Friday, March 30, 2012

Documentation La Vida Lanka

Being born out of your home country is quite a big hassle from the documentation point of view - most especially for the control-freak mother.  If your child will be born in Sri Lanka and you are a Filipino, let me give you an idea of what you will go through:

First you have to get the Sri Lankan Birth Certificate – both English and Sinhala.

Second you have to authenticate both English and Sinhala Birth Certificates from the Ministry of External Affairs, Consular Services Division.  It’s a fairly straightforward process.  You go to their office in Fort, fill up an application form get a number.  Wait.  When your group is called you will go to the area where you will submit the forms for authentication.  Pay.  Go back to the waiting area.  Wait.  Get your authenticated form.  I got there around 830am and I left around 1230pm.  The office opens early so if you’re there at around 730am, you will be able to get your document around 10am.  I’d rather go early because later on more people will go in and the waiting area is pretty hot.  And don’t forget to bring something to do/read.  If you get hungry / thirsty there are food concessionaires so you won’t have to worry. 

Third you’re ready to apply for the Report of Birth.  Bring your completed requirements which include the authenticated documents, pictures, forms to fill up (make sure it is in one page of an A4), etc. and bring all the necessary to the Philippine Consulate.  Get ready to be “back-to-the-future-d!”  The office is a house set in the 1970s.  In fairness you’d feel at home, even in the Philippines as it is full of Filipino memorabilia – including tarps of the previous Philippine Independence celebrations (!). 

An ID for a baby!

Authenticated by the Phil Consulate
What they will do is, authenticate it even further (seriously) and give you back the authenticated copies (from the Ministry of External Affairs) with the “red ribbon”.    They will give your copy of the report of birth with the seal and the Consul’s signature.  They will also give you an ID signifying that the baby has been registered with the Consulate.  They will then send your report of birth to Dhaka, Bangladesh where the actual embassy is (in Sri Lanka it is a Representative Consulate and the Consul is a friendly Sri Lankan!). 

Now, you have to prepare to follow-up and follow-up.  You know our government system.  In fairness to Colombo, they sent Luna’s documents to Dhaka immediately.  However in Dhaka, it got a bit delayed.  They will then be the one to forward/endorse the report of birth to DFA Manila.  DFA Manila will then be the one to forward the report to NSO for the final, final Birth Certificate.  Phew!  The process should take 2 months.  It’s been 2 months and the Report of Birth just arrived last week in DFA Manila.  Crossing my fingers we can expedite the process in NSO!

This has been a cause of anxiety for me because we need to get Luna’s birth certificates in time for her DFA Passport Appointment in Manila.  There are a lot of aspects to the process that I cannot control yet I operate within a tight timeline. 

Pseudo Passport

If you’re wondering why I need to go to DFA for her passport and how will I get Luna there without a passport in the first place, well, don’t worry because we’re not stashing her in our luggage!  The Consulate provides a Travel Document that serves as her documentation/passport to travel to Manila.  It is another straightforward and quick process.  You just need to submit 3 passport-sized pictures, ticket of baby and parents and the fee.  You can wait for it to be processed or come back when it’s ready.  It’s fairly quick.  Just don’t wait for the last minute because the Consul has to be there so you have to know if he has any travel plans.  Also you have to be sure about your itinerary since the document is only valid for 1 month. 

So there, we’re almost set for our Manila trip to get Luna’s passport. Pray with me that all will be accomplished in its set time!

Note: This post pretty much gives you an idea of the process and the general timing.  To be sure, contact the Consulate General of Philippines.
Address: 41 Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha
 (Flower Road), 
Colombo 07, 
Sri Lanka
Phone: (+94) (1) 370710 or (+94) (1) 370711

Fax: (+94) (1) 522524

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lessons of Mama La Vida Lanka

This is MEGA exciting!  My very first guest blogging piece over at MyMommyology!

Just to give you a background, MyMommyology is my cousin-in-law – our husbands are cousins and share the same birthday (way cool huh?).  We first met in 2009 when she and her family were in Manila for a vacation.  When we moved to Sri Lanka and I was traversing the unfamiliar grounds of becoming a housewife, she was one of the awesome wives I turned to.  In fact I interviewed her here and she was The Academic Housewife.  I also asked her to write a post for me when I got pregnant and I wanted to find out how to manage my first pregnancy sans family away from home.  She wrote about it here and here are my thoughts on it.

