Last year, we went to the 50th annual Celebrate Israel parade and it was only later that we found out that the Philippines Independence Day parade had been held at the same time, a few blocks away. We told ourselves that this year we would try to make it to both, which wouldn’t be as hard since they were held on different days this time. We almost did! Unfortunately, when we were getting ready for bed on Saturday night, “Man on Fire” with Denzel Washington started playing on the TV, and before we knew it, we were still up at 3 AM, drinking Stella Artois and eating Salt & Vinegar Kettle chips. So, we didn’t make it out of the house early enough to get downtown and see the parade. Maybe next year? There was a cultural festival after the parade, though, near Madison Square Park, so we checked that out.
The tents for the food stalls, advertisers, recruiters, and organizers were set up on Madison Avenue, next to the park. It was very, very tight. About half of the road was sectioned off by barricades, which I assume was meant for emergency vehicles, though I question the logic there. The restricted walking space was so packed with people that I’m surprised it didn’t cause an emergency of some sort. I was surprised by the number of people attending the fair in general. There were tour buses that looked to have been chartered by groups of Filpinos from nearby towns or cities. The lines were long for everything, including the port-a-potties on the northeast corner. There was a constant flow of people walking between the stalls and the park.
We showed up hungry and the smell of grilling barbecue was everywhere. I was more than a little annoyed, having to fight through that crowd and then stand in a huddle in front of the food vendors, trying to catch someone’s attention to place an order, only to find out there was apparently only one stick of chicken barbecue left at the fair. I guess it’s popular! Anyhow, I bought that, some pancit (a vegetable stir fry type of dry noodle dish) and a few pieces of turon (banana wrapped in a pastry dough and fried in brown sugar, I think). We managed to find a bench in the shade to sit on in the park and once we were full, we were able to relax and take in the sights.
Madison Square Park looks great! There’s some sort of art installation with hanging glass set up throughout the park that reflected the light and people. It isn’t really clear in the pictures I took. I think it was a little overcast at the time. The breeze was cool and it wasn’t too hot or humid. It’s been a really cool start to summer this year. Not that I’m complaining. I’m sure it’ll be too hot soon enough. There were plenty of people. Kids were playing, families were hanging out, the muffled sound of performers at the Filipino cultural fair was booming over loudspeakers on the street behind us. It was great. I kind of wish I had a book with me, so I could lean back and sit there for a few hours. But, then again, the park didn’t have a public bathroom (5 dirty port-a-potties don’t count) or my coffee pot. So, after wandering around for a while and doing some people watching, we headed home to relax.
The name of the place is a little odd, but it makes sense. This little store on Avenue A between 13th and 14th street carries Filipino goods, most of which I assume are shipped in by air. It’s not a very large store, but it has a lot of the food products that I came to enjoy while living in the Philippines, and earlier by buying them at import stores in Singapore.
Since I’ve been back in New York City, I haven’t had the opportunity to really look around for a place to get Filipino foods, so I was happy, and surprised, to see that there is a shop just a few blocks from where I live, located in a spot I pass by almost every day. I never saw it before because it’s halfway up the block, and I pass Avenue A on 14th street.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my favorite flavor of Lucky Me noodles, Chilimansi, and they didn’t have the Calamansi flavored Century Tuna. The owner was pretty friendly though. He told me the Lucky Me Chilimansi is usually stocked but he’d run out, and that he’d never carried the Calamansi Century Tuna, but he’d check with his distributor to see if he could get some in. They also had Sky Flakes, Ligo sardines, Milo, sinigang mix, the nasty shrimp paste my wife enjoys, and many other goodies.
I didn’t stock up, but I did pick up some turon on the way out the door. It’s tastier than it looks. It’s a sweet dessert with a crusty outside and banana inside. The shop owner warned me that it wasn’t exactly the same as the kind you get from the Philippines though, since it’s made fresh and the type of banana used isn’t quite the same.
I’m glad to see that Filipino foods will be readily available when I’m ready to do some cooking, or when my wife is. I think it’ll help her to adjust, having some foods from home available.
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.
