Curious Combination

I thought I’d try to write an article that would help the westerner prepare himself for the likely shock of what you will encounter once you’re here. I’m not sure I can fully prepare the first timer and I really  don’t think I want too.  Part of the fun was being ill prepared for what I discovered in the Philippines. Now if you’re a veteran traveler and have visited other developing nations, you’ll likely be ahead of the first timer.

My First Moments In The Philippines

I was a first timer and the only word I could use was shocked.  Now this shock was not totally in a negative way.  For there was a lot of beauty and interest in what I saw.  Other than Canada, I had never been out of the country.  I was pretty much clueless when I thought of what the Philippines would be like.  Now I should say, I have not spent any significant time in Manila.  There are parts of Manila that appear to be as modern as anything in the US.  So far, I’ve been limited to Cebu and Leyte Province.  I look forward to exploring larger areas of this wonderful land.  Areas of Cebu are also as modern as the US.

If you’re like most of us, you’re a guy, probably middle aged or older.  Many expats have a pension but some come with very little more than the clothes on their back.  It is likely you’ve ignored the people you know here, and flew 12,000 miles to meet a girl.  I hope you have a backup plan as that usually does not go well.  If you have that special person that you’ll be with as much as you would be with a wife, she can help your transition a lot.

My first hint that things would be different is my arrival in Manila to catch my connecting flight to Cebu City.  It was hot!  There was no aircon.  If you say A/C here people generally will not know what you are talking about.  But you’ll see aircon painted onto many cabs and that is what the air conditioner is called here.  By the way, a fridge here is a ref.  They likely wont know what a fridge is.  But back to the airport.

I had to go through line after line once I arrived.  There were at least two security check points.  One Immigration Officer commented to me that next time I should bring my wife.  While it is best to just say okay, I told the truth. I told him “I just got rid of her and I’m looking for a new one.”  He laughed.  Never be rude or talk back to  anyone representing the Bureau of Immigration (BI) here.  Doing so could quickly get you blacklisted and turned around to go back where you came from.  Try to say no more to BI than you must and always be respectful.  It is very likely they will be very respectful and polite to you. There is the chance the difference in cultures could cause you to say something that may be misunderstood and escalate into one big mess for you.  A mess you’re likely to come out on the short end of.

The heat going through that area was hard for an overweight and out of shape American that is use to everything being air conditioned and I was sweating profusely.  This heat was my first clue as to how different things would be.

Besides BI, I also got to go through customs at least twice.  Once I got through all that an airline employee picks me out of the thousand of people in the basement of the Manila airport to weigh my carry one luggage and she insisted I go through another line to check one of my bags as it was too heavy.  Why I was the lucky one, I don’t know but the bag had three digital cameras in it!  They guy at the check in asked me if there was anything valuable in there.  He grimaced when I told him what as in there.  He asked me more than once.  I was trying to figure out if I should give this guy some money or not but I wasn’t sure.  He put some security tape on the bag and off I went thinking I had seen my cameras for the last time.

This time I managed to get through all the lines and up a level or two and back into civilization.  And most important, air conditioning.  Now it was warm here, not the good old 70F that I’m use too but at least not the steamy 95F of the basement.  Once I managed to sit down at my gate, which, as always, was the very end of the long terminal, I could cool off.  But I was exhausted and sweating profusely by the time I found my gate.  You probably won’t have as hard of a time as I did, I was in really poor shape when I first got here and not at all use to the higher temperatures.

Once I arrived in Cebu, I had to go through customs again!  But that went without issue except they sent me to the wrong exit point.  And my greeting party (Jessie) was where I was suppose to be.  My phone was not working as it couldn’t find a signal so I could not text her (My phone started working fine later.  If you should have international service but it did not at first, try turning your phone on and off if you run into this.)  An airport employee insisted, he would not accept no for an answer, and started pushing my luggage.  I finally gave up and let go.

Once he figured out I was having problems with my phone, he got the number from me and called Jessie then handed me the phone.  Okay, now the guy had earned his tip.  Jessie was not far away and made her way to me.  I’ll refrain from going through how stunningly beautiful she is.  Except to say Jessie is from the tribe Waray Waray and has wavy hair making her even more beautiful than your average beautiful Filipina and there are a lot of beautiful Filipina.  She stands out even among those.

I had planned to put on a dress shirt and tie once in Manila.  Jessie really likes that.  But the heat of Manila caused me to reconsider that.  It would have been about the worst thing I could have done.  Besides after a day an half on airplanes and crossing the international date line and thus loosing a day  some where along the flight, I was completely wilted.  The excitement of being in the Philippines and with Jessie gave me new life.

Part of the casual atmosphere here is found in the dress.  Not a lot of suit and ties here, even among the executives.  It is just too hot for that nonsense and I considered it nonsense way back in the day when I wore them.

I had sent a package with my medications ahead of me.  There were lots of them and they filled an entire carry on bag by themselves.  So I sent it via UPS ahead of me.  Jessie tells me they want $300 in tariffs for the package.  What!  This is a disaster as I had spent most of what I had getting over here.  And this $300 hit would have made for a hungry expat my first month here.  I only had $400 left and that’s all I needed as my rent had already been paid.

So we head off to the UPS store.  Not what you might be expecting in a UPS store, especially in the States.  This is where I ran into my first shotgun carrying guard.  We had gone in the wrong way and he was on full alert.  Once the two Filipina told him what we were doing, he relaxed and sent us to the correct door.  Not speaking a word of the language I’m lost.  I have no idea what is going on.  You will see many guards at places of business and many of them carry shotguns.  If you go into a mall, you can expect to be frisked.  I had real problems with  that at first, now it is second nature and I”m glad they do it.  They don’t do that in Bogo, they don’t do it as thoroughly in Cebu City as they do in Manila.  You’ll be patted down at the airport too.

