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!
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.
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