Help the good people of Rotary feed the homeless and less fortunate kids of the Philippines through Project VitaminR. You can donate a few dollars using the button below.
Click on the link to see some great photos of a feeding program operated by Rotary, part of the Vitamin program previously reported here.
VitaminR March Update 2013
Take a moment to stop and think: This Blog is all about presenting a realistic view of life in the Philippines for expats. There are plenty of sites out there that only tell you the good stuff. There are some that only tell you the bad stuff. Here at Streetwise Philippines Dot Biz we try to give you both sides but of course, the old newspaper saying holds true: if it bleeds, it leads!
There are plenty of great people in this country, most of us married one. There are many very good inlaws, I have a couple of the best. There are intelligent, articulate and sophisticated people who are a joy to know, as well as some down to earth every day Joe’s who are the salt of the earth. There are honest people, generous people and some very compassionate people here. In fact there are millions of them! But we don’t need to make you aware of them, just the ones that will rip you off, frustrate you or just get under your skin.
There are some very positive aspects to living here, one of which is that you are pretty free to do as you wish. Of course so is everyone else so sometimes the noise gets a bit much. As for having Filipinos as friends, you can’t find better friends, and worse enemies. Fiercely loyal, proud and staunch; that’s the Filipino! But don’t take my word for this. Read this Open Letter from an American expat:
I am writing to thank Filipinos for the way you have treated me here, and to pass on a lesson I learned from observing the differences between your culture and mine over the years.
I am an expatriate worker. I refer to myself as an OAW, an overseas American worker, as a bad joke. The work I do involves a lot of traveling and changing locations, and I do it alone, without family. I have been in 21 countries now, not including my own. It was fun at first. Now, many years later, I am getting tired. The Philippines remains my favorite country of all, though, and I’d like to tell you why before I have to go away again.
I have lived for short periods here, traveled here, and have family and friends here. My own family of origin in the United States is like that of many Americans—not much of a family. Americans do not stay very close to their families, geographically or emotionally, and that is a major mistake. I have long been looking for a home and a family, and the Philippines is the only place I have lived where people honestly seem to understand how important their families are.
I am American and hard-headed. I am a teacher, but it takes me a long time to learn some things. But I’ve been trying, and your culture has been patient in trying to teach me.
In the countries where I’ve lived and worked, all over the Middle East and Asia, it is Filipinos who do all the work and make everything happen. When I am working in a new company abroad, I seek out the Filipino staff when I need help getting something done, and done right. Your international reputation as employees is that you work hard, don’t complain, and are very capable. If all the Filipinos were to go home from the Middle East, the world would stop. Oil is the lifeblood of the world, but without Filipinos, the oil will not come from the ground, it will not be loaded onto the ships, and the ships will not sail. The offices that make the deals and collect the payments will not even open in the morning. The schools will not have teachers, and, of course, the hospitals will have no staff.
What I have seen, that many of you have not seen, is how your family members, the ones who are overseas Filipino workers, do not tell you much about how hard their lives actually are. OFWs are very often mistreated in other countries, at work and in their personal lives. You probably have not heard much about how they do all the work but are severely underpaid, because they know that the money they are earning must be sent home to you, who depend on them. The OFWs are very strong people, perhaps the strongest I have ever seen. They have their pictures taken in front of nice shops and locations to post on Facebook so that you won’t worry about them. But every Pinoy I have ever met abroad misses his/her family very, very much.
I often pity those of you who go to America. You see pictures of their houses and cars, but not what it took to get those things. We have nice things, too many things, in America, but we take on an incredible debt to get them, and the debt is lifelong. America’s economy is based on debt. Very rarely is a house, car, nice piece of clothing, electronic appliance, and often even food, paid for. We get them with credit, and this debt will take all of our lifetime to pay. That burden is true for anyone in America—the OFWs, those who are married to Americans, and the Americans themselves.
Most of us allow the American Dream to become the American Trap. Some of you who go there make it back home, but you give up most of your lives before you do. Some of you who go there learn the very bad American habits of wanting too many things in your hands, and the result is that you live only to work, instead of working only to live. The things we own actually own us. That is the great mistake we Americans make in our lives. We live only to work, and we work only to buy more things that we don’t need. We lose our lives in the process.
I have sometimes tried to explain it like this: In America, our hands are full, but our hearts are empty.
You have many problems here, I understand that. Americans worry about having new cars, Filipinos worry about having enough food to eat. That’s an enormous difference. But do not envy us, because we should learn something from you. What I see is that even when your hands are empty, your hearts remain full.
