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Monday, October 6, 2008

Australian gunned down in Angeles City

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I see that an Australian has been gunned down in Angeles City in the Philippines. The story reported in the Sun Herald reports that the guy had a successful business there. At the end of the day doesn't it just become about money. Maybe he wasn't prepared to pay kickbacks to the local authorities. Anyway, it is far better for all concerned to avoid Angeles City, since its mostly prostitution and drugs. I don't think it need to reflect on the rest of the country.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Philippines is under ‘undeclared martial law'

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According to Topix.net the Philippines is under an 'undeclared martial law'. How true is that? What we do know about Philippines politics is that there is a culture of power lusters and corruption, and collusion between the major parties. Consider for instance that President Arroyo pardoned deposed former president Joseph Estrada. Why would you do that unless you wanted the same treatment in opposition, that is to be unaccountable for your crimes. This is consistent with the perception that corruption has increased under Arroyo. I've only lived in the Philippines 2 years but I've seen a lot of corruption. The US government even expressed dismay at the high number of opposition leaders being murdered or disappearing, and the high level of political killings. A significant number of journalists have also been killed for expressing opinions against certain political interests.
Certainly there is no martial law in the Philippines, but the threat should be considered serious because Gloria Arroyo is currently prevented from running for a 2nd term. She is not without her options, and among them are:
1. Attempting to change the constitution. She has supported Federalism as a means of giving the Moros their lands in Muslim Mindanao. It would seem reasonable if the government had not spent the last 100 years trying to marginalise them through population resettlement and kill them. But fine, all is forgiven.
2. Declaring martial law. One of the problems with allowing a president to declare martial law is the chance of the law being misused. It would be easy enough for the president's supporters in the military to conspire to fabricate a 'civil emergency' that would justify martial law, whether its the killing of people, or more likely a series of bomb attacks around the Philippines.
3. Getting one of her children or supporters elected: If you can't get re-elected, why not get one of your supporters elected. Arroyo has family in politics. Maybe they will ascend as a proxy. No signs of that yet, but no election until 2010, so time to groom them for the presidency.

Reading the Topix story there seems to be confusion over terminology. Martial law is a period of enhanced presidental power. There is the concern that after 30 days, when martial law is due to expire (after the end of her term), that she could pay off a number of politicians to achieve an indefinite extension. More likely however would be a move to rewrite the Constitution. The Philippines has replaced its constitutions every 30 years on average. It needs to be conceded however that Arroyo has done a good job reforming the economy in many respects, so she is no slouch there. Of course they said the same about President Marcos, who failed to execute. Arroyo by contrast has just been slow. The trend however is positive. Could it be that she is just impatient with democracy. Aside from the political-related killings, it might be comparable with President Roosevelt's total disregard for the Constitution. eg. The IRS Code and abolition of the gold standard.

If one looks around the world it is a given that we are in a period of fascism, where corporate government alliance has far more power than that of the much maligned unions, consumer (given the weak regulation). Fascism today is far less confrontational than the pre-WWII days. It reads to be understood that there are blunter tools than guns to get what you want. Its easier to misappropriate funds and pay off your detractors. You will find some journalists are paid off to shut up, and they are the one's who don't respond to the threat of murdered journalists.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Philippines language

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I was just having a conversation with my GF about the Tagalog (Philippine) language. She was explaining the reasons why she didn't like the language. I think its very easy for a person to discard their culture, language or values, as some collective trash, but really there is often some value in it. She was saying:
1. Tagalog was very repetitive: Upon discussion or critical appraisal of the language it was apparent that it was really quiet logical in its structure. She said it was an integration of Bahasa (Indonesian), Spanish and Chinese, and maybe local native dialects, but her example was not true.
2. Tagalog was emotive: I tend to agree with her point: I notice that she will talk in English with people, but when she wants to be emotional, she will switch to Tagalog. There is a pleading in the Philippine language. I don't however think this is a problem restricted to Tagalog. Having had Japanese and Korean girlfriends, and friends in Europe as well, I can say that a great many Asian and mainland European languages are pleading or tragic. People are like this way for a reason. They are seeking alms or concessions. Its a tool. Understandable that people use it to get what they want, but sadly the counterparty is unable or unwilling to counter it with reason. Herein lies a failure of Asian and mainland European thinking that manifests itself in language.
3. Tagalog is tiresome: Her argument was that it is much harder to explain things in Tagalog compared to English. This is not surprising, though clearly my GF could not appreciate the difference because she didn't appreciate the history of these cultures. English techical words like at the core of most languages because the Western world popularised their use though the Industrial revolution. Today English is the level of science and other technical subjects such as philosophy despite the illogical structure of English. The illogical structure of English however is incidental rather than core. Its incidental in the sense that the language borrowed from others. It borrowed frm others because science and commerce resulted in it engaging with the world, spreading its achievements, such that it morphed with other cultures, but its core remained strong because it learned from other cultures.

It did not self-righteously place up barriers like the Japanese, which were subsequently broken down by Admiral Perry, it was mostly open to other countries. I think that is the legacy of English. Its a stuffed language, declines in structure with every culture it influences, but its culture always retains the right attitude. Always? Well, no. I would suggest its concept of self interest (as defined by its bureaucrats) is too narrow and commercial in its political expression, but such is the influence of bad politics. If Asia wants to impress it really needs to adopt a better philosophical system. But personally I think you will read about such a system on these pages before you read about it from some Asian bureaucrat. Watch these pages...