After some negotiation, I managed to get the $300 tariff removed but it took a couple more days.  It seemed someone had made a typo and added a zero to the value of the medications.

I didn’t know that I wouldn’t need a prescription to get most of the medications I take. Jessie didn’t know I had to have a prescription in the US so she never thought to tell me.  In the Philippines, you only need a prescription for what would be a controlled drug in the US and probably most other parts of the world. Another important clue to just how different a world I was going too.

Something interesting happened while at UPS.  I was with two women but a UPS employee got out of his chair from behind the desk and pushed his chair out to the customer area and offered it to me.  I’m like whoa.  I certainly can’t take that seat with two women standing.  I told him thanks but no.  I asked Jessie am I suppose to tip him and she said no.  She must have seen my perplexed look and she said get use to it, you’re white. That doesn’t happen often and I still don’t understand it. It is not just about money.

On my way to UPS, I asked if this would be a safe place to walk around.  There were lots of Filipino in the streets but from the looks of it, it would not be a safe place where I was from.  In Memphis, Tn. walking around a place like this for a guy like me would probably be a death sentence.  But they all assured me it was a completely safe place to be.

I found it a place screaming to have pictures taken.  Nothing like this in the US.  Everything needed painting.  Street vendors trying to sell water.  Their eyes often pleading for a sell.  Everything was dirty and in need of paint but at the same time it all has a simple beauty about it.

Then I noticed the driving.  It is a style of complete chaos to the unfamiliar. I called it commando driving. I couldn’t believe these people were not killing each other.  They style is often described as left overtake. Meaning expect to be passed at any time.  Though it is usually on the left, by no means is it only on the left.  They pass on the right too.  And what happens at corners cannot be described.  It can only be witnessed.  I have video tape, it will be coming.

Then we came up on Fuente Osmeña Circle and I think I literally closed my eyes when we negotiated our way into that.  Obviously we survived but I’m still not sure how.  It is a beautiful area of Cebu City, Near the governor’s home and capitol of the province.

I saw the sign on back of one taxi that displayed “hows my driving” which brought laughter from me and the comment your driving is horrible, just like everyone else.  The Filipino in the van didn’t seem to understand my observations though.

I noticed that the driving seemed to be working.  After several months here, I’ve seen very few wrecks.  Only two, one of them serious and caused by too much speed while growing through a small mountain town in Leyte.  Now that I’ve been here for a while, the driving seems mostly normal to me.  Jessie still reminds me to avoid the corners and we usually don’t cross the street at a corner as it is safer to do it before you get there.

Another thing you’ll notice quickly is the amount of horn blowing.  Such behavior in the US could likely get you shot.  Just last week there was a road rage incident in Memphis resulting in a gun being drawn and a fatality.  Some of the horn blowing is almost polite, to let you know they are there as they overtake you, that is pass you on the left.  Often they will overtake you in the same lane.  But some of it is to tell you to get out of the way.  A normal thing to do here.  The same behavior in Memphis could very likely get you shot.  There are no limited access expressways in Cebu Province.  If there are any at all, it would be in Manila.

Filipino are far more polite and a bit formal at the same time.  It is a curious combination of casual yet formal.  When you do business with people here, they are for the most part very formal.  Yes sir Rusty, yes ma’am.  Some what rigid.  I notice it more in women, they stand very straight.  I do what I can to rip all this pretense down and I’m usually pretty good at it.  If I could speak the language, I’m sure I’d be even better at it.  I can get only so far though.

Lots of Adjustments for The Expat

Jessie would often tell me to get use to the changes, so now I use her own words on her.  At 79F Jessie is cold, so much so that she often wears a scarf when we are home.  I laugh at her.  She made this scarf for me, mostly just to practice this new craft she is teaching herself.  I asked her where I was going to wear a scarf at and we had a good laugh.  Then I suggested she wear it next time she is cold at home.  She “reminds me” that it is cold at 79F about 26C and when she reminds me she is cold you might guess what it is I tell her.  Yep, “get use to it” and she usually responds with laughter.

Getting use to it for the expat can be made a bit easier by using a shipping company in the Philippines known as Johnny Air Cargo (JAC).  I know they are in Luzon and Cebu.  I don’t know about other locations.  The cost of getting things here through JAC is much less than it would be by UPS or FedEx and often faster than UPS.  More important to me is they handle customs for you.  I’ve been forced to pay custom duties when none should have been due.  Let alone it taking three months to get to me and then half a day going through the process to actually get the item and the $75.00 I had to pay in customs duties.  There should have been no duties as these were used items and below $1000.  Either one of these reasons should have exempted the items from duties.  But my protest went unheard, the customs official simply said this is what it is, P3000.  With JAC you’ll have none of those issues.  I’m not related to or connected to  JAC in anyway other than as a customer, they have just provided excellent service.  Even if money is of no concern, I would still use them.  It takes about a week.  If you don’t have a credit card, they will even purchase the items for you from the US or other country.  For me there are some things I must get from the US. Because of lupus my skin is extremely sensitive and being a diabetic it is hard to get sugar free items.  There is a Sugar Free Haven in Cebu City though and that is very helpful.  Selections are limited at Sugar Free and not everything is sugar free there. If you’re on a limited budget, I would use JAC as little as possible.  But if you must have something from the US, this is the way to do it! I’ve decided I’ll just have to “get use to it” and do without some of my favorites.  What I miss most is Nestle’s Quick No Sugar Added for my milk.  If you decide to use them call or text Jesse at +639176233910 or email her at [email protected]  You can mention my name if you like, she will know me as I have recommended her online before and have her permission to put her information online. It is not required though as I gain nothing from it.  She calls me Mr. Sir Rusty as many Filipino will do, even some Filipina friends that I am not doing business with.  Part of that curiously casual formalities you are likely to find here.

