Despite what you may read from media sources, most Filipinos like Americans. There are some anti-American groups, but they tend to stay in the metro Manila area, near the American Embassy. In fact, the day after the Supreme Court of the Philippines upheld the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, they held a rally in front of the embassy.
I’m actually talking about all white foreigners, not just Americans. I’ll admit I have no idea how non-white non-Filipinos are treated.
Some Filipinos address white foreigners as “kano”. The word is a slang and shortcut word for the Tagalog word for “American” (Amerikano). It’s used regardless of nationality until the nationality is known. I heard the three Belgians who visited being called “kano”. The feminine version is “kana”. It’s not an insult but some Filipinos try to use it as one.
Some Filipinos use the name “Joe” for all white foreigners until they know their names. It’s a holdover from World War II. It’s not an insult and can’t be used as one even if they try. For Filipino strangers they don’t know, they’ll use “pare”, which is like “buddy” in English.
It used to be a lot worse, but some Filipinos will do their best to take advantage of foreigners. The numbers are dwindling but it still happens. They’ll try to overcharge for products at various markets, taxi fare and anything else where there isn’t a set sticker price.
This is the reason I won’t go to those places alone or at all if I can help it. I have plenty of relatives who’ll do anything I need them to do that doesn’t require a signature from me. I won’t ride in taxis alone (I haven’t used one, other than the one a relative drives, since 1986).
Most of the more modern places have set sticker prices, so foreigners can’t be cheated. In Olongapo City, it’s the SM City Olongapo mall and at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, it’s the Ayala Harbor Point mall, Royal Subic stores and the Pure Gold stores.
I’ve met three Filipino children who were afraid of me because I was white, not necessarily because I was an American or a foreigner. One of them is one of my godchildren (inaanak). Their parents had to run interference for a time before they felt comfortable around me.
Other Filipino children will simply stare like they’ve never seen a white guy before. And some of these Filipinos are teenagers. It probably wouldn’t be like that if the Subic Bay naval base hadn’t closed in the 90s.
It’s like that in some provinces as well, where even some Filipino adults will stare. They rarely see foreigners in those places.
All in all, I’m treated very well in the Philippines and I think it’s like that for most foreigners. Of course, just like there are places I shouldn’t go in the United States, there are places like that in the Philippines. I trust my Filipino relatives to keep me away from those places.
By: RT Cunningham
January 21, 2016
Expats and Foreigners
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