Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Earthquakes: lessons from history

I have just discovered a document: A Catalogue of Violent Earthquakes in the Philippine Islands. Available on Project Gutenberg, with an appendix on earthquakes in the Mariana Islands. This is a rude awakening.

The great Surigao Earthquake of 1879

Location: Philippines: Nw Mindanao: Surigao

Date and Time: 6/30/1879 at Midnight, 38 minutes
MMI Int: 10
Financial Damage (Approx. Damage): (More than 25) Millions of Dollars

I cannot remember an EQ of an intensity of 10.

For a map:


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Returning Home: Unaccomplished Objectives

On 12 July, we came home.

List of objectives that were not accomplished.
  • Visit Lumanog Guitar Factory, Pampanga
  • Visit Alegre Guitar Factory, Cebu
  • Visit Bolinao, UP Marine Lab
  • Visit UP Marine Science Institute, in Dilliman (Quezon City)
  • Visit U. San Carlos Marine Lab, Mactan Island, Cebu
  • Dental Work
  • Rent an apartment
On the last day in Manila, I visited the Philippine National Museum, the Manila Orchidarium, and (very briefly) the National Library. I was able to visit they Hydrographic Offices in NAMRIA, as well as the map sales office.

I didn't pay close attention to my visa, and was fined 2500 Pesos for overstaying 2 days. I think this could have been avoided, if we had traveled together as a family, instead of Fe flying NWA with William, and my flying Continental alone. That was a kick in the pants. I went through 3 searches at the Manila Airport, including a personal search including carry on bags at the gate waiting area.

We had a lot of trouble cashing traveler's checks (American Express). Even exchanging a US$100.00 bill could be a chore! Surprising. In Cebu, we visited 3 banks that would not exchange a 100.00 bill for Pesos. The one that did, Banco de Oro, only cashed one: of two we wanted to cash. The SM Mall store had a foreign exchange department that could exchange a US$100.00 bill in less than 2 minutes, in contrast to the nearly 1 hour it took at Banco de Oro. We had obtained new series bills from the bank, before leaving, but one of them was not good enough for Banco de Oro: the clerk said that the watermark was obscure on one of them. Also, that bank did not cash an American Express Traveler's Check after 4:00. We had arrived probably before 3:30 PM, but the line was too long to get the transaction done before the cutoff, 4:00PM. Because of the lousy, slow service, it was too late. Every transaction required several forms to be filled out by the tediously diligent clerks. I say clerks, not tellers. We found Philippine National Bank (PNB) unwilling to exchange dollars; the PNB ATMs were lousy also. Equitable Bank would not accept US$ 100.00 bills in exchange either, at least in Cebu. BPI has given us the best service, along with Citibank.

It's certainly good to be home. Besides road stress, there's still lots more to report, and some pictures.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The State of Internet Cafes

"Money won't change you ... but time will take you out."
------ James Brown lyric

I have been travelling without a laptop. More and more "Internet Cafes" seem to be WiFi Hotspots. Connections are fast in many places I have been. In Dumaguete, Scooby''s has an extremely fast connection, and decently fast machines. I rarely found an Internet cafe too slow for comfort, but some of them were. Some remarks on my experiences.

The biggest surprize was the lack of Firefox on over 2/3 of the machines I tried. I expected Linux to be at least represented; but I didn't encounter a single machine that had GNU/Linux installed! I truly expected people to be using Firefox. IE was almost always of such a vintage that tabbed browsing was impossible: I only encountered one machine that was up to date in that regard.

The biggest PITA in the Internet cafes I encountered was the keyboards. I am on a lucky streak and for the last several days, all the keyboards were at least useable.

CD Drives. Most of the machines have CD drives removed. Some have no floppy drives. The Internet cafe in Las Pinas had no CD drives, but the operator was kind, willing to mount the 128KB SD flash memory unit from my old Minolta digital camera on his own machine, using my personal memory card reader, and burn it to a CD. I was in that way able to post some pictures from, for example, the Las Pinas bamboo organ. Most of the machines I have seen lately have had to CD drive, or perhaps one or two machines in a shop may have a CD drive. When CD drives were found in Dumaguete at the Why Not, it was not a burner.

USB functionality. I have seen machines with USB sockets gutted. In only one instance did I find USB sockets useable. However, that has little meaning when I am trying to copy photos on an SD card over to a flash drive (a good reason to leave one flash drive with a FAT32 filesystem).

I wrote before that operators of some Internet cafes seem to have a convoluted idea of how to get things done. Some shops, if they can print, require the operator to intervene, save the WWw page as a file, open it in M$Word, and print. This convoluted procedure leaves a copy of my bank statement on the machine in question, and it's quite a chore to ask the operator to remove the file, or to remove it myself.

I have had to save pictures from time to time, preparatory to uploading them to this blog. I have found it a simple matter in all cases (when tried) to make a new folder (used to called subdirectories) named "alan" and save any necessary files there. I have almost always cleaned up these folders when I left the machine.

At Balanghai Hotel in Butuan City, a single pretty decent, if aged machine served guests and staff for Internet purposes. It was set up with Google Earth, one of the programs I've missed the most on the machines I've been forced to use by circumstance.

