This morning I saw an email in my inbox from the US embassy in the Philippines about a bombing in Davao. I signed up for the newsletter when I used to live in Antipolo, near Manila. I of course quickly did a search to see what had happened and found an article on MSN with the details of the incident. It’s not clear who set off the bomb yet, but regardless, it is a tragedy and my thoughts go out to the families who are suffering now.
I took a look at the comments section to see which direction the conversation was going. Davao is in Mindanao, an area of the Philippines where Islamic terrorist groups have a presence, including Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to Islamic State, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (yeah, MILF, LOL). I thought I would see the usual set of comments about how all Muslims are evil and Islam is destroying the world, but the first comment, while equally ridiculous, was something I wasn’t expecting. Some guy was saying that “America” (because he was elected as our representative, apparently) supports what the new president in the Philippines is doing.
//Unfortunately, I embedded the Facebook comment on the article instead of taking a screenshot and the person who posted the original comment deleted it.
If you’re not too familiar with what’s going on in Philippines politics, the new president, Duterte, has literally encouraged police officers to kill as many people as they can, if they feel that they are criminals. If you think America as a whole supports extrajudicial killings and has no interest in the due process of law, then you are mistaken. People in the US protest constantly because they feel that they are not being given due process under the law. Black Lives Matter is just the most obvious example. Extrajudicial killings are absolutely not what America is about, and it’s a dangerous road to go down.
Back in 2009, Typhoon Ketsana, known locally in the Philippines as ‘Ondoy’, dropped a lot of water on Manila in a short amount of time and caused extensive flooding. I remember there was a lot of public concern outside of the Philippines for the well-being of the people, not just in the Philippines but in the other countries affected. A lot of sympathy was shown. I think there were even international donations sent to the Philippines.
Manila is just recovering from another bout of flooding. Over the last week or so, Manila and surrounding provinces were covered by flood waters, affecting about 2.4 million and killing 65 (as of writing) in what was described as the worst flooding since Ondoy. I only found out because I’m still subscribed to the US Embassy newsletter for the embassy in Manila, and the offices were shut down for quite a few days because of heavy flooding on Roxas Boulevard.
I was struck by the contrast between this flood and the last, when almost everyone seemed to know what was going on. It could be that I was biased, of course, since I was in Asia at the time and news probably tends to give more coverage to local big events, but my wife, who is from the Philippines, didn’t even know there was any flooding until long after it started. I knew first, because of the embassy newsletter. I assumed she knew. I assumed she’d seen it in the news, but I guess it just wasn’t in the news.
I was wondering why there is so much less coverage this time. I think there are two reasons: it doesn’t sell and no one cares. With the action in Syria and the Olympics, who has time to talk about flooding in a third world country? It’s not like the massive flooding in 2009 that affected multiple countries. And of course, there’s the feeling that Filipinos just didn’t learn.
The flooding was caused the first time around through a lack of proper drainage and littering. There was so much garbage in the streets, in the rivers, jammed into the drains and drainage ditches that the water couldn’t pass through adequately, making a bad situation a lot worse, so now that Manila is flooding again, you can’t help but feel that they didn’t learn their lesson from last time. When I say that no one cares, I don’t mean that no one is concerned about the hardships that people face in that sort of situation; I mean that people find it harder to pity people who are suffering from self-inflicted tragedies.
And there are tragedies. A few years ago I visited my sister-in-law’s house for her daughter’s birthday and I remembering thinking how lovely the house was. Now it looks like this:
It’s going to take a lot for people to rebuild their lives and their homes again. Where does a person even begin in their cleanup efforts? I can’t imagine how much work it’ll be for people to fix their houses and businesses again. Hopefully, this time, the hardships suffered will make people think harder before dropping trash on the ground, and make them push harder for their government to take real steps toward improving drainage in and around the city.
Not that this is anything but sort of related, but I thought the image below is worth sharing. I found it on a bulletin board, claiming it’s from the recent flooding in the Philippines.
One of the biggest problems to overcome when you’re in the US and have family and friends in the Philippines is finding a cheap way to stay in touch. There are a lot of options out there for cheap communication to the Philippines, which I’m still sorting through, but to keep things cheap for the person in the Philippines, there’s an easy option.
When I came back to the US, I brought my prepaid Globe phone with me and set it to International Roaming through their website. This allows people in the Philippines to send messages and calls to my phone at local rates. It also allows me to receive those messages at the same local rates, which in Globe’s case is free. They have no incoming fees. So, that’s 1 way communication at a cheap rate.
