Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday, Manila Day 7 & 8, 7/27-28/13: Last day and the journey home

After our busy day on Saturday, we used Sunday to catch up on all our blogging. My cousin invited us over for lunch for an authentic Filipino meal!  We had fish: something local and tilapia, corn soupadobo, lumpia, dinuguan (I don't touch that stuff), pancit canton, some vegetable dish, fresh mangos, and of course rice.  My aunt is a breast cancer survivor, so we interviewed her for our project. I remembered going to their house in Makati as a kid.  It was one of the few places that had air conditioning! HAHAHA!

After a big meal, it was easy to take a siesta!  We got up in time to eat a late dinner again.  We stayed around the hotel this time, but the rain cooled things down considerably!  We actually attempted our exploration outside.  We went around the perimeter of Glorietta 5, but the restaurant we were looking for was packed with a 2 hour wait!  Damian was getting pretty familiar with the area.  We were hungry so we decided to feast at a random Chinese restaurant.  We were expecting something fancy, but we should have realized it was Chinese Fast food.  Kind of a disappointing last meal in the Philippines.   We turned in early because our flight to Tokyo was at 7:30AM.  My nephew was going to swing by around 4:30AM to take us to the airport.

It is such an ordeal flying out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  There were 3 security checkpoints, and we had to pay a 500 peso exit fee... not to mention it is a pretty big airport! So glad I had the mAss Kicker Mobile!  There is NO WAY that I could have tolerated all that walking! Regardless, flying international definitely requires extra travel time.  The fact that I need to travel with the mAss Kicker Mobile complicates things.  International airlines don't see these things too often.  I always have to take that into account when I travel.  Next time I will bring the owners manual to expedite checking in. Anyways, when we finally got to the gate, I was exhausted!  Damian wanted to grab some coffee and explore a little.  I found a comfy spot at the gate and took a nice nap in front of a replay off the 2013 NBA FINALS Heat-Spurs:  Miami Coach Erik Sporstra's mom is from San Pablo (where my parents are from)!  Filipinos love basketball!  There was a large crowd watching the game with me!

Anyways, we caught our flight to Narita Airport in Japan with no major problems.  The gate assistants took us to the proper area to pick up the mAss Kicker Mobile.  We had to catch a bus to the Japan Airlines terminal  But when we got to to the terminal, we had a little trouble checking the mAss Kicker Mobile into our Japan Airlines flight back to San Diego.  We had a four hour layover in Japan, but we spent 1 1/2 hours trying to gate check the mAss Kicker Mobile onto the flight to San Diego!  The people at the airport didn't know how to check the mobility scooter.  They were extremely confused!  I waited patiently while Damian searched for a place to grab lunch.  When we final got through security, we decided to grab a bite to eat then stop by the duty-free store.  I'm a candy-holic.  I wanted to pick up some gifts for for a wedding I'd be attending in Canada in 2 weeks!  Anyways, we we were both pretty hungry and decided on this Japanese cafeteria place in the terminal.  We both settled on a meat dish with a raw egg.  It was awesome, but we both had GI issues the next day.  We don't know if it was the home cooked meal the day before or the raw egg at lunch, but something was up!  The last two times I've been to the Philippines I've had GI issues.  I was prepared this time, with TUMS and Pepto.  Anyways, we were both exhausted and pretty much slept the whole flight back!  That was an 11 hour flight!  When we got back to San Diego, we went out for good old pizza and wings, but we were both too exhausted to eat!  For me, I'd be traveling back to the midwest for our annual TUMORS SUCK! Paintball Benefit and my cousin's wedding in Toronto.  The big trip was halfway over!

Check out the Pictures from Day 7 in Manila! 

We def made some great contacts in Japan and the Philippines and look forward to returning someday!  Next on the agenda is to speak in Australia, England, and possibly Singapore.  Stay tuned.  We are just getting started.. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday, Manila Day 6, 7/26/13: Tagaytay

Damian was exhausted, so he decided to lay low today.  I wanted to check out Tagaytay.  Tagaytay is in the province of Batangas. The temperature is much cooler up there so we brought sweatshirts.  It is characterized by the Taal Volcano Island at the center of the Taal Lake. It is an active volcano!  It blows my mind that there are so many restaurants and tourist activities around an active volcano! My nephew came by the hotel and the driver drove my mom, my nephew, and myself to Tagaytay.  It is about an hour and a half car ride to get there from Makati.  This gave us the opportunity to see more of the provinces.  Personally, I like going outside of large cities and seeing the "simpler" life.  Anyways, we went to this great restaurant with a great view of Tagaytay.  More authentic Filipino food!  The place was packed, but the balcony had a great view of the bay!  My nephew suggested we go to a hotel to get another awesome view of Lake Taal.  Tagaytay reminds me of "The Island" on LOST.  So much green here surrounded by clear water.