The dream of booting GNU/Linux from a USB Flash Drive is a moot one, when we are dealing with Pentium III or Pentium IV machines, with often an outdated version of Windoze. Programs like IE or Google Earth are likely not up-to-date. Again, seldom does one find Firefox. And, by the way, mice are not uniform of type. Many have wheels, many others do not.

Games are sometimes found in massive amounts. Chat, IM, Skype, and other video conferencing programs are often found. Almst always.

So, why don't we find GNU/Linux in wide use in the PI? I spoke with Linricon Absuelo of the Butuan National Museum, who also writes database access programs in Visual Basic. He cited some reasons for not going to GNU/Linux.
  • Windows in dirt cheap.
  • Even the most expensive programs (ie, Photoshop) are available for 50 Pesos.
  • Interactivity: he writes programs for offices where users have to interact with databases, and all machines are set up with the same GUI program. How would you do this with multiple operating systems.
  • Programs would not accept, if I understand this, a business model like charging for services, or hiring a programmer to write custom modifications to, say, MySQL
  • He called MYSQL a windows program. I am confused.
  • Possibly the most important: People have learned from the gitgo, in school and inet cafes, to use Windows. This is a flawed argument, I believe, where some of the GNU/Linux distributions are now just as intuitive, possibly more so than Windows.
  • He recounted a shop he worked in some years ago, when he was using Lotus123. At some point, an M$ program was available, and everyone was using it, in almost notime. He had to switch because of interoperability issues.

I have to admit, at the end of the day, that I found some of the Windoze programs, like a windows image editor, nicely set up, and I liked some aspects of Photoshop, but NOT all. GNU/Linux is improving by leaps and bounds.

Now, how am I going to access pictures in my new Motorola V3 Cell Phone?

A well planned day, carelessly wasted.

Blown Monday: We took all the care we could to schedule this trip. How many times did our plans fail? Why, just today, four (4) times! At least. A little tale of a day lost in Manila. We hired a taxi driver we know, who was kind enough to email me on Jose Rizal's birthday, and haggled over the price to drop us off at the Acuario de Manila (guess), so we could start our planned two day educational feast of the Planetarium, Aquarium, National Museum, Orchidarium, and perhaps the National Library. Wednesday I'll hit NAMRIA, the national mapping and information agency, in a multipronged attack, seeking tide harmonic constants, and maps.

At the top of the order, our driver, Lemeul, took us into Intramuros, the spanish walled city, where we found a portal leading out through a part of the wall currently being restored. This passageway would lead us, we were told, to the aquarium, just outside the wall. We thriftily asked him to drop us off, rather than accompany us, which we could not afford at this point. After he had explained the directions to the planetarium from the aquarium, he left us, and we entered the passageway.

A few meters later, we met a security guard dressed the part of a spanish era civil guard soldier, with a straw hat colored black, and the forward facing bring bent sharply up against the tube of the hat, parallel with the plane of his face. He told us that since sharks are getting hard to find, and expensive to maintain, and many fishes had died, the aquarium is no longer open. Strike one!

It was kind of hot, so we texted Lemuel, did he want to come get us before he got too far away? Ok, he replied. He took us to the planetarium, giving us a little historical tour along the way of Intramuros and Fort Santiago, where Jose Rizal was imprisoned prior to his execution. Guess what? The planetarium is closed on Mondays. We are sorry, William. Let's move on to the fabled Museum. Strike two!

A few hundred meters up the road was the museum. The gates were locked, and the ubiquitous and obligatory security guard informed us that the museum is open only from Wednesday through Sunday. Strike three!

The Manila Orchidarium is but a little ways away; let's do that. Lemuel spoke to a security guard who told us that it is open, but the entrance is a hundred meters away, around the other side. We had to walk part of the way, but it wasn't far. We saw some beautiful orchids through the gate. The LOCKED gate. This is not baseball: Strike four!

We went to the mall, hardly ever closed in Manila, where Fe can finish her shopping errands for friends.

I have pixs to post. These internet cafes are amazingly bad.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tropical Storm 04W

9 July 2007, 4:07 PM:

A tropical storm watch is happening. Here's the graphic as of late Sunday,
8 July (don't bother to click):

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Gleanings from Silliman Marine Laboratory.

Two days of discussions at the University of Silliman Marine Laboratory. I presented what has been much in my thoughts lately: my long slumbering study of Millepora sp(p). reproduction and zooxanthellae. I will mention a few issues that came up in discussion, besides Millepora sp. studies (needing to be taken up separately).

Reportedly, another of the numerous interesting aspects of the biology and ecology of Millepora spp. is that Sepia sp. only attach their eggs w/in Millepora colonies. Millepora is felt by some persons to be a hardier species than most corals to deteriorating environmental conditions. This runs contrary to a comment heard years ago, that "Millepora is the first to go."

Another thing I heard was that lowest daytime tides are in February: did my hearing betray me? Another comment was that highest tides are in June and December, making sense to me as in Micronesia highest tides are in December.

