Category Archives: Blog

What to Do About Crime – Cultural Differences and the Bolo

We live in a “nice” neighborhood, but it’s urban. It’s one of the attractions; it’s a pleasant, slightly upscale area that’s close to downtown and all the action. So it’s not unusual for homeless people to wander up our street.

The other day a young man, clearly stoned and/or psychotic, stopped in front of our house. He was yelling and screaming, flipping the bird, tore off his shirt, etc. He walked onto our porch and then back to the sidewalk a couple of times. My wife is watching him like a hawk. I’m watching too but I’m mostly amused. Finally he hits the For Sale sign in front of our house with his fist. He grabs the flyers in the box, crumples them up and throws them in the street. Apparently he doesn’t want us to move 🙂 I call 911.

A few minutes later a policeman arrives. We watch (as do the rest of our neighbors) as the cop talks to the young man. I know the drill; the cop can and will do nothing. I talk to the officer who as expected explains that unless he sees the guy committing a real crime he can’t arrest him. He asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital and the guy said no. That’s all the cop can do.

In the meantime our next-door neighbor arrives and she is hugging Janet and is crying. Janet is not crying; Janet is pissed. Why can’t the police take him away or at least allow her to bolo the guy. The young man continues to wander aimlessly and the officer talks to him again. He eventually agrees to be taken to the hospital.

I explain the realities to my pissed off wife. The streets and sidewalks are public; you cannot keep people from using them just because they don’t live there, even if they are stoned, drunk, crazy or all three.

I think of when and where I grew up. It was a suburban neighborhood. There were no drunks or crazies wandering that neighborhood. Vagrancy laws back in those days ensured that people who did not “belong” were kept out. Of course that often meant that anyone who wasn’t the right color was also kept out.

Janet simply does not understand the insane nature of the United States. Our next door neighbor is a construction contractor and has a few pick up trucks. One or two are often parked in front of our house. Janet is incensed. I’ve talked to my neighbor, a nice guy, and he tries to keep them from my house, but after all, the streets are public and I don’t own the spaces in front of our home. I suspect that my lovely wife thinks that the bolo to a couple tires might solve the problem.

I am not sure what my point is or if I have a point; it’s just interesting to see the cultural difference. In the Philippines I suspect Janet would threaten the young man with a bolo (and she is very skilled) and he’d run off. She’d complain to the barangay captain about the neighbor’s trucks or take the law into her own hands. Needless to say, Janet loves Duterte.

I understand her attitude. I pay plenty for my house, am annoyed by the homeless wandering through, and the inability or unwillingness of the police to lock them all up. But I also understand this is the price I pay for living in a nice place close to the action; as well as the price we all pay for freedom (or what we believe is freedom).

It did make me nostalgic for a time when the cops could act differently. I explained to Janet that the freedom we have in the US does not only impact home owners, but in my heart I wouldn’t mind taking out the bolo myself.

Why I don’t Blog/Vlog for Cash and Prizes

“It’s a slippery slope” or “once you go down this path” or some such cliche but what I am referring to is the growing number of Philippines expat blogs and vlogs that ask subscribers for money. Now I don’t want to judge anyone who does this; they may need the money to supplement their income. Or they may legitimately be involved in projects that help Filipinos and accept donations toward that end. Or they may owe their shabu dealer. But it’s a slippery slope – there, I’ve said it again.

As we get very close to moving to the Philippines Janet and I have discussed what we might like to do to help (in some modest way) Filipinos in our new community. But the one thing we have decided is that whatever we do we won’t be begging you, dear readers, for money.

Now, I had an experience that gave me some insight into the subtle power that we have in this new media of blogs and vlogs and how the dark side can tempt you (queue Darth Vader breathing).

About a year ago I posted a piece about a neighborhood in Cebu City which was destroyed by fire. My young BIL lived there and his apartment was destroyed. He lost all his possessions (clothing and rice cooker charred to a crisp). Janet and I immediately decided we would send him a little money to help him get back to normal.

The next day I got a note from a subscriber asking if he could “help.” I was taken aback; I didn’t know what to say. “How much?” I finally asked. In the end without thinking much about it, he Paypaled me a little cash and we included that in our donation to my BIL’s recovery. I was shocked, surprised and delighted that someone would care enough to help. But it all happened so fast that I didn’t think of the ramifications.

The next day Janet suggested that I should do a follow-up blog to thank the generous subscriber. That seemed like the right thing to do but I hesitated. I finally told Janet, “I can’t figure out a way to write a thank you without implying that the rest of my deadbeat subscribers ought to do the same.” What if they take it as a subtle hint and I end up with $1000 in donations? I’m repeating myself, but it’s a slippery slope. Of course then we could get my BIL a Zojirushi rice cooker, a 10-cupper with all the bells and whistles!

So in the end I did nothing. I thanked my newly found friend again privately and BTW, we’ve remained friends ever since but I never thanked him publicly. But I am now although I won’t embarrass him by naming names. Thank you anonymous donor for your generosity.

