I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I’d even cut my hair and change my name,
‘Cause we all just wanna be big rock stars – Nickleback
Did you ever have the dream of being a rock star? It was a popular one with friends I had while growing up. Even though I had a dream of being a professional musician, being a rock star was not on my radar. I never sought fame and fortune. Skill and talent, yes. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of those, so my guitar playing days are left to the bedroom at home.
But the rock star thing is another matter. It seems you don’t choose that…it chooses you. And if you are an American (or other white foreigner, though most here can not differentiate), you will gain some level of rock star status when you visit and/or move to the Philippines.
That level of status varies on a number of factors – where you are, how long you’ve been here, your sensitivity to it, to a degree your age and looks (but not nearly as important as one would think), your perceived wealth, your availability (again not as critical as one might imagine), and many others. The type of status also varies as to whether you are in a city or the province.
My very first exposure to this was of course my first trip to the Philippines, which would have been Quezon City. The way that women of all ages would stare right into your eyes, smile, and in some cases come on to me, was something I had never experienced. When one young girl started to get overly friendly and wanted to leave with me, all happening right in front of her boyfriend, I knew things were different for me here.
It’s not all about women though. There are many men here (not taking into account gays and ladyboys, that’s another subject) that also look up to Americans. They will go out of their way to engage you in any kind of conversation, often walking away with a big smile knowing that they were able to converse with a kano. There is another side of that though. There are also many men, women too I suppose, that despise kanos. It’s similar to the feeling we might have at home if we see some rich guy that we thought was flaunting his wealth and feeling superior. I see that more often than I care to here. Stereotyping is quite ingrained in the people of this land.
There are a lot of articles around on how easy it is to pick up girls here. I’ll leave that to you to research. I’ll just say that, from my limited perspective at least, Davao is a lot more conservative than some of the other cities in that regard. I can say that most days that I go out to the mall that I don’t see any kind of approach from girls there. I believe that’s true for a number of reasons – I’ve been here awhile and am known, there are a lot more foreigners in Davao then there used to be, the malls are probably no longer the place for that kind of thing, night time is probably when most of the girls looking for foreigners go out (and I don’t go out at night), I’m old already, and I ride the jeepney (poor). I’m not complaining, I certainly don’t need the trouble of that kind of attention, but just reporting what I’ve seen here, as some will have you believe that it is constant and prevalent everywhere.
There is a different kind of rock star status in the province. There you truly are unique. It’s quite possible that many of them have never seen a foreigner, especially some of the younger kids. My trip to M’lang back in 2008 was quite entertaining. I was on display constantly. The kids wanted to play with me, the men wanted to drink with me, the women wanted to feed me. I was truly a celebrity at that time.
For the most part the rock star thing has worn thin for me. On occasion it’s nice to get some attention, especially if I’m down or bored. But too often the attention is a facade. For instance the calling of “Hey Joe” almost never leaves me with a good feeling. Coming from a group of guys hanging at the corner, with seeming nothing better to do, doesn’t exude warmth and friendship to me (as they snicker and laugh). That and the “Hey Daddy” that one of the (too) young girls will shout at me to impress the group she is with, are two reasons I’m a little tired of the attention.
Like it or not, you’ll be a rock star when you’re here. How much or how little will depend on the circumstances. Just be prepared, but even so it will catch you off guard at times.