I was priviledged to sit across from Nida Calumpong, director, for lunch after Alan Verde and Ann Cleveland's seminar on Clownfish and Anemone trophic interactions. Nida now calls herself a botanist; however, she cut her teeth on (if I got this right) Dolabella sp. sea slugs---the topic of her dissertation. I had a similar experience, as in Chuuk Lagoon, my studies of traditional zoological knowledge led me further and further off the expected path, into botanical knowledge.

Tamban and Barringtonia.

In the Caroline Islands an occasional event is a terrible plankton bloom, said by some to be a harbinger of breadfruit season. During such a bloom, called in some places "bubbles," and called by other names in various places, sardines called senif in Chuukese, Herklotsichthys sp., can be poisonous to eat, sometimes a few fishes in an ice chest full. Such blooms need to be studied; I don't know that they ever have. I have been told various things by people in various places in the Caroline Islands: in some localities, it is reported that the smell is so terrible that noone can stay in the area; in Pohnpei according to Ahser Edward, a Marine Biologist, people who have fallen in the water during these blooms have been known to die.

When the topic of Ciguatera came up, Nida shared some very interesting information, including that Tamban (Cebuano) sardines, which may be Herklotsichthys sp. may be poisonous to eat.

Because I studied calendrics in Chuuk Lagoon, and had shared with Nida that I had needed to learn the plants because Caroline Islands fishermen and farmers use plants' blooming or other significant events as markers of various marine events---aggregation of a fish species, or drift log season (also associated with a star), or shark hunting. I was more than intrigued when she shared that one learns to avoid Tamban when Barringtonia is blooming. At that time. These shards of information are more than suggestive.

Dolabella sp. toxicity: ciguatera?

Nida Calumpong also reports that Dolabella sp. (?auricularia) are eaten, and are sometimes toxic: this may be ciguatera! I recall that certain sand-dwelling dinoflagellates are associated with Ciguatera: is this a possible avenue? I was amazed that Filipinos also eat the eggs, packaging them in vinegar in Tanduay bottles, calling them "poor man's caviar". I didn't catch whether the eggs can also be toxic. I was amazed because we used to eat these eggs in Chuuk, calling them Chuukese ramen. I don't know of any incidents of toxicity.

Back to Maynilad (Manila) --- 7 July 2007

Back to Manila from Dumaguete.

Our plan is for museum, aquarium, zoo, planetarium, and library visits.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Silliman University Marine Laboratory

On July 5, we visited SU Marine Lab. William was full of questions about the aquaria:
  • Why don't other fish besides the clownfishes go to the anemones?
  • Why do clownfish stay close to the anemones?
  • What are the (gastropod molluscs) that clean the glass?
  • More
He was with his Mother at the time. I hope we can visit together so I can talk to him about these questions. It's obvious: William needs an aquarium.

I learned that in the PI, Millepora spp. are considered as weedy, hardy species that outlast the scleractinians. This runs counter to the suggestions of a coral researcher from Israel who stated "Millepora is the first to go." I learned Millepora are common on the NE end of Sumilon Island, off of Cebu.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Xtide is a fantastic tide prediction program. I have been using it for over 10 years to produce tide calendars for Saipan and Chuuk Lagoon. Harmonic constants are coefficients for a location, that can be plugged into the tide prediction equation to generate predictions as a function of time. Harmonic constants used to be readily available for a few locations in the Philippine Islands for Xtide; however, in recent years apparently political and legal forces have conspired to make such constants less readily available for various places. If one had an old version of Xtide, he might generate tidal predictions---at least baselines, not expected to be accurate---for the PI, but not anymore for new versions. I am attempting to obtain Harmonic constants for sites in the PI.

Harmonic constants are generated from a tidal dataset for a year, from hourly tide data for any site. It should in theory be a relatively straightforward matter to generate constants from tide data if a tide logger or tide gauge is present at a site. Once a set of harmonics is available for a site, if a single month's data is available for a nearby site, it is often possible to generate offsets, or corrections of minutes and heights, for nearby sites: the primary site with existing constants is used as a reference point, with differences added or subtracted for secondary sites.

In short, I have not found tide predictions easily available for the PI.

Here are some links:

Cebu tide predictor (using an older version of Xtide!)
Bohol tide predictor (using another method).

Manila tides are also found on line.

Mobile Geographics : search or browse

Cookie crumbs for Philippines constants:

UK Hydrographic Office (look under Singapore, Japan)
Easy Tide (6 day free use?)

Here's a question: Where is the office of the Hydrographic authority for the Philippines, and are they willing to allow the use of existing constants.

Cebu is the reference station for the region. Offsets for Dumaguete are available. Unverified offsets are 0.8 or 0.9 FEET, and +30 min.
I have also learned that the Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS) of NAMRIA is the authority for hydrographic constants. I hope to visit NAMRIA in Manila.

If you wonder about strategic advantages, read about the Battle of Tarawa.

Here is the tidal prediction for bohol for today:

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


We arrived by fast ferry from Cebu this morning at about 10:00. Staying at the La Residencia al Mar, maybe for one day or two, then hope to find a more economical option.

More to come. One of the searches of all time: tidal harmonics for the Philippine Islands.

By the way, a tricycle from Cebu!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cebu --- 2 July 2007

Cebu. We arrived on The Princess of the Earth this morning.

Visited Fe's sister at the Schoenstadt Mission House in Talisay, a few miles from Cebu City.

