The Pros and Cons of Making New Friends

It’s been said, “You can never have too many friends.”  Hmm, I’m not so sure of this.   Years ago I was speaking with a co-worker late one evening on the night shift.  I respected and admired him as a good friend for several years.  It then occurred to me that I’d never been to his home.  I told him we should plan on getting together for a bbq some weekend, have our families get to know one another.  I was surprised by his answer, “Nothing personal, but I never, ever have company at the house.  As it is, I barely tolerate having my wife’s relatives over every blue moon.”

Wow.  I was kind of taken aback at first, but then curious.  I asked him why this was, what were his reasons for not entertaining company once in a while.  He replied, “I’ve learned over the years it just gets too weird.  Eventually there’s some unspoken or outright drama.. the wives get to gossiping, I end up in the middle.  Or the family comes over and tears up my place with their uncontrolled kids, I get resentful and things go south.  But mostly, I just barely have enough free time for my wife and kids to enjoy our home alone.. I don’t want to give any of that up to have other people over.

I can respect that some people are very private people.  Or very concerned with taking care of their home.  But I thought his position was a bit on the extreme side, although justified since he was putting his own family first.

So now I find myself here, the Philippines.. one of the (if the THE) friendliest nations on the planet.  In six weeks I’ve managed to go from not knowing a soul to now knowing about twenty people I see almost every other day, some of them every day.  We’ve had lunch together, gone drinking together and one even confided some emotional pains they were going through in a relationship with me that they didn’t share with their closer friends.  Recently I invited four of them to my little studio where I cooked up a nice, little dinner we had together.  And it was that night, after all had gone home and I was laying there in my bed when my friend’s words came back to me out of the past.

With my friends in the U.S. we made something of a point to ‘keep things even’ whenever going out.  I’d pay for dinner, they’d pay for movie tickets.  They’d pay for gas, I’d pay for lunch.  Back and forth we informally remained un-indebted to each other.  With most my friends, we rarely talked about our private finances.  And if we were having financial difficulty, we kept that to ourselves as well choosing to just solve our own money issues and move on to the next thing.  I guess our American culture is more ‘private’ in general when it comes to money.  My friends would confide in me about their wife, husband, new boyfriend or parental issues.. but money was rarely if ever brought up.

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Not so here in the Philippines.  As it’s been experienced by most any foreigner, whether as visiting tourist or permanent ex-pat, the pre-conceived notion among most Filipinos is that; ‘You are rich.’  It doesn’t matter if you’re living on $500 or $2,000 per month.. you are perceived as ‘rich’.  You come from the land with golden streets where money falls from trees and all you normally do is lay beside a pool or drive your fancy sports car all day.. as you make even more money on the phone.  People told me this before I got here and I was incredulous.  “You can’t be serious.”, was my response.  “C’mon.. I plan on living the starving writer’s life over there, nobody is going to mistake me for being rich.”  Well, six weeks later and I have to admit.. they were right.  And I got news for you, it’s not easy being ‘rich’.

Remember the many friends I’ve made since getting here?  Out of the twenty I’d say I’ve given money to at least seven of them at one point or another.  And this was going in, having been informed that the perception of many Filipinos was that it’s OK to ask for money from a foreigner because.. we have ‘so much’ of it.  (Yah, right.)  Now, nobody had a gun to my head.  I know I made my own decisions to help them out here or there for this or that reason.  I’ll accept my end of responsibility.  However, what I thought was just a normal decision to pick up the tab for lunch soon turned into picking up the tab for three, then four then five persons.

New Friends

New Friends

I try to put myself in their shoes and think, well.. they must figure I can afford it ten times over and have much more money to spare.  In their minds they aren’t inconveniencing me in any way.  But then I got to thinking, well.. what if I DID have say, $7,000 per month to just squander?  Would that change how I feel?  And my answer was, “No.”  It’s not about the money.

Back when I was taking Tae Kwon Do, I became friends with a man there who also happened to attend the same fitness club I belonged to.  We began to do extra sparring after class together and one day he invited me to his cabin.  We were out on the porch looking out into the forest when out of the silence he said, “You know.. you’re the first person I’ve met in about five years that hasn’t asked me for anything.  You never ask me for anything.”  It had never occurred to me to do that.  He was a good friend, we shared an interest in martial arts and that was good enough for me.  But he was a video and recording producer in Hollywood and had worked with celebrities and projects I’d seen on television, he’d even done several videos for Playboy, Inc.  He said that eventually everyone he knew asked him to move their screenplay to the ‘right people’.  Or they asked for a break on studio time and some free production/mixing time from him.  They asked him for money.  They asked to use his cabin when he wasn’t there.  They all asked him for something eventually.  It’s not that he couldn’t afford it.  It’s that it made him realize those ‘friendships weren’t so much the ‘true’ kind of friendship we as humans want with each other.  They only saw him as a means to get what they wanted.

And that’s how I got to feeling that night.  Were they my friends because they are friendly?  Or because “they ate and were filled”, to quote a famous line.  Because I brought in lunch.  I picked up the bar tab.  I helped them with their transportation money home.

So.. I made a conscious decision to start holding back.  My budget needed a break that much was for sure.  I personally couldn’t justify working to earn money that I’d be giving that much away every month.  This wasn’t like with my friends back home where we reciprocated back and forth.  None of the new friends I have here have any money to reciprocate with.

