Live in the Philippines | Philippines Blog for Expats
As an American who has lived in the Philippines for more than 17 years, I can teach you how to make the move yourself! Not only moving, but having a HAPPY LIFE in the Philippines. Most Expats never achieve that!
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting.”
Many of you, dear readers, who have completed their trek to the Philippines in search of that “better life,” know the feeling. Those of you with firm plans for making the same trek are, most likely, experiencing the feeling while you read this. Those considering whether or not to make this trek will undoubtedly have a few pangs in your future.
So many things fill the mind while getting ready for that big trip to the Philippines. Thankfully, sources of information such as LiP will answer most questions that a future Philippine resident may conjure. But what about that feeling? How does one cope with it? How does one control it?
I certainly don’t have the answers, and I’ve yet to find anyone who does.
I’m talking about making those “countdown days” before boarding the silver bird a bit more bearable. It’s sort of like the weeks before Christmas that some have lived through during childhood. Concentration on anything not related to “the big day” gets tougher and tougher as that magic day approaches.
For your humble scribe, childhood Christmas times are revisited annually. As with the Yogi Berra quote that helped put a title on this note, it is, indeed, like deja vu all over again.
THE FREQUENT BALIKBAYAN
As many know, my years are split into days in the Philippines and days in the States. The latter location could be anywhere outside of the Philippines, but for me, family, friends, and a bit of business dictate where those non-Philippines days are spent.
Currently (and unfortunately) I’m enduring the days outside of the Philippines. While it’s great to see family and friends once again, and to take care of business issues that require my physical presence, that old, familiar feeling of anticipation comes rushing in almost immediately upon stepping onto the tarmac of the local airport. From there, it builds to its crescendo just minutes before takeoff on the trip back to the land I now consider “home.”
It’s a time of preparation and hope. It’s also a time for making lists of various “to do’s” and trying to check items off the lists while trying not to forget anything important.
CHRISTMAS IS COMING
Funny thing – the pangs of anticipation don’t appear before the trip back to the States. Then, it’s more of a dread. I’d rather remain “at home” but, for some things, one has to accept life as it comes.
Another childhood analogy, for the feelings that precede the trip to the States, could be those feelings of late summertime just prior to the start of another school year. Then, summer vacation felt like it was too short to accomplish everything that was dreamed of during the previous school year, and the unfulfilled dreams would remain just that.
Traveling back to the Philippines, however, renews the “pre-Christmas spirit.” It’s time to go shopping at Costco or some other large discount store for those hard-to-get items that will fill the Balikbayan Boxes. It’s also time to check the passports and, if need be, renew them.
Too, it’s time to scour the various travel-related websites, looking for the best bargains in airline tickets. The itinerary has to be carefully planned so that flight connections can be made without excessive time spent waiting for that next flight.
All in all, it’s just like the built-up to Christmas for me. Shopping for “gifts,” packaging and sending them off to a distant Christmas tree, and taking care of all of the “trimmings” to insure enjoyment of the season “back home.”
So much time and so little to do? No, there’s plenty to do but the time feels to be overly sufficient. Like a youngster in December, I’m counting down the days until I step aboard that flight for home.
While counting, however, I’ll fill those days with as much activity as I can. Priority will be assigned to those activities connected with my return home.
Last week I took a ride on the jeepney, perhaps it was a “fateful Jeepney ride”. Maybe not. Let me tell you what happened.
My wife is abroad
Feyma is in the USA right now, as are two of our sons, Aaron and Jared. So, I am left here in Davao City with our oldest son, Chris. Feyma and the other two boys will be in the USA for the next several months. Feyma and I have been married for nearly 28 years now, so being apart is a bit lonely for me. I can deal with it, but having a companion is something that I enjoy and miss.
I went to the City
Last week, I had some business I needed to take care of, so I went into the City for a half day or so. We live in Davao City, one of the largest cities in the Philippines, but we live a bit on the outskirts of town, and I don’t head to the city center every day.
Living a bit far out of the city center, I almost always ride the jeepney, as taxi fares can add up. I actually enjoy riding the jeepney, though, anyway. I enjoy it because it is kind of a cultural experience in my mind. There is only one jeepney route that comes out where we live, so we tend to see a lot of the same people on the jeepney when we ride. It is a good way to meet and get to know our neighbors because of that.
My Fateful Jeepney Ride
When I went home
When I had completed the things I needed to get done, I headed over to an area where I knew I could catch a Jeepney home. There is one particular place in the City where the Jeepneys that go to our area wait for passengers. So, I headed over there, because it is always sure you can get a Jeepney there.
When I boarded the Jeepney, there was only one other passenger on the vehicle. It was a girl, probably in her mid-20s, I’d say. She was sitting up at the very front of the Jeepney. I like to sit at the very back by the door, so I sat down. It was time to pay for the ride (P18), so I passed my fare to the girl (or should I say young lady) so she could give it to the driver. I didn’t pay the girl much attention, other than thanking her for passing on my payment.
After 5 minutes or so, the jeepney was full and we were headed toward the area where I live.
