06 October 2019

Tampo! Filipino way of NOT fixing problems!

One of my pet hates, I have to say. The dreaded Tampo. And just learned a new word the other day which is "Sumpong", which seems much the same. Maybe some difference, but still fairly dreadful and inexcusable from any adult and certainly from a loving spouse.

tampo sumpong and sulking in Philippines with Filipinas
A junior tampo!

Tampo - What is it?

Most who understand something about Filipino culture understand that it's a fairly non-confrontational culture as a rule. Maintaining amor propio (self-respect) and not forcing another person to lose hiya (face) mean more than facing up to some unpleasant truths. In short, no one confronts anybody about their faults or offensive behaviour. They just let it go rather than risk embarrassing them. Tampo performances are no exception.

It's behaviour more common in women than men. It's seen as a bit unmanly for a man to have tampo. They are more likely to lash out at others under similar circumstances and have been known to pick up a gun when stressed! Another poor way of dealing with issues that could/should have been talked through.

Western equivalents are sulking and having a tantrum, although more acceptable in children and teenagers than in adults! More intelligently this can be referred to as passive-aggressive behaviour, where a person lacks the courage or the willingness to confront a person as to what upsets them and will hide behind pseudo-passive actions. But then, the Australian passive-aggressive usually has things to say whereas the tampo princess does not. It's the silent-treatment all the way.

Typical behaviour

  • Silent treatment
  • Locking themselves in rooms
  • Disappearing and hiding somewhere or maybe running away
  • Refusing to make eye-contact
  • Refusing to eat
  • Withdrawing from groups of friends, family etc
  • Resisting all affection and attempts to make things right

It is passive-aggressive in that it's most definitely meant to punish the offending party, and can be very cruel. Don't kid yourself into thinking that the tampo perpetrator is somehow a victim. It's meant to cause suffering and not to bring about a peaceful resolution. This becomes obvious if, say, the phone rings in the middle of a tampo and the tampo princess is able to have a normal conversation and then return to their "performance" straight after. If it was something the perpetrator couldn't stop, they could never muster up instant self-control under such circumstances to have a normal phone conversation, could they?

So if you have the misfortune to encounter such behaviour, you can expect it to last anything from 1/2 a day to several days. And when it's over, you can expect the princess to act as though nothing happened in the first place and they will expect you to do the same. Woe betide the husband who says "Let's discuss this so it won't happen again"!

Poor advice

The usual advice given revolves around non-confrontation, of course. Either suffer in silence and let them have their misery moment, or even worse is to be very sweet and malambing. Sweet gestures, and even going so far as to apologise profusely for absolutely everything even if you did nothing. Basically this means to reward her for awful behaviour and never confront her ever for fear of it happening again.

Sorry, but this is an offensive and barely-disguised act of aggression from someone who has done nothing practical to solve a problem. To punish someone who you claim to love by withholding/withdrawing love from them? What sort of $#!+ is that? Certainly not something that should be rewarded by malambing and undeserved apologies!

I know men who are probably a bit harder-hearted than someone like me, and they will say they don't mind tampo at all. Wife ignores them, so they get time to go fishing or something similar. Couldn't do it myself, but I have more understanding about that than to see a man take the coward's way out!

Communication in Marriage

I did an article on my business BLOG page about communication in relationships earlier this year. Haven't read it? Please do. CLICK HERE. One of my better articles, I don't mind saying.

If you're having issues with tampos and similar passive-aggressive behaviour, then you and your wife definitely need to read this. Very very different to the "Filipino way", which centers around non-confrontation because of fragile egos and "onion-skin". The method I describe?  Nothing I've invented or could lay claim to. I'm sure I learned about it under "conflict resolution" during university management studies. And it's largely win-win commonsense stuff that most people should be able to work out for themselves if they care about each other.

No one should bully anyone in a relationship! Not the loud-mouth aggressor, and not the sulking passive-aggressive. If you want to force your own way onto your spouse through fear, then shame on you! Utter shame on you! Trying to make your spouse suffer through loud aggression OR by painful silence and a withholding of love.....this isn't love! This is cruelty!

Adults should have self-control and self-discipline. Decent adults don't tolerate toxic behaviour from themselves which hurts the ones they love. Decent adults are tougher on themselves than anyone else ever would be. Decent adults will welcome and encourage their spouse to share their feelings and to tell them when their behaviour is causing hurt, and will do everything they can to change their ways!

The secret to a happy marriage isn't rocket-science! Just love each other! Express your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, and encourage your spouse to do the same. And try to do more listening than talking. And try to concentrate on making your spouse happy rather than making demands on them to change. You will end up happier than you could ever dream!

15 September 2019

Australians - Starting a business in the Philippines

I think many Australians like the idea of starting up a business in the Philippines. They love the idea of being the ex-pat living the good life in Asia and having something small and cosy to earn a living off. Something laid-back and low-pressure compared to how life was back in the rat race!

Australian expats running a successful business in Philippines

And I think a lot of the illusion comes from the time that this Australian has spent here on holidays in Philippines and enjoying the romance. Travel.....new places....comfort and cuddles....leisure. Plus seeing money go further here than it does back in Australia. Cost of living is maybe a 1/3 of what it is in Australia, so the assumption is that one can live well in Philippines on 1/3 of the money and effort of life before.

And it is a good life, that's a fact. Weather is great. Filipino people are friendly. The ladies are lovely. And Philippines life has a stress-free vibe about it. I still remember my first month or so living here. I felt no stress at all! The household was me and Mila, three kids, one helper. We soon bought a car and hired a chap to drive the car. We spent a lot of time touring around exploring. I also discovered the joys of sitting outside with a San Miguel beer and watching the kids goof around.

And there's a way of life here, where it's OK to just do nothing if you feel like doing nothing. No one makes you feel guilty if you're not productive every minute. If you're a tambay then no one will ever criticise you for a sedentary life. If you wish to take a nap during the day, you take a nap. Goodness me! Do that in Australia and everyone thinks you're lazy! The ol' Protestant Work Ethic means you need to work hard and don't complain, and never be caught napping!

