Philippines Medical Issues and Doctors


Filipinos get sick like everybody else does. The Philippines itself is a crowded place, and probably the fact that there is less space between people means that people catch bugs regularly. So if you have a Filipina sweetheart, you will have to deal with her getting sick sometimes. And every Australian man in an Australian Filipina relationship needs to learn a few peculiarities about Philippines medical issues and doctors.


Filipinos and doctors and medicine. Medicine and doctors in Philippines. Philippines medical issues and doctors.



Being OA – Over-Acting

I will tell everyone who asks that your average Filipina is a survivor and a pretty capable lady. Usually a pretty lady too, but that’s off-track. If she needs to stand in queues all day or take long bus trips or work long hours, yes she can do so. However if she feels unwell, will she put on a brave face and say the Tagalog equivalent of “She’ll be right!”? Not likely! Not with her man especially. She will moan and groan. She will cry easily. She may look like she’s about to fall off the perch. Then she will burp and say she feels better now! Don’t apply this rule-of-thumb to each and every situation, of course. You may miss something serious, and I don’t want you blaming poor Jeff for it!

Take note that Filipina ladies love being fussed-over by a loving and caring man, so I do suspect that this may be part of it. But do yourselves a favour and learn the difference between a bit of OA, and a genuine need for medical attention. It can take you years to work out, let me tell you!


Generic Medicine and Self-Prescribing

This is a country where you can buy most medicines over the counter at the pharmacy with no prescription. No strong painkillers or sedatives, but things like antibiotics? Most definitely. So people self-prescribe. Let me explain what’s wrong with that!

Generic Medicine: What this means is cheap drugs with questionable quality coming in from China mostly. So whilst it may be the right drug, it might be ineffective on the disease. As far as I can gather, you can reasonably rely on the larger pharmacy chains. Need to avoid the generic medicine places.

Relying on unqualified advice: Relying on the neighbor telling you that Amoxicillin will work, or taking what they took for their condition which surely must be the same as yours! If it’s the wrong medicine it simply won’t do anything, obviously. And the danger with antibiotics is the build-up of drug-resistant bacteria out there. I’ll explain that shortly!

Only taking until you feel better: Very common scenario. Go to the chemist/pharmacy in the Philippines and ask for a particular medicine and they will ask you how many you want! Seriously! In Australia? You get the box, and with antibiotics you know you need to finish the entire course whether you feel better or not. Here? You get as many or as few as you can afford, and then stop. Common with blood pressure (hypertension) or “high blood” as it’s called here. People take the medicine when they feel bad, and stop taking it as soon as they feel better. Very dangerous!


Drug-Resistant Organisms

I mentioned Amoxicillin before. It’s even available in some sari sari stores here, and it’s the stock standard antibiotic that most Filipino grandmas and helpful neighbors will suggest. And there are plenty of cheap generics around too. AND people may only take 3 – 4 of them when they get sick.

Drug resistance means that if you go in to wipe out some bacteria with a weak dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic (like Amoxicillin) and you wipe out half the population of bacteria, which ones do you think survive? The stronger ones, obviously. And if you keep using the same drug time and time again, then some of the surviving bacteria….the tough guys…..may manage to form genetic mutations which are totally unaffected by that drug. Your doctor will know when an organism is showing resistance, and will prescribe something else which is more likely to wipe out even the mutating tough-guy bacteria.

In other words, minimum dosing with poor quality medicine just makes the bugs stronger and harder to control. A dangerous game for an amateur to play!


Avoidance of doctors

I suppose much of this comes from being short of money. Remember that this is a country where there is no Medicare or Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme like there is in Australia. Going to the doctor costs money. Proper medication costs money. Blood tests, ECG’s, XRAYs, etc, these all cost money. So much of this would have come from a history of not being able to afford proper treatment, so you will generally find the scenario is something like this:

“Ohhhh, aray ko! Masakit!…….” and the sounds of suffering. You say “You better go to the doctor!”, and you will get “Nooooooooo. No, not the doctor. No, I’ll be fine!”

Sound familiar, gentlemen?

Most of us know that most medical conditions can be treated and managed when you get onto them quickly. Many conditions left untreated can deteriorate and cause death, and this happens in the Philippines all the time.

High blood pressure (hypertension, “high blood”): Often undiagnosed, and often unmedicated. Diets high in salt and high in fat play a part, and untreated can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

Diabetes: Eating absurdly large quantities of rice, too much sugar, fried foods and assorted junk food. Untreated leads to amputations, blindness and plenty of other nasties.

