[originally posted Dec. 11, 2013] – When I first left my home-country to move to the Philippines, it was all very exciting but there was one thing that weighed on me, internally, that took me almost a year to shake free from. It was due to a general outlook I’ve always had about life and my surroundings. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had two driving questions that motivate me; “How do things work?” and “Why do people do what they do?”
A lofty aspiration, to be sure. But my curiosity even today still drives me to explore these avenues. However, along with my decision to move to the Philippines, I spent months before leaving coming to grips with an overwhelming sense of my failure to both myself and humanity in general. By charting my personal path to the Philippines with the new goal of refreshing my own mind and joy for life, finding the missing set of keys to ‘Life’ was now taking a distant second-place in my life-long quest. I truly felt that I was letting down everyone I’d ever known and perhaps even the world in general by setting that quest to the side. I was throwing in the towel. I had explored every avenue of science, religion and human experience only to find that there is no single ‘answer’ or path to deliver to humanity.
While the information and analysis along the years helped me personally in a variety of ways, in the end I had no end-all, be-all solution for everyone in general. It doesn’t exist. But that is not to say that there are not certain keys to better living, because there are and I consider myself lucky to have stumbled across many of them along the decades. But as for an announcement to humanity stating; “Do THIS and everything will work out just fine.”… it is the holy grail that only exists as a phantom somewhere across the horizon.
This was a life-changing event for me personally. I’d not really spoken to many of this drive I’ve had all these years because at best it put me in the realm of some misguided Don Quixote and at worst a delusional optimist with no touch on reality. Not much of a spread there in either direction really, so I just silently observed, tracked, analyzed and sorted the data over the years as I tried to make sense of it all.
But then I decided to move to the Philippines. The initial catalyst, as I’ve mentioned in my earlier articles, was out of a desire to continue a relationship with a Filipina I had met in California. But the reason it was the right time for me to move was also because I knew I was at the end of my trail with no answer to show for it. It was time to lay the weight of the world’s future back upon the shoulders of Atlas and re-focus my life’s energy to that of my own personal enjoyment and fulfillment. I felt selfish. It felt wrong for me to do something for myself that was not going to particularly benefit anyone but myself.
I wanted.. no, I needed a 100% change in my paradigm. My brain felt asleep at the wheel. I was plodding along without a direction and much worse, without a purpose. It was time for a change and as things worked out, this Filipina woman I’d met who was actually against the idea of me moving overseas ended up being the first domino to tip that would set a whole new change in my life’s course.
Prior to meeting her I had encountered fleeting moments of moving out of my home country. When I was only 18 it was my original goal to complete 4 years of seminary and then relocate to the jungles of South America.. perhaps run a church or just embed myself into some lost, indigenous tribe and complete my days in anonymity. I was convinced at the time that I’d have a short lifespan anyhow so the idea of ending my life in the jungle seemed like the most natural course of events for me.
Many years later, around 2008, again the idea of leaving it all behind resurfaced and I spent months considering the idea of getting in my car and simply driving all the way to Acapulco, Mexico. From where I lived in Southern California it would be about a 2,200 mile drive (assuming I didn’t get lost) and even if my car fell apart when I arrived would take me about 33 hours of driving time to fall upon the sands of Acapulco. I’d sell all my belongings and between my English/Spanish, tech skills and experience with the public I figured I could land myself some sort of job and start a new life. Many a night I figured I was only a few moments away from just selling all my stuff on Craigslist and leaving at the end of the weekend for a trek South to a new life.
But the time was not right for such a big change, not yet. My kids still needed me to some degree although they were quickly finding their own paths as they got into their early 20’s. I had emotional issues that still needed settling from the painful divorce I’d had in 2007 as well. So I put that plan on the shelf and plowed through so as to complete my obligations.
So, it was several years later in 2010 that I walked into a SoCal Filipino restaurant and little did I know that the right time had come for me to begin discovering a whole other option. Long story, short.. I began a 2-year relationship with a Filipina in California. But because she returned to the Philippines, suddenly I was considering actually pulling the trigger and flying to the other side of the planet. For her, yes. But not just for her. This was a long time coming and despite her lack of enthusiasm at me making such a huge change, on July 4th, 2011, I made the decision that within 1 year I would be on a plane bound for the Philippines. Come what may with the relationship.. it would be my new home. I spent a year getting my ‘ducks in a row’ and mid-July of 2012 I boarded a plane bound for Cebu, Philippines.
