A Little Essay On Filipinas
This is intended as a handy guide for the single male who may choose to visit one or more of the 7,107 Philippine Islands in search of female company, be that for recreational sex or affection and companionship or perhaps even marriage.
I am no expert but I have lived in the Philippines on two occasions, was married to a Filipina for 17 years and am planning to marry another one whom I have known for four. I have taken the precaution of getting this little essay checked by a friend with thirty years’ experience of the country.
I am not un-biassed. I like Filipinos. To be more accurate, I like most Filipinas, and a handful of Filipinos. The Filipinos that I like tend to be either farmers, seamen or educated members of the middle classes. In the latter case, one seldom has to go back far to find a Chinese parent or grand parent.
Here is a pocket list of “what is wrong with the Philippines”, espescially as compared to Thailand:
1. The Philippines is much poorer, much dirtier, and woesomely behind in terms of infrastructure and education.
2. The Roman Catholic Church. The Philippines has the most backward Catholic Church in the world – it is essentially an un-reconstructed Spanish colonial church. Its Bishops still think they run the place, and they pretty much do. The consequences are that the population increases by two million, ever year, and the country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia, and a rate of (illegal) abortions that is far higher than the abortion rate in Britain, where it is legal. Oh, and there is no divorce.
3. Educational standards are dire.
4. Filipinas spoil their boy children. The consequence is that boys grow up waited on, hand and foot by their sisters, including their older sisters. This is not, on the whole, a good thing.
I should say that I very much agree with the article “Comparing the Philippines and Thailand: A Different View” by “DannyWanny”. Anyway, let’s get started:
Travel, hotels, food, personal safety.
Crime against “foreigners” is usually opportunistic, and confined to picking your pockets, shoving a knife into your rucksack to steal your phone, and generally ripping you off.
However, keep in mind these simple rules and few:
Luzon and the Visayas are safe enough. Western and Central Mindanao is less so, due to the risk of kidnapping by Muslim guerrillas. Domestic airline travel with either PAL or Cebu Pacific is safer and much more convenient than ferry travel. There are good air-conditioned coaches in most places, but the local domestic buses are also fine; just less comfortable. Be careful with taxis. Use TripAdvisor to select hotels. Yes, you may just possibly be slipped a Mickey Finn – apply the usual common sense rules and only drink things that are brought to your table in un-opened bottles. Beware also of a little trick used by some bar girls – you take the lady back to your hotel room, she has a shower and suggests that you do the same. Whilst you are in the shower, she slips out, a child of perhaps twelve or younger takes her place, and as you step out of the shower there comes a knock on the door from the local police. Being in the same room as a child under 18 to whom you are not related is in itself a serious crime in the Philippines, so your options are either to pay the Police a lot of money very quickly, or expect to spend a long time in jail.
The countless “security guards” at the doors of malls, hotels, offices, restaurants – pretty much “wherever” are there because it is a requirement of the building’s insurance policy that security guards be employed. Don’t expect them to actually do anything. The Philippines is not the Wild West, or even the Wild East.
Drug use is quite high. The drug of choice is methamphetamine, known locally as “shabu”, and one of its unortunate side effects is to accentuate feelings of paranoia. Two groups who use “shabu” regularly are bus, truck and tricycle drivers (to stay awake) and bar girls (to stay awake, to dance energetically and to stay slim – it also makes their eyes look brighter – which is a way of seeing if a girl is a user). Bar girls usually get their supplies from the “baklas” (effeminate homosexuals) who hang around the bars and do the girls ‘hair and makeup.
Murders, other that “domestics”, are usually carried out by hit men, who are readily available for hire at, I am told, quite competitive prices. The “usual drill” is that the gunman rides up to his “mark” as a pillion passenger on a motorcycle, shoots the target and then escapes on the motorcycle, relying on the congested traffic to make good his escape.
Most murders of foreigners are either investment related or sex related – the jealous boyfriend or husband of a Filipina. This is a real danger. See below under “side lines”.
Do not expect to eat well, and you will not be disappointed. The local cuisine is the worst in all Asia. Filipinos like fat, salt and sugar – and rice – three times a day. On the positive side, the fresh fruit is delicious…
First, what to drink?
Drink is plentiful, good and cheap. Filipinos drink beer, with enthusiasm, and the numerous flavours of San Miguel are almost all good. The local brandy is a good deal weaker than you would find in France – “Emperador” is a good brand – and is drunk by passing round a single glass with a beer or soft drink “chaser” in another glass. The owners of Emperador recently scored a stock market coup by acquiring the Whyte and Mackay brands of Scotch whisky.
In a sugar cane growing country you would expect to find rum and you will not be disappointed – “Tanduay” is good and cheap, and if you are willing to pay a little more, “Don Papa” is one of the best rums in the world. “Ginebra” is local gin – it is a Dutch type “Jeneva” rather than a “London dry” gin, and is drunk in the same manner as brandy, by passing round a single glass with a “chaser” and everyone in the group drinking in turn.
In the countryside, you may be invited to join in drinking “tuba” (palm toddy), but this is strictly an informal drink and you will not find it served in bars.
For a soft drink not awash with unwanted calories, ask for a “calamansi juice without sugar”.
Next, where to drink it?
There are “sports bars”, a few “English” and “Irish” pubs, there are innumerable “carinderias” (see below) and then of course there are bars where young ladies of negotiable affection are to be found.
So let’s talk about those…
Striptease is illegal in the Philippines (so is prostitution, but prostitution is easier to hide). Consequently there are no very raunchy floor shows, of the type seen in Thailand. You may occasionally find a girl who is prepared to undress on stage, usually in smaller bars when the Police are not expected, but that is about it.
