There is no denying the natural beauty of the Philippines, matched perhaps only by the beauty of the Filipina and also the friendly hearts of the Filipinos. In a country of over 7,000 islands and many different languages and dialects there is so much to see and so little time to see it all for most of us. Even living there for several years I only saw a lot of what I did see because I had a job requiring me to drive around and see it!
Another great reason for coming is not so much the cuisine, which is not as varied or as extensive as in neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but rather for the memories it can evoke. This simple repast of rice, eggplant, fish and prawns was cooked on board a banca, hired for the day in Coron. The two boatmen were great guides and took good care of their guests. Simple fare, but enjoyed al fresco in a superb setting. Sadly many of the hotels and local eateries never came close to this meal for cleanliness, taste and value.
The good news is the government of President Acquino is trying hard to drag their countrymen into the 21st Century. They are clamping down on corruption and incompetence and doing their best to make the place as tourist friendly as they can. It isn’t perfect and while nowhere is, the irritating things really need to be taken into perspective and kept in mind they are not that big a deal, really. Most places are pretty remote and the people looking after you have not had the benefit of your education and experience. They are trying their best and rarely do anything nasty on purpose. Overall, a vacation in the Philippines is one you will remember for ever and with very fond memories.
Your Intrepid Editor Dines Italiano While Typhoon Namandol Bludgeons Manila
The Pollo Diavalo was, to be honest, superb! The Maple Butter that covered the succulent breast of chicken spread its’ tasty treats onto the accompanying vegetables, the bread was still warm and the butter spread itself without complaint. I was thoroughly enjoying the meal, and the old guy on the grand piano running through a medley of old standards.
The Jameson’s Irish Whiskey was a nice surprise, not many places even in Makati carry much in the way of whiskies other than Johnny Walker or J&B, even getting a decent bourbon can be an iffy proposition. Somehow, the meal, the malt and the mood were just right. I felt decadent, just like the Manila social set dancing, dining and drinking the night away as the army pulled out and Macarthur declared Manila an open city over 62 years ago.
The rain was literally lashing the windows of the Italian restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. Outside it was black, bleak, wet and windswept but “for awhile” I could sit back and enjoy the ambience of the restaurant and the pianist and just enjoy myself. I rarely enjoy a meal in a restaurant here in the Philippines as much as I was savouring this one. Admittedly the staff had to leave the plates just that little bit too long before being reminded to clear them away and for some reason my Jameson had taken rather longer to arrive than you would think, given the proximity of my table to the bar, but this is the Philippines.
If you want perfect service of a standard you would expect in a western restaurant, go to the west! At least the waitresses were pretty, friendly and tried their best. If you don’t grow up in an environment that values and demonstrates efficiency then you can hardly be expected to have any idea of what proper silver service is all about. I called for the bill and after a fairly lengthy delay it arrived. Three Jameson’s and two cokes plus the superb chicken? About fifteen bucks! I’m not normally this extravagant but what the hey, there’s a typhoon coming!
My meal over with, I decided to head up to Mickey Dee’s for my favourite dessert, a caramel sundae. Forget the fancy Tiramisu’s and Gelati, give me good old vanilla soft serve ice cream with caramel flavouring any day! I even bypassed Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks’, Figaro, Liberia, Mocha Blends, Gloria Jeans’ and Baang! on my way to the Golden Arches! Two of them had already closed to give their staff a chance to fight their way home in the typhoon and the others offered overpriced brews I am seriously trying to give up. Paying half a Dong’s daily salary for a cup of java does seem a little decadent when you start to do it on a daily basis and get rather blas about the whole thing.
A bunch of Dong’s were huddled in the rain around a Corolla, trying to jigger the door open. The driver was looking desperate, probably Ma’am or Sir were due back from their dinner and would be mightily upset that their limo had swallowed its own keys. I knew from experience they would be hard pressed to open the car with just a wire coat hanger, you really need a brazing rod or something stiffer. If I had my trusty old Slim Jim with me I could have had her open in a jiffy, but “going about equipped” is probably an offense here too, just like back home.
I had learnt the trade when I was a Military Policeman and had used it numerous times to my own advantage as much as anyone else’s so I know how dumb you feel when you lock the keys inside. I also know the sweet relief as the door pops open but for this driver it was not to be. Pretty soon the Dongs drifted away, but not without trying me out with a tentative “Merry Christmas Sir” plea for a handout. After what I had just spent on a meal and a few drinks for one person, I wasn’t up for a spot of charity, never mind the weather!