Then I noticed something
Bob Martin with his friend
Maybe 10 or 15 minutes into my fateful jeepney ride, I looked up toward the front of the jeepney. I noticed something. That girl that I had passed my change to caught my eye, and I wanted to talk to her. I just knew I had to talk to her. It was eating at me. But, I was all the way in the back of the Jeepney, and she was all the way in the front. There were about 10 people between where I was sitting and where she was sitting.
Honestly, I kept watching her for the duration of the 40-minute ride on the jeepney. I couldn’t help it. Perhaps it was fate, thus my fateful jeepney ride.
Maybe I could talk to her when we got off of the Jeepney
I decided that since I knew I had to talk to this girl, I would get off of the jeepney at the same stop where she got off. We both seemed to live in the same area anyway since we were on the same jeepney. I was hoping that she would get off near where I would get off of the jeepney, not far from my house.
As we got near to my exit point, near my neighborhood, she was still firmly ensconced in her seat on the jeepney. What would I do? She was not moving.
Well, as I thought it over, I made my decision. I really wanted to talk to this girl, but it was time for me to get off of the jeepney. What did I do?
Check back for my next article and I will share with you what I did. You might be surprised at the way the whole thing worked out. I know I was surprised. Not being the type of guy who normally approaches girls like this, I was nervous. I will explain it all to you next week. Stay tuned!
On another occasion, we were drinking coffee at the Mall. Arik always seemed to appear a half hour late for our meetings. We had met 6 years ago, and I had found his talks so compelling, I practically begged him to give me more. He was rather secretive about his past, but he did say, “I am a product of a school”.
Today, I’m writing this book about his teachings. I never thought I’d be doing this in retirement, either. The sheer volume of the material is ominous. Then he asked me to publish our talks before he went to Mindanao last year. But, I’m on fire now and cannot stop.
We were talking about the people who were hurriedly walking, as if late for an appointment. I told him I was no longer in a hurry to be anywhere because I was retired. I said I was so happy to be retired so I may spend the days with my studies.
“Well, are you ready to collapse time?”, he declared.
“Collapse time?”, I grinned incredulously, “What are you talking about?”
Arik said, “You know, time can be canceled, thought can be canceled”.
I was mildly confused and smiled, “Arik? Why would I want to do that? It sounds impossible. And, anyway, what’s the point?”
“The point is Max, to taste the blood of Life. You don’t have it now, you know. …Life. You’ve got a memorized, artificial life you take as being real. You’ve imitated every person you have ever met, you’ve personalized every experience you’ve ever had. The giant hoax has you like a chicken in a shoebox. I can see the layers of your education wrapping your heart like many leaves, but you do not even know it. That’s the false person thinking. This is crazy-lost.”
When I had first met Arik and talked with him, I thought his comments were insulting and his demeanor condescending. But, when I suspended my attitudes- I seemed to get rewarded with insights into myself and others that were strangely different, but refreshing.
And, he always seemed to end a train of thought with, “And, you don’t even know it.” Or, “You can’t even see it.” This had me hooked on the wish to see and know what the heck he was talking about.
“What do you mean I don’t have life, Arik! That is absurd!”
He looked into my eyes for a long time, then down at his coffee. “Real life lies outside of linear time, and I can show you how to make it vertical if you pay attention”. “You have to really want it, Max”.
For the longest time, I was wary of Arik. Did he want something from me? What was his motive in his willingness to talk to me? When I had finally dropped my suspicions of him after many meetings, I knew he was well-meaning and guileless. Indeed, as good a friend a man could have. He obviously had a sincere interest in me. He told me I was damaged as a human being, but still teachable. (I was 61 years old!). I had to find out what he meant. Even if he was telling me things I didn’t want to hear. And, it usually was.
“So, Arik, please tell me, how may I re-teach myself?”
He started, “You use thought to understand everything in your life- that’s trying to do it with imagination. Granted, there is a world of Life you do not see, but it doesn’t lie within your imagination. You see, if you dream up a fantasy-life into existence that seems sweet and pleasant – on the other side of that dream will lie misery. What is required of you is to abandon both sides and place yourself outside that whole thought-life altogether. On the thought-level, you are always vulnerable to its reverse.”
“You have placed yourself in a teachable position by admitting your lack of knowledge. So we will climb the mountain together, out of the thought-life, which is the same as the time-life. The bell of Truth will guide you out of your dream. Everyone can hear the bell of Truth at an early age, but your upbringing smothers it, so the bell hides.
We ordered more coffee, and I asked, “Gee, Arik? Is everyone dreaming?”
“Everyone is dreaming who has not found the blood of Life”. And he proceeded, “You have seen reverses in your life, but you still prefer living in the jungle hoping a snake won’t bite you. Snakes inside you and outside you. But, you fake it, hoping your fellow people won’t see your weakness. To awaken from that dream will lead you to the blood of Life. What your people tell you as truth is fake -and they fake it along with you. They flat do not know any better. But, as you climb out and awaken, you hear the bell and it’s tones match what you yearn for inside your heart. A bell long ago silenced, you recognize and wish to feel its tones in your chest. You haven’t learned what it means yet- to meet the world with your heart. Once you have mastered this, you have command over first, yourself, and then the entire world.”