So yes, there's a strong impression and assumption that life is easy therefore business will be easy. Filipinos generally appear relaxed and appears not to be in a hurry, therefore so will be a business in Philippines.

Can you live the easy life in the Philippines?

Well, yes. If you're independently wealthy, then sure. Again, no one will criticise you and there's no culture of looking-busy. And yes, you can employ staff at affordable rates to do all sorts of things, whether domestic or in your Philippines-based business. No one will expect you to do hands-on work when you're the boss. Those who've owned bars in Philippines have soon realised that their job is largely on the other side of the bar drinking on talking $#!+ with customers.

However, you will find that if you want a business to be successful you will have to put a great deal of work in especially maintaining standards. Many a business owner has found to his horror that his trusted employees are stealing from him or just generally providing shoddy customer service when he isn't around to supervise. These are the businesses which lose money rather than making it, and will definitely lose customers.....more so if you're targeting Australians and other westerners.

Showing the locals the right way to do it!

This is probably the biggest mistake of all. Many an Australian expat comes to the Philippines loaded with business experience (or just a sense of overall superiority) and thinks he'll show up these Filipinos with western acumen. Serve the good stuff that Aussies like. Do it Aussie style. And the locals will all go "WOWWW!!" and shift their business across. Welllllllll, not likely.

If you target Australians and other westerners? Sure. If you can reach them and the market is large enough, sure. But getting out there and trying to compete with locals in their own game? Think again!

I brought Australian mangoes here a few times to show the locals what the good stuff is. Guess what? They didn't like them! Do they want pies and sausages? Yes, the westerners do. My mate Roy at Welsh Deli makes a great array of English-style sausages and meat pies. I got him doing a beef, bacon and cheese and they're excellent! Asked him the other day if he ever sold to Filipinos? Never! They don't want them.

Had a former client tell me he thought there would be a market here for trailers like we have in Australia. He just assumed they would like them. Suspect they would not. And if they did, they would only make them cheaper.

And my poor ol' mate Ross the Aussie builder (RIP) who tried to compete with locals found that (a) he couldn't work so cheap and (b) they were uncomfortable dealing with him. Plus, his workers only took advantage of him. We're just realising why a roof his men did years ago always leaked, and it was because he couldn't get up there to see they'd left it full of holes when trying to screw it down!)

Big issue, the first point above. How cheaply can you live or do you want to live? Are you OK living like your competitors live? Can you survive on the amount of calories a 5'2" 48kg Filipino can live on? Are you OK washing under a tap in the yard and sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor with a number of others? Have you ever seen how tradesmen on building sites live? Aussies would want to be put up in a motel and have pub meals. My mate Ross ended up dying because he couldn't pay for proper health care.

Successful Australian business in Philippines

Can it be done?

Yes, definitely! Look at amazingly successful and high-quality Registered Migration Agency practice Down Under Visa! Apart from the brilliance (and good looks) of Jeff Harvie, we're successful because our target market is Australians! We have something unique we can offer to Australians which is hard to find in Australia or even elsewhere in the Philippines, and that is an Aussie RMA with a Filipina wife and a Manila office.

Now, if I was targeting work visas and student visas to Filipinos? Maybe not so successful! Maybe they would prefer to deal with one of my Australian Filipino colleagues who specialise in that area. Maybe easier for them to deal with them, eg speaking in Tagalog.

Yes, there are Aussies who do really well here. I'm not talking about the superannuated and investment-weighted retirees. I mean those who set up shop and make some good money. And I'll include my pie-man Roy here, and a few others. They found something westerners want and will pay for, then went and did it really well. Look for what the marketers call a "market window". An unfilled area of the market where you believe you can do well in. Generally, like me and Roy, it will be to your "own people". Not in any way being racist. Just that business success means knowing your target market intimately.

For example, could I run a fashion outlet? Hairdressing salon? Nightclub that plays rap "music"? Not a snowflakes chance in hell could I do any of those, because I know NOTHING about those things and I suspect I couldn't relate well to the clients! Anyone who has met me can see that. Not a fashionista with a cool hairdo, and I detest rapping. With Aussie Filipina couples? Obviously I'm in my element. I don't handle student visas from India, because any Indian RMA will do it better than me and their clients will be happier talking to them. Not racist. Just about finding your ideal place. And it is NOT in competing head-to-head with locals.

01 September 2019

The Philippines School System - For Australians

We've got kids in schools here in the Philippines. Very different to the school system in Australia. A mix of good and bad, like most things you could say. Nothing can be done to change it, but it takes a bit of adjustment to when you've only experienced Australian schools.

I will say that Filipino kids seem to me to be better-behaved and more respectful than typical Australian school kids, but I think that comes down to how respect for elders is part of Philippines culture.

Schools in Philippines, filipino schools
Gorgeous collection of Filipino schoolkids

Schools in Philippines

You have extremes in Philippines, from some of the overcrowded and under-resourced public schools to the really expensive private schools and everything in between. And you have Filipino schools which are highly ethical, and others who will pass your child with wonderful grades even if they don't know very much at all. Let's go over some of the differences.

Public Schools

We had one of our kids in a Philippines public school many years ago, and nearly put a child into one on another occasion. Oh, and had one of our household helpers with a child in a public school once. So I have some brief observations only:

  • Often classes are overcrowded and child may not get a desk
  • The overcrowding means not much teacher-time for individual attention
  • Filipino public school teachers tend to offer to tutor your kids (for a fee, of course) after hours to get them up to speed
  • Expect (as a rich white person) to be flattered and invited to be the class PTA (like P&C) president or similar, because they want donations! We donated a P500 toilet bowl once (I think the school had two toilets for hundreds of kids....must have been a bit smelly!) and our child got remarkably high grades despite being a poor scholar!
  • Sometimes public schools have two "shifts", ie one from 5:00 or 6:00 am until about midday and one from then until about 7:00pm at night. They do this because demand outstrips classroom space. 

Private Schools

Philippines private schools go from the under-resourced and overcrowded right through to smaller classes and excellent resources. And they go from highly ethical to downright corrupt. 

