When Tampo slaps you around the chops there is not a great deal you can do about it at fist. You have to let it run its course for a while so the Tampo-er gets some value out of the exercise. Start trying to make amends too soon and you will only prolong the agony. Leave it too long and you might just burn your bridges forever.

The Filipina is a very temperamental creature as any who have one will attest. You will never be spot on, afterall she is a woman first and foremost and Man will never understand Woman. If that day should ever come the entire DNA and Genomes of the female of the species will alter as if by some cosmic signal. You will never win, OK?

So how do you lose less? First of all do not rejoice with the coming of tampo. It is not an excuse to hit the golf course or go fishing. You must remain within icy stare range so you can not only suffer, but be seen to be suffering. No point stamping feet and slamming doors if you are not there to witness that.

Always keep in mind two things, and these two things are worth a great deal. In fact they are so important I can not charge for them, I must share them with all mankind if only to rack up the Brownie Points necessary to assure me of my passage to the promised land or wherever one goes Post Pinay.

1. This Too Shall Pass Never lose sight of the fact this will end one day. It may not end as you want it to but it will end. Try not to lose sight of this and blow your stack. Do not trivialize the actions or inaction you are responsible for that brought this tampo upon you. The reasons for this are included in the second vital point:

2. Remorse Must Not Only Be Felt, It Must Be Seen To Be Felt Filipinas are drama queens. They believe in the show don’t tell mantra. You must not only feel remorseful you must show it. We men would call it overacting, hamming it up. Filipinas call it necessary behaviour. Especially so if anyone else has seen she is upset and you are the cause. It is now of national importance that you are seen to be apologizing to her.

Be very aware of your facial expressions and body language. Filipinas misinterpret so many of our words and apply them only at the extreme end of the register. Arrogant is one of these. You will be considered arrogant if you don’t fawn sufficiently. Even if you feel it demeans you, it doesn’t. Not in their minds. They have very different ideas of what constitutes appropriate behaviour (amor propiyo) To the Filipino, being arrogant means so much more than it might to us. It is a slap in the face of those you feel you are superior to.

Being arrogant is difficult for us to avoid as we do not know the subtle indicators of humility the Filipino grows up with. They laugh and giggle when they are embarrassed and everyone knows it means they are embarrassed, not rude or couldn’t care less. Yet we foreigners think they are not treating the situation with sufficient gravity. We look people in the eye when we apologise yet we should cast our eyes downwards in shame and so on.

There are many other lessons to be learnt about dealing with the Filipina and hopefully we can include most of them here in future articles. Keep checking back or buy an eBook!


Tampo is the most searched for term this Blog gets, according to my site traffic statistics. So perhaps some more discussion on the topic is called for? Tampo literally means sulking, or to sulk. Of course it means much more than that and is closely related to other Filipino cultural anomalies such as amor propiyo or honourable behaviour and hiya, or pride, face etc.

Basically the tampo-er withdraws their favour and affection, in fact any interaction whatsoever, from the tampo-ee. In a culture where it is considered very poor form to release one’s pent up emotions with verbal and physical outbursts, tampo does the job for them. It can take the form of resisting expressions of affection, not talking to the person concerned or to people in general, being unusually quiet, locking oneself in his or her own room, refusing to eat, not joining friends in group activities, withdrawing from the group, simply keeping to oneself. These are usually efforts to get the offending party to make amends, and if these behaviours do not work, one might choose to escalate them, perhaps to foot-stamping, door-slamming, or muttering. (Wikipedia 2008. Tampo)

We Kanos might think someone who sulks is akin to a petulant child, however in the Philippines they view it very differently. Remember the cultural norm there is not to vent one’s feelings as that will cause offense and embarrassment to others, not just the person you are unhappy with. Remember how important it is to Filipinos to get along, pakikisama or group harmony is a key cultural element.

There is a lot of common sense and practicality behind tampo when you consider the hierarchical nature of Filipino society and the close proximity of people living often in less than sound-proof conditions in multi-family groupings. Not much scope for intimacy and privacy between husband and wife or siblings.

