What Is It Like To Be A White Guy In The Philippines?

White man at Sto nino mass during Sinulog - Cebu City, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

*Updated February, 2018


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White guy in the Philippines - Nathan W. Allen via @idreamedofthis - Photo by Tiffphoto.com

By Nathan W. Allen

So? What's it REALLY like?


Well, as a certified white guy, let me tell you:



  • Just about everywhere you go, beautiful women will stare, smile and giggle.  Come to think of it, many men will do this as well. 


  • Filipinos and their bags are fully screened at security checkpoints, but if you're white, the checkpoint officers will smile, ask "how are you doing today, sir?", and wave you through without ever checking the contents of your giant, suspicious backpack.  (How could a white person possibly have bad intentions? (Think: Timothy Mcveigh)
Jeepney on the colorful streets of Romblon island - Copyright @idreamedofthis


  • Taxi drivers will automatically stop when they see you walking on the side of the road - whether you flag them down or not...then they will look at you like you are absolutely crazy when you tell them you'd prefer to walk.


  • Speaking of taxis, if the drivers see you waiting next to a taxi queue full of Filipinos, they will often bypass the Filipinos and pick you up first.


  • They won't do it for Filipinos, but drivers will stop so that you can cross the street (it seems that hitting a white person is every Filipino driver's worst nightmare).


  • If you land a job in the Philippines, you can be half as qualified as Filipinos, and still get paid twice as much.


  • You have instant credibility, and are an instant celebrity just about everywhere you go.




Sounds good, right?


Well, yes...too good.  Foreigners - especially white foreigners, are treated like kings!  The problem is that they can become quite unpleasant when they get used to this treatment...and start acting like kings.



Foreigners Behaving Badly

I heard a story which, unfortunately, is entirely believable.  At a bar in Cebu, a very drunk foreigner walked over to a group of Filipinos and tried to talk to a pretty girl who was with her boyfriend.  Despite the fact that she was already with a guy, the drunk foreigner demanded that she get up and dance with him.     


She politely declined and explained that she was there with her boyfriend and their friends.  That was simply not acceptable to this foreigner - he refused to accept that she wasn't interested in him.  After all...he's white, right?  Again, he demanded, and even tried to drag her from the table onto the dance floor.    


Pint of beer at a foreign owned bar in Romblon - Copyright @idreamedofthis


When she firmly yelled "no!" to him, this jerk actually had the nerve to take his beer and DUMP it on her!     


This is what I'm talking about - the kind of mentality that some of these guys develop in the Philippines.  I had to leave the city because this sense of entitlement sickened me so much.  I didn't feel like I fit in with much of the expat community there.


They Should Be Held Accountable

There is a certain mayor in the Philippines who is known for being tough on foreigners who behave badly.  He backs up his word, too - he will just deport them!  I applaud this man.  Caucasians should have to abide by the rules just like everybody else - and not get a free pass in the Philippines. 


A Message to Foreigners: This is Not Our World

White foreigner Nathan Allen in small doorway in Iloilo, Philippines
Very Tall (& Very White)

I was inspired to write this article during a recent bus trip to Bacolod.  You see, I am 6ft 2 inches tall, and my legs are so long that they frequently hit the back of the seat in front of me. 


For me, legroom is hard to come by in the Philippines.  I am used to it, and have adapted...but I thought about the many foreigners who would just complain in that situation.       








We must understand that this world was not made for us.  For example, if the commuter buses in the Philippines had more legroom, it would be wasted on 98% of Filipinos who don't need it.  There would be less people on each bus, longer wait times at the stations, and less profit to distribute to the drivers and employees.


No, I didn't come to the Philippines to mold and shape the culture to my liking...I came to observe and appreciate it - to find my place in the Filipino world.


If that means I have to squish into a packed bus on the way to Bacolod, then I will do it with a smile on my face.  It's a small price to pay for so many incredible experiences I've had in this country.


Perfect Romblon Island Sunset, Bonbon Beach, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Perfect Romblon Island Sunset (Pin it!)

If You Don't Like It, You Don't Have to be Here


I remember watching a youtube video that a foreigner made after living in the country for 3 years.  He ranted and complained about all the ways the Philippines was "backward" and "disgusting".  This video made me furious, because after all, this guy was here for THREE YEARS!  Why stick around and complain about it for 3 years when you can just leave after 2 weeks?        


My guess is that he enjoyed the economic advantages and attention from young girls.  Afterward, he enjoyed the staggering web traffic generated by angering the "social media capital of the world".


Of course, the Philippines also has its share of decent, respectful foreigners, but for the rest of you, please don't forget that you can always go home.  In fact, I'll show you to the airport.


NAIA airport terminal with Philippine Airlines Flight on the runway - Copyright @idreamedofthis
See that plane taking off? That could be you.

If You're Dating or Married to a Filipina...

I always find it sad when a foreigner's Filipina wife is impressed with my (limited) ability to speak Filipino languages.  Many of these women are impressed with very little, because after years of being married and living in the Philippines, their husbands barely even know how to say "thank you" in Filipino.     


Perhaps due to the way they are treated in the Philippines, these men don't feel the need to learn the language or adapt to the culture at all. Perhaps they just expect the culture to adapt to them?




If you are involved with a Filipina, I beg you...please make at least some kind of effort to connect with her culture.  For goodness sakes, this is your wife...possibly the mother of your children.        


At the very least, you will help to lift a barrier between you and her family, and as I'm sure you know by now, family is everything in the Philippines.


Filipinos have opened their homes, hearts, and minds to us.  The least we can do is treat them with the respect that everybody deserves.


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