How long have you lived overseas?
First I solo’d my yacht across the Pacific, then settled in the Philippines. It is close to 20 years ago now.
What made you decide to leave North America?
Canada: It is cold, with lots of rain, and the sun never gets high in the sky.
US: After 9-11 the nation went insane. Before that I would go into the US for coffee, shopping, I had a bank account there. We would wave at the Border Guards, with very little interference. After 9/11 all Canadians became terrorists. The US Border Guards started acting like the Gestapo, but not intelligent Gestapo. This became my last trip, I decided that the goon who was in the box was too much to make excuses for. After many idiotic questions were shouted at me, he shouted, “You’re a Canadian, why do you keep your money in an American Bank?” That was it. I was not a minority group, no desert suntan, no headgear, no mustache or beard, and I was actually wearing a shirt and tie.
Needless to say I went straight to the bank, and cashed out. That solved that problem. I never went back to the US.
What are the challenges of living where you are as a foreigner?
Yes, the Philippines is a 2nd world country. It does not have the newest of everything. “Time” is not their master, “tomorrow” (if you are lucky) is better than today.
I am on a rural line. Up until recently we would have an electric blackout two or three times a week, for hours at a time. Recently it is only a few times a month, sometimes for a short time, and sometimes for half a day, occasionally for the whole day.
Roads may be closed with no warnings. Water can stop with no warning. Electricity can stop with no warning. The doctor may decide not to come in for the day. Some products way not be available for a month or ??. Parades may block the road and slow things to a stop.
I am in the central Visayas, Negros Oriental Island, in a city called Dumaguete City. It is rated as the best city for foreigners because it has six universities and lots of colleges so most people speak English. With all the education and training here a great number of its people through the years have managed to get off shore worker jobs and the families here appreciate foreigners. Those who return from off shore are broad minded. With lots of students and educators, it is a friendly place. Traffic is reasonable and not yet a shit-hole like Cebu and Manila.
The Americans I meet every day for coffee, in general are OK, but the ignorant and prejudiced ones whine and complain about everything all the time. Our city here has no traffic lights, no stop signs, people drive on the wrong side of the road, they drive on the sidewalks, they park anywhere, halfway into the road is not a problem. Vehicle lights at night are not required. Seven people on a motorbike-taxi is how people get to out-of-the-way places. Coming into town, it is regular to see a pig or a goat across the saddle, or 20 chickens tied on, all on their way to market.
Driving here is a choreography. It has to be, with no traffic lights and no stop signs. Once one learns the steps it is a snap. To a new American it is hell on earth, because they do not read the raised eyebrow, or a subtle change of a few degrees indicating where the other must go, a very slight slowdown or speed up, which tells the opposite number what to do. Pedestrians by law have the right of way. They just walk out. Once again, the vehicles and the pedestrian have a body language, they will just walk across right in the middle of a stream of traffic, each knowing where to go.
Some years back they passed laws for motorbike helmets. That lasted about a week. Every now and then they will have a blitz on them. Lasts about half a day. Coming into town occasionally there will be a whole crowd of motorbikes stopped next to the road. That means check point.
Half have no helmets and the other half have not registered their motorbikes for a few years or do not have a driver’s license. They wait an hour, the cops lose interest and life returns to normal.
Road rage is not a good thing for a foreigner. It could end up with a machete to the head or a bullet in the back.
I’ve driven a motorbike for 10 years, never a scratch! You just learn the choreography of traffic chaos.
Most of the police here have a four-year degree in criminology. They are intelligent and empathetic.
The police are very polite. Just a little different from what I was used to.
Capital and serious crimes here are not crimes against the state and if nobody lays a charge, no crime has been committed. This is an interesting freedom to live with, as opposed to goons wanting to catch everybody all the time for something.
The secondary spinoff of this freedom from the state, is that the police themselves will try to fix a problem right on the spot. A cop could say to a “criminal,” “Give that man back the pig you stole from him, and give him $20. Don’t do that again.”
Because the state here is not trying to “catch” everybody all the time, weeks can go by without seeing a policeman in the city or on the highway. Things here work just fine.
For people who understand the dance steps it is the freest place they have ever lived.
Americans who do not understand the dance have more than enough to complain about.