There are, more or less, four sorts of bars “with girls”. First, the sort of girlie bar which is aimed at Caucasian foreigners and where Filipino males and unaccompanied females are discouraged from entering. These can be found in Manila (P. Burgos St, EDSA Entertainment Complex) in Angeles City (Fields Avenue) in Olongapo (Subic City and Barrio Barretto) and in Cebu (Mango Drive).
Next, there are bars aimed at a Japanese and Korean clientele – in Manila there is a group of these along Roxas Boulevard, and the presence of the Hanjin shipbuilding yard in Subic Bay had led to a number of Korean-style keysing houses in Olongapo. These are typically grander and more expensive.
Then there are bars aimed at Filipinos. Every town of any size has at least one of these – what you are looking for is a sign saying “KTV-Disco”. These can be great fun, as they very often have a decent floor show, which can range from juggling acts to a cautious striptease, but you should only go to such places with Filipino friends whom you know and trust. These establishments tend not to have a “bar fine” system, though there may be a room or two at the back….
Finally there are karaoke (“KTV”) joints with hostesses; these ladies may not be “available”; much depends on the bar, and if they are “available” there will be a room at the back. The sort of very raunchy behaviour that you find in some Chinese karaoke joints, with the hostesses stripping off and customers having a good grope and a hand job, is less common. Filipinos really do like to sing!
There are also brothels, massage establishments, discos and “freelancers” but these are not for the beginner.
The first timer who wants the experience of walking into a room full of attractive young women, all of whom will want to marry him, should confine his attentions to the bars of P Burgos Street, EDSA Entertainment Complex, Angeles City, Olongapo and Cebu!
..and Bar Girls…
….The Philippines’ equivalent of Isaan, in Thailand, is the Visayas region, and particularly the islands of Samar and Leyte. Unlike girls from Isaan in Thailand, girls from the Visayas, including Samar and Leyte, are commonly paler skinned than Filipinas from Luzon. Girls from Luzon are more likely to work overseas – in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore and to some extent in Canada – than girls from the Visayas and Mindanao, although there is a specific trade in Filipinas from Mindanao to Malaysia. Bars in Luzon tend to have girls from the Visayas.
A young girl may start by working as a waitress in a Filipino bar, often being recruited by a family member such as a sister or an aunt. She will not of course “work” in her home town, due to the risk of running into her father, uncles and brothers. Once she has learned how to augment her income through prostitution and has acquired confidence in another language, she will move on to a bar that welcomes foreigners. If she finds that she likes foreigners, she will probably make her way to Angeles City.
Other women drift into the oldest profession through becoming single mothers. Given the utter fecklessness of most young Filipino males, the difficulty of finding condoms, and the relative unavailability, thanks to the influence of the Catholic Church, of other forms of contraception, this is rather easily done. These may either dump their baby on their own mother and head for the bright lights of Angeles, etc., or keep their child with them and work locally.
Another source of recruits for the bars, certainly in Manila, is the large body of students. Paying your way through college with a little night work is not particularly unusual – one local newspaper concluded that one girl student in ten in Manila was working as a prostitute to finance her studies. This is particularly the case at those times of year when tuition fees have to be paid.
Girls in “foreigners” bars are often either “feature dancers” (who usually can dance, but who may not be “available”, “dancers” or “Guest Relations Officers” (“GRO”s –may be pronounced “grows”) “Dancers” will typically command a higher price. Some bars operate a system whereby the bar fine (now more often called an “early work release fee” may be waived if enough ladies’ drinks are bought.
The standard of dancing is usually dire – the real purpose of the “dancing” is to allow the prospective customer to inspect the goods on offer. The inability of girls to actually dance (not least because the stage is usually overcrowded) has given rise to the term “the Balibago shuffle”, Balibago being the district of Angeles which includes Fields Avenue.
The very big bars in Angeles do have quite good choreographed floor shows.
Being a prostitute is not regarded as a socially acceptable occupation in the Philippines where the Catholic Church continues to impose a socially conservative standard. This being East Asia, the effect of course is that the double standard is alive and well.
Having said this, the Philippines “girlie bar” scene contains something that you may not be expecting – the dancer or GRO who is not “available” at all, or who, if bar fined, will accompany you to a restaurant or a disco, but never, under any circumstances, to your hotel room. Such a young lady is particularly likely to be a student. If your intentions go beyond a quick dance or a meal, it is advisable to make this quite clear at the outset, just as you would make it clear that you want “long time” or “short time”. These girls are known to their fellow-GROs as “virgins”, which they may indeed be. They are there to make a living from ladies’ drinks.
If you drop into a given bar after a few months and ask after a girl whom you remember, you will very often be told, “Oh, she got married already!” (see “already” in the glossary!) And so she probably has done. Filipinas often see working in a bar as a good way to meet a nice foreigner. A bar girl is not necessarily a bad marriage prospect – so long as she has not worked in a bar for too long…
In all cases anyone who speaks English should be able to have a reasonable conversation with a Filipina bar girl. This may or may not lead to a “GFE”, but in case it does, a vocabulary of essential words and phrases (some are English, but they may not mean what you think they mean!) is at the end of this article.
“Not really girls…”
Pretty much the only way a Filipino homosexual can 'come-out' is to be effeminate. Masculine gays are almost invisible in a nation of “metrosexuals”, where every man gets a manicure.
Do not be surprised to see hairdressing shops advertising "Gay hairdresser wanted”.
