Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why The Philippines is my Favorite Country

I have traveled to almost forty countries, and the Philippines is my favorite. I have been here on and off for nineteen years already. Why? Well, because this is where I feel most at home. I believe if you are an expat on your own free volition and not because of money, then, there must be a country that you love more than your own; for me it is the Philippines. Here are my reasons:

I grew up in very racist and highly nationalistic countries, something which always got me down. Here in the Philippines, there is little to no racial discrimination unless you consider “Hi Joe’s” and being sometimes overcharged by Manila taxi drivers as being deemed “racially inferior”. There is no strong ethnic chauvinism or a concept of ‘race’ as in other Asian countries or in many places in Europe or America, and which has created so much suffering in the world. These islands are a home to over a hundred ethnic groups who mingle rather freely and who more or less know how to respect each other. No Kosovo-type deportations, no holocausts, no unbridled hatred for a man whose language or race are different. You never hear something like: “This is the Philippines, speak our language or get out!” You hear people say that in other countries, though.
I am definitely foreign-looking, but, sometimes I have kids pointing at me and asking other kids-“Is that your father?” This could never happen in Japan or Thailand or Korea, for example.

The country has a mild and pleasant overall cultural feel to it: it forms an even triangle of three major influences: Asian Malay, which gives it a relaxed, communal and an astoundingly friendly disposition; which is still not too Asian to seem foreign to a non-Asian. It has an old American (Anglo-Saxon) influence that gives it a degree of practical thinking and a uniquely Anglo common sense as well as its English language and its worship of education. But it is not too American to seem cold. Why? It is because you also have the deep Latin/Spanish tradition which gives the country its romantic quality, the depth of passion in friendship and in love, the strong family ties and friends that last a life time. However, it is not too Latin either, and the passions are still soft because the other two elements balance them out and keep them subdued. It is a unique combination that only this country has.

In addition to that you have the Chinese, the Indian, African, and a smattering of other influences that seem to enrich the overall culture and give it greater depth. There have been so many migrations here, and so many invaders and travelers that people generally accept foreigners and mingle with them rather freely. They are used to them. They themselves came to these islands in boats or by land bridges. Sometimes, I feel that this country has kind of like “cultural hooks” anybody can just hitch himself or herself onto. An American, a Chinese person, an Arab, a European and even an African can easily find some niche in the Philippines that will feel like it is an extension of his or her homeland.
In spite of all the strange news that is shown in the world media about the Philippines, the place is mostly safe, with very happy, affable, mild mannered, and conflict-avoiding people.

Happiness is in the air! If pursuit of happiness is your goal in life, you can scoop it up with buckets in most places all over the country. It is like some golden ether that permeates the atmosphere of the place. Many a grim-faced foreigner has learned how to smile and be happy after he has been here for some time.

Outsiders, by and large, quickly integrate even if they do not know the language because there is no Western style linguistic intolerance. The people are not judgmental and do not like to analyze you. It is easy to just be yourself here.

There are rules for integration, though:
1) Never lose your temper even if people around you make a mistake or do something that you think is wrong. Be calm. They will show you the same tolerance when you make a mistake or a wrong.
2) Be polite to the elderly and treat them with honor. Learn how to do “mano po”.
3) Respect people regardless of their financial situation. Most people here are struggling, but have learned not to complain and to bear life’s burdens and be happy through all these struggles. It is a remarkable trait, please learn to appreciate it. There are almost no suicides here no matter what happens.
4) Try and help people who need help with advice, good word, and yes, even with some money. However, do not flash too much of it lest the locals think you have an overabundant supply of cash and thus assume that help is unlimited. As much as possible, if you help with money, try to do it so that you can help others to help themselves.
5) Always try to stay happy and smile a lot. No one comes here to be unhappy. Read about culture shock and go through it stoically.
6) Try to learn the local language as much as possible and read as many books on the Philippine culture as you can.

Traveling, working, retiring in or visiting the Philippines is supposed to be a happy experience. If you follow the steps above and learn to appreciate its culture (and I am not even talking about its natural beauty) and way of life and do as Romans do, you might have the time of your life (pun intended) here.

4 comments:

Lamar Crabbe said...

Haha! I was just cleaning up a group of links and thought I'd give this one just one more chance. And here is a new post! Welcome back, I've missed reading your blogs. You've had a bigger impact on my life than you can know.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work TI. Really enjoy your posts and insights.

JLC said...

love this entry...

Anonymous said...

The Filipinos iv'e met in the States have been awesome humans-happy, kind, pleasant. When I first met them I would think to myself-damn are you high? No just not from a Rockefeller central bank controlled materialistic cess pool with a vacuum the size of South America in the air in terms of genuine human connection aka gotta go buy more trash at the big box store, oversuff myself, drive my SUV, sit alone in my big house, and have a fuck off vibe like Muricans!