Lots of Cats, and Some Dogs Too!

BradleyCats & Dogs, Life in the PhilippinesLeave a Comment

My wife really really loves cats. She loves all sorts of pets, but she has a particular weakness for cats.  From what I can tell, she always had cats of her own when she lived in the Philippines and now we have cats in Singapore.

I know where my wife got her love of cats from now: her dad. On my last few trips to the Philippines we didn’t have the time to go to Pampanga to visit her parents at their apartment. We only saw her family’s house in Antipolo, in Rizal province. That’s not to say they don’t have pets there, because they do. There are quite a few cats running around and there are even two dogs as well. That’s different though, because the cats all belong to different members of her family. It doesn’t seem unusual for a person to have one or two cats.

On the other hand, the only person that really lives out of the apartment in Porac, Pampanga is my father-in-law. My mother-in-law is there sometimes, but she usually lives out of her free apartment next to the school where she teaches. So, all of the animals there can be attributed to him. Walking through the yard and the apartments there is like walking through an animal shelter.

The first animals you’ll notice are the three dogs in the yard. One of them is named Happy (the brownish one) and one of the others is named Mayumi (one of the white ones). I can’t recall the name of the other white dog, and I couldn’t tell them apart anyways. Once you get past the dogs and into the apartments you’ll find cats everywhere.

The apartments don’t have air conditioning, so the windows are open all the time. Surprisingly, they’re not screened in either. This is going a bit off topic, but I never understood why window screens aren’t in common usage in Singapore or the Philippines. With high levels of mosquito borne illnesses, like dengue for example, which can be fatal, you’d think window screens would be in high demand. That doesn’t appear to be the case though. Anyways, like I was saying, the windows are always open and they aren’t screened so the cats go in and out at their leisure. They seem to get along well enough with the dogs too, so you might see the cats hanging out in the yard. There must have been about 11 cats and kittens running around. I only took pictures of a few of them.

One cat in particular caught my attention. Her name is Samsung. She’s incredibly friendly and purrs so hard she nearly chokes herself when you put her on your lap and pet her. What’s especially strange about this cat, though, is that when you pet her, she crawls up towards your shoulder, starts kneading against you, and then starts licking/sucking/slobbering on your shirt. My father-in-law says it’s because he found her when she was really young and she never had the chance to do much nursing. When he took her in, he kept her wrapped up in blankets and she would try to nurse on the blankets when she was hungry. Apparently she never lost the habit. Great cat, but you can’t hold her when you’re wearing a nice, clean shirt that you want to go out in, or you’ll wind up having spots of cat drool on yourself.

Another interesting cat is named Jumong. I called her Captain Hook because she only has one eye. According to my father-in-law, some kid in the neighborhood shot out her other eye with a pellet gun.

Pumping Well Water

BradleyLife in the PhilippinesLeave a Comment

My wife’s parents have a set of apartments in Porac, in Pampanga province. It’s a medium sized building on a pretty good sized lot that has four separate apartments built into it. Each unit seems a bit small. The two middle units could comfortably house 2 people at most, and the end units 3 each, since they have a second floor.

Apparently, construction goes pretty slow in the Philippines. The building has been receiving off and on attention over the last 4 years or so and it still needs some finishing touches. It’s a matter of money. You can’t build when you don’t have the capital. The interiors need more insulation, plywood to cover the bare steel beams in the ceilings, and some renovations to the bathrooms and kitchen areas. Still, they have potential and when they’re complete they should be pretty nice.

Even though they’re not complete, my father-in-law has been living out of one of the 2 story apartments. It’s comfortable enough, but up until we got there it didn’t have running water. That was kind of a shock to me. How do you live in a place for four years without running water, when all you have to do is pay a few thousand pesos to have the water company come hook it up? If I were going to live out of a house, even one that wasn’t completely done, the first thing I’d do is get the water hooked up. Well, maybe the second. It would need electricity too. For the past 4 years, my father-in-law had been using a well in the front yard to pump water into buckets to carry into the house or to do laundry with. Maybe it’s a matter of perspective, or how you grew up, but running water seems like a basic necessity to me.

We only stayed in the house for 3 days before traveling to Antipolo, in Rizal Province, to visit with my wife’s brothers, but those three days were a real pain when it came to doing anything that needed water. Cooking, bathing, laundry… it all took twice as long and four times as much effort as we were used to. So, by the end of our second day there, we decided to front the money (about 3000 PHP or 60 USD) and have the water hooked up, not just for our sake, but for my father-in-law’s sake. He’s not getting any younger and hauling buckets of water is something best left to younger people. Younger than me or my wife too, apparently, because it was exhausting.

