Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Philippines, an Awkward Triangle of Pain

The Philippines, beautiful seas and the infamous urchin.  If, you’ve been in the Philippines for any length of time, at some point during your stay or visit, you may have encountered the beautiful coastal resorts, whether by 5-star accommodations or by Nipa hut.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re paying P12,600.00 ($300.00) per night for your seaside retreat or P924.00 ($22.00) per night, if, you spend any time any the Philippines actually in the water as opposed to just admiring the water, you are bound to have encountered the Philippines sea urchin.

The Philippines sea urchin isn’t the type of sea creature that you would forget easily, because the encounter is generally up close and personal.  Sure you may have taken in the native seafoods while living or visiting the Philippines, such as gambas (shrimp), pusit (squid), alimango (mud crabs), talangka (small crab), lapu-lapu (Cebuano fish), bangus (milkfish), and sea urchins.

Many people encounter the Philippines black sea urchin when they eat local foods and not know it. You may not have realized you’ve eaten sea urchins, but if you’ve eaten a fair amount of sushi during your stay or visit in the Philippines, there is a good chance that you have eaten the insides of a sea urchin.  In sushi, it is called, Uni and in Italy, it is called, Ricci di Mare.

Sea urchins are spiny and their spikes are poisonous and can cause a tremendous amount of pain when you step on them while wading around close to shore or in water that isn’t too deep.  If, you’re swimming horizontally in deep water, sea urchins are less of a concern for most, but walking to your boat, or deep water, is generally when most people encounter the sea urchin.

If, and when you do step on a sea urchin you have a number of choices to go about alleviating your pain and getting on the road to recovery quickly.  How you go about resolving your dilemma with the sea urchin, depends on how close you are to a town, city or sari-sari store.  If, you’re in the remote areas of the Philippines like Jolo, Sulu, Basilan or off the beaten path in Mindanao or Babuyan, then your treatment will seem unorthodox but effective.

If, you’re in the remote areas of the Philippines, where I find myself most of the time, you would simply get something such as tweezers or fingernail clippers and grab each spine, one-by-one and pull them out.  If, you favor something for pain before you start, the specialty in the “real” Philippines is the young coconut water drink, Tuba.  It will give you a relaxing composure before you start.  Be careful not to break the spine while its still in your skin, so take your time.

If, you’re in the jungle of the Philippines, you may find Tuba readily accessible, but the likes of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide or another antiseptic, probably impossible to find, so in that case, just use some fresh urine, preferably your own to wash down your foot or hand, after you’ve gotten out all of the spines.  Don’t worry it won’t kill you.  This was our method of antiseptic in Cambodia and Vietnam also.  Remember that when you are far away from the modern world, indigenous medicine works best.  You don’t have time for hesitation or fear, just do it.  Enjoy the lovely people and places of the Philippines and don’t forget, that a smile goes a long ways here and in all of Asia.

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