Observations Of Ordinary Daily Life In The Philippines
I would like to thank Winston for writing that insightful article “Reasons Why Angeles City Sucks and is a Terrible Place to Live”.
Although I have never been to Angeles City, I have been to other cities in the Philippines. Some of the points Winston raised are also true to a certain extent of the cities I visited.
I like Winston’s very direct, uninhibited writing style. He tells it as it really is and he doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of him for speaking his mind.
A person from the West coming to the Philippines for the first time will be keenly aware of the huge contrast between normal life in his own country and the poverty and deprivation evident in the Philippines. At various unexpected moments the foreigner is in a Third-World country.
I would like to mention a few aspects of the Philippines which Winston may disagree with me on, or at the very least, aspects which Winston remained silent on.
In 2006 I met a girl in Cebu called Kumiko. She brought her sister along to chaperone us. Kumiko was attractive, slim, and she had long black, silky hair. Although she was polite and a joy to be with, she was also very money conscious. She was always asking me for money for taxis, medicine, food, clothing and other things. We went on tour around Cebu and Mactan and Davao down in the south, visiting restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and beaches.
When I went back to London we communicated by email for a while, but gradually that came to and end. She told me she had got a new boyfriend. He was a Filipino, and she told me that she was going over to Singapore with him to work in a hotel.
I always suspected she was more interested in my money than in me. I agree with Winston that Philippine people do consider foreigners as walking ATM machines. They can be very imaginative in coming up with schemes to try to get money off you. One advantage they have is that they can communicate in their own Philippine language and we haven’t a clue what they are saying. The older sister could be slyly conniving with the younger sister to get money off the rich white foreign guy.
One of the points Winston raises is that the relatives of the girl you are going to want money from you too. You are expected to give it to them and if you don’t you are considered mean because they perceive you as being rich because you are a foreigner. They have no qualms about trying to get as much money off you as they can.
I also understand the point raised by Winston about the street peddlers who harass the living daylight out of you to get you buy their wares. They start off with exorbitant prices and if you are interested in the goods and haggle with them you may be able to bargain it down to less than half that price. Even if you say no to them and walk away they don’t take no for an answer. Saying no is like an insult. They follow you down the street and keep pestering you to buy their goods.
Another point that Winston made, which I fully agree with is the weather. In Manila it is extremely hot. So hot that if you were just walking down the street for 20 minutes your nose, face and arms would burn. When you come back to your hotel room and look at your face in the mirror you see a guy with a red face staring back at you. You feel embarrassed to be seen with a red face and a burned red nose. White skin is very sensitive to the harsh Philippine sun. <Is this any worse than anywhere else in the region? I doubt it! – Stick>
The extremely hot weather is also humid. And when you breathe in the air it feels polluted as if you are breathing in microscopic particles of industrial pollution. Just take a leisurely stroll down the street for 15 minutes and your clothes are soaking with sweat. You feel as if you want to go back to the hotel and take a cold shower.
When you are all alone in your hotel room, with the twin beds, the big fan on near the hermetically sealed window, noisily blowing out cold air, and the silent TV set, switched off, sitting on its desk, a lot of thoughts come pouring into your mind. You wonder why you came to this strange country. You start reflecting seriously on your life. You feel very far away from home. You feel lonely and without a friend. Everything feels strange to you. The people look so foreign. Dark brown Asian eyes, brown skin, black hair. Everybody seems to be smaller than you except the other foreign hotel guests. The women all seem to be pretty, clean, neatly dressed and courteous. You see so many uniformed security guards everywhere, not just in the hotel compound or outside the airport building, but also at shopping malls, on the streets, at sidewalk cafes, even at some of the beaches. The Philippines is a very security conscious country, and many of these guards wear revolvers. When you approach the entrance to the Mall of Asia there are two doors. There is a male security guard at one door and a female security guard at the other door. They both wear white gloves. One door for the male shoppers and the other for the female shoppers.
As soon as the Filipino sees a foreign tourist the first thought that enters his head is how to get money from him. Many times when walking along the sidewalk in Cebu, taxis would slow down without me even hailing them. The driver would ask if I wanted a ride. When I said no he would drive off. Taxis wait outside hotels watching for foreigners coming out to offer them a ride. When the taxi driver sees you he doesn’t wait for you to come over. He gets out and goes over to you to try to persuade you to go in his taxi.
