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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Philippines - The Killing Fields

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Gaving lived in the Philippines and travelled there several times, both as a single guy, and in a relationship, I can say that the Philippines is a dangerous place for foreigners. The Philippines is a collectivist country like the rest of Asia, however its even more dangerous because of its Western influence. A great many Filipino men resent the Western influence, because it is historically linked with their psychological repression and economic marginalisation.

When you consider the location of assaults and murders, they tend to occur in the 'Western districts', or areas which attract a lot of money. This makes the following places particularly dangerous:
1. Metro Manila
2. Angeles City
3. Boracay Beach Resorts
4. Subic
5. Cebu
6. Puerto Galera
7. Batangas

Performing a search on Google of Australians killed in the Philippines alone reveals a long list. I'm sure there are many more Germans, Swiss, Dutch, Brits, etc. The nature of the killings tend to be for a variety of reasons:
1. Robbery and aggravated assault
2. Assassination - unprovoked gun shot
3. Hate crime or revenge, sometimes in response to business success
4. Drug related

It is common for Filipinos to conspire with others, whether friends or family to kill foreign partners. The issues are sometimes divorce, property settlement, revenge for adultery, or just resentment. The Philippines is a poor and desperate place, and because of the Catholicism, there is a high incidence of rationalisation and delusion. Don't expect reason to prevail. Passions and blood are thicker than water and logic. It is a very self-indulgent culture. The brutality and the spontaneity of the crime is remarkable. The envy of some Filipinos for Western cash is well understood. Filipinos are perhaps the most brand-conscious people on Earth, more so than the Japanese. It does not help matters that foreigners seem to prey on the uneducated class, looking for some trophy GF. This is a solid basis for a relationship of disrespect. If this is your choice, then you might want to rethink living in the Philippines. Of course that decision depends on your confidence and personal context. Support from the partner's family is critical.

It is very easy to annoy poor Filipinos, and earn their resentment, particularly if you are living in communities where you are mixing closely with them. Apartment complexes offer some element of anonymity, but all it takes is a sarcastic gesture to a taxi driver with gambling debts or drug/alcohol problem to find yourself in danger. Support from a Filipino family is key. If you need to throw money around to appease people, you are not being treated with respect, nor helping them. They will resent you for it.

Filipinos are superficially very easy-going people like Australians. But for some of them, the depth of their resentment and delusion is remarkable. There is often a large number of them who simply see foreigners as a source of money, and more concerning is that this attutude is not discouraged, in fact it's lauded as 'economic necessity'. I've had Filipino brothers introducing their sisters to me many times, in the hope of deriving some benefit from me. There would be more cases if they had more confidence in their English.

Having said that, you play a large role in bringing problems upon yourself. Staying in Manila on one occasion I was returning back to my hotel after a night at a club. I had not drunk a lot, but getting into a taxi I saw the taxi driver signal to another guy, whom I suspect was to follow. This suspicion was proven when I noticed that he was taken me the wrong way. I took over direction to avoid him going down a dark alley. This was at 2AM in the morning. I don't go clubbing anymore, but it does highlight the risk of getting into cabs late at night. I knew the streets in this area.

Just yesterday an Australian was killed in Aklan, which if I remember correctly is on Panay Island in the Visayan Island Group of the central Philippines. The Filipino simply got up and shot this Australian sitting at another table. It's fair to say that some foreigners behave terribly in their host country. I've seen an Australian bar owner in Subic encouraging his staff to take their shirts off to give his patrons some tittilating pleasure. They girls might joke about it, but clearly this guy has a conflict of interest because he doesn't pay them well to perform such actions, in an instance where there is considerable social pressure and the threat of job loss. This was a pub, not a girlie bar. The reality is that this guy was likely paying kickbacks to a local official.

Anyway, it's worth assessing the risks of living in the Philippines before living there, or buying property. If you are part of a supportive family with decent values makes all the difference. Since meeting my partner it's rare that I am alone, so there is far less risk. I feel like I have joined a new family. The extended family are less hospitable, seeing me as a cash cow, howover the immediate family is impressive. For cases of killings of foreigners, refer to the following websites:
1. Australian in custody dispute
2. Australian's home invaded
3. Australian in custody dispute
4. Australian car ambushed (this was an NPA communist guerilla attack)

On reflection however these people have probably been living in the Philippines for 10-12 years. Perhaps the greatest concern is threat of being targeted. Clearly having local support makes a difference. I tend to travel around the Philippines with a Filipino family, and the father is a policeman so I feel pretty safe. I'm more worried about his driving :)

In fairness to the Philippines, the prospects for living are far better if you stay in safer districts, associate with good people, avoid going out to bars late at night, avoid aggravating people. I might add that such incidents are common in other countries, e.g. My friend was assaulted getting out of a taxi in Vietnam, high crimes are common in Thailand. My only experience with crime was being king-hit by a Pacific Islander in Sydney, my home town, trying to defend a friend who said something (which I was not aware of). But otherwise I've not had a problem in Australia, though I lived in safe North Shore area.

Interestingly in Googling for this post I came across 2 Filipinos killed in Australian bushfires, so I would suggest perhaps the greater threat in Australia is natural disasters because a great many people die from them not knowing the risk, and the risk is likely greater for foreigners not aware of the dangers. The other natural danger is Australia beaches, where many Asians are not aware of the strong rips (under-currents) capable of pulling them out to sea. Oh, and then there is the box jellyfish and sea snakes. Not as poisonous, but far more common is the Brown Snake, and a range of other snakes. I'd stay in the Philippines. It's way safer there.

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