A few days ago I had to go to the Veteran’s Administration hospital in the Bronx for my annual physical. I was quite a few months late going this year. Last Semester was just too overwhelming for me to find time to get anything done. I still have lots of errands I need to take care of that I should have done during those four months as well as other things I want to get done before Spring starts.
I somehow don’t think I’m going to get through all of the reading I’d like to do before the semester starts, but I am enjoying having a lot more quality time with my wife. We’re catching up on a lot of television shows together. We sort of stopped loving Breaking Bad because it was dragging too much with the car wash nonsense and Skylar being so annoying (not to mention Walt was turning into sort of a wuss) and now we’re getting hooked on Fringe. Thanks Netflix! House of Cards was good too. I guess we’ll get back to Breaking Bad eventually.
I’m also trying to get my fitness level back up. I’m taking it slow though. I spent four months basically doing nothing physically strenuous. I have a Fitbit Force to help me stay motivated. It’s amazing how hard it is to cheat yourself when you can see the numbers in front of you plain as day, in terms of calories consumed versus calories burned.
Fried Wings, Potato Wedges and a Biscuit at the Bronx VA Hospital
So, coming back around to what I meant to write about in this post, which has to do with calories, I was surprised by just how disgustingly greasy the fried chicken at the VA hospital cafeteria was. When I went for my physical the doctor surprised me by telling me I should have blood work done. He surprised me more by having the nurse draw what seemed like almost a pint out of my arm. I didn’t have breakfast, so I went straight to the cafeteria afterwards to eat a decent meal to make sure I didn’t collapse on the way home.
There were plenty of choices but somehow the need to go a little overboard to replace all the blood I lost led me to the fried chicken buffet. It was a bad move. I put three fried wings on my plate but I could only stomach one before my stomach started to turn. At first I thought it was the change in diet I’d made away from greasy foods to more steamed and boiled dishes, but I’ve had fried chicken from other places, like Popeye’s, that didn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth. We ate a plate of amazing soy garlic wings at Boka Bon Chon yesterday and it was fine, but hours after I left the hospital I could still taste heavy oil in my mouth. It must just be the way that chicken was prepared.
Thinking about it, I wonder if the same preparation method was used at the cafeterias I ate at when I was on active duty in the Army. Procedures are pretty standard in the military or military related facilities and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a field manual or technical manual related to the frying of chicken and operation of deep fryers. I used to really enjoy that chicken. Now I can’t stand it.
How much did the Army really teach me about physical fitness? I’m beginning to feel like I didn’t learn anything other than how to follow a physical exercise routine in the morning. I wasn’t taught how to evaluate food choices or supplement choices and I wasn’t given any understanding of how sleep, diet, and overall physical activity would affect my health. Perhaps I should have taken the initiative and looked that up myself, but as a young soldier who was trained to just listen and do as instructed, it never occurred to me to think that far outside the box, especially when sleep deprivation and ordering pizza are such big parts of military culture. So, I would exercise in the morning, eat fried chicken for lunch, maybe pizza for dinner, and then I would wonder why I never really saw any physical improvement.
If I recall correctly, the units I was in had people who were trained to be masters of physical fitness. They went to some sort of course to learn about physical fitness. What was the point of that? Were they not trained properly? Did the command structure ignore their recommendations? Or was it just a mark on a check-list to satisfy civilian committees who evaluated the military’s commitment to the health and well-being of service members that was never seriously implemented?
I learned a lot from my time in the military, but the more I learn outside of the military, the more I realize I was left in the dark in areas that were key to being a successful soldier. But, I suppose one can’t expect the military structure, composed mostly of high school graduates, to impart the understanding that comes with a college education and life experience to new recruits. Officers could do something about that, being college graduates, but there aren’t enough officers and that isn’t really their job.
I wanted to write this update to let you guys know what’s going on with Boomer, but also to say thank you for your support. I was surprised at how quickly the donations for Boomer’s surgery rolled in, and then I was even more surprised when the donations exceeded the requested amount. The amount requested was 75 dollars but a total of 100 dollars has been donated for Boomer. To those of you that sent in donations, thanks! They’ll make a big difference in Boomer’s life.
My information about how Boomer’s doing now is primarily drawn from a recent post on the owner’s blog. If you read that post, you probably won’t see anything new here. If you didn’t read that post, you should, because in addition to this information, she told some stories about some very interesting people she met while she was out with Boomer. Fair warning though, one of the pictures of Boomer in that post look like something from a nightmare, so don’t look too closely if you expect to eat in the next hour or so.