My umbrella played hide and seek with itself all the way up the street, the tall buildings making the wind veer and wander so you couldn’t keep your brolly head to wind. More than once I rounded up like my old sailboat on Sydney Harbour in a southerly just to save the umbrella spokes from terminally twisting themselves inside out. The rain came in horizontally under the brolly that I had to hold in front of me leaving me walking blindly along the soaked sidewalk. I had a few close calls with fellow pedestrians before I made it into the sanctuary of Macca’s.
I finished the caramel sundae, said goodbye to the clown and returned to the wind swept, rain soaked street and cast about for a jeepney to get me back to my room. Two jeepneys roared past, ignoring my signal and naturally, empty. Finally a very full jeepney came to a halt in front of me and I went to the back to clamber in. Even though I hadn’t spotted anywhere to sit I scrambled aboard, knowing from experience a place would magically appear as I needed it. It did and I plonked myself down with what little dignity I had left. Trying to get my bear size bulk into these cut down sardine tins is an exercise in wishful thinking sometimes. At least it was so windy and cool outside I was appreciative of the muggy warmth inside the vehicle.
What I didn’t cotton to was the smell. It was like clinging to the collar of a giant, wet dog. That damp dog smell, the one you get a whiff of just before he shakes four gallons of water onto you and your new carpet. That’s the smell! I hoped it wasn’t me and since the girls squeezed in either side of me didn’t seem to be squirming too much, I figured it came with the jeepney.
Getting from the jeepney stop to my lodgings proved to be another challenge in keeping my umbrella alive and me more or less dry at the same time. We both made it without further loss or injury and I basically just settled in for what I knew would be a long, wet, windy night. I gave thanks that I was nice and dry and warm and not wet, freezing and homeless like many would be that night. Only the other day Tropical Depression “Winnie” had claimed over 300 lives. I wondered what the butcher’s bill would be for this little spat Mother Nature was giving us? I called the wife and made sure she and the kids were safe and well, then went to bed. After all, once you’ve battened down your hatches, there’s not much else you can do in a Typhoon, Nature pretty much has her own agenda!
Are There Business Opportunities To Be Had In The Philippines? We Take A Look Each Month.
So far I know of people who are getting involved in bat guano, tempura cart sales, sari sari wholesale supply and a few other interesting ventures, including real estate development, sea shells, prescription eyewear and more! The common denominator seems to be the desire to get involved in something. However, a word of warning.
A business in the Philippines can indeed be started on a frayed shoestring, unlike something you might try back home. But be aware that the less you invest the less it will produce. This has nothing to do with any law of diminishing returns, it is simply that the successful businesses here are successful for the same reasons a business is successful back in the UK or America.
If you have insufficient capital, or a poor location or no real business plan then just because it is only a few dollars to get Dong going doesn’t mean it has any special chance of success or even survival just because it is started in the Philippines. I was in a Chilli’s franchise tonight. Cost of the meals are over P200 and well into P400 with some even more. Drinks were fairly pricey too, but you can have the buy one take one beer deal for P65 that works out pretty good value. Anyway, the points I am making are twofold. Firstly it took a fair chunk of change to put up a decent business like Chilli’s in the first place and secondly, there is money in this country!
There may not be much to spread around in the province where the asawa comes from but in Quezon City there is a lot of it! I was speaking to a car dealer who brings in “gray imports”. On his lot he had a VW Tuareg, a Dodge Ram, a Mercedes, three Honda’s and so on. Plus a 2004 Range Rover HSE going for P6 million! Given the fact Land Rover pulled out of the country due to the gray import market back dooring them for billions, I wonder where the eventual buyer will get it serviced? Woe betide him if it breaks down or the computer chip needs a zap, nobody has the diagnostic gear to fix it!
So between the gray imports and the authorised importers, there has never been more new car metal on the roads in Manila. And it all costs money because financing here is a joke. I left Chilli’s and walked down T.Morato Avenue and turned into Timog Avenue, part of the South Triangle area of Quezon City. The place is wall to wall restaurants, coffee shops, liquor stores, aerobics gyms and anything else you want. By the time you sweat your way onto Quezon Avenue the giant KTV lounges and nite clubs fill your horizon with their ridiculous prices and lurid neon lies of love and popularity. No money here? Rubbish!
