Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Head of the Pigs

Here at almost any major celebration one will get to eat yummy pig (here called lechon). I like to take pictures of the head.

Lest you think I am lazy, these are three separate pigs from three separate parties.

Philippines and the F-Bomb

People do not swear too much here. Or at least not in public. This is tough for me. I used to be able to swear a lot and in the states (or perhaps just San Francisco where hella is still used frequently, much to the confusion and disdain of outsiders) it is not all that odd to drop some f-bombs in normal conversation. When I do it here, I feel like a freak. A dirty freak. A godless heathen freak (which everybody already thinks I am. I could write a book about the number of people trying to sell me god on a daily basis. This is why I read my copy of "God is Not Great" at home only. I was scared people in public would stone me).

I miss being able to say fuck in everyday conversation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bureau of Quarantine

Continuing my tour of Philippines governmental organizations I hit up the Bureau of Quarantine. I knew they wanted (amongst other tests) a blood test. I HATE having blood drawn with a passion. It is the worst medical procedure one can do to me. It is not the prick of the needle as much as the length of time the needle spends in my vein.

Knowing they would want blood, I optimistically brought copies of my blood chemistry from St. Luke's hoping they could use that and would not need a fresh sample. Unfortunately, it did not cover what they wanted. The requirement is a blood test for.....syphilis. Now I am not very hip on syphilis but I kind of thought this was not really around much any more and certainly not prolific enough to require a special test but apparently I am wrong. Luckily my veins did not behave so the doctor wound up pricking my finger instead and squeezing the blood out. Much much better. I love that doctor.

For a government office, the Bureau of Quarantine was really well organized. There was very little wait and everybody we encountered was very pleasant and knew what they were doing. Both of the physicians that were on staff were very nice and knowledgeable.

On a side note, randomly one of the restrictions for most extended visas here is epilepsy. Very bizarre to me because epilepsy is easily controlled with medication and not contagious. I cannot imagine why that is listed as one of the banned diseases unless it is a throwback to 50 years ago when people thought it was a sign of being possessed. I understand HIV/AIDS and even the syphilis (which can be passed on) but epilepsy?!?!? That is like banning diabetes or some other medical condition equally non contagious or dangerous to the general public.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lines, Fixers, and the NBI

Here there are very few (actually I do not think any) government institutions that we go to without a friend who works there or knows someone who does. Anytime we need a document from a governement authority, we find a friend or a friend of a friend that works there to expedite the process as well allowing us to skip all lines.

This remained true when we visited the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). The NBI seem like it is the same as the FBI, the exception being that any security clearance that is needed for an individual, including employment, requires a trip to the NBI. Apparently once you are on the blacklist of the NBI, there is little you can do to get off of it. For example, our architect team has a painter that they love and use on all of their homes but they can't get him clearance into our subdivision because he cannot get NBI clearance. Everyone told me once you get arrested (regardless for how minor the infraction), it is difficult to work anywhere.

We went to the NBI and were happily breezing through the process. Then we came to the fingerprinting portion. We got into line and were contentedly waiting for our turn until a lady cut in line and about six people decided to follow her. We (along with two ladies behind us), started to make a stink and were telling the lady to get back to her spot, etc. At this point, our friend comes up to me, asks me to follow him and takes me to the front of the line.

This was quite embarrassing. Here I am making a ruckus over someone cutting and then I proceed to cut the ENTIRE line! It is also worth noting that not only am I quite tall, but I was the only foreigner in the entire NBI that day. This means my cutting was VERY evident to the people I had only moments before been figuratively cussing out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Lice is everywhere. I think every school girl in the world had lice at one point in their lives. The Philippines is no exception to this rule. It happens. What is different here is the means of treating it. While I am sure 90% of the population do the lice shampoo/comb, I see a lot of kids in our neighborhood with permanent lice. No one seems bothered by it and the kids just have eggs in their hair. I sometimes see moms picking the lice from the hair.

Now, I thought this a little odd just because it was so different than what I was used to. When I was a kid, my mom would shampoo us and then comb out the lice. Sheets were changed and lice was gone. Same day.

Today on the news there was a story about lice. I missed most of it since it was in Tagalog but they showed a mom who was using a chalk insecticide (for the home) on her child's head! The news obviously went on to state that this was NOT a good method to use. I guess if those are the options then it is better to let the lice chill than to put poison on your kids head.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Real Christmas Trees

Ha! I found a place here that sells real Christmas trees from Oregon. The Philippines being a tropical country has a distinct lack of pine trees so everybody has plastic which I abhor. Although we are not getting a tree this year (due to the timing of the house turnover), I will definitely buy a real one next year.

All Saints Day

All Saints Day is a holiday I never celebrated in the states....in fact I had never heard of it. Here, All Saints Day is celebrated by going to the cemetery and spending the day with your deceased relatives. All the family is there with food and drinks (non-alcoholic...ours were hot chocolate and coke). Some people leave out food and drink for their dead relatives whereas we do not.

We spent the holiday at Manila North Cemetery which is a HUGE cemetary (over 50 hectares). Although I have no idea the actual number of people who go there on Nov 1, it has to be in the hundreds of thousands.

I remember the first year I went, I was picturing us all sitting around a grave stone. Nope. Here there are gigantic tombs. Above is the picture of the second floor of ours. The first floor (which I bizarrely did not take a photo of) has the tombs (as well as restroom and small kitchen) and the second floor is where everyone can gather.

On the days around All Saints Day, no cars are allowed in the cemetery and the road in front of the cemetery is closed. Luckily our tomb is not too far from the entrance (maybe a walk equivalent to five or six blocks) so it makes it an easy trek. There are so many people! You are walking like sardines squished against one another. Even with the masses, it was very well organized. A quick walk through the security and you are headed out with a divider set up in the road to keep the pedestrian traffic all headed the same way on each side.

After lunch we took a walk around the cemetery to visit a couple of friends and see some of the famous grave sites. There are some AWESOME tombs here. We stopped by a family friend's tomb and she had not only a generator for fans and lights (we had no generator this year because somebody stole all the wires from the tomb) but a waterfall and two armed security guards outside as well. In addition, she had someone spraying the flowers outside so they would not wilt too quickly. A pretty cool tomb.

It is a very interesting holiday and I enjoy it each year.