The Philippine Primer

DISCLAIMER / INTRODUCTION:

Everything you are about to read is my perception; my truth, and “the truth,” most certainly not. What you are about to read may be considered negative, in the extreme, and maybe it is. When you consider what it is, perhaps not.

This is not the whole story of the Philippines –far, far from it! This is the stuff that has been left out (on purpose) for many possible reasons, none of which benefit the members of this web site.

I live in the Philippines. I am not obliged, financially or otherwise, to do so. I can go back to the United Police States any day I so choose. Yet, I remain here. So try not to go off the deep end, as you read the stuff you NEED to know.

SCENARIO:

Imagine, if you will, a paradise – one so lovely and intoxicating that the many articles and books you read were not able, to do it justice.

When you finally arrive in that paradise you fling your clothing away and go frolicking in the green, green grass. You feel just like Tiny Tim as you tiptoe, through the tulips. There's just one problem – a small but deadly serpent, that inhabits paradise. You are bitten and you die, never knowing that common baking soda could have saved your life.

There are many splendid things here, in the Philippines. It has more than it's share of snakes, as well. The neat things are yours, to discover. Right now I am here to tell you about the pitfalls. This article is presented to you first, in an effort to make you aware of the nasty, and potentially fatal mistakes you can make here.

THESE ISLANDS:

The Philippines is not great, as island vacation destinations go. It rains here, hard, often and long, especially when everyone decides to come, which is January and February.

The conditions in the cities are anything but attractive - nearly lethal levels of pollution rise from traffic from hell, trying to use roads and infrastructure from the 1940s. Here you will experience, first hand, the reasons for the pollution laws enacted in your country. If you have any medical condition concerning your lungs, stay away!

In the countryside, an almost eerie quiet prevails. There are no birds. Monkeys are very few, and always someone's pet. People tell me the wildlife has been eaten by the locals to, and past the point of extinction! The waters surrounding these islands share the same fate.

Every unthinkable circumstance that could result from the failure of the government to enforce the rules exists here, in all abundance. Mother nature, herself, is on the ropes; going down, for the count. It may well be that agent Smith was right - people are a virus - one that infects, and kills planets...

You will need to be physically fit, to some extent, in order to enjoy your visit here. It is a wild, and crazy place, in many ways!

WHY?:

Most of the foreigners arriving in the Philippines are older males. These people may be “disillusioned” with whatever country they live in. They may be alone, dissatisfied with their options at home and looking for a partner. They may be unable to live comfortably on the income they have, in their current setting. One, or a combination of these things is what brings the average Joe to the Philippines. (they call male foreigners Joe)

For a while I thought it was that simple. Slowly I noticed many, if not most of the Joes here live better than you can on low income. They enjoy lower expenses, without doubt, but most operate well beyond the means of someone who needs to be here, because of poverty.

You will spend less but you will get less, as well. Gone will be the eye candy and most of the things, to which you are accustomed. Your small nose, white skin (and probably hair) will make you a mark, in the perception of many of the local people. In order to function, at all, your thinking and your reactions will require a major overhaul...

The Philippines is a third world country. That term has been bandied about on our screens but the vast majority of people do not know what it means, other than a poor and underdeveloped place. This is what a third world country looks like, at street level. I did my best to choose images that depict the average.

 

 

So, why do people put up with the downside of living here on a semi-permanent, or even permanent basis? There is another factor. It takes a while, first to notice, then identify. That factor is alcoholism.

Even occasional drunkenness will... "cause major problems" in most western societies. In the US, for example, consuming one can of 3.2% beer renders you legally impaired and if you get caught driving, God help you!

This is Cripple Creek - a drunkard's dream, if I ever did see one. ("Up on Cripple Creek" - THE BAND - 1970) If you are a hopeless alcoholic, this is the place where no one will bother you. You can drive drunk on your ass, all you want. Just don't get into any accidents because then your Joe status will turn against you...

THE REAL DEAL:

According to the U.S. Department of State web site, three hundred thousand Americans are in the Philippines, at any given time. Most of them have never left the U.S.A. and most of them, are getting the shock of their lives! I would venture to say the vast majority go home as quickly as they came, and writing the money they spent off as wasted and receiving no benefit, whatsoever, from their journey.

Listen up, now, as I tell you exactly like it is. Maybe you will not come to the Philippines. If you do you will know what awaits you here; what to expect, when you arrive, which will make doing what you want to do here much easier.

THE COPNCEPT:

The underlying concept is, of course, money. Those that consider coming here are scared to death. They see a cup of coffee costing $2.50 and a lousy doughnut weighing in at more than $1 and they need to run away. They have heard you can live in the Philippines for free, or almost, and in fact you can. But the verb; the operational word, is “live.”

What you will get for free, or almost, will not qualify as living, in your mind.

INTRODUCTION:

My first trip was to India. I went there twice. Among the squalor and the poverty I learned, but I still did not believe. Onward (as I have never been a quitter) to Central America, I drove an Isuzu Trooper from my home in Indiana, all the way to Panama City, Panama. I learned more but still I lacked the single idea that might have made my trip into something worthwhile. That idea awaits you, in this article.

Yet again, to Holland and Amsterdam – the stoner capitol of the world. I was amazed that people there lined up around the block to apply for a rental I would not accept, even for free. I was stuck in my hotel, at $35 U.S. per night. I was not there long, but long enough to notice the Dutch know how to party!

Pnom Pen, Cambodia. It literally crawls with thirteen year old whores and “hedonistic” foreigners. It made me sick, and sad. Pedophilia is not my thing.

I have paid my dues, all over the planet. I have passed countless hours on the web, visiting more sites than can be counted that simply gush about the places they describe, to and past the point where anyone with a lick of common sense can tell it's just a sales pitch. There is none of that here. Just the truth, with no punches pulled.

My frame of reference is hardly academic. I came here because, in my perception, American women are calculators, with breasts – no heart, no soul – only the stone cold electronics necessary to compute profit, and loss. Just add a penis, and most of them are better men than my self.

I will spare you my pain – the way I actually wept, late in the night – because the misery of an empty soul was weighing me down to, and past the point where life had no value, anymore. I will tell you that God, in It's grace, has heard my prayers and helped me to find a real, female woman. Yes, they do still exist and the good news is they are not in short supply, here in the Philippics.

I have lived long. God has favored me, above many, by allowing me to see and to experience so very many things, I believe because I am paying attention and trying to better my self, via those experiences.

This is my web site. You are my customer and you are welcome, here. However, I would be less than honest if I failed to tell you there is no way to remove the identity of the storyteller, from the story. You will, inevitably, be exposed to my philosophy, as you peruse these pages. You just might survive :)

SAFETY CONCERNS:

My first shocker came unexpectedly, as they almost always do. My Lady and I sought our breakfast, one morning before we were actually together, in her home town of Cagayan De Oro. In the lobby of a near-by hotel they had a breakfast buffet. If you did not stay the night you could buy your meal. We had eaten there a few times.

We walked in, expecting nothing, save a barely mediocre meal. Beside the front desk sat a Joe. I took one look in his direction. His eyes spoke of fighting for control. Panic was written on his face. Beside him sat a very dubious looking female.

I slowed, tasting the mental air. The conversation with the desk clerk was about finding something. Soon it became apparent his wallet and passport had been taken from his room, during their morning shower. The desk clerk was offering to allow him to make calls on the hotel phone.

