My Philippine Odyssey

I moved to the Philippines in order to get married to a woman I have known for several years and whom I met in person in 2012.

When I arrived at Manila Airport, I booked a car with the service Grab, similar to Uber, which took me to the house of my fiancee. I was greeted by the family and was very pleased to start a new life.

A cultural change like this needs a lot of adjusting to on both our parts. During the first month I was there, we had about three disagreements where I was finding it hard to grasp the “Philippine way”. After the third disagreement, my fiancee went away to a friend’s home to think things over.

After a week, she came back and gave me a letter in good English stating that she did not want to marry me but would like to be just friends. This upset me at first. I had moved across the world to join her and I saw this slipping away.

My fiancee said I could stay in the house as the Covid-19 pandemic was raging by then and I was unable to go outside of the house. This arrangement worked well and we did succeed in being good friends.

In May, I became ill with UTI and had to see a doctor who prescribed antibiotics which I had to pay for. It was at this point that I felt I had to leave the Philippines and return to the U.K. and the NHS. It became evident that my health costs could get quite large if I had been admitted to hospital it would have meant a 14 day stay due to the quarantine for Covid-19. That would have cost a great deal of money.

My preferred airline, Singapore Airlines, was not due to resume flights until July so I looked around and booked flights on June 2 with Turkish Airlines to London via Istanbul. Soon after I got an email saying that all flights with Turkish Airlines were grounded. After a little bit of trouble, I contacted the Manila office of Turkish Airlines and had my booking changed to June 10. That was cancelled also so I hope to fly in July.

Whereas I have deep feelings for my former fiancee, friendship was not enough for me to stay in the Philippines for the reasons that follow.

There are many reasons that I found it difficult to deal with despite knowing some of them before due to my visit in 2012.

1. Climate – everyday it is 34 degrees or warmer and when you add the humidity it feels like 46 degrees or higher. This caused me to stay in my room all day with air conditioning and fans running. An unhealthy prospect.

2. Food – the family ate food that I found impossible to try. Offal, a lot of fish, chicken etc and being very squeamish on food, I stuck to a Western diet of hot dogs, pasta, cereal and fruit.

3. Animals: many people keep dogs which are either free to roam or are tied down depending on the character of the dog. The only food they were given was what the humans threw away and none of the dogs I saw looked healthy. I would not touch any of them. Dogs tethered to a post or kept in a cage was very cruel, in my opinion. Cats were also plentiful and they fed on human throw aways too. Cats would mate and give birth to kittens and the mother would abandon them so they died. In the Philippines, cock fighting is permitted and many people keep a chicken for that purpose which is tied by it’s leg to a post.

4. There are degrees of poverty in the Philippines – the very poor who have no electricity or running water; the poor who do have these facilities but still live in concrete buildings with no decoration; the working people who can decorate the home and the very rich. I was living with the poor.

5. The Philippines has a wet season where they will get up to 20 typhoons a year and many thunderstorms. As the houses have no windows due to the heat or the expense, the rain pours in onto the floors so electrical things must be protected.

6. Driving around Manila, other than the business district, one sees terrible buildings – there does not seem to be a building code.

7. Insects – ants, cockroaches and mosquitos.

So I am resolved to return to the U.K. despite it’s abysmal Government which is leading us out of the E.U. and has the worst death toll due to Covid-19 in Europe. In all my life, I have never seen such a incompetent Prime Minister and Cabinet that is leaving the E.U. and has handled the pandemic very badly in that it has the highest death toll in Europe.

I hope the U.K. can return to the values of tolerance and humanity it was once famous for.

Despite numerous warnings from friends about moving, I fear they were correct and I was wrong. Do I regret it? – no I had to do it to get it out of my system.

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