What do I mean by "corrupt"? Well, private schools in Philippines are a business. They are there to make money for the school owners. More students = more fees, and parents (being parents) tend to blame the school if their kids are not doing well. Couldn't possibly be because little Marcelito is as dumb as a post or is just plain lazy. Must be poor teaching! Student doesn't do well, and they take their kids and their fees elsewhere. You may well find your child, who doesn't appear to be overflowing with knowledge, still ends up with fantastic grades in some schools. 

A bigger, better and more established private school will set and maintain standards and cannot be "bought"!

They will, however, tend to listen to you when you have legitimate concerns and will address matters more so than the public school teacher in Australia will do.

Philippines Schools - Some notable differences

English Instruction

Not sure about public schools, although I gather it's generally the same. Philippines schools teach in English! Filipino and Araling Panlipunan (exciting stories about the founding fathers of the Philippines Republic) are taught in Tagalog, but everything else is English. The grammar may be a bit questionable, and you can expect pronunciation like "Pirrrrst, sekond, tirddddd, porrrrrt....". Could be worse! They could say "Righhhhtoh, dja-avagoodweegend?" 

Parrot-Fashion Learning

Filipino students tend to learn a lot of memory-facts, ie the date of Jose Rizal's birth, the names of Emelio Aguinaldo's parents, English terms like "predicate" (heard my 5 year old daughter saying that yesterday) and other words I've never even heard of, names and dates of birth of composers, etc. What they lack is instruction indepth. Very little theory. Very little intellectual exploration of subject matter. They know English grammatical terms that I've never heard of, yet their grammar is usually poor. They even learn to recite reports off by heart! 

Bluntly? You can teach a parrot to repeat what you say, but the parrot has no understanding of what it means. I really dislike the fact that Filipino kids are taught to remember and repeat, but not to understand the substance behind the subject. But there's nothing I can do about it!

Regular Exams

Unlike Australian kids, Filipino school kids have a lot of exams. I think they have them four times a year, and they will do well if they remember Jose Rizal's birthday and what a "predicate" is. And once the exams are over, they usually forget whatever they had to remember because they then move on to the next set of memory exercises. 

Projects instead of "Assignments" 

They seem to spend a lot of time with colours and illustration boards! We have two kids in Year 10, and they still colour things in. They still cut out things from magazines and stick them on sheets of cardboard. Applying their knowledge to researching a topic in more depth? I don't see as much of it happening as I would have expected.

AND parents and/or older siblings will do projects for kids, and think nothing of it! 

Extracurricular Activities and sources of grades

I'm accustomed to marks and grades being earned through a demonstration of knowledge of a subject. Knowledge of facts and knowledge of how to apply that knowledge. To me? That's why you study in the first place. Yet in Philippines they give marks for:
  • Classroom participation (ie putting hand up and answering questions)
  • Dance performances, musical performances, drama performances
  • Sport participation
  • C.A.T. participation (ie marching with wooden rifles....watch out, enemies!)
Extracurricular marks could add significantly to overall grades, ie maybe 5 - 10%. Dancing or marching with a wooden rifle could push a child over the edge from failure to a safe passmark. A kid could actually fail an exam yet pass the subject for something that has nothing to do with the subject itself. 


I suppose my hope for our kids is that if they're interested in what they're doing they'll retain knowledge and their curiosity will take over. Worries me when I see Philippines college graduates knowing very little about what they've learned. Yes, this style continues into tertiary education too. We had a niece in her final year of a management degree be unable to cope with work in our office doing basic clerical work.

I have no solutions to offer, sorry. It is how it is, and they won't change it for li'l ol' me. I write this more to explain how it all works for those Australians who are new to Philippines schooling to help you to understand.

11 August 2019

Karaoke - Love it or hate it

What Filipino home would be without a karaoke machine? What gathering or party would exist in the  Philippines without karaoke/videoke making an appearance at some stage?

videoke and karaoke in the Philippines

I can remember many years ago when I first heard of karaoke, and sorry to say I thought it was a really dumb idea. No issue with singing or with music. Music has always played a major part of my life. Always a rock 'n' roll boy. Used to go and see bands in Sydney when I was a teenager all the time. I think it was the idea of singing to a TV screen that I had trouble getting my head around. Seemed like a very strange thing to do.

Oddly enough though, I used to sing as a kid. Not in front of anybody. Far too humiliating, and I suppose it was just part of growing up in 1970's suburban Australia was that many decisions you made were to avoid ridicule. Certainly a more critical and meaner lot than Filipinos tend to be.

So question is: Does Jeff ever pick up the microphone and sing?

Yes, I most definitely do. When and how? I had sworn never to ever sing to a TV screen over many years, and I had stuck to it. Then in 2010 at a party at a friend's place in Philippines I finally decided to have a go, much to the amazement of my wife and especially my kids. Jaws were dropping like flies! I even had a go at Martin Nievera's "Be My Lady", and seemed to manage the high notes.

Know what's odd? Never been able to hit those high notes since. The song requires someone who has a broad range, and I have my limitations. I suspect it was the quantity of red wine consumed that encouraged me at the beginning was sufficient to hide the fact I probably wasn't hitting those high notes as well as I thought I was. I guess we'll never know!

Karaoke in the Philippines

Is karaoke common in the Philippines? That would be an understatement! Almost everyone has a go, and a notable thing is you never hear criticism even when someone is clearly tone-deaf. Even those who invent notes that don't exist and cause the paint peel off the walls, they still get a clap and assorted words of encouragement. Me? I wince if I hear a single bad note in a song on shows like American Idol. Filipinos? Seem to never notice.

Therefore to get a household where everyone there has some singing talent, this is fairly rare. A few average singers and a whole lot of people who sing like they're "singing through a large sock full of custard with a mouthful of buwad (dried fish)" (credited to Perry Gamsby from Philippine Dreams) is more the norm. And the more alcohol consumed at a gathering, the worse it gets as the voices deteriorate and bravery increases. Add some heavy Filipino accents to English songs, and you can get a very unpleasant sound bellowing across the neighbourhood!

