Monday, December 26, 2011

Cost of Giving Birth

I am now on my last trimester, specifically 1 1/2 months more, and I am not finally decided on where I will have the baby - St. Luke's (Global or Quezon City) or Capitol Medical Center.

If money was no object, I would choose St. Luke's hands down.  I have seen the facility and it is excellent, aside that my doctor is accredited there.  But according to my OB, considering the present size of the baby and the fact that he is in breech position, a cesarean delivery is inevitable and will cost P120,000 (barring complications).  She says that Global City has a cesarean package for P98,000 (again barring complications).  P98,000 is still within budget, higher than that will cut into emergency money and budget for purchase of other baby things.

Capitol Medical Center has a budget of P80,000 for the cesarean delivery.  The down-side for this place is that they don't allow the husband inside the delivery room. The upside is it nearer home, its cheaper, and there is a hotel nearby i can book my mom and brother while waiting for my delivery.  Another downside is that I have read a review from a blogger regarding negligence, after making a simple search in google.   Although I do trust my doctor and  myy doctor can deliver in either so its just a choice on the quality of facilities and staff.

I sure can use some advice from those who had their babies delivered in either.  So feel free to comment or e-mail me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Having A Baby in the Philippines

I am now firmly into my second semester.  The second semester is certainly much better than the first as I am alot able to do house chores now aside from being more focused at work.  Also, I have gotten "most" of my focus back.  I have started planning on the upcoming delivery -- just four months from now.  Possible purchase of new things, i.e. crib, stroller, car seat and baby clothes.  I am also on the look out for a bigger place to rent.  Our place is getting pretty crowded as it is, so moving out is certainly necessary.

I will also start to write about important things to consider about a child born to a foreigner father -- CITIZENSHIP.  What does the Philippine Constitution say and what are your child's options?  Just be patient with the pregnant woman though, she has alot on her plate. :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Excited About the Baby

Been very busy these last few weeks since we learned we are pregnant.  Frankly, it was me mostly struggling to keep my head above water as I try to balance work and all the symptoms that came from being pregnant.  In a lot of ways I am thankful I am in the Philippines when I got pregnant.  People are a little more forgiving if I miss a day or two in a week because I couldn't sleep for one reason or another, or if I woke up with a feeling like my insides are all topsy-turvy.

But its been a few weeks now since I have taken a few days off work to survive my first trimester, and the symptoms now are a little more bearable than they were a few weeks ago.  I have slowly gotten my second-wind trying to finish the workload accumulated in my absence. And now I am better fit to forge forward doing more planning for the baby's arrival.

At present, things are looking pretty well for the baby.  He/she is even bigger for his/her age and is really moving alot.  I am hoping I do not have to go on bed rest any time soon.  But even if I should I have 60 days of (paid) maternity leave and an estimate of at least 4 months worth of accumulated (paid) sick and vacation leaves.  So over all, if I really need it, I can be gone from the Office for a total of 6 months (with pay), if I needed it.

Of course, I have other things I need to estimate, like the total cost of my delivery (if it is going to be normal or cesarean).  If I have to have some more extra money set aside in case of complications requiring myself or the baby to stay longer at the hospital.

I also need to look for a bigger place for our growing family to stay.  Getting a maid now is soon to be inevitable, no matter how much I resist it.  Staying at home as a full-time mom is definitely out of the question, so having a reliable maid/yaya will certainly be a welcome relief to me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Who Are The Compulsory Heirs?

Before I begin to discuss who are the compulsory heirs, I must emphasize that Philippine law on testate and intestate succession only becomes relevant to a foreigner when 1) the laws of his/her country states that the law where he/she is domiciled shall govern; and 2) he/she is domiciled in the Philippines at the time of death.

Otherwise, all this discussion is rather unimportant to you and will concern only us Filipinos.

First, let us distinguish between what is testate and intestate succession and what is its effect.  A succession is testate when there is a will, consequently, when there is no will it is called intestate succession.  Compulsory heirs cannot be denied, whether the succession is testate or intestate, and even their designated legitime (share) under the law cannot be changed, notwithstanding the type of succession.

Who are the compulsory heirs by order of preference:

1) Children (legitimate and illegitimate; adopted children are treated as legitimate heirs);
2) Spouse (legal spouse only);
3) Parents (whether adoptive or not);
4) collateral relatives (brothers/sisters/cousins) only in the absence of above.

The presence of  a spouse AND child/children, will result in the exclusion of parents.
The presence of parents in the absence of a child/children, will result in the exclusion of collateral relatives.

Let me emphasize, only the free disposable portion may be disposed of by will.  Compulsory heirs cannot be deprived of their legal right to their legitime, no matter how much the testator dislikes them.  Only by means of their disinheritance through a will can they be deprived of their legitimes, and only for causes expressly provided for by law.

