Editor's Note: The author migrated to her husband's
14. Being able to drive -- First, no license. Second, can't afford to buy a car (at 200-percent tax, never mind). Third, I easily get lost (one open field looks just like any other). Fourth, I can't imagine myself filling up at a gas station (me holding the gas nozzle? Ewwww!). Fifth, I wouldn't know what to do if there's a solid sheet of ice on the windshield.
13. Taking two minutes to dress up Alex in sando (undershirt), shorts, and sandals -- Here: underpants, long socks, normal socks, long pants, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater, gloves, winter coveralls, boots, hood. Minimum: 30 minutes. If he's not cooperative, this takes an hour. Pagod na ako, hindi pa kami nakakalabas ng pinto (We’ve not gone out the door and already I’m tired)!
12. Being able to blend in -- Almost the entire indigenous population is blonde, and I get a sense that all women are at least 5'8". People don't stare (as we do at foreigners in Pinas, out of a naive curiosity rather than rudeness), but it is not possible to just pass through here unnoticed. This is especially uncomfortable for someone with a self-conscious streak. Of course there are deeper issues here: It's about being in the minority. The last place where I lived abroad for an extended period was
11. Long mall hours -- Everything is closed by 6 or 7 p.m. on weekdays, by 3 p.m. on Saturdays. And there's nothing open on Sundays (except on eight Sundays of the year)! What happened to shopping after work? Or sitting in coffee shops till midnight? I'm told it's because family life (being at home) is so central to living that commercial establishments have to let their employees go and enjoy it.
10. People with a more friendly sense of personal space -- Having grown up riding jeepneys (and buses on pre-MRT EDSA), I think nothing of being packed like a sardine in public transport, thighs squished together on both sides. One time I sat beside an old man on a public bus, I swear he gave me an elbow (okay, he might have had Parkinson's). But there was another time when I reached over to press the stop button and the lady beside me raised her arms in a defensive move, like preparing for a karate chop (okay, maybe she was physically abused in the past). In a half-full bus, I see people electing to stay standing. Those who sit together in the two-seater row are friends, not strangers.
9. Minimum fare of P7.50 -- Here it’s P96.00 (that's on buses/trains where you can have unlimited transfers within two adjacent geographical areas over one hour; but you still pay the same minimum fare even if you're just going for a five-minute ride).
8. Temperatures above 20 degrees -- This is a country where the average annual temperature is seven degrees Celsius. Haaaay! Apat na patong ng damit, nanunuot pa rin ang lamig. Bawiin ang Nobel Peace Prize ni Al Gore (Four layers of clothes and the cold still seeps in. Get back Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize)!
7. Policemen -- Never thought I'd say this, but I miss seeing policemen, armed security guards, traffic enforcers, and the "friskers" at the entrances of malls and LRT stations. Not that I long for their presence; it's their absence that is disconcerting. In my one month's stay here, I swear I've only seen one policeman (his partner, the driver of the police car, was female). At the police station where I had to report my presence, the staff were all women. There are lots of cameras on public transportation and highways, still, getting the personal touch is different (hahaha).
6. 12-percent VAT -- That sounds good if you now have to pay 25 percent.
5. McDo, Pizza Hut, Don Henrico's, Jollibee, Max's, and all restaurants who deliver even if you're just ordering food for one. Corollary to that is having hot meals three times a day (at least). -- Here, it’s buttered bread and yoghurt for breakfast, cold cuts sandwich for lunch, and a hot meal for dinner. Ack! Walang ginataang bilu-bilo na meryenda sa umaga at walang pancit malabon na meryenda sa hapon (No Filipino snacks in the morning and afternoon)!
4. Going to the movies -- This is a country with the most expensive movie theater tickets in the world, and the theaters are far from where I live (well not really far, but I would be spending more than minimum fare; add that to the cost of movie tickets.).
3. Filipinos -- I've only seen one Pinoy (plus two on many previous visits) in the streets. This is not a preferred destination for overseas workers because taxes take out at least 40 percent of your income (closer to 60 percent total), and then there's VAT. It's great if you live here, retire here, and your entire family is supported by the social system (with free education and health care), but it's near impossible to send money to relatives back home.
2. Filipino the language -- The sound of Filipino is heavy on hard T's, K's, D's, and short A's; what you hear is what you spell (and the other way around). Here there are all kinds of rolling R's and soft D's; H's and V's that are barely there. Sabihin mo nga sa akin kung paanong naging "mal" ang pagbigkas ng "meget" (Just tell me how "mal" becomes "meget" when spoken)? I'm told that everyone understands English, but they won't volunteer that. They will speak their language until you say that you can't speak it yourself.
1. Daylight -- Alas-tres pa lang madilim na (It’s just three o’clock in the afternoon and it’s already dark)! Now the days are at their shortest (supposedly seven hours, but it's really not daylight, more like dusk all day). Losing light is like being hungry -- I feel crabby, tired, and a bit sorry for myself. I never knew I subsisted on photosynthesis. There are gadgets for sale that simulate daylight. There's a new alarm clock on the market that comes with a big wakeup light that's supposed to be like the dawn. I think this is the hardest for me to get used to. It's not about being afraid of the dark, it's about not having the sun streaming through the windows when it should. Someone told me that when there is light, I should go out and soak up as much of it as I can. Pero kung balot na balot naman ako, eh di noo at pisngi lang ang pwedeng mag-sunbathing (But if I’m covered in clothes, it’s just my forehead and cheeks that get to sun-bathe)!