In fact when my daughter Remy first came to Australia, we played her the amazing Wing (singing Mama Mia, I'm fairly sure). How did Remy react? She started singing along! Didn't get the point at all! (Click on the link if you don't know what I'm referring to). This is because she grew up surrounded by singers who would make Wing seem like Celine Dion in comparison!

But basically, nearly everyone sings in the Philippines. Alcohol helps, but it's not a vital component. Birthday parties...house blessings.....even funerals. Yes, people will sing at the wake in the days before the funeral, and back at the house afterwards. Open coffin on display in one room, and a rental videoke machine set up outside for the mourners to enjoy.

And families with machines at home (like the Harvie family) will usually have a machine hooked up to the TV set and an amplifier. Requests of "Can we sing tonight, dad?" are pretty common. Remy and myself are the most enthusiastic, and Maggie (5 years old) is catching up. Remy and I sing "Way Back Into Love" and "What's up?" as duets, and Maggie likes "Eternal Flame" and "500 Miles" with me. And I'm so glad that all the kids have forgotten "Let It Go" from that awful "Frozen" cartoon movie.

Can be a great deal of fun, and it brings people together. Much better that a house full of people all glued to phones and devices.

28 July 2019

Forgiveness - That great Filipino tradition

Filipinos and Forgiveness

I touched on this before when I wrote about family tambays.

We had one of our nieces go off the rails many years ago. She was 14. Fell into a bad crowd. Was disappearing for days on end and they couldn't find her. She was openly defiant of her father. I was always fond of her since I met her at the age of 7 and she was very sweet. Got her Tita Mila (my wife and her auntie) to write to her. I asked her to add the line "....and your family will all turn their backs on you" as a threat. Veiled threats are good parenting, I've always found.

Then Mila said no, because she would never believe it. No one ever tosses a family member out. They'll give them hell. The more physical will give kids a good walloping with a belt, rattan or some part of the banana plant. But to turn their backs on them? Not that I've ever seen.

Australia and Philippines - and Forgiveness

Yes, I grew up in Australia. My parents generation? They were born in the 1930's. Grandma was born in 1911. Yes, they had their black-sheep. My great-Uncle made the terrible error of marrying a Catholic, and appeared to have been on the outer for many decades. His mother said the Irish are hoarding guns and would take over once the Pope gave the order, etc. And my fathers relatives? Never met a single one of them. Not sure what terrible crime they all committed. Apparently my grandmother on his side lived a few km away and no doubt I grew up walking past her. Had cousins 4 - 5 km away, and only ran into cousin Kerrie on Facebook recently!

Yet my generation became even less forgiving. Lost contact with father since I was a teenager. Organised his funeral for him a few years ago because no one else would. Spent more years avoiding my brother than not avoiding him. Grandparents, lost touch. Uncle, cousins, etc lost touch decades ago and am still not in touch.

Filipinos? Very unusual to have estranged family members. Family is the one constant, and the most stable aspect of Filipino society. Can't rely on the Government, but can always rely on each other.

We all have an historically-based sense of superiority in us, regardless of how much we try to deny it. I'm talking about descendants of the British Empire, and no doubt other former colonisers. We have this Great White Father syndrome that thinks we are the civilisers from the advanced societies, and the lesser-nations need to learn from us. I'd like to think this has lessened in myself over the years. And I suppose the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. All theories aside, look at the end results.

Families: Wise westerners are estranged from half their family members. Filipinos love and support and are supported by most of their own.

Marriages: Wise westerners with groovy stuff like no-fault divorce have a 40%+ divorce rate. Filipinos stick together and forgive each other their imperfections.

So who are the wise ones??

Middle Ground?

Yes, Filipinos can fight and squabble, and there are plenty of hurt feelings. There are also the bullies and the bullied. Confrontation is rare, and I DO believe that there are times when someone should be given a few home-truths. The tambay is a prime example. So is the womaniser. I've always been a person who clears the air, who says what needs to be said. And usually the kindest thing you can do for someone troubled is to confront them and say the harsh words that need to be said.

The issue though is forgiveness! A wonderful quality, and one that doesn't come naturally from earthly sources. Yet once it becomes part of your nature, it becomes fairly permanent. This is my personal BLOG and not a business thing, so hope anyone reading will allow me to speak my mind. You can believe as you wish, but then so can I. When you see yourself as an imperfect person....a sinner, as it were....it's much easier to forgive others. And unless you're a total narcissist, you KNOW you're far from perfect! I have an imperfect wife, and I remain endlessly grateful that I do! She has a highly imperfect husband, so why would someone like me deserve a perfect wife? I consider myself very lucky for all that I have! If she gets something wrong, then forgiveness comes quite naturally.

And my kids? Can be selfish monsters. Could cheerfully throttle them at times. I have one particular daughter who went right off the rails at age 15, and it took several years for her to sort herself out. Never lost hope, and she's now the kindest and most forgiving person you could ever meet and I'm very proud of her. Could have given up, and glad I never did. And I'm lucky to have a family who doesn't give up on me either.

So yes, my own middle-ground is to face things and fix things, but to ask for my trespasses to be forgiven as I forgive those who trespass against me! Pretty good deal that one! I deserve as much forgiveness as I'm prepared to give to others. No more, no less.

22 July 2019

Tambay - The not-so-productive Filipino male

The Philippines Tambay - The Less-Desirable Male

The Philippines Tambay. Every family has a few of them. These are the non-productive family members who have no jobs and no ambition, usually young Filipino males 18-35. The only time they show enthusiasm is when there's food, beer/gin/brandy and some company to "celebrate" with. Everybody's friend when there's free food and grog, and the very last person you want your daughter to get involved with. Oh, and usually quite skilled at bringing babies into the world that they will never support.

Again, every family has a few of them. And it really is something unimpressive to me.

Lazy People - Always a Cost

Living costs money! We consume! We eat food. We drink. We need clothes. We need medical care.
It all costs. And if you produce nothing yourself, other than defecation and carbon dioxide, then someone else's labours are going to go toward your support. I don't know.....something in the way I was brought up. I can't feel for a second that this is OK.