Nuf sed for now.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Note: Ethnobotanical Garden at Butuan Museum

I posted a picture of a biasong tree at the Museum garden a couple of days ago. It occurs to me that the museum's arboretum is in severe need. I should write about this in depth, but don't have time. I saw biasong in the markets yesterday, among only three citrus---calamansi, biasong, and a large pumelo.

Informative signs at the museum's garden describe the historical interest and cultural interest of the trees; however these signs have deteriorated to the point of being unreadable. At least two notable trees have died.

Here is a fantastic idea, just begging for someone to jump in with fuel (energy and money) and go with it. One of the biggest problems facing this excellent museum is money. The employees are grossly underpaid. This is a 3rd world facility. Technicians or maintainance/custodial staff were observed at lunch time in 2004 shooting fish in the fish pond with air rifles equipped with clever spears, barbed at the tip, with a retrieval line attached. Because that's how they can eat.

So it's deplorable that the museum garden would degenerate to that point; but understandable. Who would support this kind of a facility? It needs energetic young scholars of ethnology, botany, and horticulture, and to these, what an opportunity!

What can we do even to begin to document these issues in an 8 day period? We have checked out and are mobile.

more images

We leave Butuan today. I have some images saved up on this computer that I have been using at Balanghai Hotel, so I'll post them now and sort them out later.
Internet Cafe's and etc.: I haven't found one single good keyboard on any computer in the PI. Everyone uses Yahoo. Windows in ubiquitous, shockingly so. Firefox isn't on the computers I have been using, except a few around Manila. Most of the computers have old versions of IE, with no tab browsing. Oh, well.

Nuf sed about that. We'll be on Sulpicio Lines tonight, then Wednesday to Dumaguete. Sadly, this will be a short visit, even though our intention had been to spend most of our trip there.

So long.

Butuan and History

We purchased a book from Greg Hontiveros, president of the Butuan Historical and Cultural Preservation Society, Butuan of 1000 years. It is a well written compilation of researches about Butuan's rich history. We found it at the vastly improved Butuan City Library, in the Butuan study room. Butuan was chronicled in Chinese texts from the Sung Dynasty, documenting trade between the Champa Empire and Butuan. Butuan is well known for gold work, dating perhaps to 1000BC. A second historical landmark, a source of pride for Butuanons, is Mazawa, the putative site of Magellan's first mass on Philippine soil. Well, there is another camp supporting Limasawa Island, but this is currently a hot issue for Butuanons, who claim research lately provides increasing support for the Mazawa site. We visited Mazawa on our last trip, but mainly to visit shrimp pond.

Mangrove devastation since 1950s

Shrimp farming has experienced a decline since our last visit in 2004: a bacterial infection has resulted in closing of at least some ponds. I have learned of a Butuanon mangrove expert who is recommending the replanting of mangroves, on the basis of the position that shrimp ponds where mangroves have been left significantly intact nearby have been producing better in Asia than those, like the ones here in Butuan, where Mangroves were cleared. Maps from 1959 or so show extensive mangroves near Mazawa, where we saw only shrimp and fish farms. I noted a massive patch of rectangles (farms/ponds) when I landed in Butuan in 2004, leading to our exploration of the coast. Hopefully the replaning efforts will bring back some of the mangrove functions.

I remember, however, that mangrove peat can be hundreds or thousands of years in development, and I wonder how one might expect replanted trees to generate a fully functioning mangrove community. Mangrove trees, at least of some species, are notoriously difficult to extablish by replanting, as demonstrated in Fiji some years ago. However, I hope that recently such efforts have been more successful, for the sake of the Butuan and other Philippine mangrove replanting projects.

Friday, June 29, 2007

At the fruit market

Near Otis Market in Butuan City, fruit vendors hawk their wares. I dared to photograph them, but I admit to having sampled some of them as well.


Extremely sweet; like a coarse ripe pear in texture; taste almost like darkened brown sugar.

The ubiquitous Mango of the Philippines.


Langka: Jackfruit wrapped in cellophane.


Masterwork of a baker's art. There's no corn in this bread, and it's actually rather bland, like perhaps a baking powder bread; a little sweet. I still like to eat it!

So ends yesterday's market day. Tomorrow there's another fruit market I hope to visit, with dozens of fruits and vegetables displayed.

Caraga Guitar made of bamboo

I had seen this in a published lecture from 1931 about Philippino musical instruments and "airs." Here's a picture from the Museum, of an example I saw today:

I was told that these instruments are still found today during festivals, and that when the festivities are over, they are thrown away. Holes are found at the ends and under the two strings, in what would be a sounding board. The following picture shows the holes at the end, and the binding around the instrument, the "nut" holding the bamboo fiber strip in tension and in position. The end with a hole is beaten with the open hand, like a drum, while at the same time the strings are plucked. This example is behind glass.

Caraga is the district including most of Northern Mindanao. The exhibit did not label this at all.

Some Environmental Issues in Northern Mindanao

  • Mining

Nickel mining in Tubay. Coincidentally, a major fish preserve is located along this coast.