Beware: Not all Filipino males who appear effeminate are gay. They are mummies’ boys. Girls find them less threatening and they can, as a consequence, be in demand.
This is Asia, where the difference between male and female skeletal structure is not as marked as in the West, so ladyboys can be very convincing. How to tell?
Is she well dressed? Does she have great legs? Is the hair great? Is the make-up good? It's probably a guy.
Outside hairdressing and prostitution there are few job opportunities for ladyboys.
Professional ladyboys are generally of two types.
1) The transvestite who wants to make the full gender transition, and is saving for an operation.
2) The opportunist who sees it as a way of raising money so he can marry a nice girl and have a family.
Note that ladyboys can often hold a more intelligent and grown-up conversation than the average Filipino male of their age.
They will, almost certainly, want to introduce you to their sisters….
“Where, apart from girlie bars, do I go to meet girls?”
The Philippines differs from Thailand in that it was very thoroughly colonised – by Spain in the sixteenth century and then by the United States at the start of the twentieth century.
Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The White Man’s Burden” was written about the US conquest of the Philippines, and since in the opinion of most expats, Kipling got it about right, I am going to quote it:
TAKE up the White Man's burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child. …
The Americans did indeed build the roads and the ports, which the Spanish had never bothered to do. “Half devil and half child” is a phrase that can resonate all too easily with most of us.
The Filipinos are well aware that, unlike the Thais, only vestiges of their pre-Hispanic culture remain, except amongst the Muslim peoples of Mindanao and the Igorot hill tribes of Mountain province in central Luzon, neither of whom the Spanish succeeded in conquering. Most of what passes for Filipino culture are things adopted either from Mexico (the Philippines was governed by Spain from Mexico until 1821) or from the USA.
The attitude to foreigners is therefore rather different. There is a “cultural cringe”, as the Aussies would say, in all dealings with foreigners. For three and a half centuries, the Spanish treated the Filipinos like animals, and then for fifty years, barring four years of misery under Japan, the Americans showered the Filipinos with goodies, like roads, education, the Rule of Law and finally Democracy.
Filipinos are therefore more tolerant of “foreigners” than the Thais are of “farangs”, but the tolerance is composed of a mixture of residual fear, envy, greed and inferiority, mixed with some respect and, if earned, genuine liking, based on a culture that is somewhat closer.
Ex-President Ramos, a graduate of West Point, made no secret of that fact, or of his love of golf, but whilst he was President he kept quiet about two things – he is a Methodist, not a Catholic, and his daughter is married to an American!
In 1949, the Philippines was the second richest nation in Asia, after Japan. Filipino troops fought alongside other nations in the Korean War, and did well. From there, everything has been downhill, due to a list of factors that are discussed wherever two or three expats are gathered together, but which certainly includes a kleptocratic and deeply corrupt elite, a culture of deference shown to the elite, the Catholic Church, and a feeling that nothing is worth striving for, as life will never get better.
One effect of this has been that the weakness of the domestic economy results in massive unemployment and underemployment, and a solution developed by the late Ferdinand Marcos was to promote working abroad. Today according to some estimates as much as ten per cent of the population work overseas. “Abroad” holds few terrors for Filipinos or for Filipinas.
The idea of marrying a foreigner to get away from the hopelessness and poverty of the Philippines is popular, and is by no means confined to bar girls. Perhaps a majority of Filipinas would prefer a foreign husband – they can have pale skinned “mestizo / mestiza” children with good noses, and their husband will perhaps treat them better than a Filipino would. Certainly a Filipina marrying a foreigner and moving to his country expects a better life than she would have at home, and indeed she is unlikely to be disappointed.
This being the case; the question of “where do I meet girls” resolves itself instantly – unless you are grossly overweight or otherwise physically repulsive, you will find yourself beating them off with a stick, as it were, pretty much wherever you go! Filipinas are chatty, friendly and enjoy flirting and will fall into conversation with you anywhere and everywhere. A shopping expedition to the nearest mall will prove this.
One word of caution at this point – in the Philippines, a “nice girl” may be exactly that – she may even be a virgin, but it is certainly likely that her sexual experience has been quite limited, and her interest in increasing her experience comes a very long way behind her interest in having a passionate romance. Sex may not be on offer for quite a while.
At least, with a bar girl, you get to “try before you buy”! Even then, you may find that the range of sexual behaviour “on offer” is somewhat conservative, at least initially. Once this has worn off, Filipinas are commonly enthusiastic and remarkably practical in the bedroom, something that often comes as a surprise.
The Feminine Mystique – Philippines version
I have noticed that my Filipina nieces, from the age of nine or ten, see me as someone who is there to be chatted to and to practice their English conversation with, and indeed as someone who may be safely used for flirting practice, whereas their brothers, whom they are all culturally required to run after, clean up after and generally dance attendance upon (all Filipino boys are spoiled rotten, as children, and this handicaps them for life) are shy and bashful and quite evidently have not paid as much attention to English lessons in school as their sisters have.
I find that a few minutes’ conversation with a niece or two makes me agree with Maurice Chevalier – “Thank Heaven for Little Girls – they grow up in the most delightful way!” However, I do wish that in some cases their mothers would allow them to grow up at normal speed – I find the sight of a thirteen year old wearing the sort of clothes and make up than an eighteen year old might wear to a disco – and, be it noted, girls younger than eighteen are not allowed to enter discos in the Philippines – rather disconcerting. But perhaps I am just showing my age.
