The White Bisaya

Today, we have a guest article from Marielle Misula.  Marielle is a student who lives in Manila.  I was contacted by Marielle several months ago.  She told me that she had a project to do for one of her college classes, and she was to interview somebody and write up the interview for her class.  As I recall, I believe it was for a Journalism class, but I could be mistaken on that.  So, over the course of a month or so, Marielle interviewed me about different aspects of my life in Mindanao, my family, my businesses and other things that I am passionate about.

After completing her write-up, Marielle was offered a chance to have her article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, but due to some circumstances that we had previously agreed upon, Marielle decided to let me publish the article here on LiP instead.  So, please join me in welcoming Marielle to the site.  Marielle, I’d just like to say that I enjoyed working with you on this interview, and I wish you good luck in your studies! MindanaoBob

The White Bisaya

by Marielle Misula

The author, Marielle Misula
The author, Marielle Misula

TO many Filipinos, living in Mindanao is tantamount to digging their own graves.

But, trading his 38 years of living in the Land of Milk and Honey for a newfound abode in Mindanao was what Robert Martin, Jr. had in mind. Being adventurous that he is, he kept looking for what he called a change in life. And he got more than what he bargained for after moving to Davao with his Filipina wife and all-male brood of three in the summer of 2000.

“I feel that there is more personal friendliness and acceptance in the Philippines than in the USA.  I like the closeness of family.  To be honest, there really is not that much that I don’t like here,” the Washington State native explains.

Initially, his decision to leave the USA came to his relatives’ surprise. None of them actually accepted the news at first. But after living in the East for more than a decade, they have come to terms with his prerogative to build his family in Mindanao. In fact, his 70 year-old mother, Mrs. Billie Martin, made a vow to visit them yearly almost four years ago.

However, he makes it clear that he has no desire to go back to his homeland even just to pay his relatives a visit. In his own words, “I have not visited with my relatives, because I have not returned to the USA since moving to the Philippines.  Honestly, I have no plans to ever go back to the USA, as I am very happy here in the Philippines.  Anybody in my family is welcome to visit here, but I don’t envision myself visiting them there.”

Admittedly, Martin, who also responds to nickname Bob, deems that Filipino culture is very different from the one he was accustomed to. For him, adjusting to the life he has chosen in Davao City is always a work in progress.

MindanaoBob holding a crocodile from the Davao River
MindanaoBob holding a crocodile from the Davao River

“While I have lived here for over a decade, I am still adjusting every day.  Of course, in most ways I am adjusted already, and it takes time and the willingness to accept things that are different than what we are used to, or even what we understand,” the Internet entrepreneur shares.

Being married to General Santos City – native Feyma for 21 years, it is only inevitable for Martin to get a glimpse of how it feels to live in Mindanao, genuinely piquing his interest. Its culture, history and people helped him get started on his journey to knowing the ins and outs of his home miles away from home.

“There is a lot of “unspoiled” land here.  There is a lot of culture from centuries ago that is still alive in Mindanao.  (It) is the only part of the Philippines that was never conquered by the Spanish. Thus, Mindanao has more true Philippine culture that was not bastardized by the Spaniards,” the 49 year-old American expat explains.

In fact, his goal upon setting his foot in Mindanao is to visit all 26 provinces comprising. That’s why to fulfill this ambition, he eyes Sulu and Camiguin as the next targets of the self-confessed traveler.

“I have a friend who is a former reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and we have a little competition going to see who will be the first to visit every Mindanao Province.  He lacks only one, Dinagat, while I lack two,” he shares.

It was his online discussion group, Mindanao-L, that introduced him to the Mindanao-based reporter Bobby Timonera in 1995. But, it was the latter’s work assignment in USA that made them meet each other in person for the first time in 1997. And they have been close friends ever since.

“In fact, Bobby is the Ninong of one of my kids,” he divulges.

Martin reveals that he has no fear of heading to ARMM provinces for a visit. He has actually wandered around Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and even Basilan. However, he’s just waiting for the right timing to visit the Sulu, once he gets in touch with the right people in the area and the peace and order issues have been periodically settled.

Although he has gone to Manila, Pampanga and Cebu, MindanaoBob will always have his home attached to his nickname, where his three favorite provinces, including Tawi-Tawi can be found, “In many ways, Bukidnon reminds me of (the forested areas of Oregon and Washington), parts of the USA where I have lived.  I love being up in the mountains, and that is Bukidnon!  Also, the culture is very different than on the mainland of Mindanao, and I find it interesting. I love Davao because it is where I live, and there are a lot of conveniences here that are not available in most of Mindanao.”

