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DaveB

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Everything posted by DaveB

  1. Just to close the loop...I was up in AC Friday and checked in with the BI there. While they still have a window marked "ECC", I was promptly informed to just go get it at the airport.. So...that appears to be the standard answer at least for the field offices.
  2. All I know is that the Angeles BI has a standard window that is labeled "ECC". So I assumed that means that's where I can get one. But I've never had to deal with the topic before, so I'm pretty ignorant on the specific ramifications of an "ECC-B". I'll be up there next week for a VA lab test at Medical City, so I'll go over there and see what they're up to. If you go from Subic to Bagac on 302, you go through an intersection with a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the Barangay access road. It's the Nagbalayong barangay. When you go in that entrance, you deadend at the church "Iglesia ni Cristo Loki Nagbalayang". Left at the church and straight past the elementray school and past the turn to the barangay office. On the left is a fairly non-descript looking typical jammed in house with an upstairs balcony. It may still have a sign that says "Leni's Market" on it. It's a tad decieving. Inside is one extremely well maintained two bedroom house with a very nice backyard garden. The "market" part is actually what used to be a garage and the owner is taking that all out. Then we'll convert that into a downstairs master bedroom sometime this summer. About a 10 minute walk to a public beach. A bit south of the main resorts, but close enough to go on over and lounge around with a day pass. Looks like someone is actually building a new resort right beside the publlc beach access road, so maybe some day I'll get a "season pass" there. Hopefully, we're close enough to beachcomb when we want to but far enough back to avoid the worst of storm surges.
  3. Actually...I'm, of late, in a position to validate your impressions of the Balanga BI office. I went there a couple weeks ago to confirm what I understood about having to go to Manila to work that ACR waiver letter. Got a real helpful guy, very pleasant gent, who said if I came back with the "magic receipt" (the one discussed earlier in this thread - with OR number that is the key to magic kingdom), he could look up the status of my ACR card. So I went back on Monday, and he did just that and he found it had already been printed and was marked for sending it to the Angeles BI office. No deep status like "where is it today", so no guarantee that it wasn't still waiting to be sent or whatever, but at least I had input that: a. The dang thing was processed and approved, so no hang ups or problems b. The dang thing might be there if I went up to Angeles later in the week (knowing from past experience I couldn't trust they'd actually call me if it was). That's why I took the chance and went yesterday, and was prepared to go again next week if necessary. I have some urgency because we're trying to fly to the US for a couple weeks on April 10. So...given the hassle of trying to contact the Angeles BI by phone, and believing "in person works best" - and knowing they never called me last time - I was at least at a point where the odds of getting it had increased. The Balanga BI is a small, personable office, about the size of a standard motel room, with three guys working it. I just moved down here last month and all my processing was centered around Angeles so that was the card I was dealt to have to try to work by remote contact. But if anyone is down the general Subic way, Balanga is a highly recommended alternative. They did tell me I'd need to buy the ECC at the airport. They don't do that. I will likely be up to Angeles at least once more before I leave (my wife's family lives in Mabalacat, up the road from AC). So I might go over to the Angeles BI and buy it there, just to have one less thing to fuss about in that Manila airport quagmire. I like Balanga in general. One hour to Angeles and that includes the Medical City Clark availability which has value to me since it's certified by both Tricare and the VA's FMP. Meanwhile, the town is pretty well complete with anything you might need, has a "less stress" laid back kind of feel to it, and is generally a pleasant place to live. Unfortunately, we're only here until May, and then we're buying a house in Morong - which accomplishes a big goal of ours: get by the ocean. In contrast, Morong is more like a small provinicial city, which likely means we'll need to develop a broader insight on what's available in the Subic/Olongapo area. But if someone is looking around for nice tradeoffs between "living in the Philippines" in general while still finding a well stocked city, I recommend taking a hard look at Balanga. Another example: my wife went through a 2 year fiasco getting her PSA birth certificate birth year corrected. In Angeles, that meant going over to San Fernando and standing in line with a mob for an hour to get in to work any questions. In Balanga, it meant going to the PSA office, sitting in a chair for five minutes, and getting done. It's a very Filipino place. I think I've seen two other ex-pats since I've been here, and I'm the only Caucasian in this subdivsion where I'm renting a house for now. I get an interesting reaction from the locals - they all want to talk to me and ask questions as I'm a bit of an oddity. Very pleasant people. Last I checked, the Bataan ferry had suspended operations per the COVID cut backs. I've been watching for it to resume. It would be a great way to get over to Manila for my bi-annual VA checkups. Beats that three hour drive it would take from here. Instead, drive to Orion, sit on a ferry for an hour or so, take a cab to the VA. Hope it starts up again.
