A Wake Up Call

Today, we have a Guest Article from Steve “Bilko” Adamson.  Steve is a regular reader here on LiP, sometimes commenter, and plans to move to and live in the Philippines in the future.  Steve runs his own website, called Philippines Way of Life, give him a visit and see what his site has to offer!  MindanaoBob

I used to think that I had to fit into society’s little grip, by busting my backside for 8 to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week just to have a mortgaged roof over my head, that I would at some point own in 50 or so years. I used to think that it what was expected of me, as my father and my father’s father did the same thing. Why does life have to be this way, why can’t we just enjoy what little time we have on this earth, by LIVING?

Now this goes without saying, we all NEED money to live and to survive. However this is all about how my life and my goals changed drastically when I made my first trip to the Philippines to visit my girlfriend. A wake up call is the best way I can describe it!

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would venture so far from home, to a strange and exotic place like the Philippines. These are the types of stories you only ever read about and think “Hey I would like to do that someday,” but never end up actually doing it. Well my day had come and I was scared but also strangely excited to, as this was all new to me. I boarded a plane at Calgary’s airport and flew to Vancouver, where I awaited my flight to Manila. While sitting in the terminal, I started to ask myself all sorts of questions, trying to put a finger on what to expect when I first stepped off the plane in a new country, I did read up about the Philippines, the do and do nots. However what came next was something I could never have imagined. I arrived in Manila and then flew to Cebu’s Mactan International Airport. I had finally arrived!

The View of Toledo
The View of Toledo

I exited the plane and waited at the luggage turnstile for what seemed like an eternity. My luggage did not arrive, myself and another foreigner were all alone in a quite and empty arrival lobby, trying to figure out what to do next. A young man then approached us both and said “Your looking for your luggage sir’s?” “Yes, we are.” we both replied, “Please follow me” he said. We walked down a corridor to a room with four officials surrounding our suitcases. I was thinking to myself “Oh god what’s going on, why did they single out the only two foreigners on the plane?” We grabbed the cases and walked to the immigration officers, they apologized about the delay but explained it was due to our luggage arriving before us on another flight from Manila, so it was held and protected until our arrival. So they checked our passports, smiled and said “Enjoy your stay in the Philippines!” WHEW! I thought something was wrong, however in the end it was for a solid and valid reason.

After that was all sorted I was about to get a taste of what the Philippines was like. Stepping outside, a heat tidal wave smashed into me like water smashing into the coast in a storm. It was such a slap in the face I almost fell over. I took a second to catch my breath, looking around at the crazy amounts of people outside, speaking a language I did not understand, my heart stopped, the noise faded into silence and my vision became fixated on my future wife, she is so beautiful, so much so that I was thinking to myself how a schmuck like me could land such an angel. She ran over to me and wrapped her arms around me, giving me a big squeeze and a kiss. All I could see was her and her alone, all I could hear was the beating of my heart. What the hell was wrong with me? My focus was ripped apart when a man came out of nowhere and grabbed my suitcase and said “Sir please follow me, I get you a taxi!” Ok I thought, go with the flow, I followed with girlfriend in tow up a little hill to where a taxi was waiting, meter running, tag intact and slight paranoia kicking in from all of the books I have read. Cash in hand I gave the man that helped with my bags a 50 peso tip, he smiled and said “Thank you sir, have a safe trip.” Closing the door my first road experience was about to begin.

That's me!
That’s me!

The taxi ride to Toledo was about one and a half hours from the airport depending on traffic, and boy was there traffic, noise and people! I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life! My knuckles where white from gripping the door handle as the driver zigged and zagged in and out of traffic. Two lane streets turned into 4 lane craziness! MultiCab’s, Trisikad’s, Jeepney’s and pedestrians weaving and twisting through traffic. I was floored at how these people were getting anywhere let alone getting there alive! I was in complete awe, as this is something you would never see in Canada. The girlfriend reached across me and locked the door and said “Just in case” Just incase of what?” I asked, “Just incase someone opens the door to mug you.” She replied. Uh oh the paranoia kicked in again, I was looking around slightly fearful now of my surroundings. Then she smiled and laughed, saying “Do not worry it does not happen often.” I was sitting there with a half cracked smile on my face, you know the ones where your putting on a tough face, when in fact your crying like a school girl inside. Yup one of those.

