Monday, October 20, 2014

Rejected for Speaking the Language

In many countries which had been colonized before, the foreigners who go and live there find a very strange and sick phenomenon- they are accepted in the reverse proportion to how much they want to integrate. In an ideal situation, a foreigner who comes to a new place should gain acceptance based on how much he's willing to integrate into the local culture-- with language being the main tool. The more effort he puts into it, the greater are his chances. In a colonially oppressed cultural situation, a perverse thing happens which does not make sense- your integration depends on how much you resemble an ex colonial master in speech and in looks. The more you do so, the greater is the respect and the more benefits are bestowed upon you such as friends, dates, hospitality, etc. However, if you try to learn the local language, some locals start yelling at you, curtly replying in the colonial language, eyes narrowed, lips tightened in anger. A paradox occurs: the more you try to integrate by respecting the local's culture, the worse the locals treat you. It basically means this: if you want to be loved by them, don't learn the local language, don't study the local culture, act like a pompous Brit, Spaniard, Dutchman or American. And they'll love you for it. Sick, sick, sick! It doesn't make sense. It's a mental disorder which is the result of cultural abuse by the ex colonial master resulting in deep inferiority and self hatred. And if you don't love your own culture and if you disrespect yourself, then you won't respect the person who wants to learn about your culture. You will shun him and think he makes fun of you. You will look down on him because you look down on yourself. And you look down on yourself because your colonial master looked down on you for so long! Seen it in so many countries, so many places. Is this how things are in many places? Yes! Is this a normal thing; the way it should be? No! After the colonials go home, should you not stop pining for them, should you not get rid of your inferiority complex and move on with cultural life in your country and in your language? Should you not start welcoming newcomers as a host and master, and not as someone who has to make excuses for being what he is? Just my thoughts.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Can Be Done to Make Foreigners Feel More Welcome in the Philippines.

(An opinion based on experience and observations over a 23 year period) "At sa kanyang yumi at ganda Dayuhan ay nahalina" Recently I watched a documentary about Filipina maids in Hong Kong. In it, some Hong Kong citizens were protesting against the bid by these maids to gain permanent residency. The crown moment was a testimony by a Filipina who was sitting somewhere outside, and a Hong Konger passed by her and showed her a “F--- You!” sign. She was deeply wounded and was now telling the TV crew about the incident while crying. I felt for her. I had a bird flipped at me in some countries, too. The main idea of the film was that Filipinos are often discriminated against in Hong Kong (and in other countries). The Philippine community- both at home and abroad - are very sensitive about such maltreatment. Even the government bans those foreigners who slander Filipinos publically. There was once an uproar about an article in a Hong Kong publication calling the Filipinos a “nation of servants”. The outrage by so many Filipinos was tremendous. They declared the author a “persona non grata”. Hey, if I were a Filipino, I would be upset, too. Luckily, here in the US, Filipinos are treated fairly well. You don’t hear of anyone insulting them in newspapers. They don’t have bad reputation. Filipinos are nurses, doctors, are in city governments, post office and the military, and are given permanent residency and citizenship. They move up in ranks pretty quickly. There have been some incidents by some racists, but the locals were immediately there to protect the Filipinos. American lawyers sued those who slighted them. Personally, I think the Filipinos are the happiest immigrants here in the US. They look and act confident. They walk with a spring in their step. The speak American English with no accent. They are probably the best integrated ( after,possibly, Canadians). If they feel they are being treated in a discriminatory manner, they stand up for their rights and fight the racists. In the 21st century, America is a politically correct country with strong laws to defend immigrants and foreigners against unfair treatment, particularly if they are non-white. An average educated American is now very liberal and anti-racist. Rich and high-class Americans are generally open-minded and polite. They have been trained not to treat minorities of any kind badly. They are also taught to be careful as to by what label they call immigrants, foreigners or homegrown non-mainstream groups, especially, again, if they are non-white. The racists in the US are usually the uneducated ones and working class people who feel that foreigners and immigrants are taking away American jobs. These people don’t like anyone who is not white, English speaking (without an accent) with, preferably, an Anglo Saxon name. That is still the reality. But they can be punished by law if they mistreat Filipinos. The same can be said about all the other “Anglo-Saxon” countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and most EU countries. If someone mistreats you because you look, talk or act foreign ( and you are non-white) this is seen as a shameful incident, and they call that person “a racist”. The rest of the society will stand by you and protect you. It will be in the news. The racist will usually apologize. He/she may even lose his/her job. This is why one of the main contributors to this board said, “Stand up for yourself! Refuse to be disrespected!” Having said all that, most Asian people in the US still complain about one thing: “No matter how long you live here, if you are an Asian, you are always treated as a foreigner. People are often shocked that you speak English with no accent and make compliments without realizing that they basically treat you as an outsider by doing that. And even if you are born here, you are still a foreigner. But if you are white (or black), you are American.” In our globalized world, more and more Filipinos go and live in other countries. And many people from other countries now go and live (and settle) in the Philippines. So, now, let’s look at how it would be if people of such other “races” went to the Philippines. How would they be treated? By what name would they be called? Would there be discrimination against them? My overall view is that the situation is satisfactory. Most people are really nice. I would not be going to the country for 23 years if they weren’t. Actually, the treasure of the Philippines is its great people; 90% of them. There’s not much discrimination, and usually foreigners are welcome to visit and stay (provided they satisfy the visa requirements). Among Asian countries, the Philippines is most probably the least xenophobic ( bar Singapore). I have read that, in some survey, as many as 87% of Filipinos said that foreigners coming to their country was a good thing. In Thailand,otoh, most said “no”. It does not mean; however, that all is hunky-dory, and everyone is nice to you if you go to visit or live in the Philippines. There’s definitely room for improvement. So, in this article, I would like to focus on things which merit being addressed. And the treatment by the other 10%. So, please don’t “magpakapikon”. Because when you come to my country and are not happy about some things, I listen and I want things to improve. Thus, please accept some of the criticisms on my part. I am saying these things so that we all live in a better world where everyone is happier. Very few foreigners complain to Filipinos about social problems they experience in the Philippines. The reason is that they say many Filipinos will