A news article for reference from the Cagayan de Oro newspaper:
October 2006: coalition.calls.closure.of.town.mining.operation

  • Marine Conservation: Amag in Medina, Misamis Orientale.

Linricon Absuelo tells of the unidentified fish amag, in Medina. This fish is a few inches long, and has bioluminescent organs scattered on the body. The eye area may also bioluminesce. These fish were common in Medina, where they schooled at night, and were scoop netted by fishermen. Sounds like easy prey. According to Linricon, these fish have not been seen in Medina for approximately ten (10) years. Nuf sed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Balangai Boats, searching markets for fruits.

We went to the Balanghai Boat archaeological site today.

Took some pics of fruits. Will try to upload a couple of them soon.

Three issues that need to be discussed in depth:
  1. Mining and its ecological, environmental, sociological, and economic consequences. The Gov wants Mindanao to be a model mining area. Nickel is being mined up North at one of our favorite sites, near Tubai. I heard today of mining up toward Davao that has disastrous consequences on local people's lives. An entire mountain was razed near Butuan for some purpose, the top sheared off. With the push from the gov, the situation may get quite grave.
  2. In Caraga, the region in which Butuan is located, logging has been rampant and uncontrolled for many years. Mountains are denuded, the threat is severe of flooding in these lowlands with the watersheds of the great Agusan River having been cleared of mahogany forests. It appears that although a ban on logging has been made, Caraga has been exempted due to supposed "good conditions for growth of trees." Sadly, the mining industry and logging industry are controlled by the two competing political families of Caraga.
  3. I asked Concon Absuelo what spices might be of note in Butuan. He told me that the Mindanao cinnamon tree produced a good grade of cinnamon, but has become mainly an herbal cure for old people today. The one tree we saw at the arboretum at the Butuan National Museum has died since 2004.
  4. The Butuan City Library has been vastly improved over the past three years. A new library has been built, and a Butuan Heritage Collection and an Environment and natural history room have been set aside. The situation is far better than three years ago.
  5. The arguement about the first mass said by Magellan in the PI between Mazawa, here in Butuan, and Limasawa Island, near Leyte, has heated up. In the aforementioned Butuan Heritage Room are found a number of materials, including Pigafetta's works. People here are convinced that the arguement has gone well for Butuan.

I was not all0wed to photograph the Balanghai Boats. William was intrigued by the carved woodem coffins and remains that date, I believe, from the 13th Century, dug up nearby.

The Hydrology and Geology of Butuan are quite interesting, a target for further learning.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who is Jaime Valles?

In the waywayback time, Peter Van Dyke and I were living on the beach at Ke'ei Beach, in Kona, on the Big Island (no, the island, not the continent!) We befriended Jaime Valles, at that time (in the 70s) quite aged, a retired sugar cane chopper, brought over with a whole bunch of them in about 1915, I think (please correct this if you can). Jaime lived on the beach with 13 white dogs. He said he wanted white dogs, because Filipinos like to eat black dogs and not white ones. His camp consited mostly of two cars, his white dogs, a table, I think, and a fire. He cooked "sabaw" for him and his dogs everyday. Our part in all this was to drive him to town (some of the time in his car), so he could shop for groceries, and so could we. And we got some beer out of it too. I remember him fondly, but know too little about him, now I am in the PI, to trace his roots.

I did find this link about Sakadas.

He was born in the year either before or after my grandmother Davis. I think he was born in 1897. Last time I saw him, he was living at a new government retirement home in Kona. He mentioned visayan and he mentioned ilocano. So there is a chance he was from the south (Visayas), the language community of Fe. I am interested, but don't remember clearly.

Butuan, continued --- Gastronomical and Pomological Gleanings from the Philippine Islands

In my last post, I mentioned Aling Cora Restaurant in Butuan. The Butuan City Government has an interesting, if untested listing of hotels and dining in Butuan, including Aling Cora. Today, I visited the Butuan Museum and discussed foods briefly with Diding Tamayo, a staff member of the Butuan branch of the Philippine National Museum for some 26 years. I asked about the tree, the leaves of which are used for the delicious kinilaw. She pointed out two small trees in the arboretum of the museum: biasong and batuan. I will continue to search for more specific information. So far, biasong seems to be a citrus fruit, leaves quite distinct from limes and lemons I am familiar with, leaves with a quite distinctive flavor: I was certain these were the leaves used in kinilaw. However, Diding suggested it would be the fruit, apparently a small citrus. I mentioned suha?, and she suggested this is somewhat larger. Batuan fruits are also used in sinigang.

There ensued a short discussion of sinigang, as I mentioned that I was unsatisfied by the sinigang at Aling Cora. She stated that sinigang is actually a Luzon dish, that visayans do not eat or did not eat much sinigang, but tinola was more the dish, spicy and salty. I spied in Jose Rizal's Noli mi tangere a description of the cooking of a sinigang with bilimbi, I think, which was pointed out elsewhere as the pickle tree, a very sour fruit related to the carambola (star fruit) and reported elsewhere as being boiled with sugar into a lemonade like concoction. Diding says this may be iba?, also used in sinigang.


