Filipino Food in Lower East Manhattan–Johnny Air Mart

Johnny Air Mart on Avenue A, between 13th and 14th Street.

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.

Some of the goods on the shelf at Johnny Air Mart.

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.

Turon, purchased from Johnny Air Mart.

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.

I Guess It Couldn’t All Make It Through Shipping OK

One of the running jokes about having things shipped by the military is that you’re bound to have something get broken.  When I was a kid, we did a military move from Hahn AFB in Germany back to the US and the movers managed to lose a whole section of a German wall shrunk, as well as damage some other stuff.

German-Shrunk

This is an example of a German wall shrunk.  How do you lose even a section of something so big?

I thought I’d left that behind along with my service to the Army, but I guess mistreatment of shipped goods is a universal problem.  My HP F2120 All-In-One didn’t quite survive the trip.  The glass on the scanner bed was shattered in one corner.  It’s a shame too, because I was hoping to get started on scanning stuff and now I have to see about getting reimbursed.  I have no idea how to start the process.  I guess we’ll take the receipt and pictures of the broken device to an LBC office to find out what the procedure is.

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This is what’s left of my HP F2120 All-in-One. Thanks a lot guys!

The real issue is that there’s a huge price difference in these types of things between Singapore and the Philippines.  Even if we get a full reimbursement on the scanner, it wouldn’t cover the cost of the exact same scanner in Manila.  There’s a mark-up.  Singapore is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy electronics, so unless we get a one-for-one exchange where they give us money to cover the purchase cost of a new unit, we’re just SOL.

Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Speaking of that, I’m still engaged in an e-mail battle with Philippine Airlines to get a reimbursement on the pet carrier that they damaged during the fiasco where one of my cats wound up running around on Changi’s tarmac and in the belly of the plane before take-off.

Tomorrow (or later today) I’m heading to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila.  I have to get my Visa taken care of before I wind up being here illegally.  Hopefully that all goes smoothly!

LBC and the Cat Welcoming Committee

Slowly but surely we’re making minor improvements to our living arrangements.  It’s something of an uphill battle and I’ve been trying to clean and organize as I go, with short dedicated periods of cleaning up every day.  Parts of the house seem to have not been used in months or years.  That was the case with the room we cleaned up during our first visit.

I haven’t gotten back to organizing the bookshelves on the second floor.  There are still books all over the place as well as files and random bits of paper that will probably wind up as tinder for the fire I plan on making to burn quite a bit of this junk.  I really want to get back to that, but other things keep popping up.

LBC Shipping Box

The day after we got here, the first box we shipped from Singapore arrived.

Cat Welcoming Committee 1

Cat Welcoming Committee 2 

After the welcoming committee finished using the outside of the box as a scratching board, we started to unpack it and bring everything upstairs.

Cats on the Gym

It was a pretty happy occasion for all of us, since there were things in it we could put to immediate use, like the cats’ gym, some cables I was looking for, clothes, and the tool that you have to use to remove a SIM card from an iPhone.

We’ve been doing a lot of shopping as well.  Living here is temporary, but it’s just not going to work if there’s no furniture, which there wasn’t.  Luckily, furniture is cheap in the Philippines, if you know where to go and shop around for good deals.  The problem we’re facing now is overcrowding, and we haven’t even received the 2nd and 3rd boxes we sent from Singapore yet, so we’ve been buying plastic boxes to organize everything.  We’ll put them on top of the dresser and under the bed.  That should help us utilize the space effectively.  When we move to Manila, pretty much all of this stuff will go with us and we’ll have more room for it.  For now we’re staying in my wife’s old room, so it’s understandable that there’s not much space.

Computer Desk

One lucky break is that I keep finding scrap metal everywhere.  I’m going to make quite a hefty sum when I sell all of it, which I can then reinvest into further renovations around the house.  I swear there are half a dozen unfinished projects in here and for every unfinished one I see, there are that many more that I’d like to start on.  I’m not willing to make that large of an investment here, but we’ll do what we can while we’re here.

Cat Export – Complete! But… Minor Disaster At The Airport!

Cats in Changi Airport

So, the great saga of exporting cats from Singapore is now complete, but it ended in near disaster.

Everything was going great.  We got up on time.  We got to the airport on time.  The Philippine Airlines attendants saw us in the line and pulled us into the business class line to have the cats taken care of.  We wound up paying 330 SGD for the cats to get on the plane.  The rate was about 20.50 SGD per kilogram.

Then, they were tagged and wheeled away in their carriers.  We were assured that they would be taken good care of.  I’m not sure where things went wrong, but I think it must have been with the ground crew that loads the planes.

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We were already on board and seated when we looked out the window and saw one of those baggage trucks with the cat carriers pulled up alongside the plane.  I even took a photo, thinking it was neat that we had such good seats for watching them get put on the plane.

That’s when disaster struck.  We saw a guy holding up a broken carrier.  The carrier was broken in the middle.  I don’t know how they managed to do it, other than to think that maybe they put something too heavy on top of the carrier and it caused it to fall apart.  Why would they be putting something heavy on top of a cat carrier that has a live animal in it in the first place?

A guy bolted out of view, presumably chasing Marble.

I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  I put all that effort into securing my pet’s passage to the Philippines and she almost ran off into the airport somewhere, to meet who knows what kind of fate.  I ran back out of the plane and into the boarding area to ask the women there just what was going on.  I told them what the situation was, and that I saw the empty carrier and pressured them to get everything taken care of.

My wife called me on my mobile from her seat in the plane and said that she saw them bringing the carrier back with Marble inside of it.  The attendant then talked to someone on her walkie-talkie and confirmed what my wife had said.  So, relieved, I went back down the boarding ramp and back to my seat.

That wasn’t the end of the drama though.

There was some banging around under the plane and I started to wonder just what the hell they were doing to my cats.  Then, about 5 minutes later they began to unload all of the cargo from the plane.  They had broken the carrier again and Marble was running amok under the plane.

I offered to go under the plane myself and secure the carrier because I figured I’d have an easier time of it than they would, but they said that for security reasons they couldn’t let me do that.  So, we sat there.  Eventually the pilot made an announcement about why we were still sitting there 30 minutes after the plane was supposed to have taken off, and everyone got a good laugh out of it, but I didn’t think it was all that amusing.  I was worried about my cat.

At about 11:30 AM, 45 minutes after the plane was supposed to take off, they finally had Marble secured in her carrier, the cargo reloaded and they were closing the plane doors.

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I spent the entire flight worrying about how my cats were.  After a fiasco like that, I didn’t have much confidence in the airline’s ability to handle my pets properly.

Thankfully, things went incredibly smoothly in Manila.  We rushed off the plane to the baggage area, but our cats still beat us to the baggage claim area.  It seems like NAIA knows what ‘Priority’ tags mean.  It means take care with these animals, and move them along quickly, rather than put heavy stuff on the carrier and crack it open.

By the way, this is what the carrier looked like after the ‘fix’ at Changi Airport:

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Anyway, the paperwork was done in a matter of minutes.  We didn’t even have to take the cats anywhere.  The workers came to us and helped us get through the paperwork while I was pulling our luggage off the carousel.  That’s some good service!

The cats were a little terrified, but when we got into the taxi the quiet and the air conditioning put them right to sleep, all the way to Antipolo.

Stay tuned for more updates on how the cats are adjusting to their new home!