Monday, January 19, 2009, 12:43 PMMuch like Japan, it seems like "everyone has a job". You walk into a department store and there are 5,000 people working there just waiting to help you. You can't look at clothes without being followed around by like 5 sales people (which is kind of annoying). The corollary to that is that the minimum daily wage is very very low...somewhere around 300 Philippiine Pesos (PHP). That's $6...a day. A DAY. The average wage for blue collar workers is maybe a little higher...somewhere between 500-700PHP a day. That's a lot better, like $10-$15 A DAY. I'm not sure about the white collar average wages, but I know that the upper-middle class makes around $10,000-$15,000 per year.
Many of the Filipinos are very well educated. In fact, a lot of the retail sales workers have college degrees. But because of the low wages in the PI, there is a tremendous overseas work force. It seems like at least 1/3 of the US Navy is Filipino (most common ratings are cook, store keeper, and corpsman)!!
Aside from joining the Navy, the next most popular occupation is called Overseas Foreign Worker (OFW). There is even a whole government organization specifically for Filipinos working overseas, called the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Check out Wikipedia's entry on OFW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OFW
It is very common for Filipinos to sign contracts to work in the middle east. A typical contract is for 4 years and authorizes/pays for 1 trip back to the PI during that 4 years. People typically work as domestic help, gardeners, cooks, etc. Almost all of the money made in those countries is sent back to families in the PI. I know some people who both the mom and the dad worked overseas for 4-6 years (in different countries) and sent money back to their family who was taking care of their 4 kids. It's a totally different outlook on life.
Having said all of that...guess what? Almost every Filipino you talk to is HAPPY. Sure, they're always striving to make more money and provide a better life for their family, but they're happy. They're filled with joy. They have families to love and cherish and that's what's most important.
One family I know, the man works for about $30 a day (his wife works too) and he's able to send his kids to private school. We happened to be talking about the Apple iPhone one day, and he said that he can send one of his kids to private school for a year for the same price as an iPhone ($800). Amazing.
The Philippines is very much a third world country with amazing people who work hard to provide for their families. Be thankful for what you have and the life you're able to provide for your family. The next time you look at buying the iPhone or pull yours out of your pocket, remember what I said. Don't look down on these people or have pity on them, respect them for who they are and what they do. If you can help them, do so.
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Monday, January 19, 2009, 12:22 PMI figured I would hit this one first and get it out of the way. Before you travel to any country, you should visit the State Department's website and view any and all travel warnings. The website for the Philippines (or PI as it's known) is here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_t ... s_999.html.
Yes, there is a travel warning for the PI. Read it, understand it, and determine if you want it to rule your life. I determined long ago that I was not going to let some asshole terrorists impact where I go and what I do. I am, however, a smart traveller. Your mileage may vary on this topic. The reality is, I have to go to the PI to represent the Marine Corps as part of the Pacific Command's (PACOM's) "Struggle for Influence". That's a fancy phrase for saying if we show our presence and do good things in a region, those people are less likely to sympathize with terrorists. It's a preventative measure and I think it's incredibly successful. Anywho, I had to go there for work most of the time, but I did bring my family on one occasion and I would be more than willing to do it again.
As I said earlier, it is not without risks. One week after my family and I left the PI in 2007, a bomb exploded at the mass transit station about 2 blocks from our hotel in the rich district of Manila called Makati. During multiple exercises in the region, we've had terrorists take pot-shots at our Marines in outlying camps. When I was there last week, we had just finished meeting with the governor of a southern Luzon province and her motorcade was gunned down by terrorists. I think, however, our presence there and our tourism dollars help this whole "Struggle for Influence" thing.
In my opinion, crime is the worst problem in Luzon, more so than terrorism. In large part due to the corrupt government, scams are very popular. Paying off cops is pretty common. Not being a stupid traveller will get you by most of these things. Try following these tips:
-Don't travel alone
-Don't talk to strangers
-If you can, travel with a local national (more on that at the end)
-Don't carry a lot of cash
-Don't ride the trikes (motorcycle's with sidecars) or jeepney's unless you know the deal
-Don't ride the public mass transit system
-If you ride in a taxi, make sure the meter works and is turned on before you start moving
-Try not to use your credit card except in a hotel
In my opinion, Manila does not have all that wonderful of a nightlife. I'll touch on the whole sex tourism thing later, but that's not what I consider "nightlife". So, keeping that in mind, the Marine Corps has a popular phrase "nothing good happens after 2am".
I highly highly recommend if you go anywhere in Luzon to hire a driver and a van. For every exercise and conference I go to, we have the same van drivers to drive us around (we're not allowed to drive in the country) and I've gotten to be really good friends with about 6 of them. They know the areas and will keep you out of trouble. If you're with a local, people are less likely to screw with you. I can put you in touch with these guys if you're interested, just shoot me an email or use the contact form on the right. I won't take my family to the PI without hiring a driver. Nuff said.
That's all I'm gonna say about security. Don't let terrorists rule your life (if they do, then they are winning!) but don't be stupid.
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Monday, January 19, 2009, 11:57 AMThe running joke around the neighborhood is that I'm stationed in the Philippines and go TAD to Thailand and Okinawa from time to time. ha ha ha. Lisa doesn't think that's so funny
As I was standing in the Manila airport on Saturday, I realized that I've been to The Philippines about 12 times in the last three years and never really blogged about it. So, here ya go...multi-part exposé, just for you, Internet.
Just a tiny bit of background for you first, brought to you by Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines!!
There are many wonderful things about the country and just a few drawbacks. Out of all of the asian countries, it is probably the most Americanized. Almost everyone speaks english, shopping is like in the States only cheaper, a lot of similar food, etc.
