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Posts Tagged ‘US’

When Filipinos first meet, one of the first few questions that always comes up is “Taga-saan ka sa atin?”  A simple question, but it stumps me.  Why?  Because I’ve moved all my life.

birth – age 2:  Olongapo

2-5:  Japan, because that was where Papa was last stationed prior to retiring from the US Navy.

5-9:  on a farm in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

9-12:  we went back to Olongapo after Papa died of a heart attack

12-15:  Sapang Palay, Bulacan to live close to Mama’s remaining living sibling, Tata Isko

15-17:  back to Olongapo when Tata Isko passed away.  But even when we lived in Olongapo we moved from place to place, too.  We lived in the areas of East Bajac-Bajac, Tapinac, Sta. Rita, Tabacuhan & Barrio Barretto.

17-21:  Baguio while I was in college

21- 28:  various parts of Metro Manila – New Manila in Quezon City, Rosario in Pasig, Sampaloc, & at two different apartments in San Andres Bukid until we left for the States in 1997.

I haven’t stayed put either when we came here to the US.  1997-2000 we were in Washington state.  After my now ex-husband Eric joined the US Navy,  2000-2005 we were in California, 2005-2008 Japan, 2008-mid-2010 Rome, Italy.  I am now back in the US in San Diego, California.

When people say “There’s no place like home,”  I can’t really relate.  No one place is ‘home’ for me.  Home for me is not a geographical location, it is where my family & friends are at.  So in that sense, I have several ‘homes.’   For now though, San Diego is my home…but who knows where I’ll be several years from now :-).

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Back in the mid-1990’s, one of the company field trips we went on when I was still working in the Philippines was a trip to Corregidor Island.  According to wikipedia:

Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunitionmagazines to defend the entrance of Manila Bay and the City of Manila, from attacks by enemy warships in the event of war.

During World War II, Corregidor played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces.

The corregidorisland.com website further states:

Also known as “the Rock,” it was a key bastion of the Allies during the war. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, the military force under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur carried out a delaying action at Bataan. Corregidor became the headquarters of the Allied forces and also the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth government. It was from Corregidor that Philippine President Manuel Quezon and General MacArthur left for Australia in February 1942, leaving behind Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright in command.

Although Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, the Philippine and American forces held out at Corregidor for 27 days against great odds. On May 6, 1942, their rations depleted, the Allied forces were forced to surrender Corregidor to Lt. Gen. Homma Masaharu of the Japanese Imperial Army after having successfully halted the Japanese advance on Australia. It was only two years and ten months later in March 1945 when the Allied forces under the command of General MacArthur recaptured Corregidor … making good his promise to return to the Philippines.

 

At the time I went to Corregidor, I had an idea of its role in history.  So I was excited to see firsthand all the buildings, the ruins, the tunnels and all the structures on the island.  But the most memorable part of the trip for me was the Pacific War Memorial.

As I walked through this picturesque place, all of a sudden I became quiet.  I had to sit down because I was overcome with so many emotions.  This was the first war memorial I had ever been to, & it made history concrete for me in a way I didn’t expect.  It’s one thing to read about these things in a history book, and vastly different when you visit an actual site.  I was speechless and had to fight back tears at the stark realization that there were millions who died & sacrificed  during World War II for our freedom and that the world would be a much different place had the Axis powers prevailed.

Since then I cannot help but have an enormous feeling of pride & respect for our men & women in uniform.  To paraphrase the last line of the American national anthem, the US is indeed “the land of the free, because of the brave.” 

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I’ll be 42 this year, it’ll be quite a while before I retire.   But sometimes the topic of where to retire comes up in conversations when I’m with older friends, or among my peers who are in the military & will retire after they fulfill their 20 years of active duty service.  Most of the Filipinos I talk to say that they’d retire in the US, not in the Philippines.   I ask them why, considering that because of the favorable exchange rate, they could retire comfortably in the Philippines.  We have some common answers, which I’ll elaborate on below.

Now before I go further, let me say that the US is not perfect, no country is.  But in spite of its flaws, I’d rather live here.   I cannot speak for my friends, but here are the reasons why I no longer want to live in the Philippines & prefer instead to live & retire here in the USA:

Not enough wide, open, green spaces or public parks & playgrounds–  This is important to me because I love enjoying the beauty of nature & taking my little boy to public parks & playgrounds where he can play & have fun while breathing fresh air.  Where I live, within a five mile radius there’s at least six of these places that I know of that I can bring him to. 

just one of several parks & playgrounds close to home

Back in the Philippines, when I lived in Olongapo, I remember there was this big city park that was all pavement & had only 2-4 swings there.  There was hardly any shade and worst of all it was located next to a river that, like most rivers I’ve seen in the Philippines that runs through a city, smelled of sewage.  Not a really good place to bring your kids.  And I don’t recall of any public park that I could bring my older son to when we lived in Manila.  Luneta doesn’t really count for me, because again there’s no playground for kids & no shade from the tropical heat & humidity.