Finally we were out of the city and on the highway to Toledo, looking around I started to relax and enjoy my surroundings, however before we arrived in Toledo there were a couple things that popped out to me as “Different” than back home in Canada. The cab pulled over and the driver jumped out and stood on the side of the road. Silly me I had to ask” What is he doing” She replied with a smile “He is going to pee” I thought no that’s not gonna happen, not with all of these cars and people walking by…… Sure enough away he went. Once he was back in the taxi our trip continued, as we came to one of the small villages along the highway, I saw a man dragging a dead dog behind him, I was shocked of what I just witnessed. I asked the girlfriend, “What was that all about?” She smiled and simply replied “That’s most likely to feed his family.” I was shocked again, Surely people in the Philippines do not eat dog, she said “It happens more than you think, when a family goes hungry, what else can you do?” I sat there in silence as to what I just witnessed and thought to myself that it makes sense, I mean what would I do if I had no other option and I had to feed my family. After I shook my head and snapped out of culture shock, my tour began and my girlfriend started to point things out telling me what they are and why. The rest of the trip flew by and we arrived in Toledo at the Traveler’s Inn, checked in. I went to my room had a cold shower while my girlfriend went with her family to the cemetery to pay their respects to her brothers passing from a few years back.

I went there with an open mind and one of acceptance. I am the type of person that NEVER judges people based on how they look, where they live, how they live….. I judge a person on the PERSON themselves. The rest of it does not phase me nor does it matter. However what I witnessed and experienced in my first trip to the Philippines changed me permanently and for the better. My whole outlook at what I wanted in life changed, the way I looked at life, changed. I knew deep down that I wanted a simple life, I had this feeling before, but my perspective of what a simple life really is, changed because of this trip and it was put into focus with crystal clarity, of what I wanted in life… The Simple life!

I watched, absorbed and became entangled in my new surroundings, falling in love with the people, the culture, the country. Sure I know there is a nest of issues with the Philippines, but find me one place in the world where life is perfect? I doubt you could. My once paranoid feeling or culture shock passed within the first week of being there. My wife’s family and the clan are some of the most amazingly warm and friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and now that my wife and I are married, I feel blessed to call them my family & clan now to.

I feel better, changed and more at peace with my inner self, more than I have ever been in my entire life! This is all thanks to my amazing Asawa and her family. We are both excited to be making the Philippines our home in late 2013… But again that’s a whole new adventure and a whole other story.

Thanks for reading;

Steve “Bilko” Adamson

Post Author: Bilko (4 Posts)

Steve "Bilko" Adamson is a Canadian who lives in the UK, who hopes to move to the Philippines soon. You can visit Bilko's website at: http://PhilWayOfLife.com

Investigation in the Philippines


    • says

      Yes the time is rapidly approaching! However it will not be until LATE 2013 we make the move, due to finishing the immigration process of getting my wife her dual citizenship, so we have complete freedom to travel. As we plan on also doing a fair bit of that too. (When expenses allow haha)

  1. Joseph Stuckey says

    Nice article Steve. My experience was very similar with two small exceptions,Location and intentions. Instead of Cebu I chose Ozamis in the northwest of Mindanao. But the bigger exception was that when I came, I had already decided to make it a permanent relocation. With that in mind , I literally gave away every thing I owned except a small amount of clothing , my camera and my laptop. I love life here and for me it was a very good decision. In one of Bob’s articles here on LiP he wrote of his decision to move here and his mistakes and apprehensions. It gave me some insight and i have read every article for the last two years after reading that article. I’v Been here since the 2nd of February, have a wonderful wife and absolutely no regrets!

    • says

      Yea we will be leaving pretty much with our clothing, computer and other essentials along with shipping out a couple Balikbayan boxes with some other goods. And leaving the rest behind. It is just to much expense to ship it all there when you can buy most of what you “need” there, and for the most part cheaper. Thanks for reading.

