Sunday, February 24, 2013

ESRD and The Younger Brother I Admire

          Now that my brother Larry has decided to make his condition public via a new blog he started (, I feel that I am free to disclose it as well, though with a heavy heart.
          It was with much surprise last month when my sister in law informed me that my brother was in the hospital. After all, last time I saw him, he didn't exhibit anything that would show he was sick. Yet there he was, confined at the National Kidney Institute in the Philippines. I've always tried to avoid asking him about his health because I assumed that if there was something wrong with him, he would take care of it with the help of my sister in law. It was already bad enough that people who haven't seen him in awhile always mentioned his weight so I didn't want to be impolite and add to what my brother was already aware of. With his weight and our family history, I already suspected that he might have high blood pressure and diabetes, but I was confident that he was at least keeping those under control. So when I was informed that his kidney function was down to 5% and he needed a blood transfusion plus regular kidney dialysis for the duration, it was shocking news to say the least. The first questions in my mind were what was the rate of survival and is he still able to produce urine. Next question was what other alternatives he had other than hemodialysis.
          While my sister in law Ninette gave me updates via email and MagicJack calls, I really didn't grasp the severity of the problem until Larry started writing about it. I have a tendency to be stoic which most times comes off as being cold, detached, and unfeeling, so my initial response is to get the facts and try to digest them objectively even though it involves loved ones. That was the same way I responded to my mother's illness. But when I read it from Larry's own perspective, the cold reality started to hit hard. Life has thrown another curve at our family. As his doctor has told him in no uncertain terms, it's dialysis or death.
          I may be older than Larry by five years but I admire him because of what he has accomplished despite inauspicious beginnings. With my parents, he survived the 1974 conflagration of Jolo. But like me, he had troubles adjusting to life in college in Manila while away from our parents, however he was able to surmount that. After that initial bump in the road, everything seemed to have worked well from college in Western Mindanao State University, Masters in the University of the Philippines, working in Zamboanga, then Xavier High School in Metro Manila in the last decade or so, most recently as a New Technology teacher. He was also able to do some extensive traveling with Ninette which is something I've never been able to do due to financial constraints. I also admire him because he inherited the public relations skills of my father and the compassion of my mother. This is not to discount my admiration for my sister-in-law who has a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
          Since I moved to the U.S. in 1980, my brother and I were in touch infrequently and because of our age difference, I was already gone from home when he was just 10 years old, so the normal close bonding between siblings didn't really materialize, which is regretful now. It was only during last year's visit to Zamboanga in the last days of our mother that we achieved that connection in the short time we were together. There, I learned how to appreciate him more for being someone you can confidently rely on. Mama had the perfect idea when she said it was one of her last wishes.
          Now, Larry is facing this challenging new journey in dealing with end stage renal disease. The cold hard fact is that with dialysis, the usual life span is 4 to 5 years, so the better option is to find a kidney donor. With the abundance of her love for my brother, Ninette has offered one of her kidneys. This is something that is being explored at the moment and we can only hope and pray that it plays out and works out well for both of them. So with strength and determination, Larry and Ninette are forging ahead together.
          Hey, here's a message to you Bro: I love you and you've got to outlive me because after all you are the sole beneficiary of my assets now that Mama is gone, so you better get well despite the odds, okay? I'm not sure if that's a proper message to send but that's just my irreverence talking again as a defense mechanism.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Achieving Dual Citizenship (U.S. and Philippines)

