Psst, Don't Tell Americans about the Philippines

Jul 18, 2011
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Keep your country secret. That is my advice.

1097 Slums and illegal settlements are common sight all over the country. (Photo by Micha HB/Flickr)

Americans are brusque, opinionated blowhards. Especially the aging baby boomers who are looking for places to retire. They don't know a whole lot about the Philippines. If they knew, they might come here. They would likely gripe about some aspects of the culture, as it is so different from what they are used to. You don't have to put up with that. Simply don't tell them how cool it is here. Tell them about the horrors of cramming into a jeepney full of chickens, but don't tell them of a romantic ride with their sweetie on a tricycle to the beach, of scenery so gorgeous a photograph can't do it justice, of the tax breaks they can get by leaving state income behind, and the social security income they can acquire by being old and having American-citizen kids in the Philippines. Don't tell them that they can build a palace for $100,000, and have a housekeeper and a gardener and a cook and a bodyguard and a driver, all for less than $400 a month.

Don't tell them that most people speak English. Tell them Filipinos have hated American guts since that racist McKinley pounded our butts back into order, but don't tell them America built schools and sent us a zillion teachers to give us one of the highest literacy rates on the underdeveloped part of the planet.

Tell them that this place really sucks. That's why so many Filipinos go elsewhere in the world to work. Filipino drivers are rude and the store clerks snarl as they take the money. Rebels are behind every bush looking for a way to extort some money. The seas are fished to deserts and the mountains are washing into the ocean because someone yanked all the trees out. Tell them that they might fall into an open pit mine that the Koreans forgot to return to its natural state. Wild banshee fundamentalist Muslims and Catholics stand at every corner harassing those who want their daughters educated or a condom in their wallet. And for sure warn them about Mindanao, where heads roll like so many dice in the craps pit. Let them know that most drivers are unlicensed, uninsured and drunk. They taught themselves the art of the wheel at 12 and have never read about the rules of considerate behavior.

Warn them to duck behind a bush or building every time a bus passes to avoid being hit by a bag of trash being conveniently disposed of through the window.

Don't tell them the cultural convenience of pissing on the nearest wall. Tell them not to drink the water.Don't tell them the cultural convenience of pissing on the nearest wall. Tell them not to drink the water.

Don't tell them the cultural convenience of pissing on the nearest wall. Tell them not to drink the water.

Don't tell the old unmarried dudes about the beautiful Filipinas who don't mind hanging out with an ancient white guy if it gets them out of the rut that is their day-to-day empty life. A night on the town, a weekend in Boracay, a lifetime… those are the options for both parties. Sex is only sinful to the priests who aren't getting any. They aren't exactly good judges of the other side. They've never been there. Well, most haven't.

I think "most" is the operative adjective.

But that is beside the point.

Don't tell them this place is an adventure that enriches the spirit.

Tell them it is filled with Ego-bound maniacs who won't give them the time of day. Actually, they don't even know the time of day, which is why they arrive late for everything, or simply don't show up. Or pop in when they weren't even expected. Tell them there are more dogs than people and they are all rabid. The dogs, I'm talking about. Not the people.

Don't tell them the people are fun and funny. Tell them they are stubborn like cement and have skins so thin you can see their bones if they walk against the sunlight.

Tell them "You don't know what you are getting into", which is true, for sure.

Tell them to "stay home", or" take your money and complaints to Viet Nam. We don't need no mo' stinkin' Americans around here giving our economy a boost, hiring locals, and being weird and productive in the western ways."

Tell them "we like sitting drunk under the mango tree watching the buses fly by. We are fine with that goal for our lives. We are proud of our achievements."

Keep the Philippines secret, isolated. You know. Native. Raw. Provincial. Stone age, even. Knowledge and courtesy are too much to deal with.

Multi-culturalism is offensive. Outside money is tainted with foreign cooties. Tell them "We like it pure, we like it simple. We don't aspire to be like you because we know money can't buy happiness."


This post was first published in The Society of Honor by Joe America in July 2011.