Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for more than three years. My adoptive/adopted Filipino family, the Javier-Aldonza-Guevarra-Academia clan, the kind staff at the hotel across the street where I used to live, and the Raguindin family, under whose roof I now live, have been friends and helpmates to me during this time; thanks to them for letting me describe here their trials, successes, heartaches, celebrations, passions, so that American readers can get an idea of Filipino life. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. I post every four to ten days, y'all. Tap the lower floors above for earlier posts, and, as ever, click the pics to embiggen them!

        You can reach Brad Smith at boan.song@gmail.com

Half brothers and half sisters get along fine now.


Getting Tired of Biding Time

Oy, it's been a while. Sorry about that. We haven't been placed in Enhanced Community Quarantine (lockdown) as a city, but new cases are rising here, and one street in my barangay of Bitas has been locked down: 20 cases among the residents there instigated the measure. Food is trucked in. In Manila, on the other hand, the number of new cases has decreased -- which may bode well for us to the north. Manila has grown stricter in enforcing the mask mandate; violators can now be arrested and detained by the polisya. Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar "said he will not allow arresting officers to parade the violators around or require them to do push-ups," the Manila Times reports.

My hard drive "got fried" a few days ago; my downloads were all lost. Bought a new box from my friend Michael, who sells computers and cars, and was happy to find out that my speed has improved.

Don-Don has told me that 10 cats are way too many, and that my place smelled (gee, and I've been using air freshener). As I write this Jheng and Mariel are cleaning the place from top to bottom. Jheng is all business, while Mariel swings about to the beat of the contemporary Filipino music I'm playing as she sweeps and sponges. On a notecard I've written what will go on a sign that Mariel and maybe Lara will prepare, offering free kittens (aged 9 months and 10 weeks) to good homes. With the loan of a cage by Don-Don, I'll put them on display for the residents of Bitas. Hopefully there will be a number of takers.

It's high summer here, about a month away from the rainy season, and afternoons are steamy and hot. Temps over the next two days are expected to reach 38 degrees C, which is a little over 100 F. Indoor weather, for sure; I feel for the construction workers, linemen, et al who have to work in this stuff.

Happily, the latest falling Chinese space debris did not squash an African village. Russia has not invaded Ukraine. And Joe Biden looks like he has a chance of making some very positive and lasting changes to benefit average Americans. Never thought he would be this progressive a POTUS.

The women have returned to the duplex after enjoying a bucket of chicken with me (yes, American reader, we have KFC here). No tutoring session today; I'll continue my march through episodes of "Star Trek the Next Generation," a series I had no time to watch during its seven-year run. I do like that Picard.






The Republican Party Has Fallen, and It Can't Get Up

I just thought that would make a nice heading; if you follow non-Fox news, I don't have any real insights into the post-Trump lunacy that pervades the (once) GOP. The absence of a platform in their last national convention points up the rudderlessness of a party that caved to a cult of personality. Trump will not likely ever again sit at the Resolute Desk, but Trumpism is flourishing, as are the "alternate facts," gaslighting, and bigotry of the executive branch of government over four long years.

It's a pretty good bet that this is the decade in which the Republican Party will either self-implode or claw their way to an imperial presidency better-entrenched than the last one. The former scenario is more likely than the latter, and I think the corporatist Democrats and the progressive Democrats could take either side of a very workable two-party system.

Johnny Depp as Donald Trump (Variety)

All's well here. High school junior Mariel made the honor roll again, Jheng still ferries longganisa up to Talavera, the children are busy at their modules, and the cats all seem to be doing well (each morning I tell them, "It's your mess. Pick it up. And they don't). As for me, I seem to have all my strength back after that weird bout of pneumonia.

Lockdowns in various parts of the country continue; they have not yet been imposed anywhere in central Luzon, but the surge in cases of Covid has not slowed down. In my province of Nueva Ecija, police bureaus have set up dozens of food pantries to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Cabanatuan City had 258 active cases of the virus on April 24  -- a record number, I think. The family and I are "taking all precautions."





