Marble Took a Trip to the Vet Today!

I have three cats: Marble, Dapper and Thumper.  When I leave for the US next week Marble is going to be coming with me, while the other two remain in the Philippines to keep my wife company.  Obviously, you can’t just show up at the airport with your cat and expect to hop on the plane.  It takes some preparation and that preparation began today.  The process for taking a cat out of the Philippines and into the US is mercifully painless compared to how hard it was to bring my cats here from Singapore.  I’m going to write up another comprehensive guide to exporting cats from the Philippines to the US later, but for now I thought I’d share this.

Part of getting Marble ready for her trip was getting her clean and presentable to minimize the chances of her being deemed unhealthy during the inspection at the vet for a health certificate.  She was overdue for a bath anyway.  In fact, all three of my cats were overdue, so yesterday we forced them to endure a good scrubbing.

Marble getting toweled dry after a bath.

Marble gave us the least trouble with her bath, though she was the only one to inflict damage.  I have a nice new scratch on my left foot from her trying desperately to evade the water we were pouring on her from a dipper.

Thumper licking herself dry after her bath.

Thumper never stopped struggling during her bath and wound up looking like a drowned rat by the end of it.

Dapper getting brushed after her bath.

Dapper wasn’t too bad during her bath, but she was the noisiest.  She made sure we knew how pissed she was by continuously growling.  She even hissed at us once.  I thought for sure she was going to turn into a whirling ball of claws and shred our legs, but we escaped without injury.  The cats kept jumping up onto the bed while they were still wet.  They usually do that, so we decided this would be a good day to wash our sheets and just left the new sheets off the bed until after they were dry.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the horror of giving their cats a bath, but ours aren’t too bad.  I think the reason for that is that we’ve gotten them accustomed to it.  We typically give them baths about once every two or three months, sometimes more often depending on how quickly they get that nasty greasy feeling on their fur.

Marble in her carrier, on the way to the vet.

Today, Marble went on a big adventure.  She didn’t seem too thrilled about being in the carrier again, after the fiasco that happened at Changi Airport a few months ago.

Tricycles, a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines.

Overall, she was pretty behaved as long as she could see us, though she didn’t care for the tricycle ride.  I don’t blame her.  Sometimes riding those tricycles can be a little stressful for me too.  At first, she kept looking around to try to find a way out of the carrier, but eventually settled into a corner and just looked at us with pleading eyes.

The actual visit at the vet wasn’t too hard on her at all.  We took her to the Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic in Antipolo.  Ya… like I’ve said before, religious terms and phrases are everywhere in the Philippines.  Her booster shot was pretty quick and didn’t seem to bother her too much.  I was surprised at how behaved she was.

Something that concerned me about our visit there was the type of shots they had available.  In Singapore, our cats got a Fort Dodge Felovax 4 in 1 shot and a rabies vaccination.  The next shot they were supposed to get was a booster for the 4 in 1.  The vet didn’t recognize it though and after placing a call found out that the 4 in 1 isn’t supplied in the Philippines at all.  He said it’s because those types of problems aren’t present in cats here.  I don’t know about that for sure.  Maybe they’re just not treated here.  Hopefully this won’t cause me to run into a problem of her having to be quarantined in NYC until she gets a proper booster shot.

Regardless, she got her panleucopenia booster and we’ll be picking up her health certificate tomorrow to take to the BAI in Manila for her export permit.  They do 1 hour processing on the export permit and it’s supposedly free.  Not bad!  So far, from what I can see, the total cost for exporting a cat from the Philippines to the US is about 230 USD.  Of course, I have to stay in a hotel in Manila the night before my flight and I’ll need to find one that will allow me to have her there, so the price difference might up my total cost.  We’ll see how that goes.  I need to start calling around to hotels tomorrow.

Philippines Mobile Phones and SMS (Text Message) Scams

The Philippines is sometimes called the texting capital of the world and from what I’ve seen it’s true.  People in the Philippines, and Filipinos in general, seem to text non-stop.  In the US, it’s most common for people to have contract based plans with cell phone carriers and those plans usually have plenty of, if not unlimited, voice minutes.  Before coming to Asia, I can count the number of times I sent a text message on two hands and those were because someone texted me first.  Since then I’ve sent thousands, sometimes upwards of 200 per day.  Texting is the preferred method of communication in the Philippines, and other parts of Asia I’ve been to, mostly because it’s cheaper than voice calling.

Load na Dito!