Remember, you’re the one that is different here.  They don’t do things strange here, you do!  So make the adjustments as best you can, try to learn to speak the language too.  I think I’m going to look for someone at one of the schools to help me with the language.  Jessie is not the best choice in my case because she is Waray Waray which speaks a dialect of Tagalog. Cebu speaks a dialect of Visayan called Cebuano.  Jessie’s accent is one from a warrior tribe and you can hear it in her speech.  The other day she tried to ask a girl how old she was in Visayan\Cebuano and the girl looked confused.  So she repeated the question in English and the girl answered that she was four.

Your in the Philippines, be ready for some adjustments.  Not all of them will be easy but some of them are quite required.  While American’s are rather rebellious in nature and don’t like to just accept things the way they are, Filipino are often said to be far more compliant.  While it is often a source of irratation for the westerner, including myself, it is important to remember, you are the one that is different.  It is a society formed through thousands of years and to be a part of a society, you must make the changes or be an outcast and probably bitter.

Post Author: Rusty Ferguson (42 Posts)

Rusty Ferguson is an American Expat living in Bogo, Cebu.

Investigation in the Philippines


  1. Rick says

    Rusty, great article. I know lots of sick people here both mentally ha ha ha and really sick like you. This is a great place to be sick due to the low cost of medical care. Do yourself a favor and join a Lupus support group. It will give you lots of shortcuts to getting things you need and the best people to treat your disease. Also, many guys here have diabetes and there are sugar free stores as well. Don’t take anything for granted here and try to benefit of help from those in the know.

    You might be on the wrong drugs as well. The US Docs tends to get it wrong lots of times in prescribing stuff. I think they do a better job here so I’ve heard from my sick friends.

  2. brian says

    My first trip to the RP I was warned about the “Fence People” at the Manila airport…this was before they improved it…a 2 lane road and fence seperated the terminal exit from the general public, the fence ran the entire lenght of the building…arriving at night I peered thru the window for my first glimps of “Manila” all I saw was 2000 Pinoy faces gripping the fence and looking back at me !!! It reminded me of a starving concentration camp and I was the pizza deliveryboy !!!
    I was waiting for a friend of mine (American) to pick me up..I swore if he didn’t show I was hopping back on the plane to go home….now I LMAO when I think of how niave I was !!!

  3. says

    Great article – loved the description of the traffic – so true!

    One question – you said “In the Philippines, you only need a prescription for what would be a controlled drug”.

    I have a medical plan that reimburses me for 80% of drug costs. How would this work if there were no prescriptions? Or is this just a general statement, and I can actually obtain a prescription from a local doctor if I wish. Just curious. Thanks.

  4. says

    Hey Rick!

    The idea of a Philippine based support group is an excellent idea. Asian have a much higher rate of developing lupus than those from the west. I will have to look into that. If I don’t find any based in the Philippines, do you know of one?

    I was a member of the Memphis Lupus Group for years but I kind of intentionally got away from all that. I don’t want lupus to be in the for front of my life any more. But I’m in a new world so learning how it is dealt with here would be great. Well if I’m not too stubborn.

    The problem I’ve run into with the doctors so far is they seem to have to admit me to do a physical. Maybe that’s because they want to help me get it billed direct to the insurance. I’m not 100% sure. Could be some communications issues that I have to pursue. It would be cheaper for me to stay in a hotel and get the test done than go to a hospital because of my $100 per day deductible. That’s cheap in the US but the main reason I’m here as I can’t afford the US any more. :) If I stay for 5 days, I’ll have to pay $500 and it is limited to $500. So I need to change to an 80% type plan. I don’t know. Things are not making sense to me and the doctors are not running the test they need to be running.

    I’m a little alarmed right now about my medical situation but hopefully with time, I’ll get a handle on it. Next month may be a real issue for me getting my meds. I thought my insurance would have reimbursed me for last months purchases by now but they have not.

    So far, under my current insurance plan, my cost have gone way up. I’ll get into just how and why later but it has to do with being on a PPO. An HMO would be far worse. I may be able to change my insurance now, I need to call my retirement provider and find out. I keep putting it off. :)

    True on getting the doctor to write the prescription, I also wasn’t prepared for an office visit costing only $6.00. But you don’t need that for most drugs here. It is a little scary what I can get here without it. Such as methotrexate. That drug is a cancer drug but also used, in lower doses for lupus. The drug can kill you in a nasty way and from I can tell the doctors are not running liver test when someone is on that drug.

    My problem is, with being on a PPO for 20 years, I’m use to paying $10 for each generic RX and $20.00 for a doctor visit and I just stayed away from hospitals. :) They don’t have some of my drugs here and some of the options to replace them are contraindicated for me.

    They often don’t have the generic here and I have to pay $25 to $50 if not in a generic! So next month I’m looking at a $400 drug bill and then get reimbursed. That is going to be a massive issue for me. I will call my insurance company Monday and see what I can do with this.

    If I don’t shut up this comment is going to be as long as the story. :) I appreciate the comment and really appreciate the ideas.

  5. says

    Hmm, Brian When did they improve it? If I got the improved version, I don’t want to think of the other. Then again, it was cooler outside.

    I had to walk along the outside of the building and it was the entire length. The exit was in the middle but I went the wrong way at first. LOL

    There was a fence separating me from the road. Not that many people there on the walk way. I mean not 2000. I’m not sure I got the improved version.

    Now there were far more people inside, more than 2000.

    Like you, just no way to really describe how different things were. I was staying regardless of how things went. I’m glad it went well for me. :)

  6. says

    Hey John, that’s what I need to change too probably. An 80% plan. The type of insurance I had was great in the US but is not any good here. I will very likely be changing but my insurance comes through my former employer and I’m normally limited to changes for certain times of the year. The time to pick a plan will change soon but it wont go into effect until Jan of 09. They allow for some changes when there are dramatic changes in life style. I need to check on that. I have to call them during US time though, and I usually don’t feel like getting mad at 7pm or so. LOL So I’ve been procrastinating. I’ll get it done soon, hopefully.