This is a photo I forgot to add onto the end of yesterday’s post. I found these in The Fresh Market. If you look at the Sprite bottles and the Coke Light bottle, you’ll notice there are white rings around them in the middle and at the bottom. The reason they have those rings is because the bottles have been reused.
I don’t know how they do it exactly in Mexico, but bottles in the Philippines look exactly the same way if you buy them from the many ‘sari-sari’ stores, which are mini-convenience stores. The factory ships out bottles of drinks and the shop owner either makes you stand at the store and finish it, or pours the drink into a plastic bag, sticks a straw in it, and hands it to you. This is because the bottles have a deposit on them that they can’t get back until they ship them back to the factory when the truck next arrives.
So, the empty bottles go back to the plant, run through the machines, are refilled and sent back out. Being run through the factory over and over is what gives them the distinctive white rings. So, if you’re ever in a 3rd world country and you see that on the bottles, keep that in mind. It’s not unsafe to consume, or at least I never got sick from it, but I did one time find a candy wrapper inside the bottle, luckily before I had taken a drink from it.
As for why they’re selling them here in the US at an upscale grocery chain, I have no clue. I can only guess that it appeals to some people’s sense of living more simply, though the fact they’re getting imported bottles of cheap soda from a poor country at a high price in a high end grocery store is a bit … ridiculous.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
For any of you that have been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I have cats and that they’re very much a part of the family. We had cats the entire time we lived in Singapore and while some of them passed away due to illness or accident, we love them and didn’t want to leave them behind when we moved to the Philippines. Getting our 3 ‘babies’ here from Singapore was a real pain in he ass, and a costly one too, but it’s been rewarding and it’s great to see that they’ve adjusted well to their new environment.
Things didn’t go quite as planned. We’re staying at my in-law’s place temporarily and there are other cats here. They haven’t had shots, they’re aggressive and they’re dirty. We don’t want our relatively pampered cats to mix with them because we don’t want them getting sick or injured. The area of the house we’re staying in is sort of a mini-suite. It has its own bathroom and mini-kitchen along with a bedroom, so it’s spacious enough I suppose. We’re keeping our cats isolated from the others in our area. They don’t seem to mind too much, though I think they wish they had more room to play. Eventually, we’ll be moving to a place in Manila where they’ll be able to roam the whole house, once we get window screens installed.
Thumper, the black cat, seems the least concerned with her change of location. Even though she’s got sort of a weird, gimpy way of walking due to a birth defect she always seems to be the most confident, even after moving to another country. She also seems to be the least concerned with the other cats in the house. Marble, the one in the middle, is busy being fat. When we first adopted her she was pretty skinny but now she spends most of her time laying around doing nothing and when it’s feeding time she tries to push the other cats out of the way to eat their food before eating hers. That’s a problem because she’s gaining weight rapidly and the other two cats are going hungry. I’m thinking about putting her in a cat carrier during feeding time to make sure everyone gets their fair share. Dapper is still the big sissy she always was, but as long as she has a blanket to hide under at night she’s ok.
One of the weirdest things these cats do now is that they like to chase and eat bugs. In Singapore, even though there were no window screens, we rarely found a bug or flying insect indoors. There was one incident with a gecko in the room, but that’s about it. Here, there are always moths and beetles flying around and all three cats find them incredibly fascinating. They chase them around and when they manage to catch one, they gobble it up like it’s candy. Kinda gross, but it doesn’t seem to be making them sick, so I’ll let them do what they want.
They also compete for the platform at the top of their scratch post / gym, because it gives a view out the window. Things outside are a lot more lively here than in Singapore and they want to be able to watch. They can sometimes see and hear chickens, other cats, dogs, children playing and people hanging out in the street.
I’m glad to see how well they’ve adjusted and that they’re having a good time. I hope they’ll be just as quick to adapt the next time we make an international move. Hm. That reminds me, it’s almost time for them to get more shots!
For more information on importing cats to the Philippines from Singapore, click here.
Once known as the “Teen Queen” and referred to as the “Queen of Japanese Pop Music”, Amuro Namie is a singer, entertainer and former actress. She started out young, debuting as an idol in a group called the Super Monkey’s (that’s a fun name!) at the age of 14. She’s one of the longest surviving popular female acts in Japan and is the only female artist to have had a Top 10 single each year for 14 years straight. Not bad!