It’s been a mixed bag of results.  Some of them asked me, “Are you OK, sir?  Have I upset you in some way?”  I responded, No, I’m fine.. I just came by to visit for a few minutes before doing some writing.”  (sans lunch)  Then one of them asked me, “How about we go out dancing again tonight?  Have some fun!”  I responded, “No.. I’m still recuperating.  Actually, my wallet is still recuperating.  No money for drinking tonight.”  And I actually got that, “You are kidding me, right?” look from several of them.  The idea that I might actually have a budget to stick to simply did not compute into their perception of me being an American.

This was over the last few days.  Today two of the people I met with at the mall were asking me all kinds of questions about Southern California, since that is where I lived all my life.  Finally, one of them asked, “Is it really true that there are poor people in United States?”  It took a bit of emphasis from me to make the point that, yes.. there really are poor people in America.  They really, really do exist.  Bigfoot, I’m not so sure about.  But poor people, most definitely.  I’m still not sure he believed me though.  I guess it’s sort of like when I hear about people who live beyond their means in Beverley Hills.  Part of me thinks, “How does anyone have that much money and not know how to stick to a budget?”  But then I see a commercial for that ‘Desperate Housewives’ show and am reminded just how vapid and self-absorbed some people can be.

Out on the street, or people I meet through my girlfriend, my neighbors and others.. I meet plenty of very nice people everywhere I go that don’t ask me for a thing.  There’s a guy (Caesario) I keep running into at the cockfights and we sit together, he tells me the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the rules, answers my questions, he’s a real cockfighting fan and is there every week.  I kept waiting for it.  The moment he will say, “I need some money to make a bet..”.  And it never happens.  He’s just happy to be the one guy talking to the only American at the cockfights and share a joy for it.  So, I like the guy.  There still are good, decent people who ‘spread the joy’ as it were, asking for nothing in return but perhaps some conversation.  I love the Philippines, I really do.  I love the courteous and polite society they adhere to.  But I suppose with so many friendly people comes the responsibility on my part to discern which of the few are perhaps not as genuine as the majority.  Are they still friends if there’s nothing in it for them?  Are they content purely with my friendship and company?

My experiences here so far have been a little of both.  Some Filipino people here have opened up their home to me, cooking up a lavish meal that I know was of expense to them and not an easy task in the little kitchen they have.  And all they wanted was my company and some good conversation.   Friends have something in common as well.  So at some point I have to ask myself when evaluating those who call me ‘friend’ here.. what is our point of commonality?  Is it our perceptions of family values?  Our desire to foster international friendship?  Is it people we know in common or a subject we both have an interest in?  People we both care about in common?  At some point every friendship has an element of commonality to it.

My girlfriend, when I told her I’d made dinner for a group I know from the mall said, “Well.. now they’ll be back and you’ll never know when.”  That hasn’t happened.  Yet.  But I don’t regret making myself available.  I suppose I’d rather err on the side of being too friendly, maybe even taken advantage of to some degree, rather than close off my life to new friends and new experiences.  I’m usually out walking the street after midnight to get some exercise or just observe the people who come out late at night.  So regarding both these issues I guess I’d advise new visitors to do the opposite of what I do.  Don’t walk the streets late at night, and be a bit reserved about making friendships too quickly.  “Do as I say and not as I do.”, I guess you could say.  I can only take chances for myself, I can’t recommend anyone else take those same chances.  But if you do decide to open up your life to every new friendship that crosses your path here.. and there will be many, just know that many of them are truly genuine.  But sometimes, it’s about the perception of who is the richest guy at the table.  And if you can’t spot who that is, guess what?  It’s you.

Post Author: Henry Velez (10 Posts)

Henry Velez is a recent (2012) addition to the Philippines and brings with him a fresh set of eyes as well as a talent for bringing his first-hand observations clearly to the reader. Motivated by both a life-long passion for writing, as well as for a Filipina he met in the US, Henry dove right in and made the move to the Philippines 'sight unseen'. He currently maintains three blogs, one which is devoted to his adventures here, and is currently working on a fictional novel set in the Philippines. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!


Comments

  1. maria says

    henry
    you are giving philippines a chance. i left when i was of single digit age and have not visited for 23 yrs. i am filipina in animation only, not in thoughts and manerisms. i would feel like a foreigner in the philippines also if i visit again.

    • says

      I love the Philippines.. but I do have to say that it is not for everyone. I love that I have more time here to work on my writing projects, have a casual lifestyle, etc. For me, it’s great. But I don’t know that many of my personal friends could move their families here and enjoy it as I do. I guess there’s a right time for everything. :)

  2. says

    Hi Henry – you are so right that Filipinos think that if you are a foreigner you are rich. Some years ago, I had heard it so much that I wanted to find out just how rich they thought we are. I got 2 or 3 or my nieces together (I don’t recall if it was 2 or 3) and talked to them about it. These were nieces who had spent significant time with me, even lived in my house for years. I figured that they would have a good idea of what kind of money I had, due to their exposure to me over the years.

    I sat the three down and asked them a simple question… “How much money do you think I carry in my wallet when I go to town?”

    The answers shocked me. They talked and talked about it to come up with an answer that would be accurate. In the end, they told me that they figured I probably carried around $50,000 with me when I went out. :shock:

    It was at this point when my eyes were really opened. I knew that Filipinos had unrealistic expectations that we were rich, but I never had any idea that it went to that level!

    Shocking, don’t you think?

    • says

      Up until the last last week, I guess I made the (typical) mistake of thinking in terms of US dollars. I kept thinking, “Ah!, it’s only $5, only $9. Only $3..” And then I was getting asked for 2,000 Pesos ‘just because’. That’s when I stopped and said to myself, “What they’re asking for is 2 week’s pay.” That’s kinda bold.

