Anyone who spends any amount of time on Expat social media forums will invariably see many posts and comments relating to Filipino issues here in The Philippines. This is probably never as much so as now, with the recent election of President Duterte and the many controversial things his administration is known for like a brutal and bloody war on drugs, and the extrajudicial killings that have come with it.
The topic of this article is not to debate whether any of these issues are right or wrong, but simply to explore whether I, as a foreigner in The Philippines, should be making my opinion known.
To begin with, I have to look at my own country, Canada, and how I view foreigners in my country getting involved in issues that are uniquely ours. I won’t mince my words and will state very bluntly that I have always got severely peeved at immigrants that have come to my country , then decided they had the right to try and change my country, culture, belief systems, and yes, even laws, in order to make my country more like they country they left. My usual , and very pointed reaction, was to tell them that if what they had was so good, then why the heck did they leave, and why the heck don’t they go right back! To apply that to my current situation where I am a foreigner in another country, I have to believe that Filipino’s reaction to any attempt by me to muddle in their affairs should rightly meet the same reaction. Another factor that has to be taken into consideration in this line of thinking is that in Canada, we actually do give immigrants the right to have a say in our national affairs, while those same rights are simply not granted to me as a foreigner in the Philippines.Here, by law,I have no say. With these thoughts in mind, clearly I should just keep my mouth shut in regards to any issue Filipino right?
If only it were that simple.
These are some of the other thoughts that I have to consider when thinking about talking on Filipino issues:
- I have been taught, maybe some people would say “conditioned”, to believe that it is important that I stand up for what I believe in. The problem with this though is that through my experiences in a totally different culture, what I believe is right, just may not be what the people in this culture believe is right. Should I take an arrogant stance that my beliefs trump theirs, or do I have to reexamine my belief system with humility, and be open to the possibility that my notion of right and wrong is not universal?
- I do not consider myself to be JUST a visitor anymore. I work hard and have invested time, energy and money in the Philippines as well as developed many relationships with people whom I love and care for. Tops on this list is my Filipina wife, and hopefully it will soon include children. As the head of a family, what responsibility do have to that family, to not only keep them safe, but improve the country that is to be their home.Some people say that if I don’t like it here, then leave, but that would be a selfish choice as I would either be leaving behind a wife and family who loves me, or taking them away from the home, family and country they love. (I should mention here, that my wife loves her country and though she might consider leaving it temporarily to make some coin as an overseas worker, she has no intention of leaving permanently). This line of thinking might seem contradictorry to my initial point of how I feel immigrants to my country should act, however there is one major difference. In most cases immigrants to my country come, get settled, then bring over their families. In my case, I have came alone, fell in love with a local woman and decided to stay in her country. Does this make a difference?
- I have little real knowledge of Filipino issues. Though I have kept my eyes and ears open, I have not walked those miles in their shoes and cannot view what happens in their country from their unique perspective. In short, I just don’t get it, so it would be impossible for me to speak with authority on “Filipino Issues”.
- Do I need to fight for a cause? Honestly, not really. I am at the age in my life where I just want to enjoy life and get the most out of it. The Philippines is a great place to do just that. I think I have paid my dues to society and now maybe it is just time to sit back and let others fight the good fight, whatever that may be.
- And I guess the last point for me to consider, yet maybe the most important one: What can I hope to accomplish by speaking my mind on Filipino issues? Sadly and something that is humbling, probably very, very little. In fact, there is always the possibility that if I don’t keep my mouth shut, I may just piss off the wrong people and the decision to stay in this country would be taken out of my hands.
Well, you probably have guessed it by now, but I really don’t have all (if any) of the answers on the question of whether I as an expat should get involved in Filipino issues. Looking at my ramblings here, it would seem that the simple is a clear “no”, however for some reason everyday it is a battle for me to keep my mouth shut, or at least temper my opinions. I guess old habits are hard to break.