I walked over, offering to help if I could. The man was Australian. By then his eyes were dim, with shock. He was in bad trouble. He had no money - none, at all. I offered a little money to him. He accepted, gratefully Still, he did not have the price of another night at the hotel.

YOU ARE ONE BAD CHOICE AWAY FROM THIS HAPPENING TO YOU.

The Philippine Islands are, quite literally, one unthinkably, massively huge, safety concern! This place is crowded and that is exacerbated, by the lack of infrastructure. At first it seems none of these people give a good God Damn if they see the sun rise, tomorrow. But being here and interacting with them, you know that's not true.

Reality (if there is such a thing) is external; a thing/setting/situation to which we must adapt, in order to survive. Filipinos are blissfully ignorant of the unbelievably high level of danger they face, each and every day, and the very most scary part of that may well be the means available (read not available) to save their lives, when the inevitable occurs.

The locals are not scared, because they have seen nothing else.

The first and most likely fatal mistake you will make here is simply walking out into the street. Every vehicle in the Philippines has windows that are tinted, BLACK. In the mind of a Filipino, not being able to see who is in a vehicle is much more important than the driver being able to see out of that vehicle! People here are fond of driving without lights, as well. Yes, I am serious.

If you leave your hotel at night be certain to wear something white. A bright orange shirt will work. White shoes get my attention, as well. Be aware that there are cars and trucks running without lights and divers can not see you, due to their opaque windows.

It gets even better! Below you will learn the rules are not enforced, in the Philippines. For now, know that an inordinate number of these blind drivers are drunk on their asses, as well!

I know you thought I was exaggerating and/or using scare tactics when I said I would help you not to make potentially fatal mistakes. I was not. I'm not FUCKING kidding about the next one, either.

The power here is 220 volts, sixty cycles. The outlets have no ground. DO NOT mess with anything electrical here. 220 will kill you, the very first time you get across it!

Most of the things you will want to bring (i.e. cell phone chargers and laptop power supplies) will work here. The plugs are identical to those in the U.S. You will, of course, want to look at the item in question to make sure it is rated at 220 volts. Failing to do so will result in a ruined appliance, at the very least.

The wiring practices here are straight out of he77. I tried to buy wire nuts (small plastic things that safely connect wires in houses). I did nothing else, for three days. Stunned and amazed, I finally gave up. But not before I noticed that some, if not most of the electrical supplies offered at local home improvement places were el-cheapo Chinese garbage. The look and feel of the circuit breakers was nothing short of scary!

Wire nuts do not exist, on these Islands. They use pliers to twist the wires together and then cover the mess with black tape. The sticky stuff from the tape eventually gets between the wires, of course, and that causes heat, when large currents flow. The buildings here are all made of concrete (because of the ferocious termites) so they will not burn down. Their contents will burn, and the smoke will kill, just like back home. It happens all the time. People die. I can not understand this.

Just make sure you stay in a place that that is relatively new. Look for nasty electrical stuff – for every one you see there will be a hundred you do not. Plan an escape route from every place you sleep, no matter how good it looks.

While perusing the US department of State web site I learned that eighty percent of the Americans that die abroad perish in vehicular mishaps. The Philippines is the scariest place I have seen, and I have been to a few. They drive on the right side of the road and that concludes my efforts at making positive statements, concerning the road conditions here.

You will be stunned and amazed by the number of people that drive right out in front of you, volunteering to be the next traffic fatality. When I lived in Cebu I "played a game" with myself - I counted the number of idiots that tried to commit suicide in front of my huge, black SUV, during a trip into town. Never was the total less that thirty.

In my 67 years of experience, before coming to these Islands, survival was the universal priority. I did not understand how that could change, even as I watched the proof that it had! Only weeks before my exit I learned about something the locals call "rugby."

Meth (shabu, here) is considered to be the problematic drug in the Philippines. It is not - not even close! These poor, poor people sniff glue (or whatever solvent they can get). I saw little kids doing it. As my mind reeled I understood the reason for all of the unbelievable stupidity I experienced. I closed my eyes and thanked my God, once more, for my good fortune!

Sniffing glue kills brain cells - permanently. They do not heal, replicate or regenerate. While you are here you will be surrounded by minds that are BURNT OUT; damaged, beyond repair, or even belief. You will walk among zombies, and probably never realize it.

I will not even try to formulate a solution to this... "problem," as it relates to being on the streets and roads. There is none! Just be ready, each and every second, for somebody to do something suicidal, and try to take you down with them.

It gets even better. Many, if not most of the vehicles here only wish they were junk. Filipinos, perennially strapped for cash, will not fix it until after the wheel comes off, completely.

Trucks that have never been inspected carry as much weight as can be put on them, each and every day. Motorcycles (if they can be called that) are everywhere and their riders exhibit a death wish, the likes of which I have experienced no place else! They purposely drive out in front of cars, and even big trucks, counting on the driver of that vehicle to brake, and save their foolish lives! And we do, most of the time.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

Once here you will learn two new words: Motorella and Jeepney.

A motorella is a 125cc motorscooter attached to a frame that adds another wheel (without a brake) and one or two passenger seats. Unbelievably, these tiny bikes are quite capable of moving their rider and up to four more people! Are their brakes capable of stopping all that mass? Methinks not. One might surmise the amount of protection they offer in a crash, not to mention the very real risk of the rusty old thing literally falling apart, with you on it. If you ride a motorella (and you will) you roll the dice, with death on the snake eyes.

Story has it that the word jeepney came from the ww2 jeeps the US army left behind. Those machines had their frames stretched way out, more or less in the manner of a modern-day limo. Jeepneys have a single rear doorway that is always open and two seats, running the length of the passenger compartment. Many of them belch black smoke from their diesel engines that literally blots out the sun!

These are the vehicles of the masses. They ply the main streets like perverts, looking for a hooker. They will stop dead, anytime and anywhere, in order to suck a passenger from the curb. The right lanes are jammed with them and, when there are only two lanes, nothing changes.

There are even people riding bicycles, modified in the same manner as a motorella. Nobody questions their right to be on the streets and people just wait, behind them. And you thought your drive to work was fun…

Intercity transport is accomplished by commercial buses, much like our own, save the fact they have no washrooms. I'll allow your imagination to fill in the blanks...

There are commercial passenger vans, usually white, that operate like buses. These are the most dangerous vehicles on the roads here.

The driver leases the vehicle on a per day basis then gets as much as he can from the passengers during that day. If a driver can get another trip in, his profits soar. And so they drive like complete idiots, in order to accomplish same.

If you hear nothing else I say in this entire article - hear this - your life depends on it: STAY OUT OF COMMERCIAL, INTER-CITY VANS!

AT STREET LEVEL:

OK – never mind vehicles – let's talk walking down the street. Even in the downtown areas, sidewalks are non-functional.

You always need to be looking down at your footing as you certainly can not count on the sidewalk being level, or even unbroken. All kinds of things block the sidewalks and, if nothing else, people park cars across them. Forget about the very concept of sidewalks – you will be walking in the street, competing with the madness generated by the motorellas, jeepneys and taxis, as well as the cars and trucks.

Fortunately, the indescribable traffic present most of the time slows the vehicles, which makes mishaps survivable.

At the core of all this is the concept of rules. And they do have rules here. The rules are, quite simply, not enforced. There are very few police. There are no “911” services. I called the police once, when some moron trapped my truck by parking in my exitway. The police did not answer their phone!