      The night I went out drinking I lost count after about an $85 bar tab. Re-calculating that now, to the local economy, that’s more than month’s wages here. But it didn’t phase them at all to have me pay the whole thing.

      But even if ‘money was no object’.. on a base level I want to know that my real-friends enjoy me for who I am, not for what I have. That is what really concerns me, the idea of ‘being used’ by some people.

  3. says

    Henry, you will soon find out who your real friends are. They are the ones who will help you even if you can not afford to buy them lunch or drinks . I am glad you are learning how to say no, to stick to your budget. The perception that Balikbayans and American citizens like me are rich is also very true in Marinduque. The price of goods in the open market goes up when the vendors see me and my wife. It is not called a skin tax ( since both my wife and I are brown) . This perception of us being rich was erased in their minds, when I talk to them in the dialect, indicating that there are also poor Americans like us, even if we are earning in dollars. As usual I enjoyed reading your article, Henry!

  4. Tom says

    Henry good article you will now soon find out since you’re not spending money on your new friends they will soon turn into your new enemies.

    Many first timers her get roped into a false sense of how nice everyone here is and how many new friends they have made.

    Your new friends have one thing in common they are interested in spending your money or using you to promote themselves in some way.

    Take your time and pick your friends here wisely

    Tom / Roxas City

    • says

      Yes, so very true. I’ve been holding back for about a week now. Some of them are still friendly while a few others keep texting for money. I just tell them, “No.” and that’s the end of that.

      Manwhile, there are some others who have yet to ask me for anything. They are friends of my g/f, a few of the mall employees and a guy I meet up with at the cockfights who just loves the sport. Hopefully through the experiences we all share here (as contributing writers) will serve to better prepare future traveler’s what to expect. :)

  5. Tom Ramberg says

    Hi Henry,

    I enjoyed your article. I have to say that with time you will see a lot of similarities with friendships here and freindships in the US. I have been here for three years and I am happy to say that I have many friends. In fact tomorrow I am scheduled to ride with my motorcycle group of 30 from Gen San to Tagum. I am very proud to say that most of my friends are Filipino. I have very few foriegn friends because if they behave badly then I fear I would be percieved as having the same character. Something to think about before joining an ex-pat group. I always say whoever has the most friends when they die is the winner.

    • says

      That gives me some hint I’m on the right track then. Here, locally, I don’t know any Americans. One Austrian but I only see him by accident in town or on Skype once in a while. I do hope to find some genuine Filipino friends for the most part. Otherwise, I have lots of American friends back home, didn’t need to come all this way to hang out with Americans.. ha!

      I ran into a Japanese guy about two weeks ago. Exchanged numbers with him. A few days later he wanted to know if I’d be interested in buying a treadmill. Another guy I met here, also a foreigner, asked me to forward him some money via Paypal for a week and then he’d pay me back. Nope.. I didn’t want any part of that.

  6. RandyL says

    Hi Henry, great perspective! Although your wealth is a perceived wealth, you are usually more wealthy than those who perceive you as such. For example, if you only have P1,000 to your name, that can be substantially more than many others may have at any given time, and in relevance, you are rich. But….don’t be fooled too quickly. Next time you go to the cock fights, observe the amount of money that exchange hands when betting their favorites. When you begin to understand the hand signals related to betting, you will then notice that many of these purportedly ‘poor’ gentlemen can be carrying and betting many thousands of pesos. Back in the day when I used to go to the fights with friends, I quickly discovered that many of the guys, who I always thought struggled to bring home the bacon (bangus) to the family, actually had more money than I did. Much more! You will also discover that while many Filipinos may not have much disposable income, many posses the ability to sustain their finances on sizable cash flows alone. Never second guess anyone you meet about their ability to produce money. There is one similarity between foreigners and Filipinos when it comes to talking about your money, and like many of your friends back home, they are not quick to discuss finances….unless the subject is about ‘your’ money. Some of your real friends however may never ask you for a centavo and their real ‘richness’ will show – you will know this when they show up on occasion, and unannounced, with a beer and the palutan. And, if they really like you and enjoy your company, they will also spring for the Tuba.

    • says

      Good words and advice. I did notice that down, ringside, where the minimum bet is 10,000 Pesos.. any one of those rich Filipinos down there was dressed like he’d be working at the local swap meet back home. No fancy clothes, just wads of cash to bet on each rooster they were sponsoring. Even up in the nose-bleed seats, where I always sit, lots of poor-looking guys paying out their lost bets of about 500 to 1,000 pesos per fight.

      Speaking of cockfights.. I must be the touch of death, literally, to any rooster I bet on. I keep losing 2/3rds more bets than I win. Sometimes I go with the ‘Favorite’.. other times the ‘Challenger’.. sometimes the bigger one, other times the faster one but… nope, he ends up down for the ‘big sleep’. I gotta work on my rooster-eye if I’m gonna make any money on these birds. ha!

        • says

          What is strange is that I have the same win/loss ratio in Roulette. Bet on black.. turns up Red. Bet on Evens, turns up Odd. Cover 2/3rds of the table.. lands on Green 00. Can’t win for losing. ha!

      • says

        Henry, just be aware that Cockfighting could be addicting. To me it is just like going to the Casino here in Northern California. I have attended one cockfighting tournament here in Marinduque. It will be my last. I just can not stand the noise and the smell of perspiration inside the arena. I prefer the air conditioned casinos for my gambling entertainment. I have a few relatives in the Philippines who are addicts to cockfighting and they spend a lot of money in their addiction and eventually lose their marriage.