So if you don’t have real chunks of cash, then you are in the realm of the SME or small to medium enterprise, which officially lists a micro business as being worth up to P3 million, not including buildings etc!!!! Small businesses are P3-P15 million and medium sized P15-P100 million. Anything with more investment than that gets to call itself a large, or big business. If you don’t believe me, check the official DOLE figures! So unless you have US$60,000 or more in the venture, it isn’t even a “small” business!
Getting back into Manila, my old stomping grounds, after a two year hiatus in Cebu has proven more than merely interesting. I have really gone out of my way to get back into the street vibe that oozes from this city’s pores. Everywhere you turn in Manila somebody is trying to turn a peso. Across the street from me every morning at 5.30am a young woman sets up a simple stall selling corn, sits there all day and by nightfall it still looks like she hasn’t sold a single cob.
Every second house has its obligatory sari sari store attached, the barred serving hatch the sign of a micro enterprise in the making. On the street corners, food vendors offer BBQ meat, BBQ bananas, squid balls, taho and anything else you can think of. There are ten million people in this city and it seems that at any one time five million of them are trying to sell the other five million something. Like I said, there is money in this country, it’s just a question of who has it and how much at any one time.
How You Can Get In On The Growing Dairy Industry In The Philippines!
Dairy produce is taken for granted by most of us; at least until we come to the Philippines! I remember my first trip here in the eighties, I craved a milkshake and a decent ham and cheese sandwich! You could order both from Room Service at the 1 star doss house I was staying at in Manila, but the milk was made from powder and the bread was sugar infested Filipino bread, with strange purple ham and high temperature cheese!
Nearly twenty years later the situation has changed considerably. While you can still get the same bread, ham, cheese and powdered milk, you can also buy a much wider range of quality dairy produce in just about any supermarket. Note the location is the “super” market, not the “native”, “local” or any other kind of market. Dairy products are imported, new to the diet and thus more expensive than the average item on sale at the “merchado” or local market.
Currently, the Philippines is about only 2% self sufficient in dairy production. The National Dairy Authority is aiming at increasing that to 5% this year with an innovative program called “Palit Baka”, more about that later. Imports of milk from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Europe in various forms set the economy back nearly US$400 million in 2003. As the acceptance of dairy products grows in the A,B and even C classes, we can expect to see that figure grow.
One thing I have always found intriguing is the total absence of goat’s milk and goat’s cheeses. Given every spare plot of dirt has a ruminant or three grazing away and the market rarely has “Kambing” for sale (usually just a hind quarter, co where does the rest of the beast go?), how come nobody milks them and sells the milk or makes cheese or yoghurt?
I turned to the Asawa for guidance and she simply shrugged and said that no Filipino would buy goat’s milk or cheese. No reason, they just wouldn’t. I have learnt not to argue with her too much, especially on matters like this. Still, it seems pretty strange to me, especially when there are some great goat’s milk cheeses to be had and surely fresh goat’s milk is better than nothing at all in the calcium stakes?
But back to the baka, or cows. The NDA website is full of fascinating information and really should be visited. These people are making a very definite effort to improve the health and diet of the average Filipino. They are determined to bring fresh milk and dairy produce within the grasp of just about everybody.
The Palit Baka program basically has farmers borrowing cows and keeping them for a period of a few years. (They can also buy selected animals and at P70,000 each, it might be worth investigating if your in-laws have a few spare plots of grassy land around their house). During this time the breeding program the NDA sponsors is monitored and new cross breeds are developed that can survive the tropical climate. All milk produced that is not consumed by the farmer is sold to the local dairy center and much of it goes back to the poor of the community through subsidised feeding programs for malnourished children.
Some of the milk of course ends up in the supermarkets and here in Cebu I can buy fresh milk for about the same as “fresh milk”, ie; UHT long life milk. My Asawa calls the UHT (ultra heat treated) milk “fresh milk” as opposed to powdered milk. Growing up in the province they never had (and her parents still never have) UHT “fresh milk”. Powdered milk was the best they could afford and that wasn’t as often as it should have been. Real fresh milk is a novelty and yet slowly she is getting more used to having it around. I find that you really need to finish the fresh milk off in a day or two, whereas back in Australia, even at the height of summer, fresh milk would last three or four days if refrigerated. Even using the same refrigeration practices, local fresh milk turns a little sour within 48 hours of opening.
