Category Archives: Culture

Reality Check

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:

69276_585654964795682_696622037_nLOVE LETTER TO FILIPINOS ||David H. Harwell, PhD

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.

The Reasons Tourists Come

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.

Surprised There Are Fish This Big Still Left?

I have to confess I am surprised there are still fish this big to be caught in Philippines waters. These come from off Bacolod. Further north there are simply too many people dynamiting reefs and poisoning the water with arsenic and taking all the little reef fish and selling them in the market. The little fish are what feed the bigger ones, or grow into them and if they are all taken, there is nothing left to keep the eco-system going.

I understand Dong’s dilemma. he has to feed his family today and let tomorrow take care of itself. Not very long sighted but sadly the poor don’t have the luxury of such vision. The catholic church inc, on the other hand, does. The priests and bishops live in relative luxury, at the very least not having to worry where the food to feed their illegitimate families comes from. They stop the poor from being able to manage their lives in a modern way with contraception, yet they have no problem breaking their own rules of celibacy, let alone the trust parents place in them when they leave them alone with their kids.

Still, the fish is a symbol of Christianity, I believe. Maybe this is symbolic, that there is hope for the fish, the fishermen, the people and the religion they hold so dear. One hopes so.

The PI Is Not Very PC

One of the many things I love about the Philippine Islands (P.I. in the old US Navy vernacular)or Pinas as they call it themselves, is that it is not very PC, or politically correct. You still have politicians and government officials slapping criminals and scolding them on TV and nobody cries about their human rights. These are criminals after all! The fact they are yet to be found guilty doesn’t matter, they are accused and so are guilty enough to be made an example of. Don’t like that? Don’t put yourself in a situation where you might be a suspect or arrested.

They don’t let foreigners do things here and for good reason. Mostly it is to protect the monopoly held by one of the ruling families but also it means that locals will always win over foreigners. Even in court and even if the foreigner is in the right. I have listened as a judge explains that although he has to find the case in favour of the foreigner, the defendant is a poor Pinoy who has been manipulated by the rich Kano (he borrowed money off the foreigner, promised to pay back or give him his farm, then never paid and won’t give the deeds to the farm to the Kano’s Filipina wife). He says it would hurt the farmer too much and besides the foreigner has lots of money and he can always go back to America and so on. Not fair or just but you have to accept he has an argument there.

In the Pinas you can still do pretty much what you want to, especially on your own property. People will rarely complain for fear of you having more clout than they do. If they feel they have more clout then they might complain and they might win but if you play by their rules, this is rare. First of all, don’t flaunt your wealth like the better off locals do. Be nice, acknowledge you are not in your own country. Never criticise no matter how messed up and incompetent they might be and never call a Filipino ‘stupid’, even if he or she is.

In return you can drive pretty much how you like, just as they do. Make sure you mirror tint your windscreen and windows and never make eye contact and use the horn incessantly. Treat your helper as a servant, not a member of the family and now and then get mad at them to keep them keen. Too nice and they will rip you off because they know you won’t do anything about it. Know your place in society and maintain it. You are higher than others but not all. Trying to be nice and friendly to everyone only embarrasses those below you and creates contempt among those above you and shame for those at your level. If you don’t understand what I mean, ask your Asawa. But don’t expect a straight answer, it is not their way.

A Very Worthy Cause

Making a difference, one at a time

Following is information on a project several of us are working on.  This is an appeal for funds to provide daily vitamins with minerals to a specific group of children living in poverty.  A way you can make a real difference in the lives of each of them.

This is a one year Pilot program to determine the beneficial effects daily vitamins with minerals will have on the lives of these children.  Anticipated outcomes include reduced illness, better ability to concentrate in school and at home, better physical condition and more.

A monthly donation or a onetime gift will help begin this program.  Please give us your support.  I am available to answer any questions you have concerning this program. Thank you.