Like I said, in the US most people have contract based plans.  Now, texting is catching on and people have the option to get unlimited texting packages added to their monthly bill.  In the Philippines, the majority of people don’t have contract plans; they use pre-paid instead.  If you’ve never heard of that, pre-paid is when you pay the carrier, either by purchasing a card with a set value, through an ATM, Internet banking, or even through distributors / resellers that can transfer value to your phone.  In the Philippines, this value is referred to as “load”.  That’s why when you look at photos of the Philippines you’ll often see signs that say “Load na Dito!”  It means “Load Available Here!”.  You can go to those stores and have value added to your prepaid SIM.  That’s another thing.  Phones in the Philippines are all based on GSM / SIM cards.  There’s no CDMA like Verizon and Sprint use in the US.  At least, not that I’m aware of.

Another way to have value added to your pre-paid SIM is by transfer from a friend or family member.  Well, it doesn’t have to be a friend or family member.  Anyone can transfer value to your SIM and it only carries a 1 PHP fee, to be paid by the sender.  This is where the scam comes in.

Now, I want to say that only an idiot would fall for these scams, but the fact that it’s an ongoing problem shows that people do in fact fall for them and fairly regularly.  The exact wording of the scams vary, but it usually goes along the lines of a ‘friend’ loses their phone and gets a new one, but needs you to send them ‘load’ until they can get their own and pay you back.  Sometimes they add a name to the text message, so that in the event the recipient does know someone by that name, they’ll be more likely to follow through and send a transfer.

I’ve probably received 20 or 30 messages like this in the past 4 months.  I deleted most of them, but here are some recent samples:

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

If you ever happen to visit the Philippines and you have a GSM phone, it’s easy to get a prepaid SIM to use while you’re in the country.  Just be aware that you’ll likely find yourself receiving messages like this and you shouldn’t fall for it.  Of course, it’s more obvious if you’re just a tourist because who else would you know here that would ask you for load?

The Lovely Lady Jeepney

Lovely Lady Jeepney

Another example of artwork on the side of the popular Philippines mode of transportation, the jeepney.  This one is called the Lovely Lady.  It’s also worth noting that the running board has the phrase “To God be the Glory” painted onto it.  The Philippines is the most Catholic country in the world, with around 60 million active practitioners last I read.  It’s very common to find religious references everywhere you go.

Ever Heard of the Maya-Maya?

A maya-maya fish on the chopping block at the wet market in Antipolo, Philippines.

It’s a big ugly bastard of a fish, with it’s big head being the biggest part.  If I laid my hand across it, from the bottom of the head to the top, my fingers wouldn’t get past the eye.  I was kind of shocked when I saw it laying there, not so much just because of its size, but because of how disproportionate it is.

Despite it’s odd appearance, it made a might fine soup.

The Fantasy Ladies Jeepney

Fantasy Ladies Jeepney
Fantasy Ladies Jeepney

Jeepneys are a popular form of transportation in the Philippines and most owners customize them to suit their tastes and to attract passengers.  This Jeepney has a Fantasy Ladies theme that reminds me of Japanese RPG video games.  Maybe the characters actually are from a video game?

Anime style decoration on a Philippines tricycle.
Anime style decoration on a Philippines tricycle.

I also saw this tricycle today and thought the art on the back was pretty neat.  We know someone whose nickname is Weng.  We’re going to send her a copy of this photo too.

Filipino tricycle driver.
Filipino tricycle driver.

The driver of the tricycle was really excited that I was taking a photo of his vehicle.  Well, maybe his friends were the ones that were more excited.  They insisted that he pose for a photo of him and the tricycle together.

I really enjoy how creative people get with the designs on the public transportation here.  Hopefully I can get a few more good photos of examples before I leave.

More Strange Pringles Flavors from the Philippines

Last month on the 1st I posted a photo of some odd Pringles flavors, including Seaweed and Grilled Shrimp, that I’d found here in the Philippines.  I think they’re totally weird and I’m not all that interested in trying them, but I suppose they’re patterned after local tastes, the way McDonald’s patterns it’s menu to match the country they’re in.

Project Pringles

In the comments to that post, I was given a link to another blog called Everything-Everywhere.  The blog writer, Gary Arndt, has a project going on that he calls “Project Pringles”.  His intent is to document all of the Pringles flavors from all over the world, including photos.  The commenter on my post recommended I get a better shot of the Grilled Shrimp Pringles since it wasn’t on his list yet, but it took me way too long to get back around to it.

Grilled Shrimp Pringles

I did finally remember to take my camera with me to the grocery store, but alas, it was too late.  Someone else had already submitted the grilled shrimp flavor, as well as the other two I found:

Soft-Shell Crab PringlesFruit & Nut: Lemon & Sesame Pringles

Left: Soft-shell Crab Pringles. Right: Fruit & Nut: Lemon & Sesame Pringles

If you have an interest in weird Pringles Flavors or you want to participate in that guy’s project, head over to his site by clicking here.