Mangos have been a joy, in Luzon, all over. Here, the mangos are distinct from the hawaiian mango (such as the hayden) or the mangoes eaten in micronesia, usually green. The mangoes here are a clear custard yellow color, without any blush of red, and are of a different texture than those I know in Hawaii or the ripe mangoes in Micronesia. They are creamy and delicious. Fantastic.

I found a description of mangoes in a book on Malaysian fruits. Not only varieties, be several species, are mentioned. A number of these are mentioned as poisonous if unripe. Fe's father, Crisostomo Sabuero, and her sister Virgie, know of a fruit, mango-like, known as both pangngi and pangnga (spelling?). It is similar in size to a "mango carabao", and has perforations or spots in the skin, and is poisonous to eat if unripe. Virgie says that even if it is ripe, it is unwise to eat very many, as there is still some poison in them. She said the farm of her husband had a tree, that bears a few fruits in it's proper time.

As far as mango seasons, I learned from Professor Muniappan of the U of Guam some years ago that mangoes are not seasonal, but bear opportunistically. Once the tree drops its leaves, it takes about four months to come into ripe fruits. I had been trying to link El Nino to seasonality of various plants in Chuuk, Micronesia. Mangoes will drop fruit or flowers when it rains much, so in prolonged dry spells, more than one fruit cycle per year may result. In Chuuk, three cycles are found in a "good" year. Prof. Muniappan said that Indian mango producers spray defoliants on the orchards once fruit has been harvested, to initiate the fruit cycle immediately. Philippinos apparently know this. It is quite striking to one who has lived in the "tiny islands" for over 20 years to drive past a mango orchard such as those I saw in La Union.

I am unable to upload photos in this Internet cafe. This place has lousy keyboards: I asked for a good one, and got one with a very crummy, slow kb. Most of the Internet Cafes I have visited in the PI are using older versions of IE, without tabs, and no firefox. I have yet to stumble across Linux yet, but have found some interest. One problematical issue to look out for: operators seem, when asked to print a file (including a bank statement) to copy and paste the page to M$ writer, and print the file from there. The result, whatever their reasoning, is a copy of your file on the machine. I had to dog one admin until he deleted the files. It ought not be a problem to set up printing directly from Firefox or IE, for that matter, without the need for this step. I also required intervention by the sysop, which is a PITA. This needs to be brought to the attention of the PLUG.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Butuan City -- Balanghai Hotel -- 23 June

We are in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao Island, Philippines, at the Balanghai Hotel. The main attraction for us was proximity to the Butuan branch of the Philippine National Museum. The namesake of the Balanghai Hotel are the Balanghai Boats. We hope to visit the boats in the next few days. Briefly, eleven 15m boats have been unearthed beginning in the 1970s, in Libertad Barangay, Butuan. One of them was carbon dated at 320 AD. Others have dated from 10th, 12th, and 13th Centuries, I believe. Associated were pottery from China and Hindu gold statuette, and gold crucibles.

Each city we have visited has a distinctive style of Tricycle/Tricycab. The Butuan City is a favorite of ours, because they are roomy. Nice in the rain, fitting four adults and two or three kids comfortably. Some of the older ones use lawnmower engines, while newer ones are actually a sidecar built on a small displacement motorcycle.

To compare, Fe and William are catching a Las Pinas (Manila) style tricycle.

Aling Cora Restaurant

We are here to visit Fe's family, from Cabcabon Barangay, Butuan City. We ate lnch yesterday at Aling Cora restaurant. Since this is simply the best restaurant we have eaten at in the Philippines (notwithstanding the flies), it's worth some discussion. [NOTE: I've been told there is another branch downtown, with an airconditioned room.]

We were introduced to Aling Cora restaurant in 2004 by Linricon Absuelo, curator of the Butuan branch, Philippine National Museum. We offered to take him out to dinner, and he suggested it because the leaves of one of the trees in the museum's small botanical garden is used in the traditional kinilaw recipe used by Aling Cora. Kinilaw is a raw fish dish. Fe tells me the limes used in kinilaw may not be available in Manila---suha?. We were impressed in 2004 both by the kinilaw and by the mango shakes, and we have both mentioned it several times as we planned this trip. Our memories must have failed us---the kinilaw is much, much better than I, at least, remember! Fantastic. Not only that, but the BBQ chicken was great. Perfectly cooked, and a delicious marinade and sauce. Normally, I do not like the restaurant BBQ chicken in the Philippines, so this was a surprise. The sinigang I have almost always liked at restaurants back home and in Manila; here, however, I found it wanting. Perhaps it was too subtle.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Las Pinas Bamboo Organ -- 22 June

Today we visited the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ. A dusty, smoggy trip across Las Pinas to St Joseph's Church.

We were taken on a tour, the organ was played for us, and the history of the church and organ related to us. The church was built of Adobe in 1795. The Organ was built in between about 1817 and 1830. Bamboo was buried in sand before the pipes were constructed. Our guide told us the treatment in sand leached sweet materials out that would attract termites. Some of the pipes are still the originals.

The organ was discovered in a state of disrepair in 1970, when a German organ company was contracted to repair and rebuilt it. A room was built in Germany with humidity and temperatures controlled to those of the PI. After two years, the refurbished organ was shipped back to the PI.

