December update: Odette, Omicron travel & boosters

Ellen & Tedly in Malay, Aklan, December 18, 2021.

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

We’re counting our lucky stars in this December update.

Malay, Aklan was spared by Typhoon Odette, but communication lines were jammed for a day. We are fine. We have power, and finally, we have cell phone data and WiFi, although the cell data is still spotty.

December update: Odette

The typhoon strengthened more than anticipated before it slammed into this island nation. Odette turned into one of the five strongest storms on the planet in 2021.

As of this writing, 22 provinces in the Philippines have no power and limited cell service. We know people who are desperately trying to get in touch with family members on Bohol and Cebu islands. We know power is out on the southern portion of our island – Panay.

And here is something crazy: no one knows the scope of how bad the damage is yet, because communication is non-existent from some areas.

There are millions of people who live below the poverty line on the islands mauled by Odette. It is going to be a rough holiday season for many families, for sure.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Odette was our third close call with severe weather in the Philippines. We keep lucking out!

For us today, the sun is shining. The floors have dried from the rain that found a way inside the apartment. I’ve already washed the towels and sheets we used to sop up the mess.

The sea is calm. Fisherfolk are catching fish.

Boats are headed across the channel to Boracay Island to take tourists on cruises. We even saw a catamaran worth 300k parked on our beach (pictured above between me and the spouse). Planes are bringing in more tourists every few hours.

Omicron travel plans

As we’ve shared, we plan to stay in Malay, Aklan, through the holidays. But then…? Each time there is a major pandemic development, we brace for borders to close, and that looks like that’s about to happen again for some countries.

The Philippines is not yet open to foreigners. The plan was to start accepting vaccinated visitors from ‘green list’ countries but that whole plan was put on hold with this Omicron business.

So, the clock ticks down. We arrived in the Philippines November 2019. We Americans get three-year visas, and as of this writing, there is an extra 120 days grace period because of the pandemic.

This means our visas are good until November 2022 (11 more months), and the grace period gives us until March 2023 (if the tourist pandemic extension is not altered).

One thing is for sure: we are lucky and blessed to have landed here for the pandemic, and we’ve tried to be as helpful as possible while we’ve been here. In fact, we wish we could help typhoon victims.

But as Theo said when we learned how bad things are for some Filipinos, our emergency fund is about tapped out from helping so many people in our vicinity.

Omicron booster shots

Omicron news changes daily as more is learned about the coronavirus variant. We were jabbed with Johnson & Johnson in early August in Malay. The shots were donated to the Philippines from our homeland – the United States of America.

Theo and Ellen after they got coronavirus jabs in the Philippines.

Now, the Philippines has opened up boosters for anyone over the age of 18. And I wish that picture above was from our booster shots. But it’s not. It’s from early August 2021.

Booster supply is a problem in our area — even with the tourist destination of Boracay Island in Malay Municipality.

I went to a booster session in town to see if they had any extra. The workers told me since I’m not elderly and I’m not a health care worker, I have to wait until mid-to-end-of-January at the earliest because of the short supply.

So, we wait. Again. And we hope the Pfizer supply increases in time for the Omicron spread in this area, especially since it seems J&J isn’t all that effective at making antibodies to combat Omicron.

The Philippines is still only sequencing a small number of samples each day at one facility in the entire country. My guess: Omicron is already here… time will tell.

As always, be grateful and generous, happy trails and more serenity! Life is now.

Thanks for reading, “December update: Odette, Omicron travel & boosters.”

Read about our vaccination against the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.

Or check out our special section with the Ati indigenous tribe.

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