iran.  it was one middle eastern country that i’ve secretly wanted to visit.  i never told my ma that i booked a ticket with the help of the acquired miles i got from gulf air to tehran until i got approved by the embassy in makati.  she then asked what was in that country that made me want to visit – and i showed her pictures from the internet of the azadi tower in tehran, the bridges of isfahan and persepolis in shiraz.  i told her that i am going to get a small-sized authentic persian carpet for which the country is well-known.

it wasn’t easy to get a visa to iran.  an authorization number is required issued by their ministry of foreign affairs.  this is then forwarded to the embassy in the philippines which is located in dasmarinas village, makati.  the authorization number can be obtained by either a sponsor (who is a local) or applying to have one from a travel agency.  i got mine from the latter wherein i paid like $80.00 which took 10 days.  i went to the embassy the moment i received the authorization number.  after submitting my requirements and paying a visa fee, i waited for another 10 days and got my visa stickered in my passport.


everything was going in the right places for my one of a kind trip.  i scribbled in my note pad some helpful farsi words that i can use, carefully planned my 10-day itinerary, took note the places i did not want to miss, got my backpack and personal stuff ready, read a lot of entries in the net about iran – i even got some small native trinkets to give away to locals whom i will meet during my trip.

on the day of my flight friday the 13th, i asked my brother to drive and drop me to the international airport using our family suv.  it took us two hours to travel from rizal due to traffic on some major roads.  i reached the airport on time, having more than 3 hours before my 12:10 flight.  everything went smoothly during my visa check, then the issuance of tickets and paid travel tax plus the terminal fee.  i then was in line to the last step which was immigration – then my nightmare started.

it was a long queue to the immigration counters.  i can see on the people’s faces the boredom they were having as they stood in line like me.  the caucasian guy behind me was muttering the words, ages. ages. and i smelt his breath tainted with alcohol.  he looked as if he hadn’t showered.

when it was my turn in the counter, i handed down the lady officer my passport and tickets.  her facial reaction changed when she saw my ticket going to tehran.  then the questions started:  whom am i going to meet in iran?  where is my old passport?  what is my job? where will i stay?  and so on.  the last thing she told me was that it is very “unlikely” for someone to visit iran as a tourist.  she handed me back my documents and a paper to be filled up and pointed me to that corner in the airport where questionable passengers are to be interviewed.

i filled up the paper that was given to me which are a bunch of questions like how will you support yourself financially, and more that i can no longer remember.  as i was waiting for my turn to be interviewed an officer approached me and looked at my paper.  again questions: how did i managed to get a visa for iran?  what will i do there?  when she found out that i was an ofw before, she was asking for my old overseas employment certificate.  i told her i did not bring it with me because i no longer work as an ofw.  she asked me what was my job before and told her i worked as a paramedic, she then said if i’m going to look for a job in iran – i said no which was the truth.

i was interviewed  for the third time by another female officer who was calmer than the other one.  i believe she was really trying to help and being fair on me.  questions were asked, i produced almost everything she required me to prove that i’m only touring the country.  she even excused herself and tracked down my travel history.  when she went back she told me that she noticed that i have travelled often.

the last step was for their supervisor to approve my travel and this is where i made my mistake.  my booked hotel was only for a day because the online bookings for hotel accommodation for tehran was too expensive.  they were asking for my 10 day hotel bookings i which unfortunately did not have.  i gave them the addresses of the hostels that i am planning to stay – they did not accept this.

when i applied for iran visa this was not asked, what i gave them were only addresses of the hostels.  this did not work out in our own immigration office.  lastly, they gave me a difficult task to produce the 10 day hotel bookings and they will let me go.  it was already 11:00 and boarding is at 11:30.  i told the officer that i will not make it.  i will need wifi connection and online booking hotel availability will be very difficult.  she wrote in my ticket the word “pending”.  i did not ask any questions, my dream to travel to iran has turned into dust.

though my iran visa is good till august, my ticket was forfeited because i purchased it using my mileage (air miles).  it required 54,000 miles credit and $200.00, it is non-rebookable.   i spent about $150.00 to process the authorization number and the visa and for my travel insurance, $60.00.