Bob's Mindanaoan Friends, school girls in Tawi Tawi
Bob’s Mindanaoan Friends, school girls in Tawi Tawi

“Tawi Tawi Province consists of 107 islands, so there is always someplace new to go. Being a province consisting of islands, travel around the Province is necessarily by boat rather than car, jeepney or other land based means.  Also, being about 99% Muslim, the culture of Tawi Tawi is very different, with little Christian culture mixed in at all.  Even in other parts of the ARMM, this is still unusual in many respects,” he adds.

In order to mesh with his new surroundings, Bob decided to learn how to speak Bisaya through Bebe Metillo who he met through Shannon, one of his LiP readers, in 2007. It took him one and a half years to complete the course. But, beyond having successful attempts of striking up a conversation in Bisaya, his interest in Mindanao-an culture sparked further when his teacher injected chunks of such in their sessions.

“I wanted to be able to join in with the society here, and not be such an outsider.   I can go anywhere and carry on a conversation with anybody in Cebuano, for as long as I wish to,” he reveals.

And what were his first words of Bisaya? “Ha ha… of course, the first words that anybody learns in a language are the bad (swear) words.  I learned those while still living in the States!”

His proficiency in Bisaya even takes him as far as working on a website for Cebuano language tools, following the trails of the businesses he also established out of passion. He’s now almost done with the training materials ready to be offered to people from all over the globe within at least the next three months.

His brainchild, Live in the Philippines Web Magazine (LiP) which he started operating in 2006, is a repository of his daily adventures in Davao. Together with ten regular contributors (mostly American expatriates), including his spouse, they help foreigners who plan to follow their footsteps by opening a window of Filipino culture through their daily blog posts. The site is a hot melting pot of topics, ranging from the mundane details like how basketball is religiously followed in the Philippines (that and cockfighting, too, despite its absence on local TV) to how corruption is rampant in the country.

LiP is actually part of the many online endeavors he has undertaken over the years. It was his site, Mindanao Magazine, that jumpstarted his foray into Internet publishing in 1995. In fact, it became the birthplace of MindanaoBob, a nickname given to him by one of his readers.

Did you know there is a pyramid in Bukidnon?
Did you know there is a pyramid in Bukidnon?

As his free-of-charge writing aims to reach out to his readers through his many informational site, he also has the time to operate his chain of income-yielding online businesses. This includes his successful gift delivery services called WowPhilippines which he started with a capital of almost a hundred bucks in 2001 and now gives him more than what he earned while working in USA. He also offers advertising and consulting services while handling his bookstore where he has been selling his written works since 2008 and PointmanPI, his private investigation agency all at the same time.

Despite having too much food on his plate, he makes sure he can attend to all his business needs with his strict observance of time and the help of his three employees assisting him in carrying out administrative work, “I don’t go out and party.  I spend my time attending to the things that require my attention.” He can still even reply to at least 800 e-mails he gets every day and walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon if he wants to.

Influenced by his readers’ enthusiasm on certain topics, Martin also plans to embark on another project: a book on Philippine Dual Citizenship and a book series of Virtual Earner Series for those people who want to make money online.

As he draws a thin line at answering questions regarding his family for privacy issues, it is definitely no secret why he does not see Mindanao the way Filipinos picture the southernmost tip of the archipelago through dailies: dangerous and life-threatening. While continuously embracing his new turf, what he has dug here is not definitely his own grave.

Rather, it is a gem, the one composed of a loving family, a successful career and more thrilling adventures in between.

Post Author: MarielleM (1 Posts)

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  1. Paul Thompson says

    To Miss Marielle Misula;
    I very much enjoyed reading your interview with Bob, it was insightful and well thought out. I learned things that I’d previously not known, and so, that also so made reading your article enjoyable. Thank you!

    • says

      I agree, Paul. Marielle did a nice job with the article, and I enjoyed working with her. We had a couple disagreements along the way, but that’s just part of working with other people! 😉 The stuff that you didn’t previously know… I hope it wasn’t bad stuff! 😆

    • Marielle says

      Hi, Mr. Thompson! How are you? Thank you so much for your comment! I’m really touched to know that the article has opened another window for you to peek into Mr. Martin’s life :). Once again, thank you!

      @MindanaoBob: Yeeaaah, we had some disagreements though but I still had fun working with you! Once again, thank you for helping me out :). I’m hoping to work again with you someday!