What he said had made me rather excited. “Do you have contact with this Blood of Life, Arik? How is this done? Can you say more?”
“Slow down, Max. It will be long hard work for you because you are covered with many leaves. You have to make yourself transparent by watching- and burning off the many logs of your cage inside. I can tell you that you will have wished you had done that many years ago instead of following your worm of curiosity into dreamland, and being gullible to any old story. It isn’t as simple as just changing clothes. But, the blood of Life will appear just as swiftly as you make yourself ready for it.”
“Why should I even believe you Arik?, I said. “This sounds too fantastic, like some kind of fairy-tale. Tell me, what is the blood of Life like”?
“You will want to kiss God in gratitude for your arising. A surge of strength will fill your body, and your heart is pounding with so much joy, you can hardly contain yourself. You will laugh for the first time, then you will keep laughing like a small child in awe of your new-found treasure. The relief of not carrying yourself around anymore is indescribable. Beauty is everywhere and Gods face is smiling back at you. You’ll feel love for the first time. (Arik emphasized the word, FEEL.)You’ll see, God has been waiting for you all this time- but you wanted to hang on to that idiot inside you whose kidnapped you all these hard years. You’ll know that Life was too sacred to ever end. You are always safe in The blood of Life, invulnerable and untouchable. Far above -it’s innocence cannot be shared with the thieves, gangsters, pouncers and sneerers below you. The angels will congratulate you because you have arisen from that tangled mess of your memorized self”.
In the end, it was a question of heels. If she could just find a decent pair of high ones, Miss Caridad believed, she might have a shot at winning. So, Ivy, my sweet and generous wife, lent her a pair that we thought might fit the bill. And that’s how we ended up spending three hours last year rooting for the new Miss Gay Pilar.
When it was all over, our throats were sore from cheering.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say at the outset that I am not a huge fan of gay rights. The libertarian in me, of course, believes that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is nobody’s business but their own. Yet I am still conservative enough to wince when, as happened recently in the U.S., a same-sex couple sues a baker for refusing to decorate their wedding cake. And when public-school districts in California require employees to refer to students by their preferred gender pronouns rather than the ones with which they were born, well, I practically throw a tantrum.
That said, it was with some eagerness and a great deal of curiosity that I attended last year’s annual Miss Gay Pilar Universe pageant on Siargao Island. Pilar is not a big town. But with each of its fifteen barangays represented by a separate male contestant decked out in full female beauty-queen regalia, well, the event took on a hugeness all its own.
For starters, it happened in a large community gymnasium before a standing-room-only crowd. Having never attended a gay beauty pageant, I had no expectations. But once the thing got started, I found myself in a fairly familiar territory; it was an almost blow-by-blow parody of the more famous Miss Universe pageant I’d been watching on TV for years.
For those less culturally endowed, let me quickly summarize; just as in the larger heterosexual event, Miss Gay Pilar Universe contestants were judged prancing about in evening gowns, bathing suits, and ethnic regional costumes. They were also asked to exhibit their talents and answer pointed personal questions. And, as in the more famous contest, their performances in all those categories were judged by a panel of local dignitaries including the town’s popular female mayor.
In fact, she’s an open lesbian fond of wearing fancy white barongs with slick black slacks at local weddings. And therein lay the evening’s most delicious irony; what I was watching, I realized with a smile, was a woman pretending to be a man judging a bunch of men pretending to be women.
But here’s the puzzling part; how does that happen in a predominantly Catholic country favoring traditional family values? It is truly a dilemma because, as everyone knows, Church dogma on the matter is quite clear; homosexual behavior of any stripe is considered a mortal sin. And yet in the Philippines, even in the smallest provincial town, it is not only tolerated but frequently celebrated. And the same people who claim to be good Catholics on Friday, apparently feel no contradiction in loudly rooting for their favorite gay Miss Universe contestant on Saturday night.
To some extent this happens everywhere; people of all religious stripes don’t always live in complete accordance with the beliefs they allegedly espouse. But there’s something particularly charming about the innocence and enthusiasm with which it happens in the Philippines. Perhaps it’s the absence of any accompanying debate regarding the behavior, the simple tendency to enjoy, without judgment, something seen primarily as entertainment. And, of course, as many have said, this is a culture imbued with a natural sense of acceptance and friendliness towards, not only strangers but the strange.
Ultimately, I think, the charm of the Miss Gay Pilar Universe pageant lies simply in its unlikelihood; that, like so many other things in this intriguing country, it’s a contradiction that logic can’t explain.
Miss Caridad didn’t win the gay Pilar fest of 2017, despite my wife’s truly stunning high heels. In truth, though, it didn’t matter; for me, it was the most enjoyable evening in years.
Before I moved to the Philippines, my friends would question why I was moving to a 3rd World Country for retirement. It seemed they thought it was a crazy idea. I also read an abundance of information from websites, newsletters, books and anything I could get my hands on about the Philippines. Much of it was about the low cost of living and the country is 3rd World. I visited here a few times and it was certainly not the same as the USA. My wife is from the Philippines and she would have been content to stay in the USA. The crazy idea prevailed, my wife and I relocated to the Philippines.
