The Cost Of Care

Editor: Once again Jim Baumbach gives us some insight into life in the Philippines as seen through his eyes. His spare prose omits  the extraneous and leaves the reader with just the nuts and bolts of the story but the point is made, the message gets through. For anyone who hasn’t experienced a public hospital in the Philippines, perhaps this will give you an inkling. If you can’t afford the cost of decent care, too often you die. When it is one so young as Jim’s niece, perhaps it is even more poignant.

Pediatric  Ward

Last evening our niece was rushed to the Hospital with difficulty breathing due to asthma.  Her condition was stable;  as part of a Filipino family we left to visit her.

We live in the Philippines just south of Manila.  The baby, one year old, lives in Manila in the Tondo section of the city.  Tondo is the main slum of Manila.  We arrived at the hospital around 6PM, and walked in the Emergency Room door.  To a westerner, like me, it was quite shocking to see this room.

Upon entering, the first Ward, labelled, Medicine was for adults.  There are 14 beds in the area with most of the patients hooked to IV tubes.  One Doctor is in the Ward working alone at the time.  The room is divided by a floor to ceiling wall but only extending about half way through the room.  The other half of the room is labelled Paediatric.

Visualize an ambulance litter.  From the top to bottom there is a sheet covering the litter and in the middle is a divider.  There are 16 litters in this room serving 32 infant to age 3 year old children.  Again, most are connected to IV tubes for hydration or as feeding tubes.  The same Doctor is in charge of this section as in the Adult section but with one nurse visible on the Paediatric  side.

Our niece was connected to her IV, serving as her food supply, since she cannot nurse due to her condition.  She has a nebulizer being administered by her aunt.  Her prognosis is good. After giving money toward the medical bills we return home.

Poverty reaches every person here in some way.  Perhaps that is why many chose to ignore that which they feel they can’t change instead of changing the small part they can.

Jim Baumbach
Bacoor, Cavite

Squatter Children

This post was submitted by Jim Baumbach from Cavite. It makes several points about how people treat one another here in the Philippines. It really is a strata like society and if you are on the bottom strata then you are doing it tough. Jim makes a very telling observation of the mindset of particularly middle class Filipinos when he mentions how the dogs are tolerated more than the poor kids. I think it is because, as George Orwell wrote, the middle class are so afraid of slipping down to the poorer classes that they will cling to the skirts of the upper classes, instead of leading the lower classes to a better life. Meanwhile the upper classes use the middle classes as a buffer and a means to control the masses. Life can be tough in the Philippines in many was, here is one way.

Squatter Children

I live in a gated subdivision in Bacoor Cavite, Philippines. At the south end of our subdivision is a small squatter village. There are 25 children between the ages of 0 and 15 living there with 6 adults.  Only 5 of the children attend school.

I want to share an incident that happened beside my house early today. Three of the children, the oldest, age 9, is the big sister of the younger boys. As you would suspect their cloths are not the best and their general health is not up to par.

These children come to my house, looking for plastic, which means any recyclable plastic, and metal cans. As I was talking with them they became very quite. I looked behind me and there was a security guard, on his bicycle, glaring at them. I asked him what the problem was and he told me that many of the residents in the area complain about the children rutting through the trash and making a mess.

This upset me greatly and I pointed to the middle of the street where trash was strewn everywhere by the 5 dogs that roam our street. He replied that the complaints are against the children not the dogs.

These children can get 20 pesos, 40 cents USD for a 50Kilo rice bag filled with crushed plastic. These children are not the problem but they are to blame. Dogs can be dangerous while small children are easy targets.

I am not a Filipino and I have only lived here 2 years. It seems there is a fear of the poor when they mingle within the subdivision. Outside our walls they can easily be ignored, inside the walls and they become visible and thus upsetting. Thin, squatter children among the chubby, wealthy kids, that will never do.

Jim Baumbach

Quick And Cheap Annulments!

Well, if I was to be given a Peso every time someone has asked me about getting an annulment in the ‘no-divorce’ Philippines I would have enough money to buy a few cold San Miguels, let me tell you! The reality is you can get an annulment but up until now it has been long, slow and expensive. And more so when they know a Kano is waiting for the Filipina to become marriageable once more.

While the cynical old hands among us would usually advise you find another one, once you have fallen for your Filipina that is not an option. We get all chivalrous and start polishing our steeds and grooming our shining armor or whatever. So if you are determined to set her free, here is some info from an expat I have known online for many years and we have mutual friends, we may even have met at some point. I will call him ‘Mr Fixit’ for now as he wishes to remain anonymous. He also has some other great information that we will post here as soon as he sends it in.


Often foreigners meet Filipinas via the Internet dating/friendship sites. Many of the foreigners are retired workers and have been divorced or widowed or never married and are seeking a companion in their twilight years. The Philippines is a popular country in which to retire in due to the abundance of smiling, happy and willing women. An added attraction is the substantially lower cost of daily living.

Many of the Filipinas looking for partners through the internet are desperately searching for a better way of life so a 20 years old woman corresponding intimately with an often-overweight 60, 70-year-old foreigner is very common.   Many of the women and (their immediate family) expect the foreigner to marry them.  Frequently, there is an impediment to a marriage as the woman is already married but separated from her spouse. There are many women in this situation simply because they do not have sufficient money to pay the attorneys.

