The Philippines Experiment, Track Seven

If you know who I am or have been reading this blog, you are probably aware that I spent two and half years of my life living in the Philippines. Now I’m back, and I’m going to attempt to chronicle the entire experience as best as my vague recollection allows.

Moving to a new place is never easy since you’re leaving everything you know behind to start over and build a new life. This Philippines experiment was offering new and exciting adventures and challenges, but I had no close friends to share it with so there’s a feeling of fruitlessness that came with it. I’m not anti-social or a lone wolf by any means, but making new friends is hard. Actually, making new friends is a lot more daunting than finding someone to date. Actively seeking out new friends seems pathetic even, especially when you’re not in school or you’re not working. It’s not like you can just go to a bar or a club, strike a conversation with a group of strangers, and see if you have similar tastes in movies or if they get your sense of humor.

I did spend the first twelve years of my life in Olongapo city, so I’m sure I still have long lost elementary friends kicking around nearby. But I never saw a familiar face from elementary school whenever I was out, and hence never got to hang out with any of them. I’m guessing that either most of them had probably moved elsewhere, or they’ve decided that they’re too old or too busy to have a night life (because, let’s face it, I should be), or they had aged so much that it’s difficult for me to recognize them now. But like I mentioned here before, I did have cousins to keep me company, which was fine because I’ve known these people since I was wearing diapers. It’s just that because I was a relative who they may not share the same interests with, it felt as if they were obligated to keep me company (and the vice-versa is just as true). Additionally, some of them took advantage of the fact that I had no one else, so they controlled where and when to hang out and who to hang out with.

So for the first seven months of my stay in the Philippines, I was constrained by my cousins’ social decisions, staying home when I felt like going out and enduring boring venues when I wanted to party. It was basketball that emancipated me from that. It’s a good thing I am somewhat competent in the court because it allowed me to meet guys that I can coexist with. My cousins were courteous enough to let me tag along with them during their “less competitive” games with their friends, and in spite of all the trash talking and hard fouls, we all became really thick as thieves. Eventually, they became a lot closer to me than they are to my cousins.

Absolutely no one can replace my friends in Edmonton. They are the tiger blood to my Charlie Sheen and I will always love them violently. Having said that, there are apparent differences between my friends here and my friends in the Philippines. Some of the most enjoyable moments I had with my Filipino associates were the times when we were just killing time in front of a convenience store, divvying up the winnings we acquired from our wagered basketball games and checking out the beguiling girls that walk by. If I ever send an e-Vite for a Friday night, 7–11 parking lot, Slurpee soiree to my friends here in Canada, they would purposely forget that I ever existed…permanently. The way friends drink at house parties in the Philippines are different too. The normal procedure when consuming alcohol amongst friends is for everyone to sit around a table with a pitcher of beer or a bottle of hard liquor while a tanggero, the person usually sitting at the head of the table, pours a shot into a glass and passes it to the successive drinker. Sure, if someone has a cold virus, then the entire party gets it the next day; however, this Filipino custom is terrific because it forces everyone to socialize with everyone else. It also ensures that everyone tosses down the same amount of drinks, so everyone gets drunk at the same rate.

But the biggest difference though is that in Canada, I’m guaranteed that there are no ulterior motives behind my friends’ companionship, but unfortunately, I don’t know if I can say that about some of the people I rolled with in the Philippines. The fact that I have a Canadian bank account is not lost on some of them considering that it’s obvious that some just hung around for the free drinks and appetizers. In fact, some would go as far as to advertise to their other friends that I’m buying rounds for everyone on my table. I admit that at times I felt like Vincent Chase of Entourage with all these so-called friends kissing my ass because they wanted something, but most of the time, it’s just insulting. However, I do emphasize the word “some” here because I did develop authentic friendships with a few guys, those who had my back whether or not I pick up the tab at the end of the night, and I’ll forever appreciate that (you guys know who you are, thank you.)

In spite of not knowing what my Filipino friends’ real intentions were, I was condoning a lot of the freeloading and hilariously apparent brownnosing because I was having loads of fun. And knowing them allowed me to network with more wonderful people. Most importantly, because of them, I met Ikhari.