During almost three weeks in the Philippines, I didn’t stay in antiseptic, isolated, 4-star hotels. I lived in a middle-class Filipino household and lived, slept, and ate everything that Filipinos know from birth. Whenever you travel, far and away the most interesting things you will experience are the people that live there. The Pyramids are awesome and so is the Great Wall of China, but you gotta meet the common people to really understand the place you’re visiting. That means get out of the hotel lobby, avoid the folks trained to treat you like a king by the hotel staff, and take the risk to experience something different.
My wife, Shey, was born in the Philippines and she kinda needed this trip. Honestly, it’s rough moving to another country where the very food you eat is dramatically different. Luckily, I love a lot of Filipino food, so a three-week transition to the Phils for me is small potatoes. Shey’s family (MY family) is awesome. Her brothers (MY brothers), Lyndon and Eric (yeah, one has the same name as me) are awesome. Eric drove us around for hours and hours with not a hint of complaint (No reklamo). Lyndon and Eric are both talented musicians. We spent hours rockin’ out with Filipino Tanduay Rhum (love it!) and talking about music. The people of the Philippines are its greatest asset, so now lets meet the family.
REALLY visit other countries and you’ll find you have more in common than differences. While Lyndon lounged, Shey took a pic over him just to tease. Lyndon realized she was there and hopped up in a fighting stance. Yeah, siblings fight with all the energy and passion of those in the US. Lyndon’s reaction proves this. After all the years apart, the same old reactions are still there.
In the US, a middle-class family could never afford household help. In the Philippines, it’s completely different. A middle-class family can easily afford one or even two household helpers. This is JR, who helps with the cooking and cleaning. The family does some of it, he fills in the rest. JR’s family is so poor that this is a cushy job for him. He’s given free room and board, he doesn’t have to wear a monkey suit, they bought him a motorcycle to run errands, and they’re paying for his college education, something he could never afford otherwise. Maybe I should’ve gone to college in the Phils.
As you drive down the road in the Phils, you commonly see animals beside the road. I mean, a LOT of them. Chickens, dogs, goats, oxen all hanging out and munching away on something. Here’s Eric pausing for a driving break beside some goats.
While visiting the small town of Siaton, we stopped for the night. In the morning, this guy climbed up a palm for fresh coconuts. He chopped them open and poured out fresh coconut water. It tastes great and, after you drink it, the loads of good vitamins will make you feel like a million bucks.
This family built their house out of local, found materials. They’re quite poor, but in typical Filipino fashion they brave it all with a smile and a joke. These folks don’t see white men too often (they’re usually only found in expensive hotels). So when I showed up it was a bit of excitement for them. They kept giving me a thumbs up.
In the Visayas, a LOT of people own motorcycles. As the family vehicle, they can do the most amazing things on them, things that would never be allowed in the US. Look closely at this pic. There’s four people on this motorcycle. I saw this often. Once, I saw a family of five whizzing by.
Security is handled quite a bit more seriously in the Philippines. In the mall, the security guards walk around armed with shotguns. At the bank, they’re armed with M-16 assault rifles. Yeah, I felt pretty safe at the bank.