The problem comes in when you reply back and use up your credit, or when the credit expires. Credit added to Globe prepaid phones is only valid for a certain number of days before it expires. Either way, you eventually need to add credit to your prepaid number. As far as I know, there’s no way to do this through Globe’s website. I’ve read a few board threads here and there where people suggest buying Globe reload cards through eBay. It’s also possible to send money to your relative back home and have them get credit added to your phone there. The first way is a hassle for you, and the other way is a hassle for your relative. There is one other way, though.
You can buy a 10.99 ezetop reload card, which is powered by Fastcard. They’re the same people that do most of the online game reload cards and the local US prepaid cards. I picked up this one in a Rite Aid in New York City. You scratch off the silver stuff to reveal the PIN, call the 1-800 number, enter your PIN, the phone number you want to load, confirm the mobile operator and that’s it. Your load hits your phone as an AutoLoadMAX reload.
There’s a catch though. I went back and read the fine print after receiving confirmation of my credit being added to my phone because I was a little surprised at the actual amount I was credited with. Let’s do some math. As of today, 10.99 USD is 473.34 PHP. How much of that was actually credited to my phone? 300 PHP. That means I lost 173.34 PHP, or about 4 USD, in the transaction for miscellaneous fees. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about it, that’s almost 1/3 of the cost of the card.
So, what I’ve learned here is that if I’m really hurting for a reload on my Globe phone, I do have an option here in the US. However, if I’m not in a rush, the hassle I might put my relative in the Philippines through putting credit on my phone is worth it considering the fees involved with this method.
If you’re wondering, these cards work for the Globe, SMART, and Touch Philippines mobile operators.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, a jeepney is a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines. They stop at somewhat regular places to pick up passengers and will drop passengers almost anywhere. The jeepneys on the road range in style from old and junky to new and pimped out with young guys running the show and jamming music.
The last full day I was in the Philippines I road in a jeepney with my wife and I decided to record some of the action. What you see in the video is an assistant, or conductor, who rides in the back. He calls for passengers, announces the destination, signals stops and resumes to the driver and also collects payments. This is a good way for the jeepney driver to make sure he doesn’t get ripped off by people who sneak in and out without paying.
Meet Marble. Marble was born in Singapore, has lived in the Philippines and is sleeping in an armchair in Manhattan, New York City, in the above picture. She’s an international cat and probably has more Sky Miles than most human beings. She’s also a lucky cat, having started out her life as a stray under a building near the train station in Pasir Ris, Singapore. Now she lives a life of relative luxury on the other side of the world with canned food every day, lots of attention and love and a safe environment.
So, how did she get here? Well, it’s a long story, but first we exported her from Singapore to the Philippines and then when it was time to move on, we exported her again from the Philippines to the US. (If you want to read about how to get your cats from Singapore the Philippines, click here.) Compared to the process of getting Marble from Singapore the Philippines, bringing her to the US was relatively painless.
Just to give you an idea, the requirements set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, which regulates animal imports) for bringing your pet cat into the US are that the cat has to be in apparent good health and, depending on the state of entry, updated on rabies shots. That’s it. Here’s the exact quote from the CDC’s page on cat importation:
A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.
Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.
So, here’s a step-by-step for what you’ll need to get your pet cat out of the Philippines:
When you book your flight, do it with a live person and inform them that you’ll be taking a pet cat with you on the flight. This is necessary, because not all planes are equipped to carry live animals. The fee for carrying pet cats is 200 USD each, flat rate. You pay this later. I’m not aware of any limit to the number of cats you can bring at one time, but I’m sure there is one.
Within 10 days of your flight, take your cat to a vet and have her updated on all shots. Depending on what state you go to, your cat may need a rabies shot. Also, regardless of US requirements, the BAI staff asked to see proof of rabies vaccination. Get your cat the other shots he or she should have anyway, because it’s just healthier that way and will help your cat avoid disease and live longer. Depending on what vet you use, costs may vary. Our cat had her rabies shot in Singapore in May, so it was still valid. Her feline leukopenia booster was 750 pesos.