get upset and become ‘pikon’. They will tell the “porener” to go back to his country if he does not like it. They will deny that such things happen. They will just switch topics. So, these “ poreners” just share such things on anonymous boards. But in my opinion, unless you know about this, it is not fair to you, either. So, here we go: For one, the situation is exactly the same as in the US vis-a-vis Asians who live here. No matter how long you live in the country, you are always a “porener” to most people. People praise your Tagalog or worse, shout: “Ah, marunong ka pala magtagalog!” And as you talk, they stare at you with a dropped jaw and then, reply in English. Then, after you talk in Tagalog for five minutes, they ask you: “Marunong ka pala magtagalog?” What have I been speaking to you for the past five minutes? Was it Bulgarian? Some start clapping and shouting “Magaling, magaling!” , but not answering your question or talking to you. Which is again meant as a compliment-- but it’s annoying. Why don’t they just treat me as an equal? Well, most of them won’t. Nowhere in Asia they do. Some even get angry that you speak Tagalog or Visaya to them and start yelling back at you in English. They say it rudely “ Whaaaaaat?” ( they should say “Pardon me?” or “Excuse me?”; “whaaaat?” is rude; the same as “What do you want?” is rude). This would not happen in, say, Latin America. People talk to you in Spanish- everywhere- and they expect you to speak it. You are treated as an equal. And just as Filipinos are hurt about being labeled maids and servants (oh, the rage!), and Filipina women feel deeply demeaned when someone mistakes them for bad girls, so do foreign guys, white or non-white, in the Philippines, resent being called sex tourists or worse. People from Muslim countries also resent being called “terrorista”. But it happens. Stereotyping is unfortunately quite common. And there’s no political correctness in speech as a rule. People often just say what they think. Sometimes, I tell my Filipino friends- “Why do you have to say such offensive things? Why do you make such unsupported generalizations? Just keep your opinion to yourself, please”. Some just sit and talk badly about “poreners” and about Americans with you being present. They seem not to care about how they make you feel. And “porener”, “white man” and “American” are synonymous to most such people.” Poreners are aggressive. Poreners like to divorce. Poreners cheat Filipinos. Kapampangans don’t like white people because of what the Americans did here”. They say things like that while you are sitting there. Or right in your face. When I was in Cebu, I was attending a prayer meeting with a local religious organization. Two ladies came to pick me up, and the first thing they said was that “When people see us with a “porener” they think we are prostitutes”. It’s just a given. Some people stare and talk- you can see them look at you and make comments. They smile evil, mocking smiles. And it is daily in big cities with many bars and clubs. If you are a white guy and are alone, everything is nice. If you walk with a Filipino man, it is again OK; but once you are with a woman, angry flashes, smirks and dark evil looks start appearing in your environment. Does everybody give you those? No. Does it happen every day? I’d say, in a big city, it mostly does. I just must tell you the truth. So many times, I was with female friends, and again and again the same thing was said. “Kasama kami ng porener? Prostie kami”. One of my online friends who is British was with another British man, and a lady from Malacanang was giving them a tour of Intramuros. They told me that after the tour, the Malacanang employee with a smile recounted how she was hearing people say that she was probably a bad girl because she was with two “poreners”. And this was during an official visit. She wasn’t even upset about it- this is how widespread it is. She just took it for granted and laughed it off. I personally wish she had had those gossipers arrested. Worse yet: when I was in Saudi, one Filipino was laughing all the time at Americans- “Mga amerikano-pedopail” he was always saying. And once, I had a meeting a Filipino teacher, and the first words out of her mouth were: “Bakit Amerikano ay pedopail?” One of my American friends has a daughter who came out looking very Southeast-Asian. She was nine, and he went around Manila with her. ”If looks could kill, I’d be dead”- he said. It was only when the girl shouted “Daddy, daddy!” that people suddenly changed the hateful way they were looking at him. Does every Filipino think that? No. Does it happen often enough to make your life there a bit uncomfortable? Yes! So, if you are a father of a child that looks Austronesian or a stepfather or a foster father/"ninong", you always must be prepared and guard yourself against such attitudes. The only way to avoid them is to really go out with a family or the maid. If you are alone with your own daughter/son, hateful flashes of the eyes often appear. Do they hurt you physically? No. But the atmosphere is still tense. I am a “ninong”, and I was buying my god child candy, and two men went by and said ”maliit na puta iyan” about her. They thought I could not understand what it meant. I did. It’s amazing how things change when you know the language. And once I was walking down the street, a man crossed it and walked towards me; he went by me and uttered “unggoy” as he passed me. Again, he thought I could not understand it. Now, what can you do? If I were in my country, I’d smack him. But there, you just have to grin and bear it. Just like a Filipino has to put up with abuse by Saudis and other such people. You see, we can’t really stand up for ourselves as you can in our country. We cannot refuse to be disrespected. When we are alone in your country and people insult us or those dear to us we have no protection as you do here. They can just say I was being disrespectful and by law a “ porener” cannot be disrespectful to a Filipino. So, all you can do is just ignore it. Again, this would never happen in Latin America- another area of the world I go to quite often. Last time I was in Nicaragua, I was finally free from such nasty looks, or people insulting me like this. Even though it’s occasional in PH, it still gets internalized. In Nicaragua, I could meet people, and no one would look at us. I was only a foreigner to them when they heard my accent. And in Argentina, I became invisible. I was treated as everyone else. So, as much as I love the Philippines, I sometimes wonder if it would make more sense to retire in the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua where no one would call your God child a “maliit na puta” just because her “ninong” is a white man. As far as making friends and non-racial attitudes, being open minded, the situation seems to be exactly the opposite of America (and the West): From my observation, high class, educated and/or rich Filipinos often tend to be more anti-foreign and racist than poorer Filipinos. And that is what some expats say- “The poor love you, but not the rich ones; the rich ones don’t even want to see a “porener”. A “porener” is nothing but trouble.” An educated, high( middle) class Filipina ( with exceptions) is generally not interested in meeting or dating ( or being seen with ) a “porener” -- or a person of another race. The higher the class, the more they seem to be nationalistic and xenophobic. Which is the same as in most South East Asian countries (except Singapore, HK or Malaysia). For example, here in the US, a working class woman would almost never date a man from another country or of another race (unless he is an Anglo Saxon- like a white Canadian, maybe). However, an educated woman would be open minded enough to date a black man or a foreign man. The same goes for friendships here. The Philippines seems to be the opposite. Just as if you took the social structure and flipped it upside down. This is the reason why most ““poreners”” in the Philippines date and