Breast cancer and cervical cancer: Ask your lady if she’s ever had a pap smear, or if she knows how to check her boobs for lumps? I bet the answer is NO. Ask her right now, and you may be in for a shock.


You put the hard yards in meeting a wonderful lady, developing a precious relationship and struggling through the visa minefield so you can lead a happy life. Make sure you take care of her and make sure she takes care of herself so you can enjoy each other for a very long time.




Jeff is registered migration agent who has been helping couples with visas to Australia ... Jeff is the owner / operator of Down Under Visa. If you would like to SUBSCRIBE, please click HERE.

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4 comments on “Philippines Medical Issues and Doctors
  1. Ted says:

    There are, in my experience, two further aspects to it: the widespread factual ignorance and sometimes horrifying misunderstanding about medical matters among Filipinas, and the mysterious attacks of imprecision during consultations with the doctor.

    The first is probably the easiest to attack, especially in this day of Wikipedia and other informative and reputable internet sites. Some notions I have come across are quite hilarious if it were not for their potentially serious consequences: “syphilis and gonorrhoea are the same disease”, “a hernia is a disorder of the penis”, “a urinary infection is a sure sign of AIDS”, “someone suffering from a sexually transmitted disease must eat at a separate table”. Almost any medical event is frequently covered by the vague, global term, “collapse”, the immense popularity of which word with Filipinas continues to puzzle me to this day.

    If acceptable, I would always suggest that a husband accompany his Filipina wife to any medical consultation. Of course, in the interest of fairness, she must feel free to do likewise with his visits to the doctor. Exclusivity of consultations of husband and wife is inherently strange to many Filipinas, even if the matter is comparatively trivial. We are used to one-on-one, private arrangements where doctors are concerned, but to insist on this can border on rudeness to some Filipinas, and I long ago conceded on this point.

    Most Western doctors are highly intelligent and articulate people, fully capable of speaking and understanding sentences containing two or more degrees of complexity. A consultation with a Filipina can quickly magnify language problems into a completely unintelligible exchange of questions and answers worthy of John Cleese.

    Doctor: Have you noticed any dizziness or pain after physical exertion ?
    Filipina: Yes, after I stopped taking allopurinol my foot was so sore I felt too dizzy to weed the garden.
    Doctor: Why have you stopped taking allopurinol ?
    Filipina: Because I haven’t had a gout attack for three years.
    Doctor: No, if you haven’t had an attack it was because you were taking allopurinol. You have had an attack because you stopped.
    Filipina: But I still have a whole bottle of colchicine.
    Doctor: No, that isn’t preventive.
    Filipina: Uncle Bing Bang was very dizzy with gout just before he collapsed and he died soon after that.
    Doctor: Look, let’s separate dizziness and gout shall we. Have you had any pain on exertion.
    Filipina: Yes, my neck is still sore from that physiotherapist last year. It was all because of my rotator cuff.

    Without the husband present, this can go on for a very long time.

    • Jeff Harvie says:

      Yeah, sounds a bit familiar. I’ve been known to have to get things back on-track. Seeing the confusion on a doctors face with descriptions of “tightness” and “heaviness”, I agree with the necessity. Oh, and the damned dizziness! My goodness! Yes, I’m sure it’s seen as a sign of impending death!

      We have one relative in the hospital now. Menstruation goes on for over a month, and gets admitted in the hospital finally after losing a massive amount of blood. Pale as a ghost at the moment. And another who occasionally can’t feel anything below her knee, but of course hasn’t been to the doctor. Another had a stroke and died, after untreated blood pressure.

  2. Tibor Bode says:

    On my very limited – and have to say frustrating – experience I would add one more item in the Filipina medical armory, the local white witch (quack doctor). First comes Dr xxxxxx self diagnosis – based on the extensive and highly qualified “medical” experience of relatives, friends, neighbours, then when it does not work, enter the local witch – which when it works makes me wonder about the illness in the first place 🙂 – when it does not work then comes – based on financial constraint – to see a qualified person or just suffer. In Oz, while we have a relatively good and very aqffordable system – missing dentistry in it still amazes me – it is still far from perfect and cost a lots of money. This is one of the many challenges in the Phils which I would personally love to be improved greatly toghether with being a bit more health consciencious with the food, albeit again I fulyl understand the financial contraints when a ball of cheap white rice and some dried fish is often what lots can afford at all.

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