Ukay Ukay

Ukay Ukay is the Visayan term for second hand, specifically clothes. People make a decent living sending boxes of second hand clothes to relatives in the Philippines from the USA and elsewhere for resale. I have several pairs of Ukay Ukay shorts as trying to get large enough anything on the local market is a trial. Hell, it is hard enough in Australia where the average person is closing in on the average sized Amurricun with every bite of their fast food!

A Balikbayan Box as they are called (Balikbayan means returning citizen, basically) sent from the USA via LBC or one of the many private freight forwarders that handle USA-Phils business, costs around US$100 or so. That box is a tea chest sized carton that can be stuffed with hundreds of dollars worth of second hand clothes. Stock you can collect by asking around the neighborhood or raiding the charity dumpsters! If you assign a value of fifty cents to every item you can quickly figure out the break even point of the exercise.

For those with access to larger shipping containers at better prices then you can be even more profitable. For us though, we feel it is simpler and more effective to send our relatives cash they can convert into stock for their tempura carts and then onsell that. But that is another article for another time.

MURDERED! AGAIN!

Not the same person of course as you can only be murdered once, however Angeles City has claimed another Kano  ((Kano – short version of Americano is the term many Filipinos use to describe all “white” people)) victim. Apparently the body of a 55 year old German resident was found dead in his Angeles City house, his dogs poisoned also. The details of this latest murder are not relevant for this article, what is of importance is that people take note that another foreign resident has been murdered in the Philippines. This man was single but did frequent the bars of Balibago, who wouldn’t if he were living there as a resident and unattached? He may have upset one of the working lasses. He also ran tours to Mt Pinatubo, so perhaps he had business rivals?

Whatever the motive, the end result is another tragic death. The Philippines is a great place to vacation and even retire to but it is not like Kansas, Dorothy! It has its own rules and they can be obscure and harsh. People there play for keeps and are all too willing to kill for what we would consider the most juvenile of reasons. As in the land of the blind where the one eyed man is King, so too in a land of extreme poverty a few bucks can make you worth the risk of killing.

The police, particularly the Angeles City Police, are corrupt. You would be wasting your time going to them for help as the odds are in favour of them being behind most of the crime aimed at foreigners. The elected officials are no more pristine or pure and the entire culture is systemically corrupt. Which is partly what makes it such an exciting place to live!

With the ready and willing and very affordable sex on tap, the cheap, plentiful and good quality beer and rum and the tropical heat and throbbing disco beat, this place is JUMPIN’! Just watch your back, watch your mouth and watch who you trust! Better still, buy my eBook ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ and take notes before you go and take care while you’re there! Who wants to live forever?

Goats, Goats, Goats!

I always wonder why, with so many goats running around, nobody drinks goat’s milk or makes goat’s cheese? The Philippines are ripe for some Mediterranean or Middle Eastern migrant to come in, raise some goats an start making top class Fetta! I think with some marketing and education the locals could be made to try the products and then hopefully start to buy them. However the big money would have to be in exporting the dairy products.

Even with a professional, best-practise standard facility, it would be cheaper to raise the animals and make the dairy products, then export them to the Middle East, in the Philippines than many other places. Land, stock, overheads, labor… it is all so much cheaper.

I would find a cheap location, probably one that has some problems with the NPA (New People’s Army) and that would provide me with a location that is affordable and sure to have many people in the vicinity looking for employment. They would be rural folk who I could train to manage the basic tasks of animal husbandry and basic dairy production. Providing you took care of the staff the NPA would leave you alone as it would be counter to their stated manifesto to interfere. You might also find NPA activity would diminish once there are viable employment options available. When you can actually earn an income and feed your family there is less incentive to remain in a jungle camp wondering when the Army are going to come and bomb your ass.

You could arrange to agist the goats at several farms in the area, in fact every family could be issued a few to manage and then drive them to the dairy to be milked. You would need to oversee how they graze the animals and insist on a decent standard of fodder for your ruminants. As well as the dairy, you could butcher and produce goat meat small goods. Combine this with a rabbit farm and you are making some serious money, helping the impoverished rural people and earning export dollars. It can be done but of course, this being the Philippines it won’t be as easy as it is to write about it!

Business Ideas, Anyone? Some Thoughts

If you were unable to run a successful business back home in Glottal Stop Pennsylvania, what makes you think you can make a go of one here in the Philippines?