I have enough trouble with royalty and heirs to parents wealth in the west. Always have. Yet at least in those cases you know there is plenty to go around. If some prince or princess on the UK public purse had to get a job and pay their own way, it wouldn't made a dent in the vast wealth that exists. However we're generally talking about people who live off poor people! For someone to keep the family tambay fed and clothed, it means they work harder. Or if they can't work harder, it means they may do without something. Maybe that's food or education for their kids or medicine for themselves. I can't feel that this is OK!

We "cured" one once. Has a job now (working for us), and has some purpose. Years ago when I first met him? Spent a lot of time sleeping, and a lot of time with his silly mates (barkada, ie similarly lazy friends). Lived off elderly parents and an older sister who spent her entire adult life working overseas to send money back to pay for the likes of him. This paid for him to sleep and to be the life-of-the-party wherever he went. A 30 year old man shouldn't live like this!

What surprises me is no one says anything about it all! The tambay isn't embarrassed. They will even be quite proud of the fact they're living off a hard-working OFW sibling and contributing nothing. Their elderly parents can work right in front of them, and you will be lucky if they manage to wash a few dishes on occasions. But family always come first, and it takes more than laziness to see someone kicked out. And the tambay knows this too.

Philippines - A land of contrasts

I've always said that everything here is black or white. Not much in between. I'm talking about the nature of people you meet. Someone is either a candidate for sainthood or one of the devil's barkadas. Honest and kind, or a lying user-and-abuser. Faithful and moral, or a complete [I'll leave the word out!]. Ambitious, or can't see past the next five minutes. Working like a slave for the betterment of their families, or a lazy tambay.

Yeah, I definitely don't like it. I'm not known for keeping my mouth shut when something seems terribly wrong. My thinking is that evil pervades when good men do nothing, and someone doing nothing whilst someone else sacrifices for them? This may not fit a definition of "evil", but it's in the same camp. But I know nothing will change. All I'm certain of is that these people will not get my support. My adult kids work for a living, just as I do. And I married a worker! To each their own, I suppose. All I can say is that there are no welcome stumps nor is their any endless food and Red Horse supply at my door for any tambay and never will be!

15 July 2019

Filipina Girls - Romantics Always

Filipina Girls

I often make posts on Quora. Usually about visas, but also about things that capture my interest. Sometimes a post really annoys me, and one the other day did just that.

It's a modern-day cute lovers-thing to celebrate a "monthsary" when a couple have been together for a month. Someone had asked the question about whether the popularity of the monthsary was because of the short-lived nature of Filipino relationships.

I disagreed with this, and explained myself I thought fairly well.

OK, I can't especially speak for the motivation of young Filipino men. I would say driven by the desire for sex and being cool, like most young men are and were. Surprise surprise! But the driving force behind relationships here is usually the woman....the Filipina. And they are made of sterner stuff than the implication that relationships in the Philippines are short-lived.

The girls? They are ROMANTIC! Most girls give their hearts truly only once in their lives. Their first love is usually their first AND last love. First boyfriend in highschool usually becomes husband and the two grow old together. I look around most couples I know here, and I see ladies who are loyal and committed.

Does that mean they take crap? Does that match the awful cliche of the subservient "Asian woman" who believes herself inferior to men and was "trained from birth that her purpose in life is to serve men"? If these ladies exist, I've never met one here! The ladies I meet here are tough! Highly capable and courageous. They do whatever it takes to protect and advance their families. They work like Trojans, and truly are the Proverbs 31:10-31 woman you read about. Works hard for her family, and is honoured and respected by those around her.

This is a country where a 50 year wedding anniversary doesn't make the newspapers. It just means they're both in their 70's. They married. They stuck together through thick and thin, for better for worse, and doing that for 50 years is not an achievement of a weak woman who gives up easily on a relationship. Not at all.

I married a good woman. A virtuous woman who's price is far above rubies. She never stops moving, always making things happen. And fiercely loyal to me! Watch out for anyone who would hurt me, con me or disrespect me while I have my Filipina terrier on guard! Couldn't wish for a better wife, nor a better friend. How many of you can truly say you married your best friend? I know I did. And she comes from a long line of strong and capable women with busy hands and minds always thinking of the future and how to make it better for those that they love. And no doubt our daughters will go on to be the same, with such a great role model.

01 July 2019

If I were a rich man...

White man in Philippines....MUST be rich

rich man in the philippines perception that all foreigners are rich

Regardless of how "rich" you are or not, you will always be seen as rich in Philippines. You're Australian, ie a "foreigner"? That makes you rich. And compared to the locals you are, and no one seems to be able to get past that. People see you, and they see dollars.

And yes, some wish to part you and your hard-earned money. Scammers are everywhere, even within families. But it's not always like that, nor is it necessarily meant offensively. Although I have to say I really don't like any reference to being "rich" and I'll explain why.

"Rich" - Philippines versus Australia

Different attitudes toward being "rich" between Philippines and Australia, you find. Philippines? I think the "rich" like being known as rich, and are happy that people treat them differently. Australians? Not so much.

Australians are egalitarian by nature. We believe in a level playing field, where everyone gets their equal share of rights and their equal share of respect. We have a natural disdain for "classes", and don't like it when we see anybody treated as lower than others or even as higher than others.

Philippines? Most of the time the rich are very showy about it all. They wear branded clothes....showy rings and necklaces etc. You will see them in S&R (imported groceries store in Philippines) with household helpers wearing uniforms pushing their shopping trollies for them. For many there is no "I'm just like everyone else" attitude.

Australia? Australians understand this, but Filipinos would not know unless they'd been to Australia and seen how things work for us.

We Aussies like to see everyone at the same level. We don't believe that wealth and human-worth have any correlation at all. If someone is less-affluent (we would NEVER use the word "poor"), we will lift them up. If someone is "rich" and acts in a proud (mayabang, for the Filipinos) manner, we will humble them. And we can be quite blunt about it and will refuse to bow down to anybody just because they have a bigger house or a better job than us. We have respect for humble people and contempt for arrogant people.

