Thursday, September 29, 2011

Emergency Preparedness - Lessons from past typhoons

I'm in emergency preparedness mode.  By this I mean trying to get all my household chores done before another storm or typhoon hits our area again and cause another power outage and possible flooding - in and outside our home.  This after Typhoon Pedring came with winds that blew our glass windows that I thought they would either break or fall on us.  This after not having any electrical power for more than 12 hours and going without TV cable for over 24 hours.  I do sound like a whimp after seeing what others have gone through.  Others, especially in low-lying areas, has it far worse.  Their homes were flooded and many had to evacuate to higher grounds.  The death toll from Pedring is currently at 21 with 33 missing, many of them children, some of them hit by flying or falling objects.

Another storm is in the Philippine area again - this time storm Quiel.  It hasn't affected us... yet.  So we prepare and clean up after the mess than Pedring left.  For us this means wiping the portions of our house where the leaks left puddles.  It all depends on which direction the wind was blowing and this time it was blowing directly in front of the house.  Therefore the leaks came in the living room section behind the entertainment center, computer and on top of our altar.  Today, a sunny, hot and storm-free day, I put the Santos (our figurines of Jesus, Mary and some Saints) back on the altar, cleaned up the wet spots, wiped down some mildew (it's more of dust that stuck to the wall because of the moist), took out the damp rugs to soak in soap and washed the clothes (3 loads) to take advantage of the sun.  And still there are the leaks that will leave their mark and will take more than a little dust cloth to clean.  But we do what we can.

We make sure that our cell phone is charged, there is battery in the transistor radio and the flashlights.  We have candles aplenty, thanks to the ones that Mom sent in one of the balikbayan boxes, I think she said they were just 25cents.  Food, well, we still have canned foods in the cabinet and there is always Aling Aning, Jojo's local meat/fish/fruit suki a couple of streets from here or the palengke.  With electricity going down, it's not a good idea to keep stock of fresh meats or fish.

I used to have an emergency bag handy with a set of clothes, towel, small flashlight, etc, but I got to use some of their clothes or else use the bag for some occasion.  I should get these ready again.

I try to keep the bucket upstairs where we take our bath full.  I still remember Ondoy after the power came back, we were out of water for several days.  It is worse to not have water than to not have electricity.  We have 3 big containers outside the house in case of such emergencies.

What else?  There are many people out there who have lost their belongings and need food, medicine, water and clothes.  I have several plastic bags of unwanted clothes, small pillows that the kids have outgrown and some blankets.  Several organizations are collecting donations for those who were affected by typhoon Pedring.  This is a good time as any to give away our surplus, or better yet, to give even if it hurts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Health is Wealth

When I came back from the US back in 2002, one of my fears was not being covered by health insurance.  Actually it is still one of my fears but I do feel more reassured with the Philhealth coverage that the government has provided to those who are not employed by corporations that provide their employees with private health insurance.  It is better than nothing.  Actually back when I gave birth to Joselyn we were able to avail of Philhealth's benefits, I think we were reimbursed P2000 on the hospital bill (though a small percentage of the total P80k+ that accumulated).  We didn't continue with the membership payments and when Joselyn was hospitalized back in 2009 for dengue, her pediatrician asked us if we had Philhealth, which we unfortunately answered in the negative.  We could've saved on our hospital bills back then too.

This is definitely one thing that we should not procrastinate about.  Even the poorest of families should try to avail of the government's offer of P100 per month payment to be fully covered by Philhealth.  Only one person in your household, the father usually, needs to apply and the insurance covers his spouse and children.

Our church, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (we always refer to Lourdes for short), last month was inviting parishioners to have their medical laboratory for a package of P250 per person, which included blood, urine, stool and ECG tests.  Jojo and I have not had our medical exam for years.  Our check-ups with the doctors are only on an as-need basis and we have never had an annual check-up.  I'm particularly bad about this.  Even in the US when I was fully covered by my employer, I never went on annual check-ups.  But we're no longer young and though the fear of discovering some illness is there, it's better to discover and cure it than to let the illness or disease spread until there is no cure.

My sister-in-law has been one to insist that we have an annual check-up especially since she knows that their family has a history of different diseases including diabetes and heart problems.  She even offered to pay for our laboratories.  An angel indeed.