So many people think because they can get something started for a lot less than back home they can become a tycoon overnight. Many go for the food industry and try and run a bar or a restaurant. This is probably the hardest industry to be in, even if to those who have never worked in the game it looks fairly straightforward.

Don’t forget you will have to hire Filipino staff. It may sound cruel but there is truth in the humorous observation that if you train the staff well, don’t let them go to lunch or else you’ll have to give them a refresher. Good staff with initiative and the oomph to use it are almost impossible to find. Most of them have gone overseas where they earn a more realistic remuneration for their abilities and efforts. If you do get a good one, holding on to them may be impossible because as soon as they can, they’ll be off to greener pastures too.

In any business anywhere, staff are usually your biggest cost and your biggest headache. Here in the land of lip service, it gets worse. If you are trying to run something in a provincial backwater, you have my sympathy. If it is going to be a Filipino style affair and have nothing more technologically advanced than a banana leaf for a plate, give it a whirl. Otherwise, think twice, then find something else to do.

I learned the hard way my socialistic leanings to giving the working class stiff a fair go don’t work in this country. Instead, if you are nice to the employee they simply feel it will be even easier to steal from you as you won’t get upset and angry and scream at them. These people are not westerners and they have a different set of values and standards to those of us from western countries. Accept it, it’s neither good nor bad, just the way it is. If we start expecting Filipinos to do business as we do it and to have the same ethics and standards we prize, pretty soon the reasons we came here in the first place will disappear.

If this country does beat its culturally ingrained, rampant, endemic and systemic corruption and incompetence, then things will get rather expensive very quickly. Dare I say it may no longer appeal! Think about it, just like you should think about any business venture that costs more than a hundred bucks or so.

Great Hotel Hideaway In Cebu!

Once you find your Filipina and travel all the way to the Philippines to meet her, you may find you can barely be alone together for five minutes without having half the Barangay hanging on yoru every word! You need an affordable, luxury hideaway hotel that will give you the time you need to get to know her, her family and her culture. But on your own terms!

You need a ‘base’, a place to call your own where you have the back up of trained and friendly staff, a knowledgeable American owner who has been successfully running businesses in the Philippines for over twelve years and you know you are safe. Alta Cebu Garden Resort is owned by friends of mine, Larry and Cherry Quinn. I used to work there as the Director of Studies when it was a ‘Homestay’ English language academy and I have known Larry and Cherry since 2004 and I consider them my friends.

Since those early days they have expanded the resort to its current beautiful state, focused on the hospitality end of the business and developed a first class facility for weddings, conferences and relaxed vacation living. If you are wondering where to get married, how to organize the wedding or arrange the celebrant and the many other details any marriage entails; leave it to Larry and his team.

I was married in northern Cebu in 2002 and let me tell you it was a challenge to arrange the event to a standard I wanted for my bride in the ‘boonies’. What made it even more difficult was the fact my bride to be wasn’t all that worldly wise when it came to western style weddings and how could she be, coming from an honest farming family in the provinces? If any of this is ringing bells, just relax. Buy my eBook ‘Filipina 202 – How To Marry And Migrate Your Dream Filipina’ and then book into the Alta Cebu Garden Resort. Larry will give you your first night FREE when you tell him you bought one of my eBooks, if you book and pay for three nights minimum. All the usual warranties and guaranties apply but we are sure you are going to have a great time.

And if you haven’t met ‘Her’ yet, don’t sweat it! Buy ‘Filipina 101 – How To Meet The Filipina Of Your Dreams’ and follow the advice on just going to the Philippines ‘on spec’. Then talk to Larry and he will help you find someone, just try and leave the staff alone as he has had to replace too many of his pretty receptionists already! Let me know how much you enjoyed your stay.

MURDERED!

I read today that an Australian businessman and 12 year expat resident of the Philippines was murdered, stabbed to death by thieves who stole $42,000 worth of cash and jewellery from his Manila home. While this is a tragedy and quite uncommon, it does happen often enough for us to pause and think about our personal security.

There are two basic times of greatest risk; the first time tourist and the long term expat who thinks he has it all under control. The reality is that you can never have a place like the Philippines ‘under control’. You are to a degree at the mercy of the country and the culture as well as the various members of the community.

It would be wrong to comment on the murder based just on the few details included in the news report however it is appropriate to make some general observations. First of all whether you are just visiting or live there permanently, keep a low profile. Do not be like the locals and flaunt your wealth, even if it is modest wealth by our standards. Whereas the local big noises can drive around in mirror tinted SUVs and wear lots of bling, you have neither the family connections or the armed guards to back it all up!