There are domestic disputes in Filipino communities, make no mistake about that. People still have rows and yelling matches and get violent. However the accepted manner of managing such disputes is via tampo, not a slap across the chops or a chase with a kitchen knife. Tampo is almost exclusively used by the Filipina but Filipino men have been known to apply it in rare cases. Of course it doesn’t work on the Filipina and a man would be a fool to try and tampo his wife, be he Filipino or Kano. What is good for the goose simply doesn’t work for the gander in this case.

As for what does work and how to deal with being the tampo-ee will be the subject of the next installment.

Angeles City – No City of Angels!

As I have warned all of my readers in depth in my eBook ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ you are more at risk of getting into serious trouble from the Philippines National Police in some places than the criminals they are supposed to be catching. In Angeles City the rate of scams and set-ups is getting so out of hand there is a new web site pumping out reports and information that is cutting so close to the bone the local authorities are running scared. You can tell that because they are attacking the site and whoever it is who is behind it. As someone once said, ‘they only attack you if they fear you’.

The reality is that so many foreigners are being set up with fake drug busts, under age girls asking to take a shower in your hotel room and so on it is starting to affect tourist numbers. On top of that tourists are getting robbed at gun point and shot for whatever they have on them. At one time it was expats living there for some time who ran afoul of the local heavies that were shot, beaten up, set up or executed. Now it seems the locals are targeting anyone, even those who have been in town only a night or two.

For all the up to the minute news on what’s happening in AC, check out Margarita Station’s Newsletter They have a great article cut from a local newspaper that is worth a read.

If you want to read about the corruption and scams from the website giving bent coppers sleepless nights, check out the Central Luzon Corruption site.

Angeles City is not a place for newbies. It is a serious, wild west style frontier town in that the law is whatever it is at the time and you will always be at a disadvantage. Even long term expats and very street savvy travellers get zapped there. It is an ‘Adult’s Disneyland’ for cheap sex and bars but you can find that nitelife elsewhere without the blatant corruption and risk. All the same, you have to try the place at least once, just keep your wits about you and make sure you have a copy of my ‘Philippines Survival Handbook‘ on your laptop and at least US$2,000 in your ATM for paying your ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card.


Another Scam Story That Ices The Cake For Me!

You would think that, other than the chance of your chosen medical professional having a bad day and removing the wrong kidney, someone who had sworn the Hypocratic Oath would be above scamming a patient? Well not in the Philippines! How about this for a tale of sordid manipulation and outright dishonesty?

Our hero, a long time expat resident of Manila, attends a clinic after reading an advertisement in the local press that this place deals with ailments of the nether regions. He knows what he has been afflicted with and he definitely knows what it isn’t but he feels he needs medical treatment beyond the scope of what you can safely self prescribe.

The clinic appears to be fairly clean and decent, although it does give off the feeling that it had its hey day back in the 80’s. The doctor welcomes the hero and asks what ails him, but before he can offer his prognosis, the doc starts telling him how he was trained in the USA and was once the leading doctor in his field in Manila. He then proudly whips out a photo album and declares how he was the originator of the famous “German Cut”. The photos are a collection of before and after shots of a procedure known as circumcision and clearly extolling the benefits of the “German Cut!”

Our hero is then examined briefly, gives a urine sample and has a swab. He returns to the doctor’s study to be informed he has a vile and loathsome disease, is very ill and so very lucky he came to this particular clinic for treatment. Apparently he hasn’t what he thought he had but instead a “gonorrhoeal infection”. Since he had absolutely no symptoms and little opportunity to have contracted this malady, it was quite a shock. But surely such an emminent physician as one who brought relief and the “German Cut” to the lads of this country wouldn’t make a mistake?

So, somewhat stunned, our hero asks…..”How much?” The doctor turns to the lady who has been present (completely un-introduced) during the entire consultation. She is introduced not as a fellow medical professional as the hero envisaged but rather the clinic’s accountant! All matters relating to money are her domain owing to the philanthropic nature of the doctor who, if it were up to him, would perform his miracles absolutley scott free and thus soon be destitute.