Let us now discuss the distribution of the estate based on who are the surviving compulsory heirs:
  • Spouse ONLY (without surviving parents or children) - the Spouse shall inherit 1/2 of the estate and the other half the testator may already freely dispose. Article 900 of the Civil Code
  • Spouse and ascendants (without children) - Spouse inherits 1/4 of the estate, and the ascendants (assuming there are two still surviving) shall inherit 1/4 each, 1/4 shall remain as free disposable portion. Article 893 of the Civil Code 
  • Spouse and legitimate children - Children gets half of the estate and spouse gets 1/4 of the estate; the remaining 1/4 is free disposable portion; if there are two or more legitimate children, the spouse shall inherit equally with the children. Article 892 of the Civil Code 
  • Spouse and only one illegitimate child - Child gets 1/3 and spouse gets 1/3, the remaining 1/3 is the free disposable portion. Article 894 of the Civil Code
  • The legitime of an illegitimate child who is an acknowledged natural child or a natural child by legal fiction is 1/2 the share of a legitimate child. Article 895 of the Civil Code
  • The legitime of an illegitimate child who is neither the above is 4/5 the share of an acknowledged natural child. Article 895 of the Civil Code
It will be a longer story to discuss how to divide the share of collateral relatives.  But rest assured you don't even have to go there if the top three compulsory heirs are still alive.  It is wise then, should you want to give something to your collateral relatives to give them what is left of the free disposable portion after satisfying the above.  If there is no will, the free disposable portion shall be divided among the compulsory heirs based on the above.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Will America Be Kinder To My Children?

As I sit here now with the knowledge that I am almost 6 weeks with child, I wonder to myself about the choice I have been failing to make or the direction I have not taken yet, or whether that option will close finally and open only when we re-file all the papers or when the option to relocate becomes open as a widow.  I wonder if by my indecision I am foreclosing choices even for my unborn child.

But really, will the America we know now be kinder to my children? With the healthcare "reforms", higher retirement age and proposed cuts on food assistance to women and children, does my child even stand the chance? Will he/she get a "better" education?  Won't he/she be saddled down with student loans just to get this "better" education?  Do they REALLY have a better education? Or is that something they just want us to believe?

Here in the Philippines, I got my education in the early 90's at barely P2,000 to P3,000 per semester! I even started out my first semester paying a miserly P800.  Of course even the U.P. system has costed more now, but they hardly cost the P100,000 per year on an Ateneo education.

Am I to think that the school system here is not as good as the one over there? When my Aunties who got their medical education here from the best medical and science schools in the Philippines - University of Sto. Tomas and University of the Philippines - are themselves employed by the best hospitals in the US (Mt. Sinai and John Hopkins).  How about Engineering? My sister graduated from the best Engineering college (Mapua Institute of Technology) in the country and is now enjoying a gainful employment as a programmer.  My Uncle (the first of our clan to get to America) was also a Mapua graduate who went on to own his own construction company in the US.

Over here, my child will never have to fear being bullied as ruthlessly as over there.  Nerds are not vilified but respected.  They may not be popular but they never belong to the outcast. Over here there is no fear of being gunned down because you can hardly hear of any incident of a kid carrying a gun in the private schools.  Over here, I will make sure he/she gets the best education and discipline in any field he/she wants, and I will make certain he/she has a fighting chance for a better life in the future, if that better life ever means going to America (of his/her own choice).

Maybe being here would keep him/her from being such a weakling.  He/she should not rely on the government for food, healthcare or unemployment benefits.  Over here you just either sink or swim.  And  I would do everything within my power to make sure he/she has all the potential in the world to do more than just swim.

What does America have to offer really that is better than what we can offer ?  Do I really want my children to grow up relying on the government? Is their education really better? Maybe in the next nine months I can really answer those questions with concrete facts, and then I can make the choice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

13 (a) Visa Finally Acted On

As you very well know getting the 13 (a) Permanent Visa took a longer time than it should have.  We filed it on April 11, 2011 and we were scheduled for a hearing on April 15, 2011.  But I was scheduled for an operation on the 15th and we didn't get a notice for the hearing until April 14, 2011 noon, on the way to the hospital nonetheless.  The only way I could have made that hearing was to physically pull the IV off from my wrist, tell the attending nurses and the guards that I will be back in 2 to 3 hours  to settle my bill and be formally discharged from the hospital.

So to make a long story short, we didn't make it for the April 15, 2011 hearing, although I did call the Bureau of Immigration in Makati (BI Makati) ahead of time that we couldn't make it.

The Monday after my operation (April 18, 2011), I called BI Makati to schedule a hearing.  They said they would call me whenever a lawyer becomes available for a hearing.  Sadly, I never heard from them and I called them at least once a week, only to be told to wait for a phone call.