  7. Uncle Dako says

    You know I had the same thing with the chair offering. I have been in Manila a few times and never experienced that till I visited down south. My father-in-law called me Sir even after I showed respect (manny-po I think it is called.) I quickly got him to stop though as I felt he was my senior.

  8. says

    Hey Rick, thanks for the idea, I joined a PH based lupus forum last night, might be helpful.

    HI Dako, When I met my prospective father in law I didn’t yet know about mano po (the way my Waray Waray GF spells it) but yea, next time I see him I will do that to him.

    Thanks David, hope to hear from you often. If I argue with you, don’t worry about it is just what I do. :) LOL

  9. Phil R. says

    hey Rusty you got to go with the flow ..everything goes easer in the long run …have fun in the Philippines…..Phil R.

  10. genuis8 says

    Just a small correction to the original post. The Visayas region is composed of about a dozen mid-sized islands in the central part of the Philippines, between Luzon in the north, and Mindanao in the south.

    The Eastern Visayas area includes Samar & Leyte (whose dialect is Waray), Cebu, Bohol & Negros Oriental (dialect mainly Cebuano).

    Tagalog is the national language and is the native dialect of the Metro Manila area and few neighboring provinces. Since the Philippines has a lot of local dialects which are totally different, Tagalog or English will make you understood all around.

  11. Randall Jessup says

    Hi Rusty,

    Greetings from Toronto, Canada! I liked your story and your detailed observations of your first impressions of the Philippines.

    I remember riding in a rickety old taxi in Manila. When we went around a turn in the rode the back door flew open and then fell off the car onto the road! The driver just stopped the car and put the door into the trunk. Fortunately we were almost to our destination a couple more blocks down the road.

    On another occasion when we arrived at the Manila airport we had to transfer to a separate domestic airport at that time. We took a short taxi ride to it. As soon as the taxi stopped we were swarmed by young men who took our luggage and ran with it into the domestic airport. Of course they didn’t even ask first if we wanted help but for sure they were expecting a generous tip!

    Hope things work out with your medical insurance plan.

  12. says


    My GF who is Waray Waray and speaks Tagalog does not speak or even understand all of Visayan. She understands a lot of Visayan but sometimes I ask her what someone said in Visayan and she does not know. She too thought everyone who speaks Visayan would be able to speak Tagalog. It just ain’t so, and now she knows it. I spent a lot of time with another Visayan, same thing, she could barely understand any Tagalog. Jessie does better. She can get by, true. Trying to learn Visayan from her is not the best choice because of these differences which is all I was trying to cover.

    I was learning Tagalog and then found that even “good morning, good afternoon, and good evening” are different in Cebu than in Tagalog areas. True many people that grew up here know some Tagalog. Those that know Tagalog don’t know a lot of Cebuano\Visayan\Bisayan and there probably are a few other names for it.

    Jessie’s 8 year old son speaks both fluently now, she gets on him though when he speaks Visayan to her.

    And I have personal experience with the difference in Waray Waray and the more standard Tagalog. When my GF heard me saying words, she sometimes told me they were wrong. They were wrong, in Waray Waray. But correct in the more Luzon sounding way of pronouncing it. And slight changes can make a huge difference.

    The first time I went to the bus terminal in Cebu I was asked where I was going. The way I said Bogo meant stupid. Jessie’s pronunciation is different than what most say here but only slightly. But enough to confuse the heck out of me. I can finally say it right but if I think to much I’ll revert back to stupid. :)

    I’m not sure what you were taking exception too but knowing Tagalog is not enough if you are in the Visayas.

    And to make things really confusing, a lot of the Mindanao region speaks Visayan.

    While many people in businesses can speak English, the average person on the street cannot speak English. It is those very people, those that make up the most of the country are the ones I want to be able to communicate with.

  13. says

    LOL Randall the door following off reminds me of the blue Pinto I drove around in my teens and I made infamous through out all of south Jackson. That thing was beat to death when I finished with it. :)

    I would love to have video of the door falling off the taxi and the driver putting it in the trunk. That is a riot!

    Hmmm, I don’t tip unless I have a choice. :) Once I was staying in a Marriot that wouldn’t allow me to go get my car. I had to wait for a valet to do it. I got tired of typing these guys two or three times a day. And they were not happy with 2bucks. I asked to go get my own car, when refused, I refused to tip.

    Some might say I’m ornery. I say if you don’t like my attitude, stop talking to me. LOL

  14. says

    Phil, Mr Hemingway would agree with you, his books were filled with symbolism with just that idea, going up mountains and going upstream to get to a better place only to end up worse off. There is certainly some truth to it.

    And while I think it is right, I tend to not go with the flow. LOL I’m working on that or at least not getting bugged or stressed when I do fight the flow.

    But yea, I agree with you especially in this context. As we get older we not only learn how important we are not, we learn better when to pick our battles. Well most of us, then there is me. I can be slow. :)

  15. says

    Hi Rusty- Watch my column tomorrow for an article about which language to learn, and why…. Hopefully it will be interesting for everybody.

  16. says

    Hi Rusy – I am really hoping your health gets in good order! Thanks for your post, it will make my move to the Philippines a little easier.

  17. says

    Hey Bob,

    I just read it. :) Usually I read the comments to mine first but this time when I saw that on the front page, seemed to fit in with this topic. It was a hard choice for me as I want to be able to speak with Jessie’s family but they all speak English pretty well. Maybe between the three languages we’ll manage to communicate some.

