A Priceless Natural Resource

Regarding Filipina-foreigner relationships, I never intended to imply condemnation of them all. That would have been factually inaccurate. There are many happy and successful stories. All I was offering were observations of what I saw happening here in Dumaguete shortly after I arrived here.

Regardless, the evidence is overwhelming that many relationships exist in the “young girl-old foreigner” arena that are at best, unhealthy, and at worst, they border on tragedy.

Distinguished Filipina journalist and former *Metro Post* columnist Elsie Sy-Niebar, now living in Chicago, wrote to congratulate me on my “sassy article” and thanked me for my observations on foreigners here in Dumaguete. Elsie had enjoyed a successful, long term marriage to a wonderful foreigner until his untimely passing. She is one of many Filipinas involved in successful unions with foreigners.

Ramon Santos, a photographer and artist originally from Spain, but now retired here in Dumaguete, wrote to me in a similarly positive vein. Ramon lives in the Valencia area also and is looking for a special lady.

I received an angry email from Charlie who had “read part of your (my) column.” Charlie felt a patriotic need to come to the defense of American manhood. He demanded to know why I hadn’t mentioned all the other nations whose men have also misbehaved. Well, Charlie, it’s primarily a matter of numbers. The majority of the approximately 5,000 foreign men living in the Dumaguete region are Americans. Logistically, therefore, most offenders are likely to be American.

And even if your allegation was true, and I had mentioned men from every nation under the sun being disrespectful, what would have been the probative value of that? Would spreading the blame somehow lighten the responsibility of your fellow Americans? Of course not, because they alone are responsible for their obnoxious behavior. Sorry, Charlie, while your argument has a certain frothy emotional appeal, it has zero rational value.

Do high-quality Americans exist? Of course, they do. Americans I know in the United States and also here are among the finest and most honorable people one could encounter.

So perhaps the problem has more to do with the background of some of the individuals who come from abroad to live in the Philippines. Who are these people? Perhaps many come from the lower end of society, have limited education and income, and feel bitter at the bad cards they believe life has dealt them? Perhaps the Philippines is the only English-speaking country they are allowed entry to, or can financially afford to live in?

I think you’ll agree the absence of answers to these questions will not prevent the sun from rising tomorrow. That’s my final word on this subject. “Oh, thank God!” I can hear you justifiably shouting from the rooftops. Yes, your prayers have been answered.

I woke this morning and realized today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my dear friend Steve. I try not to think about him. Like all sadness I want to forget, I usually force these dark memories into a vault deep in my subconscious, intending for them never to resurface. But sometimes the sentry at the vault door falls asleep, then unwanted thoughts escape.

The following is a poem I wrote for Steve shortly before he prematurely died. Please note the reference to his fifth wife is not a typographical error.

For Steve

I watched your death mask carve itself into your shrinking face

each Sunday we’d meet until we met no more.

Crawl now into your waiting grave. Cast off this mortal coil.

End the recurring terror of your pain

and your hysterical fifth wife’s rantings

as she silently measures her widow’s dress.

Friend, father, man of honor, American fighter pilot, karate black belt,

sailor, biker dude, recovered junkie, recovering alki,

Impervious to life’s dangers, now so casually cut down by cancer.

I’ll miss out weekly meetings,

your laughter with head thrown back

as long hair floated uninhibited around you like a silver typhoon.

I’ll miss the depth of your knowledge teaching me

how to live by the code, how to die with dignity.

Thanks for your love, your friendship, your golf clubs,

and for having the same size golf shoes as me.

On a lighter note, I’ll close until next month by mentioning a delightful experience I had shortly after I arrived to live in the Dumaguete area.

I’d been invited by Dodo Bustamante to be the guest speaker on international business in a Rotary Club-Dumaguete South meeting at Chin Loong Restaurant along Rizal Blvd. in Dumaguete. What Dodo failed to mention was that their weekly meetings begin at 6:30 in the morning. That, for me, was a horribly uncivilized time. I thought surely, no living creature, apart from the inevitable roosters, would be awake at that ungodly hour.

But I soon found out much of Dumaguete was awake even before that time. Shortly after dawn, I walked along the already-crowded Rizal Boulevard while observing a variety of ships either at anchor or moving silently across the sea.

Suddenly, I heard it: sounds I fondly remembered from my time living in South America. Samba music reached out from far down the boulevard, close to Bethel Guest House. Moving closer, I saw people, hundreds of them, mainly women, of all ages, shapes, and sizes, beginning their day in collective unity, swaying, moving with effortless elegance to the rhythm of vibrant, Brazilian music. At 5:30 am.

Waving arms invited me to participate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t dance to save my life, but not wanting to be rude, I clumsily moved forward, while acutely-conscious of my rhythmic limitations.

But the energy, the passion, the joy of those around me were infectious. Soon I was “dancing” while not caring a hoot if anybody was laughing at me. The samba sounds brought me temporarily back to an earlier time in my life, when I lived facing Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.

The sun slowly rose over the horizon, while a comforting wind cooled the swaying throng. I continued to enthusiastically throw myself around like never before or since, while occasionally looking out at the clear sky, the blue ocean, and the islands shimmering in the distance.

Suddenly, I felt waves of gratitude flowing through my body. I rejoiced in the gift I’d been given of living in paradise with Filipinos who, despite their many difficult life challenges, insist on enjoying every moment of their brief dance through time.

Few, if any, Western people, enslaved at the altar of our materialistic gods, have the consciousness to recognize this vast wealth all Filipinos intuitively possess. Blind to its existence, this is one priceless, natural Filipino resource few of us Westerners will ever experience.

The author’s latest book, More Almost True Irish Stories, is available online from Amazon or directly from the author in Dumaguete.

This article was first published in Dumaguete Metropost on July 23, 2017 authored by Michael O’Riordan

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

Contact – info@vcg.ph

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