Monday, October 24, 2011

"The Philippine dream is . . ."

Most arguments for opening the Philippines up to foreigners is for direct economic gain, that is, for foreigners to bring their money here to buy businesses and land.

Let me first give one analytical perspective on this.

Then another that I could suppress for the thin of skin, but will not.

The Analytical Perspective

As far as I can tell, the Philippines offers no dreams to immigrants. Or even tourists.

Visit Cerritos or Fremont or Union City or South San Francisco in California, USA, and you will see huge Filipino communities living the American dream of home ownership, good jobs and opportunities for self-improvement. They are well protected and safe. They work hard and get promotions. They obey the rules. Their children go to good schools. People drive  cars. They invest in America. These Filipino communities are each something around 80,000 strong. Cerritos may be closer to 150,000. The US welcomes them and appreciates them. After all, America is a nation of immigrants. The American Dream draws wholesome, hard-working people to it. People who relish the opportunity to be free, to be safe and secure, to have the opportunity to grow and prosper.

The dream is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". And from the collective drive of aspiring immigrants, a strong and wealthy nation emerged.

Cast this against the immigrant experience in the Philippines. Today in the Philippines we have Subic and Angeles City where Americans gather . . . to visit the bars and find a girl. They are party towns, sin cities. They are not mainstream wholesome communities where Americans build lives along side Filipinos. Where they have a career, and contribute to productivity. What is the Filipino Dream that Americans or other foreigners can subscribe to?

For foreigners, there is none. Well, there is a sweet Peso/Dollar exchange rate and gorgeous views and warm water.  And, yes, there are women. Those are hard to build into a slogan: The Filipino Dream: live cheap and warm; enjoy the views and sex.

Maybe you can fill in the blanks for me. "The Philippine Dream for immigrants is _____________."

It certainly cannot be the opportunity for prosperity because the system of self-advantage and favors reserves that for the empowered. Indeed, that more than anything is probably why there is so much opposition to welcoming immigrants. The powerful don't want their boats rocked.

Filipinos complain when the US Ambassador says that 40% of American tourists come here for sex. Well, it may have been a guess, or maybe he was just making a point. But without a doubt, the Philippines discourages outsiders from coming here for clean, legitimate practices like retiring or  running a small business to make money. The sign might just as well read "keep out", for there is little legitimate reason for coming to the Philippines, especially if you factor in the holier-than-thou government attitudes and the dilapidated state of most tourist destinations.

Observe the  regal, autocratic tenor that we see in government offices, doctor's offices, banks and  retail stores in the Philippines, where employees instruct visitors on where to line up.  And make them wait and wait and wait.

Doing business with Immigration and Foreign Affairs to an outsider is pretty much the same. It is a jolt for those schooled in the courtesy of the Golden Rule. It is more like waltzing with the enemy.

I was so proud when I got my I-card as a permanent resident of the Philippines. 

But the Immigration people scowled at me as they handed me the card. It was as if they didn't really want me here but the law said they had to let me in. No one thought to say "welcome to the Philippines". Such a small but important thing that shouts loudly the attitude hereabouts.

The Philippines believes people will come here because the Philippines benefits. It is the sari-sari store mentality. I want money. I open store. No one comes. I eat the products. The business fails.

The Philippines is a global business enterprise operating out of a roadside shack.

The bigger world does not accept the Filipino standard. Travelers and investors go where they are rewarded and uplifted, not used or punished.

Only wayward eccentrics like Joe America hang their hats here. Normal people, productive people, wealthy people, shy away. They know they would not be comfortable here.

Whatever the Filipino dream may be, it is the wrong dream for foreigners.

A Rude Perspective

I hold little hope that the Philippines can compete with ambitious, modern nations without a sea-change in attitude that can only be imported.

The reason is so simple it is absurd. The malaise is so intractable it will never change without injection.

Any sales guy will tell you the key to success is making the customer happy. This requires an "other orientation" that strives to understand what motivates a potential customer, and to do more than what that customer expects when providing a product or service. This "other orientation" is what drives businesses to innovate, to always reach for more customer benefit. A thinner tablet computer, faster processor, more powerful operating software. Better flavor in the crackers, better texture, less salt. Electric powered cars that get 70 miles per gallon. How to get the service wait time down to less than a minute. Easy return of unsatisfactory goods.