marry lower class girls. And most their friends are poor. It’s just the reality. Again, what I am describing here is the general tendency in the society. There are many exceptions to the rule, and I am sure you will now say ”But my sister is a nurse, and her husband is Australian, etc.,”. I understand, but this is not the rule; it’s more like an exception. I am talking about prevalent attitudes. In addition,some of such middle- and high-class Filipinos can be very frank and impolite and come up with wild generalizations some of which are not supported by any sources. For example, one of my Cebuana friends from way back suddenly told me that in Cebu, many people used to hate “poreners” because “poreners” killed Lapu Lapu. She was a business owner and a BA degree holder. Say what? Lapu Lapu was the one who had killed Magellan, and the last thing known of him is that he had gone to live on Borneo. He was not killed by “poreners”. This is just an example of how some such Filipinos just come up with these unsupported accusations without any proof at all. Some just blurt things out without considering neither the offensive effect their statements will have on you, nor the sources of such statements. Some also ask you angrily- “What are you doing in the Philippines? Why are you here in the Philippines? What business do you have here?” The tone can be quite hostile. I was invited to a FB group about Philippine History and Culture, and suddenly a poster said that she wishes the group would be for “Filipinos Only”. Her reason for that was that there was a Filipino who pretended to be an American and who said that Filipinos were not bright. I failed to see the logic. I said- "it was a Filipino who said that, after all". Then another man supported her and said: “Pinoys Only” group. It was all in Tagalog, and I told them in Tagalog that Facebook was not their property- it is an American corporation located in the USA. If they make their group “Filipino Only”, it’s racism and I will report them to administrators. They said that Mark Zuckerberg "ay walang pakialam”, but I was shocked by such an affront.Can you imagine a group “Americans Only”? It would be labeled a hate group and be shut down. This time I stood up- I reminded them that this is still US cyber property and US territory and it is subject to US laws. They quieted down after that, but this shows you what kind of attitudes still exists among some Filipinos. One more observation by my friend from Taiwan was this:” In Taiwan, you always see middle-class families in restaurants with a foreigner in the middle, and they are treating him to a meal (Taiwan is not really a SE Asian country- the people are mostly Chinese), but you almost never see it in the PH”. And it’s the same in Japan: you always see a group of Japanese professionals, and there’s a foreign guy or a white guy among them. Very rare in the Philippines. You will be hard up to see a group of middle-class Filipinos, and there is a white guy among them, and all are talking. Again, there are exceptions to the rule, I am sure. But I am just sharing the general observations. And then, you end up in a poor barangay, and the whole barrio is there to treat you like a king, sit and talk to you for hours and invite you to a meal. The poorer, the friendlier! But with the poor, you need to watch out. Many are out to “borrow” money from you, to get a free meal or to marry off a daughter so that she would go live in the “States” and send money home. They are nice and will hang out with you, but it usually end up costing you. Some will come up with sob stories asking for money for some sick man at a hospital or invent some other trick to get cash out of you. Which I am happy to share if there’s legit reason, but not if there’s a lie. For example, some will shamelessly lie that it’s their birthday and ask you to buy a cake. Many taxi drivers and trike drivers will also overcharge you. A “porener” has dollars. It’s 43 pesos to the dollar. Your salary is 43 times bigger than theirs. That’s how some of them think. Again, not all are like that, and I have met some wonderful people among the poor who were honest to a fault. But if some poor people see that they have a friend who is a “porener”, they go asking money from them. You can also get yelled at or even beat up if you don’t answer their personal questions. Once a man hit me because he was drunk and he wanted to “see my visa” and I refused because I told him he was not an immigration officer. I went to call the guard, and the man ran away. So, you have to be careful. When I was in Saudi, many expats complained about the fact that if there’s an accident and it is a Saudi vs. a foreigner, it is automatically the foreigner’s fault. One Thai guy was taken to a Saudi traffic court, and the judge told him- “It’s your fault. If you had not come to Saudi Arabia, this accident would not have happened”. Filipinos who get involved in arguments or accidents with Saudis rarely win. This is why they keep quiet and stay out of trouble. But it’s sometimes the same in the Philippines. The expats say that if there’s an accident, it’s automatically the “porener”’s fault. And one policeman even said to an American- exactly as what they say in Saudi. “ If you had not come to the Philippines, this accident would not have happened”. Again, I am sure it does not always happen like that, but the consensus among expats is that in any argument with a Filipino, it’s automatically your fault. This is why they try and keep quiet. Just like Filipinos keep quiet in Saudi Arabia. You see, you may ‘want’ to refuse to be disrespected, but you’d better not. In America, they had a show about “Driving While Black”- basically, if you are black, the police disproportionately harass you, stop you, search you and if you have a good car, it’s even worse. They exposed such things and condemned them. In the Philippines, otoh, some say that there seems to be a “Driving While White” phenomenon. Once they see a white guy driving a car, ( or a motorcycle)cops often become more interested and stop it. And even if they see a white passenger- who is not even driving- they often also show heightened interest and start chasing the driver of that car. It’s really a pity because a lot of people absolutely love the Philippines and Filipinos and want to visit the country and/or live, work, invest, retire there, and serve, make friends and help the people there. However, there are still many things that need to be improved about how some people in the Philippine society treat “poreners”. Just like you don’t like it when people generalize you when you go abroad; and you don’t want to be discriminated against and stereotyped, the same way people who go to your country want to be treated fairly, not be stereotyped or suffer from even little prejudice.How you treat strangers in your country will be reflected on how other people treat you and yours when you come to theirs. Thus, I felt it was time to address such things. Yes, they are rare, but they should be zero.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Manila Taxi Driver Ripped-off:

I got into a taxi in Malate some time ago, and the driver proudly pulled out some foreign currency and showed it to me. These were crisp bills with a picture of some king on them. "This is European!" he announced with joy. "I will go and exchange it today. A European man paid me with European money!" He was beaming with satisfaction. What a windfall! The money was "European", alright. It was seven Serbian dinars. Not only there was no place in Manila to exchange it but it was less than four Philippines pesos at the official exchange rate! I fell like gloating and celebrating because to me any taxi driver is a scamming, money-hungry demon, but this one was an honest guy and never asked for contracts, additional money, and was very nice and polite. Why is it that only good drivers seem to get cheated, while the stingy and the greedy, dishonest ones have all the money?

Speak English and carry a big dollar!

