I better start this post by apologizing to "The Boss", fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen who started his recording career with a song that was pretty much a flop for him, with the chorus "Blinded by the light, cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night." I couldn’t resist the somewhat strained connection to the similar sounding phrase which I use to represent a number of people I’ve met who probably have no business even visiting the Philippines, let alone trying to live here.
You’ll recall I published a couple posts recently about my mother-in-law’s Christmas medical odyssey. Over the past few weeks a similar story has been going on very nearby, involving the sister of one of my Filipino neighbors. I’ll call him Juan and also disguise his sister’s name and her husband .. a fellow "White" Norte Americano … the guy who prompte3d me to write this story. I’ve had this in my drafts folder for a couple days now, not really sure if I really wanted to write it, but I really feel it needs to be said, so here it is, warts included.
A few days before Christmas I went out to open my driveway gate and take my car out when I saw a sort of heavyweight (like me) stranger in my neighbor’s yard across the street … kind of looking around with a disbeleiveing llok on his face … and he obviously wasn’t from around these parts.
When he saw me, his face lit up and he came out into the street to introduce himself, looking around from side to side like a bank robber on the lam from the cops.
"Hello, I’m Fred, I’m (the neighbor’s) brother in law, my wife is his sister, Martha. Is it safe to stand here and talk"?
Well that kind of threw me for a loop I’ve lived on this block for 14 months now, I know all my neighbors (Filipino, of course) by name and our street is so quiet that neighborhood dogs are liable to stretch out in the middle of the pavement for a nap, only getting up if an occasional car comes by and toots at them. It was about 9 am and everything was exactly as normal, the kids from number 10 next door were up the street playing with the kids in front of number 8, Sherman, my neighbor in number 2 up at the end if the street had just driven by on his motorcycle and waved, and down at the far end of the block I could see my wife’s favorite vegetable ladies who come by twice a week.
"Of course it’s safe", I told him, "what were you expecting"?
"Well", he replied, "this is the Philippines you know, and ‘they’ all warned me at home how dangerous it is here!"
I asked him if any of the folks who had warned him had ever actually been to the Philippines, and he allowed as to how he didn’t know, but doubted that they had. I wonder why there are so many "experts" out there who give advice, but don’t really know a darn thing about the Philippines by any factual experience … but i held my tongue … I’ve dealt with so many Westerners with this preconceived "I already know" attitude that it bores me.
Then Fred asked me, "How long are you staying here"?
I replied with my standard answer, "Probably the rest of my life, unless I ever get bored and decide to move somewhere else."
I wish you could have seen this guy’s face for real. You know how we have the expression about somebody turning gray? I’ve seen people in coffins in the funeral home that looked more alive than Fred suddenly did.
"My God", he exclaimed, "You mean you’re not going back to the US"? "How can you stand it here?"
Well, frankly, I don’t think it’s really much of a conversation starter or friendship facilitator to travel 8,000 miles, walk up to a persona and openly question their judgement like that … I don’t really give a care where Fred chooses to live, why is it his positron in life to criticize mine … but that’s, again, one of the most common ways Westerners start their relationships with me here, so, Just like with Filipinos who meet me for the first time and ask, "Why don’t you and your wife have children?", I just make allowances.
I can see this story getting longer, because there’s a lot to say about Fred and his epiphany, so I’ll continue it RSN (Real Soon Now)