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"Nathan, why do you like the Philippines so much?" Scratching their heads, many Filipinos have asked me this question. Sometimes it seems what they actually mean is how could you love the Philippines so much? How is it possible for an American to love such a "broken" and corrupt country?
Well, it is possible, and the latest viral video about foreigners in the Philippines inspired me to write about it (even though I'm offended the producers didn't ask me to be in it...haha! Joke lang:) As the video illustrates, in many crucial ways, your country is not as broken as you might think.
I have to tell you, as a foreigner, I am smitten by the Filipino way of life. Other Asian countries may share your communal values, but in the Philippines, these values include an open invitation to outsiders. Yes, the country has been invaded and occupied multiple times in the past - so the argument could be made that Filipinos are "warm and inviting" out of fear...perhaps they feel they must be hospitable to their "guests" (invaders?).
However, I don't think it's that simple.
While I'm sure the history with foreign invaders plays some kind of part in the Filipino psyche, for the most part, I don't see any aspect of fear or subordination in Filipino hospitality. All I see is very genuine wanting to connect and share with another human being. That saying "strangers are just friends you haven't met yet"...I wouldn't be surprised if it was coined by a Filipino!
What else do foreigners see in the Philippines? Quite frankly, the country has some of the most incredible landscapes I've ever seen. The rock formations of Halong Bay in Vietnam are world famous, but El Nido in Palawan is just as stunning in my opinion, (even better, when you consider the beaches, snorkeling, and diving as well.)
I spent some time exploring the rice terraces of northern Vietnam also. I thought they were spectacular...that is, until I saw the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Banaue and Batad in the Philippines. Truly awe-inspiring.
The list could go on and on...how I prefer the beaches of the Philippines over those in the Caribbean...etc.
As word spreads, more and more travelers from around the world will arrive on your shores - some will never leave! They will eagerly soak up the beauty of your culture and country. They know that sure, the country is not perfect, but it has so many elements that other wealthy and developed nations are sorely lacking.
Some Filipinos have emailed me saying that they are embarrassed. They are embarrassed because as a foreigner living in the country for only 1 year, I have already seen more of the Philippines than they have.
Well, I want to say please don't be embarrassed. First of all, few people are as crazy as I am...crazy enough to sacrifice everything to travel solo all over a new country for a year (on a shoestring budget). In fact, I sacrificed a lot of comforts and spent less in my travels than many of my Filipino friends do just living their day-to-day lives.
Second, it's understandable if you haven't seen much of your own country. I believe it is human nature to think the grass is always greener - and dream about other countries. For example, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California. There are many local tourist attractions I didn't visit until only very recently - and many others that I still haven't seen! This is because the country I grew up in was easy to take for granted.
Often times we don't see the unique beauty of our own countries, because living in them just becomes very normal to us. Sometimes we need foreigners to come in and observe with a "fresh" pair of eyes. I love seeing the beauty of California and the U.S. through the eyes of visitors. It gives me a new perspective on a place I've known all my life.
That's what it's all about, really. Perspective.
Other than this, Filipinos, I know you also might feel discouraged because it's difficult to travel abroad. Tough visa requirements and high travel costs might be keeping your feet on Filipino soil, but is that really such a bad place to be? If getting to other countries is difficult, I hope this might help inspire you to explore and appreciate your own beautiful country. You have so much unique culture, food, and diversity spread out over your 7,107 islands - there is much to see and explore! In the process, you might just find that your country inspires you.
I can tell you that your country certainly inspired me. I loved it so much that I ended up staying for a year - and I have to say, I still wasn't ready to leave! I really miss it, so each day I post Philippine photos and stories on the I Dreamed Of This FB page.
Instead of feeling hopeless about the government and corruption in the Philippines, I hope this outside perspective will help you see that you have something worth standing up for; something that, if broken, is worth repairing. So, yes. Dream about the Philippines. Dream for the Philippines...and if you feel it's needed, use your impenetrable spirit and vast numbers to make a change!
I have a good Filipino friend in Manila named Dab. He has traveled to many, many countries around the world. I'll never forget one of his FB status updates during a trip abroad:
"The more I travel out of the Philippines, the more I realize how lucky I am to live IN it."
- Nathan Allen
Follow along on my main FB page, and also on the page dedicated to the Philippines!
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