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.
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!
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.