A huge number of inquiries I get, as well as a great many blog comments here and on other Philippines-oriented blogs and forums are all dedicated to the principle that “everyone” (especially Filipinos) is “out to get you” in the Philippines. Well I’ve been living here a bit over 4 years now, and I thought I’d take time out from the real estate series to share a few thoughts on that … and to offer up my thank’s to a couple really great guys, Jun and Josh … I’ll explain about that thank you part a little further on in this article.
I should start at the beginning … m first ‘real-world’ experience with Filipinos being ‘out to get’ foreigners.
Some years ago I was good ‘online friends’ with a fellow American who had just moved to the Philippines. The guy loved it here and made me want to come here to the Philippines even more … although one thing really troubled me.
My friend prefaced almost every subject he wrote about with cautionary langauge about how the “Filipino was out to get you”, be careful to avoid paying the “Skin Tax’, or the “long-nosed tax”, or various other racially oriented terms.
I wondered why on earth anyone wold choose to live someplace where he felt he was always going to get robbed, cheated of “flim-flammed” in some way. Not the way I would choose to live my life … I’m older, I don’t want a lifetime of conflict.
Personally, If worried everyday about being cheated or discriminated against because of my skin color or passport color, I’d leave … in a heartbeat. I didn’t leave the USA to flee anything except cold weather, I’m still allowed back in … maybe some guys really aren’t, but we won’t go into that here.
Anyway, back to my “always being cheated” American friend. He wanted to buy a motorcycle. And, of course, he wasn’t about to go to one of the local Filipino dealerships to buy one, because … yes, of course, “you know those Filipinos are all out to get you.”
So after a lot of emailing and negotiation he found a fellow American who was selling a used motorcycle, way off at the other end of the Philippines. The price, to me from outside the country at that time, sounded cheap, but my goodness, the logistics in getting it shipped to my friend’s home seemed like more trouble than a used motorcycle was worth.
But my friend was happy. After all, he was buying from a fellow American,so he knew he wasn’t getting cheated, you know?
Eventually, the used motorcycle arrived. The shipping had cost about $200 plus the $1200 price of the motorcycle,but hey, after all, he had bought it from a fellow American. So he knew he wasn’t getting cheated. Well worth it, in my friend’s opinion.
My friend hopped on, fired up his new treasure,and let out the clutch to give it a test ride around his local neighborhood, terrorizing the children, dogs and chickens in the street.
The test ride lasted about 100 meters or so … the length of time it took my friend to shift up to second gear. When he let out the clutch again, the rear wheel locked up solid, and if you know anything about riding motorcycles, when your rear wheel locks unexpectedly, you often wind up doing a face plant in the street. And that’s what happened. Ouch.
So my buddy had to swallow his pride and push the motorcycle to local dealership and ask them to look into why the transmission locked up solid in second gear.
The verdict? Long-term, major damage to the transmission. Basically the whole transmission needed to be rebuilt. A very expensive proposition. And one the previous owner must have known about, because all the oil in the transmission had been carefully flushed out so it wouldn’t leak out the big crack in the transmission case. Wow, what an unpleasnt surprise. What to do?
The owner of the motorcycle shop told my friend, “Sir, we can fix this for you, but the parts will take a long time to come in, and the cost of spare parts being what they are, the repair will cost you maybe half the price of a new bike like this. Why not trade it in. I have new models like this, in stock, in red, blue and silver. Cost is P50,000 Philippine pesos with registration, license and one year’s insurance included.”
My friend was “Gobsmacked” as my British friends like to say. At that time, P50,000 was only a few US dollars over $1000. $400 less than the total cost he had already invested, and local service right around the corner near his house.
Maybe there are a lot of Filipinos “out to get you”, but my motorcycle friend found out, the hard way, that there are a lot of Americans out to get you too. So what do you folks think about the “Filipinos always out to get you” issue?
Fast forward a couple years to 2006 when I fist moved here to Marilao, Bulacan.
One morning I went to our local SM mall and I stopped for coffee at a franchised outlet of a popular Aussie coffee-house chain, Moca Blends. I ordered a coffee and some small sweet bun. Drank the coffee, ate the bun and then asked for my bill.
The pretty young waitress laid the little tray on my table with my bill, it came up to P160 … call it three dollars US at the time.
I said to myself, “well there wasn’t al that much effort involved in serving me, but hey, she’s pretty and pleasant and I’m feeling good, so I’ll just drop these two 100 peso notes on the payment tray and go on about my shopping … she’ll be happy with that P40 peso tip.”
Only thing is, I wasn’t paying attention as I got the money ut of my wallet. What I thought were two P100 notes were actually P1,000 notes. So, completely oblivious to what I was doing, I was getting up and walking out of the place leaving a $40-something dollar tip.
Wow. How stupid of me. And how lucky for her. I mean I had already left the money and was walking away .. all she had to do was pocket the huge tip .. and seriously, that tip was probably two weeks pay for her.
What would you have done? What to you think one of those “out to get you” Filipinos would have done?
What she did, bless her honest soul, was to run after me and say, “Sir, please wait for your change” as she handed me the extra P1,000 note and went to the register to make my change.
