How to Experience “Real” Adventure in the Philippines

Driving in Manila is a real adventure

(I stumbled upon this old post that I had not categorized when I created it so I am reposting it)

The Philippines has so many remote islands, jungles, rough roads and so on that the opportunities to experience adventure at its peak are endless.

I’ve had the chance to visit remote parts of the Sierra Madre Mountains where there is not even a trail and where the NPA hide.

Yet, scuba diving, bungee jumping, driving a jeep on a rough road leading to some remote waterfall, hiking in a jungle etc are certainly not the only ways to experience adventure in the Philippines.

You don’t by any means need to go to some remote area to experience adventure: just try driving in Manila during rush hour (that in Manila practically means almost any hour) where cutting in lanes and tailgating is routine or even in the province where buses overtake cars or buses in a curve and you have to resort to your best driving skills to avoid a crash, or try walking alone in some slum area like Tondo or Quiapo (I’ve experienced Quiapo by night) and you will experience “adventure” in the real sense of the word.

But even more adventurous is being married to a Filipina as the various aspects of culture shock that I’ve abundantly touched on in this blog can turn your relationship into a real “adventure” that can cause other kinds of adventures like swimming among the sharks or hiking in a trail infested with cobras or pythons to pale in comparison.

You will find yourself dealing with mainit ang ulo, hinanakit and other highly emotional traits of Filipinos or moving on the razor’s edge of trying to budget your money while sending substantial amounts to relatives in the Philippines (not my situation but it can happen to some) who expect help and those things definitely qualify as “adventure”.

But if you are willing to view the bumps on the road, the challenges and the obstacles as an opportunity to step up emotionally your relationship with a Filipina will definitely offer you an opportunity for an exciting adventure, a ride second to none.

So here is my top five list of adventures one can experience in the Philippines:

  • Tondo by night
  • Quiapo by night
  • E.D.S.A. Avenue at rush hour
  • Your Filipina’s relatives who ask for money
  • Your Filipina’s mood when she is having buwanang dalaw (menstruation)

Have a great time in the Philippines!

Mabuhay!….or mamatay

The Car Culture in the Philippines

Traffic in Manila
Trapik and usok

I remember getting up one morning at 4 am to go from San Ildefonso, Bulacan to Tagaytay.

Here in Italy people get up that early to avoid being stuck in traffic and all you can find on the road at 4-4,30 am is few people who work night shifts and little more.

Sure enough, even in Bulacan, the National Highway was clear at 4,30 am and so was the North Luzon Expressway. But when we got to the toll gate and entered the E.D.S.A. Avenue……… naku po(gi) grabe ang trapik! (“my goodness, traffic was a heck of a mess”).

It took us more than 5 hours to make it to the South Luzon Expressway as traffic was not moving an inch on the EDSA but, once on the South Luzon Expressway traffic was smooth again and we made it relatively quickly to Lake Taal.

But why are cities and even much smaller towns in the Philippines so jammed with trapik?

One reason is certainly the cronic lack of adequate infrastructures but, as a foreigner married to a Filipina, my idea is that way too many Filipinos often use cars, tricycles and jeepneys unnecessarily.

The palengke of Barangay Pinaod where my wife is from is only situated less than 500 meters from my wife’s house and yet people would rather flag down a tricycle than walk.

My idea is that one of the root causes (besides of course lack of an adequate rail system) of the trapik and usok (“smog”) problem lies in the deep-seated car culture of Filipinos or, more in general, the sasakyan (any means of transportation) culture.

I am one of those who used not to have a car and I had no desire whatsoever to have one, I walk a lot and I love biking.

Yet, after marrying my Filipina, things changed for me because of the car culture of Filipinos (at least the ones I interact with).

I remember being repeatedly told by many of my Filipino friends “Italyano ka, bakit wala kang kotse?” (“You are an Italian, how come you don’t have a car?”). For them mayaman (“rich”…..well, I am not rich but many Filipinos here only have dealings with their rich employers and so in their mind all Italyano are mayaman or rich) equals dapat may kotse (“you have to have a car”) and if you don’t you are tanga (“very stupid”).

Not all Filipinos have a car here but the ones who don’t have one are simply the ones who, right now, can’t afford one but, as soon as they can, buying a car is their number one priority, also because here trains and buses don’t take you to every single corner of the city and you can’t avoid walking at least few hundred meters to get to the bus or metro stop and we don’t have any tricycle service here…

As for me, simply going out for a walk with my wife (as I used to do with my old friends) doesn’t compute, going out equals going to a restaurant (or anywhere else) always by car.

