Jan – 2014 This is one page per month devoted to the more personal experiences related to my life in the Philippines. I’ll toss in some photos & video links as needed for emphasis so.. no telling what you’ll encounter here.
— Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
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[01/29/2014] — I am now officially “counting the days” to my return to my beloved island of Bohol. As of today, only 30 days left and then I am getting the hell outta Dodge. ‘Dodge’ being Southern California for the time being as I’m finishing up my visit here for the holidays and my Mom’s 80th birthday. After that, I’m back to the land of lush greenery, clear water beaches, warm evening air and scooter rides under the stars after some bbq chicken along the side of the road.
I gotta admit, despite the many hardships and pains I’ve had in my life (and there have been a few that almost did me in).. I still live such a charmed life. A better life than I deserve, I will tell you that much.
On the one hand I’m happy to visit with my Mom and see my children, all of whom are doing excellently. In fact my oldest was just accepted at the college of his choice for a continued degree program in nano-technology so, all my sons and I will be out celebrating that in San Diego this weekend with an evening of bar-crawling and late night shenanigans.
But as they say, “to every garden some rain must fall”. On the other hand, quite honestly, my heart has been ripping into shreds these last few weeks and it hasn’t been easy. Not even close. As you my remember, I first went to the Philippines in hopes of seeing more of the woman I loved, a Filipina. Well, after 3 years together we’ve decided to part ways. I won’t go into all the messy, horrid details, but it was fueled by circumstances beyond our control and the distance, even island to island, was just too great a strain. We could not live together (she is married) and the strain of rarely seeing each other finally took it’s toll on both of us. Neither of us wants to see the other in pain so, there you have it.
People tell me, “..but there are millions of other Filipinas across the Philippines. You should know by now that you can have another woman in no time there.” True, sort of. Try telling a couple who has lost their child that they can always adopt or make another one. Each relationship is unique. Each person is unique. There’s just no getting around that. I’ve revisited the stages of grief and at this point have come to the acceptance of it all. I don’t like it, but I accept it. That’s the only way I can get up and move forward again.
Officially we broke up in March of 2013, but we still kept trying to find a way to make it work. To no avail, obviously. In August of 2013 I happened to meet a Filipina who has been a good platonic friend for the months until November when I left for my visit here in California. We’ve kept in touch and have agreed to “test the waters” in order to see if perhaps we get along well for a relationship. She’s a wonderful, top-shelf woman and comes highly recommended by all in her barangay as a good woman. She’s sweet, kind and attractive.. a good businesswoman in her own right as well. So far we know that we ‘like’ each other. That’s enough for a decent start. But real love takes time, and neither she nor I are in any rush.
But for me, there’s a huge chasm to cross in getting from ‘liking’ someone to Loving them as your own flesh. Someone you’d take a bullet for, gladly. Someone you can have what I call, “spark and magic” with no matter what you’re doing or where you are together. Even in silence.. you just ‘know’ you’re with the right person. I’ve had that before and it’s impossible for me to settle for anything less. So.. we’ll see how things progress with this new woman in my life. I’ll give it an honest chance. I’ll be open to what may be there for me. But if after a period of time I find that either she or I just aren’t really at “that place” of commitment, in all fairness she is just too good and fine a woman for me to be wasting her time. I respect her too much to just pass the time. But.. who knows what the future will bring? Certainly not me. I’ve been surprised all through my life so.. I’m keeping my eyes open until things are a bit more clear.
On a whole other note.. I was driving around this evening and this song came on the radio that I’ve taken a liking to. You might want to play it in the background, it’s a mellow little tune by a new artist and it got me to thinking about various Filipina girls I’ve gotten to know over the last year and a half..
In the lyrics of this song, the girl does what she can to get ‘near’ the better, luxurious life.. but has no real dreams or hopes that it could be hers. I’d say that is the opposite of many young Filipinas I’ve met. They do believe a better life can be had, even a ‘luxurious’ life by Philippine standards anyway. What we may call the standard middle-class, track-home in the suburbs is a big step up for many of the girls I know. Now, I can guess what you may be thinking.. the idea of ‘gold-diggers’ chasing after rich foreigners, marrying them without love just for the sake of obtaining this better life. But that’s not the kind of girls I’m thinking about.
