It really is more fun in the Philippines but there are a few things you have to remember and a few lessons you will have to learn.
I am currently on my fifth trip to this amazing country in my favourite city so far, Cebu. It has the added benefit of city life and all it’s culture, as well as providing easy access to the beautiful beaches that this country is known for. Lesson one – Smile. If you smile you will get on with the locals because smiling is what they all do. If you have a problem that needs sorting just smile at someone and they will assist. I landed at the airport after a gruelling 22 hour journey, it was midnight (Cebu time) I was to be met by my driver, I had his mobile number. Problem, I could not call from my UK mobile phone and my local phone had no credit on it yet. I smiled at a baggage handler, he smiled back and said ‘Hi Boss’……. ( we are all Bosses and Sirs here) within two minutes he was using his phone to call my driver and explained to him that I was waiting and that he should come get me….. All achieved with a smile.
Lesson two – Marriage. Understand this, that when you marry a Philippino you marry the whole family. That’s just how it is here. Expect to have the whole family live with you at some point, but it’s OK, you see they never stop smiling and will soon have you doing the same. It’s easy to fall in love with the beautiful people of this incredible country and you will not usually find a better spouse but you got to take the rest of em!! lock stock and smokin barrels. It’s OK though because when you are too old to climb the stairs at night, can’t dress yourself and need the dribble wiping from your chin, you will be cared for by the family that you married, not carted off to some God forsaken care home in the UK and left to vegetate in a wing back chair watching reruns of the Jeremy Vile show!!!! so marrying the family has it’s rewards in the end.
Lesson three – Poverty. Yes there is a class system here and yes you will see poverty. People living in squatters areas, in ramshackle boxes made from wood and corrugated iron. With poverty and class division comes a certain amount of corruption. This means that you should always use common sense, because, bless them, a small minority, will see you as a rich Westerner and as easy pickings for some scam or other. So just be on the lookout all the time, watch for taxi drivers that don’t have a meter, people trying to sell you a hard luck story on the street, it’s the same as anywhere else on this planet you just have to be aware but do not tar the majority of Philippino’s with the same brush. They say it’s unsafe in this country, well as long as common sense prevails you will be OK. In my sixty years on this planet I have travelled the world, been mugged at knifepoint in Spain, attacked, robbed and left for dead in Greece, fleeced by street beggars in Paris, humiliated in Rome, Assaulted in London and robbed, Burgled in my own house and attacked by a hoard of angry lesbians in Brighton, (I like all genders ok). Using common sense I have not yet suffered anything other than fun in the Philippines.
Lesson three – Ageism. There isn’t any….. in the UK at the age of sixty, with over thirty five years experience running a multi million pound business in Direct Marketing and Data…. I can’t get a fecking job as a fecking tea boy !!!!!!! Oh yes they all want my address book but I have become surplus to requirement. With heart attack and bypass operation I am also considered at deaths door. In the Philippines I am viewed as a power source of experience, full of information and useful credence. In the Philippines after a bypass, well you have a new heart there’s years in you yet. This is the land of absolute opportunity, rather like the UK was thirty years ago and not ruined by the internet and bloody Brexit crap, this is a country where with a small amount of money you can still move mountains. Of course because they see no age limit here, you will see a lot of rather old, large, Americans, wearing awful shorts, toupees and loud shirts with much younger partners on their arms. Don’t knock it, and don’t blame them for their new found youth, everyone is a winner, just think about it for a minute.
Lesson four – Assimilation. The only way to be a part of any society is to adopt it and make it your own. Maybe if more people around the world would accept that where you land in life you need to blend then the world would be a better place and a safer place. Language, culture, manners, food, customs need to be maintained and it is our responsibility as a traveller and a settler that we accept this and we don’t fight it. After knowing Philippino’s for the best part of 15 years now and counting many of them as great friends, I have had to learn to curtail certain aspects of my behaviour in order to be accepted. I used to tell some pretty raucous jokes, these jokes will offend Philippino people because their own humour is soft and gentle and may I say incredibly infectious. I ditched the crudity and happily accepted the Comedy bar sketches that now have me in stitches, Comedy Bars? I hear you ask….. well you have to be here to get that one !!!!
Lesson five – Alcohol and food. Oh dear the alcohol, I fell for it twice, like an idiot. When a bunch of Philippino’s invite you for a night time drink, you had better be ready for it. I have seen so many Westerners falling over and walking into walls after a drinking session with these guys!! They don’t do cissy wine sipping, or designer beer from fancy bottles, Oh No!!!! whiskey, Brandy or what ever they can get their hands on. It’s basically round the table shot drinking with a lemonade or Coca-Cola chaser and only a small sip of the latter, accompanied by extreme story telling and fabulous laughter. These boys can really down a few bottles of Jack Daniels and woe betide you if you don’t keep up (remember Assimilation) but it’s OK to say no at the very beginning, just tell a porky and say you have a dodgy belly or you have work the next morning. As for food, well some I love some I hate. The traditional dish here is Lechon which is basically a whole pig with head and skin on and spit roasted. It is a luxury here in the Philippines and they eat the bloody lot, there is no waste because Philippino’s waste nothing… a lesson we could all do with learning. Sig Sig, Crispy Pata, Adobo, Pancit, Bagnet, Kinilaw, Halo-halo, Leche flan…… so the list goes on and you won’t know what you like until you try it.. but try it you should . You cannot enter a Philippino house rich or humble and not be offered food, the first words uttered usually are ‘Have you eaten’ it’s another beautiful thing about these fabulous people. My favourite dish here is Lapu Lapu sweet and sour it is delicious. But watch out for Balut !!!! they will try and get you to eat this particularly if you shared the whisky shots… and don’t believe all the stories like, the more feathers it has the more it tickles as it goes down your throat, I have only ever managed to look at one and until now I have never tasted one no matter how drunk I have been. Google it.. go on !!!
Have to dash off now, I have a business proposal to think about, just one day in the city of Cebu and after a surprising off the cuff chat at a bar in town I am being invited to join a team setting up a new business venture, haven’t been this excited or included in a long time, yeah thanks dear old Blighty you had your chance !!!!!! Sige, aalis na ako (That’s good bye from me )