As so often happens when two people of the opposite sex get together, the missus ended up pregnant. Suddenly, I was on a journey of discovery about what it means to have a child in the Philippines. It’s a very different experience from doing so in the west.
First up, let’s start with the good stuff. The local Barangay provided a midwife who visited regularly during the pregnancy. They also provided regular health checks and blood tests at no charge.
This impressed me — although their constant visits did get a little annoying at times. It was good to know that the local administration was doing something for people, especially to know that people who weren’t in our fortunate position to pay for such services had access to this kind of support.
The neighbours also rallied around us. With the people directly across the road doing a huge amount to provide support, including being on standby for the moment she went into labour and helping us to get checked into the hospital when the moment came. Predictably, she went into labour at about 11pm, but they were still ready and waiting to help.
One thing that many people don’t realise about Philippine healthcare is that you need to have someone at the hospital with the patient 24/7. Fortunately we had a maid at that stage (she later ran away to Baguio to pursue a career in prostitution, but that’s another story).
So I kept the home fires burning for the two days that my wife was in hospital. The maid rode shotgun and made sure that everything was on track up at the hospital itself, and it all worked out fine.
After my wife left the delivery room she was admitted to a room which was shared by two other people (four beds in total, but one was empty). We had to bring our own fan and pillows along with sheets. This is standard practice for public hospitals in the Philippines, but if you’re not prepared for it, then it can come as a bit of a shock.
She was left in that room for a few hours, before being moved to the corridor with a number of other new mothers. Once again, this is par for the course but I did find it a little off-putting. Fortunately there were no complications with the birth and we got her home as soon as we possibly could. She was laid up in that corridor for about 36 hours, after which she was discharged.
One point that I found really annoying was that the doctor who delivered my daughter blithely assumed that I was a Roman Catholic (I am an ardent atheist) and that she listed my daughter as “illegitimate” (in spite of us being in a common law relationship, although unmarried). Again, this is just the way it is in the Philippines, and I was able to get it resolved. However, it did involve a somewhat heated discussion with the woman issuing the birth certificate.
At the end of the day, the entire process cost under 300 pesos. This was down to my decision to get my partner’s Philhealth up to date a few months prior (I can’t recommend this strongly enough to anyone who is living here with a partner or wife). According to the statement we received from Philhealth after the birth, if I hadn’t done this the bill would have exceeded 30,000 pesos. So basically the 1,500 a quarter I pay for health coverage has already paid for itself for years to come.
All in all I was impressed with how smooth the process was. I was a little shocked by the flyblown buckets of blood and lack of hygiene in general, also with the stray cats roaming the wards, but I suppose that comes with the territory.
We are not in a part of the country that has anything akin to a real private hospital and, needs must, we didn’t have a lot of choice at 11pm on a Thursday night but to get her somewhere that she could give birth. Our nearest private hospital being a two-hour drive away, it was the local system or the bathroom floor.
Since then we’ve waded through a lot of paperwork with regard to registering the birth, getting various citizenships registered and many other trials and tribulations. I’ll be writing a series of articles about these experiences in the coming months, so stay tuned.
If anyone has any questions or something specific they’d like to see covered in the coming articles, then please feel free to add a comment.