Some words… by the Filipino climber Miel Pahati

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Last May 7 2014 I got a Facebook message from Caroline asking if I was free in October because TNF wanted to invite me to the Kalymnos Festival. It was middle of the day at work and I couldn’t focus because I was too happy on getting such an invite. I just said I’ll do anything to be there.

I checked the Greece Embassy website on the requirements to apply for a Schengen visa. I wasn’t shocked it was a pretty long list. Documents such as certificate of employment, proof of capacity to pay, and other documents you wouldn’t regularly have. So I start collating the documents I can produce myself, as well as emailing Caro and Dave the list of requirements that had to come from them, and her only reply to my email was My GOD! We needed documents like the voucher of where I was to stay, plane tickets for the trip, and a formal letter of invitation. They were really nice enough to provide all the documents needed.

I had completed all the requirements by June and was scheduled to submit them by July. However the travel agency advised me and Ina not to submit too early as there is a risk of getting declined. Since they knew more about Visa application than us we followed their advice. So I had to wait  and have the burden of telling Caro and James that we will have to wait a few more months to know if I was going or not. I just told myself to be patient and that everything will work out ok. We finally submitted the documents in August and to my surprise, the scheduled interview was set on Sept 19 which was almost two weeks before my flight out to Greece. Again Caroline’s reply was MY GOD!  I tried to call the agency to try and rebook the interview earlier but they said it was the only date the embassy was free. So I just smiled and kept on telling myself it will be ok.

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Coincidentally, on my interview day, a typhoon was also projected to hit Manila. So on the morning of the interview, I wake up at 530am to the noise of heavy rain. On a normal day it would take a 1.5 hour drive to the Central Business District.  As the interview was scheduled at 830am, factoring in the pouring rain, I made sure I left extra early. Without even reaching the highway there were already floods with cars stuck in the middle of the road. I had to re-route at least 4 times to get to passable roads. After running my small car (Suzuki swift) through 4 floods that almost covered my headlights, I finally got to the embassy at Makati at 7am with time to have breakfast and review my documents. It was a pretty stressful drive but I just had to get to that interview.

At 830am by the embassy reception, the guard mentions that nobody from the Embassy had arrived there might not be interviews for the day. Oh no! I couldn’t afford another delay as it would have been super tight to get the visa and the tickets. I just stayed relaxed and hoped for the best. Eventually they let us go up to the screening area. I sat patiently as one by one, my fellow applicants went through their interview.

After about 4 hours of waiting, it was finally my turn, and the first question the interviewer asked me was, “Do you really climb? You look small!” He asked me to give him a strong hand shake to test if I was really a climber. Apart from the grip test the interviewer was actually very nice and asked me different things about climbing, and confirmed my application by wishing me a good trip.

As I left the embassy I had this big smile on my face and I just had to call my wife and tell her the good news. I called Caroline and James on their mobile, forgetting the time difference thus waking them up at 6AM, but I just had to call them and break the good news on the phone. An email wouldn’t do justice to the experience. Nothing comes easy in the Philippines but you can either get stressed or discouraged about it or just think it’s all part of the adventure!

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