Finally, just days before the supposed expiration of the 13 (a) probationary (May 20, 2011), I texted and introduced myself FOR THE FIRST TIME as Atty. Claudette Agatep - Granville!  Finally a more positive response came to call them up for the scheduled hearing.  The next day we came, and everything was short and curt.  We were asked to have something notarized upstairs and signed a few papers. (May 18, 2011)

Fast forward, the second week of June and I haven't heard from them.  I called the lawyer's assistant a couple of times and all I got was a curt "she is busy, could you please call again some other time."  I try to be as patient as I could with my fellow civil servants for the very simple reason that I know how overwhelming government work can sometimes be.  Most people want to dispense most civil servants as lazy or bumming on their job, but some of us really do work our ass off. As I used to say in my former job, I have worked for both the private and the public sector; but I have never worked as hard as I did when I was Chief of Legal of another government office.  So I tried my best to be patient.  But on the side I was already calling a lawyer-classmate from the BI-Main to ask if it was "normal" that it takes this long and if there would be a possible problem.  She asked for my husband's name and for the name of the hearing officer.  For the likes of me, I couldn't remember the name of the hearing officer, but I gave her my husband's name. I asked my friend if there would be a problem if the visa approval came after the expiration of the 13 (a) probationary, she said that is not a problem as long as you submit the petition for conversion days before the expiration of the original visa.  So I relied on her word, as she works there after all.

Today, I decided to google my name for no apparent reason really,  just that I do that a great once in awhile to see what I have done in my life.  Aside from seeing my blog, and various other articles pertaining to previous jobs and my eligibility, I saw the action on our visa.  In Item 212 I saw my name and my husband's name.  I just wonder why BI-Makati hasn't called us yet.  I can't imagine that the action can be anything other than an approval.  So next week, after our Veteran's Affair appointment we are going to BI-Makati hopefully for visa implementation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who Shall Inherit

A marriage involving individuals who are citizens of two different countries can be quite perplexing.  But the important rule of thumb here is to determine who had just died, and what the law of his country says (nationality).  In some instances, the domicile (where the deceased resided) may apply if the national law of the deceased says that the law of his country of domicile shall apply.  This is called renvoi

To give an example, Mr. Smith died in the Philippines and he is a national of country X.  The laws of country X says that the law governing succession shall be the country of domicile (residence) of Mr. Smith.  The law of country X states that all of the property shall go to the surviving spouse regardless if there are surviving descendants (children).  Philippine law says if there is a surviving spouse and surviving descendants (children), each shall inherit from the estate equally.  What law do you think shall apply?

The answer is Philippine law because the law of country X states that the law of Mr. Smith's domicile shall apply.

Why is it important to have a will? Well simply because if you don't have one, probate proceedings will be much more complex and will enrich not your heirs, but lovable professionals like myself -- lawyers. If you have a will, all that will be proven in Court is the extrinsic validity of the will.  Another very convincing reason to draft a will (if you don't have one yet), is that it will save your relatives the angst of fighting over your estate.  Instead of your death becoming a time of mourning, it can be a time of conflict amongst your family members.

Another alternative I have just recently learned is from a book I was reading by an American lawyer (Madeline Gauthier, "Where there's a Will, There's a Way") is to make use of a Living Trust.  It allows certain benefits not available in a Will, which I may discuss in some future time once I have finished my reading in full. :p

In Philippine jurisdiction, other things that may complicate probate proceedings are: 1) if you have properties not within the Philippines, 2) if the will was contested; 3) if you have creditors or 4) a compulsory heir was not included therein.

So who are compulsory heirs? Compulsory heirs are those heirs you cannot leave out in a will or in intestate succession, except in exceptional circumstances.  These can be your parents, if you don't have a spouse or children or it can be the spouse and children.  In Philippine jurisdiction, the presence of descendants excludes the ascendants.  That means if you have children, your parents do not inherit unless you provide a legitime for them from the free disposable portion of your estate.

At this point I will cut it short.  The discussion on compulsory heirs is a very long discussion by itself.  :)  Till next time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Estate Planning

In the last month, I have come to realize the value of estate planning, and preparing for ones death, even when one is perfectly healthy in the present times.  The death of three different individuals and the legal problems caused by their death was brought to my attention.

Scenario number one involved a very close friend of mine who just recently died of pancreatic cancer.  Perhaps holding on to the very last minute that she would live, she did not consider to express her intention (on paper) under what law she wishes to retire.  Pass forward a few days after her death, her husband filed in her behalf for retirement under Republic Act 1616. Unfortunately, by then it was too late and all that the husband was entitled to was survivorship benefit and the proceeds of the life insurance.  Certainly no longer the lump sum that she could have been entitled to had she decided to prepare on paper that she wished to retire under R.A. 1616.  It was difficult to break it to the husband, but I somehow skirted the issue and just granted the request for terminal leave by reason of separation by death.