  2. says

    Congrats from me also, Marielle. I’ve known Bob and his family for nearly 5 years now, and you did a good job capturing a good snapshot of their life.
    I am from the US, but now make my home in Bulacan. Having visited Davao City several times now, I am still very surprised at how my Filipino neighbors view Mindanao. No many it’s even more remote than a distant province, it’s more like another world … where only the adventurous or foolhardy go. How strange it seems to one who has been there.

    Of course, in 5 years, I do notice some reasons for this attitude. There are really two Philippines … Metro Manila and the ROP (Rest of the Philippines). When a news reporter or TV crew travels across that Metro Manila border, they must get foreign service pay. The news media never leaves the Metro unless there is a flood or some other state of calamity.

    Keep writing.

    • says

      Hi Dave – In regards to your point about “Manila and the ROP” – many years ago a friend told me something that has stuck with me until now:

      “The Philippines is not Manila, and Manila is not the Philippines.”

      If you think about it, it is very true.

      • says

        That is certainly a true statement. Last storm season there was a lot of damage to the power transmission system on Luzon. And there was a televised news conference with the President and key staff members, explaining what was being done to get the power back on line. I mean the TV stations really took notice, because parts of Metro Manila were off line … wow, what’s that all about?

        After nearly 15 minutes explaining how hard his team had worked and how now nearly 89% of Metro Manila was back online, some “provincial” member of the President’s staff made a really surprising comment. He stated that there was a lot more to the Philippines than Metro Manila and wanted an estimate of when the rest of Luzon would be restored.

        “Deer in headlights” look from the ‘all powerful” power official. After a few minutes of head scratching and nose rubbing, and a lot, I mean a lot of “Aaahs’ and “Actually’s, came the response. “My department will have to study that, sir, we’ll prepare a report for you.”

        So sad to see how the central ‘regime’ really cares so little about the ROP.

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Mr. Dave Starr! Thank you for your kind words! They’re very much appreciated :). Btw, which part of Bulacan are you currently residing in?

      Wow, I didn’t know that! That is indeed an implication of how people residing in Metro Manila see Mindanao at a glance, and vice versa. Actually, I have yet to visit Mindanao but I do believe it has so much to offer, too. Sure, not all people see Mindanao as another paradise on Earth but who knows? Maybe someday, people will start having a change of heart and see the good things Mindanao has in store for them, too.

  3. Neila Miranda says

    Very interesting articles, i love to read it not because i am from Mindanao but its all because truth from Bob Martin. Thank you so much Marielle Misula

    • Marielle says

      Good day, Ms. Neila Miranda! Thank you for reading the article, too! Seeing positive comments about this article means so much to me. Once again, thank you!

    • Marielle says

      Hi, Mr. David B. Katague! Thank you so much for your comment! I’m actually a Communication Arts major but journalism is my concentration :). I’m not really good at expressing my emotions but I hope you could feel how thankful I am! Have a nice day!

  4. says

    Hi Marielle- Thank you for a wonderful interview with Bob. If journalisim is to be your forty, I truly wish you well in your career.
    Kind regards.

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Sir Jim! Thank you for your kind words! I can’t express how thankful and happy I am to read comments like this :) Have a nice day!

  5. Papa Duck says

    Marielle, Bob

    Good job on capturing the life of MindanaoBob. Good luck on your future journalism endeavors, i know you will have lots of success in the future. Bob,We are lucky to have your wealth of knowledge available to us and its greatly appreciated. Do you know how many more e-books you will be publishing in the Virtual Earner Series? I am interested in purchasing some in the future. Thanks so much, have a nice day.

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Papa Duck! Thank you for your comment! I’m running out of words to say how thankful, happy and privileged I am to receive such feedback :). Reading comments like this inspires me more to hone whatever needs honing :).

      @ MindanaoBob: I’m looking forward to seeing more Virtual Earner e-books from you in the future! :).

  6. Andres Kenneth Ryan says

    This is probably one of the most comprehensive blog ever written about Bob Martin’s life in the Philippines. Good job Marielle!

    • Marielle says

      Hi, Mr. Andres Kenneth Ryan! Thank you so much for your comment! I gladly appreciate it! Have a nice day!

  7. Pita Mike says

    Ahh, the Pacific Northwest, Hey Bob, I was stationed at Fort Lewis many moons ago, a beautiful part of the world, especially that day when the sun came out! No wonder you love Mindanao!

    The article by Marielle was really done up nice, good job.

  8. Bob New York says

    A very nice presentation and consolidation of facts of ” Mindanao ” Bob Martin. For the past few years I have been reading many websites about The Philippines and this has been one the most informative and helpful ones that I know of. Always fresh material comming in not only from Mindanao but from many other parts of the world as well.

    I have enjoyed reading your article.