Not only have I not regretted my decision for even a nano-second, it’s been the greatest adventure of my life ever since becoming a parent. A whole new world literally opened up to me and I’ve been absorbing it since day-1 that I touched ground on the island of Mactan.
Which brings me to the point of ‘finding your own path’. I have said so many times to so many people, “The Philippines has been fantastic for me.. but it’s not for everyone.” I stand by that. For me, the Philippines awakens all my senses afresh. My mind is alive and in full gear all over again, just like when I was a kid. Something new is around every corner. Food is different. People are different. The very air is different. Is it altogether ‘better’ than my life in the USA? In some ways, yes and in some ways, absolutely not. Going from a 1st-world country into a country that boasts not only some of the most beautiful and accessible topical landscapes, but also no shortage of poverty and distress is a change that not everyone can handle in stride.
I’ve mentioned before that this is one reason those of us Expats who run into each other on the streets or online in the Philippines have a common sense of respect for each other. It takes a certain type of adventurous spirit to not only endure the new environs and distance from ‘home’.. but to thrive and truly enjoy a whole other culture to the fullest. That commonality of spirit gives us a certain bond of friendship that has nothing in common with those expats who arrive and simply complain of their plight here. We distance ourselves from those who made the move, but never accepted the culture of the new surroundings. We are adventurous and revel in our new surroundings. ‘They’ arrived only to live in frustration at their own displeasure of inconvenience. Our only statement to them is, “If you don’t like it, leave.”
What I have spent many hours in front of a bonfire in the province alone pondering is my resolve to be content in pursuing my own path. I truly wish I could have found the ‘one path’ that would make others as happy as I am with my own life. But there is no ‘one’ path. I see poverty in the USA and I see it in the Philippines. Despite a few dollars here and there to random people in need I encounter, I have no solution. I can’t sit down for a moment and say to one of the beggars, “Just do ‘this’ and ‘this’ and all will be well, my friend.” I have no such solution. I see sorrowful marriages or relationships and over the years I’ve tried to offer the best counsel I could to avert or stop the pain involved. Some people listen, some don’t. Each person has to determine for themselves the path they will take. I offer to point out a fork in the road; this way leads to more of the same misery.. this other way leads to a freedom from the situation. That is the best I can do.
Even in my own life, in the Philippines, it’s been uncharted territory for me and so I’ve had to learn a few things the hard way myself. I’ve made mistakes along the way. I’ve made miscalculations, suffered the consequences and pressed forward to the next day. I suppose that’s Life though. Nobody else is going to push through my path for me, and really.. I’d just as soon do it myself anyway. I’ll take whatever good advice I can encounter along the way. But in the end, I have to evaluate my own risks, make my own decisions.. one step at a time I make my way down the path that I choose for myself.
And after many a night stoking the embers of a bonfire, alone in the province that is about the only resolution I have come to. It is the new mantra that I hear myself saying now that I have been in-country for 16 months and it is this; “Everyone must find their own path.”
I have a dear friend that I care for so much on the island of Mactan. I want her to have a good future. She is young and facing so many obstacles. She’s a good person and she presses forward every day. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few women I know in her situation, some with the added burden of several children without the father around. I can’t be the “white knight” for all of them. I often find myself wishing I had several lifetimes so as to ‘be there’ for so many of them. But that is not reality and whether I like it or not, each one must find their own path. Along the way, I offer what advice I can. I don’t have the resources to send each one to college or set them up with a job or find them a man who I could guarantee would cherish them as they deserve. It is a painful resignation of reality that for so many people I cross paths with, each one must find their own path.
I suppose this is the tight-rope that must be navigated in a poor country when you are the ‘rich’ foreigner transplanted for the duration. Figuring out when, where and to whom some level of compassion or assistance is to be given to others. In a land where there is much desperation, there is much abuse of kind-hearted foreigners trying to navigate those waters. Countless are the expat stories of being lied to and defrauded of money by those who take the deceitful shortcut to survival. I do what I can to give warnings and how to avoid such situations, but again I’m reminded that each one must find their own path. Some must learn the hard way that trust cannot be given so quickly. Discernment as to when and to whom to give compassion or assistance is not something that can be bottled and dispersed like a tonic. Despite whatever good advice anyone may come across.. time and experience is what it boils down to.
I am happy with the path I’ve chosen. I wish I could do more for others but, the reality is I can only do so much. And maybe that’s okay. Few men ever change the whole world in a positive way. Perhaps making positive change to the few within our circle of influence is all we can really expect of ourselves.
Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
Author: Reekay V.
Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.
Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.
Are you returning to the Philippines, Henry?
Absolutely, already have my return ticket burning a hole in my pocket. 🙂 I’m in Calif for the holidays and my Mom’s 80th birthday, then I return first week of March.
That is great! The Philippines would not be the same without you. The last time I visited Florida in 2008, I was ready to go home in about 5 days but I did last the 2 full weeks. I was so happy to be getting on that plane. I gladly paid the $126 for excessive luggage to share pasalubong with everyone.
Have a good one!
~ Gary ~
I’ve resigned myself to the current, temporary, visit in the States.. but likewise I’ll feel that I’m on my way ‘back home’ when I get on the plane back to the PH.
Hi Henry, I would like to make contact with you as I will be going to the Philippines. Can you drop me an email please? Michael
I rarely can keep up with my email, but I do check facebook often. Search me there under ‘Reekay’ and you can reach me there.
Thank you Henry, I don’t have access to Facebook but will see if I can get a VPN.
I chatted wiht u online video before u came back home, i truly want to jump on the plan with u and go there much
Drop me a line at my FB, we can talk there in PM.
Henry, it is best to arrange your Philippine visa at the Philippine Consulate in LA. Visa extension and reentry.
Is it any cheaper? I’m guessing not. I didn’t have any issues with renewing my visa in Cebu or Bohol. Arriving in the PH, the first few weeks is a piece of cake.
I’m glad to hear you are going back. Philippines is a great place where a foreigner can still make a big difference in some good people’s lives.
Another good read Henry. Keep up the good work 🙂
It move me to read what you wrote. For the words rings so true we must find our own path in life. Some time we are taken off that path by others and never find our way back. I am a service member that has been living on and off in the Philippines for several years. Now am due to retire in the next few months. An I truely can’t wait to go home and start a new chapter in my life living there.
I really look foward now to your stories Henry. I've been an adventurer, all of my life and so it's easy for me to relate to your new adventure in the Philippines. Until next time…Pat…:)
You said: I often find myself wishing I had several lifetimes so as to ‘be there’ for so many of them [women].
Yeah, I can understand that. So many women, and so little time. I used to know the meaning to life, the universe, and everything. But I forgot it, though I could probably look it up. One thing I do remember is that in this existential experience we partake of, ultimately, we die alone. Hence, I agree with you that we must each follow our own path.
He who knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him.
He who knows that he knows not is a student, teach him.
He who know that he knows is a wise man, seek him out if ye can find him.
Say that seven times quickly.
How you doin, haven’t been here for awhile, glad to hear you are ok and everything is good for you, good article again and something I can relate too, seems we all have our trials and tribulations.
Well I got a little waylaid so won’t be there till 10th January now, sold everything, finished with my business, just tying up the loose ends now, can hardly wait.
I will be in Mactan, so if you have time when you return let me know and catch up for a beer and some lunch again like in Bohol.
You take care, have a very Merry Christmas with the family and a bright and happy new year.
Chris ( Aussie )
Hey Chris, sounds good. I’ll be back on Bohol beginning of March. We can meet up then.
Okay Henry sounds good to me, but you never know, one of those pretty young misses might have me trapped by then, hahahahahahah, Take care
Yes a very good read Henry.
John Lennon was once asked by his teachers what he wanted to be when he grew up. He answered "happy." The educators believed he did not understand the question but Lennon suggested that they did not understand life. I'm right there with you pal.
Very simple life, with honest people and simple pleasures like a child laughing, the slight breeze, cool water or beverage, and a smile deep within your soul. . . . Yes Randy I certainly agree with you and John.
Amigo – Your writing skills grow stronger and stronger everyday…….NICE. The power to convey is a strong one……and you seem to be steadily sharpening your craft. 🙂
Thanks. Once I get a few travel ebooks out of the way I am looking forward to writing a series of fiction novels based in the Philippines. I’ll be sure to announce it here when it’s ready.
Henry, a very good read indeed…can’t wait to read more of your adventures in the PI…enjoy your holidays with the family..
Thanks, I hope to be writing more regularly now. Although the video projects keep me busy too. 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/user/enricosuave263
A very good read and so true, I feel and understand between the lines.
I am looking forward going back to the Philippines in 2014 and living my own path..