The cult of feminine beauty, acquired from the Americans, with beauty pageants forming a major part of the national life, coupled with the Spanish ideal of femininity, and, from both the Spanish and the Americans, the “mestiza” ideal of beauty, with pale skin, straight nose and, these days, a good yard of shapely legs, have had an effect on life in the Philippines. I have been told by more than one sister in law that my girlfriend, a spectacularly good looking woman, an Asian Sophia Loren with better legs and smaller tits, “is OK for you because you are a foreigner, but a Filipino would not want her because her skin is dark” (which is it isn’t – she is just not as pale as a full mestiza, being only one eighth Spanish!). This cult of beauty has the bad effect of making Filipina mothers of pretty daughters into Mrs Robinsons, in the Noel Coward, rather than the Dustin Hoffman meaning of the term – they all want to “put their daughters on the stage”, in beauty pageants, as models, and ideally on TV and in the movies. A “showbiz” career is very much sought after – the excess of “supply” of pretty young women over “demand” for them being so great, so far as local movies and television are concerned, that the term “starlet” is simply taken to mean “call girl”.
Even outside the world of “glamour” and “showbiz”, a girl is expected to “make the most of herself”, with cosmetics, manicures and pedicures and hair treatments and the seeming obligatory skin whitening soaps and creams. There is an immediate financial aspect to this – shops and restaurants are ruthless in hiring only pretty young women as waitresses and as “salesladies” and are generally careful to only hire these girls as “temporary staff”, on six months contracts, so they can “let them go” once they reach the advanced age of 25.
Go into any large store in the malls and you will be astonished at the sheer numbers of staff trying to attend to you. There is no sort of shortage. The level of unemployment in the countryside, where family farms are divided into smaller and smaller patches, and all too often hocked to the local Bank following an illness or an injury in the family, is even higher than it is in the cities, and the consequence is a sort of endless drift from the provinces towards that ghastly slums of Manila.
The social pressure for a girl to look good is exceeded only by the dream of “Romantic Love”, which likewise comes from both Spain and the USA. The effect of this, in a society permeated by Korean and Western pop music, with a “disco” and “rave” culture, but where contraception is hard to obtain thanks to continuing lobbying by the Catholic Church, is the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia.
“Traditionally”, Filipino courtship is “meant” to go something like this:
Boy sees girl. Boy falls in love. Boy asks girl’s parents, via an intermediary, if he has permission to court their daughter. If the answer is affirmative, he must take up his guitar and sing under her window, send her flowers and presents, and generally cajole her into accepting his suit. If she accepts him, he must work for her parents, drawing water and hewing firewood, for several months, in addition to his day job, and he must present her father with a specified number of pigs and a brace of carabao (water buffalo). All going well, he can then prepare and pay for the marriage and the marriage feast (be warned that this is paid for by the groom, not the bride’s father!) Once this is done the newlyweds may, in the absence of contraception, look forward to between seven and eleven children…
The modern version is more like this:
Teenage boy sees teenage girl. He has plenty of time to observe her since she is more likely to be in employment or studying than he is. Boy pesters girl into agreeing to have sex with him; this is “unprotected” as he is too shy to buy a condom.
She gets pregnant and the new father is not able to cope with his responsibilities. This is not unusual; it is normal. | know several people that these things have happened to. In general the father makes some gesture towards “the responsibilities” of fatherhood, but very often he cannot actually contribute financially to his child’s upkeep and he soon loses interest if indeed he is not “shown the door” by the girl’s family.
It is therefore advisable to decide at a very early stage whether you are interested in a woman that comes with “baggage”, or not. If you are not interested in taking on another man’s brat(s), you need to make this very clear at a very early stage. However, children are by no means the worst form of “baggage” that an otherwise pleasant and attractive Filipina may have acquired.
The real trouble is not children, but husbands. The Philippines is the last place on planet Earth, other than the Vatican City, where divorce cannot be obtained. It is sometimes possible, at very considerable expense, to obtain an “annulment”, but we are talking serious money, in the hundreds of thousands of pesos, and a great deal of time, perhaps five years, even without the husband taking his “pourboire” before he consents to the process.
It is therefore essential to establish whether a woman whom you might think of seeing on a regular basis has, in fact, got a husband. Since she may think that her interests are best served, if she does in fact possess such a creature, by lying to you, and telling you that no such creature exists, the Government has conveniently arranged for a formal verification of a person’s single status, a Certificate of No Marriage Existing, known as a Cenomar, to be available for a relatively modest price and any and all foreign Embassies will insist on a current one before thinking about issuing any visas. Find a reason for your lady friend to get a Cenomar, go with her to get it, and you can be sure.
“How faithful are Filipinas?” and the “side line”…
“Officially”, the Church and the Government would have you believe that “family values” lie at the core of Filipino life, and that husbands and wives will remain faithful to each other and devoted to their children despite years of separation due to work.
However, responding to a question that posits a crass generalisation with an equally crass reply, I would have to say, “Not particularly.”
The problem lies in the tendency of the Filipina to fall in love. Filipino culture is obsessed with “romantic love” – it is the mainstay both of the Mills and Boon type paperback novels that circulate widely and of the endless “telenovelas” that make up most of the output of broadcast television. A Filipina who is not obsessed with the concept is highly unusual.
A Filipina may fall in love with you, and she probably means it at the time, but unless you spend a great deal of time and effort keeping things that way, she is equally likely to fall out of love with you, just as soon as another man pays court to her. A very common mistake, made by Europeans, Australians, and Americans, is to think that because you are sending money to a lady on a regular basis, she will consider this acceptable proof of your devotion and will be faithful to you.
