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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.