I remember walking down the streets of my wife’s barangay alone and everyone would greet me with the expression “hey Joe”.
Filipinos automatically assume that if you are a Westerner your name is “Joe” and that you are wealthy and “Amerikano”.
I also remember all Filipinos and their bags being thoroughly screened at the entrance of each shopping mall I went to. However the officers would just greet me and smile, as you can see in the picture above (that was at the SM in Rosales, Pangasinan).
I come from Southern Italy and I am neither American nor that wealthy but that is how Filipinos view me whenever I visit the country.
The funny thing is that a friend of mine who left Serbia back in the “90’s, during the war in the ex-Jugoslavia and moved to Italy to seek asylum, later married a Filipina and when he visited the Philippines he too was addressed as “Joe” the “Amerikano” and treated as a wealthy American even though he comes from a country that is perhaps even poorer than the Philippines!
As long as your skin is white, you can be Italian, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, you could even be a gypsy but you are still an “Amerikano”.
As long as this idea simply produces as a result that locals see you with admiration and curiosity, being viewed as rich and “Amerikano” could stand you in good stead.
The problem arises when they assume that because you are “Amerikano” you are going to dole out cash to everyone, even if you don’t have much money and you have barely been able to pay the plane ticket to get to the Philippines because your Filipino spouse hasn’t seen her family in years and are looking for cheap ways to enjoy your vacation in the Philippines.
As I said in a previous post I’ve learned Tagalog so I immediately say something like “hindi Joe ang pangalan ko, taga dito ang asawa ko” and that puts any expectations that I will distribute some money to rest.
I’ve noticed that being able to speak Tagalog creates instant rapport and it increases my credibility if I tell them that I am not that rich.
I was able to walk around alone because I speak the language and because my wife’s family is well-known in town but the idea that Filipinos have that all white people are rich and American and have money to dole out is something to consider very carefully if you are going to parts of the country where it is not safe to go off on your own and where you cannot rely on the protection of your wife’s family and if you speak nothing but English.