Last week I went for acupuncture.
A friend suggested me to give it a try in order to alleviate the pain on my left ribs, an old injury that had returned while surfing in Siargao. The origin of that pain is Singapore, on the night of June 23rd, 2013 after 10 Chinese guys decided to attack me, broke almost all my ribs and left me with my skull exposed. Not a nice experience for sure as you all can imagine.
After the attack I needed psychological assistance to cope with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the acupuncturist asked me if I’m still under therapy to which, with a big smile, I replied: “Yes, of course! I moved to the Philippines, living here is the best treatment I could have!”
So yes, after 8 years living in Singapore, having a great job with a very nice salary that allowed me to travel most countries in Asia, I decided to resign from my company (after 18 years) and move here, to the land of the smiles.
I have heard many foreigners complaining about the noise, the food, the culture and I almost always have to bite my tongue and not tell them to get the fuck out of here and go back to the place where they came from.
The way I see it, we are luxury immigrants. We choose to come here, we didn’t have to run away from our country with just a few belongings because some tyrant was killing us, we didn’t have to escape and find refuge in a foreign land. We came here for many different reasons, be it the weather, the opportunities, love, whatever…
No, it’s never easy to adapt to a foreign culture, even though for me, living in a land that has been occupied by Spain for 500 years, is easier to adapt to Filipino lifestyle. We, humans, belong to wherever we were born, ask an Afghan man living in the slams of Kabul, or a woman in the Muslim quarters of New Delhi and they will always tell you that the best place on earth is there, the place where they were born. It is there were they find family, friends, the food they love since they were children, the smells that make them feel home, safe. You take all that away and no matter how clean, organized, functional or shiny; you will always miss your origins. In Basque we describe this feeling with the term herrimina which literally translates as land (herri) and pain (mina). Yes, I love traveling around the world and discovering different cultures and landscapes and although I hate the rainy, cold and humid weather of my land, I always miss it; I always want to go back.
Why the Philippines? Well, I started traveling here while I was living in Singapore. A childhood friend of mine opened a restaurant in Bacolod so I started to go there to eat, and in no time I was being invited to barbeques, making plans with the locals over there and feeling like one more, something that rarely happened to me while in Singapore.
I’m not fully vegetarian but I avoid eating meat as much as possible and I only eat certain kind of seafood, no tuna, no marlin and no big fish in general, just a matter of ecological balance. But I must be honest about it, I don’t like the food here. I am spoiled, I know. I was born in a city that has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin Stars in the world. So what? Who am I to complain? Nobody is forcing me to go to Jolibee or McDonalds and eat their processed junk food. Nobody is forcing me to eat 6 bowls of rice a day, although I very much enjoy, once in a while, eating in a carrenderia and seeing everyone amazed with the sight of a westerner in their eateries!
If there is something I can’t stand, and try to avoid, is the noise. I’m not sure if it’s a westerner thing or what but we take seriously noise contamination, there are strict regulations on motor vehicle noise emissions and a bar can be closed down by the authorities if it’s not soundproof. The other day I was in a hardware store and at one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy a screwdriver or order a Gin and Tonic, the techno music blasting from their massive speakers was giving me a pretty bad headache, it was so bad that I forgot what I was looking for so I left empty handed! Haha! So what? Who am I to complain? I can always take a plane and go to a hardware store in another country while listening to some lovely Beethoven piece.
There is a pretty ugly stereotype about Philippines, more specifically about Filipinas, that I hate and find pretty insulting. Many friends have told me this often: “Be careful here with the girls, they want to marry you and get your money, once they get it they will kick you out”. Well, don’t be so stupid to let anyone take your money so easily! There was one person in the Philippines who tried to do that with me and he was not pretty at all, to the contrary, he is short and ugly. But come on! Let’s be less condescending and more understanding! Spaniards came here in the 1500’s and looted the country, the Philippines was covered in jungle and the forest mass disappeared way before any ecological organization was even in the mind of any human being. Yes, it doesn’t work as an excuse but it’s the truth. The Philippines is a developing country (I hate the term third world country) and there are people trying to find shortcut to success. Name me a country where they don’t have a single person like that! And more, many foreign guys are coming here looking for love and that shouldn’t be an issue at all; I see them all the time, old, fat, ugly and probably virgins until their 50’s, living in their tiny Kentucky town never knowing what love is about. One day they meet online a lovely Filipina girl, take the first plane of their life, meet her and the next day they walk down the aisle! Who should we blame, the girl marrying an ugly guy trying to help her whole family?
Ok, then let’s blame too Melania Trump! I’m sure she is not married to Donald because of his lovely fake hair!