Saturday, June 30, 2007
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.
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
The ubiquitous Mango of the Philippines.
Langka: Jackfruit wrapped in cellophane.
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.
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
Took some pics of fruits. Will try to upload a couple of them soon.
Three issues that need to be discussed in depth:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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
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
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 (email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- CC recipients for email from AETNA beside myself and email@example.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.
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
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.
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.