As I evolve as a U.S. citizen into a full time pursuer of the easy life, I am occasionally asked by my friends (with a look of puzzlement and fear) “why the Philippines?” Even some people that know I am married to a Filipina still ask that question. Some people just can’t understand why I would give up everything….wait….stop right there. This is where their confusion collides with my reality and I have to remind myself that the definition of “everything” is born out of a perceived benefit of living in the western world, and that is a whole different topic of discussion.
Recently, an old Navy acquaintance – that was stationed in the Philippines during the same time I was – questioned me openly on facebook as to whether my safety and security were not a concern of moving to and living in the Philippines. I can scarcely remember this same facebook friend, who was married to an American born caucasian woman, rarely making an exit out the front gates of the Subic Bay Naval Complex. I knew of an occasional venture out for a beer or two with the troops, but I never knew him to wander far away from the security blanket that was the main gate. As one of the more senior members of our command, he was undoubtedly wrapped in the same political and cautionary yarn that many other senior enlisted and officer personnel were woven from. For many of these American military and civilian personnel that could not see past their careers, families, and western lifestyles while inside the bastion which was the huge Subic Bay naval complex, many would never come to fully understand the way of the “real” world outside those gates.
Life on the ‘outside’ was mostly viewed as a third world circus of slums and squalor, of beggars, tramps, and thieves. They would never really come to learn about the lives and plight of some of the most friendly people on earth, the Filipino. Nonetheless, there was this bilateral relationship with the Filipino people and their culture. While some wanted nothing to do with life outside their secure fortress (sandbox), many others took living in the Philippines in full stride and vigor, and they learned something lessons that became very valued.
The benefits of immersing oneself into Philippine culture was a two-fold proposition. First, there was the enjoyment of living a very affordable fantasy type lifestyle – complete with all life’s pleasures – wine (beer), women, and song (okay, it wasn’t all about having fun), and then there was also the colorful and lively culture of the Philippines with their warm, hospitable people. An honorable people with strong family values and a culture of caring and sharing. Once the westerners weave themselves into this society, and with the added discovery that the most simple civil liberties and freedoms could be enjoyed at will, it all became absolutely cherishable. The many young Americans that would delve into this culture would not only discover a wonderful and beautiful way of life, but they would also develop a unique perspective with a new found appreciation of the American way of life. It was also learned that when you combine the best of both cultures, well…in many an opinion, life doesn’t get much better.
Back to my facebook friend and the point of this article. His perception of the Philippines was formulated way back during the days of the Marcos regime and and occasional periods of martial law, and is a derivative of imposed thoughts by senior military leadership. It was all directed from above and based on concerns for the safety and security of all military personnel. Hanging out with this kool-aid drinking, overcautious crowd (military leadership and political wanna be’s) produced grounds for the convictions that our young dumb sailors and marines could not take care of themselves, all the while surrounded by so many potential dangers. We could become caught-up casualties of a Philippine citizen revolt directed at their own government (EDSA) or there was the New Peoples Army (NPA), who operated mostly in rural areas and often targeted Philippine military, police, government informers, and alleged criminals. There was always something that grounded their fears, and resulted in decision making that negatively affected the one thing that most cherished so much – our liberty. It was not uncommon in those days to close the gates or restrict travel to and fro, seemingly on a whim, based upon those same fears. For example; The NPA could be sneaking around the with the intent to harm, kidnap, or even kill Americans. History has proven this to not be the case. Although if that were the intent, no 6 foot chain link fence in the world would prevent them from accomplishing that objective. In all reality though, we were most likely looked at as an absolute danger to ourselves, as we simply enjoyed ‘too many’ new found freedoms and liberties.
Even though that was over 25 years ago, in my friends mind, it is safe to assume that his beliefs today are that nothing has changed and that the Philippines remains a dangerous place. It’s like making a mental comparison of living in the Philippines to that of an unarmed native crossing the Serengeti National Park on foot…why take any chances? In all actuality and even as supposed young dumb sailors and marines, we were relatively safe then and things are even safer today. If you were to read the latest Travel Advisory issued by the U.S. Dept. of State, and compare it with one from 20 or 30 years ago, you will discover much the same verbiage. Factions and geographical areas of caution may be different, but the gist of the message is still the same. Be Careful!
Now here is my take on this – and I’m sure it’s not much different from that of thousands of other expats from around the world who are living permanently in the Philippines; if you choose to live recklessly or are careless in your travels, and ignorance and stupidity are two of your dominant character traits, you would be no safer living in America, or anywhere else in the western world for that matter.
For those of you reading this – if you would feel more comfortable with numbers, consider this. As of June, 2012, there were more than 65,155 foreign nationals residing in the Philippines that filed their annual reports this year, and that was higher by 5,123, or 8.53 percent, as compared to last year. So before you listen to those who would provide you with their unqualified comments as to “Why would you want to move to the Philippines?”, do your own homework, research and read. You will possibly discover the same thing that those last 5,123 emigrants did…something you didn’t know about living in paradise.
And I still haven’t figured out what I’d be giving up by moving to my chosen paradise. By the way, my response to my facebook friend was “when was the last time you strolled around in southeast San Diego, day or night?”