the phil. bureau of customs is out to get you, or how we were asked to pay 982 pesos for a 1,300-peso package

To quote J’s sister, Isn’t the government supposed to have your back? But we all know that is not always rarely the case.

Based on the many, many anecdotes I’ve heard from friends and strangers, the Bureau of Customs needs to be cleaned. We all have an idea of how awfully brutal this department is in collecting arbitrary amounts from citizens receiving gifts and goods from abroad.

Here’s my story: Threadless shirts went on sale for $9.99 each, so I bought three shirts for J and I and paid via PayPal. So that’s 29.97 plus 9 dollars for the shipping charge. I was warned by a friend not to exceed 50 dollars to avoid being taxed by Customs.

You see, Customs is so dirty that citizens dread having their goods pass through it.

The shirts were shipped via DHL, and landed in the Customs office of the Parañaque PO (J lives in Pqe). Listen: I receive books from the US, which often end up in the Makati PO Customs office. I pay a parcel fee of 40 pesos, which I still don’t get. Why can’t my packages just reach me directly instead of going through Customs? Why do I need to pay a parcel fee? I already paid for shipping, why do I need to pay an additional fee once the damn thing enters the Philippines? Why?

So we received a similar notification from Pqe PO that we have a package (yay!) and we need to pick it up there and pay 40 pesos (boo).

I have work so I can’t go there personally, so we asked J’s driver, Kuya B, to pick it up for us.

So he paid the parcel fee.

And then Customs, in its infinite glory, asked for more than 900 pesos in fees. Keep in mind that the shirts cost less than 1,300 in total. Customs is asking us to pay more than half of the total price of the goods we already paid to be shipped to us.

Here’s their breakdown, signed by Collecting Officer Genesia B. Osil:

Calculation for Customs Duty:

Declared/Assessed Value (29.97) x Exchange Rate = Dutiable Value (PhP1,268) x Rate of Duty (15%) = PhP190

Calculation for Expanded Value Added Tax:

Dutiable Value (PhP 1268) + Customs Duty (PhP 190) + Fixed Customs Documentary Stamp (PhP 250) + Import Processing Fee (PhP 250) + BIR Stamps (PhP 15) = EVAT Base (PhP 1973) x EVAT Rate (12%) = PhP237


PhP 190 + 237 + Fixed Customs Documentary Stamp (PhP 250) + Import Processing Fee (PhP 250) + BIR Stamps (PhP 15) = PhP 942 + Parcel Fee (40) = PhP 982

Almost a thousand pesos of fees and taxes for a package in a plastic bag that costs less than 1,300 pesos. You see how fucked up this is.

Because of the outrageous calculation, Kuya B spoke with the Customs guy. He haggled. Can you imagine – the fees are so arbitrary that Customs allowed haggling!

The Customs guy said, O sige, 500 na lang. Pero wala nang resibo.

500 na lang daw! Wow. MARAMING SALAMAT. Ang bait mo naman.

To end the conversation and to finally have the package released, Kuya B paid a total of PhP 540. Where did that money go? Did the guy just put that in his pocket?

You might say, You should be glad they asked for only 540 instead of the actual 982 written on the receipt. I’d say, No. Because are you kidding me?!

You might say, You shouldn’t have haggled. I’d say, But Kuya B was just asked to run this errand, and he wanted to get this package. I don’t blame him. I blame Customs.

You might say, If going through Customs is such a hassle, then just avoid receiving packages from abroad. I’d say, Really? That’s your solution?

If I had gone there myself, this Customs dude, and the entire PO, would have gotten an earful. But I didn’t. So we end up with this tale.


The End.

And I will close this post with a smile and a Threadless shirt:

Do you have your own Customs horror story? Leave a comment.

UPDATE: Kind friends sent this post’s URL to Ruffy Biazon, Customs Commissioner, via Twitter. He replied. Read from the bottom up.

The Customs Commissioner himself sees no anomaly here, save for the haggling. So this is normal. So that’s that.

Here’s an FAQ on duty/tax imposed on articles.

Tax computation reference. (IPF is the same for all items up to P250,000.)

Tariff rates from the Tariff Commission.

UPDATE 2. Welp, got this message from a friend, which I RT’d.


Same item, same brand, different PO, different fees. And this is not arbitrary, Mr. Biazon? And this is okay?

Enough said. Move on na akech!

it has to be said

Dear ___________,

I take pictures of friends, new and old, and post them on my site because memory is faulty and I want something to look at to remind me of happy days. I take pictures of couples I know and post them on my site because happiness is infectious (also, they may even want to snag some shots and post them on their own networks, and I’m happy to share them).

I never post pictures out of spite. Like, if a couple had broken up, I would never post their happy couple pics after the fact because that’s just a dick thing to do, and I’m not a dick. (Also: who does that? It’s infantile and mean.)

I posted a picture of the two of you in 2009, NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO (CHECK THE DATE); who’d have known you’d end up separated mere weeks after that picture was taken and posted?

It happened, so I didn’t change that entry. Jaykie and I had pictures in that entry, too, so I didn’t lock that post or erase it.

It’s not my goddamn fault you only asked for the picture’s removal only now, NEARLY TWO YEARS LATER. Don’t blame me.You have no right to be mad at me. Don’t insinuate that I had invaded your privacy. You posed for the picture, didn’t you? It was not a candid shot. You posed for pictures that you knew would be posted online and tagged on Facebook.

I posted that picture because the two of you looked happy together. It was a good idea at that time. Love! Love should be shared!

