This Article by Michael O’Riordan from his column Outside Looking In was first published on the 26th of November 2017 in the Dumaguete Metropost

While sipping coffee today and watching dawn gently enter the valley, I was reminded yet again about the fragility of life. First, there was a whistling sound, then an object flying at high speed came crashing into the house. A beautiful multi-colored bird quivered momentarily before dying inches from my feet. Moments before it had been soaring majestically over the mountain while unconsciously rejoicing in its magnificent flying skills. Then, it was dead.

This incident served as an unneeded reminder about this brief dance through time we all experience, and why I eagerly embrace each day.

I first roared with laughter then shuddered in disbelief as I recently read page two of the Metro Post. A foreigner had purchased a box of what were supposed to be sexual aid pills from one of the many street vendors on Rizal Boulevard in Dumaguete. He could also have purchased fake pearls or fake Rolex watches. After opening the box and finding it contained only peanuts, the irate foreigner went to the police and lodged a formal complaint. Had I been stupid enough to make such a purchase I would have laughed and left it at that but not so the outraged foreigner! He went with the police to the boulevard and identified the vendor who, when searched, was found to also have three matches of marijuana leaves and some rolling papers. He was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison. I wonder if the foreigner feels justified for his part in destroying this impoverished man’s life because of his pettiness.

As a child growing up in Ireland I, like all my generation, were subjected to barbaric treatment by dentists. Living for many years in America, where pain is an unwelcome concept, I had been pampered by my dentist probably to a ridiculous extent. Usually, nitrous oxide, lots of it, transformed me to another planet where not only pain existed but a delightful high was experienced every time. I’ve been in war zones, seen and done horrible things, but walking into a dentist’s office usually turns me into a quivering jellyfish.

One of the fears I had when coming to the Philippines was the loss of the non-pain dental treatment. A friend of mine here had been told she needed to have six teeth removed. And it would all be done in one session! What the heck! The maximum I’d be willing to do would be one extraction per session, preferably stretched out over several months. And here there is no pain-relieving drugs, no pain killers apart from injections. Enter my savior Julie, better known as Dr. Julie Flor Cordeta, whose office is just down the street from Robinson’s in Dumaguete. With 10 years of experience after graduating near the top of 900 candidates in the Philippines, Julie helps many people like me who benefit from her extensive delicate, sensitive and superb professional dental services.

I know I annoyed Julie yesterday by insisting on getting injections for what was a basic procedure. She was running late, but, with typical Filipina politeness, any understandable frustration remained hidden behind her face mask.

I’m occasionally asked why I’m a professor and teach at university. It’s certainly not for any material or egotistical reasons. Yesterday I was reminded why I do it. I may be the only European teaching at Foundation University, perhaps the only foreigner. This represents a challenge for both the students and me. Also, because I’m Irish I tend to speak quickly. This creates difficulty in communication. And the cultural differences are significant. Filipino students are very respectful and tend not to question their professors. I want them to challenge me but doubt if they ever will because that would be considered rude and inappropriate.

But I’m digressing. For me the joy in teaching is realizing my students have made significant progress. It’s a joyful experience to have observed them struggle but then blossom. That’s the moment that makes everything worthwhile. Although the moment is fleeting, the benefit can have a life-long positive impact on students who had previously questioned their ability. Observing their breakthrough moments are times when I want to shout, clap my hands then dance like a madman across the campus. But I don’t. My students already suspect I’m crazy, so why confirm it?

I had an interesting experience in class yesterday before leaving on a brief visit to America. I became slightly emotional because I’m leaving what is now my homeland. I was surprised to feel this emotion, but it confirmed yet again how much I love and appreciate being a guest in the Philippines, an outsider looking in, during this final part of my life. I’ll return soon and quietly smile when the airplane from Manila lands in Dumaguete.


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The author’s latest book “More Almost True Irish Stories” may be purchased from the Amazon

michael's life in dumaguete

Shortly after arriving into Dumaguete, Michael  intuitively knew it was the right place for him. Everything seemed to be right. It was and is. In addition to enjoying the way of life, he also met a special Pinay, and is living contentedly with her near the city.

He now operates Veritas Consulting Group, a company dedicated to helping other expats and Returning Filipinos with their transition to life in Dumaguete City and surrounding areas

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