The Philippines is the least "other oriented" culture imaginable. All you have to do is look around. Lack of courtesy, kindness and consideration is behind pollution, behind traffic congestion, behind corruption, and behind lousy customer service that infests the nation. It is what drives a nutty government to appoint Manny Pacquiao to a high AFP position for which he is not qualified while ignoring the loyal people who have worked diligently to EARN a promotion.  I assume there are some.

No wonder people grab under the table payments. If you are cheated out of opportunity, cheat back.

The Filipino self obsession is the strangest interpersonal dynamic I have ever witnessed. This behavior is like a brick, a huge stone. It is so thick, so dark and so intense that it is impermeable. You can't get through it.

The simple question "why do you throw trash into your beautiful country?" is met with a strange look, as if you are weird to see this country as beautiful and you are perverted to see anything wrong with tossing trash into all that open space. It is so easy to do.

There you have it.

It is so easy to do.

That is why the Philippines struggles to compete with ambitious, modern nations. Because so few have the discipline to do the hard things because they are the right things to do. They choose easy.

And that is why it is important to get foreigners into the Philippines. So that there is a core of productive thinking, competitive drive and "other orientation" that is large enough and intense enough that Filipinos begin to see how it works or are economically kicked out of the way. Ambitious, creative, disciplined, productive foreigners can compete some sense into business practices, into customer service, and into the economy.

Is this a racial commentary? Or cultural? I don't know. I'd prefer to think it is economic.

Is it arrogant? Condescending? I'd prefer to think it is blunt.

I don't know how to be helpful when people aren't interested in helping themselves. Well, they help themselves to my wallet if they can get into it, but they'd rather not strive to take care of themselves by taking care of others. They fail to grasp the damage caused by their orientation with self. They blame  the government. Or the US. Or the neighbor.  Never themselves.

A big swamp of self-engagement surrounds me and the Philippines can't prosper with that as its driving force.

The current Philippine dream: "Grab what you can."

Lest you think all I can do myself is complain, I will dedicate a future blog to brainstorming a dream for the Philippines. You of course can offer up your own ideas here.


  1. "No one thought to say "welcome to the Philippines". Such a small but important thing that shouts loudly the attitude hereabouts."

    i'm sorry no one said that at immigration. that was a mistake.

  2. I empathise with your frustration. A little more than 15 years ago I travelled from Sydney to Davao, my first trip to the Philippines. On subsequent trips I thought seriously about retiring in Davao. Some 16 visits later the option has died. Really, the only thing it had going for it was the exchange rate. In 15+ years I’ve seen no change in quality of life or the attitudes that you’ve covered in this post. Mind you, it has more going for it than Manila such as cleaner air, more predictable traffic and no typhoons. And from the middle of Davao you can escape the oppressive heat by driving just 30 minutes to the slopes of Mt Apo.

    However poverty is everywhere. The poor are not as desperate as their Manila cousins, but they have about the same chance of improving their lot: none!

    How do the rest of the Davaeños deal with this reality every day of their lives? The only way they can, by not seeing it. Yes, this is a generalisation; there are people doing what they can, but the problem is too big.

    But after 16 or more trips I can’t learn the trick of selective blindness. I see poverty every time we go out the front door. I see inconsiderate, pretentious behaviour everywhere. The only time I hear “please” or “thank you” is from the maids. If there is no improvement in the simple things, what chance is there that the difficult problems will ever be addressed?

    It’s as if the entire country is marking time waiting for some intervention that will fix everything. A miracle?

  3. Here's a snippet from an Expat blog that might be of interest:

    " I own and operate Hundred Islands Ocean Sports here in Alaminos City with my wife of eleven years and our two children 4 & 6. I shipped my equipment along with Parasailing and Sport fishing boats from Hawaii at great expense (customs fees), and we also purchased a place to do business here on the waterfront in Brgy Lucap, Hundred Islands, I like most of the foreign business owners here we have invested allot of money into our PI business. Many residents say the Alaminos City administration seems to have turned a blind eye on a politically / police connected criminal group that has been operating extorting money from foreign business owners for over two years now. Alaminos City residents have brought complaints and facts as to this groups criminal activities to the attention of the city Mayor, Administrator, and Chief of Police,but to date nothing seems to have been done to address this evidence of lawlessness in their city. This is leading many residents to believe the group enjoys immunity! This group has demanded payment of money from several foreign owned hotel / resort / tourist related businesses saying it is owed commission and saying their establishments will be either bombed or burnt to the ground if not paid to them! I was told one such case involved an elderly lady in her 70′s and owner of a resort hotel here being intimidated to the point that some say she ended up paying (hundreds of thousands), in what some here call The Ransom to do business in Brgy Lucap, Alaminos City. Another form of intimidation being used by them is to file false charges against the foreign business owners and then demand extortion money to be paid so the false charges are dropped..."


