Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Stay at Silliman Medical Center

From an expat point of view, medical care in Dumaguete has been both praised and maligned. When you talk to other expats at social gatherings you will no doubt hear so called horror stories about everything from misdiagnosis to incompetent physicians. If you participate on local internet forums, the discussions run the gamut from caution to praise. I had the recent opportunity to, by quite serendipitous and unpleasant circumstances, to become involved first hand in the quality of care at Silliman Medical Center.

When a member of your family becomes gravely ill, sometimes you have no choice but to avail yourself of the first line defenses available in the community. I’ll leave out the personal details in this narrative out of courtesy to my family, suffice to say, all came out extremely well. What follows is a “foreigners” perspective on local hospital care.

Silliman University Medical center is well respected in the local community. A teaching institution, there are always plenty of student nurses, interns, and medical students running about. The physical infrastructure is old, no other way to put it. Most of the beds look like they date back to the 1940’s. The wards are small crowded, and worn. We were forced to use the general facilities for three days as there were no available private rooms.

In the Philippines the first difference a typical foreign visitor will notice, is that there are no restrictions on family visits. The wards are literally jammed with mothers, fathers, and anyone one else who would like to come in. It is common practice to stay with your sick family member often sleeping in the same bed around the clock. I became part of this. I chose to sleep at home, but spent my entire day at the bedside. Food is supplied three times a day, but most often we went outside for food, an unusual practice by my standards, but no one objects as long as the restrictions are complied with. In fact all manner of food drinks and personal supplies are brought in by families.

If you are in a ward the problem is that all these people are crammed into one very small room housing up to six patients, all eating all manner of sometimes odiferous food brought in from the outside. Banana Q’s, lechon, fish, whatever is allowed on the patients diet comes in from outside. We were fortunate to transfer to a private room in a few days as one became available.

Despite the shabby surroundings, the medical care was good. The Doctor we had was astute, conscientious and managed to correctly diagnose two complicating infections. Doctor patient communication is not as well developed as a rule, as most Filipinos tend to let the doctors do their thing and ask few questions. I am used to talking to doctors and getting specific information about the diagnosis and care of the patient. The nurses and doctors were forthcoming and informative when asked, and would go into great detail. But you must ask.

There were never fewer than 15 nurses at the nurses station on our floor, sometimes there were 30 or more. I am assuming many of these were students. One thing they could not seem to do was check the IV in our patient. We had to summon the nurse every time the Dextrose solution ran low.

Another unusual practice is the dispensing of the medications prescribed. The patient is presented a list daily of all the meds the patient will require. The family can go outside the hospital and buy the medications. I tried in vain to have the hospital supply the meds, but they don’t have many of the medications in stock at the hospital pharmacy. So every day we went out to buy antibiotics, Dextrose solution, and a variety of other medications. This is unlike anything I have experienced before, and I found it unbelievable that the hospital did not have medications on hand. It was explained to me that this practice is to allow local families to buy medicines at lower prices outside the hospital. Nearly everyone takes advantage of this opportunity to by cheaper medications when possible. Perhaps this is why the hospital does not bother to stock some drugs.

Since I was going outside several times a day, I became very familiar with the two elevators at the hospital. It looked as if they were never inspected. One always stopped 3-6 inches above or below the floor level; the other would sometimes fail to open right away, causing some concern. On occasion the smaller of the two elevators would deliver you to the basement unannounced (the morgue). After a day or two I got used to this, never got stuck between floors, and just kicked the door to get it open.

Our family Doctor had the demeanor of a politician, rushing into the room, trailed by several student doctors furtively taking notes; she was loud, cheerful, took no questions and left as suddenly as she had entered. Her assistant, a young Korean med student would visit alternatively. She was very forthcoming and was the source for the answers to most of our questions.

Despite the unusual protocols and rundown infrastructure, I was very pleased with the overall care, both nurses and doctors were attentive (except the IV checking), and provided care indistinguishable from a hospital in the U.S. From our experience I can’t fault the level of care at Silliman University Medical Center. Some people might be taken aback by the old equipment and shabby paint, but the bottom line is the care you receive, and in this instance it was first rate.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Captain Eleven

This being the anniversary week of the liberation of Dumaguete at the end of WW II I thought I would submit this little anecdote. Too often the small stories, the local heroes are overlooked on momentous occasions.

The 164th Infantry went ashore in southeastern Negros on 26 April, approximately five miles north of Dumaguete. There it soon made contact with the Reconnaissance Troop of the 40th Division, which had worked its way south along the eastern coast without encountering opposition. Two days later the 164th attacked the 1,300-man Japanese garrison that occupied forbidding hill positions ten miles southwest of Dumaguete. Combat continued until 28 May, when the Japanese positions fell and the ever-present guerrillas largely assumed responsibility for mopping up. On Negros, the 164th Infantry lost 35 men killed and 180 wounded, while killing 530 Japanese and capturing 15

There are many stories about this pivotal time in Philippine history; we have one customer whose father was one of the more notorious freedom fighters throughout the war. His son is currently a sitting judge; his last name is well known in Dumaguete today. Ironically even though he was a wartime hero, there is not a street, monument, or building named after him in town.