I have many privileges in the countries where I work, because I am an expat. I do not deserve these things, but I have them. However, in every country I visit, I see that you are there also, taking care of your families, friends, bosses, and coworkers first, and yourselves last. And you have always taken care of me, in this country and in every other place where I have been.
These are places where I have been very alone, very tired, very hungry, and very worried, but there have always been Filipinos in my offices, in the shops, in the restaurants, in the hospitals, everywhere, who smile at and take good care of me. I always try to let you know that I have lived and traveled in the Philippines and how much I like your country. I know that behind those smiles of yours, here and abroad, are many worries and problems.
Please know that at least one of us expats has seen what you do for others and understands that you have a story behind your smiles. Know that at least one of us admires you, respects you, and thanks you for your sacrifices. Salamat po. Ingat lagi. Mahal ko kayong lahat.
David H. Harwell, PhD, is a former professor and assistant dean in the United States who now travels and works abroad designing language training programs. He is a published author and a son of a retired news editor.
For those who might doubt the country is run by a handful of political families, clans or dynasties; read this! Senator Mirian Defensor Santaiago is one of the kick-ass Filipino leaders that would be respected in just about any country. The Philippines needs a lot more people like her and the current President.
MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday said that the Philippines is the “world capital of political dynasties,” with 178 active dynasties.
Santiago said that voters should shun members of political dynasties, whom she called “stationary bandits,” “gluttons for power and privilege,” “the equivalent of Mafia crime families,” and “monopolies and combinations in restraint of opportunities for others.
“Some dynasties have ruled for eight years, some for 20 years, and some for the incredible period of 30 years. They have carved out a monopoly for themselves, as if only their families are qualified for public office. Some are even running for the Senate,” she said.
She lamented that the proliferation of political dynasties is a result of the 13 years of deliberate inaction by legislators on anti-political dynasty bills.
In the Senate, Santiago said 80 percent or 18 of the current 23 senators are members of political families. In the partylist system, 91 percent or 52 seats are held by millionaires and multi-millionaires.
She said that of the country’ s 80 provinces, 94 percent or 73 out of 80 have political dynasties. In every province, there is at least two political families.
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
While the Constitution prohibits political dynasties, Santiago said Congress has failed to pass the implementing law.
“The Constitution is written in stone. And yet Congress deliberately and willfully refuses to pass a law. Each member of Congress took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Why are we rewarding instead of punishing them?” she asked.
As she had a litany over political dynasties, Santiago spared former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar from her attacks. She said Mrs. Villar, who is seeking a Senate seat, is different from the other candidates because her breed also comes from successful female entrepreneurs.
MANILA (AFP) – Optimism is soaring that the Philippines is finally becoming an Asian tiger economy, but critics caution a tiny elite that has long dominated is amassing most of the new wealth while the poor miss out.
President Benigno Aquino has overseen some of the highest growth rates in the region since he took office in 2010, while the stock market has hovered in record territory, credit ratings have improved and debt ratios have dropped.
“The Philippines is no longer the sick man of East Asia, but the rising tiger,” World Bank country director Motoo Konishi told a forum attended by many of Aquino’s economic planning chiefs recently.
However economists say that, despite genuine efforts from Aquino’s team to create inclusive growth, little progress has been made in changing a structure that for decades has allowed one of Asia’s worst rich-poor divides to develop.
“I think it’s obvious to everyone that something is structurally wrong. The oligarchy has too much control of the country’s resources,” Cielito Habito, a respected former economic planning minister, told AFP.
He presented data to the same economic forum at which Konishi spoke, showing that in 2011 the 40 richest families on the Forbes wealth list accounted for 76 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
This was the highest in Asia, compared with Thailand where the top 40 accounted for 33.7 percent of wealth growth, 5.6 percent for Malaysia and just 2.8 percent for Japan, according to Habito.
According to the Forbes 2012 annual rich list, the two wealthiest people in the Philippines, ethnic Chinese magnates Henry Sy and Lucio Tan, were worth a combined $13.6 billion.
This equated to six percent of the entire Philippine economy.
In contrast, about 25 million people, or one quarter of the population, lived on $1 a day or less in 2009, which was little changed from a decade earlier, according to the government’s most recent data.
Some of the elite families have dominated since the Spanish colonial era that ended in the late 1800s.
Prominent Spanish names, such as Ayala and Aboitiz, continue to control large chunks of the economy and members of the families are consistent high placers on Forbes’ annual top-40 wealth list.