I have now enjoyed life in the Philippines for more than two years. During my brief time here and from what I have observed, I could easily be talked into the Philippines not being a 3rd World Country.
I was early on introduced to Makati. It is a beautiful, dynamic and well-organized city. It’s as nice as any city that I’ve seen in the US.
The Philippines is one of the countries where shopping malls are very prolific and well managed. I researched and found that the Philippines has some of the largest shopping malls in the world. There are shopping malls located everywhere.
Many jobs are opening up. One of the most dynamic and fastest growing sectors in the Philippines is the business outsourcing sector. I read that for the past four years now, the Philippines had consistently earned top spots for outsourcing destinations, which ranks outsourcing cities around the world and is now a world leader in this area.
Is the Philippines Third World?
A growing number of houses are loaded with latest appliances. Flat screen televisions, air conditioning units, refrigerators, computers, and microwave ovens. Name it and they have it.
Consumerism is strong in the country and people are obsessed to buy the latest items. People will stand in long lines for long hours in the Philippines for the purpose to purchase some special product.
Filipinos love every form of entertainment, particularly music. That is why so many attend concerts by local and foreign artists. Month by month, these acts are sold out, despite expensive prices. Often the tickets for a concert are quickly sold out, pushing organizers to add a second date for the event.
The skylines of the metropolitan areas are filled with new construction of high-rise buildings. Economists say that this construction is indicators that the country is improving, but of course, space has to be rented or sold. This keeps the real estate agents busy. If nothing else, the construction business is booming in the Philippines.
The Philippines is a blessed country with natural beauty located on any of the many islands. There are some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in the world that more than 6 million visitors come annually to enjoy. Tourism is always strong in the Philippines. Tourist also comes to the Philippines to take advantage of the many bargains.
There is an abundance of house construction and small buildings in the Philippines. The cost of building a house is increasing. The supply of materials and workers needed for construction are in demand. The building of houses in the town where I live has increased dramatically in the last one year.
A kind of everyday thing is medical services and medications. I have been satisfied with both. I do not live in a metropolitan area and I might have to travel for doctor care. This is something similar in the US for the population that lives in rural areas. I am used to it.
The government is attempting to provide free education in certain colleges and universities.
There are many everyday things such as the grocery stores. My wife and I go to the grocery store each Sunday. There is always an ample supply of good quality food for purchase. I have never been hungry in the Philippines.
Map of Country Classifications
In my readings, I take some information from Wikipedia. The economy of the Philippines is the world’s 34th largest economy by nominal GDP according to the 2017 estimate of the International Monetary Fund‘s statistics, it is the 13th largest economy in Asia, and the 3rd largest economy in the ASEAN after Indonesia and Thailand. The World Banks 2017 edition of the Global Economic Prospective ranked Philippines world’s 10th Fastest Growing Economy In 2017. According to nationline.org/oneworld in terms of 3rd world countries in terms of (1) Gross National Income, (2) Human Development, (3) Freedom of the Press, and (4) Least Developed Countries, the Philippines is not on any of this list. Lastly, The US News & World Report named the Philippines as the “Best Country to Invest In” for its 2018 Best Countries report.
During my time in the Philippines from what I’ve seen, I could also easily be talked into the Philippines being a Third World Country.
There is no denying the poverty in the Philippines, you see it everywhere. According to the existing statistics about the Philippines, poverty afflicts more than a fifth of the total population but is as high as 75% in some areas of the southern Philippines. More than 60% of the poor reside in rural areas, where the incidence of poverty (about 30%) is more severe – a challenge to raising rural farm and non-farm incomes. The current presidential administration wants to reduce the poverty rate to 17% and graduate the economy to upper-middle income status by the end of 2022. Many people are hungry, cannot afford medical attention or medications and do not have decent housing. Poverty is definitely one of the reasons why third world countries are called third world countries.
The Philippines is basically a low-income country that contributes to the poverty. Wages are lower in the rural areas. The unemployment rate declined from 7.3% to 5.5% between 2010 and 2016, but underemployment hovers at around 18% to 19% of the employed population. Many of the Filipinos are self-employed and does not generate enough income to support a family. Many people live on little or nothing.
A person does not have to live in the Philippines very long to realize that the infrastructure is below standard compared to developed countries. Congested highways, inadequate roads to accommodate the population, clogged ports, unreliable and expensive electricity, poor quality water and data networks that are embarrassingly slow and unstable. Brownouts are common in most locations of the Philippines. Either no water or low water pressure is common. Some days there are both no water and no electricity. Many of the roads are not easy to use because of being too narrow, no shoulders, deep drop-off shoulders, roads not maintained, either no markings or poor markings, no road signs. There are many buildings, housings, bridges, skyways, roads, canal systems, & etc. that are in need of repairs.
There are many forms of pollution in the Philippines. A few of many on the list includes air pollution from smoke and exhaust, water pollution from debris- sewage- industrial dumping, and unsanitary standard drinking water. Filling the air with smoke from burning trash is the norm and it is constant.
