Living in the Philippines — Beware the High Horse

One trait a lot of my foreigner friends share is a pronounced disdain for the Philippines.  One often wonders why on earth they would live here, if they think so little of the country.  Mystifies me. Maybe some of them feel trapped here because for financial or legal reasons they can’t live in their homeland, I really can’t say.  I live here by choice … my wife and I both carry the “magic” Blue passport, and my income is completely portable, so we could live in almost any country.

High on the list of habitual degrading comments I hear day in and day out are continual complaints about the much ballyhooed corruption in the Philippines.  Some Americans go on and on, railing about corruption at all levels from taxi drivers who never seem to have small change to people in the highest levels of government.  Often these folk come off as if the USA was the world’s bastion of honest dealing, somehow anointed by the Almighty as the “lily white” “City on a Hill” where corrupt people, especially elected officials are always “squeaky clean” election process would never dream of trading upon their high office for favors and other shady dealings.

How to Move to the Philippines Manual

Well, as the old expression goes, :I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night”.  I was born and raised in New jersey and also used to have a job that involved shipping cargo in and out of the Port of New York as well as the Camden, New jersey and Philadelphia docks.  There is another old saying I used to hear a lot as a boy.  “Get down off your high horse.”


come/get (down) off your high horse
to stop talking as if you were better or more clever than other people:
It’s time you came down off your high horse and admitted you were wrong.
(from Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

There is no doubt, no doubt at all that there is wide-spread corruption in the Philippines.  It’s a fact of life, just as there is a very wide-spread sex trade (I love the foreigners here who ignore the streetwalkers in their own cities to cast stones at Angles or Subic … something about “motes” and “beams” comes to mind buy I have already used to many homilies here).  There are big-time illegal gambling problems too, as well as a flourishing illicit drug trade.  The list could go on.  But as a foreigner, I really don’t feel it is my place to spend a large portion of my say pointing these problems out … especially to my Filipino hosts, often in a condescending, demeaning tone.  I am just one man, responsible to take care of my own behavior, and I am not the “policeman” of the world, much less the special conscience of the Philippines.

If you really, really, really feel your day is not complete without railing against corruption and people betraying the public trust, perhaps you should confine yourself to news from “home”.  This little item caught my eye this morning:

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) — Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted Wednesday on 11 of the 16 corruption charges against him in a case that included the discovery of $90,000 in his freezer.

Former Rep. William Jefferson arrives at U.S. District Court with his wife, Andrea, on June 9.

Former Rep. William Jefferson arrives at U.S. District Court with his wife, Andrea, on June 9.

A federal court jury convicted Jefferson on four bribery counts, three counts of money laundering, three counts of wire fraud and one count of racketeering. He was acquitted on five other counts including wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Jefferson, a 62-year-old Democrat, was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4, 2007, about two years after federal agents said they found the cash in his freezer. Authorities said the cash was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video.

Jefferson had pleaded not guilty. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 150 years in prison, with sentencing tentatively set for October 30. … full story here

And then of course we had one of my favorite recent stories (I used to walk the same streets as some of the politicians and clergymen … it’s a story right out of David Chase’s “Sopranos”, except that truth is often stranger than fiction:

44 Charged by U.S. in New Jersey Corruption Sweep

New Jersey corruption sweep "perp walk"

Louis Lanzano/Associated Press

Agents led suspects from F.B.I. headquarters in Newark on Thursday. The inquiry began with questions on money laundering.

A two-year corruption and international money-laundering investigation stretching from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn to Israel and Switzerland culminated in charges against 44 people on Thursday, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said … Full story here:

I’m sure a lot of Filipinos love hearing about US political integrity, exemplified by Marshall Clement Sanford Jr. who after all, didn’t use public funds to finance his clandestine trips to his Brazilian love nest .. he used his wife’s personal fortune which he has spent a lifetime squandering.  Great example of the innate “integrity” of American public officials.

