2015 Philippines Independence Day Parade

Last year, we went to the 50th annual Celebrate Israel parade and it was only later that we found out that the Philippines Independence Day parade had been held at the same time, a few blocks away. We told ourselves that this year we would try to make it to both, which wouldn’t be as hard since they were held on different days this time. We almost did! Unfortunately, when we were getting ready for bed on Saturday night, “Man on Fire” with Denzel Washington started playing on the TV, and before we knew it, we were still up at 3 AM, drinking Stella Artois and eating Salt & Vinegar Kettle chips. So, we didn’t make it out of the house early enough to get downtown and see the parade. Maybe next year? There was a cultural festival after the parade, though, near Madison Square Park, so we checked that out.

Emergency Access Area, Wider Than Walking Area

Emergency Access Area, Wider Than Walking Area

The tents for the food stalls, advertisers, recruiters, and organizers were set up on Madison Avenue, next to the park. It was very, very tight. About half of the road was sectioned off by barricades, which I assume was meant for emergency vehicles, though I question the logic there. The restricted walking space was so packed with people that I’m surprised it didn’t cause an emergency of some sort. I was surprised by the number of people attending the fair in general. There were tour buses that looked to have been chartered by groups of Filpinos from nearby towns or cities. The lines were long for everything, including the port-a-potties on the northeast corner. There was a constant flow of people walking between the stalls and the park.

People grilling barbecue meat on sticks.

People grilling barbecue meat on sticks.

We showed up hungry and the smell of grilling barbecue was everywhere. I was more than a little annoyed, having to fight through that crowd and then stand in a huddle in front of the food vendors, trying to catch someone’s attention to place an order, only to find out there was apparently only one stick of chicken barbecue left at the fair. I guess it’s popular! Anyhow, I bought that, some pancit (a vegetable stir fry type of dry noodle dish) and a few pieces of turon (banana wrapped in a pastry dough and fried in brown sugar, I think). We managed to find a bench in the shade to sit on in the park and once we were full, we were able to relax and take in the sights.

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Madison Square Park looks great! There’s some sort of art installation with hanging glass set up throughout the park that reflected the light and people. It isn’t really clear in the pictures I took. I think it was a little overcast at the time. The breeze was cool and it wasn’t too hot or humid. It’s been a really cool start to summer this year. Not that I’m complaining. I’m sure it’ll be too hot soon enough. There were plenty of people. Kids were playing, families were hanging out, the muffled sound of performers at the Filipino cultural fair was booming over loudspeakers on the street behind us. It was great. I kind of wish I had a book with me, so I could lean back and sit there for a few hours. But, then again, the park didn’t have a public bathroom (5 dirty port-a-potties don’t count) or my coffee pot. So, after wandering around for a while and doing some people watching, we headed home to relax.

 

Filipino Food in Lower East Manhattan–Johnny Air Mart

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

The name of the place is a little odd, but it makes sense.  This little store on Avenue A between 13th and 14th street carries Filipino goods, most of which I assume are shipped in by air.  It’s not a very large store, but it has a lot of the food products that I came to enjoy while living in the Philippines, and earlier by buying them at import stores in Singapore.

Since I’ve been back in New York City, I haven’t had the opportunity to really look around for a place to get Filipino foods, so I was happy, and surprised, to see that there is a shop just a few blocks from where I live, located in a spot I pass by almost every day.  I never saw it before because it’s halfway up the block, and I pass Avenue A on 14th street.

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

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my favorite flavor of Lucky Me noodles, Chilimansi, and they didn’t have the Calamansi flavored Century Tuna.  The owner was pretty friendly though.  He told me the Lucky Me Chilimansi is usually stocked but he’d run out, and that he’d never carried the Calamansi Century Tuna, but he’d check with his distributor to see if he could get some in.  They also had Sky Flakes, Ligo sardines, Milo, sinigang mix, the nasty shrimp paste my wife enjoys, and many other goodies.

Turon, purchased from Johnny Air Mart.

I didn’t stock up, but I did pick up some turon on the way out the door.  It’s tastier than it looks.  It’s a sweet dessert with a crusty outside and banana inside.  The shop owner warned me that it wasn’t exactly the same as the kind you get from the Philippines though, since it’s made fresh and the type of banana used isn’t quite the same.

I’m glad to see that Filipino foods will be readily available when I’m ready to do some cooking, or when my wife is.  I think it’ll help her to adjust, having some foods from home available.

How to Add Prepaid Credit to your Philippines Phone While in the US

One of the biggest problems to overcome when you’re in the US and have family and friends in the Philippines is finding a cheap way to stay in touch.  There are a lot of options out there for cheap communication to the Philippines, which I’m still sorting through, but to keep things cheap for the person in the Philippines, there’s an easy option.

When I came back to the US, I brought my prepaid Globe phone with me and set it to International Roaming through their website.  This allows people in the Philippines to send messages and calls to my phone at local rates.  It also allows me to receive those messages at the same local rates, which in Globe’s case is free.  They have no incoming fees.  So, that’s 1 way communication at a cheap rate.