My GF did appreciate that whilst she had these strong objections about the Philippines, she really needed to live overseas so that she could see their cultural failings. I would however caution against nit-picking over cultural differences and understanding why. Cultures are different for reasons. You can't expect a cutlture to be different from what it is because it did not depend on any one person, it is a summation of ideas. Neither should one define oneself as the product of a collectivist identity. We are all individuals, slaves to a government that purports to represent only enough of the swine that would have it elected, having colluded with the competition (other party) on the rules of engagement.
Anyway we as good swine do...go to Australia to teach my GF how bad the world is, to make so much money that we can escape its vile odour... the raucous smell of a government that cares not to identify its contradictions. Well I love the physiology of my country, never mind the boring decadence of it. But I also like to explore... to seek out new experiences.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Superstition in the Philippines

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Its interesting how seriously Filipinos treat spiritual matters. I guess I have surrounded myself with a lot of cultures over the years, but I suggest that Filipinos are the most superstitious. On the note I am comparing them with Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, with Eastern Europeans the runner-ups, followed by the Japanese. The examples that come to mind are the following:

1. Work colleagues who ask their boss for a day off because it has been foretold that there will be an earthquake in Manila and a lot of people are going to die. It made me laugh. I would hate to die because I took precautions. Offices are designed to withstand earthquakes - many Filipino house owners might remember that. :) The strength of houses depends on the design too of course.

2. Property buyers who dont want to buy a property because its 500m away from a graveyard. My personal opinion is that dead people make the best neighbours because they are very quiet. I dont know the statue of limitations on haughting. I dont know how far they can roam in a night. Maybe best to live next to a cell tower so you can call for help, and the electromagnetic radiation might repel them.

3. Not talking ill of other people because it just might happen. Being critical, I do this a lot, and I'm always impressed by my capacity to have people touching wood.

4. There is also a belief in gnomes, fairies and 'centals', though I care less what they are.

The Japanese are pretty uptight people too. Salt crystals near the window sill in the house to ward off evil spirits. This one makes me laugh because it caused the cement and paint to crumble after a few years. But its true - there was no evil spirits over that time.

Religion in the Philippines

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You can't breathe in the Philippines without seeing a statue or ediface of Jesus or Mary. For people who are 'truly blessed' you might wonder why they are so poor. Well they seem happy besides, except when they run out of money. Then there is the requirement to run to OFWs abroad to ask for a loan, which seldom gets repaid. 'Sorry bro, its been a bad week. Too much gambling and drinking. Thanks for the proceeds. All had a good time'. Quite often its the wife working abroad and the husband drinking, gambling and playing around. Not everyone mind you. Just wondering who owns these caricatures of Christ. Will the owner please put up his hand! Would the all knowing, all powerful Jesus please extend these people a loan. Sorry, but even the church can't seem to get enough. Churches around the world pay no tax, yet they still can't seem to get enough. The Saviour is short on change.
We might wonder whether we are expected to take responsibility for living. Ok. But should that not extend to ethics as well. Should we not develop our own philosophy without being extorted by Jesus. Anyway, I just wanted to celebrate the burning down of a church in Bohol some years ago. It made me wonder what their grievance was. I can't help thinking it was justified. Maybe I am remiss and it was 'natural causes'. God truly does work in mysterious ways. More paradoxical than mysterious because I see a great many churches burnt to the ground as I travel around the country. Wouldn't it be more suitable for the myth if that church near San Fernando was spared the ravages of the volcanic eruption of Mt Pinotubo about 20 years ago. I of course have a great deal to say on the ethics of religion. See my blog Religidiculous. Both hard concepts to swallow. :)

Jeepney, bus and taxi drivers hard up

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The Philippines is a poor country, so understandably there is a political incentive to regulate transport fares. Another self-evident fact is that most people would prefer to buy a tricycle or jeepney because apart from functioning as a personal transport vehicle, you can use them to generate income. More interesting perhaps is the lack of interest in riding bicycles in the Philippines. In Japan bicycles are greatly appreciated as a mode of transport, and have been for decades since the country was poor. More interestingly, given the poor quality of roads, is the fact that bicycles can ride faster over rough roads than bicycles, because I can attest to the fact that I am routinely overtaking them. Of course once you get to the open road jeepneys are the most economic transport mode. You might wonder whether hot climate is the reason why people dont like bicycles. That is a possibility. I think for Japanese they go from a walking to a bicycle to a motorbike or car, but given the excellent rail transport, they might not even buy a car.
In the Philippines there is no savings culture. They dont generally have surplus money. They spend everything they get. If they sell a property, they will buy a cheaper house near the highway to free up cash to spend rather than upscaling like people would do in the West. How is this sustainable you might ask? Well, unlike in the West, they have family abroad, and sometimes family in the country, who are willing to support them.
You might think they are happy with this existence. I'm sure some are, but after loading my bike on an SUV yesterday after a mountain bike ride, 'one' Filipino commented 'what a dickhead, riding a bike when he has an SUV'. Well it wasn't my SUV, but anyway. How dare I engage in recreation when people are less comfortable. I might respond 'How dare he think like that when I just bought his cousins property, and might well be buying his next'. How sustainable is his existence? The funny thing was, I was so against this family buying an SUV, and now they regret it. Why buy a vehicle equal to 1/4 the value of your house? And also I knew where fuel prices were going. Its an expense, not an asset.
Jeepney drivers just secured a P0.50 far increase from P8 to P8.50 for the first 4kms. Jeepneys are a great form of transport. Its amazing where you can go with them. Some go down dirt trails. I asked a driver about costs. He was telling me that he makes P500 per day, he pays P1500 per day on fuel, and he uses another driver (likely friend or family), he pays him P400, so he makes just P100 per day for leasing his vehicle. A new jeepney I believe costs around P400,000, so if they are making P100 per day, thats P36,000 per year. At 10% interest, you can't even cover interest and maintenance. So I would suggest they need that fare increase if the supply of jeepneys is going to be sustained. The problem is - these decisions become political.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lawless and irregularities in the Wild West

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Well you might have thought I was talking about the Mid West United States in the 1700s, when gunslingers ruled the West and the nearest sheriff was 6 days ride from town. If the bad guys didn't get you, the Indians would pick you off trying to get help. Well for Americans things have indeed improved. For Filipinos sadly little has improved after 20 years of strong economic growth. Corruption is on the increase and power failures still doggedly appear.