The night before taking Boomer to the vet, the owner found out from a friend that she could go to the PSPCA (Philippine Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and have Boomer’s surgery done for a lower price. She decided that was the best course of action and commuted for four hours to get there. The PSPCA is in sort of a seedy part of Manila that’s a long way from where she lives, but despite the travel, the costs would still be lower than what the local vet was asking. I asked her about it, and she said she wanted to make sure that as much of the donated money was used for Boomer’s healthcare as possible. She didn’t want to waste any of it.
Upon arriving and having Boomer examined, the PSPCA vet disagreed with the first vet’s recommendation. The vet at the PSPCA said that Boomer was too young for the surgery yet, and that removing her eyes would cause her to bleed out and die, because the vessels would be too small to properly stitch up. He recommended bringing her back in a month to see if her eyes could be removed then.
Photo from owner’s blog of Boomer on the table at the PSPCA after getting an antibiotic shot.
In the meantime, the vet gave Boomer an injection of antibiotics and prescribed an antibiotic eye drop to try to control the infection until they’re able to remove the eyes.
So, for now, Boomer’s health is still precarious. She could die before she’s able to have her eyes surgically removed. Just to be sure, the owner is looking for a third opinion. She says the PSPCA vet was young, and perhaps inexperienced.
Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed for now. I’ll provide more updates as I see or get them.
Note: Most recently updated with new information on March 12, 2019. I very much hope that this proves to be a useful resource for anyone trying to get their pets out of Singapore and/or into the Philippines.
The process of importing cats from Singapore to the Philippines can seem like a lot of trouble, and it gave us a headache trying to figure out what is, and isn’t, necessary. The embassy website for the Philippines and the website for BAI (when it’s even up) even had some contradicting information. So, I’m writing this guide in the hopes that other people will benefit from my experience.
Picking an Airline
This is one of the most obvious things, but I thought it was worth mentioning because if you’re planning on taking pets from Singapore to the Philippines you only have two options: Singapore Airlines or Philippine Airlines. The budget carriers don’t allow pets at all.
With both Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines, pets are transported in the belly of the plane as cargo. Pets aren’t allowed in the cabin. Don’t worry. My cats unfortunately went through hell prior to take-off, but they made it through just fine and are relaxing on my bed while I type this.
The real decision here comes down to how much money you want to spend. Both airlines will get you to the Philippines. Both airlines will carry your pets. Philippine Airlines is quite a bit cheaper, though.
Picking your Carrier
That’s not my cat at the top of the photo. He’s a cat that lived in our building on the 6th floor somewhere, but came downstairs during the day to lounge around and people-watch. He was checking out my cats, who were in the carriers, just prior to our boarding a taxi for the airport.
When you take your cats on a plane, an IATA certified carrier is required. We used the Ferplast Atlas Deluxe 20 Open Top to ensure that our cats had proper ventilation during the trip. Check out any of Pet Lover’s Centre’s many locations for a wide variety of carriers. Be sure to ask if the carrier is IATA approved before buying it though or you may be disappointed later.
Before starting the export process, you’ll need to make sure your cats have been immunized. They don’t need to have been immunized more than once, so if they don’t have a booster shot that’s ok. When we imported our 3 cats to the Philippines, they had all received their first shots less than a month prior to the flight date. The shot you’ll have to get them is the standard 4-in-1 shot, which contains vaccines for feline rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia, and chlamydia psittaci. There is no specific time frame for when, in relation to your flight, these shots have to be received by your cats. You just have to have them current.
One thing I would like to suggest is that before you head to your nearest vet, do some calling around. Prices vary quite a bit in Singapore for the same veterinary services. You can use the Singapore Veterinary Association site’s list of clinics as a good starting point to find a certified vet for your needs. We lived in the East area of Singapore and found Clinic for Pets to have the cheapest rate on vaccinations, and Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Bedok) Pte Ltd to have the best rate on the rabies vaccinations and Health Certificates. (More on that later in the post).
Philippines Pet Import Permit
Update (March 12, 2019):
I’ve been made aware that requesting an import permit, or import clearance, from the BAI is now done through the BAI web portal. Detailed instructions on how to do this are found in the embedded PDF below, which was created by BAI:
Within 60 days prior to your flight you’ll have to request, either in writing or by e-mail, an import permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). The BAI website has been down recently for upgrading and the email address that is listed on the Singapore embassy website is incorrect. We were actually told (after a month of waiting) that the email address listed there is not used and won’t return an invalid email address message to your inbox. To actually get a message to BAI via email you have to use the following email address: [email protected] [Commenter “Allem” alerted me to the fact that the previous email address is no longer valid, and recommended the following: [email protected]]. The point of contact at that email address is either Maynard Lagmay or Virgie Tesoro, both of which were very helpful in sending us our import permit.
