Travel in the Philippines
Plenty of Filipinos who, because of employment or marriage have migrated to other countries, still want to return to the Philippines for their retirement. Filipino customs and traditions primarily influence this decision and it requires a grasp these practices to fully grasp their impact on daily living.
You could say Filipinos are tightly knit because they have great respect for the family. They find it hard to downplay their roots.
So what does this imply?
To cut the long story short -- integration. Homes for the elderly and the retired are not normally found in the Philippines. Filipinos have such a soft heart for relatives that they consider it one's duty to care for the elderly. They cling to the idea of "utang na loob" (otherwise known as "a debt of gratitude" which may also mean "I owe you"). Such mentality compels Filipinos to take care of parents or grandparents who endured the challenges of rearing children. Filipinos find it unthinkable to let their elders lead a solo life or settle down in homes for the elderly for the sake of convenience. Family loyalty is a lovely component of Filipino society, and one which is absent in many western cultures.
Many Filipinos choose to retire in the Philippines because they know that as seniors, they will be looked up to and will not be treated as a liability.
Another remarkable feature of Filipino culture is the power which women wield. In contrast to a number of countries, women aren't positioned at the lowest ring in the social order. Many Filipino women are not passive, subservient creatures without a voice who blindly do what the man bids. In truth, Filipino women are as well endowed and as learned as men in social circles, political groups and business firms.
This fact has helped several female foreign nationals and expats adapting faster and has made retiring in the Philippines appealing for North Americans who are used to living in a society where opportunities are shared equally.
CONVERSING WITH FILIPINOS
Since the Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands and is geographically separated into regions and various cultural and even tribal sub-groups, the people are distinguished by the dialects they speak. The country has more than 111 dialects with many words that evolved from or were influenced by the Malay, Chinese and Spanish predecessors. Of these dialects, the most widespread are Ilocano, Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano Pampango, Waray and Bicolano.
Filipino, which is essentially Tagalog in structure, is the official language of the country although less than 75 percent of Filipinos speak it. English is the second official language and has done a good job in facilitating inter-regional communication amidst stark local dialect differences.
The Philippines is the only country in Asia which boasts of a high English literacy level. Owing to the country's former status as an American colony and the influx of trade influences into the country, Filipinos have become an interesting blend of the West and the South East. English is the standard medium of instruction in Philippine schools and is officially the medium of communication in all sectors --- in business, trade, public offices, commerce and arts.
Intermingling with Filipinos is thus not such a difficult task for foreigners since the communication factor is not an impediment, unlike in many Oriental nations like Japan and China. The calendar used by Filipinos is the same one that you can find in Western countries. There aren't any special characters or written symbols to learn. English is used quite often that Filipinos even tend to combine English and Tagalog phrases together. This vernacular fusion gave way to an everyday conversational lingo known as "Taglish". Try to listen in to a Taglish dialogue and you would most probably pick up the crux of the discussion. Soon, you'll find yourself conversing in Taglish.
ADAPTING TO THE ENVIRONMENT
It's easy to predict the kind of weather the archipelago has. There are merely two extremes available - rainy season or sunny season. In North America, it is necessary to check in on the forecast because patterns change so quickly that a foggy morning can turn to a sunny afternoon and then a downpour of flurries overnight. Unless you are fully set for anything, you may either dress inappropriately or suffer the risk of schedule cancellations.
In the Philippines, there is not much guesswork. It is an easy choice of either warm or warmer. On the average, the temperature is 27oC but does come out much cooler in the mountainous areas like Baguio. The Philippines also has hot, dry summers with temperatures rising to as high as 34oC in March, April and May. The temperature reduces its intensity in June to October as the season changes and rain clouds cover much of the horizon. It is at these months too that typhoons hit the archipelago. Tropical storms are often accompanied by thunder and lightning and gushes of wind of up to 240 kilometers per hour.
Monsoon showers gradually decrease between November to January and the weather is comfortably breezy and cool. Nights may be prolonged with the sun going down as early as 5:00 pm. It is not however as dismal as the winter darkness of four-season countries where night sometimes starts as early as 3:00 pm and stretch until 8:00 am.
The Philippines, and any country blessed with a tropical climate, is a preferred destination for many foreigners who find pleasure in outdoor living. You can move around unhampered by layers of clothing. The warm weather gives reprieve for a number of seniors suffering from gout and arthritis. The predictability of the weather somehow helps newcomers ease into a comfortable routine. The abundance of sunlight all year round in this tropical paradise ensures that such uniquely North American malady like the SAD "Seasonal Affective Disorder" is quite unfamiliar.
MINGLING WITH FILIPINOS
If there is nothing else that you love in the archipelago, surely you will love its people. Filipinos are among the most cheerful races throughout the globe. Despite widespread poverty, Filipinos make it a habit to smile. Aware that complaining is unproductive, the people have learned to make a joke of their own plight. Whether Filipino humor is shallow or not, it nonetheless speaks of the positive way by which the people handle pressure and strain. Call it a stress reliever, a coping mechanism or a survival strategy. Whichever way you see it, one thing's clear -- the Filipinos' amiability and sense of entertainment make them an exceptional class and a cut above the rest.
A study of this country's history reveals that colonialism lasted for many centuries. The people had never been aggressors. They had successively been dominated and had to fight fiercely for their freedom. With this history, it comes as no surprise that Filipinos are basically humble and down-to-earth people. Whatever special ability and brains they may possess, Filipinos normally sport a humble attitude. Braggarts are often viewed with disdain.
Filipinos are likewise used to hard work. Relocating to other countries for work is common among Filipinos. Such individual's industry will stand out. He will work enthusiastically and invest full commitment to a task to do his employer proud. He does everything because of a firm love for his family, a reverence for his profession, and a desire to achieve his dream of prosperity.
The archipelago is home to a number of high-rise malls, specifically in Metro Manila as well as in Cebu and major cities. Just about all American brands and European designs are showcased in Manila --- from footwear, apparel, purses, luggages, make-up and perfumes, to furniture, home equipment and appliances, games, tableware, textiles and home ornaments. Due to its proximity to Japan and Korea, top-of-the-line electronic products and other technological equipment are not hard to find.
To foreigners, the malls situated in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore are all worthy of the label "shoppers' paradise". Yet the windfall lies not in that you can effortlessly find DKNY, BVLGARI or Tommy Hilfiger favorites in the city. The beauty of things is that these designer brands cost more when obtained elsewhere in the world. Taking into consideration the devaluation of the Philippine peso, the buying power of a single US dollar comes out stronger in the islands. It is similar to a clearance event each day of the year!
To learn more about retiring in the Philippines, visit Myphilippineretirement.com, an information hub that caters to the retirement concerns of foreign nationals and Filipino returnees.
Jen U. is a free lance writer who has contributed a number of articles in My Philippine Retirement.com, mainly writing about the Filipino way of life http://www.myphilippineretirement.com/.