I think a lot of this comes from Australia being a former colony of England. England has long been a class-riddled society, with the "common" people expected to "know their place" and not to "get ideas above their station", ie the station in life. If you were born the son of a tradesman then you became a tradesman too and you humbled yourself before the rich-and-privileged. Australians reacted to this, and thus you have a society which appreciates the man who has money and power yet acts just like everyone else. Our politicians ensure that they attend football games and are seen drinking beer in the pub with ordinary people.

A humble rich white man in the Philippines

I'm an Australian in the Philippines. I've had to adjust to staff calling me "sir". I don't like it, but it's the way things work here. If you are TOO humble, staff can get the wrong idea and assume you have romantic ideas about them if they are female or think that you are a bit stupid if they are male. So you accept this, and you make yourself a bit aloof. It prevents future problems in most cases, although we still get it wrong regularly. Too soft, and people take advantage. They are used to rich people being hard and strict, so you need to at least hold back a bit.

I’ll explain what I find hard to take. I don’t like being identified as “rich”. I don’t like being seen first and foremost as being “rich”, and when people can’t look past that aspect of you. I wish more people could just see me as Jeff the person! Jeff the husband of Mila. Jeff the dad. Jeff the kind person. Jeff the soft-hearted. 

I had someone say hello to me the other week. They told me they wish they were like me, ie “rich”. She made it clear she wanted donations for the school where she worked, too. She will never know me....who I am....whether I’m even nice. Yeah, I’m sick of it. Love the Philippines, but miss the anonymity I had in Australia which allowed me to be seen as me.

25 June 2019

Accepting Charity - Australia versus Philippines

Accepting Money (Charity) - My experiences in Australia

One of the big differences between Australia and Philippines, and one that's not easy for Australians to adjust to. I understand real need, and we're kind to those who are truly in need. I know what it feels like to do-without, because I didn't come from the wealthy part of town. Fibro.....not brick!

Still, I never heard my parents ever discussing money. No crying about how we don't have money. Never saw them beg or take handouts. As a family, we lived within our means. Furniture and appliances weren't replaced often. Cars were updated (with a new second-hand car) every five years. Took holidays by train and stayed in rented "weekender" cottages by the beach somewhere a few hundred km away.

And I grew up with the same live-within-your-means mentality. Learned to save my $5.00 a week (which I earned sweeping the floor in the barbershop) and that was how I bought things I wanted. Bought what you could afford, then took good care of those things.

Accepting charity and handouts in the Philippines versus Australia
"Ako mahirap"

Mum left the ol' man when I was 13. Relatives helped out, because she had nothing. Only took things from my room, because Mum didn't want to be seen as a gold-digger. It was a different age! Decent friends and relatives would protect her dignity by saying "Oh, we just bought a new lounge. If you could take this one off our hands, we would be grateful." etc. It saved her from being embarrassed, which she appreciated. She's gone now, but I can remember well how independent she remained all her life and would not allow Mila to "accidentally" leave groceries behind at her place. Didn't like it one little bit!

Asking others for handouts? Favours? Accepting charity? Never! Nothing was worth the cost of lost dignity!

One of the problems in accepting charity is that it invariably comes "loaded". In the Philippines, they call it utang or utang na loob. An internalised feeling of debt, one which decent people feel compelled to repay. Decent people with some respect, they give unconditionally. Others, they will remind you of what they've done for you. The coarse way of describing this is that you become "their bitch"!

I don't know about you, but Jeff Harvie is nobody's bitch! When I had nothing.....early stages of marriage.....would go-without rather than accepting handouts for that reason. I could only remain fiercely independent if I was my own man. And I still function that way to this day. I'm proud to say that everything I have came from my own initiatives and hard work.

Filipinos and Charity

A bit different!

I can remember a relative telling me proudly how his son worked on a ship...."a LUXURY ship".... and supported them via his earnings. Whereas I could never imagine living off my kids. Couldn't live with the shame!

And had two of our kids visiting the provinces years ago. A 9 year old and an 12 year old. They both emptied their pockets and handed money to their parents. One had P33.00 and gave it to her papa. "Did he accept it??" I asked. "Yes". I was shocked!

I know that not everyone is like that. My wife says she was never sent off to "suck up" to the rich relative or neighbour in order to get handouts. And as she grew up she never asked for charity, because she didn't want to have utang to anybody. And most of her relatives are basically OK. They don't ask for anything, yet most won't say no if it's offered.

And some are really terrible! I had to deal with three of them recently who were pressuring my daughter into giving them handouts. Too scared to try it on with Mila or myself, yet would happily try it with a 22 year old that they saw as a soft touch. I won't expand too much, but I can't get my head around this sort of thing. Oh, OK. I can expand a little bit.....

  • Asking for cash
  • Asking "Can you buy this for me?"
  • Asking "Can I have this?" when they see something they want, eg clothing item, phone, etc
  • Inviting themselves to go shopping, on an outing etc, and naturally expecting that the "rich" relative will pick up the tab and pay for everything
  • Sending their kids to visit with hardly any clothes, expecting us to take them shopping to make up for what they left out
  • And sometimes just openly stealing!

I'm OK with being kind. Someone gets very ill, or someone dies? Never slow to come forward with help. And with kids, always happy to help especially if they need a better place to live. It's those who have the audacity to ask. It's those who assume they have a right to share simply because they're relatives, and it's especially those who are sweet and charming purely to keep in your good-books, or worse when they push their kids to be close to us so they can get advantage later.

And I get a bit cheeky sometimes. Saw a message on my wife's phone from a relative. No idea if it was meant as a request for a handout, but was something about "God bless those who give to others...". I responded with "God blesses those who work hard and support themselves, and don't take charity." And I believe that absolutely!

18 June 2019

Fathers Day in Philippines

Fathers Day

Just celebrated Fathers Day here in Philippines, as I have for the 10th time in a row.