Destitute People – Trash is Everywhere
Trash is everywhere. This is such a large problem in the Philippines. The standard is trash gets dumped along the road and some of which but not all will get picked up by the municipalities. Much of the trash does not get picked up. People will also sweep the trash into the drains. This trash eventually is in the rivers and canals may not only block our waterways but it invites rodents to infect the water and soon be transferred to humans. Clogged waterways have a tendency to spill causing flash floods, which is what is happening here in our country. Likewise, the lack of enough dumpsites and landfills is also a hindrance in helping to solve our garbage management crisis.
Education should be the main focus for any country but does not look like it is yet to happen in the Philippines. The educators will tell you that it is improving but still has a long ways to go. Schools could use additional funding for teacher training, programs, and food for the needy, and extra activities. Children from rural and remote areas hardly get a proper education. Private schools are an improvement over public schools, however, are not affordable by many of the low-income families. Also, it is not unusual for children not to attend school for various reasons. Some go to school at a younger age but then drop out to work. Illiteracy is a problem.
Open sewers are something I will never get used to. Sewage in the Philippines is often diluted when mixed with other forms of wastewater. Sometimes this is not the case and sewage will directly go unto the land. As of the year 2016, the Philippine rivers continue to be the #1 sewer system in the Philippines. The philosophy, nature cleans itself. I guess open sewers is as good a place as any to mention about the overabundance of males urinating beside the road. This is something I despise. It is both unsightly and nasty. I come from a land that people would get arrested for such activity.
Hospitals are poor in the rural areas. The services provided are minimal.
It is not the intention of this article to be a full thesis. It just identifies some observations and certainly does not cover everything or details.
First of all, I looked up the terminology of “Third World County”. Historically, Third World was a term that evolved out WWII. The allied countries under NATO (i.e. USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia etc.) were referred to as the First World countries while the communist countries (i.e. the Soviet Union, China, etc.) became known as the Second World countries. Back then, the term Third World countries simply referred to all remaining non-aligned countries.
In more recent years, and long after WWII, the term 3rd World country began to take another meaning. I’m not sure if there was ever an official definition for the term but 3rd World started to refer to countries with developing economies as opposed to those with well-established and developed economies. The Philippines is certainly undeveloped. There are some countries in the world that are also undeveloped but not considered 3rd World. It depends on many characteristics.
I enjoy many comforts in the Philippines, the same as a developed country or 1st World country, whatever you want to call it. I have a 1st World existence! Many Expats and Filipinos in the country enjoy a similar existence. The Philippines ranks high in the world for happiness and enjoyment. The lifestyle and the people are great for me I certainly have a high level of enjoyment and happiness here. Personally, it does not matter how the Philippines is considered.
How do you think the Philippines should be considered?
I recently got rid of two LLC’s that I had created for other purposes. I wished I had kept at least one, and changed the name because now I find I need another one. All the business I have been doing recently have fallen under freelance status, like writing or web design, so I did not need to declare any money through an LLC. But now I have the blog, an English tutor network, and two new e-commerce stores that will be open in the next few months.
For these businesses, I need a Stripe account; two through Shopify, and the other two through the Stripe network, so I need a company name and address, and some type of bank account.
I was watching a lawyer from Colorado on YouTube named Aiden Durham because there were some questions I had about LLC’s. She answered most of the questions I had. I am going to register a business in Delaware, but she said there are not that many benefits. You should just register in the State you live in right now. But, what if I reside in the Philippines and don’t have a home base in the States? I am thinking that Delaware may be the best option because there is no state income tax.
If anyone is a lawyer, or at least an expert in setting up businesses in the U.S. for non-residents, I would be interested in talking to you. Even if you know someone, please comment below. There are times when you need a professional, and this is one.
Other Business Concerns
I am still not sure if I need to set up an LLC for each venture, or I can create a generic media company and list all the websites as assets of that business. I was going to go the media company route, but I want to make sure I won’t be breaking any laws. From what I have seen, it will be okay if I document everything and pay my taxes!
Photo by Lukas from Pexels
I’ve had many businesses in the past, but I’ve often ignored the mechanics (except taxes) and just paid someone else to run it for me. I wish I had learned a little more about how everything works because I know now that to be successful, I must pay attention to the details. One slipup can come back to haunt me in the future, and I want to make sure this time I know everything that is going on from the start.
Was I lazy, or did I think that running a business wasn’t important? I’m not sure, but now I am a 50-year-old entrepreneur who must learn the basics all over again.
There is a Lesson Here
This lesson is the reason I am writing about it here. I know many of you want to start businesses, so you have an income when you retire to the Philippines.
Don’t do what I did and start to worry about all this after the fact. I am very good at coming up with ideas and building businesses that make money. But my ignorance of business law has come back to haunt me, and I want to make sure it doesn’t do the same to you.
I am going to share everything I learn in this process in the next few weeks. If I can help just one other person not to make mistakes it will be worth it. If you want to build a profitable business, I will still suggest you look at my other business, BizzzBuddy (changes are coming!). But, there are some things we can’t do for you, like set up the entity, and advise you about taxes. Take it from me that this part is just as important as any other part of creating your business.
Ask and You Shall Receive
Like I said, I am going to be educating myself, so if there are any specific questions you need answered, leave them in the comments below. I will also be posting them on my blog (JasonWeiland.net). I will link the post after I get answers and write replies to all the questions.
