Weekends with my mother – Applying for a Schengen visa

There are three parts of travelling that I always look forward to – discovering a new place, coming home and sharing it with the people I love. And though I often travel alone, I find the most enjoyment in the latter. Just recently, I share the joy of travelling to the most important person in my life – my mother.

The idea of bringing my mother to Holland came when both mine and my husband’s father got very ill to the point that we almost lost them. Our parents have never met so we thought, while they are still alive and capable, they should meet each other at least once. It took two years before it finally happened but at the last moment my father got cold feet and decided not to come. But Nanay pushed through with the plan.

It was my mother’s first time out of the country as well as her first to ride a plane. It must have been very stressful and quite scary for her to experience these at her senior year, while her legs gives her much pain during long walks. Travelling by plane from the Philippines to the Netherlands takes at least 16 hours with a lay over in another depending on which airlines you use. Fortunately, my boss who frequently travel to the Philippines, offered to accompany her on the flight to Holland. It lifted a great deal stress from both me and my mother.

In July, my mother spent a whole month with me in the Netherlands. Because of work and tight budget, we weren’t really able to travel much outside the BENELUX area, except for that four-day family visit in Barcelona, Spain. In all the years of my weekend travel, this is the only month when I was a real weekend traveller. I made the most of all the weekends of her stay to show my mother my life in Europe and the places that makes this part of the world unique.

This series of stories about weekends with my mother is probably the closest to my heart. I hope you will enjoy it.

Applying for a Schengen visa (family visit)

Filipino passport holders need a visa to go to the Netherlands and from my experience, it can be very difficult to get one. Not wanting to let my mother experience all the complications and stress I had when I was applying for a visa four years ago, I decided to hire a travel agency to arrange my mother’s visa.

Rajah Travel Agency was highly recommended by my boss’ wife as she usually use their services every time they travel abroad. We were assisted by Regina Domingo, whom I owe much thanks for being so patient despite the many complaints I threw her way during the process of visa application.

Since my mother is a senior citizen and is depending on me, the Dutch embassy in Manila did not require so many requirementss from her. Her senior citizen ID, passport and birth certificate were all that we have submitted from her part.

The burden of proving that all financial necessities will be taken care of lies on me and my husband. We have to send the original invitation letter (stating reason for visit, duration and declaration of sponsorship) signed by us and stamped by the Gemeente (City Hall), a proof of gurantee which was also stamped by a city hall official and our proof of partnership (when you are living together or married with a Dutch national) to the Philippines because the embassy requires the original copies. In addition to these, we also emailed to the travel agency our contract of employment, three months salary slip, bank and credit card statements and of course copies of our id and passports. All the forms needed for the application can be found on www.ind.nl (available in English) or will be sent to you via the travel agency.

Other requirements are travel insurance and flight itinerary which the travel agency also took care for us.

Welcoming her with tulips

Cost of applying for a tourist visa to Holland

Because everything was arranged by Rajah Travel Agency, I needed to pay them in advance a total of php 9,142.00 (about 200 euros). This amount covered the  visa application fee (php3,240), travel insurance (php3,886) and the agency fee (php 2,016). I think it is very much worth it considering that everything went smoothly. When I asked Rajah Travel for their service and the schedule that we were looking at, they immediately booked an appointment for my mother.

On the day of my mother’s interview, the agency even sent a representative to brief her about it. We submitted the application on June 14 and exactly 14 days after, we got my mother’s visa. For an additional php300 you can have all the documents, (passport with the visa, travel insurance, etc) delivered to your doorsteps.

You can get the option of buying the plane ticket from the agency or directly the the airline’s website. Ticket prices can range from 700 – 1600 euros depending on the airlines and of course time of travel. I would have preferred to do the later because it can save you a couple of hundred euros but the travel agency already reserved a seat for me so that my mother can fly with my boss. It all went well in the end. I even saved about 300euros when I moved my mother’s flight back a day later that I booked.

Agonizing wait which culminated in Schipol airport

In European soil

Nanay arrived a couple of days after she got her visa. I was very excited to see her again, here in Holland, that I did not sleep well for a couple of days. I was both excited and afraid. Afraid that something might happen with the plane or that she will have an illness while on flight. I waited until her stop-over in Abu Dhabi before I was able to go to bed. When we went to Schipol to pick her up, we were an hour early and they had to wait at the baggage area for another 45 minutes. It was an agonizing wait.

Holland welcomed my mother with pouring rain, grey and cold weather -much like her usual way. On the ride home, I could see the amazement on her face. I don’t think that she had fully comprehended then that she is already in another country, thousands of miles away from home.

Dreams come true – even the ones we did not dream

I myself did not expect that I will be visiting Europe, much more live here, but that does not mean I did not dream of it. In fact, my greatest dream was to visit Paris and I remember telling a lover about this particular dream one night and then he asked me, “How are you going to do that?” and I answered, “I have no idea.” Marrying a foreigner was never in the life’s plan but that unplanned travel assignment five years ago was what brought me here.(But I’m saving that for another blog post)

Now I often wonder, how did it feel like for my mother, who never even dream of going abroad, to be stepping into another country, another continent and seeing another side of the world which she only have read in books and watched in the movies. During our trips, I would often catch her  staring blankly outside and afterwards heaving a deep sigh and then she will say “only in the movies.”

Next post – our first tourist activity and first weekend together.

Rajah Travel Agency
c/o Regina Domingo
3/F Gercon Plaza
7901 Makati Avenue
Makati City, Philippines
Telephone: (+632) 894 0886