I believe in Australia this year it will be celebrated in September, yet 16 June here. No idea how it works. It took me a few years to get used to this. Now? I have no kids in Australia, so seems little point in insisting on an Aussie date. The difference makes more sense that the Queen's Birthday though. I believe Prince Chuckles during his youthful sabbatical in Australia asked what the holiday was, and was amused to hear that it was what Australians called "the Queen's Birthday". I think it may even differ between states!

Off thing in the Philippines is that you get "Happy Fathers Day" greetings from everyone! Yet in Australia it's only your kids who will greet you, and I don't know how to respond when elderly aunties say that to me. It's the same as when someone says "Let's eat!"

But back to more important things......fathers, and why we matter.

Fathers Day in Philippines, and what it means to be a father

Being a father - What does it mean?

I first became a father in 1988. Yes, I'm old. But I also became a father at 22 years old, which makes me probably a little younger than the mental equation you made.

I had two sons biologically via first marriage. My eldest son Greg (RIP) was tragically taken from us in 2011. Car crash. I already hated Holden Commodores and Australian car-culture before then, and this tragedy only cemented that feeling more. But youngest son Jeremy (c.1992) is alive and well, and has a fine beard like his dad and also impeccable taste in women just like me, ie he also married a Filipina lady.
  • So, two biological sons;
  • One buy-one-take-one daughter (wife Mila was a single mum);
  • Seven nieces who live here fulltime and call me Daddy;
  • One granddaughter who lives here;
  • Four more who call me Dad who are harder to categorise;

So what does being a father mean to Jeff Harvie?  To me....coupled with being a husband....I would say the most fulfilling thing a man can do and can aspire to be. And it's a sacrificial, unconditional love that makes the father in you. You love those who love you in return and you love those who do NOT necessarily love you in return. You love them regardless, and you do so because you believe that they are deserving of love as every human being is deserving of love.

And as a father, your role is to give support, protection, guidance and correction to those who need this from you. Biological kids? Of course! Those whom you did not physically/biological father? Do they NEED you? Do they NEED fathering, because of absent biological fathers (physical distance or emotional distance)? Do you have the skills and willingness to be a dad to them? If so, then yes you should do it.

How to be a dad?

For myself? It just happened all of a sudden 31 years ago! I would like to think that instincts just took over, so hard to think of. Let's see.....

1. Want them to love you? Love them first! That's something I frequently tell clients. Mostly they will love you in return. But it should always start from you, and should start from a deeply-held belief that you MUST love them. Anything less should be totally unacceptable to you.

2. Be a dad to them! They have plenty of school mates. They have siblings. This is a different relationship. Don't let them call you by your first name. Don't be "Steve" to them, or even "Uncle Steve". And if in the Philippines, don't let anyone try to get the kids to call you "Daddy Steve", as it downgrades your role. I get "Daddy Jeff" from some of the relatives who don't get it, and I really dislike it because it's a bit like "Uncle".

3. Be strong and consistent and decisive. Being a wuss who wants to have conferences and democratic voting with small children? They will gain nothing at all. They need guidance and they need boundaries.

4. Make sure that you and your wife/fiancee/partner work as a team. If you undermine each other, kids will soon work out how to play the two of you off against each other. Support each other and back each other up. If you meet a lady who wants you to not get involved in the upbringing of "her kids"? I think I would go so far as to say you should move on! It will be a bad relationship.

5. And never have favourites! This is a common scenario here in Philippines, even in 100% biological families. Awful! No child should be more important or more loved than any other, and that includes your own biological kids. Kids KNOW when they are the less-important child, and it can scar them for life! ALL are deserving of love simply because they are human and they breathe the same air as you. You deserved it as a child, and hopefully you received it. Whether you did or not? It's time to give it back.

6. Remember that the love is for YOU to give, and that love should be unconditional. Agape in Ancient Greek. Given with no expectation of anything in return. And that includes (see #5 above) where you feel you should love the smart kid, the pretty kid or the kid who is very sweet to you somehow more than the less-appealing child who argues with you all day. All the same!

A bit of wisdom from Kahlil Gibran (The Prophet) below:

On Children

 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

10 June 2019

Philippines - Life in the provinces

Life in the Philippines Provinces

The Australian translation would be "life in the bush", although the Philippines provinces are very different to the Australian bush in a number of ways.

By the way, we don't actually live "in the bush" here. I suppose you could say we live in the "suburbs". City, but not "the big city". Not in Manila itself. Not right in the middle of it all with skyscrapers, etc. Manila and the close-to-Manila areas are not what many would expect. This is a country that would fit three times into Queensland (I think), but has 100,000,000 people. So as Aussies you would think people would be stacked 2 - 3 high just so they fit in. No, not so. You get just beyond Metro Manila and you're already out in the boondocks in many ways. Drive along the Aguinaldo Highway, and it all looks cluttered, crowded and busy. Lots of activity and lots of noise. But sometimes you only need to go back 50 metres from the highway and you see mango trees and goats!

From our weekender's front door (a bit of rain)

The Provinces

We have a weekender in the province. A bit less than an hour from home, depending on traffic. I'm a workaholic with my migration practice, and the only way I unwind and take weekends off is to get away from the computer and where everyone can reach me. So we have our little escape. A couple of acres with an array of fruit trees in a sleepy little town.

Different to the Australian bush? Yes, definitely. Main difference is that in Australia there is so much land and so few people. Here in Philippines? Still people around wherever you go.

We had guests coming around on Saturday. So we opened the blue gates up the front (which you can see in the picture) so they could drive in with ease. I'm sitting inside where I could see out the front.

A black chicken struts very purposefully down the road. A chicken on a mission. 

Then a duck walks past....decides to come in and make itself at home....and our azkal (mongrel dog) chases it out. 

Another duck considers coming in, then changes its mind.

Another black chicken heading the same way. Looks remarkably like the other chicken. Suspect a Poultry Convention happening down the road. Note that I wasn't busy, or I would never have had the availability of thought to notice such things.

Mother duck goes past with maybe 10 ducklings. Thought maybe she went "Quack, quack, quack, quack..." and only 10 little ducks came back? Yes, I have small children, and this is what they do to your thought processes.  

