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Old November 7th, 2003, 12:40 AM   #1
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working in the Phillipines

There is a chance I could go to the Phillipines to shoot a documentary for a few weeks to a month sometime this winter.
I think someone here (Jeff?) lived and worked there for a long while.
I was wondering if I could get some feedback as to what its like to live and work there, what the cost of living can run, weather in Jan/Feb? Percent of the population that speak English? Basicaly anything.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 12:50 AM   #2
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I doubt you can get a job there, but to live there with Canadian money goes a long way. People are friendly. Someone I know went there with 10K and lived very well for 6 months. Be prepared for heat and humidity.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 02:06 AM   #3
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Re: working in the Phillipines

<<<-- Originally posted by Dylan Couper : I was wondering if I could get some feedback ... Basicaly anything. -->>>

There are two seasons in the Philippines (seriously) summer and the rainy season - which also called typhoon season. It's humid all year round. When I say humid, I mean the type of humidity where you just took a shower and you feel like you need another one 10 seconds later. And when I say rainy season, well let's just say even Hurricane's are wimpy compared to the everyday weather you get in the Philippines. I still get annoyed when my friends in the US say "Oh my god it's POURING outside" and I tell them "No, it's a light drizzle is what it is". The plus side is it's warm rain.

Whenever I go back, I always have problems with condensation in my camcorders. You'll probably be sleeping/staying in an air conditioned room and of course then you go out into 90 degree weather with humidity at 80% ... well you get the idea, just keep it in mind.

MiniDV tapes can be difficult to find sometimes, I've never seen DV CAM tapes there, I'm sure they have it, but it's not readily accessible, bring an adapter or chargers that can handle multiple voltages. Most American stuff will work since the Filipinos built their infrastructure using American expertise. You may have to buy plug adapters if you end up somewhere with odd plug holes. Bring an adapter set just in case, you never know what you might run into.

The TV system and equipment is NTSC. A lot of the major broadcasts and commercials are in English.

Because of their history Filipinos are very mixed and have absorbed practices from all over the world. You'll find Chinese-filipinos, Spanish-Filipinos (mestizos), Filipino-Americans (fil-ams like myself) and everything else in-between. Everyone speaks English it's the main language of instruction and business. In Manila, people speak a pidgin English but can easily switch between tagalog and English without even thinking about it. Many of my filipino friend's can't even speak tagalog well anymore because they use English so much in Manila. If you learn just the most basic filipino grammar and words you'll be fine. Filipino's languages are based on Malay and is very straight forward to learn. Many local words also come from Spanish, Chinese, and English as well. You probably already know one word Boondock which means provinces in the Philippines. Malay is a very adaptive language and will very easily absorb new words and make it a part of the language, you'll see Filipinos making up new words out of the blue, right on the spot without pausing to breath, learn the basic grammar, and you can too.

If you travel outside of Manila, different dialects can be a problem. People might only come from a few miles away but speak a different dialect from each other. The three main dialects are Tagalog, Cebuano, and Visayan. As long as you have a translator who knows one or all three you'll be ok. Though once again English is very prevalent, so it's not as big of a problem as it sounds.

Some work places follow the Spanish tradition of breaking between 12-2. Other's follow the American hours for 9-5. It just depends on who you work for - you might also work for a Chinese, Singaporean or Japanees company and have to adjust to that culture as well - so keep that in mind.

Working with Filipinos is going to be very different. Filipinos are VERY social and will think you're weird or something is wrong if you don't hang out with them after work. They prize personal relationships above business. Take your work seriously but understand that generally Filipinos put their energies into relationships and their lives outside of work. It's a small but important distinction because Americans tend to live their "lives" at work. It's very odd to filipinos that most American's friends are mainly from the work environment. You'll see what I mean if you go. But guaranteed it will drive you nuts, when you've been working like a dog to finish a project and the people you were depending on (or who are depending on you) show up 2 hours late, smiling, apologizing and wondering if you'd like to go out for some lunch and drink - and just a little over-concerned that you've been working way too hard ... it's easy to get used to but my Dad still goes a little nuts once in awhile since he retired there with my Mom.

An important cultural point: YES in the Philippine culture also means NO. YES also means, MAYBE, and it also means, YES I'll be there but on my own time. Sometimes it means YES I haven't done it yet, but I'm planning to.** Very important when asking for a specific time or deadline! Filipino time is always plus 2 or more hours, but "it just depends" (another famous phrase there). Okay it's too long to go into here, but remember YES doesn't mean what you think it means when you're there ... make some Filipino or Expat friends and ask them what the YES really meant.

Also, expect all agreed upon times to be adjusted automatically by 1-2 hours, and be pleasantly surprised when it's not.

This sounds funny but it's considered normal there. Filipinos will concentrate on the person and events that are right in front of them, which, of course always will takes longer than anyone expects (though it's always expected to take longer than normal) - that's why the automatic time adjustment.It's a Filipino cultural trait which probably comes from the Spanish and Malay. The main thing is to factor it in and figure out who works like this and who doesn't. It's something that drives Americans nuts, because being late is considered rude here in the US, but is just a part of normal life in the Philippines.