    The hardest part is when they talk to each other. Some will continue to do it in English for my account. Some don’t speak it well enough to switch to English and I firmly believe in that I’m the outsider, I gotta make the changes to fit in.

    It ain’t easy to teach this old dog new tricks though. Studies have shown that we are best able to learn a language before the age of 3. I don’t know the exact ages. But there are physical changes in a brain that make it easier to learn different languages, I think it was around 18 months.

    Jessie’s two year was pretty confused for a while. When her dad called he asked if the baby was talking yet. She said, well “I speak Tagalog, Rusty speaks English and the yaya speaks Visayan. So he speaks Chinese.” LOL He speaks sometimes for two minutes and no one knows what he is saying but he’s getting better. He’s learning all three now.

    Now if only I was 2, it would all be so much easier. I found a pretty good website for Visayan. They have many languages here but no audio:

  18. says

    Hi Rusty- You can do it! I used to believe in that saying about being able to learn languages when you are young, and having a hard time when you are older. However, in the past year I have found that if you have the right teacher who knows what she is doing, learning a language is not that difficult.

  19. says

    Hello Bob, how are ya my friend? And the Family? Are ya keeping Feyma busy? It seemed the only time we were able to meet it was always we were already in the Mall !! Gosh time just fly’s by… Nori is back in the house in Lanang and I’m back here in the Calif.. Gene gave me a Bithday Present and gave me my own web site to sell our house there in Davao. Pretty cool! I’m hoping Nori can find us a nice Condo and bigger than those behind SM!! Can you believe they are only 45sq meters! I’d need to nock down at least 3 apartment walls to get a desent apartment!! lol I Like your web site, just got my computor up and running. I had so much junk and viriouses, yuk.. Not being a techie like you and many of your friends its tuff for us Seniors!! Well keep on smiling :) Say Hello to everyone there for me…Have Feyma give Nori a call, please.. I real know she would lov to maybe meet for a good Halohalo…….Bye for now O’Bie

  20. says

    Hi Ed O’Brien (O’Bie)- Sorry, but this particular post where you left comment is not my section of the site – this article is from one of my co-authors, Rusty. I hope that you can make it back to the Philippines soon. Please look me up when you are back in town, my friend! Give my best to Nori.

  21. says

    Howdy Rusty, what a great story,experiences have always been the best teacher!! I’ve been married to a wonderful lady for over 34 years!! She’s there in Davao at present, and I’m here in Calif. I think you’ll be very surprised that English is taught in gammer school, but because they have no-one to converse with they tend to be very shy and almost Imbarist to speak English. (Please excuse my spelling). lol Aint-no good… My first time in the P.I. was back in 1965 and have been going back there almost every year! 6 years ago We built a very nice little modest house in Davao on 2 lots 860sq meters. Have loved it!! I’ve experienced some very scary rides on Buses and Taxi’s also. And I have been driving back and forth from Manila to Subic Naval Base, to Bagio, to 100 Islands. I had a Datson 4dr. 5speed and a Kawasaki 350 to tear up the hi-ways. What a great life it was!! :) Now I have a Masda 4dr,5speed Truck in Davao and yes with aircon!! Back to the languages, My wife speaks, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilicano, Spanish and English. She told me to forget it that I just butcher the language and make a fool of my self so many times , so I stopped! And ya know for the 30 some years we’ve been married I get things done faster and better than she does speaking English. With that said, here in the States, her whole family is, they tend to mix it up, She grew up in Iloilo, and went to College in Cebu and all her girl friends spoke Tagalog and so then she comes to the States and work in a Hospital that cators to Mexicans. Long story /short …when the family get to gether they speak whatever, then if it might be of interest to me they all speak english…as others have said go with the flow..
    Keep your money not in your wallet but in your front pocket and in my lofers I had a small pocket put in the lip or tongue so I alway carry emergency money P1000.00 note. An old Sailor trick.. The pickpockets always got mad because some of us Sailors never had any money to steal !! Besides that the wife usually has the money any how! Have a Great stay hope to meet-up with ya someday.. O’h before I forget , We’ve been using LBC as our Sea &Air cargo handeler for 30 years. They are all over the States and all over the P.I. Average 24x24x24 box is $75.00 from my door to wifes door in approx. 30 days last months box took only 27 days. They do money remittances, and can ship any thing. I’ve sent Generators even. Good luck, have fun , And most of all keep smiling!! And have you noticed that filipino’s even laugh when they screw-up!! O’Bie

  22. Tom Ramberg says

    Hi Rusty!

    Greetings from Arkansas! I am envious of your recent move to PI. My wife Marie and I plan to move to our home near General Santos City possibly in May or June. Our original plan was to move back in Sept 2010 but we decided it would be prudent to sell our business and get out of town while we still have a shirt on our back. I would prefer to leave the country by November 5th ha ha! Since you hail from Memphis I thought it would be worth mentioning that my daughter and I have tickets to see the Jets beat the Titans in November. I enjoyed the account of your move to the Philippines. Hopefully everything will go more smoothly for you from now on. Tom Ramberg

  23. says

    Hi Mike, thanks for the well wishes. First six months no problems at all. I’m beginning to think the extra sun exposure has been hard on me. Lupus is stimulated by the sun. I have some new things going on, I’ve had some spontaneous scaring on my hands. A strong indication of Scleroderma. I’m just going to keep doing the best I can, get my insurance changed.

  24. says

    Hello Ed,

    I’ve been keeping my wallet in my front pocket for years. It is so fat that it hurts to sit on it. LOL fat with credit cards perhaps, surely not much cash there. I have already been hit by a pick pocket but they got it out of my GF’s purse.