          Last year, I started checking out the possibility of obtaining dual citizenship from the Philippines because to buy property there (if ever that becomes financially feasible for me), you have to be a citizen. I read all the requirements and earlier this year, started gathering all the necessary documents, i.e. old Philippine passport, original Philippine birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. citizenship certificate, copies of the papers mentioned, and three passport photos.
          Armed with all of those, plus getting an extra day off, I finally made the drive to the city of Los Angeles. A few days prior, I looked up the directions from home to the Philippine Consulate on Google Maps and in addition, plugged it into my Magellan and TomTom GPS's. I'm directionally challenged so I needed all the help I can get. Well, what'dya know, but those three gave me different routes to the same destination and back. I opted for a printout that Google Maps gave me and used Magellan as a back up. After all, TomTom didn't discover the Philippines and Magellan did. I chose the no freeway route and that soon took me down the Alameda corridor going north. I should have known this but forgot: the Alameda corridor is a major trucking route from the Ports of Long Beach and L.A. delivering goods that came from overseas via the Pacific Ocean. Thus, it was slow going on my drive. At least I was in no rush in rush hour traffic. Once I hit the numerous turns in L.A. I relied on Magellan to take me to the Philippine Consulate. It said "destination is on your left" and "you have arrived at your destination". Unfortunately, there is no big sign indicating which building it was and being unfamiliar with the area, I circled a few times trying to find a parking spot without a meter, not knowing there was validated parking in the building itself. Anyway, I found a vacant spot a block away and while parking there, my bladder felt it needed emptying. Unaware of where to find the nearest bathroom, I had to resort to my emergency urinal which I always keep in the trunk. I tried to be as discreet as possible by covering myself with a sweater while I relieved myself while seated in the driver's seat. Fortunately, nobody called the cops and I wasn't accused of indecent exposure. Saved by the urinal!
          I walked the short block to the consulate and upon entering the lobby, the first elevator I saw only took people from the 10th floor and up. I walked to another side of the building and found one that took me to the 5th floor where the consulate was located. A hallway brought me to a room with several windows. One side of the room were for people obtaining papers from the Philippines, while the other side dealt mainly with people like me applying for dual citizenship. I arrived at 10 a.m. and was surprised that the line was very short and I was third in line. Perhaps most people had better things to do with their loved ones because it happened to be Valentine's Day. When I got to the window, the gentleman inspected my application and supporting papers. Everything was in order except I copied the wrong page on my old Philippine passport. There was a small snack shop in the hallway that had a copying machine so that got taken cared of in a jiffy. Next, it was time to go to the cashier and hand my $50 fee, then back to the previous window. The guy, took all the papers and asked me to have a seat. Wouldn't you know it, but this was the hard part of the process other than driving in traffic: waiting. I was armed with my Google Nexus 7 tablet where I downloaded the Press Telegram at home earlier. I'm glad I did because the consulate didn't have wi-fi. So I read the newspaper while waiting and was called to the window one more time to sign the newly printed oath of allegiance paper and dual citizenship paper. More waiting ensued in the meantime but not for long. At about 11:45, we were summoned to another room where the oath taking was to occur and waited for the vice consul to come in. My co-dual citizenship applicants (there were about 15 of us) took turns taking cellphone photos beside the Philippine flag and President P'noy Aquino's picture. Among them was a cute 3 or 4 year old girl with a lovely name - Malaya (meaning Free), who posed a few times. What a unique name! I smiled when I heard her mother call her. I've never heard of a person named that before. Kudos to the parents for naming her that :). Looking out the window from that room, you could see the Hollywood sign. You couldn't get more L.A. than that.
          The vice consul arrived a few minutes later and people started to ask him questions about our soon to be dual status. Some asked if we could vote, another if she could run for office, while mine was if we had to pay taxes. We were then sworn in then congratulated individually by the vice consul. And just like that, I became a Philippine citizen again as well as retaining my U.S. citizenship. So, if ever I decide to retire in the Philippines, I would no longer be considered an alien there.
          I was only in the consulate for 2 hours which happened to coincide with the time limit of street parking. There would be no expensive parking ticket to pay and contribute to the coffers of the the city of angels on this day.
          On the way home, I relied solely on Magellan and noticed that I drove by the infamous skid row. Perhaps some of our patients were there but I didn't have time to slow down and check. I made it back home in about an hour, a freshly minted Philippine citizen. So what do I plan to do with this new status? Well, with recent life events with my family which I am not at liberty to disclose at the moment, I don't know anymore. The original plan was to retire in the Philippines near my brother. This would require deep reconsideration based on the recent events.
         ***Extra notes regarding the Philippine Consulate: There was a security guard in the consulate but hardly any security. His main duty from what I observed, was to usher people in and show them where to go. With nary a metal detector in sight, anyone can just walk in without their property or person being checked. Considering how the world is nowadays, that's pretty surprising. Of course the Philippines is probably one of the lowest priority targets of would-be terrorists, if at all.
          I was lucky to have followed all the application instructions carefully and up to now, Mama's help from decades ago had proven useful when she sent me my original birth certificate from Jolo. It's also good that I kept my old Philippine passport after I gained U.S. citizenship. I'm saying this because one of the applicants only brought copies, thus his application could not be accepted and he had to leave with nothing to show for it.
          I brought a couple of sandwiches and 2 cans of soda to the consulate just in case I had to stay past lunch time. It became a late lunch at home instead with the turkey sandwiches and a beer. It became a productive Valentine's Day for me despite being single <B
           One last thing to do after returning from the Philippine Consulate: rinse off and dry the urinal.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reconsidering The ASUS Transformer to Replace the Netbook

          Several weeks after I blogged about keeping on using my ASUS netbook because of its battery life and ability to use the usual familiar Windows programs (The Case for Keeping the Old Netbook), I switched to using the ASUS TFT 101 transformer. Both of those devices I purchased awhile back as refurbished products from thus saving me more than a few bucks.
          Let me tell you why I didn't prefer the tablet at first even though I also have a keyboard dock with it. First, the mouse touchpad was so sensitive that the cursor was jumping all over the place at the slightest touch. I use my devices to type a lot so that was a terrible inconvenience. That is, until I found out through message boards that you can disable the touchpad just by pressing one of the keys on the topmost row of the keyboard. Problem solved. Another thing I didn't like was that I couldn't save directly to Dropbox and that I couldn't copy and paste from the word processor app to the Blogger website or I haven't figured out how to do it yet. For now, I have to do it via the Blogger app which uploads it to the website once I save the document. Those are minor inconveniences I can live with including the slight lag between the moment I hit the letters on the keyboard and when it appears on the screen when using the word processor app.
          As far as surfing the web, there's hardly any difference other than choosing between a mobile enhanced website or using the full website. And as far as accessing my computer at home, the Teamviewer app works just as well on the tablet.
With the keyboard dock, the battery life is increased to as much as 16 hours and I still have the flexibility to detach it if not needed. There is however one glitch that I noticed. After fully charging the tablet and keyboard dock and I leave both attached to each other, the battery drains slowly from the tablet even when the power is off. Again, I found out from message boards that it is a firmware problem that can be updated, but which may work for some but not for others. Since the tablet battery does not drain when detached, the simplest solution of course is just to keep it so until you need to use the keyboard.
          As far as weight is concerned, it feels like the tablet with keyboard weighs as much as the netbook.
          Well, it seem like living in the tablet world is a matter of making adjustments just like one does when changes happen in life.