  4. All good things come to he who waits...if he waits long enough. Got my ACR card today - so only took 4 months this time, but I am now "permanent" ( except the card expires in 5 years - oxymoron?). Saved me a trip all the way to Manila to work the ACR waiver letter tap dance. For both my probationary card and my now permanent card, they judiciously took down my phone number and promised to call when it came in. For both, I waited a "judicious" amount of time, and then walked up to the "receiving" window one day and asked if it was there. For both, on that day, it was. I generally like the Angeles City BI - helpful people and rarely crowded. But a quirk of that particular office is you can't call them or email them. The phone never connects (and they have two different phone numbers in two different places, including the field office list off the BI Main website - and neither works). I envy hearing of other field offices who actually talk on the phone. In my case I had to drive from Balanga, where I now live, one hour up to Angeles City, where all my applications were submitted so I could stand in front of someone and get service. But it's good service. That's just been my adopted strategy with any Philippine government agency. Stand in front of them, in person, and work the topic, in person - which pretty much reflects a basic premise of Philippine culture anyway. The tricky thing is always to get past that screener at the front desk. They are trained to deal with all the usual stuff and do it well. But if you have a quirk or a weird thing that's out of the ordinary, and actually need to sit down and talk options with an immigration officer, it takes a while to beat down the front desk's other mandate - which is to screen people from the officials. I see it in hotels, big businesses, government agencies, etc. Gotta have patience and keep coming back with why the "standard" answer isn't getting to your actual problem. On a recent fiasco sorting out my actual address, and having danced with the screener for a while, I finally looked at him and asked "There's a standard process for this, right?". He said "Yes". And I responded "Well...this is NOT a standard problem". It's like a light went on. Soon I was huddled with an agent named Bianca, who gave me 20 minutes of effort sorting out the mess, and we got to a great solution. Just had to get past the barrier to work it. Two things that seem threaded through the Phillipine culture - it's "cash and carry" and "personal contact" generates an actual desire to help ya.
  5. Appreciate all the feedback from my fellow ex-pats. To comment on some of the above info: - That receipt you get when you submit for your visas and ACR card is a magic ticket. All responses and actions lead back to the magic numbers on it. If I have to get the temporary letter acknowledging I have applied for my ACR card, that receipt is the proof I did so. When I go to the BI office and ask status on visa and ACR and whatever, that receipt is what the agent uses to look things up. So keep it safe. - Some interesting info in the replies about the duration to get an ACR card, some even saying it took days. I was surprised to hear it. Here's my "best guess" as to what's going on. I THINK when you go to the central Manila BI office, you find yourself in the midst of the central decision making center. But when you apply from a remote office, such as the one in Angeles City, you end up waiting for a notoriously ponderous Philippine communicaiton channel to work things back and forth with the main offices in Manila. For example, my visa was on the approved "agenda" on Dec 17. That means it was approved, and for Immigration purposes, I am legally considered to now have a visa, even if it hasn't been finally stamped in my passport. Then some time passes, and eventually the field office gets what they call a "Letter of Implementaiton" - presumably from the Manila office. For my example: my probationary 13A was on the approved agenda of December 2020, but I actually got the "implementation" and stamp in my passport in May of 2021. My conversion to permanent resident was on the agenda of Dec 17 2022, but the "implementation" occurred on March 1. That kind of thing seems to apply to ACR cards, too. My probationary ACR landed in July of 2021 - seven months after submission. And I've heard from others around the Angeles field office of it taking around 6 months - 4 months if you're lucky. One of my personal conclusions in watching the Philippine government "go", is they keep a lot of the official processing and formal approval actions centralized in Manila where it is very bottle necked, instead of pushing it out to the field offices. Imagine sitting in Manila and working through an entire nation's worth of ACR approvals from all the remote field offices. So...that's all one man's guess, but it "feels like" a logical explanation as to why it takes so blasted long for some of these things. You'd think, after decades of working ACR cards for hundreds of thousands of people over the years, they'd have sorted out better processes and started to get good at it, but I'm not seeing much improvement as I look through my little knothole. - Other impacts, as has been discussed in other postings on the forum: not all local field offices are created equal. There's a chance my visa was there a bit earlier, but they just didn't notify me. I got both versions - probationary and permanent - because I made a point of going to the field office periodically and asking if it was in. And one day it was. Don't know if it had been there a while before I went and asked (and showed the magic receipt). Other offices might actually call and act quickly. You gotta kindo of feel out how your particular office operates. I happen to like the Angeles City office bedause they are rarely crowded, quick in and out, and the agents are helpful - IF you know the right question to ask. The idea of going to the central Manila office gives me the willies - but I might have to eat it if I end up needing that letter of waiver for my ACR card. Can't get it at the Angeles City field office.