  2. David Tamares-Little says

    Some much like my own experiences. Cant wait to move here and marry my lady. My blessings to everyone who made the jump.

  3. Paul Thompson says

    The feeling you encountered arriving was the same for me all over the world, after 40 plus years sailing ships I felt that same way every time I visited a new country. The Philippines was no different in my excitement factor. Only a very few countries did I leave with the feeling that I’d seen enough of that and found I didn’t like the place. But many years ago I met and married the love of my life, and decided to live here in her home country of the Philippines. Then for many years I had to fly out to meet a new ship someplace on earth, and when my time was up I would fly back to the Philippines to see her. And surprisingly that warm fuzzy feeling I had in the beginning, never went away. Is it perfect? I think not, but it will do just fine for my life!
    I enjoyed your article very much.

    • says

      I am glad you enjoyed the read, these are the types of articles I will be writing for my site, up to the move and beyond, and if Bob will allow me to write some more for this website as well I would enjoy that very much also.

      Your story is quite something to, and I agree it is the warm fuzzy feeling you get when your “Home” which makes it a good place to hang your hat.

  4. Ricardo Sumilang says

    Thank you. I enjoyed reading your story. When did you come to the Philippines for the first time?
    Do you have pictures to go along with your stories in the future about life in the provinces and cultural observations like the man dragging the dead dog home presumably to feed his family? I’d like to think that he was removing the dog from the highway for burial somewhere else, though.

    • says

      My first trip to the Philippines was in early 2009 (January) after I finished moving to the UK from Canada, where I stayed in the Philippines until late 2009 (almost a year), before heading back to the UK only to miss my then girlfriend, before heading back to the Philippines to marry her in March (Best decision I ever made!), before moving back here to the UK fulltime to wait a couple months before my wife arrived on her visa. (I am a Canadian and British Born citizen (Dual)) More on this on our site.

      To be honest I just did not expect to see the dead dog and it caught me off guard, I did not have my camera handy and also we were in a taxi heading towards Toledo at the time. I was just trying to adapt hahahaha so much to process in such a short period of being there.

      I have LOADS of pictures that all have unique and somewhat crazy stories. I will be posting these on my website, and as mentioned, if Bob will have me here I would love to write more articles for this site also.

  5. says

    I love culture shock stories.
    But the greater surprise lies in “reverse culture shock” when you return to your home country, after spending a year or more in a place like the Philippines. Personally I experienced it most strongly after a year in Egypt, when returning to the Netherlands. The shock was great enough to make me an expat for the rest of my life, including 8 happy years in the Philippines

    • says

      Yes reverse culture shock has happened to me when I spent a year in the Philippines to come here to the UK…. Like I said in the article, I changed and something about this place (UK) I feel disjointed . . . . out of place, if you know what I mean, like I do not feel at home. We both feel that way, my wife and I.

  6. bret says

    it happen about the same for me when I made my first trip and saw my now wife the first time. Looking to start our blog and plan our future “home”.

  7. chasdv says

    Looks like i’m going to be the odd one out here, lol.

    My first visit to PH was better than expected, i expected it to be worse than it actually was.
    Having spent much time in Malaysia and Singapore in the early 70s, i expected PH to be similar to them then. What surprised me was a fair ammount of modernisation, Big Malls, Western fast food etc, albeit a facade to the real underlying culture.

    My first trip to Davao City reminded me much of the early boom years in Singapore, fast growing development and expansion, it felt like my second home there.
    Penang in Malaysia had been my first retirement choice for many years, now it’s in second place behind Davao City, lol.

    • says

      I think you had no culture shock due to most likely your experiences from Malaysia and Singapore giving you a nice cushion or like you said maybe you were just lucky. Just to clarify too I was not really all that shocked but more excited than anything, as I did loads of research before going there and watched days worth of videos online to prepare myself, it helped a little. However as I mentioned there were a couple things that jumped out and startled / shocked me for the first week of my visit. Then that all went away and I had this feeling of peace and comfort being there. I am sure that when I move there with the wife next year there will be some things that will shock and startle me then as I still have lots to see and do. But thats when I have to adapt to my new home.