A Surge in Cases

In this country, the first real surge in Covid-19 cases began about five weeks ago. Since that time, the number of daily cases reported has roughly doubled. Some areas south of Cabanatuan have been placed back on Enhanced Community Quarantine restrictions; the South African and Brazilian strains of the virus have been identified in and around Manila, and since these more communicable variants are likely to creep north, as the original virus did a year ago, it would not be surprising to see Cab City go under ECQ in the near future. Ah, quarantine passes, police checkpoints, and canned-food meals again!

The total death toll of the virus in the Philippines is 15,594 today, according to worldometer. The total death toll in the U.S. is 578,993. Deaths per million of the U.S. population stand at 1,741; the figure for the Philippines is 141. I hadn't punched up the worldometer numbers for quite a while; they are really driving home for me what a calamity this virus has been for my country. It seems right to me that the country that has suffered the most from this pandemic should have dibs on a lion's share of available vaccines and get them into arms ASAP. And once supply outstrips demand in the U.S., one senses the current administration in Washington will be generous in its efforts to get the world vaccinated.

Speaking of vaccinations, shots for the general population in the Philippines now won't be available, we are told, until sometime in July. When we do start the shots for everyone, the government expects to provide 300,000 doses per week. Talking with friends, I've learned there may be a considerable number of anti-vaxxers here; I hope the government will get the media behind it and educate the public about these vaccines . . . .



Pasay City, Metro Manila (Interaksyon)


Thanks Be

It's been a while. I'm okay now.



Was there for no more than two hours. Friendly doctor and nurses.

According to the doc, this x-ray suggests I have pneumonia, but not yet in a big way.

After ten days of discomfort -- headaches, coughing, tight chest, fever -- I decided it was time for the full monty checkup at Good Sam: ECG, chest x-ray, dengue and typhoid tests, a CBC. Negatory on the dengue and typhoid, thank you on high, but too many white blood cells nonetheless. Then the chest x-ray came back, indicating pneumonia.

I walked into Good Sam with walking pneumonia three and a half years ago, on my second full day in the Philippines -- Jheng accompanied me, as she did today. The long plane flight had worn me down, or I had caught something on the flight: at any rate, the doctor prescribed an antibiotic called cefuroxime in horse pill form, and I notice that is what today's doc has provided me with, in addition to another antibiotic, something else I have to dissolve in water, and vitamin B-complex pills.

My recovery three and a half years ago was relatively fast: if memory serves me, within three or four days I was feeling close to normal. Of course, I'm hoping that proves to be the case this time around, as well.


Ah Yuck

I've been slumming for nearly a week now, thanks to a one-two punch. Contracted what apparently was a ronovirus, which I guess weakened the body's immune system and put me in touch with another malady. This one offers headaches, a tight chest, and a low-grade fever. Ah the tropics!

I did have two errands to run today, and this morning I sat my surly self down next to Jheng, who kindly chauffered me to a veterinary clinic and to the post office. I carried in a cat-carrier the white male Ubo, who is in need of a castration. He's coming of age, as are his sisters, and the last thing I need are more litters! I knew he would get a blood test first to determine his eligibility for the operation; then we would schedule an appointment for the neutering. Well, a CBC showed that Ubo's platelets are too low. He eats well! Anemic? The vet wanted me to come back in two hours to pick up medicine that would boost Ubo's platelet count. Later, after getting home, I realized I really wasn't up to that. Sleep. Hopefully Jheng can pick up the medicine for me tomorrow.

Went to the post office to mail to the Massachusetts Department of Education an affidavit testifying to my status as a living person. Public school teacher retirees must do this every two years in order to receive their pension.  . . . And I do need that pension.