After lunch we went to a hotel to get another great view of the lake again, the mAss Kicker Mobile got a lot of stares as usual.  We met an elderly gentleman and his family who were curious about the mAss Kicker Mobile.  We had a lengthy discussion about how convenient it is and where to get one.  We wanted to stay there longer because it was so peaceful. We ended up getting halo-halo at the hotel restaurant and listening to a "Filipino Mariachi-like band" sing songs in Tagalog and English.  I have forgotten how much I enjoyed live music.  I will have to start going again in San Diego!  I used to go to Seau's The Restaurant for Island Reggae night. Ever since it closed, I haven't experienced live music.  It has been a while since I've enjoyed it.

Just being able to witness the breath-taking scenery in Tagaytay reminded me that life is precious.  We can't control what happens to us, but we can control how we react.  There are three options when facing adversity.  You can:
  1. dive – succumb to the disease/adversity
  2. survive – weather the storm of an intimidating diagnosis/news
  3. thrive – become proactive in the fight against this disease/step up to the challenge 
To "THRIVE" you have to "SURVIVE" first.  Surviving is logically the top priority, but what happens next after you survive?  Some choose to return to their normal lives.  Other choose to continue the battle against these diseases.  They are no longer fighting for their own well-being.  They are fighting for others similar to them!  One of the biggest reasons we are taking survivors on trips to different areas around the world is to show the world that life after after a tumor/cancer diagnosis DOES EXIST!  WE ARE LIVING LIFE AND THRIVING!

Before heading back, we stopped by a church/chapel in Tagaytay.  They requested silence outside because there were no doors.  Seeing familiar Catholic structures surrounded by tropical foliage was strange to see at first, but eventually it started to grow on me.  Seeing cathedrals in Europe, Catholic Basilicas in San Diego, and modern churches/temples/synagogs throughout North America gives me a sense that we can all be connected by a common belief.  Sure religions differ, but most agree that there is a "standard" that people need to live up to.  The fact that these beliefs have been around for thousands of years gives me hope for humanity.  Every society has to have some semblance of moral rules/laws.  This gets tricky when governments intervene.  I will cut myself off here because I don't want to get into a philosophical debate.

Anyways, we got some great photos from Tagaytay.  Check them out here:
Pictures from Tagaytay

When we got back from Tagaytay, I took my daily siesta and met up with my cousin and nephew for dinner at a modern Filipino restaurant on Bonifacio High Street.  It was old school Filipino cuisine with a modern flare.  The place was packed!  Damian went off on his own adventure that evening in Makati so I didn't get to meet up with him until I got to the hotel later in the evening after dinner.  Finally met up with Damian, but we were both too exhausted to go out and do anything...

The following day was our last full day in Manila.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friday, Manila Day 5, 7/26/13: San Pablo

My mom got in around 11PM Thursday night and my uncle picked her up at the airport in the van.  On Friday we finally ventured outside of Makati and went to San Pablo, Laguna!  Both my parents are from there.  They grew up close to each other, but didn't really connect till they we both in Canada.  Going to San Pablo is like a return to my roots and I always look forward to it!  I have so many fond memories of that city.  When I was a kid, we spent one epic month of our summer vacation in San Pablo.  This was a very big deal because at the time in San Pablo, there was: no shower, no electricity 3-5PM, limited air conditioning, and we had pet ducklings.  (Some guy was selling ducklings door to door.  I never questioned why.  I now realize that they were probably meant to eat!  hee hee)  It was like "urban camping".  It was cool learning about where we came from and meeting relatives we never even knew existed!  Anyways on our way to San Pablo, Damian was saying how much it reminded him of Mexico.  That statement made a lot of sense.  There are many Tagalog words that are similar to Spanish due to 400 years of Spanish occupation/influence.   Going outside of Manila, the Philippines has a VERY DIFFERENT feel to it.  The difference in socio-economic classes are more apparent outside of Manila.  As I mentioned in a previous post... in the Philippines, you either have money or you don't.  The divide between the lower class and upper class is huge!  My theory is that if you can be classified as middle class, you move out of the Philippines to "greener pastures".