Members of The StreetWise Philippines Club can access a terrific documentary about a British businessman who married an Angeles bargirl, had two kids with her and then she had him murdered by her Filipino boyfriend. A tragic story in many ways and a sober reminder that not everybody thinks the same way you do when it comes to what is worth killing someone over!

Common sense is called for but sadly it often isn’t all that common, either by first time excitement or long time lethargy. Ego and complacency will get you into trouble, perhaps even killed. Invest thirty bucks in the ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ and take heed of the wealth of collected personal experience that volume contains. It could be the cheapest insurance you ever bought!

Infections Come & Go, So To Speak!

There are many infections one can catch when living or visiting the Philippines. I remember leaving after one trip of just a week in Manila when as the plane reached altitude and pressurised, virtually everybody in the cabin started to cough! Perhaps it was the cleaner air being filtered and pumped through that kicked us all off but I recall very distinctly quite a few minutes of coughing and nose blowing. I was cleaning dark matter from my nostrils for days and had an annoying nose twitch for a week or two until I made conscious effort to get it under control.

Working in Cebu in an office tower we had foreigners coming and going all the time on various three and six month projects. The first week would have them coughing and suffering from a chest infection that I believe was caused by the air-conditioning system. A good dose of anti-biotics bought over the counter from the nearest Mercury Drugstore and they were quickly back in action but just about every new expat employee copped this. If you spend time going into and out of air-conditioned buildings and cabs you are very susceptible to such illnesses. When we lived in Bogo in a fan only house and rarely enjoyed the cool of an air-conditioned environment I rarely had any problems. As soon as we were able to afford air-conditioning and we enjoyed it, this changed and colds and chest infections became more commonplace.

Another minor affliction that causes major distress is ‘pink eye’, ‘sore eye’ or conjunctivitis. It passes quickly from person to person via touching what they have touched and then touching your face. I stayed at a resort on Malapascua where first one of the staff had the tissue to the eye, then the owner, then half the guests! You can get drops for this from the drugstore but it is very annoying and can last several days.

I was also able to experience the skin rash so many of us get when we first start to live in the Philippines for longer than a month or two. It is a collection of red spots on the chest and groin that look like freckles or measles. I have no idea what it was but the Quack Doctor healed it by spitting something on the affected area and the next day I was fine! Don’t write off the local Hilot or Quack Doctor. They have been providing health care for the Filipino for centuries and have it pretty well wrapped up as far as local ailments go. They are terrific for muscular and bone setting situations but if you have something that requires micro-surgery or similar, see a western physician.

You might get an ear infection from the pools or sea. If so, get a local to boil some Hilpas weed and then stick it in your ear as hot as you can handle it. It might seem funny to have green goop sticking out of your ear but it works. As soon as it went in I felt it send finger of healing down the tubes and sinuses from ear to nose and mouth. It was amazing as I could feel it clearing out the passages and easing the pain I had felt in the side of my face. My mother-in-law administered it and said she used to give it to her brothers and father when they copped ear aches from cyanide fishing.

As for other forms of infection such as STDs, these are usually treated with a one shot oral prophylactic nowadays and are available without prescription if you know what you want. I do not advise self prescription as I have done it before for myself and it is a bit of a gamble. It costs about ten bucks to see a well qualified (probably US trained) doctor and get the right treatment first time.

The Philippines are a tropical locale. This means there is the risk of catching things that do not exist back home. You might also forego adequate rest and hydration for party time and lots of alcohol. Take care of yourself and the best cure is prevention, as always.

Introductions Equals Money

There are hundreds of ‘penpal’ sites, introduction agencies and lonely hearts sites on the web nowadays. Many of these showcase Filipinas, as well as women from Latin America and the former Soviet Union. This article is not about the moral or ethical side of this industry (and it is an industry in more ways than one) but about how you could become involved in it in an ethical and moral way.

The reality is that people are out there looking for each other. We will discuss why in depth another time. Let’s look at the introduction agency. Until the IMBRA law was introduced in the USA a few years ago (International Marriage Brokers Act) many sites charged the man a fee to belong and to get the details of the women members so they could correspond. The view was to meet, marry and live happily ever after. However some men (and some women) abused this and lured unsuspecting partners to their graves in extreme cases and horrible lives of virtual slavery in others. Not all and no doubt a very tiny minority but even one sad story is one too many.