Their business interests range from utilities to property development to banking, telecommunications and the booming business process outsourcing industry.
Many of the ethnic Chinese tycoons, such as Sy and Tan, got their start soon after the country gained post-World War II independence from the United States.
The tendency for the same names to dominate major industries can be partly attributed to government regulations that continue to allow near monopolies and protections for key players.
For decades after independence from the United States in 1946, important sectors such as air transport and telecommunications were under monopoly control, according to a Philippine Institute for Development Studies paper.
Despite wide-ranging reforms since 1981, big chunks of the market remain effective oligopolies or cartels, it said.
Habito said the path to riches for the few is also helped by a political culture that allows personal connections to easily open doors.
The Aquino government’s mantra since succeeding graft-tainted Gloria Arroyo’s administration has been good governance and inclusive growth, and their efforts have been applauded by the international community.
The government is spending more than $1 billion this year on one of its signature programmes to bridge the rich-poor divide.
The conditional cash transfers programme will see 15 million of the nation’s poorest people receive money directly in exchange for going to school and getting proper health care.
However Louie Montemar, a political science professor at Manila’s De La Salle University, said little had been done at the top end to impact on the dominance of the elite.
“There’s some sense to the argument that we’ve never had a real democracy because only a few have controlled economic power,” Montemar told AFP.
“The country dances to the tune of the tiny elite.”
Nevertheless, the government and economists say there are many other reforms that can be taken to bring about inclusive growth.
Analysts said the most direct path out of poverty was improving worker skills, using higher tax revenues to boost spending on infrastructure, and rebuilding the country’s manufacturing sector.
To this end, many economists endorse the Aquino government’s cash transfer programme as well as reforms to the education system, which include extending the primary and high school system from 10 to 13 years.
But for people such as mother-of-five Remy del Rosario, who earns about 1,500 pesos ($36) a week selling cigarettes on a Manila roadside, talk of structural reform and inclusive growth mean little.
With her bus driver husband out of work, the family has no savings and her income is barely enough to cover food, bus fare, and prescription medicines.
“Other people may be better off now, but we see no improvement in our lives,” she said.
This series of video clips from a US news agency shows an investigation into underage prostitution in the Philippines. The bar owner is an American, of course. While most prostitution is owned and patronized by Filipinos, it is the foreigner owned bars that attract the attention of authorities and charities. The Filipino owners are too well connected and know how to work the system, who to pay and so on. None of which excuses the foreigners who own these bars and encourage underage prostitution or at the least do nothing to ensure the GROs are over 18.
The point is raised that many of these girls are not happy with being arrested, or ‘saved’. They are doing this to help their families and for many this is the easiest and most effective option. You won’t read much about efforts to change the status quo in the country and create more employment opportunities for the masses. The rich who own everything like it just as it is. Their kids go to top schools and have great career prospects. The 60% or so of the population on or below the poverty line have few choices. Because the rich own all the land the focus for generations has been on agriculture, yet there is not enough arable land to justify this. They should have gone into manufacturing like their Asian neighbours, providing jobs for the masses. They relied on foreign investment back in the Marcos days but since 1986 that investment has declined. Why? Too hard to do business here and not get ripped off, have to pay corrupt officials or jump through hoops, have local partners who itch to take the lot and so on. At least Marcos used his dictatorial reign to improve foreign investment and jobs while filling his own pockets. Too many at the top of late, with the notable exception of the current President, have carried on the pocket filling but not passed anything on to the masses, just their cronies.
The sex trade does exist int he Philippines and it does, sadly, include children and that can never be condoned. Keep in mind though the one sided presentation of this problem. Foreign bar owners and customers are a fraction of the trade. The vast majority of prostitutes work for Filipino bosses and service Filipino clients. But that is not as ‘newsworthy’ as one fo the former colonial ‘masters’ getting his come-uppance, is it?
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Recently I have come across more than the usual litany of languishing love lorn losers. Sorry, but that is the most apt term. Men who meet a Filipina online and fall in love with her without ever meeting her face to face. It happens and it happens a lot and there is an argument for the emotions generated by the online communication to be as real for the individuals involved as if they had met in person. But that isn’t my point and even if they met in person with no internet connection whatsoever there is no guarantee the relationship will be genuine or last. But there are some aspects that make it almost guaranteed to either fail or at the very least cost a ton of money and cause a heartfull of grief.