If you see a bottle of Cebu Fresh Milk in the dairy department of your Gaisano, SM, Robinson’s, Fooda or Rustan’s supermarket, buy it! Help this fledgling industry get off the ground and help improve the diet of the average Filipino. The more real fresh milk that is produced and sold, the more chance there is that dairy products will become more affordable and more available to everybody in this country.
With over 20 years hands-on experience in the Philippines, Perry Gamsby is considered an authority on the facts of expatriate life in this fascinating archipelago. As well as having a Filipina wife, four children and the requisite extended Filipino family, Perry is a teacher of Filipino Martial Arts and a former travel editor of the country’s leading map and travel atlas publisher. Five years ago he created Streetwise Philippines Inc. publishing eBook guides to the Philippines for expat readers.
His first book and to date, still the best seller, is “Philippine Dreams” (also sold in some markets as “StreetWise Philippines”). This comprehensive examination of the phenomenon of Filipinas, the Philippines and his own decision to move to the Philippines and pursue his dream of living in a tropical paradise strikes a chord with all who read it. Written in an entertaining yet informative style, the eBook explores life and living in the Philippines in a special way: “This is what happens, this is why it happens, this is what you as an expat can do to understand what happens.” You can read more about Philippines Dreams at http://www.philippine-dreams.com/
“Philippine Dreams” created a demand for more information, especially about the four most important topics of the matrix: meeting a Filipina, marrying and migrating a Filipina, putting a roof over your head if you decided to live in the Philippines and finding ways to pay for all of this! The results were “Filipina 101-How To Meet The Filipina of Your Dreams” (co-written with his Filipina wife, Amelita) and “Filipina 202 – How To Marry And Migrate Your Dream Filipina”. These valuable guides dismiss the misinformation and stereotyping of the Filipina on the many online dating/matchmaking sites and provide a balanced and informative guide to men looking for Filipina wives. You can read more about these guides at http://www.filipina101.com and http://www.filipina202.com
Perry has completed ‘Filipina 303 – Making The Magic Last’ although at this stage it has not been decided if the eBook will be released separately or as part of a three volume compilation of the ‘Filipina’ series.
Perry then released “The Philippines Property Primer – The StreetWise Guide to Buying, Renting or Leasing Property”. This is a ‘first read’ real estate guide for anyone contemplating buying, renting or leasing property in the Philippines. Over the years, as well as buying, leasing and renting several properties himself in the Philippines, Perry has observed many people lose large amounts of money in property here; most of the time because they are not dealing with legitimate sellers or they have not protected their investment by taking the simple precautions listed in the eBook. The Philippines Property Primer has all of the basic information you need to assist you in making a more informed decision. You can read more about The Philippines Property Primer at http://www.philippinespropertyprimer.com/
THE LATEST RELEASE FROM STREETWISE PHILIPPINES
Although the topic of how to make a living in the Philippines was covered in brief in “Philippine Dreams”, the response from readers was so insistent that a new, updated and more in depth guide on how to support yourself and your family in the Philippines has been released. “MAKING A LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES – The StreetWise Guide To Business, Employment and Investing”, will tell you what you need to know to operate a small business, get a job or invest in a tightly regulated, highly competitive and immensely volatile marketplace. It has been written with the average guy in mind; the everyday guy without the big retirement income set-up or pre-arranged ‘fatcat’ expat job contract who wants to escape to the Philippines and live every day with the Filipina of his dreams but still needs to make a living!
You can read more about “Making A Living In The Philippines” at http://www.makingalivinginthephilippines.com/ or check out all the Streetwise Philippines publications at http://www.streetwisephilippines.com/ The eBook, contains a wealth of information otherwise impossible to glean without having been there, done that. In the safety of your own home you can learn first hand what is required to survive in a third world economy and be better equipped to decide if you should risk selling up and making that life changing move!
This E-Book will explain to you everything you need to know to start up a small business, get a job or invest in the Philippines!
The very latest publication is ‘Philippines Survival Handbook’ which takes a very holistic and comprehensive view of the things that can give you grief in the Philippines. From bent coppers to under-age girl scams, snakes and sea creatures to dangerous bus rides!