The Philippines government introduced a law to prohibit the running of introduction agencies from the Philippines however providing you did not promise marriage and did not charge the female a fee you were not breaking the law. All the same most people didn’t trust the local judicial system enough to risk it. Those introduction agencies that offered Filipina names and addresses were often run by Filipina wives of Americans, living in the USA. These went from catalogues mailed to the man (hence the term ‘mail-order-bride) and required months of patient snail mail correspondence to the instant gratification of email and online viewing of photos and details (her profile). It also meant that the Filipina could become more pro-active and hunt for a ‘kano’ to call her own.

This technological advance gave unscrupulous people the chance to abuse the system and make money or take other advantages. Men could lure women to their home country and abuse them as sex slaves, Filipinas (and all too often Filipino transsexuals posing as women) could induce men to send them money under false pretenses. The IMBRA law was tagged onto other legislation and passed late at night prior to a holiday and was brought about by the tragic deaths of two women from Russia, not the Philippines. While no one can condone such abuse, the law while well intentioned has been unfairly passed and applied. Large web sites such as yahoo are exempt as while they do have many foreign members, they are not exclusively about introducing foreigners to Americans. Religious sites are exempt due to the power of the religious lobby no doubt and so many sites have suddenly become ‘Christian Dating’ sites.

Basically the law requires the web site to ensure the American supplies full personal particulars to any foreign member (such as financial and criminal records, full address etc) BEFORE they are able to open correspondence. When the couple finally decide to marry the fiance is questioned by Immigration if the law was complied with and if not then they will not be granted a K1 visa. Or a K3 if they married overseas. It is no doubt well intentioned but it is a recipe for disaster and it forces otherwise law abiding people to lie and find ways around the situation or open you up for identity theft or worse.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. For those living overseas who want a Filipina partner, simply come here on vacation and travel around. Read ‘Filipina 101-How To Meet The Filipina of Your Dreams’ for all the information you need to know about how to correspond or meet her in the mall. It also tells you how to detect a scammer and how to avoid her as well as new information on chat cam scams.

But if you live in the Philippines and wish to make a living helping other people find happiness together, this is how I would do it. First of all you must have your Asawa on your side. She is vital as she will be the one to choose and vet the Filipinas. You will find and vet the Kanos. You need only about ten local girls from your Asawa’s home barangay. Relatives and girls she knows personally. Girls she knows do not have current boyfriends and she knows if they have babies or husbands or any of the other surprises that can be launched on the unsuspecting Kano.

Then you set up a web site offering a guided vacation in a barangay locale where the holiday maker can meet real Filipinas and learn about the culture and the community with no pressure or obligation to make any promises at all. For all the details of how to set up a business in the Philippines, check out ‘Making A Living- The Streetwise Philippines Guide To Employment, Business and Investing’. You meet the holiday maker at the airport and guide them to the barangay, arrange their accommodation and site seeing and act as a friend and guide for a set period. During that time you introduce them to the vetted girls in a casual, relaxed family BBQ type situation and let things take a natural course.

You promise only this:

You will meet the client at the airport and guide them to the locale.

You will show them the local sites and hold a BBQ in their honour at which several local Filipinas will be present.

All of the Filipinas will be known to you or your Asawa and in your opinion be genuine and not already married (unless stated).

You will escort the client back to the airport or wherever you both agree to ‘release’ him.

No promises of marriage are made and no online introductions are made so neither sets of laws are infringed, US or Filipino. You charge a modest fee for your time and costs and only from the guest. I would suggest US$100 a day depending on costs and length of visit. You could charge a two day minimum with half in advance (give a receipt) and be clear about your trading and refund terms. Be professional and fair and you will be surprised at how you attract more people of the same nature than bad ones.

Be aware there are some unscrupulous people offering similar services already. They have slick web sites and convincing text but they take the deposit and then fail to produce the service. If you are active on the Yahoo groups for expats and people interested in the Philippines then you will build up a clientele that can vouch for you; word of mouth and reputation is crucial to long term success in this country as anywhere. This idea of mine is for a service that helps Kano and Filipina find each other. You facilitate the possibility only. No promises are made and for $100 the Kano can’t complain if he was shown a slice of real Filipino barangay life not usually experienced by tourists and then sent safely on his way. A date with an American woman will set him back more than that.

