They call me “Joe” !..This is something I told my GF one day after coming in from a walk, after she asked me how was my time out. Of course I have come to realize now that this guy JOE looks like every American that comes to the Philippines. Yes, get use to the fact that you may possibly trade in your name for the name JOE. Yes, simple… not hard to mess up… yes has a nice simple ring to it. “Every other Joe.”
It appears that Filipino men  in particular are very fond of referring to ALL AMERICAN MEN REGARDLESS OF COLOR AS “JOE.” I was walking down the street going into different places and all I kept hearing was “HEY JOE”  “JOE MY FRIEND” “WHAT’S UP JOE” At first I was very puzzled and shocked that there could be someone here that looked like me……named Joe. On a couple of occasions I tried to explain that they were mistaking me for someone else, in which they would respond with laughter and reply; “you’re so funny Joe.
So it appears that there are several stories to why this is but the one I remember goes something like this; Back in the day when many American service men came here in their uniforms, many people had never really seen Americans before BUT they were familiar with the character GI JOE. Remember him? I remember having G.I. JOE wax play figures with all the accessories; the gun, the hat the fatigues.
And so when they saw these men  they simply refereed to them as JOE and for some odd reason (you will have many odd reason moments here…many) the name just kind of stuck and they refer to ALL AMERICAN MEN, AS JOE.
What’s so strange is after being here, now going into my second year, about three weeks ago I walked outside the gate the gate of my complex headed to the corner store only to have three young boys (maybe 8, 9) in passing greeted me with; “Hey Joe, what’s up! “YOU’RE KIDDING I THOUGHT!  ANOTHER GENERATION CARRYING ON THE TRADITION?. Actually it was hilarious and I laughed and simply just answered them back, acknowledging my new name.
Now, what is interesting are the responses of some”foreigners” here. And I am not judging became actually I have went through several emotional reactions to it. Some get really offended and they take it as rude.Others see it as some kind of way Filipinos make fun of you. (No really a guy told me this) Others think it is disrespectful and those calling you by what is NOT your name is them being to lazy to actually ask. Others I have spoken to feel it is an attack on their individuality. I have had guys tell me that they just don’t respond at all.
Now, I will say coming from a land where many people actually take PRIDE in their names, I can see how a foreigner might come to these conclusions. I personally put great stock in names. I named all of my SONS, two with names from the Bible and one with a name from an African tribe. So we place a lot on names.
I too have gotten annoyed and went through that phase where I just did not answer or even acknowledge. But I go in and out with that the longer I am here and realize for some people maybe most it is just their shy way of being friendly. If you actually do stop and have a conversation with them and TELL them your name they will call you by that!
Yesterday, I came in from the store and was having my usual conversation about the rising price of chicken in Dumaguete when I remembered that the kid where I had bough the chicken with the biggest grin on his face greeted me with; “HEY JOE!”  In that moment you almost try and access the motive (which really is totally stupid and a waste of time) but this kid really seemed to be just happy to interact with a foreigner and mostly a BLACK AMERICAN. Which is another story because here in Dumaguete, they are so use to foreigners but BLACK AMERICANS are still a rarity and so I get double the stares. It normally is very good because the PHILIPPINES is a place OBSESSED WITH THE NBA AND BASKETBALL. I have seen MORE BASKETBALL COURTS HERE than in the “hoods” of the inner cities of America!  So there is this curiosity and if I engage in conversation, BASKETBALL is the first thing (especially the younger guys) they will try and connect to me with.
So anyway, the kids  are the best of course, I never ignore them! When I told my sweetie pie about it she gently reassured me again, that it is NOT the intention of Filipinos to be any of the things I stated above most foreigners feel, when referring to you as Joe. They are most of the times VERY SHY about their English and it is just a way to open the door. She has noticed when we are out, how some people especially young Filipino guys are just itching to have some kind of interaction with THE BLACK GUY FROM AMERICA because the closest they come to seeing a Black GUY IS WATCHING THE NBA FINALS or the latest Usher video. And with all the other guys, the older ones calling me JOE, it is learned from watching others, admiring GI JOE and wanting to find some way to connect more intimately.
And honestly, although sometimes I do get annoyed with the whole “HEY JOE” thing and it really depends on my mood or who it is, how I respond, I can clearly see that she may be right and there is really no story here. Just nod and smile and keep it moving or……simply stop and introduce yourself, with your real name.
Israel Esters is originally from Los Angeles California.He is a Spiritual “GURU” to those he shares with and teaches people how to create the life they desire through the power of their minds. He is a Jazz Pianist who has performed in Siquijor, Philippines while living here. He currently lives in the Dumaguete area with his lovely Filipina Girlfriend.