And yes, it´s not for everyone there but I love it.I am from Germany and some people here call my life there a poor life. Well, it is in fact, but it´s my way and my path..I love it in this way and it is also my greatest adventure in my life.I have never regret my stayings there around the Philippines in all these years since 2008.
I hope we´ll meet on Mactan one time, or in Cebu. I wish you a nice vacation to you there sa estados unidos and because it´s x-mas time soon: Maligayang pasko,ingat ka parati at maraming salamat sa lahat.
I recently met up with a good friend of mine who does very well for herself with her business ventures. She enjoys the nice cars, homes and all that money can afford. That is great and she’s happy with that. But me, I mostly see excess money as a necessity for the future, for retirement. I don’t mind a few luxuries here and there, but it’s not what gets me out of bed each day. People, places and experiences are the wealth I enjoy. Money helps with that, so I see money as a tool.. kinda like just the gas in the car to get me where I’m going.
This post certainly resonated with me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Henry. I hope this isn’t too long a reply, but your words really pulled some strong thoughts to the surface.
I too had the idea when I was 18 of running off to the “jungle” as a missionary, or just a free-spirit living among the tribes. But my “jungle” was the Northern forest, in Canada and Alaska. The tribes were the Eskimos and Indians of the far North.
I ran away from home 2 months before graduating from high school in order to pursue my dream. I headed for Canada. That was an experience! Albeit, Ill-fated somewhat, but a total blast at the same time. I didn’t quite do what I wanted to do, but it was a good learning experience.
A year or two later, I finally ended up in Alaska thanks to the US Army. It gave me a chance to experience the North country but have a “crutch” to fall back on. I LOVED it! However, a girl brought me back to the lower-48 after my discharge from the service, back to Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t long until the adventuresome spirit welled up inside me again. It was back to Alaska.. then an adventure down the coast to LA, and a bicycle trip across the states.
I could go on and on with adventures.. but the point I want to make is.. I am happiest and most alive when I am neck-deep in an adventure. My senses are alive, everything is new and invigorating. I love to explore and learn new things. A great adventure IS life… for me.
Others prefer the security of the status quo. That’s cool. They tell me I’m nuts for taking off on “crazy” adventures. I just brush it off. I’ve learned a long time ago that I can’t get across to some people just how much I NEED adventure and to explore. We’re all wired differently. My Dad always said “It’s a good thing we all don’t like the same things, because if we did, it would be a helluva world”. I concur.
Your “adventure” there in the Philippines, and especially your lifestyle in Bohol reminds me of the true-life book entitled “Walden: Or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau”. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it Henry, but I’ve read it more times than I can remember. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will. I think you would love it.
Henry spent 2 years living a very minimalistic life in a small shack beside Walden pond just outside of Concord, MA back in the 1840’s. He spent his time thinking and writing, walking in the woods, communing with nature and basically living life. He would go into town to converse with the town folk, then go back to his quiet life back at the pond.
Henry David Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” That has basically been my answer to people when they ask about my adventures. It usually shuts them up.
If they continue.. I throw another “Henry” at them. “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step the the music which HE hears, however measured and faraway”
Finally, as I pursue my dream to settle in the Philippines and continue to build my online income, I am motivated by another “Henry” saying:
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Henry, you have eyes that see, keep them always open. Thanks for sharing your vision with us.
Thanks Alan, it’s good to know there are others still reading Thoreau and the other classic writers. I lean more toward Hemingway, CS Lewis and HS Thompson, but Steinbeck, Conrad and Poe have been longtime favorites of mine as well. I read ‘Life in the Woods’ way back in jr high and should probably read it again now that I have some miles on me. For me, as much as I enjoy the solitude of the province I believe it’s value is when you go back into town. Anyone can have bliss and peace when alone. The true test is having that same peace amid the clamor of daily life. Still many more adventures ahead for me, God willing, and hopefully a good Filipina traveler to be at my side who sees things the same way. Until then, I’ll be a solitary man. 🙂
That storie reminded me of the tv show Kung Fu … Great job Henry.
Interesting.. ha! I spent the better part of my first 8 months doing lots, and lots of walking to learn the area I had moved to on Mactan. I felt like Caine, from Kung Fu.. in a foreign land, observing, reflecting, walking and searching. 🙂
A Great non-fiction story. You do have a gift of writing, I did not get bored as I do with other writers. Butch
Thanks. 🙂 I do plan to do some fiction novels once I get caught up on my other projects. Should be a fun experiment.
My father always said the most important thing in life is being Happy.