Scenario number two, an employee had retired (prior to her death) and filed for retirement benefits under R.A. 1616.  She filed it before her death, but she died just before she was able to receive it. There was no named beneficiary in the retirement benefit, so her siblings (she having no parents nor children left) went after the P2.5 million worth of lump sum benefit she was entitled to.  Now, considering she died intestate (without a will), after satisfying the share of all compulsory heirs (under Philippine law these are the heirs you CANNOT deprive except in exceptional circumstances), the remaining part of the estate would have to be distributed in probate courte.

Scenario number three, my husband's cousin has been living and doing business in Saipan for years.  In 2009 he died quite suddenly of a heart attack, leaving no children and an ex-wife.  Although I do not know the law in Saipan, I can bet that just like here, considering he died intestate, everything has to go to probate court.  His relatives, worried about the business and all its assets going to the wrong person inquired from me what they could or needed to do.  I suggested they go to Saipan to oversee the actions of the lawyer who was appointed as Administrator of the estate.  They said they can't because they have limited means and are just living off retirement income.  Sadly, that case will go on without them and possibly at loss to them, because it will be distributed (if ever) without their knowledge or consent to whoever poses as a creditor.  I think my husband's cousin would have been better off preparing a Will to ensure that his estate will not be butchered off between the creditors and other "interested parties" upon his death.

The foreigner here with assets locally (in the Philippines) and abroad (in their home countries) would do well to think about how to plan the disposition of their properties upon their death. It must be emphasized that under Philippine law, "intestate and testamentary successions, both with respect to the order of succession and to the amount of successional rights and to the intrinsic validity of testamentary provisions, shall be regulated by the national law of the person whose succession is under consideration, whatever may be the nature of the property and regardless of the country wherein said property may be found."   This simply means that in regard to how to "apportion" the property, the national law of the person concerned shall be what governs.  This becomes especially problematic in the case when there are real properties situated in one place, and personal properties (e.g. stocks, 401 (k)) acquired somewhere else.

It is a long story I cannot write about in one sitting. :) I will try to sit down to write about it in greater length in some future time when time permits me. :)  In the meantime, anyone can pose queries regarding it in order for me to come up with something more succinct. :)   

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Colonoscopy Finally!

Last year, we spoke about getting a colonoscopy.  For various a myriad of reasons it took until now before we have finally scheduled a colonscopy.  Part of the reason was we were scouting for a good doctor - one who is proficient in his profession and yet had a heart.  My husband was very disappointed with a certain gastroenterologist we consulted with at Healthway, who gave him the wrong medicine for his diverticulitis problem.  We did find a good doctor at St. Luke's, as could be expected, but he pointed us towards the "Cancer Screening Package" that was way over our budget - P45,000 inclusive of senior citizen discount.  Since he can never be a "Senior Citizen", you can imagine that the total cost would be more than P45,000.

So we looked around some more, and went to the nearby Lung Center of the Philippines.  It was almost by accident that we found Dr. Leticia Guzman who was there only at 9-10 a.m. on Saturday.  During November last year, my hubby still had a bulging lump on his left side.  I was still concerned as always and the doctor figured out what was partially the problem (apart from diverticulitis).  Apparently, my husband had alot of gas collecting in his colon which was causing his left side to swell and bulge.  Dr. Guzman asked for a full stomach ultrasound   where she herself oversaw the actual ultrasound.  So apart from the diverticulitis medicine that she prescribed that was the exact one that the doctor from St. Luke's prescribed she gave us the idea of getting gas pills.  Asawa got a bunch of gas pills while he was in the U.S. and that has greatly reduced the swelling of his side.

So now that the swelling and discomfort has subsided, it is now time for the colonoscopy.  Seeing as how nice Dr. Guzman seemed (she is motherly and seemed concerned about his welfare) she was, to my husband's thinking, the best choice for the procedure.

We aren't well-off and we have a limited amount of money every month. I haven't set-up my husband with medical insurance yet but I am working on it.  But certainly, in the meantime, he is definitely due for a colonoscopy.  So I asked,a bit apologetically, how much the procedure would cost -- she said, possibly P20,000 but not more than that.  I felt a sigh of relief when I heard that.  It may not be inclusive of the room accommodation yet, and I am still a little too shy to ask if that is inclusive of professional fee, but we will see, hopefully it still isn't as big as in St. Luke's.

The hospital where he will be admitted in is at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, also a Center of Excellence.  I am praying everything works out. :) I'll keep everyone posted. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Continuation of the Pinay's Hospital Experience

A very heartbreaking but truly instructive part of my surgery happened during the admission part of it.  As I had said in an earlier post, my husband was outside in the pews of the admission room, while I spoke with the person who manned the admission section. As I said earlier I came fully prepared, I had read my contract front and back, spoke to the customer service before admission and pointed out what I knew I was entitled to under the contract -- which is P160,000 coverage under my health plan.  Any customer service who has the misfortune of talking to me will know, if I ask a question and you give me an answer that I can not find in the contract  my short and simple question is -- have you read the contract?  Because I have!