So last month, which was actually Health Awareness Month, we went to the Lourdes Parish Center to have our blood drawn, to submit our urine and stool samples and have our ECG monitored.  We only received the results about 3 weeks ago and the blood, urine and stool tests turned out normal.  We couldn't figure out the ECG results because of the person's handwriting and we are scheduled to meet with a cardiologist tomorrow for him to read the ECG for us.  My ECG comment starts with "Incomplete... block..." the rest unreadable.  Jojo's starts with "Poor...".  Those words do give us something to worry about, but we're hoping that the cardiologist can decipher the other doctor's handwriting and shed light to our heart's condition.

I did try to have another doctor read the ECG at the Parish Center where they have free medical and dental check-ups every Monday and Friday (from 1-4pm).  But after a few hours of waiting I was told that this certain doctor does not read ECGs and we were referred to a cardiologist.  The waiting was not wasted though, I told the doctor of my consistent coughing and was prescribed with a *free* cough medicine.

I write this for others to be aware or if they already are, to take advantage of the many cheap or free services that are offered.  I find that it is the middle class that falls through the cracks - either too proud to fall or wait in line at the barangay or other institutions that offers free checkups, or would just rather go to a regular doctor even if they have to pay or worse still, not go with the necessary checkups.  I know of people whose children are not immunized and the kids have caught measles and chicken pox.  They say that the immunization is too expensive, but I see them carrying expensive gadgets like cellphones.  We have to put more priority in our health and most especially in our children's health.

When I was waiting for the doctor at the Lourdes parish center, I had a chance to observe the people who were waiting with me.  You couldn't tell what their economic status was and neither did the staff ask when we listed our names.  They were mostly mothers with 1 or 2 young children in tow.  There was one adult who said that she was listed first on the Adult list, but ended up to be one of the last to be seen since the doctor checked on the kids first and then their parents who were also listed.  The lady, whom I'm guessing was younger than me, said that she was a barangay sweeper who got wet during one of our recent storms and caught a cough.  It's best to get there early even if you have to wait.  One older man who wanted to see the doctor was denied because they said that their list was full had come around 3:30pm.  The lady doctor arrived around 3pm.  Since I don't live far, I decided to go home after waiting the first 30 minutes, and then came back around 3pm.  I was seen around 5pm.  It's not much different with physicians from other hospitals and clinics, who usually arrive late - at least an hour after their scheduled clinic hours.

If you do live around the area, please look into the social services that Lourdes offers.  Or check with your local parish, if they provide similar services.  And yes, go to your nearest Philhealth office to apply for insurance coverage.  Your health is more valuable than any cellphone or cellphone load.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Immigrating to Canada - Hopes & Frustrations

I had mentioned in my last blog that we have a Canadian immigration application on file.  We filed it back in March of 2005, after finding out on the internet that I was eligible in the skilled-worker class using my previous work experience.  We didn't go through an agency and I did all the research over the internet.  I know of people who have gone through agencies, but I believe that if you are resourceful enough and find the time to search and read what's available on the official Canadian immigration websites, you don't have to pay the extra fees for someone else to do what you can easily do yourself.

That said, I know I'm not in a position to say that my applicaiton has passed, but at least it got filed successfully, meaning my documents were complete and the file is "In Process".  During which time there is nothing that can be done but to wait and hope that the laws don't change in the process.

A good starting point for Filipino citizens who wish to immigrate to Canada or just plan on travelling to the country is the Canadian Embassy website.  You will find here all the required links and other resources specific to the Philippines and Filipinos.  When you click on the Immigrating to Canada link, you will be directed to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, which will give you information on the qualificaiton and application process.

The Canadian immigration system goes by a point system and points are accumulated by adding the points in the different categories, such as age group, work experience, educational attainment, language proficiency, etc.  Aside from this you must show that you have enough assets to settle successfully in Canada.  This is assuming that you may not find employment as soon as you land in Canada and may need to rely on your own savings.  The Canadian government will not provide monetary support to new immigrants.

There are many other websites on the internet that provide assistance for those interested in immigrating to Canada, but they are mostly agencies and lawyers/consultants that requires a fee for additional help.  You may email some of these sites and get help online, but most of them will just give you vague responses and then ask you to call or visit them for additional assistance, for a fee, of course.  If you find that you really need help or cannot find the time to go through the resources on the internet yourself, then by all means you can try these agencies.  But be wary of them and the fees that can accumulate with each visit.