We're rapidly moving toward the Philippine summer here, which starts April 1 and continues until the rains arrive in mid-June. Afternoon temps are already well into the 90's F. Jheng wangled air conditioning for one room on her side to the duplex; you go, girl!


A Few Virus Snippets from Phlipside

**The "new case" line for Covid-19 in the Philippines has been climbing pretty steeply for the last 6 weeks, and the government is putting a halt to all international arrivals starting on March 20. Filipino overseas workers will also be denied entry.

**Vaccines for the general population will start at the end of April, according to the government. Vax for front-line workers have already started.

**A new variant of the Covid virus was discovered recently in the Central Visayas of the Philippines. Its virulence, transmissibility, and possible vaccine-resistance have not yet been assessed. Two cases with this variant have already been identified in the UK.

**In other virus news, the African swine flu, a bug which cannot be transmitted to humans, is decimating the hog industry in many parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. Yesterday, the Philippine Senate appealed to President Duterte to declare a state of national calamity over the issue, so that relief can be directed toward the nation's hog farmers. Seventy percent of this industry is comprised of small, backyard operations.


Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. 

I did get my new camera a couple weeks back, another little Sony.


It's Why the Ancient Egyptians Worshipped Them

The Four, from left to right: Ciao, Ubo, Bocci, and Cuba.

I was going to wait until the above kittens were weaned before getting Boudicca spayed. Had read that spaying could damage mammary glands and wanted none of that. Mammals don't get pregnant while lactating, anyway, was my thought, and so Boudicca was in the clear while the milk still flowed. When she started getting large again, I worried about tumors. A couple of days later, when I noticed her teats had turned dark, I tapped into Google "mammals/lactation/pregnancy." Turns out a very few of the large mammals can get pregnant while lactating. Giraffes, for one.  . . . And cats.

There was nothing to do about it but wait; about two weeks ago I started hearing the telltale mewing under the king-sized bed. Boudicca had grown very large indeed during her pregnancy, and I was expecting at least four or five little critters. When I came in the door after shopping one day last week, she had them all feeding on the bed, and there were seven of them. Seven. I cleared out the large bottom drawer of the wardrobe and found a couple of old shirts to lay down in it, then transferred the family to the drawer. Boudicca seems to like the arrangement.

Boudicca allows only Ciao to visit with the new litter in the drawer. Ubo, Cuba, and Bocci receive angry growls and ready claws if they try to butt in.

I didn't notice that one of the kits was badly losing in the sucking contest, and overnight a few days ago that kit died. Perhaps it died for some other reason, who knows? Sad day. The six remaining kittens will need homes; I'm already putting feelers out. And Boudicca will remain in the bedroom until she gets spayed.

In other news, Aaron and Mariel are feeling fine now. Both are busy with their schoolwork. Jheng drove up to Nueva Vizcaya a few days ago to ferry Sonny and Jasmine down to Cabanatuan for Sonny's forty-first birthday; it had been a more than a year since I'd last seen Jheng's uncle and aunt. As I type this, Jheng is on the road bringing them back.



Ninong Brad

Mariel and Aaron are comfortable; all symptoms of dengue have disappeared from both of them. Mariel is busy making up schoolwork, while Aaron is kept to a slow pace making up his modules, with the blessing of his teachers, during the two weeks of bedrest ordered by his doctor.

Twice the Health Office has thoroughly fogged the duplex and sprayed its surroundings. We hope the dengue-carrying mosquitoes, along with any hatchlings and eggs, have been eradicated.

The beautiful young lady above is Jazzlyn Denice Domingo, and she was baptized the day before yesterday. Traditionally in the culture here, those baptized into the Catholic Church are assigned three godparents (ninong/ninang) by their families: if it's a boy, two godfathers and one godmother, and if it's a girl, two godmothers and one godfather. But there is no limit to the number of godparents a child can have, and Jazzlyn's mom Des and her grandmom Lola Cita are not traditionalists: Jazzlyn has 14 godfathers and 14 godmothers. I'm one of the godfathers, and of course I attended her christening at Dambana Church in Barangay Magsaysay Norte.

