Filipino Fever – August 17, 2007

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Philippine IslandsThe other day I was reading some of the internet chat boards associated with the Angeles City nightlife scene, and I am constantly amazed at the bitching that goes on about prices.  I have a funny feeling that the majority of these particular chat board contributors are Americans and, of course, the greenback has taken a hard hit over the last 18 months, whilst the Euro and the Canadian, and Australian dollar have fared very well.  In addition the British pound is consistently very strong.

After Dark Asia MagazineWhy people get into trying to equate the cost in dollars today VS three years ago beats me.  A bar fine is PI 300 peso and that is exactly what it is.  It is not US $26.00 or Australian $30.00.  Three years ago when the peso tanked against the US dollar, we were getting close to 60:1.  That same PI 300 peso bar fine was a sweet US $21.60 and a beer was US $1.40.  Those days are long gone.  Today a bar fine is a whopping US $28.00 and a drink US $1.80.  The good news is that in spite of horrendous operating cost increases, the bars in AC and Subic have pretty much held their prices for the last couple of years.  Our electricity bill has almost doubled since 2005.  Fuel is up 30% and all the services associated with our business has increased as well.


In my last report, I mentioned that our usual rainy season did not happen this year.  Two days later, all hell broke loose.  We had three tropical storms pass through in succession and are now on the fringe of a super typhoon that is, luckily for us, turning North and heading for Taiwan.  Winds were over 200 KNOTS.  The devastation that follows a typhoon is awful.  Most of the homes and many of the buildings have minimal protection from the elements.

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Many of the people use flattened oil drums for walls and roofs and these become flying guillotines.  The drainage system in Manila is much like the klongs in Thailand and people who live on them use them as garbage disposals. The crap gets stuck in the drain conduits and there is no place for the water to drain and the streets flood.  School has been cancelled for the last four days in Manila because of the flooding.  

Kokomos Beach ResortOn my way to Angeles City Wednesday, I got caught in a flood. The main ring road leading in and out of town has some low spots and water rose to about door height.  It is not a big problem for me because I have a full sized SUV, but the locals were trying to get through and it was one big circle jerk. Traffic came to a full stop.  The road is five lanes, which quickly turned to seven.  I was towards the tail end of the queue and cars started trying to back up to the nearest intersection.  Of course, at some point, there were more cars coming.  Some of the bigger idiots actually turned around and were driving the wrong way.  Then, busses tried the same thing.  My driver suggested we make a run for it as well.  Within 20 minutes, there were cars and busses eight or nine deep, nose to nose with cars and busses coming the other direction.  The rain subsided and we were off in another 30 minutes, but I heard that it took 6 hours to clear up the mess.

The Philippines is going after the health tourism market — big time.  Several of the major hospitals are now expanding their plastic surgery departments and many more are doing executive checkups and other minor procedures.  Prices are on par with Thailand.  A month ago, a friend of mine went over to Bumrungrad hospital for his annual checkup.  He is in his late 50’s and a heavy smoker, and way the hell out of shape.  He was having his stress ECG and had a mild heart attack.  Eight days later, he was back in Angeles City.  I thought I had convinced him to stop smoking and he did — for a while.  

Being an ex-smoker and a health care professional by education, it sort of bothers me to see so many of my friends hooked. Many of the guys who have retired here have younger brides and many have young kids as well.  It is a pity that some will not live to see the kids start high school. 

Kokomos Beach ResortWhile on the subject of smoking, we have instituted a no cigar policy in my places.  Many others followed suit.  One of the main things I do not like about the Nana Plaza bars is the lack of ventilation.  Being a concrete chamber there is not a lot of room for exhaust fans, but it gets a bit much sometimes.  It is no secret that Angelwitch is my favorite bar in Nana Plaza, but at show time, I usually make it through the first hour or so, and have to head out. Has anyone else noticed this in Angelwitch and the other popular venues?

Talk about airline price wars.  I wanted to make a short trip to the South part of the Philippines and went online to check schedules and fares.  Philippine and Cebu Pacific both serve Tacloban, Leyte. It is just over an hour flying time.  Fares are a remarkable US $80 RETURN.  I checked dates about a month out and they were US $6.50 each way.  There has to be a catch, but I could not find it.  Imagine a return ticket to Phuket for US $25.

That is about it for today.  As always, it is a pleasure jotting down some thoughts.  If you have anything you would like to hear about, please let me know. My email is [email protected].
Until next time…