In any other place, the result of this situation would be chaos. Things go well here, so well, in fact, that it takes quite a while to realize the way things are. It changes nothing.

YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.

You can not count on help from the police, in any manner even approaching being timely enough to make a difference. If you are badly injured you will likely die, right there, due to the shortage of ambulances and the density of the traffic.

GENTLE, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE:

They call themselves Pinoy (pee noy). The females average right at five feet while the males are perhaps eight inches taller, at most. There are larger individuals but they are few, and usually find work as police officers. My point is, everyone, and everything is smaller, here.

And yes, of course there all kinds of people here in the Philippines. There is one kind of person I have experienced nowhere else. It is these wonderful (and numerous) people I choose to perceive as "real Filipinos." I'm a tough old bird. I don't think it's easy to "charm" me but real Filipinos can accomplish same almost instantly, with both hands tied behind their backs!

There is a certain shyness.. my Lady and I have been together for more than a year but that irresistible shyness remains... a ready smile, an infectious laugh and eyes, from which the light truly shines... a sincere interest in speaking to a Joe... a good nature and a light heart... Before you know it your problems are forgotten, for now, and you simply enjoy the company of a real Filipino.

A westerner will perceive the life of a Filipino as cursed with grinding poverty and lacking hope, of any kind. A Filipino is happy, in an environment we can not even handle. Filipinos are not hung up on money. Greed, and a lust for power, do not appear on their list of motivations. These people put me to absolute shame, in so very many ways.

I learned a lot from the real Filipinos I met and even more, by comparing myself to them. Whole new vistas opened up as I saw most of what I want to become, standing before me. If you decline an opportunity to come here and experience these gentle, beautiful people you will lose, and you will lose hard.

GETTING ON:

I can hear your thoughts: “OK, so what's it like to be there?” I believe that question is best answered by a few anecdotal stories, as opposed to any attempt I might make to describe this wonderful, wacky and oftentimes infuriating place.

My first destination was a place called Tagbilaran, on Bohol island. Bohol, like all islands, is blessed by a long coastline. Factually speaking, that's about all it has. The fabled Chocolate Hills are just hills, covered by some sort of vegetation that turns chocolate brown, in summer. It's green, the rest of the time. A tiny place called Anda, and the trip there by bus, held my first insight into this place.

The extremely well made, two-lane concrete roadway carried traffic ranging from people riding bicycles that had been converted to three-wheeled vehicles, the purpose of which was transporting a person or a small amount of freight, to the very heaviest of straight trucks. Fifty mile per hour traffic was separated from human flesh by mere inches, seemingly as a matter of course. Dogs and cats, old hands at traffic, walked lazily among the instant death, that surrounded them.

The inevitable conflicts spawned by the wide gap in the capabilities of the vehicles being used did not cause the results I expected, that being road rage. Instead, an amazing level of patience and co-operation was exhibited. And the marvel was, no-one seemed to be impressed by that, save myself!

The plain fact is, the Philippine people put me to absolute, and miserable shame in this, and several other ways. It could be they do not suffer from the intergalactic overdose of testosterone which is the mark, and the curse of western man. While that may, and I say may be the case (I have not researched their testosterone levels) that explanation leaves me cold.

I will not fall into the trap of trying to explain something I do not, and may well never understand. Instead, I will expose the other side of what certainly is a two-edged blade.

WINNER! WINNER! TOURIST DINNER!

In Anda I rented a room in a hotel. Mayhaps it is my Scottish blood that prevents me from wasting money; and/or the fact that I have no need to impress anyone.

On my first night I found I had a most unwelcome partner – a rooster that had taken up residence outside, directly beneath the air conditioner. Philippine roosters are not impressed, in the least, by the time of day. They revel in making their abysmal noise, 24/7/365. My sleep was in fifteen minute stages, if at all, that night.

In the morning, trying my very best to be polite, I stated my grievance to the landlord. He assured me he would take care of it.

The proceeding night was the same save my screaming, at the very top of my lungs, every time the rooster favored me with his song. Next morning, the landlord found me.

“No one in the whole place can sleep.” said he.

Smiling, I replied, “Yes, I know how they feel.”

Then the proverbial axe fell. “I spoke to the man who owns the rooster.” He managed to say that with a straight face! As I looked into his eyes of age It hit me – he was serious. To the logic and the experience that define western mentality, his statement was a very poor attempt at a joke. In his mind, he had done what he could.

From this unbelievable experience, followed by many more, came what has mutated into my understanding of the Philippine people, to date.

A Filipino will:

A) refuse to accept responsibility, then

B) refuse to take action.

And later it became apparent that, in the mind of a Filipino:

C) there is no one but me.

I have yet to come to a conclusion, concerning what I am totally unable to understand. On the one hand, it causes the patience and the peace that allows traffic here to prove non-lethal. On the other, it is the reason for the continuation of so very many injustices that would fall, very quickly, before the righteous indignation they are due.

Here, in a nutshell, is the reason (if it can be called that) behind the friction I have experienced with the Pinoy and you will, no doubt, experience as well.

In my western mind, when a problem is identified, the next step is to fix it. While the Pinoy may be (and I say may be, as I am never really certain) aware of a problem, fixing it is the very last thing they will do! Instead they will: a) refuse to accept responsibility and then b) refuse to take action. Learn that. It will become your worst nightmare, the entire time you are here.

Your first reaction, upon experiencing this, will be to patiently explain the problem, over and over again, while looking for the reaction you assume will be forthcoming – i.e. taking the steps, necessary to fix the problem. That reaction will never happen.

Then, as you experience the mother of all “deer in the headlights” looks, you will ridicule and abuse those that are so unfortunate as to have contact with you, in a last-ditch effort to get what you need and what certainly would be available, save what you will perceive as the unfathomable stupidity and laziness you encounter. The only result of that will be the people that surround you disliking you. No good can come from that.

CRONYISM => INBREEDING

Here in the Philippines families are large, for several reasons, the first being that when you get old your family, not the government, cares for you. No family, no care.

I suppose large families are to be expected in a place where the women are so pleasantly… “frisky” and the Catholic church promises eternal damnation, in return for using birth control. This may well be a contributing factor in the occurrence of individuals that are sadly lacking in intelligence – the smart use birth control and have far fewer children – hardly a circumstance confined to the Philippines… Ah, but I digress.

I continue to be astounded by just how many aunties, uncles and cousins my Lady has and can contact, when we need something. In fact, using family and what may be called “connections” is the accepted and, many times, the only way to get what you need. This also constitutes an unofficial caste system. It's hard to break into a higher social strata than your family occupies. Everything here is a two-edged blade.

Just one of the miserable results of the huge importance of family here is inbreeding, in the workplace. Here in the Philippines the people with whom you deal, on any given day, are absolutely bullet-proof. They are someone's son, aunt, cousin… Their acumen in their profession (or lack of same) means nothing, at all.

Keep in mind, now, that this is right and normal, in the perceptions of those with whom you will deal (or try) on a daily basis. Even suggesting that someone should be fired, or disciplined because of poor performance on their job will result in you being perceived as a vicious person, and that alone.

And so, is it any wonder that the Philippines, as a nation, consistently fails to compete, in a global economy? Is the grinding poverty and almost total lack of hope experienced by the average Filipino an acceptable price to pay for not being included in the “dog-eat-dog” world, which certainly is the order of the day, in most places?