Anyways, we stopped by my uncle's house to drop off my mom's stuff where she would be staying.  The Philippines to me as a child was full of Folk tales and Urban Legends that kind of freaked me out.  The stories of the White Lady, the Duende, and Filipino Vampires: Mandurugo and the Aswang were always fascinating to me.  What I remember most from my first trip to San Pablo were: sleeping in mosquito nets every night and watching live NBA finals games during the day.  Totally random memories.  Anyways, we then went to Max's Restaurant,"The House That Fried Chicken Built" for lunch.  So good!  It was a 5 entree lunch!  After lunch we went to the house that my mom grew up in and hung out a little with family.  It was great going back to a place I hadn't seen in years!  So many fond memories!  We wanted to see more of San Pablo, so the driver took us around Sampaloc Lake.  We got some great video of the area around the lake.  The poverty was really apparent there!  After our short little tour we headed back to the hotel in Makati to rest up.

On Damian's adventure the night before, he discovered a cool bar with great happy hour specials and a food truck festival not far from the hotel.  After resting up, we headed out to grab some eats.  We made some great contacts at the bar and will hopefully collaborate the next time we are in Manila!  At the food truck festival, there were some awesome dishes available at really cheap prices!  There is something special about Filipino barbecue that makes it unique.  Maybe it is the marinade... I don't know what it is, but it is delicious! Anyways after our awesome late dinner, we went back to the hotel room and crashed after a busy day!

Pictures from Day 5 in San Pablo

The following day we would be going to Tagaytay to see the beautiful volcano city.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thursday Manila Day 4, 7/25/13: Meeting the locals at the mall

Damian and I were pretty tired by Day 4 in Manila.  We got up late and tried to find a place to eat lunch in the mall!  We were looking for some restaurant that Damian wanted to check out.  As I mentioned earlier, the mall system in Makati is essentially a city within a city.  I didn’t have the energy to go out and explore the full mall system.  This is a shoppers paradise.  Typically, when I buy something, I know exactly what I want and where to get it.  I never go window shopping.  I guess I don't have the patience to "shop around."  Couple that with the fact that I’ve never enjoyed going to crowded places without a mission or purpose. I discovered at a young age that shopping is not for me. Before websites and amazon. We used to get huge Showroom catalogues in the mail.  Me and my brother use to browse the toy sections in the Service Merchandise and Best Catalogues to pick out the toys we wanted.  Before the internet and before warehouses like Costco or Sam's club people bought household products, personal products, toys, and jewelry.

Anyways, there were 4 major malls walking distance from the hotel: Glorietta, SM, Landmark, Greenbelt.  If either of us were shoppers, we would have truly taken advantage of the location of our hotel, but I was more interested in seeing the sites and Damian was more interested in meeting the locals. We tried to find a restaurant that we wanted to check out the day before, but we couldn't find it and ended up at some random Japanese ramen place because we were hungry.  We were laughing at how easy it was to get lost in the huge mall system and how much we stuck out!  The mAss Kicker Mobile was still getting A LOT of curious stares from people! Eh, not as annoying... Damian wanted to meet more locals so he struck up a conversation with the girl sitting next to us.  She was having lunch with her aunt who just happened to be a 30-year stomach cancer survivor, Conchita Lee!  This little lady reminded me of my grandmother!  She let us record an interview with her.  Just like my Lola/grandmother, she chastised me for not going to church everyday!  This made her more endearing to me.  During our conversation she told me that she was SHOWING us the church in the mall!   Roman Catholicism is serious business in the Philippines, but I was still surprised that a church existed in the mall! I took a peak at Damian, and he shrugged his shoulders. HOW COULD WE SAY NO, TO THIS CUTE LITTLE "LOLA"?  She took us to Landmark and led us to the church!  I’m not sure we would have found it on our own.  It was pretty crazy seeing the fusion of religion and pop culture. A church in a mall...  It makes sense though.  Put a church in an easily accessible place where there is a lot of traffic.  Almost everything was accessible in the mall.  These malls are essentially a modern "street market" but with security (guards and metal detectors) and air conditioning.  Walking around in an air conditioned mall sure beats walking around outside in the heat and pollution.  

Anyways, after visiting the church and feeling guilty for not going, we made our way down to the cafeteria in Landmark and hung out with a group of retired Filipinos who go there daily and have coffee.  They have their own schedule and it was so interesting talking with them about cancer and life in the Philippines. We have some great video footage of our conversations.  When we got back to the room, we were both exhausted!  Later that evening, my mom would need the to get picked up from the airport.  The van was reserved to come by at 10 PM.  I met up with my Uncle so that he could meet up with her and pick her up at the airport in the van.  Damian went out and grabbed dinner on his own and explored the area around the hotel while I waited for my uncle.  He found some pretty cool spots and tried to drag me out later that evening to have some fun, but I was just exhausted!  I decided to rest up and catch up on some blogging.  With so much going on, we were falling short on our plan of blogging every day.  This was my night to catch up!