Be diligent and find genuine Filipinas. Devise a set of questions to ascertain the bona fides of the Filipina and the Kano and after a while you can sort the wheat from the chaff. Deliver as promised and keep in mind this is a customer focused service. Most Kanos who will pay for this service tend to be genuine in their endeavours to find a Filipina they can trust. The scum tend to know it all already and have their own Modus Operandi. The customer helps you live in the Philippines so take good care of him and ask for referrals.

If one of the girls turns out to be a scammer, deal with it. If the Kano turns out to be less than genuine, again, deal with it. Problems occur in all business ventures, the secret is how you deal with them. Always aim for a Win/Win/Win outcome. Thats the Kano, the Filipina and you all being winners. It can be done and in the long run it is far more lucrative than the rip off or scam could ever be.

Makati! More Than Meets The Eye

Makati has a reputation amongst some of being the haunt of the rich, effete and privileged. Those fat cat expats with the big salary packages who live here in the company owned house surrounded by walls, guards, with a driver, maids and so on. True. Makati is also home to some of the poorest in Manila.

The city of Makati came about after the Second World War when the Ayalas bought up Nielsen Field, the old US Army Air Corps airstrip. Even today, a glance at a map of Makati shows how Makati Avenue used to be the main runway and the old control tower is still there, near the intersection with Ayala Avenue, the alternate runway. Both roads are on a similar axis to the existing runways at NAIA as the prevailing winds haven’t changed.

The City of Makati has slums like any other Manila city, especially along the disused railway tracks of the old North Luzon rail line that runs parallel to Taft Avenue along the south western boundary of the city. Across EDSA to the north east and also to the north and north west lie areas of working class housing, squatter “jerry builts” and out and out shacks and shanties!

The super rich areas of Forbes Park are more what we think of when someone mentions Makati. Walled compounds containing huge family homes and servants quarters, immaculate grounds kept so by an army of gardeners and dozens of fawning domestic help almost like something from a Graeme Greene novel. It takes serious money to live here. No matter whether it is dollars, euro or peso, expect to hand over a lot of them for the privilege.

Of course there are also very affordable apartments in Makati that can be rented, fully furnished for P20,000 to P30,000 a month. If you want to live nearer the working class but still boast a Makati address you can even rent small apartments for half that!

Some argue that living in Makati is expensive and the truthful answer is yes, it can be. If you choose to live that way. Those single men who haunt P.Burgos Street and the go-go bars that line the curving carriageway would go through vast amounts of cash just keeping up with their bar tab, let alone renting company from time to time. But even there, ‘Happy Hour’ at some bars like ‘Rogues’ above the Pizza Hut can be reasonable with beers costing around P40 until 10pm!

If you are like me and are no longer an avid attendee of these bars, then the best value I was shown would have to have been Chilli’s. Two beers for P65 or six for P180, it varied over the time I was doing my empirical research. The same kind of deal could be had at Pier One in nearby Taguig at The Fort, a very flash new development I might say. The food at Chilli’s is very American, huge portions and so on but I love their Ranch Burger for P275. You really had a hard time stepping around the thing it was that big.

The malls of Makati are many and world class. Glorietta has four malls, then you flow into the Greenbelt series of four Malls and some of the cafe’s and eateries there are simply superb. Not all of them are ridiculously priced in fact all were far cheaper than what I would pay for similar fare in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. I have also been to Rodeo Drive in L.A. and Greenwich Village in New York, Berlin and London and I would have to say for value for money, Makati offers everything the other cities promise.

As well as the great cafe scene, the shops are full of eye candy for the discerning voyeur and great bargains for the serious shopper. The department stores like SM and Robinsons charge the same prices as they do in Cebu, and the malls go on and on for miles!

All of the insider information was passed on to me by my good friend, David in Makati as he signs his emails. A retired British Ghurkha Officer, David has lived and worked his own consultancy firm out of Makati for over twenty years. He knows his way around and he also, understandably, knows where to get a decent curry! As he quite rightly points out, “why live in the boonies and suffer when you can live in a civilized part of the world with everything you need close to hand, just as you would in the center of New York, London or any major cosmopolitan city?”

He’s quite right and I think you could live in Makati within a P50,000-P75,000 (US$1,100-US$1,750) a month budget and be very comfortable on half that again. Try living well and eating out regularly in Manhattan or Mayfair for less than US$1500 a month! And there aren’t all of those fashionista Filipinas to feast your eyes upon, either!