So dear readers be assured that if you too send me money I won’t embarrass you by thanking you by name. No, no – that didn’t come out right. What I mean to say is that if you want to send me money to put in the slots at the Waterfront Mactan Hotel and call it a donation – no, no – that won’t work either.

What I really mean to say is that I won’t ask for your money. I’m a rich kano and don’t need it.

The point of my story is that I understand that it can be tempting. A stranger you’ve never met sends you money over the Internet. Since Janet and I are good people we used the money for a good purpose. But where is the fine line between getting cash and doing a good deed and holding my hand out hoping (and perhaps begging) for a little more cash. That’s a fine line I don’t wish to cross.

I admire the way that many bloggers and vloggers do it. They don’t ask for donations but once in a while mention that someone sent them a box of supplies to help kids. Or they use the small amount of Adsense money they earn to help someone. But some guys have crossed that invisible line and it gives me the creeps. You can hear them subtlety hint for things that they need in order to help others. “Boy, a 60″ flat screen would sure help with our charity work.”

But as I say, I understand from my tiny experience how easy it is to be seduced. So for me it’s easier to “just say no.”

But if you insist, well I don’t want to insult you, so…is PayPal good for you?

Dating Filipina Scammers – It’s a “You” Problem

All you have to do to drive up traffic and controversy on your blog, You Tube vlog, forum, or in expat conversations is state that “Filipinas are scammers” or “they all will take advantage of you.” Others will nod their heads in agreement or sagely advise to “let’s be careful out there.”

Let me state my argument up front. In 90% of the cases it’s a “you problem.”

Now I am not trying to suggest that there are not “bad” women in the Philippines looking for cash, just as there are any place in the world.

But going back to my refrain that you’re gonna read often, so get used to it; generally it’s a “you problem.”

After all, you have all the advantages. You’re typically older (in my case much, much older) with the alleged wisdom that comes with age. You have a 1st worlder’s sophistication and a 1st worlder’s education. And even if you’re poor as a church mouse, by Philippines standards you’re rich – at least a little bit rich 🙂

And the Filipina friend you’ve been cultivating online? Young and inexperienced, unsophisticated, without that 1st world education. And let’s not forget she has no money, nor have her parents. So you have all the advantages, right? Well expect for the fact that she’s cute (or in the case of Janet more than just cute), sweet, treats you great, has a traditional sensibility. And oh, did I mention she’s pretty damn cute?

Barely a day goes by in which I don’t hear a tale of woe about some guy who sent money to a girl online, built her a house, paid the medical expenses for her parents or uncle, etc. Then he found out that she – wait for it – wanted his money.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. This is the easiest problem in the dating world to navigate; don’t send any money to someone you have not met in person and are not in a serious relationship with. And if you choose not to heed that advise – it’s a “you problem.” And BTW, even after you have met and are in a relationship, stick to the common refrain “less is more.”

This is the easiest problem in the dating world to navigate; don’t send any money to someone you have not met in person and are not in a serious relationship with.

That being said, you could consider a “test” with a small amount of money. I did it with one of the women I was chatting with back in the day. She chatted online from an internet cafe, a pretty common occurrence in the Philippines. But she wasn’t online much; money was the obstacle. I finally proposed that I send her the princely sum of $20 on the condition that she use it solely for our chatting; you can chat a long time for 20 bucks in the Philippines. You can guess the outcome. A couple weeks later she finally got online and admitted she spent the money, probably on something foolish like food. For a tiny investment I had my answer and found a much better chat mate in Janet.

When it comes to cash issues, the same is true after you get married. If you choose to shower your new wife with expensive gifts, send her siblings to the most costly university in Manila, buy her parents a yacht (ok, more likely an old pump boat), then you don’t get to complain afterwards that “she was just using me.” Once again – it’s a “you problem.”

Then there’s the refrain you often hear that all foreign women just want a green card. Right – cause every Filipina wants to live in a crazy place where we all just spent the last year arguing over Trump vs. Clinton 🙂

I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen but I know 100+ Fil-Am couples living in my city and none of the women dumped their husbands the moment they got the green card. And believe me, with the exception of yours truly, none of these guys is exactly George Clooney.

And believe me, with the exception of yours truly, none of these guys is exactly George Clooney.

OK, I do know one couple that divorced and the green card was an issue. The guy is bright and successful but complained about the wife from the moment they married. Eventually he proposed they divorce but that he would allow her to get her 10 year green card first. Scammer that she was, she actually wanted to save the marriage; he didn’t. Well at least she got the green card.

Anyone who is an avid reader of this blog knows that I have made a mistake or two in my Philippines journey. I just thought it ridiculous to blame an entire country of women for the mistakes that I made. Well, that and the fact I still had lots of fun making those mistakes.

Now most of us are adults here. By that I mean that what you do is your choice. If you want to send money to a girl you haven’t met, or shower her  family with cash and prizes or any of a huge number of foolish things guys do when they’re around women; well, it’s your money and your decision. You have the right to do whatever you want. Just don’t complain afterwards about how “they” are all scammers.

