The Davao Bombing, President Duterte, and Law

Antipolo, Philippines 2008

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.

 

The 2012 Manila Flood

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 Flooding 1

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.

Filipina girl crouches on cement pillar to avoid flood waters
Filipina child crouches on cement pillar to avoid flood waters.

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:

Flooded kitchen at a home in Pasig City
Flooded kitchen at a home in Pasig City

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.

Under the Sea
Filipina dressed as Ariel, making the best of recent street flooding. “Under the sea… under the sea…”

How to Add Prepaid Credit to your Philippines Phone While in the US

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.

Reload your Globe phone from the US with an ezetop card.

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.

Riding in the back of a Jeepney in the Philippines (Video)

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.

Enjoy!

New Horizon Hotel in Manila, Philippines

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.

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

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.

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

Don’t mind my underwear.  I swear I wasn’t naked while taking these photos!

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

Cigarette smoke ruins so many good photos…

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

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.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

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.

Click here to visit New Horizons’ web site.

*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.

Pegashoes

Pegashoes, an artistic recreation of Pegasus using the soles of shoes.

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.

A Car Blessing in the Philippines

Do people actually do this in any other country?  I’ve never heard of it before.  Is it strictly a Catholic thing?

A car being blessed by a Catholic priest in the Philippines.

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.

Christmas Comes Early in the Philippines

Homemade Christmas decorations in the Philippines.

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.

Getting an Export Permit from the Philippines BAI for Marble

Getting Marble’s export permit was a bit difficult, but not because of the process itself.  It was getting there that was annoying.  Before we headed down to the BAI, we had to stop by the vet to pick up her health certificate.  The vet didn’t have a printer in the office so we couldn’t get it on the spot.  The problem with that is that the vet is sort of out of the way when it comes to getting transportation to Manila from Antipolo.  It is on the road that leads out of town though, so instead of backtracking to the center of town to get an air conditioned FX (a passenger SUV that’s been converted for public transportation) we walked out to the curb and flagged down a Jeepney instead.  Thankfully, it was overcast and kinda cool with the breeze since the windows stay open in the passenger area except when it’s raining.  Unfortunately, that also meant we got dusty and had black boogers later.

After a tricycle to the vet, a jeepney to Manila, the train to Quezon Ave and then 2 more Jeepney’s to Visaya Avenue by the Quezon Memorial, we finally arrived at our destination.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.
The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.

After seeing the AVA’s offices in the Ministry of National Development building in Singapore, I was a bit underwhelmed by the appearance of the building, but I suppose it’s no worse than some of the building’s I’ve seen used as government offices in the US.

Despite the appearance of this place, the people inside were very efficient and very friendly.  The e-mail I’d received from one of the people that works there said the wait time for the export permit was about an hour, but I had everything I needed and was out the door in about 20 minutes.  I did have to go around the back of the building to get a dry notary seal stamped into the form, but that only added another 10 minutes, most of which was walking.

Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.
Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.

The best part of it was that I got the export permit and they converted the veterinary health certificate to a government health certificate (which I didn’t expect), all for the low, low price of free.  That’s surprising.  The import permit was 650 PHP (about 15 USD).  The export permit fee and the fee for the government health certificate in Singapore were 50 SGD (about 38 USD) apiece.  I guess that’s how they paid for that big fancy building.

With this out of the way, the only thing left to do with Marble is to stick her in a carrier and show up at the airport with her.  I do have to find a hotel that will let me stay there with her in Manila for the night before the flight though.  It’s at 7:30 in the morning and it’s impossible to make the commute to Manila at 3:30 AM (it’s 2 hours one way, roughly).

UPDATE (2016): BAI Philippines has a Facebook page with updated contact information available. Click here.

Update (2017): This is a Flickr slideshow of pictures of the cat carrier my wife used in 2011 to bring two cats from the Philippines to New York City. Please note the bolts that were added to the carrier after-market. Make sure you do that. Also, zip-ties were added at the built-in latch points to further secure the carrier. I would bring zip-ties to the airport so that you can secure the door after the airport personnel are satisfied that they don’t have to open the door. Include a bowl for water and food. Ask that your pet be provided with water. Put blankets in the carrier so your pet(s) can stay warm.

Most importantly, keep this as your second or last option. Check with your airline to see if you can bring your pet in the cabin with you in a smaller pet carrier. Check with your airline for permission and/or requirements and fees.

Pet Taxi Cat Carrier for an International Flight//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js