        • says

          Not too much worry for me on that end. In California I lived about five minutes from Soboba Casino. In three years I think I spent a total of $25 there in gambling. I’ve been to Vegas maybe once every four years, and usually spend more money on booze than gambling. I’m the kind of person who loses $40 and the whole gambling thing loses it’s charm.

          As for cockfighting, I like it because we have nothing like it in the States.. not legal anyway. I can get a cold beer for 35 Pesos, Cold Watermelon slice for 5 Pesos. I usually bring ice-water so I can do a ‘cool down’ while there with water down my back. I usually stay for about 15 bouts, but only bet on maybe 6 to make it interesting.. 200 Pesos being my usual bet. For me it’s interesting to watch but the gambling part.. I could take it or leave it.

          I’ve heard about people who get into the whole gambling downward-cycle though.. very scary indeed. They end up losing everything, including family and marriage.

    • Boss says

      Too right RandyL, never underestimate the monetary value of a Philippino. What he shows you and what he has are two different stories. One afternoon, looking out from a three storey balcony a few years ago, I saw a block of about 150 provincial ‘homes’ burning down a few metres from a fire station ( now that’s amazing). The whole area was gutted. Yet in three weeks 80% of the homes were rebuilt to new!!! It got me wondering, this is one of the poorest sectors in our city and reconstruction was blazingly quick. So where did the money come from?

  7. Roxas Ron says

    Henry

    This article was very well written. You really have a nack for setting us up with a good story or illustration and then hitting us with the real point of the article. I really enjoy your style. I also wonder about this when I am there. Most of the the time it is easy to tell the general public only have one thing on there mind. What worries me is family. I truly hope I am wrong.

    • says

      Thanks. In regards to family, I only know from the experiences of my g/f she’s had over the years. She develops real estate and has quite a large portfolio of properties. But with it come the taxes, upkeep and lagging renters with their payments. So while her family perceives her as ‘ultra-rich’.. cash flow is a whole other matter.

      Over the years she’s been hit hardest by family members. For everything from loans for businesses, to schooling her nieces (some of whom graduated, got pregnant and never used their degree), home improvements for relatives.. and yet after tens of thousands in US dollars there is still so much resentment from her family that “she doesn’t do enough for them”. Even more so now that I came into the picture and have gotten her to focus on her own child and household as first-priority. Wealth, here, seems to come with it’s own set of problems when it comes to either family or friends it would appear.

  8. says

    Hi Henry – I don’t think you have been here in the Philippines long enough to have formed real and true friendships with people yet. What you have instead is a bunch of acquaintances some of whom may become true and lasting friends whilst others will simply move on to be replaced with time. During my travels over the years the real friends I made are still in contact with me no matter where we live and I’d put myself out to visit them whenever the opportunity arose. Real friends always have something in common with you and if you ever have them to your home or take them out the cost of doing such never comes into question as true friends always reciprocate. A true friend would never ask you for money but that does not prevent you from offering financial assistance should you wish, but only if you can afford not to see it again. Always remember most friendships end when the so called friend whom you have loaned money to does not pay back the loan for whatever reason and therefore the trust is broken. I find it’s better to have just a few close friends whom you enjoy being with than many friends for the sake of it.
    Such is life no matter where you are.
    Regards.
    Jim.

    • JohnM says

      Jim: Spot on. I’ve always figured that most people have many friends, but you usually can count on one hand the few “lifelong” or “best” friends. And I also agree that Henry hasn’t been here long enough yet to find the real friends… Nothing wrong with acquaintances, but true friendships take time.

    • says

      I agree 100% with you, Jim. As I was formulating the article I was going over the main points with my girlfriend. I told her, “You know, in this whole country.. you are the only person I really trust.” Now, her friends are nice people and she’s known some of them since they were kids. I imagine with time I will come to trust them as much as she does. But, as you said, these new acquaintances I have now.. nope, there is no foundation for real trust developed yet. That comes with time and consistency.

      Back home I have a select handful of friends I can trust. I have a larger group of friends I really like and enjoy, but as for really ‘trusting’.. eh, not so much. One buddy of mine I’ve known since we were kids. I asked him to hold over a thousand dollars for me while I switched banks for my move. Even though I told him I’d reimburse him for his time with $100, when the day came he gave me an envelope with the full amount, not expecting anything. As his friend, I insisted he take the cut I originally offered him and all was Jake.

      So.. gonna try to keep my wits about me in the meanwhile. I know everyone here needs money in a bad way. I’m more than willing to trade money for a service or item I need, but I don’t have a bag of money just for handing it out like candy. ha!

  9. Murray says

    I think that every expat who moves to the Philippines will have this dilemma at some stage. My girls family suckered me for all they could get until I cut them off. Honestly some of the stories they told me to get money were simply so bizarre they must have thought I was an idot to believe them. They even resorted to stealing off us. They are no longer welcome in my house, my girl still visits them but now I am not the golden goose her presence is not overly welcome. I have a lot of good Filipino friends, they know I am on a strict budget, they know that when I lend them money it must be repaid, and they understand that sometimes I just don’t have extra to buy the drinks.

    • says

      My g/f has had both maids and live-in nieces she had to ask to move out because she eventually caught them stealing out of her purse. She would even hide money in her coat pockets in the closet and still they’d enter her room and find even that!

      Same happens everywhere, in every country. I was speaking with a good friend of mine over Skype last night. She is from Nicaragua and she says when she arrives there suddenly everyone wants to be her ‘bodyguard’ and entourage, following her into town expecting free meals and free anything along the way. It’s not just a few bad Filipinos.. it’s a ‘mentality’ some people have, in just about any country.