I am an avid language learner, but a white man in the Philippines ( and most of E/SE Asia) will always run into major annoyances when learning how to speak the local language. Meaning- people will often refuse to speak it to you, refuse to give directions in the language, and sometimes laugh at you and mock you. Also, speaking a few words makes you sound cute, but carrying on conversations in the language may not be seen as a good thing by some. Service staff will most appreciate it but will usually answer in English, and very poor people will appreciate it and talk back to you in that language. But quite often, regular people will just answer in English and try to switch to English period. While, at the same time, turning to brown skinned people and speaking Tagalog or Visaya. Their English will also often be rude starting with "Whaaaaaaaat? " instead of "Excuse me?" or "Pardon me?". Many will not use" please". Some will make fun of your accent and mimick the way you pronounce it while laughing at you. Otoh, if you spoke only English, they would often kowtow to you and treat you with deferal. When in Japan, I was told by a very well meaning friend not to speak Japanese when invited to a party in Tokyo. And even in Manila, there was a woman who said-" I will invite you to my home, but don't speak Tagalog!". Then, another one glared at me and said in a low voice- "Speak English, they are making fun of your accent". Some simply lose respect for you if you start speaking the local language. Once, I was in uptown Cebu and I asked a person in Visaya in front of KFC if the restaurant was open. He said " Whaaaaaat?" I asked him why he was not answering in Visaya. He got very rude and started shouting at me that I was not a Filipino ( and had no right to speak it) and that he was in his country and could speak anything he wanted. He also mimicked my accent with mockery. Had I just spoken English, nothing like this would have happened. A very similar phenomenon occurs in Thailand. The happiest expats are the ones who DO NOT speak Thai except for numbers and some set phrases. Instantly, they are sheltered from all the evil around them. Now, granted that majority of people ( over 50%) will still appreciate it but many will be so shocked than instead of just talking to you, they will be commenting with surprise that you can speak it. Over and over again. It gets annoying after a while. They do not treat you as an equal! And occasionally you get mocking and hostile reactions accompanied by overall "reduction" in the level of respect. A friend of mine who was a long time resident in Asia noted that "an Asian will never consider you as his equal so you have no choice but to come off as being superior". Those expats who have money, speak only English ( some 99%) and act superior, do not seem to have all these weird conflicts that a Visayan speaking "poreigner" has. They walk around with a spring in their step, their nose in the air and a proud announcement of their nationality- "I am an American! I speak English!" And they get instant respect. And then you have a linguist like me, who runs into all these weird situations from narrow-minded locals. Some start shouting- "What nationality?" What nationality?" Very annoying. Anyway, sometimes I feel like giving this advice- for peace of mind, speak English and carry a big dollar. And you will be loved and respected by all. Is there any use for local languages,though? I'd say , some 10-20% of people will respond to you in those and treat you OK. Oh, what a blissful feeling. Also, if you are a missionary or a philantropist who wants to work with common, poor masses, or help orphaned kids, you should learn Filipino languages. Otherwise, a nose in the air, a puffed up chest and English Only is all you need.

Consider Racism, Nationalism, Xenophobia and Other Ills Before Taking on That Foreign Language.

Consider Racism, Nationalism, Xenophobia and Other Ills Before Taking on That Foreign Language. In my opinion, some languages are not even worth studying because the people in the countries you go to may not like you because of your race, nationality, etc. Some may forever use English in response to your trying to speak to them in their language and even get angry at you for having the audacity to speak it. If you do decide to study such a language, you are going to waste a great deal of time and money and end up with less than pleasant experiences. So, unless your interest in the language is scholastic and not social, think long and hard before beginning such a study. What do you look like? What nationality are you? How do people in such a culture generally treat those like you. Are you or do you look like someone against whom there is significant prejudice in the society? If so, you may not want to go down the wrong path and set yourself up for a not so pleasant a future. A case in point. An American guy from Minnesota studies Russian and goes to Russia to live. He looks forward to a rewarding cultural experience and possibly social and romantic conquests. What he did not consider was that he is dark complexioned with “ droopy” eyes and has an uncanny resemblance to a Chechen. When I saw his picture, he did look amazingly Chechen. While he always thought of himself as an all- American boy, the Russians did not think so and did not see him as American. He got harassed daily, and got bad vibes from people everywhere. Sure, he could explain to them that he was not Chechen but for how long? Trying to explain that to 140,000,000 Slavs is not easy. He ended up leaving the country. The same goes if a person has Middle Eastern features, and many racist Russians think him to be someone else. One half-Irish, half-Italian American got beat up for his dark complexion, too. However, a blond, very Nordic, Swedish person went to Russia and thought it to be the greatest country on Earth. So, your appearance matters. Big time! If you are East Asian-looking, you may not be welcome in Eastern Europe, and will constantly have to battle prejudice as you may be taken for a Vietnamese immigrant and treated with contempt quote often. Some people don’t mind; some say “ Hey, I’ll give it a pass and learn some other language instead.” In case of East or South East Asia, you may not get response in the local language even if you speak it well. That goes specifically for people of Caucasian appearance. It is truly annoying, but people will just be speaking back to you in English daily and some will get insulted that you are speaking the local language. Some will praise it and switch back to English all the time. Do you want to deal with it? Some people don’t. I was now in the Philippines, and I got yelled at in the city of Cebu because I was speaking in Visayan and the person was responding in English; then, I asked him why he was not responding in Visaya to me. He chided me, told me I was not a Filipino, and I had no “right” to speak Visayan. However, my friend who is of Chinese appearance has the opposite problem there -- he does not speak the local language, but gets spoken to in it all the time. He has to ask them to speak in English. In Japan, people also can be very nasty sometimes and not even stop to give you directions. I once asked for directions and a man raised a cane at me. They constantly get propaganda on TV about ‘foreign crime” and many are just scared of people who are not Japanese. In some Asian/SE Asian countries, even taxis won’t stop for you because “ they don’t speak English” basing such a conclusion on your appearance. Some will give you a contemptuous grimace and drive on. Some people will ignore you in restaurants and not serve you. This happens in Thailand outside of tourist areas. Until you prove you speak Thai. But you will have to deal with squeamish looks and people treating you like you don’t exist. People of Black African appearance may have it even worse in a lot of countries. So, you need to check out the “ racial climate” to people that look like you in that culture before you devote time and money to learning their language and dreaming about going there for a great cultural experience. And it is a real problem which may cause you not only spoiled mood but physical injuries and even death. The more different you are racially from the local population, the more often you will encounter unpleasant situations. Some people can deal with those and some do not want to bother. They would rather learn a language of a country where they can be treated more or less as equals. Another alternative is the most common- not learn the local language and just use English to speak to the people. Such an attitude is common with many Western people ( if not the overwhelming majority of them). If you have money and/or a good job, you will not only not be affected by not being able to speak the local language but the people will respect you