In recent weeks I have seen a lot of science-based scams being perpetrated by Filipinos in the country. These scams include selling soaps that apparently contain a substance with magnetic properties that are supposed to have healing effects. There was another such product being sold outside of my apartment in Manila. Its noteworthy that these people advertise this way because they are less likely to be tracked down, though I'm sure there are too few with a critical mind that might question the science.

I dont want to suggest that such scammery is limited to Filipinos. It goes with the territory. Filipinos will dominate because its their country, and I dare say the schemes come from another unregulated market - China or India. Afterall the products are manufactured somewhere. You can also observe that Western companies are rejoicing in the opportunity to engage in unregulated markets. Sunlife of Canada comes to mind. I can't accuse them of doing anything wrong from a legal standpoint, but actually the way they sell insurance is actually contrary to the interests of their investors in the Philippines. They require large upfront payments into their managed insurance fund scheme. They require those to payoff the agents who are not well-versed in the products they sell. The idea is to employ middle-aged housewives with a lot of friends and teach them how to flog off their product for a large upfront fee. The problem is - when there is a significant market correction, investors have lost 20% on what was a significant amount of money. More important to them was their lost friends. I am sure Sunlife has all the disclaimers and warnings about how treacherous markets can be. But I think its contrary to the interests of their customers how they package the service with an upfront fee. A better scheme would take a smaller payment from investors so they dont suffer as much loss in their is any short term fall. Friendships are being lost because of the way this company structures its scheme - all because it wants to grab the market lead before the market is regulated as it is in the West.

Politicians in developing countries are often just as culpable. In some instances they forgo business (ethics) standards for the sake of financial gain, whether national income or personal kickbacks. There was BHP's operation of Porgera in PNG which pumped tailings into the nearest river, which destroyed the livelihood of villages downstream. There are incidences of lax departmental processes that result in poorly engineered projects receiving approval. In many cases these approvals were bought. I understand in takes 2 years to get BFAD approval for a manufactured product in the Philippines, but if you pay a $US10,000 kickback you can get the product in several months.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to stay alive in the Philippines

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Here are two horrific stories involving the murder of Australian and English men by their respective partners in 2 separate incidents. As sad as these murders are, I don't believe they were totally unexpected. People don't suddenly reveal themselves as murderers, or accessories to a murder. The areas and girls where these guys lived are famous for being drug and prostitution districts of the Philippines. One of the men even married a bar girl. What do they say 'You can take the girl out of the bar, but you can't take the bar out of the girl'. 'Good girls' dont even drink in this country, so best to stay away from those girls.
I dont think a person really knows themself at 25yo, so to marry a person from a different culture at that age, and from a poor country as well, you are just looking for trouble. not easy to understand women at that age. A PhD in psychology probably wouldn't help. A lot of life experience needs to pass under the bridge before you marry a foreign girl from a poor country.
Here are some tips:
1. Dont get involved with a girl with educational qualifications less than you. Why? Where is the basis for respect. A Filipino qualification will mean less than a foreign one (sadly), so they are already at a disadvantage.
2. Dont get involved with a girl more than 15 years younger than you. Age does matter. I think age differences over 15yo are likely to breed differences over time.
3. Dont get involved with a girl with relatives in prison or doing drugs. I wouldn't even do it in Australia. Knew an Australian girl once whose father was in prison for murder. Dropped her as soon as she said. It didn't even matter that she told me upfront. Don't want him tracking me down if we ever broke up.
4. Avoid girls with a sense of entitlement
5. Avoid girls without a good job
6. Avoid girls with family who dont have good jobs
7. Avoid girls if you dont get along with the family
8. Avoid girls with dependents, you are likely to feel the pressure to finance their education
9. Avoid girls that show any hint of delusion, unreasonableness
10. Avoid religious girls. Their hypocrisy will manifest in delusion. Avoid dogma. This is particularly important if they are ambitious.
11. Avoid frivilous, social climbers overly concerned with appearances

Of course these are general rules, and if you have a PhD you might think better of such guidelines. Of course these tragic murders might be taken as evidence of the Filipino character. I personally have met some pretty pathetic Filipinos on previous trips, but I was more impacted by the fine people I met. I met a few really sincere, real people on a few trips, and having surrounded myself with good Filipino people, I actually seldom meet the bad. There are little things, but not the murderous-types.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Comments on the Filipino identity