So guys – be careful in dating, whether you begin online or in country. Get to know each other as best as you can. Visit her as often as you can. Take your time. But in the end, you’re the one with the age, sophistication, education and resources. If things don’t go the way you hoped – say it with me – it’s a “you problem.”



Life, Illness and Death in the Philippines – Preferably the Former

There are a couple of well known Philippines vloggers who have recently had heart issues and of course vlogged about it, because that’s what you do nowadays when you are having tests and open heart surgery. I wish them well, but their experiences have been thought-provoking and scary.

In addition, I am Facebook friends  with many of my classmates from high school. Since we graduated 46 years ago, this means that they are all old. You notice I didn’t say I am old; I am married to Janet so how can I be old. But the rest of my classmates are 🙂

Not to be too unkind but they often post about their ailments, their partners’ ailments, their dogs’ ailments, etc. Some are minor and some are quite major.  Again, I don’t want to be indelicate, but I wish they would all get better quickly – if only so that I don’t have to be reminded of what lies ahead.

So as we get older, how do we deal with this? For years I could avoid dealing with any of the aging process by saying “I am perfect, no issues, not a broken bone, not a stitch.” I was the guy who went to the doctor’s office and the nurse took my blood pressure and said, “Wow, I wish I had your BP.” A few years ago they stopped saying that. Not that my BP is high, just that the doctor says I should cut down on my salt. “So what would you suggest?” I asked. “Telling them not to put salt on my fries at McD’s?” Ok, it’s a start.

Last month I bought a blood pressure monitor because I figure they might not have those free monitors in super markets in the Philippines. My 20 year old son asked what it was. “The gizmo that’ll tell me what week I’m gonna die.” And of course like most people with BP monitors I have begun to obsess  over it and try to figure why yesterday I was 5 points lower than today; knowing that at this rate of increase I have maybe a month to live.

I have a couple other minor physical annoyances. I’m a woodworker and my fingers and thumbs are always stiff and sore. Everything else is sore too but the fingers are sort of important to me. I even bought a pair of cut-resistant gloves because when I was younger and cut myself, the bleeding would stop. Now it stops only after all the blood has completely run out.

But really I’ve been lucky. No major health crisis and nothing’s fallen off. According to our Optometrist I am 20-20 with better vision than Janet. Of course I have to wear reading glasses most of the day because my arms have shrunk.

I have an acupuncturist and every time I go to him he says I am in great shape with no major issues compared to his other patients, who apparently have stuff falling off. So I keep going to him because just like with the BP, I like hearing that I’m OK – until I’m not.

But all this health and aging stuff is an issue for those of us moving abroad. After all I live in a country with the best medical system in the world 🙂 OK, that was said sarcastically, since we all know the U.S. medical system is far from the best; it’s only the most expensive.

So how do I deal with the possibility of getting sick in the Philippines? The same as here – I’ve decided not to get sick. I mean there is no easy or pleasant way around it, is there? Wherever you are, whatever the medical system is like, no matter what the costs or the insurance coverage – no one wants to get sick. And yet someday most of us will. Personally I prefer dying in bed with Janet or getting hit by a jeepney, but what if I don’t?

From a strictly nuts and bolts standpoint there are a few things you should do in the Philippines. Phil Health, the Philippines health care insurance system is a deal that beats all deals in life. It’s about 2400 pesos a year, which is about $50/year. Yeah you heard that right, 50 bucks! And even if you are an expat not married to a Filipina, you are eligible. Now the coverage is modest. It covers hospitalization and depending on the hospital and what’s being done, Phil Health will typically pay between 15 – 40% of your bill. But did I mention it’s $50 a year!

Thanks to President Duterte there is a now a national 911 system in the Philippines. It’s an amazing achievement. However in most of the Philippines calling 911 because you are having a medical crisis has limited benefit because in most places there are no ambulances. So, make sure you or your wife or your trike driver knows how to get to the hospital.

Choose your hospital wisely: Last year we were in Cebu City and I cut myself (I hadn’t brought my cut resistant gloves) and we thought I would need stitches. We grabbed a taxi and Janet told the driver to take us to the emergency room closest to Ayala Mall. Janet is a smart multi-tasker.

Find a good doctor: This seems obvious to me but I know guys who live in the Philippines who have not signed up for Phil Health and don’t have a doctor. So we will do our research and try to find a doctor we can mesh with. This is not so easy even in the US, with our best medical system in the world 🙂 I have at times struggled to find a doctor here I like, even with nothing wrong with me. A few years ago I was advised by my then doctor to have a minor surgical procedure and referred to a surgeon. I went to the consultation and while the surgeon made it clear he’d be happy to cut me open, he indicated I didn’t really have to do it. So I didn’t. My primary care provider was pissed at me; perhaps he gets a kick back. I found another doctor.