Additional advise:
- Make sure all your documents are complete before submission.  Review documents before submitting.
- Make a photocopy of all the documents you submit for your own personal copy. 
- Gathering the required documents is the bulk of the work.  Organize your files in separate folders (labelled or colored to easily distinguish the documents), example IDs, passports, police certificates, employment references, bank account certificates.  Our application is for the whole family - husband and two kids, so it was helpful to file the documents in separate folders.
- When you do receive your file number from the embassy, make a photocopy and keep it in a safe place along with the photocopies of your submitted application.
- Regularly check for updates on your application online.  Make sure to update the embassy in case you change address.
- Never give up hope.  The process is long (more than 6 years for us) and we're still waiting.  But do not rely on immigrating to Canada as your only hope.  The Philippines is still a wonderful place to live in and opportunities abound (trying to think positive here).  We just have to step out of our comfort zone and learn to take risks.  (This is me giving myself a pep talk).

One of our frustrations is the waiting.  I had put in a lot of hope in this new opportunity when we first received the answer back from the Canadian embassy about a month after we submitted our applicaition.  It said on that first correspondence that we should be hearing from them within the next 36 months (that's 3 years).  Which seemed so long then but then time went by so fast.  The 3 years came and went and I read that the application process would take longer, as long as 5 years and all previous dates (like the 36 months promised) was no longer valid.  Then I keep looking at the processing times for Manila and currently it is at 76 months (that's 6 years and 4 months!).  Then there are the changes in their jobs in demand list, which took out the IT field where my application falls under.  Though I realize this pertains to new applicants, I still wonder how this would affect how my current application is viewed by the embassy staff.

So here I am still waiting.  But I will not wait in vain.  Whatever the result (and I hope it does come out soon), I will not let it stop my dreams from being fulfilled - here and now.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Babbling With Purpose

I sure have not done a lot of blogging this year.  Writing is something that I do miss and I wish I found it higher in my list of priorities.  But as I sit here in front of the computer I find myself staring and grappling with my thoughts.  Maybe there are just too many or, a scarier thought, too few.

I made a Word document which I titled Career-Business Assessment.  I made a list of my current talents, gifts, capabilities, assets and another of my interests and looked at where those two meet.  In another column I wrote a list of concrete goals before the year ends for each "category".  At the age of 41, it seems that I should have been doing this a long time ago.  But it's never too late to start.

With our Canadian Immigration file being in the "In Process" status for over 6 years, I look back and wish that we didn't put too much hope in actually immigrating to Canada.  I've held back in investing my money and time on something more worthwhile - like the here and now.  Not investing the money that I have in savings because I knew that I needed to show the Embassy that we had enough money to settle once we were in Canada (one of the requirements for a successful immigration, in case we do not find employment right away).

Last year in December we met with an Immigration "lawyer", one of the hosts of a TV show about immigrating to countries like the US and Canada.  My husband had always wanted to consult with him, but I kept telling him that it would be a waste of our money, because they could not hasten the process.  And I was right, we spent P2500 in consultation fee after waiting for over an hour and only talking with the guy for about 30 minutes.  The biggest disappointment was that he was actually on the internet (the same websites that I've used to gather info), and he told me you can just look at these sites and I should know since I'm a "techie".  I put lawyer in quotations because after watching one of his shows on TV, I wondered why the other attorney hosts, referred to him as "Kabisa", instead of "Attorney" as the other lawyers were referred to.  So it's our assumption that he isn't a registered attorney and just has enough experience and personality for others to believe that he is a real lawyer. 

Well, we did get something out of our meeting, (not sure if it was worth P2500 though).  He told me of other options, like the provincial nomination program in Manitoba, where I have a couple of cousins who are residents.  And as if one of my cousins had telepathy crossing over the Pacific Ocean, he called us about a day or two after our visit to the lawyer's office and offered his assistance.  He kindly said that he had helped two other families from his wife's side and was now ready to help someone else.  What a generous spirit!  My cousin, Kuya Fuling, whom I've only met a handful of times since Manitoba has been his home for over 20 years.  What a great guy and I do appreciate his offer.

Oh, didn't I say that I couldn't find where to start with my writing and here I am... blabbing away.  Well, this is a good jump-start.  Kind of dragging and long I realize but at least my fingers and mind got their exercise.  Let me end it here and hopefully I find the time to continue with these stories another day... No, let me put it in writing (this worked the last time).  I blogged 1-2 times a day before, not caring if it was read.  Let me do the same now, but this time about 3 times a week, with some significant topic that has direction and purpose, for others and for me.