Every year is a Bamboo Organ Festival, with notable organists from around the world performing. I bought a copy of the CD of a recent festival to give to my Mother, an organist herself.

So, even though we were unable to visit the Lumanog guitar factory in Pampanga, we at least have a little musical side trip on our agenda. I now hope to visit the Alegre guitar factory on Mactan Island, Cebu.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Asian Hospital - 18-20 June

In order to hopefully save others any frustrations of the nature of which we experienced, I am documenting the problems we experienced while seeking our treatments at Asian Hospital. Asian Hospital seemed to us every bit as good, medically, as we had hoped it would be; however, frustrations regarding insurance coverage, that seemed to us to be unnecessary, made our experience less comfortable and, frankly, resulted in a waste of time that should have been used to seek other kinds of care we had hoped to receive while there. We are still in Las Pinas, so comments on our efforts to get out of here are of note.

On 21 June, I had quite an experience trying to get tickets for a flight to Butuan. Like driving in Manila's famed traffic, trying to get a ticket online was a second to second, hit or miss exerience: a ticket for 1650 Pesos disappeared within 15-20 minutes, at which point no more tickets were available that day. A few minutes later, tickets for 3,000+ Pesos were available, then they were not. A few minutes later, a some tickets for over 5,000 Pesos were available on the same flight!

Note, 22 June: I was able to purchase tickets over the phone. The experience was unsatisfying, due to a combination of factors: dysfunction of Internet connections, changes of availability of seats and prices of tickets on the Cebu Pacific Air web site, a Cebu Pacific call center setup that does not deal adequately with calls made after business hours (resulting in long waiting periods on the phone when calls are not actually being answered), variability of cell phone connection function, busy phones, and my own habits. We unnecessarily spent at least 400 Pesos on cell phone charges, and we lost a ticket early in the day to the above mentioned problems. In the end, we were able to purchase tickets a day later and at a higher price, leading us to stay a day longer in Las Pinas than we had hoped. The matters mentioned above are beyond our control.

The timing of our trip to Butuan had depended upon the completion of our treatment at Asian Hospital. Had the business aspect of our visits to Asian Hospital gone more smoothly, we might have saved a day, saved at least US$100.00 of out of pocket expenses (that will be repaid by the insurance company later, but leads to less pocket money for the trip and loss of a good deal of time at Asian Hospital dealing with insurance issues that should have been straightforward. This part of my report deals, then with frustrations in the business side of the visit. Medical aspects, happily went quite well, and will be reported later.

The bottom line on the insurance and business aspects of our trip was dealing with the different pictures we received from our insurance company, AETNA Global, and the International Health Services (IHS (ihs@asianhospital.com), also identified variously as IMS, International Medical Services by the administrative assistance of that office, Ms. Therese Loria). AETNA informed us over the 1-800-# that AETNA would direct pay any work at Asian Hospital costing over 500.00, and that AETNA has a department devoted to direct payment. (Direct payment means we pay only 20% of the billing on site, while by previous arrangement, AETNA would directly pay the hospital the remaining 80% of the charge. However, the Asian Hospital International Medical Services office informed us when we were already on site that we are responsible for "self pay" of all but inpatient services. Outpatient services, we were told, were self pay, to be paid out of our pockets, pending later reimbursement by the Insurance provider.

This disjunction between the statements by AETNA and the IMS/IHS caused us considerable grief during our first two days at Asian Hospital, Friday, 15 June and Monday, 18 June. Over that weekend, I contacted AETNA's 1-800-# to request clarification. The parties answering the phone for AETNA were surprised at what I had been told by Therese Loria of Asian Hospital's IMS/IHS. AETNA related, in a security sealed email, with cc copies to three persons at asianhospital.com, the terms of the arrangement between AETNA and Asian Hospital. I intend to call these matters to the attention of the Asian Hospital administration, including these three persons. In the end, I had to physically hand a cell phone over to Therese Loria, with AETNA staff of the other end of the line, in the process of attempting to come to terms with the different policy statements made by the hospital and the insurance company. Finally, we were able to come to the terms we had hoped for.

The insistence of an AH staff member on 15 June that only In-patient care was "covered" by AETNA, and would be reimbursed by AETNA back home on Saipan, would have meant we would have had to pay more than US$1,000.00 more out of pocket to cover the insurance company's 80% of our bill. On the 15th, all of our consultations were paid as "self pay": all of our referrals to physicians for consultation were written by Therese Loria, and prominently marked as "Self Pay" in large letters, highlighted in orange. A cover letter was generated by Ms. Loria for each consultation, in which a paragraph clearly explained to the physician the importance of collecting full payment from the patient.

I will not be able to complete this report at this time, due partly to a raucous atmosphere in this Internet Cafe, where (it being friday night) a large number of school age students are playing internet based games and calling back and forth across the room. I am in the VIP area, explained to me as the quiet room: even this room has been invaded. I'll make a list/outline in anticipation of completing this report at a later time.

