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