rock of Frigiliana against the Arabs. A series of ceramic tile art spread throughout the village depicts this battle in a romance narrative form.

It’s always a delight to walk down narrow streets of cobblestone, makes me feel like I’m in a Simon and Garfunkel song.

We let ourselves get lost in this maze of whitewashed houses. Each corner, each turn, opens up another astonishing view.

I’ve been into pastel colours lately and seeing these doors made me puke rainbows.

Every house is artfully adorned with pots and all sorts of plants and flowers.

THINGS TO DO

  1. Wander the narrow, winding streets of Frigiliana without any plan whatsoever.
  2. Take in the views while enjoying Mediterranean food with a “twist” in The Garden Restaurant.
  3. Take in a little bit of history and follow the twelve mosaic ceramic tile trail in the old quarter, mentioned in the history part of this post. Most of the streets are steep so it can be a great leg workout too!
  4. In case you need an excuse to day-drink wine, you can “immerse yourself in the culture” and try their speciality – vino dulce (sweet wine).
  5. Unearth unique souvenirs from small local shops and take home a piece of Frigiliana with you.

A one-day quickie to Frigiliana is good enough, speaking for myself. It’s the perfect day trip that doesn’t require meticulous planning. There’s little to do but ramble around, take in the admirable sights and stop for the occasional sweet wine or tapas.

Life in Spain (in a nutshell): 3-month Update

It has been 3 months since I left home and moved to Andalucía, Spain. The first few days were easy peasy. I was exploring the land of siestas and churros all bright eyed and bushy tailed because it hadn’t sunk in yet. A few misfortunes and breakdowns later, here we are.

UNO. Everyday I’m surrounded by cute little Spanish kids greeting me with their innocent smiles and enthusiastic waves. I could get used to this working environment.

DOS. I decided to live in a pueblo (small village) near the beach. The pueblo claims to have the mejor clima de Europa or best climate in Europe, which I’m starting to believe. It’s December now but temperature doesn’t go lower than 10 degrees.

TRES. I’m renting a 2-bedroom flat with my Spanish boyfriend. According to math, that makes me just 50% responsible for burning the whole place down.

CUATRO. No more mommy to do all the housework for me. Good thing the boyps does his fair share, some days even more than mine.

CINCO. I earn half of what I used to in my previous job in the Philippines and the cost of living is possibly 2x higher. I’m poor in Spain, but damn it, I’m in Spain.

SEIS. My Andalusian accent game is getting stronger. I’m starting to drop the final consonants. Still having a hard time understanding the hardcore Andalusians though.

SIETE. So many travel opportunities! I have 3-day weekends, sometimes even more when there are holidays. And did I tell you that Spaniards love holidays? So far, I’ve been to Barcelona, Málaga and its pueblos, Sevilla, Granada and Huelva. This Christmas break, we’re going to Paris and Berlin!

OCHO. I miss food back home! I get to cook sinigang, adobo, afritada and the like (thanks to that Asian food store in Fuengirola) but I miss my favourite fast food and restaurants. I’ve been craving for Tantanmen ramen and Jollibee spaghetti for three months now.

NUEVE. I miss my mom and my nephews. A tiny part of me feels downhearted that I won’t be home for Christmas. So I will be surrounding myself with Christmas lights, fireworks and thousands of Germans.

DIEZ. Everything about living far away from home can be quite overwhelming and scary as hell but I’m definitely happy. NO REGRETS! I’m trusting in uncertainty.

I think Kimmy Schmidt sums up my sort of unbreakable spirit at this point. Bye Felicia!

Netflix / Via feynificent.tumblr.com

UPDATE: LIFE IN SPAIN IN A NUTSHELL (6-MONTH UPDATE)

8 Things I’m Looking Forward To About Moving To Spain

In just two weeks, I will leave the comforts of home and become a fish out of water. No more Mom’s cooking, my own bed and loo, hugs and kisses from my nephews. Leaving home is not easy but these are sacrifices which come with the choice of pursuing my dream. Preparing for my big move seems to be a daunting task – endless paperwork, managing finances, establishing new connections, the list could go on. Plus, the fact that I have a dramatic breakdown cry once or twice a week when I think about how much I’m gonna miss everybody and how selfish I am to leave them, that doesn’t make anything easier.

There’s definitely no turning back. In spite of how much of an emotional wreck I am right now, I can’t hide the fact that I’m so fucking excited to finally start this new phase in my life. I thought I’d list down a few things I’m looking forward to just to give myself that final nudge.