This is stuff that movies could be made of. Apparently this Captain of the Philippine Army resistance had six fingers on one hand. Known as "Captain Eleven" he was constantly hunted by the Japanese occupiers. A very clever man, he was a constant source of information for the American troops getting ready to invade Sibulan and Dumaguete.

He had several identities and was able to visit with the Japanese officers and glean important information from them. Knowing they were on the look out for a man with eleven fingers, he would tape his eleventh finger, don gloves and escaped detection until the end of the war. The Japanese never apprehended Captain Eleven and he was instrumental in the liberation of Dumaguete.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rizal Boulevard Dumaguete

The Boulevard, as it is called here in Dumaguete, is the social and entertainment district in town. All visitors eventually gravitate here as it has some of the most popular restaurants, discos, and lodging establishments in Dumaguete. The very well known Why Not disco is the hallmark night spot, and a variety of other establishments offer Karaoke, live music, and food in a variety of cuisines.

Historically the port of Dumaguete beckoned both Spanish missionaries, pirates, and traders from throughout the Philippines. Today, the commercial port in Dumaguete brings tourists, freight and travelers from Cebu, Manila, and other cities. Dumaguete's proximity to Apo Island a premier diving destination, and other tourist attractions, make Rizal Boulevard an ever changing collage of people and activities.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Motorbike Drag Racing-Dumaguete

I am always interested in manifestations of popular culture where ever I travel. It is particularly interesting for me to see current trends in motor sports transfered to other cultures; adapted and translated to the local tastes and in this case budget.

Motorbikes, step throughs, scooters; whatever you call them, they all descend from the venerable Honda 50 Cub. This classic first of its kind motor bike was voted best all time motorcycle by the Discovery Channel. An amazing fact since it was competing with Harley's, Triumphs, Matchless, and other very powerful classic machines. The Cub won because of its impact on popular culture, its durability (at the shows end they dropped one from a 5 story building and drove it away), and it's world wide distribution.

Today in Asia, and specifically the Philippines, there are many descendants of this classic design. Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki all make updated 100 and 125cc versions whick resemble futuristic cafe racers on a miniature scale.
This is not wasted on the after market crowd. There is not so much disposable income in the Philippines, so the kids customize there $1000 dollar motorbikes instead of Toyota Celicas. They spend at least that much money again replacing parts for both appearance and performance sake.

What you see is anodized accessories, custom seat covers, lowered frames, ultra thin tires and alloy or cast aluminum rims. On the performance side they add, unneccessary (but cool looking) oil coolers, performance exhaust systems, and tweaked engines. Some street racers have hidden neon lighting under the fenders and custom headlighting. Basically everything available to hot rodders for their cars is utilized on these miniscule two wheeled bikes.

Some do it for style, while others go for performance. Drag racing is a popular weekend activity here, while illegal on public roads, it happens with regularity. If you are in the know, word gets out where the weekly races happen. Commonly refered to as "underbones" these racing bikes are stripped of every bit of plastic coach work, seats removed, all lights taken off, all in a legitimate effort to decrease the weight. When doing any performance mod, decreasing the weight is the single most effective means of increasing performance.

Some of the bikes look like stripped down Mad Max creations, while others really are an artistic expression of personal style. I get to see quite a few of these as students come by our place often. The coolest one I have seen so far is a 1970's vintage Honda Dream 70cc bike. Stripped like an underbones style it is tastfully painted with chromed accessories. The rear fender is bobbed and it just looks sharp.

Here is a video slide show from You Tube that highligts a gathering in Dumaguete. I don't take credit for the hip hop/Alternative soundtrack, turn it off if it becomes too much, it does accuratly relect the social scene surounding the bike crowd.

This next takes place in Tanjay just north of Dumaguete. Check out the people in the road, "and no one got hurt"

This last one I included just because this guy gets the prize for Wheelie King.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Foundation University

Foundation University was established on July 4, 1949, founded by Dr.Vicente Guzman-Sinco, former president of the University of the Philippines. President Vicente G. Sinco, Ph.D was one time Philippine Comissioner of Foreign Affairs, and a signer of the United Nations Charter. In 1963 Foundation College received international recognition and was invited to become a member of the International Association of Universities. The College was the first institution in the Visayas and Mindanao to receive this honor, and the first institution in the world that was not a full university to become a member of this organization. On January 28, 1969 the Philippine Department of Education granted the College a university charter, thus the institution became Foundation University.

The universities current president, Dr. Mira D. Sinco, wife of the late university President, Leandro G. Sinco, has had a long and distinguished career in the academic world, both in the Philippines and in the United States. She has served as Dean of Student Services at the City College of San Francisco, and as Dean of Admissions at California State University Los Angeles, both in the U.S.A. She is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines and Harvard University.