The situation reminded me of stories my grandmother used to tell me about having to haul water from a well when she was a kid. I think she said her family’s well was located at the bottom of a hill too, which was much worse than what we had to deal with. The well in front of the apartments was only 15 feet away and on level ground. I used to brush off her stories as something amusing to laugh about, but now I have a greater appreciation for the effort involved in using a well for a water source.

Arriving in the Philippines

BradleyLife in the Philippines, TravelLeave a Comment

Arriving in the Philippines was a much better experience for us this time. We flew into Clark Airbase in Pampanga province. The airport is small. There isn’t even an enclosed walkway from the plane to the terminal. You have to do it the old old fashioned way and walk down a flight of portable stairs onto the tarmac and then walk to the terminal.

Coming down those stairs reminded me of the flights I’ve taken into military bases in Kuwait and the US, like Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, Biggs Army Air Field in Texas, Balad in Iraq, and the landing area for military flights at Kuwait International, near Camp Wolf. I don’t think that last one had any special name. It’s not really surprising that the disembarking process at Clark reminded me of those places, though, because Clark Air Base used to be a US Air Force installation. The buildings all had that cheap US military look and feel to them, but at least they were clean and in good repair, which is more than I can say for NAIA in Manila. That place is a dump. (Can you feel the love?)

It didn’t take long before I was reminded that I was in fact in the Philippines again. Before I had even made it past the exit doors I was assaulted by a barrage of “Hey, sir! Hey, sir! Taxi sir?!” Sometimes there’s so many of them, or they’re so insistent, that it’s hard to ignore them, but ignoring them is generally what I try to do. One thing I’ve discovered about the Philippines from past trips is that if you’re a foreigner, you will be ripped off if you don’t have a local to do your shopping for you. That doesn’t apply to major stores or franchise-type grocery stores, because they have set prices, but any stall or stand in the street is likely to try to stick you for extra cash. Filipinos have the mentality that if you’re from overseas you must have money to waste. One example of that I can give is a guy that tried to charge me 50 PHP for a pack of Marlboros, when the 7-11 around the corner was only charging 38. Who’s that guy trying to fool?

Leaving Clark Airbase was an event in itself. My wife’s parents met us at the exit area for the airport and after the formalities we moved around to the side of the building to try to get a taxi to their house in Porac, Pampanga province. At any airport you’re likely to get ripped off on cab fare, but I was shocked at the price. We weren’t even going that far from the airport, but the driver wanted 650 PHP (only 13.36 USD but very very high for the Philippines). My wife’s mom tried to haggle with the taxi coordinator, but it wasn’t working. Even so, she kept badgering the poor guy until the cab actually arrived. Neither one of them wanted to budge and in the end we wound up paying the full 650 PHP. At least the taxi justified the price. It was the size of a Jeepney, but closed in like an FX, and the air conditioning was cold. There was plenty of room for everyone and our luggage too.

The ride fromt he airport to my in-law’s house was a lot different from riding from NAIA to their house in Antipolo. Pampanga is a provincial area, so it had more of a country feel to it. Also, it looked a lot more poor than areas closer to Manila, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We went through part of Angeles City and it reminded me of a big Antipolo.

The apartment we stayed at is in a residential area in Porac. I think the neighborhood is called Santa Cruz. The nearest city area is Angeles City. It has a mall, a movie theater, McDonald’s, Jollibee, and the typical convenience stores, food stalls, and general goods stores. Also, there are plenty of street vendors selling everything from fruit to whole roasted chickens.

Changi and Budget Terminals

BradleyLife in Singapore, TravelLeave a Comment

We flew out of Changi International Airport in Singapore to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Somehow, airport experiences never change. There’s always something that happens that really works your nerves. It wasn’t anything serious though. Well, not too serious. After the horrible experience we had at NAIA in Manila, nothing will ever seem that bad.

When we first walked into the airport we went straight to the check in line. We thought about relaxing for a while first, after running all over Singapore taking care of our cats and not getting much sleep the night before. We decided we could do that after we checked in though. That way we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. We made the right choice too! About ten minutes later a flood of people showed up and got in line behind us. So, we were good and happy with ourselves.

Unfortunately, the girl servicing our line was either new or bad at her job, because by the time we finished checking in, twice as many people 2nd line had gone through. Also, just before we got to the counter, a third line was opened and people that came in at least 30 minutes after us rushed to the front and were checked in ahead of us. On the upside, we were given the seats we selected when we booked the flight. A few months ago, on our last trip to the Philippines, we flew Cebu Pacific and when we got to the counter they refused to give us our seats. We wound up flying at opposite ends of the airplane. It was a really aggravating experience, and is the reason why we chose Tiger Airways over Cebu. In fact, we won’t be flying Cebu anymore, unless there’s just absolutely no other choice.

