As some of you may well know, Emy and I just retired to Leyte, October 2017. Starting out in 1982, with basically nothing, our tendency as a young military couple was to accumulate. My wife is an extraordinary gatherer, not so good at letting go.
Emy values absolutely everything… no doubt from having escaped abject poverty. Side note: she describes her childhood as having no toys, no dolls, no birthday parties or presents, and more often than not, no matching slippers; only two black and white photos, a few assorted chipped marbles and some rubber bands.
So there was no sense discussing whether or not to order a shipping container. It boiled down to what size and how many. Prior to the BIG move, we hosted dozens of yard sales. Craigslist became our new best friend. And our family, friends, and neighbors, as well as the Goodwill graciously benefitted from our generosity. By parting with some of the bigger and more fragile items, along with useless things like heavy winter clothing, we only required a single 20-foot container. Before boarding PAL for our tropical retirement island, we shipped just one Balikbayan Box for the leftovers that were too heavy to pack in our four 50-pound, maxed out suitcases (one designated exclusively for pasalubong candies).
I am no expert on what to ship. I will have some regrets over what we took or failed to take. Most of our decision-making was based on shipping what we already owned, especially Emy’s ‘treasures’ she wouldn’t or couldn’t part with. Did this create a source of frustration and stress? Absolutely! I’m beginning to embrace the concept of ‘being happy vs. being right.’ However, on matters such as this, I continue to struggle.
I am freaking out over her fragile possessions we boxed ourselves that may have subsequently crumbled to dust, shattered, or cracked. And, I will remain so until we inspect every tissue-wrapped, duct taped, pop-corned bauble. I will continue to stress for months. Many of these boxes will remain closed until the day we move into our new home. And the construction has yet to be started (a future series of publishable stories I’m certain).
Enough unnecessary worrying… more on what strategic steps we took to ship:
Searching for a container didn’t start out very well. We tried word of mouth and friend/acquaintance referrals. Honestly, it always seemed like the referrals we got meant an unnecessary finder’s fee was lining someone’s pocket, something you can easily avoid by going straight to the company.
After several frustrating referrals resulting in ridiculously high estimates, I searched Mindanao Bob’s website. Here, I discovered some flattering information on J. Arthur Haddow, President of Premier Van Lines in Mesa, AZ. I was skeptical enough to hesitate but curious enough to call him. I easily asked 101 questions. I focused on his knowledge of the Philippines, as well as his trusted in-country connections. Critical to our decision was door-to-door service. Also, I wanted to be assured no crazy additional charges were going to magically appear. I mostly hoped that our priceless ‘treasures’ would arrive safely, not get pilfered, nor sink to the bottom of the sea. Spoiler Alert…
We could not have had a better experience. The customer service was outstanding, beginning to end! Artfully embraced the fact that all of this was new to us. As such, he was extremely patient. In addition, he never questioned that our belongings were ‘priceless’, and yet, our budget was limited. To this, he was conscientious and understanding. Lastly, Art gave us the one thing we needed the most: peace of mind.
Art personally ensured we received the required inventory stickers and container seal, along with all the paperwork. We exchanged numerous emails and talked on the phone regularly. Art gave me the distinct feeling I was his one and only customer, despite the fact he is the president. In addition, he explained every cost and eliminated any doubt we were paying anything ‘extra.’ In the end, Art helped us save a significant amount of money.
The container arrived on time, spotless, parked at the end of my driveway. I needed it over the weekend, and that’s exactly what I got. I especially liked the fact that the company gave me the ability to satellite track its every movement. It departed the Port of Oakland, CA on schedule and arrived in Cebu, likewise, on schedule.
Responsibility for our container shifted from Premier Van Lines to AGS Four Winds Cebu. Manager Juvy Canal and her amazing staff took tender care of me. Their job is to ensure Philippine Customs receives all of the required documents and fees, plus they delivered everything in the original and unblemished condition to our home.
Juvy and her assistant answered every question, anticipated every need, and made this experience relatively easy. Her moving crew was exceptional! Led by Lito, he made sure every item was accounted for and moved safely and efficiently from the container to the cargo truck. He personally accompanied his Team from Cebu to Leyte and arrived on schedule. Everyone jumped in and moved each box, crate, a piece of furniture – no matter how heavy or awkward – according to our wishes without complaint. All in all, I have never witnessed a smoother operation!
Note: We could have saved even more money in Cebu. Had I considered putting my Wife’s name (a Balikbayan) on the shipping documents in California, we would have earned a tax-free credit. As a 13-A Visa holder, since I hadn’t yet obtained my ACR-I card, I wasn’t considered for the tax-free credit. For more information, please read my first article entitled “Mission Accomplished”.
The only other issue was unavoidable. The container arrived in Cebu during the All Saints Day holidays. As such, we incurred some storage charges, absolutely no fault of our own. Had this occurred stateside, in all likelihood, I would have aggressively disputed the additional expense. Instead, I adhered to my Filipino Family’s approach: “Be Nice!” Going this route was less stressful and significantly easier. As a direct result, I was humbly relieved to discover nearly half the extra fees were waived by Juvy and AGS Four Winds. Lesson reinforced: Be Nice!
Our experience shipping this container, utilizing Premier Van Lines and AGS Four Winds was so pleasant, we are considering future shipments. All of the facts I shared are 100% accurate. I am not receiving anything having shared this story, no commission or favor, nor do we expect any special future accommodations. Plain and simple, I only want you to be more informed and possibly benefit from our experiences.