March 10, 2013: Tropical travel isn’t all fun in the sun. Just ask my dad. Week two of his three week visit started out just fine. We still had the rental car for a few days, and kept heading off in new directions.
There was a fun day at Ocean Adventure, the aquatic theme park in Subic, where we watched trained sea lions, dolphins, forest dwelling critters and an incredibly talented troupe of acrobats from Kenya. The last show seemed a little out of place until they make the connection. A healthy environment is a balancing act. There was a lot of repetition of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” message throughout each of the shows. Judging by the amount of garbage (mostly platic) that we see in the marina and on the beaches, it’s a message that’s sorely needed! It’s not just a problem in the Philippines. We also noticed it in Nicaragua in 2005, in Vietnam in 2008 and in Bali in 2010.
Dad went off the next morning to visit a local children’s home run by the Subic Bay Baptist Church. They care for about 50 abandoned children at any given time, providing a safe home, a family environment, food and education. They are in the midst of building a new kitchen building, to replace the old one that is in disrepair. A large group of Japanese students were there to help with the project.
That same afternoon, we stopped for lunch at Baloy Long Beach and then went for a drive to explore the eastern shore of Subic Bay, taking a winding road out to the end where the Hanjin Shipyard is located. This massive industrial site employs something like 19,000 Filipino workers. They build enormous freighters, tankers and container ships. It’s Korean owned and Subic has a large Korean population as a result, complete with numerous Korean-run businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, residential neighbourhoods and churches.
On our final day with the car, we drove down the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Express toll highway) to Clark. This is the site of the American’s former airforce base. It’s now been turned into a special economic zone with a growing international airport featuring cheap flights to destinations inside the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia. While at Clark, we explored the giant SM Mall with a stop at Pizza Hut for lunch. At the French Bakery, I picked up the nicest loaf of bread I’ve had since we’ve been here and some fresh tortillas. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t give in to my urge to get some pains du chocolat or mini quiches. What was I thinking?
I’ve been taking dad to a wide variety of restaurants in Subic so he could try different food. There was Texas Joe’s (for ribs), Magic Lagoon (for Pinoy food), Blue Rock (on the beach), Seafood by the Bay (for, you guessed it, seafood), Bunker Bob’s (for Italian American food inside a converted American military bunker) and Asian Spices (for Thai food). Even though these spots mostly cater to foreigners, somewhere along the way, dad picked up a bug.
Travelling in the tropics can be hard on your system when you’re not used to it. The heat takes a while to get used to. The food and water can harbour parasites if you’re not extremely careful about what you eat and drink.
Generally, the water inside Subic is considered safe and most restaurants filter it to be extra sure. I’ve been buying large jugs of bottled water for the boat, just to be on the safe side. Whether it was from something he drank or something he ate, we’ll probably never know, but dad came down with a nasty bout of traveller’s diarrhea (which I like to call Marcos’ Revenge).
The accompanying dehydration was so severe that he actually passed out briefly. So I called an ambulance and had them take him to Baypointe Hospital. By the time they had him off the boat and onto the stretcher, he was already feeling much better. He was admitted on Thursday evening and is still there today, Sunday.
The hospital is relatively new, extremely clean and nearly empty. When dad arrived in emergency, he was the only patient with no shortage of doctors and nurses hovering over him. Quite different from the crowded hospitals in Canada, although I’m sure the main hospital in Olongapo, just across the river, is a lot different. Dad’s tests were done instantly, and the results reviewed just as quickly. He was put on a saline drip immediately and started on antibiotics for the parasite within a day.
I can tell he’s definitely on the mend now because he’s getting impatient. Impatient for solid foods. And impatient to get out of the bed and walk around. Now we just have to get him out of there. At least he’s in good spirits and joking with all the nurses, as per the usual. But it’s no fun to spend your holiday cooped up in a hospital.
Despite the scare, the visit to the hospital has an up side. The doctors were concerned enough to order a battery of tests to rule out other possible causes of the brief fainting spell, including an EKG, CT Scan, an Echo Ultrasound on his heart, and a bunch of lab work. Mostly good news, but a worryingly high A1C number, which indicates type 2 diabetes. So dad will have to get this sorted as soon as he gets home. Who knows when his GP would have caught this.
Needless to say, the fishing trip has been postponed indefinitely. Poor pops!