Thursday, 26 February 2009


Recently read abominations of the English language:

Good morning! Rice and shine!

I went out to the beach old natural (au naturel)

Happy Nice Day! (Have a nice day!)

a. Where are you from?
b. I'm from the US.
a. Oh, so you're not here in the Philippines.

Um, you said from!

Here, it is pretty much "pick any preposition, nobody cares".

And to think at one time I taught English as a Second Language classes! The urge to correct is sometimes overwhelming!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Simple, Shrewd, or Just Confused?

I hear it and read it all the time:

I am a simple person. (OK, but cant you say anything else about yourself?)

I'd like a simple photo shoot. (I don't know what that means, and when I ask, the clarification is usually something like a regular shoot or a normal shoot. I'm still lost. I offer clients 3 different photo packages. Each has a name, and simple isn't one of them.)

I am simple person. Yet I believe I am fairly simple one way or another, said someone calling themselves abu online. (How eloquent.)

A few weeks ago, Fr. Jerry Orbos wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

As a young priest in La Paz, Abra, I remember telling an old man that I just came from Vigan for the launching of the Ilocano Bible. He thought for a while, then said: “Oh, it’s nice that God can finally understand and speak Ilocano!” That incident made me realize the importance of making God’s message simple and clear, especially for the simple people.

What's with all the simpleness?

The Ilocano who thought it was about time God could speak his language was not so simple as the priest may have thought.

Consider: Who brought God as Christians interpret such a concept to the Philippines?


What language did they speak?

Spanish (and guns and other assorted weaponry).

So what language did God speak?

Latin (and the guns of the Spanish soldiers standing beside the Catholic missionaries).

Eventually, God learned English through the colonization of the Philippines by the US and Vatican II.

The Ilocano probably knew God was at least trilingual. The Ilocano also had a shrewd sense of humor.

The priest?

None. It could be said he is the simple one here, or is it his mission to pray/prey on those he perceives to be simpletons?

In reality, there really isn't much about Filipinos that is simple at all.

Even if one were to claim their simplicity is inherit in a sheltered, conservative societal way; that logic only compounds the complexities of the Filipinos.

Decades and centuries of Catholic sheltering, conservative thought, and provincial isolation runs up against the 21st century and results in some of the most complicated individuals I've ever met. People who are trying to deal with this simple upbringing as they try to live a life in reality. It's a messy affair for many. If psychiatrists could be afforded here, there would be tens of thousands of job positions available, practices to start, and counseling clinics to offer services; and that's just in metro Manila. With a population closing in on one hundred million, we're talking about a lot of people in need of help.

One online community I consulted in the US before coming here had tens of thousands of members from the Philippines. You could do searches based on gender and sexual orientation. I noticed something unusual as I searched different combinations: there are more bisexual than gay people in the Philippines! The Philippines is the only country on earth with such a statistic.

Once I arrived and found out what was going on, I began to realize it is just a lie. Well, not a lie, really. Just a delusion. There's no way seven of ten non-straight people are bisexual. They might have to buy sex, but that's another problem all together.

Society over the years has so thoroughly confused people here that men with boyfriends still really think they are straight (totally delusional!) or bisexual, even though they have lived in such relationships and never had any attraction to women or tried relationships or intimacies with women. It so confuses Filipinos, some endlessly ask what the meaning of bisexual is, because they see sites online which always involve men and women who like both sexes, which goes against the meaning here.

Why don't they just google it to find the real meaning?

That would be too simple.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Jay & Nic go to Immigration

You regular readers know that if Immigration appears in the title of my blog entry, an adventure lies ahead. Well, this one is no different!

I can say I really felt a bit like I was in a movie; specifically one of the Harold & Kumar movies!Don't ask me which one I am in this story. Nic does funny voices better than I do, so I'll let him be Kumar.

Anyway, last week I took my Australian neighbor, Nic, to Immigration for his first time. Immigration is so much better now! The extension office is back in the main Immigration building and it is completely new, with shiny white floors, stone counters, big windows, new comfortable seating, air
conditioning, and girls in uniform to help assist people and keep order. Previously, the office had been located in a space rented in another building a block away while years of neglect (and fire damage) were repaired and rebuilt in the main office.

But just because all those improvements have been made didn't spare us from drama! If it did, I wouldn't be writing this now would I? First, Nic discovered he had mistakenly overstayed his visa by two days - a five-hundred peso fine. Then he realized he'd left his money on a table at home.