  6. So...thought I'd bounce some questions out to the fonts of all knowledge to supplement the misery of wandering around the BI website and Facebook pages. First...the good news: today I finally got my resident visa conversion from 13A probational to the conversion per marraige - i.e., the permanent resident visa. BUT...as usual, I'm waiting for my converted ACR card. My probationary one I originally got took seven months to receive. In conjunction with converting to my permanent visa, I have to get a new permanent ACR card - and am about 4 months into the wait for that to show up. So...here's my problem. For various personal reasons, I would like to visit relatives in the US during April. I'd be in the US for about 3 weeks. I understand I'm supposed to get an ECC before I exit the Philippines, though I've heard in this forum various opinions on how best to do that. I know I can get one in the local immigration office, but also heard I can just get one at the airport the day of departure. Would love to hear any feedback from recent fellow travelers regarding that topic as it looks these days. Now...the real puzzeler for me. Per a June 2021 posting in the BI Facebook site, there is a discussion that those who have paid for an ACR card, and are waiting for it, can still travel and re-enter the Philippines and "need only present receipts of the ACR I-Card waiver application fee and reentry permit (RP) or special return certificate (SRC)". That posting goes on to say that the "payment of the ACR I-Card waiver application fees and corresponding ECC Of RE/SRC fees are only allowed at the BI main office and authorized sub-port offices". Having shown that info to the Angeles City BI office, they said it can only be paid at the Manila central BI office. At this point: questions to anyone who might be a lot smarter than I (likely a large population). If the above is true, it certainly gives me the impression that I'm supposed to re-enter the Philippines by showing both my permanent visa and an ACR card. And lacking the final ACR card, I need to show "waiver application fees" were paid. If that is true, I need to go to Manila to get this done. Never been there. Would anyone have info as to whether this is the kind of thing that requires an appointment before going to the Manila BI...or can I just walk in? Lastly...having traveled the permanent visa trail of tears since August of 2019 (when I first embaked to try and set it up while in the States), this whole topic never reared its ugly head. Leaves me wondering if I just wasn't paying attention or if I'm looking at something old or I'm making a mountain out of molehill. Open to hearing any feedback regardless of the nature of my personal lack of insight. Meanwhile...I'll keep plowing the world of BI website and Facebook.
  7. Yeah, Heeb...the whole thing always makes me nervous. When you add the details of immigration documents and rules to the ever shifting pile of COVID stuff, you can only dig deep and hope you have it all covered. Meanwhile, Joey G, you just landed one of the big answers I was seeking: when does the "boarding for the US" clock start. What you describe with the two separate flights is exactly what happens if you fly stand by. Last night, we set that one aside. Too risky. Instead, we tapped my wife's large mileage pile and booked a flight with JAL that books from Manila to the US, with a plane change in Haneda. So I was hopeing that means we "boarded for the US" when we left Manila and from there it's just like any other flight booking. One thing that concerned me was, for some reason, I had thought the COVID test has to be the full PCR type...which causes turn around concerns to get the results. However, last night, for the first time, I found out that there are several tests that are accepted, incluing the rapid antigen type. I have some chasing around to do to find a test facility that can assure one day turn around, but classically the antigen test is cheaper and very quick to get response. Very good chance I can get that test in the morning and have the results later that day. I need to jump over to the CDC site and confirm what I think is true, and then nail down a test facility I can rely on. But if all that comes together, my "nervousness" meter drops significantly (it never gets to zero, though). Really appreciate the time you guys took to help me out.
  8. Three in my household had been tested at Medical City Clark in prep for a trip to Bataan a few months ago. Got two results back about 4:30 that afternoon, but the other one came back next morning. One thing I'm starting to call airlines about is my assumption that the "to the US" flight is the one that leaves from the connecting lay over. As I said, we are trying to fly stand by or using mileage, which were retirement benefits my wife has from here time working for an airline. If stand by, we fly to, for example, Narita or Soeul, then stand by again to fly from there to the US, usually with a few hour lay over. If my assumption is right, and it's the second flight that's considered "boarding for the US" we need to be there the afternoon or evening after the COVID test and be on the plane before midnight. BUT...if use a mileage plan, and we book a trip where we're ticketed through to the US, even if we change planes somewhere on the way, I'm wondering if we are considered "boarding for the US" out of Manila, and not out of the connecting city. Near as I can tell, we need to call some airlines and discuss it. If anyone has some insight let me know Of course, painful as it is, we can just pay full fare and fly direct. Just hoping not to have to. One benefit we were hoping to use when we retired was that ability to fly around cheap. Damn COVID has introduced some frustrating wrinkles this past year.
  9. Not sure if this is best discussed in this Forum or the one regarding visas and travel. Seems more COVID specific, so here goes. If you're considering travel TO the US...like for the holidays (like me): It's a tad misleading when the news reports that all travelers entering the US need a COVID test that is not more than 24 hours old. The actual travel guidance is: "Before boarding a flight to the United States, you are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel. The 1-day period is 1 day before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 1-day time frame instead of 24 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator. By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken. For example, if your flight is at 1pm on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday." So...that resolved at least one concern I had - how to get a 24 hour COVID test result for travel when it takes about 24 hours just to get the test result. Now, if you're flying direct, like from Manila to LA, this isn't as much of a problem. Get the COVID test, get the result the next morning, get on the plane before midnight, you're in compliance. The plot thickens a bit if you have a connecting flight. My wife is an airline retiree, so we fly standby on diverse partner airlines - and pay about $250 apiece one way. So good deal. But for those kinds of flights, they usually have a lay over somewhere like in Seoul or Narita or wherever. That means the part about "boarding a flight for the US" starts when you get on that SECOND flight. So for example, I get my COVID test result, the next day I leave Manila for Seoul. Then I have maybe a four or five layover in Seoul before boarding my flight for Seattle. The "one day" to board ends when I get on the US bound flight. I gotta be on that connection before midnight the day after the COVID test. So if you're considering a US flight, keep this kind of quirk in mind, if it applies. Meanwhile...on a related topic: the travel requirements ALSO require that you be "fully vaccinated". This is described as You are considered fully vaccinated: · 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine · 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series · 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial · 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of a Novavax (or Covovax) COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a phase 3 clinical trial · 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart* You will notice, in case you're wondering, there is still no discussion regarding boosters. If you watch US news, you may have noticed that there are discussions over whether the definition of "Fully Vaccinated" should only be applied if you have the booster shot. I think that's coming, some day, if only to get more incentive in place to promote the "get a booster" campaign. But if they did it now, they'd negate a very large percentage of potential travelers, as boosters are still relatively new to the scene. I'm hoping the definition stays as currently described, because while I have the booster, my wife doesn't. And since the VA stopped giving dependents COVID vaccinations, and the Philppines is way behind the curve on the whole issue, not sure where the hell she's going to get one in the next three or four weeks. The CDC guidance is at :https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel/index.html
  10. There's a few hundred miliion people being vaccinated with extremely small instances of adverse reaction. There's ivermectine which has a "hey, try this" following. So...on one hand, free vaccine with a track record...on the other hand someting else that "might be helpful". Seems to me with the effort to go get some ivermectine you could just go get vaccinated and not worry about it. Why bother with ivermectine? Just because you can...maybe?