*Psyches herself up in the mirror*. “It’s winning time, you magnificent son of a bitch!”

1. SPANISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURE IMMERSION

It’s embarrassing to admit that after 4 years of studying Spanish as a major, I’m still not fluent. I remember a film professor in my university questioned the existence of the degree European Languages. According to him, a foreigner living in Spain can be fluent in the language in just 6 months while we study it for 4 years without the guarantee of being fluent in it in the end. In our defense, classroom language learning has its benefits. It provides structure and teaches the language’s backbone which is grammar. In class, we learned proper pronunciation, conjugations, the use of ser and estar, etc. Obviously, that’s not enough to be fluent in Spanish and there’s no better way to achieve it than to live in Spain or another Spanish-speaking country.

I’m setting myself to perfect español in 8 months. Not only that, I want to take it to a whole new level. I want to achieve a proper Andalusian accent. I know that it’s infamous for being incomprehensible but I personally dig it. Plus, once I get used to the accent, I feel like I would be able to understand any other Spanish accent in the world.

2. FREE TIME

In the Auxiliaries de Conversación program, we are only expected to work 12 teaching hours or just 4 days a week. We have to do a little bit of planning before or after that but we’re not really THE teachers, we’re just assistants so making lesson plans is not really part of the job. I will be working in a CEIP or primary school so classes end at 2 PM. After that, I’m free to do whatever I want – teach private lessons (to earn more euros), go out for some beers and tapas or take a siesta.

Another thing that Spain is obviously doing right is their holiday-filled calendars. It’s one holiday after another! This gig is perfect for people who want to go on a getaway every so often because we are entitled to the same holidays as the students. This means lots of opportunities to travel around Spain or even around Europe.

3. TRAVELS

Now that I’ve mentioned that we get a lot of free time, what better way to spend it than to travel! The TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) or Foreigner’s Identity Card will allow us to travel from Spain to other EU countries that are members of the Schengen Area. As early as now, I already have upcoming trips for the school year, although most are still in the works. Before I head to my apartment in Málaga, I will be spending 5 days in Barcelona. I already paid my flights, booked an AirBnb flat and made an itinerary and now, I’m stuck between beyond excited and scared shitless!!! Catalans, please be nice to me :3

I had to pay for everything – my flight, visa application, apartment, etc. and we won’t get paid immediately. The earliest payday would be in November so I’m gonna be tapped out for two months. But that’s no reason not to explore new places, even just in my city at least. A day trip to nearby cities won’t hurt either. I’m sure I would be thrilled to visit Granada, Córdoba or Sevilla or even visit my amigas who were assigned in Huelva.

The week-long vacations will go to waste if I don’t visit another country. That’s why I made a travel bucket list in case I find a cheap flight that falls on a long school break. We’re already thinking of going to either Austria or Germany for Christmas and if I don’t have money issues by then, I would like to visit France as well. After the christmas break, I don’t have a concrete plan yet but I would love to visit Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland and Greece.

4. FOOD

Of course, sight-seeing, talking with the locals and learning history are important when you’re travelling but my favourite travel activity is trying local eats. A country’s cuisine leaves the strongest impression on me as the quickest way to my heart is through my stomach. That’s right, I’m a self-proclaimed foodie.

Spain is, without a doubt, one of the top foodie destinations. Five of the world’s 20 best restaurants are in Spain, including the number one, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. That goes to show that the Spaniards take their food quite seriously. Haute as it may seem, it’s not completely alien to my taste buds since it has greatly influenced Filipino cuisine. Paella, caldereta, callos, embutido, relleno are just some of Filipino favourites either served in festivities or as classic comfort food. I love these dishes but the foodie inside me yearns for authenticity. Just thinking of tapas, churros con chocolate, Spanish paella and jamón makes me hungry. I need these in my life right now plus a giant glass of tinto de verano. I just do.

5. WEATHER

In the Philippines, we DO have four seasons: rainy, insanely rainy, hot and insanely hot. I’m sick of it. At least once in my life, I want to experience living in a country with the REAL four seasons. Lucky enough, I was placed in Torrox-costa Málaga, the village that claims to have the best climate in Europe. Being in the south of Spain, I won’t have to deal with death from hypothermia and no more typhoon-like rainy days and other natural disasters as I move far away from the tropics.