    • Marielle says

      Hi, Sir Bob! Thank you for your comment! I actually owe it to MindanaoBob, if it weren’t for his willingness to answer my queries, then I would not have any idea of how an expat truly perceives Mindanao. I have to admit though: I don’t even know Mindanao by heart since I have yet to visit the island. And it’s surprising yet amazing to find out how beautiful it is from the eyes of an expat like MindanaoBob :).

      Once again, thank you, Sir! Have a great day!

  9. Rae says

    Kudos Marielle for this well-written article! Bob thank you so much for putting Mindanao back on the map especially among expats! Your love, knowledge and exposure in Mindanao put Filipinos (including me) to shame for you know and have been to more towns in Mindanao than most of us! I was born and lived in Davao for 36 yrs. before I migrated to N.America but I’ve only been to CDO & Gen.Santos in Mindanao!

    I miss PI and Davao so much but I thank you for this great site where I’m able to get updates and somehow appease my homesickness. Thanks again for being a great ambassador for Mindanao! Keep up the good work!

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Ms. Rae! How are you? Thank you for your comment!

      Regarding MindanaoBob’s knowledge and exposure on Mindanao: Word! I even have yet to set foot in Mindanao! And although I’m very interested in learning how to speak Bisaya, I can’t just get past “Ambot”! Haaay, ambot!

      And yeah, sorry for butting in, MindanaoBob, but, Ms. Rae, I am sure you won’t regret treating this site as your virtual home away from home! 😉 Hehe, have a nice day! Once again, thank you for your comment :).

  10. sugar says

    Marielle – Great interview! insightful! So Bob, you’ve been to Basilan…. hmm, oh..kay. I’m guilty.. I’m probably one of those Filipinos that thinks it’s a dangerous place; rebels fighting, church burned down, teachers kidnapped, that’s what I would hear in the news, anyway.

    • says

      Basilan should not be taken lightly as a travel destination. For anybody who wants to go there, you should have good connections in the area, a guide is a good idea too.

    • Marielle says

      Hi, Ms. Sugar! Thank you for your comment! And yeah, we also share the same sentiments regarding Basilan. But by following MindanaoBob’s advice, I think touring around Basilan still sounds like a good plan :).

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Mr. Maust! Thank you so much for your comment! I have gone over the comments for several times now yet I can’t still help but smile and gush over the kind words you all have given me. (Accck, I hope I’m not coming off as self-absorbed. I mean it’s not everyday that I receive positive comments like this :D). I also wish you the best and have a good day!

  11. Glen Elligsen says

    Thankyou so much Neila,

    I found this article so well written ,of a genuine heart that has now shared his life with so many there in and around Mindanao, Davao.. Bob the ideas you have, the ventures you have created , never fail to entertain well as touch my heart.. For me not living in the Philippines YET.. but I agree and understand completly about the relative deal Bob ie, and being happy not to return,all tou have is there .. all the love..and adventure.

    Thanks so much Neila ,for sharing

    • Marielle says

      Hello, Mr. Elligsen! Don’t worry, no harm done! :).

      Thank you for your kind words, nevertheless! And I do also hope that MindanaoBob’s adventures would also encourage you to visit the Philippines (and perhaps, settle here for good? :D) in the near future :). Have a great day!

  12. Marcel says

    “bastardized by the Spaniards” a bit too harsh isn’t it? imitating US wont keep native culture pure either…

    • says

      I don’t think it is harsh. Bastardized just means changed, or influenced. You are right, US culture is just as bad in terms of mixing or bastardizing the Mindanaoan culture. But, the point I was making was that Mindanaoan culture was not vastly influenced by the Spanish like Luzon or the Visayas, because the Spaniards never conquered Mindanao. I don’t think it’s harsh, just honest.

  13. Eric says

    Bob, this is a very good article to be published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer to further spread your popularity. How come it wasnt? I hope it will be republished there.

    • says

      Hi Eric – At the very beginning, when Marielle asked me to do an interview with her, we made a few agreements regarding the article. One of the agreements was that I would be allowed to review the article and check for accuracy before the article was to be used in any way. Unfortunately, the Inquirer has a policy that the person who does the interview is not allowed to see the article before publication. Because of our earlier agreement, I insisted on reviewing the article prior to any publication, so the Inquirer chose not to publish it.

      You are right, being in the Inquirer is a big thing.. but also I have been in the Inquirer many times already. I am sorry for Marielle that it worked out that way, I am sure she would have loved to see the article in print. But, I manage my profile closely, and wanted the opportunity to see the article before publication to ensure it’s accuracy.

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