This was an anxious period for me. It all started when I went to the ATM to withdraw money to pay my bills and to live on. When I tried, it showed my balance was zero but I had just sent a sizeable amount of money to my Philippines BDO bank account.
I hate to hear those words. No it’s not how we did it in the USA but the obvious response is, “I’m not in the USA.” Why be here if you want to do it like your home country. Sometimes, I feel it too. I don’t say it out loud but today I thought it to myself.
“Do not excessively annoy and do not be easily annoyed.” Long before there was an Internet we had what we called Bulletin Board Systems or BBS. There were two major networks, FidoNet and Alternet. Fidonet had one rule and it is stated in the first sentence of this article.
I hear so many foreigners come to the Philippines and complain and then complain some more. They complain about the Philippines and they complain about other foreigners. This is a human trait and it is a hard thing to fight. I find myself doing it, rarely but I do fall into the trap just like everyone else I know. I know one person that I’ve never heard do that and he’s a Methodist minister that seems to have mastered Christianity better than anyone else I know. He would be the first to tell you he’s far from perfect. That old trite saying is true, “If you don’t have anything to say, say nothing at all.” At least it’s something to strive for. Being positive is contagious and will improve how others see you.
As of yesterday, February the 8th I have lived in the Philippines nine years. Even with life’s problems it has been the best nine years of my life. Jessie has been a big part of that and things are better between us. Though this morning, I was really stressed out because her kids need to be here and that’s just not possible due to financial constraints that I will go into later. Like I said, life has problems to conquer no matter where you are.
On the second of October 2015, I sent myself money from my USA bank account to the Philippines. Just like I have been doing for the last seven years. The last six, have been to my bank account. Everything appeared to be normal but there was one early warning sign. I usually get notices on my phone that the money has been received. I never got that notice. I did get an email and my Xoom account showed the money transferred within 30 seconds which is also routine. My trip to the bank though, it was anything but routine. I tried to withdraw the money from my account and only got a message “Your transaction could not be completed.” I’ve never seen that message before. I checked the balance, Jessie was with me and she let out a gasp. I had sent myself almost 70,000 pesos and my balance was zero. What is worse, I have only 400 peso or about $5 USD in my pocket left.
If you’re an American or probably from most other Western nations, you are probably not going to like the way bills are paid in the Philippines. In short, you pay your bills in person. Not only are they not usually paid via postal service, you get up and go to each utility company and the bank to pay your bills. There are indications that things are improving. Things do often get better here. When I first arrived here in 2008, you could not use a foreign credit card at most stores. Now, at the larger retailers and many smaller shops you can use them. Often with a 5 percent surcharge but you do often have the option.
Paying your bills electronically, either via your bank or the providers website is practically, if not totally, unheard of. Even when you order something online you have to go withdraw money from your account and deposit it in their account. Then contact the seller and give them the information so they can verify and process your order.
Anyone that follows me knows that I never really got over Jessie. It felt like we were meant to be together. One night, I realized that I’m getting sicker and sicker and I really need someone that can and is will to help me with running errands. I was not alone that night, Now Rusty and Jessie are together again and I plan to keep it that way. Preventing her from being bored may be a challenge.
That night, I sent Jessie a text and asked her if she wanted to try again. She too really needs me. She was getting ready to leave the country so she could support herself. At one point over the last year she got super skinny. She was not eating, trying to feed her boys. Common thing here in the Philippines. She was not super skinny when she got here and I was surprised. She explained she had joined “The Old Ladies” club in Tacloban and they drink lots of tuba. That’s also known as “Jungle Juice” it is wine made from coconuts. It is moonshine basically. I’ve had some, from her father and it was good stuff. You never know what you’re getting when you drink that. Like moonshine in the USA sometimes it’s not made under the best of conditions.
This trouble is probably throughout the Philippines. I’d be surprised if is not widespread. Of course the first troubling thing is that they are on the streets. They are just children. Problem is they are often very irritating. I had a self-made rule for years. Don’t give near the place that you live and certainly don’t give to those people that go begging at my front door. It is hard though, to see them one the streets and I know they really are living on the streets because I see them sleeping on the street. I see it almost every night. Also, the trouble certainly does not end with the kids. The adults get in on the action as well.
Sometimes trying to get a taxi in Cebu City is a dreaded thing to do. At other times, the nearly pull you into their taxies because they are having such a hard time getting a fare. Rarely is there middle ground. Once you are in them, sometimes there are taxi driver games to play if they think you are new. Even though I am not new, if I take my camera they are more likely to take the “scenic route.”