The point and purpose of this article is to provide an “inside track” to those that read it, likely because they are considering visiting and/or retiring here. But some reflection is inevitable…

FRUSTRATION:

Frustration, and tons of it, will fill your days here, unless you are able to modify your behavior.

Your current set of “social instincts” are the result of the total of the situations in which you have participated and the methods that allowed you to survive, and/or prevail, in those situations. And so you are at a complete, and likely insurmountable disadvantage, here. Not only will you be required to learn a new set of rules, likely while using a mind that is older and “set in it's ways,” but you will have to “un-learn” everything you think you know, first!

It gets even better. Lots of “Joes” have been here, before you. A lot of them were not smart enough to figure out what you just read. Instead they forged ahead, never even suspecting it was their methods that caused their failure, and so their frustration, and their anger. Meanwhile, those around them judged them by Filipino standards, and found them to be thoroughly nasty people. Fair or not, you are judged by the company you keep…

THINGS WILL CHANGE:

Then again, they will not. Perhaps a more apt way to communicate this would be to say the details – the rules, but not the basics – will change.

It would seem that, in order to adapt, you will be required to forget everything you ever learned; to become as a newborn, able to accept instruction on the most basic, of levels. While that may be one way to accomplish it, it is not the way I recommend :)

I'm going to make this short and, by definition, overly simple. But not before say something I have believed all my life, still believe and, God willing, always will believe: Mean people suck.

If you are a bully; a hater, a nasty person with no morals and an aggressive attitude, don't come here and, if you're already are here, get the fuck out. You are the reason I and the rest of the decent, well-intentioned “Joes” have the problems we have.

The people here may not be overly intelligent, by western standards, but they are like dogs in that they can tell about people, with a degree of accuracy that will never be approached by someone that tries to accomplish same using logic, and/or reason.

It seldom happens quickly but the Filipinos have ways of dealing with assholes. People have been arrested here and incarcerated for more than five years, before their first hearing. Let's just say that if you think you can bully your way through life here, there are people that will stop you. And they will have my help (for whatever that's worth) as they go about it. This is their country. Period.

Murder for hire is commonplace, here. Piss off the wrong person (or anyone with 2,000 pesos) and a motorscooter with men firing on you will be the last thing you see. Ignoring this warning might be the last mistake you ever make.

GETTING ALONG:

It is said that the way to a man's heart is via his stomach. The way to a Filipino's heart is, well, through their hearts. They have big, good hearts. Not all of them but most, by far.

The best way for you to you to prevail, here, is to use your “superstar” status. And you do have that status. Your skin is white; your nose, thin. As silly as that may sound it's all you need, here. It gets you noticed, big time. It makes you stand out, in the crowd.

It's all over, in a single beat of your heart. You are judged; your fate, sealed, in that first eye contact. Learn to use it. Take control of the “message” you send, and the impression you make. A sincere smile, as you say something like, “Would you be so kind as to help me out?” can turn the whole thing around. Learn to do it.

OK – I'M GOING. HOW SHOULD I DO THIS?

If you are looking for a series of days filled with alcohol (perhaps drugs) and prostitutes, just make a hotel reservation in Manila and the rest will take care of itself. But be aware that they shoot hard drug users here, and they shoot to kill. You were warned.

FINDING A PARTNER:

If you come to the Philippines (or any other country) without knowing someone here you will, no doubt, be miserable, and you won't stay long.

Take a couple months and plan this. Go to a web site called Blossoms.com. Pay for three months of membership. Do some searches. As you do, remember that a single mother in the Philippines is a pariah – no self--respecting Filipino will raise another man's child.

You can be a real, butt-ugly loser back home and do quite well, here. As I said before, your white skin and thin nose make you a superstar. Filipinas are not hung up on age. In general, older people are respected, even revered, here. Your age will not be a problem.

There are those that would take advantage of you here. And why not, as there are those among us (foreigners) who would take advantage of the locals. Seems fair, to me?

OK, so what does it take, to be a winner? A pinch of forbearance and an ounce of good, common sense. Keep your cool. Hold your cards up. Act like you don't really care all that much. Never let anyone know you are desperate… Play the game and play, to win.

When I got off the plane I had a list of twenty (20) females that had agreed to meet me. I had one who was my goal, for sure, but I had backup plans, and plenty of them. If your first choice goes wrong what will you do – get back on the plane and go home, with your tail between your legs? Not me.

My first choice worked out fine. We are still together and some days I even think she likes me a little (she's reading this). Was this turn of events luck, or the result of the manner in which I conducted myself? A little of both?

Maybe a girl sees you as a free ticket to the mythic land, where the streets are paved with gold and (sic). Simple precaution? Tell her you hate your country, and you will never go back there – you will live out your days, in the Philippines. And so if she is a would-be traveler, she will look elsewhere. Obviously, NIX on bragging about how rich you are, etc. Doing dumb shit like that will get you messed up with a gold digger, so very quickly!

Come here. Meet the ladies you have prepared. Act like you have good sense. Look for one that has a good heart and a sweet, loving disposition. (There are many of them – no kidding) Meet her family. Take them to dinner. BUY that dinner. Wait, and see if they say thank you… Keep your big mouth SHUT, and your eyes and ears open…

Oh and NEVER send money to anyone here. Never, because it will never end! Enough said.

Given your sincerity and due diligence, success in finding someone not a single bit less than wonderful will be yours. Nothing is easy, or for free – nothing of value, that is, and the love of one of these women is worth more, than any amount of gold.

Once you have established a relationship your choices are two: stay, and make a life here, or take your Lady home. Both ways, you are in for an extended stay.

BEING HERE:

A K-1 fiancé visa takes around six months to process. You will want to be with your new love and, if at all possible, you will. Here we have the reason for this primer – to prepare you for living in, as opposed to visiting the Philippines.

A fellow from Denmark told me not to build a big house, because each and every one of your girl's relatives will try to move in. He spoke from personal experience.

It seems that form follows function, in this regard, as these islands literally TEEM with people, and all of them like to sleep indoors. Our ways are not their ways, to be sure. They believe that if God gives you something, you have to share it.

I can take you into many homes where Joe lives with, and feeds many people. The way to get around this is, do NOT live in the same place as your girl's family! Take her traveling as you establish your relationship and simply refuse to return to wherever it is they live. Ignore this at your peril :)

The money issue, as it applies to relationships between younger PH Ladies and older Joes, is the very substance, from which madness is created. Always... ALWAYS in your mind.. does she love me? Am I just a sugar daddy? How COULD she love an ugly, OLD fart-knock, like me?

You will descend into this issue, never to return. I expect to ponder it on the day I die! (maybe after that...) There is always another level. You, Joe, are the only one who has any money. Her family may be making it, even making it well, but their disposable income will range into the negative, far too often.

Their "customs" don't even resemble ours. If they give you a party on your birthday, for example, and you end up paying for most of it, that means only that nobody had any spare money that week. Before you get bent out of shape - chill. Watch. It will come back around. Provided, of course, that you are dealing with decent Filipinos, and decent people are the vast majority here. Seriously.

You will never, ever come to a conclusion that seems final; one, in which you can believe. You will waffle, evermore. Have fun!

WHAT WILL IT COST?:

Whatever you want to pay. Seriously.

A room in central Cebu city can be rented for 100 pesos ($2 U.S.) a week. You can eat something for 5 pesos. Will you like your meal, and/or room? No. Of course not.