Did you expect her to do that, or to say nothing and pocket the difference? I certainly don’t feel “the Filipino is always out to get me”, that’s for sure. What about you?
Now, last story for today. Sunday last my wife and I took a trip up to Zambales, visiting some family members there. On Saturday I had been to the bank, and I got P20,000, (about $450 USD at today’s rate) for our February household expenses, food shopping, etc. With any luck at all, that will last us the whole month.
I gave P10,000 to my wife and tucked the other P10,000 carefully in my wallet. Now, of course, I know there are pickpockets and such, and, of course, “You now there are always Filipinos out to get the foreigner”, so I keep my wallet in my front pants pocket and try to be really careful.
During the trip on Sunday, I spent close to P2000, mostly on diesel fuel … which I normally only need once a month or so. So I had P8000 plus still in my wallet, along with some credit cards, my driver;’s license, military ID, and business cards I’ve had made up for PhilFAQS.com.
Someplace between the last place I spent money (a gas station on Subic Freeport) and our home, my wallet decided to get a divorce. (actually, it was in a rest area on the NLEX expressway, but I didn’t know, at the time), that my wallet decided it had been with me long enough.
I do know that when I got to the house in Marilao, and went fishing for the keys yo open our gate in my front pocket, I got that horrible “empty” feeling.
OMG. No wallet. Wala. Nada. Nothing. No trace. “Oh sh*t!. How could I have been so careless? Oh my. Why do I do now. And also, “Oh you idiot Dave, why on earth did you have so much cash in your wallet, and why did you have so many cards there, most of which you never even use here in the Philippines.”?
I’m here to tell you, it was an embarrassing and really devastating feeling. The money, of course, oh well, that’s gone. And the ID’s are replaceable, with a lot of hassle. And the credit cards, well, of course they can be canceled. But my goodness, what a feeling. Bad.
Both my wife and I believe in God and in prayer, so I am not ashamed to admit I said a lot of fervent prayers that night … but you know, God doesn’t always have time to deal with these small events, and maybe He was teaching me not to be so careless, etc., etc. Prayer is always answered, but we often don’t like the answer we get.
Face it, Dave, you were careless and you paid the price. The wallet is gone … and besides, you “know” how many Filipinos are out to get you, don’t you. There’s no sense even thinking about retracing your steps and looking for that wallet … don’t you remember the Brooks and Dunn song, “Lost an Found” ..
… It’s kinda like a lost and found
In a border town
Askin’ bout a diamond ring
They just look at you
Like you’ve lost your mind
Say they haven’t seen a thing …
I called the credit card companies, cancelled the cards, and went to bed, depressed and angry with myself.
Monday morning I got up, had some coffee, checked my email, wrote an article for PhilFAQS and the told myself, “OK, Dude, enough self-pity and enough time-wasting. You know you need to go to the LTO and file a lost license report and request a replacement, no more putting things off. Get moving!”
“Yes”, I said to myself, “You’re right. I’ll just check my email one more time before I shut down.” Can you guess what I found in my new mail?
The message said my wallet had bene found in the parking lot of a service area the night before, and gave the gentleman’s contact numbers so I could get in touch to recover my lost possession.
Needless to say, I wasted no time in a., thanking God and b., getting in touch with Josh.
He’s a businessman, has his office in a town nearby, and I drove there straight away, and met Josh and his boss, Jun, who was the fellow who actually had found the wallet when he stopped to eat at the service area, probably just minutes after I had departed, sans wallet.
I did make one stop on my way to Josh’s office. I stopped at Red Ribbon and bought the biggest cake they had, wishing they had an even nicer one
Jun and Josh were just two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet (and there were others on the staff of the business, too, who were friendly and helpful, sorry I didn’t write down everyone’s name, but my thanks go out to all, just the same).
Josh is a busy manager. he didn’t need to take time out of his day to spend it tracking down some careless kano.
Jun is a busy executive, he owns several businesses, does some farming, has all the business and family commitments you would expect, and certainly owes nothing to unimportant passers-by like me.
But this is the Philippines. Filipinos, certainly in my experience, go out of their way, time and time again, to be helpfull, in so many different ways.
And also, in my experience, they go out of their way to be honest, to. And it takes a strong sense of honesty to find a lost wallet and spend half your day tracking down the owner, when they easily could have just put the money in their pocket, tossed the wallet away and gone on with their business.
I mean, what did any of them owe me? They never met me, they don’t live next door, and the chances of our paths ever crossing except for the wallet incident would be extremely remote.
But that’s not the way they are made. Their parents, their schools, their churches and the other influences in their lives have taught them to be honest, and to do the right thing, even if it takes some effort, and some will power.
God bless you, Jun and Josh and all the other Filipinos who have helped me have such a pleasant life here in the Philippines. Maraming, Maraming Salamat Po!
For those of you who fervently believe that “the Filipino is out to get you”, and that as a foreigner, you are sure to “pay the skin tax” , and all those other derogatory terms … her’s a thought, based on my real-world experience.
Do yourself (and me) a favor, and stay home … the Philippines is not for you.