Now, granted, as I myself have warned every new expat I can.. there is no shortage of conniving, lying women in the Philippines who would not think twice to swindle you with some lies and a loveless marriage. They are out there and you better keep one hand on your heart and the other on your wallet if you plan to survive your stay in the Philippines.
However.. there is a whole other portion of Filipinas, beyond that stereotype. I know them because I’ve spoken with them, spent time with them and listened to the stories of their life. I’ve visited their homes, in some cases what we’d call a shanty home. These are good women. They have hearts of gold and are some of the most good and virtuous women against all odds that I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend. They spend their time looking for work, to provide for their parents who are aging. They go to school and into college with hopes to obtain that ‘better life’ for their brothers and sisters. I know one girl, for over 3 years she was the sole breadwinner for her parents and two siblings. That’s a lot of responsibility for a young woman. Her sister, after looking for work for more than a year now also contributes as well. I know another who is finishing up high school and her passion is teaching guitar to local kids as she encourages them to stay in school. I know another who runs two small businesses to provide for her son. I know two others, cousins, who are putting off any ideas of relationships or marriage so they can finish college that their Aunt in the U.S. pays for. And some of those bargirls you always hear about? Trust me, not all of them are there because it was their first choice. Yah, they ended up there, but when a young girl has 3 kids to feed an no husband, with a sick father.. then you see a bit more of the back-story. Not all of them have a rich Aunt who can put them through nursing school or tech college.
If you’d sat in some of the shanties I have and seen the surroundings they face every day, I think then you could really begin to fathom what massive amounts of hope and heart it takes for them to face each day and believe that a better life IS available to them, somehow.. someway with some schooling, networking and hard work. They take jobs overseas, far from their family and even their own children at times. They don’t live a life of night-clubs and dating foreigners, there’s no time for that. They have their nose to the grindstone and their ear to the ground for any opportunity to work for what they want.
I have to tell you, meeting this sort of person is a truly humbling experience. You feel very shallow at times if you’re at all honest with yourself at how decent many of these women are. And it’s a bit heartbreaking along the way as well. It’s not like you can be the “white knight” who comes in and makes all their dreams come true for all of them. In marriage that is a wonderful thing. But as I’d look out over the streets below from the upper-balcony of the Grand Mall in Mactan, seeing the people bustle about in the traffic below.. counting their pesos as they came in to buy that day’s groceries.. it puts ‘paradise’ into perspective for you if you have any semblance of a heart. I know I can’t “be there” for even all the ones I do know, let alone the many I see on the streets below.
So, as I was listening to this little tune above, I thought of these particular Filipinas back ‘home’ in the Philippines. They’re doing the best they can. And as I’ve told them before, nobody can ask anything more than that.
The Philippines is a place of many realities. Some women take the easy route and are borderline criminals as they reach out for that brass ring. Some women hold to their dignity and come hell or high water they will stay the course with their chin up and a smile to greet the day as they step out from the muddy streets of their homes and put in yet another day of honest labor.
I suppose this is why I take it as a personal offence when people who have never been to the Philippines paint the women there with one simple brush. “They’re all gold-diggers.” Really? Based on what? A few 2nd-hand stories of guys who were too stupid or horny to patiently build an actual relationship before trusting a total stranger with marriage? Those men got what they had coming for being so foolish and rushed. To believe something so patently condemning, there’s no way such a person has seen or met the kind of honorable women I’ve met over the last year and a half.
Well, lately I’ve been visiting various Starbucks until 10p and then scooting over to an all-night Santana’s Mexican food place for high-speed wi-fi. I have T-mobile but it seems after I use 2.5Gb of my 5Gb plan.. speeds crawl way down, lower than even what I was getting in the province jungle areas of Bohol.
Two years ago a friend of the family dressed as Santa Claus and came to our house. I haven’t seen my Mom so happy in years. She was beside herself, just smiling like a little girl, amazed that Santa had come to the house. Tomorrow she and I go to the wake-service of that same friend, he passed away a few days ago.
Such is life. Very transient. What is heart-breaking and seemingly unbearable, it comes and then ebbs away like a wave returning to the sea. What is joyous, we should embrace and enjoy in the moment because it too will transition. Whether a person ever moves to another country or not.. life really is an adventure. Every day.
Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Share with me here my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Dating, vlogging, cooking, traveling and sharing the information with you needed to make your own plans for living as a full-time expat in Southeast Asia.