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Interacting with any culture is interesting. The things people say, the things they do are very telling. For instance Filipinos often attempt to catch you out in a lie, particularly when you have a relationship with a Filipino. In fact they are trying to catch her out. A common friend of ours will question each of us about our living arrangements, relationship, even why are we late. She asks me why, and I explain. At the back of my mind I know that she already knows, and sure enough when I speak to my GF, she confirms that she already told her why she was late. You might think that she probably forgot. Nope. Its the culture here. Its like a personal game. Trying to find flaws in people. Trying to catch people out.
I get the same questions in my personal life. The same questions are asked of my GF, so people can perform some reconciliation. Are we living together, are we sleeping together, are we getting married. They are very intrusive that way. Of course you don't want to satisfy their curiosity. Apart from being surprised that they are asking, you want to confirm they are really asking what they are asking, because its all smoke n mirrors in this country (body language/face gestures). Sure enough, you get a more direct question. Not to me mind you. They will only be so direct to Filipinos. Don't know why. I guess I'm an unknown. Its no pressure on me of course, I could care less what people think about my life. I'll happily tell everyone everything except my bank account. But of course this is pressure for my GF.
So why do people want to know? In a God-fearing country, you would hope they have no desire to pronounce judgement. :) Well I think that is exactly it. Everyone wants to pass a judgement. Well I actually think that is healthy. It doesn't impact on me. I dont agree with their standards or values. For the most part they are probably hypocrites anyway. Yes, I am an atheist. Ok, I get a negative judgement for that. Why are people so quick to pass judgements in this country. Is it a sense of caution. I don't get that. I think they want to prove you are a bad person so they can feel entitled to take something from you. At least sometimes. On the positive side this shows a deep moral consciousness. Maybe some Filipinos are really as God-fearing as they claim to be. They certainly have the statues of Jesus to prove it. But being so 'God-bearing', I think the consequences of that is that they have such a distorted sense of reality. They will rationalise all sorts of things. Fortunately I have a solid and trusting relationship with my GF and her family, but if I didn't I think I would feel like a stranded sailor in shark-infested waters. The sharks are out there. Fortunately my GFs family is not so close to us. Any hint that I'm leaving and I'm sure they will be aggressively breaking down the nets.
This thinking is a concern to me living in the Philippines. Filipinos are very affable. Would love to get to know them better. But I would feel a great need to be very careful to live in a community among them, unless I had a 3m high fence. The reason is that I would be the only foreigner. Which means I would need to have a personal relationship with each of them, and they would be trying to establish that. The problem is you can't. They might have plenty of time to hang around with mates, drink beer, gamble, etc, but actually like working and have plenty to do. So I dont want to get into a situation where I might be perceived as snubbing them. So the pressure of over-investing in explanations. Sorry I can't drink at 10AM in the morning, I have a lot of work to do. Sorry you can't come over tonight my GF doesn't allow visitors. Actually I don't. If I invited a friend, suddenly there would be 20, with no asset register something would be bound to disappear. Of course the chances would be worse if you had 3-4 maids, but there is a strong sense of entitlement, and if I've told one person I'm an atheist, I'm sure they all know. Miraculous how fast information travels. People actually know me from neighbouring sub-divisions. So (i) I worry when just one Filipino doesn't like me, (ii) I'm an atheist, (iii) I'm a foreigner ($$$). Its easy enough to join the dots. I'm not saying this is an attitude just of foreigners. Same for wealthy Filipinos, its just they dont look wealthy (foreign looking). But being a foreigner is just one more dot.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Filipino Sense of Entitlement

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My girlfriend (GF) and I separated a few days ago. We are back together now with a new understanding, but it’s interesting how some 'religious' relatives of my GF perceived the events. My GF has a really good memory, and she gave me the following account on the dialogue. Their identities are concealed for the same of privacy. This is religion – Filipino style. My thoughts are coloured yellow.

“I told my religious relatives – a couple (lets call them Peter & Pam) - about our breakup. Pam said it’s good that it didn’t work out. She said she can’t believe I fell for a non-believer. That strikes me as very judgemental. I thought only God was supposed to judge, all men should be humble. Actually by my standards, one should judge & be prepared to be judged. But one would hope that reason or reality is the standard of value, not some allegiance to dogma.

Pam: I mean... uhm, what i mean to say is, good thing you didn't get married...
GF: Why ?
Pam: Well you know, it's hard if you have a joint property...
GF: No, we don't have that...
Pam: I mean to say ... but do you think you could have gotten something (gesturing $ through hands) from andrew?
GF: What do you mean (surprised... but pretending to be innocent)
Pam: Well I mean, how much could you have received from him... his overall income... i mean if he's really rich or so...
GF: Andrew doesn't hide from me the amount of money he has. I know it...
Pam: Is it true that Andrew paid for the SUV?
GF: (I was surprise)... oh no, it's being paid by my mom and my brother...
Pam: Ahh I see.... so you mean Andrew did not help you? I mean how about your land lots?
GF: Andrew gave me money for downpayment for the lots I have... It's under my name.
Pam: Does he want his money back...
GF: No.. not really. We just broke up yesterday.

This conversation highlights the sense of entitlement in Philippine culture. Living in each other’s pockets. What is yours is mine. First she needs to establish the facts. How much money they have. In a separate move she will be applying guilt. Asking for money or implying hardship.

GF: I hope I can marry a man like Andrew. I only need a good man.
Pam: I can't believe you want to marry an atheist. I can't believe how you can fall in love with such a man... I mean not to be dogmatic.. I mean.. I don’t want to be dogmatic here but... God is the supreme being. You have been brought up with God. It's in you. You were raised with god.

On that note, I was brought up with God too, just I extricated myself.