  10. Bob New York says

    I think many in The Philippines read on the internet or discover in other ways what jobs pay in the USA, convert the amount to Peso and dream of what they can do in their own country with that amount of money. Most of them have no concept at all of what it cost to live in the USA. I think that is part of the reason we are all ” rich or wealthy ” to many Filipinos. Another contributing factor is the fact that those of us that move to or even just visit The Philippines if we have enough money just to get there, we must be wealthy.

    I would approximate that the average wage earner in The Philippines earns less than the equivalent of $10 USD per day with a majority of them like $5 to $8 per day with a high percentage of them on a 6 month contract job ( no benefits ).

    When I have explained to some of my Filipino friends how much things cost here in the USA, sometimes they gasp as though it is unbelieveable.

    I am sure there are more factors that contribute to the ” Illusion ” that everybody from the USA and possibly the UK and other parts of the world are ” Rich “. Yes, in many ways we are better off but not always that much better off.

    • says

      As I mentioned in the article, when I was asked if we really did have poor people in the U.S., it seemed like a joke-question. I’m guessing not a lot of American television gets aired here, and what does probably shows the implied wealth. Big houses, nice cars, lots of time for drama and no work (soap opera crap, basically). So it’s no wonder they think our pockets are bulging with cash.

      Me.. I often go to the local mall wearing denim shorts and a simple, colored t-shirt with sandals. What I’d normally wear back home to work in the yard or just kick around casually. Even so, I get sniffed out.

  11. IloiloStuart says

    This is a very good article with excellent comments. I move here to Iloilo in June of this year and while I did know that I was going to be perceived of a rich, I didn’t know the extent of it. When I talk to locals or even my wife’s family and let them know what it costs to live in the US (I am from San Diego), they are amazed. My wife, who is an OFW and has spent years in the Middle East as a nurse, almost didn’t believe me when I told her that I see more homeless/street people in San Diego than I do on the streets of Iloilo. I suppose it all about perception. It has been quite a learning experience, sometimes frustrating but mostly rewarding. However….I really miss Mexican food!!!

    • says

      Ohhh.. Stuart, now you just brought to mind ‘El Indio’ Mexican food over in San Diego!! I was raised on good Mexican food and I get that craving here on Mactan every so often. But, sadly.. you don’t go to the Philippines for good Mexican food. ha! I tried twice that ‘Mooons’ Mexican place. Oh geez, not even close. Nice atmosphere though and the girls wear very cute skirts. :)

      I’ve spent a lot of time in San Diego since I love Balboa and Mission Beach, it’s my summer Mecca every year in the States all those years. But you’re right, lots of homeless and panhandlers. San Diego can get pricey, especially the utilities. But you already know that. Meanwhile, I could go for a decent Chimichanga right about now. :)

  12. Papa Duck says

    Henry,
    Thanks for your great prospective. My g/f is well aware all kano’s are not rich. She is very thrifty with her money and has no problem telling people no if they ask her for some. Looking forward to your next post. Take care.

    • says

      That’s good you and your g/f are on the same page.. makes going in the same direction much easier.

      In the States I met a girl while I was out doing my PC Repair rounds. She gave me her number and said I should call her sometime. She was really pretty and getting kinda touchy-feely with me for having just met. A couple days later I called to see if she’d like to catch a movie or something. Nope. Instead she wanted to know if we could meet at a Starbucks.. so I could pick up her PC to be worked on. Figuring it was now a ‘business call’, I said I could do that and what my rates were. As soon as I mentioned my rates she said, “Oh.. but I was thinking since we’re friends you’d take a look at it for nothing.”

      This is what I mean, I don’t like being ‘used’ for what I have. And it can happen in any country. Pretty girls catch on real quick that they can get ‘free stuff’ just by being a bit flirty with no intention of following through.

  13. Bryan G says

    The Filipinos are more than any people I have been involved with are obsessed with money – I do not think it is directly due to poverty as I have lived in places which were poorer than the Philippines and there was not the same obsession. Over the years I have lent thousands of dollars to Filipino friends and relatives and in only one case have I received any of it back.From what I gather the philosophy is that if you can afford to lend the money you really do not need it anyway. I worked for many years in the Middle East with Filipino co-workers and many times was told of relatives back home who had been trusted to supervise the building of a house who spent the remitted funds on themselves with no house built. To be brutally frank there is an innate dishonesty in Philippine society that accounts for the corruption that pervades every aspect of life in the Philippines. The police,military,judiciary,civil service and politicians are corrupt to a degree that I have only experienced in Africa. This conclusion has come from a long association with the country – I am a resident and first came to Manila in 1986 after I was married. It was a conclusion that came from personal experience, observation, and anecdotal evidence from others. In spite of this I love the place and some of the happiest times in my adult life have been spent in the Philippines.
    No place is perfect – my own country,Scotland is relatively free of corruption but the weather is horrible so I cope with the dishonesty as I do with the Scots weather – acknowledge it is there but pretend it isnt!

    • says

      “It is what it is.” While Filipinos themselves will admit much of the politics here is corrupt, I still feel safer with the corruption here than in Mexico. Chiefly because the corruption here is based on greed, while the corruption in Mexico come with the threat of violence from the cartels behind it.

      I came here with zero expectation to change anything. How they run the country, whether they ever build an infrastructure or not.. it’s all out of my hands. My only goal was to find out “what’s what” and adjust to it.

