Remember, remember, the thirty-first of December! Yes, 2018 is drawing to a real close now. Let’s recap, shall we?
I can truly say that Davao, Mindanao, and other places in the Philippines I’ve visited have been kind hosts to Sophie and me. A key lesson, though, has been: “If you do nothing, nothing happens.” A no-brainer, right? Wrong. I’ve seen too many expats and locals alike who withdraw into their sheltered little lives, shielding themselves from new experiences. Some of the most memorable things I’ve done this year started with a chance encounter or a spontaneous “yes” to an impromptu invitation.
Work-wise, I’ve found my groove, doing several freelance and voluntary writing assignments, including co-writing a book about the Mindanao Peace Games. I even gave a lecture about my old job in corporate communications at a university in Cebu. Always nice to reminisce.
A month ago I joined the coaching staff of a junior high school boys’ football team. I played from age seven to fourteen myself, so I’m not a total novice, but these boys can really play. I’ve improved my cone-placing and ball-collecting game, but I’m still figuring out my unique added-value. Work in progress!
It’s also been a year of a shameful number of flights and kilometers. Two visits to the Netherlands, a vacation to northern Vietnam, a mini-week in Singapore, and multiple domestic trips in central and southern Philippines. It’s been eye-opening to compare cultures, especially in Southeast Asia. Hopefully next year we’ll add a couple more.
So after twelve months in the Philippines, what can I say about the Filipino? Nothing you probably haven’t already heard or read somewhere.
Yes, they are not the ‘same kind of Asian’ as their neighbors in the region. The American influence still permeates through society, informing many customs and interests. Also, the country is uniquely and predominantly Christian, although Mindanao and other islands prove the point that the Filipino people are indeed extremely diverse in their views, customs, languages, and likes and dislikes.
Looking past these high-level characterizations on a more personal level, the bulk of the people I’ve met over the past year were strong-minded, driven, hard-working, funny, family-oriented and cordial. And of course I know the average Filipino hates nothing more than to be blunt, especially with a foreigner, but I like to think I’m a good reader of people, so I think my observations are valid.
More than anywhere else or at any other time in my life I’ve learned in the Philippines to treat someone like you want to be treated. No, that’s not Christianity rubbing off on me. Especially as a foreigner you can do a lot to ease the tension with a simple “Hello, how are you?” Just be as matter-of-fact as you can be. Be patient, interested, and normal. And good things will happen.
Malipayong Bag-ong Tuig! Happy New Year! Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!