  11. Some info from an old curmudgeon: when I was a kid in the 50s (yep...I'm OLD), I lined up in the cafeteria at school with every other kid in the school and got a MANDATORY smallpox vaccination, polio shot, and a measles and mumps shot. Wasn't any noise about rights or other whining - get it or leave school. That's it. Now, my parents were the generation that had just gone through WWII...during which there was a MANDATORY draft and there was MADATORY food and gas rationing. They took that in stride the same reason they took the vaccines in stride - a sense that they have a greater obligation to the country as a whole, and it trumps individual focus. As a reslult - no more smallpox, no more polio, and measels was rare until people started listening to a bizarre misinformation campaign about the vaccine causing autism...and lo and behold, up popped new measels out breaks. A nice study in cause and effect. I think COVID is around forever. The basic mask and social distance stuff is classic deterrent to infection going back over 100 years. See the masks in Spanish Flu phots? There's a reason doctors wear masks in surgery. Is it 100% effective? Nope...nothing human related ever is. But it behooves us to do it to try and minimize the impacts as much as possible. Even the best vaccines are 5% ineffective, so for some folks it ain't gonna work. But the rest can drive down the spread a lot and cut off the human petri dish the virus thrives in. If you refuse to get it for whatever reason - then Darwin was right and the gene pool will benefit ultimately. But it is the height of arrogance and selfishness to seque into the follow on thought that because you don't want to take measures, neither should anyone else, and it is your "right" to run around and potentially infect everyone else. As for lock downs...I don't think anyone believes they will eradicate the disease. I think governments are really focused on keeping the number of inevitble infections low enough that the medical infrastructure doesn't get completely overwhelmed. Kind of a nasty thought to show up at a hospital with a heart problem and get told all the beds are full with COVID patients. I'm really tired of Philippine sudden knee jerk reactions and ultimate lockdowns and travel restrictions - but I'm sympathetic. It just wouldn't take much to completely blow away the entire country's medical complex and since they can't afford a population's worth of vaccine, they are stressing the old fallbacks. I suspect some day they will get to the point where vaccinations are finally dispersed to enough people to remove that threat, even if there are still some people getting sick, and they'll then lift a lot of restrictions. But not being one of the "rich countries", they are ways off before they get there.
  12. I'd agree, but I'm kinda stuck with an extra urgency. My current lease expires in November. We want to find our final nest...which means first going to some places we're really interested in to see if we want to actually live there. Morong, from afar, seems to be a potential excellent match to what we're seeking, so we need to get there in the next month or so and decide if it is. If so, we need to then home in on the area and look to buy a house, or whatever. So we're pushing through the travel fiascos to see if we can make that happen. We have some "plan B" stuff lined up - like just lease for another year and build a house, and if we ultimately don't find a geographical area we like more than Angeles City, we'll just stay in Angeles City. Got a lot of "plan A" vs. "plan B and C" going on right now. So...travel restrictions are just another part of a larger tap dance.
  13. To close out this thread, I still haven't made it to Morong. We went in for the COVID tests and, as I think I mentioned in a different post thread, damned if my maid didn't come up positive. Totally asymptomatic, but they slapped her in a quarantine hotel for two weeks, and my wife and I had to home quarantine. (Still wondering if it was a false positive). By the time that was all over, Bataan closed down due to Delta variant tremors, and has been closed ever since. Hoping it opens up on Aug 1, but thus far they keep extending it for two weeks at a time - with the usual 24 hour notice that seems to plague Filipino decision making. So...still sitting tight. Mariveles got designated a COVID hot spot last week, so not sure how much that is going to ripple up and down the peninsula.
  14. My maid felt it as a vibration here in Angeles City - but I'm retired, I don't wake up that early for anything any more.
