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I don’t know what it is about me and salads. Two weeks ago, I had one named after me, David Salad. And this week a different one put me in the hospital. Perhaps sharing your name with a salad is kind of like marriage; being unfaithful can cause a calamity.

My own near-fatal infidelity began as many do; with what seemed like an innocent flirtation. Ivy and I had spent the morning at the local mall, picking up some things we needed. By the time we finished, it was lunchtime, so I suggested eating at a restaurant we had never tried. And there it was, staring invitingly up at me from the menu; the sweetest, most demure,delicious-looking little salad I had ever seen.

Tagalog Buddy

“I’ll take that,” I said to the waitress, pointing to my new heartthrob’s picture. And, I swear, it was as if the salad winked at me; I should have known then that I was deeply in trouble.

Our first spat came only a few hours later. I felt a twitching in my stomach as if someone was trapped in there and desperately wanted out. The massive getaway that followed was utter and complete; a dramatic escape through both exits without even a moment’s hesitation for doubt or debate.

And that pretty much describes my next several days.

Here’s the thing about Philippine hospitals; you got your public and your private. My wife, who works in the medical field, says that, while the level of care at the city’s large public hospital is quite good, it is also generally crowded with pretty long wait times. And by then it was obvious to everyone that I was in no shape to wait.

So we made our way to the emergency room of the Surigao Medical Center. And, sure enough, within an hour of my arrival, I’d been admitted to the hospital for treatment of, yup, one particularly nasty little intestinal amoeba. My private room was not luxurious, to be sure, but it included all the basics; adjustable bed, bathroom, air conditioning, cable TV and a small extra bed for a “watcher” of my choosing. That position, naturally, was filled by my loving wife who, I must say, did an incredible job tending to my every need. This being the Philippines, of course, various other family members also got involved; at one point, in fact, no fewer than three of them shared that tiny single bed.

Life as a patient in a Philippine hospital, of course, is charming in every way. One of the most charming moments came around 5 a.m. each morning when a beautiful dark-eyed young Filipino nurse would waltz in, flip on the lights, and cheerfully ask about the size, frequency, color, texture, and consistency of my previous night’s poop. Another charming moment…oh, never mind, I’ll just leave you with the first one.

Suffice it to say, that after three days and three nights, plenty of medications and interrogations and the expert tutelage of the very excellent Dr. Francis Mantilla, I was ready to go home. The final price tag: 26,336.84 pesos, the equivalent of about $485US. Around what it would have cost, in other words, under Medicare back home.

So what have I learned from this experience? Primarily, to never again cheat on a salad. From now on, it’s just me and my special one until death do us part. Which, based on my record so far, could be sooner rather than later.

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David Haldane

A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and radio broadcaster, David Haldane (website http://davidshaldane.com/) fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications, including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists (available on Amazon) recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be in Surigao City where, overlooking the gateway to Mindanao at its northernmost tip, he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse guarding Surigao Strait. They currently reside in a room on the lower floor while workers complete the rest of the house.

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MarK Claytor
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MarK Claytor

I had a similar experience coming back on a ferry to Batangas from Puerto Galera. The ferry was large, new and very accommodating. The ride was long and a free, buffet-style lunch was included in the fare. At lunchtime, we were shown a wide selection of items served by a well-groomed staff from a sparkling clean buffet line. I chose the chop suey. It was “killer.” About 2 hours from the Batangas pier, my stomach started with a rumbling, uncertain feeling. Within the next hour, I was in serious intestinal distress. Upon arrival in Batangas, I grabbed the first tricycle… Read more »

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Oh my God; diarrhea on a ferry? Sounds like a nightmarish scenario…

Jose
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Jose

Mr. Haldane, This is not about salad or amoeba but about hospitalization in the Philippines…in Davao City, to be exact. I had the misfortune contacting pneumonia while doing work for the great “uncle” somewhere in Mindanao. My very first time to get admitted in a Philippine hospital, get treated by a Filipino doctor. It was at the (DDH) Davao Doctors Hospital where I was admitted. To make this short, I have nothing but admiration for the doctor who treated me (Doctor Romulo Uy was his name, I believe) and the staff were also outstanding. Except for the hospital food. Well,… Read more »

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Great story, Jose. Yes, I too was very impressed with the care and professionalism of the doctors and nurses. Sometimes they get a bad rap in the West, but I really think it’s undeserved.

Art
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Art

One glaring fact which is hard to ignore is that eating a fresh salad at a restaurant is a poor idea. Eating one at home where you can be sure of sanitation is much safer. Eating uncooked vegtables out is even more dangerous then drinking water from the tap.

John Reyes
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John Reyes

A couple of months ago, hundreds of people across 14 states were sickened from Mcdonald salads that were found to be contaminated with the parasite cyclospora.

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Yup, an important lesson I learned the hard way.

John Reyes
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John Reyes

Hi David – Hope you are feeling much better. I had to smile at your mention of “watchers” during your hospital stay at Surigao Medical Center. In the vernacular, the watchers are known as “bantay”. The mention of the word jogged my memory back to my month-long May 2000 trip to the Philippines that featured, among other things, my overnight stay at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital (PRMMH) located in Iba, the provincial capital of the province of Zambales. I am prompted to post this rather long story because your cultural experiences at Surigao Medical Center mirrored mine in… Read more »

David Haldane
Guest
David Haldane

Great story, John! I think your experience was a bit wider than mine. Glad it wasn’t as serious as it must have seemed…

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

David: Ah Salad Love…there is no match for it and I too have been awakened at 5:00 am by a doe-eyed nurse inquiring about my excrement. It’s magic. Rob

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Ah, a fellow salad lover! And with inquisitive doe-eyed nurses throw in to boot. We are truly brothers in the struggle…

Peter Devlin
Member

David, that sounds horrendous. I can empathize because I had a similar experience several years ago when vacationing on a remote island of the north coast of Palawan. I don’t think I’d ever felt so ill, and in fact had to be medevac’d off the island in the middle of the night. On arriving on the mainland I was taken by tricycle to a Baptist Missionary hospital in the middle of what seemed like a jungle! The facilities were close to primitive to be honest, but the dedicated staff took care of me well, and i was so ill I… Read more »

David Haldane
Guest
David Haldane

Wow, great story Peter! Glad you came out ok….

Dave
Guest
Dave

Been there and lived to tell the tale. It was so much fun that first time. First from the back, pour water, turn, bend over and from the front. Not done, just keep repeating the same till tricycle gets there. But great hospital stay, the 20 minutes my wife and i were alone. Really watch those water bottle lids for sealed tops.

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