Social climbing in the Philippines
How do you cope as a “rich man in the Philippines”? Yes, like it or not, that’s what you are here. That’s how the locals see you and regardless of what you say or feel, they will always see you that way, and you will encounter the ugly side of social climbing. So deal with it! And as part of an Australian Filipina relationship you simply must deal with it, if you intend spending any time here or relating to anyone here.
Like most Australians, I’ve always detested the word “rich”, so please no one get offended and think I’m looking down on anybody here. Not kosher at all for Aussies to use it, just like that equally awful word “class”. Australia was originally founded on convicts and other rejects from Mother England, as we know. And we’ve always relished in our aversion to the class system, and have always taken great delight in equalizing all around us. If someone is “up himself” (or mayabang in Tagalog…..see last article), we love bringing them down to our level. And if someone is humbling themselves before us, we pull them UP to our level. We can’t stand either extreme.
Social climbing and social positioning in Philippines
Here in Philippines things are a little different to how they are in Australia. Everyone knows their place in the social ladder when compared to others, and they all know how to relate to others on the different levels.
Example: Many years ago, I met a Filipina lady at an expat gathering in Manila. Had an English boyfriend. Said she was interested in a visa to Australia. Gave her a card, and thought nothing of it. Well, she calls our office and wants to talk to somebody. Mila did the honours. Well! Thinking that Mila was a lowly secretary, she talked to her like she was something scraped off the bottom of her shoe! Didn’t go over too well, as anyone who knows Mila would know. But she did that because she had assumed a more-important role because she was involved with a “rich white man”.
Funny thing was when she met Mila…..with me, this time….the tone was very different. She was instantly humble, because she was on a lower rung being a girlfriend rather than wife of foreigner. That’s how it works here.
You’ll notice that doctors, lawyers, engineers, school teachers, and basically everyone professional, they tend to take on an air of superiority. And people “suck up to them”, and will call them “sir” or “maam”, or even “ate” even if they are younger. We’ve had people visiting our home and heard them on the phone saying “I’m at madam’s house”! Hah! Mila, despite her illustrious position as the wife of rich white fellah, still dresses and acts the same as she ever did. She takes great delight in telling people that she’s “just the household helper”, because due to her time in Australia she can’t handle the “madam” stuff.
Problems with being “rich”, and with social climbers
I covered issues with staff in a previous article. Please have a read now if you didn’t. Important points.
Other issues? I covered being maarte and artificial social-climbing in another article too. You need to be aware of this, because it’s an area that can cause you problems when you become close to those who are….how shall I put this politely? Those who are prone to the temptations to climb the social ladder by latching onto someone who’s already up the ladder.
One of the problems here is that ordinary people watch some questionable-quality TV! And the TV likes to portray rich people as living the most magical of lives. All with perfect hair, perfect teeth, glowing white skin and not a pimple in sight. Dad drives a BMW, and everyone but the servants spend their lives enjoying themselves. No one actually works or gets their manicured hands dirty!
Show too much attention or kindness without being aloof, and people assume they can jump onto your bandwagon!
Example: I have a sister-in-law (more like a daughter to me these days) whom we employed as a household helper in 2010. She’s still here, and married to my brother-in-law. She still works here. Regardless of how close we are to her, she’s one of the rare Filipinos who makes no assumptions. She’s happy to work, and she knows she isn’t entitled to our “wealth” by osmosis. Well, when she visits her relatives in the province? They all try to borrow money from her, because they assume that (a) she does absolutely no work, and (b) we just shower her with money just-because! Annoys her beyond belief! But that’s their assumption.
Another example: We have a niece-of-sorts that we had with us for about a year, as a working student basically. Poor family. Dad grows bananas, etc. The family vehicle is a carabao called Manuel. So, we thought we’d help her out. Put her into university. Let her gain 8kg in weight. Expected a few hours a day of housework to be done. Sound fair? We thought so! Well, unlike sister-in-law, this one became totally mayabang! She was family, so therefore she was entitled to share in the pickings from the family money tree! Resented the jobs she had to do. Talked down to other household staff. Smiled sweetly at me, but not at anyone else. Somehow we turned a simple girl from an unnamed mountain in Iriga into Kris Aquino (former President Aquino’s sister, and basically a Professional-Famous-Person with a high opinion of herself)! Well, she’s back there washing clothes in the irrigation channels and walking two hours back up the mountain these days. Yes, I had tried and tried to explain about the pointless pursuit of social status, but this belief was far too ingrained.
Solution? Not really sure there is one. It’s not the first time we’ve had someone stay with us, only to think they were suddenly better than everyone else. I guess that every time it happens, I naturally become just that bit more aware. We have some old school friends of my daughter Remy staying with us since Sunday. We’re training them to work in the office, and so far they’re showing some promise. Yes, I’ll take great satisfaction in seeing a few more kg on them, and I’m pleased they have a chance at something good. But I’ll be keeping some distance to ensure that nothing gets wrecked by anyone getting their heads full of unrealistic aspirations. Had enough Kris Aquino’s to last a lifetime!