This is not so. She thinks that like, all foreigners you are as rich as Croesus, and that money means nothing to you. After all, you live in a “rich country” so presumably the streets are paved with gold. Simply sending money is not a sufficient indication of your continuing affection – you have to continue to woo her, all the time.
A difference between Thais and Filipinas becomes apparent at this point – a Thai, from what I read here, is likely to acquire a second male source of financial support as a matter of “keeping her options open”, as well as acquiring a local lover for fun. The Filipina, some “hardened” bar girls excepted, is a simpler creature – she will be loyal to you just until she falls in love with another man – she does not calculate, but is ruled by her emotions, the product of a culture that tells her that “Love is what matters most”. We have a nation full of Anna Kareninas and Emma Bovarys – women throwing their lives away on useless men “for love”.
Keep in mind that Filipino overseas workers are usually employed on contracts that allow them a few days at home every couple of years, and you will see that there is a “space in the market” for a whole cottage industry of gigolos, preying on the wives and girlfriends not only of foreigners but of hard working Filipinos too.
Thanks to the constant state of overpopulation and underemployment, there is no shortage at all of “pogi” young men with nothing to do, who are more than ready willing and able to slip into the bed of any absent male, be he Filipino or foreigner, but if the absent male is a foreigner, the gigolo is the more likely to be slapped on the back by his “barkadas” and congratulated for having done his patriotic duty by screwing a woman who is taking money from a foreigner.
A particular danger arises if the lady in the case has returned to, or continued to live in, her home town. There is very likely to be at least one high school sweetheart who fancies his chances, and will take any opportunity that offers, telling her that he has never forgotten her, has waited for her, and suchlike stuff, and because of the cultural emphasis on romantic love, he is very likely to succeed.
Since Filipinas are brought up to wait upon men, the lady in the case will almost certainly decide to “sacrifice herself” for her new lover, by giving him the money that the foreigner or OFW has sent to her. Indeed, she will very quickly convince herself that this is the right and noble thing to do.
It should be noted that a Filipina who sets up a “side line” relationship seldom has any intention of cutting off the supply of cash by actually leaving the absent husband or boyfriend. To do so would leave her without the means of buying her lover – typically younger than her – the goodies that he craves, and which she is more than willing to supply – she will enjoy dressing him, buying him clothes, shoes, haircuts and manicures and perhaps even a motorcycle. She sees this as “sacrificing herself” for her lover, who, she is convinced, would be every bit as rich and successful as her husband or boyfriend, if only Luck had treated him better. It is her duty to redress the balance! The absent husband or lover thus becomes, in her mind, a sort of Bluebeard who is a malign and threatening presence. The psychological mechanism by which the man she once loved has become a sort of demon figure is one that might repay study, but the practical effect is that it allows the lady in the case to feel good about herself, rather than feeling ashamed of her adultery.
This matters, because her “face” matters to her. The husband whose only crime is to have been cuckolded thus finds himself hated, simply in order that his unfaithful wife can continue to believe that she is being noble and is “sacrificing herself”.
It follows that the only safe course of action, if you want to avoid inadvertently subsidising the life style of a gigolo and his drinking buddies, is firstly keep the lady in the case on fairly short commons – do not, repeat do not, send her any more money than she needs to live, unless you can be quite sure that the money is going on hardware like a washing machine or an air conditioner – and secondly do not leave her on her own, with time on her hands, for any longer than is absolutely necessary. She is most unlikely to view time in the same way that you do – a year is a very long time in the life of a village, it is two, or even three, rice harvests!
She will not have any idea of “deferred gratification” – waiting till you can be together, because her entire society lacks this idea – in this respect it is most unlike China, Japan or Korea. This is, at bottom, despite its Christianity, a Malay culture. The Filipino languages, like the other Malayo-Polynesian languages, are excellent at conveying precise shades of feeling in a poetic way. They are, however, almost useless when It comes to communicating facts in a precise way. Love poetry, yes; repair manuals, not so much.
This is a society in which life is cheap, and very often short. Superstition, rather than religion, is almost universal. Everything happens in the moment. If you are around, a Filipina will take wonderfully good care of you – that is something that she has been taught to do since childhood. If you are not around, you might as well have ceased to exist except as an ATM. This applies to the great majority of Filipinas – not just to “bar girls”.
It must be noted that the existence of a “side line” will put the husband or lover in some danger. The “side line” is commonly younger than the lady in the case and is correspondingly less able to control his feelings; the woman will probably have been at some pains to tell him just how evil and thoroughly nasty her husband actually is, she having convinced herself of this, and the “side line” boyfriend is quite likely to take steps to dispose of the man who, whilst financing his life style, “stands between him and his happiness”. As you will have spotted, logical reasoning is not this nation’s strongest suit. The lady in the case may collaborate with the “side line” in seeking the death of her husband (life is cheap, here) if she thinks that she and Lover Boy are likely to benefit financially. Accordingly, it pays to make it very clear that you are worth more alive than dead!
Do Filipinas make good wives?
On the whole, the answer is “probably yes”. Being a wife and mother is what a Filipina has been brought up to do – she will tend to have an old fashioned view of when and how children need to be disciplined – and she will commonly be good at running a house, but her conceptions of economy, particularly in relation to utility bills, may be a little different to yours. Don’t expect anything too much from the kitchen – Filipino cuisine is, as we all know, pretty bad. There is a reason why Filipino restaurants are scarce!
Provided she is not in love with anyone else, a Filipina will be extremely loyal to you. Indeed, even if she is carrying on with someone else she is likely to be a good wife in other respects, such as looking after your interests and raising your children.