At any rate, the Admission Section suggested I stay at the Ward because a semi-private room was unavailable.  I pointed out that under the contract I can ask for a room upgrade if a semi-private room was unavailable.  So I got what I knew I was entitled to.

Anyway, while signing the papers essentially stating that I am willing to be moved to a semi-private room when one becomes available, I overheard a conversation that the admission person was having with another woman.  It appears that Mrs. (I forgot the real name, but let's make up a fictional name) Robinson was having her husband moved from a semi-private room to a ward.  Obviously, Robinson is not a Filipino name, unless he (the husband) was born in the Philippines but was left behind by a foreigner.  But at any rate, it appears that Mr. Robinson, the husband, is an American retiree, receiving only his Social Security pension.  The woman in the Admitting Section asked the wife if she was working and if she had Philhealth coverage such that the husband is covered (at least partially).  The answer was a NO.  Not only does she and her husband not have Philhealth coverage  but she also has no work.

Honestly, I felt sorry for the husband more than I did for the wife.  Sorry for him that the meager pension he is living on has to be shared between himself and his wife (who was clearly of working age).  Maybe people will call me "mayabang" for saying this, and maybe I am -- I offer no excuse, I honestly have never been without work (except for the 7 months I spent preparing for the bar).  But I just felt pinays have to be empowered women even when they are married to foreigners and most especially if you are a pinay who is married to a much older foreigner man.  Having a mother myself who is old and has no means to support herself, I can understand that having a much older person to live with carries a huge amount of responsibility.  You have to realize that the money they have is meant to answer for their needs when they get older, they are not meant to sustain a family.

Even assuming that it can pay partially to sustain yourself (as a wife) and him, you have to realize that money will not last forever or overcome inflation unless there is some other source of income, either a business or another source of income (like a wife working).  If you factor in that it has been two years since there has been a cost-of-living adjustment in the Social Security pension and the dollar exchange has not been going up but infact going progressively down, there has to be another source of income apart from social security pension, and the woman has to play an active part in determining where to find that money.

If you think about the fact that under Philippine law, the spouse is duty-bound to provide support for the husband/wife over any family relation (e.g. you can't run to his kids because under Philippine law it is YOUR [wife] responsibility), then maybe you (the filipina wife) can play a more active role in finding ways and means to help your husband live a comfortable life in the Philippines.

(P.S. Sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings by this post, I just felt it needed to be said.)

Driving Me Crazy

For those in the know, we have decided to get a car.  It was with much trepidation, and a bit of number crunching before I finally came to the conclusion that we can afford it.  What with the savings we have realized from the Veteran's Affair contributions to our medicines, I sat down, computed all the numbers, saw how much we were already spending on taxi cabs (for myself to and from work and for him to and from the mall), computed my salary increase for this year, the amount we have also freed up from our monthly expenses for paying debt--- and yes, we can afford the monthly (even on a worst-case scenario).  I know paying a monthly is more expensive than paying cash, but it was what we can afford in order to address what I felt to be a necessity now.

I have had enough of contending with cab-drivers who seem to think we (my husband and I) were tourist and don't know how much it cost going to and from places.  I have had enough of the long lines in malls for cabs, when I am already exhausted from work and grocery-shopping on weekdays (I particularly found it horrible going just to and from the mall and our place during the holidays - talk about so near, yet so far away) .  I have had enough of harassing my husband to get up early so that we can make it on time to the Bureau of Immigration or Veteran's Affair. The pinnacle of it all was when my husband suffered from gout last Christmas and we literally hobbled from Veteran's Affair to the Bureau of Immigration. At one time after lunch we had to take a cab for just the short distance from nearby Jollibee to the Bureau of Immigration.  Of course, the recent increase in cab fare flag down rates all the more encouraged me it was time.  After all, my Office was just a 10-minute drive to home, it would still be less costly over all than a daily commute by cab.

At present, my husband drives me to work.  First, let us make it clear, I have all the intention in the world to learn how to drive. Although I must admit that with the way my husband drives (he was a surprisingly GREAT first time driver in Manila), it is a bit discouraging to even attempt to try. He has been able to weave in and out of Manila traffic without as much as a dent on the car, that it scares me to even try it once with him as my "instructor/backseat driver".  Admittedly, I am a backseat driver when he drives, and he says that half of the time I lead him astray! LOL!  But really, I am still better than nothing because at least I know the general directions, it's just that I never paid any attention at all before with the no-left turns, no-u turns and one ways, and that is what leads us astray.

