The “Foreigner Factor” in the Philippines — by Colbert Bellevue


The “Foreigner Factor” in the Philippines

Lately, with the influx of thousands of foreign nationals into the Philippines, I have observed a number of phenomena taken place around the island; obviously, one of which is what I call the “Foreigner Factor.”  This has been a part of social intercourse here. Nonetheless, don’t expect to grab it, see it, or smile at it. Sure, you may observe its presence around you should you happen to reside in the Philippines.

I think I know what you have in mind right now: “Heck! What does the “Foreigner factor” have to do with me?” Paul, a Westerner and retired man, is married to his Filipino wife and both of them reside in the Philippines. I had met Paul on several occasions and shared interesting stories about life in the West as opposed to life in the Philippines. Matter of fact, I have been fortunate enough to converse with a great numbers of expats on the same subject.

These give-and-take comments-sharing have helped me formulate the equation for the “Foreigner Factor.” To a scant exception, you are deeply in it if you are a foreign national married to a Filipino woman: You can observe this factor in full course when all of a sudden your wife introduces you to one of her best friend and tells you that the latter is in need of a 50 thousand pesos to start her business. She would like you to lend her that money as she will repay you at a set interest!  How would you react to this proposition?  Doesn’t this sound crazy to you?  Don’t get too excited about that because some of these women get away with their propositions! In another occasion, she comes to you and let you know that her younger brother and younger sister are entering college and the enrollment and tuition money are a major reason why they may have to drop out and not have a college education. Nice performance, isn’t it?

Electric bills in the Philippines, but you observe that she turns on the air conditioner when there is no need for it. When you try to reason with her about it, she tells you that where she came from is cool and that the house she used to live with her parents aren’t made of materials that make the house so warm or hot. She now establishes herself as the woman who cannot live without air conditioner. That’s not so bad for a woman who had not had any air conditioner in her parents’ home. She is smart enough to establish a new normal for her. Your take?

The funny thing is remove the “Foreigner factor” from the equation and see what we get: the status quo. None of the above scenarios would exist. However, what we as foreign nationals understand is certainly not what they have their eyes and minds on. Two different interpretations emerge. As far as these Filipinos are concerned, the “Foreigner Factor” is a reality, a God-sent, and a new normal in their lives. I wonder how you, as a foreigner, deal with the “Foreigner Factor?”  I am by no means saying that all Filipino women act that way, but surely a great number of them do as they embrace the “Foreigner factor” so dearly. You have the last word.