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We are social refugees in the Philippines - Ladislav

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We are social refugees in the Philippines - Ladislav

Post by Winston » January 20th, 2017, 6:15 am

My cultural advisor Ladislav wrote a fantastic essay on Facebook about why many of us have become social refugees in the Philippines. Since he didn't post it here, i will post it for him.


Social Refugees in the Philippines

There are some people in the PH society that think if if there is a tourist or a ‘porener’ in the country, he’s there either for female entertainment or for drugs and other illegal activity. Granted, such tourists exist. But those who think that that is solely the purpose of people to come to the country, fail to appreciate the cultural treasures of this nation. They probably think that abroad, it’s paradise, and, if anyone comes to the Islands, it’s because something’s wrong with them. People usually move out of the Philippines, not move into the Philippines.Why are they coming then?

I’d like to introduce one category of people called “social refugees”. That term was common in the USA in the 90’s, particularly in relation to Japanese people, who had money, but who were tired of all “the oppression”of Japan. And who came to live in the US as a result. Many Japanese women, for example, chose to move to America after age 25-27. They would say that they were too old for anything in Japan- work-wise and romance-wise, and that in the States, different opportunities for work and social life were open to them. Many immediately found US boyfriends/husbands, opened up businesses and lived happily.

The same was true of many Koreans who moved to the USA. Russian women also loved living there because the US men were so respectful of them and treated them like queens. You had people who wanted to practice their religion freely or do business free from too much competition. Some wanted more fresh air and better social order. They could have stayed in their countries where their lives were OK, but they felt that America was a better society, in which they would be treated better- particularly, in the social sense.

The Philippines also has social refugees from many countries of the world. They move there because they feel that the Philippines is a better society in which to live. That it has better people, more kindness, and is generally a healthier country in the social sense. They also feel that there are many cultural treasures to explore. Many people who are discriminated against in the home country for this or that reason become warmly embraced by Filipinos as soon as they arrive.

Among the usual spat of Koreans, Americans, Brits and Aussies, you also have Scandinavians who no longer want to live in the politically correct, feminist dictatorships which their countries have become. There are also quite a few Eastern European men who had emigrated to Canada, the US, Australia or NZ but who are now living in the Philippines. They said they felt lonely in those countries, but could not go back to E. Europe because of bad dictatorships there at that time.They were also appalled at the bad attitudes of Western women and the contempt they got from them.

These guys were used to having may friends and having a real girlfriend ( as a Polish or a Bulgarian girl would be). So, they packed up their bags and moved to the PH with their new US, Australian and Canadian passports. There was a Polish guy in Davao who was seriously courting a Filipina, an Estonian guy in Angeles City was was always cheerful and relaxed, and a Bulgarian and Romanian guys in Cebu.

They were all very happy having found a similar culture with friendly people in the Philippines. And Filipina ladies were showing great interest in them. (E. Euro guys were modest, family oriented and friendly kasi) But Western women had totally ignored them.

I remember an old Czech guy in Pampanga who was always sitting in a park. He had gray hair and a prosthetic leg. Such a person would be avoided anywhere in the West and even in his own country. But you always saw Filipino people around him, always trying to talk to him. I walked up to him and the Filipino people told me,” He’s our friend! We always visit him”.

You have Iranians who got tired of the lack of social and other freedoms in Iran, and who got married in the PH and stayed. I met an native Siberian girl who was tired of the Russian racism, and she ended up marrying a Filipino and having a kid with him. And the list goes on.Why are they so happy? This is probably why in detail:

1) The Filipino culture is like a giant burr. It has many small hooks to which, any person, from anywhere in the world ,can hitch themselves to and feel right at home. Be they of black race, white race,yellow race, or brown race, they will find a way to fit in. Filipinos have a mild, “ velvety “quality to them, and when you walk down the street, you feel an inclusive vibe coming from the crowd. It’s like you fuse with it. The feeling of isolation that you felt in other countries disappears. You are now one of the crowd, strangely enough. It’s like there is this warm, friendly current, and you just start flowing with it.

