Going to da probince – Don’t be ugly

In 1958, Eugene Burdick and William Lederer wrote a novel titled, ‘The Ugly American’, later made into a movie with Marlon Brando as the main character, although the movie was different in many respects to the novel. The message of the novel and the movie, set in a fictional South East Asian nation, was that America was losing the war against Communism (in Vietnam) because of innate arrogance and a failure to understand the local culture.

ugly_dave

 

A character in the novel, a local journalist, actually says;

“For some reason, the [American] people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They are loud and ostentatious.”

Well that could apply to any one of a long list of foreigners in the Philippines, from Americans to Aussies, Brits, Canucks, Europeans, Kiwis, Koreans and so on. It could also apply to any foreigner in any country not of their own.

 

Cultural Insensitivity

I confess I have cringed while standing in a line at a bank in Berlin when a bus load of Contiki tour travellers roared in, waving their Aussie passports and berating everything German. I have sat in bars and restaurants in the Philippines, watching in disgust as Kanos behave as if every female in the place was for hire and even more offensively in venues where they were.

If you are invited by your Filipina to visit her family in da probince, be honoured. She is taking you home to show her family and the entire barangay her new love. Cynicism aside, while some may say she is merely showing off her walking ATM, if the relationship is genuine then this is a critical time for her, and you. The last thing you should want is for her people to think you are ‘bastos’, rude, crude and vulgar.

 

Don’t Kill With Kindness

On the other hand, don’t overdo it, either. I recall a visit where my American brother-in-law, admittedly a few Red Horses past his due date, tried to buy everyone in the carenderia ‘something’. “Honey’, he said to my sister-in-law, handing her a P1,000 note nobody had change for… “buy them something, ok?” There was nothing in that restaurant cum bar cum sari-sari store they couldn’t afford to buy for themselves, let alone needed. It was embarrassing for everyone in the room.

The thing was, he was just trying to be kind, generous and make friends. Sadly, he was trying too hard. When you go to da probince, keep a sense of proportion and propriety. Filipinos are very proud people with, if I am honest, in my opinion, very thin skins. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and easily get upset or take offence. They know you have more money than they do, so don’t flaunt it, even with the most genuine of good intentions. Yes, there are those who will expect everything to be paid by you, some who will exploit you but I have found, in my relatives at least, an integrity and pride that rises well above their material wealth, as little as that is.

Treat your Filipina’s people with respect, courtesy and common sense and you will experience a very positive, family focused culture that is as complex and sophisticated as any in the west. Don’t be the Ugly Kano, ok na lang?

 

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz

 

This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists

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Going To da Probince – Getting There

They say the journey is what it’s all about, not so much the destination. When you are going to da probince, the journey can be a very memorable part of the entire experience. But not always the most positive one. Make no mistake, the province might be an hour out of town, or it might take several hours, even days, to get there. Then there is the journey back to contemplate!

jeepney

 

Travel Safe

Travelling in the Philippines is generally pretty safe but it is not without some risk. Travel anywhere is never 100% risk free, no matter where or how, or who is dong the flying, driving, sailing etc. You have to expect a different concept of public safety to that which we expect at home whenever you leave our shores and venture into the wider world beyond. In the Philippines this could mean and air-conditioned coach, a well-maintained airliner or even a large and comfortable super-ferry. Or it might not.

Many provinces can only be reached by local transportation such as buses, jeepneys, V-Hires (11 seater mini vans crammed with at least 15 people), even tricycles or ‘Habal-Habal’ motorcycle taxis. It is all part of the rich tapestry of local life but it can be very uncomfortable for foreigners. Not surprisingly, most transportation is designed around the average Filipino frame, which is a fraction of the average foreigner’s. If you think airline economy seats are getting thinner, wait till you ride the local pocket rocket buses!

 

How Many Filipinos Fit In A Jeepney?

There is an old joke that goes, ‘how many Filipinos fit into a jeepney?’. The answer is a resounding ‘one more!’ This goes for all modes of transportation. Expect whatever you are travelling in, if not a private hiring, to be jam packed with men, women, children, roosters, boxes, parcels, and whatever people need to move from A to B. I have sat on plastic jerry cans of petrol with plastic wrap over the open caps, leaking all over the jeepney and filling the cabin with fumes.

You haven’t lived until you ride the roof of a jeepney with five Filipino lads and a goat. Every time the jeepney set off the goat would scrabble to find its footing and the driver thought someone was banging on the roof to stop the vehicle. So he would pull up, the people inside would stare at each other wondering who was getting off and he would drive on. Then the goat did its tap dancing routine and he would stop again This happened five times, each time those of us on the roof who had twigged laughing even harder before the driver realised himself what was going on. Everyone enjoyed the joke and retold it many times before we reached our destination.