So the strong car culture of Filipinos (or sasakyan in general) and lack of willingness on the part of many to walk even a short distance is largely responsible, I guess, for much of the trapik and usok in the Philippines but it seems to me that wherever they go Filipinos carry the car culture with them.

I have noticed that there is a debate going on in the Philippines about modernizing jeepneys, some would like to modernize them, some resist the change, but modern jeepneys don’t have wings and can’t fly and, even if they introduced electric jeepneys they would still jam the roads.

And maybe building new skyways invites even more cars.

I am not an expert so I can’t suggest long-term solutions but I think kaunting lakad (“a little willingness to walk a bit more”) would help reduce usok and trapik at least to some extent.

As for me, the bright side is that I can at least rely on the diskarte (“ability to creatively fix things”) and the bayanihan spirit (“helping one in need”) of most of my Filipino friends to fix my car at almost zero-cost….

A Filipino friend of mine spent the whole afternoon fixing a few issues my car had and he didn’t even want any money….I had to insist to give him something

Marrying a Filipina in the Philippines

My personal experience teaches me that, whenever possible, it is cheaper and easier to marry a Filipina in a Western country than it is to marry her in the Philippines.

The only instance in which your only option is to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is when she lives in the Philippines and there is no legal way to get her to a Western country.

If she lives in the Philippines and she doesn’t meet the requirements to get an entry visa to a Western country or she was a clandestine immigrant in your country and she got caught by the police and expelled, and therefore it is very unlikely to get her to return to your country in a legal way, your only option is to marry her in the Philippines.

Yet, based on my experience (both with the Italian and the Filipino bureaucracy) I’d say that the option to marry a Filipina in the Philippines can be complicated and, obviously, more expensive so, whenever possible it is much easier, if one has the chance to do so, to get legally married in a Western country and this can generally be done by either marrying one who already lives in the West (legally or illegally) or by finding the way to help her get a fiance or a tourist visa.

If a Filipina does live in a Western country as a clandestine immigrant, generally speaking it is not a problem to marry her.

Let’s say that undocumented Filipinos here in Italy (and Filipinos in general) are not viewed as a threat so it is highly unlikely that they get expelled, let alone physically deported (I mean put on a plane at the expenses of the government that can barely afford to deport those who pose a real threat).

Here in Italy marrying an undocumented Filipina is very easy and the authorities never ask an illegal foreigner to show her permit to stay in the country while going through the legal process of marrying a local citizen. All they need is their passport, their birth certificate and the certificate of singleness and that’s it, no one will ever impede the marriage if a Filipina is an illegal immigrant (which happens very rarely by the way here in Italy as most Filipino workers do have a permit to stay).

What about helping her to get an entry visa to your country to marry her where you are and avoid the hassle of going through the Filipino bureaucracy?

As far as I know, US citizens can bring their Filipino fiance to the US by means of a fiance visa but here in the E.U. this is apparently not possible.

As far as I know this kind of visa expires after 90 days which, I guess, is too short a period of time to get to know a Filipina properly, given all the things that a Westerner needs to weigh, like the relationship with the extended family, the fact that her relatives might need financial support, having or not having children and so on.

What’s possible here in the E.U., at least theoretically because European embassies are very strict when it comes to issuing Shengen visas, is to apply for a tourist visa, but that would also only be valid for 90 days.

So, getting a Filipina to a Western country either through a fiance visa or a tourist one to eventually marry her in a your country is the easiest way to avoid extra bureaucratic issues but it doesn’t give you much time to get to know her properly.

You can of course visit the Philippines multiple times as a tourist and go there back and forth multiple times, if you are retired or otherwise have no work obligations and have the money to do so, and that would, of course, give you more time to evaluate whether to marry her or not but for common mortals who need to work and cannot take much vacation time this can be hard.

If a Filipina was expelled from a Western country or there is otherwise no legal way to get her to come to a Western country to get married, the option to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is the only one available.

As I’ve said earlier, marrying my wife here in Italy proved to be a very easy, cheap and straightforward process.

Marrying her in the Philippines would have been way more complicated for me.

The main reason, at least based on my personal experience, why it can be very difficult (or even impossible in some cases) to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is because the Philippine Government requires all foreigners to provide a “Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” from the embassy of the country where you come from and in some countries (like mine) this certificate is not easy to get.

