Friday, 16 March 2012

The Philippines

I recently saw a video on YouTube.  I'm not going to post a link or tell you the title of the offending video, because I don't want to give it a wider audience.  What I want to do, however, is comment on what I saw and how it compares to my own experience.  It was a video posted by an American who has spent some time living in the Philippines, and his message was that many things about the country irritate him.  Actually, his language was pretty graphic, which always makes me question the intelligence of the speaker, but let's move on from that.

I can't remember every point he raised.  To be honest, I've tried not to waste too much time thinking about it, but he said something that I found really offensive.  He was in a bar, being served drinks by transvestites/transsexuals, and he questioned why all the attractive women in the Philippines are actually men.  Any way you look at that comment, it is offensive.  He sidesteps the obvious charge of racism by finding the men (posing as women) attractive, but says that a whole country of women does nothing for him.  I can just imagine the Filipinas of the Philippines and elsewhere collectively thinking that this is a good thing, because he's not the kind of man whose attention they would seek.  Maybe that's his real problem with the women of the Philippines.

Let's get to the real issue here.  Filipino women are not unattractive.  Saying that a race of women are inherently unattractive, or that one race is more beautiful than another, is a waste of time.  The woman in my life happens to be Filipino, and to me she is the most beautiful woman in the world, but I am also aware that not everyone has the same idea of beauty as I do.  The man in the YouTube video uses the example of transgender/transvestite prostitutes to extol the virtues of Filipino males, as opposed to their female counterparts.  First of all, it would be interesting to know if he is just comparing prostitutes.  After all, that would tie in with my feeling that he feels bad towards the Philippines because he can't get a woman there.  If that's his problem, a personality transplant might help.

Secondly, he should have thought it through before he expressed a preference for men to so many viewers.  I won't condemn anyone for homosexual tendencies, I am not homophobic, but perhaps the internet is not the best forum for expressing it.  I shouldn't really need to spell this out.  If, as a man, he knowingly finds men more attractive than women, he is either homosexual or bisexual.  Saying that they look like women does not change it.  I don't know why he chose to live in the Philippines, but I am aware of a history of Western men flying to Asia to explore their sexuality, because it is a safe distance from their everyday life, meaning they potentially feel less shame about their feelings - certainly, he wouldn't be the first.  It would be better, of course, if no one was compelled to feel ashamed of their homosexual feelings, but Western civilisation has not yet reached that point.  He said that he is more attracted to men than women, so that is why the women of the Philippines do nothing for him.

A more serious issue is how he blatantly insults people within their range of hearing.  Maybe he doesn't know that the vast majority of Filipino people speak very good English and, unlike him, they don't usually feel the need to fill every sentence with obscenities.  Actually, it speaks well of the people that they didn't react, and gives a very poor impression of him, as a man who lacks the basic social skills and is thoroughly unpleasant.  At one point, he criticised security guards for smiling.  He would prefer them to be sullen and ill-tempered?  They carry guns.  For me, that smile tells me that there is a reduced risk of me getting shot and, as such, is very reassuring.  He also questions why they are needed, showing his ignorance of the problems in Southern Mindanao and the threat of terrorism (which is, thankfully, relatively minor).

Oh, but wait.  Western governments were very eager to overstate the threat of terrorism in the Philippines, so it is likely, especially as a resident, that he knows too well why those security guards are present.  Did Western governments overstate the threat because they are concerned by the rise in Asian economies and seek to slow the progress of growth of investment in Asia?  Maybe we're getting close to the reason why the video was posted in the first place.  Just a thought.

If the people of the Philippines were unfriendly, I am sure he would have been the first to complain.

All of his other criticisms were frankly ridiculous.  The Philippines is a third world country.  I haven't been to the place he featured in his video, but I would bet that he deliberately looked for the worst aspects of that place, and that is all that he presented to the viewing public.  He's American, apparently.  Imagine if I went to the US and posted a video solely about the negative aspects of his home country.  Would the list of complaints be any lesser than that he presented?  If he were to examine the US in such minute detail, I am sure that the Philippines would not look so bad to him.  Maybe he is lamenting the fact that it is not like the US.  Well, I for one am eternally grateful for that.  The Philippines has its own distinct character, and that should be what makes travel to foreign countries so exciting.

Only a fool would say the Philippines, or any other country on the planet, was perfect.  Certainly, the recent advertising campaign suggesting that everything is more fun in the Philippines has provoked parodies and criticism, but it has also created interest in the country.  My worry is not that the Philippines will suffer as a result of this video being posted, or any of the other critical essays posted on the internet.  I live in the UK and, though the Philippines is still not seen by many as a choice for a holiday destination, I am aware that the number of UK citizens visiting the country is still on the rise.  My worry is that one man has given a very bad impression of Westerners in general.  The vast majority of Filipinos will have the intelligence to know that he is not representative of the Western world, but I fear that a small minority will see his behaviour as a reason to feel animosity towards visitors to their land.

For what it's worth, I love my fiancee, and I love the Philippines.

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