I remember the first time I came to the Philippines. It was in July of 1990. While I had traveled to Europe, Africa and South America in the past, that trip in 1990 was my first time to set foot in Asia. One of the things that I distinctly remember is how friendly Filipinos were, and especially when they found out you were an American. There was just something in the Filipino psyche that had an admiration or love for Americans, and basically anything American. It really made my trip enjoyable, albeit sometimes to such an extent that it could be embarrassing.
Over the decade of the 90’s, I made a number of trips to the Philippines, and the very pro-American feelings remained very strong. We moved here to the Philippines in May 2000, and still, being an American kind of gave you a special kinship with the vast majority of Filipinos.
Over the time that we have lived in the Philippines, I have encountered a few times when I was treated with some anti-American sentiment, but I could count the number of times on my two hands without a problem.
In the past few years, though, there is starting to be somewhat of a shift that I can detect. Americans are still liked by the vast majority of Filipinos, but there is also some negative feeling starting to creep in. Although I can say that this has been creeping in for a few years now, I didn’t realize it until just a few months ago.
As regular LiP readers know, my wife Feyma is involved in the Real Estate business, primarily assisting foreigners who are moving here, or who are coming for a longer term visit and wish to rent a house or apartment here in Davao, rather than staying in a hotel. On average, Feyma probably helps a half dozen people per month with such needs, in various capacities. Out of those 6 or so people per month, probably 4 or 5 of them are Americans.
A few months ago, Feyma and I were talking, and the subject of Americans looking for real estate rentals came up. I have to say that I was a bit surprised at what Feyma told me. I don’t recall exactly how this precise subject came up in conversation, but Feyma related to me that it was getting a bit more difficult to find rental properties for Americans. I asked her what she meant, and she relayed to me that she was starting to encounter a number of property owners who had expressed to her that they are no longer willing to rent to Americans! I have to admit that I was quite shocked to hear this. I can remember when we first moved here, if you were an American looking to rent a property, you were highly sought after as one of the best rental clients that could be found.
I proceeded to ask Feyma why people were not wanting to rent to Americans. She relayed to me something that I already knew. Many Filipinos consider Americans to be complainers. If anything is wrong at all, they complain. Heck, a lot of Americans that I hear from always think that any Filipino they are dealing with is out to rip them off, steal money from them, or whatever. Are there bad Filipinos? Sure there are, just like there are bad Americans, bad Chinese and bad people from every other country in the world. Well, according to what Feyma has been hearing from property owners, many of them are just tired of dealing with Americans, and would rather just not rent their place out rather than dealing with Americans! What a huge turnaround from the situation that existed not that many years ago!
I got thinking about this situation in the past few days after I saw a post over on the LiP Forum. A fellow named Matt posted an inquiry there. To be honest, I don’t know for sure where Matt is from, but I think he is American. Here is Matt’s post from the forum:
If anyone has hired an architect in Davao and can recommend them to me I would appreciate it.
I have already contacted several and none of them seem to be interested. Strange.
They act like they don’t want my money. Is this a cultural thing?
Now, when I read that, I wondered if this was just an extension of the situation that Feyma had told me about. Maybe the architects that Matt contacted just didn’t want to deal with an American, expecting that there would be trouble, arguing, suspicion and complaining in the long run. I can’t say for sure, but it sounds that way to me. I wanted to answer Matt, but to be honest I just didn’t really know what to say. Saying something like “hey, since you are American, they probably just don’t want to deal with you.” seems to be a pretty nasty thing to say, and I felt bad even thinking of saying something along those lines. But, that is what came to my mind.
So, fellow Americans, what do you think? We do seem to have a bad reputation all over the world. In many countries, American tourists are just tolerated at best. What can we do to rehabilitate our reputations? The sad part is that even if you and I act in an upstanding way in public, and are nice to the people that we encounter, it is the general reputation that we are up against, and it is firmly ingrained in many parts of the world. Maybe it has not fully taken root here in the Philippines yet, or I hope so anyway. The problem is when there is only one of me, and one of you… we are up against thousands of other Americans who may well be acting like an ass in public here. Just you or I can hardly fight against an army of others who are misbehaving.
I’m gonna try to do my part. How about you?