Being betrayed by those whom you absolutely trusted in the Philippines? Betrayal of trust? A bit of a black subject, but one that’s worth discussing as it does happen. If you are in an Australian Filipina relationship, you had better be prepared. And no, this isn’t one of those “nasty Filipinos, yet I still live here” articles which I detest! Not at all. Love the country, love the people! And it happens everywhere in the world, of course. I’m sure you’ve also been lied-to, conned, ripped-off or had your heart broken in Australia by fair-skinned Anglo Saxons before, right? I know I have. But I think I’ve always been better-prepared to fend off betrayals because it’s one Australian against another. We understand each other, whereas in the Philippines there are cross-cultural differences which can cause a lot of confusion and therefore make you more vulnerable.
Direct Australians versus Indirect Filipinos
I hope I worded that well! I didn’t want to use the words “lie” or “lying”. Whilst I would like to say the issue is black and white, it’s rarely is. “Everybody lies!”, as Dr House would say. If my child asks me if someone could come inside and murder them, I’ll assure them it’s impossible. I will NOT say “Well, I guess it COULD happen! Sweet dreams!” And we all know how to answer the question “Does this make my bum look big?” A foolish man says YES, even if it’s true. We all tell white lies!
One thing that experience has taught me here is that, unlike in Australia, I cannot generally rely on somebody’s word. In Australia, especially with older and/or rural Australians, their word is their bond. Here in Philippines? Not necessarily. They don’t always mean anything bad or wicked by it, but there is a lack of the same fanatical adherence to truth that exists in Australia. You cannot be so certain that you are hearing the truth, even from “nice people” who would otherwise give you the shirts off their backs.
The Filipino approach to truth always involves how the answer will affect people. Will the other person get hurt or disappointed? Will they get mad at you? Will they tell someone else, and will THEY get mad at you? Would it stand you in better stead if you say YES when you should say NO?
I’m at a point where I have VERY few people in my complete-trust-list due to their fanatical honesty with me. Note that those who are, are generally young and have spent enough years with me that my influence has rubbed off. Mind you, I’ve also been shocked to discover recently that one whom I thought I could trust had been pretty sneaky, so completely dropping your guard is not always such a great idea.
A foreigner is always a rich man in the Philippines
One of the issues is that most of us in Australia are just ordinary. We go to work, pay our bills, get our paypacket once a fortnight, and we don’t feel we stand out. I was just Mr Average when I was back in Australia, and when I first came here back in the 90’s I was probably Mr Below-Average! Here? I was “Sir”, and I was looked at very differently. The poorer the person you deal with, the more you are the rich white man. I had someone actually ask me once “What’s it like being a rich man?” I had no idea how to answer, because in my heart-of-hearts I remain ordinary. But being in a position where I can afford to tell the truth and hang the consequences, that makes me exceptional here.
Someone who is struggling to survive day-to-day, and is just one family-illness away from disaster, it’s easier for them to lower their standards on being honest and truthful. Tell the nice Australian man that he’s incredibly handsome, that she’s madly in love, and that she will stand by him forever? Not so hard if it means your parents will get medicine and stop losing toes due to diabetes! If you haven’t read it, please read the post on the Hierarchy of Needs HERE.
Toughening up and limiting trust
When you’re back home in Australia, Aussie to Aussie, you can remain the same as you are now. But you have to accept that no matter how “at home” you feel or how welcome you are treated, as an Australian in Philippines you are still very much the new chum here and probably always will be. I’ve had 20 years or so experience with Filipino culture now and been here full time for 6 years, and whilst I think I’m wiser than I was back then….and I KNOW I am!…..I still have a lot to learn, and I regularly make the wrong call when it comes to trust-matters. And I’m fortunate that I have a wonderful and loyal wife whom I know I can trust absolutely, and also a select few others whom I know have my back always. Regardless of this, I can’t just let everyone into my inner-sanctum like I wish I could.
You will need to do the same. Recognize that you are an Australian in the Philippines, and recognize that Filipinos have a different approach and a different interpretation of truth to what you’re probably used to. And recognize that you are most definitely a rich man here, and therefore you are target for scams as well as someone that many people want to keep on the good side of…..all of which means you WILL get lied to! Don’t give your trust away too easily!
Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent and an Australian Citizen who has lived for the last 6 years in Manila with his wife and kids.