      Meanwhile, my g/f made an illegal left turn a few days ago. A police officer pulled her over to give her a ticket. 500 Pesos (~$11) and she was on her way. He would have settled for 100 Pesos, but she got to laughing with him and decided to give him extra. No ticket and she was on her way.

      It’s just how it’s done here. Me.. I’m raised to be deathly afraid of offering an officer a bribe.

  14. says

    So you’re meeting random people like mall clerks…and then inviting them to come out eating and drinking with you? Do you regularly do that sort of thing in California?

    • says

      I met my girlfriend in a restaurant she was waitressing in. That worked out pretty well. :) I’ve met people servicing their computers, many of them are still good friends of mine five years later. Most people are probably not as chatty or ‘friendly’ as I am. I met a man at 11:30pm while I was out taking a walk down the street last week. I’ve had lunch with homeless people back in the States, or just sat and had conversation with them. I don’t have EVERYONE over at my house, I made an exception for them after knowing them about two weeks.

      But most people are probably more conservative than I am about meeting new people.

  15. says

    The Philippines is a lot like a mirror of Mexico. I have lived in Mexico 7 years and seen many “friends” come and go. As you said one difference being the violent side in Mexico. I have loaned out tools to my ex’s cousins and nephews never to see them again. When I confronted one nephew about when he was going to return my tools he became enraged and almost violent. My wife had to step in. I have learned to be contrary to my giving side and don’t loan anything anymore whereas I known as the cheap gringo now.. I’m moving to the Philippines in a few weeks and glad that I have had some training already in Mexico.

    • says

      I see the difference between Mexico and Philippines also in the traffic. Here, in Philippines, everyone uses the horn to let you know what they’re doing. Traffic is ‘fluid’ and people do allow each other to ‘cut in’. But in Mexico, not even ambulances can get the right of way. It’s a “dog eat dog” mentality and nobody cares if you get stuck for 20 minutes trying to make a left turn.

      Glad to hear you’re leaving Mexico and making your way over here to Philippines.. much nicer atmosphere overall, imo.

  16. dine says

    When I go home , my family knows my ways…they know that I just don’t pay for anybody’s way unless I offer. They know my budget and they know my limitation. I just don’t invite just anybody in my home or anywhere. If I happened to invite my friends, this means I will pay for it. If I happened to see friends in a restaurant where I happened to be in , I will not purposely invite them to eat with me unless I am willing to pick up the tab. I am very honest with regards to my finances with my family. Whoever has the money will pick up the tab or at least share. I really don’t care if they say I am cheap, I care if I will go broke because I pretend. I have done this for years and it works. So far I have not been taken advantage of. You have to set limitation wherever you are.

    • says

      Very true. My g/f has found that by setting such limitations her so-called ‘girlfriends’ responded by gossiping about her behind her back and not coming around any more once she stopped picking up the tab at the nice restaurants ‘they’ were inviting her to meet at. Fine. As I say, “You don’t need to go away mad.. just go away.” ha!

  17. gerry says

    Interesting article :) When I used to take different female friends out for lunch/dinner, I was always amazed at how many times their friends were just passing and could they join us :) :)

    If I reached dessert without any extra friends visiting…. I knew it was because I had found a resto so far from everywhere that “passing” was improbable :) But once I did take 3 friends from Las Pinas to a resto in Makati… yes you’ve guessed it 4 of their friends were just passing

    It can be fun watching it unfold every time :) Don’t really mind buying a little extra food :)

    • says

      You know the bill is going up when the one person you invited brings along another person and then.. as it’s time to order, they both start Texting their friends.

      • says

        LOL. If I had a peso for every time I saw some poor foreign guy out on a date with a couple of third wheels. At first I was thinking WOW how did he do that?

        • says

          I know what you mean. A few weeks ago I went, alone, to a nice club here on Mactan (Chicago Joe’s.. awesome place). First it was two women, so I bought them each a beer. Next thing I know they are texting and sure as the sun rises.. along come four of her friends.. all thirsty and hungry. That was my cue to take one of them out dancing. So what happens?, all six of them came out dancing with me. I saw a guy in the crowd I’d met earlier and dragged him over to help me deal with this brood and eventually peeled away from the situation. He’s thinking, “Oh, cool.. six women!” (two were ladyboys, ha!) Meanwhile I made my exit, Otherwise my booze-bill would have sky-rocketed for the night.

  18. DINE says

    If you have a girlfriend with a lot of friends and families wanting to join you every time you go out, you should take your girlfriend aside and tackfully tell her that you are not planning to pay for everyone’s way. Give that responsibiliy to her because it is her family and friends. Yes, it is embarrasing at times and I know you should not have to do that, but sometimes you just have to spell the words to be understood. As I have said your girlfriends should know your limitations. Yes, I could understand that sometimes you also have to share, but they should not think that you are their bank. If your girlfriend does not understand, I guess you have choosen the wrong one.

    • says

      It hasn’t been anyone related to my g/f that’s been the problem. Her and I always meet alone and enjoy our time dining out just for us. Where I have had problems is with the ‘new friends’ that I’ve met on my own local to where I live. (I live in Mactan, my g/f is in Cebu.)

  19. Tom says

    Roxas Ron I own the Rice Mill located in Panitan Town 23KM from Roxas City stop by for coffee if your out this way

    Tom/ Roxas City

  20. says

    I’m guessing you didn’t really pay attention to what I wrote or to any of the comments/discussion above. I can tell this by reading what your comment.

