Saturday, January 27, 2007

Foreign Encounters in Dumaguete

In an earlier post, I wrote of some of the misunderstandings and mistaken ideas some Americans have of Filipinos (and vice versa ). After reading a post from another blogger and her encounter with a foreigner in Dumaguete, I felt I should examine further the Filipino/ American relationship. I've seen how Americans act differently while abroad. In order to explain how differently (and maybe why) I want to first look at the way Filipinas act towards other Filipinas while they're here in the U.S.. My wife and I will occasionally meet a Filipina who is unknown to us. Usually when this happens, the two Filipinas will approach one another, chat for a bit and learn all about each other. Of course, there's no guarantee the two will become friends, but we have made some very dear and close friends from these accidental meetings. Other Filipinas we know here behave the same way.

Compare this to fellow Americans meeting in Philippines. The Americans I've met on a plane traveling to or from Philippines (or while waiting in a Manila airport) have been, for the most part, very friendly. It’s a different story meeting an American in the provinces. I've been snubbed more than once while on Siquijor or in Dumaguete. To be completely fair, it is often difficult to tell which snubbers are Americans and which ones are Australians or Europeans without hearing them speak.

On one particular trip, after having been ignored by foreigners for more than two weeks, I made it a point to speak to every white person I met - much to the great surprise to some.

Being white in Philippines is different than being white at home. While in Dumaguete, I've been approached in shops by total strangers with offers to sell property to me. I've been approached by countless beggars asking for a handout. I can see why some would simply "turn off" the outside world of strangers while there, but there is really no excuse for the rudeness of many of the foreigners. On the other hand, the obsequious behavior of some Filipinos towards foreigners can have a bizarre influence on the foreigner as well. Being treated like you can do no wrong can go to anyone’s head.

When the above photo was taken, I wanted to climb atop the lifeguard’s tower but, I was reluctant to do so because of a sign forbidding it. Our Filipina friend, who took the photo said,

“Don’t worry. No one will say anything to you. You’re a white guy.”

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