The best book I ever read was called, "Being Happy" It's a must read, very simple and goes right to the point, I have bought many of them and given them to others who I felt needed to read it.
I enjoy your insightful, first-hand reporting of living on your tropical island. When combined with the videos, I am getting a really good feel for life there. It appeals to me.
On top of that, I appreciate your desire to help others to make wise decisions. Videos to filipinas to be cautious and proud, to foreigners to plan well, and to respect the local people and their customs – these come from your heart, your care for people.
On your path of being a writer in the Philippines, you are probably having a broader affect on peoples’ well being than you realize. Sharing how you made your personal decisions shows us how to develop our paths by example. We can adapt that. Your ‘circle of influence’ has the potential to reach thousands or more. Pretty big circle!
Here is the impact you just had on me. After I finish this comment, I am calling my family to take care of something that I have been wavering on. It is a decision that will require a good bit of sacrifice and delay of life plans, and I’ll get no appreciation, but it is the right thing to do.
ps. I cancelled my first trip to the Visayas in November – I was on my short side-trip to Viet Nam when Haiyan hit, so just decided to stay and explore Saigon. Loved it! Maybe the typhoon helped to correct _my_ path!
I’m glad to help any way I can. It helps me to set down my thoughts as well. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. A very excellent article. Have a great Christmas and joyous New Year!
Thanks!, and same for you!! 🙂
Another nice read. I also have been telling folks that money is only a tool for decades. My father was concerned that I would be a asian beach bum, I guess he was right. LOL Happy Holidays to you and yours and see you next spring.
Very interesting read. I first went to my adopted home and I’ve loved it ever since in ’96. I hope to move their permanently soon.
I was surprised with all your academic quests you didn’t mention Philosophy. I found most solace in that academic pursuit to solve “my quest”.
Where in So Cal are u. I lived in San Diego in 97.
Chaz Worm (Kiser)
Philosophy seems natural to me and I’ve always pondered what perspectives are the most healthy, yet realistic. It’s a major passion of mine, an on-going revision if you will. 🙂
Very nice I would love to chat with you sometime as I’m considering moving to the Ph myself!
For chatting, I am sometimes available on facebook at; http://www.facebook.com/henry.velez
good to hear that sir…
Excellent read Henry – as always. I definitely know how you feel (felt).
Interesting read. It reminds me of my favorite saying ” You have really lived if you have touched the life of others”.
“How do things work?” and “why do people do what they do?” are inter-related. It has to do with our concept of “Self” and “Ego.” The “Self” identifies who we are to ourselves and others, while “Ego” makes that distinction clear through continuous reinforcements. Our need for some semblance of control in our life and destiny compels us to find out the mechanics of “how things work” around us, including “why people do what they do.” We can find out how the human body work because this is hard science, but the ‘Mind’ is a vast and mysterious landscape that is hard to control and understand. Since we cannot control the mind, we can only assume that it’s going to tell the body what to do with regards to “Self” and “Ego.” In other words: whatever we think, say, or do, we do for ourselves.
Hi Henri, I must say your site and writings really hit home in many instances and I see myself in so many of the things you mention in various articles. I have traveled to Asia 20 times and love the area and people. I will be going to the Philippines shortly and would like to make contact with you via email and possibly meet up with you there if possible. Can you please email me to initiate contact? Michael v M
Good article Henry. You have a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience in your stories. Thanks for sharing.
As a karate student in Korea, 40 odd years ago, Henry, I thought that there was either an “ultimate” defense or offense. I kept asking my instructor, a 5th Dan Master of TaeKwanDo, a true warrior and fine man, questions along those lines. Finally, Moon saw where I was going with this and he said. “No, Russell, not like that. Just who is FAST”. 🙂 There was tremendous wisdom in that statement, I believe. Regardless of plans or skills, sometimes there comes a super-quick poke in the eye that can’t be avoided. 🙂
I have been following your forum and watching your videos for the past few days and the work you have done with all these information you provide is really great.
I am planning in moving to the phillipines in the next 6 months or so, however, I was wondering if we can communicate via email so you can provide me more information, etc.
This is a really inspiring story. I admire that you can put your thoughts together in such a fashion. I to have had many questions about why we are the way we are and i have not been able to answer them. I hope one day to take the leap as you did and move to the Philippines. I have followed your story from the beginning
i can’t say the PH is for everyone, but for me it’s been a huge adventure. i plan to return when the borders open up again.
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