I know I need to learn to drive for the following reasons: 1) its cheaper because he doesn't have to drive back home and drive again to the Office to pick me up in the afternoon; I can just drive to work, park, and go home with less gas consumption; and 2) if he is unable to drive for medical reasons, then I can drive. A week after we had the car, he suffered again from gout.  I had to take a cab to and from work again for at least a week before he can drive again.  There also may come a time that he is incapacitated for some reason and I have to rush him to the hospital.  Also I want to be able to drive my mother to her check-ups without having to drag my husband out of the house for that.  All these reasons are compelling enough to force me to drive.

So I started my first "driving lecture" last week.  It was on highway driving and at least I got to understand what some of the lines on the road mean and what to do in case the car screeches to a halt for some reason. Pretty soon I will schedule my actual driving lesson, I am certainly looking forward to it.

While I only have a student's permit, my husband already had his foreign driver's license converted.  Take note that a foreigner can only use his foreign driver's license 90 days upon arrival.  We were already on our 45th day I think when we had his foreign driver's license converted.  It is certainly much easier than getting a non-professional driver's license since for conversion you are not required to take a test.  However, you can only get the conversion at the main office of the Land Transportation Office at East Avenue (and I read on the internet District Offices and NOT satellite offices like the ones in the  mall, those are just for renewal).  The requirements are, as follows:
1) Medical Certificate (get that at the accredited clinics near the LTO)
2) Drug Test (also at the accredited clinics near the LTO)
3) photocopy of passport showing bio info and latest arrival date
4) photocopy of ACR card; and last but not the least
4) photocopy of foreign driver's license.

The medical/drug test cost P400 over all.  The filing fee with LTO cost P618 (approximately P700), I think.  It took an hour or less to have the medical/drug test.  It also took an hour or less to process.  But I must admit, the processing time for us was short also because my cousin was in the Licensing Section. :p  But I would like to believe that if it was just a regular Joe, it still wouldn't take more than 2 hours at least.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Kano and Pinay's First Hospital Experience

This is not my first hospital confinement, but it is certainly the first time I will have such an invasive treatment done to me. It's just a D & C, but its a big deal for me since I have never been under anesthesia, and never had anything "intrusive" inside of me as this operation felt like it would result in.  But just like the average "micro-manager" as I was, I already had all the paperwork ready in a clear folder, for my "bantay" (the trusty Kano Asawa) to hopefully peruse upon.  I vaguely remember telling him all the needed paperwork is in the clear folder, but I guess my mistake was not going over them one by one (I guess I failed there as a micro-manager). :p On hindsight, I think it would have been better if I had a step-by-step instruction written on paper for him.  As telling him my instructions, in the midst of him watching T.V. just didn't register to him quite easily.

For the majority of the pinays out there who have a big extended family who can look after them when they are sick, this would not pose a problem for them.  On the other hand, for me this is a big problem, my relatives are not available on the weekday of the surgery.  The majority of my relatives are in the U.S. and  for those who are here, all of them are working, and I didn't want to impose on anyone to go on leave from work to help me.  For my nearest of kin, my mother is too old to look after me, I would be worrying about her if she were staying with us in the hospital.  My brother on the other hand has to look after my mother.

To make a long story short, it was my Kano husband who was my sole "bantay" for the operation.  Anyway, my attitude was, as long as I was lucid I was willing to do all it took to get me in the hospital and out of it afterwards.

We came in around after 12 noon. I went to the admitting section, with my husband in tow.  I told him just to wait in the pews outside the admitting section room.  On hindsight, I should have brought him in and kind of walked him through the entire procedure.  I had a health card so there were some things that were needed before my admission: 1) the Letter of Authorization (LOA) from FortuneCare clinic (which was made two weeks before the admission); and 2) Admission Order from the doctor (the doctor called the nurse's station at the oby gyn for that).  I didn't need the LOA with me for the admission, but it should be ready before the admission for the Liason Officer to see.

In the Admitting Section, I was informed that my covered room (semi-private) was not available.  She asked if I wanted to be in the Ward, I said no.  I said I wanted a private room if a semi-private was not available.  I knew before going to the hospital that I can get a room upgrade, without cost to myself, if no room for which I was covered was available.  So I signed a certification to the effect that a semi-private room was not available, and I was willing to be transferred to a semi-private room if one was available.

I was given 3 philhealth forms (one to be accomplished by my office, another by the doctor, and I guess the third one by the hospital upon discharge).  I already had the CS Form 1 (Philhealth form accomplished by my office) ready, signed and on hand.  I also had to accomplish a general information form for the hospital.

So we were brought to my private room (room amenities included T.V., refrigerator, aircondition, bunk bed for the "bantay" and a toilet and bathroom).  Unfortunately, the only private room left had no window, but that was fine by me.