That’s right! We flew Tiger Airways out of the “Budget Terminal” at Changi. Every time I walk in there I feel like I’ve just walked into a Super Walmart or a Sam’s Club, but it’s very clean and the check-in process actually seems shorter there. There are a few downsides to flying out of the Budget Terminal, like a smaller selection of shops, no seats in the departure gate area, and having to walk across the tarmac and up a flight of stairs to get on the plane, but when it saves you 600 SGD, is it really that bad? On a flight that’s only 3 hours long, does it really matter how comfortable the airplane is? I’d rather have the extra money to spend. I wanted to take a few photos of the Budget Terminal but taking pictures at an airport seems to be one of those unspoken “no-no”s.

Our flight was fairly uneventful. We did have a group of idiots sitting in front of us though. In the row in front of us there were 3 guys. There were two more sitting to our right. They were all part of the same group and during the entire 3 hour flight they were laughing and giggling like a group of 10 year old boys that had just caught their first glimpse of boobs. At least one of them was drinking, and they were passing around a bag of free peanuts like it was a rare delicacy. I wonder if these guys had ever been on a plane before? They had to have been right? How else would they have gotten to Singapore? These guys were partying it up like they were flying first class on the best airline available. Oh well. At least they didn’t smell bad.

The noise they were making made it hard to get any rest during the flight so we were relieved when the plane finally started its descent at Clark Air Base.

The Day of the Flight

BradleyCats & DogsLeave a Comment

Getting ready for our trip to the Philippines was a test in patience and stress management.

Our biggest concern was finding someone to watch our cats while we were away. We live in a condo in Singapore that we share with four other people. The place is big and the rent is high, so it’s a convenient arrangement, most of the time.

The last time we went on a trip someone in our condo watched our cats for us. This time, we initially assumed that we would use the same arrangement. It should be simple for someone who lives across the hall to take ten minutes out of their day to maintain our cats right? Somehow, everyone found a reason why it was going to be an impossible task for them. “Oh, I have allergies.” “Oh, I won’t be around.” “Oh, I’m scared of cats!”

Three days before our flight we finally landed on someone that would be able to help us. Previously, we had adopted two cats. One of them we still have, named Dapper, but the other, her sister Whitty, had a problem. She was paralyzed and required constant care. I had intended to have a job quite a while ago, and it would have been impossible for us to take care of her with both of us being gone all day, so we gave her away. The person who took her in is named Penny. She’s a great woman that lives in Yishun and spends a lot of her time, effort, and money on caring for cats.

When we initially got in touch with her, she was hesitant to agree. With the current financial problems in Singapore, a lot of people are packing up and heading home for good, and Penny was worried that we were going to take off and leave her stuck with our cats. We had to convince her that we were planning on coming back. Even still, I worried that she may have thought we were just telling her a story to get her to take them. I was worried she may have tried to adopt out our cats before we got back!

We arranged to drop the cats off at her place during the morning of the day of our flight. We weren’t able to sleep well the night before. It’s always that way for me, and my wife was really excited as well. She always gets that way before going home to see her family. We were up late talking, until about 4:30am I think, and when the alarm went off at 9am, we had to struggle to get out of bed.

We decided that it would probably be best to shower after dropping them off. Penny was doing us a favor and we wanted to get there on time. I’m pretty sure she had work that day and was taking time out of her schedule to help us out. So, we got our cats into a carrier and packed up their litter box, a container of food, and a bag of toys and went downstairs and caught a cab.

At first, we actually weren’t sure we were going to be able to find the place. I realized after we were already downstairs that I had forgotten to ask Penny what her address is. The last time we had gone there was six months previous. She didn’t answer our calls or texts either. Later we found out that was because she has problems with her phone, but at the time, riding in the cab, it was added stress to an already stressful situation. No one wants things to go wrong on the day of a flight! On top of that, we were still worried that she wasn’t going to take them. We wound up getting her address from someone else that knows her. Things seemed to work out for the best though. When the cab pulled up in the parking area, Penny was just walking up.

Once we dropped the cats off, everything else seemed easy. We went back to the house, ate a light meal, showered, weighed our luggage (who wants to pay overage fees at 15 SGD per kilogram?), and headed out the door. It was a short taxi ride to the terminal and we enjoyed a good smoke before going in.