Filipinas may have occasional temper tantrums, but not as often as, it seems Thais do. Filipinas seldom go in for these (and I do wonder whether an inability to express oneself in fluent “Farang” may lie at bottom of the Thai tantrum?)
Filipinas have another trick – the "tampo". This consists of going silent – for up to three days! The "Tampo" is so much a part of the culture that the celebrated Late Victorian Filipino painter Juan Luna made it a subject..
The official way to deal with a "tampo" is "lambing" – gently coaxing her out of it. This is quite difficult for a foreigner, who is more likely to respond by raising his voice (big mistake!).
One of your correspondents visited Angeles and reported that Filipinas are all four foot eleven and fat, with bulging stomachs. Indeed, he referred to them as Oompa Loompas. I cautiously beg to differ, as I am attached to a thin one, who, when wearing heels, can look me straight in the eye, and when wearing climbing boots and a rucksack can out-climb me. Slim Filipinas are not so unusual – of my beloved’s four sisters, three are much the same shape, as is her seventy year old mother, who is still a fine figure of a woman, and a far better dancer that I!
Respect is the big thing, which is not to do with money. If she respects you, a Filipina will be with you all the way. I have heard a lot of “horror stories”, but when I've listened to the guy telling the story, I often end up thinking "Good for her!" A Filipina will stick by you – but if you treat her like trash you will suffer.
Filipinas are particularly good in difficult conditions. If your plans in live include living in the Back of Beyond, travelling round the world on a motorbike, etc., I would unhesitatingly recommend a Filipina; she will be the last to complain and will Do Her Bit and Stand By Her Man.
It goes without saying that a Filipina who moves overseas to be with her husband will settle into her adopted country; she has relatively less of her own “culture” to shed when taking up the culture of another nation.
Perhaps the proof of the pudding lies, not in the many men who are happily married to Filipinas, but in the men who, having divorced one Filipina, go back for another?
A selection of case studies:
Ella was a “virgin” in a bar in P. Burgos Street for four years. She was a GRO, the life and soul of the party, was fluent in English and had a smattering of Japanese Korean and German. She would be bar fined as far as the nearest disco, and that was it. When she left the bar at 5 am, she went home to a shack quite near by, got three hours sleep, and went to University until two in the afternoon, when classes finished, She would then go and help her mother with her vegetable stall in the market, get a couple more hours sleep, and go to the bar. She is now employed in Makati City Hall, still single, and perhaps will remain so.
A friend, an American ship’s captain, retired from his last command, a supply vessel working in the Gulf of Thailand, and decided to sail back to the States in a small yacht that he had built for him in Taiwan. To find a crew, he flew to Manila and spent three weeks “interviewing” in the girlie bars before he settled on May. They spent three years sailing slowly home, which included him having a heart attack in the Red Sea. They settled comfortably, despite the huge age difference, and he eventually died, in May’s arms, a couple of years ago. She had improved the shining hour by qualifying as a nurse.
The eldest daughter of rice farmers in the Visayas, Gina was married at 14 (legal in those days) because she was pregnant. She very soon dumped her husband and child and moved to Manila where she worked as a KTV hostess, taking up with another man by whom she had two more children and starting her own business as a “talent manager” in the music business before dumping that fellow in turn and acquiring an Australian, thereby achieving the sought-after “mestiza” daughter… whom she does indeed hope to put on the stage…
Flora was a wild child; a Northerner, highly intelligent (half Chinese) but she was the child of the businessman whose mistress her mother had become, and she felt she could never “fit in”. A fling with a local builder produced a girl whom she dumped on her mother when she went off to be a “jappayuki” (bar girl) in Japan, which resulted in a Japanese husband, and another child, also dumped when the Japanese husband gave up on her, followed by a stint as the not-really-very-good torch singer with a Filipino band in Malaysia and she is now well settled – currently single – as a manager with an IT company in Dubai! She even has a work permit!
Another rice farmer’s daughter, Chris wanted to be a nurse, but family funds did not stretch that far, so she went to work in a department store in the big town, aged 16. She rented a room nearby, and was drugged and raped by her landlady’s son, getting pregnant. She married her rapist “in order to give my son a name” (in order that the boy should not bear the stigma of illegitimacy) and then promptly applied for, and got, an annulment. She left the boy with her mother and went to work as a maid in Hong Kong, where she met an American Police Chief from a small town in Florida, She did not marry him though, because she had fallen in a big way for a younger Filipino who unsurprisingly turned out to be a waste of space. She applied for and got a job in an old people’s home in Silicon Valley, acquired US citizenship, planning to bring her young man over to join her, caught him in an act of infidelity, dumped him and decided to concentrate on business; at the last count she owned two cafes and two beauty salons in her home province – and has just agreed to meet her Police Chief who had married someone else, divorced, and looked her up on the Internet. If Chris does not die a Dollar millionaire, I will be very surprised.
Jane has had a simpler life – she trained as a schoolteacher and married a man she had been at school with, in the town where she grew up. She had three children – and her husband died, as Filipinos often do, from a heart attack whilst sleeping. She calmly settled down, added dressmaking to her work as a teacher, and is financing her children’s way through college. Since, to my knowledge, she has never looked at another man, I had assumed that her marriage had been a happy one. She disabused me. It had been anything but. She simply feels that she cannot “waste time” on men until the youngest of her children has flown the nest. Pity, because she is most attractive, with a slender figure and a great sense of fun, and would make someone a wonderful wife..