My best advice is to drive yourself in an air-conditioned rented car. You miss out on a lot of the ‘character’ and local colour but it is a lot more comfortable and I personally believe I drive far more safely than anyone I have ridden with in the Philippines. If you can’t rent a car or don’t wish to risk the roads, get a ‘private trip’ with a taxi or mini-van. Failing that, pay more and get a seat on the best air-conditioned, free Wi-Fi equipped coach you can find. If all else fails, just smile and enjoy the adventure!

 

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz

 

This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists

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Going To da Probince – The Language Barrier

Something you will hear many times when you first come to the Philippines is the reference to ‘da probince’, or the province. Filipinas in Manila will tell you they are going to ‘da probince’. This means they are going home, to wherever they come from. Those who are born in Manila may very well have a ‘province’ the family comes from and might never have been there; but they will often identify with this place.

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Karaoke

Karaoke is made up form the Japanese words ‘kara’, meaning empty, and ‘okesutora’, orchestra. Together they translate as ‘empty orchestra’. Don’t let this fool you, Karaoke was very much a Filipino invention. In the 1960s Filipino entertainers arrived in Japan with their ‘minus-one’ tapes. These held recorded instrumental versions of popular songs by Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and other current celebrities, they would use these as backing music for their performances. While Karaoke has become popular around the world, it is nowhere as popular, surely, as in the Philippines. Continue reading

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Leadership, not control – in Australian Filipina marriages (Part 4)

When I was in the Army, back when you had to provide your own spear and your paybook was written in hieroglyphics, I was given the definition of leadership. I still remember it to this day, some nearly forty years on.

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Leadership, not control – in Australian Filipina marriages (Part 3)

There are horror stories of Aussie men marrying a Filipina, often half their age or more, who find themselves shackled to a gold digger who bleeds them dry and then tosses them onto the scrap heap. There are genuine cases of men who have been murdered by their Filipina wives after moving to the Philippines ot spend their retirement years in ‘paradise’. It does happen and yet it is still very much the exception rather than the rule.

I would think there are more Filipinas who move to Australia to be with their new husbands who find themselves on the receiving end of his drunken anger and physical expressions of his feelings of failure in life. By far, though, are the many marriages that are loving and productive; but that doesn’t mean it is always plain sailing. Continue reading

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Understanding The Filipino Psyche – Part II

One thing that stood out when I was researching the Filipino Psyche was how the researcher considered him or herself on a par with the subjects/respondents. To include yourself within the study group is not the usual accepted practise for western scientific studies. Where we believe in maintaining a distance to achieve objectivity, Filipino researchers feel that is not ideal and include themselves.

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Understanding The Filipino Psyche – Part I

I was reading up on Filipino psychology the other day and found myself fascinated by this very interesting race once again. I try to not limit myself to the world view I hold, which is based on my society, culture and upbringing. It is one world view and valid, yet not the only one and other’s world views are just as valid as mine, surely? If you are planning on spending the rest of your life with a Filipina, either there or even more challenging, in Australia or any other western country, it would make sense, surely, to try and gain as much of an education about your life partner as possible.

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Hiya! That’s Hee-Ya, Not High-ya!

A word you may come across when interacting with Filipinos is ‘hiya’, pronounced hee-ya. It translates literally as ‘a sense of shame’. A common interpretation is to use hiya as ‘face’, as in ‘losing face’, although this is not strictly accurate. What is accurate is that it is vital that when you are interacting with a Filipino, you don’t do or say anything that would invoke a sense of shame.

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Leadership, not control – in Australian Filipina marriages (Part 2)

How do you lead without controlling? As we read in Part 1 of ‘Leadership, Not Control’, the Filipina respects her man if he leads her, but will only suffer and be unhappy if he controls her. Let’s look at control first.

she has true devotion to him until he comes here and puts a ring on her finger

Control is often subtle as much as it is blatant. I have known Aussie husbands to control their new Filipina wife’s eating habits. Food is important for more than just giving us the nutrition we need to stay alive. It is an emotional support in many cases. Anyone who has lived overseas understands how a simple thing like finding a favourite food at the local supermarket can make an otherwise dull day something to rejoice. Vegemite, Tim tams and a great lamb chop are some Aussie items many miss when living in the Philippines. Imagine then how your Filipina feels when she discovers the Asian supermarket with her favourite dried fish, Bagoong and those tiny tins of sardines! Continue reading

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