The Philippines – Medical Issues
After more than 40 trips to the land of smiles exhausting all avenues of fun and travel I have decided to discover the Philippines. My first trip was last year in January and I travelled to the rice terraces in North Luzon and to Cebu in the South.
Great experiences and an introduction to how things generally work in the Philippines. My last trip was in May this year and I decided after many years of putting it of to do my Open Water diving certification.
The Philippines is world famous for diving with some great wreck dives and spectacular wall and coral gardens and my choice of dive school locations was Sabang on the Island of Mindoro.
After travelling from Angeles by car for five hours to Bantangas Port then transferring to a Banka boat for the one hour trip to Sabang. I had arrived at my holiday location. I must say one of my first complaints about the Philippines is travelling from location to location. It's very slow as the road system is very heavily used and poorly maintained.
After checking in at my hotel I wanted to check out the local beach’s bars and restaurants for my basic needs. Very interesting local streets and people with a feel of South America, the smells and sounds of a non stop fiesta. My first night I wanted to check the local talent out, the few local bars and discos and I must say fairly disappointed with the level of talent and the standard of overall dollar appreciation at all levels.
I resorted to my back up plan for female company as I had met a lovely girl in Angeles the week earlier and invited her to spend a week with me in Sabang. She arrived the next morning and we had a great time visiting the locations on the island.
I will get back to my diving part of the story as this is really the core of this visit as you will read further on. At my hotel they have a diving school with all the equipment etc. I'm also lucky enough to have an instructor with more than 3,000 dives.
The basics of the course are quite simple and as I surfed, snorkeled and spear fished a lot in my teens and 20s I found my sea legs quickly and adapted to the underwater world at a good pace.
After a week of diving and travelling with my little honey Ko it was time to pack up and head for Manila for my flight home. Aafter my check out of hotel and my transfer to Bantangas and my bus connection to Manila I was well on my way back to Australia.
On the bus things started to feel a little weird in my head as I was experiencing pain and a throbbing sensation in my ears and as I got closer to the airport it became more and more painful to the point I made a decision to cancel my flight and head to my original home base of Angeles.
As soon as I arrived in Angeles I went straight to the emergency ward to find out what was going on with my ears. The doctor made a basic diagnosis saying there was some redness and infection and recommended me to a specialist the following Monday.
I visited the specialist doctor on the Monday and the doctors diagnosis was not good. I had perforated one ear drum and severely infected the other, not a great experience and as it turned out I was not able to fly for ten days due to the damage to my ears.
Note. The cause of my injury illness was later discovered that I had a birth defect namely swimmers ears (very small passage through to ear drum / outer ear) along with me practicing ear squeezing and mask clearing in a dirty swimming pool.
Now I know this was a little long winded to get the message and information across about this experience but it was the level of medical care in the Philippines that was the main message in this submission.
Firstly the care level in comparison to Thailand. Well, there is no comparison. The standard is very third world with no real emergency vehicles and evacuation services in place.
As my illness was a major discomfort to me and a painful experience it is nothing in comparison to some major accident / illness that can occur in a foreign land.
My number one advice is to have travel insurance (as I did) and or blue ribbon medical insurance in place when you adventure travel or even are considering living in the Philippines.
On my insurance policy it stated that in extreme medical cases you would be transported to either Singapore or Thailand. I think after this experience I would advise anyone with a medical problem to do some research prior to a visit. Some points as follows:
* You must have prescription for most medicines. (Medicine is very expensive – at least double the cost of Thailand).
* Get a second opinion from doctors (As it turned out I had a deformed internal right side outer / inner ear and not what was first diagnosed.
* If you have a medical condition source out a good doctor via your hotel.
* If you do get ill hire a nurse or a helper (My little honey Ko was very handy and took very good care of me).
Now for the next ten days of my recovery I did not stay bed ridden the whole time. I still managed to get out an do things with a two day side trip to Subic Bay.
This will be the next Mecca of Expat Asia. It's investment friendly with plenty of entertainment overall.
There are some safety issues in the Philippines as everyone mentions and the crimes against foreigners seem to be more opportunistic than anything. Don’t flash your cash.
There is plenty to do in the Philippines with 7,000 islands and a deep history. It will do me for a while and now that I'm fully recovered from ear damage I will be back diving with some additional ear protection to protect my “swimmers ears” divers ear muffs….ugly but effective.
I know a lot of guys really like the Philippines but the more I hear, the less I think it stacks up well when compared to Thailand.