The doctor does outline the treatment which consists of a series of injections (no doubt into the buttocks) with medicine only the doctor can obtain but which will clear the hero of this dreaded and vile, loathsome ailment for sure. And the German Cut of course. Can’t forget that!

Our hero stumbles after the accountant and sits in her office. She calmly steeples her fingers and tells him the German Cut is a meer six thousand peso. The life saving injections will be a little more, say twelve thousand? Our hero is aghast. Eighteen thousand pesos! Over US$300! He tells her his girlfriend had a baby born for half that amount not so long ago and that treating gonorrhoeal infections by injection went out twenty years ago. Current treatment is a single oral antibiotic, or at the most a course of oral antibiotics. He asks for a prescription for same, pays P500 for the consultation and leaves. The prescription includes a cream he later discovers was found to be useless, for treating what he has, over twenty years before. He takes the course of antibiotics which cost a couple of thousand, just to be on the safe side, but he knows he hasn’t any gonorrhoeal infection.

Finally he goes to see the number one urologist in Manila to be diagnosed, as he originaly believed, to have a mild yeast infection called Balinitis, caused by diet, humidity and so on. That is treated by an effective cream within a few days for P500 consultation and P245 for the cream. When he mentions his experience to the specialist, before he can name the doctor involved he is told by the specialist who it indeed was! In fact the doctor’s father is a known sleeping pill addict who will try and get a dozen prescriptions of Demerol or whatever it was and the doctor himself has been known to circumcise anyone he can lay his scalpel on to pay for his gambling habits!

His diagnosis of gonorrhoea was totally false and the course of injections would have been totally unnecessary not to mention painful and expensive. In other words, he was a total charlatan. Since he had survived so long it was probably not worth the effort to try and have him struck off. Even if successful he would simply hang up his shingle somewhere else. Our hero was glad he finally received proper treatment but wonders how many unsuspecting people with no knowledge of medicine have been ripped off and carved up by the discoverer of the infamous German Cut?

(Be wary of any Doctor offering the ‘German Cut’, especially if they have a practise in Cubao.)


Comparing 21st Century Philippines and Medieval Europe

A thousand years ago, give or take a hundred, our ancestors lived in feudal Europe governed by Kings and Dukes and Lords and what not. Countries were relatively small and there was often much disagreement about boundaries and titles. Many rulers expanded their land holdings through marriage, inheritance and conquest.

Society had several layers, perhaps similar to the A. B. C and D class divisions used by marketing professionals here in the Philippines. The nobility were the A class, they owned most all of the land and ruled all who lived upon it. The B class were the second tier of nobles, land owning but owing allegiance to their Lord, a kind of middle class of sorts. The C class consisted of the artisans, Freemen and merchants, craftsmen and yeomanry. The D class were the serfs, the peasants who tilled the lands for their landlords, who owned very little but a few tools and clothes and would be born into serfdom, live as serfs and die as serfs. They were hardly better off than slaves.

The lines are a little blurred here, today. We have the minority A class who own the majority of the land and the industry and commerce. These are the really big names in Philippines society and most would look more at home in Madrid than Manila. Before the Spanish were sent packing, these were the “Filipinos”. There were the peninsulars who were born in Spain, the insulars born here and the mestizo’s who were of mixed blood. Everyone else was labelled as “indios”, the Malay-Filipino majority in other words. Filipino was a term used to label those who were born here, owned land here but were definitely not “indios”.

The original leaders of the revolt against the colonial rulers were all “Filipino’s”, leading their loyal serf “Indios” into battle against the Spanish. I don’t believe they had any intention of giving the Indios a fair share of the pie, they were merely cannon fodder. Today little has changed and the D class and much of the C class are collectively known as the “masa”. The masa are too busy keeping some rice on their tables to worry about revolt, revolution, redistribution or anything else remotely political.

In medieval days, the serfs were treated similarly and while they may have risen up on occasion, these revolts were isolated exhalations of frustration, quickly quelled. Any long term changes in power were carried out at the upper levels, using the middle levels for management and the lower levels for muscle. The only people to really benefit from the power struggles were the upper classes.