I’m just getting into the whole J-pop thing. My experiences with Japanese culture have been restricted mostly to anime, manga, some history courses and video games, so I wasn’t familiar with her work. I did recognize her name though.
I first found out about this ad campaign here in the Philippines when I saw a poster (pictured below) hanging up while waiting for a ride back to my neighborhood.
And here’s the corresponding TV commercial, though it looks this one ran in Japan rather than here in the Philippines:
Not bad for a 33 year old woman with a 13 year old son, huh? Almost makes me want to drink Coke Zero, but I can’t stand the stuff. I prefer the regular version, which I like to call Fatboy Supreme, because it’ll put some weight on you pretty quick if you’re not careful.
I can’t say I’m too crazy about the song, but if you’re interested, here’s the full HD video of “Wild”, which is what the Coke Zero advertising campaign is based on.
The last time I was in the wet market in Antipolo I didn’t take a lot of photos because I was worried about offending the stall owners. Well, that and thieves. The place was really crowded at the time. On our last trip I realized I had my camera with me and the place was relatively quiet, so I started snapping photos. The reactions were different from what I expected. A lot of the girls behind the counters smiled and laughed. Then the guys started laughing at them for getting so excited over a picture being taken. It was fun!
We don’t normally get our rice inside the market. We go to a stall just outside it. I haven’t checked to see if the prices are any different, but my wife’s family all buy rice from the same guy, so it just seems natural to go there as well. Besides, the stall owner is always smiling and seems really pleasant.
I can’t remember if I posted the photo or not, so I’ll post it again here!
Pig feet anyone? No? How about those intestines? Nothing goes to waste in the Philippines and every part of the animal gets put on sale. Someone must be buying it…
A Filipino type of sausage called longganisa. We bought the redder looking kind on the left and had it for breakfast. It was a little sweet for my tastes but it was good anyway.
Fish, crab, shrimp… You can get almost every imaginable seafood here. I think I even saw some sturgeon for sale. I noticed that there were a lot of very large bangus (milk fish) for sale. Some of them were as long as my arm. My wife said that after typhoons the milkfish swim closer to the shore so it’s easier for fishermen to catch them. The prices were low too at 40 PHP (about 0.95 USD) per kilogram.
A row of stalls selling vegetables and random cooking items like oil, spices and sauces.
Going to the wet market is always interesting because there’s so much activity and so many people wandering around.
When we moved to the Philippines, one of our cat carriers was damaged during the flight. After quite a bit of e-mailing back and forth I convinced Philippine Airlines to cover the cost of the carrier. The catch was that I had to go all the way to the PNB Financial Center which is near the Mall of Asia in Manila. It takes about two and a half to three hours to get there from where I’m staying in Antipolo. It might be a quicker trip if I had a personal vehicle, but I was and still am relying on public transportation, for now.
The building was a lot more impressive than I thought it would be. I expected to walk into a standard office building with a lobby and some elevators and then go up to some musty offices. The building had musty offices alright, but the architecture was really amazing. The eery part is that the place was mostly deserted. It’s not surprising, considering how it’s in such an out of the way place, but at one point it must have been a bustling center of activity. Maybe before the advent of ATMs?
There is a huge room with a semi-circle of counters that at one time must have served as teller stations for people making over-the-counter transactions at the bank. The mezzanine has rows of offices, which is where the PAL cashiers are.
The balcony and courtyard areas of the building were closed off, but I could look through the windows and see statues and benches. It would have been nice if I’d been able to look around out there.
On the way out of the building, I noticed the relief carvings mounted on the walls of the lobby. They each had a different scene. If I remember right they depicted different periods of Philippines history. I should have taken photos of the other ones, but I was worried the guard would stop me and then make me delete the photos I’d already taken. I have no idea if photos are allowed in there.
The building has the quiet, empty feeling of a tomb, but has potential. I think it’d make a great building for a museum, art gallery, or exhibition hall for small events.
My wife mentioned that at one point that area had all been part of a bay and had been modified for use through land reclamation. It’s no wonder Manila floods. Part of it is below sea level and the other part is barely above it, as reclaimed land. Land reclamation is still an impressive thing, though.