My dear wife, Marlyn, looked across the table at me and said, a matter of fact, “We will have rice.” It seemed that she was stating the obvious since we typically have rice with most meals. On top of that, it was breakfast time and we were in her mother’s kitchen. She must have read my puzzled expression, for she clarified, “They are harvesting our rice fields today. You wanna go see?”
My Mother-in-law’s farm is what remains of the ancestral farm began in the 1930’s by her father, my wife’s grandfather. Mother-in-law grew up on this farm, as did my wife and her sisters. In those days the farm was a much larger and busier place. Grandfather cultivated a wide variety of crops. There was tobacco, corn, and a number of different fruits and vegetables. Marlyn tells of childhood days spent in the kitchen, preparing corn for the market. She says the kitchen floor was ankle deep in dried corn kernels. The farm has since been divided. First by inheritance, then to comply with the land reform laws of recent years. Use of the land has shifted to the mono-cropping of rice that is prevalent in the area.
So, after breakfast, Marlyn and I hiked out to the rice fields. The planting and cultivation of rice are still done mostly by hand, as described in the Filipino folk song, “Planting Rice is Never Fun.” But the harvest and much of the processing has become mechanized. This was my first opportunity to closely observe these new reaping machines in action. These machines combine the reaping and threshing of the rice into one step. Previously, the rice stalks were cut by hand, bundled, and then stacked by the roadside. A day or so later, a threshing machine would be brought by, pulled either by a jeep or a carabao. The thresher separates the heads of grain from the stalk. The grain is directed into sacks. The stalk is ejected to the side in a big, dusty arc, creating piles of rice straw which are later burned.
The reaping machine shortens this process and requires fewer laborers. It is debatable whether this is a good or bad thing for the many uneducated farm laborers hereabouts. The machine has a crew of three. A driver, and two guys tending the sacks as they fill. Once full and sewn shut, the bags are tossed off the machine. Stalks are ejected from the machine and left scattered over the field. These will decompose and be plowed under when the field is prepared for the next planting. A team of porters carries the scattered 50-kilo bags on their heads to a collection point on the edge of the field. One of our fields required an additional step of hauling the bags via carabao cart to a place accessible to the buyer’s truck.
A small sample was taken to a nearby palay buyer (rice dealer). A price was agreed on and he sent a truck to pick up the stacked bags. The whole affair took only one day. The financial transaction took place the following day. The fellow in charge of the work came to the house with the cash obtained from the palay buyer. The agreed upon amount was subtracted for the payment of the workers and the owner’s share was banked.
This entire harvest was sold. Sometimes, a few sacks will be reserved for personal use. We still have several sacks from a previous harvest in a storage room at the farmhouse. As needed, these will be taken to the rice mill owned by a cousin and processed. The outer hulls will be ground and fed to our livestock. The rice kernels will feed us.
She was 16 when her 18-year-old sister went from Samar to Angeles City to be a Cam Girl. By the time she was 17 the invitations from her sister and an older woman “relative” were coming regularly. She had already quit school after “Year 2,” the equivalent of Grade 8 in the rest of the world. She was fighting with her aunt, and her older brother, who quit school in Grade 2, had been hitting her, fists to her head since she was very small and wasn’t ever going to stop. She’d had headaches from it since she was 11. The fights with the aunt were about 10 pesos or a Balikbayan box that came from another aunt in the US, and the young girl never got the shirt she was supposed to get.
So at 17 years and 3 months, she told her father, and borrowed 1000 pesos and got on a bus for a 30 hour trip to Angeles City. She had never been on a bus, or seen a building more than 2 stories high; she had no idea what a Cam Girl was, or what one did, or that it had anything to do with sex. The “relative” had simply told her, we need a girl for a “Site.” She’d never been on a computer. Back home she had had 3 or 4 “crushes” with boys at school and one of them kissed her once when they were swimming, “under the water,” but that was the extent of her experience.
Bright lights, cars and motorcycles, music…away from home. Her sister met her at the bus stop and told her she had arranged for her to stay with some other relatives she had never met. She had 20 pesos and a weathered suitcase she had borrowed; the relatives let her stay for 1 night but then she had to leave.
She was told to go somewhere to meet the relative about the job she had come for; she waited there for 6 hours. While she waited she saw lots of cute guys who looked her up and down; foreigners too, most of them older; she just waited, part scared, part interested with big eyes like a deer in the headlights; the woman never came.
The next day they told her to ride a jeepney to this other place where the woman would be, but she missed her stop. “Angeles City was so big.” The jeepney kept going and going until she finally asked the driver. Her stop was 6 miles back. She only had two pesos, so she walked for more than an hour, until she found a relative’s place where she could sleep.
For a few months, she just lived there. She went to the malls and other places looking for a job, but she didn’t have a high school diploma. Her sister set her up to be a Cam Girl, but when they told her what she should do for the guy on the computer screen, she couldn’t do it. But she was tired of having no money, of staying at different relative’s places.
