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REFLECTION: Despite its Fault, I still want to retire in the Philippines

By Gerry Villareal
February 17, 2015


At hole 12, Boy Baluca hit the ball so effortlessly and so perfect that it zoomed high to the fall, bright sky. The ball arched flawlessly with total abandon, landed and rolled comfortably right at the middle of the lush fairway, exactly where Boy wanted it.

A 67-year South Korean who was playing with us admired Boy’s drive and said in broken English, “You, Filipins, play well.” And he continued, “How are shoes of Marcos?” He was obviously referring to Imelda’s world-renowned shoe collection. I ignored his question and continued walking but he was not discouraged, “Where are Marcos now?”

Slightly irritated, I said, “The eldest daughter is a congresswoman and the son is the governor of Marcos’ (home) province!”  Encouraged, the Korean continued, “How about the others?”

Still uneasy with the subject, I answered, “Living in luxury!”   

“Why?” Without waiting for my answer, he continued, “You know in Korea, they would be in prison,” and running his right forefinger across his neck, “or dead! How can Filipins vote Marcos? You know, Filipins has two problems. Filipins vote corrupt people and business are owned by Chinese. Koreans don’t like that.”  

Knowing I couldn’t refute his argument, I remained silent. Since its founding in 1948, South Korea struggled with the aftermath of 35 years of Japanese occupation, the Korean War and decades of military rule. But since 1950s its economy has advanced rapidly and now the 10th largest in the world. South Korea is also one of the worlds most technologically advanced and is a global leader in computer games, digital displays, shipbuilding and mobile phones.

And in the last few years, I noticed that Koreans are beginning to populate North America’s golf courses and it seems that these camera-packing tourists replaced Japan’s fondness for traveling around the world.

Trying to reverse the onslaught on Philippines’ politics, I asked him, “So why are you here in Canada?”

He said that he brought his family to Germany in the early 1960s at the height of Korea’s political chaos, student uprisings and military coup. He migrated to Canada when he retired from a factory work. And presently, in the midst of South Korea’s phenomenal economic growth, his pension is not enough to live a decent life in his country and its burgeoning cost of living. And for him who is an avid golfer, South Korea is so mountainous there is not enough space for golf courses. In fact, he said, several Koreans travel to the Philippines to play golf and enjoy the kindness of ‘Filipin people.’  

Finally, the Korean mentioned something that is still and will remain engrained in our culture- Filipino’s hospitality and warm attitude to visitors.

Only a few months ago while having dinner with the president of Volvo Philippines at an upscale Japanese restaurant, he asked me why I wanted to retire in the Philippines, a third world country.  Maybe I did not like the way he described our country or maybe I was not thinking well but I said, “Maybe yes for lots of us or even for those who never been in the Philippines, but for people with money, Philippines is heaven.”  And I continued, “And what about you- you can afford to live in United States where your relatives are, why are you here?”

He never expected my answer, more so my reaction. He looked at the two young ladies in Japanese kimono and said with a smile, “And give up my own driver, my maids, this lifestyle? No, Sir!”

I followed his eyes and glanced at the two attractive ladies who were patiently waiting for us. One of them smiled and asked me, “Do you want something, Sir?”

I said, “No, thank you.”

Few minutes later, on our way to my hotel I remembered to check the bill that I insisted on paying. The nice dinner that lasted for more than two hours for the three of us amounted to around $90.00 Canadian and that included a generous tip for the two ever-grateful girls. In comparison, Canada, even assuming that we can get the same type of service, the total cost would be close to four times of what I paid, at a minimum.        

I was still looking at the bill when my friend’s driver interrupted me, “Sir, nandito na po tayo! Anong oras ko po kayo susunduin?”

It was my partner who answered, “No, my driver will take care of us. Thank you.”  Much to the objection of my partner, I insisted on giving him what to me was less than a generous tip, $5.00 Canadian.  And she had a valid reason; the amount was close to the driver’s daily wage.   

The following day, my cousin’s driver picked us up for a round of golf. For the two of us, the green fees, two caddies, breakfast and lunch cost my cousin less than $50.00 Canadian. I insisted on tipping the two pretty umbrella girls who were following us. It cost me an equivalent price of an oversized Big Mac. Anyway, they have done nothing for us except gave us the most inviting smiles ever.        

Against my protestation, at close to eight that night at my cousin’s house, his favourite masseuse dropped by to take care of my aching bones. Supposedly, my cousin knew that after a game of golf, my whole body needed a massage. Not wanting to embarrass the lady, who according to her cancelled a prior appointment, I reluctantly disrobed and laid on my stomach at a soft-cushioned table designed for the purpose.   

After two hours and $10.00 later which again I insisted on paying, I hit the shower. It was past two in the morning when the driver dropped us at the lobby of my hotel. Including a short stop at my cousin’s favourite ice-cream kiosk and a few pesos that I slid in the side pocket of my cousin’s driver, I spent an equivalent $35.00 Canadian.

That night, or rather that early morning, I slept like a baby only to be awakened by a phone ring. My cousin’s entourage was already at the hotel lobby. I forgot we were supposed to go to Tagaytay’s Highland Golf Club. It seemed that I was supposed to buy
a membership at a world –class and Asia's most exciting golf course. I may not have the money but my cousin’s friends didn’t know that and I would never spoil their fun or anticipation either.

A soft tap on my shoulder woke me up from my daydreaming. It was my turn to hit the ball. As I looked at the fairway of the short Par 4, 18th Hole, I said to our South Korean partner, “This is for you, my friend.” And imitating his broken English, “and you wrong- Filipins don’t like crook politicians either!”

As my driver head hit the target, the ball soared to the sky, landed, rolled pass the two bunkers and rested conveniently at 40 feet from the green. It was perfect, like the way I picture my Philippines; beautiful, stunning and exciting, exactly the way I imagine my retirement in the Philippines.  

Gerry Villareal
October1, 2006

    Add a Comment

    Puting Tubig Elementary School
    Thu 2nd March 2017

     I met the man. I am inspired by the life story of the man I called  Sir _he refused it. Anyway  I will soon let my pupils react on his piece as part of our LOCALIZATION AND CONTEXTUALIZATION campaign in K 12 English of my Grade V St  Peter class. I hope to see my staffers at ANG DALOY  our school paper  have a feature article of him.To Sir  do send us your work soon

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