  15. I get their routine clinic news emails and have been tracking this topic for a while. Everything up to now had been, to paraphrase, "when we get all vets enrolled with the clinic, we will move on to all other vets, and when that is done, we'll move on to dependents and care givers". This always has had the observation that they think it will be several months before they can get to dependents. Last Thursday they sent out an email and, surprise, now open to dependents. It contained a form to fill out and advice to message it on EVets, or return email it or fax it. I sent it in via an email reply, and then started to log into eVets to send it that way, too, just to cover the bases. I didn't finish logging on to eVets and there was already a lady on the phone talking to my wife about setting up an Appointment on Sunday...took them like 3 minutes to respond to my email. So wife got her vaccination on Sunday. They are currently going 7 days a week. They recommend going there on Saturday and Sunday as the traffic is better, and their regular shift resources are more freed up. You can call as noted in this discussion string, or...if you don't mind waiting...you can do a walk in. It's running very efficiently and well-organized. People with appointments, which are in 15 minute blocks, are lined up every 15 minutes outside the security door and they file in. As it goes, if an appointment block isn't completely filled, they pull in some walk ins. All people with appointments are on a list and they check you off on the way in. All walk ins are given a number and just hang loose outside until those numbers are called. At the end of the day, it's all walk ins for the last appointment blocks. As a matter of comparison: my maid was in the tier one category for the barangay due to age, so my wife registered her for an appointment. She got one a couple weeks ago. It was a 4 hour fandango with medical screenings and paperwork and occasional jerks crashing the line. Big mob in on place with an ongoing overlay of confusion. Very Filipino, in other words. The VA hopes to do 300 a day on week ends, and less (I think 100) on week days. When I got my vaccination, early on as a registered patient (back in May), it was Phizer and I had to do 2 trips. When they ordered their second batch of vaccine, they opted for Johnson and Johnson so it was a one shot deal and no need to go all the way back to Manila for a second shot.
  16. I guess I'm now officially living in the Philippines...got my ACR card today. For those who like to keep score on such things, here's the time line: Dec 15 - submitted combined application for 13A and ACR card Jan 28 - on the approved Agenda posting for that date May 5 - got my Provisional (one year) 13A stamped into my passport July 6 - got my ACR card. In case you're wondering, none of this relates to impacts from submitting at a regional BI office (in Angeles City) vs. submitting at BI "central" in Intramuros. From simple personal reading, it seems like the regional offices are a LOT less crowded and easier to work with. But ultimately, every thing that everyone does ends up going to the central BI world for approval and processing. If you ever look at one of the approved agenda spreadsheets (available on the BI website), you see every two weeks there are hundreds of pages of applicants for every agenda, country-wide. That's a monstrous backlog going through one constrained bottle neck. So...gotta have faith. As noted in some other posts, it is almost impossible to track a specific request (i.e., yours) from submission to completion. If you haven't been rejected, then you are probably still in process...somewhere...hang in there.
  17. When I wrote that question yesterday, I was actually thinking of Jack. He gave me his card when I was there last November, but I've lost track of it. So I Googled it this morning and I see his contact info. Weird that the process is a snail mail show, and no online submission. I can file a claim for disability on line - wonder why the FMP requires hard copy. Anyway, I had planned to join the RAO if I ever resolve how (if) to live in Bataan, Real admirable guy (Jack) and real admirable organization. It's worth donating to even if you aren't a member. So I'll head down that happy path. I was hoping for something like a URL that I couldn't find...but after enough exposure to the VA, you kinda get used to everything taking 6 months.
  18. I"m a Vet with disabilities and already enrolled in both FMP and with the VA Clinic in Manila. I have a medical reimbursement claim I'd like to submit to FMP for service related injury medical care. I'm having a deuce of a time figuring out how to make the request. All I'm getting off the websites and the printed pubs is "mail your claim to the VA". Haven't seen anything like a claim form (like I see with Tricare, for example). If it's just a matter of pulling together a cover letter and the receipts, I can do that, but using the Philippine postal system for anything gives me the willies. Is there any guidance to be gained by calling the VA clinic in Manila? Just looking for some general advice on how to get this thing off the ground. Surprised (so far) I'm not seeing any online submission instructions.
  19. Trash, or the lack thereof, is a characteristic of various locales in the Philippines. I started picking up on it without really thinking about it. But I'd be some place, or see some new place on TV, and if there was no trash on the sidewalk, that fact would almost jump up right in my face. For example...Kolebo is a pretty trash free town...from what I can see so far, so is Balanga. Some barangays here in Angeles City are very tidy. It's all a matter of what the local culture goes with. In the Provinces I see more trash randomly piled up because, frankly, where else is it gonna go? But there's a difference between using the local trash pile and trash being every where, wherever someone drops something. In the cities, and noticeably in the rivers that flow through them, flat surfaces, wet and dry, look like breeding grounds for pestilence - but there's a lot of really nice, clean rivers out there in the hinterlands. I think it all harkens back to the day when the average Filipino didn't own much that wasn't bio-degradable It's one thing to throw out a plastic bottle. It's something else to through out a bamboo section that you were using for a cup. The culture still seems to be still in a bit of transition on the topic. By nature, Filipinos seem to be neat and tidy people, but they are also fanatically practical. Trash is something you get rid of, any way you can, and you get on about trying to figure out how to get through the day. Some "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" at work there.
  20. Come back when we are out of this silly quarantine. I offered to buy you lunch once upon a time - time to pay up. Check out Mt Arayat National Park. It doesn't look like they have actual places to stay, but it might be a cool side trip. Looks like a great swimming area with very nice grounds and gardens.