    Yea she keeps money all over the place but she carries it to far and forgets where she has it. :)

    It isn’t an issue really here in Bogo City, almost no crime here. But I still put it in my front pocket. Usually do have cash some place else too. I should start making that more of a planned thing though. No need to carry all my cash around with me.
    Good idea to keep it on more than one place just in case something happens. really good. I need to work that into my precautions.

    Unlike most people, I’m paranoid enough to carry a weapon on me 99% of the time but only a stun gun. Usually two of them actually. The both look like flashlights. One small enough to go in my pocket. It wouldn’t be much good unless you were abducted. I’d like to test it out but I can’t find any volunteers. Even the person that said it would just tickle the attacker wouldn’t let me test that idea on him. I’d rather have a taser but don’t have a $1000 lying around. (Yes they are legal here, I’ve checked it out.)

    There have been only two people that really made me nervous and I gave them the old look in the eye and a hello to let them know I was aware of them. And continued to watch them. One was clearly looking for his opportunity.

    I had finally got a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the states. Living in Memphis it was becoming almost as common as a watch. Crime has become very dangerous and frequent there. Much less chance of crime in even Cebu than in Memphis. Of course, I stand out more here which I realize increases my chances of being targeted. Many Filipino think I’m rich. I keep telling them my landlord and Citi Appliance are getting rich off me. :)

    65? R&R from Nam? I missed that war by a couple of years and I’m certainly glad I did.

    Thanks for your post, I hope to hear from you often!

  25. says

    Hi Tom,

    The trip wasn’t that bad, just hot and different from the US and my first time here. I enjoyed it. It was just like going into a different world, not just the other side of it. Probably true for most developing nations.

    I haven’t been following football heavily in years but I don’t think I’d count on the Titan’s loosing. I’m sure many thought the Colts would hand them their first loss. Did I hear right, the Titan’s are the only undefeated team in the NFL? WOW!

    But I don’t think the Titan’s consider Memphis as being part of Tn. we didn’t treat the team too well when they held their first season. The owner got hacked off and moved them out of the city a year early. When they played a game in Memphis against the Steelers, there were more black jerseys than Titan’s jersey. I think they were still the oilers then. Memphis just had a bad attitude about the NFL at the time. Nashville and Memphis seem to have a lot of hatred for each other too. Memphis attitude I guess. :)

    Unlike most expats, I’m pretty liberal, I just don’t fit into any stereo types too well, I’m a gun toten’ liberal Christian. More of us around than I think the press would indicate. My experience is most expats are conservative, not sure why that is. Perhaps the false idea that republican’s are for smaller government, they are for less government in business matters but more government on restrictions into personal freedoms. That is telling others how to live, usually by their interpretation of the Bible. Very short sided if you ask me, Christians may be a minority in our country some day. I wonder if the majority is ever Muslim, if they will still be in favor of keeping God in the schools as the face of God will likely change.

    Boy am I walking on fire water with this reply. LOL Most people have sense enough not to go where I just did. I voted, I hope it counts mailed it a couple of weeks ago.

  26. John Miele says

    Rusty… Glad you seem to have adjusted so well. The one thing I always miss about Memphis is BBQ. I don’t get into the “which is best” argument… I like them ALL. Memphis, Carolina, Texas, KC… All unique and good. I’m seriously thinking of trying to do a brisket out in the province (plenty of old oil drums there) and seeing how it goes over with the family. Be interesting to see how Narra wood smokes!

  27. says

    Narra wood? You’re going to have to tell me what that means. I’ve not run into that before.

    Better not let me find you in Memphis in May, we’ll be roasting you until you say Memphis BBQ is the best!

    While I’m usually against torture, I will make exceptions for the truly important matters. LOL I’m no BBQ expert and I never went to the BBQ contest for MIM but I went to almost all the Music Fest shows until it got too painful. I’m in good enough shape now to go I think. But I’m a little far away.

    Boy would I love to take my GF to Beale Street and Music Fest.

    Soon as I get rich, I’ll make that happen.

  28. says

    Just read your article and i am quiet positive that you will be able to adjust fast in our environment here for you are such a positive individual. Have an enjoyable journey Sir rusty ehehhe..

  29. says

    Hmm Hannay is female?

    Tried to figure it out by your profile but I couldn’t.

    If you’re calling me Sir Rusty you must be.

    One of my nick names on the net is Fertilizer. :) Doesn’t take much to get me started flirting, hello from nearly any Filipina is enough. There are only two exceptions…

  30. Beth says

    Hi Rusty!

    Great article! I just want to mention that I once read somewhere on the internet that lupus maybe linked to sugar free products due to its aspartame content. I am not sure about its validity but it might help to research more on it. I just know that aspartame is a food additive that was passed through FDA under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld even when there were scientist who raised safety issues at the time. NOw it is widely used in diet drinks like diet coke or anything sugarless. I also read of other health issues associated with aspartame.

    I just thought of sharing this as it MAY shed some light on your health issues.

    I hope you’re finding life in the Philippines better as the days and months go by especially with the heat. December & January are just around the corner. It should ease up a bit.

    Regarding the formalities, I think it comes from the deeply rooted Filipino value of respect (for elders, for people with a perceived higher social status, and for foreigners which can be traced back to the colonial mentality brought on as a result of Spanish colonization of the Philippines for more than 300 years.)

    If you notice, most Filipinos would love anything “imported”. I believe (as was taught to me by my history teachers in high school) that Flipinos as a people were made to believe less than the Spaniards during the spanish time. This is not to put blame but just a little taste of Philippine history. Filipinos back then were called Indios by Spaniards and were at the bottom of the social class along with the Chinese at that time. Higher to Indios were Mestizos (Spanish-Filipino) and of course on top of the pyramid were the pure blooded Spaniards.

    Anyway, respect for elders is another strong value taught to us when we were growing up. Saying “po” or “opo” to show respect is a trait of a well-raised kid. Greeting an elder with a “mano po” is another way of showing respect.