Request a Veterinary Health Certificate. You may need to explain what this is and what it’s for and what it needs to say. The vet we went to didn’t seem to know, which isn’t surprising. Cats aren’t popular pets in the Philippines and I imagine exporting them to other countries by owners is rare. We paid 500 pesos for our Health Certificate at Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic – Antipolo:
Contact Person: Oscar Macenas
Address: Joren Building, Circumferential Road, Marville Park Subdivision, Antipolo, Rizal
Contact Numbers: (02) 697-1896, (02) 697-3378
Accreditation: Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PAHA)
Take your Veterinary Health Certificate (within 3 days of issue!!!) and your cat’s shot record, showing the valid rabies vaccination, to the BAI building on Visaya’s Avenue in Quezon City, Manila. Please note that BAI will only consider your veterinary health certificate valid for three days after issue. You must bring it to them within that timeframe. They’ll process your combo export permit/government health certificate in an hour or less. Take the form they give you and go around to the back of that building (to the left as you exit the door). Go into the building there on your left (there’s only one) and up to the 3rd floor to the records unit. They’ll put a ‘dry seal’ (raised notary seal) on your export permit. All of this is free. The forms you receive from the BAI will be valid for 10 days. (Confirmation that the veterinary health certificate is still only valid for 3 days after being issued and updated information on the length of time that the BAI documents are valid provided by commenter Lou Cep 1/26/2017).
Contact Person: Virgie Tiong or Maynard Lagmy
Address: National Veterinary Quarantine Services, Bureau of Animal Industry, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Manila
When you get to the airport, check in as usual at Delta’s ticket counter. They’ll ask to see the documentation, make photocopies, and collect your pet there after you make your payment of 200 USD, which can be made in cash or by credit card. Delta doesn’t accept carry on pets on international flights.
Collect your pet in the baggage claim area at your destination airport.
Timeline for Rabies Vaccination (Updated 4/20/2017):
An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.
So, what does that mean? If your pet is receiving its initial rabies vaccination, the pet won’t be considered inoculated until 28 days have passed. If your pet is receiving a booster shot, the CDC says the inoculation is considered valid immediately.
When I went through the export process, I remember there being some confusion about how much time had to pass between the vaccination and the export permit being issued. My cats had all been previously vaccinated and the vaccination was still considered valid.
Some rabies vaccinations are valid for one year, while others are valid for three. It depends on the type of vaccine used. Please check with your veterinarian to determine whether or not your pet(s’) vaccination against rabies is still valid. Please get the vaccination at least 30 days before your trip.
During the Flight:
You won’t see your pet during the flight at all, even if you have a layover. What comfort you will have comes in the form of little cards:
These cards come off of a form that is stuck to the side of your pet cat’s carrier. You’ll be given one by a flight attendant prior to the plane leaving the gate area. If you have a layover, you’ll be given another one before the plane takes off again. My flight was from Manila to Tokyo to New York, so I received two of them. The fact that it comes from the sticker form stuck to the carrier at the check in counter is what gives you the assurance that your pet is in fact on the plane.
If you’re wondering how a cat holds up under a plane for 20 hours, I would tell you that it depends on your cat’s temperament. Each cat is different and some are more skittish than others, but Marble was just fine. She was a little nervous and hid under the blanket I put in there for her, but that was about it. Please do leave a blanket in the carrier. Despite being air conditioned, the plane gets cold. My advice to anyone, though, is to not drug your cat prior to the flight. Besides the fact that it’s not healthy for the cat, if he or she looks dopey or messed up on arrival you may wind up with your cat being quarantined to make sure it’s not sick with some disease.
On Arrival at JFK International in New York City:
If you’re flying this exact route, you can collect your cat in JFK’s baggage claim area. Just past the baggage carousels, there is a locked door with a keypad. Above it, there is a light with a yellow cover. When a pet shows up on a flight, it’s taken to this room and the warning light is turned on to alert the owner that the cat (or dog) is available for pick-up. When I picked up my cat I wasn’t required to show any documentation at all, because Delta had copies that were likely handed over when the cat was unloaded.
I hope this guide gives you some insight into the process of getting your cat from the Philippines to the US! Below is a map showing the location of the BAI office on Visaya’s Avenue. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability.
On my recent return to the US from the Philippines, I had to find a hotel in Manila to stay in for the night because it’s impractical to commute from Antipolo to make a 7:30 AM flight. Even if there was public transit at that time of the morning, it definitely wouldn’t be safe, especially when carrying a bunch of bags, so I booked a room at New Horizons hotel in Manila.
This hallway goes to the bedroom, which I forgot to take a photo of. It is about the same size as the living room area as seen in the 3rd photo.