In the room I changed into my scrubs.  A few minutes after, someone took my temperature and blood pressure - all normal. Next was my IV; that though was not a very pleasant experience.  I didn't think the nurse who did it was proficient in it.  My veins are too small, and I think she didn't put the thick needle in correctly.  I should have asked someone else to do it, when she began by saying to herself (too loudly) "let's hope we can do this correctly" (in tagalog).  My eyes were closed (I'm afraid of needles) and couldn't really tell anyway even if I saw it, if she did it correctly.  But the fact that it hurt long after she stuck it in, and that blood started oozing out after should be an indication that it was done poorly.

So after that unpleasant experience, we waited for the operation that started at 6 p.m..  I told my husband to go to the nearest Chowking (outside the hospital) to get something to eat before the operation.

Before 6 p.m., a nurse and hospital aide came to get me for the operation.  I changed into a different scrub (my husband calls it the "slice and dice" scrubs).  My husband came with me up to the elevator and then just outside the operating room.  Before I went in, Kano Asawa kissed me and I told him to pray for me. :)

Inside the operating room, I saw my oby.  She asked if I was ready, I said  "can I say no?" :p  I think the question was just meant to be rhetorical. :p  Then came the anesthesiologist, who said just to relax and she will just inject the anesthesia through the I.V. and I would be asleep through the whole procedure.

As soon as she stuck the needle through my I.V., I was gone and fell asleep almost instantly.  I awoke already in the Recovery Room, and felt it was sooo surreal; like I just woke up from a dream.  I didn't even felt like I had surgery (but later I found out that feeling was premature).

I was whisked away to my room, with my sleeping Asawa in his bunk bed.  I was moved to my bed and was just happy it was all over.  I learned from my husband that he was asked the CS Form 2 (Philhealth form for the doctor to accomplish) and he didn't know which was which.  So they, the nurses just got one from their own files.  My husband fed me my hospital food, which was really not as good as what he (my husband) ate from Chowking. :p

A few hours after the operation I did start feeling a twinge of pain.  I was tossing and turning in my bed, and by the time the nurses came in to give me pain killers, I almost jumped for joy when they told me what I was getting.  Before it finally kicked in, I did start feeling a headache and felt nauseous, and did throw up a little.  When the pain killer started to take effect, I finally fell asleep.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hospitals in Metro Manila

No, Bobby is not going to get hospitalized. He isn't back yet, and won't be here until the last day of March.  I will be hospitalized very soon, over a minor diagnostic/preventive procedure.  Strangely, when the doctor first told me I was going to be confined for it, I was actually happy (I don't know if that is the right description for it). I remember telling the doctor how I can finally use my health plan after having it for five years.

But now that the whole idea of it is starting to dawn on me, I am slightly scared of the first really invasive thing to be done on me.  It is a minor operation but an operation nonetheless.  I will be under anesthesia, but being under anesthesia only makes me think that it will be painful, otherwise, what is the need for my being under anesthesia, right?

At any rate, I told the doctor I will wait for when my husband gets back to the Philippines, before I undergo the operation.  One thing you really need to remember about being hospitalized in the Philippines, is the need to have someone next to you when you are hospitalized.  Not for the "moral" support, but more to have someone run the errands of paying for the bills, talking to the doctor, and even in some hospitals, buying the medicine.  When a patient receives medicines from the hospital's pharmacy, it usually has the "hospital rate" which is different from the rate outside.  Further, your medicine will be dependent on your room rate.  So the more expensive your room is, the more expensive everything is -- the medicines, the diagnostic procedure and even the doctor's professional fee. So in some instances, most people choose to just buy the medicines prescribed by the attending physician, buy it outside the hospital from the nearby pharmacy and save in the total cost of hospitalization.  In my case, I don't need to worry about it, as long as I choose to stay within my covered room rate.  I read my contract and it said if I choose to upgrade, I pay an extra 30% on everything.  So I decided I will stick with my semi-private room rate, after all I will only be there for a day.  Also after going down the list of who could accompany me: 1) mother too old; 2) brother too shy; 3) best friend too busy with her law firm work, I am left with the ultimate choice of waiting for my husband.  I just have to prepare all the paperwork for my husband before we go there like the Philhealth form and all lab results.

The next question was what to use for the hospitalization: 1) my health plan or 2) my office's P60,000 hospital benefit.  If I got the Office's hospital benefit, I would be limited to only one hospital (Capitol Medical Center) and I am limited only to P60,000.  But I don't suppose it would cost that much, but who knows.  The good thing is that hospital is near us, so in that regard it is more convenient.  If I choose my health plan, I have higher coverage (P160,000), although I am limited to a semi-private room (which is what I am covered for).  I also have several choices of hospitals, including Capitol Medical Center.  So I ended up choosing my health plan.

So next question was WHERE to get hospitalized. The doctor I had already consulted with is accredited with Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center which is in Mandaluyong, far from us but not terribly, but far nonetheless.  If I go to a different hospital, I will not get the doctor that I want, which is already the one I had consulted with.  So, I asked my husband, he said to take the doctor I am most comfortable with. Also, after I looked up the hospital I realized it was a better choice for being a "Center of Excellence" as rated by Philhealth.