So a fairly relaxed and laid-back place. No one in a hurry. Absence of stress!

The locals

The local people are nice! No other word, really. 

I can sit with the gate open, and no one is trying to get in to put the scam on us. No gangs of hoodlums. Just nice folk getting about their daily business.

We had workers there, extending the hollow-block (concrete) wall. The locals would give them chillis or vegetables or calamansi (little limes). Or if there was a party, they'd drop off some food for them. When someone killed their cow, they gave them about 5kg of beef! Any reason? No, that's just what they do. 

And we have a local neighbourhood boy......"Kulit" we nicknamed him. Short for "makulit", which means "cheeky" because he's a very confident boy. 10 years old, I think. He drops around regularly. We give him some odd jobs to do, and he gets a feed or P50.00. He's one of 8 kids, so definitely appreciated. 

And everyone seems to go to bed around 8:00pm! All quiet and peaceful after that. 

06 June 2019

Filipino Kids - Wonderful

Filipino Kids - Nicest and sweetest kids

Always find it a little odd when clients don't include Filipino children in Partner Visa applications. No, not blaming anyone. Sometimes the kids are staying with an Aunt or with Grandma (Lola) and have lived apart from their mum who was away working, and other times the couple decide to let mum settle in to life in Australia before applying for the kids later with a Child Visa.

This is more about about life here in the Philippines. This is me telling my stories, which may or may not interest you. I would think if you were living here like I do, yes maybe it will be.

A few of our small kids

But you will find if you live here that kids are never too far away. Your lady-love may have kids, or the relatives certainly will. We've "borrowed" quite a lot of family children, because we can provide them with better lives than a lot of the poorer rellies can. And we find them rather loveable! Thus we have eight of them here, from 16 years down to 6 months.

Why Filipino kids?

They're kind-hearted, sweet and smiley. Much like grownup Filipinos. And they generally respect elders, and are kind with little kids.

And they're accustomed to interacting with other kids. They have endless games that they know how to play. Love singing and dancing (girls), and boys like basketball. You can get a large group of Filipino kids, and they'll start playing a game you've never seen before. Older kids show tremendous patience with little kids and babies.

I can remember my mother visiting from Australia, being very impressed at how a couple of my girls were with little Maggie (who was about 2 at the time). She vomited on herself, as little kids tend to do. Erika and Chin Chin (13 and 12 at the time) just took her, cleaned her up and changed her clothes. No hesitation and no trying to get out of the task. Goodness me, I would never have done that when I was 12!

How to deal with Filipino kids?

Maybe you're not well-practiced with kids? Never had kids, or are seriously out of practice?

A couple of things.....

1. If you want kids to love you? Love them first! They can't resist being loved. Get to know them as individuals, and you will find them fascinating! Not very complicated at all.

2. And don't do the "step-child/step-father" thing. Treat them as your own. Kids need to be parented. They don't need a 40 or 50 year old schoolmate! If they are the kids of a single parent especially, they've probably been craving having a dad. Be a dad to them.

Megan (6 months)

I won't say much more. These are just my thoughts of the day. My home is a happy place largely because of the sound of kids. I have two of them drawing on a chalkboard just across from my desk right now. What could be nicer?

The artists

31 May 2019

Why does Jeff live in Philippines?

Why Philippines?

This is our home. Lived here full time since 2010. Friend of mine who lived here for a number of years told me the novelty would wear off and by the fifth year I'd hate the place with a passion.

Well? I don't. I love the place!

Is it challenging? Definitely! There are things that are frustrating. The locals can be impractical, and everything takes a very long time to organise. Yet....to me, anyway.....there are endearing things that make the frustrating things much easier to take, and it's all around people and how decent and kind they are.

Example? We have a "weekender". A few acres and a whole lot of fruit trees about 45 minutes from home. Happy with it, and it's great to be able to get away from the computer and from working. Sitting on the balcony looking at the sun glistening on mango tree leaves? Lovely!

But along the way? Everything takes too long. Needed a tank, because the town water is only on for 4 hours a day and is low pressure. Trying to find someone who understood about flow switches (turns off the pump when the flow stops because the tank is full) was a challenge. And the electricity? Literally took months to be connected.

However, we were able to rely on a temporary power line from one of the neighbours. Yes, a dodgy thin wire from I'm not even sure where. Would never happen in Australia, no. But then, would the neighbour in your Villawood or Geelong suburb happily do that for you? Good luck! In the bush, maybe. But in the suburbs?

The point I'm making is that people are kind here, and always willing to help if you ask nicely. Get aggressive or abusive, and you hurt peoples feelings. Ask nicely, and you find hearts of gold. Incidentally with the tank? Before it was fixed, the caretaker we employ to keep the place mowed etc, he would listen for the sound of the tank overflowing and would pop around at 11:00pm or so to turn the pump off. And he would have done that year after year without complaining if we wanted.

So yes, it's the smiling faces, kind hearts and sweet kids that keep me here. It has more clout than any of the negative things.

Also? We have a house full of kids. Family kids (ie nieces, and kids of nieces), and not formally adopted. Some have been here since we arrived. They're part of our lives, and a return to Australia would mean leaving them behind. I'm sure you can see what I mean there.

Not an easy place to live for those who are on tight budgets. It never seems to be enough, and it can be stressful. But if you earn at least a moderate income that's secure (and not based on you trying to sell BLOG articles for $50.00 a pop), you can live well here. And if you have a Filipina lady you can trust absolutely and always has your back, it can be a great life!

29 May 2019

First Post

First post....

New BLOG and a new day. Welcome viewers to my new BLOG address and page.

I expect that a few clients and friends will find this page, and I hope they do. I like to write, and I'm never short of thoughts and something to say. I have my existing BLOG for visa matters and for Down Under Visa clients and issues they have. That will always remain, and I will always dedicate significant time to it because the content is invaluable. I believe in having an informed and educated clientele who can make informed choices.

This one? Personal matters and personal thoughts.

I hope it proves interesting!