more. So many times did I see Western execs in other countries who did not speak a word of the lingo but who lived amazing lives with local friends and wives in big houses and walking around like they owned the place. What languages are exempt from racial hang ups? I would say Spanish, Portuguese, possibly French; maybe Arabic on most occasions since Arabs can have many types of looks, but most Asian and Slavic languages will have you battle local prejudices and refusal of people to speak the language as a regular occurrence. These things are rarely if even mentioned by linguists or on shiny brochures by language companies which feature a pretty local woman smiling at you and the name of the language on it. So, think long and hard and look at yourself and who and what you are before plunging headfirst into such a demanding project-- it may not be as rewarding as you think. Unless you are studying it for purely reading purposes. Now, I expect many responses to this with” Oh, it never happened to me, I never had any problems and you have those because you are an arrogant person, you smell bad, you look like a freak” but this again is an anecdotal argument, victim-blaming and discounting the fact that there is a linguo-racial complex in many societies, racism, nationalism etc. Which is basically denying reality. The things above are real issues to consider and I hope everyone here considers them. It may save you from hard times in unwelcoming places.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Differences in American and Filipino English When it Comes to Nation-related Terms

If one carries on online discussions about nations and nationhood with Filipino people, misunderstandings often seem to take place. Even though both Americans and Filipinos use the same language, the terminology has different meanings depending whether it's an American or a Filipino speaking. This causes discussions to end in confusion, and even conflicts to ensue. However, the difference is often in what is implied by each term. Let's look at them one by one: Nationalism ( and derived words). In American English ( and often in British English) this term is very often seen as a negative one. It implies thinking one's country as superior to others and a dislike of other nationalities, their cultures, values and even such things as music . An example of this would be someone who would walk out of the room hearing a foreign language or seeing a foreign TV show. Or someone who refuses to sit next to a person of a different nationality at a social event. Such nationalists often see it as an insult that a person tries to speak their language, sing their songs or display their national symbols. To say that a person or a country are nationalistic is to mean exactly that-- they will not like you if you go there and will discriminate against you if you are not one of them. Nationalism in US English is often used on par with racism although in the former, the discrimination is by nationality, not race. For example, a Singaporean who thinks that Malaysians are inferior is being nationalistic, not racist because both belong to arguably the same race. In Europe, nationalism caused untold numbers of wars and deaths, that is why even in local languages, that term is seen as a negative one. The positive equivalent in the American English would be Patriotism. This means that one truly loves one's country but he/she does not exclude or discriminate against other countries. On the contrary, one is happy to share one's country with others, and praises those who admire its culture and its people. Patriotism is an inclusive and friendly term. In Filipino English; however, there is generally no difference between the words nationalism and patriotism. Both just mean love for one's country and are interchangeable. If any exclusion is implied it is only to defend the country against colonial powers and protect its resources. No social or cultural exclusion is meant. Therefore, if there is a rare Filipino who, for example, sees foreigners speaking Tagalog as violators of his culture, there's no term in Filipino English to describe him/her. If you call him a nationalist, he will just see it as a compliment. Nationality. In popular American parlance and when Americans talk to each other, nationality often means ancestry or ethnicity. Since almost all Americans descend from immigrants, an American will say- "I'm Irish". "I'm Polish". "I'm German". "I am African-American", etc. Saying "I am American" in social situations may often seen as naive. In Filipino English. Nationality generally means citizenship and nothing else. There's usually no difference. A Filipino citizen is Filipino by nationality and an American citizen is American. End of the story. It is also socially acceptable to ask someone his or her nationality as a way to have that person introduce him/herself. In fact, that is often the first question Filipinos ask a foreigner. In American English, it is not very polite to ask people's nationality as it is seen as something that can lead to discrimination. This is only generally asked by embassies and immigration authorities but not so much socially. The same goes for British English. You generally don't walk up to people asking their nationality. Seen as very rude. The alternatives are to ask "Where is your family from?" or "What is your ethnic heritage"? or if a person has an accent- "Where are you from originally?" Citizenship is hardly ever mentioned in such questions. Filipinos often get confused when they ask an American- "What is your nationality?' and an American answers: "I am Italian". I remember when I was in Saudi Arabia, our Filipino clerk asked our American teacher who was a Lousiana Creole about the nationality of his wife, to which the latter answered : "Anglo-Saxon". The clerk was fretting for days after that- "Why did he have to talk in riddles? What is Anglo-Saxon? Why couldn't he just say- My wife is American, my wife is Canadian or something like that?" Filipinos also become confused about the British informal "nationalities". If a Brit says "I'm English" a Filipino may just understand it as "English-speaking" and again ask about the person's nationality. Nativism. In American English it means - favoring people who were born in the country for jobs, social interactions, and other purposes while rejecting those who were not born there even if they are already citizens. A law that does not allow a foreign-born person to become president is an example of such a sentiment. Many view it as a form of discrimination but it is still very strong not only in the USA but also in many countries in the Americas. In Filipino English, Nativism means interest and favoring of pre-Columbian, pre-Magellan cultures, music, traditions and languages. A nativist in the Philippines is one studying old artefacts, scripts, music, and literature of the islands before the European colonization. For example, someone who goes and lives with Igorots and/or T'bolis and becomes fluent in their language is such a Nativist. Just as Britain and the US are said to have been separated by the same language, often this is the case with the Philippines and this is why engaging in discussions with Filipinos often leads to confusion on both sides of those.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Understanding the Difference in Salaries between the Philippines and the USA.

One of my online Filipino friends told me that according to her Americans make 100 times more money than Filipinos. Some Filipinos have mentioned such numbers as 10, and even 40 times more money. I decided to sit down and crunch some numbers to see if this was really the case. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that an average American (the key word is ‘average’- not a nurse, not a doctor) makes $2000 a month which is what an garden variety person in a garden variety US state makes. And let’s assume that an average Filipino makes $200 a month which is about close. In pesos it would be Php 88,000 and Php 8,800 respectively. So, yes the figure 10 does ring true. Let’s subtract the tax now. Again, an average tax in the Philippines would be around 15% give or take while in the US, it would be 26%. Which leaves us with a net salary of $170 for a Pinoy and $1480 for a Kano. In pesos it would be Php 7480 and Pho 65120 respectively. The Kano’s salary now is 8.7 times higher and not 10 times as before. Now, let’s factor in prices on most daily services and commodities. Some people say that in the Philippines prices are about 3 times less. This is hard to gauge but it does seem so for most things. Now, let’s divide 8.7 by 3= 2.9 times. So, while the salary is higher 10 times the cost of living and taxes erode it until it’s only about 3 times higher. Does anybody agree with these calculations?

More on the Subject of Outdated Quotes.