Jim Baumbach,
Bacoor Cavite, 4102 Philippines
(MagicJack  717-435-5284 free call in Lancaster, PA area)
09278274512 (cellphone)


I am not a doctor but I see the effects the lack of proper nutrition has on children.  Without proper nutrition children are unable to develop physically and mentally.  Where I live in the Philippines children suffer from this condition in dramatic numbers.

In the Philippines 30% of the population, based on Philippine statistics, live on less than a dollar a day.  Rice is the main food of the poor.  While rice provides calories and some nutrients, it is generally processed into white polished rice with few health benefits.  The children will eat whatever they can to satisfy their hunger.   This includes white bread, cheap candy and fortunately seasonal fruits.

Can you help the 4 – 5 million Filipino children suffering from malnutrition?  NO YOU CAN’T!  It is too overwhelming.  What you can do is help a group of the children in a squatter area “Slum” that I have come to know.  They range in age from 0 to 16, both boys and girls.  There is a total of 42 and here is what we can do together to help them.



Daily multivitamins and minerals for these children will provide missing nutrition in their diets.

A simple multi-vitamin with minerals each day will give the child these expected benefits: increased ability to concentrate in and out of school, stronger immune system leading to fewer illnesses, general improvement in bodily function and more.

Here is how it will work:  The total daily cost for a multi-vitamin for the 42 children is $3.15, for a monthly total of $133.  Please make checks payable to:  Bonnie Gantz, and send to, 24 Plank Ave, Willow Street, PA 17584 will receive the donations, deposit the funds in a PNC bank account of Jim Baubmach who can access them, for free, in the Philippines. In the Philippines please contact me directly, by text or call and we can make arrangements. The vitamins will be purchased locally and distributed by the local Health Department or government agency, again, without cost.  A full monthly accounting will be provided to Bonnie by Jim.  If more than the $133 is collected it will only be spent for approved purposes such as the addition of fluoride or protein supplements for the children.


You may have knowledge of the people involved in this project.  There are no administration fees deducted and there is accountability on a monthly base.  The height, weight and progress of each child will be maintained by the local Health Department or government agency.  Group photos will also be provided as well as individual photos on request.

7th Billion Baby Born In Philippines

Not Mine! cry half a dozen expats in Angeles City!


The world’s symbolic 7 billionth baby was born on the weekend and brings the Filipino population to just over 94.9 million, officially. The delivery room was packed with reporters, relatives, UN officials and even the 6th billionth baby, now 12, not to mention the father, mother and a mid-wife. The child gets a scholarship and the parents a grant to start a sari sari store and of course, world wide fame. If the world increased by 1 billion in just 12 years from 6 to 7 billion, how long will it take to make it to 8 billion?

Even More Holidays For Pinoys

It was reported in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on the 23rd July that the President will grant another holiday, or in Pinoy speak, a ‘non-working day’. This time it will be for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of the Islamic observance called Ramadan. Tuesday, August 30 is the chosen day, which will come right on the heels of National Heroe’s Day on Monday the 29th. With the weekend this makes for a four day break except, of course, if you are a government employee required to work on the Saturday. So what is the real agenda here? Muslims make up about 5% of the population at best. Is this part of the Islamification of the world, or just a grab for some votes in Mindanao?


Age Limit Up In Angeles

The token lip service shown the other week in arresting owners, patrons and staff of only Foreigner Owned bars in Angeles city has brought about talk of increasing the age limit for licensed staff working in these bars from 18 to 21 . That would be a very positive move and lessen the chances a 16 year old (or younger) could bribe her local officials into issuing a city ID claiming she was 18. At the very least it would make it easier for owners to insist on more proof for the really young looking applicants. Will this make much difference overall? We doubt it.

In the Filipino owned bars that cater mainly to the local trade it will make no difference whatsoever if the owner chooses to hire 14 year olds. He will rely on his barkarda, his connections and his local clout as always. It is all so obvious to those who understand the psyche of the Filipino, especially when it comes to getting one over on the foreigner. One can’t really blame them, given how they were messed around for so long by the Spanish in the name of the church, then the Americans just took over even after the Filipinos had beaten the Spanish in a fair fight called the Kapitunan Revolution of 1896-98. They have to put up with a culture that idolises anything from overseas as being superior to the Pinoy version, has half the population doing whatever they can to have lighter skin tones (whitening cream is the No1 selling item in drug stores everywhere) and of course people throwing in English phrases amidst their Tagalog just to show they are upscale enough to speak Taglish.