GF: Right now, I am a bit disillusioned because I have seen a lot of people who claim they are believers but they are the ones doing a lot of wrong. It's hypocrisy.
Pam: Well yeah that's true. But nobody is perfect... Everyone makes mistakes, even I make mistakes. Man has a lot of sins. That's a given. Man is a sinner... I mean I am a person who is not 2 faced... If I do not like a person, I will not be nice to him in his face and talk ill of him at his back. If someone did something I did not like, I will not speak with that person...
Pam: But you see Leah, Pam is a bit easily angered but at night, she forgives... it's as if nothing happened.
This recount was proved in 3 parts, so a little repetitive here.
I said Andrew is a good man. I’m very sad. I told Pam, Andrew is a man who doesn’t need fear of god to do what is right. I told her he and I never argued about God’s existence. She asked if I still believe. I said I want to but I have no proof. I said many believers I know are hypocrites. She said nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and even I am not perfect. I thought, that is an empty statement. There is no honesty and courage in what Pam said. If she had courage, she would specify what bad things she did. People say they are not perfect...but of course. She could have said, I cheated on my husband too or I stole money. Those admissions would have made her more real and honest and would show she has moved on from that. If she said she isn’t perfect, she will never be. Nobody can be perfect. As Andrew said, she’s just enabling herself to do more wrong. In fact it’s a contradiction to suggest humans are evil/sinful by nature, since morality can only pertain to humans because they have a choice. I said "if I meet another man, I hope he will be like Andrew. But I know if I want a man like Andrew to marry me, I have to be a great person, more than what I am now and keep getting better till I die". She said, what else can Andrew ask for. She asked if we have a joint property and if Andrew wants his share back.

She asked if I got anything from Andrew. I said Andrew gave me a lot of advice that I earned from. I said I made P160k because Andrew traded my money. I said we broke up because Andrew found a smart girl and wants to meet with her, but I won’t allow. Andrew said he is after intellectual conversation with a girl and he is open to the potential of developing a relationship with her.

Andrew has since realised the error of his thinking. J I recognised that I had not credited my GF with the qualities which I was actually seeing in this other girl because that experience was a long time ago, and just the way the girl introduced herself was like when I was young. Her ‘passion for ideas’ reminded me of what I was like when I was younger.

I told Peter & Pam that I am very sad, but if I am not the girl that Andrew needs, Andrew will never be happy in our relationship. I told them I do not hate Andrew for feeling that. There is no regret just sadness, and I will miss him. I said I was looking to go overseas and move on with my life. I told them that I need more time to be better. And I have to undergo a process of self-reflection. I want to be at peace with my real self and ideal self. Because it is true that I might be willing to grow but I have to put myself into test of actually growing. I said I want to try to push myself if I am this driven person like what others see or if I am also going to just let myself be indulgent (as I know it is firmly embedded in our culture). I told them that Andrew never stops working hard, regardless of results. He is relentless. I said he would complain if my parent driver around for no reason. He would always want a purpose for doing things.

I said Andrew demands growth, discipline, success and critical thinking. I said I am also questioning my ability and my will to be all I can be. So I said it was a right decision for me to let go of Andrew and not fight for him to come back to me or choose me instead. I also resolved, I will not cry again. I actually don’t discourage crying – as if that were my role. However, I told myself, if I want a man like Andrew to marry me someday, I have to be an equal.

Pam said, Andrew should be credited for his honesty as at least he did not hide information. I said that's true... and I cannot stop what he feels. Pam gave me one bible verse from the Romans. (I forgot what chapter). However, it meant something like:
Whatever happens is God's will and it's all for the better.

Pam supported that statement by saying that sometimes there are things in life that happens that we do not understand in the moment but it's actually there to prepare us for something to come. Maybe this is ‘a sign’ that Pam wants my GF to see, raising some personal hardship. Pam’s siblings are all over in the USA, and I sense that she gets very little money from them, so she is pursing family members for money. Is this the story of a victim or someone setting up a guilt trip. Very subtle mind you. But I’m wondering whose consoling whom? GF just lost her boyfriend and Pam is asking what assets does he have, did you get any, and then a story of her personal hardship. Does anyone else see a pattern? To her credit Pam didn’t just bury her cancer-ridden child in the backyard and move on with life, she accepted responsibility years ago, but seemingly not at this point.

Peter & Pam told me about their son who died. His named was Jason and he died of leukaemia. Peter and Pam were supposed to buy a property in BF homes long time ago. But they were not able to process the purchase quickly. A few days after their decision to buy, they learned that Jason had leukemia. Jason had to go to hospital every 2 weeks for blood transfusion. After transfusion, he'd be very happy and giddy but after a few weeks, he will be come pale again. He got transfusions more and more up to the point that his blood vessels eventually burst because of the transfusions and he died. Peter said it was a good thing they did not buy the property so they had the money to support Jason's life.

This made me think that Peter and Pam really valued Jason. As they knew leukemia was cancer and there was no chance for survival yet they chose him over a lucrative property.>

So because of this, they said, sometimes we do not understand things that are happening but eventually, we will realize that all events are all part of a big plan -- the big plan of the SUPREME being = GOD. Well that is fate. This must have been a difficult time for them. As a result of their focus on Jason, their other son seemed neglected because their focus was Jason. He became unruly, and required discipline.

I thought there has some bearing to this while talking to Peter & Pam. I do believe that all things happen for some good reason. This was why I met Andrew... so I was more confident I can stand up again on my own without Andrew and yes perhaps our break up had to happen for something in store for me in the future.

I told Peter & Pam that I only need that my husband is a good person. Andrew is a certified good person, though impatient, he has the ability to view everyone objectively. He was never dishonest and he is realistic. He treated me like an adult and forced me to be one, I said.