2) The Philippines is a culture that values respect of and hospitality to strangers. The tradition is very old and cannot be budged. Whether you walk through a barangay, or a big mall, you feel that respect and warmth at every step. In contrast, many so-called developed countries ( both white and yellow race ones) which Filipinos admire so much, often have very cold, bigoted and unfriendly people. A person who’s not a member of some well established clique or race/ethnicity finds it very hard to make friends or feel part of anything. There are many lonely people there, particularly if they are older or not as good looking or too short, or eccentric --or anything of the sorts. Foreigners who move to those countries are forced to associate with own kind as the locals reject them. No one’s curious about them. Local women ( and often, men) don’t want to date them, and they feel like total outsiders. They soon become sad and lonely. And even many locals often feel excluded.

This is, generally, not the case with the Philippines. Short people, old people, eccentric people, and all others, who come from another country are welcome to join the society in the PH - in the social sense, at least. They find friends pretty much on the spot, and the sense of exclusion and loneliness disappears. Gloomy Germans and Koreans join groups of friendly and happy Filipinos and, after some time, begin smiling and become friendly, too. The so-called clannishness of the Philippine society is open clannishness. It’s not the inherent suspicious cliquishness of the “developed” world. That’s something that many Filipinos often fail to see and appreciate about their own culture, but what foreigners find so refreshing.

3) Social interactions as well as love and romance exist for their own sake. People in the Philippines, traditionally, become friends and lovers without money or self interest. Even though in the latter times, materialism and “calculatedness” have become more common, many people will still want to be your friend just to enjoy your company. The same goes for love. Any person, rich or poor, handsome or ugly, can find friends and/or lovers. Any foreigner who comes to the Philippines- male or female, will soon find someone who he/she can be friends with and whom he/she can love. Most importantly, a man doesn’t need to have a car to have a girlfriend or a wife. He doesn’t need to have a glamorous job. He doesn’t need to pay money as a “ bride price” to the parents. Soon, he/she will find someone who will love him just for him and want to have something special with him. Particularly ,outside of big cities, such people are quite easy to find. They may not always be super good-looking, or belong to some elite, but they will have great hearts.

4) The laws and regulations are not as strict. Yes, you can drink a beer on the street. No, there’s no police car patrolling every five minutes with angry cops checking out the streets. Driver licenses are easy to get, bank accounts are easy to open. People can start small businesses on a shoe string, and the permits are not that hard to come by. You don’t need huge capital to become an entrepreneur. There are a lot of economic freedoms. Thus, you can buy your friend or partner a small store for a song, and the person can make enough money to live on.

5) Friendliness to foreigners/other races, and openness to other cultures are without equals. In many countries, people can’t stand other cultures, races or languages. They won’t watch movies from other countries. They try to avoid foreigners and want to keep their cultures pure. They make visas hard to obtain. In the Philippines, visas are easy to get, and there’s little dislike of foreigners. Most people want to see foreigners come and live there and join their culture. It often happens that you walk down the street, and a bunch of people just grab you, seat you next to them and treat you to food and beer. Sometimes, they nearly force you to drink some rum with them, and it’s rude to refuse.

In no Asian ( or even European) country anywhere, would children call a man of another race a “ daddy” or “ tatay”. The locals will never call you a “ kabayan”. No matter how long you live there and no matter how well you speak the language. Often , in other countries, kids will stick a finger in your face and call you a “ foreign devil” or some other nasty name, and the parents will just be sitting there smiling while the kids insult and taunt you. The adults will rarely ask you to sit with them. Their concept of race is strong. But in the Philippines, sometimes you walk down the street, and you hear a kid shout, “Daddy!” at you. You hear some guy from your neighborhood call you a ‘kabayan’. This fills your heart with joy and warmth. It makes you feel part of community. Few countries will make you feel so much part of the culture as this country.

For many millennia, the Islands have been a place where people of many races, nationalities and other groups mingled freely, made friends and loved each other. Few countries can boast of such cultural receptiveness- including many of those which Filipinos admire.

6) A uniquely “ triangular” culture the likes of which do not exist anywhere on Earth. It’s very rich and deep and worthy of decades of study, and still, one can never full grasp it. It has three sides to it: the native SE Asian element ( very similar to Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Laos), a Hispanic element, and an Anglo-Saxon ( American) element.

The Asian part of the culture creates a non-confrontational, meditative feel in society,gives it modesty, politeness and smooth social interactions. The Malay family structure assures strong kin group ties and respect within family. The ancient Buddhist and Hindu elements add the philosophical and tolerant aspects to the culture.

However, the Asian part is tempered by the Hispanic component which adds romanticism, passion, expressiveness and friendliness. It adds joy of life and love of celebrations.

Unlike other Asians, who often appear to be too reserved and to have “ stone faces”, Filipinos appear way more “ human”. Their eyes are moving, there’s a genuine smile and eye contact, they enjoy touching,hugging, and just acting “ normal”. But the Hispanic part is not too Hispanic. There’s no wounded pride, not much machismo, no desire to confront people in loud debates or have wild mood wings. There’s no intolerance to, or hatred of other religions, either. The Catholicism is soft; it’s as if it’s still Hinduism or Buddhism, but only the rites are Catholic. A Filipino will put a big Buddha in the house next to the cross with Jesus on it. No other culture would do it.

The Anglo-Saxon element adds drive, common sense and practicality to the triangle. The people are taught to dream, to study and work hard, to get degrees, to solve problems, to be confident, patient and persistent, to be strong, just like Americans( or Brits). But at the same time, the American side is tempered by the Spanish romanticism and conservatism- and the Asian modesty. Bragging, being cocky and swaggering around is seen as a good thing in America, as well as being selfish, individualistic and stingy. But not so in the Philippines. The Malay communality will take care of those and take the edge off of the rugged American individualism - and not let it rise.

The triangle is self-completing and does not create contradictions or identity crises. Thus, these three elements have fused into the amazing Filipino personality and made a Filipino person so interesting to know.

7) Freedom from gloom, depression, sadness, and mental disease. Happiness hangs in the air no matter what. The numbers of heavily depressed Filipinos, Filipinos who are mentally ill or those who commit suicide are low. It’s a happy country with positive and optimistic people. They always find ways, they never give up; they do cry sometimes, but the tears quickly dry up. Their resilience is amazing. Few need to take anti-depressants or go to a therapist, as they do in the West. All people can vent to a friend, talk to someone they know, and on the following day, be in a good mood again. This is in contrast to the developed world where people pay psychiatrists to listen to them, where suicide rates are high, where people pop anti-depressants regularly; and where, if you want talk to someone to ask for advice, they just tell you to “Get professional help!”

When foreigners come to the Philippines, many become fascinated by its cultural and social characteristics and fall in love with the country. If and when they have to leave, they often cry and want to be back soon. I knew a Japanese lady who had been in the Philippines for a couple of decades. As almost all expats, she complained of the negative aspects of the society, particularly’ Oh, no, the traffic;oh no, the buses don’t run on time. ’ ‘The Spaniards totally robbed the people of national pride, they need to have more dignity’, she would often remark. Yet, she stayed on. “ I don’t feel oppressed here. I feel free. “

Another guy I knew, a Frenchman, would also often let off steam about this and that, but in the end, he would say: “I can be myself here, and still be accepted. I don’t need to pretend to be someone else”.

My mother said to me once,” You should stay there as long and as often as you can. It’s a warm-hearted country that accepts you just the way you are”.

So, please next time, if you see a foreigner with a happy smile on his/her face walking down the street of a Philippine city or town, please assume good things about him. He’s happy because he’s been enjoying all the aspects of the Philippine life and culture which have been described above. He’s probably a social refugee, so please give him a social asylum.
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