  8. Binx Ap says

    Your story warms my heart. I wish all expats would feel the same: genuinely seeing and appreciating the beautiful aspects of the Philippines, its culture and people rather than getting
    “stuck ” at seeing the ugly side. Afterall, even the grandest, richest countries have their ugly sides, too. Filipinas make great wives, too, if treated properly and right buttons are pushed. ((; Wishing you and your wife a wonderful married life.

    • says

      I am a very open minded person, and I am always excited to try and experience new things. Heck I am most likely one of the only, if not the ONLY foreigner that likes Balut! LOL Anyway as you so aptly put it, even the richest countries in the world have an ugly side, so very true. A home to me is a place I feel at peace and relaxed, and being with my wife and seeing she is happy is the most important thing to me. Thanks for the kind wishes.

  9. PapaDuck says

    Great story, really enjoyed reading it. I love to here the different stories of visits to the PI. It’s just very interesting. Getting ready to leave on visit there tommorrow. Really looking forward to it and meeting some new people. Will be staying in the Cavitie area and planning on retiring there in 2014. Take care and looking forward to you next article.

    • says

      Fantastic! Have a safe and fun filled trip, please have a few San Mig’s for me hahahaha Right now it is cold, wet and raining here…… I wish I was on the beach having BBQ, Beer, and fun in the sun with my friends and family! Soon though hey! Enjoy!

    • Ricardo Sumilang says

      Papa Duck, if you should read this before you leave for the airport tomorrow, once again, “bon voyage”. I’m in Ashburn right now, but have decided not to come to the airport tomorrow to say hello to you as I don’t want to be on your way while you’re rushing to find the next departure gate in that short span of time. Enjoy the trip, I know I would. Try not to ogle those drop dead gorgeous ANA stewardesses, they are as delicious looking as the food they serve. LOL Would be nice to read your two-week trip report on here when you get back. My regards to your sweet Cavitena.

      • PapaDuck says

        No problem, fully understandable. Wish i had a couple of hours between flights so we could get together. Hopefully someday we can get together. I’m hoping i will be able to get some sleep on the long flight. May have to drink a few cold a few cold sapporo’s to help me relax lol. The stewardesses should also make the long flight easier. Take care and have a nice time in Ashburn.

  10. chasdv says

    For those who may be interested, there is a general explanation about the 4 phases of “Culture Shock” on Wikipedia.

  11. says

    Great article – I really agree that it’s ‘the simple life’ here. Amazing beaches, friendly people, and everything is much cheaper than in the west – what’s not to like? I recently moved here about a month ago, and so far I’m loving it.

  12. says

    Hi Bilko – Great story well put together. I do not wish to rain on your parade but I would be more interested to hear of your experiences in say 2018 when you have lived here on a permanent basis and the euphoria settles down. The Philippines can be like Disney Land as this Dis’nay work and that Dis’nay so just always be prepared for the unexpected. You did mention that you will leave some of your things behind when you come and purchase new here. The quality of a lot of things here is not as good as the country you’re leaving and the price here reflects that I’m afraid. If you enjoy the warmth of the sun as well as the people here, then your part way there to settling in. For me I’m the eternal optimist but I’m also a realist and I take life as it is, however hardly a day passes that I still don’t shake my head with what I see going on here.
    The best laid plans of mice and men are still subject to revision.
    Best wishes.

    • says

      Hello Jim;

      No parade to rain on, I lived in the Philippines for almost a year and I too saw a slew of things that made me shake my head, but either way, living in a country like the Philippines is always a learning event. Everyday something new will pop up and I will have to learn and adapt to that. It is really like that no matter where you live, more so in developing countries thou that’s for sure. Trust me when I say I have my eyes wide open in respects to what’s going on or what’s around me. I am a very open minded and easy going person, so much so people sometimes people ask if I am in a coma because I do not react to many things hahaha, that’s how easy going and open I am. I see what your saying and on my website I will be posting articles of our experiences good and bad and if Bob will allow on here as well. I will be posting on the site from here to there and beyond, either way, good and the bad, I will be in for a ride for sure! But hell is that not what life is all about.. Living and experiencing new and exciting things in all shapes and forms. Thanks for reading. God bless.

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