  21. Along those lines...I forgot one other schizophrenic event: I mentioned our two proposed house-sitter relatives had to home quarantine with us (and are still here)...and they had to get a COVID test. They got that COVID test yesterday, five days after all the hoopla. They got it by having to go to Mabalacat, where they live - on the other side of the Clark Freeport zone from my house. They got there by taking a taxi. Then they hung around a site with a bunch of other people getting tested. Then they took a cab back. Apparently if you are traveling and hanging around with good intentions, COVID doesn't attack you. That age window - 18 to 65 - reared its head on our Morong planning. Originally I was told that, being older than 65, the resort wouldn't check me in. When I told them I was vaccinated, and after some off-line discussions with their boss, they said I could come as long as I had the vax card. Like I said, I'm still a little leary as to just how much that marries up with the Bataan checkpoint expectations. Only one way to find out... Anyway...strange that you mentioned looking for a water resort up here. My wife and I this afternoon went on U-Tube and were looking for info on a couple of those. We had been looking forward to some beach resort time in Morong. We decided, since that fell through, maybe when we get out of quarantine and Lucy gets home we'll go hang out at a water park or something for the day. Let me know if you head up to one. Maybe we'll get a day pass and meet ya for a beer.
  22. A quick follow up on this observation from OnMyWay. We're all aware that Filipinos are dug-in, and absolutely, medical establishment adverse. It was another element of why Lucy was so frightened. My personal thoughts on the fear are based on my belief that the average Filipino simply hasn't the money to deal with professional medical care. So they fall back on cultural cures and prayer. When they have some ailment that is beyond those cares, they get pretty bad off, and ultimately bad enough to go to the medical community - and by then, it's often just too late. So, a sentiment still repeated by my wife (despite her 30 years in the US): hospitals are where you go to die. Anyway...if it's ever needed to help convince someone to get COVID care: the government picks up the cost all the way through...tests, quarantine, follow on doctor visits along the way (Lucy gets visited every other day and can get a doctor by just asking for one). We incurred the extra cost because I elected to have her stay in a hotel instead of a hospital ward. So...other than perhaps the initial ER visit cost to get diagnosed with COVID in the first place, the government has a process - which works despite its quirks - and anything they demand to be done, they are willing pay for.
  23. So...here's a tale from the trenches in the COVID struggles...and how it all spins off in one weird direction if you come up positive on a PCR test. I went through the long and often confusing experience of chasing down travel requirements to go Bataan, specifically Morong, and see if we want to go live there. Among the list of things needed to get through the Province checkpoint and enrolled in a resort: a PCR COVID test (nasal swab job) no more than 48 hours old. So I needed this for me, my wife, and my "maid" who was going with us ("Maid" is in quotes because, though she does all the usual maid/cook things, she's actually a cousin of my wife's and part of the family - more like a member of my household, so "maid" is kind of misleading). I elected to go to Medical City Clark for the tests. More expensive, but also done in a more professional manner that gave me more confidence. I've heard too many stories about weird episodes with some of the "fly by night" opportunists running test labs these days. I wanted to make sure I had a good, timely result so no hassles at the checkpoints. I should mention that I'm also already vaccinated (Phizer via the VA), and was "told" by the resort I didn't need the COVID test if I had the vax card - but as usual, it's dicey to believe one source's opinion when you don't know what the other is going to do. So I got the COVID test anyway, just in case there was a hassle with some uninformed or over zealous checkpoint guard. The night of the test, the results come back. My wife and I are negative, but my "maid" Lucy is positive. Very weird She's totally asymptomatic, and she and my wife do everything together including sitting in taxis and trikes and shopping and watching TV on the couch. I began to suspect a "false positive", but by then we're stuck with the results. I was pretty sure they were going to be reported to the COVID police and I expected those guys to show up the next day. I figured if there was any room for discussion, I could engage that when they got there. Well...they showed up 2 days later. Part one of the schizophrenic approach to COVID: very big deal someone is positive, very big concern over that someone spreading the disease, so let's get right on it - 48 hours from now. By the time they got here, Lucy could have killed half the subdivision, if she was a real threat. I already knew mandatory quarantine was coming. Turned out, they gave her a choice of staying 2 weeks in a hospital ward - and government pays the cost; or two weeks in a contracted quarantine hotel - and we pay P1000 per night for room and meals. I opted to go with the hotel. The poor lady is a classic 62 year old Filipina, had a hard scrabble life, raised a son by herself, and was scared to the point of tears. Had never been away from her family or stayed in a hotel before (we had to text her about how to call room service). No way was I sticking her on a hospital ward. Then, to top it off, they showed up with a van, with red lights flashing, and a driver in a full hazmat suit. Scared her all the more. And keep in mind - this is like 48 hours after the positive test. It was like "wait for it...wait for it...Ok...NOW - panic, emergency!!!" Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there was a weird discussion over what my wife and I are going to be required to do. I provided our negative COVID test results, and I provided my vaccine card. At that point a drawn out discussion ensued that involved a couple rounds of phone calls with medical professionals. First decision: no quarantine needed for either of us. Makes sense, that. Then...well...actually, you need to do a 14 day quarantine in your house. Now that one baffles the hell out of me. In addition, I had a couple other family members here the day before we were going to leave - they were going to stay in the house while we were gone and be "house sitters". The health crew determined that they, too, needed to do a 14 day house quarantine, but they were set up to get COVID tests - five days later. Again, a weird sense of urgency traded off against a Filipino sense of timing. Not sure what the hell is going to happen if one of them posts positive - though I think the odds are real, real slim that is going to happen. I'm still puzzled as to why, under the starting conditions, they didn't opt to retest Lucy to double check that positive test result. Final activity. Late in the day a couple guys show up to disinfect the house. They had a portable sprayer. They wandered about the house doing a token nozzle spray in every room - and I do mean "token". I was concerned they'd spray the place down like an exterminator going after termites. Instead, they'd wave the wand around a time or two, and perhaps actually put disinfectant on about 10% of any given surface. In the long run, that was a lot less disruptive and glad of it - but I do have to wonder: what was the point of all that? I'll finish by reinforcing my ongoing observation: thus far, vaccination seems to be such a novel thing that the bulk of the Philippine governmental machinations just don't quite know what to do with someone that's been inoculated. The resort I was talking to had to go off and discuss it. The Bataan Tourist bureau passed on making any ruling. The COVID police were completely baffled - like they'd never encountered such a thing (vaccinations are just getting off the ground here in Angeles City - just working through the top tier of elderly and first responders right now). I fully expect, perhaps by end of summer, they'll finally get some rules in place affecting both living in the Philippines with a vaccine, and entering the Philippines with a vaccine card of some kind. Until then, it's a matter of covering your ass best as you can and prepare for the inevitable confusion.
  24. VA Manila has been working down a set of categories, starting early in May. Their primary first focus has been for Vets who are enrolled with the VA Clinic in Manila for medical care...which is a round about way of saying vets with service related injuries, since that is their primary care audience. 1st layer, health workers, Vets over 75, vets with certain extra danger indicators like spinal care patients. This layer seems to have been completed early in May, as I'm in the second layer and ended up with an appointment early in May 2nd layer. Can't remember - might have been above age 65 - all I know is I got an appointment and I'm 72. I had previously signed up to be notified. They called me and arranged for the day to come in for the first shot (Phizer), and then scheduled me for the second on May 17. Meanwhile, as of yesterday, here is the advisory they sent out. (sorry the links don't work, but hoping you can load them into a browser.) COVID-19 VACCINATIONS UPDATES: VA Manila is reaching the end of our very successful first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations. By tomorrow, Saturday, May 29, 2021, the VA Manila Outpatient Clinic will have vaccinated approximately 20% of the enrolled Veteran population at the VA Manila Outpatient Clinic, all in just the last six weeks. This has been a tremendous undertaking and would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the VA Manila’s superb pharmacy, physician, nursing, and administrative staff. They have worked tirelessly to schedule vaccine appointments, administer vaccines, and ensure that every possible dose of vaccine that we had was able to be used. VA Manila is currently working with VA leadership in Washington, DC to coordinate the shipment and delivery of a second batch of COVID-19 vaccines. While we do not yet have a confirmed date for delivery, we are actively planning and intend to administer vaccines as quickly and safely as possible once the next shipment is received. For the second shipment, the VA Manila Outpatient Clinic is requesting the Janssen / Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine. This is a one-dose vaccine option is preferred by our Veteran population in the Philippines who need to travel to Manila to receive the vaccine. Being able to complete their COVID-19 vaccination with just one visit to the Clinic, rather than two, allows us to vaccinate twice as many people as compared to a vaccine option which requires a second dose (such as Pfizer-BioNTech). The Janssen / J&J vaccine has been granted Emergency Use Authorization by both the United States and Philippines Food and Drug Administration, respectively, and is considered highly safe and effective. Links to the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine fact sheet are provided below: Janssen COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet: FDA Janssen COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet (PDF) FDA Janssen COVID-19 vaccine fact sheets in more languages (including Tagalog) When the second vaccine delivery arrives, the Clinic will still focus our vaccination efforts on our enrolled Veteran population. Until VA Manila has been able to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to all enrolled Veterans who currently receive medical benefits at the Outpatient Clinic, we will not be able to expand vaccination efforts to non-enrolled Veterans or spouses and caregivers. The SAVE LIVES Act, HR 1276, which authorizes VA to provide vaccines to all Veterans, and spouses/caregivers, requires that VA prioritize enrolled Veterans ahead of all other groups in the absence of a readily available supply of vaccines. We have received a significant number of requests from non-enrolled Veterans, spouses, and caregivers who have expressed interest in receiving a vaccine from VA Manila. At this time, VA Manila is unable to provide an estimate of when the Clinic may be able to begin vaccinating these individuals, but it will likely be at least several more months. Non-enrolled Veterans, spouses, and caregivers may wish to consider receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from any available source that is offered to you, including your local barangay, municipality, or provincial government or health department. As more vaccine supply is received by the Philippines, this may be a faster option to ensure you receive a vaccine and are protected from COVID-19. The best vaccine you can receive is the one that can get into your arm. How to Let VA Manila Know You Want a Vaccine? VA Manila has put two new processes in place