  4. GabbyD, thanks. I remain proud of my permanent visa, and a good number of Filipinos are happy that I'm here. For my charm, I'm sure . . .

    Anon 1, I think in some way my writing here takes the steam off my kettle, but I fear it dumps it on others. I keep telling myself I did not adventure here to find another America, and I enjoy what I can enjoy . . . the humor, weather, scenery, exchange rate, my family, food, and a tricycle ride now and then.

    Winky. Nice horror story. I have never figured out the attitude that "because you have money, I deserve some of it". It is so common here. It isn't just a small share of the population, like thieves, who display that attitude. It seems more the norm. If people can't get to the money they make sure they run you down with a pile of envious slander. It is worse for my wife than for me.

    I had my own run-in with an extortionist a couple of years ago. Legal fees cost me about P60,000 and we hired guards with shotguns until the dude left town to avoid being arrested.

  5. Whenever I go back to America I always met with courtesy and smile by immigration clerks, "How long have you been away, errr, Mr. Pacifico?"

    "6 months"

    "Welcome home and have a good day" with a smile.

    NEVER SOMETHING LIKE THAT WHENEVER I COME TO TOUR IN THE PHILIPPINES. I am met with "Pare, kumusta? Meron kang pasalubong?" that with crocodile smile, quickly flip thru the pages of my feared blue eagled passport looking for something. He found it ! $30.00 neatly folded between pages. Deftly slid the $30.00 below the desk without even told that it's for him and his crew.

    Stamped my passport and marked it. Marked it for someone at customs inspection that I have come across, "Sir, I'll just slash and open the top so it appears that it's been inspected". Fine. Fine. Fine.

    What if I did not come across? All my pasalubongs will be scattered all over to see. The carne norte. The Quik chocolate drink from Costco. Goodwill designer clothes, etcetera. Cheap whiskys. Sure, they have all the right and within the law to strip naked my balikbayan box.

    For $30.00 I will have a smile and courtesy "slash of the box" and off I go.

  6. To those Filipinos who have not gone abroad may not like foreigners. They hate the foreigners for snaring pretty, sexy, Hollywood-thin, attractious indigenous beauties while locals gets the left-overs.

    The foreigners changed the culinary atmosphere in Cebu. There are Korean, Chinese, European cuisines instead of the usual generic culture-free continental cuisine. The local bahay kubo ambiance competes with foreign-designed restaurants. Each foreign-operated restaurants have their own environment. It's so refreshing.

    Bantayan Island, a resort island of Cebu locals, are now mostly run by Europeans. Europeans culturally clashing with the locals there. Filipino culture calls for "no trespassing" then build moats-and-drawbridge with armed guard to flaunt a sign of power, wealth and privilege. But the foreigners knows the Philippine law about egress and ingress in beaches. So they fought ! And they fought ! And they win ! Of course, judges are afraid of white Europeans and White Americans and foreigners in general. Now Bantayanons can now walk the beaches of BAntayan once again.

    DONCHA LOVE FOREIGNERS ! Foreigners fight for the right. And they give Bantayanons their right, as written in law, access to beaches.

    Filipinos has every David Geffen etched in their brain if they have money and beach front. property

  7. One of those things that is confusing about Filipino mentality is not allowing 100% foreign ownership of land and corporation. And, yet, they go abroad to surrender themselves to white rulers to live happily ever after.

    The house and lot that Joe America buys cannot be put in a 40-foot container and brought to America. The 100% ownership of corporations's profit may be remitted to America but the everlasting impact of business management, transfer technology and how things ought to be done is here to stay forever. Employment by multi-nationals is more educational than being graduate suma cum laude from "ivy-school" University of the Philippines and work in the government or oligarch-owned corporation.

    I learned a lot about law and its process just by reading American newspapers and John Grisham compared to loony columns by Philippine journalists that are competing who has the best literary political analysis in englishctzes. And they are thoughting that writing haughty-snooty englishctzes makes their column more genius than others.

    By the way, why are Philippine columnists sooo into "political analysis" like it is some kind of applied thermodynamics or analyzing chaos theory?

  8. HAR! HAR! HAR! I am missing the point "THE PHILIPPINE DREAM"

    American Dream is to get rich and pursuit of happiness.

