Can a foreigner really intergrate into Philippines society?

Its a question I ask a lot lately as everywhere seems to have brick walls when your trying to make progress. You try to get involved with things for local communities you run the risk of embarrassing the local government officials. You want to redecorate a school that has never been painted yet at the same time wonder will it actually damage the schools financial budget next year as it would be assumed your pockets are forever deep. I look for sustainable development and it seems so many people are looking for projects that will require continuous investment. I know it doesn’t work already as I have dealt with government organisations in the UK who always overspend on purpose to try and get more money the next year so why would creating a money pit be beneficial to anyone long term? Then there is “its yours” mentality which I have seen several times now and some of it directly related to myself where people will mistreat something because it doesn’t belong to them. Including my welding machine that looks like it was dropped from a building. In the Philippines its often excepted but my western perspective is different. If I borrow something I will bring it back in the same condition I borrowed it in, If I break it I replace it. Because something isn’t mine means I will take extra care of it.

Projects I work on are giveaway but they have to be something that people give in the future as well. E.g. if I started a plant nursery and got the first seedlings and gave them to other people to grow on I would expect them to pass some of their next batch onto neighbours etc. Not sell them.

Often I do things for people and expect nothing in return but here I have found people adding commission to so many things as a friend of mine said he has no Pinoy friends because he wouldn’t want to get friendly and then they do something to offend him. Which originally I found harsh but over time and the fact he has been here for more than eight years some of them very difficult due to financial thefts and other problems relating to trusting people I can understand what he means. Similar statements come from friends in Makati that friendship just ends up in being abused.

Do you agree on this? I am still a bit puzzled as I try to think on how to take the money side out of a lot of friendships and generally it will come round to the same thing. There was something I was involved with that I found that although everything I was doing I paid for and donated extra that others were literally claiming for everything including fuel and lunches as expenses yet everyone else as part of the project just absorbed the costs as their own.

Somewhere along the way things have gone wrong and a lot of the trends are appearing which simply shouldn’t be there. I do have the odd friend like it in the UK but generally you just avoid anything financial with them as you know they skim. At the same time I wouldn’t buy them a beer when I am out either as I know somewhere down the line they have managed to rip me off for something. But that is probably about one person in three hundred. Generally I probably have more friends that would give things than take and willing to do stuff just because I am involved. So why is it with some of the stuff here that I get involved in which is “free” or donations/charitable are some people looking to make a profit or a sideline income?

I think I have got to the point where I no longer fit in anywhere. General civilian life in the UK is completely different to the military one I was brought up in, Philippines life I find myself nearly three years on and still a Foreigner I have intergreated more than a lot of other people but still its the white face standing out amongst the crowd. But at the same time I wonder if its a bad thing? Maybe I do need to start distancing myself more and aligning more with Expat’s of similar backgrounds and businesses. Time will tell but personally I think once a Foreigner always a Foreigner as things will always come back to it.

7 comments for “Can a foreigner really intergrate into Philippines society?

  1. Andrew_wearing_well
    June 24, 2010 at 6:07 am

    I would agree Matt given I was the person in Makati, the basic issue is we are seen as white and by that I mean with bottomless pockets which we can keep shelling out of. This has meant in my experience that the money or skin will always get in the way, I wish I could be treated by local friends as one of them but it just never happens, the money is always there as an issue, I am always waiting for the can you lend me this or I have a sick relative and I need a loan, and eventually it comes along as I expect they never let me down. I have learnt for experience that no matter how much I want it to work it just never does, which I find sad but inevitable, so I gave up trying. Don’t get me wrong I’m very friendly to most people I meet, my wife’s relatives especially as most of them I like, but I always keep that distance now so I don’t have to be disappointed.
    There is an attitude here which I think has grown up from the OFW money and the heavy charity money that has flown in from abroad, that why should I work, or why should I take care of something, as its not mine it will be replaced if damaged, its endemic now and I don’t see it changing, which is a shame as generally pino's are good natured, and fun people to be around and this trait spoils them for me.
    But it is their country I am a guest here so I have no intention of trying to change it, I just work with the situation as I see it.

  2. Matt_wilkie
    June 24, 2010 at 10:53 am

    What concerns me is how do people see us.. as often we are assumed to forget others or arrogant foreigners yet the truth of the matter more often than not is once burned twice shy. I think trying to be part of the local community too much also brings a lot of stress as well as disappointment as your trying to do one thing while others try to do another. Sad but true.

  3. Tropicalpenpals
    June 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    The differences though is quantity in the UK its rare and often you can pick people out long before it even happens. Here its magnified, is it racism? without a doubt it is towards us but at the same time its mixed with cultural issues as OFW's meet with many of the same issues. I think the best intergration is actually to keep some distance at the same time. Things like even a marginal difference of wealth stands out like a sore thumb and most of what is an issue comes down to money in some form.

  4. The other Matt
    June 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    The world is tough now, and maybe it always was. The expat community here is also full of ball busters, and then you throw in a few Filipino expats (you know, the ones that lived on foreign lands for a long time but came back home) and its like getting knocked down at every turn.

    I do wonder if its actually a perception thing too. Some of this has to come from perception. When I lived back home, even though you had a sense you couldnt just trust anyone, you were still somehow a part of the community. That feeling of being a part of a community actually means something emtionally even if you cant really do a whole lot with it. As you said, even in the UK, people looked to fuck their brother over.

    Its easier to recognize bad behavior and back stabbing attitudes as an expat in a foreign land because you've got that extra burdon of stranger in a strange land. You never quite fit in because of racial issues, and you never feel like you can trust, but isnt that racial too? You couldnt totally trust in your homeland either, but somehow you made a connection with others you couldnt trust and I wonder if it really does come down to race. Not just skin color, but overal racial backgrounds.

    I'm all over the idea of not using race as a score on a grade card, but maybe it does mean something. Its drive people to wars and keeps people from trusting. Why can a Filipino get screwed over in the Philippines and not have the same feeling that a white guy getting screwed in the Philippines? Is it the racial issue after all?

    If race really has something to do with all this stuff you bring up, how do you come to terms with it? How can you over come it? Its about a fundamental understand and feeling I think. Its frustraiting.

    Its alien.

  5. Raymond Swarbrick
    June 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    And the road to ruin is paved with good intentions, how many horror stories do you want!

  6. Victor
    June 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Matt why do you give things away and then complain when that someone makes a few pesos? Dont do favors but do good things that pay you back. Someone needs something lend them money with interest. If you like to give things away don’t complain.

    • Profile photo of OLDARTICLES
      June 9, 2011 at 12:09 am

      You obviously don’t understand the point. Your not giving something away it doesn’t work as the mentality is the same as “Hey Joe you give me money!” caused by NGO’s and hand outs. The idea is that they have to produce for others and continue the chain so that the chain gets bigger with time. Its called building a community spirit. Im not here to give hand outs to people that would be knocking the door every day if there was free food its why so many people rely on Aid world wide these days instead of fending for themselves. Lend them money with interest that makes so much sense! they can’t afford to eat every day so we lend them money instead and get them into debt that way we can take what little they do have or they simply don’t pay the debt.. I hear the IMF have an opening maybe its your next role..