The problem comes in when you reply back and use up your credit, or when the credit expires.  Credit added to Globe prepaid phones is only valid for a certain number of days before it expires.  Either way, you eventually need to add credit to your prepaid number.  As far as I know, there’s no way to do this through Globe’s website.  I’ve read a few board threads here and there where people suggest buying Globe reload cards through eBay.  It’s also possible to send money to your relative back home and have them get credit added to your phone there.  The first way is a hassle for you, and the other way is a hassle for your relative.  There is one other way, though.

Reload your Globe phone from the US with an ezetop card.

You can buy a 10.99 ezetop reload card, which is powered by Fastcard.  They’re the same people that do most of the online game reload cards and the local US prepaid cards.  I picked up this one in a Rite Aid in New York City.  You scratch off the silver stuff to reveal the PIN, call the 1-800 number, enter your PIN, the phone number you want to load, confirm the mobile operator and that’s it.  Your load hits your phone as an AutoLoadMAX reload.

There’s a catch though.  I went back and read the fine print after receiving confirmation of my credit being added to my phone because I was a little surprised at the actual amount I was credited with.  Let’s do some math.  As of today, 10.99 USD is 473.34 PHP.  How much of that was actually credited to my phone?  300 PHP.  That means I lost 173.34 PHP, or about 4 USD, in the transaction for miscellaneous fees.  That doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about it, that’s almost 1/3 of the cost of the card.

So, what I’ve learned here is that if I’m really hurting for a reload on my Globe phone, I do have an option here in the US.  However, if I’m not in a rush, the hassle I might put my relative in the Philippines through putting credit on my phone is worth it considering the fees involved with this method.

If you’re wondering, these cards work for the Globe, SMART, and Touch Philippines mobile operators.

Re-used Commercial Soda Bottles, Philippines Style

Re-used coke bottles in the US, Philippines style.

This is a photo I forgot to add onto the end of yesterday’s post.  I found these in The Fresh Market.  If you look at the Sprite bottles and the Coke Light bottle, you’ll notice there are white rings around them in the middle and at the bottom.  The reason they have those rings is because the bottles have been reused.

I don’t know how they do it exactly in Mexico, but bottles in the Philippines look exactly the same way if you buy them from the many ‘sari-sari’ stores, which are mini-convenience stores.  The factory ships out bottles of drinks and the shop owner either makes you stand at the store and finish it, or pours the drink into a plastic bag, sticks a straw in it, and hands it to you.  This is because the bottles have a deposit on them that they can’t get back until they ship them back to the factory when the truck next arrives.

So, the empty bottles go back to the plant, run through the machines, are refilled and sent back out.  Being run through the factory over and over is what gives them the distinctive white rings.  So, if you’re ever in a 3rd world country and you see that on the bottles, keep that in mind.  It’s not unsafe to consume, or at least I never got sick from it, but I did one time find a candy wrapper inside the bottle, luckily before I had taken a drink from it.

As for why they’re selling them here in the US at an upscale grocery chain, I have no clue.  I can only guess that it appeals to some people’s sense of living more simply, though the fact they’re getting imported bottles of cheap soda from a poor country at a high price in a high end grocery store is a bit … ridiculous.

Exporting Cats From the Philippines to the USA (via Delta Airlines)

Meet Marble.  Marble was born in Singapore, has lived in the Philippines and is sleeping in an armchair in Manhattan, New York City, in the above picture.  She’s an international cat and probably has more Sky Miles than most human beings.  She’s also a lucky cat, having started out her life as a stray under a building near the train station in Pasir Ris, Singapore.  Now she lives a life of relative luxury on the other side of the world with canned food every day, lots of attention and love and a safe environment.

So, how did she get here?  Well, it’s a long story, but first we exported her from Singapore to the Philippines and then when it was time to move on, we exported her again from the Philippines to the US.  (If you want to read about how to get your cats from Singapore the Philippines, click here.)  Compared to the process of getting Marble from Singapore the Philippines, bringing her to the US was relatively painless.

U.S. Requirements:

Just to give you an idea, the requirements set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, which regulates animal imports) for bringing your pet cat into the US are that the cat has to be in apparent good health and, depending on the state of entry, updated on rabies shots.  That’s it.  Here’s the exact quote from the CDC’s page on cat importation:

A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.

Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.

All pet cats arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.

Delta Requirements:

An additional requirement from Delta (the airline I used) was that she needed a government health certificate and to get her out of the country we had to get an export permit.  In the Philippines, you’ll get your export permit and government health certificate at the same time.  They’re the same form in fact.