    Philippnie Dream is to be religious and pass thru the eye of the heavenly needle and blame whom they elected as the reason of all the troubles they are into.

    The success of Filipinos is to lead a "daan matuwid" a matuwid that is based on witness or tsismis account without evidence and forensics not knowing that Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, Blago, and others were acquitted because of absence of direct evidence instead of tsismis accounts and they say the Filipinos are intelligent. HAR! HAR! HAR!

    Even kindergarten-dropout boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao choose a white american lawyer in his legal fight against Maywether when there are plenty of UCLA-Berkeley-Law fake-American Filipino law graduate in Los Angeles area. Singing sensation Nora Aunor also hired white American lawyer so did the children of Gen Garcia and the rest of the Filipnios that go to Garfunkel to help them out with as simple as filling in petition forms over Filipinos.

    So, Filipinos, listen, and listen goot. Stop this masquerade about Filipinos are great. Because Filipinos still prefer white lawyers over Filipino lawyers in AMerica. UCLA-Graduate fake-American Filipinos are only goot in notaries which I can do without going to UCLA. 6 months in community college for notary, presto! I am a notary !!!!!!

  9. Philippine Dream unlike American Dream is beyond the reach of the Filipinos. They'd rather surrender themselves to white americans in a ready-made-society-made-for-Filipnos in America.

    Building a society from the ground up is not attainable unless it's done by foreigners. That is why I am in favor of re-colonization or outsourcing the government.

    Change in the Philippines should be done together and synchronized. Filipinos have potential to change the problem with Filipinos are they do not want to change themselves first because they'd appear stupid. A jeepney driver struck by lightning of change stopped at a STOP sign will get a bullet to the head so does a bureau of customs agent that will strip a imported container van and not accepting bribes. This could be possible if everybody is doing it but only done by sprinkling of Filipinos struck-by-lightning-of-change is no good.

    The Filipinos blames the colonizers. They blame the president that they elected. They see the wrongs others do but do not see it in them. If they see it in them, they do not arrest the problem because they'd look foolish because others are not doing it.

  10. Mariano Renato:

    ...They see the wrongs others do but do not see it in them..

    I live in Manhattan, New York so I cant say how Filipinos are in other countries but in my experience Yes they become sensitive sometimes ultra sensitive. Women will not tolerate sexual harassment here and will not tolerate disrespect. However in the Philippines women put up with all of that. Interestingly they maintain a double standard.

  11. Atilla, if you look at our classified ads it says something like this:


    Preferably female with pleasing personality
    At least 5'4"
    Willing to work overtime with the manager
    Please submit 2x2 color picture with full body shot

  12. Anonymous,

    The Philippines is in dire need of miracle. One lightning strike is not enough. I have a strong feeling that Filipino God is a racist. Off-white people seem to be naturally corrupt, genetically poor and low intellgence whereever you go in this world.

    Or, could it be their irresponsible religious belief?

    I do not know.

    This I know, Filipinos that go to America seems to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Maybe the American government are lacing their drinking water with chemicals that attack a particular group of people, THE FILIPINOS, so they cannot breed defective humans.

    How come I get erection when I am here in the Philippines ?

  13. Mariano Renato:

    Funny! But there is some truth to it.
    I know a few Filipino men who came from the Philippines(I even hired one) who complained about Filipinas who live here. How their personalty changes and how much they don't like that.
    I think the Filipinas just become liberated here and they just don't put up with the "traditional" treatment of the Filipino man. That may explain the erectile dysfunction. Interestingly most of the Filipinas I know are not eager or sentimental going back to the Philippines. Opposite to the Filipino man: Their plan is to go home! I'm talking about Filipinos born and raised in the Philippines only.

  14. Mariano, I can't possibly add enlightenment to what you have written, so I will let your remarks stand on their own. I learn a lot from reading your comments.

    Attila, interesting, the observations that Filipinas appear not to be so eager about returning home but men are. I suppose each goes where she/he perceives the most opportunity and happiness. I wonder who single Filipino men date in the US (if the US lets any single people in). The question just edged into my mind. The field is wide open for single Filipinas I would suspect. So are the malls. heh

  15. "The Philippine Dream for immigrants is _____________."

    to exchange your money for pesos, hope you have enough money to be treated like a king and hope you have enough smarts to avoid being conned.

  16. Atilla, why is it Filipinos have difficulty in hooking up with american women while Filipinas have it going great for them.