I didn't catch up as much as I wanted, but I did manage to get a little done.  Friday was going to be a busy day.  We were going to San Pablo, the city where my parents grew up!  I think we were both getting tired of staying by the mall.  Stay tuned for more updates.  

Wednesday, Manila Day 3, 7/24/13 Ateneo De Manila Lecture

We had the opportunity to speak to future physicians and future healthcare providers at Ateneo De Manila University.  We jumped at the prospect of meeting a few survivors and future healthcare providers in another part of the world!  This would be the first time we would be speaking to International Students about post-treatment thrivership.  We were graced by the presence of:  Norman Marquez, Jason Haw, Noel Cruz, Mia Chico, Patricia Nitura, Kyla Cabatit, Chin-Chin Santiago, and Alberto Antonio.  We were honored that Ma. Gia Sison MD joined us for the presentation at Ateneo.  Dr. Sison had recently completed chemotherapy for breast cancer literally days before the presentation.  We were truly honored by her presence and input to the lecture.  We had only talked once before the presentation, but we immediately bonded by a common disdain for all forms of tumors/cancer.  Although healthcare is different in different countries, we face similar battles fighting diseases, tumors, or cancer.

Health Insurance is private pay in the Philippines.  We learned that in the Philippines either you have money or you don’t.  This means that if you get diagnosed with cancer and you can’t afford the treatments or medications you are left to fend for yourself.   The priorities in terms of tumor/cancer survivorship are very different there!  The stigma of tumors/cancer as a “death sentence” is much more prevalent than that of “survivorship”.  Our strategy is to educate all future healthcare professionals so that they can provide appropriate resources for their future patients.  Educating the layman starts with the healthcare professional planting “seeds of treatment resources,” but ultimately the responsibility lies with the patient and their loved ones to seek and then apply the information they discover.  Culturally, this is a huge barrier because patient access to information varies in different regions of the world.  Essentially, ALL patients need to know that they do have options.  We think mAss Kickers Foundation can assist in providing resources. Healthcare professionals specifically physicians and nurses need to be aware of patient resources and disseminate that information to their patients. Education is the first step.

At Ateneo, we brought up a very controversial subject in the war on tumors/cancer: using clinical trials for patients who don’t have access to traditional life-saving tumor/cancer treatments!  I’m not sure if many people would be eligible subjects for clinical trials in third world countries, but the alternative for these patients is NO TREATMENT and ultimately a worse quality of life or even DEATH! People need treatment, and research studies need subjects... Of course clinical trials would need to be closely monitored by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or some sort of ethics committee, but the potential for life saving treatments from this research could benefit A LOT of people and provide HOPE for the less fortunate patients that can’t afford traditional treatment!  Every patient deserves options!  This opens the door for an ethical debate, but clinical trials should at least be considered in this population.  This would require CLOSE MONITORING, but could significantly advance our knowledge and treatment of these diseases!  I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the ethics of this...
Anyways, the presentation went well based on the feedback we received from the attendees.   In the following days, we got to explore Makati a little more, visit San Pablo where my parents grew up, and visit the beautiful town of Tagaytay! Stay tuned for the next installments of the blog.  We have more plans to do international travel next year!  We would appreciate your feedback and ideas for future activities.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday, Manila Day 2, 7/23/13 Intramuros

We went to a historical site in Manila, Fort Santiago in Intramuros. the walled fort that protected the old Manila.  During WWII, Fort Santiago was used as a prison by the Japanese after American General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines.  It is now a museum for that era.  As soon as we got out of the van, we were hounded by a number of street vendors trying to sell us stuff!  Pretty annoying... Years ago on my first trip to the Philippines, my parents constantly warned me about kidnappings and talking to people on the streets.  That always stuck with me, and has made me leery about meeting the locals in different countries.  Damian was all about experiencing the local culture.  We ventured outside Ft. Santiago and explored Intramuros.  We found that many of the side walks in Intramuros don’t have ramps for wheelchairs.  There were a few ramps, but the conditions on the street are not very friendly to wheelchairs with poorly labeled ramps or unsmooth sidewalks.  I grew tired of the conditions so I asked Damian if he wanted to just ride in the street.  I don’t recommend doing this unless there is unless you have a separate set of eyes watching the traffic for you!  The driving lanes in the Philippines are non existent, so you really need to be aware of EVERYTHING going on!  People try to squeeze their way through traffic, so you have to be aware if your surroundings.  Not the first time, we've done something crazy on our travels! Anyways, as we made our way through the barrio on the street and noticed A LOT of people staring at me in the mAss Kicker Mobile.