Philippines Bureau of Animal Industry - Image provided by commenter Lou Cep (1/26/2017)

Philippines Bureau of Animal Industry – Image provided by commenter Lou Cep (1/26/2017)

So, here’s a step-by-step for what you’ll need to get your pet cat out of the Philippines:

  1. When you book your flight, do it with a live person and inform them that you’ll be taking a pet cat with you on the flight.  This is necessary, because not all planes are equipped to carry live animals.  The fee for carrying pet cats is 200 USD each, flat rate.  You pay this later.  I’m not aware of any limit to the number of cats you can bring at one time, but I’m sure there is one.
  2. Within 10 days of your flight, take your cat to a vet and have her updated on all shots.  Depending on what state you go to, your cat may need a rabies shot.  Also, regardless of US requirements, the BAI staff asked to see proof of rabies vaccination.  Get your cat the other shots he or she should have anyway, because it’s just healthier that way and will help your cat avoid disease and live longer.  Depending on what vet you use, costs may vary.  Our cat had her rabies shot in Singapore in May, so it was still valid.  Her feline leukopenia booster was 750 pesos.
  3. Request a Veterinary Health Certificate.  You may need to explain what this is and what it’s for and what it needs to say.  The vet we went to didn’t seem to know, which isn’t surprising.  Cats aren’t popular pets in the Philippines and I imagine exporting them to other countries by owners is rare.  We paid 500 pesos for our Health Certificate at Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic – Antipolo:
    • Contact Person: Oscar Macenas
    • Address: Joren Building, Circumferential Road, Marville Park Subdivision, Antipolo, Rizal
    • Contact Numbers: (02) 697-1896, (02) 697-3378
    • Accreditation: Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PAHA)
  4. Take your Veterinary Health Certificate (within 3 days of issue!!!) and your cat’s shot record, showing the valid rabies vaccination, to the BAI building on Visaya’s Avenue in Quezon City, Manila. Please note that BAI will only consider your veterinary health certificate valid for three days after issue. You must bring it to them within that timeframe.  They’ll process your combo export permit/government health certificate in an hour or less.  Take the form they give you and go around to the back of that building (to the left as you exit the door).  Go into the building there on your left (there’s only one) and up to the 3rd floor to the records unit.  They’ll put a ‘dry seal’ (raised notary seal) on your export permit.  All of this is free. The forms you receive from the BAI will be valid for 10 days. (Confirmation that the veterinary health certificate is still only valid for 3 days after being issued and updated information on the length of time that the BAI documents are valid provided by commenter Lou Cep 1/26/2017).
    • Contact Person: Virgie Tiong or Maynard Lagmy
    • Address: National Veterinary Quarantine Services, Bureau of Animal Industry, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Manila
    • Contact Numbers: Phone: (632) 920-0816; Fax: (632) 920-0815
    • UPDATE (1/15/2017): BAI now has a Facebook page with up-to-date contact information in the About section. Click Here.
  5. When you get to the airport, check in as usual at Delta’s ticket counter.  They’ll ask to see the documentation, make photocopies, and collect your pet there after you make your payment of 200 USD, which can be made in cash or by credit card.  Delta doesn’t accept carry on pets on international flights.
  6. Collect your pet in the baggage claim area at your destination airport.

Timeline for Rabies Vaccination (Updated 4/20/2017):

According to the CDC in the United States:

An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.

So, what does that mean? If your pet is receiving its initial rabies vaccination, the pet won’t be considered inoculated until 28 days have passed. If your pet is receiving a booster shot, the CDC says the inoculation is considered valid immediately.

When I went through the export process, I remember there being some confusion about how much time had to pass between the vaccination and the export permit being issued. My cats had all been previously vaccinated and the vaccination was still considered valid.

Some rabies vaccinations are valid for one year, while others are valid for three. It depends on the type of vaccine used. Please check with your veterinarian to determine whether or not your pet(s’) vaccination against rabies is still valid. Please get the vaccination at least 30 days before your trip.

During the Flight:

You won’t see your pet during the flight at all, even if you have a layover.  What comfort you will have comes in the form of little cards:

Delta provides this card to you on the plane to let you know your pet is onboard.

These cards come off of a form that is stuck to the side of your pet cat’s carrier.  You’ll be given one by a flight attendant prior to the plane leaving the gate area.  If you have a layover, you’ll be given another one before the plane takes off again.  My flight was from Manila to Tokyo to New York, so I received two of them.  The fact that it comes from the sticker form stuck to the carrier at the check in counter is what gives you the assurance that your pet is in fact on the plane.

If you’re wondering how a cat holds up under a plane for 20 hours, I would tell you that it depends on your cat’s temperament.  Each cat is different and some are more skittish than others, but Marble was just fine.  She was a little nervous and hid under the blanket I put in there for her, but that was about it.  Please do leave a blanket in the carrier.  Despite being air conditioned, the plane gets cold.  My advice to anyone, though, is to not drug your cat prior to the flight.  Besides the fact that it’s not healthy for the cat, if he or she looks dopey or messed up on arrival you may wind up with your cat being quarantined to make sure it’s not sick with some disease.

On Arrival at JFK International in New York City:

If you’re flying this exact route, you can collect your cat in JFK’s baggage claim area.  Just past the baggage carousels, there is a locked door with a keypad.  Above it, there is a light with a yellow cover.  When a pet shows up on a flight, it’s taken to this room and the warning light is turned on to alert the owner that the cat (or dog) is available for pick-up.  When I picked up my cat I wasn’t required to show any documentation at all, because Delta had copies that were likely handed over when the cat was unloaded.

I hope this guide gives you some insight into the process of getting your cat from the Philippines to the US!  Below is a map showing the location of the BAI office on Visaya’s Avenue.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability.