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Can a Bohemian life ever be understood by a Filipina family?

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Can a Bohemian life ever be understood by a Filipina family?

Postby Winston » May 29th, 2008, 5:16 pm

Can a Bohemian lifestyle be accepted/understood by a Filipina's family?

Hi all,

As you know, most people in Asia share the American Anglo Saxon Protestant Work Ethic of life being all about career, work and money. Even here in the Philippines, one of the most tolerant and open Asian societies if not the most, where the general people enjoy having a happy-go-lucky attitude, the same mentality prevails.

Most people that I've met here in the Philippines (as well as in Asia) believe that the highest goal and desire in life is to make good money so that you can provide for your family's needs, buy a house and all the fancy things you want. That is their biggest desire which they believe will bring complete fulfillment. To accomplish it is the ultimate achievement to them.

Thus, the concept of a Bohemian lifestyle, that of a hippie, freespirit, artist, freethinking writer, perpetual traveler/nomad, anti-materialist or counter-culturalist, who lives for artistic/intellectual pursuits, is an alien concept to them. A Bohemian artist usually values the following above money - freedom of self-expression through their art or passion, artistic/intellectual pursuits, adventure traveling, or total freedom from authority in general. They have a European mentality that life is about having RICH and DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES, not about making as much money as possible. Some even place the goal of having a holistic lifestyle in balance/harmony with the Earth, nature and environment above making money, and thus they strive for ecological pursuits and environmental causes.

Now let me make some clarifications and give a dissertation first.

It's not that Bohemian artists and non-materialists are lazy bums who don't like to work hard. They do and work VERY HARD, when they are doing what they LOVE. And in fact, when they are doing what they love, it can become an obsession, to the point where they are at it almost 24/7, sometimes falling into a creative "zone" while they're at it, as you probably have heard.

But the problem of course, is that what they love does not always reward them financially. You see, the supply of artistic work and talent far exceeds the demand. The market simply doesn't need them (unless you're in Italy, where art dominates in the culture). Instead, the market needs skills in technical areas where the demand exceeds the supply.

So, Bohemian artists only want to work hard at what they LOVE, not at whatever will give them a mere convenient income. In our book, if you're not doing what you love, then you're wasting your life. So we'd rather do what we love, even if it means being poor or a "starving artist". Otherwise, to do what you don't love just to pay the bills, is seen by us as a SACRIFICE of DIGNITY which can only result in REGRET later. That's what people don't understand.

Also, we are not deluded about the real world. We know that in this real world, most things are run and governed by MONEY. No one denies that. It's just that deep in our soul, we resent it and do not believe that it SHOULD be that way. Thus we oppose it out of principle. To conform to it is seen as an acceptance of slavery, abolition of free will, and thus a loss of DIGNITY to us.

Indutrial culture teaches that one can have freedom only by buying a house and paying it off first, then by acquiring enough residual income to meet all expenses for you and your family, winning the rat race and achieving "financial independence". Only then can you have the time to do whatever you want, become an artist or travel the world. In other words, freedom has to be "bought". That's what they teach and want you to believe. In reality though, few achieve that, and those that do usually do so when they are already "over the hill" and too old to enjoy it. In reality though, there are various other ways to have freedom, even though they are not encouraged or supported by the industrial culture. We Bohemian artists and freespirits don't believe that freedom has to be "bought" by conforming to the rat race first. To us, freedom comes from freeing yourself from what society or authority tells you, not caring what other people think, not letting others run your life, and by just going for what you love, "following your bliss" so to speak. We believe that the best time to start that is now.

Sure, if our desire was in something more easily achievable, such as being an accountant, teacher, engineer, nurse, computer programmer, office assistant, secretary, or even a pharmacist (one of the highest paying professions that is in high demand and relatively easy to enter into), then we'd have a far easier time. But that isn't what we really want in our heart.

So, in a nutshell, the typical Bohemian artist has a complex dilemma not easily resolvable:

"They will not do what they don't love, certainly not as a profession. To do otherwise would violate both their dignity and beliefs, "living a lie" so to speak. But on the other hand, to make a steady living off of what they DO love is often very difficult and against the odds. And few make it."