Midrange motel rooms in larger places go for 700-800 pesos ($14-16 U.S.) per night. Bargain apartments or houses (they seem to cost the same) unfurnished, are to be had for 5,000 pesos ($100 U.S.) monthly, with a customary three months rent to move in. The usual rent is 10,000 pesos ($200 U.S.) monthly, and you can do quite well, for that.

A dozen large eggs cost 80 pesos ($1.60 U.S.) and fresh, sweet, unprocessed bacon sells for around 420 pesos ($8.40 U.S.) per Kilogram (2.2 U.S. pounds). If you get away from the supermarkets and use the local, outdoor markets the prices plunge, but be ready for the nastiest experience of your life!

You can spend as little, or as much as you like. When I lived a (too) short distance outside Cebu, rent was 8,500 pesos ($170 U.S.) for a two-room fully furnished in a private compound, right on the beach. You won't find that the first day but if you take your time and look, you can too. I consistently found myself going to a ATM every second or third day and withdrawing 5,000 pesos ($100 U.S.).

Use this link:

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Philippines

for up to date information on many places in PH.

GETTING HERE:

There are many points of departure, from as many places. My choice was Chicago, as it is relatively near my home.

On the return trip of my first visit here the fine employees of Eva Airlines stole a tablet from my checked bag. The case and accessories were left in place with only the tablet itself removed. They offered me thirty dollars for a three hundred dollar tablet. Leave nothing of value in your checked bags. The level of thievery here is phenomenal.

Philippine Airlines flies island hops around the country. Before my last flight with them (ever) they said my bag was overweight and extorted 800 pesos from me because of that. Just any miserable ripoff they can contrive. It gets mighty God Damn old, really quick.

Be sure to read "BEWARE KOREAN AIR" in our stories section, in order to avoid really getting screwed!

VISA/LEGAL CONCERNS:

First thing you will hear is, “… stay the he77 away from Manila!...” That's right, in many ways. Cebu is just as bad; even worse, in fact, when it comes to the major problem faced by the Philippines, which is lack of infrastructure. Both cities suffer from choked roads; from having not enough roads and a burgeoning population that has to use a motor vehicle, in order to live. If you like to drive you will find no fun roads in, or even near Manila, or in Cebu.

Flights land in Manila or Cebu. The price seems to be about the same. Having “done my research” I fell into the avoid Manila thing. I landed in Cebu, passed my first night there, then fled. My error was not revealed until much later, when I was obliged to go to Manila and when that trip cost me $500 I might have saved, without the “inside advice” I got for free. What you get for free is usually worth exactly what you pay for it…

People from the U.S. get 29 days here for free. They you start paying, to be here. As you will see by following this link:

http://www.immigration.gov.ph/visa-requirements/non-immigrant-visa/temporary-visitor-visa/extension-of-authorized-stay-beyond-59-days

Extending your stay for 2 months will cost you about $100 U.S. That's about $1.66 per day to be here. If you're smart and extend for longer periods the price drops, as the ancillary fees are for the application process, not the time purchased, and so they remain the same.

Notice, if you will, the price for the ACR I-card at the bottom of the price sheet. You will have to get one if you stay here more than 2 months. The ACR I-card will become your Philippine I.D. while you are here. It will grease the wheels for doing such things as opening a local bank account, getting your drivers' license and buying a car. Any Joe who is anybody, at all, has one.

In theory you can extend your stay at several satellite offices around the country. You should extend your visa from twenty-nine days to fifty-nine days while going through customs, after your plane lands. (The ACR I-card can not be obtained at the airport) You save money that way and you allow yourself some breathing space, in case something goes wrong. And it will, unless you do this right.

If you extend at a branch office they will tell you that your ACR I-card will be printed in Manila, and you will receive it in a month. If a Philippine government person says a month you might see it next year… And you need the damn thing now, so you can go about getting your papers so you can live here, as opposed to visit here.

So what you do is, you land in Manila. Next day you go to the main office of Philippine immigration.

There you will find your classic, harried civil servants, looking for something – anything - that will brighten up their dismal, dull day/life. Give them what they need. Act the fool, while oh, so very politely insisting that you walk out of there with your ACR I-card.

Tell them your address might change, before the month waiting period is completed. Tell them you will travel around and you seriously doubt you will be stable enough for your card to catch up with you. Tell them you need to open a bank account so you can send money here to buy a really nice car you found then beg for their help, because someone else might buy it before you do…

Basic people skills and a big, shit-eating grin will prevail in the Philippines, almost every time.

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE?

Pepto Bismol – and lots of it. DEET insect repellant. Shower shoes (flip-flops) as the bathrooms are all tile and that tile is polished, to a deadly sheen. Your computer glasses (if you use them). Bring hydrogen peroxide - you will need it.

There are so very many things you simply can not get here. Wire nuts. Robertson screws. Many medicines commonly prescribed in the US do not exist here so get with your doctor, if necessary, and arrive with a six month supply of whatever you need.

MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

You will get sick. Count on it.

The “Philippine flu” begins with a sore throat.

If you brought hydrogen peroxide – gargle with it. If not go to the nearest supermarket or pharmacy and buy BETADINE oral antiseptic. (Betadine is heavy-duty. It contains iodine. Iodine is poison. Do not drink the stuff!) DO NOT put this off - do it RIGHT NOW, or wish the hell you had.

Gargle every hour at the very first sign of a sore throat. This will turn a potential hospitalization into an irritation, but woe to the person who is not prepared! I'm not a doctor but in my perception the "Philippine Flu" is a very virulent strain of walking pneumonia. Don't blow it off! It's not a joke.

If symptoms develop (and they will) the local remedy that works is called BioFlu. It is not an antibiotic (you need a prescription for antibiotics). It works too well. You will think you are OK. You're not, and you would be very well advised to cool it, for at least a week.

The Philippine dysentery is bad news. Some say you can avoid it by taking care concerning the water you drink, and the ice you use. It will not work. You will shower and a few drops will enter your mouth.

I swallowed several types of OTC pills, trying to outrun the dysentery. Money wasted. And it will get serious, believe me! The sight of a Joe with a brown behind is all too common here.

The misery of all miseries is the toilet. Many of them have no seats, though the mounting holes for the seats are there. If you are male your scrotum will dangle into the toilet water, most of the time. Be sure to buy, and carry your own paper! Here the showers are cold, for the most part. I will not detail the way Filipinos perform their ablutions…

Medical insurance is perhaps the least popular, of topics. The Philippine Government runs an insurance program and the good news is, you can afford it. It's called PhilHealth. As of 07/01/2017 the cost for a Joe is 17,500 pesos per year. That's just over three hundred seventy U.S. dollars. There are facilities where PhilHealth pays the entire cost of your care but you will not want to go there, if you are admitted to the hospital.

PhilHealth will get you admitted to a private facility so you can survive to deal with the two thirds of the bill, left unpaid. (Your medicare supplement is supposed to cover this, albeit after the fact). I have no direct experience with this but I have been given to understand that, in the case of a serious problem, getting admitted is the hurdle. After that you will receive the care you need and the bill, to go with it. You will have to buy your medicine - the hospitals don't furnish it, then bill for it. Often it is cheaper to buy your medicines elsewhere.

BEACHES:

Beaches. No worries. Piece of cake, right? WRONG.

First, lets understand what we are talking about.

 

THIS IS A BEACH

Swim, Joe, SWIM :)

THIS IS A SEASIDE SLUM

RUN Joe, RUN!

The last section detailed medical concerns and briefly touched upon the maladies available in the Philippines. Now here's your chance to get infected with every last one of them, in the same day!

I really, really want to come down with both feet on the squirming little dirtbags that piss, shit and throw their garbage into the ocean. But I can not.

It's just like those sons of bitches that ride bicycles, converted to emulate motorellas. Certainly, if their entire race was to vanish, before morning, things would be much better..

Here in the Philippines, school is not mandatory. (Shocked, are we? Get used to it.) If a kid's parents lack the money to send him/her to school, they don't. Simple as that. This begets a class of sub-humans, completely illiterate and totally uneducated.

Getting back to that neanderthal on the tricycle (that's what they call them), not only is that God Damned thing all he has - it's an achievement. He/she had to work hard and save money to buy it. There is little doubt he/she is homeless, sleeps on the fucking thing and makes enough money every day to get rudimentary food.. provided luck is with him/her.

And I will take action, against someone like that? No. Never!

It is the same with the poor, pathetic monkeys that piss, shit and toss their trash into the ocean. That's all they've ever seen. They have no idea that they should not do that, and no clue as to why. Their shacks (cobbled together from driftwood) have no CR (Comfort Room, as they call it here) and they quite literally have no other option, but to foul the ocean. Nobody picks up their garbage - that's for sure!

You should have better sense than to go anywhere with a mile of a festering cesspool like the one in the picture, and you do, but you're sill living in the pretty little bubble, from which you came.

Does the water stink, Joe? That's raw sewage, floating on the ocean. Run, Joe. Run long, and run hard!

When you find a real beach, look in both directions. If there is anything within two miles that looks like the slum picture above, keep running, cause boy, you aint never even BEEN sick until you get all the Philippines can throw at you, at the same time.

All smaller places drain their sewage into the ocean. It doesn't seem to bother some people. I am never sick, here in the US. I had pneumonia five times in a single year because I like to swim and because I failed to connect swimming, with becoming infected with the flu.

BUYING THINGS:

Just like the beaches, buying something you want is so firmly entrenched into our Joe consciousness; so rudimentary to our way of life that it is, quite literally, automatic. When you arrive in the Philippines you will need to rethink this automatic process as things will change, drastically, once again.

Make absolutely certain you want what you buy because you will never get a refund. It just does not happen here.

Even in the largest of retailers, Gaisano, for example, many of the items offered are not new. They have been sold then brought back, for exchange. Items are never written off, it seems, merely placed back on the shelves and sold, over and over again.

In smaller stores it is not uncommon for someone to use something (for who knows how long), clean it up, put it back into the original box and then sell it, for new. Joe, of course, is not looking for this, so it is often tried on him.

A huge retailer (Save More grocery stores) tried to sell me a fan that had been used in their break room (or whatever). They didn't even clean it up first. I just smiled, and directed them to get me a new one. And they did.

You will soon notice what I call "Joe prices." When I see a Joe price (a higher than normal price asked of me because I am a foreigner) I smile, take a picture of the offending business and, if possible, the guilty employee. Then I make an entry in the database, here at The Philippine Resource, which exists as a deterrent to such behavior.

Practically speaking, there is but one way to avoid Joe pricing, which is to let your Lady buy everything. Allow her to reconnoiter, ask prices etc., then come out from wherever you have hidden your Joe self, make the final decision and pay for it.

POLLUTION and CORRUPTION:

The pollution in the cities is something your western mind will not accept because it violates every concept, upon which your reality is based.

I am aware of repeating myself and, when I do, it is because you need to know something. You need to understand that yes, there are pollution laws here but they are not enforced. The result is something that makes an L. A. brownout look like a fresh spring morning.

The law says each vehicle must undergo a pollution check when it is registered. Enter the “fixer.” A fixer is someone with “connections” that allow him/her to get things done quickly and simply, for a price, of course.

Want a drivers' license, but don't know how to drive? Five thousand pesos will take you all the way. I'm dead serious. (sic) And so it is if you have an ancient diesel bus, truck, jeepney (or whatever) that belches so much smoke, it literally blots out the sun.

Corruption is everywhere. In rich, industrialized countries it hides in the backrooms of legislatures, and court houses. In the third world it is an everyday, in your face thing. And nothing of which I can think is as in my face as the horrendous filth, in the air I breathe.

PHONE RAGE:

A paid-up satellite phone would be a great thing to have. Your old friend the cell phone will instantly become a source of intense misery and frustration, the minute your plane lands.

The thing with the phones here defines the word outrageous! They charge extra to call and lines and even phones using competing cellular services. And they actually get away with it! You will need a phone that can handle dual sim cards. If not it will be useless, so just leave it at home.

I will relate what little I have learned, to date, of dealing with a situation from the very center, of hell. There are two sides in an ongoing cell phone feud: Globe, and Smart.

Globe… I consider myself a wordsmith but I am not even close to being able to concoct a string of expletives that do justice to the absolute most crass and villainous organization I have encountered, in sixty-seven years of living. Lying dirtbags… that will have to do, for now.

Globe will tell you they offer an “unlimited” prepaid calling plan. It's unlimited all right – until you try to call a land line or a mobile phone that uses another network. They your phone demands more money.

You can return as I did, to the Globe store, saying you paid for unlimited, etc. etc. etc. Their wide-eyed response will be, “… it IS unlimited, on our network…” And these !@#$%^&!! actually get away with that, here! Oh, and don't bother asking for a refund – you will be informed “it doesn't work like that.”

Immediately, you will begin to receive texts from these dirtbags, featuring terminology you do not understand. But they see to require action, of some sort. Gone are the happy, happy days of simply paying your bill…

Finally (I wish) I went to their office again. I stated my problems and asked how I could just make my phone work and stop being a colossal pain in my ass. They replied they have a postpaid plan for 799 pesos/month that fills the bill.

Sign me up, said I. Sure – just give me your credit card and your ID. He came right back, saying, This is not a credit card. It's a debit card. And your point is? I asked. Well, this offer is available only to those that have credit cards.

The icing on the cake? These cock sucking sons of dog assed goddam, motherfucking bitches have actually bent me over! You WILL do business with them OR you WILL NOT be able to avail yourself of the pleasures of having a phone, here. Before, it took the might of the state or federal government to bend me over and put their dicks up my ass…

So now, as I am dealing with this, I will document the pleasures of living here in a real-life scenario, which happens to be making a telephone call. Filipinos do not have cell phones that will call every number they encounter. I am not certain I can actually accomplish that, myself.

I thank God for the gifts It gave me – the fortitude and the determination to tackle the problem and the intelligence and the creativity to prevail, if I do. Suddenly finding myself among those to whom God has not granted those things (because they are not ready for them, no doubt) makes my appreciation more acute.

As always, I will define the problem first:

•  Make/Receive calls to/from GLOBE Network

•  Make/Receive calls to/from SMART Network

•  Make calls to land line phones

•  Have data available on the phone

Globe and Smart are bitter enemies. It will be necessary to purchase and “load” (prepay) a sim card from each of them, as calling a phone owned by one from the other is very expensive – prohibitively so. Even then, it will be necessary to compile a list of telephone prefixes belonging to Globe, and to Smart, then use that list to select the proper sim card to make the call! Likewise, I suggest you place a G or a S before each name in your contacts in order to facilitate calling them, without paying through your nose.