I recently read an article on FB about outdated quotes, and this is what I have to say about them: Many people in other countries, particularly developing ones, love American quotes and look to them for guidance to how to live life. They like posting them on Facebook. However, it must be kept in mind that such quotes were written by famous and well-off people in the USA, and they were mostly written a long time ago. Famous and successful writers and psychologists can only give advice to people of the same class and those in relatively similar country. Their advice may not be applicable to regular people in regular countries. For example, a rich, famous American person can say-'they don't like me, so it's their problem'. Which is Ok for him/her because he/she has enough money to go to meet other people and has plenty of other choices. But if someone does not like a poor person, it's that poor person's problem because he can get fired and lose his job. Or someone can even shoot him. Another quote is " Be Yourself". If you are rich and live in a politically free country like the US, you can be yourself. But if you are poor and/or live in a dictatorial nation somewhere that persecutes people like you, you'd better not advertise what you are too much. You can be arrested and even killed. If you are an employee and try to "be yourself" at work, you will break some office rule and end up outside the door. A quote like "everything happens for a reason" is another such not-universally-applicable quote. Must have been again written by a very fortunate and rich person from a place that never experienced bombings, kids burning in incendiary flames, etc. How about the tsunami in Japan and the radioactive water being pumped into our oceans now. Where is the reason to that? The quotes about "God putting people in your path for a reason", or "Everything is a learning experience" are again incomplete. How about the 9/11 attack? You sit in the office, and suddenly God puts in your path people at the cyclic stick of an airplane to ram into your building and the whole place catches fire, and you are burning in molten metal and kerosene? Did God put those people there for a reason, and is this a learning experience for you? And other 3000 people who died a horrible death including those jumping out of windows? How about drones bombing innocent families having a wedding? Is this a learning experience for those innocent people? What kind of nonsense is that? The quote about "people who judge you by your past do not belong in your present" is again of the same variety-- if people judge a well known American by his past, he can easily go some place else and meet someone else and reject those people. But these rules don't apply well to average people, even in the USA because they have fewer choices. For example, if one has a criminal record in the US- it's on a nationwide database and even though it's in the past, no one will hire him. So, yes, those people who don't want to hire him don't belong in his present, but no one else will hire him, so he's screwed and the quote will not help him. In my opinion, it's much better to look towards folk proverbs and wisdom of one's own culture and social class to be guided by. That is if you need quotes at all. It's much better to use one's own judgement based on one's unique set of circumstances. A lesson learned by some rich, successful and famous person 40-50 years ago in the USA may not be applicable to you in your country ( or even in the USA) in 2013.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tips for Ladies from Developing Countries Who are Looking for a Foreign Man Online

In recent times, with the advent of Facebook and various online dating services, many ladies, particularly in developing countries, have been enticed by the prospect of finding a boyfriend in a foreign land, on the Internet. Most of them hope to have the opportunity of developing a long distance relationship which would eventually turn to fully fledged love-for-life and eventually- marriage. I have made many ladies who have started such a relationship, but became bitterly disappointed with the results. They wasted a lot of time and had their hopes dashed. They were hoping to have a man who they thought would be better than the guys in their own country. Also, it often did not turn out that way. I have met ladies like this in SE Asia and Eastern Europe. So, I have this to say to them: 1) It is possible to find true love online, but it’s a numbers’ game. Meaning: only a very small percentage of guys you correspond with will be serious with you. That means you need to establish online contacts with many possible candidates. Say 30-40? Out of them, only a small number will visit you and out of that, a small number will show real interest. And even a smaller number out of those will end up as a serious love/marriage candidate. 2) Do not start the “I love you" thing online with the person you’ve never seen face to face. Until you met the guy in person in your country and you both liked each other and exchanged some kind of romantic understanding and said ”I love you” in person and promised to love each other from then on, you are not a boyfriend/girlfriend. He is not your lover yet. You are not his lover yet. Please make a note of it. You don’t owe any faithfulness to him no matter what he says. You can continue emailing other candidates to your heart’s content. This is not traditional courtship. Rules of the game are different. 3) Does he have the money and/or the time to visit you? Does he need and/or can he get a visa to visit you? Talk is cheap, anyone can talk and say “I love you” online. Skype is free to use. Phone calls and texts are just pennies. A ticket to your country is expensive, though. Hotels are expensive, too. He will also need to pay for taxis, food and miscellaneous things while in your country, visiting you. He will probably have to help you with taxi fare and dinners and buy you presents. It can easily cost way over US $3000. Does he have the financial means for all that? Does his job allow him a vacation? Is it paid? If it’s not paid, he may lose a 1- 2 week’s pay. When is it? Will his boss allow him to go? Face this sobering truth: the majority of guys online most probably do not have the money to go and visit you. Only a minority does. Some men have never been to another country and may change their minds because they may become scared at the last moment. Do not believe any promises that he will come on this or that month. Believe it only when you see him in person. What is his citizenship? Some citizens need to get a visa from your embassy and some do not. If they do, a visa may or may not be granted. He will need to pay visa costs regardless and fill out many forms. Will it be expensive? Can he afford it? 4) If he arrives, do not expect him to be faithful to you and begin “ true love” right at the date of his arrival. If it cost him so much time and money, he will probably be visiting other ladies because he does not know if he likes you in person or not. Do not pressure him or get jealous. He is shopping around and so should you. This is not courting. This is international internet dating. It has different rules. If you really like him and want to have him, and he is visiting other ladies, strive to convince him that you are the best. At the same time, keep a distance on the first date and have other possibilities up your sleeve. Treat the whole thing as you would a job interview. 5) When he arrives, make sure you take good care of him while he is in your land and city—you are the host. There are many taxi drivers and other people who want to cheat and overcharge foreigners. Some even want to rob them. Can you make sure that he’s safe? Because if you two are in a taxi and the taxi driver is not giving him change or you are in a store and he is being overcharged, do not just sit/stand there and smile- try to protect him or at least advise him what to do and how to protect himself and where the dangers are. Make sure that no one takes advantage of him. He is alone in your country. Treat him the way you want to be treated if you were alone in his country. 6) Dress nice for the date, treat him well, and present your good side. If he comes to see you and you are in track pants with sneakers and a T-shirt with unkempt hair, it shows that you don’t respect or appreciate him. If you sit down and start eating and you don’t talk, it shows that you are not interested in him. If you don’t ask any questions about him- ditto. If you don’t talk because you think your English is not good enough then he will again think that you do not care about him. If you think your English is not fluent, then speak un-fluent English and use a dictionary. But please don’t be silent- he will be really turned off. Ask him if you can bring a friend to the date and explain that your culture requires a chaperon if it does. Don’t just show up with a friend or a relative without telling him. He may interpret it in two ways: a) You think he is a criminal. b) You want to feed them at his expense and you don’t care about his hard earned money. Do not bring more than one friend regardless, unless they pay for their meals. If you don’t like to be used, don’t behave in such a way as to appear that you are using him. If you come from a conservative background and are a chaste and/or religious woman, and insist on a chaperon, tell him, and he will understand. But if you are a liberated one or have been separated and/ or are with a kid, meet him in a public place but try to come alone. Chaperons are for only a special type of women; not all women. 