The permit is usually mailed I think, but due to our circumstances (the incorrect email address) they helped us out by scanning and e-mailing the import permit to us. When you get it, it should look like this:
The import permit will be valid for 60 days you don’t have to worry about making any payment until you land in the Philippines. As you can see from the example permit above, you’ll be charged 350 PHP on arrival if you have 2 cats or less, or 650 PHP if you have two cats or more.
Singapore Pet Export Permit
Within 30 days prior to your flight, you’ll have to request an export permit from Singapore’s AVA, which will cost you 50 SGD (with multiple cats allowed on one permit). This export permit is independent of the Veterinary Health Certificate and you request it (and should request it) prior to getting your Health Certificates done. Getting the export permit is as simple as filling out an online form, which you can get started on by clicking this link.
Once the page loads, scroll down until you see this:
As indicated in the image above, pick the situation that applies to you. Both options will lead to the same form, but if you’re not a foreigner you’ll have to enter your SingPass to proceed. Getting a SingPass is as simple as going to the CPF Building in Tampines. It takes about 5 minutes and you’ll leave with the SingPass in your hand.
Either way, you’ll be presented with a disclaimer that you’ll have to agree to and then you can begin filling out the form. The form is simple but it can be confusing at times. The same form is used for all situations, as well as importing and exporting, so the key is to just fill out the sections that apply to you and your situation.
Here’s an example on the first page of the form:
On the first page, as an individual exporting personal pets, the bottom details don’t apply. Don’t enter anything into the fields at the bottom of the form will fail in the end. The best thing to remember is that just because it has a red asterisk, it doesn’t mean you have to fill it out if that box doesn’t apply to you.
In the end, you should be presented with a confirmation page (step 7) that looks something like this:
The following day, you can go back to that first page where the green links are and click on “Enquire on my Application’s Status Now”, or just click here. You’ll be required to give the Application Number from the Submission Page, which comes after the Confirmation Page above, so be sure to write that down. It’ll be a long number that starts with a letter, like this one:
In the following screen you’ll be able to see if your permit is processing, approved or denied. Once it’s approved, payment is simple. You follow the link at the beginning of this post to go back to the AVA page with the green links and this time click on “Pay for my New Licence now”, or just click here. The payment is handled by a third party, but the payment should credit instantly. It did for me! They accept NETS and MasterCard. I can’t remember if I saw a Visa logo or not.
After making your payment you’ll be directed to a page where you can download your Export permit for printing.
Health Certificates & Rabies Vaccination
When you’re 7 days out from your flight, you’ll have to take the final steps to ensure your cats are ready to go.
One thing you’ll have to consider is whether or not to get your pet a rabies vaccination. This is one of the points where I got a bit confused, because some sources I read said it was required, and others didn’t. I played it safe and got my cats their rabies vaccinations. Technically, I don’t think it’s required because rabies has been eradicated in Singapore. However, there are rabies in the Philippines and if I was going to put this much effort into bringing them with me, I didn’t want them to get sick and die after arriving safely. The rabies vaccinations cost me 48 SGD apiece.
To get our Health Certificate, we went to Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre in Bedok. The vet will inspect your cat to make sure they don’t have any weird bumps, open wounds, or signs of any infectious diseases. If they appear to be in good shape, she’ll authorize the counter clerk to print up a health certificate, which she’ll sign.
Before she does that, ask her to apply Frontline to your cats and have it annotated on the health certificate. One of the requirements for importing pets into the Philippines is proof that they’ve been treated for parasites. I actually forgot to have her administer dewormer and annotate that as well, but we had some on hand to administer to the cats when we landed at NAIA, in case they asked.
Your journey isn’t over quite yet!
Importing pets to the Philippines from Singapore requires an AVA Veterinary Health Certificate, which is 23 dollars per certificate (with multiple cats allowed on one certificate). Once you have your regular health certificates, you need to scan them and then head back to the AVA’s site to request the AVA certificate. Click that link, scroll down and you’ll see the following:
Filling out this form is similar to filling out the export request form. It also offers the same method of payment. There’s just one catch. You have to pick this one up in person. The AVA Veterinary Health Certificate comes with a special watermark that only certain printers can properly reproduce. An average printer will print the form, but it will have a watermark that says “copy copy copy” in a ring, instead of the proper image. The airline you choose and Customs in the Philippines will require the original.
At some point while filling out this form you’ll see a check box that you either select or de-select to indicate that you’ll pick it up in person.