We also noticed that the copier that normally sat in the Immigration office, ready to make money copying pages from our passports, had disappeared. Nic would have to go outside to find a copier. Oh well, he needed to go to the bank anyway to withdraw money for his visa fees. Surely we'd find a copier somewhere.

So we went to the building where the office was last located because there's a bank in it, and found a store making copies beside the bank. Three pesos later Nic had his copies.

One four-thousand peso bank withdrawal and he had emptied his account.

So it was back to Immigration to fill out his forms and hope he had enough money to cover his charges.

Thanks to the new office and the uniformed girls handing out numbered tickets, there was no more standing in line and everything went quickly. Yes, Nic quickly found out he didn't have enough money on him.

Edson and I were almost broke as well, but between what Nic had left in the bank and what we had, we scraped together enough to cover his charges. Of course this meant we had to make another trip over to the bank building again so I could take out a couple thousand pesos to cover that plus our expenses in getting home.

Back at Immigration again, Nic deposited his forms and payment and we headed out for lunch.

I should tell you, drama follows Nic everywhere....if it doesn't get there first!

So we went to Robinson's (A department store and mall in nearby Ermita.) to eat and window shop. While eating, a guy passed by and smiled. And then smiled again. And again.

Ah, a money boy!

After we finished eating he followed us for a while, from a great distance.

We lost him and continued walking and browsing. Nic had to use the CR (comfort room, a.k.a. rest room), so I waited outside. As I waited by a railing, I noticed someone winking at me from the floor above.

Another money boy.

I turned back around to see Nic coming from the CR and Nic noticed the money boy winking from behind me. Nic made the mistake of smiling. That was like a magnet for our money boy, and he came up to us moments later, even though we had already walked a good distance away. We ignored him, but he kept walking just a few steps behind us whispering suck...suck until we had had enough and decided to grab a cab back to Immigration. He followed us all the way outside, where another money boy friend of his was waiting.

Immigration is now so efficient Nic's visa was waiting for us when we arrived, and we were 10 minutes early! That is something that would never have happened before!

OK, maybe this wasn't as exciting as a Harold & Kumar movie. But sometimes when Nic and I are here, we feel so many stares from people we have to do a double-check to see we haven't forgotten our pants. Add to those stares the money boys on the prowl, and we began to feel like jungle beasts were all watching, waiting for the predators to pounce.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Call Center Central

This was Thursday's Shoe, which I receive in My Yahoo! every day:
Cartoons like these send out a pretty negative vibe. I can understand that.

I can also understand that here in the Philippines, call center jobs are some of the most sought-after jobs in the nation.

Call center workers must face the ire of callers from abroad who are already upset over having to wait to talk to a human being, and practically every caller is calling because they have a problem, and calling was the last act of desperation after consulting manuals, brochures, or contracts. Now here, in the wee hours of the morning (Remember: Manila is half a day ahead of America's east coast!) a worker who has been coached in dialect, culture, product or service, and customer service procedures now must deal with an irate caller from Mishawaka, Indiana (without laughing at Mishawaka.)

Calls like these are always unpleasant for the person on either end of the line. Imagine having to spend eight hours a day dealing with them!

You don't want to, do you?

Neither do the call center workers, but they are paid more than college professors here, so they eagerly line up to apply do it.

And believe me when I tell you I've never been more ashamed of my countrymen when I hear some of the stories call center workers relate to me. Dealing with so many of the callers from the US (As well as other countries, but these workers keep the discussions to Americans when speaking with me.) leaves them with the very deep impression we're a land of spoiled, petty, demanding, quick-tempered, cheapskates who spend money on a ton of stuff we don't need and have values reflecting this. Many are regularly reduced to tears due to the treatment they receive on the line.

And somewhere in the minds of these callers is probably some anger that they know they are speaking with someone from halfway around the world who took an American's job.

Of course we all know that's bunk. Corporations did that, not the twenty-something on the other end of the line making four hundred dollars a month.

So when you are on the phone to Mumbai or Manila trying to resolve your cell phone bill, hotel reservation, or computer issue, at least be civil to the person on the other end of the phone. They're either:

a. trying to assist you to the best of their training and abilities,


b. trying to keep it together as best they can without wanting to quit right then and there due to their experience with the caller before you.

If you don't like dealing with overseas workers, tell the company that hired them instead. And I don't care how bad the economy gets in the US, it will never be so bad that Americans would take these jobs. Americans aren't desperate enough to take them.

So, as my sister (Hey Shari!) always says: Get Over It!