There is no divorce available under current Philippines law, although an annulment of a marriage is possible through the courts system.  Many law firms specialize in handling annulments, however, the legal and court system in the Philippines is often slow and cumbersome with some annulments taking 2 years or longer to reach a conclusion.

As well, the costs annulments are significant with attorney fees, court docketing and filing fees plus a host of associated fees such as court appearance fees for the attorney and often the account can reach 250,000 pesos or more.  Unfortunately, if a foreigner is involved the legal fees can increase also and the longer the case takes to appear before the judge the greater the income to the legal team.

Nevertheless, there is an alternative way to obtain a legal dissolution of marriage at a much reduced cost.  It is simple and only requires the Filipina to file a case against the husband.  The woman does not have to appear personally and the court officials will prepare all of the necessary documentation.  A senior judge will hear the divorce action and a decision handed down ordering the marriage legally dissolved. The Judges decision will be recorded by the Court and  the whole procedure takes a maximum of 4 or 5 weeks.  The costs of the fast track divorce all legal fees are approximately 175,000 pesos.

The woman then takes the court order to the local Civil Register of the place her marriage had been solemnized and requests her previous marriage to be rendered null and void. When that is completed, she is free to remarry in any religious ceremony under her maiden name.

EDITOR: To learn the details email and we will put you in touch with the right people. It is legitimate, it is cost effective and it is proven however to ensure both the commercial viability of the method and to ensure certain vested interests are kept at arm’s length we will vett all inquiry.

L.A. Cafe Gone? No Great Loss To Some

Konrad Hille:  The article below about Mayor Alfredo Lim closing down the L.A. Cafe needs to take a look at all sides of this issue. First of all if we give Mayor Lim the benefit of the doubt, he is merely the man who has to rubber stamp any actions required of the City goverment. He is the Mayor and he has littel say in the matter after it reaches a certain stage. Justice must be done as they say.

A little less kindly and we ask what’s in it for Lim? Of course we have to acknowledge there are more snouts in the trough than just his and that is the same anywhere in politics and civil governance anywhere in the world. It is just a little less hypocritical here in Manila.

A third point of view is that if there are minors involved and other people at risk then the government MUST take action and Mayor Lim has done that, swiftly and determinedly. Who really has suffered here? A few drunken expats with lots of other bars to go to and a few hundred Filipina freelancers, not to mention the bar’s staff and owners. But if one person, forced into prostitution against their free will has been saved then surely it is worthwhile?

When you have lived here as long as many of us have it is all too easy to become cynical and immediately write something off as being the worst. In fact for too many expats the only exercise they have is jumping to conclusions and running off at the mouth, or keyboard. I was last in the L.A. Cafe in March, just out of curiosity. It was jam packed and noisy and after one drink I was happy to escape. I recall years ago when it first opened it was something of a breath of fresh air, but nowadays it has a certain odour that no longer appeals to me.

I’m not bothered it is closed up but if more follow then I am pretty sure the crusade is back on. Like most things here in The Land Of Lip Service it will be mostly for show and to settle some old scores.

Mayor Lim Turning Back Ermita’s Clock

I recall the dark days in Ermita in 1993 and 1994 when the then Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, closed down all the bars on Mabini St and M.H. del Pilar St. I was even in one when it was raided and the girls rounded up and taken to the police station. The official word was that Lim was cleaning up Ermita of prostitution and protecting Filipina womanhood from the ravages of tourists on sex holidays.

I also heard at the time he was cleaning out the area so his Chinese-Filipino friends with money could buy it up cheap but lost out when the 1997 crises hit and with no tourists spending money in Ermita anymore the place just died. Meanwhile, again according to the gossip of the day, Lim himself owned bars with GROs in Pasay, which is not part of the City of Manila itself.

Now it seems that he is back as mayor and up to his old tricks. The L.A. Cafe on M.H. Del Pilar has for several years been a place where foreigners can eat and drink and mingle with local girls. The fact most if not all are free lance prostitutes was never an issue. Now someone has complained and alleged underage girls are being employed there and so the business has been raided and closed down.

If they knowingly hired underage staff to work in the bar or restaurant then that is not good at all but methinks the likelihood is the underage staff (if they exist) would have produced faked ID to get their jobs. As for the prostitution, no matter how much some might try and claim it doesn’t go on or if it does then blame the Kano, the truth is that there are more prostitutes catering to locals than foreigners and plenty of officials getting back handers out of it, too.

While I applaud any moves made to fight people trafficking and under age prostitution, being hypocritical about it is wrong. There has always been prostitution in the Philippines and while the country remains in such dire economic straits due to the semi-feudal reality of the society it will never go away. I am a firm believer that prostitution should be legitimate, licensed, policed and taxed as it is in many more enlightened and far less catholic countries around the world.

Proper licensing and health checks along with rigid policing will help fight the people trafficking and the use of underage sex workers and the tax revenue will fund all of these measures and add more to the public purse. But this will never happen while the cardinal rule is that the cardinals rule.