Pam said I should just look for one guy to marry from church. And I said "maybe" and told them my fear is to meet a guy who is self-righteous. Who would always quote god or the bible but would do otherwise.

I said Andrew doesn't need the fear of god to make him do what is right. Pam said Andrew's philosophy is based on moral code but no code of god. Peter said ‘moral’ came from the word 'morse' which means 'tradition, culture' so the philosophy is based on the belief in the harmony of men... like a civil code.

They asked if Andrew's family is Christian. I said yes. But over the years, Andrew questioned Christianity as he began asking questions. I said Andrew may have not been exposed in the environment wherein people can answer him with logical arguments about the existence of god. Andrew didn’t get feedback but had a strong science background. If people would talk about god with Andrew, it's always baseless, no empirical or even logical proof. Peter said... "there are things that exist that we do not sense (feel, see, hear, taste). He said "look at air, can you see air?" I said no but I can provide proof it exists like put a fragrance or put colour in the gas... He shut up after that. I guess he didn't have another example...

I am sure people are going to tell me that all Christians are not like that. True enough. My point is that Christianity enables such thinking. I would suggest some Christians are relatively good despite their beliefs. Mind you, I think being good is not just about not being bad. Its about living your life as a positive, not renouncing values.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Removing out of my apartment

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Moved out of my apartment last weekend. We were trying to buy a place but were unable to reach terms on price for one place, and the builder DMCI was hopeless at revising its contract on another place. So I ended up paying Y1000 for a tradesman to move our stuff out.
Having done that I ran into the mother of the landlord in the street. I am friendly with her cousin. She was saying. I was wondering if you wanted your computer. Maybe you have another. I mentioned that I have another. And she was asking maybe she can have it. Hmmm.... well it was a pushy approach. Not accustomed to that. I dont like dealing with her. She doesn't respond to messages. She tells me I have to move out when I reached an agreement with her cousin to move out later. I actually was moving out only because her son plays music all the time. I'm trying to work and he's playing the same boring music all the time. On the other side of the house this family has erected a pig feed factory in a residential house. That attracts alot of birds, and bird shit. But the worst of it was the 10-odd roosters they put their. These things are crowing at all times of the day, and they were right outside my window.
Anyway as a tenant I had no rights. As a landlord I could complain to the president of the village home owners association. This village has no rules preventing cocks, so if you are planning to move into a new home, I would ensure they are limited in what they can do. Cocks are the worst! Dont think you are safe because there are none around you. People move and alot of people have these things. Stupid sport! Where is the skill in cockfighting, or gambling for that matter.
Damned if she is getting my computer - I'd prefer to give it to a school.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cool places to live in the Philippines

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The Philippines is tropical. Some people accommodate for the heat by drinking all day or using air conditioning, in what is one of the highest cost countries in the world for power. Lipa City is one of the few cities in the Philippines where you can live in a mild climate by virtue of its higher elevation. The city has an elevation of 400m, which is enough to make it cooler, but not high enough to be enshrouded in mist all the time like Baguio City or Tagaytay. Baguio City is another popular community for foreigners, but its isolated from Metro Manila (6+ hours south) whilst Tagaytay has alot of restaurants, but no significant shopping mall. The good news is that Tagaytay is just an hour away from Lipa City, as is Batangas Pier, which is a transhipment point for Puerto Gallera. For more information and photos of a house for sale in Lipa City - follow the hyperlink.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Philippines character

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The Philippines would have to have one of the defeatist cultures in the world. The fundamental cause of this I suggest is:
1. Maternalism: A ubiquitous sense of entitlement
2. Lack of purpose: A fundamental self-indulgence
3. Lack of responsibility: A desire to perceive themselves as victims
4. Lack of organisation: A lack of institutional support
5. A strong pride: A pride that extends to the point of self-righteous delusion

Rarely do we see this combination of character traits spread throughout a culture such that they become a cultural paradigm. Their unshakable presence I suggest comes from a succession of imperialists that have sought to control the spirit of the Filipino, starting with:
1. Spanish colonisation: Rarely has a cultural occupation been as long as the Spanish occupation of the Philippines
2. American protectorate: The United States promises independence after expelling the Spanish, but reneged, delaying independence for years.
3. Japanese occupation: The Japanese occupation during WWII was even more brutal than the Spanish, but far shorter. Though its impact might have been regarded as something worse as a result of being one of a succession.
4. Chinese imperialism: The Chinese I believe mark another stage of cultural imperialism in the sense that even under 'independence' the country was still dominated by certain fascist leaders in business, the military and the Church. Previously it was Spanish families, but increasingly it would be Chinese business interests.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Living conditions in Philippine Condos

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Living in condos tends to be alot more pleasant than elsewhere for a number of reasons:
1. Insulation: Condos are better insulated, and windows are sometimes not even designed to open.
2. Quieter: People are generally quieter in condos and strata rules are more strictly enforced.
3. Politics: Condos are located in the city, so there are no favourites. You are more likely to get equal treatment since rules are enforced impersonally.
4. Civilised: People are more civil and considerate in the city.
5. Buffer: Condo living offers 2 styles of living - high rise in which case you are often way above the noise and pollution or low-rise, in which case there is usually landscaped gardens and concrete wall giving you a buffer from the hectic, chaotic world outside.
6. Lifestyle: People in the cities tend to be more productive and active. They are not spending their time at home, but are rather out working to pay off their new condo.