    While I do start up conversations at times with people, several of the people I’ve met came to me, approached me, and since then I’ve seen them on a regular basis since they work at the mall. Perhaps to you that qualifies as “creepy and strange”. To me, that’s just daily life. If I were approaching people in dark alleys late at night, maybe then you could use that term.

    You also assume I wouldn’t do that in the US. I’ve gone to the mall in the US simply because I was bored, waited for a movie to start and ended up talking to people there in the public area. Maybe you’re more of an introvert, the sort of person who waits for other people to approach you first. I’m not. I’m a friendly guy. I’ll talk to people I don’t know. That’s how you meet new people, by the way. I take a proactive stance, sounds like you take a passive one when it comes to meeting new people. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of people you know are either relatives or co-workers, not people you met on a whim or by chance.

    Another assumption, that I have a wife and family here. I don’t have a wife, I’m not married. And I definitely don’t have a family here. Also, if you had read my response (above) to ‘Jim’.. you would have read that he and I are in agreement that the people I’ve met are not “friends” in the full sense, but more like ‘acquaintances’. As such, it is not I who is ‘mistaken’ regarding their status, but you in making that assumption about me.

    As for not attracting ‘honorable’ people by being friendly, I just have to disagree with you on that. In order for your statement to be true, it assumes the majority of people in public are not honorable. Including people like you and everyone on this board who could be at any time part of ‘the public’ I might run into at the mall. Police stats show that the majority of crimes in any given city are committed by the SAME 3-5% of individuals. So, I’d have to disagree that honorable people cannot be found in a public setting such as a mall.

    Given these data points, I’m inclined to think you really didn’t felt sorry at all for sounding ‘denigrating’.

    • Ricardo Sumilang says

      Not sure how readers could have misinterpreted your outgoing personality , I went over your article and picked out passages that may have given the impression that your effort to befriend Filipinos in the six weeks that you have been in the country borders on the strange side. In your own words:

      “In six weeks I’ve managed to go from not knowing a soul to now knowing about twenty people I see almost every other day, some of them every day. We’ve had lunch together, gone drinking together and one even confided some emotional pains they were going through in a relationship with me that they didn’t share with their closer friends. Recently I invited four of them to my little studio where I cooked up a nice, little dinner we had together.”

      “Out of the twenty I’d say I’ve given money to at least seven of them at one point or another.”

      “Today two of the people I met with at the mall were asking me all kinds of questions about Southern California, since that is where I lived all my life.”

      “I’m usually out walking the street after midnight to get some exercise or just observe the people who come out late at night.”

      “My girlfriend, when I told her I’d made dinner for a group I know from the mall said, “Well.. now they’ll be back and you’ll never know when.”

      • says

        I suppose being outgoing is ‘strange’ to those who play it more safe. I consider people who do rock-climbing to be completely insane. I’d never do that. But I have skydived many times and am open to zip-lining. Yet I would never bungee-jump.

        So, I guess every person has their own limits, whether it be putting their physical self “out there” or their personality.

    • says

      Jobe, I don’t know you. I don’t know how bad your life has been that you feel the need to go through life filled with so much distrust, hate, anger and vehemence. And now you are resorting to name-calling.

      On top of that you’re taking things way out of context. In the first place, the mix of people I’ve met are equally men and women. I’m not out hitting on mall girls as perhaps maybe you do, thus it’s the only thing that comes to your mind. You ignore the family I mentioned that I had dinner with. You ignore the man I meet with at the cockfights. You ignore the men and women I know through my girlfriend and instead choose to take a microscope to a few items and use it to justify your lashing out.

      You sound like a bored, angry, critical person who sees the worst in life. Maybe it’s because your own life sucks really bad and you hate the idea that other people are out there.. enjoying life. Do try to get out of the funk you are in. For, if you do not, you will find yourself continually criticizing and name-calling decent people without justification. (As you’ve already done here.)

  21. Jamie says

    The older I get, the more I understand how important communication skills are. And not just having communication skills, buy constantly working on improving those communication skills.

    I like to use a Star Trek analogy (the original series). Henry, you are like Scotty. The Scottys of the world are blessed with the gift of gab, are the life of the party, and are crucial in forging new and unique relationships. Spock plays it safe, wanting to analyze everything and pursue what is logical. McCoy is the emotional doctor who often will bend rules because the end justifies the means. Captain Kirk has all of these qualities, and is the ideal that we strive to become.

    I find myself (and Jobe) to be more like the Spock personality. But as Spock becomes older and wiser, as shown in the last Star Trek movie, he understands the importance of thinking outside the box, and embraces the humanity inherent in the other characters alluded to above.

    Henry, I think your ability to strike up conversations with total strangers is a wonderful ability. Good for you. But the Spock in me has to say, just be careful when drinking:-)

    • says

      Very creatively, and articulately, put. I happen to be huge Bill Shatner fan, beyond Star Trek. Especially as Denny Crane. ‘TJ Hooker’.. well, they can’t all be home-runs. But I just really look up to the guy, hoping I’ll have lunch with him, someday.

      And yes, that difference between the heart and the mind.. the tension between the two in one’s life path. You see, I was born a Spock from birth. I cannot escape the over-driving analytical side of me. It’s in my DNA. But something snapped free about 20 years ago and suddenly Scotty appeared, out of nowhere. Perhaps it was simply his time. And now.. can’t shut him up. :)

      The sober part of me says, “Good advice, I’ll be careful when speaking to strangers.” The intoxicated me will say, “My name is Scotty.. come, dance with me woman.” :)

  22. Boss says

    This is one of those ‘must read’ articles that every foreigner should be exposed to when coming to the Pines. My first three weeks in the Pines taught me how much and to whom my money should be directed to. The rest is history.