I could go on for several more pages, but you may start to get the idea. There is commonly more to a Filipina than you would perhaps expect…
All the Filipino English that you need to know:
(Abbreviations, contractions and neologisms- Filipinos love these!)
“Already” – Does not mean “already”; it means “now”.
"Bakla" – Effeminate homosexual man, who may or may not cross-dress. Not used of masculine homosexuals. “Baklas” are rather numerous. They may or may not be “Ladyboys” – with enhanced breasts etc. See "Tomboy”
“Balikbayan” – foreigner of Filipino descent, entitled to some useful privileges, such as staying for a year without extending a visa.
“Balut” – a duck’s egg, boiled, but the egg before boiling was fertile and the chick was about to hatch. Getting a foreigner to eat balut is a great game!
"Barangay" = "village" (see “Purok”)
“Barangay Captain” the lowest elected official, in charge of a barangay. Even this office comes with considerable opportunities for patronage and for corruption.
“Barangay Tanod” – local policeman, not part of the Philippine National Police but reporting to the Baragay Captain.
"Barong Tagalog", often abbreviated to "Barong" = a collared white overshirt that is worn over a plain white vest and black trousers for formal occasions.
“Bombay” – term for anyone of Indian extraction.
“Carabao” – water buffalo. Stupid, plodding, hardworking if compelled to be so, occasionally and erratically vicious. Much like its owner, in fact.
"Carenderia" – a roadside stall often with basic seating area selling a variety of Filipino food cheaply.
“Chicken” – Used indiscriminately where we would say hen, cock, capon. Pullet, etc. Since cock fighting is a major national pre-occupation, the Philippines is the only place where you will hear the expression “As brave as a chicken”!
"Chop-Chop" is what the spit-roast chicken vendor will do when you buy one. Always say "no chop-chop" (or "dili chop-chop") to receive the chicken whole otherwise you will often receive less than a whole chicken
"city proper" = "town centre"
“CR” “Comfort Room” – toilet.
“Early work release fee" = bar fine (old usage) = what you pay for the services of a GRO. (qv)
"Epal" – one who takes credit for something that they do not deserve, commonly used of politicians who use tarpaulins (qv) bearing their likeness and the words "A project of…" or similar around a public works scheme such as road repairs, a new bridge, etc. A coinage from Tagalog.
“Five and six” – the usual form of loan, for thirty days. For every five pesos borrowed, six are repaid. Much “five and six” lending is in the hands of “Bombays”.
"For a while" = "I may be some time". Possibly a long time.
“Foreigner” – you. Any Caucasian. Asian foreigners are more precisely identified. See “Kano”
"GRO" = "Guest Relations Officer" = "Girl Renting Overnight" = prostitute working in a bar.
“Habal-habal” small motorcycle used as a taxi in the provinces (see “tricycle”
"It's up to you!" = pay me what you feel like = "I don't know how much to charge for this, but it had better be plenty!" A GRO will use this phrase if you ask what she expects for a tip.
“Jeepney” small bus-type vehicle plying a fixed route – board and exit from the rear, pass the fare to the driver.
“Joe” (as in “Hi, Joe!”) Inevitable greeting for any Kano (qv)
“Kano” – American (“Americano”) but used for all foreigners.
"Long Neck" means a 750 cl or litre sized bottle of spirits.
"Low-bat" means "I need to charge my cell phone"
Nicknames. Everyone has to have one! The more infantile, the better.
"No load" means "I need to top-up my cell phone"
"Mall" – where westerners shop and Filipinos go to cool-off. The Philippines is famous for vast malls.
"Motel" = "Short time hotel" = "Love Hotel" = where you take your mistress or girlfriend for a couple of hours. Not a motel.
“OFW” or “OCW” Overseas Filipino Worker /Overseas Contract Worker.
"Pass by" = visit. Always in the sense of "stop and visit", not walk or drive past.
“Pawnshop” – I used to wonder why there were so many pawnshops and so few banks. Then I found out that the pawnshops are more than halfway to being bankers – they act as paying in and paying out shops for international and local remittance services, which are a very big business (see "sustento") in addition to lending against pledges which is only quite a small part of their business.
"Pajero" – the generic term often used in the provinces for a sports utility vehicle (make irrelevant), so-called because the Mitsubishi Pajero ("Shogun" in UK) is the most commonly encountered SUV.
"Plus-Plus" – the amount quoted is subject to one or more taxes or additions: "Php850+" means "Php850 plus service charge", "Php850++" means "Php850 plus service charge plus sales tax" (in that order as service charge is taxable) and in Cebu "Php850+++" means "Php850 plus service charge plus sales tax plus entertainment tax".
"Post-paid" means a service that bills you for usage usually a month in arrears.
“Province" – anywhere not in a city. Note that someone who says they are “going to the Province” may actually mean they are going to their province, which may be on another island.
"Purok" = "a small part of a barangay and the smallest administrative area"
"Sari-Sari" – a small 'hole-in-the-wall' type shop selling rice, toiletries and basic groceries in small quantities at higher than supermarket prices. You can buy one cigarette at a Sari-Sari and soft drinks (e.g. Coca-Cola) dispensed into a plastic bag with a straw.
“Sir” is a translation of the courteous honorific suffix “-po” as in the way a Filipino announces his or her presence as a visitor – rather than knock on the door, you say “Tayo po!” (“a person is here, sir”) “-po” is not ast strong as “Sir”.
"Sir?" means "I don't understand you. Please tell me in Filipino or use "correct" English (= stress the second syllable of each word)"
"Salvage" – verb – to contrive the murder of a political opponent. Much used in the Marcos years.