This certification affirms that there are no legal impediments to the foreigner marrying a Filipino.

I have read somewhere that the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines provides U.S. citizens the opportunity to sign an “Affidavit In Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage,” a self-certification that the U.S. citizen is free to marry in the Philippines.

The Italian Embassy does not provide the opportunity to sign said affidavit and, as a result, an Italian who goes to the Philippines to marry a Filipina in the Philippines has to get there already having that certificate.

The big problem is that very few government officials here in Italy know that this kind of certificate even exists.

After having been told by the Italian Embassy in Manila that, if I wanted to get married in the Philippines (an option that I was considering at that time), I had to produce the Certificate of Legal Capacity, I went to the local town hall asking for the certificate and they said “what is that? We have never heard of that!”.

I called back the Italian Embassy explaining the situation but they insisted that there would have been no way for me to get married in the Philippines without that certificate.

I went to the town hall multiple times and I even, eventually, bumped into an official who admitted that he had heard about that document but his colleague (the one in charge) just didn’t want to help, she maintained that they have never issued that kind of certificate, they knew nothing about it and therefore there was nothing she was willing to do to help.

So, the bottom line is that I had to discount the possibility to go to the Philippines to marry a Filipina, namely my wife. I could have hired a lawyer and eventually found the way to get that certificate but that seemed to be too much of a hassle.

I did everything in Italy and it cost me nothing, the legal process was fast and smooth and I didn’t have to produce any “Certificate of Legal Capacity”, just my passport, birth certificate and few other things.

So, if you choose to marry a Filipina in the Philippines because there is no other legal way to do it in your country, before getting too emotionally involved, make sure that your country’s bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way and that you can easily get all the papers that the government of the Philippines requires.

Also make sure that, if she was previously married, her previous marriage was legally annulled (there is no divorce in the Philippines, there is only the possibility to annul the marriage).

So, before exploring the possibility to marry a Filipina in the Philippines, consider first (in my opinion and based on my personal experience as an Italian) if there is a possibility to avoid going through all the complicated bureaucracy and get her to your country and marry her there and only, as a last resort, do it in the Philippines.

Getting married in Italy was no-cost and easy for me.

Of course I don’t know the bureaucracy of each Western country so you’ll have to find out for yourself depending on where you live.

Marrying a Filipina is already a challenging experience, it can turn out to be an amazing relationship but there are many cultural challenges that are going to arise, so I recommend avoiding unnecessary legal complications if possible.

How to Deal With an Emotional Filipina

The Philippines have a hot and humid tropical weather and quite a few people there seem to be a little hot tempered or, as they say in Tagalog, mainit ang ulo.

Emotionalism is one of the hallmark characteristics of Filipinos and….of women in general.

Many relationship experts have come to the consensus that the best way to deal with emotionally charged people and situations is by keeping one’s cool and by keeping on showing kindness so that strong emotions will slowly but surely melt away.

Like many concepts that relationship experts across the planet talk about, even this concept of treating with kindness a person who is treating you lousy is nothing new, in fact it is very old.

A passage from the New Testament reads “do not render evil for evil…but keep on conquering evil with the good”.

A similar concept can also be found in the words of Socrates “then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone“, providing further evidence that human psychology was designed in such a way that loving relationships (not just romantic relationships but all kind of human interactions) are only possible when one of the two partners breaks the pattern of anger by raising above it to the point of showering it with kindness in circumstances in which showing kindness is a very counterintuitive move.

It has been said that success comes from counterintuitive moves, we succeed in every aspect of life including intimate relationships by going against the grain, by going against what our psyche naturally wants to do.

What our psyche naturally wants to do when someone lashes out is to vent back but that kind of behavior only calls forth further anger.

The Philippines is one of those cultures where, generally speaking, people quickly overreact when provoked and there are drivers who carry a tubo or a knife in case someone cuts them off.

So a Filipina comes from that kind of environment where the degree of emotionality is a little higher than in other countries. Yet there are cross-cultural gems of wisdom, that can also be found in modern psychology and relationship coaching, that can make a world of difference.

Indeed success in anything in life comes from counterintuitive moves and one of the most effective counterintuitive moves is conquering evil (well, an angry spouse is not “evil” but the pattern of lashing out creates pretty lousy situations) by raising above it and becoming masters at showing kindness in an emotionally charged situation.

Indeed the One who created human psychology knew better and I can say from personal experience that this principle does indeed produce amazing things.