The Exotic Philippines{1}

Many Americans have a distorted perception of the Philippines. Maybe it is just that they really don’t have any perception of the Philippines, other than it is a group of islands in a tropical setting. At least so it seems to me from the people I encounter.

This isn’t really surprising to me, as I had a similar view before I had visited there. I really knew almost nothing about the country, other than there had been a relationship between us, including during World War II. History and Geography were never my strong subjects. Seems that might be true for a good number of Americans as well.

As I’ve told people about my eventual retirement, both recently and previously, almost without exception I’ve gotten a response that indicated a sense of envy that I would be leaving for this tropical paradise. This exotic land known as the Philippines.

Unknown land would be much more accurate.

As I go on to explain a little bit about the country, I find that I am often mentioning the negatives, and I sense that must be to temper the illusion that many have that I am somehow moving to a tropical paradise free of the troubles and hardships we have here. For every response I get here that leans that way, I get the complete opposite from those that live in the Philippines.

You see, they think the same thing of the United States. The great land of plenty and opportunity.

Make no mistake, the Philippines is very different than the US. As any country would be. They speak English, to a degree, and many cities are very modern, but the differences are great. To that extent, the Philippines really are exotic.

Anki Bisaya Phrasebook Flashcards

There are many, many beautiful areas in the Philippines still (Samal Island is certainly one). Beaches, mountains, coral reefs, undisturbed villages, but all things you might find elsewhere around the world if you look hard enough. These all exist and when experienced really do add to the wonder of the country. This is not what the average Filipino life exists of, nor the average expat’s for that matter.

The average Filipino lives very modestly, is considered very lucky if they have a job which produces a few hundred dollars a month, and is likely living in an house or apartment with many others. Way more then we would ever consider in the same amount of space here. Privacy is not a normal luxury known there. Unemployment is over 30%, poverty is very real, disasters such as the current flooding from the typhoons are too common, and the population is growing at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

My point is that for those thinking that the Philippines is some group of small islands, with people living around the beach drinking beer/coconut water all day, while basking in the beauty of the surroundings is much like them thinking we still wear pistols and ride our ponies to work, or that we all drive our Mercedes and park it in our 4/5 car garage along with the other luxury cars before retiring in our mansion for the evening.

I find it increasing difficult to acknowledge the responses I get when I inform others that I am moving to the Philippines. Strangers in particular. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really wish to engage it, and just smile when they say, “Oh, you are so lucky, I wish I could retire and move to a tropical pardise, too”, or something along those lines.

Yes, I am very lucky, in my opinion, but I’m not in the picture that they envision. My vision is a little different than that.

You know what? You can retire and move to this tropical country, too. Though it might be a good idea to visit first, and see if this is the same kind of exotic you were looking for.