What made it possible for the lower classes in Europe to break free of the bonds of serfdom was the industrial revolution. Mechanization spread the wealth. People with talent and ingenuity and chutzpah were able to get ahead without the traditional leverage of land and the riches that were generated from this real property. People colonised other continents and attitudes changed the farther they were able to move from direct feudal rule.
In the Philippines, it has been only a few generations since the Spaniards were removed from power, fewer still that Filipino’s in the modern sense of the term have had a say in their governance and so the old ways still remain. The wealth of the land for mining, agriculture and industry is still held in the hands of the elite few, maybe 20 families or so. Beneath them, “running” the country and so on are another 100 families and then there is the (slowly) growing middle class and below them the “masa”, or D class.

The D class, a majority of perhaps as much as 65% of the population, are kept in poverty and check by their adherence to the dogma of the Catholic Church. The poverty cycle will never be broken while they continue to breed like rabbits, forbidden to do otherwise by the church. When the government; put in power by the elite and their campaign contributions, toe the church line and focus on agriculture instead of industry (manufacturing), there is little hope for the small land holder who can’t even feed his own family for a year from his acreage, if he has any.

The elite control the church, who do their bidding by telling the masa who the elite want them to vote for, ensuring the cycle continues. There is no real change here, the 20th anniversary of EDSA had more police in attendance than supporters as people perhaps finally grasped nothing changed after People Power.

Look at how people here live. The rich live in walled castles and estates with guards, gates and the modern equivalent of drawbridges. All the way down the line to the C classes they barricade themselves in against the lower classes. If you don’t, the have nots line the boundaries and stare at the haves. Or they squat and take over the land knowing the law will save them because that law (the Lena Law forcing land owners to compensate squatters with money or a new place to live it they cleared them off their own land) was a sop to the masa in the name of “land reform”. The majority of land that was reformed has been public lands and the property of the hapless middle class, too busy earning dollars overseas to protect their land on a daily basis.

You walk any suburban street and it is all walls and gates, barbed wire and guards. Sari sari stalls peer out of barred windows, everything sold must fit through the small gate in the bars or else risk opening the door and a rush of thieving poor people. Every house has some small business going, even if it is just to keep the helpers busy. Even relatively poor people have helpers. Wages are low to non-existent when people will work for room and board and the employer has the status of having other human beings working for them as servants. Serfs. People who have few choices and little say in how they are exploited, mistreated and used to boost the ego of their employer.

The schools are controlled by the church, ensuring the people get little in the way of a worthwhile education but come out well versed in the myth and ritual that perpetuates the church’s stranglehold on their thinking and opportunities. Only the well off can afford a decent education where, funnily enough, the amount of religious instruction is noticeably less with more attention, and time, given to useful subjects such as maths, English, science etc. Out of 23 (mostly college graduate) Filipino’s under 30 I have asked “How many centavos in a peso” only one so far gave the correct answer! But they can all cross themselves and say the rosary!

Often the “Lord of the Manor” is an absentee landlord, off at the Crusades overseas however this time he or she is earning greenbacks rather than Redemption. The church still holds sway over daily life, threatening excommunication and other mythical punishments to fit the dogma they have developed and fine tuned over two millennia. In medieval times the first son inherited everything, the second son would become a mercenary (travel abroad as an OFW?) and earn his inheritance at the point of his sword and the third or often enough illegitimate son would join the clergy. Rich fathers would purchase a bishopric for the illegitimate son, knowing he would make a pretty penny and it would keep him and his mother from usurping the inheritance of the legitimate offspring. Illegitimate offspring would be handed over to the local convent or monastery and brought up there, well away from prying eyes. How similar is that to today’s situation here with the church taking care of these delicate matters for the well heeled and even their own wayward members? Funny how the well off, rich and famous can get annulments in short order, everybody else takes years!

I am no expert on medieval Europe, or the Philippines for that matter. But for me the similarities are hard to ignore. Take a walk around your neighbourhood and watch the village idiot roam around talking to him or herself just as they would have in the middle ages, only the rich can afford proper medical treatment for their mentally ill family members. Look at all the micro businesses that eke out a basic living for their owners, the walls and gates and guards, the dogs roaming loose, the garbage piling up and the simple outlook of the peasants with little in their future but more of the same. Wonder why there are cleft palates and cleft lips and even still cases of leprosy, all conditions born from poverty, poor hygiene and insufficient diet. Then ask yourself when will this country have it’s “industrial revolution” and what will be the outcome?