    What is not in Filipino men that they are not marketable to American women?

  17. Hi, Joe!

    I think finding a real dream is hard in a subsistence economy. The real dreaming starts when you're comfortable that you have enough to gamble on something bigger.

  18. Mariano Renato:

    Do you really want me to be honest about it? I'm only the messenger and it is only my limited experience, please keep that in mind.
    You are right: Filipino man don't date white or other non oriental American girls here. It is not only true for the Filipino man but also for the other oriental man. I rarely see Korean or Chinese men with American girls other than their own race. I know Filipino-American men who brought their wife from the Philippines. That really surprised me!
    On the other hand I see couples where the girlfriends or the wife are oriental and their men are most of the time white. Why? I asked some of my white American women in my circle and their friends why don't they date oriental man. Huhhh do you really want to know their awser? Ok. They all prefer taller man and someone who don't look "adolescent" to them. I think it could be also the Filipino man's preference for a Filipina who was raised in the Philippines.
    A Filipino man could (as I have seen) have difficulty to adjust to American girls personality or the girls would have difficulty to adjust to the Filipino men. The cultural differences in how the women are treated are very different here.
    My Filipino coworker and others that I know who were fresh from the Philippines had problems dating here also. Interestingly he was only dating Filipinas here. He was a "Makati boy" before thanks to her mother who works here and was supporting him. On his photos that he took in the Philippines he showed me he was wearing Lacoste shirts, had a car and her mother's Condo in Makati. However once he came here to be with his mother he was not able to have relationships. Girls ended up dumping him. He become depressed. He is no longer works here and I don't know what happened to him.


    I know Filipino men through my friend who with his Filipina wife owns a fine Filipino restaurant. I'm also a volunteer in the Filipino community here in New York. I also deal with both Filipinos and Filipinas at my workplace managing a luxury condo. Some of the owners are from the Philippines as well including a political dynasty. The Filipino man that I know are here through family reunion. They came here by the help of their ant or sister or mother or even grand mother who were living here already. The Filipinas vastly out number the Filipino men.
    I know a family of three sons who were studying here at Columbia University. After finishing collage they all moved back to the Philippines. I used to talk to them as they were more open minded then other Filipinos and they spoke fluent English. I never seen them dating Filipinas only Chinese girls but very good looking ones. I jokingly asked them about brown Filipinas. They told me that they prefer Mestizas back in the Philippines, and when I asked them why, they were just shrugging their shoulders. They were surprised by my question it was like a no brainer to them.

  19. brianitus, or so desperate that they when they see opportunity, they go for it obsessively. I think that is more the American immigrant background.

  20. Attila, that is consistent with the tonnage of whitening creams sold in the Philippines, to women mainly.

  21. Joe:

    The Pinoy will go for it once he sees an opportunity. That's why we have a lot of OFWs today. I think it's like a modified remittance-based version of your story of Pinoy immigrants in the USA, except that their communities are still in the Philippines and their jobs are all over the world.

  22. Joe:

    A Filipina who has an office job at my managing agent told me that she just can't afford to travel to the Philippines. I was puzzled and told her that it's not a good answer and I don't believe her. I know she is married and have that job for years. Than she admitted that when she visits, her family expects her to give them money. That ads up to a very large amount, so much that she rather not go "home". I told her that I also support my mother sometimes who lives in Hungary but I would not give her or other family members money when I visit them. I give her when she needs it only. I told her why not just enjoy your time there and ask them to leave you alone it is your vacation, they should understand and respect that.
    She told me that will not happen. Traditions are different there and she would not be able to enjoy herself. She was very uncomfortable talking to me about this.
    What a tragedy!
    I suspect that some Filipinas will not go home for just to avoid to pay to the family. After living in the USA and also having a family here they will become more critical of their traditions. They will chose their new family as a priority and not her side of the family. That may create conflicts and will further alienate her from her family back in the Philippines. I think they will not have that urge to go home after the disappointment.

  23. Attila, overseas people sacrifice so much. It is hard to draw the "no" line. I have to for my wife's extended family. But I tell her to tell them I already have kids to support, and they are not my sons or daughters. Somehow the formula gets turned upside down in the Philippines, that the kids become the support for the adults. In a way it is admirable, something the US could use a little more of perhaps. But it is up to the kids to draw the lines, if you ask me. Parents are parents only until kids reach 18. Then everything they are, they earn, as adults. Presumably responsible and self-supporting ones . . . until old age.

    That is a whole different topic.