A Car Blessing in the Philippines

Do people actually do this in any other country?  I’ve never heard of it before.  Is it strictly a Catholic thing?

A car being blessed by a Catholic priest in the Philippines.

In the image above, you can see a group of people gathered around a new vehicle.  The man in the white top and black pants is a priest, probably from the nearby Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, which is a popular pilgrimage destination for people who are about to embark on trips.

I’m not sure if there’s a process to this, if different parts of the vehicle are blessed at different times and I just stumbled across them as they were getting to the engine, or if having the hood raised and the engine running is just the standard way of having a vehicle blessed.

As weird as this seems, it makes sense in a way, and makes sense that they’d come to the Cathedral that’s known as a place for travelers to receive blessings to have it done.

If you stumbled across this post looking for information about how to get your car blessed at the Cathedral, click this link and then scroll to the bottom of the post to see a picture of the sign showing the hours for car blessings, as well as contact numbers.

Christmas Comes Early in the Philippines

Homemade Christmas decorations in the Philippines.

My wife once told me that Christmas comes early in the Philippines.  She didn’t mean that the date it’s celebrated is any different than any other place, but just that people get into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual.

Where I’m from, the shopping spirit hits a bit early, but that real Christmas spirit doesn’t seem to catch on until at least the day after Thanksgiving.  Obviously, there is no Thanksgiving in the Philippines and while Halloween (trick-or-treating) is celebrated in some posh villages, Christmas is something that most every Filipino gets behind quickly and early.  I think it’s probably because it’s associated with the birth of Christ, and the Philippines has the highest population of Catholics of any country in the world.  It may also have something to do with the poor conditions in the country.  I’m sure a lot of families are looking for an excuse to feel cheerful about something.

As early as last week, we’ve been hearing Christmas songs playing on the speaker systems in some of the malls.  I even saw Christmas decorations for sale already, including plastic trees.

My wife says the rule of thumb in the Philippines is that if the month ends in “-ber”, then people will start looking forward to Christmas and set up decorations, some of which will remain up until February, if not all year round.

Getting an Export Permit from the Philippines BAI for Marble

Getting Marble’s export permit was a bit difficult, but not because of the process itself.  It was getting there that was annoying.  Before we headed down to the BAI, we had to stop by the vet to pick up her health certificate.  The vet didn’t have a printer in the office so we couldn’t get it on the spot.  The problem with that is that the vet is sort of out of the way when it comes to getting transportation to Manila from Antipolo.  It is on the road that leads out of town though, so instead of backtracking to the center of town to get an air conditioned FX (a passenger SUV that’s been converted for public transportation) we walked out to the curb and flagged down a Jeepney instead.  Thankfully, it was overcast and kinda cool with the breeze since the windows stay open in the passenger area except when it’s raining.  Unfortunately, that also meant we got dusty and had black boogers later.

After a tricycle to the vet, a jeepney to Manila, the train to Quezon Ave and then 2 more Jeepney’s to Visaya Avenue by the Quezon Memorial, we finally arrived at our destination.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.
The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.

After seeing the AVA’s offices in the Ministry of National Development building in Singapore, I was a bit underwhelmed by the appearance of the building, but I suppose it’s no worse than some of the building’s I’ve seen used as government offices in the US.

Despite the appearance of this place, the people inside were very efficient and very friendly.  The e-mail I’d received from one of the people that works there said the wait time for the export permit was about an hour, but I had everything I needed and was out the door in about 20 minutes.  I did have to go around the back of the building to get a dry notary seal stamped into the form, but that only added another 10 minutes, most of which was walking.

Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.
Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.

The best part of it was that I got the export permit and they converted the veterinary health certificate to a government health certificate (which I didn’t expect), all for the low, low price of free.  That’s surprising.  The import permit was 650 PHP (about 15 USD).  The export permit fee and the fee for the government health certificate in Singapore were 50 SGD (about 38 USD) apiece.  I guess that’s how they paid for that big fancy building.

With this out of the way, the only thing left to do with Marble is to stick her in a carrier and show up at the airport with her.  I do have to find a hotel that will let me stay there with her in Manila for the night before the flight though.  It’s at 7:30 in the morning and it’s impossible to make the commute to Manila at 3:30 AM (it’s 2 hours one way, roughly).

UPDATE (2016): BAI Philippines has a Facebook page with updated contact information available. Click here.