Years ago I went to a family reunion on a cruise ship.  I was in a wheel chair at the time and my brother was wheeling me around.  People would not talk directly to me.  They would talk about me directly to my brother right in front of me!  I will never forget “the looks of shame” I got from people on that trip.  This time around, I couldn’t tell if the looks I was getting in the Philippines were looks of shame or curiosity.  I wanted to capture people’s reactions to seeing a guy in a mobility scooter.  Kinda mean, but I wanted people to know what it felt like to be constantly stared at. I asked Damian to follow a few steps behind me and snap a few pictures of people’s reactions to me in the mAss Kicker Mobile.  These looks were very common everywhere I went.  I have learned to ignore them, but seeing people's reactions after I passed by makes me feel uncomfortable.  Check out the link below.

 I like to think I've developed a new type of confidence.  I have a whole new respect for individuals that grow up in cultures where they are seen as "outcasts."  I do realize that people were probably not exposed to something like this, so it is OK to be curious.  I cannot imaging growing up in another part of the world with a physical disability and trying to develop self esteem and a sense of confidence.  People with disabilities are faced with breaking stigmas/ preconceived notions.  

Pictures from Manila Day 2, Intramuros

One thing I've learned on my travels is to be wary of local cooking for fear of GI issues.  We strolled by a bunch of local food stations that smelled AWESOME!  I had to keep myself in check, but the temptation was there!  It was kind of cool going around the streets of Intramuros, but in the back of my mind the wise words of caution from my parents echoed in my head.

We kept ourselves in check because the next day we would be speaking at Ateneo De Manila University on Wednesday.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the blog.  We have more plans to do more international travel next year to break the stigma that tumors/cancer are death sentences!  We would appreciate your feedback and ideas for future activities.  Please leave a comment below.  We want to unite the WORLD in the fight against these diseases!  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Monday, Manila Day 1, 7/22/13 Exploring Makati

After arriving late, we decided that we would spend the first day familiarizing ourselves with the area!  We stayed in Makati next to a huge set of stores, “SM” and the Greenbelt 6. We quickly discovered that the malls in Manila are enormous and they are always packed!  They are all connected by inter-building walkways on multiple levels.  The shopping malls in Makati are like it’s own separate city!  The huge networked mall system makes perfect sense to me now.   It gets WAY to hot and humid in Manila to congregate outside.  A climate controlled area where people can congregate and support local businesses makes sense, but you don’t get the authentic feel of walking down an actual street.  Although it felt like a walking in a mall in the United States with McDonalds or Subway on literally every corner, the stores and restaurants had a “Distinct Filipino Feel” to them.  As an American born Filipino-American I felt comfortable there, but using the mAss Kicker Mobile made me stick out!   We noticed that I was getting a lot of stares and strange looks from people in the Philippines.  I have learned to tune them out, but Damian picked up on this pretty quickly!  In Japan it is impolite to stare, but in the Philippines that is the furthest from the truth. We explored this later. ;P

We booked a room at the Dusit Thani Hotel, which is a Malaysian Hotel chain.  The staff was very courteous and eager to please. For me it was the first time staying with them. I am used to staying at American hotel franchises.  Initially we requested handicap accessible room, however the view from our room was of a construction sight and was very loud early in the morning.  We decided to upgrade to a junior suite on the other side of the hotel. One of the things we’ve learned on our brief travels is that we need ground transportation.  On our trip to Hawaii it was car rental.  In Tokyo, it was taxis, trains, and buses.  In Manila we hired a driver.  It was really convenient because he would take us wherever we wanted to go.   We asked he driver to take us to a breakfast place.  We found one really close to the hotel at greenway.  HAHAHA! We drove less than a block and went to a breakfast place at the mall.  We ate there and asked to take a quick tour of the sites close to the hotel.  We drove by Jose Rizal Park. Rizal is the National Hero of the Philippines. We also wanted to go to the beaches around Manila! We didn’t stop and get out.  Only drove by.  We found out that the public beaches in Manila are non existant.  You have to go outside the city to go to the real beaches.

After getting acquainted with the area around the hotel, we decided to go to Fort Santiago in Intramurous, the old fortified Manila.  There are lots of historical sites there, but how would the mAss Kicker Mobile hold up/manuever in there?  (That was interesting.)

Manila Day 1 photos

Stay tuned for the next installment of the blog.  We have more plans to do more international travel next year to break the stigma that tumors/cancer are death sentences!  We would appreciate your feedback and ideas for future activities.  Please leave a comment below.  We want to unite the WORLD in the fight against these diseases!  

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