When you’re ready to go pick up your form, head to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station (EW15 on the Green Line). Exit towards Maxwell Road and you’ll find yourself at an intersection with Maxwell Road crossing just in front of you. Cross the small street just to the left of the MRT exit and follow Maxwell Road. After about one block you’ll see the Ministry of National Development across the street, with a pedestrian crossing leading right to the front doors.
Go up to the second floor, hang a right at the information desk and you’ll walk right into the office. You should leave with a form that looks like this:
Note that the watermark says “copy”, since this is a scanned copy of the original. Pretty cool how it does that!
Presenting Your Paperwork To The Airline Travel Office
No later than two days prior to your flight, you’ll have to present your completed documents to the airline office for validation. I’m not sure if Singapore Airlines has the same stipulation, but this was required by Philippine Airlines. The documents I was required to show were the Import Permit, Export Permit and the AVA Veterinary Health Certificate. The guy also asked me the weight of the cats and the dimensions and the weight of the carriers I was using. Be sure to have that information on hand. I had to waste a lot of time looking up the carrier dimensions and weight on my iPhone because I wasn’t prepared.
After the guy looks over your documents he’ll fax them to the airline office in the airport. Once that’s done you’ll be good to go.
The Philippine Airlines office I went to is located at Parklane Shopping Mall, which is close to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station:
It’s not too hard to find. There’s a Singapore Arts school on the corner of Orchard and Selegie. You just turn up the road and then look for this facade:
The entrance is located between the DBS sign and the McDonald’s sign there on the left. When you enter the mall go down the first hallway on the right and it should be the 2nd or 3rd storefront on your right. They close at 5 PM.
Once you’ve presented your documents to the airline office, you can kick back and relax. The next thing you have to do with your cats is get them ready for their trip on the day of the flight.
When you arrive at the airport and get in line to check-in, an attendant will likely usher you into the Business Class line for prompt handling of your cats. Since the documents are faxed in ahead of you, they’ll be watching for you. The clerk will weigh your cats and perform your usual check-in process, but before giving you your boarding pass you’ll have to go to the excess baggage counter to pay for your cats trip. The rate was 20.50 per kilo when we traveled on May 6th, 2010 and we paid 330 SGD total for three cats and carriers. Once you’ve paid the excess baggage fee you’ll receive your boarding pass and your cats will be wheeled away on a trolley. They won’t be placed on the conveyor belts.
After this, it’s a typical flight.
When you get to NAIA, you’ll probably rush off the plane like we did to catch up to your cats. We got through immigration and customs pretty quickly, but they were already waiting for us at the baggage claim area. The paperwork process at NAIA is extremely painless. They even came out to the claim area to take our paperwork and payment from us. Our cats were never put in a quarantine area and they didn’t make us cart them over to the desk. Everyone seemed really amused to see them.
We paid our 650 PHP and then all 5 of us walked out into the bright Filipino sunshine to start the next chapter in our lives as residents of the Philippines!
Exporting your cat(s) from Singapore to the Philippines can be a long, complicated and very expensive process but it’s also very rewarding. I think we spent upwards of 1200 SGD (including vaccination fees). I encourage anyone who has pets to take them with you when you leave Singapore. Cats aren’t emotionless beasts that should be tossed out on the street after you’re done ‘using’ them. After two years of cat ownership I know that each one of my cats has a very different personality and that each one reacts differently to different situations. If we’re gone for a while, they show that they missed us when we come back. A cat will ‘feel’ it if you abandon it in the street, the same way any other member of the family would. Love them, protect them, and definitely take them with you and they’ll be your faithful companions for many years.
Well, I was pretty busy today and I’m getting ready to leave for a wedding, so instead of along post, I’ll just post this:
MSG, which has known negative health effects, can be bought by the bag here. I always thought the stuff was illegal in the US, but I can’t seem to find any info on it right now. Maybe later when I get back I’ll do a little more digging.
MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious. It is not a “meat tenderizer”. It is not a “preservative”. The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the “fifth” taste sense they call umami. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors. The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter. It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth. However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid – It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body.
MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. So many diets these days are concerned about the Glycemic Index of foods and yet none of them address the fact that MSG and free glutamic acid stimulate the pancreas to release insulin when there doesn’t even have to be carbohydrates in the food for that insulin to act on. The food industry has found their own “anti-appetite suppressant”. It’s a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood. And you are hungry an hour later. Sound familiar?
Hey, that does sound familiar. There’s a common saying in the US that when you’re hungry you shouldn’t eat Chinese food because you’ll be hungry a few hours later. I guess that saying is based on the truth of what MSG does to you.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. MSG is in a lot of foods that you wouldn’t have guessed. Check out the MSG Truth site and see for yourself!