My wife and I have stayed in New Horizons before in 2008 so it was a natural choice. We enjoyed the service on our last visit, so we wanted to go back again. The first time we were there we got the Deluxe Suite which was as big or bigger than some apartments we’ve lived in. The rate was really good on that too, only 85 USD* per night. This time, though, we were only going to be in the hotel for about 14 hours, so it just didn’t make sense to go all out on a spacious room. Instead, we got their ‘Superior’ room, which is the smallest one and goes for 60 USD* per night. Even though it’s their smallest, it was still really spacious. It was way better than what I’d expected.
I reserved a room online and made the required 10% deposit. When we checked in I was a bit surprised but the girl at the desk knew that I’d stayed there in 2008. When you check in, you pay up front rather than after. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a hotel where you pay after. Instead of offering me my change, the girl asked if it would be alright to hold the balance at the desk until we left, to be used against any items we took from the mini bar. I didn’t care too much and we did wind up raiding the mini bar. The drinks in there are actually well priced and they were really cold.
Don’t mind my underwear. I swear I wasn’t naked while taking these photos!
Cigarette smoke ruins so many good photos…
The bathroom in this room is set up the same way as the bathroom in the Deluxe Suite. It’s spacious, comfortable and the water runs warm, but not really hot.
As you can see from the last photo above, we had our cat with us. It’s not normally allowed, but I worked out an exception with the manager prior to booking by asking politely and agreeing to pay any damages she might cause. We kept an eye on her and she was a good girl. Thankfully she didn’t go nuts on that fake leather couch.
Like I said, the room was comfortable. The air conditioning got good and cold. The room service was decent and well priced and the cable TV was fun. If you’re considering staying at this place, it’s well worth it, and it’s close to an MRT line. You can walk out of the hotel and be in the train station in about 15 minutes, counting the time it takes to get your ticket. It’s a few short stops from Megamall and there are restaurants all around it. Despite being right along EDSA (a highway) the rooms are quiet at night. Broadband Internet was optional for the room as well.
They did us a good favor by letting us have Marble there overnight and the place is nice anyway, so we’ll definitely be using them again in the future. I’m planning on making more trips to the Philippines to visit my wife until she’s ready to follow me to the US.
*Note: The rates are showing up at 5 dollars more than they were when I checked them last week. I’m not sure if that’s a permanent increase or not, but it may have something to do with the fact that they’re in the process of renovating the rooms. The room we stayed in this time wasn’t renovated yet.
This artfully rendered version of Pegasus, the mythological flying horse, was created by students (I imagine the art majors) from the University of Santo Tomas and is on display in Gateway mall in Cubao, Manila.
I thought it would be fitting to post this today, as a scheduled post, since I’ll be flying myself, likely somewhere above Alaska or the nearby Pacific Ocean when this goes live.
Fare the well, Philippines. I’ll write a longer post about my final impressions of the Philippines later.
Do people actually do this in any other country? I’ve never heard of it before. Is it strictly a Catholic thing?
In the image above, you can see a group of people gathered around a new vehicle. The man in the white top and black pants is a priest, probably from the nearby Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, which is a popular pilgrimage destination for people who are about to embark on trips.
I’m not sure if there’s a process to this, if different parts of the vehicle are blessed at different times and I just stumbled across them as they were getting to the engine, or if having the hood raised and the engine running is just the standard way of having a vehicle blessed.
As weird as this seems, it makes sense in a way, and makes sense that they’d come to the Cathedral that’s known as a place for travelers to receive blessings to have it done.
If you stumbled across this post looking for information about how to get your car blessed at the Cathedral, click this link and then scroll to the bottom of the post to see a picture of the sign showing the hours for car blessings, as well as contact numbers.
My wife once told me that Christmas comes early in the Philippines. She didn’t mean that the date it’s celebrated is any different than any other place, but just that people get into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual.
Where I’m from, the shopping spirit hits a bit early, but that real Christmas spirit doesn’t seem to catch on until at least the day after Thanksgiving. Obviously, there is no Thanksgiving in the Philippines and while Halloween (trick-or-treating) is celebrated in some posh villages, Christmas is something that most every Filipino gets behind quickly and early. I think it’s probably because it’s associated with the birth of Christ, and the Philippines has the highest population of Catholics of any country in the world. It may also have something to do with the poor conditions in the country. I’m sure a lot of families are looking for an excuse to feel cheerful about something.
As early as last week, we’ve been hearing Christmas songs playing on the speaker systems in some of the malls. I even saw Christmas decorations for sale already, including plastic trees.
My wife says the rule of thumb in the Philippines is that if the month ends in “-ber”, then people will start looking forward to Christmas and set up decorations, some of which will remain up until February, if not all year round.