A Sad Anchor Baby Story in the Philippines

michael-ramirez-larger-anchor-babies-e1282393198480

If you’re not familiar with the anchor baby problem, there’s a part of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution that basically makes it so that any child born on US soil is granted US citizenship.  This was put in place to help ensure that the children of former African slaves would be guaranteed US citizenship.  Unfortunately, it is now being abused by illegal immigrants who enter the US and ‘drop’ an anchor baby, which can later grow up and bring in the rest of the family legally through regular visa application processes.  The problem is mostly with Mexicans, since it’s so easy for them to hop across the mostly unguarded southern border of the US.  There are other opportunities and places where foreigners attempt to use babies as an anchor to get into the US though, and I’m going to tell you a story about one such event.  This is a story that my wife related to me.  I won’t mention any names for the sake of privacy.

An American man was living a happy, regular life in the US with a well paying job, a wife and two kids.  Due to the economic downturn he was laid off.  Unable to find another job that would maintain the lifestyle he and his family were accustomed to, his wife threw him out of the house and divorced him.  Sucks right?  So much for “richer or poorer”.

I’m not too clear on the details of how he wound up in the Philippines, but he did, and he got married to a Filipina and had a child with her.  She seemed eager to be a good wife, but something just didn’t seem right about her, so he applied for a permanent residency visa in the Philippines and after receiving it told her he wanted to stay indefinitely.  He was testing her, and she failed in epic fashion.  In an honest relationship, it shouldn’t matter if he wanted to stay here or go back to the US.  She should have been satisfied with just being together.  That’s what it’s all about right?  Instead, she flew into a rage and threw him out into the streets.

Three years further on, this American man is still in the Philippines, working to save up money to allow him to move back to the US at some point and trying to find a way to get custody of his child.  He’s still technically married, but has filed for an annulment.  Since the wife threw him out of the house, she’s required to pay for it, but she’s stalling.  She doesn’t want to go through with it because she wants to use the anchor baby method to try getting into the US.

Luckily, the guy still has some protection from letting this woman carry through with her evil agenda.  By birth, the child is American, but only if the father signs off on the paperwork to process it.  He won’t do it until she processes the annulment.  She won’t process the annulment because it will stop her from using the baby to anchor herself in the US.  So, that’s where the problem is.  Neither one wants to budge and there’s really no reason why the father should.

Hopefully, at some point the guy will find a way to get the kid back from her and get back into the US with him, leaving the conniving bitch to rot in the Philippines.  I’m glad I don’t have this issue.

Opportunistic Freelance Filipino Parking Attendants

That’s the best way I could think of to describe this particular practice in the Philippines.

Parking Attendant in front of Antipolo McDonald's

The guy in red is trying to direct cars on how and where to park at the McDonald’s I was in when I took the photo.

Depending on where you go, there might be a parking lot available for your car.  Most places you just have to park along the street, but the franchise establishments usually have at least a few parking spots, like Max’s Chicken and McDonald’s, where the above photo was taken.

These restaurants don’t hire people to stand out in the parking lot and direct people about where to park.  This opportunity, however, has been coopted by people looking to make a buck doing whatever they can.  So, it’s not uncommon to see randomly dressed people standing in or near the road trying to direct people as to where they can park.  Then, they try to use hand gestures to tell you how to park and later, when you’re leaving, when it’s safe to back out into the road.

For this service, they expect a tip.  Is their service necessary?  Probably not except in the most bizarre of parking arrangements.  What they’ve done, however, is position themselves so that you feel like a complete jackass if you ignore them and drive off.

So, as an addition to the other costs of owning an automobile in the Philippines, you can expect to feel obligated to dish out a few pesos here and there to people who have become self-appointed parking attendants.

Blueberry Ice Cream Flavored Oreos

When I was out shopping I noticed these ice cream flavored Oreos.  I don’t know if they’re local to Asia or if they’re being sold in the US, but it looked interesting, and kind of weird, so I figured I’d give them a try.

Blueberry Ice Cream Oreo Packaging

When I opened the pack I could smell blueberry right away, but there was also a weird minty smell.

Blueberry Ice Cream Oreo

The inside is definitely a blueberry color.

The taste is something that I couldn’t quite appreciate.  The cookie part is fine.  It tastes like the usual Oreo, but the cream is … weird.  When I bit into it, it had a minty blueberry taste.  It didn’t taste much like ice cream to me.  Suddenly I realized that it tasted like menthol, from a menthol cigarette like a Newport or Marlboro Menthol.  Once I made that connection I had a mental image of eating cigarettes and I couldn’t stomach it anymore.  The rest of the pack went straight to the trash can.

Anyone know if these are being sold elsewhere?  Have you tried them?  What did you think?