All of which is fair enough. It is their country and if one moves there and operates a business then one must expect the playing field to be less than level. Regardless of how it might be level for them back home should they come to your country and set up shop, this isn’t your country, it is theirs. This is how it is, get used to it. The thing is, you can play the game their way, too. You will never be as good at it or as well connected but you can use the same two faced set of ‘rules’ to your advantage. Always pick your battles carefully and make sure you have more money and connections than the other guy. Don’t hesitate to treat people like dirt and use them to your own advantage and never, ever feel remorse or pity for anyone less fortunate than you. That’s their lot in life and not your fault so ignore them if you can and use them if you can’t. Remember, this is a catholic country so you will be forgiven your sins and the lot of the less fortunate will be much better when they go to heaven so why worry? See, they’ve got it covered.

Either follow those simple rules or don’t compete with locals for the peso. Go back to your own country and run your business there or enjoy living in the Philippines and make your money online, offshore or somewhere other than the Republic of the Philippines. Walay problema, di ba!

Say It Ain’t So, Mr Honest Filipino!

Well, seems when the police raided the Blue Nile bar the other night and took away a stack of employees as well as the bar owners… they also loaded a bus with patrons and took them to Manila. They arrested foreign tourists and took them to Manila where they could be held and pressured until they paid huge amounts of money to be released. Don’t believe me? Two patrons kept their cool and repeatedly told the police they were not getting on the bus unless they were properly informed of what they were being arrested for. They knew their rights and insisted on due process. Too troublesome to risk taking with them so they were allowed to leave. These two old hands knew enough not to jump up and down and make a lot of nose, they quietly refused to board the bus until they were told the reason for arrest. If they had made a fuss the cops would have lost face and grabbed them anyway.

Meanwhile the other patrons were taken away and as they were mostly tourists here for a short stay, no doubt they paid up and left as soon as they could to avoid further hassle. Being held illegally and falsely arrested would mean a long wait in a slum sewer of a jail (why they can’t even maintain a decent jail let alone a country beats me) and forever going to court to have hearings delayed and so on.

Did the cops raid the Filipino bars where the girls are kept as virtual sex slaves? No. They raided the foreigner owned bars where the girls come and go as they please. Did they raid the Japanese or Korean owned bars? No again because nobody messes with the Yakuza or Korean version, those guys shoot back. So a few greedy cops have, in the name of retaining grants from the US for fighting people trafficking, killed off the goose laying all the golden eggs in Angeles and every province in the country. Just as Lim did to Ermita in the early 90s to make way for his Chinese buddies to buy all the real estate cheap, all this will do is close down the well run establishments that provided a ton of money for the local economy.

Morality aside as far as prostitution is concerned, the reality is that the Philippines has little else to offer the tourist compared to other parts of S.E. Asia. Better infrastructure and no threat of kidnapping by NPA or Abu Sayaff not to mention more varied cuisine lure more to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, even Vietnam and Cambodia than to the Philippines. The scuba diving is no better than in other tropical countries and the getting there and back is often a lot simpler and more comfortable, not to mention safer in neighboring countries. With the catholic church keeping the population rate doubling all the time it is only a matter of time before the place collapses. The rich don’t care as they have their condos in the USA and Spain among other bolt holes. Those who can get out are doing so and have been doing so for decades, keeping the place afloat with the money they send back. Many families do nothing except wait for the remittances, then spend them. Industry is not setting up new factories in the Philippines and those already there are relocating because it is cheaper and simpler to do so. Wake up Kababayans, the double standards that are such an intrinsic part of your society are going to double back and bite you on those proud, swelled chests.