Renting a cell phone is a good idea, most importantly learn how to use the "texting" feature. Filipinos text like crazy, you'll be amazed at how fast they can type with one thumb. I read a statistic somewhere that 60% of all the text messages in the world are sent within or to the Philippines - it's an important mode of communication there. The important tip for Americans is simple: don't type out a whole sentence when a short hand word or two will do

Money goes a LOOOOONG way especially if you're earning in US dollars. Like Frank pointed out, 10K means you can live very well for 6 months or more! (I actually did that for 1 year on 10K, but I did it backpacking in Mexico instead) Most of the expats I know have 1 or 2 maids to keep the house clean and cook plus a driver/chauffer to bring them around. Yes it's that cheap - if you work for a local company, you may only be able to afford 1 maid. Meals are usually around 3-5 US dollars unless you're in Manila where the prices can be similar to the US. Drinks are around 1-2 US dollars unless you hang out in the Expat clubs then of course they charge more. If you're working outside of Manila it's even cheaper!!!

The two main cities for commerce are Manila and Cebu. You'll probably end up in Manila.

Manila is a hot, dirty, crowded, and humid city. Most American friends who have gone to visit with me have gone into shock at the sight. Lots of very poor people jostling with the very few middle class, then there are the enclaves for the rich. As an expatriate you'll feel most comfortable living in Makati one of the upper class locations in the city. Probably best to check it out.

The flip side of Manila is the craziest night life you will ever encounter. Like I said Filipinos are extremely social and love to party after hours. There's no drinking age and you'll find everybody's up to go out anytime but usually not until 10 PM and even that's early for some people.

Outside of Manila is your typical tropical environment - lots of small towns, rice paddies, a few volcanoes, and 7,000 islands to contend with. The difference between Manila and rest of the Philippines can be like heaven and hell. Somes place to visit 1. Boracay, insane beach - even Hawaiians tell me it's the best beach they've ever been to, and of course if you like to party and have a good time, it's a great place. 2. Cebu - second most important financial city based in the islands so it has a different rhythm and culture from Manila.

There's a ton of other places but you should research that.

Filipinos are VERY Catholic in the Spanish tradition. The southern most island of Mindanao is pre-dominantly Muslim. Best to stay away from Mindanao right now - because of the kidnapping of tourists AND the links to Al-Queda. But Luzon (northern most island) and the Visayas (middle islands) are fairly safe. It's still a third world country where strange stuff always seems to happen so play it safe and always be aware of where your at and who you're with.

Probably best to look in the travel section of the bookstore, but feel free to ask anymore questions.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 09:11 AM   #4
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Michael,
My wife read your post on the Philippines with me and said that it is comprehensive, factual and informative. As a matter of fact, she said, "I wish I knew all that before my first trip there because every bit of it is true, true, true."

Dylan, print out a copy of Michael's post and memorize it. Hope you have a good trip and experience.

Nick
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Old November 7th, 2003, 01:27 PM   #5
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I'm from Malaysia and I've been back a handful of times. What you say about the way business works is quite true. One of the things I'll add is that the climate really puts a damper on working. When things are so hot and humid (people who've never been to that part of Asia really won't know what to expect) it really is DIFFICULT to work. Outside? Forget it. That is why air conditioning is such a gift to the equatorial countries and why siestas came about.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 10:17 PM   #6
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Wow Micheal!
Great feedback!
Thanks alot. You bring up some interesting points, especially the weather. What would suggest as being the nicest time of the year to go? I might not have a choice, and could be going in Jan/Feb/March.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 11:53 PM   #7
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Yes I did work in the Philippines shortly after the revolution in 1987and 1988. This was a very difficult time in the emerging democracy. The time I was there was probably closer to the conditions in Iraq. The violence and stench of the prior regime was heavy in the air. Michael's advice seems very accurate from my prior experience and contacts I still maintain in the Philippians. If you want additional information contact me off list.
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Old November 8th, 2003, 04:45 AM   #8
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December - February
best weather in the Philippines, the typhoons die down and it's not super hot yet

March - May
summer is very hot

June - November
Rainy season also known as typhoon season - very very wet, on average the Philippines gets hit by 10 typhoons a year

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Old November 8th, 2003, 05:06 AM   #9
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Lots of effort must have gone into thinking about that post, Michael, very cool. I never would have guessed you had Filipino background just by looking at your name. Isn't this forum great?--you meet all kinds of neat people here.
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Old November 8th, 2003, 02:49 PM   #10
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A lot of that post is from a travel journal I keep - I'm a chronic traveller/backpacker.

Yeah the Polish last name throws people for a loop, I always get the "once over" when I go through customs :-) Usually something about the CIA and budget cuts ...
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