Update (2017): This is a Flickr slideshow of pictures of the cat carrier my wife used in 2011 to bring two cats from the Philippines to New York City. Please note the bolts that were added to the carrier after-market. Make sure you do that. Also, zip-ties were added at the built-in latch points to further secure the carrier. I would bring zip-ties to the airport so that you can secure the door after the airport personnel are satisfied that they don’t have to open the door. Include a bowl for water and food. Ask that your pet be provided with water. Put blankets in the carrier so your pet(s) can stay warm.

Most importantly, keep this as your second or last option. Check with your airline to see if you can bring your pet in the cabin with you in a smaller pet carrier. Check with your airline for permission and/or requirements and fees.

Pet Taxi Cat Carrier for an International Flight

Marble Took a Trip to the Vet Today!

I have three cats: Marble, Dapper and Thumper.  When I leave for the US next week Marble is going to be coming with me, while the other two remain in the Philippines to keep my wife company.  Obviously, you can’t just show up at the airport with your cat and expect to hop on the plane.  It takes some preparation and that preparation began today.  The process for taking a cat out of the Philippines and into the US is mercifully painless compared to how hard it was to bring my cats here from Singapore.  I’m going to write up another comprehensive guide to exporting cats from the Philippines to the US later, but for now I thought I’d share this.

Part of getting Marble ready for her trip was getting her clean and presentable to minimize the chances of her being deemed unhealthy during the inspection at the vet for a health certificate.  She was overdue for a bath anyway.  In fact, all three of my cats were overdue, so yesterday we forced them to endure a good scrubbing.

Marble getting toweled dry after a bath.

Marble gave us the least trouble with her bath, though she was the only one to inflict damage.  I have a nice new scratch on my left foot from her trying desperately to evade the water we were pouring on her from a dipper.

Thumper licking herself dry after her bath.

Thumper never stopped struggling during her bath and wound up looking like a drowned rat by the end of it.

Dapper getting brushed after her bath.

Dapper wasn’t too bad during her bath, but she was the noisiest.  She made sure we knew how pissed she was by continuously growling.  She even hissed at us once.  I thought for sure she was going to turn into a whirling ball of claws and shred our legs, but we escaped without injury.  The cats kept jumping up onto the bed while they were still wet.  They usually do that, so we decided this would be a good day to wash our sheets and just left the new sheets off the bed until after they were dry.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the horror of giving their cats a bath, but ours aren’t too bad.  I think the reason for that is that we’ve gotten them accustomed to it.  We typically give them baths about once every two or three months, sometimes more often depending on how quickly they get that nasty greasy feeling on their fur.

Marble in her carrier, on the way to the vet.

Today, Marble went on a big adventure.  She didn’t seem too thrilled about being in the carrier again, after the fiasco that happened at Changi Airport a few months ago.

Tricycles, a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines.

Overall, she was pretty behaved as long as she could see us, though she didn’t care for the tricycle ride.  I don’t blame her.  Sometimes riding those tricycles can be a little stressful for me too.  At first, she kept looking around to try to find a way out of the carrier, but eventually settled into a corner and just looked at us with pleading eyes.

The actual visit at the vet wasn’t too hard on her at all.  We took her to the Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic in Antipolo.  Ya… like I’ve said before, religious terms and phrases are everywhere in the Philippines.  Her booster shot was pretty quick and didn’t seem to bother her too much.  I was surprised at how behaved she was.

Something that concerned me about our visit there was the type of shots they had available.  In Singapore, our cats got a Fort Dodge Felovax 4 in 1 shot and a rabies vaccination.  The next shot they were supposed to get was a booster for the 4 in 1.  The vet didn’t recognize it though and after placing a call found out that the 4 in 1 isn’t supplied in the Philippines at all.  He said it’s because those types of problems aren’t present in cats here.  I don’t know about that for sure.  Maybe they’re just not treated here.  Hopefully this won’t cause me to run into a problem of her having to be quarantined in NYC until she gets a proper booster shot.

Regardless, she got her panleucopenia booster and we’ll be picking up her health certificate tomorrow to take to the BAI in Manila for her export permit.  They do 1 hour processing on the export permit and it’s supposedly free.  Not bad!  So far, from what I can see, the total cost for exporting a cat from the Philippines to the US is about 230 USD.  Of course, I have to stay in a hotel in Manila the night before my flight and I’ll need to find one that will allow me to have her there, so the price difference might up my total cost.  We’ll see how that goes.  I need to start calling around to hotels tomorrow.