Foundation Universsity prides itself in its concentration on relavent education. Most of it’s programs are accredited by PAASCU* and by PACU-COA* in the Philippines, or by IAU* internationally. This means that the credits and credentials you earn at Foundation University are transferable and valid for further study anywhere in the world. Working with local employers like Teletech to establish language laboratories to help teach real world skills is one of Foundation Universities hallmarks. Training students to compete internationally in a global market is high on the universities priority list.


Foundation University is dedicated to the quest for excellence in mind, body and character and to the pursuit of truth and freedom.Along with the mission, it envisions the development of each individual so that he can judge, think, and plan for himself, so that he can truly govern himself.The specific objectives that guide Foundation University in fulfilling its mission-vision are the following:

1. To produce persons of sound character and broad culture
2. To develop citizens imbued with spirit of universal brotherhood
3. To train men and women for some definite work or professional career
4. To contribute to the advancement of human knowledge in the search for truth


The extracurricular sports teams are called the Greyhounds, and this lightning fast creature is the symbol for excellence in sports activities at Foundation University. In 2001, Foundation University gained national recognition when our men's volleyball team won the National Beach Volley University Challenge, with the women's team close behind as 1st runner up. Our indoor volleyball teams - men's and women's both - are ranked among top five teams in the Philippines. Our men's basketball team is also among the best, ranking 4th in the UNIGAMES. Our men's soccer team is considered to be a contender for local and national competitions, as is the women's softball team. With our excellent facilities for visiting teams, Foundation has played host to many local, regional and national tournaments each year, including 5th National University Games (UNIGAMES). This event saw 28 of the best colleges and universities in the nation gathered together here at Foundation University for one of the major sporting events of the year.

Foundation University prides itself as a small friendly campus with a concentration on excellence and up to date educational goals. English is the official language of instruction and will be extended to include campus at large activities.
Foundation University also operates Greyhound 101.3 FM a popular radio station in Dumaguete, as part of its mass communications curriculum. The Radio station organizes many promotions and concert events for the community.

Foundation University provides a wide array of student services for its students, please visit their we site for complete information on all that foundation University has to offer.

*PAASCU - Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities*PACU-COA - Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities - Commisssion on Accreditation*IAU - International Association of Universities

Friday, April 4, 2008

Foreigner in the morning

Woke up this morning about 7:30, it was already warm, the heat of the last few days was building, and even the reciprocating ceiling fan on high did little to quell the heat. I had to use the CR, normally a simple effort get out of bed and walk down the hall open the door and pee. Today Ading anticipated my move, decided she needed to go worse than I, and beat it to the CR ahead of me. OK I thought, I’ll just turn on CNN for a minute to divert my attention from my full bladder long enough for her to vacate the CR. I looked for my glasses put them on, then ambled out to the living room and commenced to turn on the TV. It was so hot; I went over to the room fan to turn it on. It was then that I was reminded of my almost daily mistake; I forgot to inspect my glasses before donning them.

There are these pesky microscopic ants that seem to take delight in crawling on my frames at night, my first clue to my negligence is this movement in my peripheral vision. “What the heck is that” I think, and try sleepily to swat the air before remembering that these guys are running the NASCAR circuit around my glasses frames. Before I get the glasses off to shake the little buggers off, one has escaped into my scalp. Here we go... scratch, itch, scratch, until I am reasonably sure the ant is no longer there. OK, now to turn the fan on.

In the meantime while I was distracted, Ading’s daughter has come from the store where she had a sleep over with her student friends. Ading was out of the CR, and without warning or notice Maean was in to take a shower before darting off to school.

Still had to pee…

I sat and tried to watch a little TV. Now my head itched even though I was reasonably sure there were no more ants on my head, or in my ears for that matter. Maean was out soon enough, and now it was my turn. Ahhh… relief at last. Finished, with a nice cool shower, shave, and now for my ritual first cup of coffee. Got the cup brewing, no sugar. Ading called Carl!. Carl her son was in Siaton overnight, we laughed at her attempt to get the absent Carl to fetch some sugar for us at the store. Coffee without sugar OK no big deal.

As I sat down to sip my bitter brew, both of us were lazy to walk to the store for more sugar. Just then some shouted from outside, It is the world without walls here in the Philippines it’s Hiyo! from down the alley. “Newton is here”. Newton of motorcycle painting fame was waiting for me at the store. Still in my briefs, I set down the cup of coffee, and dressed quickly, then walked to the store.

Newton was dressed in his normal “Newton” attire complete with his trademark fashion glasses. He was repairing something for a friend of his and wanted to know if I had any Cyanoacrylate adhesive. Not surprisingly, I had some in the fridge, hording it as it is scarce in Dumaguete. Newton had already canvassed JT Marketing, but as is typical they don’t have regular stock. Guessing I might have some he stopped by on his way home. We did the deal, and then off he went. Now ten o’clock, still not having finished my coffee, I sat down and got out my computer to start my day. And a wonderful day it was here in Dumaguete surrounded by friends and people I love,

even if they beat me to the CR…