So in the Philippines I will find a doctor I can work with, a dentist, and an acupuncturist to tell me I’m in great shape. I will tend to give them the benefit of the doubt because – they are dirt cheap. Oh, did I not mention that before? When I went to the ER last year for the stitches that I actually didn’t need, the doctor and nurse dressed my wound, and gave me a tetinis shot. ER cost? $9.

One of the vloggers I referenced at the beginning of this piece ended up needing quadruple bypass surgery. He used Phil Health Z, a special program for particularly major health issues. He posted that his quadruple bypass cost the equivalent of $5100. For that amount it’s almost worth having the blockages.

And BTW, in the US with our greatest medical system in the world 🙂 , you’re not going to see doctors jump for joy like in the Philippines (see picture above). So the Philippines has a big advantage in the jumping up and down for joy medical category.

I was talking to a friend recently who happens to be a health professional in this, the greatest medical system in the world 🙂 We agreed completely; quality vs. quantity is where it’s at. His other advise? That we should all tattoo “No CPR” on our chests.

So here for me, as I age and prepare to retire and move is the issue: do I want to park my keester near a hospital in the country with the greatest medical system in the world 🙂 or do I want to live out my life with joy and happiness, even if it’s farther from a hospital and there are no $600 ambulance rides to be had?

Now if only I can convince Filipino restaurants to cook with less salt I can have both quality and quantity.







Do Ladyboys Pay for Sex? Bonus – the Korean who bought my speakers.

I’ve debated about writing about this subject for the last week or so, but knew I would ultimately do it, because I found the following discussion with Janet odd and it cracked me up. That being said, as always, if you are offended, I apologize.

I don’t remember how the discussion began or how it morphed into the topic of ladyboys and sex, but Janet told me that “gays (or ladyboys) in the Philippines have to pay for sex with men.”

Now for the uninitiated, ladyboy is a term for men who like to dress and make themselves up to look like women. In the West we certainly have many men who dress this way, and while there is still a stigma surrounding them, I suspect the stigma is fading, albeit slowly. However, in the Philippines and much of Asia, there is far more acceptance, far less stigma, and frankly far more ladyboys. While I have no idea of what the numbers or percentages are there is no doubt it’s quite a significant percentage. Even in small town, provincial Philippines there are many ladyboys.

Some Westerners come to Asia and are shocked, others amused, a few attracted, and still others (like me) are curious. For example, I have written before about how it seems that all the firedancers in the Philippines seem to be ladyboys, and wondered why. I’ve still gotten no real answer to that question.

Fire dancer and Me
Fire dancer and Me
Fire dancer and Janet
Fire dancer and Janet

After Janet made her pronouncement that “ladyboys pay for sex with men” – well I disagreed with her, sure that this was an area where perhaps she was not well versed or worldly.

“There are many gay men and ladyboys in the Philippines,” I responded. “Surely there are more than enough that they don’t have to pay for sex.”

“Yes they do,” she assured me.

“But why would a ladyboy need to pay for sex with another ladyboy?”

“No. A ladyboy needs to pay for sex with a man,” she replied.

I scratched my head, thought about it and finally understood. “You mean that a ladyboy has to pay for sex with a straight man,” I said.

“Oh, no. He’s probably gay too,” she said. “But he’s a man.”

Now I was completely baffled.

“So if the other man is gay why would the ladyboy have to pay for sex?”

Janet looked at me, perplexed. “Because he’s a man.”

“You mean he’s male and he’s gay but he’s not a ladyboy?”


“Then why,” I asked, “doesn’t the ladyboy just have sex with another ladyboy?”

Janet shook her head at her idiot of a husband. “Because the ladyboy’s female and the female always wants to have sex with a male, not another female.”

“And the man has more power in the relationship than the woman and so he gets paid.”

“Correct,” she replied, seeing that I finally understood.

“Then why don’t you pay me for sex?” I asked giggling. Janet was not amused.


As you perhaps know we are downsizing in anticipation of our move. While most of our furniture is far from expensive, one area that I spent money on in the past is audio-video equipment.

Years ago I bought my main speakers, and eventually got a center speaker and surrounds from the same company.  I considered the main pair of speakers in particular to be valuable and was determined to get my price for them. But because they were a bit high end and from a small company that’s not named Bose, I thought it might take a while to find the right person willing to buy them.

So Janet encouraged me to list them on Craigslist now, in case it took some months to sell. Over the years when it comes to money matters I more and more listen to Janet; her judgment is usually sound. So I listed the speakers and in the listing said the price was “firm.” As usual on Craigslist, I had a few “tire kickers” or people who wanted to buy them if I would drop the price. Finally I got an email from a man in Seattle (a 3 hour drive) who told me from the get go that he was “60 years old. Korean,” and wanted the speakers and could he come Saturday and get them.

I thought it was curious that he defined his age and nationality. Perhaps he was assuring me he was an old and non-threatening geezer, like me. I agreed. I assumed that he was a fan of the small speaker manufacturer and therefore was willing to drive 6 hours round trip to buy them. This is not a pair of speakers you are likely to see listed very often on Craigslist.