7) If it looks like he’s looking for a lifetime partner, does he have the legal capacity to contract marriage? What if he is just separated and not fully divorced? When will his divorce be final? What if he has kids and /or must pay alimony? Will he have enough money left over to take care of you? What country do you plan on living in? His or yours? If it’s his country, does he know how to get a visa? Will he hire an attorney? Does he have sufficient income to sponsor you for the visa? Will he sign all the affidavits of support? Does he have the money for your ticket? Will his income status qualify him as eligible to bring over a dependent spouse? Does he know what kinds of visas are available? Does he have a criminal record which might affect both of your future? Does he have money to pay for the wedding in your country or his? How long will it take to enter his country once he petitions you? Will you be willing to go on a fiancée visa? Will your parents allow that? If you decide to live in your country, what about his legal status there? Do you know what visas he will be able to obtain? Do you know how much they will cost? Will he be happy with his residence status? Do you know how to obtain visas for him? Or you will just allow him to get stranded there and run out of money while his visa lapses? The last thing you want is for your BF/husband to become an illegal alien in your country. Will he be able to find work/get a work permit? What are the laws in your country for foreigners both married to locals and those who are not. How long can they stay? Can they work? In what professions? If he cannot get married because of some legal or financial problem, but you want to live together because you love each other, can you still get the visa to go to his country? Can you stay there long enough for him to sort things out? Most countries will not allow it. Can he stay in your country and if he can, on what visa? How will he be making a living? Can he work online? You will need to think those things through. Asking for money or being promised money. The biggest killer of any online relationship is money--asking to borrow money from a person whom you never met for your personal needs or worse yet- your relatives’ needs will drive the 1st and the last nail into your budding love affair. You’d better ask your relatives to help you with money. Ask your brothers or uncles or cousins. And if they don’t want to, well, try your best to convince them to go and work abroad to help you. Because the minute you ask for money online from a person who is basically a stranger the words ”Gold-digger” will flash through his mind. Boyfriends and husbands should help, online chatters shouldn’t. Even if he becomes your BF and promises to send support with school, visas etc., he may still change his mind and stop at any time. Online love history is full of sad stories of young ladies who were promised school tuition and even sent some in the beginning only to be abandoned after a couple of months by a no account flaky man who simply disappeared from the radar. He changed his mind and had no guts to formally end the relationship with a proper closure. Sleepless nights, worries, the agony of uncertainty. Wasted time. Set your own deadline and end it on your terms. 9) Watch out for suspicious signs. He does not want to give you his Skype. He does not want to give you his roaming number. His phone is often off. He has more than one phone or SIM and only gives you one number. When in a foreign country, he does not text you. He does not answer emails or texts and makes innocuous excuses. A person who has enough money to pay for your school, but does not have a roaming card and says that he has no money for texts does not care about you. 10) Be realistic about life and culture in foreign countries from which your BF or potential BF/husband comes. Learn about them. They are not all rich. Most developed countries have difficult living conditions. Everything is very expensive, taxes are high and most people live from paycheck to paycheck. Cars and houses that you see are a result of credit, not riches. Some guys are rich- maybe 1% and those very rarely look for love online. Most are just regular people who work very hard. Do not have unrealistic expectations of them. Just because the exchange rate says that you get so many currency units for his money, does not mean he is that many times richer. Respect his money and his time. Not all countries have dollars, and not all have a good exchange rate. When you start working there, you will see how difficult it is to make a living in his country. They don’t have the same social rules-- once you become devoted to that man and he becomes devoted to you, he must become the most important person in your life—not your parents, not your brothers or sisters. Do not use the man to help your family, ever! Do not use him to emigrate. He is not a donkey to transport you and your plans to the new land. You will be with him only for one reason- you really love each other and can’t live without each other. In sickness and inhealth; in good times and in bad. You are a family now and both of you come first. If you follow the above pointers and apply them to your particular online situation, you will have a better chance to succeed. Because international online dating is a totally new field, many people are still shooting in the dark not knowing what to do next. A lot of time gets wasted and a lot of negative emotions are the result. Therefore, new rules must be formulated so that a new online generation has a better chance of finding and succeeding in love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Understanding the “Hindu-Malay” Filipino Mind

When a Western foreigner reads about the Philippines, the first things that he will encounter in most books will make him feel like he is becoming acquainted with a brotherly culture- it is a Christian country, the people speak English, and they have Spanish last names. “It would be an easy fit if I went there to live” he thinks. When he arrives in the country, again he might smugly say to himself- “Hey, this looks easy!”- all the signs are in English, the newspapers are all in English, people wear Western clothes -T-shirts with huge letters “ USA” on them, and maps of the United States predominating. Everyone is happy to see him. The only thing that looks different is the physical aspect of the people- most of them look Malay or S.E. Asian- same as Thais or Cambodians or Burmese. “But no sweat- they are Western on the inside, Christians. I’ll have a great time here, and I won’t need to adjust”. Or so he thinks. So, unlike when going to live in Japan, where one expects people to be different and be exotic and Eastern, Filipinos seem easy to understand and the country seems cool to live in.” Hey, these are just brown Americans- every time I go to a night club, they sing all these American oldies!” No place in Asia seems more like home than this country. Or so you think. However, after one starts living there, sooner or later, one becomes aware of the deep cultural undercurrent that is not obvious at first glance, but which really is the Philippines. It is like a giant river that flows under the ice and all you see is ice while missing the river. Or, it is as if you are attending a costume party with people dressed in all these Western outfits but, underneath them, a subterranean reality resides. Soon, you will see that, while they were not deceiving you on purpose, the true and profound soul of the Filipino, which is as deep as the Mariana Trench nearby, is as even more inscrutable and unpredictable than that of the Japanese. The reason for the inscrutability is precisely that- it is implied and unseen by naked eye. The actuality is that a Filipino is really a Hindu Malay more than anything else. And the most shocking thing of all is that Filipinos themselves are not aware of that fact. It took me two decades of being around these pseudo-understandable people to finally figure that out. One needs to understand that when one lives in the Philippines, one is located not even in Asia, but on the Malay Archipelago. The people are mostly ethnically Malay. And before the advent of Christianity and Islam, Malays had been Hindus (and Buddhist) for a very long time. The same can be said about Indonesia- while on surface the country is Muslim and follows Muslim teachings, the daily interactions, the life philosophy, the attitude towards things and people is profoundly and truly Hindu. Just like in Bali, where it is explicitly Hindu. Once you look underneath the new religions which these people have had for only a few hundred years, you will see the true nature of these islands. The Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Luzon such as Tondo may be gone physically, but their legacy lives on and it can only be “felt by one’s soul” but not