Hence the contradictory and often irreconcilable dilemma.

Many actors, artists, writers, musicians, etc. whose passion runs in their blood are in this situation. And even highly talented people remain starving artists. Some are not even given credit or acknowledgement until after their passing, e.g. Vincent Van Gogh, Beethoven, etc. Few make it. Such is their predicament.

So, the only feasible solution would be for them to either a) get lucky and find a rewarding niche in what they love, or 2) settle for something else more feasible, or 3) combine their passion with something more tenable (e.g. an artist becoming a computer graphic design artist).

Anyway, I hope that sheds some light on our complex situation and point of view.
As you can see, it's not a mere matter of being "lazy bums" as some are quick to label them as, or of "going out and getting a real job" as they are often told.

Now, back to my personal dilemma and question.

Dissidents who oppose the values of the industrial culture and the corporate/governmental authority, believing that freedom of expression is the most important ideal as well as living in balance with the Earth and Mother Nature, a movement which has many adherents in America, must be a very alien concept to the Filipino mind, culture and way of life, as well Asia in general.

In a culture where people follow the pack rather than being different or unique, conform to all rules and customs without question, and where power and authority are obeyed without question, it is difficult to find those who are sympathetic to dissident or counter-culturalist views. I would presume that those who go against the grain, who speak out against establishment or societal values, or who learn toward anarchist principles, probably don't have much of an existence or base in the Philippines, certainly not as an organized movement.

(In fact, I'd bet good money that trying to find a Filipino here who knows who Noam Chomsky is would be harder than trying to find a needle in a haystack.)

A further and more personal issue is that as a foreigner in the Philippines, we are seen as high income people with excess cash, and are expected to be glad to offer generous gifts and financial assistance to those in need, a "Santa Claus" so to speak.

Now, if you only have casual relations with people, you can often brush this off as a casual annoyance in occasional social situations. However, if you are seriously dating or engaged to a Filipina (as I am) then this becomes a serious problem and a conflict of expectations that you will have to deal with on a personal level. You see, if you are seriously involved with a Filipina from a poor family, that family will expect you to be a financial benefactor to them, helping them in time of need, and contributing regularly to their expenses. Such a role will be assigned to you more strongly than ever. And if you fail to live up to it, there may be animosity or resentment from the family directed toward you, even if you are a nice gentlemen with good manners. In fact, the family may even decide to designate you as a scapegoat for their problems and frustrations.

The problem with this is, what if you're a Bohemian artist type and seriously involved with a Filipina?

The problem here is that a person who lives a Bohemian lifestyle, who is not a workaholic and does not live for making money, pragmatically speaking MUST be a on a tight budget and/or live simply without many luxuries, in order to maintain such a lifestyle. It's a simple reality. Some live together in communal housing, others in hippie camps, or in eco-villages/community farms. Others simply travel around the world in countries where expenses are cheap, cutting all unnecessary costs. Like me, they thrive on having new experiences everyday as well as freedom. In other words, most of them are poor and on a tight budget. Thus, they are in no position to be anyone's "financial benefactor" and do not have excess cash to throw around generously, even if they are generous in spirit.

In America, it is understood that such people do not have much cash to spare, and are not expected to. They are generally tolerated (as long as they don't try to disrupt the interests of the establishment or those in power). The general population in the US understands that such people - hippies, counter- culturalists, Bohemian artists, etc - are poor and live frugally, for they do not live to make money and are not attached to conventional career paths.

But in the Philippines, such counter-culture groups and movements are probably near nonexistent, or if they exist are probably unorganized, so they are not very well known or understood. They are a nonfactor in the equation, so to speak. Instead, ALL foreigners are expected to have high incomes and perpetual excess cash. While it is unquestionably true that those who work in the US have a much higher nominal income than those who work in the Philippines on the average, it is not true that all Americans have perpetual excess cash, high incomes and no debt.

