Life in the Philippines

Perspective is Everything

Recently Henry, “Reekay” Velez made a video called ” what do you see” and this made me once again reflect on the different perspectives I have looked at the Philippines from during my time here and how it has affected my enjoyment of life here.

Perception of life in the Philippines as a tourist

When I first started to visit the Philippines, it was strictly as a tourist in a new and colorful world that I knew little about. I was hopping on a plane usually in -25 C degrees weather, bundled up in 3 layers of clothing then debarking in weather where anything more than shorts a tee shirt and sandals would be extremely uncomfortable. Usually I would stay a day or two in Manila where the bright lights, street vendors and even the beautiful “available” young women standing enticingly outside the “gentlemen’s” clubs were a novelty that filled me with wonder. When tired of the Manila scene, it was time to hop on a plane and visit the seaside paradises so plentiful in this island nation, and it was my tastes always to concentrate on the out of the way native type destinations rather than the tourists traps of places like Boracay or Bohol. There I would spend my days on deserted pristine beaches, taking long swims in clear blue, coral and fish populated waters, then maybe hop on a mountain bike or slip on the hiking boots and explore the island’s interior. There I would find local Filipinos living out an existence that had been in place for generations. It was as basic a hand to mouth way of life that I could ever imagine, devoid of any of the creature comforts, I like so many westerners had come to expect and rely on in today’s modern world. The people I found were open, friendly and interesting and I reveled in the simplicity of it all, without even realizing that I perceived it all from the eye of some one who was just visiting, had plenty of money in pocket and did not have have the worries of whether I was going to have enough to eat that day. Looking back on those experiences, I now know how I had not fully understood or appreciated how those simple native Filipinos had of course viewed the same world I was seeing from a totally different perspective. My visits, though enchanting to me were probably nothing more than brief interludes for the the people I met, whose simple lives that I longed for, were for them filled with everyday challenges that I could not at that time truly comprehend. Those native Filipinos living their simple life in their remote villages were not losing sleep over the coming mortgage or car payments, climbing the corporate ladder, or buying the latest designer handbag, but I am sure they had their own worries, like whether they would have enough to eat, what would happen if a family member fell ill, or whether they could send their kids out of the village for a proper education.


Needless to say, shortly I moved on back to my reality with its ever present concerns of the modern world, and they continued on their subsistence living with different, but equally important concerns. When reminiscing on those days with a yearning for their simpler life,(which I rightly or wrongly perceive is something that might be better than mine) , a phrase comes to mind immortalized in a song by Janis Joplin that goes something like , “freedom is nothing more than having nothing to lose”. It reminds me that the freedom to have that life exists should I choose to forsake the material aspects and ambitions of the modern world I am firmly planted in, however I must always also remember that even in that life, there would be challenges. Maybe more basic challenges, but challenges never the less.

In the end though, I believe that myself and the native Filipinos I met on those journeys were probably more alike than different. We are all only human beings whose lives, different in material aspects are the same in one major way. Our happiness is dependent on how we perceive and deal with the challenges we face. What I feel is more of a difference than the circumstances of our respective existences is the ability Filipinos generally seem to have to handle it in a different way than I as a westerner. Just about anybody who visits the Philippines can see how overwhelmingly happy Filipinos seem to be despite their obvious lack of material wealth. When I get envious of that obvious happiness, I need to remember it has nothing to do with having more or less of something, but entirely on my attitude towards my circumstances.

Now that my life in the Philippines is more permanent, my perception is radically different than when I was a tourist. In the coming weeks, I will share how I now see life in the Philippines as an Expat, a businessman and a husband.

More intersting videos and information from Henry, whose attitude and outlook on his life in the Philippines I find inspiring.
Life Beyond the Sea