Here is an excerpt from a comment I received recently from reader who wanted to share his real-world experiences in the Philippines and also share his thoughts and plans for the future. I’ve added a few of my own editorial comments, but in the main I have left the reader’s thought strictly word-for-word as they came in.
A special note to the grammar police. Feel free to comment however you wish but please try to give a little thought to what you are reading here and the the very personal effort it takes to put oneself out on public display. If you really have no comment about some possible usage/mis-usage of the English language, why not go rad elsewhere? It’s hurtful in many ways and stifles people creativity and willingness to share just to make comments that criticize the structure of their writing.
Best advice I have for all you self-appointed language policemen came from my mother (maybe from yours too). If you have nothing good to say, why not just say nothing at all?
Anyway, without further ado, here goes:
I just wanted to take a minute to try and help/correct a few things (as I see it). First let me say I have been here in the Philippines for the past 7 years, and 2 times before that for, short stays starting in year 2000.
Over that time, I have had my share of bumps and bruises. I have had joyous times, wild and crazy relationships, I have made best friends and mortal enemies. In short, LIFE. Life as it exists all over the world. If I have learned anything form my time here, it is that the real problem we foreigners encounter here is mainly due to our own biases, upbringing, culture, and experiences.
(editor’s note) Oh how true that is. So many unhappy situations foreigners find themselves in start with the exact same thought: “Why Don’t They”?. Why don’t they indeed? Perhaps because it’s their country and their way of life and you were not put on God’s green earth to “show people the way”. Back off and you’ll be much happier and live a lot longer. And please note, this is advice to me, myself as well. I have a great deal of trouble remembering any unhappy situation I have been in during my six years in the Philippines that was not caused, or at the least, greatly exacerbated by my foreigner-based “Let’s do it the right way” attitude.)
Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of insanely stupid things that go on here every single day. Rarely a day passes where I cannot help to just sit there with my mouth hanging open at the unjust, frustrating, stupid, lazy, ignorant, bigoted, unnecessary, and totally preventable things I have just witnessed. Having said that, yes we Americans are better educated, more in tune with multicultural situations, more worldly, more informed, more logical, and for sure, more of a pain in the rear to be around most days of the week.
We foreigners encounter all sorts of situations and we resolve them the way we know how. We apply our experience, our background, our knowledge, and sometimes we insist that it should be done or completed as we say it should … simply because we believe it to be right.
Well I want to give all of you who live here or those of you who plan to visit or to live here … just a small piece of very informed advice … do not think you can come here and apply your country’s standards, beliefs, logic, righteousness … it simply will not work and you will be stressed out worse than the days you spent at your job, counting the ways to escape to the Philippines to see that little beauty that is so kind and loving to you in your internet chats with her.
You need to relax, go with the flow, do as the locals do. And what do I mean by that?
Here are some tips or advice … take it or leave it, disagree or concur … it is totally up to you.
1. If you get seriously sick …d o not follow what the local doctor says … do your own internet research and therapy. You can buy most ANY medicine here without a prescription. Take charge of your own health. This is not the USA, and honestly the average foreign citizen is better informed about medical issues than the doctors here. If your in bad shape, go back home. They don’t have the equipment or expertise to help you. All wealthy Filipinos fly abroad for serious medical problems.
(ed. Well I won’t disparage Philippine doctors quite as strongly as this reader does. I have met and been treated by some very good ones, but wealthy Filipinos DO, almost universally, fly away to seek medical attention elsewhere on a very regular basis. I strongly agree also with the advice to research and manage your own treatment. In any country if you do not know the ‘why’ or the ‘what” your doctor is treating you or prescribing for you, you are being negligent. I meet people all the time who are on medication that they can not even begin to explain the reason for, much less tell me anything about the negatives of that medication and/or possible side effects. “My doctor told me to take it”. Sorry, wrong answer. It’s not your doctor’s life, it’s YOUR life. Doctors should give medical advice, informed patients should make informed decisions based on that advice.)
2. Eke out a living the best way you can. Never mind following all this nonsense about Biz permits, work visas. Most of the time, all the advice, help, instructions, or procedures they ask you to follow is for one reason only … To get a commission off your unnecessary spending, either by legal means or normally, under the table.
Do as the locals do…go under the radar… (Look along the road, how many sari-sari do you see? … now tell me how many of those have a biz permit? Pay BIR fees? A mayors permit or health card? A license? All of them DO have one thing. They have an understanding of how this work here. A friend in the office is 10 times more powerful that that “stinking badge” you think you need.
(ed. Well very sari-sari store in my neighborhood has a Mayor’s’ permit and a stack of paperwork and little registration license plates hung all over their wall, but the advice above has a certain reality. especially here in this artificial world where people write me all the time for advice about business and jobs. I frequently get disheartened or even bored by the amount of effort people put into “getting legal” before they even turn the very first peso in any real-world activities. The laws are complex, conflicting and overly broad. You need to answer, for yourself, do you want to live and earn here, or do you want to spend your life in mental masturbation, searching website after website finding reasons you can’t?)
3. Be prepared to drink like a fish, eat stuff you never dreamed of, travel by dangerous means, and experience the most egregious behavior you can imagine, from all walks of life … from pushy street kids to high fluting criminal politicos, without ever batting an eye.
it is normal here, so relax and let life pass you by … you have no control, no purpose, and no power… all you have is your self control and your foreign money.
(ed. Some of the best advice on living in the Philippines I have ever read, in one concise paragraph. As a foreigner we have little or no rights and essentially no purpose whatsoever in living here. Lose the ideas about how you are going to bring jobs to the people, show them “the way”, etc. Come here, and be happy in thine own self. Let someone else be Jesus or the “Great White Father” … those roles have already been filled far better than you will be able to)
4. You can live here forever with these conditions…
A) Don’t be a criminal … do whatever you want but NEVER break a felony criminal law, because the same reason you are loved and respected for your money, is the same reason they love to indict your criminal activity … the Filipino ego is boosted by knowing a foreigner that they are better than … besides this, it may be a payday for them as well.
B) Learn to live like local, spend every peso like it was a dollar. Seek out value in your purchases. Example: If you want to rent a place…send your girlfriend…because as soon as the owner sees that white foreigner face, the price will double.
C) Learn to have activities where you can share with the locals you know. I do not mean give nice big parties where you pay for everything, that is a huge mistake and your setting you self up for having “User friend”, or worse the criminal element will see you as a target for robbery or violence … or even simple jealously. The kind of sharing I mean is meeting them at the beach and bringing a six pack of imported beer or a homemade food that you love from your country, to let them sample.
D) Speaking a few words of local dialect to let them correct you is awesome to locals as well.
These simple things will give you more mileage and let you keep more money, than you can imagine.
Well there you have it…my opinion of a few things…(I have lots more, he he he) Mabuhay!
(ed. Well I for one really appreciate the advice and the sharing. If you have lot’s more to share, then feel free to write more any time. I’m always delighted to post real-world content like this. Maraming salamat po, Many many thanks.)