Lola Cita and Des have been friends of mine for years now. An intersection in Barangay Bitas has Fred's Hotel on one corner, the function hall of Fred's on another corner, the Raguindin family home where I now live on a third corner, and Lola Cita's sari-sari store and eatery on the remaining corner. Lola Cita's given name is Rosita and before last year I called her Dona Cita (tilde on the "n"), but when she became a grandmother the honorific changed to "Lola" (after Mirah was born last year, I became a "lolo.")

I was to pick up Lola Cita and a neighborhood friend of hers at 9:30 am. Parked in front of the closed sari-sari at 9:30 sharp, wearing long dress pants and my best shirt, and waited. Waited twenty minutes. Had forgotten to take into acount we're on Filipino time here. Des, her husband Jrm (I'm spelling that right), and little Jazzlyn left in their own air-conditioned ride, and finally Lola Cita and her friend (one of the 14 ninangs) showed up.

The Dambana Church (more formally known as The Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church) is a large wooden pavilion-style church, very much appealing really. We sat two to a pew, as instructed, and after a while a prayer lady came out with a microphone. "Prayer ladies" are one aspect of the 72 Philippine diocese that set them apart from all the other Catholic diocese in the world. These very pious women are usually attached to churches, wear normal clothes, and are respected for their ascetic lifestyle and the quality of their prayers. This prayer lady leaned on a table next to a pew in the front row and spoke at times lightly, at times fervently in Tagalog for the better part of an hour. Then there was a break during which we all waited for the priest to arrive.

My pewmate, a young man who was a friend of Jrm, introduced himself to me as John, and then asked me if I were Catholic. I said no, and he said he too was not a Catholic: he had converted to the Baptist belief at the age of fifteen. I asked him a question or two about that but didn't want to have the appearance of prying. It seems his conversion did not raise a major ruckus in his family. I spoke of my own Episcopalian childhood, and he had some questions about Episcopalianism. The Episcopalian Church is quite small in the Philippines, whereas the Baptists here have made the greatest inroads among the Protestant faiths and number about 600,000. Catholics make up 83% of the church-going public, far outnumbering Protestants, Moslems, and Buddhists combined. 

After about 45 minutes the priest arrived, and with his fine stentorian voice he delivered the ritual of baptism in Tagalog. Little Jazzlyn, sleeping now after a warm bottle, got dowsed, woke up, and grimaced at the world. Then it was time for photos.





It Could Have Been Much Worse

Aaron had "severe" dengue; that is, he had been bitten by two different species of dengue-carrying mosquito. The mosquito genus responsible for dengue has four species, I've read, and if a person is infected twice with different virus serotypes -- that is, virus from two of these mosquito species -- the result is a dengue with a special wallop, known simply as severe dengue. Mariel did not have severe dengue, but she was in much pain (as most are with either form of dengue); Aaron appeared to have the symptoms of a flu bug, did not seem to be in much pain. I certainly have more respect for a mother's intuition now than I had last week: Jheng sensed there was something other than flu affecting Aaron, acted on that sense, and may well have saved her son's life.

The severe dengue caused Aaron to go into shock, which may be the reason he did not seem to be in much pain.  If Jheng had been later in getting him checked, this "compensated shock" could easily have cascaded into "decompensated shock," a condition that is very difficult to treat and that fairly often, if I've read this medical verbiage correctly, results in death.

Aaron was released yesterday. Due to Covid, only Jheng and her mother had been allowed in the hospital during Aaron and Mariel's stays there. I saw him today, and we had a good hug. Saw Mariel too; she is weak but pain-free. Aaron is consigned to bedrest for two weeks, after which he will see his doctor for a checkup. Little man. And the duplex and its surroundings have been "fogged" twice now by the Health Office.