Greetings desde Asia Latina

I haven’t made much progress on the brewery front, so I figured this post would be about the weird case of the Philippines and the Filipinos.
One of the peculiarities of the Philippines is how comparatively familiar much of it first appears. Of course this is South-East Asia and everything is extremely different from Europe – but compared with, say, Myanmar, Bali or Thailand, the Philippines feel way less profoundly alien, strange, fascinating-yet-unfathomable. This has to do of course with the fact that the country was colonized for almost four centuries by Spain, only to be replaced by the US until the end of World War II. The result is a weird mix of colonial Spanish and American cultures coexisting with traditional island traditions and Asian ethnicity. Like two consecutive layers of paint applied on the surface of a tropical, tribal identity. I don’t know much about Central or South America, but I’m pretty sure there are places it must feel just the same. Actually sometimes I feel like I’m closer to South America than to Vietnam here.

First there is the language of course. Latin alphabet is the only one in use nowadays. Most Filipinos speak good to perfect (American) English as a second or third language. It’s amazing how this makes everything so much easier… Filipino or Tagalog (the common national lingo, originally the Manila dialect) integrates a lot of Spanish words or expressions, only with a different spelling (kamusta for como esta). Actually 1/3 of Filipino vocabulary is of Spanish origin, and as result it does sound vaguely familiar. For some reasons, the time of the day is always in Spanish (“las dos y media”), and the bigger number (“ten thousand peso”) in English. And then there is this strange habit of switching to English for a few words and back to Filipino then back to English – though I heard this mostly on television. Being totally fluent in English is the sign of superior education, therefore is a class act.

Then there are the guns. It’s a well-known fact there are a lot of weapons around in the Philippines. Every security guard (and there are lots of them, everywhere, in front of every bank, parking, malls, you name it) carries a the very least a handgun, often a shotgun too. I suppose it is for a reason.
I have heard a few horror stories – how a girl who was staying in the same cottage I usually go in Puerto Princesa, and who apparently was an out-of-control drug addict, got murdered by a hitman for 10’000 peso (200 francs/euros). That is the price of a life here. The cottage owner, who told me the story, was appalled by the fact that the hitman stabbed her 21 times in full daylight, in front of multiple witnesses. Had he been a bit more professional, it would have been totally fine, as far as he was concerned. Also I have heard stories of foreigners who liked local girls a bit too much, got local boys jealous, and ended with a bullet through the back of their head.
It has to be said, though, that he girls can be pretty flirty, in a more relaxed manner than in other Asian cultures perhaps. Not in a bad way at all – just an easy smile followed by a quick little joke, an impression of easy-going openness, quite charming actually. But everyone is smiling and cracking jokes and being nice all the time here anyway. Because even though I’m well aware that the percentage of assholes, bullies and downright criminals is the same here than anwhere else – even though I know there are many aspects of the culture that I just don’t see yet, some probably very unpleasant – for now, all I can say is that the Filipinos are the nicest, easiest, kindest, most polite people I’ve ever had the pleasure to live along. So salamat po, guys.

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