Overhead Wires in the Philippines vs Underground Service Cables in Europe

I am writing this post because even today (lockdown measures have been lifted a bit) I have had to cope with one of the many traffic jams that are caused day in and day out by never ending road repairs, many of which are the result of the fact that all kinds of utilities in this country run underground.

One of the things that really impressed me the first time I set foot in the Philippines is the incredible amount of utility poles and overhead wires and cables.

I found that jungle of wires quite odd because here in Italy, as well as everywhere else in Europe, there is almost nothing hanging overhead.

I assume that the reason why they have overhead feeds in the Philippines is because the cost of underground wiring is much higher and developing countries evidently can’t afford all the extra expenses of boring holes in the ground, and all the more so because cities like Manila grow very rapidly and more and more new high-rise buildings and shopping malls are being built almost at the speed of light.

The downside of this “spaghetti wires” system became pretty obvious to me back in 2008 when I experienced my first tropical typhoon ever, bagyo Frank: we had no electricity for three days. Evidently overhead wires get very easily damaged by storms and severe storms do happen in the Philippines way too often.

Here in Italy we never, or hardly ever, have any prolonged power outages.

Underground feeds also offer a much cleaner look, since there are no power poles running down the streets.

On the other hand the underground wiring system has its downsides:

First of all electric bills are very high in this country and I guess that the higher cost of boring holes in the ground and digging every now and then to do ordinary and extraordinary maintainance is something that ultimately us users pay.

Another problem is that we have to put up with men at work digging holes to repair electric lines as well as gas and water pipes, day in and day out, and more men at work putting patches on the asphalt and those patches are not always even (and that is perhaps why in the Philippines roads seem to be smoother than the ones we have here in Rome: no one is digging holes all the time).

For us tourists who visit the Philippines those messy overhead wires are a little ugly to watch but I guess that it would be rather unpractical and probably too expensive for a country like the Philippines to switch to underground wiring in the short term.

At least Filipinos can enjoy their new roads that are free from the way too many patches and bumps that we have in this country….

Never ending digging in Rome

No overhead wires in Rome
Overhead wires in Baguio City, Philippines
Roads in the Philippines are getting better and better and they are free from utility workers who dig holes all the time…

Should I Move to a Country Where Health Care is Free?

A public hospital in Rome
Food served in an Italian public hospital (to my mother who is diabetic): refined pasta, potatoes, white bread (food a diabetic must stay away from)
A public hospital in Rome

My wife comes from a country where adequate medical care is largely private.

In the Philippines UHC (Universal Health Care) does exist but, according to the report of two senators who recently visited public health care facilities, it badly needs more financial support:

“During our visits to hospitals in different provinces, my own eyes have seen the deplorable state of our countrymen – in hot and cramped wards, enduring the lack of government support. It is sad that our fellow citizens who, rather than be healed, are worried about being infected with the illness of another patient” said one senator.

Another senator said: “The majority of Filipinos only consult a doctor when their illnesses are already at their worst because of the lack of government support to the health department…”

It seems like much is going to change in the Philippines because President Duterte has recently signed a Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill into law (Republic Act No. 11223) that automatically enrolls all Filipino citizens in the National Health Insurance Program and prescribes complementary reforms in the health system.

But I guess it will take a while before the standards of UHC in the Philippines catch up with those we have here in Western Europe and, as a result, Italians who live as expats in the Philippines come back here whenever they need medical treatment so do Filipinos who used to work in Italy and are now retired and have moved to the Philippines for good.

The free as well as high quality medical care we still have here in Italy (I don’t know how long it will last, as the government keeps cutting back on it) is one of the reasons why many Filipinos who work in Italy are holding back from moving back home for good.

So, should Filipinos or other people from developing countries move to countries where UHC is better?

PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN COUNTRIES THAT HAVE GOOD UHC ARE GENERALLY NO MUCH HEALTIER THAN THOSE WHO LIVE IN SOME DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Here in Italy health care is free but Filipinos who live here are generally no healthier than Filipinos (or other ethnic groups) who come from countries where medical care is largely private and Italian themselves fail to take advantage of the fact that they live in a country where healthy food is affordable and health care is free and of good quality.

Those who live here (local citizens as well as immigrants) have exactly the same habits as people who live in countries where UHC is lacking or of poor quality.

People here rarely use their money to shop for healthy food and many merrily ignore their doctors’ advices and this applies both to immigrants and locals.

Filipinos who live here eat more or less the same food they eat in the Philippines (plenty of white rice, pork meat, sausages, plenty of tsisteria, which is a Tagalog term for junk food) and consume the same amount of alcohol.

They often eat out at Mc Donald’s, Burger King, KFC and other fast-food chains and consume huge amounts of soft drinks.

Italians eat plenty of refined carbs and most exercise very little. There are Italians who basically go entire weeks eating almost only refined carbs: they have cappuccino and croissant for breakfast, a slice of take away pizza for lunch and pasta when they get back home.

MOST PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN RICH COUNTRIES HAVE POOR HABITS THAT LEAD TO DISEASE

And this doesn’t just apply to Italy: actually, what I have noticed is that, he richer the country (and the better the public health care it provides) the more the tendency of people to neglect their health.

I have been to Finland a few times and, while there I observed that my Finnish friends were eating makkara or hot dogs day in and day out, plenty of potatoes, almost no vegetables. Also they seemed to be quite fond of drinking vodka.

The most industrialized countries in Western Europe, those that have some of the most advanced UHC systems in the world, are not exactly known for promoting a healthy life-style.

Italy is known as a country of heavy consumers of pasta and pizza, Britain, Germany and other Northern European countries are known for their beer culture, Switzerland is known for its brands of chocholate etc.

DOCTORS THEMSELVES FAIL TO SET A GOOD EXAMPLE AND OFTEN MERELY DOLE OUT PILLS

Many Europeans eat lousy, drink way too much, smoke, exercise very little and often doctors themselves have similar habits.

My family doctor is overweight and I know doctors who drink whiskey, grappa, limoncello and other kinds of liquers and, yes, many smoke.

PROS AND CONS OF MOVING TO A COUNTRY WITH BETTER UHC

It is true that here in Western Europe we don’t have such diseases as typhoid fever, dengue etc that are very common in the Philippines or in other developing countries and we are better equipped to deal with critical medical conditions.

The problem is that a country that has a better economy and better UHC only gives you the tools and potential to enjoy better health but most people who live in this kinds of countries fail to take advantage of this opportunity.

People here have more money but they buy cigarettes, candies, alcohol and so on.

Doctors often fail to set a good example when it comes to life style and they simply dole out prescription drugs.

Hospital fix your emergencies but don’t put you on a path that leads to thriving health and vitality.

An interesting example is the food they serve in the average Italian hospital which is everything but healthy: my mother who is diabetic spent a couple of months in two public hospitals and she was being given pasta, white bread and other refined carbs every single day and, on top of that, she used to go to the cafeteria of the hospital every day to buy croissants, candies, biscuits and so on (and the same cafeteria was full of doctors who were doing exactly the same thing).

So, if you live in a developing country that lacks a decent UHC, should you move to a country where UHC is totally free and of high quality?

You could but it will hardly do you any good if you don’t change your life style because the UHC system is not going to do it for you and, because some Western countries like mine are running out of money for social welfare, there is not even the guarantee that UHC will last….