If you are interested in knowing what hospitals are rated as among the Centers of Excellence in Manila and other Regions, here they are.

When I looked at some of their OB packages (no I am not pregnant yet), and what I have heard so far from those who have been hospitalized in St. Luke's or Capitol Medical Center, I realized how disparate hospitals charge are and yet sometimes, they have all the same doctors.  Well, I just made a mental note of how much lesser their OB packages are.  Maybe someday. :p

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Re-focussing my Lenses

I am back after a long hiatus brought about by a mixture of general busyness and just a need to re-evaluate the purpose of this blog for me.  As most everyone who has the opportunity to read my blog knows, I am a working woman.  Although I do not have children, I nonetheless have other responsibilities on the homefront, like caring not only for my husband, but likewise for my 75-year old mother whose responsibility of care I share with my brother.  So on weekends, I divide my time between them (my mother and brother) and my husband.  On top of that, I do bring home work occasionally so that is an additional demand upon my time.  Needless to say, I am busy.

On the other hand, in the times where I do not have either of the above to think about, I feel a little aversion to doing anything which requires deep thinking (like research and writing of a nature I do at work).  Simply put, I have a slight aversion to writing about anything "legal" or researching on anything legal, since I spend 40 hours of my week doing just that.  Nonetheless, I do love to write and have some other blog which is wholly personal.  This one is a mixture of it, but honestly this one is more "objective" if you can call that.

But rest assured, I will still write something that hopefully will be of some value to someone wanting to move to the Philippines.  I will resist the inertia and come-up with something worthwhile.  You will have to forgive me though, because honestly the one reason it takes me awhile to even write is because I am cautious about putting-out any "legal" or even "factual".  My job at the Office is exactly that and ever since I realized that anything I say is seriously taken into consideration and becomes a basis for legal action/policy it makes me more... well, a little "crazy". I get more "detail-oriented" and fuss over every small thing. Well, my husband would say it's more my predisposition to being a control freak.

Anyway, I am rambling... Thanks for those who read my blog. :) I appreciate it.  I am sorry I was gone for awhile.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Firecrackers and Other Ways to Spend the New Years In the Philippines

For as far as I can recall in my childhood, using firecrackers to greet the New Year has been a very big part of the NY celebration here in the Philippines.  As children I can remember, we only had lusis (that firecracker that kids just hold and spew bright light --- not to be mistaken for the sparklers).  My father had an special fondness for meeting the NY with firecrackers so I grew up having even just the lusis, sparklers and watusi.  Eventually when we got older, the lusis, sparklers and watusi was replaced by super lolos, sinturon ni judas and other more powerful firecrackers.  Although by this time, I did not participate in the "festivities", I certainly did not go against "tradition".

Over time, as I got older, I developed asthma, and the fanfare of the NY tradition just got totally lost on me as the "smog" the day after only constantly reminded me why I just hate firecrackers.

Oh there were some moments of inspiration, when my cousins and I were in my teens, and a cousin who lived in the U.S. visited for the holidays, that we decided to set-up a sound system in the garage and blare music all night long.  It was fun and we invited our neighbor/friends for a disco party.

Eventually there were yet other alternatives when we moved out of the suburban life.  When we moved to a neighborhood that was predominantly composed of policemen or ex-policemen, shooting their guns in mid-air appeared to be their alternative.  Now at that point I thought to myself I just jumped from the frying pan into the flame! I feared a bullet would tear across the roof or the glass window and hit me or my relations! Aside from the fact that living in a neighborhood with row houses next to one another makes it easy to hear a myriad of noises (turned-up T.V. or radio) blasting at midnight!  Somehow it does beat the morning "smog" though.

This year, our first year to live together for almost a year as husband and wife, we decided to make it special and different.  We decided to hole up in a nice posh hotel in Makati, with a cocktail buffet (all you can drink liquor and all you can eat pastry, bread and other knick knacks like pesto pasta, kabobs, etc.) and a breakfast buffet.  We also had a room upgrade for the additional price of the breakfast buffet and our room was at the 24th floor right next to the Executive Lounge where you can just come in for overflowing coffee/tea and cookies at ANY TIME!

The place still had a homey feel to it as most of the guest were families spending their NY apparently like we were, hiding from the smoke.  There were old couples even wearing face masks around midnight. :p  There were children playing in the lobby and some enjoying a dance with the sexy singer performing for the guests at the bar.  Since most of my relatives are already in the U.S., I guess it is as close to being with relatives as I could have.

Overall, it was a great kick-off for the year, our first "almost" whole year together (February 12, 2011 will be the official whole year).  I turn 40 this year... and our fifth year as a married couple! I am sure the year will pose problems just like the previous year but I look forward to this year as the year I break out of my comfort zones.  May it be a GREAT year for us all!