  • Terms explained by Therese Loria, the only person present in the IMS room. Recipient of email for ihs@asianhospital.com
  • CC recipients for email from AETNA beside myself and ihs@asianhospital.com, 3
  • I originally asked to be scheduled for in-patient lithotripsy, which was explained by Dr. Salileng as an outpatient procedure, so that my care would be covered under direct pay arrangements by AETNA for their 80%, as explained by TL.
  • Fe asked for her MRI to be in-patient also. While Dr. Joy Fontanilla said she thought it could, in the end, it would not be possible for her to sign for it. TL tried to ask her.
  • AETNA explained it was not each individual billing item that had to reach 500.00, but the expensed related to the issue, at the same time. (I assumed that to mean not at different times visiting the same hospital).
  • In the end, it took a considerable amount of time, but our care for Lithotripsy (Alan) and MRI and Endocrinology work (Fe) were done as out-patient care, with direct pay from AETNA.
  • I met another friend outside the hospital on Monday, 18 June, who had been released after a lengthy in-patient treatment for a leg by pass. He has been treated several times at AH. When I mentioned "direct pay"/"self pay" and "inpatient"/"outpatient" to him, he offered, "I know a way around that". He said, have the Doctor admit you as an in-patient as soon as you see the physician.
  • AETNA made it clear to the hospital that I should not be treated as an in-patient unless it was considered medically adviseable to do so. It would mean, AETNA clarified, my out of pocket expenses would be higher!

On Monday, 18 June, I met a friend from Saipan at Asian Hospital who is a US Government Employee, covered by Blue Cross. I took him to Therese Loria's office after he had been summarily told by the billing office of AH that he would have to pay and be reimbursed back home. His reception by Therese Loria was telling: he was told in no uncertain terms, that all out-patient care for International Patients was to be paid out of pocket and reimbursed back home by an easy reimbursement process. My friend remarked that had been through this in the past, and it is not either easy. He was told the same way that I had that his insurance woujld "kick in" for In-patient care.

Angeles City Flying Club---14 June

We have one series of pix remaining after a slip of the thumb, deletingd all of the pictures in our camera. Just for fun, this is a spider we found on a leaf from a tree at the Angeles City flying club (ACFC). Fe was able to fly with Jeff; I, too heavy, could not fly.

I saw three amazing bugs at the ACFC. A butterfly that wasn't a butterfly---perhaps a skipper? The ACFC boasts a collection of trees making it a miniature botanical garden.

Cool ultralight planes too, the main attraction.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Asian Hospital-15 June ---

On 14 June we checked into Grand Robert's Hotel, a fantastic find in Las Pin~as, South of Manila. We paid 1000 Pesos for a taxi from Swagman. GRH was recommended to us by Therese Loria of Asian Hospital's International Health Services (International Medical Services) office, with which I had corresponded before leaving Saipan, as well as during our stay.

We have purchased two Motorola V3 Cell Phones, very useful here. I am able to check Email on gmail for 10 Pesos, but that facility is not as useful as, say, 15 Pesos today at this wonderfully appointed WMS Net Cafe in Las Pinas, with flat screens, fast connections, and maybe even core cual machines. I'll mention that I am surprized at the lack of Linux use in Inet Cafes so far. I met Boker (member of the PLUG) at the Asian Hospital IT office, however, a seasoned GNU/Linux user.

Boker uses Fedora, SUSE, and CentOS, at least. I left a CD of Ubuntu Feisty beta with him. He helped me check my email and print. Boker allowed me to use his personal laptop to print, as the Asian Hospital open Internet terminals were not hooked up to printers. This was extremely useful to print out documentation from our Insurance company. He has helped me twice. (for all it's excellence, the WMS Net Cafe in Las Pinas does not have the advertized printing service.) This lack of service seems in stark contrast with our overall impression of the medical services at Asian Hospital.

I will have much more to post about our experience at Asian Hospital and other aspects of our trip.

La Union

We arrived in Manila on 8/9 June. Fe and William were held up in Nagoya for several hours waiting for their plane to arrive from Detroit. We had carefully planned our arrival within an hour or so of each other; but the fates would not have it. I checked in to Swagman Hotel, which we had carefully selected because we trust them to pick us up at the airport based on our experience in 2004. Well, my arrival was not included, so I had to catch a taxi at 500 Pesos, at about 10:30 PM. I rode in to the airport with the hotel service vehicle, at about 3:00 in the AM. (Exact times slip my mind, as some 10 days have passed already!) Met them there, and rode back to Swagman where sleep came easy. We decided to postpone our trip to La Union for a day to catch up on sleep.

Next day we met a friend: taxi driver Lemuel of the Swagman Taxi cadre. He helped us find an adaptor for William's GameBoy, toured us around old Manila---drove us through Intramuros, the "walled city" and showed us statues of Jose Rizal and other political heros. (This morning, 19 June, he woke me up with a cell phone message from Manila that today is Jose Rizal's birthday!). He dropped us off at the bus terminal, and we were off for a promised 7 hour bus trip to San Fernando, La Union, and a visit to Jeff and Cherry, in San Juan, the "Surfing Capitol of the North".

We spent two nights there, and bopped down to Angeles City to visit the "Angeles City Flying Club." To make a long story short, until I can get back to it later, Fe flew on an Ultralight plane with Jeff, but I am too heavy, so William and I spent about 30-40 minutes on the ground. I took pictures, but managed to delete the whole SD card, with a careless button push on our less than well designed Minolta refurb.