Now it’s my turn to share my own learnings of mommahood away from home here.

Thank you Mymommyology! It is awesome partnering with a kindred soul!  Sa uulitin (let’s do this again)!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Anatomy of a Sri Lankan Meal

Honestly we are not fans of Sri Lankan cuisine for three main reasons:
  1. It is HOT, HOT and HOT. 
  2. I feel like all the world’s spices converged into a dish.
  3. Curry overload.

Those three reasons may also be the exact reasons why a lot of other people – both locals and foreigners – just love the cuisine.  But for hubby and I, our taste buds never really got to the point where we just craved for it.  That doesn’t mean to say that we never enjoyed it, we actually did!  When it’s not too hot and when the spices are toned down.  The curry, well there really is no escaping it. 

So how does a typical Sri Lankan meal look like?

Hubby's Favorite Papadam, best with Mango Chutney

The usual spread - enjoyed over at The Ark for my birthday trip

Another spread this time at the Tea Trails for our honeymoon
Wattalapam ala Tea Trails
Well it is a smorgasbord of curry dishes.  Ok fine not really.  But it usually consists of at least two curry dishes: one vegetable and one protein.  It is highlighted with a few side dishes such as papadam with mango chutney, pickles (our favorite is the roasted brinjals/eggplant) and sambol.  The best part is, since it is super hot, they tend to put a mountain of rice.  Now that scores well in my books!  Of course let us not forget dessert!  There are a lot of Sri Lankan desserts like curd with treacle (like honey) or the Wattalapam – a custard cake similar to our Leche Flan.    

What I learned is when you eat Sri Lankan food in a resort or touristy restaurant, they would tone down the flavors a bit.  If your mouth may not necessarily take in the heat, tell them that you want it mild.  NO SHAME.  Because the hot that you know, multiply that 10 times and that’s the regular in Sri Lanka.  Also do not get shocked when you see them eating with their hands, Sri Lankan food apparently is finger-lickin’ good!  Yes even in office canteens and restaurants!

So Sri Lankan food is not for the faint-hearted.  Brace yourself for an explosion of flavors and spices.  It’s pretty awesome how one meal is one great big adventure! 

For authentic Sri Lankan dining in the city, check out Nuga Gama in Cinnamon Grand or Green Cabin along Galle Road.  A friend of mine also said Sri Lankan food is good at Renuka Hotel (I haven't tried it though!).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

List La Vida Lanka: Foodie Experiences

Sri Lankan Foodie Spread with Hoppers in the Middle! (photo grabbed from
I started this list almost a year ago and managed to list down quite a few items – upto 17 out of the 22 (for the 22 months we're here) I’m targeting.  However I got pregnant and for the first trimester my relationship with food went down the drain – even just writing about it.  After that I pretty much got pre-occupied with everything pregnancy and motherhood so unfortunately the List La Vida Lanka took a back seat.  But since we’re almost at the tail end of our journey, I want to finish listing them down for you dear readers and also complete the experience.  The must-go might be a bit ambitious with a baby and all (when I took note of it I didn’t really expect that I would be expecting) but we’ll see.

In any case this list is all about the Foodie Experiences I would like to do before leaving Sri Lanka.  Here they are:

#18: Eat Hopper – I have done this but I later found out it was not the right way of doing it.  Apparently I was kind of eating it bare ergo bland – so NOT like Sri Lankan cuisine!  So before we leave I have to pay homage to proper Hopper dining.

#19: Eat Wattalapam – it’s a dessert much like our Leche Flan… I wonder if I could also make one.

#20: Eat and watch how Kotthu Rotti is made – S, a friend of mine from work suggested I eat this (although she warned me to eat it after I give birth).  What I remember from her description is that it is a mix of everything (hmmm…) and how they prepare it is like a spectacle.  They usually eat it after a good night out – much like how we go to a Pares Pares or Behrouz after clubbing in the Philippines.  Hehe!

#21: Understand and of course eat what makes up a full Sri Lankan meal!  It is much like eating Korean food – you know lots of elements.  But mostly with the same basic foundation – CURRY.

#22: Cook Sri Lankan food.  I am not a fan really.  For almost 2 years of living here, the Sri Lankan food I like is the toned down version.  But living in a country will never be complete if you don’t at least TRY to appreciate their cuisine. 

