Remember, last week I wrote an article entitled “Bon Voyage” and I told you about the fact that a lot of expats are leaving the Philippines right now, most of them are headed back home? Well, at the end of last week, I found out about another expat friend of mine who recently left the Philippines too. Unfortunately, though, he left the Philippines in a completely different way than you might expect.
I was not close with this fellow, but his name was Toby Gorden. Toby was from Australia, and I met him a few years ago for the first time. I was introduced to Toby by another Australian friend that I have known for a long, long time, Leon. Leon came here about 3 years ago, as I recall, after having known each other for 15 or more years. Leon had been to the Philippines before, but not to Mindanao. He was wanting to have work done on his teeth, and he decided to come visit me, since we had not met, only knew each other over the Internet. I knew a dentist here who could help him out and do a good job, so the trip was really a perfect chance for Leon to get his dental work done for a great price, and we also had the chance to meet for the first time in person.
Leon’s trip went well, so he recommended the dentist to Toby back in Australia, who also needed some work done. Leon asked me to get together with Toby and help him while he was in Davao, as it was his first time to visit the Philippines. During his trip, Toby met a lady, they fell in love, and in the long run Toby and the lady were married. Toby decided rather quickly that he was going to move to the Philippines to live with his wife here. So, as it turned out, Toby settled in Butuan City, in Northern Mindanao, the Caraga Region.
Over the years, both in my communications with Toby, and by hearing from other expats, I learned that Toby was very unhappy here in the Philippines. In my article last week, I pointed out a number of reasons why many expats become unhappy here, and things that cause them to move back to where they came from. Let’s have a little review and see how these things affected Toby.
- Financial – Toby was on a limited budget from his pension from his work days back in Australia. It always seemed that money was tight for Toby. In fact, I got one e-mail from him one time where he was really complaining about how expensive the Philippines was. In fact, he claimed to me that it cost nearly twice as much to live here as it did in Australia. He gave examples of products that were at least double the price here. Problem was, Toby was trying to buy all the same products that he used in Australia, imported stuff. Local products, which he refused to use, were way cheaper.
- Culture – Toby seemed to hate the culture here, and he made no attempt to understand it or adjust to it. In fact, by listening to him, it seemed that he came to hate Filipinos. Why did he decide to live here, then? I have no idea.
- Loneliness – My understanding is that Toby became very lonely, and spent a lot of time alone. I have been told that a lot of other expats didn’t like to hang around with him because his attitude was just so negative due to his unhappiness here. Even some long time friends of Toby abandoned him and didn’t speak with him any more. Since Toby didn’t seem to like Filipinos, well, that left him pretty lonely, I’d say.
- Climate – I don’t know of any problems that Toby had with the climate, nor do I believe that this had any impact on him, to my knowledge.
- Language – Toby made no effort to learn the local language where he lived. I have heard from some people who were close to him that Toby would really come unglued when people would not speak English.
I got an e-mail last week from Toby’s wife. She was writing to inform me that Toby had died. She did not elaborate on the cause of his death, and I wondered what the cause of death was, because from what I could observe, Toby was healthy. Last night, I got a bit of a shock when I got an e-mail from a mutual friend, and he pointed me to an article on the GMA News website. According to the article, Toby had committed suicide last week. I was shocked. But, as I thought about it, the shock wore off and I realized that I should not have really been surprised much, because Toby was very sad, lonely and depressed in the Philippines. Living here is not for all of us, and Toby’s suicide proves that to be true.
I have really been sad since learning of Toby’s suicide. Although Toby and I were not so close, I did consider him a friend, and I have never had a friend commit suicide before. Like I said, it really saddened me, because I would have hoped that Toby would have reached out to somebody, either me or somebody that he was closer to, so that he could talk through his feelings.
According to the article, Toby left a suicide note, and in it he said that he felt he had been abandoned by most of his loved ones in Australia. I suspect that he also felt abandoned by his expat friends too, because as I stated earlier, most expats who knew him had sort of kept a distance from Toby, because of his bad attitude. I always felt that Toby was a nice guy, happy fellow, and such, but when he moved to the Philippines he lost that quality, and it eventually led to his suicide.
I know I’ve already said this, but I feel sad today, thinking about Toby. Suicide is not something that I have had to deal with before, and I don’t like the experience of having to see a friend go through what happened with him. It does make me think twice, though, and makes me want to ask all of you this:
Are you really sure that living in the Philippines is for you?
Make sure that it is. Don’t burn your bridges, in case it doesn’t work out. Always keep an option to return to where you came from, in case the depression sets in for you too. There is no shame in returning to where you came from and saying things didn’t work out for you here. It’s better than the alternative. Also, remember, if you want to stick it out here and become happy here, you will have to go through tough emotions, hard adjustments and such. I know, because I did it. I also have witnessed others who have gone through the same things, even though they told me it would never happen to them. Truth is, it happens to all of us. Adjusting to life in the Philippines is not easy. This is not paradise, no matter what you think.
I am not saying that it is not worth it. I love living here, and I would not even consider going back, but it took time for me to come to that opinion. While I have never considered suicide, there have been times when going back to the States crossed my mind. I’m glad that I am past that now. I am also glad that I have done what I needed to do to adjust to life here and to be happy with the life here.
Rest in peace, Toby. I hope you have found your happiness again.