My trusty phone, which works great and literally kicks ass, had to be replaced, as it is not capable of mounting two sim cards. Few phones actually are. They claim to be but, as I recently learned, there is a caveat. If two sim cards are used there is no place to put your sd (memory) card. One of the “slots” is dual-purpose. So if you are not careful and end up with one of those phones you will have little space for pictures, videos and you music.

I bought an OPPO F1s. This phone has 4 gigs of RAM, 64 gigs of internal storage, a 13 Mp camera, an oct a-core processor and the ability to mount two sim cards and a sd card. It cost me 13,999 Pesos - $280. U.S. It gets good signal in flaky places and it seems to be a good phone. Ah, but now comes the misery all of us have experienced, as we change phones…

I will deal with the turds at Globe first. There is a company called TM that resells Globe services. Buy a TM sim card then buy three days of unlimited (on the Globe network) calls and texts for 30 pesos. Extend that each (and every) day, for an additional five pesos. So, 165 pesos is it, for Globe.

For Smart, 350 pesos buys unlimited calls to the Smart/Sun/TNT network and unlimited texts to all networks, plus five hundred Mb of data. To get this buy three hundred and fifty pesos of load for Smart then text “UCT350” to 9999.

For the data, buy ninety-nine pesos of load for Smart then text “GIGA99” to 9999. That gets you three gigabytes of data and seven days to use it. Unused data dies after the seven days. So, that's 297 pesos per month (or less, because you get five hundred Mb when you buy your phone service).

It has taken me this long to impart the information necessary to understand how these bastards fuck you. Always having to buy a nickel/dime amount of load is time consuming, because it must be done in person. So Joe will buy, say, 500 pesos of load from Smart, so he can simply text “GIGA99” each time his internet goes dead, for a month. M I S T A K E!

If Joe calls a land line or a Globe number the out-fucking-rageous cost of that will be deducted from his balance. Joe will not be notified of the charges before they are incurred, of course, only after the fact. The only way to prevent that from happening is to have no balance available to steal. And that, Joe, is how they fuck not only you, but every Filipino with a God Damn phone, as well.

And now for the iffy part. I strongly suspect land line calls are the bread and butter of the cell phone maggots, here in the Philippines. We will bypass them, using their own data services to accomplish same. Skype will call any phone in the Philippines for six dollars and ninety-five cents a month, U.S. The iffy part is you will need to be someplace where you have data signal (or wi-fi) to make land line calls.

My arithmetic suggests the overall price of my scenario is 1,345 pesos. Going with the 799 plan offered only to the rich by Globe, and paying the same prices for the rest, comes to 1,799 pesos. I am not aware of the limit on land line calls imposed by Globe but I am absolutely certain there is one. They're such nice people, after all…

And so there you have it - $27.50 per month (and the hassle associated with renewing everything) for a cell phone that can actually work like a cell phone in the states, if you learn how to do your part. I have spoken to several “expats” that do not have such a phone and will tell you, point blank, that it s not possible to have one. So now how do you feel about the $20 you paid to enter my web site?

 

SMART/SUN/TNT NUMBERS

 

0813

0907

0908

0909

0910

0911

0912

0913

0914

0918

0919

0920

0921

0928

0929

0930

0938

0939

0946

0947

0948

0949

0989

0998

0999

0922

0923

0924

0925

0932

0933

0934

0942

0943

 

 

GLOBE/TM NUMBERS

 

0817

0905

0906

0915

0916

0917

0926

0927

0935

0936

0937

0945

0975

0946

0994

0995

0996

0997

0977

0978

0979

 

 

 

It's more fun in the Philippines, right? You betcha.

CULTHRE SHOCK:

Operating in Philippines without a “personal network” is difficult, and then some.

In the 1950s the U.S. was a very different place. Huge “box stores” and online retailers were things of the future. If you wanted to buy something you had to know where to get it. That “commercial model” survives today, in the Philippines.

The Philippines have some interesting laws pertaining to foreigners, wanting to participate in retail trade. Use this link:

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno8762.htm#.WR4wntwlF2E

During the transition from “mom and pop” retailing to the current situation in the U.S. a lot of people lost their jobs. If the Philippine government were to allow that transition here the effect would be many times more brutal, as much less time would be required to accomplish the change.

So one way to look at the situation, which certainly is a constant source of frustration for Joes, is the government of the Philippines is protecting their people, and so their status quo, from the violent upheaval that most certainly would accompany being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century. Another, of course, is the government is acting to protect it's own by perpetuating the monopolies that are, quite literally, choking the Philippine economy to death with the artificially high prices they require.

Stroll through the malls and think, yeah, just like home. But dig a little deeper – buy a car and decide to change the fluid in the new to you transmission (as just one example) and something quite different appears, all too quickly. I have owned the car over a month and I am still looking for that transmission pan gasket! “… you never know what you've got, ‘till it's gone…” I'm absolutely certain there is a gasket for sale here. Maybe I can't find it or maybe the business that has it is protecting it's main customers (auto shops) by refusing to sell it to me.

I went to the main Isuzu dealer in Cebu, asking for the gasket. I was informed by the service manager that not only does my transmission not require a gasket, my engine has a timing chain, as opposed to a timing belt that demands maintenance, on pain of ruining the entire engine. You can expect to deal with morons like that more often than not, in the Philippines, and my choice to believe he is a moron certainly gives him the benefit of the doubt! He just might be deliberately trying to ruin my engine…

If you do what you are supposed to do, as a Joe; if you stay in a tourist trap by the sea and shed cubic dollars, each and every hour you are here, things go well - quite well, in fact. When you descend into the every-day living to be done here, things change. Don't sell out in your home country and arrive here, expecting to be happy, evermore. You will have to come off that beach sometime and, when you do, reality will set in, very quickly.

BANK ACCOUNT / MOVING MONEY:

Will you need a bank account? Of course you will, unless your intent is to stay for a very short while. Moving some money (but not all of it!) here might be a good idea. If there really is a nuclear war…

In order to open a bank account you will need your passport and I.D. Most (but not all, I have heard) banks insist that you show your A.C.R. ID card. Thanks to your participation in my web site you landed in Manila, and you already have it.

You can judge the available banks here:

http://www.bsp.gov.ph/banking/psoc/by_ranks/assets.htm

according to the assets they control.

My experience with PH banks is so very limited – to one branch, in one place and on very few “given days.” BDO is the most visible of the lot. It was the first one I tried. This was the point where I got really nervous. The people at the banks did not seem to know what they were doing. In fact, they don't. This is the Philippines. Their cousin got them their job…

I have bought cars and bikes for up to $12,000 using my debit card. Bank employees here apparently don't know that can be done, as they swear it is not possible. The probable reason for that is, they have been falsely trained. They will suggest that you make an inordinate number of transactions (using your plastic) at their ATMs. Money-making little scam, that one ,)

In the office of BDO I reasoned with the woman with whom I spoke, but to no avail. Finally I arose, offering my congratulations on turning a potential customer into someone who will never darken their doorstep again and the considerable business acumen necessary, in order to accomplish same.

I had been using BDO ATMs as a matter of choice, since day one in the Philippines. The day after my failed attempt at doing business with BDO my plastic stopped working in their machines, along with Philippine National Bank ATMs. The error generated is the transaction timed out. My card works perfectly, and instantly, in BDO-powered machines in retail establishments.

