You hear a lot from potential tourists, expats and other foreigners about safety when it comes to the Philippines. People who are coming here for a visit, or considering the Philippines as a retirement destination voice the “safety issue” often. They fear being murdered. They fear kidnapping. They fear getting mugged. They fear being ripped off financially by “slick” Filipinos who are out to get their money. What else do they fear? Well, from the e-mails and comments I hear from foreigners, it seems that many foreigners fear anything that moves here, even the shadows. As you can imagine, given the fact that I live here in the Philippines, and I have a relatively high Internet profile, I hear these kinds of things each and every day from people who contact me to ask me about whether they will be safe here or not. Over on my Mindanao Magazine, I have an entire section on Safety concerns. I have one post in particular that addresses safety for tourists in Mindanao, and that single post has more than 700 comments on it! So, as you can see, safety is a major concern for many.
The other day, though, I got thinking about safety in the Philippines from a completely different angle than I ever had before. The more I thought about it, the more I realized something that may well be quite surprising to many readers. I’ll reveal what that is a bit later in this article.
I have been living in the Philippines for more than 10 years now, as regular readers know well. Before that, I spent another 10+ years visiting the Philippines on a regular basis. In all that time, I can recall only a couple of times that I felt a bit unsafe here, and those times did not even feel too serious or life threatening to me. And, I have been to a lot of places that many people would consider “very dangerous” or even “no-go zones” as many of you know. About the worst feeling I have had in the past 20 years, as far as safety goes, was for just a few minutes when I was in Tawi Tawi, a group of about 100 Islands in the Sulu Sea off of Mindanao. I was standing on a pier taking some pictures, and a man came up to me and told me I should leave Tawi Tawi, because I was not welcome there. Well, Tawi Tawi is reputed to be a terrorist hangout, and this was the only incident I had where I felt a bit unsafe there, and this fellow actually seemed to be a bit mentally unstable to me. Nothing happened.
Last week, something happened that made me think, though. It happened here on LiP. Some of you may have noticed something, most of you probably did not. In the comments on an article I wrote, which was published last Friday, one fellow started saying some things to me that seemed a bit “off the wall.” I left his first few comments in place, but he actually went on to try to post about 50 more comments. The additional comments started out with more “off the wall” type stuff, and got progressively more angry, and actually went on to this fellow making threats of violence against me and my family. He went on to start sending me messages on Facebook that were violent in nature. Next, he started posting notes on Feyma’s Facebook Wall (they have been removed) which threatened violence against Feyma, our kids and myself. This fellow had been a “friend” of mine on Facebook for sometime. He is a white American, and lives in the USA, if his Facebook information is correct. I mean he has pictures there of himself and his family.
Feyma and I analyzed this, because we really could not figure out anything that I said to the guy or did to make the fellow angry. In fact, when the fellow made a comment here on LiP, I only said to him that I did not understand what he was talking about. I thought that perhaps he had written something incorrectly, and I was hoping he would clarify, so I could understand. He came back in a way that suggested he was crazy! As we looked at his many messages that he sent to both Feyma and I, we came to the conclusion that he was upset because he badly wanted to live in the Philippines, but was unable to make his dream come true, because of finances. I believe he was upset and jealous because I lived here, but he could not. I feel sorry for him, but it’s not my fault that he is currently unable to live his dream.
Over the past couple of years, I have experienced this kind of thing about 5 or 6 times from readers of my websites. As I recall, I have gotten threats from here on LiP mostly, but also once or twice on Mindanao Magazine. In all my years of publishing information on the Internet, I do not recall ever having been threatened by a Filipino, though. Somehow, the people who go crazy and start posting threats like this have always been foreigners. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? The foreigners are always worried about “safety issues in the Philippines” but my experience has only been with safety issues from other foreigners. Hmm.
Well, after the incident last week, Feyma and I talked about it. While we were not really very worried for our immediate safety, we did come to the conclusion that it is time for us to take our family’s safety into more consideration when it comes to our Internet presence. In the past, we have been very open about publishing things like where we live and such. In fact, if you read through enough posts on LiP, I am sure that you could put together enough information that you could probably find my house in Davao very easily. It would not take a genius to do that. As regular readers know, Feyma and I will be moving soon to a new location in Davao. We have decided that it is in our best interest, security wise, that we do not disclose information about the exact location of where our residence will be. We will be living in Davao, but beyond that, we will not say more. We will not even post pictures of the outside of our house on the Internet, because that would make it too identifiable.
It’s not Filipinos that I worry about… it’s deranged Foreigners! Strange, isn’t it?
Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.