  23. James Watt says

    Hello Henry.
    My wife and I live in the wilds of Davao Oriental.

    In the beginning, it was a nice feeling that everyone thought my wife and I were rich.
    So many ‘friendly’ people interested in us, mainly due to the fact we are both foreign. (There are 2 countries in the world, America, and Philippines)
    But every day being asked the same questions, as though there is a ‘special book’ on how to initiate conversation with foreigners, caused us to to think “what’s really going on here?”
    When I went for a walk on my own, so many potential ‘girlfriends/dolly daydreams’ (I’m not fooled by the ‘ladyboys’) would approach me. 
    There is a form of ‘Tourettes Syndrome’ where they’d say “hey Joe” without the ability to stop themselves, then would cringe with embarrassment.

    Questions that are considered impertinent back in England, seem to be the norm here.
    Unfortunately there is a suspicion (out here) that “Aliens” are criminals trying to find a ‘safe haven’ in the Philippines.

    In England, we had never come across visitors/OFW’s from the Philippines being shouted at, with “hey Manuel, where you going”? That would be deemed “Bastos”

    Being considered as a rich host that will pay the bill at a local eatery, not only for ‘friends’ but anyone else who happened to invite themselves, seems common in other South East Asian countries as well.

    My pension is 2,000 USD per month!!!!!!!!!!!  WOW!!!!!!
    Where does this notion come from?
    1 pound sterling is worth about 66 pesos, I am so rich.
    “But I only get about 5 pounds per day from a private pension, as I’m too young to qualify for a UK Government pension.”
    The look of incredulity on their faces, is a treat to behold.

    Things are easier for us now, we are “Suki” in many places now. The “normal price is 100 pesos, special price for you, 500 pesos” is pretty much a thing of the past now.

    From the outset, I decided NOT to offer monetary ‘gifts/donations’ to anyone, for anything. Despite getting the ‘run around’ to waste my time, hoping I’d cave in.

    Despite the initial constant clamour for our time (and money) we had a nice time relaxing at home at the end of the day.

    I still have not had time to learn the local language of Mandaya.
    Bit when I pass the time of day in Tagalog or Bisayan, it is appreciated.

    We enjoy the life we have made for ourselves here, but we cannot be complacent about our personal security. 
    If someone wants to ‘get together’ and we decide to entertain the idea, we choose a public place where we are known. NEVER at (or near) our home.

    Hopefully, there are enough people who know us, that would give some assistance if needed?

    Like yourself Henry, we make ourselves approachable, but make it clear we’re not fools.

    • says

      Yes.. that’s the balance we foreigners have to take, well put. I’m willing to believe that most people are inclined to be generous every now and then. However here, word spreads quickly. I helped a family buy medication for their son who had just come out of surgery (I went to see the son in the hospital myself, did not go by word alone.). The very next day people who knew the boy’s family were texting me for anywhere from 500 to 2,000 Pesos. I hate to put it this way, but it’s kinda like trying to feed just one pigeon at the park.. it can’t be done. Word spreads and soon you have thirty of them surrounding you.

      What has helped, a little, has been having some quiet, one-on-one talks with those who ask me the most for money. I tell them that I don’t mind picking up lunch once in a while, but I can’t be counted on it either every day nor for an extra five people they ‘text in’ when I initially agreed to treat just them to lunch. One time I invited a guy, nice person, to some light dinner after his job was finished. Just to have a bite to eat and talk a bit. By the time we got to ordering our food, I was feeding six people plus myself. It’s just how it happens here unless you lay some ground-rules. And even then, what’s understood ‘today’ seems forgotten a week later.

      Me, I’m on a limited budget. I just can’t afford to be the ‘big spender’ every time I bump into an acquaintance in town. I’m not wealthy enough (yet) to be the local philanthropist for every genuine emergency that happens in a ten-mile area. Sometimes we just have to reinforce the response, “No.” And that’s never pleasant business.

    • RandyL says

      Hi James. Reading your response leads me to believe you live on less than P10,000 per month. Is that correct? I just don’t see how a foreigner can live on that amount. Just curious.

  24. James Watt says

    Hello Randy.
    My wife and I have a combined income in excess of P10,000 per month.

    We do not live a lavish lifestyle, or flaunt our ‘wealth’.
    We pay no rent for our home, we have no Cable Television or Telephone bill to pay.
    We are sufficiently acclimatised that at night we sleep with the windows open.
    We do not have large appetites, and purchase local food. At a local eatery I can buy lunch for P27.
    There are Ukay-Ukay stalls that sell (charity donated) clothing as little as P5, if we were desperate.
    Local transport is charged/paid at local rate e.g. P9 for a motor tricycle ride. Or even free of charge at times.

    I’m not attempting to boast or exaggerate the cost of our living here, I have no reason to.
    It is just not a good idea to let people here, think we are loaded with wealth.
    As soon as someone attempts to evaluate our ‘worth’ a Red Flag goes up.
    The questioning focuses on subjects specifically.
    We have some ‘friends’ who already have tried. The fact they are from South Cotabato was a good enough warning. There are some very nice and decent people who live there. But as stated in my earlier post, we are not complacent about our security.
    Hope this goes to satisfy your curiosity Randy?

  25. says

    Province life is definitely sounds much less expensive than here on Mactan. Although here is cheaper than downtown Cebu. But I’m not much for the ‘big city’ life anyway. I like the slow pace here and can always catch a cab to see a movie or lounge around the SM Malls. :)

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