6. INDEPENDENCE

With independence comes increased responsibility. Being independent doesn’t only mean ice cream for breakfast, pants-optional all day and unlimited me-time. It also means no more mommy to cook my meals, do my laundry or help me pay my bills. It’s gonna be hard for sure, being the lazy fart that I am, but that will be the only way to be self-sufficient, to grow up, to get my shit together. From this experience, I look forward to coming out stronger on the other side.

Moving to Spain means building up a totally new life. I have to start fresh in a new city and make connections from the ground up. New surroundings, unfamiliar faces and different language and customs. Scary enough, right? But I have to get over that fear and I surely will. It’s not gonna happen overnight. It might take weeks, months, I don’t know. The important thing is to become resilient and open-minded to the changes to consequently learn to embrace them.

7. MEETING NEW PEOPLE

Here’s a confession: I’m a bonafide introvert. But hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t have friends or that I’m anti-social as we’re often misunderstood. The truth is, I’m proud to be one and I’ll always be one. But in an extrovert-dominated country that is Spain, I have to at least overcome being shy. The idea of meeting new people is appealing to me but can sometimes be terrifying. Putting myself out there doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not one of those people who asks cashiers how they’re doing or just strikes up a conversation with a stranger at a bar. Though challenging, I’d like to see myself try and maybe make a fool of myself occasionally.

8. PARK LIFE

The introvert inside me just gets a real kick out of parks. Manila, in general, is not walkable and pedestrian-friendly. As much as I want to be twee and walk or ride a bike to work, that’s just not possible. I’ve been living in this city for 24 years and I’ve had enough. It has made me an exhausted, unfulfilled, and unhealthy person and I look forward to turning my life around once I move to Spain.

Walkability is the name of the game and Spain surely is killing it. With a glut of beautiful, peaceful parks and sensational architecture, I’m sure I would never get sick of walking along romantic cobblestone alleys and fancying myself as a character in a Belle and Sebastian song or in a Woody Allen film.

Bring it on, Spain. My body is ready. Now excuse me while I bawl my eyes out and say goodbye to my bedroom and everything in it.

How to Get a Spanish Long term Visa for Philippine Passport Holders (UPDATED)

After tons of paperwork that seemed to be endless, I finally got my Spanish visa approved!!! I’m going to Spain in less than a month and I couldn’t be any more excited!!! Sorry for the excessive exclamation marks but it just feels too good to be true!!!

I will be moving to Spain to teach English for the Spanish government’s Auxiliares de Conversación Program. The program starts on October 1 and I had to apply for a visa before my flight in mid-September so I can stay there until the end of the school year. Unlike other passports, a Philippine passport doesn’t allow you to enter Spain without a visa. So whether it’s for a short stay or long stay in Spain, Filipinos should apply for a visa.

What kind of visa do I need?

The first step is to know the visa type that you need. You can check BLS International for more details.

NOTE: VFS Spain Visa Application for Filipinos website no longer exists.

  1. Short Stay Visa

The Schengen visa is valid in all Schengen countries for a stay of up to 90 days for tourism, family visit or business. Spain is a member of the Schengen agreement along with the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

If you’ll be visiting more than one country among the Schengen states, it’s advised to apply at the embassy or consulate of the country where you’ll stay the longest. To book an appointment, visit the BLS International website.

  1. Transit Visa

Pretty straightforward, you’ll need this visa to allow you to transit through Spain or other Schengen member state.

  1. Long Stay Visa

For applicants who wish to stay or reside in Spain for more than 90 days, this is the type of visa to apply for. Unlike the Schengen visa where applications are processed through BLS, a long stay visa has to be submitted and paid directly at the Consulate General of Spain. BLS only books the appointment and lets you track your application..

There are different types of long term visa with different sets of documents required. You can check this page for more info.

  • Family Member of EU nationals
  • Petition
  • Student Internship Program
  • Student Visa
  • Work Visa (Employment)
  • Residence Visa (without work permit)

What are the required documents for Long term student visa?

  1. Duly accomplished National application form

Can be downloaded here

  1. One passport‐size photo with white background

Size should be 3.5cm x 4.5 cm with plain background and hasn’t been used in previous visas

  1. Valid passport and previous passports, if applicable

Passport should be valid for a minimum 3 months after the planned trip

  1. 1 photocopy of the data page of the valid passport and all previous visas and stamps
  2. Enrollment at a public or private university, school or center and the details of the course to be taken.