    And addressing someone with a “sir” or m’am’ is the person’s way of showing you he/she respects you.

    I remember, as a kid, let’s say we have some guests for dinner and there were not enough chairs, the kids were expected or told by their parents to offer the chair to the one older than them as a sign of respect.

    Regarding the traffic and the driving, well, what can I say? Get used to it. :-)

    Well, have fun and enjoy your stay in the Philippines!

    I so envy you. I wish my husband would finally agree with me to live in the Philippines. I’m here in California and I miss home so much. That’s how I found out Bob’s website a few year’s back when it was still about “How to live in the Philippines like a King”. Google helped me of course.

  31. says

    Hey Beth,

    I know the mano po, I saw it going on the first time I went to my gf’s home. She has her son’s do it to me. The two year old included, the res tof the time he’s terribly two. LOL

    I know that Jessie’s family is still bound to the elders. Their is a group in their family called the elders. I don’t know who they are. I met most of her family once but I don’t know if of those were included. My guess is they were pretty old but maybe I’m wrong. But they are called in when there are important questions and Jessie is concerned that they might disapprove of her at times. And she’s pretty independent and non traditional in other ways.

    I’ve seen the import craze here. Brand names plastered over everything. I saw Seagate had a store here. That kind of surprised me. Nokia, Samsung and Seagate… Seagate doesn’t have all that high of respect in the US. Not that I’ve had problems with their drives.

    I’ve seen a lot of products that appear to be imports, like American Home appliances and there is no American Home in the US. LOL At least I’ve never seen it.

    When it comes to people and culture and social structure I tend to take everything apart analyze the heck out of it. I had one gf that complained about that, but only because she was lying all the time.

    I’ve been having problems since the days of saccharin and everyone was warning of how dangerous it was. In fact, it caused cancer in rats but you’d have to eat a truck load to take a matching dose. LOL

    It could be that our bodies did not evolve with all these strange chemicals that we are throwing at it and some of us may not be able to tolerate it as well. I sure wish I could live on a farm like that of my Grandmother and Grandfather. Man those were the best of times. The food tasted a little odd but man I wish I had some of it now. I wish I had understood how special it was when I was a child. Now that doesn’t exist any more. I would love to return to that time. But I cant so…. onward….

    I’m pretty sure I now have scleroderma to go along with this, hopefully I’ve had it for a long time. If fact, sometimes what is thought to be lupus is really scleroerma. I have some things going on with my hands that I fel will be pretty obvious to a doctor as to what is going on. If I’m right and I’ve ahd it for a long time, it wont make a huge difference, it is it new, I’m in trouble.

    I feel great most of the time, I had a cold I couldn’t get rid of for two months. I finally got some antibiotic and it appears I had more than a cold. I feel great 90% of the time.

    I’m planning on joining the beech club and San Remigo and taking scuba lessons.

    Nice to meet you!

  32. hill roberts says

    Hi, Rusty, I’ve been going through other posters’ comments. Also, you commented about the “driving skills” (or the lack of it) of many Filipino drivers. I couldn’t agree more. Here in Spain, the Spanish and Italian drivers aren’t much different from Pinoy drivers. Driving down the motorways here compared to the Uk can be exasperating. Although in Spain and in Europe we are required to pass the written and practical test, the minute the learner passes, all rules and regulations are thrown down the drain. Many of them haven’t got a clue how to overtake, when to switch lanes, and how far —or near—should they keep their distance while driving in city limits. For many of them, it’s all the same. City driving is totally different than motorway/freeway driving and this just is ignored by many motorists. Because Europe is so small, we get all sorts of European drivers, but the worst are the Italians because they also use the soft shoulder! And accidents are mainly created by them and the motorists usually from outside this area. I drive on British motorways and believe me, it’s much more fun than doing the Spanish “autopistas”. As for Pinoy driving skills, I wouldn’t bank on them, not for safety reasons, but the lack of driving lessons that they should be having before they go on the roads.

  33. Paul says

    Hi Rusty – Seems like a replay but still a most valid posting.

    One things I’ve found that is frustrating is being approached by a group of teachers. All will dump platitudes on you, your handsome looks, your esteemed intelligence, etc., then will get to what you think is the point – they ask you to be their guest of honor for something or other, or be a guest speaker or some other “important, honorary” position. Being well greased up from that sweet buttering, you agree. Big day comes, you perform, platitudes again start to flow, then the real reason for your invitation and performance comes out: “The school is poor and needs . . . .”

    Talk about being painted into a corner with beautiful hues and tones! 😉

  34. Ed Griffin says

    Great post, Rusty! Are African Americans afforded same preferential treatment as being white? I don’t know how many times I have been asked if I were this or that or from the person asking if I were from their homeland.

  35. says

    alot of those people with spanish names where actually mexicans who travelled on spanish ships from acapulco to manila,cebu,and zaboanga, that is the reason many mexicans and filipinos look the same . my wife all the time gets mistaken for being mexican by mexicans they cant tell the difference.

  36. David S says

    I think this is your best article yet Rusty and you’ve had some good ones. Thanks for sharing your experiences with me.

  37. Jack says

    Hi Rusty,

    This is a great article. I was in for a little culture shock with my first visit in May 2008. I got through Manila customs very easily but was very lost when I exit the airport terminal. Luckily, someone pointed me across 2 roads to the area where Juramie and her friends were waiting for me. I thought I would never find her in the crowd of people but luckily I saw this beautiful smiling face coming through the door from a parking area. I can understand the crowd since Juramie had at least 10 family members or friends with her on my arrival. I will never forget Juliet, a good friend of my girl friend, grabbing my hand and saying “Jack, here is your baby.” We got in the van for a ride to Bulacan but had to make a stop at Jolibee’s because everyone was hungry. When I got out of the van, I saw this little girl with the saddest eyes selling flowers. I could tell she was hungry. I made a mistake by not buying a flower from her or buying her something to eat from Jolibee’s. The poverty is real and I learned a valuable lesson that I won’t forget with helping someone in need (I could have bought her a chicken meal because if I gave her money would go to the wrong people.)