Condos however can pose risks to your environment as well.
1. Edge of peace: You want to make sure you dont rent near the edge of the development because you might be next to a noisy slum area. You dont want to be next to a basketball court or swimming pool or you might be disturbed by a lot of noise.
2. Construction: You want to avoid buying or renting near a new construction site because you will find these workers are paid to work all through the night sometimes. So avoid new project sites, as the project might take a year to complete.
3. Busy roads: Avoid being close to busy roads.
4. Mixed land use: Avoid being next to slums or piggeries that might taint the air you breath.
5. Rules: You want to make sure you dont get disturbed by inconsiderate people. Find out what rules are present to protect you. I was surprised that most Filipinos care so little about their surroundings.
6. Other owners: Its worth knowing the makeup of the other owners. If the owners are OFWs they are likely buying the condo for the benefit of hundreds of relatives in the provinces. Expect them to descend on your condo pool every so often for a family party. That would be fine if there was just a few occasions. But if everyone does it, you dont want to be living next to the pool.

Conditions of living in the Philippines - houses

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Living in the Philippines is actually not an easy thing. There are alot of challenges. I have lived in a condominium as well as 2 houses in different subdivisions. The problems I faced were:
1. Noise: The noise was shocking. All over the Philippines there are cocks (roosters) that 'crow' from the earliest hours of the morning. I was in a townhouse with 5 of them outside my window. Moved there because the owners brother could no longer keep them on military grounds. The owner did not want them on his property.
2. Dogs: Yep, you guessed it, more noise. Each Filipino I dare say has 3 dogs each, and they often have mad dog fights at all hours, and if not fighting, they will bark at traffic or pedestrians.
3. Planes: I was below an airforce training facility so I was experiencing flight manouvres in the morning through to night.
4. Music: My neighbour, who was a relative of the owner, was playing music at all times of day. It wasnt just because it was loud, it was often bad, and even if it was good, the same song could be repeated 10 times.
5. Kids: There are alot of young kids in the Philippines, and there is little discipline, so the run around your house, screaming, even banging on your windows for attention. At Xmas, kids from poorer areas come around singing for money, of course you are really paying them off to get rid of them. Except there are hundreds of them and they keep coming back for more.
6. Factories: My living circumstances were pretty peaceful, but with the cocks, they also established a factory in the house next to mine. This was a residential house being used to produce pig feed. So I was hearing the scrubbing of aluminium trays through the day into the early evening.
7. Motor cycles: The guy next door had a motor bike and he liked to rev it as well.
8. Horns: Filipinos are as lazy and inconsiderate. They will arrive at 2AM in the morning to pick up someone, and they will be beeping their horn. Not once but 10-15 times. Totally oblivious to what they are doing. Is that lack of critical thinking, or just lacking everything.
9. Tricycles: These are a big polluter and can be very noisy if you are around the main road. Miraculously this was not a problem. Jeepneys and trucks are other big polluters and noisy as well.

Its fair to say that my circumstances were bad, and I might mention they were good before they got bad. But these problems occur because:
1. Tenants have no rights - the contract given to me, which I didnt even sign, offered no protections
2. Landowners have few rights - they can take grievances to a homeowners association in each village. In my case I was surrounded by relatives. On balance that was probably a good thing, as I was friendly with some. Your best chance is to complain, but you have few rights. There are no laws preventing people from doing as they please. Its kind of understandable that poeple work from home, I do. Its just its a pain for me because my job requires thinking.
3. Lot sizes are very small (120-300m2) - so noise is worse
4. Houses are often packed with many family members, a number of whom are likely to be hanging around bored
5. Filipinos are accustomed to noise - which is why they dont hear well, and probably why they tend not to be great thinkers. I dare say they never had a choice.

Employing maids in the Philippines

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There is a great deal of appeal to the idea of living in the Philippines. Its true that you can get a live-in maid for P2500-3000/mth, thats $US50-60/mth, but consider the following:
1. You have to feed her - hopefully not what you are eating otherwise it could get expensive
2. You will have to train her - they really have no idea, so it will be a hands-on job. How to clean, how to cook food in the western style, how to pee straight, because they sanitary standards might not meet yours.
3. You will have to replace her - they tend to take off when they want, whether they go back to the provinces or off to see friends
4. You will have to trust her - they have a nasty habit of stealing things, taking off when you are not in the home. You dare not give them a set of your keys, but they will take off leaving your house unlocked.
5. You should avoid any personal relationships because you might end up facing extortion.

It might be better to just employ a contractor - but hide everything.

What are the bad aspects of living in the Philippines

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I have already addressed this issue on my Expats blog.
There is not much to add except maybe the slow pace or low productivity here.

The attractions of living in the Philippines

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Living in the Philippines is not such an attractive proposition for most people. When I look at the demographics its apparent to me that most of the foreigners whom come to the Philippines do so for the following reasons:
1. Business: Most westerners are stationed here with a foreign company
2. Diplomat: Another group of foreigners are here as diplomats, or as a bureaucrat paid by their government under the administration of the Asian Development Bank, or other aid programs.
3. Retirees: There are alot of old men here that want to enjoy the companionship of young girls. Can't say I blame them, they are gorgeous, and they aren't all poor, uneducated factory girls.