The Philippine people are a noisy, hearty, party-loving people and this is evident on the streets at night. There is a relaxed, friendly feeling in some of the better areas. You see so many motorbikes on the roads zooming up and down. Sometimes the pillion passenger is a lovely young girl, with her arms around her boyfriend as they ride off to work at the break of dawn.
I must admit I’m not an expert judging the quality of Philippine women. Kumiko was lovely, pretty, gentle and polite. At our first meeting she was very shy, but gradually that wore off. We never had a proper romantic time because her sister was always there. I remember Kumiko told me she had been working in a hotel before as a waitress when she was in Bacolod a year before she met me. But she said she left because the salary was very low.
Winston mentioned that there isn’t much to do apart from going to go-go bars and taking a girl back to your lonely hotel bedroom. Perhaps that is true of Angeles City. In the shopping malls I visited there were many very attractive young ladies wearing nice form fitting uniforms. When they see you they know instantly you are a foreigner. They don’t wait for you to buy something; they invite you to buy whatever it is you happen to be looking at. For example, if you glance at suitcases or clothes they adopt a very gentle sweet attitude, almost as if they were your girlfriend, and they ask if you would like to buy the item. They always call you ‘sir’. They make you feel respected.
Every time I went shopping I always thought to myself how wonderful it would be to take one of those attractive young lady store assistants home to London with me.
Another thing Winston mentioned is the poor quality of food in the supermarkets. I can testify to this. There are many brands of biscuits, which Philippine people call cookies, of very poor quality. If you had a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate and if you went outside into the open air it would melt very quickly in your hand. The chocolate bar would become a deformed, mushy, sticky brown mess in your hand because the heat of the sun is so intense. They have other kinds of chocolate, perhaps chocolate substitute that is more heat resistant. Some Philippine people consider our Western chocolate too oily.
Winston also mentioned pushy and rude people everywhere. I did not meet many of those kind. In Cebu, Palawan, Davao and Manila most people were polite to me. The young people call you Joe. “Hey, Joe, would you like to buy these cool sunglasses?”, one guy said to me when I was watching a parade, near the Marco Polo hotel on 16 March in Davao city. This nickname goes back to the time when the American soldiers were fighting the Japanese in the Philippines during World War Two. The initials G.I. in the phrase G.I. Joe means General Issue, which refers to army stock. Philippine people confuse British people with Americans until they get to know them better.
Winston didn’t say much about the religious aspect of the Philippine people. I could discern a very strong faith among these people. Out of curiosity I went into the Santo Nino Basilica in Cebu to see what it was like inside there. This happened to be on a Sunday. The Church was packed to overflowing with black haired, brown skinned Philippine people. They seem to take their religion very seriously. I am sorry Winston felt that Philippine people are rude in Angeles city. Not having gone there, I cannot say anything about that, but I am sure that the people in that city are not representative of the Philippine people in general. Just think, if foreign scumbags and social misfits over the last 30 or 40 years pour into a city from all over the world primarily for the booze and to take the girls to bed naturally the normal Philippine people will see foreigners in a negative light and be wary of them.
I remember one time asking Kumiko’s sister what she thought of Angeles city. She said she had never been there, but she had a friend who worked there. Her friend said she was afraid all the time because the men were bad. Her friend wanted to leave and go back to live in Davao. I didn’t think to ask what kind of work she was doing in Angeles City.
If you want to see the real Philippines I think you have to go off to the more remote places out the country or on the smaller islands. When you get away from the city beggars and peddlers and go out to parks and nature reserves you begin to appreciate the beauty of the natural scenery.
The girls are attractive, romantic, gentle and kind. But the money angle will always figure in any relationship. On a number of occasions while chatting to girls online they told me that Philippine men were no good – they were not faithful. I have strong doubts about this. Some men are probably cheaters, but I saw many cheerful young Philippine couples who seemed to get on quite well together. Philippine men are handsome, courteous and romantic towards the ladies. I saw numerous examples of this. But I think the men expect their girlfriends and wives to play a more subservient role than Western men expect of their wives and girlfriends. The Philippine people have very traditional ideas about the proper roles of men and women. The Western concept of feminism doesn’t seem to exist over there. Women seem to be proud to be feminine. This is reflected in their gentle, courteous attitude towards men, the feminine way they dress, and the long healthy feminine hair style. The woman looks upon the man as the leader, the boss, the decision maker, the protector and the breadwinner. The man considers the woman as the keeper of the home, with responsibilities for rearing the children, cooking and cleaning. Of course there are variations but this is the general scheme of things.