In my case, the carta de nombramiento replaces this requirement since I will not be studying per se

  1. Proof of economic means

Bank certificates, bank statements, credit card statements and ITRs

  1. Medical insurance provided by an authorized insurance company in Spain

Click here for the list of accredited insurance companies in the Philippines

  1. Medical Certificate

Should be done at any DOH accredited hospital or clinic indicating the non-existence of disease that may have a serious effect on public health. Should be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs

  1. NBI Clearance

Validity is 3 months from date of issuance and must be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs

  1. 2 photocopies of the filled‐out application form and 1 photocopy of the rest of the documents.

What are the supporting documents?

The following documents were the ones I submitted but there is no official list of what to submit. I just included documents that I thought will prove that I’m financially capable to travel.

  1. Payslips

I submitted my payslips for the last 3 months just to show my monthly salary here in the Philippines

  1. Paid plane ticket

I know that paying for plane tickets without an approved visa is not recommended but I had to buy mine 3 months in advance for discounted prices

  1. Hotel bookings

I included my AirBnB booking in a flat in Barcelona before I move in to my apartment in Málaga

What to do on the day of application?

  1. Put all the documents in 1 large brown envelope (with the applicant’s surname, name and contact number written in bold letters on the upper left corner of the envelope).
  2. If you’re a bit OC like me, make a checklist of the documents you have and put them in order.
  3. Visa fee is P 2,910. Prepare the exact amount.
  4. Print your BLS appointment letter. Arrive at the Spain Consulate General-Manila at least 10 minutes before your appointment.

Spain Consulate General-Manila
5th floor, A.C.T. Tower. 135
Sen. Gil J. Puyat Av.1200
Makati, Metro Manila
con.manila@maec.es
Helpline : (+63) 2-818 3561

  1. Electronic gadgets are not allowed inside so you will have to leave them with the guards outside the building.
  2. The guards will give you a number and they’ll tell when you can enter the building. Unless called, you have to stay at the lobby.
  3. Once permitted to enter the Consular office, wait to be called to present your application form and documents at either of the 3 windows. No need to be nervous about the interview but be prepared to answer their questions. {I had mine in Spanish because I said my level is advanced when I was asked} They’ll ask personal questions that seem irrelevant but just answer them and try to be chummy with the interviewer.
  4. If everything goes smoothly and you have all documents, they will give you back the originals and just take the photocopies. Pay the visa fee and they will give you the receipt stapled to a copy of your application form. Don’t lose it! You will need it to claim your passport.

How long is the processing time?

My application took only 7 business days to be processed but processing time may vary. According to the previous auxiliares, it can take up to 4 weeks to be processed.

For future Filipino auxiliares de conversación or anyone who’s interested in applying for a Spanish long-term visa, I hope this will help enlighten and prepare you. You can also visit the links below for more information about the program and my experience. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’d be happy to help.

Spain-bound to Teach English

If there’s one country that I actually think I belong in, it’s Spain.

Why? For starters, I studied Spanish language and culture for four years and I’ve come to love it almost as my own. I’ve made it my life’s mission to live there at least once in this lifetime.

Secondly, I’m a big siesta fan. If I had a choice, I would have afternoon naps as a daily ritual. That’s one of the things I miss about childhood, when I didn’t have a job or responsibilities to worry about. Meanwhile in Spain, they seem to have a great work-life balance without compensating productivity. It might just be a long-held stereotype but I know for a fact that most banks and public offices close at 1-3 in the afternoon. How great is that?

Another great thing is that the españoles turn any occasion into a fiesta. I looked at the calendario laboral for last year and it was filled with holidays and puentes or long weekends.

Of course I have so much more reasons why I want to live in Spain, being an immensely beautiful country that it is, but let’s get to the point. I didn’t want to announce it in fear that I’ll jinx it but I wanted to document my preparations for future reference.

I’m moving to Spain to teach English. To be more specific, I’m bound for Málaga, Andalucía. How did I get this sweet, sweet gig? Through the Spanish government’s Auxiliaries de Conversación Program or Language and Culture Assistants Program.

Preselection Process

This whole crazy ordeal started in February, I heard that the Department of European Languages of the University of the Philippines was then accepting applications from Spanish majors of the university, both graduates and graduating students. This is actually just the second year they are doing this in partnership with the Spanish embassy in Manila. Three schools, UP, Ateneo and UST are participating. A selection committee from the school decides who will be interviewed by the embassy. The embassy then narrows the list down to 25 applicants. From what I heard, 10 each from UP and Ateneo and 5 from UST. In our case, 14 were preselected and 10 were chosen as sure applicants and the other 4 as waitlisters.