She got a fake id from another girl she met and after a couple of tries got a job in one of the smaller bars. They gave her a two piece costume with Number 486 on it and told her to dance like the other girls and smile and try to get guys to buy her drinks. The other girls were nice and friendly so she thought they were her friends. They told her that she was a “Cherry Girl” a virgin so that she didn’t have to have sex with a guy if he “bar fined” her. But on the second day, she did get bar fined by two Korean brothers. She was cute and friendly with a nice smile. Some of the other girls were jealous. She told the Korean guys she was a Cherry Girl so they couldn’t fuck her, but instead, they did everything else they could think of sexually to her; they both masturbated on her. Mostly she kept her eyes closed and worried that she wasn’t very good at it. When she went back to the bar, the Mamasan gave her half of the barfine, 750 pesos, plus 100 for the two drinks they had paid for. She was excited, truly. She’d never had money before. 850 pesos was almost 20 US dollars. She bought groceries and some things for the sister she hadn’t seen for a while.
And it went on this way for a time. She met a South African guy who told her he would send money every month. She quit the bar and waited, but the money never came. The Japanese and Koreans were the nicest and everyone treated her pretty well she said. “No one hit me or was really rough.”
“One Japanese guy just wanted me to get on the bed and dance to Shakira music.”
She found a place to stay with another sister who was there; she had some real money sometimes if 1000 pesos was “real” money, that was all her own. She bought stuff for kids on the street. The other girls at the bar, “her friends,” started borrowing money from her. 100 pesos here, 50 pesos there. They never paid her back, but she was ok with it because now she had “friends.”
Then she met an American, maybe 55, who said he wanted to marry her. He took her out to dinner; she was still a cherry girl, but on their 3rd night out she had two sips of beer and doesn’t remember anything after that; where they went, going to the hotel. When she woke up the next morning there was blood between her legs and she hurt. She asked him in English she knew, “Did you have sex with me?” He said, “Are you a woman? Well if you don’t know, you’re not a woman.”
He told her not to tell anyone; she was still 17. He went back to the US with the promise to come back in four months; when he did, she saw him once. She didn’t work much while she waited. When she called him on her phone he told her he was out looking for a house for them, but the next night after he arrived back in AC, she saw him on the street with another girl. She cried and never saw him again. Soon after she turned 18.
She took a job as a real bargirl. Same dancing, same drinking, same routine, except by this time it was real sex. Again, the men were nice to her; they liked her personality and her innocence. In three months and perhaps a dozen men, she got an infection from one of them, or maybe more than one; the bar said she couldn’t work anymore; it was HPV and she needed treatment but it cost 3000 pesos and with no work and no money she had to borrow the 3000 from the Mamasan.
She got by again, relying on her relatives. One of her sisters, the non-cam girl sister who was there with her boyfriend working at a construction site, sort of took care of her. Three months after her treatment she could return to the bar. A Korean guy bar fined her for 6 nights in a row and then an Indian guy, or maybe he was Malaysian; she didn’t know where either place was, did the same. He really did seem to like her. He returned to his country and called her every day. But a month later she met an Australian guy who wandered into the bar; they hit it off; she was 18 years and 7 months. He was divorced and lonesome, and he really liked her smile. He told her to come to Subic Bay where he was staying and she never looked back. Within 8 months she had migrated to Australia with him, and now 4 years later, baby in tow, they are moving back to the Philippines.
And when she looks back, she is ashamed that she worked in Angeles City, that she did “all those things.” She doesn’t tell anyone, I mean new people she meets. Of course, her family and those from her barangay know, but they aren’t surprised; most all the girls do it.
“What could I do,” she says, twisting her hair? ”I was young. I had no money. I didn’t know anything and there was nothing for me in Samar. “
“It usually doesn’t turn out like this for the girls you know? Most girls don’t end up with a foreigner. They get pregnant and end up with some Filipino guy and if that doesn’t work out, they just go back home to the Province.”
I keep nodding my head while she tells me her story.
Doing Philippine Food Shopping is not the same as in the US or Europe, especially if like me you are living in a small city. In bigger places like Manila, Cebu, Davao or Cagayan de Oro things are a little different than a small place. Katleen and I live in a small city out in a Barangay or Barrio. This means no Malls close to us and here most Malls have grocery stores in them.
Our First Stop
When we need to buy food we start out in the open air Market. Now when I lived here almost 50 years ago, I did the food shopping on the US Navy base at a store like the US grocery store. The Open Air Market at that time placed the fish on Palm leaves on the ground or on wooden tables, same for meat and chicken without ice, dried fish and fruit, and vegetables in cardboard boxes.
The aroma was interesting to someone not used to it. And in my youth and background was afraid to try the food from there. Times have changed in many ways, cement tables with running water, ice (lots of ice for the fish and ice chests for meat), dried fish is placed on tables in stalls same for fruit and vegetables. Another big difference is no smell and the floors are clean at least in the Markets I have been in.
Public Wet Market in the Philippines
After Kat has purchased what foods including rice and eggs that she needs for home, we head of to the meat store if the Market did not have the cuts we needed, all the time stopping to talk with friends and family that we see along the way. Once this is done we head to the grocery store to buy can goods, soap for washing clothes by hand, dish soap and other goodies, such as candy, cookies, crackers, juice, ice cream and if needed school supplies for YumYum (Kat’s cousin’s little boy, He and his mother live with us). CheChe helps Katleen clean the house, cook and do the wash. Then if needed off to Prince Town a new grocery store that opened a few years ago (like the Wal-Mart’s in the US that sell food, clothes, pots and pans and stereo’s, TVs and more.