Saturday morning arrived and I texted him to confirm that he was actually coming, since I figured it was 50-50 that he would cancel or was flat out a bull shit artist. I got a one word text back, “Yes.” I replied whether he was coming at the time we agreed to. Again just, “Yes.”

So, I dropped off Janet to meet friends for lunch and rushed back home to meet the guy who had driven 3 hours just to look at and presumably buy my speakers. I turned on my system and chose a jazz album that I thought did justice to the quality of the speakers.


My new Korean friend arrived and came in. I pointed to the speakers and the jazz they were playing. I had encouraged him to bring his own fave CD or DVD to demo but he had nothing in hand. I asked him whether he had a fave type of music he would like me to play. He shrugged. I went to change the style of music. He didn’t seem to care. I began talking about the speakers. He didn’t seem much interested in them. He barely looked that them. I remember when I purchased them, I examined every square inch and demoed them for at least a half hour before convincing myself that they were the best sounding speakers that I would likely every own.

It became increasingly obvious that my potential Korean customer spoke little English. “Have you heard Gallos before,” I asked. He shrugged and shook his head no.

“Have Altecs in my van,” he said. That’s nice, I thought.

No discussion about high end audio as I anticipated, no extended demoing, no examining every inch of the merchandise as I would have done. Just a comment as he lifted one of the speakers. “Heavy.”

“Yeah, they’re kinda heavy,” I agreed.

Finally, there was nothing more to say and I asked him did he want them? He nodded and left to go back to his van where he had the money. He may not have spoken any English, but he knew how not to get ripped off.

He came back into the house, laid the money out on the table and we were done. We carried the speakers to his van, which was already filled with speakers, including the aforementioned huge Altecs. Either this guy was some kind of dealer or his wife loved karaoke.


The “Outdoor Plumbing” and Bladder Retention Issue

Note: We’ve got a shiny new (ok, not so new) YouTube Channel, called, Married a Filipina. Please check it out and subscribe as I post more videos!

I spent part of this morning reading some of my old blog postings. I know, I know – spending time reading my old scribblings proves I have a thrilling life! My readings included a piece called, Meet the Parents. Feel free to go back and read it; it’s a good ‘un.

I described the first time I met Janet’s family and her fear of my reaction to the home she grew up in, her “old” parents (who were younger than me). She also warned me about the lack of indoor plumbing in their home, and here I’ll quote what I wrote a couple years ago about the experience. “Of course there was no indoor plumbing and I was told by Janet to avoid using the outhouse. Thanks goodness that at my advanced age bladder retention is still – well, retained.”

I found, as I described in that previous blog, that her modest home was perfectly nice and her parents were not old looking or acting, or at least not as geriatric as the guy she was going to marry 🙂

But I avoided the “outhouse” and continued to avoid it for years and the many times I visited the family home. And Janet continued to mention over the years that I should avoid the bathroom. This led to a curious, though effective scheduling scenario every time we went to their home based on the fact that I was confident that bladder retention could be retained for perhaps  half a day. So, if a late afternoon dinner was planned, we might arrive in the early afternoon and leave in the early evening, just in time for me to get back to our hotel, the famous BBB (Bodos Bamboo Bar) so that I could do my best imitation of Tom Hanks in the Green Mile.

I suppose that if asked I would admit that I was afraid of what I might find or what I might smell in that large concrete structure. Honestly, images of the kid hiding in the outhouse in Schindler’s List came to mind. And no, I will not post a video of that scene; no need to thank me. That image kept me far away from the bathroom. It also kept me from drinking too many San Miguels at Janet’s ancestral home, which disappointed the men in the family, who might have wanted to see the kano get hammered.

But over the years I had my doubts. After all, I was now married to Janet and knew her to be a very meticulous, cleanly person. I had been around her sisters enough to know that they were the same way. So how, I wondered, could they stand it? Poverty forces difficult sacrifices, I told myself as I forced the Schindler’s List image out of my mind for the hundredth time.

This past April, we spent a week in Alcoy. The last day lunch was scheduled at the ancestral home with the required lechon. I had always expressed a desire to see how they did it and Janet asked if I wanted to go early and see what the lechon guy did. So, we arrived around 10:30 and watched the lechon guy perform his magic. You can see a video of that and some other Alcoy fun here. By 12:00 the happy barangay was being fed.

Me and my lechon friend.
Me and my lechon friend.

After lunch, I proceeded to consume 3 glasses of Red Horse with my father in law and Lolo; a bit more than would normally be prudent, but it was my last day in Alcoy. Games happened, talk happened. 4:00 arrived and Janet and I actually took a mini nap. Upon awakening at 4:30 I knew I was in trouble and woke up Janet quickly and said “we have to go.” Janet awoke and slowly complied but of course, since this was our last day in Alcoy we had to say our goodbyes – to everyone. I felt embarrassed by how quickly I was saying goodbye to the family.

Now you might be wondering, this being the Philippines, and deep in the provinces, why I didn’t just head off and find a place to do my business. I mean that’s certainly culturally appropriate in the Philippines.