What made me really mad was your reply (after I’ve taken down the photo), especially this part: ” You didn’t even mention it or ask my permission. It feels like being raped. I know it’s my right to ask for its removal. It has been causing me undeserved ridicule for a long time.”

It feels like being raped.

To quote a friend, “You know what is like being raped? BEING RAPED.”

That line made me so angry, you have no idea.

The good news here is:

  • We’re not friends anymore, so I won’t be taking any more of your pictures.
  • I won’t be mentioning your name here or elsewhere.

My advice:

  • Don’t pose for pictures. Ever. Mahirap na, baka ma-post na naman ‘yan kung saan-saan.
  • Don’t contact me again. I’ve taken down the picture in question. You’re welcome. Good luck with your endeavors.
  • Next time you encounter a picture of you and your boyfriend online and you want that picture taken down, ask nicely.
  • The past sometimes sucks, yeah? But what can we do? Ask all of our acquaintances to edit their public spaces for our benefit?

The bottomline is: you two were happy then, you’re not now. How is that my fault?


the paperless route

1. First of all, avoid buying another book, not even one.

2. Read what’s left on my reading list.

Feast for Crows

The Kobayashi Maru of Love

Showbiz Lengua

PGS Horror issue

Floating Dragon

El Bimbo Variations

The Tesseract

Faithful Place


Zoo City

Our Story Begins

Glass Soup

Here on Earth

The Pull of the Moon

Little Bee

Story Quarterly Issue 44

The Bell Jar

Philippine Speculative Fiction 6

Pacific Rims

The Name of the Wind

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan

2. Sell the books I can bring myself to sell; and

3. Buy an iPad, Galaxy Tab, Kindle, Nook, something that will allow me to read books conveniently without paper because I have too many books and most of them are in garbage bags on top of my cabinet because I have no shelves and they are DRIVING ME CRAZY.

Any opinions/tips from current users? Which gadget is best?

I can also rent/buy my own place with a gazillion shelves, but I think the gadget’s more affordable.
Hay Lord gusto ko na ng sariling bahay.

Didn’t go to the gym but cleaned my room side of the room. That’s four big bags of junk. It’s like an episode of Hoarders.

I don’t have enough space, definitely not enough space for shelves, so the books I’ve read? I put them in a large garbage bag and place that on top of the cabinet. I miss my room in Quezon City: it had two closets, shelves, and a dresser, and I rented that room for only 4k. Now I’m in Makati and paying more for a corner of a room. Not even a whole room. A corner. I want my own place, but everything’s more expensive in this darn city. If I move back to QC I’ll shell out more for travel fare. Meh.

Therefore, I want more money. Haha.


this is stupid

It’s the 17th of April today, and the pilot episode of  Game of Thrones will be showing in the US.

How exciting! Then I read this awful review.

Choice cuts:

The show has been elaborately made to the point that producers turned to a professional at something called the Language Creation Society to design a vocabulary for the savage Dothraki nomads who provide some of the more Playboy-TV-style plot points and who are forced to speak in subtitles. Like “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” on Showtime and the “Spartacus” series on Starz, “Game of Thrones,” is a costume-drama sexual hopscotch, even if it is more sophisticated than its predecessors. It says something about current American attitudes toward sex that with the exception of the lurid and awful “Californication,” nearly all eroticism on television is past tense. The imagined historical universe of “Game of Thrones” gives license for unhindered bed-jumping — here sibling intimacy is hardly confined to emotional exchange.

The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

When the network ventures away from its instincts for real-world sociology, as it has with the vampire saga “True Blood,” things start to feel cheap, and we feel as though we have been placed in the hands of cheaters. “Game of Thrones” serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot. If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary.

As a female reader (and at times, writer) of fantasy, I resent this generalization, and as a fan of Martin and his series, I resent the reviewer’s hateful simplification of Martin’s story (Playboy TV! Dungeons & Dragons! SEX!).

Above all, I am saddened to read this kind of prejudice (Women will only watch a TV show with SEX!) in this day and age, and from a woman, no less.

Martin resents this too, you know.

writer shiz

1. I just received word from Expanded Horizons that they are going to reprint my story, “Parallel”, in an upcoming issue. “Parallel” originally appeared in Philippine Speculative Fiction IV in 2009. :)

2. Got this in the mail. Huweeee payment. (You can head on over to Pedestal Magazine. My poem’s called “Maps“.)

Thank you!

3. Got a comment on one of my posts:


I found your blog by googling Zac Roesch. Hope you don’t mind my bringing this up, but: I, too, had a story accepted by SQ for the October issue, and received the same recent email from Zac. His email to me did include his edits to the story, but NOT the contract he said was attached.

I wrote him back saying the contract was missing, but haven’t heard back for these 3 or so weeks.

I wonder if you have any more info about the status of the upcoming issue. Like you, I feel real good about making it into such a respected publication.

I don’t have a blog or site, but if you’re comfortable with email, please feel free to share what you know — or don’t know, as the case may be.


Hm. I’ve already sent an e-mail to Story Quarterly. Hope this gets clarified soon.

(Dear commenter: I didn’t publish your comment on the post because I thought you wouldn’t like to have your name shown on my blog. I’ve sent you an e-mail though!)

4. I still don’t have the free PDF of Cantaraville Ten, which carries my story. I’ve emailed the editors several times. I don’t know. It kinda sucks.

Cantaraville editors, if you’re reading this: What gives? (I do hope my emails just got lost, or whatever.)