easily seen. Tolerance and acceptance of different points of view: Christians, at least countries where Christianity has been for a long time, such as in Europe, are by nature very polar- things are either good or bad, right or wrong. Majority opinion rules. Judgementalism predominates. The same can be said about many Muslims. Not so with Filipinos. A Filipino does not readily decide whether someone is good or bad, but offers all people an attitude of tolerance. He is just as tolerant about other religions. A Filipino will buy a statue of a Buddha and put it in his house. Many Filipinos naturally believe in karma and reincarnation. A true Christian will not believe that. This is more of a Hindu attitude- that of acceptance and forbearance. And of open-mindedness. Majority opinion does not rule but compromises do. People adjust to each other and do not force others to be like them. Emotional balance and “even-mindedness”: When I was living in Pampanga last year, I heard that one tricycle driver whose services I often used had died in a trike accident. He was only 30 years old and left a pregnant young wife and was survived by his parents and siblings. I went to the chapel to pay my last respects and was expecting to see people tearing hair on their heads and wailing and beating their chests in angst. Instead, I saw something that amazed me very much- all the people there were sitting in a state of utter tranquility, the wife had shed a few tears, but they had dried up very quickly and she and the mother were just seated in a most serene condition of mind with an expression of calm acceptance and no obvious “vibe” of grief coming from them. Was it fatalism? One can say that, but it was more than that. It was as if they understood that death was something normal and could happen any day to anyone and they looked beyond it. And even though I saw Jesus on a cross in that chapel, I could not help feeling that I was really inside of an ashram or a Hindu/Buddhist temple. In India in the old times, people could come and settle in and become Indians. It was an open society devoid of nationalism and intolerance. It was only when it came in contact with Western religions that Hindu nationalism arose. The Malay race in the Philippines must have also developed its own version of Hinduism whereby they would absorb others easily, too, and take them into their fold regardless of who they were. They were largely peaceful and they liked to get along with each other and outsiders. People from many lands, even Greeks and Arabs and anyone else would be naturally absorbed into their society. Because they had no national or religious intolerance, they easily accepted other creeds and other populations, and that was also the reason why they were so easy to colonize- peaceful passivity and conflict avoidance in their dealings with others were the reason why so many aggressive conquerors succeeded in occupying the islands- or so they thought. Eventually, they too would be absorbed by the “Malay sea”. Foreign influences would become grafted upon the Malay core and stay there as decorations rather than new essences and did change the Filipino’s mind in its depth. A meditative “force field” envelops the country: If you are a spiritual person, when you go to different countries, you pick up on the “vibe” of that country. So, when you arrive in the Philippines, you will also be able to pick up on the vibe that hovers over it and penetrates everything around it. But it is more than a vibe. It is like a cord that hangs in the air and sounds continuously. It is a major sound and its sound is so fine and subtle that it takes time to hear it but when you do, it will be pleasantly deafening. Every person who is in the country will drown in it and will fall under its spell. It is a cord of intense meaning which cannot be described in words. It basically stands for- union with all others, union with happiness of being alive, union with joy of being in company of others, in society, union in friendship and union in love. When you feel – I cannot even say “hear”- that cord and let it go inside of you, you will realize that it is a cord of supreme spirituality and happiness. This is why the Filipinos are such happy people. This is especially obvious when you look into the eyes of children in the country. They are wide open, the expression is not self-absorbed, they are constantly taking in information; they seem to be filled with wonder and joy of simply being alive. You can see in them peace and friendship with other children, respect towards adults and in tune with life. At the same time, they are full of strange calmness that is very deep and spiritual. Sometimes, when you look at them, you can see the origins of the nation- how it came to the islands in boats, under a warm sun, and how they had obviously enjoyed the journey. Just like in India, many ethnic groups live in peace and speak many different languages, but unlike in Europe, they do not attack each other, but coexist and mingle with an easygoing attitude towards one another. Mental illness and suicides are rare, families and friendship are strong and, in many ways, one can see great excellence in the structure of the social fabric of the country and it all seems to be coming from the ever reverberating cord- an “Om” of sorts hanging above the land and echoing evenly and steadily day and night. When witnessing people in traffic, stuck on buses for hours while going to work, one does not see frustrated faces or impatience nor hears complaints. They display composed countenances with eyes as clear and pacific as if they were meditating in a temple – only someone with the fortitude of a yogi or an Eastern monk would display such qualities. The demeanor and gracefulness of an average person, the smooth manners, the quiet voice, the harmony and politeness are neither Spanish nor American. The closest I can think of is probably Burmese and Sri Lankan. Or Balinese. Seeing Filipinos sick in hospitals is a strange sight- they look calm and their faces do not show much suffering. The same can be said about them working hard jobs at Jollibee or in department stores or factories. They do not complain, do not show pain or anguish and, what is more interesting, they do not seem to hurt because their stoicism is of a happy kind of, not that of bearing great pain, but of being strong, patient and enduring. Are such traits good? That is a matter of opinion. If there is an evil person who tries to oppress others, such a person is tolerated for a long time before measures are taken to control him. If there is a criminal doing something bad, you often see a guard who looks happy and who does not immediately take action to stop the evil-doer. Forgiveness, kindness and a mild state of bliss are pleasant to observe, but what if there is someone who is wicked and wants to harm others? Such a person is not instantaneously rebuked. People also do not complain if they are given food that is not tasty, or if they receive service that is not up to par. They look upon it philosophically with acceptance of the status quo. And that is very Hindu. The non-violent, non-confrontational nature of an average Filipino and his relative lack of experience in conflicts, physical fights and verbal altercations sometimes lead to situations when, if he is really wound up, he acts without thinking about consequences which may befall himself and others. It is because he has not experienced too many effects of conflicts in the past. So, if there is crime of passion or that resulting from anger, the anger and passion go completely uncontrolled. Woe is to him who, thinking a local to be harmless, tempts him to aggression because the result will be extremely ugly for both parties. One person may end up dead and the other- in prison for life. Un-emotionalism can paradoxically give rise to uncontrolled emotions when these do rise to the surface, and common sense gets thrown to the wind. The same can be said about morality- there are no clear concepts of right and wrong- it is all situational. Philosophically, one can admire such a point of view, but what if some people decide to be dishonest and cheat and deceive others? Such bad individuals may sometimes not have any pangs of conscience at all because they may not clearly think themselves wrong. This is why the Philippine society is slow in stopping deception and dishonesty. They are just too tolerant and too forgiving. They also forget easily, which is not a quality of traditional Christian or Muslim nations. Thus, in spite of the very much into-your-face Western façade, you have a country that is about as Eastern as Burma or India with a loud “Om-like” infra- sound that permeates its entire being. You can live in the Philippines for a long time and think that you understand it. But you don’t. Words can only describe it partially, and appearances of Westernization are onion- skinned as they like to say. The attractiveness of the country is not in the beaches, the climate or even the pretty women you see everywhere. It is in the hidden “Om-ish” force-field that permeates this land, a force- field that will permeate you, too. Sit calmly and observe the people. Listen in, and you will hear it. Sense it with your soul and you will feel it.