Bangko ng bayan – If you retire in the Philippines, don’t be surprised if some of your relatives, friends, even neighbors will come and ‘borrow’ or ask money from you.   There’s always some sort of medical emergency going on or a child who needs tuition money.  They will approach you too if they need money for a  birthday party, baptism,  wedding or burial.   If you say no, ikaw pang masama. And don’t expect them to repay you if you do lend money.

Security issues

  • I think no matter how simply you live, word will get around that you’re receiving some sort of retirement income from the US or abroad.  You could become an easy target of ‘akyat-bahay’ gangs or kidnappings, either by strangers or by disgruntled people you didn’t lend money to. 
  • Here in the States, there’s such a thing as a registered sex offender list.  Every state has one, & most, if not all, are online.  Here in California,  they give you the name, photo, offense committed & even address where this person lives.  I don’t think something like that exists in the Philippines.  What if your nice & friendly neighbor in the Philippines is a sex offender?  You would have no way of knowing.  No one would want someone like that around their kids.

No 911 or emergency services – unlike here in the US where you can call 911 & an ambulance will be there in a few minutes, in the Philippines, no such emergency service exists.  Even if there were, with the traffic in large metropolitan areas like Manila, by the time the ambulance does reach you & transport you to the hospital, you’d probably be dead or close to death by then.  And if you don’t have any health insurance, I doubt you’ll be taken care of.

Corruption – things happen faster if you bribe people.  I clearly remember hearing that it takes years for people to get a phone line, but the process could be speeded up if you knew someone at the phone company.  Those who have drivers licenses, what’s the percentage that they actually took both a written & behind the wheel driving test?  At almost every contact I had with the government, things were slow & people would ‘offer’ to speed things up for me if I paid a little extra, which I refused. 

Pollution – during my last year in the Philippines, I would get a sore throat every 6 weeks or so from the dirty air I was exposed to while riding tricycles & jeepneys.  It was so bad that I had barely any voice left, and my voice was needed because I constantly spoke with people at work.  Except for the tourist spots & business districts, most areas you went there was trash on the streets.  It’s a common sight for people to just throw candy wrappers & cigarette butts anywhere, further clogging the drains which contributes to the floods whenever it rains in Manila.  There are no trash cans or dumpsters to speak of.  Some men will urinate at the nearest wall instead of looking for a public restroom.  Signs like “bawal umihi dito” and “bawal magtapon ng basura dito” are ignored.

Traffic – what would normally take 15-20 minutes to navigate will take an hour or more because of the traffic.  I do not want to deal with that.  I remember when I was still working in the Philippines, I had co-workers who would leave home at 5:30 or 6 am & get to work just in time at 7:30 or 8:00 am.   And rules of the road?    I am embarrassed to say we have some of the most undisciplined drivers I’ve ever seen.

The laws in the US are more female friendly

  • In the Philippines, if you have a child and your husband or boyfriend ran off with someone else or simply abandoned you & your child, sorry ka na lang.  Here in the States, even if you’re not married to the guy, there are laws in place.  He is legally, not to mention morally, obligated to support  his child.  You can take him to court for child support & since everything here in the US is connected to one’s social security number, if he’s working,  he can be tracked down & the child support payments will be garnished (automatically deducted) from his paycheck & sent to you.  If he stops working, once he does find work again, he now owes you back payments & he will legally have to pay that on top of whatever court ordered child support in place.
  • I don’t know how seriously domestic violence is treated in the Philippines, but here, if a guy merely pushes you, or even talks to you in a threatening or demeaning manner, you can call 911 on him for domestic abuse or violence.  It will go on his record, & he could get into serious trouble especially if he’s in the US military.

I have many fond memories of the Philippines.  I have many friends there that I keep in touch with via email, fb or skype, & I can see them when I visit.   It is where I was born, & where I lived from the ages of 9-28.   The Philippines will always be a nice place to visit, but it’s not where I want to live anymore.  And unless a lot of things change for the better, I have no intentions of going back there to live .

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