I was really hopeful when I sent my carta de motivación (cover letter) to the department. I explained why they should choose me and how sure I am that this is really I want to do. Weeks later, some friends of mine who also applied got their confirmation that they were preselected. But I didn’t get mine. I kept my cool but deep inside I was really feeling bitter. HAHA. I tried to forget it that day and come next morning, I received an email from a Spanish professor in the department with the confirmation that I made the cut. I found out that she just really missed including my email in the distribution list so menos mal!

After that, we booked appointments for our interview with the Education advisor in the Spanish embassy in Makati. I had mine on March 9. It was a very quick interview, I felt so silly that I wasn’t able to fall asleep the night before. We first talked in Spanish then he switched to English. He asked me basic questions: in which region I wanted to be placed, how sure I was, which grade I would be most comfortable teaching, etc. It all happened so fast. Two days later, he confirmed that I was one of the chosen 10 and I could then go ahead and register in Profex – the program’s online application system.

In contrast to what other applicants think, I find the Profex system pretty straightforward. Perhaps, it’s because most of them try to register early in January when Profex opens, causing the website to crash. The earlier you register, the earlier you get your placement or at least that’s what they tell us. In our case, we were only instructed to register once we got confirmation from the embassy.

Applying Through Profex

Once you register in Profex, your status becomes Inscrita. All you have to do at this stage is to fill in personal information and choose the region and grade you wish to be assigned. Filipino applicants have limited choices when it comes to selecting preferred regions. We are only allowed to choose Asturias, País Vasco, Castilla-La Mancha, Cantabria, Madrid, Andalucía and Castilla y León and we have to choose one from each group and rank them from 1-3.

* Grupo A: Asturias, Ceuta y Melilla, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, País Vasco

* Grupo B: Aragón, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia, Islas Canarias

* Grupo C: Andalucía, Castilla y León, Islas Baleares, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia

You will also have to attach some documents like Carta de Recomendación (recommendation letter) from a former professor or manager, certificates of employment, official transcript of records and diploma (if applicable). Submit your application and you receive a confirmation email with your Inscrita number. The earlier you submit, the lower your Inscrita number is. Lower Inscrita number means getting your placement earlier and more assurance that you will have a placement. Although, we have come to learn that this is not always the case. Filipino applicants got their placements earlier than applicants from other countries with lower inscrita numbers. This might be explained by the fact that there are only 25 Filipino applicants vs. thousands of US applicants.

inscirta

Confirm your application in Profex and your status becomes Registrada.

The regional director checks your application and switches your status from Registrada to Admitida once all the requirements are provided. Unlike the process for other countries, Filipino applicants don’t need to mail in anything to the consulate.

Admitida doesn’t mean your placement is secured already. Try to get distracted after this stage as surely you would need to wait more or less a month before the action really starts.

I had to wait almost a month for my application to be Adjudicada. You’ll receive this notification via automatic email as well with the confirmation of the region where you’re going to be placed. Then you will be given 3 days to either accept or reject your placement. (Note: if you don’t like the region where you were placed, there is a possibility of switching with other applicants but I read that it involves sending a ton of emails and selling your soul to the devil). Once you accept your placement, the status becomes Plaza Aceptada. Or if rejected, Plaza Rechazada.

So you decide that you want to go to Spain, whether you like your region or not, this is where it gets exciting. You may now research about your region and know about the weather or if there are any dialects used in that part of Spain. But still, you would have to wait for your school placement, that’s when you’d know in which city or pueblo you would be working.

In just less than a month, I received my placement from the Junta de Andalucía. It depends on your region how they will give your carta de nombramiento. In my case, I received it via e-mail. Some receive it via snail mail. For Andalucía auxiliares, this letter is sufficient for the visa application.

Read the e-mail carefully and the attached documents (ours were in Spanish so have them translated if you’re not proficient) and take note of the instructions on how to proceed with your application. I had to send the signed copy of the acceptance letter to the address of the Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deporte of the Junta de Andalucía. They gave us a deadline so I opted to send it via express mail for 500 pesos. I sent them an email too just to be sure. I also contacted the director of my school. She gladly responded to my e-mail and even offered me some help with finding apartments and gave me useful information about the school and the pueblo.

plazaacptada

So now, the waiting continues. I keep distracting myself with work, projects, and travels. In the next post, I will be writing about my preparation for my visa application. Feel free to ask if you have any questions!

For Filipino applicants, you may visit below links for more information:

Instrucciones para la inscripción de solicitudes nuevas
Programa de auxiliares de conversación filipinos en España