One of the drawbacks, however, is the security. The main island in the Philippines is called Luzon (where Manila is) and it is the safest. Many of the southern islands, however, are not safe. In fact, it's the only place in the Pacific that the US military deems a "combat zone". The main island in that area is called Mindanao, which is filled with muslim extremists. We have an active presence in that country as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, called Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines (OEF-P). More on all of that later...
There are a few island resorts (Cebu and Boracay are two of the most popular) and some rich history dating back a long time. If you want to experience Asia, but aren't so sure about different types of food or don't want to attempt to try and understand a foreign language, give the Philippines a try.
For the rest of the exposé, I'll break it out into the following categories:
-Sex (sorry, but I have to explain this!)
-Places to visit
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 03:45 PMDear Main Stream Media,
I would like to thank you for your less than one month coverage on Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. You reacted quickly and provided a lot of information during that time. However, nothing has changed in that country since devistation occured. Your pictures and words may have touched millions of lives, but they did nothing to actually help. Aid is still not flowing where it should be, the US is still limited to the delivery mission as we have been doing for the last month, and there are still hundreds of thousands of people suffering.
You tend to highlight the world issues that you want to and push the political agendas that help your organizations and that's about it. It's good to know that once the link is removed from your homepage (as it was a few days ago on news.google.com, cnn.com, and others), it the world stops caring about these people. The suffering is still occuring in Myanmar and China. The atrocities never stopped in Africa.
Keep pushing the important news like "Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee Go to War!" because that's what we really should be focusing on as a nation. Who cares about these third world countries and their devistation...they're not real people anyway, right?
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Saturday, May 24, 2008, 06:55 PM - USMCI found this online while I was reading some news from Myanmar. All I can think about is that the people in Myanmar are waiting for aide and we're waiting to give it to them. I come to work early every morning HOPING that we're given the green light to expand beyond the 5 C-130 flights a day we're doing. It's so heart wrenching to know that we're right here with an incredible ability to deliver and distribute aide to all of the affected areas and we can't do anything. I just want to scream: WE'RE RIGHT FUCKING HERE, LET US IN!!! This is really taking a toll on us.
Burma's Non-Political Flood
Thu I Sann
Water, water, all around me
But I am so..so… thirsty.
Here, there, human bodies' everywhere
But none alive accompany me and share.
And I look at myself
Broken hopes and empty handed.
And I look further around
Just like a post heavy-battled ground.
Wild cyclone has wiped all things down.
Where are those kids from innocent playground?
Where are students in the green and white uniform?
Where is my town always singing along country rock songs?
Where are my mates who search for freedom and independent?
Where are those local chicks with new-leaf-color lips?
Where are those parents with a too busy habit?
All my questions disappear,
All my answers whisper…and whisperer.
Collaborated disaster of the nature and the dictator!
And I constantly hear voices from my empty stomach
Asking me food, forcing me speak out and stand up.
I silently speak with my loudest, to the entire world
Then mankind's sympathies come and knock my door.
Let me now open my door
'Cause those sympathies will help to fix my wounded floor.
Let me invite them with an open heart
'Cause those sympathies will help my life reconstruct.
Hello Mr. militarists,
Your guns are currently useless,
My demands are urgently needed,
Here, I'm alive, not a corpse yet,
Neither much time left.
Together, let's work out as a nice diplomat!
(Dedicated To My Mother And People Of Burma Who Lost Lives And
Who Are Hardly Survived Under Both Natural And Political Weathers!)
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Sunday, May 11, 2008, 05:00 PM - USMCMore info to follow soon, but I'm now a Thai TV star. I've been told by a few people out in town that they saw me on TV.
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Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 10:55 AMSo, we're running through the infamous Walking Street of Pattaya this morning and we realize that there's something weird going on. Not only are there girls and boy/girls trying to sell themselves, but there's also a bunch of monks, incense, what look like offerings, and other stuff. It seems that today must be Chinese New Year! It's an odd scene to see 9 monks standing in front of a club and blessing it while some of the girls are praying and others are yelling various comments to the passers-by.
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Saturday, February 2, 2008, 11:29 PM - FoodJust a quick catchup for all of you who don't read Lisa's blog or need a recap because I only post on 2 month centers as Marc so statistically pointed out: After Bangladesh, we went to Hawaii for a week, spent Christmas and New Years at home, got sent to Korea for a week on 8 hours notice, and am now in Thailand. Nice recap.
I've decided that when I eat at a restaurant that I would like to go back to in the future (especially those in foreign countries) that I will blog about them in my own personal review. Hence: Bassaracum.
The Internet told me that this restaurant was excellent and has been since the 1980s, serving primarily "Royal Thai Cuisine". You can read all about that on their website if you click on the "related link" below.
So tonight, I drug my friends all the way over there to check it out. It turned out to be a very elegant restaurant in an unlikely setting. More of a cross street than an alley, but it sure felt like an alley. The people were exceedingly pleasant and eager to serve. As appetizers we tried the Chicken Sate with peanut sauce (of course), shrimp spring rolls, Krathong Thong (like a pastry cup with shrimp, pork, corn, and peas). For my main course, I had massaman curry (in Lisa's honor since it's her favorite). It was outstanding...I dare say even the best I've ever had. To top it all off, we shared a mango and sticky rice dessert (which my faithful followers should know is one of our favorite desserts of all time).
In review: weird location, great atmosphere, pleasant people, outstanding food, good price. The total bill for three people with drinks and everything came out to be around $65. So this is inline with the cost to eat in any of the big western hotels here, but more expensive than a non-tourist restaurant. I'd give it 5 stars and would go back there again.
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Saturday, February 2, 2008, 11:28 PMThis is my placeholder because I need to write about "life in Bangladesh" for two weeks.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 12:05 AM - PCLisa added a utility on her blog that shows where in the world her readers are.
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