The reason is that my mother in law and everyone else in the family keeps an eye on me like a hawk. Just the day before I was going to go back to the BBB and Janet was going to stay for dinner. I got up to leave. My MIL insisted that I have the kids accompany me to the main road where I would get a trike. I assured her that I knew the way and had been successfully walking on my own since my 30s. No dice. Ten kids accompanied me.

So I knew I could not just sneak off to find a place to pee.  I rushed Janet, we quickly said our goodbyes, hit the trail toward the main road, accompanied by the kids, and grabbed a trike. A little bit after 5:00 I was back at the BBB again pulling my Tom Hanks impression. OK, “pulling” is a bit inappropriate 🙂

But Janet was upset. “Why did you have to rush us,” she demanded to know.

“Because I had to pee – badly!” I said.

“So why didn’t you just use the bathroom?”

“What!” I yelled. “Because you’ve told me for years that I should never never use it – that it was awful.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” she shot back, surprised.

“It doesn’t stink?”


“It’s not like, you know –  Schindler’s List?” I asked.


So, first I insisted that Janet acknowledge that she in fact had repeatedly told me over the years that I should never use it. She finally laughed and admitted she had said that. I then screwed up my courage and asked her to describe the environment.

Turns out my image of splintery planks with crude holes in them was not quite accurate. In fact there were standard toilets and no smell. The only adjustment you’d have to make is that, as in many places in the Philippines, including a couple of hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, a bucket of water and a ladle sits next to the toilet and that’s what’s used to get it to flush.

There was no sense in busting Janet too much for her deception. I understood that just as she had described her home as poor and terrible and her parents as old and poor, this was her way to protect me from the reality of her upbringing.

Next time I go to Alcoy I’m going to overdo the San Miguel and do my best Tom Hanks impression right there. Just don’t expect a video 🙂





“You Don’t Look Like a Drug Dealer…”

I’ve never been one of those paranoid people who believe that the media controls everything and everyone.  We are all human beings and control our own thoughts and destinies. I may have to change my mind.

As an aside, like most American husbands I know who actually controls everything and everyone – my wife. Just kidding, honey 🙂

I’ve been visiting the Philippines for about 5 years now and have been there 8 or 9 times (I’ve lost track). I’ve married a Filipina and as probably many of you know we’re intending to retire in the Philippines next year.

With few exceptions, nobody I know ever said squat. “Where are you going on vacation, Dave.” “The Philippines.” Nothing – crickets. Or maybe, “The Philippines again? You must like it there.”

When I would return I’d get the standard, “How was your vacation?” questions and the standard, “Glad you had a good time.” And that was it.

Let’s face it, most Americans know more about the changing shape and size of Kim Kardashian’s loboot than they do about the Philippines.  They know it’s a tropical island (ok, 7107 islands to be anally precise but who’s counting). They think it’s sort of in Asia. And if they are old enough they vaguely know something about MacArthur returning there, though since he’s long dead it’s possible that ain’t gonna happen.

That’s about it.

But all it takes is for Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, to kill a few (ok, a few thousand) drug dealers, and talk a little smack about President Obama and now everyone I know is an expert on the Philippines.

“That guy’s a loose canon.” I’ve heard that comment often enough that I have to assume CNN is promoting it as the new slogan for Philippines’ tourism, replacing “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” Frankly with Duterte in office I think it is more fun in the Philippines, but then I love Scorcese movies and the Taken series . My son and I once counted the number of people Liam Neeson killed in Taken and let’s just say he could be very useful in the Philippines. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a call.

Janet also has gotten a negative remark or two and handles them with her normal graceful aplomb – by reaming the remarker with a new one 🙂

And of course I have also gotten plenty of, “Are you still thinking of moving there?” followed by a roll of the eyes and a mumbled, ‘That guy’s crazy.’

This rose to the height of bizarre nonsense just the other day. As part of the downsizing of all my junk, which I recently documented here, I sold off my Nikon cameras, lenses, flashes, bags and associated crap. I decided to go the typical old geezer or traveling geezer route with a point and shoot camera. Of course having owned plenty of nice cameras in my life I wanted a good one that I could still get decent pics from and use for vlogging. And BTW, you should all get ready to be inundated with fascinating videos to come on my YouTube Channel here!

I chose the camera I wanted, found that Best Buy had an open boxed one at a discount and Janet and I headed over. As I’m playing with the camera, I’m telling the salesman what I will be up to as a soon to be retiree. Of course he’s glancing at the old guy’s cute wife, but at this point in my life that just comes with the territory.

“Where in Asia are you retiring?” he asks.

“The Philippines,” I say and pointed to Janet adding, “that’s where my wife’s from.”

“Well at least you and your wife don’t look like drug dealers. I guess you’ll be safe.”

“I take it you watch CNN,” I replied giggling. “OK, I’ll take the camera. You can watch me dodge bullets on YouTube.”

