Retreat From the Philippines, What Will Be Your Reason

I had something else in mind today but I just happened across an item on the front page of fellow Philippine web site owner and US retiree in the Philippines, Barry Ruth’s excellent site on Philippine living.

The thrust of the article was that for more than 10 years now the estimated number of US citizens living in the Philippines (the majority retirees, semi-retirees and a few entrepreneurs, has stayed pretty steady at about 250,000 or so.  If the Philippines is really a great retirement location, why isn’t this figure going up?

The article went on to mention some of the major reasons many folks move here to the Philippines and then change their minds and return to the USA.  I’d like to touch on the top 10 or so of those reasons along with 4years or so of perspective.  The views expressed here are mine alone.  These reasons are listed in no particular order:

==>>Inability to adapt to Philippine culture:  If not the biggest reason, this ought to be way up at the top.  I hear continuously in conversations, read in blog comments, forum quotes and questions I receive continuously comments that all seem to center around one thought:  The Philippines is run differently, they do things differently, and essentially they won’t do things the way I want them done.

Well, at the risk of tarnishing your view of paradise (you never heard me call it that), let me make you aware of something a great many of my fellow Americans seem to have great difficulty in dealing with … the Philippines is a whole different country, and it is run by Filipinos.  It’s their country, plain and simple.  If you come here, even if you “marry into” the country as I did, oh and let’s not forget, one more time, no matter how much you spend here … you are still a guest in someone else’s home.  Just because you are certain in your heart that you know better than they do, your opinion is not needed.

I was going to just end this thought here with a famous (or perhaps infamous) quote of the the first Filipino president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon.  Then I found a much more elegant way to mention that quote and some other important ideas about an independent Philippines from his grandson, instead:

AFTER THE MASSACRE at Amritsar, Mahatma Gandhi said to British officials led by the viceroy of India: “I beg you to accept that there is no people on earth who wouldn’t prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power.”

About 10 years earlier, a Filipino said basically the same thing: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” It was a sound bite heard around the world. But what all too few recalled was the essential sentence that came next: “Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.”



To this day, there are Filipinos who, whenever something goes wrong, cackle and say, “Look, Quezon got his wish. We have a government run like hell!” As if it is something uniquely Quezonian-and Filipino-to want to run our own lives, badly as the case may be, rather than entrust it to the guidance of foreigners.

What Quezon and Gandhi said roughly a decade apart is the essence of nationalism: a people, a nation, must have the chance to make good and bad decisions, because there is simply no substitute for decisions made for one’s self, by one’s self. Government will not always be good, leaders will not always be the best, but in the end, a government and its leaders must be selected by the people and no one else. Love of country, nationalism, requires that a people have the freedom both to make mistakes and achieve great things. After all, the lives of individuals as well as nations require learning, and one cannot learn without, at times, doing wrong or making mistakes. Surely it is better to make one’s own mistakes, to collectively endure errors of one’s choosing, rather than undertake the same risks at the direction of a colonial power.

Nationalism is not my country, right or wrong, or everything for my countrymen at the expense of all aliens, but rather a more fundamental appreciation that one belongs to a people who have a country, and that the destiny of that country is in the hands of a people free to make errors but at the same time rectify their mistakes. It involves a sense of stewardship over a particular territory that geography and history have made the primary responsibility of no one else on earth but those who inhabit that territory…  (My emphasis. I encourage you to read the whole article here and to reflect upon it seriously, because, although there may be times you want to say, as a Filipino lawyer friend of mine has often said, “Manuel, you got your damn wish”, there is more to it than a funny tagline to utter every time something seems to have gone “Filipino wrong”.)

image As an American, it is incumbent upon us to reflect that once upon a time the “greatest nation on Earth” was a group of muddy-streeted ramshackle towns populated mostly by ner-do-wells and other “expats” from various European countries who often didn’t want them in the first place.  Mistakes were made.  Experiments were tried and failed.  Corruption, even today still raises it’s “Whack a Mole” head more often than the average American may be able to admit.

But we felt so strongly about the need for our own independence we fought a war over it … and the Filipinos did too.  So think through what I’m saying here and decide for yourself if you are going to be able to live here and (most of the time) keep your mouth shut … or if you are going to be constantly enraged and stressed by everything you see wrong on a daily basis.  The answer you come up with for yourself may go a long way toward improving the quality of your life, perhaps even the length of it.

Well, the old clock on the wall tells me I have already spent too long on this one reason, but that’s OK, so far as I am concerned I said something that needed to be said and highlighted something from Manolo that I can’t believe I have ever come across, that tells the story ever so much more eloquently than I can.

Are you planning to come here and make it an us versus them time in your life, or are you willing to accept that things are different here and if you do come to live you will not be in Kansas any more?



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