for Veterans to use to notify VA that they would like to receive a vaccine. These processes are different depending on your enrollment status with VA. Enrolled Veterans who have used VA Healthcare services in the past can register their intent to be vaccinated online by following the steps below in part A. Non-enrolled Veterans, Spouses, and Caregivers can register by sending an email as outlined below in part B. A. Enrolled Veterans in VA Healthcare Services: You can register and let VA know you would like to get a vaccine from VA Manila online at VA's COVID-19 Vaccination Website (https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/). Please use Zip Code 96517 when completing this form. This will direct your online submission to VA Manila, where we will use it to contact enrolled Veterans when it is your turn to receive your vaccine appointment. Please complete the form as you normally would otherwise, ensuring your email and telephone numbers are accurate. We will use these as the two primary ways VA Manila will reach you when it’s your turn to be vaccinated. B. Non-Enrolled Veterans, and Spouses / Caregivers: Once VA Manila has had an opportunity to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to all enrolled Veterans at VA Manila, if we have enough vaccine available, we intend to offer vaccines to all US Veterans in the Philippines. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 US Veterans live in the Philippines, so this is a large cohort of Veterans. It is unlikely that VA Manila will be able to start vaccinating individuals in these groups for several months, if not longer. But while you wait, please follow the process below and let VA know you would like to receive a vaccine. We can use this information to help us with planning and to know you’d like a vaccine. You can let VA Manila know that you’d like a COVID-19 Vaccine if you are a non-Enrolled Veteran, a Spouse or Caregiver of a Veteran, and would like a vaccine. To do this, please send an email to: ManilaCOVIDVaccine@va.gov. Please use the following subject line in your email: “Non-Enrolled Veteran / Spouse / Caregiver Vaccine Intent” In the body of your email, include the following information: Name, Date of Birth, Last 4 of Social Security Number (if a spouse/caregiver of a Veteran): Veteran’s Name, Date of Birth, Last 4 of Social Security Number (if applicable) Local Address (full street, barangay, city, province, postal code). Local Phone Number and Email Address Include a statement that you want to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, and are you willing to travel to VA Manila in Pasay City to receive the vaccine. When you send a message to this information, a member of the VA Manila staff will compile your information into a secured database and maintain the information on file. When VA Manila receives enough vaccines to offer a shot to all enrolled Veterans, we will begin to contact non-Veterans in priority order based on age. VA Manila will maintain this information and contact Veterans with additional information about when a COVID-19 vaccine may be available for them from the Outpatient Clinic. After non-enrolled Veterans, if any supplies are remaining, we can offer them to spouses and caregivers. You can also email ManilaCOVIDVaccine@va.gov if you have any questions or need additional information about VA Manila’s vaccination efforts. This email box will be reviewed by several individuals and our goal is to respond to all questions within 3 business days. Veterans who are active patients should use Secure Messenger within MyHealtheVet to communicate with their care team.
  25. Here's an example of what happens when the travel restrictions collide with the moving target. I'm over 65. I'm trying to go to Bataan next week, specifically to Morong, to do some looking around - considering moving there later this year, so want to check it out and see if it's worth pursuing a house hunt there. So...Bataan is historically very hard-assed about who gets through its COVID checkpoints. Morong, at the barangay level, is even more so. And then the resort is hard nosed about what they will accept in order to stay at their hotel - my sense being it is their resort-level interpretation of what the Barangay and the Province say is acceptable. Minimal, baseline requirements: COVID-19 PCR test, not more than 48 hours old; GetPass app enrollment and subsequent QR code; reservation voucher from a hotel/resort; between the ages of 12 and 65. Now...I came through immigration and customs in October, and again in January. Dealt with all the crazy COVID related visa stuff, testing, quarantine, etc., all of which was different and modified in January as compared to October (meaning I had to re-invent about 50% of it). So...I mention that to point out that if I really want to do something, I'll do what it takes and I'm kinda hard headed that way. Useless to whine or argue - figure out the rules, work them, do your thing, tolerate the major pain in the butt all the way - no other choices other than to bag it. It all comes down to whether the hassle is worth the pay back. So...applying that to this upcoming trip, all their requirements were just more of the same, though not as bad. Took a fair amount of work and asking questions to sort it all out, and it pisses me off to have pay for 3 more COVID tests (our mayor doma is going with us), but if that's what they want, that's what they get. Then comes one last little "gottcha" to sort out - that "between the ages of 12 and 65" restriction. I'm 72. BUT, I'm vaccinated. So...that took a couple more phone calls, including two to the resort, to finally get a ruling that, if I show my vaccination card, I'm OK. Now...that's what I get from the resort, and they assure me it's correct. Meanwhile, I'm not naive enough to be 100% sure that the same ruling will apply at the Barangay checkpoint. I have a distinct impression that vaccination impacts are only starting to be part of the equation, and wonder just where they cross the line between formal decisions on the topic, and making it up as they go. I'll find out next Wednesday. I've done all I can do, and next week I'll do the only thing I have left: I'll go and see what happens. I.e., my general Philippine approach that always seems to lead to the actual punchline. As I mentioned before: I don't think they officially know what to do with vaccinated people yet, because they've seen so few of them. No discussion in the "official" LGU requirements postings regarding vaccinated people.
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