I don’t believe most Philippine girls really prefer foreigners to Philippine men. I think girls are interested in escaping to Europe or America in order to better their lives. Philippine girls are very family orientated. When a Philippine woman marries a foreigner she is still expected to support her parents. Many Philippine women put their parents before their husbands. If you marry a Philippine woman, you not only have to support her, she will make you feel you have an obligation to make financial contributions towards her family back in the Philippines. This heavy burden could be the basis for quarrels and maybe even marital breakdown later on.
Some men think Philippine women make better wives than Thai women. I am not married to either so I cannot say for certain. It is my impression that Thai girls may be more beautiful. But I think they are more temperamental as well. I suspect ordinary Philippine girls, not the go-go variety, are more religious, and more warm-hearted than their cousins in Thailand.
Many Philippine girls work abroad in countries where they are treated as lower class people. They slave away in menial jobs where the wages and conditions are sometimes less than they expected. There are many cases of girls going out to work in Middle-Eastern countries and coming back home pregnant before even half the contract period has elapsed. For some of these girls getting pregnant is a deliberate strategy in order to force their bosses to release them and give them their papers to permit them to leave the foreign country and return home to the Philippines. For others it’s the result of a boyfriend pressing his attentions on a submissive girl.
The population is currently at 94 million. There are many one parent families and in some cases the mother is still in her teens. Well-to-do Filipino business men and some politicians feel the need to have a pretty young mistress or two as well as a wife. It is quite common. It is a macho thing with these Filipino men. The man proves to his colleagues, friends and acquaintances that he is virile and full of vitality. The poor girl looks upon her rich, high-class “boyfriend” as a sugar daddy who lifts her out of the poverty trap temporarily. But there are many hidden sad stories too of neglect and abandonment. How do the girl’s parents feel about this? A Filipino man can get away with far more than a foreign man. Foreigners will always be considered aliens. Tolerated, but never accepted as one of their own.
The 94 million Philippine people are not all one homogenous race. Historically the Philippine people descended from the Malaysian race. But there are Chinese, Japanese and Spanish blood mixed in too. The Spanish were governing the country for three hundred years, until the Americans took over at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Philippine people seemed to prefer the Americans in some ways. They speak language of the Americans, but they never abandoned the religion the Spanish, despite their resentment for the way the Spanish subjugated them, stealing all their lands and depriving them of any real say in the running of the country. A lot of the big business people and influential politicians and lawyers are Chinese or descended from a Chinese ancestor. Even Jose Rizal, the foremost national Hero of Philippines had Chinese blood in him. The astute Chinese always had a knack for inveigling their way into and eventually taking over the financial institutions and big businesses of various countries of the Far East that they had been trading with for many centuries. Malaysia and Thailand spring to mind. Certainly this ability of the industrious Chinese to gain control of the economic sector applies in a major way to the Philippines.
Despite the Philippines status as a third-world economy the national currency, the pesos is continually growing stronger compared to five years ago. Perhaps this is because of the decline in western economies. If you had spent one thousand pounds sterling buying Philippine pesos five years ago your money would have increased by over 12 percent or more today.
There is much more to the Philippines than Angeles City and the other sex-orientated, scumbag infested places. Leave all that nonsense aside for a moment and take up a good guide book on the Philippines and I can guarantee you will gain a better appreciation of the country, the culture, the history, the heritage and the Filipino people. There are many tribes and about 56 languages spoken. It is a country of many contrasts and must diversity. Unlike Thailand, the Philippines is made up of 1,107 islands. I have only visited a handful of them but I will never forget the natural beauty of those islands, far away from the foreign scumbags, social misfits and the poverty-stricken street peddlers and in-your-face beggars. If you really want to get in tune with nature go to one of those remote islands and relax in the shade. Gaze out upon the turquoise coloured waters of the sea; the palm trees waving in the distance along the coast, with the sun shining down upon on a spotlessly clean beach – the best therapy in the world.
It sounds to me as though Angeles City is to the Philippines what Pattaya is to Thailand and as such is hardly representative of the country as a whole.