Can I prove the assholes at BDO did something to cause my plastic not to work? No, I can not. I know it, just the same. My advice is to be very wary of BDO. I say they will hurt you, should you display the intergalactic nerve necessary to displease them.

The next bank I tried was Philippine National Bank. I still have an account there, containing one peso. I tried to make use of the external money movement facility proffered by my U.S. online banking. My bank tried to make two small deposits to confirm my offshore account and asked me to tell them the amount of those deposits, before they would move funds in that manner. Those two deposits never arrived. Ten days later my bank sent a message to me, saying PNB was “unable” to complete the transaction. Meanwhile, I was still using highly profitable (200 pesos, or $4, per transaction) ATM machines. Finally, I saw the writing on the wall. I began (and I say BEGAN) to realize what kind of lying, ripoff scum I am dealing with, as well. And it is into that category I assign PNB.

The bank I use now is Metrobank, for the simple reason I have yet to have an issue with them. Their online banking web site displays my current balance, and nothing else, so I do not know if the small deposits made by my bank showed up.

The way to move money is good ‘ol Western Union. You can send $ 5,000 to yourself and have it within an hour, at an apparent cost of $20. Stay awake. Look at the rate of exchange proffered by Western Union, chuckle, then arrange for U.S. dollars to be delivered to the recipient (you).

Ah, but you have yet to rid yourself of the Filipino factor, as they man the Western Union offices here. When you go to pick up your money, most of the places “will not have than much U.S. cash” and will then offer to exchange it into pesos for you, again at a most unfavorable rate.

In larger cities there is a main branch of Western Union (downtown somewhere) that has large amounts of U.S. dollars. This is where it gets dicey. Check and see what rate of exchange you can actually get, before picking up your money. The rate changes, seemingly minute by minute. Make your best effort to avoid exchanging currency on weekends or holidays. Assess the risk factor of the place you choose, as well.

Take the wad of pesos and deposit it into your bank. That will cause no trouble, or even a raised eyebrow – believe it or not!

BUYING A CAR:

Will you need a car? Most definitely.

“Get your feet wet,” first. Use the motorellas, jeepneys, vans and taxis, until you get sick of it. Won't take long.

You will notice those methods of transport, tried and true, will take you only where you want to go. The Philippines is something you will have to find (in many more ways than one). If you are like me you don't know what you want, in other than very general terms! So telling a taxi to take you there will not work.

Another good thing that will come with using public transport for a while is experiencing the roads here. You can (and will) find yourself on nasty and treacherous terrain, all of a sudden and even within a big city. One of the major benefits of getting your own wheels is, of course, being able to leave the city behind, in which case you will need even more toughness, beneath you.

So, do not get a car, especially a sub-compact, el-cheapo car.

Soon you will find that trucks are NOT cheap, here. By then you should also realize all the people driving by in fat-cat 4x4 SUVs are not trying to impress anyone. It is important to have a vehicle that will stand up to the use it gets. It's hot here. You need the AC, almost all the time. The average commute consists of dragging your brakes in traffic from he77, all the way to work, then dragging them all the way home again. Wimpy vehicles don't last long!

There are web sites, notably OLX.com, that are sequels to Craigslist. Buying from a private seller may save some pesos but it leaves you as a rank outsider in a system, the likes of which you have never experienced.

In the process of buying my car I was taken to a parking lot at a highway patrol station. It was jammed with cars! I was given to understand most of them had been there for days, some weeks, waiting for the obligatory police check on their papers. But my guy “knew someone” and we were done in five hours.

I bought my Isuzu Trooper from a “car display” (car lot). It may have exacerbated an already unfavorable pricing situation but it shielded me from being at the mercy of everyone in the long and tedious process of transferring the title into my name and then registering the vehicle, not to mention being recognized as a Joe in the process. You might consider doing the same.

Filipinos, perennially strapped for cash, will not fix it until after the wheel actually falls off. Dead serious.

If you are not really sharp on cars you will need to get someone that is on your side, somehow, before you go out looking. After making double DOG certain the prospective vehicle is in good condition (especially the brakes) you will need two things: a) TOUGH and b) TORQUE, as the undersea mountain range we call Philippines aint no pushover – far, far from it.

Diesel fuel is much less expensive than gasoline here – so much so it is nearly impossible to buy a diesel used car. Diesel SUV type vehicles are to be found – mainly Mitsubishi Pajeros and Isuzu Troopers. Avoid 4x4 (which rules out the Pajero, almost completely) because it causes the vehicle to use a lot more fuel, even when the 4x4 is not being used.

When operating a diesel vehicle, take great care of the battery terminals – keep them squeaky clean. Massive currents flow when starting a diesel. Low battery output will cause all kinds of trouble, beginning with hard starting.

Every single vehicle here has tinted windows. Unlike your country, the law does not specify limits on the tint, so be damn careful at night, until you're accustomed to that!

Like everything else here, obtaining a vehicle is a colossal pain in the ass. Ah, but the freedom that ensues can be had, in no other manner. Once you have wheels, you can get lost. You can accidentally discover all the beauty (etc.) this web site glosses over, in favor of the practical. And there is plenty of it. So, go get it! Hint: find the road that follows any coast line out of town, and just drive away on it.

A RECURRING THEME:

I'm sure most of you have noticed a theme that flows through otherwise unrelated topics – that being Joe, gets ripped off.

I have mixed feelings, concerning this. I always try to play the devil's advocate; to step into the shoes, of the other person. I suppose I can “justify” the choices and actions of those that are dirt poor and are obliged to watch, as a “superior class” of people from afar enjoy things they will never have… I might even do the same. God, in It's grace, has not chosen to visit that test upon me, in this life. Thank You, God…

Cutting through the chase, what does it matter? Bottom line is individual Filipinos have the God-given right to perceive as they will. And so do I. Be all that as it may, people act in their own best interests.

ADDENDUM - MY CONCLUSION:

Almost a year in the Philippines produced a wash. Indecision has never been my problem, in fact the reverse - being too sure of myself, and so my ability to assess the situation. Still, one day I would fully intend to leave the United Police States (which I vehemently hate) behind and move to the Philippines, for good. The next day I would plan to return to my home, rotten to the core as it is.

The prevalence of cruelty to small animals here is what tipped the scales, for me. It took a long time because this is not something you see on the first day - far from it. I knew of the "cock" (chicken) fighting here, like everyone else. I glossed over it, until tonight.

I was parked in front of a store, where my Lady sought some groceries. Off to my left I saw one of the "lion dogs" known to be used as guard animals in the hotel, in which the small grocery is housed, being lead out onto the sidewalk. A young man was not acting right.

Suddenly this kid - almost a man - threw a tiny kitten down, in front of the dog. I was out of the truck, shouting at the top of my lungs. That gave the kitten the chance it needed, to save its life.

There were several males standing around. Apparently, they had been waiting for the event. I asked them if they wanted to hurt something, why not try to hurt me? I got no takers on that, of course. Two of the men were armed guards, carrying twelve gage shotguns, which prevented the kid from getting his fucking ass stomped into the pavement, as he so richly deserved!

In my country - as awful as it has become - there are very few people of the caliber I witnessed, this night. If there is nothing in your heart that will put hooks into your jaws and drag you forth, to save a tiny kitten then... all I can say is, Satan has taken you, and nothing less than that.

 

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