Since the “Recession” in 2008, the Chinese have poured billions in here and every day it is beginning to progress to the same insanity as North America. Prices have risen exponentially. My chosen toothpaste was P95 last week. Today it’s P130.
The fast food chains have all arrived. There are ten watering holes on any block and prices are cheap. The hospitals are getting steadily better, and 1/100th the price of the US.
The people are exceptionally polite and friendly.
What are some of the pleasant surprises you’ve encountered in your new home?
I am a very old man and through two wives already. Here young ladies keep telling me how handsome I am. Seventeen years ago I married one of them. A very bright young lady, 37 years younger than me. She has a degree in agriculture so is not a bimbo. She helped me write a book, Philippine Farming and Organics.
My white wives were in it for themselves. My latest little brown wife understands that without me she would be kind of poor maybe with no hot and cold running water. If she does not bust her ass to look after me and I die she is back to square one. If she gives me too much shit and I decide to leave she has a serious problem. I have been married to her for 17 years but I still make sure she knows that I can leave any time she gets out of hand. She still assures me I am the most important person in the world. None of my WASP marriages came even close.
My number one son is married to my wife’s cousin, and their marriage is still going strong eight years later. What are the ingredients to make it happen?
I built my house made from my own coconut trees and bamboo from my property. My wife was my right hand. The property had massive rocks in all the wrong places. That sledge and I became good friends. My wife was better with a sledgehammer than I was. We laid bricks together. Lesson: choose a wife that can actually do something.
Total cost of livable house $2000. When I go my wife will actually be sad. No mansion to inherit, just a very comfortable shack, under a cheap roof which she helped build.
Five years ago my heart stopped. (They sometimes call this dead.) I ended up with a Meditron pace maker, four days in hospital, two heart surgeons, incredible empathy. Total cost $6,000.
Shortly after I had a prostate rebore, three days in hospital, urologist surgeon, fantastic empathy. Total cost $1,500.
The local health plan reimbursed me with 20% for a mere pittance in annual payments.
You have all these foreigners taking on wives much younger than themselves. These retired old guys think they have gone to heaven when beautiful young girls tell them how intelligent and good looking they are. The less intellectual ones who fall for very beautiful ones are sucked into marriage in a short order. I jokingly say that a Filipina has four ambitions with any old foreigner.
First—fall pregnant so they have him by the balls, (I actually had a bimbo pull that on me until I explained what a vasectomy is).
Second—get him to buy a property (a foreigner may not own property so it has to be in their name).
Third—get him to put a house on it but make sure it is not in his name (foreigners may own the house).
Fourth—and final step, after a credible time has passed get him to take them to the US (or other). This was part of the original plan.
Now they own a property and a house in which their family can live until she returns in her old age. The little beauty soon gets a nice young American and divorces the obnoxious old farter.
Some of the stories I can tell would win a Pulitzer Prize.
One foreigner is finally leaving to live back in the US, in order to escape. His little bimbo strung him along for a long time. He educated her, bought a small property for the family
She soon found a job. Every morning religiously she was off to work and back after her shift. Quite often she was called on to work overtime.
Then he discovered she had no job but was fucking with her boyfriend.
He forgave her and life went on, until he discovered she was pregnant from the boyfriend. Now a foreigner has a terrible dilemma. There is no divorce in the Philippines. The property is in her name and maybe the house as well. Guess who won that game?
This is a very common occurrence here. As the adage goes, “It is a wise child who knows his own father.”
Pretty girl, old idiot foreigner. It’s no contest.
The first girls to hit on new foreigners are the drop-outs and uneducated, because they stand very little chance of making it otherwise.
The “pretty” ones especially if dumb know the game well.
Do you have advice for Americans who also want to get out?
Come and spend some time here on a holiday first. It’s a big step and you may not be suited to a totally different culture. Lots of Americans here whine all day. Do not marry a pretty girl for at least a year and make damn sure you understand her motives (to get out of poverty). You may be irrelevant.
Have a hobby, because beer and rum are so cheap they may soon become your hobby. A large bottle of rum costs $1. The home made coconut wine is 50 cents a gallon and will knock you on your ass.
Do not bring a wife. With these little beauties she will not last long.
Graham Reinders (78-years-old)