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I know I will read your post several times.

  38. Ed Griffin says

    Rusty, I should have said that I am African American (true) with Cherokee Indian and Caucasian heritage. That I have red hair (when I still had hair) with freckles but has what I describe as a reddish indian look but others say Panamian, Puerto Rican, Jordanian, Samoan, Fijian, Filipino, Guamanian and on and on and on or 1/2 of this or that. To embarrass my friends I may say loudly here that I am a white man since some of their friends or family ask who is the white man so often. Life is great when you have a sense-of humor. In a large crowd, I am easy to find even if we never met. So, if you see someone in Manila or Mindanao early next year that fits my description, it will most likely be me.

    I think there I get some attention out of curiosity or that filipinos know that I am a foreigner and think I have deep pockets.

  39. says

    Jack, I certainly understand the culture shock. The Philippines seem normal to me a year and a half later but when I first got here, I might have been on mars. This was not the world as i knew it. Very mind opening.

    Yeah, poverty is real. I’ve seen some disturbing things. The worst was when I got up at a BBQ the kids rushed in and took the scraps of our table and ate them. That was tough to take.

  40. says

    Yeah white man generally means American and American means white man. I think its wonderful that you have a good sense of humor about it. You could get worked up about it and it would really be understandable but I like your style which is to laugh about it and blow it off. I’m sure that attitude makes your stay here enjoyable.

    I wondered when I responded if you were black but I didn’t see anything in your message that told me you were for certain. I thought it was a possibility.

  41. says

    and a side note in the dialect of chavacano in zaboanga there are words that are not spanish or malay based in origin, they have been researched and it has been found out that these words are in originally from indigenous Indian tribes of mexico that is a fact!

  42. roy says

    True, Rusty, tagalog will not get you by if you are in the Visayas esp in Cebu. In Mindanao though esp in DVO, tagalog is more prevalently used.

  43. Tyleen says

    Hi Rusty
    I remember you said you missed Sugar Free Nestle’s quick…
    so here is the quick way to make their syrup…
    I ahve no idead if you can find the ingredients but perhaps you could get inventive???
    Good Luck let me know how it went if you decide to try making it.

    Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup


    2 Cups Of Crushed Cavalier Sugar Free Chocolate Bar

    1 Teaspoon Of Frontier Natural Tahitian Vanilla Extract

    1 Dash Of Tone’s Ground Cinnamon

    1 Cup Of Nestle Pure Life Bottled Purified Water

    1/4 Teaspoon Of McCormick Mediterranean Sea Salt

    2 Tablespoons Of Torani Sugar Free Vanilla Bean Syrup

    1 Dash Of Tone’s Ground Allspice

    1 Dash Of Tone’s Ground Nutmeg


    Serving Size 8

    135 Calories Per Serving

    1 Grams Of Fat

    Preparation Instructions:

    A lot of our web visitors are diabetics, or some are simply cutting back on sugar for health reasons. Whatever the case may be, we have decide to publish this delicious tried and tested sugar free chocolate syrup recipe. To begin you will need to place a small cooking pot on your stove. Add into this pot the crushed sugar free chocolate bar, Tahitian vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, bottled purified water, sea salt, sugar free vanilla bean syrup, ground all spice, and ground nutmeg. Whisk these alluring ingredients together to form an even mixture, then heat the syrup over medium heat. Once your syrup begins to boil, quickly reduce your heat to medium low, and let the sugar free chocolate syrup simmer for about five minutes, at which point you will want to remove it from the stove. Stir the syrup while it cools, just to make sure you have an even and silky consistency

  44. says

    Hi Rusty, Had my first Private tour and it went well. Have another Monday the 21st., a Cebu Day tour of all the historical sites and a trip up to Hilltop in the mountains for dinner. Charles Harman

  45. says

    The Philippines is good for ones self-esteem, t hat’s for sure. Not use to having the attention of so many pretty women.

    Speaking? They’ll never get me to do that.

    I think the buttering up was probably genuine. The need for money too and they think we’re all rich. I sure wish I was as rich as they think I am. :)

  46. says

    I don’t think its quite the same, most Filipino adore white skin, especially the girls.

    There is an African American that spends a lot of time in Bogo, he lived here for a few months.

    Often I’d see him sitting outside the Pizza Pub on my way to BBQ. When I’d come back, he’d have three or four beautiful Filipina at his table. I don’t know but I think he’d say things were going well. Last time I saw him, he was talking of going back to the states but he wanted to return to Bogo.

    I’ve not seen a lot of African American’s here so its hard to say but I think most will be happy here. Of course, there are always exceptions.

  47. queeniebee says

    Hi Paul and Rusty, That hasn’t happened to me, but maybe they see my position differently. It seems almost daily on the site that I see glaring differences between the way foreigner men and women are perceived and treated. I feel strange sometimes giving input.

  48. says

    if you read and study about Filipino history, and the settlers that came to the Philippines post borneo-malay tribesman thousands of years ago. in recent history say 300-500 years,the Spanish brought Mexican and central american Indians to P.I they helped work on the ships from Acapulco to Guam,Manila,Cebu,Zaboanga(little known fact the Spanish brought with them slaves from Africa to Mindanao a lot of people think the Muslim religion was influenced by Arab sailors . it was but the little known fact is some of the influence came from the African slaves! and also mestizos weren’t only Spanish Filipino blood. it has been documented that a large population of Chinese -FILIPINO mestizos relocated to Mexico on the return trips back to Acapulco to seek a new and better life.

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