"Short neck" means a hip-flask sized bottle – usually of Tanduay Rum.
"Solon" = politician (from sarcastic usage in Twenties America – Solon was the mythical wise law giver who gave ancient Athens its constitution.)
“Sustento” – money paid regularly to support a family. He who acquires a Filipina girlfriend acquires the obligation to pay sustento to her family as well as to her.
“Table" – verb – transitive – bars – to “table” a girl is to have her join you at your table, by buying her a ladies’ drink.
“Table" – verb – politics to kick a proposal into the long grass. Opposite of UK meaning
"Tap" – verb – to nominate someone for a position.
"Tarpaulin" – not what you might expect (a cloth to keep the weather off goods) but a vinyl coated canvas printed with a name and lettering as a form of advertising…
"Tomboy"/"T-bird" -Unlike in Britain, where we speak of a young girl child who likes boys' games as a "tomboy", in the Philippines it is used to signify a sexually mature woman who dresses and behaves in a somewhat masculine way, always with the implication that she is a lesbian. The term does not seem to be used for feminine lesbians, though.
“Traffic” – gridlock. The default state of Manila’s roads.
"Trapo" = "Traditional Politician" = a crook who gets elected by cheating and steals everything in sight. A pun on the Tagalog for "rags”
“Tricycle” Motor cycle and side car used as a miniature taxi, in towns.
"Vulcanizing Shop" – Tyre shop, normally dealing in rethreads.
And some Pilipino:
""Sus maryosep!" = Irish "Jesus Mary and Joseph!" (and probably arrived with Irish priests!)
"Ay Nako!" Good all-purpose mild expletive, much like the Cantonese "Aieeyah!" Roughly, "Wow. Or "what the heck?" etc." In origin, this is Chinese, but few people know that.
"Talaga?" = "Really?" – In fact in Taglish, "Reely?" may be substituted. Akin to Mandarin Chinese "Shi ma?" = "Really?"
"Putang inamo!" = a less nice expletive, literally "your (mo) mother (ina) is a bitch (puta)", so, if used as an expletive, the same as the American "Son of a bitch!" This is somewhat similar to, but less strong than, the Cantonese "Diu nei lou mou!"(屌你老母) (I f*** your mother!) and if spoken as an expletive rather than as an insult carries about the same value as the English "F***ing H***!"
Tsismis /Chismis = Gossip. The actual national sport.
"Chismosa" = a gossipy woman /"chismoso" a gossipy man
Talking to children:
You may hear a mother say:
"Kalat dito, kalat don!" = "A mess here, a mess there" = "Tidy your room!"
"Sasapaling kita!" = "I'm going to spank you!"
"Matutulog ka na!" = Go to sleep!
"Anong oras?" = What's the time?
"Anong oras tayo uui? = "When are we going home?"
Derecho – straight on
Kanaan – turn right
Kaliwa – turn left
Para! – stop!
Asawa" = spouse (of either sex – most Pilipino words are gender neutral
“Bastos” – rude, with a sense of sexually improper.
“Barkada” Literally, shipmates, but the modern meaning is “gang” – it is more powerful than just a group of mates. The members of a barkada are themselves known as “barkadas”. A barkada does everything together, including in particular getting drunk and behaving badly, but a Filipino’s loyalty lies, above all, to his barkadas. The source of an awful lot of trouble in the Philippines.
"Daga sa dibdib" = (I love this one) "A mouse in the chest" = scared.
“Gwapo” –good looking (said of a man)
"Kabiyak ng dibdib" = your other half. This one translates almost literally – it’s "the other half of your heart".
“Kuripot” – mean, tight fisted. The Ilokanos are said to be the Scots of the Philippines – all kuripot
“Maganda” – said of a woman – beautiful
"Mahal" = "dear". This carries both meanings – "expensive" and "my dear"
“Mahal kita” –“I love you” “Miss na miss mahal” – I miss you.
"Makapal ang bulsa" = you, or any other Overseas Contract Worker, on arrival in the Philippines. It means "thick pocket" i.e. having money. After a few days, you will be “Butas ang bulsa". It means "hole in the pocket" i.e. having no money left.
"Malungkot" = A very expressive word – it means "lonely and depressed". Filipinos are social people and a Filipino or a Filipina left on his or her own is very likely to become malungkot.
“Mano po” is the formal greeting wich shows respect to an elder – the younger person takes the elder’s hand after asking “Mano po?” and touches it to his or her forehead. You will score a hundred bonus points if you do this when introduced to your girlfriend’s parents.
"Pagtutuli" = circumcision. The Filipinos are unusual amongst non-Moslem Asians in going in for circumcision, and it is assumed that the practice was brought to the Philippines by Moslem traders in the pre-Spanish era. In the Philippines, infants are not circumcised and the ritual is a rite of passage for boys between roughly the ages of eight and twelve. It can be done "traditionally", using guava leaves, a very sharp knife and a block of wood, or these days more often medically.
"Pasalubong" = a present brought by anyone visiting, or returning home after a journey; need not be big but it does need to exist. I am told that if money is tight it is OK to just give a pasalubong to the children of the household.
“Pogi” – again, said of a man – good looking
"Supot" (you probably are) = literally "a bag" as in a purse, but in the case of a man used as an adjective to mean "uncircumcised". Many Filipinos believe that an uncircumcised man cannot have children, and/or is no use as a lover, etc. Filipinas who take up with foreigners can be surprised to learn that this is not necessarily the case. See "pagtutuli"