I Would Have Been on a Flight to Amsterdam Right Now

2:45 pm PHT

Well, I would be had my previous passport not been due to expire later in November (and I’ll explain why in a bit). By tomorrow, I would’ve been in Amsterdam to represent the Philippine OpenStreetMap community at the 2009 State of the Map (SOTM), the annual OpenStreetMap conference that started in 2007. For this year, the organizers announced back in May a scholarship program to bring 15 mappers from the developing world to attend the conference and to show the world about OSM activities in their home countries. SOTM will cover the full travel and accommodation costs for these lucky people. Out of 39 people nominated from 19 countries, I was one of the 15 selected.

As luck would have it, my passport was set to expire in November of this year. This means that last May was the limit of the six-month validity period of my passport which is required to get a European Schengen visa. Since I had no reason to go out of the country before the SOTM scholarship, I did not proceed to renew my passport until I learned that I was selected. Anyway, I started to renew my passport and to prepare for all the documents I needed.

After going to the DFA on May 29, I tried to set an appointment at the Dutch Embassy for the required personal appearance. Unfortunately, I learned only then that I needed to have my new passport number in order to set an appointment (the embassy wouldn’t accept a future passport). So, by the time that I would have received my new passport (June 18), it would have then been too late to set an appointment in time for SOTM given that the visa processing time is 14 calendar days. Mind you that this bit of requirement was not stated in the Dutch Embassy website nor was it relayed to me by the embassy personnel when I first called and asked if the timing to get a visa is sufficient given that I had an expiring passport.

Had I known that the time was not enough in the first place, I would’ve given my slot to Marloue Pidor, a fellow OpenStreetMapper from Davao who was also nominated. Unfortunately, it was also too late for Marloue by the time I realized that I could not make it; the earliest appointment time available for him at the Cebu consulate was in early July.

Sigh. I’m not regretting not being able to go to Amsterdam (for free!) as much as the fact that there is no longer anyone to represent the Philippines at the conference. I’m a huge supporter of OpenStreetMap and having someone talk about mapping efforts in the Philippines at SOTM would be a huge boost to the local OSM community. I’m not so sure if Mike Collinson, the expatriate who gave a talk about OSM in the Philippines at SOTM 2008, would be able to “represent” the Philippine community especially since he’s no longer based in Manila.

Well, there’s always next year. I’m not so sure if there will be another scholarship program, but I hope that the local OSM community can at least pool its resources together to bring someone to SOTM 2010. Hopefully it will be Maning Sambale. Maning is actually the logical (and consensus) nominee for this year but he declined the nomination early on during a discussion at the Philippine OSM mailing list citing his busy work schedule.

On a personal note, I have to say that preparing for international travel on a tight schedule is quite stressful! I’ve been to Japan a couple of times and to Canada once, but during those times, my company and my parents respectively did all the arrangements. For Amsterdam, the short timeframe and the coordination needed with the SOTM organizers and the embassy is not an ideal way to do things. In addition, the work arrangements needed (since I would be gone for three workdays), the H1N1 travel-related complications, and the possibility that the embassy will reject my visa application all added to the stress level. I was, quite frankly, a bit relieved when I learned that I could not go.  :-p

Since I’m not going to the State of the Map, I’ll be going instead to tomorrow’s Form, Function and Class web design conference at AIM.  :-D

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