this was a very tedious experience.  physically and emotionally it affected me but what can i do?  every traveler is in the hands of the immigration officers in the airport.  i was thinking if ever i knew someone there who knows me personally that i do travel solely for pleasure and not to look for a job it might have been different.  also, though there is no ban for filipinos to travel in iran, it was very unique for them to see one guy going as a tourist.

this is not the end of my very few travels.  it will not let me stop to explore the places i want to see.




not the same person

i have read of a story of a filipino ofw (overseas foreign worker) in qatar who was deported back to the philippines because his name is “almost” the same with that of a murder suspect on the run.  the thing is, the scenario was a complete fuck up by the authorities for he is not the same person they were hunting!  although they say that he still had to be deported for further confirmation of his identity, the traumatized man already lost his job.

almost a year ago, i blogged about my name being included in the hold departure order list at the manila airport immigration because a number of filipinos have the same name as me (see related post, hold departure order).  i was named after my father,  a name that seems too common.  there are at least six criminals who even have the same name.

i then applied for a clearance in the national bureau of investigation and a “not the same person” certificate in the main immigration office.  i downloaded a form thru the philippine bureau of immigration website to apply for this document and personally visited their office to acquire one which took me a few hours.  it  seems like a common thing on government offices in manila for one to encounter some snobbish and not so helpful employees (i say, not all) so i tried my best to be courteous and patient with them.  i’m telling you some of these people can really treat you like shit.

my eswl experience

“extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) uses shock waves to break a kidney stone into small pieces that can more easily travel through the urinary tract and pass from the body.”

a few weeks ago, after being diagnosed with kidney stones (see related post, stone former) and been prescribed with medications, i underwent a stonogram at another hospital in manila.  my urologist actually did not need me to get one but he suggested that if i wanted to make sure i can have a scan.  his suggestion just got me paranoid.  when i received the results it mentioned that i have nephrolithiasis and nephrocalcinosis on the right kidney.  that just shattered me for my k-u-b ultrasound result was left nephrolithiasis.  i remember ten years ago i was affected with bilateral nephrolithiasis that was treated with medication and unfortunately this time they were back.

i did not let the day pass without consulting with another urologist.  he checked the results of both the ultrasound and the ct scan and readily told me about undergoing the eswl procedure.  for a moment i was thinking that it will be less than a week that i was scheduled to go back in the middle east for work and i won’t have enough time to recuperate.  i told him about my worries and he replied that it will be an hour outpatient procedure and i can resume work after a few days.  he added that the left kidney will be the one treated as priority for it was the one that caused pain.

after a day i was scheduled for eswl.  my mother and my eldest brother accompanied me in the hospital.  before undergoing the procedure, i was advised to have nothing by mouth for 12 hours.  i had to wait for a few hours for we went too early, when it was time i went inside the stone unit, changed into a shirt and pajamas they provided and had to lie down on this bed with the lithotriptor attached to it.  the nurse adjusted the equipment that had a monitor which can show the image of the kidney stone. this is how they will ‘target’ the calculi with the sound waves.

they started an intravenous line on my right arm, the anesthesiologist then told me she’ll put something in to make me sleep – she even tried to distract me by telling me to look at the monitor for i was staring at the syringe as she was injecting the medication thru the line.  i positioned my head comfortably as the anesthesia took over.

i woke up in excruciating pain – i heard voices and i was aware that i was in the recovery area of the unit.  i tried to reach and tap the accordion wall to make a sound and attract attention but i was too weak.  maybe i did made a sound for the nurse did checked on me then she said, “are you in pain?”  i was moaning and cannot seem to put words in my mouth, the last thing i heard from her was ‘dynastat’ as i lost consciousness again.

when i woke up the second  time and after a few minutes, i was able to stand up assisted by the nurse as she guided me to the lockers to change my clothes.  she left a few seconds then went back to give me some crackers and warm water.  having not eaten for 18 hours, i ate all the four crackers she gave me and drank the water.  when i went out from the room, the first thing i asked my mother as i saw her was i needed coins – lmao.  i was so thirsty i went straight to the vending machine for a cold lemon drink.  my mother told me that i was unconscious for about four hours.

i went home the same day.