First of all remember there are some 50 million females in the Philippines and at least ten million of them will be ‘available’ at any one time. Try and count to one hundred thousand let alone ten million and you will get some idea of the scale. In other words, if she is a one in a million kind of Filipina there are at least another nine just like her out there waiting for you. So, like buying a second hand car, remember there will always be another one, faster, newer, cheaper and with less miles on the clock if you keep looking.
Secondly, if she is married and needs an annulment or divorce then run, don’t walk and find someone else. I know there are many happy ever after stories of men who have bankrolled the annulment and married their one and only and they lived happily ever after but mostly this doesn’t happen. Mostly she gets a ton of money from you that goes to her attorney if she is telling the truth, or her parents, siblings, boyfriend or husband. Annulments take years and cost thousands of dollars and even if granted can be overturned by the District Attorney whose duty it is, on behalf of the Filipino Family, to prevent marriage breakdown. I know, a load of rubbish but that is the law here. Look, it might feel great to play Ivanhoe and be her knight in shining armour but believe me, the humidity in the Philippines quickly tarnishes the shiniest of armour!
Be very, very careful. Of some fifteen couples my wife and I knew when we got married, more than half are no longer together and these were genuine relationships that progressed to marriage. I know many more chat cam love affairs that were just scams for money and much more. Be careful out there, fellas.
Seems the love of guns and shooting people with them has travelled across the border from the USA to Canada and then come all the way to the Philippines. The other week long term Canadian expat John Pope shot and killed a doctor and a lawyer and critically wounded a ‘fiscal’ (prosecutor) inside the Capitol Building with a .357 revolver. He then shot himself in the head rather than shoot it out with the police, I suspect. It seems ot me his argument was not with the cops but with those who had brought charges against him for various alleged offences.
Wile I do not condone ever the murder of anyone, perhaps Pope was driven to a place beyond the bounds of reason? He was involved in various incidents with locals at his sub-division and seemed like he felt his life was at risk. I don’t know the details but I do know other expats who have fallen afoul of the ‘Jose Rizals’ as I call them. Filipinos who think they are the social superior of others and resent the expat’s money and fair complexion. I have heard too many true accounts of expats being hounded and harassed and the law being used against them to ‘put them in their place’ by these people. Whatever the truth behind this tragedy, take it as a warning that if you live here then you need to be mindful there are a lot of ig egos and chips on shoulders and as a kano you stand out; you are an easy target. So be nice to your neighbours and remember it is their country. Even if we don’t behave like they do towards us when they are in our country, that doesn’t change a thing. It isn’t fair, I know. It’s da pilipeens and dats how it is!
If you look to your right you will see we offer a series of StreetWise Guides: Divorce and Annulment, Safe travel, Customs & Immigration and the General Retirement guide. These are soon to be sold on Amazon.com as Kindle eBook downloads for $1.99 each. They are worth a lot more and yet we will continue to offer them here, absolutely free! Why? Not because we love you or are sweet guys but simply because it helps our traffic numbers and as we will soon be monetizing this site with some advertising opportunities,w e need to have the traffic numbers to attract good advertisers and charge a decent fee. Sound fair?
This ad for a flight to Hong Kong from Manila for just P888, or less than US$25 is a come on. There are so many extra charges attached, many of them hidden and some, when booked online, you can’t avoid if you wish to complete the booking! This is very typical of how many businesses operate in the Philippines. Dodgy business practices we outlawed decades ago are still legal here and nobody seems to care. the reason is the businesses are owned by the rich who own the place, government included so why would they want to change anything? Unlike our countries where we believe the people are important, in the Philippines and many Asian and African societies it is the rich and powerful who are important and the people are there simply to serve them and keep them rich and powerful.
I recently booked 7 seats from Singapore to Cebu and return with CebuPacific and thought the fares were between SGP$39 and SGP$59 each, each way. Maximum total should be 14 x SGP$59 or SGP$826. The final bill after struggling through the online booking process was SGP$1832.60! So much more than what I expected I hadn’t loaded my MasterCard Debit card with enough money and the first attempt failed! We didn’t want 20kg of baggage, we were happy with carry-on only as the fare page said was what you got. We didn’t know you paid extra to choose your seat because I couldn’t progress past this point to the checkout without selecting seats! Then try and get a refund! Forget it. They don’t answer emails and calling them is an expensive international call that results in talking to someone with no authority whatsoever and about as much concern for the customer! Last time, Cebu Pacific, last time I will ever fly myself or my family with you, no mater how cheap the fare seems to be. Sharp ppractise in my book!