As a matter of fact, in second or third world countries with no middle class, there are only two kinds of people - the "haves" and the "have nots". And a Filipino family living in poverty (or borderline poverty) will do anything to be among the "haves". To them, that's the BOTTOM LINE issue, and their main concern. Intellectual or artistic pursuits are a luxury they can't afford, and are thus a nonfactor, as basic needs need to be dealt with first. This is true even among good and kind families. So, a foreigner entering their family is expected to be a big contributing factor in this goal.

So what do you think? Can a freespirited Bohemian artist who does not live for money and is thus on a tight budget, ever find acceptance or understanding from a Filipina family who expects him to be their benefactor? What is the best way of co-existing with them harmoniously? Can there ever be a balance?

It would be one thing if someone listens with an open objective mind. But the problem is that most people here prefer simple lives that do not require providing explanations or reasons. They simply react and go with the flow, enjoying the moment just as it is. Thus, they do not like to give detailed explanations and reasons nor do they like to receive explanations and reasons either. This probably compounds the problem somewhat of trying to get them to understand you.
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Postby momopi » May 30th, 2008, 2:29 am

I don't have a "solution" per se, but will say that what you see on the surface, doesn't necessarily reflect what's under it.

I was at the Forbidden Palace in Beijing last year, which faces Tianmen Square. From its main southern entrance, you see the tourists and honor guards marching in phalanx formations.

But if you exit out the back, through the north gate, you'll find a nice, serene 57-acre park named Jing Shan. I wandered into this park by accident and found mostly Beijing locals inside. There were many artists and performers of all ages, drawing/painting, playing, singing, dancing to a variety of instruments and recorded music.

Walking along one path, I found local rock bands, girls dressed in "maid outfits" (cosplay), 70 year old grandmother dancing, and an old man who tried to teach me to write in calligraphy using really big brushes. These folks just pack their instruments and equipment, walk in, setup anywhere and start playing.

It occurred to me that a scene similiar to this is probably how people like Cu Jiang (*) and Kaiser Kuo started 20 years ago. One can imagine Cu Jiang plunking away at his guitar in a Beijing Park, playing a Rolling Stones tune, and meeting foreigners from local embassy's that happens to wander by. Back then rock music was quite alien to China in early 1980's and Cu Jiang's first band members were employees from the Hungarian and Madagascar embassy's.

(*) For those unfamiliar with Mr. Cu Jiang, his song "nothing to my name" was the anthem sung by student protesters during the 1989 Tienanmen Square Protests. He was banned from national broadcast performances for 11 years for his anti-government activities.

On the surface you might see only masses of people running the rat race and trying to get ahead. But look a little closer, and you might find many surprises. There are a lot of people out there with artistic, poetic, and musical talents. They somehow find time and place to express their artistic side. If these are the people you'd like to associate with, you need to spend some effort to find them.
Last edited by momopi on May 30th, 2008, 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Grunt » May 30th, 2008, 3:34 am

First off, the moment a baby is born all lazy lifestyle options go out the window. Thats just being a responsible parent.

Second, ignore any and all attempts by her family to influence your behavior. If you allow yourself to be bullied, you get what you deserve. Just sit quietly and pay no mind to whatever they say or do. Your wife should respect you enough to act as a buffer between her family and yourself. If she does not, you need to sit down and have a frank discussion with her.

That said, you should be putting your sons future first and foremost.
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Re: Can a Bohemian life ever be understood by a Filipina fam

Postby ladislav » June 3rd, 2008, 2:43 pm

A very long article I can provide some answers.

Sacrifice yourself for a few years saving some good
money and establishing good credit. You can do
something like working on ships or oil rig or in
Alaska or whatever. Save up some money and buy cash
-producing property. If you paly your cards right and
do homework, you can create a positive cash flow of
some $1000-2000 a month with a 50K down payment. With
that kind of money you can settle down in the
Philippines and do whatever you want to do any time.
You will satisfy the parents' requirments of a good
job- you are a real estate mogul making 43,000-83,000
pesos a month. This is better than any sofware nurd or
manager can do in their country. Look into that.
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