So basically when you look at the demographics its only the seniors that come here. Young people tend to come here for a week or two and thats it. So what is the attraction for the older guys. Well if you focus on where they are living, its readily apparent.
1. Girls: Most retirees live around the girl and beach districts like Angeles City, Subic, Boracay as well as Metro Manila apartments near Makati and Ermita I guess. Whether you are into prostitutes, or just girls to offer you a nursing hand to an 'old soldier', they have the girls to keep you fighting.
2. Cheap cost of living: Yes the Philippines is cheap, but not extraordinarily so when you consider the costs. Much depends on where you live, and how modestly. Its easy enough to buy a $US60,000 apartment in Manila or a house outside the city limits, but utilities are not cheap. If you want a western diet it does not even make sense to eat outside because the shopping malls are owned by just 2 billionaires. Plus add the $US40/mth cost of a visa renewal and you realise that you dont have much left over for those $1 beers. It does not help that everything costs more because you are a foreigner. Of course it helps if you have support from local family.
3. Entertainment: I think the Philippines has among the best live music performers in the world and at little cost. I am not talking about Britney Spears, though she was here, but the local pirated act.
4. Treatment: There is a great deal of respect for foreigners in the Philippines. Well at some level you are a sucker whom might as well feed their families, but I do think there is a genuine respect for 'American values'. I dont know if thats a repudiation of Chinese values, or reflects their appreciation for the US military effort in WWII, but certainly the attitude is strongest among military personnel.

OK, this must have been a bad day because I found some other positives for living in the Philippines. See http://life4expats.blogspot.com/2007/12/living-in-philippines.html.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where to Live?

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The first priority is deciding where to live. Thart decision depends entirely on what type of life you intend to live, and what you intend to do. I met my partner when I was in Australia, and I've had alot of support from her family. eg. meals, transport, washing, visa assistance, holidays away. Some of these things I have done myself, but actually I've never used a local laundry, but I am guessing no problem. Just make sure you get back what you give.

The most important issue is getting access to the services you need:
1. Trustworth food and a variety of menus - no food poisoning and food that doesnt look at you. eg. Metro Manila, large malls, tourist areas like Subic, Boracay.
2. Places to go out drinking - nice, air conditioned places with cold beer. These can be found in any large city, or where foreign & local tourists go.
3. Shopping malls - preferably a large one because the smaller ones are boring since they have the same old franchise choice all around the country, eg. SM Fairview, SM Mall of Asia, Robinsons Manila & Galleria.

There are other criteria as well:
4. Cool climate - Manila and surrounding lowlands are a little hot. I prefer Lipa City (Batangas), Tagaytay (Cavite) and Baguio. I also like Nueva Eclija, but there is a lack of services here. No big city, but give it another 10 years and it will be good.
5. Clean Air - Manila is really polluted so many foreigners prefer places like Alabang, as its upmarket but close to Manila. I'm at Lipa City, which is 40km from there, but cooler.
6. Nice ambience - Probably the hardest aspect in the Philippines is finding a comfortable ambience because of the pollution, noise and poor infrastructure maintenance. For this reason it makes alot of sense to stay in or buy a resort-style residential condo. More on this issue later.
7. Things to do - I am keen on the outdoors so I want a place where I can get outdoors. This part is proving elusive.
8. Good Beaches - The best beaches I have seen are likely to be on the Pacific Coast because they will be cleaner. Alot of rubbish washes up on the west coast (from Philippines & China), and no one cleans it up. There are good beaches in Zambales & Pangasinan. Boracay is regarded as the best beach, but my favourite was near Sagnay in Albay, but this is a very poor, isolated area, so dangerous for tourists I'm guessing.

I think the big question is - rural or city? I think the answer depends on your local support and your lifestyle. Ideally I'd probably live in Naga City, but I would not live there alone. For people will no support I would live in the city until I found a support base, and travel out from there. I have visited many places by bus. Just get buses to major cities and travel our from there. Once you are in the countryside its easy to get a sense of where jeepneys go.

Getting established

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I have been living in the Philippines for over a year now. This is my 6th trip here I think. The first 2 trips were for business, but were just 'visa stops' out of Japan when I was living there. I decided to come here to meet a girl I met on the internet, and I have not been disappointed in that respect.

Arriving Philippines Airport
There is a levy on taxis picking up from the airport so I think the cost of a taxi is around P400 now. There is a taxi rental agency there - on the left side as you exit the building. If you need money the best place is in the Philippines because its the poorer country. You can get cash at the airport, but you will get a better rate in the city at 'Money Changers'. There are alot around Ermita, which is where tourists tend to stay.

Where to Stay
When you first arrive in the Philippines you have a choice of several places for accommodation. Since you are likely here for a time, you will want cheap accommodation until you find more permanent accommodation. Most accommodation in the Philippines is good for 2. I have several favourite places:
1. New Horizon Hotel: Located near the corner Boni Ave & EDSA Blvd in Mandaluyong City, its fairly close to Robinsons Galleria and SM Megamall, and near Boni Ave Station on MRT Line. They often offer P990/night accommodation but this rate is for Filipinos, so get your Filipino partner to pay if you have one. Foreigners always pay higher. They have a coffee shop with wifi, free breakfast. I think the foreigner rate is P1400/night.
2. Ermita: Ermita is located on Manila Bay. Its a great place to stay because there are many hotels of various standards, anf its close to Makati, Mall of Asia, the bay (which has been improved). A few years ago, after a storm rubbish in the bay used to wash up onto the broadwalk. Lovely! The bay is like a toilet, so it doesnt make a good 'tourist moment'. Maybe it still happens, just they clean it up. There are good bars around Ermita too, though the more upmarket bars are in The Fort and Makati. I usually stay at SlouchHat Restaurant, but actually there are a multitude of places along Del Pilar and Mabini Streets.

If you are giving a taxi directions, ask them to take you to corner of UN Avenue and Del Pilar Street, then from there just walk back towards the airport, and you will find several basic hotels. The Corona Hotel is the more pricey, SlouchHat the most comfortable and friendly. Large rooms, great meeting place, run by an Australian.