I guess the point is that people who didn’t know the Philippines from a hole in the wall now are experts. I find myself defending the country, Duterte and our future plans. Now as a defensive guy I don’t mind doing that but when you are debating it only works if the other person knows something about the subject. Someone who’s only seen a 30 second sound bite knows nothing about the Philippines.

“I hear that loose canon’s gonna kick all the American military out of the South part of the Philippines,” a co-worker informed me. She actually said it like it was a bad thing.

“I guess at your age they won’t confuse you with American military,” she added positively.

“Yeah, I might be able to pass.”

Although if I start smoking a pipe in the Philippines I suspect I could pass for MacArthur.

P.S. If you’re wondering why I posted the particular pic of Pres. Duterte above, which has nothing to do with the drug wars or his row with Pres. Obama, it’s because I think it represents the real Duterte – which is a very good thing!




Our Progress Toward the Big Move

Lots of people ask me how our planned retirement and move to the Philippines is going, so it felt like a good time to update. It also seemed like a good time to detail some of the decisions we are making; that way we can look back in a year or two and see how badly they all went 🙂

Getting rid of the crap: Strangely enough, I’ve enjoyed downsizing. It’s been going on for a couple years but is now in real earnest. A month ago we had a big garage sale which went well and was lots of fun. We scoured the house for everything we didn’t need and didn’t intend to bring to the Philippines. About 3/4 of the junk put out was sold by super pitchman, Dave. The rest we either put out on the sidewalk marked free or I took to the Goodwill. I even made some money, which I put into our “Get outta Dodge fund.”

BB box

We decided quite awhile ago that we would not be shipping furniture or large items. We will be going the Balikbayan Box route and my current guess is that we will ship between 10-15 BB boxes @ $75/each. The boxes will contain clothes (although I am already donating most of my winter clothing), some kitchen items (the better pots for example), a few household items and items of sentimental value. Unquestionably the biggest single area of stuff to ship are my tools and guitar making supplies.

For many years I collected old hand woodworking tools. There, I admitted it – I was a collector. When you have 2 finger planes, you’re a user; when you have 30, you’re a collector.

2 finger and 1 palm plane by Legendary English plane maker, Bill Carter.
2 finger and 1 palm plane by Legendary English plane maker, Bill Carter.
Chris Laarman finger planes on rough archtop top.
Chris Laarman finger planes on rough archtop top.

A few years ago I started downsizing and probably sold off 60-70% of the tools I had; there were a lot of happy tool collectors on ebay. At the same time I have acquired some items, wanting to have enough supplies to make at least 3 guitars in retirement. By the time I run out of those supplies I will have found local sources.

I had my biggest victory on this 2016 Sale Olympics a week ago. In a fit of stupidity (or excess cash) I bought a high end elliptical machine some years back. Had it installed in our basement. Janet used it more than me. I didn’t want to end up just giving it away and worried about how I would get it out of the basement. I listed it on Craigslist and for weeks – crickets. Then I heard from a guy who was interested. He arrived with a trailer behind his SUV – that was a good sign. He brought his own tools – even better. Most importantly his wife brought the envelope with cash; not even an argument over the asking price. We took the thing partially apart and the 2 of us (both over 60 oldies) schlepped it up the stairs. I didn’t even end up with a sore back; the positive influence of an extra grand in my pocket, I suppose. Our basement looks quite a bit emptier and my “Get out of Dodge fund” is a bit fuller.

Next spring we’ll sell the furniture put the house on the market, ship the BB boxes, and then it all gets very serious.

Finances: I’ve met with my bank and the company that manages my retirement account to see what issues I might have to deal with when living out of the country. Of course they want my vast kano wealth (just kidding) and so are pitching things like I will have no problems.

Where: While the decision to move to the Dumaguete area was made a while back, the question is how. We definitely want to rent for a while at first (a year?) and then may buy a house. But how to pull this all off? Oh, I could rent a house or apartment online, but do we trust the pics and glowing descriptions online? Or we could just arrive and with with “boots on the ground” stay in a hotel and look for a place. The problem with that is where to ship our boxes without an address?

There are a few complexes that rent by the month (most require longer leases) and we could rent for a couple months, have a place to ship our stuff, and then find the real rental when we arrive. Decisions decisions…

Tricycle-Batangas-PhilippinesTransportation: Do we need a car? Janet thinks we do and I tend to agree. But what kind? After all I will no longer have the long daily commute, thank God; I will be an old fart retiree! So new or used? Small, large or medium? SUV? Old pickup truck? Jeepney? Trike? Who knows, although unlike many other retirees there, I will not go all Fonzie and buy a motorcycle. Janet is most attracted by the looks; I mostly care about cheap to own and operate. I am open to suggestions? No matter what, I am sure we will still use plenty of public transportation; trikes are cheap in Dumaguete; buses are readily available. Most importantly, Janet knows how to get from Duma to Alcoy, her hometown.