Christmas Chaos At NAIA 2!

I had left my place of employment in Quezon City seven hours before my flight was due to depart.  Being PAL it would be later than that, of course.  In nearly twenty years of flying with PAL I can’t remember when they weren’t late, hence their slogan, “Planes Always Late”.  I was hoping to snatch a standby seat on an earlier flight but that was not to be.  Seven hours up ones’ sleeve is a bit much, even for Manila and despite the stupidity of the taxi driver who actually hit the world’s longest car park (EDSA) five kilometers, half an hour and fifty peso on the meter before he had to if he had known his way around.

Still, two hours to the airport wasn’t the worst time ever recorded.  The lines at the security checkpoint just to get in were horrendously long and of course full of Filipino’s more important than others, pushing their way to the front wherever a turned back or lapsed attention allowed.

Mind you, standing in a long queue with nothing to do but watch the pretty Filipina’s walk by isn’t the hardest duty to pull on this earth.  There were several very obvious “Japanuki’s”, Filipina’s who had just returned from working as an entertainer in Japan.  You could tell them by one of two ways,  They either displayed a loud, garish and weird dress sense picked up from the Japanese girls or they were in the company of a middle aged Japanese man and one or both displayed loud garish and weird dress sense. The colour blind slutty schoolgirl look is in this season.

There were several bargirls heading home for the holidays with their foreigner boyfriends, standing out like sore thumbs as they flaunted their wealth in a way only a poorly educated gal from the provinces going home with cash to spare could do.  The boyfriends were also of a type; older, larger and doting on their diminutive dates.  One or two wore shorts and shoes with black business socks!  Nothing looks worse than black ankle length socks worn with shoes and shorts.  Buy some white sports socks for goodness’ sake!

The married couples, bringing home the anaks for the grandparents to dote over for the first time were also obvious.  Either she was dolled to the nines to show it was her first trip back or she was dressed well down showing how used to the whole tiring trip she had become over the years.  Either way it was the kids that got the doting over.  Romance may not have been dead in the marriages but was probably (and sensibly) on hold until after the stress of travelling with junior was over with.  At least until the trip back to Minneapolis or Manchester or Melbourne or maybe Munich.

Rich Filipino’s were everywhere, vying for who was most important, even though nearly every flight to the far flung provinces they called home were serviced by aircraft without a Business Class.  Never mind, buy an overpriced pastry at Delifrance and make sure someone sees you doing it!  The drive to the airport had been interrupted several times by convoys of window tinted Expeditions and Suburbans with motorcycle outriders and ominous looking bodyguards following in the Revo.  Sirens and horns and flashing lights everywhere.  Get out of my way, I’m more important than you, I can afford an entourage!

I even saw one convoy that had three outriders who were not armed and not Police.  It seemed to me they were a civilian escort service with police like motorcycles.  I must confess having done the job myself when I was in the Military Police, these civvy’s did a better job of controlling intersections than the Police I had seen trying several times.  I guess you get what you pay for!

I thought one convoy might be Erap heading for his flight to Hong Kong, due today unless someone threw a conscience ridden spanner in the works.  Then I figured since he had attended FPJ’s funeral yesterday by helicopter he wasn’t going to fight the traffic in the back of a Benz!

My taxi ride by the way, cost P245, at least P70 over the average fare and thirty minutes longer than necessary thanks to the drivers’ ignorance and incompetence.  His driving was erratic and amateurish and I think he has a lineal recognition issue to deal with.  We never seemed to sit within a lane, just straddled the white lines!  Nevertheless we made it and with no chance of getting an earlier flight, I settled in for an afternoon of working on the laptop and sipping over -priced coffee at the aforementioned Delifrance.

Before I knew it I was boarding my flight and we were less than ten minutes late, a new PAL record!  Next challenge, getting a Cebu cabbie to use the meter!