And of course we have our good friend Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich another exemplary US public official guarding the public trust, selling US senate seats to the highest bidder … a true American entrepreneur.  (don’t forget to check how many of his Illinois predecessors left office under a corruption cloud).  Rod is hardly unique.

And don’t forget Ted Stevens, long time “servant” of the people of Alaska (another US state where I have first hand experience dealing with public servants who are “crooked as a dog’s hind leg”).  And the lovely, public-spirited governor who ct and ran when the number of verified ethics complaints against her approximated the number of days she had left in office.

And a personal favorite, Randall Harold Cunningham, another senior elected official in the pocket of military defense contractors who, Like Sanford, also disgraced the uniform I wore.  he cried often when confessing his many sins.  Not, I think, because he was truly repentant, but because he’s been caught.  He was never seen crying while driving in his defense contractor provided Rolls Royce.  Talk ab

out blatant abuse of the public trust ….

Enough.  You get the drift I think.  The Philippines has corruption, but believe me, the US certainly has more than it’s share as well.  Beware the “high horse” attitude.  If you can stand just one more “homey homily” from Dave, remember the Bible verse about who is allowed to cast the first stone.  Beware the high horse syndrome.


  1. Paul Thompson says

    Agree, agree, and agree. But I feel you were way to kind to our U.S.of A. The hill is a bastion of corruption, and you only hit on a few, but then if one tried to list them all, the list would be longer than War and Peace. When I have to listen to Cano’s and Expat’s gripe I will give the directions to the AirPort! I choose to live here, and if it’s to much for them, than leave. I have not seen a flight booked todate. But this problem is not just here, Pureto Rico had it’s fair share of “Ugly American’s”.

  2. Chas says

    Hi Philly,

    Some people need to get real,corruption is world wide and many countries are higher up the list than PI.
    As for griping about being ripped of,its human nature for the seller to try and get the best price.
    Its our job to negotiate the lowest price.
    All my life i have bartered for everything that is not a fixed price,and i love doing it.

    regards Chas.

    • says

      You got that right, Chas. I read anews item a few days back from a major US news organization. They used it as an example of how “deep the recession” had affected the US retail industry. The story related how afellow went out to buy a new lawn mower and instead of paying the store price he negotiated it dowwn 10% … from $4,00 USD to $3,600 USD. Wow. You mean people in the US are so poor they can only afford #3500 lawn mowers? geez, tings are worse off than I thought. My lawn mower is named Jomar, he is toyally remote controlled, voic eioperated, even works pretty well on days when I am not there … he not only mows, he weeds, or til;ls, or trims bushes and trees and caries away all out recycalables. For this I pay P200 a week, plus on cold days I usually throw in a cheap Cup of Noodles so he can have something hot when he gets home. His mother is gone, his dad is in the hospital, but the other say I heard a noise through the so7und of the rain and looked outside … it was Jomar singing as he finishe dup the morning work. And Americans are bad off becuasethey can only afford a $3600 lawn mower? Let’s see, that works out to about 18 and ahalf years of employment for Jomar … you think I ought to start charging him for the Cup o Noodles, due to the recession? LoL

  3. says

    I have been researching my upcoming retirement to the Philippines for some time now. Just a not to thank you for posting some current, real-time information I can really use. So many of the other sites are dated, or just plain wrong. I saved this site to my favorites and will gladly point any curious expats in this direction. Thanks again.

    • says

      Thank you Jim, you are more than welcome. If my information hel[s, I have succeeded. With regards to some folks who are dated, in fairness, this is a lot more work than many ever think it is … many are trapped by the idea that you stick up a few pages and people come, but it doesn’t work that way, so a lot of those fellows and gals are doing what they can.

      All have some value, I take my hat off to anyone publishing in this market … the rewards are minimal and there are a lot of grumpy folks out there who are much better at finding fault than they are at reading … one of the reasons Im republishing a lot of my older work here.

      Good luck with the move, don’t plan too much … that is the number one mistake I see people make … paralysis by analysis. It will always work out different than you planned, sometimes even better, retiring here is not the life and death decision that some make it out to be. Planes fly both ways..

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