Work Schedule: The clock is ticking and I’ve got one of those countdown programs displayed on my screen, that I glance at whenever I get overwhelmed, which in my work environment is hourly. My company understands firing better than retiring.  I therefore know that there’s always a possibility that I could be downsized before my planned leaving date, but since that date is quickly approaching it matters less and less. I hope to go on my own terms but at a certain point…

BTW, for any co-workers or, worse yet, managers reading this, you know I love you, right? I have just one word for you in anticipation of my retirement – kudos 🙂

Our US Home: Once we get to the 1st of the year we will be getting ready for the aforementioned sale of the last of the crap and put the house on the market. There’s a couple minor upgrade items to perform, but nothing too big. Fortunately the real estate market in my area is pretty hot, so I don’t anticipate a long wait for a sale. But as we know buying and selling a home is one of the most stressful things in Western life, so I will at least have one more stressful task to finish before I hit the beach with a San Miguel in my hand.

Other things to do: Buy a bunch of crap when we arrive in Dumaguete to replace the crap we sold here; find a doctor, dentist and acupuncturist; visit the relatives on the East Coast one more time; throw a party; throw two parties. And get ready for the great adventure!




“Fresh Fish!”

Janet and I went to dinner tonight at a local seafood restaurant. This is not unusual in the Northwest, where seafood is king but it was sort of a last minute decision and it went like all restaurant decisions between us.

Me: Why don’t we go out to dinner? Where should we go?

Janet: Wherever the husband wants to go.

Me: (made a couple suggestions – got a couple crinkled noses). We ended up going where the wife wanted to go.

Who said Filipina wives are different from American wives 🙂

We’re talking at the table waiting for our order to arrive. Janet remarked for the hundredth time in our marriage that she misses fresh fish. It took me at least a year of marriage to release that her notion of fresh fish is slightly different from my American notion, which usually includes the image of the Gortens Fisherman. OK, I’ll admit the image above is David Letterman, pretending to be the Gortens Fisherman, but that’s just as accurate.

Janet’s notion of fresh fish is pretty odd; you meet the fisherman at the boat and buy fish that are still flopping around. Or you meet the fisherman on the beach where he has just docked his boat. Or, better yet, your dad catches the fish in the ocean and brings it home. Or best still, you catch the fish and keep the best parts for yourself. As I say, Filipino notions of fresh are pretty odd.

In America our notion of fresh fish is that I see fish in the supermarket lying on ice and it looks yummy. I believe it’s fresh because, like Mulder in the X-Files, “I want to believe.” But of course in reality, the supermarket’s fish lady, who looks neither like the Gortens Fisherman or David Letterman, opens up a box of frozen fish, thaws the suckers out (none of them are flopping) and throws them on the ice. The ice is the most authentic part of the presentation.

Growing up, my notion of fresh fish came from the Three Stooges. It’s less of a con than that supermarket presentation.

As an old fart, I began telling Janet what it was like when I was a kid growing up. We went to the Butcher Shop, the Bakery, the Fish Shop, etc. Janet’s eyes grew larger recognizing that the America I grew up in was not that different from the Philippines she grew up in – well except for the 50 years difference.

Of course once supermarkets began to grab hold, there was no turning back. My mother still got her lunchmeats and bagels at “the kosher deli” but the supermarket was impossible to resist for anything else.

Now Janet works in a supermarket and she began telling me how it really works, which is basically that nearly everything in your American supermarket got there frozen. For all I know the Scott Toilet Paper came off the truck frozen and was dethawed before it could hit my white shiny loboot.

This got me to thinking. Just as my mother went the way of supermarkets 50 years ago, we now of course use them for the convenience. But unlike her generation, that understood that supermarkets were only convenient and cheap, we’ve actually come to believe that the product is better.

After all, unless you’ve watched a Rocky movie lately, you’ve never watched the butcher carve a side of beef. Unless you’ve watched some gross documentary on Tyson’s, you don’t know or wanna know how chickens are raised or killed. BTW, you do realize that most animals poop a lot and rarely know which bathroom to use.

I hear guys all the time (myself included) express shock at Philippines wet markets. The meats and fish bake in the heat, there are flies all around, and hell, the vendors don’t always look all that sanitary. In short, it ain’t the Walmart produce section.

“Don’t worry about the flies – we won’t weigh them.”

We in the West have convinced ourselves that animals and produce come from sanitary environments without flies, or at least the flies have been sprayed to death by the latest organic pesticide.

So, we’ve taken the natural experience of a fish caught, sold and consumed immediately, perverted it with a chunk of ice, and convinced ourselves it’s better for us – that is it would be better if those darn corporations would stop providing us with tasty GMOs in our sanitary food. And then, if we’re rich kanos, we spend twice as much for products labeled organic or natural, meaning they’re grown or raised like they use to be when I was a kid and often still are in the 3rd world.

Of course when Janet and I move to the Philippines I am sure that I will still be put off by the flies in the wet market. I will just choose to remember my favorite line from the Firesign Theatre describing the Giant Toad Supermarket: “Don’t worry about the flies – we won’t weigh them.”