Public Market in the Philippines
From here we get in the car and if we need bread or baked goods we stop at 1 of many bakeries in the area. Is it time for a nap yet. And as we head for home Kat might stop to buy Beer and sodas if it is fiesta or a party coming up. Been quite a morning and this happens several times a week if not a day. But not done shopping yet, a phone call will get our bottled water delivered. And in the early morning and during the day street vendors selling fresh fish, Lechon Baboy (roast pig), ginamos (fish paste) and fruit and vegetables (homegrown) and Katleen or CheChe look it over and get what is needed or wanted.
We have a refrigerator and a chest freezer (Kat did not think we needed the freezer at first now uses it a lot).
Coming Up Next
Next time I will talk about shopping for food in the big cities like Cagayan de Oro or Butuan including the drive going there.
I was born and raised in an Irish Catholic section of Boston called Dorchester; the other major section for the Irish is called Southie (South Boston) where many of my cousins lived. An old joke about us Irish; “Do you know what a seven-course dinner in Ireland is, Six pints of beer and a potato.”
My wife has asked me why I don’t like rice. There is no good answer to that because I really don’t, I find it filling yet very bland, but this is just my opinion, if you like it, the more to you.
Rice is something you should eat if you want thousands of just one thing. I love potatoes, but not at every meal every day. Even if served in the vast arrays there is in cooking potatoes. (No I will not list them all) Sometimes I like French cut green beans, corn, and other items with my meal but again not every day. Variety if you can afford it. (That will set someone off on a tangent LOL)
My house has an unusual machine called a Rice Cooker, sitting on the counter always full of rice 24-7.
Note: Something I learned in 1995 somewhere in your house there should be a spare “Rice Cooker” if you ever want hero status from your family. It was not a buy one take one deal. But we have a spare. (Again if you can afford it) (LOL)
I have a Fry Daddy (No spare I couldn’t afford it) on that same counter that I can cook French Fried Potatoes in, but it will also fry other stuff like chicken or fish in there too. My first time seeing a rice cooker I thought it was a Crock Pot. Add to it the little light which I call the “Eternal Flame”. My Fry Daddy also has a light, but it is only on a few hours per month.
My wife and family want rice with every meal and this American of Irish descent will do nothing to change that. What right would I have to even try? Would anyone try to stop our Australian friends from eating Vegemite? I think not. And don’t mess with my peanut butter.
With Filipino food, there is much I like, and some I don’t like. But I will always try it before having an opinion but once more, not wanting it every day. I would believe there is much American food that a Pinoy wouldn’t enjoy. Dill Pickles and mustard come to mind) But I also don’t want Hot Dogs or Hamburgers every day.
Some of the harm I’ve done in the past 25 years, with the children in my family. My granddaughter eats rice, but if given the chance to have Mashed Potatoes and gravy that will win out every time. She even likes it with breakfast, and I know every restaurant in Zambales and Bataan that serves it.(She says it is good with Kenny Rogers Chicken too) And never put hot dogs in her pasta. (Give her Italian Sausage please) Her mother will just give me “The Eye” and then smile. I started the young lady on Bacon cooked crispy and explained it was finger food. Once more I get that “EYE” from my daughter.
Mayang is old school about her rice and will pass on meals without rice; her twin sister is of the same ilk. But our two-year-old niece likes Daddy Tito Paul’s food and snacks. (Not so much Chili. Not happy with beans.)
What I do like in the Philippines are the pastries and baked goods, the lady at the Sari-Sari bakes banana bread and knows to tell me when it will be ready. It is so good, and Sky Flake crackers will beat NABISCO day in and day out, give me a Fita cracker and keep soggy Ritz out of my sight I like a lot of local candy too. Pop Cola not so much thank you, its coke Na Lang.
Now today, for lunch I’ll have cold cuts on a French roll with Potato Chips and A&W Cream Soda (A New England favorite.) Don’t hate me because where I live has so much imported food. While my wife and sister will eat a Filipino taste sensation of their choosing. I spent most of my life single, so I know how to cook whatever I like, and still do. This is not me telling you how to eat, as I would never presume to do that, this is just how I do it.
My number one favorite restaurant is still the Sit-N’ Bull, in the Barrio. Ron (The owner) worked as a cook on longline fishing boats in Alaska, and if the Captain and crew aren’t happy, it is the midnight shift at Denny’s where you’ll end up and lose one hell of a big paycheck.
He knew that if he wanted the foreign traffic, and also knew we’d never get them if the ladies didn’t like the Filipino food he served, so now my friends and I get to eat there all the time. Plus local businessmen and politicians also like the chow and it is now well known among all walks of life in the Olongapo City area.
The area has many good restaurants owned by expats and local so whatever food you are looking for is mostly here. There even was a French restaurant, it closed within six months. A Greek restaurant would be nice, but when if I have to go to Manila, I know where they are.