So that rounds up the List La Vida Lanka…  let’s see how good I am at achieving it! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kandy Tripping

Another one of my delayed posts!  After our luxurious tea escape almost a year ago, hubby and I took a side trip to Kandy before going back to Colombo.  Kandy is a place in the Hill Country and reminds me of a cooler Los Banos, Laguna.  It has that University Town kind of feel with the University of Peradeniya just around the corner.  The Kandy trip was quick and we were not able to soak up the full touristy experience, unfortunately.  However there were quite a few highlights to the trip of course.

That's me a year ago!  With N (in purple), her sister and niece.
Meet ups with friends!  N, one of our interns back then is originally from Kandy and since it was a holiday, she was home and invited us over.  Her mother and sister cooked Auvurudu treats (Sri Lankan New Year) and we got hold of some goodies!
Hubby with Ms J
My aunt (who is my mom’s friend from her hometown Oroquieta in the Philippines) lived in Kandy for around 7 years and we were able to catch up not with her (she’s back in the Philippines) but her good friend Ms. J.  She is lovely with a lot of interesting stories.

Temple of the Tooth Relic, you have to leave the shoes outside

What's a temple trip without Elephants?

They come with white flowers as offering...

Kandy Lake... nice and serene

Our old driver Darshana feeding a monkey

We managed to get into the compound of the Tooth Relic – Lord Buddha’s tooth for real.  Although because it was a huge holiday, we did not dare go inside.  We took a mental note to go when there is no local occasion so the line wouldn’t be this long.  People go to Kandy for this mind you.

Helga's Sala

Retro Garden

Our dining area

Food for Thought

Would you stay in these hotel rooms?
We also checked out a quirky house turned into a hotel, Helga’s Folly.  You’d think the lady who owns this is a hoarder.  The place made us want to do a photoshoot.  Partly because it was pretty different and partly because the food took a long time.  I wouldn’t recommend the food though but it’s interesting enough for a trip.

I would say our Kandy trip was disappointing from a tourist point of view but it was well worth it for meeting up with our friends.  I appreciate being welcomed into the home of our friend more than going to touristy areas.  But also not a bad excuse for wanting to go back there again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Morning Mr. Sun!

Five more months greeting Mr. Sun in this small sanctuary of a garden right where we live in Colombo.  It is an almost daily ritual: we send off hubby to work, we take one round in the compound, we go up to the second floor where this beautiful garden is for another one round then we go back up for a nap.

I wonder, where will we greet Mr. Sun in September?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Celebrity La Vida Lanka!

Hubby and I with Kumar and Yehali Sangakkara (middle in Anlene Green Top!) with the BBDO Team

Will livin’ la vida Lanka be complete without a celebrity encounter?  Of course not!  It’s actually a delayed kind of post as the encounter happened while I was still pregnant.  Anyway I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Sri Lankan Cricket hotshot Kumar Sangakarra and his lovely wife Yehali!  For the non-Cricket fans out there, I know what’s on your mind… “Kumar who?”  Well think Manny Pacquiao (sans the integrity issues) or David Beckham of Sri Lankan Cricket.  It may not be a very apt comparison but you get the drift, BIG SPORTS CELEBRITY!  Both are endorsers of hubby’s campaign so I had the “backstage” pass to TVC shoot and POSM photoshoot.

It is just amazing what a great couple Kumar and Yaheli are, moreover what great, authentic and grounded individuals they are! Aside from a Cricket star and his wife, both are actually trained Lawyers and principled people.  They are huge, even S, the Indian head of the advertising agency hubby is working with asked me, “do you realize how big he (Kumar) is?”  Yet they don’t have a trace of “celebrity status” – they are very easy-going during the very hot shoot, I am even surprised that they don’t have P.A.’s following them about and what not.  C, the Account Director even mentioned that she actually experienced handling unknown Indian* talents who are divas more than these actual celebrities.  Moreover you know they’re real when they remember your names and greet you when they see you again, like a month after!  Pretty awesome.

It’s not on my list to have a close encounter with Sri Lankan celebrities because I never thought that would happen!  That really exceeded my expectations!  A big check!

*Apparently Sri Lankan talents do not abound so they usually fly over Indian talents and directors (!) for TVCs!  Crazy right?  If I only have a more South Asian look, I will apply!  Hahaha!
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